Preposterous Poetics: The Politics and Aesthetics of Form in Late Antiquity 1108849121, 9781108849128

How does literary form change as Christianity and rabbinic Judaism take shape? What is the impact of literary tradition

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Preposterous Poetics: The Politics and Aesthetics of Form in Late Antiquity
 1108849121, 9781108849128

Table of contents :
Cover
Half-title
Series information
Title page
Copyright information
Contents
Preface
Acknowledgements
Chapter 1 Forms of Attention: Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis
I
II
III
IV
Chapter 2 When Size Matters: Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus' Rape of Helen
I
II
III
IV
Chapter 3 In the Beginning
I
II
Chapter 4 Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death
I
Preposterous Poetics
II
The Erotics of Death
III
Chapter 5 Strange Dogs: Joseph and Aseneth and the Dynamics of Transformation
I
II
III
IV
V
Chapter 6 Life Forms: Biography and Rabbinical Writing
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
Coda
References
General Index
Locorum Index

Citation preview

PREPOSTEROUS POETICS

How does literary form change as Christianity and rabbinic Judaism take shape? What is the impact on literary tradition of the new pressures of religious thinking? Tracing a journey over the first millennium that includes works in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, this book changes our understanding of late antiquity and how its literary productions make a significant contribution to the cultural changes that have shaped western Europe.   is Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of King’s College. He is one of the best-known writers on Greek literature and culture, publishing almost twenty books and numerous articles on texts and topics from the whole span of antiquity and its reception, especially in the Victorian era. He has broadcast regularly on television and radio around the world, and has been profiled in newspapers from Brazil to Australia. His books have won three international prizes and been translated into ten languages.

      Editors  . , University of Michigan ś , Corpus Christi College, Oxford  , University of Cambridge  , King’s College London The Greek culture of the Roman Empire offers a rich field of study. Extraordinary insights can be gained into processes of multicultural contact and exchange, political and ideological conflict, and the creativity of a changing, polyglot empire. During this period, many fundamental elements of Western society were being set in place: from the rise of Christianity, to an influential system of education, to long-lived artistic canons. This series is the first to focus on the response of Greek culture to its Roman imperial setting as a significant phenomenon in its own right. To this end, it will publish original and innovative research in the art, archaeology, epigraphy, history, philosophy, religion and literature of the empire, with an emphasis on Greek material. Recent titles in the series: The Aesthetics of Hope in Late Greek Imperial Literature: Methodius of Olympus’ Symposium and the Crisis of the Third Century    Greek Epigram and Byzantine Culture: Gender, Desire, and Denial in the Age of Justinian  .  Painting, Ethics, and Aesthetics in Rome  .  Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Augustan Rome: Rhetoric, Criticism and Historiography   and  .   Author and Audience in Vitruvius’ De Architectura    Visual Style and Constructing Identity in the Hellenistic World: Nemrud Dağ and Commagene under Antiochos I    Greek Myths in Roman Art and Culture: Imagery, Values and Identity in Italy,  BC–AD    Roman Festivals in the Greek East: From the Early Empire to the Middle Byzantine Era  

PREPOSTEROUS POETICS The Politics and Aesthetics of Form in Late Antiquity

SIMON GOLDHILL University of Cambridge

University Printing House, Cambridge  , United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, th Floor, New York,  , USA  Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne,  , Australia –, rd Floor, Plot , Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – , India  Anson Road, #–/, Singapore  Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/ : ./ © Simon Goldhill  This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published  A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data : Goldhill, Simon, author. : Preposterous poetics : the politics and aesthetics of form in late antiquity / Simon Goldhill, University of Cambridge. : Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, . | Series: Greek culture in the Roman world | Includes bibliographical references and index. :   (print) |   (ebook) |   (hardback) |   (paperback) |   (epub) : : Classical literature–History and criticism. | Hebrew literature, Medieval–History and criticism. | Christian literature, Early–History and criticism. | Christianity–Influence. | Judaism–Influence. | Civilization, Classical. :   .  (print) |   (ebook) |  .– LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/ LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/  ---- Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Contents

Preface Acknowledgements

page vii xxiii

.

Forms of Attention: Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



.

When Size Matters: Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen



.

In the Beginning



.

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



.

Strange Dogs: Joseph and Aseneth and the Dynamics of Transformation



.

Life Forms: Biography and Rabbinical Writing



Coda



References General Index Locorum Index

  

v

Preface

The ‘unspeakable’ Optatian has been repeatedly denigrated as the fourthcentury writer who most painfully embodies a corrupt or trivializing turn to ‘pure form’ – where meaning threatens to become ‘secondary to the display of surface artistry (played out on the level of the poetic line, word and letter)’. ‘Unspeakable’ is Alan Cameron’s judgement, but I suspect he did not intend the word to be as richly ironic as it now seems, for if there is any poet in antiquity whose work challenges the usual rule that poetry and prose are expected to be read aloud, it is Optatian, whose oeuvre is literally unspeakable. His poems take the form of grids of letters (carmen cancellatum) which can be read – indeed are designed to be read – in multiple directions, and which can also encode patterns of letters that also spell out images of ships or the Chi-Rho symbol of Christianity in and across the grid. (Even the Chi-Rho is made up of letters which spell words that can be read – in this case, most bizarrely of all, Greek words transliterated into Latin, adding another palimpsestic layer of readerly engagement, another form of double reading, another temporality of interpretation). This is flamboyant visual poetry, beyond even the technopaignia of Hellenistic cleverness, that must be seen, and seen in different directions, over time. It sits between pictorial representation and verbal significance – and challenges the temporality and the singularity of what can be said. His poetry may talk in traditional terms of ‘song’, ‘music’ and ‘metre’, but it cannot be turned into the linear performance such tradition expects. He even writes a quatrain (poem ), where the twenty words can designedly be shuffled to create further verses – so that one manuscript, following the   

Squire ()  – whose wonderful analysis I follow here. See also Hose (); Levitan (); and now the fine collection of Squire and Wienand eds (). Cameron () . For a translation, see Squire (: –). For the religious significance of the Chi-Rho, see Squire and Whitton (: –).

vii

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rules for expansion given by a scholiast, has expanded the four lines into seventy-two hexameters. If the rules for such expansion that are laid down in the scholia are followed, one modern scholar has calculated that in fact , verses can be produced; if the rules are slackened so that the last word of each line can also shift place, but the metrical shape of the quatrain is maintained, another scholar (with too much time on his hands) has determined that more than  billion semantically coherent lines (some more coherent than others) can be produced from the twenty words. The expanding experience of continually shifting meaning, subordinate to the  

 See Squire (: ). See Levitan (:  n). The excellent Peltarri (: ). This sort of pilpul has become a topos for scholars of Optatian: see also Letrouit ().

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act of making sense (in all senses), is dizzying to the point that the artifice of meaning production becomes the artwork’s meaning. Yet this dizzying does not merely demand wonder. The question of whether a Christian message appears from these letters and shapes, and whether the Christian message is also about how a Christian message emerges in and from the fragments of the material world, is prompted by the very intermedial materiality of the text’s form. Which way to read – how to read as much as in what direction – becomes a foundational question in encountering Optatian. A question, that is, of how form requires performance. The form of Optatian’s artwork demands an intense and continuing form of attention (or an instant act of dismissal), but he is certainly not to be read aloud. For generations of classical scholars, Optatian has had bad press. Cameron’s insult may seem overdetermined in an amusingly unaware manner, but it is nothing if not typical in its dismissiveness. Even the fact that Optatian appears to have written a book of such poetry and sent it to the emperor, Constantine, who wrote back, and indeed brought Optatian back from exile on the strength of the book, has not yet led to Optatian taking up an iconic place in the history of the cultural politics between the centre of power (il principe) and the elite artist (il poeta) in the Roman empire. The failure of Ovid to sway Augustus with his elegiacs from Tomis has always fitted so much more easily into the privileged model of the doomed, romantic artist, suffering for his art (even when Ovid’s poetry, like the late verse of Wordsworth, seems closer to sycophancy than speaking revolutionary truth to power). The instrumental success of Optatian’s unspeakable writing seems an embarrassment for both art and power. Yet, in recent years, Optatian has begun to find a more illustrious place in critical opinion. In particular, for both Aaron Pelttari and Michael Squire, and for the authors collected together by Squire and Wienand, thanks to their careful reading and sophistication of argumentation, Optatian has been understood to raise a set of aesthetic questions that speak sharply to modernity, and thus assimilate him to the most insistent issues of contemporary theory: How to interpret? What is the physical experience     

Brilliantly discussed by Squire (). Optatian, which Derrida would have loved, is made for puns in French about sens. Florid insults catalogued in Squire (: –). For the letters between Optatian and Constantine, see Polara (: : –); Jerome Chron ad ann.  records the story. For il poeta and il principe, see Barchiesi (). For the relation of Optatian and Ovid on exile, see Brouhat ().

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of reading? How does reading relate to time and difference? What is the link between the visual, material text and the production of sense? What is surface meaning and how do we progress beyond it? But, equally importantly, Optatian also thus opens a vista on to the cultural politics of late antiquity. The claim by Michael Roberts that the Latin poetry of late antiquity is distinguished by its ‘jewelled style’ has been smartly combined by critics with a heightened interest in a poetics of scale, and further linked with the productive idea that just as spolia make monuments out of the shattered fragments of the military past, so poetry of late antiquity shores the fragments of past literature into a monument of present spectacular self-assertion. Such a broad view of the poetics of late antiquity can provide a frame in which Optatian has seemed a striking limit case, and thus a fascinating paradigm of the key vectors of the artistic activity of its era (rather than a vivid demonstration of freakish futility). In short, Optatian’s commitment to ‘pure form’ fits well now with the contemporary critical fascination with form. The questions of the poetics of scale, the fragmentation and reconstruction of literary tradition, the temporality of making sense (and the making sense of temporality), will indeed all return as thematic nexuses in this book, along with the relation between surface meaning and interpretation in a context where Christianity is arguing for its place at the cultural table. Indeed, we shall also return to the importance of intermediality and materiality in Christian discourse, a materiality that grounds humans in the fallen fleshliness of mortality, but which longs for the transcendence of spirit. But the reason for starting with Optatian stems precisely from the question he poses so vividly of how to think about the politics and aesthetics of form in late antiquity – my subtitle (the preposterous poetics will have to wait for now. . .). For it is not possible to appreciate the purchase of these more recent re-evaluations of Optatian in terms of form unless they are set against the modern history of the idea of form. ‘Form’ has a remarkably complex recent development as a critical term, a narrative that is all but obscured in most writing about antiquity. But it is certainly not by chance that at least some of the contemporary reevaluation of Optatian comes from scholars trained in art history. When Roger Fry helped to introduce the notion of formalism from European art circles to British audiences just before the First World War – a moment  

Squire (); Peltarri (); Squire and Wienand eds (); each with further bibliography. Roberts (); on spolia as a model, see Elsner and Hernández Lobato (); Formisano and Sogno ().

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taken as foundational in the journey towards abstraction – it is indeed a juncture repeatedly seen as the triumph of ‘pure form’ (Fry’s iconic phrase, the very words Michael Squire tellingly uses to cue such history in his rehabilitation of Optatian). Immanuel Kant’s insistence in the Critique of Judgement () that pure judgements of beauty were made ‘according to mere form’, and ‘properly concern only form’ proved seminal for the subsequent development of aesthetic arguments; but, through the late nineteenth century (thanks in part to simplified readings of Kant), Kant’s linkage of the form of art and aesthetic experience found radical and more popular expression in the ‘art for art’s sake’ movement. Fry’s appreciation of ‘pure form’ is explicitly an heir to these trajectories; and it privileges a purely abstract art to match. The rejection of mainstream Victorian art in favour of the Impressionists is part of this teleological journey towards abstract expressionism. Formalism – or formalist modernism – is, in this story, a necessary victory over mere representational fancy, or what Fry called ‘an insistence on trivial verisimilitude’. Fry was well aware of the work of Riegl, whose idea of Kunstwollen was integral to his understanding of formalism, and Riegl’s intensive and deeply influential work on late antiquity brings the study of formalism in modern art history back to this book’s central focus: the transition from classical to Christian art in late antiquity is theorized to support modernism’s formalist vocation. It is within this history of the necessity – not the triviality – of formalism that Optatian is valued now, precisely for his sophisticated engagement in the space between the representational signs of language and the abstract signs of the materiality of letters, lines, shapes. ‘Semantically meaningless units of text acquire sacred significance to the contemplative reader’: pure form can thus become theologically meaningful. The focused use of letters as disruptive signs in modern art, from René Magritte to Cy Twombly (and its influence on music and other art forms) may be able to find a distant, lost ancestor in the carmen cancellatum. The late antique poetics

 

  

See the essay on Fry’s formalism in Fried (: –), and, most recently, the exceptional work of Rose (). See Rose () for the response to Kant; and Rose () for its development in Fry. A far longer history of aesthetics – before Baumgarten – has recently been proposed by Dyrness (), extending the celebrated work of Belting (). The quotations from Kant are from Kant () .  Fry (: ). See, in particular, Elsner (, , ). Heath (: ). She cites the gematria used in Barn. .  and Clem. Al. Stro. ... As noted explicitly by Orban (: ); see also Morley (), and for the musical scores Kotz (). For this understanding of Twombly, see the outstanding study by Jacobus ().

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of Optatian can now make specific sense within the agenda of modernism’s privilege of formalism. Art history may provide one narrative of form, and the critics’ use of the image of spolia for textual production is a token of the will to bring material culture of late antiquity closer to its literary work. In literary criticism, however, a different trajectory comes into play. For our purposes here, a rather longer and more intricate story can be said to culminate in the late nineteenth century, which made form – in multiple forms – a central term of cultural discourse across Europe. One trajectory can be drawn, for example, from Shaftesbury’s marvellous expression, ‘the forms which form’, which was translated into the German milieu by Hamann with the language of Bildung, which in turn strongly influenced Eberhard, who taught Schleiermacher; and it is against Schleiermacher’s – and others’ – commitment to Bildung (and its institutionalized role in the Humboldtian universities) that modern notions of Lebensform take shape. Yet Hegel, as ever for the nineteenth century, remains a looming presence in this history, not least because of his hugely influential articulation of three art forms – symbolic, classical and romantic, a system in which his privileging of Greek antiquity insists on ‘the authentic reality of the idea of the classical art-form’. This is an argument that makes the link between art history and literary criticism pressing, as it makes the transition from the classical a crucial turning point. (Thus Riegl’s art history, influenced by Hegel, takes late antiquity as its prime test case.) Indeed, so important was the idea of form for the nineteenth century across Europe in the wake of Hegel that Georg Simmel could see the whole project of literary modernism as ‘a struggle of life against form as such, against the principle of form’. Simmel had a case. As Angela Leighton and Kirstie Blair have analysed most incisively, and Meredith Martin and Yopie Prins have extended with regard to poetic metre, the notion of form had become instrumental and normative in the interconnected regimes of literary criticism, religious regulation, social manners and architectural understanding – and even, through the idea of organic form, biological  





A move anticipated in the current fascination with lithika, poems about gems and stone, prompted by the new Posidippus: Gutzwiller ed (); Elsner (); see also Squire (), Petrain (). See especially Horlacher (). Wittgenstein’s hugely influential use of the term Lebensform is taken in a different direction by Agamben (), which also goes back to late antiquity for its grounding. On Schleiermacher’s role, I have learnt in particular from Jackson-Ravenscroft (). Hegel ( []: : ). See James (); Rutter (); Kottman and Squire eds (); each with extensive bibliographies. Hegel’s influence on Riegl is undoubted: see, with further bibliography, Neher ().  See Elsner (). Simmel (: ). See in general Jay ().

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science. Indeed, the way in which form crosses these different territories of cultural authority makes it especially labile as a critical term, a shifting and linking way of perceiving, rather than the fixed structure it is often taken to indicate. So, it seems evident to Charles Kingsley that firm faith requires firm form in poetry, as it requires proper form in liturgy: ‘a poetry of doubt . . . can never possess clear and sound form, even organic form at all. How can you put into form that thought which is by its very nature formless?’ Walter Pater here is a paradigmatic figure: bridging literature and art history, experimenting with form, discussing form – and fascinated, not least in Marius the Epicurean, by late antiquity’s transition between the classical and the Christian, a move he conceptualized through his deep reading of Hegel. So Pater wrote: ‘Form . . . is everything.’ For the Tractarians, the proper forms of worship required architectural transformation, which could in turn be regarded as a ‘form of poesie’, and which transformed the cityscapes particularly of Britain but of France and Germany too. ‘Forms of worship’ became an increasingly fraught source of contention in Victorian Britain, as, indeed, architectural reform enacted a transformation of the cityscape, and the forms of poetry, especially metre, took on a new cultural insistence. To change the shape and organization of a church went hand in hand with changing the order of service and thus the spiritual life of the worshipper. When Tennyson said ‘I dread losing hold of forms’, he was, as Blair notes, talking about religious order, for all that his grasp of poetic form was iconic. Through such changes, ‘good form’ – how to behave in society – also became a heightened and contentious arena, not to mention educational reform (what happens in the form room), another major Victorian crisis. Form, that is, the key term of my subtitle, comes trailing clouds of intense and productive dissension, 

    

Leighton (); Blair (); Prins () (); Martin (); also Caroline Levine (, ). The Russian Formalism of Viktor Shlovsky is often taken as a starting point for literary formalism, rather too enthusiastically, important though he proved. Maslov () shows this influence strikingly in classics. Raymond Williams (), extending Shlovsky into more cultural areas, and Wolfson (), working from Romantic poetry, have been particularly influential on recent discussions of formalism. Kingsley (: ), discussed by Blair (: ); on Kingsley and classics, see Goldhill (a: –), with bibliography. On poetic style as faith, see now Hurley (). Pater (: ). On Pater see the fine collection in Martindale, Evangelista and Prettejohn eds (). Blair (: –). On architectural reform I have had my say in Goldhill (b: –); on the international development of heritage see the outstanding Swenson (). On forms of worship and architecture see White (); Bentley (); Brooks and Saint eds (); Yates (); Goldhill (b: –). Blair (: ).

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especially from the era when our current institutions of literary criticism were taking shape. Form, to use the language of the race track (or the prison), has form. In recent decades in classical criticism as in other literary domains, form has again become a focus of attention. For many years, especially when paired naively against content, a turn to form was troped negatively as ‘mere formalism’ (the influence of modernism here, as Simmel defined it, is patent). The inevitable and well-taken backlash against the opposition of form and content has led to a recognition of how form and ideology are mutually implicative; indeed, as Frederick Jameson insists, there is an ‘ideology of form’. This has been particularly productive in genres that have a strong institutional and generic identity, such as epinicean poetry or tragedy in the classical city. Victoria Wohl, for example, has argued with great acumen precisely for the political purchase of form in Euripidean tragedy, as, for Leslie Kurke, Glenn Most, Evelyn Krummen and others, the form of epinician narrative has itself been seen as part of the dynamics of reciprocity and the construction of fame in a way that self-consciously goes beyond the earlier and more restrictive formalism of Elroy Bundy. Exploring the logic of digressions in Herodotus’ construction of the politics of cultural difference and self-representation, as a mode of historical explanation, has changed the perception of the normativity of his writing – as has the tension between the models of intellectual analysis and the tragic narrative of Thucydides’ account of the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian war. This book, however, while it recognizes and builds on such criticism’s ability to combine aesthetic and political argument, necessarily takes on a more flexible and extended perspective on form. It goes beyond the focus on single genres and institutions in two particular ways. First, it looks at particular modes across different genres. So, in chapter , ecphrasis, which is recognized as a mode of writing in ancient theoretical texts (that is, a recognized form, if you will, but not a genre), and, with a different 

 



See for helpful and incisive accounts of so-called new formalism, Levinson (); Attridge (). Caroline Levine (, ) is instructive on the link between form and socio-cultural history, central to this book. Neer () argues elegantly for a ‘worldly – that is, political – formalism’ () in art history. It is surprising that Grethlein (: ) writes: ‘Neither in literary scholarship nor in Art History is form held in high regard’. See below n. Jameson (: ). Wohl (); also Goldhill (in press); Kurke (); Most (); Krummen (); Bundy (). Maslov () links this Pindaric interest with Russian formalism. Quint () is exemplary of a turn to form in Latin literary criticism. Hartog () and more generally (); Rood (); Greenwood (); Dewald ().

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organization of ideas, in modern theory too, is analysed as it takes shape in different genres and across different social and historical contexts. It looks thus not just at the different enactments of a mode in different genres – the formal aspects of difference, as it were – but also at the varied ideological affordances that such a mode takes on in these different generic frames. In the same way, what happens to the tropes of love poetry when they are restructured in the form of an epyllion is part of chapter . In these discussions, the poetics of scale, and the temporality of making sense, also come to the fore. Second, where much of the best work on form in ancient literature has focused, as I have mentioned, on particular genres or particular works, in this book, however, I also discuss the interrelations between different forms: how epyllion, epic and epigram take shape in dynamic relation to each other and work self-consciously in the space between generic affiliation and a look over the boundary to different forms. This is not a question of the Kreuzung der Gattungen, a standard modern critical recognition of Hellenistic poetry’s hybridity (which is also keenly relevant to the polyphonous voice of tragedy in the city, which takes into its goatsong world different genres of singing and speaking), but rather a double understanding that literary history is also cultural history, and texts are formed within a broad – cross-generic – literary culture. Here, the fragmentation and reconstruction of literary tradition becomes a key issue. This volume looks at prose and verse, in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic and across a range of social and political contextualizations. It focuses primarily on textual sources, but in many cases on textual sources that are about material culture – sculptures, paintings, buildings: as with the modern history of the category of form, the link between art history and literary history is integral to the development of late antique culture. Form, then, provides a central and linking question of the various chapters to come: and for me it is essential to see how form is both an aesthetic and political issue. Or, most simply, the question of form is a question of how aesthetics has a purchase in the social and cultural issues of the day. As we will see, this is no simple matter. In several of my chapters, texts that are not familiar parts of the canon will be analysed and, indeed, made central to my arguments about the politics and aesthetics of form in late antiquity. These recognitions or rehabilitations are in their turn part of the contemporary re-evaluation of the full range of writing of late antiquity. As Optatian has come into 

See e.g. Swift (); Andujar, Coward and Hadjimichael eds (); or for e.g. legal rhetoric (from a large bibliography) Goldhill (); Buxton (); Hesk ().

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view, now differently because of the changing sense of form, so too texts which have been treated by mainstream classical scholarship as marginal to aesthetics (Paulinus of Nola, say; Joseph and Aseneth; the first four books of the Palatine Anthology) require such re-evaluation. This is not simply a question of changing taste, or appropriating antiquity to modern trendy ideas. What I am seeking to do is to find a language of criticism to talk of the poetics of late antiquity that is capable of responding to the new social and political conditions of late antiquity and its new styles of literary production – and which does not merely reproduce the Hegelian teleology of the journey towards modernity, or the less grounded avatars of such teleology that insist on the secondariness or belatedness of the post-classical. Late antiquity, then, is the final term of my subtitle, and I will resist defining it with as much design as I have resisted offering a definition of form. Late antiquity, like form, is a critical term where the historicization of its development is crucial to its significance (it is a modern term, of course: no one knew they were living in late antiquity). It is well known that the nineteenth century’s obsession with both classical Greece and Republican Rome had the effect of creating a model of a literary and cultural Golden Age, which constructed later literature as epigonal (‘silver’, ‘corrupt’, ‘degenerate’ and so forth). The invention of the term Hellenistic (a process in which the historian Johann Gustav Droysen was instrumental), and its application to a period of history created a stadial interstice between classical and imperial Greek, in the same way as ‘Silver Latin’ became a foil to ‘Golden Latin Artistry’. From the nineteenth to the twentieth century, the increasing separation of classical studies and theology, and the concomitant ideologically charged and aggressively regulated distanciation between the Christian texts of antiquity and the texts of dominant Greco-Roman culture, institutionalized a double and doubly distorted vision of ancient Greek and Latin writing. Such a vision – and its normative basis is clear enough, if immensely complicated in its institutional praxis and intellectual functioning – drove a wedge between Christian or Jewish writing and other writing in the ancient city, and oversimplified affiliations into ‘Christian’, ‘Jewish’, ‘Pagan’, where 

 

The best discussion of the term is Herzog (d) who traces its nineteenth-century roots. See also e.g. Brown (, ); Bowersock, Brown and Grabar (); Rousseau ed (); Cameron () – and many other books which specify late antiquity as their frame. Momigliano (: –). I use Golden Latin Artistry just to cite my verse composition teacher, honoris causa, Patrick Wilkinson: Wilkinson ().

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boundaries were in reality not only more fluid than such simple and rigid terminology suggests, but also policed in quite different ways in different times, places and communities. What is more, curricula – and the scholarly work that fed such curricula – put fences also between what came to be ossified as the medieval and the ancient. ‘Late antiquity’ has developed most recently as a critical term in order to cross those boundaries productively. In terms of periodization, although arguments have continued to simmer about its range of dates and topography, late antiquity as an idea requires a recognition of a continuum between the Empire, the gradually Christianized Empire, and the medieval era (and the interactions that took place not only across the Empire but also with a world beyond the boundaries of the Empire). Particularly in the West, where Latin provides an unbroken tradition through to the Renaissance (and beyond, it might be claimed), rupture – even and especially in the Foucauldian sense – has come to seem a modern imposition on more complex patterns of tradition, inheritance and gradual transformation. Even in the Greek East too, where as late as the twelfth century in Byzantium, novels were being written in homage to the novels of the imperial era, themselves replete with Homeric and other literary heritages, Byzantium’s rediscovery of Hellenism is being seen as an intricate process of constructed tradition. Equally importantly, the term late antiquity has allowed studies that have reconnected the intermeshed world of the cities and literary cultures of the first six centuries of the common era. From Clement in Alexandria negotiating classical literature for a Christian readership and Christian writing for a non-Christian audience (or Philo, earlier, for Jews), through Josephus bringing Jewish scriptures in a fully Hellenized mode to a Roman audience, to Jerome struggling with his love of Cicero, or Augustine with his passion for Virgil, or Synesius converting to become a bishop but never deserting Plato, through to the Palatine Anthology collecting Christian and very unChristian epigrams in tenthcentury Byzantium, the interfaces and interactions between intellectuals of different and often complexly fissured affiliations have become a key way of understanding the milieu of ancient culture. The extremist, separatist, ideologues – Christian, Jewish or pagan – are not so much the norm, as a violent and loud cry against the mixed and fluid society in  

The new Cambridge University Press series edited by Catherine Conybeare, called Cultures of Latin, is designed to emphasize this point.  Kaldellis (a). See e.g. Eshelman (); Sandwell (); Boyarin ().

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which they usually found themselves. Late antiquity is a polemical term, then, designed to recalibrate a scholarly perception of the transformation of the Roman Empire into a Christian institution, and its continuation into Medieval Europe. As Herzog has outlined, how late antiquity has been conceptualized is formed by a teleology of modernity, an Hegelian inheritance. I have given ‘late antiquity’ as a marker in my subtitle, partly because the majority of the material discussed in the book is late imperial (to use a traditional chronological schema), but it will become immediately clear that late antiquity is used with an even more lax sense of temporality than usual. The six chapters travel across much of Greek and Latin literature – it is hard to write about any Greek without thinking about Homer – but the primary focus of each chapter includes texts that may be as early as the first century and run as late as the tenth century (as Garth Fowden encourages us, my scope runs the millennium from ‘Augustus to . . . Avicenna’). But each chapter is also concerned with the construction of tradition, both in the writing of a text and in its circulation – how texts are located in a sense of time by writers and readers. It is for me important that a text such as the pseudepigraphic Joseph and Aseneth, subject of the fifth chapter, which may have been first written even before the first century, takes on its significance (also) as it is re-read and rewritten in different communities especially across the next six centuries, as it circulates and is reformulated; its treatment by scholars in the twentieth century also reveals a great deal about the continuing, ideologically inflected religious reframing of antiquity (the condition in response to which late antiquity became a potent affordance of critical discourse). So, too, the Palatine Anthology, a collection of the tenth century CE is replete with epigrams from the third century BCE onwards, and in its palimpsestic reordering is thus also layered with a history of aesthetics as well as its own contemporary agenda. One difficulty – or delight – when working with these late antique texts is that any attempt to specify a temporally bound cultural moment always has to take a detour through the active construction of tradition, in affiliation and distanciation from the texts and perspectives of the past. The logic of spolia requires such a dynamic and shifting gaze – to recognize a triumph of contemporary assertion that is nonetheless made up out of the fragmentation and reconstruction of the privileged paradigms of the  

 Herzog (d). Fowden (: ). Up until modernity, of course. For the reception of late antiquity, see now Malm and Cullhed ed ().

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past. Late antiquity offers a particularly rich example of how being of one’s own time demands such a complex positionality. I use the term ‘late antiquity’ in my subtitle, therefore, not just to indicate the predominance of later texts in this book, but also to mark the book’s commitment to acknowledging the impact of a fissile and competitive cultural frame for the production and consumption of these texts. This is a self-positioning of the book as a contribution to a reading practice informed not just by Reception Theory but also by new studies of manuscript transmission and the performativity of literary texts within divisive, dissenting and multiple affirmative social and cultural frames. ‘Late antiquity’ is intended to cue a world where Christians, Jews and so-called pagans cohabited in real or imaginary proximity, and developed their thinking in (real or imaginary) dynamic interaction between communities, and where affiliation – what allows someone to be called or call themselves a Christian or a Jew or a Greek or a Roman – can flare between aggressive and aggressively policed self-determination and a far more labile and uncertain commitment, normed by a long tradition of civic life, imperial structures, and the exigencies of a society undergoing significant social, political and religious transformation. Amid such a hybrid social mix, there were also groups who formed or projected communities that were stridently separatist, culturally, intellectually and physically (such as the Essenes in Palestine, say). Yet even in the case of the nascent rabbinical communities, the Jewish intellectuals instrumental in the formation of the Talmud and represented in it, how rigorously ignorant of the surrounding and dominant cultures their writing can remain is a vexed issue, for them and for subsequent generations of scholars, where all too often contemporary ideological understandings of social or intellectual separation (or purity) affect scholarly analysis. Many of the texts to be discussed in this book are not regularly included in the curricula of classics courses, even on late antiquity. Part of the aim of the book is to see how such texts also contribute to our understanding of the cultural politics of late antiquity – to see the poetics of late antiquity in its full richness and variety. The book is entitled ‘Preposterous Poetics’ after the fourth chapter, which looks specifically at Nonnus. Nonnus of Panopolis – the most influential Greek poet of the fifth century – captures much of what excites me about this era. Nonnus wrote a forty-eight-book epic, the Dionysiaca, which is a wild and rambunctious epic about the pagan god 

Boyarin (); Hayes (); Lapin (); Kalmin (); Rubinstein (); Hezser (); Lieberman (, ); Schwartz (a, ).

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Dionysus. Its flair for interlocked and overlapping narratives, its bold redrafting of Homeric idiom, and its sexy, aggressive, conflict-strewn storyline was strikingly influential on later antique poetry – and is fundamental for understanding the temporality of narrative in late antiquity. What makes such an epic all the more remarkable is that Nonnus’ other great work is a Paraphrase of the Gospel of John – into hexameters, full of philosophical phrasing. That is, Nonnus’ Paraphrase takes the koinê Greek of the Gospels – the simple language of the people (a deeply freighted idea, for sure) – and turns it into the highest cultural language of Homeric verse, the highly artificial poetic tradition of , years earlier, which he further recreates and re-versifies as the language of philosophical thought. Nonnus typifies the cultural battles over the registers of Christianity in late antiquity. How does Christianity relate to what it dismissed as paganism, while relying on the institutions, literature and language of the Empire it had taken over? How does the privileged language of ‘paganism’ find a place within the new structures of Christian cultural value? How philosophical, how simple, is the language of Christianity to be? How is his self-positioning, his affiliation, enacted between an epic on a pagan god and a theologically informed verse redraft of a Gospel? How, in short, is such literary writing to find its place in time, and thus contribute to the cultural expression of the era? The term ‘preposterous’ is used – it is a good example of the search for a new language for late antique poetics – to indicate specifically how Nonnus’ epic writing embodies a practice and theory of temporality. It marks how – under pressure, I argue, from Christian theorizations of time and practices of typological reading – Nonnus is prepared to imagine a world where mythic narratives swirl into versions of each other, where the chronology of these narratives becomes easily reversed so that the stories of the before come after, and where what has not yet happened is always already prequelled in the narratives of the past or the here and now. Hence – with due regard to the etymology of the term – the choice of ‘preposterous’. The preposterous is, the chapter argues, a mark of Nonnus’ specifically late antique Dionysiac poetics. Nonnus, then, is a hero of this book. But in his case above all, it will also be apparent that this book makes no claim to exhaustive or comprehensive coverage. It is designedly essayistic: a short book on a large topic. Each of the six chapters introduces and explores a particular, major problem of the aesthetics and politics of form in late antiquity, and each does so through a particular and selective range of texts – from what is, after all, by far the biggest archive of Greek and Latin from antiquity. (There is more imperial

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Greek epic than epic from all other periods put together.) There are, however, also many links between the thematic concerns of the different chapters. Some I have already mentioned. So, the poetics of scale – how big or how small a poem should be, what is the aesthetic impact of such condensation or expansion – returns in the relation between epic, epyllion and epigram that runs through the first four chapters. If Homer can be ‘in a nutshell’, what of a love story? How much culture do you need to be cultured? What form of attention does the miniature demand? The poetics of fragmentation – the dissolute poetics of the epyllion, the discrete refusal of interconnectedness in an anthology, the disjunctive narrative argumentation of the Talmud – fragmentation, that is, as an exercise in form, links especially Chapters ,  and . How coherent and thus formative is the past? The corollary effort to construct a cultural tradition and fit one’s own work into it is an area of contested cultural self-assertion that is evident in each chapter, and is especially important in the interfaces between professed Christian, Jewish and ‘pagan’ literature (where tradition becomes a particular battle-ground for cultural dominance). The dismissiveness with which much of the literature of late antiquity has been treated by modern scholars is also prompted by the self-consciousness of the weight of tradition demonstrated by the texts of late antiquity themselves, always ready to see themselves in time: what makes the texts of late antiquity in their own eyes modern is explicitly raised in Chapter , and the sense of a fragmented and precarious tradition in and against which the performance of self-positioning tales place, echoes through all the chapters. How narrative time is reorganized by the vectors of Christianity and rabbinical Judaism, even in texts which appear to eschew any direct gestures of religious affiliation, dominates the last three chapters. That the organization of narrative time should follow from a heightened concern with a fragmentation of tradition should seem self-evidently significant. The mode of ecphrasis, as alluded to earlier, becomes a fundamental form through which the question of what perspective is to be taken on the culture of the past is articulated in late antiquity: how to see, and how to write what one sees, is a question of what perspective is to be taken on the art-work: how to direct a vision of what matters. In each case of these thematic nexuses, the question of the aesthetics of form leads directly and necessarily to a cultural politics of form: this is how literary form becomes a contributing and normative element of Lebensform. Form becomes an 

A field that is rapidly changing: see the outstanding contributions of Kneebone (in press); Greensmith (in press).

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engaged performance of cultural self-positioning. Such literary writing plays a crucial role, it is argued, thus, in the cultural and political transformations of late antiquity: this is how aesthetics and politics are mutually implicative. Preposterous Poetics: The Aesthetics and Politics of Form in Late Antiquity aims, then, to use a specific lens – that of shifting ideas of form in late antiquity (and in contemporary criticism) – to explore how literary works contribute to the social and cultural transformations of the era. The book insists that the aesthetic and the political collaborate in such transformations: that literary form contributes to the making of Lebensform – not just as a general claim, but specifically with regard to the developments of late antiquity that have been so crucial to the ongoing history of Western culture. That so many of the texts I will discuss have not been made fully a part of the discussion of how late antiquity takes shape is regrettable testimony, this book argues, to the impoverishment of the understanding of it that has resulted from previous generations of disregard, especially of the role of its Greek literature in such cultural transformations. These essays are intended to contribute, then, to an ongoing debate about how the culture of late antiquity develops and why literary form matters in such a historical process.

Acknowledgements

Many friends have helped through discussion and comments on this book. Particular chapters were commented on by Carrie Vout, Chaim Milikovsky, Marco Formisano, Steve Mason, Seth Schwartz, Hindy Najman, Tim Whitmarsh and Helen Morales. Marco Formisano and Averil Cameron kindly showed me relevant work in progress. The focus of the book would never have taken shape without the late epic reading group in Cambridge with whom I have learned so much: especially Tim Whitmarsh, Emily Kneebone and Lea Nicolai. I was extremely privileged to have had drafts of Chapters  and  discussed at University College, London, at a day event organized by Phiroze Vasunia – thanks to all who contributed there. My editors (and friends), Jas Elsner and Mike Squire, were wonderfully assiduous in their comments and engagement as were the three anonymous readers for the press, whose detailed comments were exemplary. Emma Greensmith deserves special thanks: she has been a superb interlocutor and critical reader as the book was put together. The book is dedicated, however, to John Henderson with whom I have been reading and discussing for more than forty years, and whose critical brilliance and friendship have been an inspiration to me throughout. There is no contemporary teacher who has educated more professional Latinists of distinction, and, when we speak of reforming the field, no Latinist who has offered more sophisticated, revelatory, engaged contributions.

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 

Forms of Attention Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis

Ecphrasis dramatizes a form of attention, the reflective gaze at an object. An ecphrasis also performs an interpretative process with which the reader is made complicit: the strategies of viewing comprehended by an ecphrasis are normative, even and especially when contested. When Marcel, Proust’s narrator in À la recherche du temps perdu, stands for almost three-quarters of an hour lost in admiration in front of paintings by Elstir, keeping his host and dinner guests waiting, we are invited by Proust’s prose not merely to imagine the entrancing paintings, but also to recognize and respect the aesthetic prowess and self-regard of the narrator – as well as to stand at some distance with the author from the narrator’s youthful fascination and social indiscretion. It is a passage that highlights aesthetic response as a function of modern social protocol, with Proust’s customary self-aware humour. How to stand in front of a picture, how long to look at it, what to look at, and, above all, in what language to articulate a response, are all expressive aspects of the cultural spectacle of ecphrastic performance, in antiquity as much as in fin-de-siècle Paris. In this chapter, I wish to look at how forms of attention become part of the concerns of ancient ecphrastic writing, and how generic form and forms of attention interact. I will begin by focusing on a remarkable body of writing from late antiquity, namely, the works of Paulinus of Nola, a Christian author whose letters and poems have barely entered the scholarly discussion of ecphrasis, let alone the debates around poetic form in late antiquity. His attempt to construct a specifically Christian form of attention opens a fascinating set of questions about self-awareness and ecphrasis, not merely because of his acknowledgement of a literary history in which he works, but also, and more specifically, because he provides a unique  

For this ‘sweet oblivion’ and the narrator’s self-proclaimed ‘particular brand of superiority’, see M. Proust, The Guermantes Way, trans. M. Traherne, Harmondsworth (: –). For this spectacle, see e.g. Zeitlin (); Goldhill (); Feldherr ().





Forms of Attention

example from antiquity both of an ecphrasis of a portrait of himself, and of an ecphrasis of an ecphrasis. Christian self-regard is articulated in an extraordinary manner through the ecphrastic discussion of a portrait of the author and the poems attached to it. We will then move on from Paulinus (and back in history) to consider how epic and epigram as literary forms construct contrasting forms of attention and (thus) require different types of this interpretative selfawareness. This constructed opposition of the small-scale epigram and large-scale epic will prove foundational also for the following chapters’ discussions of epyllion, texts that take shape, it will be suggested, within and against such ideologies of form. The familiar grandeur of epic, in contrast to the small scale of epigram, will also open a pressing question of temporality and aesthetics: we will see how epic and epigram invoke contrasting styles of knowing – specifically, contrasting comprehensions of how an image relates to time. Third, and finally, we will move on to epigrams (and some further prose) to see how this question of time and narrative is played with in Greek ecphrastic writing; and I use the verb ‘played with’ to mark the literary self-consciousness, once again, of this engagement with the ecphrastic form, both in the selection of an allegorical statue of Kairos, ‘Right Time’, as subject, and in its styles of description. The claim of this chapter is that an important history of ecphrastic writing can be articulated through the nexus of differing reflections on forms of attention, time and narrative. It will also act as the foundation for questions of scale, and the relation between self-expression and forms of writing, to be explored in the chapters to come.

I The de septem orbis spectaculis attributed to Philo of Byzantium (though almost certainly a text of the late Empire) provides a telling introduction to my argument. In the prologue, the author constructs an extraordinary defence of the power of ecphrasis over and against mere tourism. This is a patently self-serving claim to introduce his description of the Seven Wonders of the World – no need to travel with this book in your hand – but it 

Since Lessing, the relation of an image to time has been a recurring theme of modern aesthetics: see Mitchell (), partly in response to Steiner () and most recently Grethlein (). This book takes back such concerns into antiquity – no surprise to Lessing – but with a quite different range of texts and scope of analysis.

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



shows vividly how forms of attention become a significant element of ecphrastic thinking: διὰ τοῦτο θαυμαστὸν παιδεία καὶ μεγαλόδωρον, ὅτι τῆς ὁδοιπορίας ἀπολύσασα τὸν ἄνθρωπον οἴκοι τὰ καλὰ δείκνυσιν, ὄμματα τῇ ψυχῇ προσδιδοῦσα. καὶ τὸ παράδοξον· ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐπὶ τοὺς τόπους ἐλθὼν ἅπαξ εἶδεν καὶ παρελθὼν ἐπιλέλησται· τὸ γὰρ ἀκριβὲς τῶν ἔργων λανθάνει καὶ περὶ τὰ κατὰ μέρος φεύγουσιν αἱ μνῆμαι· ὁ δὲ λόγῳ τὸ θαυμαζόμενον ἱστορήσας καὶ τὰς ἐξεργασίας τῆς ἐνεργείας, ὅλον ἐγκατοπτρισάμενος τὸ τῆς τέχνης ἔργον ἀνεξαλείπτους φυλάσσει τοὺς ἐφ’ ἑκάστου τῶν εἰδώλων τύπους· τῇ ψυχῇ γὰρ ἑώρακεν τὰ παράδοξα. This is why education [paideia] is so amazing and such a gift: it frees a man from travel and reveals beauty from the armchair. It gives eyes to the soul. It’s strange: a chap who goes to the sites, sees but once, and passes by and forgets. The precision of the work escapes his notice, and memory is fleeting for organized details. But the fellow who explores through a verbal account a marvel and the working through of vivid experience has a mirror of the whole work of art and retains the imprints of each of the images inerasably. For he has seen strange sights in his soul.

This paragraph puts together an intricate mix of familiar expressions of the Greek intellectual tradition of the later Roman era. It places paideia ‘culture’, ‘education’ as its central category, as do so many Greek authors from the Roman Empire. It elegantly applies the dynamics of educated paradoxology to reverse the usual value of an eyewitness account over the second-hand experience of reading (recalling the traveller’s self-assertions from Herodotus onwards, with his celebrated calculation of which senses are the most persuasive). It manipulates the philosophical, rhetorical and physiological discourse of phantasia with its vocabulary of enargeia, mirroring and imprinting in the soul: the turn towards the inwardness of the experience of wonder and paradox – ‘seen in the soul’ – is also typical of later Greek intellectual arguments. But what I find most striking is the contrast between two forms of attention. The person who visits sites, sees them only once, and passes by and into forgetfulness. ‘Precision’, to akribes, a standard criterion of art criticism, is missed, and the memory is 

  

The text is taken from Hercher . The author of this text is clearly not the engineer Philo of Byzantium (third century BCE), and is usually thought to be a fifth-century Christian (despite his happily classicizing discussion of Pheidias’ statue of Zeus). This has been much discussed by recent critics. See Whitmarsh (, ); Anderson (); Swain (); Morgan (); König and Whitmarsh (eds.) (). See Redfield (); Gould (). A long bibliography could be given here: see Goldhill (); Imbert (); Rispoli (); Elsner (); Webb () – each with a further bibliography.



Forms of Attention

inadequate to keep an organized sense of the different parts of a viewed work. The tourist has a momentary experience, and the reliance on memory guarantees an insufficient grasp of detail or relationships of parts. But the reader of an ecphrasis (such as Philo’s book. . .) engages in ‘research in/through discourse’, logô historêsas, and experiences ‘the working out of vividness’ – that is, who undergoes the rhetorical power of the description to bring sites to life (enargeia). The reader can not only perceive the whole work as if in a mirror, but also retains (phulassei) ineradicable imprints in the soul. Textuality appropriates the language of sight – the written work is ‘like a mirror’, and its ‘images’ imprint the soul – and the book, unlike the gaze, promises a totalizing experience: the whole site is captured by a text in a way that vision cannot grasp. The contrast is clear: the visitor’s momentary gaze misses details and cannot provide the attention that leads to lasting impressions; the reader seated in his armchair [oikoi], however, has the attention of a researcher, and thanks to the vividness of the rhetorician’s ecphrastic mastery receives lasting impressions. Narrative is better than seeing; it produces images that last in time; the traveller’s flighty gaze contrasts with the reader’s profound attention to detail and form. The ecphrasis, as opposed to the mere gaze, offers a temporal lastingness rather than fragmentary and fading perceptions. Most ancient ecphrases, indeed, as Philo suggests, circulate as pieces of verse (or prose) separate from the object they describe, and which indeed often paradigmatically describe objects that do not have a separate existence in the world, such as Achilles’ Shield or the Gates of Carthage. Even where the artwork is known to have existed – Myron’s Cow sculpture, say – most scholars have assumed, correctly to my mind, that the epigrams which respond to it circulated as poems, and were read and appreciated without necessarily having any visual contact with the sculpture itself. Ancient ecphrases do not appear to have been used as guidebooks with which to cruise the gallery, even when, as with Philostratus or Callistratus, they have precisely that form (though they never simply describe an art object). Counterexamples of ecphrases actually attached to an artwork are 

 

On akribeia (which becomes a Christian technical term for ‘strictness’), see Pollitt (: –, –); Tanner (: ). There is a hint here of a reversal of the common practice of Mnemotechnik, where imagining a building and its details is a key to remembering a logos. Here, details of a building are lost because memory fails, and one has to revert to a logos. On the history of ‘seeing whole’, with specific reference to the Iliad and Aristotle, see Purves (: –). See Goldhill (); Squire (a).

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few and often marginal – and have begun recently to be discussed by classicists at length. There is a unique bilingual stele, probably from the third century BCE, and found in Attica with an inscription in Phoenician and in Greek, which offers a dramatized decoding of the strange and potentially baffling figures represented on the stele itself. There is the tomb of Menophila from Sardis, which has the form of an epitaph that decodes the riddling signs on the tomb, a form found frequently in the Anthology. Two Greco-Roman sites in Italy have artwork with ecphrastic verses attached – the cave at Sperlonga, where a plaque has been added in response to the statues, and the so-called House of Propertius at Assisi, where the first-century Roman wall paintings have Greek poems added at a later stage which comment on and reframe the images. The statue of Memnon in Egypt – a particularly fascinating case – not only has verse graffiti attached to it, but also has verse and prose responses that circulate separately in a touristic culture that reflects my opening discussion of Philo. Along with the House of the Epigrams at Pompeii, these examples have led modern scholars to explore how pictures and poems can frame each other in a complex dynamic of expressiveness. This dynamic established by texts attached to pictures becomes particularly interesting with the development of Christian art, with its particular relation to Scripture, not least the injunction in Exodus  against making graven images. Prudentius’ little poems for a series of church paintings from the Bible are called either Tituli Historiarum – Titles/placards from histories/narratives – or the Dittochaion, which is usually translated as ‘Double nourishment’ from oche, understood thus as ‘Double testament’ (though I have sometimes wondered whether it couldn’t be heard as ditto – chaion, ‘double shepherd’s staff’, in the sense of a double shepherding of the 



  

IG II ; IG II ; CIS I , pl :, no . Stager (: –) records from personal correspondence that Frank Cross dates the stele to the late fourth/early third century; Stephen Tracy is another well-known epigraphist. Anti-sumptuary laws of Demetrius play a role in the dating too, where it is assumed that the bilingual nature of the stele allows it to escape the laws against such display for citizens. See Osborne (: –); Henzen (); Lenormant (), Palmer and Sandys (), and, more recently, Clairmont () (reprised in Clairmont (: III )), Bonnet (). Buckler and Robinson (); see also (with good pictures) Hanfmann and Ramage (: , no , fig ). The last couplet is vexed. Prioux (: –) provides an apparatus, though the version she prints has the demerit of not making sense. On riddling epitaphs, see Goldhill (). See the fine discussions of Squire (: – (Sperlonga), and – (Propertius)). Rosenmeyer () is a superb and full discussion. Guarducci (, ); Squire (); Bergmann (); Prioux (); Squire (); and more generally Tanner (: –).



Forms of Attention

viewing flock). These forty-eight quatrains, each written to be placed below a painting in a church, are marked, in the manuscript tradition, as ‘titles’ or as ‘double’ – that is, as poems doubling the visual comprehension with a verbal, imaginative direction. The titulus creates a double perception, a dynamic between word and image. Each is (to be) affixed to a wellknown biblical scene; but each also expands into narrative, and is often a directive towards a Christian interpretive gaze. So – to take a simple but paradigmatic example – quatrain  on the grove of Elim in the wilderness reads as follows: Devenere viri Moysi duce, sex ubi fontes et sex forte alii vitreo de rore rigabant septenas decies palmas; qui mysticus Aelim lucus apostolicum numerum libris quoque pinxit. The people, led by Moses, arrived at a place where six springs And six others too moistened seventy palms With glass-clear water. This mystic grove of Aelim Also depicted the number of the Apostles in the scriptures.

The picture of the arrival of the Israelites at Elim is to be seen as part of the story of the Exodus (devenere, ‘arrived’ implies a completed stage in the journey). But the twelve springs are glossed as a ‘mystic’ grove (that is, to be read within a wider theological narrative of transformation), and taken as a symbolic indication of the twelve apostles. Prudentius makes the grove the subject of the verb pinxit, ‘depicts’, ‘paints’, as if the grove is both subject and object of representation. That is precisely the logic of the figural reading it demands: the twelve trees do indeed represent the twelve Apostles; the story of the Hebrew Bible is to find fulfilment in the Christian bible: hence the addition of scriptis, by which we are encouraged to see the picture as part of a scriptural reading. The water that nourishes the palms thus slips easily into the symbolic expressivity of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, and his promise of living water in John . . The stay of the Israelites at Elim had already been invested with significance by Jewish writers: Philo (Moses .), and Ezekiel’s Exagoge describe it in lavish, utopian terms; Josephus (AJ.) imagines 





See Pillinger (: –) on the title of the work. For good general discussion, see Lubian (), and for an example of his approach Lubian (); Lubian () offers an edition of the collection. Assuming, with all modern editors, that – are to be athetized. There are twenty-four poems on the Old Testament and twenty-four on the New, making forty-eight, the number of the books of the Iliad and Odyssey. For a commentary, especially on the numerology, see Lubian (: –).

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



the feeding of the people from such sandy soil and brackish water as a miracle; the midrashim are happy to see the numbers of fountains as an indication of the tribes of Israel, and the water as the water of the Torah. Prudentius redrafts such reading into a Christian vision. The double testament of the Dittochaion is to be found in this doubled figural vision: what is to be seen depends on a Christian temporality where the Christian order is always already anticipated, embodied and fulfilled – as discussed with stunning sophistication by Augustine in Confessions xi, where in God’s language of creation everything is spoken simul ac sempiterne, ‘at the same time and eternally’, ‘in the simultaneity of eternity’ (Chadwick), though not everything which God causes to exist by speaking is made simul et sempiterna, ‘in simultaneity and eternity’ (Conf. xi . ). The importance to Christian theology and practice of this dynamic between pictures in churches and directive ecphrastic writing is picked up in my first key example, taken from the poems of Paulinus of Nola, an example which has surprisingly not yet entered the canon for scholars of ecphrasis. Paulinus’ twenty-seventh poem contains a fascinating ecphrastic moment. Paulinus not only describes the paintings in a church, but also tells us that they have tituli, so that the words can expound what the hand has proclaimed, and so that the ignorant rural Christians, recently and not entirely deprived of pagan pleasures, can feast their eyes on art and gain through this sensory delight some scriptural soul food. That is: first, we have explicit recognition of a specific Christian theology of ecphrasis, as a directive and moulding sermon on pictures which might otherwise involve mere pleasure; but second, and most extraordinarily, we have an ecphrasis of an ecphrasis, a poem describing a poetic description attached to an artwork. propterea visum nobis opus utile totis Felicis domibus pictura ludere sancta, si forte adtonitas haec per spectacula mentes agrestum caperet fucata coloribus umbra, 

 

See e.g. Numbers Rabbah . – and other sources cited in Jacobson (: –). Bizarrely, Ezekiel makes Elim the home of the Phoenix. The association of water and learning is also made with Moses bringing forth water from the rock, which in turn informs the imagery of Peter drawing water from the rock, common on Roman sarcophagi (see e.g. Evans () with further bibliography). Water imagery is deeply overdetermined. . . Moses ben Jacob Cordovero, one of the most important kabbalists of the sixteenth century, structured the seventy chapters of his book Elimah Rabbati, according to the seventy palms of the grove of Elim. See Chapter , p. –. Two fine recent books on Paulinus supersede earlier work: Trout (), and especially stimulatingly for the theology of ecphrasis, Conybeare (). See also Herzog (c).



Forms of Attention quae super exprimitur titulis, ut littera monstret quod manus explicuit, dumque omnes picta vicissim ostendunt releguntque sibi, vel tardius escae sint memores, dum grata oculis ieiunia pascunt, atque ita se melior stupefactis inserat usus, dum fallit pictura famem; sanctasque legenti historias castorum operum subrepit honestas exemplis inducta piis; potatur hianti sobrietas, nimii subeunt oblivia vini. This is why we thought it useful to enliven all the house of Felix with paintings on sacred themes, in the hope that they would excite the interest of the rustics by their visual display, for the sketches are painted in various colours. Over them are explanatory inscriptions, the written word revealing the theme outlined by the painter’s hand. So when all the country folk point out and read over to each other the subjects painted, they turn more slowly to thoughts of food, since the feast of fasting is so pleasant to the eye. In this way, the paintings beguile their hunger, their astonishment may allow better behaviour to develop in them. Those reading the holy accounts of chastity in action are infiltrated by virtue and inspired by saintly example. As they gape, their drink is their sobriety, and they forget their longing for excessive wine. Carmen . –

Paulinus began his lengthy ecphrasis of the church by offering it as a tour (veni, pater, et socio mihi iungere passu ), a tour which will be an extended trip around every detail (dum te circumagens operum per singula duco). With classic ecphrastic gestures, he has repeatedly encouraged viewers to see what he wants to show – ecce vides ; ecce vides  aspice ; volo . . . videas – – and encourages wonder and joy at the sights. But for a Christian, in the light of the biblical prohibition of graven images, such decorations can never be simply aligned with the history of classical art and ecphrasis (for all the echoes of Virgil in Paulinus’ verse). It needs an explanation, as Paulinus declares (–): 

A canon of the Council of Elvira (early fourth century) had forbidden representational art in churches: but this rule was already slipping. See Trout (:  n) for bibliography and discussion; also Conybeare (: ). This is presumably the background to his description of the art in his church as raro more . Paulinus was influenced in the classical tradition of ecphrasis by his teacher Ausonius (on which, see Nugent, ) (as well as his evidently deep reading of e.g. Virgil), but also by the Bishop of Rome, Damasus, who added epigrams to many sites in Rome, creating a sacred landscape of verbal memory. But, as far as I can see, Damasus’ epigrams show none of the ecphrastic techniques of Paulinus (see Ferrua () for these largely fragmentary epigrams). It is the combined twin influences of Damasus and the classical tradition that give Paulinus’ ecphrases their particularity. On transformative vision as part of Christian theology, see Heath ().

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



forte requiratur quanam ratione gerendi sederit haec nobis sententia, pingere sanctas raro more domos animantibus adsimulatis. You may perhaps ask what motive implanted in us this decision to adorn the holy houses with representations of living persons, an odd custom.

The answer is that such images lead the rural crowd, who are neither strong in faith nor learned in their reading (neque docta legendi ), to take pleasure in the surrounds of the church, and, as error can creep unnoticed into the simple soul (mentibus error irrepsit rudibus -), so through reading the holy stories virtue too can creep up (subrepit honestas ), brought on by examples of piety. The astonishment (adtonitas/ stupefactis) and pleasure (grata oculis), which are typical of the ecphrastic moment, become ‘useful’ (utile) – an appropriation of the standard historiographical and literary opposition between the useful and the sweet – because by reading to one another (relegunt sibi) the stories of the pictures, love of food may become a love of fasting, and their gaping mouths can be filled with virtue rather than excessive wine (an image that also hints at the proper wine of the Eucharist). These new spectacula are to be a display of Christian value (as Tertullian demanded with such aggressive rhetoric in de spectaculis). This ecphrasis is thus an ecphrasis of the paintings, the poems attached to them, and the worshippers reading the images and poems. In this way, the ecphrasis becomes an apologetics fully inscribed within a Christian theology of the role of didactic exemplars. The readers of the poem, led like the addressee around the Church of Felix, are encouraged to see the church and its decoration within a particular model of worship, and we are taught about teaching. An extraordinary letter of Paulinus vividly depicts this exemplary power of artistic and verbal decoration in church – and, equally significantly, the active religious reframing of pictures by attaching poems to them. This is further precious testimony of the saint’s fascination with the work of art and text, but it is surprisingly a text that has barely been mentioned in the literature on ecphrasis. In a letter to Severus, perhaps from , Paulinus reacts strongly to the fact that Severus has had a portrait of him painted on the wall of the baptistery of the church at Primuliacum, facing a painting  

 Cf. Car  , decus utile. See Hunter (: –). ‘Paulinus’ account, by contrast [to Virgil’s ecphrases], is not textually circumscribed, but by stimulating reflection not only in the fictive viewer but also in the reader, expects to extend its effect beyond the textual into an active response to the world beyond the text’ Conybeare (: ).



Forms of Attention

of Saint Martin. Paulinus’ objection is a test case for the awkward mixture of humility and literary pride in his writing. Paulinus worries that he – his image - has no right to be there at all (serpentibus et columbis, hoc est nobis et Martino? ‘What have serpents to do with doves – a true comparison of myself with Martin?’ Ep. .); and finds glory in it for Martin, and recognizes that it was only Severus’ deep love of Paulinus that prevents a charge of malice, since the contrast between them exposes him ‘to merited contempt once Martin’s countenance is sighted . . . demonstrating the heinousness of this absurd comparison’, nos vero potius deformares, quos iure conspecta Martini facie despuendos ad probrum ridiculae comparationis exponeres. The only possible justification Paulinus can find for the display of the two paintings together is in their contrasting exemplary force of the saintly life of Martin and his own humble insufficiencies. Newly baptized Christians could thus ‘simultaneously see the exemplar to follow and the model to avoid’, vitandum et sequendum pariter conspicarentur. To make this point clear, Paulinus writes a poem to be inscribed on the wall and sends it to Severus: Abluitis quicumque animas et membra lauacris, Cernite proposita ad bona facta vias. Adstat perfectae Martinus regula vitae, Paulinus veniam quo mereare docet. Hunc peccatores, illum spectate beati; Exemplar sanctis ille sit, iste reis. All you who wash your souls and bodies in this font should behold the paths set before you for good deeds. Martin is here so that you may see a model of the perfect life, whereas Paulinus schools you in how to merit forgiveness. Look upon Paulinus, sinners; on Martin the blessed. Martin is the example for the saintly, Paulinus for the arraigned.

Paulinus’ poem constructs the two pictures as a strongly marked opposition (which is unlikely to have been the intention of Severus), and demands that the viewers not only see the pictures thus, but be drawn up as such, with the saintly and blessed instructed to stare at Martin, the





The Life of Martin – written by Severus – has Martin cite Paulinus as an example of renunciation: V. Mart. .–. While Martin and Paulinus did meet, it seems to have been an inconsequential encounter, even as remembered by Paulinus later (Ep. .). And life: ‘Paulinus’ renunciation of the world and adoption of monasticism propelled him to further prominence within the social elite and ecclesiastical circles of the Roman West’ (Trout : ). Paulinus was well aware of the potential difficulties: see Ep. . cited in n. .

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



sinners and guilty to look at Paulinus. The ecphrastic poem, with the familiar injunction to look/see, reframes the pictures – and asks us to see the difference between them, and, what’s more, in an act of selfrecognition to see oneself within the matrix of sin and blessedness. But Paulinus then adds a second, longer poem as an alternative inscription. This too establishes the pictures in opposition to each other, but this time, while Martin represents a man who ‘armed his faith with strong examples and words’ (ille fidem exemplis et dictis fortibus armat), Paulinus shows how you can ‘redeem sins by pouring away one’s wealth’: iste docet fusis redimens sua crimina nummis. Paulinus here represents himself as redeemed by his charity – a model for wealthy proselytes to follow. Donor portraits in churches were not uncommon; although there is no suggestion that Paulinus funded the church, he imagines his portrait within such a framework of expectation. The didactic force of the poem’s descriptive rhetoric is equally marked, but now Paulinus allows himself a slightly less humble self-positioning. Now he is a model for the redeemed sinner, and for the benefactors of the church. Nonetheless, he concludes that the sole purpose of such a pair of paintings must be the contrast: ut in Martino forma iustitiae et summa virtutum, in nobis conscientiae iniquitatis obtritio et confessio cerneretur, ‘so that one can see in Martin the model of justice and the summation of virtues, and in me contrition for conscious sin and consciousness of it’. See justice, see sinfulness! Paulinus’ letter enacts his self-representation, as all letters do, but also is about his self-representation: in all humility – though the situation and his response put great pressure on such a term – he offers two different poems to change the way viewers might view his portrait on the wall of the church (another double testament, about the two pictures now viewed as a  



As Paulinus indicates (Ep. .) contemptum patrimonii, ‘contempt for inherited wealth’, must be accompanied by nostri contemptum, ‘self-contempt’. He is used as such a model in Jerome Ep. . and Augustine City of God .. See also Trout (: –) for the role of humility in the myth of Paulinus, and  for his role as public icon, ‘often subject to staging’. Paulinus’ renunciation of his property was a cause célèbre (see Trout (: –) on his ‘salvation economics’), and, with excellent general background, Brown (: –). Paulinus is aware of the possible difficulties of his role (Ep. .): si per laudem paupertatis obrepit inflatio . . . unde quaesumus, ne ex illo nobis verbo domini blandiamini, quia fecerimus ‘vendite quae possidetis’. He is concerned for the pride (inflatio) that can creep up (obrepit) from praise of his chosen poverty (per laudem paupaertatis), and is frightened of the flattery (blandiamini) that comes from having obeyed the injunction of Matthew . and sold what he possessed. This does not stop him delighting in the loss of his property (Car  –: at modo cassus opum, nec opum sed verius expers/ damnatorum onerum, secura liber habendi/paupertate fruor) and representing Saint Felix in the same light (Car .: dives egebo deo, nam Christum pauper habebo). This is all part of what Trout (: ) calls well his ‘subtly nuanced visions’ of Christian renunciation.



Forms of Attention

diptych). The letter, firmly set within the highly contested world of Christian (self-)representation, where self-scrutiny is such a charged term, sets out to perform an act of ecphrastic reframing, a determined and determinative re-reading of his own portrait. This is a unique and fascinating case. Looking at one’s self is a fundamental act of Christian askesis; here it has been reformulated within a long literary tradition as an analysis of a portrait of oneself, a painterly version of the gaze into the mirror of the soul, which doubles this gesture of self-understanding with an increasing sense of his own paraded unworthiness. Nor does it stop with these two poems. Paulinus notes that Severus has already put up a poem of his own for the portraits – a poem ‘of light and honeycomb’, luminis et fauorum – and suggests his verses should be just a supplement to it, like a setting for Severus’ jewels (again the gesture of politesse does not wholly conceal the re-reading involved in the framing). And then this hugely long letter continues with a further collection of more than twenty poems to be added to various spots in the church, as the letter starts its ecphrastic trip round the church’s site – the sort of poems he describes as attached to the paintings in his description of Felix’s church in Poem , and that we saw with Prudentius’ Dittochaion. The whole building is to be perceived through Paulinus’ ecphrastic writing. Just as the opening suggestion of two possible epigrams to be attached to the two paintings demonstrates with stark clarity how adding a poem to a picture in a church is designed to direct the reader’s comprehension in a thoroughgoing didactic manner, so covering the building with ecphrastic verse is designed to create an all-embracing understanding of what it is to move through this church, to worship in it, to inhabit its spaces. Ecphrasis as a humble display of power – the creation of a Christian visionary gaze. Christian ecphrasis is firmly located within a new intellectual context of theological anxiety about the pleasures and seductions of the gaze (among other appetites). Ecphrastic aesthetics, that is, need to be placed within such a historically determined cultural context. Christian ecphrasis can echo Hellenistic language and the gestures of the Hellenistic viewer, but cannot be the same, because the act of viewing now demands a new moral and intellectual positioning. Paulinus demands a particular form of attention. On the one hand, he wants to cover the church with poems, to direct 



So Onians (: ) writes in general terms: ‘For a Christian it was really possible to imagine when he entered a church that he was entering in some way the Heavenly Jerusalem, and fourth, fifth and sixth century descriptions of churches show us how this inner vision of Paradise transformed the worshipper’s real experience of architecture’. See Elsner (); Elsner ed. ().

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



the Christian worshipper with a constant ecphrastic sermon, to create a pilgrimage of the gaze through the material world of the church towards a religious comprehension of the architecture, an almost liturgical passage through space and time. Each poem stops the pilgrim in his tracks and offers a narrative to create a religious experience of the moment, an experience framed within a Christian teleological temporality. On the other hand, with his own portrait – and within the paradoxical logic of competitive self-effacement – he requires us to stop and re-read the diptych of his own and Martin’s portraits, first by reframing the poem that is already there attached to the painting – this is an ecphrasis of an ecphrasis – in order to see his portrait as a negative figural reading of Martin’s excellence; then by composing two further poems as alternative framings. The three poems create a horizon of expectation of what a Christian comprehension of these paired portraits could look like, a matrix of sin, humility, charity and baptism that finds little parallel in the classical tradition of ecphrasis. But the three poems also construct three readings of the portraits, and in the gaps and differences between them a space of interpretation: a form of attention. Look, look and look again. Take time: at stake is eternal life. The picture must be viewed and re-viewed to produce a proper Christian reading: in a remarkable dynamic of selfrepresentation, Paulinus wants us to look at himself very carefully, and performs that self-scrutiny directively and repeatedly for us. The Christian viewer is asked to look beyond the particularities to an eternal truth, to view figurally, a specific sort of doubled religious vision, for which the double portraits, read and re-read, framed and reframed, become a model for this form of attention. Paulinus is deeply embedded in Roman and Christian elite circles: he corresponds with Augustine, Jerome, Ausonius and others. His ecphrastic normativity could be articulated against both the playful poetry of Ausonius (more reminiscent of Optatian) and the intense reflection on inner vision in Augustine. What’s more, in the East the Cappadocian Fathers too found in ecphrasis a religious resource through which rhetorical performance could direct the experience of ritual within a holy place, foster or formulate a passionate response to a holy place, and organize reflection on such experience: ‘Ekphrasis gives the Cappadocians power to engage in dissemblance, reassemblance, and in some cases transformation.’ The richness and complexity of Paulinus’ development of a Christian viewing position under construction can be best highlighted, however, and given more historical 

Limberis (: ). See also Webb ().



Forms of Attention

precision by a comparison with the first book of the Palatine Anthology. These  epigrams, anthologized under the title of ‘Christian epigrams’, probably all written well after Paulinus, are strongly influenced by traditions of praise poetry and prayer. To turn to Greek after Latin, to a world centred on Byzantium rather than Rome (traditionally expressed as East versus West), and to a century or more later, is to enter a markedly different sense of tradition and a different intellectual positioning. These epigrams were each selected because they are explicitly Christian, but their view of Christianity reveals significantly less sense of intellectual tension than there is in the writing of Paulinus. There are many very short poems, some apparently to act as dedications or celebratory plaques on church walls. So, there are six poems on the church of St Euphemia of Olybrius (AP I –), a building restored by Juliana. One reads simply enough, ‘I had a delightful beauty before; but now to my former beauty I have acquired greater splendour’ (AP I ). The next couplet has a similar theme: ‘Thus, following her mother and grandmother, Juliana has scraped off my old age, and I have a fresh bloom’. There may be something of a conceit in linking Juliana’s restoration of the old church with the fact that she is the third generation of benefactors in her family. But, as with the previous poem, the thrust is memorial and praise: there is no dramatization of the viewing subject, no suggestion of the witty change of perception typical of earlier ecphrastic epigrams, no homiletic of Christian self-understanding. So, a host of epigrams seems to do little more than assert a biblical narrative – as if they were to be attached as a titulus to an image – but without even the intellectual calibrations of a Prudentius. A poem on the baptism of Jesus (AP I ) states: ‘From the immortal father came the mighty Spirit (pneuma), when the son was baptized in the waters of Jordan’. Or a distich on Lazarus reflects, ‘Christ said, come here, and Lazarus left the underworld, with the breath of salvation in his dry nostrils’ (AP I ). These poems – and there are many – read like instruments of religious contemplation, and indeed often turn into prayers: ‘O passion (pathos), O cross, the blood that drives away sufferings/passions (patheôn), wash all wickedness from my soul’ (AP I ). The familiar connection between the suffering of Jesus – his passion – and the sufferings or passions of humans is neatly enough expressed, but this is a cliché of Christian worship. The viewing subject has become here the contemplating subject in prayer. 

See Lubian (, ) and Agosti ().

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



A short string of poems each announce the practice of typological reading we also saw in Prudentius (AP I ; see also –, , , cf. ): Αἰγυπτίη, κρύφιόν τε βρέφος, καὶ ἐγγύθεν ὕδωρ ἃ προτυποῖ μούνοις εὐσεβέσσι Λόγον An Egyptian woman, a concealed baby, and water nearby. These images, for the pious only, are a type of the Word.

A picture – or perhaps simply the story – of Moses and Pharaoh’s daughter are declared to be a type of the Logos. A traditional Christian reading is directly expressed under the exegetical model of typology. Here the reader is represented as one of ‘the pious’, a self-fulfilling complicity. Others are excluded (‘the pious only’). Far from the revelatory novelty of Hellenistic epigram’s poetics of the apercu, this epigram reveals what is known to those that know. An occasional poem is replete with a more complex theological import, expressed with a certain flair. Thus Claudian, probably a fifth-century courtier (and not the poet, Claudian, whom Augustine described as fiercely anti-Christian), writes (AP I ): ἀρτιφανές, πολοοῦχε, παλαιγενές, υἱὲ νεογνέ, αἰὲν ἐὼν προεών τε, ὑπέρτατε, ὕστατε, Χριστέ, ἀθανάτοιο πατρός τε ὁμόχρονε, πάμπαν ὁμοῖε. Newly revealed, Lord of Heaven, ancient born, new born, Always existing and pre-existing, highest, last, Christ, Co-eval with your immortal father, in all ways like him.

This poem – an invocation or prayer, in the uncommon form for an epigram of three hexameters – plays with and displays the paradoxes of Christian time. Christ is recent (arti-), old (palai-) and new (neo-) in the same first line, both constantly existing and also pre-existing (as if one could, preposterously, be before oneself ). The time scale is also a scale of power: highest and last; and a relation to the Father. ‘Co-eval’ with one’s ‘immortal’ father threatens to collapse the semantics of temporality and genealogy, only to recall its potential into Christian significance with the final declaration that the son and the father are ‘wholly like’, a theological assertion designed to reconcile the paradoxes of the previous lines in a final celebration of the self-sameness of divinity. To read this poem is to 

Evagrius Hist. Eccl. , mentions a poet Claudian at the court of Theodosius II. The hiatuses in the epigram are probably signs of its late date. Augustine Civ Dei V  calls the earlier Claudian ‘an adversary of the name of Christ’.



Forms of Attention

perform Claudian’s invocatory prayer, and thus to declare a theological understanding of divine temporality of Christ. Even the longest poem in the collection (AP I. ), a celebration of the Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuctus, built by the empress Eudocia, shows a marked difference from the architecture of Paulinus’ poetry. The poem is  lines long – barely an epigram – and it was, it has now become clear, inscribed in the church. The first forty-one lines praise the empress for her achievement and the vast scope of her fame. She is said to have raised the building from something small to something ‘big and like this’ (toios) (), but no other description of it is offered. It is a eulogy of the benefaction. The second part of the poem, attached, we are told, to the wall outside the narthex towards the apse, includes sixteen lines of description which glory in the size and glittering splendour of the church. Typically for the ecphrases of late antiquity, it focuses on the dazzling brightness and colouring of the marble, expressed, strikingly, in ornate metaphorical language (AP I  –): Τοῖχοι δ᾽ἀντιπέρηθεν ἀμετρήτοισι κελεύθοις θεσπεσίους λειμῶνας ἀνεζώσαντο μετάλλων, οὓς φύσις ἀνθήσασα μέσοις ἐνὶ βένθεσι πέτρης ἀγλαίην ἔκλεπτε . . .

Paton’s translation struggles to express the density of this Greek: The opposite walls in innumerable paths are clothed in marvellous metallic veins of colour, like flowery meadows which nature made to flower in the depth of the rock, and hid their glory . . .

The description aims to dazzle the viewer, to direct the viewer to be dazzled by the splendour (aglaïê – a key term). The poem also directs us finally to see the portrait of Constantine over the centre of the porch – and to wonder. Thauma is the aim of the poem, a reflex of the praise it establishes from the start. Our wonder is the praise of Eudocia. Yet even here in this longest and most intricate of the poems, there is no sense that the reader is to journey round the building and, through such a journey, develop the intricate Christian self-positioning that Paulinus encouraged. The poem demands wonder, within its logic of imperial celebration and eulogy. Far from the performance of humility with which Paulinus struggled, Eudocia, we are told (), ‘surpassed the wisdom of famed  

Whitby (). For general background, Agosti (b). Killerich () – with extensive bibliography of earlier discussions.

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



Solomon’. The word I have translated as ‘famed’ is aeidomenou – ‘sung about’, a verb which recalls the epic tradition of bardic song, aoidê. It may refer to the Bible, but does so in a way which cues the poetics of competitive glory, the struggle for kleos. To look at this church, the poem insists repeatedly, is to see the triumph of Eudocia. With an even more striking turn of phrase, however, Eudocia’s surpassing of Solomon in wisdom and in building an edifice greater even than the Temple is introduced as ‘the rape of time’: χρόνον ἥδ᾽ ἐβιήσατο μούνη, ‘she alone has raped/forced/did violence to Time’. This difficult expression appears to indicate that unlike the usual pattern of things, where the greatness of the past surpasses the present, or where the past and the present are linked through typology, in Eudocia’s case, her achievement must be seen as a violence to the flow of time itself, a new embodiment of history. The hyperbole of encomium is deeply grounded in Christian thinking about temporality. The bizarre language here challenges its readers to see in the building before them something that dramatically alters – in a positive way – a sense of the inevitable unfolding of the order of time, a singularity. The present is celebrated – for once – without an insistence on the glory of the past or the glory to come. That is the violence to (Christian) time. The poems of the first book of the anthology, with perhaps the exception of this praise of Eudocia’s church of St Polyeuctus, have been largely ignored or dismissed by classical scholars. Yet what this collection reveals, especially in contrast with the work of Paulinus, is a different range of expectation for its projected viewing subject. A Christian homily is the familiar and all-embracing message of the poetry. With much less selfconscious engagement with the classical tradition, there is no longer the epigrammatic zeal for the sudden revelation of what only the epigrammatist could have you see, and much less flaunting of sophia as the performance of a man of paideia. The sophia of Eudocia is evidenced in the building of a church. The ideal reader is now the eusebês, the pious, and he is encouraged to perform such piety through his reading of the poems. The poems confirm what is known and celebrate the triumphs of performed piety. Paulinus, of course, is certainly extremely keen to display and promote his and our piety, but his particular placement within a classical education – and engagement with it – produces a different, more contested literary environment for self-expression. The contrast between the Greek poems of Christian Byzantium (to which we could add Books  and  of the Palatine Anthology) and the Latin writing of Paulinus (to which we could add Ausonius) demonstrate the startlingly varied affordances of



Forms of Attention

the ecphrastic form, and, in particular, how ecphrastic poetry frames contrasting perspectives for the Christian viewing subject, different forms of attention.

II In the second part of my argument, I want to develop the notion of the forms of attention provoked by ecphrasis, to explore further the issue of temporality, raised especially by Christian figural reading, and how this might contribute both to an understanding of the history of ecphrasis and to its aesthetics. It has been observed that the ecphrastic epigram is an invention of Hellenistic culture. Although there are also some necessary qualifications to this bald statement – archaic inscriptions, for example, which require a passer-by to stop and observe a monument, are evidently forerunners of the form, and the familiar tropes of epigram, such as the opposition of the material and the verbal, have long histories – nonetheless it is the case that the institution of the production and competitive circulation of epigrams describing a work of art seems to start in the Hellenistic era. It should be no surprise, then, that the ecphrastic epigram can be seen as self-consciously poised against epic’s ecphrasis. The awareness of genre, and the dominance of the burden of the past over the Hellenistic imagination, make such a dynamic between privileged forms of poetry inevitable. Now, obviously epic ecphrases tend to be rather long and epigrammatic ecphrases rather short. But the implications of this difference in form have not been followed through adequately, particularly with regard to forms of attention and the issue of temporality. First, it should be noted that, in Latin at least, this question of length was reflected on explicitly by Pliny. In Epistles ., a centrepiece of current discussion of ecphrasis and identity in Roman culture, after his description of his villa, Pliny breaks off to reflect on his account (..): vitassem iam dudum ne viderer argutior, nisi proposuissem omnes angulos tecum epistula circumire. Neque enim verebar ne laboriosum esset legenti tibi, quod visenti non fuisset, praesertim cum interquiescere, si liberet, depositaque epistula quasi residere saepius posses.

 

For a particularly strong account of this invention, see Gutzwiller (). See Leach (); Bergmann (); Henderson (); Riggsby (); and on walking, O’Sullivan ().

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



I should have been trying long ago not to seem too loquacious, had I not suggested that this letter should take you into every corner of the place. I don’t imagine you will find it tiresome to read about a spot which could hardly tire you on a visit, especially as you have more opportunities if you want an occasional rest, and can take a rest, so to speak, by putting down the letter.

The elegant irony of the letter writer’s self-promoting mock hesitation – his ‘habit of “evasive display”’ – and the work of self-presentation in the ecphrasis of the villa – ‘the autobiograph . . . as a “figure of style”’ – has been brilliantly explored by John Henderson in particular. What is especially relevant about Pliny’s rhetorical gesture to my argument here, however, is, first of all, his recognition that the potentially dismaying or tedious length of the description could be punctuated by taking a rest – where sitting down on a tour and putting down the letter are made parallel, in the same way as the journey round the house and the reading of the letter have been carefully intertwined throughout. That is, the reader’s reaction to the length of the description is treated as a question of attention, where, in the world of the exchange of letters, there is always a tension between the pithy instantaneousness of the epistolary present and the leisurely otium of a gentleman’s discourse. Looking after time – parsimonia temporis – is a theme of Pliny’s self-fashioning. So too he places himself within the tradition of writing letters by forging a contrast between Cicero’s abundance and his own restrictedness – of intelligence, material, rhetoric (.): Ille enim et copiosissimum ingenium, et par ingenio qua varietas rerum qua magnitudo largissime suppetebat; nos quam angustis terminis claudamur etiam tacente me perspicis, nisi forte volumus scholasticas tibi atque, ut ita dicam, umbraticas litteras mittere. For he (Cicero) had an overflowing abundance of talent and material both varied and grand enough to equal his talent. You may see even in my silence within what narrow confines I am enclosed, unless perhaps what’s wanted is to send out scholarly and, as I might put it, letters from the shade.

For Pliny, size matters. It is a question of matching rhetoric to subject and talent. Umbraticas (with ut ita dicam to make sure you read it carefully) implies letters sent out not just from the private world, a world    

Morello (: ). Henderson (: ). See also in general on Pliny, art and self-representation, Henderson (). For Pliny’s indebtedness to the rhetorical theories of ecphrasis here see Chinn (). Ep. ...



Forms of Attention

of shadow to contrast with the bright lights of public business, where fame is hidden or darkened, but also from the shady retreats of an Epicurean garden or scholar’s villa, where long discursive letters fit the lack of negotium. Pliny’s self-fashioning enjoys displaying his expansively articulate ‘narrow confines’. So the lengthy description of his villa in . needs more than an ironic hesitation to justify itself. Thus, Pliny continues with a lengthy paragraph which links his own ecphrasis to the ecphrases of the Shield of Achilles in the Iliad and the Shield of Aeneas in the Aeneid. It is worth quoting in full (..–): In summa (cur enim non aperiam tibi vel iudicium meum vel errorem?) primum ego officium scriptoris existimo, titulum suum legat atque identidem interroget se quid coeperit scribere, sciatque si materiae immoratur non esse longum, longissimum si aliquid accersit atque atrahit. Vides quot versibus Homerus, quot Vergilius arma hic Aeneae Achillis ille describat; brevis tamen uterque est quia facit quod instutit. Vides ut Aratus minutissima etiam sidera consectetur et colligat; modum tamen servat. Non enim excursus hic eius, sed opus ipsum est. Similiter nos ut ‘parva magnis’, cum totam villam oculis tuis subicere conamur, si nihil inductum et quasi devium loquimur, non epistula quae describit sed villa quae describitur magna est. In short (for why should I not state my opinion, right or wrong?) I think a writer’s first duty is to read his title, to keep asking himself what he sets out to say, and to realize that he will not say too much if he sticks to his theme, though he certainly will if he brings in extraneous matter. You know how many lines Homer and Virgil devote to their descriptions of the arms of Achilles and of Aeneas; yet neither passage seems long because both poets are carrying out their original intention. You see too how Aratus traces and tabulates the very smallest stars, but because this is his main subject and not a digression, his work does not lack proportion. It is the same with me, if I may ‘compare small things with great’. I am trying to set my entire house before your eyes, so, if I introduce nothing irrelevant, it is the house I describe which is big, not the letter describing it.

The question of length is insistently raised not least by the repetition of words of size (longum, longissimum, quot, quot, brevis, minutissima, magna – and, with a smart irony, parva magnis, as his own collocation with Homer, Virgil and Aratus is drawn into the same world of appropriate measurement). Description should be fitted to the scale of the subject and determined by relevance. Aratus can collect all the tiniest stars in his project of describing the vastness of the heavens, because astronomy is his grand subject. So, the argument’s logic would have us believe, it is the grandeur of Pliny’s villa that demands the length of the

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



description, and, since such a description is his announced subject (titulus), it is a suitable procedure. Typically, Pliny exits from this dodgy argument (vel iudicium meum vel errorem) with an elegant and selfconscious gesture: verum illuc, unde coepi, ne secundum legem meam iure reprehendar, si longior fuero in hoc, in quod excessi, ‘But back to where I began, in case I am rightly condemned by my own principle, if I were to stay any longer in this digression’. By his own lights, he cannot delay any longer in the discussion of length. The slow walk/description round the house of Pliny and the local countryside is a form of extended engagement, and the reader is invited to admire the altius ibi otium et pinguius, a ‘more profound and comfortable leisure there’, and to take pleasure in it. A slow and engaged gaze, with a focus on every detail (omnes angulos). Such a long, detailed look is also the mark of Aeneas’ response to the shield and other weapons his mother gives him. Aeneas ‘could not get his fill and turned his eyes over each detail, and was amazed’, expleri nequit atque oculos per singula volvit,/ miraturque (Aen . –). So too he had wondered, in silent awe, transfixed by the image of the temple doors in Carthage (Aen . –): Haec dum Dardanio Aeneae miranda videntur,/ dum stupet obtutuque haeret defixus in uno . . ., ‘While these images seemed amazing to Dardanian Aeneas, while he was silent, and, transfixed, was lost in an unbroken gaze . . .’ – as he ‘viewed the details’, lustrat singula (), and ‘fed his soul on the empty image with many a groan’, animum pictura pascit inani multa gemens (–). While he is gazing in this way, he is interrupted by the arrival of the queen (dum stupet . . . regina ad templum . . . incessit, ‘while he was silent . . . the queen . . . came into the temple’ [–]). In a similar way, when Aeneas stares at the Temple of Apollo in Aeneid , the spell of the engrossed gaze, and thus the length of the description, is broken by the arrival of Achates and the priestess (. –): Quin protinus omnia perlegerent oculis, ni iam praemissus Achates adforet atque una Phoebi Triviaeque sacerdos, Deiphobe Glauci, fatur quae talia regi: ‘non hoc ista sibi tempus spectacula poscit . . .’  

As Quintilian .. advises for an ecphrasis: nec universa sed per partis. From the huge bibliography on Virgilian ecphrasis I have found Hardie (: –, –, –), and Putnam () particularly helpful, with the stimulating theoretical exposition of Fowler ().



Forms of Attention They would have looked straightaway at everything fully with their eyes, If Achates, sent ahead, had not been there, And with him the priestess of Apollo and Diana, Deiphobe daughter of Glaucus, who spoke to the king: ‘This is not the time for these spectacles . . .’

Spectacula, the delights of the visual, demand in epic a long gaze and a long description – unless or until they are broken off. Time, the present moment, here demands instead that the action move on. One foundation of ancient epic narrative, we have come to see, is the tension between narrative teleology and narrative deferral – Achilles’ refusal to fight, Odysseus’ endlessly deferred ceasing of travel, Aeneas’ unwillingness to leave Dido, Lucan’s passionate desire to delay the arrival of the principate. One standard (if difficult) rhetorical understanding of ecphrasis depends on the opposition of description and narrative, where description is said to pause narrative, to hold still narrative’s progress. With Aeneas standing transfixed before an image, only to be interrupted by his companions or the queen, the ecphrastic moment becomes synecdochic for the epic narrative’s dynamic of delay and progress. Aeneas’ emotional responses to the images he sees are marked. He cries, he rejoices, he is amazed. The Iliad provides a foundational model, as ever, for this. When Thetis brings the new weapons to Achilles, and they clash out loud (ἀνέβραχε .), as she carries them, first the Myrmidons are terrified and cannot look (.–): Μυρμιδόνας δ’ ἄρα πάντας ἕλε τρόμος, οὐδέ τις ἔτλη ἄντην εἰσιδέειν, ἀλλ’ ἔτρεσαν. Terror seized all the Myrmidons. No one could look at it Face on; they were afraid.

The Myrmidons have to turn their eyes away from the shield’s images in fear. But Achilles looks at it, and his eyes take on a burning flame of rage – as if the light of the gleaming shield has entered his soul– and he rejoices as he gazes at it (.–): αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς ὡς εἶδ’, ὥς μιν μᾶλλον ἔδυ χόλος, ἐν δέ οἱ ὄσσε δεινὸν ὑπὸ βλεφάρων ὡς εἰ σέλας ἐξεφάανθεν· τέρπετο δ’ ἐν χείρεσσιν ἔχων θεοῦ ἀγλαὰ δῶρα. αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ φρεσὶν ᾗσι τετάρπετο δαίδαλα λεύσσω . . .  

The most sophisticated exposition is in Krieger (: –); see also Heffernan (); Mitchell (). ‘Epic and ecphrasis complement and analogize each other.’ Putnam (: ).

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



But Achilles as he saw it, so anger flooded through him the more, and his eyes were terrible to see beneath his brows as if they were fire. He rejoiced holding the splendid gifts of the divinity in his hands. When he had taken his fill of pleasurably looking at the crafted work . . .

The sight provokes different, powerful emotions from its different spectators. That Achilles can react with both anger and pleasure, and, at the same time, that the imagery of peace and war on the shield can provoke fear in the Myrmidons, have both played an important role in modern interpretations of the significance of Achilles’ new armour in the epic. Strong emotions, then – but there is no explicit work of interpretation, commentary or understanding of the imagery within the poem. Although ‘wonder’ (θαῡμα) is repeatedly built into the language of the ecphrasis (miratur, miranda), the pattern of focalization excludes the heroic characters of the epic (unlike in Virgil). Neither Achilles, nor any other hero, looks at the imagery and seeks for or finds any meaning there. In Homer, ecphrasis is not a scene of recognition. Virgil, reading, as ever, through Homer, makes the eschewal of recognition a failure of recognition. Aeneas’ response to his shield famously juxtaposes his pleasure in looking at the images to his ignorance of the images’ import: miratur rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet, ‘he was amazed [by the shield], and, ignorant of the events, rejoiced in the image’ (imbricated with ‘ignorant, rejoiced in the image of events’). Rerum here may recall Aeneas’ response to the gates at Carthage – sunt lacrimae rerum – a statement whose prophetic force for the story of Carthage and its queen, and his role in that story, Aeneas, the speaker, cannot (yet) understand. So, too, as Aeneas looks at the story of Daedalus on the Temple of Apollo in Book , which acts as a multilayered prelude to his father’s tale of future inheritance in the underworld, the image of the labyrinth has been taken as a model for the inextricabilis error (.) of (his) reading, much as the opening description of the shield as enarrabile textum (.), ‘an indescribable fabric’, not only plays with the rhetorical hyperbole of ‘beyond expression’, ‘even if I had a hundred mouths’, but also suggests that there will always be something that goes beyond, that escapes the interpretation of the shield’s imagery. The self-conscious tradition of epic ecphrasis may – should – encourage the reader to explore the relationship between the ecphrasis and the framing narrative, but the heroes themselves are debarred 

From the huge bibliography; see Marg (); Taplin (); Becker ().



Forms of Attention

from any such knowledge (or from getting such knowledge right). Ecphrasis in epic is not a stage for the display or revelation of knowledge (let alone wit or interpretative flair). Indeed, critics over the centuries may have turned so obsessively to analyse the ecphrases in Homer, Apollonius or Virgil, precisely because this refusal or failure within the text to interpret the imagery provokes the reader to make good the silence or the misrecognition. We are now in a position to see more precisely how Hellenistic ecphrastic epigram is set against epic. First, the epigram demands a different form of attention. The epigram paradigmatically does not imagine the viewer lost in awe, silent and transfixed. Rather, it insists on the interpretative moment, the flash of recognition. It does not depict the activity of looking and thus description, as a potentially ever-expandable engagement: even when the epigram offers a series of details, as, for example, it does in the riddling funerary monuments, it is a discrete list where each element is precisely identified and interpreted. Where epic revels in the enarrabile textum, the viewer lost in thauma, unbroken contemplation (obtutu uno), epigram insists on viewing as pointed recognition, response as hyper-articulacy, and, above all, writing as staging the performance of knowingness. The two genres offer contrasting modes of attention. Second, where epic temporality sets in tension narrative progression and the delay of the ecphrastic process, in epigram the inherited trope of ‘stop, passer-by, and look’ becomes a bounded event, which is decontextualized – decontextualized, that is, not just in the sense that there is no framing narrative to the ecphrastic epigram, but rather in the sense that in epigram we find the depersonalization of the viewing subject (never named in epigram), and the removal of any precise spatial or temporal frame of viewing. We do not find ecphrastic epigrams which begin ‘I was walking in the agora when . . .’, or even ‘the light at dawn falls on . . .’, language we do find in Pliny as well as in epic: to read the epigrams on Myron’s Cow reveals nothing of where it is displayed or how any viewer came into contact with it. The ecphrases of Achilles’ shield, Jason’s cloak or Aeneas’ shield (or the images on the doors at Carthage or the Temple of Apollo) are all deeply concerned with an ever broadening temporal framework: Achilles’ death, beyond the end of the epic; Jason’s afterlife in Euripides’ Medea; Aeneas’ famamque et fata nepotum (. ), the history of Rome in the future. Each acts as a form of foretelling, a directive frame 

See Goldhill (); Squire (a).

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



for things to come. An epigram very rarely indeed steps outside the dramatic present. The two genres offer different versions of how the understanding of an image relates to time. But, thirdly, the difference between epic and epigram is also a question of a style of knowing. While epic describes images at length but restricts or removes the activity of interpretation from the voices of the poem, the epigram focuses precisely on the act of viewing and its cognitive delights, but restricts or removes actual description of the object itself (as we can see in an exemplary way with the Myron’s Cow epigrams). The viewer in – and writer of – epigram is a knowing subject, whose epigram is the display and performance of his or her knowingness. A hero of epigram cannot be someone who rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet. Any paraded doubt or ignorance in epigram is a foil to a climactic recognition. Indeed, even the emotions of epigram are almost invariably subordinate to the gestures of knowing. The Christian ecphrastic epigrams of the first book of the Palatine Anthology are strikingly different from this Hellenistic tradition in their insistence on retelling what is always already known – the reading of the pious. These different forms of knowing, embodied in the different literary forms of epic and epigram, suggest different models of reader engagement: the openness of signification that we find in epic ecphrasis can be contrasted with the normative, the directive and the restricted expectation of epigrammatic ecphrasis. These contrasting forms of attention, contrasting forms of temporality and contrasting forms of knowingness are interrelated, then, and articulate contrasting discourses of epigrammatic and epic ecphrasis.

III In the final section of my argument, I want to explore this sense of contrasting forms of ecphrastic attention in three further ways. First, I will take two paradigmatic examples of how epigrammatic knowingness plays with temporality, and its self-aware contrast of style with epic. Second, I will argue that a prose ecphrasis (of the same statue as one of the epigrams) not only offers a strikingly non-epigrammatic form of attention but also seems to reframe an epic styling of knowledge. Third, we will see that the novel, with its characteristic polyphony and selfconscious wit, combines both epigrammatic and epic forms of attention with precise dramatic force. My first epigram is an anonymous poem on a statue of Heracles defeating the Ceryneian hind (AP .):



Forms of Attention Τί πρῶτον, τί δ’ ἔπειτα φρεσίν, τί δὲ λοίσθιον ὄσσοις θαυμάσσω τέχνης ἀνέρος ἠδ’ ἐλάφου; ὧν ὁ μὲν ἰξύι θηρὸς ἐπεμβεβαὼς γόνυ βρίθει εὐπτόρθων παλάμαις δραξάμενος κεράων· ἡ δ’ ὑπὸ χάσματι πολλὰ καὶ ἄσθματι φυσιόωσα γλώσσῃ σημαίνει θλιβομένην κραδίην. Ἥρακλες, γήθησον, ὅλη κεμὰς ἥδε τέθηλεν οὐ κέρασιν μούνοις, ἀλλὰ τέχνῃ χρυσέη. What first, what next with my mind, what last with my eyes Will I marvel at this art of man and deer? He presses on the loin of the beast with the weight of his knee, And grasps her beautiful antlers with his hands. She gasps with open mouth and pants for breath, And indicates her distressed heart with her tongue. Heracles, rejoice! This hind blooms, Gold not just in her horns, but all gold with art.

The narrator is depicted as awe struck (θαῡμα again), mentally and physically – in mind (φρεσί) and eye (ὄσσοις) – and rejoices in the verisimilitude and emotional power of the artwork. In the final couplet, Heracles’ joy in victory is assimilated to the pleasure taken in art, where, it is suggested, the ‘all gold’ of art trumps the golden horns of myth. Heracles’ violence is typically sexualized – here, as he presses on the deer’s loin and grasps her beautiful horns, she gasps and pants – and the erotic language helps the slide between the hunt and the aesthetic pleasure. In this way, this poem is exemplary of the strategies of ecphrastic epigram. The first line, however, clearly echoes a famous line of Odysseus in Homer, as he begins to tell his long history to the Phaeacians (Od . : τί πρῶτόν τοι ἔπειτα, τί δ’ ὑστάτιον καταλέξω; ‘What first, then, what last shall I say?’). What is in Homer a choice between ‘first’ and ‘last’ has become in the epigram a choice between beginning, middle and end, ‘first, then, last’, where the Homeric connective epeita, ‘then’, has become in the epigram a full temporal marker of a third stage, a different use of ‘then’. This redrafting of Homeric language (no surprise in Hellenistic poetics) may suggest not only that a long, self-representing epic narrative is to come, but also that it will be even longer, or in more articulate form, even than the apologoi of Homer’s Odysseus. In fact, however, the three timescales introduce three couplets, one on Heracles, one on the deer and one

 

As discussed by Gutzwiller (: –). And the same sort of language is redrafted in Hellenistic priamels elsewhere: see Theocritus .–.

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



on the narrator’s witty conclusion ([first] he grasps . . . [then] she gasps . . . [last] yo, art!). The Homeric echoing thus acts as a foil as much as an introduction for the epigrammatic briefness. The promise of epic length before the suitably epic subject of a Heraclean agon is a game of scale, pointing up the poem’s pointed techne. The appropriation of epic language becomes a joke on epigram’s temporality, its form of attention. We will not sit long in silence, as if at the end of a night’s bardic performance, after this poem. My second epigram is a poem which has been analysed with a good deal of sophistication and flair in recent years, AP , Posidippus xix G-P, and which deals with temporality in a more complex way than the example I have just discussed: τίς πόθεν ὁ πλάστης; — Σικυώνιος. — οὔνομα δὴ τίς; Λύσιππος. — σὺ δὲ τίς; — Καιρὸς ὁ πανδαμάτωρ. τίπτε δ’ ἐπ’ ἄκρα βέβηκας; — ἀεὶ τροχάω. —τί δὲ ταρσοὺς ποσσὶν ἔχεις διφυεῖς; — ἵπταμ’ ὑπηνέμιος. χειρὶ δὲ δεξιτερῇ τί φέρεις ξυρόν; — ἀνδράσι δεῖγμα, ὡς ἀκμῆς πάσης ὀξύτερος τελέθω. ἡ δὲ κόμη τί κατ’ ὄψιν; — ὑπαντιάσαντι λαβέσθαι νὴ Δία. — τἀξόπιθεν πρὸς τί φαλακρὰ πέλει; „ τὸν γὰρ ἅπαξ πτηνοῖσι παραθρέξαντά με ποσσὶν οὔτις ἔθ’ ἱμείρων δράξεται ἐξόπιθεν. τοὔνεχ’ ὁ τεχνίτης σε διέπλασεν; — εἵνεκεν ὑμέων, ξεῖνε, καὶ ἐν προθύροις θῆκε διδασκαλίην. Who and from where is the sculptor? – From Sikyon. – And his name? Lysippus. – And who are you? – Right Occasion, the all-subduer. Why do you stand on tip-toe? – I am always running – Why do you have A pair of wings on your feet? – I fly with the wind. Why do you hold a razor in your right hand? – As a sign for men That I am sharper than any blade. Why is your hair over your eyes? – For the one who meets me to grab, By God. – Why is the back of your head bald? Because once I have raced by on my winged feet, No-one can get hold of me from behind, desire it though he may. The artist fashioned me like this for your sake, Stranger, and put me in the portico as a lesson.

The statue speaks, in answer to the passer-by, as in so many funerary epigrams, and the poem embodies the process of interpretation: 

See Gutzwiller (: –), and in particular Prauscello () (with further bibliography), to which can be added the long and interesting discussion of Prioux (: –); also, MännleinRobert (: –); Boschung (: –).



Forms of Attention

‘the pressing series of questions and answers [may] . . . be read as a direct enactment of the viewer’s/reader’s craving for interpretation while performing it’. The poem itemizes each detail of viewing as a precise question with a precise answer, and ends with the didactic aim of the sculptor as a summary conclusion to the activity of reading: a bounded scene of recognition, of knowingness. To this degree, then, the poem fits straightforwardly into the generic expectations of Hellenistic ecphrastic epigram, as we have been discussing them. But as Kathryn Gutzwiller has sharply expressed it, the interpretation of the allegorical statue of Right Moment [Kairos], adds a further level to the reading process: ‘It is only by giving it voice, by representing the statue conversing with a viewer, that Posidippus makes fully possible, through language, the visual representation of time in motion. Only by the addition of words, of verbal decipherment, does time move and Lysippus’ statue instruct.’ (As Augustine will discuss with the greatest profundity, there is an integral connection between the time it takes to say words and the comprehension of time.) Lucia Prauscello has intelligently noted also that prothurois in the final line has a broader metaphorical meaning than some more literal minded scholars have suggested. ‘In the portico’ may seem to offer a form of contextualization for the statue (of a sort that I indicated above was extremely rare indeed in ecphrastic epigrams). While this physical meaning is, of course, a possible reading, which may have indicated a familiar location to some ancient readers, it has proved quite impossible for modern scholars to agree even on a city for the display of the statue, let alone a building. Prauscello is surely right to see a broader understanding of the term, indicating, as part of the teaching of the poem/statue, that time is to be understood here within the contemporary philosophical, and especially Epicurean, understanding of ‘time’ and ‘seizing the right moment’: understanding how the ‘right moment’ affects your life is ‘among the prolegomena (ἐν προθύροις) to leading a successful life’. Indeed, kairos itself has been read by Prioux as a political and, above all,    

Prauscello (: ). See in general Tueller (), though the discussion of this poem (–) is very thin.  Gutzwiller (: ). I am referring of course again to Confessions . For an archaeological history of the statue and its iconography see Boschung (). Prauscello (: ). What is more, since Pindar’s Olympian  at least, the prothuron (or atrium Hor. Car ..) has been used as an architectural image for the poet’s own work – a further encouragement here to see the teaching both in the poem and in the statue, and to think about the self-reflexivity of the poem.

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



an aesthetic term, which gives the poem a self-reflexive turn particularly suited to epigram: ‘‘L’occasion’ est un bel embleme pour définir l’air d’un epigrammatopoios’. There is one complementary twist I would want to add to Gutzwiller’s, Prauscello’s and Prioux’s fine readings, which will tie the poem closely into the argument of this chapter. The poem starts with the front of the statue, and moves round to the back, as if the viewer is walking in the portico past the statue. Indeed, the specificity of en prothurois as a location, metaphorical or literal (rather than a gallery or a temple), emphasizes that this is a statue to be seen while passing through – as the dim echoes of the old trope of funerary statuary speaking to a passerby may also suggest. Once you get to the back of Kairos, you have passed it by. The statue and its placement encourage everyone to miss the moment, and the poem takes you through the process. The lesson (last word) is not to miss the moment (passed by). The poem plays a lightly ironic game with its own sense of Kairos – with, that is, the temporality of the epigram as the bounded moment. This reading finds support from Ausonius, Paulinus’ friend and correspondent. He writes an epigram in which a statue of Occasio (the standard translation of Kairos), attributed to Pheidias, not Lysippus, is paired with a statue of Metanoia (‘Change of Mind’, a figure crucial to my Chapter ). An imagined statue (there is no evidence Pheidias ever sculpted a figure of this title) is Ausonius’ intermedial gloss on Posiddipus’ intermedial gloss. It ends ( –): Tu quoque dum rogitas, dum percontando moraris, Elapsum disces me tibi de manibus You too, while you keep asking questions, and delaying in this interrogation, Will learn that I have slipped through your hands.

Ausonius astutely allows each reader to see that they too have just let time slip by as they read and worry about his poem. The sharpness of Posidippus’ poem is worth contrasting with Callistratus’ prose ecphrasis of the same statue (Callistratus ), which is surprisingly 



Prioux (: – (political); – (aesthetic); quotation ). In seeing Posidippus and Callimachus as strongly opposed rivals (with Posidippus as the Telchines), she perhaps goes beyond what might be deduced from the close relationship between this poem and Callimachus’ lines on Delian Apollo (frr - Pf ), a connection already adumbrated by D’Allesio (: –), who also notes that Ausonius Epig.  seems to imitate both Posidippus and Callimachus, suggesting at least one ancient author read the poems as interrelated. See Elsner (), whose interpretation this follows.



Forms of Attention

not discussed in the modern critical literature on this poem. There is, first of all, in Callistratus’ account a set of physical descriptions lacking in the epigram: the statue is in bronze; Kairos was represented as a beautiful boy at the height of perfection; the flesh had a particular bloom, and the forehead glistened with grace; the cheeks appeared to blush; he stood on a sphere; and so forth (. –). Second, the governing trope of this prose ecphrasis is the familiar stunned reaction of the observer to the amazing realism of the art (.): ἡμεῖς μὲν οὖν ἀφασίᾳ πληγέντες πρὸς τὴν θέαν εἱστήκειμεν τὸν χαλκὸν ὁρῶντες ἔργα φύσεως μηχανώμενον καὶ τῆς οἰκείας ἐκβαίνοντα τάξεως· χαλκὸς μὲν γὰρ ὢν ἠρυθραίνετο, σκληρὸς δὲ ὢν τὴν φύσιν διεχεῖτο μαλακῶς εἴκων τῇ τέχνῃ πρὸς ὃ βούλοιτο, σπανίζων δὲ αἰσθήσεως ζωτικῆς ἔνοικον ἔχειν ἐπιστοῦτο τὴν αἴσθησιν καὶ ὄντως ἐστήρικτο πάγιον τὸν ταρσὸν ἐρείσας, ἑστὼς δὲ ὁρμῆς ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐδείκνυτο καί σοι τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν ἠπάτα, ὡς καὶ τῆς εἰς τὸ πρόσω κυριεύων φορᾶς, καὶ παρὰ τοῦ δημιουργοῦ λαβὼν καὶ τὴν ἀέριον λῆξιν τέμνειν εἰ βούλοιτο ταῖς πτέρυξι. We stood struck into silence before the sight, as we saw the bronze accomplishing deeds of nature and departing from its proper order. For though it was bronze, it blushed; although hard, it dissolved its nature, softly yielding to art’s desire; although it lacked sensation, it made one believe it had sensation in it; although it was really stationary, and kept its foot firmly on the ground, standing there it showed it had the power of rushing, and deceived the eye, as if it had the power of forward movement, and had got from the maker the power, if it wanted, to cut the aerial portion with its wings.

In contrast to the epigram sequence on Myron’s Cow, Callistratus provides a rather prosaic wonder that this art ‘deceives the eye’, and that the brute bronze by artistic skill seemed to have sensation and colour. (Callistratus largely avoids the paradoxes and playfulness integral to the epigrams.) There is a mild eroticism in the image of the bronze melting and yielding to art, which is picked up later in the rather laboured suggestion that ‘beauty’ and the ‘right moment’ are integrally connected: ‘beauty is always a thing of the right moment, and the right moment is the only maker of beauty’. Perhaps most telling, however, is the silence of the spectators. They are awed by the sight of the statue, and indeed they have to turn to expert advice to understand it (.): 

Schwartz () collects and discusses all the extant ancient responses to the statue, and includes Callistratus, but her project is simply to compare the details offered about the statue in order to reconstruct its appearance. On the statue itself, see Moreno ed. (: –; –); Moreno (: –, –) (with good background on Lysippus); Boschung ().

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



καὶ τὸ μὲν ἡμῖν θαῦμα τοιοῦτον ἦν, εἷς δέ τις τῶν περὶ τὰς τέχνας σοφῶν καὶ εἰδότων σὺν αἰσθήσει τεχνικωτέρᾳ τὰ τῶν δημιουργῶν ἀνιχνεύειν θαύματα καὶ λογισμὸν ἐπῇδε τῷ τεχνήματι, τὴν τοῦ καιροῦ δύναμιν ἐν τῇ τέχνῃ σῳζομένην ἐξηγούμενος . . . Such was the marvel in our eyes at least. But one of the experts in art, those who know how to trace the wonders of the artists with a more profound artistic perception, provided a reasoned account of the artwork, and expounded the power of Right Moment as it was depicted in the art. He told us that . . .

The narrator gets an exegete (ἐξηγούμενος), someone who knows, whose perception is more skilled and more trained in artistic matters, and it is this expert who goes on to explain the allegorical meaning of the statue, providing, indeed, a very similar reading to Posidippus. (This is a classic example of the standard scene of a visitor and exegete. By contrast, Philostratus, in his Imagines, repeatedly plays the role of exegete to his audience of young men, and his sophia allows him to turn initial thauma, predicated of his audience, into exegesis.) Callistratus can rejoice in the beauty and skill of the image, but remains ignarus rerum. The epigrammatist is the knowing subject, who parades the brilliance of his perception, who directs our gaze and understanding before an artwork. Callistratus, like a baffled and prosy Aeneas, needs to find someone else to provide this knowingness. Where Posidippus dramatizes the statue itself answering the questions of its origin and meaning, as a display of his status among the sophoi and a mark of his own aesthesis technikotera, Callistratus stages his own failure to understand without help from another better trained sophos. The contrast could hardly be more pointed. It is from a later period and in prose rather than verse, but most strikingly it betokens a different form of attention, a different form of knowing. This dynamic tension between the baffled prose viewer and the turn to extended exegesis continues throughout late antiquity into the politics of imperial eulogy. Procopius’ Ecphrasis of a Clock (to continue our theme of looking at the embodiments of time) concludes its proem () with the statement that ‘vision defeats speech and is itself baffled [amêchanousa]’. 



See Newby (). Himerius, who also provides an ecphrasis of this statue, closes the gap between artist and exegete by seeing the artist himself as an ‘exegete’ of the idea of kairos: ἐγγράφει τοῖς θεοῖς τὸν Καιρόν, καὶ μορφώσας ἀγάλματι τὴν φύσιν αὐτοῦ διὰ τῆς εἰκόνος ἐξηγήσατο, ‘He enrols Kairos among the Gods, and by making his form in a statue he expounds his nature through the image’ (Himerius Declam. . [. Colonna]). The idea of enrolling Kairos among the Gods may echo AP . , which praises Menander for making Kairos a god. See for the text the edition of Amato et al ().



Forms of Attention

Vision is baffled as to what it ought to see, and is carried in all directions, leaping this and that way, and thus (echoing Philo of Byzantium with whom we started) it ‘loses the details’. Looking at so complex a Clock, declares Procopius, gives him ‘windings [heligmoi] of the eyes’, a dizzying impression, like the experience of ‘looking at a labyrinth’ (he attributes this idea to ‘a certain Ionian historian’). Choricius (Or  ) also insists that you will be made dizzy [iligiasseis] when you enter a church because of the same head-spinning failure to see everything at once: you will be at a loss (aporêseis ). In both Procopius and Choricius, a long enumerative description follows. The thauma of ecphrasis is integrated into the thauma at imperial power, troped through the brilliance of the technical achievement of the Clock, a mastery over time, and the splendour of the church, an embodiment of the material wealth of the empire. Interpretation becomes praise, ecphrasis the performance of the imperial subject. The Palatine Anthology, later still than Callistratus, once again provides a fascinating contrast here. Book III, barely discussed by classicists, has a unique and bizarre form, that adds a further vector to this discussion. It contains only nineteen epigrams, one of which is lost. Each epigram purports to be a poem inscribed on a tablet attached to a relief in a temple in Cyzicus. The poems were set up, we are told at the head of the book, by Apollonis, the mother of Attalus and Eumenes, which would date them to the second century BCE. Each of the reliefs takes as a subject a scene from myth that involves parents and children, which has been taken as a significant thematic focus for the dedicator of the poems (although several involve extremely bloody scenes that are not straightforward to link in a eulogistic way to the royal family of Cyzicus). Whether these poems are in fact from the second century has been doubted (often on not very strong grounds), but at the very least we do have here a set of ecphrastic poems about pictures in the same single building. What makes this book remarkable, however, is that each poem is numbered and introduced with a brief prose description. So, typically, poem  begins with this piece of prose: ‘In number  there is the underworld prophecy scene [nekuomanteia] of Odysseus. He stands asking his own mother Antikleia about affairs at home’. The poem then reads: Μᾶτερ Ὀδυσσῆος πινυτόφρονος Ἀντίκλεια ζῶσα μὲν εἰς ᾽Ιθάκην οὐχ ὑπέδεξο πάιν. ἀλλά σε νῦν Ἀχέροντος ἐπὶ ῥηγμῖσι γεγῶσαν θαμβεῖ, ἀνὰ γλυκερὰν ματέρα δερκόμενος.

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



Mother of sharp-witted Odysseus, Anticleia, When you were alive, you did not receive your son in Ithaca. But now, he marvels at you on the banks of the Acheron, As he stares at his sweet mother.

The poem addresses Anticleia, as if the writer is a third party to the scene in Odyssey  when Odysseus meets his mother in Hades. The adjective pinutophronos is a variation on the standard Homeric epithets for Odysseus, and glukeran, ‘sweet’, may recall its use in Homer applied to patris and tokêes, ‘homeland and parents’ (Od ix ), applied now just to ‘mother’. The prose introduction informs us both of the scene in Homer, which the picture represents, and of the action of Odysseus – asking questions – rather than the emotion which the poem represents the painting as showing. The prose identifies what the poem responds to. The prose introductions are clearly written at a time subsequent to the verse but in the manuscript the book is written continuously, the prose and verse intercalated. The prose adds very prosy information for a reader who is less au fait with the details of Greek myth at least as expressed in an allusive description of an artwork in a poem: the prose gives the narrative, the poem dialogue. If the poem frames the picture, directing our gaze to a backstory and an emotion, the prose redirects our comprehension to the repertoire of literary tradition or mythic narratives cued by the reliefs and the poems. The prose supplements the poems as the poems intermedially supplement the reliefs. A sense of tradition is under construction here. Knowledge is incrementally added but knowingness incrementally disavowed. The prose and the verse project different types of knowing readers, where the prose attempts to disarm the collusive aesthetics of allusion by offering shared and open knowledge. This process of reframing can appear almost like a simple titling. Poem  reads ‘I left the deep valley of Arcadia for the sake of my mother Auge. I came to this land of Teuthras, I Telephus, myself the dear son of Heracles, so that I might bring her back to the plain of Arcadia’. The poem imagines a self-announcement of the hero, whose task is placed in implicit comparison to his father’s labours. His heroic adventure of return is framed by the ring-composition of the repetition of Arcadia in the first and last line. The prose reads: ‘The second pillar has Telephus recognized by his own mother’. The scene of self-announcement is now represented as (actually) a scene of recognition, and the agent of recognition is the mother, Auge, whom we would not know to be in the relief from the poem alone. If the poetry tries to make us into viewing subjects, the prose stands back and identifies the scene of the picture.



Forms of Attention

It is hard to be sure about the dating of either the poems or the prose. It could be that the poems are indeed from the second century BCE and the prose much later, perhaps from a time or context when Christian knowledge blanched the classical tradition into a less vibrant range of understanding, and thus such prosy help became more necessary. It could be that the poems were first composed later than the second century, a fiction of what might have been in Cyzicus or even as a later inscriptional event in the temple at Cyzicus – then the prose, later still, glosses this fiction with a recuperative explication of its own. Yet what matters most for my argument is that this book of the Anthology is the inverse of Callistratus’ dramatized scene. The poems provide us with an epigrammatic perception of the meaning of the reliefs in the temple at Cyzicus; the prose, however, introduces each with a different, straightforward explication of the subject of the image. The book stages a prose and verse version of looking, two forms of expressivity and knowingness, intercalated. My final case is from Achilles Tatius, ever the ‘scopophiliac’s paradise’, and a wonderful scene which can be said to dramatize forms of attention as a theme of the novel. In Book V, the lovers, Leucippe and Cleitophon, are preparing an expedition from Alexandria – in fact, being lured into an ambush by the bandit Chaereas. As they leave the house, a hawk chasing a swallow hits Leucippe on the head with its wing – an evil omen – at which point Cleitophon turns and sees a picture in a gallery. The picture is of the rape of Philomela, which, notes Cleitophon, is a ‘subject which also had a secret significance’ (..). This introduction leads into a lengthy ecphrasis of the painting. Menelaus, Cleitophon’s friend and confidante, follows the ecphrasis by expounding the point of the picture, with a generalizing sententia typical of Achilles Tatius’s novel (..): λέγουσι δὲ οἱ τῶν συμβόλων ἐξηγηταὶ σκοπεῖν τοὺς μύθους τῶν εἰκόνων, ἂν ἐξιοῦσιν ἐπὶ πρᾶξιν ἡμῖν συντύχωσι, καὶ ἐξομοιοῦν τὸ ἀποβησόμενον τῷ τῆς ἱστορίας λόγῳ. Interpreters of signs say that if we encounter paintings as we set off to do something, we should ponder the myths narrated there, and conclude that the outcome for us will be comparable to the story they tell.

And he concludes from the painting’s depiction of erotic misdeeds that the expedition should be put off. Menelaus’ language here, as Shadi Bartsch notes, is the technical language of art interpretation, familiar both  

The phrase is Helen Morales’s. See Morales () for the background to the following discussion. On the sententia in this novel see Morales (: –); and Morales ().

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



from other prose of the time and from epigrams’ appropriation of it. In no other place in Achilles Tatius (or indeed in the other extant Greek novels) do we get such an explicit interpretation of an ecphrastic image, complete with a buttress of the theory of interpretation. Indeed, Leucippe immediately asks (..): ‘what signifies the myth in the image? What are these birds? Who the women? Who that shameless man?’, and Cleitophon answers by offering a long exposition of the myth of Philomela and Tereus, the back-story, as it were, to the ecphrasis of the painting. Scholars have explored at length the multiform ironies of how this ecphrasis and this myth relate to the framing narrative: as Bartsch puts it, ‘the author is not only inviting the reader to take an “inferential walk”, he is rolling out the red carpet!’ But what I want to emphasize is how Achilles Tatius’ novel with its customary generic and discursive licentiousness seems here to combine the epic and epigrammatic ecphrastic styles, to good effect. Normally, following its epic pretensions, the novel presents its prophetic and over-determined ecphrastic descriptions without any directive commentary. Here, uniquely, it adds both an epigrammatic reading of the image (ἔρωτος παρανόμου, μοιχείας ἀναισχύντου, γυναικείων ἀτυχημάτων, ‘illegal desire, shameless adultery, women’s misfortunes’ – a zippy summary of a plot) and also a further, more extended reading of the myth in the image. Achilles’ playfulness, however, is not merely to be seen in his generic promiscuousness. Cleitophon and Leucippe, for all the work of interpretation, put off the expedition for one day only, and then sail straight into the ambush anyway. As so often in this narrative, the cleverness of the first-person narrator, a sophos about town, rebounds against him. Even as hero of his own story he cannot interpret his way out of the disaster to come. His smartness, his skill at offering a clever reading of the image, is all to no avail. The joke is on the sophisticated interpreters in the story – and, inevitably, on the readers of the story, as they too go on inferential walkabout. Introducing the epigram’s gestures of snappy, knowing interpretation into an extended, epicizing narrative, does not reduce the semantic productiveness of the ecphrasis, but wilfully plays with it. He may think he is a sophos at large, but Cleitophon remains resolutely and amusingly rerum ignarus. In Achilles Tatius, the sophisticated knowingness that the epigram encapsulates, becomes part of the novel’s plot and humour.  

 Bartsch (: –). Bartsch (: ). ‘An interpretation wrapped in its conventional cloak of meaningfulness but found to be an empty, misleading account’. Bartsch (: ).



Forms of Attention

This example in Achilles Tatius, I would suggest, should encourage us to look forward to the ecphrastic strategies of Heliodorus, or sideways at Lucian’s construction of the civilized viewer, as further explorations of the relation between ecphrastic description and knowing interpretation. Greek prose in the Roman Empire, in short, repeatedly and amusedly engages with the extreme versions of the styles of interpretation and forms of attention on display in epic and epigram.

IV Paulinus of Nola is well aware of the tradition of classical ecphrasis, as his sophisticated reworkings of Virgil and other Latin poets indicate. His composition of multiple poems to adorn a church and to reframe his own self-portrait require the focused, sublime form of attention similar to that we have seen in epic, but also demand a knowledge that is specifically Christian: the Christian is not ignarus rerum, however humble and insufficient he may wish to present himself to be, but has to know that his redeemer liveth, and has to be able to see a figure of eternal truth in the particularities of architecture, a portrait, or an image of the Hebrew Bible – and to view from within a specifically Christian matrix of moral values. The gaze of epic and the gaze of the Christian worshipper are both in sharp contrast with the form of attention embodied in the stance of the Hellenistic tradition of epigrammatic ecphrasis, where revelation is so often of the viewer’s own rhetorical brilliance, a moment of wit or paradox. The Christian epigrams of the Anthology, later and from Byzantium, redraft such a self-positioning through the piety of assured knowledge. In the case of the Empress Eudocia’s church foundation, the language of celebration and praise turns ecphrasis into glorification, where epic wonder becomes imperial obeisance. The ecphrastic viewer in epic, epigram and Christian writing engages differently with time, and finds expression in different narrative voices. The novel, in its turn, plays with these different voices of ecphrasis and dramatizes different forms of ecphrastic attention. Historians of ecphrasis since Friedländer have often talked of ecphrasis as a recognized tradition of poetry and prose, a form of literary expression with tropes and expectations, even, indeed, following ancient theorists, as a rhetorical genre – with the result that examples of ecphrases are repeatedly taken from different genres and across different historical eras without due regard for the generic forms and cultural frames within which they have been composed. This chapter has demonstrated, I hope, that looking at forms of attention and modes of temporality with generic specificity allows

Time and Narrative in Ecphrasis



us to develop a necessarily richer comprehension of ecphrasis as a historical and aesthetic expression, and consequently to rethink this tradition as a far more varied and dynamic interaction than the critical horizon has so far allowed. Above all, it shows how literary form raises a set of questions and has a set of consequences that go far beyond the ascription of what could be called the formal attributes by which belonging to a genre is decided. By looking at the form of ecphrasis through the forms of epic and epigram – and across the era of late antiquity when Christianity is taking shape, and through verse and prose – we have necessarily discussed issues of temporality, knowingness and knowledge, the invention of tradition, constructions of viewing positions, different ideological notions of engagement with material culture, the performance of wonder and the dynamics of praise. As such, this opening chapter is programmatic for how the aesthetics and politics of form set the agenda for this book.

 

When Size Matters Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

In this and the next chapter, I turn to a poetic form that plays a particular role in the aesthetics of late antiquity, namely, the hexameter narratives generally known as epyllia. In this chapter I will be looking specifically at how an epyllion narrates a story of eros. The parochial fights over definition – what precisely is or is not an epyllion, and is it a genre recognized in antiquity? – need not detain us here, though such debates have repeatedly vexed scholars. I have already indicated that questions of form need to go far beyond such restricted, formal perspectives. This chapter is primarily more concerned with the issue of scale, namely, what the effect is of taking a grand subject and renarrating it in the space of a few hundred lines. If scale matters, then the epyllion’s treatment of eros should prove to be a particularly telling space in which to interrogate how the scale of narrative – its form – affects its perspective. What can and cannot be said in a love story? How long should a love story be? How does size matter? In Chapter , I looked at how different forms of attention are performed or interpellated by different genres, in particular by epigram and epic. Looking specifically at ecphrasis, I contrasted how in epigrams the writer dramatized the moment of perception of a work of art as a moment of brilliant, instant, witty interpretation, a sort of free-standing cleverness that dramatized and performed the position of a viewing subject, while in epic the representation of the subject in front of a work of art was often troped as bafflement, terror and a long process of wondering, where the framing of ecphrasis within a narrative changed the form of attention. Since ecphrasis dramatizes a moment of looking, and since desire dramatizes a heightened visual experience, usually indeed a flashing moment of recognition – ‘Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?’ – the relation between genre 

See (also with further bibliography) Tilg (); Mascriadi (); Fantuzzi and Hunter (: –); Hollis (); Gutzwiller (: –).



Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen



and forms of attention seems to be a good way into thinking about how the poetics of form affect the narrative of eros. How like an epigram, how like an epic will the telling of erotics be? Recently, there have been some large-scale contributions to the discussion of the epyllion, most notably the collected volume edited by Manuel Baumbach and Silvio Bär, the Brill Companion to Greek and Latin Epyllion and its Reception, a volume that has some fine scholars in it, but as a volume is a long way short of exhausting its subject, not least in not even mentioning Colluthus, my main focus in this chapter, bar a single footnote. In this chapter and Chapter , I hope to explore the form of epyllion by following the questions raised in Chapter : what is the relation between forms of narration and forms of knowing? How is/was a sense of tradition constructed in late antiquity? How – who – is the reader invoked by the writing’s perspective? How does the literary work contribute to the aesthetics and cultural politics of a culture undergoing significant change? What, in short, does an epyllion do?

I Since the success of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, W. H. Auden has become something of a patron saint of a certain wry, lacrimose reflection on love. In his poem, ‘O Tell me the Truth about Love’, brilliantly set to music by Benjamin Britten, Auden () wonders: When it comes, will it come without warning, Just as I am picking my nose? Will it knock on the door in the morning, Or tread in the bus on my toes? Will it come like a change in the weather? Will its greeting be courteous or rough? Will it alter my life altogether? O tell me the truth about love.

In the modern world of eroticism, there is a range of commonplaces that Auden is knowingly and amusingly riffing off, not least the predictable unpredictability of love’s progress. There is the ‘love at first sight’, with its tropes of lightning, the sudden glance across a crowded room. There is the flâneur who sees the tall and tanned and young and lovely girl from Ipanema passing by and says ‘ah’. There is the slow burn of the gradual realization that it is after all Mr Darcy who you desire, often long after the 

Baumbach and Bär ().



When Size Matters

reader has recognized the inevitability of the realization. Reader, as if you haven’t guessed, I always fancied him . . . There is a whole genre of gay erotics, tragically looking back to a time before AIDS when gratification was innocently serial and seriously instant. In ancient Greek, however, across the scope of genres and times and cities, from Homer to Nonnus, between men and women, or men and boys, the erotic moment is expressed precisely as a moment of instant recognition, almost always visual in its causal vector – though sometimes, as we know from the cynical and brilliantly manipulative Achilles Tatius, where a bandit falls in love with the reported appearance of the heroine, it can even be an imagined gaze, the image of an image, as Plato would put it. The clichés are familiar and regularly repeated in Greek, as in Latin: Hôs iden hôs emanên, ‘as soon as I saw, I went mad’; ut vidi, ut perii, ‘As I saw, I died’; simul te aspexi, ‘at the instant I saw you. . .’. The ineluctable modality of the visual (as James Joyce put it) is the inevitable route to passion. What follows this outside irruption of desire through the eyes is usually a period of torment, of lust and longing – which might be called wooing, seduction, or just eros or amor at work – followed by consummation or regret (or both). Or, in some literary genres, suicide; or, worse, marriage. The pattern of desire in antiquity, as a narrative and as a set of tropes, has been very well articulated since the s, and Claude Calame and Marco Fantuzzi, for example, have given particularly good general accounts of the story’s unfurling across the genres. In her quite different and inimitable style, Anne Carson has looked beautifully at the bittersweet language of eros in earlier poetry; Victoria Wohl has pursued love among the ruins of democratic discourse; Page du Bois, Helene Foley, Froma Zeitlin and Nicole Loraux have opened to critical gaze the public stagings of violent desire in ancient theatre; Massimo Fusillo, David Konstan, Helen Morales, Jack Winkler, Tim Whitmarsh and myself – among a still-growing bibliography – have explored the playful but highly normative versions of such erotics in and through the novel. Modern scholarship thinks that it knows rather well how to fall in love, how to be in love, and how to regret being in love in ancient literature. After Foucault – and before sexuality – we have a decent grip on the normative     

Theocritus ., cf Ach. Tat. ..; Hom. Hymn Aprodite –; Virgil Ec . ; Catullus .–. Calame () and, with special reference to epic’s continuing reception, Fantuzzi ().  Carson (). Wohl (). Du Bois (); Foley (); Zeitlin (); Loraux (b). Fusillo (); Konstan (); Morales (); Winkler (); Whitmarsh (); Goldhill ().

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen



literature of desiring – and what is at stake in the long history of the desiring subject. And we also know why love is a misleading translation of eros or amor, and why we are very chary when a critic gets too Romantic with a capital R. We have also discussed how to face the grimmer aspects of ancient erotics, where rape can be a painfully facile plot line in Roman comedy, or where the patriarchal assumptions of male superiority and violence are so vividly demonstrated. And we know why even a fantasy of sexual symmetry can never hide the power relations of oppression between the genders in antiquity, in Plato’s utopian vision as much as in the novel’s playground. This extensive and flourishing debate is the necessary background to this chapter, and the importance of the erotic gaze will be crucial to the discussion of Colluthus. My concern, however, is with the relation between form and erotics – a question not so much about the well-discussed poetics of eros, as a question about how the poetics of form affect the narrative of eros – and this is a question far less commonly asked. Indeed, the story of the poetics of eros I have just summarized is constructed from materials across all the different genres of writing. What happens to such a story when we focus on the different ways that stories are embodied, rather than their thematic continuities? Or, as we might pose the question in its most apothegmatic form, does it matter how long desire is stretched out? What is the effect of the length of a poem on its erotics? So, let me begin with three general topics that are integral and crucial to understanding the epyllion as a form. The first, as I have already indicated, is scale. It is necessary to stress here the ideology that underlies the form of the epyllion. For form is nothing if not ideological. The epigram, as I have already emphasized, interpellates a viewing subject as a pepaideumenos, committed to the sly or passionate or witty aperçu. It constructs reality as a series of such moments ripe for instant and brilliant comment (even and especially when epigrammatists play with the possibility of narrative continuity by publishing books of epigrams, or, as with book  of the Palatine Anthology, an editor puts together more than  erotic epigrams from across the centuries). It postulates a world of to eikos – what is natural, normal, expected – by its wilful love of the paradox, the reversal,   

 Foucault (a, b); Zeitlin, Winkler and Halperin (eds.) (). Orrells (). Omitowoju (); Richlin (); Masterson, Rabinowitz and Robson (eds.) (); and the fine Germany (). See the essays collected in Acosta-Hughes, Kosmetatou and Baumbach (eds.) () and Gutzwiller (); for a more sophisticated take on Martial’s more sophisticated issues, see Fitzgerald (: especially –), Rimell () and Macdonald ().

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When Size Matters

the pun. It fragments the world into such moments, such gestures of performance. It resists narrative in favour of a distanced and decontextualized perspective: the epigram has attitude. And only attitude. Its complexity is not the complexity of embedded, layered and generalizing narration of an Odyssey or Metamorphoses, but the complexity of a joke. And like a joke, the epigram is for circulation between readers, and even when read alone, there is an audience for the act of reading. Remember Martial’s description of the woman who blushes to read his poems and puts them aside while her husband looks on, only to pick them up again the minute he leaves (.) – a poem through which Martial makes himself and us voyeurs to her staged act of private reading. Martial, channelling and silencing the Greek epigrams of, say, Lucilius, makes the epigram a place where erotics is stridently, publicly, ludically on display. But he is also the epigrammatist most obsessed with self-reflexive comments on – and games with – the form of the epigram and the paradox of collecting little poems to make a big book. Martial, paradigmatically, boasts that his poems are fitted into brevibus . . . tabellis, ‘small pages’: scrinia da magnis, me manus una capit, ‘give blockbusters to the great; one hand holds me’ (.. –). So Martial writes epigrams about miniature books (. –), trumping microwriting by his tiny ecphrastic poems. In a similar vein, Stephanus writes a twenty-four-line poem where each line summarizes a book of the Iliad in a single hexameter (AP  ). Epigram knows it does not have the massiveness of epic and does not want it, badly. With a paradigmatic display of its own performativity, an epigram by Cyrillus announces in its two lines that if you write anything more than two lines ‘you are a rhapsode,’ not doing epigram; Parmenion allows four in the name of a sprint, short and sharp, rather than a  

 



As Fitzgerald (: ) notes of Martial, ‘In fact, points are all he seems to have.’ Martial .  imagines his readers’ reactions to be as diverse and fragmented as his poetry: Ecce rubet quidem, pallet, stupet, oscitat, odit./Hoc volo: nunc nobis carmina nostra placent, ‘Look: someone blushes; someone grows pale; is dumb-struck; yawns; hates . . . That’s what I want. Now I am satisfied with my poetry’ (–). On Lucilius and Martial, see Nisbet (: –). Fitzgerald () and Rimell (), building on Sullivan () offer the most interesting and incisive treatments of Imperial Epigrams; see also, on scale, Canobbio (). On Greek epigrams, see Nisbet (), with Agosti () for the Realien of contemporary inscriptions; and for an overview of earlier Greek material, Gutzwiller (); Bing and Bruss (eds.) (); Tueller (); Harder et al. (eds.) (); and for the interaction between Latin poetry and Greek epigram, Keith (). On ecphrastic epigrams in particular, see Goldhill (), Goldhill (), Prioux (), Squire (a), each with further bibliography. Thus, nicely, Rimell (: ) on Martial’s books of epigrams, striving for – and denying – potential coherence: ‘These epigrams will always want to be “epic”, yet the numbers just don’t add up (or do they?).’

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

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marathon. These two epigrams come from Book  of the Palatine Anthology, a collection of so-called epideictic epigrams. This is a difficult category, for sure, which may look as though it contains ‘anything [Cephalas] was not sure what to do with’, but its fetishization of objects, book titles, strange deaths, alphabetical lists (and so forth), is testimony to epigram’s fascination with its ability to defamiliarize a view of the material and conceptual world through its gestures of miniaturization – and thus to create its own audience, its own perspective. The act of circulation of epigrams is the formation of a group of like-minded, self-appointed elite readers – and Gideon Nisbet’s excellent book about nineteenth-century and Edwardian translations of Greek epigrams shows brilliantly how the translation and circulation of individual poems, and then of slim volumes of collections of translated epigrams, played a significant role in the construction and enactment of groups of elite men of what we would these days call gay tendencies. The epigram has a perspective on things which its form embodies and expresses. Epic, in turn, is foundational. Epic’s perspective is integrated, politicized, contextualized and narrativized. Epic takes time to tell its story – and epic embodies an idea of temporality. Epic is placed in time, speaks to time, and offers a temporal teleology. Epic, as Apollonius and Virgil both show, is drawn to the unfurling of events over time in tragic drama, and is committed, in a way quite alien to epigram, to the logic of the long-term consequences of actions. In epic, Medea becomes a model of narrative passion and its destructiveness over time; in epigram, Medea, or rather her painting, becomes the opportunity for art-historical smartness. The scale of epic is integral to its ideology, which is embodied in its form. Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem, ‘so massive a task was it to found the Roman nation’, is a declaration that announces from the start the scale of the Aeneid’s story, the massiveness of the tale and the massiveness of empire co-extensive. So, with a typical ironic nod, Ovid’s anti-epic epic, the Metamorphoses, starts from the rudis indigestaque molis, ‘the raw and illformed massiveness’ of things, the dead weight (pondus iners) of ‘ill joined matter’ (non bene iunctarum . . . rerum). Even Ovid’s fragmented, inverted style of embedded and ludic mythological narratives announces its own     

 AP . ; . Lauxtemann (: ). My thought here is indebted to Stewart (). Nisbet (). See also Fitzgerald (: –). For the epigrams, see Goldhill (); Gutwiller (); Gurd (); for the reception in epic and elsewhere, Clauss and Johnston (eds.) (); Nelis () especially chapters  and . From a vast bibliography, Hardie () is especially helpful here.

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When Size Matters

disjunct massiveness as a starting point. Epic knows and has to know its own sense of scale. Hupsos, grandeur in style, is also a narrative positionality. What, then, of epyllion? It is neither epic nor epigram, but is acutely conscious of its different scale. It can flirt with both forms and set them against each other. It can spend sixteen lines of invocation of the Nymphs as Muses, as if a massive – full-scale – work is to come; or it can tell a whole story in a single, over-freighted line. It threatens to tell a story and then cuts it off or expands it wilfully. In contrast to the delays that are integral to epic’s narrative, epyllion can demand that the narration hurries as fast as possible, as in the surprising and funny opening of Triphiodorus, which we shall discuss in the next chapter: ‘I am in a hurry now, give up the myth on myth, and tell me the end of the story, Muse.’ Or epyllion can offer an epic storm, as at the end of Musaeus’ Hero and Leander, to achieve no more than the drowning of an unconsummated lover, and finish with a bathetic lack of consequence: no scattering of a fleet, no state-formation, no love affair, from this disaster at sea. The question of scale – and the epyllion always raises scale as a question – is a question of how much story you need. Fabula Quanta, as Horace might ask. Michael Squire and David Petrain in their different ways have drawn attention to what Squire has called ‘the Iliad in a nutshell’ as a paradigmatic game of perspective for late antique aesthetics – where the epic poem of Homer is remediated as a set of tiny, material narrative tableaux. Larry Kim, taking his examples from Greek prose, and Fran Middleton from verse, and Froma Zeitlin from art, have also each stressed how much an engagement with Homer, as an act of remixing or rewriting, becomes a crucial gesture of cultural self-assertion in late antiquity. The epyllion, which retells a story of the Homeric tradition, is fully part of this cultural moment which therefore significantly conjoins the issue of rewriting with the issue of scale. Unlike erotic elegiac poetry in the Latin tradition, or the lyrics of Horace or Catullus – shorter poems, all – the epyllion in late antiquity does not offer scenes of an erotic autobiography, a first-person perspective that is close to the self-conscious wit of the epigrammatists, but rather engages with the grandeur of heroic tradition, otherwise. From this perspective, the ever marginal genre of epyllion becomes integral to the aesthetics of late antiquity.    

Discussed in Goldhill (); see also Tomasso (). For a reading of Musaeus, see Morales () and my discussion below.  Squire (); Petrain (). Kim (); Zeitlin (); Middleton (in press). Within the arguments about what counts as epyllion (see above fn ), there is the potential for a deep history of the genre; but it can also be argued – and probably should be – that epyllion comes into its own in the Imperial period.

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

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This leads directly and more briefly to the second and third general aspects of epyllion as a form. The second concerns narrative. How a story gets told, how much to narrate, what to narrate, are questions that an epyllion poses the reader: it defamiliarizes, denaturalizes the act of storytelling into a highly self-conscious and aggressively manipulative performance. This is the opposite of the view from nowhere, the third-person objective narrator. Epyllion wants you to watch the narration. The epigram’s display of virtuosic reading of a fragmented world is drafted into narrative form on an epic subject – and that may be one reason why certain critics find it so uncomfortable a genre. It designedly produces disjunctive, out of balance, disruptive form. Of course, since the Odyssey, when Odysseus, the narrator within the epic, asks, rhetorically, ‘what first, what last shall I narrate?’ (Od .), the act of self-conscious narration is repeatedly dramatized in different genres of Greek literature (as we saw in Chapter ). Such narrative self-reflexiveness is endemic. Yet by taking the attitude of epigram and requiring it to narrate a story like an epic, the genre of epyllion not only parades and revels in the inconcinnities of its narration, but also makes demands on the reader to follow its manipulativeness and disruptive changes of perspective. Who, then, is the reader interpellated by epyllion? We will return to this question. Thirdly – and consequently – the issue of perspective or positionality repeatedly arises with epyllion. Epyllion loves to take a different perspective from the standard epic view; it changes the point of view, it alters the position taken by reader and writer. An iconic case, which I will be discussing in this chapter, is Colluthus’ dramatization of Helen of Troy’s daughter’s view of her mother’s rape, something no other ancient author thought to imagine, as far as we know. Similarly, Triphiodorus imagines at length the material construction of the Trojan horse, not just its amethyst eyes and the purple mane flecked with yellow gold, but also how the men inside breathed, how the door worked and how it moved – remediating through ecphrastic flamboyance an object left to the imagination by Homer. Like epigram and epic, epyllion has its own perspective and asks each reader to recalibrate her perspective on things, to see otherwise. So it should be clear that the epyllion is a particularly fascinating hybrid form, that takes shape against both epic and epigram in its manipulation of narrative form and construction of perspective, where – in both aspects – scale is an integral element of its expressivity. The question, then, remains: how does this form dramatize erotics? This chapter will seek to answer this question through an analysis of Colluthus’ Rape of Helen. Approaches to Colluthus’ poem are paradigmatic

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When Size Matters

of the recent critical treatment of late hexameter poetry. For many years, the hexameter poetry of late antiquity, and epyllion in particular, has been despised by traditionally minded critics, committed to the classical ideals embodied in Homer and the literature of democratic Athens. A shocked and self-congratulatory Martin West called Colluthus ‘one of the very worst ancient poets to have come down to us’, his poetry a pleasure ‘only to a connoisseur of the ludicrous’. Challenged by such high-handed and small-minded literary miscomprehension – and similar critical obiter dicta concerning Quintus Smyrnaeus, Triphiodorus and Nonnus could be found easily enough – a few brave and self-marginalizing critics attempt to recuperate the poem’s quality, generically with a rehearsal of the negative views of the Wests of this world, followed by a demonstration of how the poem imaginatively reworks the language of Homer and other genres: a weak form of the aesthetics of intertextuality that offers the comfort of philological process above any political or cultural comprehension. Finally, a few brave critics attempt to read these examples of late hexameter poetry as cultural artefacts within an aesthetic, political and social framework. So, in exemplary fashion, Helen Morales sees the Rape of Helen as part of an ongoing polemical cultural discussion about rape that allows precisely for a link between its context in late antique society and a comprehension of sexual agency central to the poem and to contemporary theological anxiety. Indeed, Morales boldly takes not only other Greek poems about rape but also Augustine’s Latin Christian prose as a relevant textual framing for Colluthus’ erotic Greek verse, to explore how under the pressure of changing sexual values in an era of developing Christian cultural dominance, rape becomes a specific issue for agency and piety. I want to continue in this chapter the necessary work of reading Colluthus as a text and as a cultural artefact.

II My discussion of Colluthus’ work will concentrate not on a detailed reading of the whole poem, but on two particular and particularly salient nexuses of ideas in the epyllion. The first may be called revelation and concealment; the second, the displacement of desire. The two sets of ideas   

West (: ); see the responses to Livrea also from Giangrande () with the response of Livrea (); and Combellack (). See Hollis (: –); Magnelli (a: ); Paschalis (); Orsini (: viii–xxvii); Livrea (: passim). Morales (); see also Alesso ().

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

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are obviously to be related, not least because the pattern of concealment and revelation will be seen to be integral to the displacement of desire. Now if a poem is called the Rape of Helen (and the point does not depend on the historical authenticity of an author’s act of entitling), a range of expectations are likely to be at work immediately, stemming from the long and complex tradition of writing about Helen and her evocation of desire. Book  of the Iliad provides the archetypal scene that sets Helen’s desire as a set of questions: Did she want to go to Paris’ bedroom? Was she forced by Aphrodite? How forced was she? Why does Paris feel such desire now for her? This is one of only three equally disastrous occasions in Homer in which a male admits to sexual desire for a female, and in each case the agency of the female is highlighted but made problematic: the other two cases are when Hera uses Aphrodite’s cestus to seduce Zeus (Il. ), to the detriment of the Greeks whom Zeus is supporting, and when Penelope appears before the suitors to demand gifts (Od. ), part of the tale of their self-destructive misrecognitions. In each of the three cases, the male viewer is dangerously undermined by desire, but if Hera’s deception is evident, with both Helen and, differently, with Penelope the subjectivity of the human female – her agency – is more ambivalent. Furthermore, the question of desire is dramatized differently in the Odyssey, where Helen and Menelaus tell contrary stories of Helen’s fidelity and commitment to her home life; Penelope at the end of the epic is no clearer when she says in the same speech that Helen would not have gone to Troy if she had known what her act resulted in, and, in contradiction of that claim of agency and will, that the gods made her go. The question of whether Helen chose to go to Troy or was forced or seduced into her action, and whether it is divine or human agency that is at the root of her action, is the foundational question of Helen’s rape, and it becomes a topos of Greek thinking about gender, sexuality and agency ever afterwards, from Gorgias through tragedy to Isocrates to the later works of the so-called Second Sophistic. Colluthus, as we will see, flamboyantly plays with this set of expectations about the whence of erotic motivation. Colluthus’ poem begins with a sixteen-line invocation of the Nymphs of Troy, children of the river Xanthus, or Scamander, the river of Troy celebrated from Homer. The Nymphs take the place of the Muses, and are asked to come to the poet to tell of ‘the noêmata, [the thoughts, the perceptions] of the shepherd who gave the ruling’ (). The theme of the  

Recent accounts of this history include Blondell (); Maguire (); Gumpert (). Discussed in Goldhill (: –).

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When Size Matters

poem – with an immediate surprise – is not ‘was will das Weib’, but what the man was thinking. The proem frames this opening programmatic statement with a set of questions that act out the norms of epic by asking about the great causes of the action to come. As the Iliad asks ‘What god . . .?’, so here Colluthus’ narrator asks about the need (χρέος) that prompted ‘the ships that were the origin of evil’ (νηῶν ἀρχεκάκων) (–): what the ‘source of the argument’ (νείκεος ἀρχή) was that led a shepherd to judge goddesses (–), and what the ‘legal suit’ (δικασπολίη) was (). It is as if a great epic narrative is to follow such heavily emphasized and momentous beginnings; but the grandeur is a misleading foil, which invokes heroic expectations to run, disappointed, through the poem. The disjunction between the grandeur of the invocation and the poem that follows is typical of the misdirection of epyllionic aesthetics. The Nymphs are summoned because they were spectators of the judgement (–) – which allows the proem to slide seamlessly () into the first scene which describes the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. But the Nymphs are also the muses of this poem because of their associations as figures of desire – the word numphe will be used of Helen, by Paris, as his bride (, cf. ); again as she leaves her marital home (), as also her daughter’s consolers imagine her mother having left to join a crowd of numphai (). Moreover, since the first scene is the wedding of Peleus and Thetis we might expect desire to be in the air. What is striking, however, are the hints and feints that Colluthus mobilizes. So in an extraordinary simile (–), ‘iron Ares’ is described as coming to the wedding without his breastplate or spear – his usual iron-clad iconography – ‘just as he comes without his hat and sword to the hall of Hephaestus’ – an obvious and surprising recollection of the celebrated song of Demodocus in Odyssey , and that ominous scene of amusing adultery – where we might remember the response of laughter from the gods and the human audience to the adultery. Indeed, here at the wedding, Ares is described as μειδιὀων ἐχόρευε, ‘he was dancing and smiling/laughing’. What does that participle ‘smiling/laughing’ evoke? Is it just Ares having a good time? Ares thinking about another sort of good time? Aphrodite who loves to laugh? The gods who laugh at Ares caught in Hephaestus’ 

On the terminology of numphe, see Paschalis (: ); Magnelli (a: –); Prauscello (: –) building on Harries (: –) sees the nymphs as signs of pastoral poetry (‘mourning and pastoral’), though this underplays their erotic function even and also in pastoral. Formisano (in press) stimulatingly describes the invocation of the Nymphs ‘as the embodiment of the afterlife (Nachleben) of a remote originary moment’ – a sense of tradition to which we will return below.

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

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chains or the audience of Demodocus’ song? Or us? The pleasure is diffused. Aphrodite herself has just been mentioned as the queen of Harmony who did not delay in coming to the groves of the Centaur (–). The wedding of Peleus traditionally takes place on mount Pelion where Cheiron lives, but to mention the goddess as the queen of harmony, and a wedding and a centaur in the same breath, is likely to recall the usual representation of centaurs as the destroyers of the wedding ceremony. The next word after the description of smiling Ares is Eris, ‘Strife’ – Apollo too is described with flowing locks buffeted by the West Wind (–): Zephyros, the West Wind, as we know from later in the poem (–), is locked in a jealous love battle over Hyacinthus with Apollo. Even Ganymede, the snatched boy, is singled out as the wine-pourer at the wedding (). The language of transgressive and violent sexuality is diffused throughout the opening marriage scene, lining its happiness with a certain foreboding, as, in a vivid performance of the displaced perspective of epyllion, the transgressively charged divine roll call takes the place of any sustained description of the wedding itself or the ‘happy couple’. Behind the epyllion’s focused snapshots lies a deep tradition of complex epic narratives. If a dangerous desire is discursively hinted at throughout the description of the wedding, the act of revelation – of blatant exposure – is dominant in the agon of the three goddesses. Aphrodite, in a gesture unparalleled in our extant texts, simply takes her top off and reveals her breasts as she speaks to Paris, who does not even let her finish her speech before giving her the apple (the familiar use of the word mêlon, ‘apple’, for the eroticized female breast, makes this almost a scene of exchange, an apple for an ‘apple’). This is an amusing end to the scene that starts with a more measured and measuring gaze. Paris, instructed by Hermes to make a judgement of the goddesses, ‘looked’ (δέρκετο ) at the brightness of the grey eyes; he stared (ἔδρακε ) at the neck gorgeous with gold; he measured with his eyes (ἐφράσσατο ) the ostentation of each, along with the heal behind and the footprint of the soles themselves (a nice literalization of Homer’s ‘slim-ankled’ beauty). He looks at the goddesses from head to toe, literally. He may try to look carefully at first, but Aphrodite’s display overwhelms his eyes. The display is emphatically described. Her dress is βαθύκολπον, ‘deep-bosomed’ (), and she bares her bosom (κόλπον ) to the air, and was not ashamed (); with her hand she lifted the honeyed binding of desires – δεσμὸν ἐρώτων – and bared all her chest στῆθος, and she did not heed her breasts μαζῶν (–) (as Aphrodite is regularly represented in later art covering her breasts – or drawing attention to their



When Size Matters

covering – with a hand). The four-fold mention of Aphrodite’s breasts and the repetition of the verb γυμνόω, certainly is insistent; and the strange but memorable phrase, ‘lifted the honeyed binding of desires’ recalls exactly what Aphrodite had promised as she dressed for the agon, where she describes her kestos and bow in exactly the same words ( – μελίφρονα δεσμὸν ἐρώτων, ‘the honeyed binding of desires’) which itself echoes Zeus’ promise that whosoever wins the apple will be winning the κόσμον ἐρώτων: the splendour or ornament of desires (). No wonder Aphrodite smiles as she speaks: μειδιόωσα (). Paris was smiling when Athene started the debate (). It is a shared smile now (remember Ares smiling as he danced), as pleasure and erotics overlap. And, of course, Aphrodite’s gesture of revealing her breasts will immediately resonate with what Helen will do to win over Menelaus on the boat home from Troy – after Paris’ death and Troy’s fall, perhaps a blacker undertow to the smiling scene of blatant display of eroticism. We may remember this scene too when Paris arrives on the shores of Sparta, which are described (proleptically for the object of his mission?) as εὐκόλποισιν (), ‘with nice curves’, as we might translate. Paris also spends a lot of time looking in the rest of the poem. He has a nice if swift tour of the Mediterranean and the sites of the Argolid (–), sees the tombs and looks at the sites before arriving at Menelaus’ palace itself (φαίνετο , ἔδρακε , εἶδε , ἐνόησεν , παπταίνων , θηεῖτο , παπταίνων , διεμέτρεεν , θηεύμενος ). The emphasis on his looking seems like a set-up: he has evaluated the beauty of three goddesses, he has evaluated the beauty of the architecture and the landscape of Sparta, and now he is about to come face to face with the most beautiful woman in the world. The repetition of the word aglaïê for all sorts of beauty links the different scenes (and we have already seen its marked use in the Palatine Anthology in Chapter ). But what we get instead is an encomium of Paris’ beauty first of all, then Helen’s looking at this beauty; but at no point do we get any description of Helen or anyone looking at Helen. And certainly no reciprocal looking. One of the shifts of perspective that works so well in this epyllion is the shift to focus on Paris rather than Helen as object of desire. Let us look briefly at how this pans out. Paris has washed, done his hair, worried about whether his feet will get dusty or his hair mussed by the wind, but has finally picked his way 

On the discourse of visuality in Colluthus see Cadau (: –); on ‘literary sight-seeing’ see Paschalis (: –).

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

(‘stepping with careful steps’, as the Loeb put it) up to the palace (–) (he usually walks ‘mincingly’ – the Loeb again – βαιὸν ὁδεύων ()). Telemachus in the Odyssey, it will be recalled, when he sees the halls of Menelaus, thinks they are so fine they must compare to Olympus and Zeus’ magnificence, which Menelaus overhears and corrects as unsuitably grand praise (Od . –, – ). Here, however, Paris stands ‘glorying in his divine graces’, θεσπεσίηισιν ἀγαλλόμενος χαρίτεσσιν (). It might just be possible to make a case that he is revelling in the beauty of the halls, and the adjective thespesiesi, ‘divine’, might recall Telemachus’ misplaced amazement at Menelaus’ theion domon, ‘divine hall’. But critics and translators are surely right to take this as Paris revelling in his own good looks. For Colluthus goes on with an extraordinary exclamation, addressing Dionysus (–): ‘Thyone did not give birth to such a desirable son to Zeus! Be gracious, Dionysus! Even if you are the son of Zeus, that man too was beautiful in the gorgeousness of his face’ (ἐπ᾽ἀγλαίηισι προσώπων). Aglaïê again is now used of Paris and echoes his ‘glorying’, agallomenos. It is Paris’ face that is marvelled at as the meeting with Helen is about to take place, Paris who looks like a God (not Menelaus’ hall). The instantiation of Aphrodite’s help is seen here, I take it, in the beautification of Paris, whose looks have not yet been mentioned in the poem, and which seem to so overwhelm even the poet that he is left in near blasphemous exclamation of praise. So, when Helen opens the door and greets the stranger, perhaps it should be no surprise that it is her visual reaction that is stressed: hos iden hos . . . As soon as she saw him she . . . summoned him and led him to the interior of the house’ (). If we expected the ‘ut vidi ut perii’ topos, we do not quite get it, yet. ‘She summoned’, ἐκάλεσε, is something of a surprise in its repression of any emotional response to his beauty. But we do not have long to wait. Almost immediately we are told that she could not get her fill of looking: κόρον δ᾽οὐκ εἶχεν ὀπωπῆς (). First, she thinks she must be looking (ὀπιπεύειν) at Eros who accompanies Aphrodite, but – with an amusingly slow reasoning – too late she recognizes that it cannot be the god of desire because she cannot see (εἶδε) a quiver. Then, she thinks she can catch a view (παπταίνων ἐδόκευε) of Dionysus ‘in the glorious beauty of his face’ (ἀγλαίηισιν . . . προσώπων, clearly 

Ypsilanti () nicely links the femininity of Paris here to Aphrodite who taunts analkides Athenai, ‘weak [analkides] Athenes’ (), whose strength in war makes them not just weak in such erotic battles but unfeminine in their masculinity. Aphrodite was teased in battle by Diomedes as ‘weak’ (analkis) and only good for deceiving ‘weak’ (analkides) women (Il  ;  ): she gets her own back at warlike Athene here!



When Size Matters

echoing the poet’s own pleasure in Paris’ looks (/)), but realizes he does not carry a bunch of grapes. His divine beauty prompts parallels with divinities, though he does not have the expected iconographic markers. (This sort of joke is familiar from other Greek prose and verse.) There is a literalization of the standard Homeric adjective of praise, ‘godlike’, which can be played off against, say, Lucian’s witty deconstruction of the imagery of god-like beauty in Imagines and Pro Imaginibus, where the suitability of such exaggerated praise is amusingly debated. Her standard question, prompted by her wonder (θαμβήσασα), which follows – ‘O stranger from where do you hail?’ – has therefore a particular purchase. But we should also remember that Helen in book  of the Iliad immediately recognized the disguised Aphrodite, and in book  of the Odyssey immediately recognizes Telemachus because he looks so like his father in face and hands and feet, and later in the same book we are told by Helen how she alone had pierced the disguise of the master of disguise, Odysseus, and recognized him on his secret mission to Troy. Helen does recognition. Just not of Paris, here. But she continues with the same sort of practical reasoning that led her to resist the identification of Paris as Dionysus or Cupid, as she runs through the options for who he might have been thought to be, but obviously is not. He has the aglaïê (again) of a king, but is not one of the kings she knows, whom she lists. Helen attracts lists of men – wooers, husbands, the teichoskopia – she is poluanor, a woman ‘of many men’. We are told by the narrator as a comment on her speech that these are the words of a desiring woman – ποθέουσα (). It is as if this rather straight list of potential men is an erotic foil for the uniqueness of outstanding beauty before her. There is, she is recognizing against a list of competitors, no one like Paris. The surprise of this scene, then, its epyllionic delight in the shift of perspective, is that the most beautiful woman not only is not the object of attraction, but also is herself overwhelmed by looking at the man in front of her. For the tragedians, looking at Helen was an act of self-destructive danger. Colluthus’ narrative enjoys making her the victim of the ineluctable erotic lure of the visual. The scene of seduction that follows plays a neat game with the aesthetics and erotics of indirection and revelation. Paris begins by answering Helen’s question directly, in what is described by the narrator as a μειλιχίην γῆρυν, ‘honey-sweet speech’ – seductive words. He is, he says, from Troy () – which he then glosses with a surprisingly drawn out description of his 

See Goldhill ().

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

lineage related to the walls of the city (–). If one is listening carefully, as with the description of the marriage of Thetis and Peleus, one may just hear a resonance of the rapes and violence of early Trojan history. But he then gives the most direct version of the judgement of the goddesses. ‘I am the judge – dikaspolos – of goddesses’, he announces, I chose Aphrodite and she rewarded me with a desirable bride, namely, Helen (–). ‘So, let us fulfil a marriage, since Aphrodite commands it. Do not despise me; do not refute my Aphrodite [Κύπριν, both the goddess and his embodied desire]’ (–). And he concludes by insulting Menelaus’ lineage, unsuitable for a woman as beautiful as her (–). This is not the careful oaristus, the sexually charged but rhetorically poised speech of Odysseus faced by Nausicaa (Od . –), the archetype of erotic μειλίχιον μῦθον (Od . ), ‘honeysweet talk’. As when Ares in Demodocus’ song in Odyssey  says bluntly to Aphrodite ‘Let’s go to bed’ (Od. . ), so here Paris says with startling directness, ‘let’s get married’, δεῦρο γάμον κεράσωμεν (). Indeed, his history of Troy might be thought otiose or even unseductive, if we didn’t already know that he is super-good-looking and she already desires him. That is, where it is normally Helen, as the most beautiful woman in the world, who can say anything and win any argument by simply allowing herself to be seen, for once not only does Paris make no specific comment on her beauty, but also his rather lumpy and even dull speech has a Helenlike effect on her. The perspective – the dynamics of looking – are reversed. It is Paris whose appearance outweighs anything he might say. Indeed, Helen now, like Odysseus in the depiction of the teichoskopia (Il . ), replayed several times in later literature – Simaetha’s lover in Theocritus , say – turns her lovely gaze (ἐρόεσσαν ὀπωπήν,  – or perhaps better her desire-filled gaze?) downwards, and for a long time does not answer. This downward look is usually troped as a gesture of modesty, though one that is, as with Odysseus, also always deceptive. And Helen’s modesty indeed is only an appearance. Finally, amazed – at what, except his beauty: the thauma of the gaze? – she replies with the sort of indirection that we would expect from an erotic encounter, where the veiling of  



See Magnelli (a: ). Magnelli (a: ) notes that this insult recalls the representations of Menelaus in tragedy, just as his hyperbolic claim to have travelled and suffered on the sea for his love recalls epic travellers who actually do suffer: Colluthus’ text, as ever, is veined with past literature, even in its apparently least rhetorically adept manifestations. Paschalis (: ) calls the whole exchange ‘a witty and ironic commentary on the rhetoric of amatory persuasion’.



When Size Matters

language and desire, desire in language, is endemic. ‘Did Apollo and Poseidon really build those walls in the old days? I’d love [ἤθελον] to see them’ (–). The point of Paris’ tour of the Argolid and his subsequent description of the walls of Troy now takes on a full purchase – especially if we recall how it was on the walls of Troy, precisely, that Aphrodite, after the teichoskopia, leads Helen to sleep with Paris in Iliad , that replay of the initial abduction/seduction. To travel as a sightseer is an alibi for the lover’s gaze. To talk about paradoxes of architecture or the natural world is a displacement of the expression of desire – as readers of the novel, especially Achilles Tatius, know all too well. Thus, ‘take me from Sparta to Troy’, she commands, ‘I will follow as the queen of marriages, Aphrodite, commands’ (–). Her use of κελεύει, ‘commands’, echoes his (/), and she accepts his description of what is on offer as a γάμος, ‘marriage’. Love at first sight produces a stilted conversation about sightseeing. But at the centre stands the direct offer and immediate acceptance of marriage. Wedlock at first sight. What follows is fascinating, however. The narrator closes the episode with a summation (): Τοίην συνθεσίην καλλίσφυρος ἔννεπε νύμφη The beautiful-ankled bride uttered her agreement in such a way.

Sunthesiê is not a common word in poetry, and indicates a contractual agreement. It does occur twice in Homer. The first occasion is when Menelaus stops the troops from running off home (Il . ): ‘what of our sunthesiai?’, he demands – what, that is, of the agreement to fight if anyone stole Helen? It is a turning point in the narrative when the story could, as it were, go either way. The second time is when Aphrodite saves Aeneas from battle – a turning point in the history of Rome – and the son of Capaneus captures Aeneas’ horses and ‘did not forget his agreement’ to take the horses back to the camp (Il . ). This is the scene where Diomedes wounds Aphrodite. So, the word sunthesiê may echo with two turning points of the Iliadic narrative where Menelaus and Aphrodite are both involved. But more importantly it raises a question of what the agreement here is. At one level, it is simply her agreement to follow Paris (as she resisted following Aphrodite to Paris’ bedroom in Iliad , but then does). But it also raises the question of what Helen is committed to and what the narrative contract here is. How is she fulfilling her role in the story, how is the reader part of the deal of this tale? Isn’t she, by going to Troy, doing just what Helen is always contracted to do, to follow her man? The epyllion is a narrative that plays with the sense of the expected, to

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

eikos, the inherited traditions – and here at its turning point, it announces the fulfilment of the contract. Νὺξ δέ, it continues, ‘It was Night’, and we might think that the story is progressing towards the type of consummation represented in Iliad ; and, especially since we have been travelling the Argolid, we might also expect an answer to the question, a zêtêma familiar from Homeric scholarship, of where Helen and Paris first slept together. But this night is a harbinger of a complete shift of focus. It introduces the world of dreams, and, although Paris is described as taking Helen to the ships and from Sparta to Troy, we now shift our primary focus to Hermione, Helen’s daughter, who wakes from the sleep anticipated by the word nux and the description of the dream-gates of horn and ivory (–). Indeed, after the scene of seduction neither Helen nor Paris speak again in the poem, nor do we get to see the marriage, nor do we get any indication of where or what passed between them. The rape is depicted as no more than an offer of marriage and its acceptance – and all else is covered in the word nux, covered by darkness – and finally, by the opening of the city gates, which may symbolically suggest a form of consummation. The eroticism is in the discussion of walls and genealogy. Helen is fully willing to go (none of the doubts of Iliad ), and we see no reaction to her beauty, and certainly no sex. This is one of the most chaste – repressed – rape narratives imaginable. Instead, we get a reprise of the famous passage of the Odyssey where Odysseus tells his wife about true and false dreams (–). This looks in its immediate context, after the agreement of Paris and Helen, and before he leads her to the boat (–) as if it is designed to cast Paris’ triumphant victory in a much darker light – it will turn out to be a false success that brings disaster. It recalls how Aegisthus took Clytemnestra, in the Odyssey, rejoicing at his unexpected triumph, which, as Zeus announces from the start, was in fact no more than an act of selfdestructive ignoring of the will of the gods. But actually the person who wakes from the night after having a horrid dream is Hermione, Helen’s daughter, which is a stunning reversal of the expected narration. The Oresteia may have imagined Menelaus wandering in his palace, missing his wife, and hugging statues (Aga –), but this is the only occasion in extant Greek literature in which we turn to Helen’s daughter to imagine the impact of the loss of Helen. This is, as indicated earlier, the perfect example of the potential of drastic shift of perspective which epyllion performs. After imagining what Aphrodite would do to win the judgement of Paris, and then how Paris seduced the most seductive

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When Size Matters

woman in the world, now we are directed towards Helen’s daughter’s despair at this turn of events, indeed to the daughter’s dream in the night after her mother’s disappearance. Instead of the erotic longing of the deserted husband, we have the very different emotions of the deserted daughter. Hermione wakes and throws off her veil and laments in the bedroom, a scene which seems to be a displaced anticipation of a loss of virginity (–). Normally, the mother laments her daughter’s departure – here reversed – or the daughter laments her departure to come – also here reversed. Eroticism, the eroticism between Paris and Helen, is displaced into a screaming child. Helen Morales emphasizes passionately that this scene, which depicts Hermione and Helen sharing a bed, raises a spectre of incest, and in the girl’s despair expresses the horror of rape. Lucia Prauscello has also written persuasively of how the pastoral lament enters the epyllion here in a form of generic Kreuzung. Both arguments have evident strengths, but both, it seems, underplay the strikingly new direction in which Colluthus leads his poem, and in particular the contrast between the scene between Paris and Helen, and the response to it from Helen’s daughter. First, this scene reprises a familiar ritual of antiphonal mourning in which a girl laments and a group of women consoles – familiar from many places including, paradigmatically, Sophocles’ Electra. As in Electra, the mourning ritual, designed to draw the mourner back into the community through a shared act of incorporation through consolation, fails, in that it continues to dramatize the desperate separation and refusal of consolation by the girl. But a mourning ritual is for someone dead. Here it is for someone who has gone to another marriage (and who will eventually return, we know, to celebrate the marriage of Hermione herself ‘who had the beauty [eidos] of golden Aphrodite’ (Od . ) in the halls of Menelaus, which is where Odyssey  starts, when Telemachus arrives to be recognized by Helen). On the one hand, ‘departed’ in Greek is a term for the dead as well as someone who has simply left home (οἴχομαι is used punningly like this in the Persians of Aeschylus, for example, echoing, in its first verse, the banned play of Phrynicus, the Sack of Miletus). On the 



There is something of a slide in Morales’ article between recognizing that Helen willingly and instantly leaves home and the claim that she is raped. At , she writes ‘the mother is raped’ as if Helen in Colluthus suffers what Persephone experienced. Later (), she notes that Helen is not raped (by our modern definition) but is ‘legally a rapta’. This last expression seems more apposite. On mourning, see in general Holst-Wahrhaft (); on tragedy see Foley (: –); on Sophocles Electra, for discussion and bibliography see Goldhill () s.v. Elektra, Sophocles.

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

other hand, the telos of marriage and the telos of death is also a familiar trope of ritualized transition, which makes death and marriage ritual analogues of each other, especially for a young girl. Hermione is mourning for what has not happened, but which the language of Greek allows us to imagine easily. But this mourning also prepares us for the next scene tellingly. Here, Hermione falls into a sleep (sleep which, as the narrator puts it, is the fellow-traveller (συνέμπορος) of death ()), and, wandering amid ‘the deceits of dreams’, she sees a vision of her mother (παπταίνειν ὠίσατο, ‘she thought she viewed’, another act of viewing in this poem of misplaced looks). From the Iliad onwards, where Patroclus appears to Achilles as a ghost, it is, of course, a standard expectation that a dead loved one may reappear in spectral form – except that this is a dream from the gates of ivory, as Helen is not dead and gone, but departed and married. Hermione is amazed (θαμβήσασα (), as Helen was before Paris) and cries out to her: ‘yesterday you left me sleeping in my father’s bed . . . have you gone thus after the harmonie of lovely-haired Aphrodite?’ (–). The question is pointed. Aphrodite was introduced as ‘queen of harmonie’ at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (); Helen in the Iliad dramatized the problem of following Aphrodite; and Paris and Helen agreed to follow Aphrodite’s orders here; Paris’ lovely hair has been described. ‘Harmony’ is thus a term layered with ironies – and desires – in this context. In her dream, Hermione is asking Helen if she has been acting out the role of Helen according to the sunthesiê of the narrative and the poetic tradition. And in such light – the world also of deceptive dreams – it is striking that Helen replies (–): Τέκνον ἀκηχαμένη, μὴ μέμφεο δεινὰ παθούσηι. ὁ χθιζός με μολὼν ἀπατήλιος ἥρπασεν ἀνήρ. Grieving child, do not blame me: I have been suffering terribly. Yesterday a deceitful man came and seized me.

Hêrpasen, ‘seized’, is the technical term for the rape of Helen; and Helen claims to have suffered terribly. This is a deceptive dream about a deception. That is, the rape of Helen is depicted as the (false) self-description of a vision in a deceptive dream of the deserted child. And quite contradicts the narrative we have already seen. On the one hand, the juxtaposition of narrative and reaction seems to demand that we read this as the dreaming desire of the daughter that her mother should have been a victim of 

See the seminal discussion of Lebeck (: –).

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When Size Matters

violence or deception, and not just left. On the other hand, since the tradition also famously allows for a palinode-phantom of a Helen-spectre who never went to Troy, we seem here to have an echo of such a tradition – or even a sort of husteron proteron aetiology of such a story – a rewrite of the rewrite of the palinode. It is not that a phantom went to Troy, but rather that Helen went willingly to Troy and the story of the rape is the dream of a disturbed girl missing her mother, a dream of a phantom. A phantom but not that phantom. If this is an erotic tale with no sex, the rape itself turns out to be Hermione’s deceptive dream of her mother as a phantom. The construction of the story of literary tradition is being played with here in a brilliantly twisty way. The poem ends in what we may come to recognize as a paradigmatic gesture of epyllion’s love of the contracted, abstracted gesture of closure – where the ending is the most curt but pregnant act of authorial manipulation. We leave Hermione wandering in vain search for her mother (), and turn instantly (), with no more syntactic or narrative connection than καί, ‘and’, to Paris leading Helen past the town of the Cicones – the first place Odysseus sacks after leaving Troy – and the Hellespont, given a genealogy back to Aeolus, another of Odysseus’ stops – but we still get no indication of any interaction between them. ‘The bridegroom led his bride’ (), Colluthus writes, as if the journey back to Troy was one long wedding procession, awaiting yet its consummation. And we end with two couplets. In the first (–), Cassandra tears her hair and throws away her covering – as in her gesture of failed prophecy from the climax of her death scene in the Oresteia – as she sees the newcomer from the acropolis. This constitutes the briefest allusive description of scene after scene of tragedy and earlier poetry, including Lycophron: now just two lines. Cassandra says nothing for us to believe or disbelieve. The epyllion can do in the briefest of compass what tragedy and epic spend hundreds of lines rehearsing – or rather can refuse to do what tragedy and epic made central, by reducing Cassandra to a useless silence, a mere image. In contrast to Cassandra, Troy ‘unbarred the bolts of the high-housed gates’ () – another displacement of eros, even without Freud to help us with the imagery – and ‘received the returned citizen, source of evil’, δέξατο 



I find the central claim of Morales () that the daughter represents the truth of rape unconvincing as an explanation of this narrative juxtaposition, even if it is a necessary description of the disavowals of the violence of rape in much critical analysis (and life). Compare the end of Heliodorus, a novel probably written also in the Christianizing Empire, which also never represents the consummation of the heroine’s marriage (unlike the ‘innocence’ of Daphnis and Chloe).

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen



νοστήσαντα τὸν ἀρχέκακον πολιήτην. Nostein, the leitmotif of the Odyssey, is a witty word to add to the last line of a poem of Troy, especially when the return is the return of a citizen (a strikingly unHomeric term, linking the kakos he brings to the fate of the city itself ); it is also archekakon, the source of evil – the beginning of another story. The ships of Paris were described as archekakos at the beginning of the poem, so we have a nice ring composition; and since Cassandra so often prophesizes the beginning of woe – the πρώταρχον ἄτην, as Aeschylus puts it (Aga. ) – this ending seems to have absorbed some of Cassandra’s prophetic verve, though in the poet’s voice not that of the prophetess. Indeed, the ending opens out obviously into the destructive future history of the city – an end pregnant with future story telling, the kakon to come. Here is where the epyllion as form dismisses the epigram: the epigram, as William Fitzgerald nicely observes, is the ‘most closed of forms, almost closure as form’. The epyllion has learnt from epic that closure can be formally complete and conceptually open. The great epics of Homer, Virgil, Apollonius, even Ovid, significantly leave open an imagined space for future narrative. Epigrams do not invite the question ‘what happened next?’. Colluthus’ poem uses the form of epyllion to rewrite the iconic story of eros, which stands at the very head of Western literature, a tradition which, as Tony Tanner noted, starts with adultery and remains obsessed with it ever since. It redrafts the focus away from the perspectives we have received from the literary tradition, however. We get snapshots – deliberately no more than this – of a silent Cassandra or a Zeus who sets up the judgement of Paris, each in a line or two, although a prophecy from Cassandra or a problematic decision by Zeus is an archetypal full-scale scene of grander literature. But we also do get the rage of Eris imagined at some length – how does Discord plot? – which may recall Nonnus or silver Latin more than Homer or even Apollonius. Or we see the preparation of Aphrodite – how does the goddess of desire plan for a beauty pageant? – or Aphrodite baring her breasts, like Phryne or Helen, her surrogates, to persuade a male audience. In each case, the poem shifts perspective away from the customary focus, asks us to look otherwise in a poem of significant looks. So, most strikingly, we get Paris viewed as the sex object, not Helen – and the poem dramatizes the rape, for once, as wholly willed by Helen, even if it is very thinly veiled as a willingness at first to do some sightseeing: Helen, the seducer, seduced; the object of the erotic gaze now  

Fitzgerald (: ). Tanner (), whose subtitle, ‘contract and transgression’, is apt for my reading of Colluthus.

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When Size Matters

forced into her own erotic gazing, a scene surprisingly rare in epic or other Greek literature. So, the scene of seduction becomes the scene of a marriage simply offered and accepted as a contract, though not the contract the reader may have expected. And the marriage ceremony, as it were, is extended all the way to Troy, with no consummation in sight, unlike the narrative of Iliad . Aglaïê, the emphasized word for beauty, is repeated at each stage, linking the narrative through the repetition of a wondering gaze. But the displaced eroticism constantly leads away from the display of sexuality. Hence, in another stunning shift of perspective, Colluthus dramatizes the misrecognizing but desperate response of the daughter to her mother’s imagined rape: the lament of the daughter follows the mother’s departure – the husband is absent and silent – and the daughter imagines the history of literature with its palinodes and phantoms – as a deceptive dream about deception. This poem is a detour around eros and rape rather than a straight narrative of it, an aesthetics, as it were, of touristic sightseeing, full, like all tourism, of snapshots, misdirections, hurried transitions and unexpected delays. The form of the epyllion allows the narrative to silence consequences and causes, husbands and fathers, or even what Paris saw when he saw Helen. Looking at the story otherwise, and enjoying that perspective, is what the epyllion promises and delivers here rather well. The epigram as a form, especially in its most pervasive literary (and sub-literary) expression from the first century onwards, is designedly disruptive, self-conscious about its own scope and, in its humour, often aggressive, even, to our eyes, violently misogynistic. It delights in verbal hooliganism. The epyllion, with its roots in epic narrative, is far more controlled than this. Yet the epyllion imagines, as it were, what the disruptiveness of epigram would do to epic narrative. It creates a wilfully paradoxical narration, that disrupts the expectations and perceptions of readers, not least by its games with scale that its own size allows. The erotics of Colluthus are part of that ludic pleasure, formed by the narrative’s twists and turns of the eroticized gaze – at Aphrodite’s breasts, at Paris not Helen, at the tourist sites of the Argolid, at the dream vision of a dismayed daughter. The epyllion invites its readers to look at the world its way, with a knowing narrative wink at the way epic demands a commitment to the foundational order of things. The form of the epyllion’s erotic narrative produces a certain erotics of form: a play with the reader’s desires, an invitation to enjoy the tale of desire, this way. 

As Paschalis () emphasizes.

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

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Colluthus is making a choice about the form of his narrative. He has not told a fully committed, theologically charged Christian tale, as Malalas does; nor a mixed, socially embedded discourse like Christodorus. Rather, he turns back towards the past of Homeric narration (along with tragedy and the full gamut of the Greek literary tradition). He writes his poem into a literary tradition which does not treat Christianity as a rupture in the intellectual flow of things – a value-laden statement in the fifth century, if not the committedly antagonistic or aggressive gesture it was once imagined to be by modern critics. Yet by rewriting the tale of abduction as he does, he also assimilates it to a shifting world of contemporary sexual morality, where the seduction is troped and accepted by the couple as divinely ordained marriage, and consummation is deferred until they return to the acknowledgement and legitimation of the parental house. The display of sexuality through nudity is reserved to the goddess, and taken away from the human sphere. Colluthus’ focus on Hermione’s dream vision, which represents the harpagê of Helen so differently from the narrative of it, becomes thus an image for the shifting, creative, displaced engagement that storytelling makes of the past. The child does not get her mother’s story – as the modern writer rewrites the old tradition – a scene marked by the language of false dreams, phantoms and the palinode of misdirection and misrecognition. It is not just that the Greek writer of the fifth century constructs his self-positioning by rewriting the past (a strategy that the relation of the New to the Old Testament makes formative) but also that the reader, in negotiating the juxtaposition of Helen’s and Hermione’s self-expression, becomes complicit in the retelling that is reading. There is a story here too about the form and formation of stories.

III Unlike Colluthus’ Rape of Helen, Hero and Leander, a short hexameter poem ascribed to an author who calls himself Musaeus, has proved extremely influential in the Western literary tradition, especially in the early modern era; and, like Colluthus, this epyllion takes an erotic story as its subject. This poem not only announces from the start its affiliation to  

This point summarizes the argument of Jeffreys (). On the name of Musaeus, see Gelzer (: –); Morales (: ); Du¨mmler (: –). On the reception, see the excellent Braden (: –); and, more recently, Cipriani () and Montiglio () (both with extensive bibliography) , both of which are, however, a little short on Marlowe’s remarkable version, and the indirect impact of Musaeus from Marlowe.

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When Size Matters

epic models, as we will analyse in detail shortly, but also, as has been recognized by critics for some time, it both echoes the language of the novel, especially Leucippe and Cleitophon by Achilles Tatius, and takes the plotting of the novel’s paradigm – two matched lovers of youth and beauty who overcome trials to reach union – to construct a photographic negative of such a schema, where the lovers achieve a secret union in the constant darkness of a story set almost entirely at night or in the shadows of the inner rooms of a temple or tower, and where, unlike all our extant ancient novels, their final union is in death, a plotline more familiar from tragedy. Hero and Leander, that is, in telling its love story parades its generic hybridity. This is evident from its opening sentence, one of the most remarkable sentences in Greek literature, that runs for fully thirteen lines of the fifteen-line proem – one of the longest sentences in Greek poetry to start a designedly short poem: Εἰπέ, θεά, κρυφίων ἐπιμάρτυρα λύχνον ἐρώτων καὶ νύχιον πλωτῆρα θαλασσοπόρων ὑμεναίων καὶ γάμον ἀχκλυόεντα, τὸν οὐκ ἴδεν ἄφθιτος Ἠώς, καὶ Σηστὸν καὶ Ἄβυδον, ὅπῃ γάμον ἔννυχον Ἡροῦς νηχόμενόν τε Λέανδρον ὁμοῦ καὶ λύχνον ἀκούω, λύχνον άπαγγέλλοντα διακτορίην Ἀφροδίτης, Ἡροῦς νυκτίγαμοιο γαμόστολον ἀγγελιώτην, λύχνον, Ἔρωτος ἄγαλμα, τὸν ὤφελεν αἰθέριος Ζεὺς ἐννύχιον μετ᾽ἄεθλον ἄγειν ἐς ὁμήγυριν ἄστρων καί μιν ἐπικλῆσαι νυμφοστόλον ἄστρον Ἐρώτων, ὅττι πέλεν συνέριθος ἐρωμανέων ὀδθνάων, ἀγγελίην δ᾽ ἐφύλαξεν ἀκοιμήτων ὑμεναίων πρὶν χαλεπὀν πνοιῇσιν ἀήμεναι ἐχθρὸν ἀήτην. ἀλλ᾽ἄγε μοι μέλποντι μίαν συνάειδε τελευτὴν λύχνου σβεννυμένοιο καὶ ὀλλυμένοιο Λεάνδρου. Tell, Goddess, of the lamp, witness to secret desires, And of the night swimmer for sea-borne wedding ceremonies, And of a dark wedding, which immortal dawn did not see, And of Sestos and Abydos, where I hear of the night wedding Of Hero, and the swimming Leander, And the lamp, announcing the ministry of Aphrodite, The messenger that escorted the wedding of night-married Hero, The lamp, glory of Desire, which I wish celestial Zeus After the night contest would lead into the company of stars, 

Morales (); Du¨mmler (), building on the linguistic observations of Kost () and Gelzer ().

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

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And proclaim it the bride-escorting star of Desires, Because it was the helper of mad desire’s pains, And guarded the message of wedding ceremonies without sleep, Before destructive in its gales the hateful storm blew. Please, as I sing, sing along with me of the single end Of the lamp extinguished and Leander perished.

This opening invocation is quite remarkable for its looping, imbricated repetitions, and almost incantatory force. It begins (one would say ‘of course’ had we not just read Colluthus) with a call to the Muse. Eipe, thea, ‘tell me, goddess’, is common enough in the Greek literary tradition back to Homer, but, as has been often noticed, there is a more precise echo of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca (which we will discuss in Chapter ), not just in the wording eipe, thea, but also in the term diaktoriên, ‘ministry’ () which recalls the very strange wording of the first line of the Dionysiaca, where lightning is described as ‘Zeus’ minister [diaktoron] of fiery flame’. The very style of this opening sentence with its breathless swirl of incremental clauses, its mythological allusivity and its shifts of perspective is a homage to Nonnus’ Dionysiac poetics. The poet announces as his first subject the lamp (luchnon), and the word is repeated emphatically four more times in these opening lines (, , , ). The lamp is first delineated, in a knowingly challenging formulation, as a witness to secret desires. What is secret should not have witnesses, of course, but this paradox immediately cues a long tradition of epigram and elegiac verse, built on such epigrammatic games with the private and intimate knowledge that a lamp has. Five of the opening epigrams of Book  of the Palatine Anthology (–), for example, use a lamp to play riffs on this theme of concealment and revelation that we outlined with Colluthus, a theme that the dynamics of secrecy and display of erotic feelings, along with the plotting of affairs, establish as a topos of the literature of Eros. Epigram, as well as epic and the novel, is signalled here, in epyllion’s clash of scales. The lamp is secondly termed as ‘announcing the ministry of Aphrodite’ (–). This difficult expression seems to suggest that the lamp, by virtue of being shone at night, was a messenger that proclaimed the love story’s progression – Aphrodite’s ministry. But it also suggests that the light could tell the story – a gloss on its first description as a witness – of how  

Hopkinson (a: ad loc); Du¨mmler (: ), both with further references. Braden (: ) calls it a ‘baroque symbiosis of exorbitant energy and exorbitant elaboration’. His discussion (–) of Musaeus’ appropriation of Nonnus is less well recognized by classicists than it should be.

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When Size Matters

Aphrodite’s ministry happened. The lamp that was a witness is now becoming instrumental in the story. Third, it is proclaimed the ‘agalma of Eros’ (). I translated agalma above as ‘glory’, but it implies either an object in which Eros delights – it is, as the epigrammatic tradition knows, part of the iconography of love stories, a marker of the delights it shines on – or an object of religious dedication, as if the lamp is set up in a temple as a memorial of an affair. Indeed, the poet goes on hyperbolically to wish that the lamp might be translated into a star in the heavens by Zeus, and known as the star which brings brides, a star of Desires (as the lamp later in the poem will act as a star to direct Leander to Hero ()). The lamp deserves such a catasterism because it shared in the struggles of the pains of love’s madness () – the lamp now is almost like one of the lovers, or a lover’s confidante – and () it guarded the message of the affair (called a ‘sleepless marriage ceremony’) – that is, it acted as a trusted confidante. The lamp now is an actor in the story. Finally, to extinguish the lamp is made parallel to the death of Leander (): ‘put out the light, then put out the light’, as Shakespeare has it. The lamp is now symbolic of the life of the lover (something which encouraged some modern readers earnestly to seek for a Neo-Platonic allegory in the love story, to bring it closer to a Christian milieu). So, later, Leander himself calls the lamp ‘the lightbearing [phaesphoron] guide of my life’ (): ‘to see the light’ is a common poetic expression for ‘to live’; so not to see the lamp is to die: the lamp becomes a key agent and metaphor in the unfurling narrative. Harbinger of this, the poet declares that in Sestos and Abydos he hears (akouô – a hint to the literary tradition of this story) ‘of the night wedding of Hero, and the swimming Leander, and the lamp’: it is as if there are three heroes in this story, Hero, Leander and the Lamp, and it is with the lamp that the proem emphatically – and amusingly – continues. The verse vividly performs its displacement of perspective. The proem’s repetitions shift our view of the lamp, and build an incremental and contrasting range of associations, built out of allusive references to other genres and narrative expectations. We have noted that the epyllion as a form loves to change the positionality of a narrative by turning to otherwise marginal or repressed perspectives: what better demonstration of such a strategy than 



So Gelzer in the Loeb translation (–), though as Hopkinson (a: ) notes, Gelzer has been treated with suitable scepticism by subsequent readers, though not by Montiglio (: –). ‘Musaeus has combined the lamp of Aphrodite in all its variants – as divinized object, accomplice of lovers, metaphor of erotic passion – with the lamp of the soul’; Montiglio (: ). See also Braden (: –).

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

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this proem’s glorification of a lamp – a grand love story now viewed through a less than grand and marginal object? It is no surprise that this multiform depiction of the lamp in the proem is programmatic for the poem’s narrative. When Hero sets the lamp as a signal to bring Leander to her across the sea, he awaits its ‘shining message’ (aggeliên ), its role as ‘messenger’ (aggeliôtên ), as had been announced by apaggellonta (), aggeliôtên () and aggeliên () – an act (messenger speech?) which is glossed as a ‘witnessing’ (marturiên ), as the first line of the poem promised (epimarturia ), which itself anticipates their lovers’ oath made with the ‘lamp as witness’ (marturiêsi ). The flame of the lamp immediately sets up a long conceit about the fire of passion in contrast to the water of the sea he must cross, a conceit which proves prophetic, as, indeed, his love will be quenched by the water: the lamp now as prompt to rhetorical copia, as well as witness or agent. It is a copia that echoes epigram, Ovid and, most pointedly, the Odyssey. So, Leander’s growing passion is replete with familiar erotic language of flames, searing, flaring, in anticipation of the role of the lamp and Leander’s watery end. As the poem comes towards its end, the implication of the word diaktoriên in the proem is also made clear. For what drives Leander to risk and lose his life in the storm is the ‘ministry [diaktoriê] of the lamp . . . pitiless and untrustworthy’ (–). What had seemed like praise in the proem has become a tragically reversed recognition of the lamp’s destructive instrumentality. As in an epigram by Antipater (AP  ), the lamp is a ‘traitor’ (prodotês). The poet now expresses another wish (ophelle ; ôphellen ), that Hero had ‘not once more kindled the shortlived star of her love-bed’ (). The expression ‘short-lived star’ (minuôrion astera) at one level recalls Achilles, destined for a short life and so often described as shining like Sirius, but this star is her star of the bedroom (lektrôn), Leander, whom she has kindled to dare the storm; but at another level ‘the short-lived star’ refers to the lamp itself, which is the star that draws Leander to the bedroom, and is destined to go out quickly (without the catasterism prayed for in the proem, a prayer which establishes the link between the lamp and the stars). The double symbolism of the last lines of 

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Montiglio (: ): ‘Leander is an Odysseus who braves the sea not to return to his native land and possessions but to leave them behind and reach his true home’. She also traces the engagement with Ovid. For epigrams see e.g. AP  ; AP  . The majority of the manuscripts read luchnou here (). Gelzer follows his B (Barocc. , Bodleian) and the editio princeps of Aldus Manutius in printing purgou. If Gelzer’s reading is adopted, which as the lectio difficilior it probably should be, the ‘ministry of the tower’ refers anyway to the lamp on the tower.

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When Size Matters

the proem are embodied here in the richly ambivalent language of metaphor. This now tragic doubleness finds tragic expression: ‘beguiled, she shone forth the torch [dâlon] of the Fates not of the Desires’ (). The wedding torch that turns to a funeral pyre is a commonplace of tragic reversal, especially associated with Helen’s arrival at Troy (Aesch. Aga –) or, most precisely, with Cassandra’s lethal liaison with Agamemnon (Eur. Tro –), both stories of marriages that go destructively awry. At one level, then, the story of Hero and Leander is traced by the story of the lamp, from beginning to end, as it lights their way through the narrative, from the witness to seduction, through the expression of desire, to the cause of death – echoing all along the way the language of epigram, epic, tragedy, the novel. Alongside this interwoven evocation of the lamp runs a repeated and emphatic insistence on the darkness that frames this love story. Expressions for darkness, night, shadows pervade the proem: nuchion (); achluoenta (); ennuchon (); nuktigamoio (); ennuchion (). These insist that the relationship between Hero and Leander is secret, conducted at night and tinged by the darkness of the forthcoming tragedy. This language is also picked up throughout the poem. So, in the proem, the ‘dark wedding’ is, by contrast, not seen by ‘immortal Dawn’. Achluoeis, ‘dark’, ‘mist-covered’, recalls the mist of death (achlus) that covers the eyes of dying Homeric warriors; aphthitos, ‘immortal’, may echo with the wagers of mortality that motivate Achilles’ search for glory, but applied to Eos, Dawn, also recalls her doomed loved affair with Tithonus, who is immortal but grows continuingly older by his unchanging wife. ‘The dark marriage which immortal Dawn did not see’ () thus does not merely announce the topic of song but shadows it with the future narrative of disastrous erotic failure and death. Dawn, however, reoccurs significantly also at the scene of the lovers’ first tryst. When Leander seeks the ‘hour of secrecy’ (lathrion hôrên ), Dawn is described as taking away the light () and the Evening Star is rising. When ‘he saw blue-black-robed darkness leaping forward’ (kuanopeplon epithrôskousan omichlên ), he ‘gently touched the rosy-hued fingers of the girl’. The darkness leaps, but the girl is rosy-fingered like the disappeared Dawn. Darkness is a requirement of their secret trysts, but Hero lights up Leander’s gaze. When they do sleep together, a scene described as a sort of anti-wedding (–) where dark replaces light, ‘Gloom [homiklê] gave the bride away’, and ‘Night was the wedding-attendant’, and Dawn – again – ‘did not see the bridegroom in his famous bed’ (–). At one level, this echo of the proem means no more than Leander left each night before dawn to swim

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen

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home. But at another level, it recalls not just the epithalamium’s generic use of dawn in its normative songs of praise for the married couple, but also how the Sun saw Ares and Aphrodite in their adulterous bed and told her husband Hephaestus (Hom Od ): the secret of Hero and Leander is safe from light, however famous – in the literary tradition – this bed is. Musaeus vividly plays with the language of concealment and vision through his conjoined narratives of the lamp and the shadowy darkness, which the lamp can never remove, however strong a messenger or sign in the blackness it is. The first tryst of Hero and Leander, the scene of seduction, is one of the longest sections of the poem (–). As with Colluthus’ representation of Helen’s seduction, Leander repeatedly claims that he has been sent by Aphrodite, and as Hero is a priestess of Aphrodite, she should consent to marry him. ‘Holy marriage’ () is indeed how Hero insists any relationship should be regarded; Leander announces himself proleptically as ‘Hero’s husband’ (). Helen Morales has argued forcibly that the scene offers a telling insight into gender identity in that Hero repeatedly indicates that she does not wish to be led into the dark, does not wish to be touched, does not wish to have a stranger opportune her, does not wish to have a marriage that is not holy, and is wracked by a proper modesty and silence – all of which demurrals are overturned by the poet who indicates by a string of gnomic generalizations that when a woman threatens a man, it is the first step towards consent, or ‘when a woman says “No” to a man, she means “Yes”’ – and by Leander, who, following as it were the poet’s advice, refuses to take her demurrals as anything but encouragement – a strategy the narrative endorses by her eventual willing consent (although at another level, in a way that lovers of opera who have read Catherine Clément would recognize, both lovers by virtue of their sexualization are punished by death). It is certainly the case that as in Achilles Tatius (a text much echoed by Musaeus) or in Ovid, whose Amores and Ars Amatoria offer a repertoire of aggressive male strategies for seduction, the poem evinces the common assumption within the world of patriarchal communication that by entering a verbal exchange at all a woman has entered into the beginnings of an erotic tryst. But, as Morales herself notes, there is a complex acting out of silenced or veiled or performative language   

Morales (: ). By contrast, Montiglio (: ): ‘Musaeus . . . explain[s] Hero’s gestures and silence not as expressions of distress but as the cover of a desire that says “no” meaning “yes”’. See Clément (). See Montiglio (: –) for a good account of Musaeus’ potential engagement with Ovid, especially the Heroides.

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When Size Matters

between Hero and Leander that contrasts with the directness of the beacon lamp’s message (albeit that it will lead them both to their death). So, the first contact between them is silent gesturing (–): λοξὰ δ᾽ὀπιπεύων δολερὰς ἐλέλιζεν ὀπωπὰς νεύμασιν ἀφθόγγοισι παραπλάζων φρένα κούρης Glancing askance, he darted conspiratorial looks, Turning aside the girl’s mind with voiceless nods.

His is a twisty, plotting, deceptive look and she responds by recognizing his ‘deceptive desire’ () and by repeatedly turning her gaze to him with equally ‘secret nods’ (neumasi lathridioisi ). It is after this secret, collusive exchange that he waits for the darkness and leads her into the (dark) recesses of the temple to speak to her. She speaks first, ‘threatening him with female words’ (), and she upbraids him for daring to touch a maiden. Leander’s response is fascinating. When he heard ‘the sting of her female threat’ (oistron () invokes an erotic ‘sting’: hers or his or both?), ‘he recognized the signs of a woman being persuaded/seduced’ () – a view immediately supported by the narrator who confirms that threats from a woman is ‘a herald of sexy chat [Kupridiôn oarôn]’ (). What are these signs of seduction? Is it that she mentions ‘taking a virgin to bed’ () – a hidden desire expressed, as Nausikaa in the Odyssey talks unbidden of the stranger’s attractiveness and her potential marriage? Or is it simply the performative display of threatening that in itself indicates a heightened interaction and thus interest? Perhaps what is most important, however, is that we as readers are positioned here to observe the scene of seduction, to read the signs for ourselves in the darkness. Erotics, the poem insists, is a dark and devious business; seduction, its central scene, is where words are least to be trusted; the light in the darkness may be lauded at first but is a destructive deception at last. To read the signs here is a dangerous lure. There is a double, overlapped erotics of reading. On the one hand, the story is sexy, focuses on seduction and leads us towards a consummation first in secret sex and then in violent death. Watching the scene of seduction unfurl is, as ever, seductive, even if, like Morales, one reads as a resistant, modern observer. On the other hand, encouraged by the marked repetitions of the proem’s own twisty language, we are led – as I enacted above – to follow the light of the poem’s allusive interconnections, to decode the nods, to over-read, like lovers, the signs, to trace the 

Morales (: ) may be too quick when she asserts ‘I can hear nothing . . . in and of itself suggestive of compliance’.

Erotics, the Epyllion and Colluthus’ Rape of Helen



significance of this love story in and against the other love stories it evokes. As in Colluthus, thus, the erotic narrative moulds for its readers a collusive engagement. Hero and Leander, more even than Colluthus, constructs its narrative out of fragments, echoes and knowing games with other genres, other love stories – and its own marked repetitions and anticipations – in its story of a doomed love foretold. Like Colluthus, Musaeus wilfully manipulates scale and focus – from the insistence on the tale of the lamp, an iconic version of the mere observer of the erotics of others, to the expansion of the scene of seduction, and the contraction of the scene of suicide to three or four lines at the poem’s close. It is typical that his description of the fatal storm, where ‘sea mixed with air’ (), quotes from Nonnus’ Typhon threatening cosmic chaos and Dionysius’ Gigantomachia: the travails of one man in the sea echoes the world-shattering events of mythic conflict. Yet this striking aesthetics of the epyllion also leads to a politics of cultural selfpositioning. The collusive engagement of the reader raises a set of questions. How like the erotics of the past is this love story? That is, in the Christian milieu of the sixth century – and the unanswerable question of whether Musaeus is Christian or not does not significantly effect this point – how can the erotic stories of the Greek tradition be put to work? Even if the story is recuperated as a Neo-Platonic allegory or moralized as an exemplum of the necessary grim fate of the sexually transgressive, or, more carefully (with Morales), seen as an engagement with the contemporary ideology of marriage, the balance between the lengthy pleasures of seduction and the brief closure, when even their shared death is described as a consummation (‘they had joy [aponanto] in each other even in their final destruction’ ), is likely to make such normative readings uncomfortable. The fragmented aesthetics of echoed past models seems to suggest that love stories are indeed made up of other love stories, a compulsive repetition of the remembered clichés of the past. In a Christian milieu, where there is a passionate demand to rewrite the logic of erotics within a new normative, theological framework, what it means to participate in the tradition of literary erotics is a potentially explosive question. The paradoxes of the story – the virgin priestess of Aphrodite, the girl who is a ‘virgin by day, a wife by night’ (), the ‘sleepless marriage’ lived out only at night – parade the slippages in the expectations of to eikos, the normal – and thus both challenge and pleasure the reader – that is, the paradoxes challenge the reader in and through the pleasure of recognition. 

Nonnus Dionysiaca .; Dionysius Gig fr . . See Kost (: ad loc); Braden (: ).



When Size Matters

The erotics of reading that Musaeus sets in motion invites its readers to find a place – pleasured, resistant, knowing, naïve, disengaged, swept away – on the changing normative map of desire. The epyllion’s aesthetics and politics of desire are intimately intertwined – and speak intensely to the contested inheritance of tradition in late antiquity.

IV So who is the reader interpellated by this aesthetics of the epyllion? Perhaps it is the readers of this book: educated, revelling in narrative’s tropes and turns, and fully knowing that there is no eros without a story, and no story without desire – and no story without the wilful narrator and engaged reader – and the dynamics of pleasure between them. A knowing pleasure articulated between epic and epigram, between reader and writer, between expectation and fun. The epyllion is a form that encourages and revels in a certain plaisir du texte – at least for the reader it calls into being. As such, it takes its place at the centre of aesthetics of the fifth and sixth century, a flourishing scene of interaction between the long tradition of Hellenic classicism and the still developing Christian empire’s value-laden selfrepresentation.

 

In the Beginning

First words, we know, matter. The Iliad’s mênin, ‘wrath’, the Odyssey’s andra, ‘man’, set the thematic focus of the narrative to come, the central question of each epic. What is more, the Odyssey’s silence in its opening sentence about the name of its hero and its periphrastic concealment and revelation of its subject is itself programmatic, in its form, for its hero’s performative strategies of deception as well as the narrative’s engagement with the ethics of identity. Homer’s beginnings are echoed and transformed throughout Greek writing. Sophocles’ Antigone – tragedy is a machine for rewriting Homer for the fifth-century polis – opens with Ô koinon, ‘O shared’: and the play goes on obsessively to dramatize not just the conflicting claims of commonality in the city and family, but also the dangerous power of the appeals to such commonality. Euripides memorably starts his Medea, eith’ ôphelon mê, ‘If only not’, and the play never escapes the lure of the counterfactual narrative, the wishing things were otherwise. Virgil’s arma virumque, ‘Arms and the man’, famously announces the Aeneid’s Homeric affiliation and appropriation, in taking on the Iliad’s war and the Odyssey’s man, to suggest the structure of the Aeneid, as well as the grounding question of how the man and his arms are to be understood together (que), and why mênis has been precariously replaced by arma. For Ovid, starting the Amores, the arma become a gift of a pun, an anticipation of how every military term will become a lover’s struggle: militat omnis amans, ‘every lover is a soldier’, where ‘to take up arms’, arma movere, is Venus’s work: Ovid’s arma, first word of the Amores, is indeed ‘moved’ – transformed, from the epic to the elegiac mode.    

I have had my go at this for the Odyssey in Goldhill (); see also Pucci (). On the Iliad see Nagy (); Redfield () and especially Muellner (). See Goldhill (: –). Pucci (). It is surprising that Grethlein’s study of the ‘as if’ in aesthetic experience does not consider the counterfactual as a form – see Prendergast ().  See e.g. Putnam (: especially ). See e.g. Labate (: –).





In the Beginning

It announces Ovid’s slyly assertive self-representation. First words, classics knows well, matter. First words become first sentences, first paragraphs. Herodotus puts his own name as first word, not just as the bravado of self-publicity, but as the start of a history which encapsulates the fifth-century fascination with how man is the measure of all things. His first paragraph also parades its commitment to research rather then divine inspiration, its competitiveness with Homer, the marvels (thômasta) to come, and, above all, climactically in its last sentence, ‘the cause’ of the war it narrates: di’ hên aitian, ‘through what cause’ did the war take place. Aitia, ‘causation’, replaces ‘beginning’. Where Homer could ask tis . . . theôn ‘which of the gods . . .?’ (Il  ) started things, and answer, immediately and simply enough, ‘The son of Zeus and Leto’, Herodotus will take many books of cultural, geographical, political analysis of difference to explain the conflict – the new science. A different model, a different conceptualization of how conflict in the world is to be understood and narrated, is programmatically declared in this opening paragraph. Thucydides in turn, after his self-announcement, links his next four sentences with gar, ‘for’/’because’, syntactically emphasizing and performing the necessity of logical causal connection as a mode of narrative, just as the dense grammar of these sentences demands from their reader a heightened commitment to the regulated ordering of connected sequence. The form of his writing is itself an argumentative gesture of self-positioning designed also to make its reader complicit with a particular perspective on historiography. Beginnings, that is, we also know all too well, are programmatic – and demonstrate how they are self-consciously engaged with this long tradition of self-announcement. The prose form we call the ancient novel demonstrates this self-consciousness with particular flair (and Apuleius, suitably enough, has prompted a whole book of essays just on his proem). So – to take a paradigmatic if remarkable example from a text of late antiquity, whose classicizing has sometimes led critics to forget that it is written closer in date to Augustine than Lucian – when Heliodorus in his extraordinary novel the Aethiopika opens with an initially baffling scene of apparent closure – the aftermath of a destructive battle – and imagines – reproduces – the confusion of a viewer who does not know the story, it is a scene that is written knowingly and flamboyantly against the style of opening adopted by the novels of the previous centuries, against  

See Rosalind Thomas (); Goldhill () for initial discussion and bibliography.  See Goldhill (b) for initial discussion and bibliography. Kahane and Laird eds ().

In the Beginning



historiography’s self-representation, epic’s inspiration, as well as being infused with rhetoric’s training in exegesis (and ecphrasis) – and, of course, proves programmatic for the interpretative difficulties of this most intricately embedded and epistemologically manipulative of ancient narratives. As critics have now long recognized, Heliodorus inherits, engages with and redrafts the long tradition of knowing well about beginning. Modern criticism of classical literature – which is so often represented as the foundation of Western culture, lest we forget the ideological lure of the claim of the origin – loves its beginnings, then. The glimpses offered so far of what could be an epic catalogue of beginnings is no more than a token of this long-running love. This chapter, which continues my focus on epyllion, epic and epigram, takes this debate in a new direction both in terms of materials to be discussed and in the questions it broaches: it asks how form makes a question of beginning, and how beginning makes a question of form. How, that is, do different genres or forms of writing provoke, block or question different gestures of beginning? How do different forms of beginning provoke, block or question the structural shape of the narrative to come? And, most interestingly, what is the dynamic relation between these two types of question? My chapter will in the end concentrate on what may well seem a surprising or even bizarre text for such a discussion – the Palatine Anthology. Epigrams have predictably not played much of a role in the contemporary debate about literary beginnings. After all, is not every epigram a new beginning? Especially when, as we have seen, epigrams tend to be decontextualized snapshots, circulated like jokes, it would seem counter-intuitive at best to try to fit especially this form into such a debate about programmatic openings and traditions of significant first words. An epigram stands or falls by its own self. But what if epigrams are put together as a book? Should each epigram be read, then, in relation to the others in the book? How closely interconnected should they be regarded to be? It is now widely recognized that Greek epigrams circulated in books – and thus are open to linear readings where juxtapositions make semantic interconnections. What is more, Meleager’s Stephanos, it has   

See Winkler (); Bartsch (); Morgan (); Whitmarsh (); Telo (); and specifically with regard to visuality, Grethlein (: –). See the seminal Said (). See Fitzgerald (); Rimell (); Macdonald () – on Martial, the most book-riven of epigrammatists; on Lucillius and other Greek writers see Nisbet (); on Greek epigram books see Gutzwiller (, ); Höschele (); on Posidippus, Gutzwiller ed (); Prioux (); in general see Krevans ().



In the Beginning

been argued, reveal a ‘poetics of editing’ in its strategies of anthologization: ‘Meleager remodels the practices developed in earlier epigram books to make the intertextual tradition of epigrammatic composition the referential focus of his anthologized verse’. By contrast, there is evidence that the Stephanos of Philippus was organized alphabetically according to the first letter of each poem in a category. Rather than a semantic criterion, the opening letter of the first word, the most material, least meaningful form of all, determines each poem’s place in the collection. This would seem to offer an order that is easy to use, possibly mnemonic, but scarcely significant for interpretation beyond the joy of serendipitous juxtaposition. Is not an anthology precisely the literary form where beginning matters least of all – a book you can start and end anywhere, without concern? My first reason for turning to the Palatine Anthology, thus, is that it exposes most strikingly how a discussion about beginnings inevitably requires a discussion about structural form also. A significant beginning becomes significant by virtue of the narrative it begins, its form. An anthology of epigrams is the limit case to test what is at stake in the beginning. But my second reason is that Book  of the Palatine Anthology is an anthology of beginnings, an anthology of proems of other anthologies. What happens to beginnings when they are collected without the collections to which they are openings? How is the tradition of significant openings engaged with by such an anthologizing gesture? This book of beginnings has scarcely been discussed by contemporary scholars, at least as a book. Yet it offers a fascinating juxtaposition of beginnings, that maps out how a tradition of proems develops: what is at stake in a beginning like this, a beginning to an anthology. But nor has it been discussed with regard to the books that precede it – which in themselves have barely been analysed by modern critics, as we saw in Chapter , no doubt partly at least they contain primarily works of late antiquity, including Christian poems. Yet – and this is my third reason for turning to the Anthology – each of these books of epigrams can be seen to be not only remarkably integrated in itself, in a way which requires attention, but also, with book IV, they constitute a fascinating reflection on beginning, collections and the significance of the act of putting discrete poems together into a sequence.  

Gutzwiller (: ) – an excellent article. Although the Palatine-lemmatist states that Meleager organized his collection alphabetically this is most likely to be quite wrong, but there is evidence for Philip doing so: Cameron (: –), an argument he first made in Cameron (). For discussion of such ordering, see Höschele (). Gow and Page organize their collection alphabetically by author, a scheme not used by either of the ancient sources.

In the Beginning



In short, an anthology is the form that asks most starkly whether it matters where you start reading and in what order you read – that is, how form and beginning are dynamically interrelated. The first section of this chapter acts as a necessary introduction to this discussion of the Palatine Anthology, in part by looking at a brief but paradigmatic selection of literary beginnings in late antiquity, in order to show both how the different genres of epic and epyllion construct different possibilities of beginning, and how the development of Christianity, with its new sense of temporality and order, also changes how the beginning can be expressed. In part, we begin with these selective examples from what could be a far longer history, to link this discussion also with previous and subsequent chapters of this book. To see how form makes a question of beginning and how beginning makes a question of form in the case of the epigram anthology, we need to see these other genres of epic and epyllion in action and in as full an embedded manner as possible. We start therefore with Triphiodorus, whose epyllion on the fall of Troy was written (probably) in the late third century, which will continue (or act as a prequel to) our previous discussion of the later epyllia of Musaeus and Colluthus. Triphiodorus will be compared, briefly, with another third-century author, Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica, whose epic narrative takes shape between the end of the Iliad and the beginning of the Odyssey, and thus who, writing from the in-between, has his own epic version of beginning, which will look forward to Nonnus in the next chapter. These two versions of the end of Troy – the end of the founding epic of Greek mythic repertoire – are followed by Nonnus’ Paraphrase of the Gospel of St John, a fifth-century verse redrafting of the Gospel of John with its celebrated opening statement of the beginning of things. Nonnus’ version of the Gospel will look toward the Christian epigrams of the Palatine Anthology, as much as the next chapter’s turn to the Dionysiaca.

I It is not by chance that it was necessary in the last chapter to discuss at length the opening invocations of Colluthus and Musaeus. Both poems have extended proems that in their epic length and grandeur contrast with the fragmented, curtailed narrative to come, and by such a very gesture perform the poetics of the epyllion. Where else, as Genesis announces, but in the beginning would the issue of form (and formlessness) start to press? Triphiodorus, by contrast, cannot end his ‘epic’ quickly enough. His brilliant Capture of Troy, a third-century text that shows no sign of any



In the Beginning

Christian influence or context, lasts less than  lines. Its first word – programmatically and amusingly – is terma: ‘end’, and his opening appeal to the Muse announces his longing for a swift conclusion: Τέρμα πολυκμἠτοιο μεταχρόνιον πολέμοιο καὶ λόχον Ἀργείης ἱππήλατον ἔργον Ἀθήνης αὐτίκα μοι σπεύδοντι πολὺν διὰ μῦθον ἀνεῖσα ἔννεπε, Καλλιόπεια, καὶ ἀρχαίην ἔριν ἀνδρῶν κεκριμένου πολέμοιο ταχείηι λῦσον ἀοιδῆι The delayed end of the exhausting war The ambush, the horse-driven work of Argive Athena, Immediately please – I’m in a hurry – produce through many a tale And sing, Calliopeia, and with swift song bring resolution To the ancient struggle of men, of the war that is decided.

It would be hard to imagine a more sophisticated and witty contribution to the question of temporality and epic as a grounding issue for the epyllion’s poetics of form. ‘The delayed end’ is self-reflexively the announced beginning, and the war is described from the outset as ‘exhausting/much-worked over’, as indeed is the war at Troy (ponos/ ekponeô are common words for poetic labour as well as military effort). The end is metachronion, ‘after a time’, ‘delayed’ – that is, the delay which is made up by the poem to come (and by an awareness of the epigonal status of this writing, so long after Homer). There is no anxiety about what his end is – the second line gives us the wooden horse, the ambush and divine motivation in six words. (The ‘horse-driven work’ will turn out by the end to be an image for the poem itself, which finishes being driven ‘like a horse’ () to its close, and thus retrospectively the imagery of the end/ turning point with which the poem starts will turn out to cue the long history of speedy chariot images of poetry’s progression – but that can wait.) The Muse of Epic, Calliope, is asked to sing ‘straightaway’ (as the second line was delivered) because the poet is in a hurry (speudonti). She is encouraged to send forth her song polun dia muthon, ‘through many a myth’. This is not just an appeal for fluency – nor for length – but also

 



For text and commentary see Miguélez-Cavero (). Fully and well analysed by Maciver (). There may be a sign of distant predecessors in psScymnus’ Periodos to Nicomedes (second century BCE), a poem self-announced bizarrely as ‘comedy’ (), which begins its very long proem (over  lines) with praise of brevity (bracheôs ; brachea ; mê polun . . . Lakônikôs ) and the value of epitome (): see Hunter (). See Tomasso (); Gerlaud (: ) suggests that Calliope is used for poetry in general, but the usage is more pointed here. See also p. –.

In the Beginning



a recognition that there have been indeed many a muthos on this topic. The poetic tradition is so long that speed is of the essence. Indeed, the strife of men he wishes to discuss is archaiên, ‘ancient’. The eris of men is the starting (dis)juncture of the Iliad ( ), a recognition which archaiên invokes. He wants a resolution to the war – luson indicates both the treaty or release that the end of fighting provides, but also the end of a narrative: since Aristotle, lusis is the technical term for literary closure, the resolution of a plot. The war’s story and the narrative are overlapping and mutually implicative journeys. The war, however, is also called kekrimenon, which I have translated as ‘decided’. He wants to rush to the end, although the poetic tradition lets us know that the outcome is already determined: there will be no crisis; it’s decided, already (line  begins the story ἤδη, ‘already’, the inevitable beginning to a story in a hurry). Kekrimenon, however, also means ‘distinguished’, ‘chosen’: this is a select war, not any war, but the war for poets. Nonetheless, he emphasizes, what is needed is a ‘swift song’ – a final phrase to end this self-performing briefest and quickest of proems. Triphiodorus goes on to write a single book ( lines), which is longer than a Hellenistic epyllion (or Musaeus’ or Colluthus’ later epyllia) and much shorter than a standard epic, a work which continues to play with its already highly self-aware sense of temporality and narrative form. Unlike the extended introductions to Colluthus and Musaeus, Triphiodorus offers a poetics of hurrying – the curtest of introductions to match its curtailed and fragmented engagement with the most traditional of all stories. Hence, the end is the place where he starts his helter-skelter place in a tradition stretching behind him. The shortness of the form of the epyllion is thematized and performed in the poetics of hurrying. Colluthus, Musaeus and Triphiodorus are each engaged, then, with (re-) constructing a positionality in and against a cultural and aesthetic tradition that starts and takes its authority from Homer, as the epyllionic form is designedly set against the scale of epic. These works’ beginnings are key moments when the form of this engagement with tradition takes shape. For Triphiodorus, this engagement is the disruptive and gleeful rejection of epic poetics and, with it, epic narrative form, under the banner of rushing towards the end. The second text in this beginning section on   

For earlier uses of polumuthos, see Tomasso (: –). On Triphiodorus and Homer see also Ypsilanti (); Paschalis (). Greensmith (in press) links this to Colluthus’ ‘already thrown’ apples, and links such language to the engagement with tradition.



In the Beginning

beginnings takes us in a quite different direction, which will act as a stark contrast to the discussion so far. For now we turn not just to epic, but epic that affiliates itself to Homer in an intense and complex way. This text is the Posthomerica by Quintus of Smyrna. Quintus, probably slightly earlier in the third century than Triphiodorus, also shows no signs of a Christian context, but also comes from a highly educated elite. Both authors write of the destruction of Troy, and are regularly compared in terms of language, metre and engagement with Homer. Yet it is in their poetics, as evidenced by their proems, that their difference is most starkly announced. Emma Greensmith’s brilliant analysis of the Posthomerica, The Resurrection of Homer in Imperial Greek Epic, has articulated how Quintus constructs a poetics of the interval, dwelling in the space between the Iliad and the Odyssey, how Quintus writes as Homer himself (with a constantly paraded, disavowed and impossible ‘as if’ built into his discourse), and how at all levels of his writing, from his philology to his plotting, Quintus manipulates the language of affiliation, parenthood and repetition, in order to construct his positionality in and against an epic tradition. The beginning of the Posthomerica immediately captures this sense of affiliation and genealogy. Unlike the invocations of Musaeus, Triphiodorus and Colluthus, Quintus begins his poem as if it had already begun some time ago. Its first word is a temporal marker: εὖθ᾽, ‘when’. As Silvio Bär and Calum Maciver have also productively discussed, not only is it unparalleled to begin an epic with a connective, implying not so much a start as a continuation with a previous work, but also the line specifically and carefully reminds us of the first and last line of the Iliad in our manuscripts. Εὖθ᾽ὑπὸ Πηλείωνι δάμη θεοείκελος Ἕκτωρ, ‘When god-like Hector was tamed by the son of Peleus’, recalls the patronymic naming of Achilles in line  of the Iliad (although the actual form of the patronymic is closer to Aristoxenus’ alternative opening of the Iliad), and the verb damê, ‘tamed’, echoes the final adjective of the Iliad, hippodameio, ‘tamer of horses’, applied to Hector. The first adjective applied to Achilles in the Iliad, dios, is perhaps also cued and disambiguated by the adjective theoeikelos, ‘god-like’. From the time of the scholia at least, the sense of dios was debated (‘god-like’, ‘noble’, ‘descended from Zeus’), whereas theoeikelos means precisely and only ‘god-like’. As Quintus sets out to establish his position as continuing Homer, singing as Homer, it is precisely the Iliad with which he forms a bridge. It is a bridge made out of poetic memory – that is, which invokes and manipulates a place within and against the epic tradition he embodies. 

Maciver (); Bär ().

In the Beginning



These opening lines continue with the frightened Trojans waiting (ἔμιμνον ), as ‘they recalled all those earlier heroes [μνησαμένοι προτέρων ] whose spirit Achilles had cast off [ἴαψεν ] as he rushed by the outflow of Idaean Scamander’ (–). ‘Recalled . . . earlier heroes’ marks a selfconscious placement within poetic tradition, as the poet reminds us of the battle-list narrative of Homer he is continuing: μνησαμένοι (a verb emphatically repeated six lines later), ‘recalled’, ‘remembered’ is particularly poised. Here is an epic opening without the expected invocation of the Muses, but which repeats the verb associated both with the mother of the Muses (Mnêmosunê) and with the memorializing function of epic: poetic memory takes the place of the Muse. As the opening thus invokes and performs its oblique relation to the language of tradition, the verb iapsen pointedly echoes proiapsen from the opening of the Iliad, with ‘spirit’ (thumon) in place of the Homeric psuchas (‘souls’). So, indeed, Quintus immediately looks back to the beginning of the war and the poetic tradition: they recalled ‘how Achilles had conquered Hector and dragged him round the city, and had killed others from the very first moment [ὁππότε δὴ τὰ πρῶτα ] he had brought destruction to Troy from the tireless sea’ (–). The whole narrative of the war till this moment is encapsulated – remembered – in the briefest of analepses, back to the beginning, beyond the Iliad, at this beginning (‘the very first’) – that is, precisely not the ‘first’ of Homer, who made ‘the very first’ of the Iliad the argument between lords Agamemnon and Achilles (Il. .: ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα). A different first, a different beginning . . . The Posthomerica’s narrative is located between the Iliad and the Odyssey but it constructs its sense of a beginning through and beyond the Iliad. The repetitive recapitulation that follows re-emphasizes the poetic analepsis: ‘Those who remembered [μνησθέντες] these events stayed on in the city’ (). Recalling the past keeps the Trojans behind the walls (it is only in poetic memory that Trojans remain). And the narrator’s voice immediately imagines the future (from the beginning to the end). ‘Around them painful grief fluttered, as if Troy was burning with grievous fire already’. ἤδη, ‘already’, announces the future to come under the sign of the ‘as if’ (while Triphiodorus’ ἤδη is a sign of the past already passed). The proem thus dramatizes its narrative as a continuation, while resisting the anticipated invocation of a Muse by recalling the mother of the Muses  

See also the excellent discussions of this passage in Maciver () and especially Greensmith (in press). See Greensmith (in press: ch. ) for Quintus’ repeated use of ἤδη.



In the Beginning

in the verb ‘recall’: poetic tradition is both redrafted and celebrated, as the proem plays with its status as a beginning. Similarly, like an Iliad in a nutshell, the narrative swoops from the proclaimed starting point (‘the very first’) to its imagined conclusion (‘burning Troy’) in a bare four lines. Here is a dense poetic texture of epic temporality. But there is more. The narrative continues, ‘And then from the streams of the broad-flowing Thermodon came [ἦλθε] Penthesileia’ (–). The continuation of the Iliad in the cyclic epics is included in a few manuscripts of Homer. Instead of the usual last word of the Iliad, hippodameio, ‘horse-taming’, these alternative texts read ἦλθε δ᾽Ἀμάζων, ‘There came an Amazon’. It is as if the proem takes place within a space opened by the two readings. Hector’s death (line ) is separated from the arrival of the Amazon (line ) by an expansion that includes in nuce the whole narrative from the arrival of Achilles to the fall of Troy. The Posthomerica will continue the Iliad but delays the expected arrival of the Amazon to look back and forwards, and to remind us of the poetics of memory. The simile which enters the narrative so soon (‘as when in a thicket cows do not want to face a grim lion, but in terror cower crowded together in the dense foliage, so the Trojans in the city were terrified of that mighty man’ –), recalls the many times that Achilles is described as ‘like a lion’ in Homer and the cyclic epics, here crowded into a single image, a simile, that is, that contains a network of associations from other epics, over time. It takes us immediately elsewhere, to a Homeric scene of rural violence, holding the narrative back. The Trojans are indeed waiting. The proem’s opening is also programmatic for the poem’s narrative of exhaustion, as both sides wait and wait for the end of the war, each action, it seems, expanded and slowed by the detour of a simile, a perspective of elsewhere. Quintus’ poetics, as embodied in his fourteen-book epic and programmatically asserted first here in its beginning, contrast strikingly with Triphiodorus. Where Triphiodorus demands that we rush through the ‘exhausting war’, to get to its terma as soon as we can, Quintus demands that we wait with the Trojans, locked in the tradition, taking our time to make any progress. His heroes (and his narrative) will reach an exhausted stasis. Epic’s narrative form requires delay: Virgil’s Aeneas dallying, fatefully, with Dido; Homer’s Odysseus taking ten years to get home, or his Achilles refusing to fight; Lucan trying to stop Caesar advancing on Rome. Quintus constructs the interval, the in-between, as a fully dramatized poetics of delay. 

The comparison is often made in terms of vocabulary and diction: see Tomasso (: –).

In the Beginning



Triphiodorus and Quintus embody contrasting expressions of temporality, which inform both the narrative of the destruction of Troy and the articulation of poetics in their proems: their beginnings and the form of their work are mutually, dynamically implicative. In each case, the work is an intervention in how tradition is comprehended and participated in, a gesture of cultural self-assertion, designed to engage the reader in a perspective on the past, for the present. This perspective is enacted in the style of narrating, as much as in the narrative. The Gospel of John, however, needs another sort of foundational opening, as befits the news that Christianity declares itself to bring. It wants a new beginning, though, as we will see, it is a beginning that is drafted and redrafted from the language of the old. ἐν ἀρχῇ, ‘In the beginning’, the most influential of all Greek prose beginnings, sets out immediately to redraft the opening of Genesis. The first word of Genesis is a famous crux. Bereshit, ‘In [the] beginning [of]’, normally has another noun following it, but is followed here by the verb bara ‘[he] created’. This apparent grammatical anomaly has led to a string of linguistic and homiletic expositions about the interrelation of the process of Creation and God’s agency within it. The first words of John also have no definite article, although the familiar translation in English, as I offered above, is ‘In the beginning’. This is not just the beginning of the book – Mark begins: ‘The beginning [arche] of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’; nor does it indicate the authority of being there at the start of the Jesus movement – as Luke tells us he is giving us what ‘the witnesses from the beginning [ap’ arches] passed down’; nor does it promise a genealogy – Matthew begins by announcing the genesis – the descent from David – of Jesus. In John, the beginning is a foundational statement of the order of things. ‘In the beginning was the logos’. The significance of John’s opening and its contextualization makes the opening of Nonnus’ Metabole, his Paraphrase of the Gospel of St John, all the more shocking: ἄχρονος ἦν ἀκίχητος ἐν ἀῤῥήτῳ λόγος ἀρχῇ ἰσοφυὴς γενετῆρος ὁμήλικος υἱὸς ἀμήτωρ καὶ λόγος αὐτοφύτοιο θεοῦ φάος ἐκ φάεος φῶς, πατρὸς ἔην ἀμέριστος, ἀτέρμονι σύνθρονος ἕδρῃ, καὶ θεὸς ὑψιγένεθλος ἔην λόγος. 

See Schäfer (); Niehoff (); Alexander () each with further bibliography. Interestingly, for the argument of Chapter , Niehoff () notes that the exegesis of Bereshit Rabba I , where arguments for creation ex nihilo are defended, has a large number of Greek loan words. She does not cite Synesius, the Platonist father of the Church, who, as a Platonist, heretically finds creatio ex nihilo inconceivable.



In the Beginning This is nigh on untranslatable. Here is my version:

Timeless, untouchable, the logos was in the ineffable beginning Of equal nature and of the same age as its father, a son without a mother And the logos was the light of the self-generated god, light from light; It was undivided from the father, sat together on the unbounded foundation, And the logos was god born on high.

And here is the most recent published version: Ere time, ere space, ere speech dwelt the archaic Word, God’s like in age and nature, motherless, this Son, The Word, the spawn of self-born God, light come from light, Inseparate, interminable and enthroned With God, conseated on God’s sempiternal chair: The Word was God’s first offspring.

The opening lines of John are not simply the ordinary language of men, as the Gospel’s koine Greek is often represented to be (and, of course, there is a long history of the politics of making the word of God available to all). Rather, John’s Greek is forged in a more intellectual, philosophically tinged atmosphere – hence his use of the term logos in a way that the other synoptic Gospels do not follow, which led the great Protestant theologian Adolf von Harnack at the turn of the twentieth century to regret that John already showed crippling signs of the Hellenization that in his view over the first centuries of the development of Christianity distorted the beauty of the early church. Yet John’s syntax and vocabulary parade a certain designed simplicity: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (as the King James translation renders it). Nonnus takes this verse and paraphrases it into five hexameters. The form of the hexameter is an immediate rejection – or systematic recomposition – of the prose of the Gospel. The hexameter is marked as the grandest of elite verse forms. What is more, the vocabulary and form of expression here are very far from the discourse of Homer, even when the words are taken from Homer. Nonnus’ Paraphrase, by virtue of its epic hexameter form, sounds  



Prost (). On missionaries see e.g. Stanley (); Porter (); on Evangelicism see e.g. Bebbington () – for a rather Anglo-centric and modern account. Erasmus, famously and programmatically, writes in his Paraclesis: ‘I would that even the lowliest women read the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles. And I would that they were translated into all languages so that they could be read and understood by Scots and Irish but also by Turks and Saracens . . . Would that, as a result, the farmer sing some portion of them at the plough, the weaver hum parts of them to the movement of his shuttle, the traveller lighten the weariness of the journey with stories of this kind’. Von Harnack (–) and the more popular von Harnack (): see Gagné (in press).

In the Beginning



out its affiliation and distance from pagan and Christian cultures for an educated community recalibrating its own engagement with the privileged texts of the past. So, the first word of the Gospel is now ‘Timeless’. As Augustine shows with the greatest profundity, Christianity requires a reconceptualization of temporality, in which the timelessness of God is a grounding principle. To begin the Gospel with ‘timeless’ is to redefine the beginning, the foundation of things, now in a theorized Christian notion of time. Akichêtos, ‘untouched’/’untouchable’, is used in Homer only once, when Apollo warns Hector not to ‘chase the unattainable’ (Il.  ). Here the term is redirected towards the immateriality of the Logos. The ‘beginning’ – archê – is displaced from the first place in the line to the last and is qualified by the term ‘unspeakable’, ‘ineffable’. The beginning which was foundational for John is an inexpressible mystery for Nonnus: what can the term ‘beginning’ mean in the context of timelessness? If timeless is taken in its full theological sense, then there is no beginning, no end: beginning is unsayable. Lactantius, writing roughly a century earlier, quotes Hermes Trismegistus, a figure whom, it appears, Christians around Constantine frequently mobilized to form a bridge between Christians and educated non-Christians (Inst. . ). Hermes, says Lactantius, described the logos as aporrhetos, because the name of the Son is inexpressible and unknown to humans and will not be known till the end of days. Logos is, in a manner which is both literal and theologically expressive, unsayable. Lactantius, who normally writes in Latin, here quotes in Greek, reminding us that understanding logos in John is also mediated for Latin speakers through an issue of translation. Lactantius is fully aware that logos has a range of meaning that includes both sermo and ratio, and is thus better than either insufficient Latin term (Inst.  ). Tertullian (adv. Prax ) also debates whether sermo, ratio or verbum is the best version of logos, depending on whether logos is taken to refer to God’s reason itself or the instrumental power of God’s reason embodied in the Word (as Augustine also argues). So too Gregory of Elvira (de fide ) links understanding the translation of logos to the central theological issue of the persons of the Father and Son which dominated the conflict over the Arian heresy (and which will be picked up in the following lines of Nonnus). By transferring   

Augustine Confession : see, from a huge bibliography, Conybeare (); Nightingale (); Kennedy (: –); Ricoeur (). Nicholson and Nicholson (: ). See in particular Fowden (: especially –) on Lactantius. Thanks to my graduate student, Teresa Röger, for discussion here. De diversis quaestionibus octaginta tribus ; Tractatus in Iohannem ..



In the Beginning

the adjective a(po)rrhetos from logos to arche, making now the beginning the site of the ineffable, Nonnus is also tapping into a history of Christian theological polemic and cultural placement. Nonnus repeats the word logos three times as does John. But now each use is glossed with a string of theologically charged expressions, each of which extends and refines the bare prose of the Gospel (the very richness of expressivity is a continuing enactment of the tension between the struggle to articulate the ineffable and the exuberance of demonstrative praise). The phrase ‘with God’ becomes ‘Of equal nature and of the same age as its father, a son without a mother, the light of the self-generated god, light from light; it was undivided from the father, sat together on the unbounded foundation’ – an attempt to give an all-embracing theological comprehension of the co-extensive relation of Jesus Christ and God the Father – which for John is no more or less than the single syllable pros. Isophuês, ‘Of equal nature’, is a pointed allusion to the distinction between homoousios and homoiousios, ‘of the same substance’, and ‘of similar substance’, the iconic source of contention between Arian and Orthodox Christianity. ‘Son without a mother [amêtôr]’ is not a rejection of the role of Mary theotokos (a term offically sanctioned from  onwards in Greek Christianity) but a response to the worry that Lactantius, again, emphasizes (Inst .): ‘No-one hearing the expression “son of God” should conceive such evil in his mind as to think that God procreated as a result of marriage and intercourse with some woman’. The enthronement of son and father, together but undivided, on a foundation that is without boundary, is a highly articulate image of the central paradox of Christian theology, conjoined with a sense of the rule of heaven. The phrase ‘was God’ becomes ‘was God born on high’. The adjective hupsigenethlos, ‘born on high’, with its echo of God hupsistos, ‘the highest’, could qualify either logos or theos: either ‘Logos was God born on high’, or ‘Logos born on high was God’. (Prost’s translation ‘The Word was God’s first offspring’ muddies the problem, linguistically and theologically; the version of Le Comte de Marcellus, ‘Ce Verbe était aussi un Dieu, né dans le ciel’, ‘This Word was also a God, born in heaven’, is marred by his use of the indefinite article, ‘a God’, as if there were many other gods, and by ‘this’ as if there were other logoi in play.) That the 



Some may hear also an awkward echo of the celebrated opening of Aratus, where Zeus is described as never arrheton (‘unspoken’ ()), which was taken by Callimachus and Leonidas of Tarentum as a pun on the author’s name: see AP  ;  (=Ep  Pfeiffer). Aratus is quoted in Acts ., which indicated something of its Christian reception too. The bibliography here is distractingly huge: Williams () is a useful introduction.

In the Beginning



adjective can go with both nouns perhaps performs the shared nature of father and son. Nonnus’ Paraphrase (as his title Metabole is usually rendered) stretches the definition of paraphrase to the limit, certainly if a modern understanding of paraphrase is followed. Nonnus does not offer a simplifying, clarifying explication, but rather takes the simple, syntactically clear (if theologically laden) Greek prose of John and turns it into syntactically tortured verse of the highest intellectual level. Dionysiac poetics is never far from Nonnus’ transformative language. (And – the later Christus Patiens, where the story of Jesus is told partly through the lines of Euripides’ Bacchae, Dionysus’ play, is only the most developed form of such an analogy – Jesus and Dionysus, both woman-born gods, are overlapped in the iconographic imaginary of late antiquity.) Nonnus turns John’s Greek into an extended glossolalia of Christian theological expressivity, heavily laced with Neo-Platonic thinking. Nonnus has reformed the Gospel. Nonnus revels in his own educated brilliance set in the service of reformulating the text to a new theological agenda, an agenda that is deeply embedded in the controversies and social upheavals of the fifth century. The issue is not a question of translation between different languages but between different cultural registers and the different educational, social and theological principles embodied in such registers. Paraphrase here is closer to exegesis or commentary, but importantly does not represent itself as such. This paraphrase is not so much to make a complex text more simple or to explicate its difficulties for a challenged readership, as to perform an act of cultural translation, redrafting the paraded language of simplicity into a more privileged and elite language of poetic and philosophical tradition: to offer a new frame of comprehension, a new horizon of expectation. Nonnus’ Paraphrase is designed to make the Gospel into a Christian text for the cultural values of its time: paraphrase as conversion. His reforming is an aesthetic and political intervention. Triphiodorus, Quintus and Nonnus offer contrasting views of the programmatics of form in their beginnings. Epic and epyllion are set against each other, generically, in terms of style of narration, and in their stance on cultural traditions, but both of these third-century narratives of the Trojan war are set against the fifth-century Nonnus, whose verse rendition of prose and bold handling of Christian polemic change what is now at stake in a 

A huge bibliography has considered this interrelationship, including, most relevantly and recently for us, Shorrock (). See also Bryant Davis (); Pollmann (: –); Bowersock (: –); Bowersock ().



In the Beginning

beginning and how poetry relates to temporality and to cultural privilege. Because of this matrix of ideas – the dynamics of form and the poetics of beginning, the self-conscious engagement with privileged cultural value in and across the tension between Christian and pagan affiliations – this trio of authors has been selected to act as an introduction to the work which will provide the main focus of this chapter, a book that, as I have said, has been barely discussed by classicists as a book, even when its individual poems have been considered. It is a book that puts together three formal compositions of beginning, the third of which is itself turned into three different forms of beginning. This work is Book  of the Palatine Anthology.

II Book  of the Palatine Anthology is an anthology of proems of anthologies: beginnings. The Palatine Anthology is a tenth-century manuscript, probably put together in Byzantium by Constantine of Rhodes, perhaps forty years after Cephalas produced his anthology on which this manuscript is based: it survives in a single manuscript written in four hands. In Book , Cephalas collects the proem to Meleager’s Stephanos from the first century BCE, the proem to Philippus’ Stephanos probably from the first century CE, and the two proems and a third work, possibly an envoi, from Agathias’ collection, from the time of Justinian in the sixth century CE, which includes poems that go beyond the standard form of the epigram into brief elegiac narratives. That is, the Palatine Anthology is a collection composed from within a Christian context that anthologizes epigrams and, in Book , proems, that strikingly include Christian and so-called pagan verse together, looking back over a thousand years of Greek tradition. It is typical of the disregard with which Book  has been treated as a book that Alan Cameron calls it ‘not part of Cephalas’ anthology proper’ and ‘not a formal part of the anthology’ – although he recognizes that, even if it was not included in the Planudean Anthology, it was in the anthology Cephalas produced (in but not really? Really?). With an insouciance that masks his deep ideological investment, for Cameron the anthology starts 



Cameron () is the fullest discussion of the process, with bibliography to earlier discussions. Lauxtermann () is the latest and clearest account of its likely composition; he also defends Cameron’s identification of Constantine of Rhodes against Orsini (). See also Maltomini (). Cameron (: , ); cf. Aristophanes Ach.  (as Michael Reeve commented to me). Lauxtermann () argues that Books , , – began Cephalas’ anthology but thinks Book  would have been placed elsewhere. Cameron and Cameron () are too quick to assume Books , ,  and  were all added to Cephalas.

In the Beginning



‘formally’ with Book . Consequently, like most critics, Cameron barely mentions Book  (or Book  and , let alone ) in his voluminous study. So, faced by both the complexity of the Palatine Anthology as a literary and cultural product, and by the specific layering of Book IV’s collection of beginnings, we can start with the most salient general question: if not with the selective dismissal of Cameron, how, then, should an anthology be read? When we consider literary form in antiquity, one foundational question for criticism within the discipline of classical scholarship could be called the issue of structural coherence. This is especially the case with an anthology, which inevitably provokes questions of integral and fragmented form. How different from other forms is the anthology on this criterion? To what degree is structural integrity an adequate lens to distinguish the anthology from other literary works? The nature of structural cohesion of literary works is a theoretical issue and thematized insistence of Greek and Latin literary discourse, and it has been widely picked up and debated by modern scholars. Particularly after the introduction to this chapter, this is an area which needs to be approached from a broad perspective, a perspective that includes epic and epyllion (among other literary forms) in its purview. Is epic, for example, the opposite of the anthology in terms of structural integrity? Is an anthology, however long, necessarily a fragmentation of the coherence of other books, a deconstruction aimed at a new rewriting of tradition, fragments shored against ruin? At one extreme, it might seem reasonable to claim that epic – at least as a form and at least as a projected and promoted reader expectation – promises a teleological narrative where coherence is integral. I call it an extreme claim to assert such a reasonable proposition, because it is not hard to find immediate qualifications of it, and from quite different perspectives. So, oral theory has often been mobilized to challenge the structural integrity of Homeric narrative (though arguments between Unitarians and Analysts are all too often based precisely on the postulated or denied interconnectedness of scenes or lines or even words from within the poem). Nonnus’ swirling forty-eight-book narrative, as we will see in the next chapter, constitutes a real threat to any straightforward and established vision of its own structure, and its Dionysiac poetics could be said to be enacted between a projected teleological narrative and its delight in uncontrollable repetitions, twists, stories within stories, metamorphosing narratives. 

One of the most sophisticated engagements with this issue remains Lynn George () – a book not read enough.

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In the Beginning

For readers of Nonnus, holding on to the coherence of its story is like trying to hold on to Proteus, his poetic Muse. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is the icon of epic narrative where shifting, changing form is an aesthetic and political challenge to the foundational claims of epic, and where its diffuse and divisive narrative strategy requires each reader to find coherence in the poem’s structural juxtapositions and embedding of stories. For Lucan, as John Henderson has shown most influentially, the ruptures of the violent divisiveness of the discourse of civil war breaks apart language’s referentiality and narrative’s progress: the coherence of the story consists in the performance or threat of chaos. Even a work as tightly scripted as Apollonius’ Argonautica, where the narrative is a booked return journey, concludes with a sharply witty and bathetically rapid gesture of closure. Even Virgil’s Aeneid, which, left unfinished at the poet’s death, always allows for suggestions of incompleteness, despite its evident foundational teleology, ends with an ideological and narrative question which has prompted dissent and difference of critical opinion for centuries. ‘Unified classical forms’, writes David Quint, prompted by his formal reading of the Aeneid, ‘nonetheless point to the cracks in their marble façade’. As we have seen, epyllion delights in playing with the gaps and expectations of epic narrative, resisting its foundational assumptions. Indeed, if modern literary theory would suggest that to postulate integral coherence of any narrative is to disavow the semantic uncertainties of reading literature and the necessary gaps and ruptures of any narration, then ancient epic would seem from the beginning to have both demanded its own sense of structural order and collaborated with its own challenge to such a sense of coherence. Indeed, Callimachus’ Aitia – whose proem has been taken as programmatic for so much Greek and Latin poetics – dismisses critics who complain he has not produced ‘one continuous song’ hen aeisma diênekes, but a ‘tale little by little, like a child’ (fr  ). The continuousness or fragmentation of poetic narration is already theorized and thematized by Callimachus in the name of a new aesthetics of literature. For Aristotle, of course, and even more so for later Aristotelians, tragedy too is a genre which offers the structural promise of coherence. For     

See Feldherr (); Brown (); Hardie, Barchiesi and Hinds eds () especially Rosatti () all with extensive bibliographies. Henderson (: –); see also Masters (). See, from a very large bibliography, Quint (, ); Kallendorf (); Thomas (). Quint (: ). A coherence predicated on the synoptic gaze (linking art history and literary history again): see Purves (: –).



In the Beginning

Aristotle, as for Horace, a beginning requires a middle and an end to follow, even and especially if the beginning is in medias res. For Aristotle, avoiding coincidence, linking scenes by logical causation, and – especially for the Aristotelians – observing the so-called unities is an essential part of the coherence of drama. Modern theatre critics further insist on a criterion of focused relevance – the refusal of the arbitrary or superfluous – known lovingly as the principle of Chekhov’s gun: ‘If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired’. Yet, as with epic, immediate qualifications lead to more profound questions of form. Tragedians produced trilogies of tragedies with a satyr play for each festival competition. To what degree were trilogies interrelated and how? While our sole surviving example of a trilogy, the Oresteia of Aeschylus, has three plays on the same household narrative unfurling over the generations, many later trilogies were made up of three plays on very different mythic scenarios. Thematically linked? To what degree and how? What is more, from at least Aristotle’s day both in theoretical discussion, and in practice, the integral link between any particular choral ode and the framing narrative became a question: in repertoire across Greece from the fourth century onwards, other choral odes were added into plays, and it is Aristotle who coins the term epibolima for choruses whose semantic link to the narrative is declared unintegrated. What is more, causal connections between events, the very basis of integrated narrative structure for Aristotle, are thematized in tragedy itself as profoundly unsettling and unreliable projections, typical of human ignorance and misrecognition. Tragedy repeatedly challenges the superiority of its audience’s (self-)understanding of coherence. If Callimachus’ Aitia (‘The Causes’) programmatically insists on narrative disjunctions, tragedy’s generic representation of causation – its fascination with who or what is responsible (aitios) – stands as a repeated challenge to the systematic theorization of Aristotle with his four causes (aitiai) – a challenge that Simon Critchley calls ‘the dangerous perhaps’ of tragedy. When Ezra Pound, in his translation of Sophocles’ Trachiniae, has Heracles cry out (in capitals): ‘what/SPLENDOUR,/IT ALL COHERES’, it is a knowing and ironic comment on his own poetics of fragmentation in the Cantos and his struggle for a place in literary order, modernism against the classics. If epic and tragedy are mined by a tension between structural integrity and the disruptions and fractures which challenge such structural integrity, collections of shorter poems inevitably raise their own related concerns of 

Goldhill (: especially –).



Critchley ().



Pound (: –).



In the Beginning

coherence. When it is clear that collections were published as collections in antiquity, then the connections between the poems, by the very fact of being implicit, necessarily provoke uncertainty and suggestiveness among its readers. If Virgil’s Eclogues are more likely to be seen to follow an agenda that links the separate poems into a broader vision or narrative, or if Propertius’ Monobiblos appears to tell a single, multi-faceted love story, the degree to which any book of Horace’s lyric poetry is to be seen as an integrated production – or, more precisely, where the limits and fissures in such integration are to be delineated – has prompted intense debate among critics. This is particularly stressful when we have books of epigrams prepared by an author – and Martial here is the perfect test-case. As we saw in the last chapter, even when Martial seems to create a ‘world’ – a perspective on Rome – the degree to which this is a matter of coherent, integral connections between juxtaposed poems in sequences, or a deliberately fragmented set of shards for the reader’s constantly partial and discrete engagement, has been a question which has dominated recent criticism, much of it highly sophisticated. When it is not known whether the author himself collected his own poems for publication – as is the case of Catullus, say, or even Theognis – or when it is known that collections were made designedly by later editors – as with Sappho or Pindar – different questions of semantic authority arise. If, as seems likely, Sappho was encountered by later readers in the Hellenistic editions prepared of her work by such later editors, can we perceive the effects of such editing in the reception of her poetry? Should we read Sappho through this editorial intervention? What is at stake in the historicizing gestures either of ignoring such acts of anthologizing in the name of the authenticity of an original performance, or recognizing the continuing and determinative impact of such editorial acts of selection, juxtaposition and ordering in the name of the reception of poetry in antiquity and beyond? By the date of the Palatine Anthology there is also a long history of prose works whose episodic structure performs the tension between programme and selectivity in the most self-consciously paraded fashion. Aelian’s Varia Historia, often translated as An Historical Miscellany, another probably third-century text, runs together paragraph after paragraph, each of which revels in a paradoxical or strange story about an animal or a    

For discussion and bibliography see Santirocco (). See in particular Fitzgerald (); Rimell (). See Prauscello (in press a) (in press b); Liberman (). See König and Woolf eds (: –).

In the Beginning



historical figure or any other topic of interest that captures his – and our – attention. The delight of the book is precisely in its wilful juxtapositions of oddities within each chapter and between chapters. So, from the beginning of Book  (since we are dealing with beginnings), without any programmatic introduction, we are told in sequence of () octopuses’ ravenous treacheries; () spiders’ web-weaving (another trick related to food); () Egyptian frogs that can kill snakes; () Egyptian dogs who drink on the run. And so forth for fourteen books. Each of these opening stories is about an animal and at some level about how an animal eats – but the joy – as the Greek title historia poikile promises – is in the differences, the disconnects and the challenge to to eikos, the probable or normal, to which the reader has to give oneself over – its poikilia, its shimmering, swervy, intricate variety. Aelian can tell a story we find also in Plutarch; we can find the same story in the mouth of a character in a novel such as Achilles Tatius’ Leucippe and Cleitophon. The stories are there to be extracted as discrete stories and reused by the educated man about town – like an anecdote or a joke. Similarly, books of letters – the erotic letters of Philostratus, for example – create a repertoire of reusable rhetorical acts of a lover’s self-expression, but do not create a continuous or coherent narrative. It offers the pleasure of some snapshots of how to perform one’s desire. Letters of prostitutes or farmers allow for different forms of selfpositioning, through the other. The questions of scale and structural coherence through which we have been approaching the issue of form are thus intensely felt with a work like Aelian’s Varia Historia: how much can or should it be read through, how much sampled? How long is a story, how much does it need in order to be comprehensible, well-formed? If the catalogue, a form beloved of epic, supposes a list that is fixed – or, better, disavows its own potential for change – how (un)like a catalogue is a miscellany, an encyclopaedia, an . . . anthology? It would be misleading, then, simply to contrast the anthology with other literary forms in terms of structural integrity or narrative coherence: there is a much more complex continuum of tensions between fragmentation and coherence from genre to genre, narrative form to narrative form. How, then, to read this anthology? I have already noted that Book  of the Palatine Anthology is announced as a collection of Christian epigrams, and, as such, when set against the long tradition of non-Christian epigrams, constitutes a fascinating example of what can be  

 On Aelian, especially on his animals, see Smith (). See Goldhill (b).  See Goldhill (). On Alciphron and coherence, see Biraud and Zucker eds ().



In the Beginning

at stake in such an anthologizing project. On the one hand, these are poems which are attached to discrete and specific topoi – both physical places and the literary commonplaces of scripture. Some are juxtaposed because they are related to the same building or religious figure. But despite – or because of – such localized and evident interconnectedness, the potential of discrete reading is always available: an anthology can be dipped into . . . Indeed, for some critics should be dipped into: ‘There is no ancient form’, writes Alan Cameron programmatically, ‘of which it can be said with less plausibility that it was written for the book’. On the other hand, this tension between the discrete moment and the overarching vision goes to the heart not just of a Christian view of the world but also a specifically Christian form of literary engagement with the tradition of Greek and Roman antiquity. ‘To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower’ is to recognize a network of necessary interconnections in God’s order of the world and the providence that is the history of the world, even if such a pattern remains opaque to mere human perception. Such a religious conception will see in each and every epigram a sign of the totality that is the divine structure of things. Hence, as we discussed earlier, the lack of surprise in so many of these epigrams, that tell those that know what is known. But, as Clement of Alexandria demonstrates most vividly in his Strommateis, all pagan literature (even) can be read within such a religious perspective as revealing flashes of Christian insight, praeparationes evangelicae that demonstrate within literary tradition the long history of Christian truth, growing in clarity but always already present. There is thus an anthologizing view of tradition that will select and put together these fragments to reveal the true and permanent order of things. To read a collection of Christian epigrams, thus, is both to appreciate the discrete moments of Christian reflection and to see in and through such moments signs of the totality that is the Christian vision of the order of things. This book, in short, embodies epigram as Christian vision. 

 

Cameron (: ): a self-fulfilling programme of reading. He knows well that there are a good number of attested books of epigrams in Greek as in Latin. Nisbet (: ) puts the point more interestingly: ‘These are not “literary” books to be read at a sitting. Instead these books are designed for use’. But both are well criticized by Höschele (: –) and Bing (: –), both following Gutzwiller () and (). See Squire and Wienand eds (), as discussed in the Preface, who are particularly interesting on how Porphyry provokes the question of how to see a pattern. For one version of this see Osborn (). Eusebius’ Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica, as Lea Nicolai pointed out to me, show a similar if more focused appropriation of Plato and other philosophical sources: see Johnson, A. (); Corke-Webster ().

In the Beginning



It should not be forgotten, in the context of the cultural politics of the tenth century, that it matters that a collection of epigrams replete with material from the pagan past should thus start – programmatically, as it were – with a collection that is announced as firmly Christian – ‘even if the pagans [hoi Hellênes] are annoyed’ (heading to AP  – anticipating with whatever disingenuity a cultural conflict). Book  of the Palatine Anthology, by contrast – a contrast that may be significant – offers a set of poems that are announced to be a coherent collection by virtue of being a set of descriptions of a set of statues all exhibited in the same gymnasium, and all written by the same man, Christodorus of Egypt – whose name at least suggests he comes from a Christian environment. That these descriptions of discrete objects are usually numbered in modern editions as a single long poem reflects the manuscript, which writes Book  as a single poem, with only some capital letters to mark the change of subject. But more importantly, the single numbering reflects the imaged structural coherence of the lines. These poems construct not just a tour of an exhibition space but a journey through the tradition of non-Christian Greco-Roman culture. Book  of the Palatine Anthology performs the contrast between Christian and non-Christian reading announced in the epigraph to Book  of the Anthology. It interleaves, from the start, figures from epic and other poetry – the first poem is on Deiphobus, the somewhat shadowy second Trojan husband of Helen – with culture heroes; the second poem is a diptych of Aeschines the orator and Aristotle the philosopher, a contrast between persuasion and wisdom, sophistry and philosophy, central vectors of the self-description of Hellenism’s educated society. The statues include the great poets, of course, and great prophets, along with the divinities of the Greek pantheon, especially Aphrodite, more than once, and Apollo, the god of poetic inspiration. As one would expect from the obsession with the past familiar from so-called Second Sophistic self-constructions of Hellenism, the historical figures are all bar one taken from archaic or classical Greece (and the mythic figures closely related to archaic and 





For an edition of the poems see Tissoni () and for a survey of criticism see especially Whitby (); Kaldellis (b); Bär (); Middleton () each with further bibliography. This is the one early book of AP that has received at least this much serious critical attention. Bär () most recently argues the case that we can treat this poem therefore as an epyllion (with bibliography of the history of the discussion). Relevantly to this book and Book , Bing (: ) imagines the reader of Posidippus’ Iamatika as an ‘imaginary pilgrim’ and the collection as offering ‘the readers the impression, as they turn from poem to poem, of strolling through a shrine of Asclepius’; see also Prioux () on ‘muséographie poétique’. For discussion of whether the poem was performed and if so where see Kaldellis (b: –), and in general Cameron ().



In the Beginning

classical versions). Four Romans are allowed entry. Julius Caesar and Pompey, far apart in the collection, represent the power of the Empire at its most conflictual. Virgil (as we will see) ends the sequence. The fourth, more surprisingly, is Apuleius, born in what is now Algeria, around the coast from Egypt. As so often in Greek writing from the Roman Empire, the cultural assertiveness of Greekness ignores, refuses to recognize or downplays Roman achievements in a constructed genealogy of Greek purity and even supremacy: seventy-six Greek figures are singled out, and only four Romans in this display of culture’s value. As we will see in Chapter , asserting social authority by silencing or disavowing the dominant Roman structures of power is a productive strategy of cultural resistance in the Empire. The end of the collection shows the work of a constructed tradition most clearly. The last five statues start with Xenophon, described in lavish terms as the historian who wrote the didactic masterpiece, the Cyropaidia. He is also described as ‘following the sonorous character of the Platonic Muse’ (). Xenophon, that is, is immediately placed as continuing Plato’s work. This seems to emphasize Xenophon’s Socratic works and perhaps to make the Cyropaidia philosophical in its ethical normativity – but it certainly places a glorious Xenophon as epigonal to Plato (much as his history is self-consciously the next chapter of Thucydides). The next description indicates that the title of the statue is given as Alcmaeon the seer, but the poet immediately corrects the inscription – if it is Alcmaeon, he doesn’t recognize it as an image of the famous Alcmaeon, nor does the image have the standard iconography of a prophet. So, he suggests an emendation, that it is actually Alcman, the poet. This is a delightful moment of philological and art historical criticism – the staging of the poet as the intellectual, the educated viewer as critic, attuned to the history on display in front of him, a performance of sophia. The third of these final statues is Pompey, who, we are told – continuing the performance of sophia – brought the Isaurians into the Empire. The point of this historical footnote (not the most significant event on the life of Pompey, it might be thought) is to bring the viewer and the poem up to date in a gesture of homage to the current emperor (–): ‘That was the man [Pompey], who was a light [phaos] to all, who sired the noble race of the Emperor 

Kaldellis (a) is the best introduction to this theme in the later period. For the earlier periods, following Bowie (), see from many relevant studies, Goldhill ed (); Swain (); Whitmarsh (); Kim (). For a stimulating account of the connection between the imperial project and collecting culture, see Carey ().

In the Beginning



Anastasius. My noble imperial ruler showed this to all when he defeated with arms the races of the Isaurian land’. Description becomes eulogy. As Pompey was a light to all, so the emperor displayed his triumph to all: genealogy is fulfilled and the scope of this achievement is the eyes of the whole world. Tradition’s genealogical logic demands that the wonders of the past find its fulfilment in the here and now. The penultimate statue is allos Homeros, another Homer, a Byzantine tragedian whose name was also Homer (the one non-archaic or classical Greek figure in the collection): the present again viewed through its connection to the deep past. But it also turns out that this other Homer is a foil to another other Homer. The last statue is Virgil, the ‘clear-voiced swan dear to the Italians’, who is described as the poet ‘whom the native [patrios] Echo of Roman Tiber nourished as another Homer’. This last phrase is intricately layered. The ‘Echo’ of the river – patrios not just because it is where Virgil was born, his fatherland, but also because it is a ‘native’, a Latin poem, about Rome – also echoes the sense that literary language is an echo of its literary past, as Virgil resounds with Homer. The longest and most exuberantly encomiastic description in the poem is of Homer himself (–) who is described as the poet’s ‘father’ (probably an echo of Nonnus): an explicit affiliation to the poet who is treated as a divine source. From archaic Greece, Byzantium and now Augustan Rome, we are all participants in the reception of Homer. These final lines see in Virgil the embodiment of a transcultural literary inheritance, which the poet is joining by his own contribution to hexameter verse. Book  of the Palatine Anthology, then, offers an intriguing picture of the seriality of tradition in a serial line of statues, which are both discretely described and linked together as a single poem. A pagan image of cultural order of things, after the Christian. The ‘tradition of ekphrastic “gallery tours”’ becomes here something else. If Roman collections demonstrate ‘a masterful exhibition of the Roman power to appropriate and reappropriate images and objects, to weave them into successive narratives of conquest and culture’, and if Posidippus’ lithika ‘exemplify the 

  

Kaldellis (b: –), correcting Bassett, notes that the name Pompey runs in the family and although the immediate allusion is to Pompey the Great, the poem could also hint at the emperor’s father or uncle, as ‘selectively constructed symbolic genealogies . . . buttress . . . claims to political, military or poetic authority’ (). See Bowie () on the trope of calling poets in this period ‘another Homer’. Nonnus Dionysiaca : – (on which see Shorrock : –); on the divinity of Homer the father here see Bär (: –).  Macdonald (: ). Macdonald (: ).



In the Beginning

territorial and cultural aspirations of the Ptolemies’, this collection, repackaged for the Byzantine city, is the poetic equivalent of the city’s urban redesign through collections of statues whereby ‘the sculptured patrimony of antiquity was marshaled to create a civic identity for the city’, where the ‘evocative power of spolia gave visual life not only to the longing for mastery, but also its realization’, a way ‘to evoke the glory of the Hellenic past and celebrate its vitality in the Greco-Roman world’, which also, at least in the eyes of Eusebius, also ‘trumpeted the Christian triumph over Hellenic religious tradition’. Poetry collected and read like this did not ‘reshape the urban environment’, but it did structure the imaginary through its laden version of tradition. There is a long history of Byzantine writers using pagan statues to think the relation between past and future. Book  is significantly juxtaposed to Book , whether the juxtaposition is made by Constantinos or by Cephalas. Book , as we have discussed, interweaves only nineteen poems, each introduced with a prose redescription. These poems are pronounced to be the inscriptions of a single site, asking to be read as a programme of images, which are, however, already re-read by the later prose additions as a double collection, a double vision of what is on display. How should such a supplementary catalogue be approached? Between prose and verse versions, between individual images and a programme, between different times of reading enacted by the form of reinscription – structural coherence seems to be constantly under construction and under challenge. If Book  was added to Book , and the pair moved in Constantinos' anthology, as Lauxtermann suggests, we see a major act of editing, bringing together two single sites of artistic production, which proclaim the tradition of Greek culture, to follow the first book with its Christian vision of things. The juxtaposition constructs a contrast between a traditional Greek and a Christian culture of viewing and a viewing of culture. Book  of the Palatine Anthology, however, to which Book ’s collections of proems could be called a proem, conforms most clearly to one privileged modern model of an anthology, not surprisingly as it has been deeply influential in the development of the anthology as an idea and a genre. It collects  erotic epigrams, starting with an inscription warning young men away from such sexy poetry. (A beginning warning against  

  Bing (: ). Bassett (: ; ; ; ). Bassett (: ). See in particular the current discussion of the Parastaseis, an eighth-century account of the statues and sites of Byzantium: James (); Anderson (); Berger () and for the text Cameron and Herrin et al ().

In the Beginning



even beginning to read . . . In the manuscript, the warning comes even before the title of the collection, a counterpart to the blazon above Book I.) The dates of the poems cover hundreds of years; they are extracted from a string of sources, mainly other anthologies, and there is no obvious patterning to them. There are a few strings of evidently connected poems: we have already mentioned the five poems in a row on lamps. Most of the erotic poems that are addressed by men to males are in another book, Book XII, known as Strato’s Musa Puerilis. With erotic poems, however, the critical question of scale and selectivity and coherence that we have been following become thematically overlapped with the subject of the poems. How many love poems makes a set (and match)? How much love – and its variations – does a lover or a reader need? Are these poems displacements for experience (those that do, do; those that don’t, write poems)? As with the erotic letters of Philostratus, the collection multiplies speaking positions for the lover. There is scarcely a single poem that has a closely defined location or historically located character: as with the rhetoric of ethopoieia, these poems articulate serial roles available to be inhabited – repeated, circulated, owned like a good joke. Together, the image world of a lover is being constructed. For those that imagine the Byzantine world of the tenth century as a warring, austere and moralizing place (which might include some in Byzantium in the tenth century), such a collection reveals an act of the imaginary that takes us elsewhere into a space that is replete with the long history of Greek erotics, a world that might seem far from the regulatory zeal of an evangelical Christian environment, a place where we can still be in conversation with the asteioi of the classical past. As Peter Bing writes of Hellenistic epigrams: ‘The idealised party . . . is located . . . in the space of the scroll and set to unfold in the act of reading . . . This literary fellowship . . . cuts across time . . . The hetairoi are always there: their party is never-ending’. If the Christian epigrams as a collection offer the double pleasure of discrete moments of contemplation conjoined with the overarching vision of a scriptural order, the erotic epigrams offer an expanding variety of erotic snapshots, conjoined by the construction of a reading subject as the sophisticated participant-observer of the games of loving. As the erotic epigrams seek to surprise, shock, titillate and amuse, each also requires a dynamic of  



There are headings to books , , , , , , a/b, ,  – discussed by Maltomini (). For Strato see the now standard edition of Floridi (). Many scholars have expressed their regret at the segregation of poems on love of women and poems on love of boys as a distortion of what the Hellenistic poets would have put together. Bing (: ).



In the Beginning

self-recognition, a (self-)engagement with the linguistic flirtation that is the mode of epigram. As with Colluthus, reading this anthology of past erotic playfulness requires the reader from Christian Byzantium (and later scenarios) to articulate a place of one’s own in and against the tradition of erotics. A history of sexuality without its ancient Greece has not yet been written. Not at least in the Christian West or Greek East. Perhaps, then, we should regard the archetypal readers of the anthology to be those nineteenth-century English gentlemen, who dipped into the anthology, made their own small collections for translation, and circulated them to their knowing friends in a homosocial network of the educated elite – a selective translatio of poems as a gesture of reticent but eroticized selfrepresentation within the translationes of empire. Book , in turn, opens with yet another play on beginning, which looks back explicitly to the opening of Book , with its warning come-on (not) to read erotically charged poems. Archê men are its first (prose) words: ‘A beginning, as the introduction to the erotic epigrams puts it [phêsi], holds for me the prospect of setting fire to your mind’. Book  is a collection of epigrams loosely focused around the theme of poems of dedication, but Cephalas wants these poems – from the start – to act like the flame of erotic verse (the verb exapsai, ‘set aflame’, is the same in both prefaces). If the erotic poems worked, he goes on, ‘proceed to read the dedicatory ones [anathêmatika]: with that foundation, I hope that my more serious material will succeed too’. Cephalas strikingly underlines his own procedure of collecting and ordering, making the previous beginning the foundation to this beginning. The reader’s engagement is placed foremost as the anthologist’s aim (skopos), setting the erotic thrill of erotic poetry as the benchmark for poems of dedications and challenging the reader to find the same thrill in the serious. (Christians are always being told to be serious about desire and to find desire in and for the serious – and perhaps this introduction is nodding knowingly to such language.) In fact, the first poem is about the mirror of the famous courtesan Lais, which makes the transition from erotics to dedications a little easier. So Book  will collect ‘pagan’ epitaphs, and Book  Christian ones, a juxtaposition to continue the question of how Christians are to read the literature of the past. If, as both Cameron and Lauxtermann believe, Book  is added by Constantine,  

Nisbet (). Paton’s Loeb, though not the new edition, starts not with the prose introduction to the poems but with a poem, labelled a, about a carved gem, which seems to come from the previous book. The manuscript has this poem a, followed by the prose introduction to the book of anathematika and then Plato’s poem about Lais. The new Loeb edition is clearly right to print as it does.

In the Beginning



we can see in the most striking way how the act of anthologizing here constructs a stark opposition between Christian and ‘pagan’ orderings of things. In Book , where the resolutely non-Christian dedications look back to Book ’s Christian dedicatory epigrams, beginning once again is highlighted. Another remarkable text from the tenth century will provide us with a relevant theoretical vocabulary and conceptualization. The Excerpta Constantiniana is a fifty-three-book collection of themed historical excerpts produced at the centre of the Byzantine court at the height of the renaissance of Hellenism most strongly associated with Constantine VII. Its prose proem is instructive. This is a work, it announces, of designed selection (eklogê), but it is specifically not a ‘summary’ (sunopsis), but an act of ‘appropriation’ (oikeiôsis). It redistributes passages from historical works, separate from their original context, to suit the historical accounting of the court. It announces an aesthetics of form, which, by virtue of its subject matter and patronage, is also a politics of form. What’s more, this act of appropriation of the past is further introduced with a prefatory poem of praise for the emperor, which describes the work in terms of an anthology: the editors have ‘plucked’ (drepsas) the literary works ‘like flowers’ (anthê) which were ‘flowering [anthountas], but not sending forth a fine smelling grace’. Now thanks to Constantine’s act of garlanding, the works will again be fragrant, and we should in turn garland Constantine. The idea of an anthology is linked directly to the politics and poetics of the official construction of history for the court. The combination of prose and poetic prefaces, the act of selection and designed reordering, imaged through the language of plucking flowers and making a garland, the selfconscious need to do so because of the historical complexity of the past and the contemporary relation to it, will all return as central issues with the Palatine Anthology. ‘Appropriation’ (oikeiôsis) may be taken as the technical term for this style of composition – and its aesthetics of selection and 

 



Maltomini (: ) is typical of the insufficiency of readings of the literary power of the juxtapositions of the Palatine Anthology when he writes, ‘L’organizzazione del materiale non corrisponde a una particolare elaborazione del sapere né è dotata di un grado elevato di sistematicità.’ See Neméth () for full discussion and bibliography – and an edition of the proem I will be discussing. Oikeiosis is a technical term from Stoicism (primarily), picked up and developed by Philo, Clement and for Christianity, particularly by Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, used here in Byzantine Greek with rather weak echoes of its philosophical background, in that the appropriation of texts of the past can be seen as part of self-formation: see Ramelli (). See Nemeth (: –).



In the Beginning

reordering by means of anthologized juxtapositions is made central to the work of paideia at the centre of Byzantine power. There is, as Paolo Odorico writes, a ‘cultura della silloge’ in the writing of this era. Beyond the aesthetics of spolia, which critics have recognized as central to late antiquity, the opening three books of the Anthology emphasize the politics of design in such memorialization of the past. The Excerpta Constantiniana stands in a long history. On the one hand, there is an institutional, pedagogical tradition of making extracts – copying out sententiae, collecting quotations and so forth – that finds its highest literary expression in miscellanies or in a work of barely narrated collection of linguistic and poetic exempla such as Athenaeus’ Deinosophistae. This is a norm of classical paideia. And it will be instantly recognizable to scholars of medieval, Renaissance and later manuscripts, where the collocation of texts or sections of texts form individualized, expensive manuscripts, mirrored by chap-books, scrap books or personal florilegia and the like. On the other hand, there is a specifically Christian tradition – among other traditions of literate activity – headed by Clement of Alexandria, whereby Christian authors, engaged in the struggle between the authority of the pagan past, the dictates of paideia and the new demands of the church, selected fragments of the Greek and Latin literary tradition, in order to discover the shards of Christian light always already glimmering in the darkness of the past. Such work found its theorists in Basil and Gregory, its church historian in Eusebius, with the Praeparatio and Demonstratio Evangelica. The cento takes shape within such a politics of form. The fragment was a mode of productivity, winnowing out the inconvenient, creating a new partial continuity. The Excerpta Constantiniana is the historiographical contribution to this strategy of Christian recomposition through fragmentation. We can now ask with more precision of Palatine Anthology : how should we read an anthology like this? Not only does Book  follow from three books that have posed different questions about the structural coherence of anthologies with relation to the construction of tradition and the articulation of a reader’s position in and against such a tradition, at a time when the connection between Christianity and the Greco-Roman past remains a dominant cultural arena of contestation, but also the nature of structural cohesion, as we have seen, has long been a theoretical concern and thematized subject of Greek and Roman literary discourse. And proems of literary works are places where form becomes a pressing concern.  

Odorico (: ). See in particular Elsner and Hernández Lobato (), with further bibliography.

In the Beginning



Nonetheless, it is a surprise that the fourth book of the Palatine Anthology should (now) begin the beginnings. Why should a set of proems be reserved for Book ? Why should one want to put together a set of proems to collections that this collection has dismantled? How do these proems, written over a period of  years, construct or become constructed as a tradition? We can hazard answers to each of these three interrelated questions. The proems of Book , first of all, draw semantic weight from the opening three books and their versions of the project of an anthology. After three different takes on what a book of an anthology can look like, we have three different authors introducing programmatically their collections. As an introduction to Book , too, they offer multiple approaches – multiple comprehensions of how an anthology can be introduced and thus conceptualized – multiple road maps to navigate the sprawl of poems to come (as if it were possible simply to read on with all these different programmes in mind). Retrospectively and prospectively, that is, the programmatic proems raise the question of how programmatically this anthology of anthologies is to be read: what its structural coherence is. Like Quintus, who delays his invocation of the Muses to Book  of his fourteen-book epic, by placing the prologues in Book , the Palatine Anthology at the very least displays and demands we recognize its self-conscious work of constructing an order. The Palatine Anthology is, however, self-consciously an anthology of anthologies, a dismantling and recomposition of the anthologies of others. Even when there is a string of poems from a single previous collection, they appear not to be in their original anthologized sequence. By juxtaposing these proems, Cephalas is also making them beginnings without a middle and an end. He takes over and supersedes his great predecessors whose anthologies he has raided and leaves their proems without a collection to come, road maps to a lost terrain. The construction of tradition is not just writing oneself into an order, but claiming a place within it. This is to be the anthology of anthologies, the authoritative collection (as it has so proved) – which here collects the authoritative self-presentations of the authors he displaces. To put together the proems in this way is thus a striking act of selfassertion within the arena in which cultural tradition is contested. 

This is sharpened by a comparison with a (probably) fourth-century Jewish text, Midrash Eikah Rabbah which collects  or  proems to sermons: each of these contains exegesis and is a guide to further exegesis. These act as didactic guides to composition and commentaries in themselves – a very different function from AP . The national, cultural and racial politics around the Norton Anthologies in American pedagogical institutions provides a vivid contemporary case of the ideology of the anthology within cultural tradition.



In the Beginning

Most importantly, however, the collection of the proems also allows them to resound against each other, opening a critical space to compare and contrast the self-representations of these three iconic anthologizers. It is here where the tradition of anthologies becomes evident, and thus the place of the Palatine Anthology within it. Meleager’s Stephanos opens with a question to the Muse: ‘Dear Muse, to whom are you bringing this cornucopia of song [pankarpon aoidan]? Or who was the man who wrought this Garland of hymnists?’ The lines of poetic authority are elegantly blended here. The Muse is invoked but not simply as a poetic inspiration: rather she brings a song to Meleager’s dedicatee, like a handmaiden or like Pindar, the encomiast (who frequently brings (pherein/ pempein) poetry to a patron). The answer in the next couplet duly names Diocles as the dedicatee. The second question, however, asks the Muse to name the maker of the anthology and the name Meleager is given in line  as an answer to the question. (Any opening in Greek which starts tis?, is likely to recall the Iliad’s starting question: Meleager’s poetic texture is never less than carefully sophisticated and layered with hints of the tradition he is appropriating.) Meleager describes himself as the man who wrought a Garland (stephanos) of hymnists (humnothetôn) – the work of the anthologizer: a labour (exeponêse, the language of composition we saw in Triphiodorus) that is a memorial (mnamosunon – the Muses’ domain, as we saw in Quintus) and a gesture of thanks (charis – the standard expression of reciprocity between patron and poet). The Muses thus are asked to name – but the work has been done by a mortal hand: inspiration is not quite with the gods. Meleager names himself first in what will be a roll call of poets – and last (–), as he admits his own poems to the list of collected works. Meleager frames his introduction with himself and his poetic work. The introduction is also a self-made introduction to Meleager. Meleager’s proem continues to list the poets who will appear in his anthology, and, true to the etymology of anthology, he offers a flower to describe each author. He has, he declares, ‘woven together many irises of Anyte, many lilies of Moero, only a few of Sappho but they are roses’. At one level, this simply announces the poets to come, a roll call or advertisement more than anything like a functioning index. At another level,  



See Kurke () for discussion and bibliography. So the last two poems of Book  pick up pagkarpon (  ) (see Gutzwiller : –), humnothetân   ; and emplexas (  ) is echoed in kateplexas (  ), and exeponêsa (  ) in mochthon (  ). The poet H.D. picks up on these lines in her work ‘Nossis’, one of the very few readings of this proem. See Gregory (: ) for the bare facts.

In the Beginning



however, it seems to set up a coded world of critical appreciation where each flower is invested with an evaluative significance. Yet the code is hard to feel confident about. Of course, with Sappho there are likely to be only a few epigrams, as her output is predominantly lyric poetry, and granted the multiple associations of roses (Philostratus’ erotic letters give an extended prose repertoire of the possibilities), it is easy to imagine ways in which it might make sense to describe Sappho’s erotic verse as roses. So too we might appreciate why Callimachus is described as ‘sweet myrtle, always full of sharp honey’(), as his elegant couplets could be understood to combine some bitterness in their smooth sweetness – though it might be hard to say why this wording should capture Callimachus more distinctively than several other of the epigrammatists. But why should Leonidas’ poems be ‘flourishing bunches of ivy’ () or Damagetus the ‘black ivy’ ()? As the flowers and poets spread over fifty lines, there is a growing sense that this garland is luxuriant but hard to decipher coherently. The final lines of the proem, with their echo of its opening, indicate more clearly what is at stake in this floral tribute (–): ἀλλὰ φίλοις μὲν ἐμοῖσι φέρω χάριν. ἔστι δὲ μύσταις κοινὸς ὁ τῶν Μουσέων ἡδυεπὴς στέφανος. To my friends, I bear this gift. But for the initiates The sweet-voiced Garland of the Muses is shared.

The contrast (men/de) between the friends who receive the offering, and the initiates who share the Garland, enacts two communities of inclusion. To read epigrams is to enter a world of insiders, those who get the joke, who understand the references, who share the exchange. (Who’s in? Who’s out? Always the question of the anthology . . .) Or, rather, to read the collection of epigrams is to perform as best as possible the insider dealing of the epigrammatists’ linguistic disruptions and complicities. The proem’s conclusion invites its readers to act as initiates, to join the insider circle, while the game of floral descriptions of each poet has both encouraged and rebuffed such insider joking. The proem seems to tease its readers with their own not quite certain weaving of all these flowers into a coherent garland of critical appreciation. We are enjoined to read not just as friends but as initiates, for whom the garland is the proper garb. Meleager’s proem is far longer than any of his epigrams – but is made up of snapshots (how many poets make an anthology? How many lines does a 

For a reference to Sappho’s elegiac verse see P.Oxy  with Prauscello (in press a); for iambics see Rosenmeyer (); in general, now, Battezzato ().



In the Beginning

proem to epigrams need?). Philippus’ proem to his anthology plays knowingly and funnily with such an issue, and sets himself in antagonistic opposition to Meleager. He begins by announcing grandly and even grandiloquently that he has ‘plucked his flowers on Helicon, and cut the first-grown blooms from Pieiria famous for trees’ (–). The first word anthea, ‘flowers’, re-enacts the literal/symbolic language of the anthology, as the reference to Helicon and Pieiria affiliates his project to the grandest of poetic, inspirational traditions. (Strato’s first epigram (AP  ) dismisses the Heliconian Muses as quite unnecessary for erotic poetry, designedly locating himself against such affiliations.) But the literalized symbolic language of plucking flowers takes a different material turn as Philippus continues by announcing he has ‘harvested a sheaf from a newer page [selidos]’ (). The Batrachomyomachia uses this term, selis, ‘page’, ‘column of writing’, as an echo of Callimachus (with his writing tablet on his knees) to mark the highly literate scene of writing from within the library that is the Hellenistic mode of inspiration par excellence; so too does Meleager in the last poem of his collection (  ). Philippus uses, that is, the oldest and grandest of poetic inspirational language to act as a foil to his claim of modernity. (His ‘newer page’ may even be a rewriting of Meleager’s description of Nossis’ deltois , as both selis and deltois occur together in the preface to the Batrachomyomachia as an echo of Callimachus’ proem to the Aetia . . .) Indeed, he announces that he has woven his garland in competition with Meleager, to be like Meleager. This is a remarkably direct generic affiliation (Horace and Virgil in different ways boasted of turning Greek masters into Latin poetry, but this selfplacement is Greek anthologist to Greek anthologist). Indeed, Philippus goes on to declare that his dedicatee, Camillus, knows all the old stuff, and now he can encounter the less fertile world of modern poetry (oligostichiên: ‘short versed’). Camillus is already a cultured insider who can, with Philippus, become even more of an insider with the most up-to-date writing (as we, eaves-dropping, can too). As we saw with Book  of the Palatine Anthology, an explicit recognition of the contemporary is a rare  

  

On Philippus’ editing see now Höschele (). For the style, see Magnelli (–). Interestingly, the familiar image of poet as bee or plucker of flowers is also used programmatically by Clement (Strom . . II.) and Eusebius (HE ..–) of Christian prose (Plato’s Ion b– is a locus classicus for the language) – and both Clement and Eusebius are distinguished for their use of quotations from past writers: see Corke-Webster (: –; –). See, on the Batrachomyomachia, Middleton (in press). This point was made to me by Emma Greensmith. For the significance of the patron relationship and the Romanness of Camillus, see Whitmarsh (: –).

In the Beginning



act in the self-understanding of Greek literary tradition. Philippus is boldly redrafting tradition, up to today, with himself as the master of ceremonies for it. Thus, he begins with his version of the description of his poets through flowers (): ‘Antipater stands out, an ear of corn in the garland; Crinagoras, ivy-berries’. But after a mere six lines (and two words) of setting a single poet against a single flower – without a single adjective or glossing phrase to alert us to any significant critical discourse (how and why is Bianor oak leaves?) – the joke is cashed in (–): Εὔηνον δάφνῃ, συνεπιπλεκτοὺς δὲ περισσοὺς Εἴκασον οἷς ἐθέλεις ἄνθεσιν ἀρτιφύτοις. Evanus: laurel – and there are tons more woven together That you can liken to any just-bloomed flower you like.

Philippus snaps shut his proem after only fourteen lines (where Meleager, his predecessor, had straggled out his flowers over fifty-eight lines), as if to say: this is the scale you need to introduce a book of epigrams. Thus living out the promise of oligostichiên, the briefness of modern verse. More importantly, Philippus dismisses the conceit of poets and flowers with an airy dismissal. You can choose any flower you like: the associations are arbitrary. His list is just a set-up to this final joke. If Meleager made us complicit initiates with a code we could almost catch, Philippus takes the sword to any such idea. Does ‘just-bloomed’, artiphutous, suggest that such connections between poets and flowers are temporary, made up on the spur of the moment? Perhaps. Perhaps it implies that, for the new poets, fresh flowers are needed. Perhaps the tone could be caught in English with ‘any blooming flower you like’. The sense in which this garland of Philippus is ‘woven against/in competition with Meleager’ (antiplektein ) is now made clearer, the force of anti - underlined. Philippus sets the form of his short, sharp proem smartly against Meleager’s leisurely introduction, the new against the old, in the construction of a fresh sense of tradition. The third proem is from Agathias and it is the most complex in its form. The prose heading in the manuscript to Agathias’ contribution calls what follows ‘proems’, and the plural noun is easy to appreciate (and followed by modern editors). For the first forty-six lines are in iambic metre, then the lines from  to  are in hexameters and on an immediately different subject that is announced to be so already in the iambics. Then there is a  

For discussion of ‘long’ epigrams, though mainly on Latin texts, see Morelli ed (). On this self-reflexivity see Magnelli (–).



In the Beginning

third poem in elegiac couplets, ten lines long, which could be a further introduction or an envoi to Agathias’ volume (and it closes Cephalas’ book of introductions: if it is an introduction, it also closes; if it is a sphragis, it is in a book of introductions). Two or three poems in different metres, then? Or one poem in different metres, perhaps with a supplement in a further metre? We end thus our discussion of beginnings and the problem of structural coherence with a work of beginning which irresolvably presents its own formal coherence as a question. The proem begins not just in the metre of iambics but with a tone and perspective quite different from the introductions of Meleager or Philippus: unlike the bookish Meleager and Philippus, now we are in a sympotic, performative space. With a suitable nod to the genre of iambos, the insulting raillery associated with Archilochus of old, Agathias addresses his audience with a certain mocking and even carnivalesque language of feasting. ‘I think, guys, you must be stuffed from such a banquet of literature’ (–). He extends the conceit, especially familiar from the (over)loaded table of Roman satire or the comic cooks of the Greek stage, over the next forty or so lines. He worries that this audience will look down on such ordinary fare after their fancy starters (–), worried his preparations will spoil if he doesn’t serve them, or, worse, he will have to let them go at the market at a knock-down price (–). He insults his audience: they are ‘sitting bloated with luxury’ () and denigrates himself (–): who would listen to him unless their ears were also blocked? But he also insists that his cooking has ‘new flavours’, neôn hêdusmatôn (), and declares that he has persuaded many to join him in his labour (ponos, of poetry, again (, cf. )). So, when this band gets together, one might say to another (–): ‘Recently [artiôs] I kneaded new literary [mousikên] dough, and this guy serves up what I kneaded’. Like the recently blooming (artiphutous) flowers of Philippus, this dough is recently (artiôs) formed – and, in the eyes of its maker, sophisticated, cultured (mousikos). Agathias uses his boldly Aristophanic language of kneading to parade his literary novelty (as, of course, does Aristophanes). And Agathias also announces that his meal is made up of trendy small plates, a taster of each (–) – but if you want the full menu you will have to go to the market and buy it (κατ᾽άγορὰν ζητητέα). Where Meleager invites the reader to join the friends and initiates in appreciation of his delicate flowers, and  

Cameron (: –) indicates that performances in this period usually started with a iambic petitio benevolentiae. He also notes the surprising form of Agathias’ example. For discussion and bibliography see Biles ().

In the Beginning



Philippus dismissively imitates and mocks his motif of collecting flowers, Agathias takes us down a notch not just to the physical and messy world of dinner, but also to the commercial world of the bookseller (no charis of aristocratic reciprocity here). Agathias represents himself not as an initiate of the Muses or the poet ringmaster of tradition, but as a hawker of food before a table of over-eating and precariously appreciative diners. As Smith in particular has superbly analysed, such a self-representation takes on a pointed impact in a Christian court, at a time when the suppression of pagan commitments still flared into violence. But the iambics end in an extraordinary way. ‘I am going to add some kosmos [ornament/glory] to my labours [ponêmasi]’ (), announces Agathias (as if he is recalling the beginning of Gorgias’ Encomium to Helen). ‘I am going to compose my prologue starting with the Emperor’ (). Then all will progress favourably () – and he ends the iambics with the hope for suitably grand words for such a grand project (–). This third proem thus announces in the middle that it will start a (new) prologue with the emperor. The bawdy beginning in iambics is left behind as not the (real) prologue (though what else is it?). The transition is startling, not least for its all too patent adoption of the pose of praise in the hope of success (not much eschêmatismenos logos here, it seems). After a rowdy self-announcement, thus, the metre changes to the highest of all forms, the hexameter, and the theme to the highest of all subjects, the emperor. The juxtaposition of the two prologues give us – in an intensely self-conscious manner – iambics versus hexameters, the food hawker versus the imperial encomiast, the small scale of the dinner party versus the broad canvas of the empire, the political authority of Roman rule versus the messy exchanges of the cantankerous symposium. The shift in tone in this hexameter section is total. Now we are encouraged to envisage the barbarians of the East kneeling before the majesty of the imperial throne, yielding willingly to the regulatory power of Rome (–). From the West, Spain and Britain embraces Roman rule with enthusiasm (–). The poet’s vision travels right round the Empire, an Empire that includes the deep history of myth (expressed in the language of high poetry) (–): ‘Let not the prow of Thessalian Argo boast that in awe of the labours of the Paggasean hero the Thessalian land no longer is full with the seed of Giants and opens a war-like sod with warrior sheaves.  

For the background here in the genre of satire see Gowers (). Smith (in press). See Cameron (: ); Bowersock (: –); and, for a marvellous study of religious violence on the African coast in the previous centuries, Shaw ().



In the Beginning

Either that was a story fashioned by some myth, or was completed through some unholy art.’ As the journey goes now to the north, it goes back to the first ship, and the story of Jason and Medea, expressed in intricately allusive language, and immediately glossed with a typical Alexandrian scholarly comment that such a supernatural tale is either from the repertoire of myth, or something Medea fashioned as a witch. Such allusivity always invokes the politics of cultural memory. The Roman Empire is, for Agathias, the treasury of Greek myth. The food hawker has here become the sophisticated poet scholar, the performer of sophia. This map of empire is spread out so that the poet can enjoin the Roman traveller to ‘go now without a guard across the whole continent, and leap in joy [skirtêson]’ (–). Under the emperor’s benevolent rule the whole world is open to the Roman citizen, everything is full of peace and calm (). Yet it turns out that this vision of the topography of Empire is a frame for the poet’s performance: ‘Blessed Theodorus, let us establish a contest in poetic brilliance [agôna sophon] and set in motion the playfulness of a bardic chorus’ (–). Again, after the initial scene of hawking poetry as food, the shift to the grandeur of a choral competition in bardic music is a striking change of tone. This promise of a festival of song leads directly into Agathias’ longest self-presentation of his work. Now he takes on in full the role of anthologist (–): σοὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ τὸν ἄεθλον ἐμόχθεον· εἰς σὲ δὲ μύθων ἐργασίην ἤσκησα, μιῇ δ’ ὑπὸ σύζυγι βίβλῳ ἐμπορίην ἤθροισα πολυξείνοιο μελίσσης· καὶ τόσον ἐξ ἐλέγοιο πολυσπερὲς ἄνθος ἀγείρας, στέμμα σοι εὐμύθοιο καθήρμοσα Καλλιοπείης I have worked away at this task of stories for you; I have collected in a single composite volume the merchandise of the bee, a guest again and again, and I have gathered such a bunch of different flowers from elegy, and I have fitted together a chaplet of eloquent Calliopeia.

The poet – again, no Muses as inspiration – has laboured at his literary (muthôn) task which will be a dedication to Theodorus. With an explicit materiality – belying the constructed performative scene – he announces he has put together a single composite volume, but then he  

On the metapoetics here see Höschele (: –); Pelttari () has interesting things to say on this in Latin writing of the period. Shorrock (: –) discusses insightfully the importance of which Christian poets do not invoke the Muses; see also, with a Latin focus, Elsner and Hernández Lobato eds (: ).

In the Beginning



describes the process of collecting his elegiac verses with the metaphorical language we have seen from Meleager onwards: the flowers, the bee that buzzes between them. With an even more heightened style than Meleager, the garland he has woven is of ‘eloquent [eumuthou] Calliopeia’ – as he has turned to hexameters, so, like Triphiodorus, he turns to the muse of epic, another grandiloquent expression for his poetic output. Agathias concludes the hexameters, however, with an index-like list, each with a brief statement of contents, of the seven books to come (none of which follow in the Palatine Anthology, of course – this is a road map to a terrain that is no more) (–). He starts with yet another beginning: ‘First, I will select for you . . .’. This first book is a piece of literary competition between older writers and the new, as in Philippus’ proem: now there is a new poet on the block, making Philippus, who once strutted his newness, old hat: ‘Competing with those born of old, I will select everything that the parents of new song wrote as offerings to the former gods: for it was fitting to nourish a sophisticated imitation [sophon mimêma] of an ancient writing’. This first book, that is, carefully interweaves its oldness and newness: the poems and poets are new; they are rivals of the old; but the new songs are offerings to old gods (a marked gesture for a Christian emperor, but one that also speaks to the Palatine Anthology’s own principles of order); and the reason offered for thinking that songs for the former gods are suitable, is that this is a clever imitation of old writing: the new, smartly tracing an old style. This is indeed the carefully calibrated programmatic self-announcement of the new-old sophia of the poet. The second book is on works of art; and the next – ‘a third starting post (balbis) of the new book’ (), another beginning – is on epitaphs (poetry of the end); the fourth is on fate; the fifth collects insulting poems; the sixth love poetry; and the seventh and final book contains the poems of Dionysus, where ‘you will recognize drunken dances, wine, the cup and wealthy banquets’ (). The last line recalls the first proem’s use of food as a metaphor for poetry, and circles back to this other beginning. The list of books to come is divorced from what follows but nonetheless – especially with its circling back to the banquet where we started – reminds us that what we have seen in the Palatine Anthology is three books of anthologized verse, a fourth that tells us how to understand – differently – models of order for anthologies. How, then, it asks, are you (going) to read the Palatine Anthology? Is the reader to be imaged as the stuffed fellow at 

See Mattson (: –).



In the Beginning

the feast or the emperor surveying the world? Through the grandeur of hexameter or the scurrility of the iambics? Through the flattery of praise and courtly politics, or through the complicity of partying? The final poem of the book, ten lines of elegiac verse, is also by Agathias, but it is unclear where in his collection it stood. In the Palatine Anthology, however, it is here, at the end of these beginnings, another comment on the value of poetic achievement, and specifically on the sophia which we have seen displayed in the previous poem. The poem juxtaposes columns and pictures and inscribed tablets (subjects of the first three books of the Palatine Anthology) with virtue (aretê) and the grace of wisdom (charis sophias) (). But this is not the familiar and time-hallowed agonistic battle between which of the media preserves fame best: art or text. Rather, the poet insists that the material objects are good only as long as their owners are alive: you cannot take them with you when you die. But virtue and wisdom last and create a memory, which is why ‘neither Plato nor Homer are concerned with colours or monuments, but wisdom alone’ (–). The deep past – embodied in the icons of Greek tradition – authorizes the poet’s commitment to his (self-proclaimed) sophia in Justinian’s Byzantium. Hence, with a couplet that could indeed head or end an anthology, Agathias concludes, ‘Happy are they whose memorial is in the caskets [teuchesi] of smart books, and does not rest in empty images’ (–). The covers of the book are like the containers of the ashes of the body, but what they hold is mnêmê, ‘memory/memorial’, embodied in poetry. Images, by contrast, are empty – like false idols. What, then, is in an anthology is what we should all want – traces of the wisdom that lasts, the tradition of poetry. Now we have an introduction (or sphragis) that is itself an epigram – a short elegiac poem with a bon mot to end, and a sharp if decontextualized perspective on things. The hexameters promised flowers of elegy: here is the first one. Agathias talks about the theory of poetry in his histories, in a way which shows that he is a theorist engaged with Aristotle and other critics on the relation between history and poetry as representational forms. This intellectual engagement is embodied in a sophisticated way in his proem(s). Agathias’ three poems/two poems/one poem offer an extraordinarily complex self-representation by way of introduction to his anthology.   

For sophia in such a context, compare Philostratus Imagines preface with Newby (: especially –, –). For the connection between this poem and what precedes it see Magnelli (b). See Kaldellis (); and, for a now rather old-fashioned but still useful study of his engagement with classicism in his histories, Averil Cameron (: –).

In the Beginning



He constructs multiple beginnings. He constructs multiple speaking positions – multiple masks of self-representation, juxtaposed and contradictory. These multiple voices, hectoring hawker to courtly encomiast to sophisticated intellectual, suggest multiple ways of reading the anthology to come, multiple routes to constructing the order of the anthology. The question of form is performed. Juxtaposed to Meleager’s and Philippus’ proems, this question of form also becomes a question of tradition. It is not just that Agathias writes himself into the tradition of anthologists’ beginnings in his bold self-dramatization: Cephalas, too, is further constructing a powerful account of the tradition of anthologizing by his own anthologizing of anthologists’ openings – and setting himself up as the anthologists’ anthologist. The first four books of the Palatine Anthology together constitute a remarkable, contrastive picture of how the form of the anthology can itself become a thematic resource of its composition. Elsner and Hernández Lobato see in the Latin culture of late antiquity an ‘aesthetics of the fragment’, which through centos in literature, say, or spolia in art, encapsulate an ‘irrepressible drive for appropriation’. In the anthology in particular, as in verse-by-verse commentaries, miscellania or the cult of relics, they see a cultural poetics of ‘antiquarian dismemberment of the past’. The combination of ‘exquisite miniatures’, a blending of ‘cumulative aesthetics’, an ‘aesthetics of detail’ and an ‘aesthetics of hybridization’, articulated between imbricated and opposed Christian and pagan systems of thought, which Elsner and Hernández Lobato make fundamental to Latin late antiquity, are most vividly on display in this collection. The homage and conflict inherent in such strategies are enacted indeed – from the Greek side of things – in the form of the Palatine Anthology, and nowhere more so than in its first four books. In the face of such self-reflexive sophistication, it is extraordinary to trace how the Palatine Anthology has been treated in modern scholarship. There is, as I have mentioned, barely any discussion at all of these first four books: Cameron indeed is more explicit than most but only typical when he attempts to declare Book  not ‘formally’ part of the anthology – a claim for which there is only counter-evidence. Rather, in a double act of de- or re-composition first the work of Constantine (probably) is broken down in an attempt to get back to Cephalas’ original anthology – to the   

Elsner and Hernández Lobato eds (: , ). See also Peirano ().  Elsner and Hernández Lobato eds (: ). Elsner (: –).  Hernández Lobato (: – and –). Cameron (: –).



In the Beginning

extent that the Teubner edition of the Palatine Anthology simply does not print Book . Like bad archaeologists, throwing away later material in the pursuit of something classical, for these scholars Constantine’s construction is simply discarded. The commitment to the ideology of the authenticity of the original moment of production is never more misplaced than when treating the work of anthologizing. Second, led by the iconic editions of Gow and Page, critics have also in turn decomposed Cephalas’ anthology in the search for the original, Hellenistic collection of Meleager, or Philippus’ work, with a corresponding and ideologically motivated dismissiveness towards Christian and later material; Gow and Page, who have been followed by other critics, further deconstruct such anthologies to remake poetry books of individual authors. Gow and Page have an agenda of recovering Hellenistic epigrams, of course, but it is still striking that their format of arranging poems by each poet alphabetically guarantees an order that did not exist in antiquity: their edition of the Garland of Philip thus has Philip’s programmatic proem starting bizarrely at line , of their collection. Most often in modern critical studies, however, individual poems, or small selections of poems, are extracted from the collection and read on their own. That, usually, is how the anthology is read (or raided). It would not be hard to acknowledge that Gow and Page represent a scholarly world which found it self-evident to privilege the classical and Augustan world over the Hellenistic and Imperial, and, in turn, privileged Hellenistic Greek over Christian or Imperial Greek – and which, through the scholarly form of the edition and commentary, also privileged discrete linguistic engagement with individual poems. But although this old-fashioned approach is easy – if inevitably self-defining and even self-serving – to recognize as old-fashioned, it might also help us see something crucial about the form of the anthology. For the anthology seems to provoke further anthologizing – re-selection, re-editing, rereading – which is in itself a response to the tension between the fragmentary and discrete, on the one hand, and the integrated, structurally comprehensive, on the other – the tension we have traced throughout this discussion. The critical tradition shows how hard it is to read the Palatine Anthology without wanting to reorder and select – just as the Palatine 



Stadtmu¨ller died before completing the whole project. Volume  ends with Book , volume  begins with . Although it is indicated that volume  is ‘Pars prior’, there was evidently no hurry to get to Book . I include my own work here (Goldhill , , ) and what I regard as the best recent studies, e.g. Squire (a); Platt (: –); Bing and Bruss eds (); and even the most synoptic studies such as Gutzwiller ().

In the Beginning



Anthology itself has done the same to Cephalas, and Cephalas to . . . Gow and Page are an extreme version of the style of reading that the Victorian and Edwardian gentlemen also show, with their selection of a few choice poems for re-reading through translation and recirculation among friends and initiates, or, for that matter, Cephalas embodies by re-anthologizing former anthologies. The flowers keep getting picked and rewoven into garlands. With and through the anthology, the tradition of Greek literary culture is enacted thus in the reforming of form.

 

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

I Preposterous Poetics To enter the world of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, the greatest and most influential Greek poem of the fifth century CE, is to enter an echo chamber of Greek literature and engage with a swirling repertoire of mythic narratives. The erotic narratives of Dionysus and his entourage have to be read through this formative poetics – and so it is here, with poetics, that I will begin my travel towards one of ancient poetry’s most bizarre scenes of lustful, fondling, inappropriate desire in action. If any writer of late antiquity reforms the form of epic, from within, as it were, it is Nonnus, whose forty-eight books add up to the forty-eight books of the Iliad and Odyssey combined, but whose narrative discourse, narrative structuring and even verse forms radically disrupt and remould what is understood by the tradition of epic. In the face of such a huge work, over which it is so hard to take an eagle’seye view, I will start with an example, in order to make a beginning. So, from towards the opening of the epic, let us look first at an ecphrasis that will pick up many of the themes of the first three chapters of this book: this ecphrasis will show immediately how Nonnus manipulates and intertwines the mythic imaginary with the theory of artistic visuality to create a Dionysiac poetics of exuberance, in a scene that makes Apollo a central figure. In Book  of the Dionysiaca, after two books of cosmic conflict, Cadmus, who has provided essential support for Zeus, by deceitfully bewitching the giant Typhon with his music, is to receive his reward: marriage to Harmonia. Cadmus sails to the house of Electra where the virgin Harmonia awaits, and he is met by a disguised Peitho – the goddess of seduction – who directs him to the palace (the musician is to marry Harmonia; the guide is the goddess of persuasiveness, who attends weddings in the artistic repertoire: the Dionysiaca is ever a divina comedia – and 

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



Harmonia will reappear as the host of the oracles of destiny in a house that is itself an image of the universe). As with Odysseus in the Odyssey, who so often meets a disguised goddess and is given directions to palaces by young women, he makes his way to be faced by a marvellous sight. As with Jason in Apollonius’ Argonautica, as he makes his way to an erotic tryst, a crow, gifted the power of speech, upbraids him for being too slow in not going towards his loved one in more of a hurry (speude .). With such echoes of epic ringing out, Cadmus stands and stares at the palace, and an ecphrasis follows, as one should expect from all those other arrivals at erotically charged palaces in epic. It is amusing that as the crow encourages the hero to hurry up, the narrative stops to describe the building. The tension between a Triphiodoran desire to get on with the action and epic’s love of delay and, specifically, its willingness to stop and look, is fully and knowingly dramatized. As with Colluthus, architectural description is the stage for the deferrals of desire. Peitho points out where Cadmus is to go, but, typically for Nonnus, the expression is quite extraordinary (.–): τανυσσαμένη τότε Κάδμῳ δάκτυλον ἀντιτύποιο νοήμονα μάρτυρι φωνῆς σιγαλέῳ κήρυκι δόμον σημήνατο Πειθώ. Then stretching out her mindful finger As a witness of her voice of opposite mode With silent messenger Peitho indicated the house to Cadmus.

The Greek is as twisty as the English. The goddess Persuasion seems to have lost her power of speech. Her finger is described as ‘mindful’ or ‘intelligent’, and it stands in for her voice – the contrast between showing and speaking is encoded in the adjective antitupos, ‘of opposed mode’. By this witness, this silent messenger, Peitho points out the house. This baroque account of pointing (it is the sort of language that those who hate Nonnus always cite) introduces the ecphrasis. Her silence is a blocked version of the exegete who might direct our gaze around the riches of vision on offer (no Philostratus to hold forth here) – but the language of speaking and silence will prove programmatic for the scene to come.  



See XII –; and, especially, XLI –. Ap. Rhod. III ff. Callimachus also stages speaking crows, though, as Hunter () ad loc notes, the fragmentary nature of the Callimachean texts make it hard to see how Apollonius is working with Callimachus here. I hear the language of Aeschylus’ Clytemnestra echoing in this (Aga –; ), another figure of Peitho.



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

So, Cadmus stops and stares (skopiazein) with ‘wandering gaze’ (alêmoni opôpêi) at the work of Hephaistus. The description rests on the architecture with its bronze threshold and tessellated stone floor (–), and then at greater length on the garden (–), where male and female palms ‘pledge desire’ (an eroticized growth familiar from Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe and other second sophistic prose). The hyacinth prompts mythical exegesis. When the west wind, Zephyr, was blowing through the garden () – a phrase which is both descriptive of a breeze and a reminder that Zephyr was also the lover of the boy Hyacinth, as we saw in Musaeus – Apollo becomes frightened that the wind will be envious if he remembers how the boy died, and will shake the leaves of the plant too heavily. It is an elegant conceit, but it is immediately marked as a fancy as Nonnus adds (–), ‘If it is true that Apollo with his eyes that do not cry cried when he saw [Hyacinth dead], and the flower pattern [tupos anthemoeis] shapes the tears of Apollo, and inscribes the word “alas” selfbidden on its leaves’. The phrase ei eteon, as often, marks the self-conscious performance of scholarly distancing from a familiar myth, which is nonetheless lovingly dwelt on; the paradox of ‘tears from tearless eyes’ is a condensed version of a longer story that this death alone prompted the usually pitiless Apollo to weep. Nonnus knows that when you see a flower you are to imagine not just how it got its name and shape but also how the god in question, on a breezy day in the garden, would dream about the wind’s anger. This flower’s leaves are sophisticated (sophoi ) because of the ‘letters’ (grammata ) written on them, that spell out aiai, Apollo’s cry of grief: these are letters that require, as Nonnus shows, sophisticated reading. Cadmus’ viewing of the garden performs the mythic gaze that wanders (alêmoni opôpêi) from story to imagined scene to story, from literary prequel to echoing phrases from the tradition of literary memory. In this garden, however, are the most remarkable statues ( –): καὶ πολὺς εὐποίητος ἐρεισάμενος πόδα πέτρῳ χρύσεος ἵστατο κοῦρος, ἐναντία δαιτυμονήων λαμπάδος ἑσπερίης τανύων ἐπιδόρπιον αἴγλην πολλαὶ δ’ ἰσοτύπων μελέων τεχνήμονι σιγῇ χάσμασι ποιητοῖσι σεσηρότος ἀνθερεῶνος ψευδαλέων σκυλάκων στίχες ἔμφρονες ἄγχι θυράων ἔστασαν ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα, καὶ ἀργυρέῳ κυνὶ γείτων  

The recessed ‘as ifs’ of this conceit are paradigmatic of the self-conscious games of aesthetic experience in later Greek that should be added to the discussion of Grethlein (). See Philostratus Imagines .. for the same image of grammata in a painting of Hyacinth, with Squire ().

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



χρύσεος οἰδαίνοντι κύων συνυλάκτεε λαιμῷ σαίνων ἠθάδα φῶτα· παραστείχοντι δὲ Κάδμῳ μιμηλῆς ἀπέπεμπε βοῆς ξεινοσσόον ἠχὼ ποιητῆς τ’ ἐλέλιζε φιλοστόργου τύπον οὐρῆς. There stood many a well-crafted golden lad Resting his foot on a rock, proffering for banqueters The light of an evening torch for the table after dinner. Many rows of dogs too with art-made silence of limbs Of equal shape, with fashioned gapes of snarling jaws, intelligent but not real, stood here and there near the doors; And a neighbour to the silver dog A golden dog barked together with a swelling throat As it fawned on a recognized fellow. As Cadmus passed by, It sent forth an echo of a mimetic shout to look after a guest, And waved the shape of a friendly, fashioned tail.

At one level, this passage obviously recalls Odysseus’ arrival at the palace of Alkinoos in the Odyssey, where golden youths light the palace for feasters at night, and gold and silver dogs, fashioned by Hephaestus, stand at either side of the door (Od . –, ). There too a garden and a palace are described and there is a parthenos waiting for the hero inside. It also – and equally obviously – recalls the arrival at the palace of Circe, where wolves and lions fawn on men, as dogs fawn (sainein Od  : cf. Dion  ) on a returning master, and the scene of the return of Telemachus to the hut of Eumaeus where the dogs do not bark, because they recognize their returning master (Od  –; sainein ). But its language is also made up from the discourse of Hellenistic ecphrasis and plays fascinatingly with the terminology of verisimilitude. The dogs are works of art: their very silence is the product of technê; the ‘gape’ – the hole – of their mouths is ‘fashioned’. Yet they are described both as ‘false’ and, in the same line, as ‘intelligent’: with the condensation we saw with the description of Apollo, we are encouraged to see their apparent realness as unreal and yet to recognize they have a mind of their own (like Argos, the other Odyssean dog at a gate who ‘recognizes’ (enoêsen Od  ) his returning master). These are works of art on the edge between animate and inanimate objects. Indeed, the neighbouring golden dog who barks ‘fawns at a fellow it recognizes’. While this could be no more than a description of a statue of a fawning dog, the passage continues with this statue making a sound and wagging its tail – or, rather, what is heard is ‘the echo of 

On the history of lifelikedness and epigrams on Echo see Squire (b) and Männlein-Robert (a: especially – and –).



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

a mimetic shout’, a Platonic triple remove from the real, an echo of a shout that is itself the mimesis of the welcome of a stranger; and what is seen is the ‘shape’ (tupos) of a fashioned, wagged tail – the form of a representation of a tail. Nonnus hints at a welter of philosophical thought about the real, and the history of art and poetic delight, in fashioned representations of the real, and in so doing constructs, here in the epic, not so much an epigrammatic flash of perceived paradox, as the representation of the paradox of verisimilitude as if it were real. Where poet after poet revelled in the realism of Myron’s Cow, and fantasized they could hear it moo or see it move, Nonnus depicts a ‘false’ but ‘intelligent’ golden dog that does bark but barks a Platonically charged echo of a mimesis of a shout, just as it moves the form of a representation of a tail. Nonnus’ poetry allows us to inhabit a space between the representational and the real where the ‘as if’ of the discourse of verisimilitude becomes the actual grounding of the real. Dionysus’ ability to transform perception – and play creatively with the boundaries between the animate and inanimate – here overwhelms the traditional poetics of ecphrasis. Nonnus’ Dionysiac poetics does not merely privilege the shifting, metamorphosing of story into story, shape into shape, word into word. It also embeds echoes of a history of philosophical thinking about vision and the real, in this case with a strongly Platonic colouring, into his representational strategies, not as commentary but fully as part of what can be seen. It also allows echoes of epic, the novel, epigram – indeed, the full tradition of literary language and its repertoire of narrative discourse – to expand and grow like intertwined flowers out of any moment or scene: so that here the rivulet in the garden gurgles away, as if it were Apollo smooth-talking the laurel which the water is passing, as he had failed to persuade Daphne before she was metamorphosed into the tree ( –) – and thus Apollo who was imagined to worry about the wind shaking the hyacinth now becomes a different level of ‘as if’ of the imaginary in the description of the garden. What is to be seen in the garden? Different, intellectual, imagined ‘as ifs’ of vision. This is the ‘swirl’ of Nonnus’ discourse in action, the ‘wandering gaze’. It sets out to change how we, as readers, see. Jane Heath argues that a Christian theology of vision, after Paul, privileges ‘the metamorphosis of the beholder’. Nonnus, too, sets out to change his readers’ perspective, to metamorphose the beholder. 

See Goldhill (); Squire (a) with further bibliography.

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



My second example demonstrates how Nonnus’ Dionysiac poetics not only tells and performs the story of Dionysiac transformations, but also transforms the very language of matter. In the second book of the Dionysiaca, after Typhon has been defeated, harmony needs to be brought back to the shattered physical world. The Earth (Gaia) is described in an extraordinary set of terms (Dion.  –): Γαῖα δὲ πετρήεντα διαρρήξασα χιτῶνα ἄχνυτο κεκλιμένη, καὶ πενθάδος ἀντὶ μαχαίρης κοπτομένην ἀνέμοις ἀπεκείρατο δενδράδα χαιτήν. βόστρυχον ὑλήεντος ἀποτμήξασα καρήνου φυλλοχόῳ ἅτε μηνί, χαραδραίας δὲ παρειὰς δρύψατο, καὶ κελαδεινὰ δι᾽ εὐύδρων κενεώνων ἔρρεε μυρομένης ποταμήια δάκρυα Γαίης. Earth tore her rocky tunic And lay grieving; and instead of a mourning knife She sheared off her treey hair with winds, as she beat herself. She cut a lock of her wooded head As in the month of leaf-pouring, and she ripped Her ravined face, and black rivery tears flowed Through the well-watered flanks of wailing Earth.

In each of these phrases, there is a violent juxtaposition of terms from nature and from human culture. So Earth rips her ‘rocky chiton’ – where the human garb of the chitôn is defined by the harshly material ‘rocky’; instead of the knife that would be used to cut hair in a human mourning ritual, Earth’s hair (chaitên) is rent by the winds (anemois). The hair is described as ‘treey’ (dendrada), however. She cuts off the locks from her ‘wooded head’. Karênou can mean both ‘peak’, as it often does in Homer, but also ‘head’. She tears at her ‘ravined [charadraiâs] face’; her tears are ‘of rivers’ (potamêia), and flow down her ‘flanks’ (keneônas), the sides of her body, which are also gullies. Even keklimenê, ‘lay’, is a term regularly applied to the position of islands or other natural features in relation to one another (‘lay to the north’), as it is the normal word for a mourner lying on the ground in grief. The ring composition of the first word and last word being Gaia also marks the formal periodic composition of the description. The startling language emphatically displays not so much an anthropomorphism of Gaia but the clash of discursive inconcinnity: how like a human can Earth be? How can Earth’s sorrow be likened to human mourning? In this Dionysiac poem, the transformation of the physicality 

I developed this reading in conversation with Calum Maciver to whom thanks are due.



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

of nature will be a recurring theme, as Dionysus not only brings vines and wine to the world but also metamorphoses humans into plants. Here the Earth is represented both as fully with a body and as fully trees, rocks, ravines. A ‘head’ is always already also a ‘peak’, a ‘peak’ is a ‘head’; her ‘side’ is also a ‘hollow’, the ‘hollows’ are Earth’s flanks. Nonnus’ Dionysiac language demands that attention is paid to its metamorphic, metaphoric physicality. The phrase φυλλοχόῳ ἅτε μηνί, ‘as in the month of leaf-pouring’, is especially interesting. It appears to echo Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica  –: ἢ ὅσα φύλλα χαμᾶζε περικλαδέος πέσεν ὕλης φυλλοχόῳ ἐνὶ μηνί, (τίς ἂν τάδε τεκμήραιτο;) Or as many as the leaves that fall to the ground from the many-branched wood In the month of leaf-pouring (Who could bear witness?)

The striking phrase ‘month of leaf-pouring’ goes back to Hesiod (fr .) and also appears in Callimachus (Hecale fr. (Pfeiffer)), but the idea of the numberless leaves as a comparison for the throng of humans goes back even further to the famous image of Homer, where the contrast between the immortal gods and the struggling humans is expressed as the contrast between the falling leaves, year after year, and the continuity of divine existence. The question ‘Who could bear witness?’ – normally translated ‘Who could count or reckon the number?’, although that stretches the usual sense of the verb considerably – marks the passage as a ‘site of authorial self-consciousness . . . where the sense of earlier texts is palpable’. In Nonnus, however, to describe the Earth’s locks being cut from the ‘wooded head’ (hulêentos Dion  , echoing hulês Arg  ) with ‘as in the month of leaf-pouring’ confuses the expected opposition of divine and human. The image that is used from Homer onwards to contrast human life with the natural world is now used – transformed – as a simile to describe the shattered natural world. This simile is like a string of earlier similes (but metamorphosed). The simile (‘as . . .’) draws attention to the process of likeness through which this passage is articulated. Indeed, one could say that ἅτε is one sign of the poetics of the Dionysiaca with its swirl of parallel stories and transformations – all under the dominant question of the similitude of Dionysus and Jesus. 

Hunter (: ad loc). I wonder if the later religious sense of ‘bearing witness’ influenced Nonnus’ recollection of this passage.

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



The significance of the ἅτε becomes insistent, however, as Earth’s grief is assuaged in the following lines (Dionys  –): Καὶ ταμίη κόσμοιο, παλιγγενέος Φύσις ὕλης, ῥηγνυμένης κeνεῶνα κεχηνότα πῆξεν ἀρούρης, νησαίους δὲ τένοντας άποτμηγέντας ἐναύλων ἁρμονίης ἀλύτοιο πάλιν σφρηγίσσατο δέσμῳ. The steward of the universe, Nature, made of regenerative matter, Fixed the gaping flank of the broken field-lands, And sealed with the chain of unloosable harmony The island cliffs broken from their beds.

Phusis occurs only once in Homer (Od  ) to describe how a plant grows; it has no sense of a general category of thinking. Here, Nature is an agential force in the order of things, a ‘steward of the kosmos’. Nature is defined as made up of ‘regenerative matter’. Hulê here must mean ‘matter’ in the philosophical or religious sense. In Apollonius, it can only mean ‘wood’ in the sense of forest. ‘Regenerative’, palingeneos, heightened immediately with the echo palin (), cues philosophical argument too about whether matter is eternal, whether creation ex nihilo is possible – although in Nonnus, as in much later poetry, the vocabulary of palin also marks poetic tradition, the return of the past. Nonnus’ language marks out how the notion of hulê has changed from Apollonius’ usage. Now, within an intellectual perspective formed through a Christian and neo-Platonic engagement, ‘matter’ has become a key discursive term. The promise of Christianity is of eternal life, a promise based precisely on a new understanding of matter and spirit. Apollonius is quoted to signify the transformation of the comprehension of matter – as the poem narrates the transformation of the physical world. Once, it was possible to say that men passed away like leaves. Once hule was no more than wood. Christianity demands that we see the physical world differently. If Nonnus’ description of Gaia encourages us to see the earth constantly transforming between an anthropomorphic and geological form, his focus on Nature itself provides a metamorphosis of how matter is conceptualized. Through this transformation of Apollonius’ transformation of poetic tradition, Nonnus’ poetry performs the transformation of the language of materiality. My third example will take me closer to the idea of ‘preposterous poetics’, but approaches it from a scene that less obviously parades its poetics (although it too will invoke the artist Hephaistus). This scene is a paradigmatic moment of military conflict from the central and hugely long narrative of war between Dionysus and the Indians, with which I will be



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

concerned in the second part of this chapter, Deriades, the Indian chief, as he summons his troops for the battle, boasts (Dion. .–): ἔστι καὶ ἐνθάδε πόντος ἀπείριτος. ἀλλὰ θαλάσσης Ἀρραβίης μετὰ κῦμα καὶ ἡμετέρη σε δεχέσθω. An unlimited ocean exists here too; after the waves Of the Arabian sea let now our sea receive you too.

At one level, the Indian chief’s insult is clear enough. Deriades taunts Dionysus with the god’s previous ignominious flight beneath the waves of the Arabian sea, where, like Achilles withdrawn from battle, he was comforted by Thetis; and he threatens the god with death now in the waters of the Indian ocean. But, as he progresses, Deriades’ fighting rhetoric traces mythological story after mythological story to draw up the contest in his favour: line after line of literary tradition make up his battle-lines; mythic genealogy set against mythic genealogy. The Greek god may claim Zeus of thunder and lightning as a forebear, but Deriades has Phaethon as a grandfather, and a river as a father – thus both fire and water to quell the weapons of Dionysus (a form of elemental conflict announced at the beginning of the book (.–) and common throughout Nonnus’ narrative). So his words here echo not only with Clytemnestra’s celebrated hissing dismissal of Agamemnon’s worries about stepping on the tapestries in Aeschylus’ Oresteia, ἔστιν θἀλασσα. Τίς δέ νιν κατασβέσσει, ‘The sea exists. Who can drain it?’ (Aga. ) – a threat of death that already expresses the future destruction of the hubristic speaker – but also with a whole host of passages where the act of literary composition is likened to the flow of the sea, or a narrative made analogous to a journey by sea. There does exist an unlimited flow of echoes of the sea; and the invitation is to drown oneself in it. Here too, in this late Greek epic, the sea keeps resounding: ‘we/Find also in the sound a thought,/Hearing it by this distant northern sea’. As many recent critics have begun to trace, the texture of Nonnus’ poetry takes us back down towards the shifting sand of Homer and up again towards the jewelled light of contemporary stylistics. 



The quotation here is from Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’, and the reason for citing this late version of hearing the sea’s poetry will become evident. For the poetics of the sea, back to the archaic period, see e.g. Rosen (); Dougherty (); or for Ovid, Hinds (), or, most recently on rivers and shields, Feldherr () – and, of course, many others on many other classical sources – and finally forward to e.g. Cohen (). See in particular Hopkinson ed (); Shorrock (, , ); Spanoudakis ed () and most recently Bannert and Kroll eds () and Geisz (); and on this passage Agosti ed (). ‘Jewelled’ is taken from the seminal Roberts () (focused on Latin though it is), the argument of which is profitably extended by Elsner and Hernández Lobato eds ().

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



So Deriades imagines Hephaestus’ help for his cause (.–): Δεύομαι Ἡφαίστου τεχνἠμονος, ὄφρα καὶ αὐτῶι τεύχεα χαλκεύσειε πολὐτροπα Δηριαδῆι. I want the artist Hephaistus, so that for myself too, Deriades, he may forge bronze armour of many turns.

The most famous armour made by Hephaestus, the artist, is for Achilles – hence the word kai, ‘too’: as for Achilles, the best of the Greeks, so too for Deriades, warring against the forces of the West. The emphatic autôi, ‘himself’, (or ‘myself’, as I translated this self-reference) marks his gesture of self-assertion against the model of Achilles, the aristos of heroes (unnamed here and as yet unborn in the temporal scope of the narrative). The shield of Achilles is a celebrated cosmological ecphrasis; so Deriades conceives of his battle against Dionysus in such elemental terms. As he continues (.–): ‘If Athena brandishes her father’s lightning, I have my father’s water’ – son of the river Hydaspes against the daughter of the sky-god Zeus, a literalization familiar from Second Sophistic rhetoric, a constant source for Nonnus (e.g. Ach. Tat. ..; Quintus Smyrnaeus  –). The second programmatic preface of Book , which compares epic hero to epic hero (Perseus and Heracles to Dionysus), and Nonnus to Homer (epic poet to epic poet), provides a further poetic model for this rhetoric of contrasting and competing paradigms. Yet polutropos is the epithet that stands in for the very name of Odysseus since the first line of the Odyssey. The personal adjective of the virum is here applied to the arma. And, of course, we may recall that Odysseus also owned the armour of Achilles, in the post-Iliadic conflicts of status, which led to the death of Ajax. Deriades’ demand or hope to capture the artist takes us back through the literary tradition to the foundational clash of heroes, Achilles and Odysseus, Iliad and Odyssey, here as we are to start a battle, troped repeatedly as a clash of mythological models. The shield of Dionysus – itself a reworking of the Homeric shield, along with its epigonal ecphrastic models – also played a prominent role in Book  of the Dionysiaca, where it too was termed polutropa (.): here Deriades imagines a counter-shield to that also (kai). The proem of the Dionysiaca   

Achilles’ reply here to Memnon (Quint. Smyrn. . –) outlines the story of Dionysus taking refuge with Thetis from Lycurgus’ might, that is told at length in Nonnus book . See e.g. Hopkinson (b: –); Shorrock (: –). See e.g. Hopkinson (b: –). Polutropos is a moderately common word in Nonnus, though clearly a marked term here. Euripides’ accounts of the shield of Achilles are in this mix, for sure: see Fantuzzi (in press).



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

made Proteus programmatically the muse of his poetics, and called him polutropos (.). As the ecphrasis of a shield has been taken as an icon of the poet’s art since Homer, so here the armour demanded by Deriades echoes with the iconic self-description of Nonnus’ poetic style: the armour, like the poetry, is to be polutropa. The language is indeed layered, turned in multiple directions, full of rhetorical poses: polutropa, indeed. Yet within this combination of battling mythological models, and recessive, rich literary texture, there is also a remarkable sort of typological reading, where one narrative always seems to have the capability of announcing another proleptically, as well as echoing another retrospectively. Shorrock calls this stylistic ‘interconnectedness’; Agosti, ‘una sorta di sincronia atemporale’; Stella, ‘intertextual excesses’; Hardie, more sharply, comments ‘Proteus’ shapeshiftings are marked by the vocabulary of isotropy and imitation’. So, in this book of exhortatory battle rhetoric, Deriades promises (.–) to burn alive ‘heavy-chained’ Erechtheus, son of Hephaistus. The term barudesmos is perhaps proleptically used of an imagined punishment, and as such will be turned back against Deriades by Dionysus at ., but it also echoes in contrast with the gossamer bonds of Erechtheus’ father, Hephaestus (desmoi/desmata Od. . ; ) – just as the description of Hephaestus here as ‘artist’, tekhnêmôn, recalls his work on those bonds (tekhnêentes/tekhnas Od. . ; ). In Book  of the Dionysiaca, the tale is told of Aphrodite taking up Athene’s task of weaving – a passage which takes the place of and is intricately written through – the Odyssean lay of Aphrodite, and thus acts as a distant cue for such an echo. Erechtheus, declares Deriades, carries the blood of Erichthonius, ‘whom Pallas the no-mother [amêtôr], the virgin enemy of the marriage-bed, nursed at her breast, secretly guarded by the unsleeping, shining [aithopi ] torch’ (–). This typical rhetorical revelling in the potential of paradoxical juxtaposition – the breast of the no-mother, the child of the virgin, the nurse who hates the marriage bed – leads into an intricate death-taunt (.–):     

The most extensive study is Shorrock (), with further bibliography. Shorrock (: ); Agosti (a: ); Stella (: ) (see also Spanoudakis ); Hardie (: ). Vian (: ) notes that barudesmos is proleptic and need not be emended, but does not take the reference any further. See Hopkinson (: –). Shorrock (: ) notes how this language recalls the virgin Mary. At . Erechtheus will duly pray to Athene amêtôr; and at the very end of the epic, Iacchus will be nursed by Athene who had previously nursed only Erechtheus .–. On the Christian/pagan links of the term ‘mother’, see Spanoudakis ().

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



μιμνέτω Ἰνδώηι κεκαλυμμένος αἴθοπι κίστηι καὶ κενεῶι ζοφόεντος ἐν ἕρκει παρθενῶνος. Let him remain hidden in a shining Indian casket, In the empty enclosure of a darkling maiden-chamber.

Like Erichthonius, who was guarded by Athene in a casket, Erechtheus is imagined to be concealed – as ashes, presumably – in an Indian casket. The casket is ‘shiny’, aithopi, like the torch that accompanies Athene (aithopi, same metrical position in the previous line (/)). As the analogy becomes more extended, Deriades seems to picture the casket returned to Athens now to rest in a cenotaph in the maiden’s dark chamber – is this Parthenon the Parthenon, to be built centuries after the dramatic time of the poem? Or merely an imaged temple or chamber of the goddess? The death-taunt depends both on the patterning of proleptic mythological narrative – as for Erichthonius, so for Erechtheus – and on a reading of inversion: Athene’s concealment for safety becomes the concealment of the grave; the shining of the torch, the shining of the casket. Indeed, Ericthonius is called here ἐκείνου Ἐρεχθέος, ‘that Erechtheus’ (.–). Now, it is possible that early Athenian myth has been confused by Nonnus, as earlier scholars usually have assumed (as if the differences between the two figures were always clear and distinct). In .– where Erechtheus is introduced as the musterer of the Cecropidai, his birth is described with the narrative usually attached to Erichthonius. But here there are two generations, both now termed Erechtheus, as the typology becomes all-embracing: an overlap and repetition, not simply a confusion. There is a rhetorical drive behind the overlapping and intermingling of figures and stories. The use of the proleptic analogy of such typology is even more striking. As Zeus, king of the gods, summons his supporters, Hephaestus, Athene and Apollo, to aid Dionysus in the battle with Deriades, his rhetoric echoes with the epitaphioi of classical Athens. Athene is asked to remember – μνώεο  (cf. , ). But Zeus also refers to what has not yet happened, not merely in the chronology of myth – Icarius will not meet Dionysus until Book  – but also in the chronology of history. She is asked to save Pan, ‘the future help in Attic battle; preserve [ῥύεο] the preserver [ῥυτῆρα] of shaken Marathon, the killer of Medes’ (.–). As the epitaphios paradigmatically used Marathon and its Athenian warriors as a spur to military glory and as the great examples of 

See Kearns () for the contamination between these two figures from the start.



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

the past for the present, so here Zeus uses Marathon and Pan’s role in it as a spur for Athene to fight and as an example of glory – but for the future: a typology that allows, indeed insists on, the reversibility of chronology and a spreading of exemplarity, which melds story into story as exemplars or contrasts of each other. So Aiacos, the grandfather of Achilles, has his aristeia, where he fights, the narrator announces, ouk atheei, ‘not without god’ ( ). This is a significant introduction. For Aiacos is described immediately as fighting in a river, ‘as he is the father of Peleus’, a watery battle which ‘foretells the half-finished [hêmiteleston] fight to come for Achilles by the flow of the river Kamandros; the clash of the grandfather prophesied the clash of the grandson’ ( –). Odysseus at the end of the Odyssey, as the fight with the suitors’ relatives erupts, stands should to shoulder with Telemachus and Laertes, and Laertes notes with joy that the three generations of single sons are competing in valour, an image of the achieved patriarchal triumph of the household. In the Iliad, Priam appeals to Achilles to recall his father, as Odysseus in the Odyssey is asked by Achilles to tell him about Neoptolemus, his son. As Odysseus provides the iconic image of the household saved, Achilles’ young death represents a negative picture of normative generational succession. Here, however, we have three generations of the family of Achilles, but only in the text’s representational strategy: the here and now of the narrative is replete with the literature of the past that is yet to take place in the time of the epic and thus three generations stand, as it were, should to shoulder in the river of poetry. A hero’s battle is made to foretell (prothespizein) and prophesy (manteuesthai) the generations to come. Where Pindar is happy to imagine that the triumph of a victor in the games embodies the breeding and inheritance of the generations of past Aeacids, Nonnus reverses the flow of time, and has the grandfather embody the ‘prophecy’ of generations yet unborn. Achilles’ fight in the Iliad will be with the god of the river (as his father Peleus ‘fights’ with Thetis, a watery god, in his tempestuous marriage: hence the loading of ouk atheei), and the fight is termed here hêmiteleston, ‘half-finished’, ‘half-fulfilled’, a typically Nonnian word, freighted with implication. On the one hand, it invokes the battle in the Iliad where Achilles cannot defeat the river and has to pray to the gods for help: it is a battle that does not end in death or defeat. Hence, ‘half-finished’. On the other hand, the river here does not complain of being choked with bodies 

As discussed seminally by Loraux (a).

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



(as an Indian soldier later rebukes ( –)), nor does the river fight with Aiacus: the fight of Achilles only half fulfils this prequel. When the river does rebel, it is against Dionysus not Aiacus, and threatens a cosmic disruption which requires Zeus’ intervention to quell it ( – ) – where the river begs for mercy from the flame-throwing Dionysus: the ‘burning star’ Achilles was swamped by the river; Dionysus’ flames, and his rhetoric, threaten to scorch the river into submission. The complaint that does arise here is rather from a Naiad who begs Aiacus not to spread so much blood in the waters. She appeals to him as the son of Aigina: ‘For your Aigina I hear was the daughter of a river’ ( ). ‘I hear’, akouô, as often marks the inheritance of the mythic tradition, as the scene deepens its grounding in the stories of the past, and lengthens Aiacus’ genealogy backwards as well as forwards (his grandfather, the river Asopus, has been represented on Aiacus’ shield and will appear again in the narrative). This Naiad will not fight but flees to another pure (akêraton) water, the sea, where Thetis will receive her ( –). The reference to Thetis is pregnant. Thetis will become the daughter-inlaw of Aiacus, the mother of Achilles; she has already received Dionysus in her waters (as we saw). As the book ends, the Nymph’s language evokes the interconnected stories of past, present and future. Each fight is seen as layered with fights past and fights to come, images and foretellings of each other. It is a fascinating background to this half-fulfilled shadow of Achilles’ future that it may perhaps also recall both theoretical writing on typology and an earlier cento, which embodies the possibilities of how past verse can be reformed into a Christian present. On the one hand, Cyprian, writing about the practice of typology declares – directly enough – that any mention of water in Scripture can represent a baptism (Ep  .–.), and such baptismal imagery is prevalent in early Christian texts and art. By the later fourth century ‘these typological tropes were commonplace’. On the other hand – and more pertinently – Eudocia, the empress who was exiled to Jerusalem, and herself baptized in the Jordan, when she turns in her cento to represent the baptism of Jesus, does so precisely by reutilizing lines from Achilles’ struggle with the Scamander. Her depiction (–) include three different lines from Iliad  – where Achilles steps into the river (.), the river hides the Trojan bodies (.) and where Hepaestus stops burning the river (.) – as well as two other lines about the Scamander from the epic (.; .). The lines are (now) 

Jensen (: especially –).



Jensen (: ).



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

full of ‘symbolic descriptions that would resonate for a Christian audience’, especially of a soteriological tenor. As Achilles in the Scamander can be rewritten as a baptismal tupos, so here Achilles’ grandfather becomes a figure to image the buried future present in the past. This redrafting of linear chronology into a swirl of cross-referencing mythic narratives and literary paradigms, this wilful playfulness with temporal order, is what I am terming – with due attention to its etymology – Nonnus’ preposterous poetics. Its inspirational and programmatic deity is Proteus, the shape-shifter god who only reveals the truth if you hang on in suspension as the form transmutes back eventually to itself through a repertoire of metamorphoses – a god who is polutropos and poikilon eidos echôn (.–). Now, many modern readers have indeed found Nonnus’ exuberant, expansive, self-conscious rhetorical verse no more than preposterous. But I use the term rather to mark the constitutive link between his rhetorical style and the temporality of narrative, a link, I suggest, that goes to the heart of the interplay of theology and poetics in Nonnus. There are no direct references to Jesus or to Christianity in the Dionysiaca; there is, however, as we will see, language that at least resounds with Christian imagery; and the connection between Dionysus and Jesus has often been seen as a particularly fertile site for considering the interactions between Christianity and classicizing religion and poetry – for which, as we mentioned in the previous chapter, the Christus Patiens, a rewriting of Euripides’ Bacchae to tell the story of Jesus, remains a literary paradigm. Nonnus’ own Paraphrase of the Gospel of St John, as we also saw in the previous chapter, adopts and adapts Dionysiac language in intricate and significant ways, echoing the Dionysiaca. Within such a recognized matrix, critics have argued at length about the degree to which Nonnus can be termed a Christian author in the Dionysiaca, a case always made in contrast with the Paraphrase of the Gospel of St John, Nonnus’ most evidently Christianizing composition. It is now widely accepted that the polemical opposition of Christian and pagan (in ancient or modern writers) is wholly 

  

Lefteratou (in press). She also notes that Tertullian’s de baptismo includes a string of ‘types’ from scriptural sources. Thanks to Anna Lefteratou for sharing this piece with me before publication, and also to Fran Middleton for discussions of Eudocia (Middleton (in press)). I was encouraged towards the word ‘preposterous’ by Parker (). See Hopkinson (: –); Harries (: –); Agosti (); Gigli Piccardi ed (: ad loc); Shorrock (). See Shorrock (: –), based on the detailed commentaries of Livrea et al in Italian and Vian et al in French, the two most significant contributions to Nonnian scholarship in recent decades. Cameron (, , ); Bowersock (); Spanoudakis ed (); and Bannert and Kroll

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



inadequate to understand the complexities and assimilations of later antique communities and individuals – and that finding a place for Nonnus requires particular nuance. The first suggestion of this chapter is that the connection between theology and poetics should be explored at a deeper level than it has been by scholars so far, and specifically through the poem’s engagement with myth and temporality. So, to conclude the first and introductory section of this chapter, I want to look very briefly at a different matrix of late antique writing for understanding this preposterous poetics. Now, typology – a device to close the temporal gap between old and new testaments in Christian thinking by making each an analogy of the other – has a long history, back to the beginnings of allegorical reading in one genealogy, and also, perhaps more pointedly, back to Philo’s Platonizing conception of the Hebrew Bible, which forms the basis of so much of Clement’s thinking, through which it becomes a central plank of Christian argumentation. So, as we saw in Chapter , when the Israelites arrive at the Grove of Elim (Exodus .), for Prudentius the story of the Hebrew Bible finds fulfilment in the Christian Bible through his typological reading of scripture. The grove depicts what in chronological terms would be the far future, but what in theological understanding is always already present. The text of Exodus is already replete with its future embodiment in the language of the Gospels. Such a poetics of typology is one frame for understanding Nonnus’ use of analogy, proleptic and retrospective figuration. Christianity’s construction of the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament entails that theological interpretation repeatedly discovers a pattern of anticipation and fulfilment in Scripture. But how such a technology of reading should be comprehended and utilized became a long-running theoretical debate among early Christian intellectuals, and consequently for modern scholars who have argued fiercely over the boundaries between allegory and typology. (‘Typology’ itself is a modern term, unlike allêgoresis, but the vocabulary of tupos and antitupos is prevalent in early polemics

 

eds () – for the current state of play. Bowersock (); Chuvin (, ); MacMullen (, ); Brown () (and for an earlier period Schott () and Kahlos ()) provide key introductions to the necessary general background; Miguélez-Cavero (), the specific Panopolis scene; and for the violence associated with religion in this period, see the outstanding study of Shaw (). See Dawson (); Struck (); Niehoff (, ); and specifically for Nonnus, Agosti (), though this is very introductory. This is a hugely intricate and contested area: for guides to the controversy, see Daniélou (, ); Young (); Herzog (b); Dawson (); Hansen (); Edwards () ; Martens ().



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

and, as we have already seen, common in Nonnus.) Origen – to take an example of a figure who is an excellent guide to where controversy is, if not always to the development of orthodoxy – contrasts those who read ‘superficially’ (parergôs) with those who read with ‘care and attention’ (met’epimeleias kai epistaseôs) (Peri Pascha ). The contrast depends on how the Passover of Jewish Scripture is to be understood as a tupos of Christianity. The Passover (pascha) should be understood as a tupos of Jesus, Origen argues, but not of the Passion (pathos). That is, despite the imagined linguistic link between paschein and pascha, ‘passion’/‘passover’, the dissimilarities between the paschal sacrifice and the passion are too great: the paschal lamb is sacrificed by holy men, Origen points out, while Jesus was crucified by criminals. Therefore and more importantly, ‘it is necessary for us to sacrifice the true lamb, if we are ordained or bring sacrifices like priests, we have to cook and eat its flesh’ (Peri Pascha ). There are two crucial strands of argument intertwined here. On the one hand, the importance of the typological reading is in its internalization for the Christian reader who wishes to aspire to the holiness of a priest (either as an ordained member of the church or as an individual whose holiness is to be like a priest’s): Passover acts as a type not just for events in the New Testament but for the daily life of the Christian – the constant work of sacrificing for God. On the other hand, Passover as a tupos has a non-literal referent, not to another event simply, but to something itself non-physical but spiritual. Typology is also a way of seeing beyond even the miracle of an event into its spiritual significance. For Origen, then, Passover is not only replete with a future meaning, but also the meaning demands that the event in its spiritual significance is always already present in the spiritual struggle for the freedom of service that the Passover announces. Typology turns temporality away from any direct linearity. One figure whom Origen might be engaging with is the second-century Bishop Melito of Sardis. His text, also called peri pascha, also theorizes typology but in a quite different way. He begins by announcing that the Hebrew Scripture of Exodus has been plainly stated, and proceeds with the general theoretical position that the text is both ‘new and old’ (kainon kai palaion), ‘everlasting and temporary’ (aïdion kai prokairon), ‘perishable and imperishable’ (phtharton kai aphtharton). In line with his hostile supercessionism, he explains that it is ancient with regard to the law, but new with regard to the Logos; temporary with regard to the type [tupos], eternal 

For a text and translation see Hill (); for discussion see especially Lieu (: –); also Lieu (: –).

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



through grace; perishable through the sacrifice of the lamb, imperishable through the life of the Lord. A tupos is described with the strikingly rare word prokairos, which means not just ‘temporary’, but – etymologically at least – ‘before the right time’, ‘untimely’, and Melito will go on to expound exactly what he means by such an expression. The remainder of the text explores this logic through a reading of Exodus, centred around a statement of principle about typology. ‘Nothing is said or happens without a parable or a prior etching . . . the said through parable, the event through prior modelling/prefiguration [protupôsis]’ (). This leads to an extended analogy between an artist’s modelling in clay or wood, as a preparation for an art work. This sketch or preparatory model becomes useless (achreston ) once the work comes into being: what was once valued becomes without value. With a redrafting of Ecclesiastes, he sums up, ‘to everything there is a proper season [kairos]; a proper time [chronos] for the model [tupos]; a proper time for the material; a proper time for the truth’ (). A model is necessary because ‘you see in it the image of the future’: however necessary it is, for the process, it is also, precisely, prokairos. He explicates the implications at length: the people and the law were the tupos which is fulfilled in the Gospel and the Church (). ‘The model [tupos] surrenders its image to the true nature and is voided . . . the model tupos was dissolved when the Lord was revealed’ (). As he rewrites Ecclesiastes to make a new message about supercessionism – denying the revelation on Sinai as a kairos – so he theorizes typology not as Origen had, as a key to how the present still reverberates with the past, but as an aggressive destruction of what was once valued. ‘If you stare at the tupos, you will see Him through the outcome’, he writes (), and so Abel, Isaac, Joseph, Moses and David are each simple types by virtue of being (in turn) murdered, bound, sold, exposed, persecuted (the sort of simple analogy Origen criticizes). But this leads finally to a bitter and lengthy rejection of the Jews as the killers of Christ – and as a misunderstanding of the scriptural typology. For Melito, typology’s temporality is both linear and mutually implicative with a hatred of Israel. This sense of the buried life of the present and future coming to view in the reading of the past is enacted at the level of the word. The Prophets are the place where typology is most pressingly debated. Hosea . – a beginning – announces ‘The word [d’var] of the lord that came to Hosea  

Kessler (: –) argues that Cyril’s use of skiagraphia ‘foreshadowing’ (xli ) in his discussion of typology becomes crucial in Christian defences of the use of imagery in churches. See Lieu (: –).



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

son of Berri’. Origen notes the straightforward historical understanding of this phrasing (kata tên historian) but adds that it should be read ‘according to a mystical logic/argument’, kata mustikon logon. For, he interprets, Hosea in Hebrew means ‘saved’ (Jo. .). Thus, we can hear not just a general message of salvation in the prophets but an echo of Jesus, whose name comes from the same Hebrew root. Such an interpretation then becomes an integral part of the Latin Bible itself, the Bible of the church for centuries, thanks to Origen’s great defender, Jerome. The prophet Habakuk (.) wrote (in Hebrew): ‘Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation’ (the King James version). The Septuagint translates the final phrase accurately enough with ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, ‘in God my saviour’. Jerome translates the whole sentence into Latin as Ego autem in Domino gaudebo et exsultabo in Deo Jesu meo. Sôtêri, ‘saviour’, has been translated ‘Jesus’. The Hebrew for ‘my saviour’ is ye’shi, and to Jerome’s eyes this is close enough to the name ye’shua, ‘Jesus’, which is indeed formed from the root for ‘salvation’. For Jerome, reading through the Greek to the Hebrew opens a new potential for seeing the truth of the text. Jerome’s translation is a theologically creative rendering which not only sees in the name Jesus the root of (all) salvation, but also regards it as inevitable and right to imagine that a prophet who lived hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus could rejoice in Jesus, because in the temporality of Christianity, which through typology could see Jesus in Adam and Adam in Jesus, it was right and proper to uncover the timeless truth of Christianity in what was now an Old Testament. His Latin reads through Greek and through Hebrew to a deeper truth. Translation into Latin makes patent what the translation into Greek had buried. Both Origen and Jerome were writing in Palestine, and both had profound connections not just with Hebrew scriptures but also, it seems likely, with the developing Jewish intellectual approach to them – there was a particularly flourishing and particularly Hellenized Jewish community and active rabbinical school in Caesarea where Origen worked on the hexapla, his critical edition of the Hebrew Bible. Jewish writing from late antiquity, some of which will be discussed in the next two chapters of this book, also reveals a fascinating temporality, fascinating also for its resistance to the linear chronology of dominant Greco-Roman historiography. Indeed, the rabbinical writings of the Talmud, supplemented by the tosefta and midrashim, offer, as I have discussed elsewhere, a profoundly unThucydidean sense of historical narrative, where a religious identity for 

Levine (: especially –).



See now Kaye ().

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



a defeated and fragmented people of the Roman empire is constructed through a fragmented collection of localized stories and debates. This unparalleled narrative form – aggressively dismissed by many Christian and modern readers as preposterous – allows conversations between figures who lived centuries apart, confuses emperors, projects a rabbinical past with disregard for any empirical history, and overlaps and intertwines separate historical events in a continuing revelation of providence. What’s more, its legal reasoning includes a principle of bererah, ‘retroactive determination’. This principle ‘allows a later action to actually have taken place earlier’. The intention of an earlier, religiously significant action, while radically uncertain at the time in such a way that raises legal difficulties, can retrospectively be declared determined by a later action. The limits of such a principle are discussed intently, but the idea of time that is embodied in this discussion requires a ‘plasticity of past and present’ which stands against linear chronology: ‘In the Talmud, it is possible for a chronologically later event to happen at a legally crucial earlier moment, because it is imaginatively possible’. The Talmud’s theology takes shape in a narrative and rhetorical form which eschews linear and sequential chronology, for all that it is obsessed with counting years and ordering a sacred calendar and marking out the day in ritual time. Rabbinical writing too, from its different perspective, displays a preposterous poetics. The fullest theoretical expression of the grounding of such a poetics, however, is to be found in Augustine’s Confessions. The Confessions, as a narrative of conversion, is committed to rewriting the past in a teleological vector towards the revelation of a new life. But within this journey, Augustine, especially in Book xi, brilliantly explores the role of time, memory and narrative in the construction of a self and of selfunderstanding. The inability to dwell in the present because of the slippage of time, a slippage which makes memory and its narratives constitutive of self-perception, is explored as an integral element of human experience, and specifically of change. The very time it takes to read a Psalm is analysed as part of the production of meaning for human readers. But against such intricate understanding of human experience of human time stands divinity. God, argues Augustine, by virtue of his immortality and    

Goldhill (a); see also Gafni (); Yerushalmi (). For the interaction of communities in the later antique see Eshleman (); Sandwell ().  Kaye (: ) – with extensive further bibliography. Kaye (: , ). An outlier text thus is Seder Olam, a chronography from the first century CE: see Milikovsky () (in Hebrew). See the particularly influential Ricoeur (), from a vast bibliography.



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

omniscience, is not in or of time, but atemporal. Thus the foundational sentence of the creator – Let there be light – cannot be articulated as in human language, which, like a Psalm, takes time to say. ‘Let there be light’ thus must always already have been spoken. For Augustine’s searching and brilliantly expressed theology, to conceptualize divinity is to attempt from within time to conceptualize a being without time. The typological turn of mind affects the fabric of literary expressivity at all levels, however. Juvencus – to take one telling example – who rewrites the Gospel narrative of Matthew (primarily) into Latin verse in the fourth century, depicts the arrival of the Magi with their gifts (. –): Tum munera trina Tus, aurum, murram, regique hominique deoque Dona dabant. Then they gave as threefold offerings The gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh To the king and the man and the god.

Scott McGill sums up well what is now the standard reading of this passage: ‘By adding regique hominique Deoque to Mt ., Juvencus implicitly explains why the three gifts were suitable: each one represented an aspect of Jesus’. Jerome, who read Juvencus, uses a similar phrase hominique regique deoque (which requires an impossible shortening of the first syllable of regi to scan) in an epitaphic inscription for his friend Paula. Certainly in Juvencus the three gifts in the first half of the line juxtaposed to three expressions of the receiver of those gifts in the second half of the line can be taken to epitomize the love of lists and bold juxtaposition typical of what Roberts calls the ‘jewelled style’. The phrase regique hominique deoque, however, also and ostentatiously rewrites Virgil’s depiction of Jupiter, who is described in the Aeneid with a range of varied phrases to express his kingship over gods and men, and, in particular, at Aen .– with O qui res hominumque deumque/aeternis regis imperiis et fulmine terres, ‘O you who rule over the affairs of men and gods with eternal power and cause fear with the thunderbolt’ (cf. . hominumque deorumque). Virgil’s line was memorable enough to be quoted several times in late antiquity. Virgil himself is playing off the   

McGill (: ). Roberts (). This argument was made by Blaise Gratton at the SCS in . Boethius de interpr. ..; Cassiodorus Commentarium de oratione ch ; Servius cites it twice at . (of course) and at .; it is used in an anonymous cento de eccles. CPL : ; perhaps echoed too in Silius Italicus Punicus .. It does not occur otherwise in extant Latin. The phrase hominumque deumque is thus strongly marked as Virgilian.

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



Homeric formulaic representation of Zeus as ‘father of men and gods’ as well as Ennius’ divumque hominumque pater rex (itself quoted by Cicero) and hominum divumque voluptas, the opening line of Lucretius’ de rerum natura. Juvencus takes the iconic representation of Jupiter from the iconic Roman poet, which expresses the supremacy of Jupiter over gods and men, and rewrites it as a theologically informed expression of the three-fold nature of the Christian God, who is king, man and god in one. As Virgil through the poetics of the cento reveals a – or his – Christian message (not to mention the readings of Eclogue ), so here the poetics of allusion become a theological poetics of appropriation, whereby Virgil’s representation of divinity is transformed into a new understanding of the nature of god. The archetypal expression of a polytheistic system is redrafted into a threefold expression of the one god – and trina, ‘threefold’, here is programmatic for such thought: they are not just three gifts, but gifts that are ‘three-fold’. Virgil, read typologically, can be made to reveal at a linguistic level a Christian understanding. Virgil’s language, read thus, otherwise sounds out the imperium of the Christian God. Across later antique theologically informed writing, then, from poems to be placed as titles under pictures in church, through homilies, through Christian poetic retellings of the Bible, to the most profound philosophical reflections, there is a varied and intense engagement with temporality and narrative: with reflecting on how divine rule is embodied in a temporal world, and how the narratives of providence, or human understanding of such narratives, relate to a divine order and its temporality, how the past is or is not a foretelling of the future. Theology informs narrative’s time. Nonnus’ poetics, with his proleptic and retrospective figuration which links and fragments the corpus of mythic narratives into interlocking and overlapping versions of each other, need to be set within this framework. The question of how Christian Nonnus is has constantly vexed scholars. It seems to me that the theological underpinnings of his narrative style in the Dionysiaca, despite the Paraphrase, which as we saw in the last chapter is aggressively theological in its form and expressivity, have been consistently underexplored. His preposterous poetics needs to be comprehended within the theologically inflected discourse of temporality and narrative that marks out late antiquity. 

Cic. Nat d .. and ...



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

II The Erotics of Death Within such a context, and within such a poetics, I intend in the second section of this chapter to look at one single extraordinary passage as a test case, where Nonnus’ preposterous poetics takes on an unpleasantly grotesque erotic shaping in a scene of gendered sexual violence. I have chosen this passage first because the episode is explicitly likened by the narrator to the mythic paradigm of Achilles and Penthesileia, a story yet to happen, though long familiar in the literary tradition: in this sense, it is a straightforward example of preposterous poetics in its mixture of prolepsis and analogy – and one which follows from my discussion of Aiacos. But, second, the passage also tests the limits of such a poetics. Its dynamics of analogy becomes increasingly complex and increasingly strained as the story becomes a vivid representation of necrophiliac desire. Third, because the passage is about the control and expression of erotic desire, and perverted desire at that, it is a scene where the tensions between Christian and classicizing traditions might be expected to be most directly insistent. Dionysus has a special relationship with Aphrodite in Greek mythic thinking – party gods both, and equally oppressive, durus uterque deus, as Propertius laments mockingly of Amor and Liber (..) – and throughout the Dionysiaca there is a sexual licence that has made modern readers worry about Nonnus’ commitment to Christian sexual values. As recent critics have sharply discussed, the god commits four rapes in the poem, often after drugging his prey with alcohol, and the final victim, Aura, whose story closes the Dionysiaca, ends up, after an excruciatingly protracted labour, going mad and killing one of her children before the other is spirited away for safety. In each case, however much the act of coition is imaged as a divine mystery where the natural world celebrates fecundity, the response of the victims is increasingly brutalized and distressed. But there are other significant narratives that run through the epic which have not yet received the attention of the rapes. Books –, in the centre of the Indian war, focus, for example, on the story of Morrheus and his desire for the nymph, Chalcomede. It is a paradigmatically intricate story, both in its telling and its layering of literary models. Charis, the handmaiden of Aphrodite, is distressed in part by the suffering of her father Dionysus at the hands of the Indians – the Graces are sired by Dionysus in 

See especially, with full bibliography, Hadjitofi (). Also, but less helpfully, Lightfoot ().

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



Nonnus – but also by the beauty of Chalcomede, who, she enviously thinks, would compete with Aphrodite for loveliness. So she flees back to Aphrodite, and with deceptive grief gets the goddess to support her concealed plan. The goddess summons Eros, who agrees to make Morrheus, the leading warrior of Deriades’ army, fall in love with Chalcomede (which thus satisfies both parts of Charis’ own desire to discomfort both the enemies of Dionysus and the rival of Aphrodite). Morrheus, wracked by lust, pursues Chalcomede, although she is his military enemy; and although he is admonished by his trusty companion and upbraided by his wife, he chases her unrelentingly until he finally corners her on a beach. She deceptively gets him to take off his armour and wash before coming to her. As he does so, Aphrodite, watching the warrior disarmed, taunts Ares about how much greater her strength is than his – as the interplay of warrior and alluring nymph is immediately replayed at a level of divine myth between warrior god and the goddess of sexual allure, itself a replay of stories and images back to Odyssey  (the swirl of myth again). The unarmed Morrheus finally approaches Chalcomede in lust, while she turns her chaste eyes away from his nakedness – and a snake emerges from her corselet hissing death, and from her breasts and hair and loins snakes emerge to protect her chastity. And that is where the story ends – although later Morrheus’ wife, after the Indian defeat, laments his lack of fidelity in a wild distortion of the mourning at the end of the Iliad, blaming the Indian defeat on Morrheus’ misplaced passion (.–). The swarming snakes evoke a string of images from Satan the snake in Genesis, through Alexander’s mother, Olympias, with her Dionysiac snakes, to the snakes of Medusa’s hair, or the snakes of Aeschylus’ Clytemnestra’s dream, biting at the breast, to the healing snake of Asclepius. The warrior’s lust defeated by a miracle of chastity, embodied in snakes, seems to mix promiscuously the language and imagery of the classical tradition and a Christian sense of sin. This story takes some three books to unfurl and in its course, through its scenes of the praeceptor amoris, the angry wife, the deceptive and cunning girl, the failed poetry of seduction, the warrior’s erotic undoing, the meeting between naked warrior and beautiful girl on a beach where marriage is in the air, a host of literary and mythological paradigms from epic, comedy, the novel and erotic verse are explicitly and allusively manipulated. What’s more, the manipulation itself is part of the story. Chalcomede, teasing and deceiving the warrior, tells him the story of how Daphne fled Apollo – a story familiar from Nonnus elsewhere and from a string of Greek and Latin erotic texts and images, not least from the first book of Achilles Tatius, a novel which is frequently echoed in Nonnus,



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

and which provides an extreme case of the scopophilic desires of the genre combined with scenes of (faked) death: the exemplum multiplies in significance by echoing its repetitions and retellings. Morrheus, never the best of readers, jumps for joy at the tale (anepalleto charmati .), but then worries that the god did not get to ravish Daphne, and so he too might not get to have Chalcomede; but, blaming Apollo for being too slow and the earth for swallowing the nymph, he continues his pursuit anyway. Even when the literary significance of the exemplum is appreciated, longing leads to a compulsion to repeat it. As the love story runs towards its frustrated climax, how a mythic tale manipulates a reader’s desire is both the subject and the form of the narrative. In the course of this erotic tale, the battle between the female followers of Dionysus and the Indian army continues – it is the necessary context for Morrheus’ love of his enemy. Because it is a war between the Indian army and maenads, however, the Indian chief Deriades has commanded that no warrior should rape any enemy lest they become distracted from battle – a command that Morrheus would be all too keen to disobey. It is within this context that the scene I wish to discuss takes place, framed by Morrheus’ story of unattained erotic pursuit, framed by an injunction from Deriades to avoid sexual violence, framed by the god’s sexual violence and sexual mishaps. It is a scene also specifically set up in a flamboyantly constructed theatrical frame. As the battle takes place, the ‘old men watch [eskopiazon] from the precipitous towers’ (.–) – like the old men in the teichoskopia of Iliad ; women watch (ethêêsanto) the thyrsus-carrying maenads (.), as Andromache, who also watched from the wall in Iliad , will run out ‘like a maenad’ after the death of Hector; and ‘a dragging-robed maiden with her nurse’ watches (ederketo) the war, like Antigone and her nurse at the beginning of Euripides’ Phoenissae (.–). As all these figures watch, a girl, rolling dead in the dust, is bared. Her robes are pulled asunder, and her beauty overwhelms with desire the man who has stabbed and killed her. It is this strange scene of looking – the warrior looking, the crowds looking, us looking – that I wish to explore as an example of how Nonnus’ preposterous poetics restructures a celebrated scene of erotic desire. For as the unnamed soldier is overtaken by desire for  

See Morales (). I am not fully persuaded by Verhelst (), who singles out the Homeric background to Nonnus here. The Greek novel, and especially Heliodorus, as Froma Zeitlin has analysed in her as yet unpublished Sather Lectures, is obsessed with the construction of such scenes of theatrical visuality. The novel is a major influence on Nonnus, as Frangoulis () has discussed: as Shorrock (: ) puts it, the novel is ‘an ancestral home of the Dionysiac poetic’.

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



the dead woman, and struggles with his erotic feelings, the scene is explicitly modelled on Achilles and Penthesileia, a redraft of an old epic moment from a time yet to come. It makes for one of the weirdest scenes in the epic. The short scene is simply structured into an introductory narrative (.–) which describes the soldier’s feelings, and then a speech in which the soldier expresses and responds to his own feelings (.–). This structure is integral to the scene’s significance, as we will see. The narrator’s description begins with a familiar paradox of the militat omnis amans repertoire: the wounder wounded, οὔτασεν οὐτηθεῖσα (.), expanded through ‘her form was a weapon, and dying she conquered’ (.–). But the rhetoric of paradox and the narrative gaze immediately and transgressively scans down the woman’s whole body (.–): κατ᾽ ἀντιβίοιο δὲ γυμνοὶ μηροὶ ἐθωρήχθησαν, ὀιστευτῆρες ἐρώτων, ‘Against her enemy, her naked thighs were armour, bowmen of desire’. And the mythic paradigm is explicitly articulated (.–): Καὶ νύ κε νεκρὸν ἔχων πόθον ἄπνοον, ὥς περ Ἀχιλλεύς ἄλλην Πενθεσίλειαν ὑπὲρ δαπέδοιο δοκεύων ψυχρὰ κονιομἐνης προσπτύξατο χείλεα νύμφης, εἰ μὴ Δηριαδῆος ἐδείδιεν ὄγκον ἀπειλῆς. He would have had a longing for a breathless corpse, like Achilles Seeing another Penthesileia on the ground; He would have kissed the cold lips of the dust-covered girl If he had not feared the weight of the threat of Deriades.

It is only the fear of his commander’s anger that prevents the soldier desiring and kissing the dead maenad, like Achilles with another Penthesileia. The reference to the epic cycle and its later versions is explicit, though the story is in the far future from the story time of this epic. Achilles, as far as we can tell from the fragmentary remains of the Aethiopis, took off the helmet of the dead Penthesileia and was captivated by her beauty. According to Proclus’ summary, Thersites mocked Achilles later in the camp for his erotic feelings, and Achilles killed him, and consequently had to seek purification on Lesbos. For Propertius (. –) and for Quintus of Smyrna (.–), it is precisely the revelation of the Amazon’s face that is the crucial moment. Lycophron, in his more ghoulishly violent turning of the story (Al. –), has Thersites gouge out an eye of the Amazon, 

Ovid Am .. For the clichés of Nonnus’ erotic vocabulary see Gigli Piccardi (: –); on the wounds see Frangoulis (: –); for the military use of the wounder wounded trope see Quint. Smyrn.  –.



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

and is killed by Achilles because of this desecration of the body. Here, however, the baring of the girl’s thighs leads not just to an admiring or eroticized gaze but a wish to kiss her cold lips. Desire is not repressed by Deriades’ threats. Indeed, the narrative proceeds not just to strip the girl’s body naked, but to have the soldier fondle her breasts and limbs (.–): ‘He kept looking [skopiazen] at the flesh of the naked girl forbidden to him, and he stared [dokeue] at her white ankles, and at the cleft [ptukha] of her uncovered [askepeôn] thighs, and he touched her limbs, and repeatedly handled her swelling, rosy breast, which was still like an apple.’ Unlike Achilles, to whom he has been likened, it is not the face as an embodiment of beauty that arouses this warrior. The repetition of words of seeing (skopiazen, dokeue – with a pun in askepeôn) – as the scene of viewing had been introduced with multiple perspectives of viewing (eskopiazon ; ethêêsanto ; ederketo ) – and the repetition of words of touch (epsause, hêpsato), slow down the man’s visual and tactile engagement with the body, itself described in prurient detail, from the flesh, to the ankles, to the thighs and genitals (ptukha mêrôn), and, with most attention, the breast. (The adjectives and simile are clichés of erotic verse – rosy, swelling, the apple – and the word eiseti, ‘still’, indicates not just its attractiveness continuing in death, but also the continuity of such clichés in the language of desire.) The rhetorical ideal of enargeia – to make insistently visible for the listener or reader – is performed for the circles of viewers (including us, implicated in such a leering gaze), as the girl’s body is uncovered, and fondled, verbally as well as by his hands, in the imagination of the reader. Indeed, the text goes a step further even than his fondling (.): ἤθελε καὶ φιλότητι μιγήμεναι . . . He wanted even to have sex with her . . .

It is this necrophiliac desire that prompts him – finally as he exhausted himself (opse kamnôn ) – to speak out. His speech, the second part of the scene, begins with the same tropes of paradox that the narrator had offered (–): ‘Rosy-armed maiden, wounded you have wounded [οὔτασας οὐταμένη  cf. οὔτασεν οὐτηθεῖσα ] your love-sick slayer; in death [φθιμένη  cf. φθιμένη ] you tame the living.’ He repeats all the terms of the introductory narrative, and   

These passages are collected and discussed by Fantuzzi (: –). I first read this passage together with Marco Fantuzzi in : thanks to him for years of discussion. For the importance of the scopophiliac gaze in the novel see Morales (). On the importance of enargeia in Nonnus, see Agosti ().

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



augments them. Her breasts, he declares, are ὀιστευτῆρες ἐρώτων, ‘bowmen of desire’ (a memorable phrase used () of her thighs), which (now) ‘win a greater prize in battle than arrows’. Where the narrator suggests he ‘would have held a longing for a breathless corpse’ (), now the warrior himself says () ἄπνοος οἶστρος ἔχει με τὸν ἔμπνοον, ‘a breathless goad has me who breathes’. (I translated ἄπνοον with νεκρὸν in , although in terms of word order it could more easily have been taken with πόθον, and here the soldier applies ἄπνοος to οἶστρος suggesting that in  that ἄπνοον could at least be construed with either noun.) Where the narrator had stated simply that she ‘conquered’ (nikêse ), now, expanded, ἔγχος ἐνικήθη σέο κάλλεϊ, ‘The sword has been conquered [enikêthê] by your beauty’ (). Where the narrator declared that ‘her form was a weapon’ (), the soldier expands (–), ‘The flashes from your face drive me in confusion like the points of javelins; you hold your breast like a bow’. The soldier confirms and expands the narrator’s description with a selfdescription of his feelings. This is a very striking stylistic device. Homer, of course, can repeat a message to be given and a message delivered word for word; he also plays with such repetition when, for example, Odysseus in Iliad  carefully does not repeat Agamemnon’s boastfulness to Achilles, whom he wishes to persuade to relent. The narrator’s voice in Homer too can be briefly but significantly echoed in the direct speech of his characters: Nausicaa is likened to Artemis in the framing narrative, and then by the manipulative Odysseus as he sets out to persuade her to help him, when they meet on the beach of Scherie. It may not be by chance that both these particularly vivid examples of such manipulation involve polymetis Odysseus. But in previous epic from Homer through the Hellenistic period there is no example – certainly at such length and complexity – of this technique of extended repetition between a framing narrative and a character’s speech, such as Nonnus displays here. Nonnus’ theological poetics is fully committed to the Paraphrase, for sure – the poetic re-presentation of even the word of God. But why does Nonnus first describe the soldier’s reaction, and then dramatize it in such similar but carefully varied terms? Why does Nonnus paraphrase Nonnus?  

 The best discussion remains Lynn-George (). As discussed in Goldhill (: –). Roberts (), though almost entirely on Latin texts, is useful on the history of the Paraphrase as a form. Paraphrase always comes with a hint of uselessness: Theon   writes that ‘Paraphrase is not, as some people have said or opined, useless’. Quintillian . .. notes the usefulness of paraphrasing oneself as an exercise in copia and variatio. But the paraphrase, as discussed by such a rhetorical tradition, is in prose, and either of prose or of verse.



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

The play of presentation and then first-person re-presentation demonstrates, first of all, the self-conscious flair of poikilia, a term which ‘suggests intricacy, complexity and variety as well as bright, variegated, and multicoloured ornamentation’. Nonnus’ treatment of Homer and the tradition of poetry stemming from Homer has been increasingly appreciated as a brilliant stylistic manipulation of the formulas and formulations of expectation. Here we see Nonnus varying, manipulating, rewriting his own verse, as the narrator’s description is expanded and redrafted in the character’s account of the same scene. The repetition allows a significant change of perspective. The first version is replayed now in a different voice and with increased expressiveness, as the self-representation of necrophiliac desire is imagined. The bizarre lust for a dead and shockingly uncovered naked girl is gone over with an increasingly self-aware discomfort (): ξεῖνον ἔχω καὶ ἄπιστον πόθον, reflects the soldier, ‘I have’ – echô, again, as in  and  – ‘a strange and unbelievable longing’. His desire is indeed strange and specified as such by the lover himself – remember when Daphnis in Longus’ novel Daphnis and Chloe finally has sexual intercourse with Lycainion, he does precisely ouden xenon, ‘nothing strange’, as ‘nature’ takes over his education; and the term apiston links the soldier’s desire into the genre of paradoxology, like an anecdote from Aelian, as if the lover knows he will become not just aoidimos, as Helen recognizes for herself and Paris as lovers, but a paradigm of the incredible for poets to come, an anecdote from the distant and strange land of India, where unbelievable things are to be found. His desire is ‘strange and unbelievable’ most pressingly, however, because the familiar clichés of erotic frustration apply but only in a perverse way to the forbidden love for a dead maenad. The grotesqueness of the scene is precisely located in the alltoo-easy application of such familiar tropes to such an unfamiliar and unpleasant desire – introduced as if it were no more than another case of the paradigmatic Achilles and Penthesileia, not strange and unbelievable, but a well-known scene of epic convention. In the second part of his speech (–), the soldier goes on to imagine what the girl herself would say. After Nonnus dramatizes the selfrepresentation of the necrophiliac, he has the necrophiliac dramatize how his beloved would respond to him. He splits his response, imagining his  

Hopkinson (b: ). On the xenon in Daphnis and Chloe, see Goldhill (: –); on Helen as aoidimos, see Il. . ; on apista, see Antonius Diogenes Ta Huper Thulen Apista or Lucian’s Verae Historiae; on Aelian’s announcement of paradoxa to come see Hist Anim. ., the importance of which theme for later antiquity is now well discussed by Ni-Mhealllaigh ().

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



desire viewed from the perspective of its object, dramatizing his own desire from elsewhere. Again, this is a grotesque inversion of the topoi of erotic poetry, for all that male poets love to put words into their women’s mouths. As Propertius imagines how Cynthia rises from the dead to upbraid him for not lamenting her adequately at her funeral, itself a rewrite of his drunken return to her asleep in bed – like a maenad, in his eyes – so here the girl in the soldier’s prosopopeia rejects his advances and demands that he not touch her clothes, and not ‘fondle [amphaphoôn, often of weapons but also of Hector’s dead body in Iliad . ] my wound, which you made’ (). Usually, the language of wounding is used to articulate the trauma of desire, the emotional piercing by Eros’ weapons; here the language of wounding is physical and military, and precisely embodied in the verb, ‘fondle’ – and yet also still a projection of the lover’s frustration. What makes the scene so grotesque is not merely the desire to fondle the dead body with erotic intent, but also the way in which the clichés of desire are literalized, and thus not merely defamiliarized, but also made discomforting. Even in perversion, it seems to say, desire is always a cliché; even perversion can sound like a familiar classicism. Yet touch her he still does: ἀλλὰ ποθοβλήτοιο τεοῦ χροὸς ἕλκος ἀφάσσων, ‘As I trace the wound on your strikingly desirable flesh’. As his language spirals into the familiar wish-laden counterfactual laments of the rhetoric of the death bed, he throws aside his spear and masculine bravery, hopes to find some cure for the girl from Cheiron the centaur, or from Apollo the healer; hopes to find a magic drug to bring her back to life, so that he could assuage her ‘lovely wound’, ἐπήρατον ἕλκος (). The physical wound, which has taken the place of – or become an icon of – the wound of love, has now become the ‘lovely wound’, a wound to stimulate eros. The wound itself becomes the metonymic object of desire. And after this last outburst, the still unnamed warrior passes by, νέκυν πόθον ἐν φρεσὶ κεύθων (), ‘Hiding his desire for a corpse in his heart’, and disappears into the background of the narrative. This last phrase echoes the beginning of the story: ‘he would have had a desire for a breathless corpse’. The hesitant optative at the start has been seen to be misplaced, as his desire has crossed the boundary of hesitation, though still barred from its complete physical fulfilment. The narrative, framed in this   

Lively (); Janan (). On scenes of resurrection and their Christianizing discourse, see Shorrock (: –). The Greek is odd in both opening and closing phrases. Either Nonnus is using πόθον ἔχων and πόθον κεύθων as if they were the verb ποθέω, or πόθον is in apposition to νέκυν: ‘having a corpse as a desire’, as in . where νέκρον is in apposition to ἔρωτα.



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

way as an inset story of pothos, has no further consequence in the Dionysiaca. It is a story of an ‘as if’ – he would have had a desire; as if he were Achilles; she would have replied; if only Cheiron could bring her back to life – surrounding the moment of his eroticized touching of her breasts and body with telling disavowals (it is too strange a story to tell otherwise, without the ‘as if’: what is being normalized here?). Yet the story continues to echo semantically in the narrative of the Dionysiaca, not just as Morrheus continues in his divinely inspired pursuit of Chalcomede towards its inevitable frustration, but also, for example, as Dionysus rapes the drunken, unconscious and bound Aura, who, when she awakes, sees to her shock (.) ‘her bared breasts and the cleft of her uncovered thigh’, στήθεα γυμνώθεντα καὶ ἀσκεπέος πτύχα μηροῦ. Dionysus’ rape is disturbingly allowed to echo with the perversion of the not-quite-raped dead maenad. This story of barely repressed necrophilia is certainly grotesque and unparalleled as an expression of eros in Greek or Latin literature. It is in literary terms xenon: unexampled in its oddity. The story and its context find strange echoes with at least one important Christian text – the Acts of John, where the dead body of Drusiana – like Chalcomede’s live body – is prevented from sexual desecration by the supernatural appearance of a snake, before she is miraculously resurrected (Acts of John –). Nonnus explicitly aligns the story, however, with a celebrated mythic paradigm from art and literature – Achilles and Penthesileia. This is a paradigm from the future in terms of the story time of the Dionysiaca, but from the deep past in terms of the time of the composition of the Dionysiaca, and from the margins of the Homeric canon. It takes up the paradigm that interweaves love and the moment of death. This appears to have been an archetypal expression of Achilles as a figure of loss – he must always lose his philtatos as he is destined to lose his own young life – combined with  



See also Nonnus Dion. xv  of Hymnos’ desire for Nicaia. Herodotus .  claims in passing that Periander had slept with his wife after she had died, though this is a slur, and an exemplification of the horror of the tyrant (cf. . for Egyptian anxiety about embalmers and beautiful corpses). Parthenius , a truly bizarre text, summarizes the story of Thymoetes who is punished for revealing his wife’s incest, by falling in love with a woman washed up on the beach and having sex with the corpse, stopping only when she becomes too rotten. He commits suicide. In Xenophon of Ephesus , Aigialeus still sleeps with his embalmed wife, but there is no sex mentioned (although the humour may depend on its suggestion). But there is nothing in our extant sources to match the picturing of necrophiliac desire in this passage. See Gourevitch and Gourevitch () (who does not cite Nonnus or the Acts of John, however). The story of Drusiana has recently been discussed by Moretti () and the parallel with Chalcomede noted also by Giraudet (). The most recent and most detailed discussion, however, is Accorinti () (which, however, does not cite Moretti or Giraurdet).

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



Achilles as a figure of kallos, whose role as aristos of the heroes inevitably links him into a series of stories of desire, as Marco Fantuzzi has beautifully shown. In this noble tradition, Achilles feels his remorseful desire at the moment that Penthesileia’s face is revealed from her helmet. For Nonnus’ anonymous soldier, however (and the namelessness must express the significant contrast with the immortal glory of Achilles’ name), the desire is fully and shockingly physicalized: it is her body, her naked body, that he desires; and unlike Achilles, he both touches the body erotically, and wishes even to have sex with it. He can imagine her negative response – externalizing the sense of transgression – but this does not prevent him from continuing to fondle her flesh. It is primarily fear of his commander, Deriades, that stops him from consummating his desire. Yet the scene is constructed first as the description of his feelings by the narrator, and then as the dramatized expression of those feelings. The speech of the soldier paraphrases the narrator’s account in a more expansive manner, increasingly self-aware, and more floridly rhetorical in its wishfulness. The soldier rehearses his description – just as his language rehearses so many of the topoi of erotic narrative – with a twist. (Eroticism is always a performance and a recognition of the language of repetition: oukh hâmin . . . monois, ‘Not for us alone . . .’, as Theocritus begins his tale of Hylas and Heracles (.) – or introduces his playful redeployment of the clichés of desire in the mouth of the young Cyclops of old epic, ‘one of us’, ho par’ âmin (.). Da mi basia milia . . .) The soldier performs so many of the familiar verbal gestures of the frustrated lover with all the expected paradoxes of reversal – yet these clichés become defamiliarized in the scene of necrophilia. The wound of love is here a physical wound; his frustration is because she is dead, not because she has shut him out of her house; her coldness is not the coldness of rejection but the coldness of a corpse. If Latin lovers can say ‘ut vidi, ut perii’ or ‘et vidi et perii’, here death on sight has become an inverted and perverted trope. The grotesque nature of the scene is formed thus in the tension between the clichés of erotic rhetoric and the ‘strange and unbelievable’ perversity of the desire they are applied to. The analogy set up with Homeric myth provokes one set of questions: is necrophilia really ‘just like’ Achilles? Is necrophilia another love story to be articulated in the tropes of erotic poetry? How like a love story is this? How like grim perversity are the clichés of desire? But the repetition with a difference between the narrator’s description of the lover’s desire and the lover’s description of his desire 

Fantuzzi ().



Vergil Ecl .; Ovid Her. ..



Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

adds a further precise question, however, that captures the cultural tension between a Christianizing and classicizing tradition: what does it now mean to repeat the words of the classical tradition of erotics? How different is a paraphrase? The two sets of questions are interrelated. If Nonnus’ narrative poetics engages us in a swirl of mythic paradigms, analogies of each other, in an active reading of the classical tradition, this scene of perverse desire, staged and restaged, also asks what is at stake when such a tradition is paraphrased, repeated, assimilated. This is, perhaps, the most pressing question for a classicizing Christianizing writer. The paradigm of Achilles, a hero not yet born and already the oldest model of love and death, redrafted into a distorted version of itself, and allowed to echo through the framing narrative, as it turns into the expression of a perverse necrophiliac desire, captures something telling, then, about the limits of the preposterous poetics of Nonnus. Nonnus writes in conscious competition with the past and future – νέοισι καὶ ἀρχεγόνοισιν ἐρίζων, ‘contending with new and with old’ (.) – and the figure of the Trojan war and its heroes echo throughout his writing in the performance of such a contest. Here the explicit exemplum of a future Achilles is exaggerated, twisted, exposed – written through, put under erasure as it is deployed, disfigured. The female body, othered as ‘another Penthesileia’, as it is manhandled by the soldier, is marshalled by the text’s martial language into a perversely eroticized object – which draws the reader too into an uncomfortable relation with the topoi of desire, the metaphors by which we love. Preposterous poetics here challenges both the performance of exemplarity and the positioning of the reader.

III The erotics of the gaze, the erotics of the gaze at the scene of martyrdom, the erotics of the gaze at the tortured and wounded body of Jesus, the dead body that is beyond death, all are a source of intense anxiety and discussion for Christians from the beginnings of Christianity, as the transformation of the beholder can become dangerously infected with the longing stare. ‘Seeing and being seen belong to the self-same lust’, as Tertullian passionately insists, in demanding the veiling of young women. Perpetua, who dreams of being stripped naked and becoming a man to wrestle with the  

Brown () remains seminal, and has seeded a large subsequent bibliography, including Castelli (: especially –); Burrus (, ); Cohen (); Cooper (). De vel. virg .

Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death



devil, is led naked with Felicitas into the arena. The crowd is so shocked to see the young girl and the recent mother, milk still dripping from her breasts, that they demand that they are covered up before they face the beasts. So too Thecla is stripped naked, and then, partially covered, her beauty dismays the crowd. Many a saint’s story plays with the erotics of display of the body – Pelagia or Mary of Egypt, say. Contemplation of the martyrs is to embrace such imagery with the arms of the mind, as Augustine puts it, but, normatively, without the damage of erotic (as opposed to positive, spiritual) stimulation. Should, then, the grotesque language of the soldier here in Nonnus be related more precisely to the differently inverted language of Christianity? When the unnamed soldier talks of the ‘lovely wound’, and handles the wound in the side of the object of his desire, do we hear anything of the new valuation of the dead and wounded body of Christ? I do not mean to suggest that the ‘lovely wound’, the ‘wound in the side’, the ‘unnamed soldier’ reflecting on the wound, is language designed to be some sort of parody or contrast or even recognition of any aspect of the Crucifixion narrative. Rather, I think it might well be worth exploring at greater length how the discourse of the tortured body and the erotic or fixed gaze at the tortured body in later antiquity becomes articulated between the Roman world of the games and the Christian reappropriation of such imagery, and how therefore the language of sexual violence in the Dionysiaca might be comprehended within the changing discourse of later antique religion. If, that is, the ideological apparatus of Colluthus and Musaeus can be located, as Helen Morales argues, with an eye towards Augustine’s concern for bodily integrity, not just in the City of God where it is related to actual cases of rape in the sack of Rome, but also in On Lying where he claims that a good Christian would not lie to prevent bodily desecration, how much the more should Nonnus’ lavish and baroque accounts of divine and human sexual violence be comprehended within this shifting world of sexual normativity? If, as we have seen, the transformation of the act of viewing, and through it the metamorphosis of the beholder, is an integral vector of the Christian self-proclamation of the necessary and allembracing transformation of the new religion, should not Nonnus’ repeated scenes of desire-racked viewing speak to such a theoretical and theological understanding of the affectiveness of viewing? If, indeed, Christianity – or at least Tertullian’s heated version of Christianity – demands a radical policing of the desires that stem from looking and are indeed embodied in viewing, is not the language of Nonnus’ ecphrastic, wandering gaze an intervention within such a cultural politics? Is, for

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Preposterous Poetics and the Erotics of Death

example, the explicit analogy between the lustful, staring Indian and Achilles, best of the Achaeans, designed to produce a narrative of the classical tradition that constructs its sexuality as perverse? Does a paraphrase of the inherited language of desire prevent or mitigate complicity with it? How perverse a reader – a viewer – does Nonnus’ verse create? The scene of necrophilia in Book  of the Dionysiaca is deeply unpleasant and disturbing to modern readers, and unparalleled in our extant ancient texts, full though they are of forms of sexual violence towards women. As an initial critical move, I have tried here to read this scene within the context of Nonnus’ particular poetics, not least to explore how the expression of gender and desire is shaped by poetics, and specifically by the form of Nonnus’ paraphrastic expressivity. But we still need a full-scale reading of later antique writing that can appreciate in greater depth how the shifting discourse of the erotics of death and the display of the body is integrally part of the language of the time, a discourse where the interplay between classicizing and Christianizing traditions produces a particularly fertile and febrile space of the imaginary.

 

Strange Dogs Joseph and Aseneth and the Dynamics of Transformation

The central text to be discussed in this chapter is a short, strange, Greek prose work, about which the most fundamental questions remain unresolved. The text is known as Joseph and Aseneth, and it narrates the story of the marriage of the biblical figure of Joseph and his subsequent rule in Egypt. It has been stridently contested whether the work was written from within a Jewish milieu and can be dated as early as the second century BCE, or whether it is a Christian text from as late as the fourth century CE. Moreover, whatever the date or the provenance of Joseph and Aseneth, it is unclear even what the text is for – it cannot be determined what its genre is, or, more productively, how we should understand its function. This is a text that has proved highly provocative for classicists and religious studies scholars, for all that it has never entered the canon of classical literature or the history of religion. One aim of this chapter is not so much to reclaim Joseph and Aseneth for the canon, as to diagnose the ideology that has led to its exclusion. There are at least four fundamental issues of form raised by this fascinating work. First, a central element of the story is Aseneth’s personal transformation from her life as a daughter in an Egyptian priest’s house, where idol worship and Egyptian cultic practice is the norm, to a life committed to the worship of the one God of Joseph – a transformation that is often called a conversion. The first question, then, is what sort of a conversion narrative is this? The word Aseneth herself uses for her change of heart is metanoia, a term which becomes a fundamental element of Christian thinking, starting from John the Baptist’s cry in the desert, metanoeite metanoeite, traditionally translated ‘repent, repent’. Can we place this narrative of transformation on a map of affiliation and commitment – as we see the text being read across centuries of late antiquity during which the practice of conversion and the dynamics of belonging are changing so significantly? Augustine’s Confessions provides the most complex and most brilliant model of how literary form and the understanding of transformation are integrally linked. St Paul’s 

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transformation on the road to Damascus offers a very different paradigm – a silent three-day unconscious trauma as opposed to a highly intellectualized and self-reflective passage of study and emotional change over many years. To ask how the form of a narrative of change fulfils or embodies an ideology of transformation is to go to the heart of how the self is being shaped in late antiquity. Secondly, there are two major recensions of the Greek text of Joseph and Aseneth, a shorter and longer version, as well as translations into seven other languages. The question of what this text is for is complicated by the multiple versions in which it circulates: it is not even clear whether it is right to refer to it as ‘this text’, that is, as a single object. The second issue of form, then, is to reflect on the different configurations of the narrative: what questions of circulation, function and authority are raised by the multiple versions of the story? How and with what purchase are texts transferred between communities and over time? Are different forms of the narrative used in different ways? If my first question is about narratives of personal transformation, my second is about the transformation – the translation – of narratives between different groups, across time. Each of the recensions of the Greek text of Joseph and Aseneth is also a story of the transformation of the Greek text of the Septuagint. The narrative of personal transformation at the level of its literary texture – the level of the sentence, if you will – is also a reworking of the authoritative language of the Pentateuch in its dominant Alexandrian translation. The story of Joseph is one of the most reworked narratives from the Bible, and, as we will see, the engagement of readers with Joseph and Aseneth is mediated through its palimpsestic surface. The third issue of form is thus linguistic. How does the language of Joseph and Aseneth rework and reform – translate – the inherited language of the master text of the Septuagint, itself a contested translation? Form, as this book has been at pains to emphasize, is never simply a formal matter, but always invokes and engages social, cultural and literary self-positioning. My fourth issue with Joseph and Aseneth concerns how it has been read since the nineteenth century. In particular, the starting point for this chapter was my bafflement when I realized that the great work of Arthur Derby Nock, Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo, one of the most influential and compendious studies of conversion in antiquity, does not mention Joseph and Aseneth, although the scene of Aseneth’s transformation is the longest 

Kugel ().

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and most detailed account of metanoia from the ancient world, and metanoia is a key term in Nock’s study. How could such a learned scholar ignore a text which has such an evident claim on his attention? My point is not to knock Nock, but to show how Nock’s silence is motivated and can be understood within a specific Protestant historiography. The example of Nock overlooking Joseph and Aseneth will pose a more general question about the historiography of conversion – from what position does the scholar engage with the form of such narratives? How does the situatedness of the reader inform engagement with the ideology of form? In this chapter, then, and in the next, as we focus more determinedly on prose rather than verse, we focus also on writing that is triangulated between Jewish, Christian and the dominant Greco-Roman cultural norms and affiliations. The discussion of form here is fully part of the cultural history of what we would call religion (my hesitation about using the word ‘religion’ will be clarified shortly), and the growing role of religious commitment in the definition of the self and of social belonging in late antiquity. The transformations of the person are expressed in narrative form; and through the exchange of such narratives, the shifting selfunderstanding of late antiquity is formed: the experience of transformation is informed by the narratives in which it is anticipated, celebrated, debated and recorded. It has become a commonplace that late antiquity is an especially significant era for the West because it is the period when the classical world of Greco-Roman culture is transformed into the world of Christendom, and when rabbinical Judaism, and then Islam is shaped – a history of dynamic interaction, often masked by self-serving claims of purity and transcendence. How personal transformation is articulated and recognized, thus, is a fundamental vector of the cultural history of late antiquity. This is the subject of the current and next chapters.

I It is remarkable how rarely one of the most distinctive and important features of the Bible is recognized, especially by classicists, although it goes to the heart of anything we might mean by a textual culture, a technology of reading, or a practice of interpretation in antiquity. Indeed, it is telling that there is no one single critical term for the phenomenon I am alluding to, though it has been usefully called ‘retelling’ or even ‘paraphrase’. 

Alexander, Lange and Pillinger eds (); Dohrman and Stern eds (); Stella ed (); Zsengellér ed (); Dolezalova and Visi eds ().

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At one level, we could point immediately to the book of Deuteronomy, ‘the second recitation of the law’, that retells the whole history of Israel up to the point of the death of the author. Although Deuteronomy is a fully canonical text, it has been read, since the nineteenth century at least, as an ideological reconstruction of Mosaic law along new and more committed priestly lines. The books of Chronicles and Jubilees also retell the same history, from their own different perspective and subsequent less assured canonical status. At the most specific level, stories and even laws are repeated and reframed within the text: the story of creation is told twice with different emphases in Genesis and not in chronological order. The law not to seethe a kid in its mother’s milk is given once as a banned sacrificial rite and once as part of the regulation of diet – different views of the same prohibition. From another perspective, the Targumim, Aramaic glosses on the biblical texts, or the Septuagint itself, the Greek translation of the Hebrew, are markers of the transitional cultural and linguistic vectors of a society in change, when Hebrew is no longer the vernacular of the community committed to the Hebrew Bible. The Aramaic and Greek translations also tell another version of the Bible. Josephus, firstcentury historian, in his Antiquitates, which is a retelling of the Hebrew Bible in Greek prose, attempted to explain the value of Jewish culture to a non-Jewish audience. Written in Rome for a Greek audience by a Jew who was once the leader of the revolt but who now lived in the imperial palace, Josephus’ paraphrase (as it has been called) is a text of translation as exchange – where the treachery of translation and the treachery of cultural transition and the treachery of political collaboration are never far apart, in the text’s reception at least. Earlier, in Alexandria, Philo, bringing Plato to Judaism, and Judaism to a Greek audience, also straddles cultures, and, in his paraphrastic techniques, shows the emergence of new forms of reading, where allegory, ‘reading otherwise’, becomes a privileged mode. Midrash, an integral mode of rabbinic writing, has been the subject of very sophisticated analysis in contemporary scholarship. Much Midrash, specifically aggadic midrash, starts as a form of interlinear re-reading, finding the gaps in the biblical texts and filling them with stories. The very status of midrash – just how authoritative such stories are – is a deeply contested issue, but midrash becomes fully inscribed within the textual frame of the Talmud. Between translations, paraphrases, historical and cultural   

Rajak (); de Lang, Krivorucjko and Boyd-Taylor eds (). Niehoff (); Dawson (); Struck (); Niehoff (). Boyarin (); Hasan-Rokem (); Jacobs (); Niehoff (); Rubinstein ().

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recalibrations, the Bible appears not so much as a text in stone, as a textual world in a constant state of re-telling, recapitulation, redrafting. Rewriting is what the Bible does and produces. It changes form. This is a crucial framework for appreciating the work of Joseph and Aseneth. In the Pentateuch, Joseph has a particularly memorable and developed narrative – good enough to be made into a musical. But his relationship with Aseneth might seem to be scarcely the stuff of dreams. There is a single, bare sentence in the Bible from which Joseph and Aseneth is spun. It states, in the King James version, ‘and he [Pharaoh] gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On’ (Genesis .). Later in the same chapter (.) it adds: ‘And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah priest of On, bare unto him.’ Joseph and Aseneth seems to have been prompted by two pressing and difficult questions which the text of the Pentateuch fails to answer. First, how could Joseph, a crucial link in the genealogy of Israel, whose two children become the heads of a tribe, have married a non-Jew, as Aseneth, daughter of an Egyptian priest, clearly is? This question becomes increasingly insistent as religious affiliation is determined to pass through the maternal line, and as religious affiliation itself becomes an increasingly contested marker of status in late antiquity: the Pentateuch itself indicates no anxiety over this question. Second, how did a Jew actually rule in Egypt for so many years? Again, a single sentence from the same chapter of Genesis embeds the salient silence: ‘and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt’ (.). What did ruling over Egypt mean for Joseph, and if Joseph ruled what was the succession? Joseph and Aseneth in each of its versions has two main sections which respond to these two questions. The first narrates how Aseneth gave up her religious affiliation to the polytheistic idol worship of the Egyptians and became committed to the one God of Joseph. In Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer the story is recorded that Aseneth is actually the daughter of Dinah, Joseph’s sister, transported by angels to Egypt and adopted there, which is a more miraculous – desperate – attempt to save appearances. In Joseph and Aseneth, it is the personal transformation of Aseneth that brings her into the community of the Jews. The second narrates a series of murderous plots and treacherous power grabs, by which Joseph maintains his power, and how he returns it willingly to the son of the Pharaoh after many years, in order to maintain the stability of the kingdom. Aseneth plays a far reduced role in the second half of the text, although her beauty prompts the son of the Pharaoh to an attempt at violent abduction. At one basic level, then, Joseph and Aseneth has a clear agenda: to rewrite the history of

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Genesis in the form of a midrashic expansion to explain the awkward facts that Joseph’s wife appears to be non-Jewish and that Egypt appears to be given over to a Jew to rule for many years. How can such inconvenient hybridities – as viewed in retrospect – be managed through this new narrative? Like the book of Esther, where the heroine goes to live in the palace of the ruler and thus can work to save her own people from persecution as outsiders, or like the book of Ruth, where the foreign heroine joins the community of Jews and becomes the foremother of David, the boundaries of belonging are a foundational question of the narrative of Joseph and Aseneth. There are many such short prose works from the so-called intertestamental period (and later) which are often catalogued as ‘pseudepigrapha’, and which retell or, more often, supplement biblical narratives. There are also verse works – the Sibylline Oracles is a particularly pertinent example – which, in the form we have them, are constructed out of Jewish and later Christian material, and thus provide testimony of competition as well as hybridity between groups of readers and writers. We may recognize that these texts flourish ‘in the space between Greek and Jewish cultures’ and are ‘characterized by an improvisatory flexibility of form’, but it is necessary here to underline, however, that we simply do not know what these texts are for, especially in the case of texts that find their roots in Hellenistic Judaism (itself an area that is significantly ignored in favour of later rabbinical contexts). We do not know, for example, if they are fictions designed for the pleasurable amusement of a reading class – Joseph and Aseneth is simply called a ‘novel’ by its editor, Philonenko, as if that answered the question (‘the novel’, of course, is not an ancient category). Are these books to be read liturgically – as with the Gospels in Christian worship or the Book of Jonah or Esther or Ruth in Jewish practice? I Maccabees is included in the Septuagint and the Codex Sinaiticus (its presumed Hebrew version does not survive), but is not regarded as canonical by later religious authorities, nor treated as a liturgical text; II Maccabees enjoins the Jews of Egypt to a new cultic rite, and tells the story of Chanukah – but does not itself become a liturgical text, though Chanukah does become a canonical festival. So, are such texts paraliturgical, for reading in a group in the home – for Sabbath afternoons, as it were?   

For the rich afterlife of the biblical Joseph see Kugel (); Niehoff (). The very word intertestamental attempts to force texts into a religious narrative which they transgress. Whitmarsh (: ).

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Or are they enacted as intellectual exercises of understanding, a form of study or of glossing of the Torah: midrashic or aggadic expansion? We do not know how normative these texts set out to be, and what form of authority they proclaim. As we will see, our ignorance of the function of these texts has gone hand in hand with unresolved arguments about their provenance, date and religious affiliation. One aim of this chapter is to reshape these arguments towards a more productive understanding of how such texts may have circulated and been used – and thus what their significance for the cultural history of late antiquity is. In the previous chapters, the works I have been discussing have recognizable names within the classical pantheon: epic, epigram, epyllion, treatise, epistle and so forth. Joseph and Aseneth cannot be so easily named (although classicists, with their love of classification, have tried). The uncertainty about its formal designation matches its unstable form, as it moves between languages, genres and scales of narrative expansion. This mobility, I argue, is key to how its form functions.

II Conversion is currently a very hot topic both in the academic analysis of the past and in the most pressing contemporary religious controversies (often signalled by the word ‘radicalization’). Consequently, we need to frame our discussion of Joseph and Aseneth and the scene of Aseneth’s transformation with especial care. Conversion is a phenomenon, and, as such, needs a historically and culturally sensitive phenomenology. There are at least six crucial frameworks that contribute to such an endeavour when it comes to antiquity, and thus how we might comprehend the form of Joseph and Aseneth. The first framework is most general, the category of religion. Brett Nongbri and, most recently, Carlin Barton and Daniel Boyarin have constructed polemical and challenging arguments that the idea of religion itself is both anachronistic and distorting for so-called pagan antiquity 

The Davis Centre at Princeton ran a two-year programme on Conversion (Mills and Grafton a and b); Oxford held a Mellon-Sawyer seminar on conversion (Papaconstantinou and Schwartz ); Ben Gurion University has a Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-religious Encounters (http://in.bgu.ac.il/en/csoc/Pages/About.aspx); McGill has led a programme on Early Modern Conversions (http://earlymodernconversions.com); the University of York’s Centre for Renaissance and early Modern Studies has an AHRC project entitled ‘Conversion Narratives in the early Modern World’. See also Morrison (a, b); Stromberg (); Assmann and Stroumsa ed (); Katznelson and Rubin eds (); Lambert (); Lavee (); Sassoon (); Thiessen ().

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(though many Anglican theologians will be familiar with such arguments in nuce from Nicholas Lash’s work, for example). For these scholars it is only in Protestant Christianity that religion becomes a timeless and universal category, and, indeed, only in the Reformation or even in the Enlightenment, with its contact with and study of ‘other religions’, hardened by the imperialism and Protestant expansionism of the nineteenth century, that religion could be opposed to religion, or religion to secularism, in a significant manner. At one rather general level, such arguments are familiar and parallel to attacks on terms such as ‘pagan’ or ‘polytheism’, which are recognized as persuasive categories dependent on hierarchical and self-serving oppositions rooted in Christian apologetics. Theologians, along with historians, have long recognized the dangers of misrecognizing specifically Protestant conceptual biases in religious historiography. It has also thus become a topos of classical historians that ‘religion’ is not a bounded field in either Greek or Roman antiquity (although, as Boyarin and Barton note, this does not mean that the histories written, despite such demurrals, do not go on to utilize the category of religion freely and structurally). As such, we should indeed be careful about the promiscuous and appropriative assumption that religion is a natural or necessary category for Greek culture or our analysis of it. At another more detailed level, however, for the study of ancient Greek society at least, it is necessary also to resist a nominalism focused on the word threskeia, which both Nongbri and Barton and Boyarin regard as a foundational term for their analysis. Threskeia is a rare term in the texts of any period before Christianity, implies a ritual service rather than a general field of behaviour or belief, and to focus on it obscures other ways in which an understanding of a relation between man and god, ritual and belonging, can be articulated as a general idea. Threskeia is not self-evidently the best place from which to pursue the semantics of how Greeks of any ancient period engaged with the sphere of human–divine interaction. When Protagoras wrote his scandalous fifth-century BCE treatise on such matters it was known as peri tôn theôn, ‘On the Gods’; when the chorus of Oedipus Tyrannus wonder about the cosmic consequences of a failed oracle, they declare errei de ta theia (Soph OT ), which could be rendered ‘the structure of our sense of the divine collapses’ (it is often tendentiously translated ‘religion is destroyed’ vel sim). Neither of these Greek phrases  

Nongbri (); Barton and Boyarin (); Lash (). See Goldhill (a), with further bibliography.

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corresponds exactly to religion, but both are generalizing about a structure of beliefs and practices that humans adopt towards the divine. How such generalizing functions and what its vocabulary is has not been fully discussed by Nongbri or by Barton and Boyarin. Yet the challenge to ‘imagine no religion’ raised by Nongbri, Barton and Boyarin is especially helpful when it comes to conversion. If conversion is defined, as Nock defines it, as demanding ‘renunciation and a new start . . . not merely acceptance of a rite, but the adhesion of the will to a theology, in a word faith, a new life in a new people’, a matter of ‘belong[ing] body and soul’ to a religious group and its beliefs, it would seem not merely that proper conversion is defined by a Protestant norm, but also – and most pertinently – that there is a risk of defining conversion as an individual experience (defined by ‘will’ and ‘faith’), which is therefore at an essential level interior and to be understood as a ‘theological’ event. So, Nock defines conversion as ‘the reorientation of the soul of an individual’. From such a start, it follows that sincerity, integrity and feeling will become necessary criteria of evaluation – what Lambert nicely calls the ‘evangelism of interiority’. Since we began this book by noting the importance of Hegel on the history of the concept of form, we should underline – and no more – that Hegel’s Geistesgeschichte which tells of the evolution of form is also a religious history with a teleology culminating in a post-Lutheran Protestant Christianity, that lauds a ‘beauty of inwardness’ (Schönheit der Innigkeit). Nock’s idea of conversion is ideologically indebted to an idealist tradition – an understanding of the historical development of form – that is itself formed by religious commitments. Such expectations make Josephus’ descriptions of conversion, for example, look anomalous. He repeatedly suggests only two public, external criteria for becoming Jewish, namely, circumcision and living under the laws or customs of the Jews, and he generally describes communities, not individuals, entering such a process. So, for example, he describes the conditions under which the Idumaeans could continue to live in their country as εἰ περιτέμνοιντο τὰ αἰδοῖα καὶ τοῖς Ἰουδαίων νόμοις χρῆσθαι θέλοιεν (Ant xiii .), ‘If they would be genitally circumcised and be willing to live under the customs/laws of the Jews’; glossed as τὴν περιτομὴν καὶ τὴν ἄλλην διαίτην . . . τὴν αὐτὴν Ἰουδαίοις – ‘circumcision and the rest of the way of life . . . the same as the Jews’, where diaitê, ‘way of life’, suggests   

  See Whitmarsh (). Nock (: ). Nock (: ).  Lambert (: ). Hegel (: i ). Schwartz (); Mason (: –); Cohen ().

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that nomois should be read as much as ‘customs’ as ‘[ritual] laws’ (cf. ἔθη (Ant ..)). Although the compelled choice of behaviour here is described as ‘being willing to’, there is no suggestion that what is at stake is ‘adhesion of will to a theology’, or of belonging in one’s soul to a structure of belief: it is rather a political affiliation, a group process, and a physical, externally monitored action. Individuals too, on rare occasions, are described as Judaizing. So Metilius, threatened with death by a Jewish mob, promises to ‘Judaize to the point of circumcision’ (BJ ). This probably indicates that circumcision is regarded as the extreme commitment of ‘Judaizing’ – but it is a desperate entreaty made to save his life. Most famously, Queen Helena of Adiabene and her son separately decide to ‘change their life-style to the customs of the Jews’, εἰς τὰ τῶν Ίουδαίων ἔθη τὸν βίον μετέβαλον (AJ ..) –which is translated in the Loeb simply and misleadingly as ‘convert’. Both mother and son have come into contact with Jewish merchants or travellers and are impressed by the form of worship among the Jews. Izates, the son, when he hears that his mother too favours Jewish cult practice, indicates that he wants to be circumcised to prove himself firmly, solidly Jewish (bebaiôs Ioudaios) (..). He is at first persuaded by both his mother and the Jewish merchant that this might cause political problems for him as king, if the people were to hear that he had adopted such customs. If he is committed (zêloun – a word of political urgency for Josephus, who writes the dangerous history of the zealots) to the ancestral customs (patria) of the Jews, that is sufficient, claims the Jewish merchant. But another Jewish traveller arrives, who was strict about the law, and insists that Izates must get circumcised – and he does. It is interesting that the manuscripts differ in their reading here – is the second Jewish traveller akribês, ‘strict’, ‘precise’, or eusebês, ‘pious’? Is it ‘strictness’ to the letter of the law, or a more general ‘piety’ that motivates? Either way, when the traveller finds Izates ‘reading the law of Moses’, he insists that he then follow the law, and Izates concurs. He does not go on to experience the political problems anticipated by his mother. This passage has been much discussed in relation to Jewish law in the first century. But two things are clear: first, circumcision is perceived as the ultimate gesture of Judaizing, a commitment which is understood to be following the customs that are traditional and inscribed in the Torah, the book of Moses. But it is also conceivable to Judaize without circumcision, especially out of political exigency, and the need to be circumcised can be debated, in terms of piety or strictness. Second, however strictly the law is demanded, there is no debate or consideration of inward motivation or change of heart – nor any instant

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moment of total change. Both Queen Helena and her son are persuaded to follow practices (ethê). Neither joins a community, though both act philanthropically to help the community of Jerusalem, and both visit Jerusalem. Izates continues to rule as king over a non-Jewish community. There is no concern for internal, psychological or ideological change, and no mention of any category that could be translated as religion. To be ‘firmly Ioudaios’ implies that there is a possibility of being less firmly Jewish – as indeed we hear of God-fearers and other levels of commitment to Jewish customs in the Greco-Roman world. Engagement in a community or in a community’s rituals can take place on a sliding scale. We might therefore ask: is it possible to conceive of a model of conversion without committing to an anachronistic idea and ideal of religion? Does conversion inevitably come loaded with associations of internal spiritual transformation from its formation in the conflicts between Catholic and Protestant confessions? If Christianity from its earliest days has a fully developed notion of conversion into a new religious self, is not Christianity to be regarded as the anomaly to be explained, rather than as the norm against which to judge the rest of the Mediterranean world? Indeed, our repeated modern arguments about the dividing of the ways – the moment when Christianity could be said to have fully separated itself ritually and conceptually from Judaism – might be best understood as a response to an ancient and long-running clash between different models of transformation, where what is back-sliding or dangerous hybridity or failure to commit ‘body and soul’ for one group might be normal social negotiation of difference and normal variety of ritual participation for another group. The complexity of our evidence could be explained as a sign and symptom of such a clash of understandings: contrasting and competing rhetorics of ‘true belonging’ are an integral element of the transformations involved as Christianity and Judaism continue to change over time, and also demand different commitments and logics of inclusion between different groups in time – while often disavowing any such change in their self-representation. The second framework that needs consideration is the narrative of conversion, on which much has been written in particular for later eighteenth-century Protestants, or working-class Christians, or doubt-ridden intellectuals of the nineteenth century – and, of course, for the men and women of both Latin Christianity (Augustine, Perpetua, for example) and Greek Christianity (Paul, Thecla, for example). The phenomenology of 

See for examples: Caldwell (); Hindmarsh (); Heady (); Larsen ().

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conversion is mediated as a social event through narrative, and narrative has its type-scenes and topoi – and any narrative form has its ideological and epistemological commitments. Thus, narratives of conversion have repeatedly privileged a moment of rupture (and rapture) as the turning point in a personal story of change, creating a ‘before’ of sin and an ‘after’ of bornagain transcendence. Paul on the road to Damascus is one paradigm for this model of transformation. He is struck off his horse, and lies silent and comatose for three days, before arising a new man, now a friend of Christ rather than his enemy. (Interestingly, as told in Acts, however, there is no vocabulary of conversion to express this transformative moment, and as Fredriksen has cogently argued, Paul may better be viewed as experiencing a ‘prophetic call’.) Such stories do not allow for long processes of doubt and confusion, or hesitancy or assimilation. Like the advertisements of bodybuilding equipment that display before and after pictures of bulgy, shameful, unaesthetic bodies contrasting with happy, perfected corporeality, without dwelling on the months of narcissistic labour required to transform the one into the other, such narratives of conversion (even and especially for the athletes of the soul, the ascetics) have an evident ideological investment in promoting the idea of a clean divide and instant recognition of absolute change, ‘body and soul’. So, Thecla in Acts of Paul and Thecla sits for three days and nights by an open window and hears the voice only of Paul. The span of three days – as with Paul’s crisis on the road to Damascus – symbolically rehearses the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection, and – also as with Paul – is spent in a coma (ekplêxis) of silence. Other women may come and go to see Paul, as do the men, but for Thecla there is no danger of any sexual allurement, traditionally expressed through sight in Greek erotics (though later, more dangerously, she visits him alone in prison and kisses his chains). Despite the fact that her estranged fiancé and mother in their misunderstanding call this a ‘new-fangled desire and strange passion’, which goes against the ‘modesty of a virgin’, it is described by the narrator as a profoundly chaste and spiritual experience. But this three days represents a moment, where the before of a rich, family life with the expectation of marriage is contrasted absolutely with the after of a chaste life of a Christian virgin dedicated to Christ: a symbolic death and rebirth. The word of God through the mouth of Paul is instantaneously effective in transforming the soul and life of Thecla.  

 Frederiksen (). See Johnston (); Cooper (: –); Heath (: –). See Cooper (), with Goldhill (: ff ).

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Augustine in the Confessions has a far more complex narrative of hesitations, false choices and unwillingness to proceed instantaneously towards a new religious life (cras, cras, ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’, is the watchword for his resistance to chastity, the celebrated prayer for ‘not yet’). Indeed, although the extraordinary scene in the garden when the voice of a child’s game instructs him tolle lege, and his mind is ‘instantaneously’ (statim) flooded with relief when finishing a sentence of Paul, has often been understood as a further paradigm of immediate and total transformation, it is not only framed by the long narrative of incipient change and false starts and ignorances, but also followed by a long discussion of memory and time, which reveals how unwise it would be to see Augustine committed to a notion of ‘the moment’ – as the present becomes the past as it is recognized, and its experience always anticipated and recalled in the act of intellection, and partial in the act of narration. These narratives of conversion are shaped by theories of time, which are themselves products of contemporary science as much as contemporary cosmology or fiction – and this is my third frame. So it is impossible to understand Augustine’s narrative of conversion without his complex, theologically informed theory of time, just as the model of the Fall, and its construction of a time of sin and a time of purity, lies behind conversion narratives which are dominated by the moment of rupture. So too Josephus’ ideas of the boundaries of ethnic affiliation and continuity of community tradition, its idea of political time, inform his narrative of the transformation of the Idumaeans. Equally, for Cassidorus, if we wish to open a window onto early medieval religiosity, to be a conversus, a man turned towards Jesus, conversion is an ongoing and continuous process of religious growth: ‘the soul [is] converted by an unstable and shifting will, nor does it abide in one firm purpose of the will, but even against its own disposition is changed in its orientation [se conversione mutari]’ [de an. .–]. The temporality of the monk’s regula is a constant effort of conversion: the precarious construction of the self in its dynamic relation to God. The contrast between a narrative of conversion that insists on rupture and a narrative of conversion that insists on emergence, our currently dominant model of change, is eloquent. When conversions are viewed ‘not as mental events . . . but as social processes’, and when it is recognized that even ‘The Emperor [Constantine] comes to his god at his  

See most recently Conybeare () with further bibliography; Kennedy (: –); Brown (). McLynn () .

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Strange Dogs

own speed’, the ideological and epistemological groundings of the selfrepresenting Christian narrative of the ruptural moment of conversion become evident. The form of a narrative of conversion depends on its theory of time and change. The fourth framework for comprehending what is at stake in narratives of conversion concerns the nexus of ideas around agency and self-consciousness. For Josephus, the Idumaeans become ‘nothing other than Jews’ when (and because) Hyrcanus offers them the choice of exile from their fatherland, or the opportunity to stay if they circumcise and follow Jewish customs. Hyrcanus forces the choice, and the decision is one of collective political will motivated by their strong desire to live in their ancestral lands. By contrast, Augustine picks up and reads the crucial, transformative sentence of Paul by chance, and the children’s shout of tolle lege is no more than perhaps the voice of a game, just as Anthony’s retreat to the desert was motivated by the chance (forte) reading of the Gospel’s words ‘go, sell all you have’, and Ponticianus’ story of the soldiers’ conversion (in turn) by reading Anthony is also marked by casual chance (Conf .): ‘Nebridius was absent for a reason I cannot recall [non recolo causam]’, Ponticius wanted ‘something or other [nescioquid]’, but noticed a book on the desk ‘by chance [forte]’, which turned out to his surprise (inopinate/ miratus) to be a text of Paul. This is not just an éffet de réel of life’s arbitrary unfurling, but the narrative of grace, central to Augustine’s theology of conversion. Later in his life, Augustine regretted that he had used words like ‘forte’ so often, religiously acceptable though they are (he is talking specifically about his contra Academicos, but the point is generalizable), and reiterates that there is always a hidden plan (occulto ordine) in events, always Providence (Retractiones .). God is the instrumental force in conversion, a force that can be a violent grace (χάρις βίαιος, as Aeschylus would have it (Aga )) of the sort Paul experienced when thrown from his horse. Conversion cannot be internally willed, nor simply chosen, but only experienced as grace. The contrast of Hyrcanus and Augustine poses a set of essential questions that run through the history of missionary activity endemic to Christian practice: can conversion be forced? Is it a matter of internal or external motivation? Are there instrumental agents of God’s grace or is it only God’s grace that converts? Can conversion be regulated or authorized, and if so how is external authority and internal self-awareness to be mobilized and evaluated as 

McLynn (: ).

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competing or complementary criteria? Is the religion of the ruler inevitably and properly the religion of the land? But perhaps the most pressing repression in such narratives of conversion is the rarity of a dialogic expression of what is essentially a dynamic process between a convertor and the converted. That is, we have many narratives of conversion which are told from the point of view of the converted, either autobiographically or as a third-person retrospective. The focus is on the internal or personal experience of transformation as experienced (or, more accurately, as narrated in retrospect). More rarely, there are narratives focalized through the convertors, most readily available in accounts of missionary activity (including self-critical and hostile accounts, as with Las Casas’s excoriating criticism of Spanish murderousness in the New World). Stories of failed conversion are much rarer, which helps underline the inevitable teleology of narratives of conversion. Most attempts at dramatized dialogue, as in the case of Justin Martyr’s dialogue with Trypho, are barely concealed apologetics. The consequence of such onesidedness is a repeated partiality in narratives of conversion: exchange becomes monologue. The fourth framework, then, asks how narratives of transformation can pay due attention to both the agents of transformation and the transformed; to the self-consciousness of the active forces of change as well as those keen to tell of their experience of change. The fifth framework focuses on the necessary retrospection of narratives of conversion. As Fredriksen has written incisively on accounts of the converted, the: content of the conversion does not lie in the clear moment of radical change that the classic literature presents to us. That moment exists only retrospectively . . . To see a content-filled moment of conversion is to have constructed a narrative whereby that moment emerges as the origin of (and justification for) one’s present . . . The convert thus sees the subsequent events in his life in light of his conversion; but, à l’inverse, his description of his conversion should be read in light of those subsequent events.

In short, ‘the conversion account is both anachronistic and apologetic’. This process of retrospective rewriting is also integral to the history – the self-comprehension – of conversion. So, as we have already noted (following Fredriksen), the Lucan Acts already rewrite Paul’s own records with a new emphasis on conversion; Augustine in his turn  

 See Pagden (). Frederiksen (: ). Frederiksen (: ); see also Kennedy (: –).

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redrafts his understanding of Paul; the medieval theorists rewrite their Augustine and through him antiquity, as the Renaissance and the Reformation fundamentally remodel conversion, and the evangelical missionary movements of the nineteenth century with their context of the newly fashioned ideals of secularism, science and critical history again reformulate the stakes and narrative of conversion. Rewriting is always, interminably, open to re-reading and further rewriting. There is a certain precarity and, with it, a consequent, heightened investment in integrity, in the retrospective narration of conversion. In writing one’s own death – like Moses? – and rebirth, can one avoid an anticipation of a question about the reliability of the narrator? It is hard, therefore, to write a history of conversion without self-implication – not just in the sense that any history is told from the point of view of the present, but in the more precise sense that a history of conversion is always already joining a long line of histories of the self in transition, and depends, as we have seen, on conceptualizations of time, rupture, agency and identity – the self in action. We historians offer a retrospection of such retrospections, rewrite the rewritten, and this doubled gaze is the condition of our writing. The sixth framework has been implied throughout the first five: namely, to what does the language of conversion commit its users, and what alternatives are there? In English, conversion is an especially rich term. Conversion implies either will (the weather changes but cannot convert or be converted), or a (complete) change of state due to an external agency: thus lead can, with the right alchemy, be converted to gold. Similarly, with perhaps less effort, we convert dollars to yen. Conversion also has a set of delimited technical understandings: in rugby, extra points are scored when a try is converted by kicking a conversion; similarly in logic, psychiatry and law, for example, there are localized uses of conversion as a termus technicus. Conversion between religions, as we have already seen, also demands ideals of sincerity and internal comprehension, with corresponding anxieties of epistemological certainty and social regulation. A metamorphosis, however, even when it involves a complete alteration of state, implies a process of change, and such processes are lovingly dwelt on by Ovid in his epic poem, Metamorphoses, which proved to be one of the most influential texts from antiquity for the Renaissance. Since Kafka, too, metamorphosis has become a key figuration of personal identity and the boundaries of the self: however instantaneous the bodily change, the process of comprehension is the focus and is long drawn out. Transformation, change, alteration, each allows for process, and each may or may not imply either a new state or a recalibration of existing conditions: the literal sense of a change of

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form is rarely far away with transformation; change or alteration (except where tailoring is concerned) seem the least marked terms. The Greek word I will be most concerned with in the second section of this chapter, however, is metanoia. This is not the place for a full-scale philological analysis of this term, on which much has been written, but some brief lineaments of its semantic range are necessary. The degree to which metanoia indicates an idea of conversion has proved fundamental in discussions of its normative force. In classical Greek and its imperial avatars, the noun metanoia and the verb metanoiein, as the etymology suggests, denotes no more than a change of mind. So, paradigmatically, the Athenian assembly in Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian war changes its mind and goes against its own bloodthirsty decision of the previous day to slaughter all the men of Mitylene (.); similarly in Polybius (..), the Dardaneans change their mind and Philip reacts accordingly. The verb in particular often has the connotation of regret, or repentance in such a change, in as much as the change of mind is motivated. Metanoia appears as a personified abstraction first in the Pinax of Cebes (a text Nock does discuss, which also highlights his surprising silence about Joseph and Aseneth). There, the turning point of the allegorical story of the soul is its acceptance of metanoia: the soul has to want to change. But it is in scriptural texts that metanoia becomes most interesting. In the Septuagint’s translation of the Pentateuch, the word metanoia does not occur: even in the story of the rape of Dinah (Genesis ), where Shechem and his family are asked to become circumcised and (thus) ‘become like’ the Hebrew family of Jacob, there is no language or implication of conversion in the text (however intently later commentaries reappropriated the tale for such an agenda). Indeed, to the dismay of later commentators, even when the issue might seem pressing – Moses marrying a Cushite woman, for example; or indeed, Joseph marrying Aseneth – the Torah shows no interest in any ritual or any discourse or any activity of conversion. Indeed, as we have seen, the rabbinical commentary of Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer prefers a miraculous story of Dinah’s daughter being transported to Egypt by angels and adopted by Potiphar-On rather than imagining any tale of conversion. Where the King James translation has made repentance familiar – for example, ‘And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him 

Apart from the standard biblical dictionaries, see Lambert (); Morgan (); Sterling (); Stroumsa (); Winston (), as well as the older generations of e.g. Dirksen (); Behm and Wu¨rtheim ().

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at his Heart’ (Gen .) – the verbs nacham (a common word in the Torah which indicates ‘relent’, ‘change one’s mind’, ‘feel compassion’, ‘comfort’) and yitatsav (atsav, ‘to be pained’, ‘vexed’), in the Septuagint are rendered with surprising flatness as enthumeomai and dianoeomai, ‘be angry’ and ‘ponder’. Metanoia is simply not an issue for the Greek Pentateuch. In the Prophets, however, both the verb metanoiein and the noun metanoia occur with some frequency. There is a marked pattern in this usage. The noun and verb, often associated with the verbs epistrephomai, ‘turn towards’ or, less commonly, apostrephomai, ‘turn away’, almost always imply a change of mind away from what the prophet sees as sin and towards what the prophet views as the proper path, a path formerly followed: a change of mind away from the wrong and towards the good. It is often thus translated as repent; but the sense of ‘change of mind’ (towards a better course) is strongly present: so God is said to change his mind (Jerome ., ., ., where it is less clear, theologically or rhetorically, that repentance, at least with any recognition of sin, is a suitable translation); and in Amos (., .) the Prophet twice exhorts God metanoêson, ‘change your mind’ – a text where translations regularly conceal the force and sense of the repeated imperatives, a hesitation again motivated by what might seem insistent theological anxieties. In Jonah, a text sufficiently associated with repentance to be the liturgical reading on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, metanoia is used strikingly – again – only of God’s change of heart with regard to the destruction of Ninevah, and not of Jonah’s regrets or the repentance of the citizens of Ninevah. The ‘Prayer of Manasseh’, a short pseudepigraphic text which may well come from a similar milieu to Joseph and Aseneth, and which, like Joseph and Aseneth, appears to be an expansion from a perceived lacuna in the text of the Hebrew Bible, repeatedly prays for God to change his mind – metanoein – and not punish the suppliant Manasseh for his transgressions. Metanoia signals a prophetic call to change one’s ways or a plea to God to reverse a decision. There is no indication or assumption of any practice or process of conversion from one state to another or one  



See Lambert (); Sassoon (). Sterling (: ) unaccountably declares: ‘Some texts state unequivocally that God does not metanoein’. The three passages he cites, Jer. ., Zech . (he misprints this as .) and  Kings ., each refer to specific occasions in the future or past when God declares he will not or has not changed his mind, and thus assume precisely that God could change his mind. Verse , in copies after the two earliest manuscripts, has an extra line, emphasizing even more strongly the language of repentance. Assuming that this is an addition, it probably indicates the increasing importance of a discourse of repentance, especially as this text is further used within Christian communities. See Davila (), whose doubts are better founded than his conclusions.

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religion to another, but a turning back to what is already known or asserted to be the right way. Its usage summons not an issue of identity but an issue of behaviour. When the Gospels open with the strident call metanoeite in the mouth of John the Baptist – ‘repent ye’ – it is with the same prophetic force as the Prophets. John calls for the people to reject their sinful ways and return to the proper ways of the Lord. ‘Repentance’, unlike ‘conversion’, does not presuppose taking on a new identity, but of regretting one’s current behaviour and going back – that’s the ‘re-’ – to the accepted understanding of what the good is. Jesus follows John’s cry for repentance. It becomes a standard term of Christian rhetoric. Yet, as we have noted, even the story of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus as told in Acts is not marked out linguistically by any of the language of conversion (or even of metanoia). Paul can call to Greeks and Jews together for τὴν εἰς τὸν θεὸν μετανοίαν, ‘repentance towards God’ (and faith in Jesus) (Acts .), and describe his mission as encouraging an epistrophê (‘turning towards’, sometimes rendered ‘conversion’, though epistrephomai regularly means no more than to turn into a street or a doorway) – but it is in later readings of Paul, from an era when conversion to Christianity from either a Greek (‘gentile’/‘pagan’) or Jewish life had become a social and religious imperative, that the strong association of Paul with conversion in the full sense that Nock, for example, would desire, takes shape. As Fredriksen and others have shown, this re-reading of Paul is already present in the Lucan Acts themselves. The language of conversion, like the rituals of conversion, takes a long time to develop, although the language of assimilation or even initiation into a group is repeatedly present, and, as with any group, rituals of assimilation, both formal and informal, take place. Metanoia, that is, is a rhetorically potent term precisely because it assumes not so much a conversion as a return to a true and better self. It performs a persuasive complicity. It does not presuppose two ritually and conceptually different states but rather that we all know what is the right way, God’s way, and that returning to the good is a moral option, an option to be taken up: it is a choice. Later Christian writing, possibly bolstered by Plotinus’ Neo-Platonic use of metanoia, and strengthened by increasing institutional stability, produces a developed network of ideas and practices of conversion. Repentance, metanoia, becomes a crucial step on the path to conversion. But it is extremely dangerous either to read such  

In marked contrast to the discussion of conversion in the rabbis: Hayes (); Sassoon (). Frederiksen (), with further bibliography.

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comprehension back into earlier usage or to oversimplify the timescale or complexity of the development itself. A final example will demonstrate the need for caution in this area. The Fourth Sibylline Oracle contains an injunction to wretched humans to change their ways (metathesthe ) and not to anger God. They are enjoined to give up (methentes ) their weapons and outrages, and ‘to wash their whole body in ever-flowing rivers’ (). Then they should pray and beg forgiveness; then God ‘will give metanoia and will not destroy you; he will stop his anger again, if you all practise honourable piety in your hearts’ (–). As with much of the Sibylline Oracles, the date and provenance of the text is contentious, and arguments have often been oversimplified into competing claims of a Christian or Jewish origin – a simplification of affiliation especially damaging for the texts of so-called Hellenistic Judaism. The standard translation and commentary on this passage, however, offers the heading ‘Baptism and Conversion’, and cites John the Baptist as the ‘most obvious’ parallel for the eschatological cleansing and transformation of the self. Yet the Greek is far less clear than such a Christianizing reading suggests. Humans are enjoined to bathe their whole bodies in ever-flowing rivers: within a Jewish context this evokes the mikveh, the ritual bath for which full body immersion is required in water that must be continuously flowing. Such ritual immersion is a necessary prelude to certain ritual performances. To read aenaos, especially when applied to rivers, to mean ‘eternal’, rather than ‘ever-flowing’, is to be overly influenced by much later usage (perhaps even the famous pro- and anti-Evangelical arguments in the nineteenth century about ‘eternal’ punishment for sinners, which rested precisely on the translation of aenaos). It could, of course, also be a metaphorical plea for cleansing. More importantly for our current argument, however, the phrase ‘God will give metanoia’ does not necessarily mean ‘God will grant you humans the grace of your repentance’, as the Christianizing reading insists, but can mean ‘God will give you the gift of his change of mind’ (as in Jeremiah and Jonah and the ‘Prayer of Manasseh’): the sentence continues ‘and will not destroy you’, which makes this reading of God’s change of mind more grammatically and semantically likely, as there is no change of subject: indeed the use of oude (θεὸς δώσει μετάνοιαν οὐδ᾽ ὀλέσει, ‘God will give metanoia and not destroy’ (–))   

See the introduction to Lightfoot (). For the connections with Greco-Roman philosophy see van Noorden (, ). Charlesworth (: ad loc). Iconically, F.D. Maurice was sacked from his chair at King’s College, London, for suggesting aenaos did not necessarily mean ‘everlasting’ punishment for sinners: see Morris ().

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makes the continuity very likely (and palin, ‘again’, (‘cease from his anger again’ ()) may indeed refer back to these other archetypal scenes of God changing his mind). In either case, metanoia here follows the usage in the prophetic texts: either it refers to God changing his mind, or it refers to humans giving up violence and returning to the correct form of behaviour. To read it as ‘conversion’ seems a perfect example of retrospective, ideologically motivated reappropriation – and a good example of how hard it is to read the texts of metanoia within the history of narratives of transformation and with due concern for the charged and changing languages of conversion. To understand the form of the narrative of transformation in Joseph and Aseneth requires these six frameworks. For any history of metanoia, moreover, Joseph and Aseneth is a key text, a text that marks a specific juncture in the value of the language of internal transformation, the demand for ritual enactment to achieve such social and moral change, and the representation of the spiritual status of inclusion within a religious community – and it is to Joseph and Aseneth that I now turn.

III The narrative of Joseph and Aseneth provides the longest discussion of metanoia extant from antiquity. Before turning to the scene of metanoia, however, we need a word or two about the text itself, not least because its date and provenance have proved so contentious for contemporary scholarship – and because the constitution of the text is fundamental to the question of its form and function. Joseph and Aseneth is transmitted in texts written in Greek and also in seven other languages (Syriac, Armenian, Latin (two versions), Romanian, Ethiopian, Serbian-Church Slavic, NeoGreek). It would be easy to conclude that the number of versions indicates that Joseph and Aseneth was a popular story over a considerable geographical and chronological range, though, as we will see, such a reasonable conclusion precisely occludes the most difficult and interesting questions of the status and dissemination of the text – the degree to which Joseph and Aseneth can indeed even be regarded as a single and integral text. There are two major recensions of the Greek text, a longer and shorter version (and, indeed, each manuscript reveals, beyond any scribal errors, significant differences of expression and focus). Consequently, it has been 

See Burchard (); Philonenko (); and more provocatively and interestingly Selden (), who also includes much later translations in his conspectus of versions.

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Strange Dogs

debated first whether the text should be regarded as a Greek or even a Greco-Egyptian work, or whether there is a Semitic (Aramaic or possibly Hebrew) version from which the Greek is derived. Secondly, the double recension – something we see also with other pseudepigrapha – has prompted a thoroughly predictable and strident division in the scholarship, between those who declare that it is evident that the longer text sets out to solve some of the problems of the shorter text’s narrative by expansion and clarification, and thus is clearly derivative from it; and those who insist that the shorter text is clearly a summary, designed to clarify and sharpen the narrative of the longer text and therefore is derivative. Neither group of scholars has been able to provide any knock-down philological argument to persuade each other (or less committed scholars). More importantly, neither group of scholars has wondered sufficiently about their models of literary production, which depend on traditional post-Lachmann stemmatic determinations of priority and dependence, rather than interaction and transformation – for all that the text itself is focused on a narrative of the dynamics of transformation. Indeed, this is a text that travels and changes as it travels – over time and space and languages: a translatio narrationis. It is used and reused by different communities; and it is changed as it is reused. As with a text like the Alexander Romance, it would be better to conceptualize the dissemination and use of the ‘Joseph and Aseneth’ story not through a stemmatic model of privileged original composition (with its attendant ideology of an individual author’s proprietary authority) and subsequent variation through second-hand translation or through epitome/expansion (with its equally ideological dismissal of the epigonal or derivative), but rather as a type of ‘traditionary process’, a nonlinear, rhizomatic dissemination of ‘textual formation and textual interpretation’, where each reiteration of the ‘Joseph and Aseneth’ text is an interpretative, culturally nuanced response to the silenced questions of the Pentateuch’s narrative, a form of aggadic expansion, and an engagement with other such responses. It is not just ‘located at multiple sites of cultural production’, as Dan Selden smartly observes, but also in a state of ‘perpetual translation’. In short, as the language and institutions of metanoia shift over time and between communities, so the form and/or use and/or 

 

The arguments of Burchard () and Philonenko () are regularly – ritually – recycled. See Humphrey (); Chesnutt (, ); Fink () most recently has argued strenuously that the shorter version is not only derivative but extremely late; and in a broader context of analysis see Reinmuth ed ().  Najman (). See Kugel () for the history of such responses to the Joseph story. Selden (: ).

Joseph and Aseneth and The Dynamics of Transformation



understanding of Joseph and Aseneth is adapted and translated: a story of change, exchanged. This non-stemmatic model of how texts are circulated and reformulated, conceptually and materially, will also help with the second question of how the text of Joseph and Aseneth is to be conceived. The Greek text (whether the shorter or longer recension is given privilege) is generally agreed to be the earliest extant version, but it has been dated to various eras between the second century BCE and the fourth century CE – in a manner closely implicated in the postulation of the religious affiliation of the text’s author and presupposed audience. It is clear enough that the two parts of the text – Aseneth’s metanoia and the military adventure story of Joseph – respond to questions posed by the gaps of the Bible’s narrative: namely, how did Joseph come to marry a woman who is patently nonJewish? And, secondly, how do we imagine Joseph’s power enacted in Egypt? How does a Jew fit into the succession narratives so familiar from the Hellenistic kingdom’s historical narratives? But how Joseph and Aseneth embodies a cultural politics remains deeply contested. Gideon Bohak is convinced that the text comes from the second century BCE and is not only a Jewish text, but also closely associated with Onias’ temple at Heliopolis. For him, thus, it has a specifically located political and religious purchase. Hicks-Keeton also places it in Hellenistic Alexandria, sometime after  BCE, but argues that the work functions more generally as a normative contribution to issues of assimilation and inclusion for the Jewish community in the city. Ross Kraemer, at the other extreme, is equally convinced that the text is Christian, from Syria and to be dated accordingly centuries later – and speaks to quite different agendas, politically and religiously – and Nir seeks to prove that its moral message is specifically and determinedly Christian. There are critics also, of course, who compromise by allowing the text a Jewish origin but recognizing Christian interpolations – though it must be noted that if there are interpolations, they are consistently subtle in comparison with the often extremely clunky additions of Christian material familiar from other texts, or the explicit exposition of typology discussed in Chapter . If there is a question about what it means to call Joseph and Aseneth simply Greek, it is even more oversimplifying to insist on an aggressively univocal religious   

This seems to me a more profitable route than that adopted by Kraft () or Davila () which as de Silva (: ) notes ‘moves well beyond scholarly caution into a counsel of despair’.  Bohak () Hicks-Keeton (a, b), and now, most fully, Hicks-Keeton (). Kraemer (); Nir (, ).

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Strange Dogs

identity for this text, at least in terms of religious or confessional sectarianism, and for at least two powerful reasons. First, it is constantly necessary to remind ourselves that not only is Judaism (or, better, to be a Ioudaios) or Christianity (to be a Christian) in any of the relevant centuries fluid, various and changing in the practices of self-recognition and selfregulation, but also the contrasts and conflicts between being a Jew and being a Christian are exaggerated by later historiography and its motivated self-assertion. Second, over time Joseph and Aseneth remains open, as we have seen, to reappropriation and retranslation. What – for obvious reasons – could not possibly have been read as Christianizing in the second century BCE, could easily be so treated and appreciated in the fourth century CE. The Septuagint, after all, which was written within a Jewish milieu and used for many centuries within a Jewish milieu, also became the Christian Bible, the Bible read, quoted and analysed by the apostles and church fathers. The survival of these so-called intertestamental texts usually depends on their transmission through Christian hands, and thus the recognition of their value to Christian readers. So – to take one very brief if tellingly difficult example of the literary texture of the prose of this work – when Joseph enters he is described as ἀνὴρ θεοσεβὴς καὶ σώφρων καὶ παρθένος ὡς σὺ σήμερον, καὶ ἀνὴρ δυνατὸς έν σοφίαι καὶ ἐπιστήμηι καὶ πνεῦμα θεοῦ ἐστιν ἐπ᾽ αὐτῶι καὶ χάρις κυρίου μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ, ‘a man of piety and chastity, a virgin like you today, a man powerful in wisdom and learning, and the spirit of God is upon him, and the grace of the lord with him’. According to Burchard, this is the first line of Joseph and Aseneth to be cited by nineteenth-century New Testament scholars, because of its use of parthenos for a man, which he calls ‘the only reference to male virgins outside Christian literature’ (despite Achilles Tatius V . and that novel’s echoing of Euripides’ Hippolytus –); it is thus proof that parthenos ‘was used to describe males in Jewish circles before it was used by a Christian’. σήμερον, ‘today’, allows for the narrative to promote the purity and spirituality of virginity while maintaining an eye on the future consummation of marriage between Joseph and Aseneth (‘today’ implies a ‘tomorrow’) . The phrase ‘a man powerful in wisdom and learning’ seems to echo Genesis ., where Pharaoh announces that there is no man ‘wiser or more prudent’ than Joseph, just as the expression ‘the spirit of God is upon him’ precisely recalls Pharaoh’s previous comment (Gen. .) that the  

 Boyarin (). Burchard (: ), who does not cite Hippolytus. Burchard (: ).

Joseph and Aseneth and The Dynamics of Transformation



pneuma theou, the spirit/breath (ruach) of God is in Joseph. The final phrase is most striking, however. In Genesis ., where Joseph is in Potiphar’s house, the Lord (Κύριος) is said to be ‘with him’ (μετ᾽αὐτοῦ), and ‘his lord [κύριος] knew that the Lord [Κύριος] was with him and the Lord [Κύριος] prospers in his hands whatever he did’, and ‘Joseph found grace in the presence of his lord’, εὗρε χάριν ἐναντίον τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ. Although the continuation of the sentence makes it clear that Joseph has found grace in the eyes of Potiphar, it is striking that the phrase also echoes most closely Genesis . where Noah ‘found grace before Lord God’ (εὗρε χάριν ἐναντίον κυρίου Θεοῦ ) and, of course, in finding grace in the eyes of Potiphar, Joseph is fulfilling what is to be seen as the providential plan of God (as Joseph himself explains to his brothers later). Indeed, finding ‘charis before’, ‘in the eyes of’ (χάριν ἐναντίον) is frequently used in the Septuagint both for Israel’s and Moses’ relationship to God in particular, as well as for hierarchical power relations between humans, as, for example, in the meeting of Jacob and Esau. The expression ‘the grace of the lord [is] with him’ is therefore to be seen as constructed out of the language of the Septuagint’s narrative of Joseph, offering a theologically charged gloss on the potential ambiguities or overlaps in the language of the Septuagint, seeing Joseph’s success (or even his beauty) as a divinely imbued sign, which in turn is part of a providential history of a nation to be. Yet how could a Christian reader of the later centuries not understand ‘the spirit of God’ and the ‘Grace of the Lord’ within a different theological framework – where Joseph, the beloved son, can be read as a typological model of Jesus, and where both ‘spirit’ and ‘grace’ have increasingly become technical or at least marked terms? This same sentence, it seems, could thus be read as evidence of a Jewish midrashic composition, redrafting the Septuagint’s language for a different world where purity and spiritual growth have taken on a new purchase; or as a supercessionist Christian composition discovering in the old story of Joseph a forerunner of the triumphant church before which the brothers of the nations bow down; or as a Jewish text to which has been added a 





Bezalel in Exodus . is also filled with πνεῦμα θεῖον σοφίας καὶ συνεσέως καὶ ἐπιστήμης, ‘the divine breath/spirit of wisdom, understanding and knowledge’, which relates to his technical skills as a builder and artist. Pharaoh’s immediate reference is likely to be Joseph’s skill at interpreting dreams. The written Hebrew text has barely any ambiguity: kurios translates two different words: the name of God and the term adonai. The name of God, however, is traditionally pronounced adonai. It is baffling to me that when Nock is canvassing Greek origins for the use of kurios for Jesus he does not mention the Septuagint (Nock : –).  Exodus .; .; .; .. Genesis .; .; .; ..

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Strange Dogs

Christianizing gloss, so that the echo of the Septuagint’s Pharaoh’s announcement that Joseph is replete with the pneuma of God is made into a more incisively Christian recognition through the addition of Grace, since spirit and grace are two, paired, defining terms of Christian thinking from Paul onwards. There is no immediate argument to prioritize one of such readings. Even if it could be shown conclusively from external sources that Joseph and Aseneth dates from the second century BCE, it could still be argued that it has Christianizing interpolations and may well have been read as a fully Christian text in the fourth century CE. Even if the work could be shown conclusively to date from the fourth century CE, it could still be read as a fully Judaizing text (polemically predating commitments to purity and conversion in a Jewish rather than Christian milieu); or as a text that straddles boundaries between more extreme sectarian disagreement; or as a text that discovers Christian values in an Old Testament narrative. The text’s meaning (ὑπονοία) changes (μετα –) as the tale of μετανοία travels; nor does its meaning necessarily unfurl in a linear manner, determined conclusively by a context of originary production or an immediate context of reception. Contested and changing commitments are built into the narrative of Joseph and Aseneth. Nor should the uncertainty of the genre and thus the purpose or usage of Joseph and Aseneth be forgotten, or occluded by the general term ‘pseudepigrapha’ (a modern catch-all). As we have already indicated, there is precious little agreement among scholars about what the texts of Hellenistic Judaism are for, and what is set at stake in their transformations of form and language – in short, how such texts contribute to the lived experience of Hellenistic Judaism. It seems over-certain and over-simple to state with Philonenko that Joseph and Aseneth is a novel, as if that answered the questions of its function. How normative and how playful are these prose texts? The ideology of form matters, and between the chreia and the novel (say), length itself is crucial: is the difference between the short and long recensions of Joseph and Aseneth (or other pseudepigrapha) an indication of different utilizations, then, rather than merely signs of aesthetic clarification? And, to link such questions of form to my earlier discussion of translatio narrationis: do texts that are used liturgically by Jews have a more stable transmission than texts that appear not to have been regularly so used? Is it harder for later groups to rewrite texts that are used in repeated ritual service? 

Philonenko (: ): ‘Joseph et Aseneth est un roman.’

Joseph and Aseneth and The Dynamics of Transformation



One of the most interesting texts for this history is the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Its provenance – in cultural, linguistic and religious terms – is even more deeply contested that that of Joseph and Aseneth, with a suggested date range from the second century BCE to the second century CE. It is a strongly exhortatory homiletic work, which demands a pious life of its audience, with a special emphasis on sexual chastity, and avoiding anger and deceit. Like Joseph and Aseneth it is a text imagined from the gaps of the Pentateuch: Jacob on his deathbed spoke to his twelve sons, and summed up the character of each; here it is imagined what each of the twelve sons would say on his own deathbed about his own life and behaviour. That it also tells the story of Joseph and his brothers and has such a strong emphasis on sexual continence brings it close to Joseph and Aseneth, and may well have been used in a similar milieu. Generally, it demands metanoia in the familiar way: Potiphar’s wife, Joseph hopes, ‘will change her ways’, metanoêsei, an idea glossed as she ‘will turn [ἐπιστρέψει] from sinful desire’ [Jos. ./.]. Simeon announces he has changed his ways (metanoêsas Sim. .). But it also allows metanoia a more general, ideal, instrumental force, in a way which also echoes Joseph and Aseneth: ‘True metanoia according to God [removes ignorance and] puts darkness to flight and enlightens the eyes and provides understanding to the soul and leads the mind to salvation’ (Gad .). Most strikingly, Reuben announces that he has abstained from wine, strong liquor and meat for seven years, as he ‘repented’ (μετενόησα Reuv. .) and lamented his errors. This is a very rare example of a practice of repentance marked by the term metanoia. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is one of the most unstable of texts, however, with multiple versions (in multiple languages, including Armenian and Slavonic) and evident Christianizing glosses, interpolations or rewriting. There are what appear to be versions of parts of it in Hebrew and Aramaic found in the Cairo Genizah and Qumran; it is cited by Origen. Charles, its first modern editor, claims that a first-century translation was known to Paul and the Gospel writers; there is more than one version in Greek, and different  



Iconic discussion in Becker (); de Jonge (); de Jonge ed (); more productive and incisive, however, is Marcus () and especially de Silva (), with good further bibliography. Interestingly, at Dan. . ἐπιστρέφω is used absolutely with the apparent sense ‘to turn towards God’. Zeb . (in mss bdg) reads ἐπιστρέψει πάντα τὰ ἔθνη εἰς παραζήλωσιν αὐτοῦ, which is tellingly (mis)translated by de Jonge as (God) ‘shall convert all the Gentiles, so that they are filled with zeal for him’, as opposed to, (God) ‘will turn all the nations towards zeal for him’, a standard prophetic form of expression: see de Silva (: –). Mss α aef A and S read ἐπιστρέψετε εἰς τὴν γῆν ὑμῶν, ‘You will turn back to your land’. Charles (: ix; xliii–xliv).

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Strange Dogs

manuscripts have different levels of Christian expressivity. It would seem to be an especially vivid example of how a text is creatively reworked – a process well-known to Medieval philologists – in the process of its being copied – or rewritten, as we might say. As the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs travels between communities and languages, its textual emphases change. Although we cannot securely place each version within a specific context, the differences indicate the process of creative editing at work, both within the same language and across languages (Reuven does not repent or lament his sins in Armenian, for example). The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs travels and transforms in the unstable religious world between Judaism and Christianity; its use as a text is unclear and may also shift across time; and it has a markedly transitional sense of what is required or signalled by metanoia. There are surprising, anomalous and even disturbing elements in Joseph and Aseneth’s narrative of change, whether it is thought to be Jewish or Christian, as we will see in more detail in the next section. Nor, to reiterate, should we assume that across the relevant years and across different communities it is clear, consistent and agreed what it means to assert oneself to be either Ioudaios or Christianos. Most saliently, however, it is likely that whichever version of the text was produced first, the longer or the shorter, there exist mutual interferences between the two versions, as well as the possibility of interpolations and later redraftings for theological or other reasons. The Codex Sinaiticus is a relevant paradigm here. When it was discovered in the monastery of Sinai by Constantine Tischendorf in the nineteenth century, it was the earliest known manuscript of the Gospels (and other scriptural works). Yet this manuscript has some , corrections, made mainly by six hands; they not only routinely overwrite faded letters and correct spelling, but also insert omitted lines and words, change wording and even delete material: in some cases, phrases are deleted by one corrector and re-added by another. At very least, the Codex Sinaiticus demonstrates the belligerent polemics encoded in ‘how early Christian groups and individuals read and altered the text’. That is, it shows how already in the fourth century, the biblical text itself was corrupt, alterable, altered and subject to dissent. The texts we have of Joseph and Aseneth are the end point of such a process, with similarly motivated feedback loops. It is now impossible to discern which of the two recensions has priority; they both continue to circulate at the same time too; and it is impossible to  

 See Copeland (). See Marcus (). Parker (: ) – from whom the figures in this paragraph are gleaned.

Joseph and Aseneth and The Dynamics of Transformation



locate either text solely and coherently within a single religious framework. Indeed, the continuing use of Joseph and Aseneth shows that it is repeatedly ‘good to think with’ (bon à penser): that is, the strange and powerful representation of a woman’s metanoia, which looks like no established ritual of Judaism or Christianity, became a way for different readers – different groups of readers – to reflect on the central issue of personal transformation and commitment to purity and the divine. The way in which the scene of change is similar and different from the lived experience of its readers makes it a productive site for exploring how religious commitment and engagement is to become part of a community’s or an individual’s life. The normativity of its narrative takes shape in and through this process of reflection. If it is indeed a text produced first from within the context of Hellenistic Judaism, it is also certain that it goes on to be read and used – and useful – to a range of Christian communities. The form of its narrative, which has provoked so much scholarly disavowed aporia, may be thought therefore to be the condition of possibility of its continued use – and usefulness – across the communities of late antiquity.

IV There is much about the formal qualities of Joseph and Aseneth that remains to be debated, then. But what I have said already, however cautiously, will be fundamental for the framing of my central question of the representation of metanoia in this text. There are two main aspects to the depiction of metanoia: first there is a narrative of ritualized or performed change, where Aseneth, prompted by Joseph, prays, fasts and takes on obligations of religious commitment; second, there is a description of the divine figure metanoia by the archangel who visits Aseneth, followed by the symbolic description of a honeycomb, which is linked to her transformation. The plot of Joseph and Aseneth is simply described: Joseph visits Potiphar’s house; Aseneth is a virgin who hates men. Joseph is delighted by her commitment to purity and blesses her; she is overwhelmed by his beauty (physical and spiritual). She is devastated that he refuses to kiss in greeting a woman who worships idols and eats the offerings made in their rites. After Joseph prays for her, Aseneth throws her rich clothes to the poor and destroys her idolatrous objects and throws the offerings of food to ‘strange [ἀλλοτρίοις] dogs’. She fasts and prays for repentance for seven 

On the eroticism of this story see Whitmarsh (: –).



Strange Dogs

days, and is rewarded by the epiphany of an angel. He dresses her anew in a white garment, addresses a long speech to her about repentance, concluding with the odd exposition of a honeycomb as a symbol of the paradise of delight. After which Joseph returns. He has heard from heaven of her transformation, and they are joyfully united in marriage. The story concludes with an equally long narrative of military and political conflict over succession, prompted by the lust of Pharaoh’s son for Aseneth, which concludes with Joseph ruling for a number of decades over Egypt before he returns the crown to the Pharaoh’s son and proper heir. There is a string of detailed problems, both cultural and philological, in the central narrative of Aseneth’s transformation, many of which have been debated by scholars, especially and perhaps inevitably the immediately baffling symbolism of the honeycomb. But the scholarly focus on the details of this passage has also allowed some of the larger and to my mind more pressing issues to pass without adequate discussion. There are four major elements which need emphasis. The first concerns what type of narrative we are dealing with. It is often termed a narrative of conversion, but it is in many aspects quite unparalleled in antiquity, and as we have seen the degree to which metanoia indicates ‘conversion’ is a deeply contested question. This is, to begin with, by far the longest scene of such change from antiquity (with the possible exception of the final book of Apuleius’ Metamorphosis, which is very different in tone and approach) and certainly the only scene to dramatize so extensively the process of change, and to do so through prayer and ritual activity – through an individual, willed, private activity which results in an epiphany as affirmation. Conversion within the community of Jews is not easy to outline as a practice or as a discourse, especially if one takes the earliest date of the second or first century BCE as the context for Joseph and Aseneth’s initial reading. By conversion here we mean an accepted ritual initiation into and performed commitment to a community of Jews. Schaye Cohen has noted that before the second century CE, ‘conversion was an entirely private affair. There were no courts “authorised” to perform conversion, no central registry for converts, no set requirements that had to be met for a conversion to be considered valid, and no conversion ceremony’. And  

Portier-Young () with further bibliography; Sänger (). We may add the use of the phrase ‘light and honeycomb’ in Paulinus, discussed on p. . Cohen (: ); see also Cohen (: –); with the qualifications of Schwartz (); see also Nitzan () for the Qumran evidence.

Joseph and Aseneth and The Dynamics of Transformation



as Dorothy Thompson and Willy Clarysse have discussed, from the evidence in Egypt in particular, Judaism was an affiliation with political and especially tax implications as well as anything cultic: to be a Jew could have been taken as a civic definition. The rabbinical conversion ceremony attested in the sixth-century CE Talmud, as Cohen says, ‘attempted to regulate and formalize what until then had been an entirely personal and chaotic process’, partly in response to the growing Christian interest in such a process and privileging of it; partly, also, as an offshoot of the construction of rabbinical authority over all aspects of personal life; partly too, as Moshe Lavee has most recently argued, in response to GrecoRoman civic definitions of community and belonging. But even in the Talmud, it is common enough to have a soldier, witness to a martyrdom, simply ‘become Jewish’ and ‘gain heaven’ – without any process narrated beyond a divine imprimatur. The Hebrew Bible itself, however, as Thiessen notes, ‘does not envisage circumcision as a ritual whereby nonIsraelites can gain entrance into the Israelite community’ – nor does it promote any other form of conversion, although it does recognize that there are within the community strangers (gerim – often later glossed as proselytes or converts) who wish to take part in Jewish life and ritual. It is striking that when the story of Schechem in Genesis (where circumcision, it will be recalled, is demanded as the prior condition of being ‘like us’) is retold in Philo, Josephus and Jubilees, the act of circumcision as a precondition to intermarriage is not mentioned. The brothers simply kill the interlopers. In general, however, circumcision, as we have already discussed, is taken as the most important, evident and contested act to mark becoming a Jew – though whether a gentile can become a Jew seems to have been contested through the Hasmonean period, and the status of proselytization in the Jewish community has been extensively discussed by modern scholars. In the later Talmudic discussion rabbis also require an agreement to follow the mitzvoth (religious laws), though there is a debate between them about how stringently to demand or enforce such a requirement. A ritual bath to conclude the process is usually expected too. As we saw with Josephus, to ‘use Jewish law’ is a sign of joining the Jewish community or seeing oneself as Ioudaios. Conversion, understood as the authorized and ritualized act of joining a community of Jews, is slow to

  

 Thompson and Clarysse (). Cohen (: ).  Lavee (); see also the seminal Hayes (). Thiessen (: ). Goodman () is fundamental.

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Strange Dogs

develop in antiquity in an institutional form, and remains an area of shifting ideological investments and changing formal demands. The history of the development of models of Jewish conversion is complex and multiform, then, but even so the narrative of Aseneth is unparalleled. The desire to change is represented as instantaneous – and imaged as an erotic encounter. When Aseneth sees the beautiful Joseph (and Joseph’s beauty and even his vanity in such beauty is repeatedly discussed in midrashic commentary on Genesis), she is immediately drawn towards him, in a way which recalls the ‘lust at first sight’ trope of the ancient novel and other erotic narratives of antiquity. Since Aseneth, unlike Thecla, say, will marry and have children, the narrative has to negotiate the change from passionate virgin to bride differently. But the immediate prompt for her change of heart is the prayer of blessing that Joseph offers. This expresses a hope for change in highly charged metaphoric language. God is exhorted to ‘summon her from dark to light, and from death to life’, and to let her ‘eat your bread of life and to drink your cup of blessing’. This leads her to withdraw to her room for seven days, where she discards her rich clothes to the poor, destroys her idols and prays. The destruction of the idols recalls Abraham’s response to his father’s shop – stories from midrash rather than from the book of Genesis. Her fasting, however, has no immediate parallel in Jewish sources as a requirement for conversion, nor in Greco-Roman stories of change within the more severe philosophical schools where Nock goes to seek his background for Christian conversion, though a fast is required for initiation into some mystery cults (e.g. Eleusis), and scholars have seen elements of a mystery cult in Joseph and Aseneth. Seven days of fasting, however, is without precedent in any mystical context of which I am aware. Most remarkable of all, however, is her lengthy prayer. Addressed to God, it repeatedly – almost like a ritual chant – confesses error: ἥμαρτον . . . ἥμαρτον, ‘I have erred . . . I have erred’. It takes as its error not merely impiety of a general sort (ἠνόμησα καὶ ἠσέβησα, ‘I have broken the law and committed impieties’) but also the specific crime of idolatry (‘I have polluted my mouth from the sacrifices of idols and from the table 



On the fast in mourning see Lambert (: ); on mysteries see e.g. Philonenko (: –) and Sänger (); and on conversion in particular Chesnutt (); Humphrey (); Douglas (). Nir () recognizes that there are no parallels in Jewish ritual, but oversimplifies the history of ritualized conversion, and is unwarranted in her conclusion that the text must therefore be Christian. Cf. the ‘Prayer of Manasseh’, which repeats hamartano in a similar way. Selden () proposes Demotic parallels for such repetitions also.

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of the gods of the Egyptians’). She rehearses her ritual performance, again with the incantatory refrain enjoining God to observe, ἰδού: ‘see, I have cast the crown from my head and scattered it with ashes’, ‘see, the floor of my chamber, spread with multicoloured purple stones and dripping with myrrh, is now drenched with tears and covered with dust’. It is as if in the same way that Hannah’s prayer for a child becomes the paradigm of petitonary prayer, so here Aseneth’s prayer is setting out to become the model for penitentiary confession. It is worth comparing briefly Philo’s short treatise On Metanoia (also surprisingly not mentioned by Nock). Metanoia, for Philo, is one of the four cardinal virtues he discusses in de virtutibus. No one except God or a God-like man can be without error, so changing one’s mind – correcting error, specifically – is a crucial rejoinder (). Errors against God are especially heinous, so returning to the proper worship of God is necessary and right. Thus (), proselytes (οἱ ἐπηλύται) are ‘sensible, controlled, respectful, gentle, useful, kind, proper, just, noble, lovers of virtue and above money or pleasure’, while those who do not follow the holy laws are ‘degenerate, shameless, unjust, improper, cheap, malicious, companions of lies and false oaths, selling their freedom for delicacies and wine and sweetmeats and beauty in service of their stomachs and below the stomach, from which in the end come the most severe punishments of body and soul’. Philo’s is a very general moralizing sermon, encouraging proper ritual action in the community as part of a turn towards virtue. As one might expect, philosophy and an attitude to the divine are brought close together; but for all the basic concern with the care of the self, there is no suggestion that there are rituals of metanoia or that a deep-seated, passionate confession of error to God would be an expected response to Philo’s advice. Nor indeed that Philo would expect an epiphany of an angel, as happens in Joseph and Aseneth. The spiritual stakes in Joseph and Aseneth are set very high. We might also note that Thecla’s conversion (for example) is not accompanied by any explicit verbal or psychological expression of response. There is no dramatization through direct speech, no access through it to her subjectivity. Even Paul on the road to Damascus, when he is flattened by a voice from heaven, barely responds, and the process of conversion is in a moment and without access to Paul’s inward change through speech or prayer. Perpetua famously tells us of her dream and uses it to express her motivation – but this is after her conversion and acts as a 

See Winston (); Sterling (: –).



Strange Dogs

forearming of strength for martyrdom. What is more, in contrast with a standard, later Christian narrative of conversion, it is perhaps surprising to see no mention of baptism (let alone Jesus), no credal commitment to eternal life or to a Christian community, and no mention of any Christian authorities or catechism, no mention of any sense of the divine beyond the Highest God, the God of Joseph, the Hebrew God. Marriage, childbirth and the political conclusion are also atypical for a story of a Christian woman after conversion. Hence, the regular critical readings of Joseph and Aseneth as symbolic, allegorical or metaphorical. Whether one approaches Joseph and Aseneth from a Jewish or a Christian perspective, therefore, it seems to stand out as exceptional (a) in practice – using the physical rejection of objects, ritual fasting and an extended prayer together; (b) in the nature of representation – a dramatized scene offering intense access to the subjectivity of a subject through confession of error; (c) in result – the epiphany of an angel offering affirmation that her prayer is heard, and an extended gloss (to which we will return) on the nature of metanoia, the process we have been watching; (d) in consequence: marriage and childbirth. Unlike so many of the narratives of conversion I have discussed in this chapter, the narrative here concentrates on ‘the in-between’ in contrast to the ‘before and after’ – the activity of conversion as a process – and recognizes a process of exchange – between Aseneth and Joseph, Aseneth and the angel, Aseneth and her family – as formative in this process. The scene is thus perhaps best appreciated as a juncture in a shifting social recognition of the possibilities and consequences of a change with regard to a relation to the divine. It takes a scene from the Torah and dramatizes a transformation that is not prescribed or described in it; it offers a focus on prayer and inward change conjoined with outward behavioural shifts, together with an affirming epiphany, that demands a symbolic understanding of transformation – but which does not enact joining a new community. The extended narrative of change enacts the significance – social, political, religious – of the possibilities and consequences of change, and thus signals a moment in the religious self-understanding of a community. In focusing on Aseneth’s story, it dramatizes with radical originality a selfunderstanding and self-performance of such change. The remaining elements of the scene that I wish to discuss can be expressed more succinctly. The second concerns gender. There are some particularly important models of change, and of assimilation and resistance to assimilation, that involve women. In early Christian narratives of conversion – Thecla, say – or of martyrdom – Perpetua, say – or of hagiography – Pelagia, say (and the categories obviously overlap) – the

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narratives focus on specific aspects of female normativity, usually the denial of the familial roles of mother, daughter, wife or on the rejection of a former anti-familial life as a harlot. The Jewish scenes are rarer and less easily categorized even as scenes of conversion. Ruth, for example, declares ‘Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God’. There is no explicit language of conversion here (and no interest in any change of self ), but for the rabbis, with their retrospective concerns, it becomes an icon of joining the community, and is often appropriated – again by the rabbis and later commentators – as a paradigm of conversion, by understanding the scene as Ruth’s acceptance of Jewish law and community. (The anxieties that prompt such rewriting seem patent.) In Joseph and Aseneth, however, Aseneth and Joseph are parallel to each other as virgins who disdain strange men or women, but who, transcendent and reclothed in white, become partners to each other in a mystical as well as a physical union. The union is consummated in marriage and childbirth. In later rabbinical writing, a ritual bath is the expected ritual requirement for a woman, perhaps with the added stricture of agreeing to abide by Jewish laws; marrying a Jewish man (as Tsiporah does Moses) is the Torah’s narrative expectation. There is no equivalent of circumcision for a woman. Even if we recognize that one prompt for the narrative of Joseph and Aseneth may be an anxiety about the status of the marriage from which the tribes of Menasseh and Ephraim are descended, it should not distract from the oddity that the woman’s story of conversion is central to this story, the woman’s rise in spirituality and cultic commitment its motor. What’s more, when the archangel appears, he announces that metanoia is ‘the daughter of the highest god’, and describes her as a virgin whom God loves and the angels revere. As mentioned already, metanoia appears as an abstract personification in the Pinax of Cebes. Sophia, ‘Wisdom’, is a commonplace in such symbolically charged language. Metanoia here is rather confusingly described as a holy virgin who is (nonetheless) the mother of virgins, the daughter of God, who intercedes with God, and whom God loves. The figure of metanoia in some sense stands for Aseneth, it may be assumed. But it also worth noting that in Jewish or Christian sources there is no example of a female angel. The closer that metanoia comes to being imaged as a figure rather than an abstraction, the more strikingly odd the divine family becomes.  

As discussed by Standhartinger (). The gender of angels is not discussed in Brooke ().

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The language of virginity here is a further example of how difficult it is to locate this story on a map of religious affiliation. It is easy to see how the privileging of virginity in the description of metanoia is conducive to a Christian ideological framework. Yet the background of the Greek novel complicates any such easy affiliation, since the virginity of the heroine and its travails is a commonplace of that sexy and disruptive narrative form. The association of virginity with purity, however, and the text’s interests in purity also link it to other Jewish cultic groups active between the first century BCE and the first century CE, such as the Essenes. Yet unlike the familiar expectation of Christian narratives, just as metanoia is a virgin who is the mother of virgins, so Aseneth the virgin will marry and have children. In Joseph and Aseneth a commitment to purity and a commitment to marriage and children are not in conflict with each other, as they are for so many later Christian theological exhortations. Although there are, of course, Christian texts which laud marriage and – even more stridently – Christian texts which laud virginity as purity, there are very few indeed which laud both together. That metanoia is to be understood within the symbolic language that the angel mobilizes makes the gender of metanoia perhaps less surprising, and leads to my third concern, namely, the highly symbolic language that this text deploys. Critics have focused on the honeycomb, which is described as having the ‘smell of life’, ὀσμὴ ζωῆς, and described as the food of angels from paradise. Joseph, when he refuses to kiss Aseneth before her change, praises a person who ‘eats the blessed bread of life and drinks the blessed cup of immortality and is anointed with the blessed unction of incorruptibility’ (ἀφθαρσίας), which is contrasted with the bread of anguish, the cup of treachery and the unction of destruction which characterizes Aseneth’s engagement with idolatry. Metanoia leads Aseneth to eat and drink like Joseph. There is no suggestion of immortality for Joseph – he will die and his bones will be taken when the Israelites leave Egypt. There is no evident association here, it seems, with a special afterlife. Rather, the language seems to take up the focus on a holiness of consumption, associated with the rejection of idolatry, and expand it with the heightened language of the Prophets, towards a rich symbolic expression of a new, spiritualized purity, claimed for Joseph and those like him. Significantly, where in Genesis Joseph does not eat with the Egyptians, because to eat with a Hebrew is an abomination (βδέλυγμα) to the Egyptians, in Joseph and Aseneth, in a pointed reversal, Joseph will not 

Well discussed by Kugel ().

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eat with the Egyptians, because to do so is an abomination (βδέλυγμα) to him (). There appears to be no parallel for such expressivity even in the heated language of the tractate Avodah Zarah in the Babylonian Talmud, with its extended discussion of the horrors of idolatry. Although ‘the bread of life’ may sound like a Christian expression (especially to those who have not read Philo on manna), and no doubt could be so read in the fourth century, the phrase receives none of the expected move towards Eucharistic theology or ritual, and is hard to parallel in Christian texts in the way it is used in context here. The text promotes not a sacred communal meal, familiar in both mystical, Jewish and Christian contexts, but on making consumption sacred. It might be best to conclude that what we see in Joseph and Aseneth is a specific juncture – a cultural and historical moment – when the rejection of idolatry is linked to a specific commitment to a physical and spiritual purity, which finds its strongest expression in a heightened symbolic language which invests any act of consumption with a profound spiritual value. My fourth and final concern is with the language of change. As we have seen, metanoia, the call to repentance, familiar in the Prophets, made a virtue by Philo, becomes a key term in the discourse and practice of Christian conversion. The turn of Aseneth is towards the proper worship of God and the rejection of idolatry. Is this a change of identity of the sort imagined as the gold standard of conversion by Nock? Some of Aseneth’s language might encourage one to see it as such, and, indeed, as similar to Thecla’s experience. Aseneth imagines, for example, in her prayer of metanoia, that her mother and father have rejected her (), as happens to Thecla – or, say, as Perpetua rejects her own father. But, in fact, her father, an Egyptian priest, and the Pharaoh join in celebrating her wedding; she and Joseph continue to live as full participants in Egyptian society; and Joseph acts as regent there for forty-eight years. The exclusivity and self-consciousness of a complete change are less in evidence as the story progresses. The final chapters of the book are closer to the sort of military escapades familiar from Maccabees, the book of Kings, or Josephus – and they are prompted by the lust of the Pharaoh’s son, which adds a novelistic tone to it all. Aseneth plays a role in reconciling the brothers of Joseph and defusing the violence prompted by the desire of Pharaoh’s son. The narrative does not instantiate a withdrawn community of purity: there is no depiction of how a life of purity would be lived. Aseneth avoids rape, but it is through the brilliant strength of 

For the difference between her prayer and reality see Chesnutt (: –).

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Strange Dogs

Benjamin and her own authority, as like the heroine of a Greek novel or one of the first Sabine women in Rome, that she talks down men from conflict and violence. Again, it seems best to see this book as taking shape on a cusp between a second century BCE text such as II Maccabees, with its military narrative and projection of the values of a nation, and the texts of Jewish cultic groups or later Christian groups seeking to found a new community of committed purity. There is much, then, in Joseph and Aseneth that seems significantly unparalleled in Jewish writing, or indeed even in later Christian writing on change, metanoia, and its relation to ritual, inwardness and commitment. It is a text that is therefore very hard to locate on an ideological, cultural or what we might call a religious map. The Greek text(s) of Joseph and Aseneth appear to emerge at a junctural moment, where the meeting of the two central figures is eroticized in the manner of a Greek novel, but where at the same time the text seems to be moving towards a different sense of what the consequences and affordances of metanoia might involve – through its symbolic and bizarre expressions of change, which hint at ritual – the fasting, the vision, the change of clothes, the engagement with ritual objects – but which look like no ritual in Judaism, Christianity or even the mystery religions of Greece or Egypt (as far as we can tell). It appears to be asserting a very strong symbolic language of purity of consumption, in terms that anticipate the extremism of cultic redefinition of ritual observance recorded in Josephus or the Qumran scrolls: yet there is no social exclusivity attached to such purity in Joseph and Aseneth; Joseph remains regent happily enough and fights against his own brothers in a scene more like the succession narratives of Hellenistic historiographic narrative, albeit with the miraculous turns familiar from Maccabees. I would like to suggest that this sense of the junctural speaks to the time and place of its production – that it is precious testimony of how little we understand about Hellenistic religious culture and what I take to be the border lines between Judaism and Greek culture, Judaism and Egyptian culture, and possibly Judaism and its own cultic subgroups – that is, this is a text that comes out of a space of precarious and conflicted divisions, where borders of change can be addressed in heightened and new languages, and where the centres and peripheries of religious affiliation are far from certainly articulated. Indeed, this very dislocatedness – its junctural tensions, its fragility of affiliations, conjoined with a passionate symbolic language of change – opens it to the re-reading and reuse that we see in its textual history of transmission, and which allows for its translation into a Christianizing

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context across the Mediterranean. It is not so much that the text is ‘about hybridity’, though it parades its ‘cultural interstitiality’; rather its language of change allows different scenarios of change to be imagined across different cultural contexts. We should view the text and its travelling as interlinked evidences of how the language and practice of change themselves travel and change across the Mediterranean in this period of religious metamorphosis – and as this text becomes parts of different religious battles elsewhere. Wherever it goes there are always strange dogs outside the window.

V Joseph and Aseneth was translated and read across a broad swathe of the Christian world across many centuries, then, and proved a text through which different communities could engage with the process of personal transformation and cultural assimilation through the normative lures of narrative. But I wish to end this chapter with a consideration of how its particular form has prompted a particular type of engagement by classical and religious scholarship in modern times. To explore this question, I will focus on one of the most influential volumes of classical scholarship published between the two World Wars, namely, Arthur Darby Nock’s Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford, ), a synoptic study of conversion in antiquity, published, remarkably, when the author was only  years old. In , at age , Nock was the youngest full professor at Harvard to be appointed for half a century, and he went on to edit the Harvard Theological Review for thirty-three years until his death in . There have been in recent years many detailed studies which would serve to nuance or indeed profoundly alter sections of Nock’s broad and generous study, especially with regard to Augustine and the Jewish materials. Nonetheless, the overarching thesis that in Greco-Roman society outside Judaism and then Christianity ‘there was . . . no possibility of anything that can be called conversion’, and that it is only in the most rigorous philosophical schools where anything resembling the sort of all-embracing    

Both phrases are taken from Whitmarsh (: , ). For a modelling of such religious networks see Collar (), which correctly challenges the extreme thesis of Mendels and Edrei (), an expansion of Edrei and Mendels (, ). See for example Cameron (); Goodman (); Harris ed (); Mills and Grafton eds (a); Papaconstantinou and Schwartz eds () Nock (: ).

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commitment associated with Christian conversion can be found, has provided a framework for a great deal of religious history written since his seminal contribution. For Nock, the specifically Protestant model of individual, internal, complete transformation, with a rejection of past beliefs going hand in hand with a full acceptance of a new system, is the gold standard against which all other modes of transformation are to be judged – and for cases of transformation in antiquity inevitably therefore judged as falling short. This chapter was begun, as already intimated, as an attempt to understand why in Conversion Nock does not discuss Joseph and Aseneth at all; why, that is, in a study that takes metanoia as a key term, its author finds no place for the longest discussion of metanoia in antiquity. In all his voluminous writings, Nock refers to Joseph and Aseneth on only two occasions that I have found, once in a footnote where he declares that he believes that ‘the text is a Christian romance without any Jewish Vorlage’, and then in a second footnote which refers the reader to the first footnote. In neither case is he discussing metanoia or conversion. Nock’s silence on its depiction of metanoia and his assertion that it is a purely Christian text without any Jewish predecessors are perhaps connected. It is, of course, difficult to make an argument from silence, and even more difficult to reflect on the situatedness of a scholar based solely on his published work and the inevitably partial reminiscences of his colleagues. But I will demonstrate here how located in a specific ideological framework Nock’s study is. Peter Brown has already underlined how Nock’s analysis of conversion assumes not just the work of William James and Max Weber but also the unreflective ‘common sense’ of his era. Here we will see that there is actually a far more pervasive and significant religious motivation that runs throughout Nock’s work. At the time of writing Conversion, Nock’s sincere and thoroughgoing Protestantism is not to be doubted. His was a high Protestantism, an intense Anglo-Catholicism. Before he was appointed at Harvard he published on the Resurrection in a volume edited by Alfred (Jack) Rawlinson, future bishop of Derby, entitled Essays on the Trinity and the Incarnation (), and continued throughout his life to link his classics with 



Nock (:  n,  n): this second reference is very slightly more cautious: ‘may well be a Christian composition’. Nock is not alone in not treating Joseph and Aseneth seriously: few scholars referred to it from its publication in the nineteenth century until the irruption of debate from the s onwards. Brown (); also Mills and Grafton (a); Price (: –); less incisively critical is Parente ().

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theology. (The story still told in Harvard – and the role of such anecdotes in constructing the image of the eccentric academic, usually male, is familiar – is that one day in his office Nock was surprised fully naked by his cleaner. ‘Jesus Christ!’ she exclaimed. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘But His faithful servant.’) In America, he affiliated with the Episcopal Church, but slipped towards a lack of practice, in the sense of church attendance; he liked to quote Hugh Benson’s characteristically exaggerated sentence, ‘An immense agnosticism must be an element in every creed’. He never concealed his confessional commitment, however. He concluded one essay: ‘History has much to teach us, and not the least of its lessons is that which Josiah Royce stated so finely, “The Christian religion is, thus far at least, man’s most impressive vision of salvation and his principle glimpse of the home-land of the spirit”.’ Christianity is for him humanity’s triumph. He is happy to see in Stoicism (and other elements of what he calls pagan thinking) a praeparatio evangelica, a term from providential historiography he uses freely in what is his strongly teleological and supersessionist vision of the unfurling of events. For Nock, Christianity’s success was because it gave a ‘new motive for morality, the soul’s desire to show its grateful love to the God who had redeemed it, and a new stimulus, in the belief that Christ and His spirit work in the humblest individual Christian and that he enjoys intimate personal communion with God’. This argument is deeply embedded in Christian apologetics. His version of Judaism is also coloured by the long history of Protestant historiography and supersessionism. Indeed, from the mid-nineteenth century through the s, there is a debate, particularly strident among German Protestant historians, not just about the status of the Jews of Alexandria in religious history, but also specifically about metanoia – a debate which could be epitomized in Wellhausen’s absolutely extraordinary obiter dictum, ‘Metanoia ist unju¨disch’. This is not just a claim that the Jews rejected Jesus and showed no repentance, but also that the Jews are  



 

Clark (); Nuttall (); and, for ancient examples, Goldhill (b). James Kugel told me that Nock’s office in Weidener, under the roof, became unbearably hot in summer which he took to explain Nock’s habit of undressing to work. The many variants of the story are collected by Price (: ). The role of biographical anecdotes is central to the next chapter; see p. . Price (: –). Benson was a celebrated evangelical preacher for the Catholic Church, celebrated not least because he completed the journey from Anglicanism to the Catholic Church that Nock toyed with but rejected in earlier days. Price underestimates what Benson could mean for Nock. See Goldhill (b).   Nock (: ). Nock (: –). See Goldhill (a). Cited from Schönfeld in Stroumsa (: ). On Wellhausen, see most recently Kurtz () with very full bibliography to earlier discussions.

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debarred from the ideal of spiritual change. Philo Judaeus’ discussion of metanoia also fails to get a mention in Nock’s volume, remember. In a similar tone, for Behm and Wu¨rtheim, Tertullian’s willingness to recognize a social dimension in metanoia (rather than a purely spiritual one) was a ‘fatal return’ to ‘Judaizing’. Alongside such unpleasant views, Jaeger and Pfeiffer insisted that there was nothing particularly ‘Oriental’ about metanoia which had instead good Greek roots, based on the Delphic injunction, metanoei hamartôn: ‘when you have made a mistake, change your mind’. The attempt to see the privileged religious terms of Christianity as Greek and not Oriental, and to deny Jewish origins for them, or to denigrate the Jewish examples as social or physical rather than spiritual, is a typical self-determining, self-serving apologetic strategy, stretching to Jesus himself. Spiritual metanoia is to be reserved for Christians, and the Jews may not share in such an idea. To refuse to see metanoia as a specifically Jewish, Alexandrian term, has a long history in an authoritative tradition of Protestant historiography of Christianity in antiquity. It could well be called part of the inherited ‘common sense’ of Classics when Nock was writing, albeit that the ideological underpinnings of such ‘common sense’ have now become chillingly clear. If Joseph and Aseneth is a Jewish text originally, or even a Jewish text repurposed by a re-reading or even rewriting within a Christian context, it causes certain problems, then, for Nock’s model of the development of Christianity. If it is indeed a first-century BCE or first-century CE text, from within Hellenistic Judaism, it offers an image of personal transformation that stands outside the developmental model Nock offers: it is both physical and spiritual, both social and mystical. It imagines desire for a person and desire for purity or spirituality as interlaced, so that the process of metanoia reaches a climax in marriage and childbirth. If Philo’s picture of metanoia is more easily framed within a Hellenistic philosophical tradition of self-care and moral advice, the spirituality and intense symbolic expressivity of Joseph and Aseneth suggests a different sort of commitment to a life in relation to the divine, a different Hellenistic imaginary. For Nock, Judaism is ‘fostered and guarded by a special class’ – the lawbound priest craft that Christianity supersedes: but there are no cohenim or leviim in Joseph and Aseneth. The priest, Potiphar-on, is a pagan figure, and Joseph makes no mention of the sort of organized Judaism depicted in the Gospels. After Aseneth and Joseph marry, the story moves into a narrative of battles and power, which does not explore or test the purity of Joseph 

Cited in Stroumsa (: ).



As Heschel () makes plain.



Nock (: ).

Joseph and Aseneth and The Dynamics of Transformation



and Aseneth, and does not project a life of committed spirituality that the earlier scenes may have been thought to promise. Above all, Joseph and Aseneth turns traditional prophetic calls for metanoia into a dramatized scene of female transformation through prayer, strong enough to summon an angel. The Judaism of Joseph and Aseneth is a strange thing, which complicates any oversimplified portrait of Hellenistic Judaism. This text clearly has elements that made it attractive to a range of later Christianized communities, however. If the text is taken as later and Christian, in full or in part, many of the same worries recur, to which we could add the lack of any promise of eternal life through commitment of faith to God, the lack of any baptism as a rite of conversion, the lack of any shared ritual meal, any Eucharistic notions in the bread and wine, any mention of Jesus. But perhaps most worryingly for Nock, what the text (therefore) provides is a hybrid religious picture, which, as we have seen, is hard to locate simply within either mainstream Jewish or Christian representational expectations. It makes Nock’s insistence on an early date for the separation of Jewish and Christian exclusive commitments harder to maintain. By calling the text a ‘romance’, Nock is attributing to it a low status and therefore only an adjunct interest in the history of religion. By asserting it has ‘no Jewish Vorlage’, he is insisting that there should be clear water between a Jewish and a Christian comprehension; he rejects the idea that this text moves between communities, transferred and translated. Despite his slightest of hesitations thirty years later (‘may well be a Christian text’) which marks the space of this anxiety, it is his removal of Joseph and Aseneth from a Hellenistic Jewish context, along with its denigration as a romance, that allows Nock in a comprehensive study of conversion not to mention the longest description of metanoia from antiquity. When Nock reviewed Goodenough’s study of Jewish symbols, he concluded, ‘Many readers will feel that G. is constantly biased by his emotional dispositions; they should remember that they have their own. Sed non videmus manticae quod in tergost’. It should be clear that just as I see Nock’s Protestantism and his place thus within Protestant historiography to be fundamental factors in his rejection of Joseph and Aseneth as a serious text in and for the history of conversion, I – in my turn – am willing to privilege this text because of my intellectual (and no doubt ‘emotional’) commitment to the hybrid dynamics of religious interaction, and to non-linear patterns of emergence and cultural transformation. That 

Nock (: ).



Strange Dogs

is part of my locatedness – as, for sure, will be other elements that I cannot see for myself. It is, in short, impossible to write the history of conversion without self-implication. In discussing how a culture imagines the transformations of the self, the ‘view from nowhere’ is not an available selfpositioning. The narrative form of Joseph and Aseneth is extraordinary, then. It offers a hybrid structure, with a story of personal transformation in its first part, and a story of military and political conflict (transformations of power) in its second, in a way which looks back towards the providential military adventures of Macabees, combined with Hellenistic succession histories, and forward to the conversion narratives of Christianity of late antiquity and beyond, combined with the Greek novel’s erotic tales. Its depiction of personal transformation is unique. For the first time, it seems, transformation is depicted as a process, an internalized and selfrecognized activity of willed change, based on a rejection of idolatry; it is effected by ritual, but personally, on her own, by a woman. The woman’s subjectivity is represented through her dramatized prayer, but her desire to transform is validated and authorized by the epiphany of an angel, who also frames the process in deeply rich symbolic language. The ideals of purity are lauded, especially when it comes to the consumption of food and wine, but also linked to marriage. As a conversion narrative, its form is unparalleled. Yet the very fact that versions of this narrative multiply and transform as they circulate, demonstrates how the text can become a site for exploring personal transformation: by virtue of the very strangeness of Aseneth’s depiction, readers engage with a pattern of similarity and difference with their own lived experience or aspirations. Her exemplarity is negotiated, and negotiated differently by different communities. Yet for modernity, this text is more disowned than found useful. For a teleological history of the growth of rabbinical authority and its demand for rituals and official validation for conversion, the text offers an embarrassingly different model, and from an early date. It has played little role in the history of conversion in Judaism. Even more strikingly, for a Christian scholar such as Nock, it must be passed over – and denied any Jewish roots – because it disturbs a supercessionist narrative of the triumph of Christian spirituality. The very qualities of form that made Joseph and Aseneth useful make it suspicious or even dangerous for such teleological histories, such authorized versions. Joseph and Aseneth is testimony to the changing potentialities of transformation in the culture

Joseph and Aseneth and The Dynamics of Transformation



of late antiquity – what stories of change can be exchanged – and those potentialities are repeatedly framed differently by different communities of readers over time, including, still, today. Once again, we see that the question of form goes to the heart of cultural construction, in this case to the fundamental issue for late antiquity of how the story of personal transformation is to be comprehended and represented.

 

Life Forms Biography and Rabbinical Writing

I In the previous chapter, we looked at a greatly under-appreciated piece of Greek prose that was articulated between the Septuagint and its critical readers, between Greco-Egyptian culture and Jewish anxiety about assimilation, between authoritative Jewish scriptural texts and later Christian readers and writers. It is a text that, whatever its origins, makes evident an arena where Jews and Christians were struggling to form and assert a coherent social self-understanding in and against dominant Greco-Roman culture. The recognition that the Roman Empire included citizens who were Roman and spoke Greek as well as Latin, and citizens who called themselves Greek and who felt conflicted about speaking Latin, and citizens of many different ethnic groupings, who spoke not only their own languages but also one or more of the privileged languages of the centre – Greek or Latin – and whose social standing and cultural positioning were articulated through these multi-lingual and culturally diverse interactions, has become a standard understanding of the transformations, translations and cultural interactions of late antiquity, although what the implications are for the study of the literature of the period still needs a good deal of work. It is regrettably typical, to take only one example, that not so long ago, Jane Lightfoot, who nonetheless would go on to edit the Sibylline Oracles, texts that, as we have seen, reveal a polemical and competitive mixture of Greek, Jewish and Christian materials, criticized a volume on the relation between Greek and Roman culture in the imperial period for including Jewish material at all: she asked ‘What is a   

I have discussed this, with bibliography, in Goldhill (); see, for the linguistics of bilingualism, after Adams (), now Elder and Mullen (). See Sandwell (); Eshelman (); Dohrman and Reed eds (); Fine ed (); Gruen (a, b); Rajak (b); Schwartz (); Lapin (); Millar (). Lightfoot ().



Biography and Rabbinical Writing



piece on “being Jewish in a Greco-Roman city” really doing in a collection on “being Greek under Rome”?’. This surprisingly unreflective view apparently cannot countenance the idea that being Jewish could be deeply and (un)comfortably implicated with being Greek (an idea James Joyce played with more sharply and amusingly in Ulysses, and the Nazis tried to make true in Salonika). What it means ‘to be Greek’ – linguistically, culturally, intellectually – was a question Jews of the Empire faced as intently as Romans and Greeks, even and especially when they attempted to deny their own Hellenization. Indeed, as Shaye Cohen has written, the interconnections between Jewish and Greek culture were so pervasive that ‘even in their non-Hellenization they were Hellenized’ – that is, even their resistance to the dominant culture was constantly being informed by the dominant culture. Responses to dominant GrecoRoman culture from within the Empire include forms of separation and even denial, which, as the flourishing study of post-colonial writing has discussed, repeatedly turn to enact anxious and performative gestures of disavowal – and such gestures too are to be seen as part of imperial cultural interactions. In this chapter, I will be looking at one of the most sophisticated, complex and culturally rich texts from late antiquity, which is a perfect example of how a textual world could construct boundaries of disavowal and separation from the dominant Greco-Roman culture – but which is these days generally ignored by classicists, for whom current disciplinary formation results in both ancient Jewish and Christian material only tentatively being brought into the curriculum – namely, the Babylonian Talmud. I say ‘textual world’ because the Talmud projects and defends a holistic picture of how society can be engaged with at all levels, but only from its own all-embracing rabbinic perspective. One central claim of this chapter is that the form of the Talmud, its textual construction, is in itself a fundamental rejection of the literary tradition and expectations of GrecoRoman imperial institutions, a rejection that is itself a gesture of cultural     

Lightfoot (). The bibliography on Joyce and Jewishness is huge; see for example with bibliographies Davison (); Reizbaum (); on Salonika, see Mazower (). Cohen (: ); see also Boyarin (); or, for example, on Roman law, Dohrmann (). See, from a huge bibliography, Acheraïou (, ); Bhaba (, ); Quayson (); Spivak (); Young (, , ). For the impact of the Talmud in early moden scholarship, by contrast, see Nelson (); Grafton and Weinberg (); with the general background of Levitin (); the rediscovery of Hebrew sources was fundamental to nineteenth-century scholarship also, and on the Bible in particular, of course. For Gladstone’s exemplary parallel interests in Greek and Hebrew see Gange ().



Life Forms

self-assertion. The genre of biography, or what we might better call ‘lifewriting’, will emerge as a test case of this general claim. Edited and written down probably in the sixth century CE, the Talmud includes material from earlier oral traditions, as well as quoting and discussing the written works of the Mishnah (second century CE) and other rabbinical commentaries. The Talmud exists in two separate but connected manuscript traditions, the Babylonian (Bavli) and the Palestinian or Jerusalem version (Yerushalmi), which was edited earlier, probably in the late fourth century, in Roman Palestine. In this chapter, I will be discussing almost exclusively the Babylonian, which is the longer and more pointedly edited version. The Babylonian Talmud was edited in the Sassanian Empire, and there have recently been serious attempts to see the influence of Sassanian culture on the content at least of the Talmud’s arguments. This necessary recognition challenges the self-representation of the rabbis themselves, who generally depict their arguments taking shape either without recourse to the surrounding communities or in specific denial of them. The Talmud indeed is a deeply layered and embedded text, for all its gestures of disavowal. Many of its stories come from and/or are set in the Roman Empire and in its Greek-speaking cities: iconically, the rabbi in the bath house worrying about the statue of Aphrodite, or the rabbis debating what to do if a Roman official greets you while you are praying. Many of the stories also involve transitions between Palestine and Babylon – ideas, heroes, objects travelling across the boundaries – and competing structures of authority between the two centres. This is not just a question of subject matter, however. Stories as things, as performances, as arguments, were transferred orally between groups, between communities, and only committed to the permanence of writing in sixth-century Babylonia. If Joseph and Aseneth needs to be seen as a text ‘in translation’, moving over time between communities and languages, the Talmud even more strikingly puts together a series of narratives and debates that move between the cities of the Empire and the community beyond the boundary of the Empire; these accounts change between the Palestinian and Babylonian commentaries, and map out a social group located – or moving – between the ideologically charged centre of the Holy Land – a Roman province – and the Jewish centre of Babylonia, self-conscious about its exilic status. The Babylonian Talmud may have been finally committed to writing in the Sassanian Empire, but it is a text that cannot be understood without its deep roots within the 

Secunda (); and especially Kalmin ().



Schwartz (b).

Biography and Rabbinical Writing



Roman Empire – its opposition to Greco-Roman culture and especially to the Roman military world which destroyed the Temple, and its own fascinating sense of travelling across the structures and authority of the Roman Empire. The tractate Avodah Zarah demonstrates this layering most vividly. Avodah Zarah, ‘Foreign Worship’, includes descriptions of Roman religious festivals – from the outside: few of the festivals look or sound like standard Roman festivals familiar to classicists. The text worries about Jewish engagement with games and circuses – again a topic that makes sense only in the Roman Empire. It depicts the martyrdom of rabbis at the hands of the Romans in Palestine. The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Romans is never far away. Some of its descriptions of palace life, however, look like Sassanian social expectations; some of its descriptions of ‘everyday life’ could be anywhere in the Mediterranean or its environs. The rabbis are fully aware of the two empires, Persian and Roman, and contrast them from time to time (e.g. b). The text’s primary concern, however, is with the separation of Jews from any form of idolatry, and so both Rome and Persia appear primarily as derided and dangerous powers. The text itself seems to have been heavily censored over the centuries, which makes some of its structure replete with questions of the politics of religious representation. Yet the tractate is clearly sedimented with narratives that go back to Palestine and travel from Palestine and change as they travel. It is precisely the way in which this text takes shape within the Empire and travels beyond the Empire and is reshaped with a view back towards the Empire that makes it such a fascinating commentary on how a community’s self-representation is formed from within the structures of the Roman Empire. Form here is indeed a crucial question. The textual organization of the Talmud, its structure, narrative techniques and argumentative strategies have, of course, been debated at length, and often dismissed as preposterous by critics from outside its own tradition. My concern is not just to see the Babylonian Talmud within a Greco-Roman context – a subject which several critics have begun to debate with real urgency – but rather to extend that debate by setting Greco-Roman expectations of literary form against the Talmud’s avoidance of such formal elements, and to use both as a mirror of each other in order to explore how cultural self-assertion takes shape through rejection as well as borrowing or imitation of literary 

For introductions see Fonrobert and Jafee eds (); Jacobs (); Rubinstein (); Strack and Stemberger ().



Life Forms

form. As if they lived in the world that the modern critical tradition of classics has tended to imagine for them, these texts sniffily want to get out of the Greco-Roman intellectual environment – what are we really doing here? – but in turning their back, they also find themselves in a dynamic and mirroring relationship with the culture they disavow. As far as I am aware, although there are many explicit and intricate discussions of interpretation in the Talmud – principles of hermeneutics – there are only the most scattered and inconclusive comments on form itself. My argument about the avoidance of certain biographical forms is thus inevitably an argument from silence. At one level, as we have seen with Joseph and Aseneth, and will continue to see in this chapter’s discussions of midrashic argumentation, perceiving silence in a (scriptural) text and making it speak in new narratives of explanation is itself a thoroughly Talmudic strategy of explication. At another and perhaps more important level, this case epitomizes an argument central to this book. The experiments with form that I have argued to be fundamental to the aesthetics and cultural politics of late antiquity are an engagement with classical traditions, a recalibration of the positioning of the author and reader in and against such paradigms. Yet one consequence of such experimentation, coupled with the long privileging of the ‘golden age’ of classical Greece and Republican Rome, has been the ignoring – the silencing – of such late texts. The modern sense of the classical tradition has taken shape by dismissing the literary forms that do not conform to its models of the classical. Many of the texts I have discussed in this book – from the Christian epigrams of the first chapter to the Talmud in this last chapter – are likely to be less familiar (at least to my imagined readers) in so much as they stand outside the standard curriculum of the contemporary discipline of classics, or even religious studies. The value judgements that support such limits of the canon are complicit with a particular version of what the classical tradition and its authority should be. Making silence speak both from within the texts of antiquity and from within constructions of the history of antiquity is one aim of this project. As a paradigm of this approach to form (and to its shadows of disavowal), this chapter poses a simple but far-reaching question: what forms of biographical narrative do Jews write? By ‘Jews’ I mean here in particular the rabbinic Jews of late antiquity who collected and edited the texts of the Babylonian and Palestinian 

On the kal v’chomer principle, for example, see Jacobs (). The thirteen principles of interpretation enumerated by Rabbi Ishmael are even incorporated into the orthodox daily morning prayers.

Biography and Rabbinical Writing



Talmuds and the other so-called rabbinical writings, as well as the scholars and other readers who studied those texts in antiquity as a committed obligation. We could add to these rabbinical writings the scrolls from Qumran, an extreme sect, possibly Essenes, who show, however, no evidence of biographical narratives as a form. The gap between the realities of the Mediterranean society in which Jews participated, and the projection of this society in the rabbinical texts, needs careful calibration, and how wide that gap is has often been contested with fierce ideological commitment. Among contemporary scholars, Seth Schwartz in particular has shown how complex the transition to rabbinical Judaism from the cultic worship of the Temple was. There is good archaeological evidence and some textual evidence too that the slow reconstruction of Jewish society, after the violent traumas of the Roman military response to the revolts, produced a community that in many ways corresponded to the norms of the Mediterranean culture of the Empire. Most people lived in agricultural communities centred on small towns; most peoples’ lives were organized thus around the agricultural year, with its familiar ceremonials and rituals; reciprocal interactions between families and communities formed its social boundaries; small trade and local politics, tempered by the Roman Empire’s policy of local administration, was the norm. In looking at how the Talmud constructs an image of lived experience, it must always be recalled that the Talmud constitutes a value-laden manifesto to be lived up to by its adherents, not simply a historical account of the lived experience of the communities of Jews – and that rabbinical authority was only slowly asserted after the destruction of the Temple, and never reached the whole community. Moreover, after the enlightenment – the haskalah of the nineteenth century – Jews do gradually start to write biography in its most familiar normative forms, and, in some circles, Chasidim for example, biographies of holy men do play a major role, in a way which, I hope to show, is profoundly alien to the longer Jewish tradition. In modernity, too, Jews of course do write contributions to the standard commercial and scholarly genres of biography. 



Schwartz (a, ) who also usefully articulates the difference between the archaeological and the literary records. See also Hezser (); Gafni (); Levine (); and, of course, Lieberman (, ). See Podro (); Finkelstein () for examples of precisely the type of biographical narrative that we do not get in antiquity. See Buber () for the collection of chassidic stories under the names of particular rabbis, and Dresner (: especially –), for a modern chasidic hagiography. The works of Jacob Neusner, which have moved from writing biography of rabbis to noting the significant lack of biography in ancient Jewish texts, are indicative of the growing critical approach to biography: see most recently Neusner (: –); Green ().



Life Forms

My question about form, however, is motivated by a specific observation. There are, as we will see, many stories about moments in the lives of individual figures in the Talmud, many anecdotes. Yet these brief fragments are never brought together into coherent, extended narratives typical of life-writing in antiquity, nor even collected as ‘sayings’ or ‘stories’ of this or that sage (another familiar form). Thus the question of the form of Jewish life-writing in late antiquity can be sharpened to ask why we do not have Jewish equivalents of the hugely important ancient genres of the ‘life’ of a famous man, genres, which, as we will see, are basic both to classical Greco-Roman culture – Plutarch, Suetonius, Philostratus, the cursus honorum and so forth – and to Christian culture – where hagiographies play such an important role. The question is not merely one of literary history. It opens a portal on to the broadest questions of what Jews of late antiquity thought they were doing when they wrote, of how Jews of late antiquity thought about the category of the person and the categories of fame and of action. In short, the question ‘what is the form of Jewish life-writing?’ is also the question of what is it like to live in a world without the familiar genres of biography or, more precisely, a world that rejects standard models of biographical writing. Who is the person, without such biography?

II To ask ‘who is the person, without such biography?’ is not to assume, of course, that there is a single or privileged model of biography. Indeed, in antiquity as in modernity, there are self-evidently multiple forms of life writing, which pose the question of the person in quite different ways. So, when Lytton Strachey – to start with an iconic moment of change in the history of modern life-writing – published Eminent Victorians, these lengthy, dismissive, smartly critical essays, which opened the lives of his eminent subjects to sexual, political and psychological exposure, were immediately seen to be in stark opposition to the dominant paradigms of biography – as, indeed, he intended. In particular, Strachey set himself to dethrone the standard two-volume ‘life and letters’, with which so many Victorian grandees were memorialized – piously, usually by a member of the family, and with deep respect for public propriety. He also resisted the ‘portrait’ – elegant, affectionate character studies that Walter Pater and 

As Gladstone famously said of John Cross’s biography of George Eliot, ‘It is not a Life at all. It is a reticence in three volumes’ (Benson : ).

Biography and Rabbinical Writing



others had perfected – as well as the grand political histories of the British Empire with its ideologically laden narratives of heroes and villains. On the one hand, such different ways of writing a life embody and project different senses of what is at stake in a life: is it the public deeds? The psychological motivations? The education and background that confirms social order, or the gap between private, inner feelings and public persona? The form of the self and the form of narration are mutually implicative – and the history of life-writing reveals just how intricate and varied such dynamics are. On the other hand, this history is also veined with an intense self-awareness of the question of how to write a life, a self-consciousness that is an integral vector in the biographical mode. Rousseau famously begins his Confessions, ‘I have conceived an enterprise that has no model at all’ – as if Augustine had not written his Confessions! Robert Goodbrand, in , writes with similar clarity and lack of truth, that until his own times ‘there has been no biography at all. It is a modern attainment, and Goethe and Rousseau have opened the double valves through which the world has arrived at it’. What needs to be stressed here is not that the claims of Rousseau or Goodbrand are deeply unconvincing and strikingly selfserving (which they are), but rather that a new form of writing a life is (repeatedly) pronounced by its author to capture a truer notion of the self – a process that is opened immediately to self-reflexive interrogation. A self-conscious expression of living within and contributing to the changing shape of the history of life-writing is a standard generic marker of biography. Nonetheless, it may still seem something of a surprise to find Wilamowitz seeming to echo Goodbrand’s assertion of the modernity of biography, when the great German classicist declares that ancient biographies offer no representation of the self. Wilamowitz, who wrote a critically mocked biographical study of Pindar, recognizes that the tropes of ancient and modern biography aim at quite different gestures of revelation and silence. The singularities of personality, let alone the innermost lineaments of the consciousness of the individual, are not within the purview of 

  

For these different types of biography see Gagnier (); Amigoni (); Amigone ed (); Peterson (); Fleishman (); Marcus (); Gay (); Olney (); Broughton (); Homans (); Corbett (); Vincent (): Nussbaum (), and especially Saunders () – each with further bibliography. For the historiography, see Burrow (), Levine (). Goodbrand (: ). He does know about Plutarch but strategically omits reference here to him. Wilamowitz ( []: –). On Wilamowitz and Pindar and biography, see Postclassicism Collective (), ‘Situatedness’.



Life Forms

the ancient biographer – because of a different sense of the person. For Wilamowitz, too, self-awareness in history depends on the narratives told of the self. The changing shape of life-writing structures the changing sense of what it is to be a political, historical, psychological subject. The form of biographical narrative narrates the form of the self. Such narrations of the self depend also on the sciences of the self. So, when we turn to Greco-Roman antiquity, it will be clear that styles of biography are formulated in a network of ideas which include a philosophical and rhetorical theory of ethos, the logic of exemplarity taken from rhetorical training, the ethical portrait tradition of historiography, and the story patterns of epic and tragedy. By contrast – and of course the contrast is chosen for maximum disjunction – a modernist narrative such as James Joyce’s Ulysses, which narrates a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, could not have taken the shape it has without the theories of the psychological self from Freud and others, theories of time from Bergson and others, notions of phenomenology and memory, and reflections on the science of consciousness. The conceptualization of the body, where religion, medical science and the ideology of gender meet, will also inform how the self can be told – and Joyce’s representation of the embodied self appears profoundly alien to Victorian as well as ancient expectations. Biography, thus, becomes a genre where the science and stereotypes of the person interface to create a narrative of self-understanding through the representation of a life story. For a classicist approaching ancient biographical forms, however, there is a further layering of affiliation and distance. For so much of the development of modern biographical writing is explicitly affiliated to the paradigms of antiquity – either in imitation, or, as with Rousseau, in disavowal. Renaissance exercises in eulogy, integral to the politics of the court, were prepared through classical models. Historiography – across Europe from Gibbon or Macaulay to Michelet or Mommsen – adopts classical character portraits for modern narratives. Ancient heroes provide the exemplars for the politics of modernity (the French Revolution was enacted in Roman dress, as Marx has it). To look back at ancient forms of life-writing is to continue a long tradition of modern self-definition through the mirror of past models. As Wilamowitz shows, how to write about biography inevitably becomes a situated engagement with the classical tradition. To explore life-writing is inevitably also to explore a logic of exemplarity – and antiquity provides both the exemplary home of exemplarity for modernity and the first great theorists of it. With this much theoretical background of the explicit argument about biography and form, articulated as an ongoing relation between ancient

Biography and Rabbinical Writing



and modern biographical forms, we are now in a position to ask: what forms of biographical narrative do we get when we turn to the ancient world? Let us begin with a very brief outline of the necessary intellectual and cultural background. Although Odysseus in Homer becomes a celebrated figure of autobiographical self-promotion, a convenient starting point for the history of the genre of ancient biography is with the Socraticoi in fourth-century BCE Greece. The Socraticoi were the figures who saw themselves as the disciples of Socrates and who dedicated themselves to preserving his memory in prose. Much of this work took the form of dialogues of which Plato’s remain the most celebrated, but it also took the form of biography, most of which is lost, or the collection of biographical anecdotes. Xenophon’s Memorabilia, for example, is a collection of short anecdotes, each based on an encounter in Socrates’ life, each with a brief moral or didactic point, put together as a collection designed to defend the moral probity of the dead master, and to demonstrate Socrates’ usefulness – a category that is typical of Xenophon, but not of Plato. This style of the collection of anecdotes of a person’s life has a long history, and will prove important later in my argument – since, in significant contrast, the archetypal Greek political category of ‘the useful man to the community’ will find no place in the Talmud’s selection of anecdotes, which also resist the potentiality of the form of the collection of biographical anecdotes. Writing on Socrates starts a whole genre – Lives of the Philosophers – whereby you can test the relationship between a philosopher’s theories and his practice in the narrative of his life. Xenophon – again – is a crucial figure in this development of models of biography, especially for the Second Sophistic. The Cyropaedia produces a paradigmatic, coherent, explanatory narrative of a life as a moral and political lesson. Its very title – the Education of Cyrus – indicates its thematic concern with paideia. So, to take a particularly fascinating case of Xenophon’s extensive influence, Lucian explores the life of a philosopher both through the collection of anecdotes in, say, his Demonax and through the debunking extended storytelling of the Alexander – as well as exploring life-writing and the gap between philosophical self-representation and truth is a string of 





I have discussed this further for the Victorian and Edwardian era in Goldhill (b: –). Auerbach () has proved seminal in his opposition of biblical and Greek narration, which is closely tied up with his Jewish self-positioning, as Porter () explores. See Cox Miller (); Momigliano (); Edwards and Swain eds (); Hägg and Rousseau eds (); McGing and Mossman (); de Temmerman and Demoen eds (); Hägg (); Fletcher and Hanink eds (); each of which duly notes Leo (). See Ford () for discussion and bibliography.

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Life Forms

dialogues and other logoi, such as Somnium sive Vita Luciani or the Symposium. Lucian demonstrates the rich variety of life-writing and the self-consciousness of a placement within the traditions of life-writing that is typical of the literary culture of this era of Greek culture. Philostratus, too, following both strands of the Xenophontic tradition, both collects lives of the philosophers in the form of biographical anecdotes, and writes an extended account of a single exemplary and wonderous life in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana. That a choice of philosophy of life – a prohaeresis – can determine the way a story of a life can be told, finds its roots in this tradition, and provides one fundamental frame for the growing insistence in Christianity in particular that such a choice – and the threat that a (pro-)haeresis might prove to be a heresy – is integral to a person’s life (and not just on this earth). In Christianity, how a life can and should be narrated depends on its fulfilment or the failure of such a normative schema. So, when John Henry Newman in the nineteenth century composed his extraordinary autobiography and called it Apologia pro Vita Sua, the echo of Socrates’ Apology is not arbitrary. The icon of biographical writing within the Greek tradition, however, especially for the tradition of classicism, is Plutarch at the beginning of the second century CE. His ‘Parallel Lives’ are a collection of paired biographies of Greek and Roman figures, often with a formal comparison or synkrisis. Fifty of these lives are extant, and they have proved to be some of the most influential of all classical texts. Mary Shelley is typical of the eighteenth century’s love of Plutarch. In Frankenstein, the monster goes to the old man’s hut to be educated and is made into a properly emotive, religious and cultivated man by reading only three books, all you need for a full education. For religious feeling, there is Milton and Paradise Lost (Shelley, as a free thinking Romantic tellingly does not choose the Bible, but still puts religious feeling first); for sentiment, there is The Sorrows of Young Werther (the Romanticism here is emphatic: Weltschmertz is a requirement of emotional sensibility); but for everything else, writes Shelley, there is Plutarch. Plutarch is in the top three all-time great educational texts. Rousseau, high priest of enlightenment thinking,    

I have discussed this in Goldhill (a: –). On Philostratus see for discussion and bibliography the essays collected in Bowie and Elsner eds (). The best introduction remains Duff (). I have discussed this reception history of Plutarch in Goldhill (a: –), from which the following examples are culled.

Biography and Rabbinical Writing



agrees with Shelley’s rating of Plutarch when he boasts in his typical way that he knew Plutarch off by heart by the time he was eight years old. It made Rousseau a revolutionary. Hence, too, Charlotte Corday was said to have read Plutarch the whole day before assassinating Marat. These bare anecdotes help us see how the Lives are read – how they are used. They provide models for a modern life. To read the biography of the ancient heroes is to learn how to become a hero in your own story. That is why Bernard Shaw recommended Plutarch as a ‘revolutionists’ handbook’. As Plutarch himself claims, his Lives have the power to cultivate the reader in virtue through imitation, and through reflection on the virtues of the models of the past. Plutarch sets a particular agenda for biographical writing. First, he explains the value of the anecdote – and Plutarch is the source of a huge number of anecdotes which have entered the common store of our knowledge of the ancient world. He writes in the Life of Alexander (.): ‘There is not always in the most outstanding deeds a revelation of virtue or vice, but often a little matter like a saying or a joke hints at character more than battles where thousands die’. Note that what is at stake here is the revelation of character. Ancient biography puts êthos, character, at its core, and for this, paideia, ‘education’ or ‘culture’ – what the Germans would call Bildung– is the crucial training ground. Plutarch is obsessed with how education leads to a cultured outlook which will form a person’s character which is revealed in the virtue or vice of his actions or sayings. Biography is written not just to record the events of a remarkable life, but to reveal that patterning of paideia producing êthos leading to virtue, as a model for us to follow. Macaulay – for example – knew his Plutarch. Strikingly, the shift away from Macaulay’s style of biography goes hand in hand with a shift in the fortunes of Plutarch, who by the end of the nineteenth century has become an icon of unanalytic and intellectually vacuous historiography. After Carlyle, a different model of biographical hero arises. So, too, the ironic veilings of Edwardian autobiografiction follow along with the increasing dominance of Plato’s ironic representation of the ironic Socrates. The filiation of modern biography to classical models, its intellectual genealogy, is always something of what Goethe would call eine Wahlverwandschaft, an ‘elective affinity’.   

  Rousseau (: ). Reinhold (: ). Cited Jones (: ). On the ‘ideological poetics’ () of this translation of paideia see Elsner (: –).  As discussed in Goldhill (a: –). See Nehamas (); Lane ().

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Life Forms

The implications of Plutarch’s model are far-reaching and fascinating. Childhood, for example, is important only in as much as it contributes to paideia, to education. There are almost no childhood stories in Plutarch, and what there are tend to be very pointed anecdotes about future roles: Alexander taming Bucephalus, his wild and mighty horse, for example. Where Freud would make the narrative of childhood central and integral to the development of the man, to understanding why any adult is as he or she is, and where so many Victorian biographies of great men love to dwell on school and university as a training ground for greatness, for ancient biography in the Plutarchan or philosophical mode, childhood is simply insignificant. It gives a quite different image from modernity about what counts and what telling a life involves – where the telling formation of character is to be seen. Similarly, family relations are important as an adult in so far and only in so far as they reflect on the public life of the subject or in so far as they reveal some very particular error or triumph of ethos. So we hear of Cato the Elder’s wife because she died after Cato tried to cure her himself with his own remedies rather than relying on Greek medicine – a gently snide commentary by Plutarch on the costs of old-fashioned Roman dismissiveness towards Greek learning (Cato .). This may be a wry look at how noble Roman virtues look less solid and praiseworthy when such Romanitas means not benefiting from Greek paideia. But it is not taken as an example of the marital relationship between the noble Roman and his wife. Similarly, a child’s relation to his mother or father, or brother to sister, or even husband to wife, those staples of modern biography, have little place in the Plutarchan model of biography – even though he writes so tellingly about what the relationship between a husband and a wife should be in his Conjugalia Praecepta. Plutarch writes paired lives, and this also leads to two further points about the agenda of his version of ancient biography. First, pairing inevitably involves comparison. This is formalized in the synkrisis which encourages the reader to participate in the work of critical evaluation of any man’s life, but it is also inherent in the construction of each life. Biography is normative. In the agonistic world of ancient evaluation, the focus on virtue is also competitive. A man is outstanding only at the expense of others falling short. Second, Plutarch compares and contrasts in each pair a Greek and Roman hero. He is – as elsewhere in his work – articulating and exploring the boundary between Greek and Roman values 

See Pelling (a); Duff (); Pelling ().

Biography and Rabbinical Writing

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and culture. Biography also becomes a way of exploring what makes Greek culture Greek or Roman culture Roman. Individual models of excellence are also paradigms of national or cultural identity. Now I have emphasized Plutarch’s iconic contribution to the tradition of life-writing, but, of course, not only is the tradition of Greco-Roman biographical writing expansive, but also there are many varied forms of biographical writing, both in Greek and Latin, where Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, the scurrilous biographies of Roman Emperors, or Tacitus’ sharply memorable brief accounts of the monstrous figures of the imperial palace, or Cornelius Nepos’ political biography have each proved highly influential. In the imperial world in particular, the dynamics of the sayable and the need for silence become an essential part of the rhetoric of biographical form, where the technical possibilities of eschematismenos logos, ‘figured speech’, combine with the politics of abuse and the dangerous historiography of power to create an explosive literary arena. The variety of life-writing in the ancient Greek and Roman tradition is evident – and its boundaries porous (how far, for example, should we treat collections of letters such as Pliny’s or Cicero’s as forms of autobiography?). But for the purposes of this chapter, it is enough to say that biography is a major genre of Greco-Roman writing, with a powerful agenda of how to conceptualize the narrative of a life, what values are at stake in telling a life, and with a recognizable pattern of education leading to character formation leading to the revelation of virtue and vice in a competitive national and cultural context. This is the first frame for my question of what forms of life-writing Jews produce. Biographical writing in historical and philosophical modes is fully a recognized and privileged form in Greco-Roman public life. When we ask why Jews don’t write biography like that, it is a question shaped by the expectations of the dominant culture in which Jews lived. The Talmud also takes shape, however, in a period during which Christianity becomes an aggressively assertive ideological structuring of imperial society and culture. My second frame, therefore, is the Christian  

 

See Goldhill (a), with further bibliography. See for example Fletcher and Hanink eds (); Hägg and Rousseau eds (); Cox Miller (); McGing and Mossman eds (); Hägg (); Dorey () – which now looks rather out of date because of its restriction of scope; Leo () specifically opposed Plutarchan biography to a model derived from Suetonius. On Nepos see the interesting if overstated thesis of Geiger (); on Suetonius, Power and Gibson eds (). See Henderson (), an unsurpassed analysis of this arena.

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Life Forms

tradition of biography. This tradition draws on the Greco-Roman model, particularly on texts such as Philostratus’ Apollonius of Tyana, or Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus, but develops it in a unique and powerful way, not least in the Gospels themselves. There has been much recent work on late antique and specifically Christian biography. So I hope that here too, as with Plutarch, I can be brief. The first and most obvious point is that the Gospels become key texts in the expansion of Christianity, and that they take a biographical form. The Gospels, it must be remembered, start life precisely as Jewish texts, texts, that is, written by Jews within a Jewish milieu. They are written in Greek and their precise relationship to Greek models of biographical writing has been much debated. Yet as Christianity takes an increasingly organized institutional shape and separates itself from Judaism, the privilege and authority of the Gospels become one mark of such separation. The Gospels become Christian. The life of Jesus – how it is told and imitated – is and remains integral to Christianity’s development. Since I began with Victorian life-writing, it is worth recalling here how retelling the life of Jesus, that is, writing biographies of Jesus, was a huge business in the nineteenth century, a form of writing which became a focus for anxiety about the historicity of the gospels, the role of liberalism in the church and the crisis of faith which so rocked the mid-century in particular. So too the authenticity of saints’ lives was a crucial node of dissension between Catholic and Protestant apologists and the critical historians. The form of biography not only entails forms of Wissenschaft, but becomes a site for a battle over Wissenschaft: what forms of historiography will dominate? What understandings of the person are to be privileged or allowed to be seen? The scandals that periodically flare up over a particular biography are not merely issues of ‘sacred’ privacy despoiled, but betoken a passionate disagreement within cultural politics about how the past is to be narrated – understood, memorialized, damned. The Gospels do not all take precisely the same form, of course. The earliest Gospel, Mark, does not have an account of Jesus’ birth (or, even 

 

Cox Miller () is still seminal; for a brief sample of the relevant bibliography see Alexander (); Pervo (); Burridge (); Frickenschmidt (); Hägg and Rousseau eds (); Grig (); McGing and Mossman eds (); Barnes () – each with further bibliography. There is a good introduction to the problem of the Gospels’ biographical form in Burridge (); see now also Boyarin (). See especially Pals (); also Harris (); Frei (); Larsen (: especially –); Wheeler (); I have discussed this briefly in Goldhill (a); the archetypal novel tracing such issues is Ward (), based on her own experience (Ward ).

Biography and Rabbinical Writing

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more shockingly, the Resurrection); John obviously has a wider philosophical framing. The Gospels of Jesus’ childhood all became uncanonical. But none the less, the life and death of Jesus as a narrative is central to the religious expression of Christianity. For a classical background to this writing, we could point here perhaps to Philostratus’ Apollonius of Tyana, or Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus – both later than the Gospels, of course. But it is most relevant to stress that such a biographical narrative is hard to parallel in Greco-Roman religious discourse before the Gospels. Hero cult has its heroic narratives, but these are multiplying myths, told and retold in multiple forms, and never authoritative for moral purposes or even for religious practice. Socrates is a unique and exemplary figure to be imitated by his followers. But there is some novelty, I think, in making a biographical narrative the central text of a religious cult in the ancient world: a new import of life-writing for a new claim on the self. The biographical turn indeed remains central to Christian discourse. Saints’ lives play a major role in Christian thought, proselytising and religious practice. The Life of Anthony is exemplary. It is a fundamental text in the development of asceticism. The story of his ascetic principles, his retreat to the desert, the monks he teaches, becomes a text that does not merely record a life, but which gives a didactic and indeed normative exposition for others. So Jerome tells us in his life of St Hilarion (–) that Hilarion retreated to the desert after meeting and desiring to imitate St Anthony. But reading the Life of Anthony is a key moment in Augustine’s conversion. Augustine’s reading itself becomes paradigmatic for later readers. Each saint’s life is read to the faithful on the saint’s day, and as Augustine expresses it (Sermo Denis xiv ): ‘We heard it with our ears, we watched it in our minds, we saw him struggling, we feared somehow for him in his danger, but we trusted in the help of god . . . We, in as much as a sane mind flourishes in us, want to imitate the martyrs we watch.’ ‘I see him, I delight in him, with all the strength of the arms of my mind I embrace him. I see the struggle. I rejoice in the victory.’ Saints’ Lives are texts to embrace, to encourage imitation, to form the model of how to be a good Christian. Augustine himself provides a third influential model of Christian biographical writing in his Confessions. If the tale of becoming a Christian is   

See Burrus (: –) for Anthony’s contribution to the masculinity of Christianity (and for further bibliography); Barnes (: –) for the authorship and status of the Life. See especially Stock (); Gamble (), more generally. See Clark (); Brown (); Conybeare (); Lane Fox (), each with further bibliography.

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Life Forms

basic to the early Church (and consequently for many later Christians), Augustine’s Confessions provides the fullest and most fascinating example of such a spiritual journey. Here too it is extremely hard to find real parallels in the ancient world for such an extended, first-person account of religious experience and intellectual process. But the confessional mode of autobiography, my conversion, becomes an integral element in the exchanges of Christianity. These stories – Newman’s Apologia is an exception – rarely have the profound inwardness and brilliance of Augustine: but his is the model of this turn to the confessional, which has so long a history in the West. For Christianity, then, life-writing in the form of the Gospels, Saints’ Lives, and confessional narrative are integral to religious practice and thought. Eusebius, ‘the first hagiographer whose name is known’, though ‘not the first to collect hagiographic texts’, marks the generic novelty explicitly (HE . Pr ): ‘Other composers of historical narratives [historikas diêgêseis] would certainly have committed to writing victories in war, triumphs over enemies . . . But our exposition of God’s commonwealth will inscribe on everlasting monuments the record of most peaceful wars on behalf of the very peace of the soul’, alloi men . . ., ho de . . . hêmin logos: Eusebius talks of a choice of a logos, a form of narration, as being particular to a cultural ideology: this is the way a Christian history must be articulated. Christian biography none the less reflects many of the tropes of Greco-Roman biography. We hear of paideia and êthos: for St Jerome in his Life of Paul of Thebes, the first hermit, Paul, was () ‘highly skilled in Greek and Egyptian learning’, and was ‘gifted with a gentle disposition and a deep love for God’. The collection of hagiographies, what is more, reveals the topoi of the genre all too clearly by the constant repetition of traits and narrative expectations. But, as Patricia Cox Miller has discussed most relevantly, the similarity of hagiographies is not a sign of the failure of the literary imagination – but a sign of the specifics of a Christian lifewriting. For, as Gregory of Tours says in the late sixth century, we should say ‘Life’ for a collection of different biographies, rather than ‘Lives’, because (PL .) ‘although there is a diversity of merits and miracles, nevertheless one life of the body nurtures all men in the world’. The particularities of a saint’s existence are interesting to the hagiographer ‘only insofar as it serves the ideal of sameness’. The agenda of Christian  

Barnes (: ). On Eusebius, see Johnson, A. () and now the outstanding Corke-Webster ().  Quoted and discussed by Cox Miller (: –). Cox Miller (: ).

Biography and Rabbinical Writing

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biography is to provide the master version of the one Christian life. Imitatio Christi becomes the key to all biographical narratives. (The intensity of the theological and cultural politics over whether the four synoptic Gospels – significant name – could be made into one text, physically or conceptually, is part of this discourse.) The normativity of the hagiographic life is not to be found in the singularities of a martyr’s personal torture but in the underlying form of the religious life that fulfils the model of imitating the life of Jesus. Biography in the hands of a Plutarch is exemplary and normative – a way of thinking the ethical public life of the historical subject. For Christian writers, biography is exemplary and normative in as much as each life imitates the life of Jesus. The Christian self is fulfilled in the life story.

III Rabbinic Judaism is formed between these two seductive and frightening and oppressive cultural worlds of Greco-Roman society and Christian revolution, and in response to the Hellenistic Judaism epitomized by the community of Alexandria – and, it is increasingly recognized, for the Babylonian Talmud at least, under the influence of Sassanian society. Such a large-scale map inevitably would need much contouring to be anything but a large-scale map, but nonetheless it lets us see rabbinical writings in sharp contrast with the major vectors of late antique society. When rabbis eschew Greco-Roman and Christian styles of life-writing, they are articulating their difference against such vectors. But the more fine-grained the contours of the map are, the more it reveals a terrain that is far bumpier and difficult to navigate. With what strategies, then, do rabbinical writings engage with dominant Greco-Roman cultural authority? Before we turn to the implicit, silent gestures of cultural rejection, we need a brief word on the explicit rhetoric of cultural separation. If we are to focus on the Talmud’s strategies of life-writing, we need first to trace something of the self-projection of the rabbis in and against the structures of imperial rule. One result of the slow and contested growth of rabbinical status is, first of all, the projection of a deep ambivalence towards Greco-Roman culture  

For the continuing anxiety about the Marcionite heresy, see von Harnack (); Moll (). Schwartz (a) is fundamental to understanding this history. See also Boyarin (); Goodman (); Gruen (a); Neis (); Niehoff (); Lapin (); Schäfer (). For the role of Babylon in this development: see Secunda (); and especially Kalmin ().

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Life Forms

that often finds expression in what can seem exaggerated expressions of hostility. Chanukah, for example, is established to celebrate the triumph of Jewish values over Greek cultural imperialism, and it became a canonical festival; the texts of  Maccabees and  Maccabees, as Greek sources, never became part of canonical Jewish scripture, however, leaving Chanukah uniquely without any religious text on which to base the festival’s exegesis. More strikingly, despite the apparently divine inspiration of the Greek translation of the Septuagint recorded in tractate Megillah, a Hebrew scholion to Megillat Ta’anit insists that ‘on the eighth of Tevet the Torah was translated into Greek in the time of King Ptolemy, and the world was dark for three days’. The scholion continues to liken the translation of the Torah to the imprisonment of a lion, once feared and now despised. Translation into Greek is a muzzling of Scripture’s true force, so severe a challenge to identity that, in a characteristic pathetic fallacy, it results in the world being darkened for three days in mourning or destruction of the light of revelation. Although the Septuagint was the bible of Greekspeaking Jews for hundreds of years, the scholion here insists that it is a cultural disaster. The Talmud even toys with the idea that the Greek language itself should not be taught (Mishnah Sotah IX ), only to dismiss such an impractical prohibition (bSotah b; cf. jPe’ah .), and even to allow it for a girl, at least as an adornment (jPe’ah .). Rabbinical writings are more anxious about Greek wisdom, which it tries to ban, and then worries about what Greek wisdom is – does it mean rhetoric? Foreign learning? Any non-Talmudic law? – and still recalls that the great rabbi Gamliel had  students learning Greek wisdom because he had close dealings with the authorities and thus needed such expertise. As the boundaries of the rabbinical community – physical and ideological – become a source of intense negotiation and defence, so the lure of dominant Greek culture becomes an insistent and troubling image of cultural identity and self-expression. Rabbinical writing constructs its own particular deeply unThucydidean view of the past, which contains fully functioning rabbinic courts, schools and debates even in a period before the nation of the Israelites has come into being in Egypt. It assumes that even the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – whom one might have thought to be the first, few, Jews – went  

See Hadas-Lebel (); more generally, Dohrman and Reed eds (); Goodblatt (); Goodman (); Rajak (b). Rubenstein () argues that the Stammaim of the – CE aggressively reinforce the more porous boundaries of the Ammorain (– CE). See Stern (); Hayes (); Kalmin (); Berkowitz (); Dohrmann and Reed eds ().

Biography and Rabbinical Writing

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to yeshivah (rabbinic schools), and argued halachic issues of religious regulation (preposterous poetics in its full glory). Rabbinical writings analyse biblical texts to show with repetitive intensity that the study of the Torah in a fully rabbinical way has always been central to Judaism. So, when the Torah says of Solomon ‘I built houses, I planted vineyards, I made gardens and orchards, I planted in them trees of all kinds of fruit’, Midrash Eikah Rabbah () analyses it to say: ‘buildings, this means synagogues and schoolhouses; vineyards: this means rows of scholars who sit like rows of vines; gardens and orchards: this means the great mishnayot, religious regulations of the rabbis; trees of all kinds of fruit: this means the Talmud’. The world is to be viewed now and forever through the lens of rabbinic learning and practice. Both the practice enshrined in such exegesis and its content enforce a vision of things. Imperial history itself enters the Talmud in multiple, bizarre ways. There are, of course, grim stories of violent emperors. So, Hadrian, the man who renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina, emerges as particularly brutal in this story from Midrash Eikhah Rabbah (..), a series of midrashic narratives glossing verses of the book of Lamentations. This passage exemplifies the verse in Lamentations, ‘Thou has seen all their vengeance and all their devices against me’. A Jew passed in front of Hadrian and greeted him: when Hadrian learnt he was a Jew, he exclaimed, ‘Dare a Jew pass in front of Hadrian and greet him! Take him out and cut off his head’. Another Jew passed, and seeing what had happened to the first man, did not greet the emperor. When Hadrian learnt he was a Jew, he exclaimed, ‘Dare a Jew pass before Hadrian and not offer a greeting! Take him out and cut off his head!’. His senators said ‘We cannot understand your actions. He who greeted was killed and he who did not greet was killed’. The emperor replied to them ‘Do you seek to advise how I wish to kill those I hate?’.

The language of Hadrian has the ludic structure of a joke, but is turned to a sadistic jouissance. The senators play straight man to the fearsome power which turns all social interaction from rules of propriety and exchange into an inescapable demonstration of enmity. The Jews are simply the victims of the rituals of language gone wrong, distorted by uncontrolled power and hatred. There are equally surprising – and thoroughly unThucydidean – stories that imagine revenge against such violent autocrats, often with the raucous laughter of the oppressed. Tractate Gittin, in a celebrated story, insists that 

See Lapin (: –) for discussion and contextualization of this passage.

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Life Forms

the Emperor Titus had a gnat in his head that bored into his brain for seven years causing excruciating pain, a tiny animal bringing low the great. It is not hard to see this story as part of a strategy of self-defensive projection: the defeated who – as ever, with God’s help – live on to see the humiliation of their supremely powerful enemy. The story thematizes the power of smallness as it performs it. But also in tractate Gittin, we find a passage that marks a more ambivalent and intricate exposure of a relation to Roman power. It is a remarkable story about Nero. The emperor shot four arrows, to the four points of the compass, but they all fell in Jerusalem. So he said to a child, ‘Repeat to me the [last] verse of Torah you have learnt’. The boy quoted, ‘And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel’ (Ezekiel xxv ). Edom, the sobriquet of Esau, Israel/Jacob’s brother and enemy, is commonly used to refer to Rome. Nero concluded that God intended to destroy Jerusalem and blame him for it, so he fled and became a convert. ‘Rabbi Meir’, concludes the paragraph startlingly, ‘was descended from him’. Nero discovers that Jerusalem is the (inescapable) centre of the world; this, together with the omen of the boy’s study passage, convinces him that God will both destroy Jerusalem and blame Nero for it – so he flees to become a Jew and to be the ancestor of one of the most celebrated and difficult rabbinical authorities in the Talmud. The story, with its sors biblica and miracle of the arrows, reads like a fable – but is girded both with divine teleological history (revenge for the destruction of the Temple will come) and with a significant constructed genealogy – that Rabbi Meir is connected to the imperial Roman family, intertwining rabbinical and Roman bloodlines and thus authority. What might have seemed like an easy assumption – that the boundaries between the inside world of Judaism and the external enemy of Rome should be rigorously maintained – is challenged by the paragraph’s final and unexplored comment. How Greek and how Roman Jews can be is a constantly contested question in the world of rabbinic self-construction and self-projection. The texts I will be analysing all come from this long labour, this attempt to formulate an all-embracing, exclusively rabbinical perspective on texts, the world and human activity. What’s more, the world which the rabbis depict in these texts assumes that the Jewish world and the rabbinical world are coextensive. The stringent concern of the rabbis for the boundaries of their own world and judgement is best seen as a reflex of the porous and fragile boundaries of the Jewish community after the destruction of 

I have discussed this passage in context in Goldhill (a).

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the Temple, in a frequently hostile social environment, where what the rabbis would call idol worship – or we might term more generally engagement with the dominant culture – brought evident cultural rewards. The texts I will be reading are not a historical mirror even of the construction of rabbinic Judaism but a set of projections, hopes and concerns within a shifting normative and cultural framework. What, then, are we to make of the particularity of the textual world of the Talmud, if, to cite Shaye Cohen again, ‘even in their nonHellenization they were Hellenized’? Within this complex and articulate world of self-positioning and historical projection, how should we comprehend the specificity of the Talmud’s textual regimes – as an issue of the construction and performance of subjectivity? We are now in a position to recognize that life-writing is an especially salient area to approach such questions. The construction of subjectivity entails the narrating of the self. Can a cultural identity be formed while eschewing a life story? Can the rabbinic self be articulated without the pervasive normative regimes of the life-writing of Greco-Roman or Christian society?

IV Let us begin with some basic points, which are familiar within Talmudic studies. The Talmud is replete with biographical material. There are literally hundreds of rabbis named, there are hundreds of anecdotes which could go towards a biography. Some rabbis have hundreds of stories attached to them. There are also particular leading figures, which, to the modern imagination, cry out for a biographical treatment. Rabbi Akiva, for example, grows up as an ignorant country boy, who would ‘treat a scholar as a mule’, but who from middle age becomes one of the greatest Talmud scholars, spurred on by his wife, and ends as a martyr to Roman oppression, during the Bar Kochba revolt, with a martyr’s ‘last word’ on his lips. This would be extremely easy to mould into a hagiographic biography, a tale of paideia and natural character triumphant, only to fall foul of the tragic politics of the day. Some modern scholars have indeed produced precisely such an account. Or consider Reish Lakish, who starts out as a brigand, and who becomes a Torah scholar because Rav Yochanan saw him swimming in the river and was so impressed with him that he leapt into the river too, shouting ‘your strength is for the Torah’. Reish Lakish  

Cohen (: ); see also Boyarin (); or, for example, on Roman law, Dohrmann (). See most recently (with further bibliography) Holtz ().

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Life Forms

replied, ‘your beauty is for women’, which prompts Yochanan to offer his sister to Lakish if he will join him in study. And they become partners in study (B. Baba Mezi’a a). This story, designed to excite the carnal imagination of Daniel Boyarin, could easily become the centrepiece of a rather novelistic biography. Yet it is a striking fact that no-one in antiquity seems ever to have collected the scattered stories of a particular rabbi and made a biography. We do not even get the collected anecdotes in the form of Xenophon’s Memorabilia. It is a commonplace in Talmudic argument for a rabbi’s opinion to be compared to his opinion elsewhere in the Talmud: so cross-referencing is normal and possible. So, too, right up to Rashi, the great French commentator of the eleventh century, knowledge across the Talmudic corpus is expected and explicitly manipulated both in technical arguments and even in aggadic material. Yet putting together the fragments of a life into a narrative is resolutely avoided. Even the juxtaposition of two stories of the same rabbi is generally avoided. The continuity of a biographical narrative is never shored together out of the fragments of events. Each event is an event of a life, but it is not told in relation to other events in such a life. Each story, it could be claimed, is in some sense biographical, but there is nothing that looks like the biographies we have discussed from Greco-Roman or Christian culture, let alone the Victorian era. The relation of such textual strategies to the Pentateuch’s narratives is especially complex. At one level, in the Torah, there are obviously narratives to which it would be rash to deny a form of biographical structuring. Exodus has something of a biography of Moses. Even more vividly, Joseph, as we saw in the last chapter, or, especially, King David, have accounts that cover their full lives with a stunning richness of material. Both Ruth and especially Esther too have extended life narratives, which have elements that have been described as novelistic (especially when redrafted by the Greek of Josephus). As we should expect from our discussion of the locatedness of biographical narratives, none of these life stories neatly fits any of the modern paradigms I traced above, but each follows the internal logic of the Torah’s concerns. So Moses’ birth is told, and then we leap to his first going out to the Jewish people and his killing of the Egyptian that leads to his exile. The character or paideia of Moses is not explored, nor is there an   

See Boyarin (, ), preceded by Boyarin (). Joseph Heller’s  novel God Knows is one (baudy, funny, smart) demonstration of (midrashic) supplementation of the richness of the David story into modern novelistic narrative. See Kneebone ().

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obvious causal narrative why Moses is to be the leader of the Jewish people, nor is there any regular explanation of why he behaves as he does, nor is there an account of his life in the palace of the Pharaoh. The Torah’s famous reticence on issues of motivation, and on its logic of juxtaposition, creates the silent space where midrash flourishes. And many a midrash indeed fills in the gaps of the Torah’s account with burgeoning creativity, and many an anecdote of the imaginary, or simile to familiarize the text’s strangeness (‘It is like when a king . . .’). The lives of Moses, Joseph and David are told as part of a wider narrative of the people of Israel, as models of leadership, prophecy, national history and, above all, theodicy. There is, thus, strongly articulated biographical material in the Torah, supplemented by aggadic midrash, but the style of life writing subordinates the interest in the individual life to a divine and national narrative. As we saw with Joseph, his life – its narrative – is the fulfilment of divine providence, taking his family into Egypt that it might emerge as a nation. The contrast with Greco-Roman historiography is revealing here. When Livy or Diodorus, say, in their narrative histories offer brief or longer comments on individuals who star or feature momentarily in the unfurling of events, there is a broad cultural expectation that such remarks are to be read within the developed structure of the theory of exempla, the long history of the role of êthos within rhetorical exposition, and the equally long and intricate history of the representation of character as a mode of constructing and understanding literary narrative, as well as the parallel life of the biography as a genre. This intellectual frame is what we mean for Greek and Roman writing by ‘biographical structuring’ that can be viewed even in texts that do not identify themselves as biographies. For the Pentateuch, we have no such earlier or contemporary frames of understanding, of course (though later rabbinic writings do provide and discuss some localized explanations of characters’ motivation). The norms of the Pentateuch’s narrative form are what the Pentateuch itself offers (as with the interpretative principle of ‘Homer from Homer’) and the way the Torah constructs its versions of life stories deeply influence the practices of retelling and interpretation that follow. Yet the Talmud and other texts from within the rabbinical tradition do not evidence even such biographically structured narratives as the Torah’s accounts of Moses or David – any more than they offer historiography even of the type seen in the Books of Joshua or Kings. Nor do they suggest that the anecdotes they tell should be seen as part of such an extended biographical form, even when they praise or condemn particular characters’ motivations. Rabbinical writing is even more biographically austere than the Torah.

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Life Forms

It is a telling example that the Haggadah, the liturgical text of the feast of Passover and one of the earlier liturgical expansions of the Torah, closely follows Greco-Roman sympotic practice in its structure, but refuses to allow Moses a place in the story it rehearses annually. As with a symposium, at the Passover feast (Seder), the participants lie on couches and drink wine; there are questions posed and answered; there are songs. But in the Haggadah, when the memorializing story of the exodus is retold, it is without a single mention of Moses. When Jews eat and read the stories of the past, it is precisely not a saint’s life that gets constructed. The story is rather to be narrated without the hero, much as the narrative of Exodus does not allow us a tomb for Moses or a dynasty, two regular essentials of heroic cult. The Torah, then, with its gaps and silences, prompts a reading which expands into further anecdote: and many anecdotes bloom. But the Jews of late antiquity, unlike other groups, do not expand the Torah into biography as a coherent and extended narrative – a separate genre, as it were – nor even as the collection of anecdotes. The engagement of rabbinical writing with the texts of the Torah never imitates even the form of life-writing embodied in the Torah’s narratives of Moses, Joseph and David. The tales of Akiva, Lakish and the other great rabbis, unlike the hagiographies of Christian saints in relation to the Gospels, do not follow even the narrative models embodied in the Torah. The logic of imitatio takes a quite different route. The exemplary is elsewhere. At this point, I need to highlight two remarkable exceptions, two ancient Jews who did write biographies of the familiar Greco-Roman type. Both, however, will help bolster and make more precise my argument about how life-writing becomes a key marker of engagement with dominant Greco-Roman culture. It is only after we have now looked both at the tradition of biography in Greco-Roman imperial culture and the map of Talmudic life-writing that we can appreciate the significance of both of these writers. Philo of Alexandria is an ancient Jew, and a prominent one, who did write biography. He writes in Greek, however, and, as we will see, fully inhabits a Greek cultural world, and is close enough to dominant structures of power to have visited Rome as an ambassador and met the emperor. He composed both a Life of Moses and a Life of Joseph, as well as a Life of 



There is a single mention of Moses in the whole Haggadah, when a third-century Midrash (Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael: Beshalach : ) quotes a verse of Exodus. Early editions of the Haggadah, following normal citational practice, only cited the first words of the verse and did not mention Moses. Modern editions give the whole verse which does mention Moses. The tomb of Nabi Musa is a medieval Muslim invention.

Biography and Rabbinical Writing

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Abraham. These are extraordinary works, largely unread within the classical curriculum these days. The Life of Joseph begins with a statement of principle that could come from Plutarch (de Jo. .): ‘There are three factors which produce the summation of excellence, namely, learning, nature and practice’: mathêsis, phusis, askêsis. These virtues are epitomized in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A fourth style of life is that of the statesman, politikos, which Joseph epitomizes. Philo, who was a statesman who went as such to Rome, reflects through Joseph on statesmanship. First, Philo gives a brief account of Joseph’s life, which is fully informed by Philo’s training in Greek rhetoric. So, when Reuven discovers Joseph has been sold to the Ishmaelites, in the Torah, he says merely (Gen. .): ‘The boy is gone. Now what shall I do?’ But Philo constructs a full and fully rhetorical expansion of such elegant reticence. ‘The boy is gone’ becomes (): ‘Tell me’, he cried, ‘what has become of him. Is he alive or dead? If he is no more, show me his dead body, that I may weep over the corpse and thus make the calamity seem lighter. If I see him lying here I will be comforted. Why do we still bear a grudge on the dead? Envy cannot fasten on the departed. But if he is alive where on earth has he gone? In whose charge is he being kept? Tell me, for you cannot suspect me as well as him that you should refuse me your confidence.’

Philo follows Greek rhetorical conventions of the kommos in volubly seeking the comfort of mourning, the solace of tears. What is more, he adds the archetypal turn to generalizing reflection with his remarks on envy and death – combined with the final petitio, informed as it is by the rhetorical logics of êthos and eikos. The topoi and training of Greek rhetoric now structure the expressivity of Reuven’s language. The simple biblical question, ‘Now what shall I do?’, in Philo’s hands also becomes a long speech (–), which is replete with the love of paradox, the ironies of moral judgement and the turn to generalization that are typical of the rhetorical school and its practices of ethopoeia. This brief extract is a fine example of this styling of debate, which is so different from the Torah’s reticence (): Which will Jacob pity most, the one sold for his slavery or the sellers for their cruelty? Surely us far more than him, since it is less grievous to suffer wrong than to do it. The former is assisted by two mighty forces, pity and hope; the latter has no part in either, and in the judgement of all comes off the worst. But why do I lament thus wildly?

The form of the opening question, ‘Which will he pity the more?’ is the standard gesture of deliberative rhetoric. ‘Is x or y the best/worst/most

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Life Forms

Greek attitude or action’ is a relentlessly normal form of a question to begin a rhetorical exposition. The explanation that ‘two great forces, pity and hope’ attend the victim offers a form of generalization about the emotions which is hard to parallel in biblical sources, but which is again the norm of Greco-Roman rhetorical emotional logic, common in novels and poetry as well as in history or law-court speeches. Even the final question ‘But why do I lament thus wildly?’ is a gesture of self-conscious transition that is formulaic for Greek prose. But perhaps the most telling detail is that Reuven seems to quote Plato. ‘It is less worse to suffer harm than to do it’ is a famous line from the Platonic dialogue, Gorgias (and as an idea plays a significant role in the Republic too). Plato will later be called by Numenius of Apamea ‘nothing more than Moses in Attic Greek’, but the idea that Reuven should give this precisely Platonic exposition to his grief shows how fully Greek this story is. For Philo, the Jew, to write a life story in Greek is to demonstrate and perform his Hellenization – his assimilation of the structures and rhetoric of Greek expressivity. The language of self-expression – in all senses – is fully formed from within the normative framework of Greek ethical thinking. After this brief version of Joseph’s life, however, we are then treated to an allegorical account of details of the biography, allegorized to show how Joseph instructs us about the values of the statesman. So, the coat of many colours indicates how a statesman has to be shifty and everything to all people (): Further, he is quite properly said to assume a coat of many colours [poikilon]. For a political life is a thing varied [poikilon] and multiple [polutropon], liable to innumerable changes [metabolas] brought about by personalities, circumstances, motives, individualities of conduct, differences of occasion and place.

Philo’s language echoes Homer and Thucydidean historiography in its allegorizing. Philo, of course, is the master of allegory, and the whole Torah is treated as an opportunity for neo-Platonic exegesis, where, paradigmatically, Abraham is the soul and Sarah the body (and so forth). Rabbinic exegesis is rarely quite so directly allegorical, and never, I think, allegorical to such a Platonic agenda. Although there are allegorical interpretations in Jewish writings, again it is hard to see this as anything but a profoundly Greek form of argument. Joseph is the paradeigma of a statesman. 

Fr  Des Places, perhaps echoing Aristoboulus of Paneas, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher. On Numenius see Kahn (: –); Dillon (: –), both of whom note that he found the origins of Greek thought in a wide range of sources, and not just in Jewish texts.

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Philo’s Life of Moses further shows in a wonderfully precise way just how indebted to Greek models Philo, living in Alexandria, is. For his account fills in precisely what is missing in the Torah, an account of Moses’ early youth, which he does so with a delightful version of Greek paideia. Moses receives (.) ‘the nurture and service due to a prince’ and responds in an exemplary way (.): ‘He did not bear himself like the mere infant he was, nor delight in fun and laughter and sport, though those who had charge of him did not grudge him relaxation or show him severity; but with a modest and serious bearing he applied himself to hearing and seeing what was sure to profit the soul’. The account emphasizes the natural seriousness and educational fervour of the young Moses (not enforced by his teachers) – and leads to a page of generalizations about ‘great natures’: this is very much Hellenized biography through êthos and paideia. So what does this serious education consist in? ‘Arithmetic, geometry, the lore of metre, rhythm and harmony and the whole subject of music’ were taught by Egyptians, but he had ‘Greeks to teach him the rest of the standard curriculum [enkuklian paideian]’ (.). Philo’s Moses has to have the proper upper-class Greek education in science and arts. Indeed, it is even called enkuklios paideia, which is the technical term for the standard curriculum in Empire Greek culture. With a fine disregard for chronology, Philo’s Moses is himself deeply assimilated into Greek culture. Written in Greek in Egypt, by an assimilated Alexandrian Jew, this life of Moses imagines a Jew proceeding through Egyptian towards the heights of a Greek cultural mastery. As with so many eighteenth-century history paintings, Moses appears in the privileged dress of the author’s day. It is clear that what Philo writes is very much Greek biography. Its language, its narrative expectations, its values and its strategies of representation are all based on Greek rhetoric and Greek philosophical systems and ideology. Moses the Platonist. In short, this first example of a Jew who does write biography in the ancient world, who does retell the stories from the Torah, does so by becoming very Greek indeed. What Philo’s biographies show is his integration within Greek culture in Alexandria, or, if you prefer, his radical difference from later rabbinic Judaism. Like the Greek–Jewish novel, Joseph and Aseneth, or the Greek–Jewish tragedy, the  

See in general Gager (). On Jewish Hellenism in this period, see Bickerman (); Cohen (); Feldman (); Goodman ed (); Gruen (, b); Hengel (); Lieu, North and Rajak eds (); Levine (); Lieberman (, ); Millar (); Rajak (b); I have learned a great deal from all of the above; Assmann () also lies behind some of my thinking here.

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Life Forms

Exagoge of Ezekiel, Philo’s biography shows his thoroughgoing embedding in Hellenistic culture, producing a literary form that the incremental authority of rabbinical writing will insist to be a route not to be taken for Jewish tradition. It is part of an experimental intellectual world of Hellenistic Judaism, where we might place Kohelet, Artapanus, Maccabees, Tobit and other works, where form, expression and genre testify to an exploration of a Jewish identity in productive tension with Greek and Egyptian culture. The style of disconnected biographical anecdotes embodied in rabbinic writings contrasts starkly also with this earlier Jewish writing which participates in the biographical models and the traditions of the surrounding society. The Life of Moses is further important to my case because it has a particular and extended afterlife. That is, although we do not find later Jewish writers picking up on Philo’s model, the Christian Gregory of Nyssa for one does. Christian tradition is all too happy to assimilate the narrative of the Torah to what we have already seen to be a privileged Christian genre. Gregory’s Life of Moses not only follows Philo (re-reading it as a Christian exegesis in a way we have seen to be integral to the textual history of Joseph and Aseneth), but also, as scholars have discussed with some intensity, offers an appropriative version to his own Christian agenda, including – and here the ideology seems insistent – a portrait of Moses as a man withdrawn from society into monastic spiritual practice. Where Philo takes Moses’ story to express Platonic truths, Gregory takes it to express Christian spiritual values. So, the plague of frogs, stopped when Moses stretched out his hands, is to show that we who live with ‘sordid and frog-like thoughts’ (.) will be set free from our evil life (‘pure from frog-like life’ (.)), and our ‘passion put to death and left stinking’ if we turn to the outstretched hands of the True Lawgiver on the cross. With a turn to internal anxieties quite unparalleled in the Hebrew Bible, Gregory constructs an extraordinary image of ‘frog-like’ thoughts, a plague of nasty ideas leaping around inside our heads. Interestingly, Gregory too works to allow the wisdom of Greece into his world picture. When Moses took from the Egyptians their wealth, as the Israelites left Egypt, this actually means, argues Gregory, the Christian use of secular sciences, which can beautify the temple of the mystery, if used carefully, with reason. This passage   

 See Bryant Davies (). See Wills (), and in general Bickerman (). For a rather mechanical account of Gregory’s use of Philo see Geljen (). Rubensen (: –, –); Ferguson (); Burrus (: –); Burrus (); and in general on Gregory, see Coakley ed (); Ludlow (). There is excellent background in Dawson ().

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seems to put together ideas from Origen and Augustine with a new spin, but it also shows how the techniques of Philo became part of the Christian tradition, while not becoming part of the Jewish tradition. For Christians, where biography plays such a role in their thinking and practice, Philo’s allegorizing can be reused, appropriated to another symbolic system. For the Jews, it eventually becomes a strangeness, with no afterlife. The second great Jewish figure who writes full-scale biography is the other great assimilationist – Josephus. He writes a Life for himself, an autobiography, which is, of course, an apologia pro vita sua. It begins with his birth and genealogy, with full placement in historical time according to the dynasty of Roman emperors, facts asserted defensively with a citation of public archives (Vit ), and includes his early education (Vit ) (except for its defensive tone, it is in its form closer to a modern biographical expectation than to any Talmudic narrative of personal history). He concludes it by explicitly declaring that now everyone will be able to judge his character, his êthos (Vit ). In the Life, he judges other figures according to their behaviour, character and morals, in a way which recalls both the court room’s rhetoric of self-justification and Plutarch’s exemplary virtues. In his oeuvre, Josephus uses the privileged term of Plutarch and the Greek tradition for the link between psychology and action, prohaeresis, some eighty times (although often with little more purchase than to indicate ‘will’, or a ‘decision’), and the word hairesis a further thirty times. How people behave, and what form their narratives are given, are formulated within a Greek tradition of judgemental exemplarity – a horizon of expectation that is encoded in narrative cliché. Indeed, Josephus describes how he himself as a young man searched through various cultic groups (haireseis Vit ) to see which community suited his values and desired way of life best – like so many elite Greeks and Romans in the empire who explored different philosophical schools in their search for a good life – a process institutionalized in the different philosophical schools of imperial Athens, with the possibility of experiencing each in agonistic turn – and Josephus calls these sects ‘philosophies’. Such a   



See Malherbe and Ferguson (: n) for the relevant passages of Origen. See Mason (); Schwartz (); Cohen (); Rajak (a); Edmondson, Mason and Rives eds (); Goldhill and Morales eds (), each with further bibliography. In the Septuagint, prohairesis occurs in one manuscript tradition of Judges (.), though not in others, twice in II Mac (.; .), and then twelve times in Kohellet (Ecclesiastes), ten of which are the phrase prohairesis pneumatos/kardias, ‘the preference of the spirit/heart’, to indicate the vanity of human desire. Josephus’ usage is markedly different from the Septuagint thus.  See also BellJud II ; Ant xiii ; xviii . BellJud II ; Ant xviii .

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process is quite unfamiliar in the rabbinical writings which, in their blanket dismissal of minim (heretics), never recognize the legitimacy of alternative sects to rabbinical authority, even and especially when they are threats to such authority. Indeed, some of the most violent and abusive rhetoric is reserved for those Jews who do not recognize rabbinic authority – the am ha’arets, or ‘people of the land’. Josephus’ Autobiography fits fairly and squarely into Greco-Roman tradition in style and form, but is unparalleled in extant Jewish material. It is worth remembering that Josephus, a priest, became one of the leaders of the Jewish revolt, though in his usual self-serving manner he also tells us in the Jewish War that he really opposed the rebellion from the beginning. He ends up going over to Rome and writing the history of the war under the patronage of its victors, Vespasian and Titus: a history in which his own biography is intertwined, and in which he appears as a character, a character who, as we have seen, announces his own translation from rebel leader to imperial historian, his own transition into the central institutions of imperial rule. It would be hard to find a better example of biography as a mode of writing the boundaries of national identity than Josephus, who above all negotiates the space between Jewish society and Greco-Roman culture. Josephus cuts a strange figure for Jewish tradition. The very fact that he writes an autobiography singles him out as a cultural boundary crosser: someone who cannot be fitted easily into Jewish cultural tradition – but who echoes the historical self-positioning of Thucydides, or Xenophon, or Caesar, each of whom appear as thirdperson heroes of their own histories. Josephus writes his history of the Jewish War fully within the tradition of ancient historiography, and this generic turn seems to affect all aspects of his writing. So, when he comes to rewrite the story of Joseph in the Jewish Antiquities, his austere prose contrasts fascinatingly with both the Torah and with Philo’s rhetorical expansiveness (let alone Joseph and Aseneth). For Josephus retells the story of Joseph’s sale to the Ishmaelites without any use of direct speech. So, when Reuven returns to his brothers, Josephus writes (II. ): ‘He heaped abuse on his brothers. But when they told him what had happened, Reuven ceased his grief.’ Like Thucydides, Josephus saves the drama of direct speech for the great set scenes of recognition and debate – and also resists the simple unadorned expression 

See Oppenheimer (: especially –); Miller (: –); with the comments of Cohen (: –) who notes that such insults are in the Bavli but not the Yerushalmi, a view qualified by Pomeranz ().

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of grief of the Torah’s account. The fact of the exchange is enough, and the reader is allowed to imagine the topoi of abuse and grief for herself. Two conclusions may be drawn so far. First, there is an active and important and very various biographical tradition in both Greco-Roman and Christian culture, which is fundamental to the ideological work of both cultures, both explicitly in terms of the discussion of the normative, exemplary value of biography, and implicitly in the projection of cultural values. This is a multiform and complex discourse of life-writing, which develops over time and is culturally located: and for our purposes the ethical biography of Plutarch and the hagiographical biographies of Christian tradition suggest especially important frameworks. These traditions create horizons of expectation for the biographical structuring of narrative, its form. Second, there is no such tradition in rabbinic Judaism (or in the extreme group of Jews at Qumran). Although the potential for extended biographical narrative could be found in the Torah’s narratives of its greatest figures, rabbinical writing resists such extended narratives with their models of explanation and interconnection. Philo, a Jew who does write biography, reveals how integrally Greek his biographical writing is at all levels. Likewise, Josephus’ autobiography is about how a Jew came to be a Roman apologist, writing in Greek. When other Jews in the first and second century do write biographically structured narratives – the Gospels, for example – they are not merely in Greek (not Hebrew or Aramaic), but prove to be revolutionary in form and impact; and, in retrospect, for the rabbis, texts of intense ambivalence at best, with the result that the degree of rabbinic knowledge of them and the tone of rabbinic engagement with them has remained a source of heated scholarly contention. Significantly, both Philo and Josephus are writing before or just after CE, before the destruction of the Temple revolutionized the nature of Jewish life (and rabbinic culture). And it is not by chance, I suggest, that Philo is taken up by Christian writers from Clement onwards, but not by Jewish writers, just as Josephus finds his generic place most comfortably in Greco-Roman historiography, and, what’s more, is often taken as a figure for Christian apologetics. The lack of biography as a genre in mainstream Jewish rabbinic tradition is clear; the contrast both with the cultures surrounding rabbinic Judaism – Greek, Roman, Sassanian – and with earlier Jewish biographical experimentation in Alexandria or Rome, is marked and foundational.  

Boyarin (); Burridge (). Schäffer () is the standard account now, with extensive bibliography to earlier discussions.

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V Now that we have seen how Philo and Josephus, as Jews fully embedded in Greek culture, do turn to write continuous narrative biographies, based on paideia and character, and now that we have seen in general terms how the Talmud offers no examples of such narratives and, indeed, resists both their form and the cultural, ideological associations of such a form, we have a proper frame in which to ask the question of how, then, do the biographical narratives within the Talmud appear. Let us begin with a typical case or set of cases. A discussion takes place in tractate b Berachot a about why miracles took place for previous generations but not today: how were those earlier men better? An initial conclusion is that previous generations were prepared to ‘sanctify the name of God’ (a’kdooshut hashem) unlike the present day. Kiddush hashem, ‘sanctification of [God’s] name’, can indicate martyrdom, but here the examples that will be offered indicate rather less grand gestures of religious observance. So we are told that ‘Rav Gidel used to sit by the entrance to the women’s ritual bath [mikveh]. He would say to them “Immerse like this; immerse like this”’, that is, he would give religious instruction about how the bath should be taken. ‘The rabbis asked him: is the master not afraid of the yetzer hara [evil inclination]’ – that is, how can he avoid the dangerous possibility of erotic stimulus (at very least) watching and advising women about a ritual ablution (always completed absolutely naked). ‘He said to them “they seem to me like white geese”’. Gidel’s retort dismisses the possibility of any sexual attraction with blunt disregard. The passage continues: ‘Rabbi Yochanan used to sit by the entrance to the women’s ritual bath [mikveh]’ – the same introductory sentence used now of a different sage. The implied question about such behaviour is left unstated, but Yochanan initiates a response, ‘When the daughters of Israel come out of their immersion, let them look at me, and they will have children as beautiful as I’. Ritual immersion takes place after a woman’s menstruation is finished, and after immersion, sexual intercourse can – and is expected – to take place again immediately. Yochanan is not here advising on any ritual observance. His self-justification, based on the fact that he is recognized to be an extremely beautiful man (as we noted previously, when he leapt into the river with Rav Lakish), assumes the familiar folk theory of ancient medicine that what a woman sees while she is having sex will affect the baby born – as in Heliodorus’ novel, the Aethiopika, where the queen of Ethiopia looks at a painting of Andromeda during intercourse and thus has a white baby although she and her

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

husband are black. Yochanan sits by the bath, it seems, for eugenic reasons. Not surprisingly the rabbis ask: ‘Is the master not afraid of the evil eye?’ As Yochanan assumes the power of the gaze to affect conception, so the rabbis assume the danger of a malicious look. On the one hand, that is, the rabbis question whether such a public assertion of one’s own beauty will not cause envy or jealous attention. On the other hand, there is also an implication that Yochanan’s behaviour could easily be misunderstood as being motivated by less noble feelings, which would prompt equally jealous responses from others (the story of the ogling eye). (Interestingly, elsewhere in the Talmud (Bava Metzia a) where the story is told again, Yochanan is made to add ‘and as learned in Torah as I’ – which at least adds a more traditionally normative value to his self-evaluation.) Rav Yochanan replies, ‘I come from the progeny of Joseph over whom the evil eye has no power’. Equally as dismissive as Gidel, Yochanan asserts himself above any such public judgement or social punishment. The text of the Talmud does not comment on Yochanan’s behaviour, but proceeds to offer four possible scriptural sources for his remark, concluding with an obvious story of eroticism and jealousy, namely, that Joseph was unmoved by Potiphar’s wife (‘did not want to enjoy what was not his’) – though any implications of Joseph’s model for Yochanan are left unexpressed in the philology of allusion. The argument ends here. Here we have, then, two juxtaposed stories, each starting from the same premise of a man sitting outside a women’s ritual bathhouse. Each is offered as an example of how the great men of yesteryear behaved. Both have a ritual setting, and both show an individual apparently rising above a stereotype of erotic calumny with a sharp rhetorical putdown. Yet these are not examples of character or education. The events are not related to any other aspect of the life or views of the individual rabbis Gidel and Yochanan. There is no reference to any other of the voluminous mentions of Rabbi Yochanan elsewhere in the Talmud (Gidel remains more obscure). Nor are the two episodes related to each other except by juxtaposition. We might ask whether Yochanan’s justification is morally similar to Gidel’s, but the text does not. We might ask how seriously these passages are offered as examples of the triumphs of a previous generation’s miracle-inducing piety; but the text ends with a standard multiplication of   

See Reeve (). Neis () discusses the ‘beautiful man’ Yochanan in relation to rabbinic theories of sight and their Greek intertexts, beautifully. Including Gen ., an extremely difficult verse to translate in itself, which is read in two different vowel pointings.

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Life Forms

possible source texts, taking us back into the homiletic exegetical reading of Scripture. Paraded sexual restraint or disregard is offered as a gesture of exceptional religious observation. I have deliberately chosen here two anecdotes which may seem to have some formal parallels with familiar classical or Christian material. Anecdotes of great men, often concluding with a bon mot or a moral, are a commonplace of these biographical traditions. A particularly salient example here is Leontius’ Life of Symeon the Holy Fool, which narrates how Symeon rushed naked into the women’s bathhouse, and was beaten by the women and thrown out. This anecdote is part of the long narrative of Symeon’s life story, complete with extended account of his ascetic conversion, his desire to mock city-dwellers after his twenty-nine years in the desert, and a lengthy defence of his absolute purity, embodied in a sequence of anecdotes and authorial explanations. Many of his exploits – including defecating in the market place – are extreme versions of Cynic display (an extremism that is hard to reconcile with normative Christianity, for all that scholars agree that some impact of Cynic thinking can be seen in asceticism in particular). But each of his oddities – his foolishness – is placed theologically by Leontius in the category of innocence guaranteed by the Holy Spirit in him (Diogenes and his mockery are never characterized, I think, as innocent). The form of this embedded and explained story of Symeon contrasts strikingly with the Talmud. Neither of the rabbinical stories of the bath house is embedded in a life story, nor is the juxtaposition of anecdotes explored as a sequence within the text, nor are the motives of the rabbis’ apparently strange behaviour debated or judged. Symeon’s behaviour is transgressive and punished, but excused by the author because of his character as a holy innocent. The rabbis are questioned, but defend themselves on halachic grounds. Both Talmudic stories are in service of ‘the sanctification of the name of God’, each action is evaluated in its contribution to religious understanding, each is a story where what is at stake is the framing of sexuality in a social context by rabbinical judgement. The vast majority of biographical anecdotes in the Babylonian Talmud have such pointedness. The late arrival of the adolescent children from a party back to their house and their waiting father, Rabbi Gamliel, becomes a story about the time limits for saying specific prayers (b Berachot a); the student who sleeps under his teacher’s marital bed is exploring the 

– in Rydén’s text (Rydén ). On Symeon, see Krueger () (with further bibliography).

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

transmission of religious knowledge (b Berachot a); private habits in the toilet are opportunities for regulating prayer and purity (b Berachot a); even the most detailed and memorable story of infighting between rabbinical authorities for control over the institutions of learning becomes the opportunity to explain why a rabbi says of himself, ‘I am like a man of seventy’ rather than ‘I am a man of seventy’, as he expounds the meaning of a biblical verse used in liturgy (b Berachot a). This last example is especially poignant. Following a violent row between Rabbi Gamliel, the head of the scholarly community, and Rabbi Yehoshua about whether the evening prayers are to be thought elective or compulsory, the community itself rejects Gamliel’s leadership (b Berachot a). They pass over Akiva, because he does not have the right family background, and choose Elazar ben Azaryah as their new head on the grounds that he is wise, wealthy and of excellent family. Wealth, it is immediately explained, is necessary for him to deal with the Roman authorities; family background will protect him against a backlash from Gamliel. Elazar, however, is uncertain about taking up so grand a position and discusses it with his wife. She points out that he could lose the position as easily as it has been offered; he replies – demonstrating his wisdom – that you drink from a costly wine glass one day, and it can smash the next. She points out that he has no white hair. If this is a comment on his undeveloped authority, the narrative nonetheless takes it literally, and announces that a miracle happened, and Elazar, although only eighteen, immediately turned white-haired. This is why, concludes the Talmud, he introduced his exegesis of a text, ‘I am like a seventy year old man’: he was white-haired when eighteen years old. The story of the power struggle over leadership of the scholarly community inevitably embeds a series of judgements and normative values about how scholarly communities should behave, and what forms of dissent and difference it can allow. And, of course, the power struggle starts and ends with a dispute about correct religious regulation (halacha). Yet what is typical of the Talmudic narrative is its reversion at a climax of the story to a gloss on a key passage of exegesis elsewhere. The historical event – it is a ma’aseh case, something the Talmud privileges as a case from real life, ‘it happened’ – becomes a form of midrash to explain an otherwise confusing philological nicety. Biographical anecdotes in the Babylonian Talmud are profuse, but not interconnected into extended, articulated biographical narratives, or even cross-referenced into incremental significance. They repeatedly offer short, intensely vivid stories, in order to explain, demonstrate or embody a specific point of religious judgement. Even when events are specified as



Life Forms

having the authority of what actually happened – ma’aseh – such events become signs of something else, something to do with religious order and regulation – neither simply ‘what just happened’ nor simply ‘what usually or ought to happen’ (eikos), as Aristotle would define how history and poetry delineate the order of things through forms of narrative, but an opportunity to explain halacha. Multiple stories of a life are not used to gloss each other; a brigand past does not seem to inform a halachic present, any more than Akiva’s past as a poor and ignorant shepherd plays a role in his life as a revolutionary or a sage. Êthos and paideia are not determining frameworks, nor is the logic of imitation of the great man a prevalent normative injunction: observance of the law is. It is not just that the Talmud’s framework of halachic questions is not conducive to biography, it is that the framework itself is constructed out of its refusal of standard authoritative models of narrative form. If ‘rabbinic textuality . . . [is] utterly un-Western’ in its fragmented redrafting of disparate elements, its resistance to biographical modes is a key element of this self-positioning.

VI I will finish this chapter by suggesting four interrelated answers to the question of why, then, rabbinic Judaism does not write biography in any of its classical forms. The few scholars who have noted what Philip Alexander calls this ‘profound enigma’ have been particularly concerned with the relation of the Talmud and the Gospels, and have not gone beyond the argument that the Jewish writings are thus evidently concerned with Torah – halacha – rather than with a sage’s life. I think we can go further than this. To begin, I wish to reiterate that the lack of biography is a deliberate, polemical strategy. It is polemical in two different ways. First, it separates the rabbis and their followers from the standard genres of the Christian and Greco-Roman worlds – and from Jews who are not within the structure of rabbinical authority, whose engagement with Hellenism may be quite otherwise. The Talmud as a form has no real generic parallels in the ancient world, and making the Talmud the key text of religious   

Schwartz (b: ), citing the dedicatee of this book, John Henderson. A particularly stimulating response to this is Boyarin (). Alexander (: citation ); Neusner (, , , ); Burridge (: –). The extreme thesis of the gulf between Eastern and Western diasoporas for post-destruction Judaism offered by Mendels and Edrei () (and earlier by Edrei and Mendels (, )) has been largely dismissed, most recently by Collar ().

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engagement is central to the slow construction of rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic writings perform the assertion that ‘we don’t write the way you write; our stories are different; we are different’. In the reverse of Philo or Josephus, the refusal of biography is an anti-assimilationist move. It is also polemical in a second way, however: for the resistance to the generic expectations of biography is also a resistance to the dictates of traditional historiography. The Talmud’s attitude to history would need another chapter at least. But the resistance to biography also enables the conversations between rabbis who lived hundreds of years apart, which is so common a feature of Talmudic rhetoric. It enables the multiplication of midrash. It enables, that is, the focus not on the historical development of religious law, but on its apparently timeless debate. Taking rabbis out of historical time is a common move of rabbinic discourse, with which the lack of biographies is complicit. The articulation of religious time is a pervasive theme of the Talmud (and a key part of the argument between Gamliel and Yehoshua), from the correct time for prayer, to the calendar, to the notion of the time to come. But neither the Talmud’s organization of space nor, especially, its sense of time can fit easily with Greco-Roman historiographical imperatives. The resistance to biography is also a resistance to Aristotelian or Thucydidean temporality. A person’s location within the narrative of history is differently calibrated. Second, by resisting classical biography a different logic of explanation obtains. Biographical tradition in antiquity tends to explain behaviour through character, and character through training and nature. The Talmud and other Jewish writing eschew such explanations. There is a yetzer hara, an ‘evil impulse’, in everyone; there are vivid scenes of personal interaction. But we do not look to Reish Lakish’s early life as a brigand to explain his views or behaviour elsewhere. The economy of religious debate in the Talmud, or the narrative economy of midrash, is interested in action, first and foremost, or the position adopted, but not the personal reason – a reason grounded in the person – for any particular action or view. Jewish writing does not connect the events of a rabbi’s life in a    

For an interesting argument along these lines with regard to rabbinical anecdote see Hasan-Rokem (). Yerushalmi () is especially influential. See also Neusner (); I have had my go at this (with bibliography) in Goldhill (). An especially complex topic: see Stern (, ); Goldberg (); Milikovsky (); Kaye (). See the excellent Rosen-Zvi () which also shows how such an idea develops with regard to Greco-Roman conceptualizations.

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Life Forms

psychological, rhetorical or historical causal pattern. When the Talmud asks why a rabbi holds a particular position on an issue the answer will be solely because of a set of intellectual presuppositions about texts and their status. The lack of biography is also asserting a form of scriptural and exegetical authority. It demands a form of reading and argument. This leads directly to my third answer as to why Jews eschew the form of classical biography: rabbinical writing encodes a different sense of self. Each of my answers no doubt deserves expansion, but this one above all. From their different directions, both Peter Brown and Michel Foucault have put the construction of the self at the centre of contemporary debate about religion and society in later antiquity. Yet there has been less discussion than there should be of how Jewish writing of this period seems to offer such a different account of the lineaments of the person. The lack of interest in the peculiarities of character, the lack of interest in character as a causal force, the lack of interest in the narrative of a life, are all negatives that emerge in contrast with Greco-Roman and Christian sources. The positives may be harder to draw up in the scope of this chapter. Jewish life, however, within this rabbinical perspective is in the doing not the revealing, that is, in action, explored within the framework of law. The anecdote is significant as an exposition of regulation or of holiness, but not of individual character. Becoming Jewish is not a privileged story (as becoming Christian is for Christians), although, through Akiva and Lakish, becoming a learned man is a master trope. But as Akiva’s death shows, this is an endless story. When Akiva is murdered, he expostulates that he finally understands the meaning of the words of the central prayer of Judaism, namely, that he should love God with all his heart and all his soul: Akiva’s martyrdom does not end with the paradigmatic Christian martyr’s statement of faith, but with the recognition that he has at last got the meaning of a key biblical verse: ‘Now I know’ (p Berachot .). Study does not stop. The lack of biography is also part and parcel of how a Jewish idea of the self is formed in relation to action and to study. The very morselization of Talmudic narrative into anecdotes very loosely interconnected, and the formulation of such morselized anecdotes    

See especially Brown () and Foucault () and (); Brown responds to Foucault in the second edition of his book in . See, however, the especially fine studies of Stern (); Hayes (). Boyarin (, ), each with further bibliography. Burridge (: ) writes ‘rabbinic anecdotes are directed more towards sayings than actions’; rabbis do talk a lot, but they talk a great deal about actions.  See Boyarin (). Even God studies Torah: b Gittin b.

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as questions of individual behaviour conceptualized within a halachic frame, constructs, therefore, an image of what we can call ‘halachic man’ – that is, the political subject is conceived within the perspective of the rabbinical world view, where the narrative of lived experience becomes a set of discrete halachic decisions: actions informed by study. Indeed, in a way which would have baffled the Greek and Roman citizens of Empire and probably their own ancestors, it became possible for Jews to argue that studying religious law was even more important than the actual observance of ritual practice – or rather that study could become a key religious practice in itself: ‘Torah study is superior to the saving of life . . . Torah study is superior to building the Temple . . . Torah study is superior to the honour of father and mother’ (bMeg b) – that is, Torah study is more important, it would seem from such outrageously extreme statements, than basic public morality, establishing ritual observance and the essential laws of family behaviour enshrined in the Ten Commandments. The narrative form of the Talmud is fully expressive of the ideological construction of this religious perspective – the rabbinic self, constantly experienced through religious choices, a subjectivity formed in serial decisions of regulatory zeal, justified and contested through the network of scriptural authorities and formal structures of argumentation. Or: if the Talmud has an answer to the question of how to be a good Jew, it is: continue to study the unending question of how to be a good Jew. What, then, does this construction or projection of ‘halachic man’ mean for the cultural or national identity of the Jews of late antiquity? This leads to my fourth and final response. There are ancient Jewish texts that are deeply engaged with national identity as a military engagement justified as an act of cultural independence: Maccabees, or Josephus’ Jewish Wars, for example, to take two texts written, tellingly, in Greek. The Talmud seems to take a different route. On the one hand, there are innumerable discussions of how the Jewish community as a community should function. Such normative discussions include extensive formulations of ritual practice, but also intense ethical discussions and also what might be called debates about social form: the catastrophic war that led to the destruction of the Temple is said to have started from a misplaced dinner invitation and the failure of social decency that followed (b Gittin b). For a person  

Although the phrase ‘halachic man’ echoes the title of Soloveitchik’s famous study (Soloveitchik ), it will be clear that I am using the term with a different purchase. I Maccabees was written in Hebrew, as, we are told by Josephus, his Jewish Wars was written originally in his native tongue. The emphasis on how the indigenous has been turned into Greek, emphasizes what semantic and political difference it makes to be in Greek.

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Life Forms

to focus his life on the study of the Talmud is to commit to the continual intellectual engagement with such issues. On the other hand, there are innumerable stories in the Talmud about how points of contact between Jews and Greco-Roman and other idolatrous societies can and should be negotiated from a religious – and thus cultural – perspective. So, paradigmatically, it is asked in the Talmud, ‘Do you interrupt a prayer if a Roman official comes into synagogue and greets you?’ (bBerachot b–a). Dominant culture interrupts. Similarly, it is debated how a Jew should engage with prevalent idolatry as much for his business as his spiritual practices: within what time frames and with what practical engagement can a Jew experience a pagan festival? The framework of dominant culture reframes the potential hazards of a life for its marginalized others: another temporality, another exclusion, another precarity. A Roman could declare ‘civis Romanus sum’; Philostratus’ frequently quoted remark that ‘everywhere is Greece to a wise man’, captures the Greek intellectual’s assuredness in the world. The Talmud’s narrative world is divided between its assured, argumentative construction of the all-embracing rabbinical perspective and the repeated, pointed interruptions, invasions and negotiations that the dominant culture enforces. The notion of ‘passing’ and of ‘resistance’ have become familiar critical ideas in post-colonial studies of dominance and marginalization to investigate forms of social praxis and cultural production from within systematically prejudicial hierarchical societies, especially of a post-imperial nature. Neither term quite captures the fissured enormity of the Talmudic project. Its sixty-three tractates with over , pages of debate cover every aspect of a society’s interactions, and it insists on its own encyclopedic reach. Yet it is the product of a community under repeated threat and in repeated anxiety about its own porousness and fragile boundaries. The complicity of engagement it demands of the rabbinic self is always shadowed by the invasiveness of a dominant other. The Talmud’s form, which resists the coherent, extended biographical narrative, may also be shaped by its very conditions of production, its constantly divided search for an established position between its own demands for a holistic vision and its own recognition of the impossibility of such integration in the face of the barrage of questions and interruptions its textual forms rehearse. So, then, the lack of biography in the rabbinic texts of late antiquity is a silence that goes to the heart of the construction of a post-temple Jewish self in and through such rabbinic writings. The options taken by Philo and Josephus are firmly avoided, increasingly so, from the destruction of the Temple in CE to the editing of the Babylonian Talmud in the sixth

Biography and Rabbinical Writing

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century, as rabbinical authority grew and rabbinical self-representation extended. In the rabbis’ projection of how the world looks in the Talmud, there is an increasingly emphatic privilege in asserting a national identity by rejection of, and exclusion from, dominant Greco-Roman and Christian social norms and expectations, for all that the surrounding dominant culture interrupts and frames such gestures of separation. And this takes a generic form as well as promoted social or intellectual behaviour: epic, historiography, drama – privileged genres of antiquity – as well as biography, are avoided. This avoidance of biographical modes of discourse leads thus into the issues of how the rabbinic texts strive to create an image of Jewish history, Jewish action and the questions by which the world should be interrogated and explained. It offers a view of the Jewish self, based on religious practice and not on character. It is an ideological image of the Jew in the world which has had a profound effect on Jewish tradition – and which should make us think very hard indeed about what is thus at stake when Jews after the Enlightenment do turn to write biographies in the standard forms. Above all, the lack of biography suggests that choices of generic form are deeply ideological in late antiquity, and how a life is written is closely connected to how a life is to be led, a self to be formed.

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A few final words – a formal closure leading us towards the here and now of the politics and aesthetics of form. I began this book by noting how the term ‘late antiquity’ has a polemical and persuasive force, which has been used by scholars not just to extend the boundaries of what is understood by the antiquity of Greco-Roman culture, temporally, spatially and linguistically, but also to open a debate about how tradition is to be conceptualized – a debate that necessarily invokes notions of self-placement and historical self-understanding for both ancient and modern writers. This book’s partial account of literary form across a long period from Augustus to tenth-century Byzantium has traced – performed – a contribution to this continuing narrative that explores what we understand by antiquity. My narrative has, first of all, assembled a cast of characters who span the contentious and intricate historical and ideological development of Christianity and rabbinical Judaism. We began with a Christian convert, Paulinus of Nola, exercising his Christianity intently in and through the inherited forms of a Roman literary tradition; and we travelled through Nonnus’ hyper-intellectualized style of exuberant engagement with the history of classicizing epic and its mythological repertoire, both in his narratives of Dionysus and in his poetic redrafting of the language of the Gospels – a combination that speaks vigorously of a hybridizing culture, where such self-conscious and self-confident literary performance contrasts with other, more strident, contemporary claims of religious exclusivity and purity. The multiform versions of Joseph and Aseneth, by contrast, show how texts themselves change in form and significance as they travel in time and through communities: this tale of religious change itself changes as it moves, and is differently mobilized. So, too, the Palatine Anthology reveals how the poetry of the past is repackaged – re-formed – in the Christian community of tenth-century Byzantium, and how the juxtapositions of Christian and non-Christian materials allow a conversation between past 

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and present, and between conflicting ideas and ideals of tradition, to find its own expressivity. The rabbinical writings of the Talmud reflect a different performance of strategic self-assertiveness, where gestures of separation and disavowal construct a unique form of religious writing, which is also a literary polemic in form. In order to understand the development of literary form through this era, I also insisted, however, that later authors such as Quintus of Smyrna or Triphiodorus, or earlier writers such as Pliny, where the lack of impact of religious change seems evident, are equally relevant: Christian and non-Christian writers can be set in dialogue in multiple ways, but all too often treated as wholly discrete traditions. One result of the complex trajectories of this narrative is that figures such as Musaeus or Colluthus can – and must – be read both within a constructed literary history from Homer to Triphiodorus (say), where the form of the epyllion is integral to his poem’s expressivity, and in a cultural or ideological development where Christian ideas of love, sexual desire and the soul provide a necessary frame. Perhaps most importantly, reading Musaeus or Colluthus must take place in the space articulated between those two trajectories. Repeatedly, the texts on which I have focused have revealed how complex the imaginary of late antiquity can be. I say ‘imaginary’ to emphasize that I have been studying how these different forms of literary expressivity contribute to forming a historical self-understanding, a self-positioning in the changing and often contested intellectual, political and religious arenas of the time – ‘forms that form’, as Shaftesbury puts it. The opposition of cultural history and literary criticism, which has often structured debate about this writing of late antiquity, works to obscure how much an engagement with the world is formed through narrative modelling – as Augustine’s (dis)avowed reading of Virgil vividly and paradigmatically demonstrates. Many of the texts I have been discussing have been regularly dismissed from the hallowed halls of classics, both because they are thought to be bad literature and because they are thought to be nugatory as evidence for historiography. I have been concerned, however, to investigate how these texts are indices of change that embody the performance of cultural construction: how perspectives on the world are shaped by narrative representations of the world, by literary form. Four points need to be drawn out of this summary statement, each of which can be expressed as a question to indicate how the work of this book can be taken forwards. First, my central texts of analysis were shaped in three empires – the Roman, the Byzantine and the Sassanian – and in a corresponding range of languages. The political structures of these imperial systems focus on the emperor at the centre and radiating circles of power.

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Consequently, while the citizenship of the classical Greek city offers a predominantly binary articulation of insider and outsider, which may be extended to include Greek and Barbarian or even men and gods, the hierarchical ordering of empire creates a more transitional or mobile system dependent on a subject’s closeness to the centre of power. The imperial dynamics of exclusivity and inclusivity thus require repeated negotiation. Even the opposition of Christian and pagan, or of the Jew and the nations – for all that such rhetoric insists on an extreme and totalizing polarity – is repeatedly recalibrated in action by fears or accusations of heresy, or by the hyper-performance of sainthood or extreme asceticism or martyrdom, or by the self-doubt of the fellow traveller, or by anxieties about boundaries of belonging. The polarizing rhetoric is best seen as a function within the overriding question of how to be Christian. One question raised by this book, therefore, is the degree to which the mobility of empire is a condition of possibility for the shifting politics of affiliation and commitment that these texts reveal. Imperial society is inevitably discussed most often in terms of power dynamics and strategies of oppression and resistance. In late antiquity, we need a more nuanced account that also allows for social and cultural mobility and a recognition of the multiform participation in the changing structures of ideology and belonging. Secondly, the texts I have selected for discussion cover a large temporal range, and I have certainly made no attempt at comprehensiveness. But it is worth emphasizing how persistently a particular temporality runs through the book’s argument. On the one hand, several texts dramatize change over time in the form of conversion, erotic undoing, bodily metamorphosis or the destruction of war: the before and after, manipulated further in the preposterous poetics of Nonnus or the Talmud. Late antiquity is often described as the transformation of the Roman Empire: certainly, both Christianity and rabbinical Judaism are acutely conscious of the changes brought about by Jesus (particularly, though not only, for the one) and by the destruction of the Temple (particularly, though not only, for the other). That change over time – and often aggressive and profound change – should inform so much of the thematic texture of the writing of the period is a sign and symptom of this politics of transformation. In a period of significant and self-conscious social and cultural change, narratives of transformation take on a heightened significance. On the other hand, texts themselves are reframed, reordered and re-semanticized over time. Classics, as a discipline, has often been committed to a fantasy of origin and original performance as markers of authenticity and value – markers which have

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consistently undervalued the products of late antiquity. But in late antiquity we see repeatedly the reuse of earlier material to construct new paradigms of cultural value – what has been called the poetics of spolia. The Palatine Anthology is paradigmatic of the process (and of the modern critical disdain for such reuse): an anthological reworking by Constantine of Rhodes (probably) of the anthological reworking of Cephalas of the anthologies of Agathias, Philippus and Meleager, which severally rework through anthologizing the poems of Hellenistic collections. But the constant reinterpretation and citational reuse of the Gospels through late antiquity in centos, paraphrases, epigrams as well as in theological narrative such as Augustine’s Confessions or theological treatises, also demonstrate just how much such re-forming of texts is fully part of the cultural and ideological work of this period. The very act of canon formation – the authorized selection and collection of privileged texts, a form of anthologizing – is foundational for Christianity’s institutionalization. Traditional classical philology has preferred its meanings single and time-bound; but the meanings of texts take shape over time, always. A second question this book has posed, therefore, is how much this poetics of fragmentation, reordering and transformation is distinctive to late antiquity and dependent on new conceptualizations of time from within Christianity and Judaism. It is clearly the case that many generic elements that make up this poetics – centos, encyclopedism, anthologizing, reframing and so forth – have their roots in earlier practices. So, to approach late antiquity requires not merely a recognition of how a new sense of time informs its literary writing, but also a development of a new evaluative vocabulary to deal with its specificity. My third question arises immediately from the second, and concerns tradition. Tradition is a central organizing concept of the field of classics, and has been much discussed as a term within reception studies in particular, where the sense of ‘passing down’ of an inheritance, and the authority and privilege of the ‘classical tradition’, have been opposed to more dynamic models of appropriation, resistance and self-fashioning. Late antiquity provides a particularly rich and vibrant picture of the inherent conflict and excitement that such a dynamic understanding of the relation of past and present (and future) embodies. All literature dances on the buried life of words, and, in any generic affiliation, encodes a relation to past paradigms. The 'incomparable feats of yore' is already a trope in Homer, the earliest Greek literature; and, already from the fourth century BCE, the glory days of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, a generation or two earlier, could be lauded as the lost, classical past. Yet in

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late antiquity we see a particular battle over what traditions are to count (and how), a battle that is a product, in part at least, of the advent of Christianity with its claims of a new order (and rabbinical Judaism’s rejection of both classical culture and Christianity in the name of what has always already been the order of things) – a battle which exacerbates the subsequent pressures on the educational and cultural institutions which continue to be committed to a celebration of classicizing knowledge. Eusebius’ church history is one striking example of the drive towards the construction of a new sense of tradition, both by giving structure – a narrative form – to the disjointed and contentious transitions of the early church in the Church History, and by redrafting fragments of the privileged intellectual pasts of historiography and philosophy into a new amalgam in the Praeparatio Evangelica to ground the theological underpinnings of such a narrative. In each and every chapter of this book, however, we have seen engagements with a sense of tradition that differ in their intensity, strategies and explicitation – but where in each case an engagement with literary tradition, the redrafting of form, is fully implicated with an engagement with the cultural, theological and political transformations of the period. My third question, then, asks how the writings of late antiquity can contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of the process of making tradition, and how a developed sense of the conflict within the making of tradition can lead to a more sophisticated understanding of how the various writings of late antiquity participate in the cultural transformations of the era. The study of late antiquity has been dominated in recent decades by a combination of historiography and theology: much of the great work that has been instrumental in defining late antiquity as a subject has come from scholars who are deeply learned in the intellectual and institutional history of the Roman Empire as it is transformed into a Christian institution. Art history and the study of material culture have also been essential in understanding the transformations of the physical world as expressions of the changing ideologies and practices of the time. By contrast, much of what is categorized as literature has played far less of a role in such recalibrations of our understanding. (It is, for example, telling that the very long Companion to Byzantium has no index entry for the Palatine Anthology, which would have a strong claim to be the most influential text of Byzantium for modernity.) My fourth question, then, asks how we are 

James (). From the other side, The Cambridge History of Classical Literature: Greek Literature (Easterling ed ) does not make it past the third century.

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to bring together the multiple strands of cultural enterprise from late antiquity – how the extreme homiletic writing of the religiously committed should be related to the politicized history of the centres of power and to the verse and prose that is more intertwined with the classical past. To ask what the instruments of transformation are and how transformations are lived through requires the narrative form of so-called literary texts to be built into our models of comprehension. The engagement of the imaginary is integral to the processes of change. These four questions arise from the long history of scholarship that has structured our histories of the later Roman Empire and its processes of becoming Christian (and staying Roman). In the Preface, I drew attention to the importance of Hegel, Riegl and other German idealist thinkers on the historiography of antiquity and its importance for modernity, and stressed how their teleological interest in form also prompted a directed counter-reaction in modernism. Contemporary scholarship across the West has been working assiduously, if not always effectively, to move away from the polarities that articulated these earlier narratives: the excellence of the classical opposed to the degeneracy of the post-classical, Christian versus pagan, Christian versus Jewish, theology versus classics, literature versus history, and so forth. At the same time, classics, as a discipline, has developed an acute anxiety about its own history of privilege – not without cause. This movement, necessary as it is, can all too easily fall into a set of unreflective polarities too: oppressed versus privileged, marginal versus central, institutional versus informal, powerful versus powerless, the state versus resistance to the structures of authority. My discussion of form has taken a series of texts from one of the most politically, intellectually and culturally intricate eras of transformation, a period when so many of the institutions of antiquity that have been instrumental in the construction of modernity are under construction and open to contestation. These texts – prose and verse, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic – testify to an incredibly rich process of self-conscious engagement with the processes of change. Each writer by virtue of writing, and the education it betokens, may be thought to be part of an elite, of course; but each is also negotiating a place within the dynamics of privilege, as an insider and an outsider. Even Augustine is humiliatingly teased for his Carthaginian prose by a ‘more Roman’ antagonist. Paulinus has to reject his own established social milieu to take up his welcome in a Christian community. The rabbis are trying to make their leadership assured as they enact strategies of separation from the surrounding institutions and expectations. Late antiquity, that is, offers a particularly intense and intricate portrayal of mobility in and through

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society, and in and through different forms of belonging and exclusion. It dramatizes the various strategies and structures of self-assertion and selfrepresentation within a period of bitter and implicating cultural violence. And it disseminates a complex set of embedded writings that construct and reflect on such processes – from the stridently homiletic to the apparently coolly classicizing. This range of rich, interlocking questions is located, that is, at the cutting edge of contemporary classics, and sets the literature of late antiquity at the heart of what makes classics contemporary. For me, however, it is even more telling to see how easily such fascinating complexity is sidelined by current institutional silos and ways of thinking – however much the revision of Hegel’s influence continues. There is no better example of this continuing critical blindness than the case of the Palatine Anthology – and especially the treatment of Book , which, although it is a book which contains an integrated collection of poems by one of the most influential writers and thinkers of antiquity, has all too often been treated by critics with silence or disdain, when it is mentioned at all. As I discussed briefly in Chapter , Book  of the Palatine Anthology is agreed by all scholars who have discussed the issue to have been added to Cephalas’ anthology by the later compiler whom we can call Constantine of Rhodes. Consequently, the book is not printed in the Teubner edition of the Palatine Anthology, and Paton’s Loeb wishes it could exclude it in the same way. It is not discussed in any detail by Cameron, and, although there is a handful of useful studies of some aspects of its poetic texture, with an eye on its Hellenistic predecessors, there has been no article written on the book as a book. When Gregory is discussed it is most often under the institutional aegis of theology – or for the political life of a bishop through his autobiographical poems. Consequently, neither classicists nor theologians have engaged seriously either with this book as a book, nor with its placement in the Palatine Anthology. 

 

The two most detailed and sophisticated of the very few pertinent articles since the war, Consolino () and Floridi (), treat only the personal epigrams and the desecration epigrams respectively. The excellent Elm () has only a single footnote referring to this book. For disdain, see most recently Beta (). The best recent discussion, with full bibliography, is Elm (). See for example the relative paucity of discussion in Demoen (); Børtnes and Hägg eds (); McGuckin (); even, as noted, Elm (). For studies of the tomb desecration poems, see in particular Floridi (); Corsano (); Petzl (); Rebillard (: –); on the personal epitaphs, see in particular Consolino (); Poulos (in press); and in general Salvatore (), Criscuolo () (mainly on prose, but see –), and for background Agosti (). Goldhill and Greensmith (in press) grounds the following paragraphs (and has the salient bibliography).

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Gregory’s Book  is a carefully constructed and integrated whole. There are internal indicators that it was most likely composed as such by Gregory, and, even if from the current state of evidence certainty about this must remain unprovable, the book’s format is designed and significant: it has a clear, broad, dyadic structure, made up of poems of praise for the Christian dead (–) and poems of disparagement of the desecrators of the Christian dead (–), and it collects poems on particular people in ordered sequences, marked as such within the poems. It is immediately evident that these poems are structured as a book, and self-consciously marked as such in a way which we rarely see with such explicitness with other books of epigrams (although Martial certainly toys excitingly with this prospect). The opening epigram is on the tomb of the Emperor Theodosius and John Chrysostom: since both Theodosius and John died after Gregory, this must have been added at some point. It does, however, make a foundational start. It begins with the emperor, the height of power, and with a most distinguished episcopal and intellectual leader – before a collection which will indeed focus on the hierarchies of the church, the intellectual power of Gregory’s family and friends, an image of a Christian community. It asserts, if you will, a sort of intellectual genealogy, setting Gregory within his own subsequent heritage. Gregory’s own poems begin with a sequence on his friend Basil, another bishop and intellectual leader. The first epigram ends simply Grêgorioio logos, ‘the word of Gregory’, a sort of sphragis or seal for the collection (AP   ; cf.  ). The last of the Basil poems declares that he has dedicated this ‘dozen epigrams to your ashes’. There are now actually only ten or eleven (depending on how the poems are divided: we should probably assume one has dropped out) – but the poem both marks its own status as an epigram and encourages us to see the accounting and sequence as significant. So there follow (exactly) twelve for his own father. He honours his mother, in the next sequence, with tosois epigrammasi, ‘so many epigrams’ (AP   ) – another explicit marker of genre, ordering and number. There are editorial decisions to be made about where to divide some of the poems (AP  –), but if we follow the reasonable division of Paton’s Loeb or Beckby, then there are fifty-three poems for his mother. As scholars of the Excerpta Constantiniana, which has fifty-three books, have argued, 



See Krevans () and in particular Höschele (, ); and, on Martial, Fitzgerald (); Rimell (); MacDonald (). Maltomini (: ) is typical if extremely strongly worded when she writes of AP in general, ‘the organization of material does not correspond to a particular expression of knowledge, nor is it informed by a high level of systematicity’ (my translation). Both Paton and Beckby print .

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fifty-three may have a theological significance in Christian numerology (as twelve, the number of the Apostles, more obviously has). Before he writes six poems on his own death and tomb, he advertises as if with a title ‘I will write my own fate too’ (AP   ). The poems, that is, mark that they are set in an order and a sequence. The first  poems of the collection duly expand from Gregory’s own family (father, mother, brother, sister – even himself ) to his extended religious family. Each figure mentioned has a brief collection of varied epigrams in sequence. As Gregory puts together poems for his parents, his parents’ wishes for him and their joint grave, followed by a set of poems on his own death, his dead brother, Caesarius, and for his sister Gorgonion, we are being presented with a holy family – a pious, philosophical unit. He goes on to commemorate other members of the community, named and remembered for their Christian virtues. Each is known to Gregory, and, especially with his own family, he places himself at the node of the relationships that link the poems. The book thus constructs an ordered portrayal of a Christian community centred around himself. Each person is named, placed in a set of relations, praised within a now Christian set of normative values which privilege paideusis, chastity, piety. What a Christian community is – or should be – is represented: a monastery, as it were, or, better, an extended Christian philosophical family, in epigrams. As collections of letters perform a network of social elite bonding, so here we see the network of a Christian community constructed in and through memorial. The emphasis on the blessed afterlife is the cornerstone of the Christian discourse on death, which contrasts repeatedly with the traditional language of Greek literature out of which Gregory nonetheless constructed his sophisticated poetry. Book  constructs, that is, a set of normative variations of how to grieve in an educated Christian manner, or, better, how – through the display of the poetry of paideia – to commemorate the loss of a beloved Christian within the Christian commitment to the eternal and blessed afterlife integral to Christian theology and its evangelicalism. After these epigrams of eulogy, however, the remaining ninety epigrams describe and lament those who do not understand and pervert Christian burial, first with four poems about those who feast indecorously at the tombs of the martyrs, and then with a long sequence decrying those who  

Neméth (: –) – based on Evagrius of Pontus. See Elm () on his funeral orations; Burrus ().

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desecrate Christian tombs in the search of gold (a theme anticipated in his poems about the tomb of Martinianus ( –)). Not only are the epigrams collected so that each poem about a particular figure is in a gathered sequence, but also the whole book is structured as a normative diptych of praise and blame. The final set of epigrams (–), thus, give a negative image to set against the values of the opening  poems. He begins with worshippers at the tombs of martyrs who enjoy their feasting too much, and ends with a series of poems against tomb destroyers and then tomb robbers. Here, too, the transgressors are represented within a normative Christian framework. The robbers fail to recognize that a body is but dust and that a bare grave is all a Christian funeral allows. Again and again, lust for gold is specified as the corruption that leads to sacrilege: longing for material wealth is to misunderstand the nature of life and death in a Christian world. If you seek gold from a tomb, he asks, then ‘what are you worth?’ (AP  .). The contrast between the sacred community and the individual transgressors is strikingly ordered as a diptych of sets of poems. As Homer constructs the anti-funeral in the desecration of the corpse as a contrast to the hero’s search for the glory of a noble death, so here Gregory contrasts the anti-sepulchral festivities and desecration of the grave with the celebrated lives of the Christian heroes. Book  juxtaposes, then, positive and negative normative images of how a Christian should understand death and memorial. The poems implicate the reader too, and not just by warning against transgression. How many poems does a mother need? How many acts of commemoration can be made before a sense of performativity overtakes a sense of mourning? The repetition of poems, especially the fifty-three for the mother, constructs a multiplicity of views within the same Christian perspective, and, by virtue of their repetitiveness, takes on the feel of a ritual or liturgy – a challenge to recognize the woman’s worth by the son’s performance of ‘so many’ epigrams – which is, as ever, also an act of self-representation – as the worshipper who can see so many signs of value in the blessed death. The repetition in itself is part of Gregory’s self-recognized rhetorical performance: ‘I repeat the same words often, because I mistrust [your] thick material [hulikê] thought processes’ (Or .). Human beings, by virtue of the materiality of their minds, need to be told again and again about the materiality of the body. For Gregory, repetition of his message – saying the same words, again and again – is designed to provide a necessary salve 

Compare Nonnus’ rewriting of the language of hule discussed above in Chapter .

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against the material dullness of human understanding. Both the message of Gregory’s many poems on the grave and the very repetition of the message are designed to shock humans into a Christian understanding of the flesh. Book  as a whole thus is a constructed image of the Christian response to death, which asserts the community and its values as the frame for loss and commemoration. Critics who have looked at these poems on desecration have on the one hand questioned their connection to Realien and social anxiety around attacks on religious markers; and on the other, have articulated the variations on the long tradition of sepulchral language to show Gregory’s ‘Callimachean’ allusive artistry. There is no doubt about Gregory’s paideia or the care with which he appropriates the long tradition of sepulchral discourse. What needs emphasis, however, is Gregory’s redrafting of such language towards a Christian discourse of materiality and death. The poetics of the past are in the service of the polemics of the present. Gregory takes the traditional form of the sepulchral epigram to create a new account of how death frames the politics of the self. His paideia is not just a performance of sophia, but transforms his inherited language to a new polemically normative message. More could be said about this book, but enough has been said to contrast it strikingly with the books before and after it. Book  consists in ‘pagan’ sepulchral poems. There are  poems covering a vast range of time and space – and topics. Some are epitaphs for famous people, some for anonymous corpses; some for historical characters, some for figures from literature or myth. There are poems for cats, locusts, pets of all sorts. But, in contrast with Book , there is no sense of a set of kinship ties or relationships linking sequences of poems – let alone a recognition of a community of mourners – and most poems celebrate individuals precisely and solely as individuals (although women are more likely to be praised through their relationships in a familiar gesture of patriarchal thinking). There are some epigrams that recognize paradoxes or bizarre deaths, particularly of brides and grooms, but no recognition of a noble death, even for mythic heroes. Above all, there is no acknowledgement of an afterlife or that the values of a lived life may be directed towards a life after death. Indeed, repeatedly there is an elegant contrast made between the fleetingness of life and the briefness of the form of the epigram; between 

On ‘social anxiety’ about real tombs, see Corsano (); Rebillard (: –); and, in particular, Petzl (). On the language, see the particularly useful Floridi (). For background on the language, see Salvatore (); Consolino (); Criscuolo (); and Agosti (, ).

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the ability of poetry to capture and hold the moment of ripeness, and the necessary and immediate decomposition that follows such a moment in life. But there is no sense of a coherent theology behind the collection. Like displaced and deracinated tombstones, they speak their genre, as we, like the travellers so often addressed from within the poems, move on. Book  is a collection that is headed ‘epideictic epigrams’. According to Lauxtermann, this category contains ‘anything [Cephalus] did not know what to do with’. Lauxtermann captures something of the nature of the miscellaneous poems, but nothing of their import. For sure, Book  contains poems on a staggering range of topics: from toilets to Troy, from a collection of ‘what would so-and-so have said?’ poems to responses to Myron’s statue of a cow, from single couplet bon mots to versified alphabetical lists of the epithets of Dionysus. Wonder, surprise and paradox, encoded in balanced versification, construct the viewing subject as the educated and cultivated man about town, the pepaideumenos. As the title, ‘epideictic’, suggests, there is a strong element of display, of showing off, that runs through each poem. The world is policed and regulated by to eikos – the normal, the likely, the probable – and thus explored and revelled in by poems that celebrate the opposite. There is a powerful organizing principle of lack of system – like a cabinet of curiosities as opposed to a museum. If any book of the Palatine Anthology invites a fragmented, aleatory reading it is the epideictic epigrams. Constantine of Rhodes (shall we say) introduced Book  between Books  and , a perfect example of oikeiôsis, ‘appropriation’, that the court writers of the Excerpta Constantiniana announced as a principle of composition. The juxtaposition is eloquent indeed. In contrast to Book , these Christian sepulchral poems offer the promise of the afterlife rather than merely the paradox of an observer’s witty reflection; they offer a coherent image of a community in which death and its value are understood, instead of unlocated individuals; they focus on the link between the moral worth of the dead and their just rewards, rather than paradox or twists of fate; they celebrate a Christian life through an integrated set of values, memorialized and commemorated in a set of interlinked poems, which perform the shared values of the community through repetition and ritual. Perhaps for Constantine, looking back to Gregory in the fourth century from  years later, this was an idealized image of the early church – the relics of Gregory were indeed transferred from Nazianzus to Byzantium in  which may indicate something of his importance for 

Lauxtermann (: ).

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this later period (and Gregory’s sermons are the most copied manuscripts in Byzantium apart from scripture); perhaps it represented a longing for a holy family that Byzantium’s court rarely matched. But the contrast between the pagan and Christian engagement with death and commemoration could scarcely be more articulate. The juxtaposition with Book  is no less significant. Book  ends with nearly a hundred poems emphasizing and re-emphasizing the Christian moral stance on materiality – on the body’s flesh that turns to dust, on the brute stones that cover the corpse, on the lack of interest in gold, which always corrupts. It demands a simple respect for the dead and for the sacralized space that holds the corpse. It insists on a coherent and direct view of matter as a Christian moral issue: ‘All the wealth of a tomb is bones’ (AP  .). Book  – again the contrast is coruscating in its simple power – revels in the multiformity of materiality and human response to it, celebrates the paradox of man’s relation to the physical and to value: ‘Things are turned upside down, I see’, begins Palladas (AP ..). Gold is ‘fear to have but pain not to have’ (AP  .) – an easy and familiar paradox that Gregory rejects entirely. Christian and nonChristian writers jostle for space; a full list of Greek culture heroes and Roman military figures are the expected frame of reference; poets, prostitutes, animals, talk; buildings are there for fun and jokes as well as celebration and memorial. By juxtaposing Gregory’s world and the world of the epideictic epigrams, Constantinus constructs a stark rhetorical contrast between an ordered Christian community resting on shared values and moral worth and a mess of pagan paradox and amazement. The act of placing Gregory’s book before the epideictic epigrams aims to turn what might be celebrated as a kaleidoscopic cultural miscellany into a gaudy, superficial revelling in the trivial materiality of things. To place Gregory between the Sepulchral Epigrams of Book  and the Epideictic Epigrams of Book  is a pointed and rhetorically violent gesture of Christian re-framing. If the prose epigraph to Book  indicates a contrast between Christian and Pagan readers, the sequence of Books ,  and  performs it with startlingly direct power. It is therefore shocking to see the disdain with which this editing is treated by modern scholars. The book is literally or metaphorically discarded by most critics without even a glance at the persuasive, normative contribution it might make to the hugely important and still developing Christian discourse of death. Those 

Including the extraordinary illustrated masterpiece Paris , produced in Constantinople between  and , probably for the Emperor: see Brubaker ().

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who do study it, do so without regard for its organization as a book, and without regard for its placement as a book within the Palatine Anthology. Such a response shows all too clearly how the Palatine Anthology is not taken seriously as a work of Byzantine literature by critics – though it does reveal a good deal about their ideological prejudices. We may not wish to accede to such a bold Christian reframing, but it should at least be acknowledged for what it is. By including Book  (and, we might add, by the ordering of Books –) the compiler of the Palatine Anthology designedly heightened the juxtaposition and contrast between Christian and non-Christian material. We should see this as a significant gesture within the cultural politics of tenth-century Byzantium. To discard Book  is to oversimplify the Palatine Anthology by writing out difference, conflict between groups, the play of power, history’s interventions within tradition and the incremental battles over meaning that constitute tradition. It is to use scholarship to produce an image of antiquity that is whitewashed and distorted by its longing for a smooth, unbroken, marmoreal whiteness. That Book  of the Palatine Anthology has been so signally and systematically undervalued by generations of classical scholars and theologians reveals another unfortunate chapter in the story about the intellectual blinkers of the disciplines of classics and theology. In contradistinction to this long history of neglect, Gregory is to be seen as an important and instrumental figure not just in the tradition of Greek poetic reflections on death, memorial and the family, but also in the very construction of what is understood by the classical tradition – how the classical past is to be valued by the present. And not just at one juncture in the long history of such questions of value and historical self-placement, in the fourth century, when the debates exacerbated by Julian over the status of the Greekness of Christianity were especially insistent; but also a second time, in Byzantium in the tenth century, when again what is at stake in the learning of the past became a pressing and threatening question. Gregory’s book of sepulchral epigrams is a doubly significant text for the cultural history of Christianity’s Greekness – and how we therefore understand the heritage of Hellenism. My point here, finally, then, is not only about late antiquity, but also, crucially, about the modern discipline of classics. If we want our classics to be more open to difference, perhaps we also need to be more open to antiquity’s complexity. As I mentioned above, in recent years classicists have become increasingly aware of – and increasingly anxious about – the role of the discipline in the politics of the past (as well as its aesthetics),

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and increasingly vexed about the shape of the modern discipline and its internal politics, as well as its contribution to contemporary social issues. When the most toxic appropriations of classics in the service of modern political agendas function by gestures of extreme oversimplification, there is indeed a responsibility as well as a necessary intellectual honesty in resisting such monocular visions of the past. There is, however, an unending requirement – ethical, intellectual and political – to continue the labour of understanding how our institutions and practices of scholarship contribute to – construct – our image – our knowledge – of the past and, equally, how the difference of the past plays a role in our selfunderstanding. Such labour is necessary if the discipline is to transform itself productively. The imaginary is an integral part of politics in action: how the past is understood, how the construction of the other denigrates or includes, how institutions of authorized knowledge maintain boundaries, are informed by the imaginary, and how classicism and the discipline of classics have played and continue to play a multiform and instrumental role in the politics of the imaginary. This book’s study of the politics and aesthetics of form has striven to contribute to such a process of productive change by allowing us to see not fixed structures but processes of re-forming. Palatine Anthology  is paradigmatic because Gregory’s work sets out to re-form the practice of memorial epigram, because it is used to re-form the anthology of which it is now a part, and because it has been subject to the re-forming of modern critical disregard – and, of course, this book’s gesture of reclamation. Reforming the (study of the) past goes hand in hand with re-forming the present. The transformations of late antiquity offer a peculiarly productive vantage point to view the politics and aesthetics of form in action – and what is at stake for the discipline of classics in recognizing the continuing re-forming of the study of antiquity, which is and must be always more than a line of white statues on their pedestals.

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General Index

Agamben, G., xiin agency in conversion, – sexual,  of Helen, , , –, – aglaïê, , –,  Agosti, G.,  Akiva, Rabbi, , ,  to akribês (precision, strictness), ,  Alexander, Philip,  Alexandrian (Hellenistic) Judaism,  Philo, – and twentieth-century perceptions of metanoia, – allegory,  in biography,  in interpretation of Hero and Leander, ,  Kairos statue, – and typology, – see also typology Anastasius, emperor, – anecdotes in Christian biography,  in Greek life-writing,  Talmudic use of, –, –, – anthologies and aesthetics of the fragment,  compilation of Palatine Anthology,  as anthology of anthologies, –, ,  order and organization, –, –, – engagement with tradition, , –, ,  form, –, , – modern recombination, – Arian heresy,  arms, in epic, –,  Arnold, Matthew, ‘Dover Beach’, n attention, forms of, –,  to Christian art, –,  of eyewitness vs. reader of ecphrasis, –

interpreting vs. baffled, – and length of description, – in the novel, , – see also gaze and perception Auden, W. H., ‘Tell me the Truth about Love’,  Auerbach, Erich, n Augustine, conversion of, –, , –, – baptism, –,  Bär, Silvio, , , n Barton, Carlin, – Bartsch, Shadi, –, n Bassett, S., n bathing, ritual, , , ,  Baumbach, Manuel,  beginnings anthology proems of Agathias, – collected (AP ), , –,  Excerpta Constantiniana,  of Meleager, – of Philippus, – Christian narratives, – in epic, , – in epyllion, –, – and form, , – of Hosea,  importance of, – Palatine Anthology book headings, , –n,  Benson, Hugh,  bererah,  Bing, Peter, n, n,  biographical narrative, – Christian, –, –, , –, –, ,  classical forms, –,  and historiography,  Josephus, –



General Index nineteenth-century, –,  Philo of Alexandria, – and rabbinical writing, –, – reasons for absence, – in the Torah, – Blair, Kirstie, xii–xiii Bohak, Gideon,  Boyarin, Daniel, –,  Braden, G., n Brown, Peter, ,  Burchard, C.,  Burridge, R., n Calame, Claude,  Cameron, Alan, vii, ix, –, n, , n,  Cappadocian Fathers,  Carson, Anne,  catalogues,  centos, , , – Cephalas (anthologist), –, , –,  Chanukah, ,  Charles, R.H.,  Chekhov’s gun,  Christianity,  ‘baptism’ in Fourth Sibylline Oracle, – conversion,  narratives of, – and development of form, – and the Dionysiaca, , – and erotic epyllion, –, – and the erotics of death, – form of worship, xiii forms of knowledge,  Greek ecphrasis, –, –,  Latin ecphrasis, –,  Protestant perspective of modern historians, –,  purity and virginity,  responses to death, – symbols and messages in Optatian, vii, ix temporality, –, , – ‘rape of time’,  textual fragmentation and transformation,  anthologizing, – theology of vision,  typology, – of baptism, – reading of Virgil, – Church of St Euphemia, Chalcedon,  Church of the Holy Martyr Polyeuctus, Constantinople, – circumcision, –,  Clarysse, Willy,  classical scholarship, –, –



delimitation of canon, xv–xvi, ,  late hexameter in, – Palatine Anthology in, –, – separation from theology, xvi–xvii Clément, Catherine,  Cohen, M., n Cohen, Shaye, , ,  coherence, –,  of Agathias’ proem[s], –, – Constantine I, ix Constantine VII,  Constantine of Rhodes, , , , , , – conversion, – Christian,  and consumption, – Jewish practice, –, – language of, –,  see also metanoia see also conversion narratives conversion narratives, –, – Christian, –, –, – involving women, , – Jewish,  Joseph and Aseneth, xviii, –,  Aseneth’s prayer, – completeness of change, – cultural location, –, –, – gender in, – genre and purpose,  in modern scholarship, –, , – narrative form,  plot, – post-conversion section, – prayer of Aseneth,  process of change, –,  and the Septuagint, , – symbolic language, – versions of text, , –, ,  Conybeare, Catherine, n copia,  Corday, Charlotte,  Cordovero, Moses ben Jacob, Elimah Rabbati, n Cox Miller, Patricia,  Critchley, Simon,  cultural self-assertion in anthologizing,  and engagement with Homer, ,  of Greekness in Roman empire, – Jewish, , –, –, –,  through poetics of fragmentation, x Cyzicus temple epigrams, –



General Index

D’Allesio, G., n Damasus, bishop of Rome, n De Silva, D., n Dionysus and Aphrodite,  and Christianity, ,  DuBois, Page,  Eberhard, Johann Augustus, xii ecphrasis, xiv–xv, xxi, – in Achilles Tatius, – Byzantine ‘gallery tour’ of pagan sculpture, – in Byzantine Christianity, –,  in critical tradition, – in epic, –, – Dionysiaca, –, – in epigram, –, – experience of reader vs. eye-witness, –,  in Latin Christianity, –,  length of, – physical text–object relationship, – prose, –, – and thauma, , –, , – edited collections,  see also anthologies to eikos, , , , , –,  Elazar ben Azaryah,  Elsner, J.,  emperors, ix, –, –, – enargeia, ,  epic catalogues,  coherence, – ecphrasis in, –,  extant chronological distribution, xxi form and ideology, – narrative delay, ,  Nonnus’ transformations,  ecphrasis, –, – erotics and sexual values, – language of materiality, – mythic temporality, –,  epigrams and closure,  ecphrastic, , –,  Christian, –, – epideictic, ,  erotic, –, , – form and ideology, –,  of Gregory of Nazianzus, – organization of collections, – see also anthologies ‘pagan’ sepulchral poems, – epitaphioi, Athenian, –

epitaphs, , , , – epyllion, –, ,  AP II as, n beginnings, –, –, – endings, –,  narrative manipulation, ,  narrative self-consciousness, – perspective, –, –, – readership,  scale, , ,  and the tragic in Hero and Leander, , –,  erotics of Aseneth’s conversion impulse,  in Christian milieu, , –, , – classical narrative norms, – and to eikos,  of epigram, –, – of epyllion form,  epyllionic manipulation, – gaze in, –,  gender expectations, – lamp topos, – modern tropes, – Morrheus-Chalcomede narrative in Dionysiaca, – of reading, , – reworking of Achilles-Penthesileia scene in Dionysiaca, – and scale, – of speech, –, – wound topos, –, , ,  êthos in biography, –, , ,  eschewed in rabbinic writing, – and historiography,  Eudocia, empress, –,  Fantuzzi, Marco, , n,  first words see beginnings Fitzgerald, William, n,  flowers, poems and poets as, , – Foley, Helene,  food and drink poetry as feasting, –,  spiritual significance, , – form, x–xv in art history, x–xii carmen cancellatum, vii–ix and coherence, – distinctness of Talmud, –,  iambics,  in literary criticism, xii–xiv and literary status, – see also anthologies; biographical narrative; epic; epigrams; epyllion; novels

General Index Formisano, Marco, n Foucault, Michel,  Fowden, Garth, xviii fragmentation, poetics of, xxi, –, , –,  Fredriksen, P., , ,  Freud, Sigmund, ,  Fry, Roger, x–xi Fusillo, Massimo,  Gamliel, Rabbi, ,  gaze and perception in Christian theology, –, , – in Colluthus’ Rape of Helen, –,  and erotics of death, –, – in epigrammatic vs. epic ecphrasis, – Gelzer, T., n, n Gidel, Rabbi, – Gladstone, William Ewart, n Goodbrand, Robert,  Gow, A., – Greensmith, Emma, n,  Grethlein, J., xivn, n Gutzwiller, Kathryn,  H.D. (poet), ‘Nossis’, n Hadrian, in the Talmud,  hagiography, –, – hairesis, – halachic man,  Hamann, Johann Georg, xii Hardie, P.,  Harnack, Adolf von,  Heath, Jane, xin,  Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, xii,  Helena of Adiabene, – Hellenism, xvii, –,  ‘Hellenistic’, xvi Hellenization Christian,  Jewish, , – Heller, Joseph, God Knows, n Henderson, John, ,  Hernández Lobato, J.,  Herzog, R., xvin, xviii Hicks-Keeton, J.,  historiography beginnings,  biographical structuring, ,  Excerpta Constantiniana, – historicity of Talmud, –, ,  Josephus’ style, – religion in, , –, – in study of late antiquity, –



Hopkinson, N., n House of Propertius, Assisi,  House of the Epigrams, Pompeii,  hulê, – hupsos,  imitation, biography and, , , , ,  invocations see beginnings; Muses, invocation of Izates bar Monobaz, – Jameson, Frederick, xiv Jensen, R., n ‘jewelled style’, x, ,  Jewish-Roman wars,  destruction of the Temple,  subsequent social environment, , – Jews and Judaism communities in Palestine,  concept of Judaism,  conversion and Judaizing, –, –, – for women,  cultural self-assertion, , –, –, –,  development of rabbinical authority, , –, , –,  historiographical and legal chronology, –, –,  interpretations of Elim, – life-writing see biographical narrative purity cults,  response to dominant culture, – in conversion ceremony,  Hellenization, , – rabbinic guidance,  separation, xix variation in sects, – John the Baptist, , – Joseph in Joseph and Aseneth, – life story in Genesis, ,  life story in Josephus, – in Melito’s typology,  Joyce, James, Ulysses, ,  Judaism see Jews and Judaism Kairos statue, ecphrases of, – kal v’chomer, n Kaldellis, A., n Kant, Immanuel, xi Kaye, L., n Kessler, H., n Kim, Larry,  Kingsley, Charles, xiii



General Index

knowing, forms of, , ,  Konstan, David,  Kraemer, Ross,  Kreuzung der Gattungen, xv,  Krummen, Evelyn, xiv Kugel, James, n Kurke, Leslie, xiv

life story per Philo of Alexandria,  in Melito’s typology,  Most, Glenn, xiv mourning, –, – Christian, – Muses, invocation of, , –, , ,  varied or omitted, –, –, , 

Lakish, Reish, –,  Lambert, D.,  late antiquity, concept of, xvi–xix,  Lauxtermann, M., n, n, n,  Lavee, Moshe,  Lebensform, xii, xxi–xxii Lefteratou, Anna, n Leighton, Angela, xii life-writing see biographical narrative Lightfoot, Jane, – Limberis, V., n literary criticism, modern, xii lithika, xiin logos,  in Christian writing, – Loraux, Nicole,  love at first sight, –, –, 

necrophilia, – Neer, R., xivn Neis, Rachel, n Nero, in the Talmud,  Neusner, Jacob, n Newman, John Henry Apologia pro Vita Sua, ,  Niehoff, M., n Nir, R., , n Nisbet, Gideon, , n Nock, Arthur Darby,  Conversion, –, , , n, –,  on Joseph and Aseneth, ,  personal beliefs, –,  Nongbri, Brett, – novels, xvii, , –,  as category, ,  forms of attention, , – Nymphs, –, –

Macdonald, C., n Maciver, Calum, , n Magnelli, E., n Maltomini, F., n Marcellus, Marie-Louis-Jean-André-Charles Demartin du Tyrac, comte de,  martyrdom, –,  Maslov, B., xiiin, xivn Maurice, F.D., n McGill, Scott,  McLynn, N., n Meir, Rabbi,  Memnon, statue of (Luxor),  metanoia, , , – in Joseph and Aseneth,  perceived as un-Jewish, – personified, , – in Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, – Middleton, Fran,  midrash, ,  modernism, xi–xii,  Montiglio, S., n, n Morales, Helen, n, , , , n, , n,  Moses absence from Haggadah,  life story in Exodus, – life story per Gregory of Nissa, –

oikeiôsis (appropriation), , ,  Onians, J., n Page, D., – paideia, ,  in biography, , –, ,  eschewed in rabbinic life-writing, – paradox in Christianity, , –,  and epigrammatic style, , –,  in epyllion,  in erotic tropes, , –,  of ecphrastic value,  of verisimilitude, – paraphrase and re-telling Biblical, –, – Nonnus’ Metabole, xx, , –,  see also Joseph; Moses of myths of epic see epyllion self-paraphrase in Dionysiaca , – Parker, P., n parthenos,  Paschalis, M., n Passover,  as a tupos of Christianity,  Pater, Walter, xiii

General Index Paul, Saint,  conversion narrative, , ,  and conversion of Thecla,  Pelttari, Aaron, viiin, ix Perpetua, Saint, ,  Petrain, David,  Philonenko, M., ,  poikilia,  polutropos, – Pompey the Great, – Pound, Ezra,  Prauscello, Lucia, , n,  preposterous poetics, xx, , , ,  see also typology Prioux, E., n, – proems see beginnings prohaeresis, ,  prokairos,  Proteus, ,  Proust, Marcel, À la recherche de temps perdu,  pseudepigrapha, –, , ,  pure form, vii, x–xi purity, religious, –,  Putnam, M., n Quint, David,  Qumran community,  reader engagement with Christian ecphrasis, , , , – with epic ecphrasis, – with epigram, , ,  with epyllion, , –, –, – with Nonnus’ necrophiliac poetics, , – with Optatian, vii–ix reading vs. viewing, ,  religion, , – and understanding of conversion, – see also Christianity; Jews and Judaism Riegl, Alois, xi Rimell, V., n Roberts, Michael, x, n, , n Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, , – Royce, Josiah,  Rubenstein, J., n scale, xxi, –, – of ecphrasis, – of epyllion, , ,  of Philippus’ vs. Meleager’s proems,  Schleiermacher, Friedrich, xii Schwartz, G., n Schwartz, Seth, , n Selden, Dan, 



self, ideas of, , – see also cultural self-assertion Severus, Sulpicius, –,  Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of, xii,  Shaw, George Bernard,  Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein,  Shlovsky, Viktor, xiiin Shorrock, R., n, , n Simmel, Georg, xii, xiv Smith, S.,  snake imagery, ,  Socraticoi, ,  spectacula, ,  Sperlonga statues,  spolia, x, xii, xviii–xix, , ,  see also fragmentation, poetics of Squire, Michael, ix–xi, , n Stella, F.,  Sterling, G., n Strachey, Lytton, – sunthesiê, –,  Tanner, Tony,  temporality Christian, , –, , – ‘rape of time’,  conversion narratives and, – of ecphrasis, – in epic, – in epigram, – of epic narrative, , –,  Nonnus’ ‘preposterous’ mythic chronology, xx, –,  positioning of Posthomerica,  in Philo’s Moses,  in Talmudic rhetoric, –, –,  Tennyson, Alfred (First Baron Tennyson), xiii thauma (wonder), – ecphrasis and, , –, , – Thecla, Saint, , ,  Thiessen, M.,  Thompson, Dorothy,  threskeia, – Titus, emperor, in Talmud,  tomb of Menophila, Sardis,  Tractarians, xiii tradition, classical, , – tragedy, , – Trout, D., n, n typology biblical, , – Cyprian on,  in ecphrastic epigrams, , 

 typology (cont.) in Eudocia’s Homeric cento, – Juvencus’ use of Virgil, – in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, – Verhelst, B., n Vian, F., n virginity, ,  Wellhausen, Julius, – West, Martin,  Whitmarsh, Tim, , n, n Wienand, J., ix, n

General Index Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Ulrich von, – Wilkinson, Patrick, xvin Williams, Raymond, xiiin Winkler, Jack,  Wittgenstein, Ludwig, xiin Wohl, Victoria, xiv,  Wolfson, S., xiiin Yochanan, Rabbi, –, – Ypsilanti, M., n Zeitlin, Froma, , n

Locorum Index

Achilles Tatius Leucippe and Cleitophon: –, , ,  ..: n ..:  ..: – ..:  Acts of John -:  Acts of Paul and Thecla:  Aelian, Varia Historia: – Aeschylus Ag. :  -:  -: n -:  :  : n :  Pers. :  Aethiopis:  Agathias:  Cycle elegiac epigram (AP . ): ,  :  -:  -:  Cycle proem (AP . ): – -:  -:  :  -:  -:  -:  :  :  -:  -:  : – :  :  -:  -: , –

-:  -:  -: – -:  :  -:  -: – -:  :  : – Histories:  Anthologia Palatina: xviii, , –, –, – Books -:  Book : –, , – : – . :  . -:  -:  : – :  :  :  :  Book : – . :  :  . :  Book : –,  :  : – Book : –, –, –,  see also Agathias; Meleager; Philippus: Book : , – -:  Book : – Book : , – :  Book : , – . : ,  . : 



 Anthologia Palatina: (cont.) .:  Book : , – : n . :  :  :  :  . :  : n Book  : n Book :  :  . : n . : n . :  . : n . : n Book  (APlan) : – : – Apollonius of Rhodes Argon.:  . -:  . ff: – Apuleius, Met. :  Aratus : n Aristotle: – Augustine: ,  Civ. Dei:  . : n . : n Conf.: –, –, – . :  :  . . :  De mend.:  Retract. . :  Sermo Denis . :  Ausonius: n,  Epig. :  : n Batrachomyomachia:  Bereshit Rabba I : n Boethius, De interpr. . . : n Callimachus: n Aitia:  fr . :  frr - Pf: n Hecale fr .  Pf: 

Locorum Index Callistratus : – .:  .: – Cassiodorus Commentarium de oratione ch : n De an., . -:  Catullus . -: n Cebes, Pinax:  Choricius, Or  -:  Christus Patiens:  Cicero, Nat D. . . :  . . :  CIS I , pl :, no : n Claudian (Christian epigrammatist) AP . : – Clement of Alexandria:  Strom.:  . . II.: n Codex Sinaiticus: ,  Colluthus Rape of Helen: –, ,  :  -:  -:  :  -:  :  -:  :  -:  -: – :  :  :  :  :  :  :  :  -:  :  -:  :  :  :  :  :  :  -:  :  :  : 

Locorum Index -:  :  -:  :  :  :  :  :  :  -:  -:  :  : – -:  -:  :  -:  -:  :  : , – -:  -:  -:  :  :  :  -:  -: – :  :  :  -:  :  CPL :  (De eccles.): n Cyprian, Ep. . .-.:  Cyril of Alexandria . : n Cyrillus, AP . :  De eccles, CPL : : n Dionysius, Gig. fr . :  Erasmus, Paracelsis: n Eudocia, Homeric cento, - Euripides Med. :  Tro. -:  Eusebius Demonst. evang.: n,  Hist. eccl.:  ..-: n . Pr :  Praep. evang.: n, ,  Evagrius, Hist. eccl. .: n Excerpta Constantiniana: – Ezekiel, Exagoge: 



Gregory of Elvira De fide :  Gregory of Nazianzus: –,  Or. . :  Gregory of Nyssa, Life of Moses: – . :  Gregory of Tours, PL .:  Haggadah:  Hebrew Bible: –, – Genesis: ,  . :  . :  :  . :  . :  . :  . :  . :  . : n Exodus:  . :  Deuteronomy:  Hosea. :  Habakkuk . :  Ruth: , ,  Esther: ,  Chronicles:  see also Septuagint: Heliodorus, Aethiopika: n, –,  Herodotus: xiv,  . : n . : n Hesiod fr .:  Himerius, Declam. .  [.  Colonna]: n Homer:  Il. . : ,  . :  . :  . :  . :  . :  : ,  . :  . :  . : n . : n :  :  . :  . :  . :  . -: – :  . : 



Locorum Index

Homer: (cont.) . :  . :  . :  :  . :  Od.: , ,  . :  :  . :  . -:  . -:  . :  . -:  . :  . -:  : ,  . :  . :  . :  . :  . :  . : ,  . :  . :  . :  . -:  . :  :  Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite -: n Horace Car. . . : n IG II : n IG II : n Jerome Chron ad ann. : ixn Ep.  : n Epitaphium Sanctae Paulae:  Life of Paul of Thebes :  Life of St Hilarion -:  Vulgate, Habakkuk .:  Joseph and Aseneth: xviii, –, –, –, – Josephus: , – AJ: ,  . : – . :  . . :  . : n . . :  . . :  . . :  BJ: n : 

. : n Vit.: – :  Jubilees:  Juvencus, . -: – Lactantius, Inst. . :  . :  Leontius, Life of Symeon the Holy Fool:  Life of Anthony:  Longus Daphnis and Chloe:  Lucan:  Lucian: – Alexander:  Demonax:  Lycophron, Alex., - Martial:  . . -:  . . -: n . :  . -:  Megillat Ta’anit:  Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael: Beshalach : : n Meleager, Stephanos: –,  proem (AP . ): – -:  : n :  :  :  -:  -:  Melito of Sardis, Peri Pascha: – : – :  :  :  :  :  Midrash Eikah Rabbah: n :  . . :  Musaeus: ,  Hero and Leander: , – :  -: – :  :  :  -:  : , 

Locorum Index : – :  :  :  : – :  -:  :  :  :  -: – :  :  :  :  :  :  :  :  : – :  :  :  :  :  :  -:  -:  :  -:  :  :  :  :  :  New Testament Gospels: ,  Matthew:  Mark: ,  Luke:  John: –,  . : – Acts: n, , ,  . : n . :  apocrypha: see Acts of John; Acts of Paul and Thecla Nonnus: xix–xx, ,  Dion.: xix–xx, , –, –, – . :  . -:  . :  . -: – . : 

. -:  . -:  . -:  . -:  . :  . :  . :  . -:  . -:  . -: – . :  . -:  . : n . :  . -: – . :  . -:  . -XXIV :  . -:  . :  . -: n . :  . -:  . -:  . -:  . -: – . :  . -:  . -:  . -: – . -:  . -:  . :  -: – :  . -:  . :  . :  . :  . : – . -:  . : – . :  . :  . -: – . -:  . :  . -:  . :  . -:  . :  . : n . :  . -: – . : 





Locorum Index

Nonnus: (cont.) . :  . :  . -:  . :  Metabole: xx, , –,  -: – Numenius of Apamea, Fr  Des Places:  Old Testament: see Hebrew Bible; Septuagint Optatian: vii–xii : vii–ix Origen Jo. .:  Peri Pascha:  :  :  Ovid: ix Am.:  .: – Ars Am.:  Met.: ,  . -: – Palatine Anthology: see Anthologia Palatina Parmenion, AP . :  Parthenius : n Paulinus of Nola: –, –, ,  Car. . -: n : – . :  . :  . :  . :  . -:  . -:  . :  . -. :  . -: – . :  . : n Ep. : – . : n, n Pentateuch: see Hebrew Bible; Septuagint Philippus, Stephanos: ,  proem (AP . ): – -:  : – :  -:  Philo of Alexandria: , – Life of Joseph: – . : –

:  -:  : – :  Life of Moses: –,  . :  .:  .:  . :  On Metanoia (De virtutibus):  :  :  [Philo of Byzantium] De septem orbis spectaculis: – Philostratus:  erotic letters: ,  Imag.:  ..: n Life of Apollonius of Tyana: ,  Pindar, Olympian : n Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer: ,  Plato Gorgias:  Ion b–: n Pliny the Younger, Ep. . : – . . : – . . -: – . : – Plutarch Conjugalia Praecepta:  Vit.: – Alex. .:  Cat. Mai. .:  Polybius, ..: Porphyry, Life of Plotinus:  Posidippus Iamatika: n Lithika:  xix G-P (APlan ): – Prayer of Manasseh: , n Procopius, Ecphrasis of a Clock: – Propertius:  :  ..:  . -:  Prudentius, Tituli historiarum (Dittochaion): – quatrain :  Quintilian . .: n . . : n Quintus of Smyrna: , – . :  . : 

Locorum Index . -:  . -:  . -:  . :  . -:  . -:  . -: n . -: n Sappho:  ps-Scymnus Periodos to Nicomedes: n Septuagint: , , ,  Genesis:  . :  . :  . : n . : n . : n :  . : n . :  . :  . :  Exodus . : n . : n . : n . : n . : n Judges .: n  Kings . : n  Maccabees: , , n  Maccabees: , ,  .: n .: n Jeremiah . :  . :  . :  Amos . :  . :  Jonah:  Habakkuk . :  Zechariah . : n Ecclesiastes (Kohellet): n see also Hebrew Bible: Servius .: n . : n Severus, V. Mart. . -: n Sibylline Oracles:  Fourth Oracle :  -: –



:  :  -:  -:  :  Silius Italicus, Punicus .: n Sophocles Ant. :  OT :  Stephanus, AP . :  Strato, AP . :  Talmud: –, –, –,  b Avodah Zarah: ,  b Bava Mezi’a a: ,  b Berachot a:  b-a:  a: – a:  a:  j Berachot .:  b Gittin: – b: n b:  b Megillah:  b:  j Pe’ah .:  m Sotah ::  b Sotah b:  Tertullian Adv. Prax. :  De vel. virg. :  Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs: – Gad. .:  Jos. ./.:  Reuv. .:  Sim. .:  Theocritus, Id. . : n . :  . :  . -: n Theon . : n Thucydides: xiv,  .:  Torah: see Hebrew Bible; Septuagint Triphiodorus: , –, – -: , – :  : – Virgil:  Aen.: ,  . : 

 Virgil: (cont.) . -: – . :  . -:  . -:  . -:  . :  . :  . -: –

Locorum Index . -:  . :  Ecl.:  . : n Xenophon:  Cyr.: ,  Mem.:  Xenophon of Ephesus : n