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The Iambi of Callimachus and the Archaic Iambic Tradition

Benjamin Acosta-Hughes (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 366 pages
ISBN: 9780520220607
September 2002
$78.95, £66.00
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This book provides a new literary treatment of an often-overlooked collection of fragmentary poems from the third century B.C.E. Alexandrian poet Callimachus. Callimachus' Iambi form a collection of thirteen poems, which rework archaic Greek iambography and look forward to Roman satire and other genres, especially to such collections as Horace's Epodes. The poems are especially significant as examples of cultural memory since they are composed both as an act of commemorating earlier poetry and as a manipulation of traditional features of iambic poetry to refashion the iambic genre. This book fills a significant gap by providing the first complete translation of several of these fragmentary poems in English, along with line-by-line commentary, notes, and literary analysis.

The structure of the book is thematic, with chapters focusing on such topics as poetic voice, fable, ethical criticism, and statuary. Each chapter consists of an introduction, text and selected critical apparatus, translation, and comprehensive thematic discussion. Acosta-Hughes focuses especially on Callimachus' manipulation of traditional features of archaic iambic poetry such as persona loquens, ethical and critical message, and eristic dialogue. He also includes a detailed analysis of the Alexandrian poet's artistic relationship with the earlier iambic poets Archilochus and Hipponax.

Polyeideia will interest not only readers of Greek and Hellenistic poetry but also readers of Roman satire and invective verse, as well as those intrigued by the processes of memorializing and fashioning poetic culture.
Author's Note
Chapter 1 Callimachus and the Adaptation of Hipponax : Iambus 1
Chapter 2 On Not Going to Ephesus: Iambus 13
Chapter 3 The Elevated Paradigm : Iambi 12 and 1 (lines 32-77)
Chapter 4 Fable : Iambi 2 and 4
Chapter 5 Ethical Behavior : Iambi 3 and 5
Chapter. 6 The Statues of the Iambi : Iambi 6, 7 and 9
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Benjamin Acosta-Hughes is Assistant Professor of Greek and Latin in the Classical Studies Department at the University of Michigan.
"In this important new study of Callimachus' enigmatic Iambi, Acosta-Hughes displays a range of talents which qualify him as a true modern interpreter of this difficult Hellenistic poet. Functioning by turns as historian, commentator, and critic, Acosta-Hughes gives readers of Callimachus a fresh perspective on both the archaic models for the Iambs and the novel ways Callimachus deploys and organizes his reactions to his predecessors. Especially noteworthy (and something which distinguishes this study from earlier work on the Iambi) is the focus on groups of related poems, allowing the author to explore different facets of the Iambic tradition in some detail. This book does for Callimachus' Iambs what Hunter's 'Theocritus and the Archaeology of Greek Poetry' did for the Idylls."—Nita Krevans, University of Minnesota

"Acosta-Hughes, in this newest appraisal, has bypassed the initial handicap posed by the physical state of the Iambi through substantial exploration of the tradition of Callimachus' motives (the story of their uses, meanings, and contexts). As a result, our knowledge of the poems as whole entities is much improved. Acosta-Hughes organizes the units of his book not poem by poem but thematically. The output is splendid: it is indeed as if Callimachus had paved the way for his implied reader to read the Iambs diagonally. Acosta-Hughes's "dispositio" manages to 'regulate' Callimachus' polyeideia by pointing out the main interests underlying the Iambs and providing them with coherence and self-referentiality. At the same time it also highlights the fact that Callimachus shares the 'strong' interests of his iambic verses with his declared model Hipponax, far more than has been usually assumed. Rediscovery, no less than renovation, proves once again to be the key issue underlying even the most unconventional Hellenistic poetry."—Marco Fantuzzi is the author (with Richard Hunter) of Muse e Modelli: la poesia ellenistica da Alessandro Magno ad Augusto

"Long neglected by modern critics, The Book of Iambs is a central text in Callimachus' "sweet competition" (fr. 202.45 Pf.) with the Hellenic past. This patient and brilliant exercise in reconstruction offers many new insights on the fragments and explains the importance of the work in Graeco-Roman literary history. "—Alessandro Barchiesi, author of The Poet and the Prince: Ovid and Augustan Discourse

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