Callimachus: the Hymns

Callimachus: the Hymns

Callimachus: the Hymns

Callimachus: the Hymns

Synopsis

Callimachus was arguably the most important poet of the Hellenistic age, for two reasons: his engagement with previous theorists of poetry and his wide-ranging poetic experimentation. Of his poetic oeuvre, which exceeded what we now have of Theocritus, Aratus, Posidippus, and Apollonius combined, only his six hymns and around fifty of his epigrams have survived intact. His enormously influential Aetia, the collection of Iambi, the Hecale, and all of his prose output have been reduced to a handful of citations in later Greek lexica and handbooks or papyrus fragments. In recent years excellent commentaries and synthetic studies of the Aetia, the Iambi, and the Hecale have appeared or are about to appear. But there is no modern study in English of the collection of hymns. And while there are excellent commentaries in English on three of the hymns (Apollo, Athena, Demeter), the commentaries on Zeus and on Delos are limited in scope, and there is no commentary at all on the Artemis hymn. Synthetic studies in English for the most part treat only one hymn, not the collection, and tend to focus on Callimachus' intertextual relationships with his predecessors and/or his influence on Roman poetry. Yet recent work is requiring scholars to broaden their perspective and to consider Callimachus' religious, civic, and geo-political contexts much more systematically in attempting to understand the hymns. A further incentive is that apart from the Homeric and Orphic hymns, Callimachus' are the only other hymns that have survived intact; those written in earlier periods are now reduced to fragments. For these reasons a study of the six hymns together is a desideratum. An additional reason is that Callimachus' collection of six hymns is very likely to have been an authorially arranged poetry book, quite possibly the earliest such book that we have intact; therefore, it allows a unique perspective on the evolution of the form. This volume offers a text and commentary of all six hymns for advanced students of classics and classical scholars, as well as interpretive essays on each hymn that integrate what has been the dominant paradigm - intertextuality - into a broader focus on Callimachus' context. Her introduction treats the transmission of the hymns, the potential for and likelihood of the Homeric hymns as models, the hymns as a poetry book, their language and meter (especially in light of recent work done on this topic), performance practices, and their relationship to cult, court, local geographies, and pan-hellenic sanctuaries. For each hymn Stephens presents the Greek text, a translation, and a brief commentary containing important information or parallels for interpretation.

Excerpt

My goal in writing this commentary is to provide readers with a convenient and accessible edition of all six of Callimachus’ hymns in one volume, accompanied by notes sufficient for ease of reading. That such an edition does not already exist is my justification for undertaking the task, especially given the importance of this poet and the fact that the hymns and epigrams are his only complete works. In keeping with Callimachus’ own stated poetic practice this is not a μέγα βιβλίον; thus constraints of space have required a certain amount of triage: the linguistic, metrical, historical, geographic, and cultic material I provide will necessarily lack the wealth of scholarly detail provided by those commentaries on individual hymns produced mainly in the 1970s and 1980s. Like all writers of commentaries I have depended heavily on my predecessors, though experience in teaching and in writing on the hymns has led me considerably to reduce the amount of linguistic detail (particularly about Homeric usage) and commensurately to increase parallels from tragedy and lyric. Also I situate Callimachus’ divinities as much as possible within the context of cult practices relevant to early Ptolemaic Alexandria and Cyrene. I have tried to keep always before the reader the fact that Callimachus was a poet; thus literary parallels are selected in the main for their allusive potential and references kept, when possible, to easily accessed secondary materials. The translations do no more than aim for clarity and are intended to provide the reader with my understanding of the text.

It is my pleasure to acknowledge the colleagues who have offered encouragement, advice, and the generous donation of their time in reading various versions of this manuscript. Richard Martin has patiently enlightened me about many Homeric minutiae. Jim Clauss and Alex Sens have provided comments on individual hymns, but I am especially grateful for their perceptive advice about rethinking the shape of the whole. Keyne Cheshire, Ivana Petrovic, and Massimo Giuseppetti read and commented on individual hymns, and in addition provided me with their own work in advance of publication, from which I learned more than I can say. Flora Manakidou has very generously provided me with her forthcoming work on . . .

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