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The Scroll and the Marble

Studies in Reading and Reception in Hellenistic Poetry

Peter Bing

Publication Year: 2009

One of the most prominent figures in American Hellenistic poetry scholarship, Peter Bing has long served as a model for acute criticism and careful reading. He has a marvelous ability to make readers rethink their preconceptions; his work is always beautifully argued and documented and his writing style is a pleasure to engage with. ---Benjamin Acosta-Hughes, Ohio State University While people of previous ages relied on public performance as their chief means of experiencing poetry, the Hellenistic age developed what one may term a culture of reading. This was the first era in which poets consciously shaped their works with an eye toward publication and reception not just on the civic stage but in several media---in performance, on inscribed monuments, in scrolls. The essays in Peter Bing's collection explore how poetry accommodated various audiences and how these audiences in turn experienced the text in diverse ways. Over the years, Bing's essays have focused on certain Hellenistic authors and genres---particularly on Callimachus and Posidippus and on epigram. His themes, too, have been broadly consistent. Thus, although the essays in The Scroll and the Marble span some twenty years, they offer a coherent vision of Hellenistic poetics as a whole. Peter Bing is Professor of Classics at Emory University and editor, most recently, of the Companion to Hellenistic Epigram: Down to Philip (coedited with Jon Steffen Bruss). Jacket illustration: Film still from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, directed by Frank Capra, Columbia Pictures 1939. Courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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p. ix

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-8

Dionysius of Halicarnassus recounts an anecdote that he describes as well known to all those who are fond of learning. It tells of how, following the death of Plato, the philosopher’s writing tablets were found. On them, it was discovered, he had jotted down the first sentence of his Republic in numerous versions, ...

Part 1: Reader and Voice in Callimachus and Hellenistic Poetry

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1. The Unruly Tongue: Philitas of Cos as Scholar and Poet

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pp. 11-32

Philitas of Cos stands as a gray eminence at the start of Alexandrian scholarship and literature.1 Described as “simultaneously a poet and a critic” (Strabo, he was picked by Ptolemy I Soter to be tutor to his son Philadelphus and is said to have taught Zenodotus of Ephesus, ...

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2. Impersonation of Voice in Callimachus' Hymn to Apollo

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pp. 33-48

Toward the end of the Delian section of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, as the climactic event in his description of the great Ionian festival, the blind singer of Chios presents what he calls “a great wonder, whose fame shall never perish” ...

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3. Callimachus and the Hymn to Demeter

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pp. 49-64

The Hellenistic era saw revived interest in the Homeric hymns, and among these the Homeric Hymn to Demeter is no exception.1 One need look no further than book 4 of Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica to see that this hymn was not just available to the poets of the age; it was carefully read and appreciated.2 ...

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4. Reconstructing Berenike's Lock

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pp. 65-82

In his Miscellanea (LXVIII and LXIX) of 1489, Angelo Poliziano, the first modern scholar to assemble fragments of Callimachus’ Lock of Berenike, remarked on the extraordinary elegance with which Catullus translated this poem. Still, he deplored corruptions introduced by ignorant scribes,1 ...

Part 2: Epigram and Its Audiences

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5. Erg

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pp. 85-105

In one of the “Marvelous Things Heard” by pseudo-Aristotle (Mirab. auscult. 131), we learn of the following very dramatic incident: the Athenians are in the process of building the shrine of Demeter at Eleusis when, all at once, they make an exciting and mysterious discovery. ...

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6. Text or Performance / Text and Performance: Alan Cameron’s Callimachus and His Critics

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pp. 106-115

Discontinuity, change, innovation: these are the terms most scholars in this century have stressed—one-sidedly, perhaps—in characterizing Hellenistic poetry. Tradition (they argue), though mined, sifted, painstakingly studied and mastered, is deployed not for reproductive ends but in the service of something different and new.1 ...

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7. The Un-Read Muse? Inscribed Epigram and Its Readers in Antiquity

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pp. 116-146

In Frank Capra’s 1939 political satire Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, there is a scene that stages the act of reading an inscription and presents it in particularly vivid paradigmatic detail. The movie’s idealistic young hero, Jefferson Smith, memorably played by Jimmy Stewart, has become the surprise choice ...

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8. Allusion from the Broad, Well-Trodden Street: The Odyssey in Inscribed and Literary Epigram

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pp. 147-174

Around 1980, in the hometown of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a large billboard raised prominently above State Street advertised the merits of Miller Lite. Lite beer was at that time a relatively new product—Miller had introduced it into the American market just a couple of years earlier, ...

Part 3: Inscription and Bookroll in Posidippus

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9. Reimagining Posidippus

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pp. 177-193

In 1992, an Italian bank, the Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincie Lombarde (CARIPLO), made a generous donation to the Università degli Studi di Milano, allowing it to acquire a mummy pectoral that contained a hidden treasure. The pectoral was made of cartonnage, “a kind of . . . papier mâché built up of sheets of used papyrus”.1 ...

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10. Between Literature and the Monuments

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pp. 194-216

In the summer of 1995, a team of underwater archaeologists, led by Jean-Yves Empereur (head of the Centre de recherches Alexandrines and director of research at the CNRS), made a spectacular find working in the waters beside Fort Qait Bey. There, just east of the fort and beyond the city’s eastern harbor, ...

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11. Posidippus' Iamatika

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pp. 217-233

The Milan papyrus confronts its modern readers with many surprises, among them—due to its singular subject matter—the short section entitled Iamatika.To help us get our bearings in the terrain of this extraordinary new text, I want, in this essay, to pose some rudimentary questions,

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12. Posidippus and the Admiral: Kallikrates of Samos in the Epigrams of the Milan Posidippus Papyrus (P. Mil. Vogl. VIII 309)

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pp. 234-252

The new epigrams of Posidippus, published as P. Mil. Vogl. VIII 309, cast a sudden dazzling light on an array of important topics in Hellenistic studies, ranging from Ptolemaic patronage of the arts to the early form of the poetry book. Not least among the scroll’s attractions are previously unknown poems ...

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13. The Politics and Poetics of Geography in the Milan Posidippus Section One, on Stones 1–20 AB

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pp. 253-272

At the start of his sixth Olympian ode, Pindar—comparing the construction of his song to that of a conspicuous palace whose portal is raised on golden columns—memorably states that “when a work of poetry is begun we must make the entrance far-shining ...


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pp. 273-292

Index of Ancient Passages Cited

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pp. 293-301

Subject Index

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pp. 302-304

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026692
E-ISBN-10: 0472026690
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472116324
Print-ISBN-10: 0472116320

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 1 table and 4 B&W photographs
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 651663573
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Scroll and the Marble

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Posidippus, of Pella, b. ca. 310 B.C. -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Callimachus -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Epigrams, Greek -- History and criticism.
  • Greek poetry, Hellenistic -- History and criticism.
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