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P. Bing: Callimachus and the Hymn to Demeter 29 Callimachus and the Hymn to Demeter Peter Bing The Hellenistic Era saw revived interest in die 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 die poets of die Age; it was carefully read and appreciated.2 Yet its impact on Callimachus is less easy to trace. Was this poet, likewise, a careful reader ofdie hymn? And does his work reveal comparable influence? Though various Hellenistic authors composed hymns to Demeter, Callimachus is the only one in this period from whom we have a hexameter hymn, that is one direcdy in the tradition of die Homeric Hymns. In light of Callimachus' learned, ubiquitous allusions to Homeric Hymns elsewhere in his own, one might anticipate that his Hymn to Demeter would make especially heavy use of its Homeric precursor. But this is not die case. It is telling that N. Hopkinson (in his commentary on the hymn), though occasionally pointing to the Homeric Hymn in individual notes, omits it entirely from both his "Index of Subjects" and "Index ofPassages Discussed."3 The same has 1 Cf. NJ. Richardson, TAe HomericHymn to Demeter (Oxford 1974) 68: "The influence of the Hymn, certain or probable, may be detected or suspected in many places in Greek literature. But its popularity was clearly greatest in the Hellenistic period." For the hymn's influence in modern times, cf. H.P. Foley, TAe Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Princeton 1994) 153-69. 2 As numerous scholars have noted, Apollonius makes detailed and extensive use of the Demophoon episode: this is his model forthe narrative of Thetis' vain attempt (at 4.868ff.) to render Achilles immortal by bathing him nightly in flames. Cf. e.g., E. Livrea, Apollonii Rhodii Argonauticon Liber IV (Florence 1973) ed v. 868. 3 Callimachus. Hymn toDemeter (Cambridge 1984). 30Syllecta Classica 6 (1995) been true of other scholars,4 though two have begun to redress the matter in recent essays.5 Echoes of the archaic hymn are in fact audible, assuming one listens carefully. For these echoes are not always distinct or obvious. Almost no diction is adopted intact, or when it is diere are differences in application. The same holds true for content and voice, which appear transformed in Callimachus' treatment-diough not, I should stress, beyond recognition. For one recent critic, the tale of Persephone's Rape as told in Callimachus illustrates "a fundamental point about Alexandrian poetry, viz. its cultivation of obliquity for its own sake."6 This point may be applied more generally to how the Hellenistic poet sets himself in relation to his archaic predecessor. That relationship is certainly oblique. But whether he cultivates that obliquity "for its own sake" remains an open question, and one we must ask. m what follows I will attempt to trace the influence of die Homeric Hymn to Demeter on Callimachus, and show that its echoes form a useful counterpoint in reading his hymn. While diat counterpoint may not lead to a comprehensive view of me poem, I hope that it will at least illuminate important aspects. We will see that die Hellenistic poet's deployment of this model entails deliberate distancing. I will examine that distancing in two steps: 1) in connection widi diction and content;7 2) widi respect to voice. In a third and final section I will try to ask whether this twofold distancing tells us something about die meaning of me poem. I must say from the start, however, that we will be left with far more questions than with answers. I Eluding-artdAlluding to--a Literary Paradigm The most immediately striking echoes of die Homeric Hymn to Demeter come where Callimachus tells me same story as the archaic poem: namely Demeter's desperate search for Kore. In the Homeric Hymn we hear-twice~that in her grief Demeter refuses to eat, drink, or wash, w. 49-50: ??d? p?t ' ?µß??s??? ?a? ???ta??? ?d?p?t??? / p?ssat ' ????eµ???, , ??de ???a ß???et? ???t????, ("neither did she touch ambrosia and sweet-tasting...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5157
Print ISSN
1040-3612
Pages
pp. 29-42
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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