SCS-89: The Silver Age of Hellenistic Poetry

  In-Person   SCS Session   Panel


Matthew Chaledekas, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen; Thomas Nelson, University of Oxford


Hellenistic literature is a flourishing field that produces a steady stream of new conferences, monographs and editions. Most scholarship continues to focus on the major third century Hellenistic poets of Alexandria: the likes of Callimachus, Apollonius and Posidippus (e.g. Stephens 2018). But recent studies have begun to broaden our view: some have expanded the geographical focus (e.g. Nelson 2020, Visscher 2020), while others have extended the chronological focus to the the late fourth and early third century precedents for Hellenistic poetics (e.g. Perale et al. forthcoming). In this panel, we will extend this view in the other direction, to explore later Hellenistic poetry after its ostensible ‘Golden Age'. By doing so, we will further expand our appreciation of the geographical, aesthetic and chronological variety of Hellenistic poetics.

Fantuzzi and Hunter (2004: 444) have called the late third and second centuries BCE a "dark period" for Hellenistic literature. In part, this reflects the vagaries of textual transmission, but it also reflects the editorial choices of later authors. For example, Meleager of Gadara seems to have been less enamored of the epigram writers from this period and simply included fewer of them in his Garland (Harder 2019). However, our evidence base is not as dire as is often thought, and later surviving Hellenistic texts still have much to teach us. We seek to explore this literature on its own terms and to fill out the history of this period by drawing attention to authors outside what has gradually become a Hellenistic canon. Our efforts to reassess and revalue these works parallel recent rehabilitations of so-called ‘Silver' Latin literature.

Our inquiry into this grey area of Hellenistic scholarship considers the period from the late-3rd century BCE down to the early 1st century BCE. This period and its most well-known practitioners have long been recognized as deeply aware of their predecessors and masters of variation (Tarán 1979; Gutzwiller 1998: 227-332), but we seek to expand the interpretive frameworks with which this material can be approached.