Reading Quintus Reading Homer Intertextual Engagement in Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica
Maciver, Calum A
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This thesis is a study of Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica, a Greek epic of the third century C.E. written in Greek hexameters in Homeric diction and in a Homeric style and about the post-Iliadic events of the Trojan War. My thesis deals with intertextuality, that is, the relationship between the Posthomerica and the Homeric texts. The Posthomerica has been called a hyper-Homeric text, which has been viewed as a negative trait of the poem. I analyse this Homeric-emulative tendency and discuss the interaction between the cultural and literary influences contemporary to the Posthomerica, and the poem’s overwhelmingly Homeric intertextuality. I assess how Quintus, as a Late Antique reader, reads Homer, and I focus in on the originality and Late Antique interpretative bias of Quintus in his readings and emulation of Homer. Intertextuality points to resemblances and differences, and indicates how a poem that can be called “Homeric” is in fact neo-Homeric in its updating of Homeric ethics, ideologies and poetics. I also discuss throughout the thesis how the Posthomerica is Alexandrian in its indebtedness to Homer. The Posthomerica is a learned text where application of intertextuality by the reader activates and vivifies a poem that has otherwise been dismissed as second-rate. There are four sections in my thesis, all dealing specifically with three separate aspects of poetics. The first section is a study of similes in the Posthomerica. I present a complete statistical analysis of similes in the poem, and compare practice in earlier epics. I then focus on specific examples of similes in the poem, and show how Homeric intertextuality vivifies meaning and characterisation of these similes. Very often the context of the Homeric passage implicated in the Posthomeric simile adds a varying sense and meaning. I also highlight the concern for pattern and structure in the placement of similes in the Posthomerica in a way that derives more from the style of Apollonius Rhodius than Homer. Thus Quintus reads Homer through later Greek epic lenses. My second and third sections are related. I discuss gnomai in the Posthomerica, and present detailed statistics for this understudied area of the poem. I argue that the widespread use of gnomai, particularly in the voice of the primary narrator, provides an ethical thread in the poem, and that the content of these gnomai is non- Homeric, and influenced by Stoicism. Thus within a Homeric-emulative poem we read a recurrent non-Homeric philosophy and ethics carried by gnomai. The third section then focuses on one simile (in Book 14), which, in a very original way, contains a gnome. The simile derives its content from Odyssey 8 and the story of Aphrodite and Ares caught in the act of adultery. I read Quintus updating Homer in this simile and re-presenting the Homeric story with a definite moral, and therefore un-Homeric, emphasis. The fourth section concentrates on ecphrasis and the Shield of Achilles in Posthomerica 5. I show how Quintus presents radically non-Homeric devices within this ecphrasis first narrated in Iliad 18. I argue that this originality within a very Homeric template is reflective of the overall status of the Posthomerica in relation to Homer. I focus in particular on the figure of the Mountain of Arete on the Shield of Achilles, and illustrate how this figure, which is Stoic in its inheritance, behaves as a mise-en-abîme for the key ethical content of the poem found in gnomai. I then discuss the implications of Quintus revising the Homeric Shield of Achilles into a symbol of the Stoic ethics that the Posthomerica, this most “Homeric” of poems, contains. That is the overall focus of this thesis: the interaction of Homeric indebtedness and non-Homeric influences in the Posthomerica.