Labored in Papyrus Leaves: Perspectives on an Epigram Collection Attributed to Posidippus (P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309)

  Acosta-Hughes, Benjamin, Elizabeth Kosmetatou, and Manuel Baumbach, eds. 2004. Labored in Papyrus Leaves: Perspectives on an Epigram Collection Attributed to Posidippus (P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309). Hellenic Studies Series 2. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

11. ‘Winged Words’: Poetry and Divination in Posidippus’ Oiônoskopika [*]

Manuel Baumbach, University of Heidelberg

Kai Trampedach, University of Konstanz

I. Title and Topic

II. Internal Ergänzungsspiel

At first glance the structure of the Oiônoskopika appears to be typical of an anthology, as the epigrams thematically belong to the topic of augury, yet do not show any systematic order or interrelation among each other. [17] For a reader this could be taken as an invitation to enjoy the variety and diversity of these epigrams, to approach them individually, and to use his imagination to contextualize the single epigrams with a fictional or real object or even associate it with another literary work. Such an Ergänzungsspiel [18] is a common characteristic of Hellenistic epigram, and it becomes especially stimulating in the case of collections of loose epigrams, which do not help the reader to interpret the texts by offering a literary contextualization in the form of a dialogue between neighboring epigrams. [19] On these grounds the editors’ difficulty in detecting a clearly distinguishable structure in the Oiônoskopika [20] is no surprise, because this apparent lack of internal structure might be part of the game. However, the careful arrangement of the epigrams in sections framing the Oiônoskopika, such as the Lithika and Anathematika, [21] raises the question of whether the Oiônoskopika, too, have an inner structure on the basis of which the epigrams are deliberately arranged. This question focuses on the literary contextualization of epigrams with other poems of the same section. In this context the reader is asked to participate in an internal Ergänzungsspiel, i.e. to look specifically for links among the 15 epigrams of the Oiônoskopika. [22] As a result, the section can be approached as a Gesamtkunstwerk to which each epigram contributes. Such a focused Ergänzungsspiel, intended by the text, however, by no means limits the reader’s imagination in exploring the different and multiple contexts that can be found outside the Oiônoskopika. Quite to the contrary, it constitutes a sign of the auctorial art that preserves the individuality of the epigrams, which thus become the starting point for an open process of supplementation. On the other hand, these poems are carefully arranged as a group, so that they also participate in the specific internal Ergänzungsspiel within the Oiônoskopika. And it is this aspect that we will examine further here. For an overview of the epigrams and their topics our reader is invited to refer to the scheme at the end of this paper (section VII).

The first group of four epigrams (1–4 = AB 21–24) seems perfectly reasonable as all the poems deal with bird-augury; thematically they form a nice pair of two epigrams on sea-travel followed by two epigrams on fishing. However, the second group of nine epigrams (5–13 = AB 25–33), which contains “eventi di varia natura,” falls completely apart. Given that epigrams 14 and 15 (AB 34–35) form the last group, the suggested arrangement provides us with a frame of two distinguishable sets flanking an unsorted main bunch of Oiônoskopika. Such lack of order supports an anthological reading of the section, whose second and most numerous group is no more than a loose collection of various omina containing different motives and mantic qualities.

We would like to propose a different structure by taking into account linguistic evidence such as quotations and verbal allusions, which can be used to create links between certain epigrams, as well as by looking at four possible structural elements deriving from the content: 1) the persons by whom omina are experienced or to whom they are addressed; 2) the situations in which the omina occur; 3) the mantic significance and quality of the omina; 4) the kinds of omina involved.

II.1 Persons

Two thirds of the epigrams involve persons of different professions and backgrounds: sailors (Timon, 1 = AB 21), fishermen (Archytas, 4 = AB 24), private citizens (Hieron, 6 = AB 26; Euelthon, 9 = AB 29), soldiers (Timoleon, 8 = AB 28; Antimachos, 12 = AB 32; Aristoxenos, 13 = AB 33), seers (Asterie, 6 = AB 26; Damon, 14 = AB 34; Strymon, 15 = AB 35) as well as the Argead kings, and Alexander the Great who is mentioned twice (11, 15 = AB 31, 35). The variety of persons as well as the selective usage of names throughout the section thus makes a grouping of the epigrams according to addressee difficult and even Gutzwiller’s general observation that omina about ordinary people are followed by military omina in the second part of the Oiônoskopika cannot stand up to scrutiny. [30] Some military omina also refer to ordinary people and the sequence of explicit military omina seems to be interrupted by epigram 9 (AB 29), which is dealing with an unspecified omen for a traveling man. Furthermore, Gutzwiller does not take into account the epigrams which do not refer to specific persons but rather indicate that omina in Greek mantic are not limited to a specific group of recipients; with the exception of the Alexander-omina, all signs can principally happen to anybody in a given situation. Thus the variety of names rather seems to stress the idea that the Oiônoskopika, especially those collected in this section, could affect and refer to anybody regardless of profession or social position. The author attempts to attract the attention of a wide readership as the persons displayed in the Oiônoskopika function as a kind of ‘Platzhalter’ for the reader. [31]

II.2 Situations

As we shall see this movement towards the οἶκος comes to an end in epigram 7, which deals with the topic of childbirth. Thus we can define the first group as a cluster of epigrams dealing the domestic affairs of private persons, and the unity of this group is further characterized by a peaceful atmosphere, common in all six epigrams.

The internal movement of the epigram from the peaceful, almost idyllic sphere of the oikos to war (ἐν πολέμωι, AB 27.6) reflects the topics and movements of the two groups mentioned above. Thus the epigram constitutes a harmonic transition between the two groups, and it is also nicely mirrored linguistically. The opening hexameter of epigram 7 (AB 27) quotes in variation the opening line of the previous epigram (6 = AB 26, as the ὄρν<ιϲ> ἄριϲτοϲ of the one is echoed by the οἰωνὸϲ ἄριϲτοϲ in the other. This allusion is further underlined by the parallel structure of the two opening verses:

οἰκῆα κτήϲαϲθαι ἐρωιδιὸϲ ὄρν<ιϲ> ἄριϲτοϲ (epigram 6)
τέκνων εἰρ̣[ο]μ̣ένω<ι> γενεὴν οἰωνὸϲ ἄριϲτοϲ (epigram 7)

The epigram perfectly integrates itself into the first group by stressing the most important aspect of an oikos: childbirth, which, as in this case, secures not only the continuity of the family but ideally also grants prosperity as well as success and glory in society.

Thus the following structure emerges:

First group: 1–6 (AB 21–26)           domestic affairs; movement towards the οἶκος and the prospect of life (children)
Transition: 7 (AB 27)                      childbirth as goal of private and beginning of public life
Second group: 8–13 (AB 28–33)     public sphere and military movement away from the οἶκος to war and death

Two observations can be made: On the one hand the epigram is closely connected with the preceding one (7 = AB 27) as both deal with ‘wayfaring signs’. On the other hand, the verbal linkage between the epigrams reminds us of the internal Ergänzungsspiel within the Oiônoskopika and we could ask whether the context of epigram 9 (AB 29) provides us with a further hint that it might indeed fit into the group of military epigrams. The epigram itself does not contain any information about the identity of Euelthon or his motives for traveling, so that we can either accept the general meaning of the omen as principally referring to any traveler, or try to fill in the open space with our imagination. If we ask for instance why Euelthon was traveling, we could find a possible answer in the neighboring epigrams. As both epigrams explicitly deal with military omens and situations it is tempting to expect a military context also in epigram 9 (AB 29). Thus a possible supplementation could be that Euelthon, like Timoleon in epigram 8 (AB 28), is on his way to war, so that the overall theme of the second group would be also (indirectly) present in epigram 9 (AB 29). [45] In any case, by not providing the reader with any information whatsoever about Euelthon and by linking the epigram to the preceding one, which contains exactly such information, the poet is deliberately appealing to the readers’ desire and ability to supplement the missing information in epigram 9 (AB 29) from its context.

A further reason for the placement of epigram 9 (AB 29) in the second group can be found with regard to the quality of the omina involved.

II.3 Mantic Significance and Quality of the Omina

The category of mantic quality provides us with further evidence for the suggested arrangement: Whereas the first group consists of six epigrams (AB 21–26) with positive omina, the epigrams of the second group mostly depict negative ones. [47] Looking at the position of AB 29 from this point of view, its placement amongst the military omina is justified by the negative omen, which leads to the same outcome as the purely military omina. Thus our suggested structure of the Oiônoskopika is can be further established:

First group: 1–6 (AB 21–26)               positive omina and peaceful atmosphere
Second group: 8–13 (AB 28–33)         negative omina in connection with war and crime

II.4 Kinds of Omina

It is exactly this search that leads the reader to the seers in the last two epigrams of the Oiônoskopika, which form a third and final group (14–15 = AB 34–35). Having read thirteen examples of different omina, the reader is not only reminded of the importance of consulting a seer. To a certain degree the reader has now been elevated to the position of a seer himself, insofar as he has read and learned about certain omina, of which some are important for everyday-life occurences, and for the ways of approaching them. The structure of the Oiônoskopika can therefore be considered as didactic, as the reader is led from simple omina in the first couple of epigrams, i.e. omina which can be easily interpreted and are partly expressed in the form of country sayings, [53] to more complicated and rare ones, which make it necessary to consult a seer. This didactic structure of the Oiônoskopika (compare texts on cultural development or aitiological texts) reveals itself by way of the internal Ergänzungsspiel. It could also lead the way to finding the generic models of the Oiônoskopika, which might be regarded as the transformation of a technical prose text on mantic art into the poetry of epigrams. [54] The question of intertextuality also opens a path towards reading the Oiônoskopika as a kind of didactic poetry. However, as such a transformation cannot be achieved by a single epigram, our reading of the Oiônoskopika as a collection of epigrams that are closely connected with each other becomes the conditio sine qua non for such an assumption. On grounds of the Hellenistic play of genres [55] it seems however possible that the Oiônoskopika as a collection translated the characteristics of other literary forms into epigram. To take this idea a little further, we have to ask how far the Oiônoskopika reflect the actual mantic practice, and how it can be placed in the literary tradition of transporting mantic knowledge, be it technical literature or didactic poetry.

III. Bird-augury and Mantic Practice

Considering this exceedingly poor evidence one might indeed wonder whether the mantic ‘science’ in Greece is not just a fiction proposed by the literary sources, which has been re-projected into an idealized past. There is, however, one fragment of an inscription found in Ephesos and dated to the second half of the sixth or the beginning fifth century BCE, that strongly confirms the hypothesis of an elaborated mantic τέχνη in Greece. The inscription pins down in detail the significance of bird movement:

If [a bird] which is flying from right to left disappears [from sight], [the sign] is good; if it lifts his left wing, flies up and disappears, [the sign] is bad; if it disappears flying from left to right however, [the sign] is bad. But if it disappears after lifting the right wing, [the sign] is good.

The uniqueness of the inscription has raised doubts about its origin, and Wilamowitz for example regarded the rules of the inscription as hardly being Greek. [74] For all we know, bird-augury indeed had so great a tradition in Old-Anatolia [75] that the present regulations might have been transmitted from there to Ephesos. But this, of course, remains speculation and even if this was the case, the question remains whether and how such influences had any effect within a Greek context. A partial answer to this question might be given by the epigraphic context. The block of marble, which carries the inscription, probably belongs to an extensive collection of texts, which were apparently fastened to a wall in the Artemision. Of these texts a second block has been preserved showing a different inscription. It records an oath-offering, which a witness had to accomplish before the judges in a trial. [76] This connection suggests that it is unlikely that the augury inscription can be taken as a consecration of an οἰωνοσκόπος as proposed by Jacoby. [77] One could rather say that the Ephesian people apparently used to publish binding rules of sacral character at a wall of their main sanctuaries. Pritchett thus deduced a connection between the two preserved matters of law:

Such a connection is conceivable but by no means definite for numerous examples show that the spatial proximity of archaic inscriptions on a wall does not yet indicate a textual relation. [79] Furthermore, following Pritchett’s hypothesis one might conclude that in Ephesus there existed an augury-tradition, which corresponded to the Roman pattern at least from a formal point of view. But as far as we know the Greek community did not know of any of this. The same, of course, applies to the more far-reaching finesse of Roman augury-tradition such as the differentiation of celestial areas or the fixation of a templum. [80] Hence, a standardized connection between the rules of assessing the bird-flight and political executions and institutions seems rather doubtful. But what does it mean if the rules, which apply to the gathering of bird-omina, are displayed in public? On the one hand this guarantees that at least theoretically every Ephesian can learn and practice the art of augury if only in its outline. However, since possibly not all Ephesians had a cause, the time, or the desire for this, at least the inscription enabled them to control the specialists, whom they could consult in private or public matters equally, and check their interpretations. On the other hand, due to the fixation on the rules of interpretation contradictory explanations, at least if founded on the same observation, were ruled out. As a consequence we can say that the Ephesian inscription complies with the Greek trend to prevent exclusive specialization and secret knowledge in religious issues. Despite the existence of specialists in augury, in principle everyone can interpret bird-omina provided he has the social status that allows him to take part in public discourse.

The setting up and publication of the inscription is a concomitant of the contemporary trend of depersonalizing and objectivizing norms that is clearly evident in archaic legislation. Although Greek signs owe their persuasiveness rather to situative and metaphorical interpretation than to abstract rules, the trace of an actually existent techne of bird augury within Greek civilization has thus been stabilized and solidified. Against this backdrop it seems perfectly justified to render Posidippus’ Oiônoskopika not only in the context of the literary tradition of augury but to look for traces of potential scholarly and technical references, which in the manner of the inscription mentioned above reflect poetically on the “technical” or rather the regulated dealing with mantic.

IV. Posidippus’ Oiônoskopika and Mantic Practice

Epigrams 12 and 13 (AB 32, 33) concentrate on the reactions of the figures involved. In epigram 12 (AB 32), a servant, who is carrying the weapons of his master Antimachos, falls down. The incident anticipates Antimachos’ fate—that his weapons will be of no avail. Although Antimachos reacts to the sign with dismay and is puzzled, he takes part in the war and returns reduced to ashes. The protagonist of epigram 13 (AB 33), by point of contrast, reacts in exactly the opposite way. Aristoxeinos misinterprets his symbolic dream as being auspicious for his participation in the battle. But he ends up being killed. In both cases the result is the same but the cause of events is different. Antimachos interprets the sign correctly but does not draw the necessary consequences while Aristoxeinos, led by hubris or stupidity, interprets the sign wrongly but reacts consistently. In the two epigrams the poet suggests that the gods, whose will is indicated in omens and dreams, are always right and always achieve their goals.

The concluding epigrams 14 and 15 (AB 34, 35) celebrate the competence of two seers in interpretating the birds’ flight (14 = AB 34) as well as in understanding the birds’ language (15 = AB 35). [96] Thus these epigrams ‘correct’ the wrong interpretation of the preceding one and pave the way for the overall and final success of bird-augury in the collection. In the latter epigram the raven functions as a carrier of divine messages which are associated with Alexander (apparently early in his war against the Persians) and which hint at the three battles of Granikos, Issos and Gaugamela. The seer who is able to translate the language of the raven [97] is characterized as a hero: ἥρωϲ Θρηίξ ὀρνίθων ἀκρότατοϲ ταμίηϲ (AB 35.2). His competence is based on a τέχνη, which has been described as a family tradition in epigram 14 (AB 34.2): Δάμων Τελμηϲϲεὺϲ ἐκ πατέρων ἀγαθὸϲ οἰωνοϲκοπίαϲ. The Carian Telmessos is already praised by Herodotus for its mantic specialists [98] and Alexander’s most important seer was born in Telmessos. [99] Although the Telmessians are represented in Greek sources mostly through symbolic interpretation, they seem to have regularly practiced certain mantic techniques, such as extispicy, dream divination, and bird augury. [100] In this regard epigram 14 (AB 34) confirms the use of a specific technique in Greek mantic as the seer operates from a specific location, a hill, where he meets his clients. [101]

Summarizing these observations on mantic in the Oiônoskopika we get a two-fold picture. On the one hand, most epigrams display the patterns familiar from the literary sources (which we can describe as situative or figurative mantic). On the other hand, the epigrams contain traces of a technical mantic known to us especially from the Ephesian inscription mentioned above. Thus the Oiônoskopika seem to reflect both literary and technical approaches towards Greek mantic. This observation recommends that we should not search for one generic model alone.

V. Poetry and Didactics in the Oiônoskopika—the Literary Tradition

Our assumption seems further justified in view of the Hellenistic renaissance, not only of didactic poetry in general, but also, as the example of Aratus indicates, of the poetical reception of bird-augury as a special topic of this genre. Even without being able to illustrate a direct reception of Aratus (let alone Hesiod) by Posidippus, comparison clarifies the following. Unlike Aratus, Posidippus tries to present the whole range of mantic augury in an exemplary study. In his epigrams we find both weather indicators and signs referring to everyday-life as well as political and ‘historical’ omina. This reflects the poet’s claim to present (with the brevity of the epigrammatic form) as complete a picture of (bird-)augury as possible. From this point of view we might say that Posidippus’ epigrams outgrow the limits of a didactic poem that is restricted in theme such as Aratus’s Phaenomena. Thus a potential double intention of the Oiônoskopika emerges, namely to integrate a new topic into the genre of the epigram and at the same time to establish and introduce the new epigrams as a rival to other genres that had previously dealt with this topic.

In AB 21.3 and especially 21.5, Posidippus, at a prominent spot of his introductory epigram, quotes a Homeric description of a hawk or falcon, [109] which appears, after Poseidon had transformed into the bird-interpreter Calchas (Iliad XIII 45) and delivered his warnings to the two Aias (Iliad XIII 62–70):

αὐτὸς δ᾿, ὣς ἴρηξ ὠκύπτερος ὦρτο πέτεσθαι,
ὅς ῥά τ᾿ ἀπ᾿ αἰγίλιπος πέτρης περιμήκεος ἀρθεὶς
ὁρμήσῃ πεδίοιο διώκειν ὄρνεον ἄλλο,
ὣς ἀπὸ τῶν ἤιξε Ποσειδάων ἐνοσίχθων.
τοῖιν δ᾿ ἔγνω πρόσθεν Ὀιλῆος ταχὺς Αἴας,
αἶψα δ᾿ ἄρ᾿ Αἴαντα προσέφη Τελαμώνιον υἱόν·
Αἶαν, ἐπεί τις νῶι θεῶν, οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσι,
μάντεϊ> εἰδόμενος κέλεται παρὰ νηυσὶ μάχεσθαι,
οὐδ᾿ ὅ γε Κάλχας ἐστί, θεοπρόπος οἰωνιστής·

A further important link between Posidippus’ epigram and the Homeric passage is that in Homer the previous appearance of Poseidon in the shape of the seer Calchas is closely connected to the topic of bird-augury since Calchas is characterised by Aias explicitly as θεοπρόπος οἰωνιστής, as an ‘interpreter of bird-flight’ (verse 70). In evoking this context Posidippus not only legitimizes his topic as Homeric but also raises the reader’s expectation that in the course of the epigrams an expert on bird augury such as Calchas will show up. This is indeed the case in the last two epigrams which thus end the dialogue with Homer. As a result Posidippus deliberately links his Oiônoskopika via the linguistic bonds (verse 62 of Iliad XIII is cited in AB 21.5), the resemblance of motives (ship, hawk/falcon), and thematic allusions (bird-augury) to the Iliad XIII 167–177, which thus can be seen as a classical, textual model for the οἰωνοσκοπικά (col. IV 7). This supplementary game with epic poetry is an important key for reading the Oiônoskopika and the discussion of its generic models.

One could say that Posidippus’ intention in evoking this topos in such an untraditional way was simply to show his poetic creativity by way of variation. However, a metapoetical aspect cannot be ruled out. With the topos of granting eloquence Posidippus is deliberately evoking the two loci classici in Homer and Hesiod, but only in order to distance himself from both texts. By replacing the Homeric god and the Hesiodic muses with the vulture as the bestower of eloquence, Posidippus not only gives the topos a new shape and a different context but also establishes his epigram(s) in an ironic way as a new and more appropriate medium than Homeric or Hesiodic epic. We might even say that Posidippus is correcting his predecessors by naming the real (i.e. mantically approved) bestower of eloquence, a bird, in the appropriate form, an epigram on bird-augury. And as the vulture needs no other bird or even god to express his message and to become a proper omen, Posidippus and his readers need no other text to understand the gift of eloquence correctly. As the Posidippan vulture competes with the Homeric god and the Hesiodic muses, so Posidippus competes with Homer and Hesiod in his presentation of it. Thus epigram 7 (AB 27) (which anyhow has an important function in the structure of the Oiônoskopika and has a central position) can be seen as a poetological dialogue between epigram and epic, between the established, somehow topos-forming poetry of Homer and Hesiod and the innovative poems of Posidippus. Furthermore the link to Hesiod could be taken as a further indication of the suggested reading of the Oiônoskopika as a translation of didactic poetry (which Hesiod’s works represented) into the form of epigram. [115]

VI. The Invention of Oiônoskopika as an Epigrammatic Subgenre

Transforming a genre into epigram is one thing, establishing the transformation another. As we have seen, Posidippus’ Oiônoskopika open up a poetological dialogue with a series of different genres in which (bird-)augury was at home, such as epic, didactic poetry, historiography, and technical writings. By way of inner Ergänzungsspiel a carefully worked out structure emerged which serves a didactic purpose and although we do not possess a didactic poem on which Posidippus could have modeled his epigram-collection, didactic poetry seems to be a possible generic model for the Oiônoskopika. One way to establish such an invention as a subgenre of epigram would be to integrate it among already established subgenres (and if we take a look at the structure of the whole epigram book this is what the poet might have intended). For the book seems to have an equally elaborate structure as the single sections and at least the Oiônoskopika is harmonically embedded between the preceding Lithika and the Anathematika. The following observations can be made. On the one hand both Lithika and Oiônoskopika seem to be new epigrammatic subgenres, possibly invented by Posidippus. [119] Placed at the beginning of a book, the Lithika not only have a surprising effect on the reader but can be also taken programmatically as a title for the whole epigram book because of the analogy between the art of gem-working and of writing epigrams. [120] And whereas this art is obviously revealed already in the first section, the following Oiônoskopika have a share of this programmatic meaning. They become the first example of the art of the epigrammatist established in the Lithika. Thus Posidippus introduces himself with two innovative subgenres, which also establish a generic sense of the art of the Posidippan epigram. We are to expect innovations as well as a creative treatment of established epigrammatic themes and subgenres. They can be as surprising as the opening sections of this Hellenistic epigram book.

A further link between both sections is established by the first epigram of the Anathematika, which is connected with two epigrams of the Oiônoskopika. First of all we find a link with AB 33 as in both epigrams a dream is reported. But whereas Hêgêsô interprets her vision of Arsinoe correctly, Aristoxeinos in the Oiônoskopika misinterprets his dream and gets killed. Thus Arsinoe is again praised for her much greater credibility compared with an omen, which is more likely to be misleading. Secondly epigram 1 of the Anathematika echoes epigram 10 (AB 30) of the Oiônoskopika in referring to the motive of a sweating cult statue. And in this case, too, the negative connotation of the omen in the Oiônoskopika is converted into the ‘sweet sweat’ (γλυκὺν ἰδρῶ, AB 36.3) of Arsinoe whose positive appearance is further stressed. Thus the Anathematika are in an ongoing dialogue with the preceding Oiônoskopika and both sections comment on each other in a playful manner. At the moment of leaving the Oiônoskopika and entering the ‘classical’ section of Anathematika, the reader recognizes familiar themes and motifs taken from the Oiônoskopika and picked up in the Anathematika. Thus the Oiônoskopika prove to be an important key for reading the Anathematika, which themselves become the starting point of re-reading and re-estimating the mantic messages of the Oiônoskopika.

To summarize these observations we can say that the Oiônoskopika are not only artfully structured as a section but also harmonically fit into the sequence of the epigram book. The first three sections build upon each other, so that the Lithika introduce the Oiônoskopika, which pave the way for the praise of Arsinoe in the Anathematika. Posidippus has introduced his ‘new’ Oiônoskopika into an epigram book and established it amidst the classical epigrammatic subgroups. Thus Posidippus has tried to establish his ‘new’ Oiônoskopika by way of Ergänzungsspiel with other and—in the case of the Anathematika—‘classical’ epigrammatical subgroups.

The fact that later anthologies did not include Oiônoskopika neither separately nor as a whole section reflects a certain conservatism towards the genre of epigram. Posidippus’ fascinating innovation thus remained an unchallenged poetic experiment.

VII. Topics and Structure of the Oiônoskopika (οἰωνοσκοπικά)*

epigram kind of omen situation person quality
1 (AB 21) ἴρηξ (αἴθυια) sea travel Timon positive
2 (AB 22) γέρανος (ὄρνις βουκαῖος) sea travel positive
3 (AB 23) αἴθυια fishing positive
4 (AB 24) ὁ Θηβαῖος ὄρνις (αἴθυια) fishing Archytas positive
5 (AB 25) (old man) priest/relatives (traveling) marriage positive
6 (AB 26) πελλὸς ὄρνις buying slaves Hieron/Asteria positive
7 (AB 27) φήνη childbirth positive
8 (AB 28) crying old man at a crossroads warfare Timoleon negative
9 (AB 29) κορυδός/ἀκανθίς (traveling) Euelthon negative
10 (AB 30) sweating statue warfare negative
11 (AB 31) (ἀετός/στεροπή) moving bronze statue of Athena warfare Alexander (negative) positive
12 (AB 32) servant falling down with armor warfare Antimachos negative
13 (AB 33) dream of being a suitor of Athena warfare Aristoxeinos negative
14 (AB 34) seer mantic art Damon open
15 (AB 35) seer/κόραξ mantic art Strymon/Alexander positive


[ back ] *. We are grateful to Markus Asper, Helga Köhler, Ivana and Andrej Petrovic for their suggestions and helpful criticism.

[ back ] 1. “Many birds there are that pass to and fro under the rays of the sun, and not all are fateful.” Murray 1995: I 59.

[ back ] 2. Hesiod Works and Days 826–828. Also see below V: ‘Poetry and Didactics in the Oiônoskopika.’

[ back ] 3. Cf. for instance Homer Iliad XXIV 315–16, Xenophon Memorabilia I 3 and Porphyrius De Abstinentia III 5.3. For further discussion and reference see Pollard 1977:116–129; for bird-augury in general cf. Bouché-Leclerq 1879–1882: I 127–145, Dillon 1996, Pritchett 1979:101–108, and Stengel 1920:57–59.

[ back ] 4. Cf. Stengel 1920:57–58.

[ back ] 5. Cf. Bouché-Leclerq 1879–1882: I 129 and Pollard 1977:121–126.

[ back ] 6. Homer Odyssey ii 158–159: … ὁ γὰρ οἶος ὁμηλικίην ἐκέκαστο | ὄρνιθας γνῶναι καὶ ἐναίσιμα μυθήσασθαι· (“… for he [Halitherses] surpassed all men of his day in knowledge of birds and uttering words of fate.”) Murray 1995: I 57–59. The seer interprets the flight of two birds, which were spotted fighting against each other during an assembly of the Ithacians, as a negative omen for Penelope’s suitors. For his expertise in prediction also cf. Odyssey xxiv 452: ὁ [Ἁλιθέρσης] γὰρ οἶος ὅρα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω (“For he alone saw before and after”) Murray 1995: II 445.

[ back ] 7. The only comparable example is epigram XI 186, in which the song of a night-raven is taken as a prediction of death and destruction: Νυκτικόραξ ᾄδει θανατηφόρον; ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν ᾄση | Δημόφιλος, θνῄσκει καὐτὸς ὁ νυκτικόραξ (“The night-raven’s song bodes death, but when Demophilus sings the night-raven itself dies”) Paton 1999: IV 161. Other epigrams, in which birds appear, are mostly grave-epigrams like VII 191 (magpie), VII 199 (unknown bird), VII 202 (cock), 203–206 (partridge), 210 (swallow). The oracle-epigrams of book XIV in the Greek Anthology do not deal with bird-omina/-oracles.

[ back ] 8. Cf. Käppel’s analysis of the Paian (1992:17–21).

[ back ] 9. Up to this point the question of authenticity cannot be finally solved. However, the lack of distinguished linguistic and stylistic differences amongst the epigrams as well as the careful composition of the whole epigram-book and its single sections, in which the epigrams are thoroughly interrelated not only in regard to their contents but also linguistically (see below section II), strongly suggests one poet as author and probably also as anthologist of the epigram book. Thus we follow BG:22–24 in associating the papyrus with Posidippus of Pella.

[ back ] 10. The different sections of the book are: [λιθ]ικά, οἰωνοϲκοπικά, ἀναθηματικά, [ἐπιτύμβια], ἀνδριαντοποιϊκά, ἱππικά, ναυαγικά, ἰαματικά, τρόποι followed by two fragments of epigrams from an unspecified tenth section. For the composition of the epigram book, see BG:24–27 and Gutzwiller (this volume).

[ back ] 11. Translated by B. Acosta-Hughes and E. Kosmetatou.

[ back ] 12. See LSJ s.v. οἰωνός and ὄρνις. Also cf. Stengel 1920:59 and Pollard 1977:120 for the termini technici of bird-augury. The common terms for (bird-)augury are οἰωνοσκοπική, οἰωνοσκοπία and ὀρνιθομαντεία (Proclus ad Hes. Op. 824). The verbs οἰωνίζομαι and (the more seldom used) ὀρνιθεύομαι bare exclusively the mantic meaning ‘to foretell from birds’ or ‘to prophesy’ in general; the specialists for bird-augury in Homer are οἰωνισταί or οἰωνοπόλοι, later attested terms are ὀρνιθόμαντις and οἰωνόμαντις. Pausanias (IX 16,1) calls the place of bird-augury οἰωνοσκοπεῖον.

[ back ] 13. Aristophanes Birds 719–722. Translation by Henderson 2000:121. Also cf. Dunbar 1995:456f.

[ back ] 14. Epigrams 5, 8, 10, 12, 13 (AB 25, 28, 30, 32, 33). For the interpretation of πρέσβυς in epigram 8 (AB 28) see below II.4.

[ back ] 15. The term is used by Aeschylus Prom. 487; σύμβουλοι of this kind are also mentioned by Pindar Olympian 12.8 (with scholia), Aristophanes Birds 721 (with scholia) and Xenophon Memorabilia I 1.3; cf. McCartney 1935:97–112.

[ back ] 16. One could even say that the structure of the Oiônoskopika mirrors the linguistic development, as we find ‘pure’ bird-omina in the first couple of epigrams, which give way to other signs the more the section proceeds. See below II.4. Hunter (this volume) derives a ‘generic sense’ from the fact that the first four epigrams depict bird-omina.

[ back ] 17. For the order of epigrams in anthologies cf. Cameron 1993:19–48 and Gutzwiller 1998:277–321 with a discussion of verbal linkage between epigrams.

[ back ] 18. Cf. Bing 1995:116 and Ludwig 1968 for the intertextuality of epigrams by different authors.

[ back ] 19. Cf. Gutzwiller (this volume).

[ back ] 20. BG:25: “Nella sezione οἰωνοσκοπικά (IV 7–VI 8) la disposizione interna dei testi non è altrettanto evidente ed articolata come nella serie dei λιθικά.”

[ back ] 21. Cf. Hunter and Stephens in this volume. Also the Hippika and Iamatika are artfully arranged as Fantuzzi and Bing (both this volume) can show.

[ back ] 22. Cf. also Bing 1998:38. Such a literary contextualization of course reflects the increasing transition of epigram from stone to book in the Hellenistic period.

[ back ] 23. BG:25.

[ back ] 24. Cf. Gutzwiller 2002b:5: “The tenth through thirteenth poems involve military omens.”

[ back ] 25. Gutzwiller 2002b:5. Cf. also Gutzwiller (this volume).

[ back ] 26. Petrain 2002:10–11: “IV. 8–29: bird omens pertaining to maritime occupations; IV. 30–35: advice on finding a husband; IV.36 – V.15: omens pertaining to domestic affairs and land travel; V. 16–39: other types of omens (not birds); VI. 1–8: noteworthy interpreters of omens.”

[ back ] 27. Petrain takes πρέσβυς as referring to a ‘wren’ and integrates the epigram amongst the bird-omina; for further discussion of Petrain’s suggestion and the interpretation of the epigram, cf. below II.4.

[ back ] 28. Petrain 2002:11.

[ back ] 29. Petrain 2002:11.

[ back ] 30. Gutzwiller 2002b:5 and Gutzwiller (this volume).

[ back ] 31. For ways of interaction between poetry and readership in the Hellenistic period, cf. Asper 2001:94–116.

[ back ] 32. Marks of origin are found in epigram 8 (AB 28), where Timoleon from Phocis is mentioned, as well as in epigrams 13–15 (AB 33–35), which introduce the Arcadean Aristoxenos, Damon from Telmessus and the Thracian hero Strymon. Historical events are presented in epigrams 11 and 15 (AB 31, 35), which refer to Alexander’s war against the Persians and in epigram 12 (AB 32), where the Illyrian army is mentioned.

[ back ] 33. The fact that we do not know anything about the persons presented and the described events except for Alexander and the Argead kings might be caused by the loss of texts especially from the Hellenistic era.

[ back ] 34. See also III below. We just want to mention the temporal coincidence of the increased occurrence of bird-augury and mantic practice in the Alexander literature and Posidippus’ epigrams. From this point of view the reference to Alexander in Posidippus could be read as his homage to the very person who helped to make bird-augury popular again.

[ back ] 35. We can of course not rule out the possibility that the poet alludes to events that were familiar to the Alexandrians of the third century BCE whose reports disappeared in the course of later transmission.

[ back ] 36. A similar ironic use of speaking names can be found in Callimachus, for instance in the cases of Callignotos (11 GP = 25 Pf.), Euaenetus (25 GP = 56 Pf.), or Conopion (63 GP = 63 Pf.).

[ back ] 37. Neither a clear historical reference nor a clear functionalization as a speaking name can be detected in the case of the Arcadian Aristoxeinus (13 = AB 33). The name together with the mark of origin might however characterize him—like the Phocean Timoleon in epigram 8 (AB 28)—as a mercenary. Similarly Timon (1 = AB 21) and Archytas (4 = 24) do not show clear references. The Thracian seer Strymon (15 = AB 35), who is also characterized as a hero, has the name of a Thracian river (and river-god), which at its lower stretches forms the traditional border between Thrace and Macedon. This could perhaps be taken as a poetic attempt to align the seer with Alexander.

[ back ] 38. The only explicit mark of origin can be found in epigram 9 (AB 29), where the city Sidene in Aeolia is mentioned (cf. Strabo XIII 1.11, 42). Perhaps the author intended to ‘prove’ the tragic irony indicated by the name by evoking an historical background.

[ back ] 39. Translation by B. Acosta-Hughes and E. Kosmetatou.

[ back ] 40. For further discussion of this omen, cf. below II.4.

[ back ] 41. The punctuation (colon) should be behind φήνη and not at the end of the first verse (cf. BG:51 and AB:48).

[ back ] 42. Translation by the authors.

[ back ] 43. Epigram 8 (AB 28): ἢν ἀνδρὸϲ μέλλοντοϲ ἐπ᾿ Ἄρεα δήϊον ἕρπειν | ἀντήϲη<ι> κλαίων πρέϲβυϲ ἐπὶ τριόδου, | οὐκέτι νοϲτήϲει κεῖνοϲ βροτόϲ· ἀλλ᾿ ἀναθέϲθω | τὴν τόθ᾿ ὁδοιπορίην εἰϲ ἕτερον πόλεμον· | καὶ γὰρ Τιμολέων κεκλαυμένοϲ ἦλθεν ὁ Φωκεύϲ | ἐκ πολέμου τούτωι ϲήματι μεμψάμενοϲ.

[ back ] 44. Translation by C. Austin and G. Bastianini, AB:51.

[ back ] 45. The term ὁδίτης is not restricted to a ‘peaceful’ traveler, but can be used with a negative and even hostile connotation (cf. Sophocles Philoctetes 147: δεινὸς ὁδίτης).

[ back ] 46. AB 21: νηῒ καθελκομένηι πάντα πλέο<ϲ> ἰνὶ φανήτω ἴρηξ, αἰθυίηϲ οὐ καθαροπτέρυγοϲ. (‘At the launching of a ship may a hawk appear all full of strength | as the shearwater’s wings are not of good omen.’) Translation by C. Austin and G. Bastianini, AB:43. The ἴρηξ which can be a hawk or a falcon (cf. Pollard 1977:144), was frequently regarded as a bird of omen and is linked to Apollo in Aristophanes’ Birds 516 (cf. Dunbar 1995:354–355). As such, the occurrence of a falcon/hawk in the first epigram can be seen as programmatic as the bird evokes the god and the mantic art traditionally associated with Apollo, which is also the topic of the Oiônoskopika. For the different types of falcons/hawks and their characteristic features, cf. Thompson 1966:114–118.

[ back ] 47. A possible exception is epigram 11 (AB 31), which contains a positive omen for Alexander that is, however, negative for his enemies, the Persian army, as it indicates fire and destruction for them (AB 31.6).

[ back ] 48. From this angle Petrain’s (2002) interpretation of πρέϲβυϲ as a bird in epigram 8 (AB 28) seems unlikely as it would spoil the proposed arrangement of the epigrams, which revealed itself with regard to the quality of omina and situations in which they occur. Thus it seems more plausible to assume that also the criterion of the kind of omina follows this grouping, which it does if we take πρέϲβυϲ (like in epigram 5, AB 25) as referring to an ‘old man’. We might, however, accept Petrain’s notion that the name contains a deliberate ambiguity by which the author could underline the point that different omina could have similar meanings, such as a crying wren and a crying old man.

[ back ] 49. As in epigram 11 (AB 31), where the focus is not on the eagle as a sign but on the statue of Athena.

[ back ] 50. Cf. II.2 and II.3 above.

[ back ] 51. Which itself shows a parallel structure as epigrams 5 and 9 ‘circle’ around the transitional epigram 7, of which they both are separated by only one other epigram.

[ back ] 52. Epigram 5 (AB 25) deals with marriage and has a positive outcome, whereas epigram 9 has a nega-tive outcome and integrates itself among the military omina (cf. II.2 above).

[ back ] 53. Country sayings can be found in epigram 2 (AB 22) and epigram 3 (AB 23), in which the diving shearwater indicates successful fishing. A straightforward interpretation by analogy can be found in the first epigram (AB 21), where a diving bird is depicted as a negative omen for launching a ship that will most likely sink.

[ back ] 54. The same can be said for the structure of the Andriantopoiika, which reflect prose works on art-historical theory. See Kosmetatou (this volume).

[ back ] 55. For different aspects of the Hellenistic ‘genre-crossing’ cf. the volume on Genre in Hellenistic Poetry (for example Harder’s [1998:95–113] study on ‘Generic Games’ in Callimachus’ Aetia) as well as Taran 1979 and Ludwig 1968 (with emphasize on the erotic epigram).

[ back ] 56. Plutarch De sollertia animalium 975 A. (Translation by Helmbold 1957:413).

[ back ] 57. Cf. Aeschylus Prometheus 488–492:

γαμψωνύχων τε πτῆσιν οἰωνῶν σκεθρῶς
διώρισ᾿, οἵτινές τε δεξιοὶ φύσιν
εὐωνύμους τε, καὶ δίαιταν ἥντινα
ἔχουσ᾿ ἕκαστοι, καὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους τίνες
ἔχθραι τε καὶ στέργηθρα καὶ συνεδρίαι·

“The flight of crook-taloned birds I distinguished clearly—which by nature are auspicious, which sinister—their various modes of life, their mutual feuds and loves, and their consortings.” (Translation by Weir Smyth 1922:I 259).

[ back ] 58. Plutarch tells us (according to the general knowledge that a raven is eating carrions, cf. Bouché-Leclerq 1879:133 and Pollard 1977:127f.) about some ravens, which appeared as symbols of death when Alexander arrived at Babylon (Alexander 73.1). On the other hand we hear of helpful ravens that led Alexander and his followers through the desert to the Ammoneion. Cf. Callisthenes (FGrHist 124) F 14 (= Strab. XVII 1.43; Plutarch Alexander 27.2); Arrian Anabasis III 3.6; Diodorus XVII 49.5; Curt. IV 7.15. For the motive of birds leading the way also cf. Plutarch Theseus 36.1 and Pausanias IX 38.3–4. See Dillon 1996:115n56 with further bibliography.

[ back ] 59. The owl was regarded as a bird of death (cf. Wellmann 1909:1065f. and 1069f. with sources), but was also associated with Athena and thus regarded as a bearer of positive messages (especially for the people of Athens), cf. Plutarch Themistocles 12.1 and Diodorus XX 11.3.

[ back ] 60. An exception is Xenophon Anabasis VI 1.23.

[ back ] 61. Cf. Xenophon Anabasis VI 5.2; VI 5.21.

[ back ] 62. Homer Iliad XII 237–240 (Translation by Murray 1988: I 561).

[ back ] 63. Cf. Stengel 1920:58 and Pollard 1977:120f. Semi-provoked signs are signs that occur during or shortly after a prayer or sacrifice and can thus be regarded as an “answer” of the gods.

[ back ] 64. Homer Iliad X 274–276 (Translation by Murray 1988: I 457). Also cf. Iliad XXIV 315f. and Pollard 1977:121.

[ back ] 65. In this case, the east is of course always on the right hand side.

[ back ] 66. For a possible influence of this work on texts like Posidippus’ Oiônoskopika, cf. V below.

[ back ] 67. Aeschylus Seven against Thebes 24–29. (Translation by Weir Smyth 1922:I 325).

[ back ] 68. Cf. Bouché-Leclerq 1879–1882: I 142: “La science augurale des Tirésias et de Calchas était dejà une science morte pour les anciens historiens eux-mêmes.”

[ back ] 69. Sophocles Antigone 998–1004. (Translation by Lloyd-Jones 1994: II 95). The interpretation of the blind seer, who is told the events by a young boy, is by no means a “technical” one but again symbolic: Teiresias learns about the situation of Thebes by the unusual behavior of the birds, as the croaking noise of the birds, which are tearing each other apart, tells him that something is wrong.

[ back ] 70. Euripides Bacchae 346–351: Pentheus demands to destroy the seat from which Teiresias watched the birds.

[ back ] 71. Pausanias IX 16.1.

[ back ] 72. The most important editions are: LSAM 30 A; CIG II 2953; Syll.3 1167; SGDI 5600; DGE 708; IvEphesos V 1678 A.

[ back ] 73. Cf. Dillon 1996:107.

[ back ] 74. Wilamowitz 1931:148: “wohl schwerlich griechisch.”

[ back ] 75. Haas 1994:27, 691; cf. Cicero De Div. I 25–26.

[ back ] 76. LSAM 30 B; Koerner 1993: nr. 82.

[ back ] 77. FGrHist 3b (Suppl.) 2, 261 Anm. 6.

[ back ] 78. Pritchett 1979:103.

[ back ] 79. Cf. Hölkeskamp 1999:114 and Dillon 1996:106.

[ back ] 80. Cf. Wissowa 1896:2313–2344 and Rübke 2001:77, 180–82.

[ back ] 81. Cf. Pearson 1960:9, 48.

[ back ] 82. AB 23:

ἠερίην αἴθυιαν ἰδὼ[ν ὑπ]ὸ κῦμ[α] θαλάϲ[ϲηϲ]
     δυομένην, ἁλιεῦ, ϲῆ[μα φ]ύλα[ϲ]ϲ᾿ ἀγαθ[όν·]
καὶ πολυάγκιϲτρον κ[αθίει] καὶ βάλλε ϲαγ[ήνην]
     κ]αὶ κύρτουϲ ἄγρηϲ οὔ[ποτ᾿ ἄ]πε[ι] κενεόϲ.

When you see the shearwater diving from high in the air
     under the wave of the sea, consider it, fisherman, a good sign.
[Send down] your line with its many hooks and throw the drag [net]
     and traps: you’ll never come home without a good catch.

                                                                          (Translation C. Austin)

[ back ] 83. For the interpretation of epigram 5 (AB 25) cf. Lapini 2002.

[ back ] 84. Cf. For instance Xenophon Anabasis VI 5.2 and 21; SEG 36, 1986, nr. 351. Callisthenes (FGrHist 124) F 22a (= Cicero De Div. I 74).

[ back ] 85. BG:141. Also cf. Pollard 1977:79.

[ back ] 86. Cf. below V.

[ back ] 87. For a discussion of Petrain’s reading of πρέϲβυϲ as a bird, cf. II.4 above.

[ back ] 88. As a consequence, in times of conflict such occurrences have positive significance for the addressee’s enemies. Cf. Chaniotis 1998.

[ back ] 89. Special attention in this context was not only given to catastrophes like fire, lightning strikes, or flooding but also accidents of visitors and the unusual behavior of priests and animals living in the sanctuary (cf. Herodotus VIII 41.2–3, Xenophon Hell. I 3.1; I 6.1;V 4.58; Pausanias III 9.2; Diodorus XV 48.1, 49.4; Plutarch Alexander 3.4). Furthermore, miraculous signs (terata) happened very often in sanctuaries, such as the sweating of a cult statue or other peculiari on statues, the disappear-ance of sacred weapons and their reappearance at different places in the sanctuary, and the ‘automatic’ opening of doors (cf. Herodotus VI 82; VIII 37.1–2; Xenophon Hell. VI 4.7 and Plutarch Timoleon 12.9).

[ back ] 90. Translation by B. Acosta-Hughes and E. Kosmetatou.

[ back ] 91. Cf. the evidence collected by BG:143. Also cf. AP IX 534 (anonymous), which regards a sweating Artemis statue as messenger of a devastating war: Ἄρτεμις ἰδρώουσα προάγγελός ἐστι κυδοιμοῦ. Similarly AP XIV 92 gives an example of a sweating statue as harbinger of destruction in war.

[ back ] 92. Plutarch Alexander 14.5 and Arrian Anabasis I 11.2. Also cf. BG:143–144.

[ back ] 93. Cf. Herodotus VII 37.2–3; Plutarch Nik. 23.5 = Philochorus (FGrHist 328) F 135b; Xenophon Hell. IV 7.4; Plutarch Dion 24.1–3 and with regard to the Alexander history: Arrian Anabasis I 18.6–9; III 7.6; Plutarch Alexander 26.5–6 and Curt. IV 8.6; IV 10.1–7. Also cf. Bearzot 1993:102–110. The pattern is frequently used in reaction to oracles too.

[ back ] 94. The Romans reacted to prodigia with procurationes, which (if performed correctly) could avert the negative prediction and reestablish the pax deorum. In Greece no comparable way of communication with the gods is known. Even in Posidippus the ritual does not aim to undo the message. As always in Greek mantic, the prediction of an omen will fulfill itself (in this case only upon a different addressee).

[ back ] 95. For a somewhat different reading of the epigram, cf. Schröder 2002:28–29.

[ back ] 96. A seer (Asterie) is also mentioned in epigram 6 (AB 26), which, however, does not put the focus on mantic practice or the competence of the seer, but on the πελλὸς ὄρνις as a specific omen.

[ back ] 97. Schröder’s (2002:27–28) observation that the epigram starts with the description of a gravestone that depicts a raven (AB 35.1) does not alter the mantic significance of the raven and the use of him as a means of prediction by Strymon and Alexander: τῶι τούτου χρηϲάμενοϲ κόρακι (AB 35.4).

[ back ] 98. According to Herodotus I 78.84 the Lydian king Croesus consulted the Telmessians.

[ back ] 99. Cf. Berve 1926:I, nr. 117 (s.v. Ἀρίστανδρος).

[ back ] 100. Cf. Cicero De Div. I 91 and the commentary of Pease 1920–1923:256f.

[ back ] 101. A similar place to that of Posidippus is mentioned by a Pergamene inscription of the Imperial period (cf. Habicht 1969, no.115).

[ back ] 102. Cf. Pausanias IX 31, 4f. Also see Schwartz 1960:29–31.

[ back ] 103. Translation by Evelyn-White 1982:65

[ back ] 104. Verses 747 and 801. Also cf. West 1978:364f.

[ back ] 105. Cf. Kidd 1997:8–10 and Hutchinson 1988:216.

[ back ] 106. Cf. Hutchinson 1988:214f. and Kidd: 1997:21–23.

[ back ] 107. Compare for example the erotic and sympotic epigrams, which take over topics from love-elegy and sympotic literature and transform them—although in a highly selective way—to the genre of epigram. Cf. Giangrande 1968. For the sympotic and erotic epigram in Hellenistic period also cf. Gutzwiller 1998:117 and—with regard to Asclepiades 25 GP—Bettenworth 2002.

[ back ] 108. AB:43:

At the launching of a ship may a hawk appear all full of strength,
as the shearwater’s wings are not of good omen.
A bird that dives to the deep is unpropitious, but let it fly
on high … completely.
So from an Ionian oak soared a swift-winged hawk
At the launching, Timon, of your sacred ship.

[ back ] 109. For the term and meaning of ἴρηξ, cf. below n. 46.

[ back ] 110. Translation by Murray 1999: II 7.

[ back ] 111. The contrast between the situation of war in Homer and Posidippus’ peaceful launching of a ship may be taken as a poetic game Posidippus is playing with his model.

[ back ] 112. Cf. Pollard 1977:158: “Poseidon did take bird form or rather the two Ajaxes imagined that he had done so when, as they were listening to Calchas, they suddenly spied a falcon taking wing.” Against the assumption of an actual metamorphosis cf. Janko 1992:50: “Poseidon leaves with the speed of a hawk, not in the shape of one …”

[ back ] 113. The loci classici for this motive are Homer Odyssey viii 167–177 and Hesiod Theogony 91–97. Also cf. Solmsen 1954:1–15.

[ back ] 114. Translation by the authors.

[ back ] 115. It might be also noted that the topos of inspiration in Hesiod is part of the proem of the Theogony, so that Posidippus’ epigram is alluding to a text which deliberately establishes and discusses the didactics of the specific poem and poetry in general, i.e. of how knowledge is perceived and transmitted.

[ back ] 116. Cf. above II.1.

[ back ] 117. The transformation of technical texts into poetry of epigrams might also be connected with the intention of presenting the material in a more memorable form. This aspect can be found in some epigrams which have been used in schools. Cf. Wißmann 2002.

[ back ] 118. An early example (fifth century BCE) of an epigram playing with the conventions of inscription by asking the passerby to start the process of delapidarization and to transfer it from its inscribed place into different (con)texts can be found in Simonides’ famous epigram ὦ ξεῖν᾿ ἀγγέλλειν … Cf. Baumbach 2000.

[ back ] 119. For the Lithika, cf. Bing 2002 and Hunter (this volume).

[ back ] 120. Cf. Bing 2002:1f.

[ back ] 121. For a detailed interpretation of the epigram as a whole, cf. Hunter (this volume) and Bernsdorff 2002.

[ back ] 122. Translation by C. Austin and G. Bastianini, AB:41.

[ back ] 123. In regard to the underlying topics of the two sections, the transition is visualized in AB 19; the epigrams move away from hard and in the case of the rock also static objects of stones to the flying (birds) and changing omens of the Oiônoskopika. Furthermore the reader is asked to raise his glance from the stones on the ground to the birds in the sky.

[ back ] 124. Also cf. Stephens (this volume), who discusses further evidence for the intertextuality between the Oiônoskopika and the Anathematika.

[ back ] 125. Cf. Stephens (this volume).