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.

15. The Structure of the Hippika in P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309

Marco Fantuzzi, University of Macerata and Graduate School of Greek and Latin Philology of the University of Florence

Let us first consider the possibility that the distinction between non-royal and royal victors is the main criterion for the arrangement of the Hippika. If this is the case, we may distinguish four groups of texts: AB 71–77, AB 78–82, AB 83–86, and AB 87–88.

According to my hypothesis, the Hippika would be headed by a first group comprising seven epigrams. The first six honor victors in the κέλης event (‘steed-races’; 1–3, 6) and in the chariot-races (4–5), but all place a strong emphasis on horses at least as much as on their owners. Indeed, in most cases the horses are κέλητες, which were traditionally accorded a protagonistic role in equestrian victories. [6] But also in the case of the two victories in four-horse chariots (AB 74 and 75) the main focus is on the horses: they are the real protagonists of the first three out of four lines in AB 75, and the real victor/protagonist in the competition commemorated by the epigram AB 74 is the right horse that shows extraordinary intelligence. The special attention on horses in the first six epigrams of the Hippika may also have led the anthologist (perhaps Posidippus himself, if all the texts of the P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309 are by Posidippus), to place epigram AB 71 strategically first because of its strong parallelism between the victory of the owner and the “personal” victory of his horse. Emphasis in this perspective is placed on both distichs by the use of rather heavy pleonasm through repetition:

Both the emphasis on the victorious horse in the κέλης-race and the position of a κέλης-epinician in the beginning of a section on equestrian victories are also well paralleled in the collection of Pindar’s Epinicians. Indeed, according to the schol. Pind. I, p. 7.14f. Drachmann, the first Olympian Ode, composed in commemoration of the Syracusan tyrant Hieron’s victory in single-horse racing (476 BCE), occupies the first position in the Epinicians tout court, at least from the time when Pindar’s corpus was edited by Aristophanes of Byzantium (since Aristophanes lived between 265/257 and 190/180, the chronology of his akme fits the age the anthology of P.Mil.Vogl. was presumably compiled: see below n. 28). Interestingly, it also constitutes the only epinician for a victory with the κέλης to be found in Pindar and is followed by five Olympian odes for winners with the horse- or mule-chariot, and so violates the criterion of importance of the agonistic specialty, which appears to have orientated Aristophanes’ arrangement of Pindar’s epinician poems (chariot-races are elsewhere more important), in order to feature the presence in O. I of the paradigm of Pelops, who had been the first Olympian winner (cf. schol. Pind. I, p.7.16f. Drachmann). Furthermore, Pindar’s ode places the horse Pherenicus as protagonist in a manner that prefigures the first of the Hippika of P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309: the courser is said by Pindar to have ‘joined’ his owner Hieron of Syracuse in his triumph (lines 20–22):

After all the epigram AB 77 of the Hippika, with its stress on the specifics of the δόξα that is garnered by victory in chariot-racing, marks perfectly the transition from the first to the second cluster, consisting of five epigrams which are dedicated to queen Berenice II (or Berenice of Syria), and to her ancestors, and are characterized by a strong emphasis on the royal owners of the victorious chariots. [16] It seems that there was some kind of historically attested hierarchy of relevance between victories in the κέλης events on the one hand and in chariot-racing on the other. Apart from Aristophanes’ opinion, cited above, Pindar had already declared that among the equestrian victories success with the chariot is ‘sweeter’ (γλυκυτέρα) than with the κέλης. [17] The anthologist (or the author at the moment he was the anthologist of his own work) may have liked to pave the way for epigrams celebrating royal δόξα gained in chariot victories by accurately defining the implications of this glory in his last epigrams dealing with non-royal winners (AB 77). Indeed, if the reading provided by the editors for the problematic last line of this epigram is correct (AB 77.4: ε̣ἴ γ̣᾿ ἀ̣[ρ]κ̣ε̣ῖ δόξαι, λείπεται οὐ[δ]ὲν ἐμοί), it follows then that the poet adheres to the idea that δόξα—this word at least is sure—is gained through chariot victories as a consequence of the heavy (οὐκ ὀλίγαι) expenditures for the κομιδά (AB 77.3, = ἱπποτροφία), proved by the fact that the winner “is left with no revenue.” [18] Assuming that also the reading δ̣ό̣ξ̣[α at the end of what we can read of AB 78.2 in the first royal epigram is correct, the explicit statement of the non-royal winner of AB 77 on the relevance of glory coming from success in chariot-racing would anticipate the idea that could be taken for granted for the monarchs without further remarks in AB 78.2 (μοι δ̣ό̣ξ̣[α παλαιόγονοϲ], ‘my renown is of ancient origin’).

This idea would have found full support in contemporary mentality, as exemplified in a famous speech of Thucydides’ Alcibiades. In the spring of 415 BCE, during a discussion on the Sicilian expedition at the Athenian Assembly, the Athenian general Nicias stood firmly against it, and Alcibiades spoke in favor of the proposed campaign. In attempting to strengthen his position in favor of war Alcibiades made the following statement on his authority based on his spectacular performance in the chariot-racing during the 416 BCE Olympic games:

καὶ προσήκει μοι μᾶλλον ἑτέρων, ὧ Ἀθηναῖοι, ἄρχειν … οἱ γὰρ Ἕλληνες καὶ ὑπὲρ δύναμιν μείζω ἡμῶν τὴν πόλιν ἐνόμισαν τῷ ἐμῷ διαπρεπεῖ τῆς Ὀλυμπίαζε θεωρίας, πρότερον ἐλπίζοντες αὐτὴν καταπεπολεμῆσθαι, διότι ἅρματα μὲν ἑπτὰ καθῆκα, ὅσα οὐδείς πω ἰδιώτης πρότερον, ἐνίκησα δὲ καὶ δεύτερος καὶ τέταρτος ἐγενόμην καὶ τἆλλα ἀξίως τῆς νίκης παρεσκευασάμην. νόμῳ μὲν γὰρ τιμὴ τὰ τοιαῦτα, ἐκ δὲ τοῦ δρωμένου καὶ δύναμις ἅμα ὑπονοεῖται.

(Thucydides VI 16.1–2)

According to my interpretation of the structure of the Hippika, a second cluster of five epigrams follows the first one, and this is dominated by the chariot-victor Berenice, to be identified (see above n5) either with Berenice II Euergetis or Berenice the Syrian (AB 78–82). The third cluster consists of four epigrams honoring non-royal winners in the κέλης event (AB 83–86). Once again, as in the first group of epigrams, the epigrams of the third group place the main emphasis on racing horses, mirroring in size the first three and the last three of the seven epigrams in total of the first cluster: each epigram is four lines long. The third cluster of epigrams would separate the previous five epigrams in honor of Berenice (Euergetis or the Syrian) and other Ptolemies from the two epigrams which conclude the Hippika and make up the last (fourth) small group of texts: of these the first one (AB 87) as a whole honors Berenice I, while the second one at least ends by commemorating her victory (AB 88).

I suggest that this distinction, which mainly deals with the orientation in the advertisement of kydos, is especially obvious in the first and last of the royal Hippika (AB 78 and AB 88). In the Hippika epigrams which praise non-royal victors, the protagonists, namely the human victors themselves and their horses, are celebrated for their own single, or iterated, exploits. In this context, the text of each epigram fulfills the task of establishing and recording their own kydos. On the other hand, AB 78, in which queen Berenice (Euergetis or the Syrian) seems to speak in her own voice [23] , the glory (κλέος) the poets are invited to sing is deemed as already well-known (γνωστά: AB 78.2). Additionally, the name of the victor in this, as well as in the last of the Hippika (AB 88), comes only in the penultimate line. This choice of emphasis by the poet is probably due to the fact that the victories of individual kings and queens appear to have become a point of departure for the celebration of the super-individual equestrian glory encompassing the entire dynasty—a glory which had to be seen as proof for the continuous presence of divine favor and of dynastic “identity” which the Ptolemies liked to show perpetuated in their lives. [24] This practice precisely mirrors the presentation of Berenice II in the Victoria Berenices by Callimachus (SH 254), where the queen does not appear to have been explicitly mentioned by name, but is just introduced with the patronymic designation κασιγνήτων ἱερὸν αἷμα θεῶν, which on one side certainly pays a reverent homage to the official title of the reigning Ptolemaic couple [25] , but on the other stresses the belonging of the un-named Berenice (here not individualized) to the dynasty in which every reigning couple usually had the title. However a special and individual emphasis was accorded at least to the victory of Berenice I, since it was she who started the long-lasting line of female victors, which functioned as another special family-record testifying to Ptolemaic gift in equestrian victories. [26]

My idea of the arrangement of the Hippika involves an interpretative key that explains the inclusion of a cluster of epigrams (the third) in honor of non-royal victors between the epigrams mainly centered on Berenice (Euergetis or the Syrian), located in the middle of the section, and the epigrams focused on Berenice I at the end. In arranging this collection, its anthologist may have broadly adopted as template a structure also found in Callimachus’ Aetia, another collection of apparently unrelated pieces on different aetia within a very thin narrative frame of the dialogue with the Muses (in the first two books), or no frame at all (as it appears to be the case in the last two), where the coherence of the encomiastic voice of the author celebrating Ptolemaic queens at the middle and at the end of the work could be especially characterized and identifiable inside the work. [27] Of course, I am not referring to a numerically or qualitatively precise attempt at miniaturization. I simply suggest that the author of the epigrams when editing them, or their anthologist, may have tried to mimic the alternation of poetic voices found in the Aetia, namely Callimachus’ mixing of courtly and non-courtly voices, through the same kind of alternation: the Aetia would actually have instantiated the idea that to celebrate the glory of the kings at the middle and at the end is a better and more effective homage than to concentrate the celebration in a single point of the work. In the Hippika this alternation results not only in juxtaposing unrelated non-royal protagonists—the owners of the κέλητες together with their horses—versus the well-known, coherent, and dominating figures of two queens and of other royal members of the Ptolemaic dynasty, but also in refraining from gathering in the same position all the epigrams to honor victories of kings and queens.

If the supposition proposed above is correct, the beginning, fairly long series of Hippika discussing disparate non-royal winners would ‘correspond’ to the first two books of the Aetia. In both sections neither the epigrammist’s nor Callimachus’ voices as courtly encomiasts are heard or anticipated. However, at about the middle of the Hippika occurs a cluster of coherent epigrams commemorating victories by Ptolemaic queens and kings: this ‘corresponds’ to Callimachus’ long poem on the equestrian victory of Berenice II, the Victoria Berenices, which Callimachus placed at the beginning of his third book, namely in the middle of the Aetia. Turning back to P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309, the sequence of four more epigrams commemorating further non-royal winners in the κέλης event would aim at re-establishing the alternative kind of emphasis on the κέλητες, which can be found in the first epigrams of the Hippika: this third section would then ‘correspond’ to the non-courtly aetiological tales of the third and fourth books of the Aetia, that separated the “Victory” of Berenice II from the “Lock” of Berenice II. Only at the end of the series of the Hippika would the anthologist of the epigrams (or maybe the author-anthologist of his own work) have reproposed again the courtly voice and focused on royal victors. This ‘second installment’ of the courtly voice would find its parallel in the divinization of the plokamos of Berenice II sung by Callimachus at the end of the fourth book of his Aetia. [28]

Especially the penultimate epigram of the Hippika (AB 80), namely the first of the couple of texts which mainly aim at the commemoration of the greatness of the equestrian success of Berenice I, may have been proposed by the (author?-)anthologist as a parallel to the Plokamos of Berenice II. It is possible that after a first reading of the entire Hippika a learned reader would hear in this collection of epigrams the echo of alternating voices and topics which had featured in the Aetia (Ptolemaic queens versus non-royal, disparate characters/disparate aetia not connected to the Ptolemaic family) [29] : if the memory of this template was activated in the readers’ minds, it is very tempting to suggest that the form of presentation of AB 87—the epigram adopts the persona loquens of the statuary group of the horses who won the victory for Berenice I and takes the form of a flashback recollection—might sound like (though not necessarily conceived by the author to be) a distant echo of the persona loquens of the Callimachean πλόκαμος. More specifically, the wishful thinking of the πλόκαμος remembering its past life on the head of the queen might be read underlying the beginning ἵπ[ποι] ἔθ᾿ ἁμὲϲ ἐοῦϲαι of AB 87. In the same way that the πλόκαμος wished to provide the queen with a memorial equivalent to Ariadne’s corona in heaven (cf. Cat. 66.59–62), the statuary horses would remember the precise moment when they won the στέφανος for Berenice (AB 87.2), and the fact that they are “speaking” again and again through the voices of the readers of their inscription (or anyway of their epigram), re-enacts that moment eternally, thereby “crowns” Berenice for ever. [30] Last but not least, in the same way that the protagonists of the epigram on the victory of Berenice are horses, the πλόκαμος was said to have been carried to the sky by the wind Zephyros, and in an expression that is unclear and has provoked much scholarly debate, this wind is once metaphorically described as “the horse of Arsinoe” (Callim. fr. 110.53–5; cf. Cat. 66.52–54.). [31]


[ back ] 1. BG: 24–27.

[ back ] 2. This bipartite structure of the Hippika is also accepted by Bernardini-Bravi 2002:154.

[ back ] 3. BG: 197.

[ back ] 4. BG: 26.

[ back ] 5. Bastianini and Gallazzi identified Berenice quoted at AB 78.13, AB 79.1, and 82.1 with Berenice II, the daughter of Magas of Cyrene and wife of Ptolemy III, whose Nemean victory in a chariot race was celebrated by Callimachus (SH 254–69). Thompson (forthcoming) argues, persuasively in my opinion, that this Berenice should be identified with Berenice the Syrian, daughter of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe I, and sister of Ptolemy III. Married to Antiochus II after the Second Syrian War, she was killed along with her son by Antiochus immediately after her husband’s death in 246 BCE by Laodice, Antiochus’ former wife.

[ back ] 6. Some evidence is collected by Bernardini-Bravi 2002:155.

[ back ] 7. Translation by B. Acosta-Hughes and E. Kosmetatou.

[ back ] 8. Translation by W. H. Race.

[ back ] 9. Translation by D. A. Campbell.

[ back ] 10. Cf. Ebert 1972:46–48, no.6.

[ back ] 11. Translation by W. R. Paton.

[ back ] 12. Pausanias VI 13.9–10; Ebert 1972:48–49, no.7. On Pausanias’ interests in epigraphy and his relia-bility in transmitting inscribed texts, especially in Books Five and Six, cf. Tzifopoulos 1991:1–23. A victory in chariot-racing was further commemorated by a similar inscription carved on a monument at Delphi which dates to the mid-fourth century BCE (Moretti 1953:65–66, no.27; Ebert 1972:136–137, no.42):

εἰκόνες αἵδ᾿ ἵππ̣[ων], α̣ἳ Πύθια [ποσσὶν ἐνίκων]
     Ἰσθμοῖ τε στεφ[άνοις] Κ̣αλλιά[δην πύκασαν]
σκηπτροφόρ[ᾷ τε Διὸς π]ατρὸς [ἄροντ᾿ ἄεθλον].

These are the images of the horses which won the Pythia by their feet
     and covered Calliades at the Isthmus thick with crowns
carrying off the prize of the sceptre-bearing Father Zeus.

                                                       (Translated by E. Kosmetatou)

[ back ] 13. Translation by W. H. S. Jones.

[ back ] 14. Translation by M. Fantuzzi.

[ back ] 15. As acknowledged by BG:26.

[ back ] 16. It is of course impossible to restore AB 81 with certainty, but it is logical to assume that it, too, dealt with the queen, since it is placed in her section, so to speak: cf. BG:210. As for AB 80, the final ἐπὶ παιδὶ μόνῃ, when compared to παῖδα (AB 82.4) and μόνη βασιλίς (82.6) as references to Berenice I (or the Syrian), lead us to deduce that the epigram deals with the same queen. Cf. Thompson (forthcoming).

[ back ] 17. At the end of the first Olympian ode, which was dedicated to the third victory of Hieron with the κέλης at the Olympic Games of 476 BCE, Pindar anticipates the victory with the chariot which indeed took place in 468 with the words (1.106–111):

θεὸς ἐπίτροπος ἐὼν τεαῖσι μήδεται
ἔχων τοῦτο κᾶδος, Ἱέρων,
μερίμναισιν· εἰ δὲ μὴ ταχὺ λίποι.
ἔτι γλυκυτέραν κεν ἔλπομαι
σὺν ἅρματι θοῷ κλεΐ-
     ξειν ἐπίκουρον εὑρὼν ὁδὸν λόγων, κτλ.

a god acting as guardian makes this his concern: to devise means, Hieron, for your aspirations, and unless he should suddenly depart, I hope to celebrate an even sweeter success with a speeding chariot (my emphasis), having found a helpful road of words …

                                                                      (Translation by W. H. Race)

Beyond this undoubted surface meaning, the reference to the chariot may also have been used metaphorically to imply the chariot of the Muses: “if Hieron wins with his chariot, Pindar hopes to be able to celebrate the victory with the aid of the Muses’ chariot” (so Gerber 1982:165).

[ back ] 18. I agree with Gärtner 2002:32 that this is the correct interpretation of the second hemistich of AB 77.4.

[ back ] 19. Translation by C. F. Smith.

[ back ] 20. This parallelism between 77.4 and the passage of Thucydides has already been noted by Gärtner 2002:31. Euripides is credited by Plutarch (PMG 755) with the composition of an epinician in honor of Alcibiades’ Olympic victory of 416. It, too, stresses the unprecedented nature of the Athenian general’s participation and achievement in the games.

[ back ] 21. See Bing 2003: the author has been so kind as to allow me to see the text before publication; Bing points out well the anomaly of the fact that “it is not Callicrates who is the honorand of the dedication (though it doubtless does him honor, too), nor even the god of Delphi—though he is the poem’s addressee with Φοῖβ᾿ ε v. 4—but rather the Theoi adelphoi.” This dedication may actually have stood for another form of indirect celebration of the equestrian glory the Ptolemies appear to have established and advertised not only for themselves, but also for the members of their ‘court’ (lato sensu), like the court member of Ptolemy III and Ptolemy IV Sosibios (see Call. fr. 384) or the mistress of Ptolemy II Bilistiche (see FGrHist 257aF6). The intentionality of the gesture of Callicrates as an ‘image-maker’ would not surprise, if we consider the couple of statues erected by him to Ptolemy II and Arsinoe at Olympia in between the temple of Zeus and of Hera, most probably to parallel them with the couple of the supreme gods (and brother-sister): cf. Hintzen-Bohlen 1992.

[ back ] 22. See below n. 28.

[ back ] 23. Alternatively, the persona loquens may have been Ptolemy III (according to BG ad loc.) or Ptolemy II, the father of Berenice the Syrian, if Thompson’s proposed identification is correct. Cf. Thompson (forthcoming).

[ back ] 24. I have recently stressed and expanded this point in a paper entitled “Posidippus in Court.” Cf. Fantuzzi (forthcoming).

[ back ] 25. Cf. Fuhrer 1992:88–90.

[ back ] 26. In general on the significance of Berenice I in Ptolemaic dynastic propaganda, see Gutzwiller 1992:364–366. Cf. also Kosmetatou on Ptolemaic Familiengruppe in this volume.

[ back ] 27. Or, to express the issue in a more drastic way, with Parsons 1977:50: “Aetia I–II, and Aetia III–IV, form two distinct wholes, one united by the Muses, the other by Berenice.”

[ back ] 28. According to BG:17 the roll of P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309 more probably dates to the end of the third century than to the half of the same century or to the beginning of the second. The dedication of the plokamos by Berenike II and its disappearance, followed by Conon’s interpretation of this event as a katasterismos, most probably took place at the end of 245 BCE, and Callimachus’ poem could not have been composed a long time later. We do not know when Posidippus died, and cannot rule out that a poet who was most probably commissioned for the epigram on the Pharos of Alexandria and therefore must have been an established man of letters by 282-280 BCE (cf. Fernández Galiano 1987:13) was still alive (and anthologized his own work) forty or fifty years later. Anyway my interpretation of the structure of the Hippika is neither bound by the identification of the author of the Hippika as Posidippus, nor by the chronology of the author(s) of the epigrams in case he/they were not Posidippus. The only relevant issue for me is the chronology of the anthologist who arranged the collection of P.Mil.Vogl., and may have been both the author of the epigrams or a bright reader of his poetry: if the papyrus is of the last tenth of the third century, the anthologist may well have arranged the collection a few years before that date, under the impression of the structure which Callimachus had conceived for his own collection of aetia (+ the encomiastic pieces he had decided to include in the Aetia). Not very differently, as noted above in this paper, he may have placed the epigrams on victories in steed-racing at the beginning of the collection under the influence of Aristophanes’ arrangement of Pindar’s Olympian odes.

[ back ] 29. With the partial exception of the Callicrates of AB 74, on which see above n. 21.

[ back ] 30. Cf. Kurke 1993:141–149.

[ back ] 31. On this problematic identification of Zephyros, cf. Gutzwiller 1992:380f.; Koenen 1993:103–105, and the status quaestionis in Marinone 1997:151–157.

[ back ] 32. Cf. Parsons 1977:48; Gutzwiller 1992:382; Marinone 1997:41f.

[ back ] 33. The beginning apostrophe to Octavian (I 24–42) does not include any mention of his victories. A detailed analysis of the structure of Aetia III and IV as possible template for the arrangement of the eulogies of Octavian in Georgics III and IV is offered by Thomas 1983:92–113 (= Thomas 1999:68–100) and Thomas 1988:41 and 239.