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Theognis’ Sphrêgis: Aristocratic speech and the paradoxes of writing

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Chapter Summary

The sphrêgis elegy seems to me an insurmountable obstacle, in that it rather clearly identifies a specific individual as author of a fixed and written text. Accordingly, it is legitimate to conclude that Theognis intends his sphrêgis as a mark of personal identity and possession, particularly since this is the one and only poem in his corpus where he reveals his name. Rather it seems to guarantee not only that Theognis’ collection was a written document of which we now possess the intact opening sequence, but moreover that Theognis was familiar with Hesiod’s Theogony as a written document. It also suggests that the artful arrangement of individual poems within a book, something we have long associated with Roman poets, had its origins already in archaic Greek elegy. The author hardly sees how this allusion can be the self-authorizing boast of an entire oral tradition of Megarian aristocratic poetry.

Keywords: Aristocratic Speech; Hesiod’s Theogony; Megarian aristocratic poetry; oral tradition; Paradoxes; sphrêgis elegy; Theognis; Writing; written dissemination



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