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Beetle Tracks: Entomology, Scatology And The Discourse Of Abuse

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores some of the byways of ancient myth and entomology in order to illustrate how Greek sources from archaic through to imperial times deploy the ?baseness? characteristic of the insect for their literary and thematic ends. It follows a chiefly chronological trajectory, which aims both to reconstruct the literary genealogy of the kantharos and to demonstrate what lies behind a particular source?s insertion of the animal into a text. The chapter examines the logic of association that may underpin the connection between the beetle and the exchanges of calumny and abuse that so regularly frame its appearances. A third Hellenistic poet introduces a beetle of a different kind to the poetic repertoire. Nicander refers twice to a particularly noxious kind of insect, the kantharis or blister-beetle, so called because its venomous bite raises blisters on the victim?s skin.

Keywords: archaic; beetle; entomology; Greek sources; Hellenistic poet; kantharos; literary genealogy; Nicander



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