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Appropriating Mythical Poets

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Chapter Summary

This chapter begins with the case of Apollonius' Argonautica, focusing on his portrayal of the mythical bard Orpheus. Mythical bards were ideal objects for interpretation, projection, and appropriation by later poets. Focusing on Apollonius and Theocritus, the author argues that these Hellenistic poets sought to establish their poetic authority by taking recourse to such mythical poets. Orpheus enjoys a special position in Greek culture, being neither a fully legendary or divine figure nor a historical author. The incorporation of hymnic elements indicates that Apollonius wanted closely to relate his own epic song to the songs of Orpheus. There may have been singing rustics before Theocritus in historical reality as well as in literary fiction, yet bucolic poetry as such remains a Hellenistic invention that must be ascribed to Theocritus alone. The chapter demonstrates that Theocritus too uses mythical bards (Daphnis and Comatas) to reflect on and legitimize his poetical choices.

Keywords: Apollonius; Argonautica; bucolic poetry; Comatas; Daphnis; Greek tradition; Hellenistic poetry; mythical poet appropriation; Orpheus; Theocritus



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