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Callimachus and his Koinai

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Chapter Summary

This chapter sets out to survey the various linguistic registers that might be expected in the poet’s mind and in the minds of his original readers, between the actual koine Greek that they spoke, as exemplified in the documentary papyri, and the ‘poetic koine’ that they inherited, as illustrated by contemporary glossaries and scholia and similar educational materials. Their Hellenic education offered Egyptian Greeks lists of literary words, which did not respect generic boundaries; their study of Homer will have taught them that glottai and a mixing of dialects are proper to epic. In this climate, Callimachus may have seemed less wayward than he does to us.

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