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Callimachus on Kings and Kingship

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Chapter Summary

In Aetia fr. 1.3–5 Pfeiffer Callimachus complains that his adversaries, the Telchines, accuse him of not writing “one continuous poem in many thousands of verses,” celebrating “kings and heroes.” Callimachus did choose to celebrate kings and heroes, but in poetry that is subtle, brief, allusive, learned, and ironic. Contemporary kings occur particularly in the hymns to Zeus, Apollo, and Delos, while queens are more prominent in the Aetia. Hesiod is Callimachus’ most important Greek model in constructing an image of the just king from whom wealth, prosperity and peace flow. A number of scholars have also argued that Egyptian models of kingship may be in play as well, though filtered through Greek texts.

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