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Digging Up the Musical Past: Callimachus and the New Music

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Chapter Summary

‘New Musical’ gestures were still an active force that contributed to defining poetic (and at times ideological if not overtly political) allegiances in Ptolemaic Alexandria. This paper investigates if and how Callimachus ever engaged with this strand of the poetic legacy. A close reading of some programmatic passages (Ia. 13.43–5, Aetia fr. 1. 35–8) suggests that approaching Callimachus from the side of a ‘Dionysian poetics’ may present some surprises. To investigate some of the ways in which Callimachus negotiates his own Apollo by exploiting the musical/literary tradition of rivalry between Apollo and Dionysus may help us to understand better, within a historically oriented perspective, some features of the few surviving occurrences of Dionysus in Callimachus’ poetry (especially the Delphic Dionysus). Confrontation with Plato’s theorizing on chorality and its cultic affiliations (particularly in the Laws) will also prove to be an important critical tool to interpret Callimachus’ own choices.

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