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HERONDAS 8.66-79: GENERIC SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS AND ARTISTIC CLAIMS IN HERONDAS' MIMIAMBS

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image of Mnemosyne

In Herondas' mimiamb 8, a poem particularly concerned with questions of generic identity and reception, the poet defends his work and puts forward his literary program by means of a dream dominated by images related to Dionysiac myth and cult. The interpretation of the dream at ll. 66-79 is seen in terms of the generic affinities between Herondas' mimiambs, the iambographic tradition of Hipponax and the mime. In this paper the Dionysiac character of those images is not considered as an indication of a hypothetically dramatic nature of Herondas' work. It is argued, by contrast, that the poem's Dionysiac imagery and its subsequent interpretation are linked with the associations of Herondas' work with the mime and, more specifically, with the non-literary mime. Mimiamb 8 is considered as part of a long process through which the latter was eventually regarded as a dramatic genre. Herondas seems to be conscious of the disreputable character of that part of his sources, but attempts by means of a masterful use of images pertaining to Dionysiac myth and ritual to persuade his critics of the dramatic nature of the mimic origins of his work so as to invest his poetry with the authority and prestige of dramatic poetry.

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