During its history, epigram spread beyond its original context on monuments in a physical landscape to the bookish territory of the scroll. The Hellenistic poet Callimachus played with the aesthetic possibilities of that shift. On the one hand, writing epigrams for literary collections, he exploited the absence of material context to let readers supplement imaginatively what was no longer physically present («Ergänzungsspiel»). Elsewhere, however, he experimented with embedding verse-inscriptions into longer poems, recontextualizing them through narrative, which could employ them to new ends and shape readers’ understanding, just as their physical circumstances had. Yet examples in Callimachus such as the Sepulcrum Simonidis and Thales’ epigram on the cup of Bathycles in Iambus 1 suggest that a verse-inscription can stay true to its monument or artifact even when embedded in someone else’s story: it remains the product of a (notionally or actually) different author, able to ‘express itself ’ with a voice unlike that of its surrounding narrative, indeed it may even be at odds with, and push back against, the context into which it has been embedded.
Hellenistic Poetry, Callimachus, Epigram, Verse-Inscription, Embedded
Genre, Victory of Sosibios, Tomb of Simonides, Hipponax, Thales, Seven Sages
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