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Callimachus and Catullus in a Quest for Liberty

SBERNA, DANIELE (2017) Callimachus and Catullus in a Quest for Liberty. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Although studies of Callimachus’s crucial influence upon Catullus abound, my thesis purports to provide new insights to an old question. I argue that Callimachus bequeaths a quest for liberty to Catullus. Each of the three chapters devotes its Greek half to one aspect of this Callimachean quest and its Latin half to the way in which Catullus Romanises such a pursuit. Specifically, in chapter 1, I submit that through the combination of two metaphors in the Reply to the Telchines (namely Μοῦσα λεπταλέη and σχοῖνος Περσίς) Callimachus stakes his claim to poetic freedom. Thereafter, I propose that Catullus’s decided adoption of Callimachean λεπτότης through the word lepos does not merely amount to the espousal of a poetic tenet. Rather, it heralds his infringement of the mos maiorum thanks to the social overtones of lepos even if, as poem 16 illustrates, Catullus is aware of his contemporaries’ malevolent reactions. Subsequently, in chapter 2, I set forth that Callimachus refuses to abide by the principle of τὸ πρέπον, which governs the convenient relationship between subject-matter and linguistic register. Thereupon, I propound that Catullus embraces Callimachus’s rebelliousness against the criterion of τὸ πρέπον. In so doing, despite the anxieties about his own attitude, which he voices in the last stanza of poem 51, Catullus conveys his own politically charged noncompliance with two staples of Roman seemliness (honestum otium and utilitas of the written fruits of leisure). Then, in chapter 3, I maintain that Callimachus masterfully succeeds in blending encomiastic poetry in praise of members of the Ptolemaic court with assertions of his poetic excellence. Finally, I put forward that, in his carmina addressed to socially superior individuals, Catullus absorbs and bolsters the Callimachean heritage: he reciprocates respect with poetic gifts and retaliates arrogance by means of vitriolic abuse.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Letters
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 Oct 2017 11:26

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