ILL-FATED SHIELDS AND MAN-SLAYING SPEARS: ANYTE AND NOSSIS ON THE ‘HEROIC CODE’ IN THE HELLENISTIC EPIGRAM
AbstractIn Anyte’s dedicatory epigram AP 6.123, the poetic speaker paints a gruesome image of a bloody, ‘man-slaying’ spear residing in an Arcadian temple of the goddess Athena. This votive text has been read as a ‘womanly dislike of war’ (Gutzwiller) conveyed by the female author’s command of the weapon to ‘no longer’ shed the blood of its enemies upon the battlefield. A similar votive epigram by Nossis (AP 6.132) speaks of the brutal defeat of the ‘ill-fated’ Bruttians, whose shields now rest in the temples of the gods as a testimony to the bravery of the ‘swift-fighting’ Locrians, likewise interpreted as a subtle feminine critique of the heroic code, much due to the view that women poets did not compose on public, masculine matters unless for the purpose of modifying them or casting them aside (Skinner). However, reading AP 6.123 and 6.132 within their context of transmission may point to another possibility altogether. Although these texts are frequently analysed as companion pieces within what we assume was once each poet’s own epigram book, they were originally preserved in the Palatine Anthology as part of a short sequence of dedicatory epigrams (AP 6.121–125, 6.127–128, and 6.132) that all share the theme of retired weapons resting in the sacred shrines of the gods. Closer examination reveals that each piece is connected to the next via verbal and thematic reiteration, thus creating an allusive network in a fixed literary trope (‘resting weapons’), some condoning and others condemning military violence, irrespective of the author’s gender. This paper therefore argues two points: that not only women poets disregarded the heroic code and that women poets may indeed have championed the heroic code despite their gender.
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