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The Dedication of a Hetaera and Poetic Program: Layering of Sapphic and Homeric Allusion in an Epigram of Leonidas of Tarentum

Alissa A. Vaillancourt

Villanova University

The "Homeric patina" of the poems of Leonidas of Tarentum describes a poetic technique of Homeric allusion found in many of his epigrams (De Stefani 2005: 157).  Leonidas' signature is likewise the reinvention of these allusions within contexts of everyday, humble craftsmen.  This paper examines one such epigram, Leon. 2 G-P = AP 6.211, a dedication to Aphrodite, which provides "window allusion" (Hinds 1998: 48; Sens 2007: 380; Conte 2012: 170) to Homeric poetry through its allusion to Sappho fr. 44.  The humble context that frames the layered allusions contained in this poem distinguishes Leonidas' poetic program as an ironic recasting of Homeric diction.  Such reuse of Sappho differs greatly from the poetic aims of other Hellenistic epigrammatists' treatment of Sappho, as in Nossis' assertions of kinship with Sappho (Nossis 11 G-P = AP 7.718), or Posidippus' memorial for Sappho's Doricha (Posidippus 17 G-P = A-B 122; Bowman 1998: 38-59; Gosetti-Murrayjohn 2006: 40; Bing 2009: 190). 

In Leonidas' epigram, Kallikleia, a hetaera, dedicates a list of tools before the porch of Kypris.  This list of items alludes to those chronicled in Sapph. fr. 44, which describes the dowry Andromache brings to Troy, with the theme, diction, and dialect of epithalamion, Homeric poetry and Cyclic epic (Spellman 2017: 4-11).  The "Trojan myth" in Sappho's fragment draws on the Iliad, yet may also contain its own intertextual response to the marriage of Helen and Paris, as recorded in the Cypria (Spellman 2017: 80).  Sappho's intertextuality may be a launching point for Leonidas' own reuse.  Through Leonidas' allusion, we also observe that Kallikleia's dedication to Aphrodite more likely confirms, as has been suggested by other scholarship (Hintzen 2012: 43), her transformation from hetaera to lawful wife.  Underneath the epigram's ornate language, the humanity of the hetaera resonates. The description of her hair as Lesbian indicates that the dedicator is a foreigner (Gow 1965: 311), and as Natsina argues, "[conveys the] image of a woman who is away from home, a stranger in a strange place, who gives thanks to local cultic version of Aphrodite" (Natsina 2012: 254 n16).  Yet Kallikleia's foreignness to married life, in another land, is similar to Andromache's, as she travels from Thebe to Troy with her dowry, as recounted in Sappho. The Lesbian origin of Kallikleia's hairdo likewise signals to the reader the Sapphic origin of the epigram's diction. 

Despite the Sapphic intertext, we cannot set aside the epic origins of Sappho's language, since, throughout all of his epigrams, Leonidas alludes more to Homeric poetry than to any other.  The Homeric make-up of the epigram's diction is a trademark of his other dedications, which share similar Homericisms (e.g. Leon. 20 G-P = AP 7.295, Leon. 45 G-P = AP 6.309, and Leon. 43 G-P = AP 5.206).  This epigram's layering of allusion, however, reimagines Kallikleia's simultaneous poverty and assiduous devotion to her vanity with the catalogue of tools that appropriates Sappho's diction in some places, yet applies a Homeric source in others. The direct allusion to Sappho fr. 44 indicates Leonidas' innovative aesthetic (McInerney 2013: 243-4) of Homericizing a craftswoman, as the epigram makes parallel his own poetic labor of merging Homeric and Sapphic layers, with the toil of Kallikleia, a hetaera in flux, on the threshold of marriage.  With Sapphic poetry as a medium for admiration of a hetaera's Homeric symbolism, a lowly woman becomes the source of great poetic value through Leonidas' innovation in epigram.  Through Leonidas' allusion, the genre of epigram presumes the same context of the Sapphic epithalamion, which becomes a lens for realizing, reinventing, and reframing a Homeric context.

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Hellenistic Poetry in its Cultural Context

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