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Gregory of Nazianzus and Apollinaris of Laodicea: Callimachean Polemic in the 4th c. CE

Alex Poulos

Catholic University of America

In this paper, I draw attention to Gregory of Nazianzus’ 16 line elegiac carm. 1.1.11 (De incarnatione) to show how Gregory both presents himself as a pure Callimachean stylist and paints his theological opponent, Apollinaris of Laodicea, as a bombastic Homerides. Like much of Gregory’s poetry, carm. 1.1.11 is only beginning to receive scholarly attention. Both John McGuckin and Peter Gilbert have rendered the poem into English (McGuckin 1995 and Gilbert 2001), each rightly contextualizing the poem within the Apollinarian controversies of the 380s. Scholars of Hellenistic poetry have observed Gregory’s use of the rare Callimachean adjective ὀλιγόστιχος (“with few lines”) (Hollis 2002 and Harder 2012 ad fr. 1.9). I show how other Callimachean elements in the poem, like juxtaposed prosodic variants (for the term, see Hopkinson 1982) and etymological word play, fit in with Gregory’s larger project of depicting himself as a Callimachean poet pure both in style and theological insight. Analysis of carm. 1.1.11 is timely due to Andrew Faulkner’s forthcoming reevaluation of the authorship of the Metaphrasis psalmorum. This hexametric work is ascribed to Gregory’s theological rival, Apollinaris, but after Golega’s monograph of 1960, most scholars have considered the work to be pseudonymous and date from the fifth century. If Faulkner is right that the Metaphrasis is authentic, then we have poetic works from both sides of the dispute, and, tantalizingly, it would seem Gregory was right to depict Apollinaris as a Homericizing poet. Gonnelli 1995 has observed several archaizing tendencies in the Metaphrasis: a much lower incidence of the feminine caesura (62%; cf. 57% in Homer, compared with about 80% in Gregory and Nonnus, and 74% in Callimachus), and 14 lines without a 3rd foot caesura (a practice that Callimachus, Gregory, and Nonnus avoid). Gregory’s short poem is thus an important witness to the textualization of a Late Antique theological dispute, a dispute in which Homer and Callimachus find new heirs and purity of style is as significant as purity of theological insight.

Session/Panel Title

Literary Texture in Augustine and Gregory

Session/Paper Number

15.3

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