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Pseudo-Oppian’s Cynegetica ­­– On the Hunt for Ethics and Poetics

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the Cynegetica of Pseudo-Oppian has received limited scholarly attention. However, philological efforts such as Otto Rebmann’s book Sprachliche Neuerungen (1918), Wolfgang Schmitt’s commentary on book 1 (1969) and especially Manolis Papathomopoulos’ Teubneriana (2003) have all laid a solid foundation for further hermeneutical study. These works were explored in some detail by Adam Nicholas Bartley (2003) and Giuseppe Agosta (2009) in their respective monographs and are accompanied by a selection of journal articles on diverse topics such as textual criticism, meter and the question of authorship.

This volume aims to collect and develop scholarly approaches to the Cynegetica by focusing on unexplored areas of this fascinating example of Greek Imperial poetry. More precisely, this collection aims to concentrate on at least four strands of literary functionality:

    • First, how do we examine the referential function of the poem? Much of the Cynegetica relates to a reality beyond the text. One finds descriptions of animals, geographical areas, peoples and hunting methods that the author claims to know about or has possibly even seen with his own eyes. How do these observations inform us about the reality of hunting in antiquity? How do we explore the interactions between reality and fictionality within the text?

    • Second, the Cynegetica is replete with ethical comments on the vices, virtues and behaviours of animals and humans alike. At the same time, it is dedicated to both emperor and goddess. The question is this: How do we evaluate the appellative function of the text? What do we make of these moral-philosophical statements? And how do we locate them within the political framework of the Severan dynasty? What are the theological and religious implications of the text? Is there an animal ethics in the Cynegetica?

    • Third, there is still ample room for exploration with regard to the poem’s aesthetic function. What are the hermeneutical consequences of its linguistic innovations? How do the intertextual relations to older didactic poetry (esp. the Halieutica) and other hunting manuals (e.g. Grattius, Nemesianus, Xenophon, etc.) manifest themselves? Is there a way to navigate between the observed mosaic character of the piece and a more coherent overarching structure?

    • Fourth, and finally, the project invites contributions on the creative and scholarly reception of the Cynegetica as well as the cultural and intellectual environment and implications of the poem’s reception history. Why was the text so popular in the 16th century? How do we judge its value as a philosophical argument within the contemporary Cartesian view of animals? What led to its neglect throughout the following centuries? How do we read the poem in light of the modern animal-rights debate?

In sum, the goal of this volume is to function as a prism by bringing together scholars from various academic levels, backgrounds, and study directions in order to develop a diverse portfolio of ideas, approaches and perspectives to this challenging yet understudied text.

If you would like to contribute a chapter to this volume, I would kindly ask you to submit your title, an English-language abstract (no longer than 500 words), and a short biographical note, preferably by

1 December 2020. Please send this to

The deadline for the final chapters (6,000–9,000 words) will be 1 March 2021.

Konstanz/Shanghai, 28 September 2020 Stephan Renker (SISU, Shanghai)