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excursus Epigram at Rome

excursus Epigram at Rome

(p.25) EXCURSUS Epigram at Rome
University of Chicago Press

This chapter provides a brief survey of the epigram at Rome. When we use the term “epigram” today what comes to mind is more or less what Martial made of the form: closure, pointedness, wit, concision, and satire. Martial chose the term “epigram” from a range of expressions used by Roman poets more or less interchangeably for collections of short, light, and personal verse—besides epigrammata, the list includes nugae, lusus, and ioci. The word epigramma means “inscription,” and examples of verse inscriptions on objects and monuments informing us who dedicated this votive offering or who is buried here survive from as early as the archaic period. When epigrams migrate to books in the Hellenistic period, epitaphs, along with dedications and other “anathematic” epigrams, remain a significant component of the new literary form. New evidence that Hellenistic poets published books of epigrams before the anthology of Meleager has surfaced in the form of the Milan papyrus, a third-century manuscript containing one hundred epigrams of Posidippus.

Keywords:   Rome, epigrams, Martial, inscriptions, epitaphs, Milan papyrus, Posidippus, Hellenistic poets, Hellenistic period

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