Five Studies in Theocritus’ Narrating Techniques
Chapter 5. Arsinoe as Epic Queen: Hosts, Hospitality, and Their “Reception” in Idyll 15
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ARSINOE AS EPIC QUEEN
Hosts, Hospitality, and Their “Reception” in Idyll 15
The four previous chapters have each considered the complex relationship between the various narrating voices manifested in poems concerned with mythological figures who have robust literary histories. Whether we are to consider them bucolic poems, epyllia, or hybrid experiments exploring the limits of hexameter composition, epic narrative modes serve as the basis for the striking narrative innovations displayed in Idylls 6, 11, 13, and 24. The interplay of narrative form and literary affiliation relies heavily upon the reader’s willingness to collaborate with the poet to compose the larger metanarrative, to imagine a larger “tradition” if you will, of which each of the poems becomes a particular expression. Idyll 15 would seem to have little in common with them. Idyll 15 is a mime based upon Sophron’s “Women Attending the Isthmian Festival.”1 However, Theocritus employs a similar set of compositional techniques to assimilate Arsinoe (and Ptolemy) to mythic figures.
The poem reenacts the trip of two Syracusan matrons from a modest home on the outskirts of Alexandria to Queen Arsinoe’s Adonia. The Idyll begins ← 189 | 190 → with Gorgo, a Syracusan living in Alexandria, knocking at the door of her compatriot, Praxinoa. After a brief tarry at Praxinoa’s house in which the two exchange complaints about their husbands and domestic toil, they prepare to venture out to the festival (15.6–26). Praxinoa is washed and dressed by...
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