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Research Article

Herodotus, the Old Sappho and the Newest Sappho

Giulia Donelli    University of Bristol, UK    

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abstract

This paper focuses on Herodotus’ mention of Sappho in the Histories (2.134-5). Through the analysis of some of the extant sources on the involvement of her brother Charaxus with the hetaira Doricha/Rhodopis, it advances an interpretation of Sappho’s fr. 55 V as relevant to the affair. It then draws attention to Herodotus’ description of courtesans, in the same context, with the poetic term ἀοίδιμος. The adjective occurs only once in Homer, in the self-deprecating words that Helen speaks to Hector (Il. 6.354-8). Such Homeric echo might be understood as triggering an allusion to Sappho’s own treatment of Helen in fr. 16 V: Helen’s behaviour in that poem in fact closely matches no one other’s than Charaxus’ own. The possibility that Herodotus might be engaging with more than one Sapphic poem in this context finds a parallel in his engagement with Pindar’s poetry in 3.38, where, it has been argued, he ‘contaminates’ two distinct Pindaric intertexts (frr. 169a and 215 S.-M.). The contamination of thematically linked poems might in turn suggest, in both cases, sympotic reperformances as possible contexts for Herodotus’ reception of Greek lyric poetry.

Keywords: Herodotus. Sappho. Rhodopis. Homer. Pindar.

Language: en

Submitted: Aug. 7, 2020   Accepted: Nov. 16, 2020   Published: June 30, 2021  

permalink: http://doi.org/10.30687/Lexis/2724-1564/2021/01/001

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