UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Erinna Whitehorne, John Edwin George


Erinna was a poetess from Telos, who flourished in the latter part of the fourth century or the early part of the third century B.C. There is very little evidence available about her life or her work but what there is allows us to state with confidence that she must have lived at some time between 356-352 B.C., the date given as her floruit by Eusebius, and 276/5, the probable date of the earliest testimony about her. We may also be sure that, due to an early death at the age of nineteen, her work was confined to a few epigrams and a lament upon the death of her friend Baucis, a poem in three hundred hexameters that was known to later writers by the title of the Distaff. A portion of the Distaff was discovered in a papyrus unearthed in 1928 and the major part of this thesis is concerned with an examination of this fragment. The papyrus is extremely mutilated and a great deal of restoration has been needed in order to gain an idea of the poem's content. Unfortunately, many of the suggestions offered by earlier scholars about the poem were based upon unsupported speculation and much of the earlier work has been rejected as new readings have been made in the papyrus. I have therefore attempted to present a text of the fragment, based upon not only a consideration of the work of earlier scholars but also upon a close examination of the peculiarities of Erinna's style that show a knowledge of the poetry of both Homer and Sappho. The text is accompanied by a critical apparatus, giving a summary of earlier work upon the text, and a commentary upon the style and content of the fragment. A consideration of the few lines ascribed to Erinna by later authors has shown that the couplet assigned to her by Athenaeus, 7.283d, should probably be rejected as spurious, as should another papyrus fragment, P.Oxy.I.8, in the style of Alcman. On the other hand I have argued that an anonymous Alexandrian fragment, fr.Alex.adesp.11D, seems more likely to be the work of Erinna than of Antimachus. The epigrams of Erinna are also dealt with and the reason for the poetess' appeal to the Alexandrians, who praised her lavishly, is investigated.

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