In my workshop presentation I shall focus on Nonnus’ interaction with epic tradition and I shall attempt to introduce the need to enhance our hunt for literary models and sources of inspiration at the interface of the Dionysiaca to include Latin epic poetry. I shall begin my lecture with an introduction on Nonnus and the cultural milieu of the era in Panopolis, in order to establish the character of the Greco-Roman synthesis in 5th c. Egypt. Subsequently, I shall turn to Nonnus’ poem and introduce the problem pertaining to its literary courses, by acknowledging the objections commonly put forward in discussions of Latin direct influence on later Greek poets, namely that of the (often lost) common Hellenistic source and the scant evidence for Greek poets of the Imperial period / Late Antiquity engaging with Latin poets. But (i) the common source argument cannot exclude additional direct influence, while (ii) this scant evidence indicates that direct influence, however limited, cannot be precluded. With this in mind, I shall proceed to probe further into uncontested points of contact between specific scenes in Vergil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, on the one hand, and Nonnus’ D. on the other. I shall identify in Nonnus’ narrative specific details from the Latin epics, unmistakably identifiable as such by a well-read reader, and I shall discuss (i) how the detection of the Latin source enhances the interpretive context and adds layers of meaning to the Nonnian narrative, rendering it more sophisticated, and (ii) what does the firm presence of Latin influence means for the knowledge of Late in the Eastern part of the Roman empire in 5th c. CE.

Sophia Papaioannou is Professor of Latin Literature at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Faculty of Philology. She is the author of numerous articles and chapters on Augustan literature (especially epic) and on Roman comedy, as well as two books on Ovid: Epic Succession and Dissension: Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.623-14.582, and the Reinvention of the Aeneid (De Gruyter 2005); and Redesigning Achilles: The ‘Recycling’ of the Epic Cycle in Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.1-13.620 (De Gruyter 2007). She has published the first translation of Plautus’Miles gloriosus in modern Greek, along with the first interpretive commentary of the play since 1963 (Smili 2009); and she is also the editor and principal author of Terence and Interpretation(Series Pierides; Cambridge Scholars Publishing). Several of her studies involve the reception of Vergil and Ovid in the Late Antiquity across various genres and authors, and one of her current projects includes the tracing of Vergilian and Ovidian influence in the subtext of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca.

Respondent: Andrew Feldherr, Classics


Event Co-sponsor(s)
Department of Classics