Sophia Papaioannou

Visiting Fellow, Spring 2019

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Research Project
Nonnus/ Latinity: Revisiting the Issue of Latin Influence on Greek Epic and High Culture in the Late Antiquity

Sophia Papaioannou is Professor 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.

About the Research Project
Nonnus/ Latinity: Revisiting the Issue of Latin Influence on Greek Epic and High Culture in the Late Antiquity

The project examines the influence of Latin epic on Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, for many that last great epic of the Greco-Roman antiquity. I argue that Nonnus was intimately familiar with the works of Vergil and Ovid, and integrated themes from their epics into his poem. In my study of the Dionysiaca I propose to identify a series of potential influences from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Vergil’s Aeneid, which I do not simply attribute to Nonnus’ desire to signpost awareness of the Latin epics but I mainly read as part of a cultural trend to appropriate creatively in the context of a Homeric-sounding epic, the Latin essence of studied textuality as epitomized in the great epics of the Augustan era. Albeit scanty, evidence that Latin epic was read by Greek-speaking authors and that bilingual poets existed in the period when Nonnus flourished, does exist. It remains to be substantiated that direct engagement between a Greek-speaking author from the 5th c. and Augustan Latin epic on the basis of similarities or echoes which may at first glance seem tenuous, may be intentional and addressing a cultural elite who had the knowledge to identify them, even though the affirmation of conscious intertextuality is a great challenge in the cases of cross-linguistic literary interactions, especially since this linguistic intercrossing bore cultural and political associations, as it was the case in the Hellenophone East at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth century CE.