This paper considers the two sepulchral epigrams ascribed to Erinna in the Palatine Anthology (AP.7.710 and AP.7.712) as texts which evince multiple forms of de- and re-contextualisation, and which therefore offer a chance to undertake a microcosmic analysis of these broad trends through an organically delimited case study.
Studies of the epigrams have noted their thematic debt to the Distaff, the primary work for which Erinna was known in antiquity:1 the lamented subject of the Distaff – Erinna’s companion Baucis – is memorialised in both epigrams, and the circumstances of her death – on the eve of her marriage – features prominently. What has not been analysed, and what this paper will address, is the manner in which the epigrams recapitulate the particular context of lamentation which the Distaff constructs, through the employment and subversion of epigrammatic conventions. This paper argues that the Distaff evinces a tension between expected public and enforced private lamentation: Erinna laments her friend’s passing, but simultaneously mourns her inability to attend the funeral rites in person, and she must thus offer a decontextualized lament – private sorrow rather than the proper public performance of grief. This paper demonstrates that this tension is equally a central aspect of the epigrams, but re-expressed through the particular use of the conventions of epigrammatic communication. The epigrams’ process of recapitulating the dislocation that the Erinna of the Distaff experiences is engendered by purposefully de-contextualising the reader, by eschewing conventional generic norms (particularly the sustained, reader- orientated focus familiar from inscribed epigram, expressed through the direct address to the reader as “passerby” vel sim.).
By considering the intertextual links between the Distaff and the epigrams, and further utilising pertinent examples drawn from inscribed sepulchral epigram, this paper will assess how authors might transmit material between genres and yet preserve the spirit of the original, despite a radical re-contextualisation of the poetic mode.
1 For example, Scholz, U.W., 1973. ‘Erinna’, in A&A vol.18, pp.15-40, West, M.L., 1977. ‘Erinna’, in ZPE Bd.25, pp.95-119, Gutzwiller, K., 1997. ‘Genre Development and Gendered Voices in Erinna and Nossis’, in Dwelling in Possibility: Women Poets and Critics of Poetry, (eds.) Y. Prins and M. Shreiber (Ithaca), pp.202-222, Levaniouk, O., 2008. ‘Lament and Hymenaios in Erinna’s Distaff’, in Lament: Studies in the Ancient Mediterranean and Beyond, (ed.) A. Sutter (Oxford), pp.200-232.