Aristaenetus, Erotic Letters (Writings from the Greco-Roman World)

Aristaenetus, Erotic Letters (Writings from the Greco-Roman World)


Language: English

Pages: 184

ISBN: 1589838823

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The first complete English translation of Aristaenetus in nearly three centuries

Through allusion and adaption of earlier authors, Aristaenetus recounts tales that are the stuff of comedy, erotic poetry, and ancient novel. Here we read of lovers who use every trope of erotic literature to praise their beloveds in over-the-top speeches. Aristaenetus amazes us with tales of paramours hatching complicated schemes to achieve their desires, while wily go-betweens help smooth their way. He presents us with accounts of unfaithful spouses who barely avoid capture in the midst of hair-raising and amusing infidelities. This sixth century collection is perfect for anyone interested in classical and postclassical literature.


  • English translation and Greek text on facing pages
  • Introduction with history of the text
  • Discussion of intertextual connections with Greco-Roman authors




















irresistible appeal of looks over money. All the same, you’ve deafened us with your constant praise of him and stuffed our ears with the boy’s name, so that now the moment we wake up we imagine we hear ‘Lysias.’ You’re not in love; no, I’d say you’re totally deranged. There’s only one thing we ask. Tell us clearly if you prefer him over all of us. We wouldn’t want to stand in the way of the one you love.”3 That was the song they sang almost till cockcrow, and if I wanted to recount each detail, I

μεταβαλοῦσα τὸ φρόνημα. οἶσθα δὲ ὅσον Ἔρως ἀντιστρατεύειν τοῖς ὑπερηφανοῦσι φιλεῖ. ἄλλως τε ὀπώραν πωλεῖς, ἡ καλή· ἔστι δὲ ἡ σὴ ὀπώρα ἡδίων τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν δένδρων. δικαία δ’ ἂν εἴης ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ γε τοῦ ἔργου συνεῖναι, ὅτι οὐ δεῖ τηρεῖν ὀπώραν. δίδου τοῖς σοῖς ὀπωρώναις τὴν ὥραν τρυγᾶν. μετ’ ὀλίγον ἔσῃ γεράνδρυον· οἱ δὲ τῶν καλῶν σωμάτων ἐρασταὶ τῇ τοῦ φαινομένου κάλλους ἀκμῇ παραμετροῦσι τὸν ἔρωτα. καὶ ἑτέρως δὲ μάνθανε· οὐ γάρ σε καὶ διαφόρως ἐπεκδιδάσκειν ὀκνήσω. γυνὴ ἔοικε λειμῶνι, καὶ ὅπερ ἐκείνῳ

Letters 1.17–19 119 Letter 1.19 The speaker of this letter, Euphronion, tells the story of an actress/hetaira, Melissarion, who manages to leave her socially disreputable profession by getting herself pregnant by a wealthy and handsome man. Out of love for the child, he makes her his legitimate wife, and Melissarion marks her change in status not only through a transformed lifestyle but also by changing her name to Pythias. The part of the story prior to when she meets her husband-to-be, at a

revolving wheel and used in magic incantations. It is famously invoked during the magic rite performed by Simaitha in Theocritus, Id. 2, who repeatedly chants: “Iynx, bring my man back to the house.” 138 ARISTAENETUS, EROTIC LETTERS Letter 2.19 After hearing a youth sing before her door, a woman questions her servant girl about him and upon learning of his love asks her to invite him back. This is one of the rare instances in which a lover’s song before the beloved’s door (paraklausithyron)

in Alciphron and Aelian,39 but in general the letters tend to be “soliloquies rather than dialogues” (Rosenmeyer 2001, 130). The same is true of Aristaenetus’s collection, in which not a single text is accompanied by a direct reply. His work does, however, feature epistolary dialogues of another (metaliterary and intertextual) kind, for Aristaenetus significantly pays homage to those earlier epistolographers by incorporating them as correspondents into his own oeuvre40: Ep. 1.5 is sent from

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