Hesiod and the critique of Homer in Quintus of Smyrna's Posthomerica
Pang, Colin Cromwell
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While scholars have noticed important allusions to Hesiod in Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica, there is still a need to explain Hesiod’s relevance in a poem that is so overtly Homeric. I argue that an understanding of Hesiod’s reception, especially during the Second Sophistic period, will lead to a deeper appreciation of the Posthomerica and the world that produced it. Hesiodic allusions appear at key moments in the narrative and invite us to see Quintus of Smyrna as reading Homeric epic and ethics through a Hesiodic lens. Rather than read the Posthomerica solely as a work of Homeric emulation, I propose that Quintus of Smyrna relies on Hesiod’s reputation as Homer’s rival to articulate his critique of Homeric poetics and heroism. Chapter One argues that Quintus of Smyrna reorients his reader’s gaze from Homer to Hesiod right when he seems to ape a Homeric practice, namely the ekphrasis of Achilles’ shield. Chapter Two asserts that Quintus of Smyrna’s use of Hesiod contributes to the Posthomerica’s narrative structure and highlights his revision of the Homeric idea of virtue (arete), such that Iliadic force must be joined with Hesiodic wisdom. Chapter Three examines Quintus of Smyrna’s Hesiodic self-portrayal and argues that the Posthomerica may be read as a telling of the Trojan saga through a Hesiodic lens. Chapter Four discusses Quintus of Smyrna in the context of Hesiodic reception. And Chapter Five places Quintus of Smyrna’s reception of Homer and Hesiod within the broader landscape of Second Sophistic and Late Antique literature, comparing his allusive practices to those of Greek hexameter poets of his era. This study concludes that Quintus of Smyrna’s revision of Homer reflects a trend among some Second Sophistic authors who re-write and critique Homeric narratives. Moreover, his direct and pervasive engagement with the works of Hesiod is unique when compared to his fellow Greek hexameter poets, whose allusions to Hesiod are mediated through a Hellenistic filter. By bridging studies of the Posthomerica and studies in Hesiod’s reception, my work enables us to gain a better understanding of Quintus of Smyrna’s dynamic engagement with his archaic literary tradition.