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Title:Philodemus' ''peri poiematon'' and Horace's ''Ars Poetica'': Adapting Alexandrian aesthetics to Epicurean and Roman traditions
Author(s):Summers, Anastasia Tsakiropoulou
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Newman, John Kevin
Department / Program:Classics
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Language, Ancient
Literature, Classical
Literature, Comparative
Abstract:Philodemus, an Epicurean philosopher and poet of the first century B.C., attempted to modernize Epicureanism by integrating poetry into its doctrines. His goals in his $\pi\varepsilon\rho\grave{\iota} \pi o \iota\eta\mu\acute{\alpha}\tau\omega\nu$ were to refute carefully Epicurus' rejection of poetry as unfit for his followers, and give poetry a facade compatible to Epicureanism. Philodemus' Epicurean poetic theory ultimately recalls in many respects the Alexandrian poetic ideals: poetry should aim at hedonism, delighting the public with elegant and laboriously refined verses, and should have no other practical purpose, such as educating or influencing public morals.
Philodemus also espoused the clearly Epicurean principle of absolute poetic unity, which was inspired by the axioms of the atomistic theory: each and every combination of atoms is unique and cannot be reproduced by any variation of components. Applying this precept to poetry affects drastically the concept of mimesis and invalidates the idea of metathesis. According to Philodemus' theory, good poems treat any subject matter in original verbal compositions, affecting the audience in unique ways ($\psi\upsilon\chi\alpha\gamma\omega\gamma\acute{\iota}\alpha$) that cannot be imitated or reproduced by any other composition. Philodemus himself applied his doctrines in composing the most innocuous, light, and condensed type of poetry: short, sympotic epigrams that delight with their charming verses.
Horace demonstrates a deep awareness of Philodemus' poetic theory and reveals in his Ars Poetica that he embraced some of his principles but fervently rejected others. Horace favored in particular the Epicurean philosopher's concept of unity, as he championed the same idea of inner poetic harmony that is achieved by tightly interweaving content and form. He also views poems as unique compositions with distinct effects, which, however, can be disturbed by the slightest changes in their constituent elements. The very design of the Ars Poetica exemplifies such an interweaving of subject matter and form, creating a tightly composed and almost seamless unit.
Philodemus' doctrine that the purpose of poetry cannot be moral or didactic was not compatible with Horace's view of the poets' vatic role in society or with his position in Augustus' regime. Horace viewed poetry as a most suitable means for educating and guiding people and believed that poets's duty was to strive to improve the cultural and moral status of society.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Summers, Anastasia Tsakiropoulou
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9543740
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9543740

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