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How Thin was Philitas?

  • Alan Cameron (a1)
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The poet Philitas was so thin, they say, that he had to wear lead weights on his shoes to avoid being blown away by a gust of wind. We have two versions of the anecdote. First Aelian, Varia Historia 9.14:

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1 Reitzenstein, E., Festchrift R. Reitzenstein (Leipzig and Berlin, 1931), pp. 25–39; Puelma Piwonka, M., Lucilius und Kallimachos (1948), pp. 160f.; Wimmel, W., Kallimachos in Rom (Wiesbaden, 1960), Stichwortindex s.v.; J.-M.|Jacques, RÉA 62 (1960), 52–9; E.|Vogt, Antike und Abendland 13 (1967), 84–7; G. Lohse, ibid. 19 (1973), 21–34; Cairns, F., Tibullus: AHellenistic Poet at Rome (Cambridge, 1979), p. 5. I present a new perspective in my forthcoming book Callimachus and his Critics (Princeton, 1992), Ch. VIII.

2 Med. 529; 1082; fr. inc. 924.

3 For a collection of examples, Denniston, J. D., CQ 21 (1927), 119; Dover on Ar. Clouds 153.

4 E.g. Hopkinson, N., A Hellenistic Anthology (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 9, 90.

5 ‘Ateneo y la λεπτòτης de Filetas’, Emerita 58 (1990), 125–9.

6 I.e. dithyrambic poet: for this term, Pickard-Cambridge, A. W., Dithyramb, Tragedy and Comedy2 (Oxford, 1962), p. 32; The Dramatic Festivals of Athens 2 (Oxford, 1968), pp. 74, 239.

7 Fr. 156.8–10 K.-A. (PCG III.2 [1984], 102).

8 It seems wasteful to consume half a page with learned references to successive volumes of Kassel-Austin when every passage can be found in context here; the references to Koch in Kaibel and Gulick will lead the curious to Kassel-Austin.

9 Webster, T. B. L., Studies in Later Greek Comedy (Manchester, 1953), p. 111; cf. his Studies in Menander (Manchester, 1950), pp. 186–8; Gallo, I., ‘Commedia e filosofia in età ellenistica: Batone’, Vichiana n.s. 5 (1976), 206–42; Habicht, C., Hellenistic Athens and her Philosophers (David Magie Lecture, Princeton, 1988), pp. 911.

10 On Philitas' position in the history of scholarship, see Pfeiffer, R., History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford, 1968), pp. 88–9.

11 Cf. Suda s.v. Φιλήτας …σχνωθες κ τοû ζητεῖν τòν καλούμενον ψευδóμενον λóγον πθανεν.

12 Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge, 1981), p. 442; ‘nights' evening-thoughts’ is certainly a ‘very odd expression’ (Page), but for a parallel see Lloyd-Jones, H., CR 32 (1982), 142 ( = Greek Comedy(The Academic Papers of Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones) [Oxford, 1990], 228), explaining it as ‘night-worries that begin as early as the evening of the day before’. κανικτν, Kaibel, ingeniously enough, but what a strange way to refer to anxious evenings devoted to riddles.

13 Diogenes Laertius, 2.108; W. and Kneale, M., The Development of Logic (Oxford, 1962), pp. 113–15; for many (often depreciatory) references to the paradox in both Greek and Latin literature, see A. S. Pease's note on Cicero, de div. 2.11 (pp. 364–6). On Eubulides, Schmidt, E. G., KP ii (1967), 400.

14 Adesp. 294 = CAF 3.461–2 Koch.

15 Diog. Laertius 2.111; Sext. Empir. Math. 1.309; cf. David, Sedley, Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. 203 (1977), 7980.

16 An seni sit respublica gerenda 79 le.

17 Pfeiffer, R., History of Classical Scholarship, p. 41 (cf. 91), cites the text of Plutarch, but does not link its iayyovs with the other texts on Philitas' thinness, nor does he link his thinness with his pedantry.

18 Athen. 382b–383b, with some corrections from P. Cair. 65445; Strato fr. 1.42–4 (PCG viid [1989], 620).

19 Kassel, and Austin, , PCG vii (1989), p. 617.

20 G.|Kuchenmüller, Philetae Coi Reliquiae (Diss. Berlin, 1927), pp. 2959.

21 Webster, , Studies in Later Greek Comedy, p. 6; Studies in Menander, pp. 163–4; Dohm, H., Die Rolle des Kochs in der griechisch-römischen Komödie (Munich, 1965).

22 Cambridge History of Classical Literature, i (Cambridge, 1985), p. 545.

23 AP'xi. 91–4, 99–103, 106–7, 110–11, 308; Brecht, F. J., Motiv- und Typengeschichte des griechischen Spottepigramms (Philologus Suppbd. xxii. 2) (Leipzig, 1930), pp. 91–3.

24 See my forthcoming book, The Greek Anthology: from Meleager to Planudes (Oxford, 1992), Ch. I. L. Robert's paper in L'Épigramme grecque (Entretiens Fondation Hardt, xiv), Geneva, 1968, 181–291, brilliantly showed that Lucilius' art derives more from life than literature.

25 ‘Epigramma irrisorium’, Preger, T., Inscriptions graecae metricae ex scriptoribus praeter Anthologiam (Leipzig, 1891), no. 266.

26 It is curious that in neither comedy nor epigram do we find corresponding jokes about fat people, a much richer source of humour in modern times.

27 So Brecht, p. 3: ‘soil damit dem Dichter nicht eine direkte Herübernahme zugesprochen sein; es handelt sich nicht urn subjektives Herübernehmen, sondern um objektiv begründete Motivwanderung.’

28 The source (as is well known) of so many details in the biographies of the Attic tragedians: Lefkowitz, M. R., The Lives of the Greek Poets (London, 1981), passim.

29 I am grateful to Debra Nails and Stephen White for comments.

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The Classical Quarterly
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