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Texts on the Table: The Tabulae Iliacae in their Hellenistic literary context

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article numberN/A
Pages (from-to)67 - 96
Number of pages30
Issue numberN/A
Publication statusPublished - 2010


King's Authors


This article re-evaluates the 22 so-called Tabulae Iliacae. Where most scholars (especially in the Englishspeaking world) have tended to dismiss these objects as 'trivial' and 'confused', or as 'rubbish' intended for the Roman 'nouveaux riches', this article relates them to the literary poetics of the Hellenistic world, especially Greek ecphrastic epigram. Concentrating on the tablets' verbal inscriptions, the article draws attention to three epigraphic features in particular. First, it explores the various literary allusivenesses of the two epigrammatic invocations inscribed on tablets 1A and 2NY; second, it examines the Alexandrian diagrammatic word-games on the reverse of seven Tabulae (2NY, 3C, 4N, 50, 7Ti, 15Ber, 20Par), relating these to the pictorial-poetic games of the Greek technopaegnia; third, it discusses the possible hermeneutic significance of associating six tablets with Theodorean techné (1A, 2NY, 3C, 4N, 50, 20Par), comparing a newly discovered epigram by Posidippus (67 A-B). All of these allusions point to a much more erudite purpose and clientele: the tablets toyed with Hellenistic visual-verbal relations at large.

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