In This Article Posidippus of Pella

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Complete Editions
  • The “Old Posidippus”
  • The “New Posidippus”
  • Collections of Essays
  • Textual Criticism
  • Authorship of the Milan Epigrams
  • The “New Posidippus” As A Poetry Book
  • Language, Style, and Meter
  • Poetics
  • Religious Thought
  • Historical Context
  • Posidippus And Art History
  • Reception

Classics Posidippus of Pella
Enrico Magnelli
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0085


Though the Greek Anthology has preserved fewer than thirty epigrams ascribed to him, Posidippus of Pella was a relevant figure in the literary scene of the first half of the 3rd century BCE. Two inscriptions conferring proxenia (honorary appointments with diplomatic responsibilities) upon him are known, one from Delphi (ca. 276/75), the other from Thermon (264/63), the latter explicitly mentioning “Posidippus of Pella, the epigrammatist”—thus revealing that epigram was the genre that granted fame to this poet. Posidippus shows several affinities with Asclepiades of Samos, and sometimes appears to imitate him; a fragment of commentary on Callimachus's Response to the Telchines (the so-called scholia Florentina) includes both Asclepiades and Posidippus among Callimachus's enemies; and whatever the real extent of the polemic Posidippus was involved in, it took place at the highest level of contemporary poetry. In a fragmentary elegiac text (Suppl. Hell. 705 = 118 Austin–Bastianini), the elderly Posidippus depicts himself as a wealthy and highly respected man of letters. For all this evidence of his success and reputation, modern scholarship has largely neglected him until very recently. Handbooks and literary histories had him live in the shade of Asclepiades, who was reputed to be a far better and more elegant poet, judgments on the quality of Posidippus's epigrams being often unfavorable: just another reminder of how dangerous it is to superimpose our modern taste on that of the ancients. However, Posidippus enjoyed an unexpected surge in popularity recently, when a Milan papyrus (P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309, published in 2001; see The “New Posidippus”) made available to the public a collection of some 112 new epigrams on various topics, grouped under sections—[Lithi]ka (On Stones), Oionoskopika (On Omens), Anathematika (Dedications), [Greek title missing] (Epitaphs), Andriantopoiika (On Statues), Hippika (On Equestrian Victories), Nauagika (On Shipwrecks), Iamatika (On Cures), Tropoi (Characters), and possibly others—all apparently written by him. The so-called New Posidippus appeared to be quite different from the “Old” one, and even more interesting from several points of view. This forced us to challenge many commonplace notions on the nature of Hellenistic epigram, and it revealed that Posidippus was not just a devoted follower of Asclepiades. Since then there has been a great flow of scholarly publications devoted to this previously underestimated poet. Much has been done on the new texts, but much surely remains to do.


Virtually all scholarly books and papers on Posidippus are listed and briefly summarized in L'Année philologique. More detailed surveys, in Italian, are offered by Garulli 2004, Angiò 2003, Angiò 2005, Angiò 2006, and Angiò 2007; they may help readers find their way through the immense bibliographical forest that has grown up since the publication of the Milan papyrus. Similar tools in English would be welcome.

  • Angiò, Francesca. 2003. Il nuovo Posidippo (2001–2003).” Papyrologica Lupiensia 12:7–68.

    E-mail Citation »

    Together with Angiò 2005, 2006, and 2007, provides a good bibliographical survey of the New Posidippus.

  • Angiò, Francesca. 2005. Il nuovo Posidippo (2004). Studi di Egittologia e di Papirologia 2:9–32.

    E-mail Citation »

    Together with Angiò 2003, 2006, and 2007, provides a good bibliographical survey of the New Posidippus.

  • Angiò, Francesca. 2006. Il nuovo Posidippo (2005). Studi di Egittologia e di Papirologia 3 (2006): 31–49.

    E-mail Citation »

    Together with Angiò 2003, 2005, and 2007, provides a good bibliographical survey of the New Posidippus.

  • Angiò, Francesca. 2007. Il nuovo Posidippo (2006). Studi di Egittologia e di Papirologia 4 (2007): 41–66.

    E-mail Citation »

    Together with Angiò 2003, 2005, and 2006, provides a good bibliographical survey of the New Posidippus.

  • L'Année philologique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1924–present.

    E-mail Citation »

    The reference bibliography for the field of classical studies. All bibliographical data from 1949 onward are also available online, and those between 1924 and 1948 are planned to become available as well by the end of 2009.

  • Center for Hellenic Studies

    E-mail Citation »

    A rich selection of bibliographical items concerning both Old and New Posidippus can be found here.

  • Garulli, Valentina. 2004. Rassegna di studi sul nuovo Posidippo (1993–2003). Lexis 22:291–340.

    E-mail Citation »

    Detailed bibliographical survey in Italian.

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