Literary quotations of epigraphic poems represent a significant case study for thinking about acts of re-framing – and thereby for ‘de-contextualisation and transmediality in ancient literature’. In this paper, I provide a comparative study of two examples, drawn respectively from Pausanias and the Greek Anthology. By contemplating the different acts of re-framing, I hope better to understand the original interaction of the preserved epigrams with their irrecoverable material contexts.
In his account of the artworks from the Heraion at Olympia, in book five of the Periegesis, Pausanias provides a careful description of the explanatory captions inscribed on the sculpted chest of Kypselos (from the sixth century BC). The nine epigrams reported by Pausanias, originally inscribed so as to allow for a clear identification of the carved figures, provide an interesting case of later literary re-contextualization of inscriptional evidence once combined with complex iconographies. But Pausanias’s account can also be interestingly compared with the nineteen epigrams from book three of the Palatine Anthology, collected with the similar intention of recording the textual apparatus engraved on the stylopinakia of the temple of Apollonis at Cyzicus (this time from the second century BC). These poetic texts were originally inscribed in order to explain the content of the scenes of filial devotion represented on the relief panels of the temple.
By comparing the linguistic and stylistic features of selected epigrams among the two series described above, I draw attention to the way in which deictic language engaged with the (now missing) forms of visual imageries; I also draw out the perceptual effects that these dynamics produce on later readers. I will particularly focus on the use of demonstrative pronouns in combination with second and third person narrative voices, in order to argue that these deictic markers effectively point to the mythical narrations and characters beyond their actual artistic representations. This imagination-oriented function of deixis allows for the visualization of the epigrams’ frame of reference despite the lack of the original iconography with which they were combined. The reader is thus provided with the necessary verbal tools in order imaginatively to re- contextualize the fictional dimension once conveyed by the scenes on the sculpted artworks.