Aristaenetus, Erotic Letters (Writings from the Greco-Roman World)

Aristaenetus, Erotic Letters (Writings from the Greco-Roman World)


Language: English

Pages: 184

ISBN: 1589838823

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The first complete English translation of Aristaenetus in nearly three centuries

Through allusion and adaption of earlier authors, Aristaenetus recounts tales that are the stuff of comedy, erotic poetry, and ancient novel. Here we read of lovers who use every trope of erotic literature to praise their beloveds in over-the-top speeches. Aristaenetus amazes us with tales of paramours hatching complicated schemes to achieve their desires, while wily go-betweens help smooth their way. He presents us with accounts of unfaithful spouses who barely avoid capture in the midst of hair-raising and amusing infidelities. This sixth century collection is perfect for anyone interested in classical and postclassical literature.


  • English translation and Greek text on facing pages
  • Introduction with history of the text
  • Discussion of intertextual connections with Greco-Roman authors

A Commentary on Homer's Odyssey, Volume 1: Introduction and Books I-VIII

Theocritus: Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus

Two Sisters




















ἡμεῖς δὲ ὑπουργῶς ἀνασπῶντες ἑκάστην παραθέουσαν κύλικα συνεπίνομεν ἴσον ἴσῳ κεκραμένην μετρίως· ὁ γὰρ ἔμμετρος οἰνοχόος ἐξεπίτηδες τοσούτῳ θερμότερον τοῦ δέοντος τὸν οἶνον συνέμισγεν ὕδατι διαπύρῳ, ὅσον ἔμελλεν ὁ ψυχρότατος ὁλκὸς ἐπιπολάζον αὐτῷ τὸ κραθὲν ἐπιψύχειν, ὅπως ἄν, μόνης γε τῆς ἀμέτρου θέρμης τῷ ψυχρῷ μειουμένης, τὸ σύμμετρον καταλείψοιτο. καὶ οὕτω δὴ γέγονεν ἡμῖν ἀμφὶ Διόνυσόν τε καὶ Ἀφροδίτην ἡ πᾶσα διατριβή, οὓς ἐπὶ τῇ κύλικι συνάγοντες ἐθελγόμεθα. ἡ δὲ Λειμώνη τοῖς ἄνθεσιν οἷον

hand: “You are a veritable Empedocles, a Sicilian filching unripe grapes3 by plucking a girl before her 78 ARISTAENETUS, EROTIC LETTERS παρατρυγῶν παιδισκάριον <ἄωρον> καὶ τοῦ φιλήματος ἀμαθές. παρθένος γάρ, ἅτε τῆς Ἀφροδίτης ἀμύητος ἔτι, τὴν συνουσίαν ἀτερπής ἐστι καὶ δύσκοιτος, ἀγνοοῦσα τὴν ἐπὶ τῆς εὐνῆς κολακείαν. γυνὴ δέ, οἵαπερ ἐγώ, τῶν ἀφροδισίων ἱκανὴν ἔχουσα πεῖραν, ὁμοίως ἑαυτήν τε καὶ τὸν ποθοῦντα λίαν εὐφραίνει, καὶ γυνὴ μὲν καταφιλεῖ, παρθένος δὲ καταφιλεῖται. καὶ τοῦτο μὲν

the name of the collection’s author was probably inferred from this first letter. But even if the historical author was not called Aristaenetus, it is nonetheless plausible that he speaks here through this character, since the letter sets the tone for the whole collection. Aristaenetus addresses Philokalos, the “Lover of Beauty”—evidently not just a single individual but a flattering designation for all readers whose interests lead them to take up this volume. Appropriately, the subject of the

3. the rest: Euphemistic description for sex, often used in the context of an erotic aposiopesis (see Ep. 1.2 note 2). Letter 1.17 The speaker of this letter, Xenopeithes, is humorously unable to live up to his name, “the charmer of strangers,” in dealing with the hetaira Daphnis. Given all his previous amatory conquests about which he boasts (he seems also familiar with every erotic metaphor and cliché), Xenopeithes is left baffled and indignant at her indifference. In his frustration, he

Aristaenetus to his use of literary models: “no need for a further quotation from another author” (see Arnott 1982, 316–17). 1. Kallikoite: “Beautiful Bedfellow.” 2. Meirakiophile: “Youth Lover.” 3. Laconian hounds: Spartan dogs were famed for their speed and keenness in tracking prey. The simile is taken almost verbatim from Plato, Parm. 128c. 4. consolation enough…: An extended quotation from Plato, Phaedr. 240d, which describes the disgust of a boy faced with an elderly lover. 5. As the old

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