Ancient Epistolary Fictions: The Letter in Greek Literature by Patricia A. Rosenmeyer

By Patricia A. Rosenmeyer

This e-book deals the 1st entire examine using imaginary letters in Greek literature from Homer to Philostratus. through imaginary letters, it potential letters written within the voice of one other, and both inserted right into a narrative (epic, historiography, tragedy, the novel), or comprising a free-standing assortment (e.g. the Greek love letter collections of the Imperial Roman period). The e-book demanding situations the concept that Ovid "invented" the fictitious letter shape within the Heroides, and considers a wealth of Greek antecedents for the later eu epistolary novel culture.

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Even in the classical era, as literacy and the functions of the written word began to expand, letters did not become commonplace. 27 On the other hand, towards the end of the ®fth century and after, letters are sometimes mentioned in a way which suggests that they are perfectly ordinary and normal methods of communicating. '' 27 Harris (1989) 88. 53±56). The prosecution alleges that the accused murderer had written a note boasting of his deed to his accomplice. The accused claims that the note was planted in an e¨ort to frame him; he argues that the forged letter should be dismissed in the face of a confession (elicited by torture) made by the slave who, he claims, committed the crime.

If Atossa had been trying to reach a friend or relative, she could have sent a trusted slave with an oral message. The information for which she invented the letter must have been secret, political, and with potentially serious rami®cations. , to which we will have occasion to return. It is hard to say what Hellanicus really meant by making Atossa the ®rst inventor. The Persians were famous in antiquity for their 14 The Greek text is O. StaÈhlin, Clemens Alexandrinus Stromata Buch I±VI, vol ii, 3rd edn.

3 The early history of eÈ pistolh in Greek usage points to an association of letter writing with o½cial or military oral communication;4 the extension of the word to the writings of private citizens came later. The ancient de®nition of ``letter'' thus remains closely connected to its original context: a written message, usually private, sent to accompany or replace an oral injunction or private conversation between two persons geographically removed from one another. In our own culture, we should have no trouble de®ning the object: a letter is a message, written and signed by its author, sealed, addressed, and ®nally delivered (by hand, airmail, or pony express) to an addressee.

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