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Glenn Most (University of Chicago), "On the Relation between Xenophanes’ Hexametric and Elegiac Poetry"

When: Friday, May 5, 2023
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM CT

Where: Kresge Hall, 2335, 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Elizabeth Upenieks   (847) 491-7597

Group: Department of Classics

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings


Xenophanes wrote poems in dactylic hexameters and in elegiac couplets (and also, though this may be doubted, in iambic trimeters). How can we explain the conspicuous differences in the contents between Xenophanes’ hexametric and elegiac poetry? The former provide a general physical theory accounting for a number of specific natural phenomena; along the way, Xenophanes provides what seems to him a more satisfactory account of divinity than does a traditional one which he severely criticizes. The latter give detailed recommendations for proper forms of social behavior and along the way severely criticize kinds of behavior of which Xenophanes disapproves. Xenophanes’ double focus, on nature and on human society, is to be understood within the context of an important tradition in early Greek thought, in which considerations of physics and considerations of ethics are dealt with in separate works or in clearly distinguished parts of the same work. This tradition goes back to Hesiod and includes, besides Xenophanes, such thinkers as Heraclitus, Empedocles, and the Derveni author, and it continues through Plato into later Greek philosophy; but despite its importance it has not received the recognition it deserves. Xenophanes’ own version of this tradition displays an individual inflection: for one thing, he uses different meters, appropriately, to deal with these different issues.

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