Anacreon’s love poetry: redirecting the ball of Eros

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Title: Anacreon’s love poetry: redirecting the ball of Eros
Author: Carter, Rachel Leigh
Type: Thesis
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: Critical opinion about Anacreon’s poetry has changed since Smyth penned his damning evaluation in 1900. Anacreon, indeed, is allowed to be one of the more clever poets of archaic Greece. Still, if we except Bowra’s deep appreciation of his poems, it is probable that one will encounter more recent critics finding something lacking: “there is in his [Anacreon’s] love poetry virtually none of the passion and earnestness that we find in Sappho or Catullus.” However, I agree with Bowra that Anacreon’s particular poetics are something innovative for Greek poetry, “both lyrical and witty, both passionate and fanciful.” Anacreon’s detractors find fault with his poetry in comparison to other poetry, particularly that of his immediate predecessor Sappho. I hope to show in this paper that a comparison of the erotic verse of Anacreon and Sappho can yield a different outcome than a reading of Sappho as superior and Anacreon as inferior. Instead, I hope to examine the genius that lies in both poets and show how the two poets approach love poetry in a fundamentally different way. I will make this comparison using two main texts: Anacreon 358 and Sappho 31. In each poem, the narrator encounters their beloved bestowing favors on someone other than the narrator. Although the poetic scenarios are similar, each author treats them differently and in doing so reveals the way in which poetry processes and mediates erotic disappointment. By bringing in additional fragments as needed, I will show that Sappho’s erotic verse creates spaces and extends time for internal, personal reflection, and within her poems examines the emotions and reactions involved in love.
Subject: Love poetry, Greek
Subject: Anacreon
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Carter, Rachel Leigh. "Anacreon’s love poetry: redirecting the ball of Eros". 2011. Available electronically from

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