Praxilla

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Painting of a profile view of Praxilla, a woman with brown curled hair, a yellow headband with a green decorative pattern, and a pink necklace and Greek chiton. She stands in front of a granite backdrop.
An artistic interpretation of Praxilla's appearance by John William Godward, painted in 1922.

Praxilla of Sicyon (Greek: Πράξιλλα), was a Greek lyric poet of the 5th century BC, from Sicyon on the Gulf of Corinth.[1] Eusebius dates her floruit to 451/450 BC (the second year of the 82nd Olympiad).[2]

Little of Praxilla's work survives – five fragments in her own words, and three paraphrases by other authors.[3] These vary in style: three are skolia (drinking songs) one is a hymn to Adonis, and one is a dithyramb.[3] One of the skolia is in a metre named the Praxilleion after her. The three works we know only in paraphrase are all versions of myths.[4]

Praxilla was well regarded in antiquity. Antipater of Thessalonica lists her first among his canon of nine "immortal-tongued" women poets, and the sculptor Lysippus (also from Sicyon) sculpted her in bronze.[3] She was sufficiently well-known in classical Athens that two of Aristophanes' surviving plays (Wasps and Thesmophoriasuzae) parody her work. Her poetry was still remembered many centuries after her death: in the second century AD, her name was remembered in the proverb "sillier than Praxilla's Adonis", and the author Tatian cites her in his oration Against the Greeks.[3]

Because three of the works attributed to Praxilla are drinking songs, and respectable women in classical Greece would normally have been excluded from the parties where such songs were performed, there has been some scholarly debate about Praxila's social position. Martin West suggests that there were two Praxillas, one writing the skolia; the other, the more "respectable" choral songs and hymns.[5] Other scholars have argued that, based on the attribution of skolia to Praxilla, she must have been a hetaira (a type of prostitute), though there is no external evidence for this thesis.[6] Ian Plant suggests the alternative hypothesis that she was a professional musician, composing songs for symposia because there was a market for such works.[3]

Alternatively, West suggests that the skolia were not written by Praxilla at all.[7] Gregory Jones agrees, and argues that all of the surviving skolia attributed to particular poets are in fact derived from a non-elite oral literary tradition.[8] Marchinus Van der Valk, who also endorses this theory, allows for the possibility that some skolia were "derived from" Praxilla's poetry and published in antiquity attributed to her.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Snyder, Jane McIntosh The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome. Southern Illinois University Press, 1989 p.54
  2. ^ Eusebius, Chronicle Ol. 82.2
  3. ^ a b c d e Plant, I.M. Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004 pp 38-39.
  4. ^ Snyder, Jane McIntosh The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome. Southern Illinois University Press, 1989 p.58
  5. ^ West, M.L., Greek Lyric Poetry: A new translation. Oxford University Press 1993 p.xix
  6. ^ Snyder, Jane McIntosh The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome. Southern Illinois University Press, 1989 p.56
  7. ^ West, M.L., Greek Lyric Poetry: A new translation. Oxford University Press 1993 p.xix
  8. ^ Jones, Gregory S., "Voice of the People: Popular Symposia and the Non-Elite Origins of the Attic Skolia". Transactions of the American Philological Association, vol.144 issue 2, Autumn 2014. p.234.
  9. ^ Van der Valk, Marchinus, "On the Composition of the Attic Skolia", Hermes Vol.102, Issue 1, 1974. p.7

External links[edit]

  • Project Continua: Biography of Praxilla Project Continua is a web-based multimedia resource dedicated to the creation and preservation of women’s intellectual history from the earliest surviving evidence into the 21st Century.