Dionysus and Nilus under Divine Protection
Two Cues for Reflection on the Poetry Composed by Flavius Dioscorus, ‘Antiquity’s Worst Poet’
Keywords:late antique Greek poetry, Roman Egypt, performative language, performativity in literature, literature and religion, Flavius Dioscorus
The paper identifies two major thematic clusters which emerge in an examination of the oeuvre belonging to the Late Ancient poet Flavius Dioscorus of Aphroditopolis. Ever since its discovery, Dioscorus’ poetry has received unfavourable reviews, succinctly summarised in the unfortunate epithet ‘Antiquity’s worst poet’. The study begins by identifying the premises on which these evaluations were built and presenting them in a broader context. An evident feature of Flavius Dioscorus’ ‘occasional’ poetry is the dynamism between the ‘Christian’ and the ‘pagan’, which has often challenged researchers into Late Ancient literature. Analysing the motif of Dionysus and Nilus under the protection of the Christian God, as it occurs in the Epithalamion to Isaac (P.Cair.Masp. III 67318), and starting from the ‘occasional’ nature of Dioscorus’ poetry, which I perceive as a close connection of this poetry to extratextual reality, I argue that Shorrock’s recent model of two Late Ancient poetic personae, a model commonly used to interpret such dynamisms in Late Ancient literature, should be expanded in Flavius Dioscorus’ case with a reflection on the pragmatic framework of the poems.
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