ON “UNDYING OLD AGE” OF POET CLEONICUS (MATRO FR. 7 O.-S.) (FROM THE HISTORY OF ANCIENT GREEK PARODY)

Our knowledge of the history of ancient Greek epic parody and parodists is strictly limited. A single ancient source of the history of epic parody which we possess is a cursory one written by Athenaeus (IX 406a–407e; XV 698c–699a). In this article I deal with the enigmatic fr. 7 (O.-S.) of Matro of Pitane (IV–III cc. BC) transmitted by Athenaeus (XV 697f–8a). In his hexameters Matro refers by name possibly to his fellow parodists belonging to an earlier generation, Euboeus, Hermogenes, two Philips, who passed away, and praises them as ἄριστοι. Finally, he names a certain Cleonicus who possessed “undying old age”, and “to whom, even when dead, Persephone gave the gift of gabble.” The expression ἀθάνατον γῆρας “undying old age” is puzzling. If we accept lectio facilior ἀθάνατον γῆρυν “an immortal voice”, following Lloyd-Jones, Parsons (1983) and the recent editors of Matro S. D. Olson and A. Sens (1999), we have rather verses of praising character than parody or paignia. However Atheneus and Eustathius cited Matro’s verses in obviously ironical context and directly named him as a parodist. It looks more reasonable to support the interpretation of “undying old age” given by Shweighäuser (1802) as “extrema senectus”. My argument is that in the fr. 7 there is the play word version of the wide-spread epic formula which Matro used in his Homeric cento. It seems that these Matro’s hexameters do not belong to his gastronomic parodies like Symposium Atticum (fr. 1 O.-S.) and all his other survived fragments (2-6 O.-S.). On the other side, we could suppose that gastronomic parody could include passages of individual or even of invective character concerning author’s colleagues, contemporary rivals or predecessors, as Ancient Comedy did. Interpreted this way, this fragment contains a seed of self-reflection by a parodist on his own art.

 ON “UNDYING OLD AGE” OF POET CLEONICUS