The lexicon of wealth in Hellenistic poetry, between continuity and recomposition

Author: Sandrine Coin-Longeray (Université Jean Monnet, HiSoMA)
Speaker: Sandrine Coin-Longeray (Université Jean Monnet, HiSoMA)
Topic: Poetics
COMELA 2022 General Papers


In my book Poésie de la richesse et de la pauvreté. Étude du vocabulaire de la richesse et de la pauvreté dans la poésie grecque antique, d’Homère à Aristophane : ἄφενος, ὄλβος, πλοῦτος, πενία, πτωχός, Publications de l’université de Saint-Étienne, 2014, the study in particular of the theme of wealth showed how closely its stylistic uses were connected to the socio-political contexts in which poetic practice was embedded. In the epic, wealth is glorifying for the hero and marker of social status and quality: if the situation is comparable for the choral lyrics, in a context of sporting victory and tyrannical government, it appears very different in the Athenian theatre, where material prosperity questions inequalities and the democratic process.

What about Hellenistic poetry? How does the expression of wealth evolve in a world characterized by the extension of Greek culture, the restriction of political questioning and simultaneously the passage of «public» poetry made for the greatest number to an elitist poetry and largely based on a high cultural and literary level?[1] We will detail both the continuity (epic imitation with ἄφενος, religious and mystical uses of ὄλβος, criticism of wealth with πλου̂τος) and the ruptures (remoteness of the lexical field of wealth for ὄλβος, and opposite the dominance of πλου̂τος, signifying an impoverishment of the lexical nuances).

Keywords: lexicon, wealth, hellenistic poetry