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Cameron Alan - Ancient Anagrams (AJPh, 1995)

Cameron Alan - Ancient Anagrams (AJPh, 1995)

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Ancient AnagramsAuthor(s): Alan CameronSource:
The American Journal of Philology,
Vol. 116, No. 3 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 477-484Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 15/02/2011 10:04
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BRIEF MENTIONANCIENTANAGRAMSIn a recent bookon the ChristianpoetAureliusPrudentiusCle-mens,Martha Malamudmakes theinterestingsuggestionthat theclos-ingline of hisHamartigeniaconcealsananagram:lux immensaalios ettemporavinctacoronisglorificent,mepoenalevis clementeradurat.Letboundlesslightand foreheads boundwith crownsbring glorytosome;as forme,mayalightpunishmentburn megently.Sherearrangesthe lastfourwordsto read as follows:AurelioPrudenteseclamante,"Aurelius the Prudentproclaiminghimself."Before turn-ingto thisparticular anagram,we need to askamuch more basicques-tion. Didancientpoetsplaythisgameat all?Malamud referstothecentosof Ausonius and Proba andthepatternpoemsofOptatianus Porfyriusasthe"background" againstwhich "we mustsetthepoetryof Prudentius"(41).This is ahighlymisleadingperspective.Ontheonehand, acrostichs,anacyclica,figurepoems,and thelike werealready popularinthe Hellenisticage.2Tojudgefrom anepigramin which Martialsharplyattacked such exercisesaspedantictours deforce(specifyingpalindromesandanacyclica),they enjoyedavogueinearlyimperialRome.3Ontheother,thegreatbulkof lateantiquepoetrywasnot in theleast influencedbythesetraditions. Thereisnojustificationforinvokinga lateantique mentalityuniquelyorinnately disposedto "theovertandradicalmanipulationoflanguage."There isinanycaseanimportant respectinwhich the sortofanagramMalamudpostulatesis ratherdifferent frommost verbalpar-lourgames.Even whenincorporatedinpassingin alongpoem,an
'Malamud,Poeticsof Transformation44-46.2For a succinctoverview of all such"Spielerei"seeGardthausen,GriechischePalaeographieII60-68;inCallimachus and HisCritics ch.2.2,Ihopetohaveshownthatthe earliestfigurepoemsdatefromthelate rather thanearlyHellenisticage.3Mart.2.86,with the usefulexplanatoryparaphraseinSullivan,Martial 74-75.
AmericanJournal ofPhilology116(1995)477-484?1995byThe JohnsHopkins UniversityPress
 
BRIEFMENTION
acrostich iseasytospot,4andfigurepoems(intheshapeofaltars andorgans)cannot be missed. Asforetymologicalpuns,if thesimilaritybetween formandmeaningisnotimmediatelyobvious(lucusanonlucendo),theyfail. Somewordgamesdo not catch theeyesoreadily.Isopsepha,forexample,as writtenbytheirbest-knownpractitioner,LeonidesofAlexandria,intheform ofepigrams,consist of adistichorquatraininwhich the letters aretreated asnumbers and addedupsothat thetotals of each line orcoupletcome to thesame.5 Oranacyclica,like thefollowing couplet byNicodemusofHeraclea,
rInqvEX6ritq,6e ool()aogoiXKalvaVv06vaooeiE
VEY?yxCv
oXtLX?v
Eav6voag
at&a0cov,(AP6.314)
whichscansjustaswell whenreadbackwards(a&Tgajov
eavUoag6oXLXr1V...).6
Nonetheless,suchvirtuositywasnot left to bediscov-eredbychance;isopsephaandanacyclicaarenormallyequippedwithheadingsornotesexplainingwhattheyare. Forexample,anisopsephicencomionbyDioscorosofAphroditoisactuallyso entitledinthe au-thor'sautograph copy(io6Wi?nT])ayxWotXla),nd the numerical totalswrittenagainsteachline.7Moreover,thevirtuosityisapurelysurfaceepiphenomenon;it addsnothingto the senseofthepoem,and if thecasualreader missesit,hemissesonlyvirtuosity.But if Malamud'sanagramwereaccepted,it would addconsiderablymore totheconclu-sion ofPrudentius'poemthan(say)anacrostich.Anagramsasweplaythegame today(forexample,in crosswordpuzzles)arenormallyposedovertlyandexplicitlyasriddles,withcluestoguideus,not concealedin apoemwithoutwarning(asin theallegedexampleinPrudentius)on theassumptionthat readerswill be on thelookout.Itistrue that medieval vernacularpoetswerefondofworkingtheir names intopoemsthrough anagramsandcryptograms,buttherearealwaysclues orapointerin the context. The mostcomplicatedandelaborateare thoseof GuillaumedeMachaut,but he"diligentlypoints
4For arecentsurveyon the use of acrostichsin ancientpoetryseeCourtney,"Acrostichs";seealsoCameron,CallimachusandHisCriticsch.2.2.5Forfull detailsseePage,Further GreekEpigrams504-11.6For otherexamplesseeCameron,GreekAnthology123.7MacCoull,"AnIsopsephisticEncomium."
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