Alcman and the Cosmos of Sparta

Alcman and the Cosmos of Sparta


By (author) Gloria Ferrari

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  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Format: Hardback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 144mm x 218mm x 20mm | 399g
  • Publication date: 7 November 2008
  • Publication City/Country: Chicago, IL
  • ISBN 10: 0226668673
  • ISBN 13: 9780226668673
  • Illustrations note: 20 colour plates, 2 halftones
  • Sales rank: 1,124,781

Product description

"The Partheneion", or 'maiden song,' composed in the seventh century BCE by the Spartan poet Alcman, is the earliest substantial example of a choral lyric. A provocative reinterpretation of the Partheneion and its broader context, "Alcman and the Cosmos of Sparta" excavates the poem's invocations of widespread and long-lived cosmological ideas that cast the universe as perfectly harmonious and invested its workings with an ethical dimension.Moving far beyond standard literary interpretations, Gloria Ferrari uncovers this astral symbolism by approaching the poem from several angles to brilliantly reconstruct the web of ancient drama, music, religion, painting, and material culture in which it is enmeshed. She shows, for example, that by stringing together images of horses, stars, and birds, the poem evokes classical antiquity's beloved dance of the constellations. Instrumental in shaping the structure of the lyric, this dance symbolizes the cosmic order reflected in the order of the state, which the chorus would have enacted in a ritual performance of the song.With broad implications for archaeology, art history, and ancient science, Ferrari's bold new analysis dramatically deepens our understanding of Greek poetry and the rich culture of archaic Sparta.

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Author information

Gloria Ferrari is professor emerita of classical archaeology and art at Harvard University. Her many books include Figures of Speech: Men and Maidens in Ancient Greece, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Review quote

"This book offers a new interpretation of Alcman's Partheneion in its mythic, cosmic, and ritual contexts - an interpretation that is entirely original and ingenious. It is clearly and accessibly written and should find an audience among archaeologists, art historians, and anthropologists, as well as specialists in Greek poetry. I enjoyed reading it immensely and learned a great deal from it." - Leslie Kurke, University of California, Berkeley"