Der Artemis-Hymnos des Kallimachos

Zsolt Adorjáni, Der Artemis-Hymnos des Kallimachos. Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar. Texte und Kommentare, Band 66 (Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter, 2021). 9783110698428.

Reviewed by Gary P. Vos, University of Edinburgh,

The last decade has been good to Callimacheans: Annette Harder published her magnum opus, a full-scale edition and commentary on Callimachus’s Aetia,[1] while Susan Stephens has been prolific with her concise but rich commentary on the Hymns and a born-digital annotated Aetia, as well as a Companion to Callimachus, co-edited with Benjamin Acosta-Hughes and Luigi Lehnus, and Callimachus in Context, co-authored with the former.[2] We now have specialist and comprehensive commentaries on almost all extant Callimachean poetry, as well as studies on aspects of this poetry from Hellenistic historiography to religion. Zsolt Adorjáni contributes to our knowledge of the Hymn to Artemis (hArt.). Let me be upfront: I voice criticisms below, but have taken away much from Adorjáni’s book, which I consider a useful companion to its illustrious predecessors, the commentaries by Pfeiffer, Bornmann, D’Alessio, and Stephens.[3]

Although the Hymns have taken third or fourth place in scholarship on Callimachus’s oeuvre, within that collection the Hymn to Artemis (no. 3) has lagged behind the others, especially the (in)famous Hymn to Apollo (specifically, the epilogue’s water-allegory). Adorjáni is right to draw our attention to this neglected poem (cf. p. VII), whose topic suggests a greater programmatic and political resonance than hitherto acknowledged. His is a traditional lemmatic commentary, often operating at the level of the (half-)line and using the introductory chapters to collect his observations on the text into an overarching argument. The opening chapters perhaps lack a touch of synthesis and seem to tell the story Adorjáni wishes to tell about hArt., rather than discuss the poem’s place within Hellenistic poetry (aesthetics, allusions to or intertextuality with other poems and their effects), the hymnic genre (hArt.’s place within its development or divergences from it), or the (contemporary) material record. I will elaborate on these points below. But first: what is the story Adorjáni relates?

Adorjáni states his intentions at the outset (pp. VII–VIII): his goal is not to supplant Bornmann (1968) (the other stand-alone commentary on hArt.), duplication of which he avoids, but to aid literary interpretation, especially of the poem’s structure and allusions to prior texts. The impetus for writing the book is polemical: Adorjáni takes aim at Ivana Petrovic, who claims that Callimachus’s portrayal of the goddess reflects contemporary religious praxis.[4] Rather, Adorjáni reverts to older scholarship for the view that hArt. plays an allusive and “corrective” game with literary tradition. (As if one somehow precludes the other: why should a poet not couch “new” experiences in terms of “old” tradition?) There is a risk of a return to the superseded view that Hellenistic poetry was l’art pour l’art, designed for an in-crowd of connoisseurs in and around the court (cf. 51–53) rather than having a wider geopolitical (cl)aim.[5] Adorjáni is not concerned with Realien or issues of mythology (though these are hard to separate from “tradition”). Rather, his approach is to Καλλίμαχον ἐκ Καλλιμάχου σαφηνίζειν (“explain Callimachus from Callimachus,” after Kassel’s 1986 article, misdated in the bibliography): he derives, as much as possible, his argument from the poem itself and its place within the book of Hymns.[6] Such a hermeneutic framework is legitimate, but dismissing lines of inquiry without sustained engagement seems an unfortunate regression (I return to this below).

Adorjáni addresses hArt.’s position within Callimachus’s poetry-book, especially its intratextual links to the Hymns to Apollo (no. 2) and Delos (no. 4), before turning to the poem’s unity, where he at length criticizes Bing and Uhrmeister in favour of Köhnken before offering his own breakdown (respectively, 14–23, 23–24, 24–33).[7] While Adorjáni throughout is quite attuned to Callimachus’s ring-compositions and intratextual references, not everyone will embrace his structuralist reading—summarized in a complex diagram (25)—but a basic dichotomy between the poem’s diegesis (ll. 4–109) and aretalogy (ll. 110–258) seems plausible.

The next sections discuss whether the poem reflects contemporary religious praxis and politics, for which Adorjáni must fix a terminus circa quem for the poem. He places great emphasis on the apparent disconnect between Artemis’s two main functions as πότνια θηρῶν (“mistress of animals”) and πολιάς (“city-guardian”) (announced in hArt. 6–25). The former is a well-known function of Artemis, while Adorjáni views the latter as an extension of her sibling rivalry with Apollo, who in the previous Hymn is depicted as a city-dweller. Here, too, Adorjáni avers that Callimachus’s reasons are literary (41–44), evidence for which he locates outside Callimachus’s Hymns (Stephens, Callimachus: The Hymns, 106, covers the same ground with different conclusions).

It is a curious leap that Adorjáni agrees with Petrovic that the latter aspect serves to “update” the huntress Artemis for a third-century audience, but then dismisses her idea that this resonates with contemporary religion.[8] He points to the lack of attestations of the goddess’s cultic function as Artemis πολιάς (not surprising: not all epithets are attested equally well in epigraphic, papyrological, and/or literary sources), but hArt. itself refers to the city of Ephesus (ll. 238, 258; cf. 228 with note.), which was a focal point in the syncretization of (Near Eastern) goddesses with Artemis, who was the city’s tutelary deity. hArt. shows further signs of the times by incorporating Britomartis, Dictynna, Eileithyia, and Oupis (ll. 20–25, 189–205, 240–47), whom scholars of religion see as originally independent deities who became “aspects” of Artemis through syncretistic processes. It is worth asking (Adorjáni does not) whether the πολιάς-function derives from a syncretistic interpretation. There are further reasons to leave the option of an Artemis πολιάς open.

Next, Adorjáni seizes upon the well-known parallel between the invasion of the Cimmerians (hArt. 251–58) and the Celts/Gauls (hDel. 171–88) to date the poem. Since the Hymn to Delos links Apollo’s victory over the Celts at Delphi to Ptolemy II Philadelphus’s defeat of his mutinous mercenaries in 275/4 BCE, this yields a terminus post quem. For his terminus ante quem Adorjáni adduces two parallels between hArt. and the Aetia (hArt. 361 ~ Aet. 1 fr. 24–25d: Heracles’ hunger; hArt. 251–8 ~ Aet. 3 fr. 75.23: Lygdamis), arguing that the short version must allude to the long version and thus postdate it. He arrives at a relative chronology of Aetia 1, hArt., Aetia 3. Since he puts Aet. fr. 75 at 267 BCE, he concludes that 274–270 BCE is the most plausible period for hArt.’s genesis. These arguments have been put forward before to date the Aetia, but are not straightforward.[9]

Adorjáni’s apodosis hangs on a considerable protasis, to which there are at least two objections. (1) In a corpus reworked and edited by the poet, would it not be possible to insert brief cross-references at a later stage? The possibility is not considered, but seriously skews any attempt at a chronology from internal evidence. (2) Adorjáni assumes (47) that the principle behind allusions is that the shorter version is the imitation, since it excludes details narrated in the longer, “original” text, but this is a faulty supposition (which moreover does not consider common sources, retellings etc., or the fact that recognizing allusions involves a degree of subjectivity). This marks a return to a more innocent age of historical positivism. Reinhold Glei is memorable on this point:

Questions of relative chronology cannot in principle be resolved when external chronological evidence is missing since arguments put forward can also be turned the other way round. Despite their sophistical roots, classical scholars do not generally wish to admit that much, and thus debates on relative chronology are popular enough to keep an entire publication industry going.[10]

Intertextual connections are by their nature text-internal and reversible, and so slippery grounds for chronological arguments, much less “proof.”[11]

Compare Adorjáni’s note (302) on line 209 (καὶ Κεφάλου ξανθὴν ἄλοχον Δηιονίδαο, referencing the story of Procris), directing the reader to Metamorphoses 7.754–55: if we did not know on external grounds that Ovid wrote after Callimachus, would we assume that the fuller story in the Metamorphoses (7.690–865) antedates the hArt.’s monostichic reference? Just so, we know that the aretalogy in hArt. alludes to and adapts Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 16–20 (acknowledged by Adorjáni: cf. his index locorum): if the postulated function of allusion were valid, hArt. should be much shorter. We can make educated guesses about known unknowns, but unknown unknowns cannot be speculated about profitably: without solid external evidence to fix the dates of two texts, it is impossible to tell whether an allusion in one text is compressing or expanding the other, or conflating it with a third (or fourth, etc., to the nth -degree). Faute de mieux, relative chronology has value, but it is equally important to acknowledge the gaps in our knowledge and the limitations of our methodologies.

Adorjáni uses the aforementioned parallel between the Hymns to Artemis and Delos for an ideological/biographical reading. Since Apollo’s uterine prophecy aligns his vanquishing of the Celts with Ptolemy’s victory over the Galatians, this suggests an equivalence (Apollo = Ptolemy), which in turn suggests that Artemis, sandwiched between the Hymns to Apollo and Delos, evokes Arsinoe, especially as the Ptolemies adopted the pharaonic “sibling” marriage.[12] This seems possible, including Artemis qua “Muse” (a point which could be argued without adducing Arsinoe as the “tenth Muse” in the Aetia, which is uncertain[13]), but he goes too far in proclaiming the identification “a new idea in Callimachean scholarship.”[14] Ironically, Adorjáni, while rejecting hArt.’s links to religious praxis and advancing a “political” reading which sees Arsinoe behind Artemis, could have it both ways: if hArt.’s Artemis recalls Arsinoe, then a more civic-minded Artemis πολιάς is not out of the question, for this is the context in which people encountered Arsinoe, in effect a god on earth. Moreover, many cities were renamed Arsinoe throughout her life, a fact to which lines 36–38 seem to allude.[15] It is also noteworthy that the iconography of Arsinoe liberally borrows from, inter alias, Aphrodite’s (71, n. 52) and Artemis’s (syncretized with, e.g., Isis, Bastet, and Selene), contradictory as this may seem to us.[16] The iconography neatly matches Callimachus’s text and intertexts: the material record, religious syncretism, Greek politics, and Egyptian pharaonic custom may be interwoven more closely than Adorjáni believes and so hArt. may reflect contemporary religious practice after all.

There is no systematic discussion of how hArt. compares to other types of hymn or previous hymns on Artemis (cf. Homeric Hymns nos. 9, 27, but also 2.424). With regard to the aretalogy (lines 110–258 in Adorjáni’s subdivision), one might expect reflection on that (sub)genre, which, given its associations with Heracleids and Theseids, likely held an appeal to Callimachus, who elsewhere (Aet. fr. 1.3–5) somewhat disingenuously follows Aristotle (Poetics 8.1–7 [1451a16–22]) in rejecting such narratives as unsuitable to a good plot.[17] Overall, few comments deal with Callimachus’s much-debated aesthetics and (meta)poetics: anyone trying to see how hArt. squares with, for instance, the epilogue to the Hymn to Apollo (its sibling poem) or the Aetia-prologue (where Apollo returns) receives little guidance (cf. 10 with n. 46, 275–8, rejecting many metapoetic interpretations; contrast 281, 283, 285, 325, 331–32, 337–38 where he suggests metapoetic moves but is unwilling to interpret against Callimachus’s wider programme).

Adorjáni is also not overly concerned with exploring intertextual resonance with other Hellenistic poets (though Apollonius, Nicander, and Theocritus regularly feature in the commentary, mostly to illustrate peculiar word-usages): given Adorjáni’s political reading of hArt., discussion of, for example, Posidippus’s Epigram 36 AB (postdating Callimachus), featuring a military Arsinoe in the guise of an Athena (Poliouchos?), would have been welcome, especially since hArt. 244–5 juxtaposes Artemis and Athena.[18] Another intertextual and/or syncretistic foil for Demeter πολιάς?

The introduction ends with a survey of Callimachus’s metrical practices, including a useful section on metrical effects as supplementing semantics. The text is essentially Pfeiffer’s, though Adorjáni ventures six changes (122), mostly small; the translation reads well and elucidates the Greek. The commentary helpfully complements previous work: comparison with the above-mentioned predecessors shows that Adorjáni has something to add. He is particularly strong on Homeric allusions. A personal favourite is the note on 210–11 (p. 303), where Adorjáni solves the identity of Anticleia, which has puzzled commentators since the scholiast: the only attested person of that name in mythology is Odysseus’s mother, who, however, was not a nymph in Artemis’s retinue. Adorjáni relates the line to Odyssey 19.428–66 (the Parnassian boar-hunt), suggesting Ergänzungsspiel, and sees a parallel between the competing genealogies of Odysseus (fathered by Laertes or Sisyphus?) and Ptolemy I (born from Arsinoe I and Lagos or Philip?).

This is a well-produced and useful work which, despite the criticisms above, will be a standard reference-point for graduate students and scholars.

Table of Contents

Vorwort (VII)
I. Einleitung (1)
1. Der Hymnos auf Artemis innerhalb des Hymnenbuchs (1)
2. Die poetische Einheit des Hymnos (14)
3. Gestalt und kultischer Aufgabenbereich der Artemis (33)
4. Datierung und Sitz im Leben (45)
5. Artemis und Arsinoe (56)
6. Metrische Analyse (76)
II. Kritischer Text und Übersetzung (95)
III. Kommentar (123)
Prooimion (V. 1–3) (123)
Diegesis (V. 4–109) (128)
Aretalogia (V. 110–258) (216)
Epilog (V. 259–268) (345)
IV. Bibliographie (355)
Textausgaben, Handbücher, Kommentare (355)
Sekundärliteratur (358)
Index locorum (383)
Index rerum notabilium (423)
Index nominum (428)
Index vocabulorum Graecorum (435)
Conclusions (#-#)


[1] M. Annette Harder, ed., Callimachus: The Aetia. Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary. 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

[2] Benjamin Acosta-Hughes, Luigi Lehnus, and Susan A. Stephens, eds., Brill’s Companion to Callimachus(Leiden: Brill, 2011); Benjamin Acosta-Hughes and Susan A. Stephens, Callimachus in Context: From Plato to the Augustan Poets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Susan A. Stephens, ed., Callimachus: The Hymns (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); Susan A. Stephens, ed., Callimachus: Aetia (Carlisle, PA: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2016), (retrieved 13/3/2022).

[3] Giovan Battista d’Alessio, ed., Callimaco. 2 vols. (Milan: Biblioteca Univ. Rizzoli, 1996); Fritz Bornmann, ed., Callimachi Hymnus in Dianam: Introduzione, testo critico e commento (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1968); Rudolf Pfeiffer, ed., Callimachus, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949–53); Stephens, The Hymns, n. 2.

[4] Ivana Petrovic, Von den Toren des Hades zu den Hallen des Olymp. Artemiskult bei Theokrit und Kallimachos (Leiden: Brill, 2007); Ivana Petrovic, “Transforming Artemis: From the Goddess of the Outdoors to City Goddess,” in The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations, ed. Jan N. Bremmer and Andrew Erskine (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 209–27.

[5] See, e.g., Markus Asper, “Dimensions of Power: Callimachean Geopolitics and the Ptolemaic Empire,” in Acosta-Hughes, Lehnus and Stephens, Brill’s Companion to Callimachus (n. 2), 155–77; Marijn S. Visscher, Beyond Alexandria: Literature and Empire in the Seleucid World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 119–53.

[6] Rudolf Kassel, “Καλλίμαχον ἐκ Καλλιμάχου σαφηνίζειν,” Hermes 114 (1986): 120–21.

[7] Peter Bing and Volker Uhrmeister, “The Unity of Callimachus’ Hymn to Artemis,” JHS 114 (1994): 19–34; Adolf Köhnken, “Artemis im Artemishymnos des Kallimachos,” in Callimachus II, Hellenistica Groningana 7, ed. M. Annette Harder, Remco F. Regtuit, and Gerry C. Wakker (Leuven: Peeters, 2004), 161–71.

[8] Petrovic, Von den Toren des Hades (n. 4), 197–221; “Transforming Artemis” (n. 4).

[9] Harder, Callimachus (n. 1), 1.21–23 with commentary ad locc., acknowledged by Adorjáni (47, n. 12).

[10] Reinhold F. Glei, “Outlines of Apollonian Scholarship 1955–1999 [with an Addendum: Apollonius 2000 and Beyond],” in Brill’s Companion to Apollonius Rhodius, ed. Theodore D. Papanghelis and Antonios Rengakos, 2nd ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 1–28, at 22.

[11] Stephen Hinds, Allusion and Intertext: Dynamics of Appropriation in Roman Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 10–16.

[12] Largely ceremonial: Sheila L. Ager, “Familiarity Breeds: Incest and the Ptolemaic Dynasty,” JHS 125 (2005): 1–34.

[13] Harder, Callimachus (n. 1), 2.106–107 provides more nuance than Adorjáni (64 with n. 29) gives.

[14] p. 58: “nichts weniger als ein neuer Gedanke” (“nothing less than a new idea”) (to the accompanying nn. 9–10, add Kathryn J. Gutzwiller, A Guide to Hellenistic Literature [Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007], 70–71; Stephens, The Hymns [n. 2], 19–20); contrast Zsolt Adorjáni, “Artemis und Arsinoe: Zeitlosigkeit und Zeitbezug im Artemis-Hymnos des Kallimachos,” Hermes 145, no. 1 (2017): 61–78, at 63: “kein ganz neuer Gedanke” (“a not altogether new idea”) (my italics).

[15] Elizabeth Donnelly Carney, Arsinoë of Egypt and Macedon: A Royal Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 36–38; Stephens, The Hymns (n. 2), 19, 108; Günther A. Hölbl, History of the Ptolemaic Empire, tr. Tina Saavedra (London: Routledge, 2001), 367 s.v. lists eight cities.

[16] For Artemis, see Sabine Müller, Das hellenistische Königspaar in der medialen Repräsentation: Ptolemaios II. und Arsinoe II (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2009), passim. Similarly. Adorjáni on hArt. 129 (p. 234) states that Artemis’s eyes would remind contemporary readers of Ptolemaic iconography.

[17] See Michael Lipka, “Aretalogical Poetry: A Forgotten Genre of Greek Literature. Heracleids and Theseids,” Philologus 162, no. 2 (2018): 208–31. For Callimachus, see Harder, Callimachus (n. 1), 2.18–20; Marco Fantuzzi, “The Aesthetics of Sequentiality and Its Discontents,” in The Greek Epic Cycle and Its Ancient Reception: A Companion, ed. M. Fantuzzi and C. Tsagalis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 405–29.

[18] Marco Fantuzzi and Richard Hunter, Tradition and Innovation in Hellenistic Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 379–84, discuss the epigram against the background of Arsinoe’s epithets in SB 10251 Preisigke (dated 252–51 BCE).


1. As an intertextualist (I admit an interest here), I would like to know why you have chosen to forego more extensive discussion of Callimachus’s contemporaries (more or less). Could you elaborate?

This was not my intention (neither explicitly stated nor hidden), and if it happens to be so, it would clearly be a weakness of my commentary. Beside the major contemporaries (Theocritus, Apollonius) other poets of the Hellenistic era make their appearance in the lemmata, e.g., Posidippus and other epigrammatists (quite often), Euphorion (ad 47f.), Alexander Aetolus (ad 258), Erinna (if Hellenistic) (ad 62 [b], 70), etc. Certainly, some relevant material might have escaped my notice, as it surely did, but that must be considered against my intention, which was to be as exhaustive as possible, without exclusion of any temporal dimension, let alone the contemporary. If I failed, may Dr. Johnson’s famous witticism be my excuse as well: “Ignorance, pure ignorance.”

2. You seem willing to accept partial or localized identifications between Apollo and Ptolemy Philadelphus, or between Artemis and Arsinoe—i.e., these identifications are only occasional and do not hold throughout the entire Hymn (and so Callimachus’s Artemis is not a carbon copy of Arsinoe). You do so even when there is no explicit textual basis to do so (e.g., Arsinoe is not mentioned by name in the Hymn). You seem somewhat reluctant, however, to accept poetological or metapoetic interpretations, which rely on the same principle, namely a provisional link in the reader’s mind between the poem’s literal words and an implicit “symbolical” meaning. Could you elaborate why you accept the incomplete connection in the one phenomenon, but not the other?

Concerning the political agenda of the hymn, I started from the evidence of the Hymns as cycle (argued extensively in the introductory chapter) There are explicit, and therefore undeniable, hints at the Ptolemies in the first two hymns. I only tried to suggest that the third one is not free from political-courtly innuendos, either. As to metapoetics, I am no orthodox denier of this type of hidden agenda, nor a poetological partisan who scents metapoetic associations at every second word. I tried to accept or eschew poetological interpretations in every single case by looking closely at the wording and what it suggests. In that spectacular case of ploughing the field with borrowed oxen (175‒82), analysis of the minutiae of the text led me to endorse the view of those who do not accept Bing’s thought-provoking reading of the passage as metapoetic (275). In other cases, however, I proposed such an interpretation or embraced those of others (e.g. 139 ad 8f., 325 ad 238, 331 ad 241 [b], 332 ad 242f., 338 ad 248f.).

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