Periegete

Dionysius of Alexandria

[Periegete is a long hexametric poem in Greek, written sometime between 130 and 138 by Dionysius, an Alexandrian poet and resident of the Museion in that city. The subject of the poem is a description of the various regions of the world, in effect a virtual guidebook; and given Hadrian’s interest in travel and his wide-ranging journeys, its dedication to him and subject matter no doubt would have intrigued him and appealed greatly. We know the identity of the poet via an acrostich in it, revealing him to be “Dionysius of Pharos,” but there is a further identified acrostich in the poem which relates to Antinous in the section encompassing lines 513-537. This acrostich reads “THEOS HERMES EPI HADRIANOU,” “To the God Hermes under Hadrian,” no doubt therefore a dedication to Antinous, who was equated to Hermes, the Arcadian god, in many circumstances, including on Alexandrian coins. There is a further allusion to Antinous in three successive lines concerned with Bithynia in the section encompasing lines 788-798, praising the river Rhebas as beautiful above all others; this rather obscure creek is near to Antinous’ birthplace, and the way in which it is praised as being so comely, again, has been taken as a reference to the beauty of Antinous. The two selections below from the poem are that which contains the acrostich, and the section containing the Rhebas reference.]

But admirably deep is the course of the Aegean Sea,
which on either side includes countless islands,
thither to the narrow waters of the Athamantidian Helles;
there lies Sestos and opposite the port Abydos.
Those belonging to Europe, you ship them through on the left-hand side
and those belonging to Asia, on the right-hand side;
stretched out far towards the Boreas, to the star-sign of the Bear.
Alongside Europe, Makris lies stretched out, island of the Abantians,
Skyros, which rises steeply; and Peparethos, windblown,
from there also Lemnos shows itself, the stony island of Hephaistos
and the ancient Thasos, which Demeter has richly blessed.
Imbros then, and Samos, the Thracian one, seat of the Korybantes.
Those lying closest to Asia are those
which encircle Delos, hence called “Kyklades.”
All these offer repentance to Apollo in a choral dance
when sweet spring begins again, where in the mountains,
far away from men, the clear-sounding nightingale is nesting.
Thereupon, all through the floods, the Sporadic Islands are glittering to you;
as if through the cloudless air you saw the stars,
the might of Boreas has dispersed the wet clouds.
Then the Ionic Isles, next to the settlement of Kaunos,
thereafter Samos the Lovely, seat of Pelasgian Hera,
Chios, at the foot of the sun-climbing Pelinnaion.
From there, the mountains of the Aeolic Isles reveal themselves to you.
Lesbos with magnificent plains and the lovely island of Tenedos.

TO THE GOD HERMES UNDER HADRIAN
And on holy ground the Mariandinians, among whom
the big brassy-voiced dog of infernal Kronos–
once drawn from the deep by valiant Herakles
as it is told–expels from its jaws stinking froth;
this the earth receives and disaster comes forth to mankind.
Close to these borders the Bithynians dwell on fertile soil;

the Rhebas River sends its sweet current,
the Rhebas which has chosen its course at the mouth of the Pontos,
the Rhebas whose waters extend as the most beautiful on earth.

So many people have built upon the Pontos;
those that I’ve mentioned first are the tribes of the Scythian peoples.

 

 

 

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