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The Archaeology of Greece and RomeStudies in Honour of Anthony Snodgrass$
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John Bintliff and N. Keith Rutter

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474417099

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474417099.001.0001

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The Poetics of Ruins in Ancient Greece and Rome

The Poetics of Ruins in Ancient Greece and Rome

(p.382) 16 The Poetics of Ruins in Ancient Greece and Rome
The Archaeology of Greece and Rome

Alain Schnapp

Edinburgh University Press

The term ruins (ereipia) in Greek derives from the verb ereipo, meaning to cut down, to cause to fall, as already documented by Homer. If the word appears in Herodotus, it is rarely found in the corpus of Greek tragedies and in Thucydides: ruins do not constitute a prominent theme before the Hellenistic period. It is not until Latin poetry that poetic nostalgia becomes a key element in sensitivity to the past. For Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, Troy is the setting of a massive and sudden destruction, a vast area of rubble devastated by pillage and fire; it is not yet a ruin. Things are different in the case of Latin poetry, which constructs a topos of the deserted and abandoned city from the image of the city’s destruction. In order for the feeling of ruins to be expressed as a melancholy in the face of vestiges, which are nothing more than traces of a former flourishing life or of a splendid monument reduced to some blocks of stone, it is necessary for time to take its toll and for the poet to get to grips with the feeling of loss which ensues (Papini 2011).

Keywords:   Ruins, Caesar, poetics

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