Strato’s Musa Puerilis
Strato, whose name this book bears, lived probably in the reign of Hadrian. It has generally been supposed that the whole book is an anthology of poems on this peculiar subject made by him, but it seems more probable to me that Strato published merely a collection of his own poems, and that it was Cephalas or some other Byzantine who inserted into it all the poems of this nature he found in the older Anthologies. The final epigram (No. 258), which was obviously placed by Strato at the end of his collection, certainly refers only to poems by Strato himself, and the same is true of the words prefixed to the book by Cephalas. He must have derived the statement, unless it is a mere excuse for the immorality of the poems, from some one who had personal knowledge of Strato. Again, among the poems by Meleager included are eight relating to women, six of them being on women whose names end in the diminutive form (Phanion, Callistion, Thermion, Timarion, Dorcion), which has evidently been mistaken for a masculine name. A more ludicrous blunder is the inclusion here of the pretty verses of Asclepiades (No. 50) addressed to himself. Strato himself could never have made such blunders, and they can only be attributed to a Byzantine. Of the poems thus inserted only a very few (12, 18, 24–28, 34, 35, 173) are from the Stephanus of Philippus, the remainder consisting of a large block of poems from Meleager’s Stephanus and a few isolated ones from the same source (14, 22, 23, 29–33, 36–172, 230, 256–7). The arrangement under motives is very marked in these. We cannot suppose that Meleager separated the love-poems relating to boys in his Stephanus from those relating to women, as the Stephanus was not arranged under subjects at all, and we must attribute both the selection and the arrangement under motives to the Byzantines.
These homosexual attachments were a notable feature of Greek and Roman life and were spoken of frankly, since
they were not then regarded as disgraceful, being indeed rather fashionable. Readers must take this into consideration, and especially in estimating Meleager, so much of whose personal work is comprised in this book. It is noteworthy that among the most beautiful of his poems are just some of those I have mentioned addressed to girls and included by mistake here. In the rest, if I err not, we miss the distinguishing note of passion, which his other love-poems so often have. The elements of his imagery of love are all here—Love and His mother, burning arrows and stormy seas—but somewhat devoid of soul and at times disfigured by a coarseness foreign to his gentle spirit. These attachments were in his case rather a matter of fashion than of passion.1
Strato himself is frankly homosexual. He writes good and at times pretty verse, but he is, as a rule, quite terre à terre and sometimes very gross.
- 1There was no reason for putting No. 132 (perhaps the most exquisite of all his poems) and No. 133 in this Book.