Theocritus, Idylls

LCL 28: 114-115

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pp. 2‒5). Possibly Simichidas is a nickname for which we have no other evidence (cf. Sicelidas for Asclepiades in l. 40). Lycidas is enigmatic. Although he is explicitly said to be a goatherd (13), there are hints that his sudden appearance is a sort of epiphany. The time is midday, when gods tend to be abroad (cf. Id. 1.15‒17); his laughter (19‒20, 42, 128) and his rank smell (16) allude to the joviality and fragrance of divinities in literature; and his gift of a stick to Simichidas evokes the Muses’ gift of a staff to Hesiod as token of his investiture as a poet at the beginning of the Theogony. There is probably a reference, too, to the poet Archilochus’ encounter with the Muses as he drove a cow to town (SEG XV 517 = T 3 Gerber). If (in spite of l. 13) Lycidas is to be understood as a god in disguise, then the most likely candidate is Apollo, who as Apollo Nomios was associated with herdsmen, and who had a Coan shrine at Pyxa, Lycidas’ destination (130‒31). In that case the god of poetry himself would be shown acknowledging Simichidas’ work and approving the aesthetic of short, unpretentious, and refined poetry advocated by Callimachus and practiced by Theocritus (see p. viii).

The structure of the poem is familiar: two songs are set within a frame of dialogue and description. Readers are left to evaluate the merits of each. There are hints that, like Idyll 1, the poem enacts the origins, or presents two elements, of pastoral poetry: Simichidas is from the town, Lycidas from the country, and their meeting gives way to a lush description of a rural festival that combines learned allusion with the sights and sounds of nature—the town poet is treating country themes. It has also been plausibly suggested that the poem contains allusions to works by Philitas of Cos, an important forerunner of the Hellenistic

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poets, who is explicitly praised by Simichidas (40). At any rate, it suggests an etiology of bucolic poetry and implies an association with the symposium (63ff.). The mythical poet Comatas, once imprisoned in a chest and fed by bees in recognition of the sweetness of his song, provides a further possible origin for the genre.

Criticism
  • Arnott, W. G. “The Mound of Brasilas and Theocritus’ Seventh Idyll.” QUCC 32, n.s. 3 (1979): 99‒106.
  • Bowie, E. L. “Theocritus’ Seventh Idyll, Philetas and Longus.” CQ 35 (1985): 67‒91.
  • Goldhill, Poet’s Voice, 225‒40.
  • Hunter, Selection, 144‒99.
  • Ott, U. “Theokrits ‘Thalysien’ und ihre literarische Vorbilder.” RhM 115 (1972): 134‒49.
  • Payne, Invention of Fiction, 114‒45.
  • Puelma, M. “Die Dichterbegegnung in Theokrits ‘Thalysien.’” MH 17 (1960): 144‒64.
  • Seeck, G. A. “Dichterische Technik in Theokrits ‘Thalysien’ und die Theorie der Hirtendichtung.” In ΔΩΡΗΜΑ Hans Diller zum 70. Geburtstag, edited by K. Vourveris and A. D. Skiadas, 195‒209. Athens, 1975.
  • Segal, C. “Theocritus’ Seventh Idyll and Lycidas.” WS 87 (1974): 20‒76 = Poetry and Myth, 110‒66.
  • Williams, F. J. “A Theophany in Theocritus.” CQ 21 (1971): 136‒45.
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.theocritus-idylls.2015