Thursday, July 27, 2023

Telesilla's Rampage: I'm coming for you! Theophylact Simocatta Ep.24

This passage provides excellent insight into the transmission of knowledge in the ancient world. Although Telesilla was well known to the author of the Suda (10th century CE), the 7th century theologian Theophylact Simocatta knew only the poet Telesilla's aggression against Sparta, but not her heroic military stratagem that saved her city. Instead, she is portrayed as an angry courtesan who is seeking revenge on a Spartan man [named after King Agesilaus here, not the accurate king's name Cleomenes] who is spending time with another woman instead of her. Although Telesilla never married and wrote poetry of a religious, not romantic, nature, her name gets lumped in with other Greek women poets as names for courtesans and other women entertainers (similar to Corinna, Erinna, Philaenis, and Sappho). 

Telesilla Laidi

Neque venas auri mettallifabri inquirentes, neque puteorum fossores, qui terrae arcana in tenebris scrubantur, aquarum oculos quaerentes videre, tanta in sua arte diligentiam ac curam adhibent, quanta ego totam civitatem scrutata sum, si possem Agesilaum alicubi cernere. Potum enim ei apparasse furiosam Leucippen audio. Et vehemens fulmen eos excepit. Atque damnum insolabiles adurit mihi lachrymas. Itaque Tragoediae adiutrix ero. Non enim orientem solem in posterum contemplabimur. Sic & Medea & Phaedra terribilior fiam! 

--Theophylact Simocatta (fl. 7c CE) Theophilacti Scholastici Simocati Epistolae Ethiae, Agrestes & Amatoriae. Ep. 24. Trans. Jacob Cuiacio (1606)

Miners don’t seek a vein of gold,

And excavators don’t seek sources for wells

With as much passion and care

As I have searched the whole town

Trying to find Agesilaus!

I had heard that he was partying with out-of-control Leucippe!

I was thunderstruck, and overcome with tears!

And so I become the Villain of the Tragedy.

This is the last day I will see the light of day.

I shall become more frightening than Medea & Phaedra!

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