The Delphic Daphnephoria

Fr. 86

      Μοῦ]σαί μοι βασιλη[               ἀεί]δειν   

Fr. 87

      Δειπνιὰς ἔνθεν μιν δειδέχαται   

    Fr. 86 Harder (= 86 Pf., = 188 + 189 Mass.) P.Mil.Vogl. I 18 col. II
       10 [image], 
    Trismegistos 59371

    Fr. 87 Harder (= 87 Pf., = 190 + 191 Mass.) St. Byz. 223, 12 sqq

    Fr. 86: The first surviving fragment of book 4 begins: Μοῦ]σαί μοι βασιλη[….. ἀεί]δειν. The line shape recalls Theogony 1.1: Μουσάων Ἑλικωνιάδων ἀρχώμεθ' ἀείδειν, and seems to return to the opening dream, as does the imagery of fr. 112.4-5 (below). βασιλη[ may refer to a divinity—Zeus, or possibly, Apollo, but Callimachus’ preference is to use the word for royals, whether the Ptolemies or the kings of Cyrene. An invocation at the beginning of book 4 which mentions kings would balance the opening of book 3 that started with a queen. Books 1, 3, and 4 each seem to open with an invocation (in the case of Aetia 1, following the prologue), but it is not clear if an invocation existed for book 2 as well. The Argonautica may offer a parallel: like the Aetia it was in four books: book 1 (though delayed) and books 3 and 4 have invocations, but book 2 does not.

    Fr. 87: This has been connected to the account of the Daphnephoria because Deipnias was the village where Apollo first took food after leaving the Tempe valley, and where the boys celebrating the rIte had a meal.  It is unclear if the invocation belongs with the account of the Delphic festival celebrating Apollo's slaying of the serpent. At the festival the youthful participants wore garlands of laurel, hence the sacrifice was called the Daphnephoria. It included the purification of Apollo after he killed Pytho and the explanation of why the celebrants wore laurel wreaths. Callimachus treats the same event in the Hymn to Apollo, as does Apollonius in the Argonautica. These passages are clearly interdependent, even if priority is not easy to establish. The mythological significance of slaying Pytho is the victory of light and reason over chthonic forces, and as Callimachus’ narrative comes closer to contemporary Alexandria, the aition may signal the end of the violence and hostility that characterized so much of the past.

    Fr. 86

    Μοῦσα -ης, ἡ: one of the Muses, the inspiring goddesses of song and poetry

    ἀείδω: to sing; impf. ᾖδον

    Fr. 87

    Δειπνιάς -ου, ὁ: Deipnias, a town in Thessaly near Larissa, where Apollo ate his first meal (δεῖπνον, τό)

    δειδέχαται: > δέχομαι, perf ind mid-pass 3rd pl [epic]

    Fr. 88 Harder (Σ AR 2.705-11b = fr. 88 Pfeiffer) 

    Δελφύνην· ὅτι Δελφύνης ἐκαλεῖτο ὁ φυλάσσων τὸ ἐν Δελφοῖς χρηστήριον, Λεάνδριος (Maeandrius fr. 10 FHG 2.337 M) καὶ Καλλίμαχος εἶπον· δράκαιναν δὲ αὐτήν φησιν εἶναι, θηλυκῶς καλουμένην Δέλφυναν, αὐτὸς ὁ Καλλίμαχος.

    Delphyne: Leandrius and Callimachus said that the guard of the Oracle at Delphi was called Delphynes, but Callimachus himself says that it is a snake called Delphyne (feminine).

    Fr. 89a Harder (= Diegesis II 10-28 I, 95 Pf.) P.Mil.Vogl. I 18 col. II 10-28 [image], Trismegistos 59371

    [Μοῦ]σαί μοι βασιλη[               ἀεί]δειν

         Α]ὕτη πρώτη ἐλ[ε]γ[εία       ]τρου[

    ]ν ἱστορία[                        ]απερ[

    4                            ]σαι.[                             ].ει[

           (6 lines missing)



            . .]ι. .[              ]ω[           Ἀπ]όλ-

                    λων γὰρ παῖς ὢν κ[ρατήσας τον] Πυ-

    15           θοῖ δράκοντα ἀ[πενίψα]το [τὰς] χεῖ-

            ρας ἐν τῷ Πη[ν]ει[. .]νδ[.] πα[ρα]κειμέ-

            νην δάφνην ειδ[. .].ει[. .]. ἐκτεμὼν

            περιβάλλει τῷ [. . . .]ειω.ι.


    "Muses, to me the king . . . to sing"

    .     .     .

    for when Apollo, as a child, had defeated


    the snake at Pytho, he washed his hands

    in the Peneius . . . cutting off

    the laurel lying nearby . . . he put it on . . .

    Fr. 86

    Muses, to me the king ... to sing


    Fr. 87

    From there Deipnias received him...

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    Suggested Citation

    Susan Stephens, Callimachus: Aetia. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-947822-07-8.