Nossis, Poet of Women


In Dangerous Works Georgiana translates a famous epigram by a woman named Nossis of Locri.  Nossis wrote epigrams— short poems, often with witty or satirical overtones and a clever ending. Ancienget_map-2-150x150 Greek Poetry Historical Romance Women in Fiction t Greek commentators ranked her work very highly, and chose to include it in collections as early as the first century BC. The result is that twelve of her epigrams survive because they were included in the Greek Anthology, a collection passed down from the middle ages.

Nossis herself lived around 300 BC in Locri, or Epizephyrian Locrisin what was called Magna Graeca or, Greater Greece. Locri is in fact a town at the southern tip of what is now Italy. Historically it was allied with Sparta but accepted Roman overrule in about 275 BC.

Two major sanctuaries existed in Locri, one devoted  to Persephone, as protector of a fertile marriage, and

497px-Locri_Pinax_Of_Persephone_And_Hades-150x150 Greek Poetry Historical Romance Women in Fiction

Pinax of Perserphone from Locri (Photo by AlMare at the Museo Nazionale Archeologico at Reggio Di Calabria, 2002)

the other to Aphrodite. The latter is of course, called Venus in Roman mythology and is also known as the Lady of Cyprus.  In the epigram Georgiana puzzles over she is called simply Cyprus. The relationship between the two sanctuaries is unclear, but there appears to have been one. Most of Nossis’s known work reflects votive rites at one or both of them.  Some of those would have sounded even more scandalous than the one included in Dangerous Works.

Unlike Georgiana’s time, ancient poetry by and about women are now much studied by feminist scholars. An example of such a study is Nossis and Women’s Cult at Locri by Marilyn B. Skinner.

Locri itself has proven to be a rich archeological site. Archeological study began there in 1889 and continued throughout the twentieth century. For more about that see http://www.locriantica.it/english.htm

 

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