CHAPTER SIX. The Heroides: Female Elegy?
The Heroides are two series of mythological letters written in elegiac couplets, the first a group of fifteen written by women to men they have been or would like to be romantically involved with (the ‘single’ letters), and the second comprising three pairs of courtship letters between a couple engaged or about to be engaged in a relationship (the ‘double’ letters; in these the man's letter is placed first). The differences between the two sets are regularly regarded as of greater importance than their similarities, but in what follows I shall mostly treat them together. For the novice reader, the poems are likely to seem a bit daunting, as they are replete with recondite mythological references, but there is much to be gained from reading them, even for those not as enthralled as Ovid by the process of myth-making. The twenty-one poems that comprise the collection are drawn from a multiplicity of sources, some known, others not, as indicated in the list below: 1 Penelope to Odysseus Homer's Odyssey 2 Phyllis to Demophoon Callimachus' Aetia ? 3 Briseis to Achilles Homer's Iliad 4 Phaedra to Hippolytus Euripides' Hippolytus (I) 5 Oenone to Paris Cypria ? 6 Hypsipyle to Jason Apollonius' Argonautica 7 Dido to Aeneas Virgil's Aeneid 8 Hermione to Orestes Sophocles' Hermione ? 9 Deianira to Hercules Sophocles' Trachiniae 10 Ariadne to Theseus Catullus 64, a Hellenistic ... log in or subscribe to read full text
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