A Moment's Ornament: The Poetics of Nympholepsy in Ancient Greece

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Oxford University Press, 2011 - Nymphs (Greek deities) - 213 pages
From Hesiod's first person account of his encounters with the Muses on Mount Helikon to Theokritos' nymphs, love between goddesses and mortal men provides the ancient Greeks with a way of articulating both the genealogical and cultic connection to their gods and to their past. A Moment'sOrnament examines the theme of nympholepsy - the experience of being "seized" by a nymph or a goddess - in ancient Greek cult and poetry from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period. In poetry, this topos, which is ubiquitous in many of the most well-known ancient Greek sources, focuses on the figureof the goddess, or nymph, who falls in love with a mortal man and subsequently bears a mortal child. The theme also finds its way in ritual as stories of encounters between divinities and mortal men give rise to sanctuaries centering on nymphs and nympholepts. Beyond the individual dimension of thenympholeptic experience, these narratives are also integrated within the community through both poetry and shrines. Nympholeptic narratives thus articulate key elements of the bond between mortals and immortals and the connection between myth and ritual in ancient Greece. Both the cave sanctuariesfounded by ancient nympholepts and the poets' narratives of love between goddesses and their mortal lovers function as "a moment's ornament" by preserving the memory of an encounter with the otherworldly at the intersection between myth and cult.


1 Nympholeptic Goddesses at the End of the Theogony
2 Nympholepts in Ancient Greece
3 Goddesses in Love and Nympholeptic Heroes
4 Odysseus Nympholeptos
5 Kephalos in the City
6 Hellenistic Nympholeptoi
Index of Passages Cited
General Index

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About the author (2011)

Corinne Ondine Pache is Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Trinity University.

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