Zur Datierung und Identität des Aristainetos

Burri, Renate Marianne (2004). Zur Datierung und Identität des Aristainetos. Museum Helveticum - schweizerische Zeitschrift für klassische Altertumswissenschaft, 61(2), pp. 83-91. Schwabe 10.5169/seals-47112

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To answer the questions “When and where did Aristaenetus live and write? Was Aristaenetus the author’s real name?” we only dispose of the 50 fictitious letters that have come down to us under the name of Aristaenetus.
As to the hints of the period of Aristaenetus’ life and work, the mention of the pantomime Caramallus in letter 1,26, who originally was thought to be identic with the mime mentioned by Sidonius Apollinaris in a poem written in ca. 463 A.D. (Sidon., Carm. 23,268ff.), turns out to be a very unprecise cue: between 460 and 520 and maybe already before and after, there must have been at least two, maybe up to four or even more mimes named Caramallus, constituting an artists’ dynasty as it was usual. Letter 1,19 indeed seems to be a proof for a late dating of the author, as O. Mazal observed, because its content presupposes the Lex de nuptiis enacted in 524 A.D. (Cod. Iust. 5,4,23). This view, though disapproved by J.-R. Vieillefond, is confirmed by a formula of betrothal used in this letter which occurs especially in Menander’s comedies, where it always concerns the wedding of a free girl. But the context in letter 1,19 is the wedding of a hetaira, which does no longer correspond with the plot of the New Comedy and therefore supports Mazal’s suggestion. The letters were probably written only in the first quarter of the 6th century A.D.
As for the author’s identity, the probability that his name was the same as the fictitious writer’s name of the very first letter of the collection seems to be low. This is shown by two different argumentations pro (W.G. Arnott) and contra (G. Zanetto) Aristaenetus as the name of the real author: both argumentations do not convince. Arnott forgets that the name Aristaenetus not necessarily has to be a fictitious ‘speaking’ name – Aristaenetus was in use as a personal name especially in late antiquity – and that the author of the letters not necessarily has to watch every rule of fictitious epistolography. Zanetto shows that the author indeed did not watch these rules in every point – yet the author just varies the rules and does not really establish new ones. I do not believe, with J.U. Bracero, all the correspondents’ names to be later additions, but the author’s real name seems to be unknown to us and not to coincide with the writer of letter 1,1.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Center for Global Studies (CGS)

UniBE Contributor:

Burri, Renate Marianne


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science
900 History
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
400 Language > 480 Classical & modern Greek languages
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 880 Classical & modern Greek literatures








Renate Marianne Burri

Date Deposited:

29 Jun 2020 09:15

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:39

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