Straton of Sardis

Straton of Sardis (aka Strato) was a Greek poet and anthologist from the Lydian city of Sardis. He is thought to have lived during the time of Hadrian, based on Straton authorship of a poem about the doctor Artemidorus Capito, a contemporary of Hadrian. Straton is mentioned by Diogenes Laertius, at the beginning of the 3rd century AD.

Straton assembled the anthology of erotic and amourous epigrams called the Mousa Paidike ("The Boyish Muse").

Around 900, a Byzantine scholar named Constantine Cephalas compiled pieces of several Greek anthologies, including The Boyish Muse, to make a comprehensive collection of Greek epigrams. We do not know if The Boyish Muse was taken whole, or if a selection was made from it, or if Cephalas maintained the order of the original anthology.

Cephalas's collection was revised, divided into specialized anthologies, adapted for school use, and generally much copied. In 1301, a scholar named Maximus Planudes put together a bowdlerized version of the Cephalan book which became very popular in Greece. When the Ottomans conquered the remains of the Byzantine empire, many Greek scholars brought versions of Planudes' version with them into exile in Italy. The Greeks became teachers to Italian scholars and eventually printed an edition of the Planudean book, the Florilegium Diversorum Epigrammatum, in Florence in 1494.

Most of what we know of Straton's work comes instead from a manuscript copied around 980, which preserved many of the poems from the earlier Cephalan anthology. This manuscript was discovered in the library of the Counts Palatine in Heidelberg in 1606 or 1607, by a young visiting scholar named Claudius Salmasius. There is no clear record of how it got there, but a visiting Italian scholar probably left it; around the middle of the 1500s the scholar and antiquarian Fulvio Orsini had seen and mentioned such a manuscript, then in the possession of one Angelo Colloti. The newly discovered poems in the Palatine version were copied out by Salmasius, and he began to circulate clandestine manuscript copies of them as the Anthologia Inedita. His copy was later published: first in 1776 when Richard François Philippe Brunck included it in his Analecta; and then the full Palatine Anthology was published by F. Jacobs as the Anthologia Graeca (13 vols. 1794 - 1803; revised 1813 - 1817). The remains of Straton's The Boyish Muse became Book 12 in Jacob's critical Anthologia Graeca edition.

Because of its taboo subject-matter, until the mid 20th century Straton's work was generally left untranslated, translated only into Latin, published in censored forms, or translated only in very private editions. These translations helped form the Greek core of influential homosexual poetry anthologies such as Elisar von Kupffer's Lieblingsminne und Freundesliebe in der Weltliteratur (1899) and Edward Carpenter's Iolaus (1908). New translations of Straton's 'Book 12' were later published by poets such as Roger Peyrefitte and Salvatore Quasimodo.

The first-ever complete verse translation of Straton's surviving poems directly from Greek into English was published by Princeton University in 2001 as Puerilities. This collection contains 258 surviving poems (omitting one, an obvious later forgery), translated by Daryl Hine and Peter Whigham with Greek originals facing. The title is a pun on the one-time title of the work, the Musa Puerilis.

Straton's anthology was a strong influence on the work of poet C.P. Cavafy.

Further reading

Alan Cameron: The Greek Anthology, from Meleager to Planudes (1993). ISBN 0198140231

Daryl Hine (transl.): Puerilities — Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology (Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation). ISBN 0691088209


The University of Leiden's

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