Quintus Smyrnaeus

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(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Quintus Smyrnaeus (KWIHN-tuhs smehr-NEE-uhs) is known as the author of a surviving fourteen-book epic poem that describes the events between Homer’s Iliad (c. 800 b.c.e.; English translation, 1616) and Odyssey (c. 800 b.c.e.; English translation, 1616). This epic poem Posthomerica (n.d.; The Fall of Troy, 1913) mimics the Homeric hexameters and the Iliad in style and structure. His narrative does not create new adventures for the heroes after Hector’s death and up to the fall of the city of Troy but rather reflects previously written tales from the Trojan War cycle that survive only in summary and descriptive form. Quintus’s work reveals the contemporary romanticizing of Greco-Roman literature and a desire to return to the classical forms; both trends later grew in the Byzantine world. The most often cited section of this poem is the first book, in which the tale of Achilles, the greatest hero of the Greeks, and Penthesilea, the queen of the Amazons, is detailed from the arrival of the fighting women to the romantic and tragic discovery of their femininity. This, too, is nothing more than an extension of contemporary trends in Greco-Roman literature.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Coming at the end of late antiquity, Quintus’s greatest audience would have been the Byzantine courts and then Renaissance readers, who took his romantic model and applied it to the Trojan legend in their own works.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Campbell, Malcolm. A Commentary on Quintus Smyrnaeus Posthomerica XII. Boston: E. J. Brill, 1981.

James, Alan. A Commentary on Quintus of Smyrna Posthomerica V. Boston: E. J. Brill, 1981.

White, Heather. Studies in Late Greek Epic Poetry. Amsterdam: Gieben, 1987.