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Nonnus of Panopolis (Greek: Νόννος ὁ Πανοπολίτης, Nónnos ho Panopolítēs) was a Greek epic poet of Hellenized Egypt in the Imperial Roman era. He was a native of Panopolis (Akhmim) in the Egyptian Thebaid and probably lived at the end of the 4th or in the 5th century CE. He is known as the composer of the Dionysiaca, an epic tale of the god Dionysus, and of the Metabole, a paraphrase of the Gospel of John. The epic Dionysiaca describes the life of Dionysus, his expedition to India, and his triumphant return to the west, it was written in Homeric dialect and in dactylic hexameter, and it consists of 48 books at 20,426 lines.
There is almost no evidence for the life of Nonnus. It is known that he was a native of Panopolis (Akhmim) in Upper Egypt from his naming in manuscripts and the reference in epigram 9.198 of the Palatine Anthology.[n 1] Scholars have generally dated him from the end of the 4th to the central years of the 5th century. He must have lived after the composition of Claudian's Greek Gigantomachy (i.e., after CE 394–397) as he appears to be familiar with that work. Agathias Scholasticus seems to have followed him, with a mid-6th-century reference to him as a "recent author".
He is sometimes conflated with St Nonnus from the hagiographies of St Pelagia and with Nonnus, the bishop of Edessa who attended the Council of Chalcedon, both of whom seem to have been roughly contemporary, but these associations are probably mistaken.
Nonnus' principal work is the 48-book epic Dionysiaca, the longest surviving poem from antiquity. It has 20,426 lines composed in Homeric dialect and dactylic hexameters, the main subject of which is the life of Dionysus, his expedition to India, and his triumphant return to the west. The poem is thought to have been written in the early 5th century. The poem is traditionally regarded by scholars as being relatively inconsistent in literary quality, but it still has value due to its preservation of many myths about Dionysus that otherwise may not have been preserved.
The Paraphrase of John
His Paraphrase of John (Metabolḕ toû katà Iōánnēn Euaggelíou) also survives. Its timing is a debated point: textual analysis seems to suggest that it preceded the Dionysiaca while some scholars feel it unlikely that a converted Christian would have gone on to devote so much work to the Dionysiaca’s pagan themes. A team of Italian scholars is currently producing a full commentary of the poem, book by book, of which several parts have already been published. They have shown that Nonnus was as learned in Christian theology (in particular he seems to have consulted the Commentary on the Gospel of John that Cyril of Alexandria had recently penned) as in pagan myth.
A complete and updated bibliography of Nonnus scholarship may be found at Hellenistic Bibliography's page at Google Sites.
Editions and translations of the Dionysiaca include:
- Bilingual Greek-English edition (initial introduction, some explanatory notes): W. H. D. Rouse (1940), Nonnos, Dionysiaca, With an English Translation by W. H. D. Rouse, Mythological Introduction and Notes by H. J. Rose, Notes on Text Criticism by L. R. Lind, 3 vols., Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge (Ma.)
- Bilingual Greek-French edition (with introduction to the individual books and notes): F. Vian (general ed.) (1976-2006), Nonnos de Panopolis, Les Dionysiaques, 19 volumes, Paris
- Bilingual Greek-Italian edition (with introductions and notes): D. Gigli Piccardi (general ed.) (2003-4), Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, BUR, Milano
- Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, a cura di D. del Corno, traduzione di M. Maletta, note de F. Tissoni, 2 vols, Milano 1997.
- F. Tissoni, Nonno di Panopoli, I Canti di Penteo (Dionisiache 44-46). Commento, Firenze 1998
Editions and translations of the Paraphrase include:
- The only complete translation into English: Prost, Mark Anthony. Nonnos of Panopolis, The Paraphrase of the Gospel of John. Translated from the Greek by M.A.P. Ventura, CA: The Writing Shop Press, 2006
- The last complete edition of the Greek text: Nonni Panopolitani Paraphrasis S. Evangelii Joannei edidit Augustinus Scheindler, accedit S. Evangelii textus et index verborum, Lipsiae in aedibus Teubneri 1881
A team of (mainly Italian) scholars are now re-editing the text, book by book, with ample introductions and notes. Published so far:
- C. De Stefani (2002), Nonno di Panopoli: Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto I, Bologna
- E. Livrea (2000), Nonno di Panopoli, Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto B, Bologna
- M. Caprara (2006), Nonno di Panopoli, Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto IV, Pisa
- G. Agosti (2003), Nonno di Panopoli, Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto V, Firenze
- R. Franchi (2013), Nonno di Panopoli. Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni: canto sesto, Bologna
- K. Spanoudakis (2015), Nonnus of Panopolis. Paraphrase of the Gospel of John XI, Oxford
- C. Greco (2004), Nonno di Panopoli, Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, canto XIII, Alessandria
- E. Livrea (1989), Nonno di Panopoli, Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto XVIII, Napoli
- D. Accorinti (1996), Nonno di Panopoli, Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto XX, Pisa
- On the references to Egypt in the poem, see D. Gigli Piccardi (1998), “Nonno e l’Egitto”, Prometheus 24, 61-82 and 161-81. Enrico Livrea has proposed the identification of the poet with the Syrian bishop of Edessa of the same name.
- E. Livrea (1987), “Il poeta e il vescovo: la questione nonniana e la storia”, Prometheus 13, 97-123
- Agathias Scholasticus, Hist. 4.23. (530 x 580)
- Fornaro, S. s.v. Nonnus in Brill's New Pauly vol. 9 (ed. Canick & Schneider) (Leiden, 2006) col.812–815
- Cameron (2016), pp. 85 ff.
- Hopkinson, N. Studies in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus (Cambridge, 1994) pp.1–4.
- Rose, H. J. Nonnus' Dionysiaca (London, 1940) pp.x–xix
- Vian, Francis. '"Mârtus" chez Nonnos de Panopolis. Étude de sémantique et de chronologie.' REG 110, 1997, 143-60. Reprinted in: L'Épopée posthomérique. Recueil d'études. Ed. Domenico Accorinti. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Orso, 2005 (Hellenica 17), 565-84
- Cameron (2016).
- "Nonnus", Hellenistic Bibliography, Google Sites.
- Cameron, Alan (2016), "The Poet, the Bishop, and the Harlot", Wandering Poets and Other Essays on Late Greek Literature and Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 81–90, ISBN 978-0-19-026894-7.
On Nonnus and his context:
- D. Accorinti - P. Chuvin (edd.) (2003), Des Géants à Dionysos. Mélanges de mythologie et de poésie grecques offerts à Francis Vian. Alessandria
- L. Miguélez-Cavero (2008), Poems in Context. Greek Poetry in the Egyptian Thebaid 200-600 AD, Berlin
- Robert Shorrock, Myth of Paganism: Nonnus, Dionysus and the World of Late Antiquity (Bristol, Bristol Classical Press, 2011) (Classical Literature and Society).
- Shorrock, Robert. The Challenge of Epic. Allusive Engagement in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus. Leiden: Brill, 2001
- K. Spanoudakis (ed.) (2014), Nonnus of Panopolis in Context. Poetry and Cultural Milieu in Late Antiquity with a Section on Nonnus and the Modern World, Berlin - NY
- F. Vian (2005), L'épopée posthomérique : recueil d'études, ed. D. Accorinti, Alessandria
- D. Accorinti (ed.) (2016), Brill's Companion to Nonnus of Panopolis, Leiden - Boston
On the metre:
- J. G. Hermann, Orphica (1805), p. 690
- Arthur Ludwich, Beiträge zur Kritik des Nonnus (1873), critical, grammatical and metrical
- Karl Lehrs, Quaestiones epicae (1837), pp. 255–302, chiefly on metrical questions.
On the Paraphrase:
- Konstantinos Spanoudakis, "Icarius Jesus Christ? Dionysiac Passion and Biblical Narrative in Nonnus' Icarius Episode (Dion. 47, 1–264)," Wiener Studien, 120 (2007), 35–92.
- Mary Whitby, "The Bible Hellenized: Nonnus' Paraphrase of St. John's Gospel and 'Eudocia's Homeric Centos," in J.H.D. Scourfield (ed), Texts and Culture in Late Antiquity: Inheritance, Authority, and Change (Swansea, The Classical Press of Wales, 2007), 195-232
- David Hernández de la Fuente, "Nonnus' Paraphrase of the Gospel of John: Pagan Models for Christian Literature," in Juan Pedro Monferrer-Sala (ed.), Eastern Crossroads: Essays on Medieval Christian Legacy (Piscataway: Gorgias Press LLC, 2007) (Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies, 1), 169–190.
- Online text: Nonnus, Dionysiaca bks 1-14 translated by W. H. D. Rouse
- Online English translation of Dionysiaca, bks 1-48, by W.H.D. Rouse, with place mentions mapped, in ToposText
- R.F. Newbold summarizes his work on Dionysiaca
- Greek Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Graeca with analytical indexes
- Studia Nonniana Interretica: News from the world of Nonnian scholarship and an up-to-date bibliography of Polish studies on Nonnus
- Nonnus' paraphrase of the Gospel of John - Metaphrasis Evangelii Ioannei