The Cambridge Classical Journal

THE ‘PHOENICIAN LETTERS’ OF DICTYS OF CRETE AND DIONYSIUS SCYTOBRACHION

Karen Ní Mheallaigh 

University of Exeter, UK

Abstract

Dictys of Crete's Journal of the Trojan War seems to invite the reader to imagine two different versions of the imaginary ancient Ur-text: one that was written in Phoenician language and script, and another that was written using ‘Phoenician letters’ but whose language was Greek. What is the meaning of the text's different fantasies of its own origins? And how is the reader to understand the puzzlingly implausible Punico-Greek text that is envisaged in Septimius' prefatory letter? This article examines first why the Journal's fantasy Ur-text changed as the Dictys-text itself evolved, and what the text's fiction of its own origins can tell us, not only about its readers' contemporary context, but also about their fantasies about their own literary past – and future as well. Secondly, comparison with the work of Dionysius Skytobrachion, himself the author of a pseudo-documentary Troy-history, offers a new interpretation of what, precisely, Septimius' ‘Punic letters’ may have represented in ancient readers' minds, and opens up a new (imaginary) literary hinterland in the heroic past for the fictional author Dictys and his text.

Correspondence

Email: k.ni-mheallaigh@exeter.ac.uk