According to the Suda, Coluthus (Greek: Κόλουθος), often Colluthus, of Lycopolis in the Egyptian Thebaid, was an epic poet writing in Greek, who flourished during the reign of Anastasius I (491-518).[1]

Calydoniaca and The Rape of HelenEdit

The Suda (K 1951) adds that he was the author of a Calydoniaca in six books, doubtless an account of the Calydonian boar hunt, Persica, probably an encomium on emperor Anastasius composed at the end of the Persian wars, and Encomia, or laudatory poems. The Suda does not mention "The Abduction of Helen".

All works mentioned in the Suda are lost, but his poem in 392 hexameters on The Abduction of Helen (Ἁρπαγὴ Ἑλένης) is still extant, having been discovered by Cardinal Bessarion in Calabria. The Abduction opens with an invocation to the nymphs of the Troad whom the poet asks for information about Paris as the originator of the Trojan conflict (1-16), followed by the account of how the gods attended the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, how they forgot to invite Eris, who searched for retaliation throwing a golden apple amongst the gods (17-63); Hera, Athena and Aphrodite all want to have it and Zeus orders Hermes to take the three goddesses to visit the handsome shepherd Paris, who should award the apple to one of them (64-79); the goddesses enhance their appearances before meeting up the shepherd, with Aphrodite launching a speech on her court of Erotes (80-100). Paris, more interested in playing the pipes than in taking care of his sheep, receives from Hermes the assignment to award the apple to the most beautiful goddess (101-30); submitting to his eyes, Athena offers him courage and victory in war, Hera to make him lord of all Asia, and Aphrodite, baring her breasts, the hand of Helen (131-65); Paris awards the apple to Aphrodite, who scorns Hera and Athena, and prepares his trip to Sparta to seduce Helen (166-200). The trip to Sparta begins with bad presages, but his fleet reaches Sparta without hazards and he sets towards the town on foot (201-46). Helen opens the door to him and, instantly attracted towards him, initiates a dialogue with him: Paris tells her that he is the son of Priam, king of Troy, and that Aphrodite promised him to make him Helen’s spouse (247-302). Helen agrees to elope with Paris and they do so during the night (303-25). Hermione wakes up the following morning and searches for her mother, considering the possibilities that she got lost in the mountains or was drowned in the river (326-62). She falls asleep exhausted and sees her mother in her dreams telling her that she was abducted by the foreigner who visited them the previous day (363-79). Hermione calls her father to return, while on seeing the arrival of the couple from the walls of Troy Cassandra sheds her veil and tears her hair (380-92).

The poem, described in 1911 as "dull and tasteless, devoid of imagination, a poor imitation of Homer, and [having] little to recommend it except its harmonious versification, based upon the technical rules of Nonnus",[1] has been more recently evaluated as a "short and charming miniature epic".[2]

Printed editionsEdit

The first printed edition was by Aldus Manutius, Venice, possibly in 1505.[3]

Early editions by John Daniel van Lennep (1747, the first critical edition, collating six mss.), G.F. Schafer (1825), E. Abel (1880) and W. Weinberger (Teubner, 1896),[1] have been superseded by that of Enrico Livrea (1968).[4]

The best manuscript of this difficult and corrupt text is the so-called Codex Mutinensis (Bibliothèque nationale suppl. graec. 388) which Hall, Companion to Classical Texts, p. 278, says "was never at Modena but was brought by the French in the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century from somewhere in North Italy".


  1. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911, p. 748.
  2. ^ Jasper Griffin, 2010, 'Greek Epic' in Catherine Bates, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Epic, p. 28.
  3. ^ Mair 1928, p. [page needed] suggested probably about 1521.
  4. ^ Livrea, Colluto: il Ratto di Elena (Bologna). Critical text, introduction, critical apparatus, Italian translation, commentary and parallels.

The Mair reference is p538 (*.html#Editions)


Complete and updated bibliography:

Modern editions, translations and commentaries

· Hopkinson, N. (1994), Greek Poetry of the Imperial Period. An Anthology, Cambridge: CUP, 1994

· Livrea, E. (1968), Colluto, Il ratto di Elena. Introduzione, testo critico, traduzione e commento. Bologna: Pàtron

· Mair, A. W. (1928), Oppian, Colluthus, Tryphiodorus, London - NY: Loeb

· Orsini, P. (1972), Colluthus 'L'enlévement d'Hélène, Paris: Les Belles Lettres

· Schönberger, O. (1993), Kolluthos, Raub der Helena. Griechisch-Deutsch. Einl., Text, Übers, und Anmerkungen. Würzburg: Konigshausen & Neumann

General Studies

· Agosti, G. (2012), "Greek Poetry", in S. F. Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, Oxford, 361-404

· Cadau, C. (2015), Studies in Colluthus' Abduction of Helen, Leiden - Boston

· Cameron, Al. (1982), "The empress and the Poet", YClS 37, 236-237

· D'Ippolito, G. (2003), "Sulle tracce di una koinè formulare nell'epica tardogreca", in D. Accorinti - P. Chuvin (edd.), Des Géants à Dionysos. Mélanges de mythologie et de poésie grecques offerts à Francis Vian, Alessandria, 501-20

· Giangrande, G. (1975), "Colluthus' Description of a Water Spout. An Example of Late Epic Literary Technique", AJPh 96, 35-41

· Griffin, J. (2010), "Greek Epic", in C. Bates (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Epic, Cambridge, 13-30

· Harries, B. (2006), "The drama of pastoral in Nonnus and Colluthus", in M. Fantuzzi - Th. Papanghelis (edd.), Brill's Companion to Greek and Latin Pastoral, Leiden, 515-48

· Hollis, A. (2006), "The Hellenistic Epyllion and Its Descendants", in S.F. Johnson (ed.). Greek Literature in Late Antiquity. Dynamism, Didacticism, Classicism. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006, 141-58

· Jeffreys, E. (2006), "Writers and audiences in the early sixth century", in S. F. Johnson (ed.). Greek literature in late antiquity: dynamism, didacticism, classicism, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006, 127-39

· Littlewood, A. R. (1974), “The symbolism of the Apple in Byzantine Literature”, JbÖB 23, 33-59

· Livrea, E. (1991), "Colluto "umorista"?", in E. Livrea, Studia Hellenistica. 2 vols. Firenze, 561-9.

· Magnelli, E. (2008), "Colluthus' 'Homeric' Epyllion", Ramus 37.1-2, 151-72

· Matthews, V. J. (1996), "Aphrodite's Hair. Colluthus and Hairstyles in the Epic Tradition", Eranos 94, 37-9.

· Miguélez-Cavero, L. (2008), Poems in Context: Greek poetry in the Egyptian Thebaid 200-600 AD, Berlin - NY

· Minniti Colonna, M. (1979), “Sul testo e la lingua di Coluto”, Vichiana 8, 70-93

· Montes Cala, J. G. (1987-8), "Notas críticas a Coluto”, Habis 18-19, 109-115

· Nardelli, N. (1982), "L'esametro di Colluto", JbÖB 32/3, 323-333

· Prauscello, L. (2008), "Colluthus' Pastoral Traditions: Narrative Strategies and Bucolic Criticism in the Abduction of Helen", Ramus 37.1-2, 173-90

· Ruiz Pérez, Á. (2004), "Historia editorial del Rapto de Helena de Coluto", in I. J. García Pinilla - S. Talavera Cuesta (edd.). Charisterion Francisco Martín García oblatum. Cuenca, 339-61.

· Vian, F. (1969), "L'enlèvement d'Hélène de Collouthos", REG 82, 590-7

  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Coluthus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 748.

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