"Epyllion" is the term coined by modern scholars for a relatively short poem on a mythological theme otherwise appropriate to longer epic. One of its recurrent characteristics is "ekphrasis", the telling of one myth encapsulated within the context of another, and the two thematically or symbolically linked to offer subtle comparison and contrast. The most persistent modes of "ekphrasis" are narrative by a character form, or the description of myth depicted on a work of art used in the context of the "outer" myth. The phenomenon has its origins in Homeric epic (the shield of Achilles) but was refined in the Hellenistic period by Callimachus and Theocritus, and taken up by the neoterics (Catullus 64). Its methods were absorbed back into long epic and form a dominant characteristic of Ovid's interweaving of myths in the "Metamorphoses". This book was originally published in 1931, and presents a chronological account of "epyllion" in English.
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M. Marjorie Crump was a Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of London.
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