Cypria (Greek: Κύπρια Kúpria; Latin: Cypria) is a lost epic
poem of ancient Greek literature, which has been attributed to
Stasinus and was quite well known in classical antiquity and fixed
in a received text, but which subsequently was lost to view. It was
part of the Epic Cycle, which told the entire history of the Trojan
War in epic hexameter verse. The story of the
chronologically at the beginning of the Epic Cycle, and is followed by
that of the Iliad; the composition of the two was apparently in the
reverse order. The poem comprised eleven books of verse in epic
1 Date and authorship
2 Manuscript tradition
6 See also
Date and authorship
The Cypria, in the written form in which it was known in classical
Greece, was probably composed in the late seventh century BCE, but
there is much uncertainty. The Cyclic Poets, as the translator of
Homerica, Hugh G. Evelyn-White noted "were careful not to trespass
upon ground already occupied by Homer," one of the reasons for dating
the final, literary form of
Cypria as post-Homeric, in effect a
"prequel". "The author of the Kypria already regarded the
Iliad as a
text. Any reading of the Kypria will show it preparing for events for
Iliad in order to refer back to them, for instance
the sale of Lykaon to
Lemnos or the kitting out of
Agamemnon with Chryseis". A comparison can be made with
the Aethiopis, also lost, but which even in its quoted fragments is
more independent of the
Iliad as text.
The stories contained in the Cypria, on the other hand, were fixed
much earlier than that, and the same problems of dating oral
traditions associated with the Homeric epics also apply to the Cypria.
Many or all of the stories in the
Cypria were known to the composer(s)
Iliad and Odyssey. The Cypria, in presupposing an acquaintance
with the events of the Homeric poem, in the received view thus formed
a kind of introduction to the Iliad though there is an overlap in
events from the death of Palamedes, including the catalogue of Trojan
allies. J. Marks observes that "Indeed, the junction would be
seamless if the Kypria simply ended with the death of Palamedes."
The title Cypria, associating the epic with Cyprus, demanded some
explanation: the epic was said in one ancient tradition to have
been given by
Homer as a dowry to his son-in-law, a
Stasinus of Cyprus
mentioned in no other context; there was apparently an allusion to
this in a lost Nemean ode by Pindar. Some later writers repeated the
story. It did at least serve to explain why the
Cypria was attributed
by some to
Homer and by others to Stasinus. Others, however, ascribed
the poem to Hegesias (or Hegesinus) of Salamis in
Cyprus or to Cyprias
of Halicarnassus (see Cyclic Poets).
It is possible that the "Trojan Battle Order" (the list of Trojans and
their allies, of
Iliad 2.816-876, which forms an appendix to the
Catalogue of Ships) is abridged from that in the Cypria, which was
known to contain in its final book a list of the Trojan allies.
In current critical editions only about fifty lines survive of the
Cypria's original text, quoted by others. For the content we are
almost entirely dependent on a prose summary of the Cyclic epics
contained in the
Chrestomathy attributed to an unknown "Proclus"
(possibly to be identified with the 2nd-century CE grammarian
Eutychius Proclus, or else with an otherwise unknown 5th-century
grammarian). Many other passing references give further minor
indications of the poem's storyline.
What follows embeds reports of known content of the
Cypria in a
retelling of the known events leading up to the anger of Achilles.
The poem narrates the origins of the
Trojan War and its first events.
It begins with the decision of Zeus to relieve the Earth of the burden
of population through war, a decision with familiar Mesopotamian
parallels. The Theban war of the Seven ensues.
Cypria described the wedding of
Peleus and Thetis; in the
Judgement of Paris among the goddesses Athena, Hera, and
Aphrodite: Paris awards the prize for beauty to Aphrodite, and as a
prize is awarded Helen, wife of Menelaus.
Then Paris builds his ships at Aphrodite's suggestion, and Helenus
foretells the future to him, and
Aeneas to sail with
Cassandra prophesies the outcome. In Lacedaemon the Trojans
are entertained by the sons of Tyndareus, Castor and Polydeuces, and
by Menelaus, who then sets sail for Crete, ordering Helen to
furnish the guests with all they require.
Aphrodite brings Helen and
Paris together, and he takes her and her dowry back to his home of
Troy with an episode at Sidon, which Paris and his men successfully
In the meantime Castor and Polydeuces, while stealing the cattle of
Idas and Lynceus, are caught and killed: Zeus gives them immortality
that they share every other day.
Iris informs Menelaus, who returns to plan an expedition against Ilium
with his brother Agamemnon. They set out to assemble the former
suitors of Helen, who had sworn an oath to defend the rights of
whichever one won her hand. Nestor in a digression tells
Epopeus was destroyed after seducing the daughter of Lycus, the story
of Oedipus, the madness of Heracles, and the story of
Ariadne. In gathering the leaders, they detect Odysseus' feigned
The assembled leaders offer ill-omened sacrifice at Aulis, where the
Calchas warns the Greeks that the war will last ten years.
They reach the city of
Mysia and sack it in error for
Telephus comes to the city's rescue and is wounded by Achilles.
The fleet scattered by storm,
Achilles puts in at
Skyros and marries
Deidameia, the daughter of Lycomedes, then heals Telephus, so that he
might be their guide to Ilium.
When the Achaeans have been mustered a second time at Aulis, Agamemnon
is persuaded by
Calchas to sacrifice his daughter
Iphigenia to appease
Artemis and obtain safe passage for the ships, after he
offends her by killing a stag. Iphigeneia is fetched as though for
marriage with Achilles. Artemis, however, snatches her away,
substituting a deer on the altar, and transports her to the land of
the Tauri, making her immortal.
Next they sail as far as Tenedos, where while they are feasting,
Philoctetes is bitten by a snake and is left behind in Lemnos. Here,
Achilles quarrels with Agamemnon. A first landing at the
repulsed by the Trojans, and
Protesilaus is killed by Hector. Achilles
then kills Cycnus, the son of Poseidon, and drives the Trojans back.
The Greeks take up their dead and send envoys to the Trojans demanding
the surrender of Helen and the treasure. The Trojans refusing, they
first attempt an assault upon the city, and then lay waste the country
Achilles desires to see Helen, and
Thetis contrive a
meeting between them. The Achaeans next desire to return home, but are
restrained by Achilles, who afterwards drives off the cattle of
Aeneas, sacks neighbouring cities, and kills Troilus. Patroclus
carries away Lycaon to
Lemnos and sells him as a slave, and out of the
Briseis as a prize, and
Then follow the death of Palamedes, the plan of Zeus to relieve the
Trojans by detaching
Achilles from the Hellenic confederacy, and a
catalogue of the Trojan allies.
Cypria was considered to be a lesser work than Homer's two
Aristotle criticised it for its lack of narrative
cohesion and focus. It was rather a catalogue of events than a unified
Online editions (English translation):
Fragments of the
Cypria translated by H.G. Evelyn-White, 1914 (public
Fragments of complete
Epic Cycle translated by H.G. Evelyn-White,
1914; Project Gutenberg edition
Proclus' summary of the Epic Cycle, omitting the
by G. Nagy, 2000
Print editions (Greek):
A. Bernabé 1987, Poetarum epicorum Graecorum testimonia et fragmenta
pt. 1 (Leipzig)
M. Davies 1988, Epicorum Graecorum fragmenta (Göttingen)
Print editions (Greek with English translation):
M.L. West 2003 (ed., trans.), Greek Epic Fragments from the seventh to
the fifth centuries BC Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University
Press, Cambridge, MA) pp. 64–107 ISBN 0-674-99605-4 Online
Apple of Discord
Herodotus (ii.117) refers to it.
^ "An indication that at least the main contents of the
known around 650 BCE is provided by the representation of the
Judgement of Paris
Judgement of Paris on the Chigi vase" (Burkert 1992:103). On the
proto-Attic pitcher of ca. 640 BCE called the Chigi "vase"[permanent
dead link], Paris is identified as Al[exand]ros, as he was apparently
called in Cypria.
^ In his Preface to Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and Homerica
^ Ken Dowden, "Homer's Sense of Text" The Journal of Hellenic Studies
116 (1996, pp. 47-61). p 48, noting that the observation had been made
by Eric Bethe, in Homer: Dichtung und Sage II: Odysee, Kyklos,
^ W. Kullmann's term Faktkanon, the "canon of facts" is useful in
distinguishing fixed narrative content— the list and sequence of
facts— from fixed, canonic texts.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911: "Stasinus"
^ Pinder 1995.
^ Pinder 1995, p. 2.
^ Burkert, (Burkert 1992:103) noting Mesopotamian parallels, concludes
"these observations must then point to that epoch when Cyprus, though
rich and powerful, was still formally under Assyrian domination".
^ Recorded in John Tzetzes' Chiliades xiii.638.
Chrestomathy itself was preserved in the ninth-century Patriarch
Photios' renowned Bibliotheca or Myriobiblon, codex 239.
^ Burkert 1992: 101-04. Compare Atra-Hasis.
^ Paris is called Alexandros in quotations of
Cypria and in the
^ "In the Cypria, Nemesis was Helen's mother, born after Zeus raped
the goddess, who had done her best to escape him." Scodel, Ruth
(2008). "Stupid, Pointless Wars". Transactions of the American
Philological Association. 138: 219–235.
Marks, J. (December 2001). "The Junction between the Kypria and the
Iliad". Phoenix. 56 (1/2). doi:10.2307/1192467.
Burkert, Walter; Pinder, Margaret E. (1995). The Orientalizing
Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early
Archaic Age. Harvard University Press.
F.G. Welcker, Der epische Cyclus, oder Die homerischen Dichter
Bonn : E. Weber, 1849-65.
D.B. Monro, Homer's Odyssey, books XIII-XXIV Appendix to his edition
of Odyssey, xiii–xxiv. (1901)
Thomas W. Allen, "The Epic Cycle," in Classical Quarterly (January
1908, and following issues)
Works related to
Homer in antiquity
Attributed to Homer
Capture of Oechalia
Ancient accounts of Homer
Homer and Hesiod