Cleobulina

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by Koren Whipp

Cleobulina (fl. c. 6th C BCE) Plutarch states that her father, Cleobulus, the prince of Lindus, called her “Eumetis” which translates to ‘Clever’.[1] Despite her fame as a Greek poet, there is little reliable biography of her; stories about her socializing with famous sages are later inventions, and contradictions in the essential details lead to doubt that she actually existed.[2]  Scholars suspect that she may have been invented to personify a female riddler.[3]

Cleobulina was well-known enough in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE to appear as a character in at least two popular comedies, both named The Cleobulinas, by two comedians, Cratinus  and Alexis .[4]

Narratives suggest that she did not go out of her home, but engaged in philosophy with her father’s guests.[5] Clement of Alexandria identifies that she washed the feet of her father’s guests, perhaps to impart to readers that she was a dutiful and submissive daughter.[6]

Riddles attributed to Cleobulina existed in antiquity.[7]  Three riddles attributed to her have survived.[8]

 



[1] Plutarch, “Banquet of the Seven Wise Men,” Plutarch’s Lives, Vol. 2, ed. by William Watson Goodwin (Boston: Little, 1874), 19.

[2] Ian Plant, “Cleobule,” Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803) Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II (Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013), vol. 7, 321, editorial notes, 463.

[3] Ian Plant, Women Writers of Greece and Rome: An Anthology (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), Intro., 29.

[4] Ian Plant, “Cleobule,” Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803) Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II (Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013), vol. 7, 321, editorial notes, 463.

[5] Joan E. Taylor. Jewish Women Philosophers of First-Century Alexandria: Philo’s ‘Therapeutae’ Reconsidered (Oxford University Press, 2003), 220.

[6] Ibid, 177.

[7] See Athenaeus, 10.448b.

[8] For translations see: I. M. Plant, Women Writers of Greece and Rome (London: Equinox, & Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), p. 31.

 

Bibliography

Biographium faemineum: The Female Worthies; or, Memoirs of the Most Illustrious Ladies, of All Ages and Nations, who Have Been Eminently Distinguished for Their Magnanimity, Learning, Genius, Virtue, Piety, and Other Excellent Endowments…Containing (Exclusive of Foreigners) the Lives of above Fourscore British Ladies…Collected from History, and the Most Approved Biographers, and Brought Down to the Present Time… 2 vols. London: S. Crowder, and J. Payne 1766.

Capellà i Soler, M. “Cleobulina de Lindos,” in Itaca 9-11 (1993-1995): 101-108.

Fabbro, E. ‘”a zampa cornuta dell’asino morto : il più enigmatico enigma di Cleobulina (fr. 3 West2),” in ‘Suave mari magno… ‘ : studi offerti dai colleghi udinesi a Ernesto Berti, edited by Griggio C. & Vendruscolo, F., 55-76. Udine: Forum, 2008.

Hays, Mary. “Cleobule,” Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of all Ages and Countries (6 volumes). London: R. Phillips, 1803, vol. 3, 319.

Kwapisz, Jan, David Petrain, Mikolaj Szymanski.  The Muse at Play:  Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012.

Lardinois, André, Laura McClure. Making Silence Speak: Women’s Voices in Greek Literature and Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Le Dœuff, Michèle. Hipparchia’s Choice: An Essay Concerning Women, Philosophy, Etc. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Matelli, E. “Sulle tracce di Cleobulina,” in Aevum 71.1 (1997): 11-61.

Martin, R.P. “Just like a woman: enigmas of the lyric voice,” in Making Silence Speak, edited by Lardinois, A. and McClure, L., 55-75. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Plant, I.M. “Cleobule.” Mary Hays, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women, of All Ages and Countries (1803). Chawton House Library Series: Women’s Memoirs, ed. Gina Luria Walker, Memoirs of Women Writers Part II. Pickering & Chatto: London, 2013, vol. 7, 321, editorial notes, 463.

Women Writers of Greece and Rome. London: Equinox, & Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

Taylor, Joan E. Jewish Women Philosophers of First-Century Alexandria: Philo’s ‘Therapeutae’ Reconsidered. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Waithe, Mary Ellen, “Arete, Asclepigenia, Axiothea, Cleobulina, Hipparchia, and Lasthenia,” in Women Philosophers, 600 BC-500 AD. Boston: M. Nijhoff, 1987.

 

Resources:

Brooklyn Museum
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Cleobuline http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/cleobuline.php

 

Page citation:
Koren Whipp. “Cleobulina.” Project Continua (January 25, 2014): Ver. 1, (date accessed), http://www.projectcontinua.org/cleobulina/

 

 

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