She was probably contemporary of Anyte of Tegea (end of the
IV century b.C.) and her work has to be counted amongst the
Doric-Peloponnesian school of epigrammatical poetry.
Most likely her compositions continued to
be known, appreciated and handed down during the whole
antiquity, so much so that yet during the late I century b.C.
Antipater of Thessalonica (an epigrammatist poet) puts her amongst the nine
earthly Muses (as opposed to the nine celestial Muses), in other words
amongst the most famous and respected poetess of the Greek antiquity:
Such women with divine tongue raised with hymns the Helicon
and (so did) the peak of the Macedonian Pieria,
Praxilla, Moero, the mouth of Anyte, the female Homer,
Sappho jewel of Lesbos' women by the beautiful hair,
Erinna, the famous Telesilla and you, Corinna,
who sang the fearsome shield of Athena,
Nossis by the soothing female voice and the sweet song of Myrtis,
all authors of immortal texts.
Nine Muses (generated) the great Uranus, and also nine
Gaia generated, everlasting joy of mortals.
(Antipater of Thessalonica, Palatine Anthology IX, 26)
Nossis probably descended from a family member of the
Locrian nobility and in one of her epigrams (PALAT. ANT. VI -
265) she handed down her mother's name, Teofilis,
and the name of her grandmother, Kleochas; particularly, in
such epigram, the matrilineal identification of the lineage
relationships has led some scholars to consider this
description a further element tending to confirm the
possible existence of the matriarchy in the ancient Locrian
polis, or at least a further confirmation of the importance
of the women role in Locri Epizephyrii. Other scholars,
however, while sharing the assumptions about the primacy of
the female role in the Locrian world, tend to consider such
a description only within the subject of the same epigram
where it is mentioned the work, mainly female, of weaving a
gift for the deities, made at home by the women belonging to
the family of the poetess.
In her work can be found affinities (probably desired) with
Sappho's work, which the poetess mention in one of her
epigrams, and the female element is (at least in the
epigrams that have reached our age) clearly predominant.
That, added to the fact that Aphrodite's worship was very
widespread in Locri, led the experts to suppose the
existence in the Greek colony of a thyasus, similar to the
Sapphic one, led by the poetess Nossis.
Moreover Nossis' ideal of life seems to appear clearly
in her epigram "Nothing is sweeter than love..." where the
similar views with the Sapphic thought is more than clear.
Of all her work only twelve epigrams, with various subjects,
have been preserved; and they have reached the present day
thanks to their inclusion in the so-called Garland of
Meleager, a collection of epigrams of various authors
nowadays lost in its original form but that, in its
surviving part, was used during the Middle Ages to form the
core block of the Palatine Anthology.
Gadara, that composed such work, imagined it exactly like a
garland in which to insert (weaving) the most beautiful
flowers that the meadow of Greek poetry had generated, and
in the proem of his work he chose for each poet, whose work
he drew on in the realization of the collection, a flower
identifying him interwoven with the ones chosen for all the
other poets; and these are the words he devoted to Nossis of
[...] and having therewith woven
the fresh and sweet-scented iris of Nossis,
the wax for whose writing-tablets
Eros himself spread...
(Meleager of Gadara, Palatine Anthology IV, 1 9-10)
Words that, doubtless, suggest a much larger realization,
compared to what reached our age, of poems dedicated to love by
The twelve surviving epigrams are
included in book V (the book dedicated to the love epigrams
- one Nossis' epigram), in book VI (dedicated to the votive
epigrams - six Nossis' epigrams), in book VII (dedicated to
the funerary epigrams - two Nossis' epigrams) and in book IX
(descriptive epigrams - three Nossis' epigrams) of the
Particularly two of the twelve epigrams need to be pointed
out: the one already mentioned "Nothing is sweeter than
love..."(PALAT. ANT. V -
170) which seems to be the proem to her work,
and the one which starts with "Stranger, if you sail..."
(PALAT. ANT. VII - 718) which probably had to
be the conclusive poem of her work or, perhaps, the text,
written by Nossis herself, for her own epitaph.
(the Greek text is in Unicode format; if you experience any
visualization problem with your browser
simply click on the title of an epigram to view its
the wretched shoulders threw these shields the Bruttii,
beaten in the fray by the Locrians fast in the fight,
now, laid down in the temple, devote hymns to their bravery,
neither regret the arms of the cowards left without them.
you who often descend from the heavens
visit your Lacinian sanctuary sweet-scented of incense,
accept the byssus cloak which Teofilis, daughter of
wove for you with Nossis, her noble daughter.
which reign over Delos and over the lovable Ortygia,
put back in the lap of the Charites the bow and the arrows
purify your body in the waters of the Inopus and come
to the house of Alketis, to free her from the difficult
pleasure Aphrodite received the lovable offering
of the small bonnet which wound the head of Samyta:
It's really of exquisite workmanship and it gently smells of
with which the goddess sprinkles the handsome Adonis.
is, Melinna in person! Look, her lovely countenance
seems to turn on us the gently sweet glance;
really the daughter looks throughout like the mother.
It's wonderful that the children look like their parents.
me with a ringing laugh, and then tell me
a friend word: I am Rinthon, the one of Syracuse.
A small nightingale of the Muses; from the tragic phliaxes
I was able to pick an ivy, different and mine.
you sail to Mitylene, land of beautiful dances,
to catch there the most out of Sappho's graces,
tell that I was loved by the Muses, and that the Locrian
land bore me
My name, remember, is Nossis. Now go!
picture shows the beautiful figure of Taumareta:
represented with skill the proud grace of the girl with the
The dog watching the house could wag her tail
looking at you, believing you her own mistress.
temple of the blonde Aphrodite Kallò dedicated this picture
painted with a portrait exactly alike her.
What a tidy attitude! And which grace pervades her!
Hail! Of all your life nothing could be blamed.
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