Abstract–The Tyrant’s Network: Appearances of Characters in the Letters of Phalaris

The Letters of Phalaris belong to fictive epistolography: the corpus comprises 148 letters attributed to Phalaris, the Sicilian tyrant from the 6th century BC ; it is transmitted partially or totally in no fewer than 132 manuscripts from the 10th to the 18th century. These letters are surrounded by mystery: when where they written, by whom and for what purpose? Their date, authorship and composition are disputed. Furthermore, since the order of the letters is very different from one manuscript to the other, without any chronological or thematic organisation, one does not know how the corpus would have looked originally.

To approach this complex material, this paper focuses on a limited inquiry: the occurrences of the characters’ names in the letters. The starting hypothesis is that tracing the names is an efficient way to detect the connections between the letters and, beyond, to see how narrative lines may develop. The absence of links or some incoherence between the letters would point towards a corpus that was progressively assembled with multiple authorship, whereas interconnections between the letters and the presence of narrative lines could suggest a single author’s project.

We will first look at the recipients of the letters and see how the reappearances of these characters within the corpus help to distinguish narrative lines and other links connecting the letters with each other: a network emerges, structuring the letters. This analysis brings a new perspective to approach the broader questions of the composition and authorship of the Letters of Phalaris.