In Echoing Hylas, Mark Heerink argues that the story of Hylas—a famous episode of the Argonauts’ voyage—was used by poets
throughout classical antiquity to reflect symbolically on the position of their poetry in the literary tradition. Certain
elements of the story, including the characters of Hylas and Hercules themselves, functioned as metaphors of the art of poetry.
In the Hellenistic age, for example, the poet Theocritus employed Hylas as an emblem of his innovative bucolic verse, contrasting
the boy with Hercules, who symbolized an older, heroic-epic tradition. The Roman poet Propertius further developed and transformed
Theocritus’s metapoetical allegory by turning Heracles into an elegiac lover in pursuit of an unattainable object of affection.
In this way, the myth of Hylas became the subject of a dialogue among poets across time, from the Hellenistic age to the Flavian
era. Each poet, Heerink demonstrates, used elements of the myth to claim his own place in a developing literary tradition.
this innovative diachronic approach, Heerink opens a new dimension of ancient metapoetics and offers many insights into the
works of Apollonius of Rhodes, Theocritus, Virgil, Ovid, Valerius Flaccus, and Statius.