The surviving short mimes of Hero(n)das share much of their aims and background with the Alexandrian poetry of the first half of the third century BC, especially that of Callimachus and Theocritus. They are at once acutely aware of their literary ancestry, their choliambic meter based on archaic Hipponax, their genre on the traditions of Sophron, and their characters largely on the stock of New Comedy. They are literary and learned pieces but at the same time purport to present 'real life', particularly its seamier side - the bawd, the brothel-keeper, the purveyor of leather dildos. The mimes, comparable with but also interestingly different from the hexameter town mimes of Theocritus (and the Iamboi of Callimachus), present comic vignettes of life in Cos and Alexandria.
The exhaustive work of Walter Headlam, edited and expanded after his death by S.D. Knox of King's College, Cambridge, was originally published in 1922. It remains the most detailed scholarly commentary in existence. The introduction places the poems in their literary context and discusses the papyrus which provides the basis of our text. All the poems and fragments are translated and the annotation adduces a mass of parallel material to illuminate Herodas' meaning and literary intentions.