June 30 to July 4, 2021
Conference program & abstracts
June 30, 2021
6:00pm – 8:00pm EET / 11:00am – 1:00pm EDT
All sessions' times displayed in EET
Discussant: Michel Briand (Université de Poitiers)
This paper offers a new approach to a well-known peculiarity of the Tantalus-Pelops myth in Pindar’s Olympian 1: the ode subjects the myth to paraleipsis, rejecting one version (Pelops was served as meal to the gods) only to integrate it back into the text side-by-side with an alternative, “approved,” version (Pelops was whisked away to Olympus by enamored Poseidon).
It is commonly noted that these two versions are complementary in theme and structure. The son, Pelops, is an object of gastronomical desire in one version, of sexual appetite in the other (Vöhler 2005; Burgess 1993; Nagy 1986; Gantz 1978). And, in both versions, the father, Tantalus, is a transgressor of cosmic boundaries, either pulling gods down to earth by feeding them mortal flesh or pushing mortals heavenward by feeding them nectar and ambrosia (Segal 1964).
Picking up where these studies leave off, I examine paraleipsis in O. 1 from the particular angle of (re-)performance. I suggest that, in this ode, paraleipsis functions as the poet’s negotiating tactic between the evanescent moment “now” of Hieron’s victory celebration and the ode’s future existence as a text to be reperformed in times to come.
O. 1, addressed to the powerful tyrant Hieron on the occasion of his Olympic victory, is, in the words of Charles Segal (1964), a song of “unmitigated superlatives,” offering greatest praise of the greatest victor for the greatest of contests. These three factors put not only Hieron but also Pindar in a position dangerously analogous to that of Tantalus, once a favorite of the gods who fell eventually because he “could not digest his great blessedness” (55-56). A mortal (mythical hero, victor, or poet) cannot balance long on the razor edge of consummate achievement—he is bound to fall, succumbing to oblivion at best and to atē (ruin) at worst. However, even as Pindar’s song identifies its goal of greatest praise of greatest victor as essentially unachievable (and, consequently, Hieron’s glory as short-lived), it attains precisely this impossible goal through cunning application of paraleipsis. I show that Pindar incorporates both versions of the Tantalus myth in such a way that each mortal transgression is counterbalanced by a rectifying response from the immortals. Repeatedly, cosmic balance is restored by the gods, but it is restored in and through Pindar’s song—through his daring amalgamation of incompatible mythical versions. Thus, even as he claims for his song a superlative (and therefore precarious) identity, Pindar at the same time identifies his song as a power that heals cosmic rifts and restores balance. Furthermore, I suggest that it is precisely this aspect of the song’s identity that enables O. 1’s perpetuation of Hieron’s superlative glory in future reperformances: this ode immortalizes the fleeting occasion because it continually, at every performance, restores cosmic balance anew.
Burgess, D. 1993. “Food, Sex, Money and Poetry in Olympian 1,” Hermes 121, 35-44.
Gantz, T. 1978. “Pindar’s First Olympian: The Masters of Darkness,” Rivista di Studi Classici 26, 24-39.
Nagy, G. 1986. “Pindar’s Olympian 1 and the Aetiology of the Olympic Games,” TAPA 116, 71-88.
Segal. C. 1964. “God and Man in Pindar’s First and Third Olympian Odes,” HSCP 68, 211-67.
Vöhler, M. 2005. “Ich aber: Mythenkorrekturen in Pindars 1 Olympie,” in Vöhler, M. and Seidensticker, B. (eds.) 2005. Mythenkorrekturen; Zu einer paradoxalen Form der Mythenrezeption. Berlin. 19-35.
Pindar’s epinician odes were written for and performed on the occasion of the celebration of a sports victory. Yet, without doubt, these songs belong to the most ‘literary’ texts Greek antiquity has produced, not least in view of the elaborately sophisticated mythical narrations and extensive poetological deliberations they feature so prominently. A reading that confines these artfully artificial songs to their original pragmatic function seems to be inadequately reductive; apparently, Pindar’s authorial project did not consist in primarily pursuing goals that related to the historical hic et nunc of performance.
Taking Nemean 1 as a case study, this paper aims to argue for a different view. This song, written for a Nemean victory of Chromios of Syracuse, features two parts of roughly equal size, one of which is devoted to gnomic and poetological musings, while the other narrates a myth of Herakles that spans his life from his birth to his marriage to Youth. At first sight, these two parts seem to be as unrelated as is possible.
This paper attempts to develop an integrative reading that not only demonstrates that the song forms a close-knit semantic unity, but also that it mimetically mirrored its extratextual performance context by way of the linear unfolding of its argumentative structure, with the highest and primary end of praising Chromios: while, on one hand, the speaker begins his song with a reference to Ortygia, the victor’s home as the goal of the current komos, and then turns to self-reflexively mentioning his arrival there and his expectation of enjoying a festive symposion soon; he, on the other hand, does not go on to describe this symposion itself, but turns to narrating the myth of Heracles who, by demonstrating superhuman arete on the basis of his inborn skills, had gained a seat on Mount Olympus, a feat eventually celebrated with his marriage to Youth on Mount Pelion besides Zeus himself.
The linear juxtaposition of Chromios’ historical victory celebration and the mythical celebration of Heracles’ accomplishments as a hero not only brings about that the symposion that awaits the komos is anticipated by a mythical parallel and thereby indirectly praised to the highest degree, but also that Chromios, to the same effect, implicitly appears as the Heracles of his times. The categorically separate ‘poetological’ and ‘mythical’ layers of the song closely interact to not only produce a coherent semantic whole, but also, in a sophisticated ‘literary’ manner, to interpret and give meaning to the song’s extratextual reality – that is, in full accordance with the primary objective of any epinician ode qua “Sitz im Leben,” the praise of the current victory.
In all, Nemean 1 can serve as a test case that demonstrates that the pragmatic and literary dimensions of Pindar’s epinician odes may not be seen as distinct parameters of interpretation, but that these genuinely occasional songs can only be adequately understood if we take both dimensions equally seriously.
Discussant: Angus Bowie (University of Oxford)
The late plays of Euripides are remarkable for their use of monody, or solo actor’s song. Iphigenia among the Taurians, produced ca. 412 B.C.E., shows Euripides harnessing the potential of monody to express the psychological state of a single, central figure as it changes over the course of the play. The play dramatizes Iphigenia’s passage from stasis to decisive action. In her role as priestess she is constrained to repeat upon others the sacrifice that was once performed on her, never healing, trapped in an endless process of remembrance and of re-enactment. It is only when she rediscovers her family and re-positions herself within it that she can move forwards. This re-positioning involves several stages, traversed through questioning and through song. The two monodies in the play are the definitive statements of the beginning and end stages of the heroine’s emotional journey.
In her first monody – which contains two extended lyric sections at lines 143-177 and 203-235, separated by interaction with the chorus – Iphigenia mourns the unfulfilled potential of her young life, where each status was cancelled, each promised doing undone. She mirrors her own situation by singing in a language of paradox, where every charged term is promptly undermined by its negation: her father who was no father, her wedding which was no wedding, her homeland which is no homeland. This first monody establishes her paralyzed state.
Iphigenia’s second monody, delivered after the highly emotional reunion scene with Orestes, marks a shift in her mind and a crisis in the plot (lines 868-899). Here we see Euripides taking a traditional form and turning it to a new and innovative purpose, as monody becomes a vehicle for both deliberative thought and decisive action. The playwright builds on the convention of the “deliberation” or “desperation” speech in tragedy, usually in spoken iambic trimeter, but here translated into sung lyric. Iphigenia’s words are urgent and immediate; yet at the same time they are rational and lead to a solution. It is by serving this complex purpose that the monody can be said to instantiate a “collapse of form”; single, separate functions and their corresponding aspects of form are here brought together into close alignment and focus.
This paper therefore invites a fresh approach to actor’s lyric on the tragic stage as a composite performance. As a consequence of the marriage of passion and logic in her songs, Iphigenia is shown to contain within herself a diversity of attitudes and potential. We can hear a new note in the delineation of character in Greek tragedy, more temporally and circumstantially inflected, more malleable, perhaps more familiar to the modern ear. The use of monody to highlight the act of deliberation is unique to this play and to this heroine; by expressing the process of Iphigenia’s thought in song, Euripides emphasizes her status as a woman called to action.
July 1, 2021
6:00pm – 8:40pm EET / 11:00am – 1:40pm EDT
Discussant: Nancy Felson (University of Georgia)
Occurring throughout early Greek lyric, exhortations to sing, play an instrument, or move in a specific way form a paradoxical phenomenon as they call for something that is often already happening. Exhortations of this sort raise various questions (e.g.,, who is addressing whom, where is the deictic origo, what is the original Sitz im Leben of this technique). This paper, though briefly touching on these questions, will concentrate on a different problem. As I am going to argue, the exhortations serve different functions in different contexts of reception: In performance, they draw the audience’s attention to the performers and their (inter)action, while when the song is read as a text, they conjure up a performative scenario on their own as they stimulate the readers to follow the commands in their imagination.
My case studies are Pindar and Bacchylides, who provide examples from a wide range of genres, including epinikia (Pi. Ol. 1.17-8, Nem. 2.24-5, Nem. 10.21; B. 13.190), encomia (B. fr. 20C.1 M.), paeans (Pi. Pae. 6.121-2, 7b.10), hyporchemes (Pi. fr. 107(a) M.), partheneia (Pi. Parth. 2.66-70), and threnoi (Pi. Thren. 5(a).2-3). The main question I wish to address is how the exhortations work under different circumstances. A particularly instructive (and entertaining) example is Pi. fr. 107(a), where the addressee is exhorted to ‘imitate the Pelasgian horse as you shake with your foot’ (Πελασγὸν ἵππον … ἐλελιζόμενος ποδὶ μιμέο): The exhortation creates a verbal representation of the dance, thus alerting the audience to a distinctive element of the performance, but even more significantly, it preserves this element for later readers, evoking a dynamic image of the original scenario in their imagination. The secondary aim of my paper is to show how the individual genres differ in their use of exhortations relating to the performance. It will turn out that exhortations involving instruments are restricted to Pindar’s epinikia and Bacchylides’ encomia, while exhortations concerning specific movements or alluding to the given genre are only attested in Pindar’s paeans, hyporchemes, partheneia, and threnoi (possible reasons and implications will be discussed).
The talk will be concluded by a selection of comparanda, including the Rigveda (e.g.,, RV 1.4.10), the biblical Psalms (e.g.,, Ps 33:1-3), and later Greek authors (e.g.,, Ar. Th. 101-29; Call. Ap. 8). The examples from different times and cultures will help to situate the results in the development of early song culture, showing how a technique that was originally closely linked to performance made its way into the world of literature.
This paper explores archaic lyric poets’ control over the secondary reception of their poetry through cognitive approaches to deixis. Through readings of fragments of Alcaeus, Sappho, and Anacreon, the paper investigates the poets’ use of pronouns and settings, which have previously been treated from linguistic and pragmatic perspectives, for their cognitive effects on the performer and audiences.
For the past fifty years, the main response to post-Romantic impressionistic and aesthetic interpretations of archaic lyric has been to emphasise the perfomative, social, and pragmatic aspects of archaic poetry (e.g., Rösler 1980, Gentili 1988). However, since the 2000s, research on deixis has led to an awareness of the difference between the described and performed contexts (e.g., Yatromanolakis 2004, D’Alessio 2018), and the discovery of the new fragments of Sappho have made more scholars consider the potential artificiality of the ‘monodic’ speaker. Further, investigations of reperformance (e.g., Hunter and Uhlig 2017) have begun to consider the effects of lyric performed outside the original performance context, and recent scholarship (e.g., Budelmann and Phillips 2018) has attempted to show how literary readings can complement performance-based approaches. This paper goes further by investigating how archaic lyric poets attempted to control the reception of their poetry outside the original performance context – i.e. the reperformer’s and the secondary audience’s reactions. Two such aspects are discussed here: the creation of visual and emotional settings and the establishment of poet-reperformer and poet-audience relationships through deictics.
To this end, this paper applies cognitive poetics, which has become increasingly popular for literary studies in other disciplines. The paper first introduces Text World Theory (TWT), a cognitive discourse grammar (proposed by Werth 1999; fullest account in Gavins 2007), which has not been widely applied in Classics (although several works are forthcoming). It is argued that TWT’s use of the linguistic concept of ‘common ground’ (Szabó and Thomason 2019: chapter 8), which allows for multiple interpretations depending on the difference in the participants’ knowledge and attitude, make it a good framework in which to explore the differences in reception by different audiences, while its principle of text-drivenness keeps a control on which elements guide interpretation. Further, psychological projection and perspective are explored through the investigation of the different pronominal relations between the speaker and the internal and external audiences and the collapse of such relations between the poet and the speaker.
In readings of Alcaeus frr.6 and 130, which contrast in the types of deictics and pronominal relations used, the principle of text-drivenness is used to explore the poet’s control over how his settings are perceived emotionally (through selective description of physical and non-physical elements). Further, it is suggested that the poet’s use of the first-person indexically assimilates (with varying degrees of success) the (re-)performer to the poet’s perspective and that Alcaeus’ use of ‘we’ (fr.6) is a controlled extension of such assimilation to the audience, while fr.130’s use of ‘I’ is remarkable for its distancing effect. A similar contrast is drawn from Sappho frr.1 and 96 and Anacreon PMG 417.
Budelmann, F. and T. Phillips (edd.) 2018. Textual Events. Performance & the Lyric in Early Greece. Oxford.
D’Alessio, G. B. 2018. ‘Fiction and Pragmatics in Ancient Greek Lyric. The Case of Sappho’, in Budelmann and Phillips 2018: 31-62.
Gavins, J. 2007. Text World Theory. An Introduction. Edinburgh.
Gentili, B. 1988. Poetry and its Public in Ancient Greece. Translated by A. T. Cole. Baltimore, MD.
Hunter, R. and A. Uhlig (edd.) 2017. Imagining Reperformance in Ancient Culture. Studies in the Traditions of Drama and Lyric. Cambridge.
Rösler, W. 1980. Dichter und Gruppe. Eine Untersuchung zu den Bedingungen und zur historischen Funktion früher griechischer Lyrik am Beispiel Alkaios. Munich.
Szabó, Z. G. and R. H. Thomason. 2019. Philosophy of Language. Cambridge.
Werth, P. 1999. Text Worlds. Representing Conceptual Space in Discourse. London.
Yatromanolakis, D. 2004. ‘Ritual Poetics in Archaic Lesbos. Contextualizing Genre in Sappho’, in Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2004: 56-70.
Yatromanolakis, D. and P. Roilos (edd.) 2004. Greek Ritual Poetics. Cambridge, MA.
This paper aims to demonstrate the prosodic usage of selected Greek particles in archaic lyric poetry, whereby particles merely represent sounds functioning as prosodic cues – a phenomenon known from other languages and not exclusive for ancient Greek. The study of Greek particles as prosodic cues – in a language with such a close connection between phonology and phonetics – will contribute to the analysis of rhythmical patterning in the metrical surface structure of archaic lyric poetry.
In the study of Greek particles, little words with no stable thesis in prosody, much attention has been given to their auxiliary or nuancing semantic function (Bazanella & Morra 2010; Bazanella 2006), sometimes to the effect that a particle was awarded its own independent semantics. From a prosodic point of view such semantic value is unexpected and untenable, as rhythmical and intonational clisis resist any adverbial meaning. Usage as particles is the direct result of phonetic reduction, itself the effect of intonational variance (Libermann & Pierrehumbert 1984).
For certain nuancing and discourse particles not even auxiliary semantics can be readily established. Particles like δέ, μεν, γάρ, γε, δή and ὦ serve pragmatic purposes as discourse marking signals, on a par (and possibly in combination) with gestures. In writing they remain, however, the printed representations of phonemes, of sound (Bolly & Degand 2013). It is in itself remarkable that ancient Greek has retained the intonational phonation in writing, though (on a smaller scale) phonation for pragmatic purposes only is known from other languages, also in their written representation (George 2009; Vatri 2012). In English, for example, utterance-initial “Well, …” indicates that speaker demands or reclaims attention (Aijmer 2002; 2009), whereas phonation-continuing but meaningless “uh” indicates speaker’s resilience to remain the audience’s focus of attention, even despite a lack of semantics (Bolden 2006; Argaman 2010; Bara 2010). In writing, the different instances of discourse marking cues in phonation may or may not be presented; if they are, particles primarily serve prosodic ends.
In ancient Greek, the prosodic contour of particles reflects their intonational-signalling usage. I will argue that the clitic character and the unstable thesis of particles both serve as indicators for intonational signalling in lyric poetry. By skilfully mapping particles onto metrical positions – thus exploiting the surface structure for the transfer from performance to fixation and vice versa (González 2013) – the lyric poets structure their clauses into rhythmical phrases. Particles use directs and redirects audience’s attentiveness. In Sappho and Pindar, enclisis of δέ, μεν, γάρ, and γε, for example, prolongs, stretches, and deepens the intonational slope of the phonetic word (cf. Taylor 1996; Auer et al. 1999; Bart-Weingarten et al. 2010; Bonifazi & Elmer 2012; et al. 2016) to demarcate rhythmical phrasing. The variability of the thesis (of both monosyllabic and polysyllabic particles) enables the particle to contribute to demarcation depending on the text’s rhythm (Wennerstom 2001; Couper-Kuhlen 2003; 2005; Hirschberg 2006) rather than metrical structure. Particularly in lyric poetry’s text evidence can be found for the prosodic motivation behind particles’ signalling continuation or demarcation of phonation.
Aijmer, K. 2002. English Discourse Particles: Evidence from a Corpus. Amsterdam.
———. 2009. “The Pragmatic Marker well: A Text Study.” In Coherence and Cohesion in Spoken and Written Discourse, ed. O. Dontcheva-Navratilova and R. Povolná, 4–29. Newcastle.
Argaman, O. 2010. “Linguistic Markers and Emotional Intensity.” Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 39:89–99.
Auer, P., E. Couper-Kuhlen, and F. Müller. 1999. Language in Time: The Rhythm and Tempo of Spoken Interaction. Oxford.
Bara, B. G. 2010. Cognitive Pragmatics: The Mental Processes of Communication. Cambridge, MA.
Barth-Weingarten, D., E. Reber, and M. Selting, eds. 2010. Prosody in Interaction. Amsterdam.
Bazzanella, C. 2006. “Discourse Markers in Italian: Towards a ‘Compositional’ Meaning.” In Approaches to Discourse Particles, ed. K. Fischer, 449–464. Amsterdam and Boston.
Bazzanella, C., and L. Morra. 2000. “Discourse Markers and the Indeterminacy of Translation.” In Argomenti per una linguistica della traduzione, ed. I. Korzen, and C. Marello, 149–157. Alessandria.
Bolden, G. B. 2006. “Little Words That Matter: Discourse Markers ‘So’ and ‘Oh’ and the Doing of Other-Attentiveness in Social Interaction.” Journal of Communication 56:661–688.
Bolly, C., and L. Degand. 2013. “Have You Seen What I Mean? From Verbal Constructions to Discourse Markers.” Journal of Historical Pragmatics 14:210–235.
Bonifazi, A., and D. F. Elmer. 2012. “The Meaning of Melody: Remarks on the Performance-Based Analysis of Bosniac Epic Song.” In Child’s Children: Ballad Study and Its Legacies, ed. J. Harris and B. Hillers, 293–309. Trier.
Bonifazi, A, A. Drummen, and M. de Krey. 2016. Particles in Ancient Greek Discourse: Five Volumes Exploring Particle Use Across Genres. chs.harvard.edu/CHS/article/display/6220
González, J. 2013. The Epic Rhapsode and his Craft. Washington.
Couper-Kuhlen, E. 2003. “Intonation and Discourse: Current Views from Within.” In The Handbook of Discourse Analysis, ed. H. E. Hamilton, D. Schiffrin, and D. Tannen, 13–34. Oxford.
———. 2005. “Prosodic Cues of Discourse Units.” In Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, ed. E. K. Brown and A. H. Anderson, 178-182. 2nd ed. Oxford.
George, C. H. 2009. “Greek Particles: Just a Literary Phenomenon?” In Discourse Cohesion in Ancient Greek, ed. S. J. Bakker and G. C. Wakker, 155–169. Leiden.
Hirschberg, J. 2006. “Pragmatics and Intonation.” In The Handbook of Pragmatics, ed. L. R. Horn and G. Ward, 515–537. Malden, MA.
Liberman, M., and J. Pierrehumbert. 1984. “Intonational Invariance under Changes in Pitch, Range and Length.” In Language Sound Structure, ed. M. Aronoff, R. T. Oehrle, F. Kelley, and B. Wilker Stephens, 157–233. Cambridge, MA.
Taylor, A. 1996. “A Prosodic Account of Clitic Position in Ancient Greek.” In Approaching Second: Second Position Clitics and Related Phenomena, ed. A. L. Halpern and A. M. Zwicky, 477–503. Stanford.
Vatri, A. 2012. “The Physiology of Ancient Greek Reading.” The Classical Quarterly 62:633–647.
Wennerstrom, A. K. 2001. The Music of Everyday Speech: Prosody and Discourse Analysis. Oxford.
Discussant: Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi (Stanford University)
In this paper I propose to delineate some of the results of my ongoing work at the University of Oxford that deals with trying to lay out an explicit poetics of orality for Pindar using the tools of Cognitive Linguistics and Poetics. Specifically, to discuss how the use of particles, deixis and the interplay between gestalt and focus would help an audience to process and construe meaning in real time without recurse to a written text. Conversely, how readers can reimagine the performance by means of these same devices in the entextualized register of the songs. Overall, I shall discuss how the delineation of an explicit poetics of orality can help us to (re)perform Pindar's songs either in the original or in translation. Although the oral dimension of the performance of most forms of early Greek poetry is now widely accepted, research on the poetic principles of oral composition is mostly restricted to the Homeric epics and rhetoric, or, in other genres, to questions of performance extrinsic to the text, and no systematic study trying to situate Pindar within a tradition of oral song making, which goes back into Indo-European poetics (Watkins 2002; West 2007), has been attempted so far. Additionally, the still prevalent idea of oral composition as being restricted to extemporaneous and formulaic traditions of poetry, often felt to be incompatible with writing, is a misconception that has meant for Pindar (with few exceptions such as Nagy 1990, Wells 2009 and Thomas 2012) a significant lack of scholarly interest in studying his poetry as the entextualized register of songs that is cognitively geared to an aural reception. The issue so far left unaddressed is that conceptually oral poetry (that is, written, but meant to be sung) such as Pindar's songs, even if preserved in writing, present inherently different discursive characteristics and cognitive strategies than conceptually written poetry. Discussing how these characteristics can influence our experience with Pindar's poetry, both as song and written record, may be instrumental in better understanding key features of his songs that have been so far considered problematic, such as his alleged obscurity and difficulty. It may also lay out an important framework from which we can gain new insights into different ways in which we can not only achieve a better understanding of his poetic output and the tradition in which he operated, but also how we, as scholars, translators, teachers, and ultimately readers can keep engaging with it through new translations and (re)performances of his texts.
Nagy, G. 1990. Pindar's Homer. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990
Thomas, R. 2012. "Pindar's 'Difficulty' and the Performance of Epinician Poetry" in: Reading the Victory Ode, ed. P. Agócs, C. Carey, and R. Rawles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Watkins, C. (2002). "Pindar's Rigveda," JAOS 122, no. 2.
Wells, J.B. 2009. Pindar's Verbal Art: An Ethnographic Study of Epinician Style. Hellenic Studies, ed. G. Nagy, vol. 40. Washington: CHS/ Harvard University.
West, M.L. 2007. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
A central puzzle in Olympian 10 concerns the precise application of tokos (Ol.10.9), with which Pindar repays his debt (Ol.10.8) to Hagesidamos, the young Olympic victor of 476 BCE. I argue that if we are to properly interpret tokos, we should take into account the first performance of Ol.10, which is programmatically intended in conversation with the odes Pindar composed for the more illustrious victors of 476, Hieron and Theron. I especially focus on Ol.3 which shares with Ol.10 an extensive account of the Olympian origins. That foundation story (Ol.10.24-77), extremely long in comparison to, e.g.,, Ol. 6.65-70, serves, I propose, as the tokos that Pindar adds to his debt (Ol.10.8). In other words, the tokos consists in honoring Hagesidamos with something resembling the way he discharged his debt (Ol.3.7) to Theron – yet without causing offense to the tyrant. Indeed, a close comparison of the two versions shows that, for all the verbal echoes, they are strictly complementary with minimal overlap.
This reading of tokos, which is suggested by the intertextual relationship established in the primary performance of Ol.10, emerges also through an analysis of the poem itself. Ol.10 intimates a counterintuitive, provisional, and partial analogy between Pindar and King Augeas, whose dimensions have not yet been properly understood. Both fail to pay a debt, the former through oblivion, the latter deliberately (Ol.10.3, 29); their acts of omission differ in intent, but are similar in their outcome, as they both wrong guestfriends – Hagesidamos and Herakles respectively (Ol.10.5-6, 34). Further, they suffer different consequences, since the poet pays back willingly with interest, while the king is forced and punished. But, most crucially, just as the booty from Augeas’ punishment enables Herakles to found the sacred precinct of Olympia and institute the contests (Ol.10.44, 56-7), so Pindar corrects his error of omission by offering a detailed account of beginnings that includes even the multiple victories at the first Olympiad (Ol.10.60-73). The poet thus subtly hints at Hagesidamos’ fellow winners in 476 and consequently at the simultaneous commissions that prevented the timely composition of the ode.
This narrative of origins ends with a self-referential nod to the current Pindaric song (Ol.10.85), envisioned as a late-born child that brings joy to the aged father (Ol.10.86-7) and, like the song, confers a kind of enduring fame. The return from the metaphorical to the literal meaning of the term tokos serves to bookend the mythical foundation and to highlight its specific function: it constitutes the ‘interest’ that has accrued until Pindar fulfills his outstanding obligation.
This analysis, accessible to attentive listeners of any re-performance and readers of the text, expands on what may have been clear from the first to Hagesidamos, his clan, and fellow Locrians, if they had known of the victory ode for the Acragantine Theron while anxiously waiting, in the years after 476, for the fulfillment of Pindar’s promise to them. I shall conclude by briefly examining how this reading might relate to contemporary historical circumstances in Locri and its powerful Sicilian neighbours.
Agocs, P., Rawles, R., Carey, C., eds. 2012. Reading the Victory Ode. Cambridge.
Burgess, D.L. 1990. “Pindar’s Olympian 10: Praise for the Poet, Praise for the Victor”. Hermes 118: 273-281.
Eckerman, C. 2013. “The Landscape and Heritage of Pindar’s Olympia”. The Classical World 107: 3-33.
Hubbard, T.K. 1985. The Pindaric Mind: A Study of Logical Structure in Early Greek Poetry. Leiden.
_____. 1989. “Pindar’s Κύκνεια Μάχα: Subtext and Allusion in Olympian 10. 15-16”. Materiali e discussioni per l’analisi dei testi classici 23: 137-143.
Kabiersch, J. 1999. “Humor bei Pindar: Ein Deutungsversuch zu τόκος (Pind. Ol. X,9)”. Hermes 127: 368-371.
Kromer, G. 1976. “The Value of Time in Pindar’s Olympian 10”. Hermes 104: 420-436
Kurke, L. 1991. The Traffic in Praise. Pindar and the Poetics of Social Economy. Ithaca, NY.
Morrison, A. D. 2007. Performances and Audiences in Pindar’s Sicilian Victory Odes. BICS Supp. 95. London.
Nicholson, N. 2016. The Poetics of Victory in the Greek West: Epinician, Oral Tradition, and the Deinomenid Empire. Oxford.
The effort to account for Greek lyric’s appeal over a range of receptions from original performance to modern readers is very welcome. In spite of new perspectives, however, an assumption lingers that the sociopolitial effects sought in the original performance and the literary effects treasured by readers are separate. I think we can get a fuller sense of Greek lyric as always both if we think of it as an intervention. An intervention aims to alter or deepen its recipients’ perspective on a salient issue by persuading them that a more fulfilling way of thinking or feeling is possible. In Greek lyric the change of perspective advocated could be minor or cosmic. Its persuasive power in performance could reside in the distinctive quality of the speaking voice, a song’s sensuous and emotional appeal, visionary revelations, and also in aesthetic qualities of language and image. For later readers the author-ized voice and the textual aspects its persuasive strategy per se become salient aspects. It is no accident that the two lyric poets with the strongest afterlife, Sappho and Pindar, both proffer striking language and expansive vision articulated by a passionate speaker.
I analyze Sappho 16 and 96 V as sharing one persuasive strategy aimed at a female audience on Lesbos whose emotional ties were easily disrupted by male actions. In both songs Sappho highlights a supremely beautiful woman who has relocated to Asia Minor, territory known but inaccessible to the audience, against a background of generic or implicit male power. In 16 Helen transgressively goes there to join her “most beautiful,” but the audience knows that she was recaptured. In 96 the woman in Lydia, married, is compared to Selene, whom the audience knew (cf. 199 V) as the lover of the sleeping Endymion. Even for Helen and Selene no full satisfaction of desire was possible. But in 16 thought of Helen stimulates in the speaker a light-and-movement-filled vision of her beloved, more compelling to her than an army. Desire and memory together make the beloved imaginatively present, even though Helen’s action is impossible. The speaker of 96 reveals that the woman in Lydia remembers Atthis with longing: it is Atthis, not her current company, that is “most beautiful” to her.
That no complete fulfilment of desire is possible for a woman in the world of armies and Zeus is left as a subtext for the listeners to recognize, for it is their own recognition that leads them to understand the compensatory value of a beautiful song about longing and memory. And the speakers of both 16 and 96 V circle back to the initial theme in their epiphanic visions to show how the perspective has changed, while the poems themselves recreate the memories when they are sung.
For later readers the persuasive strategy of these poems shifts into the voice of a self-reflexive poet, intertextuality with Homer, elegant structure, and linguistic artistry, but still intervenes in their emotional and imaginative lives, for loss of intimacy is a timeless source of pain.
July 2, 2021
6:00pm – 8:20pm EET / 11:00am – 1:20pm EDT
Discussant: Andrew Ford (Princeton University)
John Herington’s justly influential Poetry into Drama (1985) introduced into our conceptual lexicon ‘song culture’, a phrase which usefully captures the alterity of early Greek poetry (cf. ‘The strangeness of “song culture”: archaic Greek poetry’, L. Kurke (2000)). The performance-oriented approach that Herington helped to usher in has now, at least by some reckonings, held the field for longer than New Criticism had. It seems like a good time to re-evaluate song culture as he defined it and as it has been subsequently understood. The well-worn topic of orality and literacy, flagged in the title of this conference, must be central to any such discussion (cf. ‘From letters to literature: reading the “song culture” of classical Greece’, A. Ford (2004)). Since it must be composed without access to a research library, this informal textual discussion, which will very much be a placeholder for an oral performance, has to take the form of some tentative reflections.
First, I want to consider the enduring ideological appeals of song culture. How much is an emphasis on the alterity of orality the distinctive and novel contribution of the ‘performance turn’ of the 1980s? How much can phonocentric and lowercase-r romantic attitudes be traced back through capital-r Romanticism into classical antiquity and even perhaps back into archaic lyric itself?
Next, I want to think more about the historical relationship between orality and literacy. The oral or the written origins of early lyric are both more often posited in passing than argued through in detail. In dialogue with a major contribution from G. Nagy (‘Transmission of archaic Greek sympotic song: from Lesbos to Alexandria’ (2004)), I want to think through this question afresh. Time allowing, I also want to look at about some of our earliest evidence, such as it is, for ‘reading culture’. I have no doubt that archaic Greece was a song culture, but I have questions about the way in which preserved lyric texts fit into that very different world.
This paper investigates when and why Sappho’s songs were first being read. For the when we have a terminus ante quem in an Athenian vase, dated around 440-430 BCE, which depicts a figure named Sappho reading a scroll (Athens, National Archaeological Museum, inv. no. 1260). I agree with those who argue that the letters on the scroll, which spell “Gods, with airy words I begin” contain at least an allusion to Sapphic poetry.
The terminus post quem is of course Sappho’s own life time, ca. 600 BCE. I therefore will first examine Sappho’s poetry for possible references to the reading and writing of her songs. One of the claims the first-person speaker makes in several of her songs is that she will be remembered even after her death. It has been maintained that this claim was based on Sappho’s confidence that her poetry was being preserved in writing, but I will demonstrate that all these references to the memory of her songs are references to memorable performances, not to the preservation of her work in writing. That does not mean that writing did not play a role in the preservation of her songs. I will argue that Sappho herself (or others during her life time or soon after her death) wrote down her songs as libretto’s, so that other singers could re-perform them. These singers would read the words of her songs in order to memorize them and subsequently perform them. The vase, mentioned above, is evidence of this, as is the oldest Sappho papyrus (P. Köln Inv. 21351+21376).
However, I will also examine another possible reason for reading Sappho’s songs, which is to re-experience a performance one has witnessed. This, I will argue, is what Dionysos is doing when he is reading the Andromache in the prologue of Aristophanes’ Frogs. Dionysos is not only reading the words of this tragedy on the page, but in so doing also remembering the performance. Recent finds of shepherds’ graffiti in Attica have demonstrated that levels of literacy in the sixth century BCE were probably higher than generally has been assumed. It is therefore possible that this kind of reading, as a means to relive the performances of songs, was already going on in the time of Sappho. In a preserved fragment of the comic playwright Antiphanes (fr. 194.1-21 KA), Sappho refers to letters on a page as silent children. By reading such letters to re-perform or re-experience her songs, they could be given a voice again.
Discussant: Paula da Cunha Correa (Universidade de São Paulo)
Scholarly discussion of Sappho’s Brothers Poem has focused mainly on the “(un)realism” of Charaxos’ and Dorica’s episode: are we to believe that the love story of the Lesbian boy and the fascinating Egyptian courtesan has a historical (and biographical) background? Or is the entire “romance of Charaxos” a literary creation in which the characters play a (fictitious) role designed to convey the poet’s message?
The latter interpretation seems to be largely predominant. Lardinois 2016, in particular, connects the Brothers Poem to the “poetics of fictionality” that informs many archaic lyric songs: one has only to think of the “mimetic” nature of the iambic “Ego”. The “family story” of Archilochus, to whom the unfaithful Lykambes betroths the unfaithful Neobule, is a telling example of a situation created or re-created (perhaps starting from a real basis) to offer a fruitful parainesis on the importance of morality in the family life. On the other hand, Nobili 2016 argues that stories of rich merchants who waste their fortunes on greedy courtesans are widely present throughout the whole course of Greek literature. Thus many elements combine to suggest that the Brothers Poem is a literary “invention” conceived to communicate a pragmatic message: a song composed to be performed in a (semi)public occasion (the festival of Hera at Messon?: s. Nagy 2016) to stress the crucial role of religion and devotion in shaping the life of an aristocratic family.
So far so good. But why Charaxos and Dorica? In my paper I would like to discuss the density of Iliadic echoes that can be detected in Sappho’s extant fragments: the poet seems to be extremely attracted by the literary game of re-thinking Homeric characters and situations and giving them an independent new life. Fragment 44 is a phantasy of luxury, luminosity and harmony which celebrates Hector and Andromache’s splendid marriage: the joyful moment is set in a sort of arcane dimension, as if the painful destiny of the couple were not matter of consideration. The portrait of Helen in fragment 16 presents the Spartan queen as a positive paradigm of true love and courageous self-determination: Sappho isolates some aspects of Homer’s Helen and resolves the ambiguity that defines the character in the poem.
A similar game can be traced in the Brothers Poem. In Iliad book 6, Hecuba, who has been asked by Hector to make a solemn supplication to Athena, selects her finest dress as a gift for the goddess: the poet says that it is one of the precious garments which Paris brought to Troy from Sidon as he came back home with Helen. Paris is a merchant prince who travels by sea, falls in love with the most beautiful woman and returns home with his ship full of rich merchandise. It is very tempting to believe that “Paris’ story” was in some way in the back of Sappho’s mind while she was composing her poem.
A. Lardinois, Sappho’s Brothers Song and the fictionality of early Greek lyric poetry, in A. Bierl –
A.H. Lardinois (edd.), The Newest Sappho (P. Obbink and P. GC inv. 105, Frs. 1-4), Leiden 2016, pp. 167-187
G. Nagy, A poetics of sisterly affect in the Brothers Song and in other songs of Sappho, in A. Bierl –
A.H. Lardinois (edd.), The Newest Sappho (P. Obbink and P. GC inv. 105, Frs. 1-4), Leiden 2016, pp. 449-492
C. Nobili, Mercanti e cortigiane: la fortuna di un topos da Saffo a Eliodoro, “RFIC” 144 (2016), pp. 5-24
In the first of his Iambi, Callimachus speaks in the voice of the archaic poet Hipponax of Ephesus, recognised as the inventor of the choliambic or ‘limping iambic’ verse. Callimachus’ Hipponax announces that he has returned from the dead to deliver an ‘iambus’ to the intellectuals of Ptolemaic Alexandria, Callimachus’ contemporaries and peers, who are instructed to record his performance in writing. This poem serves to introduce what seems to have been a collection of iambic poetry by Callimachus in which the poet speaks mostly in his own voice, occasionally adopting other imaginary personae such as a statue or a corpse, but never, as far as we can tell, returning to the Hipponactean voice that inaugurates the collection, although he continues in most of the poems to employ the metre invented by the Ephesian poet.
As an example of the fiction of occasion, this introductory poem is absolutely without parallel. Its singularity resides in the fact that the enabling fiction of the poem – namely, that as we read this ‘iambus’ we are listening to a speech delivered by a revenant Hipponax – is a direct enactment of Callimachus’ situation as a poet writing an iambus of his own in imitation of Hipponax. The poem is thus poised on the threshold between ‘text’ and ‘performance’, inviting us to explore the complex relationship between these two modes of experiencing iambic poetry, and lyric in general. In my paper, I propose to do just that, recruiting Callimachus as our guide in discovering the possibilities of performance and re-performance in relation to the choliambic sub-tradition represented by Hipponax. In particular, I will argue that Callimachus presents us with a model of poetic production that elides literary imitation, performance, and the imaginative ‘role-playing’ of past poets into a single, unified process.
The contribution will explore innovative ideas revolving around chorality, virtual chorality, aesthetics, rituality, eros, corporeity, and cognitive approaches in advancing a new understanding of Sappho’s songs. The philosophical work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and his phenomenology of the body will be the inspiration for this essay. New aesthetic and kinesthetic approaches have mostly focused on the perception of song, whereas I intend to move forward to the performative practice, the composition in performance, and its cognitive implications. The body conceived as moving or actually moving in space as the primary site of consciousness and knowing the world is thus intrinsically linked with the aspects of performance and occasion of a song. Although we always proceed from a literary, close reading of the deeper structure of the text as script, the specificity of Sappho, still based on an aural culture linked with orality, consists in performance or reperformance and context. The world and the human body as a perceiving and creative instance are intricately intertwined. In this concept the mutual production and perception of beauty is interactively connected with the occasion, the context inscribed in the ‘text’.
July 3, 2021
6:00pm – 8:40pm EET / 11:00am – 1:40pm EDT
Discussant: Lawrence Kowerski (CUNY Graduate Center)
This presentation offers friendly criticism of the views of classicists who use such terms as "text" and "reperformance" without fully taking into account various comparative perspectives that have for some time been made available by way of typological descriptions of "live" performance as observed and analyzed in a wide variety of ethnographical studies.
Πάλιν is, I think, a good example of a phenomenon that must have occurred (and that surely occurred, only we still have to single out the individual cases) in the passage from orally conceived texts to a written culture: a reinterpretation of the old “literary”, compositional devices. Some of the old devices no doubt disappeared, but some of them surely were reinterpreted and reused in the new context. Πάλιν is, I will surmise, one of the latter, which entails a deep reinterpretation of some old texts.
In this paper I will briefly summarize my views on the word πάλιν, as used by Parmenides. Then I will present, try to reinforce and partly reformulate some views on the palinode(s) of Stesichorus, relying for the most part on the already very strong arguments in favour of a single poem including the whole story (be it dramatized as in Sider 1989 or recounted as in Bowie 2010, who has given the strongest arguments in favour of a single poem). More precisely, I will attempt to show that one poem with two beginnings, in Bowie’s formulation for Stesichorus, corresponds to the detectable structure of Parmenides’ poem, which at some point goes back to the beginning and starts again in a different direction. In Parmenides the word πάλιν (28 B 11) describes this procedure. Then I will review a few uses of the word in other archaic texts, and finally I will contrast this with some later uses, including some reinterpretations of archaic texts, of which a prime example is Aristotle’s description of Parmenides’ approach as a recantation.
David Sider, “The Blinding of Stesichoros”, Hermes 117, 1989, 423-431.
Ewen Bowie, “Performing and Re-Performing Helen: Stesichorus’ Palinode”, in G.M. González de Tobia (ed.), Mito y performance : De Grecia a la modernidad. La Plata, UNLP. FAHCE. Centro de Estudios Helénicos, 2010, 385-408.
‘Imperishable fame’ for the honorand is the central promise of the Indo-European praise poet. This presupposes reperformance and/or a subsequent reading-audience. The former is indeed often anticipated in early Greek encomiastic poetry, notably in the victory odes of Pindar and Bacchylides, which tend to combine the intensely personal focus of their genre with a pan-Hellenic outlook. Concentrating on epinician, especially Pindar’s First Pythian Ode, this paper will examine the textual manifestations of this strategy in a wide-ranging and systematic way. It is argued that Pindar and Bacchylides prepared their compositions for reception by later audiences who were not necessarily aware of the poem’s original occasion and mode of performance and who often, presumably, would get to hear a memorable extract, such as a mythical or gnomic section, rather than the complete ode.
Epinicians are notoriously vague about the location of their première and even less specific about the ‘logistics’ of the performance (dance, costume, choral vs solo singing). An obvious explanation is that this information was not required by the primary audience, but the imprecision also helps to elide the difference between the first and subsequent performances. A case in point is the proem of Pythian 1 (1-12). The invocation of the lyre, ‘possession by equal right of Apollo and the ... Muses’ (1-2), is most appropriate for a choral presentation, accompanied by a kitharode; yet it is sufficiently generic to suit also a solo reperformance.
As to the ‘myth’, Hubbard (2004: 73) observed how in Olympian 9 the tale of the eponymous king of Locrian Opus is linked with Homeric epic in that Opus opens his city to foreigners, notably Menoetius, the father of Patroclus, whose deeds at Troy Pindar summarises (Ol. 9.61-79). This raises the local myth to pan-Hellenic status and makes it relevant to a wider audience. The latter was especially important, given that the mythical narratives lent themselves to separate circulation – witness the rich, and early, reception history of the Typhos-episode in Pythian 1. Epic allusions can also mitigate the epichoric bias of historical references. Thus in Pyth. 1.47-55 Pindar compares the martial achievements of the ageing and sick Hieron to those of Philoctetes who captured Troy despite his wounded foot. Ancient and modern scholars have debated which battle is meant here, but in a way this does not matter. The point is Hieron’s heroic defiance of his illness, and Pindar’s vagueness, together with the epic comparison, ensures that this is conveyed to changing audiences over time. Knowing the historical background enhances the experience of such passages (hence the frequent attempts of scholiasts to explain them), but is not required for basic understanding.
These are only some categories in which, and examples of how, the epinician poets attempted to make their odes fulfil the ambitious promise of ‘imperishable fame’. The ancient reception of individual poems and the survival of at least Pindar’s Epinicians via the mediaeval manuscript tradition (and as school-texts to boot) prove the enduring value of their approach.
Athanassaki, L. (2012) ‘Performance and Re-performance. The Siphnian Treasury Evoked (Pindar’s Pythian 6, Olympian 2 and Isthmian 2)’, in: Agócs, P., Carey, C. and Rawles, R. (eds.), Reading the Victory Ode (Cambridge), 134-57
Carey, C. (2007) ‘Pindar, Place, and Performance’, in: Hornblower, S. and Morgan, C. (eds.), Pindar’s Poetry, Patrons, and Festivals. From Archaic Greece to Roman Empire (Oxford), 199-210
Currie (2004) ‘Reperformance Scenarios for Pindar’s Odes’, in: Mackie, C. J. (ed.), Oral Performance and its Context (Leiden and Boston), 49-69
― (2017) ‘Festival, Symposium, and Epinician (Re)performance: The Case of Nemean 4 and Others’, in: Hunter, R. and Uhlig, A. (eds.), Imagining Reperformance in Ancient Culture (Cambridge), 187-208
Hadjimichael, Th. A (2019) The Emergence of the Lyric Canon (Oxford)
Hubbard, Th. K. (2004) ‘The Dissemination of Epinician Lyric. Pan-Hellenism, Reperformance, Written Texts’, in: Mackie, C. J. (ed.), Oral Performance and its Context (Leiden and Boston), 71-93
Irigoin, J. (1952) Histoire du texte de Pindare (Paris)
Morrison, A. D. (2007) Performances and Audiences in Pindar’s Sicilian Victory Odes (London)
― (2012) ‘Performance, Re-performance and Pindar’s Audiences’, in: Agócs, P., Carey, C. and Rawles, R. (eds.), Reading the Victory Ode (Cambridge), 111-33
Neumann-Hartmann, A. (2019) ‘Belege griechischer Historiker in den Pindar-Scholien und ihre Bedeutung für die Pindar-Exegese’, MH 76, 30-51
Phillips, T. (2016) Pindar’s Library. Performance Poetry and Material Texts (Oxford)
Rutherford, I. (2012) ‘On the Impossibility of Centaurs. The Reception of Pindar in the Roman Empire’, in: Agócs, P., Carey, C. and Rawles, R. (eds.), Receiving the Komos. Ancient and Modern Receptions of the Victory Ode (London), 93-104
Spelman, H. L. (2018) Pindar and the Poetics of Permanence (Oxford)
West, M. L. (2007) Indo-Eurpean Poetry and Myth (Oxford)
Discussant: Ettore Cingano (Università Ca' Foscari Venezia)
Greek lyricists were fascinated by the idea of repetition and recurrence. Erotic poets, in particular, constantly narrated episodes of love in a recurring iterative frame through repeated use of the adverb δηὖτε (Mace 1993), but this trope of iteration extended well beyond the erotic sphere to encompass sympotic revelery (Anacreon frr. 356a-b, 412), politics (Archilochus fr. 88, Anacreon fr. 401, Alcaeus fr. 6a), iambic abuse (Hipponax fr. 122), epinician praise (Ol. 2.89-90) and hymnic invocation (Sappho fr. 127). In this paper, I explore how this concern with repetition is informed by and resonates against archaic lyric’s status as both text and performance.
From the perspective of performance, the topos of recurrence plays with the potential repeatability of each poem. Every time a song is re-performed, it actualises the implications of δηὖτε: the contents of the song are renewed and repeated. Within the context of the symposium, this idea of recurrence is particularly potent, as the same themes, content and even poems could have been picked up and repeated by different symposiasts. By repeatedly using the tags αὖτε and δηὖτε, lyric poets foregrounded the reperformability of their own poems.
However, this same concern with (and same language of) iteration could also function on another level, marking lyric poetry’s intertextual repetition of other, previous texts. Epinician poets represent themselves as repeatedly returning to the same subject matter: in Isthmian 6, for example, Pindar explicitly marks his celebration of Phylacidas’ boys’ pancratium victory as a sequel to his previous poem for Phylacidas’ brother Pytheas, Nemean 5 (δεύτερον, 6.2; αὖτε, 6.5). And in this respect, epinician poets are far from alone: Stesichorus invokes the Muse ‘again’ in his Palinode, looking back to his Helen (αὖτε, fr. 90.8-9 Finglass), while even Sappho – I argue – exploits the motif of repetition in a pointedly intertextual manner (in fragments 1 and 22), foreshadowing by centuries the iterative play of Roman poets such as Ovid (e.g., en iterum scribo, Her. 20.35, cf. Callimachus’ Acontius and Cydippe).
After analyzing these and further examples, I conclude by considering how these two distinct modes of iteration – reperformance and intertextual repetition – cohere in the lyric consciousness. It is notable that both modes are articulated with the very same language (especially the adverbs αὖτε and δηὖτε), which suggests that archaic lyricists saw no hard and fast distinction between them. Rather, they were two different yet complementary ways of conceptualising the workings of lyric: reperformance and intertextuality both involve the repetition of words and ideas in a new context, be it in a new performative situation or in a new poem. In sum, the poetics of iteration bridge and blend the domains of text and performance.
Höschele, R. (2018) ‘Κραδίᾳ γνωστὸς ἔνεστι τύπος (Meleager, Anth. Pal. 5.212.4): Self-Reflexive Engagement with Lyric Topoi in Erotic Epigram’, Hellenistica Posnaniensia: Faces of Hellenistic Lyric. Aitia 8.1 (online).
LeVen, P.A. (2018) ‘Echo and the Invention of the Lyric Listener’, in F. Budelmann and T. Phillips (eds), Textual Events: Performance and the Lyric in Early Greece (Oxford) 213–33.
Mace, S.T. (1993) ‘Amour, Encore! The Development of δηὖτε in Archaic Lyric’, GRBS 34, 335– 64.
From the contexts of performance of the various forms of Greek melic poetry, back to the poetic texts as « literature »? The proposition is based on a double misunderstanding. First Ruth Finnegan in her seminal work on Oral Poetry (Cambridge 1977) has shown that for the use of writing in oral « literature » three moments have to be distinguished: the composition, the communication, and the transmission of the poem. Obviously, as far as Greek archaic poetry is concerned, the writing was used only for tradition of the song, then reduced to a text. Melic poetry is not « literature » in the proper meaning of the term. On the other hand, the musical performance of the poem implies not only a discursive and artistic complexity, but certainly also aesthetics, in relationship with its pragmatics. The opposition proposed being irrelevant, it is advisable to go back, once more, to the native categories; and that not only for our anthropological understanding of the semantics and pragmatics of the cultural manifestations of ancient Greece, but also with the aim to be critical towards our modern categories. In the particular case of melic poetry we have to be sensitive to the practical poetics inscribed in almost every song. At the example of Pindar's Nemean 7th we will try to show how the creative poetic power staged in the song in relationship with the narrative and subtle semantic development of the poem makes irrelevant, for Greek melic poetry, the modern concept of « literature ».
Ancient Greek popular songs are a heterogeneous group. (1) They vary in subject matter, tone and dialect. They, usually, have a different geographical origin and they are composed at a different date. It is extremely difficult to determine the exact conditions of their performance since these songs are believed to have been repeatedly sung by different performers at different performative settings within a large time range. Nonetheless, they are united by a common set of formal features that recur throughout the corpus. (2) One of these features is repetition.
It has been suggested that repetition frequently occurs in Greek popular songs either because it is a good mnemonic devise or because repetition is a characteristic of some types of these songs that have to do with ritual practices (e.g.,, mourning, incantations) who call for the repetition of some meaningful words, (3) or, in other, words, that repetition in ancient Greek popular songs is related to their composition and their oral character. Nonetheless, Nagy has long ago noted that repetition is not only a matter of composition but also a matter of performance. (4) What is more, he has argued that repetition is a matter of further reperformance. (5) Recently other contemporary scholars suggested that work songs could be repeated continuously to accompany a monotonous task, (6) that is, that the repetitions encountered in some of the ancient Greek popular songs can be related to the conditions of their performance.
I suggest that repetition in ancient Greek popular songs is related not only to their performance context, but also to the poetics of their performance. Through repetition and other textual strategies related to repetition (7), ancient Greek popular songs inscribe the poetics of their performance and their reperformance. Repetition is a sign that they were composed to be repeated and continuously reperformed in various settings. In addition to this, the repetition of this breve and simple compositions provides the illusion that the performance of an ancient Greek popular song can be continued ad infinitum. Their performers seem to be caught in a loop of eternal performance and reperformance in a separate time.
I focus on various types of extant ancient Greek popular songs (e.g.,, work songs such as 869 PMG, 849 PMG an ioulos song, 852 PMG an anthema, 871 PMG a ritual song) and, secondary, on the literary equivalents of ancient Greek popular songs (such as work songs encountered in Theocritus, literary lullabies, the ‘formal’ laments of Greek tragedy which may represent ritual lament). I also aim to examine whether repetition as a textual strategy works similarly in what is considered ‘canonical lyric’.
(1) As Rocconi remarks, carmina popularia, ancient Greek popular songs, ‘folk’ songs or any other term used to describe songs and musical events that have the specific function of accompanying and facilitating work-activities of various kinds should be taken as a purely conventional marker, since the clear distinction between high and low lyric genres did not exist in archaic and classical Greece. See Rocconi 2016: 339.
(2) See Budelmann 2018: 253.
(3) See Alexiou 1974: 64, 90, 175-176.
(4) See Nagy 2004: 139-140.
(5) See Nagy 2004: 140.
(6) See Karanika 2014: 150; Budelmann 2018: 262
(7) Such as antiphony and alliteration
Alexiou, M., The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition, Cambridge 1974.
Budelmann, F., Greek Lyric: A Selection. Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, Cambridge 2018.
Budelmann, F. and T. Phillips (eds.), Textual Events: Performance & the Lyric in Early Greece, New York 2018.
Eide, T., “Reformulated Repetitions in Homer”, Symbolae Osloenses 74 (1999) 97-139.
Hunter, R. and A. Uhlig, Imagining Reperformance in Ancient Culture, Oxford/New York 2017.
Karanika, A., Voices at Work: Women, Performance, and Labor in Ancient Greece, Baltimore 2014.
Kierkegaard, S., Fear and Trembling, Repetition, trsl. H. V. Hong and E. H. Hong, Princeton 1983.
Martin, R. P., The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance in the “Iliad”, Ithaca 1989.
Nagy, G., Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond, Cambridge 1996.
Nagy, G., ‘‘Poetics of Repetition in Homer’’, 139-148 in D. Yatromanolakis and P. Roilos (eds.), Greek Ritual Poetics, Cambridge, MA/Washington, DC 2004.
Rocconi, E., ‘‘Traces of Folk Music in Ancient Greek Drama’’, 339-351 in G. Colesanti and L. Lulli (eds.), Submerged Literature in Ancient Greek Culture, Berlin/Boston 2016.
July 4, 2021
6:00pm – 9:15pm EET / 11:00am – 2:15pm EDT
Discussant: Maria Xanthou (Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, Princeton University & University of Bristol)
In this paper I propose to explore the role of performance assumptions in the perception of early Greek poetic genres, through the examination of Timocreon fr. 727 (ap. Plutarch, Them. 21).
The generic affiliation of the 5th cent. BCE poet Timocreon of Rhodes has been controversial since antiquity. Indeed, he was described as a lyric poet who wrote slanderous iamboi (Schol. Oxon. to Aelius Aristides Or. 3.612), a comedy writer but also a writer of a psogos in lyric metre (Suda s.v.) as well as of skolia (Schol. Ar. Ach. 532). Similarly, and possibly not unrelatedly, the genre to which Timocreon’s longest extant poem belongs has been a matter of polemics. At first the question arose whether the song was choral or monodic: while the personal tone recalls solo-song, the poem displays Doric features, dactylo-epitrite rhythm and a triadic structure mostly associated with choral lyric. In order to distance the song from choral performance Bowra (1934) went as far as to restore the poem to “the monostrophic state proper to a skolion.” From the 1980s on a new wave of criticism has been focusing in the poem’s “mixing of genres”. Indeed, whereas the opening priamel and much of the diction may be considered lyric, the abusive content as well as references to food, money and the breach of hospitality have been linked to the traditions of paroidia and iambos. These features have led scholars to describe the poem as an anti-encomium (Scodel 1983, Gentili 1984, Palumbo Stracca 2011), perhaps a mocking imitation of Simonides’ epinicians, in the tradition of lyric invective (Scodel 1983, Lennartz 2010). Crucial to the latest criticism of the poem was the “performance turn”, a paradigm change affecting our understanding of poetic genres and personae loquentes. For instance, in symposiastic settings (Scodel 1983, Stehle 1994), audiences could perceive some details in Timocreon’s criticism of Themistocles, perhaps even his medizing persona, as fictional (Robertson 1980, contra McMullin 2001), or understand sexual jokes in performance and re-performance (Stehle 1994). Through the close examination of Timocreon fr. 727 and the history of its scholarship I propose to identify the different roles of both text- and performance-oriented criticism in understanding the poem and the genre to which it belongs, while trying to think about what may be coming next.
Bowra, C.M. 1934. ‘Timocreon’s Skolion on Themistocles’, Hermes 69, 350-2.
Robertson, N. 1980. ‘Timocreon and Themistocles’, AJPh 101, 61-78.
Scodel, R. 1983. ‘Timocreon’s Encomium of Aristides’, ClAnt 2, 102-7.
Stehle, E.M. 1994. ‘Could Meats: Timocreon on Themistocles’, AJPh 115, 507-24.
Lennartz, K. 2010. Iambos.
McMullin, R.M. 2001. ‘Aspects of Medizing: Themistocles, Simonides, and Timocreon of Rhodes’, CJ 97, 55-67.
Gentili, B. 1984. Poesia e pubblico nella Grecia antica.
Palumbo Stracca, M.B. 2011. ‘Timocreonte contro Temistocle: i canti dell’odio (PMG 727-729)’, QUCC 97, 11-36.
This paper focuses on archaic lyric texts in order to determine what they can offer our understanding of choral performances. The investigation concentrates on the chorus-leader in particular and aims to reanimate this figure in what we can reconstruct of the earliest texts intended for choral performance and their subsequent reperformance. Ultimately, this analysis looks backward to choral references in epic hexameter and then forward to classical drama as it sheds light on the continuous tradition of choral leading in Greece.
It has long been recognized that ancient Greece was a song-dance culture rooted in a tradition of choral performance (see e.g., Herington 1985, Bacon 1994/5, Rutherford 2001). The earliest extant texts intended for choruses are the seventh-century partheneia of Alcman, of paramount importance to this paper. However, mentions of group song and dance abound in even earlier literature—the hexameters of Homer, Hesiod, and the Homeric Hymns feature a plethora of references to choral activity, thoroughly illustrated by Nicholas Richardson (2011). His focus was not specifically on the leader of these groups, though many passages therein testify to the significance of this position. Thus, as this paper seeks to delineate the terminology surrounding the chorus-leader, it starts out with ἐξάρχω, the favorite verb of epic for chorus-leading.
Interestingly, this is the same verb used by our earliest extant lyric poet, Archilochus, who uses it for setting off a paean (F.121.W) and a dithyramb (F.120.W). This latter attestation is especially intriguing since Aristotle reports that tragedy originated ἀπὸ τῶν ἐξαρχόντων τὸν διθύραμβον (Poet.1449a). Aristotle also informs us that the dramatic chorus-leader onstage is called the κορυφαῖος (Pol.1277a). Yet Alcman introduces a new term; the chorus-leader of his first partheneion is a χοραγός (PMG.1.44). Her name, Hagesichora, appears to be that of a stock character, as is Agido, the generic name of her lead attendant. Elsewhere, Alcman also presents a male χοραγός, with the similarly conventional cardinal name Agesidamos (PMG.10b.11). Moreover, later in the first partheneion Hagesichora is called χοροστάτις (PMG.1.84).
Although χοροστάτις is a hapax, it has been shown to correspond with the phrase χορὸν ἱστάναι, ‘to set up a chorus,’ and also the compound formation στησίχορος, the same name of the canonical lyric poet Stesichoros (Nagy 1990:361-2). An epigram attributed to Simonides or Bacchylides has an aulos-player ἐχορήγησεν a chorus of Graces (13.28). But, the verbal distinctions between epic, archaic lyric, and drama are not as set as thus far presented. Pindar urges his citizens ἐξάρχετε the victory procession with sweet-singing voice (Nem.2.25). And ἐξάρχω, standard choice of epic, appears also in a number of dramatic texts (e.g., Eur.Tro.147, Bacch.141a). The same goes for χοραγός and χορὸν ἱστάναι, which appear variously in drama (Soph.Ant.1147, Eur.Hel.1454, Ar.Nub.271, Av.220).
It is this generic crossover of terminology that has spurred the present study, which endeavors to use these pathways to better understand the diachronic developments of choral leading, so fundamental to Greek performance, and to more vividly envision the chorus-leader in action in both the lyrics of Alcman and the odes onstage.
Alexiou, Margaret. The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition. Revised by Dimitrios Yatromanolakis and Panagiotis Roilos. 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.
Bacon, Helen H. “The Chorus in Greek Life and Drama.” Arion 3.1 (1994/5): 6-24.
Bowie, Ewen. “Alcman’s first Partheneion and the song the Sirens sang,” in Archaic and Classical Choral Song: Performance, Politics and Dissemination, eds. Lucia Athanassaki and Ewen Bowie. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011: 33-65.
Budelmann, Felix. Greek Lyric: A Selection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Burnett, Anne P. The Art of Bacchylides. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985.
Calame, Claude. Les choeurs de jeunes filles en Grèce archaïque I: Morphologie, fonction religieuse et sociale. Rome: Edizioni dell' Ateneo & Bizarri, 1977.
Calame, Claude, trans. Derek Collins and Janice Orion. Choruses of Young Women in Ancient Greece: Their Morphology, Religious Role, and Social Functions. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001.
Finglass, Patrick J. “Dancing with Stesichorus,” in Choreutika: Performing and Theorising Dance in Ancient Greece, ed. Laura Gianvittorio. Pisa: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2017: 67- 89.
Furley, William D., and Jan Maarten Bremer. Greek Hymns. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001.
Henrichs, Albert. “‘Why Should I Dance?’: Choral Self-Referentiality in Greek Tragedy.” Arion 3.1 (1994/5), 56-111.
Herington, C. John. Poetry into Drama: Early Tragedy and the Greek Poetic Tradition. Vol. 49. Sather Classical Lectures. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
Naerebout, Frederick G. “Moving in Unison: The Greek Chorus in Performance,” in Choreutika: Performing and Theorising Dance in Ancient Greece, ed. Laura Gianvittorio. Pisa: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2017: 39-66.
Nagy, Gregory. Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.
Nagy, Gregory. Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Richardson, Nicholas. “Reflections of choral song in early hexameter poetry,” in Archaic and Classical Choral Song: Performance, Politics and Dissemination, eds. Lucia Athanassaki and Ewen Bowie. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011: 15-32.
Rutherford, Ian. Pindar's Paeans: A Reading of the Fragments with a Survey of the Genre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Too, Yun Lee. “Alcman's Partheneion: The Maidens Dance the City. Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 56.2 (1997): 7-29.
Webster, T.B.L. The Greek Chorus. London: Methuen, 1970.
Since its discovery on a papyrus by A. Mariette (Ρ. Louvre Ε 3320, called also “Papyrus Mariette”) in 1955 and its publication firstly eight years later by E. Egger (1), Alcman’s Louvre (or First, or Great) Partheneion doesn’t stop rising questions and stimulate new researches (2). It depends, I guess, from such a particular nature of a document that rises at least three kinds of problems:
- as a fragmentary text, the problem of restoring what is missing in the document that contains it;
- as a poetic composition, the problem of defining its place in Greek poetic tradition – in terms both of “heritage from” and of “contribution to” it – particularly with regard to the features of Greek poetic technique;
- as a song conceived primarily to be performed in a specific occasion, the problem of understanding as many peculiar features of the context as possible.
Each scholar dealing with Alcman’s Louvre Partheneion has contributed to the solution of one of these problems, corresponding to his specialized competence, but it’s clear that at the core there is their interdependence, as precisely a case like Louvre Partheneion shows – as we find in it not only hints to the girls’ activity but actual deictic elements to the occasion of its performance (3).
From these premises, my paper aims to focus on some specific textual cases at the origin of a lasting debate among scholars and show how, in many cases, it is precisely the difficulty of conciliating these three levels to arrive to a global (textual, aesthetical, performative) perspective of enquiry that impedes giving some solid answers. In particular, my paper will discuss on the following problems:
- how many deities are involved? If ὀρθρίαι (v. 61) is an epiclesis, does it designate the same deity as Aotis (v. 87) or two different deities are involved? In both cases, the allusions to the present of the girl’s activity has to be intended as linked to the moment of this specific performance or to different phases of their education?
- Who/what are the Πεληάδες (v. 60)?
- How many local features of Spartan poetry could be retrieved by clarifying contextual elements from Alcman’s text?
At the end of its enquiry, my paper aims to show how the nature of “lyric” poems like this by Alcman prevents from separating textual/allocutive aspects from contextual/performative ones, as the primal function of the coexistence of these different levels was to carry and spread shared costumes and knowledges among the communities to which these compositions were addressed, also through its more literary and aesthetic aspects and effects.
(1) É. Egger, Un fragment inédit du poëte Alcman, in Mémoires d’histoire ancienne et de philologie, Paris 1863, pp. 159-175.
(2) More recently, see Tsantsanoglou 2012, or Schironi, MD 76 (2016) 33-52. A new revised French edition of Claude Calame’s Les Choeurs des Jeunes Filles en Grèce ancienne is also imminent.
(3) See e. g. Calame 2005 pp. 14-17 and also the issue n. 37.3 (2004) – “The Poetics of Deixis in Alcman, Pindar, and Other Lyric” – of the journal Arethusa.
Discussant: Jenny Strauss Clay (University of Virginia)
Since 2000, the Scuola Normale Superiore and the University of Pisa have been working together in the Sanctuary of Punta Stilo (ancient Kaulonia), under the auspices of the local Soprintendenza. During these excavations, an inscribed bronze tablet was found in an archaeological context that cannot be later than 470 BC. This Tabula Cauloniensis (cf. Bull.Ép. 2017, 682) consists of 18 lines written in the local Achaean script and dealing mainly with the dedication of a statue of Zeus by Pythokritos son of Euxenos. While the text’s length is already uncommon for such an early date, the fact that 16 of its lines consist of dactylic verses – including both a hexametric sequences closed by a pentameter (lines 3-9) and elegiac couplets (lines 10-13) – make it an exceptional document for the study of ancient poetry.
After a short introduction by the two editors about this new text and its interpretative and editorial problems, Emilio Rosamilia will focus on line 7. According to a plausible restoration this line can be read as follows: «and he (scil. Pythokritos) dedicated songs to the Muses as a tithe from his hands»(κ̣αὶ Μṓσαις ἀ̣ο<ιδ>ὰς δεκάταν χε̄ρο͂ν ἀνέθε̄κε). He will then proceed to discuss whether the odai mentioned in the text coincide with the document itself or the document commemorates a different public performance previously sponsored by the dedicator and how this influences our understanding of the epigraphic text and its fruition.
In addition, the same editor will deal with two passages where the poet’s cultural background comes into the foreground. The extreme similarity existing between lines 10-11 of this new document and a famous Spartan dedication from Olympia (CEG I 367) attests to the author’s knowledge about poetic models outside epic. More interestingly, in line 4 a typically non-local and non-epic form hέλλαθι (cf. Hom. ἵληθι) can be read. The presence in the Tabula Cauloniensis of this extremely rare Aeolic form from a non-psilotic area (e.g., Boeotia) calls for a discussion about how a (supposedly) Southern Italian poet came into contact with it a mere ten years after the Persian Wars.
In the second half of the presentation, Carmine Ampolo will focus on the importance of charis and Charites from a historical and performative point of view in the Tabula Cauloniensis. Many passages of this new document underline the importance of charis both for its aesthetic value and in creating a relation of reciprocity between the dedicator and the gods. Carmine Ampolo will contextualize these uses of charis thanks to parallels from dedicatory epigrams and lyric authors, while also elaborating on the importance of performance in order to consolidate this relation between gods and men. He will then proceed with a close analysis of the importance of charis between men and the role of Charites (mentioned in line 13) in granting balance and reciprocal understanding within the civic community.
The place of Greek lyric poetry and song in the culture and society of Roman Egypt is little known. This paper gathers the documentary and material evidence for performed Greek song in Roman Egypt, establishing which performance contexts existed, what kinds of pieces may have been sung there, and who may have been their poets and performers.
The circumstantial evidence ranges from documentary papyri like contracts with artists (e.g., P.Oxy. X 1275), documents pertaining to poetic competitions (e.g., P.Oxy. III 519) and festivals (e.g., P.Oslo III 189 verso), and tax exemptions for victorious artists (e.g., P.Oxy XXII 2338), to ostraka with notes about private entertainments (O.Medin.Madi 73), and inscriptions celebrating successful lyric poets (e.g., Ashmolean Museum AN 1930.26). The material allows us to infer at least the following contexts in which Greek song was at times performed:
- Festivals (religious or not)
- Local, institutional games (e.g., ephebic)
- Regional and panhellenic Games (i.e. sacred, eiselastic Games)
- Informal contexts
- Private feasts
- Place of work
The next question that we may ask is what was sung on such occasions. We have evidence that classics were reperformed (as emerges from e.g., P.Oxy. LXXIX 5203), but there was also an ongoing production of lyric song. We have little evidence of the songs that would have been part of daily life, as is the nature of such pieces (though consider P.Oxy. XI 1383), but there are some remains of agonistic and festival songs. D’Alessio 2017 adduces P.Oxy. LXXIX 5191 and the hymn to Tyche (P.Berol. inv. 9734), papyri with lyric verses written out in long cola, and hypothesises that the lay-out of the pieces may have been be to aid in performance. To his set we may add P.Oxy. XXXIX 2879 and P.Vindob. Gr. 29819, which I will discuss in the paper.
Even more difficult than finding out where Greek song was performed is the question who were the performers. Schubart wrote ‘Sänger und Sängerinnen finden wir überall’ (Einführung (1918) p. 389), but in fact we hear of many more flautists, castanet players, and dancers, than vocalists. Nonetheless, some named poets do emerge from the fragments, such as Apion, the well-known scholar whose poetic prowess has now been demonstrated by P.Oxy. LXXIX 5202, and Canopus the citharode of P.Oxy. LXXIV 5013.
We cannot assume continuity of form or content throughout the Roman period, nor is the evidence geographically representative for all of Egypt, so the image that emerges is undoubtedly skewed and incomplete. Nonetheless, for an attempt to establish how and where at least Greek song was performed in Roman Egypt, the evidence gathered is of use. If indeed there were singers everywhere, these are the scant traces they left behind.
Round table discussion
8:30-9:15 Lucia Athanassaki (University of Crete), Tim Power (Rutgers University), Gregory Nagy (Harvard University, CHS), Richard Martin (Stanford University, CHS US & Greece), Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi (Stanford University), and Ewen Bowie (University of Oxford).