II.1 Introduction

§1. Homer and Pindar [1] represent the earliest and most important poetic genres of Archaic and Classical Greece: epic and lyric. Similar to drama, epic and lyric performance was social, interactive, and often ritual. There was a rhythm to Homeric epic and a melody to Pindaric song that is lost to us, which can at best be approximated with the aid of meter. Although we cannot reconstruct the performance, we must constantly keep it in mind as we consider the text. Unlike drama, however, the epic and lyric performer form the single source of their discourse, which means that their role is closer to that of the author in historiography. Part II examines the role of particles in Homer and Pindar, highlighting relations between language and those aspects of the performance context that are not typically taken into account. The corpus used for analysis consists of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Pindar’s Victory Odes. [2]
§2. For Homer, this approach is exemplified by the work of Nagy, Bakker, Kahane, and Minchin. [3] Homeric discourse “was a matter of speech and voice, and of the consciousness of the performer and his audience.” [4] An important implication of this approach is that it is not essential to know when the Iliad and the Odyssey were written down, nor to what time exactly different parts of the texts can be traced back. It is unlikely that the Iliad was ever performed in Archaic or Classical Greece in exactly its current form (e.g. the edition in West 1999), or even in the form given in any of our manuscripts. Nonetheless, the language with all its layers, complexities, and inconsistencies, as we find it in the manuscripts and editions, adequately reflects the language that may have been used in composition-in-performance. There are undoubtedly different diachronic layers in Homeric language, but the differences in particle use that emerge (at least within the Iliad and the Odyssey respectively) may equally well reflect synchronic multifunctionality. In short, the written texts represent the words of a potential unique performance, and the language can be analyzed accordingly.
§3. As for Pindar, the many facets of his lyric language have been illuminated especially by the work of Bundy, Mackie, Bonifazi, and Wells: [5]
“It is necessary to think away the boundaries of the material text and to see each victory song as an emergent communicative event in order to grasp that at the moment of performance the composer would have been in the process of demonstrating his artistic skill and vying for a positive evaluation of his work from the audience.”
Wells 2009:141
Unlike Homeric epic, the texts of Pindar’s lyric do not reflect composition-in-performance, but they were still composed for performance: Pindar composed them with an occasion, a performer, and an audience in mind. [6]
§4. Both Pindar and the Homeric performer constantly operate on a set of assumptions about the knowledge shared between him and the audience, and always intend their communication to be successful. [7] However, the fact that the performances of Homeric epic and Pindar’s lyric were communicative events does not entail any limitations on their potential literary artfulness. [8]
§5. The on-line interaction between performer and audience is foundational: issues of internal and external narrators and of implicit or ideal hearers or readers all derive from this situation. [9] Likewise, the question of the historical “ego” in Pindar’s individual odes, though important, is not central in this study. [10] In both the epic and lyric corpora, the performer (a singer or rhapsode for Homer, a singer or chorus for Pindar) will have been the natural referent for the first person singular or plural, barring explicit information to the contrary, such as in direct speech. Even in direct speech, moreover, the performer is the speaker, and at that moment embodies the “I”. For these reasons, I will speak of “performer” and “audience” throughout. [11]

1.1 Starting points

§6. Particle use in Homer and Pindar is an infinitely large topic, and no study can address it in all its aspects. Numerous articles, essays, and even monographs have been devoted to single particles like γάρ, δή, and τε, [12] and issues surrounding δέ, μέν, and ἄρα in Homer have vexed commentators from the scholiasts onward. In the following chapters, I explore four aspects of Homeric and Pindaric language that come to the fore when we regard the texts as elements of a performance. If we can come to a better understanding of these larger topics, it will illuminate a number of old and new questions surrounding particle use in Homer and Pindar.
§7. Consider this passage from the Iliad:
ἀτὰρ μεγάθυμοι Ἐπειοὶ
ἀμφέσταν δὴ ἄστυ διαρραῖσαι μεμαῶτες·
Iliad 11.732-733
But the great-hearted Epeians
were marshalled about the city, eager to raze it utterly. [Translation Murray]
If we follow the translation given by Murray, it appears that δή is in fifth position in a sentence (ἀτάρ … μεμαῶτες), and moreover the particle remains untranslated. This position does not fit well with what we know about postpositive particles like δή. In fact, the position and force of δή here cannot be explained sufficiently if one regards the sentence or clause as the main domain of analysis. As an alternative to classic explanations, in chapter II.2 “Discourse Acts” we discuss ways to segment discourse at the subsentential level, and re-examine the function of particles in this new light.
§8. Now compare the following use of γάρ in Pindar (see II.3 §§74-75):
θεῶν δ’ ἐφετμαῖς Ἰξίονα φαντὶ ταῦτα βροτοῖς
λέγειν ἐν πτερόεντι τροχῷ
παντᾷ κυλινδόμενον·
τὸν εὐεργέταν ἀγαναῖς ἀμοιβαῖς ἐποιχομένους τίνεσθαι.

ἔμαθε δὲ σαφές. εὐμενέσσι γὰρ παρὰ Κρονίδαις
γλυκὺν ἑλὼν βίοτον, μακρὸν οὐχ ὑπέμεινεν ὄλβον.
Pindar, Pythian 2.21-26
By the orders of the gods, they tell that Ixion says the following to mortals,
on his feathered wheel,
spinning in all directions:
to go to one’s benefactor and pay him back with good deeds.

And he learned it clearly. Indeed, among the kind children of Kronos,
having obtained a sweet life, he did not endure his bliss for long.
The relation between the γάρ clause and the one that precedes it cannot be construed as causal. Ixion did not learn his lesson “because” he had a sweet life among the gods, nor “because” he could not endure his bliss. Rather, he was punished “because” he made advances on Hera, and this causal link is expressed by ὅτ(ι) in line 27. The link marked by γάρ is a different one, and it does not concern a relation between two adjacent clauses, but between one clause (ἔμαθε δὲ σαφές) and the following narrative (25-34). Commentaries do not address these subdivisions of the discourse above the clause or sentence level, and translations cannot easily render it. The problem of γάρ can be better understood if we examine more closely the segmentation of discourse above the sentence level: this is the topic of II.3 “Moves.”
§9. The Homeric simile is of course very familiar to the reader of epic; here is a typical example (see II.4 §31):
ὥς τε λέοντα,
ὅς ῥά τε βεβρωκὼς βοὸς ἔρχεται ἀγραύλοιο·
πᾶν δ’ ἄρα οἱ στῆθός τε παρήϊά τ’ ἀμφοτέρωθεν
αἱματόεντα πέλει, δεινὸς δ’ εἰς ὦπα ἰδέσθαι·
ὣς Ὀδυσεὺς πεπάλακτο πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ὕπερθεν.
Odyssey 22.402-406
Just like a lion,
which, having fed, comes from an ox in the field,
completely then his breast and both his paws
are bloody, and terrible for the eyes to see.
Just so Odysseus was bespattered, his feet and his hands above.
Odysseus is compared to a lion covered in blood, and in the language we find two instances of so-called “epic” τε, in lines 402 (ὥς τε) and 403 (ὅς ῥά τε), along with two instances of “copulative” τε in line 404 (στῆθός τε παρήϊά τ’). “Epic” τε is most commonly described as denoting a habitual action, a permanent fact, or a temporary fact. On the one hand, this broad description deserves elaboration, and on the other one might ask what makes the τε in lines 402 and 403 different from the two in line 404. The Homeric and Pindaric material in fact suggests that these instances represent two aspects of the same τε, a particle that reflects an ongoing negotiation with tradition. Chapter II.4 “Discourse Memory” explores this constant interaction between current discourse and knowledge shared between performer and audience.
§10. Finally, this occurrence of δ᾽ ἄρα in Pindar deserves closer attention (see II.5 §52):
θάνεν μὲν αὐτὸς ἥρως Ἀτρεΐδας
ἵκων χρόνῳ κλυταῖς ἐν Ἀμύκλαις,

μάντιν τ’ ὄλεσσε κόραν, ἐπεὶ ἀμφ’ Ἑλένᾳ πυρωθέντας
Τρώων ἔλυσε δόμους ἁβρότατος. ὁ δ’ ἄρα γέροντα ξένον
Στροφίον ἐξίκετο, νέα κεφαλά, Παρνασσοῦ πόδα ναίοντ’·
Pindar, Pythian 11.31-35
He himself died, the hero son of Atreus [Agamemnon],
arriving in time in renowned Amyklai,

and he brought death on the seer girl, after over Helen he had despoiled
the burnt down houses of the Trojans of their luxury. So HE [sc. Orestes], the young boy,
went to his aged host, Strophius, living at the foot of Parnassus.
The particle ἄρα has confused classicists and linguists for centuries, in Homer more than in Pindar, but one thing that is clear here is that it cannot mark an inference or conclusion from the preceding. It does not mean: Agamemnon died, “and because of that” Orestes went to Strophius. In fact, when Agamemnon is murdered, Orestes is saved by Arsinoe, and later he goes to Strophius: there is no direct temporal or causal connection between the two events, so (δ᾽) ἄρα must do something different. An understanding of the cognitive underpinnings of anaphoric reference combined with particles will provide better tools to deal with examples like this one, and this topic is elaborated in II.5 “Particles and Anaphoric Reference.”

Sneak preview

§11. The first half of part II considers particles as clues to the articulation of discourse, both below and above the sentence level. In scholarship on Homer and Pindar, the existence of syntactically multiform units below the sentence level, which we call “discourse acts,” and suprasentential units, “moves,” has never been linked systematically to particle use. Chapter II.2 introduces the discourse act, ranging from phrases to full clauses or sentences, as the primary frame of reference for the function of particles. This approach illuminates the use of δέ in Homer (and beyond), and it allows us to better describe the projecting function of μέν. A discourse also consists of larger units of fluctuating size, which we call moves, consisting of acts that cohere for different reasons. Chapter II.3 investigates the occurrence of particles at boundaries between such units, considering first the use of καὶ γάρ and ἤδη at the beginning of embedded stories. Within Pindaric narratives, the functions of δέ and ἄρα receive particular attention. Finally, a new analysis of δή in Homer demonstrates that part of the particle’s function is the segmentation of narrative discourse.
§12. The second half of part II is concerned with how performer and audience co-create and access a mental representation of the discourse. Having established that γάρ can introduce moves such as an embedded narrative, chapter II.4 further explores the kinds of discourse transitions at which γάρ occurs. It turns out that in Homer and Pindar γάρ is perhaps the most important marker of a new move that is different in nature from—but strongly associated with—the preceding move. Just like γάρ, τε and ἄρα are often involved in managing and accessing the knowledge shared between performer and audience. Chapter II.5 then focuses on shared discourse: what tools does the performer use to guide his audience? Particles such as γε and δή, and combinations such as (δ᾽) ἄρα collaborate with anaphoric reference to help the hearer draw the right inferences, and understand where the discourse is going.
§13. The progression of Homeric and Pindaric discourse is linear, since it is bound to its realization in time. The tools of the Homeric performer differ from Pindar’s, but both performers shape their discourse in order to accommodate this reality. A factor that permeates both epic and lyric discourse is that of projection, pointing forward to ease the audience’s comprehension. Both in Homer and Pindar we find syntactically incomplete, short units (“priming acts”) that presage the subject of the upcoming part of discourse. Despite the obvious differences between epic and lyric, particle use is also often comparable. For example, δέ and ἄρα play an important role in narrative discourse, in both genres, while τε can be much better understood if the different ranges of use in Homer and Pindar are taken into account.
§14. Particles in Homer and Pindar differ in frequency as well as usage. First of all, particles are much more frequent in Homer than in Pindar, both individually and as a group, except τε, which abounds in Pindar. [13] Second, Homer employs particles like ἄρα and δή in a wider range of co-texts than Pindar. Third, Homeric discourse shows a clear distinction in particle use between direct speech and narrator text; no such discourse-bound patterns occur in Pindar. There are many more small differences in particle use between Homer and Pindar, some of which will be discussed in the upcoming chapters, and they may be the result of generic differences, diachronic development, or even idiosyncracies. The following chapters show that it is productive to juxtapose epic and lyric language: the different performance contexts help illuminate the many aspects of particle use in Homer and Pindar.
Table 1: Particle frequencies in Homer and Pindar [14]
  Iliad   Odyssey   Pindar
  Narrator text Direct speech Narrator text Direct speech  
δέ 50,5 23 53 21 24,7
τε 15,4 13,4 13,3 13 13,4
καί 14,3 23 17,4 20,9 16,9
ἄρα 10,7 2,9 11,9 1,5 0,8
μέν 5,9 6,8 6,6 5 5,4
γάρ 3,2 7,6 2,7 7,9 4,9
ἀλλά 2,8 7,3 4,2 8 3,5
γε 2,7 6,4 2,9 6,5 0,8
αὐτάρ 1,9 1,1 5,9 2 0
δή 1,7 5,1 3,8 4,7 0,5


[ back ] 1. Regardless of authorship, I use Homer and Pindar as metonyms for “Homeric epic” and “Pindar’s song” throughout.
[ back ] 2. In editions given in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae Online unless noted otherwise: Allen 1931 for the Iliad, Von der Mühll 1946 for the Odyssey, and Snell/Maehler 1971 for the Victory Odes. Translations are my own, except for those cases where I adduce an existing translation to demonstrate a point. [ back ] Although in principle the entire corpus is considered in the analyses, the statistical analysis of particle use in narrator text and direct speech covers four books of the Iliad (4, 5, 6, and 17) and four books of the Odyssey (9, 10, 17, and 18), which amounts to 4917 lines, containing 6259 particles.
[ back ] 3. See Nagy 1979, 1990, and 1995, Martin 1989, Kahane 1994, Bakker 1997 and 2005, and Minchin 2001. Consider also Martin 1997:141, “...[epic] performers enact what audiences want, using all the poetic and musical resources at their disposal.”
[ back ] 4. Bakker 1997:1.
[ back ] 5. See Bundy 1962, Mackie 2003, Bonifazi 2001, 2004a, 2004b, 2004c, and Wells 2009.
[ back ] 6. See also Wells 2009:30-36 on the interactive nature of Pindaric song: we happen to have the written libretto of a song composed with only performance in mind.
[ back ] 7. See Bundy 1962:35 quoted in chapter 3 §68.
[ back ] 8. See e.g. Kahane 1994:143.
[ back ] 9. For the movement of perspectives between narrators and characters in the Iliad and Odyssey, see especially the work of De Jong 2001 and 20042.
[ back ] 10. The discussion of the “I” in Pindaric lyric is complex and ongoing, and it is typically linked to the question of who performed the Odes, see e.g. Davies 1988, Heath 1988, Lefkowitz 1988, 1991 and 1995, and Carey 1991.
[ back ] 11. For the sake of convenience I do speak of “narrator text” to distinguish it from “direct speech.”
[ back ] 12. Consider e.g. Misener 1904 on γάρ, Thomas 1894 on δή and ἤδη in Homer, and Ruijgh 1971 on “τε épique.”
[ back ] 13. Particles make up around 17.1% of words in the Iliad, 18% of words in the Odyssey, and 12.7% of words in Pindar.
[ back ] 14. For Homer they are the result of a statistical analysis of δέ, γάρ, δή, μέν, τε, καί, ἄρα, ἦ, ἤ, ἀλλά, τοι, γε, αὖ, αὖτε, αὐτάρ, ἄταρ, νυ, ἄν/κε, περ, πω, που, πῃ, πως, ἠδέ, ἠμέν, οὖν, μάν, οὐδέ, οὔτε, μήδε, μήτε in four books of the Iliad (4, 5, 6, and 17) and four books of the Odyssey (9, 10 {the stretches where Odysseus is narrator have been analyzed as narrator text}, 17, and 18), which amounts to 4917 lines, containing 6259 particles. For Pindar, I have analyzed the Victory Odes; the table lists only the most frequent particles.