The Center for Hellenic Studies

Deixis and Everyday Expressions in Alcaeus frs. 129 V and 130b V

Lowell Edmunds
When this paper was composed, in 2005, and delivered, on a September day, in Molyvos (ancient Methymna), I could not have guessed its ultimate destination—this Festschrift—and its dedicatee—my friend Gregory Nagy. The many references to Greg’s work to be found here did not begin, then, as honorific. They reflected a habit of thinking about archaic Greek poetry in ways learned from him. This habit goes back only twenty-nine years, not the forty-seven years that I have known Greg. In the summer of 1983, he taught a NEH seminar on Theognis in which it was my good fortune to participate. So began an already opsimathic conversion in my research from the signified to the signifier. The second of the terms referred, I saw, not only to the linguistic sign but to its deployment in the circumstances of performance. This birthday tribute to Greg continues that line of research in two fragments of Alcaeus.
No matter what the role of writing in the composition and ultimate transmission of Alcaeus frs. 129 and 130b, most would agree that performance was their primary mode of communication. [1] Most would agree, also, that the occasion of performance was the symposium. [2] The poet, or whoever performed a song for him, directly addressed his comrades. [3] Alcaeus’ was a poetry of the here and now. His themes were love, politics, and the symposium itself. [4] To express these themes, in traditional meters and a traditional Kunstsprache, his poetry used particular ways of orienting itself to the present. Most obviously, it named contemporary persons, like Pittacus and Myrtilus. This paper will discuss two other examples of this orientation to the present, deixis and everyday expressions.

Deixis [5]

In John Lyons’ words, deixis refers to “the function of personal and demonstrative pronouns, of tense and a variety of other grammatical and lexical features which relate utterances to the spatio-temporal co-ordinates of the act of utterance.” [6] In other words, deixis has to do with the context-dependent side of language, as distinguished from semantics and syntax. As such, it seems to hold promise for the investigation of a body of poems, namely those of Alcaeus (and the same is true of Sappho and others), which often employ deictic words in their opening lines and elsewhere. The three kinds of deixis to be discussed here are, in grammatical terms: personal pronouns, tense, and demonstratives.
As for personal pronouns, “I” and “you” are deictic; the third person is not. [7] The first- and second-person pronouns are a fundamental means of grammaticalizing and lexicalizing what Lyons called “the canonical situation of utterance,” which is the “one-one, or one-many, signaling in the phonic medium along the vocal-auditory channel, with all the participants present in the same actual situation able to see one another and to perceive the associated non-vocal paralinguistic features of their utterances … .” [8] The canonical situation almost sounds like the symposium.
As for tense, the canonical situation is a temporal zero-point. [9] The speaker locates the time of other states or events, past or future, in relation to the time of his or her speech. In Greek, the present tense grammaticalizes the zero-point, and, as in other languages, it is the deictic tense par excellence. In writings on deixis, one finds it said that tense is deictic, aspect is not deictic. [10] In Greek, however, the perfect tense, which we are taught is purely aspectual, can, I will suggest, have deictic force.
Greek and Latin both have a three-way system of demonstratives (Figure 1). First of all, these demonstratives can point to something inside the text or to something outside the text. In Sappho and Alcaeus, more often they point to something inside the text, something that has just been said or to a thought that has just been expressed. In this use, they are called anaphoric. All of the demonstratives in the chart (Figure 1), with the exception of ἐκεῖνος, can be used in this way. They can also refer ahead to something about to be said: so they are also cataphoric. In this intra-textual dimension, demonstratives in Sappho and Alcaeus can serve as means of linking strophes and thus as a means of giving structure to a poetic composition. [11]
But sometimes demonstratives in Sappho and Alcaeus are pointing outside the text, as in the poems to be discussed in this paper. When ὅδε or οὗτος points outside the text, then one is faced with a decision. Is the demonstrative pointing to something which the poet and his audience can really see, or is it pointing to something that the poet is in effect inviting his audience to imagine? These two kinds of deixis were called, in Karl Bühler’s foundational work on this subject, deixis ad oculos and deixis am Phantasma. [12] I shall refer to “ocular deixis” and “imaginary deixis.”
As for ocular deixis, the deictic word sufficed. The audience could see what the poet was pointing to. Even in the case of imaginary deixis, the poet could count on his audience’s recognition of the referent. When Alcaeus says “these birds” (fr. 345.1), even if he and his companions are inside a building, they imagine real birds outside. These birds are imaginary-imaginable. [13] When one is discussing archaic Greek lyric, one has to think of ocular and imaginary deixis as capable of having the same real referent.
It is therefore necessary to be clear about the distinction between imaginary and fictive. In current discussion amongst classicists, there is a tendency to conflate the two and thus to weaken the interpretive usefulness of deixis. As the work of Wolfgang Rösler and others has shown, the concept of “fiction” is unknown to archaic Greek poetry. Challenges to traditional poetry (e.g., from Xenophanes or Heraclitus) look not to its fictionality but to its falsehood, and likewise Hesiod’s Muses’ acknowledge that they can offer “lies like the truth,” they do not acknowledge that they invent. If fiction entails invention on the part of the author and engaged reading on the part of a reader, then something that could be called fiction—or at least the conditions of possibility for fiction—does not appear in Greece until at least the time of Aristotle. [14] To state the matter in Andrew Ford’s terms, what is lacking in archaic and classical Greece is “a sense of fiction as a story or poem that, though not true, provides a special form of knowledge or a uniquely valuable experience.” [15]
There is also a tendency on the part of classicists to forget that, when, in the history of reception, the referents of real deixis, ocular or imaginary, are lost, their status changes. Listeners and readers remote in time and place can no longer see, or understand, what the poet is pointing to. Then the referents become, in effect, fictional, even if they were not fictive, on the poet’s part, in the first place. [16] At this point, it becomes possible to read an archaic poem as a fiction, and the imaginary, no longer oriented toward the imaginable within a performance context, interacts with the fictional along the lines of Wolfgang Iser’s The Fictive and the Imaginary. [17] Fiction provokes the imaginary, and, in this way and only in this way, activates itself in the world for the purposes which Iser’s anthropology of fiction describes. Classical scholarship provides striking examples of a Sappho-become-fiction who has provoked the imaginary in a scholar-reader and has thus crossed the historical distance between Sappho’s time and now.
The possibilities can be summed up in this way:
1. Real deixis
a. Ocular
b. Imaginary-imaginable
2. Fictive deixis
a. Originally fictive
b. Fictive by attrition
Keeping in mind the strictures on fiction proposed above, one will want to resist thinking of Gregory Nagy’s “generic I” or “re-enacting I” as fictional (he did not think of it thus) and will instead think of it as lying on a continuum with Wolfgang Rösler’s “historical-functional I.” [18] Nagy has, in effect, formulated this notion of a continuum when he says: “Yes, there may have been a real-life Alcaeus, and his real-life circumstances may indeed be a starting-point that generates a distinctive Alcaic tradition. But with each occasion in which Alcaeus becomes re-enacted in performance for ‘his’ hetaireia at a symposium, he is moved one occasion farther away from the ostensibly prototypical situation.” [19] The linguistics of deixis happens to provide terms for a precise description of the change in the first person which takes place along this continuum.
Émile Benveniste in his seminal article on pronouns distinguished between “instance of discourse of ‘I’ as referring and instance of discourse of ‘I’ as referred to.” [20] Likewise, Roman Jakobson put the first person pronoun in the category of deictic words that have a “simultaneous, double reference to the code and to the message.” [21] Applying this distinction to the poems of Alcaeus, one would identify the “instance of ‘I’ as referring,” or the “I” of the code, as the performer on the present occasion, as perceived by the audience or addressee(s). At the beginning, this “I” was Alcaeus himself. At this stage, furthermore, the “instance of discourse of ‘I’ as referred to,” or the “I” of the message, was also Alcaeus. [22] In the course of time, however, with re-performance of his poems, a gap between the two “I’s” opens up. [23] The real-life Alcaeus, the “I” referred to, has faded into a generic (to use Nagy’s term) figure.
Perhaps the real Alcaeus was already contributing to the construction of this generic figure when, for example, he spoke of throwing away his shield in the same terms as Archilochus did. [24] In any case, in re-performance the “I” of the code is no longer perceived as Alcaeus but as someone who impersonates him. [25] This performer or re-enactor is the agent of change, the one who opens the gap between the two “I’s.” Even if he thinks that he is repeating Alcaeus exactly, he introduces changes. [26] The poem we ultimately read is the performance that happened, at some point, to be committed to writing. It is hardly the immediate self-expression of the historical Alcaeus. This conclusion is negative for those who want to use the poems of Alcaeus as historical documents, but not entirely negative. These poems certainly preserve details from the life and times of Alcaeus. Above, I used the example of the names of contemporary persons, like Pittacus. One can add places and events (e.g. fr. 350).
The following readings of frs. 129 and 130b focus on the deictic elements in these poems. It will be suggested that these elements have a structuring function and, further, that the poems so structured are coordinated with the here and now of performance. It will be further suggested that various everyday expressions have the same function as deixis in the grounding of the poem in the present.
Fr. 129
[   ].ρά.α τόδε Λέσβιο⌞ι 
...]....εὔ⌞δει⌟λον τέμενο⌞ς μέγα
ξῦ⌟νον κά[τε]⌞σσα⌟ν ἐν δὲ βώ⌞μοις
4 ἀθανάτων ⌞μακά⌟ρων ἔθη⌞καν

κἀ⌟πωνύ⌞μασσα⌟ν ἀντί⌞αον⌞ Δ⌞ία⌟
σὲ δ' Α⌟ἰολήιαν ⌞[κ]υδα⌟λίμα⌞ν θ⌟έον
π⌞ά⌟ντων γενέθλαν, τὸν δὲ ⌞τέρ⌟το⌞ν
8 τόνδε κεμήλιον ⌞ὠ⌟ν⌞ύμα⌟σσ[α]ν

Ζόννυσσον ὠμήσ⌞ταν. ἄ[γ⌟ι]τ̣' εὔνοον
θῦμον σκέθοντε⌞ς ἀμμετ⌟έρα[ς] ἄρας
ἀκούσατ', ἐκ δὲ τῶ⌞ν̣[δ]ε̣ μ̣ό̣⌟χ̣θ̣ων
12 ἀργαλέας τε φύγας ῤ[ύεσθε·

τὸν ῎Υρραον δὲ πα[ῖδ]α ⌞πεδελθ⌟έ̣τ̣ω̣
κήνων Ἐ[ρίννυ]ς ὤς πο⌞τ' ἀπώμ⌟νυμεν
τόμοντες ἄ..[ ´ .]ν̣.⌞ν̣⌟
16 μηδάμα μηδ' ἔνα τὼν ἐταίρων

ἀλλ' ἢ θάνοντες γᾶν ἐπιέμμενοι
κείσεσθ' ὐπ' ἄνδρων οἲ τότ' ἐπικ..ην
ἤπειτα κακκτάνοντες αὔτοις
20 δᾶμον ὐπὲξ ἀχέων ῤύεσθαι.

κήνων ὀ φύσγων οὐ διελέξατο
πρὸς θῦμον ἀλλὰ βραϊδίως πόσιν
ἔ]μβαις ἐπ' ὀρκίοισι δάπτει
24 τὰν πόλιν ἄμμι δέ̣δ̣[.]..[.].ί.αις

οὐ κὰν νόμον [.]ον̣..[  ]´̣[ ]
γλαύκας ἀ[.]..[.]..[
26 Μύρσιλ̣[ο
(The poem continued for another stanza.)
… this the Lesbians
… a great temenos, far-seen,
established as the common one, and therein altars
of the blessed gods they put

and they named Zeus God of Suppliants
and you (they named) the Aeolian, Glorious Goddess,
Mother of all, and the third,
this one, [27] they named Kemēlios, [28]

Dionysus, Eater of Raw Flesh. Come, with well-disposed
spirit to our prayer
pay heed, and from these toils
and from terrible exile rescue [29] us.

The son of Hyrrhas (i.e., Pittacus) let
the Erinys of those men pursue, as once we swore
cutting …
never not any of our companions

but either dead and clothed in earth
to lie, at the hands of men who at that time …
or else having killed them
to rescue the people from their woes.

Of those men, Pot-Belly took no thought,
as regards their spirit, [30] but casually
having trod upon the oaths he devours
our city …

not according to law …
grey …
written (?) …
Myrsilus … .
Fr. 129.1, probably the first line of the poem, uses the proximal demonstrative of a temenos. The demonstrative implicitly announces the “canonical situation.” The poet, in pointing to “this temenos,” presupposes an addressee or addressees, who will in fact soon begin to emerge. At the same time, the temenos is the object of a verb in the aorist: the Lesbians established this temenos. One can, then, distinguish between two simultaneous perspectives: the perspective of the present situation, of the here and now, and the historical perspective in which “this temenos” is a thing built in the past. [31] One dimension is deictic; the other is semantic.
Further, the demonstrative in the first line shows that the poem is not a hymn. This demonstrative adjective occurs in the introduction of neither the cult hymn nor the rhapsodic hymn. [32] We can judge from the beginnings of several hymns in the fragments of Alcaeus. [33] The cult hymn of the so-called kletic kind may, of course, have a demonstrative adverb, because the speaker is summoning the god to come hither, but it does not have a demonstrative adjective. [34] On Alcaeus fr. 129.1, one has to disagree with a whole row of interpreters. I will return to this matter apropos of the address to Hera in line 6.
Is the opening demonstrative a matter of ocular deixis, with Alcaeus situated in or near this temenos and addressing persons who could see it? Was he, for an example, in some temporary shelter, an asylum, which the band of exiles had erected? [35] Or is it imaginary deixis, intending to invoke the temenos in the mind of an audience physically remote from it? It is difficult to decide between these alternatives, although one is drawn to the former. For the re-use of this poem, in other times and other places, the deixis is per force imaginary, at first imaginary and accurately imaginable (by Lesbians and others who had visited the temenos, probably at modern Messa, which is shown in Figure 2), then, with the passage of time, less accurately imaginable, and ultimately a matter of scholarly debate. [36]
In any case, with reference to deixis, it is possible clearly to delineate two distinct situations, one in the present involving Alcaeus and his addressees, the other in the past involving the Lesbians and the temenos. Alcaeus proceeds to identify three altars and to give the epithets of the gods to whom the altars are dedicated (3–9). First, the altar of Zeus, whom the Lesbians called god of suppliants. Second, they called “you the Aeolian, glorious goddess, mother of all.” “You” is Hera. [37] “And the third, this one, they named Kemēlios, Dionysus, eater of raw flesh.” Hutchinson well observed on the deictic τόνδε (8), which is applied to Dionysus, that “It suggests a quasi-dramatic reference to a statue.” [38] As with τόδε in the first line of the fragment, Alcaeus is pointing to something that his addressees can see or can see in the mind’s eye. He is still speaking to his comrades. Hutchinson is quite right, then, that τόνδε (8) “makes no sense as literal communication by the singer … to Hera,” for whom this information is either unnecessary or of no concern.
Looking back at the address to Hera in the second-person singular two lines earlier (6), one sees that it must in fact be in the nature of an aside. To use Lyon’s terms, it is a “one-one” moment within a “one-many” “vocal-auditory channel.” For this reason alone, i.e., the clearly demarcated subordination of the second-person address to the situation that obtains between poet and comrades, I do not think that the poem can have begun with an invocation of Hera, although scholars, from Carlo Gallavotti to Wolfgang Rösler, have believed that it so began. [39] If it had so begun, then, as with Rösler, one would have to think of the opening strophes as in the style of the cult hymn. But, as I have said, the first demonstrative, in the first line of the fragment, already by itself rules out the possibility of a cult hymn. This demonstrative never occurs at the beginning of such hymns. The poem under discussion contains a prayer or curse, but, as a whole, it is not a prayer or a hymn.
Hutchinson also says that τόνδε (8), if correct, “makes no sense as literal communication by the singer … to comrades,” but it makes as much sense as the same deictic in the first line of the fragment. Alcaeus is not simply identifying objects the identity of which his addressees already well know but stressing the Lesbians’ building of the temenos and their consecration of the altars. In this way, Alcaeus can express the irony that he and his comrades find themselves outcasts in a temenos that, as common ground (ξῦνον 3), stands for the Lesbians as a people, even for all the Aeolians. [40] This is a bitter irony for Alcaeus and his comrades because, according to their ideology, they are the party of the whole, while Pittacus is one-sidedly overturning the city (fr. 141). They are fighting to save Mytilene from tyranny (fr. 74; cf. 152; 348 [the gutless city made Pittacus tyrant]). [41]
In this way, then, the description of the temenos builds up to the petition that bursts out asyndetically in the first line of the third strophe and to the curse that follows. Alcaeus now speaks explicitly for the band as a whole, using the first personal plural adjective (cf. first person plurals in lines 14, 24). The petition includes the same proximal deictic, this time referring to the sufferings of Alcaeus and his band. [42] By contrast, at the beginning of the next strophe, as the curse begins, the object of that curse appears, a third person, non-deictic by definition, and in the next line the poet goes off into a narrative of Pittacus’ betrayal of the revolution (14). This excursus begins with the phrase κήνων ᾿Ε[ρίννυ]ς, which I take to mean the “Erinys of those” who lost their lives because of Pittacus’ treachery. [43] The interpretation of κήνων, which is, after all, a semantic problem, lies outside the scope of this paper, but it can be observed in passing that in a total of twenty certain attestations, singular and plural, in archaic poetry and Pindar, the Erinyes are always attached to gods or persons. [44] In two of the nineteen places, the Erinyes are specifically associated with oaths (Hesiod Works and Days 803; Iliad XIX 259), but there is no such thing as the Erinys of an oath. [45] In short, the caesura after ᾿Ε[ρίννυ]ς tends to make the phrase κήνων ᾿Ε[ρίννυ]ς a unit of sense, [46] and what appears to be the normal usage of ᾿Ε[ρίννυ]ς predisposes one to take the genitive as masculine. The deictic κήνων here indicates what might be called the ultimate distal position, i.e., death.
The dead return, so to speak, anaphorically at the beginning of strophe six, again in line-initial position, and after asyndeton—in other words, as emphatically as possible. It looks as if the canonical situation is reinvoked at the end of this strophe with the first person plural pronoun, and one tends to think, especially if one imagines the poem in performance at or near the temenos, that Alcaeus came back to the here and now at the end of the poem. [47] So the poem would have an A-B-A structure: proximal-distal-proximal.
Fr. 130b [48]
ἀγνοι̣σ̣..σ̣βιότοις..ις ὀ τάλαις ἔγω 
ζώω μοῖραν ἔχων ἀγροϊωτίκαν
ἰμέρρων ἀγόρας ἄκουσαι
4 καρ̣υ̣[ζο]μένας ὦγεσιλαΐδα

καὶ β̣[ό]λ̣λ̣ας· τὰ πάτηρ καὶ πάτερος πάτηρ
κα..[.].ηρας ἔχοντες πεδὰ τωνδέων
τὼν [ἀ]λλαλοκάκων πολίτ̣αν
8 ἔ.[..ἀ]πὺ τούτων ἀπελήλαμαι

φεύγων ἐσχατίαισ', ὠς δ' Ὀνυμακλέης
ὠ̣θά[ν]ά̣ος ἐοίκησα λυκαιμίαις
φεύγων τ⌞ον⌟ [π]ό̣λεμον· στάσιν γὰρ
12 πρὸς κρ.[....].οὐκ ἄμεινον ὀννέλην·

.].[...].[..]. μακάρων ἐς τέμ[ε]νος θέων
ἐοι̣[.....].ε̣[.]αίνας ἐπίβαις χθόνος
χλι.[.].[.].[.]ν̣ συνόδοισί μ' αὔταις
16 οἴκημι κ[ά]κων ἔκτος ἔχων πόδας,

ὄππαι Λ[εσβί]αδες κριννόμεναι φύαν
πώλεντ' ἐλκεσίπεπλοι, περὶ δὲ βρέμει
ἄχω θεσπεσία γυναίκων
20 ἴρα[ς ὀ]λολύγας ἐνιαυσίας

      ].[´̣].[.].ἀπ̣ὺ πόλλ̣ω̣ν .ότα δὴ θέοι
].[ ´]σ̣κ̣...ν Ὀλ̣ύ̣μ̣πιοι
24 .ν̣α̣[ ]...μ̣εν.
(The poem ends.)
Undefiled in life, wretch that I am,
I live with a rustic's lot,
longing to hear the agora
announced, Agesilaïdas,

and the council. That which my father and father’s father
grew old in possession of amongst these
mutually harming citizens,
from this I am driven away,

an exile in the border-land, and like Onomacles
the Athenian I settled in, “Wolf-Battle,” [49]
fleeing the war. For, as for strife,
against … is it not better to be rid (of it)? [50]

… into a precinct of the blessed gods
I … , having trod on the black earth.
… myself meetings themselves
I dwell keeping my feet out of trouble, [51]

where the Lesbian women, when they are judged for beauty,
go, they of trailing robes, and round about rings
the divinely-sounding peal of women’s
yearly sacred cry.

… from many (troubles) when (will) the gods
(free me?) ...
In fr. 130b, the poet establishes the canonical situation in the first stanza—first person singular in the first line and the vocative in the fourth. [52] As in the case of fr. 129, one has no way of deciding between ocular and imaginary deixis. The possibilities for what I will call primary deixis, i.e., deixis in the context of an actual performance or recitation of this poem on the island of Lesbos in the lifetime of Alcaeus, are as follows:
  1. Ocular deixis. Alcaeus addressed a certain Agesilaïdas who was present at a symposium or on some other occasion at which this poem was first delivered.
  2. A mixture of ocular deixis with imaginary deixis. Two possibilities:

    The real Alcaeus addressed an imaginary Agesilaïdas at a symposium or other occasion at which this poem was first delivered. As commentators have observed, Agesilaïdas does not have any role in the rest of the poem. On this interpretation, then, Agesilaïdas was there in the poem only as a way of establishing a particular ethos for the poem, the ethos that presumably was immediately apparent in meter and melody. [53]

    This poem, as Rösler argued, was an epistle, which was recited before the hetaireia in the absence of Alcaeus and addressed to Agesilaïdas. [54] Under these circumstances, he and the others present had to imagine Alcaeus as the speaker, while the addressee, Agesilaïdas, was visible. [55]
  3. Completely imaginary deixis. This poem was not necessarily an epistle but a performance piece performed on some occasion or other by someone or other. Alcaeus was imaginary, as said. Agesilaïdas was also imaginary, simply the persona of the comrade, with which any auditor could identify. On this view, the situation evoked here as present could even have been in the past. On this interpretation, the deixis approaches fiction. [56]
  4. Other. Of course one could continue the list of possibilities. For example, Agesilaïdas as the performer of the poem.
In passing, I would like to point out that the papyrus (P. Oxy. 2165) that has the two poems under discussion does not refer to Alcaeus. There are also two other poems on the same papyrus, one of them certainly on exile. The two poems I am discussing are both referring to the same temenos. It seems likely that an Alexandrian scholar has brought these four poems together because they all have to do with the same circumstances. [57] One would like to know more about the anthologizing impulse of this scholar or, if he was only following his source, of those who earlier preserved and transmitted the poems of Alcaeus. In Theognis, the presence of sympotic chains is quite certain— sequences that reflect the symposiasts’ taking turns in the recitation of poems. [58] Could the four poems in P. Oxy. 2165 constitute such a chain—four, probably competitive, responses to the same experience of exile? If I am right, then one of the poems at the most would be by Alcaeus and the other three would be anonymous. [59]
To continue with the deictic reading of the poem, after the vis-à-vis of the opening strophe, the poet proceeds with a second description of his situation. The word with which he begins, asyndetically, is τά (5). In terms of descriptive grammar, τά is the demonstrative used as a relative pronoun. [60] On this explanation, τά must refer forward to τούτων so that there is asyndeton, “both explanatory and angry,” as Hutchinson said. [61] That is, the sentence beginning with τά explains why the speaker finds himself in the position of longing to hear the assembly and the council announced. τούτων is anaphoric, referring backward to τά.
But let us start again and imagine a performance in which the audience already knows something about the speaker’s situation. Under these circumstances, τά will retain demonstrative force, even if it has the grammatical function just mentioned. Lyons said that one ought to think, in general, of anaphora as referring not “to its antecedent but rather … to the referent of the antecedent expression with which it is correlated.” [62] The referent here will be something for imaginary deixis (i.e., imaginary-imaginable, not fictive). [63] I have elsewhere discussed other examples of the emphatic, emotional demonstrative τό, referring to several places in Sappho (frs. 16.17, 31.5, 132.3), to Alcaeus (fr. 140.14), Archilochus (fr. 196a.15 W2), and a cluster of examples in a passage of the Iliad (XVIII 78–85). [64] In most of these examples, as at Sappho fr. 31.5, the demonstrative follows asyndeton. My view is that in these situations the demonstrative, even if one wants to insist on the grammatical item “demonstrative / relative,” has emphatic and sometimes even emotional value.
The sentence I am discussing also contains the proximal demonstrative τωνδέων, “these (τωνδέων) mutually destructive citizens.” It is clearly imaginary deixis. The poet speaks of the Mytileneans as if they were present. τωνδέων, which stands in a close relation of syntax and sense with τά, reinforces and heightens its deictic force. We have a kind of imaginary deictic over-determination of the place from which the poet has been driven away.
The hic et nunc are reestablished in the third strophe, where even the historical or autobiographical background, expressed in the aorist, is linked at the outset to the proximal adverb ἐνθάδε. “I settled here.” This perspective is maintained in the first person pronoun and first person singular verb toward the end of the fourth strophe. Then, with the relative adverb at the beginning of the fifth, the canonical situation goes into the background as a contrasting scene is invoked, the annual festival of Lesbian women. [65] In the sixth and perhaps concluding strophe, with the invocation of the gods, presumably the same gods as the ones named at the end of line 13, the poet returns to the opening situation. So, as in fr. 129, one has an A-B-A structure. One can compare the apparently similar structure of fr. 226, [66] and, for that matter, of the Homeric Hymns. [67] In all these cases, I take it that the structure, in particular the concluding return to the present, is a reflex of performance.
Verb tense suggests the same structure. As Lyons said, tense is deictic. The zero-point of this poem could not be more clearly established—ζώω in line two, the present participles, the perfect tenses of the second strophe, and the present participle with which the third strophe begins. The perfect tenses in the second strophe work together, like the imaginary deictics in this poem that I have discussed. The perfect tense in the subordinate clause has the effect of bringing the absent property or possessions or rights before the minds’ eye. Then the poet shifts for a moment (9–11) to a non-deictic self-description in the aorist tense. [68] One might however want to argue that the aorists here are of the kind called “concentrative” or “momentary” and in fact belong as much to the zero-point as the present and perfect tenses. [69] In any case, if a present tense can be assumed to be lurking in line 12, one has returned to the zero-point of the canonical situation, and one is certainly at that point with the present οἴκημμι (16). [70] This zero-point is maintained through to the end, if indeed strophe six is the end. The present tenses describing the Lesbian women are of course different. They are generalizing or to use Wackernagel’s term “visionary.” [71] But this strophe on the Lesbian women is grammatically subordinate to the preceding strophe, and, in terms of deixis, it is a picture that is evoked for the present enunciative situation. “I live where such and such happens.” [72] To sum up on verb tense in this fragment, like spatial deixis, it suggests an A-B-A structure, proximal-distal-proximal.

Synkrisis of frs. 129 and 130B

Both poems have then have the same A-B-A structure, both are equally tied deictically to a particular situation, the exile of the poet. Further, the deictic framework established at the outset never changes in either poem. Within this framework, changes of perspective occur. These changes in the fragments of Alcaeus that I have discussed do not entail a change of the poet’s stance as represented in the poem but are in fact coordinated, very clearly, with that stance. [73]
Within an over-all similarity of structure, however, the proximal positions are defined very differently in the two poems. In fr. 129, the second person whom the poet addresses is the glorious goddess; in fr. 130b, it is Agesilaïdas. In fr. 129, the poet never uses the first person singular but he does use the first person plural. In fr. 130b, the poet uses the first person singular from the outset and never the first person plural. In fr. 129, the temenos, which the two poems have in common, is the focus of the deixis; in fr. 130b, the temenos is non-deictic.

Everyday expressions

The immediacy of extra-textual deixis could be regarded as a feature of style complementary, in the case of Alcaeus, to the quality referred to by Dionysius of Halicarnassus when he said that “If one took away the meter, one would find political rhetoric (ῥητορεία).” [74] Dionysius’ statement implies something about the level of Alcaeus’ diction to which the scholiast on fr. 204.2 (κὰ]τ ἐπίλλ̣ογ̣[ον) may provide a clue. He observed that Alcaeus was using an “everyday” expression (λέξις ἡ ἐν τῆι ζωῆ̣[ι). Such expressions in fact occur several times in frs. 129 and 130b. These poems also contain words otherwise attested only for iambic and/or elegy and not for Homer or other lyric, choral or monodic.
For the following survey of words of this kind, the relevant heading (C.) and categories in Anne Broger’s Das Epitheton bei Sappho und Alkaios are:
C. Nicht auf Homer (und Hesiod) zurückführbare Epitheta und adjektivische Wortverbindungen.
1. Alte Tradition.
2. Wörter des Alltags und der Umgangssprache.
3. Neubildungen. [75]
I have also given a reference to Helena Rodríguez Somolinos’ El léxico de los poetas lesbios, whenever she has commented on the word I am discussing.
Fr. 129
9 εὔνοον: Not in epic, though there are other -νοος compounds. Not elsewhere in lyric. Hipponax [81].6 D3; Theognis 641 W2. Common in Attic (Thucydides 2.35.2, etc.), including inscriptions. The epithet has a political ring. Broger 1996:186 puts this word in the category of “auf Homer … zurückführbare Epitheta und adjektivische Wortverbindungen” (284), i.e., in a category different from the ones just cited, but it is necessary to distinguish between “referable to Homer” and “derived from Homer.” The two elements of the word are, of course, in Homer; their combination in Alcaeus produces a new word (whether or not coined by Alcaeus) belonging to contemporary politics (cf. on 129.12, 25; 130.3–5, 9, 20 below). For Alcaeus’ own free use of Homer, consider his rather drastic remaking of a Homeric formula at fr. 129.21–22. Rodríguez Somolinos 1998: 233 puts this word in the category of the religious, but it is not generally religious. Here, as applied to the gods, it seems to look to the gods’ support of a specifically political project.
12 ἀργαλέας: Broger 1996:295 (C.2) puts in the category of everyday speech. It occurs often in epic and also elegy, but turns up only once in the index to Page, PMG, for Anacreon 50.10. It was colloquial in Attic: see Dover 1968:157–58 on Aristophanes Clouds 450.
12 φύγας: Hutchinson 2001:199: “poets do not often use the noun in this sense before the fifth century (Theognis 209=332b; not Bacchylides or Pindar).” Add Sappho fr. 98b8.
21 ὀ φύσγων: cf. IG IV.322:
on a Corinthian pinax of the mid-sixth c. B.C.E. This pinax belongs to the group of votives dedicated by members of the pottery industry. [76] The names are probably labels for the two figures, a man and a youth, who appear on the pinax, i.e., the dedicators (Wachter 2001:142, 348). See Figure 3 (from Pernice 1897:30). Notice that, in the drawing, Phusgōn does not have a pot-belly. The appearance of the name on the pinax makes it unlikely that Alcaeus invented the epithet for Pittacus (contrary to Hamm 1957:84, the standard opinion). Unless one wants to argue that this Corinthian potter heard of Alcaeus’ epithet for Pittacus and decided to adopt it, one has to assume either (1) that the potter or one of his comrades independently invented Phusgōn or (2), what seems to me more likely, that it already had a fairly widespread existence. One has to wonder, if the potter adopted the name for himself, how opprobrious it really was. The suffix -ων, to quote Meillet-Vendryes, furnished “nouns designating beings provided with a certain quality” (Meillet and Vendryes 1969:411–12). There is nothing pejorative in the suffix itself. Did the Athenian called “Platōn” feel shame every time he heard his name? “Phusgōn” may be one of those nicknames that can be either affectionate or opprobrious depending on the circumstances. Compare “Jellybelly,” the nickname of a cooper who worked in the cooperage of the Jameson Distillery, Dublin, Ireland (his name appears in a list on a sign in the cooperage). If his fellow-coopers called him “Jellybelly,” how opprobrious was the name? Probably it became less affectionate and more opprobrious if an enemy used it. The stylistic level of the name Phusgōn, in any case, is obviously lower than that of the patronymic “son of Hyrrhas” (13), but not obviously lower than the level of iambic, a kind of style that, as we will see, these poems admit (see on 22–23 and on fr. 130b.7 below). Phusgōn happens to be an item in a list, in Diogenes Laertius 1.81, of seven opprobrious epithets and nicknames used of Pittacus by Alcaeus (fr. 429 = Pittacus Test. 3 Gentili-Prato; cf. Davies 1985:34). These items can be presumed to come from poems of Alcaeus (unless one believes that Diogenes Laertius or his source has access to some biographical tradition independent of the poems). The list is thus strong evidence of the heterogeneity of Alcaeus’ diction and its lack of anything like “decorum.” [77] Cf. Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:242–46, an extensive discussion under the heading “Valoración ética, insultos.”
21 Hutchinson 2001: 203: The sentence “sounds extremely casual.”
22 βραϊδίως: only here in Sappho and Alcaeus. The adjective or adverb is Homeric and elegiac (eleven times) but not melic. The form is Aeolic. [78] Cf. ῤῆα elsewhere (Alcaeus fr. 34.7). It occurs also in Carmina popularia 848.16 PMG (Rhodian), and it also belongs to standard Attic. When Alcaeus uses it here (cf. on 22–23 below), it may be standard spoken Aeolic.
22–23 πόσιν / ἔ]μβαις ἐπ’ ὀρκίοισι: a common image but in diction closest to iambic: Hipponax fr. *115.15 W2 = Archilochus fr. 79a.13 D3 λ[ά]ξ δ’ ἐπ’ ὁρκίοις ἔβη. To judge by Homer Iliad IV 157 and Soph. fr. 683.3, the higher register word for the act of treading is πατεῖσθαι (Sophocles) or πατεῖν (Homer ) or even higher καταστείβειν (Sappho fr. 105b.2: πόσσι καταστείβοισι).
My observations on lines 22 and 22–23 substantiate Hutchinson’s comment, quoted above, on the sentence in which they occur (“extremely casual”).
25 κὰν νόμον: not in Homer. Once in Pindar: Olympian 8.78, referring to prescribed or customary sacrifices; cf. Hesiod Theogony 417. Not elsewhere in lyric in this sense. In elegy and iambic (in the sense of laws or customs) only Theognis 54 (accusative plural); 290 (dative plural). For nomos in a constitutional sense in this phrase: Thucydides 2.46.1 (Funeral Oration): εἴρηται καὶ ἐμοὶ λόγῳ κατὰ τὸν νόμον; 5.66.3 (on Agis as commander-in-chief at Mantineia in 418 B.C.E.): ῎Αγιδος τοῦ βασιλέως ἕκαστα ἐξηγουμένου κατὰ τὸν νόμον. Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:48.
Fr. 130b
2 ἀγροϊωτίκαν: Hamm 1957:73: “Only a single word [in Sappho and Alcaeus] shows the incipient broadening of [the ending] -ικος” and that is Alcaeus fr. 130b.2. Cf. Homer Odyssey xxi 85 etc. ἀγροιώτης; Sappho 57.1 ἀγροΐωτις. Cf. Broger 1996:189;297 (C.3); Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:133. We are on the way to the situation denounced by the rejuvenated Demos in Aristophanes Knights, the situation in which the young men sitting around the agora use a plethora of adjectives in -ικος to describe an admired speaker (1375–81). [79]
3–5 ἀγόρας … β̣[ό]λ̣λας: These two words can be used in a roughly synonymous sense in Homer. βουλή and ἀγορά in the same context: Iliad II 51–53 (a prior boulē of the old men in particular is convened). The same person is a “council-bearer” and a “speaker in the assembly” (Iliad VII 126; cf. Odyssey ix 112). But only in Odyssey iii 127 do these two words occur in a parallel construction (prepositional phrases). Cf. Hooker 1977:42 citing Mastrelli 1954:XXXIII for “alive and spontaneous” remaking of Homer (i.e., Odyssey ii 7, iii 127), or one could say that the two words are here resemanticized to refer to particular local institutions. So again political diction. (The election of Pittacus [fr. 348] presumably took place in one of these assemblies.)
7 πολίταν: cf. πολιάτας Alcaeus frs. 33d.7, 39a.6. Hamm 1957:64 (§134c.3) on the latter: it is epic. Cf. Bowie 1981:105: Ionism (but with caution). πολιήτης Theognis 219 but πολίτης Archilochus 109.1 (tetrameter); Theognis 455; Mimnermus 7.1. The affiliations of the form of the word in Alcaeus are elegiac and iambic.
7 ἀ̣λλαλοκάκων: Broger 1996:189–90 cites -κακος (Sappho; Hesiod) and ἀλληλο- compounds (Pindar; Aeschylus; Aristotle). Cf. Hutchinson 2001:181 on Sappho 96.7–8, where it goes under the heading “loose combination of nouns.” [80] (Here he says “related comment [i.e. by Alcaeus] is found 70.12, 348.2.”) Broger 1996:297 (C.3); Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:152–53. Compare certain compounds in Aristophanes which, from a strictly formal point of view, might be poetic but, in their context, are neither poetic nor parodistic of poetry but mock-solemn and vituperative, e.g. Wasps 88 φιληλιαστής (Xanthias of Philokleon); 592 ἀσπιδαποβλής (Philokleon of Kleonymos, in anapests). Cf. Rodríguez Somolinos 1994:26–27 on the category of pejorative Alcaic words to which the word here under discussion belongs. Compare the compounds in the list at Diogenes Laertius 1.81.
8 ἀ̣πὺ … ἀπελήλαμαι: Repetition of preverb is prosaic. Smyth 1386;1654. Gauthier Liberman observed, at the conference from which this article emerges, that the repetition gives emphasis. Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:234.
9 ἐσχατίαισ’: Cf. fr. 328. Singular occurs in epic and Pindar. For the plural only parallel in lyric is Pindar Isthmian 6.12, where it is metaphoric. (At Corinna 692 fr. 6.2 the number is uncertain.) In tragedy plural occurs at Sophocles Philoctetes 144. Lloyd-Jones and Wilson 1990:182 translate “in a remote place,” citing, i.a., Robert 1960:304–5 (= 1969:820–21) and Page 1955:204. Page here gives a full explanation, from which it is clear, i.a., that the participle φεύγων means “being in exile.” But could the meaning be more specific than in the translation I quoted? Cf. Androtion FrGH 324 F 30  Philochorus FrGH 328 F 155, where the word (plural) refers to “edgeland” adjoining sacred land. Cf. Rhodes and Osborne 2003:277–78 and also LSJ9 s.v. 2 “border of a country … also, borders, frontier land,” citing Hdt. 6.127 (τῆς Αἰτωλίδος); and abs. Herodotus 3.115.1, 116.3; Xenophon Hellenica 2.4.4. Gow on Theocritus 13.25 says: “The word means no more than outskirts, but it had, when used without a gen., a quasi-technical sense of the distant or outlying parts of a holding” (my emphasis). Goosens 1944:266–67 already had it right: confins. Gow’s “quasi-technical sense” fits well with the various political terms already observed. Edmunds 2005:57–58 discusses this evidence apropos of ἀγροῦ ἐπ’ ἐσχατίην at Odyssey iv 517–18 and concludes that Carlo Brillante’s interpretation of the phrase as referring to an outlying part of Agamemnon’s territory is correct.
10 λυκαιχμίαις: The second-century commentary on Alcaeus published in P.Oxy. 53 (1986) made it clear that this is the correct reading (see pp. 123–24). LSJ9 New Suppl. (1996) s.v.: “perh. wolf-battle, i.e. wolf-like or guerilla fighting,” apparently following Lefkowitz and Lloyd-Jones 1990. POxy 3711, apparently a commentary on Alcaeus, has λυκαιχμίαις (col. ii.32). Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:153–54 accepts ἀλυκαιχμίαις, the emendation of Porro (cf. Lentini 2006:236–37). The definition in LSJ9 is likely to be correct. In the aristocratic imaginaire, the wolf is a positive symbol of open, self-reliant defiance of enemies as opposed to the dog’s slyness and indirection. The wolf also embodies the ethic of helping friends and harming enemies. The two main passages are Pindar Pythian 2.83–85; Solon 36.26–27 W2. See Franco 2003:269–70; also the commentary of Ettore Cingano on Pythian 2.83–85 in Gentili et al. 1995. The remarks of West 1990:3 are to the point: “We know that Alcaeus was involved in battles against the Athenians over Sigeum. One possibility is that Onomakles, cut off from the main Athenian force, maintained himself for a time in some hideout from which he was able to cause trouble to the Mytileneans. Alternatively, if the scene of his marauding was Attica, we should suppose him to have been an exiled noble, perhaps an Alcmeonid. In this case the parallel with Alcaeus is a closer one.” Hutchinson 2001:210: “One might have to suppose that so unperspicuous a word is not being coined now by Alcaeus.” Is it poetic? The suffix, which is very productive, tells us nothing. The aikhm- element is rare in compounds and appears, I think, when it does appear, only as the first element. Chantraine 1968–1980 s.v. αἰχμή gives two compounds, in which this word is the first element. The compound sounds almost like slang, or is it a quotation of Onomacles?
11 στάσις: cf. poetic λύα (Alcaeus frs. 36.11, 70.10). Bowie 1981:175: “ … λύα was an obsolete, poetic word, while stasis remained a living part of the lexicon of everyday speech.” Curiously the verb governing this noun seems to be poetic (12 ὀννέλην). [81] Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:98. Add to the group of political words discussed in Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:233–34.
15 συνόδοισι: Not in Homer, Hesiod, or archaic lyric; elsewhere only Solon 4.22 W2 (n.b. στάσις in same context, line 19). Again the diction is political. Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:98.
16 κά̣κων κτλ.: Hutchinson 2001:212: “the pragmatic and unelevated quality of the expression is obvious.”
20 ἐνιαυσίας: Broger 1996:295(C.2);298(C.3). Only here in archaic lyric. Not in elegy or iambic, though ἐνιαυτός is found: Scythinus 2.4 W2 (West’s conjecture); Solon 13.47, 27.3; Xenophanes 8.1. Hesiod Works and Days 449, of the cry of migrating cranes (“inner” acc.); cf. Homer Epigrams 15.11, of a swallow (predicate adjective). In Homer Odyssey xvi 454 it means “one year-old.” Hesiod and Homer Epigrams op. cit. are the only apparent archaic parallels to Alcaeus but note that in Alcaeus the adjective is attributive for the first time, as later I think in Herodotus 4.180 (of a festival, as in Alcaeus). Cf. IG 12(5).593 = SIG 3 1218 B5ff. (Ceos 5th. c. BCE., funerary regulations): [τῆ]ι τρίτηι [ἐπ]ὶ τοῖς ἐνι[αυ]σ[ί]οις κα[θ]αροὺς εἶ[ν]αι τοὺς ποι[οὐ]ντας. Broger is right: the word is oddly flat after the “high-flown” (Hutchinson 2001:213) style of the strophe up to this point.

Reflections on the survey

This synchronic approach to the diction of Alcaeus, it must be admitted, goes against the current trend of scholarship. Ever since the 1960s, scholars working on Sappho and Alcaeus have been showing that the poetic language of these poets is not the spoken Lesbian of their time but a poetic language, a heterogeneous mix of Ionic and Aeolic, with only a few traces of local Lesbian. In this mix, Homeric forms, diction, and formulas are prominent. Though once seen as borrowings, as they undoubtedly are in some instances, these features are now explained, in general, as the reflexes of a much older poetic tradition from which both Homer and the Lesbian poets descend. Scholars emphasize, furthermore, an Aeolic tradition in Sappho and Alcaeus which is independent of Homer and in fact drawn upon by Homer, too. While disagreement persists concerning the lines of descent from the assumed Indo-European Dichtersprache, Sappho and Alcaeus now look like the inheritors of a tradition which is the same, ultimately, as Homer’s. [82]
How, then, to explain, in the case of Alcaeus, the poetry’s apparent synchronic openness to the political language of Mytilene [83] and its capacity for shifting into the poetic registers of iamb and elegy? The beginning of an answer to this question lies in the notion itself of traditional poetry. This notion entails “structural amnesia” (the concept comes from the anthropologist Jan Vansina). Individual performers remember, or think that they remember, while the poetic tradition as a whole “forgets,” in order to accommodate historical change. Persistence of tradition is impossible without adaptation to new circumstances, in short, without change. It is in this process that Rösler’s “historical-functional ‘I’” becomes Nagy’s “generic ‘I’,” as the author, in the sense of originator, receding into the past, becomes the authority for the reenactment of his poems.
If change takes place in the tradition following Alcaeus, is there any reason not to expect that Alcaeus himself introduces changes into the tradition received by him? From a positive answer to this question, another question arises. Even if one concedes the possibility of change in a poetic tradition, how was it possible for an Alcaeus to vary his particular local tradition to the extent of including contemporary political language and even an epithet like φύσγων? Once again, the answer may be lurking in the terms of the question itself, this time in “his particular local tradition.”
Gregory Nagy has provided a panoramic account of the development of traditional oral poetry within which one can hypothetically locate the local tradition of Alcaeus. Nagy describes the background of oral traditional poetry in terms of the differentiation of song from speech and of the different kinds of poetry from song. [84] The early stages of Alcaic poetry (perhaps one could say Aeolic poetry as a whole), even if historically later than Nagy’s scenario, had not resulted in a differentiation which would ultimately exclude all traces of the speech from which Nagy’s process begins. It retained, most obviously, the possibility of naming contemporary persons. Another way to describe the qualified differentiation of Alcaic poetry would be to say that its metrical (and presumably also musical) dimension reached a consistency which its diction did not reach. This view of the Alcaic sympotica in no way contradicts Nagy’s basic premise of the evolution of preferred rhythms from traditional phraseology (which of course took place long before the time of Alcaeus) but simply assumes that, in the case of a certain kind of poetry, the rhythms did not function rigidly as “regulators of any incoming non-traditional phraseology.” [85]
For this kind of poetry, the sympotic context, with its close proximity of poet or performer to audience, would always have exerted a pressure counter to the normalizing process which Nagy describes. The archaeological record for the two standard types of dining-room, the seven-couch and the eleven-couch types, makes it possible to describe this proximity rather exactly. The internal wall-length of the larger room was c. 6.5 m., the area 42 square m., and the diagonal 9.2 m. Birgitta Berquist regards the dimensions of these rooms as the architectural expression of the need for “the essential characteristic [of the symposium] of a visual and auditory coherence,” and she shows that various non-square dining rooms are consistent in size with this principle. [86] Although her survey did not include Lesbian examples, there is no reason to expect that the rooms in which Alcaeus sang were different. The pressure of these performance venues on Alcaeus’ diction would always have gone against standardization. One arrives at the somewhat paradoxical conclusion that the Aeolic meters, the most conservative amongst the archaic meters, are the most open to synchronic intrusions, or at least as open as any other. [87]
The performance venues of Sappho would have been on the same scale as those of Alcaeus. In both poets, the local and the contemporary had to come through within the traditional, and they were therefore not traditional poets in the same sense as Homer, to whom the trend described above has assimilated them, of course mutatis mutandis. As traditional poets, they have a special place in the history of archaic Greek literature, which Rodríguez Somolinos has described thus:
[T]he language of our poets (Sappho and Alcaeus], without being pure Lesbian or the spoken Lesbian of their time, is, in a percentage difficult to assess, Lesbian. It is an artificial language, but doubtless to a lesser degree than the more generalized archaic poetic dialects like epic and choral lyric. Its status is thus related to the origin of Lesbian monody as a genre such as we find in Sappho and Alcaeus: a personal poetry in which elements of religious lyric are mixed with elements of profane popular lyric, with a whole row of forms and themes transplanted from the latter. Its language never prospered beyond the boundaries of Lesbos nor was it an international language like that of the great choral lyric, Pindar’s and Alcman’s, or that of epic, which influenced all the rest. [88]
But the heterogeneity of the language of Sappho and Alcaeus was still more complex. Consider the conclusion of Rodríguez Somolinos:
… Lesbian monody makes use of lexical material of widely varying types … . Alongside the strictly dialectal we find elements belonging to common Greek; alongside the traditional, the innovative; along with the literary, the colloquial; and with the poetic the most vulgar. This heterogeneity is in keeping with that shown by the phonetics and morphology, and even surpasses it. … Comparison with the other lyric genres suggests that in general the monody is, at least as regards vocabulary, quite independent. The volume of new vocabulary is significant and shows numerous innovations in both morphology and semantics. To a large extent it approximates to intellectual prose. [89]
With the prosaic quality of Alcaeus in particular, one returns to the remark of Dionysius of Halicarnassus about political rhetoric with which the survey of everyday expressions offered here began. What I hope to have begun to show is that the heterogeneity which Rodríguez Somolinos finds in the corpus of Sappho and Alcaeus as a whole can be found, to some extent, in individual poems.
To return at last to deixis, if one is willing to grant that the political vocabulary observed in the survey above is contemporary with Alcaeus (and not introduced retrospectively by some historicizing performer) and thus real, then one will be more likely to allow that some of the deictic words are also real, although decisions about deixis are subject to the uncertainties delineated above. One will have some hope of recovering the real-life Alcaeus about whom Nagy tends to be skeptical and about whom (or at least about his historical function) Rösler is confident.


The study of frs. 129 and 130b leads, as suggested at the outset, to a vision of the real-life and the later, generic Alcaeus as lying on the same continuum. The temporal continuity of this continuum becomes more apparent in this perspective, and one sees that it is wrong to think of the difference between the two as simply logical, with one excluding the other. The two main scholarly positions on the historicity of Alcaeus in his poems, the skeptical and the confident, differ from one another in highlighting one end or the other of the continuum, thus putting the opposite end in shadow. The individual scholar’s preference for working at one end or the other is likely to be reactive. Against what he or she perceives as naïve biographical historicism, one scholar will move to the generic. Against a naively aestheticizing, or too abstract, genericity, another scholar will move to the historical.
At any position on the continuum, from Alcaeus’ own time to the moment at which one of his poems is fixed in writing, there will be a tension between the real-life Alcaeus and the generic Alcaeus. This tension, as the comparison with Archilochus has already suggested, begins with Alcaeus himself. The many similarities between the exiled Alcaeus and the exiled Theognis suggest another generic poetic figure, the exiled aristocrat, to which Alcaeus might have been already assimilating himself. The textual evidence, in frs. 129 and 130b, for the real-life side of this tension are the departures from Homeric and/or melic diction in the directions of elegiac and iambic diction and of everyday speech. Some of the deictic words will have been real, and these fragments provide some indications that, as whole poems, they had a deictic structure that coordinated them with the here and now of the performance.
In any case, each successive performance of each poem reenacts, gives new life to, the gestures of deixis, even if the original referents of deixis are no longer present. In each successive performance, then, deixis becomes more and more “literary,” as the referents of the deixis become less concrete. For that matter, the deictic elements of certain poems seem already “literary,” even as delivered in Alcaeus’ lifetime. The poems of Alcaeus which are specifically on sympotic themes are a good example. If, as is generally believed, these poems were delivered at symposia, it is curious how often their deictic framework cannot be mapped onto any imaginable on-going symposium. These poems often have to do with preparations, for example, invitations or the mixing of the wine, preparations which precede the symposium. The deixis of these poems is, then, artistic and presumably appreciated as such by the poet’s fellow-symposiasts. [90]

Appendix: Erinyes in archaic Greek verse

Pindar Olympian 2.41: In this retelling of the Oedipus myth, the parricide activates the Erinys, implicitly that of Laius, who causes the deaths of Oedipus’ sons.
PMG Adespota 965: Dio Chrys. says that the Erinyes turned Hecabe into a fierce-eyed dog, i.e., the Erinyes of Hecabe are in question.
Adespota iambic 35.8 W: Syntax of the genitive cannot be determined but in the context crimes against friends and family members are the subject.
Hesiod fr. 280.9 M-W: Line and context are too fragmentary to establish the syntax. Cf. Odyssey xv 234 for the epithet of the Erinys and the shape of the line.
Hesiod Theogony 185: Erinyes created by Cronus’ castration of his father, Uranus.
Hesiod Theogony 472: Rhea seeks the advice of her parents as to how she may bear Zeus in secret and how Cronus may repay the Erinyes of his father and of the children he has swallowed.
Hesiod Works and Days 803: “On the fifth day (of the month), they say that the Erinyes attend Oath when it has come into being, whom Eris bore as a grief to perjurers.”
Odyssey ii 135: Telemachus fears that his mother would invoke the Erinyes against him if he sent her away.
Odyssey xi 280: The griefs of Oedipus, “as many as the Erinyes of a mother fulfill.”
Odyssey xv 234: Somewhat obscure. Because of the daughter of Neleus and because of ἄτη that the Erinys had sent into his mind (two separate causes?), Melampus had gone to steal the cattle of Neleus and was imprisoned. Cf. Hesiod fr. 280.9 M-W for the epithet of the Erinys and the shape of the line.
Odyssey xvii 475: Odysseus: “if there are gods and Erinyes of beggars.”
Odyssey xx 78: Daughters of Pandareus given as servants to the Erinyes.
Iliad IX 454: Amyntor cursed Meleager and called upon the Erinyes, i.e., he invoked the sanction of the Erinyes on Meleager. Cf. Hainsworth 1993:122 ad loc.
Iliad IX 568: The Erinys hears the curses of Althaea.
Iliad XVI 204: Iris bears a message from Zeus to Poseidon and encourages him to obey his elder brother: “You know that the Erinyes always support the elder.”
Iliad XIX 87: Agamemnon, in reply to Achilles’ renunciation of his mēnis, blames Zeus, Moira, and the Erinys for his own foolishness in taking away Briseïs in the first place. Edwards 1991:247: “Erinys is somewhat surprising here … .”
Iliad XIX 259: Agamemnon swears by Zeus, Earth, Sun, and the Erinyes that he never touched Briseïs. Puzzling for the theology of the Erinyes, because here Homer seems to say that they punish people beneath the earth, i.e. post mortem. In any case, they are said to punish “whoever breaks an oath.” Cf. Iliad III 276–79: Agamemnon, about to swear an oath, prays to Zeus, Helius, rivers, earth, and “those who beneath the earth punish men when dead, whoever has sworn a false oath.” See Kirk 1985:305–306.
Iliad XIX 418: The Erinyes arrest the speech of the horse Xanthus.
Iliad XXI 412: Athena to Ares after she has struck him with a stone: “Thus you would recompense the Erinyes of your mother.” Cf. PMG Adespota 965; Odyssey ii 135; 11.280; Iliad IX 568 (Erinys of mother). Perhaps also Adespota iambica 35.8 W2 (n.b. line 12). Cf. Hesiod Theogony 472; Pindar Olympian 2.41 (Erinys of father); Hesiod Theogony 185 (Erinyes created by castration of father).
Anon. Thebaid fr. 2.8 Bernabé: When Oedipus cursed his sons it did not escape the notice of the Erinys.
Alcmaeon fr. dub. 8 (II) Bernabé from Eust. in Odyssey p. 1689.10: After Alcmaeon killed his mother, he was punished by the Erinyes.
Minyas fr. dub. 7.9 Bernabé: Peirithous explains that the Erinys put it into his mind to follow Theseus into the underworld.


QP LEdmunds fig1

QP LEdmunds fig2

QP LEdmunds fig3

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[ back ] 1. Alcaeus and Sappho are cited in the text of Voigt.
[ back ] 2. On the symposium as the context for all of Alcaeus' poems, see Rösler 1980b; Vetta 1981:494–95 (review of Rösler 1980b); Pellizer 1990:179–80. For the possibility of reperformance of Alcaeus by the professional kitharōidos see Nagy 2004:34–37.
[ back ] 3. MacLachlan 1997:137–38.
[ back ] 4. Though love is almost lacking in extant Alcaeus, it was surely a theme: Cic. Tusc. 4.71 (quae de iuvenum amore scribit Alcaeus!); Cic. Nat. D. 1.79 (naevus in articulo pueri delectat Alcaeum); Hor. C. 1.32.9–12 (Veneremque et illi /semper haerentem puerum canebat / et Lycum nigris oculis nigroque / crine decorum); Quintilian Institutio Oratoria 10.1.63 (sed et lusit et in amores descendit).
[ back ] 5. For a fuller discussion of the term and the concept see Edmunds 2008.
[ back ] 6. Lyons 1977.2:636.
Benveniste 1966[1956]. Cf. Lyons 1977.2:638–39: “That there is a fundamental, and ineradicable difference between first-person and second-person, on the one hand, and third-person pronouns, on the other, is a point that cannot be emphasized too strongly.”
[ back ] 8. Lyons 1977.2:637. Cf. Clark 1973:34–35 (“canonical encounter”).
Lyons 1977.2:682–83. Cf. Givón 1993.1:148: Tense codes the relation between time of speech and event time. “The time of speech serves as the universal reference-point for event time.”
[ back ] 10. Lyons 1977.2:687.
[ back ] 11. As Hutchinson 2001:198 (on fr. 129.8) and 202 (bottom) points out.
[ back ] 12. Bühler 1990:140. Cf. K-G 1.643–44 (§467.b.4).
[ back ] 13. The birds are not, I assume, metaphoric like Callimachus' nightingales (34 GP = 2 Pf. = AP 7.80).
[ back ] 14. Rösler 1980a:315–17.
[ back ] 15. Ford 2002:230.
[ back ] 16. On this process see Edmunds 2008:82–88.
[ back ] 17. Iser 1993[1991].
[ back ] 18. Rösler 1985; Nagy 2004.
[ back ] 19. Nagy 2004:31–32.
[ back ] 20. Benveniste 1966[1956]:252 (bottom); cf. 255.
[ back ] 21. Jakobson 1990b:507. This formulation rests on Jakobson 1990c, which is an edited version of Jakobson 1971 (1957). On the relation of Benveniste to Jakobson see Edmunds 2008:72–74.
[ back ] 22. Cf. Benveniste loc. cit. (n. 20) on the oneness of the two “I”’s.
In the case of a composition for performance by a chorus, the distinction between the two “I’s” is a given, as Calame 2009:291 has said apropos of Sappho fr. 17 V. The first person has been a contentious subject in Pindar studies. In articles beginning in 1963 and continuing for three decades and also in a book in 1991, Mary Lefkowitz argued that in Pindar the first-person is always the poet and never the chorus, i.e., the “I” of the code and the “I” of the reference are the same. Her view provoked much controversy, for which, and for Lefkowitz’ writings on the subject, see the extensive bibliography in Sullivan 2002:83n1. The debate continues. At the Edinburgh Classics Research Seminars program on 10 Feb. 2010 Dr. Bruno Currie (Oxford) presented “The Pindaric First Person in Flux.”
[ back ] 24. Nagy 2004:41–43.
[ back ] 25. This “ritual” impersonation has been a theme of the studies of Gregory Nagy and is the basis of his concept of mimesis in archaic poetry. See Nagy 1990:520 s.v. “mimesis” for references and Nagy 2004 for Alcaeus in particular.
[ back ] 26. Nagy 2004:14–16, 40–41.
[ back ] 27. See my discussion, with reference to Hutchinson 2001, below in the text of this article.
[ back ] 28. κεμήλιον is a hapax. As in Voigt: Porro 1996; Liberman 2002. Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:156–57 reads δεκεμήλιον “que recibe ganado en el sacrificio.” Hutchinson 2001: τονδεκεμήλιον (see his app. crit.). Catenacci 2007, like Liberman 2002.1:62n128, returns to the suggestion of Ludwig Deubner, viz., that κεμήλιον is an adjective formed on the noun κεμάς “young deer.” Those who accept κεμήλιον interpret the sense variously.
[ back ] 29. I have here translated Lobel's supplement (σ̣[άωτε); cf. Hutchinson 2001 in his commentary on this line.
[ back ] 30. This translation combines suggestions from Hutchinson 2001:202 (going back to Lobel) and Andrisano 1994.
[ back ] 31. Smyth 1923: “The aorist expresses the mere occurrence of an action in the past. The action is regarded as an event or single fact without reference to the length of time it occupied.”
[ back ] 32. In Hymn. Hom. Ap. 353, West emended the demonstrative (West 2003)
[ back ] 33. Frs. 34, 45, 69, 296b, 303b, 307, 308, 325 (opening?).
[ back ] 34. τυίδ(ε) in hymns in Sappho fr. 1.5; 5.2; 17.7. Cf. δεῦρο Sappho fr. 2.1; 127; Alcaeus fr. 33a.3 (hymn?); δεῦτε Sappho fr. 53; Alcaeus fr. 34.1; cf. Hesiod Works and Days 2. τόνδε, restored in Sappho 2.1, would be an exception, if correct, to my rule.
[ back ] 35. For sacred precincts as asyla see Nilsson 1967:77–78. Rösler 1980b: 195–96: " … sich die Hetairie eben in Heiligtum der Gottheiten … befindet … ” ; Vetta 1981:495: “simposio all’interno del temenos.”
[ back ] 36. The opinion of Robert 1960:300, according to whom the place of exile was modern Messa (the Messon mentioned in two second-century inscriptions), 5 km north of the town of Pyrrha, is now generally accepted (see Figure 2, from Thompson 1963:15). See, e.g., Porro in CLGP, p. 123 (Alcaeus 6). For Messa, see Spencer 1995:22–23 (site 103). See Treu 1963:142–44 for a survey of older opinion on the location of the temenos. Burzacchini 1987 combines a reference in Str. 13.3.3 to a Mt. Pulaion or Pulaios with Hesych. π 4342 Schmidt (πυλαιΐδεες· αἱ ἐν κάλλει κρινόμεναι τῶν γυναικῶν καὶ νικῶσαι).
[ back ] 37. So one assumes, comparing Sappho fr. 17. Cf. Meyerhoff 1984:217, with citation of earlier literature.
[ back ] 38. Hutchinson 2001:198. I agree with Hutchinson that this deictic makes no sense as literal communication to Hera but I do not see why it could not be literal communication to his comrades.
[ back ] 39. Rösler 1980b:196–97; for Gallavotti see 196n208. More recently Tsomis 2001:50, 174 (“Gebetsgedicht”).
[ back ] 40. For the communal connotations of the word, see Nagy 1993:221–22.
[ back ] 41. It is difficult for the modern reader to see Alcaeus and his comrades as freedom-fighters. As Liberman 2002:XVIIIn33 said, “La première différence entre Alcée et les tyrans qu’il honnit, est que, si eux sont au pouvoir, lui et sa faction ne le sont pas.”
[ back ] 42. For the prayer at the symposium, i.e. as a regular part of the symposium, see Rösler 1980b:193n197.
[ back ] 43. See Appendix for a list of these places. Cf. Porro 1996:147n5.
[ back ] 44. As Tsomis 2001:48–49 has observed.
[ back ] 45. κήνων (21) are the same persons. See Andrisano 1994.
Apropos of the caesura, John Talbot (cf. Talbot 2001) has informed me by e-mail that: “Alcaeus in roughly two out of every three hendecasyllabic lines places a caesura after the fifth syllable (the exact count: 62 instances of the caesura among 93 possible positions).”
[ back ] 47. Hutchinson 2001:204 on 28.
[ back ] 48. The publication of POxy 3711 (Haslam 1986) permitted the restoration of ὠ̣θά[ν]ά̣ος in v.10 and of φεύγων τ⌞ον⌟ at the beginning of v.11.
[ back ] 49. See on fr. 130b.10 under the heading “Everyday expressions” in the text of this article.
[ back ] 50. For the suppositions entailed in this translation see Hutchinson 2001:210–11 and for the meaning of the verb see n. 81 below.
[ back ] 51. “To keep one’s foot (feet) out of trouble” is a proverb. Voigt in her register of similia cites Aeschylus Prometheus Bound 263–64; Pindar Pythian 4.289.
[ back ] 52. In the first line, the first element in the phrase ὀ τάλαις ἔγω might be taken as the demonstrative and not the definite article. Cf. K-G 1.575 (§457); Schwyzer 2.20–21 (n.b. Zusatz 1); Chantraine 1963:165. Cf. Hesiod Theogony 24: τόνδε δέ με.
[ back ] 53. Hutchinson 2001:205 describes the stanza form, which occurs only in this fr. of Alcaeus, as “elegant.”
[ back ] 54. Cf. Alcaeus fr. 401B and the testimonia of Strabo 13.1.38 and Herodotus 5.95.
[ back ] 55. Rösler 1980:272–74.
[ back ] 56. Cf. Hutchinson 2001:207 (on 3–4); Liberman 2002.1:XXVI.
[ back ] 57. Hutchinson 2001:193.
[ back ] 58. References to the relevant scholarship in Ferrari 1989:8n8. See Ercolani 1998; Colesanti 2011: ch. 4.
[ back ] 59. Lobel 1941:30 says that these fragments contain “two words quoted by ancient authorities as from Alcaeus,” and these two words are the basis of the attribution to Alcaeus.
[ back ] 60. Bowie 1981:105: “The regular form of this [the relative pronoun] in Sappho and Alcaeus is that of the article.”
[ back ] 61. If τά refers forward to τούτων and not backward, “[t]his means (probably) an asyndeton here, both explanatory and angry”: Hutchinson 2001:208 (top).
[ back ] 62. Lyons 1977.2:660.
[ back ] 63. As Hamm 1957:109–109 said, sometimes it is unclear as between demonstrative and relative, and this could be one of those times. Cf. Chantraine 1973:277–78; Lyons 1977.2:636.
[ back ] 64. Edmunds 2001:10–11. Add perhaps line 7 of the “new Sappho” (= P. Köln inv. 21351 fr. 2.15). The text is uncertain.
[ back ] 65. Cf. Theophrastus fr. 112 Wimmer = 564 Fortenbaugh (from Athenaeus 610a–b); schol. Iliad IX 129.
[ back ] 66. Cf. Hutchinson 2001:227 on 45.
[ back ] 67. Janko 1981.
[ back ] 68. For the semantics of the verb οἰκέω here (10, 16), Nagy 1993:224–25, comparing Theognis 1210 and several occurrences in Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus, proposes that Alcaeus represents himself as a cult-hero. Continuing Nagy’s thought, one could say that it is a matter of social (and political) death refigured as displaced authority.
[ back ] 69. Cf. Edmunds 2001:11.
[ back ] 70. See Gentili and Lomiento 2003:162 on the problem of the responsion in line 12.
[ back ] 71. Edmunds 2001:20n9. Sicking and Stork 1997 take a semantic, not a deictic, approach to the present tense.
[ back ] 72. In terms of semantics, as distinguished from deixis, the picture of the annual women's festival, with the “sacred ululation” (20), which is choral and communal, contrasts with the self-representation of Alcaeus, who is isolated, a vox clamantis in deserto. This observation follows Nagy 1993:222–23.
[ back ] 73. I do not agree that “Both poems are mobile” (Hutchinson 2001:193).
[ back ] 74. Dionysus of Halicarnassus De imitatione 6.205 U-R = T 20 Campbell; cf. Quintilian 10.1.63 (plerumque oratori similis ). Consider the use of eipēn in fr. 69 and the rarity of aeidein (only once in Alcaeus).
[ back ] 75. 1996:13 (table of contents, under “Alkaios”). Schmitz 1970 cites but does not discuss Alcaeus.
[ back ] 76. Amyx 1988:603–5; Wachter 2001:117. The basic work on this pinax (in particular the join of the three fragments) is Pernice 1897.
[ back ] 77. Kurke 1994:68 refers to “strict rules of decorum.” With reference to the “decorum” which she posits, she calls phusgōn “startling” (71) and a “shocking anomaly” (72). Neither phusgōn nor the “incongruity of style” (73) which she finds in fr. 70 nor the “stylistic dissonance” (74, 82) which she finds in fr. 348 constitutes “real linguistic violence” (76, 82). These features are characteristic of the pervasive stylistic heterogeneity of Alcaeus’ sympotica.
[ back ] 78. Bowie 1981:93, quoting Leumann; also 137. Bowie 1981:81: digamma makes position here; cf. Hooker 1977:29: in Alcaeus, ϝρ- spelled βρ- where preceding syllable lengthened.
[ back ] 79. See Willi 2003:139–42.
[ back ] 80. One can add that -κάκος must here be understood as a verbal noun.
[ back ] 81. Porro 1996:156 translates “sedizione coi potenti non è bello addossarsi,” but in n4 states that the active voice of the verb, as here, ought to mean “eliminare,” “far cessare,” citing Burzacchini 1994:34 and n25. LSJ 9 New Suppl. (1996) s.v. ἀναιρέω II 2, “add ‘b get rid of, ϲτάϲιν, Alcaeus l.c., Pi. fr. 109; νεῖκοϲ Theoc. 22.180’.” This meaning of the word fits well with the interpretation of the sentence as a question (Hutchinson 2001:210): “Is it not better to get rid of civil strife?”
[ back ] 82. See the surveys of scholarship provided by Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:11–27; Rodríguez Somolinos 2003 (in English).
[ back ] 83. Cf. again Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:233–34.
[ back ] 84. Nagy 1990:45–51.
[ back ] 85. Nagy 1974:145.
[ back ] 86. Berquist 1990:39–41.
[ back ] 87. For the conservatism of Aeolic meter see the generalizations of West 1982:29, reflecting Meillet 1923 and Nagy 1974.
[ back ] 88. Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:26.
[ back ] 89. Rodríguez Somolinos 1998:381. From the English summary of her book.
[ back ] 90. I am grateful to Apostolos Pierris for the invitation to participate in the conference (“Poetry, Wisdom and Politics in Archaic Lesbos: Alcaeus, Sappho, Pittacus,” August 2005, Molyvos) to which this paper owes its origin. In its present form, it owes much to comments made by participants in the conference. I thank Jeffrey Henderson, Michele Caprioli, and John Talbot for their responses to queries. David Danbeck and Susan Edmunds aided the conversion of this file from Word on a Macintosh to Word on a PC. [ back ]