Chapter 2. Epic as Music: Rhapsodic Models of Homer in Plato’s Timaeus and Critias [1]

Plato’s Timaeus and Critias contain valuable references to the performative techniques of rhapsōidoi or ‘rhapsodes’ and to the compositional techniques of Homeric poetry. These techniques belong to the tekhnē ‘art’ known to Plato and his contemporaries as mousikē. [2] The word’s meaning is self-evident: mousikē is the art of the Muses. As we will see from the testimony of inscriptions and other evidence, this term mousikē included the ‘music’ of (1) rhapsodes, (2) citharodes = cithara-singers = singers self-accompanied by the cithara or ‘lyre’, (3) aulodes = aulos-singers = singers accompanied by the aulos or ‘reed’, (4) cithara-players, and (5) aulos-players. In Plato’s time, the high point of this kind of mousikē in the civic calendar of Athens was the Festival of the Panathenaia. [3] Primarily by way of {36|37} the Timaeus and the Critias of Plato, in addition to his definitive work concerning rhapsodes, the Ion, we can make considerable progress in reconstructing a central event in the agōnes or ‘contests’ of mousikē at the Panathenaic Festival of Athens, that is, rhapsodic competitions in the performance of Homer. Also, the Timaeus and the Critias reveal details about the “musical” techniques of rhapsodes and of “Homer” himself. These details provide a basis for understanding the nature of the Timaeus and the Critias as artistic—even “rhapsodic”—productions in their own right.
It is important to start by stressing that the rhapsodic performances of Homer at the Panathenaic Festival were based on the principle of competition. The key word is agōn ‘competition, contest, ordeal’, as evoked in the striking expression of Friedrich Nietzsche, “der agonale Geist.” [4] The agonistic principle underlying the rhapsodic performances of Homer at the Panathenaia is evident in Plato’s Ion. This dialogue is named after a rhapsode from Ephesus who comes to Athens to compete for first prize at the Panathenaia (καὶ τὰ Παναθήναια νικήσομεν, Ion 530b2). Plato’s wording makes it explicit that the occasion for the performing of Homer by rhapsodes at the Panathenaia is in effect a competition or contest among rhapsodes, an agōn (ἀγῶνα at Ion 530a5, picked up by ἠγωνίζου and ἠγωνίσω at a8), and that the agonistic art of the rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’ falls under the general category of mousikē (μουσικῆς at a7). These words agōn and mousikē are essential for understanding the traditional art or tekhnē of the rhapsodes. [5] {37|38}
Let us start with mousikē, as mentioned in the passage just cited, Plato Ion 530a7. To repeat, the word’s meaning should be self-evident: mousikē is the art or tekhnē of the Muses. And yet, as we shall see, mousikē is subject to misunderstandings. Accordingly, it is essential to stress right away what our passage in Plato Ion 530a7 indicates clearly: that the art of mousikē includes the art of the rhapsode. [6] The art or tekhnē of mousikē is an agonistic art: those who practice this tekhnē must compete with each other in formal and institutionalized competitions called agōnes.
At the Panathenaia, there are agōnes of mousikē not only for rhapsodes but also for kitharōidoi ‘citharodes’ [= cithara-singers], aulōidoi ‘aulodes’ [= aulos-singers], cithara-players, and aulos-players, as we learn directly from an Athenian inscription dated at around 380 BCE, IG II2 2311, which records the winners of Panathenaic prizes. [7] We also learn about these categories of “musical” competition from Plato Laws VI 764d–e (mention of rhapsodes, cithara-singers, and aulos-players), where the wording makes it clear that the point of reference is the Panathenaia. [8] The wording also makes it clear that competition is involved: this kind of mousikē is described as ‘agonistic’, agōnistikē (Laws VI 764d). In fact, the only aspect of mousikē that is not overtly competitive is the educational: mousikē is subdivided into two aspects, agōnistikē and paideia (Laws VI 764c6–7).
As we take a closer look at the Panathenaic inscription dated at around 380 BCE, we may notice straight off that the winning competitors received prizes of high monetary value: for example, the first prize in the competitions of citharodes was a {38|39} crown of gold worth 1000 drachmas in addition to 500 silver drachmas. This same inscription must have mentioned the prize-winning rhapsodes at the beginning of the document, lines 1–3, where the stone is broken off. It is unfortunate that the break happens at exactly the point where we would expect the victorious rhapsodes to be listed. [9] The author of a most influential work on the Panathenaia, J.A. Davison, has expressed doubt that this fourth-century BCE inscription had mentioned the prize-winning rhapsodes at lines 1–3, [10] adding: “rhapsodic competitions are known only to the literary tradition.” [11]
But there is in fact a very important piece of direct epigraphical evidence about rhapsodic competitions. The document in question comes from a city other than Athens. It is IG XII ix 189, an inscription from the city of Eretria in Euboea (ca. 341/0 BCE) concerning a festival of Artemis. [12] Right at the beginning, the program of the Artemisia is explicitly formulated: [13]
τιθεῖν τὴμ πόλιν ἀγῶνα μουσικῆς
that the city is to organize a competition [agōn] of mousikē.
IG XII ix 189.5
As we read on, we find more details:
τὴν δὲ μουσικὴν τιθεῖν ῥαψωιδοῖς,| αὐλωιδοῖς, κιθαρισταῖς, κιθαρωιδοῖς, παρωιδοῖς,| τοὺς δὲ τὴν {39|40} μουσικὴν ἀγωνιζομένους πάντα[ς] | ἀγωνίζεσθαι προσόδιον τεῖ θυσίει ἐν τεῖ αὐλεῖ ἔ|[χο]ντας τὴν σκευὴν ἥμπερ ἐν τοῖ ἀγῶνι ἔχουρ[ι]
… and that [the city] is to organize the mousikē for rhapsodes, aulodes [= aulos-singers], cithara-players, citharodes [cithara-singers], and parody-singers; further, that those who compete [agōnizesthai] in the mousikē should all compete [agōnizesthai] in the prosodion [= processional song] for the sacrifice [thusia] [14] in the aulē, having the same costume that they have in the competition [agōn] proper.
IG XII ix 189.10–14
This inscription from Eretria contains valuable comparative evidence for helping us understand the agōnes of mousikē at the Panathenaia in Athens. These Athenian competitions seem to be the historical basis for the theoretical models discussed in Plato Laws VI 764d–e, where we read of competition (agōnistikē d5) in mousikē (d6) for rhapsodes, citharodes, auletes [= reed-players], and so on (other categories are not specified). [15] Such theoretical references in the Laws, I argue, are based on the specific historical realities of the Panathenaia.
Moving beyond Plato, we may turn to Aristotle for a less theoretical and more historical perspective on the Panathenaia. Aristotle gives a brief outline of the main features of the Panathenaia at Athens in his Constitution of the Athenians 60.1–3:
  1. agōn ‘competition’ in mousikē (τὸν ἀγῶνα τῆς μουσικῆς); prizes awarded: gold and silver. {40|41}
  2. agōn ‘competition’ in athletics (τὸν γυμνικὸν ἀγῶνα), including equestrian events (horse-racing and chariot-racing: ἱπποδρομίαν); prizes awarded: Panathenaic amphoras containing olive oil.
  3. peplos ‘robe’ = the ceremonial robe, Peplos (τὸν πέπλον); woven for the goddess Athena, it was formally presented to her at the Panathenaia.
  4. pompē ‘procession’ = the Panathenaic Procession (τήν τε πομπὴν τῶν Παναθηναίων); at the climax of this procession, the Peplos was formally presented to Athena. Aristotle does not say it explicitly, but the occasion of this climactic moment is a thusia ‘sacrifice’, more on which later.
  5. athlothetai = a board of ten magistrates, with one from each phulē appointed (by lot) every four years for a term of four years; their function was to organize and supervise all the events of no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, and no. 4, including the arranging and awarding of prizes in the case of no. 1 and no. 2.
For the moment, I have kept this outline at a minimum, recapping as closely as possible the main features as reported by Aristotle (he orders them differently, however: 5, 4, 1, 2, 3).
Aristotle’s reference in Constitution of the Athenians 60.1 to an agōn ‘competition’ in mousikē (τὸν ἀγῶνα τῆς μουσικῆς) which he says was held at the Panathenaia does not make explicit the correlation of rhapsodic competitions with the citharodic, the aulodic, and so on. Aristotle’s elliptic reference has led to some confusion about the “musical contests” of the Panathenaia, and the conventional but anachronistic translation “musical” confuses the matter even further, since the English word seems to suggest, misleadingly, an exclusion of rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’ and the inclusion only of kitharōidoi ‘citharodes’, {41|42} aulōidoi ‘aulodes’, and so on. [16] Still, what I infer to be implicit in Aristotle’s statement is made explicit in a corresponding mention of the Panathenaia by Isocrates, Panegyricus 159, whose words specify that Homeric performances were taking place ‘in athloi [contests] of mousikē’, ἐν…τοῖς τῆς μουσικοῖς ἄθλοις. [17] Other sources too provide explicit evidence about the institution of rhapsodic contests at the Panathenaia, and many of these specify the correlation of contests in athletics with contests in mousikē. [18]
The rhapsodes at the Panathenaia not only competed with each other in performing the poetry of Homer: they also had to take turns following the narrative sequence of that poetry in the process of competition. In the Hipparkhos of “pseudo-Plato,” as we have seen in the previous chapter, there is a story that purports to explain an Athenian law requiring that the Iliad and Odyssey be performed in sequence by the rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’ at the Panathenaia: {42|43}
Ἱππάρχῳ … ὃς ἄλλα τε πολλὰ καὶ καλὰ ἔργα σοφίας ἀπεδείξατο, καὶ τὰ Ὁμήρου ἔπη πρῶτος ἐκόμισεν εἰς τὴν γῆν ταυτηνί, καὶ ἠνάγκασε τοὺς ῥαψῳδοὺς Παναθηναίοις ἐξ ὑπολήψεως ἐφεξῆς αὐτὰ διιέναι, ὥσπερ νῦν ἔτι οἵδε ποιοῦσιν
Hipparkhos, … who made a public demonstration of many and beautiful accomplishments to manifest his expertise [sophia], especially by being the first to bring over [komizein] to this land [= Athens] the poetic utterances [epē] of Homer, and he forced the rhapsodes [rhapsōidoi] at the Panathenaia to go through [diienai] these utterances in sequence [ephexēs], by relay [hupolēpsis], just as they [= the rhapsodes] do even nowadays.
“Plato” Hipparkhos 228b–c
In this extract, I have highlighted two words with special rhapsodic implications: ephexēs ‘in sequence’ and hupolēpsis, which I translate as ‘relay’ for reasons that I have already outlined in the previous chapter. In the present chapter, I concentrate on the expression ephexēs auta diienai ‘go through them [= the epē ‘poetic utterances’ of Homer] in sequence’, to which I will compare the contexts of Plato Timaeus 23d3–4 / 24a1–2: panta … hexēs dielthein / ephexēs diienai ‘go through everything in sequence’ / ‘go through in sequence’. At a later point in the present chapter, we will return to these contexts in the Timaeus.
As in the previous chapter, I supplement the passage just quoted from the Hipparkhos with a passage taken from a speech delivered by the Athenian statesman Lycurgus (330 BCE):
βούλομαι δ᾿ὑμῖν καὶ τὸν Ὅμηρον παρασχέσθαι ἐπαινῶν. οὕτω γὰρ ὑπέλαβον ὑμῶν οἱ πατέρες σπουδαῖον εἶναι ποιητήν, ὥστε νόμον ἔθεντο καθ᾿ἑκάστην πενταετηρίδα τῶν Παναθηναίων μόνου {43|44} τῶν ἄλλων ποιητῶν ῥαψῳδεῖσθαι τὰ ἔπη, ἐπίδειξιν ποιούμενοι πρὸς τοὺς Ἕλληνας ὅτι τὰ κάλλιστα τῶν ἔργων προῃροῦντο.
I wish to adduce [19] for you Homer, quoting [epain eîn] him, [20] since the reception [21] that he had from your ancestors made him so important a poet that there was a law enacted by them that requires, every fourth year of the Panathenaia, the rhapsodic performing [rhapsōideîn] of his poetic utterances [epē]—his alone and no other poet’s. In this way they [= your ancestors] made a demonstration [epideixis], [22] intended for all Hellenes to see, that they made a conscious choice of the most noble of accomplishments.
Lycurgus Against Leokrates 102
As I noted in the previous chapter, I infer from these two passages that the Homeric epē ‘poetic utterances’ performed at the Panathenaia were the Iliad and Odyssey. According to these passages, there existed in Athens a custom of maintaining a fixed narrative sequence of Homeric performance at the Panathenaia. According to this custom, known to classicists as the “Panathenaic Rule,” each performing rhapsode was required to take up the narration where the previous rhapsode left off. {44|45}
As we saw earlier, the Panathenaic event of Homeric performances by rhapsodes is designated by ancient sources in terms of an agōn or an athlon, both words meaning ‘competition’ or ‘contest’. Thus there are really two aspects of the Panathenaic Rule: not only must the rhapsodes take turns as they perform the Iliad and Odyssey in sequence, they must also compete with each other in the process. [23]
These two aspects of the Panathenaic Rule, sequencing and competition, are neatly reflected in two different mythologized versions of the concept of the rhapsode, as reported in the scholia to Pindar Nemean 2.1:
οἱ δέ φασι τῆς Ὁμήρου ποιήσεως μὴ ὑφ᾿ἓν συνηγμένης, σποράδην δὲ ἄλλως καὶ κατὰ μέρη διῃρημένης, ὁπότε ῥαψῳδοῖεν αὐτήν, εἱρμῷ τινι καὶ ῥαφῇ παραπλήσιον ποιεῖν, εἰς ἓν αὐτὴν ἄγοντας
And some say that—since the poetry of Homer had been in a state of not being brought together under the heading of one thing, [24] but instead, in a negative sense [=ἄλλως], had been in the state of being scattered and divided into parts—whenever they would perform it rhapsodically they would be doing something that is similar to sequencing or sewing, as they brought it together into one thing.
[version 1 at 2.1c] {45|46}
οἱ δέ, ὅτι κατὰ μέρος πρότερον τῆς ποιήσεως διαδεδομένης τῶν ἀγωνιστῶν ἕκαστος ὅ τι βούλοιτο μέρος ᾔδε, τοῦ δὲ ἄθλου τοῖς νικῶσιν ἀρνὸς ἀποδεδειγμένου προσαγορευθῆναι τότε μὲν ἀρνῳδούς, αὖθις δὲ ἑκατέρας τῆς ποιήσεως εἰσενεχθείσης τοὺς ἀγωνιστὰς οἷον ἀκουμένους πρὸς ἄλληλα τὰ μέρη καὶ τὴν σύμπασαν ποίησιν ἐπιόντας, ῥαψῳδοὺς προσαγορευθῆναι, ταῦτά φησι Διονύσιος ὁ Ἀργεῖος
Others say that previously — since the poetry had been divided into parts, with each of the competitors [agōnistai] singing whichever part he wanted, and since the designated prize for the winners had been a lamb — [those competitors] were in those days called arnōidoi [=lamb-singers], but then, later on — since the competitors [agōnistai], whenever each of the two poems was introduced, were mending the parts to each other, as it were, and moving toward the whole poem—they were called rhapsōidoi. These things are said by Dionysius of Argos [between fourth and third centuries BCE; FGH 308 F 2]
[version 2 at 2.1d]
The myth in version 2, which restates the principle of sequencing as stated in the myth of version 1, adds the principle of competition. According to version 2, the principle of competition was there all along, and the principle of sequencing was added to it only later. So we have here a myth that narrates an “evolution” of sorts, from an unsequenced competition for the prize of an arēn ‘lamb’ to a sequenced competition for a prize {46|47} that is no longer that of a lamb. [25] The rhapsodes no longer compete for the prize of a lamb, but they still compete with each other even as they “sew together” the parts of the two poems. The two aspects of the Panathenaic Rule are hereby both aetiologized. That the myth refers to the Panathenaic Rule is indicated by the explicit reference to two poems: when we combine this detail with the testimony of Lycurgus, we can see that the Rule applies to the Iliad and the Odyssey.
The myth in version 2 motivates the principle of rhapsodic competition in terms of the institution of sacrifice, specifically the sacrifice of an arēn ‘lamb’. In this connection, let us return to the inscription from Eretria that we have just considered, concerning agōnes ‘competitions’ of mousikē. We find here a remarkable analogy with the myth in version 2, since these Eretrian competitions of mousikē are motivated, again, in terms of the institution of sacrifice, specifically the sacrifice of arnes ‘lambs’. In this case, however, the motivation is formulated explicitly from the synchronic viewpoint of the organizers of the festival themselves. At the very beginning of the Eretrian inscription we read:
[θ]εο[ί].| Ἐξήκεστος Διοδώρου εἶπεν· ὅπωρ ἂν τὰ Ἀρ|τεμίρια ὡς κάλλιστα ἄγωμεν καὶ θύω[ριν ὡς π|λε]ῖστοι, ἔδοξεν τεῖ βουλεῖ καὶ τοῖ δήμοι|⟦ ̣⟧ τιθεῖν τὴμ πόλιν ἀγῶνα μουσικῆς ἀπὸ χιλίων | δραχμῶν τεῖ Μεταξὺ καὶ τεῖ Φυλακεῖ καὶ παρέχει|ν ἄρνας τεῖ πρὸ τῶν Ἀρτεμιρίων πέντε ἡμέρας, τ|ούτων δὲ δύο ἐγκρίτους εἶναι
(Invocation to the gods.) Exekestos son of Diodoros spoke: in order that the Artemisia [= Festival of Artemis] be conducted by us in the most beautiful way possible and in order that as many people as possible may make sacrifice [= thuein], it was decided by the Boule and the {47|48} Demos that the city is to organize a competition [agōn] of mousikē, at the expense of 1000 drachmas, on the days Metaxu and Phulakē, [26] and that (the city) is to provide lambs [= arnes] on the day that is five days before the Artemisia, and, of these [lambs], two are to be enkritoi [specially selected (for sacrifice)]. [27]
IG XII ix 189.1–8
The inscription goes on to specify that the mousikē should begin on the fourth day before the end of the month of Anthesterion (lines 8–10: ἄρχειν δὲ τῆς μο|υσικῆς τετράδα φθίνοντος τοῦ Ἀνθεστηρι|ῶνος μηνός). Then the inscription lists the categories of competition in mousikē (lines 10–14), and I repeat here my translation of the wording: “and that [the city] is to organize the mousikē for rhapsodes, aulodes, citharists, citharodes, and parody-singers; further, that those who compete [agōnizesthai] in the mousikē should all compete [agōnizesthai] in the prosodion [= processional song] for the sacrifice [thusia] in the aulē, having the same costume that they have in the competition proper.” As at the beginning of the inscription, we see here again the highlighting of thusia ‘sacrifice’ (line 13) as the central theme of the institution of competitions in mousikē.
The climactic sacrifice at the place called the aulē is marked by a prosodion ‘processional song’ (line 13) in which all the competitors in the individual competitions of mousikē are to “compete” in a preliminary way. I infer that this merged “competition” is a sort of review of the individual competitions, after which the athla ‘competitive prizes’ (line 15) are to be awarded (lines 15–20): [28] {48|49}
Category Prizes Drachmas
Rhapsodes 1st prize 120
  2nd 50
  3rd 20
Aulodes (boys’ category) 1st 50
  2nd 30
  3rd 20
Citharists 1st 110
  2nd 70
  3rd 55
Citharodes 1st 200
  2nd 150
  3rd 100
Parody-singers 1st 50
  2nd 10
The inscription goes on to specify the details of per diem payments to be made to the agōnistai ‘contestants’ (line 20): one drachma daily, starting no more than three days before what is called the pro-agōn at line 22 and extending up to the point where the agōn proper takes place (μέ|χρι οὗ ἂν ὁ ἀγὼν γένηται, lines 22–23). [29]
In reality, then, the contestants compete for cash prizes. Notionally, however, the prizes are sacrificial, in that they are awarded in the context of a grand thusia ‘sacrifice’ inaugurated by a prosodion ‘processional song’ in which all the contestants notionally “compete” in a preliminary agōn, that is, in the {49|50} pro-agōn mentioned at line 22. Moreover, this processional song is the climax of an actual procession, pompē (line 39), in which all the agōnistai ‘competitors’ of the mousikē are required to participate (lines 37–38). The explicit reason given for this required participation of competitors is this:
ὅπως ἂν ὡς καλλίσστη ἡ πομπὴ καὶ ἡ θυσίη γένηται
in order that the procession [pompē] and the sacrifice [thusia] become the most beautiful possible [30]
IG XII ix 189.39
The homology between the pompē ‘procession’ and the thusia ‘sacrifice’ is highlighted by the syntax (ἡ πομπὴ καὶ ἡ θυσίη, line 39). The competitors in mousikē, then, participate in and become part of the entire religious program of the Artemisia, a continuum that extends from the procession to the climactic sacrifice and from the sacrifice to the competitions themselves.
This homology between procession and sacrifice—not even to mention the religious mentality of sequencing that connects one to the other—is strikingly parallel to what we find at the Panathenaia in Athens. On that seasonally-recurring occasion as well, though of course on a vastly larger scale, we see a procession climaxing in a sacrifice: the Panathenaic Procession starts from the Kerameikos and passes through the Agora and ends up on the heights of the Acropolis, reaching its climax in a grand sacrifice within the sacred space of Athena on high. The Parthenon Frieze gives a mythologically synchronic picture of {50|51} the whole continuum of the Panathenaic Procession as it approaches its climax in the sacrifice to Athena. [31]
From the evidence of such comparisons between the Artemisia of Eretria and the Panathenaia of Athens, I infer that we are dealing here with two institutions that are not only parallel but even cognate. A particularly telling point of comparison, as I have stressed, is the custom of holding agōnes ‘competitions’ in mousikē. The categories of competition are remarkably parallel, even in the relative rankings of these categories.
There is, granted, a vast difference in scale between the Artemisia of Eretria, as recorded in the inscription IG XII ix 189 from ca. 341/0 BCE, and the Panathenaia of Athens, as recorded in the inscription IG II2 2311 from 380 BCE. In that era of the Panathenaia, as I have already noted, the monetary value of the first prize in the competition of citharodes, a gold garland, was worth 1000 drachmas—and that figure does not even include the additional cash prize of silver worth 500 drachmas. When we compare that sum of 1000 drachmas at the Panathenaia of that time to the sum of 200 drachmas, which was the cash prize for first place in the competition of citharodes at the Artemisia of Eretria just forty-odd years later, we can appreciate all the more the magnitude of the Panathenaia. The monetary value of the gold garland bestowed on the top citharode at the Panathenaia in the decade of 380 BCE is the equivalent of the entire budget of the Artemisia in 341/0 BCE.
Despite the differences in scale, the Eretrian inscription IG XII ix 189 shows enough structural parallelisms with the Panathenaia to encourage extrapolations in areas where we do not have direct information about the Athenian festival. Here I return to the all-important elements of procession and sacrifice. The districts of the city, called khōroi, are each to contribute animals (cattle are specified) that are krita ‘chosen’ by state {51|52} overseers for the sacrifice (lines 25–31). Sacrificial animals can also be bought, in the sacred precinct, by individual sacrificers from individual sellers (31–34), as also in the agora (35). All those who wish to sacrifice are to march in the procession, which is to be marshaled in the agora by officials called dēmarkhoi (34–35); the sacrificial animals are to be led in the procession by their respective sacrificers, in a prescribed sequence determined by the categories of animals: first come the dēmosia or victims of the State, including the choicest entry or kallisteion ‘fairest prize’ (35–36); then come the krita ‘chosen ones’, presumably the ones contributed by the khōroi (36); and then, finally, all other victims, elliptically indicated by a formula that refers not to the animals but to their sacrificers, and this category includes any private individual who wishes to participate in the procession (sumpompeuein: 37).
It is essential to stress here a detail just noted, that the organizers of the procession culminating in the grand sacrifice are officials called the dēmarkhoi (34–35). Earlier on in the inscription, these same dēmarkhoi are described as the officials in charge of the entire agōn of mousikē (τὸν δὲ ἀγῶνα τιθόντων οἱ δήμ|αρχοι, 23–24). By extrapolation, we can say that the dēmarkhoi of the Artemisia are analogous to the athlothetai of the Panathenaia.
Participation in the grand procession of the Artemisia, then, is an option open to any individual. For the actual competitors in the mousikē, however, participation is required. The inscription specifies that all the agōnistai ‘competitors’ are to take part in the procession (37–38), and we have already noted the explicit reason given for this required participation: ‘in order that the procession [pompē] and the sacrifice [thusia] become the most beautiful possible’ (39). Since the other participants in the procession are conducting the various sacrificial animals to the grand sacrifice, can we say the same for the competitors as well? If so, perhaps the sacrificial animals to be conducted by {52|53} the competitors are the lambs mentioned at the beginning of the inscription, the enkritoi of line 8.
The inscription ends by providing for its words to be inscribed on a stele and to be placed in the precinct of Artemis (40–41), with the following express purpose:
ὅπως ἂν κατὰ τοῦτα γί|νηται ἡ θυσίη καὶ ἡ μουσικὴ τεῖ Ἀρτέμιδι εἰς τὸν ἀεὶ χ|[ρό]νον
so that, according to these specifications, the thusia ‘sacrifice’ and the mousikē for Artemis may last forever
IG XII ix 189.41–42
One last time we see the all-important factor of sacrifice, and, this time, the homology is between the thusia ‘sacrifice’ and the mousikē.
A parallel homology is at work in the Timaeus of Plato. The dramatized occasion of this dialogue is “the thusia of the goddess” (τῇ … τῆς θεοῦ θυσίᾳ 26e3), that is, the Panathenaia. [32] The story of Atlantis and Athens, about to be narrated by Critias, is described by him metaphorically as a humnos to be sung as an encomium of the goddess: to recall the story, he says, would be a fitting way both to please Socrates “and at the same time to praise the goddess on the occasion of her Festival in a righteous and truthful way, just as if we were making her the subject of a humnos” (καὶ τὴν θεὸν ἅμα ἐν τῇ πανηγύρει δικαίως τε καὶ ἀληθῶς οἷόνπερ ὑμνοῦντας ἐγκωμιάζειν 21a2–3). [33] {53|54}
The story of Atlantis and Athens, about to be recalled by Critias, goes back to his childhood memories—all the way back to a time when he was only ten years old: his grandfather Critias, whose namesake he is, had told him the story on a day of initiation, Koureotis Day, during the Feast of Apatouria (21a–b). [34] As a ten-year-old, however, Critias would have been too young to be initiated, and this detail about his under-age status underlines the inherent childishness of the listener. [35] In this specific context, Plato adds an interesting further detail that reinforces the idea of childish perceptions: on Koureotis Day, Critias reminisces, he and his little friends used to engage in a very special game. They played rhapsode, competing for prizes, athla, arranged by their fathers (ἆθλα γὰρ ἡμῖν οἱ πατέρες ἔθεσαν ῥαψῳδίας 21b). In the general context of the Timaeus, the occasion of which is actually the Panathenaia, this mention of rhapsōidia is suggestive: it evokes the prime occasion of rhapsodic contests for prizes. This occasion is in fact the Panathenaia. [36] On the occasion of the real Panathenaia, rhapsodes competed—and cooperated—in performing the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey. On the occasion of that Koureotis Day of long ago, according to Plato’s dramatized reminiscences of Critias, the boys were competing in rhapsodic performances of “many poets” (πολλῶν μὲν οὖν δὴ καὶ πολλὰ ἐλέχθη ποιητῶν ποιήματα 21b). Among the “new” poetic compositions of that era, many of the boys “sang” the poems of Solon (ἅτε δὲ νέα κατ’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν χρόνον ὄντα τὰ Σόλωνος πολλοὶ τῶν παίδων ᾔσαμεν 21b). [37] Why is Solon highlighted in these reminiscences, and not Homer? Solon’s general pertinence to the Timaeus is obvious: what this lawmaker had heard from priests in Egypt is {54|55} supposedly the source of the grandfather Critias’ story about Athens and Atlantis. Solon’s specific pertinence to the Panathenaia, however, is no longer obvious to us. The immediate context of the Timaeus will now help provide an explanation.
The poetry of Solon, as we know from the surviving fragments, was composed in elegiac and iambic meters; these two meters, along with the dactylic hexameter, are the three basic “non-lyric” media that rhapsodes specialize in performing, while most other meters belong to the “lyric” media performed by citharodes or aulodes. [38] Solon’s status as a composer of rhapsodic poetry is pertinent to the Timaeus because he is pointedly compared by the grandfather Critias to Homer and Hesiod themselves: if only Solon had not left unfinished his poetic composition about Atlantis and Athens, says the grandfather, this statesman would have surpassed even Homer and Hesiod in poetic fame (21c–d). If this unfinished poetry of Solon had been performed by rhapsodes at the real Panathenaia, the performers would have become the continuators of a never-ending story.
We may note a formal parallelism of rhapsodic repertoires in Plato’s Ion: the rhapsode Ion, who is about to compete in the Panathenaia (530b), is potentially a grand master in performing Hesiod and even Archilochus, not just Homer (531a); he tells Socrates that he specializes in Homer only because Homer is the best poet and, by implication, the only poet whose poetry is performed by rhapsodes at the Panathenaia (531a-532c). The rhapsode is a master performer—without musical accompaniment (533b5–7)—of dactylic hexameter (Homer and Hesiod) as also of elegiac and iambic meters (both these meters were primary compositional media of Archilochus). From such formal parallelisms, we can see that the poetic medium of Solon—elegiac and iambic meters—is appropriate to the performance repertoire of rhapsodes. Solon’s poetry is rhapsodic poetry. But is this poetry appropriate for rhapsodic performance at the Panathenaia?
Plato’s Timaeus implies that the rhapsodic poetry of Solon could have replaced the rhapsodic poetry of Homer at the {55|56} Panathenaia, if only the great Athenian statesman had found the leisure time to finish his unfinished poem about Atlantis and Athens (21c–d). By further implication, the rhapsodic tale told by grandfather Critias could have become the poetic centerpiece of the Panathenaia. But Solon did not complete his rhapsodic masterpiece—just as Plato did not complete his trilogy of Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates. As I will now go on to argue, this state of incompleteness is expressed by Plato in a nostalgically playful way, and the playfulness cleverly mimics the childish mentality of a ten-year-old boy playing at a game of rhapsodes, where the object of the game is to win celebrity status as the star rhapsode of the Panathenaia.
Critias looks back at those early days when he and the other children playing rhapsode had not yet become eligible to enter the “real” world of grownups. Now, in the Timaeus and the Critias, we find the adult Critias still at it—playing rhapsode on the occasion of the Panathenaia. Plato’s wording of Critias’ reminiscences leaves the impression that Critias’ game is still in some ways a children’s game. [39]
In the Timaeus, which features the dramatis personae of Socrates, Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates, we find references to the subject-matter of an encounter of the same dramatis personae that had taken place “yesterday,” khthes (17c, 26c, etc.). The subject-matter of “yesterday” had concerned an ideal city-state or republic (politeia: 17c, etc.), and Socrates had talked about them “yesterday” in the form of a muthos (ἐν μύθῳ: 26c, etc.). These references in the Timaeus are cross-references, it would seem, to Plato’s Republic, which begins with a highlighted reference to khthes ‘yesterday’ (κατέβην χθὲς εἰς τὸν Πειραιᾶ: 327a). And yet, the khthes ‘yesterday’ of the Timaeus {56|57} involves the dramatis personae of the Timaeus, not the dramatis personae of the Republic (Socrates, Kephalos, Thrasymachus, and so on). [40] So we cannot say that the Timaeus cross-refers to the “real” Republic.
What we can say, however, is that the Timaeus fictionalizes the Republic, since we do know for a fact that a “real” Republic exists—if indeed we have already read it. Plato’s Timaeus is marked throughout by the genre of “fiction”—that is, of εἰκὼς λόγος (eikōs logos: for example, 48a, 53d). [41] Since Plato knows that we know fiction when we see it, if indeed we have read the “real” Republic carefully, he cannot expect us to take the khthes literally.
In the interplay of cross-reference, the fact that the word khthes is consistently juxtaposed with politeia ‘republic’ in the Timaeus may be viewed, in and of itself, as a reference to the Republic, in light of the prominent featuring of that word at the beginning of the Republic. For the reference to be a cross-reference, you do not have to reconcile the logic of the immediate context with the logic of the ultimate context, which controls the ultimate purpose of reference.
In terms of the immediate context of the Timaeus, its own dramatic moment is the eve of the concluding day of the Panathenaia, on the 28th of the month Hekatombaion. By contrast, the dramatic moment of the Republic was the feast of the Bendideia, on the 19th of the month Thargelion. Recognizing the dramatic moment of the Republic, Proclus infers that the dramatic moment of the Timaeus must have been the 20th of Thargelion—that is, the day after the Republic. In other words, Proclus is taking the usage of khthes ‘yesterday’ in the Timaeus as a historical reference to the setting of the Republic. At the {57|58} same time, he does not want to let go of the immediate context of the Timaeus, from which he infers that the feast in question is indeed the Panathenaia.
Proclus attempts to reason his way out of such contradictions by conjecturing that the feast in question is not the Greater Panathenaia, held every four years, but the Lesser Panathenaia, held on each of the other three years. He is guessing that the Lesser Panathenaia in Athens were held in the month of Thargelion, the same time when the Bendideia were held at the Peiraieus. Here he gets caught in a mistake from the standpoint of modern scholars, who have access to more evidence about the scheduling of the Panathenaia in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE than did Proclus, who lived almost a millennium later, in the fifth century CE. [42]
Such a mistake is really a mistake only if we follow Proclus in assuming that the dramatic dates of the Republic and the Timaeus need to be connected historically. For Plato, however, I submit that any intended thematic connection between the Republic and the Timaeus is purely literary, not historical: the Republic of “yesterday” had dealt with the topic of the ideal state, while the Timaeus of “today” announces a new topic, that is, a state that must be pure fiction.
That seems as far as we can go in looking for intertextual connections between different works of Plato. It is self-defeating to attempt to go further, as Proclus did, by seeking connections between the internal consistencies of one distinct work of Plato with those of another. [43] Platonic cross-reference cannot be expected to impose an overall sense of order on any single work from the cumulative totality of the outside. Still, my point remains that the usage of khthes ‘yesterday’ in the Timaeus is a case of partial intertextuality, that is, where a cross-reference in {58|59} one given work of Plato to another does not interfere with the individual philosophical and literary agenda of either work. [44]
The intentionality of this kind of intertextuality is reflected, I submit, in Plato’s use of the language of rhapsodes. From what I am about to show, it appears that Plato is making a point about individualized rhapsodic style and even individualized rhapsodic content, within the framework of an imposed and previously-agreed-upon sequence of narrative. When it is Critias’ turn in the Critias to take up where Timaeus in the Timaeus had left off, Timaeus says: “I hand over [paradidomen] to Critias, as prearranged, the continuous discourse [ephexēs logos]” (Critias 106b: παραδίδομεν κατὰ τὰς ὁμολογίας Κριτίᾳ τὸν ἐφεξῆς λόγον). I draw attention here to the expression ephexēs logos ‘continuous discourse’. We may compare the rhapsodic expression ephexēs in the passage I quoted earlier from “Plato” Hipparkhos 228b–c.
Critias responds by saying that he will now “take up the continuous discourse” at the point where it was handed over to him by Timaeus. I draw attention to the precise wording: dekhesthai ‘I take up’, with the direct object ephexēs logos ‘continuous discourse’ understood. The whole idea is worded in a noticeably compressed clause marked by the particle men, to be followed by an expanded clause, marked by the particle de, which expresses the idea that the discourse will now become {59|60} even more challenging than before, and that the speaker must therefore beg the indulgence of his audience all the more: ἀλλ᾿ὦ Τίμαιε δέχομαι μέν· ᾧ δὲ καὶ κατ᾿ἀρχὰς σὺ ἐχρήσω, συγγνώμην αἰτούμενος ὡς περὶ μεγάλων μέλλων λέγειν, ταὐτὸν καὶ νῦν ἐγὼ τοῦτο παραιτοῦμαι … ‘all right, then, Timaeus, I’m taking it up [dekhesthai] here [that is, the continuous discourse], on the one hand [men]; on the other hand [de], I ask for the very same thing that you too made use of at the beginning when you asked for indulgence on the grounds that you were about to speak about great [megala] things’ (Critias 106b–c). Critias goes on to say that his subject matter is surely even greater (106c).
The usage of the verb dekhesthai ‘take up’ in this context (106b) is crucial. We may compare the participle of this same verb as applied to Patroklos at Iliad IX 191: he sits in a state of anticipation, “waiting” (δέγμενος) for the moment when Achilles will leave off (verb lēgein) singing the klea andrōn ‘glories of heroes’. As I have argued, Patroklos is apparently waiting for his own turn to sing, and what we see here in capsule form is “the esthetics of rhapsodic sequencing.” [45] The verb lēgein ‘leave off’ is elsewhere attested in explicitly rhapsodic contexts, as in the following passage:
τά τε Ὁμήρου ἐξ ὑποβολῆς γέγραφε ῥαψῳδεῖσθαι, οἷον ὅπου ὁ πρῶτος ἔληξεν, ἐκεῖθεν ἄρχεσθαι τὸν ἐχόμενον
He [= Solon the Lawgiver] [46] has written a law that the works of Homer are to be performed rhapsodically {60|61} [rhapsōideîn], by relay [hupobolē], so that wherever the first person left off [lēgein], from that point the next connected person should start.
Dieuchidas of Megara FGH 485 F 6, via Diogenes Laertius 1.57 [47]
Critias remarks that his topic, the genesis of humans, is even more difficult than the topic that had just been treated by Timaeus, the genesis of the gods and of the cosmos, since the audience will demand greater verisimilitude about topics that seem closer to their own world of direct experience (107a–b). Socrates jokingly responds that the topic of the next slated speaker, Hermocrates, will surely become even more difficult (108a–b).
Of course, Plato’s readers will never get to see even the beginnings of Hermocrates’ topic, since the sequence of a would-be trilogy of Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates is cut short well before even the Critias can come to a finish. An obvious inference, then, is that Plato never finished his intended trilogy. [48] There is, however, also a less obvious inference that could be drawn: perhaps Plato intended the sequence of Timaeus / Critias to remain unfinished. [49] In support of this {61|62} inference, we may point to the open-endedness that typifies Plato’s dialectic in general. [50]
Critias’ speech stops short at exactly the point where he is about to quote the Will of Zeus (δίκην αὐτοῖς ἐπιθεῖναι βουληθείς 121b–c). Plato’s wording evokes the epic theme of the boulē or ‘Will’ of Zeus, as announced at the very beginning of the Iliad, I 5 (Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή) or at the very beginning of the Cypria fr. 1.7 Allen (Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή). At the point where Critias’ speech stops short, Zeus is about to announce that he will now inflict a Flood on the Golden Generation—the last of a doomed race who have finally exhausted their divine genetic destiny (moira) because of their habitual interbreeding with ordinary mortals (Critias 121c). This point of stopping short, I argue, is analogous to a given point in epic narrative where one rhapsode could leave off the narration and another rhapsode could take it up.
In support of this argument, I draw attention to two points in the overall narrative of the Iliad: one of them comes at the end of Book VIII, and the other at the end of Book XV. As Bruce Heiden points out, both Books VIII and XV end on a note of asserting the boulē or “Will” of Zeus. [51] Heiden argues that both endings seem to signal major breaks in the performance of the Iliad. In stressing the factor of performance, not just composition, he is following the theory of Oliver Taplin, who posits three successive units or “movements” in three successive nights for the actual performing of the Iliad: I–IX, X–XVIII 353, XVIII 354–XXIV. [52] Heiden modifies this theory by positing a different set of divisions for the three “movements,” which he thinks were performed in three days rather than nights: Iliad I–VIII, IX–XV, XVI–XXIV. [53] He argues that these posited divisions in the course of Iliadic performance were meant to mark points of {62|63} suspense, not of resolution: at the end of both VIII and XV, the Will of Zeus is being asserted at a moment when the outcome of the overall plot seems as yet undecided. [54]
I agree with Heiden’s specific inference that these major divisions at the endings of Iliad VIII and XV are compositional as well as performative. I also agree with his general inference that the endings of all Homeric “books” are likewise both compositional and performative. [55] As I have argued in my earlier work, the division of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey into twenty-four “books” (a better word would be “scrolls”) stems from distinctly rhapsodic traditions of performance, and even the traditional word for designating one of these “books,” rhapsōidia, reflects the technical language of rhapsodic practice. [56]
I disagree, however, with the position taken by Heiden when he argues that the divisions of the Iliad and Odyssey into twenty-four books “were designed and textualized by the composer himself.” [57] I also disagree with the position taken by Taplin on the other extreme: he argues not only that the book-divisions “do not go back to the formation of the poems” but also that they are relatively recent, probably the work of Alexandrian scholars. [58] The major narrative breaks that Taplin posits for the {63|64} Iliad are more distinct, he contends, than the breaks separating the Books of the Iliad as we know them. [59]
As an alternative to these positions, I offer here an intermediate formulation, based on an evolutionary model for the making of Homeric poetry. [60] In terms of such a model, I have argued, “what may be a three-part division in one stage of the tradition, which is what Taplin posits for the Iliad, may not necessarily be incompatible with a 24-part division at another stage.” [61] These “divisions,” I should stress, are not textual in terms of my formulation: rather, they are simultaneously compositional and performative. That is, they are aspects of a process of recomposition, evolving over time in the historical contexts of each reperformance. In short, “I hold open the possibility that the eventual division of the Iliad and Odyssey each into twenty-four Books results from the cumulative formation of episodes in the process of equalized or even weighting.” [62]
Having noted my disagreements with Heiden’s formulation of performative breaks in Homeric poetry, I return to a central point of agreement, concerning the suspenseful endings of Iliad VIII {64|65} and XV. So far, we have seen that the effect of suspense is achieved by way of breaking the narrative at a point where the Will of Zeus is not yet fully realized. The choosing of such points for breaking the narrative, I have been arguing, reflects a distinctly rhapsodic practice. Further, I have been comparing these points for breaking the Homeric narrative with the point in Plato’s Critias where the text breaks off, at the precise moment when the Will of Zeus is about to be quoted directly.
The analogy seems incomplete, however, since the Will of Zeus, as spoken in his own words, is “quoted” in Iliad VIII and XV not at the end of these “books” but further back (VIII 470–483 and XV 14–33, 49–77). Still, the actual effects of the words spoken by Zeus are suspensefully held back by the narrative of each of these “books,” all the way to the very end of each.
The analogy becomes clearer if we trace the overall metaphorical world of the Will of Zeus in the Iliad. From Iliad I through Iliad XV, as I have argued at length elsewhere, the Will of Zeus is visualized as an archetypal Conflagration inflicted by the thunderbolt of Zeus, and this visualization is applied metaphorically to the fire of Hektor as it threatens to destroy the ships of the Achaeans. [63] In terms of the overall plot of the Iliad, if the fire of Hektor had burned down the ships of the Achaeans, these seafaring ancestors of the Hellenes would all have perished, and Hellenic civilization itself would have become extinct. [64] This extinction, had it happened, would have been caused immediately by the fire of Hektor—but ultimately by a Conflagration sent by the Will of Zeus.
Fortunately for the Achaeans, the Will of Zeus stops short of Conflagration: “for Zeus, the selas ‘flash’ of Hektor’s fire at XV 600 signals the termination of the Trojan onslaught, which was inaugurated by the selas of his own thunderstroke at VIII 76.” [65] The Trojans will not be so fortunate: from Iliad XV 600 onward, the Will of Zeus will start to turn against them, and the rest of the plot of the Iliad will lead inexorably toward their own ultimate extinction by way of Conflagration.
This Homeric theme of ultimate extinction is pertinent to the themes of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias. Already in the Timaeus, we see a polar opposition between two kinds of eschatological disaster, that is, Conflagration (Ecpyrosis) and Flood (Cataclysm): the first is exemplified by the myth of Phaethon (22c) and the second, by the myth of Deukalion (22a). At the {65|66} point where the Critias breaks off, the Will of Zeus is about to unleash the second kind of eschatological disaster, the Cataclysm.
In the Iliad, the alternative eschatological themes of Ecpyrosis and Cataclysm are in fact both applied: the first threatens both the Trojans and the Achaeans, while the second threatens only the Achaeans. [66] Either way, the essential fact remains: Ecpyrosis and Cataclysm are the visible epic manifestations of the Will of Zeus.
In sum, the Critias of Plato breaks off at a point that corresponds to a break in rhapsodic performance. What then, could this correspondence tell us about the narrative sequence of the Timaeus and Critias?
In the wording of the Timaeus, the narrative about Atlantis was told to Solon hexēs ‘in sequence’ (23d) by the Egyptian priests, after they had re-read their own written record ephexēs ‘in sequence’ (24a). The contexts of these terms hexēs / ephexēs are analogous to the context of ephexēs logos ‘continuous discourse’ in Critias 106b, which I have already compared to the overtly rhapsodic context of ephexēs in “Plato” Hipparkhos 228b–c. As we have seen, the context of Critias 106b is in fact likewise overtly rhapsodic. When it is Critias’ turn in the Critias to take up where Timaeus in the Timaeus had left off, Timaeus says: “I hand over [paradidomen] to Critias, as prearranged, the continuous discourse [ephexēs logos]” (Critias 106b: παραδίδομεν κατὰ τὰς ὁμολογίας Κριτίᾳ τὸν ἐφεξῆς λόγον).
The problem is, Critias can never finish narrating this “continuous discourse,” just as Solon never finished turning this narrative into his own poetry in the first place. If only Solon had not left unfinished his poetic composition about Atlantis and Athens, says the grandfather, this statesman would have {66|67} surpassed even Homer and Hesiod in poetic fame (Timaeus 21c–d). If only Solon had finished, his Atlantis would have become the “continuous discourse” of rhapsodes.
The discontinuity of the Atlantis narrative highlights the openendedness of the narrative sequence from the Timaeus to the Critias to the nonexistent Hermocrates. The break in continuity happens at a point in the narrative when the narration has some time ago shifted from gods to humans: that shift is signaled already at the beginning of the speech of Critias (Critias 107a–b). That this speech is seemingly meant to address purely human affairs, not divine, is underlined by Plato’s evocative references to the world of history. When Critias describes his whole speech as parakhrēma legomena ‘things spoken with reference to the present contingencies’ (107d–e)—his wording evokes the passage in Thucydides 1.22.4 where the historian rejects the ephemeral preoccupations of his predecessors (ἀγώνισμα ἐς τὸ παραχρῆμα ἀκούειν ‘a competitive occasion meant for hearing with reference to the present [historical] contingencies’ [parakhrēma]). Later on, when Critias describes the moira ‘destiny’ of golden-age humanity as exitēlos ‘extinct’ (Critias 121a), his wording evokes the beginning of the History of Herodotus, where the historian expresses his ultimate intent to rescue human affairs from becoming exitēla ‘extinct’ (Herodotus prooemium). [67]
It is precisely at this moment in the narrative of the Critias that the Will of Zeus is about to reassert itself in the course of human affairs. It is also precisely at this moment that Zeus, just as he begins to speak, is precluded from uttering even one word. How ineffable of Zeus even to try to speak at this {67|68} point in the flow of narration, given that the dialogue of Critias had already started off by shifting from divine to human affairs!
The open-endedness of the narrative sequence from the Timaeus to the Critias to the nonexistent Hermocrates leaves no chance for Hermocrates, described as tritos (Critias 108a6), even to start—let alone finish. If he had indeed started, Hermocrates would have needed “a second beginning,” hetera arkhē, in any case (Critias 108b). That way, he would not have had to resort to the same old beginning, arkhē.
Before Critias gets to have his own beginning, arkhē, Socrates jokingly prophesies for him the fate that befalls those who compete in the world of theater, referring to what he calls the “mentality” of that medium (literally, its dianoia ‘train of thought’: τὴν τοῦ θεάτρου διάνοιαν): the “previous poet” (ὁ πρότερος ... ποιητής), he says, will always have a big advantage (Critias 108b). [68] At this point, Hermocrates responds to Socrates that “we” must bravely move ahead, that is, that Critias as the second in the sequence of three speakers must bravely move ahead and start his speech (Critias 108c). Critias responds by expressing his admiration for these brave but doomed words of Hermocrates, who is “last in line” (τῆς ὑστέρας τεταγμένος) and, worse, who still “has someone else in front of him,” someone who has not yet even performed for his audience (ἐπίπροσθεν ἔχων ἄλλον Critias 108c). At this moment, Critias refers to his present audience as “this theater” (τῷδε τῷ θεάτρῳ 108d). [69] {68|69}
As I contemplate Hermocrates in his role of the potential tritos (108a6), I see a failed sequence of three would-be rhapsodes: Timaeus, Critias, Hermocrates. If these three dramatis personae had succeeded in putting it all together, we would have had three rhapsodes performing some kind of poetic totality for one day. “Yesterday” there was another set of performances, adding up to a fictional equivalent of the Republic. [70] “Today,” the sequence of would-be rhapsodes does not quite add up—unless perhaps the reader is able to take the place of Hermocrates in this ongoing rhapsody. {69|70}


[ back ] 1. The original version of this chapter is N 2000a.
[ back ] 2. See especially Plato Laws VI 764c–765d, to be discussed below.
[ back ] 3. For Plato, the term mousikē also included the “music” of khorōidia, the singing and dancing of a khoros ‘chorus’: see Plato Laws 764e (in this passage, khorōidia is explicitly connected with orkhēsis ‘dancing’ as well as singing). By default, Plato (ibid.) designates as monōidia all forms of mousikē that are not khorōidia (such a designation is problematic, because monōidia does not account for the “music” of such categories as solo cithara-playing and solo aulos-playing). A primary form of khorōidia was the choral ode of tragedy and comedy. In Plato’s time and earlier, the high point of this kind of mousikē in the civic calendar of Athens was the Festival of the Dionysia (also, secondarily, the Festival of the Lenaia). From the standpoint of the Classical period of the fifth century, tragedy and comedy per se are not “music.” For Plato, mousikē applies to khorōidia only, which is just one aspect of tragedy and comedy. In the Classical period, the “music” of tragedy and comedy per se is not officially inspired by the Muses: hence it is not technically mousikē, which is the “art” or tekhnē of the Muses. In later periods, however, such distinctions are blurred by the growing professionalization of theatrical performances, as we see from the evolution of such institutions as the Dionusou tekhnitai in the early third century (see PP 174n74 and 177n89).
[ back ] 4. Cf. Berve 1966.
[ back ] 5. The principle of agōn is common to the “music” of epic and the “music” of tragedy / comedy. Like the Festival of the Panathenaia, the Festivals of the Dionysia and the Lenaia were a setting for agōn ‘competition’ among composers of what we would call “music”: see especially Plato Laws VIII 835a. See also PH 386–387 and 401–403, especially with reference to Euripides Bacchae 975 and Aristophanes Wasps 1439. Still, tragedy and comedy are not mousikē: only the khorōidia of tragedy and comedy is mousikē. See above.
[ back ] 6. Conversely, to repeat, the art of mousikē does not technically include the overall art of the dramatist of tragedy or comedy.
[ back ] 7. For an introduction to this inscription, see Parke 1977:35.
[ back ] 8. In Plato Laws VI 764e and VIII 835a, the officials in charge of these agōnes ‘competitions’ in mousikē are specified as athlothetai. As we will see from what follows, these officials are specific to the Panathenaia.
[ back ] 9. Parke 1977:35.
[ back ] 10. Davison 1968:56. The IG II2 2311 edition conjectures “citharists” rather than “rhapsodes” for the lacuna.
[ back ] 11. Davison 1968:56n2.
[ back ] 12. PP 111n24. For more on this inscription, see Nilsson 1906:239.
[ back ] 13. I alert the reader, in advance, to the “culture shock” of the Euboean dialect (for example, shortening of ῃ to ει, rhotacism of sigma, etc.).
[ back ] 14. More on the implications of the thusia ‘sacrifice’ in the discussion below.
[ back ] 15. Extended discussion of the parallelisms linking rhapsodes, citharodes, aulodes: PH 54, 85–104.
[ back ] 16. The term “musical” is used by Davison 1968:56. As we have seen, Davison even expresses doubt that the 4th-century BCE inscription of Panathenaic prizes, IG II2 2311, had mentioned the prize-winning rhapsodes at the beginning of the list, where the inscription is broken off. In his commentary on Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 60.1, Rhodes 1981:670–671 does not mention rhapsodic contests, speaking only generally of “musical contests.” For evidence in the visual arts on rhapsodic competitions at the Panathenaia, see Shapiro 1993, who disputes some commonly-held assumptions about representations of competing rhapsodes (for example, he argues convincingly that the performer represented on Side A of the red-figure neck amphora [London, British Museum E270], ca. 500–490 BCE, is an aulode, not a rhapsode).
[ back ] 17. See PP 111n24.
[ back ] 18. There is a collection of testimonia assembled by Kotsidu 1991:243–292. In Plato Laws VIII 828b–c, we see a collocation of the noun agōnes with the adjectives mousikoi and gumnikoi, mentioned in the context of athlothetai. The latter term makes clear a Panathenaic context, as we know from Aristotle’s reference to these officials, mentioned above. See also Plato Laws VIII 834e–835a: again mousikē, again specifically including rhapsodes, mentioned again in the context of athlothetai. Also Plato Laws VI 764d–e: agōn of mousikē, specifically including rhapsodes as well as citharodes, etc.
[ back ] 19. I stress my observation in the previous chapter: the orator, by “adducing” the classical authors (I mean “classical” from his synchronic point of view), assumes the role of statesman.
[ back ] 20. For epaineîn in the sense of ‘quote’, see the discussion in the previous chapter.
[ back ] 21. In rhapsodic terminology, as we saw above in “Plato” Hipparkhos 228b–c, hupolēpsis is not just ‘reception’ but also ‘continuation’ in the sense of reception by way of relay.
[ back ] 22. See also the context of epideigma ‘display, demonstration’ in “Plato” Hipparkhos 228d, as discussed in PH 161; see also PH 217 (and following) on apodeixis ‘presentation, demonstration’. The basic idea behind what is being “demonstrated” is a model for performance.
[ back ] 23. I confront for the first time this competitive aspect of rhapsodic performance in PH 23–24n28.
[ back ] 24. My translation here is attempting to capture the metaphorical implications of hupo in the sense of ‘under’.
[ back ] 25. In light of verses like Iliad III 103, we may retranslate arēn as ‘sheep’ (of either sex) instead of ‘lamb’.
[ back ] 26. My interpretation here is not certain.
[ back ] 27. On the semantics of enkrisis in the sense of a “choice selection” in a competitive context, see LSJ pp. 473–474.
[ back ] 28. I infer that these prize-allotments correspond to the actual winners on the first occasion of the institution as prescribed by the inscription; on this occasion, I infer further, no aulodes entered the competitions in mousikē.
[ back ] 29. In this context (line 23), it is not clear to me whether agōn ‘competition’ refers to the individual contestant’s occasion for competing or to the competition in mousikē writ large. The first alternative raises interesting questions: are there different days of agōn for different contestants? (The day of the pro-agōn must be the same for all.)
[ back ] 30. A dominant theme in this inscription is the idea conveyed by kallist- ‘most beautiful’: see also lines 1–3 as quoted above: “in order that the Artemisia [= Festival of Artemis] be conducted by us in the most beautiful way possible [kallista] and in order that as many people as possible may make sacrifice [= thuein].” Perhaps we may connect this theme with the cult-epithet of Artemis, kallistē ‘most beautiful’.
[ back ] 31. See also B. Nagy 1992, who also argues that the athlothetai are actually represented on the Frieze.
[ back ] 32. Brisson 1982:38.
[ back ] 33. Precisely in this context, Timaeus 20e, Plato evokes the first sentence of Herodotus, the so-called prooemium of the History: see P H 226. For the performance of epic, the humnos as a genre is the equivalent of a prooemium, as we see from the reference in Thucydides (3.104.3–4) to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo as a prooimion ‘prooemium’. See also P P 62.
[ back ] 34. On the identification of this Critias with the leader of the Thirty, see Clay 1997:52n6.
[ back ] 35. Brisson 1982:61.
[ back ] 36. Detienne 1989:178 describes Critias’ recalled event as a “little theater of the Apatouria”; it is “une sorte d’antichambre des Panathénées” (ibid.).
[ back ] 37. On “singing” as applied to the recitative performances of rhapsodes, see PH 21, 26.
[ back ] 38. Extended discussion in PH 25–28.
[ back ] 39. Compare Timaeus 22b: the Egyptians tell Solon that he and all the Greeks are mere children, since their myths (as recounted to them by Solon) are so “new” in comparison to the far more ancient myths recovered in the Egyptian records. Thus the story of Atlantis, as recounted to Solon by the Egyptians, has been filtered through the perspective of a “child” when Solon in turn recounts the story to the Greeks.
[ back ] 40. See Hadot 1983:122n57.
[ back ] 41. On eikōs logos as a genre (Gattung), see Witte 1964, who emphasizes an interesting constraint in Plato’s usage: the term eikōs logos is avoided in the many references to the central muthos about Atlantis.
[ back ] 42. Hadot 1983:117, with bibliography. Also Clay 1997:50–51.
[ back ] 43. For more on the esoteric outlook of Proclus, see Loraux 1993:176 and 434n16.
[ back ] 44. Similarly with the Timaeus and the Critias. These two works are much more closely connected with each other than the Republic is connected with the Timaeus (it can be argued, as we will see below, that they are not even separate works), and yet even in this case we may find individual consistencies. For example, the presiding god of the Timaeus is Athena, who is also the primary designated subject of the narration, which takes the form of “hymn,” humnos (21a: τὴν θεὸν... ὑμνοῦντας), while the gods of the Critias are Apollo/Paeon and the Muses, who are invoked to preside over the next designated subject, “the ancient and noble citizens” of prehistoric Athens, and again the narration takes the form of “hymn,” humnos (108c: τὸν Παίωνά τε καὶ τὰς Μούσας ἐπικαλούμενον τοὺς παλαιοὺς πολίτας ἀγαθοὺς ὄντας ἀναφαίνειν τε καὶ ὑμνεῖν). Here too, intertextuality need not prevent individual textuality in Timaeus / Critias.
[ back ] 45. See again PP 73.
[ back ] 46. On the interchangeability of Solon / Peisistratos in the charter myth of the “lawgiver” who integrates the heretofore disintegrated corpus of Homeric poetry, see the discussion in Ch. 1.
[ back ] 47. See also Ford 1992:115 n31, who notes the use of lēgein ‘stop, leave off’ at the point in the narrative where Demodokos leaves off his Trojan narrative (Odyssey viii 87); this verb, Ford argues, “is the technical expression used by a rhapsode to end a performance or a part of one.” For parallels, he cites Homeric Hymn to Dionysus 17–18, Hesiod fr. 305.4 MW, and Theogony 48. He also cites Diogenes Laertius 1.57 [Dieuchidas of Megara FGH 485 F 6] and Iliad IX 191, the two passages presently under discussion.
[ back ] 48. Cf. Plutarch Life of Solon 31.3, 32.1–2.
[ back ] 49. Cf. Clay 1997. See also Haslam 1976, who argues that Timaeus + Critias are really one unfinished dialogue; he makes a similar argument about the Sophist + Statesman, discounting the idea that Plato intentionally sets up the expectation of a trilogy comprised of Sophist + Statesman (+ Philosopher), which would be parallel to Timaeus + Critias (+ Hermocrates). In what follows, I argue that Plato did indeed intentionally set up the expectation of a sequence Timaeus + Critias + Hermocrates.
[ back ] 50. See especially Dihle 1995.
[ back ] 51. Heiden 1996:19–22.
[ back ] 52. Taplin 1992:11–31.
[ back ] 53. Heiden 1996:21.
[ back ] 54. I do not agree with other aspects of Heiden’s argumentation, especially the idea that the Will of Zeus is in each of these two cases a “counter-assertion” to the will of Achilles, and that this counter-assertion is expressed programmatically already in Iliad I 1–5 (p. 21). Zeus wills the realization of the mēnis ‘anger’ of Achilles, not its thwarting, at Iliad I 5. See BA 1979 Ch. 20, where I offer an extended discussion of the synchronization of the Will of Zeus with the plot and the imagery of the Iliad. It surprises me to read the claim of Heiden 1997:222n5 that “Nagy says little about the gods” (also p. 223n9). When he quotes me (p. 223) as saying that “the praise of Homeric poetry is restricted to the heroes of the distant past” (PH 150), he does not note the context of my formulation: I am contrasting these heroes of the past with the audience in the here-and-now of Homeric performance. On the subject of divine models for epic praise, see PH 359–361.
[ back ] 55. Heiden 1998.
[ back ] 56. PP 181–183 (68, 79).
[ back ] 57. Heiden 1998:82. For a position similar to Heiden’s, see Stanley 1993.
[ back ] 58. Taplin 1992:285.
[ back ] 59. Taplin pp. 285–293.
[ back ] 60. HQ Ch. 3–4; PP Ch. 5–7.
[ back ] 61. HQ 88n72.
[ back ] 62. HQ 88; on the concept of “equalized weighting,” see HQ 77–82. As I remark in HQ 88, “It is from a diachronic point of view that I emphasize the cumulative formation of episodes in the process of even weighting.”
[ back ] 63. BA 334–347. Cf. also Muellner 1996.
[ back ] 64. BA 338.
[ back ] 65. BA 336.
[ back ] 66. Rousseau 1996:403–413, 591–592, with special reference to the stylized Cataclysm of Iliad XII 17–33 and the Battle of Fire and Water in Iliad XXI 211–327 (on which see also HQ 145–146).
[ back ] 67. For a related evocation of the prooemium of Herodotus in Timaeus 20e, see PH 226. By implication, Plato’s Timaeus is a monumental prooemium or humnos in its own right: see again see n33 above. The genetic implications of exitēlos at the end of the Critias, 121a, where the moira ‘destiny’ of the golden generation becomes exitēlos ‘extinct’ precisely because of their “mixing” their genes with ordinary mortals, can be compared with the context of exitēlos in Herodotus 5.39.2, with reference to the extinction of a genetic line. Cf. PH 225.
[ back ] 68. Here I see an explicit merger of the imagery of rhapsodes competing in the festival of the Panathenaia with the imagery of poets competing in theatrical festivals like the Dionysia. Plato indulges in such mergers of images, especially in the Ion. In HR, I examine more closely the parallelisms in Plato’s references to rhapsodic and theatrical competitions in light of historical evidence for parallelisms in the evolution of rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’ and hupokritai ‘actors’.
[ back ] 69. On “theater” as the audience of rhapsodes, see again the previous note. Note that theatai ‘theater-goers’ refers to the audiences of rhapsodes at Ion 535d8.
[ back ] 70. The potential totality of Timaeus + Critias + Hermocrates may be the equivalent, in rhapsodic terms, of one of three “movements” in the performance of the Iliad. In terms of the three performative “movements” of the Iliad, as Taplin 1992:21n20 argues, cross-references in one given “movement” to the previous “movement” can be worded in terms of “yesterday.” That is, “yesterday” can refer to yesterday’s performance, not to an event that happened yesterday in terms of the narrative per se. In XIII 745, for example, χθιζὸν χρεῖος ‘debt of yesterday’ refers to the Trojan victory of Book VIII. See in general Taplin p. 21 for other possible examples.