Dimitrios Yatromanolakis, Sappho in the Making: The Early Reception
Note on Transliteration
1. An Anthropology of Reception
2. Ethnographic Archives of Vraisemblance in Attic Ceramics
3. The Anthropology of Ancient Reception: The Late Archaic and Classical Periods
4. Traditions in Flux
5. In Search of Sappho’s Companions: Anthropological Fieldwork on Socioaesthetic Cultures
Abbreviations and Bibliography
Chapter 1. An Anthropology of Reception
Δεινὸν γάρ που, ὦ Φαῖδρε, τοῦτ’ ἔχει γραφή, καὶ ὡς ἀληθῶς ὅμοιον ζωγραφίᾳ. καὶ γὰρ τὰ ἐκείνης ἔκγονα ἕστηκε μὲν ὡς ζῶντα, ἐὰν δ᾽ ἀνέρῃ τι, σεμνῶς πάνυ σιγᾷ. ταὐτὸν δὲ καὶ οἱ λόγοι.
I think, Phaidros, that writing shares a strange feature with painting. The offspring of painting stand there as if they were alive, but if you ask them anything, they are solemnly silent. The same is true of written words.
—Plato, Phaidros 275d
Memnon, Memnon, that lady
Who used to walk about amongst us
With such gracious uncertainty,
Is now wedded
To a British householder.
Lugete, Veneres! Lugete, Cupidinesque!
Memnon, Memnon, that lady
Who used to walk about amongst us
With such gracious uncertainty,
Is now wedded
To a British householder.
Lugete, Veneres! Lugete, Cupidinesque!
—Ezra Pound, from “Ladies”
In scholarship, more than in contemporary cultural politics and art, the problem of the historical presence of Sappho is complex. Not unlike the Homeric question that has provoked considerable debate over time,  a number of areas of contention have been present. Scholarly arguments and deliberations about the culture of Sappho in archaic Lesbos and elsewhere, the issue of what it meant to be a companion of Sappho’s, and the question of the interpenetratedness of textuality and performative transmission (occupying also scholars working on the Homeric epics) have caused an unparalleled flourishing of research on the songs of Sappho and their original context over the last one and a half centuries. Theories about these and other scholarly concerns have been so numerous and of ever-increasing imaginative forcefulness that affording them full consideration within the covers of a single book would be impossible. Historical reconstructions advanced by different researchers and endorsed, even tacitly, by other historians and classicists have been intensely discussed to this day.
The problems involved in such debates are, as for the Homeric texts, mostly definitional: What is “tradition,” “traditional style,” and why should the latter be associated with formulaically based composition in performance? If all is attributed to tradition, could Sappho be viewed as a vehicle of a prearchaic and archaic tradition of women’s poetry? And if tradition is at the center of scholarly endeavors to reconstruct the culture, or (as I prefer to put it in terms of her original context) the cultures of Sappho, should her songs be compared to the compositions of partheneia (“maiden songs”) of Alkman, an almost coeval archaic poet who lived in Sparta? Is Sappho another Alkman, and does she converse in her songs with the Homeric epics in an attempt to (re)define a female poetic or performative perspective, as has often been argued? From such questions other central issues emerge. How can words like erôs and erasthai, or gunê and pais be glossed anthropologically in the fragments of Sappho? And, finally, how can the indigenous poetics—sociopolitical and textual—of Sappho be classified and described?
Again the case of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey and their scholarly reception can throw light on the problems surrounding the study of the fragments of Sappho. In the twentieth century, the Parry-Lord pathfinding theory of oral formulaic composition in performance has contributed considerably to the elucidation of a large number of issues related to traditional poetics and to an ethnography of what we might want to call traditional “vehicles of meaning.”  Despite this pronounced advancement in the ways scholars look at Homer, the scholarly discursivity  of the different theories stemming from more traditional approaches to archaic epic and from the Parry-Lord insights into the comparative workings of modern oral Serbo-Croatian epic and Homeric poetry has rarely been addressed within the disciplinary boundaries of Classics.  Survivalism, functionalism, and diffusionism are paradigms that have been, often unconsciously, promoted and remained almost unremarked in the study of the composition and transmission of the Homeric epics. Such paradigms have produced significant and wide-ranging results, but the assumptions on which they are based often remain insufficiently spelled out. As a result, there is no consensus on how to define traditionality, cohesion, inconsistency, Homeric textuality, and, more importantly for the archaic poetry that was composed (as we take it for granted) after the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey, the possible intertextual relations between archaic melic, elegiac, and iambic verses, on the one hand, and the Homeric epics, on the other.
It is not enough or even thought-provoking and promising, I argue, to point to the biographical tradition, as we call it, of the ancient reception of Homer or Sappho. In the case of Sappho, which, to be sure, is different from that of the Homeric epics, current research places almost exclusive emphasis on the biographical tradition stemming from comic texts of the fourth century BC. Everything, it is maintained, revolves around this late-fifth and fourth-century comic tradition. However, consideration of that tradition along with the later attested biographical tradition and the so-called testimonia related to Sappho have often led to a blurred and undifferentiated image of the activities of the song-maker—an image that is employed and read differently by diverse reconstructive attempts at reaching archaic realities as far back as the late seventh-century BC Lesbos.
Even in the case of the so-called biographical tradition, we may need to go far beyond maintaining that everything is fictional, since that would be a straightforward enterprise. The concept of fiction, as implicitly employed in older and current scholarship through the use of the term “biographical tradition,” is rarely defined and often wedded to a somewhat narrow view of how fictionalization works and why it is generated within specific social contexts. At the same time, quite old or unsubstantiated views about Sappho still hold an overwhelming power over current historical reconstructions of archaic social actualities and ideological frameworks. The same is true for literary analyses that do not attempt to offer new, or to fine-tune already advanced reconstructions but presuppose them to a marked degree. Numerous translations in different modern languages of textual reconstructions have established and promoted by-now naturalized poetic images that have entered the corpus of the fragments of Sappho. Very few scholars would question such images. The editiones principes of her fragmentary texts, although real treasure houses of insight and scholarly warnings, have ceased having appeal to most modern scholars working on historical or literary aspects; dots for uncertain letters, brackets, and risky reconstructive schemata tentatively entertained, but at the same time modestly undermined, by older papyrologists have often been altogether forgotten.  For all that, the tentative schemata have habitually been left intact and are taken for granted.
While the amount of research on Sappho has become almost intimidating and arguments and polemics continue to increase, the extant material—archaeological and textual—that would provide clues to our understanding of her work remains in surprisingly crucial cases underexplored. For example, partly adopting approaches current in the nineteenth century, twentieth-century scholarship attempted to see in the fragments of Sappho and the testimonia about her, references to the age of her companions and their role in the so-called Sapphic circle.  This use of late sources as conclusive evidence for archaic realities is not confined only to discussions of the age of her companions (or whatever we may want to call them); it extends also to the analysis of issues relating to the performance of her poetry.  Sources should not always be identified with the concept of evidence. The results of such and related inquiries are frequently based on late, post-Hellenistic sources.  Earlier representations of Sappho have been persistently underexplored or unexplored. More broadly, although the early modern and the nineteenth-/twentieth-century reception of Sappho has emerged as an autonomous field,  the ancient reception of Sappho has not received proper attention and the ancient sources have been approached without systematic methodological apparatus that draws both on synchronic systems of signification and diachronic perspectives. 
The need to broaden our investigation is urgent. Sappho must be revisited from several different perspectives. One is her surviving textual corpus and its analysis. Contrary to what one might expect, given the amount of publications that appear every year, Sappho’s texts preserved on papyri and parchments have recently suffered a relative lack of broad scholarly attention. Current critical editions do not incorporate new material and papyrological results that would facilitate literary analysis. More importantly, many parchments and papyri were transcribed and edited in the first half of the twentieth century. In their critical edition, Lobel and Page in certain cases did not reexamine the originals, but were based on previous papyrological and palaeographical work by Schubart, Zuntz, and several other scholars.  In her monumental edition, Voigt has regrettably adopted the same practice in numerous cases.  In their turn, cultural historians and literary critics have based their frequently influential analyses on puzzling or sometimes inaccurate texts.  Theories on Sappho have all too often rested upon further theories—linguistic, reconstructive, literary, cultural—all eventually based on the texts that Lobel-Page and Voigt offer. And, in a circular manner, literary testimonia related to Sappho are still widely used to ponder questions such as the role of girls—a marked category—in the “Sapphic circle” and in the society of archaic Lesbos. 
This book does not focus solely on the ancient reception of Sappho; it mainly aims to offer an anthropological Problematik and method for the investigation of ancient social dynamics and cultural idioms. The present study does not suggest that all the ancient reception is a series of cases of fictionalization. It attempts to create a dialogue with ancient sources and cultural economies and to approach them by means of conducting, as it were, historical fieldwork, while at the same time not suggesting that our “informants” are as unambiguous and always diachronically contaminated as we would hope. The fact that ancient representations are sometimes investigated between these covers in chronological sequence does not suggest any kind of stemmatic, unidirectional or evolutionary understanding of different synchronic indigenous ideas about Sappho across time.
I further propose that, in contrast to current sporadic outlines of the ancient reception of Sappho  —viewed as a unified conglomeration of miscellaneous images susceptible to modern narrativization—the preserved archival representations should be mapped out with regional differences fleshed out as much as possible. The divide between what we occasionally, commonsensically or retrospectively, seem to expect and to have expected from an investigation of reception, and the actual practice of contemporary analysis and reconstruction in Classics is, I want to stress, greater than one may wish to admit. The enterprise of challenging well-established concepts about Sappho may cause uneasiness or even retreat to the logic of the inclusion of such enterprises into the generic scheme of deconstructive historiography about the persona of such figures as Pythagoras and Erinna. What is at stake in this book is more intricate—and anthropologically more intriguing.
I do not attempt here a unified narrativization of different elements deriving from a marked choice of specific aspects reflected in the fragments and in ancient receptions—Roman and Greek—of the songs and the figure of Sappho. Although formative in the early stages, the songs were sometimes detached from synchronic modalities of scanning the figure of Sappho, which could lead an independent social life, as it were. This differentiation, even temporary or marked in ancient times, has been obliterated in modern eras. The early stages of the reception of Sappho provide a significant area within which current reconstructions and theories can be tested and new methodological paradigms can emerge.
Paradigms and Filters
Sappho is a difficult author.  Unless the fragmentariness of her songs deceives us, they display, among other issues, a high degree of intricacy in terms of the pronounced use of pronouns, which, compared to patterns detectable in archaic male poets, are more enmeshed in almost contrapuntal exchanges.  Such dialogues make the work of a cultural historian even more complex in attempting to differentiate between, and define, the performative context and the descriptive context of the songs.  The singing voice converses with and addresses companions—female and male, directly or in embedded narratives  —as well as adversaries and Aphrodite. The goddess in turn replies to the poetic subject,  which in other songs is engaged in dialogue even with her chelys lyre: 
ἄγι δὴ χέλυ δῖα †μοι λέγε†This fragment exemplifies a number of aspects of modern research on Sappho. For this reason, I shall pause here and focus on some marked methodological approaches to it.
φωνάεσσα †δὲ γίνεο†
come, noble chelys, speak to me
take a voice
φωνάεσσα †δὲ γίνεο†
come, noble chelys, speak to me
take a voice
The text was known to the late second century AD rhetorician Hermogenes and was widely read, even through Hermogenes’ work, by medieval Greek writers. Hermogenes, who quotes the lines in his On Types of Style (ideai),  claims that in this song Sappho addressed her lyre and the lyre replied to her. For him, the effect produced by assigning human capacities to objects like water was glukutês (“sweetness”), a feature often attributed to Sappho as well as to Herodotos in antiquity.  At the height of the Byzantine Renaissance in the twelfth century,  predating the Italian Renaissance in its cultural emphasis on Greek antiquity, medieval Greek authors like Eustathios of Thessalonike recast the lines in a more culturally reconstructive manner:Eustathios preserves a different text for these two lines but, following a long tradition in textual criticism of ancient Greek literature, many editors have persistently trusted Hermogenes and his †μοι λέγε† without taking into account (this time respecting a similarly long tradition) the possibility that the unmetrical †... λέγε† is a marginal annotation that found its way into Hermogenes’ text.  Even so, note that the meter of the two lines as they appear in Voigt’s edition (fragment 118) is uncertain and has been assigned by Voigt to no book of the Alexandrian edition of Sappho.  Note also that the particle δή in line 1 is not found in Hermogenes and Eusthathios but, according to a 1814 report by C. J. Blomfield, a late manuscript of On Types of Style provides it.  Variant readings or new readings with poor support in the manuscript tradition of an author, but which seem appealing or superior to those preserved by the vast majority of witnesses, has been a phenomenon well attested and insightfully discussed by Nigel Wilson.  Therefore, if correctly reported, δή causes no surprise and could be adopted—not, however, with unconditional certainty.
Ὁμηρικῶς δέ πως καὶ ἡ λυρικὴ Σαπφὼ σχηματίζουσα τῇ κιθάρᾳ ἐγκελεύεται “ ἄγε μοι, δῖα χέλυ, φωνάεσσα γένοιο.”
The lyric poet Sappho too, in a somewhat Homeric figurative manner, urges her stringed instrument: “come, noble lyre, be eloquent for me.” 
Despite the appearance of the editorial cruces, the situation is not as “tidy” as one might think when confronted with the text as printed by Voigt and other editors. In the early nineteenth century, Blomfield rendered the fragment as one line. He further substituted the transmitted χέλυ (chelys lyre) with χελύνη and added the annotation that according to the so-called “Etymologicum Magnum,” a medieval Greek lexicon with an interesting history, the Aeolian name for χελώνη was χελύνη.  For the first part of his one-liner, Blomfield preferred the version transmitted by Eusthathios, δῖα χέλυ. He found no problem with Hermogenes’ λέγε, but thought that μοι is most probably, but not certainly, a bogus reading. Therefore, the version he reconstructed was ἄγε, δῖα χελύνη, λέγε, φωνᾶσα δὲ γίνεο—despite the fact that sixth-century BC Lesbians, as we understand their dialect nowadays, would use the form χελύννα. Later in the nineteenth century, a highly influential critical editor, Theodor Bergk, adopted a different version in his printed text.  The fragment appeared in two lines and in the following configuration: ἄγε δὴ χέλυ δῖά μοι | φωνάεσσα γένοιο.
In this version, Hermogenes’ λέγε is again undermined and Eustathios’ version is almost unconditionally opted for. The only comment that Bergk added was that two German-speaking scholars, C. F. Neue and J. A. Hartung, had offered the versions ἄγε δῖα χέλυ μοι λέγε and ἄγε μοι χέλυ δῖα, respectively, for the first line. After the publication of other German anthologies, Bergk’s Sappho fragment 45 eventually became Ernst Diehl’s Sappho fragment 103.  Diehl actually suggested a change in a dialectal feature: ἄγι <δὴ>, χέλυ δῖά, μοι | φωνάεσσα γένοιο. And he kept Eustathios’ version almost intact. Diehl’s authoritative, impressive command of ancient Greek dialects and meter did not detect any metrical uncertainties in the text. Following earlier attempts, he assigned the two lines to the fifth book of the Alexandrian edition, presumably since he found in them a relative metrical affinity to Sappho fragment 101 V, which, according to Athenaios, was included in the fifth book of the Alexandrian edition.  In the second edition of his Anthologia Lyrica Graeca, Diehl noted that Edgar Lobel (out of frustration or his customary overskepticism?) suspected that a number of readings transmitted by Hermogenes and Eustathios were not correct.  Yet, Diehl and Eva-Maria Voigt were not eventually convinced by Lobel’s somewhat sweeping views. 
One could go on and defend a different version of the transmitted texts. However, another source, that of Mikhael Italikos, unearthed after Voigt’s edition, confirmed a number of points and added new elements: ἄγε τοίνυν χέλυ δῖά μοι, λεγέσθω γὰρ ἐπικαίρως τὸ τῆς Σαπφοῦς, φωνητικωτέρα τε γίνου καὶ εὔφωνος καὶ πολύφωνος, καὶ τὰ βασιλέως ἐπαίνει καλά (“come, then, divine chelys—be the poem of Sappho (re)cited opportunely—become for me more resonant and sweet-toned and many-voiced, and praise the king’s merits/benevolence”).  What is noteworthy is that, probably some time before Eustathios, Mikhael Italikos, who was also familiar with Sappho’s wedding songs,  located Sappho firmly in a praise context.
One might want to make four observations with regard to textual research on Sappho fragment 118V. The search for origins—the archaic song that Sappho composed and that was at a certain point written down—has been the most lasting and authoritative paradigm in scholarship on Sappho since at least the nineteenth century.  Even deconstructive attempts  or literary approaches that undermine the trustworthiness of a manuscript reading, without adducing additional evidence either from the poetics of the fragments of Sappho themselves or especially from different sociocultural aspects of the ancient reception of her songs,  aim at a reconstruction of the original context of a poem. I do not wish to suggest that this significant paradigm should not be embedded in research on textual criticism. On the contrary, wide-ranging approaches to the textual transmission of particular authors have often led to groundbreaking results. Also, my concern here is not whether or not there were different versions of Sappho fragment 118 V in Greek antiquity—a broader issue that will be investigated later in this book. What I point to is the effort to locate in such text-critical attempts evidence for the contextual—sociopolitical, cultural—webs of signification that, according to a number of scholars, lie behind the texts printed by critical editors. More specifically, emendations and prescriptive taxonomies of dialectal features have, in the case of Lobel and Page, contributed to an understanding of Sappho’s poetry that promotes such distinctions as dialectally “normal” and “abnormal” poems—the latter assigned to a specific book of the Alexandrian edition of Sappho, the so-called book of the Epithalamians.  Lobel and Page’s work on Sappho intended to be as objective as possible in terms of the linguistic observations and somewhat rigid classifications they advanced. However, their taxonomies were taken over by literary scholars to propose numerous ideas about poetic genre in Sappho, about how this issue was treated by the Alexandrians and what solution they gave in their Hellenistic editorial practice, and about several aspects of the performance and transmission of Sappho’s songs in antiquity. I shall return to the issue of origins in the course of this book.
The second observation I would make is that the different critical editors considered above essentially rewrote the text of the original song of Sappho. In a fashion reminiscent of the early textual editing of versions of traditional songs by English and other collectors of oral poetry in an attempt to reach an Ur-version, textual critics in Classics have reconfigured the metrical structure and dialectal features of the so-called Rhodian “swallow-song” (carmen populare 848 PMG) several times.  Although successive versions may well denote considerable progress based on scholarly results in linguistics and metrics, such renderings have been conducive to our current understanding of what an ancient Greek “folksong” is.  Similarly, but more markedly, the fragments of Sappho have been rewritten numerous times. I do not refer here to the more evident case of the papyrus fragments and the different supplements advanced by different hands. It is those fragments transmitted through indirect tradition—that is, those quoted in ancient treatises and literary texts and known to scholars long before the discovery of Greek papyri in Egypt in the late nineteenth century—that have often received marked  reconstructions, which place them in specific, again reconstructed, taxonomies. Such taxonomies have been necessary and most helpful, but in an attempt to write the history of diverse cultural phenomena in archaic Greece, cultural historians, especially more recently, tend to overlook the discursivity of textual reconstructions of quoted fragments. These quoted fragments have further determined to a significant degree the reconstructions of the language and cultural contexts of papyrus fragments of Sappho. Again, my objective is not to challenge the scholarly activities of modern editors, who have evidently made vast progress in constituting a text that represents, as faithfully as possible, the text critically produced in Hellenistic Alexandria. My emphasis is on representation and, more precisely, on the scholarly discursivity of such efforts that more often than not passes unnoticed. Ultimately my focus is on a more specific aspect: the writing and rewriting of modern historical narratives that reconstruct the original archaic Greek realities and idealities related to the marked case of a woman song-composer in Greek antiquity and, as a consequence, to other marked cases of male song-composers—choral and monodic at the same time—in different regions of what we call archaic Greece.
My third observation is related to the second: the choice between second-century Hermogenes and twelfth-century Eustathios by editors is determined by concerns not only strictly philological but also ideological. These concerns are related to ideas about the linguistic continuity between ancient Greece and medieval Greece. The main question here is whether the Byzantine Greek speakers understood ancient Greek and ancient Greek literature better than we do (that is, English, French, German, Greek speakers). Often the answer is negative—especially, but not exclusively, by British researchers; but striking cases occur of modern misunderstanding of the medieval Greek representation of ancient Greek. Even for earlier periods, the concept that our approach to ancient Greek texts is frequently more critical and nuanced than that of a perceptive author like the first-century BC Dionysios of Halikarnassos can put aside issues related to our discursivity. I shall consider one case of such a methodological perspective.
In the Orestes, Euripides presents Elektra urging the Chorus of Argive women, at their entrance into the orchestra, to move quietly, with a soft tread, lest they wake the sleeping Orestes. In his treatise On Arrangement of Words (Περὶ συνθέσεως ὀνομάτων), in the context of an analysis that places emphasis on aural dimensions and performative aspects of words and poetry, Dionysios of Halikarnassos provides an intriguing, relatively detailed discussion of the music of this part of the tragedy.  Dionysios’ point is that, as was evident to him by numerous compositions and especially by choral songs of Euripides, music would require that words be subordinate to melody, and not melody to words (τάς τε λέξεις τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑποτάττειν ἀξιοῖ καὶ οὐ τὰ μέλη ταῖς λέξεσιν). What Dionysios referred to was the relationship between the pitch accent that characterized ancient Greek of early periods and the musical movement of a composition. In this context, he quoted the introductory words of the Chorus and Elektra’s admonition to them as they move/dance in the orchestra in Orestes 140–142. This is the text that Dionysios quotes and then analyzes musically:
Dionysios’ account of τίθετε, μὴ κτυπεῖτ᾽ cannot have been affected by scribal errors or defective transmission. The musical structure he describes necessitates the forms τίθετε, μὴ κτυπεῖτ’.  The modern editorial intervention is not as marked as those detectable in the “quoted” fragments of Sappho,  but the fact that other, possibly stylistic, considerations made James Diggle adopt or even propose the reading τίθει, μὴ κτύπει, when the medieval manuscripts almost unanimously point to τίθετε, μὴ κτυπεῖτ(ε), shows the extent of trust he had in either the ancient Greek critic Dionysios or the medieval Greek scribes and the cultural intricacies that often lie behind them.  When a modern English or Greek composer produces an arrangement of some so-called folksongs, should one assume that even the skeletal musical structure has not been exploited? In other words, arrangements of traditional songs (especially) by Nikos Skalkotas or Benjamin Britten retain this structure, and the work of a music analyst, if she or he decided to trace the “original” version of a specific song, would be to focus on the skeletal structure provided by Skalkotas and Britten, or perhaps Ravel in his Five Greek Folk Songs, which present arresting similarities to Greek songs from Asia Minor collected at that time by French and German scholars. Such a type of research is considerably complicated; that is why overskepticism is perhaps not commendable. Unless one hypothesizes that the Byzantine Greek literati were almost always more “primitive” or idiosyncratic in their scholarly enterprises than, say, the English or the Greeks,  there is no serious reason to mistrust a priori their linguistic and literary insights. It might be intriguing to attempt to understand the linguistic and cultural context within which they worked, especially since their role in the preservation of ancient Greek literature was so central. If scholars in science studies are right in stressing that scientific facts in laboratories are expertly constructed by those who participate in experiments,  should historical and philological experimentation be more immune to possible scholarly fictionalization?
σῖγα σῖγα, λεπτὸν ἴχνος ἀρβύληςEven if we assume that Dionysios discussed a new, not the original Euripidean, musical setting of this section—certainly an attractive idea—  the first three words σῖγα σῖγα, λεπτὸν were sung, according to a score that he consulted or, more likely, I believe, according to his experience with reperformances of the song or of the play,  to the same musical note, despite the occurrence of the acute and grave modulations of the words’ accents.  As for τίθετε, μὴ κτυπεῖτ᾽, Dionysios’ close familiarity with both the music he had listened to and the copy of the text his papyrus scroll provided him with makes explicitly clear that this is what Euripides’ text looked like in the first century BC. Actually, a slightly fuller version of this reading—that is, τίθετε, μὴ κτυπεῖτε—is attested in almost all medieval manuscripts preserving the Orestes.  A late-twentieth-century critical editor, whose understanding of the manuscript tradition of the Orestes can hardly be challenged, chose to print the following version of the lines:
τίθετε, μὴ κτυπεῖτ’ ·
ἀποπρὸ βᾶτ’ ἐκεῖσ’, ἀποπρό μοι κοίτας.
Quietly, quietly, your shoe-tread place
lightly, make no stamping sound;
withdraw from there—that way—do withdraw from the bed. 
τίθετε, μὴ κτυπεῖτ’ ·
ἀποπρὸ βᾶτ’ ἐκεῖσ’, ἀποπρό μοι κοίτας.
Quietly, quietly, your shoe-tread place
lightly, make no stamping sound;
withdraw from there—that way—do withdraw from the bed. 
|Χορός||σῖγα σῖγα, λεπτὸν ἴχνος ἀρβύλας|
|τίθει, μὴ κτύπει [μηδ’ ἔστω κτύπος].|
|Ἠλέκτρα||ἀποπρὸ βᾶτ’ ἐκεῖσ’ ἀποπρό μοι κοίτας.|
A fourth observation has already been adumbrated in my arguments so far. Authority and erudition—not easily assigned to critical editors in the history of the field of Classics—are features especially conducive to the establishment and general acceptance of a particular configuration of the fragmentary texts of an ancient author. As late as the year 2004, three early Ptolemaic papyrus fragments furnished the scholarly community with additional text for Sappho fragment 58 V—now an almost complete song—as well as a few other short fragments.  Since then a highly intensive scholarly endeavor has attempted to supplement the fragments  and, more importantly for the present book, to rewrite the original social context of the songs of a woman poet whose archaic Lesbian culture displays large gaps of indeterminacy.  The supplements that may prevail in the establishment of the text—and context—of the “new fragments” in a near-future critical edition of the textual corpus of Sappho could be partly associated with the distinctive authority of a textual expert in archaic melic poetry. 
In this context another, more pervasive, methodological approach to Sappho is appropriate for consideration. Scholarly authority is reflected in the multileveled use of generalizations in older and current scholarship on Sappho. A scholarly theory can often be considerably less detrimental to cultural historians focusing on archaic Greece and Sappho than scholarly generalization. Often presented in a more marked and authoritative manner than those found in literary-historical outlines in handbooks, statements that tend to generalize and provide information as something given and even substantiated constitute a scholarly modality especially applicable to such problematic figures as Sappho and Homer. A 1995 article holds that “we know for a fact that at least some of Sappho’s poems continued to be sung enthusiastically in symposia and studied carefully in schools, in Athens and elsewhere in Greece, from the 5th century BC until the end of antiquity.”  The marked, almost exaggerated discursivity of this scholarly statement is supported in a footnote by another sentence characterized by similar succinct brevity: it maintains that the evidence for the presence of the poetry of Sappho in fifth-century Athenian drinking-parties comes from the Attic vase-paintings listed by Gisela Richter in her 1965 catalogue of ancient Greek portraits.  It further notes that (the colossal philological figure of) Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff is a good source of information provided about vase-paintings, and very late sources germane to such a sympotic, textual representation of Sappho are listed.  This idea is cited in another article as “a conclusion” reached in 1995.  The complications stemming from such an approach to images and texts are multiple. In his brief report Wilamowitz actually did not comment on, or refer to, a possible sympotic use of the vases. More importantly, this approach assumes centuries of cultural continuity on the basis of late sources. This phenomenon is observable in a number of studies of the reception of ancient prose writers and poets: specifically, what our sources may suggest for a certain century or decade is taken as applicable to previous centuries; centuries are thus counted like years. Besides, as I argue in Chapter Two, the shape of only one out of the four vase-paintings depicting Sappho can be associated with the context of Attic symposia. The existence of the other vases does not entail that they were used at drinking-parties nor that Sappho was performed at fifth-century symposia.  No attempt at distinguishing between the shape of a vase and the visual signs employed in the image painted on it is made in the scholarly statement quoted above. The power of long and rigid cultural continuity within Greek antiquity is invoked as evidence for the uninterrupted performance of Sappho’s songs in symposia (and their study at schools?) “in Athens and elsewhere in Greece.”  In contrast to the current scholarly paradigm that intuitively envisages Sappho in the context of archaic and fifth-century symposia on the basis of very late literary sources, I argue that these sources do not validate the relevant claim. From a different perspective, another scholarly statement reads as follows: in the fifth century “Sappho appears to have become the paradigmatic hetaira.”  This is observed while no synchronic evidence is cited to support the idea and in fact no explicit literary evidence from this period exists. Such generalizations, not substantiated through an investigation of the archaeological material or of the poetics and discursivity of the much later textual sources cited, have been part and parcel of recent research on Sappho.  An archaeological investigation may show that such modern generalizations can be culturally determined and constructed. What we expect or have expected may be somewhat ambiguous or impressionistic. The problem does not lie in the use of generalizations but rather in their tendency to be habitually internalized and become “ancient realities.”
Such paradigms, in the sense introduced by Thomas Kuhn in the history of science and the sociology of knowledge,  have considerably determined the study of Sappho. Centuries of European voices engaging in creative, intertextual dialogue with her poetry and its fragmentation have been significant for the way in which scholars have viewed her poetry.  Artists have attempted to detect even the “original” sound symbolism of her words.  In this context, scholarly arguments have been particularly charged with culturally constructed ideas. As far as the issue of sexuality as reflected in Sappho’s poetry is concerned, researchers tend to subscribe to either of two polar paradigms—homoerotic or heterosexual, the former being subdivided into different categories of formality or intensity. Sappho’s songs are currently characterized as “frivolous,”  the name that biographical tradition provides for the husband of Sappho is unreservedly taken to have been a comic joke name,  and questions such as the following are posed: “If Sappho’s poems, at least some of which were familiar to Athenian audiences, had directly contradicted the comedians’ image of her, we might expect someone to have protested” (my emphasis).  One might wonder who would have reacted and in what contexts.
Comedy has been considered the exclusive evidence for the early reception of Sappho. Unfortunately we know nothing about the “old-comic,” late-fifth or late early-fourth-century play Sappho attributed to Ameipsias, the first known comedy with Sappho as its main theme. All the other (fragmentary) plays are later. Comedy has become so much part of the current scholarly habitus that it is difficult to account, even briefly, for a specific reception of Sappho in antiquity without resorting to those fragmentary plays or to plays that are reconstructed anew.  Going a step further, Kenneth Dover argues that “the patently lesbian character of some poems of Sappho did not damage her reputation as a poet, but in the classical period admiration for her art seems to have coexisted with something like a ‘conspiracy of silence’ about any sexual orientation which resembled hers.”  Dover’s belief in a “conspiracy of silence” is shared, implicitly or explicitly, by numerous scholars who attempt to understand why there seems to be no reference to homoeroticism with regard to Sappho in fifth- and fourth-century evidence.
If, instead of “evidence,” we attempt to view sources as informants and to conduct archival, as it were, fieldwork in the context of ancient sociopolitical, cultural idioms, our methodological approaches to ancient communities and sociolects change. At the same time, close attention must be paid to the transmission of Sappho’s songs—not only in antiquity, but also, if not more persistently, in modern times. It is more often than not overlooked that (some of) the longer papyrus fragments, as they stand in Voigt’s important edition, may well comprise remains of two separate songs.  As far as the corpus of the fragments of Sappho allows us to see, many of her songs were relatively brief. Further, the issue of those Lesbian Aeolic fragments that have been categorized as “incertum utrius auctoris fragmenta,” that is, those that may be attributed to either Alkaios or Sappho (or to neither of them), must be revisited, since they constitute sources of some significance.  Before I embark on an exploration of the earliest, late archaic, classical, and early Hellenistic informants, I shall develop the theoretical method that shapes the anthropological fieldwork on the ancient reception of Sappho undertaken in this book.
Classics and Anthropology
The study of Greek and Roman antiquity has been often fruitfully cross-fertilized with literary and critical theory. Formalism, structuralism, psychoanalytic approaches, deconstructionism, feminism have contributed useful insights to the study of ancient literatures and cultures. Despite the field’s openness to theoretical critical discourses, classics as a whole still approaches anthropology as the exotic, that is, intriguingly ambiguous “other.” To be sure, anthropology is not a terra incognita for classicists. From James Frazer and the early twentieth-century Cambridge School to the principally structuralist anthropology of ancient Greece in Paris, to more recent concerns for cultural continuities and discontinuities in Mediterranean Europe and comparative approaches to ancient Greece through ethnographic explorations of Medi-terranean countries, several scholars in the field like Jane Harrison, Louis Gernet, Marcel Detienne, Jean-Pierre Vernant, Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, and John Winkler have opened insightful ways for a constructive interaction between classics and anthropology—or in the case of Gernet and a few other classicists, between classics and sociology.  Despite such enterprises, the dominant tendency in classics is to view anthropology and ethnographic accounts as repositories of possible parallels pertinent to typological comparisons with a view to bridging gaps in our knowledge of ancient Greek realities and to reconstructing such realities. Alternatively, focus on absolute differences, often themselves constructions of ideological essentialisms, becomes the main objective of an interest in anthropological accounts. Scholars who follow this approach, too, are mainly concerned with specific sociocultural phenomena but for opposite reasons: instead of parallels, they seek out dissimilarities. The following passage from an article on classical studies and anthropology, for instance, eloquently reveals this penchant for detecting what arguably may be self-evident differences among distinctive cultural periods, placing uncalled-for emphasis on contemporary Greece: “I conclude therefore with the nub of what I no doubt optimistically take to be my own objective observation of fundamental and irreconcilable differences between the mentality and ideology of the classical Greeks and those of modern Western society, including that of contemporary Greece.”  Instead, epistemological and methodological debates in anthropology have been in general kept out of the territory of classical studies. In this part of the book, I propose heuristic epistemological and methodological directions toward an anthropology of “reading” and, more importantly, “writing” ancient Greek cultures. My main focus is on the reception of the image and the song-making of Sappho and other archaic and classical poets. The theoretical method I put forward here is engaged in a critical dialogue with recent epistemological developments in anthropological cultural hermeneutics. Going beyond the prevailing practice and theory in the study of classical antiquity, the approach I develop is not concerned with parallel sociocultural systems or incidents across different societies—a practice that does not differ considerably from traditional diachronic or comparative folkloric studies. Instead of resorting to anthropological analyses as repositories of comparable instantiations of specific cultural phenomena, I propose that anthropology be viewed in terms of cultural hermeneutics that may contribute to a Problematik of the interdiscursivity defining the construction, circulation, and consumption of socioaesthetic meanings in Greek antiquity. As put forward in an earlier work, interdiscursivity involves a textural interplay among habitually or intentionally enacted systems of signification from various domains of experience and expression—“ordinary behavior, organization of time and space in everyday life, art (literature, music, dance, architecture, painting), sociopolitical processes, and cultural discourses.” 
The Persistence of Allegory: Expected Horizons and Textualized Cultures
In his discussion of Baudelaire’s poem “Spleen,” Jauss proposes a tripartite interpretive schema for the exploration of the paradigmatic reception of the poem. The theoretical formula that he develops is no doubt representative of his overall approach to the reception of literary texts. Drawing also on Gadamer’s theoretical model, Jauss’s idealized hermeneutic approach is organized on three climactic levels. First, Jauss argues, comes the reader’s original encounter with the text. Next, a reverse hermeneutic approach to the poem takes place, proceeding, as it were, from the end of the text to its beginning—an approach aiming at the analeptic reconstruction of the initially undecipherable semantic and aesthetic correspondences among different thematic and formal constituents of the whole poetic narrative. Jauss’s analysis culminates in the investigation of the original horizon of expectations that defined the production of the poem in a specific period in literary history and determined the connotations of its poetic discourse. For instance, the original associations of “spleen,” the principal mood that permeates the composition of Baudelaire’s homonymous poem, are deciphered through an exploration of representative semantic and hermeneutic instantiations of the term in the mid-nineteenth century. In this manner, Jauss proceeds to discuss the impact of Baudelaire’s poetry on the rearrangement of the aesthetic and poetic “horizon of expectations” of the time. 
One of Jauss’s central interpretive points is the image of the enigmatic Sphinx that appears toward the end of the poem. In an intriguing turn of his hermeneutic focus, he places this and other figures of the poem at the center of his analysis and views them in connection with Baudelaire’s reevaluation of allegory: the voice of the Sphinx is identified with that of the poetic persona. However, Jauss neglects the semantic open-endedness associated with this archetypal sign of discursive ambiguity and prefers to reconstitute the “meaning” of the poem and the original context of its composition and reception as a rather closed system of harmonious textual and extratextual interactions. His insightful analysis is thus stalled by its theoretical and methodological overdeterminism, and his hermeneutic desire for a complete original meaning seems to succumb to the lures of the very discursive mode (allegory) that he tries to elucidate. In the end, Jauss’s approach becomes an example of interpretive allegory wherein the discursive surface (the specific literary text) stands for a unique semantic original that time has blurred but the critic’s mastery has reconstituted to its alleged authentic clarity.
It is significant that, loyal to his overall deconstructionist theory, Paul de Man has commented on this drawback of Jauss’s analysis while arguing for a more flexible approach to the text that should foreground indeterminacy and semantic elusiveness.  We might want to go a step further and argue that another problematic aspect of Jauss’s methodological proposal in the specific essay cited is his insistence on polar temporal categories: the original authorial past, on the one hand, and the almost equally authoritative interpretive present, on the other. No doubt, such a distinction marks already a considerable progress from traditional philological interpretations tending to obliterate the second part of this notional polarity while privileging the former. At least, the recognition, no matter how inchoate, of the critic’s hermeneutic present as a significant constituent of the whole interpretive process alerts us to the alterity of the cultural products of the past and the potential subjectivity of the terms of their reception in the present of the hermeneutic act.
However, texts, not unlike other cultural commodities, are subjected to a series of synchronic transactions that are not limited to this polar temporal schema. The gap between the past of the author and the present of the interpreter is mediated through a number of successive readings that a quasi-allegorical and historicizing reconstruction of the original moment of creation cannot recapture. A text and its author exist always in the making. Methodological or theoretical negligence of this process—which, I should stress from the outset, by no means adheres to evolutionary models of cultural and literary history that have dominated classical studies for so long—may result in a vicious hermeneutic circle where the critic’s end (telos) seeks frustratingly to meet the authorial, historicized beginning.
If Jauss’s method locates the text within its original horizon of broader cultural expectations, Clifford Geertz’s approach to culture is famously constructed in terms of textual hermeneutics. Culture, Geertz, argues, should be viewed as an assemblage of texts that call for an explication on the part of the trained interpreter—the social anthropologist. Geertzian semiotics of culture has contributed a great deal to the interdisciplinary exchanges between anthropology and critical theory. However, if a comparison between the two fields may be ventured here, I would say that Geertz’s emphasis on the “textual” configuration of culture has been constructed in terms comparable to traditional literary interpretation, the origins of which go as far back as ancient allegorizations. Instead of exploring the dynamic multilayeredness of cultural semantics, Geertz prefers to emphasize interpretive linearity and one-to-one symbolic correspondences, which, not rarely, are constructed by the privileged interpreter himself. Early on in his influential “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” Geertz formulates his hermeneutics in terms of allegorical explication. Endorsing a Weberian approach to sociocultural phenomena, he defines culture in terms of “webs of significance” that he, as an anthropologist, is invited to decipher. “It is explication I am after, construing social expressions on their surface enigmatical,” he stresses.  Both awareness and communication of one’s methodological apparatus constitute an important step toward discursive and scholarly alertness. No doubt such alertness permeates Geertz’s cultural semiotics but, at the same time, it is persistently downplayed by his recourse to the archetypal hermeneutic schema of allegorization. Inherent in such an approach to social and cultural phenomena is the premise of the interpreter’s imposing authority: it is he or she who identifies, or even constructs, the “enigmatical” issue and he or she who offers the solution—more often than not a closed deciphering supposedly accessible not to the natives but only to the entitled “hierophant,” the anthropologist, who appropriates the right to “read” the “ensemble of texts” that “the culture of a people is. . . over the shoulders of those to whom they properly belong.” 
Cultural Translations and Writing Practices
Arguably, any kind of interpretation proceeds more or less along the deep structural lines of allegorical hermeneutic schemata. This may be the inevitable risk of interpretive attempts in all fields of human and social sciences. However, this is not a detrimental impediment to scholarly enterprises in the humanities and social sciences if we keep in mind that “enigmatical” phenomena may be subjected to multilayered, successive readings and call for different interpretations according to the specific each time synchronic contextual data that the ethnographer/critic/philologist chooses or is able to collect.
In social anthropology such a tendency, and the urgency to acknowledge it, has been diagnosed since the 1980s—one of the welcome products of poststructuralist self-criticism, especially in American academic discourse. Classics, a field still closely adhering to traditional hermeneutic methods, even when engaged in discursive dalliances with methodologies subsequent to New Criticism, has a great deal to learn from such constructive self-referential and self-exposing epistemological adventures. In a well-balanced critical presentation of ethnographic discourses, Vincent Crapanzano points to the inherent paradoxical nature of mainstream anthropological interpretations, Geertz’s included. On the one hand, anthropologists admit to the partiality of their analyses but, on the other, they claim definitive and final interpretations. Another paradox is that anthropologists—and, I would add, cultural historians, classicists included, too—need to make familiar what is foreign. Often their readings are constructed around overarching metaphorical schemata. Crapanzano, himself a master of metadiscursive allegory,  dismantles Geertz’s penchant for imposing overstated allegories on his readings of whole cultures. A case in point is the latter’s essay “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.” Cockfight is rather arbitrarily elevated to the status of an emblematic equivalent of Balinese cultural semantics as a whole. No doubt, rhetoric—especially the four master tropes of metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony—has always played and still plays a pivotal role in scholarly accounts.  What is at stake in anthropology and cultural history is that often such rhetorical strategies are foregrounded as innocent discursive mechanisms, which, however, often contribute to constructions of methodological and ideological stereotypes. The equation “cockfight=Balinese culture” is not just a playful or arbitrary rhetorical figure; it may involve, especially in the hands of readers or writers less alert than Geertz himself, further monolithic interpretive correspondences.
Crapanzano’s discussion of Geertz’s “deep” rhetorical “play” and “thick description” would have been even more nuanced if it had taken into account the latter’s clear admittance to the affinities of interpretive anthropology (and of cultural history) with fictional writing. Already in the early seventies, Geertz was daring enough to develop a comparison between ethnographic analysis and fictional writing. Both, he argues, are based to a great degree on subjectivity. “Anthropological writings,” he maintains, “are themselves interpretations, and second and third order ones to boot. (By definition, only a “native” makes first order ones: it’s his culture). They are, thus, fictions; fictions in the sense that they are ‘something made,’ ‘something fashioned’—the original meaning of fictio—not that they are false, unfactual, or merely ‘as if’ thought experiments.”  Geertz focuses primarily on the narrativity of anthropological discourse and its construction of a coherent account out of events that on a first level seem disparate or totally unrelated. It is this kind of fictionality that brings Flaubert’s story of Madame Bovary, for instance, close to an interpretive ethnographic description. Geertz is right in pointing out the creativity involved in both discursive enterprises, the fictional writing of the novelist and the “thick description” of the anthropologist. On a theoretical level, this self-awareness is further enhanced by his distinction of different layers of descriptive and interpretive accounts, which emphatically or, rather, rhetorically, bestows priority on “native” perspectives. If I have insisted on Geertz’s gallant self-reflexivity it is because I want to illustrate how even self-critical and alert approaches such as his semiotic interpretation of culture are not always impervious to fallacious ideological and methodological equations like the ones detected in his much-discussed study of the Balinese cockfight.
The ritualized performance of cockfights in Bali, their rules and manipulations by the players, are invested by Geertz with the interpretive potential of an overarching allegory standing for the semantics of the Balinese culture as a whole. On a metadiscursive epistemological level, this, in its turn, may be viewed as emblematic of the limitations inherent in any cultural hermeneutics aiming at the alleged (re)discovery of straightforward interpretive schemata.
The title of one chapter of Geertz’s essay on this “paradigmatic” Balinese phenomenon indicates, I believe, the allegorizing deep notional structure of his argument: “Something for Something,” which significantly alludes to the pattern of semantic equations privileged in traditional allegorical modes—allegory is the discourse in which something stands for something (else). When employed in broader sociocultural contexts, allegory may be viewed as an interpretive medium through which the alterity of a foreign, contemporary or past, discourse is transferred to the familiarity of the present. Fineman has nicely illustrated this potential of allegory, defining it as “that mode that makes up for the distance, or heals the gap, between the present and a disappearing past, which, without interpretation, would be otherwise irretrievable and foreclosed.”  Such hermeneutic tropisms, I argue, may be embedded in hegemonizing patterns of temporal organization promoting modern Western conceptions of past and present “others,”  thus activating a series of marked and potentially misleading ideological and cultural constructs: nostalgia, (ab)-original, exotic, “native,” “primitive,” “Oriental,” “Western,” “European,” “Greek,” and so forth. Fabian’s critique of the manipulation of established temporal categories in modern anthropology may shed considerable light on the construction of such stereotypes. He discerns three main uses of time in anthropology: physical time (“objective” time measures), typological time (socio-culturally defined measures of time), and intersubjective time (time categories as enacted in interpersonal interplay). He criticizes the “distancing” strategy of denying the relations of “coevalness” between the ethnographer and his/her informants employed in the majority of ethnographic studies. This discursive mechanism works on the level of intersubjective time and establishes or perpetuates established concepts about the differences between the privileged observer (the anthropologist) and his/her informants—usually perceived as “exotic” objects of analysis. In the field of classical studies, a reverse tendency may often be discerned, which, however, reenacts comparable hegemonizing cultural stereotypes: often the distance between the present of the analyst’s own culture and the classical past is reduced through a manipulation not of intersubjective time (by definition a temporal category not applicable to historical sciences) but of typological time. Not rarely, the “classical” age of the ancients and their achievements are compared to later epochs and sociocultural phenomena in order to validate them. For instance, the alleged ancient Greek rationalism (mainly a post-Renaissance construct) is paralleled to post-Enlightenment Western European orthologism. Analogously, political choices in Western societies are often legitimized through their comparison to the exemplum of Athenian democracy.
Schemata of this sort are more often than not symptomatic of the risks entailed by any attempt to render the experience of a foreign or past culture in terms more familiar to the translator and his/her readers. This is not an easy or innocent enterprise. Father Lafitau’s perplexed and perplexing account of the customs of his contemporary eighteenth-century American Indians constitutes a representative case in point, albeit much less sophisticated than Geertz’s.  Any act of cultural translation is implicated in a nexus of ideological, cultural, or political power negotiations in which the most easily identifiable discursive forces are those of the “translator” and the producers of the original cultural discourse being transmitted. Such processes of transcultural hermeneutics are inscribed, consciously or imperceptibly, within broader webs of hierarchical relations. More often than not, the dynamics of these relations are determined by the translator’s appropriation of the role of the hegemonic interpreter and the reduction of the “native” to the status of an unaware carrier of exotic knowledge.
The dynamics of cultural translation have been cogently commented upon by Talal Asad. Asad employs a parallelism between psychoanalysis and anthropology to delineate the anthropologist’s retrieval of his informants’ unconscious manifestations of their cultural semantics.  By definition, such an interaction establishes power relations between the cultural analyst and his/her analysand. The authority of the former derives from the latter’s unconscious embeddedness within the complex nexuses of sociocultural signification. Asad rightly speaks of the “inequality of languages” activated in any attempt of cultural translation: “‘Cultural translation’ must accommodate itself to a different language not only in the sense of English as opposed to Dinka, or English as opposed to Kabashi Arabic, but also in the sense of a British, middle class, academic game as opposed to the modes of life of the ‘tribal’ Sudan.”  Being institutionally more powerful, the translator’s language tends to hegemonize the original discourse, thus transforming it. Asad’s analysis provides several insights into the power relations articulated in the whole process of cultural translation. However, his understanding of linguistic and cultural discourse, which seems to owe a great deal to Saussaurian and Weberian approaches, downplays the discursive responsibility of the anthropologist. The cultural commentator is not or, rather, should not be, a passive agent in the hegemonic “games” reproduced by the institutions in which s/he and her/his language are intricately embedded. If we accept that the anthropologist has no other choice than being, as often is the case, uncritically conditioned by the alleged unconscious reenactment of broader established power relations in his/her own discourse, then we redeem him/her from the responsibility entailed by free choice to produce specific cultural “translation.”
The metaphor of ethnographic or cultural historical commentary as a form of translation is pertinent to my discussion here, especially since it points to the double discursive direction of any scholarly attempt to reconcile the foreignness of a locally or temporally distant culture with the knowledge current in the “translator’s” own cultural community. In other words, the notion of cultural translation helps us supplement the Geertzian hermeneutic call for “reading” cultures with a more self-referential methodological awareness of the dynamics involved in “writing” cultures.  Writing about cultures inevitably entails constructing attitudes toward them. Anthropological and historical accounts alike are defined by discursive choices that tacitly or explicitly promote specific aspects of the culture under discussion and certain methodological possibilities.
Acknowledging the role of discursivity in the articulation of scholarly enterprise does not imply a deconstructionist, as it were, “death of the scholar” similar to Barthes’s formulation of the “death of the author.”  On the contrary, it underlies the urgency to recognize the subjectivity of the scholar as an active agent in the construction of cultural edifices.  The awareness of the culturally conditioned discursivity of “reading” and “writing” cultures does not result in a nihilistic epistemological aporia. Rather, it alerts us to the considerable degree of fragmentation inherent in any attempt at cultural, historical, or literary interpretation. What it questions is not the possibility of provable scholarly research but, rather, the essentialization of what I would call “hermeneutic metaphysics” that often prevails in cultural or literary history.
Such an elemental epistemological principle, which at first sight may seem a self-evident truism, only rarely comes to the fore in scholarly investigations of ancient Greek cultures. More often than not, such explorations, when eschewing the easy solution of indeterminacy, result in stereotypical or essentialized “reconstructions” of lost origins or fragmented evidence. Hermeneutic metaphysics, which by no means constitutes an exception to the rule in human sciences—certainly not in cultural and literary histories of archaic and classical antiquity—bespeaks a tendency to ignore the discursivity in which it is embedded. Instead, it often tacitly reproduces established strategies of constructing origins; it is enmeshed in the fallacy of a self-proclaimed “authentic” storytelling that ignores its own epistemological premises. I shall explore this tendency in some detail below in this chapter. The methodological risks lurking underneath such hermeneutic metaphysics become more insidious to the extent that they reinforce sanctioned methodological directions. Historicized—that is, a posteriori and monolithically constructed—origins rather than interacting textures of signification are thus elevated to the emblematic status of a promised scholarly holy land that needs to be rediscovered at any methodological cost, even at the expense of sensible discursive connections or available evidence. Inventing theories about “authentic” original truths—an enterprise by definition dependent upon an easy fusion of scholarly and fictionalizing strategies—should thus be viewed as a symptom of what Michel De Certeau describes as “storytelling” in historiography. “Storytelling,” he aptly contends, “has a pragmatic efficacy. In pretending to recount the real, it manufactures it. It is performative. It makes believable what it says, and it generates appropriate action. In making believers, it produces an active body of practitioners.” 
As I have argued, “reading” and “writing” cultures always presuppose a variable degree of pragmatic and symbolic efficacy of the kind De Certeau describes. Moreover, they both are processes implicated in the dialectics of agency and cultural determination. The reader as well as the writer of cultures is engaged in a dialogic interaction with the broader cultural context in which his/her discourse is produced and consumed: his/her broader synchronic cultural, national, linguistic, scholarly community.
Congenial to my understanding of cultural history is De Certeau’s discussion of the “epic of the institution.”  Every institutionally sanctioned discourse, De Certeau argues in a characteristically Foucauldian manner, derives its authority from its claim to reality. The principles according to which reality and the authority of the historiographic—and, I would add, the anthropological—discourse that aims to recapture it are tested are dictated by the broader institutions to which this discourse is addressed. More often that not the validity of cultural hermeneutics is thus dependent upon traditional scholarly schemata and premises as well as dominant academic expectations and institutions. On the other hand, interpretations arguing for a redefinition of such established criteria or articulating a counterdiscourse questioning hegemonic methodological conceptualizations of reality are habitually faced in classical archaeology and history with an inflated skepticism that is conspicuously spared in cases of traditional reconstructions of reality, even when such reconstructions are obviously but not self-critically partial, subjective, or wildly speculative. Although addressing different scholarly and epistemological issues, De Certeau’s problematization of the discourse and the “epic” of the institution is, I suggest, of considerable help in exploring the methodological principles dominating the field of classical studies.
Written from another perspective and with a different scholarly focus, De Certeau’s critique complements the methodological self-referentiality informing poststructuralist anthropology of the last two decades or so and the shift of its epistemological emphasis from reading to writing cultures. “The ‘real,’ ” he notes, “as represented by historiography does not correspond to the ‘real’ that determines its production. It hides behind the picture of a past the present that produces and organizes it. . . . The operation in question is sly; the discourse gives itself credibility in the name of the reality which it is supposed to represent, but this authorized appearance of the ‘real’ serves precisely to camouflage the practice which in fact determines it. Representation thus disguises the praxis that organizes it.” 
In the socioaesthetic history of archaic and classical Greece—the principal focus of this book—the “real” more often than not is identified with the—always tacitly or explicitly glorified—“original.” Albeit not by definition an unimportant enterprise, such an objective usually leads to circular argumentsin which the “original” coincides with an ancient author’s supposed intention behind which more often than not lurks the modern scholar’s own covered subjectivity—as hegemonized by institutionally valorized “epics.” Even today, the study of Greek antiquity remains haunted by the methodological Siren of intentional fallacy. “The artist wanted to express this idea,” “the meaning of the poem or historical narrative is this,” “the author could have never used such a word,” etc., are formulaic expressions conveying our constructed (mis)conceptions rather than the ancient artist’s unrecoverable state of mind at the very moment of the composition of his/her work.  These (mis)conceptions are habitually reenacted in the discourse often employed in literary and cultural histories of Greek antiquity. What I want to question here is not as much the significance or, to begin with, the possibility of origins as, rather, the epistemological premises and the discursive narcissism with which alleged origins are often constructed. The methodological self-satisfaction sometimes accompanying speculative recoveries of the “original” past has a great deal to do with a monolithic conceptualization of cultural phenomena in terms of one-to-one correspondences rather than systems of interacting webs of signification habitually or consciously reenacted, negotiated, or redefined. My intent in this work to put forward an anthropology of the reception of Sappho’s poetry, rather than a reconstruction of the origins of its production, consumption, and meaning, is a methodological step in the process of reevaluating hegemonic hermeneutic premises about archaic and classical Greek patterns of producing and performing cultural capitals.
Beyond Fictionalization: Agency, Collective Schemata, and Interdiscursivity
If culture as the elemental subject of anthropological analysis may be viewed as a continuous interplay between overarching habitual modes of signification and behavioral interaction, on the one hand, and individual agencies, on the other, aesthetic culture should be viewed in comparable terms. Since the first steps of its codified usage in the eighteenth century, “culture” connoted two different but ultimately complementary concepts: a collective system of symbolically communicated and shared discourses and a privileged and idealized production/possession/consumption of quintessentially humanistic values as expressed in intellectual and artistic achievements. If the former concept focused on the collective aspects of culture, the latter promoted a more individualistic understanding and evaluation of symbolically codified ideals.  In the English tradition, these two polar approaches to culture were characteristically represented by Tylor, on the one hand, and Matthew Arnold, on the other. Tylor advocated an approach to culture as a traditionally inherited, activated, and reproduced system of common values; Arnold stressed the differential distribution of cultural values among individuals and peoples.  In 1871 Tylor famously defined “culture or civilization taken in its wide ethnographic sense,” as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”  Even more “modern” and anthropologically congenial, as acknowledged in recent discussions, was Herder’s understanding of culture. Writing in 1774, almost a century before Tylor, Herder, the controversial patriarch of European Volkskunde, employed the term “culture” in the plural, thus underlining the idiosyncrasies of different cultures. In American anthropology, Franz Boas further developed Herder’s emphasis on cultural differences among different peoples, opposing, at the same time, the universalistic, evolutionary model of human civilization.  Despite the reorientation of its focus from definitional issues to methodological problematics, from defining culture to reading and writing culture, contemporary anthropology is largely based on the approach of Boas.
Classics has in general suffered from an elitist adherence to a quasi-Arnoldian conceptualization of cultural accomplishments.  Traditionally, ancient Greeks, better known in the sanctioned jargon of the field as the Greeks—an idealized group of people whose alleged unrivaled glory has been forever secured by the apotropaic, as it were, discursive power of the intimidatingly definitive article “the”  —have marked the ‘Olympos’ of human and humanistic achievements, the absolute measure, the metron against which all other peoples and epochs are (mis)evaluated. Usually, artistic creations within that essentialized cultural topos are approached as the works of incomparable geniuses whose original intentions should be recovered from the traces of their often fragmented works of art—unless the analyst finds them trivial or frivolous. 
The concept of culture that I espouse and explore in this book views individual creation at the intersection of subjective agency and collectively produced, consumed, and transmitted symbolic discourses. Power dynamics and negotiations on all possible detectable scales—interpersonal, regional, ethnic—and economics of symbolicity undertake a pivotal role in the interplay between individuals and collective modes of signification. In this interaction between subjective and collective agencies of culture, discursive boundaries are always in continuous flux.  The collective is penetrated and redefined by the individual, and vice versa. Moreover, such boundaries are never clear-cut; situated in a persistent blur where the subjective cannot always been discerned from the dynamics of traditional vehicles of meaning, they call for methods of exploration that should take into account the interpenetratedness of current modalities of traditional referentiality and more individualized discursive strategies.
An anthropological study of these discursive interactions should take into account the hermeneutic dynamics of habitus and practice. The practically oriented analysis of the reactivation of traditional vehicles of signification in archaic, classical, and early Hellenistic Greek artistic and ideological discourses that I put forward in this book goes beyond Bourdieu’s rather static understanding of subjective agents’ embeddedness within collective webs of symbolic or actual power relations.  Habitually internalized and activated organizing concepts and models of behavior are not impervious to redefinitions and reworkings by individuals. In an earlier study of the interpenetradness of ritual modes of signification and socio-cultural discourses in different, comparative Greek contexts, Panagiotis Roilos and I argue that a great deal of self-reflexivity is at times involved in the reenactment of inherited and practically reproduced ritual behavioral and semantic patterns. Flexibility and creativity is not excluded in ritual contexts—in the same way in which in oral literature individual singers may contribute their own innovative responses to the expectations dictated by tradition. A culture-bound sense of ritual-making, we contend, does not preclude manipulation of sanctioned forms of expression by individual or institutional agencies. Formality in ritual is thus to be understood as fluctuating along a spectrum, one end of which is marked by rigidity (Christian religious services, for instance), the other by a great degree of freedom and improvisation (e.g. carnival).  As participants in ritual practices who are not mere spectators but potentially active agents, individual carriers of cultural discourses, too, are not passive performers of overpowering structural forces. This holds all the more true for figures like Sappho, who enjoyed popularity in their local societies.
The dynamic interplay between the two polar traditional approaches to culture (and history) is illustrated in Marshall Sahlins’s study of the common epistemological grounds shared by historiography and anthropology. Sahlins calls rightly for an overcoming of the methodological boundaries between superorganic cultural system and individual agency.  He wittily describes the inflated emphasis on collectivity and hegemonic cultural order as a kind of “Leviathanology.” In his critical reappraisal of Gramscian and poststructuralist, notably Foucauldian, versions of “Leviathanology,” Sahlins contends that culture is not always a subjugating but often an empowering force. More incisively, he argues that currently exaggerated promotion in social sciences of “pancratic visions” of power and hegemony has ironically led to a new “subjectology,” in which subject, as an abstracted entity, is “the only thing left standing.” “The only object substantively remaining to historical and anthropological analysis is the subject into whom the cultural totality has been interpolated, the one summarily interpellated.”  The “subject” has been thus transformed into an essentialized category devoid of any contextual specificity. As a result of this epistemological inversion, the same argument continues, “the univocal, atemporal, totalized system of categories and relationships, unwanted in culture, has been transposed to an ideal subject.”  In place of such an abstracted subject Sahlins promotes the idea of the “biographical” individual. Admittedly, in anthropology as opposed to historiography, this sort of subjectivity has been rather neglected.
An interesting example that I want to bring into discussion, which considerably predates Sahlins’s call for centering upon the individual agent as a biographical subject, is Marjorie Shostak’s Nisa. The subtitle of her book clearly underlines the urgency for combining biographical writing with anthropological analysis: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman. Published in 1981, Nisa offered an experimental alternative to established modes of ethnographic presentation. Indeed, Shostak’s foregrounding of an indigenous woman’s first-person narrative challenged sanctioned ways of ethnographic reports that until then had privileged interpretive accounts of mainly male informants. In Shostak’s printed text, the voice and perspective of the woman ethnographer—an individual highly alerted to the discursivity of the written transcription of her informant’s narrative—is marginalized in the introductory and concluding parts of the book, which is largely dominated by the !Kung woman’s spoken autobiographical memoirs. Even though Nisa views her communication of aspects of her life to the American female anthropologist as a manifestation of a collaborative project, the whole enterprise is organized by expected discursive hierarchies. Despite its grammatical composition as free, direct speech, Nisa’s narrative was not always produced as a voluntary response to her inner needs; rather, it was elicited and directed to a great extent by the Western ethnographer’s carefully constructed questionnaire. Nisa is aware of this overpowering hierarchy and alludes to it from the very beginning of her autobiographical narrative: “Fix my voice on the machine so that my words come out clear. I am an old person who has experienced many things and I have much to talk about. I will tell my talk, of the things I have done and the things that my parents and others have done. But don’t let the people I live with hear what I say.” 
Some significant points emerge from the !Kung informant’s initial invocation to the operator of the recording machine. First, Nisa is alert to the fact that her words will not remain in flux, epea pteroenta, as it were; they will be fixed by a recording machine that has the power to reproduce them at the will of its authoritative manipulator, the American female ethnographer. Second, Nisa differentiates herself both from her interviewer and from her own people: she is a mediator between the cultural “order” that she represents and that one of Shostak and her privileged audience. Nisa views and presents herself as an individual agent who conducts herself within a broader nexus of specific sociocultural relations that determine her speech while at the same time allow her to interpolate her own ideational and discursive autobiographical inflections. The boundaries between Nisa’s self-reflexive story and the sociocultural constraints of her people, on the one hand, and Nisa’s autobiography and the authorizing recording of her Western interlocutor, on the other, may be crossed over but never entirely abolished.
Though not expressing these discursive dynamics in such clear terms herself, Shostak is no doubt aware of the hierarchies inevitably activated in her interaction with Nisa. From the very beginning of her text, she exposes the ethnographic and political agenda that directed her fieldwork among the !Kung people as a whole and her reaction to Nisa’s life and narrative in particular. In a pioneering attempt (for that period) to redeem indigenous female voices from their being muted in dominant anthropological accounts, and wishing at the same time to enhance her own understanding of “what it means” to be a woman in !Kung culture as compared with American society, Shostak decided to publish the autobiographical account of Nisa rather than a study of any other aspects of the !Kung people.
Throughout her narrative, Nisa stands out as a self-aware agent and evaluator of broader sociocultural premises that she is supposed, or expected, to share with her people. Shostak herself comments that Nisa’s emphasis on specific aspects of her life may not always be representative of the cultural values espoused by the majority of her people. Of special interest is her pointing to different degrees of sexual awareness among young girls in her culture. In some cases, the boundaries between homosocial and heuristic homoerotic modes of behavior are blurred:In this account, patterns of habitual embodiments of culturally permissible, or, rather, definable, behavior may be detected. Homoerotic play among young girls is described as a practically reenacted preliminary phase to heterosexual encounters with boys. Ethical reaction to these practically internalized modes of sexual interaction among sexually aware girls differs from individual to individual, as Nisa’s reservations indicate. She refers to her early memories of these sexual plays not as fetishized, idealized, or exotically distant experiences but, rather, as expected steps in most girls’ gradual transition to later heterosexual relations.
When girls are alone, they sometimes play sexually together. But when boys are there, they don’t, because the boys are there to play that way with them. Girls can only touch genitals together; that’s not really much help. Boys are the ones with hardness, with penises; boys have their spears. Girls have no spears, they have nothing; only softness. They don’t have anything that moves around like a penis. So when girls are alone and take one another, they don’t do it very well. No, a little boy is best; he does it right. When I was a small child, I played at nothing things. I had no understanding of things around me and didn’t know about sexual play. Even if we were just girls playing, we played nicely. Because there is good play and bad play. Bad play is when you touch each other’s genitals; good play is when you don’t. But when I was older, I had some sense, and with that sense came the awareness of sex. That was still before the little girls actually knew what kind of play “playing sex” was; we just talked about it. The boys would ask each other, “When you play at sex, what do you do?” and they would ask us. We would say, “We don’t know how to play that kind of play. You’re the ones always talking about it. But we, we don’t know. Anyway, however you play it, we won’t do it. Why can’t we just play?” That’s when the boys would say, “Isn’t having sex what playing is all about?” They would say, “You girls don’t know anything, so look, first we’ll play together, then we’ll get married, and then we’ll touch each other’s genitals and have sex.” The girls always refused, “Playing that way is very bad. Why do you keep saying we should do it when we don’t want to?” Eventually my girlfriends started to play sexually with each other. They’d put saliva in their hands, rub onto their genitals, and touch genitals together. I didn’t know how to do it and just sat, refusing. They’d ask, “How come you don’t play with us?” And I’d say, “If I did, my genitals would smell terrible. You put saliva and I don’t like that.” I’d wait around, and when they started to play nicely again, I’d join them and we’d play and play and play. Not long after, some of the girls started playing that kind of play with little boys. They learned about it long before I did. . . . 
Of special interest is also the subtle interweaving of Nisa’s own discursive inflections with largely espoused discourses and practices of homosexual “play” among young girls. Her diction reflects her qualms toward this kind of behavior, which does not seem to be questioned by the majority of her girlfriends. “Softness” is the main trait of the female body that is juxtaposed to the hardness and aggressive potential of the male body. Male “spears” and female “softness” construct a metaphoric antithesis, which may be viewed as a proleptic inchoate narrativization of Nisa’s own initially ambivalent reaction to her encounters with boys. A subtle questioning of hegemonic male discourses on sexuality may be detected in Nisa’s description of the exchanges between girls and boys. Leaving aside the temptation to view her narrative in the light of Freudian, Lacanian, or, even better, post-Lacanian theoretical approaches, what emerges from Nisa’s autobiographical response to the American ethnographer’s invitation to recount her early sexual experiences is an inclusive interdiscursivity in which individual idioms negotiate, without abolishing or radically challenging, the authority of pervasive discourses about homosocial interaction.
Nisa’s autobiography, as edited and published by the only person who had the ultimate authority over it—the female American ethnologist who recorded it—provides, I believe, an intriguing example of how sociocultural order and individual agency may be engaged in ever-redefined negotiations of boundaries, power relations, and discursive hierarchies. If, despite Shostak’s self-reflexive ethnographic experiment, the “biographical” subject still remains to be defined and explored in anthropology, in historiography, and certainly in classical studies, this discursive mode does not constitute the exception to established ways of literary and broader cultural interpretations. On the contrary, the tendency to reconstruct (or deconstruct) the “authentic” (or “fabricated”) biographical truth about a poet’s life (and work), has often led to a number of speculations and misconceptions. Not rarely, discussions of this sort are composed around a vicious circle of argumentation. For instance, recourse to the work of a song-maker (or to a posteriori reconstructions of it) is still thought to be the main step toward the recovery of some aspects of her/his life and ideology. On the other hand, the usually meager information about a poet’s life is often—even implicitly and tacitly—employed as the principal context within which the semantic potential of a text is explored.
The desire to reconstruct the original context of an author’s life and work is inevitably overpowering and not necessarily misleading. Methodological risks are rather implicated in attempts to present speculations about such issues as proved truths based on internal (more often than not philologically constructed) textual “evidence” or external indications. Institutional authoritative discourses (different schools, traditional, even if outdated, authorities in the field, dominant current ideological schemata—for instance the allegedly inherent affinities between the classical Athenian city-state and Western democracies) are often evoked to valorize such reconstructions.
The prevailing practice of exploring ancient receptions of poets and their works is directed by similar methodological choices. Priority has been given to proving what is “true” and what is “fictional” in ancient accounts of poets’ lives. No doubt this is a highly useful enterprise, to the extent that it is based on good knowledge of the ancient sources and, whenever feasible, on an exploration of diachronic and synchronic developments. However, the mere identification of fictional elements in certain ancient accounts—which are sometimes conditioned by specific genre expectations—cannot go beyond certain corrective suggestions. This privileged methodological solution is characteristically encapsulated in the following passage: “I hope to show that virtually all the material in all the lives is fiction, and that only certain factual information is likely to have survived, and then usually because the poet himself provided it for a different purpose. If I have sometimes been too skeptical, it is in the hope of offering a corrective to the too eager credulity of the past.” 
Instead, I argue, what is needed is first, a self-reflexive reevaluation of the tendency in modern scholarship to be itself allured by allegorizing fictionalization. Discussions of archaic melic poetry often articulate unifying grand narratives with a view to offering linear, neatly organized historical reconstructions—or deconstructions. For instance, Sappho, it is assumed, must have been something exceptionally special. Or, if no agreement about a single nomenclature or identification can be established, then, so the argument goes, there is the solution of absolute deconstruction: Sappho was a mythical figure; she never existed.  If even in cases of highly self-reflexive ethnographic biographical accounts like Shostak’s Nisa, the temptation of allegorical narrativization can hardly be eschewed,  in the field of classics biographical schemata are most frequently elicited from or imposed on the texts under investigation.
Second, instead of proposing simple corrections to ancient sources and reducing ancient narratives to the status of fictionalized and fictionalizing twaddle, the study of ancient receptions of the figures of song-makers and their compositions demands the synchronic and diachronic exploration of the complex discursive textures that interweave practically activated nexuses of signification. What kinds of notional patterns produced specific, even contradictory, receptions at a specific period? How did those patterns change over time and across different regional traditions and why? What were the culturally defined and perhaps individually each time activated receptorial filters through which specific images of a poet and his/her work were disseminated? How were local traditions different, and to what extent did they affect the regional perceptions of the poets and their works?
One of the aims of this book is to attempt to redirect the focus of current reception studies in classics to the interdiscursive mechanisms by means of which the representations of the poets were shaped and communicated in ancient times and in different regional contexts. Instead of demonizing ancient “fictions” and expelling them from the canon of respectable sources, such discursive scapegoats—along with information from broader sociocultural contexts—should be placed in the center of our investigation of synchronic practices of reception and their modulations across time and space.
Mythopraxis and Traditions in Flux
Receptions of Sappho in classical and later Greece should be viewed, I propose, in terms of mythopractical performances of sociocultural archetypes. The concept of mythopraxis has been explored in cultural anthropology in connection with the manipulation of the historical past in Polynesian societies to illustrate the reenactment of paradigmatic mythical scripts in local political arenas. The legitimizing dynamics of mythical archetypes is often open to negotiations since it cannot address unpredicted exigencies.  What makes this notion especially pertinent to my exploration of what I call practical performances of cultural meanings in archaic, classical, and early Hellenistic Greek societies is its capacity to encompass conceptually the two traditionally—at least in structuralist approaches—opposed categories of subjective agency and sociocultural collectivity. To go a step further, mythopraxis, as I employ it in connection with Greek antiquity, refers to the creative and at times questioning enactment not only of authoritative religious and cosmological narratives but also of pervasive cultural values, ideas, or stereotypes  that at a given historical moment function as motivating forces of action on different levels—individual, interpersonal, regional, and so forth.
By encapsulating the dynamic dialogue between sanctioned discourses (muthoi) and their activation on different occasions and by different, individual, collective, or institutionally authorized agents (praxis), mythopraxis, as put forward in my investigation of the representations of Sappho in archaic, classical, and early Hellenistic Greek contexts, provides a novel methodological framework within which the receptions of ancient song-makers and their compositions in antiquity can be explored. Often mythopractical performances of this sort would be activated, legitimized, or (con)tested in the context of established institutions such as the symposion and mousikoi agônes, and in idiomatic or more collectively codified artistic expressions (songs, vase-paintings, historiographic accounts, and so forth). The mythopractical approach to the reception of ancient poets that I propose places priority on the functions of cultural signs and capitals not as constituents of sterilized structural systems but rather as semantic textures in action that are always open to changes. Such textures may respond to established cultural orders indifferently, approvingly, or critically. Sappho’s image as a prototypical “lesbian,” for instance, or her elevation to the status of a tenth Muse in the Hellenistic and later periods can be more holistically understood if viewed not as cases of mere fictionalizing fixations or intertextual (re)interpretations but as discursive constructs embedded in mythopractical performances of broader cultural meanings and stereotypes.
The concept of mythopraxis also alerts us to the intercrossing of temporal boundaries since it refers to synchronic reenactments of more often than not previously sanctioned sociocultural discourses. It presupposes, therefore, at least two temporal levels: the synchronic practical “now” of the specific moment in history under investigation and another chronological level that predates the first one. Furthermore, a mythopractical view of past cultural phenomena juxtaposes the scholarly present/modernity and the investigated past. The alterity of the latter needs to be negotiated by the mediating discourse of the former.
Such methodological and scholarly concerns can be effectively addressed, I argue, through a careful recourse to historical anthropology. The historical anthropological model I propose in this book questions the ideological premises tacitly informing the ethnohistorical version of historical anthropology. As a rule, ethnohistory follows in the traces of colonial ethnographic accounts since it tends to prioritize the study of the history of markedly “exotic” peoples, who in the early days of anthropology would be called “primitive.”  It is as though the investigation into the past of less marginalized cultures, notably Western European and white American ones, should remain “untainted” by the insights of a discipline that has codified its epistemological and methodological apparatus primarily as a result of the study of cultural “others.” The approach to archaic, classical, and Hellenistic Greek sociocultural discourses that I put forward builds upon comparative anthropological analyses. This approach should be engaged in a dialogue with current debates especially in the field of historical anthropology. Ethnohistory should not be excluded to the extent that it can provide comparative and methodological insights.
Leaving aside mainly the Cambridge ritualists and their followers in the middle of the twentieth century and later, the French School, which to a great extent has been shaped in a constructive dialogue with structuralist anthropology, sporadic references in footnotes and introductory chapters of recent books, or entries in dictionaries, classics has more often than not preferred to keep its disciplinary “purity” from any essential epistemological contact with anthropology. Disciplinary isolation of this sort is not of course confined to classics, an historical discipline par excellence. The contest between alleged historiographic precision and anthropological theorization has notoriously challenged the relations between history and anthropology, at least until recently.  The following statement formulates this dogmatic opposition in characteristic clarity: “My studies of the symposion in Greek society of course begin from the activities engaged in by sympotic groups, rather than the composition or functions of such groups: that is the difference between the interests of the cultural historian, who wishes to enter the group and study it from the inside, and the anthropologist, whose concern is with structures.”  Such methodological preferences are entirely legitimate and no doubt have often provided valuable insight into ancient cultural institutions. However, the supposed opposition between anthropological overgeneralizations, on the one hand, and historicizing empathy, on the other, is not as absolute as expressed in this passage. Anthropologists are not always interested in overarching structures whereas the ability to interact with a group of people, and therefore “study it from the inside,” is a privilege inevitably left in the hands of the ethnographer rather than the historian. The informants of the former are agents engaged in present sociocultural interactions accessible to an in situ study; the case is unfortunately different with the historian’s often fragmented sources. And there is no need to enumerate instances in which cultural historians of antiquity—or of later periods—have proposed imposing hermeneutic theories based on problematic reconstructions. Instead, exposure to anthropological methodologies may alert us more to the conditions of our reading and writing cultures and to the dynamics of the interaction of different discursive systems at a certain moment in history.
An illuminating case in point is the study of the arrival of Captain Cook in Hawaii. Based on archival material as well as broader cosmological ideas pervasive in indigenous culture, Sahlins has attempted to retrace the reception of Captain Cook by the Hawaiians and the subsequent construction of his image. First hailed as the arrival of a god—a response instigated by traditional local religious associations—Cook’s visit to the island was later subjected to a diametrically opposite interpretation that eventually led to his death. Sahlins explains this incident in terms of a dialogic interplay between indigenous cultural patterns of signification and the potential of historical events to activate and, as it were, to put them in test. The event of Captain Cook’s arrival was assimilated by the islanders within the order of their dominant cosmological ideas by means of mythopractical processes. 
A different thread of interpretation of the same historical incident has been proposed by Obeyesekere. Although endorsing the hermeneutic potential of the concept of mythopraxis, Obeyesekere shifted the focus of his investigation from the traditional beliefs of the islanders to the hegemonic preconceptions of the British sailors about the indigenous people. The deification of Captain Cook, according to Obeyesekere, was a story fabricated by Cook’s companions who felt superior to the indigenous people. Whatever side one may take, what remains important is that both studies illustrate how historical events interact with cultural patterns of signification and how historical study involves explorations of such patterns. Moreover, the debate between Sahlins’s interpretation and Obeyesekere’s counterdiscourse expose the ways in which both anthropological and historical scholarly discourses are embedded in wider discursive contexts. Characteristically, Obeyesekere explicitly bases the validity of his own version of the story not only on his study of archival material but also on his hermeneutic perspective, which is not that of an American scholar, but of a Sri Lankan—that is, an individual of colonial origins. 
One of the main objectives of my investigation of the receptions of the figure and the songs of Sappho in archaic, classical, and early Hellenistic Greece is not only to redraw, as it were, the itinerary of her presence in specific socioaesthetic or other synchronic (that is, archaic, classical, or Hellenistic) discourses, but also to map out the interplay of different mythopractical realizations and constructions of her image.  This enterprise goes considerably beyond tracing intertextual references or proposing corrective suggestions to ancient Greek “fictions” about Sappho’s life and work. Although not ignoring such established methodological directions in the field of reception studies, the main objective of my investigation is to propose methodological directions for the study of practices of shaping and negotiating textures of cultural signification in the specific periods I am interested in.  Ancient sources should be employed as informants situated within (and contributing to) broader synchronic discourses. They may be envisaged as archival material that needs to be mapped out, evaluated, questioned, and, whenever possible, contextualized in all its interdiscursive implications. Individual sources—vase-paintings, literary texts, inscriptions, and so forth—should not be approached as ossified fossils pointing to a static, often retroactively constructed discursive order, but as nexuses of cultural meanings engaged in a continuous dialogue with other synchronic material and potentially subject to change and semantic inflections. These nexuses of meaning, I argue, do not necessarily circulate on paths of evolutionary or deterministic developments. Different or even opposing receptions of a poet and his/her work may coexist in the same synchronic context.
“Coining” Sappho and the Hermeneutics of Vraisemblance
My view of cultural phenomena as discourses produced at the intersection of individual agency and collectively produced and consumed ideational and behavioral schemata dictates a study of the receptions of Sappho in archaic, classical, and Hellenistic Greece in terms of a continuous interplay between artistic sociolects and broader idioms. How did individual aesthetic and ideological priorities (cor)respond to wider sociocultural discourses? How did formations of reading in a specific period affect the reception of previous artistic products and the creation of new ones?  To what extent was the reinscription of the image of Sappho in different discursive contexts at a particular moment of the history of her reception conditioned by synchronic mythopractical models?
Such models were performed and received, I contend, in terms of “naturalizing” processes—that is, perceptual and hermeneutic strategies of vraisemblance. Vraisemblance has been employed mainly in critical theory in connection with the process of “translating” the fictitious world of a literary text to the principles of perceiving and evaluating reality prevailing in a given culture.  Critics have also compared this reality to an authorizing (sociocultural) text—an interesting, independent literary theoretical equivalent of Geertz’s interpretive textualization of culture.
Vraisemblance may thus refer to five climactic, closely interrelated levels of interpretive “naturalization.” First, it has to do with the “text” of the “real world.” Second, it operates on the plane of conceptual patterns particular to a specific culture. Third, it establishes connections between a given literary text and genre conventions. Fourth, it concerns the level of self-referentiality of the text that underlines the artificiality of its discourse. Finally, vraisemblance refers to concrete intertextual relations.  In parallel ways, the image of Sappho and her song-making were received and reinvented by means of mythopractical reworkings that each time were subjected to specific criteria of vraisemblance. Leaving aside the first level of vraisemblance, it may be argued that the discursive textures that Sappho’s image and song-making constituted at different synchronic moments in the long history of her ancient reception were defined by a complex interaction among all possible different levels of hermeneutic vraisemblance: cultural idioms—differing from one ancient Greek region to another—; conventions of specific artistic and discursive media (vase-painting, historiography, melic poetry, comedy); marked self-referentiality employed in some of those media; explicit or implicit “intertextual” associations with the works and the images of other poets.
Sappho’s figure and song-making—as circulated in different discursive contexts and subjected to several processes of naturalizing vraisemblance in late archaic, classical, and late Hellenistic periods—should be viewed as a kind of discursive texture, a cultural coinage, as it were, that was coined, manipulated, devalued, or inflated according to specific, culturally or individually marked, semantic filters. The reception of Sappho’s image in those specific periods is to be understood in connection with broader contexts of cultural economy determined by synchronic socioaesthetic concerns as these were realized in specific discursive media or by specific cultural agents. Rather than indicating the specifics of the original performative settings of Sappho’s songs, the variously determined values of the discursive currency of her image at different moments of her reception point—each time—to the dynamics of the synchronic cultural economies.
[ back ] 1. The problems involved in the research on Sappho have been lumped together under various rubrics. Among others, Russo (1973:721) opted for a close definitional comparison between Homer and Sappho and formulated the issue as follows: “the great Question of Sapphic studies,” and the “Sapphofrage.”
[ back ] 2. For “vehicles of meaning,” see Geertz 1983:118–119.
[ back ] 3. “Discourse”—like “discursivity”—is employed here as elsewhere in this book not only in its general sense of verbal strategies but rather in its Foucauldian connotation of marked and situationally circumscribed utterance. Discourse is thus situated in specific contexts of power dynamics. The concept of discourse pervades Foucault’s theory as a whole; see especially Foucault 1969, 1981. For an interesting problematization of established epistemological premises in connection with the history of late antiquity, see Clark 2004.
[ back ] 4. The studies of G. Nagy (1974; 1990; 1996a; 1999; 1996b; 2003; 2004a), J. M. Foley (1991 with references to his earlier work; 1995; 2002), L. C. Muellner (1976; 1996), and R. P. Martin (1989) provide an important exception.
[ back ] 5. I here do not refer to the detailed work of M. L. West and several other contemporary scholars who do pay particular attention to such central issues with regard to the text of Sappho.
[ back ] 6. Starting with Welcker’s Sappho von einem herrschenden Vorurtheil befreyt (Welcker 1816), see, especially, Merkelbach 1957; West 1970; Rösler 1992; and Calame 1997:210–214, 231–233, 249–252.
[ back ] 7. Yatromanolakis 1999a:185n28 and 184–187. In Yatromanolakis 1999a, the concept of sources was deliberately distinguished from that of evidence.
[ back ] 8. See above, n. 6; more recently, Lardinois 1994; cf. Lardinois 1996 and 2001.
[ back ] 9. For the reception of Sappho in France between 1546 and 1937, see DeJean 1989; for a brief consideration of the period after 1937 and of samples of English scholarship, see her “epilogue.” Cf. Prins’s reservations (1999:14) about DeJean’s attempt “to assimilate other traditions into a French model.” For Germany, Greece, Italy, England, and the United States, see Robinson 1924; Rüdiger 1933; Marks 1978:353–377; Stein 1981; Rigolot 1983; Gubar 1984; Lipking 1988; Tomory 1989; Fornaro 1991; Wood 1994; Snyder 1995:101–123; Blank 1995; Most 1995:15–38; Snyder 1997b:123–159; Greene 1996 (articles by J. DeJean and others); Prins 1999; Dehler 1999; Collecott 1999; Reynolds 2000; Andreadis 2001; Yatromanolakis 2002; Écarnot 2002; Reynolds 2003; Yatromanolakis 2003b, 2006a; Prins 2005. Campbell 2004:191–204 is a thought-provoking and insightful study. For collections of modern English and French poems translating, rewriting, or pertaining to Sappho, see Jay and Lewis 1996 and Brunet 1998. I examine different aspects of the modern scholarly reception of Sappho and of influential scholarly paradigms throughout this book; see further Yatromanolakis 2003a.
[ back ] 10. For Sappho in medieval Greek literature there is no synthesis (the sources have not even been fully collected). For references to medieval Greek sources on Sappho, see Cataudella 1927; Ševčenko 1951 (cf. Gigante 1977); Browning 1960 (cf. Wirth 1963); Koster 1964; Moravcsik 1964; Cataudella 1965; Garzya 1971; Nickau 1974; Costanza 1976 and 1980; Christidis 1985; Pontani 2001. For a new medieval Greek source on Sappho in regard to her threnodic poems (Manganeios Prodromos 52.110–113), see Yatromanolakis 1999a:186. I would further add two intriguing sources: Manganeios Prodromos 5.192 and 49.162–165. Note that some (then) new medieval Greek sources were included in the corrected edition of Lobel and Page 1955 (1963):338; in Voigt 1971:addendum without page number after her page 506; and in Page 1974:155.
[ back ] 11. To mention a few cases of recent treatments based on autopsy, and of the most recent material: Malnati 1993; Moretti 1995:23; Yatromanolakis 1999b; Steinrück 2000; Ferrari 2000; Ucciardello 2001; Gronewald and Daniel 2004a and 2004b.
[ back ] 12. Lobel and Page 1955; Voigt 1971.
[ back ] 13. Two significant examples of such texts are fragments 94 and 96 V: an examination of Voigt’s detailed apparatus criticus for these fragments demonstrates the difficulty in determining which of the numerous different papyrological readings listed is the most accurate. Based on Voigt’s (or Lobel-Page’s) text, which often does not indicate the number of letters missing in lacunae, scholars have proceeded to propose different supplements and conjectures. See, e.g., Slings 1994.
[ back ] 14. See, e.g., the otherwise wide-ranging book by Calame (1997:see above, n. 6).
[ back ] 15. Dörrie 1975:13–29 (overly speculative); Lardinois 1989; Brooten 1996:32–39; cf. Nagy 1996a:219–221.
[ back ] 16. I here employ the word “author” only conventionally. In what follows, song-maker, composer, and poet are the preferred terms.
[ back ] 17. With the editing of new papyrus fragments, this observation is confirmed.
[ back ] 18. For the “performative context” and “descriptive context” of a song in the study of archaic melic poetry, viewed from a linguistic anthropological perspective and with regard to ritual, see Yatromanolakis 2003a:53–54.
[ back ] 19. Sappho fr. 121 V.
[ back ] 20. Sappho fr. 159 V.
[ back ] 21. Sappho fr. 118 V.
[ back ] 22. 2.4 (p. 334. 5–10 Rabe).
[ back ] 23. Hermogenes (On Types of Style 2.4, p. 334. 10–24 Rabe) provides an interesting discussion of hêdonê and glukutês in Herodotos 7.35.
[ back ] 24. The most thorough and groundbreaking exploration of the revival of ancient Greek genres in twelfth-century Byzantium is provided in Roilos 2005.
[ back ] 25. Eustathios on Iliad 1.1 (vol. 1, 16 van der Valk).
[ back ] 26. The †δὲ in “line 2” would cause little problem to textual critics, who customarily excise particles and entire phrases from ancient Greek texts.
[ back ] 27. Lobel and Page 1955 repeat verbatim the text and apparatus criticus printed earlier by Lobel (1925:51), but again they envisage two lines of uncertain meter—that is, a fragment considered by them impossible to assign to a certain book of the Alexandrian edition of Sappho. Lobel (1925:51), without any comment in his apparatus criticus, did not print λέγε in his text, but stated that “post voc. ἄγε (sive ἄγε δή, Blomfield) neque δὲ neque optat. locum habet.” Voigt (1971:127) remarked that “cum a voc. λέγε aliquid dependere debeat, inter 1 et 2 fort. lac. statuenda.” Both the tentative lacuna that Voigt points to and Lobel’s contention have been forgotten in recent literary discussions of the fragment. The text that Voigt printed is taken for granted.
[ back ] 28. Blomfield 1814:15.
[ back ] 29. Wilson 1987.
[ back ] 30. See Etymologicum Magnum s.v. χελύνη (δηλοῖ καὶ τὴν κιθάραν παρ᾽ Αἰολεῦσι). However, there are earlier sources for this: see Orion 28.15 s.v. ἀμύμων· . . . τροπῇ δὲ τοῦ ω̅ εἰς υ̅. ὡς παρὰ Σαπφοῖ, χελώνη χελύνη; Etymologicum Genuinum s.v. ἀμύμων (based on a version of Orion’s entry); and cf. Hesykhios s.v. χελύνη· τὰ χείλη, ἄλλοι τὴν κιθάραν. καὶ τὴν χελώνην. καὶ λύραν [ . . . ].
[ back ] 31. Bergk 1882: 104 (fr. 45).
[ back ] 32. Diehl 1925 (1923): 373 (fr. 103); Diehl 1936: 64 (fr. 103).
[ back ] 33. Athenaios 9.410d–f.
[ back ] 34. As a sample of learned and painstaking papyrological work, taking into account Lobel’s editions of Alkaios and Sappho (1925 and 1927, much of which was reprinted, slightly revised, along with new material in Lobel and Page 1955) and his numerous editiones principes of papyrus fragments, one discerns that sometimes overskepticism may be the easy way out of a thorny textual problem. While methodologically important and often justifiable in the case of editing fragmentary texts, overskepticism, potentially operating as a boomerang, can be detrimental to research on ancient Greek cultural history or religion by scholars whose main methodological tools coincide with a desire to undermine everything the ancients (or medieval Greek sources) report. On this kind of scholarly overskepticism, see, from a different perspective, the sophisticated discussion by Sourvinou-Inwood 2002:176–177, 2003, and 2005.
[ back ] 35. Treu 1984:82 and 219 accepted Diehl’s version. Tzamali 1996:440 prints ἄγε, χέλυ δῖά, μοι λέγε | φωνάεσσα δὲ γίνεο and comments on ἄγε (arguing against Diehl’s ἄγι).
[ back ] 36. For another neglected but intriguing source that associates Sappho’s songs with their performance by kings, see Chapter Three, p. 223. Moreover, Christidis 1985:4–5 adduces two more medieval Greek sources for Sappho fragment 118 V: Niketas Magistros Epistles 31.5–9 Westerink (εἰσάγουσί τε γάρ, γλυκαίνειν ἐθέλοντες τὸν λόγον, ἱστορίας καὶ μύθους καὶ τὸ πολλάκις προσομιλεῖν τοῖς ἀψύχοις· ἃ κηλοῦν μὲν οἶδε τὰς ἀκοάς, οὐ λυσιτελεῖν δὲ πρὸς σωτηρίαν ψυχῆς. οἷά που τὰ τῆς Σαπφοῦς ἐκεῖνα ῥημάτια. “ Ἄγε χέλυ δῖά μοι λέγε | φωνάεσσα δὲ γίνεο”) and a poem attributed to Theodoros Prodromos (“ Ἄγε μοι χέλυς παλαιὰ ῥητορικῶν [Christidis: ῥητόρων] χειλέων | . . . ). Niketas Magistros (tenth century) drew his quote from Hermogenes. As Christidis notes, Page 1974:155 referred to Mikhael Italikos’ testimony as “textum adhuc ineditum” but the text had been edited by Fusco 1969/1970:153 and Gautier 1972:247.
[ back ] 37. Sappho testimonium 194A V. Cf. also the text in Cramer, An. Ox. iii 169, attributed to Mikhael Italikos, where a reference to Σαπφικὴ χάρις.
[ back ] 38. This scholarly paradigm is earlier than the nineteenth century and is also exemplified in ancient sources.
[ back ] 39. Deconstructive is here not employed in the sense associated with the work of Jacques Derrida.
[ back ] 40. See, for example, Most 1995 and Lidov 1993; on Lidov 1993, see the criticism of Stehle 1997: 289n92 and Edmunds 2001:12–13.
[ back ] 41. Lobel 1925 and 1927; Page 1955: (cf. his p. 338:“abnormal” dialect). On Lobel’s linguistic theories about the Lesbian dialect, see Hooker 1977; cf. Bowie 1981. On the book of the epithalamian songs, see Yatromanolakis 1999a. See further Yatromanolakis 2007a.
[ back ] 42. Compare Page’s text to Bergk’s metrical analysis (1882:671–672) and to Diehl’s text (1925:vol. 2, 201–202), not to mention Edmonds’ edition (1940:526–529).
[ back ] 43. On ancient Greek carmina popularia, see Yatromanolakis 2007b.
[ back ] 44. The terms “marked” and “unmarked” are used in this book in their meaning in theoretical linguistics. The concept of “markedness” was developed by the theorists of the Prague School to describe the status/quality of a linguistic form as less neutral (see Battistella 1996; Tomić 1989; and Andrews 1990). My use of the notions of diachrony and synchrony also draws from theoretical linguistics, especially from Ferdinard de Saussure, without, however, their (sometimes) overly formalistic overtones in linguistics. I employ the term “synchrony” to refer to the study of a cultural phenomenon within its broader contemporary context. Here it is pertinent to clarify that my use of the concept of “imaginary” retains especially its marked theoretical associations in the work of Cornelios Castoriadis (notably in his discussion of imaginaire social, ‘social imaginary’), which puts forward a sociological reworking of the notion as employed in Sartre and Lacan; in the latter’s tripartite psychoanalytic schema, the imaginary occupies the middle position between the real and the symbolic. On the concept of social imaginary and its connections with Lacanian theory, see especially Castoriadis 1987.
[ back ] 45. On Arrangement of Words 11 Usener and Radermacher (1929:40–43), 11.15–22 Aujac and Lebel (1981:94–96). Dionysios’ analysis is embedded in a broader discussion of music and spoken language. On important issues related to Dionysios’ discussion, see, especially, Koller 1956:25–27, Pöhlmann 1960:19–24, 39 and 1970:82, Usher 1985:78–79, Devine-Stephens 1991 and 1994:84, 120, 169–170, 215–223 (on the development of stress accentuation in ancient Greek), Parker 2001:37–38. I plan to examine elsewhere Chapter 11 of Dionysios’ On Arrangement of Words. An ancient scholion on line 176 of the Orestes offers further information about the music and performative dimensions of the second strophe of this ἀμοιβαῖον, without commenting on the antiquity of the musical setting discussed there (note, however, that the Orestes was the most popular tragedy of Euripides in antiquity; on its popularity, see Willink 1986:lxii–lxiii): τοῦτο τὸ μέλος ἐπὶ ταῖς λεγομέναις νήταις ᾄδεται καί ἐστιν ὀξύτατον. ἀπίθανον οὖν τὴν Ἠλέκτραν ὀξείᾳ φωνῇ κεχρῆσθαι, καὶ ταῦτα ἐπιπλήσσουσαν τῷ χορῷ. ἀλλὰ κέχρηται μὲν τῷ ὀξεῖ ἀναγκαίως, οἰκεῖον γὰρ τῶν θρηνούντων, λεπτότατα δὲ ὡς ἔνι μάλιστα (text in Schwartz 1887:116; codex B, which preserves the scholion, provides the reading λεπτότερον, while Schwartz printed λεπτότατα). A new edition of scholia on Euripides in all preserved manuscripts is a scholarly desideratum.
[ back ] 46. Usener and Radermacher 1929:42 more experimentally and, I believe, perceptively print σίγα σῖγα, while British editors of Euripides’ Orestes normally opt for absolute consistency and print σῖγα σῖγα (cf. Euripides Herakles 1067 σῖγα σῖγα and Orestes 183–184). The manuscripts are divided between σίγα σίγα and σῖγα σῖγα (or σιγᾶ σιγᾶ in V, according to Diggle 1994:198). Cf. Aujac and Lebel 1981:95, who print σίγα σίγα and Biehl 1975:13, who prefers σῖγα σῖγα. In recent critical editions, lines 140–141 are attributed to the Chorus, while line 142 to Elektra; see, concisely, Willink 1986:10 and 105. Dionysios and certain manuscripts preserving the lines in question of Euripides’ Orestes provide λευκόν instead of λεπτόν in line 140. See below, n. 53.
[ back ] 47. Dionysios does not specify whether he discusses a new setting or the old one composed by Euripides and does not provide diachronic markers with regard to his analysis of music and tonal accent and pitch.
[ back ] 48. In chapter 11 of his treatise, Dionysios refers to his first-hand familiarity with contemporary theater culture (note his emphasis on “the most popular theaters packed with crowds of men of all kinds and of no refinement”): ἤδη δ᾽ ἔγωγε καὶ ἐν τοῖς πολυανθρωποτάτοις θεάτροις, ἃ συμπληροῖ παντοδαπὸς καὶ ἄμουσος ὄχλος, ἔδοξα καταμαθεῖν [ . . . ]. Cf. Dionysios’ comparable claim in the same context: τὸ δ᾽ αὐτὸ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ῥυθμῶν γινόμενον ἐθεασάμην [ . . . ].
[ back ] 49. According to Dionysios, in (fifth-century BC?) spoken language, an acute accent denoted that the voice be raised no more than three tones and a semitone (οὔτε ἐπιτείνεται πέρα τῶν τριῶν τόνων καὶ ἡμιτονίου), that is, what was called διὰ πέντε.
[ back ] 50. The manuscripts are split between τιθεῖτε and τίθεται. The same is true for the manuscripts preserving the text of Dionysios (see Usener and Radermacher 1929:42).
[ back ] 51. On Arrangement of Words 11 Usener-Radermacher (1929:42) καὶ τοῦ ῾τίθετε᾽ βαρυτέρα μὲν ἡ πρώτη γίνεται, δύο δ᾽αἱ μετ᾽αὐτὴν ὀξύτονοί τε καὶ ὁμόφωνοι.
[ back ] 52. For extensive analysis of marked editorial interventions in “quoted” fragments, see Yatromanolakis 2007a.
[ back ] 53. On similar generalizing scholarly prejudices against medieval Greek scholars, see the account in Willink 1986:lix. Although Willink himself argues—with regard to the Hellenistic text of Euripides’ Orestes—that “in some places it may appear that there was no single standard reading” (1986:lxi), he unreservedly considers Dionysios’ λευκόν in line 140 an error (1986:106 and 107; cf. Diggle 1991:17, 31, 126). For the sources, including ancient scholia, preserving λευκόν, see Diggle 1994:198 (Diggle prints λεπτόν in line 140) and cf. Willink (1986:lxi): “that vulgate [of the select plays of Euripides] was never completely stable, and it needed the accompanying scholia in which variants (often better readings) were recorded.” Dale 1968:205n1 had wondered “whether we are justified in assuming that Dionysios could not have read τίθεται,” the version provided by a number of manuscripts.
[ back ] 54. For a discussion of the modern tendency in classical archaeology to highlight the “primitiveness” of the ancient past, see Neer 2002:2.
[ back ] 55. Latour and Woolgar 1979.
[ back ] 56. See Chapter Three, pp. 203–204, and Chapter 4, p. 360 n. 341.
[ back ] 57. See, among other hypothetical reconstructions, West 2005. West 2005 advances interesting arguments about different aspects of the text of the three Ptolemaic papyrus fragments.
[ back ] 58. For “gaps of indeterminacy,” a notion used by Iser with regard to the reception of texts (to be sure, not necessarily fragmentary like Sappho’s), see Iser 1974 and 1978:24, 59–60, 172–175, 203–206.
[ back ] 59. In view of the discussion thus far, it is noteworthy that even textual critics and editors of considerable learning and consummate command of ancient Greek like M. L. West prioritize certain scholarly traditions at the expense of both the actual situation with the texts of Sappho and of the early twentieth-century German tradition and the high standards set by such editors as W. Schubart and E. Diehl: “Since Edgar Lobel set new standards in the 1920s, the Lesbian poets have been fortunate in their editors. The Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta of Lobel and Page (Oxford, 1955) still stands as a gaunt landmark with only slight signs of erosion” (review of Liberman 1999 in Classical Review 51 :4). That Lobel and Page in 1955 decided, unnecessarily to my mind, to break free from the overall numeration system established by Diehl, thus adding one more system (this time with two subdivisions, editorial numbers and book-numbers!) to the previous systems is indicative of this prioritization of traditions. Instead, Voigt (1971) retained Lobel and Page’s system, but, in contrast to them, she cited in each case Diehl’s established numeration system. Note that the same practice was adopted by Diehl (who cited the numeration of T. Bergk’s important edition) and is currently being subscribed to by numerous critical editors, notably Rudolf Kassel in his and C. Austin’s Poetae Comici Graeci.
[ back ] 60. Most 1995:31. For footnotes in classical scholarship and the appeal to early authorities like Wilamowitz, see Nimis’s interesting and amusing discussion (1984).
[ back ] 61. Richter 1965 was aware of three vases: hydria in Warsaw, National Museum 142333 (formerly Goluchow 32; ARV 300; Para. 246); red-figure kalathos-psykter in Munich (2416; ARV 385.228, 1573, and 1649; Add. 228); and red-figure hydria in Athens, National Archaeological Museum (1260; ARV 1060.145; Add. 323). Wilamowitz (1913:40–42, which Most 1995 cites) did not examine the three vases but referred only to some of them in passing. Both Richter (1965:71) and Richter and Smith (1984:194–196) do not discuss the relevant vases, nor do they include in their lists the red-figure kalyx-krater Bochum, Ruhr-Universität, Kunstsammlungen Inv. S 508. As I show in Chapter Two, this kalyx-krater provides the only certain visual clues that we have about Sappho being performed in early fifth-century Athenian symposia. Cf. Yatromanolakis 2001a.
[ back ] 62. These late representations are examined in Chapters Two and Three.
[ back ] 63. Lidov 2002:228n58, referring to Most 1995:31.
[ back ] 64. Note that Most 1995 is actually unaware of this kalyx-krater. Therefore, his statement is based on the other three vases—two hydriai and a kalathoid vase.
[ back ] 65. On the same page (1995:31), Most further argues that incerti auctoris 25 C Voigt (= Aristophanes Wasps 1236–1237, according to Most) shows that “Aristophanes himself alludes to Aeolic poetry as being well known in Athens.” But the fragment incerti auctoris 25 C in Voigt’s edition does not suggest anything of the kind.
[ back ] 66. Lidov 2002:229, in the context of his comment that it is “striking that Herodotus’ only uses of hetaira—which are also the first surviving occurrences of the word in Greek in the sense of ‘prostitute’ or ‘courtesan’ —occur in a passage that connects the hetaira in question [Rhodopis] to Sappho. I conclude that Herodotus is reflecting a contemporary development whose popular expression would be found in comedy.” For another case of constructing allegedly “paradigmatic” figures, cf. Yatromanolakis 2001b: 222–223.
[ back ] 67. The number of cases is large. I here refrain from citing examples, since this is not my main point.
[ back ] 68. Kuhn 1962. Note that Kuhn’s work was first published as a monograph in 1955 (in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, vol. 2, Chicago). On paradigms in the study of archaic Greek literature, cf. Yatromanolakis 2003a.
[ back ] 69. Two examples will suffice: in the Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (founded upon the seventh edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, reprint Oxford 1997), a dictionary widely used in university courses, the definition for the verb λεσβιάζω is still “to imitate Sappho (the Lesbian poetry).” In Ps.-Loukianos Erôtes 28, an intriguing passage related to female homoeroticism is translated by M.D. Macleod in the Loeb series (Lucian, vol. 8, Cambridge, Mass. 1967:195) as “Let wanton Lesbianism—that word seldom heard, which I feel ashamed even to utter—freely parade itself, and let our women’s chambers emulate Philaenis, disgracing themselves with Sapphic amours.” Macleod’s “Sapphic amours” is a scholarly rendering of ἀνδρογύνους ἔρωτας. The fact that “Sapphic” has specific connotations in English does not make the case clearer. Note that LSJ (along with its revised 1996 supplement) has kept the definition “Sapphic” in the entry ἀνδρόγυνος (3b “of women”). For other cases where LSJ provides such definitions for complex words—and, more specifically, for the need to conduct, as much as possible, linguistic anthropological examinations in the study of archaic Greek and classical literature—see Chapter Three.
[ back ] 70. Following a long tradition of theatrical and poetic works entitled Psappha, Iannis Xenakis’s Psappha (1975) is perhaps the most sophisticated European musical text that attempts to reconstruct the “sonorities” of Sappho. The bibliography on Xenakis is vast (see Barthel-Calvet 2000 and Solomos 2001); on his Psappha, see Yoken 1985, and Flint 1989 and 2001.
[ back ] 71. Lardinois 1989:24–25 (“Could it be that her frivolous songs praising the beauty of young girls gave rise to the assumption that she would also have been more than willing to sleep with numerous men, preferably in a shameless manner?”).
[ back ] 72. Categorically in Parker 1993:309–310: “he’s Dick All-cock from the Isle of MAN.” In the ancient Greek Κερκύλας, the emphatic “All-cock” can not be easily detected, while in modern American English, as native-speaking colleagues confirm, the name Dick (Richard) does not sound obscene when addressed to a man in all the contexts that do not involve a heated fight. Wilamowitz (1913:24) and Aly’s views (1920:2361) were more flexible. See, further, Chapter Four, p. 294 and n. 36.
[ back ] 73. Most 1995:31. In this article, Most argues (1995:31) that “the violence performed upon Sappho by reading ἐς σ᾽ ἴδω in line 7 [of fragment 31 V], as English editors and those who have followed them have done throughout this century (...) is ... insidious,” since, according to him, it distorts the ambiguous character of the fragment, and, more generally, the literary reception of Sappho’s poetry. Most believes that “matters are in fact much more complicated” (1995:129). However, four observations on his views may be necessary: i) the evidence of Ploutarkhos cannot be readily dismissed as representing a simplification of the deliberate ambiguity of the passage. Instead, Ploutarkhos should be studied as an informant about the ancient reception of Sappho; ii) the wide application of the notion of ambiguity to fragmentary melic texts is arguably precarious: the distinction between ambiguity due to poetic intentionality and ambiguity due to poor textual transmission may not be so clear-cut; iii) one should agree with Most that Hermann was a great authority of nineteenth-century classical scholarship and his views should be duly taken into account by modern critical editions (Most holds that “no modern edition of Sappho mentions Hermann’s conjecture, either in its text or in its apparatus or in its commentary” (1995:30); it is not clear what he means by “modern,” but a critical edition still used and cited by a number of scholars, that of Diehl  in the Teubner series, cites Hermann’s emendation). However, although Hermann printed this emendation—without providing any further comments—in 1816, he changed his mind in an article of 1831, where he argued for a different emendation, ὡς ἴδω γάρ σε βροχέ’; iv) [G.] Most further attempts to turn his detection of gender ambiguity in certain poems of Sappho (frs. 1, 16, and 31 V) to advantage by suggesting (1995:33) that “we may even be able to distinguish in this regard between those poems of Sappho’s that were read in schools and widely disseminated in ancient culture (and which are therefore transmitted as citations in the manuscripts of rhetoricians) and those which circulated only or primarily within collected editions of her works for a highly literate and specialized audience (and which have only survived on papyri)”; to my mind, such a subtle, hypothetical distinction goes too far.
[ back ] 74. See e.g. Lidov 2002. This approach is by no means confined to Lidov 2002, but is to be found in all relevant discussions.
[ back ] 75. Dover 2002:226.
[ back ] 76. See the papyrological arguments in Yatromanolakis 1999b, where it is shown that Sappho fr. 22 V actually consists of two separate fragments. Further confirmation of my argument here is provided by the early Ptolemaic papyri edited by Gronewald and Daniel (2004a and 2004b).
[ back ] 77. The fragments are collected in Voigt 1971:359–376. A few more fragments may be added to those edited by Voigt. I investigate this issue in Yatromanolakis 2007a.
[ back ] 78. According to his colleagues, Gernet was a sociologist of ancient Greece; see Detienne 2001:104 and Vernant’s preface in Gernet 1968.
[ back ] 79. Cartledge 1996:102. Being one of the few recent texts focusing on an interaction between classics and anthropology and published in a book outside the field of classics, it is odd that the largest part of Cartledge’s entry discusses contemporary Greece. Albeit restrained by word limits, this modestly “objective” optimism at times manages to wane into a marked pessimistic subjective preference even to promote “foreign”—insightful, to be sure—analyses at the expense of purportedly inexistent “indigenous” self-reflexive studies (see, for example Kyriakidou-Nestoros 1978, a book that predates—and has been influential on—the books Cartledge cites): “to many modern Greeks, for example, their supposed classical ancestry is just one more facet of their perceived misfortune to be Greek; this challenged sense of national-ethnic pride has been sensitively analyzed by foreign scholars” (Cartledge 1996:101; my emphasis). Cartledge published some of his ethnographic observations even in the journal Anthropology Today, under the title “The Greeks and Anthropology” (Cartledge 1994). Both articles are apparently representative of what this particular “camp” (as Cartledge puts it) of British classicists thinks of anthropology and Greece. For what with De Certeau I call “pragmatic efficacy” of such devices of writing culture, see my discussion below in this chapter. More insightful are the following discussions of classics and anthropology: Hunter 1981; Winkler 1990:1–10; Loraux 1996; and Detienne 1979:1–19, 1991, 2000, 2001; for comparative approaches to ancient Greece through ethnographic explorations of Greece, Italy, and Spain, see Versnel 1987; Winkler 1990; and cf. Blok 2001; contra: Sourvinou-Inwood 1995; for histories of the interest of classicists in anthropology, see Marett 1908; Kluckhohn 1961; Finley 1975; Humphreys 1978:17–106; Redfield 1991; Sissa 1997.
[ back ] 80. Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003:37. See further Roilos and Yatromanolakis forth.
[ back ] 81. Jauss 1982:139–85.
[ back ] 82. de Man 1982, especially xix–xxv. For a literature-oriented discussion of Jauss’s approach to reception, see Martindale 1993:9–10. It should be noted that Martindale’s analysis, which does not take into account Jauss’s confinement within the methodological polarities of the allegorical schema I point to here, is overly text-focused while at the same time it inevitably ignores the anthropological parameters of cultural rewriting explored in this chapter of the present book. These limitations of Martindale’s discussion may be understandably due to the fact that his interest lies in the reception of ancient texts in modern times—not in antiquity.
[ back ] 83. Geertz 1973:5.
[ back ] 84. This formulation of Geertz’s paradigmatic anthropological objective comes from his essay “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” (Geertz 1973:452).
[ back ] 85. It is worth noting that in this particular essay, Crapanzano employs the mythological associations of Hermes in order to illustrate the discursive and ideological risks authoritative ethnographic discourse may entail. “The ethnographer,” he says, “is a little like Hermes: a messenger who, given methodologies for uncovering the masked, the latent, the unconscious, may even obtain his message through stealth. He presents languages, cultures, and societies in all their opacity, their foreignness, their meaninglessness; then like the magician, the hermeneut, Hermes himself, he clarifies the opaque, renders the foreign familiar, and gives meaning to the meaningless. He decodes the message. He interprets” (Crapanzano 1986:51). Crapanzano’s diction here is replete with allusions to established formulas of allegorical explication: the object of interpretation covers an encoded, “opaque,” “latent,” “masked” meaning that the anthropologist’s “hierophantic” acuity is invited to decipher. What differentiates Crapanzano’s analysis from hegemonic ethnographic allegorizations is the ironic and self-referential inflections of his discourse (cf. Crapanzano 1992).
[ back ] 86. In this respect, valuable remains the work of Hayden White, who insightfully has exposed the figurative tropisms of historiographic discourses; see especially White 1978; also White 1987 and 1999:1–42.
[ back ] 87. Geertz 1971:15.
[ back ] 88. Fineman 1981:29.
[ back ] 89. Fabian 1983:21–25; see also below my discussion of the idealization of “the (ancient) Greeks” at the expense of other peoples and periods.
[ back ] 90. Lafitau 1997. For a discussion of Lafitau’s approach, see Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003:25–26.
[ back ] 91. Asad 1986:161–162.
[ back ] 92. Asad 1986:159.
[ back ] 93. The concept of the supplement is employed here in its Derridean implications of a discourse that is involved in a critically dialogic or, rather, antiphonal relation to a previous sanctioned discourse. Recent studies in the field of classics have been intensely based on Geertzian hermeneutic analysis but without going beyond its emphasis on reading cultures (see, for instance, Dougherty and Kurke 1993:1–12 and 2003); the urgency of shifting our epistemological focus on strategies of writing culture is unfortunately not addressed in such scholarly enterprises. For a systematic exploration of the methodological and ideological implications of “writing culture” in anthropology, see the homonymous collection of essays edited by Clifford and Marcus (Clifford and Marcus 1986). Clifford further discusses this issue in Clifford 1988, where he problematizes established discursive authorizations of anthropological analysis. Parallel to Clifford’s discussion is Marcus’s and Fisher’s investigation of past and current formative epistemological concepts in anthropology (Marcus and Fischer 1999). Marcus and Fisher focus on what they call “crisis of representation” in contemporary human sciences. This “crisis” is closely related to the awareness of the discursivity determining anthropological narratives and analyses.
[ back ] 94. Barthes 1977a.
[ back ] 95. Certain textual critics and critical editors, especially, but not exclusively, in Italy would not be willing to endorse such an idea.
[ back ] 96. De Certeau 1986:207.
[ back ] 97. De Certeau 1986:203.
[ back ] 98. De Certeau 1986:203.
[ back ] 99. Perry has memorably criticized the overwhelming longing to (re)construct origins even at the expense of provable data in his discussion of the ancient Greek novel. In a parodying formulaic narrative reenacting the discursive strategies of fictional writing, he recounts the origins of this genre as follows: “the first romance was deliberately planned and written by an individual author, its inventor. He conceived it on a Tuesday afternoon in July, or some other day or month of the year” (Perry 1967:175).
[ back ] 100. Williams 1983.
[ back ] 101. Kroeber and Kluckhohn 1952; Stocking 1968:69–109.
[ back ] 102. Tylor 1871:1.
[ back ] 103. Kroeber and Kluckhohn 1952; Stocking 1968:195–233.
[ back ] 104. Important exceptions include Detienne 1979, 2000, 2001, 2003; Winkler 1990.
[ back ] 105. Even anthropologically oriented studies of ancient Greece are not always impervious to this kind of ideological essentialism; see, for instance, the otherwise interesting Anthropology and the Greeks (Humphreys 1973); cf. Humphreys 2004. See also Gentili and Pretagostini’s Musica in Grecia (1988).
[ back ] 106. See above, p. 19.
[ back ] 107. See Chapter Four.
[ back ] 108. Bourdieu 1977, 1990.
[ back ] 109. Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003:19.
[ back ] 110. Sahlins 2004:125–93.
[ back ] 111. Sahlins 2004:148.
[ back ] 112. Sahlins 2004:150. More concrete understandings and explorations of individual agency in a number of contemporary sociocultural contexts are found in Holland et. al. 1998.
[ back ] 113. Shostak 1981:51.
[ back ] 114. Shostak 1981:114–5.
[ back ] 115. Lefkowitz 1981:viii. This approach is by no means confined to Lefkowitz 1981, but it goes back to the nineteenth century (cf., e.g., Mure 1854:272–326). For criticism of Lefkowitz’s method, see, from a different perspective, Graziosi 2002:3, 238.
[ back ] 116. E.g., Lardinois 1994:62; Prins 1999:8.
[ back ] 117. See Clifford’s analysis of Nisa in Clifford 1986:98–109.
[ back ] 118. Sahlins develops his understanding of the concept of mythopraxis mainly in Sahlins 1981 and 1985.
[ back ] 119. In this regard, I find Tambiah’s understanding of cosmology as any kind of firm, sanctioned sociopolitical and cultural principles that “compose the universe” of a particular society more congenial to my approach (Tambiah 1985:129–31; cf. Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003:18, 20). Although he does not employ the concept of mythopraxis, Tambiah understands cosmology in a way largely corresponding to my use of the first notional constituent of mythopraxis. On the activation of cosmological principles in traditional Greek oral literature, see Roilos 1998.
[ back ] 120. The original research scope of ethnohistory had been defined as follows in the front matter of the first volume of the homonymous journal of the newly founded discipline: “the documentary history of the culture and movements of primitive peoples, with special emphasis on the American Indian” (Ethnohistory 1, 1955). It should be stressed, however, that ethnohistory was developed as a critical response to the pervasive tendency in the ethnographic studies of that time to ignore the validity of oral history and of indigenous perceptions of historical past. For an overview of the epistemological principles and the systematization of ethnohistory as a particular research field, see Krech 1991.
[ back ] 121. The chasm between anthropology and history is characteristically echoed in Radcliffe-Brown’s dogmatic assertion that history, as a whole, “does not really explain anything at all” (Radcliffe-Brown 1958:598). For an insightful reappraisal of the methodological and epistemological exchanges between history and anthropology, see Dirks 1996; Geertz 1995. Dirks 1987, Burke 1987, and Comaroff and Comaroff 1992 offer examples of intriguing historical anthropological approaches. For recent problematics of the relations between anthropology and history, see also Axel 2002, and Kalb and Tak 2005. Sahlins’s works on Polynesian history explore in detail the potential of the interpenetratedness of anthropological and historical methods; see especially Sahlins 1981 and 1985. The reconciliation of the two disciplines is described as follows: “the problem now is to explode the concept of history by the anthropological experience of culture” (Sahlins 1985:72).
[ back ] 122. Murray 1983:49.
[ back ] 123. Sahlins 1981. Sahlins describes his main theoretical concern as follows: “the great challenge to an historical anthropology is not merely to know how events are ordered by culture, but how, in that process, the culture is reordered” (Sahlins 1981:8).
[ back ] 124. Sahlins 1982; Obeyesekere’s objections are systematically put forward in Obeyesekere 1992. Sahlins responded to Obeyesekere in Sahlins 1995. For a systematic discussion of their dialogue, see Borofsky 1997; cf. also Kuper 2000:190–200.
[ back ] 125. Ethnomusicological as well as linguistic anthropological studies might contribute insights not so much in terms of crosscultural parallels of certain institutions but, rather in terms of methodological approaches to comparable phenomena of cultural interdiscursivities. An intriguing case in point is Steven Feld’s study of the musical culture of the Kaluli people in New Guinea (Feld 1990). Although Feld himself does not employ the concept of mythopraxis, I read his ethnography as a telling illustration of practically performed broader cosmological ideas in Kaluli culture. Feld examines the complex ways in which music, poetry, sensorial and emotional categories, myths, and cosmological principles interact and shape each other in terms of what I call textural interdiscursivity. His principal point of departure is an indigenous tale about the metamorphosis of a young boy into a bird. Based on this well-known story among Kaluli people, Feld starts to trace its symbolic ramifications in broader discursive contexts. He shows how “becoming a bird” is not just a narrative element in the specific tale but a metaphor that pervades Kaluli’s modes of perceiving and expressing fundamental aspects of life (and death). The basic semantic connotation of this particular image is the transposition from the world of the living to the world of the dead. In Kaluli culture, birds are often thought to be ane mama (“gone reflections”) of dead people. Bird imagery is also employed to refer to human emotions and social categories (old, young, men, women). Using bird metaphors is a common practice of what Kaluli call “turned-over words”—figurative diction. For instance, adult women are described as “birds of paradise” while younger unmarried women as “little cassowaries” (Feld 1990:65). In aesthetic culture, ornithological metaphors are activated to describe or demarcate artistic expression. Songs are thus perceived as “bird sound and bird talk”; dancing is arranged and received homologically to bird movements. Weeping and lamenting are believed to be inspired by and modeled upon the voices of the birds. Evaluation of singing is often expressed in analogies with bird sounds. Feld’s study shows how bird imagery functions as a kind of discursive texture that can be assimilated in mythical, cosmological, social, and aesthetic contexts. In Kaluli culture, “becoming a bird” constitutes, therefore, what I call a pervasive idiom—that is, an ideational and discursive formula that is reenacted in several contexts of mythopractical performances. Another intriguing case of what may be called homological systems of mythopractical signification is the ritually performed homosexuality among the Papua of New Guinea (Herdt 1981). Herdt shows that this marked sexual behavior is embedded in a number of practically reenacted symbolic orders. Of considerable interest are also the insights about the production of meaning in traditional societies provided by linguistic anthropology, a discipline with which my discussion throughout this book is engaged. For now suffice it to note that thought-provoking discussions of linguistic anthropological methods are found in Duranti 1997 and Duranti and Goodwin 1992.
[ back ] 126. For the meaning of textural discursive interactions, see Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2003:13, 40 and Roilos and Yatromanolakis forth.; the concept of “texture” as defined in these books emphasizes the significance of sociocultural discourses in action rather than as static structures.
[ back ] 127. The concept of “formations of reading” offers a more flexible and dynamic interpretive framework than Jauss’s “horizons of expectations.” The former puts marked emphasis on the act of reading as a creative process situated in a broader synchronic sociocultural reality (see Bennett 1985); horizons of expectation are principally associated with textual, intertextual, or genre structures.
[ back ] 128. The French journal Communications dedicated an issue to this subject (Le Vraisemblable, Communications 11, 1968).
[ back ] 129. Culler 1975:131–60; see especially 140.