5. Enter the Cicada

The list of creatures which populate demotic lore is considerable: we have already remarked the partridge and the swallow—just to mention two common birds. The cicada, also, is a striking creature which evokes multiple themes in Greek tradition. In fact, its piercing, persistent cry not only informs the popular memory of the harvest but is a flash signal for such related themes as industry vs. idleness, just reward vs. undeserved reward, praise vs. blame.
The cicada's relation to the swallow attracts attention, for it suggests the insect's general symbolic function. These creatures not only share songs motivated by comparable traditions; indeed, the two creatures are analogues of each other, as shown by the proverbs:
A μέσ’ σου γέλασ’ ὁ βόρτακας καὶ τὸ χιλιδονάκιν.
   ἂμ μὲφ φωνάξει ὁ ζίζιρος ὲν ἒν καλοκαιράκιν.

   Inside of you the frog and the swallow have laughed.
   But if the cicada hasn't cried, it’s not summer, [1]

B μὴ’ μπιστευτῇς στὸν κούβακα μουδὲ στὸ χελίδόνί.
   Ἂ δὲ λαλήσῃ τζίτζικας, ὲν εἶναι καλοκαιράκι.

   Don't trust the frog or the swallow.
   If the cicada doesn't chirrup, it's not summer. [2]
The implication, of course, is that the cicada is the "swallow" of the summer and the swallow the "cicada" of the spring. The cicada thus symbolizes the summer in general, just as the swallow symbolizes the spring. WD 584 θέρεος καματώδεος ὥρῃ ('in the season of fatiguing summer') [3] and the Hesiodic Shield of Herakles alike recognize the distinct seasonal associations of the cicada:
ἦμος δὲ χλοερῷ κυανόπτερος ἠχέτα τέττιξ
ὄζῳ ἐφεζόμενος θέρος ἀνθρώποισιν ἀείδειν
ἄρχεται, ετχ.
Shield of Herakles 393-395 (Solmsen)
When the dark-winged sonorous cicada,
sitting on a green branch,
begins to sing of the summer to human beings, etc.
We come now to the important point that the cicada, in both the Hesiodic and demotic traditions, signifies the ripening of grapes in mid-July and hence also anticipates the vintage of September. First, then, the well-known demotic proverb:
C τζίτζικας ἰλάλησι
   μαύρη ρώγα γυάλισι.

   The cicada has chirruped,
   the black grape has shone. [4]
The Shield gives identical information about the cicada's cry at midsummer:
καί τε πανημέριός τε καὶ ἠῷος χέει αὐδήν
ἴδει ἐν αἰνοτάτῳ ὅτε χρόα Σείριος ἄζει,
τῆμος δὴ [κέχροισι πέρι γλῶχες τελέθοθσι
τούςτε θέρει σπείρουσιν, ὅτ᾽ ὄμφακες αἰόλλονται, etc.] [5]
Shield of Herakles 396-399 (Solmsen)
It [sc. the cicada] pours its [articulate] voice
at dawn and throughout the day
in the horrid heat, when the Dog Star dries out the skin;
at that time indeed [awns grow around the millet crop which they sow at summer-time, when unripe grapes change color (i.e., darken), etc.]
According to the Shield, the cicada's chirruping ushers in the ripening of grapes; even more interesting, the change in color of the grapes is associated directly with the appearance of Sirius (397).
Demotic tradition assigns a date for this ripening: the feast of St. Elias on July 20, which also coincides with the rising of Sirius. We note the proverbs:
D Τ᾽ς ῾Αγιᾶς Μαρίνας σύκου
   τσὶ τ᾽ ῾Αγιοῦ Λιᾶ σταφύλ᾽.

   On St. Marina’s a fig
   and on St. Elias’s a grape. [6]

E τῆς Ἁγίας Μαρίνας σῦκο
   τζιαὶ τ᾽ Ἃϊ Λιᾶ σταφύλιν
   τζιαὶ πορτὶ στὸ γαλευτῆρι.

   On St. Marina’s a fig,
   and on St. Elias’s a grape,
   and a ewe at the milking pail. [7]
By implication, then, the date which popular tradition sets for the cicada's auspicious chirruping coincides with the beginning of the Dog Days. We may note, finally, the significant corollary that the cicada's cry also presages the end or slackening-off of lactation in sheep. [8]

We may now turn from this creature's constant chirruping to his well-attested song in the demotic tradition.
1 Παιδιά μου, κολυμπήσετε,
   θερίσετ’, ἁλωνίσετε,
   κ’ ἐμὲ κουκκὶ ἀφήσετε,
   κὶ’ ἂν εἶν’ καὶ δὲ μ’ ἀφήσετε,
   τοῦ χρόνου νὰ μὴ ζήσετε.
   Τζιτζί- βιτζί, τζιτζί- βιτζί.

   My children, swim,
   harvest, thresh,
   and leave me a morsel,
   and if you don't leave me one,
   may you not live next year.
   Tzitzi-vitzi-tzitzi-vitzi. [9]

2 θερίζιτ’ ἁλουνίζιτι
   κὶ μένα κλίκι κάμιτι,
   ’ς τὴ βρύση νὰ τοὺ βάνιτι,
   νὰ ἔρτου νὰ τοὺ πάρου,
   νὰ κάτσου νὰ τοὺ φάου,
   νὰ πέσω νὰ πεθάνω.

   Harvest, thresh,
   and bake me a cake, [10]
   lay it at the fountain,
   so that I can come get it
   and sit down and eat it,
   and fall down and die. [11]

3 Macedonia

   ᾽Λωνίζετε, θερίζετε
   καὶ μένα κλίκι κάμετε,
   καὶ ρῆξτε το'ς τὴ βρύση
   νὰ πάω νὰ τὸ πάρω,
   νὰ κάτσω νὰ τὸ φάω
   μαζὶ μὲ τὰ παιδιά μου
   νὰ πέσω νὰ πεθάνω.

   Harvest, thresh,
   and bake me a cake,
   and drop it by the fountain,
   so that I can come get it
   and sit down and eat it
   along with my children
   and fall down and die. [12]

4 Eastern Thrace

   Θερίσετ’ ἁλωνίσετε,
   κ’ ἐγὼ τὸ κουλικάκι μου
   θέλω νὰ μὲ τὸ δώσετε.

   Harvest, thresh,
   transport your bundles of wheat,
   and I want you to give me
   my little cake. [13]

5 Lesbos

   Θιρίστι, ἁλουνίσιτι
   τσὶ μένα κλίτσα ποίτσιτι
   τσὶ κ’ς μάννας υμ μὴν ποίσιτι,
   γιακὶ μὶ καταρίσκικε.

   Harvest, thresh,
   and bake me a cake,
   and don't bake one for my mother,
   because she cursed me. [14]

6 Macedonia

   καὶ μένα τὸ μεράδι μου.

   and to me my portion. [15]

7 Thrace

   Θιρίσιτ’, ἀλουνίσιτι,
   κὶ μὲ σπυρὶ ν’ ἀφήσητι.

   Harvest, thresh,
   and leave me a morsel. [16]

8 Cyprus

   Σῦκα, σταφύλια δείξετε
   πουρνέλλες πατσαλιάσετε
   δαμάσκηνες μαυρίσετε
   καὶ ἐμεῖς ἐποθερίσαμε
   νὰ πᾶμε'ς τὰ παιδάκια μας
   νὰ φᾶμεν πίτταμ μέλι.

   Figs, grapes, appear,
   plums, start turning dark;
   plums [synonym], turn black,
   and we who've harvested
   let's go to our children
   to eat cake and honey. [17]
These songs, it should be remembered, apparently belong to a "functionally" determined tradition which in many aspects parallels that of the swallow songs. The respective songs of the cicada and swallow operate analogously to accompany certain seasonal activities—the proffering of the "first fruits" at the formal conclusion of the harvest/threshing in the case of the cicada songs, and the ritual agermos and other symbolic actions connected with the transition to summer in the case of the swallow songs. Their content, like that of most ritual and functional songs, is engendered in large measure by the occasion to be celebrated and its attendant practices, but a further factor common to both songs is that they express a request which is followed by an offering. An offering will only naturally follow on the heels of a straightforward quête-song like the khelidonisma. But the reward in kind presupposed by the cicada-song calls for some preliminary explanation; a fuller account of the cicada's request will be given in the section that immediately follows.
In the instance of the cicada-songs we may note the invariable use of the imperative. Actually, these songs consist of a series of distinct commands—'swim, harvest, thresh, transport your bundles'—uttered paratactically and ending with the punch line: 'Bake me a cake.' These imperatives amount to a "homeopathic" (or performative) command which of itself will bring into effect the success of the harvest and threshing. The imperative mood also confirms the songs' affinity with an agermos. The cicada-song, especially when sung by children, indeed takes on the complexion of a formalized request for alms, which also happens to be the offering of the first bread. The very diction of the songs suggests that this insect fancies himself as presiding over, or even participating in, the harvest and threshing. In fact, song 8, performed by Cypriot harvesters who collectively impersonate the cicada, forthrightly states the insect's role as a harvester; here, as in the Macedonian version (song 3), the cicada-harvester pretends to be a father who has to win bread for his children. Still more important, the cicada-songs appear to be part of the harvest and its completion, inasmuch as their theme and method of performance are dictated by more than the ritual offering of the 'cicada cake' in late June or mid- July. It is at any rate suggestive that Thracian farmers reportedly imagine the redoubtable cicada to be singing its song during the harvest. [18] The Thracian song (song 7), in particular, would appear to be a rationalized mimesis of the insect's typical afternoon activity—its unremitting, almost begging cry. On a purely iconic level, mimesis becomes even more explicit in song 1. The singers here not only re-enact the cicada's daily supervision of the harvest and threshing, they reproduce his actual chirruping as well. This distinctive "song," we already know, imbues the popular memory of this season.
Perhaps the most important fact to emerge from this brief examination of the cicada songs, both in their functional context and in relation to the song tradition, is that the factors governing both content and expression do seem to be much affected by the song's apparent function of accompanying the offering of the 'cicada cake.' On the other hand, it must be recognized that any attempt to link the performance of these songs exclusively to the June and July rituals is not entirely sound. Once differentiated as ritual/functional songs, they may be detached from their original function, which was to accompany the offering of the 'cicada cake/ and easily enter the repertory of summer songs in general. This diversity of function of what must be cognate versions of "the same song" seems to be common in Greek-speaking society; this trait characterizes songs covering a wide variety of subject matter. [19] The information about the performance of the Thracian song of the cicada (song 7) at the very least suggests that these songs are just as likely to motivate the offering of the 'cicada cake' at the end of the harvest as they are likely to celebrate the harvest season itself.

'Harvest, thresh, and leave me a morsel'—if this sounds like someone shouting down objections before they are raised, there is reason for it. For the traditional cicada is apt to beg for food; he is, as we shall see, an indolent creature besides. It may be instructive in this connection to examine the cicada's much-debated work record. We begin with Aesop: [20]
Χειμῶνος ὥρῃ σῖτον ἐκ μυχοῦ σύρων
ἔψυχε μύρμηξ, ὅν θέρους σεσωρεύκει.
τέττιξ δὲ τοῦτον ἱκέτευε λιμώττων
δοῦναί τι καὐτῷ τῆς τροφῆς ὅπως ζήση.
"τί οὖν ἐποίεις "φησί "τῷ θέρει τούτῳ;"
"οὐκ ἐσχόλαζον, ἀλλὰ διετέλουν ᾄδων."
Γελάσας δ’ ὁ μύρμηξ τόν τε πυρὸν ἐγκλείων
"χειμῶνος ὀρχοῦ" φησίν "εἰ θέρους ηὔλεις."
Fable 373 (Perry)
In the winter season an ant was cold and pulled out of a cranny a morsel of grain
which he had stored up in the summer.
A cicada, starving, begged him
to give him too some food, so that he might survive.
"Well, what were you doing," he [the ant] asked, "over the summer?"
"I wasn't having fun, I just sang and sang."
The ant laughed and, withholding the grain of wheat,
replied: "Dance in the winter if you performed music in the summer."
The τέττιξ ('cicada'), plainly, makes a poor showing as a harvester: "τί οὖν ἐποίεις τῷ θέρει τούτῳ;" ("Well, what were you doing over the summer?"). What is more, he does not admit this; his "work" at the critical harvest-time, the cicada retorts defensively, has been his song. Reduced to penury, this creature begs for a particle of wheat (πυρός). [21]
The self-same scenario recurs in the widely diffused demotic story of the cicada and the ant (ὁ τζίτζικας καὶ τὸ μυρμήγκι). [22] The cicada invites the ant to sing and dance at midsummer; the ant, duty-bound as usual, declines:
Δὲν εἶναι ἡ ζωὴ εὔκολη κὶ ἔχω οἰκογένεια νὰ θρέψω.
"Life isn't easy, you know, and I have a family to feed."
The cicada experiences a complete reversal months later. He realizes in the depth of winter that he has not stored up any food. Shivering with cold and fearing that death is near, he implores the ant for a few morsels. Predictably enough, the ant rebuffs him:
Ὄχι, κύρ-τζίτζικα, δὲν σοῦ δίνω σπόρους γιατὶ ὅσο ἐγὼ δούλευα ὅλο τὸ καλοκαίρι ἐσὺ ἐτραγούδαγες στὸ κλαρί σου. Τώρα χοροπήδα.
"No, Mr. Cicada, I won't give you any morsels [or seeds] because while I worked in the summer you were singing from atop your branch. Now sing and dance."
We may observe in passing that the function of the Aesopic αἶνος ('allusive tale') and its demotic analogue is blame, or ψόγος, if we may use the Aristotelian term. [23] The cicada's request in both versions prompts direct ridicule and rebuke, as well as its punishment by the ant, i.e., the denial of a morsel. Needless to say, the cicada is being blamed and punished for its implied neglect of the harvest.
The ancients seem to have been unaware that real cicadas are hearty vegetarians, subsisting on the sap of plants. [24] Aesop's cicada, we noted, desired wheat, but he may as well have ordered the delicious, but often drunk-making dew of popular and literary tradition. [25] Plato's creature, as we shall presently remark, is a curious cross between the improvident insect exemplified subsequently in Aesop [26] (itself probably an avatar of a long-standing popular tradition) and the insect whose cry had since the archaic period been esteemed as almost divinely musical. [27] Plato, too, suggests the cicada's fatal though very common habit of abandoning the harvest; and he adds the important consideration that the τέττιξ, like its human ancestors, is an unregenerate "hedonist":
λέγεται δ’ ὥς ποτ ’ ἦσαν οὗτοι ἄνθρωποι τῶν πρὶν Μούσας γεγονέναι, γενομένων δὲ Μουςῶν καὶ φανείσης ᾠδής οὕτως ἄρα τινὲς τῶν τότε ἐξεπλάγησαν ὑφ’ ἡδονῆς, ὥστε ᾄδοντες ἠμέλησαν σίτων τε καὶ ποτῶν, καὶ ἔλαθον τελευτήσαντες αὑτούς· ἐξ ὧν τὸ τεττίγων γένος μετ’ ἐκεῖνο φύεται, γέρας τοῦτο παρὰ Μουςῶν λαβόν, μηδὲν τροφῆς δεῖσθαι γενόμενον, ἀλλ' ἄσιτόν τε καὶ ἄποτον εὐθὺς ᾄδειν, ἕως ἂν τελευτήςῃ, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐλθὸν παρὰ Μούσας ἀπαγγέλλειν τίς τίνα αὐτῶν τιμᾷ τῶν ἐνθάδε.
Phaedrus 259 b-c
The story goes that these [i.e., cicadas] were once human beings dating to the time before the Muses were born. After the birth of the Muses and the appearance of song some of these people were so stunned with pleasure (ἡδονή) that they sang to the point of neglecting their food and drink and died without even realizing it; the generation of cicadas emerged after them, being descended [or born] from these individuals, and received this privilege from the Muses: having been born without any biological need for sustenance, cicadas sing without food and drink from the very first until death. At death they go to the Muses to report which human being on earth honors which Muse.
The cicada is, by virtue of its heredity, perennially neglectful of the harvest (cf. ἠμέλησαν σίτων, 'neglected their grain-supply, hence daily bread or food') and cannot but remain ἄσιτος (lit., 'without grain, hence food') [28] much like his Aesopic and demotic counterparts. No wonder also that the Platonic τέττιξ dies singing, that is, indulging his incorrigible hedonism at the expense of his physical needs. Of course Plato would have us believe that the insect's traditional state of hunger and thirst is actually a privileged exemption (cf. γέρας), ordained by the Muses, from biological needs and his after-life blissful. But in practical terms the cicada's delight in song—the essence of his ἡδονή ('pleasure')—becomes a curse in disguise.
The "curse of the cicada" emerges as an explicit theme in two versions of a demotic tale from Naxos; it is hinted at in song 5, v. 4 above. Both versions show the cicada to be an insouciant and impractical creature, patently so given over to his singing that he neglects his own mother on her deathbed:
A Ὁ τζίτζικας, ὅδεν ἐψυχομάχειεν ἡ μάννα δου, τὸ ᾽παράγγειλε νὰ τὴνε δῇ, μὰ ἐκεῖνος δὲν ἐχαβάρισε. Ἰ ᾽αὐτὸ κ᾽ ἐκείνη τὸ καταρίστηκεν. ὅλο δὸ καλοκαίρι νὰ τραουδῇ καὶ τὸ χειμῶνα νὰ ψοφᾷ ἀποὺ τὴ πεῖνα.
While his mother was breathing her last, the cicada ignored her request that he visit her. For this reason, she cursed him that he should sing in the summer, and starve to death in the winter. [29]
B Ὁ τζίτζικας καὶ ἡ μέλισσα ἦσαν ἀδέρφια. Σὰν ἠπέθαινεν ἡ μάνναν τωνε καὶ τσοὶ κάλεσε νὰ τῶνε δώκῃ τὴν εὐκήν τση, μόνου ἡ μέλισσα ἠπήαινεν. Τσῆ φκηστήκενε λοιπὸν νὰ κάνῃ τὸ κερὶ νά ναι γιὰ tς ἁγίοι καὶ μέλι νὰ τρῶν οἱ ἀθρῶποι. Τσοῦ τζίτζικα ἠβαρυγκωμηστήκενε καὶ εἴπενε· "νὰ φωνάζῃ, νὰ φωνάζῃ καὶ νὰ σκᾷ."
The cicada and the bee were brother and sister. When their mother was dying, she summoned them to give them her blessing; only the bee went. So the mother blessed the bee that it should make wax for the saints' candles and honey for people to eat. She grew bitter and told the cicada: "May he cry and cry and burst." [30]
The first version, though ostensibly a folk aition, may yet also be read as an implicit blaming of the cicada' behavior at harvest-time. Indeed, his distinctive kind of hedonism—his singing—distracts the cicada from the urgent harvest chores and so leads to his death in the winter. The second version, too, furnishes more than an aition. Again, the narrative operates as an implied blaming of the cicada; it is at any rate noteworthy that two stock creatures—the idle cicada and the busy bee—are presented generically as being worthy of punishment on the one hand, and reward on the other.
The cicada understandably turns into a beggar, having started his career as an idle harvester and inevitable ἄσιτος (lit., 'grainless one'). His allusion to his impending death may well represent an urgent resort to pseudo-pathos, as in song 2:
Harvest, thresh,
and bake me a cake,
lay it at the fountain,
so that I can come and get it
and sit down and eat it,
and fall down and die.
The cicada's words reflect the increasingly desperate straits to which a generic idler is compelled, particularly when the harvest/threshing is in progress and his delinquency destroys any possibility of having a full granary in the winter. Certainly his laziness is something that the traditional cicada never outgrows. In the demotic tradition this insect’s idleness, together with his urgent pleading, may suggest that he is behaving like his generic human counterpart, the indolent harvester who uses his histrionic skills to avoid work. A Naxian story recorded in the last century shows this aptly. [31] Having hired himself out to several farmers, the lazy reaper collects his salary in advance and quickly spends it on groceries. When his creditors confront him, he successfully feigns illness at first; when his last creditor reappears days later, he pretends to be dead and is conducted to the church for burial. Similarly refining his mimetic gifts to the utmost, [32] the cicada may be behaving like an artful beggar. The allusion to his death in his famous song clinches his request for a portion of the harvest. On one level, the reminder of death mirrors the natural scenario of the insect's death in the winter and apparent rebirth at summer. [33] On a more explicit level, however, these words import the cicada's beggar-like sensibility and show again that this creature is an inveterate ἄσιτο? ('grainless one').
As we have seen, the ancient and demotic traditions surveyed so far treat the cicada as a target for the blame, outright or indirect, that traditionally attaches to an underproductive, even hedonistic figure. Perhaps we can ultimately refer the cicada's particular ethos to his Archilochean "ancestor," the τέττιξ ('cicada') in fr. 223 (W):
τέττιγος ἐδράξω πτεροῦ.

you have caught a cicada by the wing [34]
The Archilochean analogue may also help to explain the mechanism of blame which we briefly noted in the Aesopic αἶνος (‘allegorical tale’) and the demotic stories.

In the Pseudologistes Lucian gives an exegesis of this fragment:
τὸ δὲ τοῦ Ἀρχιλόχου ἐκεῖνο ἤδη σοι λέγω, ὅτι τέττιγα τοῦ πτεροῦ συνείληφας, εἴπερ τινὰ ποιητὴν ἰάμβων ἀκούεις Ἀρχίλοχον, Πάριον τὸ γένος, ἄνδρα κομιδῇ ἐλεύθερον καὶ παρρησίᾳ συνόντα, μηδὲν ὀκνοῦντα ὀνειδίζειν εἰ καὶ ὅτι μάλιστα λυπήσειν ἔμελλε τοὺς περιπετεῖς ἐσομένους τῇ χολῇ τῶν ἰάμβων αὐτοῦ, ἐκεῖνος τοίνυν πρός τινος τῶν τοιούτων ἀκούσας κακῶς τέττιγα ἔφη τὸν ἄνδρα εἰληφέναι τοῦ πτεροῦ, εἰκάζων ἑαυτὸν τῷ τέττιγι ὁ’Αρχίλοχος, φύσει μὲν λάλῳ ὄντι καὶ ἄνευ τινὸς ἀνάγκης, ὁπόταν δὲ καὶ τοῦ πτεροῦ ληφθῇ, γεγωνότερον βοῶντι. "καὶ σὺ δή," ἔφη, "ὦ κακόδαιμον ἄνθρωπε, τί βουλόμενος ποιητὴν λάλον παροξύνεις ἐπὶ σεαυτόν, αἰτίας ζητοῦντα καὶ ὑποθέσεις τοῖς ἰάμβοις;"
Pseudologistes 1
I now mention the [sc. well-known] words of Archilochus, "you have seized a cicada by the wing,"—if in fact you know of a certain iambographer by the name of Archilochus, Parian by birth, a man altogether blunt and unbridled in his speech: he was not one to hesitate to pour scorn even if likely to vex exceedingly those subject to the rancor of his iamboi. Now, when Archilochus heard that one such person spoke ill of him, he said that the man had taken a cicada by the wing, likening himself to a cicada which is loud-mouthed [35] by nature, even without any compulsion, but which cries all the more stridently when taken by the wing. "And you, hapless fellow," he asked, "why do you provoke against yourself a loud-mouthed poet who itches for an occasion and an excuse for delivering iamboi?"
The implication arises: to provoke an iambographer is tantamount to provoking a cicada to cry more and more shrilly by grabbing its wings. [36] Lucian observes that Archilochus assimilates himself to a cicada because the poet is, by implication, a loquacious (λάλος) and irresponsible figure. [37] The poet’s cicada-like loquaciousness corresponds to his outspokenness (cf. ἄνδρα κομιδῇ ἐλεύθερον καὶ παρρησίᾳ συνόντα, 'a man altogether blunt and unbridled in his speech') and unhesitating resort to verbal abuse (cf. μηδὲν ὀκνοῦντα ὀνειδίζειν, 'not one to hesitate to pour scorn'). And Archilochus' second cicada-like feature, his irresponsibility, corresponds to his lack of concern both for himself and his victims (τοὺς περιπετεῖς ἐσομένους τῇ χολῇ τῶν ἰάμβων αὐτοῦ, 'those subject to the rancor of his iamboi'). Once reviled (ἀκούσας κακῶς) he accordingly answers in kind, and then there is no stopping him.
The theme of the heedless (almost reckless) τέττιξ/poet who rails all the more if challenged verbally raises an interesting point. The Archilochean poet will speak his mind, however discomfitting or improper the implications of his statements: he is, as we know, κομιδῇ ἐλεύθερος ('altogether blunt'). His very cicada-like insouciance patently enables him to offend against standards of propriety. Accordingly his iambic poetry will make references to low life [38] and dubiously proper conduct, always with a view to blaming (ὀνειδίζειν) and so hurting (λυπήσειν) his subjects to the quick. [39] Now, if we apply the criteria with which Aristotle treats the genre of blame (ψόγος), [40] we might argue that the poet's iambics, qua implicit blame, are a lowly or shameful medium devoted to lowly or shameful subjects, and further, that the τέττιξ/poet himself is a lowly or shameful figure (φαῦλος, αἰσχρός). Such a figure, it should be said at once, is conventionally the object of blame as well as its formulator. [41] This dual function can be inferred from Lucian's apt remarks:
ἐκεῖνος τοίνυν πρός τινος τῶν τοιούτων ἀκούσας κακῶς … “καὶ σὺ δή,” ἔφη, “ὦ κακόδαιμον ἄνθρωπε, τί βουλόμενος ποιητὴν λάλον παροξύνεις εἰς σεαυτόν αἰτιας ζητοῦντα καὶ ὑποθέσεις τοῖς ἰάμβοις;”
Now, when Archilochus heard that one such person spoke ill of him ... "And you, hapless fellow," he asked, "why do you provoke against yourself a loud-mouthed poet who itches for an occasion and an excuse for delivering iamboi ;"
In practical terms, the announcement of fr. 223 (W) is a programmatic (and proverbial?) utterance that firmly identifies the ethos of both the τέττιξ/poet and his invective as lowly. The statement is obviously as schematic as the set of traditional assumptions about the cicada and the composer of invective. By implication, then, the cicada, whose traditional persona the lowly or shameful iambographer assumes, is a shameful creature itself. And the key to its shameful nature, as Lucian suggests, is its loquaciousness and irresponsibility.
As we now see, the loquacious, irresponsible ethos underlying the Archilochean cicada also characterizes this creature in subsequent tradition. In fact, the stock ἄσιτος ('grainless one') of Plato, Aesop, and demotic lore is none other than the insouciant, heedless τεττιξ/poet of fr. 223 (W). The symbolic use of the cicada as a generic idler, and generally as a lowly figure who elicits blame, appears to be uniform throughout ancient and modern Greek tradition. It is possible now to realize that, despite such differently inspired usage in Archilochus and Aesop, as also in Plato's myth and demotic song, the figure of the cicada represents an unbroken, though hardly static, tradition. [42]

To return again to fr. 223 (W). As a programmatic utterance, this fragment reflects the ethos of both the poet and the genre of invective within which he composes. Indeed, this statement—coming as it does from the poet himself—is implicit self-blame, for it imputes to the poet the traditionally αἰσχρὸν ἦθος ('shameful ethos') of the cicada. Having thus adumbrated a genre the ethos of which is predictably shameful, the poet proceeds to portray his own ethos in his ensuing iambics. The very content of his invective mirrors accurately—as Aristotle himself would argue—Archilochus' lowly or shameful ethos. Such indirect self-representation, then, functions as a kind of self-blame. Even more effective is the poet's self-blame by way of selfdramatization. [43]
The most striking instance of this device is the now famous Cologne Epode. The poet in his capacity as a shameful persona here narrates his less than courteous treatment of Neoboule's younger sister, quoting in full his exchange with the girl. The narrator's forward suggestions are plainly intended to embarrass Neoboule and her family; at the same time, however, the content of this humiliating blame (ψόγος) turns into the poet's blame of himself. Certainly his actions—lewd in every recounted detail—assign him to the typology of the traditional αἰσχρός ('shameful one'). The point, then, is that such self-dramatization can directly present the ethos of a persona acting and speaking in an iambic poem.
It is worth remarking that the demotic songs of the cicada effectively operate as a portrayal of this creature's ethos by way of blame. The songs incorporate certain traditional features of this creature, particularly its delinquency at harvest-time and its ensuing penury. These details are, moreover, presented by the cicada itself. In relation to form, these songs thus share with the Cologne Epode the device of self-dramatization. On a thematic level, the persona portrayed in both instances is a generic αἰσχρός ('shameful one').
In sum, the cicada's heredity as an irresponsible persona in demotic tradition can be projected at least as far as the Archilochean τέττιξ/poet whose loquacious, irresponsible nature prompts him to compose invective. The programmatic utterance of fr. 223 (W) suggests that the poet is using the "cicada" as a lowly figure already familiar to the audience from tradition. As shameful figures with an acknowledged tradition, both the τέττιξ/poet and his demotic analogue are likely to be both objects and agents of blame. Furthermore, such lowly or shameful personae can also motivate blame against themselves by means of self-dramatization; self-blame, in effect, becomes a secondary, though significant function of the Cologne Epode and the demotic songs of the cicada. Lastly, the dimension of this creature's idleness inherent in the Archilochean τέττιξ/poet appears as the explicit theme of the αἶνος ('allusive tale') in Aesop and later tradition.

The common practice of rewarding the beasts of burden with the first bread baked from the new crop raises certain implications about the cicada's request in its song. [44] These, the farmer's καματερά (lit., 'toiling beasts'), have proved true to their appellation by ensuring the success of the new crop. [45] It is no accident, therefore, that they receive the first bread before the farmer and his family. Even during the actual threshing, the farmer expresses his gratitude by feeding his team a few stalks as a reward in advance. Moreover, the songs that accompany the trampling of the sheaves express the positive theme of the rewards and gratitude due to an efficient animal.
Nothing marks off the cicada more sharply from the oxen than his well-attested idleness. In fact, his idleness suggests that this insect is a foil to the oxen. A decisive implication now emerges: the cicada's song, which purports to be a request for a reward overdue, operates as an ironical (and even humorous) dramatization of his undeserving state. The cicada's request serves implicitly to contrast him to the toiling oxen which truly deserve a reward. Furthermore, the extent of this contrast becomes explicit at a thematic level: as the functional opposite of the songs addressed to the oxen, the cicada's song expresses the negative theme of idleness at a critical farming season.
The obvious effect of this mock-request is that it prompts a mock- reward. The 'cicada cake' (τζιτζιροκούλουρο) offered at the village fountain is a concession—made virtually tongue-in-cheek—to the cicada's request. [46] By implication, the cicada's song and the actual offering of the cake frame the scenario for what in effect becomes delicate parody. Astute at loafing, borrowing, and feigning illness when its creditors arrive, the cicada is a traditional symbol of the lazy farmer in varying guises. The pseudo-request, uttered by such a persona, docs not surprise his audience; rather, it conforms to the cicada's acknowledged ethos and amuses them. The award of a 'cicada cake' shows the farmer "playing along" with the insect. The farmer's gesture also formalizes the ridicule inherent in the song's dramatization. The entire proceeding, then, amounts largely to a comic representation by way of blame. Or to put it in Aristotelian terms, the representation of the cicada as an αἰσχρός ('shameful' or 'lowly one') entails the clement of τὸ γελοῖον, [47] both in the sense of 'laughter' and 'comedy.' [48]
We may now note an analogue to the cicada song that may help us to understand its tone of αἰσχρολογία (aiskhrologia). [49] A Cypriot harvest song [50] suggests that verbal abuse in song is a common genre at this time:
          Τοῦ πρωταρκάτη πρέπει του μιὰ ὄρνιθα κουντούρα
          τζαὶ τοῦ λαάρη πρέπει του ἀνέμπατη κουλλούρα.
          τοῦ πρωταρκάτη πρέπει του μια κούππα με τὸ μέλι
          τζαὶ τοῦ λαάρη πρέπει του μιὰ πίττα κλιθθαρένη.
5        Τζαὶ τοῦ λαάρη πρέπει του καρρέττα νὰ ξαπλώννῃ
          τζαὶ γύρου γύρου νὰ’μ’ μεζὲς νὰ τρώ’, νὰ ξιφαντώννῃ.
          Ἡ μέση θέλει κόκκαλα τζ' ἡ νάκρα θέλ’ ἀρκάτην
          τζὶ ὅπου τὸν ὀκνιαρόττερον βάλλουν τομ πρωταρκάτην.
          Σσύψε, κκιαγιᾶ, τὴγ κάρασ σου, μὲν ἰψηλώννῃς πάνω
10      τζ’ ἔν ἔσει ἀγκάλες τζαὶ ξαρκῶ
          τζ' ἐγκιὼ μὲ τὸ δεματικόν
          ἐννὰ σοῦ δκιῶ ποὺ πάνω.
          Ἄφησ' τογ, κόρη, τὸ κκιαγιᾶν νὰ μᾶς λαλῇ τραούδκια,
          ψηλώννει πάνω τζαὶ παντᾷ τζαὶ νάκκον τὰ κουνούπκια,
15      ἔφαν τὲς βάκλες τζὶ ὄρεξην ἔν ἔσει νὰ θερίσῃ,
          θωρεῖς φεύκει μισάντακα τζαὶ πά’ νὰ κατουρήσῃ.

          The head worker deserves a chicken without a tail
          and the tail-end worker deserves an unleavened cake.
          The head worker deserves a cup of honey
          and the tail-end worker deserves a barley cake. [51]
5        And the tail-end worker deserves a wagon to lie on
          and about him, he should have goodies to munch on while he revels.
          A back needs bones and reaping calls for a worker
          and whoever's the laziest, him they assign to be the head worker.
          Lower your head, assistant to the head worker, don't unbend,—
10      there are no mown stalks yet and I'm late,
          and with my bundle of sheaves
          I'll whack you on the head.
          Maiden, let the assistant to the head worker sing us songs,
          he rises and for a while shoos away the mosquitoes,
15      he's had a taste of the first swath now, and he has no more appetite for reaping,—
          you'd think he's off for a piss after mowing down half a patch.
The tone is clearly one of broad and unmalicious ridicule. [52] The song dramatizes the seasonal themes of industry vs. idleness, true reward vs. mock-reward, praise vs. blame, reward/praise. The stock characters are idle and incompetent, lovers of song and gourmands to boot—and plainly merit a thrashing. What is more important, however, these idle buffoons are presented generically as harvesters who receive a mock-reward. The awarding of such a prize to an undeserving worker correlates this particular song to the cicada songs.
A further link is a Macedonian harvest song which treats of an underproductive female harvester lying about, with little to her credit but her appetite.
Δὲ σὶ πρέπει, μάρ’ Μαροῦδα,
δὲ σὶ πρέπει ἀργατίνα,
μοὺν’ σὶ πρέπει σσυμπασίνα,
γιὰ νὰ κάθισι στ’ ἀνώϊα,
ἒ στ’ ἀνώϊα, στὰ κατώϊα,
κὶ νὰ τρῶς ἀρνιὰ ψημένα
κὶ κριάρια σουγκλισμένα.

You don't deserve, Ο Marouda,
you don't deserve to be a worker,
you only deserve to be a task-mistress,
so that you can lie about in the upper floors,
yes, in the upper floors, and in the cellar,
eating roast lamb
and rams on a spit. [53]
Again, a sham-reward is offered: it is her ironical designation as a 'task-mistress' (σουμπασίνα)—a title she does not merit. This woman's aspect as a lingering harvester and implicitly as a gourmande suggests a parallel with the stock characters of the Cypriot song, who share similar tendencies. It is worth observing that the generic figure of the hungry, idle harvester firmly belongs to demotic tradition; and further, that this figure is probably cognate with Hesiod's ἡμερόκοιτος ἀνήρ [54] ('the man who lies in bed by day'), who, as we shall note, looks forward to a grand fiesta at the end of the harvest.
Αἰσχρολογία (aiskhrologia), involving ridicule which is directed at an αἰσχρός ('lowly' or 'shameful') figure, apparently is a feature common to many harvest songs. In general, blame by way of conventionalized ridicule seems to be a widespread practice at harvest-time. Impromptu and organized competitions of harvesters have encouraged a fluency of direct personal insult, [55] so that alongside of the seasonal songs we may note the humorous abuse, both verbal and physical, of the least efficient reapers. Thus many harvest songs, as indeed the songs of the cicada, formalize the public blame that attaches to an unproductive reaper.


[ back ] 1. Kyriazcs 1929. 213.
[ back ] 2. Lambrinoudakis 1958. 477.
[ back ] 3. Cf. Appendix 1 ad loc.
[ back ] 4. Niketas 1953. 118, no. 17.
[ back ] 5. The demotic proverb just cited may suggest that the editors have unnecessarily bracketed vv. 398-399.
[ back ] 6. Niketas 1953. 118, no. 17.
[ back ] 7. Panaretos 1950. 117, no. 44.
[ back ] 8. Panaretos above interprets the last line of the proverb as meaning that after this date, sheep cease to give milk. In actual fact, from early July goats are milked only once a day, around midday; this rate slowly decreases until, by August 15, milking takes place every two to three days: see Kavvadias 1991. 97.
[ back ] 9. Kyriakides 1965. 73. The meter of these songs is a loose iambic octosyllable.
[ back ] 10. 'Cake' strikes me as a more colorful rendering of κλίκι, which morphologically is a shortened form of the diminutive κολίκὶ; cf. AG κόλλιξ, 'roll or loaf of coarse bread' (LSJ, s.v.).
[ back ] 11. Kyriakides 1965. 73.
[ back ] 12. Polites 1931. 195. This particular version was performed by women at the village fountain.
[ back ] 13. Megas 1941-1951. 24.
[ back ] 14. Niketas 1953. 244.
[ back ] 15. Per litteras from Mrs. Kassiane Panoutsopoulou.
[ back ] 16. Kizlares 1938-1948. 405.
[ back ] 17. Sykoutres 1923. 261 (who notes that this is a children's song).
[ back ] 18. Kizlares 1938-1948. 405-406.
[ back ] 19. Cf. Alexiou 1974. 69; Boaton 1980. 33-34, et passim.
[ back ] 20. Note also that the cicada is prominent in the locus amoenus where Aesop experiences the epiphany of the Muses: Life of Aesop G.6 (Perry).
[ back ] 21. Actual cicadas do not eat grain, as we shall note shortly; nor (needless to say) do they converse like human beings with ants, which attack them in summer, and they do not survive the winter: cf. Gk. insects, p. 130 n. 103. In Fable 112 (Perry) the heedless τέττιξ is replaced by the heedless dung-beetle (κάνθαρος).
[ back ] 22. From the transcription of a recording made in Corinth (1979) and kindly sent to me per litteras by Mrs. Kassiane Panoutsopoulou.
[ back ] 23. Poetica 1448b27. The Life of Aesop well illustrates the connection of Aesop and his fables with the implicit blaming and ridiculing of Delphic institutions: see Nagy 1979. 279-288. Further on Aesopic ainoi in Nagy 1990a. 322-325.
[ back ] 24. Gk. insects, p. 123.
[ back ] 25. Ibid.
[ back ] 26. And even before Aesop in Eubulus; further on the useless and idle cicada in ancient tradition in Gk. insects, p. 130.
[ back ] 27. Cf. Appendix 1 on 583 λιγυρὴν ... ἀοιδήν.
[ back ] 28. Σῖτος (Homeric Gk. 'grain/ 5th cent. B.C. Gk. 'wheat;' cf. MG σιτάρι 'wheat') also meant more loosely '(dry) food' and probably 'daily sustenance or nourishment' already in Homer, obviously because the ancient diet was based heavily on cereals rather than meat: see ch. 6, n. 6 below.
[ back ] 29. Oikonomides 1957. 45.
[ back ] 30. Ibid. MG σκάω ('burst') is featured regularly in imprecations much like its ancient equivalent ληκέω, λακέω on which cf. Bain 1991. 70 w. n. 144.
[ back ] 31. Polites 1872.21-22, no. 13.
[ back ] 32. Cf. ibid., 19-20, no. 12. In this story a man plays a trick on his fiancée by pretending to be dead.
[ back ] 33. Cf. n. 20 above.
[ back ] 34. On Archilochus fr. 223 (W) see also Nagy 1979. 302 and Nagy 1990a. 323-324. Note too the story of the “Mouse of the Tettix," as discussed in Nagy 1979. 302. It is presumably difficult to locate a cicada, because it normally falls silent on the approach of footsteps (as many amateur insect-trappers know). Hence the very act of "seizing a cicada by the wing" must have been a manifestation of uncommon skill in insect- hunting, but scarcely an impossibility. Apparently relished in antiquity as a culinary delicacy, the cicada was lured by connoisseurs onto a limed reed rod, or κάλαμος; a variant technique involving bamboo sticks or walking-canes has been documented for modern times: see Gk. insects, pp. 127-129.
[ back ] 35. Cf. n. 36 below.
[ back ] 36. Cf. Appendix 1 on 584 πυκνὸν ὑπὸ πτερύγων.
[ back ] 37. Λάλος, in this context, refers literally to intensity of volume, but surely also embraces the transferred sense of 'loquacious/ as at Aristophanes Peace 653 and Theocritus 5.75 (which bear out the adjective's colloquial tone).
[ back ] 38. Note, for easy instance, Archilochus fr. 31 (W), reported by Synesius laudatio calvitii to be a poem about a courtesan.
[ back ] 39. This blame operates by means of ridicule or condemnation. Cf. Nagy 1979. 255-256.
[ back ] 40. Poetics 1448b24-27.
[ back ] 41. In demotic tales "shameful" individuals can serve as both subject and agent of blame; see the Naxian story, in Polites 1872.18-19, no. 11. Here the lazy housewife (ἡ ἀκαμάτρα) refuses to make a suit for her husband and wraps him in folds of cloth. This sight prompts their neighbors to ridicule the husband both verbally and physically. In turn, he exacts his revenge on his wife by burning her wardrobe and forcing her to walk in a barrel. This sight, too, induces public ridicule as the lazy lady is pelted with lemon peels.
[ back ] 42. On the afterlife of the Aesopic cicada in Byzantine and MG literature, cf. Gk. insects, p. 130 n. 103. To reduce the cicada-song to the status of a "spin-off" from medieval and modern literary versions of the Aesopic fable is to neglect this particular creature's intrinsic potency and usefulness in a ritual and seasonal setting. It seems quite likely that the cicada has led a "double life," existing in the literary sphere but enjoying concurrently an independent "underground" existence. As Professor Loukatos informs me, two other facts tell in favor of a popular (as against a learned "Aesopic" pedigree of the song: i) the song nowhere mentions the cicada's confrontation with the ant, an obvious feature of the Aesopic fable; and ii) the cicada's utter dependence on alms from human beings (cf. its desperate pleas) contradicts the official church view that God looks after all His creatures (Matthew 6. 25-36).
[ back ] 43. The assumption of a persona, even an animal's persona, the retelling (and dramatization) of a situation which is familiar but fictional, in whole or in part, characterize preliterate song and early Greek sympotic song, especially that of Archilochus: cf. Dover 1987. 97-121 (108-109); E. L. Bowie 1986.16 f.
[ back ] 44. Cf. ch. 3.
[ back ] 45. Cf. ch. 2, proverb 3; ch. 3; more on the relevance of work animals to the threshing and transportation of bundles in Halstead and Jones 1989. 47-48, 53.
[ back ] 46. The farmer's concession of a loaf—more than a mere morsel—to the importunate cicada is hardly tongue-in-cheek charity alone. As has already been noted, the allotment of a share of the harvest is doubtless another example of the cross-cultural and highly ancient first-fruit ceremony (on which see Burkert 1985 [1977]. 66-68). What is more, in modern Greece pieces of cake (πίττες) and food and drink in general are offered on special occasions (e.g., weddings) to passers-by, and beggars in particular, in order to avoid a curse and so to ensure good luck: Loukatos 1977. 269,271-272 (general bibliography); Loukatos 1984. 124-133 (the special case of 'St. Basil's cake'). Like an archetypal beggar, the cicada is capable of cursing the harvest through sheer malice or jealousy (cf. ch. 5, song 1); children are effective agents of blessings and curses alike and are therefore best qualified to perform this song.
[ back ] 47. Poetics 1449a32-34.
[ back ] 48. 48 Cf. Nagy 1979. 255.
[ back ] 49. The term is here used in the Aristotelian sense of 'uttering things which it is shameful (or gross, or embarrassing) to utter'; cf. Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1128a23.
[ back ] 50. Haralampous 1965. 198-199.
[ back ] 51. Cypriot harvesters are reported to observe a strict hierarchy, often with amusing results. The head harvester (πρωταρκάτης) leads the way, cutting down a row of stalks and thereby defining the area around which the other workers will operate. Alongside of him comes his assistant (κκιαγιᾱς), who is followed by a group of reapers. The reaper tagging behind the troupe is dubbed the 'tail-end worker' (λαάρης) and customarily serves as the butt and feed of many jokes and antics. Oftentimes he is the victim of a feigned ambush, with the entire troupe pouncing on him and mocking his ineptitude.
[ back ] 52. The song may be categorized as a mock-encomium. A tone of hyperbolic praise that sometimes verges on the fantastic characterizes the "encomia" sung by children at Christmas-time; these songs also feature the verb πρέπει (on which see n. 53 below): Loukatos 1984. 45-46.
[ back ] 53. Slines 1938-1948. 101. Note, again, the anaphora of 'deserve' (lit., 'it is fitting, it becomes,' πρέπει), which is also prominent in the Cypriot song above. On the humorous topos of terming a woman σουμπασίνα ('task-mistress') or some equivalent lofty title, see Loukatos 1959. especially 501-503.
[ back ] 54. WD 605.
[ back ] 55. Cf. ch. 2.