Plato’s Rhapsody and Homer’s Music: The Poetics of the Panathenaic Festival in Classical Athens

  Nagy, Gregory. 2002. Plato's Rhapsody and Homer's Music: The Poetics of the Panathenaic Festival in Classical Athens. Hellenic Studies Series 1. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 1. Homer and Plato at the Panathenaia [1]

By studying both direct and indirect references to the Panathenaia in the works of Plato, supplemented by occasional references in various other literary sources and in the attested epigraphical and iconographical evidence, we find opportunities for reconstructing what might be described as synchronic cross-sections or even “snapshots” of seasonally recurring occasions for the performing of Homeric poetry at the festival of the Panathenaia at Athens, dating back to at least as early as the sixth century BCE. A most useful starting-point is the Hipparkhos of “pseudo-Plato.” [2] We are about to see a story that purports to explain an Athenian law requiring that the Iliad and Odyssey be performed in sequence by the rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’ at the Panathenaia:

“Plato” Hipparkhos 228b–c

According to my analysis, this version represents a post-sixth-century political reapplication of the mythology that motivates the Panathenaic Rule. This time, the political perspective is that of democratic Athens in the era after the tyrants, and thus the “lawgiver” credited with the ongoing custom of performing Homeric poetry at the Panathenaia of Athens is no longer Hipparkhos (or Peisistratos) but Solon, the culture hero of the Athenian democracy. The same kind of political mentality is evident in the wording of the Lycurgus passage quoted above, where the “ancestors” of the Athenians are said to have “passed a law,” νόμον ἔθεντο—in the best democratic tradition imaginable.

Rhapsodic sequencing is linked to another phenomenon, “relay mnemonics.” This phenomenon is attested already in Homeric poetry, and I propose here to analyze two attestations. On the basis of these examples, I hope to show that relay mnemonics is a principle that links the Homeric and the rhapsodic traditions—from a diachronic perspective.

The Iliad gives a stylized representation of relay mnemonics in the scene where Achilles is shown performing the epic songs of heroes, klea andrōn ‘glories of men’ at Iliad IX 189, while Patroklos is waiting for his own turn, in order to take up the song precisely where Achilles will have left off (verb lēgein ‘leave off’):

I offer the following analysis of this passage:

So far, I have argued that the principle of relay mnemonics, as represented in the first of the two Homeric examples, fuels the dynamics of rhapsodic sequencing: each rhapsode waits for his turn to pick up the narrative where the previous rhapsode left off. I will now argue that relay mnemonics involves not only rhapsodic sequencing but also rhapsodic competition, and that the mechanism of the rhapsodic relay is by nature competitive. While the element of competition is only implicit in the first {18|19} Homeric example that we have seen, it is explicit in the second example that we are about to see, which features the words hupoblēdēn and hupoballein in two passages that I relate with one another in terms of these words. I propose that these words, the meanings of which are not clear to us in their Homeric attestations, reflected the technical language of the rhapsodes.

The translation of the rhapsodic term hupobolē as ‘relay’ meshes with the Homeric usage of hupoballein and hupoblēdēn. Let us start with an Iliadic passage featuring the word hupoballein:

ἑσταότος μὲν καλὸν ἀκουέμεν οὐδὲ ἔοικεν
ὑββάλλειν, χαλεπὸν γάρ, ἐπιστάμενόν περ ἐόντα {19|20}

It is a good thing to listen to one who is standing, and it is unseemly
to hupoballein him, for it is difficult to do so, even for one who is expert.

Iliad XIX 79–80

Agamemnon is here speaking publicly to the assembly of warriors while remaining in a seated position (verse 77), saying that it is a good thing to listen to a man who speaks in a standing position and that it is difficult for even a good speaker to huphoballein him (ὑββάλλειν, verse 80). Achilles had just spoken to the assembly at verses 56–73, and verse 55 makes it explicit that he was standing.

The rhapsode Ion performs Homer not only on such major occasions as the competitions taking place at the festival of the Panathenaia. He also performs Homer on less formal occasions such as the convivial but competitive encounter dramatized in Plato’s dialogue Ion, where we see the rhapsode being challenged by Socrates to perform a given selection from the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey. {22|23}

As we see from the Ion, then, you can tell a rhapsode where to start performing Homer just by telling him what part of the narrative you want to hear, and you can count on him to start right there. The rhapsode’s cue is not a matter of text: it is a matter of mnemonics. You cue him by giving him an idea, and that idea translates immediately into a specific point within the “stream of consciousness” that is the narrative flow of Homer—let us call it Homer’s narrative consciousness. I will argue in a moment that the rhapsodes have a word for Homer’s consciousness—dianoia. As we will see, a key passage is the beginning of {24|25} Plato’s Ion. For now, however, let me just dwell a bit further on the simple wonder of it all: the rhapsode has—or thinks he has—complete access to Homer’s stream of consciousness, to Homer’s authorial intent. By implication, the rhapsode will argue with you by joining Homer midstream at exactly the point where Homer will help him make an argument against you.

We see here the virtuosity of making mental connections in a competitive situation, that is, in an agōn. The rhapsode’s mind, I argue, is trained to connect, to make associations: the rhapsodic competitions at festivals like the Panathenaia require his readiness to take up the narrative where a competing rhapsode has left off. If this argument holds, we have here the essence of the principle of relay mnemonics in the art or tekhnē of the rhapsode. The driving force of relay mnemonics is competition.

In the staged dialogue of the Ion, Plato’s fine-tuned ear for language—not just any language but in this case the technical language of high-class artisans like rhapsodes—has I think picked up on a variety of authentic expressions and turns of phrase that echo the talk of real rhapsodes as they once upon a time practiced their art or tekhnē—and even as they once upon a time spoke about this real tekhnē. I have collected ten examples:

  1. hormân + accusative, in the sense of ‘get [the performer] started, inspire’: 534c3. Plato’s ear catches the technical nature of this word, and he uses it in a technical context: the Muse ‘inspires’ various different kinds of poet to produce their various different kinds of poetry. On the surface, Plato makes it look as if only composition is involved, not performance: in the context of 534c, the Muse ‘inspires’ Homer to make epic, just as she ‘inspires’ other poets to make dithyrambs, encomia, and so on. The Homeric context of the word hormân, however, makes it clear that inspiration by the Muse happens in the context of performance, and it has to happen from the very start: the Muse has to ‘start’ the performer. At Odyssey viii 499, we see the blind singer Demodokos about to start his performance: hormētheis {25|26} theou arkheto (ὁρμηθεὶς θεοῦ ἄρχετο) ‘getting started, he began with the god’. That is, the performer got started or ‘inspired’ by the Muse and then he began his performance, starting by hymning a god. What follows this start, as we hear it paraphrased by the Odyssey, is an epic account of the Iliou Persis, the destruction of Troy (viii 500–520). (In terms of the narrative chronology of the overall narrative tradition culminating in the destruction of Troy, the performative ‘start’ here is situated near the compositional ‘conclusion’.) The wording hormētheis ‘getting started’ at 8.499 has to do with the singer’s point of departure: the verb hormân is derived from the noun hormē, aptly described as “le seul véritable dérivé de ornumi”; [43] hormē can mean ‘setting oneself in motion’, as at the start of a march (LSJ under hormē, category III); I note the compound aphormē, which actually means ‘point of departure’ (we may compare aphormēthentos at Iliad II 794, Odyssey ii 375, iv 748).
  2. âidein ‘narrate’ (= ‘sing’) + accusative of a given topic, which must be named at the very beginning of the performance. The topic, signaling a given epic event or a given epic character defining the event, must be in the accusative case. When Homer or the rhapsode ‘sings’ in the accusative that given event or character, he notionally conjures them, bringing them back to life in the process of performance. (It is a common feature of oral poetics that the events mentioned in performance become part of the event that is the performance and that the characters featured in the events become members of the audience attending the performance in the here-and-now. [44] ) For example, 535b3–7 features the following “accusatives of the rhapsodic topic” following âidein (ᾄδῃς)· (1) Odysseus at the epic moment when he leaps upon the threshold, ready to shoot arrows at the suitors; (2) Achilles as he lunges at Hektor; (3) some other highlighted thing {26|27} (ti, accusative) from epic moments, as when (3a) Andromache bids farewell to Hektor, or from other similar epic moments involving (3b) Hekabe or (3c) Andromache. [45] Compare the Homeric usage of aeidein = âidein ‘narrate’ (‘sing’) + accusative of the topic, such as the anger of Achilles in Iliad I 1. Thus the rhapsode’s topics are put into the same dimension of heroic-age “reality” as Homer’s topics. The rhapsode performs as someone who is parallel to and in continuity with Homer. [46] “Homer,” of course, starts his topic at the beginning—as at Iliad I 1. As for the rhapsode, his topics can start anywhere in Homer, as we have just seen from the catalogue of heroic topics at Ion 535b3–7
  3. epaineîn + Homēros (in accusative) ‘quote Homer’. (I continue to use the word “quote” without any implications of textuality.) That is, to “quote” Homer in medias res, in a specific context and for a specific purpose: Ion 536d6, 541e2 (agent noun epainetēs, 536d3, 542b4). [47] The specific purposes, as in the Ion, have to do with arguing specific points. Compare the usage of epaineîn in Lycurgus Against Leokrates 102, as quoted above, where the orator “quotes” Homer in order to make his specific case. Aside from the various specific purposes involved in this {27|28} activity of “quoting” Homer, there is of course one overriding general purpose, from an Athenian point of view: that is, the State officially “quotes” Homer to its assembled citizens on the occasion of its highest holiday, the Panathenaia, in the format of rhapsodic competitions. On this occasion, each competing rhapsode gets the chance to “quote” Homer before a general audience of 20,000 persons (535d3)—a round figure that seems notionally equivalent to the body politic of Athens. [48] In this case, to repeat, each competing rhapsode would be required to take up the Homeric narrative continuum where the previous rhapsode had left off. We may compare this rhapsodic imperative with the dramatic imperative of one actor’s picking up the dialogue where the previous actor had left off. [49] For the moment, I simply point out that this rhapsodic imperative of maintaining continuum is relevant to the etymology of epaineîn: ‘to continue [epi-] making praise [ainos] for’ (+ accusative of the laudandus as the receiver of praise or of the laudator as the ultimate giver of praise). [50] By implication, rhapsodic art is a continuation of praise poetry. [51] The idea of continuum is explicit in the epi– of epaineîn. {28|29}
  4. dianoia ‘train of thought’, applying primarily to Homer’s train of thought, not to the rhapsode’s: 530b10, c3, d3. The rhapsode can enter into this train of thought at any point of the continuum that is the narrative. He can enter into it midstream, in medias res. To be able to join the Homeric narrative in progress is to know the dianoia of Homer. As such, the rhapsode is the hermēneus ‘interpreter’ of the dianoia of Homer (530c3; see no. 5 below). Since the rhapsode can become part of Homer’s train of thought, of Homer’s dianoia, he can also tell the thoughts of Homer as a verbal commentary (i.e., not necessarily a written commentary) about Homer (530c9; see no. 6 below). Such ‘commenting’ thoughts become, by extension, dianoiai as well: 530d3. On Socrates’ different ‘understanding’ of dianoia, see no. 6 below. The idea of continuum is explicit in the dia of dianoia.
  5. hermēneus ‘interpreter’, applied to the rhapsode as one who must know the dianoia of Homer on behalf of his audiences: 530c3 (τὸν γὰρ ῥαψῳδὸν ἑρμηνέα δεῖ τοῦ ποιητοῦ τῆς διανοίας γίγνεσθαι τοῖς ἀκούουσι). Here we see the essence of the rhapsode’s “hermeneutics”: everything depends on his knowing the dianoia of Homer (see no. 4). [52] There are further applications of the word hermēneus at 535a6, a9 (see also 534e4). This concept of an ‘interpreter’ or ‘go-between’ acknowledges the reality of a mental gap between Homer on one side and his audience in the here-and-now on the other side. That gap can be bridged by the rhapsode, whose mind can implicitly neutralize the distance that separates the two sides.
  6. legein peri + Homēros (in genitive) ‘make a verbal commentary on Homer’: 530c9, d2–3. Here Ion is reacting to the claim of Socrates that a rhapsode is expected to be a hermēneus ‘interpreter’ of a poet like Homer, and that therefore Ion must surely know the poet’s ‘intention’, that is, his dianoia (531c). By {29|30} using the literary word “intention” here, I am seeking to find a common ground between the specialized Socratic/Platonic understanding of dianoia as ‘intellect’ (for example, Republic VI 511d) [53] and a more general understanding of the word as reflected by the primary definition in the dictionary of LSJ: “thought, i.e. intention, purpose.” [54] When Socrates uses the word dianoia here at 531c, he understands it to mean Homer’s intellectual capacity as revealed by his words (see also Aristotle Poetics 1450a6, etc.). Affirming his own rhapsodic understanding of dianoia as ‘train of thought’, Ion replies that he can indeed ‘speak’ most beautifully about Homer, more so than any of his predecessors could speak about Homer (καὶ οἶμαι κάλλιστα ἀνθρώπων λέγειν περὶ Ὁμήρου 530c; see also 533c–d), and that the dianoiai that he ‘speaks’ about Homer are more beautiful than those spoken by any of his predecessors, including Metrodorus of Lampsacus, Stesimbrotus of Thasos, Glaucon, etc. (ὡς οὔτε Μητρόδωρος ὁ Λαμψακηνὸς οὔτε Στησίμβροτος ὁ Θάσιος οὔτε Γλαύκων οὔτε ἄλλος οὐδεὶς τῶν πώποτε γενομένων ἔσχεν εἰπεῖν οὕτω πολλὰς καὶ καλὰς διανοίας περὶ Ὁμήρου ὅσας ἐγώ 530c–d). [55]
  7. exēgeîsthai ‘speak authoritatively, make an exegesis’ about Homer: 531a7, b8, b9; 533b8; see also 533b1; at 531a7, the word picks up the idea of legein peri + Homēros (in genitive) at 530c9. [56] See no. 6 above.
  8. diatribein ‘perform’ (that is, perform rhapsodically) at 530b8. Compare Isocrates Panathenaicus 19, where diatribē refers to the ad hoc performances of ‘sophists’ at the Lyceum who are described at 18 as ‘performing rhapsodically’ (rhapsōidountes) the poetry of Homer, Hesiod, and other poets; at 33, {30|31} Isocrates refers again to the same ‘sophists’ at the Lyceum who are ‘performing rhapsodically’ (rhapsōidountas) and who also ‘speak about’—stupidly—Homer, Hesiod, and other poets (lēreîn peri + genitive; see no. 6 above). [57] Their activity of speaking about Homer, Hesiod, and other poets is described as dialegesthai (διαλέγοιντο, 18), on which see no. 10 below.
  9. mnēsthēnai (and related forms) ‘make mention’ concerning a sequence from Homer within an exegetical frame, that is, to ‘quote’ it within such a frame and also to make comments or make a commentary: for example, 532c2, 536c7. As in the case of no. 6 above, what is meant is to ‘make a verbal commentary’. [58] Where mnēsthēnai takes the accusative case, it means ‘recall’, as when Socrates is trying to recall some verses from Homer (ἐὰν μνησθῶ τὰ ἔπη 537a2). [59] The rhapsode notes that his attention is always awakened when someone mnēsthēi ‘makes commentaries’ about Homer (ἐπειδὰν δέ τις περὶ Ὁμήρου μνησθῇ 532c2). Later on in the Ion, the same theme of the rhapsode’s awakened attention is transferred from the act of making commentaries about the poet (περὶ μὲν Ὁμήρου ὅταν τις μνησθῇ 536c7) to the act of actually performing or ‘singing’ something from a poet (ἐπειδάν μέν τις ἄλλου του ποιητοῦ ᾄδῃ 536b6). [60] On ‘singing’, see no. 2 above.
  10. dialegesthai in the sense of ‘engage in dialogue’ about a given poet: 532b9 (ὅταν μέν τις περὶ ἄλλου του ποιητοῦ διαλέγηται). It appears in a context that is parallel to that of mnēsthēnai at 532c. [61] See no. 9 above. {31|32}

Of these ten words, the most pertinent to Plato’s own medium is dialegesthai. This is the word appropriated by Plato’s own medium to designate itself: ‘to engage in [Socratic] dialogue’ or ‘to practice dialectic’. Here we see most clearly that the language of Plato is in direct competition with the language of the rhapsode. Moreover, dialegesthai is key to the survival of Socrates’ language and of his message.

Plato is fond of exploring the lonely feeling of helplessness on the part of any author who worries about the future life of his written words, which cannot defend themselves if they come under attack (Phaedrus 275e, 276c8). One way out is to use the tekhnē ‘art’ that Socrates calls dialectic, dialektikē (276e5). The user of this art can plant words into a receptive psukhē (e6), and these words will be fertile (277a1) and not sterile (akarpoi: a1) like the words planted on a writing surface (276c8). Unlike those written words, these dialectical words can defend not only themselves but also the one who planted them (276e8–277a1), and they can even reproduce themselves into eternity (277a2–3). The words of Socrates must not suffer the fate of written words: Socrates himself could not be saved from death, but his words must be saved, and the antidote to the death of Socratic words is dialectic, that is, Socratic dialogue: as Socrates says in the Phaedo (89b9–c1), the only death that he would mourn as a genuine extinction is the death of the logos—if it should happen that the logos cannot be resurrected (anabiōnai: 89b10). Socratic dialegesthai is vital to the words of Socrates, revitalizing them every time that the reader rereads them. Dialectic is not only the antidote to the death of the words of Socrates: it is also an antidote to the words of the rhapsode. [62] We see a rivalry here in establishing the definitive meaning of dialegesthai: rhapsodes {32|33} had their own form of dialegesthai, as we saw from the indirect testimony of Isocrates (Panathenaicus 18), and of Plato himself (Ion 532b9). [63] No wonder Plato’s Socrates does not allow the rhapsode Ion to have the last word. [64]

The Socratic dialegesthai of Plato brings back to life the words of Socrates each time they are read, but it does not bring back Socrates himself. It is not even a certainty, as we see from the Phaedo, that dialegesthai could ever bring back Socrates’ psukhē, either. So much for the various Pythagorean scenarios of immortalization for the psukhē! Rhapsodic dialegesthai, by contrast, brings back to life not only the words of Homer. It brings back Homer himself.

It was at one such occasion, shortly before the actual event of the rhapsodic competitions took place, that the rhapsode Ion met Socrates. This is the dramatic moment staged by Plato’s Ion. Of course, Plato will not let Ion win the debate with Socrates. The rhapsode’s dialectic must be defeated by the rival dialectic of Socratic dialogue. Not only that: Ion’s status as the authorized speaker of Homer’s words must be undermined. After all, Socrates too can perform Homeric poetry, and he can even out-argue the rhapsode on the basis of that poetry. Are we to conclude, then, that Socrates can replace Ion as the medium or mediator of Homer? Are the rhapsodes no longer indispensable for the mediation of Homer?

The answer, from the historical standpoint of the late fifth century BCE and even thereafter, is simple: Socrates cannot replace Ion. Nor will he ever replace him—so long as there exists a Panathenaic Festival featuring as one of its main events the performance of Homer by rhapsodes. In saying “there exists a Panathenaic Festival,” I am using the present tense to symbolize the synchronic dimension of my formulation, anchored for the moment in the historical period of the late fifth century. From a synchronic point of view, there is one thing Ion does that Socrates can never do and can never take away from Ion: Socrates can never replace Ion as an authorized performer of Homeric poetry at the Panathenaia.

Such a point of view, of course, would be a traditional one. From a more modernizing point of view, however, Socrates seems to have the last laugh on the rhapsode. Why care about performances of Homeric poetry at the Panathenaia or anywhere else? Since we have Homer in books, who needs rhapsodes in the first place? Who would possibly need Ion now? Plato’s Socrates {34|35} can read Homer for us better than Ion can. For that matter, we do not need Socrates, either, once he has liberated us from the rhapsodes: now we can read Homer on our own. Homer is there for us as a text, recorded in books, ready for us to interpret, ready for our own modern commentaries. There is no need for the rhapsode as an exegete, as a hermēneus. And we certainly do not need the rhapsode’s performance. We now have Homer in writing—or maybe we have always had Homer in writing. And surely the text of Homer is more reliable than any performance of Homer. Even the transmission of the text is surely more reliable than the transmission of the performance. Even if there is some risk that the transmission of the written texts may become corrupted, there is surely a greater risk of interference in the transmission of performance. In Plato’s Ion, the rhapsode of “today” is visualized as the last and weakest link in a long magnetic chain of successive generations of performers connected all the way back to the original magnet, Homer (533d–536d). Thanks to the text of Homer, we can now cut out that whole succession of intermediate performers. Thanks to the text, we now have direct access to Homer.


[ back ] 1. The original version of this chapter is N 1999b

[ back ] 2. The scholarly applications of the term “pseudo-” in the taxonomy of Classical authors can lead to misunderstandings. In this case, for example, it is important to keep in mind that the Hipparkhos is a genuine component of the Platonic tradition, even if the direct authorship of Plato has been questioned.

[ back ] 3. General commentary on the whole passage in HQ 80–81

[ back ] 4. In LSJ, meaning II of hupokrinesthai is given as ‘speak in dialogue, hence play a part on the stage,’ as in Demosthenes 19.246, where the part played is in the accusative: τὴν Ἀντιγόνην Σοφοκλέους … ὑποκέκριται ‘has played the part of Sophocles’ Antigone’. Here and elsewhere, I use single rather than double quotation marks whenever I print translations of the original Greek.

[ back ] 5. In the chapter that follows, I argue that Plato is using rhapsodic metaphors in these contexts of the Timaeus. When it is Critias’ turn in the Critias to take up where Timaeus in the Timaeus had left off, Timaeus refers to the hexēs logos ‘continuous discourse’ that they had agreed upon (Critias 106b7). When Critias actually starts speaking, he uses the word dekhesthai (106b8). For the rhapsodic sense of ‘I take up where you (/ he / they) left off’, see my discussion of Iliad IX 191 below.

[ back ] 6. The orator Lycurgus, by ‘adducing’ the classical authors (I mean “classical” from his synchronic point of view), assumes the role of statesman. This point will be developed further in the analysis that follows.

[ back ] 7. To make his arguments here in Against Leokrates 102, the orator is about to adduce a ‘quotation’ from Homer, the equivalent of what we know as Iliad Book XV verses 494–499. On my working translation ‘quote’ for epaineîn, see the analysis below. Adducing a Homeric ‘quotation’ is presented here as if it were a matter of adducing Homer himself. In the same speech, at an earlier point, Lycurgus (Against Leokrates 100) had quoted 55 verses from Euripides’ Erekhtheus (fr. 50 Austin). At a later point (Against Leokrates 107), he quotes 32 verses from Tyrtaeus (fr. 10 West), whom he “patriotically” identifies as an Athenian (so also Plato Laws I 629a). On the politics and poetics of the Athenian appropriation of Tyrtaeus and of his poetry, see GM 272–273. I suggest that the Ionism of poetic diction in the poetry of Tyrtaeus can be explained along the lines of an evolutionary model of rhapsodic transmission: see PH 53, 434 (also HQ 111); see also PH 23n27 on Lycurgus Against Leokrates 106–107, where the orator mentions a customary law at Sparta concerning the performance of the poetry of Tyrtaeus.

[ back ] 8. I deliberately translate hupolambanein ‘receive’ here in terms of “reception theory.” In terms of rhapsodic vocabulary, as we saw above in “Plato” Hipparkhos 228b–c, hupolēpsis is not just ‘reception’ but also ‘continuation’ in the sense of reception by way of relay.

[ back ] 9. We may compare the context of epideigma ‘display, demonstration’ in “Plato” Hipparkhos 228d, as discussed in PH 161; see also PH pp. 217 (and following) on apodeixis ‘presentation, demonstration’. The basic idea behind what is being ‘demonstrated’ is a model for performance.

[ back ] 10. By implication, the pan-Hellenic impulse of the ‘ancestors’ of the Athenians in making Homer a “Classic” is mirrored by the impulse of Lycurgus, statesman that he is, to ‘quote’ extensively from such “Classics” as Homer, Tyrtaeus, and Euripides. See also “Plutarch” Lives of the Ten Orators 841f on the initiatives taken by Lycurgus to produce a “State Script” of the dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (commentary in PP 174–175, 189n6, 204).

[ back ] 11. I infer that the erga ‘accomplishments’ include poetic accomplishments: on the mentality of seeing a reciprocity between noble deeds and noble poetry that becomes a deed in celebrating the deed itself, see PH 70, 219.

[ back ] 12. Further discussion of this passage: PH 21–24.

[ back ] 13. Davison 1955:7. See also HQ 75, 81–82, 101.

[ back ] 14. Davison 1968:60; also Shapiro 1992:72–75. See also Kotsidu 1991:41–44. Even if the Panathenaic Rule were to be viewed in terms of a single historical moment centering on the political initiatives of Hipparkhos, it is a given that the institution of rhapsodic competitions at the Panathenaia predates such a theoretical moment. Note the formulation of Shapiro 1993:101–103: “performances by rhapsodes at the Panathenaia did take place before Hipparkhos introduced the so-called Panathenaic Rule.” He cites as evidence the depiction of a rhapsode on a black-figure Liverpool amphora of Panathenaic shape, dated to ca. 540 BCE (see his figures 26 and 27).

[ back ] 15. HQ 74, 80–81.

[ back ] 16. On myths about lawgivers as founders of customary laws, see the discussion in GM 21, 71–75, 81, 102, 105.

[ back ] 17. Extensive discussion in HQ 71–75, 78, 103.

[ back ] 18. HQ 67, 70, 74, 93–96, 99–104.

[ back ] 19. My translation of hupobolē as ‘relay’ will be explained in the discussion that follows.

[ back ] 20. For more on Dieuchidas of Megara (FGH 485 F 6), see Merkelbach 1952:24–25. Dieuchidas has been variously dated to the 4th or the 3rd/2nd century BCE (see the bibliography in Figueira 1985:118 par. 9n2; the bibliography in S. West 1988:37n14 needs to be corrected).

[ back ] 21. Davison 1968:58–59 and S. West 1988:37.

[ back ] 22. With specific reference to “Plato” Hipparkhos 228b–c, I say already in 1990 (PH 23): “even if the size of either the Iliad or the Odyssey ultimately defied performance by any one person at any one sitting, the monumental proportions of these compositions could evolve in a social context where the sequence of performance, and thereby the sequence of narrative, could be regulated, as in the case of the Panathenaia.” See also HQ 80–85.

[ back ] 23. I agree with Boyd 1994:115 when he argues: “neither pseudo-Plato nor Diogenes Laertius [Dieuchidas of Megara FGH 485 F 6] states that a text is to be recited in order, but rather that the rhapsodes are to recite in order.” But I disagree with his further argument, that the content of what the rhapsodes performed did not have to be in order. I also disagree with his argument that the term hupobolē mentioned in Diogenes Laertius 1.57 is to be understood in terms of a “cue” given by the judges to signal merely the taking of turns from one rhapsode’s performance to another’s. As I will argue below, hupobolē involves content as well as form.

[ back ] 24. HQ 81.

[ back ] 25. PP 111; HQ 68–70.

[ back ] 26. On kleos (plural klea) in the sense of heroic glory as conferred by song, see N 1974, especially pp. 244–252. The counter-arguments of Olson 1995:224–227 are, I think, unsuccessful, as I argue in N 2000d (also in HR). I note here in passing that Olson’s approach is lacking in diachronic perspective.

[ back ] 27. PP 72–73. See also Ford 1992:115n31, who notes the use of lēgein ‘leave off’ at the point in the narrative where Demodokos leaves off his Trojan narrative (Odyssey viii 87); this verb, Ford argues, “is the technical expression used by a rhapsode to end a performance or a part of one.” For parallels, he cites Homeric Hymn to Dionysus 17–18, Hesiod fr. 305.4 MW, and Theogony 48. He also cites Diogenes Laertius 1.57 [Dieuchidas of Megara FGH 485 F 6], already cited by me above, and the line from the Iliad (IX 191) that is presently under discussion. On this line, he refers to the analysis by Dunkel 1979:268–269 (lēgein is “used of poetic competition”).

[ back ] 28. See PH, specifically invoking the term evolve / evolutionary at pp. 11, 18, 21, 23–24, 53–54, 56–58, 82–82, 191, 196–198, 360, 415.

[ back ] 29. HQ 82.

[ back ] 30. LSJ p. 1876 under hupobolē, category I 3, where this passage is discussed (with cross-references to p. 1875 under hupoballein, category III; also to p. 1876 under hupoblēdēn and p. 1887 under hupolēpsis).

[ back ] 31. Edwards 1991:244.

[ back ] 32. Edwards p. 244.

[ back ] 33. Kirk 1985:82.

[ back ] 34. Martin 1989.

[ back ] 35. See also Martin 1989:117, with reference to the speech of Agamemnon as dramatized in Iliad XIX 78–144. Note Martin’s formulation at p. 220: “Speaking to win out—this is the goal of every Iliadic performer.”

[ back ] 36. On the out-performing of Agamemnon by Achilles, see Martin 1989:63, 69–70, 98, 113, 117, 119, 133, 202, 219, 223, 228. See especially p. 141, a discussion of Iliad XXIII 657, 706, 752, 801, 830, where Achilles stands up to speak five times. Also p. 116: “Instead of promising kleos …, the faulty speaker [that is, Agamemnon] must hold out material reward only.” Also p. 198: “[Achilles] will go on to defeat Agamemnon, symbolically, by being the best performer on the verbal level” (see his p. 223).

[ back ] 37. See PP 111n24.

[ back ] 38. I confront for the first time this aspect of rhapsodic performance in PH 23–24n28.

[ back ] 39. I am using “take” here in the sense of ἔνθεν ἑλών ‘taking it from the point where …’ at Odyssey viii 500 referring to the point of departure for the narration of Demodokos when he sings the story of the Trojan Horse. The narration starts in medias res.

[ back ] 40. See also Murray 1996:127.

[ back ] 41. See already PP 123–124, with reference to Isocrates Panathenaicus 18–19 and 33.

[ back ] 42. For commentary on the formal variations between the Homeric verses as transmitted in the medieval vulgate and the Homeric verses as quoted in the Platonic textual traditions, see Murray 1996:126 and 128. On Plato’s “text” of Homer as an indirect reflex of Panathenaic performance traditions in the 5th and 4th centuries BCE, see PP 142–146.

[ back ] 43. Chantraine DELG 823.

[ back ] 44. See in general Martin 1989:xiv, followed by Reynolds 1995:207.

[ back ] 45. My paraphrase here is meant to match closely Plato’s own stylistic diminuendo in retelling the contents. All the epic moments that Socrates mentions fall into one of two emotional categories: fear or pity. It is important to stress that Socrates’ mention of the performer’s weeping (emotion of pity) at 535d3 in front of an audience of 20,000 people [535d4] must refer back to his earlier mention of the rhapsode’s performing the sad topic of “piteous things [eleina] concerning Andromache,” etc. at 535b6ff—just as Socrates’ mention of the performer’s fright (emotion of fear) at 535d4 must refer back to his earlier mention of the rhapsode’s performing frightening topics like that of Odysseus in the action of attacking the suitors or of Achilles in the action of lunging at Hektor. Accordingly, I disagree with Boyd 1994:112, who argues that Socrates’ mention of the performer’s evocation of pity and fear at 535d1–5 does not refer back to the rhapsode’s performing epic scenes of pity and fear at 535b2–7. Boyd wants to argue that the performer described at 535d1–5 is not a rhapsode but an actor in a tragedy. Again, I disagree. See further below.

[ back ] 46. Extensive discussion in PP 60–64.

[ back ] 47. BA 98n on epaineîn as “the technical word used by rhapsōidoi for the notion of ‘recite Homer’.”

[ back ] 48. As Mogens Hansen points out to me, the body politic of Athenians is numbered as 20,000 in Demosthenes 25.51. See also Murray 1996:122, who adduces Plato Symposium 175e6–7, where the size of the audience attending the performances of tragedy at the festival of the Lenaia at Athens in 416 BCE is given as 30,000. On parallelisms between the Panathenaia and the City Dionysia (along with the Lenaia) at Athens as the primary contexts for the evolution of epic and tragic performances, see PP 81–82. Correspondingly, Socrates in Ion 536a sets up a parallelism between epic rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’ and tragic hupokritai ‘actors’ (PP 162).

[ back ] 49. See also the previous note, concerning parallelisms in the evolution of rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’ and hupokritai ‘actors’. For more on these parallelisms, see the Appendix.

[ back ] 50. On the ambiguity of subjective / objective genitives in combination with nouns designating the performance of praise poetry, see PH 200n8. The subjective / objective genitives mark respectively the laudator and the laudandus. This ambiguity seems functional, marking the reciprocity that binds the laudator and the laudandus.

[ back ] 51. Note the usage of epaineîn in the praise poetry of Pindar: BA 98, 222–223, 254, 260n; note especially the usage of epaineîn in Pindar fr. 43 and the commentary in PH 424.

[ back ] 52. In this sense, the “hermeneutics” of the rhapsode can compensate for the loss of Homer’s “original” occasion—and therefore of his “original” meaning. On the poetics of compensation for the lost “original” occasion, see PH 80n140, with specific reference to the Provençal genre of the razo.

[ back ] 53. Canto 1989:36, 136.

[ back ] 54. See also PP 124.

[ back ] 55. PP 124–125. For brief sketches of Metrodorus, Stesimbrotus, and Glaucon, see Murray 1996:103. These names imply the traditions of technical discourse that have shaped the identity of Ion as a rhapsode.

[ back ] 56. PP 125n81.

[ back ] 57. PP 123–124.

[ back ] 58. A related form is mnēmoneuein ‘make verbal commentaries’, used in a rhapsodic context by Isocrates Panathenaicus 18–19, 33; extensive discussion in PP 122–125. The word is not used in Plato’s Ion.

[ back ] 59. See HQ 152 on the mentality of poetic “total recall” as indicated by the Homeric contrast of mnē– + accusative in the sense of ‘recall totally’ vs. mnē- + genitive in the sense of ‘make mention of’.

[ back ] 60. PP 125n80.

[ back ] 61. PP 125n80.

[ back ] 62. In Plato Phaedrus 277e I note a revealing reference, made en passant, to spoken words that are rhapsōidoumenoi, that is, ‘performed in the way of rhapsodes’; such words are described as “unexamined and without didactic content” (ἄνευ ἀνακρίσεως καὶ διδαχῆς).

[ back ] 63. See again above on the rhapsodic concept of dialegesthai ‘engage in dialogue’.

[ back ] 64. See also Murray 1996:97, who cites Plato Ion 530d9 and 536d8 as dramatized instances where Ion would have launched into a commentary if Socrates had not cut him off.

[ back ] 65. A variation on the “last laugh” topos plays itself out in the joke of “laughing all the way to the bank,” as developed in Plato Ion 535e4–6.

[ back ] 66. When the rhapsode says “tell me, Muse,” the “me” is notionally Homer: see PP 61.

[ back ] 67. I note, with special interest, the golden garland that Ion expects to win at the Panathenaia, to be awarded by the Homeridai (Plato Ion 530d). The political authority of the state seems to be linked with the poetic authority of the Homeridai.