Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past

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2. The Poetics of Panhellenism and the Enigma of Authorship in Early Greece

§1. I have been attempting both to distinguish poetry from song and to broaden the current concept of oral poetry in such a way as to include song. Since the conventional semantic range of our word poetry tends to exclude song, however, I prefer not to use the actual term oral poetry in this broader sense. Instead, I confine myself for now to the more narrow concept of oral poetry as distinct from oral song. But even this more narrow concept is not accurate enough to account for Homeric and Hesiodic poetry, or old elegiac and old iambic poetry. There is another characteristic of such poetic traditions that makes it a special kind of oral poetry. That characteristic is the phenomenon of Panhellenism.

§2. Panhellenism can be most readily defined in terms of the distinctively Greek institution of the polis or ‘city-state’, the importance of which for defining the concepts of Hellenism and even civilization can be most simply illustrated with Aristotle’s dictum, ὁ ἄνθρωπος φύσει πολιτικὸν ζῷον ‘man is by nature an organism of the polis’ (e.g., Politics 1253a2–3). With the polis ‘city-state’ as frame of reference, the phenomenon of Panhellenism can be summed up as follows. [1]

§16. The latest performance is by necessity a crisis point for the traditions of myth, in that the latest performance determines what continues to be {57|58} transmitted and what does not. There may be at any given time a multitude of latest performances by a multitude of performers in a multitude of places. Still, each latest performance is a crisis for what has been said in all previous performances, and the cumulative trends of latest performances determine what ultimately survives and what is lost. The crisis can be expected to deepen whenever the number of performances decreases or the occasions for them become progressively restricted. In any case each latest performance helps determine what is highlighted and what is shaded over, with the ever-present possibility that the shading will lapse, with the passage of time, into total darkness.

§19. Such a concept of mnēmosunē can be achieved only through an ever-present awareness of its opposite, lēthē. Without the obliteration of what need not be remembered, there cannot be memory—at least, from the standpoint of Archaic Greek poetics.

§22. Where the unmarked member excludes the marked member through a negation of the marked, the unmarked member receives a minus interpretation; where the unmarked member includes the marked, it receives a zero interpretation. [37] The minus interpretation of the unmarked member is ever-present in the context of a given Archaic Greek poem’s references to itself as absolute truth, conveyed by a specialized mnēmosunē ‘remembering’ that excludes lēthē instead of including it. These relationships can be visualized as a larger circle of mnēmosunē ‘remembering’ that includes an inner area of lēthē ‘forgetting’ surrounding a smaller circle of specialized mnēmosunē ‘remembering’ that excludes the outer area of lēthē ‘forgetting’. The area of forgetting is visualized as the ongoing erasure of things not worth remembering, erasure by way of lēthē ‘forgetting’; the smaller circle of remembering, within the larger circle, is highlighted by the area of darkness surrounding it, the area of forgetting. In fact, a special word in the diction of Archaic Greek poetry formalizes this specialized and exclusive kind of remembering: that word is the negation of lēthē ‘forgetting’, namely a-lētheia, normally glossed in English as ‘truth’. A comparable case of minus interpretation in English can be seen in the word unforgettable. The alētheia ‘truth’ of the poet is the nonerasure of the poetic glory that is his to confer. [38] The same concept is {59|60} evident in the periphrastic expression oude me/se/he lēthei ‘it does not escape my/your/his-her mind’, which conventionally reinforces injunctions to be memnēmenos ‘mindful, remembering’. [39]

§25. This notion of canonization, as I have just outlined it, [47] is analogous to a concept used by scholars associated with the Museum housing the great library of Alexandria. [48] This concept is krisis, in the sense of separating, discriminating, judging (verb krīnō) those works and those authors that are worthy of special recognition and those that are not. [49] The Alexandrian scholars who inherited the legacy of this process of separation, discrimination, judgment were the kritikoi ‘critics’, [50] while the Classical authors who were recognized as the survivors of this process of krisis were called the enkrithentes, [51] a term that corresponds to the Roman concept of the Classics, the classici, who are authors of the ‘first class’, primae classis. [52] The krisis of the enkrithentes, however, starts not with the Alexandrian scholars, nor even with the likes of Aristotle. [53] The crisis of this krisis happens to be already under way in the Archaic period. We must remind ourselves that songs and poetry were traditionally performed in a context of competition. [54] {61|62} A striking example is the tradition of dramatic festivals at Athens, with the krisis ‘judgment’ of winners by kritai ‘judges’. [55] But the criteria of the crisis are different. The very evolution of what we know as the Classics—as both a concept and a reality—was but an extension of the organic Panhellenization of oral traditions. In the Archaic period, I argue, the general principle that determines what is worthy of special recognition and what is not can be formulated as a question: what is Panhellenic, alētheia, and what is not?

§26. For illustration, let us turn to the “Days” portion of the Works and Days of Hesiod, which begins with the following injunction:

ἤματα δ’ ἐκ Διόθεν πεφυλαγμένος εὖ κατὰ μοῖραν
πεφραδέμεν δμώεσσι

Hesiod Works and Days 765–766

The very first day of the month to be mentioned is a crisis point for the Panhellenic perspective, since it is the day when each polis is most idiosyncratic, with local traditions prevailing:

… τριηκάδα μηνὸς ἀρίστην
ἔργά τ’ ἐποπτεύειν ἠδ’ ἁρμαλίην δατέασθαι,
εὖτ’ ἂν ἀληθείην λαοὶ κρίνοντες ἄγωσιν.

Hesiod Works and Days 766–768

The thirtieth day of the month is best
for inspecting different kinds of work that have to be done and for apportioning food-supplies.
This is the day that people spend by sorting out [= verb krīnō] what is truth [alētheia] and what is not.

A commentator on the Works and Days remarks: “Civil calendars often fell out of step with the moon …, and it was on the thirtieth that errors arose. Each month had to be allowed either 29 or 30 days, but the last day was called triākas (or in Athens henē kai neā [meaning ‘the old and the new’]) in either case, the preceding day (?) being omitted in a ‘hollow’ month. So it {62|63} was always a question of when to have the thirtieth.” [
57] In other words each polis had its own traditions about the calendar. At the thirtieth, there is a crisis about arriving at a Panhellenic norm from the standpoint of each polis. This norm is conveyed here by the notion of alētheia ‘truth’, which, I argue, is the criterion of Panhellenism. Then the poet embarks on a catalogue of those days of the month that share the highest degree of consensus in local traditions, with the catalogue proceeding in a descending order of consensus. The thirtieth may be a crisis point, varying from polis to polis, but the crisis leads to a shared Panhellenic perspective. The poet has blotted over the differences, simply noting that alētheia ‘truth’ is being ‘sorted out’ [= is in a crisis: the verb is krīnō] on the thirtieth. After the thirtieth it is possible to arrive at a fixed sequence of given days traditionally spent in given ways by all Hellenes. [58]

§27. The poet now highlights this fixed sequence, which is the Panhellenic perspective. Zeus, the god who is the planner of the universe, is an appropriate symbol for the organizing principle that underlies the Panhellenic perspective. With Zeus the poet begins the catalogue, as he then proceeds to present a synthetic overview of the days of the month:

αἵδε γὰρ ήμέραι εἰσὶ Διὸς παρὰ μητιόεντος·
πρῶτον ἕνη τετράς τε καὶ ἑβδόμη ἱερὸν ἦμαρ
(τῇ γὰρ Ἀπόλλωνα χρυσάορα γείνατο Λητώ) ὀγδοάτη τ’ ἐνάτη τε.
δύω γε μὲν ἤματα μηνός
ἔξοχ’ ἀεξομένοιο βροτήσια ἔργα πένεσθαι

ἐν δὲ τετάρτῃ μηνὸς ἄγεσθ’ εἰς οἶκον ἄκοιτιν,
οἰωνοὺς κρίνας οἳ ἐπ᾽ ἔργματι τούτῳ ἄριστοι.

παῦροι δ’ αὖτε ἴσασι τρισεινάδα μηνὸς ἀρίστην
ἄρξασθαί τε πίθου καὶ ἐπὶ ζυγὸν αὐχένι θεῖναι
βουσὶ καὶ ἡμιόνοισι καὶ ἵπποις ὠκυπόδεσσιν,
νέα ‹τε› πολυκλήιδα θοὴν εἰς οἴνοπα πόντον
εἰρύμεναι. παῦροι δέ τ’ ἀληθέα κικλήσκουσιν.
τετράδι δ’ οἶγε πίθον—περὶ πάντων ἱερὸν ἦμαρ—
μέσσῃ. παῦροι δ’ αὖτε μετεικάδα μηνὸς ἀρίστην
ἠοῦς γεινομένης. ἐπὶ δείελα δ’ ἐστὶ χερείων.
αἵδε μὲν ἡμέραι εἰσὶν ἐπιχθονίοις μέγ’ ὄνειαρ·
αἱ δ’ ἄλλαι μεταδούπιοι, ἀκήριοι, οὔ τι φέρουσαι,
ἄλλος δ’ ἀλλοίην αἰνεῖ, παῦροι δέ τ’ ἴσασιν·

… εὐδαίμων τε καὶ ὄλβιος, ὃς τάδε πάντα {63|64}
εἰδὼς ἐργάζηται ἀναίτιος ἀθανάτοισιν,
ὄρνιθας κρίνων καὶ ὑπερβασίας ἀλεείνων

Hesiod Works and Days 769–774, 800–801, 814–824, 826–828

For what I now tell you are the days of Zeus the Planner.
To begin with, the first, [
59] the fourth, [60] and the seventh [61] are each a holy day
(it was on the seventh that Leto gave birth to Apollo of the golden sword).
So too the eighth [
62] and the ninth. [63] And yet, these two days of the waxing part of the month
are particularly good for various kinds of work by mortals. [
… On the fourth of the month bring home your wedded wife,
having sorted out [verb krīnō] the bird omens, [
65] which are best for doing this.
Further, few people know that the thrice-nine of the month is best
for opening a wine jar and for putting yokes on the necks
of oxen, mules, and swift-footed horses,
or for hauling a swift ship with many oars down to the wine-colored sea.
Few give it its true [alēthēs] name. [
Open your jar on the fourth. The fourth of the midmonth is the most holy of them all.
Again, few do it [= give it its true name]. [
67] I mean the after-twenty {64|65} [= the twenty-first], [68] which is best
when dawn comes. As evening approaches, it is less good.
These, then, are the days, a great blessing for earth-bound men.
The others fall in between. There is no doom attached to them, and they bring nothing.
Different people praise different days, [
69] but few really know. [70]

With respect to all of these days, fortunate and blissful is he who
knows all these things as he works the land, without being responsible to the immortals for any evil deed,
as he sorts out [= verb krīnō] the bird omens, [
71] and as he avoids any acts of transgression.

§28. For further illustration of the concept of alētheia as a Panhellenic truth-value, I offer five additional passages. This truth-value is associated not just with poetry in the narrower sense but also with song, as in the lyric poetry of Pindar, and even with prose, as in the Histories of Herodotus. The five passages that follow, then, are selected from the widest possible range of Greek verbal art and range all the way from song to prose:


§30. If we symbolize the exclusive sort of mnēmosunē ‘memory’ (which excludes lēthē: so a-lētheia) in terms of a smaller circle surrounded by an area of lēthē within a larger circle of inclusive mnēmosunē (which includes lēthē), we may imagine an ongoing erasure of mūthoi by lēthē within the outer circle, resulting in a-lētheia. Thus a-lētheia ‘truth’ is ‘un-forgettable’. It cannot be emphasized enough that such a model of Panhellenic tradition is dynamic, not static. Through time, the inner and outer circles, along with the area of lēthē between them, keep shifting.

§31. Myths that are epichoric, that is, local, are still bound to the rituals of their native locales, whereas the myths of Panhellenic discourse, in the process of excluding local variations, can become divorced from ritual. The word mūthos ‘myth’ is associated with the epichoric rather than Panhellenic phase of myth making; its remaining links with ritual can be seen even in its etymology, if indeed mūthos is to be derived from the verb muō in the sense of ‘I say in a special way’ or ‘I see in a special way’, where the special way {66|67} is the marked procedure of ritual. [76] Local traditions in ritual, and the myths that go with them, seem to be unfit for Panhellenic discourse. Thus Hecataeus of Miletus, at the beginning of his discourse, dismisses the local tales of the Greeks as πολλοί τε καὶ γελοῖοι ‘many and laughable [geloioi]’, as distinct from the things that he has to say, which are ἀληθέα ‘true [alēthea]’ (FGH 1 F 1). Pollux uses the same notion of ‘laughable’ (geloio-) in referring to such distinctly epichoric concepts as the herm or the evil eye (7.108). All of which helps account for the negative implications of mūthos in the discourse of figures like Pindar (again Olympian 1.29; also Nemean 7.23, 8.33) and Herodotus (2.23.1, 2.45.1). [77] Moreover, earlier versions that claim Panhellenic authority can be dismissed by later versions as mūthoi: for example, the authority for the mūthos that is discredited by Herodotus at 2.23.1 is his own predecessor, Hecataeus. [78]

§32. All this is not to say that a local or epichoric version, as distinct from a Panhellenic version, can be equated with the version that is supported and promoted by the polis. As an institution, the polis mediates between the epichoric and the Panhellenic: although it contains what is epichoric, it also promotes what is Panhellenic. [79] In the development from tribe to polis, certain older institutions, no longer compatible with any individual polis, coalesce to form Panhellenic institutions in which a variety of city-states may participate. A prime example is the institution of athletic games, which preserve aspects of tribal initiation patterns no longer suited to the ideologies of any Greek city-state. [80] Another case is the institution of poetry and song. The polis can best promote its prestige by promoting its own traditions in poetry and song on a Panhellenic scale. I have already cited the example of Theognis of Megara. [81] What is particular to Megara alone, grounded in Megara’s own rituals and its own myths, tends to be shaded over; what is shared by Megara and by a wide variety of other city-states is highlighted. [82] Thus the polis is in such cases incompatible with mūthoi, in the narrow sense of “myths” that reflect the given city’s diversity from other cities. For such reasons the implied concept of poliētai ‘people of the polis, citizens’ is explicitly {67|68} opposed by the neologism mūthiētai ‘people of mūthos’ (Anacreon PMG 353). [83]


ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ’, εὖτ’ ἐθέλωμεν, ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι

Hesiod Theogony 27–28

We know how to say many false things that look like genuine [etuma] things,
but we also, when we are willing, know how to announce things that are true [alēthea].



τὴν γὰρ ἀοιδὴν μᾶλλον ἐπικλείουσ’ ἄνθρωποι
ἥ τις ἀκουόντεσσι νεωτάτη ἀμφιπέληται

Odyssey i 351–352

Men would most rather give glory [kleos] to that song
which is the newest to make the rounds among listeners.


τῶν δὲ ἄλλων βασιλέων οὐ γὰρ ἔλεγον οὐδεμίαν ἔργων ἀπόδεξιν, κατ’ οὐδὲν εἶναι λαμπρότητος, πλὴν ἑνὸς τοῦ ἐσχάτου

Herodotus 2.101.1

About the other kings, they [= the Egyptian priests] had no public statement [apodeixis] to tell of their deeds [erga], since there was nothing distinguished [= literally ‘bright’], except for the last [king].

§37. In light of these illustrations, let us return to the notion of a single Panhellenic tradition as opposed to a plethora of local traditions. It should be clear that this notion of Panhellenic is absolute only from the standpoint of insiders to the tradition at a given time and place, and that it is relative from the standpoint of outsiders, such as ourselves, who are merely looking in on the tradition. Each new performance can claim to be the definitive Panhellenic tradition. Moreover, the degree of Panhellenic synthesis in the content of a composition corresponds to the degree of diffusion in the performance of this composition. Because we are dealing with a relative concept, we may speak of the poetry of the Iliad and Odyssey, for example, as more {70|71} Panhellenic than the poetry of the Epic Cycle. To put it conversely: a Cyclic poem like the Aithiopis, attributed to Arctinus of Miletus, is clearly less Panhellenic and more regional, focusing on the local traditions of Miletus. [96] Whereas both the Iliad and Odyssey refer to the immortalizing kleos ‘glory’ of Panhellenic epic that is to serve as compensation for the death of Achilles, [97] the Aithiopis is concerned rather with the personal immortalization of Achilles after death, on the island of Leuke (Aithiopis/Proclus, p. 106.12–15 Allen; Pindar Nemean 4.49–50). This myth, as espoused by the Aithiopis, is anchored in local cult: Leuke is not only a mythical place of immortalization for Achilles but also the ritual place of his hero cult, localized in the territory of Olbia, daughter city of Miletus. [98] I have argued elsewhere that “the Cyclic {71|72} epics are so different from the two Homeric epics not because they are more recent or more primitive but rather because they are more local in orientation and diffusion.” [99]

§46. This point about relative Panhellenism brings us back to the Epic Cycle. The story about the contest between Arctinus and Lesches, which Lesches wins (Phaenias F 33 Wehrli), may have a symbolic bearing on the interrelationship of narratives in the poetry attributed to Arctinus and Lesches. Both the Aithiopis and the Destruction of Ilion are attributed to Arctinus, whereas the Little Iliad is attributed to Lesches. On the basis of this story of a contest, combined with the fact that the story line of the Little Iliad of Lesches intervenes between that of the Aithiopis and that of the Destruction of Ilion, the two compositions attributed to Arctinus, it has been supposed that Arctinus, who “has the lion’s share of the Cycle,” had been “forced by Lesches’ rising merits to yield him the [Little Iliad].” [117] This interpretation assumes that the story of a contest between Lesches and Arctinus is a historical fact, whereas I argue that it is a myth reflecting the historical relationship between the poetry attributed to these two figures. As we look at the narrative coverage of the Little Iliad as attributed to Lesches, this poet from the island of Lesbos, it seems at first to be an intrusion into the narrative of Arctinus of Miletus. But it would be more accurate to say that the narrative of Arctinus envelops the narrative of Lesches at both ends, almost engulfing it. Just as the Epic Cycle is built around the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey, so also, within the Cycle, the repertoire of Arctinus seems to be built around that of Lesches. There seems to be a stratification here, as if an earlier repertoire represented by Lesches of Mytilene were being enveloped by a later repertoire represented by Arctinus of Miletus. [118] {76|77}

§49. The overarching Panhellenism of the Homeric poems, as we have seen, is evident from the differentiation of these poems from those of the Cycle. But the differentiation must be asserted on the basis of whatever distinct {77|78} traditions are offered by the Cycle. Without such a pattern of assertion, the distinction between the Homeric poems and those of the Cycle poems can lapse into indifference in face of Homeric Panhellenism. Thus whereas the poems of the Epic Cycle could be attributed to individual poets like Arctinus and Lesches, they could also be attributed to the central figure of textual fixation, Homer. [125] According to one particular myth, for example, Homer himself was commissioned to “dictate” the Little Iliad, along with another composition called the Phokais, when he traveled to Phokaia (Herodotean Life of Homer 15, pp. 202–203 Allen). In this version any attribution of the Little Iliad to Lesches of Mytilene is wanting. For another example, I cite again Pindar F 265 SM, referring to the myth that told how the composition of the Cypria was Homer’s dowry for his daughter (who was married to Stasinus: Aelian Varia Historia 9.15, Tzetzes Chiliades 13.636–640). Further, Herodotus goes out of his way to argue, apparently against certain traditions in his own time, that the poet of the Cypria is not Homer (2.116–117). [126] The words of Callinus apparently referred to the Seven against Thebes as Homer’s poem (F 6 W); or again, Herodotus feels bound to express doubt whether the poet of the Epigonoi, the sequel of the Seven against Thebes, is indeed Homer (4.32). [127] By the time of Aristotle the safest thing was to say simply ‘the author of the Cypria’ or ‘the author of the Little Iliad’, as opposed to the prototypical and idealized Homer (Poetics 1459b). One latter-day critic puts it this way: “If Homer had a kind of claim to all this epic literature—a rather strong claim to the Hymns, a weaker one to the Cycle—and the alternatives to admitting his claim were either anonymity or naming a definite poet, what explanation can be given of the phenomenon except that the whole literature was the work of a school?” [128] For the phrase the work of a school, elsewhere deemed the Homeric canon by the same author, [129] I would substitute a Panhellenic tradition. Whereas the Aithiopis and the Destruction of Ilion are claimed by Miletus by way of attribution to Arctinus of Miletus, and the Little Iliad is claimed by Mytilene by way of attribution to Lesches of Mytilene in Lesbos, no single polis has an {78|79} unequivocal claim on Homer (though his cult as hero at Chios seems definable by way of the Homeridai at Chios). [130]

§50. In offering this sketch of the synthetic tradition that produced the Homeric poems, I should close by stressing that I do not deny the notion of “poets within a tradition.” [131] The oral composer in the context of performance can execute considerable refinements in the act of recomposition. [132] The composer can even appropriate the recomposition as his own composition, as if it emanated exclusively from an owned authority: “This is my song.” [133] But the gradual replacement of divergences in local oral traditions by convergences in Panhellenic oral tradition leads to an internal idealization of the very concept of the composer. If indeed Panhellenization gradually eliminates opportunities for recomposition in performance, we should then expect a commensurate elimination of opportunities for successive generations of performers to identify themselves as composers. I therefore do not argue generally that tradition creates the poet. [134] Rather I argue specifically that the Panhellenic tradition of oral poetry appropriates the poet, potentially transforming even historical figures into generic ones who represent the traditional functions of their poetry. The wider the diffusion and the longer the chain of recomposition, the more remote the identity of the composer becomes. Extreme cases are Homer and Hesiod. [135] To put it another way: the person of the poet, by virtue of being a transmitter of tradition, can become absorbed by the tradition. [136] Then the poet as an exponent of his poetry can become identified with and even equated with that poetry. Thus, for example, when Heraclitus (22 B 42 DK) says that Homer and Archilochus should be banned from contests in poetic performance, agōnes, what is really being said is that rhapsodes should not be allowed to perform Homer and Archilochus. [137]


[ back ] 1. The next paragraph is a reworking of N 1985.35§17n3. From here on the Greek word polis is no longer printed in italics.

[ back ] 2. Snodgrass 1971.421, 435; cf. Snodgrass 1987, especially pp. 160, 165, and Morris 1988, especially pp. 754–755.

[ back ] 3. N 1979.5–9.

[ back ] 4. N 1982.43–49, 52–57, 59–60.

[ back ] 5. N 1985.34–36.

[ back ] 6. Ibid. Gentili 1985.45 discusses a poem for the Corinthian dead at Salamis: the inscription is Doric (CEG 131; Simonides EG 11), but the transmission is Ionic (Plutarch On the Malice of Herodotus 870e).

[ back ] 7. For the related notion of intertextuality, in a specialized sense as applied to Homeric poetry, see Pucci 1987.29n30.

[ back ] 8. This interconnected development of traditions is reflected in cross references from one tradition to another. I suggest that the notion of “cross reference” is indeed workable in the study of oral poetics, provided we understand that any references to other traditions in any given composition/performance would have to be diachronic in nature. On such cross referencing between the Iliad and the Odyssey traditions, see N 1979.35–58: also Pucci, pp. 240–242. For analogous cross referencing in Hesiodic poetry, I cite Theogony 87, where the assertion that an ideal king can resolve even the greatest possible neikos ‘quarrel seems to presuppose a thematic association with the neikos between Hesiod and Perses at Works and Days 35, which is treated by the Works and Days as an ultimate criterion, as the quarrel to end all quarrels; cf. N 1982.58–59. In fact cross references can serve to distinguish one tradition from another. To cite an example: the description of the funeral of Achilles in Odyssey xxiv makes references to Patroklos and Antilokhos (77–79) in such a way as to signal that the Odyssey follows the Iliad tradition, not the Aithiopis tradition: see Edwards 1985b.223–225 (cf. N 1979.21; also p. 211). A veritable network of cross references establishes the complementarity of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey traditions, of the Hesiodic Theogony and Works and Days traditions (cf. Slatkin 1987). It may be that the distinctness of two separate major compositions within each of the two traditions resulted from evolutionary differentiations within the Homeric and the Hesiodic traditions. Moreover, the Contest of Homer and Hesiod tradition (Certamen, pp. 225–238 Allen), and the myth behind it (see further at Ch. 2§45–46), implies an even more fundamental pattern of evolutionary differentiation between the Homeric and the Hesiodic traditions.

[ back ] 9. See N 1982.48–49.

[ back ] 10. See Ch. 1§9–10, where I discuss the notion of Panhellenic as applied to international (that is, inter-polis) festivals like the Panathenaia. On the performance of old elegiac and iambic poetry by rhapsodes, see Ch. 1§15–16.

[ back ] 11. References and further discussion in Ch.3, where we shall see that the patterns of Panhellenization in song are even more complex than they are in poetry.

[ back ] 12. That the rhapsodes may not be able to accommodate the compositions that they perform to the current political requisites of the audience is suggested in Herodotus 5.67.1, as interpreted by Svenbro 1976.44; for more on this passage, see Ch. 2§44.

[ back ] 13. Cf. Ch. 1§20–23.

[ back ] 14. Coupez and Kamanzi 1962.8, quoted by Finnegan 1970.6.

[ back ] 15. See Ch. 2§3–6.

[ back ] 16. Cf. Boutière and Schutz 1950, p. xii.

[ back ] 17. Cf. Stevens 1986.43. Cf. Zwettler 1978.84–88 on the Arabic concept of the rāwī.

[ back ] 18. On categories of ownership of song (and/or dance), see Kunst 1958.2.

[ back ] 19. Boulton 1954.4–5. Note here the oral performance’s reference to the newness of its composition. It would be deceptive, here as elsewhere in oral traditions, to equate such “newness” with our own general notions of innovation. We must be on guard against projecting into oral traditions an anxious modernist vision of the creative self, which can lapse all too easily into romantic scenarios of creation out of self-contained genius. We may achieve a more balanced formulation from the vantage point of anthropology: I cite Barnett 1953.39–95 on the concept of innovation, where he offers a cross cultural survey of nine possible social factors that promote innovation. Barnett’s book has strongly influenced ethnomusicologists like Merriam (e.g., 1964.312–313), especially with his observation that whereas innovation in oral traditions may be initiated by individuals, the cultural background must allow it (for example, by way of collaboration of effort, expectation of change, and the like). On the relativity, from society to society, of the descriptive term improvisation, see the useful discussion of Merriam, p. 179.

[ back ] 20. Davidson 1985.110; also in general pp. 103–142. The textual references here to the Shāhnāma follow the volume and page numbers of Berters 1966–1971. Again I draw attention to the “renewal” claimed by the composer.

[ back ] 21. Ibid.

[ back ] 22. Davidson, p. 109. Note again the notion of “renewal.”

[ back ] 23. I note the interesting ethnographic typologies discussed in Bausinger 1980.52.

[ back ] 24. Commentary in N 1979.233–234. On the dēmos ‘administrative district, population’ in Archaic Greek poetic diction in the sense of ‘local community’, with its own traditions, customs, laws, and the like, see N, p. 149§11n6; also p. 251.

[ back ] 25. Cf. Hesiod Works and Days 25–26, where the aoidos ‘singer’ is juxtaposed with the tektōn ‘carpenter’ and the kerameus ‘potter’; also with the itinerant ptōkhos ‘beggar’, ibid. Such a juxtaposition of aoidos and ptōkhos is also built into Odyssey xvii 381–385.

[ back ] 26. There is clearly a hierarchy of professions within the category of dēmiourgoi, supplemented by the notion that the ptōkhos ‘beggar’ is at the bottom. The association of the ptōkhos with the category of dēmiourgoi relates perhaps to the notion that beggars, like dēmiourgoi, could appeal for immunity as they traveled from dēmos to dēmos, or perhaps to a poetic topos concerning the social scale as ranging all the way from the king at the very top to the beggar at the very bottom. It could be argued that such a mention of beggars on one end of the social scale is intended as a symmetrical implication of kings on the other end: just as beggars can be listed at the bottom of a hierarchy of dēmiourgoi, so also kings can be listed at the top. The sliding scale in the social status of Odysseus from king to beggar back to king in the Odyssey may be connected with a poetic topos concerning the relationship between the king and the dēmiourgoi. On the ainos ‘fable’ of the Hawk and the Nightingale in Hesiod Works and Days 202–212, where the hawk is to a king as the nightingale is to a poet as dēmiourgos. cf. N 1979.238–241.

[ back ] 27. Old Irish tuath ‘tribe’ (as ruled by a king) is cognate with Umbrian touto ‘civitas’ and German Deutsch. On the áes cerd, see [J. F.] Nagy 1985.33, 35 and 239n48; cf. also Meid 1974.

[ back ] 28. Cf. Ch. 6§75–77.

[ back ] 29. For the theory that literacy is the primary impetus toward a critical faculty, see, for example, Goody and Watt 1968.

[ back ] 30. N 1982.47–49, 52. For a particularly compelling formulation with regard to Arabic traditions, I sight Zwettler 1978.221.

[ back ] 31. Lévi-Strauss 1979.153–163, especially pp. 162–163.

[ back ] 32. Detienne 1973.22–27. For example, Lēthē or ‘Forgetting’ personified is descended from Night in Hesiod Theogony 227/224; Mnēmosunē ‘Remembering’ is contrasted with darkness in Pindar Nemean 7.12–16.

[ back ] 33. Detienne, pp. 69–80.

[ back ] 34. For these terms, see the Introduction §12.

[ back ] 35. See the discussion by Detienne, p. 74.

[ back ] 36. Waugh 1982 compares the French usage of the masculine gender as the unmarked member of an opposition with the feminine, in that the masculine can stand for the category as a whole: thus an adjective describing both masculine and feminine categories will be put into the masculine: des hommes et des femmes intelligents.

[ back ] 37. For these terms, as used by Waugh 1982 following Jakobson 1939, see again the Introduction. Waugh, p. 302, pictures the marked-unmarked relationship as “a subset-set relationship where the marked category is the subset and the unmarked category is the set,” or alternatively as “a figure-ground relationship where the marked pole is the figure and the unmarked pole is the ground.”

[ back ] 38. Given that the smaller circle within the larger circle symbolizes the specialized sort of mnē-, that is, a-lētheia, I would say that the larger circle that contains lēth– would correspond to the function of the Muses, who help humans forget some things so that they may remember others. The root *mnā- of mnē– ‘remember’ may in fact be related to the root *mon-t- (or *mon-th-) of Mousa ‘Muse’ (Hesiod Theogony 53–55, 98–103). The etymological connection is certain if Mousa is to be derived from the root *men-, expanded as *mon-t- (or *mon-th-), which is one of several possibilities entertained by Chantraine DELG 716. The relationship of the root *men- with the expanded form *mnā-, as in mnē-, is clear: Chantraine, p. 703.

[ back ] 39. The pertinent passages are discussed in N 1983.44. This expression oude me/se/he lēthei ‘it does not escape my/your/his-her mind’ implies a synchronic understanding of the word alētheia as a compound consisting of privative a- and the root lēth-. In the formulation of Cole 1983.12, the reference of alētheia is “not simply to non-omission of pieces of information … but also to not forgetting from one minute to the next what was said a few minutes before, and not letting anything, said or unsaid, slip by without being mindful of its consequences and implications.” (For a critique of Heidegger’s celebrated explanation of alētheia, see Cole, pp. 7–8.) Cf. also Detienne 1973.48n107.

[ back ] 40. I cite again Hesiod Theogony 53–55, 98–103.

[ back ] 41. On this theme, see Detienne 1973.29–50.

[ back ] 42. This is not to say, of course, that the convergent version may not be complex, containing multiformities within its overarching uniformity.

[ back ] 43. Cf. Ch. 2§12–16; cf. also Ch. 2§52.

[ back ] 44. Royce 1977.104 points out, with reference to traditions of dance, that various structures of performance, as they become progressively more rigid, can suffer “abrupt confrontation and loss.”

[ back ] 45. The threat of “abrupt confrontation and loss,” to use the expression quoted immediately above, could help promote an impetus for recording by way of writing. But a critical attitude toward myth is caused not by the technology of writing but rather, more fundamentally, by the crisis of confrontation between variants of myth. See Ch. 2§12–16.

[ back ] 46. We may well ask: how does the local perspective contribute to the Panhellenic, and to what degree does the Panhellenic perspective recognize the local? From the standpoint of the local tradition, the best chance for self-assertion is a process of self-selection that accommodates the Panhellenic tradition. Note the discussion by Royce 1977.164 of the repertory of some 90 sones (dances) among the Zapotec of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec: in asserting their identity to outsiders, the Zapotec tend to select just three of these 90 sones. Royse notes (ibid.) that “these three are the dances that any non-Zapotec would name if asked about ‘typical’ dances of the Isthmus,” and that it is these three dances that are synthesized by the Ballet Folklórico in its suite “Wedding in Tehuantepec.”

[ back ] 47. For a history of the usage of canon to designate a selective listing of authors and works, see Pfeiffer 1968.207.

[ back ] 48. For an introduction to the era of Alexandrian scholarship, see Pfeiffer, pp. 87–233.

[ back ] 49. For a survey of this usage, see Pfeiffer, p. 117.

[ back ] 50. See Pfeiffer, pp. 89, 242.

[ back ] 51. Pfeiffer, pp. 206–207. Cf. Horace Odes 1 1.35, and the comments of Pfeiffer, p. 206.

[ back ] 52. Pfeiffer, p. 207. The canon as conceived by the Alexandrian scholars is not to be confused with the actual collection of works housed in the great library of the Museum at Alexandria. The Pinakes or ‘Tables’ of Callimachus, in 120 books, was intended not as a selection but as a complete catalogue of the holdings of the Museum, generally organized along the lines of formal criteria, including meter. For an informative discussion, see Zetzel 1983.98–100, who stresses that the Alexandrian system of classification was “eminently suitable for describing the literature of pre-Alexandrian Greece” (p. 99).

[ back ] 53. On the principles of selection, from Aristotle to the Alexandrians, see Pfeiffer, pp. 117, 205. This is not to assume that there was an ongoing process of actual selecting of Classical (as opposed to current) authors in the period of Alexandrian scholarship; I cite Page 1953.68, who doubts that “any ancient lyrical poet whose works were in circulation up to the Alexandrian era was omitted by the Alexandrian editors from their collection” (for a critique of this formulation, see p. 83). In the case of epic, Quintilian Institutio oratoria 10.1.55 notes explicitly that the Alexandrian editors Aristophanes and Aristarchus included no contemporary poets into the ordo, or canon, barring even Apollonius of Rhodes.

[ back ] 54. See Ch. 1§20–21.

[ back ] 55. For the wording, see, for example, the description in Plato Laws 659ab. There is a stylization of this institution in the Frogs of Aristophanes, in the form of a competition between Aeschylus and Euripides (see Ch. 13§40–41); in this context, we may note the usage of the word krisis and the corresponding verb krīnō at Frogs 779, 785, 805, 873, 1467, 1473. Cf. also Dunkel 1979.252–253.

[ back ] 56. First we had the “works”; now we have the “days.”

[ back ] 57. West 1978.351.

[ back ] 58. For the apparent exception of the island of Keos, see the passages quoted by West, p. 351.

[ back ] 59. In the Odyssey, the new moon is the context for a festival of Apollo (xiv 162 = xix 307; xx 156, 276-278, xxi 258): West 1978.352.

[ back ] 60. For example, Aphrodite was specially worshipped on this day: sources in West, ibid.

[ back ] 61. The most important holy day of Apollo: sources ibid.

[ back ] 62. For example, the eighth at Athens was the day for honoring Poseidon and Theseus: West, p. 353.

[ back ] 63. For example, the ninth at Athens inaugurated the City Dionysia: ibid.

[ back ] 64. That is, they may be holy days, but they are not necessarily holidays. This hedge suggests that the eighth and the ninth are less “Panhellenic” than the first, fourth, and seventh. This reading differs from that of West, p. 132, whose punctuation indicates that he takes δύο γε μὲν ἤματα as referring to what follows (the 11th and 12th at line 774) rather than to what precedes (the 8th and the 9th at line 772). I take δύο γε μὲν ἤματα at 772 and ἄμφω γε μὲν at 774 to be parallel in referring to what precedes in the syntax.

[ back ] 65. Note the parallel expression concerning bird-omens at Works and Days 828, as discussed at Ch. 2§27–28.

[ back ] 66. The Hesiodic name ‘thrice-nine’ would be the Panhellenic designation, as implied by the word alēthēs. Note the observations at ##T89 about alētheia at Works and Days 768. Local designations of this day may have been subject to tabu. The number thrice-nine is particularly sacred: see the references collected by West, p. 361.

[ back ] 67. This interpretation differs from what is found in the standard editions.

[ back ] 68. Note again the periphrasis, as in the case of thrice-nine at line 814.

[ back ] 69. Here we see the localized perspective.

[ back ] 70. Here we see the Panhellenic perspective. ‘Know’ is in the sense of histōr ‘the knowledgeable one’, as at Works and Days 792.

[ back ] 71. Note the parallelism between verse 828 here and verse 801, Ch. 2§27, where again the verb krīnō ‘sort out’ is used with reference to divination by birds. The crisis of sorting out the right and the wrong bird-omens is implicitly parallel to the crisis (again, verb krīnō) of sorting out what is alētheia ‘truth’ and what is not. In order to appreciate the importance of ornithomanteíā ‘divination by birds’ in the whole poem, we may note that Works and Days 828 had served as a lead-off for a concluding stretch of verses, now lost, containing instructions on the interpretation of bird omens (West 1978.364–365). A bird omen is central to the entire ethical message of the Works and Days, that is, the ainos ‘fable’ (202) of “The Hawk and the Nightingale” (202–212), on which see Ch. 9§7–8.

[ back ] 72. That is, kharis personified. For the specific purposes of this book, I consistently interpret kharis as a ‘beautiful and pleasurable compensation, through song or poetry, for a deed deserving of glory’. This word conveys both the beauty (“grace”) and the pleasure (“gratification”) of reciprocity.

[ back ] 73. West 1978.49 observes: “The aorist of mēdomai, unlike the imperfect, means not ‘planned’ but ‘wrought’.” In the range of meaning from ‘planned’ to ‘wrought’, I submit, we see the range of meaning within the single word kerdos ‘craft’, on which see Ch. 2§12–16.

[ back ] 74. I shall argue in Ch.4 below that Pindar’s “unique and true Panhellenic version” represents the official aetiology of the Olympics in Pindar’s time.

[ back ] 75. In visualizing an outer core of ‘falsehoods’ and an inner core of ‘truth’, I am following the interpretation of Young 1986, who adduces, besides Pindar Olympian 1.28–32, Plato Republic 377a, Pausanias 8.2.6 and Strabo 1.2.9 C20. I would add Thucydides 1.21.1: οὔτε ὡς ποιηταὶ ὑμνήκασι περὶ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὸ μεῖζον κοσμοῦντες μᾶλλον πιστεύων. These parallels help put Pindar Nemean 7.20–23, also adduced by Young, in a new light; note the singularity of the Pindaric πάθα at Nemean 7.21 as opposed to the plurality of the Homeric πολλὰ … πάθεν ἄλγεα in the prooemium of the Odyssey (i 4). See Ch. 7§5.

[ back ] 76. Cf. Ch. 1§26–29.

[ back ] 77. The verb mūtheomai ‘say’, derivative of mūthos, seems less susceptible to such negative implications: see Pindar Pythian 4.298 and Hecataeus FGH 1 F 1. On Aristotle’s rehabilitation of the word mūthos, see Halliwell 1986.57–58, especially n16. On mūthos in Plato: Brisson 1982.

[ back ] 78. How and Wells 1928 I 170.

[ back ] 79. This point is developed further at Ch. 5§15. It is no coincidence that the decline of the polis in the fourth century and thereafter coincides with the decline of Panhellenism.

[ back ] 80. At Ch. 5§15 and following, I refer to this phenomenon in shorthand as the exoskeleton of the polis.

[ back ] 81. Cf. Ch. 2§3–6.

[ back ] 82. Detailed discussion in N 1985.

[ back ] 83. Cf. Detienne 1981.92–94. As the scholia to Odyssey xxi 71 make clear, the mūthiētai ‘people of mūthos’ in the island-polis of Samos are the people who represent stasis ‘discord’ (στασιασταί). On the theme of stasis as a negative way of achieving a definition of the polis, see Ch. 12§50–52 and following.

[ back ] 84. See N 1982.47–49. The phrase ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι ‘announce things that are true [alēthea]’ at Theogony 28 is one of a set of variants, including ἀληθέα μυθήσασθαι ‘tell [verb mūtheomai] things that are true’ at Iliad vi 382, Homeric Hymn to Demeter 121, etc. (also attested as a textual variant at Theogony 28) and ἐτήτυμα μυθήσασθαι ‘tell [verb mūtheomai] things that are real [etētuma]’ at Homeric Hymn to Demeter 44. I suggest that these variations result from a chain of differentiations setting off a marked Panhellenic version from unmarked versions that are ostensibly local or at least more local. The variant γηρύσασθαι ‘announce’ represents a differentiation of marked gērūsasthai ‘announce’ from unmarked mūthēsasthai ‘tell’; also, the variant ἀληθέα ‘things that are true [alēthea]’ represents a differentiation of marked alēthea ‘things that are true’ from unmarked etētuma ‘things that are real’. In each case, the marked member differentiates a concept that is Panhellenic (alēthēs, gērūsasthai) from an earlier concept that is perceived as obsolete (etētumo– [or etumo-], mūthēsasthai) with reference to the new marked member. At each stage of differentiation, we must allow for the probability that the unmarked member of the opposition had once been the marked member in earlier sets of opposition.

[ back ] 85. Cf. Ch. 2§27–28.

[ back ] 86. Here I am following the interpretation of Race 1986.108.

[ back ] 87. On water as a symbol of poetry or song, see Ch. 10§9.

[ back ] 88. The word palaio– ‘of the past’ implies a contrast specifically with neo– ‘of the present, new’: cf. Chantraine DELG 851.

[ back ] 89. Cf. [A. M.] Miller 1982.114. Cf. Ch. 2§8–10.

[ back ] 90. On nostos as both ‘homecoming’ and ‘song about homecoming’, see N 1979.97§6n2.

[ back ] 91. Cf. again [A. M.] Miller 1982.114.

[ back ] 92. Cf. N 1979.98. Telemachus is “wrong” in not understanding that the myth applies to the situation in the here and now. For him, the “newness” of the song has the surface-meaning of mere novelty (cf. the interpretation in Plato Republic 424bc). But he is “right” in insisting that the singing proceed. This way, the nostos sung by the singer may ultimately be fulfilled in the nostos of Odysseus, which is the “novelty” of the Odyssey—the news of what finally happened in the Odyssey. Penelope, by contrast, is “right” in understanding that the song applies to the present, but she is “wrong” in interpreting it at this particular moment in the overall narrative of the Odyssey. What is absolutely right, not wrong, can emerge only from the overall narrative in progress.

[ back ] 93. Cf. Ch. 8§4–5 and following.

[ back ] 94. Ibid.

[ back ] 95. As the narrative of Herodotus proceeds, the spotlight keeps shifting. At the beginning of this account, the spotlight is on a figure described as the very first king of Egypt (2.99.1–4); after he is named and his deeds are accounted for, it is said that the priests who were the informants of Herodotus had records of a sequence of 330 other names that followed the first pharaoh, including one woman (2.100.1). This woman is then highlighted, with a recounting of her name and some of her deeds (2.100.2–4). Then follows the statement just quoted: ‘About the other kings, they [= the Egyptian priests] had no public statement [apodeixis] to tell of their deeds, since there was nothing distinguished [= literally ‘bright’], except for the last [king]’ (2.101.1). At this point, the spotlight falls on the last in this sequence of 330 pharaohs, with a recounting of his name and some of his deeds (2.101.1–2), capped off by a reaffirmation that this king at least had these deeds to ‘show for himself (2.101.2; the verb is apodeiknumai, on which see Ch. 8§4–5 and following), whereas the other kings did not (again 2.101.2). Then the spotlight shifts again, to the king who came after this last one, and there follows a particularly lengthy and detailed accounting of this pharaoh’s name and some of his notable deeds (2.102.1–2.111.1).

[ back ] 96. On the Milesian orientation of the Aithiopis, see Pinney 1983, who argues convincingly that the iconographic theme of Scythian archers on Attic late sixth-century vases is akin to local epic traditions specifically associated with Milesian colonization on the northern coast of the Black Sea, and that these local epic traditions are reflected in the Aithiopis of Arctinus of Miletus. In the mythological traditions of the mother city, Miletus, the notion of “the Other” apparently became particularized as “the Scythian” in the social context of the daughter cities on the northern coast of the Black Sea (on the subject of Milesian colonization in this area, notably at Olbia, see Bravo 1974). Just as the mother city tends to replicate its social structure, divisions and all, in the daughter city, so also the new social experiences of the daughter city, such as contacts with “new” kinds of barbarians (in this case, Scythians), become incorporated into the ideology of the mother city (see Figueira 1981.192–202, especially p. 199). In light of the fact that Archaic Miletus and Megara were as a rule linked together in rivalry against Corinth and were both predominant as the colonizers of the coastline of the Propontis and the Black Sea (Figueira 1985.276), I note that the poetic traditions of Megara, like those of Miletus, draw attention to the theme of Scythians. These Megarian poetic traditions are preserved in the corpus attributed to Theognis of Megara, where the ideology of Megara incorporates the ideologies of the daughter cities of Megara along with those of the mother city (N 1985.51§38n1 and Figueira 1985.127–128), and I cite here in particular the Scythian reference at Theognis 825–830 (with the commentary of Figueira 1985.146). Even the Theognidean vision of the kakoi, the ethically inferior, as sociopolitically inferior savages who threaten the polis from the outside (Theognis 53–68; cf. N 1985.44§29n4, 51§39n2, 54), may convey a colonial point of view adopted from a daughter city on the coast of the Black Sea (cf. Figueira 1985.129). In contemplating the partial “Scythian” characteristics of the Achilles figure in the mythological traditions of Miletus/Olbia (as surveyed by Pinney 1983, especially pp. 133–139; cf. Alcaeus F 354 V), I see a typological parallelism in the figure of Rostam in the Shāhnāma of Ferdowsi: this national hero of Iranian epic traditions has partial “foreign” characteristics that give form to his function as both “the Other,” an outsider, and “the Self,” an insider to the body politic as represented by the ruling shāh (see Davidson 1985, especially pp. 61–103). On the equation of the ephēboi ‘pre-adults’ of Elis with Scythians in Photius Lexicon s.v. συνέφηβοι, see Hartog 1980.59–79 (especially pp. 71–72) and Vidal-Naquet 1986.133.

[ back ] 97. Discussion in N 1979.29, 35–36, 38–40, 184, especially with reference to Iliad IX 413 and Odyssey xi 489–491.

[ back ] 98. Details in Pinney 1983.143n56 and 145n94, who accepts as early a dating as the late sixth century B.C. (p. 133); cf. N 1979.167 (I agree with the reservations expressed by Pinney, p. 144n64, about the thesis that Achilles was originally a god of the underworld). On names like Elusion ‘Elysium’ and Makarō n soi ‘Islands of the Blessed’ as simultaneous designations of a mythical place of immortalization and a ritual place of hero cult, see N, pp. 189–192.

[ back ] 99. N 1979.8§14n1: there I make clear that I part company with Griffin 1977, who thinks that the Homeric epics have screened out most of “the fantastic, the miraculous, and the romantic” (p. 40) elements characteristic of the Cycle because Homer was a superior or “unique” poet. (For a useful critique of Griffin’s position, see Young 1983.166n32.) Instead I would stress that the fantastic and the miraculous elements in the Cycle characterize the religious ideology of local cults, reflecting the more localized interests of individual city-states or groups of city-states. The same goes for the romantic element of love stories, again for the most part screened out by the Homeric epics: it goes without saying that love affairs lead to conceptions of heroes, a basic theme of genealogical poetic traditions that promote the localized interests of the status quo. On the relationship of Panhellenic poetic traditions with the more localized ktisis (‘foundation, colonization’) poetic traditions of various city-states, see N 1979.8§14n1 (with cross references) and especially pp. 139–141; also N 1982.63–64 and 1985.51§38n1 and 63§51n2.

[ back ] 100. For a helpful survey, see Allen 1924.72–75.

[ back ] 101. I use the concept of text in the broadened sense outlined at Ch. 2§3–6.

[ back ] 102. For a comprehensive survey of linguistic and other criteria that can be applied for an overall relative chronology, see Janko 1982.

[ back ] 103. Kullmann 1985, especially pp. 17–18n37.

[ back ] 104. A survey of Archaic Greek iconographical evidence, as assembled by Fittschen 1969 and juxtaposed by Kannicht 1982 with the evidence of Archaic Greek poetry, shows that the earliest identifiable pictorial responses to epic concern predominantly the themes of the Cycle, not those of the Iliad or Odyssey.

[ back ] 105. This explanation differs from the one offered by Kannicht, p. 85, who accounts for the relative absence of early pictorial references to the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey by arguing that the artistic limitations of early Greek iconographical traditions made it too difficult for these traditions to react to the great artistic achievements of the Iliad and Odyssey.

[ back ] 106. A similar point can be made in the case of the contrast between Iliad II 557–570 and Hesiod F 204.44–51, where both passages describe the extent of the dominion of the hero Ajax. As Finkelberg 1988 argues, the Homeric passage from the Iliad, part of the Catalogue of Ships, is more innovative than the Hesiodic passage in drastically restricting the realm of Ajax, even though the text fixation of the Homeric passage is presumably earlier than that of the Hesiodic. As Finkelberg also argues (pp. 39–40), the Homeric version is politically advantageous to Athens under the Peisistratidai and, secondarily, to Argos in the era of Pheidon, as also to Corinth and even to Sparta, while it is disadvantageous primarily to Megara. Such a version, which suits the politics of the more powerful city-states, is clearly more Panhellenic in scope than the Hesiodic version (which itself is distinct from the overtly pro-Megarian version: Finkelberg, p. 40). I should add that the parallelisms between Iliad II 557–570 and Hesiod F 204.44–51 (as illustrated by the underlinings in Finkelberg, pp. 32–33) suggest that the Homeric version reduces the realm of Ajax not so much by deleting elements found in the Hesiodic version but by augmenting the traditional elements and then reassigning the greater portion to figures other than Ajax.

[ back ] 107. On the Homeridai, see Ch. 1§10–12.

[ back ] 108. Cf. Ch. 1§10–12.

[ back ] 109. The basic testimonia are conveniently available in Allen 1924.228–229 and Burkert 1972.76n10. Cf. N 1979.165–166.

[ back ] 110. Tradition also has it that it was Lycurgus, lawgiver par excellence, who brought to Sparta the Homeric poems, which he acquired from the descendants of Kreophylos at Samos, according to Plutarch Life of L ycurgus 4. It is said of the poems that Lycurgus ‘had them written down’, ἐγράψατο, and that he then ‘assembled’ them (ibid.). I draw attention to a further detail in the narrative of Plutarch (ibid.): ἦν γάρ τις ἤδη δόξα τῶν ἐπῶν ἀμαυρὰ παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν, ἐκέκτηντο δὲ οὐ πολλοὶ μέρη τινά, σποράδην τῆς ποιήσεως, ὡς ἔτυχε, διαφερομένης· γνωρίμην δὲ αὐτὴν καὶ μάλιστα πρῶτος ἐποίησε Λυκοῦργος ‘for there was already a not-too-bright fame attached to these epics among the Greeks, and some of them were in possession of some portions, since the poetry had been scattered, carried here and there by chance, and it was Lycurgus who was the first to make it [= the poetry] well-known’ (ibid.). For an alternative tradition, according to which Lycurgus met Homer directly, see Ephorus FGH 70 F 103 and 149 (by way of Strabo 10.4.19 C482). The notion of a disassembled book, scattered here and there throughout the Greek world, and then reassembled for one particular time and place by a wise man credited with the juridical framework of his society, is parallel to the story about the making of the Book of Kings in the Iranian epic tradition. According to Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāma I 21.126–136, a noble vizier assembles mubad-s, wise men who are experts in the Law of Zoroaster, from all over the Empire, and each of these mubad-s brings with him a “fragment” of a long-lost Book of Kings that had been scattered to the winds; each of the experts is called upon to recite, in turn, his respective “fragment,” and the vizier composes a book out of these recitations. As Davidson 1985.123 points out, “It would seem from this passage that the authority of the unified Empire and of the unified Book of Kings is one.” The vizier reassembles the old book that had been disassembled, which in turn becomes the model for the Shāhnāma ‘Book of Kings’ of Ferdowsi (Shāhnāma I 23.156–161). We see here paradoxically a myth about the synthesis of oral traditions that is articulated in terms of written traditions, as Davidson argues in detail (pp. 111–127). For a comparable myth in Irish traditions, concerning the recovery of the “lost” Cattle Raid of Cúailnge, see [J. F.] Nagy 1986.292–293.

[ back ] 111. So also, perhaps, in the case of Kynaithos of Chios: it may well be that his “Homeric” repertory was not the Iliad and Odyssey. This Kynaithos, as we have seen, is said to have been the ‘first’ rhapsode to recite Homeric poetry at Syracuse, in the 69th Olympiad (504/1 B.C.), according to Hippostratus (FGH 568 F 5). By implication Kynaithos was the first recorded winner in a seasonally recurring festival at Syracuse that featured a competition of rhapsodes. Cf. Ch. 1§10–12. As another possible example of a distinct repertory, see Ch. 1§10 on Herodotus 5.67.1, where the reference to the “Homeric” repertory of the rhapsodes who were banned from Sikyon implies not the Iliad and Odyssey but rather an overall Seven against Thebes epic tradition. In the Contest of Homer and Hesiod 287–315 Allen, a myth tells how Homer visited the people of Argos, gave a performance there, and was subsequently given great honors by that city-state. In Callinus F 6 W, the Seven against Thebes is attributed to Homer. In contrast Herodotus 4.32 may be taking a stance that is detrimental to Argos when he expresses doubt whether the poet of the Epigonoi, the sequel to the Seven against Thebes, is indeed Homer.

[ back ] 112. Eleven books of the Cypria (Proclus summary, p. 102.10 Allen), five of the Aithiopis (p. 105.21), four of the Little Iliad (p. 106.19), two of the Destruction of Ilion (p. 107.16), five of the Nostoi (p. 108.15), and two of the Telegonia (p. 109.7).

[ back ] 113. A clear example is the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, where the functions that Hermes “wins” from Apollo correspond to earlier stages in patterns of differentiation involving the aoidos ‘singer’ and the mantis ‘seer’. The later stages of these patterns were taken over by the figure of Apollo. Discussion in N 1982.56–57.

[ back ] 114. See Ch. 1§20–21. On the associations of the Little Iliad of Lesches with the local traditions of Lesbos, see the discussion and bibliography in Aloni 1986.120–123. In general, Aloni’s book offers an interesting case in point illustrating the interdependence between two distinct narrative traditions owned by two distinct communities in conflict. The communities in question are the cities of Mytilene in Lesbos on the one hand and on the other Athens in the era of the Athenian dynasty of tyrants, the Peisistratidai. The focal point is “Trojan” Sigeion (cf. Herodotus 4.38.2), an outpost of Athenian power, founded by the Peisistratidai as an intrusion into a geographical area controlled by Mytilene, whose rival outpost was the Akhilleion (Herodotus 5.94.1–2; Sigeion was at the mouth of the river Skamandros: Herodotus 5.65.3). Aloni argues that the contemporary winners of the conflict, the Athenians, needed to appropriate at least part of the narrative traditions owned by the losers, the Mytilenaeans, in order to legitimize their own expansionistic presence in Sigeion (see especially pp. 65n8, 91). In the context of the conflicting claims of the Athenians and Mytilenaeans, note the use of the word apodeiknumi at Herodotus 5.94.2; cf. Ch. 6§31–33 (also Ch. 11§4–5). Note too the story of the duel to the death between the Athenian Phrynon, an Olympic winner, and the Mytilenaean Pittakos, tyrant and lawgiver, as recorded in Diogenes Laertius 1.74 and Strabo 13.1.38 C599–600 (and omitted in Herodotus 5.95: cf. Plutarch On the Malice of Herodotus 858ab). Both sources agree that the Mytilenaeans won in this conflict, only to lose later in an arbitration undertaken by Periandros, tyrant of Corinth (this aspect of the tradition is not omitted in Herodotus 5.95.2). The accretion of narrations concerning an earlier victory and a later loss by the Mytilenaeans recapitulates, it seems, a hierarchy of accommodations between rival narrative traditions: the ultimately losing side is pictured as having won first.

[ back ] 115. For a possible allusion to Contest of Homer and Hesiod tradition in Hesiod Works and Days 657, see N 1982.66.

[ back ] 116. Cf. Ch. 1§9–10 and following.

[ back ] 117. Allen 1924.64.

[ back ] 118. Cf. Kuryłowicz’s fourth law of analogy, as discussed at Introduction §13.

[ back ] 119. Cf., for example, Householder and Nagy 1972.785. For a restatement of the facts that necessitate the positing of an Aeolic phase in the evolution of Homeric diction: West 1988.162–163 (with bibliography).

[ back ] 120. Householder and Nagy, pp. 783–785.

[ back ] 121. As Huxley 1969.134–135 points out, there are also traces of Cypriote localization as the setting for Homeric Hymn 10, where the poet, in praying to Aphrodite as the queen of Salamis in Cyprus (10.5), treats her as a local Muse in asking her to give him a song that brings gratification (ibid.); also in Homeric Hymn 6, addressed to Aphrodite as queen of all Cyprus (6.2–3), where the poet prays that the goddess grant him victory in the competition: δὸς δ’ ἐν ἀγῶνι | νίκην τῷδε φέρεσθαι ‘grant that I carry away victory in this contest [ agōn ]’ (6.19–20).

[ back ] 122. Janko 1982.176 gives reasons for estimating 750 B.C. or thereabouts as the terminus post quem for any possible proliferation of early phases of the Cypria tradition on the island of Cyprus, but he doubts that Cyprus was “the area in which this tradition grew to maturity.”

[ back ] 123. The case is clear in Hesiodic poetry: despite its ultimate local provenience, Aeolic Boeotia, this poetry is more Ionic in diction than even Homeric poetry. See Janko 1982.85,197; cf. N 1982.70–72.

[ back ] 124. In Little Iliad F 12 Allen, however, as quoted by Clement Stromateis, the occurrences of α in place of η may suggest an Aeolic layer of transmission: see West 1971.308n3. Alternatively such occurrences may reflect editorial aeolicisms.

[ back ] 125. This point is stressed by Allen 1924.75.

[ back ] 126. It is the more complex pattern of the Homeric poems, where one level of narrative is being subordinated to another, as contrasted with the more simple pattern of the Cypria, that convinces Herodotus that the poet of the Cypria cannot be Homer. Further discussion in Ch. 14§14–16.

[ back ] 127. We have already seen that the city-state of Argos apparently attributed to Homer the entire Seven against Thebes tradition. See Ch. 2§44.

[ back ] 128. Allen 1924.71, who adds that the “work” of such a poet could have been “gradually taken from him” by the “survival and revelation of local tradition” (ibid.). I disagree with this additional point to the extent that I interpret the “revelation of local tradition” not as something that is taken away from Homeric poetry but rather as something that is generally rejected by Homeric poetry.

[ back ] 129. Allen, p. 76, where he speculates that, by the time of Peisistratos, “the Cycle was all but finished and the Homeric canon all but closed.”

[ back ] 130. For references on the Homeridai, cf. N 1979.165§25n4.

[ back ] 131. As Griffith 1983.58n82 suggests that I do in N 1979.5–6, 296–297.

[ back ] 132. To call such refinements “innovation,” however, can be deceptive: see Ch. 2§8–10.

[ back ] 133. Cf. Ch. 2§8–10. For a survey of conventions expressing the simultaneous appropriation of authority and authorship in Iranian poetic traditions, see Davidson 1985.103-142. In the conventions of Greek oral poetic traditions, self-identification is particularly appropriate in the context of the prooimion or ‘prelude’: brief discussion in N 1982.53.

[ back ] 134. As Griffith 1983.58n82, again, suggests that I do in N 1979.5–6, 296–297.

[ back ] 135. Cf. N 1979.295–300.

[ back ] 136. I explore this topic at length in N 1985.

[ back ] 137. See Ch. 1§10–12.

[ back ] 138. On categories of ownership of song (and/or dance), see Kunst 1958.2. See also the examples cited at Ch. 2§9–10. On the ownership, in North American Indian traditions, of personal songs obtained in the vision quest, see Merriam 1964.83. Cf. also Merriam and d’Azevedo 1957.623: “Most songs seem to have been embellished, consciously or unconsciously altered over time, combined, improvised, forgotten and ‘caught’ again in new form as one’s own. The last are thought of as ‘new’ or ‘my’ songs, but the singer has no inclination to hide the fact that he was influenced by another song, and that ‘I just changed it a little’. Nevertheless, it does become a ‘new’ song.” For bibliography on the relativity of the descriptive term improvisation, see Ch. 2§10n19.

[ back ] 139. As in Rwanda praise poetry, with memorization and remembering of the “original” composer by name: Finnegan 1977.79; cf. also p. 75. In Somali poetry: “A poet’s composition … becomes his own property, under his own name, and another poet reciting them has to acknowledge from whom he has learnt them” (Finnegan, p. 74). For a possible trace of this type of attribution in the South Slavic traditions, see Lord 1960.19–20.

[ back ] 140. Rwanda and Somali examples: Finnegan, p. 83. Cf. Merriam 1964.83 on the ownership of songs by kinship groups. See Boutière and Schutz 1950.xii on the Provençal convention that requires the joglar ‘performer’ to narrate the vida ‘life story’ of the trobador ‘composer’ whose composition he is about to perform. On the related genre of the razo (from Latin ratiō) as a sort of prelude, see Boutière and Schutz, p. xiii. The purpose is to recover the context of composition.

[ back ] 141. Kirk 1962.88–98 offers a different model of Homeric transmission, where his division into various successive stages presupposes a general pattern of decline. For a critique, see Jensen 1980.113–114.

[ back ] 142. There are instances where we have specific evidence that the transmission is regulated in the context of a hero cult in honor of the poet. See N 1979.304§4n3 on the cult of Archilochus; cf. also p. 124§9n1 on what appears to be a cult of a clearly historical figure, Pindar himself. See also the discussion in N 1982.49–51 on the cult of Hesiod, to be supplemented with the comments at Ch. 1§22–23. In this discussion it is argued that the traditions of Archaic Greek poetry already contain, as a built-in program, so to speak, the ideology that makes cult heroes of poets.

[ back ] 143. On the reenactment of the poet through re performance, see Ch. 12§66–69.