Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond

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Chapter 3

Mimesis of Homer and Beyond

The variant epithet of the Homeric nightingale’s voice in Odyssey xix (521), poludeukḗs ‘patterning in many different ways’, applies to Homer himself and—just as important—to those who perform Homer. In making this claim, I am arguing that Homer’s nightingale is in effect a model for Homer—and even for performers who model their identities on Homer—in her capacity to maintain continuity through variety. In other words, the song of the nightingale is a metaphor for the mimesis of Homer.

As a point of comparison, we may look back for a moment at the Provençal nightingale, who as we have seen is a model for the troubadour—in his capacity to ‘move’ the song. Looking at the actual Greek evidence, we may compare the epithet of the Hesiodic nightingale in the Works and Days (203), poikilódeiros ‘having a varied[-sounding] throat’, [1] who is in effect a model for Hesiod—in her capacity to raise her voice against the brutality of the hawk, as narrated in the aînos ‘fable’ about the hawk and the nightingale (Works and Days 202-212; aînos at verse 202); within the framework of this Hesiodic fable, the hawk and the nightingale become {59|60} negative and positive models respectively for king and poet, and the idea of ‘poet’ becomes explicit in the description of the nightingale as an aoidós ‘singer’ (verse 208). [2]

The driving idea of maintaining continuity through variety, as reconstructed for the epithet poludeukḗs ‘patterning in many ways’, is inherent also in the early meaning of rhapsōidós ‘rhapsode’. The etymology of this word, like that of poludeukḗs, reveals a central metaphor for the mimesis of Homer.

The metaphor implicit in the etymology of this word is actually made explicit in the syntax of a song composed by Pindar. More important, this metaphor is placed at the very beginning of that given song, Nemean 2.1–3. Most important of all, this metaphor at the beginning of Pindar’s song refers to the very beginning of a Homeric performance by the Homērídai ‘Sons of Homer’: ὅθεν περ καὶ Ὁμηρίδαι ῥαπτῶν ἐπέων τὰ πόλλ᾿ ἀοιδοὶ ἄρχονται, Διὸς ἐκ προοιμίου … ‘starting from the very point where [hóthen] the Homērídai, singers [aoidoí] of sewn-together [rhaptá] utterances [épē], most often take their start [= verb árkhesthai], from the prooimion of Zeus…’ (Pindar Nemean 2.1–3).

The prooímia or ‘preludes’ are represented in Pindar’s song as performances of the Homērídai ‘Sons of Homer’; this name applies to a lineage of rhapsodes in Chios who traced themselves back to an ancestor called Hómēros, or Homer (scholia to Pindar Nemean 2.1, Plato Phaedrus 252b, Strabo 14.1.33–35 C645, Contest {62|63} of Homer and Hesiod p. 226.13–15 Allen). [16] In terms of this representation in Pindar Nemean 2.1, it is the Homērídai who start the songs of Homer, and yet, paradoxically, they are not Homer himself but a continuum of descendants of Homer who keep on re-starting his song. The idea of continuum is further emphasized in the placement of the adverb hóthen ‘starting from the very point where’ as the very first word of Pindar’s song. Here we see another paradox: in the conventions of real prooímia, a performative marker like hóthen is transitional, expected to occur only after a given divinity has been invoked. [17] Having observed how Pindar’s song begins, let us look ahead to see how it ends: the celebrants are called upon to start the song (Nemean 2.25), and the idea of start is expressed at this point with the verb árkhesthai. Here we see yet another paradox: in the conventions of a real prooímion this word árkhesthai ‘start’ would be expected to occur at the beginning, not the end, of the song. To make such an ending that proceeds into its own beginning produces what has aptly been described by one critic as a looping effect. [18]

Eustathius, in his Commentary on the Iliad (1.10), quotes the Pindaric description (Nemean 2.1–3) of the Homērídai ‘Sons of Homer’ as ῥαπτῶν ἐπέων … ἀοιδοί ‘singers [aoidoí] of sewntogether [rhaptá] utterances [épē]’, interpreting these words as a periphrasis of the concept inherent in the word rhapsōidoí ‘rhapsodes’. He goes on to offer what he considers a second interpretation {66|67} (again, 1.10), claiming that this concept of sewing together can be taken either in the sense that we have seen made explicit in Pindar’s wording or in a more complex sense—a sense that is actually implicit in the same Pindaric wording—which emphasizes the characteristic unity of the Iliad and the Odyssey: ῥάπτειν δὲ ἢ ἁπλῶς, ὡς εἴρηται, τὸ συντιθέναι ἢ τὸ κατὰ εἱρμόν  τινα ῥαφῇ ὁμοίως εἰς ἓν ἄγειν τὰ διεστῶτα. σποράδην γάρ, φασί, κειμένης καὶ κατὰ μέρος διῃρημένης τῆς Ὁμηρικῆς ποιήσεως, οἱ ᾄδοντες αὐτὴν συνέρραπτον οἷον τὰ εἰς ἓν ὕφος ᾀδόμενα ‘sewing together [rháptein] either in the simple sense, as just mentioned, of putting together or, alternatively, in the sense of bringing different things, in accordance with some kind of sequencing [heirmós] in sewing [rhaphḗ], uniformly into one thing; for they say that Homeric poetry, after it had been scattered about and divided into parts, was sewn together [sun-rháptein] by those who sang it, like songs sung into a single fabric [húphos]’.

An analogous interpretation is given by the scholia to Pindar Nemean 2.1d: οἱ δέ φασι τῆς Ὁμήρου ποιήσεως μὴ ὑφ᾿ ἓν συνηγμένης, σποράδην δὲ ἄλλως καὶ κατὰ μέρη διῃρημένης, ὁπότε ῥαψῳδοῖεν αὐτήν, εἱρμῷ τινι καὶ ῥαφῇ παραπλήσιον ποιεῖν, εἰς ἓν αὐτὴν ἄγοντες ‘but some say that—since the poetry of Homer had not been brought together under one thing, but rather had been scattered about and divided into parts—when they performed it rhapsodically [rhapsōideîn], they would be doing something that is similar to sequencing [heirmós] or sewing [rhaphḗ], as they produced it into one thing’.

The scholia to Pindar Nemean 2.1d proceed to offer yet another version, which supposedly explains the naming of Homeric performers as rhapsodes: there was a time when each performer of the once-disintegrated Homeric poems sang whatever ‘part’ he wanted, and they were all competitors (τῶν ἀγωνιστῶν) for a prize of a lamb or arḗn, so that the performers were then called arnōidoí; but later, once the competitors (τοὺς ἀγωνιστάς) started to adjust each ‘part’ so as to achieve a totality (τὴν σύμπασαν ποίησιν ἐπιόντας), these performers were called rhapsōidoí: οἱ δέ, ὅτι κατὰ μέρος πρότερον τῆς ποιήσεως διαδεδομένης τῶν ἀγωνιστῶν ἕκαστος ὅ τι βούλοιτο μέρος ᾖδε, τοῦ δὲ ἄθλου τοῖς νικῶσιν ἀρνὸς ἀποδεδειγμένου προσαγορευθῆναι τότε μὲν ἀρνῳδούς, αὖθις δὲ ἑκατέρας τῆς ποιήσεως {67|68} εἰσενεχθείσης τοὺς ἀγωνιστὰς οἷον ἀκουμένους πρὸς ἄλληλα τὰ μέρη καὶ τὴν σύμπασαν ποίησιν ἐπιόντας, ῥαψῳδοὺς προσαγορευθῆναι, ταῦτά φησι Διονύσιος ὁ Ἀργεῖος ‘others say that previously—since the poetry had been divided part by part, with each of the competitors singing whichever part he wanted, and since the designated prize for the winners had been a lamb—[those competitors] were in those days called arnōidoí [= lamb-singers], but then, later on—since the competitors, whenever each of the two poems [29] was introduced, were mending the parts to each other, as it were, and moving toward the whole poem—they were called rhapsōidoí. These things are said by Dionysius of Argos [between 4th and 3rd centuries BCE; FGH 308 F 2]’. We will return to some of the details of these versions at a later point, especially to the image of a disintegrated totality that suddenly becomes reintegrated.

In the esthetics of sewing, as conveyed by the verb rháptein, one’s attention centers on the totality of the Gestalt that has been sewn together, not on the constituent parts. For an attention-getting example, we may consider the following description of a type of fashionably tailored khitṓn worn by the young women of Sparta to show off their beauty: τῷ γὰρ ὄντι τοῦ παρθενικοῦ χιτῶνος αἱ πτέρυγες οὐκ ἦσαν συνερραμμέναι κάτωθεν, ἀλλ᾿ {68|69} ἀνεπτύσσοντο καὶ συνανεγύμνουν ὅλον ἐν τῷ βαδίζειν τὸν μηρόν ‘for in fact the flaps of the khitṓn worn by their young women were not sewn together [rháptein] at the lower ends, and so they would fly back and bare the whole thigh as they walked’ (Plutarch Comparison of Lycurgus and Numa 3.4). Just exactly where you sew together—and where you leave off sewing together—becomes an exquisite art of tailoring to suit the senses and the sensibilities of the viewer.

In another attested report about this same subject, Diogenes Laertius 1.57, we find the same emphasis on the rhapsodes’ being forced to perform Homer in a fixed sequence: τά τε Ὁμήρου ἐξ ὑποβολῆς γέγραφε ῥαψῳδεῖσθαι, οἷον ὅπου ὁ πρῶτος ἔληξεν, ἐκεῖθεν ἄρχεσθαι τὸν ἐχόμενον ‘he [Solon the Lawgiver] wrote a law that the works of Homer were to be performed rhapsodically [rhapsōideîn], by relay [ex hupobolēs], so that wherever the first person left off, from that point the next person would start’. We have here clear traces of different versions of the foundation myth: this time, the culture hero who is given credit for the institutional reality of rhapsodic performances is Solon the Lawgiver, not Hipparkhos, son of the tyrant Peisistratos. Further below, we will examine still other different versions, which attribute the institution to Peisistratos himself. For now, however, let us concentrate not on the transformations of this foundation myth, which serve to suit different political climates in different historical periods, but rather on one single aspect of the myth, the detail about rhapsodic sequencing.

The esthetics of rhapsodic sequencing, where each performer takes up the song precisely where the last one left off, are in fact built into the contents of Homeric poetry: much as rhapsodes sing in sequence, each one taking his turn after another (“Plato,” Hipparchus 228b and Diogenes Laertius 1.57), so also the Iliad represents the heroes Patroklos and Achilles as potentially rhapsodic performers of epic. While Achilles, becoming the ultimate paradigm for singers, is represented as actually performing the epic songs of heroes, kléa andrôn ‘glories of men’ in Iliad IX (189), Patroklos is waiting for his own turn, in order to take up the song precisely where Achilles will have left off: {71|72}

τὸν δ’ εὗρον φρένα τερπόμενον φόρμιγγι λιγείῃ
καλῇ δαιδαλέῃ, ἐπὶ δ’ ἀργύρεον ζυγὸν ἦεν,
τὴν ἄρετ’ ἐξ ἐνάρων πόλιν Ἠετίωνος ὀλέσσας·
τῇ ὅ γε θυμὸν ἔτερπεν, ἄειδε δ’ ἄρα κλέα ἀνδρῶν.
Πάτροκλος δέ οἱ οἶος ἐναντίος ἧστο σιωπῇ,
δέγμενος Αἰακίδην ὁπότε λήξειεν ἀείδων

And they [the members of the embassy] found him [Achilles] delighting his spirit with a clear sounding lyre,
beautiful and well-wrought, and there was a silver bridge on it.
He won it out of the spoils after he destroyed the city of Eetion.
Now he was delighting his spirit with it, and he sang the glories of men [kléa andrôn].
But Pátroklos, all alone, was sitting, facing him, in silence,
waiting for whatever moment the Aeacid would leave off singing.

Iliad IX 184–191

Both the plural usage here of kléa andrôn ‘glories of men’ (as opposed to singular kléos ‘glory’) and the meaning of the name Patrokléēs are pertinent to the rhapsodic implications of this passage: “it is only through Patrokléēs ‘he who has the kléa [glories] of the ancestors’ that the plurality of performance, that is, the activation of tradition, can happen.” [
36] So long as Achilles alone sings the kléa andrôn ‘glories of men’, these heroic glories cannot be heard by anyone but Patroklos alone. Once Achilles leaves off and Patroklos starts singing, however, the continuum that is the kléa andrôn—the Homeric tradition itself—can at long last become activated. This is the moment awaited by Patrokléēs ‘he who has the kléa [glories] of the ancestors’. [37] In this Homeric image of {72|73} Patroklos waiting for his turn to sing, then, we have in capsule form the esthetics of rhapsodic sequencing. [38]

The poet as rhapsode is the ultimate performer, but he is also the ultimate composer—at least from the standpoint of myth. The esthetics of sewing as a metaphor for singing highlight, as we will now see, both the technique and the product of poetic craftsmanship.

Let us begin with the name of Homer, Hómēros. The meaning of this name can be correlated with the traditional status of Homer as author. [41] The further we go back in time, the greater the repertoire attributed to this author, including in the earlier times all the so-called Cycle, all the Theban epics, and so on. [42] In fact, the very notion of “Cycle” had once served as a metaphor for all of Homer’s poetry. [43] I propose that the metaphor of kúklos as the sum total of Homeric poetry goes back to the meaning of kúklos as ‘chariot-wheel’ (Iliad XXIII 340, plural kúkla at V 722). The metaphor of comparing a well-composed song to a well-crafted chariot-wheel is explicitly articulated in the poetic traditions of Indo-European languages (as in Rig-Veda 1.130.6); more generally in the Greek poetic traditions, there is a metaphor comparing the craft of the master carpenter or ‘joiner’—the téktōn—to the art of the poet (as in Pindar Pythian 3.112-114). [44] Further, the root ar of ararískein ‘join, fit together’ (the verb refers to the activity of the carpenter in the expression ἤραρε τέκτων ‘the joiner [téktōn] joined together [ar]’ in Iliad IV 110, XXIII 712) is shared by the word that means ‘chariot-wheel’ in the Linear B texts, harmo (Knossos tablets Sg 1811, So 0437, etc.). Most important of all for my argument, the same root ar is evidently shared by the name of Homer, Hómēros, the etymology of which can be explained as ‘he who joins together’ (homo plus ar). [45] Thus the making of the {74|75} kúklos by the master poet Homer appears to be a global metaphor that pictures the crafting of the ultimate chariot-wheel by the ultimate carpenter or, better, ‘joiner’. This traditional pattern of thinking matches the classification of both the aoidós ‘singer’ and the téktōn ‘carpenter, joiner’ under the category of dēmiourgós or ‘itinerant artisan’ in Odyssey xvii (381–385). [46]

Implicit in this parallelism is the following complex proportionality of metaphors: the carpenter of song is to the joiner of song as the one who weaves the song is to the one who sews together or stitches the song, that is, to the rhapsōidós. In other words, just as a joiner is a master craftsman, capable of special feats of craftsmanship like the making of a chariot-wheel out of pieces of woodwork already made by himself or by other carpenters, so also the stitcher, one who sews together pieces of fabric already woven, is a master craftsman in his own right, fashioning something altogether “new” that is tailor-made to suit a given form. {75|76} Thus the metaphor of a joiner or a stitcher, as distinct from a carpenter or a weaver, conveys the idea of a master singer. I hasten to add that the English word stitcher may be inappropriate for expressing the esthetics of a master’s handiwork, in that stitch implies something makeshift, as if stitchwork were simply patchwork. More appropriate than stitcher—at least esthetically, perhaps—is tailor. Related images that come to mind are connector and conductor. In any case, just as Hómēros is the ultimate ‘joiner’, so also the poetry of Homer becomes the handiwork of the ultimate rhapsōidós, the one who sews the songs together.

Whichever way myth figures the creation of Homeric poetry, whether it be a joiner’s chariot wheel or a “tailor’s” perfect fit, the actual creation is viewed as happening at a remote point in time, not over time. From the standpoint of the myth, it is as if there had been a “big bang” that produced a fixed pattern of composition, which led to a fixed pattern of performance or both.

In myth, the nature of events is radically different, and their order is reversed: a moment of fixation in composition leads to a moment of fixation in performance. As we look back at the foundation myths we have already considered, we see that the establishment of a fixed sequence in Homeric performance is viewed by the myths as a moment in time, coming after the fact of composition, which must go back to an earlier moment in time. The fixity of this composition is visualized as a totality created once upon a time by Homer, the “original” culture hero. In the version of the myth that we are now considering, this totality is then disintegrated, only to become reintegrated at the initiative of a subsequent culture hero, whose role is claimed by a succession of historical figures ranging from Solon to Peisistratos to the son of Peisistratos. The process of reintegration is a matter of making sure that the totality of the “original” composition will be performed in the right sequence. Let us review the wording of {77|78} Eustathius: ῥάπτειν δὲ ἢ ἁπλῶς, ὡς εἴρηται, τὸ συντιθέναι ἢ τὸ κατὰ εἱρμόν τινα ῥαφῇ ὁμοίως εἰς ἓν ἄγειν τὰ διεστῶτα. σποράδην γάρ, φασί, κειμένης καὶ κατὰ μέρος διῃρημένης τῆς Ὁμηρικῆς ποιήσεως, οἱ ᾄδοντες αὐτὴν συνέρραπτον οἷον τὰ εἰς ἓν ὕφος ᾀδόμενα ‘sewing together [rháptein] either in the simple sense, as just mentioned, of putting together or, alternatively, in the sense of bringing different things, in accordance with some kind of sequence [heirmós] in sewing [rhaphḗ], uniformly into one thing; for they say that Homeric poetry, after it had been scattered about and divided into separate parts, was sewn together [sun-rháptein] by those who sang it, like songs sung into a single fabric [húphos]’. This time, let us concentrate on the idea that the totality had been scattered about and divided into separate parts, only to be later reassembled, or sewn together, by those who sing it.

According to this version, four men were commissioned by Peisistratos, tyrant of Athens in the second half of the sixth century BCE, to supervise the ‘arranging’ of the Homeric poems, which were before then ‘scattered about’ (διέθηκαν οὑτωσὶ σποράδην οὔσας τὸ πρίν: Tzetzes in Anecdota Graeca 1.6 ed. {78|79} Cramer). [57] There is a parallel narrative reported in Aelian Varia Historia 13.14, where the introduction of Homeric poetry to Sparta by Lycurgus the Lawgiver is explicitly compared to a subsequent introduction of the Iliad and Odyssey to Athens by Peisistratos. A further detail of interest can be found in Cicero De oratore 3.137: Peisistratos, supposedly one of the Seven Sages (septem fuisse dicuntur uno tempore, qui sapientes et haberentur et vocarentur), [58] was so learned and eloquent that “he is said to be the first person ever to have arranged the scrolls of Homer, previously scattered about, in the order that we have today” (qui primus Homeri libros confusos antea sic disposuisse dicitur, ut nunc habemus). [59] The detail concerning the division of Homeric poems into separate scrolls which then become separated from each other reflects the outlook of a later era, when the Iliad and Odyssey were in fact each divided into twenty-four papyrus scrolls. We have already seen the same detail reflected in the third of the three alternative explanations offered by Eustathius concerning the ultimate sewing together of the Homeric poems: according to this third version, the separate parts are conceived as scrolls, which are equated with rhapsōidíai. [60] We will consider in more detail at a later point the historical division of the Iliad and Odyssey each into twenty-four scrolls. Suffice it to conclude, for now, that all the various accounts of a supposedly original Athenian reception of Homeric poetry have inspired a modern construct that has come to be known among Classicists as the “Peisistratean recension.” [61] {79|80}

Despite the metaphor of a written text, this version of the foundation myth, just like the others, centers not on proving the hypothetical existence of some unattested textual transmission of Homer but rather on explaining the institutional reality of ongoing performances of Homeric song at the Feast of the Panathenaia in Athens. That is, the myth is concerned with the performance of Homer, the mimesis of Homer—in the archaic sense of that word. Throughout this chapter, it has been argued that the rhapsode, the performer of Homer, is engaged in a mimesis that re-creates not only the characters of heroic song but also the composer and prototypical performer of that song, Homer himself.

From a modern point of view that sees Homer as the author of a text, the re-creating of a real Homer in the performance of a rhapsode may not even seem to be a matter of mimesis. Even for Plato and Aristotle, a straightforward third-person narration in heroic song is technically a matter of diegesis or ‘narration’ as opposed to mimesis. In contemplating the “I” of “tell me, Muses” or “tell me, Muse,” we find ourselves at a loss in finding the element of the mimetic—or, to say it in a more modern way, the dramatic. And yet, my claim is that this “I” is perhaps the most dramatic of all the characters in heroic song—once we see this song on the level of performance as well as composition. This “I” is Homer speaking. For us, however, his role is no longer overt as it had been for audiences of Homeric song, and Homer has lost his power as a dramatic persona.

We can see clearly the complementarity of epos and tragedy from the wording of Aristotle, at the beginning of the Poetics, who puts at the head of his list of poetic forms the pair that he calls epopoiía ‘making of epos’ and tragōidías poíēsis ‘making of tragedy’: {81|82} ἐποποιία δὴ καὶ ἡ τῆς τραγῳδίας ποίησις, ἔτι δὲ κωμῳδία, καὶ ἡ διθυραμβοποιητική, καὶ τῆς αὐλητικῆς καὶ κιθαριστικῆς, πᾶσαι τυγχάνουσιν οὖσαι μιμήσεις τὸ σύνολον ‘the making of épos [epopoiía] and the making [poíēsis] of tragedy, also comedy, and the making [poiētikē] of dithyrambs, and the [making] of reed-songs and lyre-songs—all these are in point of fact forms of mímēsis, by and large’ (Aristotle Poetics 1447a14–15). In effect, Aristotle is here pairing off the forms of epos and tragedy as genres, but the status of these forms as genres derives from their complementarity not only as media of composition but also, explicitly, as media of performance. The prerequisite of performance is made explicit by Aristotle’s assertion here that all these forms of songmaking are a matter of mimesis. Thus whenever Aristotle’s Poetics draws our attention to the tragic features of Homeric epos and to the epic features of evolving tragedy (especially chapters 23–24), we have reason to think that such marks of mutual assimilation between two genres result from complementarity of traditions in performance, not just composition. Such complementarity is reflected in the usage of the verb of mimesis in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo.

Once we distance ourselves from the idea of a “fictional” dimension in the performance of archaic Greek song and poetry, we acquire a ready counterargument to Plato’s reasoning in the {85|86} Laws, which promotes the idea that Athenian State Theater appropriates real genres from real occasions and makes them make-believe. A case in point is the thrênos, a kind of lamentation. As Nicole Loraux points out, the condemnation of mimesis as a representative of theater in general and of tragedy in particular is specifically correlated in Plato’s Republic Scroll III (395d-e) with the condemnation of imitating women’s behavior, especially when it comes to lamentation. [81] For Plato, a lament must be implicitly a lament in “real life,” where real living persons mourn for a real dead person in a song that marks a real occasion, while a thrênos in tragedy is supposedly an imitation, a fiction, where make-believe persons mourn for a make-believe dead person in a song that merely imitates a real occasion. As we now see, however, from a deeper reading of mimesis as re-enactment, the songs of lamentation in State Theater are really archetypal. They are prototypes, as it were, of the “real-life” laments of “real-life” people. Far from being an intended imitation of a “real-life” genre, the dramatized thrênos of Athenian State Theater can be seen as an intended model. There is an authority inherent in mimesis, and this authority confers an absolute status upon the person or thing to be re-enacted.

So also with laments that are quoted, as it were, in Homeric performance. When the rhapsode performs Andromache’s lament, he is Andromache, singing her lament, just as he is Homer when we hear in the Homeric poems: “tell me, Muses,” or “tell me, Muse.” So also, finally, with the lament of the nightingale in Odyssey xix (518–523): the songbird’s beautiful sad song is being chosen by an epic character as a model for her own epic self-expression. Moreover, in narrating the lyric lament of the nightingale, epic imitates it as a model. This way, epic is not only imitating but actually re-enacting lyric, drawing on its own resources of mimesis. {86|87}


[ back ] 1. In translating poikilódeiros as ‘having a varied[-sounding] throat’ (ἀηδόνα ποικιλόδειρον in Hesiod Works and Days 203), I follow the reasoning of Irwin 1974:72–73 on khlōraúkhēn, conventionally translated as ‘green-throated’, which serves as epithet of the nightingale in Simonides PMG 586.2 (ἀηδόνες … χλωραύχενες): “there is nothing noteworthy about the plumage on the neck of the nightingale to cause Simonides to mention the colour of their necks. The neck or throat is only noteworthy as the source of the music the nightingale sings. If one observes a song-bird, one can see the throbbing of the throat as he pours forth his song.” See ch. 1n1. On the element poikilo ‘varied, patterned’ in poikilódeiros ‘having a varied[sounding] throat’, epithet of the Hesiodic nightingale, we may recall the comment of Aelian De natura animalium 5.38 on the variant epithet of the Homeric nightingale at Odyssey xix 521, poludeukḗs, which he glosses as τὴν ποικίλως μεμιμημένην ‘making imitation [mimesis] in a varied [poikílōs] way’. The element poikilo ‘varied’ is parallel to aiolo ‘varied’, as in the epithet for the nightingale in Oppian Halieutica 1.728, aoilóphōnos (ἀηδόνος αἰολοφώνου). For more on aiolo ‘varied’, see also the next note. On the paradox of a monochrome exterior in form and a colorful interior in content, see also pp. 65–66.

[ back ] 2. BA 238–241; also PH 256 and 312. On the poet or aoidós ‘singer’ as an aēdṓn ‘nightingale’, see also Theocritus 16.44, where the lyric master Simonides as described as the aoidós ‘singer’ of Keos (ἀοιδὸς ὁ Κήιος), who makes his aióla ‘varied’ songs (αἰόλα φωνέων) to the tune of his many-stringed lyre (on poikílos ‘varied’ as a attribute of the lyre, cf. Pindar Olympian 4.2); in Bacchylides 3.98, the poet actually calls himself the nightingale of Keos (Κηΐας ἀηδόνος). While the image of a nightingale serves as an ultimate model for Bacchylides as poet, the image of his maternal uncle Simonides as a nightingale is surely an immediate model. According to Democritus B 154 DK, all human singers are disciples of the nightingale.

[ back ] 3. PH 21–28; also GM [1982] 40–47.

[ back ] 4. GM 42, based on a formulation made in N 1982. This formulation is corroborated by the article of Ford 1988.

[ back ] 5. In Plato Ion 535e–536a, performers of epic and of drama are imagined as Middle Rings in relation to the poets of epic and of drama, who are First Rings, whereas the audiences watching rhapsodes performing Homer—and the audiences watching actors performing drama in the theater—are the Last Rings. Cf. PH 21–22.

[ back ] 6. Instances of “tell me, Muses!” in the Iliad: II 484, XI 218, XIV 508, XVI 112. An instance of “tell me, Muse!”: Iliad II 761, on which see Martin 1989:238.

[ back ] 7. GM 26–27; cf. BA 15–18.

[ back ] 8. GM 26–27.

[ back ] 9. GM 26–27.

[ back ] 10. Eliot 1941 [1963]:199.

[ back ] 11. Schmitt 1967:300–301 (with a definitive discussion of the morphology of rhapsōidós), Durante 1976:177–179, BA 298 par. 10n5 and PH 28. On the accent of rhapsōidós, see Durante p. 177.

[ back ] 12. Such a theme is particularly appropriate to a Nemean song celebrating a victory at the Nemean Games, over which Zeus presides: see the scholia to Pindar Nemean 2.1a.

[ back ] 13. GM 53–54.

[ back ] 14. PH 22 (especially n23), 376.

[ back ] 15. BA 5–6, 8–9; PH 375–377.

[ back ] 16. A fuller collection of references in PH 23. On an alternative tradition, which attributes the final form of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo not to Homer but to Kynaithos of Chios, a rhapsode who supposedly could not trace himself back to Homer (scholia to Pindar Nemean 2.1), see PH 22–23, with further bibliography.

[ back ] 17. Cf. PH 356–357.

[ back ] 18. Kurke 1991:43; cf. Mullen 1982:234n36 and PH 357.

[ back ] 19. PH 353. The genitive of oímē in Odyssey viii 74, marking the point of departure for the performance of the first song of Demodokos, is functionally a genitive of origin, parallel to the origin-marking adverb hóthen ‘starting from the very point where’ in Pindar’s representation of the prooímion at Nemean 2.1.

[ back ] 20. Durante 1976:176–177, pace Chantraine DELG s.v. οἴμη. Durante points out (p. 177) that there is an analogous metaphor inherited by Latin exordium, the semantic equivalent of Greek prooímion. He also argues persuasively (pp. 176–177) that oímē is cognate with oîmos; though the discussion of Chantraine (s.v. οἴμη) is inconclusive on this matter, at least it is made clear that oîmos (from *hoîmos, as evident in Attic phroímion) cannot be derived from eîmi ‘go’. If indeed oímē is to be interpreted etymologically as ‘song-thread’, we may compare the semantics of Latin fīlum dēdūcere ‘draw out a thread’, as analyzed in ch. 2.

[ back ] 21. Schmitt 1967:300–301, Durante 1976:177–179, BA 298 par. 10n5 and PH 28.

[ back ] 22. Schmitt 1967:298–300. I disagree with Scheid and Svenbro 1994:119–138 when they argue that there was no such metaphor in archaic Greek poetics—until a terminus post quem which they set in the era of choral lyric, as pioneered by the likes of Simonides and Pindar. I agree with Koller 1956:177 that the expression ἀοιδῆς ὕμνον ‘húmnos of the song’ in Odyssey viii 429 conveys the idea of the totality of performance (cf. PH 354n77 and 1990b:54n56); further, despite the reservations of Chantraine DELG s.v. ὕμνος, I think that húmnos derives from huphaínein in the metaphorical sense of a ‘web’ or ‘fabric’ of song. See also below on the usage of húmnos in Hesiod F 357.

[ back ] 23. Schmitt 1967:300. Scheid and Svenbro 1994:119–138 argue that this kind of explicit reference to weaving as a metaphor for songmaking is absent in Homeric diction. It can be counter-argued that the Homeric usage of húmnos and oímē, as discussed above, points to a survival of metaphors for songmaking as weaving and sewing respectively. It is preferable to say “survival” because Scheid and Svenbro p. 121 seem to me justified in emphasizing that Homeric expressions like the verb huphaínein + mêtis as object, meaning ‘I weave a ruse’ (e.g. Iliad VII 324, Odyssey iv 739), or like rháptein + kaká as object , meaning ‘I sew together evil things’ (e.g. Iliad XVIII 367, Odyssey iii 118), are preoccupied with the idea of constructing evil words or plans to the detriment of others. But we must keep in mind that Homeric poetry portrays many negative or negativized kinds of songmaking and poetry, as in the case of the Sirens in Odyssey xii 189–191 (cf. BA 271, Pucci 1979). Such a pattern of negativization seems to have extended, at least in part, to the metaphors of weaving or sewing as singing, as we see from the example of Iliad III 125–128, where Helen is represented not as singing while weaving, which is the conventional Homeric image, but as weaving the epic theme of the evils suffered, on her account, by both Achaeans and Trojans in the Trojan War: instead of a positive reference to a woman’s performance of a song while the woman weaves, the narrative here gives a negative reference to the composition of the song, which is not literally sung by Helen but instead woven by her into the fabric (BA 294–295 par. 5n7, with further bibliography). Such a substitution of content for form is parallel to what seems to be a tendency of phasing out, in Homeric diction, the application of metaphors of weaving or sewing to the form of singing. If the metaphor tends to become restricted to the content of singing, then its explicitness may indeed become blurred. When a Homeric character weaves words or sews words together, these words are tantamount to “singing” in that they could be performed or “sung” by the Homeric medium, but they are not explicitly represented as singing. It is important to reconsider in this light the collocation of the verb huphaínein ‘weave’ with mûthos as object in Iliad III 212, as incisively analyzed by Martin 1989:95–96. In brief, the Homeric tradition may have preserved only vestiges of these metaphors in a positive or at least neutral sense.

[ back ] 24. Schmitt 1967:14–15, Dubuisson 1989:223; on Latin textus, see Scheid and Svenbro 1994:139–162, especially p. 160 with reference to Quintilian Institutio oratoria 9.4.13.

[ back ] 25. This Hesiodic epithet of the nightingale seems to stem from an early version of what we know from later versions as the story of Procne, who was turned into a nightingale. Let us review here the best-known later version of the story, Ovid Metamorphoses 6.412-674. After Tereus rapes Procne’s sister Philomela , he cuts out her tongue, but Philomela weaves a fabric that tells her sad tale (lines 576–578), and her sister Procne then “reads the pitiful song” (carmen miserabile legit 582) from the fabric. Segal 1994:267 remarks: “Procne, the tale’s first ‘reader,’ unrolls (evolvit [verse 581]) the woven narrative as a contemporary of Ovid would unroll the poem; and she is the model for the later reader’s immediate reaction. What she finds is a tale whose pain lies beyond the power of words [reference to verse 583, quoted above at ch. 1n100].” In Ovid’s version (verses 667–669), it is not specified which one of the two tragic women is turned into a nightingale and which one, into a swallow. In any case, the image of a varied fabric of song is inherent, as already proposed, in poikilódeiros ‘having a varied [sounding] throat’ (Hesiod Works and Days 203; I disagree here with West 1978:206). If this proposal is justified, then we have here another counterexample to the argument that the metaphor of weaving as songmaking is not attested before Simonides and Pindar. With reference to the myth of Procne and Philomela, as reflected in Sophocles’ tragedy Tereus (F 595 ed. Radt), Aristotle Poetics 1454b37 takes note of the expression κερκίδος φωνή ‘voice of the shuttle [kerkís]’. In Aristophanes Frogs 1316, the shuttle (kerkís) is described as a ‘singer’ (aoidós). In Greek Anthology 6.174.5, the shuttle (kerkís) is metaphorically equated with the nightingale. It may be pertinent to the mythical detail about the cutting-out of Philomela’s tongue that the nightingale is described in [“Aristotle”] Historia animalium 616b8 as bereft of a tongue-tip (ἴδιον … τὸ μὴ ἔχειν τῆς γλώσσης τὸ ὀξύ). On the general topic of metaphorical connections between the nightingale and the process of weaving, see Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994:155–156; cf. Seaford 1994:56.

[ back ] 26. Such a paradox may be viewed as a working convention within the tradition. See HQ 80–89, 91–93, 101–104, 109–111.

[ back ] 27. Cf. Pfeffer 1985:26.

[ back ] 28. Cf. Pfeffer 1985:38.

[ back ] 29. The expression ἑκατέρας τῆς ποιήσεως ‘each of the two poems’ specifies, it seems, that the Iliad and the Odyssey are meant.

[ back ] 30. See ch. 6.

[ back ] 31. There is a more detailed discussion in HQ 70–75.

[ back ] 32. See also PH 52–81, HQ ch. 3. For bibliography on the claim of the Peisistratidai to be descended from the Homeric Peisistratos, son of Nestor, see PH 155. On the effects of the régime of the Peisistratidai on the contents of Homeric poetry, especially the Odyssey, see also Catenacci 1993 (at pp. 7–8n2, he offers a useful summary of the arguments of Aloni 1984 and 1986). All this is not to deny that there may well have been earlier associations of Nestor and his lineage with the lineages of other historical dynasties, such as those at Colophon and Miletus. See Janko 1992:134, with bibliography. I agree with Janko that the earlier Ionic phase of Homeric transmission is decisive, but I note that he too, like me, posits a later Attic phase as well (p. 37): “the superficial Attic traits in the epic diction do prove that Athens played a major role in the transmission, and this must be related to the Pisistratids’ patronage of Homeric poetry.” I disagree, however, when Janko goes on to say that the Peisistratidai “probably procured the first complete set of rolls to cross the Aegean.” It may be enough to claim that the Peisistratidai introduced the Homeric performance tradition from Ionia, probably from Chios.

[ back ] 33. The archaizing phraseology of the entire passage about Hipparkhos in “Plato” Hipparchus 228b–229d, only a small portion of which is quoted above, is strikingly consistent in leaving unspecified the question of authorship and in emphasizing instead the fact of authority, which is expressed as sophía ‘expertise’ in the understanding of poetry; this sophía is in turn implicitly equated with sophía in performing this poetry, without specification of the process of actually composing the poetry. For further details, see PH 161.

[ back ] 34. When Hipparkhos ‘brings over’, by ship, the poet Anacreon to Athens (“Plato” Hipparchus 228c), the word used, komízein, is the same verb used earlier to designate his ‘bringing over’ the épē ‘poetic utterances’ of Homer in the passage quoted here (228b). By providing the people of Athens with the poetry and songmaking of Homer, Anacreon, and Simonides (the latter is coupled with Anacreon, 228c), Hipparkhos ostensibly demonstrates to them that he is not ‘stinting with his sophía’ (σοφίας φθονεῖν: cf. PH 161), as if it was his sophía that had somehow generated the performances of these poets. We may infer that the application of komízein to the songs of Anacreon and, by extension, to those of Simonides is made parallel to the application of this same word to the poetry of Homer because Hipparkhos did not simply invite these poets for a single occasion of performance but rather institutionalized such performances in contests of kitharōidía ‘lyre-singing’ at the festival of the Panathenaia (on which subject cf. PH 98, 104), parallel to contests of rhapsōidía at the same festival.

[ back ] 35. Further discussion in PH 21–24. Lycurgus Against Leokrates 102 says that a customary law at Athens required that only the épē ‘poetic utterances’ of Homer could be performed at the Panathenaia; he is speaking at a time when “Homer” is generally held to be the “author” of only the Iliad and Odyssey. Cf. HQ 38. In the passage from “Plato” Hipparchus 228b-c, moreover, it is presupposed that there were already epic performances by the rhapsodes at the Panathenaia before Hipparkhos brought the épē of Homer to Athens. It seems, by implication, that these newer épē were exclusively the Iliad and Odyssey.

[ back ] 36. PH 202.

[ back ] 37. It could be argued that Patroklos as the solo audience of Achilles becomes interchangeable with the general audience of the Iliad. On the Homeric device of creating an effect of interchangeability between characters of epic and members of an audience, see Frontisi-Ducroux 1986; cf. Russo and Simon 1968. For a compelling interpretation of the self-referentiality conveyed by the image of Achilles singing the kléa andrôn ‘glories of men’, see Martin 1989:234–236, who also discusses in this context the special effects of apostrophe in the Homeric passages where the narrator addresses Patroklos in the second person.

[ back ] 38. In Cicero’s Laws (1.3.9) and Pro Caelio (18), contexere is used in the sense of taking up the activity of weaving, texere, where it had been interrupted and thus left off; this idea is applied metaphorically to the process of literary composition, including poetic composition. Cf. Scheid and Svenbro 1994:150–151. In this sense, con-text is a matter of continuity.

[ back ] 39. I refer back to the argumentation in ch. 2.

[ back ] 40. Scheid and Svenbro 1994:120 concede that the concept of rhapsōidós is driven by the metaphor of songmaking as sewing together. Still, they argue that this metaphor cannot be taken further back and applied to Homer. In their view, as we have seen, the metaphors of weaving and sewing together did not exist before the era of Simonides and Pindar. I disagree, having just argued that these metaphors are at least residually attested in even the earliest evidence and that the concept of Homer as rhapsode is basic to Homer.

[ back ] 41. PH 52–81.

[ back ] 42. PH 70–79.

[ back ] 43. Pfeiffer 1968:73; HQ 38.

[ back ] 44. BA 297–300, interpreting the evidence assembled by Schmitt 1967:296–298.

[ back ] 45. BA 300. Bader 1989:269n114 attempts to connect the root *seH ‘sew’ with the Hóm of Hómēros, though she makes clear that her proposed etymology poses some phonological difficulties. While I agree with her that hómēros in the sense of ‘hostage’ may possibly be compatible with the metaphorical world of the root *seH, homo ‘together’ plus the root of ararískein ‘fit, join’ is an even more plausible etymology for a noun meaning ‘hostage’, given the social metaphors inherent in the derivatives of ararískein (cf. Chantraine DELG s.v. ἀραρίσκω, especially with reference to arthmós ‘bond, league, friendship’ and related forms). There is a striking semantic parallel to phōnêi homēreûsai ‘fitting [the song] together with their voice’, describing the Muses at Theogony 39: it is artiépeiai ‘having words fitted together’, describing the Muses at Theogony 29 (BA 297).

[ back ] 46. As we ponder the archaism of this metaphor of kúklos, we may note a curious detail in the chariot inventories of the Linear B texts: there is a dichotomy of red and purple in descriptions of colors painted on these chariots. In Homeric diction, as we will see later, there is a parallel dichotomy of red and purple in descriptions of colors painted on ships. In ch. 6, I connect this dichotomy with an observation made by Eustathius (1.9) in the Prolegomena to his commentary on the Iliad: that performers of the Iliad wore costumes dyed red and those of the Odyssey, purple. The precise colors may be different, but the dichotomy itself seems analogous.

[ back ] 47. Schmitt 1967:14–15, BA 297–300.

[ back ] 48. Schmitt 1967:298–301.

[ back ] 49. PH 78–81.

[ back ] 50. Cf. Kleingünther 1933.

[ back ] 51. For an illuminating discussion of culture heroes in Chinese traditions, cf. Raphals 1992:53. Yi invents the bow; Zhu, armor; Xi Zhong, the carriage; Qiao Chui, the boat.

[ back ] 52. N 1985:33.

[ back ] 53. PH 55.

[ back ] 54. PH 23.

[ back ] 55. HQ 69–71.

[ back ] 56. HQ 70.

[ back ] 57. HQ 73. Allen 1924:233 thinks that the source of Tzetzes here was Athenodorus, head of the Library at Pergamon. Note the parallel wording in the Greek Anthology (11.442), representing Peisistratos as speaker: ὅς τὸν Ὅμηρον ἤθροισα, σποράδην τὸ πρὶν ἀειδόμενον ‘I who gathered together Homer, who was previously being sung here and there, scattered all over the place’.

[ back ] 58. There is emphasis on the idea that each of the Seven Sages except Thales had been head of state (Cicero De oratore 3.137: hi omnes praeter Milesium Thalen civitatibus suis praefuerunt).

[ back ] 59. On this passage from Cicero, see Boyd 1996.

[ back ] 60. It is relevant to recall the comment of Eustathius (1.10), as noted earlier in this chapter: that the rhapsōidíai correspond to the twenty-four books of the Iliad and Odyssey, which are scattered and then reassembled into the totality of the Homeric poems. This particular notion of rhapsōidíai corresponds to Cicero’s notion of libri confusi ‘scattered books’.

[ back ] 61. For a brief restatement and for a survey of primary information pertinent to the concept of a “Peisistratean recension,” see Allen 1924:225–238. See also PH 21–22n20. In the scholia to Dionysius Thrax, Codex Venetus 489 (as printed in Allen p. 230), it is reported that the Homeric poems were ‘sewn together’ (συνερράφησαν) by Peisistratos himself.

[ back ] 62. It is essential to make a distinction here between an “I” within mimesis and an “I” outside of mimesis. On the hermeneutics of the latter kind of “I” or “je,” see Calame 1986.

[ back ] 63. A useful semantic overview in Chantraine DELG s.v. μῖμος.

[ back ] 64. Cf. PH 391: “The close association of the Peisistratidai of Athens with the City Dionysia, context for performance of drama, and with the Panathenaia, context for performance of epic, is analogous to the association of the tyrant Kleisthenes of Sikyon with innovations in the performance of both epic (Herodotus 5.67.1) and drama (5.67.5).” On the mutual assimilation of Homeric epos and Homeric hymns, see PH 353–354. The fact that Thucydides (3.104.4–5) uses the word prooímion ‘prelude’ in referring to the version of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo that he knew suggests to me that he heard the Hymn performed at the Panathenaia as a prelude.

[ back ] 65. Cf. PH 388, 390–391; cf. also Herington 1985:138–144 on the “Homeric” repertoire of Aeschylus. On the process of mutual assimilation in the evolution of tragedy and comedy, which follows an earlier era of differentiation between these forms, see PH 384–388; on the mutual assimilation of tragedy and dithyramb, see PH 388–389.

[ back ] 66. PH 376.

[ back ] 67. See Nehamas 1982:75n49 on e.g. Herodotus 5.67.1; cf. PH 349n58.

[ back ] 68. Cf. PH 42, 44, 349, with extensive further references. Another sign is the attitude of another fourth-century figure like Isocrates, who throughout his own extensive corpus of written work uses the word mimesis (mímēsis) in a positive light, without implications of disapproval: in his eyes, mimesis seems to be a matter of utmost importance and seriousness (e.g. Euagoras 75, Antidosis 3).

[ back ] 69. PH ch. 12. For zoomusicological analogies, see Mâche 1991:158–163, especially p. 158 concerning the synchronized singing of cicadas.

[ back ] 70. For illuminating examples in the songmaking traditions of India, see Kothari 1989:103.

[ back ] 71. On which see Martin 1989:87.

[ back ] 72. For a far-reaching investigation of such mirroring, see Martin 1989:87–88.

[ back ] 73. Martin 1989:87–88. Cf. BA 95–96, 114.

[ back ] 74. Rösler 1980.

[ back ] 75. On the monodic form of Sappho, cf. PH 371.

[ back ] 76. On the poetics of Alcaeus in the context of the symposium, see N 2004b.

[ back ] 77. Page 1955:185 entertains the possibility of interpreting Alcaeus F 6, a song that describes a storm at sea, as follows: “Alcaeus recreates it as if it were yet to be suffered.” He then proceeds to reject this interpretation: “To define a procedure so futile, and so discordant with the practice of ancient poets at any period, is alone enough to condemn it beyond belief.” Bowie 1986:17 criticizes Page’s condemnation: “what he ignores is the dramatic element in non-dramatic poetry.” I agree in part, though I disagree with the description of Alcaic poetry as “non-dramatic.” Any song is dramatic to the extent that it is mimetic.

[ back ] 78. PH 15; 107 (with pertinent bibliography); 109–110; 112; 113 (relevant formulations here); 115; 340–342 (relevant formulations at p. 342); 368, 371(on Theognis as an “asympotic” personality); 375; 409; 435 (on Sappho and Alcaeus); 436 (a useful general statement); 437. On the imitation of Sappho in symposia and in acted situations in general, see PH 373–374. Cf. Murray 1990:8, who acknowledges the pioneering work of Reitzenstein 1893 on the symposium as a context for performance (for more on the perspectives of Reitzenstein, see also PH 109–110). {I postpone for another occasion a discussion of Bowie’s views on the mimetic potential of elegiac poetry as performed at symposia.}

[ back ] 79. PH ch. 13.

[ back ] 80. PH ch. 13.

[ back ] 81. Loraux 1990:22 and 125n15.