Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter

4. The Metrical Context of κλέοc ἄφθιτον in Epic and Lyric

There is a serious difficulty with the theory that epic formulas are derived from lyric formulas. The attestations of Greek lyric verses, let alone Pherecratic verses specifically, are scant. Furthermore, what little survives is late in comparison with the Iliad and Odyssey. Whereas the Homeric corpus became a fixed text in a prehistoric period, lyric poets like Ibykos or Sappho are historical figures. Moreover, I acknowledge that the surviving fragments of Greek Lyric reveal a profound influence exerted by those Panhellenic marvels, the Iliad and Odyssey. [1] Nevertheless, I wish to argue that the traditional phraseology of lyric versification was originally independent of epic versification.

It is tempting to assume automatically that phraseological parallelisms in Epic and Lyric involve simple borrowings from the first into the second. For an example, let us consider the following two verses:

ἀλλά περ οἶοc ἴτω Τελαμώνιοc ἄλκιμοc Αἴαc

(Iliad Μ 349 = 362)

καὶ μέ]γαc Τ[ελαμ]ώνιοc ἄλκι[μοc Αἴαc]

(Ibykos 282.34P)

The lyric verse here functions as the fourth {103|104} member of the epode within the overall hymnic structure of Ibykos 282P. This fourth member, as attested at lines 8, 21, 34, 47 of the poem, is regularly a pher2d:

⏓ ⏓ – – ⏓

We may ask the same sort of question at line 47 of Ibykos 282P, the same lyric poem. This verse too is a pher2d:

Compare the following verses in Epic: {104|105}

ὤλετο μέν μοι νόcτοc, ἀτὰρ κλέοc ἄφθιτον ἔcται (Ι 413)
                              ]. ἵνα οἱ κλέοc ἄφθιτ[ον εἴη] (Hesiod fr. 70.5MW)

In terms of the reconstruction which I propose for epic hexameter, the expressions

                              … ἀτὰρ κλέοc ἄφθιτον ἔcται#
                              … ἵνα οἱ κλέοc ἄφθιτον εἴη#

are formulas shaped ^pherd and pherd respectively. Notice that the epithet ἄφθιτον is shaped like a dactylic expansion, occurring between and – ⏓ of a partial pher segment – ⏓. For attestations of this segment within the larger framework of (^)pherd, consider the following:

                              … ὑπουράνιον κλέοc ἐcτίν# (ι 264)
                              … καὶ Τρωϊάδων κλέοc εἶναι# (Χ 514)
                              … ὑπουράνιον κλέοc εἴη# (Κ 212)
                              … ἵν’ ἄcβεcτον κλέοc εἴη#” (δ 584)

As with other formulaic segments shaped – ⏓, [
4] the type κλέοc + ἐcτίν ́εἴή, etc. may occur not only at verse-final position but also before the trochaic caesura:

#τοῦ δ’ ἤτοι κλέοc ἔcται|| … (Η 451) {105|106}
#cὸν δ’ ἤτοι κλέοc ἔcται|| … (Η 458)
#ἄcβεcτον κλέοc εἴη|| … (η 333)
#μεῖζόν κε κλέοc εἴη|| … (σ 255, τ 128)

From the internal standpoint of Epic, it seems that the type κλέοc + ἐcτίν/ἔcται/εἴή/εἶναι, shaped – ⏓, is more basic than the expanded type κλέοc + ἄφθιτον + ἐcτίν/εἴη, shaped – ⏓. Also, the expanded type is far less common. If, then, Ibykos is merely lifting expressions out of Epic in order to insert them into the ending of his pher2d meter, it seems puzzling that he should choose the less common pattern κλέοc + ἄφθιτον + ἑξεῖc, when κλέοc + ἑξεῖc could be inserted just as easily into the ending. Of course, since the κλέοc + ἄφθιτον + ἔcται of Iliad Ι 413 refers to Achilles himself, we could still counter that Ibykos was inspired by this one particular Homeric verse to coin his κλέοc + ἄφθιτον + ἑξεῖc. Such a line of argumentation is much less tenable, however, in the instance of Τελαμώνιοc ἄλκιμοc Αἴαc. The Homeric corpus features this expression in only two verses (Μ 349 = 362), both seemingly insignificant from the non-formulaic point of view, while the unexpanded equivalent, Τελαμώνιοc Αἴαc, is attested no less than 21 times in verse-final position. Are we to believe that Ibykos has here eschewed a routine epic expression and opted for a highly isolated but (for Ibykos) {106|107} insignificant variant? Even if it were so, we run into a further difficulty in his use of the word μέγαc:

#[καὶ μέ] γαc Τ [ελαμ] ώνιοc ἄλκι [μοc Αἴαc]#

In the Homeric corpus, we have twelve attestations of

                              … ||μέγαc Τελαμώνιοc Αἴαc#,

besides the two of

… ||Τελαμώνιοc ἄλκιμοc Αἴαc#,

but nothing like

… ||μέγαc Τελαμώνιοc ἄλκιμοc Αἴαc#,

which on the surface looks like a conflation of the previous two formulas. If we choose to insist that Ibykos borrowed here from Homer, we are forced to assume that he picked an extremely rare formula only to conflate it with another formula. Given the stock meanings of μέγαc and ἄλκιμοc, it hardly seems worth going to all the trouble—at least, from a post-Homeric standpoint.

If indeed κλέοc ἄφθιτον ἔcται/εἴη/etc. is a component of a (^)pherd formula while κλέοc ἔcται/εἴη/etc. is a component of a plain pher formula, what is the origin of ἄφθιτον, the word which reflects the dactylic expansion from pher to (^)pherd? We need not assume that the combination of κλέοc + ἄφθιτον was necessarily caused by the factor of dactylic expansion. Rather, this factor may have simply promoted the preservation of an epithet already inherited by κλέοc but suppressed in simple pher meter. The point is, the ending of a simple pher could not accommodate κλέοc ἄφθιτον. On the other hand, {108|109} the expansion of κλέοc ἔcται to κλέοc – ἔcται affords an ideal opportunity for the inclusion of ἄφθιτον. In other words, it may be that the combination κλέοc ἄφθιτον is latent within the framework of a pher but overt within the framework of a (^)pherd.

In support of the proposition that the śrávas of śráva(s) ákṣitam was displaced from syllables 4 5 of octosyllables, Chapter 9 shows that the word śrávas survives nowhere in syllables 4 5 of Rig-Vedic octosyllables. In fact, among all the Rig-Vedic occurrences of śrávas, its metrical shape is never in the closing generally, let alone in syllables 4 5 of octosyllables specifically. The second situation is precisely the pattern which I posit in the reconstruction


In the verse-closings of the Rig-Veda, śrávas always scans – rather than , because its position there is always preconsonantal (śrá̆vās C-), never prevocalic (śrá̆văs V- ). Thus the overall positional behavior of śrávas agrees with two Rig-Vedic metrical tendencies: (1) elimination of from the verse-closing, even where half of the was in the verse-opening; and (2) generalization of an iambic rhythm in the verse-closing, ⏓. For illustration, I provide here a schema showing the patterns {111|112} of occurrence and nonoccurrence in the closing of Rig-Vedic octosyllables:

śrávas (C-) present in 5 6 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
śrávas         present in 7 8 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
śrávas (C-) absent in 4 5 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
śrávas (V-) absent in 4 5 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
śrávas (V-) absent in 5 6 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
śrávas (C-) absent in 6 7 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
śrávas (V-) absent in 6 7 of 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

(Note that when śrávas is in 4 5, half of it is in the closing and the other half in the opening.) In compliance with these tendencies, Rig-Veda 1.9.7 accommodates the whole expression śráva(s) ákṣitam within two metrically regular octosyllables in preference to one metrically irregular octosyllable:


In Part II, my reconstruction of an original śrá̆văs (V-) in syllables 4 5 of octosyllables is based primarily on the declined forms śrávasas, śrávase, and śrávasi, all attested in syllables 4 5 6 of octosyllables. The rhythm of the base śrávas– in these forms cannot be displaced by – as in simple śrávas, where repositioning into odd-even syllables (5 6 or 7 8) and beginning the next word with a consonant automatically resulted in the scansion –. Such trisyllabic declined forms of śrávas– simply cannot comply with both Rig-Vedic metrical tendencies of (1) eliminating from the closing, even where half of the was in the opening; (2) generalizing an iambic rhythm in the closing, ⏓. At best, these trisyllabic forms avoid interference with the prevalent iambic closing by occurring only in syllables 4 5 6 of octosyllables, not 5 6 7 or 6 7 8:


On the other hand, these trisyllabic forms resist the metrical tendency removing in 4 5, and in this respect their positional behavior is more archaic than that of disyllabic śrávas. For example, the genitive singular of máhi śrávas ‘great fame’ remains śrávasa(s) mahás, with in syllables 4 5 of octosyllables:




We see here the survival of a positional switch within the framework of an actual declension. The whole expression máhi śrávas is being declined, and the position of śrávas– switches back and forth from syllables 7 8 to 4 5 in the process. I argue a parallel switch of śrávas in




Let us now review the contrast between the relatively flexible Gāyatrī octosyllable in Indic and its multiple rigid equivalents in Greek Lyric:

⏓ ⏓ ⏓ ⏓ Gāyatrī octosyllable
⏓ ⏓ ⏓ ⏓ – ⏓ choriambic dimeter {115|116}
⏓ – – ⏓ – ⏓ iambic dimeter
⏓ ⏓ – ⏓ Glyconic

Notice that κλέοc ἄφθιτον would fit perfectly at the end of a Glyconic. If indeed the Greek Glyconic is related to the Indic Gāyatrī octosyllable, then we might expect the positioning of κλέοc ἄφθιτον at the end of a Glyconic, in view of the potential positioning of śráva(s) ákṣitam at the end of a Gāyatrī octosyllable. To put it another way, we might expect κλέοc ἄφθιτον and śráva(s) ákṣitam to be cognate not only in form but also in metrical context.

The task now is to find an instance of κλέοc ἄφθιτον at the end of a Glyconic:


Failing that, the next best thing would be to find κλέοc ἄφθιτον at the end of an internally expanded Glyconic,

⏓ ⏓ … –

The latter type is not only a derivative of the plain Glyconic (gl), but also a functional variant. For example, the type gld actually alternates with plain gl in the stanzaic structure of Sappho 94LP, the poem well known for the line

τεθνάκην δ’ ἀδόλωc θέλω,

which follows the pattern gl gl gld, as at lines 6 7 8: {116|117}

τὰν δ’ ἔγω τάδ’ ἀμειβόμαν·
χαίροιc’ ἔρχεο κἄμεθεν
μέμναιc’ οἶcθα γὰρ ὤc cε πεδήπομεν

– – –
– – –

By good fortune, κλέοc ἄφθιτον is actually attested in the closing of an internally expanded Glyconic

⏓ ⏓ … –

The expression occurs in a poem consisting of gl2d verses, Sappho 44LP (The Wedding of Hektor and Andromache). Line 4 reads:

τάc τ’ ἄλλαc ʼΑcίαc . [.] δε.αν κλέοc ἄφθιτον
– – – – [ ] –


[ back ] 1. For discussions of epic influence on Lyric, I cite the exemplary articles of Dover (1964) and Page (1964); cf. also Page 1955 in general.

[ back ] 2. See p. 71.

[ back ] 3. Considerations of onomastic correctness have led to the standardized orthography Πολύκρατεc in the textual tradition. The meter, however, guarantees Πωλύκρατεc in the actual diction. For textual attestations of such Dehnung in Epic and Lyric, compare Πουλυ- in M 60 (etc.) and Πωλυ- in Alkman 1.1P respectively. For the linguistic origins of Dehnung, see Kurylowicz 1956:276-285. Cf. also Householder and Nagy 1972:753f, 787-789 (= 1973:34f, 68-70).

[ back ] 4. See p. 66.

[ back ] 5. See p. 66.

[ back ] 6. Kuhn 1853:467.

[ back ] 7. See p. 1n4.

[ back ] 8. See p. 31.

[ back ] 9. For a detailed discussion, see pp. 153-159.

[ back ] 10. See pp. 31f.

[ back ] 11. See pp. 32f.

[ back ] 12. See pp. 7f.