The Epic Rhapsode and His Craft: Homeric Performance in a Diachronic Perspective

  González, José M. 2013. The Epic Rhapsode and His Craft: Homeric Performance in a Diachronic Perspective. Hellenic Studies Series 47. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

7. Homer the Rhapsode

7.1 Notional Fixity in Oral Poetry

Commenting on this dialog, Lord noted that Zogić had not, in fact, learned the song “word for word and line for line,” and yet both performances, Makić’s and his own, were two recognizable versions of the same story. This did not mean that Zogić was lying, for oral bards do not have the same notion of ‘word’ that we as literate people are accustomed to. They follow the old practice, attested in many poetic traditions, of using ‘word’ for units of utterance of varying length, [3] what Homeric Greek calls ἔπος. [4] From our point of view, we might consider Zogić’s protestations an emphatic way of saying ‘like,’ of asserting his role as guardian of the tradition. [5] We must distinguish here the perception of the outsider, the ethnographer, from the perspective of the insider, the singer. The ethnographer who studies a singer’s actual practice is able to note objectively the empirical differences between two recorded tellings of the same song; the singer, while recomposing the story in performance, so long as he keeps within certain traditional parameters of acceptability, clearly feels at freedom without self-conscious thought to modify it in accordance with his personal skill and the particulars of the occasion. To this, however, he does not admit when faced with the outsider’s perspective. [6] At most, he may grant it of other singers, worse or less principled than himself. Accordingly, we need further to distinguish this artistic freedom of an entirely traditional nature and the bard’s self-conscious consideration of it, especially in the competitive context of a comparison between himself and other singers or between the better and worse practitioners of his profession.

In line with Lord’s analysis, I propose that the same notional fixity obtained in the epic tradition of archaic Greece (by which I mean Homeric and Hesiodic poetry). I should emphasize that I am not claiming that the Southslavic comparandum in and of itself proves that the Greek epic tradition was characterized by notional fixity—this is not my reason for adducing it. But the field work of Parry and Lord shows that notional fixity and an artistic freedom of a traditional sort at times can and do coexist in certain cultures. [9] Since for many of us this is a strange and extraordinary fact, we need an explicit demonstration that it is possible. This is my reason for adducing the Southslavic oral tradition. My argument for the notional fixity of the Homeric tradition is of a different kind, and principally heuristic: I believe that it is consistent with the worldview that informed the poetic production of epic during the earliest stages of archaic Greece, a worldview conveyed by the surviving texts. It is consistent, in particular, with the claim to divine inspiration. Furthermore, allowing for notional fixity helps us to understand why a poetry cultivated since time immemorial by a long line of oral bards was, in the event, so readily assigned to a single author, Homer, the mythical wordsmith par excellence. This development would be hard to conceive had the tradition encouraged change and modification rather than fixity of form and content. Notional fixity, moreover, would have encouraged and contributed to the actual text-fixation of the epic poems in a manner consistent with the performance milieu of ancient Greece. For this reason it is preferable to the most common alternative, the dictation theories I examined in chapters 1–2. As I argued there, such theories do violence to the song culture and fail to account for the dissemination of a hypothetical transcript and its immediate and comprehensive sway over the poems’ performance throughout Greece.

By itself notional fixity is not enough to bring about a corresponding performance-driven textual fixity. Here, again, the Southslavic epic tradition serves my purposes, now as a counterexample: Lord never observed any overall textual convergence for its songs. Typically, the thematic and formulaic discrepancies between two versions of a song by different singers were more numerous and serious than the differences between two retellings by the same performer. And where a performer’s song revealed a tendency towards textual fixity, it was due to his performing it more frequently. [10] But while notional fixity is not sufficient, I believe it is necessary if textual fixation is to happen gradually by way of performance. Where (to us, paradoxically) notional fixity coexists with a measure of textual fluidity, the audience will expect to hear always ‘the same song,’ will project its expectations on the performer in ever so subtle and unsubtle ways and will reward him to the extent that he meets them. And, in an agonistic context, performers themselves will seek to outdo each other not only in technical virtuosity, dramatic force, and vividness, but also in the ‘accuracy’ and ‘comprehensiveness’ of their telling—in other words, in what may be called truthfulness or veracity, in their faithfulness to the notional integrity of the tradition they are singing about. [11] All these factors, to be ultimately productive, must be helped along by socio-cultural dynamics that will reinforce them. For example, to mention, among the many possible, one that was certainly true of the Homeric tradition: a diffusion of the poetry under the dominant control of one preeminent festival, the Panathenaia, whose prestige must have drawn to one venue the more influential Homeric performers of the time, subjecting them all to the same competitive rules and the expectations of the same audience. Other determinants must have been the Panhellenic cultural exchanges between poleis, and the tendency in Athens towards the end of the fifth century and during the fourth century BC to rely increasingly on the use of written transcripts to train and prepare for actual epic performance. [12]

But this chapter is not about these factors, and if I mention them it is only to suggest how one might build on notional fixity to explore the cultural process that brought about a performance-driven textualization of the Homeric poems. Neither am I concerned here with showing that Homeric epic was actually recomposed in performance. This is a fact of the ancient Greek song culture that is no longer disputed. What scholars debate is the nature and particulars of the process undergone by the song culture that resulted in the written texts of our Iliad and Odyssey. Having established that notional fixity and recomposition in performance can coexist, my purpose is to argue that ancient Greek epic did, in fact, enjoy such notional fixity, and that this fixity derived from the well-known kinship between poetry and prophecy that has its most immediate expression in the bard’s claim to divine inspiration. My methodology is simple: I focus on key Homeric and Hesiodic passages and consider their portrayal of the medium of poetry and the role of the performer. I take these descriptions ‘seriously,’ that is, not as mere literary conventions, but as earnest expressions of a cultural paradigm largely shared by the professional and his audience. In other words, in performing these passages the bard says what he means and means what he says. [13] This need not imply that a performer’s attitude is one of straightforward sustained seriousness. Individual views and cultures are extremely complex systems, and experience teaches that humor can coexist with earnestness and heart-felt religious feeling. But however hard it may be to articulate it, it is not hard to understand the difference between an invocation as a literary convention and one that not only serves to punctuate the performative situation but is also an authentic expression of belief.

One last preliminary comment is in order: simply to say that, whenever a bard sang an episode, say, from the Iliadic tradition, he claimed and believed that he was performing a divinely inspired song does not, in and of itself, imply its notional fixity. Something more is necessary, for the Muse might conceivably change her song with every telling. But this would imply that the poet and his audience thought of the epic tradition as ‘literary fiction’ (to use our anachronistic terms), and restricted the involvement of the goddess to the ability, arguably nothing short of divine, to deliver a compelling story in near flawless hexameters composed in performance. But this, I hope to show, is not the view of inspiration that follows from a careful analysis of the evidence. Just as we would expect the Delphic oracle to give a particular individual the same answer, if he should pose the same question under the same circumstances—whether about the past or the future—on two different occasions, [17] so also when the epic rhapsode stood before his audience to sing a given episode from the story of Troy, their expectation and his was that he would tell it just the same today as he had done yesterday or would do tomorrow; or that two different rhapsodes would perform it just the same. This expectation reflected the notional fixity of the tradition, and wrought upon the performance even when it remained implicit and the culture did not call for its articulation and recognition. Where rhapsodes competed for approval, faithfulness to the ‘story’ would have been rewarded, and this, in a way that did not necessarily make a distinction between form and content. The virtuosity of form that made a given performance compelling may well ipso facto have been judged more faithful. Was it not the song of the Muse? And would not the performance of the goddess, unencumbered by the imperfections of her human instrument, meet with resounding success? [18]

Now, appealing to divine inspiration to argue for notional fixity might be thought an obvious strategy. But this is arguably not the case, for Finkelberg 1990 has viewed the involvement of the Muse as a poetic pretext to innovate. [19] Her analysis pits tradition against divine inspiration, seeing the former as constraining and shackling to individual creativity, and the latter, on the contrary, as liberating: “To the Yugoslav singer, the guarantee of the song’s truthfulness is the tradition itself … . To the Greeks, the guarantee of the song’s truthfulness lies in the Muses … . In other words, while the Yugoslav poet sees himself as first and foremost a preserver of the tradition, the ancient Greek poet sees himself as a mouthpiece of the Muse” (295). This formulation substitutes the scholar’s outside perspective for that of the cultural insider. It is true, of course, that the Southslavic singer does not set his performance in the context of an invocation of the deity, nor does he claim to be divinely inspired. But it is wrong to cleave Muse and tradition on the grounds that for validation the Slav singer need only appeal to the shared knowledge of his audience and the performances of other singers. The Greek Panhellenic tradition, in eliminating all traces of occasionality, does indeed absolutize its authority as the testimony of the Muse. But tradition it is nonetheless, for the rhetoric of the appeal to the Muses is precisely that they, as eyewitnesses, can tell the story fully and accurately. The rationale would utterly fail if there were not a story to begin with that, to hearers and singers alike, is fixed and well defined. For what accuracy would be involved in reporting a notionally moving target? Thus, in pondering the way the Greek poet “sees himself,” one must consider what this rhetoric from within implies about the performer-audience interaction. Merely looking at the situation synchronically, as if the singer had never sung his material before and his every word, given by the Muse, were new to his audience, flattens the diachronic dimension of the poetry and fails to see that the invocation of the Muse is not one particular appeal by an individual singer on one historically contingent occasion; rather, it is emblematic of countless actual performances of the tradition by many rhapsodes and, as such, speaks to the accuracy and reliability—and, therefore, the notional fixity—of the eyewitness report.

A comparable misunderstanding of the working of traditional oral poetry is reflected in the following: “In Yugoslav oral tradition the poet’s creativity has no niche to be classed in … . In the Greek tradition, the idea of the poet’s inspiration by the Muse offers an excellent alibi for creative intervention.” [20] Here the word ‘alibi’ is revealing: it shows that the analysis takes only the outsider’s stance. Followed to its logical conclusion, we shall have to view the Greek bard as dishonestly evading the reality of his non-traditional innovation and, in order to legitimize his creative freedom, drawing upon a cultural convention merely as a pretext to fend off the charge of singing about “things of which he did not hear from his predecessors.” [21] But such reasoning merely projects the outsider’s perspective upon the insider. As Nagy (1996b:19) reminds us, “the here-and-now of each new performance is an opportunity for innovation, whether or not any such innovation is explicitly acknowledged in the tradition.” We must be careful, however, not to equate the innovation proper to traditional poetry with what he calls the “anxious modernist vision of the creative self,” with “creation out of self-contained genius” (Nagy 1990c:55n19). Innovation is possible in oral traditions, but it is culturally specific and itself traditional. So, to return one last time to the alleged ‘alibi’ of the Greek poet: the corresponding synchronic leveling and misconstrual of traditional innovation contradicts the notion of the poetic οἴμη that governs the performances of the Homeric Phemios and Demodokos. When Demodokos is said to start his song οἴμης (θ 74), this should be translated ‘from that thematic thread’, [22] and, as the metaphor makes clear, it conceptualizes the story as an established sequence that, once picked by the poet, he must faithfully follow. [23] This is what the Muses have implanted in the heart of the bard, ‘all sorts of threads’ (χ 347–348), not a romantic creative genius. It is helpful here to quote Nagy (1996c:22): “[A] tradition may claim unchangeability as a founding principle while at the same time it keeps itself alive through change … . Participants in a given tradition may of course choose to ignore any change whatsoever. If they do recognize change, however, either it must be negative or, if it is to be positive, it must not really be change after all. In other words, positive change must be a ‘movement’ that leads back to something that is known … [a movement] that aims at the traditional, even the archetypal.”

The key, then, to a right understanding of the nature of epic poetry, with its notional fixity, is its claim to inspiration. The poet’s appeal to the gods, most commonly the Muses, for divine assistance is already present in the oldest strata of the Homeric and Hesiodic traditions, for this old topos of Greek poetics has its roots in the common stock of Indo-European cultural practices. [24] Both the Iliad and the Odyssey open with invocations of the Muse, and the Theogony presents us with Hesiod’s poetic initiation or Dichterweihe by the Helikonian Muses (more on these passages anon). The ἀοιδός is the ‘attendant of the Muses’, the Μυσάων θεράπων, [25] a term fraught with ritual implications [26] that defines the singer’s relation to the goddesses and their leader, Apollo. The many instances of divinely sanctioned poetry furnish obvious points of contact between traditional oral epic and forms of communication (like oracular speech) between the Greeks and their gods. [27] All this is familiar ground. [28] My goal here is to focus on the performative implications of ‘inspiration,’ in particular, on the notional fixity of the epic tradition. To this end, this chapter redraws the familiar ideological connections between oracular and poetic speech in the milieu of archaic Greece. This helps me to delineate the worldview that informed the activity of epic rhapsodes. I argue that from the notion of epic as ‘divine speech’ flowed a ‘mentality of fixity’ as the characteristic insider’s view of Homeric epic, a view that conceptualized this traditional poetry as a notionally unchanging whole, to be faithfully reproduced as the same in every new performance.

7.2 Invoking the Muses

Let us start, then, with a Homeric invocation of the Muse; specifically, with the familiar claim to derived autopsy, with which the narrator of the Iliad opens the Catalog of Ships (Β 484–493):

          ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχουσαι·
485    ὑμεῖς γὰρ θεαί ἐστε πάρεστέ τε ἴστέ τε πάντα,
          ἡμεῖς δὲ κλέος οἶον ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν·
          οἵ τινες ἡγεμόνες Δαναῶν καὶ κοίρανοι ἦσαν·
          πληθὺν δ’ οὐκ ἂν ἐγὼ μυθήσομαι οὐδ’ ὀνομήνω,
          οὐδ’ εἴ μοι δέκα μὲν γλῶσσαι, δέκα δὲ στόματ’ εἶεν,
490    φωνὴ δ’ ἄρρηκτος, χάλκεον δέ μοι ἦτορ ἐνείη,
          εἰ μὴ Ὀλυμπιάδες Μοῦσαι Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο
          θυγατέρες μνησαίαθ’ ὅσοι ὑπὸ Ἴλιον ἦλθον·
          ἀρχοὺς αὖ νηῶν ἐρέω νῆάς τε προπάσας.

          Tell me now, you Muses who have Olympian dwellings
485    —for you are goddesses and are present and know all things
          but we only hear the report (kléos) and know nothing—
          who the leaders and chiefs of the Danaans were.
          The multitude I could not tell nor name,
          not even if I had ten tongues and ten mouths,
490    an unbreakable voice and a brazen heart within,
          unless the Olympian Muses, daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus,
          recalled all those who came beneath Ilios.
          I will tell in turn of all the ships and their leaders.

The interpretive key to this passage is the rhetorical opposition between hearing and seeing: the poet and, by extension, his audience ‘only hear the kléos’, the sung report of divine and heroic deeds which constitutes the very medium of epic poetry (ἔκλυον is built on the zero-grade root of κλέϝος). The Muses, on the other hand, were present as divine eyewitnesses at all the events narrated. [
29] As Benveniste (1969:2.173–174) remarked of a similar case, [30] the verbs ἴστε and ἴδμεν must be given their full etymological force: not merely ‘to know’, but specifically ‘to see’. [31] One might object to giving ἴδμεν its full force here and not elsewhere. But the peculiar nature of Homeric poetry readily meets this criticism: the meaning ‘to see’ lies in its diachronic layering and was available to composing bards, especially given the prominence of ‘sight’ in archaic epic poetics. [32] Hence, the context may always ‘reactivate’ it, bringing it to the hearer’s interpretive awareness. This is the case in this highly marked passage, which self-consciously articulates the epistemology that underlies epic performance: note the πάρεστε, which equates the knowledge of the goddesses not merely with abstract omniscience but, specifically, with that of an eyewitness. [33] Thus, in κλέος οἶον ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν it would be natural for the audience to oppose ἴδμεν not to κλέος (as many do today) but to ἀκούομεν. Hence my contention that ἴδμεν be given its full etymological force. [34] With the language here one might helpfully compare the encounter of Akhilleus with Aineias at Υ 203–205, which lacks a παρεῖναι to activate the meaning ‘to see’. Aineias does not oppose ‘seeing/knowing’ to ‘hearing’, for there are things that he and Akhilleus do know, and this from hearing. He contrasts, rather, ‘knowing’ with ‘knowing by sight’ (ἴδες at 205 is explicitly qualified by ὄψει). In Β 484–486 the goddesses are able to relate the events to the poet in song because they have seen them; he himself ‘knows nothing’ because he lacks autopsy—and here, as often, we meet the stereotype of the blind bard who is endowed with second-sight. [35] But the Muses put him in contact with his subject and supernaturally enable a special kind of ‘recollection’: [36] unerring knowledge of the heroic past; the bard, ‘in turn[,] will tell’ his audience, αὖ … ἐρέω. This infallible power of total recall is designated by the verb μνάομαι and its semantic family (μνῆμα, μιμνῄσκω, etc.). [37]

In disowning personal knowledge of events far removed from the time of his telling and sealed in mythical heroic time, the singer paradoxically claims the divine dispensation of perfect ‘memory’, [38] i.e. the gift of epic poetry, which, as ever-present and ever-knowing deities, only the Muses have. Thus an acknowledgment of personal ignorance turns into an affirmation of professional aptitude and poetic sufficiency. It would be an error to oppose the κλέος of the tradition to the Muses’ song and miss the rhetorical point of the passage. [39] This is what Finkelberg (1990:295) does when, following Lattimore’s translation (here, uncharacteristically misleading), she makes too much of his word ‘rumor’ for κλέος: [40] “[T]he tradition, or ‘what we hear,’ is … not envisaged as sufficiently reliable. The true guarantors of the catalogue’s authenticity are the omnipresent and omniscient Muses, who inspire the poet and are thus responsible for his song.” [41] Not so; the gap, if any, between the report of the Muses and the tradition can only be a rhetorical one: the Muses’ song is the tradition, and the κλέα ἀνδρῶν that the poet hears and sings is the quoted utterance of the Muses. From the point of view of traditional poetry, the way the invocation works is to point out that the authority behind the κλέος—what makes it reliable and trustworthy, and its singing, an authoritative sacral speech-act—is that the Muses, the omniscient witnesses, are the notional source of the report. Setting the Muses against the tradition they themselves recount betrays a serious misunderstanding of oral-traditional poetics and its rhetorical pose. More accurate is Nagy (1999a:16): “[T]he word kléos itself betrays the pride of the Hellenic poet through the ages. … [T]he poet hears kléos recited to him by the Muses … [b]ut then it is actually he who recites it to his audience.” In other words, the singer views himself as a link in the transmission of the song, both hearing and conveying authoritative speech, the divine song of the Muses.

Another textual instance of divine inspiration is θ 487–498, where Demodokos is praised by Odysseus for his accurate singing about the taking of Troy as if he himself had witnessed it:

          Δημόδοκ’, ἔξοχα δή σε βροτῶν αἰνίζομ’ ἁπάντων·
          ἢ σέ γε Μοῦσ’ ἐδίδαξε, Διὸς πάϊς, ἢ σέ γ’ Ἀπόλλων·
          λίην γὰρ κατὰ κόσμον Ἀχαιῶν οἶτον ἀείδεις,
490    ὅσσ’ ἕρξαν τ’ ἔπαθόν τε καὶ ὅσσ’ ἐμόγησαν Ἀχαιοί,
          ὥς τέ που ἢ αὐτὸς παρεὼν ἢ ἄλλου ἀκούσας.
          ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ μετάβηθι καὶ ἵππου κόσμον ἄεισον
          δουρατέου, τὸν Ἐπειὸς ἐποίησεν σὺν Ἀθήνῃ,
          ὅν ποτ’ ἐς ἀκρόπολιν δόλον ἤγαγε δῖος Ὀδυσσεὺς
495    ἀνδρῶν ἐμπλήσας, οἳ Ἴλιον ἐξαλάπαξαν.
          αἴ κεν δή μοι ταῦτα κατὰ μοῖραν καταλέξῃς,
          αὐτίκα καὶ πᾶσιν μυθήσομαι ἀνθρώποισιν,
          ὡς ἄρα τοι πρόφρων θεὸς ὤπασε θέσπιν ἀοιδήν.

          Demodokos, truly I praise [42] you above all mortals,
          whether the Muse, Zeus’ child, taught you or Apollo;
          for very well and truly [
43] do you sing of the fate of the Akhaians,
490    all they did and suffered and all the Akhaians toiled at,
          as if (it seems) you yourself were present or heard [of it] from another [who was].
          But come now, move along and sing the lay [
44] of the horse
          of wood that Epeios made with Athena,
          which once noble Odysseus led to the citadel, an object of deceit,
495    after he had filled it with warriors who then sacked Ilios.
          If you indeed relate to me these things in due measure
          at once I will declare to all men
          that surely the god has readily bestowed on you divine song.

In this case, as an alternative to the Muse, Apollo, the god most commonly associated with μαντική, is mentioned as a possible source of the bard’s song. The choice is only apparent: in his engagement with poetry Apollo is often known as the Mousēgetēs, [45] and he works in concert with the Muses, presiding over and authorizing the performance. The difference between them is one of emphasis: Apollo is the marked, the Muse the unmarked, choice for the invocation, so that, even when the Muse alone is addressed, one should also think of the poet as tacitly calling on Apollo. [46] The divine action is denoted by the verb διδάσκω, which casts the gods as song-masters and the bard as apprentice-in-training. From such uses διδάσκω acquires demonstrative and revelatory nuances (cf., for example, Hymn to Hermes 556). [47] Some scholars, however, take strong exception to the view that Homeric epic portrays inspiration and artistry as complementary. Finkelberg (1998) represents a sustained and particularly energetic attempt to challenge precisely that compatibilist reading. [48] Although she does not deny the practical existence of a complementary relation, she claims that this is not the express view advanced by the Homeric poems. The realization that ‘Homer’s’ technique (she believes in a monumental poet) transcends his own alleged articulation of the relationship of inspiration to art sufficiently exhibits the weakness of her case. She appeals to the notion of diachronic skewing to defend her assertion that Homer violates in practice what he articulates in theory. But diachronic skewing is a heuristic that restates as a characteristic fact of the diachrony of the epic medium—specifically, it restates in terms of its different internal rates of change and renewal—an otherwise indisputable phenomenon: the failure of the epic medium’s performative self-references to reflect the performance of epic as we know it during the archaic and classical periods. For example, Demodokos’ and Phemios’ epic performances as prandial or post-prandial courtly entertainment have little to do with the late-archaic and classical festival performance of Homeric poetry. Diachronic skewing is hardly adequate to justify a broad view of Homeric performance that the poems’ outer narrative framework itself gainsays. If Finkelberg had succeeded in establishing the underlying dichotomy that drives her analysis, i.e. a disjunction between poetic inspiration as the source of the detailed poetic material—for which the singer is not responsible—and poetic skill—for which the god is not responsible—she might have some reason to invoke a sort of representational skewing. But not only does she fail to make the case successfully. Note also that the ‘skew’ in the ordinary understanding of diachronic skewing obtains between the poetic mimesis of performance and the contemporaneous cultural practice. It does not obtain, as it does in Finkelberg’s peculiar version of it, between an alleged articulation of inspiration, which for Finkelberg is ideally exampled by the narrative linearity of the catalog, and the undeniable artistry of the poem (with forward- and backward-looking cross-references). Finkelberg’s skewing is entirely internal to the epic medium and stands or falls with the accuracy of her readings. A detailed review of her book has no place here, where I must limit myself to sketching a critique.

Her very starting point is a misreading of Plato’s Phaidros 248d, where Sokrates calls the soul that has seen the most of being philosophos, philokalos, mousikos, and erōtikos. The dialog makes clear that these four are complementary descriptions of the philosophical project. Because the same passage ranks the soul of a poet and other mimetic artists in the sixth rank, Finkelberg assumes that there is a disjunction in the very notion of mousikē, one that allows it to be ranked high, with the philosophical, and low, with the mimetic. But this misconstrues Plato’s appropriation of musical theōria as properly philosophical, [49] in opposition to mimetic poetry towards which he is on the whole negative. Finkelberg applies her reading of Plato to the Homeric view of inspiration, disassociating what is ‘divine’ (the inspired material that she implies Plato should approve of) from what is ‘artistic’ (the mimetic technique Plato frowns upon). If her reading were right, we would expect Sokrates to approve of Homer’s ‘inspired’ portrayal of the gods and heroes. This is not what happens. How Finkelberg might distinguish in this case between the acceptable inspired material and the unacceptable mimesis of plot construction is hardly clear. At any rate, to point out only one instance in which her rigid analysis fails to account for the facts, notice how διδάσκω is used in θ 481 488 to refer to the divine involvement with the singer’s performance (ἀείδεις θ 489). Finkelberg would have us expect δίδωμι instead (with an appropriate object). As if deliberately to confute her thesis, the poem tells us that the Muses or Apollo have taught Demodokos, and immediately goes on to state that it is as if he had been present to witness the events in person or else had heard about them from another who did. Clearly, whatever else διδάσκω might entail, it entails at least that the goddesses and Apollo have taught him to relate the subject matter of his song fully and with unfailing accuracy. Finkelberg’s assertion that gods are never referred to in connection with skills is directly contradicted by the statement that Epeios built the wooden horse ‘with Athena’ (σὺν Ἀθήνῃ θ 493). This language may not be as explicit as God’s in his selection of Bezalel and Oholiab (Exodus 31:2–6), but it is similar in kind. Even more pointed is Eumaios’ affirmation that an outstanding singer learns his skill from the gods: ‘As when a man gazes at a singer who taught by the gods sings (θεῶν ἒξ | ἀείδῃ δεδαώς) poetry that is lovely to mortals, and whenever he sings they insatiably desire to listen to him, so he enchanted me while he sat by me in the halls’ (ρ 518–521). [50] The use of δεδαώς in the context of verbal θέλξις (ἔπε’ ἱμερόεντα ρ 519) leaves no doubt that performance skill—not just raw subject matter, however detailed—is in view. [51] As at ρ 519, skill, even expressly τέχνη, is readily associated not only with δαῆναι [52] but also with δαήμων. [53] Theogony 22 would appear decisively to refute Finkelberg’s contention that the Muses do not teach, but only give, the bard song/singing, when it affirms that ‘[the Muses] once taught Hesiod beautiful song’ (αἵ νύ ποθ’ Ἡσίοδον καλὴν ἐδίδαξαν ἀοιδήν). But the scholar shields her argument with yet another arguable dichotomy between ἀοιδή and οἴμη. She observes (which is true) that Hesiodic poetry lacks the term οἴμη, a term that she has previously wedged apart from ἀοιδή and restricted conceptually to ‘basic knowledge of the principal events constituting the story and of the order of their succession’. [54] And she remarks that Hesiod therefore uses ἀοιδή inclusively of what she has dichotomously opposed in Homer; but—and this is crucial—only in that restricted sense of οἴμη (acquaintance with basic plots) which she feels comfortable assigning to the competence of the bard. The inconsistency should be transparent: what is a polarity in Homer turns out, after all, to regard aspects of one and the same conceptual complex in Hesiod: this alone, I believe, fatally subverts the logic of her argument. But to add to the implausibility, she further requires that we unnaturally restrict our understanding of Hesiod’s use of ἀοιδή in Theogony 22 to her definition of οἴμη! I agree that ἀοιδή comprehends οἴμη, [55] although not just in Hesiod, and not as the unlikely combination of an alleged Homeric polarity. Finkelberg’s proposal loses all force once οἴμη is properly understood, including its artistic side, [56] rather than forced into an impossibly anachronistic schema. But her reading is hardly tenable even on its own terms. [57] That ἀοιδή in Theogony 22 is not just the content of the song but ‘singing’ holistically considered (including every resource of craft, e.g. the use of voice in performance) is supported not only by the adjective λιγυρή in Works and Days 659 but also by the coordinate description of Hesiod’s initiation only a few verses later: ‘they breathed into me a divine voice’ (ἐνέπνευσαν δέ μοι αὐδὴν | θέσπιν Theogony 31–32), where the variant reading ἀοιδήν for αὐδήν, if in fact a corruption, [58] is eminently reasonable. Note that West ad loc. expressly agrees that “ἀοιδή is normally an activity”; he even admits that “it can also be a faculty” (West 1966:165). Finkelberg’s understanding of the divine impetus in performance [59] not only fails to do justice to the text in the particulars reviewed above; it also fails to account: for the singer’s ability to shift at will from one episode to another (θ 492; cf. θ 499–501) or to start and stop at another’s request (θ 43–45 97–107 254–255 536–543); for the description of Odysseus as ‘skilled in song’ (φ 406); and for the Phaiakians’ sui generis seamanship (θ 246–247 558ff.).

As I noted above, Finkelberg’s book is pervaded by interpretive schematisms of dubious validity. [60] Here I will only examine her dichotomy between ‘pleasure’ (τέρψις) and ‘enchantment’ (θέλξις), which if true would be of great consequence for the complementarity of divine inspiration and rhapsodic training I espouse. [61] Finkelberg wants to establish that in a traditional society the performance of a song and its (notional?) text have different functions (Finkelberg 1998:89). This seems a problematic stance to adopt, considering her admission that “[an] oral poem … is knowable only through its performances” (89), an admission that makes me wonder in what setting the text abstracted from performance (“the linguistic content” 89) could possibly realize its allegedly characteristic function. The opening of her analysis hints at her motives: Homeric song is regularly associated with pleasure, and this suggests that its verbal artistry is of a piece with its content. But this would undermine Finkelberg’s underlying argument that artistry—especially artistry that may in any way be ascribed to bardic skill—does not belong in the explicit poetics of Homer. How is the argument to be advanced? First, she distinguishes between the performance, which—such is her claim—alone furnishes pleasure, and the text, which in turn instructs. But the categories of ‘usefulness’ and ‘instruction’ are not readily found in the poetic terminology deployed and a proxy must be identified. Finkelberg finds it in ‘enchantment’, which, unintuitively, for her cannot involve verbal artistry lest her logic be undercut. Therefore, she largely reduces skill to instrumental playing, as if the consequent chanting of the bard did not require coordinate ability or were an insignificant and inessential accident of the ‘lovely words’ (ρ 519, cf. θ 91) of his performance; or (by way of concession) she contends that references to pleasure apply “as a rule to both the song and its musical accompaniment which … is not intrinsically related to ‘singing’ proper” (88, my emphasis). The qualification “as a rule” alerts the reader to the existence of textual data (listed in 88n56) that refute her forced schematism. If no skill in the telling (i.e. in the ἀοιδή or performance) is to be ascribed to the bard as an inherent and meaningful aspect of his craft, much less is it to be admitted of the Muses, whose inspiration Finkelberg’s impoverished ‘poetics of truth’ conceptually (if not in practice) contracts to the impartation of developed and detailed narratives and eyewitness catalogs. [62] How does she deal with Homer’s emphasis on the pleasure of the bard’s singing? In a remarkably implausible reading of the paratactic style of epic as reflecting strict chronological sequence, she takes δ 15–18 to mean that the audience’s enjoyment does not follow, but precedes, the performance; and that it is therefore “represented here as a self-contained state of mind that makes [the audience] receptive to the singer’s performance—not a sensation that derives from that performance” (90). This typically over-fine distinction is explicitly controverted by her footnote 88n56, not to mention the singer’s famous description at ρ 385 as a δημιοεργός who characteristically ‘delights by singing’ (ὅ κεν τέρπῃσιν ἀείδων). This passage not only makes ‘delighting’ basic to his craft, but also decidedly places him within a series of τεχνῖται (seers, healers, and carpenters) who serve the people with their respective crafts. [63] After attempting to marginalize the pleasure the singer gives, Finkelberg divorces pleasure and enchantment by declaring that according to ρ 518–521 the effect of poetry is not the former but the latter (91). But since these two notions seem prima facie perfectly compatible, when not cognate, she must find a definition of θέλξις that excludes delight. This would seem a burdensome charge, since (as already noted) Eumaios explicitly attributes his enchantment to ‘lovely words’ (ἔπε’ ἱμερόεντα ρ 519), and ἱμερόεις is expressly tied to pleasure at α 421–422 (=σ 304–305) Σ 603–604 (cf. ξ 387). No matter; Finkelberg seeks to convince us of the psychologically implausible notion that the ‘desire’ entailed by ‘enchantment’ has no bearing on pleasure and regards only the song’s ‘words’—as if ἔπεα were cold, printed words and not the skillfully performed utterances of the singing bard. θέλγειν, we are told, is only “a ceaseless desire to hear directed towards the content of song” (91). But no sooner has this schematism been set up than it must be carefully qualified: “though songs are once referred to as ‘spells of mortals’ and the singer is described as one who ‘ever’ enchants his audience, except for the song of the Sirens, no specific song sung by an individual singer is ever explicitly described as having produced enchantment” (92, my emphasis). Even this narrowly qualified assertion is questionable, for Phemios’ song in α 325–327 about ‘the return of the Akhaians’ explicitly evokes the silent hearing that is the hallmark of enchantment (cf. ρ 513).

A study of the Sirens’ episode further undermines Finkelberg’s case: “the pleasure produced by the Sirens derives from their voices … , while their song causes enchantment” (96). Another puzzling dichotomy (song without voices?) that presumably assimilates ‘voices’ to the ‘instrumental music’ that she is comfortable ascribing to craft. But the imparting of knowledge that the scholar consigns to θέλγειν (97), as an unprejudiced reader might well expect, is tied to the hearing of the Sirens’ ‘sweet voice’ (μελίγηρυν ἀπὸ στομάτων ὄπ’ ἀκοῦσαι μ 187). Their singing (λιγυρὴν δ’ ἔντυνον ἀοιδήν μ 183) is thus recapitulated: ‘so they said sending forth their beautiful voice’ (ὣς φάσαν ἱεῖσαι ὄπα κάλλιμον μ 192). I should state that I am happy to translate φθόγγος and φθογγή as ‘the sound of a voice’; and I hardly think that the pleonastic ‘we no longer heard the sound of the Sirens’ voice or their song’ (μ 197–198) requires the view that voice and song refer respectively to sound/tone and content. Regardless of its scholarly pedigree, [64] this interpretation is no less implausibly anachronistic than the polarity Finkelberg hangs upon it. The logic of the narrative is clear: it does not say, ‘whoever hears the Sirens’ voice derives pleasure’; but ‘whoever hears the Sirens’ voice … the Sirens enchant him with their clear-toned song’ (λιγυρῇ θέλγουσιν ἀοιδῇ μ 44). Not only is the voice instrumental to enchantment, but the adjective λιγυρή is undeniably one of quality, not content. [65] But this critique is perhaps unnecessary, for Phemios’ song in Odyssey 1 sufficiently exposes the fallacy of Finkelberg’s dichotomy. There, Penelope describes the bard’s songs as θελκτήρια. [66] Finkelberg’s contention that the particular song that torments Penelope is enchanting because of its novelty, whereas traditional songs, owing to their well-known subjects, cannot claim enchantment as a typical quality (95), founders on two grounds. First, it fails to understand the diachronic rhetoric in which the poem clothes its own performance: its narrative must present as novel the poem’s very traditional subject, namely, the Akhaian νόστος that the rhapsode unfolds. [67] But, second, it also neglects the import of the statement with which Penelope effectively glosses θελκτήρια: they are ἔργ’ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, τά τε κλείουσιν ἀοιδοί (α 338), whose traditional recurrence in performance is proved by the generalizing τε and the present-tense κλείουσιν. [68] Penelope is not saying that Phemios knows many novel, enchanting stories that no one has ever heard before, but many enchanting stories of divine and heroic deeds which singers ever celebrate in song. Her reference is to a traditional epic repertoire. Telemakhos’ response makes this clear when he sets the story of the return apart from the many others that Penelope would rather have Phemios sing by calling it νεωτάτη, ‘newest’—a quality in the superlative that the alternative θελκτήρια obviously lack. [69]

What accounts for Finkelberg’s convolutions? Apparently, her commitment to the notion that only what is new can possibly enchant, since enchanting allegedly comes solely from the novelty of the information, and new subject matter is decidedly not the property of traditional song. The scholar has painted herself into an interpretative corner that readers not committed to her rigid schema need not share. The notion that Demodokos’ performance is not enchanting because otherwise Alkinoos would not have interrupted him (92) is psychologically naive. Finkelberg herself realizes that her reading is self-contradictory: “[W]e should not regard enchantment as a sine qua non of Homeric song … [but] enchantment may be an incidental effect of song … . However, the fact that Homer calls songs ‘spells of mortals’ and says of the singer that he ‘ever’ arouses a ‘ceaseless desire to hear’ indicates that this effect of song does somehow belong to his basic conception of poetry” (95). This conclusion Finkelberg calls a “problem” in need of a solution, a solution that she claims to find after analyzing the episode of the Sirens. What is it? Well-known songs delight, while new ones enchant. The former would be the norm: “[E]nchantment is that effect of song that results directly from this essential function [of imparting knowledge]. That is why … ideally, the singer ever arouses the ‘ceaseless desire to hear’, and songs in general are ‘spells of mortals’” (98, my emphasis). Let the reader be the judge whether Finkelberg has solved her problem or simply restated the interpretive precommitments that first led her to formulate it.

To return to divine song-masters and their bardic apprentices-in-training, in θ 487–498, standing in comfortable contiguity with the acknowledgment of supernatural help, we meet several technical terms of rhapsodic professional practice. This underscores the conceptual compatibility and necessary concurrence of divine assistance and rhapsodic skill. [70] Thus, for example, we find μετάβηθι, ‘shift [your song]’, [71] answered by ἔνθεν ἑλών ὡς, ‘taking it from the point when’. The passage also features κατὰ κόσμον, which recalls the κοσμέω of Plato’s Iōn 530d7 and the κοσμήτωρ of Homer’s epitaph in Certamen 337–338, [72] with its punning allusion to the chieftains of epic (Α 16 375 Γ 236 σ 152). [73] Its semantics is almost certainly to be related to the κόσμος ἐπέων of Solonic fame (fr. 1.2 W). [74] The adverbial expression is quite frequent, [75] and it can be rendered ‘aright’, ‘duly’. But the root sense of κόσμος is ‘good order’, and it describes the proper arrangement of the parts into a well ordered whole. [76] For this reason it naturally inhabits the metaphorical universe of the artisan, particularly, of the ἀοιδός, whose craft can be denoted by such verbs as τεύχειν (ω 197), ἐντύνειν (μ 183), ἁρμόζειν (Pindar Pythian 3.114), δαιδάλλειν (Pindar Nemean 11.18), etc. [77] κόσμος, therefore, connotes the ideal of harmony that pervades properly ordered relations of every kind, both social—in Herodotos 1.65.4 it designates the ‘constitution’ of a polis—and natural—the sophists used it to refer to the universe (Xenophon Αpomnēmoneumata 1.1.11). [78]

The notion of the song as well ordered speech that is faithful to the structure of reality is so strong in archaic Greek poetics, that not only is κατὰ κόσμον frequent in this context (θ 489, Hymn to Hermes 433 479; cf. κοσμῆσαι ἀοιδήν Homeric Hymn 7.59) but the very word κόσμος is used metonymically for the song itself. [79] The earliest example of this acceptation is θ 492, in the passage that now concerns us, where Demodokos is to sing the ἵππου κόσμον. By and large modern scholars pass over this expression in silence (Lattimore, for example, does not render it at all) or else take it to mean ‘preparation’, ‘contrivance’, ‘stratagem’. [80] But it cannot mean ‘stratagem’ or ‘contrivance’, for nothing in the root meaning of κόσμος (‘order’) or its natural semantic development (‘adornment’) suggests ‘plan’—unless we stretch it to apply to anything that receives forethought—nor is there any other instance of this alleged sense. Scholars who make this choice try to bridge the gap between ‘order’ and ‘contrivance’ by emphasizing the design of the horse, the particular arrangement of its parts that made for a successful stratagem. This corresponds to κατασκευή, the first of three glosses in the scholia ad loc. [81] But there are two problems with this: there is still a significant conceptual distance between ‘order’ and ‘design’ or ‘manufacture’, [82] and parallels of this exceptional gloss simply do not exist; but, to me, as serious an obstacle is that, when Demodokos picks up the song, he starts with the departure of the Akhaian ships and the horse already (ἤδη θ 502) standing in the Trojan agora, with the warriors in its belly. Not only do we fail to find a description of its manufacture or design, but there is not even a passing comment about its hollow inside, except to say that the Trojan assembly considered splitting the ‘hollow wood’—presumably to ascertain whether it contained anything harmful to the city.

Some, however, may point to ‘form, fashion’, the gloss in LSJ s.v. I.3, for the required parallels. But this subsection is only a mirage, at least insofar as the sense of ‘form, fashion’ that might be applicable to θ 492 is not elucidated by the other examples: [83] the fragment by Parmenides (DK 28 B8.52)—like the Solonic, also an instance of κόσμος ἐπέων [84] —draws, in my opinion, just like Solon’s, on rhapsodic terminology, and therefore does not stand in need of a special acceptation of its own. [85] And the two Herodotean passages actually do not call for the suggested ‘form, fashion’. Indeed, in Herodotos 1.99.1 [86] κόσμος refers to the procedural form of Deiokes’ rule, a civic order reproduced by the arrangement of the houses around the circumference of the outer wall of his palace. This ‘urban plan’ is a replica of the political κόσμος—the noun, used here in a sense not far from ‘constitution’ or ‘political order’. [87] As to Herodotos 3.22.2, [88] the parallel with the preceding ὅ τι εἴη καὶ ὅκως πεποιημένον seems to suggest (falsely, I am convinced) that here κόσμος might mean ‘manufacture’; but one should only embrace this anomalous sense if none of the established ones will do. ἐξηγεῖσθαι, I agree, indisputably shows that the answer to the king’s question was an ‘explanation’, but nothing here clinches its subject matter, whether ‘manufacture’ or something else. I believe that in this passage κόσμος means ‘ornament’ [89] —which ψέλια and στρεπτὸς περιαυχένιος doubtless are—and that αὐτοῦ refers to τὸν χρυσόν. [90] Thus, the Ikhthyophagoi ‘explain to him the ornament of gold’. [91] A more idiomatic translation would be ‘when the Ikhthyophagoi explained the ornamental use of the gold’. [92]

Having disposed of the alternative ‘form, fashion’, the choice of the LSJ for θ 492, I can return to my main point, namely, that in this passage ἵππου κόσμος | δουρατέου stands for ‘the song of the wooden horse’, and that the word for song, κόσμος, belongs to the specialized language of the rhapsode’s trade. [93] The third gloss in the scholia, ὑπόθεσις, come closest to its true meaning, despite reducing its rich symbolism to the relative conceptual poverty of ‘subject matter’. For the argument of this chapter it is significant that the Odyssey itself acknowledges this technical meaning of κόσμος and employs it to refer to the medium of epic poetry; in so doing, it draws the closest of possible relationships between archaic epic song and the ideal of well ordered, efficacious utterance that is proper to the gods. [94] The singer shares with them in the same conceptual universe of articulated speech because of his inspiration, because through him they reenact the order of reality—past, present, and future—bringing it into being by the speech-act of his performance. Therefore, in the context of the bard’s performance κατὰ κόσμον (θ 489) takes on a marked character and points beyond ‘aright’ or ‘duly’ to ‘as the truth requires’, ‘exactly as it happened’. This includes, to be sure, the order of events, but it is far more comprehensive, notionally embracing all the dimensions of the story: whatever the song relates, it relates infallibly. [95] θ 491 recapitulates, with slight modifications, Β 485–486: Demodokos must have been taught by the Muse or Apollo, for his singing is as good as the report of an eyewitness, as if he himself had been present (ἢ αὐτὸς παρεὼν) or had heard it from one who was (ἢ ἄλλου ἀκούσας). Within the narrative framework, Odysseus acknowledges the possibility that the bard may have heard a true report from some other Akhaian on his way back from Troy. This is, to be sure, only a rhetorical ‘as if’ (ὥς τέ που) that underscores the conviction of Demodokos’ inspiration in the context of the subsequent challenge to prove, by singing κατὰ μοῖραν about the horse, that the god has readily granted him a ‘divine song’, θέσπις ἀοιδή (θ 498). The adjective θέσπις itself, from the same root as θεσπέσιος, is a composite *θεσ-σπ- of god, *θεσ-, and the zero-grade of *σεπ-, whence we get ἐννέπω: though θεσπέσιος comes to mean ‘of a divine source’ or simply ‘divine’, θέσπις retains its close association with speech and is therefore used of song (α 328 θ 498) or the singer (ρ 385). Its basic meaning is ‘uttered by a god’, and if it is used more broadly for ‘inspired’, it is because the song of the poet is notionally the utterance of the god. In later poetry the same adjective is closely connected with oracular speech: [96] the kinship of prophecy and epic song, symbolized by Apollo as the source of the Panhellenic Delphic oracle and his leadership of the Muses, lies at the heart of the description of the epic minstrel by its own poetic medium. The corresponding fixity of the resulting message as an expression of the divine will and the order of reality also carries over into the Homeric tradition of epic. Just as true prophecy offers infallible interpretation or prediction and, by its very nature, though it can be misreported, cannot change at all, neither in form nor substance, so also the epic tradition, notionally spoken by the Muse or Apollo, could not possibly change from one divine telling to another.

7.2.1 Efficacious speech

“Sung speech … was efficacious speech,” says Detienne 1996: “Its peculiar power instituted a symbolicoreligious world that was indeed reality itself” (43). In other words, as I have repeatedly noted, Homeric song in performance is a sacral speech-act, an utterance that realizes its own meaning. In celebrating the deeds of gods and heroes the rhapsode preserves them from oblivion, λήθη, and, by his very singing, assigns to them the status of ἀ-λήθεια. The epic song is true, because it is, at its source, a divine speech-act. [97] Just as the words ‘I forgive you’ effect the pardon they promise—and if they are not uttered there is no remission of guilt—so also does the bard’s singing underlie the reality of his story. Here we are dealing ultimately with a matter of authority, for without the proper authority the speech-act fails to be efficacious: [98] the seer is qualified by his oracular gift to predict the future infallibly, and the authority of the oracular god stands as guarantee of its fulfillment. One may draw a distinction between the god who brings his prediction to pass and the prophet who conveys it to the inquiring theōrós; but it is a logical, not practical, distinction, for without the human instrument there is no oracle at all, and the very words and authority of the god inhere in his mortal representative. So also with the rhapsode: his song, whether about the past or future, by the gift of divine voice, carries in the utterance the force of reality and imposes on the hearers the necessity of its truth. The symbolico-religious character of the speech-act bears with it a heightened emphasis on the comprehensive ‘accuracy’ of the utterance, down to the minutest details of form, even when such accuracy is not self-consciously measured by the modern standard of a faithful reproduction of some ur-text. But, notionally speaking, the sense that the utterance in its entirety reproduces divine speech—that its performance is a re-presentation of the gods’ utterance—endows the song with the notion that it must correspond to what the gods narrate, to what really happened. There is therefore a fixity inherent in the Homeric tradition as a speech-act; or, to say it in another way, the fixity derives from the occasion of its performance, which is presided over by the inspiring god, who makes the song comprehensively authoritative. We must, after all, remember that Homeric epic, as a super-genre, contains a series of performative sub-genres, among them the interpretation of dreams and portents, prophecies (by seer-prophets and heroes), and divine promises, which are themselves speech-acts that have a sure fulfillment. [99] What still lies in the future from the point of view of the narrative, is simultaneously past ‘history’ and present reenactment for the festival audience. (Other epic poetry, e.g. the Hesiodic song, may even have a future dimension, a prophetic statement about what ‘history’ holds, or else pertain to the recurrent fulfillment of seasonal phenomena: weather, crops, etc.) To underline the efficacious nature of epic performance in the archaic setting—its status as a sacral speech-act—it is helpful to consider the word κραίνω in the Hymn to Hermes 427 and 559. [100] This verb, which should probably be reconstructed as *κρᾱαίνω, is a denominative from κρᾱ́α-τος < *ḱr̥̄s-n̥-, ‘head’ (cf. Sanskrit śīrṣṇás < *ḱr̥̄snés), with the meaning ‘to fulfill, to accomplish, to realize, to bring to pass’. For similar semantics one can compare the word ‘achieve’, which derives from ‘chief’ (=‘head’) and means ‘to bring to a head’ or ‘to bring to an end’ (Latin ad and Romance *capum for Latin caput). In the Iliad and the Odyssey it takes as objects ‘injunctions, behest’ (ἐφετμάς Ε 508), ‘wish’ (ἐέλδωρ Α 41 504), and ‘word, utterance’ (ἔπος υ 115). Thus it is at first striking to read the following description of Hermes’ lyre playing and singing (425–428):

Hermes here performs as the ideal rhapsode that all human bards should seek to imitate: the hymn carefully notes that Mnēmosynē ‘received the son of Maia as her portion’, [109] which speaks to his engagement with μουσική. [110] Not infrequently does Greek culture portray the gods as archetypes, even of activities that, by any reckoning, are eminently human—e.g. animal sacrifice, which (to go no further) in this very hymn involves Hermes himself (ad 115–137): this is also the case with rhapsodic performance. [111] It is no objection to my reading to note that Hermes is not singing heroic epic, but a theogony instead: the god starts with a hymnic προοίμιον, which, as I point out below (see §8.1.3), is the ritual framework of the archaic epic performance. And a theogony, too, is but a particularly elaborate and unusually long hymn, but a hymn nonetheless. The Panhellenic nature of the Homeric tradition is so thoroughgoing that, in the final form in which it has come down to us, it lacks a hymnic opening such as must have regularly preceded it—no hymn, however Panhellenic, which might otherwise have provided traces of occasionality, succeeded in acquiring canonical status as the fixed opening (though we have reports, even at a late date, of a written copy of the Iliad explicitly framed by such a hymnic προοίμιον). But that, ritually speaking, epic performance took place in the context of a hymn that invoked a presiding deity, at least at sufficiently early stages, is, I believe, unquestionable. And, a fortiori, we can assume that the sacral character of hymnic speech did apply to the Homeric tradition in performance.

Later in the same hymn Apollo gives Hermes a ῥάβδος (529). This is not merely a rhapsode’s staff: it has functions that exceed the bard’s emblem of authoritative singing, for it promises to keep him safe, ἀκήριος (530), [112] and the attainment of wealth and fortune, ὄλβος and πλοῦτος (529). Doubtless we are supposed to think here of the κηρύκειον, which makes Hermes χρυσορραπίς (ε 87 κ 277; cf. Pindar Pythian 4.178). This gift of Apollo represents Hermes’ τιμή [113] and signals his attaining the same honor and wealth that are the privilege of the other gods—a key theme in the hymn; [114] but, I think, it is also legitimate to read it in reference to the χάρις of performance, i.e. the economic reciprocity of patronage—the μισθός and τιμή—we know well from Pindar’s poetry. [115] The staff, moreover, will fulfill, ἐπικραίνουσα (531), all the dispositions (θεμούς 531) of good words and deeds (ἐπέων τε καὶ ἔργων 531) which Apollo learns from the utterance (ὀμφή 532) [116] of Zeus. [117] The powers of Hermes’ staff are unequivocally subservient to Apollo’s gift of μαντεία and do not encroach upon Delphic divination, but it is unquestionable that they encompass the ability to bring to pass Zeus’ utterance, as declared by Apollo. Hermes, in his role as a rhapsode, declares authoritatively the utterance of Zeus: the sacral character of his utterance is explicit. The ὀμφή of Zeus is denoted by θεμοί (from τίθημι) of good ‘words and deeds’: the oracular pronouncement is made of words that have the power to bring about the deeds they declare, and it is legitimate, I think, to read the usual dichotomy—here in reference to Zeus’ speech—as a hendiadys, namely, ‘performative words’. [118] It is true that Hermes is not known elsewhere as an intermediary of oracular speech, though in his capacity as a messenger or herald (ἄγγελον 3), this function would not be entirely without conceptual precedent. But, even so, interpreting the role of the ῥάβδος in harmony with the rhapsodic language doubtless present in the earlier instance of κραίνω is preferable, I believe, to thinking of Hermes as fulfilling the utterance of Zeus by his direct action: where he is ‘instrumental’ in some way to the fulfillment of Zeus’ will, it is most often in his function as divine herald, where the word of authority is first and last (so at ε 87–90 [119] ). I wonder if perhaps there is a hint here of the division of labor between the Delphic μάντις and her προφήτης; Hermes might then stand for the tradition of oracular hexametric poetry we know from Delphi. [120]

7.2.2 Quoted speech

But, reciprocally, this does not mean that, from the perspective of the insider to the tradition, the particular words sung, with all their formal features—what we might call their ‘poetic diction’—are indifferent. On the contrary, notionally they are an oral quotation of the Muses’ own song, and thus they come with their divine performative sanction: the song of the goddesses is the song of the poet. Recalling that the additive style of oral epic tends to respect the limits of the verse-line by making the syntactical and metrical periods coterminous, Nagy (1999a:272) notes that ἔπος refers to the hexameter line and, by extension, to a unit of poetic utterance; and, consequently, such well-known introductions as καί μιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα, which the master narrator uses to punctuate the beginning of quoted dialog, carry with them the notion of accuracy down to the minutest details of diction. Indeed, the medium of Homeric poetry has developed performative conventions of such a high degree of refinement, that formal features like correption may be found to discriminate between the quoted ἔπος of characters and the quoted ἔπος of the Muse in plain narrative. [122] Such a comprehensive accuracy of quoted speech requires the song’s full correspondence to an original—only, here the original has a divine source, a matter of the greatest moment, which implies in turn, as I shall demonstrate in what follows, the notional fixity of the story.

7.2.3 The singer, instrument of the Muse

It is important to remember that the time transcended by the poet is not ‘historical’ time, that is, his performance does not recover a chronology of events that stands in continuity with contemporaneous history: he views the story, rather, in terms of genesis, genealogies, and becoming; [128] and though he may incorporate a logic of historical evolution—stages, races, epochs—the events remain in the otherwise inaccessible past. Only a later mind-set that has left the archaic mold can concern itself with fixing chronologically the time of the Trojan War or the date of Homer in relation to some near-contemporaneous milestone. [129] This is not to say that the events are not thought of as ‘true’: insofar as poetry exorcizes the specter of oblivion, the danger of forgetting, λήθη, [130] it is intrinsically ἀλήθεια, and both the archaic singer and his audience view the characters and the events narrated in the poetry as ‘factual’ and ‘real,’ [131] though they may remain mysterious, puzzling, and discontinuous if measured against their own experience. But it is not the story that is judged in the light of experience, but experience in the light of the story (often viewed as paradigmatic or archetypal), and only when the mythical mentality gives way to critical distance are these terms reversed and we find the tradition subjected to sceptical analysis. But this belongs to a later era. [132] Archaic poetry does not operate with an ordinary correspondence-theory of truth: singing that is divinely authorized, i.e. ‘inspired poetry,’ reenacts the past, bestows on it ‘undying renown,’ perpetuates it, preserves it from oblivion; and so, it is tautologically true, necessarily accurate. Notionally, the story cannot be otherwise, for the gods, themselves eyewitnesses, authorize and guarantee its reperformance; and because the hearers, thinking of it as fixed, demand a faithful delivery, feeling their own connection to the story on terms that are themselves permanent, terms that may be grounded either on unchanging ritual, on an aetiological appropriation of the myth, or on the seasonally recurring performance occasion.

Pausanias 9.29 reports an old tradition from Askra, Hesiod’s own hometown, according to which the Muses were three in number. [133] A rival to the nine Muses of Thespiai—the city that since the third century BC organized the Boiotian festival of the Μουσεῖα—this variant had the misfortune of not being adopted into the Hesiodic corpus and, having failed to receive Panhellenic status, it has largely remained a footnote in modern scholarship. [134] And yet this tradition is presented as older than its rival, and in all likelihood it is at least as old. For my purposes, however, of particular interest are the names given to the Muses, Μελέτη, Μνήμη, and Ἀοιδή, which constitute a transparent description of the poetic process. Μνήμη, ‘Memory’, corresponds to the underlying subject matter in its oral-traditional form, and promises its preservation in song; Μελέτη bespeaks the assiduous training and practice of the bard, what William Race, in the case of Pindar, translates as ‘premeditation’, the poet’s “craft and training ground” (apud Nagy 1990c:16); and Ἀοιδή captures the performance occasion, the moment of recomposition, for the song exists only in the singing of the bard. [135] Μελέτη, in particular, confirms that the concept of divine influence and inspiration is compatible with the self-conscious training and exertion of the singer’s own abilities. [136] Here we must assume that, as with oral traditional poetries the world over, the bard learned from other singers and his training probably took place in the context of apprenticeship: this is the case in every sphere of professional praxis, with every category of δημιουργός. Greek poetry, however, is too competitive to have the singer openly acknowledge his debt to a human master, and the only evidence left of what must have been the pervasive educational model is the denial by Phemios that he had been taught by another (χ 344–349): [137]

          γουνοῦμαί σ’, Ὀδυσεῦ· σὺ δέ μ’ αἴδεο καί μ’ ἐλέησον.
345    αὐτῷ τοι μετόπισθ’ ἄχος ἔσσεται, εἴ κεν ἀοιδὸν
          πέφνῃς, ὅς τε θεοῖσι καὶ ἀνθρώποισιν ἀείδω.
          αὐτοδίδακτος δ’ εἰμί, θεὸς δέ μοι ἐν φρεσὶν οἴμας
          παντοίας ἐνέφυσεν· ἔοικα δέ τοι παραείδειν
          ὥς τε θεῷ· τῶ μή με λιλαίεο δειροτομῆσαι.

          I implore you, Odysseus; show me regard and mercy.
345    You yourself shall be grieved later if you slay me, a singer
          who [ever] sings for [the benefit] of gods and men.
          I am self-taught, and the god has implanted in my mind lays
          of every sort; I am well suited to sing in your service
          as [in the service of] a god; therefore do not be eager to cut my throat.

Phemios’ plea emphasizes the sacred status of the singer: we have good reason to believe that δημιουργοί were sacrosanct, that they enjoyed juridical immunity in their itinerant travels, [138] and it is certain that in Hellenistic times they had the protection of Apollo through his Delphic oracle. [139] Phemios deserves αἰδώς, even from the βασιλεύς, because his solemn singing in cult and festival contexts makes him a sacred servant of gods and men. [140] In my opinion, the term αὐτοδίδακτος must refer to the process of training, [141] a social reality that fails to receive the explicit recognition of the poetry, to be sure, but must otherwise have been taken for granted by the audience. [142] What our poems feel free rhetorically to acknowledge is the gods in the explicit position of song-masters: [143] Δημόδοκ’, ἔξοχα δή σε βροτῶν αἰνίζομ’ ἁπάντων· | ἢ σέ γε Μοῦσ’ ἐδίδαξε, Διὸς πάϊς, ἢ σέ γ’ Ἀπόλλων (θ 487–488; cf. Hesiod Theogony 22–23). By professing to be self-taught, Phemios repudiates any debt to a human master-singer, even as he owns to the god one that exceeds the traditional bounds of divine involvement in the genesis of epic song. Hence the verb ἐμφύω, [144] which puts the emphasis on a process of growth for the poetry, [145] almost certainly not during a given performance, but in the course of the poet’s life: in other words, it is the conceptual equivalent of a course of apprenticeship. Phemios would be saying, in effect: ‘God, who has implanted within me song-threads of every sort, has so distinguished me with his favor that I have never depended on a human master; instead, I have learned my trade by myself, solely with divine assistance.’

In a reading that Morgan (2000:94) calls “perverse” and Rotstein (2000:286), more diplomatically, “arresting,” Finkelberg (1998:54–56) forces Phemios’ plea into her dichotomy of ‘taught’ and ‘given’ by equating αὐτοδίδακτος with ‘given’ and θεὸς … ἐνέφυσεν with ‘taught.’ Thus, she arguably interprets them against their plain meaning and import. I explained above my conviction that the two parts of the bard’s entreaty are best regarded as complementary. But, if they are to be opposed in line with Finkelberg’s polarity, I grant that only her strained assignment upholds her thesis: having made οἴμη the purview of rhapsodic competence (Finkelberg 1998:52) she could not easily grant the god a substantial role in the teaching process [146] or allow the verb ἐμφύω its more natural kinship with divine endowment (cf. Rotstein 2000:286). Although she admits that the connotations of ἐμφύειν “lie in the sphere of natural growth” and that it is therefore “compatible with Homer’s understanding of learning as a gradual process of acquiring a given profession” (54–55), she passes in silence over the fact that its subject is θεός and omits any consideration of what this pointed fact entails for her thesis. If the god’s implanting of οἶμαι—his making them grow within the heart of the singer—hints at divine involvement with the gradual process of the bard’s acquiring his craft, the reading of οἶμαι as basic knowledge of the principal events of the story and of their order would seem unsuitably narrow. Still more puzzling is Finkelberg’s interpretation of αὐτοδίδακτος as a reference to what is divinely given. To be sure, she does not articulate this connection explicitly: we would then be faced with the contradictory equations ‘self-taught = god-stirred’ and ‘god-implanted = self-acquired.’ But the inference is left to the reader by summarizing her argument thus: “Phemius’ ‘I am self-taught’ stands for the improvisatory aspect of the poet’s activity, that is, the one that we have rendered by aoidē, or ‘singing’ proper” (56).

Her logic does not survive scrutiny. She first directs our attention to two other passages that seem to juxtapose divine and human sources for the singer’s creative ability: one features the θυμός as the agent that stirs the bard (θ 44–45); the other, the νόος (α 346–349). Finkelberg is driving towards the conclusion that “autodidaktos implies neither a deliberate process of acquiring knowledge nor the subject’s active participation in this process” (56). In order to establish this claim, she must effectively collapse these two seemingly complementary sources into a primary one, the divine, and its epiphenomenon, the instinctive human ‘self-acting’ that can only be explained as the outworking of the former. But this requires that we view the θυμός and the νόος as independent ‘psychological’ foci, autonomous wellsprings of action, whose arbitrary motivation cannot be integrated with the rational mental processes of the individual and therefore relieve him from any responsibility. On this view, such unaccountable actions could only be ascribed to the mysterious operations of the divine sphere. Notions like this track the theories of Snell and his epigonoi about the disintegrated Homeric psychology, which rendered man “a sort of loose confederation of quasi-autonomous limbs and organs” (I am quoting from Pelliccia 1995:17, who helpfully reviews the relevant scholarship at 17–27). But by denying that bodily organs (including the θυμός) lack the power of speech, Pelliccia has dealt a deathblow to this ‘homuncular’ conception of the Homeric self (1995:30). [147] For Pelliccia, “rather than being a precisely or realistically conceived ‘organ’ or other such entity, [the θυμός] covers a series of obscurities in theology and psychology, and thus serves, à la Searle, to plug a conceptual gap” (259). I believe that by and large Homeric psychology evinces no greater complexity or bizarreness than our own: we too may structure our forms of expression around the apparent awareness of a divided self, and sometimes own that our feelings and motives are opaque to our introspection. And we also have the same capacity for a rhetorically opportunistic, self-exculpatory use of these reflective tropes (cf. Pelliccia 1995:209–211). That in Homer the stimulus for action should be ascribed to an internal organ, and that the same organ should now and then serve as the channel through which the gods affect man’s actions seem facts neither unfamiliar to our diction nor foreign to our thinking.

The first step in Finkelberg’s reading of αὐτοδίδακτος is to neutralize the self-consciousness inherent in αὐτο- (i.e. the active psychological involvement); I have suggested above the underlying reasons why I think this strategy fails (more to come below). The second step is to argue that -δίδακτος actually does not entail the acquisition of knowledge but refers rather to spontaneous action. In effect, she equates αὐτόματος and αὐτοδίδακτος. But -ματος comes from the zero-grade verbal to-adjective of *men-, and hence the externally unprompted-action that Finkelberg counter-intuitively assigns to αὐτοδίδακτος seems perfectly in order for αὐτόματος. Still, it would not be arbitrary, unaccountable action, only externally unprompted. Not so with -δίδακτος, which one can only cleave from ‘teaching’ by an exercise of interpretive violence. To justify it, Finkelberg adduces only the admittedly relevant Aiskhylos Agamemnōn 990–993, which she explains thus: “What the autodidaktos of Aeschylus does imply is that the thumos sings of itself, that is, in an unprompted and spontaneous manner. In this, it resembles automatos … . Consequently, semantic associations of autodidaktos should be sought not in the area of ‘self-teaching’ but in that of ‘self-acting’” (56). I submit, however, that there is a more plausible reading which does not unnaturally reduce -δίδακτος to -ματος. It builds on the self-referential chorality explored in Henrichs 1994–1995, rare but not unexampled in Aiskhylos (see pp. 59–60). Indeed, in their reflective ode the chorus use αὐτοδίδακτος … | θυμός (Agamemnōn 992–993) to drive home the strength with which the circumstances and events just witnessed force themselves upon their foreboding consciousness, informing their understanding, shaping their expectations, and affecting their emotions. Effectively, then, it is as if no χοροδιδάσκαλος had helped them train for the performance of this particular stasimon. Alleging the absence of external training provides the chorus with a mildly meta-theatrical yet forceful way to make their point. That -δίδακτος is not to be emptied of its obvious meaning is further supported by the use of αὐτόμαρτυς at 989, which Fraenkel translates as “myself the witness” (1950:1.151). The passage does not claim that the mind of the chorus is inactive or that it has not reached its conclusions through deliberation (note φρενὸς φίλον θρόνον 983), but, as verse 979 shows, that no one has externally bidden or hired it to render its prophetic judgment in song. The terms τερασκόπου 977, μαντιπολεῖ 979 (for which see Fraenkel 1950:2.444 ad loc.), and δυσκρίτων ὀνειράτων 981, if they are at all valid contextual parallels to Phemios’ plea, argue precisely in favor of a technical interpretation of αὐτοδίδακτος: the exceptional denial that he has been apprenticed to a human song-master points to the ordinary reality of rhapsodic training. I close this section with three statements by Fraenkel which corroborate my reading that in the Agamemnōn αὐτοδίδακτος hardly entails a spontaneous singing devoid of craft and without knowledge taught by deliberate thinking: “αὐτοδίδακτος clearly points to the origin and nature of the knowledge of the moral law which occupies the central position in this chorus” (2.446); “φρένες [in 996] … means ‘mind, cogitation, reflection, thought’ etc.” (2.447); “[i]n Ag. 996 the phrase ἔνδικοι φρένες, then, means the thoughts in which there is δίκη … . In their φρονεῖν the conviction of δράσαντι παθεῖν is contained” (2.449). [148]


[ back ] 1. In the context of traditional oral poetry, I use ‘poet’ for ‘performer’ without implying a claim to creativity or to the unique authorship of the poetry delivered. In this sense ‘poet’, ‘bard’, ‘singer’, and the generic ‘performer’ are used interchangeably.

[ back ] 2. Lord 1960:27 (all ellipses are his, other than the two exceptionally denoted here by ‘[…]’). A fuller transcript can be found in Lord 1954:1.240–241.

[ back ] 3. Martin 1989:10–14. Note, however, that I am not using ‘utterance’ in Martin’s apparently reified sense. For when he writes that “Homeric diction does not pose the poem as an utterance … [but as] an authoritative speech-act” (237–238), he seems to divorce ‘utterance’ from ‘speech-act’ (though perhaps by ‘utterance’ he means just the words said, i.e. only the propositional content of the message). I use ‘utterance’ to denote speech-in-action, the act of vocal expression. The essence of a speech-act, then, is a performative utterance (the so-called ‘illocutionary act’).

[ back ] 4. Cf. Koller 1972 and Foley 1995:2–3 (incl. 3n4). See also Schmitt 1967 §20 and §546.

[ back ] 5. Although, strictly speaking, Zogić does not avow a high degree of resemblance with his model, but rather the exact identity that issues from an act of total appropriation.

[ back ] 6. Cf. Lord 1954:1.338n37. For more examples see below, n. 7.

[ back ] 7. Cf. Lord 1954:1.239–240, 1.242–243, 1.245 (Đemail Zogić); 1.266 (Sulejman Makić); 1.338n37 (Salih Ugljanin); 3.60, 3.66, 3.71–72 (Avdo Međedović, though Avdo’s perspective is more in line with the realities of oral poetics; see below, §7.2.3 n. 131). For more on ‘ornamenting a song,’ see my study of κόσμος below, §7.2. Cf. also Boyd 1994:118–120.

[ back ] 8. This notional fixity applies not only to the transmission from one singer’s telling to another singer’s retelling, but also to successive retellings by a singer.

[ back ] 9. Barnett 1953, Liep 2001, and Bronner 1992 situate ‘creativity,’ ‘innovation,’ and ‘tradition’ in an anthropological context and explore the ways in which they are culturally relative.

[ back ] 10. Lord 1981:457–459.

[ back ] 11. I do not mean to imply that oral traditions can generally and without qualification be viewed as monolithic, integral wholes. But where notional fixity is present, there is necessarily an attendant notional integrity of the story (or set of stories) that are conceived of as unchanging. Neither am I suggesting that notional fixity rules out competition between rival alternatives: this often takes the form of one version presented as the absolute truth and a silent snub of the rest. More on the matter of competition below, §8.2.

[ back ] 12. For the use of written texts, first as transcripts and eventually as scripts, see below, §9.5.

[ back ] 13. The matter of ‘conventionality’ is quite complex and it need not negate serious intent. Traditional Christian wedding vows, for example, have remained unchanged for many generations and are thus highly conventional; yet no one doubts their seriousness or their performative status when uttered by bride and groom during an actual wedding ceremony. Similarly, a degree of conventionality in the mode and description of a poetic initiation or a hymnic invocation need not disallow the possibility of a real engagement with the corresponding religious implications: it may still denote a real transaction between the human actor and his gods. It is helpful, in this connection, to quote Griffith’s observation about Hesiod’s induction as a performer (his Dichterweihe) in the Theogony: “I do not doubt that an archaic poet might believe that he had experienced something like what Hesiod describes: Empedocles, Aristeas, and others were not adopting purely conventional postures (and where do conventions come from, if not from common human experience?)” (Griffith 1983:48n45, his emphasis).

[ back ] 14. For example, references to performance practices: agents involved, instruments used, performance occasion, etc. On diachronic skewing, see below, §10.2.1 n. 60.

[ back ] 15. Nagy 2003:39–48, esp. 45–46. See also González 2015.

[ back ] 16. Cf. Herodotos 2.53.

[ back ] 17. Some might object to the parallel I am drawing here by citing the example of Kroisos in Herodotos 1.46–49. Wishing to make trial of the oracles of Greece and Lybia in order to learn which, if any, spoke truthfully, Kroisos dispatched embassies that, at a previously agreed time, were to pose a question whose answer was known only to the king himself and to the gods. An objector may counter that on this occasion not all oracles gave the same answer to the same question, posed under the same circumstances. But the logic of the trial is that they should have. The story opposes true to false oracles, whereas my illustration assumes ex hypothesi the truthfulness of the oracle. Another, arguably more relevant, objection is the so-called oracle of the wooden wall of Herodotos 7.140–141. (Cf. Evans 1982 and Mikalson 2003:52–56.) There the question, posed twice, is ostensibly the same, as are the circumstances, yet two different answers are given. This, however, is not a valid counterargument, since the two answers are in no way contradictory (even if the tone of the second seemed to the theopropoi milder than the first); they merely address two aspects of the same future events: the destruction and burning of Athens (especially its temples) in the first; the protection of the wooden wall and the future confrontation with the Persians at Salamis (with a typically ambiguous oracular hint of victory) in the second. But whatever the disparity in tone, the two oracles are largely complementary in substance and, where they overlap, they are in exact agreement with each other: e.g. in enjoining flight from the enemy (140.2 and 141.4) and stressing the inevitability of the impending evil (140.3 and 141.3). It is simply not accurate to say that “Delphi delivered two contradictory directions” (Macan 1908:189, my emphasis). More correctly, Kirchberg (1965:91) notes: “Die Pythia gibt ihnen ein zweites Orakel … . Es … bekräftigt die Aussagen des ersten Orakels.” One genuine element of discontinuity between the rhapsode as mediator of the Muse and the Pythia as mouthpiece of Apollo is that exceptionally—and there is no doubt that Timon’s encouragement to the Athenians to approach the oracle a second time as suppliants is very unusual—one might request the god not merely to reveal but to affect the future for the better, since this was arguably within his power. This combination of interrogation and entreaty is beyond the traditional purview of the Muse and, at any rate, only makes sense when the object of one’s inquiry is not the past, as is largely the case with Homeric epic. (Homeric poetry rarely addresses matters that lie in the audience’s future.) It is in this fusion of the ability to disclose and the ability to affect the future that the performative power of divine speech is best seen. See further below, §7.2.1.

[ back ] 18. Thus Avdo Međedović equates the “better” song with “the true one” (see below, §7.2.3 n. 131).

[ back ] 19. With the seeming approval of Grandolini 1996:44n37.

[ back ] 20. Finkelberg 1990:296.

[ back ] 21. Finkelberg 1990:296.

[ back ] 22. Cf. Durante 1976:176–177. See below, §

[ back ] 23. The insistence on an established notional sequence, which answers, in turn, to the notional fixity of the song, is a central tenet of rhapsodic poetics that I will explore at length below in chapter 10. It is reflected by the language of performance as it focuses on the precise narrative ‘point of entry’: μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ … | ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα … (Α 1 6); ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα … | τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν (α 1 10; this should be rendered ‘from a point [along the thread] of these events’: the Muse is free to choose her starting point, but notionally the narrative thread is always the same); Μοῦσ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν, | οἴμης, τῆς τότ’ ἄρα κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἵκανε (θ 73–74); ὁ δ’ ὁρμηθεὶς θεοῦ ἤρχετο, φαῖνε δ’ ἀοιδήν, | ἔνθεν ἑλών, ὡς … (θ 499–500).

[ back ] 24. Strictly speaking, it is true, as West (2007:94) observes, that “[o]ther Indo-European traditions have nothing corresponding to the Muses.” But the figure of the inspired poetic performer is pervasive, even if his privileged access to divine speech and knowledge is variously articulated by each branch of the IE family. Cf. Thieme 1968b:226–229 and Schmitt 1967 §§89, 95. Specifically on the root of vates, see Thieme 1968a and Watkins 2000:101 s.v. “wet-.” Watkins (1995b:73) illustrates well the variable idiom of IE claims to inspiration: the same root that gives us Μοῦσα, the divine inspireress of Greek bards, also gives us the Vedic mánma (‘knowledge’), used by Rig Veda 4.5.6 in the context of inspiration: “You have placed on me this knowledge, o Agni, like a heavy burden” (Watkins’s translation). See, further, Chadwick and Chadwick 1932–1940:1.635–660, 2.624–625; Durante 1968a:255–256; and Durante 1968b:263–264. I cannot, however, agree with Durante (1968b:263) that the Muse merely provides the singer with his narrative material. Nor can I, with him (263), endorse Setti’s distinction (based on χ 347–348) between ‘creative’ singers, responsible for their own repertoire, and those who merely sang what they learned from others (Setti 1958:150). For more on Setti’s position and my disagreement with him see below, §7.2.2 n. 121.

[ back ] 25. Hesiod Theogony 100 and Homeric Hymn 32.20 (to Selene).

[ back ] 26. Cf. Nagy 1999a:289–300, esp. §4 and §6. For the relation in which Apollo stands to the Muses and, by implication, to the poet, see below, §7.2.3 n. 123.

[ back ] 27. A convenient comparative study of the relation between literature and prophecy is Chadwick 1942. See also the relevant chapters of Chadwick and Chadwick 1932–1940, esp. Ⅲ.839–853.

[ back ] 28. Hainsworth writes ad θ 62–103 concerning the ἀοιδός that “the nature of his skill is mysterious and attributable to divine aid and favour, but this does not set him apart from other craftsmen (diviners, doctors, and carpenters are mentioned at xvii 383–5) or give his art a value beyond that of acrobats and wrestlers” (Heubeck et al. 1988:349). This statement, which might seem to threaten the unique status advocated here for singers in archaic Greece, is an oversimplification: ρ 383–385 does list the μάντις, the ἰητήρ, and the τέκτων along with the ἀοιδός as itinerant δημιουργοί (cf. Hesiod Works and Days 25–26), but this hardly justifies our judging them all to be equally valuable and respected. (For a hierarchy of dēmiourgoi see Nagy 1990c:56n26.) Hainsworth’s comment ignores the rhetorical structure of the passage: a tricolon capped by an entire line devoted to the singer, who is introduced by the emphatic ἢ καί. (Russo et al. 1992:38: “Homer reserves an entire verse for describing his own trade in glowing terms.”) I do not mean to imply, however, that the other professions are anything but valuable and, in some respects, it is right to consider them the social equals of the ἀοιδός (especially the μάντις, who also makes a trade of ἔπη). The root *tek s on which τέκτων is built, was used in Indo-European poetics to describe the activity of the singer (see further below, §7.2.2 n. 121). The mention of the μάντις, moreover, is not without significance for my argument, although the particular nature of its close tie with the ἀοιδός has to be independently established. But surely the unique love of the Muse for the singer (θ 63) and the honor in which the people hold him (θ 472) distinguish him from doctors, carpenters, acrobats, and wrestlers, elevating him above them. θ 479–481 makes clear, moreover, that such reverence is not peculiar to Demodokos (whose very name etymologizes his reception; cf. the scholia ad θ 44) but is shown to all singers generally.

[ back ] 29. On a similar statement at θ 491 touching Demodokos, see below, §7.2.

[ back ] 30. At Τ 258 the imperative ἴστω is used to summon Zeus and other gods as witnesses to an oath: ἴστω νῦν Ζεὺς πρῶτα θεῶν ὕπατος καὶ ἄριστος. Benveniste (1969:2.173) observes: “Le but n’est pas seulement de faire connaître aux dieux le texte de l’engagement par lequel on se lie. Il faut rendre ici à ístō sa pleine force étymologique: non pas seulement ‘qu’il sache’, mais proprement ‘qu’il voie’” (emphasis his). Cf. Bartolotta 2002 and Bartolotta 2005.

[ back ] 31. Lesher 1981:12–13.

[ back ] 32. Cf. Mette 1961, Bader 1985, Prier 1989:15–117, Bader 1989:20–22, Bader 1990:44–45, Turkeltaub 2003, and Bakker 2005:92–176.

[ back ] 33. With πάρεστε here compare θ 491. It also hints that the Muses are at hand and ready to assist the bard.

[ back ] 34. To be sure, since the word κλέος refers to the act of hearing, it readily builds on the contrast between seeing and hearing. But just as the opposition by itself does not necessarily compromise the epistemological reliability of the poet’s hearing—it merely denies him immediate eyewitness access to past events—neither does it question the credibility of the κλέος whose source is the Muse. The ideology of sight so dominates Greek archaic poetics that even so late a writer as Aristotle sometimes melds the visual and the auditory unselfconsciously (e.g. in Politics 1336b13–14).

[ back ] 35. Cf., for example, θ 62–64. For the topos of blindness (in particular, Homer’s blindness) see Graziosi 2002:125–163.

[ back ] 36. Usually, the Muses’ gift is expressed by δίδωμι with an object such as ἀοιδή or αὐδή (e.g. θ 64). At the time of performance the goddesses are said to impel the bard (Mοῦσ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν θ 73).

[ back ] 37. For a fuller understanding of the archaic notions associated with μνάομαι and μνήμη, see Benveniste 1954b. His etymological analysis alone, however, is not enough; one must also survey the contexts in which we find ‘memory’, ‘remember’, the Muses, etc., and ascertain the views that flow from them. This is what Detienne 1996 does. See also Bakker 2002b.

[ back ] 38. At Θ 181 Hektor wishes that there be ‘a remembrance of devouring fire’ when the Trojans reach the ships (μνημοσύνη τις ἔπειτα πυρὸς δηΐοιο γενέσθω). Though at the narrative surface level this wish merely stands periphrastically for ‘let someone remember [to bring me] fire’, as Nagy (1999a:17 §3n2) remarks, on a metapoetic level it surely calls for its inclusion into the permanent record of epic. And this is what happens at the invocation of Π 112: ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχουσαι, | ὅππως δὴ πρῶτον πῦρ ἔμπεσε νηυσὶν Ἀχαιῶν.

[ back ] 39. In fact, the text does not require this opposition, which assumes that the two clauses of Β 486 state one and the same fact in positive and negative terms: ‘we only hear the kléos’ = ‘we know nothing’. Only then might one draw the false inference that, as far as knowing is concerned, κλέος amounts to ‘nothing’. I argue instead that, even on the assumption that this passage draws a contrast, its performance pragmatics leads to the conclusion that it is a rhetorical one between ‘we know nothing’ and ‘you know everything’. In other words, ‘we only hear the kléos’ is equivalent to ‘we see/know nothing in and of ourselves’. In view is the ultimate source of knowledge—the Muses, not the performer. Hence, the first clause of Β 486 amounts to a statement of dependence: ‘we only hear’ what you have seen and now choose to tell us, i.e. ‘the kléos’. This is precisely what the rhapsode himself goes on to tell. Because Β 486 relates the source of the bard’s telling to his hearing the Muses’ speech, far from an acknowledgment of ignorance because he only has access to the κλέος, it is rather a statement of authoritative inspiration.

[ back ] 40. On the meaning of κλέος and the related debate whether κλέος ἄφθιτον is a formula, see Finkelberg 1986; Edwards 1988; Olson 1995:2–3 and 224–227; Watkins 1995b:173–178; Volk 2002; Nagy 2003:45–48; and González 2015.

[ back ] 41. Ford (1992:59–61) offers a more sensitive reading, but he still wants diachronic nuance when he overlays the metapoetic meaning of κλέος with its “etymological sense … simply as ‘what is heard’.” The correct sequence of the diachronic layering is the precise opposite. See also Ford 1992:72–77.

[ back ] 42. Odysseus’ praise of Demodokos (αἰνίζομαι) recalls the characterization of the rhapsode as an ἐπαινέτης of Homer. The word family of αἶνος and αἰνέω signals a metapoetics of reception (cf. Nagy 1999a:234–242; and Nagy 1990c:146–150 with its index s.v. “ainos”). See further below, §9.3.

[ back ] 43. For κατὰ κόσμον I adopt Murray’s Loeb translation “well and truly,” which nicely captures the implications of this expression for the veracity and artistic excellence of Demodokos’ performance.

[ back ] 44. See immediately below for this translation of κόσμος.

[ back ] 45. See below, §7.2.3 n. 123.

[ back ] 46. However, as Nagy (1999a:301–308) observes, there is a latent opposition between Apollo and his bard not unlike the ritual antagonism between a hero and the divinity whose τιμή the hero’s deeds challenge the most (cf. 1999a:62–64). This opposition does not obtain between the singer and the Muses (except in cases of blatant defiance, such as Thamyris’ at Β 594–600).

[ back ] 47. See below, §13.5.1 n. 128.

[ back ] 48. One reviewer considers Finkelberg “a superb logician” and, referring in particular to her second chapter exempli gratia, pronounces the task she sets for herself there “misguided” but “brilliantly argued” (Pratt 1999–2000:302). Another reviewer declares her book “a salutary reminder of the beauty of rational discourse” (Morgan 2000:94). But it is pervaded by rigid schematisms that often lead to forced readings and build up to an implausible overarching argument. Besides the reviews cited above, see Rutherford 2000, Rotstein 2000, and Rösler 2002.

[ back ] 49. Cf. Phaidros 259d3–7 and 268e2 with Yunis 2011 ad loc. See also Plato Phaidōn 60e6–61a4, where Sokrates states in no uncertain terms, ὡς φιλοσοφίας μὲν οὔσης μεγίστης μουσικῆς.

[ back ] 50. ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἀοιδὸν ἀνὴρ ποτιδέρκεται, ὅς τε θεῶν ἒξ | ἀείδῃ δεδαὼς ἔπε’ ἱμερόεντα βροτοῖσι, | τοῦ δ’ ἄμοτον μεμάασιν ἀκουέμεν, ὁππότ’ ἀείδῃ· | ὣς ἐμὲ κεῖνος ἔθελγε παρήμενος ἐν μεγάροισι.

[ back ] 51. Cf. λ 367–368.

[ back ] 52. β 61 θ 134 146 448 υ 72 ζ 232–234.

[ back ] 53. Ο 411–412 (note ὑποθημοσύνῃσιν Ἀθήνης) Ψ 671 θ 159 (to be compared with θ 179–181, in a passage that places skill in comfortable contiguity with divine gifting).

[ back ] 54. She has done so to evade the (to her) detrimental evidence of θ 481 488.

[ back ] 55. Note how the poetic induction is reprised in Works and Days 659 as ἔνθα με τὸ πρῶτον λιγυρῆς ἐπέβησαν ἀοιδῆς.

[ back ] 56. See below, §

[ back ] 57. West 1966:161 ad Theogony 22 suggests that “[p]erhaps Hesiod is here thinking not of the single epiphany but of a period of practice” (my emphasis).

[ back ] 58. I rather deem it a traditional multiform.

[ back ] 59. See, for example, Finkelberg 1998:38–44.

[ back ] 60. Rösler 2002:297 speaks of her “willful manner” of handling her subject: “F. behandelt das Thema … auf durchaus eigenwillige Weise.”

[ back ] 61. I discuss below (§7.2.3) another of her interpretive schematisms, this one regarding Phemios’ claim to be ‘self-taught’ (αὐτοδίδακτος χ 347).

[ back ] 62. So Finkelberg 1998:52 and 59. It bears repeating that this is the view she takes of Homer’s explicit poetics, not of the actual and undeniable artistry of the poems: “[W]hat the Homeric poet sees himself as competent in is the range of epic subjects at his disposal and their basic plots, and what he sees himself as ignorant of is the way in which he should expand these subjects by elaborating on them within these basic plots, and the point within the epic saga at which his narrative should start” (53).

[ back ] 63. Cf. Murray 1981:98. Although pleasure is demonstrably basic to the bard’s singing, Finkelberg denies that it is basic to his song (91).

[ back ] 64. Cf., for example, Heubeck and Hoekstra 1989 ad loc.

[ back ] 65. Cf. λιγύφθογγος and λιγύφωνος.

[ back ] 66. Note the opposition between the ‘many other enchantments’ and ‘this [one] song’: Φήμιε, πολλὰ γὰρ ἄλλα βροτῶν θελκτήρια οἶδας | … ταύτης δ’ ἀποπαύε’ ἀοιδῆς (α 337–340).

[ back ] 67. Odysseus, of course, is the last Akhaian to come home from Troy. On this passage, see Nagy 1999a:97–98 §6. See also further below, §10.2.2.

[ back ] 68. Cf. Chantraine GH Ⅱ.240 and Smyth §§1876–1877.

[ back ] 69. Unless one should claim, incredibly, that the many other songs Phemios knows are not recent but he has never yet performed them (i.e. they are old but not traditional and, because they are not well-known, still qualify as potentially ‘enchanting’). One might then question how Penelope could possibly be informed, and state so resoundingly, that Phemios knows them. But all of this is oversubtle: the verse actually says that the song of the Akhaian νόστος is the newest to come round to the hearers. Hence, strictly speaking, νεωτάτη is a joint quality of the song and its performance. Conversely, the other θελκτήρια are not ‘newest’ because the audience has already heard them.

[ back ] 70. Cf. Murray 1981, who also argues for the interdependence of inspiration and art in early Greek poetics.

[ back ] 71. Cf. Homeric Hymns 5.293, 9.9, 18.11.

[ back ] 72. ἐνθάδε τὴν ἱερὴν κεφαλὴν κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτει | ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων κοσμήτορα θεῖον Ὅμηρον.

[ back ] 73. For more on κόσμος, not only as ‘order’ but also as ‘adornment’, see below, §9.2.

[ back ] 74. For the use and meaning of κόσμος before its adoption by philosophers see Diller 1956. See also Kranz 1938, Kranz 1955–1957, Kerschensteiner 1962, Puhvel 1976, Casevitz 1989, García-Ramón 1993, and Neumann 1995. Building on García-Ramón 1992a and 1992b, Elmer 2013 explores how κόσμος relates to ἔπαινος (speech that builds, embodies, and expresses consensus) in an Indo-European context (48–62, with notes at 245–249). My argument below makes clear why I cannot agree with him that “for the most part the notion of an authoritative and efficacious use of the spoken word is bleached from the Greek reflexes of *kens” (2013:51).

[ back ] 75. Most commonly as οὐ κατὰ κόσμον or εὖ κατὰ κόσμον.

[ back ] 76. Finkelberg (1998:124) reduces the κόσμος in κατὰ κόσμον to “the order of the events as they took place.” There is nothing, however, that requires this semantic narrowing and, on the contrary, much that commends our adopting a broader perspective. If the underlying notion of order is not one of linear chronology but of a truthful correspondence with reality, κατὰ κόσμον would no doubt comprehend a full enumeration of all the important events and their correct chronological order. But it would also refer more broadly to a comprehensive narrative of great accuracy and detail that is delivered with compelling artistry (vividness, psychological depth, bold characterization, etc.). Such a narrative might include verbatim speeches; it might reveal the hidden thoughts and motivation of its agents; it might meticulously unfold their actions; and so on. Accuracy, comprehensiveness, consistency, a compelling narrative structure, etc. are the sorts of things that make for convincing eyewitness testimony. Therefore, that after hearing the bard sing Demodokos seemed to Odysseus ‘as if he himself had been present or had heard from one who was’ fails to justify contracting the range of possibilities open to Demodokos’ truthful storytelling only to “the order of events.” Of course, an accurate narrative would have to respect the actual order of the events, but it would not have to recount them in chronological order. It is this last, narrow sense that Finkelberg privileges and reads into κατὰ κόσμον, in accord with her view that the narrative catalog (a linear, point-by-point account of the action) best embodies the explicit poetics of Homer. Note that the meaning of κοσμέω ‘to marshal [troops]’ does not entail a temporal order; arguably, it does not even necessarily involve a linear spatial ordering (cf. Β 476 Μ 85–87).

[ back ] 77. In regard to λίην γὰρ κατὰ κόσμον (θ 489), Puhvel (1976:156) writes that “[it] surely … refers to the preceding Musaic-Apollinian aspect of the performance and means ‘for by the best standards of aoedic art’. The following καὶ ἵππου κόσμον ἄεισον then signifies ‘give us a piece of your art also about the horse’.” Finkelberg (1998:126) observes that “‘to order the song’ was the oral poets’ professional designation of their method of arranging the material at their disposal.” I fully agree with this statement, although under “arranging the material” I would include, contra Finkelberg, every resource of the rhapsodic craft.

[ back ] 78. Cf. Plato’s Gorgias 507e6–508a4.

[ back ] 79. I say metonymically, and not metaphorically, for the relation between the song and the order it narrates, as we shall see below, can even be described as one of cause and effect: the song is efficacious, it brings its universe into being.

[ back ] 80. Thus, Diller (1956:51) underlines the importance of the horse’s design, the arrangement that made it suitable for its intended purpose: “κόσμος ἵππου [ist] die besondere Ordnung, die dem Trojanischen Pferd zu seinem besonderen Zweck gegeben wurde, daß es Versteck für die bewaffneten Griechen sein konnte. … κόσμος [ist] die Zusammenordnung zubereiteter Teile, die an das Subjekt herangebracht wird, um es zu besonderem Zweck zu qualifizieren. Vom Subjekt aus gesehen ist κόσμος der Zustand der Qualifikation, der durch die Zurüstung herbeigeführt wird. Das Tun, das die erforderlichen Relationen herstellt, heißt κοσμεῖν.” Neumann (1995:206) endorses this view.

[ back ] 81. If we ignore the objections based on the established meaning of κόσμος and consider only the manner in which Odysseus requests the song, especially the clause ‘which Epeios fashioned with Athena’s help’, we might accept a gloss like ‘construction’, ‘building’, or ‘fashioning’. And so, with nothing but Odysseus’ words to go on, we might be excused for expecting next the performer to narrate Epeios’ part: his implements, his skill, how the wood was acquired, the cutting, carving, smoothing, and assembling of the parts, etc. But none of this is forthcoming.

[ back ] 82. Murray (Loeb Classical Library) renders it ‘the building of the horse’.

[ back ] 83. ‘Form, fashion’ is a remarkably poor choice for a lemma, because its semantic range is so broad. I would pose no objection, for example, to rendering κόσμος in Herodotos 1.99 as ‘form’, so long as this is understood in the sense of ‘arrangement’, the procedural order of Deiokes’ rule. But no such meaning of ‘form’ is applicable to ἵππου κόσμος. In the case of Parmenides, LSJ might seem to intend ‘form’ as ‘outward appearance’ (again, not applicable to θ 492). But one should expect a lexical subdivision only to include passages where the word in question means one and the same thing.

[ back ] 84. ἐν τῶι σοι παύω πιστὸν λόγον ἠδὲ νόημα | ἀμφὶς ἀληθείης· δόξας δ’ ἀπὸ τοῦδε βροτείας | μάνθανε κόσμον ἐμῶν ἐπέων ἀπατηλὸν ἀκούων (B8.50–52).

[ back ] 85. Apparently, it is the use of ἀπατηλός that led to the gloss ‘form’, as if the goddess were saying: ‘henceforth learn the opinions of mortals by listening to the deceptive form of my epea’. But the deception is not peculiar to the form—there is no obvious change in the poem’s form at this point: the utterance in its entirety lacks veracity. (If the epea now turn deceptive, it is because the song henceforth is formally indistinguishable from what preceded, yet it no longer publishes divine truth.) On the other hand, if I am right in rendering κόσμος as ‘song’ or ‘lay’—well ordered speech that, in the archaic context, carried the stamp of divine authority—Parmenides’ use is natural: he is, after all, quoting divine speech (such is the conceit) uttered in hexameter (hence the ἐμῶν ἐπέων), the meter common to oracles and inspired song. ‘Of my epea’ is a genitive of explanation or material (Smyth §§1322–1323): ‘the kosmos that is my epea’ or ‘the kosmos that is made of my epea’; in other words, κόσμος is not a quality, component, or facet of the epea, but the very epea, described in the rhapsodic language of archaic poetics. The real discontinuity here is that the truthfulness connoted by κόσμος is undermined: this is a significant departure from the symbolic system evoked by the term. The reason is polemical, for what follows is a cosmogony that, unlike Hesiod’s theogony, has its source in mortal man, not the Muses. The transfer of κόσμος from the context of authoritative true speech to that of deceitful utterance is rhetorically effective and maximizes the polemical impact of Parmenides’ teaching. Cf. Diels 1897:66 (κατὰ κόσμον = “in dem Gefüge seines Baues”) and 92 (citing Demokritos DK 68 B21); Untersteiner 1958:XCⅨn195, CLXⅧn9; Bormann 1971:85–86 (κατὰ κόσμον = “der Ordnung entsprechend”; cf. 86n2); and Coxon 1986:218.

[ back ] 86. ταῦτα μὲν δὴ ὁ Δηιόκης ἑωυτῷ τε ἐτείχεε καὶ περὶ τὰ ἑωυτοῦ οἰκία, τὸν δὲ ἄλλον δῆμον πέριξ ἐκέλευε τὸ τεῖχος οἰκέειν. οἰκοδομηθέντων δὲ πάντων κόσμον τόνδε Δηιόκης πρῶτός ἐστι ὁ καταστησάμενος (Herodotos 1.99.1–4). In Asheri 1988 ad loc. Antelami translates, “Deiokes pose queste norme” (119); Asheri comments: “Deiokes sarebbe anche il ‘primo inventore’ del cerimoniale e della burocrazia di corte” (328).

[ back ] 87. Powell 1938 glosses it as ‘constitution’ (s.v. 2). The presence of the participle καταστησάμενος is, perhaps, no coincidence, since κατάστασις in Herodotos can denote ‘political constitution’ (e.g. at 2.173.1).

[ back ] 88. δεύτερα δὲ τὸν χρυσὸν εἰρώτα, τὸν στρεπτὸν τὸν περιαυχένιον καὶ τὰ ψέλια· ἐξηγεομένων δὲ τῶν Ἰχθυοφάγων τὸν κόσμον αὐτοῦ γελάσας ὁ βασιλεὺς καὶ νομίσας εἶναί σφεα πέδας εἶπε ὡς παρ’ ἑωυτοῖσί εἰσι ῥωμαλεώτεραι τουτέων πέδαι (Herodotos 3.22.2).

[ back ] 89. So also Powell 1938 s.v. 1.

[ back ] 90. Another genitive of material (Smyth §1323). Rosen’s Teubner prints τὸν χρυσοῦν.

[ back ] 91. As the apparatus shows, the manner of expression is somewhat strained and scribes tried to improve on it: αὐτοῦ competes with αὐτῶν and perhaps αὐτῷ (the apparatus of Hude’s OCT offers “αὐτῶ V (?)”; but Rosen’s Teubner reads αὐτοῦ for V also). The awkwardness results from the form of the question, τὸν χρυσὸν εἰρώτα, with ‘the gold’ followed by ‘twisted collar’ and ‘bracelets’ in apposition.

[ back ] 92. So Rawlinson in Everyman’s Library. Medaglia (with Rosen) prints χρυσοῦν in Asheri and Medaglia 1990 ad loc., where Fraschetti translates: “In secondo luogo chiese degli oggetti d’oro: la collana e i braccialetti. Quando gli Ittiofagi gli ebbero spiegato il modo di adornarsene …” (39). The Ikhthyophagoi must have explained that the bracelets were for the wrists, and from this the Ethiopian king mistakenly inferred that they must be fetters. The answer may have included a short description of their manufacture, to make clear that the gifts were indeed of gold. Just as with the εἷμα, concerning which the king did not know ‘what it was’ or ‘how it had been made’, he may have guessed that the bracelets and the collar were of gold and yet have wondered about their purpose; or he may have suspected that the objects merely looked like gold: asking about their manufacture would have addressed his doubts. (‘He asked about the gold’, of course, need not imply that the king knew it was gold. Herodotos did, and the question is narrated from his perspective.)

[ back ] 93. Finkelberg (1998:124–126) reaches a similar conclusion through formulaic analysis, adding only her usual insistence on the semantically narrow “ordered sequence of events”: “[T]he word kosmos, as used in the expression ‘sing the order of the Wooden Horse’ [is] to be taken as standing for the song of the Wooden Horse itself” (126).

[ back ] 94. The etymology of κόσμος defended most recently by García-Ramón 1992a and 1993 strengthens my point. He argues that its IE root is *ḱens and relates it to Latin censēre. Its alleged meaning is ‘to announce authoritatively’, “hablar / dar una estimación con autoridad” (García-Ramón 1992a:40); and, from this primordial sense, by extension, ‘to arrange [with the power of speech]’ (“la buena disposición resultante de seguir una opinión autorizada” 1992a:45): “[E]n IE *k̂ens coexisten tres noemas … , a saber /autoridad/, /oralidad/, /opinión, estimación/” (1992a:40–41). “To put in order (by speaking)” is the corresponding wording in Beekes 2010:760. This proposal makes the efficacy of marked speech, its decisive effect on reality, central to the notion of order embodied by κόσμος. κόσμος < *ḱonsmos would be an o-grade nomen actionis or nomen rei actae. Although Neumann 1995 disagrees with this etymology (he observes at 208 that the order in question “geschieht aber nicht primär oder ausschließlich durch Sprechen”), he admits that it is unimpeachable from the point of view of historical linguistics. Authored by Froehde (1877:311), this reconstruction is endorsed with various degrees of conviction, among others, by Brugmann 1907:19 (“nach einer bestimmten Maßgabe und Ordnung, autoritativ kundtun”; he changed his mind in Brugmann 1911:358–363); Boisacq 1938:500–501; Chantraine 1999 s.v.; Walde-Pokorny I.403; Dumézil in BSL 42 (1942–1945) xvi (“c’est mettre une notion ou un être à sa place par une appréciation”; reported in “Séance du 21 Avril 1945,” pp. xⅲ-xⅵ); Risch 1974:45 §19b; Schwyzer GG I.492 §Ⅲ.13.3; and Beekes 2010:759–760 (who pronounces it “[t]he most probable reconstruction”).

[ back ] 95. κατὰ μοῖραν (θ 496) can be viewed from a similar perspective: the gods, especially Zeus, are the ones who assign to all their μοῖρα: ἐπὶ γάρ τοι ἑκάστῳ μοῖραν ἔθηκαν | ἀθάνατοι θνητοῖσιν ἐπὶ ζείδωρον ἄρουραν (τ 592–593). Its root meaning ‘portion’ probably motivates the choice καταλέξῃς, which suggests a narrative enumeration (cf. Luther 1935:69). The divine dispensation, dramatically enacted by the kerostasiai of Θ 69–72 and Χ 209–213, is too well known to require demonstration; here I will only mention δ 475 exempli gratia, which the question (δ 469–470) and answer (δ 472–474) clearly link to the divine will. Now, it is true that the gods are not said personally to kill a hero (with the possible exception of Ares at Ε 842; and at Π 787–804 Apollo all but spears Patroklos); but the explicit description of a god abandoning his ward immediately before his death (e.g. Χ 213) clearly proves that μοῖρα and an explicit reference to the divine will are mutually complementary ways of conceptualizing the unfolding of a fixed story that must happen. One should not dissociate this theological framework from the traditional quality of the poetry (pace Edwards 1991 ad Ρ 321): at the notional level, both demand that the integrity of the story be preserved without departure (cf. Π 431–443 Χ 167–181), even as they reflect the audience’s expectation of stability in the telling (cf. ὑπὲρ μοῖραν Υ 336 and ὑπὲρ Διὸς αἶσαν Ρ 321). ‘Narrative necessity’ is but another way of expressing notional fixity from the perspective of the outsider. For more on μοῖρα and the will of Zeus see Nagy 1999a §17 and §25n2. Note also Luther’s perceptive comments: “Die Götter haben jedem Ding seinen Anteil zugewiesen. … Mit Recht betont Leitzke (S. 9), daß κατὰ μοῖραν umfassend auf die ganze Art des Gesanges geht, sowohl die Richtigkeit und Genauigkeit der Schilderung wie auch den kunstgerechten Vortrag” (Luther 1935:69). Finkelberg 1987 makes a semantic distinction between the κατὰ μοῖραν (⏑ – – –) that immediately precedes forms of καταλέγω at the end of the verse and the κατὰ μοῖραν (⏑ ⏑ – ⏑) that most often precedes verse-end ἔειπε(ς/ν). Because only the former retains the metrical shape that reflects the lost onset *sm of μοῖρα, Finkelberg thinks that its allegedly distinct meaning must be privileged as the original one. Its sense, she claims, is ‘in ordered succession’. Since Homeric speakers apply κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες to utterances “not subject to further differentiation” which lack a notion of sequence, there κατὰ μοῖραν must be translated ‘rightly’ (137). But note that κατὰ μοῖραν κατέλεξας (γ 331) is metrically isomorphic with ἀληθείην κατέλεξα (ρ 122). From this, Finkelberg infers that the sense she attributes to the ‘original’ κατὰ μοῖραν is the one that ἀληθείη bears. Hence, she concludes, the truthfulness of Homeric poetics and a point-by-point narrative succession are interdependent (138). Although she does not expressly say so, it is clear from her later work (Finkelberg 1998:126–129) that when she speaks of ‘point-by-point narrative succession’ she has in mind a linear narrative catalog that observes chronological sequence. It should be clear from my study below (§ of rhapsodic sequencing that this is too cramped a notion of Homeric poetics. That κατὰ μοῖραν before a verse-end form of καταλέγω metrically reflects the original shape of the onset of μοῖρα is undeniable. But this type of metrical lengthening in thesis was a productive performance device (cf. Chantraine GH I.176–177 §70). Therefore, one may not automatically equate every instance of it with an archaism (cf. Jones 2010 and Hackstein 2002:1–34). The notion of ‘point-by-point’ storytelling, moreover, if at all present, is more precisely to be found in καταλέγειν, not in κατὰ μοῖραν, which, as my review above of the semantics of μοῖρα demonstrates (cf. especially ὑπὲρ μοῖραν at Υ 336), has a richer and more complex meaning than the gloss ‘in ordered succession’. See also Π 367 (with Μ 225), where ‘order,’ not ‘succession,’ is in view. καταλέγειν too resists a schematic etymological translation: it is not simply ‘to list point by point’. Like our own ‘to recount’ or the German ‘erzählen’, it evokes not a mere count or simple list but the structuring of a series of events into a detailed narrative neither precluding rhetorical artistry nor requiring their delivery in strict chronological sequence. Were chronological linearity essential to καταλέγειν, there would be no point to Odysseus’ rhetorical question τί πρῶτόν τοι ἔπειτα, τί δ’ ὑστάτιον καταλέξω; (ι 14). If the sense of καταλέγειν was the less schematic one I argue for, one readily understands why it must be buttressed by ἀριθμήσας at π 235, where for once κατάλεξον actually means a ‘to enumerate’. The fact that κατὰ μοῖραν is sometimes used of statements and actions that are not subject to further differentiation in any obvious way should alert the reader to the inherent weakness of Finkelberg’s dichotomy. As it turns out, even her claim that statements with εἰπεῖν are unsusceptible to differentiation overreaches in proportion as it suggests that κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες is inapplicable to narrative storytelling: note ἕκαστα in ν 385 and πάντα in Α 286 Θ 146 Κ 169 Ψ 626 Ω 379 σ 170 υ 37 (cf. χ 486). In ν 385, for example, Odysseus qualifies as ‘duly spoken’ what Athena tells him about the doings of the suitors in his halls and her warning to prepare to deal with them; her message is not an extensive narrative of expanded chronology, but all the same it includes a brief description of past events and present circumstances that the hero declares ‘duly spoken’. Similarly, in Α 286 Agamemnon calls Nestor’s advice to him ‘proper’, advice that is clothed in a narrative of Nestor’s youthful exploits (Α 260–272). I do not deny that there is a semantic difference between the statements that use καταλέγειν and the ones that resort to εἰπεῖν. Typically, the former refer to a report or narration, while the latter qualify an expression of wish or advice. Insofar as the notion of propriety entailed by the adverbial phrase κατὰ μοῖραν is closely suited to either meaning, we should expect it to vary somewhat: the propriety of a narrative is different from the propriety of a warning, but in both cases it is defined by its correspondence with social and divine standards of apportionment: truth, accuracy, convenience, timeliness, propitiousness, good will, deference, etc. This correspondence includes destiny and, metapoetically, narrative necessity. Putting excessive emphasis on particular semantic features risks creating an oversimplistic schematism. So, for example, in Ω 379 Hermes’ words ταῦτά γε πάντα γέρον κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες tell Priam that his assessment of the situation and his praise of Hermes’ parents are ‘duly spoken’. Whereas in Ω 407, ἄγε δή μοι πᾶσαν ἀληθείην κατάλεξον opens Priam’s question to Hermes whether his son Hektor is still by the Akhaian ships or Akhilleus has cut his limbs and fed them to the dogs; arguably, this is hardly a request for a point-by-point narrative of linear chronology. The rigidly oversimple explanation of καταλέγω embraced by Finkelberg also renders φ 212 problematic: Odysseus offers no narrative but a promise to the swineherd and cowherd. I find implausible too the proposal in Radif 2004: κατὰ μοῖραν, she claims, would express that “il canto sarebbe realizzato secondo la sezione di conoscenza di chi lo compone ed espone” (401), i.e. according to personal competence (“competenza personale” 402).

[ back ] 96. Two further instances of θέσπις are Euripides Mēdeia 425 (the ‘divine song of the lyre’, the gift of Apollo) and Sophokles Ikhneutai 250 (the ‘divine voice’ of Hermes’ tortoise lyre). Other derivatives from the same root are clearly oracular in meaning: θεσπίσματα, θέσπισις, θεσπιῳδός, etc. According to Koller 1965, θέσπις is a backformation from the compound *θεσπιαοιδός, ‘the one who proclaims the oracle through verse’, which Koller connects with the epic singer, owing to his practice of starting the recitation of Homeric poetry with the ‘oracular verse’ of the προοίμιον.

[ back ] 97. The definition of ‘speech-act’ used here, though deriving from J. L. Austin’s (1975) pioneering work, nevertheless goes beyond it. The most obvious divergence is that for Austin performatives are principally not true or false, but happy or unhappy (though a ‘felicity condition’ such as legitimate authority—under A.2, p. 15—does apply in either case). Yet common to both is the notion that the speech-act, i.e. the utterance of performative speech, is doing, as opposed to just saying, something (cf., for example, p. 133). But divine speech may carry with it the force of inevitability, the implication of inexorable fulfillment. This is most readily illustrated by oracles and prophecies, a category of divine speech that regards the future; in which case, the performative character of a promise overlaps with what may at first be thought a merely declarative sentence. Thus, ‘you shall die’ in ‘the day you eat of it you shall surely die’ is not so much a statement of future fact as a threat that carries with it divine authority and, implicitly, the promise that God will certainly bring it to pass. To illustrate the same on a strictly human level: we call ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ a prediction believed with such conviction by the one who utters it that he acts in accordance with it—not, in our judgment, because of any supernatural necessity, but merely on account of his subjective, yet supremely controlling, persuasion that ‘it must happen so.’ There is real performative force in the utterance of a prediction that elicits full conviction. A fortiori, this is the more so with ‘genuine’ (from the point of view of a cultural insider) divine speech (speech that need not be only about the future). My parenthetical mention of the cultural insider underscores that a speech-act, as used here, is culturally specific. Cf. Nagy 1999b:22–23: “[A] speech act is a speech act only when it fits the criteria of the community in which it is being used. To determine the validity or invalidity of a speech act is to observe its dynamics within the community in question” (his emphasis). For an anthropological, rather than philosophical, approach to speech-acts, see, besides Nagy 1999b, Martin 1989:1–42.

[ back ] 98. This, by the way, is the archaic concept of lie or ψεῦδος; more on this below, §8.2.

[ back ] 99. For epic as a ‘super-genre’ see Nagy 1999b:22–23 and 28–29.

[ back ] 100. See further below, §

[ back ] 101. λιγέως is perhaps best construed apo koinou with κιθαρίζων and γηρύετο.

[ back ] 102. I.e. singing a prelude.

[ back ] 103. Μνημοσύνην μὲν πρῶτα θεῶν ἐγέραιρεν ἀοιδῇ (429); ἀθανάτους ἐγέραιρε θεοὺς Διὸς ἀγλαὸς υἱός (432).

[ back ] 104. Another artificial attempt at a solution is to read it in the sense of ‘bringing [the song] to an end’, i.e. ἀποτελῶν (cf. Radermacher 1931:149).

[ back ] 105. Cf. Β 419 for a negative example that involves Zeus.

[ back ] 106. Cf. Plato’s Lesser Hippias 365a3. Similarly, at τ 565 ἔπε’ ἀκράαντα correspond to dreams that pass through the gates of ivory, in contrast to those that, coming forth through gates of horn, ‘bring to pass true things’ (ἔτυμα κραίνουσι τ 567). Cf. Empedokles DK 31 B111.2 and Euripides Iōn 464 (μαντεύματα κραίνει).

[ back ] 107. “Le dieu chante l’origine des choses et par son chant ‘promeut à l’existence’ les dieux. Métaphore hardie, mais qui s’accorde au rôle d’un poète qui est lui-même un dieu. Un poète fait exister; les choses prennent naissance dans son chant.”

[ back ] 108. Theogony 34; cf. 36, 53–54.

[ back ] 109. ἡ γὰρ λάχε Μαιάδος υἱόν (430).

[ back ] 110. “Die Beziehungen des Hermes zu Mnemosyne und den Musen sind in der musikalischen Natur des Gottes begründet” (Radermacher 1931:150). For Hermes’ association with the nymphs, often in the context of dance and song, see Larson 1995:349n25.

[ back ] 111. For a study of Hermes as ‘god of music’ cf. Hübner 1986.

[ back ] 112. Perhaps a reference to some sort of τελεταί, which feature Hermes as the divine ‘pioneer’ in whose steps the initiates follow.

[ back ] 113. That Hermes’ τιμή should come by way of an exchange fits his role as worker of ἐπαμοίβιμα ἔργα (516–517). Nagy 1990a analyzes the exchange as the mythical reenactment of the separation into the distinct realms of poetry and prophecy of what was, at first, an undifferentiated poet-prophet demiourgos; once mantis and kērux, the old labels for the poet-prophet, became semantically specialized and ceased to be appropriate, the general term aoidos—he argues—took over the general category. But (this is crucial) “the aoidos … remained in the sacral realm of prophecy, as evidenced by [his] institutional dependence … on the divine inspiration of the Muse” (1990a:57). As regards the Hymn to Hermes, by acquiring the lyre Apollo takes over μουσική as Panhellenic, just as the Panhellenic μαντική of Delphi remains strictly his purview, whereas Hermes is allowed only the ὀμφή conveyed by the ‘bee maidens’.

[ back ] 114. αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ τέχνης ἐπιβήσομαι ἥ τις ἀρίστη | βουκολέων ἐμὲ καὶ σὲ διαμπερές· οὐδὲ θεοῖσι | νῶϊ μετ’ ἀθανάτοισιν ἀδώρητοι καὶ ἄλιστοι | αὐτοῦ τῇδε μένοντες ἀνεξόμεθ’, ὡς σὺ κελεύεις. | βέλτερον ἤματα πάντα μετ’ ἀθανάτοις ὀαρίζειν | πλούσιον ἀφνειὸν πολυλήϊον ἢ κατὰ δῶμα | ἄντρῳ ἐν ἠερόεντι θαασσέμεν· ἀμφὶ δὲ τιμῆς | κἀγὼ τῆς ὁσίης ἐπιβήσομαι ἧς περ Ἀπόλλων (166–173; cf. 460–462, 576).

[ back ] 115. Cf. Nagy 1990c:188–190 and Kurke 1991.

[ back ] 116. ὀμφή < *song is cognate with the word ‘song’.

[ back ] 117. αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα | ὄλβου καὶ πλούτου δώσω περικαλλέα ῥάβδον | χρυσείην τριπέτηλον, ἀκήριον ἥ σε φυλάξει | πάντας ἐπικραίνουσα θεμοὺς ἐπέων τε καὶ ἔργων | τῶν ἀγαθῶν ὅσα φημὶ δαήμεναι ἐκ Διὸς ὀμφῆς (528–532).

[ back ] 118. That is, words that are deeds, or deeds that come in the form of words. The emendation θεμούς for the transmitted θεούς at 531 seems certain

[ back ] 119. τίπτε μοι, Ἑρμεία χρυσόρραπι, εἰλήλουθας, | αἰδοῖός τε φίλος τε; πάρος γε μὲν οὔ τι θαμίζεις. | αὔδα ὅ τι φρονέεις· τελέσαι δέ με θυμὸς ἄνωγεν, | εἰ δύναμαι τελέσαι γε καὶ εἰ τετελεσμένον ἐστίν.

[ back ] 120. Obviously relevant is the latter part of the hymn, with the three μοῖραι (or σεμναί, as one ms. and most modern editors would have it): sister-bees who live under the fold of Parnassos and whom Apollo grants to Hermes as independent ‘teachers’ of prophecy; when they feed on honey they ‘bring each thing to pass’, κραίνουσιν ἕκαστα (559). This is not the place to go into the many interesting issues raised by this puzzling passage (for two helpful assessments see Scheinberg 1979 and Larson 1995). For my argument here, the essential point to bear in mind is that their ‘accomplishing’ each thing takes place in the context of oracular inquiry (most likely, of cleromancy, cf. Larson 1995:350–351; the use of astragaloi, common in gaming, explains the pleasure [τέρπε 565] and the luck [αἴ κε τύχῃσι 566] involved in the inquiry). After feeding on honey they ‘tell the truth’, ἀληθείην ἀγορεύειν (561)—a statement that underlines the association of κραίνω and ἀλήθεια and recalls the Muses’ words to Hesiod, ἴδμεν δ’ εὖτ’ ἐθέλωμεν ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι (Theogony 28); otherwise, they ‘lie’ (ψεύδονται 563), which, considering the performative nature of oracular revelation, speaks not so much of its disparity with reality as of its failure to come to pass (cf. Β 138 β 202).

[ back ] 121. This is Setti’s stance, calculated to dissociate Homeric performance from oracular delivery, which he views strictly as ecstatic (on the semantics of ‘ecstasy,’ a word that is often misleading, see below, §8.3.1): “[La modalità del dono della poesia] non riguarda, o non riguarda soltanto, una forma o qualità, un grado o perfezione di essa forma, ma più veramente investe il contenuto del canto, la sua essenza, che è essenza di storia e di verità” (Setti 1958:151). And yet commenting on χ 347–348 he does not oppose divine inspiration to Phemios’ self-description as αὐτοδίδακτος (150), and even questions the propriety of deriving from this passage a self-conscious distinction between form and substance (152n4). According to Lanata (1963:13–14), Phemios claims to be self-taught not in regard to “il contenuto del suo canto,” but to “l’arte, la tecnica poetica con cui dar forma a quel contenuto che gli viene dall’alto.” Durante 1968b follows Setti, though with comparatively less nuance: “[D]er Dichter [befolgt] die alte Theorie vom göttlichen Eingreifen … in Beschränkung auf die Übermittlung des Erzählstoffes” (263); “Folglich beschränkt sich die göttliche Beteiligung darauf, dem Sinn des Aoiden die Kenntnis der Fakten einzuflößen” (277). I can readily agree that the primary reference of οἴμη (χ 347; cf. θ 74 481) is to what Lord calls the ‘story’, i.e. the sequence of themes that make up his singing (see immediately below). Form is not explicitly in view, simply because the oral bard (at least in those stages of the tradition where the poetry is most fluid) is not self-conscious about his formulaic diction. We are still far here from the poet who conceptualizes his trade as the artful assembly of words painstakingly arranged with an eye to the formal beauty of the whole. Not even Pindar’s ἐξ ἐπέων … τέκτονες οἷα σοφοί ἅρμοσαν (Pythian 3.113–114) should be read thus. Such ἔπη are not individual words (we might be tempted to think of his newly coined adjectives), but the archaic units of utterance: the language is thoroughly traditional, as is the corresponding description, one that likely underlies the identity of Homer as the one who assembles ἔπη together (ὁμ + ἀρ; cf. Nagy 1999a:297–300). Pindar’s poetics, of course, is not that of archaic epic (witness, for example, his very different use of μῦθος); but his adherence to traditional motifs and language results in a sort of diachronic skewing not unlike the one that shapes the self-reflection of Homeric poetics. (On diachronic skewing, see below, §10.2.1 n. 60.)

[ back ] 122. Cf. Kelly 1990, cited by Nagy 1999a:272 §7n8. For a critical update of Kelly’s work, see Garner 2011.

[ back ] 123. Apollo and the Muses are often joined together in poetry, e.g. in Hesiod’s Theogony 94–95: ἐκ γάρ τοι Μουσέων καὶ ἑκηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος | ἄνδρες ἀοιδοὶ ἔασιν ἐπὶ χθόνα καὶ κιθαρισταί. Cf. Α 603–604, Hymn to Hermes 450–452, Hymn to Apollo 189, Hesiod Shield 202–206, Pausanias 5.18.4, Strabo X.3 §10, Plato Laws 653d, and Himerios Orations 62.7 (p. 226 Colonna). For Apollo as the μουσαγέτας (or μουσηγέτης in Ionic) see Pindar fr. 94c M, IG Ⅻ.5 no. 893 (Tenos, Ⅲ/Ⅱ BC), Milet I.3 no. 145 (Kawerau and Rehm 1914:327), and perhaps Sappho fr. 208 LP (apud Himerios). There is even a tradition, ascribed to Eumelos (PEG I.114 F17 Bernabé), that made the Muses Apollo’s daughters. Fr. 23 of the lyrica adespota (PMG) features Apollo as the μούσαρχος: σπένδωμεν ταῖς Μνάμας παισὶν Μούσαις | καὶ τῶι μουσάρχωι ⟨τῶι⟩ Λατοῦς υἱεῖ; and IG Ⅶ.36 (Megara, aet. Aug.) gives him the epithet μούσειος. Though the Muses receive cult in their own right, sometimes they are also associated with Apollo (e.g. Pausanias 8.32.2 and Sokolowski LSCG 180). See Farnell 1896–1909:5.434–437. For a complex triangulation of Apollo, the Muses, and the poet in the matter of inspiration in the Argonautika of Apollonios of Rhodes, see González 2000. For the poet as the θεράπων of the Muses and Apollo, see Nagy 1999a:289–308 (esp. 291–292, 296–297, and 305–306).

[ back ] 124. Plutarch Quaestiones convivales Ⅸ.14.1 (743d): ἐνιαχοῦ δὲ καὶ πάσας, ὥσπερ ἐν Χίῳ, τὰς Μούσας μνείας καλεῖσθαι λέγουσιν. Cf. Pindar Nemean 1.12: Μοῖσα μεμνᾶσθαι φιλεῖ.

[ back ] 125. The structure of the Odyssey, it is true, is more elaborate than the Iliad’s, since two independent but related thematic strands, the journey of Telemakhos and the return of Odysseus, are twined together into one. But the manner of braiding still reflects the same simplicity of linear development that characterizes the Iliad: not only do the events in each thread unfold in linear fashion, but in their mutual relation they observe a type of archaic non-overlap, the so-called ‘Zieliński’s law,’ according to which actions are “related in sequence, as if the second were suspended while the first was in progress” (Heubeck et al. 1988:252). (The pictorial equivalent is the avoidance of overlap in late geometric vases.)

[ back ] 126. This ‘linearity’ does not preclude cross-referencing, by which a singer foreshadows a future episode or offers his audience a flash-back to an earlier one. Such chronologically intricate thematic ties can be forged entirely upon the dynamics of oral performance: viewing diachronically a song culture for which a given poetic tradition constitutes a notional whole, a coherent aggregate, nothing prevents a bard from making reference to previous performances by himself or a competitor. Obviously, this strategy will only succeed if the earlier recitals on which he draws are memorable enough for the audience to make the appropriate connections. Then, if the tradition is such that it gradually drives the song to textual fixity, any surviving reference to other performances will be synchronically perceived as cross-references from one episode to another. For more on the diachronic and synchronic aspects of oral cross-referencing, see Nagy 2003:7–19.

[ back ] 127. Ο 623–629 furnishes a convenient illustration: Hektor leaps on the battle throng as a wave falls on a ship. But the comparison does not stop here, for the sailors of the simile shudder in fear, and their mental distress is then picked up by the narrative: ‘so were the hearts of the Akhaians rent within their breasts’ (629). Cf. Edwards 1991:28 and 32.

[ back ] 128. Genesis emphasizes the (typically remote) origin of what is; genealogies, the connection of past and present by lines of filiation; and becoming, concrete developments. There is no place here for abstract historical process and forces or for objective chronological sequence.

[ back ] 129. Cf. Wace and Stubbings 1962:386.

[ back ] 130. Cf. Nagy 1990c:58–60, 66.

[ back ] 131. For a comparative perspective, consider the statement by Đemail above, §7.1. This was not the only time when Parry noted the Yugoslav singers’ insistence on telling the story as they “heard it and as things happen[ed],” i.e. just as the “heroes did their deeds.” A little later in that same interview Nikola asks Đemail if a singer may lengthen his song if he finds his audience exceptionally attentive: “Đ: He can [lengthen it] if he adds to it, but I do not like to listen to such a song … N: In other words, as far as you are concerned the song is the song, is that it? Đ: That’s it … Even if it’s short, let him sing it as it is. He shouldn’t add to it so that he stays there all night, when the events in the story didn’t happen that way” (Lord 1954:1.240, his ellipses). Sulejman Makić was similarly emphatic: “I would sing [the song] just as I heard it, whatever was worthwhile; what’s the good of adding things that didn’t happen. One must sing what one has heard and exactly as it happened. It isn’t good to change or to add. No sir” (Lord 1954:1.266). On the other hand, Avdo Međedović, who was most skillful with thematic expansion, expresses himself in a manner that is more self-consciously receptive to the oral poetics of thematic expansion: “N: Kasum said that if two singers don’t sing the same song alike, then it isn’t a true story. … he said that if they don’t sing it alike, then it can’t possibly be true history. A: Well, maybe one of them isn’t right, because one of the two may not know the song exactly, and the other may know it better. Whichever is the better is the true one. N: But how can you tell which is the better? A: If you’ve got two singers, why, you can tell from the first third of the song which is the better. If a singer is any good, he won’t borrow things from one song and put them in another” (Lord 1954:3.60, his ellipsis; for ornamentation, see 3.67 and 74). Southslavic oral poetry is by no means the only tradition on record as insisting on high standards of ‘truth.’ Stone (1988:12–61, esp. 12–13) explains how in the Wọi epic of the Kpelle people of Liberia there are three performance levels: an epic-framing meta-narrative level that “helps establish and reassert the frame of epic as a style of performance” (12); a narrative level, which takes up the interaction between the characters; and a song level, with proverbial content and invocations to the tutelary spirit that presides over the performance. The concern throughout for high standards of notional veracity is remarkable. Thus the constant invocations at the song level for clarity in the telling: “Ee, Maa-laa [= the spirit] bring my voice. | Go, call the diviner to come” (16). Furthermore, Stone (1988:13n3) observes how the protagonist, Wọi, addresses the narrator at the narrative level to bring him on the scene of the action; his design is to buttress the narrator’s claims to autopsy and trustworthiness, claims that are often articulated in response to concrete challenges by a questioner: “Q[uestioner]: Are you telling the truth? N[arrator]: Very close. Her stomach reached to the ocean. Q: Were you near? N: Very close” (17). Or again: “Q: Don’t lie to me here. N: Very close. Lying, I lie to you?” (19); “Q: Kulung, don’t lie to me here. N: I’m not lying. Q: They say you really lie” (20). Though such an explicit register for performer-audience interaction does not exist in Homeric poetry (the invocation of the Muse is the only element that approaches it), this poetry, too, reflects an interest in veracity (albeit much more implicit by comparison) through its sacral scheme of inspiration and the archaic hymnic ritual framework of its performance (on which see further below, §8.1.3).

[ back ] 132. Cf. Buxton 1999.

[ back ] 133. See also below, §8.3.3.

[ back ] 134. Cf. van Groningen 1948.

[ back ] 135. It may be, as van Groningen (1948:290) observes, that this particular mythical tradition primarily (or exclusively) regards epic poetry, for which ἀείδειν is the technical performance term par excellence.

[ back ] 136. Cf. Murray 1981:96–97.

[ back ] 137. Cf. above, §7.2.2 n. 121.

[ back ] 138. So Nagy 1989:19 and Nagy 1990c:56–57 (who adduces the parallel of the old Irish áes cerd; cf. Durante 1968b:268). Such a status for the ἀοιδός in early Greece is consistent with (and even suggested by) the epithet θεῖος (Σ 604 α 336 δ 17 θ 43 47 87 539 etc.), an appellative, too, of heralds (Δ 192 Κ 315) and rulers (δ 621 691 π 335), similarly sacrosanct on account of their function.

[ back ] 139. Cf. Ghiron-Bistagne 1976:169–171. Concerning the itinerant actors she observes that “[i]l leur restait cependant à résoudre une difficulté essentielle, dans la nécessité où ils se trouvaient de se déplacer constamment de ville en ville. … La situation, à cet égard, ne devait pas être très différente dans la Grèce du Vieme et Ⅳieme siècle.” In fact, such must have been the case since the eighth-century BC ‘renaissance’ and the establishment of the Olympic games and the Delphic oracle, the quintessential Panhellenic institutions. For a fourth-century instance see Demosthenes On the Peace 6. For more on juridical immunity, see Aneziri 2003:243–252 and the New Pauly s.vv. asylia and asylon.

[ back ] 140. Cf. Hesiod Theogony 93–95: τοίη Μουσάων ἱερὴ δόσις ἀνθρώποισιν. | ἐκ γάρ τοι Μουσέων καὶ ἑκηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος | ἄνδρες ἀοιδοὶ ἔασιν ἐπὶ χθόνα καὶ κιθαρισταί. Although the benefit the poet confers on the gods (θεοῖσι … ἀείδω χ 346) must be his celebrating their glory before men, we must not forget that poetry at first was sprung from the gods and was created for their pleasure (cf. Hesiod Theogony 40–52 and Hymn to Apollo 188–206.).

[ back ] 141. See §7.2.3 below on the semantics of this remarkable adjective.

[ back ] 142. Though this passage has attracted much commentary, most of it fails to make contextual sense. The question that must be answered by any reading is how being αὐτοδίδακτος may move Odysseus to spare Phemios’ life. I understand it as a claim to a heightened degree of ‘supernatural’ involvement in what is already a sacral context. Dougherty 1991 applies the term to the bard’s ability to suit his song to the occasion of his performance. (This is essentially the view of Fernández-Galiano in Russo et al. 1992:279–280.) Surely any process of apprenticeship would seek to develop this skill, and, to that extent, being self-taught would imply that this, too, he does not owe to another singer. But I fail to see why, from the perspective of the cultural insider, this facet of the singer’s trade would be seen to contrast (as Dougherty 1991:94 claims) with the “traditional element of oral poetry” (adequately meeting the expectations of his audience is a core skill of the traditional performer); nor why it should be read as a reference to “innovat[ing] within the tradition” (95), or even why such a rationale may serve as a plea for sparing Phemios’ life. When Odysseus articulates his reason for honoring and revering singers, he mentions that the Muse teaches them their traditional craft (θ 479–481; cf. θ 487–489 496–498; for οἴμη as a rhapsodic terme d’art see below, § The verb παραείδειν + dat. must mean ‘to sing in someone’s service’, just as παραγίγνομαι means ‘to be in attendance upon’ (ρ 173) and παραδράω ‘to do work in attendance upon, to serve’ (ο 324). The unusual personal construction with ἔοικα must mean ‘I am well suited to sing in your service as in the service of a god’ (cf. Hesiod Theogony 91 and θ 173). For more on this passage, see Bakker 1997:137–138 and Grandolini 1996:159–164.

[ back ] 143. On the rhetorical tendency in the Odyssey to downplay the artistry of the bard, see further below, §10.2.2.

[ back ] 144. As Setti (1958:150) claims, the following clause at χ 347–348 must be read as explicating the claim the precedes it (cf. Thalmann 1984:126–127). I cannot, however, agree with his dichotomy of the self-taught singer, who composes his own repertoire, vis-à-vis the apprenticed one, who learns and reproduces with only minor variations that of his masters. Such a view misreads the rhetoric of Phemios’ plea in terms of much later canons of individual originality. (Note, in particular, Dougherty’s criticism of the notion of ‘another poet’s song’ in Dougherty 1991:98.)

[ back ] 145. For the etymology and meaning of οἴμη, see below, §

[ back ] 146. One must remember that Finkelberg does not deny that the bard is divinely taught. There are, after all, explicit statements to the contrary. Among them is θ 481, which expressly makes οἴμας the subject matter in which the Muse instructs the singer. This means that the bard has an acknowledged sphere of competence, a craft, for which he is responsible. But since Finkelberg insists that the actual performance, the ἀοιδή, is not a matter of acquired skill—i.e. it is not taught—but consists instead in an improvised elaboration, divinely prompted and divinely sustained, of his acquired skill—and improvisation for which he is therefore not responsible—the scholar must restrict the reach of divine teaching to the impartation of basic competence. This basic competence, she argues, is the singer’s knowledge of the basic plots of a range of epic subjects (the οἶμαι), and perhaps instrumental playing (does the Muse also teach him that?); but nothing about formulaic technique, enjambment, versification, thematic sequencing, etc. In other words, the teaching of the Muse is effectively assimilated to a gift, rather than a gradual process of training by which the bard acquires his professional craft. This does not amount to a substantial teaching role for the Muse or Apollo. I, on the other hand, readily grant διδάσκω a revelatory import but add to it the implication that it is ultimately to the Muse too that the artistic excellence of the singer in performance must be credited, even though it has come about through a combination of sedulous training under a human master and the coordinate development of the bard’s personal talent—his divine giftedness.

[ back ] 147. Cf. his chapter 2 passim.

[ back ] 148. On φρονεῖν as ‘to be wise, to have understanding’ see Fraenkel 1950:2.105–106 ad Agamemnōn 176.