Classical Quarterly 48 (02):456-469 (1998)

When the Argonauts reach the island of Lemnos, Apollonius of Rhodes tells us, they send their herald Aethalides to the ruler of the island. Such a means of establishing contact and requesting safe passage was the norm in the Homeric world; there heralds acted as intermediaries between commanders and subordinates or between groups of people. In preliterate societies, heralds facilitated communication: messages were transmitted through memorization and repetition rather than by means of writing. While verbatim repetition was no doubt a necessary feature of this form of communication, its wholesale transference into Homeric poetry was not necessarily the logical corollary. Nonetheless, we know of such repetitions precisely because of their appearance in the Homeric poems. It is now widely accepted that such passages are a result of the oral style of composition in which the oral poet repeats passages just as he uses shorter formulaic phrases. The debate embedded in the A-scholia of the Iliad suggests that repeated passages were a source of contention already in antiquity. While it is more common to see the scholiasts trying to decide which passage is ‘correct’ and which should be athetized, this provides evidence that athetization was not a unanimous impulse. The scholiast defends 2.60–71, part of which is repeated for the third time, against Zenodotus
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DOI 10.1093/cq/48.2.456
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