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A Papyrus commentary on Alcman published in 19571 brings us news of a poem in which Alcman “physiologized”. The lemmata and commentary together witness to a semi-philosophical cosmogony unlike any other hitherto known from Greece. The evidence is meagre, but it seems worth while to see what can be made of it; for it is perhaps possible to go a little farther than has so far been done.
I shall argue for two complementary theses: firstly that ‘Homer’ was not the name of a historical poet, but a fictitious or constructed name, and secondly that for a century or more after the composition of the Iliad and Odyssey there was little interest in the identity or the person of their author or authors. This interest only arose in the last decades of the sixth century; but once it did, ‘Homer’ very quickly became an object of admiration, criticism, and (...) biographical construction. (shrink)
Histories of literature tend to treat Stesichorus as just one of the lyric poets, like Alcman or Anacreon. But the vast scale of his compositions puts him in a category of his own. It has always been known that his Oresteia was divided into more than one book; P. Oxy, 2360 gave us fragments of a narrative about Telemachus of a nearly Homeric amplitude; and from P. Oxy. 2617 it was learned that the Geryoneis contained at least 1,300 verses, the (...) total being perhaps closer to two thousand. Even allowing for the shorter lines, this was as long as many an epic poem. Indeed, these were epic poems, in subject and style as well as in length: epics to be sung instead of recited. What was behind them ? Who was this Stesichorus, and how did he come to be, in Quintilian's phrase, ‘sustaining on the lyre the weight of epic song’ ? The biographical problem must be tackled first. The question of Stesichorus’ historical setting and date is confused by legendary elements as well as by contradiction in the sources. On the whole scholars remain spellbound by the specious precision of the Suda's dates , although it has long been realized that they are founded on nothing but the assumption that Stesichorus was younger than Alcman and older than Simonides. There have been excellent discussions by Wilamowitz and Maas, but they seem to have had little influence. (shrink)
City archives, mined by Aristotle for his Didaskaliai, preserved a reasonably complete record of dramatic productions in the fifth century. But how far back did these archives go? The so-called Fasti, an inscription set up c. 346 and listing dithyrambic, comic and tragic victors year by year, must have been based on the same archives, but went back, it is thought, only as far as 502/1. Its heading πρ]τον κμοι ἦσαν τ[ι διονσ]ωι τραγωιδο δ[, however supplemented, implies an intention of (...) going back to the beginning of things, in other words to the beginning of the archival record. This raises serious doubt as to whether that record went back to the alleged date of Thespis' première, or indeed to those given for Choerilus' and Phrynichus'. (shrink)
It is generally accepted that the Homeric Hymn to Apollo was not conceived as a single poem but is a combination of two: a Delian hymn, D, performed at Delos and concerned with the god's birth there, and a Pythian hymn, P, concerned with his arrival and establishment at Delphi. What above all compels us to make a dichotomy is not the change of scene in itself, but the way D ends. The poet returns from the past to the present, (...) and takes leave of his audience; farewell, he says, and remember me ever after. He is quite clearly finishing. Whereupon there is an abrupt and unsatisfactory transition to P. (shrink)
In the long section of anapaests with which they make their entry, the old men of Argos methodically deliver three essential messages to the audience: 40–71. It is the tenth year of the Trojan War. 72–82. We are men who were too old to go and fight in it. 83–103. Some new situation seems to be indicated by the fact that Clytemnestra is organizing sacrifices throughout the town.
They used to believe that mankind began in 4004 B.C. and the Greeks in 776. We now know that these last five thousand years during which man has left written record of himself are but a minute fraction of the time he has spent developing his culture. We now understand that the evolution of human society, its laws and customs, its economics, its religious practices, its games, its languages, is a very slow process, to be measured in millennia. In the (...) case of Greek religious usage it is now appreciated that it has its roots not in Mycenaean but in Palaeolithic times. As for Greek poetry, comparative studies have shown that it goes back by a continuous tradition to Indo-European poetry. (shrink)
The work of many scholars in the last hundred years has helped us to understand the nature and origins of the treatise which we know for short as the Contest of Homer and Hesiod. The present state of knowledge may be summed up as follows. The work in its extant form dates from the Antonine period, but much of it was taken over bodily from an earlier source, thought to be the Movaelov of Alcidamas. Some of the verses exchanged in (...) the contest were current even earlier, and some scholars have supposed that the story of a contest went back to the fifth, sixth, or even eighth century; but this is now much doubted. (shrink)
Several of the treatises and lectures that make up the Hippocratic corpus begin with more or less extended statements about the physical composition and operation of the world at large, and approach the study of human physiology from this angle. We see this, for example, in De Natwra Hominis, De Flatibus, De Carnibus, De Victu; it was the approach of Alcmaeon of Croton, Diogenes of Apollonia, and according to Plato of Hippocrates himself. The work known as De Hebdomadibus would appear (...) to be a prime example of the type. The first twelve chapters are cosmological. They are dominated by two ideas: that everything in nature is arranged in groups of seven, and that the human body is constructed on the same pattern as the whole world. In the later part of the book we pass to the subject of fevers, their causation and treatment. But as Roscher observed, the cosmology and the pathology do not belong together. (shrink)
‘Alcman lived sometime in the seventh century.’ ‘At some period in the seventh century Sparta was occupied with the Second Messenian War, but we do not know its date or whether Alcman lived before or during or after it.’ Between these two utterances, part of a papyrus commentary on Alcman was published,3 from which it appeared that the poet mentioned names known to us from the Spartan king-lists. It might have been expected that this discovery would lead to a more (...) precise dating for Alcman. Some people think, that in fact it does, and I am one of them. (shrink)