Essays discussion

Archaic Greece: New Approaches and New Evidence
This topic is about Archaic Greece
Homer > Some quotes from <Homer’s enemies: lyric and epic in the seventh century >

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
In the world pictured by the makers of Odyssey and Iliad, singers (aoidoi) are several times depicted:4 craftsmen, so it appears from the Odyssey episodes, who were recognised as possessors of a useful skill, and as such welcomed when they arrived, when one with nothing to offer might be ejected. They might also be well known in a single town, called to perform frequently at the same house. They sang to their own accompaniment on the phorminx, ‘lyre’.5 Singers sang at wedding celebrations, which were also marked by instrumental music and dancing; they led laments at funerals; they sang in the market place (Od. 8.250–385); and they sang at dinner. At dinner they did not sit on the outside of the group, with the men, but on a stool placed ‘in the middle’ where the household was; those who served the diners are said to serve the singer also with food and drink

message 2: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
The warrior Achilles is supposed to be the owner of a lyre, and when Nestor and Odysseus arrive to negotiate with him they find him singing to himself of the ‘fame of men’

message 3: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Reading the protestations that the poet here gives to Eumaeus, it would even be possible to take it that a singer was not one of the demiourgoi but somehow on a higher plane, if those proverbial lines did not bring one back to earth: ‘Potter hates potter and joiner joiner; beggar is jealous of beggar, singer of singer’ (Hesiod, Works and Days 25–6). The singer is indeed a demiourgos, an artisan. In parallel, the Sumerian didactic piece The Father and His Disobedient Son (107–12) identifies singers as the only artisans whose skill is more demanding than that of scribes; and the ‘seers’ (poets) of the Rigveda frequently liken their own work to that of ‘artisans and manual labourers (carpenters, weavers, chariot-makers)’.

message 4: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“In the ‘Homeric’ world, then, song is of many kinds, and performed both by singers and by others. Singers have a varied repertoire of themes, though this is not to assume that all singers have the same repertoire, or the same range.20 On four occasions the poet of the Odyssey gives us the narrative subject of the song of an aoidos. One, sung by Demodocus in the market place on Scherie to the accompaniment of dancing, tells of Hephaestus’ trap for the adulterous Ares and Aphrodite.21 As far as the plot of the Odyssey is concerned this naughty tale is an interlude.22 The other three examples are all incidents in Odysseus’ adventures at Troy, and their choice is necessary to the plot and design of the epic”

message 5: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“It is altogether too easy to add these three narratives to the story of Ares and Aphrodite, to summarise them in Penelope’s words as ‘the deeds of gods and men that singers make famous’, and to make them define the repertoire of singers in ‘Homeric society’,23 brushing aside the laments, wedding songs, choral songs and other occasions on which, in the world of the Iliad and Odyssey, singers went to work.”

message 6: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“[Iambus‘s] elegiacs, expressions of moral philosophy and memoirs and histories told with a moral purpose -thoughts that others are expected to share.38 This was exactly what was required of the aoidos whose services Agamemnon retained for Clytemnestra’s benefit (Od. 3.267–8). The scholia comment on this episode: ‘In antiquity singers took the place of philosophers... So the singer left with Clytemnestra prevented her from adopting wicked ways by expounding the virtues of men and women.’ Do we suppose, with the scholiasts, that the unfortunate aoidos was invented not just to keep an eye on Clytemnestra but to give her advice? I would argue that the scholiasts are right, for otherwise he need not be an aoidos at all.”

message 7: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“It is true that from the narrative performances in the Odyssey and the hints in the Theogony and the Works and Days we can extract a convincing picture of the relationship between oral poets and their audiences. Narratives like those of Stesichorus and of ‘Homer’, traditional lore and wisdom like the ‘Catalogue of Ships’ and the works of Hesiod, really did emerge from negotiations like those between Odysseus or Phemius or Demodocus and their various audiences, and really were rewarded with such riches as an assured welcome, a warm cloak, a full begging bag and public acclaim at a market, fair or festival. Yet, in spite of all their apparent objectivity, we cannot expect from such masters of truth as the poets of the Iliad and the Odyssey an uncomplicated image of their own place in seventh-century Greek society. Patronage comes in many forms, but epic poetry has not often been observed to grow out of royal banquets. Philodemus and others have seen that ‘Homer’ is to be found in the lying vagrant Odysseus as well as in the laureate Demodocus; the search for a social context and a performance context for archaic epic must range well beyond the internal evidence of the epics themselves.”

message 8: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“We should judge the ancient chronology of the genres harshly, knowing as we already do that many of the protoi heurontes are impostors. Arion did not invent dithyrambs (pace Herodotus 1.23, cf. Aristotle F677 Rose) for we know that Archilochus composed them far earlier (Archilochus F120 L-P); Phrynichus did not invent the tetrameter (pace Suda s.v. Phrynikhos); Stesichorus did not invent the hymn (pace Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis
Early Greece would be highly unusual among oral cultures if it ever had no important art form but epic”

back to top