On the Shaping of the Lyric Canon in Athens

2021.11.29 | By Gregory Nagy[*]

Attic red-figure cup by Oltos, ca. 510 BCE. Detail of exterior: Anacreon (named, ANAKΡΕΟΝ) with lyre and plectrum. British Museum, inv. no. 1836,0224.145 (Vases E18). Image © The Trustees of the British Museum, used under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

Introduction

§1. This essay is about the Lyric Canon as studied by Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff in his Textgeschichte der griechischen Lyriker (1900). The nine poets of this canon were Alcman, Stesichorus, Ibycus, Sappho, Alcaeus, Anacreon, Simonides, Pindar, Bacchylides, as we read in Greek Anthology 9.184 and 9.571;[1] also in the Scholia for Dionysius Thrax (Grammatici Graeci 1.3 ed. Hilgard p. 21 lines 17–19) and in Life of Pindar texts (ed. Drachmann p. 11). I will hereafter refer to the canonical grouping of these poets simply as the Lyric Nine, paraphrasing the expression ennea lurikoi ‘nine lyric poets’ as used in the Life of Pindar texts (Drachmann pp. 10–11).

§2. But now the question is, how did such a canon take shape? Or, to say it in a more technical way, how do we trace the canon-formation here? In searching for an answer, we need to keep in mind the fact that the earliest historical context for such a canon can be located in Athens and dated to the classical period starting around the middle of the fifth century BCE. This fact needs to be contrasted with two other facts: (1) curiously, the poets known as the Lyric Nine were all non-Athenian, and (2) even more curiously, they were all non-classical, dating back to the so-called archaic period that ended around the middle of the fifth century BCE.

§3. The actual dates of the Lyric Nine extend from around 450 BCE as far back as 650 BCE or so. For classical Athens, then, the “classics” of their Lyric Canon were non-classical because they were pre-classical. And when I say “classics,” I have in mind songs that were not only well-known but also supposedly well-loved, as we see from some telling references in sources stemming from classical Athens, especially in comedies.[2]

§4. On the basis of such evidence, then, for an Athenian reception of the Lyric Nine, the canon-formation of Lyric can be explained by arguing that it originated in contexts where lyric songs were reperformed for and by Athenian elites {95|96} participating in private symposia.[3] To cite just one example of such contexts, I quote the wording of Aristophanes F 235 KA, ᾆσον δή μοι σκόλιόν τι λαβὼν Ἀλκαίου κἈνακρέοντος ‘sing me some drinking-song [skolion], taking it from Alcaeus or Anacreon’.

§5. But this explanation, which concentrates on the idea of reperformances at private symposia in Athens, needs to be broadened. Another fact to consider, I argue, is that the songs of the Lyric Nine were also reperformed at public concerts organized by the Athenian State for the seasonally recurring occasion of a grand civic festival known as the Panathenaia. I propose that these public concerts, known as mousikoi agōnes ‘competitions in song’, were foundational for the creation of the Lyric Canon.[4]

§6. I add here in passing that the book of Wilamowitz on the Lyric Canon nowhere even mentions the Panathenaia, except for a fleeting reference to the tradition of the Panathenaic procession as it survived in the fifth century BCE. Wilamowitz expresses the opinion that such a tradition was no longer a venue for performing songs composed by the likes of Pindar (or, he adds, Isyllos).[5]

Citharodes, aulodes, and rhapsodes

§7. At the seasonally recurring festival of the Panathenaia, there were separate competitions of rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’, of kitharōidoi ‘citharodes’ (= kitharā-singers), of aulōidoi ‘aulodes’ (= aulos-singers), of kitharistai ‘citharists’ (= kitharā-players), and of aulētai ‘auletes’ (aulos-players), as we learn from an Athenian inscription, IG II2 2311, dated at around 380 BCE, which records Panathenaic prizes.[6] We learn about these categories of competition also from Plato’s Laws (6.764d–e), where mention is made of rhapsodes, citharodes, and auletes—and where the wording makes it clear that the point of reference is the Panathenaia. At this festival, the competing rhapsodes were performing epic while the competing citharodes and aulodes were performing lyric. From here on, I concentrate on the citharodes and the aulodes, keeping in mind the rhapsodes as a point of comparison.

§8. Whereas the Lyric Canon was purely a textual tradition for Wilamowitz, for me such a Lyric Canon was also a performative tradition, both citharodic and {96|97} aulodic, stemming from the repertoire of citharodic and aulodic competitions of the mousikoi agōnes held at the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens. And, in terms of my overall argumentation, there existed separate categories of competition in performing citharodically and aulodically.

A transition from Athens to Alexandria

§9. For the moment, let us take as a given my argument that the mousikoi agōnes ‘competitions in song’ at the Panathenaia in the classical period involved performances of songs from the Lyric Canon in separate competitions among citharodes and among aulodes. This argument, as we will now see, can help us make more sense of what happened to the Lyric Nine in the Hellenistic period. Our starting-point is the well-known fact that the texts of these nine poets were preserved and edited by researchers at the Library of Alexandria, which was founded—the details are unclear—near the beginning of the Hellenistic period, in the late fourth or maybe even early third century BCE.[7] It is thanks to these Alexandrian experts that we even know about the term ennea lurikoi, or Lyric Nine, as preserved in Life of Pindar texts (again, pp. 10–11 ed. Drachmann). So, given this fact, the question is: how will my argumentation account for the transition of the Lyric Canon from classical Athens to Hellenistic Alexandria?

§10. I start with the cumulative testimony of Aristotle and his Peripatetic followers Dicaearchus and Chamaeleon in the fourth and early third centuries BCE. This testimony shows that the Peripatetics were already working on texts of poets belonging to the Lyric Nine, such as Sappho and Anacreon.[8] (More in Nagy 2007:233–237, 246–252, 255–260, especially about the reception of Sappho’s songs in the songs of Anacreon; also in Nagy 2021.02.06; other relevant essays are listed under my name in the Bibliography below, starting already at year 2015.)

§11. In general, it can be said that the work of researchers in Athens during the fourth and the early third centuries BCE extended into the work of the Alexandrians on the “classic” texts of the Nine. And such research in Athens involved the texts of other “classics” as well: an important example is the editorial work of the Peripatetics on the texts of two epics, the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey.[9] Another similarly important example in the late fourth century was the initiative taken by the statesman Lycurgus in actually legislating the massive project of producing new editions, to be stored and consulted in the state archives, of the tragedies composed by the canonical triad of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides—only those three ([‘Plutarch’] Lives of the Ten Orators 841f).[10] {97|98}

§12. In the case of all these examples, I posit a continuity of transmission from classical Athens to Hellenistic Alexandria. What would be most remarkable about such a posited continuity between Athens and Alexandria is that the Athenian side of the continuum would still have had access to the performance traditions that had led to the text traditions, whereas the Alexandrian side had direct access only to the text traditions.

On the testimony of Aristotle’s Poetics

§13. In this essay, I have been focusing on the performance traditions of the Lyric Nine in Athens, but now I must widen the lens to include the parallel performance traditions of epic and tragedy in Athens. We find a most central piece of relevant evidence at the very beginning of the Poetics of Aristotle (1447a13–15; for commentary, I recommend Rotstein 2004). There he lists in the following order the forms of composition in verbal art: epic or epopoiiā (which means literally ‘the making of epos’), tragedy, comedy, dithyramb, and compositions involving performance on the aulos ‘reed’ or the kitharā ‘lyre’. All these forms as listed there at the beginning of Aristotle’s Poetics correspond to forms of composition that were actually performed at the two major festivals of the Athenians:

[1] the Panathenaia, featuring (a) epic recitation by rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’, accompanied by no musical instrument, (b) lyric singing by aulōidoi ‘aulodes’ accompanied by the aulos ‘reed’, (c) lyric singing by kitharōidoi ‘citharodes’ accompanied by the kitharā ‘lyre’, (d) instrumental music played by aulētai ‘auletes’ on the aulos ‘reed’, without words, (e) instrumental music played by kitharistai ‘citharists’ on the kitharā ‘lyre’, without words

[2] the City Dionysia, featuring (a) tragedy, (b) comedy, (c) dithyramb, and (d) satyr drama.

§14. In Aristotle’s account, he ostentatiously pairs the composition of epic with the composition of tragedy (the wording is epopoiiākai hē tēs tragōidiās poiēsis, which means literally ‘the making of epos and the making of tragedy’). Elsewhere, he says that he views these two particular forms of composition, epic and tragedy, as cognates (Poetics 1449a2–6). In the works of Plato as well, epic is viewed as a cognate of tragedy: more than that, Homer is represented as a proto-tragedian (Theaetetus 152e; Republic 10.595c, 598d, 605c, 607a).

§15. This pattern of associating tragedy with epic, and epic with tragedy, reflects an institutional reality. The genre of epic, as performed by rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’ at the festival of the Panathenaia, actually shaped and was shaped by the genre of tragedy as performed by actors and choruses at the festival of the City Dionysia. {98|99} In Athens, ever since the sixth century BCE, these two genres were “complementary forms, evolving together and thereby undergoing a process of mutual assimilation in the course of their institutional coexistence.”[11]

§16. On the basis of what we find, then, at the beginning of Aristotle’s Poetics, we can see clearly a parallelism between Homer and tragedy. But we can see also a parallelism here between Homer and the Lyric Canon—if we keep in mind the fact that songs meant for performance to the accompaniment of the aulos ‘reed’ or the kitharā ‘lyre’, as highlighted by Aristotle, were actually performed by aulodes and citharodes who were competing with each other in separate contests of aulody and citharody at the Panathenaia.

Primary venue, secondary venue

§17. At this point, we come to a vital convergence of epic and lyric traditions. In terms of my overall argument, the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens was the primary venue for the traditions of performing both Homer and the Lyric Nine, and it was from these performance traditions that the text traditions of the Epic Canon and the Lyric Canon were derived.

§18. Considering the centrality of the Panathenaia in the public life of Athens, I have argued so far that this festival was the primary ‘locus of diffusion,’ as linguists would call it, for the songs of the Lyric Nine as performed in the classical period. And here I return to the second part of my argument, introduced already at the beginning of this essay: correspondingly, the performances of these songs at private symposia would be only a secondary ‘locus of diffusion.’ In other words, from the standpoint of my overall argument, the texts of the Lyric Nine as edited in Alexandria would have originated primarily from a centralized reception in contexts of public performances at the Panathenaia and only secondarily from a decentralized reception in contexts of performances at private symposia.

Positing four phases of transmission

§19. For the transmission of the Lyric Nine, I posit four phases, extending from the sixth century to somewhere around the middle of the fourth. “Phase 1” is the era of the Peisistratidai, retrospectively described as tyrants who dominated the civic life of Athens in the sixth century. “Phase 2” is the preclassical era of the early democracy in the first half of the fifth century. “Phase 3” is the classical {99|100} era of Athens as exemplified by Pericles. And “Phase 4” is the postclassical era, starting in the fourth century.

Phase 1

§20. To illustrate “Phase 1,” I quote a passage from a text about Hipparchus, son of Peisistratos. In this passage, Hipparchus is credited with introducing the performance traditions of Homeric poetry in Athens. And, in this same context, he is also credited with introducing the lyric songs of Anacreon and Simonides in Athens. What I find most remarkable about this passage is the parallelism that is drawn between epic and lyric performance traditions. Here, then, is the passage:

… Ἱππάρχῳ, ὃς ἄλλα τε πολλὰ καὶ καλὰ ἔργα σοφίας ἀπεδέξατο, καὶ τὰ Ὁμήρου ἔπη πρῶτος ἐκόμισεν εἰς τὴν γῆν ταύτην, καὶ ἠνάγκασε τοὺς αψῳδοὺς Παναθηναίοις ἐξ ὑπολήψεως ἐφεξῆς αὐτὰ διιέναι, ὥσπερ νῦν ἔτι {c} οἵδε ποιοῦσιν, καὶ ἐπ’ ᾿Ανακρέοντα τὸν Τήιον πεντηκόντορον στείλας ἐκόμισεν εἰς τὴν πόλιν, Σιμωνίδην δὲ τὸν Κεῖον ἀεὶ περὶ αὑτὸν εἶχεν, μεγάλοις μισθοῖς καὶ δώροις πείθων· ταῦτα δ’ ἐποίει βουλόμενος παιδεύειν τοὺς πολίτας, ἵν’ ὡς βελτίστων ὄντων αὐτῶν ἄρχοι, οὐκ οἰόμενος δεῖν οὐδενὶ σοφίας φθονεῖν, ἅτε ὢν καλός τε κἀγαθός.

[I am referring to] Hipparchus, who accomplished many beautiful things in demonstration of his expertise [sophiā], especially by being the first to bring over [komizein] to this land [= Athens] the verses [epos plural] of Homer, and he forced the rhapsodes [rhapsōidoi] at the Panathenaia to go through [diienai] these verses in sequence [ephexēs], by relay [ex hupolēpseōs], just as they [= the rhapsodes] do even nowadays. And he sent out a state ship to bring over [komizein] Anacreon of Teos to the city [= Athens]. He also always kept in his company Simonides of Keos, persuading him by way of huge fees and gifts. And he did all this because he wanted to educate the citizens, so that he might govern the best of all possible citizens. He thought, noble as he was, that he was obliged not to be stinting in the sharing of his expertise [sophiā] with anyone.

“Plato” Hipparchus 228b–c

§21. The use of the word sophiā ‘expertise’ in this passage is archaic: it expresses the idea that Hipparchus demonstrates his expertise in poetry by virtue of sponsoring poets like Homer, Anacreon, and Simonides, who are described as the ultimate standards for measuring expertise in poetry. In the overall logic of the narrative, Hipparchus makes this kind of gesture because he wants to demonstrate to the citizens of Athens that he is not ‘stinting with his sophiā ’ (σοφίας φθονεῖν 228c), since he provides them with the poetry and songmaking {100|101} of Homer, Anacreon, and Simonides; by implication, his sophiā ‘expertise’ is the key to the performance traditions of all these three poets in Athens.[12]

§22. In the case of Homeric poetry, Hipparchus is being credited here not only with the regulation of Homeric performances at the Panathenaia, as we may infer from other passages (for example, Dieuchidas of Megara FGH 485 F 6 via Diogenes Laertius 1.57: this version credits Solon for such regulation). More than that, Hipparchus is credited with the far more basic initiative of actually introducing Homeric performances in Athens.

§23. It is in this same context that Hipparchus is also credited with the initiative of introducing the lyric performances of Anacreon and Simonides in Athens. In the case of Anacreon, for example, the wording of the narrative shows that Hipparchus undertook a veritable rescue operation in transporting from Samos to Athens this master of lyric. In Samos, Anacreon had been a court poet of the Panionian maritime empire of Polycrates. Here I recall briefly a relevant story told by Herodotus about the final days of Polycrates, who was soon to be captured and executed by agents of the Persian Empire (3.125.2–3). Right before that bitter end, we get a glimpse here of happier times: Polycrates is pictured as reclining on a sympotic couch and enjoying the company of that ultimate luminary of Ionian lyric poetry, Anacreon (Herodotus 3.121.1). In the logic of this narrative, the Ionian lyric tradition represented by Anacreon had to be rescued from the Persians once the old Panionian maritime empire of Polycrates of Samos had collapsed, soon to be replaced by the new Panionianism of the Peisistratidai of Athens. Once the rescue operation had succeeded, it could now be Hipparchus in Athens, not Polycrates in Samos, who got to enjoy the sympotic company of lyric celebrities like Anacreon.

§24. In terms of this narrative, Hipparchus accomplished something far more than simply invite lyric poets for ad hoc occasions of performance at, say, symposia: what he also accomplished, as I will now argue, was to institutionalize the competitive performing of their songs at public concerts that were prominently featured at the festival of the Panathenaia.

§25. Such a Panathenaic context for the performance of songs composed by these lyric poets can be reconstructed, I propose, by way of analyzing more closely the narrative about the accomplishments of Hipparchus (again, “Plato” Hipparchus 228b–c). In the logic of this narrative, Hipparchus had a primary motive in introducing both Homeric and lyric performances to the Athenian people. I repeat here the original Greek wording as quoted earlier: ταῦτα δ’ ἐποίει βουλόμενος παιδεύειν τοὺς πολίτας, ἵν’ ὡς βελτίστων ὄντων αὐτῶν ἄρχοι ‘And he did all this because he wanted to educate the citizens, so {101|102} that he might govern the best of all possible citizens’. The educating of the body politic, as the wording here makes clear, requires the reception of lyric song, not only of Homeric poetry. That is why I can argue that Hipparchus accomplished something far more than simply invite lyric poets for ad hoc occasions of performance at symposia. After all, performances at private symposia for the elite would hardly contribute to the education of the citizens at large.

§26. The narrative about the accomplishments of Hipparchus makes it clear that his initiative in introducing the performance of Homeric poetry was parallel to his initiative in introducing the performances of lyric songs composed by the most celebrated poets in his era—figures like Anacreon and Simonides. The use of the word komizein (228b) in expressing the idea that Hipparchus ‘brought over’ to Athens the epē ‘verses’ (= epos plural) of Homer is parallel to the use of the same word komizein (228c) in expressing the idea that Hipparchus also ‘brought over’ to Athens the poet Anacreon—on a state ship, from the island of Samos. In terms of my interpretation, the parallelism implies that the songs of Anacreon were meant to be performed at the festival of the Panathenaia in the same way that the poetry of Homer was meant to be performed.

§27. In the case of Homer, however, Hipparchus transported not the poet Homer himself but Homer’s notional descendants, called the Homēridai, the ‘sons of Homer’; further, by contrast with the case of Anacreon, Hipparchus brought the Homēridai over to Athens not from the island of Samos but from the island of Chios.[13]

§28. In terms of this narrative, then, in “Plato” Hipparkhos 228b–c, there are two parallel accomplishments being attributed to Hipparchus: through his initiatives, it was not only the poetry of Homer that could now be performed in public concerts at the Panathenaia in Athens but also the Ionian lyric songs of poets like Anacreon of Teos and the Dorian lyric songs of poets like Simonides of Keos.

Phase 2

§29. Moving now from “Phase 1” to “Phase 2” of the Panathenaia in Athens, we come to the era of the early democracy in the first half of the fifth century BCE. In this era, the songs of Anacreon were evidently well-known in Athens, as we see most clearly from the evidence of vase paintings that show Anacreon himself (the adjacent lettering identifies him) in the act of singing while accompanying himself on a string instrument that is pictured as a barytone lyre or barbitos and {102|103} occasionally as a concert lyre or kitharā. For an admirable analysis of this iconographic evidence, I recommend the relevant comments in a book by Timothy Power.[14]

§30. While the Anacreontic paintings point to the symposium as the immediate context to be visualized for the singing of songs attributed to Anacreon, both during and after his lifetime, I argue that the ultimate context would be the re-enactment of such sympotic singing in the context of public concerts at the Panathenaia, where the kitharōidos ‘citharode’ who re-enacts Anacreon would accompany himself either on the barbitos or on the more conventional kitharā.

§31. I also argue that the songs of Sappho, as channeled by the singing of Anacreon almost a century later, could likewise be re-enacted not only in a stylized symposium but also in a spectacular Panathenaic setting. (On what I have just described as the “channeling” of Sappho’s songs by Anacreon, I refer to my analysis in Nagy 2007:233–237, 246–252, 255–260; on the reception of Anacreon’s songs in Athens as a “bridge” for the reception there of Sappho’s songs as well, I refer to my further analysis in Nagy 2021.02.06.) We can see a picturing of such a Panathenaic spectacle as a venue for the songs of Sappho—as also for the songs of Alcaeus—in a vase painting dated around 480 or 470 BCE (Munich, Antikensammlungen no. 2416). The painting shows Sappho and Alcaeus (the adjacent lettering identifies them) in the act of singing a “duet” while both are accompanying themselves on the barbitos. Such a visual “duet” is matched by a verbal “duet” that is actually quoted by Aristotle (Rhetoric 1.1367a). In the wording of this “duet,” which is conventionally but unsatisfactorily assigned to Sappho alone (F 137), the male and the female speakers are expressing in Aeolic song what the male and the female figures in the painting express by way of their visualized body language.[15] According to the formulation of Power, it is as if Sappho and Alcaeus, whom he describes in this context as ‘amateur monodists par excellence,’ were being represented as ‘professional agonists,’ that is, as kitharōidoi ‘citharodes’ who are competing in the mousikoi agōnes ‘competitions in song’ at the Panathenaia.[16] It is perhaps needless for me to add that such a visual representation would be simply an exercise in artistic imagination, since citharodic competitions would have required individual performances. In other words, the conventional format here is monodic. By contrast, our vase painting imagines two competing performers who are interacting in one scene. In a real Panathenaic scene, the two parts in the interaction would both be sung by one and the same monodic citharode.

§32. Taking a broader look at the citharodic medium, I need to make a disclaimer at this point. I do not mean to say that all songs attributed to figures like Sappho or Anacreon would at all times be formally suitable for inclusion in the repertoire of citharodic songs to be performed at the Panathenaia. From reading {103|104} carefully the book of Power on the evolution of citharodic performances at the Panathenaia and at symposia, I have learned to be more consistent about keeping in mind this basic argument as advocated in that book: not all lyric forms were necessarily compatible with the citharodic forms that eventuated in the context of the Panathenaia.[17] Accordingly, I heed the reservations of Power concerning the historical possibilities of fitting lyric forms into a citharodic medium.[18] As we trace the citharodic medium forward in time, it seems that the metrical and the melodic formalities of this medium became increasingly constrained, so that we cannot in the end expect all lyric forms to fit into the narrower frame of the citharodic medium. That said, however, I maintain that this citharodic medium had been far more flexible in earlier stages of its evolution. And I think it was at such an earlier stage that lyric forms first made their massive entry into the citharodic medium as it evolved in the context of the Panathenaia. Most accommodating, in any case, were lyric forms that could readily convert from frames that were stanzaic to frames that were stichic (verse-by-verse), since the evolution of citharodic forms evidently gravitated away from strophic configurations. In the case of monodic songs attributed to Sappho, the composition known as The Wedding of Hector and Andromache (F 44) is an ideal example of a lyric form that suits the narrower requirements of the citharodic medium in its later configurations. I might add that, in terms of my argumentation, this kind of composition could readily be expanded in length, and such a formal capacity for expansion would be another feature that made such monodic singing especially suitable for citharodic performance.

§33. I started my overview of “Phase 2” by arguing that the songs of Anacreon, who was personally brought to Athens by Hipparchus, were integrated into the canonical repertoire of citharodic performances at the Panathenaia. Now I turn to the songs of Simonides. He too, as we saw in the same passage that mentioned Anacreon (again, “Plato” Hipparchus 228b–c), was personally brought to Athens by Hipparchus. And now I will argue that the songs of Simonides were likewise integrated into the repertoire of performances at the Panathenaia. In this case, however, at least some of his songs were integrated into the repertoire of aulodic rather than citharodic performances.

§34. Here I return to a specific argument I presented at a conference of the Network for the Study of Archaic and Classical Greek Song held in the summer of 2012 in Washington, DC, on which occasion I proposed that the Plataea Elegy of Simonides (F 11 West), celebrating the victory of the Hellenes who {104|105} fought the Persian forces at the battle of Plataea in 479 BCE, had become part of the repertoire of the Lyric Canon.[19] In support of my proposal, I cited the work of Ewen Bowie on the performative traditions of archaic Greek elegy, expressing my agreement with his view that (1) elegiac compositions in the archaic and classical periods were conventionally sung to the accompaniment of the aulos ‘reed’, and (2) there were two basic social contexts for the singing of elegy by men, namely, the symposium and the public festival.[20] Accordingly, I argue that the performing of elegy at the Panathenaia belonged to competitions in the category of aulōidiā ‘singing to the accompaniment of the aulos’.

§35. This is not at all to say, however, that elegy was the only form of aulōidiā to be performed at the Panathenaia. Besides the stichic form of elegy, I leave room for the possibility that non-stichic forms of aulōidiā also existed in at least the earlier phases of the Panathenaia, just as I have left room for non-stichic forms of kitharōidiā ‘singing to the accompaniment of the kitharā ’.

§36. I must also note here the possibility that aulodic performances could be interchangeable with citharodic performances, as well as the other way around. A case in point is Aristophanes’ comedy Women at the Thesmophoria. Here the tragic poet Agathon is depicted as wearing a turban and a woman’s khitōn—costuming that matches the costume of the lyric poet Anacreon as depicted by the Cleophrades Painter (Copenhagen MN 13365).[21] In the comedy of Aristophanes, the stage Agathon even says that his self-staging replicates the monodic stagings of Ibycus, Anacreon, and Alcaeus (verses 159–163). This reference suggests, I argue, that Agathon as a master of tragic poetry was strongly influenced by the monodic performance traditions of lyric song, both citharodic and aulodic, as performed at the Panathenaia.[22]

§37. I should emphasize in this context the fact that aulodic compositions were appropriate not only for performance at the competitions of aulodes at the Panathenaia but also for the competitions of choruses who were singing and dancing in the dramas of Athenian State Theater at the City Dionysia and at other dramatic festivals, since the singing and dancing of the songs of drama were conventionally sustained by the accompaniment of a single aulos. So, my point about Agathon is that he was experimenting with compositions in his dramas that would have sounded like aulodic performances by aulodes competing {105|106} with each other at the Panathenaia. And, going even further, Agathon experimented even with citharodic compositions in his dramas.

§38. In short, I propose that the compositions of the Lyric Nine were suitable for both citharodic and aulodic performances at the mousikoi agōnes in at least the earlier phases of the Panathenaia.

Phase 3

§39. Moving now from “Phase 2” to “Phase 3” of the Panathenaia in Athens, we come to the classical era of Athens, by which I mean the age of Pericles as a prime promoter of both the democracy and the so-called Athenian Empire. I pose here a most relevant question: where in this era did the competitions of kitharōdoi ‘citharodes’ and aulōidoi ‘aulodes’ take place on the occasion of the Panathenaia? The question extends of course also to the performances of the non-singing instrumentalists who likewise competed at the Panathenaia, namely, the kitharistai or ‘citharists’ and the aulētai or ‘auletes’. And, more importantly, the question extends even to the performances of the rhapsōidoi or ‘rhapsodes’, who were competing as well as collaborating with each other in the act of reciting Homeric poetry at the same mousikoi agōnes of the Panathenaia. And here is my answer: the venue for the mousikoi agōnes of the Panathenaic festival in this era was the Ōideion ‘Odeum’ of Pericles, built probably between 447 and 443 BCE.[23]

§40. I draw special attention to some surviving details about the building of this Odeum, since they are relevant to what we know about the organization of an agōn ‘competition’ at the Panathenaia in the context of the Odeum as the setting for this competition. I quote here a most relevant passage from Plutarch:[24]

{9} τὸ δ’ ᾿Ωιδεῖον, τῇ μὲν ἐντὸς διαθέσει πολύεδρον καὶ πολύστυλον, τῇ δ’ ἐρέψει περικλινὲς καὶ κάταντες ἐκ μιᾶς κορυφῆς πεποιημένον, εἰκόνα λέγουσι γενέσθαι καὶ μίμημα τῆς βασιλέως σκηνῆς, ἐπιστατοῦντος καὶ τούτῳ {10} Περικλέους. διὸ καὶ πάλιν Κρατῖνος ἐν Θρᾴτταις παίζει πρὸς αὐτόν·

ὁ σχινοκέφαλος Ζεὺς ὅδε προσέρχεται τᾠδεῖον ἐπὶ τοῦ κρανίου ἔχων, ἐπειδὴ τοὔστρακον παροίχεται. {106|107}

{11} φιλοτιμούμενος δ’ ὁ Περικλῆς τότε πρῶτον ἐψηφίσατο μουσικῆς ἀγῶνα τοῖς Παναθηναίοις ἄγεσθαι, καὶ διέταξεν αὐτὸς ἀθλοθέτης αἱρεθείς, καθότι χρὴ τοὺς ἀγωνιζομένους αὐλεῖν ἢ ᾄδειν ἢ κιθαρίζειν. ἐθεῶντο δὲ καὶ τότε καὶ τὸν ἄλλον χρόνον ἐν ᾿Ωιδείῳ τοὺς μουσικοὺς ἀγῶνας.

{9} As for the Odeum,[25] which was designed to have many seats and columns on the inside,[26] and the roofing of which had a steep slope from the peak downward,[27] they say it was a visual imitation of the Great King’s[28] Tent [skēnē]—and {10} Pericles was supervising [epistateîn] this building project as well.[29] That is the point of reference when Cratinus—I quote him again—in his Thracian Women [F 73] playfully alludes to him:

This squill-head Zeus, this Pericles, is approaching, wearing the Odeum on top of his skull as his [head-]wear,[30] now that the time for ostracism has come and gone. {107|108}

{11} It was then for the first time that Pericles, ambitious as he was, got a decree passed that there should be a competition [agōn] in mousikē at the Panathenaia,[31] and he set-up-the-rules [diatassein], having been elected as an athlothetēs [= organizer of the athloi ‘contests’] for those who were competing [agōnizesthai]—rules for them to follow about the aulos-playing and the singing and the kitharā-playing. At that point in time and in other periods of time as well, it was in the Odeum that people used to be spectators [theâsthai] of competitions [agōnes] in mousikē.

Plutarch Pericles 13.9–11

§41. As I infer from this passage, Pericles in the fifth century BCE initiated legislation reforming the mousikoi agōnes at the Panathenaia, including the competition of citharodes and aulodes. Plutarch leaves it unspecified whether the agōnes ‘competitions’ included rhapsodic performances, but we do see a specific reference attested in the ancient dictionary ascribed to Hesychius. In this dictionary we read under the entry ōideion ‘Odeum’: ᾠδεῖον· τόπος, ἐν ᾧ πρὶν τὸ θέατρον κατασκευασθῆναι οἱ αψῳδοὶ καὶ οἱ κιθαρῳδοὶ ἠγωνίζοντο ‘Odeum: the place where, before the Theater [of Dionysus] was configured for this purpose, the rhapsodes and the citharodes used to engage in competition [agōnizesthai]’.[32] It follows that Plutarch’s elliptic reference to ‘aulos-playing, singing, and kitharā-playing’ does in fact include the ‘singing’ of rhapsodes.[33]

§42. The idea of the Odeum as a visual imitation of the skēnē or ‘tent’ of the Great King of the Persian empire, as we have just seen it described in Plutarch’s Pericles, is a most fitting expression of imperial prestige.[34] The Odeum, as the ‘scene’ for the monumental Panathenaic performances of Homer in the age of Pheidias, was monumental in its own right. On the inside, its ‘forest of columns’ matched the spectacular effect achieved at the Telestērion or Great Hall of Initiation {108|109} at Eleusis.[35] In fact, the Odeum was even more spacious than the Great Hall, and the enormous seating capacity of such a monumental building made it a most fitting venue for spectacular events of state, including juridical and political assemblies.[36]

§43. The macrocosm of the Odeum is metonymically—and comically—evoked by the visualization of a microcosm sitting on top of the head of Pericles. On top of his comically pointy head is a perfect fit, which is a pointy ‘hat’. That pointy ‘hat’ is the magnificent Odeum, culminating in its magnificent peak. As the most public of all public figures in Athens, Pericles the monumental statesman is wearing his ‘hat’ as the primary organizer of the Panathenaia, which as we have seen featured the spectacular performances of epic as represented exclusively by Homer and of lyric as represented mainly by the Lyric Nine.

Phase 4

§44. Moving now from “Phase 3” to “Phase 4” of the Panathenaia in Athens, we come to what I have already described as the post-classical era, starting in the fourth century BCE. By now we see a drastic decrease in evidence for any continued existence of a Lyric Canon as performed and then textualized in Athens. And, conversely, we begin to see a marked increase in evidence for the textualization of this canon in Alexandria.

§45. By now the repertoire of performable lyric songs in the mousikoi agōnes of the Panathenaia may have become so restricted in scope as to exclude most kinds of song that may have been transmitted in earlier phases of the performance traditions that had evolved in the context of this festival. In both the citharodic and the aulodic competitions, the repertoire could have been narrowed down to stichic songs that were readily expandable in length. In the case of the citharodic competitions, the actual form of monodic singing was known as the kitharōidikos nomos or ‘citharodic nome [= song sung to a tune]’, the generic protocols of which are admirably documented in the already-mentioned work of Timothy Power.[37] And, in the case of the aulodic competitions, the corresponding form would have been the elegiac couplet as analyzed in the likewise already-mentioned work of Ewen Bowie.[38]

§46. Meanwhile, lyric songs that had been composed in a far greater variety of meters and tunes would have survived as texts already in Athens, thanks especially to the Peripatetics, {109|110} and the proliferation of such texts would have led, in later times, to a large-scale project of collecting and editing as undertaken by researchers working at the Library of Alexandria. Further, the impetus for finding texts of the Lyric Nine would easily have led to a widening in the scope of inquiry. That is how the Library of Alexandria acquired a vast array of lyric texts that had never been part of the textual tradition for the original Athenian Lyric Nine. A prime example, I suggest, is the case of Corinna. While retaining the nomenclature of ennea lurikoi ‘nine lyric poets’, the Alexandrians added her as a tenth poet, as we see in the Scholia for Dionysius Thrax (p. 21 line 19), where Corinna of Boeotia is described as the dekatē ‘tenth’.[39] She was not a member of the original Lyric Nine because her songs were not part of a Panathenaic repertoire. {110|–}

Epilogue

§47. This essay, as originally printed (and listed as Nagy 2020 in the Bibliography below), is evidently open-ended, in need of further comments not only from me but also from experts in such matters as canon-formation in general and Greek “lyric” songmaking in particular. Also needed are comments from experts in the historical realities of the Panathenaia as the premier festival of ancient Athens. I propose, then, to my colleagues on the Board of Editors for Classical Continuum that they could consider the possibility of initiating an experiment in “open peer review.” I leave it to the Board to design an experimental procedure or process where colleagues are recruited by the editors to make “annotations” on the content of my essay—comments that could turn out to be either positive or negative and either general or specific, with reference to any given paragraphs or, even on a smaller scale, to any given wordings in this essay. (I offer at least one such scenario for “annotations” in my essay listed as Nagy 2021.10.26 in the Bibliography below.) Even though the printed version of my essay here has already gone through the process of “closed”—that is, anonymous—peer review, the online version would benefit, I hope, from another round of peer review, described here as “open” in the sense that authors whose works are being reviewed would benefit from engaging in further dialogue-on-line with the authors of reviews after the reviewers have already gone on record with their annotations.


Bibliography

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Bierl, A. 2001. Ritual und Performativität (unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusen und der Phalloslieder fr. 851 PMG). München and Leipzig.

Bierl, A. 2007. Ritual and Performativity. The Chorus in Old Comedy. Trans. A. Hollmann. Cambridge MA and Washington, DC. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Bierl.Ritual_and_Performativity.2009.

Boedeker, D., and D. Sider, eds. 2001. The New Simonides: Contexts of Praise and Desire. Oxford.

Bowie, E. L. 1986. “Early Greek Elegy, Symposium and Public Festival.” Journal of Hellenic Studies 106:13–35.

Calame, C. 2020. “Melic Poems and Melic Forms in the Comedies of Aristophanes: Poetic Genres and the Creation of a Canon.” In The Reception of Greek Lyric Poetry in the Ancient World: Transmission, Canonization and Paratext, ed. B. Currie and I. Rutherford, 112–128. Volume 5 of Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song. Mnemosyne Supplements 430. Leiden.

Kotsidu, H. 1991. Die Musischen Agone der Panathenäen in Archaischer und Klassischer Zeit. Munich.

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Miller, M. 1997. Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century BC. Cambridge.

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Nagy, G. 2002. Plato’s Rhapsody and Homer’s Music: The Poetics of the Panathenaic Festival in Classical Athens. Cambridge, MA and Athens. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Nagy.Platos_Rhapsody_and_Homers_Music.2002. 3rd ed. in Classical Continuum 2021.10.01, https://continuum.fas.harvard.edu/platos-rhapsody-and-homers-music-the-poetics-of-the-panathenaic-festival-in-classical-athens/.

Nagy, G. 2004. “Transmission of Archaic Greek Sympotic Songs: From Lesbos to Alexandria.” Critical Inquiry 31:26–48. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:Nagy.Transmission_of_Archaic_Greek_Sympotic_Songs.2004.

Nagy, G. 2007. “Did Sappho and Alcaeus Ever Meet?” In Literatur und Religion: Wege zu einer mythisch–rituellen Poetik bei den Griechen. MythosEikonPoiesis 1.1., ed. A. Bierl, R. Lämmle, and K. Wesselmann, i.211–269. Berlin and New York. Revised and updated version in http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:Nagy.Did_Sappho_and_Alcaeus_Ever_Meet.2007.

Nagy, G. 2008|2009. Online|Printed version. Homer the Classic. Hellenic Studies 36. Cambridge, MA and Washington, DC. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Nagy.Homer_the_Classic.2008.

Nagy, G. 2009|2010. Online|Printed version. Homer the Preclassic. Berkeley and Los Angeles. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Nagy.Homer_the_Preclassic.2009.

Nagy, G. 2010. “Ancient Greek Elegy.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy, ed. K. Weisman, 13–45. Oxford. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:Nagy.Ancient_Greek_Elegy.2010.

Nagy, G. 2015.02.27. “Song 44 of Sappho and the Role of Women in the Making of Epic.” Classical Inquirieshttp://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/song-44-of-sappho-and-the-role-of-women-in-the-making-of-epic/.

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Nagy, G. 2016.08.31. “Song 44 of Sappho revisited: what is ‘oral’ about the text of this song?” Classical Inquirieshttp://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/song-44-of-sappho-revisited-what-is-oral-about-the-text-of-this-song/.

Nagy, G. 2016.10.08. “Sappho and mythmaking in the context of an Aeolian-Ionian poetic Sprachbund.” Classical Inquirieshttps://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/sappho-and-mythmaking-in-the-context-of-an-aeolian-ionian-poetic-sprachbund/.

Nagy, G. 2017.09.08. “Polycrates and his patronage of two lyric masters, Anacreon and Ibycus.” Classical Inquirieshttps://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/polycrates-and-his-patronage-of-two-lyric-masters-anacreon-and-ibycus/.

Nagy, G. 2017.09.14. “Afterthoughts about Polycrates, Anacreon, and Ibycus.” Classical Inquirieshttps://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/afterthoughts-about-polycrates-anacreon-and-ibycus/.

Nagy, G. 2018.11.22. “Homeric problems and bibliographical challenges, Part 1: On the performances of rhapsodes at the festival of the Panathenaia.” Classical Inquirieshttps://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/homeric-problems-and-bibliographical-challenges-part-1-on-the-performances-of-rhapsodes-at-the-festival-of-the-panathenaia/.

Nagy, G. 2018.11.30. “Homeric problems and bibliographical challenges, Part 2: More on the performances of rhapsodes at the festival of the Panathenaia.” Classical Inquirieshttps://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/homeric-problems-and-bibliographical-challenges-part-2-more-on-the-performances-of-rhapsodes-at-the-festival-of-the-panathenaia/.

Nagy, G. 2018.12.06. “Previewing an essay on the shaping of the Lyric Canon in Athens.” Classical Inquirieshttps://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/previewing-an-essay-on-the-shaping-of-the-lyric-canon-in-athens/.

Nagy, G. 2020. “On the Shaping of the Lyric Canon in Athens.” In The Reception of Greek Lyric Poetry in the Ancient World: Transmission, Canonization and Paratext, ed. B. Currie and I. Rutherford, 95–111. Vol. 5 of Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song. Mnemosyne Supplements 430. Leiden. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004414525_005.

Nagy, G. 2021.02.06. “Starting with Anacreon while preparing a compendium of essays on Sappho and her ancient reception.” Classical Inquiries. https://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/starting-with-anacreon-while-preparing-a-compendium-of-essays-on-sappho-and-her-ancient-reception/.

Nagy, G. 2021.10.26. “About online annotation as an academic genre designed to track ongoing research.” Classical Continuumhttps://continuum.fas.harvard.edu/about-online-annotation-as-an-academic-genre-designed-to-track-ongoing-research/.

Power, T. 2010. The Culutre of Kitharōidia. Hellenic Studies 15. Cambridge, MA and Washington, DC. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Power.The_Culture_of_Kitharoidia.2010.

Price, S. D. 1990. “Anacreontic Vases Reconsidered.” Greek Roman and Byzantine Studies 31:133–175.

Rotstein, A. 2004. “Aristotle, Poetics 1447a13–16 and Musical Contests.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 149:39–42.

Rusten, J. S. 2013. “‘The Odeion on His Head’: Costume and Identity in Cratinus’ Thracian Women fr. 73, and Cratinus’ Techniques of Political Satire.” Classical Studies E-Books Online. Mnemosyne Supplements 353:279–290. http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/books/b9789004245457_016.

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[*] This online essay, dated 2021.11.29, is a revised preprint version of a chapter (number 4) originally printed in The Reception of Greek Lyric Poetry in the Ancient World: Transmission, Canonization and Paratext, ed. Bruno Currie and Ian Rutherford, 95–111, Volume 5 of Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song. Mnemosyne Supplements 430. Leiden. 2020. An abridged earlier version of my online essay appeared in Classical Inquiries, dated 2018.12.06: “Previewing an essay on the shaping of the Lyric Canon in Athens.” https://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/previewing-an-essay-on-the-shaping-of-the-lyric-canon-in-athens/. In the unabridged preprint version as now revised here, the page-numbers of the original version printed in 2020 are indicated within “curly” brackets (“{“ and “}”). For example, “{95|96}” indicates where p. 95 of the printed version ends and p. 96 begins. These indications will be useful to readers who need to look up references made elsewhere to the original printed version.

[1] Wilamowitz 1900:5–6.

[2] Wilamowitz 1900:12–14. On references to lyric poets in Aristophanic comedy, see Calame 2020.

[3] See the relevant remarks in Wilamowitz 1900:13, 18.

[4] For background on the mousikoi agōnes at the Panathenaia, see Kotsidu 1991.

[5] Wilamowitz 1900:11.

[6] The portion of the inscription that deals with rhapsodes is lost, but it is generally accepted that rhapsodic competitions were mentioned in this missing portion. See Shear 2001:367.

[7] Wilamowitz 1900:16–17.

[8] Wilamowitz 1900:15.

[9] Nagy 1996 ch. 7.

[10] Commentary on the text of “Plutarch” in Nagy 1996:175.

[11] Nagy 1996:81.

[12] This paragraph, and the next four, are epitomized from Nagy 2009|2010:26–28.

[13] For arguments in support of this formulation, see Nagy 2009|2010:28, 54–55, 57–66, 328.

[14] Power 2010:413, 466, 470, 510; also recommended in general is Price 1990.

[15] Nagy 2007:233–237, 246–252, 255–260.

[16] Power 2010:413 n275.

[17] Power 2010.

[18] Power 2010:262–263n187.

[19] On Simonides F 11 West, see Boedeker and Sider 2001.

[20] Bowie 1986:14–21, 34; also Nagy 2010:38.

[21] Price 1990:169, with further bibliography.

[22] Nagy 2007:245–246, following Bierl 2001:160–163; on Agathon as a stage Anacreon, see Bierl 2001:158 (n137), 165.

[23] Relevant to my essay here is work done by Athanassaki 2012 concerning references to the Odeum in the Ion of Euripides. Such references, as collected and analyzed by Athanassaki, shed light on the evolution of the Lyric Canon.

[24] The translation is mine, and the comments that I add are epitomized from Nagy 2008|2009 4 §§174–76.

[25] Stadter 1989:172 remarks: “Pericles’ [Odeum] was on the south slope of the Acropolis, east of the theater of Dionysus. [Plutarch] knew only a reconstruction of the building, which had been burned by the Athenians in 86 [BCE], to prevent its wood from being used by Sulla to besiege the Acropolis” (Appian Mithridateios 6.38; see also Vitruvius 5.9.1; Pausanias 1.20.4). As Stadter 1989:173 continues: “According to Vitruvius [as cited] the masts and spars of the Persian ships [from Salamis] were used to construct the roof.’” In his book Trees, Meiggs 1982:474 notes that “the roof beams would have been enormous, more than 70 feet (21.3 meters) long.”

[26] Stadter 1989:173 remarks: “The forest of columns would have been similar to the [Telestērion] at Eleusis but covered an even larger area.”

[27] Stadter 1989:173 remarks: “Apparently the roof was pyramidal, sloping on four sides.”

[28] That is, the King of Kings of Persia: see also Plutarch Pericles 10.5.

[29] Pericles is called the epistatēs ‘supervisor’ of the Parthenon and of the Telestērion (Strabo 9.1.12 C395) and of the statue of Athena Parthenos (Philochorus FGH 328 F 121) and of the Lyceum (Philochorus F 37 via Harpocration s.v.). See Stadter 1989:174.

[30] Stadter 1989:174 remarks: “Pericles seems to be wearing the [Odeum] (or its pointed roof) as he did the helmet in the Cresilaus portrait: perhaps Cratinus thought that the pyramidal roof of the [Odeum], with its sharp peak, would be suitable for Pericles’ head.” So the joke is inspired by the shape of the roof of the Odeum, with its sharp peak, and by the shape of the head of Pericles. The metonymic identification of Pericles with the Odeum—a major source of prestige for the statesman—has been comically turned into a metaphoric identification of the ‘peak’ of Pericles with the ‘peak’ of the Odeum. What I say here, which is an epitomized version of what I say in Nagy 2008|2009 4 §174, is not necessarily at odds with what is argued by Rusten 2013. I take his point that the direct referent in this passage from Cratinus is a stage-Zeus, who is imagined as wearing on top of his head a stylized polos in the sense of a ‘celestial axis’. But my point remains that the indirect referent is still Pericles, whose own celestial axis is the Odeum that he built.

[31] I take it that τότε πρῶτον ‘at that point for the first time’ refers not to the establishing of an agōn ‘competition’ in mousikē but to the fact that there was a formal decree involved. See Stadter 1989:175 for citations of documentation for earlier phases of competitions in mousikē at Athens. The mousikē ‘craft of the Muses’ as practiced at the Panathenaia includes the tekhnē ‘craft’ of rhapsodes, not only of citharodes, citharists, aulodes, and auletes. Supporting evidence comes from Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians (60.1), Plato Ion (530a), and Isocrates Panegyricus (4.159).

[32] On the use of the Theater of Dionysus for Homeric performances in the late fourth century BCE, see Athenaeus 14.620b-c and my relevant commentary in Nagy 1996:158–163.

[33] Nagy 2008|2009 4 §175. The verb āidein ‘sing’, formant of the derivative nouns kithar-ōidos and rhaps-ōidos, is actually used with reference to the performances of rhapsodes: see Plato Ion 535b and my relevant commentary in Nagy 1996:26-27.

[34] Nagy 2008|2009 4 §178.

[35] I refer to the mention of the Telestērion in Plutarch Pericles 13.7, as analyzed in Nagy 2008|2009 4 §174.

[36] Stadter 1989:173 cites Aristophanes Wasps 1108-1109 regarding the use of the Odeum as ‘a court.’ Citing the testimony of Xenophon Hellenica 2.4.9, 24, Stadter adds: “The Thirty used it [= the Odeum] as an assembly point when they were defending their rule in winter 404/3.” Immediately after citing these primary sources, Stadter cites a critical mass of secondary sources.

[37] Power 2010.

[38] Bowie 1986.

[39] See also Wilamowitz 1900:21.



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