Sappho from ground zero

December 28, 2023, rewritten June 2024 for the printed version

By Gregory Nagy

“Sappho” (1888). Gustav Klimt (1862–1918).
Image via Wikimedia Commons.


This book about the songs of Sappho is one of three interrelated volumes published online by Classical Continuum (2023) and then in print by ΕΠΟΨ Publishers (2024).

As I declare already in the title of this book, Sappho from ground zero, my primary aim is to reconstruct, as far back in time as possible, the very beginnings of traditions in songmaking that culminated in Sappho’s poetic language. The beginnings—and that would be ground zero—are for the most part unreachable, and even the text of most of her songs has not survived. Nevertheless, reconstructions backward in time can still aim at ground zero.  In the Introduction, I will explain further what I mean, based on my early academic formation as a linguist.

The other two books in this set of three books about Sappho are organized as a pair. Even their titles are paired. Sappho I, Version Alpha via Beta: Essays on ancient performances of her songs is matched with Sappho II, Version Beta: Essays on ancient imitations of her songs. Each one of those two books can be read independently of the present book, or of each other, though all three books, in their online versions as published in the last month of 2023, are provided with cross-references by way of links. The links keep track of the rewritten as well as the original online content of each essay assembled in the three books. The printed versions of all three books retain cross-references to the online content—though not by way of links.

Wherever I cross-refer from one book to another in this set of three books, my format for citation will be in short-hand: Sappho 0Sappho ISappho II.


0§1. What remains of the ancient text of songs attributed to Sappho is unfortunately most fragmentary. So, the research that has been done in modern times on her songmaking—on her poetics—is in its own way full of holes. My own relevant research is no exception, and I address in this book some of my concerns about the near-impossibility of aiming to paint a big picture of Sappho—a picture to be viewed by expert colleagues and non-experts alike. To symbolize such concerns, I choose as the featured image for this book here not an ancient painting—which is what I have done in the case of the book titled Sappho I—but a modern painting that can be viewed as a whimsical substitute for my own near-impossible big picture. That said, however, I need to proceed beyond such picturings from the modern or near-modern world and to catch at least a glimpse of what I call metaphorically the big picture of Sappho in the ancient world.

0§2. As I write this, I find that there continues to be much disagreement about Sappho in the academic world that I inhabit—disagreement about her, about her life and times, and even about her poetics. But there is room for more agreement, I think, about Sappho’s poetic language, and it is her language, in fact, that I hope to foreground in my approach to Sappho in this book. The approach I take is based primarily on linguistics, especially comparative linguistics. My early formation as an academic was in fact grounded in linguistics, not so much in “classical” studies—I use the word “classical” here in a narrow sense. That said, though, I must add that my later academic formation was in fact also shaped by classical studies in the broader sense of this same word “classical,” where the classics of ancient Greece and Rome can be compared with the classics of other traditional worlds. In my case, most of my comparative research in studying classical languages writ large involved, on the one hand in Greek, the poetic language of Homer and Sappho, especially as exemplified in the Homeric Iliad and in Song 44 of Sappho, and, on the other hand in Indic, the poetic language of the Rig-Veda, a body of hymns composed in the most ancient attested form of Sanskrit. A prime example of this research is a book of mine, originally published in 1974, titled Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic meter. That book, as we will see, turns out to be foundational for my overall argumentation here in this book Sappho 0, published in 2024. As this Introduction proceeds, I hope to situate more precisely the importance, for me, of such comparanda.

0§3. In analyzing the poetic language of Sappho, I engage in two kinds of reconstruction—both backward in time and forward in time. The first kind is so obvious that there seems at first to be no real need for any definition. An expected kind of definition, in any case, would be something like this: when we reconstruct any structure backward in time, our aim is to recover the original of that structure, which is expected to exist at ground zero. As for reconstructing forward in time, on the other hand, the aim is to trace the evolution of the given structure by starting from the original and working our way forward in time in order to see how the original structure survives in derivative structures.

0§4. But there is a big problem with both of these working definitions, and it centers on the very idea of a structure that is supposed to be original. In terms of comparative linguistic analysis, for example, the reconstructing of any given structure in language can go back in time only to earlier structures, without ever reaching, chronologically, an original structure—unless such a structure can be historically verified as a status quo.

0§5. Given that the reconstruction of Sappho’s poetic language backward in time cannot recover an absolute chronological ground zero, I am aware that my reconstructing forward in time is limited to a continuation from ground zero without actually starting at any datable “origin.”

0§6. As I noted at the outset, there remains much disagreement in the academic world about the poetics of Sappho and about Sappho herself. But there is considerable agreement, however hesitantly expressed, about assigning an approximate historical date for her reconstructed life and times. That date is generally understood to hover somewhere around 600 BCE——though the traditions of songmaking that made Sappho’s poetic language possible must surely be older, dating back far earlier—so much earlier that such traditions cannot even be traced back chronologically to any absolute point zero that could be verifiable.

0§7. That said, though, I take as a hypothetical given the general dating that is conventionally posited by most researchers in search of a historical Sappho, around 600 BCE,  And I will focus on a place where my own reconstruction of Sappho’s songmaking could be historically contextualized. I save the details for later, but I anticipate the essentials already here. The place I have in mind can best be described as a ‘middle ground’—which is actually the meaning of an ancient Greek place-name, Messon. In Modern Greek, the name that the local population today give to the same place is Mesa. This place is situated at the center of the island known as Lesbos in ancient Greek—or Lesvos in Modern Greek. In ancient times, there existed at Messon a precinct that was sacred to the gods, and this precinct was a place where songs of Sappho were in those ancient times sung—as well as danced. What I just said is not just a claim. As I will argue in this book, it is a fact. That is to say, there is historical and even archaeological evidence for arguing that the sacred precinct of Messon was in ancient times a venue for the performances of Sappho’s songs.

0§8. In making such an argument, I have drawn on three old essays of mine, previously published online as well as in print, where I delved into the historical context of Messon as a venue for the singing—and dancing—of Sappho’s songs. I list here the three essays in the chronological order of the original publications:

#A. 2007. “Lyric and Greek Myth.”

#B. 2007/2009. “Did Sappho and Alcaeus ever meet? Symmetries of myth and ritual in performing the songs of ancient Lesbos.”

#C. 2015. “A poetics of sisterly affect in the Brothers Song and in other songs of Sappho.”

The links to these three essays point to old and by now archived open-access online versions that have all been superannuated. All three of these essays have now been rewritten and absorbed into the book here, Sappho 0.

0§9. In the original versions of these three lengthy essays, I found that the specific context of Messon in Lesbos was an ideal point of departure for my reconstrucing the overall context of Sappho’s songmaking. In my reshaping of these essays for Sappho 0, however, I now prefer to build gradations into my presentation, starting from basic descriptions and then proceeding to detailed analysis. In the course of reading Sappho 0, the reader will find that the context of Messon will be studied in progressively deeper detail.

0§10. Moreover, Sappho’s songmaking needs to be studied not only in the specific context of Messon but also in the general context of the overall poetic traditions that shaped such songmaking. At the start, I referred to such general context as the “big picture.” In the rewritten versions of the old essays #A and #B and #C, now absorbed into Sappho 0 , I hope to provide such general context. The first one of those essays, #A, has been rewritten and split into Essay One and Essay Two, while #B and #C have been rewritten as Essay Three and Essay Four. The first two of these essays are more introductory and simplified while the second two follow up with more detail—at times with far more detail.

0§11. Next, I turn to introducing Essays Five, Six, and Seven. By way of introduction, I need to start with some bibilographical background. Between February 2015 and February 2017, I produced a series of twenty-three studies related directly or indirectly to my attempts at recovering the big picture, as I have called it, of Sappho’s songmaking. I make a list here, in chronological order of publication:

#1. 2015.02.27. “Song 44 of Sappho and the Role of Women in the Making of Epic.”

#2. 2015.06.01. “Herodotus and a courtesan from Naucratis.”

#3. 2015.06.10. “Previewing a concise inventory of Greek etymologies, Part 3.”

#4. 2015.07.01. “A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 2.”

#5. 2015.07.08. “Sappho’s ‘fire under the skin’ and the erotic syntax of an epigram by Posidippus.”

#6. 2015.08.26. “A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 9.”

#7. 2015.09.07. “Some ‘anchor comments’ on an ‘Aeolian’ Homer.”

#8. 2015.10.01. “Genre, Occasion, and Choral Mimesis Revisited—with special reference to the ‘newest Sappho’.”

#9. 2015.10.08. “The ‘Newest Sappho’: a set of working translations, with minimal comments.”

#10. 2015.10.09. “An experiment in combining visual art with translations of Sappho.”

#11. 2015.10.22. “Diachronic Sappho: some prolegomena.”

#12. 2015.11.05. “Once again this time in Song 1 of Sappho.”

#13. 2015.11.09. “An experiment in combining visual art with translations of Sappho, Part 2.”

#14. 2015.11.12. “The Tithonos Song of Sappho.”

#15. 2015.11.19. “Echoes of Sappho in two epigrams of Posidippus.”

#16. 2015.12.01. “A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 19.”

#17. 2015.12.03. “Girl, interrupted: more about echoes of Sappho in Epigram 55 of Posidippus.”

#18. 2015.12.31. “Some imitations of Pindar and Sappho by Horace.”

#19. 2016.01.07. “Weaving while singing Sappho’s songs in Epigram 55 of Posidippus.”

#20. 2016.08.31. “Song 44 of Sappho revisited: what is ‘oral’ about the text of this song?”

#21. 2016.10.08. “Sappho and mythmaking in the context of an Aeolian-Ionian poetic Sprachbund.”

#22. 2017.02.17. “Sappho in the role of leader.”

#23. 2017.02.23. “Sappho, once again this time.”

0§12. As in the case of the three lengthy studies that I listed earlier, the links to these twenty-three further studies have been provided here, and, once again, the links point to older open-access online versions. Like the lengthy essays ##ABC, some of these studies ##1–23 have been rewritten here in Sappho 0. An example of such rewritings is the essay at the end of the list, #23, which has been rewritten and absorbed into the Introduction here to Sappho 0. The content of some of the other studies has likewise been rewritten and absorbed into Sappho 0: notable examples are ##1, 20, 21: the first two of these studies—#1 and #20—have been consolidated into Essay Five of Sappho 0 here, and the third—#21—into Essay Six. Still others of these twenty-three studies have been rewritten and absorbed not into Sappho 0 here but into Sappho I. Those studies are numbered here as ## 5, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19.

0§13. As for the studies numbered #9 and #11, the working translations included there have also been reworked and incorporated into Sappho 0. While #9 featured my translations of the “newest” fragments, I produced in #11 my translations of the best-known “old” fragments of Sappho. Besides Song 1 as rendered in #11, I translated also Songs 16, 31, and 44. For both the “newest” and the “old” texts, my translations were occasionally enhanced by way of simultaneous visual narratives, the artistic creations of Glynnis Fawkes, who works in the style of graphic novels; previews of such visual narratives for the “old” and the “newest” texts can be viewed in the archived versions of #10 and #13 respectively.

0§14. The book titled Sappho I also includes rewritings of essays on Sappho that appeared online after February 2019, and the list of those online versions is tracked in the Bibliography for that book. As for the book titled Sappho II, it includes rewritings of further online essays on Sappho, likewise published after February 2019, and, in the Bibliography for that volume as well, I track there a list of those further online versions.

0§15. I sum up what I have surveyed so far. By contrast with Sappho I and Sappho II, the essays in Sappho 0 are all rewritings of work published earlier, starting in 2007. By now I have aready accounted for six of the seven essays rewritten in Sappho 0:

Essay 1, from the first part of #A1: 2007

Essay 2, from the second part of #A1: 2007

Essay 3, from #B: 2007/2009

Essay 4, from #C: 2015

Essay 5, from #1 combined with #20: 2015.02.27 combined with 2016.08.31

Essay 6, from #21: 2016.10.08

0§16. As for Essay Seven, which is a brief epilogue, I offer not a rewriting but a small set of reflections about even earlier studies of mine on Sappho, especially about a publication that goes all the way back to 1974.

0§17. Before I can say more about that publication, I need to note in general that I cite in Sappho 0 many studies of mine on Sappho that date back to the years 1973 through 2006. Throughout Sappho 0, I will be tracking, with some frequency, further details that can be found in such earlier studies. For the record, I list twelve relevant studies here, in chronological order:

GIM 1974, Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter,

BA 1979/1999, The Best of the Achaeans,

PH 1990a, Pindar’s Homer

GMP 1990b, Greek Mythology and Poetics, In this book, Chapter 9, is a rewriting of an essay originally published in 1973: “Phaethon, Sappho’s Phaon, and the White Rock of Leukas,” listed in the Bibliography for Sappho 0 here.

PP 1996a, Poetry as Performance

HQ 1996b, Homeric Questions

HR 2003, Homeric Responses

EH 2006, “The Epic Hero,”

HC 2009|2008, Homer the Classic

HPC 2010|2009, Homer the Preclassic

H24H 2013, The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours

MoM=2015, Masterpieces of Metonymy

The ordering  of this list is chronological, except that I date here as 1990 one particular essay that really goes back to 1973 in its original form before it was rewritten in 1990 as part of the book GMP = Greek Mythology and Poetics.

0§18. I cite many of these studies in Sappho 0, but the one study that is by far the most relevant to my overall argumentation is the very first on my list. It is a study that I have already foregrounded, abbreviated here as GIM = Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter, originally published in 1974. That year, if I may engage here in a playful way of saying things, was my own personal ground zero in my efforts to reconstruct the poetic language of Sappho, culminating in Sappho 0, a book published half a century later. In the concluding Essay Seven of Sappho 0, I write a brief epilogue centering on Chapter 5 of that book on Greek and Indic meter, where I had dwelled on the deep antiquity of Sappho’s poetic language as evidenced in her Song 44, about the wedding of Hector and Andromache.

0§19. That chapter in a book dating all the way back to 1974 is relevant, however, not only to Essay 7 in Sappho 0. It is relevant to all seven essays in the book, especially to Essay One and Essay Two as also to Essay Five and Essay Six. So, concluding this Introduction while anticipating what I have to say in Essay One and Essay Two, I need to stress the importance, for me, of connecting my reconstruction of Sappho’s poetic language in Chapter 5 of Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter with the cumulative synthesis of my overall arguments about Sappho.

0§20. In rewriting my old essay #A, as listed at 0§8 my Introduction here, I have split that essay, as noted already, into two new consecutive essays, Essay One and Essay Two. Essay One, as we will see, presents general background about the medium of “lyric” in the archaic period of ancient Greek song culture—that is, in the era of Sappho as also of her male poetic contemporary, a figure by the name of Alcaeus. And then, Essay Two presents specific background about the era of Sappho and Alcaeus. In Essays One and Two, I write no endnotes, by contrast with Essay Three and Essay Four. That is because I intend for the progression of my argumentation to be gradual. In the first two essays, I provide relatively less detail in bibliographical references, even to primary sources. For citations of the transmitted texts of poetry attributed to both Sappho and Alcaeus, I follow the streamlined edition of Campbell 1982, whose numbering of fragments [F] and testimonia [T] matches, for the most part, the numbering in the far more detailed older editions of Lobel/Page 1955 and Voigt 1971. Then, in Essay Three and Essay Four of Sappho 0, I follow up with more detailed argumentation of my own, backed up with copious endnotes, in a massive reworking of the old essays #B and #C, as listed at 0§8. And I supplement such content with further content that I have extracted from the old and by now archived versions of online essays that I have listed at 0§11: ##1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 16, 18, 20, 21. In the case of the essays #1 #20, #21, as I already noted, I have converted #1 and #20 into Essay Five and #21 into Essay Six. Then and only then do I finally arrive at an Epilogue, in Essay Seven.

Essay One. A cumulative synthesis of the arguments in this book about the  the era of Sappho, Part I

1§0. This essay, as also the next essay, is extracted from a more extended printed version, the title of which was “Lyric and Greek Myth,” listed as Nagy 2007a in the Bibliography. The printed version was published in The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology (ed. R. D. Woodard; Cambridge University Press 2007) 19–51, and it was symmetrically paired with a related essay, “Homer and Greek Myth,” pp. 52–82 in the same volume. The abbreviations that I will be using in the present essay, such as PH, HC, and so on., are all listed in the Bibliography. The page-numbers of the version printed in 2007 are embedded within brackets in the version rewritten here: for example, {19|20} marks where p. 19 stops and p. 20 begins.
1§1. In the history of Greek literature, poets of “lyric” are conventionally associated with the archaic period. Some would go so far as to call this period a “lyric age,” to be contrasted with an earlier age represented by Homer and Hesiod, poets of “epic.” There is in fact a book about the archaic period bearing the title The Lyric Age of Greece (Burn 1960). The archaic period ended around the second half of the fifth century BCE, to be followed by the so-called classical period. The archaic period is thought to have ended with the lyric poet Pindar, while the classical period is thought to have begun with the tragic poet Aeschylus, even though these two literary figures were roughly contemporaneous.

1§2. There is a lack of precision in the general use of the term lyric. It is commonly associated with a variety of assumptions regarding the historical emergence of a “subjective I,” as represented by the individual poet of lyric, who is to be contrasted with the generic poet of epic, imagined as earlier and thus somehow less advanced. By extension, the subjective I is thought to be symptomatic of emerging notions of authorship. Such assumptions, as I will consistently argue in this book, cannot be sustained.

1§3. Lyric did not start in the archaic period. It is just as old as epic, which clearly predates the archaic period. And the traditions of lyric, like those of epic, were rooted in oral poetry, which is a matter of performance as well as composition (Lord 1995:22–68, “Oral Traditional Lyric Poetry”).

1§4. These two aspects of oral poetry, composition and performance, are interactive, and this interaction is parallel to the interaction of myth and ritual. In oral poetry, the performing of a composition is an activating of myth, and such activation is fundamentally a matter of ritual (Nagy 1994/1995a).

1§5. During the archaic period, the artistic production of lyric involved performance as well as composition. The performance was executed {19|20} either by a single performer or by a group that was actually or at least notionally participating in the performance. The most prominent Greek word referring to such a group is khoros ‘chorus’, which designates not just singing, like its derivative chorus in English, but dancing as well. Choral lyric could be sung and danced, or just sung or just danced. To be contrasted is monody, which means ‘solo singing’.

1§6. Lyric could be sung to the accompaniment of a string instrument, ordinarily the kitharā, which is conventionally translated in English as ‘lyre’. This English noun lyre and its adjective lyric are derived from lurā (lyra), which is another Greek word for a string instrument. Lyric could also be sung to the accompaniment of a wind instrument, ordinarily the aulos ‘reed’. Either way, whether the accompaniment took the form of string or wind instruments, a more precise term for such lyric is melic, derived from the Greek noun melos ‘song’. English melody is derived from Greek melōidiā, which means ‘the singing of melos’.

1§7. Lyric could also be sung without instrumental accompaniment. In some forms of unaccompanied lyric, the melody was reduced and the rhythm became more regulated than the rhythm of melic. In describing the rhythm of these forms of unaccompanied lyric, it is more accurate to use the term meter. And, in describing the performance of this kind of lyric, it is more accurate to speak of reciting instead of singing. Recited poetry is typified by three meters in particular: dactylic hexameterelegiac couplet, and iambic trimeter. In ancient Greek poetic traditions, the dactylic hexameter became the sole medium of epic. As a poetic form, then, epic is far more specialized than lyric (PH 1§§1–16, 55–64).

1§8. In the classical period, the solo performance of lyric poetry, both melic and non-melic, became highly professionalized. Lyric poetry was sung by professional soloists—either kitharōidoi ‘citharodes’ (= ‘kithara-singers’) or aulōidoi ‘aulodes’ (= ‘aulos-singers’), while non-lyric poetry was recited by professional soloists called rhapsōidoi ‘rhapsodes’. The solo performance of lyric poetry was monody. In the classical period, an era that is defined primarily by the city-state of Athens, the main occasion for citharodic or aulodic or rhapsodic solo performance was the festival of the Panathenaia, which was the context of competitions called mousikoi agōnes ‘musical contests’. These Panathenaic agōnes ‘contests’ were mousikoi ‘musical’ only in the sense that they were linked with the goddesses of poetic memory, the Muses (HC 3 section 4). They were not ‘musical’ in the modern sense, since the contests featured epic as well as lyric poetry. In the classical period of Athens, the epic repertoire was eventually restricted to the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey, competitively performed by rhapsodes, {20|21} while the lyric  repertoire was restricted to songs competitively performed by citharodes and aulodes.

1§9. In the same classical period of Athens, lyric was also sung and danced by non-professional choruses. The primary occasion for such performances was the festival of the City Dionysia, the official venue of Athenian State Theater. The actors who delivered their lines by reciting the verses of non-melic poetry embedded in the dramas of Athenian State Theater were professionals, but the choruses who sang and danced the melic poetry also embedded in these dramas were non-professional, recruited from the body politic of citizens; theatrical choruses became professionalized only after the classical period, toward the end of the fourth century BCE (PP 157, 172–176).

1§10. The performances of non-professional choruses in Athenian State Theater represent an essential aspect of melic poetry that transcends the classical period. Not only in Athens but throughout the Greek-speaking world of the classical period and beyond, the most authoritative context of melic poetry was choral performance. The khoros ‘chorus’ was in fact a basic social reality in all phases of archaic Greek prehistory and history, and this reality was essential in the evolution of lyric during these earlier phases (Calame 2001).

1§11. An important differentiation becomes evident in the course of this evolution. It is an emerging split between the composer and the performer of lyric. Before this split, the authorship of any lyric composition was closely linked to the authority of lyric performance. This authority played itself out in a dramatized relationship between the khoros ‘chorus’ and a highlighted khorēgos ‘leader of the chorus’, as idealized in the relationship of the Muses as divine chorus to Apollo as their divine choral leader (PH 12§29). In lyric, as I argue, such authority is linked to the articulation of myth itself.

1§12. The khoros, as an institution, was considered the most authoritative medium not only for the performance of lyric composition but also for its transmission in the archaic period. As we see from the wording of choral lyric poetry, the poet’s voice is transmitted and notionally perpetuated by the seasonally recurring choral performances of his or her poetry. A most prominent example is Song 1 of Alcman (PH 12§18). The voices of the performers who sing and dance such poetry can even speak of the poet by name in the third person, identifying the poet as the one who composed their song. An example is Song 39 of Alcman. In other situations, the choral lyric composer speaks in the first person by borrowing, as it were, the voices of those who sing and dance in the composer’s {21|22} choral compositions. In Song 26 of Alcman, for example, the speaker declares that he is too old and weak to dance with the chorus of women who sing and dance his song: by implication, he continues to sing as their lead singer (PH 12§32).

1§13. For an understanding of authority and authorship in lyric poetry, more needs to be said about the actual transmission of lyric from the archaic into the classical period. The lyric traditions of the archaic period became an integral part of liberal education for the elites of the classical period. In leading cities like Athens, the young were educated by professionals in the non-professional singing, dancing, and reciting of songs that stemmed from the archaic period—songs that had become the classics of the classical period. As we see in the Clouds of Aristophanes (1355–1356), a young man who had the benefit of such an education could be expected to perform the artistic feat of singing solo a choral song composed by the archaic poet Simonides (F 507) while accompanying himself on the lyre. Elsewhere in the Clouds (967), we see a similar reference to a similar solo performance of a choral song composed by the even more archaic poet Stesichorus (F 274).

1§14. Among the elites of the classical period, the primary venue for the non-professional performance of archaic lyric songs that youths learned through such a liberal education was the sumposion ‘symposium’. Like the chorus, the symposium was a basic social reality in all phases of archaic Greek prehistory and history. And, like the chorus, it was a venue for the non-professional performance of lyric in all its forms.

1§15. The poets of lyric in the archaic period became the models for performing lyric in the classical period. And, as models, these figures became part of a canon of melic poets (Wilamowitz 1900:63–71). This canon, as it evolved from the archaic into the classical period and beyond, was composed of the following nine figures: Sappho, Alcaeus, Anacreon, Alcman, Stesichorus, Ibycus, Simonides, Pindar, Bacchylides. To this canonical grouping we may add a tenth figure, Corinna, although her status as a member of the canon was a matter of dispute in the postclassical period (PH 3§2n3). Other figures can be classified as authors of non-melic poetry: they include Archilochus, Callinus, Hipponax, Mimnermus, Theognis, Tyrtaeus, Semonides, Solon, and Xenophanes.

1§16. One of these figures, Xenophanes, can be classified in other ways as well. He is one of the so-called “pre-Socratic” thinkers whose thinking is attested primarily in the form of poetry. Two other such figures are Empedocles and Parmenides. Since the extant poetry of Xenophanes is composed in elegiac couplets, he belongs technically to the overall category of lyric poetry, whereas Empedocles and Parmenides do not, {22|23} since their extant poetry is composed in dactylic hexameters, which is the medium of epic.

1§17. Such taxonomies are imprecise in any case. A case in point is Simonides, whose attested compositions include non-melic poetry (like the Plataea Elegy, F 11 W2) as well as melic poetry. Simonides is credited with the composition of epigrams as well (Epigrammata I–LXXXIX, ed. Page). Conversely, the poetry of Sappho was evidently not restricted to melic: she is credited with the composition of elegiac couplets, iambic trimeters, and even epigrammatic dactylic hexameters (T 2; F 157–159D). A comparable phenomenon in the archaic period is the perception of Homer as an epigrammatist (as in the Herodotean Life of Homer 133–140 ed. Allen; HPC I§§117–119).

1§18. On the basis of what we have seen so far, it is clear that a given lyric composition could be sung or recited, instrumentally accompanied or not accompanied, and danced or not danced. It could be performed solo or in ensemble. Evidently, all these variables contributed to a wide variety of genres, but the actual categories of these genres are in general difficult to determine (Harvey 1955). Moreover, the categories as formulated in the postclassical period and thereafter may be in some respects artificial (Davies 1988). Such difficulties can be traced back to the fact that the actual writing down of archaic lyric poetry blurs whatever we may know about the occasion or occasions of performance. The genres of lyric poetry stem ultimately from such occasions (Nagy 1994/1995a).

1§19. In the postclassical period, antiquarians lost interest in finding out about occasions for performance, and they assumed for the most part that poets in the archaic period composed by way of writing. For example, Pausanias (7.20.4) says that Alcaeus wrote (graphein) his Hymn to Hermes (F 308c). A similar assumption is made about Homer himself: Pausanias (3.24.11, 8.29.2) thinks of Homer as an author who wrote (graphein) his poetry.

1§20. In the classical period, by contrast, the making of poetry by the grand poets of the past was not equated with the act of writing (HPC I§61). As we see from the wording of Plato, for example (Phaedo 94d, Hippias Minor 371a, Republic 2.378d, Ion 531c–d), Homer is consistently pictured as a poet who ‘makes’ (poieîn) his poetry, not as one who ‘writes’ (graphein) it. So also Herodotus says that Homer and Hesiod ‘make’ (poieîn) what they say in poetry (2.53.2); and he says elsewhere that Alcaeus ‘makes’ (poieîn) his poetry (5.95).

1§21. In any case, the basic fact remains that the composition of poetry in the archaic period came to life in performance, not in the reading of {23|24} something that was written. Accordingly, the occasions of performance need to be studied in their historical contexts.

Essay Two: A first look, for beginners, at Sappho and Alcaeus in their received roles as poets of lyric

Sappho and Alcaeus (1881). Artist: Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Oil on panel, 66 x 122 cm (25.9 x 48 in). Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland. Alcaeus of Mytilene playing a kithara while Sappho listens.
2§1. In this essay, focusing directly on Sappho and Alcaeus themselves in their received roles as poets of lyric, the primary test case for studying these roles is the textual tradition of lyric poetry attributed to these two figures who are understood, retrospectively, as poets of lyric.What we know about the historical setting for the poetry of Sappho and Alcaeus—about both the place and the time—is relatively more detailed than what we know about most other comparable poetry. The place is the island of Lesbos, off the northern coast of Asia Minor. And the time is around 600 BCE. That rough date matches a reference in a song of Alcaeus (F 49.12) to a contemporary event that can be dated independently, the destruction of Ascalon by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, in 604 BCE (Alcaeus T 1).
2§2. The lyric poetry of Sappho and Alcaeus, taken together, represents the repertoire of the myths and the rituals of the people of Lesbos as expressed in lyric performance. Their poetry, and its transmission, goes back to a period when the city-states of the island of Lesbos were confederated into a single state. This federal state, the political term for which was sunoikisis (Thucydides 3.3.1), was dominated by Mytilene, the city of Alcaeus. There was a single communal place reserved for the festivals of this island federation, and that place was named Messon, the ‘middle space’, as Louis Robert (1960) has demonstrated, primarily on the basis of relevant epigraphical evidence. Songs 129 and 130 of Alcaeus show explicit references to this federal space, which is described as sacred to three divinities: Zeus, Hera, and Dionysus. Also relevant is a reference to the teikhos basilēïon ‘wall of kings’ (Alcaeus 130a.15), which is equated with ‘the [precinct-]wall of Hera’ (according to an appended scholion or ‘note’ in the relevant papyrus fragment).
2§3, The same federal space, which can now be identified as Messon, is mentioned in Song 17 of Sappho (further reference in T 59), where the woman who is the main speaker is represented as praying to the goddess Hera: as this speaker says, it was tuide ‘here’ (line 7) at this federal space that the heroes Agamemnon and Menelaos made a stop after their capture of Troy; and it was here, the speaker continues, that these Achaean heroes prayed to Zeus and Hera and Dionysus (lines 9–10), asking the gods to reveal to them the best way to sail back home. There is a related reference in Odyssey 3, where the story is told how Menelaos (but not Agamemnon) and his men joined Nestor and Diomedes in Lesbos (line 169) after the destruction of Troy in order to consult an unnamed god about the best way to sail back home (lines 173–174). I will have more details in Essay Four about this Homeric reference.
2§4. In the words of Alcaeus, this federal space—now identified as Messon—was called the temenos theōn ‘sacred precinct of the gods’ (F 130b.13). It was the designated place for celebrating a seasonally recurring festival, described in the {24|25} words of Alcaeus as the occasion for the seasonally recurring assemblies or ‘comings together’ of the people of Lesbos (F 130b.15 sunodoisi; Nagy 1993:22).
2§5. This festival featured as its main spectacle the choral singing and dancing of the Lesbiades ‘women of Lesbos’, described as ‘exceptional in their beauty’ (130b.17 krinnomenai phuān). The reality of such a festival in Lesbos featuring the choral performances of women is independently verified by a scholion or ‘note’ in a Homeric manuscript, where we read a comment on a passage in the Iliad (9.130): from this scholion we learn that the name of the festival was the Kallisteia, which can be translated as ‘Pageant of Beauty’. In the relevant Iliadic passage as well as elsewhere in the Iliad, there are references to the women of Lesbos, described as exceptional in their beauty, who were captured by Achilles in the years that preceded the final destruction of Troy (Iliad 9.128–131, 270–273). These direct references in the Iliad can be analyzed as indirect references to the festival of the Kallisteia in Lesbos (HPC II§§289–290, 302). Another reference to the Kallisteia is attested in a poem from the Greek Anthology (9.189), which says that this festival takes place within the temenos ‘sacred precinct’ of Hera: this festival, it also says, was the occasion for choral singing and dancing by the women of Lesbos, with Sappho herself pictured as the leader of their khoros ‘chorus’ (Page 1955:168n4).
2§6. Sappho in her songs is conventionally pictured as the lead singer of a chorus composed of the women of Lesbos, and she speaks as their main choral personality (PH 12§60). As we saw in the Greek Anthology (9.189), Sappho’s songs are pictured as taking place within this sacred place. And the place for this singing—and dancing—is marked by the deictic word tuide ‘here’, as we saw earlier in Sappho’s Song 17 (line 7). Also, in Song 96 of Sappho, this same federal space of the people of Lesbos is once again marked by the deictic word tuide ‘here’ (line 2) as the sacred place of choral performance, and the noun molpa (line 5) makes it explicit that the performance takes the form of choral singing and dancing. In archaic poetry, the verb for ‘sing and dance in a chorus’ is melpesthai (PH 12§29n62 and n64).

2§7. In Song 96 of Sappho, such performance tuide ‘here’ (line 2) within the common choral ground of Lesbos is being nostalgically contrasted with the choral performance of a missing prima donna who is imagined as performing somewhere else at that same moment: she is now in an alien choral ground, as the prima donna of ‘Lydian women’ who are singing and dancing in the moonlight (lines 4–9). The wording here refers to a seasonally recurring choral event known as the ‘Dance of the Lydian {25|26} Maidens’, performed by the local women of the Ionian city of Ephesus at a grand festival held in their own sacred place of singing and dancing (PH 10§31). There are comparable ‘Lydian’ themes embedded in the seasonally recurring choral festivities of Sparta: one such event was known as the ‘Procession of the Lydians’ (Plutarch Life of Aristides 17.10). And just as Sappho’s Song 96 represents ‘the Lydian women’ as singing and dancing their choral song in a moonlit setting (lines 4–9), so too are the women of Lesbos singing and dancing their own choral song tuide or ‘here’ (line 2). There is a comparable setting in Song 154 of Sappho, where we see women pictured as poised to sing and dance around a bōmos ‘altar’  (line 2).

2§8. There is another such reference to the common choral ground of Lesbos, as marked by the deictic word tuide ‘here’, at line 5  in Song 1 of Sappho, which is arguably her most celebrated song:

|1 ποικιλόθρον’ ἀθανάτἈφρόδιτα, |2 παῖ Δίοc δολόπλοκε, λίϲϲομαί ϲε, |3 μή μ’ ἄϲαιϲι μηδ’ ὀνίαιϲι δάμνα, |4 πότνια, θῦμον,

|5 ἀλλὰ τυίδ’ ἔλθ’, αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα |6 τὰc ἔμαc αὔδαc ἀίοιϲα πήλοι |7 ἔκλυεc, πάτροc δὲ δόμον λίποιϲα |8 χρύϲιον ἦλθεc

|9 ἄρμ’ ὐπαϲδεύξαιϲα· κάλοι δέ ϲ’ ἆγον |10 ὤκεεc ϲτροῦθοι περὶ γᾶc μελαίναc |11 πύκνα δίννεντεc πτέρ’ ἀπ’ ὠράνωἴθε|12ροc διὰ μέϲϲω·

|13 αἶψα δ’ ἐξίκοντο· ϲὺ δ’, ὦ μάκαιρα, |14 μειδιαίϲαιϲ’ ἀθανάτωι προϲώπωι |15 ἤρε’ ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι |16 δηὖτε κάλημμι

|17 κὤττι μοι μάλιϲτα θέλω γένεϲθαι |18 μαινόλαι θύμωι· τίνα δηὖτε πείθω |19 βαῖϲ᾿ ἄγην ἐc ϲὰν φιλότατα;[2] τίc ϲ’, ὦ |20 Ψάπφ’, ἀδικήει;

|21 καὶ γὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέωc διώξει, |22 αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ’, ἀλλὰ δώϲει, |23 αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέωc φιλήϲει |24 κωὐκ ἐθέλοιϲα.

|25 ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦϲον |26 ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄϲϲα δέ μοι τέλεϲϲαι |27 θῦμοc ἰμέρρει, τέλεϲον, ϲὺ δ’ αὔτα |28ϲύμμαχοc ἔϲϲο.

stanza 1||1 You with pattern-woven flowers, immortal Aphrodite, |2 child of Zeus, weaver of wiles, I implore you, |3 do not dominate with hurts and pains, |4 Mistress, my heart!

stanza 2||5 But come here [tuide], if ever at any other time |6 hearing my voice from afar, |7 you heeded me, and leaving the palace of your father, |8 golden, you came,

stanza 3||9 having harnessed the chariot; and you were carried along by beautiful |10 swift sparrows over the dark earth |11swirling with their dense plumage from the sky through the |12 midst of the aether,

stanza 4||13 and straightaway they arrived. But you, O holy one, |14 smiling with your immortal looks, |15 kept asking what is it once again this time [dēute] that has happened to me and for what reason |16 once again this time [dēute] do I invoke you,

stanza 5||17 and what is it that I want more than anything to happen |18 to my frenzied [mainolās] heart [thūmos]? “Whom am I once again this time [dēute] to persuade, |19 setting out to bring [agein] her to your love? Who is doing you, |20Sappho, wrong?

stanza 6||21 For if she is fleeing now, soon she will be pursuing. |22 If she is not taking gifts, soon she will be giving them. |23 If she does not love, soon she will love |24 even against her will.”

stanza 7||25 Come to me even now, and free me from harsh |26 anxieties, and however many things |27 my heart [thūmos] yearns to get done, you do for me. You |28 become my ally in war.

Song 1 of Sappho = Prayer to Aphrodite

2§9. As we will see in due course, Sappho is being pictured here as the lead singer of a choral performance. She leads off by praying to Aphrodite to be present, that is, to manifest herself in an epiphany. The goddess is invoked from far away in the sky, which is separated from the earth by the immeasurably vast space of ‘aether’. Despite this overwhelming sense of separation, Aphrodite makes her presence felt immediately, once she is invoked. The goddess appears, that is, she is now present in the sacred space of performance, and her presence becomes an epiphany for all those who are present. Then, once Aphrodite is present, she exchanges roles with the prima donna who figures as the leader of choral performance. In the part of Song 1 that we see enclosed within quotation marks in the visual formatting of modern editions (lines 18–24), the first-person ‘I’ of Sappho is now replaced by Aphrodite herself, who has been a second-person ‘you’ up to this point. We see here an exchange of roles between the first-person ‘I’ and the second-person ‘you’. The first-person ‘I’ now becomes Aphrodite, who proceeds to speak in the performing voice of Sappho to Sappho herself, who in turn has now become the second-person ‘you’. During Aphrodite’s epiphany inside the shared sacred space of the people of Lesbos, a fusion of identities takes place between the goddess and the prima donna who leads the choral performance ‘here’, that is, in this sacred space (PP 97–103).

2§10. Sappho prays to Aphrodite to give her the power that the goddess has, which is the power to make love happen. She prays that she may ‘get done’ whatever it is that Aphrodite ‘gets done’ in the active voice of the verb meaning ‘to get something done’, telessai (Sappho F 1.26), which is to be contrasted with the passive voice telesthēn applying in another song to a passive lover who simply lets love happen (Sappho F 5.4). To be granted the active power sought by Sappho is to become the lead singer of the song that has the power to make love happen. Such is the power of song in the songs of Sappho.
2§11. Within the archaic context of the myths and rituals of the people of Lesbos, as framed by the sacred space of their federal precinct ‘here’ in the middle ground of their political space, Song 1 of Sappho can be seen as a prayer in the sense of a totalizing formula for authorizing choral performances of women at the festival of the Kallisteia. The seasonal recurrences of the festival are signaled by the triple deployment of the adverb dē’ute ‘once again this time’ in Sappho’s prayer. Every time in the past when Sappho has invoked Aphrodite by offering to her this prayer that we now hear, the goddess has heeded the prayer and has manifested herself in an ever-new epiphany. And now, once again this time, the goddess appears to Sappho, who will once again this time speak for the whole chorus as she speaks first for herself and then for Aphrodite and then once again this time for herself. {27|28}
2§12. In the postclassical era of literary critics like Menander the Rhetorician, the description of compositions like Song 1 of Sappho as ‘prayers’ (Sappho T 47) fails to capture the meaning of an act of prayer in the context of a choral performance. The modern mind, seizing on such descriptions, is quick to infer that such ‘prayers’ must be mere literary conceits. This is to ignore the dimension of performance, which complements the dimension of composition in the lyric poetry of the archaic period. It is also to ignore the ritual background of such performance, which complements the mythological background of the composition (Yatromanolakis 2003).
2§13. What appears to be a private ‘prayer’ uttered by Sappho is at the same time a public act of worship that is notionally sung and danced by the people of Lesbos as represented by a chorus of their women, legendary as they are for their beauty, and as led by the figure of Sappho as their prima donna. What appears to be the most deeply personal experience of Sappho is at the same time the most widely shared communal experience of the people of Lesbos.
2§14. Comparable examples can be found in other forms of song in the repertoire of Sappho. One such form is the hymenaeus or ‘wedding song’. Most revealing in this regard is the standard word that we translate as ‘bride’—numphē (pronounced numpha in the poetic dialect of Lesbos, as in Sappho F 116). This word, as we can see from its Homeric usage, means not only ‘bride’ but also ‘goddess’—in the sense of a local goddess as worshipped in the rituals of a given locale. And, as we can see from the wedding songs of Sappho, the numphē is perceived as both a bride and a goddess at the actual moment of the wedding. Similarly, the bridegroom is perceived as a god at that same moment. These perceptions are mythologized in the description of Hector and Andromache at the moment of their wedding in Song 44 of Sappho: the wedded couple are called i]keloi theoi[s (line 21) and theoeikeloi (line 34), and both these words mean ‘looking like the gods’.
2§15. It remains to ask what gods are models for wedded couples. In the poetics of Sappho, two figures who fill the role of such a divine pair are Ares and Aphrodite. In the case of Ares, he is a model for the gambros‘bridegroom’, who is explicitly described as isos Areui ‘equal to Ares’ (Sappho F 111.5). In the case of Aphrodite, there are many instances of implicit equations of the bride with this goddess: in one song, for example, the bridegroom is said to be infused with the divine charisma of Aphrodite, evidently by way of his direct contact with the bride (Sappho F 112). {28|29}

2§16. Typical of such contact with divinity is this celebrated wedding song of Sappho:

 |1 φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν |2 ἔμμεν’ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι |3 ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-|4 σας ὐπακούει |5καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ’ ἦ μὰν |6 καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν, |7 ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ’ ἴδω βρόχε’ ὤς με φώναι-|8 σ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ἔτ’ εἴκει, |9 ἀλλὰ κὰμ μὲν γλῶσσα ἔαγε λέπτον |10 δ’ αὔτικα χρῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν, |11 ὀππάτεσσι δ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ὄρημμ’, ἐπιρρόμ-|12 βεισι δ’ ἄκουαι, |13 κάδ δέ μ’ ἴδρως κακχέεται τρόμος δὲ |14 παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας |15 ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ’ ὀλίγω ’πιδεύης |16 φαίνομ’ ἔμ’ αὔται·

|1 He appears [phainetai] to me, that one, equal to the gods [īsos theoisin], |2 that man who, facing you |3 is seated and, up close, that sweet voice of yours |4 he listens to, |5 and how you laugh a laugh that brings desire. Why, it just |6 makes my heart flutter within my breast. |7 You see, the moment I look at you, right then, for me |8 to make any sound at all won’t work anymore. |9 My tongue has a breakdown and a delicate |10 – all of a sudden – fire rushes under my skin. |11 With my eyes I see not a thing, and there is a roar |12 my ears make. |13 Sweat pours down me and a trembling |14 seizes all of me; paler than grass |15 am I, and a little short of death |16 do I appear [phainomai] to myself.

Sappho Song 31

2§17. It is said that the bridegroom phainetai ‘appears’ to be isos theoisin ‘equal to the gods’. Appearances become realities, however, since phainetai means not only ‘he appears’ but also ‘he is manifested in an epiphany’, and this epiphany is felt as real (PH 7§2n10). In the internal logic of this song, seeing the bridegroom as a god for a moment is just as real as seeing Sappho as a goddess for a moment in the logic of Song 1 of Sappho.

2§18. The sense of reality is evident in the wording we have just seen, phainetai moi kēnos isos theoisin | emmen’ ōnēr ‘he appears [phainetai] to me, that one, equal to the gods, | the man who …’. The first-person moi here in Song 31 of Sappho refers to the speaker, who is ‘Sappho’. In another song of Sappho, we find the wording phainetai woi kēnos isos theoisin ‘he appears [phainetai] to her, that one, equal to the gods’ (F 165). In this song, the third-person woi ‘to her’ may perhaps refer to the bride. Or perhaps the speaker of this wording is imagined as Aphrodite herself.

2§19. In the first of these two songs of Sappho (F 31), the subjectivity is linked to the first-person speaker, who is the vicarious participant; in the second song (F 165), on the other hand, the subjectivity is linked to the third person, who is the immediate participant. There is a shifting of referents that accompanies the shifting of pronouns from ‘I’ to ‘she’. We saw another shifting of referents in Song 1 of Sappho, from ‘you’ to ‘I’. In that case, the shift in the ownership of pronouns involves the {29|30} second-person ‘you’ of Aphrodite and the first-person ‘I’ of Sappho. During the epiphany of Aphrodite, Sappho exchanges identities with the goddess herself. It is a moment of personal fusion with Aphrodite. Similarly in the wedding song (F 31), the vicariousness of Sappho links the ‘I’ with the ‘you’ of the bride.
2§20. The exchange between the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ of Sappho and Aphrodite in Song 1 is reflected also in the wording of another song of Sappho (F 159), where Aphrodite is imagined once again as speaking to Sappho and addressing her by name. In yet another song of Sappho (F 134), the speaker says she is dreaming she has a dialogue (dialegesthai) with Aphrodite.
2§21. The erotic experience shared by the ‘he’ who is the bridegroom and by the ‘you’ who is the bride in Song 31 of Sappho is communalized in the reaction of the ‘I’ who figures as the vicarious participant in the experience. And this reaction is an epiphany in itself. In this song, the subjectivity is linked to the first-person speaker who is Sappho. When we hear phainetai moi kēnos isos theoisin ‘he appears [phainetai] to me, that one, equal to the gods’, it is the first-person speaker who is feeling the erotic sensations experienced by the bride in the second-person and by the bridegroom in the third person. At the climax of the erotic experience as spoken by the first-person speaker, she says about her feelings: tethnakēn d’oligō ’pideuēs phainom’ emautāi ‘and a little short of death | do I appear [ phainomai ] to myself’. The verb phainomai ‘I appear’ here signals again an epiphany—an epiphany that manifests itself to the self, to the speaking ‘I’.
2§22. This appearance of the self to the self, as an epiphany, signals the divine presence of Aphrodite. In one sense, then, what is seen is the epiphany of Aphrodite, since she is the goddess of the occasion. In another sense, however, what is seen is the epiphany of the bride, whose identity fuses with that of Aphrodite at the moment of her wedding. And, in still another sense, what is seen is the epiphany of the speaking ‘I’ who identifies with Aphrodite by virtue of identifying with the ‘you’ of the bride who is Aphrodite at this very moment. For Sappho, then, what is seen is an auto-epiphany.
2§23, The epiphany of Song 31 induces a near-death experience, and such a stylized personal death is modeled on a realized mythical death. As I will argue, death in myth is a prototype for whatever it is that the first-person speaker experiences vicariously in her interaction with the second-person bride and with the third-person bridegroom, who are respectively the vision of Aphrodite and the corresponding vision of Ares. {30|31}
2§24. To start with the third person, it is essential to recall that the bridegroom is visualized as isos Areui ‘equal to Ares’ in another song of Sappho (F 111.5). Comparable to the bridegroom who gets married in lyric is the warrior who gets killed in epic. As we will see, he too is visualized as isos Arēi ‘equal to Ares’. And, as we will also see, the bridegroom can be visualized as Achilles himself in the songs of Sappho.
2§25. In the Homeric Iliad, warriors are conventionally called the therapontesof Ares as the god of war (II 110, VI 67, XV 733, XIX 78). This word therapōn (plural therapontes) means both ‘attendant’ and ‘ritual substitute’ in epic. When a warrior is killed in war, he becomes a ‘ritual substitute’ who dies for Ares by becoming identical to the war god at the moment of death; then, after death, the warrior is eligible to become a cult hero who serves as a sacralized ‘attendant’ of the war god (BA 17§§5–6). As an epic warrior, Achilles is a therapōn ‘ritual substitute’ of Ares by virtue of becoming identical to the war god at the moment of death. In the Iliad, however, this relationship between Achilles and Ares is expressed only by way of an intermediary, who is Patroklos. This warrior Patroklos is described not as the therapōn of Ares but rather as the therapōn of Achilles, and, as such, he is not only that hero’s ‘attendant’ but also his ‘ritual substitute’, since he actually dies for Achilles (BA 17§§5–6). So Achilles dies only indirectly as the therapōn of Ares through the intermediacy of Patroklos, who dies as the therapōn of Achilles.
2§26. As an epic warrior, Achilles also qualifies as isos Arēi ‘equal to Ares’. This description suits Achilles in the Iliad—though it applies to him only vicariously by way of Patroklos, who takes upon himself the role of a ritual substitute for Achilles. Patroklos is actually called isos Arēi(XI 604) at the exact moment when the story of his fatal impersonation of Achilles begins (BA 2§8, 17§5).
2§27. So a missing link for understanding Song 31 of Sappho is the vision of the hero Achilles as a model warrior at the moment of his death in epic, when he, too, like the model bridegroom in lyric, is ‘equal to Ares’. This link is verified by ancient sources, which make it explicit that Sappho conventionally imagined the model bridegroom as Achilles himself (F 105b).
2§28. Such a lyric convention in the songs of Sappho can be explained as an organic correlation of myth and ritual. In the logic of myth, Achilles never becomes a model husband because War personified cuts him down like a flower in the bloom of his youth. In the logic of ritual, on the other hand, Achilles is the perfect model for a bridegroom precisely because he is cut down in war and thus cannot ever became a husband. {31|32} For love to find its self-expression in the ritual of a wedding, it needs someone to die for love.
2§29. Such a ritual need is expressed in the relationship of Eros, personified as the god of erotic love, with Aphrodite, the goddess of erotic love. As we see from the imagined dialogue between Sappho and Aphrodite in a song of Sappho mentioned earlier, the goddess says in her own words that Eros is her therapōn (F 159). As in epic, this word in lyric means not only ‘attendant’ but also ‘ritual substitute’, that is, someone who ritually dies for the sake of the one he attends. Pictured as a pubescent (not prepubescent) boy, Eros is doomed to die for the sake of Aphrodite. In the poetics of Sappho, as later ancient sources tell us (F 172), the death of erotic Love personified is a most persistent theme.
2§30. The death of Eros could be pictured as a martial death resulting from the warfare of love. We see clearly the language of love as war in Song 1 of Sappho, where Aphrodite is invoked in prayer to become a summakhos ‘ally in battle’ for Sappho in speaking the words of lyric love poetry (1.28). Conversely, Sappho as the speaker of lyric love poetry is offering herself as an ‘ally in battle’ for Aphrodite, thus crossing over into the themes of epic. Similarly in the Iliad, Aphrodite crosses over into the themes of epic by intervening in the epic action—and she gets wounded in doing so, as if she were a mortal (V 327–354).
2§31. Parallel to the wounding of the goddess Aphrodite are the two woundings of the god Ares in the Iliad: he too gets wounded as if he were a mortal (V 855–863, XXI 401–408). More than that, the woundings of Ares are in both cases described as mortal woundings, and the Iliad actually shows Ares in the act of going through the motions of a stylized martial death. Such an epic experience is for Ares a mock death (EH §76). Similarly, the lyric experience of Eros in dying for love can be viewed as a mock death, and such ritualized mockery is typical of “divine burlesque,” which represents one of the oldest features of Greek myth. There are striking parallels to be found in Near Eastern sources dating back to the second millennium BCE (Burkert 1960:132).
2§32. The stylized death of the god Ares in the Iliad is an extreme case of divine mirroring: the immortal god of war gets involved not only in the martial actions of heroes but even in their martial deaths. And he gets so involved because god and hero mirror each other at the moment of a hero’s death, which is the climax of the inherent antagonism between them (EH §§105, 108, 110, 115).
2§33. At the moment when he dies a warrior’s death in place of Achilles, Patroklos is vicariously experiencing such a moment of mirroring {32|33} between Achilles as warrior and Ares as god of warriors: that is why Patroklos looks just like Ares at that moment (BA 2§8, 17§5).
2§34. As mutual antagonists, hero and the god match each other in life as well as in death. In the case of Achilles, as we see from surviving traces in the epic Cycle, this hero was imagined as an irresistible lover by lovelorn girls hoping to make him their husband (EH §56). In the case of Ares, as we see from the second song of Demodokos in the Homeric Odyssey, this god is imagined as an irresistible lover by the goddess of sexuality herself, Aphrodite (viii 266–366).
2§35. Among other related characteristics shared by the hero Achilles and the god Ares is their superhuman speed. In the case of Achilles, his success in war is closely connected with the use of such epithets as podōkēs‘swift-footed’ in the Iliad. In the case of Ares, his own swiftness of foot is pictured as ideal for success in courtship as well as in warfare. In the song of Demodokos about the love affair of Ares and Aphrodite in the Odyssey, we find that one of the war god’s most irresistible attributes is his nimbleness of foot in choral lyric dancing (HPC I§214). And yet, despite his irresistible attractiveness in courting Aphrodite, the dashing young Ares will never marry. Like the dashing young Achilles, Ares is eternally the bridegroom and never the husband.
2§36. Having started with the third-person bridegroom in Song 31 of Sappho, I now continue with the second-person bride. Just as the bridegroom looks like a local cult hero, so also the bride looks like a local cult heroine. In Aeolian traditions, such heroines figured in myths about the conquests of Achilles—not only martial but also amorous conquests—in the years that preceded the destruction of Troy. These myths told of beautiful Aeolian girls of Asia Minor and the outlying island of Lesbos who had once been immune to love and thus unreachable to their frustrated suitors. But then they fall helplessly in love with Achilles—that dashing young Aeolian hero who had sailed across the sea from his home in Hellas to attack their people (HPC II§§49, 321). I will have more to say in Essay 6 about Aeolian identity as defined by the Aeolic dialect.
2§37. Comparable to these once-unreachable Aeolian girls is a prize apple, unreachable to the apple-pickers, which ‘blushes’ enticingly from the heights of a “shooter-branch” in a song of Sappho (F 105a; on the cultivation of apples in ancient and modern Lesbos, see Mason 2004). It is no coincidence that the brides of Sappho’s songs are conventionally compared to apples (F 105b). Like Sappho’s prize apple, these contemporary brides are imagined as unreachable. But they are unreachable only up to the moment when they take the place of Aeolian heroines who had once upon a time fallen in love with Achilles, that eternal bridegroom. These Aeolian girls of the heroic past are imagined as throwing themselves at {33|34} Achilles. That is, they throw a metonymic extension of themselves at Achilles by throwing an apple at him: such a theme is attested in the bittersweet story of a lovelorn girl from the Aeolian city of Pedasos (Hesiod F 214; BA 7§29n6). In the logic of myth, the love felt by such heroines is doomed from the start, and, in the end, they die for their love. In the logic of ritual, however, that same love promises to be requited. Such is the love expressed by girls pictured in the act of throwing apples at their prospective lovers in the songs of Sappho (F 214A).
2§38. Just as the hero Achilles stands in for a god at moments that center on the ritual of a wedding, so also various Aeolian heroines can stand in for a goddess. A case in point is the captive woman Briseis in the Iliad, who is overtly associated with the women of Lesbos whom Achilles captured as beauty-prizes in the years that preceded the destruction of Troy (9.128–131, 270–273; 19.245–246). The Iliad quotes, as it were, Briseis in the act of singing a choral lyric song of lament for the death of Patroklos (19.287–300); this quotation of Briseis, along with the framing narrative concerning the antiphonal response of the women attending Briseis (19.301–302), reenacts most accurately the morphology of a genuine choral lyric lament (Dué 2002:70–71; HPC II§§303–317). As she begins to sing her choral lyric song of lament for Patroklos, Briseis is likened to Aphrodite (19.282). In her lament, Briseis sings her bittersweet sorrow not only over the death of Patroklos but also over the death of her own fondest hope: when he was alive, Patroklos had promised to arrange for her a marriage to Achilles, but, now that he is dead, the hope of that promise is gone forever (19.295–300). So the Iliad pictures Patroklos as a ritual substitute for Achilles in courtship as well as in war.
2§39. In the logic of myth, from what we have seen so far, a hero’s identity at the moment of death can merge with a god’s identity. In the logic of ritual, on the other hand, such a merger of identity leads only to a stylized death (PP 87–97). Death in ritual is not physical but psychic. For example, from cross-cultural surveys of rituals of initiation as practiced in traditional societies around the world, it becomes evident that initiands who are identified with divinities at the moment of initiation are imagined as dying to their old selves as members of a given age-class and being reborn to their new selves as members of the next age-class (PP 101–103).
2§40. In the ritual of a wedding as celebrated by the songs of Sappho, there is the prospect of a happy ending as the identity of the Aeolic numpha ‘bride’ shifts from girl to goddess to woman. In the process of becoming a goddess for a moment, the bride dies to her old self as a {34|35} girl and is reborn to her new self as a woman. In the corresponding myth, by contrast, there is the prospect of a sad but compellingly erotic ending to the story. The bride-to-be will never get married to the eternal bridegroom, imagined as Achilles.
2§41. The death of Achilles himself in war is the climax of his erotic charisma. In general, the martial death of heroes is eroticized as the beautiful death, la belle mort; even the body of the dead hero is eroticized—as the beautiful corpse, le beau mort (Tyrtaeus F 10; Vernant 1982a; HC 4 section 18; HPC II§425). Achilles is pictured as a beau mort in the Iliad, as when the goddess Thetis and her fellow Nereids lament the future death of her beloved son in war; in this context, the hero is compared to a beautiful plant that dies in full bloom (XVIII 54–60; BA 10§11). In a song of Sappho (F 105c), we see a comparable image of a beautiful plant at the moment of death (also comparable is the image of a bridegroom as a beautiful plant in F 115).
2§42. Such themes of eroticized death are relevant to the near-death experience of the ‘I’ in Song 31 of Sappho. Having started with the third-person bridegroom in this song and having continued with the second-person bride, I conclude with this first-person speaker. The woman who speaks in the first person here is vicariously speaking for the whole group that attends the wedding. The whole group is notionally participating in the stylized deaths of the male and the female initiands—in this case, of the bridegroom and the bride.
2§43. The stylized death of the bridegroom in a wedding as described by Sappho matches the realized death of Achilles in war. Premarital death in ritual marks the transition from bridegroom to husband, while martial death in myth marks an eternal deferral of such a transition. By dying in war, Achilles becomes the very picture of the ultimate bridegroom in eternally suspended animation, forever on the verge of marrying. In the logic of ritual, what is needed for female initiands, especially for brides, is such an eternal bridegroom (Dué 2006:82–83). A comparable model of unfulfilled desire and unrequited love is the hero Hippolytus in the Hippolytus of Euripides: at the end of this drama (1423–1430), we find an anthropologically accurate description of a ritual of female initiation featuring a chorus of girls performing a lament for the death of Hippolytus as their local cult hero (PP 94–96). As this drama illustrates, the identity of the female initiand depends on the program, as it were, of the ritual of initiation. The nuptial Aphrodite and the prenuptial / postnuptial Artemis reveal different phases of erotic engagement in the life cycle of a woman, determining when she is attainable—and when she is unattainable. {35|36}
2§44. In compensation for his being cut down in the bloom of his youth, Achilles is destined to have a kleos ‘glory’ that is aphthiton ‘unwilting’: that is what the hero’s mother foretells for him, as Achilles himself is quoted as saying (Iliad IX 413). The word kleos expresses not only the idea of prestige as conveyed by the translation ‘glory’ but also the idea of a medium that confers this prestige (BA 1§§2–4). And this medium of kleos is not only epic, as represented by the Homeric Iliad, but also lyric, as best represented in the historical period by the poet Pindar. In the praise poetry of Pindar, the poet proudly proclaims his mastery of the prestige conferred by kleos (as in Nemean 7.61–63; PH 6§3). As for the word aphthiton ‘unwilting’, it is used as an epithet of kleos not only in epic but also in lyric, as we see from the songs of Sappho (F 44.4) and Ibycus (F 282.47). This epithet expresses the idea that the medium of kleos is a metaphorical flower that will never stop blossoming. As the words of a song by Pindar predict, the hero who is glorified by the kleos will die and will thus stop blossoming, that is, he will ‘wilt’, phthinein, but the medium that conveys the message of death will never wilt: that medium is pictured as a choral lyric song eternally sung by the Muses as they lament the beautiful wilted flower that is Achilles, the quintessential beau mort (Isthmian 8.56a–62; PH 7§6). This song of the Muses is parallel to the choral lyric song that is sung by Thetis accompanied by her fellow Nereids as they lament in the Iliad the future death of her beloved son: here again, as we saw earlier, Achilles is figured as a beautiful flower cut down in full bloom (XVIII 54–60; BA 10§11); in the Odyssey, we find a retrospective description of the lament sung by Thetis and her fellow Nereids at the actual funeral of Achilles, followed by the lament of the Muses themselves (xxiv 58–59, 60–62).
2§45. The idea of kleos aphthiton ‘unwilting glory’ as conferred by poetry applies not only to the epic theme of a hero’s death in war, as in the case of Achilles in the Iliad (IX 413), but also to the lyric theme of a wedding, as in the case of Hector as bridegroom and Andromache as bride in Song 44 of Sappho (line 4). The expression kleos aphthitonlinks the doomed warrior in epic with the wedded couple in lyric. Parallel to the linking effected by this expression is the linking effected by the god Apollo himself: he too links Achilles in epic with Hector and Andromache in lyric. The celebrants at the wedding in Song 44 of Sappho sing Apollo by invoking his epithet Paean (Pāōn in the local dialect) when they celebrate Hector and Andromache as bridegroom and bride (line 33). To sing a paean is to sing a song from Lesbos, as we see from the wording of Archilochus (F 121). To sing a paean in the Iliad is to sing Apollo as Paean, though Paean is a god in his own right {36|37} in more archaizing contexts of the Iliad (as at V 401 and V 899–901). Elsewhere in the Iliad, Achilles calls on the Achaeans to sing a paean, that is, to sing Apollo as Paean when they celebrate the death of Hector in war (XXII 391).
2§46. There are also other linkings of the doomed warrior in epic with the wedded couple in lyric. Achilles is theoeikelos ‘just like the gods’ as a warrior in the Iliad (I 131, XXIII 155), and so too Hector and Andromache as bridegroom and bride are theoeikeloi ‘just like the gods’ at the moment of their wedding in Song 44 of Sappho (at line 34; also i]keloi theoi[s ‘just like the gods’ at line 21). And Achilles is in fact the only recipient of the epithet theoeikelos ‘just like the gods’ in the Homeric Iliad. So the warrior who kills Hector attracts the same epithet in epic that Hector attracts in lyric.
2§47. It remains to ask about the god with whom Achilles is identified in epic and with whom Hector and Andromache are identified in lyric. For this god, epic and lyric are undifferentiated, just as the kleos aphthitonof Achilles as warrior in epic is undifferentiated from the kleos aphthiton of Hector and Andromache as bridegroom and bride in lyric. This god is Apollo.
At the moment of his death, the hero Achilles is destined to confront not only the god Ares as the generic divine antagonist of warriors but also the god Apollo as his own personal divine antagonist. This personalized destiny of Achilles is made explicit in the epic Cycle, that is, in the Aithiopis, but it is only implicit in the Iliad, where Patroklos substitutes for Achilles in his antagonism with Apollo just as he substitutes for him in his antagonism with Ares.
2§48. What makes this destiny of Achilles so personalized is his special connection with song, a medium signaled as kleos aphthiton ‘unwilting glory’. The god of this medium is Apollo, who is the god of poetry and song. And such poetry and song are conceived as lyric. To put it another way, such poetry and song can be conceived as a form of epic that is not yet differentiated from lyric (PH 12§§44-45). Apollo is the god of an older form of epic that is still sung to the accompaniment of the lyre.
2§49. Correspondingly, Achilles is the hero of such an older form of epic. In this role, he is imagined as looking exactly like Apollo—beardless and wearing long hair. Like Apollo, Achilles is the essence of a beautiful promise in the making, of a telos or ‘fulfillment’ realized only in performance, only when the song is fully performed (HTL 138–143). There is a visual signature of this shared role of god and hero in the Iliad. Achilles, like Apollo, is pictured in this epic as singing to the tune of a lyre that he himself is playing (9.186–189). Achilles had {37|38} plundered this lyre from the Aeolian city of Thebe, ruled by the king Eëtion (9.186–189), whom he killed when he captured that city—and who was the father of that greatest singer of lamentations in the Iliad, Andromache (6.414–416). What Achilles sings to the tune of this Aeolian lyre is an echo of the loves and bittersweet sorrows heard in lyric song (HPC II§297). An example of such lyric in historical times is the song of Sappho about the wedding of Hector and Andromache (F 44): the lyric kleos aphthiton ‘unwilting glory’ of this Aeolic song (F 44.4) is cognate with the epic kleos aphthiton ‘unwilting glory’ that Achilles is promised in the Iliad (9.413), which is metonymically linked with the epic klea andrōn ‘glories of heroes’ that Achilles is singing on the Aeolic lyre (9.189).
2§50. Such a lyrical image of Achilles evokes a correspondingly lyrical image of Apollo. Even in epic, this god is conventionally pictured as a lyric personality. In fact, Apollo controls the medium of lyric, of choral lyric. A prime example is the conventional description of Apollo as the Mous(h)ēgētēs, that is, as the choral leader of the Muses (PH 12§29). Such a description is attested in lyric (an example is Song 208 of Sappho) and even in epic (Iliad 1.603–604). Apollo accompanies himself on the lyre as he sings and dances, while the Muses in the chorus also sing and dance (Homeric Hymn to Hermes 475–476).
2§51. The god Apollo controls not only lyric. He controls all song and poetry, and he is ultimately in control of all occasions for the performance of song and poetry. In this overarching role, he embodies the authority of poets, that is, of craftsmen who compose song and poetry. This authority transcends such categories as epic and lyric. And it transcends the genres that figure as subcategories of epic and lyric, as well as the occasions that shape those genres. This authority is linked to the authorship of song and poetry.
2§52. An ancient term that refers to the exercising of such divine authority and authorship in performance is exarkhein (as in Archilochus F 120), which can be pragmatically translated this way: ‘to emerge [in the act of performance] as the choral leader’; Aristotle uses the participle exarkhōn (Poetics 1449a10–11) in building his evolutionary model of the emergent choral leader. The image of Apollo in choral lyric performance, in the act of singing and dancing as he accompanies himself on the lyre, captures the essence of the exarkhōn as the ‘emergent choral leader’. As the divine exarkhōn, Apollo is the source of authority for the making of song and poetry. As for human exarkhontesin the act of performance, they are the makers of this song and poetry. In effect, they are historical authors in the making (HC 2 section 9). {38|39}
2§53. An ancient term that refers to the medium of exercising such authority and authorship is the noun humnos, which is usually translated by way of a word derived from it, ‘hymn’. To understand humnos merely as ‘hymn’ in the current sense of the word is inadequate, however, since this sense conveys not much more than a mere literary conceit. In the ancient sense of the term, however, as attested in both epic and lyric, the humnos is a notionally perfect beginning of any poetic composition because it is a notionally perfect invocation of the god who presides over the occasion of performing that composition. The god invoked in the humnos absolutizes not only the humnos but also everything that the humnos introduces. Moreover, the totality of everything introduced by the humnos is then subsumed by the humnos itself, which is totalizing by virtue of being absolutely authoritative. When a humnoscalls itself a humnos, the word refers not only to the humnos but also to everything in the performance that follows the humnos (HC 2 sections 2–4).
2§54. The immediate referent of the humnos is the god or goddess to whom the speaker prays on a given occasion of performance. As the absolute authority who is being invoked by the prayer, that god or goddess makes the performance absolutely authoritative. But the referent of the humnos is also the one who re-enacts the god or goddess by virtue of performing the humnos. The technical term for such re-enactment is mimēsis (PP 54–58). That is what we see happening in Song 1 of Sappho. At the climax of her performance as a prima donna, Sappho notionally becomes Aphrodite when she sings with the voice of the goddess—and with the authority of the goddess. Sappho herself, by speaking with the voice of the speaker in the humnos, becomes absolutely authoritative (PP 87–103).
2§55. And to be so authoritative requires a group to respond to the authority of the speaker. That group is ideally a chorus of singers and dancers, and, by extension, the entire community of those attending the singing and dancing. As noted before, such authority is played out in the dramatized relationship between the khoros ‘chorus’ and a highlighted khorēgos ‘leader of the chorus’, as mythologized in the relationship of the Muses to Apollo as their choral leader (PH 12§29). Apollo shows the way for celebrating a god in a humnos by performing in his own right the perfect performance of such a celebration.
2§56. To repeat, the primary referent of the humnos is the given divinity who presides over the given festival. The primary participant in the reference system of the humnos is the human performer who re-enacts a given divine figure in the sacred moment of performance. There is a fusion of identities in that sacred moment, and this fusion is the {39|40} essence of the humnos. That is why the humnos becomes the instrument of authority and authorization and authorship. Such is the theology, as it were, of the humnos. And such is the theology of the transcendent author, which extends into the reality of the historical author.
2§57. We have already seen such a historical author in the personalized figure of the prima donna in Song 1 of Sappho, where the author is actually named. Or, more precisely, Aphrodite names the author, authorizes her, as Sappho. As the khorēgos ‘leader of the chorus’, Sappho is notionally equated with and thus authorized by the goddess she invokes in her prayer, which is the humnos she performs.
2§58. Regarding examples of ritual occasions for choral performance, I have concentrated so far on the wedding. But there are also many other such occasions having to do with various forms of initiation, that is, with formal transitions from one social status to another, including political inaugurations of various kinds. It is often difficult to pinpoint the historical settings of such occasions. Some of them, like weddings, are ad hoc, while others seem to be seasonally recurrent, timed to coincide with festivals.
2§59. Song 1 of Sappho may be an example of a recurrent occasion: it seems to be an inaugural humnos that showcases the Panhellenic prestige of the seasonally recurring festival of the Kallisteia in the federal space of Lesbos. Another such example is Song 1 of Alcman, which highlights the double debut of two female khorēgoi ‘chorus-leaders’ stemming from the two royal lineages of the dual kingship of Sparta (PH 12§§17–25). The two Spartan debutantes as celebrated in Song 1 of Alcman are in many ways analogous to the brides of Lesbos as celebrated in the songs of Sappho: for example, the girls from Sparta are compared to horses (Alcman 1.45–54) in much the same way as a bride from Lesbos is compared to a haughty mare (Sappho F 156 via Gregorios of Corinth: also with reference to Anacreon)—or as a bridegroom is compared to a prize-winning steed (Sappho F 194A).
2§60. In Song 1 of Alcman, the two female khorēgoi ‘chorus-leaders’ perform as surrogates of the Leukippides ‘Shining Horses’, envisioned as twin female celestial divinities (PH 12§§19–20). There are analogous celestial associations in the songs of Sappho. We have already seen how her identification with Aphrodite makes it possible for Sappho’s songs to make personalized contact with the roles of the goddess in the world of myth. One of these roles is the identification of Aphrodite with the planet Venus, which is imagined as the celestial force that makes the sun rise (GMP 258). Accordingly, Sappho imagines herself as falling in love with a hero called Phaōn just as the goddess {40|41} Aphrodite in her role as the planet Venus falls in love with the same hero. The name Phaōn, stemming from the dialect of Lesbos, is the local Aeolic equivalent of phaethōn ‘shining’, which is the epithet of the sun in Homeric diction (PP 90, 102–103).
2§61. Sappho not only identifies with Aphrodite in loving this hero Phaon: she can even speak with the voice of Aphrodite in addressing Phaon (T 19), just as she speaks with the voice of Aphrodite when the goddess is pictured as speaking to her in Song 1. In speaking to Phaon, as also in speaking to Aphrodite, Sappho is authorized by Aphrodite. And she thereby authorizes herself. Just as Aphrodite undergoes a mock death by executing a “lover’s leap” from the heights of a white rock into the dark sea below for the love of Phaon, so also Sappho can picture herself as undergoing an erotic death for the love of the same solar hero (T 23). The myth tells how Aphrodite disguised herself as an old woman and persuaded the old ferryman Phaon to ferry her across a strait separating the mainland of Asia Minor from the island of Lesbos (Sappho F 211). Sappho pictures herself in the place of Aphrodite as the goddess turns young again while making Phaon young as well—in fond hopes of turning him into her lover. Similar themes recur elsewhere, as in a mention of Eos the goddess of dawn and her mortal lover Tithōnos (Sappho F 58).
2§62. Despite such hopeful projections of divine identity, the gap between the divine and the human can lead to bittersweet feelings of sadness. Such is the theme of a song of Sappho (F 168B) that pictures the Moon, personified as the local Aeolic goddess Selanna (Ionic Selēnē), at the moment when it sets beneath the horizon: the goddess is now on her way to meet the beautiful hero Endymion in his secret lair, and there she will sleep with him. We know of the tryst of Selanna with Endymion from a second such song of Sappho (F 199). In the first song (F 168B), the tryst of the goddess with the beautiful hero is signaled by the particle men, to be answered by the contrastive particle dehighlighting the sad loneliness of the lamenting first-person speaker as she says: egō de monā katheudō ‘but I sleep alone’ (Clay 1970). Such feelings of sadness are balanced against hopes of identification with the celestial realm: as we saw in a third song of Sappho, the prima donna of an all-night choral lyric performance in the moonlight is pictured as looking just like the moon (F 96.7–9). In that moment, she is identical to the goddess Selanna (F 96.4–6 se theāi s’ikelān arignōtāi).
2§63. The songs of the queenly Sappho, in all their celestial loveliness, appear worlds apart from the songs of the down-to-earth Alcaeus, which appear downright profane by comparison. The basic context of his {41|42} songs is the sumposion ‘symposium’, which is conventionally understood to be a drinking party organized by a group of like-minded (h)etairoi ‘comrades’ who sing drinking songs. In terms of such an understanding, Alcaeus is a historical personality who sings in the context of such a group (Rösler 1980). In the symposium, the (h)etairoiact out in their songs a whole gamut of social and antisocial behavior, good and bad characters, noble and base feelings. In so doing, they replay the history and even the prehistory of their community.
2§64. The medium of these drinking songs shows both positive and negativeways of speaking, what Aristotle calls enkōmion and psogos, loosely translated as ‘praise’ and ‘blame’ (Poetics 1448b27; BA 14 §§1–5). Dominant are the themes of peace and war, statesmanship and factional strife, the joys of civic solidarity and the sorrows, hatreds, and angers of alienation culminating in civic exile. In brief, the medium of such drinking songs recaptures the look and feel of political rhetoric in the polis or ‘city state’. If you removed the meter from the drinking songs of Alcaeus, says Dionysius of Halicarnassus (On Imitation 421f), what you would have left over is political rhetoric pure and simple (Alcaeus T 20). In terms of this observation, the message of this medium is the medium itself.
2§65. It is as if we were looking at some vast unbridgeable gap separating these songs of Alcaeus from the songs of Sappho. And the poetry attributed to Alcaeus even draws attention to such a gap. In one song of Alcaeus (F 384), he is pictured as addressing Sappho in words fit for a divine queen: ioplok’ agna mellikhomeide Sapphoi ‘you with strands of hair in violet, O holy [(h)agna] one, you with the honey-sweet smile, O Sappho!’. And the wording is actually fit for a goddess. For example, the epithet (h)agna ‘holy’ is applied to the goddess Athena (Alcaeus F 298.17) and to the Kharites ‘Graces’ as goddesses (Sappho F 53.1, 103.8; Alcaeus F 386.1). As for the epithet ioplokos ‘with strands of hair in violet’, it is applied as a generic epithet to the Muses themselves (Bacchylides 3.17).
2§66. Behind the appearances of such disconnectedness between the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho is a basic pattern of connectedness in both form and content. This pattern is a matter of symmetry. In archaic Greek poetry, symmetry is achieved by balancing two opposing members of a binary opposition, so that one member is marked and the other member is unmarked; while the marked member is exclusive of the unmarked, the unmarked member is inclusive of the marked, serving as the actual basis of inclusion (PH 0§15). Such a description suits the working relationship between the profane and the sacred in the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho. What is sacred about these songs is the divine basis of their performance in a festive setting, that is, at festivals sacred to gods. What {42|43} is profane about these songs is the human basis of what they express in that same setting. We see in these songs genuine expressions of human experiences, such as feelings of love, hate, anger, fear, pity, and so on. These experiences, though they are unmarked in everyday settings, are marked in festive settings. In other words, the symmetry of the profane and the sacred in the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho is a matter of balancing the profane as the marked member against the sacred as the unmarked member in their opposition to each other; while the profane is exclusive of the sacred, the sacred is inclusive of the profane, serving as the actual basis of inclusion.
2§67. On the island of Lesbos, the sacred space of Messon was the festive context in which this symmetry of the profane and the sacred could be played out. It was here at Messon that the sacred could serve as the basis for including the profane. Not only the songs of Sappho, which tended toward the sacred side of the symmetry, were marked by the ‘here’ that was Messon. So too the songs of Alcaeus, which tended toward the profane side, were marked by the same ‘here’. A case in point is a song of Alcaeus that begins as a formal hymn to the Dioskouroi, where the divine twins are formally invoked to come ‘here’, that is, to the place where the song is being performed (F 34.1).
2§68. Thus even the songs of Alcaeus, which appear to represent the profane side of the symmetry between the profane and the sacred, are worthy of inauguration by way of a humnos, which as we have seen sacralizes not only the beginning of performance but also whatever follows the beginning all the way to the end. Whatever that may be includes the drinking song at the symposium. And the god who presides over the drinking at the symposium and over the drinking songs performed there is Dionysus, whose essence is not only sympotic but also mimetic. After all, Dionysus is not only the god who presides over the drinking of wine in a symposium: he is also the god of theater. Conversely, Dionysus is not only the god of mimesis in the theater (PH 13§§6–46): he is also the god of mimesis in the symposium (PP 218).
2§69. The mimetic essence of Dionysus is most evident in his role as the presiding god of the City Dionysia of Athens, which must be seen as a parallel to his role as the presiding god of the symposium. The symposium of Dionysus, like the theater of Dionysus, is a stage for mimesis. The stage that is the symposium is the notional ‘here’ that marks the place of performance for the songs of Alcaeus. This ‘here’ is a festive place, that is, the sacred space of a festival. Such a place is the federal district of Messon in Lesbos, which as we have seen is sacred to Dionysus as well as to Hera and to Zeus. {43|44}
In the state of mind that is this sacred space of Messon, there are two kinds of mimesis represented symmetrically by the choral performances of Sappho and by the sympotic performances of Alcaeus. Each of these two figures plays out a variety of roles. For their primary roles they speak with the authority of the lead singer, of the author in the making. In these roles, the ‘I’ represents the speaker of the inaugurating humnoswho is speaking by way of praying to a presiding divinity. Or the ‘I’ may represent that divinity speaking to the lead singer or even to the whole group attending and participating in the performance of the song. Beyond this incipient authorial role, the ‘I’ of both Sappho and Alcaeus stands ready to exchange identities with the ‘you’ or the ‘he’ or the ‘she’ or the ‘they’ that populate the world reflected by the song culture of Lesbos. So all three persons of the personal pronoun in Greek lyric take on the role of a shifter (for applications of this technical term, see PH 0§17n30).
2§70. In the songs of Sappho, for example, the ‘I’ who speaks may be Sappho speaking in the first person to the bride or to the bridegroom in the second person—or about them in the third person. Or it may be the bridegroom or the bride speaking to each other—or even to Sappho. So also in the songs of Alcaeus, the ‘I’ may play out a variety of roles. The ‘I’ is not only the speaker who is Alcaeus speaking in the first person to his comrades in the second person—or about them in the third person. In one song of Alcaeus, for example, the song starts with the ‘I’ of a female speaker, who speaks of the sound of a mating-call from a stag that lingers in the heart of a hind (F 10B).

2§71. The ‘I’ of Alcaeus can act as the crazed lover of a young boy or girl. His ‘I’ can even be Sappho herself, transposed from the protective context of the chorus into the unprotected context of the symposium. Aristotle (Rhetoric 1.1367a) quotes the relevant wording of a duet featuring, on one side, Alcaeus in the act of making sly sexual advances on Sappho and, on the other side, Sappho in the act of trying to protect her honor by cleverly fending off the predatory words of Alcaeus:

He: I want to say something to you, but I am prevented by
shame …
She:But if you had a desire for good and beautiful things
and if your tongue were not stirring up something bad to say
then shame would not seize your eyes
and you would be speaking about the just and honorable thing to do.
Sappho F 137 {44|45}

2§72. Such symmetry between Alcaeus and Sappho was perpetuated in the poetic traditions of the symposium well beyond the old historical setting of festive celebrations at Messon in Lesbos. A newer historical setting was Athens during the sixth and the fifth centuries BCE. Here the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho continued to be performed in two coexisting formats of monodic performance: one of these was the relatively small-scale and restricted format of the symposium, while the other was the spectacularly large-scale and public format of citharodic concerts at the musical competitions of the festival of the Panathenaia (Nagy 2004a).

2§73. In the context of this Athenian reception, the symmetry between Alcaeus and Sappho is still visible. On a red-figure vase made sometime in the decade of 480-470 BCE (Munich, Antikensammlungen no. 2416), we see on one side of the vase a painting that features the roguish Alcaeus and the demure Sappho: the two are pictured as concert performers, each playing on a specialized lyre known as the barbiton. On the other side of the vase we see a painting that features the god Dionysus and a maenad in a stylized sympotic scene. The stylized musical duet between Alcaeus and Sappho in this red-figure painting matches in its symmetry the stylized musical duet between the same singers as quoted by Aristotle.
2§74. The symmetry between Alcaeus and Sappho as exponents of sympotic and choral performance is already framed within the sympotic poetry of Alcaeus. It happens in his Song 130, which is the same context in which we saw him referring to the choral performance of women at the festival of the Kallisteia at Messon. The ritual space of Messon is figured here in mythological terms. At the mythologized moment when the poet speaks in Song 130, this space is imagined as a “no man’s land” serving as a place of refuge for the alienated Alcaeus, exiled from his native city of Mytilene. Such a view of this ritual space is a mythologized way of looking at an “everyman’s land” serving as a place of integration for the poetry of Alcaeus in the festive here-and-now of this poetry as it continues to be performed in this ritual space. To conceive of this poetry as having a life of its own, beyond the lifetime of the poet himself, is a ritualized way of looking at the ongoing performance of the songs of Alcaeus, which are imagined as worthy of universal acceptance by all who take part in the festivals held at Messon, the sacred space of the federation of Lesbos (Nagy 1993).
2§75. Such a poetic gesture is an epigrammatic way for the figure of Alcaeus to foretell the reception of his poetry within the overall community. There are similar epigrammatic gestures to be found in the poetry {45|46} of Theognis (19–24): in that case as well, the mythologized rejection of the poet by his own community in his own lifetime is predicated on the ritualized acceptance of his poetry after he dies (PP 220–223). In the poetics of such epigrammatic gestures, the ongoing reception of a poet’s poetry is expressed by the disembodied voice of the poet imagined as speaking from the dead, as if from an epigram (Theognis 1209–1210; Wickersham 1986 and Nagy 1993). There are similar gestures attested in archaic epigrams attributed to Homer (HPC I§118). But the disembodied voice of an archaic lyric poet like Alcaeus needs no such epigram: his songs are reactivated every time they are sung by live voices at the festivals of Messon in Lesbos.
2§76. The sympotic poetry of Alcaeus, framing the choral poetry of Sappho, was hardly isolated in its native Aeolian setting on the island of Lesbos. It was strongly influenced by contacts with the neighboring empire of the Lydians on the mainland of Asia Minor. The orientalization of the musical traditions of Lesbos was in fact a pattern common to the song cultures of all Hellenes native to Asia Minor and to the outlying islands, most notably Lesbos, Chios, and Samos. This pattern of orientalization was especially apparent in the Greek institution of the symposium, as reshaped by the exotic fashions of the Lydian empire. Among these fashions, marked by ostentatious signs of luxury, was the new Greek custom of reclining on couches on the occasion of a symposium. A most flamboyant musical example of such Lydian orientalism was the lyric virtuoso Anacreon, court poet of Polycrates, who was tyrant of Samos. Although Anacreon and his patron Polycrates flourished in a period when the Persian empire had already replaced the Lydian empire, the exotic themes of Lydian musical orientalism persisted: as a performer of lyric, Anacreon was associated with such paraphernalia as turbans, parasols, and sympotic couches. Herodotus pictures Anacreon in the act of singing his lyric poetry at a symposium hosted by Polycrates, who is shown reclining on a sympotic couch (3.121).
2§77. The Lydian musical orientalism of drinking and singing while reclining on a couch at a symposium extends to representations of Dionysus as god of the symposium: he too is conventionally pictured as drinking and singing while reclining on a couch. He too is orientalized—and orientalizing. To those who are notionally uninitiated in the traditions of the symposium—and of theater—Dionysus appears to be more of a Lydian than a Hellene. That is how the god appears to the uninitiated Pentheus in the Bacchae of Euripides.
2§78. The orientalizing of the symposium and of sympotic singing was fundamentally a sign of political power, modeled on the imperial power {46|47} of a Lydian turannos (PH 10§§6–22). A Greek tyrant like Polycrates of Samos was defined by the Lydian musical orientalism of his court poet Anacreon, whose sympotic poetry served to express the power of his patron. The personal love of the tyrant for a beautiful boy like Bathyllus became a public expression of his political power as mediated by the sympotic love poetry of Anacreon.
2§79. Even before Anacreon, there are already clear signs of Lydian musical orientalism in the earlier lyric traditions of Alcaeus and Sappho, as also in the even earlier traditions of Terpander. And there is a wealth of references to exotic Lydian fashions not only in sympotic but also in choral lyric contexts. Such a context is Sappho’s self-professed love of (h)abrosuna ‘luxury’ (F 58.25), which is a lyric theme fit for Lydian kings and queens (Xenophanes 3.1; PH 10§§18–19). Moreover, we have already noted such Greek choral lyric events as the ‘Dance of the Lydian Maidens’ at a festival in Ephesus and the ‘Procession of the Lydians’ at a festival in Sparta.
2§80. A vital point of contact between earlier and later phases of such orientalizing features in the making of Greek lyric was the Ionian island empire of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. The sympotic love poetry of his court poet Anacreon was closely related to older forms of sympotic love poetry native to Lesbos. Like the older poetry of Alcaeus, the newer poetry of Anacreon refers even to Sappho herself as a stylized love interest (Nagy 2004a).
2§81. After the island empire of Polycrates imploded in the course of its rivalry with the mainland empire of the Persians, there was a massive shift from East to West in the history of Greek lyric traditions. A most fitting symbol of this shift was the gesture made by Hipparkhos, tyrant of Athens, in sending a warship to Samos to rescue the lyric virtuoso Anacreon and bring him to his city (“Plato” Hipparkhos 228c). Around this time, Athens became a vitally important new center for the development and diffusion of lyric poetry as performed nonprofessionally at symposia and professionally at public concerts. At the most prestigious Athenian festival of the Panathenaia, professional citharodes and aulodes competed with each other in spectacular performances of melic poetry originating from poets like Alcaeus, Sappho, Anacreon, and Simonides, while professional rhapsodes competed in performing non-melic poetry originating from Archilochus, Hipponax, Callinus, Mimnermus, and so on.
2§82. Such melic and non-melic traditions, in becoming an integral part of the Athenian song culture, strongly influenced the corresponding traditions of another most prestigious festival of Athens, the City Dionysia. {47|48} That is how the melic and the non-melic traditions of Athenian State Theater became eventually merged with the older lyric traditions of the Aeolic and Ionic worlds as once mediated by the island empire of Polycrates. And the resulting network of cross-influences and cross-references can be seen in the themes of Athenian comedy, which mirrored the negative as well as the positive themes of the older sympotic traditions. These themes, dealing with such special topics of interest as the behavior of women in love or of men in war, naturally led to the comic ridicule of influential lyric models like Sappho and Archilochus.
2§83. Further to the west of Athens, there were other vitally important new centers for the development and diffusion of lyric poetry as performed in symposia or in larger-scale public contexts of choral performance. The Panhellenism of this diffusion is evident from the prestige of early masters of Aeolian lyric like Terpander in Sparta or Arion in Corinth. Even further to the west, the art of such early masters eventually became merged with the art of other early masters like Stesichorus in Italy and Sicily. Later on, with the implosion of the island empire of Polycrates in the east, the shift of lyric traditions to the west became most pronounced in Italy and Sicily. Just as Anacreon left behind the luxurious orientalizing world of the tyrant Polycrates in Samos, so too did Ibycus. Whereas Anacreon left for Athens, however, Ibycus left for Italy and Sicily, infusing with new life the old lyric traditions represented there by Stesichorus. The kleos aphthiton ‘unwilting glory’ promised by the lyric poetry of Ibycus to the tyrant Polycrates (F 282.47) had sadly wilted in the East. But that kleos ‘glory’ was to blossom again in the West, as we see from the poetry of lyric virtuosi like Ibycus, Lasus, Pindar, Simonides, and Bacchylides.

2§84. This song, attributed to Sappho, shows the same kind of formulaic structure that we see at work in the Homeric Iliadand Odyssey. Such a structure, in the case of Homeric poetry, indicates that this poetry originated from oral traditions. So also in the case of the songmaking exemplified by Song 44 of Sappho, the formulaic structure of this song indicates a parallel origin from oral traditions.

Essay Three. Did Sappho and Alcaeus Ever Meet? 

3§0. This essay is rewritten from an earlier version, cited as #B 2007|2009 at §1 in the Introduction above. The original printed version appeared in Literatur und Religion I. Wege zu einer mythisch–rituellen Poetik bei den Griechen(ed. A. Bierl, R. Lämmle, K. Wesselmann; Basiliensia – MythosEikonPoiesis, vol. 1.1) 211–269. Berlin / New York 2007. The pagination of that version will be indicated here by way of “curly” brackets (“{“ and “}”). For example, “{211|212}” indicates where p. 211 of the printed article ends and p. 212 begins.

Red-figured kalathos attributed to the Brygos Painter: obverse, Sappho and Alcaeus, each with barbiton and plectrum, ca. 480-470 BCE. Munich, Antikensammlungen 2416. Line drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

3§1. Myth and ritual tend to be segregated from one another in classical studies.[1] A contributing cause is a general lack of sufficient internal evidence concerning the relationship of myth and ritual in ancient Greek society. Another contributing cause is a failure to consider the available comparative evidence. This situation has led to an overly narrow understanding of myth and ritual as concepts—and to the emergence of a false dichotomy between these two narrowed concepts. A sustained anthropological approach can help break down this dichotomy.[2] Applying such an approach, I have argued that myth is actually an aspect of ritual in situations where a given myth comes to life in performance—and where that performance counts as part of a ritual.[3] I propose to develop this argument further here by considering mythological themes evoked in singing the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus in various ritual contexts. I will focus on themes involving Aphrodite and Dionysus, which will be relevant to the question that I ask in the title: did Sappho and Alcaeus ever meet?[4]

3§2, As I write this, the very idea that the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus were sung in ritual contexts is not to be found in most standard works on these songs.[5] But there are telling examples of such contexts, two of which stand out. One is the khoros and the other is the kōmos.

3§3. I start with a working definition of the khoros: it is a group of male or female performers who sing and dance a given song within a space (real or notional) that is sacred to a divinity or to a constellation of divinities.[6] {211|212} In the case of Sappho, her songs were once performed by women singing and dancing within such a space.[7] And the divinity most closely identified with most of her songs is Aphrodite.[8]

3§4. I now proceed to a working definition of the kōmosit is a group of male performers who sing and dance a given song on a festive occasion that calls for the drinking of wine.[9] The combination of wine and song expresses the ritual communion of those participating in the kōmos. This communion creates a bonding of the participants with one another and with the divinity who makes the communion sacred, that is, Dionysus.[10] To the extent that the kōmos is a group of male performers who sing and dance in a space (real or notional) that is sacred to Dionysus, it can be considered a subcategory of the khoros.

3§5. Back when Sappho is thought to have flourished in Lesbos, around 600 BCE, we expect that her songs would be performed by girls or women in the context of the khoros. Around the same time in Lesbos, the songs of Alcaeus would be performed by men in the context of the kōmos. This context is signaled by the use of the verb kōmazein ‘sing and dance in the kōmos’, which is actually attested in one of his songs (Alcaeus F 374.1).

3§6. There is an overlap, however, in performing the songs attributed to Sappho. As I will argue, such songs could be performed not only by girls or women in a khoros but also by men in a kōmos.

3§7. A typical context for the kōmos is the symposium.[11] Accordingly, at this early point in my argumentation, I find it convenient to use the general term sympotic in referring to the context of the kōmos. At a later point, however, I will need to use the more specific term comastic. That is because the ancient symposium, in all its attested varieties, could accommodate other kinds of singing and dancing besides the kinds we find attested for the kōmos.[12] {212|213}

3§8. For now there is one basic fact to keep in mind about the term sympotic. Dionysus is the god of the symposium. So the sympotic songs attributed to Alcaeus must be connected somehow to Dionysus. It is not enough to say, however, that Dionysus is the sympotic god. The essence of Dionysus is not only sympotic. It is also theatrical. Dionysus is also the god of theater. So the question arises, how does the theatrical essence of Dionysus connect to the sympotic songs attributed to Alcaeus?

3§9. In search of an answer, I begin by focusing on the role of Dionysus as the presiding god of the festival of the City Dionysia in Athens. This festive occasion was the primary setting for Athenian State Theater.[13] Such a role of Dionysus as the presiding god of theater is parallel to his role as the presiding god of the symposium.[14] That is because the symposium of Dionysus, like the theater of Dionysus, was a festive occasion for the acting out of roles by way of song and dance.[15] And the Greek word that signals such a festive acting out of roles is mimēsis.[16] In terms of this word, the sympotic Dionysus is simultaneously a mimetic Dionysus. In this sense, the songs of Alcaeus are not only sympotic: they are also mimetic and even quasi-theatrical.

3§10. As I have argued elsewhere, the songs of Alcaeus were once performed in a quasi-theatrical setting, visualized as a festive occasion that takes place in a sacred space set aside for festivals.[17] There once existed such a sacred space, shared by a confederation of cities located on the island of Lesbos. The confederation was headed by the city of Mytilene, which dominated the other cities on the island. And the name of the federal sacred space shared by all these cities was Messon, which means ‘the middle space’. The exact location of Messon has been identified by Louis Robert, primarily on the basis of epigraphical evidence: ancient Messon was the same place that is known today as Mesa.[18] In the Greek language as spoken today, this name Mesa derives from the neuter plural of meson ‘middle’ just as the ancient name Messon derived from the neuter singular messon ‘middle’ (the double –ss– was characteristic of the ancient Aeolic {213|214} dialects of Lesbos). True to its name, this place Messon / Mesa is in fact located in the middle of the island.

3§11. Songs 129 and 130 of Alcaeus refer to Messon.[19] The wording of these songs describes this place as a temenos ‘sacred space’ that is xunon ‘common’ to all the people of Lesbos (F 129.1–3), and it is sacred to three divinities in particular: (1) Zeus, (2) an unnamed goddess who is evidently Hera, and (3) Dionysus (F 129.3–9).[20] Of particular interest is the epithet applied to Dionysus, ōmēstēs ‘eating raw flesh’ (F 129.9: Ζόννυσσον ὠμήσταν). As we will see later, this epithet is relevant to the myths and rituals of Dionysus in Lesbos.[21]

3§12. Given this background, I return to my question: how are the sympotic songs of Alcaeus mimetic and even quasi-theatrical? In these songs, as I argued elsewhere, there is a variety of roles acted out by the ‘I’ who figures as the speaker. The roles may be either integrated with or alienated from the community that is meant to hear the performances of these songs. Both the integration and the alienation may be expressed as simultaneously political and personal, and the personal feelings frequently show an erotic dimension—either positive or negative. Even in songs that dwell on feelings of alienation, however, the overall context is nevertheless one of integration. Alcaeus figures as a citizen of Mytilene who became alienated from his city in his own lifetime and was forced to take refuge in the federal sacred space called Messon—only to become notionally reintegrated with his community after he died, receiving the honors of a cult hero within this same sacred space.[22]

3§13. The combined evidence of Songs 129 and 130 of Alcaeus is most revealing in this regard. The speaker expresses his alienation as he tells about his exile from his native city of Mytilene (F 129.12; F 130.16–19, 23–27) and about his finding a place of refuge at Messon, described here as a no-man’s-land, eskhatiai, far removed from city life (F 130.24: φεύγων ἐσχατίαισ’). In this negative context, we see a place of alienation, and the speaker says he ‘abides’ there, oikeîn, all by himself (F 130.25: οἶος ἐοίκησα). On the other hand, this same place is where the speaker says the people of Lesbos celebrate their ‘reunions’, sunodoi (F 130.30: συνόδοισι). {214|215} In this positive context, we now see a place of integration, and the speaker goes on to say once again that he ‘abides’ there, oikeîn (F 130.31: οἴκημ<μ>ι). This place is Messon, which the words of Alcaeus describe as a temenos ‘sacred space’ that is xunon ‘common’ to all the people of Lesbos (F 129.2–3: τέμενος μέγα | ξῦνον). To be contrasted with this positive context is the negative context of this same temenos ‘sacred space’ (F 130.28: τέμ[ε]νος θέων): in this negative context, as we saw earlier, the words of Alcaeus describe this space as a lonely place where he ‘abides’, oikeîn, all by himself (F 130.25: οἶος ἐοίκησα). But this same lonely place is where the speaker says he encounters a chorus of beautiful young women in the act of singing and dancing (F 130.31–35). I repeat, this place is Messon, which the words of Alcaeus describe as a temenos ‘sacred space’ that is xunon ‘common’ to all the people of Lesbos (F 129.2–3: τέμενος μέγα | ξῦνον).[23]

3§14. Such sustained balancing between the themes of alienation and integration in this context of the temenos ‘sacred space’ at Messon points to an overarching pattern of integration, and a sign of this integration is the reference in Song 130 of Alcaeus to a chorus of beautiful young women shown in the act of singing and dancing. As I have argued elsewhere, this reference is really a cross-reference to a form of choral performance that is typical of the songs of Sappho.[24] In terms of this argument, the temenos ‘sacred space’ at Messon was actually a setting for the performances of songs attributed not only to Alcaeus but also to Sappho.[25] That is, Sappho figures as a lead performer of choral song and dance at Messon.[26]

3§15. In brief, then, the sacred complex of Messon in Lesbos is the historical context for understanding the mimetic and even quasi-theatrical characteristics of the songs of Alcaeus, and the same can be said about the songs of Sappho.[27] {215|216}

3§16. While Alcaeus speaks as the lead singer of a kōmos, Sappho speaks as the lead singer of a khoros. This choral role of Sappho is ignored in most standard modern works on Sappho and Alcaeus.[28] In the songs of Sappho, the ‘I’ may represent a lead singer who can speak directly to a presiding divinity on behalf of the whole khoros, as we see in Song 1 of Sappho. Further, the ‘I’ may also represent that divinity speaking back to the lead singer and, by extension, to the whole group attending and participating in the performance of the song. Within the framework of that song, the lead singer becomes identified with Aphrodite by virtue of performing as the prima donna of a khoros. And there are also many other roles played out by the speaking ‘I’ in the songs of Sappho. For example the ‘I’ may be Sappho speaking in the first person to a bride or to a bridegroom in the second person—or about them in the third person.[29]

3§17. So also in the songs of Alcaeus, the ‘I’ may play out a variety of roles. Primarily, the ‘I’ is Alcaeus speaking in the first person to his comrades in the second person—or about them in the third person. Secondarily, however, the ‘I’ may play roles that are distinct from Alcaeus. For example, one song that is explicitly attributed to him starts with the ‘I’ of a female speaker, who speaks of the sound of a mating-call from a stag that lingers in the heart of a hind (F 10B).[30]

3§18. From what we have seen so far, the sacred space of Messon was a stage, as it were, for not one but two kinds of quasi-theatrical performance: one kind was the sympotic performance of the songs of Alcaeus, while the other was the choral performance of the songs of Sappho.[31] {216|217}

3§19. With this observation in place, I have come to the end of my brief overview of the songs of Alcaeus as performed in contexts appropriate to a kōmos. So I have reached a point where I can begin my argumentation concerning an overlap with the songs of Sappho as performed in contexts appropriate to a khoros. I am now ready to argue that the songs of Sappho could be performed not only by women or girls in a khoros but also by men or boys in a kōmos.

3§20. To argue for such an overlap is to argue for a symmetry between the profane and the sacred in the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho, despite what appears at first to be a disconnectedness between these two sets of songs:

Behind the appearances of […] disconnectedness between the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho is a basic pattern of connectedness in both form and content. This pattern is a matter of symmetry. In archaic Greek poetry, symmetry is achieved by balancing two opposing members of a binary opposition, so that one member is marked and the other member is unmarked; while the marked member is exclusive of the unmarked, the unmarked member is inclusive of the marked, serving as the actual basis of inclusion. Such a description suits the working relationship between the profane and the sacred in the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho. What is sacred about these songs is the divine basis of their performance in a festive setting, that is, at festivals sacred to gods. What is profane about these songs is the human basis of what they express in that same setting. We see in these songs genuine expressions of human experiences, such as feelings of love, hate, anger, fear, pity, and so on. These experiences, though they are unmarked in everyday settings, are marked in festive settings. In other words, the symmetry of the profane and the sacred in the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho is a matter of balancing the profane as the marked member against the sacred as the unmarked member in their opposition to each other; while the profane is exclusive of the sacred, the sacred is inclusive of the profane, serving as the actual basis of inclusion.[32]

3§21. This formulation has a converse. Whereas the sacred includes the profane in festive situations, it can be expected to exclude the profane in non-festive situations. That is, in non-festive situations the sacred is marked and the profane is unmarked. Only in festive situations does the sacred become the unmarked member in its opposition with the profane. Only in festive situations does the sacred include the profane. Once the festival is over, the sacred can once again wall itself off from the profane.

3§22. The festive balancing of the sacred and the profane is relevant to questions of morality and decorum. Such questions are pointedly raised in {217|218} the sympotic songs of Alcaeus, which display morally incorrect as well as correct ways of speaking and behaving in general.[33] Despite such displays, however, the incorrect aspects of these songs remain subordinated to the overall moral correctness of the symposium as a festive ritual made sacred by the notional presence of the god Dionysus.[34]

3§23. An analogous observation can be made about vase paintings featuring the god of the symposium, Dionysus himself. Vase painters conventionally depict this god as a morally correct and decorous figure even in settings where his own closest attendants abandon themselves to morally incorrect and indecorous behavior. We find striking illustrations in pictures of satyrs, mythologized Dionysiac attendants whom vase painters conventionally depict in the act of committing various wanton sexual acts.[35] By contrast, such depictions generally show Dionysus himself in a different light: the god maintains a stance of decorum amidst all the indecorous wantonness of his attendants.[36]

3§24. Likewise in sympotic songs, we find a festive balance between the sacred and the profane, though the profanities seem to be less pronounced. To illustrate such balancing, I highlight the inclusion of songs typical of Sappho in sympotic songs sung by men and boys. A case in point is Song 2 of Sappho. We have two attested versions of the closure of this song. In the version inscribed on the so-called Florentine ostrakon dated to the third century BCE, at lines 13–16, the last word is οἰνοχόεισα ‘pouring wine’, referring to Aphrodite herself in the act of pouring not wine but nectar. In the “Attic” version of these lines as quoted by Athenaeus (11.463e), on the other hand, the wording after οἰνοχοοῦσα ‘pouring wine’ continues with τούτοις τοῖς ἑταίροις ἐμοῖς γε καὶ σοῖς ‘for these my (male) companions [hetairoi], such as they are, as well as for your {218|219} (male divine) companions [= Aphrodite’s]’.[37] At a later point in my argumentation, we will see that this kind of sympotic closure is compatible with the singing of Sappho’s songs by men and boys at Athenian symposia (Aelian via Stobaeus 3.29.58). As we will also see, choral songs typical of Sappho could be included in sympotic songs typical of Alcaeus.

3§25. Within the songs of Alcaeus, the choral figure of Sappho could appear decorous—even sacred. A notable example is this fragment:

ἰόπλοκ’ ἄγνα μελλιχόμειδε Σάπφοι
You with strands of hair in violet, O holy [(h)agna] one, you with the honey-sweet smile, O Sappho!

Alcaeus F 384

3§26. As I argued in earlier work, the wording that describes the choral figure of Sappho here is fit for a queenly goddess.[38] For example, the epithet (h)agna ‘holy’ is elsewhere applied to the goddess Athena (Alcaeus F 298.17) and to the Kharites ‘Graces’ as goddesses (Sappho F 53.1, 103.8; Alcaeus F 386.1). As for the epithet ioplokos ‘with strands of hair [garlanded] in violet’, it is elsewhere applied as a generic epithet to the Muses themselves (Bacchylides 3.17). In the overall context of all her songs identifying her with Aphrodite herself, Sappho appears here as the very picture of that goddess.

3§27. Such appearances, however, can be deceiving. The aura of the sacred and the decorous as externalized in choral songs typical of Sappho can no longer be the same once these songs make contact with the profane and the indecorous as externalized in sympotic songs typical of Alcaeus. The dialogic personality of Sappho speaking in the protective context of songs sung by women or girls in a khoros ‘chorus’ will be endangered in the unprotected context of songs sung by men or boys in a symposium or, more specifically, in a Dionysiac kōmos. In such unprotected contexts, even the honor of Sappho as a proper woman will be called into question.

3§28. Such a situation arises in a fragment of poetry quoted by Aristotle (Rhetoric 1.1367a) and generally attributed to Sappho (F 137). The fragment reveals a dialogue in song—a duet, as it were. This musical dialogue features, on one side, Alcaeus in the act of making sly sexual advances on Sappho and, on the other side, Sappho in the act of trying to protect her honor by cleverly {219|220} fending off the predatory words of Alcaeus. Ancient scholia interpret Aristotle to mean that it was Sappho who composed this dialogue in song, and that the song is representing Alcaeus in the act of addressing her.[39] Modern experts tend to agree. [40] I will argue, however, for the opposite: that the notional composer of this dialogue in song was Alcaeus, and that the song is representing Sappho in the act of responding to him. Here is the dialogue as quoted by Aristotle:

τὰ γὰρ αἰσχρὰ αἰσχύνονται καὶ λέγοντες καὶ ποιοῦντες καὶ μέλλοντες, ὥσπερ καὶ Σαπφὼ πεποίηκεν, εἰπόντος τοῦ Ἀλκαίου

θέλω τι εἰπῆν, ἀλλά με κωλύει
αἰ δ’ ἦχες ἐσθλῶν ἵμερον ἢ καλῶν
καὶ μή τι εἰπῆν γλῶσσ’ ἐκύκα κακόν
αἰδώς κέν σε οὐκ εἶχεν ὄμματ’,
ἀλλ’ ἔλεγες περὶ τῶ δικαίω.

Men are ashamed to say, to do, or to intend to do shameful things. That is exactly the way Sappho composed her words when Alcaeus said:

{He:} I want to say something to you, but I am prevented by
shame [aidōs] …
{She:}But if you had a desire for good and beautiful things
and if your tongue were not stirring up something bad to say,
then shame would not seize your eyes
and you would be speaking about the just and honorable thing to do.

“Sappho” F 137 via the quotation of Aristotle Rhetoric 1.1367a

3§29. The meter of the lines in this passage is typical of a pattern found in the songs of Alcaeus:

x – u – – – u u – u –

This Alcaic meter is not to be found in songs attributed to Sappho. One modern expert has tried to explain this apparent anomaly by arguing that “she [= Sappho] chose it [= the Alcaic meter] because it was, in general, a favourite metre of her ‘correspondent’, and, in particular, the metre of the poem to which she is replying.”[41] {220|221}

3§30. Such an explanation is based on the assumption that Alcaeus and Sappho were simply two competing composers. This assumption leads to two alternative ways of interpreting the lyric exchange quoted by Aristotle:

  1. “… that the first part of the quotation […] comes from a poem by Alcaeus; the remainder […] from Sappho’s rejoinder.” [42]
  2. “… that the quotations in Aristotle come from a poem composed by Sappho in the form of a dialogue between herself and Alcaeus.” [43]

Either way we take it, “some have objected that, since Sappho appears to presuppose that her audience is aware of Alcaeus’ words […], it is hard to conceive of any but artificial arrangements for the presentation of the two poems to the public: were both presented, each by its own poet, to the same audience on different occasions?”[44]

3§31. The impression of “artificial” arrangements is shaped by the same assumption: that Alcaeus and Sappho were competing composers. In terms of my argument, however, we are dealing here not with competing songs composed by competing composers but with competing traditions in the actual performance of these songs. A survey of singing traditions around the world reveals a vast variety of comparable “boy-meets-girl” songs of courtship or pseudo-courtship. Some of these traditions feature musical dialogues between the lovers or would-be lovers, and there is a vast variety of scenarios, as it were, for success or failure in such ritualized games of love: a case in point is the Provençal lyric tradition of the pastorela, as I noted in earlier work.[45] Within the Greek lyric traditions themselves, another case in point is the “Cologne Epode” of Archilochus (P.Colon. 7511; F 196A ed. West, F S478 ed. Page).[46] It is most noteworthy that the setting of the first-person narrative of the Cologne Epode of Archilochus is a temenos ‘sacred space’, as we know from a poem of Dioscorides in the Greek Anthology (7.351). [47]

3§32. In Greek lyric traditions, the dialogic language of love can come to life even in situations where the first-person ‘I’ is talking to a second-person ‘you’ who does not talk back, as in Song 31 of Sappho.[48] {221|222}

3§33. I highlight a point of comparison in the popular music of several decades ago as of this writing: it is a song entitled “Oh, Pretty Woman,” composed by Roy Orbison with Bill Dees and performed by Roy Orbison, whose recording goes back to 1964 in Nashville, Tennessee. This is a song of a speaking ‘I’ talking his way through a tortured declaration of passionate love for a pretty woman who never talks back. The pretty woman walks on by without stopping to listen to the singer’s plaintive song of unrequited love. But then, most unexpectedly, she turns around and walks back to him. And it happens at the precise moment when he despairs of ever meeting her. Just as the song is reaching an end, the pretty woman who has been walking away from him is now all of a sudden walking back to him. What I find most remarkable about this song is that everything we hear happening in it happens while the speaking ‘I’ is singing to the pretty woman:

Pretty woman walkin down the street
Pretty woman, the kind I’d like to meet
Pretty woman, I don’t believe you
You’re not the truth
No one could look as good as you

Pretty woman, won’t you pardon me
Pretty woman, I couldn’t help but see
Pretty woman, and you look lovely as can be
Are you lonely just like me?
… rrr …

Pretty woman, stop a while
Pretty woman, talk a while
Pretty woman, give your smile to me
Pretty woman, yeah, yeah, yeah
Pretty woman, look my way
Pretty woman, say you’ll stay with me

Cause I need you
I’ll treat you right
Come with me baby
Be mine tonight

Pretty woman, don’t walk on by
Pretty woman, don’t make me cry
Pretty woman, don’t walk away


If that’s the way it must be, OK
I guess I’ll go on home, it’s late
There’ll be tomorrow night

But wait, what do I see?
Is she walking back to me?
Yeah, she’s walking back to me
Pretty woman.

3§34. Since the voice of the pretty woman who is ‘walkin down the street’ is not heard in response, her character is in question. When the ‘I’ tells this woman that she is ‘the kind I’d like to meet’, does that wording make her the perfect woman or just a streetwalker who is ‘walkin down the street’—or both? In the beginning, the pretty woman is idealized. She looks too good to be true: ‘I don’t believe you | You’re not the truth | No one could look as good as you’. Words fail to express fully her loveliness: ‘you look lovely as can be’. But, despite all these worshipful words of admiration for the pretty woman, she is in danger of becoming a profanity by the time the song reaches the end: the streetwalker ‘walkin down the street’ who has been implored not to ‘walk on by’ but to ‘stop a while’ and to ‘talk a while’ will now be seen in the act of ‘walkin back to me’. And her character can be called into question precisely because she is about to come into contact with the questionable character of the ‘I’ who is singing to her. The ‘I’ had started reverently enough by addressing the pretty woman in the mode of a worshipful admirer. And, for a while, the wording continued to be reverent, but then the undertone of irreverence set in. The cry of ‘Mercy’ at the end of the first stanza already sounds less like an admiring exclamation and more like a predatory growl, which then devolves further into a non-verbal ‘…rrr…’ at the end of the second stanza. By now the sound resembles the mating call of a tomcat on the prowl.

3§35. In the musical meeting between Alcaeus and Sappho, by contrast, Sappho gets to talk back to Alcaeus. In their dialogue, she gets a chance to defend her character. It is not clear, though, just how successful such a musical defense can be. After all, the anonymous woman in the dialogue of the Cologne Epode of Archilochus likewise gets a chance to talk back to the speaker—and look what happens to her character: it will be ruined forever as the dialogue proceeds.

3§36. Here is the way it happens in the musical meeting of the Cologne Epode. As we start reading the fragment of the poem as we have it, we find {223|224} that the female speaker is already being directly quoted, as it were, by the male speaker. The fragment fails to show how the dialogue had started, and so our reading has to start in the middle of things, at a point where the dialogue is already in progress. But the sense is clear enough. The first five surviving verses show the female speaker already talking back to the male speaker. Her words are being quoted by the male speaker, who then marks in his first-person narrative the end of his quotation of her words: ‘such things she spoke’ (verse 6). Then he speaks back to her, quoting what he says (verses 7–27), but not before he signals in his first-person narrative the beginning of his self-quotation: ‘I answered back’ (again, verse 6). After he finishes what he says to the female speaker, the male speaker marks in his first-person narrative the end of his self-quotation: ‘such things I spoke’ (verse 28). And then he proceeds to narrate in the first person his success in winning the sexual favors of the woman he has just addressed (verses 28–35). That is how the narration in the Cologne Epode ostensibly ruins the woman’s reputation. In retrospect, however, in light of what is eventually narrated, her reputation has already been ruined from the very start. That is, she has ruined her own reputation by what she has already said at the very start, back when she is quoted as speaking in the first person (verses 1–5).

3§37. By contrast, in the musical meeting between Alcaeus and Sappho, we find no first-person narrative embedding the dialogue that is taking place between the first-person male speaker and the first-person female speaker. In this case, then, the mīmēsis is more direct. And the dialogue is therefore more theatrical, more musical. In the case of the Cologne Epode, by contrast, the dialogue is less theatrical—and less musical—because the mīmēsis is less direct. In that case the mīmēsis of the dialogue between man and woman is embedded within the overall mīmēsis of a first-person narrator who plays the role of the indecorous man reminiscing about his sexual conquest of the once-decorous pretty woman. {224|225}

3§38. The theatricality of a musical meeting between Alcaeus and Sappho is blurred, however, for those who assume that these two figures were simply “writers,” as we see from this sampling of rival explanations:

  • (a) “A poem by two writers is hard to imagine in the sixth century.[49]
  • (b) “Aristotle’s text […] implies either two poems by two writers or one poem (in dialogue-form) by one writer.”[50]

The theatricality stays blurred even if one “writer”—either Alcaeus or Sappho—is imagined as the composer of a functioning dialogue. Those who choose to imagine such a writer need to impose restrictions, as we see in the argument “that the poem is not a dialogue between Alcaeus and Sappho but between a man and a woman, or rather between a suitor and a rather unwelcoming maiden.”[51] In other words, a dialogue between would-be lovers seems imaginable only if neither Alcaeus nor Sappho is participating in the dialogue. It is assumed that Alcaeus and Sappho could not represent Sappho and Alcaeus respectively in such dialogic roles. After all, these figures are the equivalent of what we think is a writer. Surely a writer cannot be transformed into some kind of singing actor!

3§39. This is to misunderstand the medium of Alcaeus and Sappho, which as I have argued is fundamentally mimetic. The first person of Alcaeus and the first person of Sappho are ever engaged in roles of interaction with other persons. In terms of my overall argument, that is because the medium of Alcaeus and Sappho is not only mimetic. It is theatrical.

3§40. Which brings me to the question: did Sappho and Alcaeus ever meet? My answer is: yes, there was such a meeting—if you think of such a meeting as a staged musical event. Sappho and Alcaeus really did meet on the stage, as it were, of the festival held at Messon in Lesbos. And they could meet not just once but many times, as many times as a seasonally-recurring festival was being celebrated there.

3§41. The context for such a musical meeting at Messon, in terms of my overall argumentation, is sympotic. As such, this context is the source of a major problem in the transmission of songs attributed to Sappho. The problem has to do with a basic fact concerning sympotic events. The fact is, no woman could attend a symposium. Or, to put it differently, only women of questionable character could be imagined as attending. So a sympotic role for Sappho could not have been performed by Sappho even in the time of Sappho. Rather, such a role would be played out by men or by boys—or perhaps by women of questionable character.

3§42. This basic fact about the exclusion of women from symposia is essential for understanding what eventually happened to Sappho’s character—in both the theatrical and the moral senses of the word character. So long as the musical dialogues of Alcaeus and Sappho stayed within the framework {225|226} of traditional festivities at Messon, the more playful aspects of Sappho’s character as sung by men or boys in a sympotic context could be counterbalanced by the more serious aspects as sung by women or girls in a choral context. But the overall character of Sappho—let me call it her role—became endangered once it slipped away from its native festive environment at Messon. And slip away it did.

3§43. The lyric role of Sappho, symmetrically conjoined with the lyric role of Alcaeus, eventually outgrew its origins in Aeolian Lesbos. It became widely influential in the overall song culture of Aeolian and Ionian elites throughout the Aegean. And we can see clear signs of this influence in the songmaking traditions of Anacreon of Teos.

3§44. Anacreon was court poet to Polycrates of Samos, the powerful ruler of an expansive maritime empire in the Aegean world of the late sixth century. As we will see, the lyric role of Sappho was appropriated by the imperial court poetry of Anacreon.

3§45. This appropriation can be viewed only retrospectively, however, through the lens of poetic traditions in Athens. That is because the center of imperial power over the Aegean shifted from Samos to Athens when Polycrates the tyrant of Samos was captured and executed by agents of the Persian empire. Parallel to this transfer of imperial power was a transfer of musical prestige, politically engineered by Hipparkhos, son of Peisistratos and tyrant of Athens. Hipparkhos made the powerful symbolic gesture of sending a warship to Samos to fetch Anacreon and bring him to Athens (“Plato” Hipparkhos 228c). This way, the Ionian lyric tradition as represented by Anacreon was relocated from its older imperial venue in Samos to a newer imperial venue in Athens. Likewise relocated, as we will see, was the Aeolian lyric tradition as represented by Sappho—and also by Alcaeus.

3§46. The new Aegean empire that was taking shape under the hegemony of Athens became the setting for a new era in lyric poetry, starting in the late sixth century and extending through most of the fifth. In this era, Athens became a new stage, as it were, for the performing of Aeolian and Ionian lyric poetry as mediated by the likes of Anacreon. The most public context for such performance was the prestigious Athenian festival of the Panathenaia, where professional monodic singers performed competitively in spectacular restagings of lyric poetry. As we will see later on, the Aeolian and Ionian lyric traditions exemplified by Anacreon figured prominently at this festival. {226|227}

3§47. For now, however, I turn to another prestigious Athenian festival, the City Dionysia. Starting in the late sixth century and extending through most of the fifth century, the Aeolian and Ionian lyric traditions exemplified by Anacreon also figured prominently in this and other Dionysiac festivals in Athens. Most telling are the references in Athenian Old Comedy to the sympotic singing of Aeolian and Ionian lyric. I cite an example from Aristophanes (F 235 ed. Kassel/Austin), where singing a song of Anacreon at a symposium is viewed as parallel to singing a song of Alcaeus: ᾆσον δή μοι σκόλιόν τι λαβὼν Ἀλκαίου κἈνακρέοντος ‘sing me some skolion, taking it from Alcaeus or Anacreon’.[52] Elsewhere, in the Sympotic Questions of Plutarch (711d), singing a song of Anacreon at a symposium is viewed as parallel to singing a song of Sappho herself: ὅτε καὶ Σαπφοῦς ἂν ᾀδομένης καὶ τῶν Ἀνακρέοντος ἐγώ μοι δοκῶ καταθέσθαι τὸ ποτήριον αἰδούμενος ‘whenever Sappho is being sung, and Anacreon, I think of putting down the drinking cup in awe’.

3§48. In general, the Dionysiac medium of the symposium was most receptive to the Aeolian and Ionian lyric traditions exemplified by the likes of Anacreon, Alcaeus, and Sappho. There is an anecdote that bears witness to this reception: it is said that Solon of Athens became enraptured by a song of Sappho as sung by his own nephew at a symposium (Aelian via Stobaeus 3.29.58).[53]

3§49. The correlation of Aeolian lyric with the Ionian lyric of Anacreon in these contexts is relevant to an explicit identification of Anacreon with the Dionysiac medium of the symposium. In a pointed reference, Anacreon is pictured in the lavish setting of a grand symposium hosted by his patron, the tyrant Polycrates, in the heyday of the Ionian maritime empire of Samos. The reference comes from Herodotus (3.121), who pictures Polycrates in the orientalizing pose of reclining on a sympotic couch in the company of his court poet Anacreon: καὶ τὸν Πολυκράτεα τυχεῖν κατακείμενον ἐν ἀνδρεῶνι, παρεῖναι δέ οἱ καὶ Ἀνακρέοντα τὸν Τήιον ‘and he [= a Persian agent] found Polycrates reclining in the men’s quarters, and with him was Anacreon of Teos’.[54] {227|228}

3§50. The lyric tradition of ‘singing Sappho’ or ‘singing Alcaeus’ in Athens, as mediated by the sympotic singing of Anacreon in Samos and thereafter in Athens, would have derived ultimately from the sympotic singing of men and boys in the festive setting of Messon in Lesbos. So the question arises, what happened to the role of Sappho after her lyric tradition was transferred to the Dionysiac media of Athens?

3§51. An answer can be found in Athenian Old Comedy. In this Dionysiac medium, as we are about to see, influential lyric models like Sappho become conventional subjects of amusement and even ridicule.[55]

3§52. For background, I turn to an argument I offered in earlier work on the phenomenon of reperformance.[56] In any given song culture, I argued, we can expect that each composition of a song is to some degree re-created in each new performance. I argued further that such a process of recomposition-in-performance could re-create not only the given composition itself but also the identity of the composer credited with speaking as the ‘I’ in the notionally original composition. The voice of the composer could even be replaced by the voice of a performer other than the notionally original composer. In short, a reperformed composer could become a recomposed performer.[57]

3§53. In making this argument, I concentrated on the Dionysiac medium of the symposium in fifth-century Athens as a primary context for the practice of reperforming the songs of Sappho as well as Alcaeus and other such poetic figures, including Anacreon and even Archilochus. In the case of Sappho and Archilochus in particular, I made the following point about the risks of destabilizing the identities of such figures in the process of recomposition-in-performance:

In the mimēsis of a rogue’s persona, as in the case of Archilochus, we may expect an intensification of distinctions between composer and performer in the symposium. A similar point can be made about other personae as well, as in the case of Sappho. We know that Sappho’s songs, like those of Archilochus, were performed at symposia. [58] […] The point is, for a male singer to act out a woman’s persona implies a radical reshaping of personality in performance. [59] {228|229}

3§54. Even when a composer is speaking in his or her own persona, the reperformance of the speaking ‘I’ in a symposium can lead to a fragmentation of this persona:

Let us reconsider the various songs in which an “author” is speaking through what is understood to be his or her own persona. The variety of situations conjured up even in such appropriated songs may lead to a commensurate variety of speaking personae. In other words, the demands of mīmēsis may lead toward an intensified multiplicity in ethos even for the author, with the persona of an Archilochus or a Sappho becoming transformed into multiple personalities that fit multiple situations. Just as the performer may be recomposed in multiple ways, so too this multiplicity may be retrojected all the way to the supposedly prototypical composer, the author. A case in point is the persona of Sappho, which becomes refracted into multiple personalities that eventually become distinguished from the “real” poetess in various Life of Sappho traditions: one such “fake” Sappho is a lyre-player who reputedly jumped off the cliff of Leukas (Suda σ 108, iv 323 Adler; cf. Strabo 10.2.9 C452), while another is a courtesan (hetaira: Aelian Varia Historia 12.19, Athenaeus 13.596e), even a prostitute (publica: Seneca in Epistles 88.37).[60]

3§55. There is a parallel fragmentation of the persona of Alcaeus. Didymus, an eminent philologist in the late first century BCE who followed the methodology of Aristarchus, attempts to distinguish Alcaeus the poet from an Alcaeus who is merely a lyre-player (scholia to Aristophanes Women at the Thesmophoria 162). Further, Quintilian (Principles of Oratory 10.1.63) says he is puzzled that Alcaeus the poet mixes high-minded statesmanship with frivolous love affairs.

3§56. So the tradition of singing Alcaeus and Sappho exemplifies the model of the recomposed performer. Alcaeus and Sappho are not only being reperformed. They are also being recomposed.

3§57. So far, our prime example has been the passage we saw earlier where Aristotle quotes Alcaeus in the act of speaking to Sappho, who then speaks back to Alcaeus. Now I turn to another example:

Λέσβιος Ἀλκαῖος δὲ πόσους ἀνεδέξατο κώμους,
Σαπφοῦς φορμίζων ἱμερόεντα πόθον
How many ensembles-of-comastic-singers [kōmoi] did Alcaeus of Lesbos greet [61] {229|230}
as he played out on his lyre a yearning [pothos]—lovely [62] it was—for Sappho
– you know how many (such ensembles) there were.

Hermesianax F 7 47–49 (ed. Powell) via Athenaeus 13.598b

This testimony, by way of Hermesianax of Colophon (early third century BCE), indicates that Alcaeus was well known for singing not one but many love songs that were directed at Sappho—and that were performed in the Dionysiac context of the kōmos.

3§58. There is even further relevant testimony. Anacreon too was known for singing love songs directed at Sappho. Reputedly, Anacreon too loved Sappho. Earlier, in the quotation made by Aristotle, we saw implicit evidence for a musical dialogue between Sappho and Alcaeus. He is singing to her and then she sings back to him. Now we are about to see explicit evidence for another musical dialogue—this time between Sappho and Anacreon.

3§59. Once again a male singer is singing to Sappho and then she sings back to him. Once again the testimony comes from Hermesianax, in precisely the same context where he had mentioned the love of Alcaeus for Sappho (F 7 47–49 via Athenaeus 13.598b). In that same poem, the reference to the love professed by Alcaeus is immediately followed in that same context by a reference to another love. This time, the poem of Hermesianax refers to the love professed for Sappho by Anacreon, not by Alcaeus, and the wording provides a further relevant detail: that Anacreon was an envious rival of Alcaeus for the love of Sappho (F 7 49–51 via Athenaeus 13.598b-c). The poem of Hermesianax describes Sappho as an aēdōn ‘nightingale’ (F 7 49), the most beautiful of all the women of Lesbos, and it goes on to tell how a lovelorn Anacreon often journeyed from Samos to Lesbos in seemingly vain attempts to succeed in winning her love (F 7 50–57 via Athenaeus 13.598c).

3§60. After the quotation of the poem by Hermesianax comes to an end in the text of Athenaeus (13.599b), the learned discussion turns to a questioning of what the poet says about Anacreon. It is claimed that Hermesianax made a big mistake by ‘synchronizing’ Anacreon with Sappho: {230|231}

ἐν τούτοις ὁ Ἑρμησιάναξ σφάλλεται συγχρονεῖν οἰόμενος Σαπφὼ καὶ Ἀνακρέοντα, τὸν μὲν κατὰ Κῦρον καὶ Πολυκράτην γενόμενον, τὴν δὲ κατ’ Ἀλυάττην τὸν Κροίσου πατέρα. Χαμαιλέων δ’ ἐν τῷ περὶ Σαπφοῦς καὶ λέγειν τινάς φησιν εἰς αὐτὴν πεποιῆσθαι ὑπὸ Ἀνακρέοντος τάδε·

σφαίρῃ δεῦτέ με πορφυρέῃ
βάλλων χρυσοκόμης Ἔρως
νήνι ποικιλοσαμβάλῳ
συμπαίζειν προκαλεῖται.
ἣ δ’ (ἐστὶν γὰρ ἀπ’ εὐκτίτου
Λέσβου) τὴν μὲν ἐμὴν κόμην
(λευκὴ γάρ) καταμέμφεται,
πρὸς δ’ ἄλλην τινὰ χάσκει.

καὶ τὴν Σαπφὼ δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ταῦτά φησιν εἰπεῖν·

κεῖνον, ὦ χρυσόθρονε Μοῦσ’, ἔνισπες
ὕμνον, ἐκ τᾶς καλλιγύναικος ἐσθλᾶς
Τήιος χώρας ὃν ἄειδε τερπνῶς
πρέσβυς ἀγαυός.

ὅτι δὲ οὔκ ἐστι Σαπφοῦς τοῦτο τὸ ᾆσμα παντί που δῆλον. ἐγὼ δὲ ἡγοῦμαι παίζειν τὸν Ἑρμησιάνακτα περὶ τούτου τοῦ ἔρωτος. καὶ γὰρ Δίφιλος ὁ κωμῳδιοποιὸς πεποίηκεν ἐν Σαπφοῖ δράματι Σαπφοῦς ἐραστὰς Ἀρχίλοχον καὶ Ἱππώνακτα.

In these lines Hermesianax is making a mistake in thinking that Sappho and Anacreon are contemporaries. For he [= Anacreon] lived in the time of Cyrus and Polycrates while she [= Sappho] lived in the time of Alyattes the father of Croesus. But Chamaeleon in his work On Sappho [F 26 ed. Wehrli] even says that the following verses were composed by Anacreon and addressed to her [= Sappho]:

Once again with a purple ball I am hit
– it was thrown by the one with the golden head of hair, Eros,
and—with a young girl wearing pattern-woven sandals
– to play with her does he [= Eros] call on me.
But, you see, she is from that place so well settled by settlers,
Lesbos it is. And my head of hair,
you see, it’s white, she finds fault with it.
And she gapes at something else—some girl.

Anacreon F 358 in PMG (ed. Page)

He [= Chamaeleon] says that Sappho says back to him [= Anacreon]:

It was that particular song, I tell you, you Muse wearing the golden pattern-weave. Yes, you spoke
that particular humnos. It came from the noble place of beautiful women, {231|232}
and the man from Teos sang it. It came from that space. And, as he sang, he did so delightfully,
that splendid old man.

Adespota F 35 in PMG (ed. Page)

That this song does not belong to Sappho is clear to everyone. And I think that Hermesianax was simply being witty in talking about this passionate love. Diphilus, the poet of comedy, composed a play called Sappho [PCG V F 70 (Kassel–Austin)], in which he made Archilochus and Hipponax lovers of Sappho.

Athenaeus 13.599c

In the context of a learned claim about an ostensible mistake on the part of Hermesianax, we see here another learned claim about another ostensible mistake—this time on the part of Chamaeleon of Heraclea Pontica (fourth / third centuries BCE). In his work On Sappho (F 26 ed. Wehrli), Chamaeleon interpreted what we know as Song 358 of Anacreon to be the words of the poet’s declaration of love for Sappho.

After quoting the words supposedly spoken by Anacreon in professing his love, Chamaeleon then quotes the words supposedly spoken by Sappho in talking back to Anacreon (Adespota 35 = F 953 in PMG ed. Page). An essential point of comparison here is Aristotle’s quotation of the words spoken by Sappho in talking back to Alcaeus.

3§61. The case of the musical dialogue between Anacreon and Sappho differs in one crucial respect, however, from the corresponding case of the musical dialogue between Alcaeus and Sappho: in the case of Anacreon and Sappho, it is clear from the dating of these two figures that they cannot be contemporaries. That is why modern editors assign to the category of “Adespota” the words reportedly spoken by Sappho in response to Anacreon.[63]

3§62. So these words attributed to Sappho are officially declared to be inauthentic. And this modern judgment is in agreement with the ancient judgment expressed in the learned discourse of Athenaeus (13.599c). Modern editors have not dared go so far, however, when they pass judgment on the words reportedly spoken by Sappho in response to Alcaeus, since in this first case the ancient world considered these two particular figures to be contemporaries. That is why the words attributed to Alcaeus and Sappho cannot be so easily dismissed. Or, at least, they cannot be dismissed on the basis of chronological considerations. Accordingly, editors are willing to allow for the possibility that Sappho herself composed such a dialogue, {232|233} even though they are generally unwilling to identify the speakers of the dialogue as Alcaeus and Sappho.

3§63. An example of this kind of thinking is the opinion expressed by the editor and translator of the Loeb Classical Library version of Alcaeus and Sappho. Here is what he says about Song 137 of “Sappho”: “Perhaps S[appho] wrote a poem in which the identity of the male speaker was unclear, and later biographers identified him falsely as Alc[aeus].”[64] This editor then goes on to associate such a “false” identification with “the type of error that a Peripatetic writer could make.”[65] The “error” to which the editor is referring here is the “false” identification of Sappho as a dialogic partner of Anacreon in the works of such “Peripatetics” as Hermesianax and Chamaeleon. By implication, the same “error” is also being committed by the greatest “Peripatetic” of them all, Aristotle himself, who identifies the male speaker in the dialogue of Song 137 of “Sappho” as Alcaeus. So we are left to infer that the dialogue between Alcaeus and Sappho is a mere invention.

3§64. I resist this line of thinking. It is unjustified to claim that the likes of Aristotle, Chamaeleon, and Hermesianax invented stories about musical encounters between preclassical poets. I argue, rather, that such stories were part of a musical tradition that shaped the roles of these poets in the performance traditions that preserved the poetry attributed to them. The idea that a figure like Sappho could speak directly to a figure like Alcaeus does not start with Aristotle and the Peripatetics. Such an idea can be dated at least as far back as the early fifth century, well over a century before Aristotle.

3§65. Here I turn to the evidence of two pictures painted on a red-figure vase of Athenian provenance. This vase, a krater shaped like a kalathos and made in Athens sometime in the decade of 480–470 BCE (Munich, Antikensammlungen no. 2416; ARV 2 385 [228]), shows on its two sides two paintings attributed to the so-called Brygos Painter.[66] I will describe these two paintings with reference to two line drawings I show at the end of this essay, Image 1 and Image 2.

3§66. In Image 1 we see two figures in a pointedly musical scene. The figure on the left is Alcaeus playing a specialized string instrument known as the barbiton, while the figure on the right is Sappho playing her own barbiton. {233|234} The visual duet of Alcaeus and Sappho as rendered by the painter matches in its symmetry the verbal duet of these same figures as quoted by Aristotle. The two figures in the painting are described as follows by a team of art historians:

[They are] side by side in nearly identical dress. But under the transparent clothing of one—a bearded man—the sex is clearly drawn. The other is a woman—her breasts are indicated—but a cloak hides the region of her genitals, apparently distancing her from any erotic context. She wears a diadem, while the hair of her companion is held in a ribbon (tainia). Each holds a barbiton and seems to be playing. The parallelisms of the two figures, male and female, is unambiguous here. A string of vowels (Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο) leaving the man’s mouth indicates song. An inscription, finally, gives his name, Alcaeus [ΑΛΚΑΙΟΣ], and indicates the identity of his companion, Sappho [ΣΑΦΟ—sic]. […] The long garment and the playing of the barbiton are […] connected with Ionian lyric.[67]

3§67. The vase on which this image was painted, now housed in Munich, was discovered in the vicinity of the ancient site of Akragas in Sicily (as of 1823, this vase was recorded as part of the Panitteri collection in Agrigento).[68] As we will now see, the place of discovery is significant.

3§68. The diaphanous ankle-length khitōn worn by the figure of Alcaeus in this painting is strikingly similar to the diaphanous ankle-length khitōn worn by a sculpted marble figure discovered in 1979 on the Punic island of Motya and known as the “Motya Charioteer.”[69] Malcolm Bell gives a detailed comparison of the costumes worn by these two figures:[70]

The ankle-length musician’s {khitōn} worn by {Alcaeus} is divided into many long and sinuous folds that play over the legs and lower torso while maintaining their volume. These decorative, pleatlike vertical folds are strikingly like the drapery of the charioteer. At the left knee, right calf, and ankles the drapery is modeled by the underlying limbs. The {xustis} [= ankle-length khitōn] of {Alcaeus} is, in fact, the closest parallel known to me for the drapery of the Motya youth, and it suggests that Attic vase painters could aim for the same {234|235} effects as the sculptors, most likely by imitating works that they had seen.[71]

3§69. Bell shows that both the painted vase and the marble sculpture were custom-made by Athenian artisans sometime in the decade of 480–470 BCE, and that both of these artifacts had been commissioned as artistic trophies intended for members of the dynastic family of the Emmenidai in Akragas—most likely for Xenokrates, tyrant of Akragas, and for Thrasyboulos, his son.[72] How the vase survived is not known. As for the sculpture, the fact that it was found on the island of Motya leaves some clues. When Carthaginian forces captured and pillaged Akragas in 406 BCE, the statue was evidently carried off to this island; as Bell notes, “this may have been the moment when the face and genitals of the sculpture were intentionally damaged.”[73]

3§70. Linked with the vase and the marble sculpture is a third artistic trophy: it is the song that is Pindar’s Isthmian 2. This song was commissioned to celebrate the victory of a four-horse chariot team sponsored by Xenokrates of Akragas in a chariot race that took place at the biennial festival of the Isthmia—most probably it was the festival held in the spring of 476; the same Isthmian victory is also mentioned in Pindar’s Olympian 2 (lines 49–51), which in turn celebrated the victory of a four-horse chariot team sponsored by the brother of Xenokrates, Theron of Akragas, in the chariot race that took place at the quadrennial festival of the Olympia in the summer of 476.[74] According to the Pindaric scholia, the reference in Pindar’s Isthmian 2 (line 3) to paideioi humnoi ‘songs of boys / girls’ is actually a reference to the songs of Alcaeus, Ibycus, and Anacreon (ταῦτα δὲ τείνει καὶ εἰς τοὺς περὶ Ἀλκαῖον καὶ Ἴβυκον καὶ Ἀνακρέοντα).[75]

3§71. In earlier work, I argued that Pindar’s Isthmian 2 associates itself with the eroticism of Aeolian and Ionian lyric poetry—while at the same time distancing itself from the public professionalism of monodic singers who {235|236} sang competitively in spectacular restagings of such lyric poetry at the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens.[76] The professionalism inherent in the singing of such lyric poetry is ostentatiously acknowledged in the wording that opens the song in Pindar’s Isthmian 2 (lines 1–13), which contrasts the ‘professional Muse’ (Mousa ergatis) of its own era with a nostalgically idealized earlier era of non-professional elites who once upon a time sang such lyric poetry for each other at symposia.[77]

3§72. Here I return to the argument I started to make at an earlier point concerning the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens. I was saying that this festival was the most public venue for the professional performance of Aeolian and Ionian lyric poetry during the period starting with the late sixth century and extending through most of the fifth. As we now see from the wording in Pindar’s Isthmian 2, the publicity stemming from such Panathenaic performances must have enhanced exponentially the artistic prestige that this poetry already had as the medium par excellence for expressions of elite solidarity at symposia. And the eroticized charisma of such enhanced artistic prestige would have been perceived as distinctly Athenian in provenance.

3§73. Pindar’s Isthmian 2 is linked with the Panathenaia not only indirectly, by way of its reference to the Aeolian and Ionian lyric poetry performed at that festival. There is also a direct link, by way of a reference in this song to something else that is Panathenaic and therefore distinctly Athenian in prestige: it is the victory of a four-horse chariot team sponsored by Xenokrates of Akragas in a chariot race that took place at the quadrennial festival of the Panathenaia in Athens (lines 19–22)—most likely at the festival held in the year 474 BCE.[78] So the lyric poetry of Pindar’s Isthmian 2 is linked with the Panathenaic competitions in chariot racing as well as in {236|237} poetry. That is to say, we see here a second Athenian signature in this song, and the prestige inherent in this signature is comparable to the prestige inherent in the Athenian provenance of two other trophies we have been considering—the painted vase now housed in Munich and the marble sculpture of the charioteer found in Motya. All three artifacts—the vase, the statue, and the song—were displays of Athenian artistic prestige that served to enhance the eroticized charisma of the tyrants of Akragas.

3§74. Next we turn to Image 2 as painted on the Munich vase. Here we see two figures in a pointedly sympotic scene. The figure on the left is Dionysus, while the figure on the right is a female devotee, that is, a Maenad. Sympotic themes predominate. Dionysus, god of the symposium, is directly facing the Maenad, who appears to be coming under the god’s possession, transfixed by his direct gaze. The symmetry of Dionysus and the Maenad is reinforced by the symmetrical picturing of two overtly sympotic vessels, one held by the god and the other, by his newly possessed female devotee: he is holding a kantharos while she is holding an oinokhoē. [79] The pairing creates a sort of sympotic symmetry.

3§75. Matching the sympotic symmetry of Dionysus and the Maenad in Image 2 is the musical symmetry of Alcaeus and Sappho in Image 1. Both Alcaeus and Sappho are shown in the musical moment of striking all seven strings of the barbiton in a sweep of the plēktron held in the right hand. Each of the two figures has just executed this masterful instrumental sweep, and now the singing may begin. Alcaeus has already begun to sing, but Sappho has yet to begin. She appears to be waiting for her own turn to sing. {Addendum by Nagy 2014.11.28. I now distance myself from some aspects of this description. For example, I now recognize that Sappho is pictured with a barbiton that has eight and not seven strings.}

3§76. The musical medium of Alcaeus and Sappho as pictured in this painting corresponds to the musical medium of Anacreon as pictured in a set of vase paintings described by art historians as “Anacreontic” in theme.[80] I focus here on a single point of comparison with these Anacreontic images. It has to do with the string instrument known as the barbiton.

3§77. As we have just seen, the painting on the Munich vase shows Alcaeus playing a barbiton as he sings his song—and it also shows Sappho playing on her own barbiton as she waits to begin singing her own song. I now {237|238} juxtapose this vase painting with two Anacreontic vase paintings showing Anacreon playing a barbiton. On one vase, a red-figure lekythos (Syracuse 26967), a man wearing a long khitōn and a turban is playing a barbiton, and the inscribed lettering indicates that he is Anacreon (ΑΝΑΚΡΕΟΝ).[81] On another vase, a red-figure kylix (London, British Museum E 18), a bearded man wearing a cloak is again playing a barbiton, and again the inscribed lettering indicates that he is Anacreon (ΑΝΑΚΡΕΟΝ).[82] In the second of these two images, the singer playing the barbiton holds a pose suggestive of movement in a dance.

3§78. Also relevant are fragments of a krater dated approximately to 500 BCE and attributed to the Kleophrades Painter (Copenhagen MN 13365). In one fragment, we see a barbiton inscribed with the name of Anacreon (ΑΝΑΚΡΕ[ΟΝ]) on one of its arms;[83] in another fragment, we see a figure who “wears a mitra [= headband], has a garland of ivy around his neck, and carries a parasol.”[84] In this second of several fragments, the figure raises his head and sings with vowels (Ι O O O) coming out of his mouth.[85]

3§79. The morphology of the barbiton made it ideal for a combination of song, instrumental accompaniment, and dance. With its elongated neck, it produced a low range of tone that best matched the register of the human voice, and its shape was “ideally suited to walking musicians, since it could be held against the left hip and strummed without interfering with a normal walking stride.[86] What is described here as “a normal walking stride” could modulate into a dancing pose, as we see in the second of these two pictures claiming to represent Anacreon himself.

3§80. There is a comparable image of Sappho painted on a red-figure kalyx-krater dated to the first third of the fifth century BCE and attributed to the Tithonos Painter (Bochum, Ruhr-Universitaet Kunstsammlungen, inv. S 508).[87] At the end of this essay, I show a line-drawing, which I label “Image A.” Pictured here is a woman in a dancing pose that resembles the {238|239} “walking stride” of Anacreon. The woman is wearing a cloak or himation over her khitōn, and a snood (net-cap) or sakkos is holding up her hair. As she “walks,” she carries a barbiton in her left hand, while her gracefully extended right hand is holding a plēktron. The inscribed lettering placed not far from her mouth indicates that she is Sappho (ΣΑΦΦΟ).[88]

3§81. It has been said that Sappho is “shown alone” on this vase.[89] I prefer a different interpretation, as formulated by Dimitrios Yatromanolakis.[90] Applying an anthropological approach to the images painted on both sides of this vase, he argues that the obverse and the reverse can be viewed together. The image on the obverse side is what I have been calling “Image A.” I also show, at the end of this essay, a line-drawing of the image on the reverse side, to which I will refer as “Image B.” Yatromanolakis sees an intriguing symmetry in the depiction of Sappho on the obverse {Image A} and the depiction of another female figure dressed similarly on the reverse {Image B}: this other female figure, like Sappho, is wearing a cloak or himation over her khitōn, and a snood or sakkos is holding up her hair. The symmetry is clarified as soon as we realize that there is a second, hitherto unknown, inscription on the reverse of this vase. Near the sakkos holding up the hair of this female figure {in Image B} paired with Sappho {in Image A} is lettering that reads ΗΕ ΠΑΙΣ (= hē pais), meaning ‘the girl’.[91] If the viewer’s eye keeps rotating the vase, the two female figures eternally follow each other, but because their position is symmetrically pictured, they can never gaze at each other. Nor can a viewer ever gaze at both figures at the same time—at least, no such gaze is possible without a mirror.[92]

3§82. Of special interest here is a carrying bag that we see hanging from the lower arm of Sappho’s barbiton {in Image A}. Such a carrying bag, most familiar from vase paintings assigned to Douris (whose work is related to the vase-paintings of the Tithonos Painter), was evidently used for carrying inside it a wind instrument known as the aulos ‘reed-pipe’.[93] In this particular picture {Image A}, the carrying bag attached to the barbiton is flowing in the air, and the contour of this flow is synchronized with the graceful motion of the dance step. This flowing effect is evidently caused by the absence of an {239|240} aulos inside the bag. As I will argue later, the visual reference here to an aulos is not just incidental.[94]

3§83. Besides the barbiton, there is a variety of other features that mark the Anacreontic singer in Anacreontic vase paintings. They include (1) a long khitōn with a cloak or himation worn over it, (2) boots, (3) earrings, (4) a parasol, (5) a turban; significantly, all of these features, including (6) the barbiton, were linked with Asiatic Ionia.[95] Moreover, all of these Asiatic Ionian features would have been linked with Anacreon himself as the court poet of Polycrates of Samos. Here it is relevant to add that some traditions actually credit Anacreon with the invention of the barbiton (Athenaeus 4.175e). Alternatively, the inventor of the barbiton is said to have been an archetypal poet from Lesbos known as Terpander (Athenaeus 14.635d).

3§84. I will have more to say presently about the relevance of Terpander. For now, however, I concentrate on the overall relevance of the Anacreontic vase paintings in general.

3§85. I note here an obvious fact about Anacreontic vase paintings: their overarching theme is sympotic, even Dionysiac. And I note also a less-than-obvious fact: this Dionysiac theme is not confined to a specifically comastic setting. For the first time in my argumentation, I need to use the term comastic in order to contrast it with the more general term sympotic. It has to do with another less-than-obvious fact about Anacreontic vase paintings: of the six Asiatic Ionian features I have listed in describing the Anacreontic singer, not a single one of them, not even the barbiton, is characteristic of the kōmos in particular. In other words, the Anacreontic singer is not a specifically comastic figure, even if he is a generally sympotic figure. [96]

3§86. Here I focus once again on the barbiton. The fact is, the Anacreontic vase paintings express the comastic feature of singing and dancing not by way of picturing a barbiton. Rather, the comastic singing and dancing are expressed by way of picturing the wind instrument known as the aulos ‘reed-pipe’. {240|241} Relevant is a detail I highlighted earlier from a vase painting by the Tithonos Painter: it is the “aulos bag” hanging from the barbiton played by a dancing figure of Sappho {in Image A}.

3§87. In a description of this detail, it has been stated that this wind instrument, the aulos, was featured “in sympotic or comastic contexts” as “the companion of the barbiton.” [97] I propose to modify this statement. Granted, Anacreontic paintings can show the barbiton coexisting in the same picture with the aulos or with the bag that contains the aulos, but the fact is that the barbiton does not signal—of and by itself—the comastic themes of drinking wine while singing and dancing as expressed in these paintings. The musical instrument that is typical of comastic and even Dionysiac themes is the aulos. [98] By contrast there is nothing intrinsically comastic about the barbiton.

3§88. Even in vase paintings that show a barbiton in a comastic context, the signal for comastic singing and dancing is not the barbiton but the aulos. A case in point is a red-figure kylix (Erlangen 454) showing a young man with his head thrown back ecstatically and singing while carrying—but not playing—a barbiton in his right hand and a kylix in his left hand. The accompanying inscription reads:

(= εἰμὶ κωμάζων ὑπ’ αὐ[λοῦ])
I am celebrating in a kōmos to the accompaniment of an aulos.[99]

There is a conclusion to be drawn from this picture: whenever you are celebrating in a kōmos, you sing and dance to the tune of an aulos even if a barbiton is literally at hand.

3§89. So the barbiton of the Anacreontic singer cannot be an obligatory feature of the kōmos as pictured in Anacreontic vase paintings. And the same can be said about his long khitōn and his boots and his earrings and {241|242} his parasol and his turban. All six features are simply optional additions to the two obligatory features of a kōmos, which are (A) ritualized drinking of wine and (B) ritualized singing and dancing to the accompaniment of the aulos.

3§90. The six optional features I have listed, including the barbiton, are not only Ionian and Asiatic in theme: they are also orientalizing, even feminizing. And a further example of orientalizing and feminizing tendencies inherent in these themes is the occasional substitution of a snood or sakkos for the turban conventionally worn by the Anacreontic singer.[100]

3§91. Such Ionian and Asiatic features of the Anacreontic singer, once they were integrated into a comastic context, became Dionysiac in theme. That is why Dionysus himself can be pictured as wearing a long khitōn in such comastic contexts.[101] But the point is, these features were not specifically comastic in theme. A prime example is the barbiton. As we have already seen, only the aulos was specifically comastic, not the barbiton. In fact, the Anacreontic singer is always shown playing the barbiton and never the aulos.[102]

3§92. So the dancing Sappho of the Tithonos Painter is basically an Anacreontic figure, not a comastic one—despite the fact that she is dancing. Her comastic features are incidental, as signaled by the aulos bag hanging from her Anacreontic barbiton. The aulos bag without any aulos inside serves as a signature for the incidental status of comastic themes featured in the picture. One such comastic theme is the dance step executed by the figure of Sappho here. When you dance in a kōmos, you dance to the tune of the aulos, not of the barbiton. So if Sappho is to be shown in the act of executing a comastic dance step while playing the barbiton, then surely there must be an aulos being played somewhere. The aulos bag is a telling sign.

3§93. By contrast with the aulos, which is an obligatory feature of the kōmos, the barbiton is merely an optional feature—even if the kōmos happens to be a specifically Anacreontic kōmos. The fact is, the Anacreontic singer can even be shown playing a kithara instead of the expected barbiton. It seems that the only relevant constraint in painting an Anacreontic {242|243} scene is that the barbiton and the kithara must be mutually exclusive.[103]

3§94. Given that the barbiton of Anacreontic singers is interchangeable with the kithara, and given that neither of these string instruments is specifically linked to the kōmos, I am ready to argue that the Anacreontic associations of both instruments were derived from a Panathenaic rather than a Dionysiac context.

3§95. To repeat what I said earlier, the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens was a most obvious context for the continued performance of Aeolian and Ionian lyric poetry as mediated by the likes of Anacreon. The Panathenaia, as the most prestigious of all Athenian festivals, provided an ideal setting for professional monodic singers to perform competitively in spectacular restagings of such lyric masters as Anacreon, Alcaeus, and Sappho. Such restagings in a Panathenaic context would have been matched by other restagings in the Dionysiac context of the symposium. An example of such a Dionysiac context is the stylized occasion of Pindar’s Isthmian 2.

3§96. Even the paintings that celebrated such Dionysiac contexts could become part of an overall Dionysiac context. That is what we see in the pictures of sympotic vase paintings that celebrate the symposium by restaging in these pictures what is already being restaged in the singing and dancing of the symposium.

3§97. The actual restaging of lyric traditions in the symposium can be expected to vary, running the gamut from decorous to indecorous. And the same can be said about the restaging of lyric traditions in pictorial representations of the symposium. Examples that seem less decorous include the parodistic restagings of Anacreon in Anacreontic vase paintings.[104] A more decorous example, on the other hand, is the less overtly parodistic restaging of Alcaeus and Sappho in the painting on the Munich vase.

3§98. So much for the restagings of Anacreon and Alcaeus and Sappho in symposia and in sympotic pictures about symposia. But what about the more elevated restagings that took place at the festival of the Panathenaia? What can sympotic vase paintings tell us about Panathenaic performances of the songs of such lyric artists? {243|244}

3§99. In the representational world of Anacreontic vase paintings, a mark of Panathenaic performances was the barbiton. To back up this formulation, I start by returning to a relevant fact: as we have already seen, a string instrument that served as an optional substitute for the barbiton in the Anacreontic paintings was the kithara. Next I connect this fact with another: in the classical period of the fifth century, the kithara was the string instrument of choice at the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens, where kitharōidoi ‘kithara-singers’ competed with each other in singing lyric poetry. Connecting these two facts, I will consider the possibility that the barbiton temporarily replaced the more traditional kithara as the string instrument of choice at the Panathenaia in the preclassical period of the late sixth century; then the more traditional kithara could became predominant again in the classical period of the fifth century.

3§100, We have already seen another relevant fact, which has to do with two conflicting claims about the invention of the barbiton. According to one version, the inventor was Anacreon (Athenaeus 4.175e); according to the other version, the inventor was an archetypal poet from Lesbos known as Terpander (Athenaeus 14.635d).

3§101. Just as the figure of Anacreon was associated with the kithara as well as the barbiton, so too was the older figure of Terpander. In fact, Terpander of Lesbos was thought to be the prototype of kitharōidoi kithara-singers’ (Aristotle F 545 Rose and Hesychius s.v. μετὰ 
Λέσβιον ᾠδόν; Plutarch Laconic sayings 238c). Pictured as an itinerant professional singer, he was reportedly the first of all winners at the Spartan festival of the Karneia (Hellanicus FGH 4 F 85 by way of Athenaeus 14.635e).[105] Tradition has it that the Feast of the Karneia was founded in the twenty-sixth Olympiad, that is, between 676 and 672 BCE (Athenaeus 14.635e-f).

3§102. Not only was Terpander of Lesbos thought to be the prototypical kitharōidos or ‘kithara-singer’ (“Plutarch” On Music 1132d, 1133b-d). He was also overtly identified as the originator of kitharōidia or ‘kithara-singing’ as a performance tradition perpetuated by a historical figure named Phrynis of Lesbos; just like Terpander, Phrynis was known as a kitharōidos (“Plutarch” On Music 1133b). And the historicity of this Phrynis is independently verified: at the Panathenaia of 456 (or {244|245} possibly 446), he won first prize in the competition of kitharōidoi (scholia to Aristophanes Clouds 969).[106]

3§103. Given the interchangeability of barbiton and kithara in traditions about Terpander as the prototypical kitharōidos ‘kithara-singer’, I return to the traditions about Anacreon as shown in Anacreontic vase paintings: here too we have seen an interchangeability of barbiton and kithara. In both cases of interchangeability, it is implied that the kithara is the more traditional of these two kinds of instrument, since the barbiton is figured as something invented by the Asiatic Ionian Anacreon according to one version (Athenaeus 4.175e) or by the Asiatic Aeolian Terpander according to another (Athenaeus 14.635d).

3§104, Here I must stop to make three observations. All three have to do with methodology concerning the use of available iconographic and literary evidence.

3§104a, The first observation has to do with the parodistic function of Anacreontic vase paintings and the relevance of this function to the barbiton. In terms of my argumentation, any reference to the barbiton in a given Anacreontic vase painting is merely a case of accentuating a feature that is obviously Asiatic. Or, to say it more precisely, it is a feature that is Asiatic from the standpoint of Panathenaic traditions current in the classical period. By contrast, an alternative reference to the kithara in such a painting would be merely a matter of failing to accentuate something that could have been accentuated. A similar point can be made about other such references in Anacreontic vase paintings. I have in mind here the various references to the long khitōn and the boots and the earrings and the parasol and the turban. The point is, even if you see a picture of a person associated with only some but not all of these features in a vase painting, you can still guess that this person is supposed to be an Asiatic Aeolian or Ionian. Only if all these features were missing would there be no point in guessing. In short, the purpose of Anacreontic vase paintings is not to provide reportage about marked features. Rather, it is simply to parody the features that happen to be marked. Any failure to mark a feature in a parody is not necessarily a failure in the overall parody.

3§104b. The second observation has to do with the parodistic function of Old Comedy—and with the relevance of this function to the figure of the Anacreontic singer. A case in point is Women at the Thesmophoria, a {245|246} comedy by Aristophanes. 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 Kleophrades Painter (Copenhagen MN 13365).[107] 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 indicates that Agathon as a master of tragic poetry was strongly influenced by the monodic performance traditions of lyric poetry as performed at the Panathenaia.[108]

3§104c. The third observation is an extension of the second. It has to do with the potential for choral as well as monodic parody in Old Comedy. The case in point is again the Women at the Thesmophoria. In this comedy of Aristophanes, the Panathenaic persona of the tragic poet Agathon extends into a Dionysiac persona when the acting of the actor who plays Agathon shifts into a choral mode. Once the shift takes place, there can be a choral as well as monodic self-staging of the stage Agathon.[109] And such choral stagings would most likely be comastic in inspiration.

3§105. Having made these three observations, I am ready to reassess the picturing of Alcaeus and Sappho by the painter of the Munich vase. So far, we have seen that the musical symmetry of these two figures is distinctly monodic and Panathenaic, as marked by their musical instrument of choice, the barbiton. But now we are about to see another symmetry, one that is comastic and Dionysiac.

3§106. The musical symmetry of Alcaeus and Sappho as pictured on one side of the Munich vase, in Image 1, is counterbalanced by the sympotic symmetry of Dionysus and the Maenad as pictured on the other side of the vase, in Image 2. This counterbalancing achieves the effect of linking Image 2 with Image 1 and thus promoting a crossover of themes from one image to the other. In particular, the sympotic themes of Image 2 cross over into the musical themes of Image 1. This crossover suits the overall {246|247} Dionysiac ritual function of the sympotic vessel on which the images are painted.

3§107. I see a Dionysiac theme even in the actual crossover from Image 2 to Image 1. To start, I note a symmetry in the body language of Dionysus in Image 2 and of Alcaeus in Image 1: each of these two male figures is leaning into the space occupied by the two female figures of the Maenad in Image 2 and of Sappho in Image 1. And, whereas the two male figures are each leaning slightly forward, the two corresponding female figures are leaning slightly backward—and away. Unlike the Maenad, however, who is facing Dionysus, Sappho is facing away from Alcaeus as well as leaning away from him. And Sappho not only faces away while leaning away from the ardent man who is singing to her. The pretty woman seems to be on the verge of walking away.

3§108. So the figures of Sappho and the Maenad are asymmetrical in some ways, even though they are symmetrical in other ways. The asymmetry of eye contact is of particular interest. Whereas the Maenad is shown in profile view, thus making eye contact with Dionysus and becoming possessed by his direct gaze, Sappho is shown in three-quarter view. It has been pointed out to me that “the position of her irises makes it clear that Sappho is looking at Alcaeus; he, on the other hand, is looking down, his head to the ground in a typical attitude of aidōs [= modesty], all the more striking in that figures that sing Ο Ο Ο usually tilt their head up and backwards.”[110] A Sappho shown in profile view could be making direct eye contact with Alcaeus—if he were not looking down in seemingly false modesty. If she had been shown in frontal view, on the other hand, she would be making direct eye contact with the viewer. That is, she would be looking straight back at the viewer. Shown in three-quarter view, however, Sappho is looking only indirectly at Alcaeus. It is as if she were looking askance at him. Does Sappho disapprove of Alcaeus? Is she on the verge of walking away from him? Or is she perhaps on the verge of walking back to him?

3§109. In this regard, I offer an observation about the artistic conventions at work here. As we know from evidence independent of the vase we are considering, it was conventional in ancient vase painting to make distinctions in meaning between frontal and profile views of painted figures. For example, the frontal view of a given figure, unlike the profile view, could {247|248} convey intense emotion on the part of that figure at the very moment of viewing.[111] In terms of this particular convention in painting, emotion is communicated at the exact moment when the figure being viewed can look right back at the viewer.

3§110. Turning back to the painting by the painter of the Munich vase, we may ask ourselves: what emotion do we actually see in the looks of Sappho? Well, whatever it is that she is feeling while on view in this painting, she is certainly not showing it to the viewer.

3§111. So Sappho figures as something of an anomaly within the overall Dionysiac framework created by the visual symmetries painted into the vase. Still, it is this same Dionysiac framework that defines the anomaly.

3§112, We may look for such a Dionysiac framework even in the musical themes associated with Alcaeus and Sappho. After all, we have seen that these themes were not only Panathenaic but also Dionysiac.

3§113. Here I return to a point I was making earlier: within the Dionysiac framework of these songs, there was a contrast being made between an indecorous Alcaeus and a decorous Sappho. As I argued, this contrast was already at work in the poetic traditions of the symposium in the old historical setting of festive occasions in Lesbos. And this same contrast was perpetuated in the new historical setting of festive occasions in Athens during the sixth and the fifth centuries BCE. In the case of Athens, as I also argued, there were at least two kinds of festive occasion for actually performing—not just parodying—the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho. Besides the spectacularly large-scale and public occasion of musical competitions among kitharōidoi or ‘kithara-singers’ at the festival of the Panathenaia, there was also the relatively small-scale and elitist occasion of the symposium. So I reiterate that we have to reckon with the symposium as a distinctly Dionysiac occasion for performing the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho.

3§114. Matching such a Dionysiac occasion for performing Alcaeus and Sappho is a Dionysiac theme. As we will see, this theme is noticeable not only in the songs of Alcaeus and Sappho but also in their picture as rendered by the painter of the Munich vase.

3§115, I start by taking another look at that picture, which I have been calling Image 1 in the illustration I have provided. And I will compare it one more time to the picture I have been calling Image 2, painted on the other side {248|249} of the same vase. As I look again at the staging, as it were, of Sappho in Image 1, I see a theme that is shared in the staging of the Maenad in Image 2. Sappho’s loose and flowing strands of hair match the loose and flowing strands of the Maenad transfixed by the gaze of Dionysus. Although Sappho is not transfixed by any gaze from Alcaeus, her own hair is loose enough to resemble the hair of the Maenad.

3§116. This is not to say that Sappho’s hairstyle is lacking in decorum.[112] It is just as decorous as the hairstyle of a stately Korē in archaic Greek sculpture. There would be no shame even for the likes of Artemis to show off such a hairstyle.

3§117. Still, there is a hint of eroticism in Sappho’s hair as rendered by the painter of the Munich vase, and this hint comes from the matching hair of the Maenad facing Dionysus in the picture we see on the other side of the vase. Although the Maenad’s hair is just as decorous as Sappho’s at the moment of viewing, we know that it will soon become indecorous once the power of Dionysus fully takes hold of her. The Maenad’s hair, once she is fully possessed, will come totally undone. And the Maenad’s loss of decorum, as we are about to see, transforms the subtle eroticism of the moment into raw sexuality.

3§118. The total undoing of a Maenad’s hair is a traditional Dionysiac theme attested already in the Homeric Iliad. When Andromache suddenly sees the corpse of Hector, she falls into a swoon (XXII 466–467) while at the same time tearing off her elaborate krēdemnon ‘headdress’ (XXII 468–470). In this passionate moment, as her eyes are just about to behold the dreaded sight of her husband’s corpse, she is described as looking just like a Maenad (XXII 460: μαινάδι ἴση).[113]

3§119. In this dramatic context, I draw attention to the evocative word krēdemnon ‘headdress’ (XXII 470). It refers to the overall ornamental hair-binding that holds together three separate kinds of ornamental hair-binding that serve to keep Andromache’s hair in place, under control (XXII 469).[114] When {249|250} Andromache violently tears off from her head this most elaborate headdress, causing her hair to come completely undone, she is ritually miming her complete loss of control over her own fate as linked with the fate of her husband: we see here a ritually eroticized gesture that expresses her extreme sexual vulnerability as linked with the violent death and disfiguration of her husband.[115] For Andromache to do violence to her own krēdemnonis to express the anticipated violence of her future sexual humiliation at the hands of the enemy.[116] Pointedly, the goddess Aphrodite herself had given this krēdemnon to Andromache on her wedding day (XXII 470–471).[117]

3§120. Such explicit association of the krēdemnon with Aphrodite reveals its erotic properties. The undoing of a woman’s hair, caused by the undoing of her krēdemnon, produces what I will call an Aphrodisiac effect. So long as a woman’s krēdemnon is in place, her sexuality is under control just as her hair is under control. When the krēdemnon is out of place, however, her sexuality threatens to get out of control.

3§121. This ritual symbolism is part of a “cultural grammar of hair.”[118] Such a “grammar” helps explain why the virginal Nausikaa would not think of going out in public without first putting on her krēdemnon (Odyssey vi 100). She won’t leave home without wearing her headdress. Her gesture here is hardly a signal of being married. Clearly, she is unmarried. So, we see that unmarried women as well as married women like Andromache wear the krēdemnon in public. The gesture is simply a signal of propriety.[119]

3§122, Such a “grammar” is in fact typical of the Mediterranean world in general. A striking point of comparison is the figure of the sotah ‘errant {250|251} woman’ in Jewish traditions. In this case, the ‘errant woman’ is a foil for the properly married woman:

Jewish women from Biblical times on probably bound or covered their hair in some way after marriage, since the wife suspected of adultery, called the sotah (errant woman), undergoes, according to the Bible, a ceremony of testing in which the preliminary ritual is the dishevelment of her hair (Num. 5:11–31). The unbound or uncovered hair of the sotah, together with the further ceremonial dishevelment of her clothing (a Mishnaic addition), signifies her “loose,” sexually suspect state. Indeed, the immense body of Rabbinic legislation regarding the covering of married women’s hair all derives from the disheveled hair of the hapless sotah.[120]

3§123. A moment ago, I described as an Aphrodisiac effect the ritual symbolism inherent in the undoing of a woman’s hair, and my prime example was the eroticized image of Andromache’s completely loosened hair. In what follows, we will see that such a description applies also to the eroticized image of Sappho’s partially loosened hair as depicted by the painter of the Munich vase.

3§124. Before we return to that image, however, I must stress that Sappho’s beautiful strands of flowing hair were depicted not only in paintings. They must have been depicted also in poetry, even in her own poetry. In a rhetorical paraphrase of one of Sappho’s own songs, we see the same Aphrodisiac effect applied not to Sappho but to her ultimate divine referent, Aphrodite herself:

τὰ δὲ Ἀφροδίτης ὄργια 
παρῆκαν τῇ Λεσβίᾳ Σαπφοῖ ᾄδειν πρὸς λύραν καὶ ποιεῖν 
τὸν θάλαμον· ἣ καὶ εἰσῆλθε μετὰ τοὺς ἀγῶνας εἰς θάλαμον, <πλέκει παστάδα, τὸ λέχος στρώννυσι,> 
γράφει παρθένους, <εἰς> νυμφεῖον ἄγει καὶ Ἀφροδίτην 
<ἐφ’ ἅρμα Χαρίτων> καὶ χορὸν Ἐρώτων <συμπαίστορα>. καὶ τῆς μὲν ὑακίνθῳ τὰς κόμας σφίγξασα, πλὴν ὅσαι μετώποις μερίζονται, τὰς λοιπὰς ταῖς αὔραις ἀφῆκεν ὑποκυμαίνειν, εἰ πλήττοιεν. τῶν δὲ τὰ πτερὰ καὶ τοὺς βοστρύχους χρυσῷ κοσμήσασα πρὸ τοῦ δίφρου σπεύδει πομπεύοντας καὶ δᾷδα κινοῦντας μετάρσιον.

But [the other poets] left it to Sappho of Lesbos to sing the rituals of Aphrodite to the accompaniment of the lyre and to make [= imagine] the bridal chamber. After she [= Sappho] is finished with her contests [agōnes], she enters the bridal chamber and then plaits the wedding canopy, then spreads the sheets for the bed, then pictures maidens in attendance, and then conveys into the bridal chamber {251|252} Aphrodite herself riding on a chariot drawn by Kharites accompanied by a khoros of Erōtes joining in sportive dance. Then she arranges her [= Aphrodite’s] hair, all done up and held together by a garland of hyacinth blossoms—except for strands separated at the forehead, and their loose ends she lets down for the swirling breezes to shape as they please. Then she [= Sappho] decorates in gold the wings and the curls of the Erōtes, speeding them along in procession ahead of the chariot, and there they are waving their torches in the air.

Himerius Oration 9 lines 37–47 ed. Colonna

3§125, In this paraphrase of Sappho’s song, the reference to the agōnes ‘contests’ in which she supposedly competes seems to be a playful anachronistic allusion to the monodic competitions of kithara-singers at the festival of the Panathenaia. It is as if Sappho herself were a monodic singer engaged in such public competitions. But the ongoing paraphrase of the song reveals the older choral setting of that song. And the detail about Aphrodite’s loose strands of flowing hair as pictured by Sappho’s song and as repictured by the paraphrase of Himerius is evidently part of the choral lyric repertoire.[121]

3§126. This lyric image is matched by the painterly image of Sappho’s loose strands of flowing hair as rendered by the painter of the Munich vase. Here I return to my argument that the visual detail of Sappho’s loose strands produces an Aphrodisiac effect. That is not all. As we see from the symmetry of Sappho and the Maenad in the painting of the Munich vase, this same visual detail produces also a Dionysiac effect. The Maenad’s loose strands of flowing curls of hair are seen cascading down from behind her ears at either side of her head garlanded with the ivy of Dionysus. As we look at the Maenad’s hair coming undone, we see a distinctive sign of her starting to lose control to Dionysus, of becoming possessed by Dionysus, of surrendering the self to Dionysus. That is what I mean when I speak of a Dionysiac effect.[122] {252|253}

3§127. In the Bacchae of Euripides, we see a parallel correlation between an undoing of hair and a surrender of the self to the power of Dionysus. In the passage I am about to quote, we see Pentheus in the act of rehearsing, as it were, his misconceived role as a choral devotee of Dionysus. Once Pentheus is costumed as a would-be Maenad, he finds himself losing control to the god, becoming possessed by him, even surrendering himself to him.

{Δι.} σὲ τὸν πρόθυμον ὄνθ’ ἃ μὴ χρεὼν ὁρᾶν
σπεύδοντά τ’ ἀσπούδαστα, Πενθέα λέγω,
ἔξιθι πάροιθε δωμάτων, ὄφθητί μοι,
915σκευὴν γυναικὸς μαινάδος βάκχης ἔχων,
μητρός τε τῆς σῆς καὶ λόχου κατάσκοπος·
πρέπεις δὲ Κάδμου θυγατέρων μορφὴν μιᾶι.

925{Πε.} τί φαίνομαι δῆτ’; οὐχὶ τὴν Ἰνοῦς στάσιν
ἢ τὴν Ἀγαυῆς ἑστάναι, μητρός γ’ ἐμῆς;
{Δι.} αὐτὰς ἐκείνας εἰσορᾶν δοκῶ σ’ ὁρῶν.
ἀλλ’ ἐξ ἕδρας σοι πλόκαμος ἐξέστηχ’ ὅδε,
οὐχ ὡς ἐγώ νιν ὑπὸ μίτραι καθήρμοσα.
930{Πε.} ἔνδον προσείων αὐτὸν ἀνασείων τ’ ἐγὼ
καὶ βακχιάζων ἐξ ἕδρας μεθώρμισα.
{Δι.} ἀλλ’ αὐτὸν ἡμεῖς, οἷς σε θεραπεύειν μέλει,
πάλιν καταστελοῦμεν· ἀλλ’ ὄρθου κάρα.
{Πε.} ἰδού, σὺ κόσμει· σοὶ γὰρ ἀνακείμεσθα δή.
935{Δι.} ζῶναί τέ σοι χαλῶσι κοὐχ ἑξῆς πέπλων
στολίδες ὑπὸ σφυροῖσι τείνουσιν σέθεν.
{Πε.} κἀμοὶ δοκοῦσι παρά γε δεξιὸν πόδα·
τἀνθένδε δ’ ὀρθῶς παρὰ τένοντ’ ἔχει πέπλος.
{Δι.} ἦ πού με τῶν σῶν πρῶτον ἡγήσηι φίλων,
940ὅταν παρὰ λόγον σώφρονας βάκχας ἴδηις.
{Πε.} πότερα δὲ θύρσον δεξιᾶι λαβὼν χερὶ
ἢ τῆιδε βάκχηι μᾶλλον εἰκασθήσομαι;
{Δι.} ἐν δεξιᾶι χρὴ χἄμα δεξιῶι ποδὶ
αἴρειν νιν· αἰνῶ δ’ ὅτι μεθέστηκας φρενῶν. {253|254}

You there! Yes, I’m talking to you, to the one who is so eager to see the things that should not be seen
and who hurries to accomplish things that cannot be hurried. I’m talking to you, Pentheus.
Come out from inside the palace. Let me have a good look at you
915wearing the costume of a woman who is a Maenad Bacchant,
spying on your mother and her company.
The way you are shaped, you look just like one of the daughters of Kadmos.
So how do I look? Don’t I strike the dancing pose [stasis] of Ino
or the pose struck by my mother Agaue?
Looking at you I think I see them right now.
Oh, but look: this strand of hair [plokamos] here is out of place. It stands out,
not the way I had secured it underneath the headband [mitra].
While I was inside, I was shaking it [= the strand of hair] forward and backward,
and, in the Bacchic spirit, I displaced it [= the strand of hair], moving it out of place.
Then I, whose concern it is to attend to you, will
arrange it [= the strand of hair] all over again. Come on, hold your head straight. [123]
You see it [= the strand of hair]? There it is! You arrange[kosmeîn] it for me. I can see I’m really depending on you.
And your waistband has come loose. And those things are not in the right order. I mean, the pleats of your peplos, the way they
extend down around your ankles.
That’s the way I see it from my angle as well. At least, that’s the way it is down around my right foot,
but, on this other side, the peplos does extend in a straight line down around the calf. [124]
{Di.} I really do think you will consider me the foremost among those dear to you
when, contrary to your expectations, you see the Bacchants in full control of themselves [= sōphrones].
So which will it be? I mean, shall I hold the thyrsus with my right hand
or with this other one? Which is the way I will look more like a Bacchant?
You must hold it in your right hand and, at the same time, with your right foot {254|255}
you must make an upward motion. I approve of the way you have shifted in your thinking.

Euripides Bacchae 912–917, 925–944 [125]

3§128. The image of hair displaced in the process of Bacchic dancing recurs elsewhere in the Bacchae (150, 455–456). [126] Of special interest is the use of pothos ‘desire’ in such contexts (456; also at 415). Elsewhere (693–713), we see the Bacchants shifting from a state of ‘proper arrangement’ or eukosmia (693) to a state of full Bacchic possession, the first sign of which is that they let their hair down to their shoulders (695). [127] As we know from the words of instruction uttered by Dionysus himself to Pentheus (830–833), the initial kosmos‘arrangement’ (832) of the Bacchant includes these two requirements: {1} flowing long hair (831) that is done up and arranged by way of the mitra ‘headband’ (833) and {2} an ankle-length peplos (833). [128]

3§129. The maenadism of the Maenad as depicted by the painter of the Munich vase is not nearly as overt as the maenadism of the would-be Bacchant Pentheus as depicted by Euripides in the Bacchae. The Maenad of the painting carries no thyrsus and she strikes no overtly Bacchic pose. But her maenadism is more overt than the maenadism of Sappho as painted on the other side of the vase. Unlike the Maenad, who is transfixed by the intense direct gaze of Dionysus, Sappho looks askance at the downcast indirect gaze of the sympotic Alcaeus.

3§130. But there is one suggestion of maenadism even in the picture of Sappho as painted on the Munich vase. As we look again at Image 1, we see loose strands of flowing curls of hair cascading down from her head to her breast, starting from behind her ears at either side of her headdress. These loose strands of Sappho signal a suggestion of what may follow after the moment of the viewing. By contrast, the corresponding loose strands of the Maenad signal the certainty of what will follow for her, that is, the complete undoing of her hair. Comparable is the complete undoing of Andromache’s hair in the Iliad.

3§131. As we saw, Andromache’s dishevelment happens in a moment of supreme passion, immediately after she is compared in a simile to a Maenad (Iliad XXII 460). As if this simile were a theatrical cue for her, Andromache {255|256} immediately falls into a swoon (XXII 466–467) while at the same time tearing off her elaborate krēdemnon ‘headdress’ (XXII 468–470). By the time she recovers from her swoon (XXII 473–476), she is completely disheveled and, in this most vulnerable state, the supreme diva of Homeric poetry sings a passionate song of lament for her dead husband—a lament as sensual as it is sorrowful (XXII 477–514). Only the ritual of lament protects her modesty. Without such ritual protection, this modesty would be destroyed. But the cover of ritual allows her to appear in public with her hair completely undone. Without such cover, her appearance with a full head of exposed hair would be like going naked in public. Even more than that, it would be like making wild love to someone in public. So her wild hair enhances the eroticism of her lament. In her exquisitely theatrical moment of passion, Andromache is just like a Maenad in a state of total possession, in a state of total surrender to the god Dionysus.

3§132. By contrast, loose strands of flowing curls of hair, a plaything of the breezes in Sappho’s songs, merely suggest the possibility of such total surrender to Dionysus. As we saw, the suggestively maenadic Sappho as painted on the Munich vase is demurely looking askance at the ardent Dionysiac singer who is singing to her without looking at her, whereas the Maenad on the other side of the vase signals the onset of her own total surrender to Dionysus by making direct eye contact with the god’s gaze.

3§133. Even if Sappho could avoid looking at Alcaeus in the painting, she could hardly avoid hearing the music of the song he is singing to her. This song belongs not only to Alcaeus. It is Sappho’s own song as sung all over again by men and boys in symposia. More than that, it is her own song as once sung and danced by women in a choral setting at a place called Messon in Lesbos. I have already argued for a Dionysiac effect in the sympotic setting. Now I will argue for a Dionysiac effect even in the earlier choral setting of Sappho’s songs.

3§134. A prime example is Song 1 of Sappho. In this song, which is a functional Hymn to Aphrodite, the heart of Sappho is described as a ‘frenzied heart’. This description, as we are about to see, is Dionysiac as well as Aphrodisiac.

3§135. The word I translate here as ‘heart’ is thumos, while the word I translate as ‘frenzied’ is mainolās, cognate with mainás ‘maenad, maenadic woman’. In Song 1 of Sappho, when the goddess Aphrodite herself appears to Sappho in an epiphany, she asks her what she wants to happen in her ‘frenzied heart’, mainolāi thumōi. Those are the exact words as we {256|257} find them in Song 1 of Sappho (verse 18: μαινόλαι θύμωι). The goddess of love and sexuality is asking Sappho about Sappho’s affairs of the heart.

3§136. Someone should write an essay about the heart of Sappho. It would be a difficult task, since this heart is so easy to misunderstand. Or, to say it another way, the ancient Greek thumos is so hard for speakers of modern languages to understand. For those who speak modern English, to take just one example, the ancient Greek notion of thumos as ‘heart’ seems too hard-hearted. After all, thumos in archaic Greek poetic diction conveys the human capacity to know and learn and think, not only to feel emotion: about half of the time, thumos is used in ways that are cognitive or even rational rather than affective or emotional. [129] Such a distribution in meaning is hard to translate for speakers of English, to whom the word heart means something almost entirely emotional. The heart is for us only residually cognitive, as when we speak of learning things by heart.

3§137. Things are different with ancient Greek thumos. The sensitivity of the thumos is also a matter of sensibility. When otherwise sensible people lose control of their senses, it means that something must have affected their thumos. And the divinity in overall charge of this control is Dionysus himself. So when the thumos ‘heart’ of Sappho becomes mainolās ‘frenzied’ in the choral setting of Song 1, Dionysus is both the cause and the effect of the ‘frenzy’.

3§138. In fact, mainolēs ‘frenzied’ was a ritual epithet of Dionysus, as we learn from a variety sources (Cornutus On the nature of the gods 60 ed. Lang; Philo De plantatione 148; Greek Anthology 9.524.13; etc.); in one source, we find the same Aeolic form mainolās that we have just seen in the song of Sappho (Origen Against Celsus 3.23: ὁ μαινόλας Διόνυσος καὶ γυναικεῖα περιβεβλημένος). A particularly striking example comes from a work of Plutarch (On containing anger 462b), where we see the positive Dionysiac epithets khoreios ‘the choral one’ and luaios ‘the releaser’ balanced against the negative Dionysiac epithets mainolēs ‘the frenzied one’ and ōmēstēs ‘the eater of raw flesh’: here the negative epithets are being applied to wine that has negatively affected the thumos of someone who is feeling savage anger when he drinks it (ἂν μὴ προσγενόμενος ὁ θυμὸς ὠμηστὴν καὶ μαινόλην ἀντὶ λυαίου καὶ χορείου ποιήσῃ τὸν ἄκρατον). Elsewhere too, we see that the epithet mainolēs has negative applications: it is associated {257|258} with the mythological and ritual themes of frenzied ōmophagía ‘eating of raw flesh’ (Clement of Alexandria Protrepticus 2.12.2: Διόνυσον μαινόλην ὀργιάζουσι Βάκχοι ὠμοφαγίᾳ τὴν ἱερομανίαν ἄγοντες). It is relevant here to recall that ōmēstēs ‘eating raw flesh’ in its Aeolic form ōmēstās is attested as the epithet of Dionysus in the song of Alcaeus that referred to this god as one of three divinities presiding over the precinct of Messon (F 129.9: Ζόννυσσον ὠμήσταν).

3§139. From these contexts I conclude that there is a Dionysiac effect produced by applying the epithet mainolās ‘frenzied’ to the lovelorn thumos ‘heart’ of Sappho (1.18). We see a parallel effect in the Cologne Epode of Archilochus, where the supposedly oversexed Neoboule is described as a mainolis gunē ‘frenzied woman’ (verse 20).

3§140. It remains to be seen how this Dionysiac effect in the choral lyric world of Sappho fuses with what I have been calling the Aphrodisiac effect. I start with the idea of Dionysiac possession, which is evident even within the context of Sappho’s prayer to Aphrodite. As we have seen, the mainolās thumos ‘frenzied heart’ of Sappho betrays her possession by Dionysus.

3§141. Such possession by the god has its positive as well as negative dimensions. After all, Dionysus is the god of sōphrosunē ‘control’: that is why this god describes Bacchants as sōphrones ‘in full control of themselves’ in the passage I quoted earlier from the Bacchae of Euripides (verse 940). To be contrasted with such a positive Dionysiac view of Bacchants, ritually balanced as they should be, is the negative Dionysiac view of Pentheus as a would-be Bacchant who is ritually unbalanced.

3§142. Basically, the god Dionysus controls the balance between maintaining control and losing control, as we see in the ritual context of maintaining an equilibrium in the mixing and drinking of water and wine at a symposium. Such a balance between positive and negative dimensions of possession is also at work in the ritual context of the khoros ‘chorus’, as we have just seen in the positive sympotic use of the Dionysiac epithet khoreios ‘the choral one’ combined with luaios ‘the releaser’ as balanced against the negative sympotic use of the Dionysiac epithet mainolēs ‘the frenzied one’ combined with ōmēstēs ‘the eater of raw flesh’ (Plutarch On containing anger 462b). [130]

3§143. So the Dionysiac effect in choral song is a balance of control and loss of control. And when this Dionysiac effect fuses with the Aphrodisiac {258|259} effect, which is what happens in the choral songs of Sappho, the outcome will be a balance of sexual control with loss of sexual control. [131] Such a balance is what we see in the vision of Aphrodite’s hair coming only partially undone in the song of Sappho as paraphrased by Himerius.

3§144. The most unbalanced vision of the Aphrodisiac effect would be total dishevelment, as we saw in the Homeric picturing of Andromache in her moment of being likened to a Maenad. As for the picturing of Aphrodite’s loose strands of hair in the song of Sappho, it is a more balanced vision. The same can be said about the vision of Sappho’s loose strands of hair in the picture painted on the Munich vase. Here too we see a more balanced vision of a woman’s hair. As we have noted, however, such a vision can become unbalanced. And the model for such threatening unbalance is the Maenad in the picture painted on the other side of the vase. That is because the Maenad’s loose strands of hair at the present moment prefigure a complete undoing of her hair at a future moment—once she becomes completely possessed by Dionysus.

3§145. What provides balance in this painterly vision of the present moment is the Dionysiac effect, as fused with the Aphrodisiac effect. It is a moment when a woman’s hair can look domesticated and tamed even while revealing a suggestion of the wild and untamed. I return here to the suggestiveness of the Maenad’s loose strands of flowing curls of hair as they cascade down from behind her ears at either side of her head garlanded with the ivy of Dionysus. All signs point to the eventuality that the Maenad’s hair will come completely undone. As a Maenad, she is destined to a fate of losing control to Dionysus, of becoming possessed by Dionysus, of surrendering the self to Dionysus.

3§146. The kind of thing I am calling the Dionysiac effect is hardly unique to ancient Greek culture. That much should go without saying. To this day, there are many parallels to be found in a wide variety of cultures around the world. The suggestiveness of partially undone or uncovered female hair can cause a major uproar—or at least make a big impression—in a vast variety of cultural contexts. For an example, I turn to the world of women’s fashion current in the Islamic Republic of Iran as of this writing. In such a world, when some pretty woman exposes a wisp of hair from underneath a headscarf that has somehow slipped back ever so slightly {259|260} from her forehead, such a vision will be as alluring to her admirers as a full head of female hair that must never be exposed to the public gaze. As we look for other examples in other worlds of fashion, we find that perhaps the most persistent of all themes is the allure of partially covered female nudity. A notorious example is the female cleavage in all its variations, running the gamut from the formality of a low-neck bodice to the informality of a bikini bottom. No matter how it looks when some pretty woman shows cleavage to her admirers, this display will suggest forbidden visions of bareness underneath.

3§147. Under the protective cover of the Dionysiac effect, Sappho in Song 1 of Sappho may allow herself to become maenadic for the moment. An otherwise sensible woman may take leave of her senses. [132] In her own maenadic moment, Sappho may lose control of her sexuality. After all, Dionysus himself now possesses her, causing her thumos to be mainolās ‘frenzied’. She is now ready to surrender to the god. [133]

3§148. Such a poetics of Dionysiac surrender is also at work in the picture of Sappho as painted on the Munich vase. And the onset of this surrender is manifested in her seeming to lose control of her elaborately and beautifully arranged hair. Such a suggestion of loss of control is also experienced by the partially disheveled Aphrodite herself as pictured in the song of Sappho as paraphrased by Himerius.

3§149. In the poetics of Sappho, the Dionysiac effect is basically choral. To be contrasted is the poetics of Alcaeus, where the same effect is more basically comastic. Either way, however, the effect is communal, not individualized. Both the khoros and the kōmos are based on communal rather than individualized songmaking. And it is the communality of songmaking that makes it a thing of ritual and myth combined.

3§150. I conclude this essay by returning to my earlier work on defining ritual and myth in terms of communal songmaking. My earlier definitions can now be sharpened by applying the concept of the Dionysiac effect as we see it at work in the communal songmaking of Alcaeus and Sappho.

I start with this working definition of myth, derived from Walter Burkert: {260|261}

[Myth is] a traditional narrative that is used as a designation of reality. Myth is applied narrative. Myth describes an important and meaningful reality that applies to the aggregate, going beyond the individual. [134]

Next I turn to a complementary working definition of ritual, again from Burkert:

Ritual, it its outward aspect, is a programme of demonstrative acts to be performed in set sequence and often at a set place and time—sacred insofar as every omission or deviation arouses deep anxiety and calls forth sanctions. As communication and social imprinting, ritual establishes and secures the solidarity of the closed group. [135]

3§151. In my own work, I have applied these definitions for the purpose of analyzing the interaction of myth and ritual in traditional song, dance, and instrumental accompaniment. [136] I have also applied to this analysis a concept developed by the anthropologist Stanley Tambiah in his typological studies of ritual: he describes what he calls a “fusion of experience” in ritual, produced by “the hyper-regular surface structure of ritual language.” [137] Tambiah’s understanding of ritual languageaccommodates all aspects of what I have just described as song, dance, and instrumental accompaniment.[138] As for Tambiah’s concept of fusion, it corresponds to what Burkert describes as the solidarity of participants in ritual.[139] In particular, as I argued, this concept of fusion corresponds to ritual participation in the mimēsis of myth by the ritual ensemble that we know as the khoros ‘chorus’.[140] {261|262}

3§152. Here I find it relevant to quote Tambiah’s typological description of song and dance in ritual. In the wording of this description, the term fixed pitch stands for song while fixed rhythm stands for dance:

Fixed rhythm and fixed pitch are conducive to the performance of joint social activity. Indeed, those who resist yielding to this constraining influence are likely to suffer from a marked unpleasant restlessness. In comparison, the experience of constraint of a peculiar kind acting upon the collaborator induces in him, when he yields to it, the pleasure of self-surrender.[141]

(Although Tambiah speaks only of male participants in ritual, his formulations can of course extend to female participants as well.)

3§153. In terms of my analysis of the Dionysiac effect, I offer two relevant examples. Both involve participants in the rituals of Dionysus. One is a positive example while the other is negative. To start with the negative, I point to the mythical figure of Pentheus in the Bacchae of Euripides: he fits perfectly Tambiah’s model of “those who resist yielding to this constraining influence.” As for a positive example, I point to the mythical figure of the Maenad facing Dionysus in the picture painted on the Munich vase: she fits perfectly the model of a participant in ritual who feels a “constraint” acting upon her and inducing in her, when she yields to it, “the pleasure of self-surrender.”

3§154. This mythical figure of the Maenad in the picture painted on one side of the Munich vase matches the ritual figure of Sappho in the picture painted on the other side. Sappho’s ritual function may be sympotic, as when she is reperformed by a man or a boy at a symposium, or it may be choral, as when she performs or is reperformed as the prima donna of a khoros of women. Either way, she is the pretty woman who surrenders herself to the Dionysiac effect.

3§155. As we have seen, a basic feature of the Dionysiac effect is the principle of self-surrender to the god. Such an act of surrender, as we have also seen, is made possible by Dionysus himself. He presides over the participation of those who surrender to him. And he protects them within the sacred space created by the ritual. In fact, it is essential for the god to protect his participants, since their self-surrender can happen only under the protective cover of his sacred rituals and the sacred myths that go with them. {262|263}

3§156. So I come back to the question: did Sappho and Alcaeus ever meet? My answer has been that Sappho and Alcaeus really did meet under the protective cover of the festival held at Messon in Lesbos. Even beyond Messon, they could keep on meeting under the protective cover of symposia and other such Dionysiac events—so long as songs were being sung about pretty women, the kind men would like to meet. {263|264}


Red-figured kalathos attributed to the Brygos Painter: obverse, Sappho and Alcaeus, each with barbiton and plectrum, ca. 470 BC. Munich, Antikensammlungen 2416. Image 1: Attic krater attributed to the Brygos painter, 480-470 BCE. Line drawing by Valerie Woelfel.{264|265}


Red-figured kalathos attributed to the Brygos Painter: reverse, Dionysus and a maenad, ca. 470 BC. Munich, Antikensammlungen 2416. Image 2: Attic krater attributed to the Brygos painter, 480-470 BCE. Line drawing by Valerie Woelfel.
Image A: Attic kalyx-krater attributed to the Tithonos Painter, first third of the fifth century. Line drawing by Valerie Woelfel.


Image B: Attic kalyx-krater attributed to the Tithonos Painter, first third of the fifth century. Line drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

Notes for Essay Three

1. GMP 3–4.

2. Bierl 2003:105–107; Yatromanolakis 2003.

3. PH 30–33, 66–68; Bierl 2003:105n51, 106n52. {PH 1§§24-30, 2§§30-31}

4. The first time I raised this question was in a lecture delivered 3 27 1996 at King’s College, University of London. I owe Michael Silk, who was my generous host, special thanks for his encouragement.

5. Notable exceptions are Gentili 1985 / 1988 and Yatromanolakis 2003. Cf. also Lardinois 1994 and 1996.

6. PP 53-54, with extensive references to my earlier work and to Calame 1977 / 2001; Bierl 2003:98–101.

7. PH 371; PP 87. {PH 12§62}

8. PP 96–103; N 2007; cf. Gentili 1988:216–222.

9. For the kōmos, see in general Bierl 2001 ch. 2 pp. 300-361; also Pütz 2003 and the review by Bierl 2005. See also Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:220, especially their p. 228 on Philostratus Imagines 1.2.298: as they argue, the detail given there about the participation of women in the rituals of the kōmos is anachronistic from the standpoint of the archaic and even the classical periods.

10. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:230.

11. PP 85; N 2004:31n17.

12. In my earlier work, I used the more general word sympoticeven in contexts where the more specific word comastic would have made a better fit.

13. PH 384–404. For Dionysus in Greek tragedy, see in general Bierl 1991. {PH 13§§6-46}

14. PP 218.

15. PP 84–86.

16. PP 55, especially with reference to Aristotle Poetics1448b17 and Rhetoric 1.1371a21.

17. N 2007.

18. Robert 1960; N 1993.

19. N 1993.

20. N 1993.

21. For more on this epithet ōmēstēs ‘eating raw flesh’, see Henrichs 1981.

22. This paragraph is a summary of the arguments presented in N 1993 and N 2007.

23. Robert 1960, N 1993.

24. N 1993, with reference to the women’s choral event of the Kallisteia.

25. N 1993 and N 2007, with further analysis of the Kallisteia.

26. N 2007, especially with reference to Greek Anthology9.189 and the comments of Page 1955.168n4.

27. Commenting on my overall analysis of Alcaeus F 129 and F 130, Anton Bierl (per litteras 2006.08.22) agrees that these fragments reveal a quasi-theatrical interaction of Alcaeus as a solo male performer with an ensemble of choral female performers at an event known as the Kallisteia (more on which in N 2007). Such interaction, as Bierl notes, is distinctly Dionysiac. In F 129, we see the persona of Alcaeus praying to the gods—including Dionysus (ōmēstēs)—to help destroy an enemy described in grotesque comic terminology that is evidently Dionysiac in provenance (as Bierl also notes, phusgōn ‘pot-belly’ at F 129.21 is evocative of a “padded dancer” or “Dickbauchtänzer”). In F 130, there is a Dionysiac theme at work in the image of the alienated man living alone in a desolate periphery and interacting in that role with a chorus representing the women of Lesbos competing at the festive event of the Kallisteia. I draw attention to a word referring to the ritual ululation of these women, olologē (F 130.20), which is characteristic of choral performance (N 1993:222; Gentili 1985:220, 306n30). As Bierl notes, this choral cry could have a specifically Dionysiac reference (as in Euripides Bacchae 24 and 689; cf. Seaford 1996:151). In F 129, where the speaker prays to the gods—including Dionysus (ōmēstēs)—to release both his community and himself from troubles and cares, the context of this prayer matches the meaning of a cult epithet of Dionysus, luaios‘the releaser’, as analyzed by Plutarch (On containing anger 462b). I will have more to say about this epithet at a later point in my argumentation.

28. Again, a notable exception is Gentili 1985 / 1988.

29. This paragraph summarizes the argumentation in PP 99 and N 2007.

30. N 2007.

31. N 2007.

32. N 2007, with reference to PH 6. On the terms marked and unmarked, see PH 5–8. {PH 0§15} {PH 0§§12-15}

33. N 2004:46–48.

34. N 2004.

35. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:231. They point out an interesting contrast: whereas the wanton male attendants of Dionysus are depicted as beasts, that is, as satyrs, the wanton female attendants of the god are depicted simply as women—even in their most wanton engagements with satyrs. For a traditional visualization of satyrs interacting with Bacchic women, see Cornutus On the nature of the gods 60 ed. Lang. I will have more to say later about this passage. (In my overall formulation, I have used the word satyr only as a general term. In another project, I hope to refine the terminology.)

36. I note with interest the relevant observation of Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:231n108: “The genitals of Dionysus never seem to be visible on archaic Attic pottery.”

37. On the relevance of this wording to questions of genre, see Yatromanolakis 2004:65. On the “Attic” transmission of the sympotic songs of Alcaeus, see N 2004:37–41.

38. N 2007; see also Gentili 1985 / 1988.

39. Collection of relevant comments in the scholia: Campbell 1982:152 at “Sappho” F 137.

40. An example: Campbell 1982:153n1.

41. Page 1955.107.

42. Page 1955.106.

43. Page 1955.108.

44. Page 1955.108.

45. PH 399.

46. PH 399-400.

47. N 1993:222n5, with further references.

48. N 2007.

49. Bowra 1935 (ed. 1 of Greek Lyric Poetry) 234.

50. Page 1955:107n1.

51. Bowra 1961 (ed. 2) 225, following Wilamowitz 1913:41.

52. The word skolion, as used in the time of Aristophanes, is a distinctly sympotic term. Details in N 2004:37n31.

53. PP 219. Of relevance are my comments on Song 2 of Sappho at an earlier point in my argumentation.

54. Commentary by Urios-Aparisi 1993.54 on the explicitly sympotic features of the description given by Herodotus.

55. N 2007.

56. PP 11, 15, 18–20.

57. PP 60.

58. Survey at PP 219.

59. PP 219.

60. PP 221.

61. As leader of the comastic ensemble, Alcaeus here is figured here as ‘greeting’ (anadekhesthai) the ensemble. In other words, he is figured as organizing a serenade, as it were.

62. The epithet himeroeis ‘lovely’ describing the pothos ‘yearning’ of the poet indicates a reciprocity. The poetry of yearning for the beauty of Sappho is so beautiful as to be reciprocated by yearning for the beauty of that poetry. So the ‘loveliness’ of the pothos‘yearning’ refers both to the love felt by the poet and to the love felt by those who listen to his poetry.

63. In another project, I argue that the wording of “Sappho” in Adespota F 35 refers to choral performance in the context of the Kallisteia at Messon in Lesbos. The use of the word humnos here in referring to such performance is of special interest, as we will see later on when we consider the context of paideioi humnoi ‘songs of boys / girls’ in Pindar’s Isthmian 2 (line 3).

64. Campbell 1982:153.

65. Campbell 1982:153.

66. The attribution to the Brygos Painter is not absolutely certain: Bell 1995:11n64, with further references. On the dating, see Bell pp. 27–29.

67. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:219. Besides the inscriptions indicating Alcaeus and Sappho, there is an inscription between the two figures that reads ΔΑΜΑΚΑΛΟΣ (see ARV 2 1573).

68. Bell 1995:27.

69. Bell 1995:27–30.

70. The brackets indicate transliterations that are different from those used by the author.

71. Bell 1995:11–12. This description of the drapery worn by Alcaeus and the Motya Charioteer is comparable to the visualization of Pentheus as a would-be Bacchant in the Bacchae of Euripides. I will analyze the relevant passage in the Bacchae at a later point in my argumentation.

72. Bell 1995:25–30.

73. Bell 1995:22.

74. Bell 1995:16.

75. I submit that this reference in Pindar’s Isthmian 2 (line 3) must have included Sappho. As we will see later on, pais can mean not only ‘boy’ but also ‘girl’—as in erotic poetry attributed to Sappho.

76. PH 340 and 342.

77. N 1989.

78. Bell 1995:17, 19, 25. This reference in Pindar’s Isthmian 2 to a Panathenaic victory in 474 shows that the song was completed long after the Isthmian victory of 476. Bell p. 18 offers a most useful formulation concerning the synchronization of five Panhellenic festivals, which I summarize as follows. The festivals of the Olympiaand the Pythia, each operating on a four-year cycle and each held in the summer, alternated with each other in the even-numbered years of our calendar, while the festival of the Isthmia, operating on a two-year cycle, was held in the spring of each even-numbered year of our calendar, before the summer games of the Olympia and the Pythia. The festival of the Panathenaia, operating on a four-year cycle, were held in the late summer after the Pythia. The festival of the Nemea, operating on a two-year cycle, was held on odd-numbered years of our calendar, one year before and one year after the festival of the Olympia.

79. I offer my thanks to Gloria Ferrari, Kathryn Topper, and Hilda Westervelt for giving me their valuable advice about this painting.

80. Price 1990:134: “These scenes, beginning ca. 520–510 and continuing through the mid-fifth century, thus span almost seventy years.”

81. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:237 Fig. 7.6.

82. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:237 Fig. 7.7.

83. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:238 Fig. 7.8.

84. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:215.

85. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:215. See also Bierl 2001:162–174 and p. 234 with n354 on the parodying of Anacreon in the song of Agathon in the Women at the Thesmophoria by Aristophanes (especially with reference to the vase painting attributed to the Kleophrades Painter, Copenhagen MN 13365).

86. Price 1990:143n30.

87. Yatromanolakis 2001, with photographs of the obverse and the reverse sides.

88. On the diverse spellings of the name Sappho in all the vase-inscriptions that identify the poet, see Yatromanolakis 2005.

89. Snyder 1997:112.

90. Yatromanolakis 2001 and 2005.

91. See Yatromanolakis 2005, who was the first to read and publish this inscription.

92. Yatromanolakis 2001 and 2005.

93. Yatromanolakis 2007 chapter 2.

94. So Snyder 1997: 112, who believes that “the emphasis of the scene […] seems to be on the dance step that the Sappho figure executes, rather than on musical performance per se.”

95. Price 1990:136; Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:221.

96. As Kathryn Topper points out to me (per litteras 2006.8.21), there are cases where the Anacreontic figures appear in explicitly sympotic situations. For example, on a red-figure hydria shoulder in Kassel (P. Dierichs Collection; no ARV number), a figure in Anacreontic dress reclines on the ground and holds a cup poised for kottabos.

97. Snyder 1997:112.

98. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:220 describe the aulos as the “obligatory instrument” of the kōmos. Such a description may be an overstatement, however, since there are sporadic attestations of comastic scenes where no aulos is to be found (thanks to Kathryn Topper, per litteras 2006.8.21).

99. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:242 Fig. 7.16. For the restoration ὑπ’ αὐ[λου] see their p. 220n50. See also Bierl 2001:165–166, especially n146. Richard Martin (2009.6.18) suggests that we may read ΕΙΜΙ as εἶμι, so that we may translate instead: ‘I am going to celebrate in a kōmos to the accompaniment of an aulos’.

100. Price 1990:134.

101. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:230.

102. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:225.

103. Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague 1990:226.

104. The article of Price 1990 argues strongly for the parodistic function of Anacreontic vase paintings.

105. PH 86–87, with further discussion.

106. PH 98. On the date 446 see Davison 1968 [1958] 61–64. {PH 3§32}

107. Price 1990:169, with further bibliography.

108. For more on Anacreon in Aristophanes Women at the Thesmophoria, see Bierl 2001:160–163; on Agathon as a stage Anacreon, see Bierl p. 158 n137, 165; on Agathon as parody of Dionysus see Bierl pp. 164–168, 173, 321n60.

109. Price 1990:169–170.

110. Gloria Ferrari per litteras (2006.8.21).

111. For an introduction to contrasts in frontal and profile views in vase painting, see Frontisi-Ducroux 1995:77–80.

112. For references in Sappho to hair and to ribbons in hair, see especially F 98a+b and F 103.9.

113. Earlier in the Iliad, in an analogous context (VI 389), Andromache is pictured as μαινομένῃ ἐϊκυῖα ‘looking like a woman possessed’ as she rushes toward the walls of Troy to see for herself the fate of the Trojans on the battlefield.

114. The three separate terms for ornamental hair-bindings here are ampux ‘frontlet’, kekruphalos ‘snood’, and anadesmē ‘headband’ (Iliad XXII 469); the overall hair-binding or ‘headdress’ that keeps it all in place is the krēdemnon (XXII 470). Similarly, Varro (On the Latin language 5.130) speaks of three separate terms for ornamental hair-bindings traditionally used by Roman matrons: lanea ‘woolen ribbon’, reticulum ‘net-cap’ or ‘snood’, and capital ‘headband’. To these three words Varro (7.44) adds a fourth, tutulus (derived from the adjective tutus ‘providing safety’), which seems to be an overall term for the generic headdress worn by brides and Vestal Virgins as well as matrons. For more on the Latin terms, see Levine 1995:103–104.

115. Nagler 1974:44–63; Levine 1995:103.

116. Another example of such ritual miming is the moment in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter when Demeter tears off her krēdemnon in reacting to the violation of her daughter Persephone by Hades (verses 40–42); see Levine 1995:103.

117. Detailed analysis by Dué 2006.4, 78, with citations.

118. Levine 1995:95.

119. On the function of the krēdemnon ‘headdress’ as an equivalent of a ‘veil’, see Levine 1995, especially pp. 96–110; in a future project, I hope to address more fully the important contributions of Levine to the topic of veiling, as also other related contributions to this topic (especially Llewellyn-Jones 2003). {In the present paragraph, I correct some mistakes I made in the printed version.}

120. Levine 1995:104–105.

121. On the eroticizing of loose hair in the performance of choral song by women, see Bierl 2007b, especially with reference to Alcman F 1.50–59, 101 and F 3.9; also Aristophanes Lysistrata 1311 and 1316–1317.

122. Kathryn Topper (per litteras 2006.8.21) highlights a stamnos that shows the abandonment of Ariadne by Theseus (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 00.349a): here the sleeping Ariadne is shown bare-breasted and with ostentatiously loose hair; there are also black figure paintings of Dionysus reclining on a sympotic couch or in a vineyard and in the company of a bare-breasted woman who is evidently Ariadne (examples: Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum G 48, ABV 259.17; Munich, Antikensammlungen J 1325). In such cases, the hair of both Dionysus and his female companion falls loosely over the shoulders.

123. Seaford 1996:224 infers that the head of the would-be Bacchant is flung back.

124. Seaford 1996:225 notes that Pentheus “raises his left foot backwards and looks over his shoulder to see the dress falling straight over it,” which is the same pose struck by Glauke in Euripides Medea1165–1166. The arrangement of pleats is comparable to what we have seen earlier in considering the drapery of the “Motya Charioteer”—and of Alcaeus in the painting on the Munich vase.

125. On this passage, see in general Bierl 1991:204.

126. Seaford 1996:165–166, 187.

127. Seaford 1996:206.

128. Seaford 1996:214–215.

129. In GMP 87–88, I offer some relevant observations about the meaning of thumos in Homeric poetry.

130. As I argued earlier, the meaning of luaios ‘the releaser’ in this passage corresponds to the context of Alcaeus F 129, where the speaker prays to the gods—including Dionysus (ōmēstēs)—to release both his community and himself from troubles and cares.

131. For an example of such fusion, I cite Euripides Cyclops37–40, 63–72, with the commentary of Bierl 2006:130.

132. A point of comparison is Helen in Song 16 of Sappho, on which see Bierl 2003:107–111, especially n59 and n73.

133. Such a reading of eroticism in Sappho is most compatible with the reading by Bierl 2003.

134. My translation, with slight modifications, of Burkert 1979.29. See also GMP 8.

135. Burkert 1985:8. See also GMP 10, where I note: “The insistence of ritual on a set order of things should not be misunderstood to mean that all rituals are static and that all aspects of rituals are rigid. Even in cases where a given society deems a given ritual to be static and never changing, it may in fact be dynamic and ever changing, responding to the ever-changing structure of the society that it articulates.”

136. PH 33, where I attempt a holistic typological formulation of song, dance, and instrumental accompaniment. {PH 1§31}

137. Tambiah 1985:165.

138. PH 33n88.

139. In myth, I would add, the fusion of ritual can lead to the confusion of the character who figures in the corresponding myth.

140. PH 44.

141. Tambiah 1985:123. See PH 44 on the pleasure inherent in mimēsis (Aristotle Poetics 1448b).

Essay Four. A poetics of sisterly affect in the Brothers Song and in other songs of Sappho

rewritten from 2015.09.08


“In the Days of Sappho” (1904). The artist is John William Godward (1861–1922). Image via Wikimedia Commons .

4§0. The online version of my essay as published here, dated 2015.09.08, matches a printed version published in The Newest Sappho (P. Obbink and P. GC Inv. 105, frs. 1-5), edited by Anton Bierl and André Lardinois, Leiden: Brill, 2016. I am grateful to the editors of that volume for securing permission from Brill for me to present this online version, which is longer than the printed version. The difference in length is due to the fact that, in the printed version, §§68–109 have been excised. In this on-line version, the page-numbers of the printed version are indicated within braces (“{” and “}”). For example, “{449|450}” indicates where p. 449 of the printed version ends and p. 450 begins. These indications will be useful to readers who need to look up references made elsewhere to the printed version the book edited by Anton Bierl and André Lardinois, originally published by Brill in 2016. In an online version of that same book published by Brill, the two editors have added a postscript, which I quote here:

Postscript (June 1, 2020): In the past years, following the first publication of this book, serious doubts have been raised about the reported provenance of the papyri discussed in this book, especially in Chapter 2: See M. Sampson, “Deconstructing the Provenances of P.Sapph.Obbink,” in Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 57 (2020, forthcoming). So far, we have seen no evidence or indications to make us doubt the authenticity of the fragments themselves – they appear to be authentic. We as the editors of this volume will continue to monitor the developments around these papyri and we will, in consultation with the publisher, update this postscript or take further measures when necessary, on the basis of new scholarly evidence.


4§1. The Brothers Song and other new papyrus texts, including the first stanza of what is now known as the Kypris Song, reveal some heretofore missing pieces of the poetic personality whom we know as Sappho. [1] In what I have to say here about this personality, I concentrate on the identity of Sappho as sister.

4§2. My approach builds on my previous publications about not only Sappho but also Alcaeus. [2] My general argument in all these publications is that we can see the personalities of Sappho and Alcaeus come to life only if we view them as poetic creations of their songs. To say it another way, the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus were meant to be heard by the public who did hear them. They were not meant for private readers. And, in the case of compositions like the Brothers Song and the Kypris Song, my specific argument is that the expressions of sisterly affect in such songs were sure to delight the listening public.

4§3. But what exactly would be so delightful about songs expressing an aristocratic woman’s tormented feelings about a brother who squandered his family’s wealth on a courtesan in Egypt? That is what her brother named Kharaxos seems to have done, as we learn from a variety of ancient sources, starting with Herodotus (2.134–135). So, where is the delight here? In attempting to answer such a question, I focus on the mixed feelings of the sister, as expressed by the poetics of Sappho. {449|450}

Poetic expressions of mixed feelings

4§4. I start with the first three stanzas of Song 5 of Sappho:

|1 Πότνιαι Νηρήιδεϲ ἀβλάβη[ν μοι] |2 τὸν καϲίγνητον δ[ό]τε τυίδ’ ἴκεϲθα[ι] |3 κὤττι ϝῶ̣ι̣ θύμωι κε θέληι γένεϲθαι |4 κῆνο τελέϲθην, |5ὄϲϲα δὲ πρόϲθ’ ἄμβροτε πάντα λῦϲα[ι] |6 καὶ φίλοιϲι ϝοῖϲι χάραν γένεϲθαι |7 κὠνίαν ἔχθροιϲι, γένοιτο δ’ ἄμμι |8 μηδάμα μηδ’ εἶϲ· |9τὰν καϲιγνήταν δὲ θέλοι πόηϲθαι̣ |10 [μέ]ϲδονοϲ τίμαϲ, [ὀν]ίαν δὲ λύγραν |11 […]οτοιϲι π[ά]ροιθ’ ἀχεύων

|1 O Queen Nereids, unharmed [ablabēs] |2 may my brother, please grant it, arrive to me here [tuide], |3 and whatever thing he wants in his heart [thūmos] to happen, |4 let that thing be fulfilled [telesthēn]. |5 And however many mistakes he made in the past, undo them all. |6Let him become a joy [kharā] to those who are near-and-dear [philoi] to him, |7 and let him be a pain [oniā] to those who are enemies [ekhthroi]. As for us, |8 may we have no enemies, not a single one. |9 But may he wish to make his sister [kasignētā] |10worthy of more honor [tīmā]. |11 The catastrophic [lugrā] pain [oniā] … in the past, he was feeling sorrow [akheuōn]… .

4§5. Here in Song 5, the loving sister is expressing a wish that her errant brother should become a kharāor ‘joy’ to her loved ones (6), not an oniāor ‘pain’ (7)—a pain that is then described as lugrā ‘catastrophic’ (10). [3] It should be the {450|451} other way around, she is saying, so that the family will have the joy—while the enemies will have the pain. But the family itself should have no enemies at all—nor any pain, as expressed twice by the noun oniā (7 and 10).

4§6. Later on in Song 5, the speaking persona of Sappho turns to Aphrodite, addressing her as Kypris and describing her with the epithet semna‘holy’ (18: ϲὺ [δ]ὲ̣ Κύπ̣[ρ]ι̣ σ̣[έμ]να). Although the fragmentary state of the papyrus here prevents us from seeing the full context, it is clear that the sister is praying to the goddess to prevent further misfortune from happening to her brother, who ‘in the past was feeling sorrow [akheuōn]’ (11: π[ά]ροιθ’ ἀχεύων).

4§7. But the pain that torments the family because of the brother’s misfortunes is not the only kind of torment we find in the poetics of Sappho. The same word oniā‘pain’ that refers to the torment experienced by the family of Sappho refers also to the torment of erotic love experienced by Sappho herself. In Song 1 of Sappho, her speaking persona prays to Aphrodite to release her from such torment:

|3 Do not dominate with hurts [asai] and pains [oniai], |4 O Queen [potnia], my heart [thūmos].

4§8. Similarly in the first six lines of the Kypris Song, the speaking persona of Sappho once again turns to Aphrodite, praying that the goddess may release her from the torment of erotic love:

|1 πῶϲ κε δή τιϲ οὐ θαμέω̣ϲ̣ ἄϲαιτ̣ο, |2 Κύπρι δέϲ̣π̣ο̣ι̣ν̣’̣, ὄτ̣τ̣ι̣ν̣α [δ]ὴ̣ φι̣λ̣[ήει] |3 [κωὐ] θέλοι μάλιϲτα πάθα̣ν̣ χ̣άλ̣[αϲϲαι;] |4 [ποῖ]ον ἔχηϲθα |5 [νῶν] ϲ̣άλοιϲι̣ μ’ ἀλεμά̣τ̣ω̣ϲ̣ δ̣αΐϲ̣δ̣[ην] |6 [ἰμέ]ρω<ι> λύ{ι̣}ϲαντ̣ι̣ γ̣όν̣’ ω̣μ̣ε.[

|1 How can someone not be hurt [= asâsthai, verb of the noun asā‘hurt’] over and over again, |2 O Queen Kypris [Aphrodite], whenever one loves [phileîn] whatever person |3 and wishes very much not to let go of the passion? |4 [What kind of purpose] do you have |5 [in mind], uncaringly rending me apart |6 in my [desire] as my knees buckle?

4§9. The ending of this song was already known before the discovery of the new supplements for the beginning as I just quoted it. At this ending, we find the {451|452} persona of Sappho declaring the poetics of her own self-awareness:

|11 ἔγω δ’ ἔμ’ αὔται |12 τοῦτο ϲυνοίδα

|11 And I—aware of my own self—|12 I know this.

Sappho Song 26.11–12

4§10. Such self-awareness as we find it at work in the songs of Sappho brings me back to the question I was asking from the start: what exactly is so delightful about songs expressing an aristocratic woman’s tormented feelings about a brother who squandered his family’s wealth on a courtesan in Egypt? I think that the answer to this question does in fact have to do with the delight of sensing that a woman’s veiled self-awareness about her own feelings is making a connection here with an unveiled love story—about an upper-class man’s self-destructive affair with a lower-class woman whose charms he finds utterly irresistible.

4§11. The songs of Sappho reveal an awareness of two kinds of torment. First, there is the torment experienced by a whole family in fearing a disgraceful loss of wealth and prestige. But then there is also the torment—and the delight—of a passionate love affair. This second kind of torment is experienced not only by the brother of Sappho but also by Sappho herself. The song-making of Sappho reveals here not only an awareness but also a self-awareness. And here is a special delight for the hearer of Sappho’s songs—to hear about the torment of her own passionate loves.

4§12. The poetic language that expresses this torment—this oniāand this asā—envelops both the errant brother and the anxious sister. Both are afflicted by the torment—and the delight—of passionate love. And this delight can be experienced by all who hear the songs of Sappho. Among these hearers, as we will see, is Herodotus himself.

4§13. Before I proceed to Herodotus, however, I am aware that I will first have to explain why I speak here of tormentand delightin referring to the love story of Sappho’s brother. I am thinking of Act 1 of La traviata, a romantic opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi (first performed in 1853), where the two lovers Alfredo and Violetta sing to each other about their passionate love affair. Both lovers express this love as a ‘torment and delight’, croce e delizia. Then, in Act 2, the father of Alfredo intervenes, confronting Violetta by singing to her an aria of his own. In this aria, the father expresses his own form of torment: how he fears that the reputation of his unmarried daughter, the sister of Alfredo, will be destroyed by the news of her brother’s love affair. Here I ask myself a question. Suppose there existed an aria sung by the aristocratic sister herself: what feelings would she express? Perhaps, at first, she would be most aware of her own tormented fears about her reputation, which is now endangered by the love affair of her brother with a courtesan. But she could also be aware of the torment caused by passionate love—if she had experienced it herself. And {452|453} she could even be aware of the delight. Without pushing an analogy too far, I reconstruct here the croce e delizia of a woman’s own passionate loves—as expressed most forcefully in the veiled but self-aware songs of Sappho. That said, I can now concentrate on the delight of hearing songs about the torment caused by such passionate love.

Starting with Herodotus

4§14. I have already mentioned the passage in Herodotus (2.134–135) where he refers to the love affair of Kharaxos, brother of Sappho, with a courtesan who lived in Egypt. The historian adds that Sappho scolded Kharaxos—or the courtesan—for this affair, and that the scolding was done by way of melos‘song’: ‘Sappho scolded [kata-kertomeîn] him [or her] in many ways by way of her singing [melos]’ (2.135.6: ἐν μέλεϊ Cαπφὼ πολλὰ κατεκερτόμηϲέ μιν). [4] So, how did Herodotus know about such songs of Sappho? I will be arguing that he himself could have heard such songs being sung—and was eager to show off his appreciation of the songs—but, before I can undertake such an argument, I will need to consider the possible occasions for someone like Herodotus to listen to such singing. And, even before that, I will need to consider the original occasions for singing the songs of Sappho.

4§15. In order to engage in such considerations, I will now examine the problem of receptionin analyzing the songs of Sappho. An ideal place to start is a formulation by Dirk Obbink, who writes: ‘The recorded reception of Sappho begins with Herodotus.’ [5] I propose to build on this most helpful formulation by highlighting a qualification noted already by Obbink. The fact is, the text of Herodotus shows the first recordedcase of reception. But the reception of Sappho can be reconstructed further back in time—back to earlier phases of reception. It can even be reconstructed all the way back to its original phases.

4§16. The reception of Sappho, as I will now argue, goes back to the original creation of the songs attributed to her. And a similar formulation applies to the reception of Alcaeus.

4§17. When I say ‘original creation’ here, I mean simply the earliest attested phase of the relevant songmaking. In terms of such an earliest phase, I will argue, the reception of songs attributed to Sappho and Alcaeus is already at workin the overall tradition of composing and performing such songs. {453|454}

Viewing diachronically the reception and the transmission of Sappho and Alcaeus

4§18. I said already in the Introduction that we can see the personalities of Sappho and Alcaeus come to life only if we view them as poetic creations that are shaped by their songs. But now I argue further that this view needs to be diachronic as well as synchronic. Here I continue a line of argumentation that I have been developing in all my previous publications about Sappho and Alcaeus. [6] In using the term diachronic, I am applying the formulation of Ferdinand de Saussure concerning language as a system. As Saussure explains, a synchronic approach views a current phase of a system while a diachronic approach views different phases in the evolution of that given system. [7]

4§19. In the case of the poetic language represented by Sappho and Alcaeus, as also in even earlier cases represented by the likes of Hesiod and Archilochus, a diachronic approach involves not two but four aspects of poetic creation: there is not only compositionand performancebut also reception and even transmission. [8]

4§20. In any poetic system that depends on the performance of a given composition, the reception and the transmission of such a composition can be viewed in terms of a process that I describe as recomposition-in-performance. In terms of such a process, a reperformed composercan even become a recomposed performer. [9]

4§21. Here is what I mean. In the first place, the performer of a reperformance does not have to be the same person as an earlier performer, who can be viewed as the original composer. Still, such a performer of a reperformance can persist in appropriating to himself or herself the persona of the earlier performer—even if the historical circumstances of performance have changed. But then, in the process of recomposition-in-performance, even the persona of the performer can change over time, becoming different from the persona of the notionally original composer, and the differences in personality can be all the more pronounced if the venue of performance changes. That is how the persona of a reperformed composer can become recomposed in an {454|455} ongoing process of recomposition-in-performance. And that is how the reperformed composer can become the recomposed performer.

4§22. This formulation, as I have just summarized it, applies to the poetic personalities of Sappho and Alcaeus, as I have argued at length in my previous publications. [10] In the context of reperformances in different times and in different places, the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus could become recomposed-in-performance, and their personae could thus become recomposed as well. That is how Sappho and Alcaeus, as reperformed composers, could become recomposed performers. And that is what I meant when I said, from the start, that Sappho and Alcaeus can be viewed as poetic creations of their own songs.

4§23. Here I return to Herodotus. In his era, dated to the second half of the fifth century BCE, the poetic personalities of Sappho and Alcaeus were already significantly different from what they had been in earlier times. In the contexts where Herodotus refers to Sappho (2.135.1 and 6) and to Alcaeus (5.95.1–2)—as also to other comparable poetic figures such as Anacreon (3.121.1)—we can see in each case that these figures were by now viewed as poets who created monodic songs. Such songs, in the era of Herodotus, were performed solo, and there existed primarily two kinds of venue. On the one hand, there were amateur monodic performances at private symposia, while, on the other hand, there were professional monodic performances at public concerts, the most prestigious of which were the competitions of singing self-accompanied by a string-instrument at the Athenian festival of the Panathenaia.

4§24. What I just said is a most compressed formulation of a lengthy argument that I developed in a study entitled ‘Did Sappho and Alcaeus ever meet?’, where I analyzed diachronically the reception and the transmission of songs attributed to Sappho and Alcaeus. [11] In terms of this argument, the poetic personalities of both Sappho and Alcaeus were actually reshaped in the historical contexts of the two venues that I have just highlighted for the era of Herodotus, namely, (1) private symposia and (2) public concerts. In these contexts, especially as we see them take shape in Athens during the fifth century BCE, the songs originally attributed to Sappho and Alcaeus would be reperformed by performers who could re-enact the personae of Sappho and Alcaeus themselves, but, in the process of reperformance, these personae could be recomposed. That is how Sappho and Alcaeus could become recomposed performers. In the process of recomposition-in-performance, their poetic personalities could be recomposed by sympotic and concertizing performers, and, in this way, Sappho and {455|456} Alcaeus themselves could be re-imagined as sympotic and concertizing performers in their own right. [12]

4§25. At a later point, I will offer further arguments to back up this formulation. For now, however, we have to deal with a more important question: how were Sappho and Alcaeus imagined before they became re-imagined as sympoticand concertizingperformers? The answer is twofold. In the case of Sappho, as I have been arguing since 1990, she had been previously a choral personality, that is, someone who performs in a singing and dancing ensemble known as a khoros or ‘chorus’. [13] In the case of Alcaeus, on the other hand, he had been previously a comastic personality, that is, someone who performs in a singing and dancing and wine-drinking ensemble known as a kōmos or ‘group of male revelers’. And secondarily, Alcaeus could also be a choral personality in his own right, like Sappho herself: a likely example is Song 34 of Alcaeus, which is a prayer to Castor and Pollux.

Distinguishing between sympotic and comastic occasions

4§26. I will now trace the ramifications of the distinction I am making between sympoticand comasticoccasions. [14]

4§26a. The term sympotic, as I use it here, is meant to be generalizing. It can refer to any grouping of male drinkers who attend a symposium. I say generalizingbecause we can find no single criterion for defining a group of male drinkers who attended any ancient Greek symposium.

§26b. By contrast, my term comasticis meant to be more specific, in the sense that male drinkers who were grouped together in a kōmosmust have felt bound to each other by special ties that bind: such a grouping, as it becomes evident in the poetic language of Alcaeus, consisted of men who were etairoi or ‘comrades’ to each other. [15]

4§27. Another distinction between sympoticand comasticoccasions is the fact that a sympotic song, as we see it attested in the era of Herodotus and thereafter, was ordinarily performed by a solo singer, in monodic form, to the accompa{456|457}niment of a wind- or a string-instrument, whereas a comastic song would have been performed by a group that could both sing and dance. This is not to say that an individuated singer—or a succession of individual singers—could not dominate the overall group performance of a kōmos. But I do insist that any exclusively solo performance of a song would have been incompatible with the mentality of a group that sings and dances in a kōmos. [16]

Distinguishing between sympotic and choral occasions

4§28. A similar distinction applies in the case of sympotic and choral occasions. A sympotic song, I repeat, was ordinarily performed by a solo singer, in monodic form, to the accompaniment of a wind- or a string-instrument. By contrast, a choral song was performed by a group, known as the khorosor ‘chorus’, which both sang and danced to the accompaniment of a wind- or a string-instrument.

4§29. Here too in the case of the khoros, as in the case of the kōmos, I am not saying that an individuated singer—or a succession of individual singers—could not dominate the overall group performance. But I do insist, once again, that any exclusively solo performance of a song would have been incompatible with the mentality of a group that sings and dances. Such a group, I maintain, was the khoros. [17]

A split between monodic and non-monodic performance

4§30. In view of these distinctions between monodic and non-monodic performance, I reconstruct a split between the later personae of Sappho and Alcaeus, who were both pictured as monodic singers, and the earlier personae, who need to be viewed in the historical context of group performances. I have already described these earlier personae as a choral Sapphoand as a comastic Alcaeus, and I have left the door open for a choral Alcaeusas well. But before I can say anything more about such choral and comastic personae, I first need to explore the historical circumstances of the earliest attested venue where such personae could actually come to life. {457|458}

The earliest known venue for Sappho and Alcaeus

4§31. From a diachronic point of view, the earliest attested venue for performing the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus can be located in a space known in ancient times as Messon, now called Mesa, which figured as a politically neutral ‘middle ground’ for the entire island of Lesbos. The basic arguments proving this localization were published in a 1960 article by Louis Robert, [18] whose work has been foundational for my own diachronic analysis of the poetic venues for both Sappho and Alcaeus. [19]

4§32. The published reactions to the work of Robert have been thoroughly reviewed and tested in a 2010 article by Stefano Caciagli, whose own conclusions validate most of the original arguments advanced fifty years earlier by Robert. [20] Although he does not say so, the conclusions offered by Caciagli also validate—for the most part—what I had argued in a 1993 article entitled ‘Alcaeus in sacred space’, published in the Festschrift for Bruno Gentili. [21] In that article, I supported the argument, originated by Robert, that the poetry of Sappho and Alcaeus actually refers to Messon—as that place existed at a time that corresponds to the traditional dating of these poetic figures, around 600 BCE. [22]

4§33. I start with the references to Messon in Songs 129 and 130b of Alcaeus. The name of the place is not mentioned, but the identification is clear. The songs refer to the place as a temenos‘precinct’ (129.2 and 130b.13: τέμενοϲ), pictured as a great federal sacred space that is xunon‘common’ (129.3: ξῦνον) to all the people of the island of Lesbos. The precinct is sacred to three divinities: they are Zeus, ‘the Aeolian goddess’, and Dionysus (129.5–9). As we will now see, the Aeolian goddess (129.6: Αἰολήιαν … θέον) must be Hera.

4§34. I highlight already here another relevant reference, this one in Song 130a of Alcaeus, to the same precinct: it is called the teikhos basilēion‘the queenly wall’ (15: τεῖχοϲ βαϲίληιον), glossed as ‘Hera’s wall’ in a scholion written next to the text (τὸ τῆϲ ῞Ηραϲ). I translate basilēionhere as ‘queenly’, not ‘kingly’, in {458|459} the light of what we read in the newly-found Brothers Song of Sappho: the speaking Sappho in this song says that she needs to be sent off to pray to basilēa Hēra ‘Queen Hera’ (line 10 [6]: βαϲί̣λ̣η̣αν Ἤ̣ραν). As I will argue at a later point, the queenly status of the goddess Hera subsumes even the kingly status of her consort, the god Zeus, who is described as the basileus Olumpō ‘king of Olympus’ in the Brothers Song (line 17 [13]: βαϲίλευϲ Ὀλύμπω).

4§35. I continue my argument that the queenly residence of the goddess Hera must be the precinct at Messon. In the Brothers Song, it is in this precinct that Sappho will pray for the safe return of her brother Kharaxos from a sea voyage. Even as she pictures herself as praying, she expresses the hope that the brother is sailing his way back home (lines 11–12 [7–8]).

4§36. Where is home? It is a place that is signaled by the deictic pronoun tuide‘here’ in the words of the Brothers Song (line 11 [7]: τυίδε). And where is ‘here’? The answer, in terms of my argument, is that this place ‘here’ is Messon.

4§37. Sappho will not be praying alone to Hera. She will be part of a procession that must be sent off to the precinct of the goddess, as we can see from the expression pempēn eme‘send me’ in the Brothers Song (line 9 [5]: πέμπην ἔμε), which I argue refers to the sending of not one person in this case: rather, it is the sending of a procession, the classical Greek word for which would be pompē. Not only will Sappho be a part of a procession; she will also have the leading part, as indicated by the focus on ‘me’ in the expression pempēn eme‘send me’ (again, line 9 [5]: πέμπην ἔμε).

4§38. Once the sacred procession reaches the precinct of the goddess, as we will now see, the processing ensemble will transform itself into a chorus of singing and dancing womenwho are charged with the sacred imperative of supplicating Hera, as expressed by the word lissesthai‘implore’:

πόλλα λί̣ϲϲεϲθαι ̣βαϲί̣λ̣η̣αν Ἤ̣ραν

to implore [lissesthai] Queen [basilēa] Hera over and over again

Sappho Brothers Song 10 [6]

4§39. In Song 1 of Sappho, we see a comparable situation where Sappho is supplicating a goddess—this time, it is Aphrodite—and again the word for the ritual action that I translate as ‘implore’ is lissesthai (2):

|1 ποικιλόθρον’ ἀθανάτἈφρόδιτα, |2 παῖ Δίοϲ δολόπλοκε, λίϲϲομαί ϲε, |3 μή μ’ἄϲαιϲι μηδ’ ὀνίαιϲι δάμνα, |4 πότνια, θῦμον, |5 ἀλλὰ τυίδ’ ἔλθ’, αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα |6 τὰϲ ἔμαϲ αὔδαϲ ἀίοιϲα πήλοι |7 ἔκλυεϲ, … {459|460}

|1 You with pattern-woven flowers, immortal Aphrodite, |2 child of Zeus, weaver of wiles, I implore [lissomai] you, |3 do not dominate with hurts [asai] and pains [oniai], |4 O Queen [potnia], my heart [thūmos]. |5 But come here [tuide], if ever at any other time, |6hearing my voice from afar, |7 you heeded me …

Sappho Song 1.1–7

4§40. Here too in Song 1, we see the deictic pronoun tuide‘here’ (5: τυίδ’). Sappho implores the goddess Aphrodite to come tuide‘here’ to the place where she is praying, just as she will implore the goddess Hera to bring back her brother tuide ‘here’ to the place where she is praying in the Brothers Song (line 11 [7]: τυίδε).

Processing to the precinct of Hera

4§41. A moment ago, I started to argue that Sappho’s prayer to Hera in the Brothers Song can be seen in the overall context of a sacred procession that proceeds to the precinct of Hera, at which place the processing ensemble will transform itself into a chorus of singing and dancing women who are charged with the sacred imperative of supplicating the goddess. As I will now argue further, the procession is in fact already a chorus in the making. Pursuing this argument, I now cite a parallel kind of event that took place at the precinct of Hera—not the one at Lesbos but the one near the city of Argos. I start by quoting here a description of the pompē ‘procession’ of the Hekatombaia, which was the Argive name for the seasonally recurring festival of the goddess Hera at Argos:

Ἑκατόμβαια δὲ ὁ ἀγὼν λέγεται ὅτι πομπῆϲ μεγάληϲ προηγοῦνται ἑκατὸν βόεϲ, οὓϲ νόμοϲ κρεανομεῖϲθαι πᾶϲι τοῖϲ πολίταιϲ.

This festival-of-competitions [agōn] is called Hekatombaia because one hundred cattle are led forth in a grand procession [pompē], and their meat is divided by customary law among all the citizens of the city.

Scholia for Pindar Olympian 7.152d 1

4§42. The name of this festival, Hekatombaia, refers to a hekatombē ‘hecatomb’, which is the sacrificial slaughtering of one hundred cattle in honor of Hera. And the procession that led up to this sacrifice in honor of the goddess at her festival {460|461} in Argos culminated in a choral performance of Argive girls who participated in that procession. This culminating ritual event can be reconstructed on the basis of what we read in the Electraof Euripides. [23] The role of the chorus that is singing and dancing in this drama is twofold: the performers in the chorus here represent not only the girls of Argos in the mythical past but also the girls of Argos who participated in the rituals of the seasonally recurring festival of Hera in the historical present of the drama. In the Electraof Euripides, the male Athenian chorus of his drama is representing a female Argive chorus participating in a contemporary version of Hera’s festival, and this female Argive chorus is in turn representing their prototypical counterparts in the mythical past. Already back then, in that mythical past, a chorus of Argive girls is participating in the festival of Hera. In the Electra of Euripides, there are explicit references to the upcoming choral performance of these mythical girls at Hera’s festival. [24] And the festival itself, as we will now see, is explicitly called a thusiā, meaning literally ‘sacrifice’ (172). Here is the way the word is used in the song that is sung and danced by the chorus of Argive girls:

|167 Ἀγαμέμνονοϲ ὦ κόρα, ἤλυθον, Ἠλέκτρα, |168 ποτὶ ϲὰν ἀγρότειραν αὐλάν. |169 ἔμολέ τιϲ ἔμολεν γαλακτοπόταϲ ἀνὴρ |170Μυκηναῖοϲ οὐριβάταϲ· |171 ἀγγέλλει δ’ ὅτι νῦν τριταί|172αν καρύϲϲουϲιν θυϲίαν |173 Ἀργεῖοι, πᾶϲαι δὲ παρ’ Ἥ|174ραν μέλλουϲιν παρθενικαὶ ϲτείχειν.

|167 O Electra, daughter of Agamemnon, I [= the chorus, speaking as a singular ‘I’] have arrived |168 at your rustic courtyard. |169 He has come, a milk-drinking man, he has come, |170 a Mycenaean, one whose steps lead over the mountains. |171 He announces that, on the third day from now, |172 a sacrifice [thusiā] is proclaimed |173 by the Argives, and that all |174 the girls [parthenikai] to Hera must proceed [steikhein].

Euripides Electra 167–174 {461|462}

4§43. This word thusiā here (172) is referring to the ritual centerpiece of the festival, which is the hecatomb, that is, the sacrifice of one hundred cattle. But the same word thusiāis also referring, by way of metonymy, to the entire festival. Each and every girl from each and every part of the Argive world must steikhein ‘proceed’ to Hera—that is, to the festival of Hera. Each girl personally must make the mental act of proceeding to the goddess. Each girl collectively must join in, that is, join the grand procession that will lead to the precinct of the goddess, where the hundred cattle will be slaughtered in ritual sacrifice. We see here a religious mentality that shapes the idea of the pompē ‘procession’ as we just saw it described in the scholia for Pindar Olympian 7.

4§44. It is this procession of girls from Argos that leads to the festival proclaimed by the Argives at line 172 of the Electra. The relevant words, to repeat, are pompēfor ‘procession’ and thusiāfor ‘sacrifice’. And the word thusiā, as we have just seen, is a metonymic way of saying ‘festival’. After the procession reaches the precinct of Argive Hera, what happens next is the sacrifice of one hundred cattle, followed by festive celebrations. And these festivities will include the choral singing and dancing performed by the girls of Argos. So, the pompē ‘procession’ extends into the choral performance, by way of the sacrifice that will take place after the entry of the procession into the precinct. We see here a validation of the formula proposed by Anton Bierl concerning processions as represented in Greek theater: he argues that any procession that leads into a choral performance will thereby become part of the choral performance. [25] There is a metonymy at work here. [26] Further, in the case of the drama composed by Euripides, Electra is potentially the prima donna who will lead the procession that will be transformed into the choral performance of the Argive girls when they reach the precinct of Hera. In fact, the word that Electra herself uses in referring to the upcoming performance of the girls at the precinct is khoros (χορούϲ 178). For the moment, though, Electra declines the ‘invitation to the dance’ (178–180). [27]

A festival for Hera at Lesbos

4§45. Similarly in the Brothers Song of Sappho, I propose that Sappho herself is potentially the prima donnawho must lead a procession to the precinct of {462|463} Hera at Lesbos, and, once this precinct is reached, the procession will then be transformed into a choral performance of girls celebrating a festival that climaxes in the sacrifice of one hundred cattle to the goddess. And the leader of this choral performance must be Sappho herself, just as she must be the leader of the procession that leads up to the performance.

4§46. Such a role for Sappho, as a prima donna who leads the procession to the precinct of Hera and who then leads a chorus of girls who sing and dance there to celebrate a festival held in honor of the goddess, is based on a precedent, as it were, that goes back to the age of heroes. To explain such a precedent, I start with a point of comparison involving the traditions of Argos.

4§47. In the text of a fictional narrative attributed to Dictys of Crete, we find a detail that can be reconstructed as part of a local Argive myth concerning the precinct of Hera at Argos. According to the myth as retold by the fictional Dictys (1.16), it was in this precinct that the hero Agamemnon was chosen to lead the expedition to Troy. [28] Such a formal beginning that takes place at the precinct of Hera, where the festival of the goddess was celebrated by the Argives, must have been a sacrifice, which can be identified with the seasonally recurring thusiāat the festival of Hera in Argos. Here I must highlight again what I already highlighted in the text I quoted from Euripides: the word thusiārefers metonymically to the festival itself, though its basic meaning is ‘sacrifice’.

4§48. This detail about the precinct of Hera at Argos is a most valuable piece of comparative evidence, since it helps us understand what happened once upon a time in the corresponding precinct of Hera at Lesbos—not in the age of Sappho but in the heroic age. As we are about to see, there existed a local myth about what happened there in that precinct, and this myth functioned as an aetiology for a festival—and for the ritual centerpiece of that festival, which was a sacrifice of one hundred cattle.

4§49. I will postpone until later my working definition of aetiology and, for the moment, I will concentrate instead on the festival that is being aetiologized. I will show that this festival, celebrated in honor of Hera at Lesbos, highlighted a sacrifice of one hundred cattle inside the precinct of the goddess. A reference to both the festival and the sacrifice, I argue, has been preserved in the Alexandrian lexicographical tradition, as represented by Hesychius. In the dictionary of Hesychius (v. 2 p. 652 ed. Latte 1966), we find the entry mesostrophōniai hēmerai, which I translate as ‘days that turn at the middle’ (μεϲοϲτροφώνιαι ἡμέραι), and this entry is defined as follows: ‘these are the days during which the people of {463|464} Lesbos arrange [epiteleîn] a thusiāthat is common [koinē] to all of them’ (ἐν αἷϲ Λέϲβιοι κοινὴν θυϲίαν ἐπιτελοῦϲιν). [29] In the wording of this definition, the word thusiārefers not only to the sacrifice but also, metonymically, to the festival itself.

The festival in Song 17 of Sappho

4§50. I argue that Song 17 of Sappho actually refers to a myth about this festival at Lesbos. The myth is telling about a time in the heroic age when the Atreïdai ‘Sons of Atreus’—that is, Agamemnon and his brother Menelaos—made arrangements for the institution of a festival of Hera to be celebrated inside her precinct at Lesbos after their victory at Troy. Here is the relevant text:

|1 πλάϲιον δη μ̣[…..]…οιϲ᾿ α̣[ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣]ω |2 πότνι’ Ἦρα, ϲὰ χ[…..]ϲ̣  ̣ἐόρτ[α] [30] |3 τὰν ἀράταν Ἀτρ[έϊδα]ι̣ π̣ό̣ηϲαν |4 τόι [31] βαϲίληεϲ, |5 ἐκτελέϲϲαντεϲ μ[εγά]λ̣οιϲ ἀέθλοιϲ̣ |6 πρῶτα μὲν πὲρ Ἴ̣[λιον]· ἄψερον δέ̣ |7 τυίδ’ ἀπορμάθεν[τεϲ, ὄ]δ̣ο̣ν γὰρ̣ εὔρη̣[ν] |8οὐκ ἐδύναντο, |9 πρὶν ϲὲ καὶ Δί’ ἀντ[ίαον] π̣εδέλθην̣ |10 καὶ Θυώναϲ ἰμε̣[ρόεντα] π̣αῖδα· |11 νῦν δὲ κ[αί….. …] ]…πόημεν |12κὰτ τὸ πάλ̣[αιον {464|465} |13 ἄγνα καὶ κα̣[….. ὄ]χλοϲ |14παρθέ[νων….. γ]υναίκων |15 ἀμφιϲ̣.[…] |16 μετρ’ ὀ̣λ̣[ολύγαϲ]. [32]

|1 Close by, …, |2 O Queen [potnia] Hera, … your […] festival [eortā], |3 which, vowed-in-prayer [arâsthai], [33] the Sons of Atreus did arrange [poieîn] |4 for you, kings that they were, |5 after first having completed great labors [aethloi], |around Troy, and, next [apseron], |7 after having set forth to come here [tuide], since finding the way |was not possible for them |9 until they would approach you (Hera) and Zeus lord of suppliants [antiaos] |10 and (Dionysus) the lovely son of Thyone. |11 And now we are arranging [poieîn] [the festival], |12 in accordance with the ancient way […] |13 holy [agna] and […] a throng [okhlos] |14 of girls [parthenoi] […] and women [gunaikes] |15 on either side … |16 the measured sound of ululation [ololūgā].

Sappho Song 17.1–16

4§51. Although the first line of Song 17 here is too fragmentary to be understood for sure, the next line makes it clear that the persona of Sappho is praying to Hera herself, speaking to her about the eortā‘festival’ (2: ἐόρτ[α]) that is being arranged in honor of the goddess. The speaking Sappho goes on to say that the festival that ‘we’ in the present are arranging (11: πόημεν), as ‘we’ offer supplications to Hera, is being arranged ‘in accordance with the ancient way’ (12: κὰτ τὸ πάλ̣[αιον]) of arranging the festival, just as the heroes of the past had arranged it (3: π̣ό̣ηϲαν). In these contexts, I am translating the word poieîn‘make’ {465|466} in the specific sense of ‘arrange’, with reference to the observance of a ritual. I find in Thucydides (2.15.2) a striking parallel in wording: ‘and the Athenians, continuing what he [= Theseus] started, even now arrange [poieîn] for the goddess [= Athena], at public expense, the festival [heortē] named the Sunoikia’ (καὶ ξυνοίκια ἐξ ἐκείνου Ἀθηναῖοι ἔτι καὶ νῦν τῇ θεῷ ἑορτὴν δημοτελῆ ποιοῦϲιν). In the case of the eortā‘festival’ at Lesbos, the heroes who ‘arranged’ it were the Atreïdai or Sons of Atreus, that is to say, Agamemnon and Menelaos, and they made these arrangements primarily for the goddess Hera, who is indicated here by way of the emphatic personal pronoun tói ‘for you’ in the dative case (4: τόι). (In a minute, I will defend this reading tói ‘for you’, which is actually transmitted in the new papyrus fragment.) Similarly, in the wording of the passage I just cited from Thucydides, the seasonally recurring arrangements of the Athenian heortē ‘festival’ known as the Sunoikia are being made ‘for the goddess’ in the dative case (τῇ θεῷ).

4§52. So, what kind of a festival did the Sons of Atreus arrange ‘for’ Hera? To formulate an answer, I start with the word that describes the eortā‘festival’ at line 2 of Song 17: it is the verbal adjective arātosin the feminine gender, ἀράταν, which I translate for the moment as ‘vowed-in-prayer’ and which is derived from the verb arâsthai ‘vow-in-prayer’. My initial translation of this adjective arātā as ‘vowed-in-prayer’ is based on the Indo-European linguistic heritage of the verb arâsthai and of its synonym eukhesthai. Most relevant here is a chapter entitled ‘The Vow’ in a book by Emile Benveniste, Indo-European Language and Society, where the analysis focuses on Greek eukhesthai and its Latin cognate, vovēre. [34] The Latin verb vovēre can be translated as ‘vow’ in contexts where someone is praying to a divinity and asking for a favor to be granted, in return for which favor a vow is made to do something that is meant to gratify the divinity. Such a translation also applies in comparable contexts of the Greek verb eukhesthai. So, when you make a vow in a prayer, as expressed by way of the word eukhesthai, you are saying to a divinity that you will do or are doing or have done something in the hope that the divinity to whom you are praying will grant what you are wishing for. For a most pertinent example in the Iliad, I cite a situation where the hero Pandaros is being urged (misleadingly, by Athena in disguise) to make a vow-in-prayer as expressed by the verb eukhesthai (4.101: εὔχεο): this hero, by way of making a vow-in-prayer to Apollo, would be vowing that he would perform an animal sacrifice (4.102) in the hope that the god would grant him what he is wishing for, which is a safe homecoming {466|467} (4.103). Pandaros then goes ahead and makes a vow-in-prayer (4:119: εὔχετο), vowing that he will in fact perform an animal sacrifice (4.120) in hopes of a safe homecoming (4.121). So, as Benveniste says about the meaning of eukhesthai—and his formulation applies also to the synonym arâsthai—‘the “prayer” is not distinguished from the “vow”: it is one and the same operation’. [35] Or, as I would prefer to say it, the wish-in-prayer is not distinguished from the vow-in-prayer. I can paraphrase in terms of the Latin noun vōtum, translated as ‘vow’, which is a derivative of the Latin verb vovēre, translated as ‘vow’. When you pray to a divinity, the word for what you vow to dois vōtum, but the word for what you wish for is likewise vōtum. [36] In the case of the hero Pandaros in the Homeric Iliad, his wish—and therefore his prayer—is a failure, since he will soon be killed on the battlefield (5.290–296).

4§53. Here I must stop to adjust the formulation of Benveniste. As Leonard Muellner has shown, the English translation ‘vow’ for such words as eukhesthaiworks only in situations where the human who prays to a divinity is announcing an act that will happen in the future.[37] But the fact is, the act of gratifying a divinity can happen in the present or even in the past. What you announce in prayer does not have to be a promise about the future: it can also be an announcement about the present or even about the past. [38] So, the translation ‘vow-in-prayer’ for eukhesthai—and for arâsthai—does not cover the full range of meanings for these verbs. From here on, accordingly, I will translate these verbs simply as ‘announce-in-prayer’, not ‘vow-in-prayer’. And I must emphasize that, in each case of an announcement-in-prayer, the other side of the coin is a wish-in-prayer.

4§54. With this background in place, I return to the noun eortā‘festival’ at line 2 of Song 17 of Sappho, and to the verbal adjective arātāthat describes this festival at line 3 (ἀράταν). Now translating arātā as ‘announced-in-prayer’, I interpret the wording here to mean that Agamemnon and Menelaos, the two Sons of Atreus, had once upon a time announced-in-prayer the celebration of the festival or eortā that is still being celebrated in Sappho’s song. And, by virtue of making this announcement-in-prayer, these two heroes were simultaneously making a wish-in-prayer. So, what did they wish for? The wording makes it quite clear that their wish was to find the best way to make a safe homecoming, literally, ‘to {467|468} find the way’ (7: [ὄ]δ̣ο̣ν … εὔρη̣[ν]). Thus the verbal adjective arātā here refers simultaneously to the festival that the heroes announced-in-prayer and to the safe homecoming that they wished-in-prayer.

4§55. Accordingly, I disagree with the idea that the adjective arātā (ἀράταν) at line 3 of Song 17 of Sappho is combined here with a supposedly enclitic toi(τοι) at line 4, as if the combination had meant ‘wished by you’, that is, by the goddess Hera. Such an idea is advocated by Martin West, who emends the wording π̣ό̣ηϲαν τόι as written in the text of the new papyrus and reads instead π̣ό̣ηϲάν τοι. [39] And I defend the accentuation that is actually preserved in the new papyrus, τόι. [40] As I will argue, we see here an emphatic use of the pronoun, ‘for you’, not an enclitic use. This non-enclitic and emphatic tói ‘for you’ (τόι) at line 4 goes with the verb poēsan ‘arranged’ (π̣ό̣ηϲαν) at line 3, indicating that the Sons of Atreus arranged the festival for the goddess Hera.

4§56. Now I offer further support for my resisting the idea that the adjective arātā(ἀράταν) at line 3 of Song 17 is combined with a supposedly enclitic toi(τοι) at line 4. If we look at uses of the dative case in combination with this adjective, we can see that such a dative refers to the human who offers an announcement-in-prayer, not to the divinity who might have wished to receive such a prayer. In Homeric diction, we can see situations where this adjective arātos describes what is wished for—or wished away—by way of an announcement-in-prayer. In positive contexts, for example, I cite the compound form polu-arētos in Odyssey 6.280, with reference to a god whose coming is wished-for in prayer. [41] And here is an even more telling example, where Eurykleia is narrating what she as the nurse of the infant Odysseus had once upon a time said to the boy hero’s grandfather, Autolykos:

|403 Αὐτόλυκ’, αὐτὸς νῦν ὄνομ’ εὕρεο, ὅττι κε θεῖο |404 παιδὸς παιδὶ φίλῳ· πολυάρητος δέ τοί ἐστι. {468|469}

|403 Autolykos! You yourself must find a name, whatever name you give him, |404 for the dear child of your child, since he is the one who has been very much wished-for [polu-ārētos] by you [toi].

Odyssey 19.403–404

4§57. The dative toi here (404: τοι) refers to the maternal grandfather himself, who had been very much wishing for a grandchild. As we can see most clearly from this Homeric example, the dative refers to the human who makes an announcement-in-prayer, not to the divinity who is offered that prayer.

4§58. I should add that, when a divinity actually grants something that is wished for in an announcement that is made in prayer, this granting of a wish does not come without an obligation to return the favor, as it were, in terms of the system of gift-giving that is inherent in any prayer. So, the thing that you wish for may have to be dedicated to the divinity who granted you the wish.Let us return to the example of polu-arētosin Odyssey 19.404: here we see that Odysseus, as the maternal grandchild that Autolykos had always wished for, will have to become, as soon as he is born, a devotee of the divinity who granted the wish to the grandfather. In this case, that divinity was Hermes, to whom Autolykos had offered sacrifices of sheep and goats (19.396–398).

4§59. In this example, we see most clearly a situation where the sacrifice that was announced in prayer was an event that happened in the past—not an event that was promised for the future. I emphasize here once again the importance of the fact that whatever you announce in prayer does not have to be a promise about the future: it can be, to repeat, an announcement about the present or even about the past. That is why, as I already argued, the translation ‘vow-in-prayer’ for eukhesthaiand arâsthaidoes not cover the full range of meanings for these verbs. And that is why I have substituted the translation ‘announce-in-prayer’, the other side of which is ‘wish-in-prayer’.

4§60. A moment ago, I used the expression return the favorin referring to the consequences of a situation where a divinity heeds a prayer offered by a human, thus doing a favor for the human. In such a situation, the human will feel obligated to return the favor. Conversely, as we will soon see, the divinity to whom a human prays is not obligated to heed a prayer. So, the divinity is not obligated to return the favor of, say, a sacrifice that is announced-in-prayer. The making of a sacrifice that you announce in prayer—whether that sacrifice takes place in the past, present, or future—does not guarantee that you will get your wish from the divinity to whom you are praying.

4§61. Applying these comparanda to Song 17 of Sappho, let us consider again the wording at lines 2-4: |2πότνι’ Ἦρα, ϲὰ χ[  ̣  ̣  ̣  ̣  ̣]ϲ̣  ̣ἐόρτ[α] |3τὰν ἀράταν Ἀτρέϊδαι̣ π̣ό̣ηϲαν |4 τόι βαϲίληεϲ. I now fine-tune my translation: ‘|2 O Queen [potnia] Hera, … your […] festival [eortā], |3 which, announced-in-prayer [arâsthai], the Sons {469|470} of Atreus did arrange [poieîn] |4 for you, kings that they were …’. So, the eortā ‘festival’ (2: ἐόρτ[α]) was arātā ‘announced-in-prayer’ (3: ἀράταν), and the Sons of Atreus ‘arranged’ it, poēsan (3: π̣ό̣ηϲαν), for the goddess Hera, that is, tói ‘for you’ (4: τόι). This form tói, as I have argued, is non-enclitic and emphatic.

4§62. If, on the other hand, we were to accept West’s interpretation, the text would read: |3τὰν ἀράταν Ἀτρέϊδαι̣ π̣ό̣ηϲάν |4τοι βαϲίληεϲ, and the supposed meaning would be ‘which [= the festival], wished by you [= Hera], the Sons of Atreus, kings, made’. As I argue, however, the interpretation ‘wished by you’, where the supposedly enclitic toi ‘you’ refers to a wish that is supposedly made by Hera, is unjustified. Also, it would be difficult or perhaps even impossible to justify the postponed word-order of such an enclitic toi.

4§63. For the moment, in any case, I prefer to follow the reading of the text as written in the new papyrus fragment. In terms of this reading, as we have seen, the use of poieînin the active voice (3: π̣ό̣ηϲαν) means that the Sons of Atreus ‘arranged’ the festival ‘for’ the goddess Hera in the dative, that is, ‘for you’ (4: τόι), and this syntactical construction corresponds to the use of the active voice of poieînthat we already saw in the wording of Thucydides (2.15.2) regarding the festival ‘for’ the goddess Athena, likewise in the dative: ‘and the Athenians, continuing what he [= Theseus] started, even now arrange [poieîn] for the goddess [Athena], at public expense, the festival [heortē] named the Sunoikia’ (καὶ ξυνοίκια ἐξ ἐκείνου Ἀθηναῖοι ἔτι καὶ νῦν τῇ θεῷ ἑορτὴν δημοτελῆ ποιοῦϲιν). [42]

A sacrifice of one hundred cattle as the centerpiece of the festival for Hera

4§64. As I reconstruct it, the seasonally recurring festival for Hera at Lesbos would have centered on a grand sacrifice, comparable to the sacrifice of one hundred cattle for the festival of Hera at Argos. I will argue that the centerpiece of the festival of Hera at Lesbos was a hecatomb, comparable to the centerpiece of the festival of Hera at Argos. And a word that suits the essence of such a festival is thusiā, which as we have already seen means simultaneously ‘sacrifice’ and ‘festival’. I repeat here the precious information we find in the dictionary of Hesychius, where the term mesostrophōniai hēmerai, which I translated as ‘days {470|471} that turn at the middle’ (μεϲοϲτροφώνιαι ἡμέραι), is glossed as follows: ‘these are the days during which the people of Lesbos arrange [epiteleîn] a thusiāthat is common [koinē] to all of them’ (ἐν αἷϲ Λέϲβιοι κοινὴν θυϲίαν ἐπιτελοῦϲιν). We see here a seasonally recurring event of a sacrifice, which is at the core of the festival described in Song 17 of Sappho—a festival that the Sons of Atreus themselves had ‘arranged’, as expressed by the word poieîn ‘make’ at line 3, when the two of them announced-in-prayer the performing of the very first such sacrifice. With regard to this usage of poieîn ‘make’ in the context of ‘arranging’ a festival that centers on a sacrifice, an obvious semantic parallel comes to mind: in Latin, the verb facere can mean not only ‘make’ but also ‘sacrifice’, as we can see most clearly in the case of the derivative noun sacrificium‘sacrifice’. [43]

4§65. The project of a prototypical sacrifice at Lesbos, as envisioned in Song 17 of Sappho, would have required a great deal of effort, commensurate even with the earlier effort that went into the grand project of conquering Troy. In the case of that earlier effort, the Sons of Atreus had been faced with the megaloi aethloi ‘great labors’ of the war itself (5: μ[εγά]λ̣οιϲ ἀέθλοιϲ̣)—‘and, next’ (6: ἄψερον δέ̣), there was now the later effort, which was the arranging of a grand sacrifice at Lesbos—a sacrifice that was meant to make it possible for the Sons of Atreus to find the best way to achieve a successful homecoming. For the arrangement of such a sacrifice, an announcement-in-prayer would be needed. As I will argue, this prayer originally took place before the Sons of Atreus ever came to Lesbos, while they were still at Troy, but then there was an iteration of the prayer at the time of actually sacrificing one hundred cattle in the precinct of Hera at Lesbos.

4§66. As we see from the wording that survives in Song 17 of Sappho, the Sons of Atreus needed to perform their prayer of supplication to Hera, Zeus, and Dionysus (9–10). And, in terms of my argument, their announcement-in-prayer was correlated with a sacrifice that became the foundation for the festival of Hera at Lesbos. According to the myth that is signaled in Song 17 of Sappho, such a sacrifice, as announced in a prayer expressing a wish to find the best possible way to achieve a homecoming from Troy, became the foundational act for creating the festival of Hera as it is still celebrated in the present, when the speaking persona of Sappho must perform her own prayer of supplication to the goddess Hera (11).

4§67. It is in the context of this prayer in the present, as actually performed in Song 17 of Sappho, that we can understand the announcement-in-prayer that was once performed by heroes in the heroic age. Once upon a time, according to {471|472} the myth, the Sons of Atreus needed to perform their prayer to Hera, Zeus, and Dionysus, in that order (again, 9-10), and, in their prayer, these conquerors of Troy announced the arrangement of a ‘festival’, eortā(2: ἐόρτ[α]), which was thus ‘announced-in-prayer’, arātā(3: ἀράταν). And it is at this festival that the persona of Sappho is ‘even now’ praying to Hera, nun de (again, 11). As Claude Calame observes, ‘the temporal return of the heroic past to the present of the cult performance of the poem is ensured by the expression nun de’. [44] This expression is what I have just translated as ‘even now’ (11: νῦν δὲ …).

[[In the printed version edited by Bierl and Lardinois 2016, §§68–109 have been excised.]]

A different heroic visit to Lesbos

4§68. So far, we have seen in Song 17 of Sappho a myth about a visit to Lesbos by Agamemnon and Menelaos, the Sons of Atreus. This visit, as we have also seen, centered on a sacrifice that needed to be announced-in-prayer—a sacrifice that would in the future become the centerpiece of a seasonally recurring festival that was celebrated at that island in honor of the goddess Hera. To be contrasted, however, is another heroic visit to Lesbos, as narrated at Odyssey3.130–183. This narrative, as we will see, contradicts in many ways the narrative that we find in Song 17 of Sappho.

4§69. In Odyssey3.130–183, Nestor is telling a tale to the boy Telemachus about the various homecomings of the Achaeans after they succeeded in conquering the city of Troy. [45] The tale is told from the perspective of Nestor’s own experiences, and we find that he and a group of his fellow Achaeans stopped over at the island of Lesbos on their way home from Troy (169). I will come back later to this detail that we see here concerning a stopover at Lesbos, but first I must focus on the fact that, one time before and one time after their stopover at Lesbos, Nestor and his group participated in making sacrifices. So, there were two sacrifices, and the story about the first of these two, as we will now see, contradicts in a big way the story about a single sacrifice announced-in-prayer by the Sons of Atreus in Song 17 of Sappho.

4§70. The first of the two sacrifices mentioned by Nestor in Odyssey3 takes place at the island of Tenedos (159), which is situated directly to the west of Troy. By contrast, the island of Lesbos is further away, to the southwest of the Trojan coastland. In Odyssey3, the divine recipients of the sacrifice at Tenedos are designated only in general terms, as ‘the gods’ (again, 159). Then, continuing their voyage back home from Troy, Nestor and his group set sail from Tenedos, and their next stopover is the island of Lesbos (169).

4§71. As I already said, I will in due course analyze the significance of this detail in Odyssey3 about a stopover at Lesbos. For now, however, I will simply keep following the thread of the narrative. After their stopover at Lesbos, Nestor and his group continued their sea voyage back home. Next, they sailed over the open sea, with no more stopovers, until they reached the city of Geraistos, at the southern tip of the island of Euboea (177). By now the homecoming of this group of heroes was nearly complete, since the island of Euboea is situated right next to the European mainland. And here, at Euboea, Nestor participated in the second of the two sacrifices to which I have been referring (178–179). This second sacrifice involving Nestor was meant as a signal of thanksgiving for the successful homecoming of his group of Achaean voyagers, and the divine recipient of the sacrifice here is specified as the god Poseidon (178), whom Nestor and his fellow Achaeans honored by slaughtering, according to his tale, a multitude of bulls (again, 178–179).

4§72. So, the second sacrifice attended by Nestor and his group, which took place on the island of Euboea, was a success. But the first sacrifice, which he had also attended and which had taken place on the island of Tenedos, was a failure. The failure, as narrated by Nestor in Odyssey3, can be linked with a quarrel that broke out, evidently in the context of the feasting that followed this first sacrifice. And who quarreled with whom? The narrative answers the question: the two heroes who quarreled with each other were Nestor and Odysseus (161–166).

4§73. This quarrel between Nestor and Odysseus cannot be understood without first considering an earlier quarrel that is central to the narration of Odyssey3, and the narrator is once again Nestor. According to the tale as Nestor tells it, the two Sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaos, had quarreled with each other right after their victory at Troy, and, as a result of this quarrel, all the Achaeans had split into two groups, so that half of them followed Menelaos as he sailed off from Troy to Tenedos while the other half stayed with Agamemnon at Troy (130–158). In terms of this story, Agamemnon intended to perform a sacrifice of one hundred cattle to the goddess Athena before leaving Troy(143-144), but Menelaos, leading half of the Achaeans, had sailed off together with Nestor and Odysseus and Diomedes before such a sacrifice could take place (153-154). It was only after Menelaos and his half of the Achaeans stopped over at the nearby island of Tenedos that they arranged for their own sacrifice there (159). And it was there at Tenedos that a second quarrel broke out—the quarrel between Nestor and Odysseus (again, 161–166).

4§74. This second quarrel in the tale told by Nestor in Odyssey3 resulted in a splitting of the group that had sided with Menelaos after the original splitting of all the Achaeans into one separate group siding with Menelaos and another separate group siding with Agamemnon. What resulted from the new split after the quarrel between Nestor and Odysseus was that Odysseus, together with his followers, now sailed off from Tenedos back to Troy in order to rejoin Agamemnon there (160–164), while Nestor together with Diomedes sailed on from their stopover at the island of Tenedos and arrived with their followers at the next stopover, at the island of Lesbos (165–169). When Nestor and Diomedes were already at Lesbos (again, 169), they were joined there by Menelaos, who arrived later(168).

4§75. And here I stop to highlight the biggest contradiction between the story as told here in the Odysseyand the story as told in Song 17 of Sappho. In the Odyssey, we see that Menelaos came to Lesbos, but there is no mention here of Agamemnon. In Song 17, by contrast, it seems that both brothers came to Lesbos.

Variations on a theme in Odyssey 3 and 4

4§76. At this point, I am ready to shift focus. Now I start to concentrate on the island of Lesbos as we see it signaled in the tale told by Nestor in Odyssey3 (169). Here I bring into the analysis a relevant detail that we encounter further on in the Homeric narrative, in Odyssey4, where we get to know more about the adventures of Agamemnon and Menelaos after Troy. In Odyssey 4, it is Menelaos himself who is telling the boy Telemachus a tale about these adventures and, in this tale, there is a detail about Lesbos that contradicts the tale told by Nestor in Odyssey3.

4§77. While telling his tale to Telemachus in Odyssey 4, Menelaos expresses a wish that the boy’s father, Odysseus, will return to Ithaca and will defeat the suitors of Penelope—just as this hero of the Odysseyhad once upon a time defeated an opponent named Philomeleides in a wrestling match that had taken place on the island of Lesbos (342–344).[46]

4§78. In terms of what Menelaos says here in Odyssey4, he too was at Lesbos when Odysseus performed his heroic feat there. After all, according to the narrative in Odyssey3, Menelaos had sailed from Tenedos to Lesbos—and so too had Nestor and Diomedes, who were already at Lesbos by the time Menelaos arrived there (again, 168–169). But the problem is, Odysseus himself did not sail from Tenedos to Lesbos in the narrative of Odyssey 3: rather, as we saw earlier, Odysseus together with a sub-group of Achaean followers had already sailed from Tenedos back to Troy in order to rejoin Agamemnon, who was still there (160–164), while Nestor and Diomedes together with their Achaean followers sailed on from their stopover at the island of Tenedos and arrived at the next stopover, which was the island of Lesbos (165–169). There, at Lesbos, Nestor and Diomedes were joined by Menelaos, who as we have seen arrived later (168-169). In short, then, the parting of ways for Odysseus in Odyssey 3 had already happened on the island of Tenedos, when he had left Nestor and Diomedes and Menelaos in order to rejoin Agamemnon. In Odyssey 4, by contrast, Odysseus seems to be still there in Lesbos when Diomedes and Nestor and Menelaos are there. And that is how Menelaos could have witnessed the victory of Odysseus in a wrestling match at Lesbos.

Two variant myths in Odyssey 3 and Odyssey 4

4§79. I will now argue that there were two variant myths at work in Odyssey3 and 4, and that these myths could never be completely reconciled with one another. Nor, as I will also argue, did they ever really need to be reconciled. In Homeric poetry, there is a built-in awareness of mutually contradictory local variations in mythmaking, and there are many examples where the poetry shows this awareness by ostentatiously including, without overt self-contradiction, details from recessive as well as dominant versions of any given myth. A striking example is Odyssey 4.512–522, with reference to the final phase of the sea voyage of Agamemnon as he sails his way back home after the Trojan War. At first, the winds carry him around the headlands of Maleiai, bringing him toward Spartan territory, but then, before he can land there, the winds correct themselves, as it were, and they now carry him in a different direction, toward Argive territory, which is where he finally lands. This way, the Spartan myth that localizes the home of Agamemnon at Amyklai in Spartan territory is recognized—before it is overruled by the rival Argive myth that localizes his home at Mycenae in Argive territory. In Homeric poetry, the Argive version of the myth is dominant, while the Spartan version is recessive. [47]

4§80. Keeping in mind the Homeric capacity to track such variations, let us consider the myth, as we see it at work in Odyssey3, about a grand sacrifice that took place on the island of Tenedos. Of the two Sons of Atreus, only Menelaos was present, while Agamemnon had stayed behind at Troy and was arranging a correspondingly grand sacrifice back there, to be attended by his half of the Achaeans. That sacrifice was intended for Athena. As for the sacrifice at Tenedos, as I already noted, the divine recipients are not named. And, at this competing sacrifice on the island of Tenedos, arranged by Menelaos and attended by his half of the Achaeans, a quarrel broke out between Nestor and Odysseus, with the result that Odysseus and his followers went back to Agamemnon. After Tenedos, the only Achaean leaders who sailed on homeward with their followers were Nestor and Diomedes—to be joined later by Menelaos at Lesbos.

4§81. From here on, I refer to this ‘Tenedos version’ of the myth as Myth One. But there is also a Myth Two, which is the ‘Lesbos version’. According to Myth Two, as we see it at work under the surface in Odyssey4, there was a grand sacrifice that took place on the island of Lesbos, not on the island of Tenedos. At Lesbos, Odysseus was still together with Nestor and Diomedes—to be joined later by Menelaos. Unlike Myth One as we read it in Odyssey3, which is a myth originating from Tenedos, this second variant myth originates from Lesbos. A signature of this Myth Two in Odyssey 4 is the reference, initiated by the speaking persona of Menelaos, to that primal wrestling match between Odysseus and Philomeleides on the island of Lesbos (again, 343–344). In fact, there are traces of this Myth Two in sources external to Homeric poetry. As we learn from Hellanicus of Lesbos (FGrH 4 F 150), the people of Lesbos had their own local stories about Philomeleides: he had been a king of theirs in the age of heroes, and he used to challenge visitors to engage with him in a wrestling match—but then his reputation for invincibility was undone by Odysseus, helped by Diomedes, when these heroes visited Lesbos. [48]

4§82. I have so far left out a further detail in Myth Two as I have reconstructed it. According to this myth, which would be compatible with the myth as we see it at work in Song 17 of Sappho, Menelaos was not the only one of the two Sons of Atreus who visited Lesbos. Also visiting was his brother Agamemnon.

4§83. We have already seen that Myth One, compatible with the mythological traditions of Tenedos, situates the quarrel between Menelaos and Agamemnon at Troy, even before Agamemnon arranges for a sacrifice of one hundred cattle there. But now I argue that Myth Two, compatible with the mythological traditions of Lesbos, situates the quarrel of Menelaos and Agamemnon not at Troy—and certainly not at Tenedos—but rather at Lesbos. In Myth Two, as we are about to see, both Sons of Atreus visited Lesbos, and they quarreled there with each other. Further, we will see that such a quarrel between Menelaos and Agamemnon at Lesbos happened not before but after a grand sacrifice of one hundred cattle there. And, even further, we will see that the quarrel was linked with the ultimate failure of that sacrifice.

Failure for ritual in the past time of myth, success for ritual in its own present time

4§84. The clearest sign of failure, in terms of the narrative embedded in Song 17 of Sappho, is the wish that we see being formulated in heroic times—when it was announced-in-prayer that a festival is to be arranged at Lesbos. The eortā‘festival’ (2: ἐόρτ[α]) that was arātā‘announced-in-prayer’ (3: ἀράταν)—in the context of an animal sacrifice, as I reconstruct it—was instituted in hopes of ‘finding the way’ back home from Troy (7: [ὄ]δ̣ο̣ν … εὔρη̣[ν]). Hera, as the primary divinity to whom it was announced-in-prayer that there would be a seasonally recurring festival at Lesbos, would be heeding the Sons of Atreus, who had prayed to herimploring her tohelp them find their way back home safe and sound. But did she heed their prayer?

4§85. In the mythical world of heroes, a wish expressed by a hero who makes an announcement-in-prayer to a divinity is often not heeded by the divinity. For example, at Iliad2.402-429, when Agamemnon sacrifices an ox to Zeus (402–403, 422), he makes a wish-in-prayer, as expressed by the verb eukhesthai(411), that he will conquer the city of Troy (414–415) and kill Hector together with as many other enemies as possible (416–418)—all within the space of one single day (413). But Zeus refuses to bring this prayer to fulfillment (419)—even though the god accepts the offering of the sacrifice (420) and even though Agamemnon and his guests go ahead and cook the meat after killing the ox, dividing the beef among themselves and then feasting on it together (421–429). Although the narrative leaves it open whether, one fine day, Agamemnon will still succeed in his wish to conquer the city (419), it is made clear that the present wish-in-prayer, as performed by the hero on the occasion of this particular sacrifice, is a failure (again, 419). To paraphrase in Latin terms: the vōtum as a ‘wish-in-prayer’ is not granted here. And we have already seen another relevant example in the Iliad: when the hero Pandaros makes his announcement-in-prayer, as expressed by the verb eukhesthai (4.119), he says that he will perform an animal sacrifice (4.120) in hopes that Apollo, the god to whom he is praying, will grant him what he is wishing for, which is a safe homecoming (4.121). But the wish—and therefore the prayer—is a failure, since Pandaros will soon be killed on the battlefield (5.290-296). To paraphrase again in cognate Latin terms: the vōtum as an ‘announcement-in-prayer’ is a failure here because the same vōtum as a ‘wish-in-prayer’ is not fulfilled: the hero Pandaros will never return home safe and sound.

4§86. Similarly, in terms of my reconstruction of the announcement-in-prayer made by the Sons of Atreus in Song 17 of Sappho, the sacrifice that was announced-in-prayer by these heroes was a failure, since their wish to find the safest way back home was not granted to either one of them. In the case of Agamemnon, we will see that he was killed after having sailed home safely. As for Menelaos, he will be sailing around aimlessly for eight years before he finally finds his way back home. At least, that is what we read in the version we are about to consider in the Homeric Odyssey.

4§87. Before I can proceed with my reconstruction, I must first situate its relevance to Song 17 of Sappho. In this song, I argue, we see a reference to a sacrifice of one hundred cattle in the precinct of Hera at Lesbos, and this sacrifice is viewed, I also argue, as a failed ritual in the heroic past of a myth. In the myth, there is an announcement-in-prayer about performing the sacrifice, which will turn out to be a failure, whereas the seasonal reperforming of this sacrifice at the same place during the festival of Hera is expected to be a successful ritual in the present time of reperformanceas signaled in the song. In Song 17, as we have already seen, the persona of Sappho is praying to Hera herself, speaking to her about the eortā‘festival’ (2: ἐόρτ[α]) that is being arranged in honor of the goddess. The speaking Sappho goes on to say that this festival, which ‘we’ in the present are arranging (11: πόημεν) as ‘we’ offer supplications to Hera, is being arranged ‘in accordance with the ancient way’ (12: κὰτ τὸ πάλ̣[αιον) of celebration. In terms of the reading that we find in the papyrus, both Agamemnon and Menelaos had arranged (3: π̣ό̣ηϲαν) such a festival in ancient times by virtue of having announced-in-prayer the arrangement of such a festival in the first place. These conquerors of Troy needed to offer their prayer to Hera, Zeus, and Dionysus (9-10), and, in that prayer, they were to announce the arrangement of the eortā ‘festival’ (2: ἐόρτ[α]), which was thus arātā ‘announced-in-prayer (3: ἀράταν). It is at this festival that the persona of Sappho is ‘even now’ praying to Hera, nun de (11). And, in terms of my reconstruction, the centerpiece of such a seasonally recurring festival at Lesbos was a hecatomb, that is, the sacrificial slaughter of one hundred cattle.

4§88. So, the central question is this: if such a ritual of sacrificing one hundred cattle was a failure in the past time of the myth, how could it become a model for the success of that ritual as it exists in its own present time?

4§89. Such an idea of failure in myth and success in ritual is typical of an aetiology. And here I have reached the point where I offer a working definition, postponed till now. By aetiologyI mean a myth that explains and even confirms the stability of a ritual in the present by narrating a primordial event of instability for that ritual as performed in the mythical past. My formulation here is a compressed version of a more elaborate explanation originally developed by Walter Burkert[49] and further developed by myself, [50] which I now restate: an aetiology focuses on a foundational catastrophe in the mythologized past that explains and thus motivates continuing success in the ritualized present and future. [51]

4§90. An example that I have studied elsewhere in some detail is a complex of rituals and myths involving the god Apollo and the hero Pyrrhos at Delphi, where the overall ritual of slaughtering sheep and distributing in an orderly way their sacrificial meat inside the precinct of Apollo stands in sharp contrast with a myth, as reflected in Pindar’s Nemean7 and Paean6, about a disorderly distribution that resulted in the slaughtering of Pyrrhos himself when the hero arrived at Delphi to make sacrifice inside the precinct of the god. [52]

4§91. For another example of such an aetiology, I cite a story as retold by Herodotus (1.31.1–5) about a priestess of Hera and her two boys, named Kleobis and Biton. The mother and the two sons, all three of them, are involved as major characters in an aetiological myth about the ritual practice known as the hecatomb, which as we have seen was a sacrificial slaughtering of one hundred cattle in the precinct of the goddess Hera at the climax of the festival celebrated in her honor at Argos. Also involved as major ‘characters’ in the story are two sacrificial oxen. The two boys, described as āthlophoroi‘prize-winning athletes’, willingly took the place of the two sacrificial oxen, chosen to pull the wagon carrying the priestess across the plain of Argos—over a distance of 45 stadium-lengths—along a sacred way leading up to the precinct of Hera (1.31.2). The oxen had been late in arriving at the starting-point of the procession (again, 1.31.2),and this lateness, in terms of the story, is the aetiological explanation for their replacement by the two athletes. If these two oxen had not been late, they would have been slaughtered along with the other ninety-eight oxen that had been chosen for the mass sacrifice of one hundred cattle at the finishing-point of the procession, inside the precinct of Hera. At the feast that followed the sacrifice inside the precinct, the two boys died a mystical death after having pulled the wagon of the priestess from the starting-point all the way to this finishing-point of the procession (1.31.5). [53] Thus, by way of this death that they shared with each other, the boys became sacrificial substitutes for the two premier victims of the animal sacrifice.[54]

Homeric traces of a failure to perform a sacrifice

4§92. With these examples of aetiology in mind, I focus on a passage in Odyssey4 where Menelaos, narrating for Telemachus and the assembled company the tale of his own homecoming from Troy, explains why the gods had temporarily checked the winds that could bring him back home in the final phase of his sea voyage (351–362). At one point in the tale, Menelaos is stranded on the island Pharos, offshore from Egypt (354–360). And, in telling this part of the tale, the explanation that he gives for his temporary failure to sail on and to reach his homeland is this: because(352: ἐπεί) he had not performed a sacrifice of one hundred cattle to the gods. Here is the wording:

|351 Αἰγύπτῳ μ’ ἔτι δεῦρο θεοὶ μεμαῶτα νέεϲθαι |352 ἔϲχον, ἐπεὶ οὔ ϲφιν ἔρεξα τεληέϲϲαϲ ἑκατόμβαϲ· |353 οἱ δ’ αἰεὶ βούλοντο θεοὶ μεμνῆϲθαι ἐφετμέων.

|351 In Egypt did they hold me up, the gods did, though I sorely wanted to make a homecoming [neesthai] back here [deuro = at home, where I am speaking now]. |352 Yes, they held me up, since [epei] I did not perform for them a perfect sacrifice of one hundred cattle [hekatombai]. [55] |353 The gods always wanted their protocols to be kept in mind.

Odyssey 4.351–353

4§93. By contrast with this temporary failure of Menelaos in his homecoming, Agamemnon had already succeeded in sailing home, and Menelaos himself mentions this detail as he tells his own tale in Odyssey4. In telling the tale, the explanation that Menelaos gives for his brother’s successful sea voyage is this: becausethe goddess Hera had saved Agamemnon. Before I quote the relevant Homeric passage, I note here the background: Proteus had told Menelaos about this salvation of Agamemnon from the sea, and that is how Menelaos knows about it. As he retells the tale to Telemachus, Menelaos quotes the words of Proteus about the success of Agamemnon at sea, to be contrasted with the temporary failure of Menelaos himself. Here, then, are the words of Proteus:

|512 ϲὸϲ δέ που ἔκφυγε κῆραϲ ἀδελφεὸϲ ἠδ’ ὑπάλυξεν |513 ἐν νηυϲὶ γλαφυρῇϲι· ϲάωϲε δὲ πότνια Ἥρη.

|512 But your brother [= Agamemnon] escaped from the forces of destruction, and he slipped away |513 in his hollow ships. Hera had saved [sōzein] him.

Odyssey 4.512–513

4§94. As we learn, then, from the words of Proteus here in Odyssey4, Agamemnon was in fact saved at sea, since his voyage by sea was successful. But then he was killed after he landed near home, ambushed by Aigisthos, and so the rest of his voyage, by land, became a failure (514-537). After treacherously hosting him at a dinner, Aigisthos had slaughtered Agamemnon as if that hero were some sacrificial ox that is being fed in a manger(535). By contrast, the voyage of Menelaos by sea was ultimately successful, because he finally got around to making a sacrifice of one hundred cattle in Egypt (4.581–586). In making this sacrifice, Menelaos was following the instructions of Proteus (472–480), and, this way, he appeased the anger of the gods (583). Now Menelaos could at long last sail back to his homeland, safe and sound (584–586).[56]

4§95. We have seen, then, from the narrative of Menelaos in Odyssey4, that Agamemnon was saved at sea by the goddess Hera (again, 512–513). But why had Hera saved him? It was because, I argue, Agamemnon had at least tried to make a perfect sacrifice of one hundred cattle at Lesbos. By contrast, Menelaos had somehow failed to do his part in the corresponding sacrifice. In terms of my interpretation, based on the wording of Song 17 of Sappho, both Sons of Atreus had made an announcement-in-prayer about performing a sacrifice at Lesbos, but only Agamemnon succeeded in following through on that announcement.

4§96. I have already quoted the passage in Odyssey4 (351–353) where Menelaos says that the final phase of his sea voyage as he headed back home was held up by the gods precisely because he had not made a sacrifice of one hundred cattle. From the context, it is clear that this failure that made the gods so angry was a sin of omission, not commission. And his sin, I argue, was that he somehow failed to perform a sacrifice of one hundred cattle at Lesbos. But later on, when Menelaos does finally get around to performing a sacrifice of one hundred cattle in Egypt (581–586), his performance is successful, and thus he finally appeases the anger of the gods (583).

4§97. The reader’s first impression may be that the sin of omission on the part of Menelaos, that is, his failure to perform a successful sacrifice of one hundred cattle, happens in Egypt: after all, the finding of a solution for the sin happens at this place—when Menelaos finally gets around to performing such a sacrifice. But such a first impression is wrong, I think, since Egypt was merely the last possible place as an occasion for such a sin of omission. There were many other places that Menelaos had visited before he ever reached Egypt, and Egypt had been for him merely the final stopover in the course of a most problematic overall sea voyage back home from Troy. Yes, the gods were in the process of punishing Menelaos in Egyptfor his sin of omission when we see them interfering there with his sea voyage. And yes, the gods kept on interfering until Menelaos finally made the sacrifice, in Egypt, which was the place that turned out to be his point of departure in the very last phase of his sea voyage. But, as we will now see, the gods were already interfering with Menelaos in earlier phases of his sea voyage, and so the divine punishment for his sin of omission can be viewed as an ongoing series of misfortunes that kept on interfering with his travels after Troy.

4§98. The first such misfortune is already narrated by Nestor in Odyssey3, concerning the death, at Cape Sounion, of the hero Phrontis, who had been steering the ship of Menelaos (276–283). That death, caused by the god Apollo (279–280), now holds back Menelaos from sailing ahead. Only after he conducts a proper funeral for his comrade (284–285) does he recommence his sea voyage. Then, as Menelaos sails past the headlands of Maleiai, his ships are blown off course: some are swept away to Crete, where they run aground and are shattered (286–299), while five of them reach Egypt (299–300). [57] In sharp contrast, the hero Nestor has a safe and swift sea voyage back home to Pylos (182–183), having evidently rounded successfully the headlands of Maleiai.[58] Meanwhile, once he reaches Egypt, Menelaos takes to plundering and looting there, and he amasses vast treasures (301) as ‘he was wandering around with his ships’ (302: ἠλᾶτο ξὺν νηυϲί). Later, in Odyssey4, we learn from the narrative of Menelaos that his sea voyage had reached not only Egypt but also other exotic places, including Cyprus and Phoenicia (83), even Libya (85). After experiencing all these adventures, he was still just ‘wandering around’ in an aimless way (81 and 83: ἐπαληθείϲ, 91: ἠλώμην). As Menelaos himself remarks, he spent eight years just wandering around (82).

4§99. Already in the narrative of Nestor in Odyssey3, the aimlessness of the sea voyage of Menelaos is anticipated: whereas Agamemnon got back home from Troy relatively soon, only to get killed by Aigisthos, Menelaos kept on wandering from one place to the next in his many sea voyages, and the word for his directionless maritime wanderings is plazeto‘he was veering’ (254: πλάζετ’). Comparable, of course, are the even more extensive veerings of Odysseus in the overall Odyssey, as expressed by the same word plazesthai ‘veering’ already at the beginning of the epic: Odysseus is a hero ‘who veered [plangthē] in very many ways’ (1.1–2: ὃς μάλα πολλὰ | πλάγχθη).

4§100. So, where did all the veering begin for Menelaos? Where did his sea voyage start to go off course? According to one version of the myth about this hero’s travels by sea after Troy, as I will now argue, the veering can be traced all the way back to something that happened at Lesbos. I focus here on a detail we find in the tale told by Nestor in Odyssey3. In that tale, Menelaos was late in arriving at Lesbos:

|168 ὀψὲ δὲ δὴ μετὰ νῶϊ κίε ξανθὸϲ Μενέλαοϲ, |169 ἐν Λέϲβῳ δ’ ἔκιχεν δολιχὸν πλόον ὁρμαίνονταϲ

|168 He came late, golden-haired Menelaos did, after the two of us [= Nestor and Diomedes]. |169 It was at Lesbos that he [= Menelaos] caught up with us, as we were planning the long part of our sea voyage.

Odyssey 3.168–169

4§101. I interpret this wording to mean that Menelaos arrived too late to participate fully in a sacrifice of one hundred cattle at Lesbos. And the place for this sacrifice to happen would have been the precinct of Hera on that island. From the standpoint of the local myth that originated from Lesbos, as I have argued with reference to Song 17 of Sappho, both Agamemnon and Menelaos had announced-in-prayer, already at Troy, the arrangement of a festival for Hera at Lesbos, and what was wished-for in return was to find the best possible way to achieve a safe homecoming from Troy. So, in terms of my argument, what was announced-in-prayer was the performing of a sacrifice as the centerpiece of the festival to be arranged, but only one of the Sons of Atreus did his part in at least trying to make the sacrifice a success. That was Agamemnon. As for Menelaos, he somehow failed to do his part. And, in terms of my reconstruction, it was because he arrived too late for the sacrifice. Similarly, as we see in Odyssey4, Menelaos arrived too late in his homecoming: by the time he got home, he was too late to save his brother—and he was too late even to avenge his brother’s death, since Orestes, son of Agamemnon, had already done so by killing Aigisthos (546–547).

4§102. This theme of failing by being lateis an essential piece of my overall reconstruction of the myth about a sacrifice of one hundred cattle at Lesbos—a sacrifice that is featured as the climax of the festival that was announced-in-prayer by the Sons of Atreus. In terms of this reconstruction, Agamemnon sailed to the island and arranged to sacrifice one hundred cattle to Hera there, but Menelaos joined him only after the sacrifice was already in progress, since he did not arrive at Lesbos on time. In terms of this reconstruction, the quarrel between the Sons of Atreus must have happened during the feast that followed the sacrifice at Lesbos, just as the quarrel between Nestor and Odysseus happened at the feast that followed the sacrifice at Tenedos.

4§103. Menelaos seems to be idiosyncratic in his arrivals at sacrifices. For a striking example, I return here to the passage at Iliad 2.402–429 where Agamemnon sacrifices an ox to Zeus (402–403, 422) and makes a wish-in-prayer, as expressed by the verb eukhesthai (411), that he will conquer the city of Troy (414–415) and kill Hector together with as many other enemies as possible (416–418). To attend this sacrifice as well as the feast that follows the sacrifice, Agamemnon invites six heroes (404–407). But the hero Menelaos is not included in this group of six. Nevertheless, Menelaos does manage to attend, arriving as the seventh hero, without having been invited to the sacrifice (408–409): rather, he comes automatos, which is conventionally interpreted to mean ‘of his own accord’, or, to put it into popular idiom, ‘automatically’ (408). But the reason that is given here to explain why Menelaos comes automatos is uncanny: it is because, the narrative says, Menelaos can read the mind of his brother (408–409). The ability of Menelaos to read the mind of Agamemnon indicates a special meaning for the adjective automatos here, as I will now explain.

4§104. On the one hand, if Menelaos comes to the feast ‘on his own’, then we can expect his mind to be ‘operating by itself’—which is the meaning built into automatosas a compounding of the element auto-‘self’ with the element ma-t-, derived from the root *men-/*mn- meaning ‘mind’. So, Menelaos has a mind of his own. On the other hand, however, something unexpected is going on here: this mind of Menelaos, exceptionally, can read the mind of the brother, and so automatosin this context means not only ‘having a mind of his own’ but also ‘having the same mind’ as the brother has. [59] In terms of this interpretation, Agamemnon and Menelaos have the same mind because they share their own selves with each other. [60]

4§105. At Lesbos, by contrast, it seems that the mental link of Menelaos with his brother has somehow been broken. That is why he fails to arrive on time. And now the quarrel between Menelaos and Agamemnon ensues. So, who is to blame? Perhaps it was Menelaos, who was late. Or perhaps it was Agamemnon, who might have forgotten to invite Menelaos, assuming that his brother was still reading his mind.

4§106. But what was the quarrel about, anyway? Here I must add one last relevant detail that I have found in Odyssey3. As Nestor is recounting the moment when Menelaos arrives late at Lesbos (168–169), he himself adds the detail that I have in mind here: the fact is, Nestor and Diomedes and the other Achaeans who were there at Lesbos were already ‘deliberating’ (169: ὁρμαίνονταϲ) about two alternative ways of continuing their sea voyage. I argue that, in the version of the myth originating from Lesbos, Agamemnon was also part of these deliberations, and then the latecomer Menelaos joined in as well. I must stress that, although Menelaos was late for the sacrifice at Lesbos, he would have been there for the feasting that happened after the sacrifice. That was when, in terms of my reconstruction, the deliberations took place—and that was when the quarrel between the Sons of Atreus broke out in the version of the story that originated from Lesbos.

4§107. In these deliberations, as narrated in Odyssey 3, about two alternative ways of sailing home, one of the two ways was to take the sea route north of Chios, thus venturing into the open sea and heading straight for the island of Euboea (170–171). The alternative way was to take the sea route south of Chios (172). That was the safer way. Nestor goes on to say that he and Diomedes and their followers, before deciding which sea route to take, had consulted a divinity, not named, who advised that they should head straight for the distant island of Euboea, thus taking the more direct sea route (173–178). In this version of the story as transmitted in Odyssey3, Menelaos and his followers sailed along with Nestor and Diomedes (276–277). Or, to say it more precisely, Menelaos sailed with them at least as far as Cape Sounion.

4§108. Here I reconstruct another aspect of the alternative version of the story, originating from Lesbos, that told about the deliberations following the sacrifice performed by Agamemnon at Lesbos. After the deliberations, Agamemnon did not sail along with Nestor and Diomedes, and, instead, he took the more indirect sea route after he left Lesbos, while Menelaos, unlike Agamemnon, had taken the more direct sea route, choosing the same way that was chosen by Nestor. In terms of this alternative version, I argue, the deliberations about choosing between more direct and less direct sea routes led to a quarrel between Agamemnon and Menelaos, who disagreed about which way was the right way. I see an irony built into the idea that the setting for the quarrel would have been the sacrifice at Lesbos—and that Menelaos had been late in arriving at that ritual event. And, as we have already seen, he will also be late—eight years too late—in arriving back home, even though he chooses the more direct route from Lesbos.

4§109. By contrast with Agamemnon, who was saved at sea by Hera because he had at least tried to make a perfect sacrifice to her—at Lesbos, according to the Lesbian tradition as I reconstruct it—Menelaos got no such direct help from the goddess. After he sailed off from Lesbos, as we see from the narrative of Odyssey 4, his sea voyage did not take him back home right away, since he was diverted many times to many different places—though the final phase of his sea voyage, from Egypt back to his homeland, turned out to be successful. In the end, Menelaos succeeded because he finally got around to making a perfect sacrifice of one hundred cattle in Egypt (581–586)—not in Lesbos—following the instructions of Proteus (472–480). This way, Menelaos appeased the anger of the gods (583), and now he could at long last sail back to his homeland, safe and sound (584–586).

[[In the printed version edited by Bierl and Lardinois 2016, §§68–109 have been excised.]]

A ‘smoking gun’ in the Homeric narrative

4§110. For me the ‘smoking gun’ in the Homeric narrative about the sea voyages of Agamemnon and Menelaos after Troy in Odyssey3 and 4 is the action taken by the goddess Hera. As we have seen it said explicitly in Odyssey4.512–513, Hera acts as the savior of Agamemnon in the course of his own final sea voyage. The salvation is temporary, since Agamemnon is killed after he makes his landing, but this salvation-at-sea is explicitly highlighted in the Odyssey. By contrast, the corresponding sea voyage of Menelaos fails to bring him back safe and sound to his homeland right away. This contrast between success and failure in the sea voyages of the Sons of Atreus is correlated, I argue, with a contrast between the complete and the incomplete performance of a sacrifice to Hera at Lesbos. The successful sea voyage of Agamemnon matches his observance of the sacrifice, whereas the unsuccessful sea voyage of Menelaos matches a non-observance.

4§111. The fact that the narrative of Odyssey4 shows Hera as the savior of Agamemnon at sea signals a Lesbian origin for this part of the overall Homeric narrative—but only for this part. The other parts of the narrative are adjusted to fit other versions that originate not from Lesbos. A salient example is the fact that the savior of Nestor in Odyssey4 is certainly not Hera but Poseidon, who is the principal divinity of the sea in the overarching Homeric narrative. That is why, as we saw in Odyssey 3, Nestor arranges for a sacrifice of bulls to Poseidon as his act of thanksgiving to that god for letting him sail safely from Lesbos to Euboea (178–179). {472|473}

4§112. I argue, then, that the role of Hera as a savior of Agamemnon at sea signals, exceptionally, the connection of the narrative in Odyssey4 with the worship of Hera at Lesbos. And I must add that, from the new evidence of the Brothers Song, we can see clearly that Hera was worshipped in Lesbos as a divinity of the sea. In this song of Sappho, her persona speaks of praying to Hera by imploring the goddess to save her brother at sea—and to save also his ship and its cargo and thus even the wealth of his family (lines 5–6 [1–2], 9–13 [5–9]). And I highlight here the independent evidence showing that Hera was worshipped in her function as a divinity of the sea elsewhere as well in the Greek-speaking world. [61]

Praying before sacrificing

4§113. A question remains: if Menelaos failed in the performance of the sacrifice at Lesbos, did he fail also in the performance of an announcement-in-prayer that came before the sacrifice? Here I consider two different explanations.

4§114. According to one explanation, Menelaos did indeed fail to perform such a prayer, since he did not attend the sacrifice of the hundred cattle, which would have been preceded by an introductory prayer.

4§115. As for an alternative explanation, which I prefer, it allows us to keep the reading of the text as transmitted in the papyrus. As I read Song 17 of Sappho, Menelaos as well as Agamemnon did plan to make a sacrifice at Lesbos, and that is why we see at line 3 the plural form of the verb π̣ό̣ηϲαν ‘they arranged’, the direct object of which is the relative pronoun referring to the festival that was ‘announced-in-prayer’, ἀράταν. In terms of the syntax, the subject of this verb is Ἀτρέϊδαι̣, a nominative plural referring to ‘the Sons of Atreus’, further defined at line 4 as βαϲίληεϲ ‘kings’ and then further described at line 5 as the achievers of great tasks like the capture of Troy. To my mind, this word for ‘kings’ must refer to Agamemnon and Menelaos together, who not only achieved the conquest of Troy together but then set out for Lesbos together: we can see this detail at line 7, where we read τυίδ’ ἀπορμάθεν[τεϲ] ‘having set forth to come here [tuide]’. So the two brothers must have planned together the sacrifice that led to the festival that is described as ‘announced-in-prayer’, ἀράταν. When I say planned togetherI could also say wished together, in that the sacrifice was wished by the two of them together. But the problem was, the sacrifice was {473|474} not performed by the two of them together. Earlier, I had said that ‘wishing-in-prayer’ is the other side of ‘announcing-in-prayer’ as expressed by verbs like eukhesthai and arâsthai. And now we see that this two-sidedness of prayer can help explain why ἀράταν ‘announced-in-prayer’ both applies and does not apply to Menelaos: this hero wished that Hera would let him find the way for a safe homecoming, but he did not get to perform the final announcement-in-prayer that comes with the wish-in-prayer, since he did not get to participate in the sacrifice where the final announcement was made by Agamemnon. But the wish is there, and Menelaos surely participated in the wish expressed by way of the adjective ἀράταν ‘announced-in-prayer’ that describes the festival that was ‘made’ by both brothers, according to this reading.

4§116. In terms of this explanation, there were at least two phases of the announcement-in-prayer here. First, the two Sons of Atreus jointly made the prayer when they were still at Troy, expressing their shared wish for a safe homecoming and at the same time making a commitment to the sacrifice that would be performed at Lesbos. But then, by the time the sacrifice was finally performed there, it was Agamemnon alone who performed it. And this sacrifice would have been introduced by a reiteration of the announcement-in-prayer that had originally been made at Troy. As I said before, following the formulation of Muellner, what you announce in prayer does not have to be a promise about the future: it can also be an announcement about the present or even about the past. And something that is wished for can be prayed for many times, as we see even from the contexts of polu-arātos, which I have so far translated simply as ‘very much wished-for’. As we see from those contexts, we could also translate ‘very often wished-for’.

Choral performance in the precinct of Hera at Lesbos

4§117. I now turn to the question: how are we to envision the performance of song at the festival founded by the Sons of Atreus? As I will argue, Sappho as the main speaker of Song 17 is the main performer of such a song and, as such, she is speaking for all of Lesbos in the context of a grand sacrifice that replicates the hecatomb that had once been announced-in-prayer by the Sons of Atreus. And such a grand sacrifice is already anticipated, I argue, in the Brothers Song, where the speaking persona of Sappho refers to the procession that will lead to the precinct of Hera as the site of a choral performance that will celebrate the hecatomb.

4§118. I start by highlighting here a relevant detail that we find in the new evidence of the supplemented version of Song 17 of Sappho and in the older evi{474|475}dence of Song 130b of Alcaeus: in both songs, the women of Lesbos made a ritual cry of ololūgā‘ululation’ in the context of celebrating the festival of Hera in the precinct of the goddess at Lesbos (Sappho 17.15 and Alcaeus 130b.20). As I argued in my previous work on Alcaeus 130b, such ululation is an aspect of the choral performance of women who are participating in the festival. [62] And I now add that the actual cry of ululation could signal a climactic moment in an overall choral performance. One such moment is when cattle are slaughtered at a sacrifice. A striking example is the description in Odyssey3 of a bovine sacrifice arranged by Nestor at Pylos: at the moment when the slaughter actually takes place there, the womenfolk signal that moment by performing a ululation (450: ὀλόλυξαν). [63]

4§119. I conclude, then, that the sacrifice to Hera that takes place in her precinct on the occasion of her festival in Lesbos is a hecatomb, that is, a sacrifice of one hundred cattle. It was this sacrifice that Agamemnon and Menelaos had vowed-in-prayer to perform for the first time, according to the myth retold in Song 17 of Sappho.

4§120. And here I can come back full circle to a myth, originating from Argos, about the precinct of Hera at Argos. According to the myth, as retold in Dictys of Crete (1.16), it was inside this precinct that Agamemnon was chosen to lead the expedition to Troy. This formal beginning within the precinct of Hera, where the festival of the goddess was celebrated by the Argives, must have been a sacrifice, corresponding to the seasonally recurring thusiāat the festival of Hera in Argos. As I have already shown, this word thusiārefers to the festival itself, though its basic meaning is ‘sacrifice’. At Argos, such a sacrifice is what was called a hecatomb, that is, the ritual slaughter of one hundred cattle. In the story as reflected in Song 17 of Sappho, on the other hand, Agamemnon is inside the precinct of Hera at Lesbos, not at Argos. Together with Menelaos, Agamemnon had vowed-in-prayer to perform a hecatomb at Lesbos to signal a correct ending for the war by expressing a formal wish to find the best way home. But, in terms of my reconstruction, Menelaos failed to arrive in time for the actual sacrifice. {475|476}

Looking back diachronically at the precinct of Hera

4§121. In analyzing the aetiological myth that motivated the seasonally recurring festival of Hera at Lesbos, I have taken into account the evidence of the new textual supplements to Song 17 of Sappho together with the evidence of indirect Homeric references to the festival in Odyssey3 and 4. With this evidence in place, I now proceed to analyze diachronically the basics of what we now know about the venue for the festival, understanding that this venue was the precinct of Hera.

4§122. I start with the order in which the speaking persona in Song 17 of Sappho names the three divinities: they were Hera herself, addressed as ‘you’ (9), and then Zeus (again, 9), and then Dionysus (10).

4§123. These three divinities in Song 17 of Sappho are the same three divinities whose sacred space is the temenos‘precinct’ that we see pictured in Song 129 of Alcaeus. The speaking persona in Song 129, Alcaeus himself, is literally pointing to this temenos(129.2) with the deictic pronoun tode ‘this here’ (129.1-2: τόδε …τέμενοϲ) as he identifies the three divinities that occupy the sacred space of this precinct:

1) The first divinity to be identified is Zeus, who is given here the epithet antiaos (5: ἀντίαον), which is the same epithet we saw in Song 17 of Sappho (9: Δί’ ἀντ[ίαον]). There I translated this epithet as ‘lord of suppliants’, and now we can see why such a translation applies: a scholion in the papyrus explains this word antiaos here in Song 129 of Alcaeus as meaning hikesios (ἱκέϲιον) which is a classical Greek epithet meaning ‘receiving suppliants’.

2) The second divinity is ‘the Aeolian goddess’, who is addressed as ‘you’ by the speaking persona (6: ϲὲ δ’ Αἰολήιαν … θέον). As I have already argued, this ‘Aeolian goddess’ must be Hera herself.

3) The third divinity is Dionysus (9: Ζόννυϲϲον), about whom the speaking persona speaks as ‘this one here’ (8: τόνδε). [64]

4§124. So, ‘this precinct here’ in Song 129 of Alcaeus (1-2: τόδε … τέμενοϲ) matches the place signaled in Song 17 of Sappho as the setting for a sacrifice once announced-in-prayer by Agamemnon and Menelaos. The prayer of these kings in Song 17 had addressed the same three divinities, offering a supplication (9–10) by announcing-in-prayer (arâsthai) a festival (eortā) to be held at this precinct (2), and the kings thus established (poieîn) the festival ‘for you’ (4: τόι), that is, for Hera. {476|477} And, just as we saw in Song 129 of Alcaeus, we see also here in Song 17 of Sappho a deictic reference that ties the speaker—in this case, Sappho herself—to the place that Louis Robert identified as Messon in Lesbos: according to Song 17 of Sappho, it was announced in heroic times that the festival of Hera should take place tuide‘here’ (7: τυίδε). In this context, I draw attention to the fact that Hera, occupying her own place in the sacred space ‘here’, is addressed directly as ‘you’ by the speaking persona of Sappho (again, 4: τόι, also, at 11: ϲέ). And the eortā‘festival’ of Hera is signaled as ‘your’ festival (2: ϲὰ … ἐόρτ[α]). As Claude Calame remarks, most incisively, about the use of the grammatical second person here in Song 17 of Sappho, ‘Hera is always present as you’. [65]

4§125. As the eternally present ‘you’ of the precinct, the identity of the goddess Hera subsumes even the identity of her consort, the god Zeus, who is in this context ranked after rather than before Hera in the Brothers Song. Zeus functions as the coefficient of Hera in bringing favorable winds for voyagers at sea (lines 13-20 [9–16]), and, in this role, he is described as basileus Olumpō‘king of Olympus’ (line 17 [13]: βαϲίλευϲ Ὀλύμπω). By now we can see that even this role of Zeus as basileus‘king’ is subordinate to the role of Hera as basilēa ‘queen’ (line 10 [6]). Here I return to the reference in Song 130a of Alcaeus to the precinct of Hera as the teikhos basilēion (15: τεῖχοϲ βαϲίληιον), glossed as ‘Hera’s wall’ in an adjoining scholion (τὸ τῆϲ ῞Ηραϲ). In the light of this gloss, I had already translated teikhos basilēion as ‘the queenly wall’, not ‘the kingly wall’.

4§126. So, all aspects of Hera’s precinct at Lesbos are understood primarily in terms of her omnipresence. Even more than that, the entire island of Lesbos belongs to Hera as its queen, and that is why, just as Zeus belongs to Hera as his queen, so also he belongs intimately to the landscape of her island. A case in point is the epithet of Zeus, basileus Olumpō‘king of Olympus’, in the Brothers Song (again, line 17 [13]: βαϲίλευϲ Ὀλύμπω). The fact is, this Olympus is a mountain local to Lesbos. It is situated to the south of Messon and to the west of Mytilene, and it is still called Olympus to this day (the Modern Greek name remains ῎Ολυμποϲ). Unlike the Panhellenic Olympus of Homeric poetry, which is situated on the mainland of European Greece, this Olympus of Lesbos is part of an integrated local mythological landscape that fits the local ritual landscape of Hera’s precinct.

4§127. I should add that the dyad of Hera and Zeus in the local mythology of Lesbos is a model of divine coefficiency, as we can see even from sources exterior to the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus. A shining example from the early Hellenistic era is a decree recorded in an inscription from the city of Mytilene in Lesbos, {477|478} SEG36.750, dated to the 330s BCE, [66] where we see that the goddess Hera was predominant among the gods of the city, since even her consort, Zeus himself, is qualified by way of the epithet Hēraios, which means ‘belonging to Hera’ (6–7: τῶι Διὶ τῶι ᾿Η|ραίωι). [67]

4§128. I turn next to the god Dionysus, third in the triad of divinities who figure in Song 17 of Sappho (again, 10). The relationship of this divinity with the dyad of Hera and Zeus is not clear at first glance, but, in this case as well, I see a pattern of syncretism where the status of Dionysus, like that of Zeus, is subordinated to the predominant status of Hera. A sign of such subordination, as I am about to argue, is the fact that the poetic language of Sappho and Alcaeus as spoken in the precinct of Hera actually integrates the idea of an omnipresent Hera with the idea of a selectively present Dionysus in moments of heightened emotion.

Choral performance by girls and by women and by Sappho herself in the precinct of Hera at Lesbos

4§129. Now that I have considered the omnipresence of Hera as a ‘you’ in the precinct of the goddess at Lesbos, I turn to the ‘we’ who celebrate the festival of Hera on the occasion marked by Song 17 of Sappho. Who are the ‘we’ here? My answer, in general, is that the ‘we’ stands for the people of Lesbos. More specifically, however, the ‘we’ in Song 17 stands for both the speaking persona of Sappho and the attending okhlos‘throng’ of parthenoi‘girls’ together with gunaikes ‘women’ (13-15: [ὄ]χλοϲ … παρθέ[νων … γ]υναίκων). I see an imitation of this concept of okhlos ‘throng’ in the Ovidian Letter 15.199-202, referring to a turba ‘throng’ (202) of Lesbides ‘Lesbian women’ (199, 120, 121), described as nupturaque nuptaque proles ‘soon-to-be-married and already-married offspring [of the island]’ (202). I highlight, as a new piece of evidence, the wording I have just quoted from Song 17 (13–15). We see here a collocation of the words for ‘girls’ and ‘women’, situated in a context where the persona of Sappho herself is speaking for all of them. In this role of speaking on behalf of all the women of Lesbos, Sappho is the lead singer of a choral performance at the festival of Hera within a space {478|479} that is evidently the precinct of the goddess. And, as I will argue, this choral performance represents, as it were, not only all the women but also all the people of Lesbos in general. Such is the role of the speaking ‘we’ of Song 17.

4§130. The new piece of evidence, as I have just described it, concerning the participation of girls and women together with Sappho herself at the festival of Hera, can be used to counter an older interpretation of Song 17, according to which this song did not necessarily refer to the festival of Hera as celebrated in the precinct of the goddess. [68] In terms of this older interpretation, the speaking Sappho could have been referring only to girls who were present at the precinct, not to women. But now we see in the supplemented version of Song 17 that the speaking persona of Sappho is in fact referring to the festival of Hera as celebrated in the precinct of the goddess. And now we see also that women as well as girls are pictured as participating in this festival of Hera. Further, the collocation of the word okhlos‘throng’ with the words parthenoi‘girls’ together with gunaikes ‘women’ (17.13–15: [ὄ]χλοϲ … παρθέ[νων … γ]υναίκων) is parallel to what we see in Song 44 of Sappho describing a choral scene of celebration at the wedding of Hector and Andromache. In this song we see the collocation of okhlos ‘throng’ with gunaikes ‘women’ and parthenikai‘girls’ (44.14-15: ὄχλοϲ | γυναίκων τ’ ἄμα παρθενίκα[ν] τ’ ἀπ[αλ]οϲφύρων). Also, this song shows that the entire aggregate of women and girls, pais okhlos ‘the entire throng’, are participants in the celebration (44.14: παῖϲ ὄχλοϲ). [69]

4§131. Here I return to Songs 129 and 130b of Alcaeus, referring to a temenos ‘precinct’ (129.2 and 130b.13: τέμενοϲ) that is xunon‘common’ (129.3: ξῦνον) to all the people of the island of Lesbos. As we have seen, Song 130b says that this precinct is sacred to three divinities: Zeus, Hera, and Dionysus (5–9). Evidently, then, the setting here is the same as the setting in Song 17 of Sappho, which likewise shows that the precinct is sacred to these three divinities (9–10).

4§132. Further, in Song 130b of Alcaeus, we see a reference to Lesbiades ‘women of Lesbos’ (17: Λ[εϲβί]αδεϲ) who are explicitly described as gunaikes‘women’ (19: γυναίκων). According to the older interpretation that I just mentioned, this wording refers to an event involving only women at the precinct—and not to any event involving girls. In terms of this older interpretation, Song 130b of Alcaeus {479|480} excludes girls just as Song 17 of Sappho supposedly excludes women. But now we know, on the basis of the supplemented version of Song 17, that the event to which Song 17 refers does in fact include women as well as girls, and that this event is in fact the festival of Hera.

4§133. That said, I am ready to argue that Song 130b of Alcaeus, like Song 17 of Sappho, is referring to a choral performance by the women of Lesbos at the festival of Hera that is being celebrated in the precinct of the goddess. Bruno Gentili had drawn attention to two words in this Song 130b of Alcaeus that actually refer to choral performance: the first word is ololūgā (20: [ὀ]λολύγαϲ), with reference to the ‘ululation’ of the women of Lesbos, and the second word is the accompanying epithet īrā‘sacred’ (20: ἴρα[ϲ]). [70] A third word that is relevant here in Song 130b of Alcaeus is another epithet that accompanies ololūgā‘ululation’: the ritual cry of the women of Lesbos is not only īrā ‘sacred’ (20: ἴρα[ϲ]), it is also eniausiā ‘yearly’ (again, 20: ἐνιαυϲίαϲ). On the basis of these three words, we can see that the ritual described in Song 130b must have been a part of the seasonally recurring festival of Hera, featuring some kind of choral performance by the Lesbiades ‘women of Lesbos’, as indicated by the reference to ‘the sacred seasonally-recurring ululation’. [71] And now the new textual supplements for Song 17 of Sappho show decisively that girls as well as women participated in choral performance at the festival of Hera. Moreover, these new supplements show also that the choral performance of the Lesbiades‘women of Lesbos’, as they are called in Song 130b of Alcaeus, involves not only the girls and the women of Lesbos in general but also, even more important, the speaking persona of Sappho in particular. In Song 17 of Sappho, as we can see in the light of the new textual supplements, this persona speaks for both the girls and the women of Lesbos.

4§134. The newly-supplemented evidence of Song 17 of Sappho, showing the choral performance of girls and women and Sappho herself at the festival of Hera, fits what we already know from the wording of a poem in the Greek Anthology (9.189). This poem refers explicitly to a choral performance led by Sappho herself at the precinct of Hera in Lesbos. Sappho is pictured as the lead singer in a khoros‘chorus’ (3: χορόν) of Lesbides‘women from Lesbos’ (2: Λεϲβίδεϲ) who in turn are pictured as dancing inside a temenos ‘precinct’ sacred to the goddess Hera (1: τέμενοϲ … ῞Ηρηϲ). {480|481}

4§135. In my 1993 essay on Songs 129 and 130b of Alcaeus, ‘Alcaeus in sacred space’, I backed up the argument published in the 1960 article of Louis Robert concerning the points of reference that we read in the poem taken from the Anthology. [72] Robert had connected the choral scene as described in that poem with a ritual event we see described in the scholia for Iliad9.30: ‘the people of Lesbos celebrate a beauty contest [agōn] of women [gunaikes] in the precinct [temenos] of Hera, and it is called the Kallisteia’ (Παρὰ Λεϲβίοιϲ ἀγὼν ἄγεται κάλλουϲ γυναικῶν ἐν τῷ τῆϲ Ἥραϲ τεμένει, λεγόμενοϲ Καλλιϲτεῖα). [73] Supporting Robert, I argued that the ritual event of this ‘beauty contest’ at Lesbos was a kind of choral performance in its own right, matching the description of the choral performance in the poem taken from the Anthology. And now, on the basis of the new evidence supplementing the text of Song 17 of Sappho, I argue further that both this beauty contest of the Kallisteiaand the choral performance of the Lesbiades in Song 130b of Alcaeus were integral parts of one and the same festival of Hera in Lesbos.

4§136. In making this argument, I now consider yet another reference to such a beauty contest. In the dictionary of Hesychius (v. 3 p. 213 ed. Hansen 2005), we find this entry: ‘pulaiídees: this is the name for those who are judged [krinesthai] in a beauty contest of women and who win [over the others]’ (πυλαιΐδεεϲ· αἱ ἐν κάλλει κρινόμεναι τῶν γυναικῶν καὶ νικῶϲαι). The wording here is strikingly similar to the wording in Song 130b of Alcaeus, where the female participants in the choral performance taking place at the precinct of Hera are described as ‘women of Lesbos, judged [krinesthai] for their beauty’ (20: Λ[εϲβί]αδεϲ κριννόμεναι φύαν).

4§137. Taking into account such similarities in wording, I now have further reason to argue that the beauty contest of the Kallisteiais a choral event, just as the performance of song and dance by Sappho together with her chorus of Lesbidesin the poem taken from theAnthology is pictured as a choral event.

A diachronic view of Hera’s festival at Lesbos

4§138. Essential for my argumentation here is the use of the word that refers to the festival of Hera in Song 17 of Sappho, eortā (2: ἐόρτ[α]). The same word for ‘festival’, in its Attic form heortē, is attested in another reference to the local custom of organizing beauty contests in Lesbos. The reference comes from Theophrastus, Fragment 564 (ed. Fortenbaugh), as cited by Athenaeus 13.610a, where we {481|482} read about ‘judgments of women’ (κρίϲειϲ γυναικῶν) held at Lesbos, and where it is specified that the contest is ‘concerning beauty’ (περὶ … κάλλουϲ). In the context of what is also said in Athenaeus 13.610a, which is the text that frames this reference from Theophrastus, other examples of such beauty contests are also cited, and it is made clear that the actual setting for these events is a heortē‘festival’, as in the case of a seasonally recurring beauty contest held in honor of the goddess Demeter in Arcadia, highlighted in Athenaeus 13.610f (ἑορτῇ).

4§139. Most remarkably, the reference from Theophrastus as cited by Athenaeus specifies that the observance of such a custom, where local women participate in a beauty context, is typical of two ancient Greek communities in particular. Besides highlighting the people of Lesbos as practitioners of beauty contests, the same report highlights, symmetrically, the people of Tenedos: ‘just as it [= the custom] is observed in the regions of the people of Tenedos and of the people of Lesbos’ (Athenaeus 13.610a: καθάπερ καὶ παρὰ Τενεδίοιϲ καὶ Λεϲβίοιϲ).

4§140. Here it becomes vitally important for me to emphasize that the island of Tenedos, like the island of Lesbos, was an Aeolic community. For background, I now refer to a separate project that focuses on the Aeolic traditions of Tenedos. [74] Here are two details that I highlight from that project.

4§141. The first detail comes from the testimony of Strabo 13.1.32 C596 and 13.1.46 C604. As you travel south along the Asiatic coastline near Troy, passing a site named tò Akhílleion, which means ‘the place of Achilles’, you come to a region named Akhaíïon, meaning ‘the place of the Achaeans’. [75] This region, Strabo says, is the peraiāof Tenedos, by which he means the part of a ‘mainland’ that belongs to an outlying island. In this case, the outlying island is Tenedos, and Strabo refers to the city of this island-state as a polis Aiolis ‘Aeolian city’, highlighting its two harbors and a shrine that is sacred to Apollo Smintheus (13.1.46 C604).

4§142. The second detail comes from Pindar’s Nemean 11, a song created for the praise of an aristocrat from the island of Tenedos. According to the song, this aristocrat was descended from ancestors who came from Amyklai with Orestes to settle Tenedos (34), and these settlers of the island are imagined as ‘a bronze-clad horde of Aeolians’ (35: Αἰολέων ϲτρατιὰν χαλκεντέα).

4§143. These two details about Tenedos, in view of the Aeolic traditions of this island, are relevant to the report we read from Theophrastus (again, Fragment 564 as cited in Athenaeus 13.610a) concerning the parallelism between the {482|483} traditions of Tenedos and Lesbos in celebrating beauty contests for women. In view of the existing parallelism, I am ready to argue that the beauty contests held in Aeolic Tenedos were choral events, just as I argue that the beauty contests held in Aeolic Lesbos were choral events. Further, since the choral events at Lesbos were part of a festival that was aetiologized, as I argue, in a myth about a sacrifice arranged by the Achaeans when they visited the island of Lesbos, as mentioned in Song 17 of Sappho, I can also argue for a parallel at Tenedos: there too, the beauty contests would have been choral events that were part of a festival that was aetiologized in a myth about a sacrifice arranged by the Achaeans when they visited the island of Tenedos. And such a pairing of aetiological narratives would correspond to the pairing of epic narratives in Odyssey3 and Odyssey 4 about the visits of Achaean heroes to the Aeolic islands of Tenedos and Lesbos after their victory at Troy.

4§144. Ultimately, the Homeric narrative privileged the local myth of Aeolic Tenedos over the local myth of Aeolic Lesbos. In Odyssey3, as we saw, the grand sacrifice that took place after the conquest of Troy is localized at Tenedos, where only Menelaos participated in that sacrifice, while Agamemnon stayed behind at Troy in order to make his own separate sacrifice there and not at Tenedos. In terms of this version, evidently derivable from Tenedos, Agamemnon was planning to make his sacrifice to Athena at Troy. In terms of the version derivable from Lesbos, on the other hand, he was planning to make his sacrifice to Hera at Lesbos.

4§145. By contrast, in Odyssey 4, neither Agamemnon nor Menelaos is shown in the act of making any grand sacrifice that is localized at Lesbos, and the island is mentioned only the context of accentuating, without explanation, the lateness of Menelaos in arriving at that island. This way, in terms of my argument, Homeric poetry slights the prestige of the grand sacrifice that was annually observed in the precinct of Hera at Lesbos—a prestige that continued to be recognized in Song 17 of Sappho.

A synchronic view of Hera’s festival at Lesbos

4§146. From a diachronic point of view, then, I have argued that the institution of beauty contests was in fact a traditional aspect of the festival of Hera as celebrated at her precinct in Lesbos. Accordingly, I think there is no reason to doubt that the word referring to the festival of Hera in Song 17 of Sappho, eortā(2: ἐόρτ[α]), signals a set of ritual events that includes the beauty contests of women. But there is likewise no reason to doubt that this same set of ritual events also includes the choral singing and dancing of girls. From a synchronic {483|484} point of view, as we have already seen in the text of Song 17, the word eortāsignals the participation of girls as well as women in the celebration of Hera’s festival.

4§147. And what unifies the roles of girls and women in the course of this celebration is the role of Sappho herself as the speaking persona who leads the choral singing and dancing. The clearest example is Song 17. This song of Sappho, by way of her speaking persona, is presenting itself as a choral event. And, whether or not the girls and the women of Lesbos need to be pictured as performing separately from each other, the figure of Sappho remains the notional leader of the choral singing and dancing performed here by all the women of Lesbos, including the girls. Sappho is speaking for the female choruses of Lesbos, and these choruses are in turn speaking for all of Lesbos.

4§148. As I noted already, I have ever since 1990 argued that Sappho is a choral personality. [76] Such a personality, we now see, comes to life in the context of Song 17 of Sappho, where the speaker is attending the festival of Hera as celebrated in the precinct of the goddess.

Sappho, Alcaeus, and the theology of Hera’s precinct at Lesbos

4§149. Now that we understand more fully the importance of Hera in myths and rituals centering on the precinct of this goddess at Lesbos, I am ready to consider the ‘theology’ of this precinct—as reflected in the poetics of Sappho and Alcaeus considered together. When I say theologyhere, I mean the system of myths and ritualsshared by the overall community that identifies with the precinct of Hera. And, when I say community, I mean what was meant in the songs attributed to Sappho and Alcaeus, where the precinct of Hera was notionally a common ground for the entire island of Lesbos.

4§150. To anticipate the kinds of misunderstandings that I expect to encounter, I must add here two qualifications, which are both formulated from a diachronic perspective:

1) When I say that the theology of the precinct of Hera at Lesbos is a system, I am keeping in mind the fact that any system changes over time, and that any changes in a system are conditioned by historical vicissitudes. {484|485}

2) Just as the theology of Hera’s precinct is a system, so also the poetics that generated the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus is a system. Further, just as the theology changes over time, so also this poetic system changes over time, and the changes are likewise conditioned by historical vicissitudes.

4§151. These two diachronic considerations affect what I have to say both about the theology of the precinct of Hera and about the poetics of Sappho and Alcaeus. My thesis is this: the theology and the poetics originally coexisted with each other, as systems, but they eventually had a parting of the ways.

4§152. Originally, the theology of Hera’s precinct, which Louis Robert succeeded in identifying as the sacred space called Messon, not only coexisted with the poetics of Sappho and Alcaeus: more than that, the theology originally interacted with the poetics.

4§153. When I say ‘originally’ here, I have in mind once again the conventional dating for the era of Sappho and Alcaeus, which as we already saw can be placed around 600 BCE. As time went by, however, the system of poetics that we see at work in the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus broke free of its interactive theology as it started spreading, by way of poetic reception and transmission, beyond the historical context of Messon in Lesbos. By the time of Herodotus, who flourished in the second half of the fifth century BCE, the reception and the transmission of songs attributed to Sappho and Alcaeus had already long ago extended to such diverse places as (1) the city of Athens, [77] (2) the island state of Samos, [78] and (3) the interpolitical Greek emporium of Naucratis in Egypt. [79] In the venues of such diverse places, the poetic personae of Sappho {485|486} and Alcaeus could break free of their original venue just as readily as the poetics of their songs broke free. I was saying earlier, for example, that Sappho’s original songs, as performed chorally in the context of Hera’s precinct at Lesbos, were later reperformed monodically at private symposia and at public concerts in Athens, and, as a result, Sappho could now be re-imagined as a sympotic or a concertizing performer of monody. [80]

4§154. After the theology and the poetics had a parting of the ways, the theology could continue to maintain its existence—now a separate existence—in the myths and rituals of Lesbos during the centuries that superseded the original era of coexistence between the theology and the poetics. On the basis of ongoing research concerning the myths and rituals connected with the precinct of Hera at Lesbos, we can see that the theology of this precinct lived on, and dynamically so, well into the Hellenistic era of Lesbos. I have already mentioned, as an example from the early Hellenistic era, a decree recorded in an inscription from Mytilene, SEG36.750, dated to the 330s BCE, where we see that the goddess Hera was predominant among the gods of the city.

4§155. But such a separate existence of the theology as it continued to live on in Lesbos was not symmetrical with the separate existence of the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus, which had already found a new life outside of Lesbos. The theology of Lesbos could of course have no control any more over the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus. But such a loss of control would not stop the songs from pointing back to the old theology—pointing back even to the old landmarks of the precinct of Hera as renewed markers for the here and now of an ongoing poetic imagination.

4§156. If we consider Alcaeus, a perfect example of such pointing back is his Song 130b, where the speaking persona actually visualizes the choral performance of the women of Lesbos at the festival of Hera in the precinct of the goddess, highlighting their ritual cry of ululation, ololūgā(line 20).

4§157. As I suggested in my essay ‘Did Sappho and Alcaeus ever meet?’, the visualization of such a choral event in Song 130b of Alcaeus is voiced by a speaking persona that is not only choralbut also comastic, and such a comastic voice is connected with the worship of Dionysus.[81] Here I return to the fact that Dionysus, along with Zeus, shares in the occupancy of Hera’s precinct at Lesbos, as we see from the explicit wording of Song 129 of Alcaeus (lines 1–9). Such a theological {486|487} coexistence of Dionysus and Hera at the precinct of Hera corresponds, I argue, to the performative coexistence of comastic and choral voices as represented by Alcaeus and Sappho respectively. In the case of Song 130b of Alcaeus, for example, the voice of Alcaeus, speaking tohis comrades in comastic performance, can simultaneously speak about a choral performance of local women in the context of one and the same festival that is being celebrated in one and the same precinct. Thus the context of comastic performance, which is sacred primarily to Dionysus, can be syncretistic with the context of choral performance, which is sacred primarily to Hera. And such performative syncretism is made possible by the theological syncretism of the precinct in which the performances take place.

4§158. In terms of such theological syncretism, I am now ready to argue that the poetic language of Sappho and Alcaeus, as spoken in the precinct of Hera, integrates the idea of an omnipresent Hera with the idea of a selectively present Dionysus in moments of heightened emotion. In the case of Song 130b of Alcaeus, for example, the comastic voice signals not only the presence of Dionysus but also the omnipresence of Hera—by way of pointing to the choral performance of the local women of Lesbos in the precinct of the goddess. And the speaking persona of Alcaeus in Song 130b is visualizing such a choral performance in a context where he, addressing his comrades in his own comastic voice, expresses his own highly emotional state of mind as a way of acknowledging most dramatically the presence of the god Dionysus. [82]

4§159. The presence of Dionysus comes alive not only in comastic performance. The god can cross over into choral performance, as when the persona of Sappho in Song 1 speaks of her erotic passion as a kind of maenadic possession, describing her own thūmos‘heart’ as mainolēs‘frenzied’ (18: μαινόλαι θύμωι). We can appreciate the heightened emotional effect in this context when we consider the fact that this word mainolēs‘frenzied’ was a ritual epithet of Dionysus (Cornutus On the nature of the gods 60 ed. Lang, etc.). [83] {487|488}

The power of mimesis in the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus

4§160. The presence of such a Dionysiac theme in a song of Sappho shows that choral songmaking can actually make a mimesis of themes that belong to comastic songmaking. I am using the modern word mimesishere in the ancient sense of the Greek word mīmēsis, which simultaneously conveyed the primary idea of a dramatic ‘re-enactment’ as well as the secondary idea of a mechanical ‘imitation’. Relevant to these two meanings of mīmēsis is what I argued in an essay on the mimetic power of the chorus in general, as indicated by use of the verb mīmeîsthai ‘make mimesis’ in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (163) with reference to a chorus of Delian Maidens, who figure as the local Muses of Delos, sacred island of Apollo. [84]

4§161. Conversely, as I have argued at length in ‘Did Sappho and Alcaeus ever meet?’, the comastic songs of Alcaeus can make a mimesis of themes that belong to the choral songs of Sappho. [85] And such a pattern of mimesis only intensifies in a later era when the choral and the comastic songs of Sappho and Alcaeus respectively are transformed into monodic songs performed at private symposia and at public concerts. So, it should come as no surprise that we can find examples of monodic mimesis when we trace the reception of Sappho and Alcaeus forward in time, into the classical era of songmaking in fifth-century Athens. [86]

4§162. In the context of Athenian reception, I must add, the figures of Sappho and Alcaeus can now even ‘meet’ each other at symposia and at concerts, as we see when we consider a suggestively maenadic picture of the two of them interacting with each other in a simultaneously sympotic and concertizing duet performance: this picture of the pair graces one side of a red-figure vase of Athenian provenance, dating from around 480–470 BCE, while the other side features a symmetrical pairing of Dionysus and a maenad. [87] {488|489}

A salient example of choral mimesis in a song of Sappho

4§163. Moving backward in time, I now return to the original reception of Sappho and Alcaeus, which needs to be viewed in the context of Hera’s precinct at Lesbos. In this context, as I have argued, the speaking voice of Sappho maintains a choral personality that is still actively engaged in the overall myths and rituals connected with the precinct. As I prepare to bring my essay to a close, I highlight one particular example where this choral personality asserts itself in a most salient way. The example comes from the Brothers Song of Sappho, where her speaking voice says that she needs to be sent off to pray to basilēa Hēra‘Queen Hera’ (line 10 [6]: βαϲί̣λ̣η̣αν Ἤ̣ραν). As we have already seen, it is in the precinct of Hera that Sappho will pray for the safe return of her brother Kharaxos from his sea voyage. Even as she prays, as we have also seen, she is wishing that the brother is sailing his way back home (lines 11–12 [7–8]). In this personal moment, then, Sappho reveals her sisterly affection for her brother, despite all the frustrations. And such a self-revelation can be seen as a masterpiece of mimesis, where a choral voice re-enacts a personal experience.

4§164. But the experience of Sappho here in the Brothers Song is not only personal. It is also public. The whole song is staged as a choral performance, which is public, and the speaker will be speaking as a choral personality in the precinct of Hera, which is a public place that is notionally common to all the people of Lesbos. So the personal dimension of Sappho as a caring sister who retains her affection for her brother must be viewed together with her public dimension as a choral personality who speaks for the entire community in the sacred precinct of the goddess Hera. Both the personal and the public dimensions of Sappho are re-enacted in the mimesis of choral performance.

4§165. In brief, then, the emotions of Sappho as a sister in the Brothers Song are not only personal but also public, since her personal life is channeled by the poetics of choral performance, which is public. This is what I had meant when I chose the wording a poetics of sisterly affectin the title of my essay.

The name of Sappho

4§166. The poetics of sisterly affect are so deeply rooted in the songs of Sappho that even her identity as a choral personality is shaped by such poetics. I say this because the name of Sappho seems to be a function of her poetic role as a sister. On the basis of linguistic evidence concerning the form Sapphō, I propose that her name is derived from a word that actually means ‘sister’. And, in line with my argument about the poetics of sisterly affect in the songs of Sappho, I {489|490} propose further that this word for ‘sister’ is a term of affection, a baby wordthat derives from affectionate baby talk. [88]

4§167. I start by considering a pattern of alternation, attested in Greek epigraphical texts stemming from the Roman era, in the formation of names given to women. My point of reference is the name Sappho, which I consider here in contexts where the naming apparently has nothing to do with the famous Sappho. [89] For example, we find a name like Aurēliā Sapphō(Αὐρηλία Ϲαπφώ) [90] coexisting with names like Aurēliā Apphion (Αὐρηλία ᾿Απφίον) [91] and Aurēliā Apphiā (Αὐρηλία ᾿Απφία). [92] Such coexistence is most suggestive. As we know from the Greek lexicographical tradition, the noun apphion(ἀπφίον) is a neuter diminutive variant of the onomatopoetic form appha(ἄπφα), which means ‘sister’. [93] Clearly, both appha (ἄπφα) and apphion (ἀπφίον) are onomatopoetic baby words, meaning something like ‘little girl’. [94] Another derivative of appha (ἄπφα) is apphiā (ἀπφία), which can be explained as a feminine adjective. So, we can see that the names Apphion (᾿Απφίον) and Apphiā (᾿Απφία) are based on these baby words apphion (ἀπφίον) and apphiā (ἀπφία) respectively. And such baby words can apply not only to sisters in particular but also to beloved little girls in general—or even to beloved women. For example, the words apphion (ἀπφίον) and apphiā (ἀπφία) are both explained by lexicographers as hupokorismata ‘terms of endearment’ (ὑποκορίϲματα) referring to a ‘young mistress of the household’ (νέαϲ δεϲποίνηϲ). [95] Another traditional way of defining the diminu{490|491}tive apphion (ἀπφίον) is to say that it is a hupokorisma ‘term of endearment’ (ὑποκόριϲμα) for a girl or woman who is an object of sexual desire (ἐρωμένηϲ). [96] Lastly, the word apphō (ἀπφώ), morphologically symmetrical with the name Sapphō(Ϲαπφώ), is explained by lexicographers as another word for ‘sister’.[97] Here I return to such variations as Aurēliā Apphion (Αὐρηλία ᾿Απφίον) and Aurēliā Sapphō (Αὐρηλία Ϲαπφώ): these names are as symmetrical with each other as are the nouns apphion (ἀπφίον) and apphō (ἀπφώ), both of which could mean ‘sister’.

4§168. What is still missing in this set of linguistic evidence is a common noun shaped *sapphō(*ϲαπφώ), which would mean ‘sister’. (When I say common nounhere, I mean a noun that is not a name, as opposed to a proper noun, which is a name.) In the case of a proper noun like Apphion (᾿Απφίον), however, we know for sure that it is based on the neuter diminutive common noun apphion (ἀπφίον), meaning ‘little sister’ or ‘little girl’. So, I am ready to argue that the proper noun Sapphō (Ϲαπφώ) was likewise based on a similar common noun *sapphō (*ϲαπφώ), so far unattested, which would be a variant of the attested common noun apphō (ἀπφώ), meaning ‘sister’.

4§169. But the question remains: why is the form Sapphō(Ϲαπφώ) attested only as a proper noun? My answer is that the form Sapphō(Ϲαπφώ) survived phonologically as a proper noun only because it was a functional variant of another proper noun, Psapphō(Ψαπφώ), which is attested as a variant form of Sapphō (Ϲαπφώ) in the textual tradition of Sappho. If Sapphō (Ϲαπφώ) had not been a functional variant of Psapphō (Ψαπφώ), it would have become Apphō (*᾿Απφώ) at an early stage in the history of the Greek language when word-initial s- (as in *s-apphō) became h- (as in *h-apphō), which in turn became simply a glottal stop (as in –apphō) by way of ‘psilosis’. I propose, then, that the form Psapphō was in fact a playfully affectionate phonetic variant of the form Sapphō. The variation of Psapphō / Sapphō (Ψαπφώ / Ϲαπφώ) is comparable to such variations as psitta / sitta (ψίττα / ϲίττα), which are onomatopoetic calls. [98] We {491|492} read in the Onomasticon of Pollux (9.122.3, 9.127.1) that psitta Maliades psitta Rhoiai psitta Meliai(ψίττα Μαλιάδεϲ ψίττα Ῥοιαί ψίττα Μελίαι) is a game played by parthenoi ‘girls’ as distinct from gunaikes ‘women’. According to Pollux, the Maliades and Rhoiai and Meliai are nymphs, and girls call out their names, punctuated by the intervening calls of psitta, in footraces that they run, urging each other to speed ahead. Also, in Theocritus 8.69, a herdsman calls out sitta (ϲίττα) to his herd, and the scholia (5.3b) explain that sitta (ϲίττα) as well as a variant form psitta(ψίττα) is a sound made by a herdsman when he calls out to his herd.

4§170. The point is, just as the variant form psitta(ψίττα) prevents, by analogy, a phonological change in the variant form sitta(ϲίττα), which would otherwise be expected to change from sitta (ϲίττα) to *hitta(*ἵττα) to *itta (*ἴττα), so also the variant Psapphō (Ψαπφώ) prevents, again by analogy, a phonological change in the variant Sapphō(Ϲαπφώ), which would otherwise be expected to change from *sapphō(*ϲαπφώ) to *happhō (*ἁπφώ) to apphō (ἀπφώ) in the case of common nouns—but not in the case of hypocoristic names where the alternation of Psapphō / Sapphō (Ψαπφώ / Ϲαπφώ) is maintained. [99]

4§171. I conclude, then, that the name Sapphō, like the names Apphionand Apphiā, was originally an onomatopoetic baby wordderived from terms of endearment addressed to a sister. For an interesting parallel in English usage, as attested in some regions of the United States, I point to such women’s names as Sissy, even Sister.

4§172. In the case of ordinary women who happened to be called Sapphō in the Greek-speaking world, there would be of course nothing extraordinary about their name if it really meant ‘Sister’. Such a meaning becomes extraordinary, however, when we find it embedded in the poetics of a choral personality who, once upon a time, called herself by the name of Sapphō. Hers was an extraordinary persona who could speak to all the people of Lesbos, unveiling her sisterly affections just as memorably as she veiled her womanly desires.

Notes for Essay Four

1. The relevant texts were first published by Obbink 2014 and Burris, Fish, and Obbink 2014.

2. Especially Nagy 2007b.

3. It is possible, of course, that [ὀν]ίαν … λύγραν is a genitive plural, not an accusative singular.

4. Ferrari 2014:10 argues that the μιν here refers to the courtesan, not the brother. See also Obbink 2014:41.

5. Obbink 2014:32.

6. Especially Nagy 2007b.

7. Saussure 1916:117.

8. On the four factors of compositionperformancereception, and transmission in the case of the poetry attributed to Hesiod, see Nagy 2009a. For similar arguments applied in the case of the poetry attributed to Archilochus, see Nagy 2008b. More on the concept of reception in Nagy 2008|2009 ch. 2 §277.

9. Nagy 1996:60.

10. Nagy 1990, 1993, 1994–1995, 1996, 2004, 2007a, 2007b, 2010.

11. Nagy 2007b.

12. Nagy 2007b; see also Bierl 2010. On citharodic traditions in performing the songs of Sappho, see Nagy 2011b:155–158, following Power 2010:258–263.

13. I first used this expression ‘choral personality’ in Nagy 1990:370, with reference to Calame 1977:367–377 (also 126–127). See also Lardinois 1996 and the remarks of Calame 2009:5. Also Ferrari 2014:17.

14. There is an earlier formulation in Nagy 2007b:212.

15. Nagy 2004, with special reference to the insights of Rösler 1980 and 1985 concerning the poetics of etairoi ‘comrades’.

16. Nagy 2007b:212, 218–219, 230, 240, 242.

17. Nagy 2007b:215–216.

18. Robert 1960. His article is prominently featured in a collection of influential French research papers translated into English, edited by Loraux, Nagy, and Slatkin 2001:240–248. In the first footnote there, grecques needs to be corrected to anciennes.

19. See especially Nagy 1993, 1994–1995, 2004, 2007a, 2007b.

20. Caciagli 2010:228, 238. See now also Liberman 1999 I 61 n. 127.

21. Nagy 1993; this article is not mentioned by Caciagli 2010, who cites only one of my relevant works on Sappho and Alcaeus, Nagy 2007b. At a later point, I will have to disagree slightly with what he says I argue in Nagy 2007b.

22. Nagy 1993; I elaborate further in Nagy 2007b.

23. What follows here recapitulates what I say in Nagy 2015 ch. 4 §§149–150 concerning relevant passages in the Electra of Euripides.

24. For more on the self-representation of the chorus as chorus in the Electra of Euripides, see Baur 1997.

25. Bierl 2009:57n152, 107, 272–273, 284, 294–295, 318–319. See also Bierl 2011.

26. Nagy 2015 ch. 4§150.

27. For more on the Electra of Euripides, see Zeitlin 1970.

28. Nagy 2009|2010:294.

29. There may be a connection between the semantics of mesostrophōniai and Messon: see Robert 1960:303–304, also Pirenne-Delforge and Pironti 2014:28 n. 13.

30. Ferrari 2014:16 proposes to read ἐόρτ[αν], but this alternative reading does not affect my interpretation here.

31. West 2014:4 suggests that we read π̣ό̣ηϲάν τοι, not π̣ό̣ηϲαν τοί. But I defend the accentuation preserved in the new papyrus, τόι. This reading τόι (with the acute accent preserved in P.GC inv. 105 fr. 2) differs slightly from the reading τ’οι as accepted by Obbink in Chapter 1 of Bierl and Lardinois 2016. I interpret the acute as a marker of a rise in the melodic contour, and such a rise here indicates an emphatic use of the pronoun.

32. On this restoration, I follow Ferrari 2014:18.

33. In the analysis that follows, I will fine-tune this translation ‘vowed-in-prayer’ for arātā(n), which is a verbal adjective of the verb arâsthai ‘pray’.

34. Benveniste 1973 part 6 sub-part 4. For the online version of this chapter, see

35. Again, Benveniste 1973 part 6 sub-part 4.

36. In the light of this Indo-European semantic background, we can better understand the following attestation of the verb arâsthaiin the diction of Sappho: ‘they wished [arâsthai] all the best for the bridegroom’ (141.6–7: ἀράϲαντο δὲ πάμπαν ἔϲλα | γάμβρωι). In other words, they wished-in-prayer that the best possible things should happen to the bridegroom.

37. Muellner 1976:55–56

38. For a survey of Homeric examples, see Muellner 1976:36–37, 55–56.

39. West 2014:4; see also Ferrari 2014:17.

40. The acute accent appears in the new P.GC inv. 105 fr. 2, but not in the older PSI 123 and P.Oxy. 1231.

41. In negative contexts where something is wished-away, not wished-for, the non-compound form arātos is more usual (as in Iliad24.741); but polu-arātos too is attested in negative contexts (as in Theognis 1.819). Such uses of arātos, derived from arâsthai, correspond to some specialized uses of euktos, derived from eukhesthai ‘pray’, as we see in the gloss of Hesychius: ἀπάρατον· ἀπευκτόν, where both forms refer to something to be wished away; see also DELG s.v. εὔχομαι. This example can be added to the discussion of Neri 2014: 15-16 regarding the attested uses of arâsthai.

42. This context of poieîn in the active voice with heortē as direct object is I think different from contexts of poieîsthai, in the middle voice, again with heortē as direct object, as in Herodotus 1.150.1 and Plato, Republic 1.327a. In those two cases, the emphasis is on the participation of the community in celebrating a festival, whereas, in the case of poieîn in Thucydides 2.15.2, the emphasis is on the actual arranging or organizing of the festival.

43. Benveniste 1973 part 6 sub-part 1. For the online version of this chapter, see

44. Calame 2009:6.

45. Nestor’s tales of homecoming in Odyssey 3 reflect poetic traditions of great antiquity, which are analyzed most incisively and intuitively by Frame 2009:180–193.

46. The lines here at Odyssey 4.342–344 are repeated at 17.133–135, where Telemachus retells to Penelope the story told to him by Menelaos.

47. My formulation here is indebted to the perceptive analysis of Brillante 2005, especially pp. 13–14.

48. On Philomeleides of Lesbos, I have more to say in Nagy 2008a:57.

49. Burkert 1985:105–107.

50. Nagy 1990:118, 125–130; 141–142; 386; 395–397.

51. Nagy 2011a §68. See also the relevant formulation of Bierl in Bierl and Lardinois 2016: “In archaic poetry ritual often frames and interacts with myth. Myth usually tells narratives about deeds that fail, whereas in the complementary ritual they are felicitously achieved.”

52. Nagy 2011a §§67–68, 70–72.

53. See Nagy 2015 ch. 4§142*1, with references to further commentary.

54. The analysis that I cited in the previous note provides documentation of the ritual practice of choosing two premier animal victims out of a mass of animals destined for slaughter at a sacrifice. Here is a question that may arise: if the two oxen had really been destined for sacrifice, how would the priestess expect to get back to Argos from the precinct of Hera? My response is that such a question is based on a false assumption, since any procession that proceeded from its point of origin to its point of climax would not retrace its steps on the way back to the point of origin. Rather, the participants in the procession would disperse after the climactic sacrifice, and they would find their way back home on their own. I cite as an example Xenophon of Ephesus 1.3.1, where we see a specific reference to the dispersal of a procession to the precinct of Artemis after the participants arrive at the precinct and complete the sacrifice.

55. Although I consistently interpret hekatombē as a sacrifice of one hundred cattle in Homeric contexts, as here, there are some cases where the sacrifice is scaled down, referring not to cattle but to other sacrificial animals. In Iliad 4.102, for example, the hekatombē involves sheep, not cattle.

56. In the Iliad, 5.714–717, Hera remarks to Athena that the two of them had promised to Menelaos a safe homecoming after the conquest of Troy.

57. The details here are parallel to what is narrated in the epic Cycle (Nostoi Proclus summary p. 108 lines 20–23 ed. Allen).

58. I follow here the acute analysis of Frame 2009:184 n. 79.

59. There is an allusion in Plato Symposium 174b-d to this passage in Iliad 2.402–429. On the basis of Athenaeus 1.8a, we can reconstruct a relevant proverb, to which Plato’s text is also alluding. This proverb can be reconstructed as αὐτόματοι δ’ ἀγαθοὶ ἀγαθῶν ἐπὶ δαῖτας ἴασι ‘automatically do the noble go to the feasts of the noble’. In such a context, I add, not only does each noble person have ‘a mind of his own’: that mind is also the ‘same’ mind that the other noble persons have. The point is, ‘like-minded’ or ‘same-minded’ people congregate with each other automatically at dinners.

60. On twin-like mythological patterns in Homeric descriptions of Agamemnon and Menelaos, and how these patterns affect their behavior and even their thinking, see Frame 2009:177, with a further reference at pp. 72–73 n. 156. Further, as Frame pp. 209–215 demonstrates, Menelaos in the Iliad consistently fails to take the initiative whenever he undertakes an activity together with his brother. In such situations, Menelaos is recessive in his twinned thinking, while Agamemnon is dominant.

61. See Pirenne-Delforge and Pironti 2014:28, with reference to de Polignac 1997; see also Caciagli 2010:236.

62. Nagy 1993. For more on ululation as an aspect of choral performance by women, I refer to Bierl in Bierl and Lardinois 2016.

63. For still more on ritual ululations performed by women, see the seminal observations of Burkert 1983:5, 12, 54 and 1985: 56, 72, 74.

64. On the epithet ōmēstēs ‘eating raw flesh’ applied to Dionysus here in Song 129 of Alcaeus (9: ὠμήϲταν), see Henrichs 1981.

65. Calame 2009:6.

66. The text is printed by Pirenne-Delforge and Pironti 2014:28–30, with commentary.

67. I read with interest the commentary of Pirenne-Delforge and Pironti 2014:30 on the syncretism of Zeus and Hera as reflected in the concept of Zeus Hēraios. I would add that there is further evidence of such syncretism in Homeric poetry, as in the epithet of Zeus as posis Hērēs ‘husband of Hera’ (Iliad 7.411, etc.: πόϲιϲ ῞Ηρηϲ).

68. For background, see Caciagli 2010:239 and 2011:155–156.

69. It may be that the actual groupings of women and girls are separate from each other in the rituals of participation. In Song 17, I note the form ἀμφιϲ̣[…] (line 16): as Leonard Muellner points out to me, this form may mean ‘separately’ here. I see a comparable situation in Song 44, where the ritual actions of the daughters of Priam are signaled by the expression χῶριϲ δ’ αὖ (line 16), meaning ‘separately’.

70. Gentili 1988:220, 306 n. 30. In Nagy 1993:222, I highlight the argumentation of Gentili.

71. Nagy 1993:222–223. This argument is recapitulated in Nagy 2009|2010:238.

72. Nagy 1993:222, with reference to Robert 1960.

73. Nagy 1993:222.

74. Nagy 2009|2010:184–185.

75. Already at the first mention of Akhaíïon, Strabo combines the name with the article  (13.1.32 C506; see also 13.1.46 C604, 13.1.47 C604).

76. Again I cite Nagy 1990:370, with reference to Calame 1977:367-377 (also 126-127). See now also Lardinois 1996 and the remarks of Calame 2009:5. Also Ferrari 2014:17.

77. On the Athenian transmission of the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus, see Nagy 2007b:218–219, 226–227; also Nagy 2010.

78. On the Samian transmission of the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus, see Nagy 2007b:227–232.

79. In another project, I plan to focus on the reception of the songs of Sappho at Naucratis, especially by way of Samos and Lesbos. On the roles of Samos and Lesbos (Mytilene) in the Hellēnion at Naucratis, the primary source is Herodotus 2.178.2 (there is a useful commentary by Lloyd 2007:373 on the importance of the Samian presence at Naucratis). In my project, I argue that the reportage of Herodotus (2.134–135) on the songs of Sappho about her brother’s affair with the courtesan Dorikha shows an awareness of such a reception. Also aware was Hecataeus, who is I am sure the missing link in what Herodotus says about the courtesan Rhodopis. The lore about this courtesan is evidently linked to Naucratis, and this lore is relevant to the reception of Sappho at Naucratis. Such a reception needs to be viewed in the context of ongoing traditions in the sympotic performance of Sappho’s songs. In this regard, I think that the conflation of lore about Rhodopis and Dorikha can be traced back to Hecataeus. Most relevant here is a reference we read in Athenaeus 9.410e to the remarks of Hecataeus (FGrH 1 F 358) about Sappho fr. 101.

80. More in Nagy 2007b; also Bierl 2010.

81. Nagy 2007b:215, with reference to a most helpful consultation with Anton Bierl (per litteras 2006.08.22), some of whose relevant observations I quote there.

82. As I argued in Nagy 1993:223–225 (also Nagy 2009|2010:237–238), the emotional self-dramatization of Alcaeus in Song 130b—as also in Song 129—is a function of his status as a cult hero who is imagined as speaking from the dead to his former comrades about future generations of women who are singing and dancing in choral performance to celebrate the goddess Hera in her precinct. Elsewhere too in archaic Greek poetry, as in Theognis 1209–1210, we see comparable situations where an alienated poet is imagined as speaking from the dead: see Nagy 1996:212–213, with references to parallel situations in Celtic traditions.

83. Nagy 2007b:256–257.

84. Nagy 2013. See also Peponi 2009.

85. Nagy 2007b. At this point in my argumentation, I propose to correct a misunderstanding that might have been created, unintentionally, in the article of Caciagli 2010:228 (n. 6) and 248 (n. 75): I need to put on record that I did not argue, in Nagy 2007b, that Sappho and Alcaeus personally ‘met’ at Messon in Lesbos. Such a ‘meeting’ is made possible, I argued, in the context of the reception that we can trace diachronically for the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus.

86. Again, Nagy 2007b. See also Nagy 2009|2010:238 and Bierl 2010.

87. Munich, Antikensammlungen no. 2416; ARV 2 385 [228]; commentary in Nagy 2007b:233–237. On the iconography, see also Yatromanolakis 2007:73–81.

88. I use the expression baby word as a parallel to the expression Lallwort as used by Zuntz 1951, who considers and then rejects the possibility that Sapphō is a Lallname. Although there is no proof, he thinks that this name Sapphō originated from some non-Greek language of Asia Minor (this theory is noted by Caciagli 2011:271), and that this particular language had an initial s- (as in Sapphō) that was not pronounced the same way as was Greek initial ϲ-. I am grateful to Timothy Barnes for sharing with me his impressions of this learned article by Zuntz. For more on word play in Sappho, see Nagy 2009b:69–72.

89. Besides the examples that I am about to show, there are also other such attestations, e.g. SEG 39:840.

90. E.g., IG XII,4 (Paton-Hicks 141); also I.Leukopetra 45, 47, 83.

91. E.g., IG XII,4 (Inscr. di Cos [Fun.] EF 308); also TAM 199.

92. E.g., Ephesos 2221; also SEG 57:1494.

93. Eustathius, Iliad commentary 3.591.7 (ἄπφαν τὴν ἀδελφήν); 2.111.14 (οἷον ἄπφαν τὴν ἀδελφὴν Ἀττικῶς μόνη ἡ ἀδελφὴ εἴποι ἄν); see also Photius, Lexicon α 2759 (ἄπφα· ἀδελφῆς καὶ ἀδελφοῦ ὑποκόρισμα).

94. DELG s.v. ἄπφα.

95. Pollux, Onomasticon 3.74.3

96. Eustathius, Iliad commentary 2.111.17 and 3.591.7.

97. Didymus Caecus (MPG vol. 39, p. 656, line 5).

98. This onomatopoetic alternation psitta / sitta (ψίττα / ϲίττα) is mentioned by Zuntz (1951:17 n. 31), who compares the modern alternation psst! / sst!—but who in the end rejects the relevance of such examples to the alternation Psapphō / Sapphō. Olga Levaniouk has found another example of such onomatopoetic alternation: in the dictionary of Hesychius under the entry sellizesthai, we see an equation being made with psellizesthai (σελλίζεσθαι· ψελλίζεσθαι). The attested meanings of both these words show clearly that they derive from the onomatopoetics of baby talk. For example, Aristotle explicitly uses the word psellizesthai in referring to childish speech patterns (Historia animalium 536b8).

99. In the case of the form Psapphō (Ψαπφώ), which reflects the spelling that survives in the textual tradition of Sappho, we might have expected some kind of formulaic alternation with the form Sapphō (Cαπφώ). Within the system of Aeolic songmaking, the placement of Sapphō might have been needed after short word-final vowels in order to avoid ‘making position’, whereas Psapphō could be used wherever there was no need to avoid ‘making position’.


Essay Five: Sappho, between lyric and epic

rewritten from 2015.02.27 and 2016.08.31

DeChirico_Hector and Andromache_1926
“Hector and Andromache” (1926), Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978), via Claudia Filos in

5§0. So far, we have viewed the songmaking of Sappho as a medium that is symmetrical, in the world of lyric songs performed by women, to the songmaking of Alcaeus in the corresponding world of lyric songs performed by men. But there is another major correspondence that that we have not yet viewed. The lyric traditions exemplified by Sappho in the world of women’s songs is also symmetrical to the epic traditions exemplified by Homeric poetry.

5§1. In the book titled The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (Nagy 2013), Hour 4§§15–20, I analyze Song 44 of Sappho, which narrates a scene that has no parallel in the Homeric Iliad. This scene centers on the wedding of Hector and Andromache. At H24H 4§20, I formulate this “take-away” from that analysis: “Song 44 of Sappho is an example of epic as refracted in women’s songmaking traditions.” And I simply give a reference there to an earlier analysis that I had attempted, in a book titled Homeric Questions (Nagy 1996).

5§2. I now think that the reference I gave in H24H was too brief, too fleeting. I did not fully do justice to a very important point that needs to be made. And the point is, women’s songmaking traditions can be very different, in both form and content, from men’s songmaking traditions.

5§3. I can do no better than quote from Homeric Questions (Nagy 1996:56–57), where I focus on the realities of epic songmaking in India today:

In the course of [surveying the phenomenon of] occasionality in the living epic traditions of India, we may note in passing that epic, as a form of public activity, is performed almost exclusively by male singers (Blackburn and Flueckiger 1989:9). The rarely found exceptions, however, are particularly revealing. For background to the case about to be cited, we may note that the Ahir caste of Uttar Pradesh appropriates an epic known as the Lorik-Candā (Flueckiger 1989 [hereafter abbreviated “F.”] p. 36); this epic “helps to maintain the Ahirs’ image of themselves as a warrior caste (F. p. 41).” “It is primarily Ahirs who sponsor performances at occasions such as weddings and the birth of a child. The Lorik-Candā epic is also sung at various festivals, during the harvest season, and at village or town fairs (F. p. 37).” In Chhattisgarh, the corresponding epic is called Candainī, and it is with the background of reference to this tradition that we turn to an exceptional case of performance by women. The researcher reports as follows: “One night as I was recording an elderly Gond (tribal) woman singing a variety of narrative songs, she began singing about the wedding of the epic heroine and her first husband. But the woman did not consider this to be Candainī singing (F. p. 40).” The narrative content in fact corresponds to Candainī, but the form is different: a distinct rāg ‘tune’ and style (F. p. 40). In this case, we find a striking ancient Greek parallel in Sappho [Song] 44, the so-called “Wedding of Hector and Andromache”: this song, composed in a meter that is cognate with but distinct from the epic dactylic hexameter, deals in a non-epic manner with themes that are otherwise characteristic of epic (Nagy 1974:118–139). We have here a particularly striking example of the effects of a given occasion on the very nature of epic composition. Just as the song of Sappho about the Wedding of Hector and Andromache is exceptional in the history of Greek literature, so also the song of the elderly Gond woman proved to be exceptional in one particular researcher’s survey of living Indian oral epic traditions. It may well be worth asking whether this discovery about women’s traditions in India would have been possible if the researcher in this case, Joyce Flueckiger, did not happen to be a woman. The question is whether a woman researcher would be deemed by her women informants to be more suitable for the reception of distinctly women’s traditions.

5§4. The answer to the question I posed here is, obviously, yes. Later on, I had the good fortune of following up with this researcher, Joyce Flueckiger, whom I persuaded to publish a whole book on the subject of “gender and genre” in the living oral traditions of India (Flueckiger 1996 in the Bibliography below). I am proud to have served as the general editor of the Cornell University Press series in which this book was published.

5§5. In general, the research of Joyce Flueckiger raises many other important questions of great relevance to the nature of epic as “a comprehensive totality.” In an essay titled “The Epic Hero” (Nagy 2006), I focus on this notion of epic as a notional totality, and I quote here my relevant comments (N 2006§40):

A typological comparandum for the notion of epic as a comprehensive totality is the case of heroic epics and dramas at festivals in latter-day India: the measure of totality in the performing of these epics and dramas is determined by the ideologies of the festivals that serve as the historical contexts for such performances [Nagy 1979/1999:28]. Impartial observers of actual performances of epics at festivals in latter-day India have found that there are various different ways of imagining and realizing a notional totality for these epics (Flueckiger 1996:133–134). There are even cases of differences determined by gender: when women instead of men sing the “same” epic, observers have found differences in form (meter, melody, phraseology) and even in content (Flueckiger 1989:36–40; Nagy 1996:56–57, as quoted above). There are close parallels to be found in the songs of Sappho about epic heroes like Hector and Andromache (Sappho [Song] 44; again, comments by Nagy 1996a:57). Still, despite all the variables, the actual notion of epic as a totality remains a constant.

5§6. So far, I have focused on comparative evidence for arguing that Song 44 of Sappho shows the existence of ancient Greek traditions of women’s songmaking about the epic past. In terms of that argument, such traditions of women’s songmaking were distinct from but related to traditions of epic—which was a form of poetry produced by men, not by women. But now I take the argument further: Song 44 of Sappho, which has a form conventionally described as lyric, is not only related to the form of epic as exemplified by the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey: more than that, this form of lyric, like the form of epic, originates from an oral tradition.

5§7. In earlier work, I have made such an argument mainly in two pieces of writing as listed in the Bibliography: Nagy 1974 Chapter 5 and Nagy 1990a Appendix. The first of these two pieces is an overall summary, while the second adds an essential qualification. I summarize here the argument by dividing it up into ten points, where each point depends on the preceding point. Thus the rest of 5§7 consists of these tent points:

A ten-point argument about Song 44 of Sappho and about Homeric poetry

Point 1. I link the term oral with the idea of formula as defined in Parry 1928a and Parry 1928b, and as redefined in Nagy 1996b:29.

Point 2. I follow a unified argument made by Lord 1960:47: In an oral composition, everything is formulaic. Lord’s teacher Milman Parry (1928a:10–11 = 1971:8–9) made a comparable observation about ancient Greek oral traditions, with reference to the all-pervasive formulaic system of Homeric poetry. And I follow the various arguments of Parry 1928ab/1930/1932 and of Lord 1960: that Homeric poetry originates from oral traditions.

Point 3. The formulaic structure of the meter that we find in Song 44 of Sappho, glyc2da, which can be described superficially as a dactylic pentameter, is cognate with the formulaic structure of the epic meter of Homeric poetry, which is commonly described as the dactylic hexameter. So, if the two formulaic structures are cognate, it follows that both originate from oral traditions. That is one of the main points I made in Nagy 1974 Chapter 5.

Point 4. The meters that contain the formulaic structures of Song 44 and of Homeric poetry, dactylic hexameter and dactylic pentameter, are likewise cognate. That is another one of the main points I made in Nagy 1974 Chapter 5.

Point 5. On the basis of comparable meters that are found in Indo-European languages other than Greek, especially in Indic (Vedic Sanskrit), it can be argued that the meters of both Song 44 and Homeric poetry are Indo-European in origin. That is yet another one of the main points I made in Nagy 1974 Chapter 5.

Point 6. Others too have argued that the meters found in the songs or lyric poetry of Sappho—as also of Alcaeus, and in other Greek lyric poetry—are cognate with the meter of Homeric poetry. Examples include the works of West 1973ab, Berg 1978, Tichy 1981, Haug and Welo 2001. What all these works have in common, despite many incompatibilities in methodology, is a general agreement that the multiple meters of Greek lyric and the single meter of epic are Indo-European in origin. But none of these works addresses this question: does lyric, like epic, have a formulaic structure?

Point 7. The work of Gentili and Giannini 1977 likewise argues that the meters of lyric and epic are cognate—but without positing an Indo-European origin. This work also challenges the positing of any so-called “monogenetic” origin of “epic” meter from any single “lyric” meter. Such a challenge applies to all the works mentioned at Point 6.

Point 8. The same challenge also applies to Nagy 1974 Chapter 5. But the arguments presented there were then supplemented by the arguments in Nagy 1990a Appendix, where the dactylic hexameter of “epic” is explained as a convergence of two different formulaic systems contained in two different metrical systems found in “lyric”. Those two metrical systems can be described in terms of the nomenclature applied to studies of the meters found in the lyric “poetry” of Pindar: “Aeolic” and “dactylo-epitrite”. The “Aeolic” meters of Pindar are cognate with the meters found in the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus, while the “dactylo-epitrite” meters of Pindar are cognate with the meters found especially in the songs of Stesichorus. For more on Pindar’s meters, I cite Barnes 2013; on lyric and epic meters in general, I cite Barnes 2011.

Point 9. The dual “etymology”, as outlined at Point 8, of dactylic hexameter as the singular meter of “epic” accounts for every major word-break pattern in this meter, as argued in Nagy 1996a Appendix. By contrast, the other etymologies as attempted in the works listed at Point 6 cannot account for all these breaks.

Point 10. There are similar problems with the “colon-theory” of Fränkel 1960, where the operation of “cola” is not correlated with the operation of “formulae” as described in Parry 1928b and in Nagy 1974 Chapter 3. Fränkel’s theory cannot account for the full range of formulaic variation in the making of Homeric verse (Nagy 1990b:29–35; see also Clark 1994, 1997).

Three comments on formula and meter, with reference to Song 44 of Sappho and to Homeric poetry

5§8. The ten points that I have just formulated lead to three specific comments about formula and meter.

Comment 1, via Nagy 1990a:49 (1§60). The metrical structure of Song 44 is stichic and not strophic. The term stichic refers to a structure that goes from verse to verse, by contrast with. the term strophic, which refers to a structure that goes from stanza to stanza. The stichic rather than strophic meters of “lyric” are actually attested as usable for extended narratives of a type parallel to “epic”, composed in the dactylic hexameter, which is the stichic meter of “non-lyric” par excellence. A prime example of a stichic structure in “lyric” is Song 44 of Sappho, featuring a narrative that has a heroic setting: this song is composed in a stichic meter, glyc2da, on which see Nagy 1996a Appendix. All of Book II of the canonical Sapphic corpus was composed in this meter: Hephaestion 7.7, p. 23.14–17 ed. Consbruch. This meter, glyc2da, even though it is stichic here, is clearly cognate with various strophic meters of Lesbian “lyric”. An example is glyc1da in Song 94 of Sappho, on which see Nagy 1996a Appendix. Stichic meters of narrative “lyric” such as the glyc2da of Song 44, conventionally sung to the accompaniment of the lyre, are doubtless more closely related than is the spoken meter of hexameter to the format of the South Slavic guslar who sings to the accompaniment of the gusle. In this connection, I quote West 1973a:188: “If there was epic or heroic balladry in (say) 1600 [BCE], its characteristic verse was most likely the glyconic [= glyc], whose cognates are used in Sanskrit and Slavic epic.”

Comment 2, via Nagy 1974 Chapter 5 and Nagy 1990a Appendix. The formulas of Song 44 are cognate with the formulas of Homeric poetry. If we map these formulas within the respective metrical frames of glyc2da in the case of Song 44 and pher3da in the case of one of the two metrical prototypes of dactylic hexameter, we find a general pattern of matching formulas shaped …uu – uu # xx… in Song 44 and …uu – uu || –x# in Homeric poetry. (The symbols here are u = short syllable, – = long syllable, x  = short or long syllable, # = word-break at the end/beginning of two consecutive verses, || = word-break inside a verse.) A prime example is …κλέοc ἄφθιτον # (xx)… in Song 44.4 and …κλέοc ἄφθιτον || ἔcται# in Iliad 9.413–414. Matching the formulaic pattern of pher3da here in Homeric poetry is the formulaic pattern of pher1da in Ibycus SLG 151.47, where we find…κλέος ἄφθιτον || ἑξεῖς#. What is most remarkable in such matching patterns is that the wordings fit independently their respective metrical and formulaic frames. To show this independence, I cite the case of …ἐπ’ ἄλμυρον # πόντον… in Song 44.7–8, where the matching phrase …ἁλμυρὸν || ὕδωρ# in Odyssey 9.470 etc. has an underlying variant …ἁλμυρὸν … πόντον, as we can see from expressions like …ἁλμυρὸς ἔτρεφε Πόντος# and …ἁλμυρὸς ἔνδοθι πόντος# in Hesiod Theogony 107 and 964, respectively. In other words it seems that ὕδωρ displaces πόντος in certain environments, not the other way around.

Comment 3 via Nagy 1974:145. In the case of the correspondence between “lyric” …κλέοc ἄφθιτον # (xx)… in Song 44.4 and “epic” …κλέοc ἄφθιτον || ἔcται # in Iliad 9.413–414, the further correspondence of these phrases with Sanskrit śráva(s)ákşitam in Rig-Veda 1.9.7 points to an Indo-European heritage for the formulas and meters of ancient Greek verbal art. On the syntax of κλέοc ἄφθιτον | ἔcται # in Iliad 9.413–414 and of śráva(s) … ákşitam in Rig-Veda 1.9.7, I offer both comparative and internal analysis in Nagy 1990a:244–245 n126 and Nagy 1990b:122–127.

A general formulation about formula and meter

5§9. My three specific comments, as I have just presented them, lead to a general formulation about formula and meter. Viewed from the broader perspective of Indo-European poetics, the terms formula and meter can be readjusted to accommodate such broader terms as phrase and rhythm. I have devised a formulation with such a readjustment in mind:

At first, the reasoning goes, traditional phraseology simply contains built-in rhythms. Later, the factor of tradition leads to the preference of phrases with some rhythms over phrases with other rhythms. Still later, the preferred rhythms have their own dynamics and become regulators of any incoming non-traditional phraseology. By becoming a viable structure in its own right, meter may evolve independently of traditional phraseology. Recent metrical developments may even obliterate aspects of the selfsame traditional phraseology that had engendered them, if these aspects no longer match the meter.

(Nagy 1974:145; see also Allen 1973:13–14, 258; further analysis in Nagy 1990b:39–42.)

A postscript to the featured image for this essay

5§10. The featured image at the start of this essay is taken from one of the many versions of “Hector and Andromache” as painted by Giorgio de Chirico. This 1926 version is my personal favorite. There is something singularly arresting about the bare back of Andromache, revealed at the tenderly vulnerable moment when she sadly parts with Hector for the very last time.

5§11. I add here as a coda, with the permission of the artist, Fyodor S. Wheeler, a picture that takes a second look at the picture made by De Chirico.

"Porcia and the Painting." Original work by Fyodor S. Wheeler. Image via.
“Porcia and the Painting.” Original work by Fyodor S. Wheeler, via Claudia Filos in


5§12. We see again the vulnerable bareness of the sad woman’s back, but now this woman in the foreground is not Andromache but another sad woman who is looking at a picture of Andromache. This sad woman is Porcia, wife of Brutus. The story is told in Plutarch’s Life of Brutus, and I will quote here my translation of this story, first published in an  essay listed as Nagy 2015.08.12 in the Bibliography.

5§13. In Plutarch’s Life of Brutus we see the figure of Porcia expressing her intense feelings of foreboding as she contemplates the doom that awaits her husband at the Battle of Philippi. Instead of lamenting, over and over again, Porcia reverts—over and over again—to a timeless picture of such lamentation, as performed by Andromache in her feelings of foreboding over the impending doom of her husband Hector. Brutus will soon die just as Hector will soon die in the Iliad, and Porcia is having herself a really good cry, just thinking about the sadness of it all while she views an ancient picture of the final parting of Andromache and Hector.

[23.2] ὅθεν ἡ Πορκία μέλλουσα πάλιν εἰς Ῥώμην ἀποτραπέσθαι λανθάνειν μὲν ἐπειρᾶτο περιπαθῶς ἔχουσα, γραφὴ δέ τις αὐτὴν προὔδωκε τἆλλα γενναίαν οὖσαν. ἦν γὰρ ἐκ τῶν Ἑλληνικῶν διάθεσις, προπεμπόμενος Ἕκτωρ ὑπὸ Ἀνδρομάχης κομιζομένης παρ᾽ αὐτοῦ τὸ παιδίον, ἐκείνῳ δὲ προσβλεπούσης. [23. 3] ταῦτα θεωμένην τὴν Πορκίαν ἡ τοῦ πάθους εἰκὼν ἐξέτηξεν εἰς δάκρυα: καὶ πολλάκις φοιτῶσα τῆς ἡμέρας ἔκλαιεν.

[23.2] As Porcia was preparing to return from there [= from the retinue of Brutus heading for Philippi] to Rome, she tried to conceal her extreme emotional state, but a certain painting [graphē] gave her away, in spite of her noble character. The subject [of the painting] was derived from Greek traditions. It showed Hector at the moment when Andromache is saying goodbye to him as he goes off [to war] and she is taking back from his arms their little child while her gaze is riveted on him [= Hector]. [23.3] As Porcia was gazing at all this, the picture [eikōn] of the emotion [pathos] caused her to dissolve into tears, and she kept on revisiting it many times a day and weeping over it.

Plutarch Life of Brutus 23.2–3

5§14. To my mind, a most faithful approximation of the kind of ancient picture that would have evoked the hidden tears of Porcia is this image:

The final parting of Hector & Andromache. After John Flaxman (1755 – 1826) 1 March 1805

5§15. I comment further at 1§§208–211 of my book Homer the Classic, and I epitomize here. The story of Plutarch goes on to compare Porcia with Andromache, who is pictured as the most accomplished singer of laments in Homeric poetry. Andromache was sent back to her weaving after her own final lamenting farewell to Hector. My translation of Plutarch’s story continues:

Ἀκιλίου δέ τινος τῶν Βρούτου φίλων τὰ πρὸς Ἕκτορα 
τῆς Ἀνδρομάχης ἔπη διελθόντος·

Ἕκτορ, ἀτὰρ σύ μοί ἐσσι πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
ἠδὲ κασίγνητος, σὺ δέ μοι θαλερὸς παρακοίτης
[Iliad 6.429–430]

μειδιάσας ὁ Βροῦτος “ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐμοί γ’” εἶπε “πρὸς Πορκίαν ἔπεισι φάναι τὰ τοῦ Ἕκτορος·

<ἀλλ’ εἰς οἶκον ἰοῦσα τὰ σαυτῆς ἔργα κόμιζε,>
ἱστόν τ’ ἠλακάτην τε καὶ ἀμφιπόλοισι κέλευε·
[Iliad 6.490–491]

σώματος γὰρ ἀπολείπεται φύσει τῶν ἴσων ἀνδραγαθημάτων, γνώμῃ 
δ’ ὑπὲρ τῆς πατρίδος
ὥσπερ ἡμεῖς ἀριστεύσει.” ταῦτα μὲν ὁ τῆς Πορκίας υἱὸς ἱστόρηκε Βύβλος.

And when Acilius, one of the friends of Brutus, quoted the verses spoken by Andromache to Hector,

Hector, you are for me my father and my mother the queen
and my brother as well as my vibrant partner in lovemaking

[Iliad 6.429–430]

Brutus smiled and said: “But it does not even occur to me that I should say to Porcia the verses spoken by Hector:

But you [= Andromache] go back to the household and attend to your own work,
that is, the loom and the shuttle, giving orders to the handmaidens [who work for you].

[Iliad 6.490–491]

[Plutarch continues quoting the words of Brutus…] Even if she may not be physically up to performing deeds of valor that equal those of men, when it comes to her powers of mind, she can perform the greatest deeds of valor just like me.” This story about Porcia was told by her son Bibulus.

Plutarch Life of Brutus 23.3–6

5§16. The idea of being sent back to your weaving is being equated in this story with the idea of being sent back, again and again, to weaving the original picture, which is a tapestry that recounts the sorrows of war as experienced by Andromache.[3] We see here a poetics of retrospection, which is already at work in Homeric poetry. In an exquisite moment, we see Andromache herself returning again and again to the original picture of her last farewell to Hector:

ἐντροπαλιζομένη, θαλερὸν κατὰ δάκρυ χέουσα

She was turning her head back again and again, shedding tears thick and fast.[4]

Iliad 6.496

Andromache and Hector have just parted for the last time, turning away from each other and heading in opposite directions. He is going off to die while she is going back to her weaving. As she is being led away, Andromache keeps turning her head back again and again, entropalizomenē, hoping to catch one last glimpse of the receding view of her doomed husband.[5]

Just as Andromache is shaping her last mental image of her last parting with Hector, so also the poetry of epic is shaping the last mental image of Andromache in its own act of retrospective, of returning to the fixed image. Every time Homeric poetry is performed, it can return once again to the picture of Andromache in the act looking back to see if she can capture one last glimpse of Hector. It is a world of tears, and there is a world of beauty in these tears. To quote Virgil (Aeneid 1.462), sunt lacrimae rerum. ‘there are tears [lacrimae] that connect with the real world [res plural], and things that happen to mortals touch [tangere] the mind [mens]. To look back on this world is to look back on perfection, in all its frozen beauty. Homeric poetry is like that: it looks back on its own crystallized perfection.

Essay Six: Sappho and mythmaking in the context of an Aeolian-Ionian poetic Sprachbund.

6§0. Once again this time, the starting point here is Song 44 of Sappho, “The Wedding of Hector and Andromache.” My focus, this time, is on Aeolian myths about Thēbē. I argue for the existence of Aeolian myths about this city, which is actually mentioned in Song 44. And I argue that these myths can be linked to Aeolian mythologizing about another walled city, ancient Troy, located northwest of Mount Ida. I also argue that the proud old city of Troy, better known as Ilion in the historical period of the ancient world, was appropriated and re-mythologized by Aeolians whose cultural identity can be reconstructed by studying the poetic world of Sappho and Alcaeus (on this topic, I cite also Aloni 1986, 1989, 2006). Before I proceed with my argumentation, however, I must offer some background on Ilion and the Aeolians, and then I must explain what I mean by the term “Aeolian-Ionian Sprachbund” as I use it in the title of this essay.

Ilion and the Aeolians

6§1. After a major destruction of the citadel at old Troy sometime around the beginning of the 12th century BCE, which marks the end of a phase that archaeologists recognize as Troy VIIa, the importance of the site was radically diminished, and things stayed that way through the phase known as Troy VIIb, lasting into the 10th century BCE. After Troy VIIb comes Troy VIII, which marks a “Greek era” extending all the way to the so-called “Roman era” that is Troy IX. In the earliest phase of Troy VIII, from the 10th to the mid-7th century BCE, a small population was occupying the area of the citadel, and, on the western side of the citadel wall, they left behind some archaeological remains of a “place of memory” that must have commemorated in some way the epic traditions of the Trojan War (Aslan and Rose 2013:11). At a later phase of Troy VIII, in the mid-7th century BCE, there was a destruction, to be followed in the late 7th century by a reoccupation. From this time onward, in the latest phase of Troy VIII, we see the beginnings of the historical period. By now the old Troy is on its way to becoming the new Troy, that is, New Ilion (on the historical and archaeological reality of the New Ilion, I cite the overview of Rose 2006). As I show in Homer the Preclassic (Nagy 2010|2009:131), the city of old Troy—in its reinvented phase as New Ilion—was Aeolian. That is, the city was occupied by a population that spoke a Greek dialect known as Aeolic—and that were rivals of another Greek-speaking population whose dialect was known as Ionic.

6§2. Here I use the words Aeolic and Ionic as linguistic terms referring to Greek-speakers who differentiated themselves culturally as Aeolians and Ionians. I give details in a detailed essay (Nagy 2011a), where I argue for the historical existence of a Sprachbund linking the Aeolic and the Ionic dialects of Asia Minor, despite the intense political and cultural rivalries that preoccupied the Aeolian and the Ionian speakers of these dialects.

The concept of Sprachbund

6§3. The relevant comments I present here on the concept of Sprachbund are excerpted from an essay (Nagy 2016.05.19 §10b), where I review the formulations of  Jakobson (starting in 1931). In terms of this concept, whatever changes take place in a language that makes contact with another language need to be seen in terms of the overall structures of both languages (Jakobson 1949). This concept of Sprachbund can be applied to any situation where the structure of one culture is affected by a corresponding structure in another culture, whether by borrowing or by any other kind of influence. Any such contact needs to be viewed as a historical contingency, which requires historical analysis. Diachronic analysis is in this case insufficient, since it cannot predict history (Nagy 2011c §16). That is why I describe as historical the comparative method required for the study of parallels resulting from intercultural contact. The historical method depends on synchronic analysis of the parallel structures being compared. But it cannot depend—or at least it cannot fully depend—on diachronic analysis, which cannot independently account for historical contingencies (again, Nagy 2011c §16).

The argument

6§4. In my ongoing commentary on the Homeric Iliad,and Odyssey (Nagy 2022.12.01), I argue that the Aeolian identity of Thēbē and of other such cities in the region of Mount Ida and beyond can be reconstructed on the basis of Homeric references to these places. For this argument to work, I have to show that Homeric poetry, as a system, evolved by way of contacts between Aeolian and Ionian poetic traditions—contacts that can best be explained in terms of an already pre-existing Aeolian-Ionian poetic Sprachbund.

6§5, In terms of my argument, the references made in Homeric poetry to the Aeolian identity of cities like Thēbē are only latent. That is because the formulaic system of Homeric poetry—what Milman Parry once described as Homeric diction (Parry 1932)—is primarily Ionic, though it is also secondarily Aeolic. As I show in an article on the Aeolic component of Homeric poetry (Nagy 2011a), the diction of this poetry is dominantly Ionic and it is only recessively Aeolic. By contrast, we see an inverted relationship in the formulaic system underlying the songs of Sappho (and Alcaeus), to which I will hereafter refer short-hand as Sapphic diction. Here is my working formula: Sapphic diction is dominantly Aeolic and recessively Ionic. (For a possible example of recessive “Ionicisms” in Sappho 44, I cite the verse-final dative plurals in -οιc, as noted in the Bibliography under the entry for Page 1955.)

6§6. My earliest publication on what I now call Sapphic diction dates back to a book that appeared long ago (Nagy 1974; now available online, as indicated in the Bibliography). In Chapter 5 of that book, I concentrated on the metrical and phraseological parallelisms between what we find in Song 44 of Sappho and what we find in all of Homeric poetry. In analyzing these parallelisms, I explained them as cognate structures—in other words, as structures that can be reconstructed backward in time to a common linguistic origin. So, just as the Aeolic dialect and the Ionic dialect can be reconstructed backward in time to a common language that is conventionally known as “Common Greek,” so also Sapphic diction and Homeric diction can be reconstructed backward in time to a common poetic language. But now I extend the argument. The parallel forms that we find in Sapphic diction and in Homeric diction are not only cognate, resulting from a common linguistic origin. They result also from mutual contact between the two cognate poetic traditions, and such mutuality can best be explained as a kind of poetic Aeolian-Ionian Sprachbund. Such a Sprachbund, moreover, operated not only on the level of form in language but also on the level of content in myth as a special language. I posit here a “contractual” sharing of myth. In a related essay (Nagy 2011b), I studied a comparable pattern of “sharing,” with reference to myths about the Aiakidai in the 6th and the 5th centuries BCE. In that case, the “contractual sharing” involved Aegina and other states, some of which were political rivals or even enemies of Aegina.

Some details about Thēbē

6§7. The Aeolic form Thēbā of the place-name of the city of Thēbē is actually attested in Sappho 44.6, Θήβαc ἐξ ἰέραc Πλακίαc τ’ ἀ[π’ ἀι]ν<ν>άω ‘from sacred [ierā] Thēbā and from the region of Plakos, with its ever-flowing springs’. The epithet ierā ‘sacred’ here corresponds to the epithet hierē ‘sacred’ as applied to the same city in Homeric poetry at Iliad 1.366, ἐc Θήβην ἱερὴν πόλιν Ἠετίωνοc ‘to Thēbē, the sacred [hierē] city of [the king] Ēëtiōn’. The name for this city is attested also in an elliptic plural construction at Iliad 22.479, Θήβῃcιν ὑπὸ Πλάκῳ ὑληέccῃ ‘at Thēbai [= Thēbē together with its territories], under the heights of Plakos, with all its forests’. Foregrounded in the Iliad is the heroic feat of Achilles in destroying the walls of this city when he conquered it as well as another city, Aeolian Lyrnessos, which was likewise located to the south of Mount Ida: Λυρνησσὸν διαπορθήσας καὶ τείχεα Θήβηc ‘[Achilles], having destroyed Lyrnessos and the walls of Thēbē’, Iliad 2.691. Elsewhere in the Iliad, 6.416, the spectacular view of the the city wall is highlighted: Θήβην ὑψίπυλον ‘Thēbē, with its lofty towers’. Also highlighted, at 6.396–397, is the view of the overlooking high country named Plakos: ὑπὸ Πλάκῳ ὑληέσσῃ | Θήβῃ Ὑποπλακίῃ ‘under the heights of Plakos, with all its forests, at Thēbē, [the city that is] Hupo-Plakiē’. This view, as we saw a moment ago, is also highlighted in Sappho 44.6, Θήβαc ἐξ ἰέραc Πλακίαc τ’ ἀ[π’ ἀι]ν<ν>άω ‘from sacred [ierā] Thēbā and from the region of Plakos, with its ever-flowing springs’.

6§8. Such details in Song 44 of Sappho, I argue, are cognate with details that we see in Homeric poetry. But the cultural/linguistic identity of any one of these details can be distinctly Aeolian/Aeolic and thus “home-grown” as it were, in the case of Sapphic diction, while at the same time the Ionian/Ionic references to these same details in the case of the Iliad may seem “transplanted”—even if they may be familiar by way of regional proximity.

6§9. I close by mentioning further details about Thēbē and other Aeolian places, from my online commentary on the Iliad and Odyssey (Nagy 2020.12.01, already cited). I epitomize here, from that commentary, my “anchor comment” on Iliad 9.128–131 / 270–272:

The story that is being told here at I.09.128–131 and retold at I.09.270–272 centers on one single stunning event: Achilles captured the entire island of Lesbos. By implication, this island became Aeolian precisely because it was captured by the principal hero of the Aeolians. The vastness of this story is even broader in scope, since we can see in the Iliad occasional references to other such conquests accomplished by Achilles. Most prominent are the Iliadic references to his capturing of two cities located on the Aeolian mainland of Asia Minor: they are Lyrnessos and Thēbē. In the Iliad, the conquest of Lyrnessos by Achilles and his capturing of Briseis are mentioned for the first time at I.02.690–691. What then follows at I.02.691 is a mention of his conquering the walled city of Thēbē as well. Thēbē is mentioned already at I.01.366: it was there that Achilles captured another woman, Chryseis, when he conquered that city, I.01.366–369. (For background on Briseis and on Chryseis, I strongly recommend the work of Dué 2002 and 2006.) Another native of Thēbē was Andromache, who had been married off to Hector at Troy before the beginning of the Trojan War: she was taken captive only later, after Troy was captured, and she was then allotted as a war-prize to the son of Achilles, Neoptolemos, as we read in the Iliou Persis, attributed to Arctinus of Miletus, plot summary by Proclus p. 108 line 9 (ed. Allen 1912). The conquests of these territories by Achilles, especially his capture of Lesbos, can be interpreted as a charter myth that aetiologizes a prehistoric or even non-historical “colonization” of east Aeolis, as it were, by west Aeolian migrants from Thessaly, situated in the European mainland, which was the reputed birthplace of Achilles (Nagy 2011a:171–173). In using the term “east Aeolis” here, I am referring to the islands of Lesbos and Tenedos, together with the facing mainland of northern Asia Minor. The “colonization” of this area has conventionally been described as the “Aeolian Migration,” and the term ‘migration’ here matches neatly the appropriate Greek word, apoikiā as used in Strabo 9.2.3 C401 and elsewhere (Nagy 2011a:161). The reference at I.09.129 to the captive women from Lesbos can be correlated with the poetic traditions of Lesbos as later attested in the songs of Sappho and Alcaeus, both dated around 600 BCE. These poetic traditions, which are decidedly Aeolian, derive not only from the island of Lesbos but also from the island of Tenedos and from the mainland of northern Asia Minor facing these two islands (Nagy 2010|2009:184–185). Traces of these Aeolian poetic traditions can be seen in the Iliadic references to such figures as Briseis, Chryseis, Andromache, and the seven unnamed captive women from Lesbos. All these figures derive from Aeolian poetic traditions, and the same can be said about the figure of Achilles himself: in terms of his poetic heritage, he is Achilles the Aeolian (Nagy 2011a:171–172.) But there is an important difference to be highlighted here: Achilles is an Aeolian from European Thessaly, while the captive women are Aeolians from Asia Minor and from the offshore islands of Lesbos and Tenedos. In the Ionian poetic traditions of epic as exemplified by Homeric poetry, we can track the early influence of corresponding Aeolian poetic traditions as exemplified at a later period, around 600 BCE, by the songmaking of Sappho and Alcaeus (Nagy 2010|2009:149, 241; also Nagy 1979:140–141).


I bring this set of essays to a close by pondering further the relationship of Sappho’s Song 44 with the Homeric Iliad as we know it. Given that there are traces of a poetic Sprachbund linking the predominantly Aeolic diction of Sappho with the predominantly Ionic diction of “Homer,”  can we say that this Homer is “our” Homer, by which I mean that this Homer is what we see in the textual tradition that has come down to us. When I first wrote about this question, I was tempted to identify the linked Homer with “our” Homer. I paraphrase what I said in Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter (Nagy 1974:138–139):

I see a deliberate irony built into the epithet conferred on Hector and Andromache in Song 44 of Sappho, line.34: θεοεικέλοιc (theoeikelois) ‘god-like’, in line-final position. Already in line 21 of Sappho 44, the variant epithet [ἴ]κελοι θεοι[c] (ikeloi theois) ‘like unto the gods’ was deployed, again in line-final position. This inverted repetition and the metrical identity of the two phrases (⏑ ⏑ – ⏑ ⏓) suggest that something is afoot. The epic hexameter preserves the epithet θεοείκελοc (theoeikelos) god-like’ in the predictable equivalent position: θεοείκελοc – ⏓#, as in the Hymn to Aphrodite 279:

γηθήcειc ὁρόων μάλα γὰρ θεοείκελοc ἔcται
You will delight at the sight, for he will be very god-like.

In our Iliad, there are just two attestations of θεοείκελοc (theoeikelos), again in the same position. Both attestations (1.131, 19.155) refer to the same man: θεοείκελ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ. The man is Achilles, killer of Hector. So, in Song 44 of Sappho, an epithet that is reserved for Achilles in our Iliad is instead the epithet for Hector and Andromache. And this epithet for the wedded pair is the very last word in this song celebrating their {138|139} joyous wedding.

Back in 1974, I had thought that the irony here depended on an interaction between Song 44 of Sappho and “our” Iliad. From what I have learned over the years since 1974, however, as reflected in this book completed in 2024, I now think that the poetics of Sappho were linked with a predominantly Aeolic Iliad, not the predominantlyIonic version that has prevailed in the Homeric textual tradition that has survived to our time.


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—. “The Delian Maidens and their relevance to choral mimesis in classical drama.” Choral Mediations in Greek Tragedy, ed. R. Gagné and M. G. Hopman, 227–256. Cambridge.

—. 2013 | 2013. The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 HoursOnline | Print version. Cambridge MA.

—. 2015. Masterpieces of Metonymy: from ancient Greek times to now. Cambridge MA and Washington DC.

—. 2015.02.27. “Song 44 of Sappho and the Role of Women in the Making of Epic.” Classical Inquiries. Republished also as

—. 2015.08.12. “Cato’s daughter Porcia has herself a really good cry.” Classical Inquiries.

—. 2015.10.22. “Diachronic Sappho: Some Prolegomena.” Classical Inquiries.

—. 2015|2016. “A poetics of sisterly affect in the Brothers Song and in other songs of Sappho.” A shorter printed version is available as Ch. 21 in The Newest Sappho (P. Obbink and P. GC Inv. 105, frs. 1–5), ed. A. Bierl and A. Lardinois, 449–492. Leiden.

—. 2016.05.19. “Cataclysm and Ecpyrosis, two symmetrical actions of Zeus as sky-god.” Classical Inquiries.

—. 2016.08.12. “A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 7.” Classical Inquiries.

—. 2016.08.26. “A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 9.” Classical Inquiries.

—. 2016.08.31. “Song 44 of Sappho revisited: what is ‘oral’ about the text of this song?” Classical Inquiries. Republished as

—. 2022.12.01. “Comments on the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey.” Classical Continuum.

Neri, C. 2014. “Una festa auspicata? (Sapph. Fr. 17 V. e P. GC. inv. 105 fr. 2 c II rr. 9-28).” Eikasmos 25:11-23.

Obbink, D. 2014. “Two New Poems by Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 189:31–50.

Page, D. L. 1955. Sappho and Alcaeus: An Introduction to the Study of Ancient Lesbian Poetry. Oxford. On φίλοιc in Sappho F 44 line 12; also θέοιc at line 21; some possible examples in Alcaeus; but, in all cases, only line-final. For the definite article, always ταιc and ταιc in the dative. Page also compares Archilochus and Anacreon: -οισι line-medial, -οιc line-final. For Alcaeus: p. 208 on “G2” (now F 130) line 30: cυνόδοιcί μ’ αὔτοιc. Also ἄγναιc. Also ἐταίραιc in Sappho F 160: τάδε νῦν ἐταίραιc ταὶc ἔμαιc τέρπνα κάλως ἀείσω.

Parca, M. G. 1982. “Sappho 1.18–19.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 46.47–50.

Parker, H. 2008. “The linguistic case for the Aiolian Migration reconsidered.” Hesperia 77:431–464. See Nagy 2011c for a friendly debate with Parker 2008 and with Rose 2008 concerning the prehistory of the Aeolic dialect and the relevant myths about an “Aeolian Migration.”

Parry, M. 1932. “Studies in the epic technique of oral verse-making. II: The Homeric language as the language of an oral poetry.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 43:1–50.

Peponi, A. E. 2009. “Choreia and Aesthetics in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo: The Performance of the Delian Maidens (lines 156–64).” Classical Antiquity 28:39–70.

Petropoulos, J. B. 1993. “Sappho the Sorceress—Another Look at fr. 1 (LP).” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 97:43–56.

PGM = Papyri Graecae Magicae. Die Griechischen Zauberpapyri I–II, ed. 2, A. Henrichs 1974; after ed. 1, K. Preisendanz 1928–1934. Stuttgart.

Pirenne-Delforge, V., and G. Pironti 2014. “Héra et Zeus à Lesbos: entre poésie lyrique et décret civique.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 191:27–31.

Polignac, F. de. 1997. “Héra, le navire et la demeure: offrandes, divinité et société en Grèce archaïque.” In de La Genière 1997:113-122.

Power, T. 2010. The Culture of Kitharōidia. Hellenic Studies 15. Cambridge MA and Washington DC.

Price, S. D. 1990. “Anacreontic Vases Reconsidered.” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 31:133–75.

Pütz, B. 2003. The Symposium and Komos in Aristophanes. Drama: Beiträge zum antiken Drama und seiner Rezeption 22. Stuttgart/Weimar.

Rayor, D., and A. Lardinois, 2014. Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works. Cambridge 2014.

Rissman, L. 1980. Homeric Allusion in the Poetry of Sappho. Dissertation, University of Michigan. Published 1983 as a book by the same title. Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 157. Königstein/Ts.

Robert, L. 1960. “Recherches épigraphiques, V: Inscriptions de Lesbos.” Revue des études anciennes 73:285-315. Reprinted 1969 in his Opera Minora Selecta II 801–831. Amsterdam.

Rösler, W. 1980. Dichter und Gruppe: Eine Untersuchung zu den Bedingungen und zur historischen Funktion friïher Lyrik am Beispiel Alkaios. Munich.

—. 1985. “Persona Reale o Persona Poetica? L’interpretazione dell’ ‘io’ nella Lirica Greca Arcaica.” Quaderni Urbinati 19:131-144.

—. 1990. “Mnemosyne in the Symposion.” In Murray 1990:230–237.

Rose, C. B. 2006. “Ilion.” Stadtgrabungen und Stadtforschung im westlichen Kleinasien: Geplantes und Erreichtes, ed. W. Radt, 135–158. Istanbul.

—. 2008. “Separating Fact from Fiction in the Aiolian Migration.” Hesperia 77:399–430. See Nagy 2011c for a friendly debate with Rose 2008 and with Parker 2008 concerning the prehistory of the Aeolic dialect and the relevant myths about an “Aeolian Migration.”

Saussure, F. de. 1916. Cours de linguistique générale. Critical ed. 1972 by T. de Mauro. Paris.

Schmitt-Pantel, P. 1990. “Sacrificial Meal and Symposion.” In Murray 1990:14–33.

Seaford, R. 1996. Euripides Bacchae (with Introduction, Translation, Commentary). Warminster.

Snyder, J. M. 1997. “Sappho in Attic Vase Painting.” Naked truths: Women, sexuality, and gender in classical art and archaeology, ed. A. Koloski-Ostrow and C. L. Lyons, 108–119. London.

Stauber, J, ed. 1996. Die Bucht von Adramytteion. I/II. Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 51. Bonn.

Tambiah, S. J. 1985. Culture, Thought, and Social Action: An Anthropological Perspective. Cambridge MA.

Urios-Aparisi, E. 1993. “Anacreon: Love and Poetry (on 358 PMG, 13 Gentili).” Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 44:51–70.

Voigt, E.-M., ed. 1971. “Sappho et Alcaeus.” Fragmenta. Amsterdam.

West, M. L. 2002. “The View from Lesbos.” Beiträge zur Homerforschung: Festschrift Wolfgang Kullmann, ed. M. Reichel and A. Rengakos, 207–219. Stuttgart.

West, M. L. 2014. “Nine Poems of Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 191:1–12.

Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, U. von. 1913. Sappho und Simonides: Untersuchungen über griechische Lyriker. Berlin.

Yatromanolakis, D. 2001. “Visualizing Poetry: An Early Representation of Sappho.” Classical Philology 96: 159–168.

—. 2003. “Ritual Poetics in Archaic Lesbos: Contextualizing Genre in Sappho.” Towards a Ritual Poetics (by D.Yatromanolakis and P. Roilos) 43–59. Athens. Also in Yatromanolakis and Roilos 2004:56-70. In referring to this work, I will use the pagination of the 2004 version.

—. 2005. “Contrapuntal Inscriptions.” Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 152:16–30.

Yatromanolakis, D. 2007. Sappho in the Making: An Anthropology of Reception. Cambridge MA and Washington DC.

—, and P. Roilos, eds. 2004. Greek Ritual Poetics. Cambridge MA and Washington DC.

Zeitlin, F. I. 1970. “The Argive Festival of Hera and Euripides’ Electra.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 101:645–669.

Zuntz, G. 1951. “On the Etymology of the Name Sappho.” Museum Helveticum 8:12-35.


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