Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 December 2021
This chapter explores the relative importance of invective and narrative in the earliest surviving fragments of Greek iambic poetry, and argues that narrative may have been just as important as invective in defining the genre. In approaching this question it is important to remember that these surviving fragments are very unlikely to represent the beginnings of Greek iambic poetry.1 Whenever and wherever these beginnings may have been, they were almost certainly some time, perhaps many generations, before our first fragments, which date from around 650 BC. I am very sceptical about the possibility of constructing plausible hypotheses about the development of iambic poetry before the poems from which these fragments come. In them we find no trace that their composers, Archilochus of Paros and Semonides of Amorgos, are at an early stage in the development of the genre or in the handling of its metres – rather they display an assured skill in both respects.