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As the terms ‘authority’ and ‘tradition’ in my title suggest, in this chapter I try to ask of Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists some of the questions asked of Greek and Latin historians by John Marincola in his influential book Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography. These questions are related to ones that were asked by Thomas Schmitz in his chapter ‘Narrator and Audience in Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists’, published in 2009 but drafted several years earlier. Schmitz made a pre-publication draft available to Tim Whitmarsh when he was writing his shorter but comparably illuminating scrutiny of the narrator of the Lives, published in 2004 as part of chapter 32 of Narrators, Narratees, andNarratives in Ancient Greek Literature.
In this book one of the world's leading Hellenists brings together his many contributions over four decades to our understanding of early Greek literature, above all of elegiac poetry and its relation to fifth-century prose historiography, but also of early Greek epic, iambic, melic and epigrammatic poetry. Many chapters have become seminal, e.g. that which first proposed the importance of now-lost long narrative elegies, and others exploring their performance contexts when papyri published in 1992 and 2005 yielded fragments of such long poems by Simonides and Archilochus. Another chapter argues against the widespread view that Sappho composed and performed chiefly for audiences of young girls, suggesting instead that she was a virtuoso singer and lyre-player, entertaining men in the elite symposia whose verbal and musical components are explored in several other chapters of the book. Two more volumes of collected papers will follow devoted to later Greek literature and culture.
First, some general points. On the one hand the story of the sack of Troy and stories associated with its preliminaries and consequences constituted a large and influential body of mythology shared in divergent versions by a very high proportion of the archaic and classical Greek world. On the other hand it was not the only important nexus of myths that might be recognised in many parts of that world. In some places, e.g. Argos, myths concerning the two expeditions against Thebes were just as important; and in Thebes itself the cycle linking the stories of Laius, Oedipus and the attack on Thebes by Polynices seems likely to have been more important than things Trojan.1 In the Greek West the cities founded in the eighth and seventh centuries might have heard more that could be related to their own history in stories about Heracles, though these were very far from being confined to the West. Other themes which might been expected to have primarily local interest, e.g. the Calydonian boar-hunt, acquired wide popularity; on the other hand the deeds of Theseus rarely seem to have generated interest outside Athens, Attica and some Aegean islands.
The English term ‘exile’ and the romance languages’ ‘exil’, ‘esilio’, etc., all derive from the Latin word exilium. This Latin term, however, does not share the assumption of these modern terms that the individual who moves out of a community (the exul) does so involuntarily, and that in more cases than not this departure is required or sanctioned by the community’s authorities or legal system. Ancient Greek terminology also observes different boundaries. The verb φεύγω, ‘I go into exile’, also has the meaning ‘I flee’ and ‘I run away from’, and in both senses the group or individual who φεύγει may do so voluntarily or unwillingly, and the thing or person which prompts evasive or fugitive action need have no legal or authoritative backing. Hence, the ancient Greek discourse on exile cannot be considered in isolation from the similar discourses on other forms of displacement such as fleeing, migrating and engaging (less than willingly) in travel.1
A prominent feature of archaic and classical Greek symposia1 was the singing of songs in elegiac metre, songs that often mentioned and sometimes debated the conventions of their sympotic location of performance and that occasionally declared, bewailed or reflected upon ἔρως ‘sexual desire’. In the poems of the earliest generation of Hellenistic epigrammatists, Asclepiades, Callimachus, Hedylus and Posidippus, erotic and, rather less, sympotic themes are also prominent. Are the poems of the third-century poets lineal and (as it were) Darwinian descendants of elegy as sung between the seventh and the fifth centuries (as, for example, Reitzenstein argued),2 or are they the result of a conscious decision to create a new genre? Whatever answer is given, it can claim only probability, not certainty, since much is still debated about the performance and writing of epigram in the third century BC, and even more remains obscure concerning the performance, writing down and collection of archaic and classical elegy, of which most survives only in fragments and in only a few cases can we be sure we have a complete poem.3
The main part of this paper will discuss the ways in which the discovery of papyri of Archilochus’ elegiac poetry have – or have not – dramatically changed our understanding of what a book of Archilochus’ elegiac poetry would have been like. But first I glance at the ways papyri have changed our perceptions of his iambic poetry, a change that started earlier and that moved through a succession of publications in a rhythm that is (by sheer chance) quite different from that of the publication of papyri of his elegiac poetry.
A scattering of testimonia in Greek texts, mainly of the Hellenistic and imperial period, had always made it clear that elegy was used in the archaic and early classical eras for substantial narrative poems.1 That evidence was not given much attention until I argued in the 1980s for the existence of a body of such elegiac poetry which constituted an important genre or form distinct from that of the shorter elegiac songs composed for and transmitted by performance in symposia.2 The publication in 1992 of papyrus fragments of elegiac poems by Simonides on the battles of Plataea and Artemisium seemed to some extent to support this claim, though a poem on a single battle, even if a poem of several hundred lines, is rather different from what I had proposed as the nature of Mimnermus’ Smyrneis, Tyrtaeus’ Eunomia or Xenophanes’ two thousand lines on the Foundation of Colophon and Emigration to Elea in Italy …’.3 One of many questions raised by the fragments of Simonides’ Plataea poem was the context and location of its first performance. That question must also be asked of Archilochus’ recently published elegiac narrative of Telephus’ rout of the Achaeans.
We shall never be able to write a reliable history of the dinner-table conversation of archaic and classical Greece. There was no vehicle that might accurately record conversation in prose. We can, however, get tantalisingly near to ancient table-talk by a number of routes. We can attempt access by way of Platonic dialogue, above all the Symposium, or by way of the works of Xenophon, along which it is again his Symposium that is richest. But from the start we must suspect that there is a distortion in the attitudes and utterances of the character whom these works attempt to heroise (i.e. Socrates), and that this distortion must affect the discourse of other characters too. A different route is offered by other genres in which a narrative or mimetic account is given of a δεῖπνον, ‘banquet’, or συμπόσιον, ‘symposium’. Such narrative accounts, spread over a long chronological span, are found in epic, history, pastoral poetry, epistles and the novel; mimetic representations are to be found in comedy. But again we must remember the stylisation that results from the genre and the distortion that may follow from the author’s purpose.
It is as a performer on the βάρβιτος (barbitos, a sort of lyre) – presumably accompanying the singing of her own songs – that Sappho is imagined by late sixth- and early fifth-century Attic vase painters, and was doubtless recognised by many Athenian sympotic users of these vases.1 The βάρβιτος (as was shown by Yatromanolakis) is closely associated with comastic activity, and painters and their patrons seem to imagine Sappho in a context where she can chase (or be chased by, or perhaps both) an attractive young woman,2 or can find herself propositioned by an Alcaeus whose bashful down-turned gaze is in some tension with his clearly displayed penis.3 It must be conceded that the most common female musical performer in Attic representations of symposia and κῶμοι, ‘revels’, is not a barbitos-player but an αὐλητρίς, ‘female piper’, playing the αὐλός, ‘pipe’, to accompany a male symposiast’s singing.4 Likewise male are most of the figures who are shown holding a stringed instrument, whether a barbitos or a lyre, and singing to their own accompaniment.
The conceptions and perceptions of their past found in both individuals and communities is very frequently related to place.1 That this was so in many places in the Greek world of the Roman empire is clear from (e.g.) Plutarch’s life of Theseus, which is replete with references to archaic and classical Athenian topography, and on a much larger scale Pausanias’ Guide to Hellas. This sort of writing did not even yet exist, far less survive, for mainland Greece of the archaic period, though the evocative power of place names is extensively exploited in the Homeric poems, and by such references as that of the Spartan elegiac poet Tyrtaeus to Ithome,2 or by an unknown elegiac poet from Laconia to Taygetus and Platanistous.3 There can be little doubt that in Greek communities throughout mainland Greece, the islands and Asia Minor, oral traditions about the pasts of these communities would often be attached to places or monuments. For example, the monument to ‘The Seven’, now known to have existed in Argos, probably as early as the sixth century, would have been a catalyst for stories about the expedition against Thebes by Argive warriors of the heroic age.4
I chose to investigate the subject to which I have given the title ‘Epigram as narration’ because I am interested in the extent to which different genres of archaic poetry can be seen to be following different conventions – indeed how far there are conventions, and how far (by contrast) genre is definable by little more than occasion. In the case of epigram, this would presumably mean that the mere fact of a piece of verse being inscribed would be the only generic feature, and within that epigram absolutely anything might be expected. A secondary interest is whether (if we were to agree that certain genres do have discernable conventions) we can see the conventions of one genre influencing those of another.
Our principal witness to Stesichorus’ Geryoneis is still P.Oxy. 2617, published by Edgar Lobel in 1967. In the almost half-century since its publication there has been extensive discussion: some 500 items are registered in the thirty pages of bibliography in Lazzeri 2008, and more accrued when the new edition of Stesichorus by Davies and Finglass was published.1 The papyrus, with its marginal Ṉ marking a line numbered by the scribe as 1300,2 has contributed greatly to our understanding of the scale and manner of Stesichorean poems, and much attention has been paid to the exchanges between Geryon and his friend or herdsman Menoetes and his mother Callirhoe, and to the way these and the actual killing of Geryon by Heracles exploit and develop the schemata of hexameter (and particularly Homeric) epic. But in the context of this volume and for the purposes of my paper the important contributions are made by two quoted fragments, fr. S17 PMGF = 8 Finglass and fr. S7= 184 PMGF = 9 Finglass.