The Best of the Achaeans
Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry
Revised Edition
Gregory Nagy

Copyright © 1980, 1997 The Johns Hopkins University Press. All rights reserved. First edition 1979. Revised edition 1999. This document may be used, with this notice included, for noncommercial purposes within a subscribed institution. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically outside of the subscribed institution, in whole or in part, without written permission from the JHU Press.

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Chapter 13


§1. With the mention of Lukambês, we may now turn to the iamboi of Archilochus.[1] Of course, we are dealing here not so much with a metrical category but rather with a genre of composition:[2] "iambic metre got its name from being particularly characteristic of iamboi, not vice versa."[3] The word i-ambos, as K. J. Dover observes, seems to have referred originally to the type of occasion for which this genre was appropriate;[4] so also with the word dithur-ambos.[5] The point is, Luk-ambês figures as a prime ekhthros 'hateful one, enemy' of Archilochus.

§2. By virtue of being singled out, even within epinician praise poetry, as "a man of psogos" (cogern Arxloxon : Pindar P.2.55), the figure of Archilochus surely qualifies as a master of blame poetry.[1] Thus the iamboi composed against Lykambes qualify the poet as an ekhthros to his victim.[2] Yet even an ekhthros may have to deliver his poetry in the context of a receptive audience--who would have to be, by contrast, philoi to him. In fact, Aristotle specifically identifies the audience of Archilochus as his philoi:

prw gr tow sunyeiw ka flouw yumw aretai mllon prw tow gntaw, ligvresyai nomsaw. di ka Arxloxow proshkntvw tow floiw gkaln dialgetai prw tn yumn:

s gr d par flvn pgxeai

For the thûmos, when it feels neglected, is stirred more towards acquaintances and philoi than towards those who are unknown. Accordingly, it is appropriate that Archilochus should address the following words to his thûmos, as he is reproaching his philoi:

For you [the thûmos] are being choked off from the philoi.

Aristotle Politics 1328a quoting Archilochus (fr.129W)

The audience of philoi is also apparent in the Archilochean epode that begins as follows:

Erasmondh Xarlae,
xrm toi geloon
rv, pol fltay' tarvn,
trceai d' kovn

Kharilaos, son of Erasmon!
I will tell you something laughable,
you most philos of hetaîroi!
And you will get pleasure hearing it.
Archilochus fr. 168W

In this particular instance, the target of reproach may have been the Khari-lâos figure himself, whose very name suggests the notion of "mirth for the lâos."[3] Nevertheless, Kharilaos remains the "most philos of hetaîroi," presumably in the company of other philoi hetaîroi.

§3. Even if one of the philoi hetaîroi were to be singled out for attack, the poetry of blame would not have to go far enough to rupture the philotês. In the fragment concerning Kharilaos, we may infer as much from the promise trceai d' kovn 'you will have pleasure hearing it' (Archilochus fr. 168.4W).[1] Furthermore, in another fragment from the same composition, we actually see a reaffirmation of philotês:

filen stugnn per nta ...

to be philos to him even when he is hostile ...
Archilochus fr. 171.1W

In societies where blame poetry was an inherited institution, there must have been clearly defined traditional limits for degrees of insult. Consider the following description of the Spartan sussitia 'communal meals':[2]

ato te pazein eyzonto ka skptein neu bvmoloxaw, ka skvptmenoi m dusxeranein: sfdra gr dkei ka toto Lakvnikn enai, skmmatow nxesyai: m fronta d' jn paraitesyai, ka skptvn ppauto.

They had the custom of engaging in playful mockery, without bômolokhiâ.[3] And when they were mocked themselves, they would not take offense, because putting up with mockery was the Laconian way to behave. And whenever someone could not bear it [the mockery], it was possible for him to be excused, and the one who was mocking him would stop then and there.[4]
Plutarch Lycurgus 12.6

We may also compare the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (55-58), where playful ridicule at banquets is associated with the theme of "philotêsbefitting hetaîroi" (taire filthti : verse 58).[5] At fr. 295d in his edition of archaic iamboi, Martin West gives a catalogue of fragments where various specific "amici" [philoi] may have been targets of reproach by Archilochus; perhaps it is significant that there is only one "inimicus" [ekhthros] attested, Lukambês himself!

§4. As we look further at the figure of Lukambês, we must also consider more closely the poetic conventions of the iambos. Clearly, the primary function of the Archilochean Iambos was blame poetry, and the primary target of this poetry was Lykambes and his daughters. On this point, the testimony of the ancient world is unambiguous, and I need cite only the most familiar reference, Horace Epist. 1.19.23-25.[1] With the appearance of the Cologne Epode (Pap.Colon. 7511),[2] we now have, for the first time, an extensive text about this family, made so infamous by the invectives of Archilochus.[3] The rest of the direct textual evidence about Lykambes and the Lykambides is so deficient that we have the greatest difficulties in reconstructing the overall structure of any other Archilochean composition from any of the attested fragments and excerpts. Even so, the bits and pieces at our disposal have led us to certain expectations, and the Cologne Epode now leaves us perhaps surprised at the nature of its blame poetry. Instead of railing at the family of Lykambes directly, the poem places them inside a narrative. The immediate victim of the narrative is a daughter of Lykambes,[4] who herself is not addressed directly but in quotations within the narrative. Within the overall structure of this composition, direct address happens only in quotations from the daughter and from the narrator. These in turn are not only opened but also closed with expressions inherited for precisely the function of framing dialogue:

tosat' fnei ...line 6, after the quote
... tn d' g ntamei[bmhn] line 6, before the quote
[tos]at' fneon ... line 28, before the quote

In this connection, I refer to Führer's monograph about the mechanics of direct quotation in "lyric" (in the sense of "non-epic"), with its ample documentation on the traditional nature of such framing expressions and on their strict interrelation with the quotations.[5]

§5. Moreover, the inherited mechanics of direct quotation in epic are structurally parallel to those of lyric, the Iambos included.[1] They are in fact stricter, in that overt quote frames for dialogues (type prosfh, prosefnee, etc.) and for speeches (type metfh, metefnee , etc.) are de rigueur in Epos.[2] Conversely, the quote frames in a genre like the Iambos are only optional--a point to which we will have to return presently. But the point now is simply that the quote frames are indeed present in the Cologne Epode, so that the dialogue between the persona of the seducer and that of Lykambes' daughter--as we see it in this particular example of the Iambos--meets the strictest formal requirements of epic quotation. The essential difference between Epos and Iambos here can be seen from the standpoint of narration: whereas the epic narrative that frames dialogues is in the third person, the framing narrative of the Cologne Epode is in the first person--which coincides with the persona of the seducer.

§6. Shall we say, then, that this persona is Archilochus, whose actions determined the narrative of this iambic composition? Or rather, shall we say that the function of the composition determined the narrative, which in turn determined the persona that acts and speaks within?[1] If we choose the second alternative, then the function of blame poetry is a cause; if we choose the first, then it is merely an effect. There are also other consequences that accompany our choice. The first alternative leads us to approach Archilochean poems as biographical documents, and we then find ourselves taking the same attitude as most of the ancient commentaries that have survived. The second alternative leads us to ask whether the details and essentials about the persona of the composer are to be derived from his role as composer of blame poetry. For example, those ancient commentators who took a biographical approach to Archilochean poetry were upset to read in the poet's own words that his mother was a slave-woman, called Enîpô (Critias fr. 88 B 44DK, Aelian VH 10.13; see Archilochus fr. 295W). And yet, this very detail reflects on the function of Archilochean poetry, in that Enîpô is derived from a word used in Epos to designate 'blame', enîpê (as at xx 266).[2]

§7. In this connection, I return to the argument that even the prime target of Archilochean blame poetry, Lukambês himself, is a stock character whose name is connected with the very notion of iambos.[1] Moreover, if indeed one of the original contexts of the i-ambos was Dionysiac in nature,[2] we may compare West's collection of thematic evidence about Luk-ambês with the tradition that Dionysus was persecuted by Luko-orgos, wielder of the bouplêx 'cattle prod' (VI 130-140).[3] Be that as it may, the traditional form of iambic blame poetry--as we can see from the fragments of Hipponax and Semonides beside those of Archilochus--is replete with a great variety of stock situations and stock characters.[4]

§8. Further, K. J. Dover raises the possibility that the poet can even assume the persona of a stock figure like Charon the carpenter (Archilochus fr. 19W) or the father reproaching his daughter (Archilochus fr. 122W).[1] In these two cases, however, we may not have to go that far. Although lyric in general allows the occasional assumption by the composer of a persona that is overtly distinct from his own self (e.g., Alcaeus fr. 10LP),[2] the specific genre of Iambos may perhaps be more strict. At least, the Archilochean poems about Charon and about the father-to-daughter reproach are inconclusive, since their endings have not survived. They may both have ended with a quote frame even though they began without one. The effect may have been an amusing surprise.[3] The suppression of the quoting mechanism till the very end of the composition is a comic device well known to us from Horace Epode2.[4]

§9. The point remains, then, that Archilochean blame poetry against Lykambes and his daughters is a stylized poetic form, with strict formal regulation of narrative and of dialogue quoted within the narrative; also, that the personification of the composer and that of his targets is similarly stylized within the narrative and dialogue. As Aristotle says in the Rhetoric (1418b23-31), such personifications as in Archilochus frr. 19 and 122W (both of which he actually cites)[1] are an example of how the poet composed blame poetry: ka w Arxloxow cgei 'and as Archilochus reproaches [makes psogos]'. The evidence of the Cologne Epode serves as an invaluable confirmation for what we can also infer from the other fragments: the Archilochean iamboi against Lukambês and family, with their stylized themes and characters, are as universal in content as they are ad hoc.

§10. We are left with the more fundamental problem of examining the traditional function of this Hellenic form of blame poetry, the Iambos. Looking forward in time, beyond Archilochus, we see a medium kindred to Archilochean iamboi in the complex poetic form of the Athenian kômôidiâ 'comedy', which in turn must be compared with its less sophisticated counterparts in other city-states. I leave the details of exposition to Martin West and others,[1] confining myself here to stressing what Pickard-Cambridge had proved long ago--that the traditional notion of kômôidiâ was derived from kômos 'revel, celebration, celebrating group of singers/dancers'.[2] In the kômos we see the social origins of comedy, a medium of blame poetry that has the capacity of being applied on the universal or ad hoc level.[3] In other words, the blame poetry that we may find in kômôidiâ is by origin an extension of a social function that is associated with the kômos. This connection helps explain an aetiological story about sixth-century Naxos, as reported in Aristotle's Constitution of the Naxians (fr. 558 Rose, as directly quoted by Athenaeus 348b-c). On that island, which is hours away from Paros, the traditional home of Archilochus, a group of young men made a kômos to the house of an eminent citizen after a drinking party; they insulted him and his two marriageable daughters, and the ensuing riot led to the emergence of the tyrant Lygdamis.[4] We have here a theme where the kômos actually affects the social order, in a context that connotes blame poetry.

§11. Looking backwards in time beyond Archilochus, we see from the comparative evidence of other Indo-European civilizations that the blame poetry of the Archilochean Iambos has an inherited converse in the institution of praise poetry.[1] From the standpoint of their heritage, the psogoi 'reproaches' of an Archilochus are thematically the converse of the epainoi 'praises' of a Pindar. Actually, in Pindar's own words, praise and blame are two sides of the same thing:

... gr j okou pot mmon painow krnatai

... for praise [epainos] is by nature mixed with blame [mômos][2]
Pindar fr. 181SM

Even on the level of form, we may observe in general that the dactylo-epitrites of epinician praise poetry are comprised of metrical elements that are cognate with those used to build the epodes of Archilochean iamboi.[3] Most important of all, both blame and praise poetry have a common social context in the institution of the kômos. This convergence can be instantly and most dramatically illustrated by simply citing the formation of two words: kômôidiâ 'comedy'[4] and enkômion 'encomium'.[5]

§12. In the very language of epinician praise poetry, it is the "Dorian" kômos (as it is called in Pindar P.8.20) that serves as the context for celebrating the victor with aînos 'praise'.[1] Conversely, in the blame poetry of Archilochus, the same word aînosdesignates the use of animal fables (frr. 174.1, 185.1W),[2] the basic themes of which would have been appropriate for performance by a khoros 'song/ dance group' comprised of "animals" in some formal analogue of kômôidiâ.[3]

§13. In short, the iamboi of Archilochus against Lukambês and his daughters are a special case of blame poetry. The insults are against an ekhthros, not a philos. Nevertheless, they are in all likelihood framed for a general audience of receptive philoi, whose social outlook may well have resembled that of the famous Naxian kômos mentioned by Aristotle. At least, the transmission of Archilochean poetry at Paros suggests that his blame poetry was not against the social outlook of the local state that helped preserve this poetry.[1] Whether we view the audience of Archilochus as the immediate philoi or, teleologically, as the social order that helped preserve and propagate Archilochean iamboi, the point remains that such poetry is an affirmation of philotês in the community. If indeed these iamboi are intended for the philoi as audience, then a direct approach to Lykambes is poetically unnecessary. If the insults aimed at Lykambes are for the entertainment of the philoi, then the device of a first-person narrative about Lykambes and his daughters is appropriate and effective.

§14. As a discourse that has the capacity of telling about its subjects without necessarily speaking to them, the blame poetry of Archilochus is farther from the praise poetry of Pindar and closer to the epic poetry of Homer. As a correlate to this distinction, we may note that the subjects of Archilochean blame seem to be stock characters,[1] whereas the immediate subjects of Pindaric praise are of course historical figures. Moreover, we have seen that there is a narrative frame for the direct speeches of blame in the poetry of Archilochus, which in this respect too is farther away from a Pindaric and closer to a Homeric model. In the poetry of Pindar, there is no narrative frame for the poet's direct speech of praise. On the other hand, the Cologne Papyrus has revealed that the direct speeches of Archilochean poetry can be framed within a first-person narrative. In this respect, Archilochus is farther away from epic and closer to comedy. In terms of comedy, the equivalent of the first-person narrator would be a character interacting with other characters; most appropriately, this character would be assumed by the first actor, who was originally the poet himself.[2]


§1n1. This chapter is a reworking of an earlier article (Nagy 1976).

§1n2. The word iamboi is an appropriate designation for the following meters of Archilochus: iambic trimeters (18-87W) and tetrameters (88-167W); also epodes (168-204W), including the Cologne Epode (see §4).

§1n3. West 1974.22; see Aristotle Poetics 1448b31. Of course, the generalization of a meter for one genre does not preclude the use of the same meter for other genres.

§1n4. Dover 1964.189; cf. West 1974.23 and Richardson 1974.213-217.

§1n5. See West 1974.23-25.

§2n1. See Ch.12§4.

§2n2. Again, Ch.12§4 and §21.

§2n3. See Ch.5§39.

§3n1. Again, Ch.5§39.

§3n2. See also West 1974.16-17 on the playful insults and retorts in the poetry of Theognis (577-578, 1115, 1123, 1211).

§3n3. The word bômolokhos 'he who ambushes at the altar' and its derivatives refer to a particularly offensive sort of discourse; cf. Aristophanes Frogs 358, Knights 902, Peace 748, etc. The verb bômo-lokheô can mean "beg" (Pollux 3.111). In Pherecrates fr. 141 Kock, we see that a bômolokhos is one who literally 'ambushes' the sacrificer at the altar by asking for meat under the threat of verbal abuse. For the theme of verbal strife at a sacrifice, compare the myth of Prometheus (Ch.11§§10, 15, etc.). For the semantics of bômo-lokhos, compare perhaps Arkhi-lokhos.

§3n4. The word for 'mock, ridicule' here is skôptô, on which see further at Ch.16§10 and n7; also Ch.18§3 and n4.

§3n5. There are textual difficulties at the beginning of verse 58. I prefer the readings w over n andrzeskon over rzeskon . My interpretation: Zeus and Maia had eris in a spirit of philotês. (From the standpoint of, say, an Alexandrian exegete, this concept would have seemed contradictory.) When young men at the banquet table engage in playful ridicule (kertomeousin: verse 56), they sing of the eris that once took place between Zeus and Maia (verses 57-58). According to this interpretation, the young men are in effect reenacting this primal eris. For more on the verb kertomeô in the sense of 'reproach, ridicule' as in verse 56, see Ch.14§§11 (n6), 14.

§4n1. For details, see West 1974.22, 25-28.

§4n2. For a convenient introduction and the text itself, see Van Sickle 1975(b).

§4n3. The figure of Neoboule, daughter of Lykambes, is mentioned at line 16. Throughout the poem, she is treated as a negative point of contrast--a veritable foil--to the other girl, who in turn gets seduced in the narrative. The poem has this other girl unwittingly introduce the subject of Neoboule for verbal abuse, when she volunteers her as a fitting substitute for the desires of the seducer (lines 3 ff.). Since the girl refers to Neoboule as "a maiden in our house who ... " (lines 3-4), we may reasonably infer that she too, like Neoboule, is a daughter of Lykambes. Compare also fr. 38 and fr. 54W and the discussions by West 1974b.482 and Koenen 1974.499. I find myself in sympathy with the proposal that Dioscorides Epigr. 17 (Anthologia Palatina 7.351), a poem about the daughters of Lykambes, was at least partly "inspired" by the poem of Pap.Colon. 7511; see Koenen 1974.499, West 1974b.482 and 1975.218.

§4n4. See again n3.

§4n5. Führer 1967. Cf. Gentili 1965.382 and 1972.69n82.

§5n1. Führer 1967.1-4, 66-67. See now also Stoessl 1976.

§5n2. Cf. Nagy 1974.84-94.

§6n1. As Pietro Pucci points out (per litteras 1/10/1976), the term persona must be understood as "the role which is traditional for a poet to assume in a specific genre."

§6n2. On Enîpô, see Treu 1959.157 (following earlier proposals that the name is a personification misunderstood by Critias); see also Van Sickle 1975b.151, whose discussion supplements that of West 1974.28.

§7n1. Cf. Ch.12§21. See also West 1974.25-28. For a discussion of Kharilâos as a stock figure, see §2 and Ch.5§39. As for Lykambes' daughter Neoboulê, I cite Van Sickle's observation that the name "suits the kind of girl who changes her marriage plans" (1975b.152).

§7n2. See West 1974.23-25. Another context, as Albert Henrichs points out to me, would have been the cult of Demeter. Consider the function of Iambê in H.Dem. 192-205. For further discussion, see West, ibid. and Richardson 1974.213-217.

§7n3. Note that Lukoorgos "had eris" against Dionysos (rizen : VI 131); on eris see Ch.11§§10-16, Ch. 12§3. The eris of the god's persecutor is in this story punished by blindness (VI 139)--a theme that I propose to examine in detail elsewhere.

§7n4. See Dover 1964.205-212 and West 1974.28-33.

§8n1. Dover 1964.206-208.

§8n2. For a survey, see Führer 1967.5-7.

§8n3. See Führer 1967; cf. also the comments of M. Treu following the presentation of Dover, 1964.218-219.

§8n4. See Fraenkel 1957.60.

§9n1. See §8.

§10n1. West 1974.33-39, with bibliography.

§10n2. Pickard-Cambridge 1927.225-253.

§10n3. Of course, comedy is more than blame poetry: it is a combination of artistic forms, including several types of poetry/song and dance.

§10n4. See West 1974.27-28.

§11n1. See Ch.12§§1-3.

§11n2. On mômos 'blame, reproach', cf. Ch.12§3.

§11n3. Cf. Nagy 1974.167-168, 173-174, 297-302.

§11n4. See §10.

§11n5. See Ch.12§7n2.

§12n1. See Ch.12§20.

§12n2. See Ch.12§18. Moreover, Archilochus fr. 174W is from a poem against Lykambes and family (172-181W).

§12n3. Cf. the theme of "wolf steps," as discussed at Ch.12§21. On the purely technical (as compared to theoretical) notion of mimêsis as 'performance' of song/dance (in reenactment of myth), see Koller 1954.11. For parallels to the aînoi of Archilochus, cf. Stesichorus fr. 281P.

§13n1. An essential factor, I submit, is the archaic cult of Archilochus at Paros (see Ch.18§1, esp. n1); this factor also accounts for the Life of Archilochus tradition, which I view as a development parallel to the transmission of the poetry itself (see Ch.18§4). In other words, I reject the notion that the Life of Archilochus tradition is merely the result of otiose exercises in fabricating stories on the basis of the attested poetic text. Cf. Brelich 1958.321-322 on the Life of Hesiod tradition, which follows traditional narrative patterns associated with cult heroes. In this connection, I will also adduce the Life of Aesop tradition (Ch.12§18n2 and Ch.16). See now my further comments in Foreword §7n5.

§14n1. See §§6-7; also Ch.12§21.

§14n2. The word exarkhô, used by Aristotle to designate the function of first actor (participle exarkhôn: Poetics 1449a11) is also found in Archilochus fr. 120 and fr. 121W designating the poet's leading off a choral performance (dithyramb and paean respectively). See Pickard-Cambridge 1927.123 and Lucas 1968.80-83.

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Copyright © 1980, 1997 The Johns Hopkins University Press. All rights reserved. This document may be used, with this notice included, for noncommercial purposes within a subscribed institution. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically outside of the subscribed institution, in whole or in part, without written permission from the JHU Press.