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International Journal of the Classical Tradition

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 85–99 | Cite as

Shifting the Ruins: TheIambi of Callimachus

Benjamin Acosta-Hughes,Polyeideia. The Iambi of Callimachus and the Archaic Iambic Tradition, Hellenistic Culture and Society 35 (Berkeley, Los Angeles, & London: University of California Press, 2002), XV + 351 pp.
  • Frank Nisetich
Review articles
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Keywords

Classical Tradition Artistic Creation Greek Text Fragmentary Condition Lyric Poetry 
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References

  1. 1.
    N. Hopkinson,Callimachus: Hymn to Demeter (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 13–17 lists numerous interrelationships, of similarity and contrast, among theHymns. Cautious consensus has resulted: G. Hutchinson,Hellenistic Poetry (Oxford, 1988), 63 (“Callimachus’Hymns may well constitute a set designed, at some point, by the author”); M. Haslam, “Callimachus’ Hymns,” inCallimachus, ed. M.A. Harder, R.F. Regtuit, & G.C. Wakker (Hellenistica Groningana I, Groningen, 1993), p. 115 (“... the transmitted order of theHymns is probably Callimachus’ own ...”); A. Cameron,Callimachus and his Critics (Princeton, 1995), 438 (“... the sequence of the hymns ... is almost certainly to be attributed to the poet himself”). For reaction to the gathering consensus, see A. Kerkhecker, who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), p. 277 (but see below, n. 43). Kerkhecker’s hesitation may have affected R. Hunter and T. Fuhrer, who refer most recently to the “possibility that Callimachus put hisHymns together in a poetry-book” (emphasis added). For them, the possibility becomes “a heuristic device”: “Imaginary Gods? Poetic Theology in theHymns of Callimachus,” inCallimaque. Sept exposés suivis de discussions, ed. F. Montanari et L. Lehnus (Entretiens sur l’Antiquité classique 48, Vandoeuvres-Genève, 2002), p. 145.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The evidence is indirect, but compelling: see K. Gutzwiller,Poetic Garlands. Hellenistic Epigrams in Context (Hellenistic Culture and Society 28, Berkeley, Los Angeles, & London, 1998), pp. 183–5.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gutzwiller, arguing from the position of the poems in theAnthologia Palatina, identifies the order in which 5 of 15 dedicatory and 9 of 25 sepulchral epigrams of Callimachus were likely to have appeared in his original collection (above, n. 2,, K. Gutzwiller,Poetic Garlands. Hellenistic Epigrams in Context (Hellenistic Culture and Society 28, Berkeley, Los Angeles, & London, 1998), pp. 38–40, 196–213.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The reconstruction of Book II by Cameron (above, n. 1), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), pp. 133–62 is followed in my translation: F. Nisetich,The Poems of Callimachus (Oxford, 2001), pp. 86–95.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ovid’sMetamorphoses comes to mind.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Composed sometime between the end of the first century B.C. and the end of the first century A.D. The papyrus containing it was discovered and published in 1934.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    A. Hollis,Callimachus. Hecale (Oxford, 1990) is a brilliant reconstruction. Still, of 155 fragments that belong for sure to the poem, Hollis could fit only 83 into a narrative framework. The remaining 71 are treated separately (pp. 269–318). So are fragments 156–79, identified as possibly fromHecale (pp. 318–32). Including these would make the total number of fragments placeable within the narrative less than half those certainly or possibly belonging to it. Hollis goes on to treat a sample of 37 more fragments from among those “which some scholar at some time may have wished to ascribe to theHecale” (pp. 333–6). He has given us so delightful an impression of the poem that it is a jolt to be reminded that the impression derives from a glimpse.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The meters involved are found in lyric poetry, and so the four poems are labeledLyrics (with a question mark) in Pfeiffer’s edition. In all four cases, the “lyric” meters are deployed line by line, not in stanzas in the manner of lyric poetry. The meter of one (227 Pf.) is virtually the same as that ofIambi 6–7. It is generally agreed that the termiambus refers not to a specific meter but to a type of poem whose dominant characteristic is invective. For the question whether or not the four poems summarized in theDiegesis afterIambus 13 belong to Callimachus’Iambi, meter, though more objective, is less decisive than tone.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    P. Bing,The Well-Read Muse. Past and Present in Callimachus and the Hellenistic Poets (Hypomnemata 90, Göttingen, 1986).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    R. Pfeiffer,History of Classical Scholarship: From the Beginnings to the End of the Hellenistic Age (Oxford, 1968), p. 130.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    One would expect a discussion of the meaning of the title-word early in the book, but there are only glancing references to it here and on pp. 9 and 12. A more literal rendering of the term (“variety of form”) appears in n. 34 on p. 68 but no discussion until pp. 83–4, and most of that in a passage quoted from another scholar. This and other examples of poor organization are perhaps signs of the book’s origin as a doctoral thesis (p. xi).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Iambus 13. 19–21; cf.Iambus 1. 78–9.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    The Prologue to theAitia and the Epilogue toHymn II are two other examples. Epigram 28 Pf. expresses the poet’s loathing for epic poetry of the “Cyclic” variety.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    A.-H., p. 21 (“... there are recollections of the extant lines of Hipponax throughout theIambi”). See p. 42, n. 37, 46, 50, 53–9 (discussed below), 64, n. 27, 67, nn. 54–6, 71, 75, n. 12, 79, 201, 223, 239, 243, 245, 253.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    For vivid portraits of Hipponax as he emerges from his fragments, see M. West,Studies in Greek Elegy and Iambus (Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte 14, Berlin & New York, 1974), 28–30 and A. Burnett,Three Archaic Poets. Archilochus, Alcaeus, Sappho (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1983), pp. 98–104.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    It is important to remember that the fragments we have survive for many different reasons. Those who quoted them had axes of their own to grind. The quotations show a side, or even several sides, of a given poet’s work, but not necessarily the totality. While Burnett (previous note) finds most of Hipponax repugnant, West, responding to a single line, observes “He is not really a vulgar simpleton, any more than Archilochus is, but a highly skilful and sophisticated poet. A line like the lyric fr. 119 ... has the clear-cut quality of the best Greek poetry: a simple but potent thought expressed in the most natural, exact and effective words, which happen to make a perfect rhythm, the apparently artless art that we admire in Anacreon or Menander” (previous note, pp. 28–9). Callimachus may have observed similar qualities in other lines of Hipponax now lost to us, perhaps even in choliambics that do not happen to have been quoted. If so, he may also have blended, in a manner bound to offend the critics who accuse him ofpolyeideia inlambus 13, something of the lyric with a good deal more of the iambic Hipponax. Much is made in Callimachean criticism (and in A.-H.,passim) of the poet’s “elevation” of the genre in hislambi. Did he begin by elevating Hipponax himself, taking a cue, perhaps, from the original poet’s own higher moments, so few of which happen to survive?Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Apollo’s importance to Callimachus is most clearly expressed in the Prologue to theAitia and in the Epilogue toHymn 2. A.-H. at a number of points draws attention to his central role in thelambi as well.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    On the role of obscenity in Greek iambic poetry, see. J. Henderson,The Maculate Muse. Obscene Language in Attic Comedy (2nd ed., New York & Oxford, 1991), pp. 17–23.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    A.-H. draws a different one, describing the entire passage as “an illustration of the socially marginalized status of the iambic poet” (p. 55). But the transference of the traditionally “marginalized” iambic poet’s low language from him to his audience should have the effect of marginalizingthem.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Suda 2.665.16 Adler, PlinyHistoria Naturalis 36.11, quoted, with translation, in A.-H., p. 32, n.3.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    M. Lefkowitz,The Lives of the Greek Poets (Baltimore, 1981).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    A.-H., p. 34. While it is true that the way one behaves sexually reflects on one’s character, it is hard to imagine that Hipponax, calling Bupalus a “mother-fucker” (fr. 12.2 West), is warning others not to sink so low.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Hipponax’s virtually untranslatable insult is glossed by Henderson (above, n. 18)The Maculate Muse. Obscence Language in Attic Comedy (2nd ed., New York & Oxford, 1991), 22 as “so debauched that his rear end gapes all the way to his shoulders.”Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Pindar is a much more likely precedent for the routing of the poet’s critics, even in thelambi. This would be in keeping with the “elevation” of the genre by Callimachus—a major theme in A.-H.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Fr. 612 Pf. is the second half of an hexameter, its metrical configuration duplicated exactly (for example) atHymn 1.4. The verb “I sing” would also be out of place in prose.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hymn V. 56, where Callimachus disowns responsibility for the tale he is about to tell, may be an example of such exaggeration.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    A number of changes to Pfeiffer’s text occur, summarized on pp. 17–8.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Pp. 15 and 18. In both places, A.-H. acknowledges the Italian commentary and translation of G. B. D’Alessio,Callimaco Inni Epigrammi Frammenti, I and II (ser. I Classici della Biblioteca universale Rizzoli, Milan, 1996). TheGiambi appear in II.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    The remarks on p. 15 (others “have attempted to facilitate reading of often fragmentary texts by including only complete or semicomplete lines,” doing “students of Callimachus a considerable disservice)” raise the hope that A.-H. will go on to rectify the situation.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Readers of Greek will get almost as little: an explication of line 38 on p. 96, conjectures for filling the gap in line 39 on p. 53, n. 66; on p. 148, the observation that “some here, some there” in line 40 expresses a “sense of aesthetic balance” and on p. 115 that “the bond” in line 41 is “extremely problematic” and the activity envisioned in line 42 (“about to roll about with girls”) is an example of “traditional iambic obscenity.” The paragraphs at the top of p. 148 discusses the context of the lines in question without illuminating even a single detail. That all these remarks on the same 5 lines are so scattered among so many pages is another example of the disorganization cited above (n. 11) This and other examples of poor organization are perhaps signs of the book’s origin as a doctoral thesis (p. xi).Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    “The Iambi of Callimachus. A Hellenistic Poet’s Experimental Laboratory,”Yale Classical Studies 21 (1950), p. 6.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Pp. 11–12; see also Kerkhecker (above, n. 1), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), pp. 278–9.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    If Kerkhecker is right (above, n. 1), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), pp. 5–8, Callimachus chose Hipponax for his model precisely because the choliambic meter, unlike the iambic trimeter, had not yet lost its distinctive character.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    A.-H., p. 120.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Translation in Nisetich (above, n. 4), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), p. 120.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    A.-H. also sees in the lines a reference to thepolyeideia attacked by the poet’s critics, but his interpretation of them, according to which they “outline Callimachus’ conceptualization of poetic genres, his own place in an inherited tradition, and earlier perceptions of the poetic calling” (p. 82) surely goes too far. The lines do not “outline” anything, nor do they suggest “an inherited tradition,” still less a shorthand for literary history, telegraphing “earlier perceptions of the poetic calling.” Such critical overloading not only strains the lines themselves, it also blurs the ensuing discussion of the meaning ofpolyeideia (pp. 82–4), the most extensive discussion of the title-word to be found in the book. In the end, A.-H.’s conception of the term, based on such projections, remains murky. See above, n. 11. This and other examples of poor organization are perhaps signs of the book’s origin as a doctoral thesis (p. xi).Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Tabulated in A.-H., p. 12.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Cameron (above, n. 1),Callimachus and his Critics (Princeton, 1995), 438 pp. 163–73.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Anyone wishing to imagine what sort of an epinician Callimachus composed inIambus 8 would do well to compare the other two epinicians we have from him: theVictoria Berenices and theVictoria Sosibii, though fragmentary, are recognizable specimens of the genre, but no two epinicians resemble each other less.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Kerkhecker (above, n. 1), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions thathad not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), pp. 271–82. The evidence of ancient quotations is also telling. None of the four “extra” poems is ever cited as coming from theIambi of Callimachus. Such references, and they are numerous, always refer to the poems numbered 1 to 13.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    The last of the four “extra” poems appears in the papyrusPSI 2172, written in the same hand asPSI 1216 andPOxy. 2171, which containIambi 4–7 and which belonged originally to the same roll. It is possible, then, that the “extra” poems appeared in the same roll with the 13Iambi. Kerkhecker (above, n. 1), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), pp. 273–4 stresses that this is only a possibility, not a certainty.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Kerkhecker (above, n. 1), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), p. 276, n. 26; D. Clayman,Callimachus’ Iambi (Leiden, 1980), p. 7Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    It is perhaps worth remarking that all these arguments against including the four “extra” poems could also be made against Kerkhecker’s conclusion (above, n. 1), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), that theHymns were not likely to have been collected by Callimachus himself. Both conclusions are drawn from the same evidence: the behavior of the summarist. On one hand, his failure to mark anexplicit afterIambus 13 is taken as a sign of carelessness; on the other, his failure to put a title in front of theHymns indicates that theHymns must have circulated individually, not as a collection. A.-H.’s recognition that “the issue cannot be closed given the evidence we have” (p. 13) shows a certain wisdom.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Kerkhecker (above, n.1), who finds evidence that theHymns, possibly as late as the second century A.D., were known “as individual compositions that had not been gathered in a book by the poet”:Callimachus’ Book of Iambi (Oxford, 1999), p. 112.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Further signs, perhaps, that the book is a reworking of a doctoral dissertation (above, n. 11). This and other examples of poor organization are perhaps signs of the book’s origin as a doctoral thesis (p. xi). One wonders how phrases like “his stance as poetic voice” (33) and “the ludic chamption of regularity” (235–6) escaped editorial notice. Critical dogma surfaces from time to time, e.g. “the direct evocation of gender fluidity” (243), and, on the same page, “Gods who do not respond to the prayers or desires of the iambic poet may well be atopos of the genre, indicative of the poet’s marginal position.” As if the gods answer everyone else’s prayers, in iambic or any poetry. The identification of such a “topos” does not add anything to understanding and may, instead, take something away from it. In the fragments of Hipponax where A.-H. finds thetopos (pp. 227–8: 32, 34 and 36 West), it is surely what the poet prays for (clothes, shoes, money), not the failure of the gods to grant it, that “marginalizes” him. For another instance of “marginalization” as a critical term, see n. 19. But the transference of the traditionally “marginalized” iambic poet’s low language from him to his audience should have the effect of marginalizingthem.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Nisetich
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Classical StudiesBoston UniversityBostonUK

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