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New oil in old jars Hipponax's Lekythos-throw and Aristophanes' frogs 1198-247.

This discussion has its origins in a common article, ubiquitous in Greek life: the oil jar or lekythos. Probably first made of leather, and subsequently from clay (although more expensive materials like glass or precious metal could be used on occasion), the lekythos was filled with oil, unguents, wine, cosmetics, or whatever could be made to fit in it. (1) The vessel might appear in many different contexts, whether at funerals (where it was buried with the body), in the kitchen, or among the articles used by women in their beauty regimes. According to our ancient sources, it was one of the accessories that individuals of both sexes most commonly had about their persons. Walking to and from the gymnasium or baths, Athenians (or their slaves) regularly carried the small object, along with a strigil, so as to rub and cleanse their skins with oil after exercising or bathing. This mundane object also had a long and varied literary career, (2) appearing in classical and postclassical authors who invested it with functions and meanings sometimes very different from those that it fulfilled in daily practice. In this article I treat two lekythoi in the literary accounts and argue for a possible intertextual relation between the episodes in which they appear. These several incidents also serve to make two broader points, whose relevance to the humdrum oil jar will become apparent: first, Hipponax's songs may have included a degree of literary self-consciousness and programmatic reflection more regularly associated with other authors and different genres; and second, the conceit of a literary a [gamma] [omega] v, which pits rival practitioners of the same or different poetic and aesthetic modes one against the other, might not only be a standard framework for exchanges of mockery and abuse in Old Comedy, but might belong among the several points of affinity between that genre and archaic iambos. (3)


My argument begins with an anecdote conspicuously absent from the half dozen or so modern discussions of figurative uses of lekythos and its compounds in the ancient sources. The episode appears no less than three times among the extant testimonia for the life of Hipponax. Grouped in Degani's (1983) edition as testimonia 19, 19a, and 19b, the three texts are so similar in language and content that they most probably derive from a single source, possibly an earlier commentator on Hipponax. (4)
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Testim. 19: Metrodorous
  Scepsius 184 F 6 J. ap. Athenaeus 12.552c-d [T 5 Gerber])

  Metrodorus of Scepsius in the second book of his 'On the Art of
  Training' says that the poet Hipponax was not only small of body but
  also thin and yet was so muscular that in addition to other feats he
  threw even an empty oil flask a very great distance, although light
  objects because of their inability to cleave the air do not have a
  strong momentum. (Trans. Gerber 1999)

  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Testim. 19a: Aelian, VH 10.6)

  They say that the poet Hipponax was not only small of body and ugly,
  but also thin.

  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Testim. 19b: Eustathius ad Hom.
  [PSI] 844 [1332, 54ff.])

  One must know with regard to Polypoites that those throwing [the
  discus] in the discus competition are said to be muscular, just as,
  they say, the following makes clear. Hipponax the poet, although he
  was small of body and thin, was yet so muscular that in addition to
  other feats he threw even an empty oil flask a very great distance,
  for all that objects having light bodies, such as an empty oil flask,
  do not have a strong momentum because of their inability to cleave
  the air.

In the only recent and sustained discussion of the anecdote, Ralph Rosen (1990) endorses earlier readers' suggestion that the episode had its origins in Hipponax's poetry and argues that the no longer extant composition would have involved an incident where the poet portrayed himself as mocked for his seeming debility and "challenged to a competition" (Rosen 1990, 13). Hipponax would then have described how he pulled off an unexpected victory over his opponent/abuser by virtue of his triumph in a throwing contest (an agonistic context clearly assumed by Eustathius, who, as cited above, evokes Hipponax's jar-throwing feat in a note on the discus competition in Iliad 23). As Rosen points out, this lost song would fit comfortably alongside the several surviving compositions in which Hipponax (like Archilochus before him) seems to have modeled his behavior on that of the Odyssean Odysseus and to have appropriated aspects of that hero's epic persona and experiences. The incident informing Hipponax's song most plausibly belongs to Od. 8.186-93 where, in a no less surprising victory, the disguised hero belies his battered and feeble appearance and hurls a stone further than any of the Phaeacians had managed in the discus-throwing competition. (5) As Rosen also notes, this particular Homeric episode would have recommended itself to Hipponax on several grounds. Odysseus's victory occurs within the context of a neikos in which Euryalus, clearly marked as the unjustified blamer, mocks and insults the stranger, and this verbal altercation that motivates the throw also adheres to the standard 'shuttlecock' structure of scenes featuring invective exchanges, both within and outside iambic poetry. In these, an initial abuser inspires counter-abuse and the encounter concludes with the eventual victory going to the object of unjustified blame. (6)

Rosen's very persuasive reading leaves several details of the anecdote still to explore, however. While his broader argument assumes the parodic intent behind Hipponax's several appropriations of the Odyssean persona that I also argue for here, (7) his treatment of the oil flask episode focuses more on the continuities between the epic hero and the iambo-grapher, their common positions as underdogs and objects of unwarranted attack, and the surprise victories that both achieve. Certainly, the correspondences with Odyssey 8 are there, but so too are major and pointed departures from the 'master text' that, I suggest, are designed not only to demystify the epic model but also to signal the contrasts between the two genres in which the poets work.

One departure is the nature of the objects featured in the two competitions, and the associations with which each comes invested. In the Odyssean episode, the discus, described as a [lambda] i [theta] oc, possesses a heroic, even martial status that hints at Odysseus's soon-to-be-disclosed Trojan past. It recalls not only the grandiose projectile hurled in the games of Iliad 23, a massive iron lump whose grand physical dimensions are enhanced by its lofty genealogy (826-35), but also, by virtue of its dimensions and the matter from which it is made, the [lambda] i [theta] oi used by Iliadic heroes as offensive weapons on the battlefield. (8) Reinforcing this martial atmosphere is the Phaeacians' reaction to Odysseus's throw: like those faced with a more powerful antagonist in the course of an Iliadic battle, they cower down in fear ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 8.190). Entirely different are the connotations of the oil flask, a frequently banal, everyday object that belongs to the domestic and non-martial, non-agonistic sphere. Homer further describes the discus as large and thick ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and "not a little mightier than that with which the Phaeacians had been competing at the discus with one another" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 8.187-8). The oil flask, by contrast, is empty and an emphatically light object. While the marvel of Odysseus's throw depends on the fact that the hero can, with no apparent effort, cloak and all (8.186), cast so huge and heavy a missile so very far, Hipponax's feat would provoke little wonder. Despite the later commentators' use of the incident to demonstrate a law of physics ("light objects, because of their inability to cleave the air, do not have a strong momentum"), a less scientifically inclined audience might think that Hipponax had done nothing very remarkable. The divergence between the discus and oil flask carries over into the persons of the throwers, who, in both instances, stand in metonymic relation to the featured object. Where the Homeric poet makes the "mighty" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 8.189) hand of Odysseus echo the "mighty" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 8.187) stone, (9) for Hipponax the "slenderness" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) of the poet's physique reappears in the "lightness" assigned to the lekythos and to objects of its kind ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

The other departure is the contrasting nature of the sites explicit or implicit in each of the incidents. While Odysseus throws his discus within the refined setting of Scheria, an elitist fantasy land where athletics are the pastime of choice, we have absolutely no record of events, sporting or otherwise, in which individuals would compete in throwing small ceramic jars great distances (a senseless activity that would result in a lot of broken pottery). An oil jar may, to use Whitman's (1969, 108) phrase, be the "inevitable appurtenance of athletes"; (10) it is not, however, used during their actual feats of athleticism, and it would be equally at home in any number of more mundane venues, whether the streets, the kitchen, or bathing establishments.

To build on Rosen's account then: Hipponax's re-imagining of the epic scene not only borrows the heroic scenario for the latter-day event, but sets out to subvert its model, demoting the grandiose individual, gesture, and object featured there into a much lower plane. Inviting his audience to substitute the noble Odysseus (11) participating in a lofty activity for a weak and feeble individual, perhaps engaged in an impromptu altercation in the streets, bar, brothel, or bath house, Hipponax follows the logic of the 'uncrownings' that he performs in others of his songs, where high-class and epic-cum-aristocratic objects, contexts, and actions are stripped of dignity and reduced to the material, base, and/or corporeal register. (12) Comparable to the replacement of the discus (which perhaps the protagonist did not have access to) by the oil flask is the substitution in fr. 13W: here, when the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a vessel that takes dexterity to use) native to the refined symposium is smashed by a careless slave (more broken crockery), a drinker has recourse to the more capacious but clearly uncouth milk pail. And because no broom is at hand, an individual in fr. 79W uses a "stock of bramble" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to sweep the floor in a low-class wine bar, where those excluded from the upper-class and ron might gather to drink. While an elite sixth-century symposiast would exhibit his refinement by his embrace of Lydian dress and mores, in Hipponax's upside-down poetic world, Lydian is the obscene gibberish mouthed by a prostitute spanking the constipated poetic ego of fr. 92W. Also consistent with Hipponactean practice is the patent misuse or misapplication of articles designed for much loftier contexts. In fr. 39W the poet calls for a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a potion whose links to the Eleusinian Mysteries and role as a device for achieving closer union with the divine and a blessed fate are alluded to in the song, (13) as a remedy for his material and/or bodily sufferings (or even wickedness) and perhaps as an indicator of his penury. (14) And an expressly athletic milieu--analogous to that seemingly parodied in the oil jar episode--undergoes debasement in frr. 32W and 34W: when Hipponax invokes Hermes (probably appealed to in the first instance in his capacity as lord of thieves) to grant him a warm cloak ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [For you have not yet given me a thick cloak as a remedy against the winter cold, fr. 34WJ]), he turns the prize awarded to victors in the games celebrated on behalf of Hermes Agonios at Pallene into no more than a protection against the winter chill. (15)


There may be more to Hipponax's lost lekythos song, however, than simply a deflationary revision of the Odyssean tale and a masterful display of how iambic song structures itself in relation and opposition to the 'high' epic tradition. (16) The episode and its report in the commentators raise several further questions. First, what determines the poet's unlikely choice of an empty oil jar by way of projectile and, second, why, among many possible demonstrations of an unexpected physical prowess, should Hipponax choose to perform this singularly powerful throw? More broadly, why did ancient critics and biographers view the curious episode as so significant that it merited three references in the relatively sparse testimonia concerning the poet's life and practices? After all, these sources mostly focus on the iambographer's signature enmity with Boupalos and his brother (of which more later on) or treat his more generally irascible character as visible in the venomous quality of his verse. In the reading I offer here, the sources may in fact single out the oil flask-throwing composition because they correctly view it as a programmatic statement of Hipponax's distinctive poetics. (17) Not just a play on an epic precedent, the original poem, whose scenario I conceive much along the lines that Rosen has detailed, would have been designed to function by way of sphragis and self-advertisement. At once a presentation of the iambic persona as Hipponax constructed it for his songs, and an indicator of some of the chief themes and concerns of his poetry, the account of how the iambograher proved victorious would additionally serve as an assertion of his pre-eminence in his chosen genre.

To illustrate both the poetic ego and the motifs embedded in the lekythos song, I begin with the anecdotes' unanimous focus on Hipponax's physique, which is described as small and slender although, in two of the three testimonia, it is also endowed with an incongruous muscularity. For Aelian, Hipponax's lack of size and heft are part of the overall ugliness that connects this episode with the tale of the poet's feud with Boupalos and Athenis, whose derisive caricatures reproduced the iambographer's seemingly grotesque features. But the poet's physical characterization in the later sources does not merely indicate his failure to conform to the canonical heroic 'Body Beautiful.' Rather, consistent with the presentation of the oil jar that is not just small and light but also empty, the description taps into a theme directly attested in Hipponax's extant songs. A significant number of words and phrases, though many are cited in too fragmentary a fashion to recover their larger context, signal that hunger and bodily debility were among recognizably Hipponactean motifs. Besides the pharmakos "withered [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] from hunger" featured in fr. 10W, there is the corrupt expression attributed to the poet, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (fr. 165bW), by a scholion to Aristophanes' Pax in a gloss in the dramatist's description of individuals who are "perishing with hunger." (18) While, as Douglas Gerber (1999, ad loc.) notes on the fragment, the commentator has clearly got something wrong, his attempt to make [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] refer to a process of flesh-depletion indicates his familiarity with what he knew to be a preoccupation characteristic of Hipponax. So too the threat uttered by the unidentified individual in fr. 41W ("and now he/she threatens to make me [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]"), as the speaker wishes on the victim (whether the persona of the poet or another) the anatomy with which Hipponax is himself invested in the lekythos anecdote. Ancient commentators gloss the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (of a fig tree) with the adjectives [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (weak) and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (useless), because fig wood (at least of the cultivated as opposed to the wild kind) was considered of such poor quality and so weak and porous that it was liable to fissure when the slightest pressure was applied. (19) A fragment of Antiphanes (fr. 122.4 K.-A.) offering the suggestive triad [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] associates that debility with a wasting regime. No wonder that Ovid, doubtless working from a biographical tradition that had its origins in Hipponax's own self-presentation, imagines the iambographer actually dying of hunger: deficiente cibo (in want of food, Ibis 524).

Several more complete fragments vividly evoke the chronic hunger afflicting both the poet and his victims, and this, combined with a shared inability to achieve satiety, leaves them with bodies that are void, slender, weak, and emaciated. The call for the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] cited earlier belongs among the several compositions painting the iambographer in dire material straits--cold, impoverished, and hungry--while fr. 118W, observing the frequent homology between the satirist and his victim, vividly imagines the target of abuse, the insatiable Sannos, wasting away for all his voracious eating. Fragment 26W similarly traces the inglorious decline of a gourmandizing and incessant eater, who passes from a luxurious dinner table to a meager dish of figs and coarse barley bread, dubbed "slave fodder."

If Hipponax's diminutive physique and kinship with the light and empty vessel prove entirely consistent with his iambic persona and themes of choice, so too does his selection of the lekythos as the object featured in the competition. The oil jar belongs to that category of cheap, low-class, domestic, and trivial articles that seem a hallmark of Hipponactean iambics, (20) and Demosthenes classes it among whatever can be styled [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (24.114), a term that means cheap and paltry but also has marked social connotations. (21) Individuals existing in desperate poverty proverbially "own nothing but a lekythos" (Harpocration, Hesychius, and Suidas, s.v. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; Anecd. Bekk. 495.19f.), and, as several uses of the phrase [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] attest, the very fact that one has to carry his own oil flask placed him among the poorest of the poor--an individual of any substance would have had a slave to carry it for him. (22) A fragment from the Athamas of Antiphanes drives home the point. Here a character is described as both [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (withered or lean; the term used by Hipponax in fr. 10W) and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (forced to carry his oil flask himself; fr. 17.2 K.-A.). (23) From Hipponax to Callimachus and beyond (and the trait also marks those earlier practitioners of invective and proto-iambic discourse, Iros and Thersites), (24) to be poor and/or declasse forms part and parcel of the 'mask' assumed by performers of mockery and abuse. Hipponax's fragments 32W, 34W, and 36W all focus on the composer's penury, and the identification of the poet with impoverishment proves so strong that Callimachus, in his programmatic first lamb, where the long-since dead iambographer comes to life, has the poet include his slender means within his initial self-introduction. (25) In his opening words, the resuscitated 'Hipponax' declares, "For indeed I have come from the place where they sell the ox for a penny" (1-2). No wonder that the oil jar appears together with several other elements that the nose-thumbing and hard-up iambographer shares with the later Cynic, a fresh embodiment of the self-styled marginal, iconoclastic, beggarly, and ill-kempt performer who engages in satire and invective in the name of ethical reform. (26) In an epigram of Leonidas (54 G.-P. = AP 6.293), the accessories of the philosopher Sochares include not just the perforated wallet (reminiscent of Odysseus in his mendicant's disguise) used by beggars to collect their scraps of food, but a "filthy oil flask" (admittedly not a lekythos in this instance, but an olpe, a vessel virtually indistinguishable from the oil flask).

Next is the throw that Hipponax uses his oil jar to perform. The expression [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in two of the three anecdotes may, as Bernardus ten Brink (1851, 729) explained, indicate that hurling the lekythos was the capstone to a sequence of athletic contests in which Hipponax had already competed. But the phrase can additionally suggest that the oil jar belongs together with other articles with which Hipponax had demonstrated his throwing powers. The anecdote also identifies the source of the iambographer's success, the muscularity surprising in an individual so seemingly small and slight. As Eustathius's reference to discus-throwers indicates, Hipponax's power must reside principally in his upper body, and more specifically in his arms (shades, perhaps, of Odysseus with his hallmark broad shoulders and mighty arms; see particularly Od. 18.68-9, a scene involving an altercation between the hero and performer of invective whose parallels to the Euryalus incident commentators have noted). (27) The focus on the poet's locus of strength, and the use of unlikely missiles, make perfect programmatic sense. As Hipponax's own works and the several other sources that introduce figures invested with the abuser or mocker's role suggest, strong arms, a powerful throw, and banal/domestic articles figuring as missiles are often integral to invective exchanges. (28) Already in the Odyssey, in a scene featuring defamation and mockery, the low-class antagonist threatens his victim with assault and battery with a household object: Melanthius, the foul-mouthed abuser in book 17, rounds out his vituperative address by imagining, with typical hyperbole, how the hero's ribs "will wear out many stools (thrown) from men's hands around his head" in the dining hall (231-2). His words closely anticipate the scene on a fourth-century Apulian volute krater (Boston 03.804) that offers an all but unique extant representation of the death of Thersites, an incident, our sources tell us, prompted by a scurrilous piece of abuse that the reviler directed at Achilles concerning his love for Penthesilea. (29) Just below the hut in which Achilles sits the artist portrays a decapitated Thersites, his head spinning away from his body. Surrounding the dead man are various vessels, among them a basin, tripod, staff, footbath, two phialai, a kan-tharos, an oinochoe, and a volute krater, which "also appear to be flying chaotically in the air, as if they had been violently knocked or deliberately thrown" (Rosen 2007, 108-9). Automedon, depicted on the left, watches the scene in a crouched position, most probably to avoid being hit by one of the missiles, while a slave on the right also draws back in alarm. The whole scene may be understood both as a dinner party gone awry (30) and as a parody of a battlefield encounter, where the regular weapons of the warrior are replaced by a series of articles better suited to the kitchen and dining room. The motif is one that Old Comedy takes up: a fragment from Aristophanes' Storks (fr. 450 K.-A.) describes a bathhouse owner "thrusting with his ladles," the so-called [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] used in bathing.

The agonistic context in which Hipponax's winning cast occurs serves as one final pointer towards both the programmatic aspects of the incident and the master conceit that informs the iambic poetry of Hipponax and Archilochus before him. As the Odyssean intertext and the testimonia suggest, the original poem would have portrayed the poet participating in a competition from which Hipponax, like the earlier Homeric hero, emerged victorious. The choice of an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] by way of poetic frame is not unique to this lost composition. Several other extant works of Hipponax, albeit in sadly lacunose form, use the same motif, describing a variety of eristic encounters in which the iambic ego enters into an athletic/physical struggle with another individual who, more often than not, turns out to be engaged in an activity that closely corresponds to the poet's own. Fragments 120W and 121W, lines most plausibly drawn from a single composition, feature a pugilistic bout that resembles the lekythos incident not only for its agonistic shading but also insofar as it too harks back to an Odyssean scene: the punch-up that follows the exchange of insults between the disguised Odysseus and the beggar Iros in book 18, and which Homer already presents as a riff on a boxing match that would normally occur within the aristocratic milieu of athletic games. (31) In what remains of the fragments, the speaker takes on the iambographer's archenemy Boupalos, and anticipates his triumph over his antagonist by virtue of his superior manual strength and dexterity. (32) Fragment 117W names Hipponax, and then seems to urge the poet to "wage war" with the potter Aeschylides, accused both of robbery (an activity integral to the Hipponactean persona in several other fragments) and of revealing a dobs that the iambographer has executed. In fr. 104W, the first-person speaker paints his participation in a debased form of wrestling that involves bending his victim's fingers back and jumping on his stomach, "so that he might not have a mind to curse me [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]" (14). (33)

Read together, a larger pattern emerges from these scenes of polemic. On two occasions Hipponax describes physical struggles with craftsmen--the statue-maker Boupalos in the first instance, the potter Aeschylides in the second (34) --and on a third (fr.l04W), the poet takes on an unnamed figure whom the iambic ego assaults lest he do to Hipponax precisely what the poet does as part of his generic identity, namely to scoff at and insult an antagonist. While there is no means of reconstructing the source of the poet's animus towards Aeschylides, (35) later commentators fill in the background to the enmity between Hipponax and his principal echthroi, Boupalos and his brother Athenis. As our sources relate the story (no doubt derived from Hipponax's own poetry), the statue-makers first fashioned a derisive portrait of the iambographer, which they then displayed publicly to ridicule him; (36) in retaliation Hipponax composed his vituperative verses. The poet's battles with Boupalos thus exist within the context of a professional rivalry between individuals jointly engaged in the art of satire, albeit in different media. (37) The paradigm informing these other eristic scenes could also be extended to the lekythos incident: whether or not Hipponax's winning throw came, like Odysseus's victory over Euryalus, in response to a piece of gratuitous mockery that a rival addressed to him, his victory in the oil jar [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] would involve his defeat of an individual who practices a craft, verbal or visual, that corresponds to and/or is competitive with his own. (38) That Hipponax wins by virtue of the oil flask that, according to the proposal made so far, so neatly emblematizes his generic identity and the conceits in which he deals serves to reinforce the metapoetic significance of his triumph. Nor does the use of the athletic metaphor to describe what is in essence a literary [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] prove a stumbling block to this reading: archaic and classical authors regularly introduce competitions of many different kinds as figures for their larger bids for poetic preeminence and as a means of asserting their superiority over rivals both past and contemporary in their own and other genres. (39)

A piece of external evidence, albeit one that dispenses with the metaphoric fagade used by Hipponax, supports this reading of the lekythos episode. Callimachus, so acute a discerner of the hallmarks of archaic iambos and of Hipponax's poetics in particular, follows the Ionian iambographer when he introduces an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] by way of frame for his programmatic Iambs 1 and 13. Flanking a collection of poems that from the outset declare their allegiance to Hipponax, these compositions use the conceit of the contest or competitive encounter to advance and defend Callimachus's poetic program. In both Iamb 1 and 13, the poet positions the iambic ego--the resuscitated Hipponax in the first instance, and Callimachus in the second--in contestation with an antagonist, imagined as an inferior composer(s) of poetry (in Iamb 13 in the very invective genre in which the poet is now writing) and/or as a practitioner of literary criticism. (40) At the risk of arguing in circles, I would suggest that Callimachus has accurately discerned what was at stake in his predecessor's eristic exchanges: in defeating his antagonists by virtue of his athletic or more broadly physical prowess, Hipponax has defeated rival and inferior practitioners of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] that he claims as his own.


As I have argued so far, Hipponax's no longer extant account of how he competed with the lekythos gained the particular attention of ancient commentators and biographers because it supplied a succinct declaration of the poet's professional persona, the salient features of the genre in which he worked, and his poetic ascendancy. These several concerns prove very relevant to the second, much more notorious literary oil jar treated here. Its microscopic proportions emphasized by the comic diminutive used of it, this lekythion famously figures in the poetic [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] that Aristophanes' Frogs stages between Aeschylus and Euripides (1198-247). In the discussion that follows, I review the chief existing readings of the object, and then offer some possible grounds for seeing a connection between the Aristophanic and Hipponactean flasks. While the evidence does not allow me to do more than speculate and some readers may resist the leaps that my argument requires, I nonetheless think that a case that rests on the plausible rather than the provable remains worth the making.

In reply to Euripides' point-scoring demonstration of the obscure and overly verbose character of his prologues, Aeschylus warns his rival, "I will destroy all your openings by means of a little oil flask" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 1200). He then goes on effectively to win this round of the competition by appending the loss of the vessel by way of closing tag to each line that Euripides proceeds to cite. Numerous scholars have suggested that the scene's humor must in no small part depend on the object with which Aeschylus claims his victory, and have offered various interpretations as to why the vessel generates such laughter. (41) The least problematic interpretation is that Aristophanes chose the lekythion simply for its banal nature and for the fun of debunking tragic pretensions which comes from coupling the lofty genre with something so utterly insignificant and mundane. (42) Other scholars ingeniously try to pin sexual connotations to the lekythion, either by identifying it, by virtue of its elongated neck and bulbous body, with the phallus and/or the testicles, or by regarding it as an accoutrement of sexual encounters. (43) The claim that Euripides (or more properly the figures in his dramas) has "lost his oil jar" would then involve a slur on his virility, impugning his manhood, and suggesting that he had become detumescent (or, in one critic's idiomatic rendering, had "lost his balls"), (44) or that he simply could not achieve the amorous rendezvous that he sought. According to a third reading, the oil jar symbolizes a particular rhetorical style and mode of speech delivery, one exactly suited to Aristophanes' characterization of the individual (and his manner of composition) who deploys it so destructively here. (45) In a number of later sources, the lekythos and compounds built about it were used of loud, roaring sounds (analogous to those produced by blowing over the top of the oil jar) and signified a bombastic, 'overblown,' and blustering mode of speech and rhetorical style.

The controversy surrounding the Aristophanic jar is not my concern here; as Henderson (1972) and Sider (1992) sensibly observe, we should probably not restrict the jar's significance to any single sphere, and its meaning may evolve and expand through the course of the scene. (46) Rather than attempting to determine why exactly the oil jar would have raised a laugh, I would ask instead what prompted the dramatist's choice of this unlikely article in the first place. In answering this, I rely on two premises: first that, as argued in my discussion above of Hipponax's use of the vessel, an oil jar comes invested with connotations apposite both to the literary issues at the heart of the contest and to the combatants as depicted in the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; and second (though more speculatively) that Aristophanes might be re-deploying the episode in Hipponax, playing off the iambographer's prior use of the lekythos. While I assume two points that in the long run cannot be proved--that Hipponax did compose a song about his participation in a lekythos-throwing competition, and that Aristophanes' audience was sufficiently familiar with the work to catch the allusion (47)--there are internal grounds that might point to just such a link. If so, this nod to Hipponax would not only constitute one among the several moments when Old Comedy exhibited its kinship with the Ionian iambic tradition by borrowing its motifs; (48) it would also offer a more particularized instance of the exchanges between the genres, in which the later author appropriates and modifies his predecessor's symbol, introducing it in the context of literary competition and programmatic definition that (at the obvious risk of making another circular argument) might well preserve the spirit of the episode in which it first appeared.

Among the continuities between the iambic song and comic scene is the renewed use of the lekythion as a metonym for the persona assumed by (or constructed for) one of the participants in the contest. As I proposed above, in the Hipponactean incident the oil jar was apposite not only to the poet's physique, but might also succinctly figure his debased economic and social condition (just as Odysseus's association with the mighty discus proved revelatory of his true status and the martial/athletic milieus proper to that aristocratic standing). While Sommerstein (1996, ad 1198-247) suggests that Aeschylus's (current) possession of the oil jar styles him a member of the elite, frequenter of the gymnasium, and devotee of the physical fitness whose demise in contemporary Athens he laments (1015, 1087-8), everything in the scene points to the flask's closer identification with Euripides. Not only does the vessel so relentlessly and ineluctably adhere to the younger dramatist's prologues, but the jar's loss afflicts Euripides' protagonists, suggesting that it is native to his, not to Aeschylus's, drama. The characterization of the object also tells against any athletic or more generally high-class associations. When first introduced by Aeschylus at 1203, the lekythion appears alongside a small towel and little purse--articles that, according to Pollux (3.155; 10.64) at least, are suited to the bath, not the gymnasium. Later, begging Euripides to put an end to the drubbing he is suffering by buying (?) an oil flask to replace the one that, by implication, the dramatist has lost, Dionysus observes that it costs only an obol (1235-6). (49) The joke behind the remark lies in this patently hopeless attempt to dress a petty article in upper-class clothes. Using the familiar expression descriptive of members of the social elite in this very inappropriate context, the god adds that the purchaser will be amazed at how [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] the lowly vessel proves, for all that it sells so cheap (1236).

Euripides' temporary loss of his oil jar, and his reluctance to buy another, suit the larger profile given to him in the confrontation. That he balks at shelling out a mere obol signals his participation in the penury earlier adopted by practitioners of iambos and, more generally, his membership of the class of the abject and base-born. Not only has Aeschylus already recycled the familiar accusation of low birth against his challenger (840), but the Muse of Euripides will share the social character and condition of her protege: lacking the high-class lyre, she has to relv on "down market" (50) potsherds for her music-making instead (1305-6). (51) No wonder, then, that Euripides derives his underworld support from those whose status resembles his own; in the prelude to the encounter between the two tragedians, a slave remarks that the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (including the members of the criminal class listed at 772-3) are all for awarding Euripides the contested throne, while the group styled to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a term that carries explicit class connotations, was too limited to guarantee Aeschylus the victory (781-3).

While Euripides does not share the chronic hunger that goes along with Hipponax's feeble anatomy and his likeness to the small, light, and empty jar, the dramatist does resemble the iambic poet insofar as he too possesses a body sadly lacking in heft. Part of the piquancy of the lekythion scene, as well as of the larger [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], depends on the sharply opposing physiques of the two contestants. The battery that Euripides and Dionysus both seem to suffer by virtue of the tiny object suggests their shared debility and confirms the earlier accounts of Aeschylus's contrasting physical prowess (e.g., 822-5, 843, 844-5). The weighing scene, in which Euripides' phrases are repeatedly defeated by the greater bulk of those of his opponent, ends with Aeschylus inviting his opponent to climb into the pan of the scales together with all his family and books (1407-9). The point is that even with his body added to the sum, Euripides will still not outweigh the massive Aeschylean oeuvre. And while Aristophanes does not use of Euripides' own person the adjective [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], selected by our three testimonia to describe Hipponax's body and plausibly a citation of the expression found in the original iambic song, the term appears as a 'buzz word' both in the Frogs and elsewhere to characterize the 'lightweight' manner in which Euripides composed (876, 956, 1108, 111). (52) In Euripides' hands, that stylistic slenderness, so much in contrast to the vast dimensions, height, and bulk that belong to Aeschylus's mode of composition and to other practitioners of what would come to be known as the genus grande, (53) reassumes the same literal, anatomical meaning that it had in reference to Hipponax, albeit now applied to the goddess inspiring his dramas rather than to the author's person. In his description of how he treated the swollen, bombastic tragic Muse he received from his predecessor, Euripides details the diet that he placed her on, forcing her to shed her weight in a slimming regime and to assume a more slender form (939-44). In the same spirit, he elsewhere challenges Aeschylus to find any "stuffing" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 1178) in his language. These conceits of stylistic slightness unite with the poet's body in the closing moments of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] cited above, when the scales are repeatedly tipped in favor of Aeschylus's loaded phrases and neither Euripides' lines nor his own person prove able to supply the requisite counterweight.

As I argued above, for Hipponax the lekythos stood for the genre in which the poet composed in a different respect: it indicated, by virtue of replacing the lofty Homeric discus, the 'deflationary' impulse of iambic song vis-a-vis its epic counterpart. Borrowing, perhaps, from this iambic pattern book, or simply exploiting the connotations of the lowly article, Aristophanes similarly makes the comic vessel articulate the changes that Euripides has rung on the tragic model endorsed by his opponent, who too is closely associated with Homer and with an epic style and subject matter. (54) By attaching the lekythion to Euripides' preludes, Aeschylus visibly realizes his opponent's impact on tragedy as the older dramatist had practiced it. The juxtaposition of several lofty and heroic characters of myth and tragedy with the ridiculous little object not only deprives the figures of the grandeur they should properly possess but demonstrates how Euripides has, as Aeschylus earlier charged, stripped away tragedy's social pretensions by "dressing kings in rags" (1063) and, in this instance, making them broadcast their debased condition by imagining them carrying (and losing) their own small jars. The lekythion scene confirms a further accusation that Aeschylus leveled against his challenger--denying tragedy the high-class, martial objects that had been its chief concern and, in the manner of Hipponax, filling it with trivial household goods instead (959, 1016-7; cf. 981-8).

These thematic links uniting the iambic and comic jars are, finally, reinforced by the (mis)use made of the object in the two scenes. In Aeschylus's hand, the flask carries the same character of projectile, although differently deployed, that Hipponax, revising the epic precedent, first gave it. The suggestion that Aeschylus would actually have been equipped with a vessel dangling by a strap from his wrist and would have launched it at his opponents 'bola-style' makes sense of the structure and language of the scene. (55) The possibility of just such a physical-cumverbal assault is first aired at 853-5 where Dionysus warns Euripides to keep his distance, lest Aeschylus "get so angry that he hits you in the temple with a massive block of lexicon" (trans. Sommerstein 1996), and the threat is amply realized, albeit with a seemingly much more puny article by way of weapon. At 1214 Dionysus declares that he and Euripides have been "struck" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) by the jar, as though it were an object that could deliver a blow, and at 1224 the god warns his fellow victim to stay out of its path.

Aeschylus's use of the oil jar to assault his victim calls attention to one major flaw in the reading I have proposed so far. If Aristophanes wished to suggest that Euripides and his drama stand to Aeschylus and his tragedy much as Hipponactean iambic song did to compositions in rival and 'higher' styles and genres, then why did he so patently scramble the original scene? Why assign to Aeschylus the role of Hipponax, who hurled an oil flask in a confrontation with a challenger in order, perhaps, to declare his poetics and generic register triumphant? One possible explanation lies with Aristophanes' dramatic agenda in staging this poetic battle, and with the (not so) surprising reversal that he reserves for the concluding moments of his play.

The original scenario of the Frogs predisposes the audience to expect that victory in the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] will go to Euripides: it is he, not Aeschylus, whom Dionysus initially proposes to bring back to Athens, and there is little in the contest to prompt one to expect a wholesale change in course. Both contestants score points against one another, and by the time the competition has reached its inconclusive conclusion, Aristophanes has made it increasingly hard to distinguish between the two tragedians and to declare a clear winner on the grounds of literary merit alone. (56) In a discussion of Dionysus's sudden shift, Rosen (2004) suggests an explanation for the god's final verdict: if the dramatic [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is designed to recall the more famous competition between Homer and Hesiod, then Aristophanes would be replaying the surprise reversal that the literary battle involved; although Homer seemed the poetic front-runner and clear favorite of the crowd, the king judging the contest awarded Hesiod the prize. The model of an eleventh-hour turnabout also informs Hipponax's victory with the lekythos, a triumph no more expected, given the iambographer's diminutive physique, than was the winning throw of the seemingly weak and enfeebled Odysseus among the Phaeacians. Appropriating the vessel--which properly belongs to Euripides and, as Dionysus suggests, he badly needs back--that Hipponax had used to achieve his unlooked for success, Aeschylus scores his eleventh-hour victory in this latter-day [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. But Aristophanes has also modified the earlier encounter: in a revisionary gesture in keeping with the play's backward-looking and conservative bias, he allows the defender of the high tragic art to deploy the object so as to overcome the upstart and iconoclast. Aeschylus's borrowing proves consistent with his reactionary literary/political stance on a second count: as a conscious archaizer, he harnesses an archaic poet to his attack on his antagonist.

My reading certainly does not preclude the sexual innuendo that many readers have so persuasively argued for in their interpretations of the lekythion. Already in Hipponax, questions of sexual potency may figure in his depiction of his performative rivalry with Boupalos (and, as already noted, these are integral to his attack on the artist Mimnes too). As Rosen (1988b) reconstructs the scenario that the iambographer's very lacunose fr. 84W describes, the poet portrays himself enjoying the amatory favors that Arete has already bestowed on his echthros, and as outdoing his rival with his superior sexual expertise. The conflation of poetic success and virility returns in the attacks that Aristophanes launches against his own poetic bete noire and literary rival, the dramatist Cratinus, whom he portrays in Knights as "dry and withered" (534), and, in a still more patent sexual slur, as having lost the "sinewy-stretched stiffness" (532) that he earlier possessed. Cratinus's counter-riposte in his Pytine offers a sharp refutation and demonstration of the dramatist's continued potency: so sexually virile is he that he enjoys a wife and mistress even as he actively pursues young boys.

These competitive exchanges between Cratinus and Aristophanes also prove relevant to a final issue: Aristophanes' choice (if my suggestion of a debt to Hipponax is correct) to introduce a device, drawn from the 'foreign' register of iambic song, into a play whose chief preoccupation is with the poetics of comedy and tragedy, and the relations of these two dramatic modes to one another. The overarching conceit that frames the scene--an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] that pits practitioners of a common art one against the other--might explain the reference to this different genre. As already noted, not only did Hipponax deploy the lekythos in an agonistic context, but the notion of (poetic) contestation and rivalry is central to archaic--and Callimachean after it--iambos, which adopts as its catalyst a feud between individuals who may be practitioners of competitive skills and/or engaged in the art of (reciprocal) mockery and critique. Cratinus, supposedly the most 'iambic' of the Attic dramatists, had already recognized and appropriated the theme in his Archilochoi, a play that, as several commentators suggest, stages a contest of poetics in which Archilochus, or a spokesman on his behalf, responds to a critical and abusive speaker or speakers who fault him for his aesthetics and/or practice of the iambic genre. (57) While shifting attention to the poetics of a very different mode of composition, Aristophanes similarly includes a visual and verbal reference to an antecedent of the competitive encounter that he presents here.


I conclude with one last story featuring the humble lekythos, an incident first reported in the first-century C.E. Life of Aesop (G 38) but that is, like much of the material elsewhere in the Life, almost certainly of earlier provenance. In one of Aesop's point-scoring exchanges with his master Xanthus, the empty oil jar gives the fabulist the victory against his social and seemingly intellectual superior. When asked by his master Xanthus to "take the oil flask in your hands and the towels, and let's go to the baths" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), Aesop follows his instructions only too well: as the Life reports, "Xanthus gets undressed, hands his clothes to Aesop, and says: 'Give me the oil flask.' Aesop gave it to him. Xanthus took the oil flask, turned it upside down, found that there was nothing in it, and said: Aesop, where is the oil?'" We can anticipate the ending to the scene: Aesop repeats his master's instructions verbatim, adding, "You didn't say anything about oil." As in the Hipponactean incident, victory unexpectedly goes to the weaker party by virtue of a small, humdrum, and pointedly empty object in what is constructed throughout this portion of the text as a contest in wisdom between the slave and his master, a philosopher and professional practitioner of sophia, who suffers not only intellectual but also sexual defeat at the hands of his seemingly insignificant and misshapen rival (Aesop sleeps with Xanthus's wife). The links between the personas of the archaic iambographers and of Aesop, and between iambos and fable, are a rich and still comparatively unexplored topic; but that would be oil for much larger jars. (58)

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(1.) For details of the kkythos, its appearance, and uses, see Beazley 1927-1928 and Henderson 1972, 135-6, with additional bibliography.

(2.) As documented in Quincey 1945.

(3.) For existing treatments of these links, see particularly Rosen 1988a; Zanetto 2001; and Bowie 2002, which offers a more skeptical view of the relationship and emphasizes remoteness rather than proximity. While Bowie is undoubtedly correct to signal the heterogeneity of archaic iambos, the continuities between some aspects of the genre and Attic comedy remain.

(4.) As suggested by Rosen 1990, 12 note 4.

(5.) For details of the correspondence, see Rosen 1990, 13-5.

(6.) Rosen 1990, 15; for the pattern see too Suter 1993.

(7.) See particularly Rosen 1990, 11.

(8.) Just as Odysseus's discus surpasses in dimensions those used by Phaeacians in their competition, so these stones are characterized as so large that no present day man could carry them (Il 5.302-4 = 20.285-7).

(9.) Cf. Il. 23.843, where Ajax whirls the iron from his "mighty hand."

(10.) In fact, the very absence of contents in Hipponax's jar may be indicative of his non-athletic status. In Theocritus's Id. 4.6, Battos responds to the unlikely news that Aegon has gone off to compete in the Olympic games with the remark, "And when did he set eyes on olive oil?," thereby implying Aegon's profound ignorance of things athletic. In several sources (e.g., Plutarch, Them. 1.3; Arrianus, Epict. 1.2.26), dteicpeoOcameans 'to frequent a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

(11.) Odysseus has also just let his mask slip in a rebuke to Euryalus (8.170-83), where the hero patently reclaims his role as warrior and king.

(12.) See the ideological reading that Morris (1996) suggests for iamhos, where practitioners of the genre set out to parody upper-class practices, themselves frequently designed to hark back to heroic models, and to reveal the base reality behind the fagade. Kantzios (2005, 95-8) documents the proliferation of domestic artifacts, food stuffs, and terms referring to the body in Hipponax relative to the other iambic and elegiac poets; for a list of such vocabulary, see his Appendix (pp. 177-8).

(13.) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] / [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; (I will give my much-grieving soul to an evil end, if you do not send me as quick as possible a measure of barley so that I may make a potion as a remedy for my wretchedness). On the allusions to the ritual drink in the composition, see Rosen 1987.

(14.) For the connection between the drink and an impoverished, humble lifestyle, see Richardson 1974, Appendix IV

(15.) See Degani 1983 on fr. 43 in his collection for detailed discussion.

(16.) For what he styles Hipponax's "parodies" of epic, see Degani 1984, 187-205.

(17.) As Graziosi (2002, 171) has recently argued of the scholia on Homeric and Hesiodic texts, ancient commentators regularly express what can be genuinely acute literary insights into an author's underlying thematic concerns in biographical terms, "or, rather, a biographical story can be interpreted as a perceptive reading."


(19.) As vividly demonstrated in Horace, Sat. 1.8, a poem replete with iambic motifs, and whose speaker adopts a persona consistent with that of the archaic iambographers. As in Horace, the Hipponax fragment includes a sexual innuendo. See Gow 1950, ad Theocritus Id. 10.45, for an extensive list of the proverbial expressions derived from the notorious weakness of fig wood.

(20.) See Kantzios 2005, 177-8 for details.

(21.) This is not to deny that there could be some high-quality oil jars too (witness that used by Nausicaa in Od. 6.79--which, as part of the refinement and luxury of Scheria, is made of gold--and some still extant museum examples). In the context of (20.) Hipponactean poetry, however, an audience would, I believe, assume the more humble variety.

(22.) The term can also indicate unbridled sexuality; sec Demosthenes 54.14 with Borthwick 1993; here high-class individuals described with this expression abandon their moderation and restraint to engage in masturbation and other acts native to the iambic repertoire.

(23.) As Henderson (1972, 142) suggests, both here and in Demosthenes' use of the term by way of self-chosen nickname for a band of rowdy, violent young men, carrying one's own oil jar may also be indicative of being "engaged in activities so nefarious" that it is best to have no witnesses.

(24.) For these characters as representative of an existing literary tradition of blame or abuse poetry, see Nagy 1979 and Suter 1993. The precise social status of Thersites remains a matter of dispute (see, most recently, Marks 2005), but most commentators assume a 'common' soldier and certainly that is the stance that Thersites adopts in his address.

(25.) The poverty topos returns most prominently in Callimachus's Iamb 3. For the conceit as a hallmark of the iambic ego, see Acosta-Hughes 2002, esp. 38, 226-8.

(26.) On these affinities, see Clayman 1980, 12-3, 69.

(27.) For the parallels, see Kilb 1973, 183-4 and Bannert 1988, 100. I return to this scene below.

(28.) This would also be consistent with the pugilism that may typify iambic practice; for this see Hipponax, frr. I20W and 121W, with discussion in Rosen 1990, 17; for these fragments, see too below. A fragment of the comic poet Pherecrates seemingly makes a Homeric abuser and mocker the victim of the same form of drubbing. According to the dramatist's account, Thersites dies after Achilles, enraged by his insults, strikes him such a blow with his fist so as to "ignite a flame in his jaws" (fr. 165 K.-A.), a version of events echoed by Quintus of Smyrna at 1.745-6 (an incident discussed below). In the valediction that 'Hipponax' addresses to the philologoi in Callimachus's first Iamb, he treats his audience to a medley of what are most probably familiar iambic tropes: among them appears the expression "to trade in blows" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 89). If, as Nagy (1979, 260-4) argues, the Irus-Odysseus encounter in Od. 18 borrows from a contemporary tradition of 'blame' poetry, then it is entirely fitting that the hero should defeat his challenger in a boxing match.

(29.) For discussion of the vase, see Morelli 2001 and Rosen 2007, 105-15.

(30.) See Rosen 2007, 111 for the suggestion of a sympotic setting.

(31.) Rosen (1990, 17) makes a persuasive case for the episode in Od. 18 as intertext for these fragments.


(33.) Hescychius glosses the otherwise unattested verb with the terms [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

(34.) In another instance of the poet selecting an individual engaged in artistic creation (although absent the suggestion of a more physical attack), Hipponax mocks the painter Mimnes for his inept rendering of a snake, a critique the speaker then couples with a slur on his opponent's sexuality (fr. 28W). See Acosta-Hughes 2002, 34-5 for discussion of the fragment that he reads, together with several other attacks treated here, as evidence of how archaic iambos engaged in aesthetic criticism; my own argument modifies his view. For the coupling of sexuality and poetics in literary rivalries, see Acosta-Hughes's concluding remarks on his page 35.

(35.) Note, however, that Hesiod includes the rivalry of 'potter against potter' in a list of competitive relations that culminates in the programmatic 'poet against poet' (Op. 25-6).

(36.) The chief testimonia are Pliny HN 36.4.12 (with its explicit reference to how the portrait was exhibited "to a circle of laughing spectators," a parallel to Archilochus who, according to fr. 172W> makes Lykambes "a source of much laughter" before his fellow Parians), and Suda (2.665.16 Adler).

(37.) In the 'world turned upside down' inhabited by Hipponax's poetry, the visual and verbal arts are in competitive relations not, as usually occurs, for their common powers of celebration and commemoration, but for their capacity to cast ignominy on their subject.

(38.) Apposite to my interpretation is the very suggestive argument, albeit one for which firm evidence is lacking, made by Hawkins 2008. Hawkins proposes that Archilochus's Lykambes' epode, with its depiction of the eagle (i.e., Lykambes) who "mocks" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], fr. 176W) the seemingly impotent fox (Archilochus), should be read as a pointer towards the professional rivalry that existed between Archilochus and Lykambes, the latter an older and more authoritative performer in the community and perhaps practitioner of a mode of song that the iambographer would displace. Nagy (1979, 230-1 and 260-4) had anticipated the type of reading I offer here when he argued for a similarly agonistic element in the two Homeric scenes featuring the archetypal abusers, Thersites and Iros. According to his account, the two individuals should be viewed as "iambic" intruders trying to impose their cruder and rival genre on the refined world of epic, and who are roundly and literally beaten for their pains.

(39.) For discussion of the use of this agonistic figure in Ibycus, fr. 282 PMG, see Steiner 2005; and in Euripides' Helen, Downing 1990. I suspect that something similar is going on at Hesiod's Op. 436-47. See too note 40 below for an additional example, and, for more general discussion of the agonistic impetus at work in archaic and classical poetry and the relations between this impetus and the actual competitions in whichS that poetry was performed, Griffith 1990.

(40.) Acosta-Hughes (2002, 32-103) offers detailed treatment of the use of the motif; I follow his account in seeing the theme as a nod to archaic iambos. In Iamb 1, a contest internal to the poem--that between the Seven Sages--stands in metonymic relation to the larger competition between Hipponax and the philologoi. See too the discussion of Callimachus in Rosen 2007, 172-206, where he persuasively revises earlier accounts and argues that far from departing from iambos as practiced by Hipponax, the Hellenistic poet seeks to replicate its chief stylistic hallmarks and conceits.

(41.) For a good summary of the different readings and a balanced assessment, see Sommerstein 1996, ad 1198-247.

(42.) This is the conclusion of, among others, Bain 1985; see too Dover 1993, ad 1200.

(43.) So, originally, Whitman 1969 with elaboration in Snell 1979; more recent support in Sider 1992, with additional bibliography in his note 7, and Gero and Johnsson 2002.

(44.) Recommending this reading is the equation between effeminacy and the style practiced by Euripides; for this, see O'Sullivan 1992, 149-50.

(45.) For details, see Bill 1941, Quincey 1945, Theilscher 1953; more recently Sider 1992 and O'Sullivan 1992, 110, 12J, 125. This is also the reading adopted in Taillardat 1965,297-8.

(46.) Sider (1992) also intriguingly suggests a confluence of different meanings, specifically the sexual and rhetorical.

(47.) Aristophanes, along with his fifth-century audience, was clearly very familiar with Hipponax and the traditions surrounding him. For direct references to the poet by the dramatist, sec Lysistrata 360 and Ranae 660. See too the discussion in Rosen 1988a.

(48.) For this, see note 3 above. My argument here obviously supports Rosen's view of the bond between iambos and Attic comedy, but does not depend on it. There are multiple appropriations and parodies of existing literary genres and authors in Aristophanes, iamhos among them. My point is rather that iambic poetry and the figure of Hipponax in particular prove particularly relevant to the confrontation that the dramatist stages here.

(49.) On the problem of the meaning of the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], see Sommerstein 1996 and Dover 1993, adloc.

(50.) So Dover 1993, adloc.

(51.) Since the reference is to Euripides' Hypsipyk, in which the erstwhile princess of Lemnos has become a slave-girl, the Euripidean Muse nicely echoes the experience of social demotion suffered by that drama's titular character.

(52.) For additional examples and discussion, see O'Sullivan 1992, 136-8.

(53.) E.g., 821, 940, 1004, 1059, 1178; see too O'Sullivan 1992, 8-9.

(54.) E.g., 1016-7, 1034, 1040; also O'Sullivan 1992, 68-71 and Denniston 1927, 119.

(55.) So Henderson 1972, 139 and Sommerstein 1996, ad 1198-247.

(56.) Here I draw on an argument presented by Stephen Halliwell in a lecture delivered to the Classics Department of Columbia University on 5 April 2007. To cite a few examples of the confusions that the dramatist engineers: by the end both the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; originally associated with Euripides (893, 957) are reassigned to Aeschylus (1483), while [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], so much a part of the Euripidean stylistic persona, is now also attributed to his counterpart (1108). In similar fashion, as the contest proceeds Aeschylus increasingly borrows the methods and terminology earlier deployed by his challenger, and at 1366-7, he appropriates the sophistic/forensic language of Euripides, by proposing, as his antagonist earlier had, that their dramas be submitted to forms of testing ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; cf. 801-2, 894).

(57.) Sec Rosen 1988a, 42-8 for discussion.

(58.) Many thanks are owed to Ralph Rosen and David Sider who, with a most judicious balance of encouragement and skepticism, read earlier versions of this piece. I am also very grateful to my audience at the City University of New York Graduate Center, and to Dee dayman, for the opportunity to present the work in that forum, and to the editor and anonymous reader at Helios, whose suggestions for taming the more tendentious parts of the argument have been invaluable, if not always observed.
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Author:Steiner, Deborah
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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