BMCR 2000.01.24

Geschichte und Theorie der Gattung Paian

, Geschichte und Theorie der Gattung Paian : eine kritische Untersuchung mit einem Ausblick auf Behandlung und Auffassung der lyrischen Gattungen bei den alexandrinischen Philologen. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde ; Bd. 121. Stuttgart und Leipzig: Teubner, 1999. xv, 172 pages ; 24 cm.. ISBN 3519076705

This is the second German book on the Greek paean (a subject which had not been dealt with in a full-scale book in any language since A. Fairbanks, 1900) to appear in less than a decade. Its main aim seems to be more a detailed criticism of its immediate predecessor, L. Käppel, Paian. Studien zur Geschichte einer Gattung, Berlin-New York, 1992, than a new comprehensive study on the literary genre. Käppel’s book was a very substantial and thought-provoking contribution to the issue, providing also a useful collection of texts and testimonia. It was profoundly characterized by the author’s attempt to offer a new solution to the problem of the classification of lyric genres in archaic Greek poetry within a framework based on R. Jauß’s Gattungstheorie : literary genres should not be seen as genera in a logical sense, but as historical families, and, as such, should be described from a historical point of view; their form and evolution are determined by their relation to tradition (reflected, on the side of reception, in the Erwartungshorizont) and by their ‘situational function’ ( Sitz im Leben). For the Greek paean Käppel traced an evolutionary theory according to which, for the archaic poets, it is only the Sitz im Leben that determines the genre of their poems, while “the poem’s form … obviously plays a subordinate role or no role at all” (Käppel, op.cit., p. 35); Alexandrian scholars, on the contrary, determined generic distinction only by formal criteria, having lost sight of the actual Sitz im Leben.

Käppel’s approach was, in my opinion, partly impaired by his attempt to force the evidence into this general theory and, while his collection of the materials and some of his contributions to particular issues are of considerable usefulness, his overall interpretation does not seem to work in a convincing way.1 S(chröder)’s book, if arguably less original than Käppel’s, has a more sober approach, and his general conclusions, often closer to the former communis opinio, seem in most cases better grounded.

In his chapter on the Sitz im Leben Käppel had given a certain emphasis to the plurality of addressees attested for the paeans. Against this, S. argues that in fact , until the end of the 5th. C. BCE, all literary paeans were addressed to Apollo, or to Apollo and other gods linked to him (Artemis and Asclepius, in the first place). One of Käppel’s shortcomings on this subject had been his use of all the papyrus fragments assembled under the heading “Paeanes” in the Teubner edition of Pindar as evidence for his research, without attempting to assess the correctness of such attribution. S. now relies (as he acknowledges) also on a recent contribution of mine in attributing some of the Paean fragments of the Teubner edition to other books of the Alexandrian edition.2 This is, to be fair, partly dependent on evidence not yet available when Käppel wrote his book: nevertheless, the lack of a fresh reappraisal of this crucial problem seems to have had misleading consequences on Käppel’s research.

At this stage S. tries to keep the problem of the identification of a 5th C. corpus separated from that of the classification criteria adopted in the Alexandrian period (to which the last part of his book is devoted). It should theoretically be so, but, in practice, this is not possible. If we want to know what Pindar himself might have considered a paean, our sole first-hand evidence is, after all, the priamel in fr. 128c S.-M. mentioning the “periodical paeanic songs for gold-distaff Leto’s children”. What we read in his Paeans book may well represent what Pindar himself may have considered his paeans, but this comes to us, unavoidably, through the filter of the Alexandrian edition. The fact that the edition, as far as we can reconstruct its content, is compatible with Pindar’s own ‘definition’, and with most of our evidence for the period, implies that its criteria were reasonable ones. But the circumstance that e.g. *pae. XXI was not in the Paeans but, as I believe, in the Prosodia books may not stricto sensu tell us anything about Pindar‘s opinion about its genre (it may, theoretically, be argued that it was a paean for Pindar, and that its classification among the Prosodia is, again, an Alexandrian mistake). A more precise assessment of the ancient editorial criteria, however, leads to a better appraisal of their reasonableness.

As for the gods addressed in everyday paeans, the situation is more complicated. S. revives, with some plausibility, a modified version of Deubner’s thesis according to which the paeanic prayer did not originally have any proper addressee. The Paian-cry (not a god, but a magical song, subsequently identified with a god, as Deubner maintained) came to be more often connected with Apollo in the cultic mainstream and in the literary tradition, but in the more conservative everyday religious life continued to be used, in some occasions, without any addressee, or addressed also to other gods. Deubner, of course, was not aware of the presence of a god Paiewon in the Linear B tablets, and, on this account, S. moves the evolution envisaged by Deubner back to an earlier period. What I find less convincing is S.’s attempt to bring the sympotic paean into an Apolline realm (pp.22-31, and in particular, for his conclusion, p.31). The evidence is not completely clear, but, among quite a few occurrences, the only mention of Apollo is in fr. com. adesp. *745 K.-A., while Zeus Olympios and Soter and other gods (and heroes) are often mentioned. Even if it is difficult to assume that they are the proper addressees of the sympotic paean(s), it may be safer to suppose that they were still addressed in the prayers which accompanied the libations and that the paeans in this context had originally no proper addressee (Deubner’s thesis), though they may have been of course sometimes felt as addressed to the paeanic god par excellence.

Käppel, as I have mentioned above, maintains that for the archaic poets the genre is determined only by the function of their poems, while ‘the poem’s form … obviously plays a subordinate role or no role at all’. Against this S., pp.49-61, argues that a few minimal formal features were also important, and, for the paean at least, even fundamental: there is practically no preserved paean without some variation of the “ie” cry. S. refines Käppel’s results by remarking how, in the very few cases where the cry seems to be missing, its lack is in fact compensated by the presence of a proper address to Paian. The two remaining exceptions would be Bacchylides XVII (for its interpretation as a paean S. refers to a forthcoming article: I shall, therefore, leave the issue out of this discussion) and Ariphron’s hymn to Hygieia. S. argues that in the former its lack may be compensated by the presence of the verb παιάνιξαν at the end of the narration (close to the end of the poem), while the latter may well not be, after all, a paean. One may go further by underlining how the “ie” cry by itself is not a sufficient indication of generic appurtenance: in all its variations inside proper paeans it is in fact accompanied either by an address to Paian, or by a mention of the paean-word (either the god or the song) in its immediate proximity. Pindar seems to allow himself more liberty: in pae. I the cry in line 5 (its collocation at the beginning of an epode [S.-M., Käppel, S. and others] depends on a conjecture by Wilamowitz) is followed by a prayer to Paian in line 9. In pae. V the refrain is ἰήιε Δάλι’ [Ἄπολλον, where the address to Paian is replaced by the equivalent one to Apollo (cf. Soph. O.R. 154 ἰήιε Δάλιε παιάν with the same metrical value). Simonides, PMG 519 fr. 78 col.i 10 is too fragmentary (anyway, the word παιήων occurs at l.4). This suggests that it is probably incorrect to regard the “ie” cry per se as the “paeanic epiphthegma”. It works as a generic mark only together with either an address to Paian or a mention of the word for paean (cf. Ath. XV 696f τὸ ἰηπαιὰν ἐπίφθεγμα). S. p.7 n.1 is aware of a previous remark of mine on this subject (ZPE 118 (1997), p.37 n.89), and seems to be in agreement with it, but prefers to stick to Käppel’s definition in order to counter his arguments using his terms. This issue, however, is of no small importance for the discussion of the role attributed to the epiphthegma by the Alexandrian scholars, discussed at length by S. in the last section of his book.

Chapter III (pp. 62-96) is a reassessment of the evolution of the genre in the 4th. C. S. is convincing when arguing that the series of simple and similar texts epigraphically transmitted (all connected, in some way, to the so called “Erythraean paean”) do not represent a stage in the evolution towards the predominance of formal factors in the definition of the genre (Käppel’s thesis) but rather an example of the less elaborated cultic poems (as opposed to the literary creations of the major lyric poets) that must have circulated also at an earlier period. In a similar way he argues that the Paean for Dionysos by Philodamos Skarphaios, in which Käppel, because of its alleged new attitude towards the formal aspects of the genre, saw “one of the most instructive links between Greek classical and Hellenistic literature” ( op. cit., p.283), is distinguishable from the other traditional paeans basically only by its being addressed to Dionysos as σωτήρ. While I agree that Käppel’s emphasis on the literary importance of this poem was probably exaggerated, and that it is much closer to the earlier traditional poems than to Hellenistic poetry, I find, nevertheless, that S.’s criticism does not do full justice to Käppel’s detailed reading of the text. S. underlines some difficulties of Käppel’s interpretation of the fragmentary str.X, and other minor problems, but his own interpretation does not always solve these problems and is, at least to me, less appealing. It is to be agreed with S. when, against Käppel, he argues that the bestowal of Apolline features on Dionysos does not take place only (or mainly) through the poem’s formal structure, but had already been determined by extratextual factors. The fact that the audience knew beforehand that the god was going to be celebrated with a paean rather than with a dithyramb had not been stressed enough by Käppel. Nevertheless the analysis of the subtle interplay between Dionysiac/dithyrambic and Apolline / paeanic features in the poem remains, in my opinion, one of the most interesting achievements of Käppel’s book.

In chapter IV S. tries to assess the weight of the literary theories adopted by Käppel in his research. According to S., Jauß’s Gattungstheorie, while useful when applied to more fluid literary ‘genres’, in which the feedback of literary innovations in the audience (or in the broader public) might have been more effective (e.g. competitive genres, as the later dithyramb and comedy), is not fruitful with more traditional cultic poetry, as the paean. In this case the major poets were certainly able to achieve different effects with their elaborated compositions, but this did not affect the perception of the genre by the public.

The last chapter (V, pp. 110-153) is devoted to the analysis of the criteria adopted by Alexandrian scholars in their edition of the Greek lyric poets. S.’s main aim is to show that those ancient editors, while certainly looking for practical classification systems rather than for coherent literary definitions, were not blindly following mere formal criteria: they were not uninterested in, nor unaware of, the function ( Sitz im Leben) of the poems they were collecting and cataloguing.

This approach to the problem is, in my opinion, correct. His treatment of one of the most important pieces of evidence on the issue (P.Oxy. 2368, which refers to a disagreement between Aristarchos and Callimachos on the classification of a lyric poem as a paean or a dithyramb, S. pp. 110-119) however requires some qualification. The latest contribution on this papyrus fragment, by G. Ucciardello,3 was published probably too late for S. to take account of it. S. does not provide a revised text of this hypomnema. In a long note (pp. 111 f. n.1), he deals with the crucial supplement in line 18, which, in Lobel’s reconstruction, should tell us about the criterion according to which Callimachus had classified the discussed poem4 as a paean rather than as a dithyramb, wrongly, in Aristarchos’ opinion. Lobel thought that this criterion was the presence of an epiphthegma, while W. Luppe, and H. Maehler, in his recent edition with commentary of Bacchylides’ Dithyrambs,5 thought that Callimachos was rather referring to the presence of an extended mythical narration ( παραδιή]γημα or ? μύθου διή]γημα Luppe; σύσ]τημα Maehler). S. is not convinced by these supplements, but neither does he seem very happy with Lobel’s ἐπίφθ]εγμα, mainly on the account that (a) we have no evidence for the epiphthegma being used also in the Dithyrambs and (b) even if there was such a use of the epiphthegma it would be awkward to assume that Callimachus was not aware of it. Now, after a reinspection of the papyrus, Ucciardello argues that Lobel’s supplement is palaeographically superior to Luppe’s and Maehler’s. I would like, moreover, to draw attention to the, apparently unnoticed, fact that the spelling mistake involved in this reading is probably no mistake at all, since φθέγμα sometime spelt with a double gamma in the imperial period.6 S.’s statement that we have no example of the “ie” refrain in dithyrambs takes no account of B. fr. dub. 60-61 (two fragments never mentioned in his book), where the cry closes a narrative poem (fr.60). Since the following poem (fr.61) bears the title Leucippides, the two poems were almost certainly classified as dithyrambs. 7 We are not obliged to suppose that Callimachus did not know this poem, or other similar ones. It is likelier to assume that he thought that they were paeans, because of the epiphthegma. According, at least, to Aristarchos, however, the paeanic epiphthegma was probably not just the “ie” cry, but its occurrence together with an address to Paian, an opinion consistent with the evidence examined above (and with the fact that * pae. XXI, where the cry is followed by what seems to be an address to Hera, was classified, arguably already in Aristophanes’s edition, among the Prosodia).

B. fr. dub. 61, incidentally, also provides a good parallel for the classification of B. dith. 20 among the Dithyrambs (discussed in some detail by S., pp. 150-152): both are Spartan poems beginning in medias res with the description of a choral song performed by a female chorus (which, in the case of fr. 61, may have something to do with the Leucippides mentioned in the title, just as the chorus of dith. 20 recalls a mythical antecedent). We do not know exactly on which evidence they were classed as dithyrambs rather than as partheneia or hymenaia : it is nevertheless likely that they were classified according to a similar criterion. And, in spite of our lack of knowledge, we should not assume, a priori, that it was necessarily a wrong criterion.

On the related issue of the classification of Xenocritus’ narrative poems as paeans or dithyrambs, S. (pp. 119-121) is of the opinion that his poems were not available to the Alexandrian scholars, but that, since he was involved in the so called second κατάστασις of Spartan music, for which mainly poets of paeans were known, he was thought of as a composer of paeans. This seems doubtful to me: Pind. fr. 140b S.-M. (a passage not mentioned by S.8) seems to refer to Xenocritus as an author of paeans, and Pindar and his audience are likely to have been familiar with at least one of his poems.

An, arguably less important, classification problem is raised by the quotation of Dionysios of Phaselis in the scholia to Pind. Nem. XI inscr. a. According to the transmitted text Dionysios thought that this poem, celebrating the election of Theoxenos as a prytanis in Tenedos, should not have been arranged together with the Nemean Odes, but rather with the παροίνια. This word is normally corrected, after Bergk, into παρθένια, but, as I have argued elsewhere,9 there are several reasons, in the text of the ode and outside of it, to justify its possible classification as a sympotic poem. On the other hand, if we do not accept the idea that its inclusion among the parthenia is due to the circumstance that the third book with that title was a collection of miscellaneous poems (a thesis rejected by S. p.140), there is nothing in the poem suggesting its possible performance by a chorus of virgins, as S. himself admits. The only reasons S. finds for defending Bergk’s conjecture (p. 146 and n.2), is that Dionysios was likelier to have used one of the titles already current in Pindar’s edition, when proposing a new classification. But παροίνια in this period is virtually synonymous with σκόλια, which may have been a subdivision of Pindar’s books of Encomia (cf. S. pp. 148 f.). In this regard it may also be mentioned that at l. 38 of the list of Pindar’s book in his Oxyrhynchos biography (P.Oxy. 2438) Gallo’s supplement ἐγκωμίων ᾱ ἐν [ᾧ] καὶ [σκόλιά τινα is as likely as ἐγκωμίων α’ ἐν [ᾦ] καὶ [παροίνια].

This a well-informed book.10 S.’s arguments are carefully elaborated and his approach to the subject is in most cases reasonable and convincing. The book’s overall structure, however, is too strongly marked by its critical approach toward Käppel’s work, and this may be a limit to its utility for readers not already familiar with the book of his predecessor.


1. Cf. CR n.s. 44 (1994), 63.

2. G.B. D’Alessio, ZPE 118 (1997), 23-60, but the main point had already been raised in my review of Käppel’s book quoted above (n.1).

3. G. Ucciardello, Analecta Papyrologica 8-9 (1996-1997 [but 1998]), 61-88.

4. The author of the poem is not mentioned in the papyrus. Aristarchos classified it as a dithyramb and, accordingly, gave it a title, Cassandra. Since we know that there was a poem by Bacchylides where Cassandra prophesied about the destiny of Troy, which was the model of Hor. carm. I 15, and therefore, probably, a narrative poem (fr. 8a Blass), it has been generally agreed that our papyrus is a hypomnema on this poem by Bacchylides, and this is by far the likeliest possibility. It is not plausible that it may have been a commentary on our Pind. pae. VIIIa S.-M. (a possibility envisaged, and rejected, by I. Rutherford, Eos 79 (1991), 11, cf. S. p.110 n.1). This poem was classified among the Paeans in the Alexandrian edition, as it seems, with the authority of Aristophanes of Byzantion: there is no evidence that Aristarchos produced an edition of Pindar with a different arrangement of the poems, and, even if it were the case, it would be surprising that Aristophanes is not mentioned in the papyrus (cf. also D’Alessio, art. cit. [n.2 above], pp. 51-55). Ucciardello, art. cit., p. 63 n.3, draws attention to the coincidence between the lemma εειπ.[ in P.Oxy. 2368 col. ii 26 and ἔειπε δὲ in pae. VIIIa 22: but the lemma in the hypomnema comes from a section close to the end of the poem, while the passage in pae. VIIIa is almost at the beginning of Cassandra’s speech.

5. W. Luppe, ZPE 69 (1987), 9-12, Analecta Papyrologica 1 (1989), 23-29, H. Maehler, Die Lieder des Bakchylides. Zweiter Teil. Die Dithyramben und Fragmenten, Text, Übersetzung und Kommentar, Leiden, 1997, pp. 124 f., 167 and 268 ff.

6. Cf. LSJ. s.v. φθέγμα. It is surprising that this explanation has never been adduced when discussing this supplement (further evidence for this spelling will be collected in a forthcoming article by G. Ucciardello, who also shows that it was used already at an earlier date).

7. Their attribution to either Bacchylides (the likeliest option, in my opinion) or Simonides prevents their classification as Nomoi.

8. On this problem cf. at least M.G. Fileni, Senocrito di Locri e Pindaro (fr. 140b Sn. Maehl.), Roma [1987] and F. Ferrari, Maia 42 (1990), pp.232-234.

9. Art. cit. (above, n.2), pp. 54 f., but cf. already I. Gallo, Una nuova biografia di Pindaro (P.Oxy. 2438), Salerno [1968], p.76 n.7.

10. The secondary literature used by S. is wide and up-to-date. I add here a couple of titles that might have been relevant to his discussion: on the hyporchema (discussed by S. on p.141 n.5), cf. M. Di Marco, Osservazioni sull’iporchema, “Helikon” 13-14 (1973-1974), pp. 326-348; on the title of Pind. fr. 70b S.M. (S., pp. 96 and 116 n.2), cf. F. Ferrari, SIFC 84 (1991), p. 3 f.