• Flight club: the new Archilochus and its resonance with Homeric epic

    Elton Barker (see profile) , Joel Christensen
    Ancient Greece & Rome
    Greeks--Social life and customs, Civilization, Greco-Roman, Classical literature, Greek literature, Poetics
    Item Type:
    npm17, Classical Greek culture, Classical Greek literature
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    This paper analyses the new Archilochus fragment (POxy. LXIX 4708), which tells the story of Telephos’ rout of the Achaeans, in terms of its resonance with Homeric epic. Where previous scholarship has read Archilochus’ poetry as indebted to and derivative on Homer, we instead use the idea of ‘traditional referentiality’ – the process by which a word, phrase or even story pattern resonates with other examples across a broader tradition – to explore the poetics of the new Archilochus and to shed light on the narrative dynamics of the Homeric poems. In our first section, we analyse scenes from the Iliad in which the spectre of flight is set against the backdrop of the sack of Troy. Our aim is to show that this fragment reflects one version of a discussion about fight or flight that is present and on-going in the Iliad. In our second section, we consider comparable scenes from the Odyssey as evidence that this exploration extends far beyond the bounds of any one representation. Rather, we suggest, the new fragment appropriates the motif of deliberation on flight or flight as an entry point into an interpoetic ‘play’ or competition that projects an ‘Odyssean’ voice consistent with other fragments of Archilochus. The new Archilochus fragment resonates with the language, motifs and story-pattern of an epic tradition only to construct a very different world view that rejects both the Iliadic martial anxiety about the shame of flight and the Odyssean appropriation of flight for the achievement of nostos. Instead, it celebrates flight for its own sake. In this way, the fragment leaves us with a tantalizing glimpse of a ‘flight club’, where singers compete in plying their versions of a wider poetic inheritance, and where the values inherent to that tradition and its performance contexts are set out, contested and enacted.
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    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
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