Scholia Reviews ns 13 (2004) 2.

Michael Paschalis, Horace and Greek Lyric Poetry. Rethymnon: Rethymnon Classical Studies, 2002. Pp. ix + 195. ISBN 960-714-318-3. Euro25.00.

Adrian John Ryan
University of Natal, Durban

Horace clearly indicates his literary ancestors in Odes 1.1 where he reveals his ultimate ambition: to be counted amongst the lyricists of the canon. Yet Horace has inherited considerable sophistication from his more immediate predecessors, Catullus and the Hellenistic poets, and thus his relationship with his lyric forefathers is more subtle and complex than his ostensible claims would suggest. The articles presented in this volume, the first in the Rethymnon Classical Series, are revised papers delivered at an eponymous colloquium in Rethymnon called by the Department of Philology at the University of Crete with the expressed purpose of investigating the complex relationship between Horace and the Greek lyricists.

One may divide the collection of articles as follows: four examine individual poems (Lucia Athanassaki, Richard Martin, John F. Miller, and Jenny Straus Clay), and three (Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi, Alessandro Barchiesi and Michael Paschalis) explore what constitutes the lyric genre as Horace understands it. In addition, the collection is framed at the beginning and end by two contributions (Denis Feeney and Michèlle Lowrie) that do not fit comfortably into either category. Feeney's excellent opening article ('The Odiousness of Comparisons: Horace on Literary History and the Limitations of Synkrisis', pp. 7-18) serves as an interesting introduction to the collection by addressing the question of why Horace avoids evaluative comparisons between himself and his lyric forefathers. Feeney suggests that Horace's antipathy towards such anachronistic synkriseis is based on a Ciceronian precedent. Lowrie's article ('Beyond Performance Envy: Horace and the Modern in the Epistle to Augustus', pp. 141-72) concludes the collection by examining the social function of Horace's poetry in view of the apparent disjunction between Greek performance-oriented poetry, where the social function is patent, and Horace's ostensibly literary poetry. Paying particular attention to Odes 3.30, the Ars Poetica and Epistles 2.1, Lowrie finds that Horace plays on this apparent distinction and articulates a new social function, suited to his own age in which the relationship between poet and audience is transformed, in the new regime, by the politics of patronage and power.

One of the most interesting and elusive issues concerning Horace's relationship with the lyric poets is the definition of lyric as a genre in a context that is far removed from the canon in terms of time, culture and language. Peponi ('Fantasizing Lyric: Horace, Epistles 1.19', pp. 19-45), seeking to define lyric in the absence of the lyre, closely examines Epistles 1.19, addressed to doctus Maecenas, in which Horace both declaims water-drinkers as second-rate poets and provides an oblique description of his own literary motives. Peponi suggests that Horace's boorish generalisation on the matter of water versus winebibbers should be interpreted with due regard to Horace's ironic wit. It is with the same subtle irony that Horace re-enacts, rather than slavishly imitates, his lyric forefathers. In particular, like the Lesbian lyricists, Horace blends and tames the verse of Archilochus, who himself understood that lyric could be re-enacted without the lyre. Keeping with Archilochus, Barchiesi ('Palingenre: death, rebirth and the Horatian Iambos', pp. 47-70) turns his attention to the iamb and simultaneously explores Horace's understanding of the iambic tradition in his Epodes and evaluates the competing theories of genre that could account for generic continuity in a context so far removed from its originators. Tracing the evolution of the iamb through Callimachus to Horace, he finds that the Aristotelian understanding of genres as biological entities proves more enduring than its more modern competitors. In the last of the articles in this category, Paschalis ('Constructing Lyric Space: Horace and the Alcaean Song', pp. 71- 84), the editor of the volume, investigates Horace's construction of lyric space, with particular focus on the 'open-closed' axis. The latter is associated with the genre of lyric, the sphere of the home and satisfaction with one's lot, while the former is associated with non lyric genres, foreign expedition, and ambition. Through an examination of selected odes, Paschalis explores the manner in which Horace constructs his own lyric space, especially by comparison with one of Horace's chief lyric models, Alcaeus.

Serendipity has provided us with very few extant lyric poems that Horace may have used as models, and it is not surprising that there are still many unsolved literary puzzles within the Odes. However, of the articles in this collection which discuss individual odes, only one attempts to solve any of these: Jenny Strauss Clay's sensible solution to the persistent problem of the addressee of Odes 4.15 ('Sweet Folly: Horace, Odes 4.12 and the Evocation of Virgil', pp. 129-40). The poem concerned takes the form of an invitation to a certain Virgilius. Since Virgil had died by the time it was published, scholars have either suggested that the poem is an earlier work, written while Virgil was alive, or that it represented an invitation to another person by the same name. Clay points out that there is sufficient allusion to Virgil throughout the poem to evoke the memory of Virgil when Virgilius appears in line 13 -- exactly in the middle of the poem. Furthermore, Horace creates a reflective atmosphere in which his usually playful exhortations to make most of one's allotted hours seem somewhat misplaced. Clay suggests that in an act of sentimental folly, Horace summons Virgil back from the grave for a final symposium. Rather than a lament, it is a celebration that Horace has composed -- one that has much in common with Sappho's poetry of memory, and may also owe a hint of debt to Simonides, judging from a recent reconstitution[[1]] in which the poet appears to visit the isle of the blessed for a symposium.

The remaining articles trace literary genealogies for individual odes. Lucia Athanassaki ('On Horace, Odes 1.15 and Choral Lyric' pp. 85-102) examines Odes 1.15 in which Nereus prophesises to Paris about the consequences of the rape of Helen. Rather than comment on the tired question of whether an allegorical interpretation of the poem is valid, Athanassaki explores what literary exercise Horace is engaged in. Not content with Porphyrio's view that Horace is imitating a now lost poem of Bacchylides, she traces further influences on the poem from Homer to Pindar through Aeschylus, illustrating the complexities of 'Horace's dialogue with choral lyric' (p. 101). Richard Martin ('Horace in Real Time: Odes 1.27 and its Congeners', pp. 103-18) examines Odes 1.27 in which Horace creates dramatic illusion within a symposium by whispering to a symposiast, and responding to his whispered reply without allowing the audience to hear it. Although the poem appears to be based in part on a poem by Anacreon, the device mentioned above does not appear in Greek lyric at all. Martin traces the genealogy of the poem, and argues that the device has its closest parallels not in lyric but in Roman drama. Arguing that Anacreon should be considered a formative influence on the founding of drama, Martin suggests that the poem can be traced ultimately to Anacreon -- through both lyric and the Hellenistic poets on the one hand, and through Plautus and Greek drama on the other. Finally, John F. Miller ('Experiencing Intertextuality in Horace, Odes 3.4', pp. 119-28), in an engaging discussion of Odes 3.4, demonstrates most succinctly that the ode is based not only on Pindar's Pythian 1, but also on Pythian 8 and other early Greek sources. In tracing these models, Martin also provides an illuminating exegesis of the poem.

Published conference proceedings often attempt to cover too broad a field of scholarship to be cogent and homogeneous. It is thus a pleasure to read a volume such as this, the focus of which is narrow and well-defined. The papers herein are all stimulating and original, albeit quite exploratory -- as the elusive nature of the subject-matter demands. The authors have taken care not to overstate their respective cases, and have all explored their relevant themes with cogent reasoning while also displaying the due sophistication that Horace's subtlety demands. Despite its narrow focus, a wide range of approaches are on display in this volume, from traditional to theoretical, and the arguments are both demanding on and rewarding to the reader. A few minor errors aside (such as the incorrect number of articles stated in the introduction [p. 1]), this work is an excellent inauguration of the Rethymnon Classical series, of which I look forward to many more.


[[1]] M.L. West, Iambi et Elegi Graeci ante Alexandrum Cantati (Oxford 1992[2]) fr. 22.