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THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES:

AN INTERNAL RECONSTRUCTION OF
ARCHAIC GREEK METAPOETICS

Boris Maslov


Abstract. This article puts forward a novel approach to the history of poetic forms
in Archaic Greece. By investigating the evolution of the “diegetic frames” involving
the figure of the Muse(s), it seeks to trace mutual influences between different
genres (Homeric epic, catalogue poetry, the Homeric Hymns, early choral lyric)
and, in the case of the Iliad and Hesiod’s Theogony, to identify distinct strata in
the composition of one text. This genealogical analysis of the invocation of the
Muses demonstrates that choral lyric had a significant impact on the evolving
forms of hexameter poetry.

1. GENRE AND METAPOETICS

In the last three decades, distinctions of genre and performance


context have been paramount in the study of Archaic Greek poetry,
particularly of the melic corpus.1 In spite of that, the assumption that a
unitary concept of literary production or poetic craft was shared across
genre boundaries has remained largely uncontested.2 Admittedly, the
dearth of historical and textual evidence makes it difficult to assess the
extent to which different kinds of “poetic” activity in the Archaic period
were perceived to cohere as a single phenomenon. What speaks against
positing such unity is the absence of indigenous descriptors that would

1
 See, e.g., Calame 1974; Gentili 1988; Kurke 2007; Nagy 1990a, 1994; also Käppel
1992, Rutherford 2001, Ford 2006 (on paean); Krummen 1990, Agócs et al. 2012 (on
epinikion); Zimmerman 1992 and Fearn 2007, 165–341 (on dithyramb); Power 2010 (on
kitharodic genres).
2
 Koller 1956; 1963; and Nagy 1990a represent the most challenging comparative work
on epic and lyric traditions. On the whole, however, the homogenizing literary-historical
narrative, whose different versions are represented by Maehler 1963 and Detienne 1996,
has not been superseded.

American Journal of Philology 137 (2016) 411–446 © 2016 by Johns Hopkins University Press
412 BORIS MASLOV

encompass verbal art as a totality: in the Archaic period, the Greeks


lacked a single word to describe (any kind of) “poet” or “poetry.”3 The
closest analogue to such an inclusive notion was mousike\, a term that
strongly connoted musical accompaniment, hindering its application to
recited forms of verse. Nevertheless, its diachronic links to song and
dance notwithstanding, it was the figure of Mousa—a personification
of mousike\—that, variously inflected, provided a principal means for
conceptualizing the emerging literary field.
To trace and, in some cases, reconstruct these shifting conceptu-
alizations, it may prove productive to adopt the counterintuitive work-
ing assumption that distinct genres—early choral lyric (represented by
­Alcman and Stesichorus),4 elegy, Homeric epic, and the Hesiodic brand
of catalogue poetry—developed autonomously, not unlike the way in
which, today, verse written for children, pop music lyrics, and high literary
poetry coexist within the same culture, with only minimal interference.
Such independence does not imply that there are no historical (genetic)
links tying those distinct forms; thus, certain commonplaces of post-
Romantic lyric may find their way into both a rock song and a piece
by a poet laureate. To clarify such linkages in Archaic Greek poetry, I
propose to construe the field of verbal art in stemmatic terms, on analogy
with dialects within a language family or different manuscript redactions
of a text. This approach contrasts both with the conventional literary-
historical account that treats Ancient Greek poets or genres sequentially,
like modern poetic movements or schools, and with the perception of
Archaic Greek poetry as a unitary field, a Sprachbund of sorts, with no
discernable diachronic layering.
Needless to say, this experiment in internal reconstruction can only
be said to succeed if—to continue the analogy with textual criticism—the
amount of “interpolation,” i.e., inter-genre influence, does not impugn the
established lines of transmission.
To offer a genre-specific, stratified account of Archaic Greek poetics,
I turn to the evidence of metapoetics—that is, of the ways in which the
texts comment on their own conditions of production and performance.
As the following discussion shows, patterns of metapoetic usage, rather

3
 Terms like mousike\ (used in melic poetry) and the generic sophia (used of poetic
craft by elegiac and melic poets) exclude hexameter poetry, which was referred to as
rhapsodia (Ford 1988). On the Archaic metapoetic apparatus, see Ford 1981. Maslov 2009
argues that aoidos, in the meaning “poet-composer,” was limited to the hexametric tradition.
4
 I am in favor of the traditional view that Stesichorus’ poetry was intended for choral
performance (for a classic discussion, see Burkert 1987, 51–53).
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 413

than indicating broadly diffused notions of what it means to practice


verbal art, correlate strongly with genre divisions.
Metapoetics, as it is here defined, may include descriptions of the
speaker (in the first or the third person) or of the text, either extended
or condensed (and even expressed by a single lexical item). One way
to uncover continuities and ruptures in the history of poetic praxis is to
investigate a particular concept—for example, the concept of the poet—
diachronically, viewing different genres as parts of a literary system. In
what follows, instead, I discuss “diegetic frames”—textual moments when
the speaker/author is represented as a mediating instance in discourse. In
particular, I focus on variations of the diegetic frame most distinctive of
Archaic Greek poetry: the uses of the figure of the “Muse(s),” a divine
agent implicated in the process of textual production. The diachronic
analysis of the diegetic frames involving the Muse(s) allows us to draw
more sharply the boundaries separating Archaic Greek poetic genres
as well as, in many cases, to detect generic layers within a single work.
To take an example, it is surely significant that in the extant text of
neither the Iliad nor the Odyssey is there any mention of an individual
poet-composer (“Homer”), whereas the “Homeric” Hymn to Apollo and
Hesiod’s two didactic epics foreground a poet figure. Griffith explains
these metapoetic moments—context-setting proems or sphragides with
the author’s name—in Hesiod and the Hymns as remnants of a particular
performance occasion, which are not to be found in our generalized text
of Homer.5 While I concur with Griffith’s opposition to the view that
this difference reflects a rise of individual consciousness, I propose that
differences in metapoetics reflect much more than accidentally retained
memory of a particular occasion. Metapoetic strategies provide us with a
tool for uncovering the rich dynamic of genre evolution and interaction
that is distinctive of Archaic Greek poetry. For example, it will be impor-
tant for the subsequent discussion that both the Iliad and the Odyssey
include elementary proems—both beginning with the invocation of the
Muse—but, contrary to a widespread neo-unitarian position (influenced
by the implicit ideal of literary text as an organic whole as well as by a
homogenizing notion of oral tradition), they need to be seen as belonging
to a level of composition that postdates much of the epic narrative and,
moreover, displays the impact of melic usage.6

5
 Griffith 1983, 46–47; cf. Nagy 1990b, 47–60.
6
 The approach adopted in this article is thus in line with the more recent attempts
to return to a stratified Homer; see, in particular, Klein 1998, 2012; Maslov 2009; West
2011; Faraone 2016.
414 BORIS MASLOV

The beginning of the text is, quite naturally, a privileged locus for
diegetic devices.7 This explains a peculiar characteristic of Greek Archaic
lyric (and the genres of later European lyric that inherit its formal fea-
tures): the merging of invocation of the gods and metapoetic reflection in
the opening section of the text. It bears emphasizing that such a merging
is conditioned by the history of discursive forms: poetic texts in Archaic
Greece either appropriated the primary speech act of a prayer (as often
in solo lyric), encompassed ritual interaction in a cult context (as in choral
lyric), or were performed at religious festivals (as appears to have been
the case of hexameter poetry). The invocation of the Muse(s), at once a
diegetic device and a hymnic appeal, is a condensed expression of this
merging of two otherwise distinct discursive functions.

2. HOW MANY MUSES? REVISITING AN OLD DILEMMA

The Muse’s best-known appearance in Greek literature is in the first line of


the Iliad. Rather than taking this use as foundational or paradigm-setting,
however, one might ask, did a non-poetic (e.g., religious) motivation
exist for the invocation of the Muse? If not, does the appearance of the
Homeric Muse in Iliad 1 represent the original function of this diegetic
frame, or does it derive from another context?
As is well known, the Muses as deities of poetic craft are a purely
Greek phenomenon; in particular, they are unparalleled in other Indo-
European traditions or in the Near East.8 The uniqueness of the Greek
Muses makes one doubt the widespread functionalist explanation for the
prominence of these figures in Homeric epic, according to which they (qua
Mnemosyne’s daughters) stand for the epic singer’s mnemonic capacity.9
Similar feats of memory were demanded from performers in other epic
traditions, yet nowhere do we find an analogue of a “reminding” deity
called upon to recount the deeds of men. The difficulty of explaining the
Muse(s) as an attribute of epic narration (which then spread to other

7
 On the importance of a work’s beginning, and thus of “proems, prefaces, and pro-
logues,” as eliciting particular “self-presentational pressure,” see Helgerson 1983, 13. With
particular reference to the reception of Homer, the significance of proems is discussed in
Perris 2011.
8
 “The Muses are, so far as we know, purely Greek creatures, and have no counterpart
in the orient” (West 1997, 170). Cf. West 2007, 94, on the lack of Indo-European comparanda.
9
 E.g.: “Only the Μοῦσαι (“reminders,” from mon-t-yai) know for sure; the Singer,
proud as he is of his craft, has access to the Muses’ knowledge through his song” (Nagy
1974, 249). To the same effect: Svenbro 1976, 33–35; Martin 1989, 78; Detienne 1996, 39–52.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 415

genres) suggests that we need to consider the possibility that the original
metapoetic deployment of these figures took place in a different context.
The mystery of the origins of the Muse(s) is in many ways encap-
sulated by the dilemma of their plurality vs. singularity.10 The Muses as a
group are akin to such female (semi-)divine collectives as Nymphs (e.g.,
Nereides, Naiads, Oceanides), Charites (Graces), and Sirens, all of whom
are often described in Archaic Greek sources as expert singers and/or
dancers.11 As early as in Hesiod’s Theogony (76, 917) and the Odyssey
(24.60), the Muses are thought of as a group of nine, and there also exists
evidence for the grouping of three Muses; this pattern is observed for
nymphs in Greek religion, who tend to appear in threes.12 Schachter, in his
discussion of the Muses of Helicon, lists partly analogous female divinities
from the neighboring area of Boeotia: the three Charites of Orchomenos,
the Sphragitid Nymphs of Mount Cithairon, the Three Maidens of Eleon
east of Thebes, the Muses of Mount Thourion outside Chaironeia, and the
Leibethrian Nymphs (1996, 100). This evidence suggests that the Muses of
Helicon were considered to be analogous to other local female divinities
who populated the landscape of Archaic Greece. The larger number of
the paradigmatic group of the Muses—not three, but nine—may be due
to their approximation to the image of a maiden chorus.
On the other hand, the Muse as a solitary being is a no less sig-
nificant character in Archaic Greek metapoetics. If we begin with the
solitary Muse of the proems to the Homeric epics, we need to imagine

10
 To the best of my knowledge, such an approach to the (meta)poetic significance of
the Muses has not been attempted before. The communis opinio is reflected in what is cur-
rently the most authoritative commentary on the Iliad: “Muse and Muses are used with little
distinction” (Kirk 1985, 51 on Il. 1.1 and comparing Od. 1.1, Theog. 1, Erga 1, and Il. 2.484).
11
 Nymphs (Koller 1963); Sirens (Muse/Siren conflation: Alcm. fr. 30; see also Koller
1963, 45–48; contra: Pollard 1952, in contrast to Muses, Sirens are not thought of as a ­chorus
[p. 62]). Burkert 1985, 173–74, discusses “societies of gods” (under which he counts the
Muses) as reflections of cult thiasoi. Parallels between Muses and Nymphs are discussed in
Otto 1961, 9–20, 29–35, who, however, prefers to see the Muse as singular in origin (25). Cf.
Farnell 1909, 5.435: “in some early centre of their cult the personal name Μοῦσαι happened
to be attached to some prior anthropomorphic personages, some prophetic and musical
nymphs of fountain or hill-side.”
12
 Usener 1903, 10. Pausanias (9.29.2) reports that the cult of the Muses on Helicon
only included three Muses: Mne\me\ “Memory,” Aoide\ “Song,” Melete\ “Practice.” According
to Detienne 1996, 41, Melete\ stands for “the discipline indispensable to any bardic appren-
tice: attention, concentration, and mental exercise” (on this concept, see also Vernant 2006,
139–53); a folk-etymological link with melos “song,” as suggested in Camilloni 1998, 23, is
also not excluded. Cicero (Nat. D. 3.54) knows of four Muses: Arche\, Melete\, Aoide\, and
Thelxinoe\ “one who bewitches the mind,” who is particularly noteworthy for the “epaoidic”
connotation in her name.
416 BORIS MASLOV

a subsequent assimilation of a plurality of the Muses to Nymphs. As a


parallel one could cite the case of Charites “Graces,” where the singular
form is clearly original. This development is also suggested by Usener
who compares the Muse to the Moira “Fate” as part of his complex
argument about “triplication” of Greek gods in the Archaic period (1903,
322). Pointing to the evidence of the original duality of the Charites
and Horai (as well as some other Greek deities), who later came to be
thought of as a trinity, Usener suggests that a similar change—but from
unity to trinity—may have impacted Nymphs, the Muses, as well as the
Moirai. Yet this is not the only way to interpret the evidence. In the case
of female divinities of wildlife, in the light of significant comparative
evidence within the Indo-European realm, I would rather understand
trinity to be expressive of multiplicity.13
This dilemma of the grammatical number is bound up with the
debate on the etymology of the word Mousa (Aeol. Moisa, Dor. Mo\sa),
although that connection is rarely made explicit. The majority of scholars
follow Brugmann in seeing the Muse as originally a goddess of poetic
inspiration and favor the etymology that begins with the common
Proto-Indo-European root denoting intellectual activity, *men: the “Muse”
is one who makes possible the poet’s intellectual effort of composition.14
An alternative, minority view is represented by Wackernagel’s suggestion
that the name of the Muses is derived from the root *mont, which yielded
Latin mons (mountain) but is not represented elsewhere in Greek.15 The
name of the Muses could then be explained as “those of the mountains.”16

13
 West 2007, 284–92. Cf. expressions of the “thrice blest” type: Usener 1903, 357–58;
see also Lease 1919.
14
 Brugmann 1894, 255. In favor of derivation from *men: e.g., Farnell 1909, 5.435;
Wilamowitz 1959, 1.246; Otto 1961, 26–27; Nagy 1974, 249; Bader 1989, 254; Katz 2013a, 18
(for a list of earlier scholars who accept this etymology, see Camilloni 1998, 7). The deriva-
tion of the word from the root *men is difficult in view of the dental sound in *μοντ-yα;
from the phonetic point of view, both Chantraine and Beekes 2010 endorse as a possibility
only the derivation from *μονθ-yα (cf. μανθάνω; Chantraine 1999, 716; this etymology was
originally proposed by Ehrlich). Watkins 1995, 73, 110; 2000, 54, proposed the derivation
*monsa < *montwa < *mon-tu-h2 on the force of Skt. man-tú- “guide,” but this is difficult
to parallel in Greek, where all feminine nouns with the suffix -tu are deverbal formations
in -τυς referring to activities (cf. Brugmann 1889, 308; Risch 1974, 40–41).
15
 Wackernagel 1955, 1207. This is the major objection to this etymology; cf. Chant-
raine 1999, 716; Beekes 2010, 972. For an overview of evidence for different etymologies
of the Muse, see Assaël 2000, whose objections to the association between the Muses and
the Nymphs appear unwarranted.
16
 Wackernagel’s etymology is accepted with hesitation by Dodds 1951, 99; tentatively
by Duchemin 1955, 26, 290; without reservations, by Koller 1963, 38. Beside ὀρειάδες, adjec-
tives οὔρειαι and ὀρεστιάδες were used to refer to mountain nymphs (Otto 1961, 12). I omit
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 417

In particular, Wackernagel criticizes Brugmann for favoring the evidence


of the Odyssey over that of the Iliad, where the Muses are insistently
localized on Olympus. Indeed, of all Greek deities, only Zeus and the
Muses claim the epithet “Olympian,” which, as Wackernagel notes, must
indicate their Thessalian provenance.17 On this approach, the Muses—­
occasionally referred to in Greek sources as ὀρειάδες (“those of the
mountains,” 1955, 1207)—are originally mountain nymphs. This line of
reasoning is pursued by Koller (1963, 17–48), who collected the (mostly
late) evidence in support of the view that the Muses were a “locally
restricted group” of nymphs (27).18 In favor of the primacy of the Muses
as a collective, one may also cite the evidence of cult: apparently there
never existed a cult of a single Muse.19 In Murray’s formulation, which
appears to reflect the current consensus on this question, “the original
multiplicity of Muses must stem in part from their existence as a chorus,
who nevertheless represent a unity” (2014, 15). The assumption of the
original multiplicity of the Muses, however, accords better with Wacker-
nagel’s, not Brugmann’s, etymology. As Beekes has recently suggested, the
possibility of substrate influence on this word should also be taken into
consideration (2010, 973; see also the appendix at the end of this article).
In what follows, I offer a detailed analysis of the appearances of
the Muses in Archaic poetry, and conclude that the cumulative evidence
supports the view that the Muses begin their existence as a collective.20
In particular, the Homeric evidence that is most commonly marshaled
in support of the primacy of the single Muse can be argued to point to
just the opposite conclusion.21

numerous other attempts to etymologize the Muse, for which see Camilloni 1998, 5–8;
Chantraine 1999, s.v. Camilloni’s own proposal to derive the word from the Semitic word
meaning “exit” (Ugaritic mu\s*iu, Hebr. môs*a) via the borrowed meaning “spring” seems ad
hoc and leaves the vocalism of the Aeolic form unexplained.
17
 Wackernagel 1955, 1204.
18
 Koller’s more general argument is that the (semi-)divine collectives, such as Nymphs,
Thyiades, Maenads, Karyatides (as well as Pans, Kouretes, Korybants, Silenoi, Satyroi)
are mythical/cult projections of choruses of young women and men at particular locales
(1963, esp. 20). In this connection, note the beginning of a Pindaric partheneion (94c): “The
Mousageta\s calls me to dance” (Ὁ Μοισαγέτας με καλεῖ χορεῦσαι) where the female chorus
seems to be represented as a chorus of the Muses.
19
 Summary in Otto 1961, 62–68. The most important cult of the Muses was located
on mount Helicon (Paus. 9.30.1; Schachter 1986, 147–79); for continued veneration of the
Muses within a philosophical context, see Boyance 1937.
20
 Supplementary historical evidence on the provenance of the Muses is discussed
in the appendix.
21
 E.g., Usener 1903, 322.
418 BORIS MASLOV

3. THE HESIODIC MUSES AND


THE GENRE OF CATALOGUE POETRY

The fact that the Muses are present in all poetic genres current in the
Archaic period confirms their early association with poetry. Nevertheless,
these figures appear in distinct shapes and guises in different strands of
the poetic tradition. In particular, I will seek to show that the invoca-
tion of the Muses evolved into genre-specific diegetic frames, which
then underwent further modification, as part of the ongoing interaction
between poetic forms.
Let me begin with the conflicting testimony of the early hexameter
corpus. In the doubled proem to Hesiod’s Theogony, by far our most
detailed description of the Muses at work, their unmistakable reality as
a choral group of female mountain divinities that sings and dances is
combined with their function as patron deities of an individual rhapsode
whose activity, in all likelihood,22 had nothing to do with singing, let alone
with dancing. On the one hand, the Muses only appear in the plural (and
this is true of the whole of Hesiod’s corpus); on the other, in their famous
address to Hesiod the shepherd, they pose as guarantors of the truthful
utterance of the individual rhapsode, whom they hand the scepter made
of laurel and into whom they breathe a thespis aude\ (divine voice) so that
he “may make heard both things to be and things past” (ἐνέπνευσαν δέ
μοι αὐδὴν / θέσπιν, ἵνα κλείοιμι τά τ’ ἐσσόμενα πρό τ’ ἐόντα, Theog. 31–32).
The mantic quality of the gift bestowed on Hesiod by the Heli-
conian Muses calls for additional comment. In this context, we should
note the toponym Thespiai (alternative name Thespeia is attested in the
Catalogue of Ships in Il. 2.498), the city closest to Mount Helicon and
in control of the sanctuary of the Muses located there.23 The city name
should in all probability be linked to the adjective thespesios,24 and thus
seems to present a significant reflex of a thespiaoidic poetics, espoused
by Hesiod (who claims to be a citizen of nearby Ascra) and, in all likeli-

22
 Cf. Maslov 2009, 5–9.
23
 On Thespiai in the Archaic period, see Schachter 1996, with further bibliography.
24
 Frisk 1960, 667; Schachter 1996, 111: “[e]tymologically it would suit devotées of
goddesses who cause inspiration”; Otto 1961.65: Thespiai meaning “die Göttlichsprechende.”
For an anthroponym that was in all likelihood meant to evoke the notion of words “divinely
spoken,” I point to Thespis, the name of the reported pro\tos heurete\s (inventor) of Attic
tragedy. The etymology of Thespiae is disregarded by Lamberton 1988, 31–32, although it
vitiates his view that the formation of the Hesiodic persona is a late (perhaps even Hel-
lenistic) phenomenon.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 419

hood, not by Hesiod alone.25 Note that apart from the familiar epithet
“Heliconian,” the Muses also have a rare epithet “Thespiades.”26 All this
points to a particular mantic image of the Muses, probably to be linked
to the putative performance culture of the thespiaoidoi.27
It is also possible to discern another metapoetic substratum in the
proem to the Theogony. In lines 98–103, before bidding farewell to the
Muses and starting on the Theogony proper, Hesiod offers a striking
formulation of the power of the “aoidos, attendant of the Muses” to heal
sorrow by “hymning the lays of former men and the blessed gods who
hold Olympus” (κλέεα προτέρων ἀνθρώπων / ὑμνήσῃ μάκαράς τε θεούς, οἳ
Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν). This remarkable psychological effect is ascribed directly
to the “gift of the goddesses” (δῶρα θεάων, i.e., the Muses). I would view
this reference to the healing capacity of mousike\ as a reminiscence of
the Muses’ role as healing divinities.28
The proem to Hesiod’s Theogony may therefore be said to contain
elements of diachronically distinct strata of Archaic Greek metapoetics,
all communicated through different aspects of the Muses: choral group,
guarantors of mantic competence, and healers. Most prominent and sug-
gestive, however, is the interaction of a khoros of female divinities and
a rhapsode endowed with the gift of reciting (not singing) hexameters.
In relation to such remnants of earlier poetic practices, Nagy speaks of
“diachronic skewing” (1990a, 21). More specifically, I believe that this
paradoxical juxtaposition points to the underlying pattern of “aedic
aitiology” put forward in the post-Iliadic phase of the hexameter tradi-
tion, represented by the Odyssey, the Homeric Hymns, and Hesiod.29

25
 On the thespiaoidoi, see Koller 1965; Maslov 2009, 21–26. On different traditions
surrounding the figure of Hesiod around Helicon, see Lamberton 1988, 28–36; Calame
1996. Especially significant is the boundary stone (end of the third century b.c.e.) marking
off the territory belonging to a cultic group of “fellow-sacrificers to the Hesiodic Muses”
(τῶν σ[υν]θυτάων τᾶμ Μωσάων Εἱσιοδείων, IG VII 1785), on which see Allen 1924, 48–49;
Schachter 1986, 160. The speaker of the Works and Days (640) represents himself as a
native of Ascra, “a miserable village near Helicon.”
26
 Varro Ling. 7.20; Ovid Met. 5.310; cf. Schachter 1986, 159.
27
 There are late reports on a town in Thessaly of the same name, which suggests
the possibility that the foundation of the Boeotian Thespiai was undertaken by the same
ethnic group that was responsible for the introduction of the cult of Muses on Helicon
(Schachter 1996, 111).
28
 On the epaoidic legacy in Archaic Greek poetry, see Faraone 1995, 13–15; Maslov
2009, 26–30.
29
 On references to “singing” in the hexameter corpus as a property of the “aedic
aitiology,” see Maslov 2009, 5–9. Cf. Hom. Hymn Del. Apollo, lines 156–78, for a comparable
symbiosis between the rhapsode and a maiden khoros.
420 BORIS MASLOV

It is noteworthy that Hesiod does not even pose with a kithara, like the
aoidoi in the Odyssey—another confirmation that the doubled proem of
the Theogony contains diachronically distinct elements, some of which
are comparatively recent (like the posture of the Hesiodic aoidos), while
others predate the Homeric poems.30
One might hypothesize that performers of hexameter poetry begin
claiming the Muses as their patron deities at the same time as they con-
ceive of themselves (or their mythical projections) as aoidoi.31 Although
the dividing line between the representation of the Muses in the Iliad
and in the rest of the hexameter corpus is not as obvious as in the case
of aoidos-figures, it is nevertheless possible to chart a similar diachronic
pattern.
In the Iliad, the Muse(s) make their appearance in four distinct
capacities. Most memorably, it is the “goddess” of the opening line of
Book 1, called upon to “sing the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus.” I will
return to the oddity of this address, obscured for us by its triumphant
placement in the beginning of the great epic poem. Secondly, we encounter
the Muses as a khoros performing on Olympus, to the accompaniment
of Apollo’s lyre (Il. 1.604). Thirdly, the Muses are said to encounter the
“Thracian Thamyris”—a mythical kitharode who, along with Linus and
Orpheus, is reported to be a son of a Muse.32 According to Iliad 2.595–600,
to punish Thamyris for his boast that he would overcome them in singing,
the Muses maimed him, took from him the thespesie\ aoide\ (divine song),
and deprived him of the ability to play the kithara.
I suggest that this passage is an important testimony about the
origin of the Muses as nymph-like creatures far removed from the Olym-
pian tranquility of Zeus’s daughters described in Iliad 1.604.33 A similar,
potentially violent aspect of the Muses can be discerned in the description
of their encounter with Hesiod: before they deign to bestow on him a

30
 For the idea that Hesiod’s Heliconian Muses are more archaic than Homer’s
Olympian ones, see Koller 1956, 202–3; Durante 1971, 46; Nagy 1990b, 58–59. Similarly,
Minton 1960; 1962 suggests that in the representation of the Muses one should expect
to find innovations in the “Ionian” (in a geographical, not linguistic sense) branch of the
hexameter tradition reflected in the two Homeric poems.
31
 For this conjunction, cf. Theog. 94–95: ἐκ γάρ τοι Μουσέων καὶ ἑκηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος /
ἄνδρες ἀοιδοὶ ἔασιν ἐπὶ χθόνα καὶ κιθαρισταί (“for it is from the Muses and the Far-Shooter
Apollo that men who are singers and kithara-players are on earth”).
32
 Cf. Otto 1961, 40–49.
33
 For the Thamyris myth, cf. [Eur.] Rh., lines 921ff, which, according to Koller 1963, 39,
preserve the original locale of the encounter (Pangaion in Thrace, not Dorion). Cf. Martin
1989, 229–30, for an elegant explanation for Thamyris’s particular route mentioned in Homer.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 421

thespis aude\ (divine voice), the Muses, unprovoked, abuse him (and his
colleagues): “You, rustic shepherds, evil reproaches, mere bellies” (Ποιμένες
ἄγραυλοι, κάκ’ ἐλέγχεα, γαστέρες οἶον, Theog. 22–34).34 Returning to the
Thamyris episode, it can perhaps also be read as a record of competi-
tion between different performance-modes: choral cult performance vs.
solo recitation, which has come to claim for itself the privileged title of
“divine song.” The kithariste\s (kithara-player) who abandons the khoros
to embark on the career of a kitharode (or a rhapsode) can be readily
perceived as a wayward son of the Muses. As a parallel for such mythical
projection of a competition between types of musical performance, one
could cite Apollo’s flaying of Marsyas, who dared contest the Olympian’s
kithara with his aulos.35
The entrance of the Muses on Olympus may have been due to
their domestication within the hexametric tradition, which was intimately
related to the Pan-Hellenic Olympian religion. From Herodotus’ testi-
mony, we know that the Homeric and Hesiodic texts were thought to have
contributed significantly to the construction of the Olympian pantheon
(Hdt. 2.53). As Nagy puts it, “the Olympus of Hesiodic and Homeric
poetry is a pan-Hellenic construct that elevates the gods beyond their
localized attributes” (1990b, 46). In particular, the firm genealogical foot-
ing the Muses received as daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne appears to
represent an accomplishment of the hexametric tradition.36 It should be
noted that Alcman and Mimnermus preserve an alternative genealogy of
the Muses as daughters of Ouranos and Ge\, which places them outside
the benign domain of Zeus and other Olympians.37 On the authority of

34
 Koller 1963, 45–48, explains the Muses’ violence in the Thamyris episode by an
original association with the Sirens, who seem to have taken over the harmful quality of the
Muses’ song. See also Collins 1999 on the fundamental ambiguity of ossa, the term Hesiod
applies to the Muses’ voice (lines 10, 43, 65, 67); the locus classicus for this ambiguity is the
Muses’ statement at Theog. 27–28.
35
 Koller 1963, 39–41, argues that Thamyris competes with Apollo and the Muses as a
kitharode leading a chorus, but his evidence is insufficient. On the contest between Marsyas
and Apollo, see Martin 2003a, who argues for a sociopolitical reading of the myth in the
context of the aristocratic rejection of the aulos in classical Athens. Ancient evidence for
the motif of the poet’s violent death is discussed in Compton 2006, esp. 253–55.
36
 Hes. Theog. 53–79, 915–17.
37
 Alcm. fr. 5 col. 2; cf. Diod. Sic. 4.7.1, Schol. ad Pind.Nem.3.16b = Alcm. fr. 67; Mimn.
fr. 13. Ge\ and the Muses are also linked by Plutarch (De Pyth. or. 17, 402c–d) as primeval
holders of the Delphic oracular shrine. Elsewhere, Alcman uses the more widespread geneal-
ogy (fr. 3: “Olympian” Muses; fr. 8: daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne; fr. 27, 28: daughter
of Zeus). Note also the unclear reference to “lady, Zeus’s daughter” (fr. 43; Campbell 2.427:
“Athena, Artemis, or the Muse”).
422 BORIS MASLOV

Aelius Aristides, we know that Pindar described the birth of the Muses
in a fashion that is difficult to reconcile with the Hesiodic account.38
It is thus conceivable that the appearance of Mnemosyne—the
daughter of Ouranos (Theog. 135) and the mother of the Muses—should
be assigned to the same stratum in the tradition as the naming of the nine
Muses (77–78).39 The latter was clearly a feat of the theogonic genre, if
not Hesiod’s own invention.40 Notably, the only Muse in Hesiod who has
a name not linked to poetic/festive/choral activity is Ourania, suggesting
that she is an earlier participant in the tradition.41

38
 Zeus asked the other gods if anything was lacking in creation, and they asked him
“to make some gods who would adorn these great achievements with tales and music”
(Ael. Arist. 2.470 = Pind. fr. 31). Other alternative genealogies of the Muses: Eumelos, fr.
17 Kinkel 1877, 195 = Tzetz. ad Hes. Op. 1 (three Muses as daughters of Apollo); Schol.
ad Ap. Rhod. 3.1 = Musaeus fr. 15 DK; Cicero, Nat. D. 3.54 (cf. n. 12 above). A detailed
discussion of attested genealogies of the Muses, and different testimonies on their number,
can be found in Mojsik 2011.
39
 Cf. Camilloni 1998, 23. Mnemosyne as a figure of cult in the Classical period
in Boeotia is linked to the cult of the Muses (Schachter 1986, 144–45). Mne\me\ was the
name of one of the three Muses in the Heliconian Mouseion. Within the poetic tradition,
the Hesiodic account remained dominant. Pindar refers to the Muses as “daughters of
Mna\mosuna\” (I. 6.75, Pai. 6.56); in N. 7.15, Mnemosyne seems to stand for the Muses,
note the epithet λιπαράμπυξ “with bright headband” (in Pai. 2.99 of girls forming a cho-
rus); interestingly, in this passage all MSS have a form with Ionic [e\] Μνημοσύνας, which,
as suggested by Forssman 1966, 141–42, may be due to the passage being modeled on
Hes. Theog. 915–16. Finally, worth noting is Pindar’s reference to Mnemosyne’s—and thus
the Muses’—­genealogical relation to Ouranos: ἐ]πεύχο[μαι] δ’ Οὐρανοῦ τ’ εὐπέπλῳ θυγατρὶ
Μναμοσύνᾳ κόραισί τ’ εὐμαχανίαν διδόμεν (Pai. 7b.15–17).
40
 West 1966, 180–81 (followed by Lamberton 1988, 63–64), points to the following
dictional anchors in the immediate context of the list of the Muses’ names: Κλείω (κλείουσιν
67), Εὐτέρπη (τέρπουσι, 37, 51), Θάλεια (εὐθαλίῃς, 65; note that in l. 909 one of the three
Charites is named Θαλίη), Μελπομένη (μέλπονται, 66; ἀμβροσίῃ μολπῇ, 69), Ἐρατώ (ἐρατήν, 65;
ἐρατός, 70), Πολύμνια (ὑμνεύσαις, 70), Καλλιόπη (ὀπὶ καλῇ, 68), Οὐρανίη (οὐρανῷ ἐμβασιλεύει,
71). On Ourania, see next footnote. (It is of course anachronistic to ascribe to Hesiod the
later allegorical functions of the Muses, as Schachter 1999, 100, appears to imply. I am also
not persuaded by the argument that melic poets allude to individualized Muses without
naming them, advanced in Hardie 2009). In Hesiod’s list of the Muses, Kalliopa, named
last, is given the privileged position as “the foremost of all” (προφερεστάτη ἐστὶν ἁπασέων).
According to West, this is “a somewhat contrived transition to the subject of kings. Calliope
is the most important of the Muses, because she has the tutelage of kings” (1966, 181). It
may be significant that she was the only Muse whose name made direct reference to solo
vocal performance: she could thus be accepted as the Muse of the rhapsodic corporation
(as well as the Muse responsible for political eloquence). On lines 76–80 as a likely addition
representing a later stratum of composition, see Faraone 2013, 301.
41
 Ourania “the heavenly one” is also listed in Hesiod’s Theogony as a nymph; she
is the mother of Linos in Hes. fr. 305. The word is also occasionally used in the meaning
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 423

There is a further, more specific reason to view the introduction


of Mnemosyne as a development within the hexameter corpus—and
perhaps even more narrowly, within the genre of catalogue poetry. Here
we come to the fourth—and the most significant—context in which the
Muses appear in the Iliad. It is the full-line formula Ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι
Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχουσαι (“Now tell me, Muses who hold Olympian dwell-
ings”), usually followed by another half-line formula “who was the first
[to do something]” or “how this first happened” (2.484; also 2.491; ὅς τις
δὴ πρῶτος, 11.218; 14.508; ὅππως δὴ πρῶτον, 16.112). The most familiar
instance of this formula occurs in the beginning of the Catalogue of
Ships (2.484), which, in an oral performance, must have had the effect
of a mnemonic miracle. In all those cases, the function of the address to
the Muses as a diegetic device is unmistakable: unless the Muses were to
“remind” (μνησαίαθ’, 492) the poet of a particular piece of information,
he would not be able to provide it.42
It is hardly coincidental that out of ten occurrences of the Muse(s)
in the Iliad, six are in Book 2 containing the Catalogue of Ships, often
seen as a later addition to the body of the poem.43 In addition, six out
of ten instances belong to this particular type of diegetic device (out of
the remaining four, two are found in the Thamyris story, one in the first
line and one describing the Muses’ dance on Olympus). Furthermore,
this usage—although not the exact formula—is also found in Hesiod’s
Theogony, once in the beginning of the theogonic catalogue proper
(114–15, 965–67).
All this evidence strongly suggests that this particular diegetic
device belongs to the genre of catalogue poetry, whose specimens are
preserved in the Iliadic Catalogue of Ships and the Theogony.44 It has
also been suggested that the Catalogue of Ships in Book 2—as well as
other smaller catalogues in the Iliad—are in many respects, both formally

“goddess” (Pind. P. 2.38). West notes that, apart from the contextual motivation in line
71 (see previous note): “the idea of Μοῦσα Οὐρανίη may have been suggested to Hesiod
by the tradition that the Muses were daughters not of Zeus but of Uranos” (1966, 181).
42
 This Iliadic device was taken over by Vergil in the Aeneid and later European epic:
“The epic invocation of the Muses, which could be repeated before particularly important
or particularly ‘difficult’ passages, serves in Virgil and his followers to decorate the narrative
and to emphasize its high points” (Curtius 1953, 232).
43
 Cf. Heubeck 1974, 60.
44
 This has been most fully argued in Minton 1962 (for scholarly precedents, see his
n. 6, p. 190–91; cf. Durante 1971, 46), whose major conclusions I find convincing. One point
where I would disagree with Minton’s analysis is the conflation of the request for informa-
tion (as seen in the Espete formula) and the opening invocations of the Muse.
424 BORIS MASLOV

and ­content-wise, inconsistent with the main narrative of the poem.45 The
provenance of Greek catalogue poetry is obscure. On the one hand, there
is ample comparative evidence in favor of an Indo-European provenance
of the cataloguing device, within both cosmological and narrative epic,
as well as for the question-answer topos reflected in the Iliadic addresses
to the Muses.46 On the other hand, close parallels to the Catalogue of
Ships are found in the Old Testament, “suggesting that the practice [of
cataloguing warriors preceding the battle narrative] may have had a basis
in Near Eastern tradition.”47
Whatever the origins of the cataloguing device, the earlier ­dancing-
and-singing Muses were at some point claimed as enabling agents for
the oral poet’s most exorbitant feat: the recitation of a catalogue, which
demanded advance memorization (rather than improvisation in per-
formance).48 As the formula introducing the lists suggests, in return the
Muses were granted the supreme epithet “Olympian” and housed in the
Homeric pantheon as daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne.
The employment of the invocation of the Muses as a diegetic device
peculiar to catalogue verse thus appears to confirm the circumstances of
the “invention” of Mnemosyne: the elevation of Memory as their notional
mother could have served to naturalize the deities of choral performance
within a poetic genre that was regarded, first and foremost, as an art of

45
 It has even been argued that the Catalogue of Ships comes from a different tradi-
tion about the Trojan War than the one preserved in our Iliad. For a summary of evidence,
see Page 1972, 124–54, who believes the catalogues to be survivals from the Mycenaean
period. For a balanced account of earlier scholarship, see Heubeck 1974, 59–64.
46
 West 2007, 70, 359–60, 470–71.
47
 West 1997, 208, citing, among other passages, Judg. 5.13–18 and Num. 1–2. While the
Indo-European and Near-Eastern sources may be seen as complementary (in the sense that
the Iliadic poet in adapting a borrowed device to Greek epic may have built on preexistent
discursive forms), in light of the Near-Eastern roots of the theogonic genre as well as the
problematic standing of catalogues in the Iliad, it seems probable that extensive use of
catalogues was imported from the Near East. If catalogue poetry was indeed a relatively
recent borrowing, its impact on traditional Greek epic could have been of pivotal importance
for the latter’s evolution. Going one step further on the risky path of reconstruction, one
can surmise that extensive use of catalogues (especially as an imported device) invited the
use of writing with greater urgency than narrative epic which had been in oral circulation
for many centuries, and epic’s early fixation—the event that is perhaps the greatest enigma
in Greek literary history—may have been effected by specialists in catalogue poetry who
took over the earlier hexameter tradition.
48
 Minchin 1996 on catalogues and lists as demanding memorization. Minton 1962,
207, speaks of “an earlier parent tradition in which catalogue poetry (and with it the Muses)
played a dominant role.”
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 425

memory. Furthermore, it is significant that in the formula that represents


the oldest kernel of our knowledge about the Muses, they appear in the
plural. It seems to me that there is no particular reason why omniscience
should be bestowed by a plurality of deities, if these deities had not
originally represented a group. Combined with the fact that in descrip-
tive contexts in the Iliad, the Muses appear in the plural (as dancers on
Olympus and as antagonists of Thamyris), the Iliadic evidence speaks
strongly in favor of the Muses having originally constituted a plurality.
There are only two examples of the Muse in the singular in the Iliad.
Apart from the opening line (which I discuss in Section 6), the singular
occurs in what is clearly a modification of the Ἔσπετε formula: τίς τ’ ἂρ
τῶν ὄχ’ ἄριστος ἔην, σύ μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα (2.761). As noted by Risch, the
Homeric lines (Il. 2.761, Od. 1.1), in which the Muse is in the singular,
represent a secondary development.49
Furthermore, the semantics of ἐννέπω fits the cataloging device
particularly well. According to Risch’s reconstruction of this verb’s mean-
ing in Greek (as well as in Proto-Indo-European), it refers to “festive
announcement, narration in a marked style,” as in epigraphic ἐφενέποντι
from Laconia (SEG 12.371.3), “they [sacred ambassadors] announce”;
and possibly Mycenaean e-qo-te /hekwontes/, “those who announce, and
thereby effect, the payment.”50 More recently, Faraone, drawing in part
on the Pindaric usage, suggested that the original meaning of the verb
in Greek was, more specifically, “to name, call, identify,” rather than “to
narrate” (2004, 236–37).51 The use of this particular verb seems quite

49
 Risch 1985, 2. Risch points to the transposition of an aorist form into the pres-
ent tense (semantically problematic in this context), to restore isometricity: ἔννεπε Μοῦσα
(but not * Ἔσπε Μοῦσα) is metrically identical to Ἔσπετε Μοῦσαι. An additional reason why
Il. 2.761 cannot be very old is the adverb ὄχα “exceedingly,” backformed from ἔξοχα, one
of the artificial formations that arose within hexameter verse (Leumann 1950, 133–36).
50
 Risch 1987; further on this etymological cluster, see Hackstein 1997.
51
 The relevant Pindaric passages (fr. 83, N. 6.59) are not discussed by Risch, who,
characteristically, dismisses the usage of the lyric poets as derivative from Homer (1985, 3):
from a linguist’s viewpoint, a third-century official inscription is a more telling testimony to
the original meaning of a Homeric word than a fifth-century poetic text, since the former
belongs to an independent linguistic register. As I argue throughout this study, however,
there is no uniform poetic register in Archaic Greece (and, in particular, no common poetic
language that would disqualify Pindaric evidence as derivative from Homer). In fact, Risch
himself points out that a Slavic cognate of Greek en(n)epein, Serbian OCS sochiti, means
“to indicate” (in a juridical context), rather than narrate (or say, like its English cognate
say), and that a similar meaning is possible for ἐνενποι in a sixth-century Elean inscription
(printed in Buck 1955, 259–60). The meaning “announce, name, indicate” is, to my mind,
more likely than “narrate” in the case of Lacon. ἐφενέποντι and Myc. e-qo-te.
426 BORIS MASLOV

appropriate in formulaic contexts that are likely to have emerged out of


a tradition of catalogue poetry.52

4. THE ORIGIN OF THE SOLITARY MUSE AND


THE “AEDIC AITIOLOGY” OF EPIC RECITATION

The Muse of the Odyssey, as compared to the Iliad, inhabits a very dif-
ferent world. First of all, the peculiar diegetic device shared by the Iliad
and the Theogony—involving a request to convey specific information—is
nowhere to be found. Moreover, out of seven occurrences, five involve
the Muse in the singular, all of them describing Demodocus in Book 8.
As we learn from Odyssey 8.62–64, Demodocus was deprived of sight by
the Muse, but given “sweet singing” in compensation. In fact, Demodocus
seems to represent a benign reconceptualization of the myth of a singer
who was maimed by the Muse(s). We are told that “the Muse felt a great
affection toward him, but/and? gave him both good and bad things”
(8.63). Yet why would the Muse’s affection induce her to harm the singer,
if it were not for her inherently dangerous nature of which the Odyssey
preserves only a vague memory?
It is again the Muse who incites Demodocus “to sing the lays of
men” (Μοῦσ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν, 8.73). In the
conclusion of Book 8, Odysseus himself praises Demodocus, but in a
way that amounts to a congratulation of the entire aedic corporation:
Demodocus represents the “race of singers . . . who have honor among
all mortals, since the Muse felt affection for them and taught them
paths of song (οἴμας)” (8.479–81). Odysseus’s general approval of aoidoi
is again emphasized in the scene of the killing of the suitors, when the
singer Phemius and the ke\ruks (herald) Medon are the only two people
who are spared (22.330–77). Impressed by Demodocus’s performance,
Odysseus praises him again, confirming that “you, at any rate, either the
Muse, child of Zeus, or Apollo taught” (ἢ σέ γε Μοῦσ’ ἐδίδαξε, Διὸς πάϊς,
ἢ σέ γ’ Ἀπόλλων, 8.488).

52
 Martin 1989, 238, argues that the use of this verb, often conjoined in Homer with
muthos “authoritative utterance,” implies that the Homeric epics should themselves be
regarded as instances of muthos. I would suggest that catalogue verse (compared to tradi-
tional oral narrative, whether in verse or prose) calls for additional discursive authority to
ascertain the veracity of the information, and this necessitates the use of diegetic devices,
such as the verb ἐννέπω combined with an invocation of the Muses.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 427

The difference between the representation of the Muses in the Iliad


and the Odyssey could not be more pronounced: whereas in the Iliad,
the Muses are usually asked for a specific piece of information, the soli-
tary Muse of Book 8 of the Odyssey is a deity who instructs aoidoi and
incites them in performance. I would contend that this pattern points to
a modification of the original image of the Muse(s) within an emergent
“aedic” performance culture. This is confirmed by the evidence of Hesiod
and the Homeric Hymns, which share with the Odyssey the same attitude
toward aoidoi. In the Works and Days Hesiod claims that the Muses taught
him “to sing an unspeakable (remarkable, limitless?) hymn” (662).53 The
two lines describing the aoidoi and kithara-players as “coming from the
Muses and far-shooter Apollo” are found both in Theogony (94–95) and
Homeric Hymn to Muses and Apollo (2–3); aoidoi are also referred to as
attendants (θεράποντες) of the Muses in the Theogony, line 100, and the
Homeric Hymn to Selene, line 20. In a striking phrase, Apollo describes
himself as a “follower of the Olympian Muses” (Μούσῃσιν Ὀλυμπιάδεσσιν
ὀπηδός, Hom. Hymn Herm. 450).54
Although they similarly claim an affiliation of the Muses and the
aoidos, Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns differ from the Odyssey in that
they tend to refer to the Muses in the plural. (A different pattern obtains
in the opening invocations, which are discussed in the following section.)
I conclude that the solitary Muse of Odyssey Book 8 is an innovation.
There remains a question of how one can explain a shift from a collective
of singing and dancing nymphs to a goddess of poetic inspiration. I believe
that the answer is to be sought in a particular pattern of semantic change
from the plural to the singular that is well attested within the hexameter
corpus. Originally, this shift was conditioned by a generic use of the sin-
gular, which was widespread in Greek; cf. (ὁ) θεός = οἱ θεοί, approximat-
ing in meaning τὸ θεῖον (the divine, divine principle) or ὁ δαίμων (divine

53
 Note the curious “misuse” of the adjective athesphatos, lit. “not spoken/fixed by a
god” (in Homeric usage: “terrifying,” “enormous”), in the meaning approximating that of
thespis, thespesios (i.e., “spoken by god”!). This seems to indicate that the line is relatively
recent. Since Benveniste 1969, 2, 140–42, this Hesiodic expression has been explained as
“limitless song,” but its precise import is unclear (for an interpretation of these lines, and
further bibliography, see Collins 1999, 242–45).
54
 Finally, in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo we are told that the Cretan sailors who
became Apollo’s first priests at Delphi sang “in the manner of Cretan paian-singers (Κρητῶν
παιήονες) in whose breast the Muse put honey-sounding song” (Hom. Hymn Pyth. Apol.
518–19)—here, the privileged connection with the Muse is claimed for a group of singers
clearly distinct from aoidoi.
428 BORIS MASLOV

power).55 That the meaning of the singular in οἴμας Μοῦσ’ ἐδίδαξε (“the
Muse taught paths of song”) in Odyssey 8.481 (cf. 8.488) is generic is
confirmed by a parallel at 22.347–48 (Demodocus to Odysseus): θεὸς δέ
μοι ἐν φρεσὶν οἴμας / παντοίας ἐνέφυσεν (“god(dess) planted in my mind
various paths of song”), where θεὸς stands for “divine power.”56
I believe that this semantic shift can also be illustrated with the pas-
sage drawn from the description of the funeral of Achilles (Od. 24.60–62),
which includes the two final appearances of the Muse(s) in the Odyssey:

Μοῦσαι δ’ ἐννέα πᾶσαι ἀμειβόμεναι ὀπὶ καλῇ


θρήνεον· ἔνθα κεν οὔ τιν’ ἀδάκρυτόν γ’ ἐνόησας
Ἀργείων· τοῖον γὰρ ὑπώρορε Μοῦσα λίγεια.
All nine Muses sang a lament, responding to each other with beautiful
voices: there you would not have seen a single Argive without tears: to such
an extent the clear-voiced Muse has stirred [the Argives’ lamentation].57

There are two ways of interpreting Μοῦσα λίγεια in line 62. Most recently,
based on suggestive ethnographic evidence, Martin has argued that the
singular Muse is an exarkhousa who leads the other Muses in lamenta-
tion (2003b).58 If this explanation is accepted, Odyssey 24.60–62 may be
viewed as conjuring the Muse as an initiating agent of song, in a very
particular (threnic) performance context. Alternatively, the “clear-voiced
Muse” represents a generic singular, describing the activity of all the
nine Muses who are singing.59 This appears to be signaled, as we will see
from the many parallels discussed in the following section, by the epithet
λίγεια, which describes the quality of the voice emitted.60 Notably, in the

55
 This particular function of the Greek singular has partial parallels in other
Indo-European languages (probably due to general typological, not historical reasons).
Wackernagel 1981, 93, adduces an example from German: “es irrt der Mensch, solang er
strebt.” The generic use should properly be distinguished from the collective function of
the singular, as in ὁ Μῆδος = the Medes on ἡ πλίνθος = the bricks (Kühner and Gerth 1898,
13–15; cf. Wackernagel 1981, 93–94).
56
 Cf. Pratinas fr. 708 PMG, line 6: τὰν ἀοιδὰν κατέστασε Πιερὶς βασίλειαν (“the Pierian
has established the song as a queen”). In this case, “the Pierian” appears to represent a
generic singular for “the Pierian Muses.”
57
 On the transitive force of this verb, and in this passage in particular, see Heubeck
1984, 94–95.
58
 Cf. Heubeck 1984, 95; Alexiou 2002, 11–12.
59
 Cf. Russo et al. 1992, 366–67.
60
 This word is used in Homer of winds, lyre, people speaking in public, and has no
etymology (cf. Chantraine 1999 s.v.).
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 429

Archaic period, it was Kalliopa, “That of the beautiful voice,” singled out
by Hesiod as “the most distinguished of all” (προφερεστάτη ἁπασέων), who
tended to be identified as the single (generic) Muse.61

5. THE METAMORPHOSES OF THE “CLEAR-VOICED MUSE”

In Koller’s interpretation, the shift from the plural Muses as goddesses


of song and dance to the solitary Muse, responsible for narration by a
solo performer, is seen as reflecting a transition from the choral kitha-
rodic prooimion—Koller’s Ur-genre—to rhapsodic recitation.62 In spite
of its elegance, Koller’s explanation is unsatisfying for several reasons.
First, as we saw, the earliest textual trace of the Muses’ presence—the
diegetic frame associated with catalogue verse, which was in all likelihood
recited—both retains their plurality and uses a verb referring to narration
(as opposed to the opening of the Iliad, where the Muse figures in the
singular and a verb of singing is used). Second, in the surviving Homeric
Hymns, which, according to Koller 1956, are most akin to the kitharodic
prooimion, the Muse tends to be addressed in the singular.
Moreover, in the fragments of Alcman—our earliest representa-
tive of choral lyric—we find numerous appeals to the Muse, all of them
in the singular. One likely exception is fragment 3, which, ironically, is
seen by Koller to constitute a crucial piece of evidence that Alcman
was a kitharode as well as a kithariste\s (fr. 38, 39), specifically, that he
introduced a choral performance by a solo song.63 There is no reason,
however, why the words “Olympian [Muses, fill] my heart [with longing
for a new] song: I [am eager] to hear the [maiden] voice of girls singing
a beautiful melody”64 could not be sung by a maiden chorus. It is directly
comparable to the request, addressed to the Muse, to “begin a new song
for girls to sing” (fr. 14a) and “to begin the lovely verses and make the
khoros graceful” (fr. 27). Finally in fragment 28, the speaker announces:
“Muse, daughter of Zeus, I shall sing clearly” (λίγ’ ἀείσομαι).
Since there are no reasons to posit an influence of Homeric epic—
and, a fortiori, of the “rhapsodic” tradition—on Alcman, the notion of a

61
 Note the phrase ὀπὶ καλῇ in Od. 24, line 60. Passages where Kalliopa stands for
the generic “Muse”: Hom. Hymn. Hel. 2; Alcm. 27.1; Sappho 124.1, S260.11; Stesichorus
63.1; Pind. O.10.14.
62
 Koller 1956, 200–203; 1963, 43–44.
63
 Koller 1956, 171–72; Campbell 2.379.
64
 Trans. by Campbell (2.379); phrases in brackets are based on reconstruction. In
line 1, Μώσαι Ὀλ]υμπιάδες is a likely supplement for the lacuna.
430 BORIS MASLOV

solitary Muse as a simple correlate of solo recitation becomes difficult


to maintain.65 Rather, it appears that the address to a single Muse is a
convention that arose in choral lyric, quite independently of the develop-
ments within the hexameter corpus. Stesichorus begins two poems with
a similar imperative: “Come, clear-voiced Muse, begin the song” (ἄγε
Μοῦσα λίγει’ ἄρξον ἀοιδᾶς, fr. 101) and “Hither, come, clear-voiced Kal-
liopeia” (δεῦρ’ ἄγε Καλλιόπεια λίγεια, fr. 63). These lines almost replicate
Alcman’s fragment 14a: “Muse, come, clear-voiced Muse of many tunes,
always a singer, begin a new song for girls to sing” (Μῶσ’ ἄγε Μῶσα λίγηα
πολυμμελὲς / αἰὲν ἀοιδὲ μέλος / νεοχμὸν ἄρχε παρσένοις ἀείδην).
The repetition of the adjective λίγεια with the Muse has an almost
formulaic quality;66 it is noteworthy that it is never used with the Muses
in the plural. It can therefore be viewed as a diegetic frame characteristic
of early choral literary lyric. Its import is quite different from that of
the diegetic frame peculiar to catalogue poetry (discussed in section 4
above): the clear-voiced Muse does not impart any knowledge; she is
invoked, instead, to guarantee a successful performance of a chorus.
More specifically, she represents the principle of homophonous vocal
performance. This interpretation is confirmed by fragment 30 of Alcman,
quoted by Aelius Aristides: ἁ Μῶσα κέκλαγ’ ἁ λίγηα Σηρήν (“the Muse has
cried out, the clear-voiced Siren”). According to Aristides (Or. 28.51),
Alcman refers in this line to the chorus, having first asked the Muse for
inspiration (ἵν’ ἐνεργὸς ὑπ’ αὐτῆς γένοιτο), but then, as though deviating
from the expected (ἐξεστηκῶς; “having changed his mind,” Campbell
1982–1993), says that “the chorus has itself become this very thing instead
of the Muse” (τοῦτο ἐκεῖνο <ὁ> χορὸς αὐτὸς ἀντὶ τῆς Μούσης γεγένηται).
In other words, Alcman’s “clear-voiced Muse” is revealed as a figure for
the singing chorus. A semantic development that could have resulted in
such a generic meaning of the singular (the Muses as a singing group >
the Muse as “that which sings”) was charted above.67

65
 On the lack of Homeric influence on Alcman, see Nöthiger 1971, 126–27, whose
conclusions are often overlooked in the scholarship. On various kinds of interaction between
the kitharodes, rhapsodes, and choral lyricists in the Archaic period, see Power 2010, 224–314.
66
 Complete list of occurrences: Od. 24.62; Hes. Scutum 206; Hom. Hymn to Mother
of the Gods 2; Hom. Hymn to Dioscuri 1, to Hephaistos 1; Alcman 14a1, 28.1.1 (adverb
λίγ’), cf. also fr. 30.1; Pind. Pai. 14.32; Stes. 63.1, 101.1. A likely supplement for a lacuna in
Sappho 44, line 25, would have “maidens sing a holy song with clear voices” (λιγέ]ως δ’ ἄρα
πάρ[θενοι / ἄειδον μέλος ἄγν[ον) at the wedding of Hector and Andromache.
67
 Furthermore, this is not the only extended meaning of the singular form of this
noun: early on mousa (Dor, mo\sa, etc.) acquires the meaning “song” (Alcm. 31; Hom.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 431

As Alcman’s fragment 30 suggests, an invocation of the Muses in


the plural would not have the generic force that makes it possible to
represent the singing khoros, prompted into action by a divine agent,
as a physical embodiment of mousike\. A more general explanation for
the preference of the singular “clear-voiced Muse” to the plural may be
based on the theoretical supposition that new diegetic devices emerge as
a result of genre mutation: the address to the Muse in the singular could
have originally evolved as a way of “branding” a particular kind of autho-
rial choral lyric, in contradistinction to pre-literary uses of choral song.68

6. INVOKING THE SOLITARY MUSE

One problem has so far remained unsolved. What is the genealogy of


the Muse addressed in the singular in the opening apostrophes of the
Homeric epics? Should it be derived from the solitary Muse of Book 8
of the Odyssey or from the “clear-voiced” Muse of choral lyric? The key
evidence is to be found in the corpus of the Homeric Hymns, in particular,
in the evolution of the opening invocations.
The evidence is summarized in the following two tables,69 which
distinguish between two major types of opening diegetic device: (1) the
use of a first-person verb “to sing” or “to remember” with the name of
the deity; (2) address to the Muse in the vocative with the request “to
sing” or “to hymn” the deity. In the former type, which is more frequent
overall, the encomiastic future, also known as “performative future,” is
quite prominent. It may, along with the use of the verb “to begin,” be
more ancient than the present tense (on this feature as an archaism, see
Faraone 1995).

Hymn to Pan 15). For later examples of this usage, see Detienne 1996, 150–51. Hesychius’s
gloss Μῶἁ. ὠδὴ ποιά (“a kind of song”) is probably to be linked to the Spartan (musical,
we imagine) contest that is referred to as μῶα in the inscriptional record; the evidence for
this contest is discussed in Chrimes 1949, 119–28.
68
 It may have been a feature of cult poetry; note that in Pindar, in whose corpus
Muses are abundantly attested, the “clear-voiced” Muse only appears in a Paian (fr. 52o.33
SM) in a context that speaks of the Muse’s ability to make the Heroic age vividly present
“in rites” (on this reading of τελευταῖς, see Rutherford 2001, 408).
69
 I refer to individual hymns by abbreviated name of the deity addressed and the
number of the hymn in the corpus (33 in total); five texts are excluded as they use a plain
vocative of the god: Pyth. Ap. 4, Ap. 21, Hest. 24, Hest. 29. PN is short for personal name,
which (unless marked as [gen.]) is in the accusative case.
432 BORIS MASLOV

Table 1. First-Person Verb

(arkhein “to begin”) aeidein “to sing”


 arkhein + aeidein + PN 6 Dem. 2, Ath. 11, Dem. 13,
Askl. 16, Dion. 26, Ath. 28
 amphi “about” + PN + arkhein + aeidein 1 Poseid. 22
 aeidein + PN 3 Hera 12, Herm. 18, Art. 27
 asomai “will sing” + PN 5 Aphr 6, Aphr 10, Heracl 15,
Zeus 23, M. Earth 30
mimne\sko\ “remember”
 mne\somai oude latho\mai “I will 1 Del. Ap. 3
  remember nor will I forget” +
  PN (gen.)
amphi + PN + mne\somai 1 Dion. 7
Total: 17

Diegetic Framing in the Homeric Hymns

The type involving the Muse in the vocative case is less frequent, but more
diverse. It is striking, however, that, with two exceptions (Sel. 32, Diosc. 33),
in all such instances the Muse is in the singular. As suggested by the use
of the adjective λίγεια with the Muse in the vocative (Diosc. 17, Heph. 20),

Table 2. Muse(s) Addressed

Muse VOC + arkhein + hymnein + PN 1 Hel. 31


Muse VOC + hymnein + PN 3 Herm. 4, Art. 9, M. Gods 14
Muse VOC + aeidein + PN 2 Diosc. 17, Heph. 20
Muse VOC + ennepe + erga 1 Aphr. 5
Muse(s) VOC + amphi + ennepe/ 2 Pan 19, Diosc. 33
  espete + PN
Muses VOC + espete + aeidein + PN 1 Sel. 32
Cf.: [arkhein + Mousao\n etc.] [1] [Mous. 25; cf.: Theog.]
Total: 10
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 433

this singular Muse is a reflex of the convention of choral poetry.70 This


is confirmed by a notable discrepancy: while the imperative of the verb
hymnein (common, like the related noun, in the melic corpus, but not in
hexameter poetry) can be addressed to the Muse, the verb is never used
in the diegetic frame that involves the first-person verb: the rhapsode
cannot claim to “hymn” without the mediation of a (melic) Muse.71
Interestingly, the Homeric Hymns also preserve traces of the use of
en(n)epein (to report, narrate) in the address to the Muse. In all instances,
modifications of the original formula (with the Muses in the plural) are
unmistakable: the use of the preposition amphi (in Pan 19, Diosc. 33) and
the nonsensical combination espete + aeidein (report to sing in Sel. 32).
The phrasing in Aphrodite 5, “narrate the deeds of Aphrodite,” is less
objectionable, but also clearly secondary to the Iliadic formula, Ἔσπετε
νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι, which is invariably followed by an object clause, “report
to me, Muses, who did/was the first to do something.” These modifica-
tions seem to have been occasioned by analogical rebuilding based on
the diegetic use of aeidein (to sing).
This conclusion has rather important implications for the analysis of
the opening lines of the Iliad and the Odyssey. The latter has unmistak-
able traits of relatively recent composition (Od. 1.1–2):

Ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ


πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε
Report to me, Muse, the man of many ways, who exceedingly much
roamed after he sacked the holy city of Troy.

I already cited Risch’s view that the use of the present system impera-
tive of en(n)epein in the singular (with the singular Muse) is an innova-
tion as compared to the plural aorist imperative. Even more strikingly,
the construction is difficult to parallel: with this verb we expect “report
who was the first/what happened” or perhaps “report the deeds” (as in
Aphr. 5), not “to report a man.”72 The verb en(n)epein is used here as a

70
 The traditional dating for most of the Homeric Hymns is either contemporaneous
or later than Alcman, whose floruit was in the mid- to late seventh century (for a concise
summary of the evidence, see Campbell 1982–1993, Vol. II, 268).
71
 I am not convinced by the argument presented in Nagy 2002 that hymnos was a
normal term for Homeric performance. This issue is discussed at greater length in Maslov
2015, 286–307.
72
 Note that among the thirteen instances of this verb in Pindar, there is not a single
example of en(n)epein + PN, so the meaning “name, call,” which may well have been original,
is very unlikely in this context.
434 BORIS MASLOV

substitute for aeidein, which would normally take an accusative of the


object of song. This opening appeal clearly belongs to the same evolving
system of diction that we find in the Homeric Hymns.73
Notably, the entire proem (lines 1–10) to the Odyssey, as has been
remarked repeatedly, raises several content-related concerns.74 In par-
ticular, as Stephanie West writes, that passage represents “an odd open-
ing for our Odyssey: it covers only a third of the poem (v–xii), not very
accurately, and gives disproportionate emphasis to a single incident.”75
In light of the formal features that point to a stage of the hexametric
tradition that is late enough to be affected by rhapsodic invocation habits,
the proem is likely to belong to a level of composition postdating the
overall design of the poem.
This conclusion is in line with Böhme’s and Koller’s insistence on the
derivative nature of the openings of the two Homeric epics. For example,
these scholars observed that the address to a protagonist continued by a
relative clause must be secondary compared to the same structure found
in cultic poetry.76 Koller, in particular, proposed to seek the “original” in
the Homeric Hymns, as part of a larger argument in favor of deriving
narrative epic from the genealogical narrative of a prelude to the choral
song. I propose a different line of development: the appeal to the solitary
Muse was originally an element of choral cultic poetry, which then made
its way into the diction of the rhapsodic corporation.77 Consistent with

73
 The secondary nature of the use of the verb en(n)epein in the Odyssey proem
was perceived by Böhme 1953, 28. Similar reasoning can be applied to the opening lines
of Works and Days: Μοῦσαι Πιερίηθεν ἀοιδῇσι κλείουσαι, δεῦτε Δί’ ἐννέπετε, σφέτερον πατέρ’
ὑμνείουσαι (1–2). There are plenty of oddities in these two lines (“uniqueness of expression”
is remarked upon by Minton 1962, 197): we should expect a verb of coming with deute; an
instrumental dative, and no object, with kleio\—itself an anomalous formation found only
in the later hexameter tradition (Chantraine 1999, s.v. kleos); the participle is redundantly
duplicated by humneiousai (a verb not found in Homer). More generally, in the proems to
the Odyssey and the Theogony, one detects a conflation of the catalogue device, reflected in
the use of en(n)epein, and the prooimial function of the Muse. Cf. Minton 1962, 203, on polu-
forms, suggesting catalogue-like enumeration, in the proems to the Iliad and the Odyssey.
74
 Cf. Böhme 1953, 28, with further bibliography.
75
 West in Heubeck et al. 1988, 68.
76
 Koller 1956, 200. For a classic discussion of the use of relative clauses in hymns,
see Norden 1913, 168–76.
77
 Cf. the remark that the appeal to the Calliope in Homeric Hymn 31.1–2 is influ-
enced by a lyric convention in Hardie 2009, 20. Note that in the case of the proem to the
Odyssey, direct influence of the opening of the Gilgamesh epic is quite likely (cf. West
1997, 172); the address to the Muse, however, has to be explained by the development of
the prooimial diegetic frame in Greek poetry.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 435

the generally accepted view of the function of the Homeric Hymns going
back to F. A. Wolf, they were sung as introductions to performances of
narrative epic in the setting of a religious festival.78 It is therefore highly
probable that the hymnic openings of the two Homeric epics themselves
were the least stable part of the text.
In the case of the opening of the Iliad, three variant readings are
attested. In addition to the reading of the manuscript tradition, two vari-
ants of the opening were preserved in the indirect tradition (Il. 1.1–2):

Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος


οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί’ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκε
Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus,
which, disastrously, brought about many grieves for the Achaeans

Notably, both of them are more conventional than the reading of the
manuscripts: one is a beginning of an introductory prayer to the Muses
and Apollo (one of the central characters in the opening of the Iliad); the
same structure is attested three times in the Homeric Hymns (first-person
verb + aeidein + PN of the deities).79 The alternative opening begins with
a perfect example of the catalogue diegetic device: “Report to me, Muses,
who hold Olympian dwellings, how first the wrath and anger took hold of
the son of Peleus and the glorious son of Leto.”80 Note that this opening,
in an elegant chiastic manner, makes me\nis (wrath)—a concept that is
otherwise only applied to the gods—refer to Apollo, not to Achilles.81
This apparent misuse of me\nis in the canonical opening of the
Iliad has been remarked upon by Koller, who proposes that the formula
Μῆνιν ἄειδε arose in cultic poetry, where it referred to the wrath of a god
(1956, 200–201).82 I would draw attention to another odd feature in that

78
 See Maslov 2012, 191–92, with bibliography.
79
 Μούσας ἀείδω καὶ Ἀπόλλωνα κλυτοτόξον. A compelling case for viewing this open-
ing as conserving old conventions of hymnic invocation is made in Katz 2013b. Both non-
canonical openings can be found in the apparatus criticus in Homer’s OCT (Monro and
Allen 1920, 1).
80
 ἔσπετε νῦν μοι, Μοῦσαι, Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχουσαι, / ὅππως δὴ μῆνίς τε χόλος θ’ ἕλε
Πηλείωνα / Λητοῦς τ’ ἀγλαὸν υἱόν· ὁ γὰρ βασιλῆϊ χολωθείς.
81
 Faraone 2015, 399–404, makes a strong case in favor of relative conservatism of
this opening, in comparison to the vulgate proem. West 2011, 81, by contrast, believes that
“it cannot be original” and speaks of “a clumsy manipulation of the standard text, with
Achilles’ and Apollo’s angers being run together.”
82
 Koller cites the line “Goddess, sing the wrath of Demeter of glorious fruit” (Μῆνιν
ἄειδε, θεά, Δημήτερος ἀγλαοκάρπου), preserved in a late source as the beginning of a poem
436 BORIS MASLOV

most familiar line of Greek literature: reference to the Muse as “god-


dess” without any appellative or specification is very rare in the corpus
of Archaic poetry.83 Such usage implies that the author of the line was
employing a very well established diegetic device: his audience must have
been well versed in the tradition of appealing to the single Muse at the
beginning of both epic recitations and cult songs. We should therefore
resist the temptation of reading the first line of the Iliad as belonging to
the beginning of the Archaic Greek poetic tradition. It appears that it
should rather be placed near its end.
In conclusion, I would like to suggest a tentative link between the
prooimial Muse and the goddess of poetic inspiration, the solitary Muse
of Book 8 of the Odyssey. It is quite conceivable that the semantic shift
from the plural to the singular was not a one-time event, and that the
“clear-voiced Muse” of the proems to Archaic poetic performances is
unrelated to the Muse who “taught” Demodocus. It is nevertheless pos-
sible that the latter could be derived from the former. In Odyssey 8.73,
the Muse “set the singer on to sing the lays of men” (Μοῦσ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸν
ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν). It is easy to imagine the transformation
of the Muse of the proems, whom the singer bids “begin to sing,” into a
personified goddess inciting the rhapsode to perform.
The lines of transmission in the history of the Muse(s) in Archaic
Greek metapoetics are stemmatically presented in Figure 1 showing the
evolution of the concept of the Muse(s) in the eighth–sixth centuries
(DF = diegetic frame; dashed lines represent likely “contamination”):

by Orpheus (apud Ps.-Justinus Cohortatio ad gentiles 17 c1 Morel). Böhme 1953, 28–31,


presents an extended argument to the effect that the proem to the Iliad is a concoction of
a literary redactor working with earlier proems from a living rhapsodic tradition. Böhme
1953, 29, is particularly stern about the otiose πᾶσι in line 5, which already troubled ancient
critics and even brought one modern critic to posit the accusative of an (otherwise unat-
tested) word πάσις (nourishment) (Rosén 1949).
Muellner 1996 constructs a complicated argument on “the anger of Achilles” as the
central theme of the Iliad, obfuscating the fact that the noun me\nis (in contrast to second-
ary formations, such as the verb me\nio, me\nithmos) is applied to a human being only once
in the whole of hexameter corpus (in Il. 1.1), and never mentioning Koller’s (or Böhme’s)
position on this issue. For an argument that the Chryses episode of Book 1 derives from
a separate Homeric Hymn, as well as for further discussion of the oddities of the opening
of the Iliad, see Faraone 2015.
83
 One parallel that I am aware of is the beginning of the Thebais: Ἄργος ἄειδε θεά
πολυδίψιον ἔνθεν ἄνακτες. In Od. 1.10, θεά, θύγατερ Διός picks up Μοῦσα in line 1. For a
discussion of this and other openings of otherwise lost hexameter poems in the context of
the evolution of hymnic address, see Böhme 1953, 21–31.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 437

The Muses as a Chorus of Nymphs

PLURAL

“Olympian” appropriation;
the invention of Mnemosyne
SINGULAR

Theogony; Iliad Early choral lyric


DF 1: catalogue poetry DF 2: the “clear voiced Muse”
as a generic singular

Prooimial Muse: H.Hymns, Openings of Il. and Od.

Muse as the prompting and teaching agent in Od. Book 8

Figure 1. The Muses as a Chorus of Nymphs

These conclusions point to one more domain in which Archaic Greek


lyric, contravening the familiar literary-historical chronology, predates,
anticipates, and informs Homeric epic: surviving specimens of choral lyric
can be shown to contain elements that diachronically antecede the extant
text of Homer. A similar argument has been advanced by Meillet 1923,
and elaborated by Nagy 1974, among other scholars, in relation to lyric
meters, which very likely go back to Proto-Indo-European prototypes.
Similarly, in metapoetics, the relative conservatism of lyric over epic is
evident in the comparisons of poetry to weaving and carpentry, and of
poetic text to ship and chariot, which are attested in the Vedas and in
Greek lyric, but not in Homeric epic.84 As I have endeavored to show,
Archaic Greek metapoetics also permits internal reconstruction, in that
the history of particular devices reveals overarching patterns in the evo-
lution of the literary system.

84
 West 2007, 36–45.
438 BORIS MASLOV

The chief paradox that this reconstruction has revealed is worth


highlighting. Although associated for us with individually crafted and
recited epic, the figure of the singular Muse arose in choral, collectively
performed lyric. I have suggested that the development of this diegetic
frame may have been due to the individual melic poets’ effort to brand
their production as distinct from pre-literary uses of choral lyric. The
enabling—rather than efficient—cause for this development, however,
lies in the linguistic phenomenon of the generic singular, whereby the
Muse emerged as an abstract personification of the powers of song and
dance. A suggestive ethnographic parallel to the singular Muse as an
embodiment of communal musical activity is found in Amos Tutuola’s
description of Nigerian folk performance in The Palm-Wine Drinkard:85

There we saw the creatures that we called “Drum, Song and Dance” per-
sonally and these three creatures were living creatures as ours. [. . .] When
“Drum” started to beat himself it was just as if he was beaten by fifty men,
when “Song” started to sing, it was just as if a hundred people were singing
together and when “Dance” started to dance the half-bodied baby started
too, my wife, myself and spirits etc., were dancing with “Dance” and nobody
who heard or saw these three fellows would not follow them to wherever
they were going. [. . .] So nobody in this world could beat drum as Drum
himself could beat, nobody could dance as Dance himself could dance and
nobody could sing as Song himself could sing.

University of Chicago
e-mail: maslov@uchicago.edu

APPENDIX: THE PROVENANCE OF THE MUSES

It is difficult to tell fact from fiction (and modern scholarly speculation) in the
stories linking the Muses to Thrace. The common-sense view is expressed by
Schachter: “The earliest sources locate the Muses at Pieria, just north of Olympus,
and on Olympus itself; they are associated with so-called Thracian bards, Orpheus,
Thamyris, and Musaeus. That region appears to have been their first home” (1999,
1002). If we accept the Pierian provenance of the Muses, it is conceivable that
they were then transposed to two other locations: Olympus (near the Pieria
range),86 in their capacity as Olympian deities, and Boeotian Helicon, the site of

85
 Tutuola 1994, 220–21.
86
 The closeness of Pieria to Olympus is made explicit in descriptions of the travel
of the Olympian gods: Il. 14.226, Od. 5.50, Hom. Hymn Pyth. Ap. 216.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 439

Hesiod’s Dichterweihe, where a cult of the Muses was at some point installed.87
Whereas the Olympian Muses probably represent a construct of a new Panhel-
lenic religion, there are indications (mostly from recurrent toponyms) that the
cult of the Heliconian Muses was brought to Boeotia by a group that migrated
from Northern Thessaly.88 Such a migration would present a likely route for the
Muses’ transfer to central Greece.
The provenance of the Muses in the Northern region of mainland Greece
is quite likely. There still remains the question of whether their name originated
in a Greek dialect or was borrowed by northern Greeks from a neighboring
people (whom the Greeks would describe as “Thracians”). The possibility of a
“substrate” provenance of the name of the Muses is real, given both the lack of
parallels within the Indo-European languages and the fact that Greek musical
terminology is largely borrowed.89
Toporov 1977 proposes an interesting, albeit highly speculative, argument
linking the Greek Muses to ambiguous female siblings who can bring both healing
and harm in the Balto-Slavic realm (esp. 44–52). Furthermore, Toporov points to
the popular association, in the same area, of mice with blindness and prophecy,
as well as singing, which he compares to the ancient cult of Apollo Smintheus
“of the Mice,” the harm-causing deity familiar from the Iliad. A direct etymo-
logical connection between Greek mu\s and the name of the Muse (which must
go back to a form of the root with a nasal sound *mon-) is, however, out of the
question. In this light, Toporov discusses the evidence for a Thracian root mean-
ing “mouse” which he finds, among other toponyms and anthroponyms, in the
name of the Thracian bard Mousaios. While the etymological argument remains
inconclusive (in part because of the difficulty of explaining dialect variants of
the word Mousa), Toporov’s interpretation of the Muses as a group of nymphs
whose original domain was not poetry per se, but disease and healing (among
other things, through music), provides an important advance in our understanding

87
 The Muses’ presence on Parnassus is fairly marginal and probably a later devel-
opment. On the Muses’ association with various mountains, see Wilamowitz 1925, 103–18;
Brown 1961.
88
 This reconstruction has its roots in ancient tradition (Strabo 9.410, 10.471; discussion
in Otto 1961, 62–63). It is accepted by Koller 1963, 36–39; Schachter 1996, 100: “The worship
of these goddesses [not just the Muses, but the whole plethora of similar goddesses listed
in a passage quoted on p. 187] could have been brought to Boiotia by people traveling the
upland mountain routes, transhumant as opposed to settled, herdsmen, perhaps related to
the people who brought, from the region of Homole, just across the vale of Tempe from
Olympos, the names and epithets derived from that place and found all over Boiotia.”
89
 These include names of genres: dithyrambos, iambos, thriambos (on etymological
guesses regarding this group of words, see Hester 1965, 354–55), paian (already in Myce-
naean as name of a deity), elegos; as well as instruments: lura, kithara, barbitos, salpinx,
su\rinx, phorminx (Hester 1965, 365–67). As for the name of the Muse, the tendency is to
see it as “echt griechisch” (Otto 1961, 25).
440 BORIS MASLOV

of what the Muses may have represented to Greek popular imagination before
they were appropriated by high art.90
There is a further piece of evidence that seems to confirm this particular
implication of Toporov’s argument, namely, that the Thracian connection does not
entail that the Muses were directly borrowed as patrons of mousike\ “poetic/musi-
cal activity” (rather than as “mountain nymphs” of sorts). As much is suggested
by the figure of Rhesus, who appears in Iliad 10 (and in an eponymous tragedy,
ascribed to Euripides) as a Thracian king allied to the Trojans. Rhesus has the
appearance of a fairy-tale, larger-than-life figure and is said (in Rhesus) to be a
son of a Muse, which is also reported for mythical singers Orpheus, Linos, and
Thamyris. Yet in contrast to these figures, Rhesus has nothing to do with music
or poetry.91 This genealogy may well be old, given that it is not contested and
that it is hard to see why it would arise at a time when the Muses were viewed
as Hellenic deities of mousike\. If so, it would confirm that the Muses originated
in Thrace as magical, semi-divine creatures, whose original domain was much
broader than music and poetry.
If one is willing to take this argument further, it is even possible to con-
jecture that the shrinking of the Muses’ sphere of influence could have arisen
on Greek soil where they had to compete with the ubiquitous Greek nymphs.92
If we view the Muses as a cultural import, it also becomes easier to explain the
duplication of their function by the Charites (Graces)—presumably, a group of
divinities native to Greece and very prominent in Archaic poets (particularly
Sappho and Pindar), where they tend to occur in the same contexts in which one
expects to find the Muses.93
A possible analogy for the re-conceptualization of the Muses as deities of
mousike\ (but originally, as I conjectured, Thracian nature divinities) is provided
by the figure of Orpheus, the Thracian kitharode. Two scholars have recently

90
 Most likely, these pre-poetic Muses were not yet linked to Apollo. For Koller, the
Muses, primeval inhabitants of Delphi, became associated with Apollo when he took over
the Delphic shrine from Ge\ (1963, 35, 71–72). The primacy of the Muses over Apollo seems
to be implied in Alcm. fr. 46; note that, according to [Plut.]’s On Music, Alcman also imputed
pipe-playing to Apollo. The idea of a male divinity in charge of a group of females is com-
mon in Greek religious imaginary (cf. Pan and the nymphs, Dionysus and the bacchants).
In favor of an eighth-century date for the appearance of Apollo Mousageta\s, see Solomon
1994. Note also the evidence for Herakles Mousageta\s discussed in Otto 1961, 56–57.
91
 Otto 1961, 49–53.
92
 This semasiological effect can be compared to a pattern observed in the history of
languages: words borrowed from another language tend to assume a specific, technical mean-
ing (not necessarily available in the exporting language!), whereas a more general concept
is provided by a retained native term. Cf. English beef (of meat used as food) < French
beouf “ox”; troika “three-person commission” < Russian trojka “any grouping of three”;
English mensch “a person of integrity” (via Yiddish) < German Mensch “human being.”
93
 E.g., Sappho frr. 103, 128; Pind. O.4.9, O.9.27, O.14.8, P.6.2, P.9.89, etc. On the
significance of kharis in Pindar’s epinikia, see Kurke 1991, 97–107.
THE GENEALOGY OF THE MUSES 441

elaborated an Indo-European etymology of the name of Ὀρφεύς as “a man killed


by lightning”and sanctified for this very reason.94 Veneration of men killed by
lightning is widely attested across the Balkans and beyond, in the Slavic and Baltic
areas. Orpheus’s association with music and song, however, remains unparalleled.
It is possible that, sometime in the Dark Ages, in a Northern Greek realm an
independent sphere of poetry and poetics—with attendant patron deities and
mythical progenitors—came into being as a result of cultural interaction with
non-Greek speakers of Indo-European dialects95 inhabiting the region that later
Greeks called Thrace.96

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