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Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models

Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song, Vol. 4


Edited by Margaret Foster, Leslie Kurke and Naomi Weiss

Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry foregrounds innovative approaches to the question of genre, what it means, and how to think about it for ancient Greek poetry and performance. Embracing multiple definitions of genre and lyric, the volume pushes beyond current dominant trends within the field of Classics to engage with a variety of other disciplines, theories, and models. Eleven papers by leading scholars of ancient Greek culture cover a wide range of media, from Sappho’s songs to elegiac inscriptions to classical tragedy. Collectively, they develop a more holistic understanding of the concept of lyric genre, its relevance to the study of ancient texts, and its relation to subsequent ideas about lyric.

Cristina Guardiano and Melita Stavrou


This paper investigates aspects of adjectival modification in Romance and Greek of Southern Italy. In Italiot Greek, prenominal adjectives obey restrictions that do not exist in Standard Modern Greek, where all types of adjectives are allowed in prenominal position. As far as postnominal adjectives are concerned, in the textual tradition of Calabria Greek there is evidence of postnominal adjectives systematically articulated in definite nominal structures (henceforth DP s), in a structure similar to the so-called polydefinite construction that is typical of Standard Modern Greek (and of Greek in general since ancient times). Some residual evidence of such a construction is also found in Salento. Yet, in the varieties currently spoken in the two areas, postnominal adjectives are never articulated. The paper explores these patterns, with particular attention to the mechanisms potentially responsible for the loss of polydefiniteness.

Ezra la Roi


This paper challenges the commonly held view that the Classical Greek potential optative has a subjective epistemic semantics, the result of a conceptual confusion of subjectivity and epistemic modality inherited from our standard grammars. I propose that this view becomes less convincing when the optative’s unique interaction with the subjective particles ἦ and ἄρα is incorporated into the analysis. Rather, the potential optative has a non-subjective epistemic semantics presenting an epistemic judgment as interpersonally accessible to the conversational participants. Frequencies of combination with ἦ and ἄρα, linguistic tests for subjectivity on the potential optative, and contrastive contextual analyses corroborate this view.

From the editors

A new year, a new issue

Dag T.T. Haug, Brian D. Joseph and Anna Roussou

Francesco Mambrini


We study the distribution of the nominal and copular construction of predicate nominals in a subset of authors from the Ancient Greek Dependency Treebank (AGDT). We concentrate on the texts of the historians Herodotus, Thucydides (both 5th century BCE) and Polybius (2nd century BCE). The data comprise a sample of 440 sentences (Hdt = 175, Thuc = 91, Pol = 174). We analyze the impact of four features that have been discussed in the literature and can be observed in the annotation of AGDT: (1) order of constituents, (2) part of speech of the subjects, (3) type of clause and (4) length of the clause. Furthermore, we test how the predictive power of these factors varies in time from Herodotus and Thucydides to Polybius with the help of a logistic-regression model. The analysis shows that, contrary to a simplistic opinion, the nominal construction does not drop into irrelevance in Hellenistic Greek. Moreover, an analysis of the distributions in the authors highlights a remarkable continuity in the usage patterns. Further work is needed to improve the predictive power of our logistic-regression model and to integrate more data in view of a more comprehensive quantitative diachronic study.

Denis Michael Searby


The Hellenistic and early Imperial evidence of χρεία (chreia) in the sense of anecdote is summarized with the aim of completeness. The special rhetorical sense of this common Greek word is discussed, and a new explanation of the semantic derivation is offered: it is suggested that the sense of anecdote derives from the earlier sense of dealings rather than utility. The proposal that Metrocles or the Cynics invented the micro-genre of chreiai is strongly criticized. It is to the Socratics more generally we should look for its origins, if the genre must be supposed to have originated among philosophers, which is not certain.