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This paper argues that Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus points self-reflexively to its own enunciation and extra-textually to realia present at the implied performance event. These linguistic phenomena, however, go largely unnoticed in interpretations of the hymn. Most analyses are interested in exploring aspects of its relationship to traditional Greek religion, on the one hand, and to tenets of Stoicism, on the other. From this perspective, the hymn raises several interpretive problems. Its treatment of theodicy, for example (e.g. “nothing happens apart from you… except what the kakoi do in their folly” v. 15-17; “you have harmonized all things into one, the good with the evil,” v. 20), has been described as incorporating the Heraclitean concept, coniunctio oppositorum (good and evil are necessary elements in the larger dynamic cosmic unity), with Stoic notions of fate and providence (Pohlenz 1940; Zuntz 1958). Sier 1990 and Thom 1998 have challenged the Heraclitean influence on the hymn and noted that Cleanthes’ interest is rather in Zeus’s ability to reintegrate evil according to his justice.

I draw attention to performative features in the hymn and argue that they reframe this (and other) interpretive problem(s). The hymn’s self-enunciation (σá½² καθυμνήσω, v. 6) juxtaposes its own performance with what “all mortals” ought to do (σá½² γá½°ρ πάντεσσι θέμις θνητοá¿–σι προσαυδᾶν, v. 3) but, as we learn later in the hymn, do not. The act of singing to Zeus becomes the measure which determines whether one is kakos or has received divine insight. The hymn circumscribes its own community (implied performer and audience) from that kakoi by using deictic pointers to construct a performance setting. Scholars of choral poetry have analyzed the ways in which deixis functions to create a frame of reference from the perspective of the performers (Danielewicz 1990; Calame 2004). Poetic deictics, however, need not have actual extra-textual references but may rather bring them into existence within the textual world. I argue that the hymn’s description to cosmic movements should be read in this way (πᾶς á½…δε κÏŒσμος ἑλισσÏŒμενος περὶ γαá¿–αν πείθεται á¾— κεν ἄγῃς, v. 7-8). The deictic pointer (á½…δε) creates a (fictitious) cosmic setting for the hymn’s performance, in which the audience is directed to observe the motion of the heavenly bodies. These obedient movements serve as a programmatic model for human obedience to Zeus throughout the hymn, which presents its own performance as a mimetic embodiment of this obedience. Later, the hymn characterizes the kakoi as hastening after the “opposite of these things” (ἐναντία τῶνδε, v. 31). Whereas most scholars look for a textual antecedent for τῶνδε (Sier 1990: 99; Thom 2005: 141), I suggest that it should be understood as pointing extra-textually to things present at the performance, namely, the Stoic audience and its philosophical activities. Consequently, v. 20 can be understood at least in part as a claim that Zeus himself created the Stoic community: “here (ὧδε) you have harmonized all things into one,” taking ὧδε as a deictic adverb.

Callimachus’ Hymn to Apollo provides an interesting parallel in its evocation of a traditional hymnic performance setting. It simulates a cultic performance in which it creates the criteria necessary for experiencing Apollo’s epiphany. The aesthetic tastes embodied by the poem become the measure of one’s ritual qualification (Depew 1993; Bassi 1989; Bing 1993). I conclude by suggesting that Stehle’s model of community poetry can be usefully applied to Cleanthes’ hymn (1997: 26-70). The hymn reflects the philosophical ideology of the community and at the same time models the community’s ideals by presenting itself as the fulfillment of its own prayer for divine insight and by demonstrating the danger of failing to adopt its ideology. Thus, when the performative features of the hymn are taken into account, it is no longer seen merely as an abstract discussion of philosophical dogma but rather as a means of creating and maintaining the unity of the philosophical community.


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