I. Presidential Address
A Brief History of Athenian Political Comedy (c. 440-c. 300)
This paper reassesses the production-pattern of politically engaged comedy of the Aristophanic type, traditionally considered the hallmark of the Old Comic period, in light of recent work on the comic fragments, and finds that such plays were relatively infrequent, produced only when demagogues were ascendant by poets who opposed them, and that this pattern seems to hold for the fourth century as well.
Benjamin S. Haller
Dolios in Odyssey 4 and 24: Penelope’s Plotting and Alternative Narratives of Odysseus’s νόστος
The abortive messages that Dolios almost but never conveys from Penelope to Laertes and from Laertes’ farm to Penelope in Books 4 and 24 of the Odyssey allude to alternative versions of Odysseus’s νόστος in which Odysseus returned to Ithaca with an armed band and expelled the suitors with the knowing collusion of Penelope and Laertes. By referencing these epichoric variants, Homer creates a narrative opening for his original audience to infer that Penelope and Laertes conspire to use the palace and Laertes’ farm as power centers from which to lead the insurrection against the suitors upon Odysseus’s return, while at the same time articulating norms of licit and illicit means of trickery through the divergent fates of Dolios and his “bad seed” offspring Melanthios and Melantho.
Christopher A. Faraone
The Poetics of the Catalogue in the Hesiodic Theogony
Some Hesiodic catalogues praise the individual named last as superlative and worthy of greater description or narrative. This traditional feature reveals different levels of composition. The catalogues of the Muses or the Titans, for example, reveal two versions, one claiming that groups operate collectively and another stressing the individual agency of the last-named sibling (Calliope or Cronus). In other cases the original framework of the catalogue seems to have been extended by additional names that aim at a different compositional scheme. Plato’s myth of the locusts in the Phaedrus (259c-d) and the closing verses of the famous Catalogue of Ships in Iliad 2 may reflect the same phenomenon.
Wackernagel’s Law and the Fall of the Lydian Empire
This paper offers a novel reading of the Delphic oracle’s response to Croesus’s question of whether he should attack Persia (Herodotus 1), by focusing on a previously unacknowledged feature of the oracular answer: the preposing of the adjective μεγἁλην. Preposing is a construction in which an element occurs before the start of the clause proper. In the oracle’s response, preposing serves a corrective function. As preposing creates surface exceptions to Wackernagel’s Law, it is only through an accurate understanding of the “Law” that we can even detect this construction. Working within a framework of (neo-) Gricean pragmatic theory, I detail the semantic and pragmatic contribution of preposing in the oracular response. More broadly speaking, I suggest that Gricean pragmatics can provide new insights into classical texts by offering a principled method for decoding implicit meaning.
A Tale of Two Sisters: Studies in Sophocles’ Tereus
This paper aims to reassess the role of sister- and siblinghood in the fragmentary Tereus of Sophocles, a play unusual in its dramatization of a close and collaborative relationship between two sisters. The plot hinges on their recognition and reunion, and the all-female bond of sisterhood is shown to outweigh both wife-husband and mother-son obligations. Finally, a close reading of three fragments suggests that the play was characterized by the language and imagery of siblinghood, which reflect the thematic centrality of sisterhood to this tragedy.
The Specter of Tantalus: Didactic Latency in De rerum natura
At the end of his third book, Lucretius concludes his arguments against the fear of death and the neurotic desires brought on by this fear with a metaphor that has been difficult for interpreters to fathom: et sitis aequa tenet vitai semper hiantis (3.1084). This paper offers a new reading of this passage as a tacit reference to the myth of Tantalus, which functions as a latent mythological allegory for chronic psychological dissatisfaction. This reading solves local problems of interpretation and, more significantly, provides insight into the didacticism of Lucretius’s sub-surface polemic against myth.
Nandini B. Pandey
Caesar’s Comet, the Julian Star, and the Invention of Augustus
Octavian is credited with turning a comet seen in 44 B.C.E. into a symbol of Julius Caesar’s divinity and using it to advance his own political aims. Yet historical evidence argues against this account. Moreover, representations of the sidus Iulium (Julian star) on coins and in poetry adopt diverse and autonomous perspectives on the princeps. The idea that Augustus circulated the sidus as part of an image campaign seems instead to originate with Ovid, whose deification narrative at Metamorphoses 15.745-851 retrojected the princeps’s mature power onto his early career and fueled the belief that Augustus gained and maintained power through propaganda.