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Trends in Classics

Journal of Classical Studies

Ed. by Montanari, Franco / Rengakos, Antonios

Editorial Board: Bernabé Pajares, Alberto / Billerbeck, Margarethe / Calame, Claude / Grethlein, Jonas / Hardie, Philip R. / Harrison, Stephen J. / Hinds, Stephen / Hunter, Richard / Kraus, Christina S. / Mastromarco, Giuseppe / Nagy, Gregory / Papanghelis, Theodore D. / Picone, Giusto / Raaflaub, Kurt / Whitmarsh, Tim / Zimmermann, Bernhard

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Ironic Genre Demarcation: Bacchylides 17 and the Epic Tradition

Marios Skempis
Published Online: 2011-11-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tcs.2011.013


Irony is thought of as a subversive rhetorical strategy that accounts for the collapse of lengthy narratives. In this paper I examine the way irony conduces to the evolution of archaic Greek lyricism against the backdrop of epic. I argue that Bacchylides 17 displays a distinct narrative tension arising from the clash of the two main branches of the epic tradition, male heroic epic and female catalogue or ehoie-poetry. Bacchylides positions Minos and Theseus, the main characters, within this narrative tension and has them employ irony to establish their ties with respective genres of epic narrative. The predilection of matronymic language by Theseus and the insistence on patronymic language by Minos turn a genealogical conflict into a debate over the reception of the epic genres. The emphasis Theseus puts on maternal filiation alongside the underwater encounter with his stepmother Amphitrite constitutes a marked way of countermining the traditional norms of male heroic epic such as anger, violence and paternity. By setting itself in line with the agenda of female catalogue poetry, which highlights eroticism, marriage and maternity, the poem cross-fertilises selected traits of an epic legacy it chooses to host in a brand new generic environment.

Keywords:: Bacchylides; irony; reception of epic; ehoie-poerty; filiation

About the article

Published Online: 2011-11-20

Published in Print: 2011-11-01

Citation Information: Trends in Classics, Volume 3, Issue 2, Pages 254–300, ISSN (Online) 1866-7481, ISSN (Print) 1866-7473, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tcs.2011.013.

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