Aristotle as Poet: The Song for Hermias and Its Contexts by Andrew L. Ford

By Andrew L. Ford

Aristotle is really a thinker and as a theorist of poetry, yet he used to be additionally a composer of songs and verse. this is often the 1st accomplished learn of Aristotle's poetic task, studying his ultimate fragments on the subject of the sooner poetic culture and to the literary tradition of his time. Its centerpiece is a examine of the only whole ode to outlive, a music commemorating Hermias of Atarneus, Aristotle's spouse's father and shopper within the 340's BCE. This awesome textual content is related to have embroiled the thinker in fees of impiety and so is studied either from a literary point of view and in its political and spiritual contexts.Aristotle's literary antecedents are studied with an extraordinary fullness that considers the full variety of Greek poetic types, together with poems via Sappho, Pindar, and Sophocles, and prose texts to boot. except its curiosity as a posh and sophisticated poem, the track for Hermias is noteworthy as one of many first Greek lyrics for which we've got enormous and early facts for the way and the place it was once composed, played, and obtained. It therefore offers a chance to reconstruct how Greek lyric texts functioned as functionality items and the way they circulated and have been preserved. The publication argues that Greek lyric poems take advantage of being learn as scripts for performances that either formed and have been formed by way of the social events within which they have been played. the result's a radical and wide-ranging learn of a posh and engaging literary record that provides a fuller view of literature within the past due classical age.

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Sample text

To take up these poems, however, is not to move at last from talking about historical context to texts, for these texts propose contexts and occasions for their own performance that we must take into account in interpreting them. This returns me to the argument with my colleague mentioned above, and my position that, although our reconstructions of performative contexts for Greek poems must be tentative and sometimes speculative, we cannot fail to attempt such reconstructions because the words of the poems often call them forth by alluding to their own situations of performance.

The words of a song might be read off a page, as in the Didymus papyrus, but one will not be able to perform it without learning the melody; without this melody, the rhythms of the song—which were unique to that song—are far less easily memorized or even perceived. I shall return to this basic difference in the two types of rhythmical composition when I come to Aristotle’s song, but for the present observe that not only is a poet’s choice of form made in light of what convention and context demand but that convention and context have favored certain forms because of the way they are able to move among people.

It was while Aristotle was in Pella in the late 340s that Hermias’s always precarious political situation turned perilous. The great king of Persia, now Artaxerxes III Ochus (reigned 358–338), became concerned that Hermias was intriguing with Philip of Macedon; Philip could use Atarneus as a foothold if he decided to attack Asia, as some Greeks were urging him to do (and as Alexander in fact did in 334). 32 His position depended on Persian acquiescence, for Atarneus lay within Dascyleum, the Persian satrapy in northwest Anatolia.

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