Poetics and precedents in Archilochus’ erotic imagery

Swift, Laura (2016). Poetics and precedents in Archilochus’ erotic imagery. In: Swift, Laura and Carey, Chris eds. Iambus and Elegy: New Approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 253–270.

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This chapter explores Archilochus’ imagery and its relationship to his poetic precedents. It argues that Archilochus’ use of imagery is highly creative, and that he reworks conventional motifs in a way which undercuts their usual role in the poetic tradition. The paper investigates this theme with particular reference to the imagery of nature which is a recurrent theme both in Archilochus’ erotic iamboi and in the wider archaic Greek tradition. This motif has deep roots in myth and ritual as well as literary instantiations, and Archilochus uses the audience’s familiarity with the conceptual linking of female and natural fertility in order to reinterpret the trope. The chapter examines four fragments which engage richly with this theme: frr. 188, 30 and 31, and 196aW. Our understanding of all of these poems is enriched by reading them through the filter of the Greek locus amoenus or ‘meadow of love’.

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