Narratorial Authority and its Subversion in Archilochus

Swift, Laura (2017). Narratorial Authority and its Subversion in Archilochus. In: Bakker, Egbert ed. Authorship and Greek Song: Authority, Authenticity, and Performance. Brill, pp. 161–177.


From the earliest examples of Greek poetry, we find poets developing strategies to bolster their authority and present their narrative as superior to that of their rivals. This chapter explores how such techniques are manipulated or parodied in the poetry of Archilochus, focusing in particular on the use of gnomai, exempla, priamels, and mythologial paradigms. It argues that the self-conscious distortion of these traditional strategies is a characteristic feature of Archilochus’ style. The chapter first discusses two poems in which authoritative strategies are debunked for comic effect: frr. 25 and 122 W. The second part of the chapter uses the Telephus elegy (P. Oxy 4708) to examine how poems that are serious in tone can also manipulate these strategies to confound audience expectations.

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