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An Athenian Tradition of Dactylic Paeans to Apollo and Asclepius: Choral Degeneration or a Flexible System of Non-Strophic Dactyls?

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image of Mnemosyne

The different epigraphic versions of the so-called Erythraean Paean date from the early fourth century BCE to the mid-second century CE and are generally thought to trace the degeneration of an original monostrophic lyric poem attested in the eponymous late-classical version. I argue that such an approach is inadequate and that the later versions of this poem are witnesses to a hitherto unappreciated genre of paean to Apollo and Asclepius composed almost entirely in dactyls and organized into segments of varying length, which generally begin with a dactylic tetrameter and end with a version of the traditional paeonic cry (the so-called epiphthegma): Παιν or Παιν. The space between the opening tetrameter and the closing cry can, however, accommodate between four to eight additional dactylic feet. The late Hellenistic paean composed in Athens by Macedonicus of Amphipolis is yet another witness to this tradition, which probably dates back at least as early as a famous—albeit almost entirely lost—paean of Sophocles and is reflected in the first two strophes of the parodos of his Oedipus Rex.

Affiliations: 1: The University of Chicago, Department of Classics 1115 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637 USA, Email:


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