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Iambus and ElegyNew Approaches$
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Laura Swift and Chris Carey

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199689743

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199689743.001.0001

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The Ancient Literary History of Iambos

The Ancient Literary History of Iambos

(p.101) 5 The Ancient Literary History of Iambos
Iambus and Elegy

Andrea Rotstein

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores ancient views regarding the origins and development of iambos as a literary genre. After considering some of the methodological difficulties involved in the interpretation of the available evidence, the chapter discusses the views emerging from the biographies of the iambographers and from ancient generic approaches to poetic history. It is shown that our sources focus mainly on issues of origins, disregarding development. Iambos appears consistently as a form belonging to the past. Such attitude probably stems from the language of the poems, which spoke of their antiquity, the link to Demeter and the beginnings of civilization, and the distinct chronographic position of Archilochus. However, the location of iambos in the archaic past is at odds with the evidence for iambic poets active in the classical period, overlooking at the same time the Hellenistic revivals—an indication of the divide between ancient scholars’ perceptions and actual poetic practice.

Keywords:   iambos, literary history, chronology, periodization, heuremata, Archilochus, Hipponax

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