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  • Alcaeus Fragment 130b V and the Literature of Exile
  • Ippokratis Kantzios


Ἀγνοις . . σβιότοις . . ις ὀ τάλαις ἔγωζώω μοι̑ραν ἔχων ἀγροϊωτίκανἰμέρρων ἀγόρας ἄκουσαικαρυ[ζο]μένας ὠ̑ (᾿Α)γεσιλαΐδα     4

καὶ β[ό]λλας· τὰ πάτηρ καὶ πάτερος πάτηρκα<γ>γ[ε]γήρασ’ ἔχοντες πεδὰ τωνδέωντὼν [ἀ]λλαλοκάκων πολίτανἔγ[ω . ἀ]πὺ τούτων ἀπελήλαμαι     8

φεύγων ἐσχατίαισ’, ὠς δ᾿ Ὀνυμακλέηςἔνθα[δ’] οἰ̑ος ἐοίκησα λυκαιμίαις. [ ]ον πόλεμον· στάσιν γὰρπρὸς κρ . [. . . . ] . οὐκ †ἄμεινον† ὀννέλην·     12

. ] . [ . . . ] . [. . ] . μακάρων ἐς τέμ[ε]νος θέωνἐοι[. . . . .] με[λ]αίνας ἐπίβαις χθόνοςχλι . [. ] . [ . ] . [.]ν συνόδοισί μ’ αὔταιςοἴκημι κ[ά]κων ἔκτος ἔχων πόδας,     16

ὄππαι Λ[εσβί]αδες κριννόμεναι φύανπώλεντ’ ἐλκεσίπεπλοι, περὶ δὲ βρέμειἄχω θεσπεσία γυναίκωνἴρα[ς ὀ]λολύγας ἐνιαυσίας     20 [End Page 191]

    ] . [.´ ] . [. ] . ἀπὺ πόλλων πότα δὴ θέοι    ] . [ ´]σκ . . . ν Ὀλύμπιοι·

        ]. . . . . .. να[ ] . . . μεν.         24

Pure . . . , I, the wretched one,live a rustic’s lifedesiring to hear the assemblybeing summoned, Agesilaidas,         4

and the council. The things that my fatherand my father’s father have grown old with,among these citizens harming one another,from these things I myself have been driven away,         8

an outcast at the ends of the world, and, likeOnomacles, I have settled here alone in wolf-thickets. . . war. For strifeagainst . . . is not . . . to renounce.         12

. . . to the precinct of the blessed godswalking on the black earth. . . in the very gatheringsI live, keeping my feet away from trouble,         16

where Lesbian girls, judged for their appearance,walk back and forth, in their trailing robes,and the wondrous sound of the women’ssacred, yearly cry echoes all over . . .         20

. . . from many, when will the Olympian gods . . . 1 21–22

The human experience of exile must pre-date the historical record, but as a literary phenomenon, that is, as a distinct set of thematic conventions and modes of expression, it is generally understood by classicists to date to the first century bce and originate in the works of Cicero, Ovid, [End Page 192] and Seneca the Younger. Gareth Williams and Jo-Marie Claassen, for instance, consider Cicero to be the creator of the autobiographical genre “complaints from exile,” while placing Ovid at the beginning of a literature that meditates “on the state of exile itself, and the psychological pressures which divide the self between ‘here’ and ‘there.’”2 Ernst Doblhofer and Jan Gaertner provide rather limited discussions of authors who precede the canonical Roman trio, despite the former’s emphasis on the universality of the human response to exilic adversity and the latter’s on the importance of established discourses for subsequent treatments of the same subject.3 These scholars are hardly unusual. In fact, the massive bibliography on the Roman depictions of the political, philosophical, and emotional aspects of displacement confirms the centrality of their analysis.

It is easy to understand the scholarly fascination with this particular branch of Roman literature, especially if we take into account its great volume and the long shadow it casts on later texts. Yet we should not overlook the importance of earlier treatments of exile because, scanty and brief as they may be, they help us place in perspective the “grand” works of the first century. Exile appears already in the Homeric epics and archaic lyric.4 The fact that these depictions are rarely other than cursory [End Page 193] should not come as a surprise given the thematic focus of the former and the poor state of preservation of the latter. Moreover, as Ewen Bowie suggests, this paucity of treatment in lyric may also be the result of its mode of transmission: songs were preserved through their (re)performance in the symposium, a setting that would have discouraged unwarranted attention to subjects that could spoil the evening’s entertainment.5 Given this context, we may be lucky to possess a poem like Alcaeus 130b V, written by a man who was exiled three times and who, in this case, is willing to speak at length about his political and ideological impasse and psychological frustration in ways surprisingly unimpeded by the lofty self-perceptions of his aristocratic class and the severe ethos of his military hetaireia.6 Alcaeus’s voice here is not much different from that of an exiled Ovid or Cicero.

In this paper, I would like to draw attention to those elements of Alcaeus 130b V that foreshadow the later traits of the canonical exilic discourse. To this end, I will approach the poem with an eye for its psychological and political aspects: those aspects that are central to the works of Ovid and Cicero when away from Rome.7 While discussing the poem, I [End Page 194] will resist the temptation to make cross-references, opting instead to read it within its own socio-cultural milieu and save my comparative observations for the end. My objective is not to provide...


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