The Ancient Literary History of Iambos

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIambus and Elegy:
Subtitle of host publication New Approaches
EditorsLaura Swift, Chris Carey
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191769436
ISBN (Print)9780199689743
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016


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