Reading Notes on Theocritus’ Idyll 7

  Cipolla, Paolo B. 2023. “Reading Notes on Theocritus’ Idyll 7.” In “Γέρα: Studies in honor of Professor Menelaos Christopoulos,” ed. Athina Papachrysostomou, Andreas P. Antonopoulos, Alexandros-Fotios Mitsis, Fay Papadimitriou, and Panagiota Taktikou, special issue, Classics@ 25.

Theocritus’ seventh Idyll [1] has long been at the forefront of scholarly inquiries, for three main reasons, among others: first, it represents a sort of “recapitulation” and final synthesis of the poet’s entire bucolic production; second, its high point has been recognised in the Dichterweihe, the “consecration” of Simichidas (generally understood as Theocritus’ alter ego) by Lycidas as a master of bucolic poetry through the gift of the pastoral staff; finally, it contains, expressed through Lycidas’ words, Theocritus’ declaration of adherence to Callimachean poetics. It is no surprise that he chose to express these exceptional topics in an exceptional way that, despite the similarities discernible in other Idylls on individual aspects, remains unparalleled as a whole. In this paper, I shall focus on the poem’s structure as well as the symbolic meanings of certain features.
In a relevant study published several decades ago, Pretagostini sought to reduce the structure of almost all genuine Theocritean poems to the combination of two elements: the first (A) functions as a frame that encloses and contains the second (B), which represents the poem’s thematic core. [2] These two elements are typically combined according to two schemes: the simpler A–B–A and the more complex A–B–A–B´–A, where B´ is a response to B with some variations. Among the “bucolic” poems, for example, Idyll 1 opens with a dialogue between the shepherd Thyrsis and an unnamed goatherd (A:1–63), followed by Thyrsis’ song about Daphnis’ love distress and death (B:64–142, with vv.143–145 addressing the goatherd and the Muses); at v.146, the goatherd resumes speaking and delivers to Daphnis the gift that he has promised (A:146–152) ‒a figured cup that was formerly (27–60) described in a detailed ekphrasis. Idyll 11, after an address to Theocritus’ friend Nicias (1–6), follows the same triadic scheme: a description of Polyphemus’ lovesickness caused by Galatea (A:7–18), Polyphemus’ song (B: 19–79) and the narrator’s conclusion (A:80–81). Other Idylls have a more articulated structure: in Idyll 3, for example, the unnamed shepherd first expresses his intention to sing for Amaryllis and commends his cattle to Tityrus (A:1–5) before going on to perform a song in front of Amaryllis’ cave (B:6–36). However, he stops to change position and stands near a pine (A:37–39). Here he resumes singing (B´:40–51) and concludes by saying that he will allow himself to be eaten by wolves because Amaryllis does not return his love (A:52–54). Idyll 6 narrates an encounter between two shepherds, Daphnis and Damoetas (A:1–5), each of whom performs a song (B:6–19, and B´:21–41), separated by a brief intervention on the part of the narrator marking the exchange (A:20); the agon ends at even scores, and they exchange their respective musical instruments (A:42–46). In Idyll 7, A is the voice of the poetic “self” who narrates the event (the harvest festival at Phrasidamus’ farm on the island of Cos), describes the locations and the characters and reports their dialogue; B consists of the twin songs performed by Lycidas and Simichidas. Therefore, the sequence is as follows: frame + dialogue (A:1–51), Lycidas’ song (B:52–89), dialogue resumed by Simichidas by introducing his own song (A:90–95), Simichidas’ song (B´:96–127), gift of the staff, departure and description of the locus amoenus (A:128–157). Were we to assign musical terminology to the two schemes, we might categorize the first (A–B–A) as a “minuetto” scheme and the second (A–B–A–B´–A) as a “rondeau-like” [3] scheme.
The advantage of such a schematisation is that it allows all Theocritean poetry to be distilled down to a fundamentally unique composition principle; meanwhile, it is not coincidental that it cannot be applied to spurious poems such as Idyll 9, whose sequence A–B–A–B´–A is altered by the addition of a sort of “coda” B´´ (a further song delivered by the judge of the bucolic agon). [4] However, other factors remain to be accounted for, such as the number of performing characters or the difference between “mimetic” (i.e., direct) and “diegematic” dialogue (i.e., dialogue reported within a narrative). [5] Idylls 1 and 11 follow the “minuetto” scheme, but in the former, the central element (B) consisting in the solo song is framed within a dialogue, while in the latter, it is reported in a third-person narration. Idylls 3, 6 and 7 are shaped according to the “rondeau-like” scheme, but in 3, all speeches and songs are parts of the same monologue delivered by the same shepherd on the same occasion; in 6 and 7, the songs performed by the characters are contained within a narrative frame. However, the structure of the Thalysia (Idyll 7), though similar to that of Idyll 6, is revealed by closer examination to be considerably more complex and more intriguing:

  • the narrator of Idyll 7 is also one of the speaking characters in the dialogue and is generally identified with the poet himself;
  • Idyll 6 includes no real dialogue between the characters but only an exchange of songs reported by the narrator, while in Idyll 7, the songs are performed by the characters within their dialogue; [6]
  • Lycidas’ song contains a reference to other songs, as he forecasts the day when he, while drinking at a rustic feast, will listen to Tityrus singing about Daphnis’ love pain and about a goatherd who was imprisoned in a chest for a year and nurtured with honey by bees;
  • the poem ends with a “coda”: a rhetorical question addressing the Castalian Nymphs (148–155) and a wish, wherein the poet’s present voice is sounding and a metapoetic function can be recognised (155–157).

Therefore, this sequence may be better schematised as follows: A (narrative) – B (dialogue) – C (Lycidas’ song) – D (Tityrus’ songs imagined by Lycidas) – A (narrative: the speaker changes) – B´ (Simichidas’ response) – C´ (Simichidas´ song) – A (narrative) – A´ (coda).

1. The narrative frame (A)

When Theocritus uses a narrative frame, it typically contains these elements:

  1. description of the location: springs, trees, grassy meadows, animals, and so on;
  2. the time when the reported event occurred;
  3. name(s) of the speaking character(s);
  4. physical and/or psychological description of the speaking character(s);
  5. brief didascalic notices that mark speaker changes, as in epic poetry;
  6. outcome of the poetic contest/ solo song: one of the herdsmen wins or they break even; the winner receives a prize, or the contestants exchange gifts, or the solo singer receives a gift from the listener.

In addition to these data, further information may be collected from the dialogues and/or the bucolic songs (this is what usually happens in dialogic/mimetic idylls). Let us now consider how these elements are treated in the “diegetic” Idylls 6, 11, and 7.

Idyll 6

  • Location: simply defined as “a spring” (v. 3 ἐπὶ κράναν), where Daphnis and Damoetas met with their respective flocks (1–2 εἰς ἕνα χῶρον / τὰν ἀγέλαν ποκ᾽, Ἄρατε, συνάγαγον) and initiated a song contest;
  • Time: extremely vague: “once” (2 ποκ᾽), “in summer at noonday” [7] (4 θέρεος μέσῳ ἄματι);
  • Damoetas and Daphnis are both named at v. 1;
  • Brief description: one has a golden chin, the other is half–bearded (2–3 ἦς δ’ ὃ μὲν αὐτῶν / πυρρός, ὃ δ’ ἡμιγένειος);
  • After Daphnis ceases singing, Damoetas begins (Τῷ δ’ ἐπὶ Δαμοίτας ἀνεβάλλετο καὶ τάδ’ ἄειδεν, 20); the end of his song is marked by the formula τόσσ᾽ εἰπών (42).
  • The herdsmen break even and exchange gifts: Damoetas offers Daphnis his syrinx and receives in turn Daphnis’ aulos (42–46).

Total: 11 verses (1–5 + 20 + 42–46)

Idyll 11

  • Location: East Sicily, alluded to by the words ὁ Κύκλωψ ὁ παρ’ ἁμῖν (7), “my countryman the Cyclops”; Polyphemus sings while seated on a high rock near the seashore (14 ἐπ᾽ ἀιόνος, 17–18 καθεζόμενος δ᾽ ἐπὶ πέτρας / ὑψηλᾶς ἐς πόντον ὁρῶν);
  • Time: a mythical past, suggested by the adjective “old” (8 ὡρχαῖος Πολύφαμος, “Polyphemus of old”); prior to Odysseus’ arrival, as implied by the fact that Polyphemus is still young (9 ἄρτι γενειάσδων περὶ τὸ στόμα τὼς κροτάφως τε, “with the down new on his lips and temples”);
  • Polyphemus is mentioned at vv.7–8, first as “the Cyclops,” then by name;
  • Polyphemus is young (v.9: see above, Time); he loves Galatea (v. 8 ἤρατο τᾶς Γαλατείας) and neglects to drive his flock back to the fold (ἁγεῖτο δὲ πάντα πάρεργα. / πολλάκι ταὶ ὄιες ποτὶ τωὔλιον αὐταὶ ἀπῆνθον / χλωρᾶς ἐκ βοτάνας, 11–13), but stands all day in front of the sea, suffering from an intimate wound and singing (13–18);
  • no transition formulae, because there are no speaker changes (“minuetto” scheme A–B–A!); Polyphemus’ song is introduced by the words ἄειδε τοιαῦτα (18);
  • there is no contest nor prize, but Polyphemus gains from his song a certain release from his love distress, which is equivalent to a prize (80–81).

Total: 14 verses (7–18 + 80–81), plus the poet’s initial address to Nicias (1–6). Further details regarding location and time may be gleaned from Polyphemus’ own words: he dwells near Mt. Aetna, which supplies abundant cold water with its snowfields (47–48). At vv.52–3, Polyphemus says that he would suffer his only eye to be burnt by Galatea: this will happen in the future but at the hands of Odysseus rather than Galatea. In vv.1–6, Theocritus addresses his friend, the physician Nicias of Miletus, explaining that no medicine other than poetry is effective against lovesickness.

Idyll 7

  • Location: Cos. The island is never mentioned but is easily recognisable through the mention of various places in it: the Haleis (v. 1), the Burina spring (v. 6), Pyxa (v. 130). [8] A further detail serves to situate the location of the encounter with Lycidas: just before arriving at Brasilas’ tomb, [9] almost halfway between the town and Phrasidamus’ farm (vv. 10–11: κοὔπω τὰν μεσάταν ὁδὸν ἄνυμες, οὐδὲ τὸ σᾶμα / ἁμῖν τὸ Βρασίλα κατεφαίνετο);
  • Time: during the θαλύσια, a harvest festival in honour of Demeter, celebrated by Phrasidamus and Antigenes after a particularly rich harvest, to which Theocritus was invited with two friends (vv. 1–4: ἦς χρόνος, ἁνίκ᾽ ἐγών τε καὶ Εὔκριτος εἰς τὸν Ἅλεντα / εἵρπομες ἐκ πόλιος, σὺν καὶ τρίτος ἄμμιν Ἀμύντας. / τᾷ Δηοῖ γὰρ ἔτευχε θαλύσια καὶ Φρασίδαμος / κἀντιγένης …). The time can be more precisely stated based on the rich description of the locus amoenus at the end of the poem when the narrative frame resumes (esp. 135–147): the fruit trees with their branches loaded with sloes, the pears and apples rolling at the feet of and beside Theocritus/Simichidas, who is laying on a couch of rush covered with freshly stripped vine leaves, point to late summer, as the narrator explicitly states (143: πάντ᾽ ὦσδεν θέρεος μάλα πίονος, ὦσδε δ᾽ ὀπώρας);
  • The speaking characters are the poet himself and Lycidas, first named at v.13. Lycidas comes from Cydonia, typically understood as a town in Crete (v.12; however, we shall return to this detail later). Theocritus’ friends do not speak, nor are they mentioned outside the narrative frame;
  • At vv.13–20, Lycidas’ look is fully described with particular emphasis on two aspects: his characterisation as a goatherd, dressed as goatherds typically dress, so that one cannot fail to recognize him as belonging to this category, and his persistent smile:
          οὔνομα μὲν Λυκίδαν, ἦς δ’ αἰπόλος, οὐδέ κέ τίς νιν
          ἠγνοίησεν ἰδών, ἐπεὶ αἰπόλῳ ἔξοχ’ ἐῴκει.
15      ἐκ μὲν γὰρ λασίοιο δασύτριχος εἶχε τράγοιο
          κνακὸν δέρμ’ ὤμοισι νέας ταμίσοιο ποτόσδον,
          ἀμφὶ δέ οἱ στήθεσσι γέρων ἐσφίγγετο πέπλος
          ζωστῆρι πλακερῷ, οικὰν δ’ ἔχεν ἀγριελαίω
          δεξιτερᾷ κορύναν. καί μ’ ἀτρέμας εἶπε σεσαρώς
20      ὄμματι μειδιόωντι, γέλως δέ οἱ εἴχετο χείλευς·
His name was Lycidas, and a goatherd he was; nor could one that saw him have mistaken him, for beyond all he looked the goatherd. On his shoulders he wore the tawny skin of a thick–haired shaggy goat reeking of fresh rennet, and round his breast an aged tunic was girt with a broad belt; in his right hand he grasped a crooked club of wild olive. And with a quiet smile and twinkling eye he spoke to me, and laughter hung about his lip.
  • The Idyll makes extensive use of transitional formulae: besides the simple εἶπε (19) and ἔφα (43), we find relics of epic diction, such as τὸν δ᾽ ἐγὼ ἀμείφθην (27), ὣς ἐφάμαν (42), τόσσ᾽ ἐφάμαν (128), and the more elaborate χὢ μὲν τόσσ᾽ εἰπὼν ἀπεπαύσατο· τὸν δὲ μέτ᾽ αὖθις / κἠγὼν τοῖ᾽ ἐφάμαν (90–91), which marks the transition from Lycidas’ song to that of Simichidas. Although isolated formulae of this kind occur elsewhere in bucolic poems, [10] this degree of concentration is peculiar to Thalysia. [11]
  • After the poetic exchange with Simichidas, Lycidas awards him the pastoral staff (128–129), as he had promised to do before (43–44).

Total: 43 verses (1–20, 42, [12] 90–91, 128–147) plus the metapoetic “coda” (148–157). As in Idyll 11, further detail regarding time and place may be gleaned from other sections of the poem: at 46, Lycidas names Mount Oromedon; [13] v.21 contains a reference to noonday time (μεσαμέριον) and addresses the narrator as Simichidas: this naturally leads to their identification, and since the poetic “I” here appears in turn to belong to the poet himself, the resulting equation is “I” = Theocritus = Simichidas. [14] Unlike Lycidas, Simichidas does not receive a physical description, likely because he is identical with the first-person speaker; at any rate, Lycidas’ address at 21–26 depicts him as hastening and stumbling against the pebbles along the road with his ἀρβυλίδες, a kind of shoes usually worn by travellers. However, Theocritus crams into the opening narrative a stock of learned information not found elsewhere in his bucolic poems: in tracing the lineage of Phrasidamus and Antigenes back to Klytia and her son Chalkon (4–6), who was king of Cos when Demeter visited the island in search of her daughter Kore, he seizes the opportunity to introduce the aition for the origin of Burina spring, which gushed forth when the king “set his knee firm against the rock” (7 εὖ ἐνερεισάμενος πέτρᾳ γόνυ). The scholia quote a verse by Philitas containing a reference to the spring, [15] and Philitas is named as a model at v. 40 by the poet’s alter ego, Simichidas; by mentioning the spring, Theocritus implicitly acknowledges him as a forerunner. The poplars and elms that grow nearby, forming a luxuriant grove (8–9), are reminiscent of similar pleasant landscapes in the epic tradition [16] but also function here as a pendant to the end of the poem, where a similar grove casts its shadow over the fresh water that flows out of the cave of the Nymphs at Phrasidamus’ farm (135–137).

It is not difficult to see that, in comparison with the other poems, in Idyll 7 the narrative frame is considerably increased in size: not only is it thrice as long as that of Idyll 11 (and approximately four times as long as that of Idyll 6) but it contains substantially more information and detail. The place is identifiable through several references, and the springs are described in abundant detail; the time is defined accurately as a given day in the past life of the poet (compare the meagre reference to “a spring” or the generic “once” of Idyll 6). The image of young calves rejoicing and dancing while Daphnis and Damoetas play the aulos and Pan flute, which concludes the narrative in Idyll 6, is reshaped and expanded in Thalysia into the depiction of the locus amoenus, but with inverted parts: here men enjoy laying on couches, while various birds, cicadas, bees, and the splashing of water unite in a “choral song” sung by nature as a whole. Above all, while other narrative frames merely serve as a “container” for the core theme, in this case, part of its content is to be understood metaphorically: while the goatherd of Idyll 1 is merely a goatherd, the poet’s emphasis on Lycidas’ goatherd dress and on his laughter heightens the suspicion that he is—or symbolizes—something other than that which he appears to be.

2. The dialogue (B)

In addition to the narrative, the dialogue of Idyll 7 is also generally believed to be of metaphorical significance and, above all, to contain ironic nuances. So, for example, Lycidas’ reference to Simichidas’ clashing boots (ἀρβυλίδες, v. 26) has been understood as a “faint mockery” [17] on the part of the “rustic” man directed towards the “citizen” who, being unaccustomed to country life, wears shoes that are inappropriate for walking in the fields; [18] his guess that Simichidas must be hastening towards a banquet without having been formally invited and his observation regarding the noonday time (when nobody walks around, and even animals sleep) point in the same direction: “What are you doing in a place where you should not be, at an undue time, with inappropriate shoes?” Van Groningen, according to his view of the “bucolic metaphor,” explains the “real” significance of this issue in the following terms: What are you doing in the world of pastoral poetry, to which you are wholly unsuited? Are you really a poet, as I am? [19] Van Groningen is likely correct, although the mocking tone is (at least in part) a conventional topic to which no special significance should be attached: Theocritus depicts reciprocal laughter and scorn as customary features of the encounters between herdsmen, as is evident from Idylls 4 and 5, [20] and questions expressing surprise (with or without mockery) also appear at the beginning of certain Platonic dialogues. [21] In Euthyphron 2a 1–4, Euthyphron asks Socrates why, instead of spending his time in the Lyceum, he stands by the portico of the archon basileus like a citizen who has been summoned by law; he finds this strange, because he does not know that Socrates has been accused by Meletus and is thus fully justified in standing there. [22] Similarly, Lycidas does not know that Simichidas has been invited by Phrasidamus and Antigenes: he hastens towards their farm, but he is not ἄκλητος like a parasite. Even the reference to his boots need not necessarily be interpreted as a reproach for inappropriateness: after all, ἀρβύλαι were widely worn by travellers (in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, the eponymous ruler is still wearing them on his arrival at Argos [23] ) and hunters (Artemis in an anonymous epigram [24] ), and this suggests an association with extra-urban contexts to which a country feast may be assimilated. [25] Τhe diminutive ἀρβυλίδες may betray a mild mocking intention—here, one might recall Hipponax’s κυπασσίσκον / καὶ σαμβαλίσκα κἀσκερίσκα [26] ; however, it may equally not be so, given its occurrence in the epigram mentioning Artemis mentioned above, in which such a mockery would be unthinkable. Alternatively, we may better conceive of ἀρβυλίδες as a substitute for the generic ὑποδήματα, if we consider that Anacreon is described as wearing them in an epigram by Leonidas, [27] which conveys an image of the drunken poet having lost one of his shoes while walking, thus in a context that excludes associations with hunting or travelling. Lycidas’ laughter may also signify mocking irony [28] as well as an attitude of superiority: [29] one might concede that a degree of irony may be envisaged in his first appearance, but what kind of irony should we assume when laughter (the same kind of laughter as before, as Theocritus himself points out: ἁδὺ γελάσσας ὡς πάρος, 128–129) accompanies the gift of the staff, which cannot but be taken seriously as a formal act of poetic consecration? [30] I suggest that Lycidas’ question should be read in contrast to the description of the goatherd’s dress: while Lycidas is not only really a goatherd, he also has the appearance of a goatherd, and it is impossible not to recognise him, Simichidas is a “bucolic” poet (for he too was taught by the Nymphs “many nice songs while pasturing oxen on the mountains” [31] ), but is not yet recognisable as such—at least by Lycidas—because he appears to be out of place. What he needs is to be acknowledged, and this is precisely what happens at the end of the poem. The pastoral staff, issued on the authority of the Muses (ἐκ Μοισᾶν ξεινήιον), will be his passport. [32]
Simichidas’ answer to Lycidas’ question combines captatio benevolentiae with self-promotion. He begins by praising Lycidas’ reputation as a poet “among the herdsmen and the reapers” (28–29); at the same time, he says “in my thought, I fancy myself thy equal,” [33] because he is also a poet. Not only is he a poet, a “clear voice of the Muses” [34] and not only has the reputation of his “bucolic” poems reached “the throne of Zeus,” [35] but “everybody” says that he is an excellent poet. Nonetheless, he still regards himself as far below the lofty levels of contemporary poets, such as Sikelidas (Asclepiades of Samos) or Philitas. These words may initially appear to signify modesty and self-criticism, and Simichidas likely expects them to be received as such by Lycidas: he utters them “with a purpose” (ἐπίταδες, 42) in the hope of achieving a certain effect. Lycidas replies that he will give him his staff, because he is “a sapling Zeus has fashioned all on the truth.” [36] Is this what Simichidas had hoped for? Zagagi [37] assumes that Lycidas understands Simichidas’ real intention and frustrates him with an unexpected response: his “Callimachean” reproach against engineers who aim to build houses as high as the peak of Oromedon and “cocks of the Muses who lose their toil with crowing against the bard of Chios” [38] (that is, against Homeric imitators who do not acknowledge the limits of their poetic inspiration) would be implicitly directed towards Simichidas himself, because he was too confident in his creative skills and did not refrain from challenging a poet as great as Lycidas. If this were the case, the promise of the gift would not represent a success from Simichidas’ point of view, nor would its fulfilment at the culmination of the encounter (unless one admits that Theocritus is contradicting himself); but this would weaken the poem’s overall significance. I suggest that Lycidas’ profession of Callimachean poetics does not contradict but rather reinforces what Simichidas has said before and that the entire passage constitutes praise for him (that is, for Theocritus); neither is there any real contradiction between self-consciousness and modesty, since Simichidas knows that he has considerable potential but can nonetheless improve. The crucial point is that he does not need to be praised and acknowledged by the public: he simply requires the validation of a master. This mistrust towards common judgement is in itself a Callimachean attitude and is fully coherent with Callimachus’ programmatic contempt of whatever is “popular,” common, widespread and well-known. [39] Lycidas praises Simichidas because he recognises that they speak the same language. Simichidas is truthful, because what he has related before is true (and we have no basis for considering it to be false or for thinking that Lycidas considers it so): he is an excellent poet, and many think so, but at the same time, he desires authoritative confirmation of his skill. However, he is also “truthful” in the “Callimachean” and “Hesiodic” senses: [40] he sings about “real” life, just as the Hesiodic Muses are able “to tell the truth, when they want” [41] and recount “the present, the future, and the past.” [42]

3. The twin songs and the “bucolic projection” (C, D)

In Odyssey 8, while Odysseus is being entertained as a guest at the court of the Phaeacians, the bard Demodocus performs three songs, two of which recount episodes from the Trojan war—a quarrel between Achilles and Odysseus (73–82) and the conquest of Troy by means of the ruse of the wooden horse (499–520), and their content is reported indirectly as a brief summary. Between these episodes, Demodocus recounts the love affair between Ares and Aphrodite (266–366): this song is considerably longer than the other two, and, unlike them, contains direct speeches uttered by the characters, thus giving the impression of being the bard’s own words rather than a summary. It is not difficult to recognise here the first example of a “poem within a poem”—that is, a poem performed by a character within a poem of the same kind and quoted in full length.
Theocritus offers several examples, as we have seen: Thyrsis’ song in Idyll 1, the goatherd’s double serenade in Idyll 3, Daphnis’ and Damoetas’ songs in 6, Bucaeus’ and Milon’s in 10, Polyphemus’ in 11, and, of course, Lycidas’ and Simichidas’ in 7. Sometimes, it is explicitly stated that such songs are (re)performances of poems composed previously, and in Idylls 1 and 7, these poems have been composed by the same character who delivers them; [43] this is clearly a self-referential allusion to the poet’s activity. Furthermore, Theocritus sometimes reduplicates the scheme within the same poem, forming “a poem within a poem within a poem” and thus reinforcing the self-referential function: Thyrsis’ song embeds Daphnis’ ultimate words at 1.100–136, which may be regarded as an autonomous song; [44] Lycidas’ song refers to Tityrus’ singing about Daphnis and an anonymous goatherd (7.72–85) and to Comatas, [45] whose voice, were he still alive, Lycidas would be glad to hear while tending his goats (86–89). These three songs represent the fourth level (D) of the complex narrative structure of the Thalysia; they differ from Daphnis’ words reported in Idyll 1, in that these words are actually uttered, while Tityrus’ songs are merely imagined as a potential future event, and Comatas’ singing for Lycidas is wholly unrealisable wish because he is dead. Theocritus here adopts a self-referential pattern that is very common in theatrical choruses, known as “choral projection”: [46] the chorus refers to a song/dance performed by another group of singers in a different place and/or time, sometimes expressing the wish or hope to hear it. In a fragment generally ascribed to Aeschylus’ satyr play, Prometheus, the Satyrs sing and dance around the fire (that the eponymous Prometheus has just brought to earth) and express the hope that the Nymphs will hear them and join in the dance: [47]

Νύμφας δέ τοι πέποιθ᾽ ἐγὼ
στήσει[ν] χ̣οροὺς
Προμηθ̣έ̣ω̣ς δῶ[ρ]ον ὡς σεβούσας.

And I’m sure that the Nymphs
will make dances
in honour of Prometheus’ gift.

The singers may also wish to perform a song in the future themselves, as in Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers at 386–388:

ἐφυμνῆσαι γένοιτό μοι πευκή-
εντ’ ὀλολυγμὸν ἀνδρὸς
θεινομένου γυναικός τ’

May it happen to me
to sing a piercing woe for a man
that is slain, for a woman
that is dying

Alternatively, they may complain because they cannot sing and dance as they would, as in Euripides’ Cyclops (63–72):

          οὐ τάδε Βρόμιος, οὐ τάδε χοροὶ
          βακχεῖαί τε θυρσοφόροι,
65      οὐ τυμπάνων ἀλαλαγ-
          μοὶ κρήναις παρ᾿ ὑδροχύτοις,
          οὐκ οἴνου χλωραὶ σταγόνες·
          οὐδ᾿ ἐν Νύσᾳ μετὰ Νυμ-
          φᾶν ἴακχον ἴακχον ᾠ-
70      δὰν μέλπω πρὸς τὰν Ἀφροδίταν,
          ἃν θηρεύων πετόμαν
          βάκχαις σὺν λευκόποσιν.

No Dionysus is here, no dances,
no wand-bearing Bacchic worship,
no ecstatic noise of drums
by the gushing springs of water,
no fresh drops of wine.
Nor can I join the Nymphs on Mount Nysa
in singing the song “Iacchos Iacchos
to Aphrodite, whom I swiftly pursued
in the company of white-footed Bacchants. [48]

The Satyrs are Polyphemus’ slaves and feed his cattle, and so they cannot worship their master Dionysus with song and dance as they were accustomed to do; therefore, they abandon themselves to imagination and evoke the frenzied dances they once performed with the Maenads and the Nymphs. [49] The same elements found in these examples (hopes, wishes, complaints) recur in Lycidas’ song: he hopes to listen to Tityrus’ song and laments that he cannot do the same with Comatas. Choral projection is a form of self-referentiality, because in imagining a virtual (object of hope/wish) musical performance, it draws the listener’s attention to the chorus’ actual performance: the same may be said of Lycidas’ “bucolic projection.” However, his song cannot be labelled a “pastoral” song in the true sense: rather, it begins as a propemptikon, [50] wishing Lycidas’ beloved boy Ageanax for a fair travel to Mytilene. It is the “bucolic projection” that causes it to reverberate with a pastoral atmosphere, returning it to the (typical) realm of bucolic poetry. [51]

Simichidas’ song does not deal with the pastoral world either: [52] just as in Lycidas’, the main subject is ephebic love in an urban context (as implied by the allusion in vv.122–124 to the practice of thyraulia [53] or paraklausithyron, [54] a lament sung by the lover at the door of the beloved). Here, however, there is no hint of bucolic projection: we find only a scanty reference to the possibility that Aristis, a highly skilled singer who knows of Aratus’ lovesickness, may stand with his lyre in hand and sing near the tripod in Apollo’s sanctuary. [55] Nowhere is it stated that Aratus’ love for the young Philinus would be the potential subject of Aristis’ song, even if the juxtaposition of the two statements (Aristis is informed about Aratus’ love; he is an excellent singer) naturally leads to such an assumption; [56] however, although this connection cannot be ruled out, the song’s subject is less explicit than that of Tityrus singing about Daphnis and Comatas. There is, of course, a certain symmetry between Lycidas’ and Simichidas’ songs, and Plazenet detected a chiastic scheme in the love stories described (or referred to) in the songs: Lycidas loves Ageanax (unrequited homosexual love: A) – Daphnis loves the Nymph Xenea (unrequited heterosexual love: B) – Simichidas loves Myrto (requited heterosexual love: B) – Aratus loves Philinus (unrequited homosexual love: A). Both poems open with descriptions of lovesickness but end with the celebration of the ἁσυχία that follows liberation from it. [57] It may also be noted that heterosexual love plays a secondary role: in the cases of both Daphnis and Simichidas, it is afforded only a brief mention, [58] while homosexual love constitutes the main subject. A further correspondence may be established between Lycidas’ wish that Ageanax enjoy fair travel and Simichidas’ curses against Pan if he does not guide Philinus into Aratus’ arms: if the former is a motif typical of propemptikon, the latter may be regarded as a “reverse propemptikon,” [59] for Simichidas wishes Pan an unpleasant sojourn in the most inhospitable countries of the earth during the most unfavourable season (i.e., on the Edonian Mountains of Thracia in winter, [60] among the Aethiopians in summer).
The correspondences between the two songs may be summarised as follows:

Lycidas Simichidas
loves a boy (Ageanax) loves a girl (Myrto), but Aratus loves a boy (Philinus)
unhappy happy (Aratus: unhappy)
if Ageanax releases him from his suffering if Pan causes Philinus to fall in love with Aratus
he will have fair travel and enjoy exceptionally mild weather even in winter boys won’t flog his flanks with squills
if Pan does not hear the prayer
may he scratch himself and sleep in nettles
may he be in the coldest country in winter and in the warmest in summer
Lycidas will feast and drink remembering Ageanax let Aratus leave Philinus and stop troubling after him
Lycidas will listen to Tityrus’ song Simichidas mentions Aristis
Tityrus will sing about Daphnis’ love suffering Aristis, a highly skilful singer, knows of Aratus’ lovesickness and would be permitted to sing [about it??] in Apollo’s temple
Tityrus will sing about the goatherd nurtured by bees
Lycidas would listen to Comatas’ song while tending his goats

Beyond the similarities outlined above, the correspondence is undeniably not perfect: Simichidas’ manifold course against Pan is largely unbalanced against Lycidas’ wish for Ageanax, and, vice versa, the wide and relevant metapoetical references to bucolic songs that can be found in Lycidas’ words find no equivalent counterpart in Simichidas’ scanty mention of Aristis. This may be due partially to the fact that the two songs are not improvised, and so a total symmetry would have been artificial and improbable; in general, however, the motifs of Simichidas’ song appear to be more scattered and disorganised, despite their apparent unity. [61] Above all, it is striking that Lycidas speaks about his own experience, while Simichidas, after mentioning his love for Myrto, says nothing about it but shifts his attention to Aratus; moreover, in response to Simichidas’ invitation to “bucolic singing” (βουκολιάζεσθαι), neither of the two performs a pastoral song in the truest sense. Inevitably, we recall that “bucolic” and “pastoral” were not originally synonymous, and that βουκολιάζομαι means “to exchange songs in the manner of cowherds,” without any special connection with “pastoral” themes; it may be, as van Groningen [62] supposes, that the word βουκολικός originated as a slight directed by traditional poets and their admirers against the “new” Callimachean style—one may recall the sermo piscatorius of early Christians—and was then used as a polemic self-definition by the bucolic poets themselves (as happened in modern times with the term “impressionism,” coined by the reporter Louis Leroy as a means of ironically describing Claude Monet’s style). However, when Theocritus wrote Idyll 7, he had already written other “bucolic” poems (to which he is probably alluding at vv. 91–93), and the Idyll is generally regarded as a later product: [63] if he had already written several “bucolic” Idylls such as 1, 4–6 and 11, why did he not offer a sample of pastoral poetry in the proper sense?

Many answers to this question are possible. Theocritus may have used the category of “bucolic” in a wider sense to encompass not only songs about (or performed by) shepherds but all forms of new Callimachean poetry that he had practised up to that time, like the “urban mimes.” Simichidas’ prayer to Pan may be compared with Simaetha’s magic ritual of Idyll 2: both cases deal with the motif of forcing a reluctant or unfaithful lover. [64] Alternatively, Theocritus may have portrayed himself when he was still young and not yet a fully-fledged “bucolic” poet: this would explain why his song appears somewhat “defective” when compared with that of Lycidas’. [65] However, Lycidas is a bucolic poet, but nevertheless, he does not sing a bucolic song either; moreover, he is a goatherd, thus occupying the lowest position in the hierarchy of herdsmen, [66] the most improbable status for an authoritative figure of bucolic poetry. It is now time to confront a capital question that is key to understanding the poem.

4. Who is Lycidas?

While the (at least, partial) identification between Simichidas and Theocritus is widely accepted, no consensus has yet been reached as regards Lycidas’ identity. Scholars have emphasized the fact that the encounter is described in terms that are openly reminiscent of epic divine epiphanies: its occurrence at noon (which in folk culture is the time of supernatural encounters, possibly fatal for mortal beings), [67] the use of the epic formula οὐδέ κέ τίς νιν ἠγνοίησεν ἰδών (which recurs with variations in Homeric epiphanies to express the concept that the god was recognised), [68] and Lycidas’ persistent laughter [69] point in this direction, and as such, identification with a god has been often proposed: Pan [70] , a satyr [71] and, above all, Apollo [72] . Gods, however, even when disguised as mortals, disappear mysteriously and suddenly, [73] while Lycidas departs by “walking” on the road to Pyxa (130–131 τὰν ἐπὶ Πύξας / εἷρφ᾽ ὁδόν), suggesting a mortal oriented towards a real place on Earth rather than a god returning to Olympus or another supernatural realm. Above all, if Lycidas were Apollo or another god, Simichidas’ statement that he can equate him with his poetry (30–31) would be hybristic, as would his proposal that they sing together and to gain reciprocal benefit. [74] Others opt for a well-known and authoritative poet: Hesiod [75] would be an excellent candidate, given that the encounter between Lycidas and Simichidas in many ways resembles Hesiod’s encounter with the Muses at the opening of Theogony (22–34) and Hesiod was regarded as a model by Hellenistic poets in general. [76] However, one wonders why Theocritus would choose to present a poet of the past under another name [77] or put into his mouth a love song, a kind of poetry that he was not credited with practising; moreover, nothing in Idyll 7 suggests that Lycidas is not a living contemporary of Simichidas. In Iambus 1, Callimachus introduces Hipponax with his real name and adds that he is coming from the underworld, [78] which is not the case here; nor is Theocritus/Simichidas reporting a dream or a vision. Meanwhile, the disguise has sense only if it serves to dissimulate open allusion to a living poet: Callimachus [79] would be the best choice, because he asserted the superiority of short poems against lengthier compositions, as Lycidas does in vv.45–48. However, this conflicts with Lycidas’ alleged origin from the Cretan town of Cydonia; one should then seek a Cretan poet such as Rhianus, Dosiadas or the obscure Astacides, mentioned by Callimachus in a funeral epigram, [80] but none of these appears to have been as influential and authoritative among contemporaries as the figure of Lycidas requires, nor may we think of a poet unknown to us [81] (the complete disappearance of his name would be hard to reconcile with the high reputation that he should have enjoyed). We are left, then, with two options: either a real person (which seems improbable) or a merely fictitious figure. [82]
Perhaps, however, the solution is simpler than it initially appears. Stephanus of Byzantium informs us that, aside from the town of Cydonia in Crete, there was also one in Sicily and one in Libya. [83] Of course, these are much less famous than the Cretan location, and a reader confronted with the adjective “Cydonian” would not necessarily think of them at first glance. However, Alexandrian poetry is allusive and conceived for learned and skilful readers, and when a “Cydonian” speaks in terms that closely resemble those used in Callimachean poetry, a learned Alexandrian reader may doubt whether that “Cydonian” refers to a town that would probably be not very far from Alexandria or Cyrene. Taking these assumptions even further, the word Κυδωνικόν itself may recall by assonance Κυρην(α)ικόν; [84] one may add that Lycidas is a goatherd, and Libyan goats (and consequently goatherds) were well known in antiquity. [85] Therefore, the identification with Callimachus is at least no more improbable than others that have been proposed. If Theocritus’ contemporaries did include an authoritative and famous poet, whose appreciation Theocritus would have sought to attain at any price, Callimachus is the obvious candidate. Theocritus disguised him as a goatherd partly following the Homeric model of Melantheus in Odyssey 17 but partly for other reasons: possibly, as noted above, to allude to his Libyan origin or because goatherds were considered the most lascivious among herdsmen and the most inclined to unrestrained love and sex, particularly of the homoerotic type. [86] Book 12 of the Anthologia Palatina contains several Callimachean epigrams on homoerotic themes, [87] and so Callimachus may be regarded as representative of the genre (though they do not constitute his main poetic work), and Lycidas performs a song in which homoerotic love is the main topic. Meanwhile, however, Lycidas does not offer a sample of pastoral poetry but rather listens to it being performed by other shepherds; Callimachus did not write pastoral poetry either as far as we know, but likely read or listened to Theocritus’ poems. While it is impossible to determine where and when they met—perhaps in Cos, perhaps in Alexandria or elsewhere—nonetheless, they appear to know one another. [88] Undoubtedly, Lycidas’ presentation resembles epic divine epiphanies, and he has various “Apollonian” features: this does not mean that Theocritus assimilated him to a god but rather that he gave him a function analogous to that of gods in the poetry of past ages.

5. Conclusion

Idyll 7 is the most sophisticated of Theocritus’ poems for the reasons we have seen. It combines a complex structure, resembling a set of nesting boxes, with allusive language to legitimate—through what is recounted as an exceptional experience—adoption of compositional principles inspired by Callimachus. Translated in concrete terms, the rhetorical question that the poet poses to the Nymphs at the end of the poem (i.e. whether Phrasidamus’ new wine was similar to the wine served by Pholus to Herakles or by Odysseus to Polyphemus) means “is this poem comparable to poems of the past on mythical subjects?” [89] and represents a form (attenuated through the interrogative) of the Überbietung topos described by Ernst Robert Curtius: “a poet or prose writer is praised as having put all the greatest works of the past in the shade.” [90] Sometimes, as in our case, the writer himself praises his own work: Simichidas/Theocritus, as we have seen, is sufficiently self-confident to consider himself a skilled poet; now, he insinuates the idea that this very poem, the Thalysia, has outdone famous poems of the past. Which poems? As Hunter [91] rightly supposes, the references to Herakles and Pholus may allude to Stesichorus’ Geryoneis or even to Epicharmus’ Herakles at Pholus; thus, Polyphemus tending his cattle besides the river Anapus, which flows near Syracuse, points perhaps to Philoxenus of Leucas’ Cyclops, which had a Sicilian setting. However the reader should not forget that Theocritus himself composed idylls about Herakles (13; 24) and Polyphemus (6; 11); even if they dealt with different stories, we are left with the impression that Theocritus here is emphasizing the superiority of the Thalysia in comparison not only with poems written by others, but also with his own previous production. [92] After all—in this last aspect, at least—was he not correct?


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[ back ] 1. The bibliography on Theocritus—and on Idyll 7 in particular—is extensive; herein, I quote only works that are relevant to the topic of this contribution, in which the reader will find further bibliographic references (see especially Hunter 1999; Kyriakou, Sistakou and Rengakos 2021).
[ back ] 2. Pretagostini 1984. Idylls 29–30, written in Aeolic dialect and verse and dealing with homoerotic love, do not follow this scheme.
[ back ] 3. In a rondeau, the actual scheme is typically A–B–A–C–A, where B and C may be significantly (but not wholly) different; however, for our purposes, we may consider B and B´ as equivalent, inasmuch they have the same position and the same relationship to A.
[ back ] 4. Pretagostini 1984:29.
[ back ] 5. Klooster 2021:375 distinguishes between narrative idylls (6, 11) and mimetic idylls ‒that is, without a narrative frame (1, 3–5). The difference was already clear to ancient interpreters: see Scholia in Theocritum, Prolegomena D 4.11–5.2 Wendel: Πᾶσα ποίησις τρεῖς ἔχει χαρακτῆρας, διηγηματικόν, δραματικὸν καὶ μικτόν. τὸ δὲ βουκολικὸν ποίημα μῖγμά ἐστι παντὸς εἴδους καθάπερ συγκεκραμένον· διὸ καὶ χαριέστερον τῇ ποικιλίᾳ τῆς κράσεως, ποτὲ μὲν συγκείμενον ἐκ διηγηματικοῦ, ποτὲ δὲ ἐκ δραματικοῦ, ποτὲ δὲ ἐκ μικτοῦ, ἤγουν διηγηματικοῦ καὶ δραματικοῦ, ὁτὲ δὲ ὡς ἂν τύχῃ.
[ back ] 6. Pretagostini’s analysis conflates into A the narrative frame (1–20) and the dialogue (21–51, plus Simichidas’ prefatory words at 90–85), which should be kept distinct.
[ back ] 7. Translations of Theocritean passages are taken from Gow 1952 (unless stated otherwise); translations of other Greek texts are mine (unless stated otherwise).
[ back ] 8. Ἅλεις is attested as a deme name in Cos, but it appears elsewhere as the name of a river, and so it may be the same here; see Scholia in Theocritum 7.1c (77.11–13 Wendel) Ἄλεις [so Wendel] ἢ δῆμος τῆς Κῶ … ἔστι δὲ Ἄλεις καὶ ποταμὸς Σικελίας; Gow 1952:2.131. Pyxa is also a Coan deme mentioned in inscriptions (see Gow on v.130). On the Burina spring, see below.
[ back ] 9. Brasilas is otherwise unknown, but his tomb was likely a well-known landmark among Coans.
[ back ] 10. E.g. τόσσ᾽ εἰπών 6.42; χὢ μὲν τόσσ᾽ εἰπὼν ἀπεπαύσατο 1.138.
[ back ] 11. A similarly high concentration of these can be found in Idyll 24, “Baby Herakles,” which is more properly classified as an epyllion (cf. 41 ὣς φάθ᾽, 51 ἦ α, 72 τόσσ᾽ ἔλεγεν βασίλεια· ὁ δ᾽ ἀνταμείβετο τοίοις, 101 φῆ).
[ back ] 12. Here, I include the single word ἔφα in 43.
[ back ] 13. According to the Scholia ad loc., Oromedon was a mountain in Cos named after an ancient king of the island, possibly identical to modern Dikeo (Gow 1952:2.143; Hunter 1999:164).
[ back ] 14. See Scholia in Theocritum, Prolegomena Aa 1.2–3 Wendel and the Argumenta a–c to Idyll 7, where all Simichidas’ words are summarized as Theocritus’ words (e.g., Argumentum c προλογίζει ὁ Θεόκριτος); Luck 1966:186; Hunter 1999:146; Domány 2007:317n1 and 326n55, with bibliography; Klooster 2021: 376 (with n.40). According to Bowie 1985:68, Simichidas “both is and is not Theocritus.”
[ back ] 15. Fr. 6 Spanoudakis (in Scholia in Theocritum 79.20 Wendel) νάσσατο (δάσσαντο codd., corr. Heinse) δ᾽ ἐν προχοῇσι μελαμπέτροιο Βουρίνης. The fragment is usually ascribed to Philitas’ Demeter on the basis of the content.
[ back ] 16. See Odyssey 5.64, 6.292, 9.141 and especially 17.208.
[ back ] 17. Thus, Gow 1952:2.139.
[ back ] 18. See, for example, Plazenet 1994:81 and Billault 2008: 501 (who compares Plato Symposium 174a.3–5: Aristodemus notices that Socrates, who was accustomed to walking barefoot, is wearing sandals and asks him where is he going); on the contraposition “urban”/”rustic,” see again Plazenet 1994:78 note 4, with further bibliographic information (Plazenet, however, softens this opposition and also considers the description of Lycidas’ goatskin to be ironic); Hunter 1999:148.
[ back ] 19. Van Groningen 1958:309.
[ back ] 20. In Idyll 4, Battus asks Corydon whether he milks on the sly the cows that Aegon has entrusted to him; in Idyll 5.1–4, Comatas and Lacon accuse one another of thievery, and the entire dialogue is replete with mutual scorn.
[ back ] 21. On analogies between Platonic dialogues and Theocritean Idylls, see Hunter 1999:145; Billault 2008.
[ back ] 22. Compare Protagoras 309a1: “Where do you come from, Socrates? Ain’t you coming from that hunting after Alcibiades’ beauty?” A similar mock question (but with a more aggressive tone and intent) appears in Odyssey 17.219–220, where the goatherd Melantheus meets Eumaeus and Odysseus and asks the former: “Where are you leading this greedy fellow (μολοβρόν), this troublesome beggar (πτωχòν ἀνιηρόν)?” The entire passage is acknowledged as the most influential model of the encounter between Simichidas and Lycidas in Idyll 7: see Cameron 1963:294; Ott 1972:146.
[ back ] 23. Aeschylus Agamemnon 944.
[ back ] 24. Anthologia Planudea 253.1–2: Ἄρτεμι, ποῦ σοι τόξα, παραυχενίη τε φαρέτρη; / ποῦ δὲ Λυκαστείων ἐνδρομὶς ἀρβυλίδων …;
[ back ] 25. Hunter 1999:159 “certainly he is dressed as no countryman ever would be” is perhaps too categorical.
[ back ] 26. Fr. 32.4–5 West.
[ back ] 27. Anthologia Planudea 306 = 31 Gow – Page (cf. in part. 5–6: δισσῶν δ’ ἀρβυλίδων τὰν μὲν μίαν οἷα μεθυπλὴξ / [ back ] ὤλεσεν, ἐν δ’ ἑτέρᾳ ικνὸν ἄραρε πόδα. Of course, ankle-laced boots hardly fit into a sympotic context: in another epigram by Leonidas on the same subject, which follows immediately (Anthologia Planudea 307.3 = 90.3 Gow – Page) Anacreon wears βλαυτίας, slippers (cf. Gow and Page 1965:2.342), and so ἀρβυλίδες here should indicate something similar. Perhaps the reason (or at least one of the reasons) for using ἀρβυλίς, both in Leonidas and in Theocritus, is that the noun fits well into the dactylic rhythm.
[ back ] 28. Thus, for example, Hunter 1999:148 (the laughter marks the opposition between the purported “bucolic” poet who lives in the city and the “true” countryman).
[ back ] 29. Williams 1987:110; Billault 2008:511 (the laughter marks a transition to a different level and indicates that Lycidas is not merely a goatherd as he pretends or appears to be, as laughter is typical of gods’ behaviour during their encounters with mortals).
[ back ] 30. On the interpretation of the gift as Dichterweihe, see van Groningen 1959:30; Puelma 1960:155; Schwinge 1974:57. I do not agree with Zagagi’s view (1984:435–436 and n.38) that the gift is “an insidiously condescending compliment rather than a prize,” since Lycidas accompanies the promise with the acknowledgement that Simichidas has told the truth by saying that he does not believe himself to be an excellent poet (cf. already Gow 1952:2.142 “Lycidas’ compliment appears to turn on the candour with which Simichidas has admitted his inferiority to Asclepiades and Philetas”). The scholar consequently denies that the gift symbolizes, as is generally agreed, Simichidas’ Dichterweihe, because the word ξεινήιον implies that he is (and remains) a stranger in the world of the Muses—that is, he is not a particularly good poet. Nor would I distinguish between a sarcastic laughter, allegedly implied by the word σεσαρώς (19), and a mild one expressed by the words ἁδὺ γελάσσας (128: so van der Valk 1985:136–137): σαίρω refers also to mild laughter without sarcasm (it differs basically from γελάω because indicates properly laughter with open mouth; LSJ s.v.), and its polite and jesting nature here is clearly shown by the adverb ἀτρέμας and the contemporary shining of the eyes (20 ὄμματι μειδιόωντι).
[ back ] 31. Verses 91–93 πολλὰ μὲν ἄλλα / Νύμφαι κἠμὲ δίδαξαν ἀν’ ὤρεα βουκολέοντα / ἐσθλά.
[ back ] 32. In the heroic world, host gifts serve as passports of sorts, because their function is to let everybody know that the two men (and each man’s relatives) are linked through hospitality: compare Diomedes’ proposal to Glaucus in Iliad 6.230–231 τεύχεα δ᾽ ἀλλήλοις ἐπαμείψομεν, ὄφρα καὶ οἵδε / γνῶσιν ὅτι ξεῖνοι πατρώϊοι εὐχόμεθ’ εἶναι (“let us exchange our armours, so that these too may know that we are proud to be hosts since our ancestors”). In Theocritus, instead of an exchange, we find a one-way gift, because Simichidas and Lycidas (or the Muses) are not equal (Cameron 1963:305): while Simichidas requires an identification mark, Lycidas does not.
[ back ] 33. Verses 30–31 κατ᾽ ἐμὸν νόον ἰσοφαρίζειν / ἔλπομαι.
[ back ] 34. Verse 37 καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ Μοισᾶν καπυρὸν στόμα.
[ back ] 35. Verses 91–93. Τhe words are usually taken by scholars as an allusion to Ptolemy II Philadelphus (e.g. Gow 1952:2.155; Williams 1987:105; Hunter 1999:179; Klooster 2021:380).
[ back ] 36. Verse 44 πᾶν ἐπ’ ἀλαθείᾳ πεπλασμένον ἐκ Διὸς ἔρνος. Gow (1952:1.59) renders ἐπ᾽ ἀλαθείᾳ with “for the truth,” and Hunter (1999:163) “with a view to truth”; I prefer to follow Plazenet’s “on the truth” (1994:85), because ἐπ᾽ ἀλαθείᾳ πεπλασμένος can be better understood as the opposite of ἐξ ἀπάτας κεκροτημένοι of Idyll 15.49, “(men) forged with fraud” (of Aegyptian thieves and robbers). In both cases, Theocritus appears to employ a metaphor drawn from the world of metallurgy, perhaps inspired by Pindar, Pythian 1.86 ἀψευδεῖ δὲ πρὸς ἄκμονι χάλκευε γλῶσσαν, “forge your tongue on an anvil without lies”: with this passage in mind, we might interpret ἐπ᾽ ἀλαθείᾳ πεπλασμένον as “forged/modeled on the anvil of truth.”
[ back ] 37. 1984:433–434.
[ back ] 38. Verses 47–48 καὶ Μοισᾶν ὄρνιχες ὅσοι ποτὶ Χῖον ἀοιδόν / ἀντία κοκκύζοντες ἐτώσια μοχθίζοντι.
[ back ] 39. See Aitia fr. 1.25–28 Pfeiffer: πρὸς δέ σε] καὶ τόδ᾽ ἄνωγα, τὰ μὴ πατέουσιν ἅμαξαι / τὰ στείβειν, ἑτέρων ἴχνια μὴ καθ’ ὁμά / δίφρον ἐλᾶν μηδ’ οἷμον ἀνὰ πλατύν, ἀλλὰ κελεύθους / ἀτρίπτους, εἰ καὶ στεινοτέρην ἐλάσεις; Epigram 28 ἐχθαίρω τὸ ποίημα τὸ κυκλικόν, οὐδὲ κελεύθῳ / χαίρω, τίς πολλοὺς ὧδε καὶ ὧδε φέρει· / μισέω καὶ περίφοιτον ἐρώμενον, οὐδ’ ἀπὸ κρήνης / πίνω· σικχαίνω πάντα τὰ δημόσια.
[ back ] 40. See Williams 1987:114; Plazenet 1994:85.
[ back ] 41. Theogony 28 ἴδμεν δ’ εὖτ’ ἐθέλωμεν ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι.
[ back ] 42. Theogony 38 εἴρουσαι τά τ’ ἐόντα τά τ’ ἐσσόμενα πρό τ’ ἐόντα.
[ back ] 43. In Idyll 1, the goatherd remembers that Thyrsis has sung about Daphnis’ distress in the past and won a contest against the Lybian Chromis (19; 23–24). Lycidas performs a song that he has composed “of late on the hill” (7.51 πρᾶν ἐν ὄρει) and Simichidas performs the best of what he was taught by the Nymphs (7.91–94).
[ back ] 44. So Pretagostini 1984:13.
[ back ] 45. It is not wholly clear whether Comatas and the goatherd whose story is told by Tityrus are identical or not; possibly they are distinct, and Lycidas is comparing them because of their similar fate (so Radt 1971:254–255; Hunter 1999:176).
[ back ] 46. On the concept see Henrichs 1994–1995; 1996.
[ back ] 47. Aeschylus F 204b.6–8 Radt; for its self-referential character, see Lämmle 2013:234. The drama was performed in 472 BCE with the Persians, as stated in the hypothesis of the tragedy.
[ back ] 48. Trans. Kovacs 1994.
[ back ] 49. See Lämmle 2013:233–234.
[ back ] 50. Cf. Gow 1952:2.145; van Groningen 1958: 32; Plazenet 1994:90 etc.
[ back ] 51. It has long been acknowledged that “bucolic” and “pastoral” are not synonymous (see Halperin 1983:1–23; Hunter 1999:5–12; Gutzwiller 2006). However, this is not intended to deny any link between the two semantic fields. Whatever the original meaning of “bucolic” may be, many ancient sources connect the origin of this type of poetry with rustic contexts (Scholia in Theocritum, Prolegomena Ba.2.5–12 Wendel: 2.21–3.15 Wendel; Athenaeus Deipnosophists 14.619a–b). One might suspect that this is a connection a posteriori, but in Sicily, at least, a local tradition of rustic songs existed, by which Theocritus was possibly inspired.
[ back ] 52. The only reference to it may be found in the comparison with goats at v. 97 and the invocation to Pan from v. 103 onwards (Gow 1952:129), even if Pan here is not so much the patron of shepherds as that of homosexual love (van Groningen 1958:309).
[ back ] 53. Gow 1952:2.162.
[ back ] 54. Plazenet 1994:91.
[ back ] 55. Verses 99–102 οἶδεν Ἄριστις, / ἐσθλὸς ἀνήρ, μέγ᾽ ἄριστος, ὃν οὐδέ κεν αὐτὸς ἀείδειν / Φοῖβος σὺν φόρμιγγι παρὰ τριπόδεσσι μεγαίροι, / ὡς ἐκ παιδὸς Ἄρατος ὑπ᾽ ὀστίον αἴθετ᾽ ἔρωτι.
[ back ] 56. Cf. Plazenet (1994:93) and Domány (2007:324). Gow (1952:2.156) admits that “the mention of Aristis … seems at this place somewhat odd,” but concludes that “the most obvious inference from T.’s words would be that Aratus’ love-affair formed the subject of a poem by Aristis.”
[ back ] 57. Lycidas, on the day of Ageanax’s arrival at Mitylene, will feast and drink, and will retain his garland on the head (the Greeks believed that a garland would not stand in place on the head of people in love but would fall down; see Asclepiades, Anthologia Palatina 12.135.4 = 18.4 Gow – Page); Simichidas, for his part, advises his friend Aratus to cease pining for Philinus and spending the night in front of his door: ἄμμιν δ᾽ ἁσυχία τε μέλοι, “let us be concerned with our peace” (126; my translation). It is not wholly clear whether Ageanax should free Lycidas from love by departing from him or by fulfilling his desire, but the former interpretation appears to be preferred: see Hunter 1999:168, with bibl. (otherwise Williams 1987:111; Billault 2008:508).
[ back ] 58. Only five verses (73–77) for Daphnis, two (96–97) for Simichidas.
[ back ] 59. For the expression, see the following note.
[ back ] 60. Such a wish may be reminiscent of Archilochus’ (Hipponax’s?) Strasbourg Epode (Archilochus fr. spur. 321a Swift = Hipponax fr. 115 West), which has been labelled as a “reverse propemptikon” (see Degani and Burzacchini 1977:34): the poet wishes that his former companion might be shipwrecked on the Thracian coast, with his teeth chattering because of the cold. The practice of including in a prayer a threat against the god should the request not be fulfilled was common in magical rituals: see Fantuzzi and Maltomini 1996.
[ back ] 61. Van Groningen 1959:35–36; Klooster 2021:380.
[ back ] 62. 1958:313.
[ back ] 63. Thus, van Groningen 1959:39, Ott 1972:142n22, etc.
[ back ] 64. Compare the refrain of Idyll 2 Ἴυγξ, ἕλκε τὺ τῆνον ἐμὸν ποτὶ δῶμα τὸν ἄνδρα with 7.103–104 τόν μοι, Πάν, … / ἄκλητον τήνοιο φίλας ἐς χεῖρας ἐρείσαις. The παλαίστρα of 7.125 is a metaphor for love suffering (Scholia ad loc. παλαίστραν δὲ λέγει τὸν ἔρωτα τοῦ παιδός), but at the same time evokes real wresting schools frequented by boys (like Philinus) and young athletes (like the Delphis of Idyll 2); finally, both Aratus and Simaetha spend their night awake in the attempt of overcoming the reluctancy of the beloved person—Aratus by standing and walking to and fro in front of his door until daybreak, Simaetha by practising a bewitchment.
[ back ] 65. Thus, van Groningen 1959:38; Payne 2007:131.
[ back ] 66. Cf. Donatus Vita Vergili 49 tria genera pastorum sunt qui dignitatem in bucolicis habent, quorum minimi sunt qui αἰπόλοι dicuntur a Graecis, a nobis caprarii; paulo honoratiores qui μηλονόμοι ποιμένες, id est opiliones, dicuntur; honoratissimi et maximi qui βουκόλοι, quos bubulcos dicimus.
[ back ] 67. Cameron 1963:294–295, 301–302 (he compares also examples from New Testament like Acts 8.26). Cf. Idyll 1.15–19 (the Goatherd does not want to sing at midday becaus he is afraid of disturbing Pan’s sleep) and Callimachus, Hymn 5.72 (it’s midday when the young Tiresias sees Athena having a bath).
[ back ] 68. Puelma 1960:147–149 (esp. 147n12). See e.g. Iliad 1.536–537, 13.28, Odyssey 5.77–78.
[ back ] 69. Puelma 1960:149–150; Luck 1966:188.
[ back ] 70. Brown 1981.
[ back ] 71. Lawall 1967.
[ back ] 72. Williams F. 1971; cf. also Hunter 1999:148; Billault 2008: 511–512. Luck (1966:188) also proposed a god or a daemon, though made no attempt to identify him.
[ back ] 73. Compare Odyssey 3.371–372 (Athena goes away having changed into a vulture); 7.78–81 (again Athena flies away over the sea towards Athens); 10.307–308 (Hermes ἀπέβη πρὸς μακρὸν Ὄλυμπον / νῆσον ἀν᾽ ὑλήεσσαν); even the Muses, after their encounter with Archilochus, disappear (testimonium 1, col. ii.34–35 Swift).
[ back ] 74. Cf. Hunter 1999:161.
[ back ] 75. Schwinge 1974.
[ back ] 76. See Callimachus Aitia fr. 2 Pfeiffer.
[ back ] 77. Callimachus mentions Hesiod by name (fr. 2.2 Pfeiffer), and so does Herodas with Hipponax (8.78).
[ back ] 78. Iambus 1.1–2 Pfeiffer Ἀκούσαθ’ Ἱππώνακτος· οὐ γὰρ ἀλλ’ ἥκω / ἐκ τῶν ὅκου βοῦν κολλύβου πιπρήσκουσιν (the country “where an ox is sold for a penny” is Hades, where prices were believed to be much cheaper than on Earth).
[ back ] 79. Gercke 1887. Cf. Williams 1987:116 (who thinks of a “bucolicized” Callimachus, distinct from the real poet).
[ back ] 80. 22 Pfeiffer; see Gow 1952:2.130.
[ back ] 81. As proposed by Puelma 1960 and Cameron 1963. Gow 1952:2.130 thinks that “Lycidas” was a usual surname for a contemporary poet, obscure for us but easily recognizable for Theocritus’ audience, such as “Bacchiades” for Callimachus or “Sicelidas” for Asclepiades.
[ back ] 82. Bowie 1985; Payne 2007:19. Bowie thinks that such a figure was modelled on a character in a lost bucolic poem by Philitas, which inspired also the figure of the homonymous shepherd of Longus 2.3.
[ back ] 83. Steph. Byz. 390.17–391.3 Meineke Κυδωνία, πόλις Κρήτης …. δευτέρα πόλις Σικελίας. τρίτη Λιβύης. ὁ πολίτης Κυδωνιάτης καὶ Κύδων καὶ Κυδώνιος καὶ Κυδωναῖος, καὶ Κυδωνία θηλυκῶς καὶ Κυδωνίς, καὶ Κυδωνικὸς ἀνήρ.
[ back ] 84. The usual forms of the adjective are Κυρηναῖος and Κυρηναικός: Κυρηνικός is not found, but is theoretically possible on the basis of the equivalence Κυδωναῖος: Κυδωνικός (both attested, see Stephanus of Byzantium quoted in the preceding note) = Κυρηναῖος : Κυρηνικός.
[ back ] 85. Theocritus mentions a he-goat with yellowish skin at Idyll 3.5 (τὸν Λιβυκὸν κνάκωνα) and a Chromis who was defeated by Thyrsis in a song contest (1.24), both coming from Libya. Buecheler (quoted by Gercke 1887:600) assumes that this Chromis was a Theocritean pseudonym for Callimachus.
[ back ] 86. Cf. Scholia in Theocritum 1.86a (60.16–18 Wendel) βούτας μὲν ἐλέγευ: βουκόλος ὤν, φησίν, οὐ κατὰ βουκόλους ἐρᾷς. οἱ μὲν γὰρ βουκόλοι πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀφροδισίων μῖξιν ἐγκρατεῖς, τοὐναντίον δὲ λαγνότατοι οἱ αἰπόλοι. On the inclination of goatherds towards homoerotism, see van Groningen 1958:313.
[ back ] 87. 12.51, 71, 73, 118, 139, 149, 150, 230; the last is for a youth named Theocritus. This may well have been a homonym, but if he were one and the same with the poet (Gow 1952:2.180 is open to the possibility), this would supply a good explanation for the portrayal of Lycidas as fond of poetry and a lover of boys.
[ back ] 88. See Gercke 1887; Gow 1952:1.xxii–xxiv; Hunter 1999:2–3.
[ back ] 89. The “Castalian Nymphs” are a bucolic substitute for the Muses and “wine” a symbol of poetic inspiration (see Williams 1987:110; Hunter 1999:196–197; for the interferences in Greek culture between Nymphs and Muses see Schwinge 1974:44 n.15).
[ back ] 90. Curtius 1953:163. Other examples of the topos in Greek literature are Pindar’s Dithyramb 70b Snell-Maehler (the poet compares old dithyrambic song with his new manner), and Timotheus of Miletus, PMG 796 “I don’t sing old things, for my new songs are better: young Zeus reigns, once Cronus was the king; let the old Muse go to hell!” (similarly, at the end of the Persians, he attacks the followers of old-fashioned music and traces a brief history of citharody that culminates with him: PMG 791.216–236).
[ back ] 91. Hunter 1999:197.
[ back ] 92. Cf. Plazenet 1994:107.