Homer, the Bible, and Beyond: Literary and Religious Canons in the Ancient World

By Margalit Finkelberg; Guy G. Stroumsa | Go to book overview

STANDARDIZATION AND RANKING OF
TEXTS IN GREEK AND ROMAN
INSTITUTIONS

HUBERT CANCIK


1. The Rhapsodic Contest: Standardization and Ranking

1. In Greek and Roman literature, there exist several lists of authors who are recommended by scholarly authority for the use in schools and libraries as well as for private lecture. There is the hst of the ten most important rhetors,1 of the nine best lyric poets,2 of the five best tragic poets3 and that of the epic4 poets. The criteria according to which the authors are included in or excluded from a reading hst are called κανόνεσ—“guidelines”. A paradigmatic author might be called the “canon” of his genre.5 What was the impulse that drove the Greeks to become a canon- making species?6

2. In the beginning, there were public institutions, festivals, contests, prizes and rankings. Every year in August, on the birthday of Athene, the Athenians celebrated the main festival for their city-goddess7 The Archon Hippocleides (566/65) added musical, gymnic and equestrian

1 (Ps.-)Plut., Vit. X Or. (Aeschines, Andocides, Antiphon, Deinarchus, Demosthenes, Hypereides, Isaeus, Isocrates, Lysias, Lycurgus): Plut. Mor. 832 B-852 E.

2 Alcaeus, Sappho, Anacreon, Alcman, Stesichorus, Ibycus, Semonides, Bacchylides, Pindarus.—Cf. Didymus, περί λυρικήσ. Some add Corinna und get a ‘canon’ often lyric poets. All lists of this kind are handed down with considerable variations.

3 Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Ion, Achaios of Eretria.— Cf. the three old comic poets in Hor., Sat. 1,4,1: Eupolis atque Cratinus Aristophanesque poetae.

4 Homer, Hesiod, Antimachus, Panyasis, Apollonius of Rhodes, (Pisander): Quint., Inst. or. 10,1,53–54.

5 Dion. Hal., De Thucydide 1 (plural = criteria) and 2 (singular = Thucydides).

6 Similar lists: the seven miracles of the world; the seven sages; the nine Muses; the twelve gods.

7 L. Deubner, Attische Feste (Berlin, 1932 [= reprint 1956]); A. Mommsen, Feste der Stadt Athen (Leipzig, 1898), 61–69.

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