Gnomes in Bacchylides

Michael Boler, Fordham University


The importance of gnomes in the odes of Bacchylides has been underappreciated by most scholars. In this dissertation I demonstrate that far from being mere commonplaces, gnomes are a dynamic element of Bacchylides' poetry which perform a variety of functions. I begin by tracing the history of Bacchylidean scholarship on gnomes and identify the primary reasons why gnomes are underappreciated (1.1). After establishing a working definition of the gnome (1.2), I trace the history of the gnome prior to Bacchylides (1.3). I then briefly describe the different genres in which Bacchylides' gnomes are found (1.4). Finally, I take Ode 3 as a test case to introduce the reader to the methodology I will use in the remainder of the dissertation (1.5). In the second chapter I examine the stylistic features of Bacchylides' gnomes. After identifying traditional stylistic features of gnomes (2.1), I examine individual stylistic features of Bacchylides and show that Bacchylides' "stylistic fingerprint" can be found on his gnomes, thus proving that gnomes are not mere stock pieces of traditional wisdom (2.2). A comparison of Bacchylides' gnomic style with that of Pindar confirms this analysis (2.3). In the third chapter I examine the many functions that gnomes perform in the odes of Bacchylides. Starting with Ode 5, I examine Bacchylides' odes on a case by case basis (3.2-4) and demonstrate that gnomes perform a variety of functions vital to the effectiveness of the odes. In the final chapter I broaden the analysis of Bacchylides' gnomes beyond their function in each particular ode by addressing the question of reperformance. After tracing the relevant theories on the issue of reperformance, I argue that the gnomes of Bacchylides suggest that he intended his odes to be performed beyond the initial performance (4.2). There are two primary means by which Bacchylides uses gnomes to enhance his odes' capacity for reperformance, the creation of a stable and consistent narrative persona (4.3) and allusions to well-known poets in his gnomes (4.4). Finally, I argue that the thematic content of Bacchylides' gnomes is evidence of his contact with the emerging class of Sophists in the 5th century B.C.E (4.5).

Subject Area

Classical Studies

Recommended Citation

Boler, Michael, "Gnomes in Bacchylides" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3466695.