Of Songs and Sigma Stigma

P. Oxy. 1604 (13, 1919) = Strabo 10.3.13 + Dion. Hal. de comp. verb. 14 + Athen. 10.455BC

“Pindar, in the Dithyramb that begins “in ancient times”, mentions other previous songs to Dionysus from ancient times and later, and then changes subjects. He says “Great mother, the crashing of tambourines are ready to start. And there are also castanets to sound, and torches underneath the pale pine trees.

Dionysus in his work On Literary Composition, comments “The sigma is neither charming nor euphonic and is super annoying when it is used too much. The hissing sound seems more like a wild, irrational animal’s voice than a rational one. For this reason, many ancient poets tried to use the sound infrequently and in a limited way. Indeed, there are some who used to compose entire odes without sigmas at all! Pindar says this when he continues:

Before that time the dithryamb
Song slid along a straight path and
People sensed the letter san as suspect

Athenaeus has “When it comes to Pindar’s asigmatic ode, Clearchus claims that he composed the following, putting it in some kind of a problem in lyric poetry, since many had mocked him for not avoiding the letter because it was difficult and it made him look bad. People should keep this in mind when they consider those who criticize the asigmatic Ode by Lasos of Hermione called Centaurs or the asigmatic hymn to Demeter of Hermione also by Lasos.

P. Oxy. 1604 (13, 1919). Strabo 10.3.13

Πίνδαρος ἐν τῷ διθυράμβῳ οὗ ἡ ἀρχή· πρὶν διθυράμβων, μνησθεὶς τῶν περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον ὕμνων τῶν τε παλαιῶν καὶ τῶν ὕστερον, μεταβὰς ἀπὸ τούτων φησί· σοὶ μὲν κατάρχειν, μᾶτερ μεγάλα, πάρα ῥόμβοι κυμβάλων· ἐν δὲ καχλάδων κρόταλ᾿, αἰθομένα τε δᾲς ὑπὸ ξανθαῖσι πεύκαις.

Dion. Hal. de comp. verb. 14 ἄχαρι δὲ καὶ ἀηδὲς τὸ σ καὶ πλεονάσαν σφόδρα λυπεῖ· θηριώδους γὰρ καὶ ἀλόγου μᾶλλον ἢ λογικῆς ἐφάπτεσθαι δοκεῖ φωνῆς ὁ συριγμός· τῶν γοῦν παλαιῶν τινες σπανίως ἐχρῶντο αὐτῷ καὶ πεφυλαγμένως, εἰσὶ δ᾿ οἳ καὶ ἀσίγμους ὅλας ᾠδὰς ἐποίουν· δηλοῖ δὲ τοῦτο καὶ Πίνδαρος ἐν οἷς φησι· μὲν ἀνθρώποι:

πρὶν μὲν εἷρπε σχοινοτένειά τ᾿ ἀοιδὰ διθυράμβω
καὶ τὸ σὰν κίβδηλον ἀνθρώποις.1.

Athen. 10.455BC Πίνδαρος δὲ πρὸς τὴν ἀσιγμοποιηθεῖσαν ᾠδήν, ὡς ὁ αὐτός φησι Κλέαρχος, οἱονεὶ γρίφου τινὸς ἐν μελοποιίᾳ προβληθέντος, ὡς πολλῶν τούτῳ προσκρουόντων διὰ τὸ ἀδύνατον εἶναι ἀποσχέσθαι τοῦ σίγμα καὶ διὰ τὸ μὴ δοκιμάζειν, ἐποίησε· πρὶν μὲν ἀνθρώποις. ταῦτα σημειώσαιτ᾿ ἄν τις πρὸς τοὺς νοθεύοντας Λάσου τοῦ Ἑρμιονέως τὴν ἄσιγμον ᾠδήν, ἥτις ἐπιγράφεται Κένταυροι. καὶ ὁ εἰς τὴν Δήμητρα δὲ τὴν ἐν Ἑρμιόνῃ ποιηθεὶς τῷ Λάσῳ ὕμνος ἄσιγμός ἐστιν.

black and white picture of a snake with an s shape
ssssserioussss problemsssss

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