Quo usque tandem…? How Long Were Sympotic Songs?

TitleQuo usque tandem…? How Long Were Sympotic Songs?
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBowie, E
EditorObbink, DD, Prodi, EE, Cazzato, V
Ancient AuthorsPlato Phil. (TLG 0059), Quintus Horatius Flaccus (PHI 0893), Solon Nomograph., Poeta (TLG 0263), Archilochus Eleg., Iamb. (TLG 0232), Semonides Eleg., Iamb. (TLG 0260)
Book TitleThe Cup of Song: Studies on Poetry and the Symposion
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN9780199687688 (print)

The chapter explores how long symposia lasted, and how much time any symposiast might expect to have to dance, sing, or speak. Extant archaic and classical poems and fragments show that sympotic melic poetry could range in length between two and around fifty lines and elegiac poems from four to around forty lines: but a seventy-six-liner of Solon survives, and his Salamis, perhaps for sympotic performance, was 100 lines. In iambic trimeters Semonides much exceeded 100 lines, as Archilochus probably did in trochaic tetrameters. Some epodes probably reached sixty lines. These conclusions are compared to the lengths of sympotic poems in Hellenistic editions, assuming that Horace in his Epodes and Odes offered readers poems of comparable length, and with the lengths of speeches in Plato’s Symposium. This latter comparandum suggests that on special occasions longer songs might also be acceptable in symposia, perhaps even a few hundred lines. [http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687688.001.0001/acprof-9780199687688-chapter-3]