• W. J. Henderson Rand Afrikaans University)


1. Introduction Any study of the imagery in ancient Greek lyric poetry is faced with a number of problems ranging from difficult to insurmountable. These problems arise mainly from the fragmented state of both the lyric texts themselves and the ancient responses to the imagery preserved for us in the testimonia. However, this state of the primary material should not deter us from attempting controlled analysis of this important aspect of ancient Greek poetry (as it is of all poetry). Latacz has identified an uncertainty, an open-endedness in studies on Greek lyric. "Wir arbeiten also im Grunde mit Hypothesen" (1986:39). There is a natural reluctance to offer lyric theory. "Wie frtihgriechische Lyrik konstituiert und als System strukturiert ist, wie sie im Einzelfall entsteht, wie sie 'funktioniert' hat, wodurch und wie sie wirken wollte und gewirkt hat-, diese (synchroniese) Analyse hat die Lyrikforschung bisher allenfalls ansatzweise in den Blick genommen; eine Poetik der frtihgriechischen Lyrik (ebenso iibrigens wie des Epos) steht noch aus" (1986:42). In spite of these obstacles, interpretation is required, even if it is to be characterised by "legitimer Subjektivitat" (1986:37). Although it is impossible to recreate the impact of the imagery on the contemporary (or "target") Greek audiences, a first, tentative step can be taken towards the formulation of some kind of theory of reception by analysing the way in which the ancient writers represented in the surviving testimonia dealt with images in the lyric (i.e. melic) poetry of ancient Greece.