The term σχέτλιος in archaic epos presents a challenge for interpreters. Its valence is highly contextual and elusive of overarching definition; even its etymology is not certain. The prevailing themes in previous attempts to define the word, ‘obstinate’, ‘holding out’, ‘exceeding limits’, all point to a common core: resistance. This, I argue, is the base signification for σχέτλιος in the epic Kunstsprache, a signification which comprises two interacting aspects, resistance to change and resistance to order. Poets can be seen employing the term to draw out essential thematic concerns in their works: for instance, entities called σχέτλιος are labelled as resisting order-as-justice in Hesiod, and as resisting change that would enable ‘proper’ flow of the narrative (in the speaker’s view) in the Iliad.
I consider the full complement of σχέτλιος instances within archaic epos, examining the epithet with respect to its social dynamics, usage contexts, and the patterning of argumentation in surrounding passages, to achieve two goals – a better understanding of σχέτλιος and a demonstration of the variation possible within the traditional system of epic referentiality. We will see that poets were fully able to turn σχέτλιος to the purposes of their individual narratives while preserving its core reference, ‘resistant’.
This event is part of the Work in Progress Seminar Series.