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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History


Publication details for Dr George Alexander Gazis

Gazis, G. A. (2018). Voices of the dead: Hades narratives in the Odyssey and Bacchylides’ Ode 5. Trends in Classics 10(2): 285-305.

Author(s) from Durham


This article identifies the influence of the Homeric ‘Poetics of Hades’ in Greek Lyric and argues for an aetiological relationship between the persistent presentation of the lyric poet’s subjective voice and the freedom of speech introduced in Homer’s Underworld. The article demonstrates this relationship through an examination of Bacchylides’ Ode 5 and argues that the lyric poet consciously innovates upon Homer’s underworld narratives by allowing his Meleager to occupy the stage and takes the audience through his agonising last minutes by describing what dying feels like in his own voice. In doing so, Bacchylides presents his audeience with a Meleager who glosses over his heroic actions and moments of glory in favour for a more emotional and subjective view of his past, filled with regret and self-pity. In this respect the hero is no different from the ghost of Achilles who dismisses honour after death for the simple privilege of seeing the light of the sun, or Agamemnon who is consumed by the memory of his wife’s treachery while having nothing to say about his glorious exploits at Troy. This powerful retelling of the story of a great epic hero of the past looks, I argue, simultaneously backwards and forwards, since on the one hand it is inherited from Homer’s ‘Poetics of Hades’, while on the other, it anticipates the emotional and unmediated voices of the heroes and heroines of the tragic stage.