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Political identity and space in Alcaeus 130b

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Alcaeus 130b, exile, polis, esxatiai, temenos, persona, apolitical life, political identity, citizen, identity

Abstract (summary)

In a lament on the rustic life of an exile, the persona loquens of Alcaeus 130b progresses through three spaces: the polis, esxatiai, and a temenos. The first is explicitly political, but the persona cannot occupy its territory; the latter two, where the persona can dwell, are apolitical while the temenos in particular is gendered in line with the Lesbian women who hold their beauty contests within its borders. In this article I argue that fragment 130b organizes the spaces through which the persona travels so that it can reject the apolitical life of the esxatiai and temenos, allowing the persona loquens to maintain his political identity as a citizen man even while in exile. The poem accomplishes this by connecting the persona to several social groups and then by removing him from them; this push and pull of exile and return creates an in-between space where the persona's social identity is safe from the dangers of exile. In the context of the male-dominated symposion and the political stasis afflicting archaic Mytilene, the persona's ability to maintain his political identity even in exile presents a powerful argument to Alcaeus's audience(s) that regardless of any setbacks, including exile, they too should maintain their identity as politically efficacious citizens and continue any stasis that they have begun.

Publication Information

Romney, Jessica M. 2019. “Political identity and space in Alcaeus 130b” Helios, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 17-34, DOI: 10.1353/hel.2019.0004


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