I have heard that there was, a long long time ago, an edition of Sappho's poem published (right?) at Alexandria. I know it had at least 8 books (maybe 9, maybe more, that's up for debate) and that the poems were arranged "by meter". So I was wondering: besides knowing that book 1 contained Sapphic stanzas, do we know what meters other books contained? I ask because I see Bibliotheca Augustana splitting the poems into books, supposedly by meter, and yet some books seem to have poems of pretty different meters. Let me make a little list:

  • Melôn I: sapphic stanzas;
  • Melôn II: aeolic dactylic pentapodies (hope the terms is right, metric scheme is xx–uu–uu-uu–ux), with a few fragments being not even a full line, and one being possibly catalectic (ὠς δὲ πάϊς πεδὰ μάτερα πεπτερύγωμαι ends with –u, not –ux, so either it's missing its last syllable, or it's xx–uu–uu–uu–x);
  • Melôn III: greater asclepiads, and then suddenly μνάσασθαί τινα φαῖμι ... κἄψερον ἀμμέων, which as is looks like xx–uu–u–uu–ux, but is usually restored to be a dactylic pentapody and hence belong in book 2, or as a lesser asclepiad (maybe book III was generically "asclepiads"? But that would anyway make this "ἐξ ἀδήλων βιβλίων", seen as the quotation this is from, as reported by Bergk, does not mention it being ἐν τῷ τρίτῳ, i.e. in book III…);
  • Melôn IV: Ionic a maiore tetrapodies (xxuu––uu––uu–u–x);
  • Melôn V: first off, an uncertain fragment; then, τί με Πανδίονις ᾬραννα χελίδων, which looks like uu–uu–––uuu–, but I don't believe the short alpha of Ὤραννα, so I'd expect uu–uu––––uu–, maybe with a final anceps, that is two anapests, and then something dactylic, so a caesura after Pandionis, uu–uu–|–––uu–, feet uu– uu– || –– –uu x, which I cannot classify as a meter; then Ζά τ' ἐλεξάμαν ὄναρ Κυπρογένηα, uu–u–u–||–uu–x, which is different from the previous and cannot be explained away with anaclasis because anaclasis of the previous gives uu–u–u–––uu–, which ends in –––uu– vs. ––uu–x in this one; then πλήρης μὲν ἐφάινετ' ἀ σέλαννα, ––uu–u–u–u, ionic a maiore plus three trochees; then πτερύγων δ' ὐπακακχέει λιγύραν ἀοίδαν, uu–uu–u–uu–u–x, with a reversal of the thesis-arsis pattern from the previous; then δεῦτέ νυν ἄβραι Χάριτες καλλίκομοί τε Μοῖσαι, –uu––uu––uu–u–u, choriambic n-meter; and I think I can stop here: my point is well illustrated; just one more: dactylic pentapodies make a comeback! Φοίβῳ χρυσοκόμᾳ τὸν ἔτικτε Κόω κόρα;
  • Melôn 6: fragmenta desunt;
  • Melôn 7: a single fragment in x–u–u–||–uu–u–u–x;
  • Melôn 8: three fragments of unclear meters which could be ionic a maiore tetrapodies (book IV), and one which is of unclear meter but, being line beginnings; all these are from papyri, so no quotation could tell us "they were in book VIII";
  • Melôn 9: epithalamia of the most various meters.

So what is B.A.'s logic in that book V, and is it known what meters were in what books (at least the 8 that are sure to have existed)?

2 Answers 2


Lobel and Page (1963) include fragments 92-99 into ΜΕΛΩΝ Ε - note the question marks throughout pp. 74-83 for all those fragments though.

Greek metrics could give you a strong headache (see e.g. West 1982); luckily, Eva-Maria Voigt did all the work for us - see her Conspectus Metrum for Book 5 below (Voigt 1971: 20):

enter image description here

Asynarteton (plural: asynarteta) is understood as "a verse composed of two different metrical units that follow one another without a pause, but have diaeresis between between the two units" (Halporn, Ostwald and Rosenmeyer)

ad = adonis (West: adonean, i.e. — ∪ ∪ — —)

ba = baccheus (i.e. ∪ — —)

cho = choriambus

eras = ∪—∪∪—∪∪—x

hem = hemiepes (i.e. — ∪ ∪ — ∪ ∪ —)

ith = ithyphallicus (West: ithyphallic, i.e. — ∪ — ∪ — —)

  • So book V would be a sort of "miscellanea" from a metrical point of view, right? ἀσυνάρτητα = incoherent, or miscellanea, I'd guess. Are there other "conspectus metrum" in Voigt's edition for the other books? And why does this person say that «Ridotto l'intero frammento a due asclepiadei maggiori, esso può essere tolto dalla sezione «incerti libri» e collocato nel V libro dell'edizione alessandrina, nella quale, per tesdmonianza di Atílio Fortunaziano, erano compresi i carmi in metro asclepiadeo» […]
    – MickG
    Jul 19, 2017 at 16:21
  • […] («Having reduced the whole fragment to two greater asclepiads, it can be taken out of the «incerti libri» section and placed in book V of the alexandrian edition, in which, by testimony of Atilius Fortunantianus, the poems in asclepiad meter were included», we are talking about Campbell 121 on p. 142), if book V was a miscellanea?
    – MickG
    Jul 19, 2017 at 16:49
  • Also, the ones I quoted do not seem to fit into any scheme in that conspectus. Why are they in book V according to B.A.? Could you match those Voigt numbers in the conspectus to Campbell numbers so I can find the fragments? Or are these actually Campbell numbers? Nr. 127 seems to match Campbell 127 «δεῦρο δεῦτε, Μοῖσαι, χρύσιον λίποισαι».
    – MickG
    Jul 19, 2017 at 17:04
  • But 168C in Campbell is «ποικίλλεται μὲν / γαῖα πολυστέφανος», which definitely seems not to match the given meter. Campbell 124 is αὔτα δὲ σὺ Καλλιόπα», matching the first half of the given meter, the second half being lost as marked by lacuna signs on the length patterns.
    – MickG
    Jul 19, 2017 at 17:10
  • Campbell 112 is οὐ γὰρ ἐτέρα νῦν πάϊς ὦ γάμβρε τοαύτα, and the scheme, besides not matching this apparent single line, mentions (if I read it right) l. 5 and l. 3, so no match here.
    – MickG
    Jul 19, 2017 at 17:13

Turns out Wikipedia could answer this with a nice table:

enter image description here

I didn't think of looking for "Aeolic verse" or "Aeolic meter" (which is what I actually looked for today) until just now, after reading this in the part about Aeolic verse and in particular the sentnce «There are other cola, but these are the fundamental building blocks», so I went to Wikipedia in the hope of finding those left-out cola. Ironically, the Wiki article not only doesn't list any extra cola, but lists those in the intro, minus the penthemimer.

So it seems book V was an exception, in that the contents were not chosen according to meter, but to lines-per-stanza number, the meter being various. If this is correct, then I understand some of B.A.'s choices for that book, which are indeed 3-line stanzas. However, a lot of those choices are short fragments of less than three lines, and some are organized into stanzas of more than three, so something is still off in those placements. Or in the stanza division. But then on what basis are the stanzas divided if the poem is only preserved in line beginnings on a papyrus? Finally, Φοίβῳ χρυσοκόμᾳ is definitely book 2, so B.A. has made at least that one mistake.

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