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RHYTHMICA The sources from which our knowledge of Greek rhythm is to be drawn are the following: the remains of Greek poetry and music, and the extant Greek and Latin writings on rhythm and metre. None of these, however, are altogether trustworthy or complete. The most important is the first mentioned, and, in regard to the simpler kinds of metres, the form of a metrical composition is generally sufficient for the determination of its approximate rhythmical value; but with lyrical poetry this is not usually the case, for the same combination of long and short syllables may be capable of different rhythms, and, even where the feet into which a metrical composition falls are sufficiently obvious, there is still a further question, not to be determined by the metrical form alone, as to the larger groups ( “sentences,” “periods,” &c.) formed by combination of the feet.

The existing remains of ancient music consist of three “hymns,” none of them probably earlier than the middle of the second century A.D., and a few fragments of instrumental music (apparently of the nature of exercises) preserved by an unknown writer of uncertain date [see MUSICA]. These, though they furnish some important data, are yet too fragmentary and too late to throw much light on the rhythms of the classical period of Greek music. Of the writers on rhythm whose works have been at all preserved, the first in order of time and importance is Aristoxenus (fourth century B.C.). Though he lived more than a century later than the time at which Greek poetry and music attained their highest development, he was still thoroughly acquainted with the music of that time; but, unfortunately, his rhythmical works are preserved only in a fragmentary condition. The writings of later theorists are chiefly valuable in so far as they are based on Aristoxenus. The writers on metre (i.e. that species of rhythm which is exhibited in the measurement of syllables) are all of late date, and are for that reason to some extent untrustworthy. They are not acquainted with the music of the classical period, and their purely metrical point of view is inapplicable to the less obvious forms of metre in which the long syllable is not invariably equal to two short syllables, and in which feet of apparently different values (e. g. trochees and dactyls) are mixed together. The most important of the extant treatises on metre is the ἐγχειρίδιον of Hephaestion (second century A.D.).

Rhythm in its strict sense consists of a continuous succession of short equal intervals of time, marked off from one another as separate groups by the alternation of an accentuated and an unaccentuated element.1 These intervals may be marked in different ways, e. g. by musical sounds, or by syllables, or, as in dancing, by the motions of the body (appealing to the eye rather than the ear). In order that a sense of rhythm may be produced it is not enough for the sounds to occur, simply at equal intervals: thus there is, strictly speaking, no rhythm in the ticking of a clock, for each tick being equal in intensity the ear by itself does not necessarily divide the sounds into groups or rhythmical divisions.

The groups into which a succession of sounds fall are clearly recognised only when a sound more intense than its neighbours occurs at equal intervals of time. This accentuated part of each group is called by Aristoxenus βάσις, by the earliest writers after Aristoxenus θέσις. The unaccentuated part is called ἄρσις. Other names are for the “thesis,” κάτω χρόνος or τὸ κάτω; for the “arsis,” ἄνω χρόνος or τὸ ἄνω (so in Plato, Rep. 3, p. 400, and in Aristoxenus, p. 288, ed. Mor.). All these terms originated in the fact that the accentuated, portion of the group was marked by setting down the foot, the unaccentuated by lifting it up. Confusion is, however, caused by later writers using the terms “arsis” and “thesis” in different senses. Sometimes they are applied to the raising and lowering of the voice, so that “arsis” denotes the accentuated, and thesis the “unaccentuated” beat. This, which is the exact opposite of the original meaning of the terms, is the sense given to them by most modern writers, following the example of Bentley. In Marius Victorinus, p. 2482, the two meanings are given, apparently without any sense of their incongruity, “est enim arsis sublatio pedis sine sono, thesis positio pedis cum sono: item arsis elatio temporis soni vocis, thesis depositio et quaedam contractio syllabarum.” Sometimes a wholly different meaning is given to the terms, “arsis” denoting the first, element of the foot in order of succession, “thesis” the second; then the “arsis” of the iambic is the short syllable, the “thesis” the long, and vice versâ with the trochee (so e. g. in Marius Victorinus, p. 2487). In this article the words are used in their original senses.

The Syllable.--Rhythm when applied to language is marked by an alternation of accentuated and unaccentuated syllables. In Greek and Latin there is a further distinction between long and short syllables. The rhythmical groups or “feet” are generally, but not invariably, marked by an alternation of long and short syllables, the “ictus” falling more frequently on the long than on the short syllable. The long syllable in its normal value is equal to two short syllables, but there is evidence that this was not the only value of the long syllable. The anonymous writer περὶ μουσικῆς, who has preserved the musical exercises already referred to, states ( § 1, ed. Bellermann) that the long syllable has sometimes the value of three, four, and even five [p. 2.559]short syllables, the symbols of these values being as follows:--[triseme] for the long syllable which=three short syllables.
[tetraseme] for the long syllable which=four short syllables.
[pentaseme] for the long syllable which=five short syllables.

The short syllable being regarded as the usual unit of time, not further divisible (called by Aristoxenus χρόνος πρῶτος, later σημεῖον), the long syllable may be either δίχρονος (or δίσημος), τρίχρονος (τρίσημος), τετράχρονος (τετράσημος), or πεντάχρονος (πεντάσημος), According to Pseudo-Euclid, εἰσαγωγὴ ἁρμονική, p. 22, ed. Meibom., it appears that the name τονὴ was applied to the prolongation of the long syllable beyond its usual value (τονὴ δὲ ἐπὶ πλείονα χρόνον μονὴ κατὰ μίαν γινομένη προφορὰν τῆς φωνῆς). The Anonymus ( § 3) also refers to pauses (κενοί, sc. χρόνοι) as constituent elements in rhythm, and enumerates four kinds--viz. the [pause], κενὸς βραχύς (or λεῖμμα, Arist. Quint. de Mus. pp. 40, 41, ed. Meibom.=one short syllable).
[macrpause], κενὸς μακρὁς (or πρόσθεσις, ibid.=one long syllable).
[trisemepause], κενὸς μακρὸς τετράχρονος=three short syllables.
[tetrasemepause], κενὸς μακρὸς τετράχρονος=four short syllables.

From the musical notation of the “hymns,” already referred to, it appears that the long syllable equal to three short syllables is sometimes noted by a pause [pause] placed after the note on which the long syllable falls.

Aristoxenus (p. 292, ed. Mor.) also speaks of a quantity which is intermediate between the normal long and the normal short, which, if the short syllable be taken as=1, will be represented by 1 1/2 . A foot in which the thesis is to the arsis in the “irrational” proportion of 2 : 1 1/2 is called by Aristoxenus χορεῖος ἄλογος, and is probably to be identified with the spondee, which is often found in trochaic and iambic metres in the even and odd places respectively. If this be so, the long syllable in the arsis of trochaic and iambic feet is of abnormal value = 1 1/2 instead of 2. According to Bacchius (εἰσαγωγὴ τέχνης μουσικῆς, p. 23, Meibom.) the exact measurement of the ἄλογος χρόνος is difficult to determine, but it is shorter than the normal long, and longer than the normal short.

The Foot.--The smallest rhythmical groups marked by alternation of thesis and arsis are called “feet” (πόδες, pedes). These feet are divided into three genera, according to the relation between the thesis and the arsis. Feet in which thesis : arsis


2 : 1, as e. g. the trochee, belong to the ψένος διπλάσιον or ἰαμβικόν; those in which thesis : arsis


2 : 2, as e. g. the dactyl, to the γένος ἴσορ or δακτυλικόν; those in which thesis : arsis


3 : 2, to the γένος ἡμιόλιον or παιωνικόν. The genera are further divided into species according to the relative position of thesis and arsis. Thus the γένος διπλάσιον comprises the species of the iambus. ˘ [macrict] in which the arsis precedes the thesis, and the trochee [macrict] ˘ in which the thesis precedes the arsis; the γένος ἴσον comprises the anapaest ˘ ˘ [macrict] and the dactyl [macrict] ˘ ˘.

The γένος παιωνικόν, according to Hephaestion, 100.13, comprises three species--the cretic ¯ ˘ ¯, the bacchiac ˘ ¯ ¯, and the palimbacchiac ¯ ¯ ˘. The latter, however, is said to be unfitted for use in music (ἀνεπιτήδειόν ἐστιπρὸς μελοποιίαν, ibid.) Moreover, as will be seen, the scholiast on Hephaestion (page 125, ed. Westphal) asserts that the paeonic genus was not subdivided into species. There seems, therefore, to be some confusion and contradiction in the doctrines of the metricians on this subject. As to the relation of thesis to arsis it appears from Marius Victorinus (p. 2483) that the thesis was to the arsis sometimes as

thesis arsis

3 : 2, sometimes as 2 : 3, i. e. either ˘ ˘ ˘ | ˘ ˘

arsis thesis

or ˘ ˘ ˘ | ˘ ˘. From the analogy of the paeon epibatus (see below), and from the fact that the paeon is sometimes combined with the trochaic dipodies, it may be inferred that the foot was sometimes treated as if in compound time (see below), i. e. [macrictict] ˘ | [breveict] ˘. Bacchius (p. 25, Meibom.) says that the paeon is σύνθετος ἐκ χορείου (= trochee ¯ ˘) καὶ ἡγεμόνος (=pyrrich ˘ ˘).

Those species of feet which contain an equal number of units of time are classed together, and the union under one class is called ἐπιπλοκή (Schol. to Hephaest. p. 136, ed. Westphal, ἐπιπλοκή ἐστι τοῦ μέτρου τὸ ἀνώτατον γένος ἐξ ἧς τὰ μέτρα γίνεται). Of these ἐπιπλοκαί, according to the same passage, there are at least three, viz.:--

(1) The ἐπιπλοκὴ τρίσημος δυαδική, i. e. that of the trochee and the iambus in the γένος σιπλάσιον, called τρίσημος because each foot=three units of time, and δυαδικὴ because the genus contains two species.

(2) The ἐπιπλοκὴ τετράσημος δυαδική, i. e. that of the dactyl and the anapaest in the γένος ἴσον.

(3) The ἐπιπλοκὴ ἑξάσημος τετραδική. This comprises the ἰωνικὸν ἀπὸ μείζονος [macrict] ¯ ˘ ˘, the χοριαμβικὸν [macrict] ˘ ˘ ¯, the ἰωνικὸν ἀπ᾽ ἐλάσσονος ˘ ˘ [macrict] ¯ and the ἀντισπαστικὸν ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘. The “antispast” is due to a mistaken interpretation of certain metres, founded on their apparent metrical value. This ἐπιπλοκὴ may be regarded as another form of the γένος διπλάσιον, the thesis being to the arsis as 4 : 2 = 2 : 1.

In this classification of the ἐπιπλοκαὶ the γένος παιωνικὸν is omitted, and this omission is shown not to be accidental by the assertion of the Schol. to Hephaestion (p. 125, ed. W.), τὸ δὲ παιωνικὸν ἐπιπλοκὴν οὐκ ἔχει.

The metres which are combined in each genus, as e. g. the trochaic and the iambic, are said to be opposed to one another, ἀντιπαθῆ (Schol. to Hephaest. p. 155, ed. W.). Those feet which are composed of two or three syllables, e. g. ¯ ˘, ˘ ¯, and ¯ ˘ ˘, ˘ ˘ ¯, are said to be τῆς πρώτης ἀντιπαθείας: those which are composed of four syllables, e. g. ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘, ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯, τῆς δευτέρας ὰντιπαθείας (Schol. to Hephaestion, p. 208, ed. W.).

As to the notation of the metres which fall under these genera, it must be observed that even those species which begin with the arsis are in modern books often noted as if the foot began with the thesis, just as in modern music the “bar” begins with the accentuated note. Thus the iambic dipody is noted ˘ | ¯ ˘ | ¯. In such metres the first arsis was by Hermann called the “anacrusis,” a name which has been adopted by other modern writers.

Some of the feet given above are usually combined in couples, the ictus on one foot being stronger than the ictus on the other with which it is combined. The feet which are usually thus [p. 2.560]combine. are the trochee, the iambus, and the anapaest: [macrictict] ˘ [macrict] ˘, ˘ [macrictict] ˘ [macrict], ˘ ˘ [macrictict] ˘ ˘ [macrict]. Dactyls were sometimes so combined (Schol. Hephaest. p. 174 W.), but more frequently treated as single feet. The combination of the two feet differs from the single foot as in modern music compound from simple time. Thus, if the trochee be regarded as = the 3/8 time of modern music, the combination of the two trochees = 6/8 time. A verse which is scanned in double feet is said κατὰ συζυγίαν βαίνεσβαι, and the combination of two feet is called a διποδία, βάσις, or μέτρον. Hence the iambic line of six feet is called a trimeter, the anapaestic line of four feet a dimeter, &c. When two feet are thus combined, the strongest ictus may fall either upon the first or upon the second, e. g. either [macrictict] ˘ [macrict] ˘ or [macrict] ˘ [macrictict] ˘. When iambi or trochees are thus combined, except in certain cases at the close of a line, a long syllable can be substituted for the short syllable at the end of each couple of feet in the trochaic verse, at the beginning of each couple in the iambic, thus: ¯ ˘ ¯ [brevemacr], [brevemacr] ¯ ˘ ¯. The combination ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ was in metrical treatises called ἐπίτριτος, because the relation of the second foot to the first appeared to be in the proportion of 4 : 3 (ἐπίτριτος λόγος). In reality, as has been seen, it is probable that the relation was that of 3 1/2 : 3, the effect of the long syllable instead of the syllable being that it was slightly and almost imperceptibly prolonged beyond the value required if strict time was kept. In verses intended for mere recitation and not for singing, it is unlikely that in any case the reciter would give each syllable its exact metrical value.

Besides the feet already enumerated, there are some feet of rare occurrence which are of longer duration. These are the σπονδεῖος μείζων or διπλοῦς, ὄρθιος, τροχαῖος σημαντός, and παιὼν ἐπιβατός (Aristides Quintilianus, i. pp. 36-39, ed. Meibom.). The σπονδεῖος μείζων consisted of a thesis = 4 and an arsis = 4, i. e. [tetrasemeict] [tetraseme]; the ὄρθιος of an arsis = 4 and a thesis = 8, i. e. [tetraseme] [tetrasemeict] [tetrasemeict]; the τροχαῖος σημαντὸς of a thesis = 8 and an arsis = 4, i. e. [tetrasemeict] [tetrasemeict] [tetraseme], and the παιὼν ἐπιβατὸς of five long syllables, viz. a long syllable in thesis + a long syllable in arsis + two long syllables in thesis + a long syllable in arsis, i. e. [macrict] ¯ [macrict] [macrict] ¯, altogether a foot in ten time. The dialogue περὶ μουσικῆς which bears the name of Plutarch (chapters 28 and 33) gives some information as to the originators of these long feet. The παιὼν ἐπιβατὸς is said to have been used by Archilochus and Olympus, and it has been conjectured that the exclamation ἰηπαιήων is an instance of this rhythm. The invention of the ὄρθιος and of the τροχαῖος σημαντὸς is attributed to Terpander, and it is possible that the fragments of a hymn quoted as the composition of Terpander and of two others conjecturally assigned to Terpander by Bergk (Lyr. Graec. frag. 1, 3, 4), which are composed in long syllables alone, may have been sung to one of these rhythms. It appears at first sight that the ὄρθιος, the τροχαῖος σημαντός, and the σπονδεῖος μείζων differed from the ordinary iambic, trochee, and spondee, only in being slower in tempo (ἀγωγή). It is, however, just possible that each long note in the vocal part may have been combined with an instrumental accompaniment, which would show that the long note corresponded to a foot, thus:--

Vocal, [tetrasemeict] [tetraseme] Instrumental, [macrict] ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘, &c.
If this was so, these long feet were in reality combinations of feet, i. e. κῶλα.

The Sentence (κῶλον).--A series of feet recurring without a break, in which the thesis always had an ictus of equal intensity and which did not form larger groups, would soon become monotonous. Hence the feet are combined in larger groups called κῶλα or “sentences.” The structure of these “sentences” is similar to that of the feet. There are three genera of κῶλα as there are of feet; like the feet, they fall into two portions bearing a definite relation to one another, and, like the feet, they are strictly limited in extent. In consequence of this analogy they are sometimes called πόδες. The single foot is a ποὺς ἁπλοῦς or ἀσύνθετος: the κῶλον, or combination of feet, is a ποὺς σύνθετος. The number of feet combined in a κῶλον is never more than six, and seldom more than four. A κῶλον of two or four feet belongs to the γένος ἴσον or δακτυλικόν, being composed of feet bearing an equal relation, viz. either 1 : 1 or 2 : 2. A κῶλον of three or six feet belongs to the γένος διπλάσιον or ἰαμβικόν, being composed of feet bearing the relation 2 : 1 or 4 : 2. A κῶλον of five feet belongs to the γένος ἡμιόλιον or παιωνικόν, the relation of the feet of which it is composed being 3 : 2. As to the extent of the κῶλον it is stated by Aristides Quintilianus, i. p. 35, and by Psellus, προλαμβανόμενα, § 12 (apparently an extract from Aristoxenus), that a κῶλον of the ἴσον γένος cannot sixteen units of time; a κῶλον of the διπλάσιον γένος cannot exceed eighteen units of time; and a κῶλον of the ἡμιόλιον γένος cannot exceed twenty-five units of time. In these calculations the short syllable is taken as the unit of time. Applying these canons to the different πόδες ἁπλοῖ, it appears that the iambic or the trochee may form κῶλα of two, three, four, five, or six feet:--

˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ = 6 γένος ἴσον.
¯ ˘ ¯ ˘
˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ = 12
¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘
˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ = 9 γένος διπλάσιον.
¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘
˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ = 18
¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘
˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ = 15 γένος ἡμιόλιον.
¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘

The dectyl or anapaest may form κῶλα of two, three, four, or five feet:--

¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ = 8 γένος ἴσον.
˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯
¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ = 16
˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯
¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ = 12 γένος διπλάσιον.
˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯

¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ = 20 γένος ἡμιόλιον.
˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯

[p. 2.561]

The paeon or cretic may form κῶλα of two, three, or five feet:--

¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ =10 γένος ἴσον.
¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯
¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ =15 γένος διπλάσιον.
¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯

¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ˘ =25 γένος ἡμιόλιον.
¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯

The ionic or choriambic may form κῶλα of either two or three feet:--

¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ =12 γένος ἴσον.
˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯
¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯
¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ =18 γένος διπλάσιον.
˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯
¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯

It is probable that the unity of the κῶλον was marked by its having one ictus stronger than the rest and dominating the group, and that this ictus might fall on any foot in the κῶλον, so that e. g. a trochaic tetrapody might be accentuated in any of the following ways:--[macrict] ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ||2
¯ ˘ [macrict] ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ||
¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ [macrict] ˘ ¯ ˘ ||
¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ [macrict] ˘ ||

In each of the κῶνα hitherto considered the feet are all of the same metrical value, i. e. all trochees, iambics, dactyls, anapaests, paeons, ionics, choriambics, or their equivalents, e. g. tribrachs, spondees, cretics. The only exception is that of the “irrational” spondee in trochaic and iambic metres, e. g. ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ for ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘. There is, however, a class of metres of very frequent occurrence in which feet of different metrical value, viz. trochees and dactyls (or iambics and anapaests), e. g. ¯ ˘ | ¯ [brevemacr] | ¯ ˘ ˘ | ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘| are combined in the same κῶλον. These metres are called “mixed” (μικτά), or logaoedic (λογαοιδικά). The latter name was probably given to these metres because, from their apparent irregularity, they seemed to be intermediate between prose (λόγος) and poetry or song (ἀοιδή). The explanation of this union of trochee and dactyl, and the rhythmical relation between them, is uncertain, though it is generally admitted that the time occupied by the trochee and the dactyl must have been equal. The popular theory, adopted by J. H. H. Schmidt in his Kunstformen der griechischen Poesie, is that the long syllable and the first short syllable in the dactyl both lost something of their normal value, the long syllable being in this case = 1 1/2 and the first short syllable = 1/2 so that the dactyl = 1 1/2 + 1/2 + 1 = 3 = the trochee = 2 1. This value, which is represented in modern books by the symbol ¯ ˘ ˘, is supposed to be confirmed by two passages in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, de Comp. Verb. chapters 17 and 20, and the foot is usually called the “cyclic” dactyl, because Dionysius (ibid. 100.17) says that the rapid dactyl of which the long syllable loses something of its normal value is parallel to the anapaest with an “irrational” long syllable, which is called κύκος. Westphal, however, has shown that the passages in Dionysius cannot be used in support of the so-called “cyclic” dactyl in logaoedics, because Dionysius is speaking of mere recitation, not of singing. The rhythm was probably always less exact in the former than in the latter, just as in the case of modern poetry the rhythm of recitation is less exact than that of singing. It is more probable that the long syllable and the short syllable in the logaoedic dactyl retained their normal relation to each other, viz. that of 2 : 1, but that the long and short syllables were each pronounced more rapidly than the long and short syllables in the trochee. This may be expressed in figures as follows: If in the trochee the long syllable = 2 and the short syllable = 1, then in the dactyl the long syllable = 6/4 , the short syllable = 3/4 . Then the trochee = 2+ 1=3= the dactyl = 6/4 + 3/4 + 3/4 = 1 2/4 = 3. Possibly, however, it should rather be supposed that the equality between the trochee and the dactyl was not thus accurately defined, but that the ear was satisfied if the time occupied by the two feet was approximately equal, the difference between them being imperceptible, without any obvious violation of the usual proportion between long and short syllables.

The limits of the logaoedic κῶλον seem to be the same as those of the iambic or trochaic. It may consist of either two, three, four, five, or six feet; the six-feet κῶλα are, however, apparently rare, and it is possible that what seem to be six-feet κῶλα are a combination of two κῶλα of four feet and two feet respectively.

If the account of the logaoedic κῶλον here given is correct, the time occupied by all the feet which compose it is the same; but there is one peculiar metre, the dochmiac, the κῶλα of which are probably composed of feet which differ from one another in duration. The normal form of the dochmiac is ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯, but as all the long syllables admit of resolution into two short syllables, and the first (as well as occasionally the second) short syllable may be long, it assumes very various forms. It is doubtful whether the chief ictus is on the first or on the second long syllable, i. e. ˘ [macrict] ¯ ˘ ¯ or ˘ ¯ [macrict] ˘ ¯. The dochmiac seems to consist of a union of feet in which there is a real change of rhythm, one foot being in three time, the other in five time, i. e. ˘ ¯ | ¯ ˘ ¯ or ˘ ¯ ¯ | ˘ ¯. Westphal (Metrik, ed. 3) supposes that either there is a pause equal to one long syllable at the end of each dochmiac, or the final syllable is lengthened by τονή, i. e. ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯ [macrpause] or ˘ ¯ ¯ ˘ [tetraseme]. In this case the dochmiac would fall into two equal portions, each containing five units of time ˘1 ¯2 ¯2. But this view seems inconsistent with the fact that occasionally a dochmiac ends with two short syllables in the middle of a word.

A κῶλον may be either completely filled by the syllables used in their ordinary metrical value, or it may require for its completion a pause (λεῖμμα, πρόσθεσις) or a prolongation (τονὴ) of a syllable beyond its ordinary value. An instance of a κῶλον which is complete without either pause or prolongation is the trochaic tetrapody ¯ ˘ | ¯ [brevemacr] | ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ ||, while the κῶλον ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ | ¯ || is incomplete and requires either a pause ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ | ˘ [pause] || or a prolongation ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ | [triseme] || for its completion. [p. 2.562]

When the κῶλον is complete without these devices, it is called acatalectic (ἀκαταληκτικόν), i. e. not stopping (καταλήγω) before its proper end; when it is incomplete, it is called catalectic (καταληκτικόν). When a κῶλον is scanned κατὰ συζυγίαν, i. e. in couples of two feet, if, according to the metrical form, the last foot is wanting, as in ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ | ¯ ˘ &[trisemepause] ||, it is said to be brachy-catalectic (βραχυκατάληκτον). When a κῶλον which is scanned κατὰ συζυγίαν has one apparently superfluous syllable exceeding the last dipody in the κῶλον, as e. g. in ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ | ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ | ˘, it is said to be hypercatalectic (ὑπερκατάληκτον). Cases of this latter kind are, however, probably more apparent than real. A κῶλον of the apparent form ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ | ¯ is usually a trochaic tripody ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ [triseme] or ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ [pause], and a κῶλον of the apparent form ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ | ˘ may be found where the next κῶλον begins with a thesis, and where therefore the arsis of the preceding κῶλον combines with the thesis of the following κῶλον to form a single foot, or where the κῶλον before it ends with a thesis, and therefore the arsis of the apparently hypercatalectic κῶλον combines with the thesis of the preceding κῶλον.

It is not always possible to divide a metrical composition into its κῶλα with certainty. In the simpler forms of metre the divisions are usually obvious, but in the more elaborate kinds of lyrical poety this is not so. One criterion by which it has been sought to determine the length of the κῶλα in such doubtful cases will be considered under the next head, viz. that of the “period.”

The Period.--As a combination of feet forms a κῶλον, so a combination of κῶλα forms a περίοσο. It has been seen that the unity of the κῶλον was probably marked by its having one ictus stronger than the rest; the unity of the period was marked probably by the modulation of the voice varying in pitch and intensity with the beginning, middle, and end of the period, and certainly by the admission of a distinct pause at the end of the period, separating it from what follows. This pause is indicated in three ways. (1) Each period ends with the end of a word: a word cannot be divided between two periods as it can be between two κῶλα (Hephaest. 100.4, p. 16, ed. W., πᾶν μέτρον εἰς τελείαν περατοῦται λέξιν). (2) Hiatus is allowed at the end of a period; i. e. a period may end with a vowel, and the following period begin with a vowel without elision taking place. (3) The last syllable of each period may be either long or short (συλλαβὴ ἀδιάφορος, syllaba anceps) without reference to the quantity strictly required by the rhythm. This is explained by the pause at the end of the period. As there is a pause, it does not matter whether the last syllable is long or short: if it is long where the rhythm otherwise would require a short syllable, this is immaterial, because the short syllable would in this case be followed by a pause; if it is short where the rhythm otherwise would require a long syllable, the pause makes up the required length. Where the same period recurs frequently, as in the odes of Pindar, the observance of these three conditions makes it possible to determine the places at which the period ends, in most cases with complete certainty. The odes of Pindar were first divided into periods by the help of these criteria by Boeckh, in his edition of Pindar (Leipzig, 1811). The pause may occur at the end of a single κῶλον: in this case the κῶλον is a period. The word period is the most general term for a κῶλον, or a combination of κῶλα, after which a distinct pause is admissible. There are, however, other terms which are used to distinguish certain species of periods. When a κῶλον, or a combination of κῶλα, consists of not less than three συζυγίαι (six feet), and not more than four συζυγίαι (eight feet), it is called a verse (στίχος, versus) (Hephaest. περὶ ποιήματος, 100.1, p. 64, ed. W.).

On this principle the iambic trimeter (six feet) and the dactylic hexameter (six feet) are both called στίχος. Another name for a period not exceeding eight feet is μέτρον. The μέτρον must not exceed thirty units of time, according to Hephaestion (100.13, pp. 42, 43, W.), where it is said that the paeonic μέτρον (of which each foot contains five units ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘ ˘) may extend to six feet, which will not exceed the thirty units; but the scholiast on this passage (p. 199, ed. W.) asserts that, according to other metricians, the μέτρον might extend to thirty-two units. It is probable that the anapaestic tetrameter (˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ || ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ ¶) was the longest verse (στίχος or μέτρον) recognised by the metricians, and that this was regarded as containing thirty-two or thirty χρόνοι, according as the penultimate syllable was lengthened by τονὴ (= [tetraseme]) or not. A period which exceeds thirty-two χρόνοι is a ὑπέρμετρον.

The commonest form of the “verse” in nonlyrical poetry is that which is formed by two κῶλα: this structure is illustrated by the dactylic hexameter and the trochaic tetrameter:--¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯, ˘ ˘ || ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ [macrbreve] ¶
¯ ˘ ¯ [brevemacr] ¯ ˘ ¯ [brevemacr]: || ¯ ˘ ¯ [brevemacr] ¯ ˘ [macrbreve] [pause] ¶

The comma and the colon in this notation indicate the end of a word. When a verse of two κῶλα is divided in such a way that the arsis of the first κῶλον is formed by the beginning of a word belonging to the second κῶλον, it is said to have a caesura (τομή); when the end of the first κῶλον coincides with the end of a word, it is said to be divided by κιαίρεσις. The dactylic hexameter has caesura, marked by the comma; the trochaic tetrameter has diaeresis, marked by the colon.

In these verses the κῶλα belong to the same species; there are, however, verses or periods in which the combined κῶλα belong apparently to different genera. Such rhythms are called μέτρα ἐπισύνθετα (Hephaest. 100.15, p. 56, W., and Schol. to Hephaest. pp. 201, 202, W.). Such is the verse ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ || ¯ ˘ ¯ [brevemacr] ¯ ˘ ¯ [brevemacr] ¶, which appears to be a combination of the κῶλα contained in the dactylic hexameter and the trochaic tetrameter. These episynthetic metres are also called dactylo-trochaic or dactylo-epitritic, according as the trochees are pure (e. g. ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘), or admit the “irrational” syllable (¯ ˘ ¯ ¯). There is a difficulty in determining the rhythmical value of these metres, similar to that which has already been discussed in connexion with logaoedics, and, as in the former case, two different solutions of the difficulty have been proposed. The popular explanation is, that in the apparent trochee the value of the long syllable is [p. 2.563]longer by half than its normal value, i. e.=three instead of two units; then ¯ ˘ = [triseme] ˘ = 3 + 1 = 4 = the dactyl = 2 + 1 + 1. The more probable explanation is that in the trochee the long syllable retains its normal proportion to the short syllable, but that the long syllable and the short syllable in the trochee are each pronounced more slowly than the long syllable and the short syllable in the dactyl. Thus, if the long syllable and the short syllable in the dactyl = 2 and 1 respectively, the long syllable and the short syllable in the trochee = 8/3 and 4/3 respectively; hence the dactyl = 2 + 1 + 1 = 4 = the trochee = 8/3 + 4/3 = 1 2/3 = 4. In the third edition of Rossbach and Westphal's Metrik, vol. 3 (1889), it is argued that episynthetic metres are in three time, the spondee being “irrational” = 2 : 1 1/2 , and the dactyl being “cyclic” = 3.

There is another term for certain combinations of κῶλα in periods the meaning of which is doubtful. This is the word asynartete, of which Hephaestion (100.15, p. 47, W.) gives the following explanation: γίνεται δὲ καὶ ἀσυνάρτηρα, ὁπόταν δύο κῶλα μὴ δυνάμενα ἀλλήλοις συναρτηθῆναι μηδὲ ἕνωσιν ἔχειν ἀντὶ ἑνὸς μόνου παραλαμβάνηται στίχου. He then proceeds to give instances of “asynartete” verse, and his account is supplemented by the Scholia on the chapter (pp. 201 ff. W.). It is obvious that the definition given by Hephaestion is little more than verbal, and the meaning must be sought by comparing the different instances which he gives and observing what they have in common. The first modern scholar who brought the word to light, and attempted an explanation of it, was Bentley, in his edition of Horace. In a note on the 11th Epode he arrives at the conclusion that asynartete verses are those in which there is a combination of κῶλα belonging to different rhythmical genera, e. g. dactylic and trochaic, as in the verse ¯ ˘ [macrbreve] ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ || ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ [brevemacr] ¶, and in which, although the two κῶλα coalesced to form a verse, the preceding κῶλον was separated by a pause from the following, so that hiatus and “syllaba anceps” were allowable, as in the lines of Horace:--

arguit et latere petitus imo spiritus ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ [macrbreve] || ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ¯ ˘ [macrbreve] ¶
Epod. 11.10.

fervidiore mero arcana promorat loco ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ || ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¶
Epod. 11.14.
It has, however, been shown by Westphal that Bentley's theory is applicable only to one of the seventeen asynartete verses quoted by Hephaestion. His own view is that asynartete verses are those in which there is catalexis in the first of the two κῶλα, as e. g. in the dactylic pentameter. ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ || ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¶

The rhythm in such a case may be completed either by τονὴ or by a pause, thus:--¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ [tetraseme] || ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ [macrpause] ¶
¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ [macrpause] || ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ [macrpause] ¶

This explanation is applicable to the majority of the asynartete verses quoted by Hephaestion, but it is certainly not applicable to all the “episynthetic” asynartetes, of which Hephaestion quotes seven kinds, and it cannot be applied to any of them without the unwarrantable assumption that the apparent dactylic tripody ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¯ is really “brachycatalectic,” i. e. = ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ [tetraseme] [tetraseme] or ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ [tetraseme] ¯ [macrpause]. It appears, therefore, that the meaning of the term asynartete cannot be determined with certainty.

The word period is used by J. H. H. Schmidt in his Kunstformen der griechischen Poesie in a sense different from that of the ancient writers on rhythm and metre. He understands by it a combination of κῶλα or verses, which are bound together by a definite principle of arrangement or symmetry. According to this theory, in the majority of lyrical compositions, every κῶλον (with certain definite exceptions) corresponds to some other κῶλον, and contains precisely the same number of feet as the κῶλον with which it corresponds. Any set of κῶλα which is bound together by such correspondences is called by him a “period.” These periods are variously constructed. The simplest form of period is that in which one κῶλον is followed by another containing the same number of feet, as e. g. in the dactylic hexameter ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ || ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ [macrbreve] ¶: the period is divided into two κῶλα, each consisting of three feet; such a period he calls “stichic.” A more developed form is that in which a κῶλον of the same number of feet is repeated more than once, e. g. a period consisting of three dactylic tripodies; such a combination he calls a repeated “stichic” period. A “palinodic” period is one in which, instead of a single κῶλον, two κῶλα forming a group are answered by two κῶλα forming a similar group: thus, e.g., if a group of two κῶλα, consisting of six feet and five feet respectively, were followed by a second group consisting of a hexapody and pentapody. If the group were repeated a second time, the result would be a repeated “palinodic” period. If the period be such that the correspondence is between the first κῶλον and the last, between the second and the last but one, Schmidt calls it “antithetic” ; such would be a period of the annexed form, where the dot denotes the end of a verse, and the numbers the number of feet in each κῶλον.


The first verse would contain two κῶλα of three and four feet respectively, the second verse a single κῶλον of five feet, and so on. If in a period of this kind the central κῶλον has no correspondence, it is called “mesodic.” A simple instance of such a period would be the annexed form.


Such are the outlines of Schmidt's theory, which has been adopted by some modern editors of Greek dramatists and Pindar. The general principle, which demands correspondence between one κῶλον and another, is called by Schmidt “eurhythmy,” and it is chiefly by the assistance of this principle that he determines the division into κῶλα of any lyrical composition. There is no doubt that there is often a correspondence of this kind: the elegiac couplet, for example, is an instance of two periods, each formed by two tripodies, the tripodies being acatalectic in the hexameter and catalectic in the so-called pentameter. But it has not been shown that such “eurhythmy” [p. 2.564]is invariably present, and it cannot therefore be accepted as a criterion for determining the length of the κῶλα where it is not otherwise obvious. The limits of this article do not admit of a detailed discussion of the theory, but some objections to it may be pointed out.

(1) The ancient writers on rhythm and metre do not show the slightest acquaintance with “eurhythmy” of this kind.

(2) The symmetry produced by Schmidt's method is often a symmetry for the eye, not for the ear; there is no reason to think that the ear could take in the rhythmical structure of many of his periods, even with the assistance of a musical accompaniment and the movements of the dance.

(3) Modern music and poetry do not offer any real analogy for the more elaborate forms of his periods, although modern poetry has in the rhyme a special means of emphasising the correspondence between κῶλα, while, on the other hand, they show that a sense of rhythmical proportion may be produced without exact correspondence between the κῶλα.

(4) The fact that Schmidt has been able to arrange the odes of Pindar and the lyrical portions of the great dramatists, in such a way as to exhibit “eurhythmy,” is no proof of the truth of his theory; for as soon as it is granted that the long syllable admits of different values, that e. g. it may be either ¯ or [triseme] or [tetmseme] it is obvious that the same combination of syllables may admit of being interpreted as containing a different number of feet. Thus ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ may be either an acatalectic tripody or a catalectic tetrapody = ¯ ˘ ¯ ˘ [triseme] [macrbreve]. Moreover, even if the number of feet in a series be determined, it may often be divided into κῶλα in more ways than one. As, therefore, the same metrical form admits of different interpretations, it is not difficult to manipulate it so as to produce the assumed “eurhythmy.”

This theory of “eurhythmy” was first suggested in the first edition of Rossbach and Westphal's Metrik; in the second edition it was rejected by Westphal, but it has been revived by Rossbach in the third edition.

The Strophe.--When either a single rhythmical period (in the ancient sense of the word), exceeding the limits of a “verse,” or a combination of periods, is repeated in the same form, such a period, or a combination of periods, is called a strophe, and, if it is repeated only once, it is called on its recurrence an antistrophe. A simple instance is the strophe formed by the dactylic hexameter and “pentameter,” a strophe of two verses, each consisting of two tripodies, which, however, are different in form in the two lines, being acatalectic in the first and catalectic in the second. Other familiar examples are the Alcaic and Sapphic strophes, each consisting of four lines. In the odes of Pindar a further development is found. The strophe and antistrophe are here usually succeeded by a strophe of another metrical form, which is then called an epode (ἐπῳδός). The triad formed by strophe, antistrophe, and epode, is then repeated. The metrical structure of the fourth Pythian ode of Pindar is formed by a strophe, antistrophe, and epode, each of which occurs thirteen times. In Pindar and the dramatic poets there is, as a rule, an exact syllabic correspondence between strophe and antistrophe; and where the correspondence is not thus exact, except in certain limited deviations which are admitted to be permissible, it has been in most cases supposed that there is some corruption in the text. It is, however, possible that the assumption of exact syllabic correspondence has been carried too far, and that there wan more licence in this respect than is generally recognised.

Metrical compositions are either κατὰ στίχον or κατὰ συστήματα (συστηματικά). and in the latter case they fall into further subdivisions, of which the most important are τὰ κατὰ σχέσιν and τὰ ἐξ ὁμοιων (Hephaest. περὶ ποιήματος, pp. 59 ff. W.). They are κατὰ στίχον when they are composed in “verses” of the same length, which do not fall into definite groups; the Greek epics in hexameter verse are an example of this form of composition. They are κατὰ σχέσιν when they contain strophes and anti-strophes, as the odes of Pindar and most of the lyrical portions of the drama. They are ἐξ ὀμοίων when they are composed of a series of κῶλα of the same metre, forming groups which are unequal in extent, and each of which exceeds the limits of a “verse.” Such are the anapaestic hypermetra used often in tragedy, consisting mainly of groups of anapaestic dimeters acatalectic, e. g. ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ || terminated by a catalectic dimeter, e. g. ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ˘ ˘ ¯ ¶. Sometimes a lyrical passage is composed of periods of different metrical form and length without antistrophic responsion. In this case it is called ἀπολελυμένον. Instances of this may be found in melodies sung by actors on the stage (τὰ ἀπὸ σκήνης) in the Greek drama. Sometimes a composition contains all these different forms of metrical structure (as e. g. a Greek play), in which case it is called μικτόν.

It would be beyond the scope of the present work to give any detailed account of the metres employed by the Greek and Roman poets; on that subject, as well as on the general principles of rhythm as applied to language, reference may be made to the following authorities among the more recent writers:--Rossbach and Westphal, Metrik der Griechen, the third edition of which is published under the title Theorie der musischen Künste der Hellenen, Leipzig, 1885-1889; J. H. H. Schmidt, Die Kunstformen der griechischen Poesie, 4 vols., Leipzig, 1868-1872; Christ, Metrik der Griechen und Römer, 2nd edition, Leipzig, 1879; Gleditsch, Metrik der Griechen und Römer in Iwan Müller's Handbuch der klassischen Alterthumswissenschaft, vol. ii., Nördlingen, 1885. The value of the rhythmical principles of Aristoxenus, in their application to modern music, has been very ingeniously shown by Westphal in his Allgemeine Theorie der musikalischen Rhythmik seit J. S. Bach, Leipzig, 1880. The remains of the Greek writers on rhythm have been collected by Westphal in Die Fragmente und die Lehrsätze der griechischen Rhythmiker, Leipzig, 1861, the text of which is reprinted in the second edition of Rossbach and Westphal's Metrik der Griechen, vol. i., Leipzig, 1867. The rhythmical fragments of Aristoxenus are translated and explained in Westphal's Aristoxenus von Tarent, Leipzig, 1883. The most modern edition of the [p. 2.565]text of Hephaestion with the Scholia is that of Westphal, Leipzig, 1866; but a new edition, discriminating as far as possible the sources of the various scholia, is much required. The so-called “Scholia A” have been edited by Studemund, in his Anecdota varia, Berlin, 1886; the “Scholia B” by Hoerschelmann, Dorpat, 1882.


1 We are not here concerned with the more general sense of the word (as e. g. when we speak of the rhythm of prose), in which it is used of a combination of longer and shorter sounds, which produces on the ear a general impression of proportion and orderly arrangement. It must further be noticed that the word “accent” is ambiguous. It is here applied to the stress or ictus upon a syllable or sound, which is produced with greater force or intensity than its neighbours. Properly, however, the term denotes pitch. The Greek accent is a pitch accent: thus the acute accent marks the syllable on which it is placed as being pronounced on a higher pitch than the other syllables in the word. The “ictus” is in Greek independent of the pitch accent.

2 || is the symbol for the end of a κῶλον, ¶ for the end of a “period” (see below).

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