A Note on Archilochus

This is a museum--an orderly (if somewhat arbitrary) arrangement of artifacts. The fragments here are grouped thematically into sequences that read like reasonably coherent poems, though they are not. Consequently, they suffer from the same distortions of all dislocated fragments when collected, mounted against a white background, and placed under glass. They become at the same time detached from origin and newly connected to the adjacent artifacts.

Few of Archilochus’ poems survived even into late antiquity, and of those only tatters remain. Shreds that they are, translating them involves guesswork and is open to endless debate. Rather than look back to the source and conjecture what the fragments would have meant in their original context, this translation looks forward to what can be made with them now.

I have taken liberties beyond just the reordering of the fragments. While each fragment (as delineated in West’s OCT text) remains intact, many were mitered to fit more snugly with adjacent fragments. These modifications primarily involved changes in verb person or number, or altering a pronoun. And I’ve loosely broken Archilochus’ iambic line--where an entire line remains--into two, three-word lines.

The translation uses West’s edition in the Oxford Classical Text and I’ve included the fragment numbers from West’s text in the left margin. It’s a general rule among conservators--I count translators among them--that reconstructions should be visible. The reader can see how I’ve put this together.