Of these the first is etymologically correct (except that it should rather be " stitcher of verse "); the second was suggested by the fact, for which there is early evidence, that the reciter was accustomed to hold a wand in his hand - perhaps, like the sceptre in the Homeric assembly, as a symbol of the right to a hearing.3 The first notice of rhapsody meets us at Sicyon, in the reign of Cleisthenes (600-560 B.C.), who " put down the rhapsodists on account of the poems of Homer, because they are all about Argos and the Argives " (Hdt.
He tells us that the law required the rhapsodists to recite " taking each other up in order (E v7roXip,GEcos E.r/)e ijs), as they still do."
The question as between Solon and Hipparchus cannot be settled; but it is at least clear that a due order of recitation was secured by the presence of a person charged to give the rhapsodists their cue (uiro(iXXav).
The practice of poets or rhapsodists contending for the prize at the great religious festivals is of considerable antiquity, though apparently post-Homeric. It is brought vividly before us in the Hymn to Apollo (see the passage mentioned above), and in two Hymns to Aphrodite (v.
2.2), who applies it to the rhapsodists (` Op p15at pa1rrcm, EirEwz' aot501).
On this a scholiast says that the name "Homeridae " denoted originally descendants of Homer, who sang his poems in succession, but afterwards was applied to rhapsodists who did not claim descent from him.
The result of the notices now collected is to show that the early history of epic recitation consists of (r) passages in the Homeric hymns showing that poets contended for the prize at the great festivals, (2) the passing mention in Herodotus of rhapsodists at Sicyon, and (3) a law at Athens, of unknown date, regulating the recitation at the Panathenaea.
It is not certain indeed that the practice of reciting a long poem by the agency of several competitors was ancient, or that it prevailed elsewhere than at Athens; but as rhapsodists were numerous, and popular favour throughout Greece became more and more confined to one or two great works, it must have become almost a necessity.
Threshold of the textual criticism of Homer and accordingly enters into a full discussion, first of the external evidence, then of the indications furnished by the poems. Having satisfied himself that writing was unknown to Homer, he is led to consider the real mode of transmission, and finds this in the Rhapsodists, of whom the Homeridae were an hereditary school.
Again, the Platonic dialogue Hip parchus (which though not genuine is probably earlier than the Alexandrian times) asserts that Hipparchus, son of Peisistratus, first brought the poems to Athens, and obliged the rhapsodists at the Panathenaea to follow the order of the text, " as they still do," instead of reciting portions chosen at will.
Only that Homer was recited in fragments by the rhapsodists, and that these partial recitations were made into a continuous whole by Peisistratus; which does not necessarily mean more than that Peisistratus did what other authorities ascribe to Solon and Hipparchus, viz.
But if Garrison, Phillips and Sumner and Mrs Stowe were to be the rhapsodists of the long emancipation struggle, Whittier was its foreordained poet-seer.