Were professional reciters of poetry, esp. of Homer. The name, which means ‘song‐stitcher’, is first attested in the 5th cent., but implies the formulaic compositional technique of earlier minstrels. Originally reciters of epic accompanied themselves on the lyre, but later they carried a staff instead. Both are shown on vases; in his Ion Plato distinguishes rhapsodes from citharodes. In the 5th and 4th cents. rhapsodes were a familiar sight, esp. at public festivals and games, where they competed for prizes. They declaimed from a dais, and hoped to attract a crowd by their conspicuous attire and loud melodious voice. They would be likely to own texts of Homer, but recited from memory. They were carefully trained, and preserved a traditional pronunciation of Homer down to Alexandrian times. A good rhapsode might be filled with emotion while reciting, and communicate it to his audience, and there was felt to be a kinship between him and the actor. Rhapsodes were despised as stupid by the educated and a byword for unreliability. They looked up to the guild of Homeridae, who claimed descent from Homer, and who recited his poems and told stories about his life, as authorities and arbiters.
Subjects: Classical Studies.