Tackling the Toolkit pp 91–⁠105
Rhythm and Vocabulary of Greek Hexameter: From Formula to Topolexis
Juan Sebastián Páramo Rueda, Anastasia Belousova, Paula Ruiz Charris


The article discusses the results of our application of a computer program created for the automatic analysis of lexical distribution based on rhythmic position in Greek hexameter.

For this purpose, we introduce the concept of the topolexis (in Greek τοπολέξις: from τόπος "place" and λέξις "expression, word"), which describes each word based on its position in the given line and is expressed as the word in combination with two sets of numerals. The topolexis "52Ἀχιλῆος62", for example, indicates that the word Ἀχιλῆος begins at the second syllable of the fifth foot (52) and ends at the second syllable of the sixth foot (62).

We investigate the behavior of topolexes in a corpus that includes Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey and Apollonius Rhodius’ The Argonautica. We find that the distribution of topolexes of different frequencies varies among these texts. While The Argonautica contains a greater number of unique topolexes, higher-frequency topolexes are more common in Homer’s poems. The "formulaicity ratio", which we define as the ratio of distinct topolexes in a text to its overall topolexis count, is higher for Homer. In addition, we obtain and analyze data about Hesiod’s The Theogony. Although The Theogony is only 1,023 lines long, it exhibits the same tendencies as Homeric hexameter. We are, thus, able to clearly and accurately compare the behavior of topolexes in epic hexameter in the formulaic style and in its literary imitation by Apollonius.

Lastly, we run a test to compare the performances of the topolexes and the most frequent words (MFW) as stylometric indicators for determining text authorship. We find that while topolexes enable us to correctly cluster fragments by their author, they do not outperform the MFW in this respect.


Páramo Rueda, J. S., Belousova, A., & Ruiz Charris, P. (2021). Rhythm and Vocabulary of Greek Hexameter: From Formula to Topolexis. In P. Plecháč, R. Kolár, A. Bories, & J. Říha (Eds.), Tackling the Toolkit: Plotting Poetry through Computational Literary Studies (pp. 91–105). Prague: ICL CAS. doi: 10.51305/ICL.CZ.9788076580336.07


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