Abstract Scholars have traditionally interpreted Hipponax fragment 128 (West) as an epic parody designed to belittle the grand pretensions and gluttonous habits of his enemy. I suggest, however, that this traditional reading ultimately falls short because of two unexamined assumptions: (1) that the meter and diction of the fragment are exclusively meant to recall epic narrative and not any other early hexametrical genre, and (2) that the descriptive epithets in lines 2 and 3 are the ad hoc comic creations of the poet and simply refer to the table manners of a glutton or a parasite. I argue instead that this fragment in several ways reflects the language, the meter and the performative goal of hexametrical chants or incantations designed to expel harmful famine demons or to escort human scapegoats from the city. I also suggest that the vivid and somewhat comic descriptions of the enemy in fragment 128 probably do not aim at his personal eating disorders, but rather they are drawn from two interrelated and generic features of archaic Greek thought: a tradition of describing famine-demons as insatiable eaters, and a popular theme in Greek invective which demonizes political enemies as rapacious pests who threaten to gobble up the commonwealth of the city and who therefore must be expelled from the community, precisely like a famine-demon.
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