Arsis and Thesis

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In verse doctrine, arsis and thesis denote elevation and decline .

In ancient Greek metrics, Arsis ( Greek  ἄρσις from αἴρω airo “to raise”, “to lift”) denoted the lifting of the foot or finger, thesis ( θέσις from τίθημι tithemi “to set”, “emphasize”) the stroke of the foot or finger, the musical beat or the stamping of the foot in dance. This corresponds to the Latin Ictus ( "blow" of Latin icere "beat"; German Iktus ). Accordingly, in the are geared toward syllable lengths, was quantitierenden ancient metric the Thesis the long syllable (always elementum longum) in the foot of the verse, the arsis corresponded to the short syllable ( elementum breve ), double abbreviation ( elementum biceps ) or ambivalence ( elementum anceps ). In the dactyl (—◡◡), for example, there was - the thesis and ◡◡ the arsis . Both parts are also referred to as a half-foot , i.e. H. with the dactyl the first half-foot - and the second half-foot ◡◡, with the iambus (◡—) the first half-foot is ◡ and the second -.

In the 4th century, the grammarian Marius Victorinus wrote :

“What the Greeks call Arsis and Thesis, i. H. Raising and lowering means moving the foot. Arsis is namely lifting the foot without sound, thesis putting the foot down with sound. "

But then he continues:

"Likewise, Arsis is the raising of time, tone, voice, thesis, the setting off and a kind of shortened pronunciation of the syllables."

That is, a change in the meaning of the word arsis from mechanical lifting to voice lifting resulted in a reversal in the meaning of the pair of terms. This change constitutes a change in the sense of language from the quantitative to the accentuating conception of poetry , which began in the 2nd century and continued in late antiquity . In accordance with the change in meaning, Ictus was linked with the arsis , both terms now denoted the stressed syllable, while Thesis from then on denoted the weaker, unstressed parts of the foot of the verse. In accordance with this view, the terms were finally translated as lifting (emphasized) or lowering (unstressed) in the German verse theory.

To make the confusion complete, the original meaning has been retained in the musical metric , although there are uncertainties in this area as well. In music , Arsis also describes the (unstressed) prelude or the unstressed (easy, bad) part of the bar, while thesis refers to the stressed (heavy, good) part of the bar.

Because of this confusion, the use of the two terms should be avoided if the context is not entirely clear.


Individual evidence

  1. arsis igitur ac thesis quas Graeci dicunt, id est sublatio et positio, significant pedis motum. est enim arsis sublatio pedis sine sono, thesis positio pedis cum sono. Chapter De arsi et thesi. In: Grammatici Latini , ed. Heinrich Keil , VI, 40,14.
  2. […] item arsis elatio temporis, soni, vocis, thesis depositio et quaedam contractio syllabarum.