Interpreting Iliad 10: Assumptions, Methodology, and the Place of the Doloneia within the History of Homeric Scholarship

In this essay we propose to give a brief overview of how previous scholars have evaluated Iliad 10 and to situate their work and ours within the history of Homeric scholarship. It is our hope that this discussion will allow our readers to better understand the assumptions and methodologies that underlie our interpretations, and to see how our approach differs from those of previous commentaries (most notably those of Walter Leaf 1900 and J. B. Hainsworth 1993). In the commentary in this volume we will not engage point by point the work of these previous scholars, nor such important monographs as those of Shewan 1911 and Danek 1988. Instead we will take the opportunity to explain here where our approaches intersect and where they diverge. Iliad 10’s status as the epic’s most doubted book (with Iliad 2 as a close rival), the book least likely to be judged “Homeric,” and the one most frequently avoided among contemporary scholars, makes it particularly revealing of some of the central disagreements and developments in Homeric scholarship over the last two centuries. [1] This essay is not, however, simply an exercise in rehashing older views and disputes, for what this overview reveals is how deeply entrenched certain ideas and approaches are in Homeric scholarship, even if they go by different names at different times. Judgments about Iliad 10 have become similarly entrenched, and our goal in reviewing them is to move beyond what are essentially Analyst or Unitarian positions in order to pose new questions about this poetry.

The Homeric Question

In 1795, nearly two centuries of speculation about the nature and genius of Homeric poetry came to a head when Friedrich August Wolf published his Prolegomena ad Homerum. Wolf argued that the Homeric poems had been transmitted by rhapsodes in an oral tradition that had corrupted the texts irreparably over time. For this reason, the true and genuine text of Homer could never be recovered. Although many of the claims made by Wolf had been maintained by others before him, Wolf’s Prolegomena led to an intensification of the debates of the eighteenth century that gave rise to the so-called Homeric Question, which would dominate scholarly discussions of Homer in the nineteenth century. [2] The “question” (in reality, many interrelated questions) became increasingly concerned with authorship. Did the Iliad and Odyssey have the same author? If so, when did he live? If not, how did the poems come to be in the form that we now have them? Fierce opposition arose between scholars who believed in Homer, a single genius and creator of the two foundational epics of Western literature, and those who saw the Homeric texts as the products of potentially many poets composing over many generations. These Unitarians on the one hand (as exemplified by Scott 1921) and Analysts on the other (as exemplified by Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1884 and 1916), armed with all of the tools of philology, scrutinized the poems and produced learned readings in defense of variations on these two positions. Analysts further debated among themselves about the age and authenticity of various portions of the poems, even as they searched for the oldest and “most Homeric” segments. [3]
Expanding on Wolf’s Prolegomena, Gottfried Hermann argued that there was a historical kernel of the Iliad composed by Homer, and the fame of this poem led to its expansion by other poets over time (see Hermann 1832 and 1840). Much of what Wolf himself had said already pointed in this direction. But Wolf’s relatively brief remarks also paved the way for a competing theory. The renowned philologist Richard Bentley had asserted long before Wolf that Homeric poetry originally consisted of loosely connected songs that were gathered together in an epic poem under the direction of the Athenian tyrant Peisistratos, 500 years after they were composed (see Bentley 1713:18). Inspired by Wolf, Karl Lachmann published influential papers that sought to prove that our Iliad consists of eighteen individual “lays” that were stitched together in the time of Peisistratos (Lachmann 1847). This view, which was built on Wolf’s arguments about the loosely connected nature of Homeric poetry in its earliest phases (see e.g. Wolf 1795/1985:137 [chapter 33]), was the starting point for a century’s worth of debate among Analyst scholars about the number and relative chronology of the individual lays.
In the case of Iliad 10, the search for individual songs brought together to make up our Iliad seems to find support in one scholion. It was in the wake Villoison’s publication of the Venetus A and B manuscripts with their scholia that Wolf wrote his influential Prolegomena. [4] It is not in these manuscripts, however, but in that known as the Townley (T) that the Analysts could find the type of evidence they sought for Iliad 10. At the beginning of Book 10 in that manuscript, the first scholion reads: φασὶ τὴν ῥαψῳδίαν ὑφ’ Ὁμήρου ἰδίᾳ τετάχθαι καὶ μὴ εἶναι μέρος τῆς Ἰλιάδος, ὑπὸ δὲ Πεισιστράτου τετάχθαι εἰς τὴν ποίησιν (“They say that this epic composition was arranged separately by Homer and not to be part of the Iliad, but it was arranged into that poem by Peisistratos”). [5] This note indeed seems to support the idea of a separate lay, but the evidence cannot be attributed to any particular source. More recent scholars also cite the scholion as evidence that Iliad 10 is not genuine in some way, but in so doing they seem to ignore that the scholion does posit “Homer” as the composer, suggesting that it is traditional. In fact, the comment is evidence neither that Iliad 10 is “un-Homeric” nor that it is by a later author who fit his composition to the Iliad, as some would have it. [6]
The work of the Analyst critics, and their debates with Unitarian critics who defended the unity of the epic, was the state of Homeric scholarship when, in the last decades of the nineteenth century, the archaeological work of Heinrich Schliemann uncovered the previously unknown Bronze Age civilization of the Mycenaean Greeks. Whereas in earlier centuries Homeric poetry had been linked to eighteenth-century notions of “folk poetry” (see Dué 2006b), the poems now came to be associated with the palatial structures and rich tombs uncovered by Schliemann. Physical objects, certain kinds of weapons and armor, architecture, and art mentioned in the poems were now seen to be the everyday artifacts of a real world ruled by kings not unlike those who fight in the Iliad. Walter Leaf, who published A Companion to the Iliad for English Readers in 1892 and a second edition of his two-volume commentary on the Iliad in 1900–1902, argued that our Iliad consists of series of both older songs, which were composed in the Mycenaean Bronze Age and handed down without much change for many centuries, and newer songs, all of which were gathered together into their final form under the direction of Peisistratos (Leaf 1900:xvi–xxi). The kernel of the poem, Leaf maintained, was the wrath of Achilles, and various other epic material, four centuries in the making, was made to fit around this central core. [7]
Leaf, working within the Analyst tradition of scholarship, sought in his commentary to the Iliad to separate the earlier and later strata of the poem (not unlike an archaeologist), and thereby explain aspects of the work that seemed to him incongruous or inelegant. Although Leaf understood the various songs of the Iliad to be orally composed and transmitted (Leaf 1900:xvi), his commentary connects the songs to individual authors, some of whom he judges to be more skilled than others. As a result, Leaf feels free in his commentary to criticize the style of particular poets. Iliad 10 receives much of Leaf’s harshest criticism. Arguing that Iliad 10 (like Iliad 9) “can never have existed independent of the Μῆνις [the song of Achilles’ wrath]” (Leaf 1900:423), he summarizes the place of the book in the epic tradition this way: “Everything points, in fact, to as late a date as this [the second half of the seventh century BCE] for the composition of the book. It must, however, have been composed before the Iliad had reached its present form, for it cannot have been meant to follow on I [Iliad 9]. It is rather another case of a parallel rival to that book, coupled with it only in the final literary redaction” (Leaf 1900:424). Leaf’s audience would have been well aware of the universal condemnation of the book, and of the perceived problems that Leaf alludes to here. Iliad 9 takes up too much of the night, it has been argued, to allow for another episode. The reference to Achilles at 10.106–107, Leaf suggests, also seems out of place immediately after the failed embassy. Rhesos and the capture of his horses are not mentioned anywhere else in the epic, much as the embassy to Achilles goes unmentioned in places where it seems logical (to us) to do so.
In his brief introduction to Iliad 10, Leaf gives, in addition to these structural objections, three primary reasons for believing the book to be a late composition. He says that it has a “mannered style” that is at odds with the “harmony and symmetrical repose of the Epic style,” and he finds the length of preparations that begin the book out of proportion with the length of the narration of the night mission itself (Leaf 1900:423–424). He next offers linguistic evidence, consisting of unusual word forms and other forms that come from later stages of the Greek language. And, finally, he cites “pseudo-archaisms,” words that he argues are deliberately used by the poet to create the illusion of antiquity. Such objections have, as we will see, been countered by the work of later scholars. Though much of the introduction is devoted to these three points, they may not have been what influenced Leaf’s thinking the most, however. Leaf’s introduction to the book in fact begins with a quotation of the scholia we have just examined, which seems to reveal that already in antiquity Iliad 10 was thought at least by some to be a separate composition. He adds: “These noteworthy words … correspond too closely with the probabilities of the case to allow us to treat them as a mere empty guess.” For Leaf, the scholion seems to confirm a generally understood feeling about the book—one that does not need extensive argumentation. [8]
Individual notes in his commentary make clear Leaf’s hostility to the book, and some of these are discussed in our commentary below. At the risk of taking Leaf’s words out of context, we will simply highlight here some of the words Leaf uses to describe the poetry: “inappropriateness” (10.1), “so confused as to be practically unintelligible” (10.5), “turgid and tasteless” (10.5), “strange” (10.7), “unsuitable” (10.8), “burlesque” (10.84). That Leaf is applying his own aesthetic criteria to the poetry is evident, and such criticism would not be considered a valid scholarly methodology today. But we must ask to what degree an anachronistic aesthetic has influenced the more seemingly scientific arguments made in Leaf’s introduction and elsewhere in his notes. More recent scholars do not, for the most part, indulge in Leaf’s insulting language, [9] but many have similar visceral reactions to the book, and it seems clear that these “gut-level” judgments have had a major influence on critical work on the book. Hainsworth’s 1993 commentary (discussed below) offers this conclusion on the status of the book within our Iliad: “Taken separately … these points are of little weight; taken together they make up a body of evidence that the majority of critics have found persuasive, if not conclusive” (Hainsworth 1993:154). Much like Leaf’s, Hainsworth’s reasons for objecting to the book seem based on an intuitive response, not a carefully articulated argument based on an understanding of oral poetics. Less restrained is Michael Nagler, who calls Iliad 10 “a disaster stylistically, because of its folkloristic departures from normalcy; heroically, because of the disgraceful conduct exhibited by Odysseus and Diomedes; thematically, because it takes place in the dead of night; and structurally, because it leads to an Achaean victory” (Nagler 1974:136). The tradition of Leaf’s condemnation of Iliad 10, which is in many ways emblematic of nineteenth-century Analyst criticism, has lived on among many scholars, even those whose approaches and schools of thought differ substantially from Leaf’s.
A decade after Leaf’s commentary, Alexander Shewan devoted an entire monograph to a spirited defense of Iliad 10 (Shewan 1911). In it, he assesses the reception of the book in his own day this way: “There is hardly a textbook of Greek literature or handbook to Homer but regards it with disfavour, tempered only occasionally by a word of tolerant pity or faint praise … The Doloneia now lies buried below a cairn heaped up to keep its unclean spirit out of the Homeric world, and every passer by adds a boulder or a pebble” (Shewan 1911:viii). He quotes, for example, R. M. Henry, who calls it “by common consent one of the most worthless books of the Iliad from a poetical point of view” (Henry 1905:192).
Shewan follows William Gladstone in taking scholars to task for “precipitate application of the canons of modern prose” to a work of ancient poetry (Shewan 1911:3). He treats every objection raised and systematically uncovers the flaws and biases of these arguments, exploring the book’s vocabulary, usage, versification, hapax legomena, and “pseudo-archaisms,” to name just a few subjects extensively discussed. [10] Shewan engages directly virtually all of the leading scholars of his day, with the result that his arguments are best understood in relation to late-nineteenth-century scholarship. On the charge of late “Odyssean” language, for example, Shewan shows that previous studies relied on the highly questionable schematizations of Analyst critics as to which parts of the Iliad are earlier and later. Few scholars would accept such schemas in the wake of Parry and Lord (see below), but Shewan in many ways anticipates Parry and Lord by arguing that all of extant Homeric poetry should be treated as a single system. He counters K. Orzulik (1883), who alleges that Iliad 10 is Odyssean (and therefore, by the logic of the time, late), this way:
In effect he asks us to look on words or phrases which do not occur in that ancient and select piece of Homeric poetry as more or less tainted. But that is unreasonable. The Ur-Ilias is not a thesaurus of the epic language. The Lay of the Wrath is, even in its dimensions as assigned by the most liberal of the upholders of the kernel theory, of but small compass. If the Ur-Ilias be made long enough, we shall have no difficulty in vindicating the Doloneia.
Shewan 1911:29
Shewan goes on to make two crucial points here: that we should judge Homer by Homer, and that we should understand that the poet is drawing on a variety of older traditional material, some of which is no doubt older than others (1911:34). He asserts that no one can show Iliad 10 to be more “Odyssean” than any other book. Even if one could, we have to acknowledge that Odysseus is one of the main characters in the book, and this can explain what affinities there are, if any.
Shewan questions (as do we) whether something that seems to us unusual is necessarily late (1911:49–50): “What is wanted, but never supplied, is proof that the word or form was unknown in, say, the 10th century B.C.” Might some of the unusual features of this book belong to a very old tradition? After all, our “database” for evaluating traditional epic language is limited by what little has survived. Our view is that Iliad 10 exemplifies the theme of ambush, which is thematically associated with nighttime action, a theme that is uncommon in the surviving epics but would probably not seem unusual if more epic survived. Shewan, too, suggests this explanation (Shewan 1911:55): “The author had for once to narrate the events of a night anxiety, with much watching and waking, ending in a scouting expedition. One result was that he had to describe dress and accoutrements appropriate to the situation … Words may be rare to us; we cannot say they were really rare.” Iliad 10 is our only extended example of a night raid in extant epic poetry. It is an unusual theme from our perspective, but that does not mean it is “late” or “un-Homeric.” [11] The traditional theme of ambush at night almost certainly long predates our Iliad.
As valuable as Shewan’s energetic and exhaustive argumentation is, it is entirely, as we have already seen, the product of its own time. That time is nearly a century before our own, and it predates the paradigm-shifting discoveries of Parry and Lord later in the twentieth century. Much of Shewan’s defense of Iliad 10 is a reaction to the excesses of Analyst scholarship in its most extreme applications. Most problematic, however, is that Shewan’s defense (like Unitarian criticism more generally) is founded on an application of a modern literary aesthetic not unlike that which he criticizes in others. Shewan’s overarching thesis is that Iliad 10 is, like the rest of Homeric poetry, the work of a single poetic genius: “‘Wherever there is poetry there is a poet.’ For an Iliad or an Odyssey the genius of the poet is needed, to select, to blend, to transform and re-create. That, with the evidence which the poems themselves present of transcendent creative power, is the great argument for the existence of Homer” (Shewan 1911:xviii). Although Shewan is far more willing to see Iliad 10 and the rest of the Iliad and Odyssey as part of a single system, he is adamant that the uniformity he finds is the work of a single poet. And as Shewan makes clear in his opening pages, the primary reason to accept Iliad 10 as part of the Iliad is because it is, according to him, good poetry (see e.g. Shewan 1911:6, 10).
Shewan calls the thesis that Iliad is a “traditional book which [in the words of Gilbert Murray] ‘grew as its people grew’ … not merely improbable, but even unthinkable” (Shewan 1911:xix). Indeed, such a thesis was unthinkable for those scholars of the early twentieth century who perceived the poetry of the Iliad to be layered but also uniform, traditional but also dynamic and creative—the work, it seemed to them, of a master poet who was responsible for the sophisticated design and emotionally affective content of our Iliad. It was in the 1930s, when Milman Parry and his assistant Albert Lord went to Yugoslavia to study the oral epic tradition that then still flourished there, that the Homeric poems began to be understood as not only traditional but oral—that is, as products of performance rather than composition through the technology of writing. [12] Of course, scholars before Parry and Lord had proposed that the Iliad and Odyssey were composed orally, but never before had the system by which such poetry could be composed been demonstrated, nor were the implications of the creative process truly explored. In two expeditions to the former Yugoslavia in 1933–1935, Parry and Lord collected 12,544 songs, stories, and conversations from 169 singers of the South Slavic epic song tradition. Their unsurpassed, original fieldwork has been matched only by the work of Albert Lord himself, who took additional trips in the 1950s and 1960s. No two of the songs collected are exactly alike, nor do any two of the singers have exactly the same repertoire. These singers composed extremely long epic poems in performance. In order to do this they drew on a vast storehouse of traditional themes and phrases that worked within the meter or rhythm of the poetry. That is to say, they created and used what are called formulas to build each verse as they went along, instead of employing static, individual words or words memorized in a fixed order. Just as formulas are the building blocks of a line in performance, themes are the larger components that make up songs. The poets recorded by Parry and Lord moved from one theme to another as they sang; themes would have been connected in the oral poet’s mind and his plan for the song from their habitual association in the tradition. [13] This performance method results in each song being a new composition, which is the reason why no two songs that Parry and Lord recorded were ever exactly the same. Parry and Lord applied this fieldwork to the Homeric poems by analogy, and they were able to show how the workings of the South Slavic system reveal a great deal about how the Iliad and Odyssey were composed.
The work of Parry and Lord and the scholars who have built on their efforts suggests that in its earliest stages of development there was a great deal of fluidity in the Greek oral epic tradition. Countless variations on the story of the Trojan War and the episodes within it, the anger of Achilles, the returns of the heroes, and any number of traditional tales, are known to have been current in different times and different places in antiquity, and were likely sung by countless poets whose names are now lost to us. At the same time, because Greek oral epic poetry was traditional in content already in ancient times, any given audience on any given occasion of performance knew the story and the characters already. There would have been nothing about the story, the language, the rhythm of the song, or the characters that was new for that audience. A poet in a traditional song culture like that of the ancient Greeks could compose poetry in performance using techniques, plots, characters, and language that he had inherited from many previous generations of singers. The material and techniques were traditional, but each performance was a new composition—a recomposition, in and for performance. We assert that the very fact that the Iliad and Odyssey are “oral traditional” often allows even deeper and more complex levels of meaning than may be found in poetry that is composed in a literate, text-based culture.
How do Parry and Lord’s fieldwork and the resulting thesis that the Iliad was composed within an oral traditional system affect our understanding of Iliad 10? In our essay “The Poetics of Ambush” and in the commentary, we explore answers to this question in detail. For now, let us simply show how this approach takes a fundamentally different starting point in attempting to answer these questions and explicate the poetics of this book. Rather than begin with the question of authorship or authenticity, a Parry-Lord approach seeks to understand how Iliad 10 relates to the larger system of oral composition-in-performance in which these epics were composed. Because of certain duplications in the plots of Books 9 and 10 of the Iliad, as well as the time elapsed during the course of the night during which these events take place, it has been argued that Iliad 10 is a clumsy forgery (by someone other than “Homer”) meant to replace Iliad 9. (Note, however, that Iliad 9 was suspected throughout the nineteenth century of not being composed by “Homer.”) Instead of relying on such an unsatisfactory avoidance of the problems noted by scholars, a Parry-Lord approach might be as follows. First, we could make an analogy with the South Slavic tradition, where Parry and Lord documented that the most accomplished singers could expand their songs indefinitely by adding episodes paratactically, as the mood of the audience or occasion required. The events of the night in question highlight the effects of Achilles’ wrath and withdrawal, which constitute the central theme of the poem. It is in keeping with the poetics of an oral tradition to add additional episodes to this particular night. [14] Second, Iliad 10 is the only surviving example of an extended narrative about a night raid in Homeric poetry, even though we know there were many such episodes in the larger epic tradition. [15] In this commentary we argue that the night raid is a traditional theme, with its own traditional language, subthemes, conventions, and poetics, but nonetheless part of the same system of oral poetry to which the entire Iliad belongs. Finally, as Albert Lord himself suggested (Lord 1960/2000:194), Iliad 10 may be a legitimate multiform of Iliad 9, both books orally composed within the same traditional poetic system and therefore both equally “Homeric.”

Recent Homeric Scholarship and our Approach to Iliad 10

The work of Parry and Lord revolutionized Homeric studies. Although it took several decades for the implications of Parry’s arguments to be fully appreciated, and Lord did not publish his trailblazing Singer of Tales until 1960, the terms of Homeric debate have since fundamentally changed. The past seventy-five years of scholarship has sought to better understand the composition of our poems in light of Parry’s and, later, Lord’s work, and even those who are hostile to Parry’s methodology must ground their arguments in an entirely new framework. Before Parry went to Yugoslavia, many scholars believed that the Iliad and Odyssey had been orally composed, but they did not understand how the compositional process worked, and, as a result, they applied inappropriate methods of scholarly criticism or relied on assumptions that can seem comical now. For example, in the 1880s August Fick proposed that the Iliad was composed in Aeolic Greek and later translated by Ionic singers into their own dialect, and he even went so far as to produce editions of the Iliad (1886) and Odyssey (1883) with the Aeolic dialect restored wherever possible. Parry’s fieldwork by contrast provided a living example in which to observe how a poetic diction might evolve as its “vocabulary” of formulaic language passed from singer to singer and from one generation of singers to the next, thereby rendering the previous century’s body of scholarly inquiry into the question essentially obsolete.
Not all of the implications of this fieldwork, as articulated by Parry himself before his death and later by Lord, have been fully embraced, however, and much scholarship has been devoted to refining Parry’s initial findings about the economy of Homeric diction and the nature of the Homeric formula. [16] There is strong resistance among those who feel that Parry’s work somehow minimizes the artistry of the poems or that the principles he outlined restrict the creativity of poets composing in this medium. [17] Thus even those who accept Parry’s findings often seek to amend significant aspects of his arguments. We may be considered more “fundamentalist” in our acceptance of Parry and Lord’s work than most scholars. [18] Though we would argue against the notion of an “orthodoxy” in their work, or ours, we do nevertheless feel that the scope of Parry’s and Lord’s insights has been ignored, misread or misrepresented, or dismissed too quickly. [19] Some (though certainly not all) efforts to revise Parry and Lord are built on a misunderstanding of the principles they documented in their fieldwork and a lack of awareness of, or at least appreciation for, the kind of meaning made possible by an oral poetic tradition. That is not to say, however, that our approach and interpretations have not also greatly benefited from the work of scholars who have sought to better understand such essential concepts as the Homeric formula and the complex relationship between orality and literacy in ancient Greece. There is, however, a significant difference between scholarship that expands the central insights of Parry and Lord’s work, even while modifying certain notions or definitions, and scholarship that sets out to “prove” Parry (more often than Lord) “wrong” in order to conclude, usually with no further justification, that Homer wrote, or somehow “broke free” of the oral tradition of these epics.
Indeed, there persists a strong contingent of scholars who prefer to see a single genius at a fixed point in time behind the Iliad and Odyssey as we now have them. This individual poet is sometimes conceived of as literate, and at other times imagined as dictating the poems to another literate person. [20] It is an understandable preference, given our own literate culture’s conceptions of authorship and artistic genius. As Casey Dué (2006b) has pointed out, Parry himself seems to have begun his research with an interest in primitive genius. His first study of Homeric style, his 1928 doctoral thesis, begins with a quote about originality and primitive literature from Ernest Renan: “Comment saisir la physionomie et l’originalité des littératures primitives, si on ne pénètre la vie morale et intime de la nation, si on ne se place au point même de l’humanité qu’elle occupa, afin de voir et de sentir comme elle, si on ne la regarde vivre, ou plûtot si on ne vit un instant avec elle?” [21] Yet, even in spite of this expressed desire to understand poetry in the context of its culture, both Parry and Lord, at least at the very beginning of their careers, seem to have believed in a Homer, whose Yugoslav counterpart each thought they had found in Ćor Huso and Avdo Međedović, respectively.
Since those early publications, however, our understanding of oral traditions has evolved considerably, thanks not least to Lord, who undertook additional fieldwork and continued publishing until his death in 1991 (and whose book The Singer Resumes the Tale was published posthumously in 1995). A generation of scholars, moreover, has embraced Parry’s initial theories and their subsequent development by Lord. For every scholar who persists in attributing what is “good” about Homeric poetry to the creativity of a poetic genius, there is another scholar who approaches Homeric poetry as a system of interconnected poetic and cultural associations whose significance can often be uncovered with careful study of the poetry that has survived. These scholars do not deny that composers of epic poetry in the tradition that created our Iliad and Odyssey had creative power, nor do they rule out the possibility that one such composer could have risen to prominence. But in searching for meaning in Homeric poetry these scholars have focused on the way that the poetics of an oral tradition operate differently from those of a predominantly literate culture. In short, the absence of the intentionality of a master poet does not mean that there is not beauty, artistry, or a sophisticated structure in the poetry; it only means that they are achieved differently—and therefore must be interpreted and appreciated differently.
Some of Lord’s fundamental insights about how meaning is achieved and therefore must be understood have led to greater understanding of creativity and meaning in oral traditional poetry, as exemplified by the work of John Miles Foley, Richard Martin, and Gregory Nagy, among many others. In Lord’s discussion of the training of the singer, he observes that the singers learn the language of oral performance of poetry holistically, as a child learns a language. Thought, meter, and language are not separate in the process of composing-in-performance (Lord 1960/2000:31–36). Foley, who has continued the comparative work with the South Slavic oral tradition that Parry and Lord began (see e.g. Foley 1999:37–111), has built on this idea to arrive at his general dictum that “oral poetry works like language, only more so” (Foley 2002:127–128). As in language generally, Foley argues following Lord, the poet’s thought, not meter, is the driving force of expression. One way in which oral poetry is “more so,” Foley has shown, is that the compositional units that singers think and compose in are not individual words, but phrases, lines, and even combinations of multiple lines that have a meaning greater than the sum of the individual words. Both the singer and the audience who are within the tradition have easy access to this greater meaning because of their familiarity with the conventions of this language. Those of us outside the tradition (as all of us reading Homeric epic are) must reconstruct the traditional meaning as far as possible. Another way in which oral poetry is like language but more so, according to Foley, is through the added dimensions of performance (tone, gestures, pauses, etc.), which for Homeric poetry we do not have the opportunity to experience firsthand.
The special kind of meaning that Foley identifies and the way that singers use it and audiences experience it he calls “immanent art” (Foley 1991, see also Foley 1999 and 2002:109–124). When Lord briefly addresses the question of meaning in formulaic epithets, which those wanting to prove Parry wrong often choose as their target, he reiterates Parry’s definition of the “essential meaning” of the noun-epithet formula, but then adds the following idea of a traditionally intuitive meaning embedded in the formula:
Nevertheless, the tradition, what we might term the intuitions of singers as a group and as individuals who are preserving the inherited stories from the past—the tradition cannot be said to ignore the epithet, to consider it as mere decoration or even to consider it as mere metrical convenience. The tradition feels a sense of meaning in the epithet, and thus a special meaning is imparted to the noun and to the formula … I would prefer to call it the traditionally intuitive meaning.
Lord 1960/2000:66
Foley’s concept of immanent art and his applications of that concept systematically expand and enhance Lord’s own intuitive understanding of the deep meaning that resides in traditional language. [22] In Foley’s own words, an approach based in immanent art “seeks to understand the idiomatic implications” of the multiform formulas, scenes, and themes in an oral tradition “as indexes of a more-than-literal meaning, as special signs that point toward encoded traditional meanings. It aims beyond a nuts-and-bolts grammar and toward a working fluency in the language of oral poetry” (Foley 2002:109). In this way, Foley claims, we can see the artistry of the poet within his use of the traditional language.
In our analysis of Iliad 10, these useful concepts provide an important foundation for our interpretation of both small and large units of composition and meaning. We can argue that a certain formula has a particular resonance within the theme of ambush, for example, or that we see a flexibility of the traditional arming scene that allows the poet to adapt it for a night mission. As Foley has shown, we need not reject Parry’s ideas of the usefulness of formulas for composition-in-performance (they are certainly so) simply because he did not also address the artistic possibilities inherent in them. Foley’s focus on the creation of meaning does not, as other scholarship has attempted to do, overturn the work of Parry and Lord, but rather uses their comparative fieldwork and their analysis of Homeric epic by analogy to construct the very kind of appropriate criticism and appreciation of Homeric language that Parry called for so many years ago. [23]
Richard Martin’s work extends the concepts of orality, traditionality, and performance in terms of understanding genres of both speech and poetry. He has taken the notion of expansion in oral composition-in-performance that Parry and Lord observed in action with the Serbian singers as a means of explaining the monumental size and rhetoric of the Homeric epics, and has extended the comparative work of Parry and Lord to include traditional poetry from African, Irish, and other cultures. He has also explored how epic incorporates and represents various other genres or subgenres, and how Homeric epic reflects its own performance medium. Some of the genres or traditional themes Martin has identified and explored, such as the cattle raid, are directly relevant to the connections we see between themes operating within the night missions of Iliad 10. But underlying this particular application of Martin’s work are the conceptual advances he has made in terms of understanding the play of genres within epic.
The work of Gregory Nagy, under whose direction we each wrote our dissertations, has informed and influenced ours to a considerable extent, one that is impossible to quantify. The range of his work and the numerous ways in which he has broadened the understanding of Homeric poetry are also difficult to summarize. His research includes comparative linguistics and the Indo-European background to the poetry, the religious concept of the hero and how it informs the epics, the performance of Homeric epic in antiquity, the textual tradition, the reception of Homeric poetry in other genres, synchronic and diachronic approaches to the epics, and the structure of mythical narratives (see Nagy 1974, 1979, 1990a, 1990b, 1996a, 1996b, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009). Although our interpretation of individual lines within the commentary as well as our overall approach will reveal the influence of Nagy’s work, we will highlight here just two important overarching ideas that have deeply affected what we want to achieve in this volume. The first is how the natural multiformity of composition-in-performance, articulated by Lord in terms of what he observed in the performances of the Serbian singers, [24] is reflected in the textual transmission of the Homeric epics. Nagy has asserted the importance of the scholia for understanding this aspect of the transmission. Our own explication of the text of Iliad 10, as introduced in the essay “Iliad 10: A Multitextual Approach” and the textual commentaries that accompany the four texts included in this volume, also understands multiforms within the textual record in terms of possible variations produced in performance that are equally possible and valid within the tradition.
The second key idea of Nagy’s that we would like to highlight here is a related one: the epic tradition evolved over time, and therefore we are required to take a diachronic perspective. In his evolutionary model, Nagy identifies five stages of evolution, which move from relatively most fluid to relatively most rigid over several centuries (for the most recent articulation of the model, see Nagy 2004:27). The implications of this model are many and significant. It fundamentally rejects the model which posits that an oral tradition came to an abrupt halt sometime in the eighth century bce when the new technology of writing was used to record the monumental epics of a single singer, who was able to transcend the limits of said tradition, which he effectively ended, and whose works we (for the most part) have in our textual sources dating only from the tenth century CE onwards. In replacing that outdated and untenable model, Nagy’s evolutionary model offers a better framework for understanding how an oral tradition and the technology of writing coexist and influence one another for a long time before writing becomes dominant. Under this model, the hypothesis that Iliad 10 was later inserted (interpolated) into a text that had been composed otherwise by a single author and was fixed at some earlier point becomes highly unlikely, if not impossible. Indeed, through the work of Parry, Lord, Foley, Martin, Nagy, and others, we recognize that this is simply not the way oral traditional poetry operates. Therefore, we have the opportunity to consider Iliad 10 within the tradition and to try to understand it in oral poetic and evolutionary terms, rather than mistakenly applying a false notion about the “text” of the Iliad to it. We will return to these points again later.
We must note, however, that this significant body of scholarship is not well represented in the standard commentaries on Homer, most notably the Cambridge commentary edited by Geoffrey Kirk. Although the scholars who have contributed to that commentary are some of the world’s preeminent Homerists of the last few decades, and the learning represented therein should not be minimized, we feel strongly that the picture they create of the oral poetic background of the Iliad is inaccurate. The individual editors have all explored the nature of oral poetry in depth in their various publications, [25] but they apply it in ways that we find highly problematic. Each of these scholars in varying degrees merges our modern notion of authorship with Lord’s picture of an illiterate, orally composing bard. Rather than explore how meaning might be conveyed differently in an oral composition process, these scholars seem to prize the individual contribution of a single singer over the system as a whole. None denies of course that many previous generations of singers contributed to the traditional material with which their Homer works, but none is willing to let go of the genius of the individual master-poet, whom they credit with crafting the Iliad as we now know it. As a result, the criticism that they offer is not very different from what one might find for a modern author. If a passage seems particularly beautiful or bad or unusual, they look to the author’s intention for the evaluation of that passage.
In a 1970 publication, J. B. Hainsworth (one of the Cambridge editors) engaged directly the question of whether a new kind of criticism is necessary for oral poetry. [26] It is worth examining this essay in some detail, since Hainsworth is the author of the latest and currently most influential commentary on Iliad 10 (Hainsworth 1993). He begins by noting that conventional literary criticism for Homeric poetry is anachronistic and inadequate:
Some of these judgments are no more than the stock responses of their age to epic poetry. The critic regards the poems from his own point of view; he discovers what he expects to find; and he passes a judgment that illuminates the workings of his own mind but sheds nothing but darkness upon Homer’s.
Hainsworth 1970:90
Hainsworth’s use of the name Homer here to imply an individual’s mind, akin to the critic’s, is significant. Few scholars have studied the oral aspects of Homeric poetry and the work of Parry and Lord in as much depth as Hainsworth, but he is insistent in his assignation of the Iliad to an author named Homer. The rest of the essay then is devoted to trying to determine in what ways we may detect Homer’s particular poetic skills. Hainsworth suggests that we understand our Iliad as a performance, and approach it as we might a dramatic performance. Thus there are two levels to consider: the poem itself, and the performance of it. He asserts that the Iliad is a particularly good performance, with few lapses. But is it also a good poem, and by what standards may we judge it? Hainsworth concludes that it is indeed a good poem, and he looks to what the poem says about itself and its own purpose in trying to determine how it is good. To this approach we have no objection. But once again the problem of authorship presents itself. Hainsworth seems to be determined to define, not just what is good about Homeric poetry, but what is good about Homer:
Contamination or transfer of plots might be a stroke of genius and imagination … They are the means whereby Homer has extended his poems to their monumental length, an important piece of artistry, for a poet who could not transcend his tradition in this way could only lengthen his poem by over-ornamentation of its original episodes.
Hainsworth 1970:96, emphasis ours
Even though elsewhere in the essay Hainsworth quotes Parry as saying that “[t]he fame of a singer comes not from quitting the tradition but from putting it to the best use,” [27] he assumes that a composer fully immersed in the tradition cannot compose poetry of the sophisticated, complex quality of our Iliad. He must “transcend his tradition.” [28] And so, although he admits that conventional literary approaches are inadequate, Hainsworth concludes that Homer is a special case “unlike typical oral poetry” and “amenable to the canons of orthodox criticism”:
The art of the episodes certainly resembles that of oral epic in other lands, and we should be prudent at this level to consider carefully the assumptions of our criticism. But the greater architecture of the poems appears to be unlike typical oral poetry. It is more like drama, and therefore more amenable to the canons of orthodox criticism. For all the proliferation of comparative studies Homer remains a very special case.
Hainsworth 1970:98
It seems to us that Hainsworth, no less than the scholars of previous eras that he criticizes, has failed to transcend his own age in his finding that Homer is a “special case,” an oral poet who can be an author (in the modern sense of that word). The Homer who composes orally but who can for the most part be treated as a modern literary figure is perhaps the most prevalent of paradigms in which current Homeric scholarship operates, and this assumption is central to the most recent approaches to Iliad 10. Hainsworth’s 1993 commentary on Iliad 10 is grounded in the assumption that Iliad 10 is oral traditional poetry, but has been composed by someone other than “Homer,” a poet who is by implication throughout not nearly as skilled as our Homer (see especially Hainsworth 1993:151–155). As we noted earlier, even while admitting that most arguments offered by earlier scholars against the book have proven flawed, Hainsworth asserts that points that seem of little weight unto themselves add up to only one conclusion—namely, that the book was not originally part of the Iliad and was composed and adapted to the Iliad by a later poet. [29]
Hainsworth is in this respect following the basic arguments of Georg Danek, whose 1988 monograph Studien zur Dolonie is the most recent extended treatment of Iliad 10 before our own. Danek’s monograph is not unlike Shewan’s in many respects. It offers a spirited defense of Iliad 10 as an orally composed, traditional piece of poetry. But rather than emphasize its shared features with Homeric poetry as Shewan does, Danek emphasizes the book’s unusual features. Like Shewan, Danek argues that the Doloneia is good poetry composed by a good poet, but for Danek that poet is not Homer. He is instead a poet working in the same tradition, somewhat later than the composer of the Iliad. This poet strives for a personal style that is lively. He makes clever use of convention, deliberately alludes to the Iliad, tries to introduce colloquial words, attempts to make scenes more visually stimulating, and intentionally varies formulaic language.
Danek, like many scholars following Parry and Lord, seeks to reconcile our understanding of the Iliad as traditional, orally composed poetry with the long-held feeling that Iliad 10 is somehow different. Like Shewan’s, his rigorous analysis of individual passages reveals that the language and style are not as different as has long been assumed, but it is different enough in his eyes to assert different authorship. The fieldwork of Parry and Lord, however, is at odds with Danek’s hypothesis. Danek assumes that his poet of the Doloneia could both be traditional and seek to create a personal style. But poets in a traditional process like that which Parry and Lord describe do not seek to innovate. Parry asserted that such a poet “would not think of trying to express ideas outside the traditional field of thought of the poetry” and “make[s] his verses easily by means of a diction which time has proved to be the best.” [30] An example of an approach that seeks in the poetics of oral poetry a deeper appreciation of how Iliad 10 is thematically consistent with the Iliad as a whole is found in Dan Petegorsky’s 1982 doctoral dissertation. Petegorsky argues that a search for “texts” and assumptions about “lateness” should be set aside, and we should rather investigate why a poet might evoke a theme that seems—to us, with our frame of reference—“Odyssean.” In contrast to Danek’s conclusion, Petegorsky argues that the different thematic feel to the Doloneia, rather than exposing its inauthenticity or non-Homeric authorship, instead defines the Iliad’s place within the epic tradition. [31]
Following Parry and Lord, we have taken an approach different from that of previous scholars to understanding the unusual content of Iliad 10 and indeed the poetics of the Iliad as a whole, and our approach differs significantly from some of the latest scholarly work on the book. We have seen that a combination of insistence on an individual author and distaste for the poetry of Iliad 10 has led to the conjecture that it was composed by an entirely different author. Martin West’s 1998–2000 Teubner Iliad, an edition that is quickly becoming the standard text of the poem for most scholars and translators and will likely influence our understanding of Homeric poetry for decades to come, brackets Iliad 10 in its entirety as an interpolation that does not belong in the poem. West’s Homer, however, is not the orally composing bard of Danek or Hainsworth. His Homer is described on the first page of his introduction to the Teubner text this way : “Ilias materiam continet iamdiu per ora cantorum diffusam, formam autem contextumque qualem nos novimus tum primum attinuit, cum conscripta est; quod ut fieret, unius munus fuit maximi poeta” (“The Iliad contains material diffused through the mouths of singers for a long time, but the form and construction that we now know was first attained when it was written down. In order for this to happen, it had to be the work of one, very great poet”). West acknowledges the oral tradition that furnished material on which the Iliad was based, but then says that our Iliad took its form when it was first written down. This was the work of a maximus poeta, a genius, who could write. That the poet was also the writer is made clear as West continues: “per multos annos, credo, elaboravit et, quae primum strictius composuit, deinceps novis episodiis insertis mirifice auxit ac dilatavit” (“Throughout many years, I believe, he labored over it, and what he had at first put together concisely, he later wonderfully expanded and extended it by inserting new episodes”). It would seem that we have entered a new millennium without gaining new ground when it comes to the Doloneia or our appreciation of oral poetics.
In the following essay, “The Poetics of Ambush,” we present in great detail our exposition of the traditional theme of ambush as expressed in Iliad 10, but as also seen in several other places within the ancient Greek epic tradition. For now we situate our work within current Homeric scholarship by highlighting our methodological debts to the work of Parry, Lord, and those who have carried on and expanded their insights. Our starting assumptions are that this episode is as traditional as any other part of the epic and that it is our task to understand it within that tradition. The commentary serves to demonstrate that an oral-traditional approach not only illuminates certain portions of the epic, but also succeeds on a sustained, line-by-line analysis of an entire book.
In terms of our approach, the question of authorship is a futile one. When we use the name “Homer,” we mean it not as an individual author, the master-poet, but rather as a convenient name for the Iliad and Odyssey traditions. [32] Similarly, when we use the term “Homeric,” we mean belonging to that tradition. We need then to further define what we mean by “tradition.” As John Foley has noted (1999:xii), “tradition” is a wide-ranging concept that is not easy to define, and it does indeed encompass several interrelated concepts. One defining aspect of “tradition” is the notion of “handing down,” and one of our basic assumptions is that there was a “handing down” of epic songs in ancient Greek culture for many centuries, starting in the second millennium BCE. This process of “handing down” reveals how closely the epic tradition is related to epic language. We have discussed how the fieldwork of Parry and Lord provided a systematic explication of how this language works in performance, allowing the singer to rapidly compose as he performs. It is also this language that allows the songs, an important conduit of cultural memory, to be learned and recomposed in performance by the next generation of singers. So when we speak of “traditional language” we mean the formulaic phrases and themes that make up the singers’ repertoire within this culture over time. Tradition, in the sense of handing down the language of songs composed in performance, is both conservative and dynamic. [33] There is a cultural premium placed on singing the song the same way every time, just as the singer learned it, but, because each performance recomposes the song anew, the singer may create, from his experience with the traditional language, new phrases. [34] If a new phrase is found to be good and useful by other singers, it can become traditional in the sense that it will be used by these other singers. But, as Parry and Lord’s fieldwork has shown, the singer is not consciously attempting to create something new. [35] Because, as we have just seen, several scholars have insisted that the language of Iliad 10 is idiosyncratic (whether in a good way or bad way, because the composer either wanted to create something new or was a hack), our investigations into the traditional nature of the language of Iliad 10 is intended to explore and explain the ways in which it is like the rest of the system of epic language as exemplified by the Iliad and Odyssey.
One other crucial aspect of “tradition” still to discuss is the song’s reception by the audience. The singer uses the language of tradition, not simply because it is necessary for the composition of the song, but because that language conveys meaning to his audience. [36] As Foley describes this process: “Either explicitly or implicitly oral poets are constantly establishing and reestablishing the authority of their words and ‘words’ by reaffirming their ties to an ongoing way of speaking, to an expressive mode larger than any one individual … It creates a frame of reference within which the poet will operate and identifies for the audience what well-marked path to follow” (Foley 2002:91). Because the songs are handed down from generation to generation, their subject matter and language are already familiar to the audience, opening up the possibility for greater and special meaning, what Foley calls “traditional referentiality.” Tradition, then, also means this larger frame of reference for any one instance of a formula or theme. When we speak of a “traditional audience,” we mean members of the culture within which the song was handed down and recomposed in performance. In this aspect of tradition, too, there is variability and both synchronic and diachronic aspects. [37] But when we invoke a traditional audience, we do so in an attempt to capture the way that meaning in this larger frame is created between singer and audience. We, as outsiders to the culture, must recover this dynamic as best we can using the evidence that remains.
The approach we have taken intersects in some ways with the aims of Neo-Analyst scholars, such as Jonathan Burgess, who seek to show that in an oral tradition it is possible for a poet composing an epic like the Iliad to make use of the themes and structures of other traditional poems in ways that would be meaningful for an audience. [38] Like Burgess, we understand Iliad 10 to have been composed and performed within a long oral tradition of such poetry, and we argue that it is an example of a very ancient theme, the lokhos (see “The Poetics of Ambush”). For us, the theme of lokhos, with its traditional structure and diction, long predates our received text of the Iliad. So too do the narrative traditions about Rhesos predate our Iliad (see Fenik 1964 and our essay “Tradition and Reception,” below). Neo-Analysts have not typically applied their theoretical framework to Iliad 10 for the reasons already discussed in this essay. The Doloneia is usually thought to be a late composition, not an early one.
Our goal then is to better explicate the poetics of Iliad 10 and in turn to better understand the Homeric oral tradition as a whole. We have chosen this book because we feel it is the least understood of all the forty-eight books that comprise our Iliad and Odyssey and because it is almost universally denounced as “un-Homeric.” We do not seek to replace Hainsworth’s thorough 1993 commentary on the book, but rather to add to it and offer an alternative explanation/approach to many passages. Like Hainsworth, we understand Iliad 10 to be oral traditional poetry. But the results of our investigations are often very different from Hainsworth’s. Rather than look to the intention or skill of a particular composer in order to explain the poetry, we attempt to ground our readings in the meanings made possible by an oral tradition. In de-emphasizing authorship we do not deny the possibility that some form of authorship, in terms of the poet as a creative artist composing in performance, could exist in this oral tradition. But when the search for Homer’s genius is abandoned, many more illuminating possibilities often present themselves.
What is at stake in taking this approach is a better understanding of the language, structure, evolution, and cultural meaning of the epics. Our arguments confront deeply entrenched ideas about the Doloneia. The condemnation of Iliad 10 is so extensive that even a relatively recent book devoted to the theme of ambush, written from an avowedly oralist perspective, does not discuss Iliad 10, our most extensive example of ambush in surviving Greek epic. [39] Ignoring or only barely acknowledging Iliad 10 is a strategy employed by many scholars, who likely feel they must ignore it so as not to incur the charge of making arguments about Homer based on an “interpolated,” “un-Homeric,” or otherwise problematic text. Nevertheless, we feel that there is an entirely different way of treating this book. Rather than dismiss it as “un-Homeric” or pass over it in silence, we propose to show that Iliad 10 offers us unique insight into such important topics as the process of composition-in-performance, the traditional themes of Archaic Greek epic, the nature of the hero, and the creativity and artistry of the oral traditional language.
With this volume, we hope to make a contribution, through the application of Parry and Lord’s work on oral poetry, to the scholarship on Iliad 10 and on the Iliad as a whole. Like all scholars, we are operating under assumptions that may in time prove flawed, and we assume that we will be linked in the history of scholarship with a group of Homerists who began publishing in the late twentieth century, many of whom are the associates and former students of Gregory Nagy, who was himself a student and associate of Albert Lord. We would be proud to be so linked. But, by making our assumptions plain at the outset, we want to recognize and affirm what this approach offers in terms of understanding the poetry in its own cultural contexts, as well as to acknowledge the gaps in our knowledge and evidence. We hope to attract those readers who are willing to consider our arguments with an open mind. There will be some who on principle will reject our findings, but we hope that the majority of our readers, regardless of their Homeric affiliations, will find in our approach a way forward.


[ back ] 1. A recent article that discusses the history of scholarly objections to Iliad 8 (Cook 2009a) is similarly illuminating.
[ back ] 2. For more on the views of scholars prior to Wolf, see the introduction to the English translation of Wolf (edited by Grafton, Most, and Zetzel [1985]) as well as Simonsuuri 1979 and Dué 2006b. For an overview of the history of the Homeric Question see Turner 1997. Heiden 2009 reviews a recent reconsideration of the history of the Homeric Question by Luigi Ferreri.
[ back ] 3. For more detailed accounts of the Homeric Question and the Analyst and Unitarian approaches to the text see the introduction by Adam Parry to the collected works of his father Milman Parry (1971 = MHV) as well that of Frank Turner in the New Companion to Homer (1997). Much of the most disparaging language used of Iliad 10 has its origins in the work of Analyst scholars. Turner 1997:137 cites Wilamowitz-Moellendorff’s assessment of the Iliad as “a miserable piece of patchwork” and August Fick’s “The present Odyssey is a crime against human intelligence.” For more on the Unitarian approach, see our discussion of Shewan 1911, below.
[ back ] 4. Although Villoison had argued that the scholia in these manuscripts helped to stabilize the text of the Iliad and allow us to get closer to the “original,” Wolf argued that the scholia and the multiple readings they offered destabilized the text and rendered the recovery of Homer’s own words impossible; see Nagy 2004:4–5. The importance of the scholia for our approach to understanding the poetry will be apparent in our commentary.
[ back ] 5. A similar comment is also present in the commentaries of Eustathius. His version reads: Φασὶ δὲ οἱ παλαιοὶ τὴν ῥαψῳδίαν ταύτην ὑφ’ Ὁμήρου ἰδίᾳ τετάχθαι καὶ μὴ ἐγκαταλεγῆναι τοῖς μέρεσι τῆς Ἰλιάδος, ὑπὸ δὲ Πεισιστράτου τετάχθαι εἰς τὴν ποίησιν (“The ancients say that this epic composition was arranged separately by Homer and not counted among the parts of the Iliad, but it was arranged into that poem by Peisistratos,” Commentarii ad Homeri Iliadem III, p. 2).
[ back ] 6. See further below on the theory of Danek 1988, which is favored by Hainsworth 1993.
[ back ] 7. Lang 1995 offers an example of a more recent argument for an evolution of the song that explains what seem to be inconsistencies. In her argument, the song started as a linear telling of the Trojan War. Once it became a song about Achilles’ wrath, parts of the earlier tradition were arranged to fit it. For example, the so-called “viewing from the walls” by Helen and Priam seems to belong more naturally to the beginning of the war than its tenth year, according to Lang, but this scene was then fitted to the “restart” of the fighting after Achilles’ withdrawal.
[ back ] 8. Cf. Shewan 1911:14: “All the critics, a few Unitarians excepted, are satisfied that it is late … So sure are they that they do not trouble to give reasons, unless perhaps that its language is peculiar, or that it is ‘stuffed with oddities.’ They rely on common consent.”
[ back ] 9. Note, however, such critical judgments of Hainsworth’s as “crudely simplistic” and “cheap victory” (Hainsworth 1993:154). Fenik also expresses his low opinion of the Doloneia: “A marked inferiority in technique here cannot possibly be interpreted away, even with the best of will. There is no good reason for the patrol, it performs no function whatever, it brings no change or development in the situation” (Fenik 1964:40).
[ back ] 10. Chantraine (1937) has also examined such features in the textual tradition of Iliad 10. He focuses on variation in the textual record, especially instances where one variation is linguistically later than another and editors must choose between them. His conclusion is that these variations could have coexisted for a long time as the poetry was performed by rhapsodes, making an editor’s choice between them necessarily arbitrary.
[ back ] 11. See also Thornton 1984:168 on this point.
[ back ] 12. On the work of Parry and Lord, its implications, and its legacy in Homeric scholarship, see also Foley 1997 and 2005b and the introduction by Mitchell and Nagy to the (2000) second edition of Lord 1960.
[ back ] 13. On composition by theme in the South Slavic and Homeric oral traditions, see also Powell 1977 and Friedrich 2002.
[ back ] 14. This concept is very different from the ideas of Leaf that we noted above. He conceived of the two books as “rivals” of one another that were only thrown together in some final text-based redaction. With paratactic addition, episodes such as we see in Iliad 9 and 10 could have been sung in sequence by the same singer for the same audience on the same occasion.
[ back ] 15. These are discussed below in our essay entitled “The Poetics of Ambush.” See also Kullmann 1960:86 and Fenik 1964:12–13.
[ back ] 16. On these concepts see Lord 1960/2000:30–67, Nagler 1967, Hainsworth 1968, Clark 1994, Edwards 1997, and Russo 1997 with further bibliography ad loc.
[ back ] 17. Cf. Edwards 1997: “I shall discuss the progress made in certain specific areas, beginning with the realization of the problems Parry’s discoveries caused for appreciating Homer’s creative genius” (261). Such a formulation does not take into account Lord’s emphasis on the creativity of the oral poet, a creativity that operates within the tradition, not apart from or in opposition to it (see e.g. Lord 1960/2000:13, 29).
[ back ] 18. The phrase “dogmatic fundamentalism of the Parry-Lord orthodoxy” was applied to Dué 2002 by Evans 2003.
[ back ] 19. See the recent review by Beck (2008) for a concise discussion of the debate over Parry’s work especially in terms of the creativity of the oral poet. Friedrich responds at BMCR 2009.02.29.
[ back ] 20. M. L. West is the most recent and most prominent scholar to maintain that Homer was literate. For a summary and critique of the various dictation theories see Nagy 1996b:30–35. One of the most significant problems is that the dating of this literate poet (or his literate recorder) in these arguments is to the time when alphabetic writing was a new technology for the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greeks themselves imagined Homer as an individual (named Homer), but recently scholars have shown that the ancient biographical information about the figure of Homer conforms to known patterns of Greek folklore, mythology, and poetics, and has no basis in any reliable information preserved from the lifetime of such a man. From the earliest references to Homer in antiquity this figure is already a mystery and a source of controversy, laid claim to by many groups, revered by all, but belonging to none. See Graziosi 2002. For a comparable attribution of an oral tradition to a single preeminent singer, see Foley 1998.
[ back ] 21. Parry 1928:1, quoting Renan 1890:292. See Lord 1948:34.
[ back ] 22. We may compare as well the work of Christos Tsagalis, who writes of the formula this way (Tsagalis 2008:xx): “The formula is not an external characteristic of epic language but a symbiotic feature operating on multiple levels and guiding us into a labyrinthine path of associations and interconnections. Formulaic diction is a mechanism whose surviving traces in Homeric epic cannot be attributed to recognized traditions but to a diachronically diffused set of relations going back to Indo-European strata. The reconstruction of this framework helps us to explore the deep structure of the epics by looking beyond the elliptical shape into which originally complex imagery has been crystallized during the process of shaping epic song.” See also Graziosi and Haubold 2005 on the “resonance” of Homeric diction.
[ back ] 23. Parry MHV 2 (= 1928:1–2), at the very beginning of his work “The Traditional Epithet in Homer,” asserts the same kind of need for understanding how meaning is implicitly created through this traditional language: “The task, therefore, of one who lives in another age and wants to appreciate that work correctly, consists in precisely rediscovering the varied information and the complexities of ideas which the author assumed to be the natural property of his audience.” Similarly, Parry argues that by understanding how the language of oral traditional poetry operates in practice “we are compelled to create an aesthetics of traditional style” (MHV 21 = Parry 1928:25–26).
[ back ] 24. For example, Lord 1960/2000: “To the superficial observer, changes in oral tradition may seem chaotic and arbitrary. In reality this is not so. It cannot be said that ‘anything goes.’ Nor are these changes due in the ordinary sense to failure of memory of a fixed text, first, of course, because there is no fixed text, second, because there is no concept among singers of memorization as we know it, and third, because at a number of points in any song there are forces leading in several directions, any one of which the singer may take” (120).
[ back ] 25. See especially Kirk 1962 and 1976, Janko 1982, and Hainsworth 1968. M. W. Edwards has published many articles emphasizing the possibility of and mechanisms for individual creativity in an oral traditional medium. See e.g. Edwards 1966, 1980, 1997, and 2005.
[ back ] 26. The question has been asked and answered (usually negatively) by many. See e.g. Austin 1975 (passim), Kirk 1976:201–217, and Edwards 1997. Cf. Richardson 1978, reviewing Kirk 1976: “It is refreshing to find Homer once again restored to the company of his peers (Virgil and Milton in fact) after a generation in which he consorted chiefly with guslars.”
[ back ] 27. Hainsworth 1970:91 quoting Parry 1932:14.
[ back ] 28. Lord points out that such a goal implies a writing poet: “His manner of composition differs from that used by a writer in that the oral poet makes no conscious effort to break the traditional phrases and incidents” (1960/2000:5). Later, in response to Cedric Whitman’s conception of a “Homer” who saw the benefit of writing his song down, Lord asserts: “The trouble with Whitman’s ‘creative artist’ is that, in spite of the fact that he is said to compose entirely as an oral poet, he is not in the tradition; he is not an oral traditional poet. And oral poets who are not traditional do not exist” (1960/2000:155; original emphasis).
[ back ] 29. See Hainsworth 1993:154. A similar argument was made by Klingner 1940, who appreciates the differences a night setting requires, but who uses those differences to argue against its place in the Iliad.
[ back ] 30. Parry 1932:7–8 (= MHV 330). See also note 28, above, for Lord on the necessary traditionality of the poet.
[ back ] 31. Petegorsky 1982:175–254. Similarly, Thornton (1984:164–169) gives in an appendix a brief “defense” of Iliad 10 in which she argues ways it can be seen as integrated into the Iliad as a whole. Another notable exception to the general condemnation of Iliad 10 and/or speculation about separate authorship in the twentieth century can be found in the work of Stanley 1993: “For their part, Unitarian students of the overall design of the poem, including Sheppard [1922:83] and Whitman [1958:283–284], have rejected the Doloneia as an interlude at best. We shall see, on the contrary, that it is indispensable to the larger pattern of Books 8–17, no less than to the entire twenty-four-book structure, and is thus essential to the discourse of our Iliad” (1993:119). But Stanley’s concluding remarks about the book reveal an essentially negative view of the actions of Odysseus and Diomedes in Iliad 10: “their achievement, now and later, is based not on heroic honor but on clever exploitation; and its rewards are merely a surplus of things, not tokens of glory” (1993:128). In “The Poetics of Ambush” and in the commentary below we make precisely the opposite argument, namely, that mētis and biē are complementary paths to achieving glory and distinction (kleos and kudos) in Homeric epic and that both are prized as being characteristic of the “best” of the Achaeans.
[ back ] 32. See Nagy 1996b:20–22 on the dangers of implying such an individual when one uses “Homer” as the subject of a verb.
[ back ] 33. Foley makes note of these aspects in his definition of tradition as “a dynamic, multivalent body of meaning that preserves much that a group has invented and transmitted but which also includes as necessary, defining features both an inherent indeterminacy and a predisposition to various kinds of changes or modifications. I assume, in short, a living and vital entity with synchronic and diachronic aspects that over time and space will experience (and partially constitute) a unified variety of receptions” (Foley 1995:xii).
[ back ] 34. As we note several times in this book, Lord describes the language of epic singing as operating the way language itself does (Lord 1960/2000:35–36). Thus the opportunity for change is ever present. He also emphasizes the creative opportunities for the poet: “It is sometimes difficult for us to realize that the man who is sitting before us singing an epic song is not a mere carrier of the tradition but a creative artist making the tradition” (Lord 1960/2000:13). Likewise, Nagy notes: “Moreover, I recognize that tradition is not just an inherited system: as with language itself, tradition comes to life in the here-and-now of real people in real situations” (Nagy 1996b:15). See also Lord 1960/2000:36–43 for his argument that the singer’s creation of phrases by analogy with others he has learned is the basis for his artistry.
[ back ] 35. As Lord puts it: “In order to avoid any misunderstanding, we must hasten to assert that in speaking of ‘creating’ phrases in performance we do not intend to convey the idea that the singer seeks originality or fineness of expression. He seeks expression of the idea under stress of performance. Expression is his business, not originality, which, indeed, is a concept quite foreign to him and one that he would avoid, if he understood it. To say that the opportunity for originality and for finding the ‘poetically’ fine phrase exists does not mean that the desire for originality also exists” (Lord 1960/2000:44–45, original emphasis).
[ back ] 36. Parry describes the goal of anyone who wants to truly understand traditional poetry as recovering what the audience would know implicitly (MHV 2; see above, note 23). Foley succinctly states: “Tradition comprises the body of implications summoned by performance and shared between performer and audience” (Foley 2002:130).
[ back ] 37. As Dué 2002 notes: “This traditional audience is not a precisely definable entity if we think of each performance as a new composition, and, depending on the time, place, and occasion of performance, the definition of ‘tradition’ changes. What is ‘tradition’ in Lesbos in, say, 600 B.C. might be unfamiliar if not obscure in Chios in 550 B.C.” (2n5). On the traditional audience, see also Lord 1960/2000:148–157 and Martin 1993:227–228 and 238. On traditional referentiality, see also Danek 2002:5–6, building on the work of Foley: “a story, though presented in one individual performance, is nonetheless only understandable as a metonymy within a larger context. Thus, the version of the performed song evokes pars pro toto the entire background of its tradition, doing so on three levels: (1) On the level of language through the usage of traditional poetic diction and through formulaic phrases. (2) On the level of (the smallest units of) content through the usage of traditional motifs and type-scenes. (3) On the level of song structure through the usage of traditional patterns of plot.” Kelly 2007 is a commentary on Iliad 8 that seeks to explicate the traditional referentiality of that book. In many ways then Kelly’s approach overlaps with our own. See, however, Cook 2009b for some of the limitations of Kelly’s methodology. Unlike Kelly, we have not restricted ourselves to the Iliad in trying to recover the poetics of ambush that underlie Iliad 10.
[ back ] 38. See especially Burgess 2006 and, for an overview of the approach, Finkelberg 2003. Danek, whose 1988 book we have discussed above, also takes a Neo-Analytical approach to the Homeric poems (see e.g. Danek 1998 and 2002). For a model for our contention, explored further below in “The Poetics of Ambush,” that Iliad 10 may interact with or allude to similar episodes in the Epic Cycle, we can look to Burgess 2001. For interactions between the Iliad and Odyssey see Nagy 1979 and Edwards 1985.
[ back ] 39. See Edwards 1985. Edwards included a short appendix on Iliad 10 in his 1981 dissertation, but it does not appear in his 1985 monograph, where Iliad 10 is mentioned only in passing.