Commentary

10.1ff. The opening lines of this book follow what seems to be a traditional pattern in which a pressing situation causes an inability to sleep, which in turn results in the formulation of a plan of action. We can compare 10.1ff. to the beginnings of Books 2 and 9 for a more complete understanding of the workings and traditional structure of this theme. Iliad 2 begins:
ἄλλοι μέν ῥα θεοί τε καὶ ἀνέρες ἱπποκορυσταὶ
εὗδον παννύχιοι, Δία δ᾽ οὐκ ἔχε νήδυμος ὕπνος,
ἀλλ᾽ ὅ γε μερμήριζε κατὰ φρένα ὡς Ἀχιλῆα
τιμήσῃ, ὀλέσῃ δὲ πολέας ἐπὶ νηυσὶν Ἀχαιῶν.
ἥδε δέ οἱ κατὰ θυμὸν ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλή
Iliad 2.1–5
The rest of the gods and the men who wear horse–hair helmets
slept all night long, but deep sleep did not hold Zeus.
Instead, he was divided in his mind how Achilles
he would honor, and cause the destruction of many at the ships of the Achaeans.
This is the plan that seemed best in his heart …
Iliad 9 similarly starts at night:
ὣς οἱ μὲν Τρῶες φυλακὰς ἔχον· αὐτὰρ Ἀχαιοὺς
θεσπεσίη ἔχε φύζα φόβου κρυόεντος ἑταίρη,
πένθεϊ δ᾽ ἀτλήτῳ βεβολήατο πάντες ἄριστοι.
ὡς δ᾽ ἄνεμοι δύο πόντον ὀρίνετον ἰχθυόεντα
5 Βορέης καὶ Ζέφυρος, τώ τε Θρῄκηθεν ἄητον
ἐλθόντ᾽ ἐξαπίνης· ἄμυδις δέ τε κῦμα κελαινὸν
κορθύεται, πολλὸν δὲ παρὲξ ἅλα φῦκος ἔχευεν·
ὣς ἐδαΐζετο θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν Ἀχαιῶν.
Ἀτρεΐδης δ᾽ ἄχεϊ μεγάλῳ βεβολημένος ἦτορ
10 φοίτα κηρύκεσσι λιγυφθόγγοισι κελεύων
κλήδην εἰς ἀγορὴν κικλήσκειν ἄνδρα ἕκαστον …
Iliad 9.1–11
So the Trojans kept holding watches. But the Achaeans
were held by awesome panic, the companion of chilling fear,
and all the best men were struck by unendurable sorrow.
As when two winds stir up the sea with all its fish,
5 the North wind and the West wind, which blow from Thrace
coming suddenly, and at the same time a dark wave
towers up, and it pours out much seaweed alongside the sea,
so the heart in the breasts of the Achaeans was torn.
And the son of Atreus, struck in his heart by great sorrow,
10 went about telling the clear-voiced heralds
to call each man by name to assembly …
The use of ἔχω ‘hold’ in all three passages suggests that even such a common verb can have a traditional poetic resonance in this context. The simile in 9.4–7 resembles the simile in 10.5–8 (discussed further below), in that both use an example from the natural world to convey a heightened emotional state. Whereas in Books 9 and 10 it is Agamemnon and/or the Achaean warriors who are in turmoil, in Book 2 it is Zeus who cannot sleep, as he turns over in his mind how best to accomplish what he has promised to Thetis in Book 1. (Agamemnon, by contrast, is sleeping soundly in this book, and the Dream sent by Zeus reproaches him for it at Iliad 2.23–24.) Zeus’ sleeplessness in Book 2 is not elaborated with a simile, but there the emotional state being conveyed is not one of great sorrow and fear, as it is in Books 9 and 10. The sorrow evoked by the similes of 9 and 10 marks in each case the beginning of a change in plan that will lead to a nighttime episode, a sequence that is in keeping with the incendiary power of lament. (For more on the similes’ associations with lament, see below. On the power of lament to spur action, see Dué 2006a:47 and bibliography ad loc.)
The three passages together give us a sense of both the strongly felt structure and the flexibility of the traditional system in which they were composed. In Books 2 and 10, a single individual cannot sleep. In Book 9, the whole Achaean army remains awake, but once the simile is complete the focus shifts to an individual, Agamemnon, who is of course the same sleepless individual being described in Book 10. The heightened emotional situation in Books 9 and 10 leads to a simile describing that state. If we postulate that Books 9 and 10 are possible multiforms of one another (see above, p. 13), each introducing an alternative narrative that encompasses the same dramatic night, then it is illuminating to note that they begin in much the same way, following a traditional pattern that expresses anxiety or fear and the resultant sleeplessness as a prelude to nighttime action. This pattern seems to be related, though not identical, to descriptions of the cognitive process that leads to a decision being made (characterized by the verb μερμηρίζειν, as in Iliad 2.3 and also on 10.503 below, on which see Arend 1933:106–115) and/or a plan being formulated, for which we find the use of the word βουλή at both Iliad 2.5 and 10.17. (See also Iliad 9.75 and testimonium 1 of the Cypria [Bernabé] and below on 10.43–44 and 10.302.) It is instructive to compare the beginning of Book 24, where Achilles, unlike the other Greeks, cannot sleep because of his grief. There, no plan is being formulated, and the scene makes use of virtually none of the formulaic language that we find in 2, 9, and 10. This suggests that, as Lord has argued on the basis of comparative evidence, formulas are closely tied to particular themes (Lord 1960/2000:49). (For further analysis of the relationship between Books 2 and 10, as well as 1 and 9, see Haft 1990 and above, “The Poetics of Ambush”).
Although Achilles’ sleeplessness in Book 24 does not follow the pattern that we have traced in Books 2, 9, and 10, there is a compressed version of the theme in Book 24, in which Hermes, like Zeus in Book 2, does not sleep as he ponders how to help a mortal. This theme appears after Priam has gone stealthily into the Achaean encampment to supplicate Achilles and ransom Hektor’s corpse. After Achilles has agreed both to ransom the corpse and to enforce a cease-fire so that a funeral for Hektor may be held, Priam and his herald go to sleep in the forecourt (prodomos) of Achilles’ shelter, while Hermes, who escorted Priam to the Achaean encampment, ponders how to get him home safely:
οἳ μὲν ἄρ’ ἐν προδόμῳ δόμου αὐτόθι κοιμήσαντο
κῆρυξ καὶ Πρίαμος πυκινὰ φρεσὶ μήδε’ ἔχοντες,
675 αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς εὗδε μυχῷ κλισίης ἐϋπήκτου·
τῷ δὲ Βρισηῒς παρελέξατο καλλιπάρῃος.
ἄλλοι μέν ῥα θεοί τε καὶ ἀνέρες ἱπποκορυσταὶ
εὗδον παννύχιοι μαλακῷ δεδμημένοι ὕπνῳ·
ἀλλ’ οὐχ Ἑρμείαν ἐριούνιον ὕπνος ἔμαρπτεν
680 ὁρμαίνοντ’ ἀνὰ θυμὸν ὅπως Πρίαμον βασιλῆα
νηῶν ἐκπέμψειε λαθὼν ἱεροὺς πυλαωρούς.
στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς καί μιν πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπεν·
ὦ γέρον οὔ νύ τι σοί γε μέλει κακόν, οἷον ἔθ’ εὕδεις
ἀνδράσιν ἐν δηΐοισιν, ἐπεί σ’ εἴασεν Ἀχιλλεύς.
685 καὶ νῦν μὲν φίλον υἱὸν ἐλύσαο, πολλὰ δ’ ἔδωκας·
σεῖο δέ κε ζωοῦ καὶ τρὶς τόσα δοῖεν ἄποινα
παῖδες τοὶ μετόπισθε λελειμμένοι, αἴ κ’ Ἀγαμέμνων
γνώῃ σ’ Ἀτρεΐδης, γνώωσι δὲ πάντες Ἀχαιοί.
ὣς ἔφατ’, ἔδεισεν δ’ ὃ γέρων, κήρυκα δ’ ἀνίστη.
Iliad 24.673–689
They there in the forecourt of the home bedded down,
the herald and Priam having schemes one after the other [pukina] in their minds.
675 But Achilles was sleeping in the inner room of the well-built tent,
and fine-cheeked Briseis lay next to him.
The rest of the gods and the men who wear horse-hair helmets [= Iliad 2.1]
slept all night long, overcome by gentle sleep [= Iliad 10.2],
but not Hermes the helper—sleep did not lay hold of him
680 as he pondered in his heart how king Priam
he would send back from the ships without the sacred guards of the gate noticing.
He stood over his head and addressed words to him:
“Old man, now no evil is a concern to you, seeing how you sleep
among enemy men, since Achilles allowed you to.
685 And now you have ransomed your dear son, and you have given much.
But to get you back alive they would give even three times as much,
those sons of yours whom you left behind, if Agamemnon
the son of Atreus were to recognize you, and all the Achaeans recognize you.”
So he spoke, and the old man was afraid and he got the herald up.
We find the same traditional language in 24.677–678 as we see in Iliad 2.1 and Iliad 10.2, respectively. One god or mortal is sleepless while everyone else rests. We do not find the term βουλή here as we do in Books 2 and 10, but we do have the verb ὁρμαίνω at 24.680 to indicate the formulation of a plan. The same verb is used at 10.4, as Agamemnon ponders many things in a state of sleeplessness. The astonishing situation in which this theme appears (that is, Priam sleeping among the enemy and needing to get out without the guards noticing or anyone recognizing him) may also have more in common with the plan that is ultimately formulated here in Book 10, an infiltration of the enemy camp. In other words, Hermes ponders how to achieve the all-important return to one’s own camp. Priam’s secret expedition to Achilles has much in common with the theme of a spying mission, including the need for stealth, the eluding of guards, and danger in general. If Priam is caught, Hermes tells him, he will need to be ransomed just as he ransomed Hektor from the enemy. We can compare this exchange to Dolon’s offer that his father will ransom him, which he makes to Diomedes and Odysseus after they have captured him (see below on 10.378–381). The thematic association between Priam’s situation and other nighttime missions for spying or ambush may help us to better understand 24.674, where Priam and his herald are described as “having schemes one after another in their minds.” Though it is Hermes who comes up with the plan and ensures their safe homecoming, the words πυκινὰ and μήδεα are so associated with this kind of action (see below on 10.5–9) that Priam and the herald are credited with them even though they go to sleep in the middle of their mission (cf. Iliad 24.282 for the use of this same phrase at the beginning of their mission). For a discussion of the poetic implications of other instances of the word pukinos in Iliad 24 see Lynn-George 1988:230–233 and 240.
10.2 εὗδον In Homeric diction, past tense verbs frequently lack the past tense augment of later Greek. For more on the augment in Homer see on 10.47 below.
10.3 Ἀτρείδην Ἀγαμέμνονα ποιμένα λαῶν The epithet ποιμένα λαῶν ‘shepherd of the warriors’ is used most often of Agamemnon, to whom it is applied twelve times in the Iliad and three times in the Odyssey. But the phrase is also used of Nestor (three times in the Iliad; three in the Odyssey), Menelaos (two times in the Iliad; one in the Odyssey), and a number of other heroes, including Diomedes, Hektor (see on 10.406), and, in the Odyssey, Odysseus. The traditional epithet is the subject of the first of Milman Parry’s two doctoral theses published in 1928, theses which would revolutionize Homeric studies (see also above, “Interpreting Iliad 10”). Parry’s early work on the Homeric poems focuses on the traditional nature of the diction. L’Épithète traditionelle dans Homère; Essaie sur un problème de style homérique (= The Traditional Epithet in Homer) does not propose that the Homeric poems were composed orally, but theorizes that their traditional diction was the result of a system that had developed over a long period of time. Parry demonstrates both the utility of noun-epithet combinations in the composition of hexameter verse and the economy of Homeric diction, which rarely has more than one way of conveying what Parry calls “an essential idea” in the same metrical configuration. The principle of economy is so pervasive that Agamemnon can be called “shepherd of the warriors” even in instances where his leadership is not being stressed. This type of epithet is what Parry calls “ornamental” (MHV 21, 123–127). Since the epithet is applied to multiple heroes, it is also in Parry’s terms a generic epithet (MHV 64, 84–95). With respect to generic epithets, Parry says that the quality they express is one associated with heroes in general, rather than a hero in particular, and that the language is traditional and thus has a larger meaning for a traditional audience (MHV 137–138). Albert Lord has expanded on that idea: “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” (1960/2000:66; see also below on 10.144).
Therefore we need not make a choice between Parry’s groundbreaking revelations about the workings of Homeric diction and our appreciation of the beauty of this highly compressed metaphor, which names Agamemnon with reference to his role as the leader of the Achaean forces at Troy. As Parry’s student Albert Lord later shows, singers working within an oral composition-in-performance tradition can expand and compress their narratives under the influence of variety of factors. (See especially Lord 1960/2000:99–123.) In Homeric poetry, noun-epithet combinations are the ultimate compression of a hero’s story. (See Nagy 1990b: “A distinctive epithet is like a small theme song that conjures up a thought-association with the traditional essence of an epic figure, thing, or concept” [23], as well as Danek 2002:6.) For a traditional audience, these phrases conjure not just the present use but all previous performances, imbuing the language with what John Foley has discussed as “traditional referentiality” and “immanent art” (see especially Foley 1991 and 1999): “‘Grey-eyed Athena’ and ‘wise Penelope’ are thus neither brilliant attributions in unrelated situations nor mindless metrical fillers of last resort. Rather they index the characters they name, in all their complexity, not merely in one given situation or even poem but against an enormously larger traditional backdrop” (Foley 1999:18). Similarly, the metaphor of the shepherd is part of a traditional system of expanded associations whose more expanded implications are evoked even in this extremely compressed usage. (See Muellner 1990 and Edwards 1991:48–55.) For more on Parry’s work on generic epithets, see our extended discussion of them in connection with the epithet βοὴν ἀγαθός at 10.283.
This particular traditional metaphor of the shepherd juxtaposes, as we so often find in Homeric similes, peaceful pastoral life and war. When the epithet is used of Agamemnon and other heroes, it places them in a category of warriors who are also leaders and rulers. When we consider the poetics of shepherds from traditional Homeric similes, we can see that the metaphor emphasizes their responsibility to the warriors who follow them. Note, as an interesting contrast, that the dream that Zeus sends to Agamemnon in Book 2 tells him that a man who is responsible for the laoi and has so many concerns should not sleep all night long (2.24–25), while here that same shepherd of the laoi is indeed lying awake and cannot sleep.
By bringing their leadership into focus, this epithet also connects the heroes to other war narratives in which they play the leadership role. We can see why Agamemnon’s position as overall leader of the coalition at Troy attracts this particular formula twelve times in the Iliad. In the Odyssey, a poem that holds Agamemnon up as a negative exemplum for Odysseus throughout its narrative, the formula is only used of Agamemnon three times, and in all three of those cases Agamemnon is being remembered in his role as the leader of Achaean forces at Troy. Used of Diomedes, the epithet likely evoked for an ancient audience his role in the capture of Thebes as one of the Epigonoi; when it is used of Nestor, an association is made to the battles of the past that Nestor himself narrates at various points in the poem (see e.g. Iliad 11.668ff.). In this way the epithet has both paradigmatic significance, in that it places the hero in the category of leader, and syntagmatic meaning, in that it connects to specific expanded narratives about the hero in the larger epic tradition. (For more on the terms paradigmatic and syntagmatic, see Dué 2002:5–13.)
10.5–9 ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἂν ἀστράπτῃ πόσις Ἥρης ἠϋκόμοιο/…/ὡς πυκὶν᾽ ἐν στήθεσσιν ἀνεστενάχιζ᾽ Ἀγαμέμνων This simile has been condemned by previous editors as bad poetry and used as evidence that Book 10 was composed by an inferior poet. In his 1900 commentary, Leaf calls various aspects of the simile “so confused as to be practically unintelligible,” “a pointless comparison,” “turgid and tasteless,” and “an incompetent piece of expression.” Much more recently Hainsworth calls it “overstretched, to say the least” and “the first example of much strained thought and language in this book” (Hainsworth 1993 ad 10.5–9). In many ways, the response to this simile is emblematic of previous approaches to Book 10 as a whole. The arguments made in the introductory essays of this volume as to why a new approach to Book 10 is necessary are especially applicable here. The prominent position of the simile in this book and its highly compressed structure, which, like so many Homeric similes, defies traditional literary criticism, make it an ideal test case for the approach we have taken in this commentary.
Similes can teach us a great deal about the system in which our Iliad was composed. Although similes were once thought to be some of the latest, least traditional passages in the poem, drawn from the poet’s real world experiences (see e.g. Shipp 1972:7–144 and 208–222), we now know that this view is incorrect. The similes within epics, like the stories they narrate, have been shown to be traditional and to carry traditional associations that go far beyond the mere words of the similes themselves. (See Notopoulos 1957, Scott 1974, Moulton 1977, Muellner 1990, Martin 1997, and Tsagalis 2008:272–285, as well as Fränkel 1921 and Coffey 1957.) Often in epic we find very compressed similes whose fuller meaning would have been obvious to an audience raised in the tradition. A good example is the description of Hektor at Iliad 13.754–755: “He then sped onward, like a snowy mountain, and with a loud cry flew through the ranks of the Trojans and their allies” (ἦ ῥα, καὶ ὁρμήθη ὄρεϊ νιφόεντι ἐοικὼς/κεκλήγων, διὰ δὲ Τρώων πέτετ’ ἠδ’ ἐπικούρων). Mountains and snowstorms have particular associations, some of which are common to our culture, some which are not. For mountains, there is of course the association of height. But what are we to make of the adjective ‘snowy’? One possibility is that elsewhere in epic the flashing of armor is compared to the light reflecting off falling snowflakes, an association that would not perhaps come immediately to our minds. (See Janko 1992 ad 13.754–755 and Iliad 19.357ff.) But Edward Bradley (1967) has explored all references to snow in epic and found that the quality most often associated with it is “incessant movement,” a phrase that aptly describes Hektor in Iliad 13. So while for us the idea of comparing a quickly striding Hektor to a snowy mountain is almost comical, for an ancient audience the simile, compressed as it is, would no doubt have made perfect sense. It would have been part of a more expanded set of associations with snow and mountains but also more expanded versions of the same simile. So while we have to reconstruct those associations, an ancient audience would have made them effortlessly while listening to the performance. An ancient commentator called the effect of this comparison “savage and fearsome” and something about it must have struck Virgil, who adapts the simile in Aeneid 12.699ff.
Combined with the snowy mountain metaphor is another one, that of a bird in attack mode: “with a loud cry he flew through the ranks of the Trojans and their allies.” Leonard Muellner has examined this second part of the simile as an example of the way that epic similes and metaphors operate within an expanded system of associations. By comparing this particular instance of bird imagery (“with a loud cry” and “flew”) to other bird similes in related contexts, Muellner is able to show that the narrator is drawing on conventional imagery depicting the rapid movements of mustering warriors and their horses—imagery that we can now see pairs well with a comparison to snow. (See Muellner 1990:68n19.)
The traditionality of these similes and metaphors, which are themselves micronarratives within the larger narrative of the poem, allows them to operate in a very different way from similes in the poetry of our literate, text-based culture. For interpreting Homeric similes, we are not restricted to the printed page as we try to elicit the implications of a metaphor—we have the whole of Homeric poetry and even beyond to guide us. If we return now to the simile that opens Book 10, how can we use the corpus of Homeric poetry to understand what significance it might have summoned for an ancient audience?
The idea being conveyed by the simile is the frequency of Agamemnon’s expressions of sorrow (ἀναστενάχιζ’, 10.9), which are pukina (πυκίν’, 10.9). The verb ἀναστεναχίζω is related to other verbs of lament. In Iliad 23.211, Iris describes Patroklos as “the one whom all the Achaeans are bewailing” (Πάτροκλος, τὸν πάντες ἀναστενάχουσιν Ἀχαιοί; see also Iliad 18.315 and 18.355). στενάχω is the verb that describes what Achilles, having just learned of Patroklos’ death, is doing when his mother finds him in Iliad 18.70, and it is also used for the antiphonal cries of mourners who respond to the solo lamenters at Iliad 19.301 and 24.746.
The cries of grief that accompany songs of lamentation are pukina because they come thick and fast, one close upon the next. In Iliad 18.318, Achilles’ expressions of grief (στενάχων) for Patroklos are πυκνὰ, and, similarly, in Iliad 19.312 Achilles is described as grieving in a pukinos way (πυκινῶς ἀκαχήμενον). Sorrow in overwhelming abundance can also be thought of as pukina. In Iliad 16.599, πυκινὸν ἄχος takes hold of the Achaeans when Bathykles is killed. In Odyssey 19.516–517, Penelope speaks of the πυκιναὶ […] μελεδῶναι that torment her as she weeps (ὀδυρομένην, Odyssey 19.517). The adjective pukinos has a variety of meanings in Homer, all of which are linked by the idea of frequency, density, or closeness. One of the most common contexts for the adjective is in the natural world, where it describes the lairs of animals or places where animals hide. While a connection between natural hiding places for animals and the frequency of one’s cries might not seem elegant or logical, the adjective pukinos seems to link the two meanings so closely that it is difficult to ascertain which meaning is the primary one in the two extended descriptions of lament mentioned above. If we look at these passages more closely, we find that in both cases the adjective pukinos is elaborated upon by way of a simile.
In Iliad 18, the frequency of Achilles’ cries are compared to the grief of a lion who discovers that his cubs have been killed by a hunter:
αὐτὰρ Ἀχαιοὶ
315 παννύχιοι Πάτροκλον ἀνεστενάχοντο γοῶντες.
τοῖσι δὲ Πηλεΐδης ἁδινοῦ ἐξῆρχε γόοιο
χεῖρας ἐπ᾽ ἀνδροφόνους θέμενος στήθεσσιν ἑταίρου
πυκνὰ μάλα στενάχων ὥς τε λὶς ἠϋγένειος,
ᾧ ῥά θ᾽ ὑπὸ σκύμνους ἐλαφηβόλος ἁρπάσῃ ἀνὴρ
320 ὕλης ἐκ πυκινῆς· ὃ δέ τ᾽ ἄχνυται ὕστερος ἐλθών,
πολλὰ δέ τ᾽ ἄγκε᾽ ἐπῆλθε μετ᾽ ἀνέρος ἴχνι᾽ ἐρευνῶν
εἴ ποθεν ἐξεύροι· μάλα γὰρ δριμὺς χόλος αἱρεῖ·
ὣς ὃ βαρὺ στενάχων μετεφώνεε Μυρμιδόνεσσιν
Iliad 18.314–323
On the other side the Achaeans
315 all night long bewailed Patroklos, lamenting.
And among them the son of Peleus led off the ceaseless lamentation,
placing his man-slaying hands on the chest of his companion
with wails that came thick and fast, like a well-bearded lion
whose cubs a man who is a deer hunter has snatched away
320 from the thick woods. He grieves when he later returns
and he comes to many valleys searching after the tracks of the man,
if somewhere he can find him, since piercing fury takes hold of him.
So wailing deeply [Achilles] spoke among the Myrmidons.
On a conceptual level the comparison being made is between the grief of Achilles and the lion, but what unites the tenor and vehicle on a verbal level is the word pukinos, used in the simile of the woods in which both the hunter and lion lurk.
The association made between these two semantic realms of the same word occurs in the same way in Odyssey 19:
“ξεῖνε, τὸ μέν σ᾽ ἔτι τυτθὸν ἐγὼν εἰρήσομαι αὐτή·
510 καὶ γὰρ δὴ κοίτοιο τάχ᾽ ἔσσεται ἡδέος ὥρη,
ὅν τινά γ᾽ ὕπνος ἕλοι γλυκερός, καὶ κηδόμενόν περ.
αὐτὰρ ἐμοὶ καὶ πένθος ἀμέτρητον πόρε δαίμων·
ἤματα μὲν γὰρ τέρπομ᾽ ὀδυρομένη, γοόωσα,
ἔς τ᾽ ἐμὰ ἔργ᾽ ὁρόωσα καὶ ἀμφιπόλων ἐνὶ οἴκῳ·
515 αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν νὺξ ἔλθῃ, ἕλῃσί τε κοῖτος ἅπαντας,
κεῖμαι ἐνὶ λέκτρῳ, πυκιναὶ δέ μοι ἀμφ᾽ ἀδινὸν κῆρ
ὀξεῖαι μελεδῶναι ὀδυρομένην ἐρέθουσιν
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτε Πανδαρέου κούρη, χλωρηῒς ἀηδών,
καλὸν ἀείδῃσιν ἔαρος νέον ἱσταμένοιο,
520 δενδρέων ἐν πετάλοισι καθεζομένη πυκινοῖσιν,
ἥ τε θαμὰ τρωπῶσα χέει πολυηχέα φωνήν,
παῖδ᾽ ὀλοφυρομένη Ἴτυλον φίλον.”
Odyssey 19.509–522
“Stranger, I for my part would like to speak to you a little further.
510 For indeed soon will be the hour for going to bed, a pleasant thing,
at least for anyone whom sweet sleep takes hold of despite their cares.
As for me, a daimon has given immeasurable sorrow.
I spend my days delighting in mourning, lamenting,
as I look to my tasks and attend to the household.
515 But when night comes, and bedtime takes hold of all,
I lie in my bed, while thick and fast in my heart without end
sharp sorrows torment me as I weep,
as when the daughter of Pandareos, the vibrant nightingale,
sings a beautiful song when spring is newly arrived,
520 sitting among the thick leaves of the trees,
and she pours forth her resounding voice in one song after another,
lamenting her beloved child Itylus.”
Once again the frequency of one’s sobs and cries are compared by way of a simile to an animal in its haunts—in this case, the nightingale sings from amidst the dense foliage of trees. And much as in the description of Achilles, the point of comparison is the lamentation of Penelope and the sorrowful song of the nightingale, but what links tenor and vehicle verbally is the adjective pukinos.
We will return to the idea of the lair momentarily. For the moment though, let us note that here Penelope describes the impossibility of sleep when one is troubled by sorrows, a situation that matches the opening of Iliad 10. So too at the beginning of Iliad 9, no one is sleeping, including Agamemnon, who is “struck in his heart by great sorrow” (ἄχεϊ μεγάλῳ βεβολημένος ἦτορ, Iliad 9.9). He calls an assembly, and when he begins speaking he is crying:
ἵστατο δάκρυ χέων ὥς τε κρήνη μελάνυδρος
ἥ τε κατ᾽ αἰγίλιπος πέτρης δνοφερὸν χέει ὕδωρ·
ὣς ὃ βαρὺ στενάχων ἔπε᾽ Ἀργείοισι μετηύδα
Iliad 9.14–16
He stood shedding a tear, like a spring whose water flows up from the depths,
a spring which pours dark water down from a steep rock,
so wailing deeply he addressed words to the Argives.
This passage recalls the iconic lamenter of Greek myth, Niobe, whose example is invoked by Achilles as he and Priam mourn for fathers and sons in lament-filled Iliad 24. Niobe in her grief for her twelve children was transformed into just such a weeping rock. (For more on Niobe as the prototypical lamenting woman in the Iliad, see Dué 2002:108–109, and on the metaphor of the spring, see Dué 2006a:160–161.)
We do not find the word pukinos in the initial similes of Iliad 9, as we saw in Iliad 18 and Odyssey 19, but these similes share with Iliad 10 their use of the diction, metaphors, and imagery of lament in their depiction of the sorrow of the Greeks (especially Agamemnon) and their resultant sleeplessness. [1] An explanation for the absence of the concept in Iliad 9, but its presence in Iliad 10, we argue, can be found in yet another semantic aspect of pukinos—its association with the lokhos ‘ambush’. The phrase πυκινὸν λόχον is found three times in the Iliad and Odyssey (Iliad 4.392, 24.779; Odyssey 11.525). Ambush warfare is pukinos because of the cunning involved, and in fact cunning thoughts or schemes are mēdea pukna in Homeric epic. In Iliad 3, Helen describes Odysseus as the master of this kind cunning: οὗτος δ᾽ αὖ Λαερτιάδης πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς … εἰδὼς παντοίους τε δόλους καὶ μήδεα πυκνά (“That is the son of Laertes Odysseus who is crafty in many ways … he knows all sorts of tricks and schemes one after the other,” Iliad 3.200–202). Odysseus, as Helen’s description implies, is our ambush hero par excellence. (Like cunning schemes, shrewd counsel is also pukinos. See below on 10.43–44.)
Later in Iliad 10 the plan that Hektor proposes to the Trojans (namely, to send a spy to the Achaean camp) is called a πυκινὴν … βουλήν (10.302). (For similar phraseology used in Book 2 of Agamemnon’s testing of the troops, see above, pp. 231–235.) As was noted above (see “The Poetics of Ambush”), ambush warfare is characterized by mētis, while the polemos is characterized by biē. For another collocation of pukinos, cunning, and ambush, we have the ambush of Bellerophon as it is described in Iliad 6:
τῷ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἀνερχομένῳ πυκινὸν δόλον ἄλλον ὕφαινε·
κρίνας ἐκ Λυκίης εὐρείης φῶτας ἀρίστους
εἷσε λόχον· τοὶ δ᾽ οὔ τι πάλιν οἶκον δὲ νέοντο·
πάντας γὰρ κατέπεφνεν ἀμύμων Βελλεροφόντης.
Iliad 6.187–190
But for him as he was going back he wove another close trick.
He selected the best men from broad Lycia
and sent them on an ambush. These men did not return back home:
Faultless Bellerophon slew them all.
One other element seen here (encapsulated in ἄλλον ‘another’) is that ambush is often used when other means to defeat the enemy have not worked. The king of Lycia has not been able to kill Bellerophon by sending him on various missions or into battle, so he resorts to ambush. A similar sense of desperation drives the plan formed here in Iliad 10.
Ambushes are pukinos for another reason as well, as we alluded to above: they involve hiding in dark, enclosed spaces, not unlike an animal’s lair. In the story of ambush that Odysseus tells Eumaios in Odyssey 14, Odysseus and his companions hide in the ῥωπήϊα πυκνά ‘dense shrubbery’ before the walls of Troy. Here, we return to the similes that elaborate on the grief of Achilles and Penelope. In both of those similes, the word pukinos describes the place in which the lamenting creature seeks refuge. In another passage in Odyssey 19, the idea of the lair and the place of ambush are directly equated. In the narrative that explains the origins of the scar that Eurykleia recognizes, we find out that on a hunting expedition Odysseus was ambushed by a boar, who rushed forth from a λόχμῃ πυκινῇ and gashed his leg (Odyssey 19.439).
Two things remain to be noted. First, it is also likely that ambushes are imagined as pukinos because of the density of the men hiding together in a cramped space. The episode of the wooden horse, the lokhos (as it is termed at Odyssey 4.277 and 8.515) that results in the sack of Troy, involves many men enclosed in a small space. In the ambush of Tydeus narrated at Iliad 4.391–398 (called a πυκινὸν λόχον in 4.392), fifty-two men lay in wait for him. Second, a crucial aspect of ambush warfare (which usually happens at night in the cover of darkness) is the necessity of not going to sleep. Staying awake at night in a cramped hiding place surrounded by other men in a closely packed fashion is precisely the kind of endurance ambush requires, and all of these components are encompassed by the adjective pukinos.
This exploration of the adjective pukinos suggests that the conceptual realms of lament and ambush can be merged in this word. In the simile that describes Agamemnon’s grief and sleeplessness, we find that there is no mention of an animal in his lair. Instead, the entire ambush episode that is about to unfold substitutes for such a simile, linked to Agamemnon’s sobs by the word pukinos. (For more on the traditional referentiality of the word pukinos, as used in the phrase pukinon epos, see Foley 1991:154–156.)
There are still more parts of the simile that can be unpacked, once we understand the traditional connection between lamentation and ambush and the idea of frequency or closeness that unites them. The frequency of the nightingale’s laments in Odyssey 19 (they come one right after another) is conveyed by the word θαμά at 19.521. The adjectival form of this word is used of snowflakes (as at Iliad 12.278) and, like pukinos, of projectiles (arrows, spears, and rocks) thrown in abundance and in quick succession. When Agamemnon’s cries are compared to falling snow, the traditional resonance of the simile can be understood by a traditional audience. Both are θαμά. Similarly, in Iliad 3.222, Odysseus’ persuasive words in the Trojan assembly are compared, in an extremely compressed simile, to snowflakes (νιφάδεσσιν ἐοικότα χειμερίῃσιν). For an audience on the inside of the tradition, this compressed simile would naturally draw on associations between the frequency and denseness of snowflakes and the close-packed nature of Odysseus’ mēdea (which are called pukna twenty lines before).
Possibly related to the metaphor world of snowflakes is the metaphor in Iliad 4.274, where the mass of warriors following the two Ajaxes is called a “cloud of foot-soldiers” (νέφος … πεζῶν). As Mark Edwards notes, the scholia on this line in several manuscripts explain that the metaphor is expressing the “denseness (τὸ πυκνὸν) and frightening aspect of the phalanx” by likening it to “a black and threatening cloud” (τὸ πυκνὸν καὶ καταπληκτικὸν τῆς φάλαγγος μιᾷ λέξει περιέλαβεν εἰκάσας μέλανι καὶ σκυθρωπῷ νέφει). (See Edwards 1991:48; the translation is his.) The lines following Iliad 4.274 actually go on to unpack the metaphor by way of a simile:
275 ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἀπὸ σκοπιῆς εἶδεν νέφος αἰπόλος ἀνὴρ
ἐρχόμενον κατὰ πόντον ὑπὸ Ζεφύροιο ἰωῆς·
τῷ δέ τ’ ἄνευθεν ἐόντι μελάντερον ἠΰτε πίσσα
φαίνετ’ ἰὸν κατὰ πόντον, ἄγει δέ τε λαίλαπα πολλήν,
ῥίγησέν τε ἰδών, ὑπό τε σπέος ἤλασε μῆλα·
280 τοῖαι ἅμ’ Αἰάντεσσι διοτρεφέων αἰζηῶν
δήϊον ἐς πόλεμον πυκιναὶ κίνυντο φάλαγγες
κυάνεαι, σάκεσίν τε καὶ ἔγχεσι πεφρικυῖαι.
Iliad 4.275–282
275 As when a goat-herding man sees from a lookout point a cloud
coming over the sea, driven by the rush of the West wind,
and to him being at a distance blacker than pitch
it appears as it comes over the sea, and it brings a great tempest,
and seeing it he shudders, and drives his flocks into a cave,
280 such were the young men nurtured by Zeus who were with the Ajaxes,
dense phalanxes moving into hostile war,
dark, bristling with shields and spears.
Here a single word, “cloud,” elicits an extended simile that conveys denseness by conjuring the image of a closely packed phalanx. But in what way is a cloud dense? If the simile were not present in our text, and we had only the compressed metaphor of Iliad 4.274, we might doubt the scholiast’s interpretation. The key must be in the rain portended by the νέφος, which like hail or snow or Agamemnon’s sighs—or indeed battle—is pukinos. This passage from Iliad 4 allows us to see the richness of this tradition, whose metaphors can be so highly compressed yet full of meaning for a traditional audience. So also does the adjective ἀθέσφατον, used to describe hail in 10.6, have traditional associations, in this case with abundance, but used elsewhere in Homer of rain, food, wine, and, most interesting for us, long winter nights (see Odyssey 11.373 and 15.392).
Finally, as Hainsworth has pointed out in his discussion of these lines, the phrase “the great jaws of destructive battle” (πτολέμοιο μέγα στόμα πευκεδανοῖο, 10.8) is a perfectly traditional metaphor (we can compare Iliad 19.313 and 20.359), but it is “unexpected as an alternative to rain, hail, or snow” (Hainsworth 1993 ad 10.8). The adjective πευκεδανός is found nowhere else in the archaic epic that survives, but the image, we submit, is unexpected and strained only for us—not for a traditional audience, for whom long-range connections of the kind we have argued for here are made on a subconscious level. Such connections are only possible within a traditional system, participated in by both performer and audience, in which meaning becomes possible with reference to the tradition. To put it another way, this simile only makes sense if we read it against the backdrop of the tradition in which it was created. It can be highly compressed because every word has resonance that links it to the other uses of that word in the tradition. Such a simile cannot be the work of an idiosyncratic poet trying to manipulate the oral tradition into a new, original style, as Danek, for example, has argued (see Danek 1988 and above, “Interpreting Iliad 10”), nor can we agree with Hainsworth that the metaphor we have just cited is “further instance of the pretentious usage of traditional language characteristic of this Book” (Hainsworth 1993 ad 10.8). In the system that created the Iliad and Odyssey—including, we are arguing, Iliad 10—the poet does not make use of tradition in an artificial way. When confronted with such a formulation on the part of scholars hostile to Iliad 10, it is instructive to consider the words of Albert Lord, who asserts that we must understand the poet to be working “inside an oral tradition of epic song”:
He is not an outsider approaching the tradition with only a superficial grasp of it, using a bit here and a bit there, or trying to present a “flavor” of the traditional, yet ever thinking in terms that are essentially different from it. He is not a split personality with half of his understanding in the tradition and the other half in a parnassus of literate methods. No, he is not even “immersed” in the tradition. He is the tradition.
Lord 1960/2000:147
10.10 τρομέοντο Zenodotus, the first head of the library at Alexandria and a well-known Homer scholar, knew of the reading φοβέοντο here, according to the scholia that survive in our medieval manuscripts, but the reading is not attested elsewhere. (The verb τρομέω is likewise used in the middle voice at 10.492. See also Iliad 6.151.) Hainsworth (1993 ad loc.) notes that Aristarchus, a successor of Zenodotus as head of the library and rival editor of Homer, asserted that “φοβοῦμαι and its cognates signified flight,” whereas here φοβέοντο would have the Classical meaning ‘fear’. Hainsworth adds the qualification “but that [Aristarchus’] doctrine may not be binding on this Book.” Hainsworth’s comment reflects his understanding of Iliad 10 as likely a later composition than the rest of the Iliad (see “Interpreting Iliad 10”). We suggest instead that φοβέοντο’s lack of manuscript attestation indicates that it was not a particularly old or well-known version of the verse, but this is not necessarily indicative of the lateness of the entire book. A version with φοβέοντο may well have entered the formulaic performance language at a later phase in the Homeric tradition than τρομέοντο, eventually becoming part of the textual tradition known to Zenodotus several centuries later. The third-century CE Stoic philosopher Chrysippus (fragment 906 in the edition of von Arnim 1903) quotes this line with still another variation: περὶ γὰρ δίε νηυσὶν Ἀχαιῶν. This phrase is attested at Iliad 9.433 and 13.557 and is in no sense “un-Homeric,” though it, like φοβέοντο, is not attested here in the manuscript tradition. These variations highlight the dynamic nature of Homeric diction, which evolved through time and was in a constant state of flux in its early stages. For more on the Alexandrian editors of Homer see on 10.51–52 below.
10.11–13 Agamemnon sees and hears that the Trojans are also awake, and this fact is confirmed later at 10.299–300. These lines convey a nighttime sensory experience: Agamemnon can see the fires, and he marvels at their number, indicating his anxiety at how large the Trojan army seems. The noise he hears reinforces that anxiety. Agamemnon’s perception of the playing of music may make the Trojans seem more relaxed—they are not fearful for their destruction, at least in Agamemnon’s imagination. (The Trojans are portrayed as noisy in contrast to the silent Achaeans at Iliad 3.1–9, 4.429–438, later in Book 10, and elsewhere, so these lines may also reinforce that common characteristic.) Seeing and hearing the Trojan camp from Agamemnon’s perspective provides additional insight into the concerns that keep him sleepless. Sensory experiences in the dark call for interpretation in a way that daytime experiences do not: because the sense of sight is limited, the fires are visible, but Agamemnon cannot see any further detail that would let him know what is happening near those fires. Hearing becomes much more important at night, but at this point, what he hears only seems to tell Agamemnon that the Trojans are awake, and perhaps that they are relaxed. These perceptions combine to provide a contrast to the Achaean camp, which is silent now. One motivation for nighttime spying raids, as we will see in more detail below, is that each side is guessing what the other will do, and they send out spies to confirm those guesses.
10.12 πυρὰ πολλὰ τὰ καίετο These fires that Agamemnon wonders at now were ordered by Hektor to be set earlier in the evening (see Iliad 8.507–511). In his orders Hektor says that he wants the fires to burn all night long specifically so that he can see if the Achaeans are trying to sail away and thus escape the total destruction he wants to inflict on them. In other words, Hektor, too, is trying to see the enemy in the dark. It is this same motive that prompts Hektor to send a spy (see 10.311), and such details show continuity between the events of the narrative at the end of the day in earlier books and what happens here in Book 10. We also hear in Iliad 8.562–565 that the Trojans set a thousand fires, each of which has fifty men and their horses and chariots around it. We can therefore imagine the magnitude of the scene Agamemnon is gazing at here and understand why it inspires his anxiety.
Dan Petegorsky (1982:47ff., 179) argues that there is a connection between these fires and the “atmospheric activity of Zeus alluded to in the simile” at 10.5–9. Both are visible signs, he contends, of “Zeus’ hostility towards the Achaeans, concrete tokens of Hector’s threat to bring fire against the Achaean camp and ships” (Petegorsky 1982:179). In the interaction between simile and narrative that Petegorsky perceives, we can also add this divine dimension to Agamemnon’s fears. That is, the lightening of Zeus not only reflects the storminess of Agamemnon’s worried mind, but also represents a further reason for him to indeed be anxious on this night.
10.12 Ἰλιόθι πρὸ In a very early stage of the Greek language, prepositions were adverbs, and their placement is thus far more flexible in Homeric Greek than in Classical Greek. Here πρὸ is strictly adverbial. It is thought that tmesis, the separation of a prepositional prefix from its verb, ceased to be part of the spoken/written language before the Greek of the Linear B tablets (i.e. the thirteenth century BCE) but remained an important part of epic diction because of its deeply ingrained presence in the formulaic system and the flexibility it offered for the creation of new formulas (Horrocks 1997:201). The ending -θι of Ἰλιόθι is locative, a vestige of the Mycenaean Greek case system (attested in Linear B). (On the whole phrase see Chantraine 1988, GH I §112.)
10.17 βουλή See on 10.43–44 below.
10.18 ἐλθέμεν is an Aeolic infinitive form (Chantraine 1988, GH I §237). Although the language of Homer is primarily Ionic in nature, Aeolic dialect forms make up a considerable percentage of Homeric diction. Before oral composition-in-performance and dialect diffusion were well understood, a considerable amount of scholarly effort was devoted to finding an explanation for the mix of dialects (see MHV 326–327). In the 1880s August Fick ignited Homeric scholarship by proposing 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 everywhere possible. Approximately fifty years later Milman Parry theorized that the oral tradition had passed through several distinct historical phases, one of which was an Aeolic phase. He argued that just as singers in the Homeric tradition would have naturally replaced older forms with more current ones, where meter and other strongly felt patterns allowed, but retained them where they did not, so also did Ionic singers, inheriting an Aeolic epic song tradition, replace Aeolic forms everywhere possible, but retained them where the formulas could not easily be adapted in performance. (See especially MHV, and on the theory of an Aeolic phase, see also Palmer 1962, Hoekstra 1965, Janko 1982, and West 1988.) So here the change of ἐλθέμεν to ἐλθεῖν (which is attested at 10.56 and various other places in the Iliad) would result in a spondee in the fifth foot (generally avoided in Homer, though not impossible). More recently an alternative theory has been proposed, namely, that Aeolic and Ionic epic traditions coexisted after the end of Bronze Age, but the Aeolic tradition was eventually assimilated into and eclipsed by the Ionic tradition in Asia Minor. (On this complex question see the overview in Horrocks 1997.) In any case, certainly an Aeolic tradition of epic poetry did flourish at one time, as is evidenced by such poems as Sappho 44 (on which see West 1973:191, Nagy 1974:134–39, Horrocks 1997:200, and Dué 2002:59).
10.19 μῆτιν The plan that Agamemnon hopes Nestor will construct is called simply mētis. In Iliad 9.423, Achilles had in fact advised the Achaeans to come up with a “better mētis” (μῆτιν ἀμείνω), since he was not going to accept Agamemnon’s offer. The plan that Nestor devises is to send someone on a nighttime spying expedition. Night raids and ambush warfare are linked in the epic tradition by their use of cunning or trickery (mētis) and endurance of prolonged hardship as opposed to the outright brute force (biē) of the battlefield (Edwards 1985:18 and above, “The Poetics of Ambush”). Many of the ambushes that are mentioned in epic occur at night: see e.g. Iliad 21.34–39 and Odyssey 14.468–503. Diomedes will be the hero who volunteers for this particular raid (10.219ff.), and he chooses as his companion Odysseus (10.243), the hero of mētis-style warfare. (For more on the relationship between Diomedes and Odysseus, see below on 10.243.)
10.21 ἔνδυνε περὶ στήθεσσι χιτῶνα Here begins the first dressing scene of the book, which, as we have argued above (see “The Poetics of Ambush”), signals to the audience an entry into the narrative world of the night raid/ambush. The animal skins and other unusual items that the heroes put on seem to be special features of this type of story, and serve a practical purpose as well. The skins and leather caps are the equivalent of camouflage, a necessary precaution in warfare of this type. (See also below on κυνέην, 10.257.) We can compare what Agamemnon puts on here to his dressing scene in Iliad 2.42–46, where, of course, no night raid will take place:
… μαλακὸν δ᾽ ἔνδυνε χιτῶνα
καλὸν νηγάτεον, περὶ δὲ μέγα βάλλετο φᾶρος·
ποσσὶ δ᾽ ὑπὸ λιπαροῖσιν ἐδήσατο καλὰ πέδιλα,
ἀμφὶ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὤμοισιν βάλετο ξίφος ἀργυρόηλον·
εἵλετο δὲ σκῆπτρον πατρώϊον ἄφθιτον αἰεὶ
Iliad 2.42–46
He put on a soft khiton,
fine and newly made, and put around himself a great cloak.
Under his shining feet he fastened fine sandals
and around his shoulders he placed a silver-studded sword.
He took up the ancestral scepter which is always unwilting.
In Iliad 2, Agamemnon dresses for an assembly; in Iliad 10, he dresses for a night raid. Of course, ultimately it will be Diomedes and Odysseus who go on the raid, but this first dressing scene and those that follow set the stage for what is to come, signaling to the audience our entry into the narrative world of the night raid. (See also on 10.254–272.)
In this book, each hero dresses for a night raid, and each hero has his own particular outfit with no doubt its own particular associations in the tradition. (See Reinhardt 1961:247.) Each subsequent dressing scene (there are five) builds our anticipation for the expedition to come. Agamemnon here fittingly puts on the red-gold skin of a large lion, and it seems that, even apart from the resonance of so many lion similes in epic, Agamemnon and Mycenae were especially linked with lions. Several artifacts featuring lions, including the monumental gateway to the citadel, grave steles, seals, and ceremonial daggers, have been excavated at Mycenae. From the Classical period, we can compare the rich lion imagery and metaphors in Aeschylus’ Oresteia (see e.g. Agamemnon 716–736, 821–828, 1223–1226, 1258–1260, Libation Bearers 935–938). Nevertheless, other heroes do wear lion skins, including, in this book, Diomedes (10.177), but also, most famously, Herakles, who wears the skin of the Nemean lion obtained during the traditional first of his twelve labors.
10.25 See above at 10.1ff on the use of the verb ἔχε here. Verses 25–31 are a much more compressed version of the theme of the inability to sleep that leads to nighttime action, and they parallel the structure of 10.1–24.
10.29 παρδαλέῃ μὲν πρῶτα μετάφρενον εὐρὺ κάλυψε In this second of the dressing scenes, Menelaos puts on a leopard skin. Outside of Book 10, the only hero who wears an animal skin is Paris, who likewise wears a leopard skin at Iliad 3.17 when he makes his challenge to the Achaeans. In that encounter, Menelaos does not wear an animal skin, but it is telling that, in the same passage, Menelaos is compared in a simile to a lion that suddenly finds the body of an animal to eat (Iliad 3.23–26). Because of the way that duel comes to an end (Paris is ultimately whisked away to safety by Aphrodite), there is no chance for Menelaos to strip him and take the skin as spoils. Instead, Menelaos’ dressing scene here makes him parallel to Paris, Helen’s other husband. The two husbands have other common traits as well. As we will see below, Menelaos has a tendency to “give way” (10.121). This tendency is shared by this other younger brother of a leader (it is likewise his brother Hektor who describes Paris as one who gives way, Iliad 6.521–523). The connections between the two are a good example of what John Foley calls “traditional referentiality,” which is the kind of meaning made possible by tradition for an audience on the inside of that tradition.
We should also note that Paris, our other wearer of leopard skin, has associations with ambush. He fights even in daytime battle as an ambushing archer (in Iliad 11 he wounds Diomedes, Machaon, and Eurupylos with his arrows), and, as we have explored above (see pp. 57–61), archery and ambush are conceptually and even visually linked. On the alterity of archer figures, see also Lissarrague 1990:13–34. On attitudes toward archery in the Iliad, see also Farron 2003, who disputes Lorimer’s (1950:289–305) claim that archery is lower class and ineffective. In several (primarily late) accounts of Achilles’ death, Paris ambushes him in the sanctuary of Thymbraion when he comes, unarmed, to arrange his marriage to Polyxena. (See Dictys of Crete 3.2ff, Dares 27, Hyginus 110, and Philostratus Heroikos 51.1. with Burgess 1995.) These late sources may preserve a vestige of a tradition about Achilles’ death at the hands of Paris by archery and ambush. At the very least, surviving evidence (including what we know of the now lost Aithiopis) indicates that in Archaic myth Achilles died after receiving an arrow wound to the ankle (Burgess 1995:225). It may be that Paris’ leopard skin is an iconographic sign of his archer status (cf. Naiden 1999: “Like the leopard, archery is crucial yet marginal, inferior yet effective” [200]), and the overlap between the conceptual realms of archery and ambush warfare, which we have explored in detail in “The Poetics of Ambush,” might explain why Paris wears a leopard skin even in a non-ambush context.
10.30 ποικίλῃ The leopard skin is further described as poikilos, which in this case has meaning for its physical qualities: the spotted pattern makes it “intricate.” But, as we saw with the wide semantic range of pukinos, which joins many concepts that might seem quite disparate at first to us, so also in the case of poikilos there is another important meaning here. As Detienne and Vernant (1974/1978) have shown, there is an association of this word with mētis and with trickery (“la ruse”). In this way, too, the leopard skin in particular shares common associations with ambush. For more on mētis and ambush, see above on 10.19 and below on 10.43–44.
10.30–31 αὐτὰρ ἐπὶ στεφάνην κεφαλῆφιν ἀείρας / θήκατο χαλκείην Menelaos wears a helmet that is unsuited to a spying mission or ambush. It is bronze, which, as we hear about the spear points in Diomedes’ encampment, shines even through the dark of night (see 10.152–154). Such armament is a liability, therefore, to stealth and to remaining undetected in the dark (see more on 10.257). Diomedes, Odysseus, and Dolon all wear leather caps to protect their heads on these missions (10.257–259, 10.261–265, 10.335). Although Menelaos is involved in other ambushes within the epic tradition, this subtle detail of his chosen dress here may indicate to a traditional audience that Menelaos is not going to be chosen for this expedition. We may note the anxiety expressed in Agamemnon’s words to Diomedes about his choice of partner; the narrator explicitly states that Agamemnon was afraid for his brother Menelaos (see 10.237–240). In the Odyssey, however, Menelaos is portrayed as an ambusher: he is inside the Trojan Horse with Diomedes and Odysseus (Odyssey 4.280), he is one of the leaders of the night mission Odysseus describes to Eumaios (Odyssey 14.470–471), and he successfully ambushes Proteus (Odyssey 4.388–463; see above on pp. 72–73 for more on this ambush).
10.32 βῆ δ᾽ ἴμεν This familiar Homeric expression is a good, straightforward example of a formula with a fixed metrical position. There is flexible variation within the formula: it can be expressed in the third-person singular, as here, as well as in the third-person plural (as at 10.297: βάν ῥ’ ἴμεν), and it can use either the conjuction δ’(ε) or the particle ῥ’(α). But in the more than thirty uses of all these permutations in the Iliad and Odyssey, the formula always begins the line, occupying the first foot. Thus this specific way of saying “he/she/they went/left” can be assumed to have been particularly useful at the beginning of the line for the singer as he composed in performance. The formula gains additional flexibility with the use of the later Aeolic infinitive form ἴμεναι (the Aeolic infinitive form ἴμεν is earlier), which extends the phrase into the second foot. We see that version of the formula at least fifteen times. Another version of the formula with the Ionic infinitive form ἰέναι (so either βῆ δ’/ῥ’ ἰέναι or βάν δ’/ῥ’ ἰέναι) likewise extends into the first syllable of the second foot, and this iteration shows up at least eighteen times in our texts: see examples at 10.136, 10.179, 10.273, and 10.336. The only case in which we see this phrase in a metrical position other than the initial position of the line is when it is part of a longer formula, an example of which we see at 10.73. In this longer formula (which also appears in Iliad 20.484 and Iliad 21.205), the line begins αὐτὰρ ὁ βῆ ῥ’ ἰέναι μετὰ and is completed by a name + epithet formula. This longer formula is used in cases of going after/for a specifically named person, while the various shorter versions can be used in a wide variety of situations of going, but always when the singer starts a new line. Because this formula is used seven times in Iliad 10, we can also see that many men are in motion during this night.
10.36 βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Μενέλαος See below on 10.283 for more on this epithet, which is applied in Iliad 10 to both Menelaos and Diomedes.
10.37 ἠθεῖε This word cannot be precisely translated into English. Its contexts suggest that it conveys both the affection and respect of younger person for an older one (as of Paris and Hektor in Iliad 6.518, Deiphobos and Hektor in Iliad 22.229 and 239, and Achilles and Patroklos in Iliad 23.94), or of a trusted servant for a respected master (Eumaios and Odysseus in Odyssey 14.147).
10.41 νύκτα δι᾽ ἀμβροσίην We find night likewise described in 10.142. Ambrosia, the food of both the gods (see e.g. Odyssey 5.93, 5.199, 9.359) and their divine horses, is used by the gods for a variety of other purposes in Homer, including as perfume (Odyssey 4.445), as a cosmetic (Iliad 14.170), and as a preservative for the corpses of Sarpedon and Patroklos (Iliad 16.670 and 16.680, and 19.38). At Iliad 1.529, Zeus’ hair is described as ambrosios, as is sleep at 2.19. In Iliad 18.268 and 24.363, night is again ambrosial. There is, as we can see, a wide range of associations for this word.
In 10.83, 10.276, and 10.386, the metrically equivalent phrase νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην is used in the same position in the line. (See also on 10.142 below and the textual commentaries above on 10.386.) This phrase has a spondee where ἀμβροσίην has a dactyl, but both phrases occupy the same metrical space. νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην is also found at Odyssey 9.143 and the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 578. Although it is not impossible to have two metrically equivalent formulas expressing the same essential idea, such duplications are rare in Homer, so we should expect the two adjectives to convey different things. The context of νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην in Odyssey 9 is the ambush-like episode of the Cyclops (see above, “The Poetics of Ambush”), and its use of Hermes (whose nighttime thievery and cunning are celebrated in the Homeric Hymn) is likewise suggestive of an association between this word and nighttime escapades. Norman Austin (1975:71–73) sees ὀρφναίη as being particularly evocative of night’s darkness, which is of course appropriate for both ambush and thievery. Night is in general ambrosial, according to Austin, because of the welcome rest it brings at the end of the day, but it is particularly so in the Iliad: “Night [in the Iliad] means the end of a day’s fighting. It is relief from weary battle, but, more importantly for the Homeric hero, it means survival through another day.” But the night of Iliad 10 is marked by anxiety, fear, and a raid on the enemy camp, hence the appropriateness of νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην. (For alternate views on why night is ambrosial, see Hainsworth 1993 ad 10.41 and Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988 ad 4.429, 4.445, and 5.93 with bibliography ad loc.)
Georg Danek (1988:80) has interpreted the alternation between the formulas νύκτα δι᾽ ἀμβροσίην and νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην as an intentional variation on the part of the composer of this book. (On Danek’s arguments about the composer of Iliad 10, see “Interpreting Iliad 10.”) Danek views the attempt to vary traditional phraseology as a hallmark of this poet’s individual style. As we noted above, this approach is problematic from the standpoint of the methodology developed by Parry and Lord in studying oral traditions. It rests on the assumption that a singer within a traditional system would strive to “break free” of that tradition and compose in a new way. Austin’s approach is helpful, because it finds two different ways that night can be characterized and shows how context affects the choice of either formula. Throughout his 1975 work, however, Austin himself seeks to counter Parry’s demonstration of the economy of Homeric diction, and uses these words as an example of how the poet of the Iliad can achieve various literary goals, unconstrained by formulaic diction. But another way to look at it is to say that Austin’s account of the different conceptualizations of the night enhances and clarifies Parry’s arguments about the economy of Homeric diction, which Parry describes as “free of phrases which, having the same metrical value and expressing the same idea, could replace one another” (MHV 86). There is more than one way to say “night” here, because night is not a monolithic concept. When a poet wants to invoke night with its associations with relief and rest, νύκτα δι᾽ ἀμβροσίην would be easily summoned. The night encompassed by Iliad 10, however, is of a different sort, and as a result, the formula νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην is used three or four times. This interpretation seems strengthened by Iliad 24.363, which is identical to 10.83, with the exception of the formula for night:
τίς δ᾽ οὗτος κατὰ νῆας ἀνα στρατὸν ἔρχεαι οἶος
νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην, ὅτε θ᾽ εὕδουσι βροτοὶ ἄλλοι,
Iliad 10.82–83
“Who is this that comes down to the ships through the encamped mass of warriors all alone
through the dark night, when other mortals are sleeping?”
πῇ πάτερ ὧδ’ ἵππους τε καὶ ἡμιόνους ἰθύνεις
νύκτα δι’ ἀμβροσίην, ὅτε θ’ εὕδουσι βροτοὶ ἄλλοι;
Iliad 24.362–363
“Where, father, are you driving your horses and mules like this
through the ambrosial night, when the other mortals are sleeping?”
In Iliad 24, Priam is attempting to sneak into Achilles’ camp during the night undetected; the formula νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην would seem to be appropriate. (See above on 10.1ff. for more on how Priam’s journey has thematic associations with other nighttime missions to the enemy’s camp.) But the speaker of these lines is the disguised Hermes, talking to Priam in the form of a young man who should be unaware of Priam’s mission. Accordingly, he uses the more innocent-sounding and divine νύκτα δι’ ἀμβροσίην. Alternatively, we can interpret the absence of ὀρφναίην as significant within the system that generated the two formulas. As we have seen, the theme of the night raid/ambush attracts its own a subset of formulas, which are not typically found outside of this context in Homer. If Priam’s expedition to Achilles, though it takes place at night, is not being characterized as an ambush, night is therefore not dark, but the more generic “ambrosial.” (For more on Parry’s principle of economy and the attempts that have been made to refute its applicability to the Homeric epics, see the discussion below of Odysseus’ smile in 10.400.)
10.43–44 χρεὼ βουλῆς ἐμὲ καὶ σὲ … κερδαλέης Here again we see a parallel with Iliad 9. Compare Nestor’s words at 9.74–76: πολλῶν δ’ ἀγρομένων τῷ πείσεαι ὅς κεν ἀρίστην/βουλὴν βουλεύσῃ· μάλα δὲ χρεὼ πάντας Ἀχαιοὺς/ἐσθλῆς καὶ πυκινῆς (“When many are gathered you can be persuaded to obey him who counsels the best plan. All of the Achaeans are especially in need of good, close [pukinos] counsel”). In 10.17, Agamemnon, after tossing and turning with grief and worry, comes up with a plan (βουλή), a sequence that, as we have seen, parallels the opening of Book 2. He decides that he will go to Nestor and ask him to come up with a plan (there called μῆτιν). Boulē is used therefore in several places in Iliad 2, 9, and 10 to denote a plan of action. As it happens, all three plans are conceived and carried out during the night, and it seems that in these contexts boulē is closely associated with mētis. (See also 10.302, where Hektor likewise conceives of a πυκινὴν … βουλήν in a line that matches Iliad 2.55 in our texts. According to the testimony that has survived about the Cypria [testimonium 1 Bernabé], that epic opened with Zeus in distress about the overpopulation of the earth. It is unfortunately not clear from the context whether Zeus is attempting to sleep or if these thoughts are in fact occurring during the day, but the thoughts that lead to the plan he formulates, called βουλή in line 7 of the surviving fragment, are termed πυκιναῖς πραπίδεσσιν [3].) Here in Book 10 Agamemnon says that their plan must be wily (κερδαλέης); in Book 9 the adjective used is pukinos (as at 10.302; see also on 10.5–9 above). In Odyssey 13, Athena calls Odysseus “by far the best of all mortals in planning” (βροτῶν ὄχ’ ἄριστος ἁπάντων βουλῇ, 13.297–298) and “crafty in intricate ways” (ποικιλομῆτα, 13.293). In Odyssey 22.230, Athena tells Odysseus that the city of Troy was taken by his boulē (σῇ δ’ ἥλω βουλῇ Πριάμου πόλις εὐρυάγυια)—another ambush that according to epic tradition occurred at night. This is how Menelaos describes Odysseus in the wooden horse when he tells Telemakhos the story in Odyssey 4:
ἤδη μὲν πολέων ἐδάην βουλήν τε νόον τε
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων, πολλὴν δ’ ἐπελήλυθα γαῖαν·
ἀλλ’ οὔ πω τοιοῦτον ἐγὼν ἴδον ὀφθαλμοῖσιν
οἷον Ὀδυσσῆος ταλασίφρονος ἔσκε φίλον κῆρ.
Odyssey 4.267–270
I have become familiar with the planning and thinking
of men who are heroes, and I have traveled over much of the earth.
But I have not yet known with my eyes a man equivalent
to my friend Odysseus’ enduring mind.
The boulē of the wooden horse is arguably Odysseus’ signature mētis, on which see Haft 1990.
10.47 οὐ γάρ πω ἰδόμην, οὐδ᾽ ἔκλυον Note the augment on ἔκλυον. Egbert Bakker (2005) has argued that in Homeric diction the verbal augment has a primarily deictic function, and signifies proximity or immediacy rather than emphasizing a past tense. For this reason we find it used more often in similes and in speeches than in narrative contexts. In speeches, augmented aorists are almost always best translated as perfects (Bakker 2005:116, with further bibliography ad loc.). Bakker points out that the use of negating particles like οὔ πω with aorist verbs similarly “effaces the distinctness of any past, making it come into the speaker’s present” (Bakker 2005:170). Indeed, our first instance of an augmented aorist in Book 10 is paired with an unaugmented aorist that is preceded by οὔ πω.
10.47–48 οὐ γάρ πω ἰδόμην, οὐδ’ ἔκλυον αὐδήσαντος / ἄνδρ’ ἕνα τοσσάδε μέρμερ’ ἐπ’ ἤματι μητίσασθαι See also below at 10.289–290 and 10.524 for more on μέρμερα ἔργα. Agamemnon gives important details as to just what is “astounding” about what Hektor did on the battlefield. He has never seen or even heard tell of one man devising so many astounding deeds in one day. Hektor’s deeds on the battlefield are unprecedented in Agamemnon’s experience, and are of course the reason why he is sleepless this night. The language even juxtaposes the “one” and “so many”: mermera erga are accomplished by one man (or two men, as we shall see) who kill many more. In the next day’s battle, too, Hektor is reported to be accomplishing mermera erga and destroying phalanxes of young men (Iliad 11.502–503). On mourning the loss of so many men in one day of battle cf. Aeschylus Persians 431–432.
10.51–52 These lines were athetized by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus, two great directors of the library in Ptolemaic Alexandria in the second century BCE. Aristarchus was considered the premier editor of Homer in antiquity, and the scholia that survive in our medieval manuscripts of the Iliad and Odyssey are full of references to him. As Gregory Nagy has demonstrated (see especially Nagy 2004), Aristarchus had available to him at the library of Ptolemaic Alexandria a great number of Homeric texts. Aristarchus’ practice was to collate the many texts known to him and to comment on the various readings that he found, often asserting which reading he felt to be the correct one. Unlike a modern editor, however, Aristarchus confined his opinions to his commentary, which was published in its own separate volume. The notes in the commentary were linked to the appropriate passages in the text by means of a system of critical signs. These signs are preserved in the Venetus A manuscript of Homer, and to a lesser extent elsewhere (see Bird 2009). So here, although both Aristarchus and his predecessor Aristophanes did not feel verses 51–52 were composed by Homer, they left them in the text, and indicated their judgment with the sign for athetesis (see Figure 4). The scholia in the margins of the Venetus A tell us that Aristarchus condemned 10.51 because it repeats the content of 10.49, and because δηθά and δολιχόν mean the same thing. There is a tendency among the Alexandrian editors to disapprove of verses that they feel to be repetitive, preferring compression over expansion. This preference for compression is rooted in the poetics of their day (see Dué 2001a), and does not offer us good grounds for condemning the lines. But it is noteworthy that these scholars did not impose their preferences on the text itself, with the result that much more Homeric poetry survives for us today than probably would have otherwise.
10.53 Αἴαντα The Ajax being referred to here is the son of Telamon. (See below on 10.110–113.) Evidence from the Venetus A scholia indicates that Aristarchus may have known a reading Αἴαντε instead of Αἴαντα:
ὁ μὲν Δίδυμος τὴν Ἀριστάρχειον γραφὴν λέγει “Αἴαντε” δυϊκῶς, ὁ δὲ Τήλεφος λέγει κακῶς εἰρηκέναι τὸν Δίδυμον· οὐ γὰρ ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέρους τοὺς Αἴαντας ὁ Μενέλαος πέμπεται.
Didymus says that the Aristarchean reading is “Αἴαντε” in the dual, but Telephos says that Didymus has misspoken, since Menelaos is not sent to both Ajaxes.
This disagreement in the scholia about Aristarchus’ reading may reflect an evolution in the meaning of the dual form Αἴαντε that has been noted by previous scholars. In some early stage of the Greek epic tradition, the dual Αἴαντε referred not to Ajax the son of Telamon and Ajax the son of Oileus as a pair, but rather to Telamonion Ajax and his brother Teucer (whose special fighting style is discussed above at p.60; see Ebbott 2003:41–43 with references ad loc.) The dual form of the name that Aristarchus knew here would be perfectly appropriate in a time when it was understood to refer to Ajax and Teucer. In any case, at 10.228 the two Ajaxes (Αἴαντε δύω) volunteer to go on the spying mission with Diomedes, but it is not clear whether at that point both Ajaxes are volunteering, or whether it is the fighting pair of Ajax and Teucer. It is possible that the dual would have been understood differently by audiences of different periods.
10.53 Ἰδομενῆα κάλεσσον It is significant that Idomeneus figures prominently here among the chief heroes, since he is the speaker of the most explicit description of ambush warfare in Homeric epic. He and Meriones discuss what it takes to succeed in ambush at Iliad 13.266–294 (discussed above, pp. 45–47). Idomeneus and Meriones are from Crete, and Odysseus links himself to both Idomeneus and Crete throughout his “Cretan lies” in the second half of the Odyssey, including a tale involving the ambush of the son of Idomeneus (Odyssey 13.259–275). The alternative warfare of ambush, with its reliance on cunning and dissimulation rather than force, may have been traditionally a Cretan specialty or in some way associated with Cretans. Certainly in the Odyssey, mention of Crete functions as a narrative signal for the external audience, and possibly for the internal audience as well, since Odysseus seems to use these stories as a kind of coded message or ainos (Odyssey 14.508), by which he gauges the recipient’s loyalty and character. Crete serves as a cloak for Odysseus’ true identity as he carefully and cleverly sets up his return, just as, in war, heroes camouflage themselves for a nighttime spying expedition or ambush. (For more on the concept of the cloak and its connection to Odysseus’ ainos in Odyssey 14, see below at 10.149.)
10.56 ἐλθεῖν ἐς φυλάκων ἱερὸν τέλος ἠδ᾽ ἐπιτεῖλαι A night watch is explicitly set up in Iliad 9.80–88, where the guards assemble and take their post armed. There, we hear that the guard consists of seven leaders, each of whom is named, and each leader has a hundred young men with long spears. As we will see later (10.196–197), Meriones and Thrasymedes, named as two of the seven in Iliad 9 but given special mention here at 10.57–59, will join the leaders to deliberate about the plan, and, importantly, give Diomedes and Odysseus some of their armor. Back in Iliad 9.87, we are told that the guard takes up their post between the ditch and the wall (see further on 10.194). For more on the anxieties about the watch falling asleep, see on 10.98. See Singor 1992:403 for his arguments that the seven leaders of the night watch implies that the Achaean wall has seven gates, and that the adjective hieros is used here, as well as for both the gatekeepers of Troy (Iliad 24.681) and the walls of Thebes (Iliad 4.378), because defensive walls and the life-sustaining protection they provide are “sacred.”
10.58–59 Ἰδομενῆος ὀπάων / Μηριόνης The relationship between Idomeneus and Meriones fits into an Indo-European mythical paradigm of the hero and his charioteer. In such relationships, the charioteer often loses his life, thereby saving the life of his more dominant other half. The concept of the opaōn is similar to that of the therapōn (defined by Gregory Nagy as ‘ritual substitute’), which is what Achilles calls Patroklos in Iliad 16.244. In that passage, Achilles prays that when Patroklos returns to battle he have the power to fight on his own, instead of as part of the closely linked fighting pair that Achilles and Patroklos normally form. Instead, however, Patroklos dies (at the hands of Apollo, Euphorbus, and Hektor), wearing Achilles’ armor and in many ways previewing Achilles’ own death, in some traditions at least, at the hands of Paris and Apollo. (On opaōn and its application to Meriones, we are indebted to an unpublished paper by Ellen Aitken. On the therapōn as a ‘ritual substitute’ for the hero, as Patroklos functions for Achilles, see Nagy 1979:33 and 292–293. On the relationship between Achilles’ and Patroklos’ death, see also Burgess 1997.) The night watch seems to be led by younger men in particular, like Meriones here: is there a suggestion that they can better endure the sleeplessness? See further on 10.259 for the association between young men like Meriones and ambush.
10.60 βοὴν ἀγαθὸς See below on 10.283 for more on this epithet.
10.65 ἀβροτάξομεν There are two different spellings of this verb (found only here in our Homeric texts) in the textual tradition: ἀβροτάξομεν and ἀμβροτάξομεν. Sources are nearly evenly divided between them. West (1997: 229) points out that the form ἀμβροτάξομεν “offers the unmetrical sequence ‒ ⏑  ‒, but the difficulty is resolved by going back to an ancient *hamṛtáxomen.” We might speculate, then, that the spelling without the mu came about because it seemed to solve the metrical difficulty by relying on a plosive + liquid exception to the rule that multiple consonants form a closed syllable (see West 1997: 220–221). In any case, ἀμβροτάξομεν belongs to the categories of older words West identifies that became unmetrical as their form evolved. They were preserved as part of the formulaic language even as these sound-changes occurred in the Greek language as a whole. The antiquity of this word could mean that concern about missing one another in the dark of night is a traditional idea, part of the poetics of night raids or nighttime spying missions.
10.73 αὐτὰρ ὁ βῆ ῥ᾽ ἰέναι μετα See above on 10.32.
10.73 ποιμένα λαῶν See above on 10.3.
10.75 εὐνῇ ἔνι μαλακῇ· παρὰ δ᾽ ἔντεα ποικίλ᾽ ἔκειτο Nestor and Diomedes are described in the state in which they are found sleeping by the others, with the result that each is characterized as a warrior of a particular style. Nestor is an old man and sleeps on a soft bed, but his weapons are right beside him, which implies that he is ready for battle at a moment’s notice (see also 10.78–79). The battle gear that lies next to him is not the same as that he puts on to go out in 10.131ff. The shining helmet (10.76) would be inappropriate for a night mission (see below on 10.257). Rather, the armor serves to characterize Nestor as a warrior in his own right and give him distinction. Agamemnon here, as elsewhere in the Iliad, looks to Nestor first and foremost for strategy. At Iliad 7.325 and 9.84 he is Νέστωρ, οὗ καὶ πρόσθεν ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλή (“Nestor, whose planning also before was manifestly the best”). Nestor orchestrates most of the events of Book 9, as he does here in Book 10. In Book 11, it is Nestor who sets in motion Patroklos’ fatal impersonation of Achilles. On Nestor’s role in the Iliad and in the larger epic tradition, see Frame 2009.
10.83 ὀρφναίην See on 10.41 above.
10.84 ἠέ τιν᾽ οὐρήων διζήμενος, ἤ τιν᾽ ἑταίρων The idea that someone would be out at night looking for a mule (τιν᾽ οὐρήων) seemed odd to Alexandrian scholars, as it might to us. The A scholia indicates that Aristarchus athetized the line because of that word, suggesting that it should be some form of κοῦρος, to indicate the young men of the guard. Instead of assuming a mistake by the poet (as the scholiast does) or by a scribe, another approach would be to see if there are any traditional associations with mules getting loose at night. There are no examples in surviving Homeric poetry, but there may well have been in the larger tradition. In any case, mules are used in a variety of contexts in the Iliad, by both the Trojans and the Achaeans. (See Iliad 1.50, 23.111 and 115, 24.716 for οὐρεύς; the word ἡμίονος is also used in this book at 10.352 and throughout the Iliad and Odyssey.)
10.85 φθέγγεο, μὴ δ᾽ ἀκέων ἐπ᾽ ἒμ᾽ ἔρχεο See “The Poetics of Ambush” on the sensory aspects of the night. In 10.67, Agamemnon told Menelaos to call out (φθέγγεο as here) wherever he went, which in the dark would serve both to wake up his comrades and let them know that he was their fellow Achaean and not an enemy. So here Nestor tells his visitor not to sneak up on him in the dark, but to call out to let him know who he is and why he is there. See also Iliad 10.139 and 24.170.
10.85 χρεώ As each hero is roused from sleep the theme of the great need the Achaeans find themselves on this night is emphasized. We saw in 10.43 that Agamemnon speaks to Menelaos of their need for a “plan,” boulē, just as Nestor does in the opening of Iliad 9. Here, Nestor naturally asks what need has caused him to be woken in the middle of the night. In 10.118, he advises Agamemnon to wake up the Greek leaders, citing the “unbearable need” (χρειὼ … ἀνεκτός) that has come upon them. Likewise in 10.142 Odysseus asks what need so great (χρειὼ τόσον) has driven Agamemnon and Nestor to wake him. Nestor asks him not to reproach them, since the situation really is that dire: “Such sorrow has come upon the Achaeans” (τοῖον γὰρ ἄχος βεβίηκεν Ἀχαιούς, 10.145). In 10.172, we find χρεώ invoked by Nestor once again, in much the same language as at 10.142: “An especially great need has come upon the Achaeans” (μάλα μεγάλη χρειὼ βεβίηκεν Ἀχαιούς). This theme runs throughout Books 9–11, as Robert Rabel (1991) has demonstrated. Rabel argues that each of these three books has a similar tripartite structure consisting of recognition of need, journey, and return and report.
10.98 καμάτω ἁδηκότες The meaning of ἁδηκότες can be easily gleaned from context, but its derivation is disputed. This formula appears four times in this book (here, 10.312, 10.399, and 10.471), but with the exception of Odyssey 12.281 nowhere else in the Iliad or Odyssey. (See also Homeric Hymn to Apollo 460.) Here is another instance of a formula closely tied to the night that has been seen by previous commentators and scholars as evidence of the book’s unusual style. We have argued that Iliad 10 is essentially our only surviving extended narration of a night raid, and this accident of transmission makes these formulas seem more unusual than would otherwise be the case. If we examine the use of καμάτῳ ἁδηκότες in this book more closely, we can see why this formula would have been particularly useful for a poet composing a night raid, and for one composing this episode in particular.
We have already observed that the necessity of staying awake is part of the hardship that characterizes ambush warfare. This necessity, as it happens, is likewise an important component of keeping a night watch. Because on this night the Trojans are encamped nearby—which we have seen is a cause of great anxiety for the Achaeans—the importance of the night watch is heightened. It is vital that the Achaean watches not fail in their duty; they must not fall asleep.
In 10.312, Hektor proposes that someone find out if the Achaeans are keeping a proper night watch, or if in fact they are too worn out by the toil of battle to do so (καμάτῳ ἁδηκότες αἰνῷ). In 10.399, Dolon repeats Hektor’s words to Odysseus virtually word for word, as so often happens in Homer when messages and information are relayed. In 10.420–422, Dolon reveals that the allies of the Trojans are not keeping night watches, and are instead leaving security to the Trojans, who have wives and children to protect. And so, in 10.471, we find that Rhesos and his men have done what the Achaeans must not do: they have fallen asleep, overcome by exhaustion (οἱ δ’ εὗδον καμάτῳ ἁδηκότες). In Odyssey 12.281, Odysseus attempts to force his men to sail through the night, past the island of the sun god (where Teiresias had foretold disaster). The men refuse, saying that they are too worn out to do so (καμάτῳ ἀδηκότας ἠδὲ καὶ ὕπνῳ). It seems clear that this formula occurs naturally when the hardship of staying awake is added to the weariness of a day’s toil, whether it be a day spent fighting in the polemos, or, in the case of the Odyssey, a day spent rowing at sea. (Cf. the simile at Iliad 7.4–7, which compares the relief that the Trojan soldiers feel when Hektor and Paris return to the battlefield to that experienced by sailors who, when their limbs are giving out from the toil of rowing [καμάτῳ δ’ ὑπὸ γυῖα λέλυνται], hope for and receive a favorable wind.) It is not necessary to see these instances in Book 10 as idiosyncratic in their concentration, the work of a particular poet with his own personal and/or Odyssean style, as Danek and Hainsworth have most recently explained them. (See Danek 1988:84–86 and Hainsworth 1993 ad loc.) Rather, they are yet another example of the way that formulas and traditional themes go hand in hand.
10.101 μάχεσθαι With the use of this verb ‘to fight’, we can see that the anxiety is so great among the Achaeans that they fear large-scale attack, and not just a spying mission or an ambush. The fact that they have put seven hundred men on guard duty also reflects their concern that the Trojans will make an all-out assault at night. During the intense battle that occurs the following day, Agamemnon also wonders if the Trojans will stop fighting when night falls (Iliad 14.78–79).
10.102 Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ See Frame 2009 for an in-depth exploration of the epic tradition about Nestor and how it is encapsulated in the phrase hippota Nestor. That Frame could write a work of nearly 800 pages on the implications of this phrase in the epic tradition reveals just how much meaning can be encapsulated in a single epithet. (See also above on 10.3.) Of gerēnios Frame writes (2009:600n189):
In his separate epic traditions Nestor was a young man; only when Nestor was added to the saga of Troy was the figure of the old man created (cf. Cantieni 1942:87). The idea that at Troy Nestor operates among the third generation of heroes during his own lifetime is meant, I think, to establish a sharp divide between the aged Nestor (who is new) and the young Nestor (who is old); a middle-aged Nestor does not exist in epic as far as we know. It was perhaps to distinguish the old hero at Troy from the young hero in Pylos that the hippóta Néstōr of ancient Pylian fame became Gerḗnios hippóta Néstōr at Troy, if Gerḗnios, derived from géras, “privilege of the old,” simply means “old,” as forcefully argued by Bader 1980:55–56: note in particular Iliad 4.325, where Nestor, referring to his role as counselor and speaker (i.e. to his Homeric role in essence) says τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ γερόντων, “for that is the privilege of the old”; a full and convincing morphological analysis of the derivation of Gerḗnios from géras has now been offered by Timothy Barnes in an unpublished paper delivered at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Philological Association.
The theory that gerēnios relates to the privileges of old age is strengthened by a notice in the Townley scholia to Iliad 16.196 that “some” have Γερήνιος ἱππότα Φοίνιξ in place of γέρων ἱππηλάτα Φοίνιξ. (Otherwise, the phrase is used exclusively of Nestor.)
10.103 Ἀτρείδη κύδιστε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον On Nestor’s address of Agamemnon, see on 10.144 below.
10.104–107 Leaf suggests that these lines “are at least somewhat out of place” because Achilles has just refused to return. This statement follows his argument that it is obvious that Iliad 10 “forms no essential part of the story of the Iliad” (Leaf 1900:423). Hainsworth (1993, ad loc.) similarly remarks, “The open condition, implying the possibility of Akhilleus reentering the fray, is unexpected when such a change of heart has just been ruled out of court. A remote condition … would certainly be more appropriate.” Petegorsky states, “Nestor’s reference to Achilles is curious; for it has the effect of conceding to Achilles the role of the hero who will put a stop to Hector, at the very moment when we would expect him to be suggesting an alternative” (1982:203). But, Petegorsky argues, Achilles’ refusal has in effect made the situation revert to what it was before the Embassy, and this deference to Achilles as the only way to stop Hektor in fact shows how much the Doloneia takes part in the Iliadic tradition, both thematically and in its narrative momentum towards Achilles’ eventual return (1982:177–185). The alternative strategy adopted in Iliad 10, one focused on mētis, spying, and ambush, will not change the Iliad’s traditional course of events, but will highlight through contrast the need for Achilles’ strength to save the Achaeans.
10.109 ἠμὲν Τυδέιδην δουρὶ κλυτὸν ἠδ’ Ὀδυσῆα This line shows that, as we would expect, Diomedes and Odysseus are closely linked in the formulaic diction. For more on Odysseus and Diomedes as a fighting pair, see below on 10.243.
10.110–113 Αἴαντα ταχὺν The swift Ajax is the son of Oileus, as we see also in Iliad 14.520–522: Ὀϊλῆος ταχὺς υἱός· οὐ γάρ οἵ τις ὁμοῖος ἐπισπέσθαι ποσὶν ἦεν/ἀνδρῶν τρεσσάντων, ὅτε τε Ζεὺς ἐν φόβον ὄρσῃ (“the swift son of Oileus—there is no one like him for following on foot when men are retreating in flight, whenever Zeus sets a rout in motion”). In 10.112–113, Nestor is referring to Ajax the son of Telamon, whose ships are on the far end of the line (see Iliad 11.7–9). In 10.175–176 Nestor tells Diomedes to go wake up the son of Oileus, but the mission itself is not described in our text, nor is the mission of Menelaos to Telamonian Ajax (see above on 10.53).
10.116 πονέεσθαι There is a cluster of three occurrences of this verb: here, in 10.117, and in Agamemnon’s response in 10.121. It is also used in 10.70, and the noun from which it is derived, πόνος, appears at 10.89, 10.164, 10.245, and 10.279. These words are also used for the hardships of (daytime) battle, but see our essay “Poetics of Ambush” for a discussion of the associations that “hard labor” has with ambush fighting.
10.121 πολλάκι γὰρ μεθίει Douglas Frame (2009:214–216) demonstrates that “giving way,” especially in deference to his brother, is a traditional characteristic of Menelaos. In addition to here, the verb μεθίημι is used of Menelaos in two other places: at Odyssey 4.372 and most tellingly at Iliad 23.434, where Menelaos gives way to Antilokhos in the chariot race. Frame connects that event in particular with Menelaos’ nostos, in which he displays hesitancy, lack of incitement, and a lack of noos. These same qualities will make him a poor choice for the spying mission: Agamemnon seems to know this, as we see in his fear that Diomedes will choose Menelaos based on status alone (see 10.237–240). As we have noted elsewhere (see 10.31), Menelaos is portrayed as a successful ambusher in the Odyssey, but that portrayal seems quite separate from his relationship with his brother, whom, as we have seen earlier on this night, he looks to for direction, even as he is the first to voice the idea of the spying mission.
10.133 χλαῖναν Nestor does not put on an animal skin, but rather an impressive cloak (khlaina). For the traditional language of these dressing scenes, compare 10.21–22. See also below on 10.149.
10.136 βῆ δ᾽ ἰέναι See on 10.32.
10.137 Ὀδυσῆα Διὶ μῆτιν ἀτάλαντον This is not the first time that Odysseus’ name is mentioned in Iliad 10 (see 10.109), but it is the first place that he appears in the narrative, and the first place in our text that he is given a description of any kind. Here and twice in Iliad 2, Odysseus is called “the equivalent of Zeus in craft [mētis].” Odysseus rivals the gods in this kind of intelligence, by which he engineers alternative warfare and the daring escapes that are his specialty in the Odyssey. One of Odysseus’ most common epithets in the Iliad and Odyssey, πολύμητις (as at 10.148), likewise highlights this central aspect of Odysseus’ character. Odysseus is the hero who takes down the Cyclops by a carefully orchestrated ambush, and the attack on the suitors is structured like an ambush in many ways. We have noted as well that the sack of Troy is an ambush, of which Odysseus is the mastermind. (For more on mētis in the Doloneia, see on 10.19 and “The Poetics of Ambush” above. On Odysseus as the hero of mētis, see above on 10.5–9, Haft 1990, and Holmberg 1997:14–15. For Odysseus’ epithets in the Odyssey, see Austin 1975:25–53.
10.139 φθεγξάμενος· τὸν δ᾽ αἶψα περὶ φρένας ἤλυθ᾽ ἰωή Note the emphasis on the sound of Nestor’s voice as he rouses Odysseus from sleep. On the aural aspects of this episode, see above pp. 62–68 and on 10.85.
10.141–142 On the theme of “need,” see above on 10.85.
10.142 νύκτα δι᾽ ἀμβροσίην In the Venetus A, the oldest complete medieval manuscript of the Iliad, ὀρφναίην is written in the margin next to νύκτα δι᾽ ἀμβροσίην at this line (see Figure 5), and a thirteenth-century manuscript (Vaticanus Graecus 26) prints ὀρφναίην here instead of ἀμβροσίην. On the significance of the two adjectives and the variation we find here, see above on 10.41.
10.144 διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη πολυμήχαν’ Ὀδυσσεῦ Nestor, who is the most diplomatic of the heroes in the Iliad, addresses Odysseus in connection with both his lineage and with two of his traditional epithets, thereby using an entire hexameter to address him. He does the same with Agamemnon in 10.103 (Ἀτρεΐδη κύδιστε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον), in precisely the way that Agamemnon instructs Menelaos to wake up the heroes in 10.68–69. And as with Agamemnon, Nestor chooses what is perhaps the most honorific of Odysseus’ traditional epithets. In the Iliad, the epithet διογενὲς ‘descended from Zeus’ is applied to several heroes, including Patroklos (1.337), Achilles (1.489), Ajax (4.489), and Menelaos (23.294), but in the Odyssey it is restricted to Odysseus. πολυμήχανος, on the other hand, is Odysseus’ distinctive epithet. It is used of him and him alone, and, with one exception, always in the vocative. That one exception is the signature description of Odysseus by Athena, who in the guise of Mentes tells Telemakhos that his father is on his way home, “since he is a man of many devices (πολυμήχανος, Odyssey 1.205).”
It is a testament to the economy of Homeric diction that other than the full verse phrase that appears here (and six other places in the Iliad, as well as fifteen times in the Odyssey) there are only three ways to address Odysseus in the vocative in our Iliad, each with a different metrical configuration: ὦ πολύαιν’ Ὀδυσεῦ μέγα κῦδος Ἀχαιῶν (9.673, 10.544), ὦ Ὀδυσεῦ πολύαινε (11.430), and [ὦ] Ὀδυσεῦ (9.346, 14.104). This does not mean, however, that the epithets are without semantic weight (see especially the formulation of Lord 1960/2000:66, quoted on 10.3 above). The full verse formula is particularly flexible and can be used or not at a composer’s discretion. Its contexts suggest that it conveys formality and respect. In the Iliad, the goddess Athena and the heroes Agamemnon, Diomedes, Achilles, and Ajax address Odysseus this way. In the Odyssey, Athena, Calypso, and Circe do, as do the shades of Teiresias, Agamemnon, and Achilles.
Diomedes, by contrast, does not get quite the same respect as Agamemnon and Odysseus. In 10.159, Diomedes is addressed as simply “the son of Tydeus.” In Iliad 9.32–49, Diomedes is the first to speak after Agamemnon’s address to the assembled warriors and is sharply critical of him. Nestor praises Diomedes for his abilities as a warrior and for his speaking ability but qualifies the latter: he is the best in counsel for his age group (Iliad 9.54). It seems that Diomedes is still too junior in relation to Nestor to get the full honorific address. Three times, however, he is addressed by others with the affectionate full-line formula Τυδεΐδη Διόμηδες ἐμῷ κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ (Iliad 5.242, by Sthenelos; Iliad 5.826, by Athena; Iliad 10.234, by Agamemnon).
10.145 τοῖον γὰρ ἄχος βεβίηκεν Ἀχαιούς See also above on 10.85. The sorrow (akhos) that Nestor cites here is of course ultimately the result of the withdrawal of Achilles and its disastrous consequences, and Nestor uses an equivalent phrase when the strife between Agamemnon and Achilles begins (see Iliad 1.254; see Nagy 1979:69–72, 94–95 for the equivalence of ἄχος and πένθος in Homeric diction). The Trojans have had a great deal of success in Achilles’ absence and are now encamped on the plain. This sorrow is what keeps Agamemnon and Menelaos awake at the opening of this book. Likewise, in Iliad 9.9, Agamemnon is “struck in his heart by great sorrow” (ἄχεϊ μεγάλῳ βεβολημένος ἦτορ). Achilles had predicted that Agamemnon would feel sorrow (ἀχνύμένος, Iliad 1.241) when the Greeks fell dying. The akhos that Achilles experiences when Agamemnon threatens to take and then in fact takes Briseis in Iliad 1 initiates his wrath, which in turn leads to the sorrow of the Achaeans. Nagy has argued that there is a “pervasive nexus between ἄχος and Ἀχιλ(λ)εύς” in Homeric diction that is “integrated in the inherited formulaic system and hence deeply rooted in the epic tradition” (Nagy 1979:79). This akhos seems to be the root of Achilles’ name, which Nagy etymologizes as *Akhí-lāṷos ‘whose host of men is sorrowful [= grieving]’. (See Nagy 1979:69–93 and Nagy 2004:131–137, as well as Palmer 1963:78–79 and Holland 1993.)
10.148 πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεὺς On Odysseus’ associations with mētis, see on 10.5–9 and on 10.137 above. Polumētis ‘who is crafty in many ways’ is one of Odysseus’ most commonly used epithets. Other than Odysseus it is only used of Hephaistos (πολυμήτιος, Iliad 21.355), who is the god of a different sort of craft. (The English word ‘craft’, like the Greek mētis, encompasses both meanings.) Milman Parry says of this particular epithet: “δῖος and πολύμητις, for the audience, describe the Odysseus of all the epic poems which sang his deeds” (MHV 171). πολύμητις is one of the distinctive epithets of Odysseus, while δῖος is a generic epithet of heroes (see Parry MHV 145 for πολύμητις as a distinctive epithet, and MHV 84 for δῖος as generic). Parry writes:
Epic lines without epithets would have seemed to them like a heroic character without his traditional attributes. But even now, who among those of us who have any knowledge of the legend has asked why Odysseus should be crafty in this or that particular episode? Just so, Homer’s listeners demanded epithets and paid them no attention, showing thereby the same lack of exact observation that becomes a habit with the modern reader. And it is this lack of exact observation that explains uses of the epithet which appear to us unmotivated, because we look for their motivations in the lines where they occur, rather than in all the poetry Homer’s audience had already heard before they ever heard him sing.
Parry MHV 137–138
As we discussed on 10.3 in connection with the phrase ποιμένα λαῶν, the phrase πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεὺς can be used of Odysseus even in situations in which he is not being particularly crafty; the distinctive noun-epithet combination is, to quote the formulation of Nagy once again, “like a small theme song that conjures up a thought-association with the traditional essence of an epic figure” (Nagy 1990b:23). The phrase is not without significance in an ambush context, however, because Odysseus is a pre-eminent ambusher within the tradition as a whole. Odysseus is called πολύμητις just as he leaves his tent, which marks the beginning of what will become a spying mission/ambush episode that will prominently feature Odysseus’ mētis. Once that episode is well underway, Odysseus will be again called πολύμητις when he interrogates Dolon (10.382; see also 10.488, where he handles the horses so they are not spooked).
10.149 ποικίλον ἀμφ᾽ ὤμοισι σάκος θέτο Agamemnon and Diomedes each wear a lion skin, Menelaos wears a leopard skin, Nestor wears a khiton and khlaina, and all take a weapon (egkhos or doru), but Odysseus takes only a shield and leaves without putting on any outerwear of any kind. This seemingly mundane detail actually serves two significant narrative functions. First and foremost, it sets up the extended arming scene that takes place at the assembly, just before the raid itself (see below on 10.254–272). Odysseus’ lack of appropriate gear here means that he will have to borrow armor at the assembly. Second, Odysseus’ lack of an animal skin has an intriguing corollary the Odyssey, where, in one of his Cretan lies to Eumaios in Odyssey 14, Odysseus comes close to revealing his true identity, at least from the perspective of a traditional audience of epic. Odysseus describes how once on a cold night at Troy he went out on an ambush. All the other heroes were dressed for the weather, but he himself had no cloak, and had to come up with a clever scheme to get one from one of his companions on the lokhos. Odysseus’ Cretan lie may well be playfully alluding to a Doloneia tradition, in which case the story is a coded verbal message (ainos) directed at both the internal audience (Eumaios) and the external audience, who will “get” the inside reference. Such a reference is possible if we understand the Iliad (including the Doloneia) and Odyssey to be co-existing oral traditions, evolving in conjunction with one another. (On the ainos as a coded verbal message in Odyssey 14, see both Muellner 1976:97 and Nagy 1979:234–237, with further reference ad loc.) On the multiple significances of the shield being “intricately patterned” (poikilos), see above on 10.30.
10.151 ἐκτὸς ἀπὸ κλισίης σὺν τεύχεσιν Diomedes and his comrades are so ready for battle that they are not even inside their tent. Agamemnon had earlier stated his concern that the Trojans might be planning a night attack (10.100–101), and the preparedness seen here may also reflect the same “state of emergency” that is also prompting the night meeting and spying mission.
10.152–154 ἔγχεα δέ σφιν/ ὀρθ᾽ ἐπὶ σαυρωτῆρος ἐλήλατο, τῆλε δὲ χαλκὸς / λάμφ᾽ ὥς τε στεροπὴ πατρὸς Διὸς Their spears are planted in a kind of palisade, perhaps as a defense while they sleep on this dangerous night, or perhaps so that they are easy to reach in case of attack. The shining of the bronze like lightning is a frequent image in Homeric poetry (see Iliad 11.66, which is also an explicit simile, and the metaphorical uses of στεροπή with bronze at Iliad 11.83 and 19.363, and Odyssey 4.72 and 14.268 = 17.437). In most of those cases, just as here, the gleam of the bronze has a threatening or awe-inspiring quality to it. That the bronze shines this way at night is suggestive in terms of what is visible in the dark.
10.159 ὄρσεο The manuscripts are divided between this reading and ἔγρεο. The scholia indicate that Aristarchus had both readings: ὄρσεο· διχῶς ὁ Ἀρίσταρχος, ἔγρεο καὶ ὄρσεο [A intermarginal scholia]; ἔγρεο· γράφεται καὶ ὄρσεο. διχῶς αἱ Ἀριστάρχου [T interlinear scholia]. This is possible because two separate editions or ekdoseis of the text of Homer were attributed to Aristarchus (= αἱ Ἀριστάρχου in the scholia), both of which were known to his student Didymus. From Didymus’ scholarly work many of the scholia derive. (On the ekdoseis of Aristarchus, see Montanari 1998 and Nagy 2004:85–86. On the sources for the Homeric scholia, see Nagy 2004:3–24 and Blackwell and Dué 2009.)
The sources, both ancient and medieval, are perhaps divided here because both verbs are well attested in the formulaic diction. ἔγρεο occurs here and in two places in the Odyssey; ὄρσεο is attested four times in the Iliad and once in the Odyssey. Clearly, both verbs could be generated by a poet composing in performance. Here is a perfect illustration of the difficulty a modern editor of Homer faces when trying to choose between two or more equally Homeric (= formulaic) variations. We, as the editors of this volume, have for this very reason rejected a traditional text critical approach, and instead have advocated a multitextual approach that accounts for the multiformity of the Homeric poems at different historical points in their transmission. (See above, “Iliad 10: A Multitextual Approach.”)
10.159 Τυδέος υἱέ See on 10.144 above. See also Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1981:96–100 for more on Diomedes’ patronymic and his youth.
10.159a The third-century CE scholar and poet Diogenes Laertius relates an anecdote (6.53) that features the hexameter line μή τίς τοι εὔδοντι μεταφρένῳ ἐν δόρυ πήξῃ. This verse is probably a literary play on Iliad 8.95: μή τίς τοι φεύγοντι μεταφρένῳ ἐν δόρυ πήξῃ. The twelfth-century scholar Eustathius may be in fact thinking of Diogenes and not Homer when he writes (in 519.32) ὁ Νέστωρ τῷ Διομήδῃ κειμένῳ πού φησιν· ἔγρεο, μή τις τοι καθεύδοντι μεταφρένῳ ἐν δόρυ πήξῃ (“Somewhere Nestor says to the sleeping Diomedes, ‘Wake up, lest someone pierce you in the back with a spear while you sleep’”; cf. Diogenes Laertius’ ἐπέγειραι, ἔφη … ). It is possible that Eustathius had a text of the Iliad with this line following 10.159, but the verse is attested nowhere else in our manuscripts.
10.177–178 ἑέσσατο δέρμα λέοντος / αἴθωνος μεγάλοιο ποδηνεκὲς, εἵλετο δ᾽ ἔγχος Verse 177, after the caesura, and 178 are also used to describe what Agamemnon wears in 10.23–24, which is indicative of their formulaic nature and also suggestive of their use in night raid contexts generally.
10.179 βῆ δ᾽ ἰέναι See on 10.32.
10.180–189 As we discuss in the introductory essay “The Poetics of Ambush,” this simile emphasizes the sounds that are made in the dark, as well as describing a scenario of being on the defensive against a nocturnal attack (see above, pp. 63–64).
10.183 δυσωρήσωνται is another hapax legomenon, appearing only in Iliad 10, but we can understand why it might only appear once in our extant Homeric epics from the simile’s interaction with its context. Although in other parts of the poem there are similes describing predatory animals attacking domestic flocks at night, and the retaliation of men and dogs (see e.g. Iliad 11.546–557), here the simile is for a particularly “painful” night watch. It is painful both because the young men on guard duty have had an extremely hard day of fighting and because the Trojans are camped out for the first time, closer than ever, during this night. (See also the commentary on 10.331 for more on words that appear only in Iliad 10.)
10.194 τάφροιο διέσσυτο The act of crossing the ditch for the meeting conveys a spatial significance to the need the Achaeans feel and the plan they will construct to meet it. In Iliad 7, the Achaeans created a new boundary on the landscape by building their wall and ditch. The wall was built in the dark, before the dawn (Iliad 7.433). In the subsequent daytime battles, the boundary created by these two elements is of the utmost importance. M. L. West notes that “once they have been built they are frequently mentioned again, in every book from the eighth to the eighteenth, as well as in the twentieth and twenty-fourth” (1969:255). The boundary is mentioned either in order to indicate who is winning at that point or whenever the tide of battle turns. In the battle that takes place on the day before the night of Iliad 10, for example, Hektor pens in the Achaeans behind the wall so that the entire space is filled with men and horses (Iliad 8.213–216). The Achaeans rally after some inspiration from the gods and cross the ditch on the offensive (Iliad 8.253–265), but Hektor forces them back over the ditch as he once again takes the upper hand (Iliad 8.340–343). And, of course, the boundary will become even more significant the day after the night of Iliad 10, as the Trojans themselves cross it and threaten the ships with fire (the Trojans pass over the ditch and wall at the end of Iliad 12). Since the wall and ditch act as a threshold between the camp and the battlefield, one way of understanding the leaders crossing the ditch to hold their meeting is as a shift toward being on the offensive. Only the ditch is mentioned here: Petegorsky (1982:238n13) suggests that the “absence” of the wall presages its breach the next day. (For more on the poetic possibilities and traditional associations offered by the Achaean wall, see Boyd 1995.)
10.199 ἐν καθαρῷ, ὅθι δὴ νεκύων διεφαίνετο χῶρος Another significant feature of the landscape on this night is the number of corpses left on the battlefield. No truce has been allowed this time for the gathering of the dead (compare the truce agreed to at Iliad 7.407–411). The Trojan camp is also in a space specifically said to be free of corpses (this same line is also used at Iliad 8.491), and a picture of the landscape covered with corpses is repeatedly evoked (10.298, 10.343 = 10.387, 10.469). Such a detail is a reminder of the intense battle of the day before, which is the reason both for the embassy to Achilles and for this meeting, which will result in the spying mission and ambush. It is also a harbinger of the even greater battle that will happen on the next day, adding to the eerie atmosphere of the nighttime landscape.
10.205 θυμῷ τολμήεντι For the importance of a “daring (or enduring) heart” for spying missions or ambush, see below on 10.231, 10.244, and 10.248, as well as “The Poetics of Ambush.”
10.206–210 Fenik (1964:41) excoriates these lines, calling the idea that the Trojans might retreat into the city “wholly fatuous,” and he uses them to inquire “whether some special grounds, other than general incompetence, were responsible for the K poet’s extraordinary failure here.” But the assumption that a different, individual author composed these lines leads to the kind of evaluation that Fenik makes. Instead, using approaches based in oral poetics, we can see how these lines do not ignore the situation that the Iliad has presented, but rather resonate with what is to come. Diomedes and Odysseus will indeed capture (and kill, ἕλοι can mean both) someone at the edge of the enemy (ἐσχατόωντα): in fact, this can allude to both Dolon, from whom they will get information, and Rhesos, whose army is described as encamped at the edge: ἔσχατοι ἄλλων (10.434). Just so, the Trojans will not consider retreating on this night, though they will the next night (see Iliad 18.243–313). Petegorsky (1982:225–230) argues that Nestor’s proposal anticipates the later Trojan council scenes, during the next day’s fighting, particularly that in Iliad 18, in anticipation of Achilles’ return.
10.211–212 καὶ ἂψ εἰς ἡμέας ἔλθοι / ἀσκηθὴς When he proposes the spying mission, Nestor includes the crucial completion of the mission: namely, that the spy return to report what he has found out. The return of the spy ‘unscathed’ connects to the greater theme, and it shares concepts with the theme of the journey. One concern with any of these nighttime or secret operations, such as spying missions or ambushes, is that, if those who undertake them do not return, their comrades may never know what happened to them. Whether, how, and by whom a spy has been killed cannot be verified, and it is such knowledge that allows a warrior to be buried and honored after death. This lack of knowledge provides a strong contrast to daytime battle, in which one comrade will see another fall, and will subsequently go to protect his corpse or to attack his killer in retaliation. That sequence in battle is a pattern we see again and again in the Iliad. The same contrast between a death in open battle (bringing honor) and a death that occurs on a journey (resulting in an inability to bury and honor the person lost because of a lack of knowledge as well as the lack of the corpse) is expressed by loved ones of Odysseus in the Odyssey. The sentiment is first expressed by Telemakhos:
νῦν δ’ ἑτέρως ἐβόλοντο θεοὶ κακὰ μητιόωντες,
235 οἳ κεῖνον μὲν ἄϊστον ἐποίησαν περὶ πάντων
ἀνθρώπων, ἐπεὶ οὔ κε θανόντι περ ὧδ’ ἀκαχοίμην,
εἰ μετὰ οἷσ’ ἑτάροισι δάμη Τρώων ἐνὶ δήμῳ,
ἠὲ φίλων ἐν χερσίν, ἐπεὶ πόλεμον τολύπευσε.
τῶ κέν οἱ τύμβον μὲν ἐποίησαν Παναχαιοί,
240 ἠδέ κε καὶ ᾧ παιδὶ μέγα κλέος ἤρατ’ ὀπίσσω.
νῦν δέ μιν ἀκλειῶς
ρπυιαι ἀνηρέψαντο·
οἴχετ’ ἄϊστος ἄπυστος, ἐμοὶ δ’ ὀδύνας τε γόους τε
κάλλιπεν·
Odyssey 1.234–243
But now the gods have willed it otherwise, devising evils,
235 who have made that man [Odysseus] unseen beyond all
mortals, since I would not grieve this way at his death
if among his comrades he was subdued in the district of the Trojans
or in the hands of his friends, when he had finished war.
All the Achaeans would have made a burial mound for him,
240 and he would have won great fame [kleos] even for his child in the future.
But now the Arpuiai whirlwinds have snatched him up without fame [kleos].
He is gone, unseen, unheard of. And for me pain and laments
he left behind.
Later (Odyssey 14.365–372), Eumaios says something very similar in response to the disguised Odysseus’ story about the fate of Odysseus. He, too, contrasts the unknown circumstances of Odysseus’ presumed death at sea with a death in battle, after which a man’s comrades can bury him. A known death in battle brings kleos, which, having as its root meaning ‘something heard’ (see Nagy 1979:16, §2n3), is contrasted in Telemakhos’ words not only with an “unglorious” death (Odyssey 1.241) but also with Odysseus himself, who is “unseen” and “unheard of” (Odyssey 1.242). In Iliad 10, in the same line as ἀσκηθής (10.212), Nestor promises kleos to the man who undertakes this mission, but the return is necessary for that kleos to come about. For if a man were to go out on a nighttime spying mission, or an ambush, and not come back, he, too, would be unseen, unheard of, and could not be buried or honored properly.
So the need to complete the mission, the need for a return, is one way that a spying mission resembles a journey in epic diction. Coming back unscathed, ἀσκηθής, is used elsewhere in Homeric epic of a return home or of some other completion of a journey. It is used prominently in Odyssey 5 of the need to have both Telemakhos (Odyssey 5.26) and Odysseus (Odyssey 5.144, 5.168) return to their fatherland (πατρίδα γαῖαν). At the very beginning of the story of his wanderings, Odysseus says that he would have returned home unscathed if the sea currents had not prevented him from making his way to Ithaka (Odyssey 9.79–81). Thus arriving unscathed seems especially associated with sailing journeys, as Odysseus also uses it in one of his Cretan lies, in this case for an easy sailing from Crete to Egypt (Odyssey 14.255; cf. Solon fr. 19 [West], who says that Kypris sent him home unscathed [askēthēs] in a fast ship for a good homecoming [nostos] to his own land). In one additional case in the Odyssey, Odysseus tells Achilles that Neoptolemos was very successful in battle and ambush (see pp. 47–48), and later adds that he was never hurt in the fighting—he was ἀσκηθής, never touched by a weapon. Although the context has referred to both battle and ambush, the word actually describes Neoptolemos as he boards his ship for the journey home, again displaying the connection between sailing journeys and nostos. The “Odyssean” language that many scholars have noted in Book 10, and have even cited as proof of its non-Iliadic nature, may be a thematic result, not only of the greater prominence of ambush in the Odyssey, but also of this thematic overlap between spying missions or ambushes and journeys, especially journeys home and those over the sea.
In the Iliad, ἀσκηθής is used in one other context, and that is, in fact, daytime battle. As Achilles prays to Zeus that Patroklos will be successful in saving the Achaeans and their ships from the Trojan onslaught, he asks as well that Patroklos then return unscathed to him at the swift ships: ἀσκηθής μοι ἔπειτα θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας ἵκοιτο (Iliad 16.247). Patroklos is not going on an ambush here, and there is no concern that what happens to him will be unknown. Instead, the fact that he is going as Achilles’ substitute must also be a special kind of departure for battle, and the desire for the substitute to come back unscathed evokes this same word (see Nagy 1979:292–295 for Patroklos as a ritual substitute for Achilles in this battle). Zeus’ reaction is to grant the first part of Achilles’ prayer, but not the safe return: σόον δ’ ἀνένευσε μάχης ἐξαπονέεσθαι (Iliad 16.252). Petegorsky (1982:220–221) argues that these two uses of ἀσκηθής in the Iliad highlight the isolation of Patroklos going into battle without Achilles, in contrast to the pairing of Diomedes and Odysseus.
10.212–213 κλέος ‘glory in song’ and δόσις ‘gift’ are not incompatible rewards in Homeric epic. Throughout the Iliad material prizes are a physical manifestation of a warrior’s place in the song tradition and are a major sources of contention among heroes. In Iliad 1, when Agamemnon threatens to take Achilles’ prize (γέρας), the woman Briseis, Achilles says that he does not intend to continue fighting ἄτιμος (‘without honor’, Iliad 1.171). As Casey Dué has noted, the dispute over prize women in Iliad 1 is actually about τιμή (Iliad 1.161, 1.174, 1.412, 1.503–510). This word is generally translated as ‘honor’, but it conveys specifically the honor heroes receive after death in cult and song as immortalized heroes (Dué 2002:45; see also Nagy 1979:118). In Iliad 9, Achilles, struggling with his mortality, rejects the gifts of Agamemnon and at the same time rejects the glorious death he will have in battle (Iliad 9.410–416). So too do the competitions for the prizes at the funeral games for Patroklos in Iliad 23 have far greater significance than their material value. In Iliad 23.700–737, Ajax and Odysseus compete in wrestling, foreshadowing their competition for the arms of Achilles after his death and for the title of “best of the Achaeans.” In Iliad 23, neither can decisively defeat the other, and eventually Achilles calls the contest a draw, pronouncing that the victory (along with two equal prizes) belongs to both. (The individual contests have been analyzed by various scholars. See e.g. Douglas Frame’s analysis of the chariot race in Frame 2009:131–172 and further bibliography ad loc.) In Iliad 24, Achilles accepts a ransom for Hektor’s body, even though he knows that he too will soon be dead. He asks Patroklos not to be angry with him for accepting it, and says that they will share it equally (Iliad 24.589–595).
When we understand that prizes are inextricably linked with kleos in this tradition, we can better understand episodes in which heroes act in ways that we might call “selfish,” episodes which are often incompatible with modern notions of heroism (see e.g. Stanford 1965 ad Odyssey 9.229). The Little Iliad, according to Proklos, narrated the theft of the Palladion, a story that survives in several variant versions in which Diomedes or Odysseus or both try to get sole possession of it, betraying the other (see Gantz 1993:643–644). Likewise, Rick Newton (2008 and 2009) has discussed the way that Odysseus seeks gifts at the expense of his comrades throughout his adventures. Newton suggests that, in the Odyssey, guest-gifts function like a geras does in the Iliad: guest-gifts, whatever their intrinsic material value, are tokens of honor and prestige for their recipient (cf. Odyssey 5.29–42 and 11.355–361). Odysseus’ heroic pursuit of guest-gifts generates delays in his homecoming and is instrumental in causing the death of his comrades along the way. See also Newton 2005, especially p. 141: “[In] Odyssean hospitality … the acquisition of property … enhances the honor and status of the hero … But that heroic hospitality, like successful warfare in the Iliad, comes at a price, and a high one … Odysseus will reach Ithaca late and alone.” An analogy can be made between the Iliadic deaths of countless Achaeans due to Achilles’ wrath over his stripped geras and the loss of Odysseus’ entire fleet and crew during his Odyssey nostos.
Note also that Nestor says there is kleos for undertaking a spying mission, making it parallel to fighting in battle. Nestor promises the sheep and a share at a banquet (see Nagy 1979:118–141 for connections between hero cult and portions at feasts), but the horses of Rhesos also become the reward and a visible sign of the success Diomedes and Odysseus achieve.
10.219 βοὴν ἀγαθὸς See below on 10.283 for more on this epithet.
10.220 ἒμ’ ὀτρύνει κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ In a simile in Iliad 12, when Sarpedon is about to make his attack on the Achaean wall, we see a lion on ambush (Iliad 12.299–308). The lion is hungry, but it is nevertheless his audacious heart that bids him to attack the flocks and go to their densely packed enclosure (κέλεται δέ ἑ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ / μήλων πειρήσοντα καὶ ἐς πυκινὸν δόμον ἐλθεῖν, Iliad 12.300–301). He is desperate enough that he will make his attack even though the flocks are guarded by dogs and men. The formula θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ thus is used to indicate the motivation to undertake a particularly risky endeavor, and it seems to be used frequently, though not exclusively, for nighttime or ambush situations. Here, the nocturnal nature of the lion’s attack is not explicit, but is implied by the animals being in their pen and by the use of the adjective pukinos for that pen (see above on 10.5–9 for more on the associations between pukinos and ambush). Other examples of ambush contexts in which we see the formula θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ include the suitors’ plan to ambush Telemakhos (Odyssey 4.658), Odysseus preparing the wine-skin before he meets Polyphemos (Odyssey 9.213), and the ambushes Odysseus describes in one of his Cretan lies (Odyssey 14.217–219). See below on 10.244 for more on the qualities of κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ and their association with nighttime spying missions and ambush. See also below on 10.297 for more on similes involving lions at night.
10.222 On the significance of the verb ἕπομαι, which is also used of gods who “accompany” heroes, see on 10.285.
10.224–226 Anthony Edwards (1985:22) identifies two leaders as a common feature of the Homeric ambush, and so Diomedes’ request for a partner may already indicate that the spying mission that Nestor proposed will become an ambush. Robert Rabel (1991, see esp. 288–291) sees an emphasis in Iliad 10 on cooperation among heroes in order to achieve success that contrasts strongly with Achilles’ choice to “go it alone” in Iliad 9. In Diomedes’ description of the ideal night raid team, νόος and νοέω are cited three times in three lines, together with μῆτις (cf. Iliad 23.590). It is no surprise, therefore, that he chooses Odysseus. For Odysseus’ association with mētis and noos, see on 10.137 and 10.247, respectively.
10.227–231 We can compare this list with the list of those willing to duel with Hektor (after Nestor’s rebuke) in Iliad 7.162–168. These lists comprise a kind of subtheme that occurs in these types of “selection” situations but also in situations in which the Achaeans “regroup” to fight back (e.g. Iliad 8.261–266, after Diomedes leads the charge). This subtheme seems related both to the idea of volunteering for dangerous assignments, and, in the larger scheme, to the contention among the heroes for who is the “best”—for more on which, see below on 10.236.
10.228 Αἴαντε As discussed above on 10.53, at one time this dual referred to the fighting team of Ajax and Teucer, which would be a most appropriate meaning here. The dual, then, could mean not that Ajax son of Telamon and Ajax son of Oileus each individually volunteered (no other two warriors are listed as volunteering this way), but rather that Ajax and Teucer volunteered as a team. This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that two-horse chariot teams are described in the dual (as at 10.530–531), as are Diomedes and Odysseus when they are working as a unit, as we will see. (See below on 10.243.) Likewise, when Diomedes makes his case for taking a partner on the expedition (10.222–226), he uses the dual to describe the advantages of such a pair. The Aktorione-Molione, the possibly conjoined twins who fought Nestor in his youth (Iliad 11.709–752 and 23.638–642), are, of course, yet another pair of warriors who are described in the dual. The dual thus seems to be a traditional way of referring to a closely linked fighting team.
If the dual in this line is referring to Ajax and Teucer, then there is no mention of Ajax the son Oileus volunteering. We can speculate that in some performances of Iliad 10, especially those composed at a time when the dual was understood to refer to Ajax and Teucer, this dual meant that fighting team, although in our version Ajax son of Oileus is specifically named as someone to gather for the meeting at 10.110. It is worth noting that in Iliad 7.164, when the two Ajaxes are included among the heroes who volunteer to fight Hektor one-on-one, the form attested there is the plural, not the dual.
10.231 ὁ τλήμων Ὀδυσεὺς On this epithet, Milman Parry offers the following:
The epithet τλήμων, found twice in the Iliad, presents a particular interest because it never occurs in the Odyssey, despite the greater importance of the role played by Odysseus in the latter poem. One might be tempted to see in it a word original with the poet of the Iliad or of the Doloneia, only the meaning of the epithet rules out such a conclusion. Like πολύτλας, τλήμων could never have been invented for the Iliad. It is an epithet whose origin is in some poem describing the wanderings of Odysseus, and which eventually came, like πολύτλας, to be applied to him under all circumstances. For in the Iliad Odysseus has not yet suffered more than other heroes. So we have here a formula indubitably deriving from the tradition and yet never used by the poet (or poets) of the Odyssey. Ought we to infer that the author of the Odyssey knew this formula but never had occasion to make use of it? It could be pointed out in support of this conclusion that the other words of these two lines are often found in the same position [citing 10.231 and 10.498, on which, see below]. It is also true that in the Odyssey Odysseus never has occasion to manage horses or to enter the throng of battle. But all this remains uncertain.
MHV 82
For more on the significance of this epithet, see below on 10.248, where we connect Odysseus’ epithets from τλάω with the endurance and daring required for ambush. Here, we see both semantic fields of the word at work: ὁ τλήμων Ὀδυσεὺς is followed in the very next line by the phrase: αἰεὶ γὰρ οἱ ἐνὶ φρεσὶ θυμὸς ἐτόλμα (“For the spirit [thumos] in his heart [phrēn] was always daring”; on the thumos as the motivator in risky undertakings, see also on 10.220 above). If we connect Odysseus’ epithet to the theme of ambush, we need not state with Parry that it could never have been invented for the Iliad, or assert that it is more appropriate for the Odyssey (Hainsworth 1993 ad loc.). Rather, it is appropriate in an ambush context, wherever that theme is invoked. On the significance of the definite article here, see Haft 1990:46–48 (with further bibliography ad loc.), who notes that although ὁ + epithet phrases are relatively rare in Homer, ὁ τλήμων Ὀδυσεὺς is one of four such phrases applied to Odysseus in the Iliad and Odyssey, and should be understood as demonstrative (i.e. “that [well-known] enduring Odysseus”). See also on 10.363.
10.234 Τυδείδη Διόμηδες ἐμῷ κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ For commentary on this full line formula of address, see on 10.144 above.
10.236 τὸν ἄριστον Agamemnon tells Diomedes to choose the “best” man. The question of who is the “best of the Achaeans” is a theme that runs throughout the Iliad, as Gregory Nagy has shown. In the catalogue of ships (Iliad 2.761), the narrator asks the Muses who was the best (aristos) of the Achaeans, and answers that it was Ajax, so long as Achilles had mēnis (2.768–769). But as Nagy points out, the claim to being best of the Achaeans is a disputed and divided one in the Iliad, precisely because the acknowledged best, Achilles, has withdrawn. The Odyssey tradition is not divided, however. There, Odysseus is the unquestioned best (Nagy 1979:26–35 and passim). So too in the Doloneia tradition is Odysseus the “best,” and here he is so in part because of his association with nostos ‘return, homecoming’, as Diomedes states explicitly (see below on 10.243).
An interesting correlation to this competition to be the “best” in epic is that ambushes feature the “best” men. (See also Edwards 1985:18–24.) There are several examples of the best men going on ambush in Homeric epic. Achilles states that Agamemnon does not go on ambush with the best (σύν ἀριστήεσσιν, Iliad 1.227). Idomeneus’ description of ambush involves a gathering of the best (ἄριστοι, Iliad 13.276). Those in the Wooden Horse are the best (Odyssey 4.272, 8.512–513, 11.523–524), and the best men are selected for ambushes of Bellerophon (Iliad 6.188), Proteus (Odyssey 4.409), and Agamemnon (Odyssey 4.530–531). Even in a Cretan lie, Odysseus says that he used to choose the best men for ambush (Odyssey 14.217–218). We can also see that the best are involved in ambush warfare because both Odysseus and Achilles participate in nighttime ambushes (see “The Poetics of Ambush”).
10.237–240 The narrator makes clear that Agamemnon is referring to his brother Menelaos when he advises Diomedes not to choose his partner based on social status. See above on 10.30–31 and 10.121 for how Menelaos is portrayed as not the best choice. It is, however, an unexpected argument coming from Agamemnon, who depends on social status for his authority, as we see in his dispute with Achilles in Iliad 1 (see also Wilson 2002 for her argument that Agamemnon relies on this kind of status). It is also Agamemnon who insists on his status as kinglier (βασιλεύτερός, 10.239) in Book 9 (160), arguing that Achilles should yield to him for that reason. (Although Odysseus leaves that argument out when he delivers Agamemnon’s offer to Achilles, Achilles seems to know it anyway, as he says in his response that Agamemnon should give his daughter in marriage to someone who is kinglier than he [Iliad 9.392].) This word thus provides a telling thematic contrast to the embassy, and perhaps is an indication that the two nighttime missions are performance alternatives of each other. We should also note that, in ambush, being the “best” is defined strictly in terms of the skills needed to be successful, and not in terms of social standing. The question of how to define the “best” that underlies the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles is made explicitly moot for this spying mission.
10.240 This verse was omitted altogether in the text of Zenodotus (that is to say, it was not present in his text). It was present in the texts of Aristarchus, but he athetized it. The A scholia on these lines say that it was athetized because it is redundant (περισσὸς), tacked on (παρέλκων), and not in keeping with Homer’s dianoia, all of which are common reasons given in the scholia for athetesis. As noted above (see on 10.51–52), Alexandrian editors frequently drew on their own sense of what is appropriate and poetic to determine the authenticity of verses, and athetized those they felt were not in keeping with those standards. It was the practice of Aristarchus, however, to leave verses that were well attested in the texts available to him in his text, and to indicate by way of the athetesis mark his objection to them. Zenodotus’ text seems to have been considerably shorter than that of Aristarchus. We may compare 10.253, which received treatment similar to 10.240. It was omitted in the text of Zenodotus, and present but athetized in the texts of Aristarchus and Aristophanes of Byzantium. Martin West (2001a) has speculated that Zenodotus’ shorter text derives from an Ionian rhapsodic performance tradition, as opposed to the Athenian tradition on which the other Alexandrian editors seem to have relied.
10.241 βοὴν ἀγαθὸς See below on 10.283 for more on this epithet.
10.243 πῶς ἂν ἔπειτ᾽ Ὀδυσῆος ἐγὼ θείοιο λαθοίμην Diomedes chooses Odysseus to go with him on the expedition, and that choice is marked in the formulaic language by a shift to the dual from 10.254 onwards, where the two heroes are understood to be a closely linked pair. (See also above on the dual Αἴαντε at 10.53 and 10.228.) The ensuing events of this book have long troubled scholars, who find the actions of Odysseus and Diomedes during this night raid to be un-Homeric and even un-heroic. (See “The Poetics of Ambush.”) But if we look at the Greek epic tradition as a whole, taking into account what we know of the now lost poems of the Epic Cycle, we find that Diomedes and Odysseus traditionally excel at the kind of ambush warfare depicted in Iliad 10. Diomedes is a stellar fighter in the polemos, but he is equally good at the lokhos. The sack of Troy is the ultimate night ambush, and both Odysseus and Diomedes are involved in several nighttime escapades leading up to and during its fall, including the following.
In testimonium 34 [Bernabé] of the Cypria, a lesser-known version of Polyxena’s story has her being wounded by Odysseus and Diomedes during the sack.
ὑπὸ Νεοπτολέμου φασὶν αὐτὴν (sc. Πολυξένην) σφαγιασθῆναι Εὐριπίδης καὶ Ἴβυκος. ὁ δὲ τὰ Κυπριακὰ ποιήσας φησίν ὑπὸ Ὀδυσσέως καὶ Διομήδους ἐν τῆι τῆς πόλεως ἁλώσει τραυματισθεῖσαν ἀπολέσθαι.
Scholia to Euripides, Hecuba 41
Euripides and Ibycus say that Polyxena’s throat was cut by Neoptolemos. But the composer of the Cypria says that she died after being wounded by Odysseus and Diomedes in the capture of the city.
In the Little Iliad, Odysseus seems to have been connected to the ambush and capture of Helenos, the prophetic son of Priam, and it is Diomedes, according to Proklos, who brings back Philoktetes from Lemnos. (Cf. Sophocles’ Philoktetes, where Odysseus is the one who goes to get him.) Philoktetes’ presence is required, according to Helenos, for the successful capture of Troy:
μετὰ ταῦτα Ὀδυσσεὺς λοχήσας Ἕλενον λαμβάνει, καὶ χρήσαντος περὶ τῆς ἁλώσεως τούτου Διομήδης ἐκ Λήμνου Φιλοκτήτην ἀνάγει.
Little Iliad, from the summary of Proklos
After this Odysseus captures Helenos in an ambush, and as a result of Helenos’ prophecy about the city’s conquest Diomedes brings Philoktetes back from Lemnos.
Also narrated in the Little Iliad, according to Proklos, was the theft of the Palladion, which survives in several variant versions in which Diomedes or Odysseus or both try to get sole possession of it, betraying the other. The Palladion is yet another item that had been foretold to be required for the successful capture of Troy. In these ambush style episodes we find Odysseus and Diomedes frequently working as a team, though sometimes they split up the work or act on their own. As the episode with the Palladion suggests, the advantages of working as a team do not cancel out the desire on the part of each hero to obtain great glory for himself.
Still another attested collaborative ambush by Odysseus and Diomedes is the killing of Palamedes. In Cypria testimonium 30 [Bernabé], Diomedes and Odysseus drown Palamedes, ambushing him while he is fishing:
Παλαμήδην δὲ ἀποπνιγῆναι προελθόντα ἐπὶ ἰχθύων θήραν, Διομήδην δὲ τὸν ἀποκτείναντα εἶναι καὶ Ὀδυσσέα ἐπιλεξάμενος ἐν ἔπεσιν οἶδα τοῖς Κυπρίοις.
Pausanias 10.31.2
Palamedes was drowned when he went out to catch fish. Diomedes was the killer and also Odysseus, as I know from reading it in the epic poem the Cypria.
In all of these episodes Diomedes is linked, as in the Doloneia, with Odysseus. Indeed, Odysseus has long been understood to be the hero of mētis. (See on 10.137 and 10.148 above.) But it should not be forgotten that, like Diomedes, Odysseus has his fair share of traditional fighting. The Odyssey ends with Odysseus about to engage the families of the suitors in battle, and with Laertes rejoicing that he will have a contest for aretē with his son and grandson (Odyssey 24.515). When Demodokos sings about the fall of Troy in Odyssey 8, Odysseus is the hero raging “like Ares” through the streets of Troy (Odyssey 8.515). In Iliad 11.310–319, Odysseus and Diomedes together stave off a rout of the Greek forces before both are wounded. Recent scholarship has focused on the oppositions set up between mētis and biē in Homeric poetry (see e.g. Nagy 1979:45–48), but as Donna Wilson (2005) has recently pointed out, the two concepts are also complementary in many respects.
10.243 This verse is also used at Odyssey 1.65 (and compare how the phrasing of Odyssey 1.66 is similar to that of 10.244). There, it is Zeus speaking in response to Athena, saying that he could not overlook Odysseus. Since Iliad 10, like the Odyssey, features Odysseus in a prominent role, the formula seems to be useful and good for introducing Odysseus in a starring role.
10.244 πρόφρων κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ At both 10.220 above and 10.319 below, the formula ἔμ’ ὀτρύνει κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ (“my heart and audacious spirit rouse me”) is used when Diomedes and Dolon, respectively, respond to the call for a spying mission. Here, Diomedes says that he is choosing Odysseus as his partner in the mission because his heart and audacious spirit are ready and eager for all kinds of labors; these personal qualities of courage and boldness are what impel men to go on nighttime or spying missions or on ambushes. We can compare the opposite in Achilles’ denunciation of Agamemnon in Iliad 1.225–228, when he says that Agamemnon has the heart (κραδίη) of a deer and never arms himself for war or goes on an ambush with the best of the Achaeans, enduring it in his spirit (θυμός). It is clear that there is a deep-rooted association between these qualities and the daring feats of these types of missions. See also on 10.231 and 10.248.
10.245 φιλεῖ δέ ἑ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη On the relationship between Odysseus and Athena, see on 10.275.
10.246 ἐκ πυρὸς αἰθομένοιο Petegorsky points out that this particular image calls to mind “the background of Achilles’ challenge to the Achaeans to avert the danger that threatens the ships by employing μῆτις. His words acquire a strong ‘horizontal resonance’ by pointing back to Achilles’ challenge and forward to the Patrocleia [cf. Iliad 16.81]. And yet, his description of Odysseus also has a strong ‘vertical resonance’; for it evokes an image of Odysseus that corresponds remarkably well to that which we find in the Odyssey” (1982:193). The types of resonance that Petegorsky reveals remind us of how oral poetry can have complex ways of creating meaning that are different from those in written texts.
10.247 ἄμφω νοστήσαιμεν, ἐπεὶ περίοιδε νοῆσαι Odysseus’ primary heroic identity is concerned with nostos ‘homecoming’, which is the subject of the epic devoted to him. (See Nagy 1979:35 and 38–39.) Douglas Frame has shown that the words nostos and noos ‘mind’ share the verbal root *nes-, whose meaning has to do with “returning to life and light” (a meaning best understood, according to Frame, in the context of solar symbolism), and that the two concepts are combined on a conceptual and verbal level throughout the Odyssey. (Cf. e.g. the opening lines of the Odyssey, 1.3–5: πολλῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω … ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων [“Many are the cities of men and their ways of thinking he came to know, as he strove to win the life and homecoming of his companions.”]) See especially Frame 2005a and 2005b; on the root *nes, see also Frame 2009 and Bonifazi 2009. We can see that the deep connection between nostos and noos is built into the traditional character of Odysseus and comes into focus whenever he is featured, be it in the Iliad or the Odyssey.
We have already seen some indications (on 10.211–212) that spying missions share some traditional language and thematic associations with journeys. Diomedes’ choice of Odysseus as the master of the kind of journey called a nostos (due to his quality of noos) is another example of this commonality. See also below on 10.509.
10.248 πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς In this book Odysseus is also referred to as ὁ τλήμων Ὀδυσεὺς (“that enduring Odysseus,” 10.231 and 10.498; cf. Iliad 5.670 and Odyssey 18.319). Although Odysseus is polutlas ‘much enduring’ five times in the Iliad, the epithet is by far more common in the Odyssey, where it is naturally associated with the many travails he endures in that epic (cf. Odyssey 1.4: πολλὰ δ’ ὅ γ’ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα [“many are the pains he suffered”]). It is significant therefore that this formula appears directly following the verse in which Odysseus’ Odyssean association with nostos is conjured. But as we saw in our discussion of the etymologically related epithet τλήμων on 10.231, this formula may well have another aspect to it. When Achilles excoriates Agamemnon in Iliad 1 for his lack of participation in the hardships of war, he says:
οἰνοβαρές, κυνὸς ὄμματ᾽ ἔχων, κραδίην δ᾽ ἐλάφοιο,
οὔτέ ποτ᾽ ἐς πόλεμον ἅμα λαῷ θωρηχθῆναι
οὔτε λόχον δ᾽ ἰέναι σὺν ἀριστήεσσιν Ἀχαιῶν
τέτληκας θυμῷ· τὸ δέ τοι κὴρ εἴδεται εἶναι.
Iliad 1.225–228
“You drunkard, with a dog’s eyes and a deer’s heart,
whenever it comes to arming yourself for war with the rest of the warriors
or going on an ambush with the champions of the Achaeans,
you don’t have the heart to endure it. That looks like death to you.”
The verb Achilles uses is τέτληκα. In Idomeneus’ description of ambush warfare in Iliad 13 (discussed above, pp. 45–47), the verb τλάω is not used, but the need for endurance is likewise emphasized. Warriors on an ambush must endure fear, the discomfort of sitting/crouching as they wait for a long period of time to attack, and the cold of the night (as evidenced by the clothing chosen for ambush, clothing which Odysseus forgets to take both in Iliad 10 and in the story narrated in Odyssey 14). When Menelaos tells Telemakhos the story of the wooden horse in Odyssey 4, he praises Odysseus’ endurance (ἔτλη) on that occasion (Odyssey 4.271–272): οἷον καὶ τόδ’ ἔρεξε καὶ ἔτλη καρτερὸς ἀνὴρ / ἵππῳ ἔνι ξεστῷ (“What a thing he accomplished and endured, the mighty man, inside the wooden horse”). Odysseus’ steadfast character and ability to endure the lokhos are contrasted in Menelaos’ anecdote with that of the weaker-willed heroes, Diomedes, Menelaos himself, and Antiklos, all of whom Odysseus has to restrain from succumbing to Helen’s trick. In Odyssey 9, Odysseus describes how in the cave of the Cyclops he hid beneath the ram and held on, awaiting dawn “with an enduring heart” (τετληότι θυμῷ, 9.435; for this same formula in other ambush contexts, see also Odyssey 4.447 and 4.459, Menelaos’ ambush of Proteus, and Odyssey 24.163, the description by the shades of the suitors of how Odysseus ambushed them). This kind of waiting—during the dark of night, in a hiding position—is what a warrior undergoes in an ambush. When Athena tells Odysseus in Odyssey 13 that he will need to conceal his identity in order to take control of his home, family, and kingdom again, she tells him he will have to endure (σὺ δὲ τετλάμεναι καὶ ἀνάγκῃ, 13.307). He will have to take them by ambush, not outright force. (Cf. Odyssey 13.309–310: ἀλλὰ σιωπῇ / πάσχειν ἄλγεα πολλά, βίας ὑποδέγμενος ἀνδρῶν [“{You must} suffer many pains in silence, submitting to the biē of men.”]) Odysseus’ ability to withstand this particular kind of hardship is an important part of his epithet polutlas, and the endurance that Menelaos remembers as being so remarkable during the ambush of Troy is fundamentally connected to Odysseus’ ability to withstand the many algea he suffers on his journey home. (On the connection between the tla- compounds that describe Odysseus and the endurance required for ambush, see also Edwards 1985:17, and on the second half of the Odyssey as an ambush, see again Edwards 1985:35–37.)
10.249–250 Τυδείδη μήτ᾽ ἄρ με μάλ᾽ αἴνεε μήτε τί νείκει· / εἰδόσι γάρ τοι ταῦτα μετ᾽ Ἀργείοις ἀγορεύεις Gregory Nagy sees this response by Odysseus as a meta-commentary on the epic tradition and the question of who is the best of the Achaeans (see 10.236). Nagy writes: “It is as if he were saying: ‘The Achaeans are aware of the tradition, so please do not exaggerate.’ With the words of Odysseus himself, the epic tradition of the Iliad has pointedly taken Odysseus out of contention” (1979:34). But just as Ajax can be called best for battle so long as Achilles remains withdrawn (Iliad 2.768; Nagy 1979:27, 31), Odysseus here can contend for “best” at nighttime missions, since Achilles is not available now, either.
10.251–253 μάλα γὰρ νὺξ ἄνεται, ἐγγύθι δ᾽ ἠώς, / ἄστρα δὲ δὴ προβέβηκε, παρῴχηκεν δὲ πλέω νὺξ / τῶν δύο μοιράων, τριτάτη δέ τι μοῖρα λέλειπται The amount of time that the events of Iliad 9 and Iliad 10 take up has been used, by Leaf and others, to argue that Iliad 10 does not belong to the Iliad. Of course, the events related in Iliad 11.1–18.242 all take place on one day, so narrative time seems quite flexible, expanding as the dramatic intensity increases. Thus this crucial night could dramatically include the “three-part” structure implied in these lines: the first part would include the embassy to Achilles, the second part when the Achaeans, other than Agamemnon, slept, and now this episode, comprising the remaining third part. In any case, these lines call attention to the urgency of the time, as well as suggesting the possibility of multiple episodes during the same night.
10.253 According the scholia in the Venetus A, Zenodotus “did not write” this line. For more on the Alexandrian editorial procedures, see on 10.240 above.
10.254 ὣς εἰπόνθ᾽ This is the first dual verb used for Diomedes and Odysseus. As soon as Odysseus agrees to be Diomedes’ partner, they are spoken of as a team, working together in every way. For more on the use of the dual verb forms, see on 10.53, 10.228, and 10.243.
10.254–272 The passage that begins here functions much like an arming scene. In a well-known article, James Armstrong (1958) shows how formulaic arming scenes are employed at climactic moments in the Iliad with great effect. He analyzes in detail the four major arming scenes of the Iliad (those of Paris in Iliad 3, Agamemnon in Iliad 11, Patroklos in Iliad 16, and Achilles in Iliad 19), arguing that formulaic language in these passages is manipulated for various poetic purposes, and that each scene resonates with what came before, so that there is a cumulative effect over the course of the poem.
In the night raid/lohkos tradition, the dressing and arming of heroes would no doubt have had a poetic purpose similar to the expanded arming scenes of conventional battle. These scenes contribute both to suspense, by increasing the audience’s anticipation of the coming ambush or raid, and to characterization, as the details of each dressing or arming passage reveal important aspects of the hero’s character as a fighter. But even more importantly, the passages serve to signal that the poet is moving into a different poetic register. The poet transitions by way of such scenes from one megatheme to another, and the alternative style of clothing is emblematic of not only this alternative mode of fighting but also an alternative poetics.
The armor described here is in many ways atypical. Most distinctive is what the heroes wear on their heads. Diomedes and Odysseus wear leather skull caps (κυνέην … ταυρείην … ἥ τε καταῖτυξ κέκληται—the word καταῖτυξ is used only here in extant Greek literature), and the history of Odysseus’ cap is elaborately described: Odysseus’ own maternal grandfather Autolykos stole it and gave it away as a gift to Amphidamas, who likewise gave it as a gift to Molos, who then gave it to the Cretan Meriones, who now gives it to Odysseus along with the other weapons Odysseus will carry, a bow and quiver and sword. Meriones must give Odysseus all of this gear because when Odysseus leaves his tent, unlike the other heroes who dress in skins and cloaks and take their weapons, he takes only his shield. (See above on 10.149.)
But both heroes, it should be noted, are given weapons and armor by the two leaders of the guards, Meriones and Thrasymedes, who came out into the night fully armed. Diomedes, we are told here, borrows a sword and shield from Thrasymedes, just as Odysseus uses Meriones’ bow, quiver, sword, and helmet. Such borrowing may reflect the impromptu nature of the mission—a quality that will be seen again when it changes from a spying mission to an ambush/night raid. Or it may give the mission a communal aspect, which can also be seen in the rest of the leaders remaining in this same spot, beyond the ditch, until Diomedes and Odysseus return. They are all invested in the success of these two.
But while the clothing they wear and weapons they carry are unusual for extant Homeric epic, they are completely appropriate for a night raid, where, unlike the polemos, it is important not to be conspicuous. (See also Shewan 1911:55.) The history of the cap as a gift indicates that such an object has prestige as well as utility, and possession of it may indicate “the best,” who would wear such equipment for these dangerous and important missions. That it was originally stolen by the thief extraordinaire Autolykos seems related to the stealth that it affords the wearer, and also makes it even more fitting both for Odysseus personally, who is very much like his grandfather, as we know from Odyssey 19.395–412, and for the night mission that requires stealth. Petegorsky (1982:200) also argues that the helmet connects all of these elements of Odysseus’ identity: “This helmet functions as a kind of identity marker for Odysseus, and it is in effect the equivalent of the scar in Odyssey Nineteen, which was the result of a wound inflicted on the hero by the tusk of a boar.”
10.257 ἀμφὶ δέ οἱ κυνέην κεφαλῆφιν ἔθηκε Nowhere else in surviving Homeric epic do we find heroes putting on leather caps, but we must also recognize that no other expanded descriptions of night raids of this nature survive. If more of the Epic Cycle narratives describing Diomedes’ and Odysseus’ nighttime exploits survived (for these, see on 10.243 above), such items of clothing might not seem so exotic. In the Nisus and Euryalus episode in the Aeneid, Euryalus makes the fatal mistake of putting on the helmet that he takes as spoils from a corpse, and the reflection of the moonlight off the helmet gives him away to the enemy (Aeneid 9.373–374: “alea Euryalum sublustri noctis in umbra / prodidit immemorem radiisque aduersa refulsit”). Whereas heroes strive for conspicuous distinction (kudos) on the battlefield, ambush warfare is characterized by hiding and concealment. Cf. the Venetus B scholia on 10.258, which note that the kind of leather helmet worn here is ἄφαλον and ἄλλοφον “for being inconspicuous” (διὰ τὸ λανθάνειν).
10.259 θαλερῶν αἰζηῶν ‘flourishing, vigorous young men’: Botanic imagery is used here to describe the warriors whose heads are protected by these helmets. The imagery of the hero as a plant that blossoms beautifully and dies quickly is an important theme in Greek lament traditions, as we see in Thetis’ lament for Achilles in Iliad 18.54–60 and in other passages throughout the Iliad. It is also a metaphor that encapsulates what glory means in the Iliad. One of the primary metaphors for epic song in the Iliad is that of a flower that will never wilt:
410 μήτηρ γάρ τέ μέ φησι θεὰ Θέτις ἀργυρόπεζα
διχθαδίας κῆρας φερέμεν θανάτοιο τέλος δέ.
εἰ μέν κ’ αὖθι μένων Τρώων πόλιν ἀμφιμάχωμαι,
ὤλετο μέν μοι νόστος, ἀτὰρ κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται·
εἰ δέ κεν οἴκαδ’ ἵκωμι φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν,
415 ὤλετό μοι κλέος ἐσθλόν, ἐπὶ δηρὸν δέ μοι αἰὼν
ἔσσεται, οὐδέ κέ μ’ ὦκα τέλος θανάτοιο κιχείη.
Iliad 9.410–416
410 My mother the goddess Thetis of the shining feet tells me
that there are two ways in which I may meet my end.
If I stay here and fight around the city of Troy,
my homecoming is lost, but my glory in song [kleos] will be unwilting:
whereas if I reach home and my dear fatherland,
415 my kleos is lost, but my life will be long,
and the outcome of death will not soon take me.
Here Achilles reveals not only the crux of this choice of fates around which the Iliad itself is built, but also the driving principle of Greek epic song. The unwilting flower of epic poetry is contrasted with the necessarily mortal hero, whose death comes all too quickly. (See especially Nagy 1979:174–184 and Dué 2006a:64–69. Nagy shows that the root phthi- in the Greek word aphthiton ‘unwilting’ is inherently connected with vegetal imagery, and means ‘wilt’.) The Iliad quotes within its narration of Achilles’ kleos many songs of lamentation that highlight the mortality of the central hero, as well as underscoring the immortality of song. The traditional imagery of these quoted laments spills over into epic diction itself, with the result that similes, metaphors, and other traditional descriptions of heroes are infused with themes drawn from the natural world, as here.
With Diomedes, Meriones, Neoptolemos, and even Achilles as examples, we might also argue that ambush is associated with younger men in particular, and thus the cap that is good for ambush is worn by young men. In the “Tradition and Reception” essay above we noted Gernet’s (1936) work on the Dolon myth, in which he argues that the episode is suggestive of initiation rituals in which young men must spend a period of time apart from society as well as other rites of initiation that take place at night. (See also Johnston 2002 on cattle raiding as a form of initiation; we have explored above in “The Poetics of Ambush” the thematic overlap between cattle raiding and ambush in Homeric epic.) The word thaleros used in this line to describe the young men may be important here. This word is used several times in Homer of husbands or young men and women on the verge of marriage. See e.g. the Homeric Hymn to Demeter 79, where Persephone is called a θαλερὴν ἄκοιτιν; Iliad 6.430, where thaleros is used of Hektor by Andromache and 8.190, used by Hektor of himself as the husband of Andromache; Iliad 4.474, where it is used of Simoesios, who dies before marriage—i.e. at the age when he should have been getting married; Iliad 3.26, where it is used of young hunters, who are likewise αἰζηοί; Iliad 8.156, where it is used of the Trojan husbands whom Diomedes has killed; Odyssey 6.66, where it is used of Nausikaa’s impending marriage; and Odyssey 20.74, where it is used of the requested marriage of the daughters of Pandareus. In the Theogony, it is used of Gaia’s first “husband” Ouranos, but there he is being described as the parent of Zeus. If we posit that ambush expeditions could serve as a rite of passage or form of initiation, it would explain why fear is said to be such an important factor: the success or failure of the mission would hinge on how the young men handled that fear. (See e.g. Iliad 13.277–278, where ambush is described as “the place where the merit of men most shines through, where the coward and the resolute man are revealed” and Odyssey 11.528–530. Both passages are discussed in “The Poetics of Ambush” above.)
10.260 βιὸν ἠδὲ φαρέτρην On the bow as a particularly appropriate weapon for night attacks, see the arguments of McLeod 1988. The Townley scholia at this line explain that Odysseus takes the bow so that he can shoot at those who are in the light (as the Trojans would be beside their campfires). McLeod adduces “half a dozen sources, spread over two millennia, testifying to a recurrent connection between the dark of night, the bow, and aiming at light” (McLeod 1988:123). The bow is of course also Odysseus’ signature weapon in the Odyssey, and similar to the lineage of the boar’s tusk helmet below (see 10.267), the bow that Odysseus leaves in Ithaka also has a particular story, being both an heirloom and guest-gift (Odyssey 21.13–41). Steven Farron succinctly describes the importance of the bow in that epic: “Odysseus boasts of his pre-eminence at military archery (Odyssey 8.215–222), establishes his right to Penelope with his skill at using the bow and it is his main weapon against the suitors” (Farron 2003:182). It has been argued (by e.g. Lorimer 1950:296–297 and 483) on this basis that Iliad 10 must be composed later than the Odyssey. On the problems with this argument, see “Interpreting Iliad 10.”
10.263–264 ἔκτοσθε δὲ λευκοὶ ὀδόντες / ἀργιόδοντος ὑὸς θαμέες ἔχον ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα As Hainsworth notes (1993 ad 10.261–265), “There is no doubt that a piece of bronze-age equipment is being referred to.” But how does this much-discussed example of Bronze Age material culture contribute to our understanding of the composition and poetics of the Iliad? Sherratt (1990:818) observes that the boar’s tusk helmet “though still occasionally found in graves as late as the 12th and 11th centuries, disappears from representational art of a military nature after 1200 BC.” (See also Lorimer 1950:212–219 and Stubbings 1962:516.) Is the boar’s tusk helmet evidence that Homeric poetry was being composed in the Bronze Age? Many scholars have rejected such a proposition, and instead have viewed this helmet as an instance of an eighth-century poet deliberately “archaizing” (on this concept, see e.g. Dickinson 1986, Kirk 1960:190ff., and Morris 1986:89ff.). Hainsworth questions whether the verses could survive from the Bronze Age, “their language being in no respect exceptionally archaic”; rather, he asserts that “[t]he poet of this book wanted to introduce an interesting and exotic object.” Those who see Iliad 10 as a particularly late composition are not inclined to accept that such an old object forms a natural part of this book, and instead prefer to see its inclusion as the work of an archaizing individual. But Sherratt (1990) has shown that, just as there are linguistic layers in the traditional language of Homeric poetry, so too are there archaeological layers that are not well explained by those who seek to isolate and dismiss individual Bronze Age relics as heirlooms or as products of deliberate archaizing. And just as the poetic diction evolved in such a way that we cannot easily separate out Aeolic language from Ionic (see above on 10.18), so too elements of disparate material cultures are integrated into the Iliad in such way that they can only be explained as the result of an evolving but also conservative process of oral composition, hundreds of years in the making. The arming scene of Odysseus and Diomedes in Iliad 10 is no different than countless other passages in the Iliad that include weapons from very different eras (see e.g. Sherratt 1990:810–811 on Iliad 19.369–391). Here, the boar’s tusk helmet seems to serve a poetic function beyond that of simply being an exotic object, for which see on 10.267.
10.267 Ἀυτόλυκος was Odysseus’ maternal grandfather. According to some traditions (Apollodorus 1.112, Pausanias 8.4.6, Ovid Metamorphoses 13.146), Autolykos is the son of Hermes (thus making Odysseus Hermes’ great-grandson). In Odyssey 19.395–396, Autolykos is said be a favorite of Hermes and “preeminent among men in thieving and perjury” (ἀνθρώπους ἐκέκαστο / κλεπτοσύνῃ θ’ ὅρκῳ τε), a gift given by Hermes himself. Odysseus is in turn a favorite of Autolykos (see Odyssey 19.393ff.). The relationship with Autolykos is one of many links that Odysseus has to the god Hermes, with whom he shares the epithet πολύτροπος (“of many turns,” Odyssey 1.1; Homeric Hymn to Hermes 13). Hermes is the god described in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 13–18 as “crafty of counsel, a robber, a driver of cattle, a leader of dreams, a spy at night, a thief at the gates … Born at dawn, at mid-day he played the lyre, in the evening he stole the cattle of far-shooting Apollo.” Athena’s intelligence is central to the attested ambush episodes in Homeric epic (see on 10.275), but Hermes’ thieving and crafty ways play a vital role as well. (See also on 10.41 above for the use of the formula νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 578.) Here Autolykos is said to have stolen the boar’s tusk helmet that Odysseus wears from a house that is pukinos. The house, in other words, is carefully and solidly built. Its many beams and planks are closely joined one upon the other, much as the boar’s tusks are made to fit seamlessly around the helmet. The word pukinos unites the mētis associated with Odysseus, his maternal grandfather, and Hermes with the cunning required to break into a well-built house and the craft required to construct such a helmet. The invocation of the history of Autolykos’ cunning thievery here thus places Odysseus’ own cunning in a continuum that stretches back through several generations, much as Diomedes’ role in the night raid of Iliad is placed in the context of his father Tydeus’ ambush history in 10.285–286. See 10.5–9 for more on the meanings of pukinos, epsecially as it relates to ambush.
For a similar “lineage” of an object of prestige, see the history of Agamemnon’s scepter at Iliad 2.101–108. The fact that the object was originally stolen does not seem to disqualify it from becoming a valued guest-gift.
10.273 βάν ῥ᾿ ἰέναι See on 10.32.
10.273 πάντας ἀρίστους In Iliad 7, Hektor challenges whoever is the best of the Achaeans (Ἀχαιῶν … ἄριστος, 7.50) to a duel, which at first only Menelaos accepts, followed (upon the reproach of Nestor) by Agamemnon, Diomedes, the two Ajaxes, Idomeneus, Meriones, Eurypylos, Thoas, and Odysseus. Here, many of the same heroes are being referred to as aristos, namely Agamemnon, the two Ajaxes (if Ajax the son of Oileus is indeed present, as he seems to be in our text; see above on 10.228), Idomeneus, and Meriones. For who is “best of the Achaeans” in epic, see above on 10.236.
10.274 ἐρῳδιὸν This bird is a night heron. The Venetus A scholia says that it is an auspicious sign for Diomedes and Odysseus as they depart for clandestine activities and appropriate to the marshy area that they are in (see also 10.466–468 on the tamarisk bush for the marshy place of the ambush of Dolon, as well as “The Poetics of Ambush” for the kind of location where ambushes are often set up). The scholia in the Townley (T) manuscript, according to the edition of Maass, likewise call the bird a good sign for ambushers (ἀγαθὸν λίαν τὸ σημεῖον τοῖς ἐνεδρεύουσιν) and appropriate both because of the marshy place and because it hunts at night and is rapacious (νυκτὸς ἀγρεύει καὶ ἁρπακτικόν ἐστιν). The night heron does exhibit ambush-like behavior in its hunting: it waits while standing still for its prey to come into range at night and also plunders the nests of other birds (see e.g. http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/detail.asp?recnum=BD0117 or http://www.sdakotabirds.com/species/black_crowned_night_heron_info.htm). But what we see in these scholia is part of a “system of associated commonplaces” (Black 1962:39 and above at 10.5–9) that the ancient audience would have had for this bird—namely, that the bird itself is an ambusher found in places used by warriors for ambushes—and those associations make it an appropriate omen. Such associations can be common without empirical evidence of the creature’s actual behavior. The fact that the bird is heard but not seen is also appropriate to the poetics of the night, where hearing is the predominant sense.
See Thompson 1895:58–59 for ancient sources on the ἐρωδιός: he notes that the heron is a symbol of Athena on coins. See also Pollard 1977:68–69 for this bird in general. Pollard notes a story from Aelian relating that Diomedes’ men were transformed into herons (Pollard 1977:164), and Vergil alludes to the story that Diomedes’ men were turned into some kind of bird at Aeneid 11.271–274. Other stories show evidence of a connection between herons and horses (Thompson 1895:59, Pollard 1977:167).
For another bird omen at night, compare the bird omen Zeus sends to Priam before he infiltrates the Achaean camp (Iliad 24.315–321).
10.275 Παλλὰς Ἀθηναίη Walter Burkert describes Athena this way: “More than any other Greek deity, Athena is always near her protégés—‘Goddess of Nearness’ is how Walter F. Otto described her [Otto 1929/1956]. Wherever difficulties disappear and the impossible becomes possible, Athena is at hand, but her presence does not detract from the achievement of the other” (Burkert 1985:141). Athena is present for Odysseus throughout the Odyssey, and indeed she guides his entire nostos from the opening scene among the gods in Olympia to the conclusion of the strife on Ithaka in the final lines of Odyssey 24. They rival one another in cunning intelligence (mētis) and, as Burkert notes, Odysseus and Athena’s special relationship is exemplified by the way they reveal themselves to one another in Odyssey 13. Each knows the other by the false identity/lying tale that each offers to the other. Odysseus’ story is that he killed a man in Crete (by ambush—λοχησάμενος, 13.268) and fled, ending up in Ithaka. But Athena knows exactly who he is:
ὣς φάτο, μείδησεν δὲ θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη,
χειρί τέ μιν κατέρεξε· δέμας δ’ ἤϊκτο γυναικὶ
καλῇ τε μεγάλῃ τε καὶ ἀγλαὰ ἔργα ἰδυίῃ·
290 καί μιν φωνήσασ’ ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
κερδαλέος κ’ εἴη καὶ ἐπίκλοπος, ὅς σε παρέλθοι
ἐν πάντεσσι δόλοισι, καὶ εἰ θεὸς ἀντιάσειε.
σχέτλιε, ποικιλομῆτα, δόλων ἄατ’, οὐκ ἄρ’ ἔμελλες,
οὐδ’ ἐν σῇ περ ἐὼν γαίῃ, λήξειν ἀπατάων
295 μύθων τε κλοπίων, οἵ τοι πεδόθεν φίλοι εἰσίν.
ἀλλ’ ἄγε μηκέτι ταῦτα λεγώμεθα, εἰδότες ἄμφω
κέρδε’, ἐπεὶ σὺ μέν ἐσσι βροτῶν ὄχ’ ἄριστος ἁπάντων
βουλῇ καὶ μύθοισιν, ἐγὼ δ’ ἐν πᾶσι θεοῖσι
μήτι τε κλέομαι καὶ κέρδεσιν· οὐδὲ σύ γ’ ἔγνως
300 Παλλάδ’ Ἀθηναίην, κούρην Διός, ἥ τέ τοι αἰεὶ
ἐν πάντεσσι πόνοισι παρίσταμαι ἠδὲ φυλάσσω,
καὶ δέ σε Φαιήκεσσι φίλον πάντεσσιν ἔθηκα.
νῦν αὖ δεῦρ’ ἱκόμην, ἵνα τοι σὺν μῆτιν ὑφήνω
χρήματά τε κρύψω, ὅσα τοι Φαίηκες ἀγαυοὶ
305 ὤπασαν οἴκαδ’ ἰόντι ἐμῇ βουλῇ τε νόῳ τε …
Odyssey 13.287–305
So he spoke, and the goddess owl-radiant Athena smiled,
and took him by the hand. In form she resembled a woman
who was beautiful and tall and skilled in splendid handiwork.
290 She spoke out and addressed to him winged words:
“He would have to be a wily thief, the man who could get past you
in every sort of deception, even if you had a god for an antagonist.
You are intractable, crafty in intricate ways, insatiate of deception, nor were you about,
even now that you are in your own country, to leave off from deceiving
295 and the beguiling words that are constantly dear to you.
But let’s no longer talk about these things, since we both know how to be
wily. You are the best of all mortals
in planning [ boulē ] and words, while I among all the gods
have glory for my craft [ mētis ] and wiles. Yet you did not know that
300 I am Pallas Athena, the daughter of Zeus, who always
stands by you in all your labors and watches over you,
who made you dear to all the Phaeacians.
Now again I have come here, in order to weave mētis with you
and hide all the goods that the noble Phaeacians
305 gave to you when you went homewards by my planning [ boulē ] and my thinking … ”
Athena is the god that most resembles Odysseus; she embodies the boulē, mētis, kerdea, doloi, and noos that Odysseus is legendary for in the epic tradition (skills that are the hallmark of ambush warfare). So here too in Iliad 10 Athena is near to Odysseus, and he prays that she stand by him as she has done in the past (παρίστατσαι, 10.279). Note the same formula used in 10.279 and Odyssey 13.301: Athena there asserts that she does indeed stand by him in his many labors.
On Odysseus’ relationship with Athena in the Iliad, see also Haft 1990:42, who, in discussing the many parallels between Iliad 2 and 10, notes that Athena makes an epiphany to Odysseus in that book. On Diomedes’ relationship with Athena, see below on 10.285.
10.278–279 ἥ τέ μοι αἰεὶ / ἐν πάντεσσι πόνοισι παρίστασαι This same formulaic language is used at Odyssey 13.300–301, when Athena asserts that she does indeed always stand by Odysseus in every kind of labor. For a full discussion of that Odyssey passage, see on 10.275. For a similar use of παρίστημι, see below on 10.291.
10.281 πάλιν ἐπὶ νῆας ἐϋκλεῖας ἐφικέσθαι See above on 10.211–212 and “The Poetics of Ambush” for more on the thematic similarities between nighttime missions and journeys and for the importance of the safe return. Cf. 10.247.
10.282 ῥέξαντας μέγα ἔργον, ὅ κεν Τρώεσσι μελήσει An interlinear scholion on this line in the Venetus A indicates that Aristarchus understood this “great deed” to mean murdering Hektor. See the Rhesos section of the “Tradition and Reception” essay for more on the theory that a mission to assassinate Hektor might have been told in some versions. Just such an assassination attempt is the initial object of Odysseus and Diomedes’ mission in the tragedy Rhesos (575–576). But we should note that, within the context of Iliad 10, the murder of Rhesos and his men fulfills Odysseus’ prayer (see below on 10.524).
10.283 βοὴν ἀγαθός The epithet βοὴν ἀγαθός has been used four times in Iliad 10 already, for both Menelaos (10.36, 10.60) and Diomedes (10.219, 10.241), as it is used elsewhere for these heroes in the Homeric epics. We take the opportunity to examine in detail the epithet βοὴν ἀγαθός here because an argument has been made (Machacek 1994) that this particular use of it, in this line, has a special meaning, one that should make us reconsider Parry’s ideas about how epithets work in Homeric epic. Machacek’s article as a whole is a larger reconsideration of Parry’s work, from a stated position sympathetic to Parry (Machacek 1994:322). His basic argument pertaining to the use of this formula here is that “a great shout is a liability at this moment” (Machacek 1994:332)—as noise can indeed be in the night. Machacek argues further that this final use of the epithet in the book is contextually appropriate: once the Achaeans have departed on their mission, they will have to be quiet. Machacek makes several assumptions about the ancient audience’s reception of this episode, including the assumption that they would notice the absence of the epithet after this point, having noticed its use in previous lines (Machacek 1994:331–333). Before we deal with this argument any further, however, let us examine closely what Parry has to say about this epithet and others like it.
The epithet βοὴν ἀγαθός is what Parry calls a fixed epithet. The four characteristics of fixed epithets, as Parry describes them, are as follows:
(1) Fixed epithets are used in accordance with their metrical value and not in accordance with their signification;
(2) they are traditional;
(3) they are always ornamental;
(4) they are often generic.
And these four characteristics—a point which cannot be too much insisted on—are interdependent.
MHV 165–166
We will elaborate on what each of these characteristics means for our understanding of this traditional epithet, keeping in mind Parry’s point that they are all interdependent. We can see that βοὴν ἀγαθός is fixed because it is always used in the same position in the line: it follows the so-called weak or feminine caesura, where the previous word ends at the first short syllable of the third foot, and the first (short) syllable of βοὴν completes the third foot. This placement within the line is common for epithets, and Parry comments that βοὴν ἀγαθός fulfills the same purpose as other epithets that extend from the weak caesura to the bucolic diaresis (that is, where the word-end coincides with the end of the fourth foot), even though this epithet extends beyond the fourth foot (MHV 66). Because of its length, this epithet phrase is used most often with the same two names we see here in Book 10, Menelaos and Diomedes, which have the same metrical shape, ⏑ ⏑ ‒ Χ. (It is used with the name Diomedes in the Iliad at least twenty-one times; with Menelaos, at least fourteen times in the Iliad and at least eight times in the Odyssey.) But it has the flexibility to adorn other warriors’ names as well: Ajax, Hektor, and Priam’s son Polites are also given this epithet, which stays in its same position, while the rest of the line follows a different pattern, from small adjustments such as the inclusion of a τε before Polites’ name to greater differences in the metrical patterns for Hektor and Ajax. Thus, as Parry argues about these kinds of “rigorously” fixed epithets as a category, they “clearly must have had, for the poets who used them, an existence independent of any particular type of noun-epithet formula” (MHV 64–65). More controversial is Parry’s contention that the poet uses these epithets for metrical reasons rather than their signification. We will have more to say on this below.
The fixed epithet, as Parry says, is also traditional, having been used again and again over time once it was found to be useful for composing in performance. The principle of analogy applies here since the use of the epithet with more than one hero’s name is profitable for the singer in performance. Parry describes the process as occurring over time, within the tradition, and argues that we cannot discover which hero had this epithet originally:
To try to discover in which formula the use of a given epithet is oldest would be pointless. The significant fact is that the bards had no hesitation in applying to any hero an epithet which at some point in time had first been ascribed to one particular hero. It was used a first time for this one person; then it was used again for the same person, when the rhythm allowed it and made its use easy. Then the bards applied it to other persons whose names were of the same metrical value with that of the original owner.
MHV 87
There are five names in the Iliad that are given this epithet, but if we had more of the epic tradition, we might see it used even more widely. Conversely, if we had only the Odyssey, we would consider this epithet to belong solely to Menelaos. We must be mindful of the limitations of our data when it comes to the larger tradition.
This epithet is also ornamental, meaning that it is not being used in a context in which the warrior is actually shouting in battle. The non-ornamental epithet is one Parry terms “particularized,” meaning that it is essential to the context, and to completing the thought of the sentence (see MHV 158–164 for more on particularized epithets). A typical example of an ornamental use of this epithet is found at Odyssey 4.307, which describes Menelaos as βοὴν ἀγαθός as he awakes, gets out of bed, and gets dressed at home in Sparta, not displaying any of his shouting prowess. Similarly, the uses here in Iliad 10 do not accompany any battlefield cries. There is one case in which the epithet is followed by a shout on the battlefield: in Iliad 17, when Ajax and Menelaos are protecting the corpse of Patroklos, Ajax asks Menelaos to call others to help them. Menelaos is called βοὴν ἀγαθός in both the lines that open and close Ajax’s request (Iliad 17.237, 246). Menelaos then gives a loud, piercing shout to the Danaans (ἤϋσεν δὲ διαπρύσιον Δαναοῖσι γεγωνώς, Iliad 17.247). Here, then, we might think the epithet is particularized to the context, since Menelaos is demonstrating his battle-cry. One objection to that idea, however, might be that, with a different vocabulary and purpose—a cry for help—this kind of shout is not the same as the battle shout. But that distinction is not what would matter to Parry, for he says of ornamental epithets like βοὴν ἀγαθός: “After what we have learned of the ornamental meaning of the Homeric epithet, we must recognize the principle that an epithet used in a given noun-epithet formula cannot sometimes be ornamental, sometimes particularized: it must always be one or the other” (original emphasis, MHV 156).
Finally, this epithet is also generic. The fixed epithet, according to Parry is also often (though not always) a generic epithet; that is, it is used in noun-epithet formulas without specific characterization of the person it is applied to. Just as the ornamental epithet is contrasted with the particularized, in this case, the generic epithet is the opposite of the distinctive epithet in Parry’s terminology. Distinctive epithets are those used for only one hero. In fact, Parry uses βοὴν ἀγαθός as an example of a generic epithet with a general meaning: “The expression βοὴν ἀγαθός will, if used of only one hero, say Diomedes, assign to that hero an unusual power of voice, just as ποδάρκης assigns to Achilles a singular swiftness; said of any hero whatever, the expression will mean no more than ‘good at the war-cry as ordinary men are not’” (MHV 146). This idea of the generic meaning of an epithet, especially in combination with Parry’s assertion that the fixed epithet is used for its metrical value rather than its signification in context, has elicited strong reactions from critics.
But let us notice first that Parry does not say here that this epithet has no meaning at all; he says only that it does not specify one hero in a way that it specifies no other hero. In other words, the heroes designated βοὴν ἀγαθός are, indeed, good at the battle shout. The fact that more than one hero is so designated suggests that such a skill would have been considered a good and useful one for a warrior, just as the formula itself is good and useful for the singer who is composing in performance. And let us also note that there are situations, such as Menelaos getting out of bed at home in Sparta, in which the epithet carries no immediate meaning for the immediate context. In these situations, especially, Parry’s arguments were most illuminating when he first made them, and they freed the critic from spending any more time or energy trying to come up with a reason that the immediate context called for this particular epithet.
With those important insights in mind, we can turn to the more controversial idea that the poet chooses a fixed epithet such as this for metrical purposes. Parry expresses this idea in two ways: first, he argues that, if a generic epithet is applied to several heroes, it is chosen “not according to the character of the hero, but according to the metrical value of his name” (MHV 95). According to this argument, Menelaos and Diomedes both share this trait because their names have the same metrical value. Second, he argues that the metrical shape of the beginning of the line (in this case, that which ends at the weak caesura) determines which epithet is used in that particular line. In other words, heroes acquire certain epithets according to the metrical value of their name, and then which epithet is used in a particular line is determined by the other words in that line. But as we have already seen, this fixed epithet, even as it stays in the same metrical position, can be used for heroes whose names have different metrical values, such as Ajax or Hektor. And the poet is of course shaping the rest of line using the traditional, formulaic language he commands: the use of this language by a skilled singer is as natural as using spoken language is for anyone fluent in it, including the use and creation of formulas by analogy, as Lord has eloquently argued (Lord 1960/2000:30–36). Additionally, as scholars who have followed Parry and Lord have gone on to demonstrate more fully, thought precedes meter in Homeric diction. Meter and formulas do not imprison the poet (see e.g. Nagy 1996b:22–25 and Foley 2002:133–134).
There are additional factors that we need to consider as we use and evaluate Parry’s work on epithets. One is that Parry himself did not live to complete his work on Homeric poetry, dying at the young age of thirty-three. Thus the emphasis, seen all too often in scholarly discussions, on his “failures” or the limitations of what he accomplished is, to be frank, unfair. More egregious, however, is treating Parry’s work as though nothing has come after it, when its issues and questions have been thoroughly addressed and its insights expanded upon by generations of scholars. To properly evaluate Parry’s work, these subsequent studies must also be acknowledged and accounted for. [2]
With that in mind, how should we understand this use of the epithet, or the four others in this Book, or those in the Homeric epics overall? As we have already noted, the epithet has a general meaning for a warrior with a particular skill. For the heroes who are given this epithet, it has a larger meaning within the epic tradition as a whole: although we may not see the heroes shouting at the times when they receive the epithet, within the tradition as a whole, it tells us something about what kind of a warrior the hero is. This larger meaning has already been noted by Parry (MHV 137–138) and Lord (1960/2000:65–67), and both the concept of a formula’s traditional meaning and its significance for the poetics of the epics have been expanded upon by Nagy, Foley, and many others. (See the discussion above on the epithet ποιμένα λαῶν at 10.3.)
We can now return to the question of whether this particular use of the epithet has a contextual meaning in connection with the need for silence on an ambush. Machacek’s argument implicitly understands this aspect of the poetics of ambush, the need for stealth and quiet. In fact, in the earlier episode of this night, Agamemnon asks his herald to summon the Achaeans for an assembly, but tells him not to shout (μηδὲ βοᾶν, Iliad 9.12), indicating that, even at that point in the night, and even within the encampment, only quiet speaking is appropriate. This need for quiet and stealth, however, prompts the question of whether the epithet should be used at all during night episodes if its meaning is felt to be tied so closely to the current circumstances, as Machacek suggests it is. His answer is that the singer uses it four times in Iliad 10 precisely so that the audience will notice its absence in the rest of the book, when Diomedes is actually on the mission. Machacek proposes that the audience members even “listened carefully to see if he [the singer] would slip up and so describe Diomedes” (Machacek 1994:332). Beyond being an odd conception of the relationship between the singer and audience—in which the audience’s reception is focused on waiting for the singer to make a mistake, and a “literary” mistake at that—such a formulation also misunderstands the important point that the audience, as well as the singer, knows Diomedes to be well-known for his battle shout at all times, whether or not he is shouting (and in all instances where Diomedes gets this epithet in Iliad 10, he is not).
Instead, we have to recognize that this epithet is not particularly associated with the ambush theme, even though it is used several times in this particular ambush episode. On some deeply felt level, but perhaps not an immediate one, the audience would associate this epithet with Diomedes’ (and Menelaos’) prowess as a warrior in the polemos, where the battle shout is appropriate, and they would know from hearing many episodes from the Trojan War, and perhaps even the Theban epic tradition, that Diomedes is a warrior who excels at both polemos and lokhos. (See also our discussion of Diomedes in these terms in “The Poetics of Ambush.”) In some ways, though, the uses of this epithet reaffirm Parry’s own observations about how epithet formulas, in particular, can be used in situations in Homeric poetry where they would seem odd or even contradictory in poetry that was not oral and traditional. The singer was not forced by metrical considerations to use this formula, but it was useful for the composition of this Book, even though a battle shout happens nowhere in the episode itself and Diomedes, as well as Odysseus, avoids making excessive noise.
There is one other major methodological problem with Machacek’s argument: it is predicated on this line containing the final instance of this epithet formula. When we consult modern editions of Iliad 10, this can easily appear to be the case. But when we consider the full range of evidence, including papyri and the scholia, and when we fully grasp what composition-in-performance means for the multiformity of the epic tradition (for more on these topics, see our essay “Iliad 10: A Multitextual Approach”), we see that such arguments about epithets in particular can be refuted on an empirical basis. On the papyrus that both Allen and West refer to as “p90” (Oxyrhynchus 6.949 from the second–third century CE), there is a possible use of this epithet again at 10.446: [τον δ ημειβετ επειτα βοην αγα]θος Διομηδης, which would put it squarely in the middle of the mission, after Diomedes and Odysseus have captured Dolon. And from the scholia to both the Venetus A and Townley manuscripts, we hear of a version of 10.349, known to the Homeric critic Aristophanes, that also uses this epithet: ὣς ἔφατ’, οὐδ’ ἀπίθησε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης. (See our textual commentary, on the the Venetus A text, p. 217, for more on this multiform.)
Since name-epithet formulas were so useful, flexible, and traditional—all qualities that Parry himself identifies—it is difficult to prove the argument that the absence of one in a particular passage is significant: even with our limited evidence we can see that this epithet could indeed be used again in this episode, and that doing so would not be considered a “mistake” that an audience would find out of place. Instead, a thorough understanding of the oral traditional poetics of these formulas requires us to take a larger view of their meaning, just as an understanding of the textual tradition requires us to take into account all the evidence we have and to recognize that a singer might have sung this same episode with the variation natural to composition-in-performance. These are some of the differences between Homeric epic and modern poetry that Parry enjoins us to acknowledge and to appreciate with a different aesthetics.
10.284 Διὸς τέκος Ἀτρυτώνη As an epithet of Athena, Ἀτρυτώνη is used within the epic tradition for direct address: in our texts, she is addressed this way either by Hera (Iliad 2.157, 5.714, 21.420) or by a mortal praying to her (Diomedes here and at Iliad 5.115; Penelope at Odyssey 4.762; Odysseus at Odyssey 6.324). The Venetus A manuscript at Iliad 2.157 has a gloss written directly above this epithet that says “inexhaustible” (ἀκαταπόνητε). In all of these cases the name is part of an extended formula Διὸς τέκος Ἀτρυτώνη, and in all other instances besides this αἰγιόχοιο precedes Διὸς (see 10.278 for a use of the formula αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς τέκος without Ἀτρυτώνη). Thus the formula is one we see regularly throughout the epics, and it is therefore an example of the traditional nature of the language of Iliad 10. But should we find the absence of αἰγιόχοιο in this line evidence of nontraditional usage? We would argue no, since what actually seems to alter the compositional needs of this line is the fact that this is the second in a two-fold prayer to Athena (“Hear now also me”), which is not the case in the other attested examples.
Wherever this formula is used, Athena is reported as having listened to the prayers of the mortals who address her as such (see Iliad 5.121, Iliad 10.295, Odyssey 4.767, and Odyssey 6.328). When Hera addresses her with this epithet, Athena springs into action to do whatever Hera has asked after that initial address. Thus within the tradition it seems a particularly effective way to address the goddess in order to gain her attention. Formulas involving the gods are used especially in prayer contexts (Parry MHV 77–78, 181–182), and this one should be counted among them.
10.285 σπεῖό … ἕσπεο Within the epic tradition this verb can have a marked meaning, signifying a god who accompanies a hero and gives him special protection or help. We see the same verb later indicating that Athena is indeed accompanying (ἕπουσαν, 10.516) Diomedes—Apollo is said to see her doing so. Athena has already signaled her presence through a bird sign (10.274–275), and will later speak to Diomedes (10.507–512), although she remains unseen throughout. In other cases, Athena “accompanies” mortals in disguise: at Odyssey 2.287 while disguised as Mentor she offers to accompany Telemakhos on his journey, and at Odyssey 6.32 appearing to Nausikaa in a dream in the guise of the daughter of Dymas she says she will accompany her. (Although she does not go with Nausikaa in this form, she is present at the washing place.)
Parallel to Athena accompanying Diomedes and Odysseus on this night mission, Iris tells Priam in a dream that Hermes will accompany him on his night mission to the Achaean camp to ransom Hektor’s body (Iliad 24.182), and of course, Hermes does so in disguise (see above on 10.1ff. for more on how Priam’s mission is similar to the ambush theme). Thus we find that this particular use of the verb for gods accompanying mortals has associations with dreams, disguise, and night missions. As we have noted in “The Poetics of Ambush,” there is thematic overlap between such missions and journeys. Therefore, in addition to Athena saying she will accompany Telemakhos on his journey at Odyssey 2.287, we can also include among the examples of this theme Nestor’s proclamation that the gods in general accompany Telemakhos on his journey: τοι νέῳ ὧδε θεοὶ πομπῆες ἕπονται (Odyssey 3.376). Athena has a special relationship with Odysseus (see the commentary on 10.275 for more on that relationship), and that intimacy extends to his son. Here, Diomedes asks for the same kind of consideration based on her relationship with his father. We know that Diomedes indeed has such a relationship with Athena from Iliad 5. See also 10.291.
Finally, we may compare this use of ἕπομαι for god and mortal pairs to its use for teams of warriors; it is used not only of the team of ambushers here in Iliad 10 (10.222, 10.227, 10.246), but also of warriors who team up in daytime battle, as at Iliad 11.472, 15.559, and 16.632. In each of those latter cases, the one warrior asks the other to join him in pushing the enemy back, and when the second follows/accompanies him, he is called “a man equal to a god,” using the same formula: ὣς εἰπὼν ὃ μὲν ἦρχ’, ὃ δ’ ἅμ’ ἕσπετο ἰσόθεος φώς (“So speaking he led the way and the other man, equal to a god, accompanied him”).
10.285–290 Another rich epic tradition, one centered on the city of Thebes, is alluded to here, as it is at other places in the Iliad. The story of the Seven Against Thebes seems to have been a parallel epic tradition to that of the Trojan War, out of which the Iliad and Odyssey emerged: Hesiod refers to these two wars as those fought by the generation of Heroes (Works & Days 161–165). Yet, because the ancient Greek epics known as the Thebaid and Epigonoi are not extant, with only a few fragments surviving in other sources, the Iliad is one of our best and earliest sources for this tradition. The Iliad refers to this other tradition in some detail not only here, but also at Iliad 4.376–410, Iliad 5.800–808, Iliad 6.222–223, and Iliad 14.113–126. (See Gantz 1993:502–525 for other sources.) These Iliad passages refer to two different wars on Thebes. The first attack is instigated by the Theban Polyneikes (son of Oedipus) after his brother Eteokles denies him his share of the kingship of Thebes. Polyneikes then gathers a large military force with the help of his father-in-law Adrastos of Argos and Tydeus, Diomedes’ father, who is also an exile from his native city Kalydon (see Iliad 14.115–120). The other leaders vary according to the source, but can include Kapaneus, Amphiaraos, Parthenopaios, Eteoklos, Hippomedon, Mekisteus, and Lykourgos. The Seven are defeated at Thebes, as is at least implied at Iliad 4.405–409, Iliad 6.222–223, and Iliad 14.114. The second war was one of revenge by the sons of the Seven, called the epigonoi, some time later, when the sons reached manhood (Diomedes tells Glaukos he never knew his father because he was so young when Tydeus died at Thebes, Iliad 6.222–223). The sons who fight at Thebes include Diomedes and his daytime fighting partner Sthenelos, son of Kapaneus. As Sthenelos indicates, they are successful in sacking Thebes (see Iliad 4.403–410). Thus these two are a link between the two epic traditions, since they fight both at Thebes and at Troy. In an oral performance tradition, the singer can allude to the subject matter of other epics in this kind of compressed way and expect an audience to understand the allusion (see further on 10.289–290 below).
10.288 μειλίχιον μῦθον The semantic range of μειλίχιος when used to describe words or speech is a broad one. Kind or gracious words are used to persuade or encourage. The adjective modifies both muthos (used three times) and even more often epos (used nineteen times) in our texts. It is also used as a substantive with the verb προσηύδα (used three times) to indicate this kind of speech. These persuasive words are used between friends. The one context in which this is patently not the case is informative because it uses its antonym to indicate how unsuccessful such persuasion can be between enemies. At Iliad 11.137 two Trojans, Peisandros and Hippolokhos, beg Agamemnon in battle to ransom them as prisoners of war rather than kill them. The narrator says they use gracious speech in their request, but hear an ungracious voice in response (ὣς τώ γε κλαίοντε προσαυδήτην βασιλῆα / μειλιχίοις ἐπέεσσιν· ἀμείλικτον δ’ ὄπ’ ἄκουσαν, Iliad 11.136–137). Agamemnon refuses their pleas and kills them (compare Iliad 21.98 for a similar refusal also termed an “ungracious voice in response”).
As we will discuss further below (see 10.542), the semantic range of μειλίχιος also includes speech between friends in which the adjective is used with words of welcome (see also Odyssey 19.415 and 24.393). Similarly, Diomedes uses such words with Glaukos once he realizes that their grandfathers were guest-friends (Iliad 6.214).
This last example brings us to contexts where the words are used to address those who are, could be, or should be friends, but who either are or could be angry with or hostile to the speaker. For example, Helen speaks to Hektor this way when he comes to retrieve Paris, and her words are meant to show him her shame at her own conduct as well as that of Paris (Iliad 6.343; see Ebbott 1999 for more on the way Helen’s shame is portrayed in the Iliad). When Odysseus and Nausikaa see each other, he wonders what would be the best way to approach her: to supplicate her by taking hold of her knees, or stand further off and use gracious words (ἐπέεσσιν ἀποσταδὰ μειλιχίοισι, Odyssey 6.143). He decides on this second option because if he clasps her knees (naked as he is), she might get angry (Odyssey 6.145–147), and so he speaks a gracious and cunning speech (μειλίχιον καὶ κερδαλέον φάτο μῦθον, Odyssey 6.148), which, of course, he hopes will persuade her to help him.
In addition to these cases of such words meant to assuage or forestall someone’s anger, we have two final examples that are even closer to the case of Tydeus and therefore help us understand the traditional story behind his embassy to the Thebans. Odysseus speaks with such words to Ajax in the underworld, hoping to persuade his friend turned enemy to speak with him (τὸν μὲν ἐγὼν ἐπέεσσι προσηύδων μειλιχίοισιν, Odyssey 11.552). And Nestor proposes approaching Achilles with these kinds of words as well as with gifts to persuade him to return (δώροισίν τ’ ἀγανοῖσιν ἔπεσσί τε μειλιχίοισι, Iliad 9.113). Once we see the wide range of contexts in which this kind of speech can be used, we understand better that Tydeus is sent as a messenger to the Thebans in order to persuade them, and that he comes as a friend to friends who may nevertheless be hostile to him (as indeed they turn out to be). Tydeus comes on behalf of Polyneikes, of course, who was supposed to share the kingship of Thebes with his brother Eteokles. When Tydeus’ words of persuasion (presumably, urging him to follow this original arrangement) fail, he is later ambushed. The attack of the Seven against Thebes will be the next step. But we can infer that Tydeus’ speech, if we had an example of it from an ancient epic about the Theban war, would have started from a friendly stance and would have been gracious toward Eteokles and the Thebans.
10.289–290 This allusion provides a good illustration of the workings of the Iliad’s performance context. Diomedes says only that Tydeus is able to “mastermind astounding deeds” with Athena’s help on this occasion, without any further detail needed for his internal audience, since Athena would know what happened. A traditional audience of the Iliad, however, would also readily know the events to which Diomedes refers, and this compressed reference would evoke the entire episode for them, whereas we have to try to reconstruct it as best we can. As we have seen, this episode is also related to Diomedes by Agamemnon at Iliad 4.382–398 and Athena at Iliad 5.800–808 as they both try to spur him on to live up to his father’s fighting prowess. As we saw above on 10.48, the phrase mermera erga refers to one man defeating many more, and Tydeus does this twice, in fact, when he is sent alone to Thebes as a messenger. In Iliad 4 and 5, we learn that Tydeus challenges the Thebans to athletic contests, and defeats them all easily, because Athena helps him (Iliad 4.389–390 ≈ 5.807–808). But in Iliad 4, Agamemnon continues the story by saying that the Thebans in retaliation send fifty men to ambush Tydeus (they go on a πυκινὸν λόχον, Iliad 4.391–393; see above at 10.5–9 for the implications of pukinos in an ambush context). Tydeus defeats them as well, slaying all of them except for Maion, whom he intentionally leaves alive in obedience to the portents of the gods (Iliad 4.396–398). The A scholia on Iliad 4.394 inform us that “some guess that Maion was a herald, and for that reason he alone was saved.” Nevertheless, Tydeus’ status as angelos does not protect him from being attacked. In his much later (and Latin) epic Thebaid, Statius portrays Maion as a seer, and Tydeus makes him a herald by default, giving him the message to take back to Thebes to prepare for war (Thebaid 2.682–703).
We see here that, in addition to mermera erga indicating one man defeating many, it can apply to either daytime fighting in open battle (as in the case of Hektor above [10.48] and at Iliad 11.502, in the case of Achilles at Iliad 21.217, and in Zeus’ phrase πολέμοιό τε μέρμερα ἔργα at Iliad 8.453) or nighttime/ambush fighting, as in this case and also below on 10.524. Here and on 10.48, these astounding deeds are associated with verbs like μήδομαι (10.52 as well as this line) and μητίομαι (10.48), so whether daytime battle or nighttime ambush, whether attacker or attacked, such success against greater numbers can be thought of as “devised” or “masterminded.” Also, in this case, the fact that one ambusher is left alive is a significant detail. In the poetics of ambush, there is narrative tension surrounding the possibility of not knowing what happens to those who go on a spying mission, an ambush, or another nighttime expedition unless they return successfully. Maion’s return, although apparently granted by the gods, is also necessary for Tydeus’ victory to be known.
This allusion indicates that ambush was a theme in the Theban epic tradition as well. Like Bellerophon (Iliad 6.187–190), Tydeus is successful in defeating the ambushers even though he is vastly outnumbered. Another night episode within this tradition that shares features with Iliad 10 is Tydeus’ arrival in Argos after his exile. The scholia to Iliad 4.376 from the Venetus A relate the story that both Tydeus and Polyneikes arrive at the house of Adrastos at night, each wearing an animal skin, like those of the heroes in Iliad 10. Tydeus wears a boar skin, and Polyneikes a lion skin. Adrastos had received an oracle that he should marry his daughters to a lion and a boar, and seeing these men on his doorstep he realizes that they should be his sons-in-law. As we have argued above, the wearing of animal skins puts the episode in a distinct register. The connection to the animals mentioned in the oracle plays off that register, by making the meaning of the skins symbolic in a more particular way. See also the commentary on Dolon’s wolf skin at 10.334.
10.291 ὡς νῦν μοι ἐθέλουσα παρίστασο καί με φύλασσε As we saw with the verb ἕπομαι on 10.285, Athena in particular is a goddess who stands by and protects the heroes she favors. She asserts to Diomedes on the battlefield that she indeed does what he asks her to do in his prayer: σοὶ δ’ ἤτοι μὲν ἐγὼ παρά θ’ ἵσταμαι ἠδὲ φυλάσσω (“Indeed I stand by you and guard you,” Iliad 5.809). In the Odyssey, she claims the same thing to Odysseus, using the same verbs: ἐν πάντεσσι πόνοισι παρίσταμαι ἠδὲ φυλάσσω (Odyssey 13.301). For the use of παρίσταμαι we can also compare the use of this same verb at Odyssey 3.222, when Nestor tells Telemakhos that Athena used to stand beside Odysseus openly: ὡς κείνῳ ἀναφανδὰ παρίστατο Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη. (See above on 10.275 and 10.278–279 for more on Odysseus’ relationship with Athena.) Thus this line is yet another clear example of the traditional language in Iliad 10. Diomedes requests Athena’s assistance here on the basis of that which she had given his father, and when Athena uses this combination of verbs at Iliad 5.809, it is also in the context of a comparison between Tydeus and Diomedes. Thus we see again (cf. 10.285) a patrilineal continuation of Athena’s special protection of her favorite heroes.
10.292–294 These lines are the same as those found in our texts at Odyssey 3.382–384. In the Odyssey, it is Nestor making the promise of such a sacrifice, again to Athena. Nestor prays to Athena for good kleos for himself, his children, and his wife and promises her in return this same kind of unbroken one-year-old cow with gilded horns. The identical vow in both contexts suggests that an unbroken cow is especially appropriate for Athena, perhaps because of her own virgin status, and, of course, that the sacrifice is made in reciprocity for success. But also suggestive is the vow’s close association in both cases with Athena’s personal involvement with heroes, and specifically her accompaniment of them on a particular mission. Although it is not Telemakhos who makes the vow (the way Diomedes does here), Nestor mentions that she accompanies Telemakhos before he makes the vow in return for his own kleos.
10.296 It is a typical feature of Homeric poetry and its oral traditional nature to say again that they had both prayed even after the previous line, which closes Diomedes’ prayer, indicates the same. The “fullness of expression” that may at times seem feeble or repetitive in poetry composed in writing is a natural component of oral composition-in-performance.
10.297 βάν ῥ᾽ ἴμεν See on 10.32.
10.297 ὥς τε λέοντε δύω There are other examples in our Homeric texts of a pair of lions together. Only in the case of Hektor and Patroklos fighting do we find a simile of two lions fighting each other (Iliad 16.756–761). There are three examples, however, of lions hunting together as a team. At Iliad 5.539–560, Aeneas kills two twin brothers, Orsilokhos and Krethon, who are compared to two lions that prey on cattle and sheep until they are finally killed by the weapons of men. At Iliad 13.170–202, Teucer kills the Trojan Imbrios, and Hektor in return kills Amphimakhos. Ajax beats Hektor back, and the Achaeans drag both corpses out of battle. The Aiante, when they carry the corpse of Imbrios off the battlefield, are compared to two lions snatching a goat from the guard dogs and carrying it high in their jaws into the brush. These lion similes belong to a tradition of similes about lions attacking herds of domesticated animals, whether cattle, sheep, or goats, which are often protected by dogs and men. There are also two lions depicted on the shield of Achilles that attack a bull, drag it off, and gorge themselves on its blood while keeping dogs at bay (Iliad 18.579–586). A pair of lions working together, therefore, seems to be a traditional image, and as we can see from the similes in Iliad 5 and 13, this image is associated with special pairs of fighters. See above on 10.243 for Diomedes and Odysseus as one of these special pairs, especially in ambush situations, and also on 10.53 and 10.228 for the Aiante, when that dual form means Ajax and Teucer, as it seems to in Iliad 13. For more on lion similes in Homeric epic, see Scott 1974, Moulton 1977, Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1981, Lonsdale 1990, and Muellner 1990.
Also noteworthy in this simile, in terms of composition, is the lack of clear division between the lions and the warriors—both can be imagined going through the night, slaughter, corpses, war gear, and black blood. That is, at the end of 10.297 it seems like we could be going into an extended simile, but once we reach 10.298, and especially the mention of the war gear, we must reconsider the boundary of the simile. The simile then seems to be of the sort that is the ultimate compression: simply “like two lions” (compare other compressed lion similes at Iliad 5.299, 11.129, 12.293, 15.592, 17.542, and 24.572 and at Odyssey 9.292 and 23.48). Leonard Muellner (1990) has compellingly argued that these shorter similes are indeed compressed versions of the longer, more detailed lion similes, rather than the longer being (newer) extensions of these shorter types. Therefore, even this short phrase would evoke the imagery of two lions working together, as we see in greater detail in other similes. For similes involving lions that attack at night, see 10.485–488. See Scott 1974:90 for the combination, as on this line, of the formula βῆ/βᾶν δ’/ῥ’ ἴμεν followed by a simile.
10.298 ἀμ φόνον, ἀν νέκυας, διά τ᾽ ἔντεα καὶ μέλαν αἷμα As we have already seen on 10.199, corpses and gore are a significant feature of the landscape on this night. The second half of this line (διά τ᾽ ἔντεα καὶ μέλαν αἷμα) appears again at 10.469 as Odysseus and Diomedes move toward the Thracians. The scholia cite this phrase in different ways, reflecting various practices of ancient textual criticism. Looking at just the scholia in the Townley manuscripts (in the edition of Maass), for example, we see that the phrase is cited as a parallel use of διά with an accusative, as on Iliad 15.1 and 22.190. In this way, 10.298 is treated no differently from any other line in showing “Homeric” usage. This same phrase, however, is objected to on Iliad 23.806, because it is “transferred from the Doloneia,” an argument that reflects the Alexandrian dislike of repeated phrases, even though we know they are a natural and necessary element of oral composition-in-performance (see also 10.51–52).
10.299–300 οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδὲ Τρῶας ἀγήνορας εἴασεν Ἕκτωρ / εὕδειν, ἀλλ᾽ ἄμυδις κικλῄσκετο πάντας ἀρίστους At the beginning of Iliad 10, where Agamemnon cannot sleep because of worry, he looks out at the Trojan encampment and wonders at both the sight of the many fires and the sounds of flutes and pipes and the clamor of men (see 10.11–13). From that description, we already know that the Trojans are not sleeping. But this passage can also be a compressed version of the theme of a leader who cannot sleep and so calls together a council to make a plan. We see such a theme at the beginning of Iliad 2, as well as in this book (see comments at 10.1ff.). In the process of oral composition-in-performance, the singer can compress or expand a theme, Lord’s term for “the groups of ideas regularly used in telling a tale in the formulaic style of traditional song” (Lord 1960/2000:68; for the singer’s ability to expand and compress themes, see Lord 1960/2000:78–80, 88–91). So here the singer, who has already sung a version of the theme for the scene at the Achaean camp, merely mentions sleeplessness and the calling together of the council without the development and expansion seen earlier. Even the enjambment of the verb εὕδειν on the second line of this compressed version is reminiscent of that at Iliad 2.2 and 10.2, indicating a compositional pattern.
10.300–301 The identity of the ἄριστοι (10.300) whom Hektor calls together is explained by the following line: the leaders and rulers of the Trojans. On both sides, the leaders are regularly called the ἄριστοι (compare the same sense of the word on 10.1, 10.117, 10.214, and 10.273, as well as below on 10.326). Within this group, however, there is a competition to be the best of all, and participation in these dangerous nighttime missions is part of that competition: see above on 10.236 for this heightened sense of the word ἄριστος and the role that the best men play in ambush.
10.302 πυκινὴν ἠρτύνετο βουλήν See above on 10.5–9 and 10.43–44 for more on the significance of πυκινός and planning in the ambush theme. This same phrase is used at Iliad 2.55, another episode that begins at night, when the Achaeans are similarly debating the very thing that Hektor wants to find out on this night: whether they should continue fighting or return home. There, the plan they decide upon also involves deception. In other contexts, too, the verb ἀρτύνω is used to set an ambush (Odyssey 14.469) or to devise false stories (Odyssey 11.366), so it, too, has thematic associations with cunning, deception, and ambush. Thus the whole phrase thematically encompasses the kind of plan that Hektor here proposes.
10.304 μισθός Disapproving interpretations of this term have added to the negative reception of the character of Dolon, from the scholia in the Venetus B and Townley manuscripts through to negative assumptions made in passing in more recent studies such as Schnapp-Goubeillon 1982:58, Holoka 1983:8, and Coffee 2009:62. (Hektor is criticized as well for offering a reward that he does not himself have, at that point, to give.) In Homeric diction, the term is used as remuneration for work, such as woodworking (Iliad 12.435) or shepherding (Odyssey 10.84), and can be used within a taunt (Odyssey 18.358, although so can ‘guest-gift’ [see Odyssey 9.370]). But misthos is also used for what Poseidon and Apollo expect in return for building the walls of Troy (Iliad 21.445, 21.450, 21.451, 21.457), so the labor itself need not be common. μισθός is also connected with another ambush episode: Menelaos says that the “pay” for the men who watched for Agamemnon’s return on Aegisthus’ behalf was two talents of gold (Odyssey 4.524–526). There, the task has a negative sense to it, but does the fact that pay is involved make this so? Focusing exclusively on the word misthos here ignores both that the reward is called a δῶρον in this same line (similar to Nestor calling his offer a δόσις, see 10.213) and that the spy will get κῦδος (10.307) for this mission as well. There may indeed be an implicit contrast in the poetry between the rewards offered on each side on this night, but condemnation of Dolon based on a notion of “work-for-pay” is too extreme, nor does it seem evident that misthos is indicative of the “unheroic” character of Dolon or of the Doloneia as a whole.
10.305 ἐριαύχενας ἵππους Parry notes that ἐρι- is the Aeolic prefix. The Ionic form, ἀρι-, has the same metrical value, and so we would expect such words to shift to the Ionic. But, Parry argues, exceptions to that general rule of the evolution of Homeric language, such as we have in this case, show that “not only the bards’ habit of using epithets with the Aeolic prefix, but also their sense of the formula which contained such epithets, protected the prefix here from their tendency to keep only those elements of the λέξις ξενική which differed metrically from the corresponding Ionic forms.” Parry also notes that ἐριαύχενας appears only within this formula (Parry, MHV 181n1). From this we can see how conservative the oral composition process can be, in addition to how formulaic phrases can be thought of, used, and preserved by the singers as a unit.
10.305–306 The recorded textual multiforms for 10.306 provide a good example of how oral composition operates within its tradition. In 10.305, Hektor offers as the great gift a chariot and two horses, and in the reading of the main text of the Venetus A, in 10.306, he further qualifies that he will give whichever horses are best at the swift ships of the Achaeans (οἵ κεν ἀριστεύωσι θοῇς ἐπὶ νηυσίν Ἀχαιῶν). The scholia in the A manuscript record three different readings by the three major Alexandrian Homeric scholars, which in turn all differ from this main text. First, it says that Aristarchus read οἵ κεν ἄριστοι ἔωσι θοῇς ἐπὶ νηυσίν Ἀχαιῶν. The meanings of that version and that of the main text of A are similar: Hektor indicates that the gift will be the best of the Achaean horses, but he does not make it any more specific. The difference between ἀριστεύωσι and ἄριστοι ἔωσι may be a performance variation, or it might have been introduced at some point in the textual tradition. Both Zenodotus and Aristophanes, however, knew versions of a line that did specify which horses: those of Achilles. Zenodotus read αὐτοὺς οἳ φορέουσι ἀμύμονα Πηλείωνα (“the ones which carry the faultless son of Peleus”), similar to line 10.323 below. Aristophanes read something slightly different: καλοὺς οἳ φορέουσι ἀμύμονα Πηλείωνα (“the fine ones which carry the faultless son of Peleus”).
In these four readings, then, we see how from performance to performance certain words or phrases might be used in place of one another, ἀριστεύωσι or ἄριστοι ἔωσι, αὐτοὺς or καλοὺς. But the choice between simply stating “whichever are best” and specifying the horses of Achilles reveals a deeper layer. In either case, Dolon would likely name the horses of Achilles in his reply, as he does in our version (see 10.323), so it is not a question of someone else’s horses being offered as a prize that is at issue here. Instead, if the singer sings “whichever are best at the ships of the Achaeans,” a traditional audience will immediately think of Achilles’ horses, knowing that they are indeed the best. We know this, too, because at the end of the catalog of ships, the narrator asks the Muse who was the best of the men, and who the best of the horses (Iliad 2.761–762). Eumelos’ mares are at first mentioned as the best horses (Iliad 2.763–765) and Ajax, son of Telamon, as the best man, but then both are qualified by the statement that this was true only so long as Achilles stayed angry, since both he and his horses were by far the best (Iliad 2.768–770; there, too, we have a similar phrase to describe the horses: ἵπποι θ’ οἳ φορέεσκον ἀμύμονα Πηλείωνα). So the singer may be implicit or explicit about which horses Hektor is offering, and these textual variations record different possibilities for how the line was performed. As we will see in further detail below (see 10.332), in both the Iliadic tradition and in other versions of this story, Hektor has his own designs on capturing the horses of Achilles (for example, he pursues them after the death of Patroklos, who drove them into battle, see Iliad 17.483–496), and the performance variation of whether Hektor is explicit or not in naming Achilles’ horses as the reward may be related to whether the singer has in mind that aspect of the tradition. In any case, these variations recorded in the scholia of the Venetus A reveal the multiplicity of the compositional possibilities here.
10.307 τλαίῃ See p. 75 and on 10.248 for the connection between this verb and ambush.
10.307 κῦδος ἄροιτο For this use of arnumai with kudos or kleos, compare Iliad 4.95 and 5.3 and Odyssey 1.240. Just as Nestor promises both κλέος and a δόσις for whoever will undertake the spying mission for the Achaeans (see above on 10.212–213), so also Hektor promises a δῶρον (304) and also κῦδος to the volunteer among the Trojans. As we argued above, these are clear indications that success on an ambush was considered prestigious for Homeric warriors.
10.312 καμάτῳ ἀδηκότες See on 10.98 for more on this phrase.
10.313 ὡς ἔφαθ᾽, οἱ δ᾽ ἄρα πάντες ἀκὴν ἐγένοντο σιωπῇ This is a whole line formula, which we find in nine other places in our texts: Iliad 3.95, 7.92, 7.398, 8.28, 9.29, 9.430, 9.693, 10.218, 23.676. At 10.218, the same verse is used for the Achaean reaction to Nestor’s proposal for a spying mission. In general the formula is used after a challenge by one man to a group, whether his own comrades or the enemy, and this verse serves as a pause before another individual responds in one way or another to the challenge. It is another example of the traditional nature of the language of Iliad 10.
10.314–317 These four lines provide us a brief introduction to Dolon. We are given his father’s name (314), and we learn that his father was a herald (315) and that Dolon was his only son, but that he had five sisters (317). Dolon is also described as wealthy (315), not good looking, and swift (316). We discuss in detail in the Dolon section of our essay “Tradition and Reception” how we understand Dolon’s traditional status. Here, we will look at each of these elements individually, each in its own context. To understand these characteristics properly, we must investigate what each attribute would mean to a traditional audience by examining evidence from the tradition itself, leaving aside any of our own cultural assumptions.
10.314–315 Εὐμήδεος υἱὸς / κήρυκος θείοιο A patronymic is often read as a sign of traditionality: that is, a character with a patronymic has a lineage within traditional epic (for more about this initial line of introduction, see “Tradition and Reception” above). As we see here, and again when the patronymic is used on lines 412 and 426, it is also a useful formula for composition: combined with Dolon’s name, it fills the line from the weak caesura to the end of the line, one of the most common metrical patterns for name-epithet formulas. The enjambment of his father’s occupation on the next line is compositionally noteworthy: it is not necessary to complete the thought of the previous line (indeed, none of these details are strictly necessary—line 318 could follow 314 with no loss of sense). As Lord reminds us, “This absence of necessary enjambment is a characteristic of oral composition and is one of the easiest touchstones to apply in testing the orality of a poem. Milman Parry called it an ‘adding style’; the term is apt” (Lord 1960/2000:54). Eumedes’ role as herald must strongly suggest itself to the singer when his name is used in the patronymic formula. Scholiasts offer the possibility that Odysseus and Diomedes would perhaps know Dolon because he accompanied his father on official dispatches to the Greek camp (see below on 10.447). But there may also be implicit contrasts here: his father the herald visits the Achaean camp in an official capacity during the daylight. We can compare Iliad 7.370–415, when the Trojans decide at dinner time to send Idaios to the Achaeans at dawn the next day (see Iliad 7.370–372, 380–381). That is, it is made explicit that the herald will wait for daylight to go to the opposing camp, rather than immediately going in the dark. Dolon, as a spy at night, is a different kind of unofficial “visitor” to the enemy camp. Heralds are divinely protected in their duties, as the epithet θεῖος indicates, but spies are not, and Dolon cannot expect protection, or even mercy, when he encounters the Achaeans on his mission.
10.315 πολύχρυσος πολύχαλκος Dolon is also described as wealthy: “rich in gold, rich in bronze.” These epithets are more commonly used of places in our texts, and Dolon is the only person to be called by them. Mycenae is called πολύχρυσος three times (Iliad 7.180, 11.46, Odyssey 3.305). Sidon is called πολύχαλκος (Odyssey 15.425), as is the ouranos (Iliad 5.504; Odyssey 3.2), perhaps because of an association between the sky and the homes of the gods, which have bronze floors (Iliad 1.426, 14.173, 21.438, 21.505, Odyssey 8.321). The combination of both adjectives πολύχρυσος and πολύχαλκος is used only of Troy in our texts (Iliad 18.289), when Hektor says that formerly all mortals used to speak of Priam’s city as rich in gold, rich in bronze, but now the Trojans have had to sacrifice most of that wealth (Iliad 18.285–292). So the question emerges whether the combination of these adjectives evokes an association between Dolon and Priam’s Troy and its eventual doom, despite its wealth. Such an association may be too far-reaching, since in our texts Troy is described with these adjectives only once, although it is a very wealthy city according to tradition. Certainly Dolon’s wealth comes into play after his capture: when he promises Diomedes and Odysseus a great ransom (10.378–381) the traditional characteristic of his wealth indicates that he could indeed pay handsomely in exchange for his life.
10.316 ὃς δή τοι εἶδος μὲν ἔην κακός, ἀλλὰ ποδώκης These two characteristics are contrasted, one negative (ugly) and one positive (swift-footed). The phrase εἶδος … κακός is analogous to the more frequently used constructions for being good-looking, such as εἶδος ἄριστος / -η (Iliad 2.715, 3.39 = 13.769, 3.124, 13.365, 13.378, 17.142, Odyssey 11.469 = 24.17) and εἶδος ἀγητός / -όν / οί (Iliad 5.787 = 8.228, 22.370, 24.376, Odyssey 14.177). Compositionally, it is most like Odyssey 11.469 (= 24.17), which is also a relative clause with ἔην between the noun and adjective.
When we think of Homeric heroes who are explicitly labeled ugly, the first to come to mind is Thersites, who is described as “the ugliest man who came to Troy” (αἴσχιστος δὲ ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ Ἴλιον ἦλθε, Iliad 2.216). We know that αἴσχιστος refers to his looks in particular because the next three lines expand on this adjective with details of his physical appearance: he is bandy-legged and lame in one foot, his shoulders hunch over his chest, and his head is pointy, with sparse hair on top (Iliad 2.217–219). He is especially hateful to Achilles and Odysseus, two preeminent heroes of the epic tradition (Iliad 2.220). Of course, Odysseus has a bitter encounter with Thersites in Iliad 2, and we know from Proklos’ summary of the Aithiopis that Achilles will eventually kill him in anger. Indeed, although we are told by the narrator that Thersites is a source of laughter (γελοίϊον, Iliad 2.215), and in his lameness he might be thought similar to Hephaistos, whose bustling provokes laughter (Iliad 1.599–600), Thersites provokes anger from the Achaeans (see Kouklanakis 1999). Dolon’s ugliness, by comparison, is not dwelled upon, and does not seem to provoke any particular strong reaction, whether ridicule, repulsion, or irritation (see, however, 10.400 for Odysseus’ smile and 10.446 for Diomedes’ glare as their reactions to Dolon upon his capture). Yet pairing Thersites and Dolon based on their looks might also suggest that, in the Iliad, Odysseus, whose own appearance is not unequivocally impressive (Iliad 3.209–224), seems to have the role of confronting ugly men (but in neither case is he their killer).
In contrast to his bad looks, Dolon does have the positive attribute of being swift-footed (ποδώκης). For a traditional audience, as well as for us, the epithet “swift-footed” brings to mind Achilles, of course. Achilles has two other “distinctive” (in Parry’s terms) epithets that indicate his swiftness, ποδάρκης and πόδας ὠκύς (Parry, MHV 64, 145), but he is also called “swift-footed” with the adjective ποδώκης twenty-two times in the Iliad and twice in the Odyssey. In addition to Achilles and Dolon, the adjective is also used for horses four times (in one of these cases, it is applied to the horses’ drivers in an apparent transference of the epithet). So, here, the epithet evokes both Achilles and horses just before Dolon asks for Achilles’ horses as his reward for undertaking the spying mission (10.322–323). Achilles, we know, is the best looking of the Achaeans, as well as the best overall (his horses are the best as well, see Iliad 2.769–770), and the trait of swiftness that Dolon shares with him heightens the contrast of Dolon’s ugliness. As we will see below (10.330), there seems to be a prohibition on the taking of Achilles’ horses by his enemies within the Iliadic tradition, and Odysseus’ reaction to Dolon’s confession that he has been promised them also points to this contrast: Dolon is like Achilles in being fast, but he is no Achilles. Like Dolon, however, Achilles is also involved in ambushes at night (see e.g. Iliad 21.34–39 and “The Poetics of Ambush”). Achilles’ swiftness has been understood as an important quality in battle, and it may also be so for ambush missions. If this is the case, Dolon’s swiftness will likewise be important for the spying mission he volunteers to undertake. We will see Dolon run, but he is outsmarted and overtaken by Odysseus and Diomedes. In one of his Cretan lies, Odysseus claims to have ambushed and killed Orsilokhos, a son of Idomeneus, in Crete, and he says that Orsilokhos is swift-footed, faster than all other seafaring men in wide Crete (Odyssey 13.259–270). That story provides another example of the victim of an ambusher being swift. It may be that the strategy involved in ambush is traditionally associated with overcoming physical talents, such as being a fast runner.
10.317 αὐτὰρ ὃ μοῦνος ἔην μετὰ πέντε κασιγνήτῃσιν Dolon’s status as an only son may be a detail that increases the audience’s sympathy for his death. Although some modern scholars revile Dolon completely (on this line, see e.g. Holoka 1983:8–9 and Hainsworth 1993, who calls Dolon a “sissy”), an ancient audience might have reacted quite differently. For example, we might compare Ilioneus the son of Phorbas: he is a Trojan identified as an only son, and his brief life story, given at the moment of his death, seems intended to arouse sympathy based on that status (Iliad 14.489–492). Both Achilles and Odysseus are only sons (as is Odysseus’ son Telemakhos, in the Odyssean tradition), and the epics offer intensely emotional scenes about the potential loss of the son. In Iliad 24.485–512, Priam appeals to Achilles to think of his father and how much he hopes to see his son return home, and Achilles weeps remembering both Patroklos and his father. In Odyssey 24.345–348, Laertes indeed sees his only son return home after twenty years and faints. We see the hope of and joy at the son’s return also embodied in a simile comparing Eumaios’ joy at greeting Telemakhos to a father greeting his only son (μοῦνος at Odyssey 16.19, just as here) coming home from a foreign land in the tenth year, having suffered greatly (Odyssey 16.17–19). Following this self-referential Odyssean simile, Eumaios kisses Telemakhos as though Telemakhos has escaped death. In fact, Telemakhos has just outsmarted the suitors in their ambush attempt, and so has escaped death (see also Odyssey 17.47, where Telemakhos says he has just escaped sheer destruction). Dolon will not return after he is ambushed, so his status as an only son should engender some sympathy for his father. Hainsworth (1993 ad loc.) objects to any notion of sympathy because Dolon’s status as an only son is mentioned here, but not at his death. At the moment of his departure, however, we already know that Dolon will die (10.336–337), so any sympathy evoked here is not that far from the indication of his death.
The detail of Dolon’s five sisters might add to the pathos in a different way, for brothers are possible avengers, and Dolon has none. (As an example of a brother as an avenger, compare Iliad 14.478–485, where Akamas stands over his fallen brother, claiming a poinē for him and saying that a man prays to leave someone behind him in his home to avenge his death in battle.) The death of a brother often causes anger and desire for revenge (e.g. Iliad 9.567, 11.248–258, 16.320) or is offered as a standard measure of a great loss (e.g. Iliad 9.632–636, 24.46–49). Once Dolon is dead, his sisters have a potential future fate as captive women: both Andromache and Briseis mention the loss of their brothers in war as a factor in their dire straits (Iliad 6.421–424 for Andromache; Iliad 19.293–294 for Briseis). Both of these factors, then, can be seen within the Homeric tradition to potentially evoke sympathy for Dolon’s death.
Throughout the Iliad passages that introduce warriors just before they die and provide details of their biographies would likely have served a commemorative function, and, compressed though they are, often share themes and imagery with traditional female laments, such as those sung by Andromache, Briseis, and Achilles’ mother Thetis in the Iliad. Many of these passages seem to be focalized through the eyes of a mother or widow. There are several examples of this phenomenon. In Iliad 11.221–228, we hear the story of Iphidamas, who leaves behind his bride to “go after the kleos of the Achaeans.” In Iliad 4.473–489, we learn how Simoeisios comes to be named by his parents, and that he dies before he can repay their care in raising him. He is compared to a felled poplar, a use of plant imagery that is also common in lament. The death of Gorgythion at Iliad 8.302–308 is a particularly beautiful example of this kind of passage, for which we use the evocative translation of Samuel Butler:
ὃ δ’ ἀμύμονα Γοργυθίωνα
υἱὸν ἐῢν Πριάμοιο κατὰ στῆθος βάλεν ἰῷ,
τόν ῥ’ ἐξ Αἰσύμηθεν ὀπυιομένη τέκε μήτηρ
καλὴ Καστιάνειρα δέμας ἐϊκυῖα θεῇσι.
μήκων δ’ ὡς ἑτέρωσε κάρη βάλεν, ἥ τ’ ἐνὶ κήπῳ
καρπῷ βριθομένη νοτίῃσί τε εἰαρινῇσιν,
ὣς ἑτέρωσ’ ἤμυσε κάρη πήληκι βαρυνθέν.
The arrow hit Priam’s brave son faultless Gorgythion in the chest. His mother, fair Kastianeira, lovely as a goddess, bore him after she had been married from Aisyme, and now he bowed his head as a garden poppy in full bloom when it is weighed down by showers in spring—even thus heavy bowed his head beneath the weight of his helmet.
translation based on that of Samuel Butler
We can easily imagine these words spoken in the first person by Kastianeira upon learning of the death of her son in battle. Indeed, epic poetry is infused with the imagery, themes, and language of lament, so much so that a number of scholars have speculated that women’s lament traditions played a crucial role in the development of epic. Epic poetry narrates the glory of heroes, the klea andrōn, but it also laments their untimely deaths and the suffering they cause. That these lament-filled passages are more often than not sung for the death of the Trojans and their allies, and in this case the spy Dolon, is a testament to the remarkable parity of compassion that underlies the Iliad. Both sides are mourned equally. On the relationship between lament and epic, women’s songs and men’s songs, see Murnaghan 1999, Nagy 1999, Sultan 1999, and Dué 2002 and 2006a. On the mortality of the hero as a central theme of epic, see also Schein 1984, Greene 1999, and above on 10.259. On passages that lament the death of heroes in a highly compressed form, such as the one quoted from Iliad 8 here, see also Tsagalis 2004:179–187. Tsagalis argues that lament is “the form of speech that best represents the poem’s perspective” (167). If he is right then it is illuminating to consider that Dolon may once have been understood to be as deserving of sympathy and lamentation as any of the warriors who fall in battle in the Iliad.
10.319 Ἕκτορ ἒμ’ ὀτρύνει κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ The same formula is used when Diomedes volunteers, with Nestor’s name in place of Hektor’s. See the commentary on 10.244 for the connection between “heart and audacious spirit” (κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ) and alternative warfare tactics like spying missions or ambush.
10.325–327 As we know from 10.56, 10.126–127, 10.180, and 10.198–199, the council first gathers at the watch station and then crosses the ditch to hold their deliberations. Dolon’s supposition of where to find them, then, is wrong, but not entirely misguided. Earlier that morning, the Trojan herald Idaios found the Achaeans assembled near the stern of Agamemnon’s ship (Iliad 7.382–383). Earlier on this night Agamemnon held a council of the leaders in his shelter (Iliad 9.89–90), and it was there that the embassy returned to deliver their news (Iliad 9.669). Another council had been held at night at Nestor’s ship (Iliad 2.53–54). That such councils are usually held at the ships gives even greater meaning to the choice of a meeting place across the ditch (see on 10.194 and 10.199).
Another question that scholars have raised about his supposition, however, is whether Dolon is ignorant of the ditch and wall, since he does not mention them. In discussing another so-called problem connected to the wall—namely, whether or not it is present in Iliad 10, and if it is, how Agamemnon can see over it to the Trojan camp at the beginning of the Book—Shewan (1911:181) argues against such prosaic demands of the poetry. Fenik (1964:60) argues that presuming some version of the Doloneia in which there is no wall goes too far, and he notes that, in the Rhesos (213), Dolon is aware of the ditch and the wall but intends to be able to spy anyway. So when Dolon says that he will go through the Achaean encampment all the way to Agamemnon’s ship, we can easily understand that he is including making his way across the ditch and wall. But, of course, he will never make it that far. Exactly how he will get over them becomes a moot point, especially given that this is a traditional story in which his fortunes are not only known but are even foretold as he leaves (see below on 10.336–337).
10.329 Ζεὺς αὐτὸς ἐρίγδουπος πόσις Ἥρης At 10.5 Zeus is named only as “the husband of Hera with her beautiful hair” (πόσις Ἥρης ἠϋκόμοιο); here, his name is combined with the epithet phrase “the loud-sounding husband of Hera.” These two epithets reveal more about how oral traditional language operates within composition-in-performance. Zeus is called the husband of Hera with these two formulas, and Alexander is called “radiant Alexander, the husband of Helen, with her beautiful hair” (δῖος Ἀλέξανδρος Ἑλένης πόσις ἠϋκόμοιο, Iliad 3.329 = 7.355 = 8.82; see also Iliad 11.369 and 11.505, where δῖος is replaced by αὐτάρ and εἰ μή, respectively). In Homeric diction the word πόσις is used in other cases, such as that of Hektor as the husband of Andromache (Iliad 6.484, 8.190, 22.439) and of Odysseus as the husband of Penelope in the Odyssey (18.253, 19.126, 19.549), when the wife of a man is part of his epic identity and so is used in naming him within the tradition. In the case of Paris and Zeus, then, that key relationship has been fashioned into traditional epithets. Their epithets that include the adjective ἠϋκόμοιο have likely been formed by analogy. Parry notes that the formula found on this line is especially associated with prayer, whether expressing a wish or calling Zeus to witness oaths (MHV 181–182; for an oath, compare Iliad 7.411). See above on 10.305 for the prefix ἐρι-.
10.330 ἐποχήσεται This verb is likewise used (in its only other appearance in our texts) at Iliad 17.449, when Zeus will not allow Hektor to take Achilles’ horses after he kills Patroklos, whom the horses mourn nearby. A telling cross-reference can be made, then, with this resonant verb: Hektor promises to Dolon that no one else will take Achilles’ horses, and in Book 17 it is Hektor himself who is prohibited from doing so by Zeus. Within the larger tradition, this verb may be part of a traditional vocabulary about Achilles’ horses and may therefore evoke for a traditional audience the embedded knowledge that Achilles will never lose his horses to his enemies. (See also below at 10.402–404.) At Iliad 17.75–78, Apollo actively dissuades Hektor from going after the horses. Disguised as Mentes, Apollo tells Hektor that he runs in pursuit of something unattainable (Ἕκτορ νῦν σὺ μὲν ὧδε θέεις ἀκίχητα διώκων). In both of these cases, it is a god who forbids the theft from happening, and Zeus recalls there how it was the gods who gave the horses to Peleus. That the horses were originally a wedding gift to Peleus from the gods may account for why Achilles’ horses are not subject to the same vagaries of warfare as, say, Rhesos’ horses are. Deep familiarity with this vocabulary would also shape the audience’s reception of the request by Dolon and promise by Hektor.
10.331 ἀγλαϊεῖσθαι is a hapax legomenon: that is, this verb appears only here in our texts. Some critics who have argued that Iliad 10 is later and/or separate from the rest of the Iliad use the number of hapax legomena in this book as evidence of different composition and/or authorship. Yet an understanding of oral poetics and the techniques of oral composition-in-performance can account for such seeming anomalies in a different way. When we look at the entire “database” that the Iliad and Odyssey provide, we find, not this verb, of course, but the adjective ἀγλαός used in many contexts in which the heroes receive material goods as a result of their actions. Most often the phrase is ἀγλαὰ δῶρα (used twenty-one times in our texts). These gifts “shine” not just physically (as they do if they happen to be made of precious metal), but metonymically as the physical manifestation of the radiant glory the hero either has won or stands to win. (See on 10.212–213 above for the connection between gifts and glory in this epic tradition.) We also see phrases like ἀγλά’ ἄποινα (Iliad 1.23 = 1.377, Iliad 1.111), ἀγλά’ ἄεθλα (Iliad 23.262), and even ἀγλαὸν εὖχος (Iliad 7.203) in contexts in which the hero has something to gain through his victory. These phrases may have been created by analogy with the phrase ἀγλαὰ δῶρα, especially because the idea of victory bringing both gifts and glory was so fundamental (see Parry MHV 68–76 for the principle of analogy in the composition of oral poetry). So if a singer has learned the idea encapsulated in the adjective, it would be natural to create a phrase using the verb instead. As Albert Lord has argued, the language of oral poetry operates just like spoken language, and learning and using the language of the poetry is no more mechanical and no less fluid than learning and using a spoken language (Lord 1960/2000:35–37). And in fact, a related, compound verb form, ἐπαγλαίεσθαι, is used to describe Hektor exulting in Achilles’ armor, which he puts on after he strips it from Patroklos’ corpse (Iliad 18.133). So even if from our perspective it may seem that this verb is unusual within the texts we have, we cannot say that all those uses of the adjective were sung and resung before any singer thought to use the verb in the same kind of context. The fact that ἀγλαϊεῖσθαι is a hapax does not prove that it is untraditional. In fact, in making such determinations, we need to examine whether the idea, and not just the morphology, of the word or phrase is traditional if we are to understand it properly within the system of the poetic language.
10.332 ὣς φάτο καί ῥ᾽ ἐπίορκον ἐπώμοσε In the other instances of ἐπίορκον and related words in the Iliad it means a ‘false oath’: that is, one swears an oath and then violates it, or one is lying when he swears about some action in the past. At Iliad 3.276–280, Agamemnon calls on Zeus, Helios, the Earth, the rivers, and those in the underworld who punish swearers of false oaths (ἐπίορκον, Iliad 3.279) to guard the sanctity of the oaths that the Achaeans and Trojans are about to take in advance of the duel between Menelaos and Paris. In Iliad 19.187–188, Agamemnon responds to Odysseus’ request that he swear to Achilles that he never slept with Briseis by saying that he is willing to swear to it and that he is not falsely swearing (οὐδ’ ἐπιορκήσω). When Briseis is then brought back to Achilles, Agamemnon does indeed take an oath to that effect, beginning it in much the same way as in Iliad 3 (Iliad 19.260 ≈ Iliad 3.279), but adding the stipulation that, if he is swearing falsely (ἐπίορκον,  Iliad 19.264), he wishes that the gods may give him the many sufferings that they give to those who transgress their oaths. These contexts leave little doubt that the false oath is either intentionally broken or is an intentional lie.
Yet in this case readers, translators, and critics over the ages have been reluctant to think of Hektor as intentionally lying. Over a dozen manuscripts have ἐπεὶ ὅρκον, and some of these have it as a “correction,” indicating perhaps a felt need to remove the characterization of Hektor’s words as an intentionally false oath. The main scholia in the Venetus A similarly suggest that Hektor is not purposefully swearing a false oath, but that it is false because what he swears will happen is not fulfilled (οὐχ οἷον ἑκουσίως, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ ἀποτελεσθῆναι τοῦτο, ὅπερ ὤμοσεν). Cunliffe (1963) likewise makes an exception of this use in his lexicon, saying its use is “here of unintentional falsity, the fulfilment of the oath turning out to be impossible.” As we have just seen on 10.300, fulfillment of the oath is indeed impossible, and because there is no sense that Hektor should be punished (an idea that does appear in the other contexts), perhaps we should interpret Hektor’s oath as unintentionally false. In Iliad 17, Hektor goes after the horses himself, suggesting that he does not know that they cannot be captured by an enemy of Achilles.
But there are other possibilities for interpretation by a traditional audience. The Trojans are portrayed as oath breakers, as when Pandaros breaks the ceasefire in Iliad 4 (Idomeneus explicitly says the Trojans have broken their oaths at Iliad 4.269–270). Even for the duel between Paris and Menelaos itself, Agamemnon requires Priam to come to the battlefield to swear the oath because he does not trust his sons (Iliad 3.105–106). The earlier Trojan king Laomedon reneged on his deals both with Apollo and Poseidon for building the walls of Troy (see Iliad 21.439–460) and with Herakles, to whom he had promised to give his horses upon the rescue of his daughter Hesione (an episode alluded to at Iliad 5.640). So a traditional audience might have understood Hektor’s promise within the general traditional framework of Trojan promises in return for work or missions that are subsequently broken. Another possibility is offered in the tragedy Rhesos, where Hektor makes plain that he has designs on getting Achilles’ horses for himself, recounting their immortal origins (Rhesos 184–188). When he acquiesces to Dolon’s request, he explicitly says that he will not be false (ἀλλ’ οὔ σ’ ἐπάρας ψεύσομαι, Rhesos 189). The Rhesos employs different, yet traditional, narrative possibilities for the story (Fenik 1964), and the possibility that Hektor really plans to get Achilles’ horses for himself may underlie the mention of a false oath here in a compression of details that would have meaning nevertheless for a traditional audience.
10.333–335 These lines function as an arming scene, as 10.254–272 did for Diomedes and Odysseus. Lord (1960/2000:89–91) uses arming scenes from Iliad 3.328–338, 11.15–55, 16.130–154, and 19.369–391 as examples of a traditional theme in Greek oral epic, and demonstrates that this theme can be expanded or compressed as the singer sees fit. Lord notes that, in Iliad 3, the arming of Paris is given in some detail, while the parallel arming of Menelaos is compressed into a single line. (That compression is what we find in the manuscripts that survive, but we should note that there is an expanded description in a third-century BCE papyrus—Allen’s papyrus 40, Hibeh 19—of the arming of Menelaos, comprising four lines, all in traditional language, but the individual pieces of armor are put on in a different order from what we find in the other surviving arming scenes.) When we compare the earlier arming scene with this one, we also see that the arming scene of Diomedes and Odysseus is described at greater length than that of Dolon here. In addition to that more expanded arming scene, the details of Dolon’s equipment are also reminiscent of the night dressing scenes earlier in the episode (see 10.21–24, 10.29–31, and 10.177–178), since Dolon puts on his animal skin now to leave for his mission, while Agamemnon, Menelaos, and Diomedes had put on theirs when rising from bed. It does not seem that Diomedes wears his lion skin while on the mission, although he is twice compared to a lion (10.297 and 10.485). The cap Dolon wears is similar to that worn by Diomedes in that it is made of animal skin (κυνέην), but instead of being made from a bull’s hide, it is made from a marten (κτιδέην). The details of his equipment will be revisited when Odysseus and Diomedes strip Dolon’s corpse (see 10.458–459).
10.333 καμπύλα τόξα Odysseus, too, carries a bow on this night mission (which he will end up using only to whip the horses, see 10.260 and 10.500). McLeod (1988) argues that the bow is an effective weapon at night. See on 10.29, 10.260, and our essay “The Poetics of Ambush” for thematic associations between archery and ambush.
10.334 ῥινὸν πολιοῖο λύκοιο There is a substantial history of reading a ritual significance to Dolon’s wolf skin, starting with Gernet (1936). Gernet (1936:190–191) argues that the tragedy Rhesos is needed to understand the meaning of the wolf skin. In that tragedy, Dolon makes the wolf skin explicitly a disguise for the purpose of deception. He implies that he will look like a wolf and says that he will walk like a wolf, too, to confuse anyone who tracks him (Rhesos 208–215; see Plate 5 for a similar visual image). Being or playing a wolf, according to Gernet, can be interpreted as a kind of liminal stage of an initiation ritual (1936:193–196). He also considers the symbolism of the wolf as an “outlaw figure” (1936:200). Gernet’s ritual interpretation is followed, in later examinations of Dolon as a wolf, by Davidson 1979, Petegorsky 1982, and Wathelet 1989. See further on 10.465–466, where Odysseus hangs the wolf skin on the tamarisk bush.
Other arguments have proposed that the wolf skin marks Dolon as a type of figure usually featured in other kinds of narratives outside of epic. Davidson (1979:65) expands on the notion of the outlaw figure and argues that this story follows a mythical pattern in which Dolon is a trickster figure who is tricked upon, and she sees a connection between trickster imagery and lone wolf imagery. Malcolm Davies argues for a folktale background, proposing that Dolon is like the “ambivalent helper” figure in quest stories and that his wolf skin is suggestive of the metamorphosis or disguise such figures often take (Davies 2005:31–32).
Schnapp-Gourbeillon (1981:112–114) questions the interpretation of the wolf skin as initiatory, and she finds “serious difficulties” with Gernet’s approach, for using another source to understand Dolon’s wolf skin in the Iliad, singling out Dolon’s animal skin alone as ritually significant, and ignoring Athena’s possible ritual role. Instead, she argues that animal skins are worn for a particular type of nocturnal action, or by a specific type of persons, or both (Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1981:119–120). She argues that the symbolism of wearing the skins of particular animals is similar to what we see of the animal’s symbolism in the similes. Dolon is above all “like a wolf” in that he is a minor predator: when Dolon, the wolf, meets Diomedes, the lion, he never has a chance (1981:120). One further question regarding an initiatory significance, which arises from the differences between the ways in which the wolf skin is presented here and in the tragedy Rhesos, is that here, the wolf skin, although worn on the mission, is not presented as a disguise for Dolon. Rather, it is connected to the ambush theme like the earlier night dressing scenes, as we have explored above (see 10.21–24, 10.29–31, and 10.177–178). Wathelet notes with an eye to the practical that the gray color of the wolf skin provides a kind of camouflage in the night (1989:220). There may also be some harbinger of failure in that Dolon goes as a “lone wolf”: Homeric similes involving wolves always refer to them as plural, hunting in packs (see Iliad 4.471–472, 11.72–73, 13.101–106, 16.156–166, 16.352–356).
10.335 κρατὶ δ᾽ ἐπὶ κτιδέην κυνέην Dolon’s helmet, like those worn by Diomedes and Odysseus on this night, is made of animal hide rather than metal, as is appropriate to maneuvers in the dark. It provides stealth, whereas metal can reflect whatever light is available and give an ambusher away. (See on 10.257 and our essay “The Poetics of Ambush” for a full discussion.) The animal from whose hide Dolon’s cap is made, the ἴκτις, is the marten, a member of the weasel family. It is tempting to make the connection that, by wearing this helmet, Dolon is being characterized as “weasely.” (About this animal but not this passage, Aristotle notes that the ἴκτις has the “wickedness of character like the weasel,” History of Animals 612b10.) Even with that ancient testimony, however, we need to be careful not to make assumptions about associations with this animal in Homeric epic. This helmet is the only mention of the marten in our Homeric texts, so we can only speculate about what the associations might have been. The significance may instead be that this omnivorous animal hunts at night (Schwanz 2000). Nicander’s Theriaca 196–197, from the second century BCE, describes the ἴκτις as an animal that kills domestic birds in their sleep, making it very much like an ambusher at night. Also, Wathelet argues that the marten, like other members of the weasel family, is perhaps known for spying (Wathelet 1989:220). If these are indeed the associations an ancient audience would make, then not only are the physical qualities of the hide appropriate to the night, but also the marten’s characteristics mark Dolon as a “creature of the night.”
10.336 βῆ δ᾽ ἰέναι See on 10.32.
10.336–337 οὐδ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔμελλεν / ἐλθὼν ἐκ νηῶν ἂψ Ἕκτορι μῦθον ἀποίσειν Based on his experience with living singers composing in performance, Albert Lord notes that planning and a sense of the song as a whole is usual in oral poetry. Although there is pressure to compose rapidly, “In all these instances one sees also that the singer always has the end of the theme in his mind. He knows where he is going. As in the adding of one line to another, so in the adding of one element in a theme to another, the singer can stop and fondly dwell upon any single item without losing a sense of the whole. The style allows comfortably for digression or for enrichment. Once embarked upon a theme, the singer can proceed at his own pace” (Lord 1960/2000:92). The traditional nature of the story means that Dolon’s death is expected by the audience even as it is anticipated here. We also see this sort of planning in anticipation of a character’s impending death in daytime battle. We can compare, for just one example, the even longer-range planning evident in the death of Asios. Soon after Asios is introduced (Iliad 12.95–97) and begins his headstrong attack by chariot on the Achaean wall, the narrator similarly reports that Asios will not escape death or ever return to Troy because Idomeneus will kill him (Iliad 12.113–117; note the same introductory language, οὐδ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔμελλε, Iliad 12.113). Idomeneus does indeed kill him, but not until Iliad 13.383–393. This type of planning is not literary, but rather based in tradition: both the singer and the audience know that Idomeneus will kill Asios, so announcing it early confirms that the traditional story will be followed. By understanding this oral traditional feature, we can assume that Dolon’s lack of return follows tradition as well.
Within the ambush theme, moreover, there is a particular emphasis on the need to return. A failure to return means not only that the mission is unsuccessful, but also that the family and comrades may not know what has happened to the spy or ambusher. We see this aspect of the theme in Nestor’s words about the need to come back safely (10.212) and Diomedes’ choice of Odysseus as his partner based on Odysseus’ ability to return home (10.246–247). But we also see it in compressed versions of the theme, such as Glaukos’ narration of the ambush of Bellerophon, in which the ambushers are said not to return home because Bellerophon killed them all (Iliad 6.189–190). In this case, just as Dolon begins his mission, we are alerted already that Dolon will not be successful. This anticipation of his failure and impending death adds to the pathos inherent in the description of his family (10.317). But it also adds to the success of the Achaeans on this night: they triumph in preventing Dolon from bringing information to Hektor as well as in killing Rhesos and his comrades and stealing the horses.
10.339 ἐφράσατο Odysseus does just what Diomedes had wanted from a partner (see above, 10.224–226): he observes first what Diomedes has not yet seen—the presence of another man out in the night. His powers of observation stand in contrast to Dolon’s lack of attention, his ἀφραδίη (10.350), which shares the same root with this verb.
10.341–343 One aspect of these night missions that informs the poetics of the ambush theme is the lack of sure visual knowledge in the dark. Odysseus can see someone, but cannot yet be sure who he is or why he is there. We have already seen manifestations of this aspect of ambush, such as when Nestor tells the man he cannot see well enough to recognize that he should speak out and not sneak up on him (10.82–85). Odysseus displays his talent for ambush by anticipating that this man may be the enemy and by employing a strategy that gives them the advantage. See also the section on the sensory and spatial aspects of the night in “The Poetics of Ambush.”
10.347 προτιειλεῖν is a hapax legomenon. See on 10.331 for how to understand such a linguistic phenomenon in our texts and in this book in particular.
10.349 ὡς ἄρα φωνήσαντε The dual verb form reflects the poetics of teamwork that we see beginning on 10.243. So, although Odysseus is the only one quoted, the two ambushers are still spoken of in the dual, which may also imply Diomedes’ affirmative response. But see our note on this line in the textual commentary on the Venetus A for evidence of another possible way to perform this line.
10.349 πὰρ᾽ ἒξ ὁδοῦ An ambusher may hide just off a road to attack someone traveling along it. In the Homeric epics we have another example of this strategy in one of Odysseus’ Cretan lies in Odyssey 13; Odysseus describes a similar position for the ambush he narrates there: ἐγγὺς ὁδοῖο λοχησάμενος (Odyssey 13.268). We also see such a place for an ambush in Pindar’s description of Herakles’ ambush of the Molione (Olympian 10.26–34, ἐφ’ ὁδῷ, 10.30). At this point we begin to see how easily a spying mission transitions into an ambush once the presence of the enemy is detected.
10.349 ἐν νεκύεσσι See on 10.199 and 10.298 for more on corpses as a feature of the landscape on this night.
10.351–352 ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή ῥ’ ἀπέην ὅσσόν τ’ ἐπί οὖρα πέλονται / ἡμιόνων The distance of the mule’s plow range seems to take us out of the realm of war and into a farming setting, but when we look at other instances in Homeric epic of this description of distance, it takes us rather into the world of athletics. During the funeral games for Patroklos, this same word οὖρα is used for the distance of a discus throw of a young man, and it serves as a point of comparison for the distance during which Antilokhos’ horses were even with those of Menelaos (Iliad 23.431–433). And in the games on Phaeacia in the Odyssey, it is used to describe by how much Klytoneos won the footrace (Odyssey 8.123–125). Since we find many similarities of language between this section of Iliad 10 and Iliad 22 (see below on 10.363–368), we might also compare from that episode how Achilles’ chase of Hektor is compared to both a footrace and a chariot race at a hero’s funeral games, but with Hektor’s life as a prize (Iliad 22.157–166). Here, too, begins a “footrace” that will end in Dolon’s death.
10.352–353 According to the Townley scholia, Aristarchus understood this elaboration on the length of the furrow as redefining the length meant here. It is not the length of a standard furrow, but rather the difference in distance between that which a team of mules would plough and that which a team of oxen would—according to Aristarchus, mules are faster (presumably that is how we should understand προφερέστεραι). The fact that no reference to oxen appears in the comparison to the mules’ furrow at Odyssey 8.123–125 may suggest that here it is indeed a difference in length. As we try to understand the comparison and envision what this distance represents, we should also consider the poetics of night missions: Odysseus’ strategy is to let Dolon pass them by so that they can run up behind him and prevent his escape, but they also cannot lose sight of him. That factor may speak in favor of the shorter distance that Aristarchus proposes. See also Scott 1974:20–24 on Homeric similes describing measurement in general.
10.354–356 Odysseus’ plan also works to their advantage in another way—because they are now behind Dolon, that is, because they are coming at him from the same direction he has just come, he assumes they must be Trojans. The fact that he stops momentarily allows them to catch the swift-footed Dolon. Another of the sensory aspects of the night that is part of these poetics is the primacy of the sense of hearing. Yet, what one hears requires correct interpretation. In the next two lines, Dolon will realize that he has fatally misinterpreted what he heard as his sight contradicts his supposition.
10.357 ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δή ῥ᾽ ἄπεσαν δουρηνεκὲς ἢ καὶ ἔλασσον As at 10.351, here distance is expressed through comparison. Scott observes that in the Homeric epics, “Similes of distance are the most numerous type of approximate measure” (Scott 1974:21). Since Diomedes will indeed throw his spear at Dolon (10.372–374), this comparison also seems to anticipate how far they remain apart during the chase. The distance of a spear cast is used to picture other distances, such as the length of the pathway by which Apollo bridges the Achaean ditch (Iliad 15.358–360), the length of Achilles’ leap away from the river Xanthos as it pursues him (Iliad 21.251), and how far the Trojans give way to the Achaean charge (Iliad 16.589–592: there, the spear cast may be either in battle or in athletic games, compare 10.351–352 above).
10.360–363 As Diomedes and Odysseus start to pursue Dolon, they are compared to hunting dogs chasing after prey. Scott (1974:72–73) has identified hunting as a traditional subject matter for Homeric similes. In several similes, dogs accompanying hunters may confront powerful animals such as lions or boars (e.g. Iliad 8.337–342, 11.292–295, 12.41–49). But other similes are closer to what we have here: dogs chasing after weaker, non-predatory animals such as fawns or hares. In two similes in the Iliad that have this structure, at Iliad 15.579–581 (Antilokhos pouncing on Melanippos) and Iliad 22.188–193 (Achilles pursuing Hektor), a fawn has been chased from its lair (ἐξ εὐνῆφι, Iliad 15.580; ἐξ εὐνῆς, Iliad 22.190). We have seen above (10.5–9) how the adjective pukinos connects the ideas of an animal’s lair and ambush, and εὐνή means a ‘lair’ for a fawn, but a ‘bed’ for humans, further connecting the idea to night and sleeping. The animal in this simile has not explicitly been chased from its lair, but the association may be a traditional one for this kind of hunting simile, and it reverses the position of the ambusher and the ambushed, just as Dolon’s position of spy has now been reversed to the one being spied.
We can also compare this simile to the one likening the watchmen to guard dogs at 10.180–189. Although both similes compare the men to dogs, we can see in the differences of detail how similes are attached to and elaborate themes in this oral tradition (see also 10.5–9 for our detailed discussion of Homeric similes). At 10.180–189 the theme is one of being on the defensive against a night attack. Here, the Achaeans are the ones on the attack, and so the simile shows dogs acting in a different manner. That dogs are featured as the vehicle in both instances shows the flexibility and multiformity of Homeric similes.
10.360 καρχαρόδοντε δύω κύνε εἰδότε The dual forms that the text of the Venetus A manuscript records for the hunting dogs in this simile seem to emphasize the coordinated attack by the dogs and, by association, by Diomedes and Odysseus. We often see dual forms used for these two in this book (see also on 10.243), and we find dual forms used in another simile elsewhere when the Aiante are compared to two lions in the dual as they fight together (Iliad 13.198–202). Some manuscripts, however, record the plural κύνες instead.
10.361 ἢ κεμάδ᾽ ἠὲ λαγωὸν Providing alternative possibilities is a traditional feature of Homeric similes (Muellner 1990:62–64). κέμας is a hapax legomenon, but λαγωός appears in two other contexts, both related to this one in different ways. It appears in another simile, as Hektor swoops at Achilles like an eagle at a lamb or a hare (Iliad 22.308–310, note here also the alternatives for the prey). We can compare also the hunting dog simile at Iliad 22.188–193 as Achilles pursues Hektor. As we will see further at 10.363–368, this scene shares language in common with Iliad 22; so also in these two similes, the object of the chase or attack in both places can be a hare. The other place we see a similar alternation of the object of a hunting dog’s pursuit is in a description of an actual hunt rather than a simile: Odysseus’ dog Argos is described as having hunted wild goats and deer and hares (Odyssey 17.295) when he was younger.
10.363 ὃ πτολίπορθος Ὀδυσσεὺς This epithet, “sacker of cities,” is one that Odysseus often receives in the Odyssey, but he also shares it with other heroes, like Achilles, and war gods, such as Ares and Enyo, within the tradition. Parry has shown that such epithets belong to the whole tradition and not any one line (MHV 137–138, 146, 171): that is, Odysseus is a sacker of cities within the whole tradition, not simply, or in this line, not yet at this particular point in the story. Similarly, Haft (1990) argues that this epithet, used frequently in the Odyssey, but only here and at Iliad 2.278 in the Iliad, implies that the audience would be familiar with Odysseus’ later exploits, especially his role in sacking Troy through the ambush strategy of the Wooden Horse, and thus would understand the epithet to mean the sacker of Troy in particular. In this last detail, she disagrees with Parry, who labels this epithet generic (MHV 146). Haft argues that the use of the definite article with the epithet makes its meaning more specific (see also above on 10.231). Haft also draws parallels and connections between the ambushes in Iliad 10 and the sack of Troy (Haft 1990:51–55).
10.363–368 This “chase scene” has language in common with the scene in which Achilles chases the fleeing Hektor in Iliad 22. The same formula is used for the departure of the one who will be chased (λαιψηρὰ δὲ γούνατ’ ἐνώμα, Iliad 10.358 and 22.144). The move Odysseus and Diomedes employ here to isolate Dolon and cut him off from the warriors (λαοῦ ἀποτμήξαντε, 10.364) is like the move Andromache, who knows her military strategy, imagines that Achilles might use to cut Hektor off from the city and force him to the open plain (δείδω μὴ δή μοι θρασὺν Ἕκτορα δῖος Ἀχιλλεὺς / μοῦνον ἀποτμήξας πόλιος πεδίον δὲ δίηται, Iliad 22.455–456). When Dolon is approaching the guards’ post, Athena puts menos into Diomedes so that he can capture Dolon before anyone else (10.365–368). Similarly, while Achilles is pursuing Hektor, he signals to the other Achaeans not to shoot at Hektor and win his radiant glory (Iliad 22.205–207). In both cases the formula ὃ δὲ δεύτερος ἔλθῃ / ἔλθοι is used (Iliad 10.368, 22.207). These similarities indicate two things about the language in this section of Iliad 10: one, that this scene is expressed with traditional language, and, two, that there is kudos ‘radiant glory’ for capturing or killing a spy, just as there is for being one (see above, 10.307). Using such language gives the competitiveness to be “first” in this case traditional associations with a hot, yet focused, pursuit of a significant individual enemy.
10.369 δουρί This spear is the one Diomedes brings with him when he leaves his shelter at 10.178; it is not mentioned again in the arming scene at 10.255–295.
10.376 χλωρὸς ὑπαὶ δείους As a color for objects, χλωρός is somewhere on the yellow–green spectrum: in Homeric epic it is used to describe honey (Iliad 11.631; Odyssey 10.234) and also various kinds of plants or wood (Odyssey 9.320, 9.379, 16.47). But in these epics it is most often associated with fear, as it is here. This color describes fear (δέος) itself in several related formulas with the verb αἱρέω, all of which have as their basic meaning “green fear seized me/them/everyone” (see Iliad 7.479, 8.77, 17.67; Odyssey 11.43, 11.633, 12.243, 22.42, 24.450, 24.533). John Miles Foley (1999:216–217) identifies “green fear” as a traditional phrase, one which reveals “psychological states and tangible objects woven into the fabric of the narrative tradition that are singularly meaningful and recognizable to bard and audience alike.” He argues that a fear so described “is by traditional definition a superhuman, unconquerable force” (1999:217). According to Foley, then, this phrase is a single unit of utterance, with its own, irreducible meaning. At Iliad 15.4 we find a phrasing very similar to the one here, and it does show the supernatural element that Foley identifies: there Poseidon has turned the tide of the battle and the Trojans are pushed back across the Achaeans’ ditch. They are described as χλωροὶ ὑπαὶ δείους πεφοβημένοι (“green with fear after they were put to flight”). The ὑπαί in these phrases (ὑπό also shows up at Iliad 8.77 and Odyssey 22.42 = 24.450) perhaps conveys the idea of this green color rising up to the skin’s surface. In ambush situations in particular, the paleness or changing color of a man’s skin is considered revealing. Idomeneus mentions that ambush especially exposes who is a coward and who is a brave man. The coward is exposed by his skin changing colors from his fear, as well as by an inability to sit still and a pounding heart. By contrast, the brave man’s skin does not change color, and he does not feel too much fear (Iliad 13.276–286). Here, Dolon’s fear is explicit (10.374), and the chattering of his teeth and paleness are manifestations of it. The suitors are similarly described at the moment they realize that the stranger is Odysseus: τοὺς δ’ ἅρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε (Odyssey 22.42). Thus, in two cases, at least, green fear is also associated with men who realize at that moment that they have been ambushed.
10.378–381 This offer of ransom for being taken alive rather than killed is another example of both the traditional language of Iliad 10 and the Doloneia’s place within the Iliadic tradition. Donna Wilson has demonstrated that, although there are references to ransoming practices that occur before the direct action of the Iliad, within that direct action the taking of prisoners does not happen, and all appeals to ransom are rejected (2002:29–34). As she notes, “The Iliad develops the compensation theme temporally in such a way that all offers of apoina mentioned as taking place before Chryses’ offer in Book 1 or after Priam’s in Book 24 are successful or potentially successful. But all offers of apoina in the time between Chryses’ and Priam’s offers fail” (Wilson 2002:31, original emphasis). Thus the refusal to ransom Dolon (and killing him instead) fits into the overall treatment of this theme in the Iliad. See Iliad 21.34–44 for the example of Lykaon as a prisoner taken alive during a nighttime ambush (which temporally happens before Chryses’ offer).
The offer that Dolon makes uses the traditional, formulaic language of such offers of apoina in the Iliad. We see the same language of 10.379–381 used at Iliad 6.48–50, when Adrestos supplicates Menelaos to ransom him, and also at Iliad 11.133–135, when two brothers, Peisandros and Hippolokhos, supplicate Agamemnon (with the necessary changes of singular and dual/plural pronouns in each of the three situations). In all three cases, just as Wilson has observed, the plea is rejected and the supplicant is killed instead (Dolon will attempt a supplicatory gesture just before he is killed, see 10.454–456).
10.382 πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς See above on 10.148 for this epithet of Odysseus.
10.384 ἀλλ’ ἄγε μοι τόδε εἰπὲ καὶ ἀτρεκέως κατάλεξον This same formula appears below at 10.405 and also at Iliad 24.380, when the disguised Hermes says it to Priam as he goes to the Achaean camp. See above on 10.1ff. for the ways in which Priam’s journey is thematically similar to a spying mission. Higbie (1995:86–87) identifies both of these passages as places where we might expect the first question to be a request for the addressee to identify himself by name, but this happens in neither case. (In fact, after Hermes asks Priam questions about what he is doing using this formula, Priam asks Hermes to identify himself, and Hermes tells a false story in reply.) In the Odyssey, the formula generally introduces a series of further questions (Odyssey 1.169, 1.224, 8.572, 15.383; the exception is Odyssey 11.140, which has only one question that follows). See Finkelberg 1987 for her argument that the verb καταλέγω “connotes both an ordered succession and truth” (Finkelberg 1987:138) and that Homeric epic uses it to represent its own genre.
10.386 νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην This is the reading of the Venetus A, as well as p46, but p425 has instead the phrase νύκτα δι᾽ ἀμβροσίην. See on 10.41 for the meanings of these two formulas. See the textual commentaries on p46 and p425 on this line for more information about the textual record.
10.394 θοὴν διὰ νύκτα μέλαιναν We find this phrase also at Iliad 10.468, 24.366, and 24.653. In Iliad 24, the formula is used during Priam’s infiltration of the Achaean camp, and is associated particularly with the danger of his mission. Thus this formula as a whole seems to be connected with the ambush theme. (See “The Poetics of Ambush” and the commentary above on 10.1ff. on how Priam’s mission to retrieve the body of Hektor shares in the ambush theme.) Night is also “swift” at Iliad 12.463 and 14.261 and Odyssey 12.284. Hainsworth (1993 ad loc.)has tentatively suggested that the phrase may have been composed by analogy with θοὴν ἐπὶ νῆα μέλαιναν (which also occurs in the dative with other prepositions). Certainly these examples suggest that the structure of the phrase is deeply ingrained in the traditional diction and that the adjectives “swift” and “black” go naturally together. But what about night is swift? And is “swift” even the correct definition of θοός? The scholia in the Venetus A, Venetus B, and Townley (T) manuscripts on these lines offer possible associations, such as how quickly the sky becomes black after the sun has set. The T scholia here also note several other possible meanings of θοός besides “swift,” including “pointed” (see Chantraine 1968/1999 s.v. θοός), and discuss the angle of the earth in relation to the sun, which results in shadows with angles that are “sharp” and make night “cone-shaped.” Another possible definition of θοή offered by the B and T scholia is “the placer”: τὴν θετικήν—ἀποτίθησι γὰρ ἡμᾶς εἰς ἀνάπαυλαν (“the placer—for it places us into a state of repose”). This definition associates θοή with the verb τίθημι. The question was considered from a cosmological perspective by the ancient Homeric scholar and philosopher Crates of Mallos, who accepted “swift” (see Eustathius ad 10.394 and Mette 1952:55ff.) and related it to the speed of the sun and the night.
10.396–399 Repetition is normal and natural within the system of oral composition-in-performance in which the Iliad was composed, and these lines repeat Hektor’s charge for the spying mission at 10.309–312. Each of the lines 10.397–399 is marked with an obelos in the Venetus A: see on 10.51–52 for the Alexandrian scholarly practice of athetesis. The scholia, however, tell us that there is some dispute about whether Aristarchus indeed meant for the obeloi to be placed here: one scholion says that they should be, if we can trust the work of the scholar Ammonios. The second scholion informs us both that, in the work of the scholar Nemesion, he states that no reason for the obeloi is found in the hupomnēmata of Aristarchus, and that the work of Ammonios says that Aristarchus did place those signs in the margin, but in the end took them out. All of this serves as a reminder that we have access to Aristarchus’ work only as mediated by his successors.
The scholia also inform us that there are recorded differences in how this particular repetition operates: in the version in the main text of the Venetus A, Dolon has changed the person of the verb from Hektor’s third person—find out whether they are making plans—to the second person—find out whether you are making plans—now that Dolon is speaking to those on whom he was intending to spy. (This change seems to be the reason why 10.398 also has the critical mark of a diplē next to it in the Venetus A, which indicates a comment about the language used.) We can compare 10.409–411, where Odysseus repeats the questions that Nestor had given as the charge for their mission. He retains the third-person plural verbs that refer to the Trojans (those lines are marked with obeloi and also with asterisks in the Venetus A, indicating that they are repetitions). The A main scholia indicate that it should still be the third person here, while the intermarginal scholia note that in other manuscripts these verbs are indeed in the third person. If we compare this type of repetition to messengers delivering their message, however, we do find that a pronoun change often happens. For example, when Zeus sends Dream to Agamemnon, he orders him using imperatives and the third-person pronoun for Agamemnon (e.g. “Tell him to arm the Achaeans, who have beautiful hair,” Iliad 2.11), but when Dream speaks to Agamemnon, he uses indicative verbs and the second person (“He has told you to arm the Achaeans, who have beautiful hair,” Iliad 2.28), keeping all other words the same. Similar changes naturally happen, as we can see also at Iliad 9.157, where Agamemnon is speaking about Achilles in the third person, and Iliad 9.299, where Odysseus is delivering the message to Achilles himself. The formulas have such flexibility.
This phenomenon seen within repeated passages and the disagreement over whether it is the second or third person in 10.398 suggests that this passage is in fact playing on the conventional repetition by messengers. Dolon, after all, was supposed to gather information about the Achaeans and report it back to Hektor. He is not a messenger, and therefore he was not supposed to repeat Hektor’s words to anyone else. When Odysseus likewise repeats Nestor’s questions (10.409–411), he is in the process of obtaining the answers he seeks, not confessing what he was sent to find out, as Dolon is. We noted above (10.314–315) that there is an implicit contrast between Dolon the spy and his father the herald, and here, when Dolon repeats what Hektor asked him to find out, he seems to be doing so more in the mode of the herald he was not supposed to be.
10.399 καμάτῳ ἀδηκότες See our discussion of this phrase on 10.98.
10.400 τὸν δ᾽ ἐπιμειδήσας προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς The detail of a facial expression within this formulaic reply introduction raises important questions about how such formulas work. We can compare 10.382 and see the same line with only the change of ἐπιμειδήσας for ἀπαμειβόμενος: if the singer uses this facial expression in this context, we have the opportunity to ask what meaning it brings with it. (See Beck 2005 for speech and reply introductions in general. It is important to note that p425 records ἀπαμειβόμενος in this line: see our textual commentary on that papyrus.)
Smiles that are not spontaneous reactions of joy carry particular meanings within a culture and within a context, and our task in interpreting this line is to decode the meaning of Odysseus’ smile. We might start by asking whether Dolon can see him smile in the dark or whether this smile is for the audience’s “view” only. Another question is whether this verb here means ‘smiling’, or ‘laughing’ (as some have translated it). One potential problem with such translations is that our own cultural expectations as to what is appropriate to the situation may affect what we interpret as smiling and what as laughing, while the traditional audience may have had different expectations. Halliwell (2008:520–529) has recently argued that ancient Greek has separate words for smiling (those with roots in μειδ[ι]ᾶν) and laughing (γελᾶν). He notes that there can be complications in classification of these verbs, but he nevertheless maintains a greater distinction between them than other scholars have, with an emphasis on the vocalization and therefore sound accompanying laughter. Following his distinctions, then, Odysseus’ smile here is silent, and because it occurs in the dark, as we interpret its meaning in this context, we must wonder whether Dolon himself sees it.
To investigate what the smile means, we can look to other complete instances of this formulaic line, and also at other uses of the verb and its non-compound form μειδάω or μειδιάω, paying particular attention to Odysseus’ other smiles. Why take such an approach? Since oral poetry is composed in performance within a system of specialized grammar and specialized vocabulary (Lord 1960/2000:35–36), accounting for all the examples of how that vocabulary is deployed demonstrates how it operates within the system. The Iliad and Odyssey constitute our surviving “database” of the traditional language of this poetry, so we examine what data we have, while being cognizant of the fact that what has survived is a limited “data set” from a larger tradition (see e.g. Parry MHV 4, 9; Lord 1960/2000:47).
When we examine the fifteen instances of μειδάω, the three instances of μειδιάω, and the four instances of ἐπιμειδάω in the two epics combined, we find that the gods smile eleven times and mortals eleven times. Odysseus smiles most often among mortals, although his status as the hero of the Odyssey may skew the frequency. As we might expect, many of these cases can be understood as smiles of affection between loved ones, whether mortal or immortal. But the complexity of the multiple possible cultural meanings of smiles can also be seen when Hera smiles twice, once at Aphrodite and once to herself (Iliad 14.222–223) after successfully obtaining the alluring zōnē from Aphrodite without revealing her true purpose for it. These smiles seem to indicate deception and self-satisfaction, respectively. In another example, Ajax combines a smile with a grim expression (Iliad 7.212) as he enters a duel with Hektor, presenting us with a menacing smile that reveals a desire for victory in battle. Halliwell (2008:55–58) describes this smile as one of “bloodlust” and cites Odysseus’ smile here as the closest parallel to it. And, of course, Odysseus’ famously described “sardonic smile” after he dodges the ox foot that Ktesippos throws at him (Odyssey 20.301–302) conveys a nexus of emotions including contempt and a desire for revenge.
These last two examples give us good comparisons for the context of this smile: instead of a smile between loved ones, we have also in this case a smile between or about enemies. When we look at the syntactical context of these verbs, we also see that they are used in speech introductions or reactions to speeches (five of the smiles happen in speech introductions; in thirteen cases, the smile comes in reaction to the words of another, either with no speech following or another line introducing the response; in four cases, the smile occurs in narrative between speeches). When we narrow our focus down to the compound form ἐπιμειδάω, which we have in this line, all four instances of this verb are part of the formula τὸν δ᾽ ἐπιμειδήσας προσέφη + epithet + name (Iliad 4.356, Iliad 8.38, and Odyssey 22.371, the last of which matches exactly the line we have here). So smiling at someone within this specialized vocabulary is associated directly with speaking to that person.
As we noted, Odysseus is the mortal who smiles most often in these two epics: here in this line and then three times in the Odyssey. All other mortals who smile with these verbs (Agamemnon, Hektor, Achilles, Menelaos, Telemakhos, Ajax, and Antilokhos) do so only once in our “database.” Odysseus is also most often the mortal smiled at (by Agamemnon, Telemakhos, Athena, and Kalypso) and is once the cause of the smile (Antilokhos). Again, this frequency may be a coincidence of having the Odyssey, Odysseus’ story, as one of the two epics we have to examine. But it does also seem to be part of his characterization, especially that he smiles at foes: the sardonic smile toward the suitors and the smile at Medon (Odyssey 22.371), as well as his smile at Dolon here. In Levine’s (1984) analysis of Odysseus’ three smiles in the Odyssey, his argument is framed explicitly in terms of disproving “Parry’s insistence on economy as a basic principle of composition”; instead his approach, he claims, will show how to “determine one among a series of different meanings which could be attached to traditional language” (1). In other words, Levine sets up an opposition between Parry’s concept of thrift and the idea that a formula such as the one we see in this line can generate meaning in context. He concludes, “Since the psychology behind Odysseus’ smiles changes in accordance with the development of the narrative, we see how Homeric formulaic language can be charged with thematic meaning” (Levine 1984:8–9). Levine is focused in that article especially on the smiles of Odysseus at Odyssey 20.301, 22.371, and 23.111, but his arguments have been influential about smiles in Homeric epic in general, giving us an opportunity to reexamine Parry’s concept of thrift and how exactly formulaic language does generate meaning in context.
Taking Parry’s idea of economy or thrift to mean that a formula does not respond to context is an all too common misunderstanding of it. Here is how Parry defines thrift: “The thrift of a system lies in the degree to which it is free of phrases which, having the same metrical value and expressing the same idea, could replace one another” (MHV, 276). We have already seen that ἐπιμειδήσας has the same metrical value as ἀπαμειβόμενος, so according to this definition, they do not express the same idea if they adhere to the principle of thrift. But the idea of thrift does not at all imply that the meaning of any one word is diminished, and that is what Levine seems to be arguing against. All Parry’s argument about the thrift of system is saying is that the system would not include another metrically equivalent word or phrase to mean ‘smiling’, not that smiles cannot mean different things in different contexts. (As discussed above at 10.41, if such a metrically equivalent word or phrase for smiling did exist, we would expect it to carry with it a difference in “idea,” such as tone, theme, or meaning).
Levine explicitly says he is following those critics who have demonstrated “Homer’s relative freedom from the shackles of a traditional system” (1984:1). Yet Albert Lord has demonstrated in clear and straightforward terms that the singer is not shackled by the tradition, because he is the tradition. Formulas are the singer’s craft and he uses them in service to the song: “Indeed, it is easy to see that he employs a set phrase because it is useful and answers his need, but it is not sacrosanct. What stability it has comes from its utility, not from a feeling on the part of the singer that it cannot or must not be changed. It, too, is capable of adjustment. In making his lines the singer is not bound by the formula. The formulaic technique was developed to serve him as a craftsman, not to enslave him” (Lord 1960/2000:53–54). And as John Foley has persuasively argued throughout his work (1991, 1995, 1999, 2002), in oral traditional poetry such formulas accrue more meaning through time, not less, and, importantly, a particular instance is not limited to one among a series of meanings. A traditional singer and a traditional audience bring to the interpretation of this smile their recollections of all other instances of Odysseus smiling and of similar smiling situations, as represented by the formula of this speech introduction, in their understanding of what kind of smile it is. Because Levine’s arguments are based on false premises about thrift and how the formulaic, traditional language creates meaning, his distinctions about cases that exhibit “a greater sensitivity to plot movement and sophisticated composition” (Levine 1984:7) are deeply flawed. As Lord reminds us about oral traditional singing, “The complexity and artistry of the result are often surprising to anyone who feels that illiterate singers can produce only simple structures” (Lord 1960/2000:54).
With an acknowledgement of the possibility of such artistry and complexity, then, we can return to our attempt to discover the traditional meaning underlying this particular smile. So far we have seen that within the system of Homeric poetry this smile should be interpreted in terms of Odysseus’ relationship (one of enmity) with and reaction to Dolon, and that it may be characteristic of Odysseus to smile in this way, but that we have to understand all of this from the standpoint of oral poetics. The closest parallel is the same speech introduction formula used in Odyssey 22.371, when Medon is asking Odysseus to spare his life and Odysseus smiles at him before reassuring him that he will do so. In an earlier article, Levine argues that reassurance is the meaning of this formulaic speech introduction: “The words τὸν/τὴν δ᾽ ἐπιμειδήσας προσέφη always introduce speeches of reassurance. The essential meaning of this formula is ‘He smiled reassuringly at him/her.’ The facial expression so described is meant to have a calming effect” (Levine 1982:101). In the case of Medon, this seems to be so, as the speech that follows does indeed reassure him that he will live.
In the case of Odysseus’ interrogation of Dolon, such an interpretation might make Odysseus the “good cop” to Diomedes’ “bad cop” (see below on 10.446 for Diomedes’ very different facial expression). Levine applies such a meaning to this case as well: “Odysseus smiles at a fearful Dolon (10.400) in order to calm his fears and have him continue his report” (Levine 1982:101). This interpretation assumes, of course, that Dolon can see Odysseus’ smile. Such a characterization of the speech that follows the introductory formula, as a speech of reassurance, applies better to Odysseus’ previous speech, when he does indeed begin by telling Dolon to take courage and put thoughts of death from his mind. That speech is introduced without the smile, however (10.382–383). Here, the beginning of the speech is Odysseus’ reaction to the thought of Dolon driving Achilles’ horses, and any reassuring Odysseus does is to assure Dolon that he has reached too far in thinking that he is worthy of such a prize.
Should we take this smile to be one of amusement or derision, then, or what else might this tell us about Odysseus’ character? Levine compares Odyssey 22.371 with this line in asserting that both of these smiles express Odysseus’ “security and confidence in his superior position” (1984:6) and notes in his earlier work that victory and amusement are not mutually exclusive, but that a smile can, in fact, indicate both (1982:102). The smile as a sign of confidence seems to come closer to the situation in this line than does a notion of reassuring Dolon. Lateiner argues that Odysseus’ “smiles (especially the sardonic one [Odyssey 20.301–302]) characterize menacing resources and mark each context as a significant, if ambivalent, moment” (1995:42). If that is so, what, then, would be the significance of this moment? Does Odysseus’ smile indicate that from Dolon’s initial response Odysseus knows he will get the information he wants from him? One more possible characterization: Corrine Pache, while agreeing with Levine’s argument that it is a speech of reassurance, focuses on Odysseus in the Iliad alone, and she notes that he is unlike other heroes in that he does not cry in this epic. That observation leads her to conclude that this smile “reveals gleeful indifference to the other man’s fate” (Pache 2000:19) and that Odysseus’ intentions when he smiles are “of the coldest and cruelest kind” (2000:20). In other words, if Odysseus can smile while Dolon begs for his life and blames Hektor for his predicament, does that indicate an emotional disengagement?
In a traditional song culture, these varying interpretations are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Let us remember that this smile carries with it associations from past performances for the audience. So Odysseus’ smile could show his confidence that he has Dolon right where he wants him in terms of getting information out of him, his derision at the prospect of Dolon receiving the prize of Achilles’ horses, and an overall characterization of one who smiles at his enemies before taking vengeance upon them. The traditional nature of this introductory line can imbue it with greater meaning, yet for a singer singing in performance, the immediate context, what Dolon just said and what Odysseus was about to say, may have called for a smile from Odysseus related to these many meanings. (See Lord 1960/2000:54 for the reminder that “lines cannot be isolated from what precedes them.”) The meaning here combines this immediate context with that from the larger tradition. That combination and its resulting complexity of meaning does not contradict Parry’s concept of thrift.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, however, p425 does not include the smile at all, but rather has the common formula including ἀπαμειβόμενος ‘answering’. Thus in a performance, a singer may not include this detail, as revealing as we may find it. We may think that a better singer would include it, but there are so many factors involved, including the experience and training of the singer, the versions of this episode he has heard from others, and the pressures of rapid composition-in-performance, that we cannot make this judgment for certain. What is important to keep in mind is that these performance variations do exist, even in our textual record.
10.402–404 These lines are the same as those at Iliad 17.76–78. There, Apollo, in disguise as Mentes, leader of the Kikones, warns Hektor not to chase after Achilles’ horses, which carried Patroklos into battle (see also Iliad 16.864–867, where we are reminded that the gods gave these horses as a gift to Peleus). For this traditional language expressing a prohibition against Achilles’ enemies capturing these horses, see above on 10.330.
10.405 See above on 10.384 for this formula.
10.406 ποιμένα λαῶν See on 10.3 for more on the traditional epithet “shepherd of the warriors,” there applied to Agamemnon.
10.406–407 D.M. Gaunt argues that these lines are the point at which the theme changes from a spying mission, or “reconnaissance-story,” to “a direct attack” (1971:197). Gaunt postulates that there were at one time two traditional episodes, one that focused on reconnaissance and the other on an assassination of “Hector or some great hero” (1971:195). (See also on 10.282.) Gaunt argues that when oral poetry is composed and performed, “paratactic” thinking allows for this kind of shift, since both the singer and the audience are most focused on the immediate scene. We disagree with Gaunt’s characterization of oral composition as primitive and his assertion “that sometimes the narrative leads the poet” (1971:195). Instead, we can see how these themes are linked in ways that Lord (1960/2000) and Petegorsky (1982) have explored, a phenomenon that reveals the complexity, rather than the simple-mindedness, of oral traditional epic. (Note that Hainsworth 1993 calls 10.433–441 the “turning-point of the Book.”)
10.406–411 Odysseus asks Dolon what Nestor had wanted them to find out, and in oral traditional style, he asks using the same words Nestor himself used: compare 10.409–411 to 10.208–210. Thus we might notice that here Odysseus does fulfill the objectives of the spying mission, even as it is in the process of evolving into an ambush. Nestor, after all, had suggested that they might get this information by capturing one of the enemy (10.206). There is a consistency to the mission. But we should also note that Odysseus asks other questions first, about Hektor, armor, horses, and the arrangement of the night watches. Fenik (1964:19–20) argues that there was another version in which the night mission was to assassinate Hektor (which is seen briefly in the tragedy Rhesos). We might, however, understand Odysseus’ question about Hektor as being related to the question of what the Trojans are planning to do, since it was Hektor’s idea in the first place to camp on the plain during this night. But the questions about armor, horses, and night watches are directly relevant to what comes next: infiltrating the enemy camp and stealing horses. Dolon’s immediate response covers Hektor and the night watches. That response prompts Odysseus’ further questions about the allies, and then Dolon’s answer includes horses and armor, specifically the spectacular horses and armor of Rhesos. In terms of the sequence of information gathered, Odysseus’ questions here can be seen to prompt Dolon’s revelation that Rhesos has arrived. But in a larger sense, these questions may also reflect the traditional theme of night raids, and their traditional outcomes: targeting a leader through ambush and getting horses and armor through plunder. Understood in a traditional framework, neither the questions themselves nor the actions they lead to seem disjointed or strange from the point of view of the original mission.
10.413 τοὶ γὰρ ἐγώ τοι ταῦτα μάλ’ ἀτρεκέως καταλέξω In several sources the verb here is ἀγορεύσω (see textual commentary on the Venetus A for more detail). We see this whole-line formula elsewhere in the Homeric epics, with the multiforms of καταλέξω and ἀγορεύσω. In Odyssey 4.399, Eidothea uses this same formula to introduce her instructions to Menelaos on how to ambush Proteus. She is not a captive of Menelaos, and so the main use of this formula seems to be as an introduction to a detailed set of information, and ambush requires such details to be successful. The formula seems also to be associated with false identities in answering the question of who one is: compare Odyssey 1.179, where Athena claims to be Mentes, and Odyssey 14.192, where Odysseus uses the line to introduce his Cretan lie to Eumaios. The “trickiness” on display in those answers might also be a point of connection with the ambush theme. We should note, however, that here Dolon is not being obviously tricky, unless we understand that by mentioning that the allies are unguarded he is diverting Odysseus from going after the Trojans and Hektor himself. In any case, Hektor, we know, is awake and not an ambush target on this night.
10.415 βουλὰς βουλεύει For the importance of “plans” in night and ambush contexts, see pp. 69–73 and also on 10.1ff, 10.43–44, and 10.302. At 10.302, Dolon’s spying mission is the plan that Hektor proposes, but here Dolon implies that Hektor is still in the process of making plans. We might note that Dolon’s use of the present tense also seems to imply that he expects Hektor to still be there, just as the Achaean leaders wait at the council meeting place for Diomedes and Odysseus to return (see below on 10.564).
10.415 θείου παρὰ σήματι Ἴλου From the geneaology of the Trojan royal family that Aeneas tells Achilles at Iliad 20.213–240, we learn that Ilos was the son of Tros, the father of Laomedon, and grandfather of Priam. His name is related to the name of Ilion. His grave mound acts as a landmark on the Trojan plain: both its prominence and the adjective θείου suggest that it was the site of a hero cult for Ilos (see Nagy 1979 on hero cult and the Homeric epics). This landmark also appears in two other episodes related to ambush. In Iliad 11, Paris hides behind the stele on the grave mound as he shoots an arrow at Diomedes (Iliad 11.369–383; at Iliad 11.372 Ilos is called Dardanos’ son, perhaps meaning descendant, or perhaps reflecting a different geneaology: see Gantz 1993:557–558 for the question). This grave mound acts as a landmark again at Iliad 24.349, when Priam journeys to the Achaean camp to ransom Hektor’s body. After they pass the grave mound, Priam and his herald stop to water the horses and mules at the river, and it is there that Hermes meets them (see “The Poetics of Ambush” for both of these episodes as related to the ambush theme, and also 10.1ff. for Priam’s night journey). That Hermes meets them at this point suggests that Priam is then in a dangerous space and needs protection (as Thornton 1984:154 also observes). The grave mound is also used as a landmark during the daytime fighting: when Agamemnon routs the Trojans, they pass by this grave mound (Iliad 11.166) and then the fig tree as they move to the city. Thornton identifies the features of the Trojan landscape, in order from the walls of Troy to the ships of the Achaeans as: “the oak-tree of Zeus, the fig-tree, the tomb of Ilus, the ford of the Scamander, the “rise” or hillock on the plain, and the Achaean ditch or wall” (Thornton 1984:150; see also Hainsworth 1993:243 on Iliad 11.166 for this grave mound’s place in the Trojan landscape). Thus we can see that the Trojans are rather close to the Achaeans on this night, and that the fearful thoughts Agamemnon has at the beginning of Iliad 10 are justified.
The spatial information Dolon gives here in terms of this landmark will recur in even greater detail in his subsequent answers. Spatial indications are important to ambushers moving through the darkness. (See also Clay 2007 on spatial indications in descriptions of battle in Homeric poetry.)
10.416 νόσφιν ἀπο φλοίσβου Dolon describes the meeting place as being apart from the noise of the rest of the encampment. It seems likely that we should envision the Trojan meeting as closer to the Achaean camp than the Trojan camp, just as the meeting of the Achaean leaders is closer to the Trojans: they cross the ditch and move out onto the plain (10.194–195).
10.416 ἥρως This term often is used as the sixth foot in a line (over twenty times in the Homeric epics), and is used as a vocative (in any metrical position, but most often in the first or sixth foot) four times in the Iliad and four times in the Odyssey, either alone, as here (see also Iliad 20.104, Odyssey 4.423, 7.303, 10.516), or with the personal name of the hero (Iliad 11.819 and 11.838 with Eurypylos and Odyssey 4.312 with Telemakhos). So although Hainsworth (1993:194), commenting on this line, says that “the unqualified vocative in the sixth foot in mid-speech is otiose and rare,” isolating this usage with that many qualifications may be overstating it. The equivalent nominative form is often found in the sixth foot, and there is even a fairly common formula that uses it in this position, αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ἥρως (Iliad 5.308. 5.327, 8.268, 11.483, 13.164, 23.896), indicating that this word in the sixth foot was useful and good for composing-in-performance. The other vocative uses in this position that appear in our texts, it is true, are those in which ἥρως modifies a name, but since the vocative is used elsewhere, to find this particular use strange may be a case of already concluding that Iliad 10 as a whole is strange, and using this as one more piece of evidence for that conclusion. From a compositional point of view, a word often used in the sixth foot could easily be used in this way by analogy.
10.416–422 The lack of watches among the allies creates a situation ripe for ambush, and we can at least consider the possibility that Dolon gives this information, as well as the information about Rhesos and the Thracians in his next response, to divert the Achaeans away from the Trojans themselves. We have seen night watches arranged by the Trojans before this night: when the previous night fell, Priam set up a night watch around the city of Troy (Iliad 7.370–371; these same lines appear again at Iliad 18.298–299, when Hektor likewise sets up a night watch on the night following this one). The implication of those watches is that a night ambush may happen on any night (and, of course, we do hear about such episodes at Troy at Odyssey 4.244–258 and Odyssey 14.468–503). Because the Trojan army and its allies are spending this night out on the Trojan plain, however, more elaborate arrangements are made as night falls at the end of Iliad 8. The night watch in the city will on this night be manned by elders and boys, while the women light fires, all to prevent an attack on the city while the army is outside it (Iliad 8.517–522). Hektor also establishes a watch “on ourselves” (Iliad 8.529), and the fires he orders lit so that they can see if the Achaeans try to sail away (Iliad 8.507–511) number one thousand, with fifty men and their horses stationed at each (Iliad 8.562–565). The allies are not mentioned separately at this point, but Dolon’s words here make it appear that they are not included in those groups around the watch fires. At the beginning of Iliad 10, we can recall, Agamemnon both saw these fires and heard music and men talking around them (Iliad 10.11–13). So there is a key contrast here between the awake and watchful Trojans and the sleeping allies—and also one between the kind of watch that the Achaeans arrange for the whole army (see Iliad 9.66–88) and the more diffuse watches of the Trojans.
This latter arrangement may show how unusual the situation is for the Trojans: camping out on the plain for the first time, they are grouped as if they had gone to their family homes within the city. This arrangement is also consistent with what we see of the Trojans elsewhere in the Iliad. Gould argues that Trojan society “is a model based on an almost complete equation between the city of Troy and the οἶκος ‘household/family’ of Priam, with the consequence that ties of obligation in Troy are seen as those that obtain within an extended family” (2001:343–344). The fact that the watch fires are here called “home-fires” (πυρὸς ἐσχάραι, 10.418) reinforces the idea that these are family groups, each responsible for its own watch.
10.423 See the textual commentary on p609 for its recorded multiform on this line.
10.424–431 Here, we see again the need for spatial information in a night ambush. Odysseus wants to know exactly the arrangements of the Trojan camp, and such knowledge will help not only his entrance but also his exit and successful return.
10.430 Θύμβρης Thymbrē is located on the Trojan plain, where the Thymbrios river meets the Skamander in “the inner recesses of the Trojan plain southeast of Troy” (Luce 1998:124, with reference to Strabo 13.1.35) and is the site of a sanctuary dedicated to Thymbraion Apollo. Thornton (1984:150) argues that most places in the topography of Troy “are consistently associated with a particular sort of situation or with a particular party or person in the poem.” Thymbrē, mentioned only here in our Iliad, is associated with ambush in the larger epic tradition about the Trojan War. It is the site of Achilles’ ambush of Troilos (according to the scholia in the Townley manscript on Iliad 24.257; see also Apollodorus, Epitome 3.32) and also the site where Achilles himself is killed in an ambush by Paris and Apollo (see above on 10.29). It is also known as the place where Laokoon’s sons are killed (see Gantz 1993:648). Thus it is not surprising to find it mentioned here, and only in Iliad 10 within our Iliad, since it is so closely tied to the ambush theme.
10.432–434 See the textual commentary on p609 for its recorded plus verse in this passage.
10.433 εἰ γὰρ δὴ μέματον Τρώων καταδῦναι ὅμιλον We also find this use of καταδύω to mean ‘go behind enemy lines’ in an ambush theme at Odyssey 4.246: ἀνδρῶν δυσμενέων κατέδυ πόλιν εὐρυάγυιαν, and again at 4.249. (Athena’s action at Iliad 4.86 seems to have a similar flavor, but Apollo also “sinks into” the crowd of Trojans below at 10.517, and the Trojans are not his enemy, so the verb seems to specify gods visiting mortals in those cases.) It is also used to mean ‘enter’ battle (Iliad 3.241 and 18.134).
10.435 The scholia on this line in the Venetus A, Venetus B, and Townley manuscripts provide information on the multiform, traditional story of Rhesos. See the section on Rhesos in our essay “Tradition and Reception” for the texts of these scholia and a full discussion. As we saw on 10.406–411, Odysseus’ question about the horses and armor in general might have prompted this answer. Or Dolon may be directing them to the allies “furthest” from the rest in an attempt to deflect a more destructive attack. But in this version, in which Rhesos has not yet fought in battle at Troy and in which we have no oracle about his possible invincibility, it is through Dolon’s “advice” here that Rhesos becomes a target. That Rhesos is the son of an Eioneus here, and not the river Strymon as he is elsewhere, also serves to make him a more “mortal” target, although one still important as a king of freshly arrived troops who has spectacular horses.
10.436–437 The horses of Rhesos are thematically significant in multiple ways. In one version of the story of Rhesos (see the Rhesos section of our essay “Tradition and Reception”), the so-called “oracle version,” Rhesos’ horses are intimately tied to the destiny of Rhesos and to that of Troy, since the oracle declares that, if Rhesos and his horses eat and drink at Troy, Rhesos will be invincible. The whiteness of the horses, as we see later in this episode (see commentary on 10.547), makes them highly visible even in the dark of night. (Schnapp-Goubeillon sees a ritual significance to their color, saying that a white horse is the sacrificial victim par excellence in horse cults, 1981:117.) Their size and swiftness, noted by Dolon here, also make them a valuable prize. The practical and symbolic importance of horses in general in the Iliad is evident in the singer’s questions that follow the catalog of ships: the narrator asks who had the “best” horses as well as who was the best warrior (Iliad 2.761–770). That is, horses seem to be as much a part of the competition to be the best as is excellence in battle. (The answer given to these questions is that Achilles and his horses were the best, but only after it has been said that Eumelos’ mares and Telamonian Ajax were the best so long as Achilles was absent.) The value of horses is also seen in Diomedes’ acquisition of his enemies’ horses in Iliad 5. When he gives instructions to Sthenelos to capture the horses of Aeneas at Iliad 5.263–273, the most prominent example, Diomedes says capturing them will win them good kleos (εἰ τούτω κε λάβοιμεν, ἀροίμεθά κε κλέος ἐσθλόν, Iliad 5.273), making their symbolic value glory itself.
The possibility of taking these horses, when added to the attractiveness of the target of the sleeping, unguarded Thracians, combines ambush with horse-rustling, a closely associated theme. We will consider below (at 10.513–514) whether the theme of horse-rustling affects the composition of this nighttime horse-stealing episode, as compared to the taking of horses in daytime battle. But just as we have seen that spying missions frequently become ambushes, so also can ambushes incorporate this type of night raid (see pp. 80–84 of “The Poetics of Ambush” for other examples).
Shewan 1911:179–180 has already dismissed the argument that the lack of reference to these horses subsequently in the Iliad is evidence that Iliad 10 is a late addition to the epic.
10.438–441 The elaborate chariot and gold armor of Rhesos also mark him as an important and desirable target. Agamemnon’s armor includes gold (Iliad 11.25), as does the armor Hephaistos makes for Achilles (Iliad 18.475, 549, 612). Gold armor is memorably seen elsewhere in the exchange between Diomedes and Glaukos, in which Glaukos gives Diomedes his gold armor for Diomedes’ bronze as a sign of their inherited guest-friendship (Iliad 6.232–236). Nestor also has an all-gold shield, which Hektor hopes to capture. He says that if he does take Nestor’s shield, along with Diomedes’ breastplate, then the Achaeans will depart that very night (Iliad 8.191–197)—in fact, the night on which this ambush episode occurs. So there may be an association between the taking of gold armor and the outcome of the war, and Rhesos’ gold and silver chariot and gold armor may have a similar significance, relating it to versions of the Rhesos story in which his death prevents a possible Trojan victory (see “Tradition and Reception” for a full discussion of these other versions).
The phrase θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι is used elsewhere in the Iliad for armor (that which Achilles inherits from Peleus but which Hektor is wearing at that point, Iliad 18.83) and other golden objects (Hebe’s chariot, Iliad 5.725, and Hephaistos’ wheeled tripods, Iliad 18.377). Since Achilles’ original armor was a wedding gift to Peleus from the gods, all these examples are also associated with the gods, as Rhesos’ armor is in Dolon’s words. In the Odyssey, θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι is associated with cloth or clothing (Odyssey 6.306, 8.366, 13.108) or buildings (Odyssey 7.45), but always those of divinities or the Phaeacians. From a compositional point of view, then, the following comment that his armor seems like that of the immortals is an expansion of this phrase.
10.446 ὑπόδρα ἰδών is another formulaic facial expression that is part of speech introductions (compare 10.400). This look is given at least twenty-six times in the two epics, twenty times within the formula τὸν/τὴν/τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη + epithet + name (thirteen times in the Iliad, seven in the Odyssey, Holoka 1983:3n6; Beck 2005:34, 284). Holoka, quoting Stanford, asserts that “The actual facial expression signified by ὑπόδρα ἰδών is quite unmistakable: ‘looking (out) from beneath (scil. beetling or knit) brows’,” and also cites research on facial expressions for the “distinctiveness of this positioning of the brows as a universally recognized sign of anger” (1983:4n8). That anger, Holoka argues, is a reaction to what the previous speaker has just said. In sum, Holoka argues: “In both Homeric epics, to look darkly is to employ a nonverbal cue fraught with judgmental significance. The speaker, whatever his message, transmits by his facial demeanor that an infraction of propriety has occurred … In all instances, the facial gesture ὑπόδρα ἰδών charges the speech it introduces with a decidedly minatory fervency and excitement: a threshold has been reached and such inflammable materials as wounded pride, righteous indignation, frustration, shame, and shock are nearing the combustion point” (1983:16). Holoka is focusing especially on the cases (twelve times in the Iliad) in which this look is given by one comrade (often a superior) to another (often a subordinate), and he says that the situation with Dolon is a different case because it is between enemies (1983:8).
In fact, the most telling parallels for this fierce look of Diomedes at Dolon come from the Odyssey, where Odysseus gives this look to the suitors, either individually (Odyssey 22.60, 22.320) or as a group (Odyssey 22.34), as well as to Iros (Odyssey 18.14) and the disloyal slave Melantho (Odyssey 18.337, 19.70). (These last two are exceptional in that the look is given to a woman; other than Zeus looking at Hera this way, all those who receive the expression are male. But the formula is flexible in accommodating the gender change.) These looks given to the suitors show both contempt and suspicion, anger and fear, and we can see this same mix of emotions in the words of Diomedes that follow this instance. Both Diomedes here and Odysseus in Odyssey 22 follow up this look at an enemy with beheading him. In the Odyssey, Odysseus gives this look to Leiodes, the suitor who, as we hear upon his introduction as the first to try the bow (Odyssey 21.144–147), had found the reckless deeds of the suitors hateful and felt righteous indignation toward them. It is this man who supplicates Odysseus; Odysseus rejects his plea for mercy and beheads him (see also below on 10.456–457). Given to an enemy, then (and we can add that Achilles gives this look to Hektor three times at Iliad 20.428, 22.260, 22.344), this look carries with it a danger of sudden violence: the combustion point is not merely approached, it is quickly reached. So here also we see the flexibility of the formula within its context: the essential meaning of the expression is maintained, but the expectation of what will follow is shaped by whether the look is given to a comrade or to an enemy.
As we saw above on 10.400, these telling facial expressions are sometimes absent in other versions. Allen’s (and subsequently, West’s) papyrus 90 (Oxyrhynchus 6.949) has the possible multiform [τον δ ημειβετ επειτα βοην αγα]θος Διομηδης. See 10.283 for more on this multiform.
10.447 μὴ δή μοι φύξίν γε Δόλων ἐμβάλλεο θυμῷ The scholia in the Venetus A and B and Townley manuscripts on this line are all concerned with the fact that Diomedes calls Dolon by name, when Dolon has not told them his name. In the Venetus A, the line is marked with a diplē, indicating that Aristarchus made a comment about the language of the line. The lemma in this manuscript for the comment is actually the beginning of the line, demonstrating that a lemma can be simply an indication of the line being commented on, and not the specific words concerned. The scholion in the Venetus A explains that the line is marked “because Aristarchus is asking, how does he know the name? Thus some read ‘δολῶν’ [that is, “being tricky”], like νοῶν [that is, the participle would be formed the same way].” With this alternative reading, the line would read “Don’t be tricky and put thoughts of escape in your heart.” There is at least a sound-alike connection between Dolon’s name and δόλος ‘trick’ (see also Higbie 1995:12). The scholion goes on to point out that Odysseus also later uses Dolon’s name, in 10.478, implying that it cannot be the participle there, and so we have to accept that Diomedes and Odysseus know his name without knowing exactly how they know it. The scholion goes on to suggest that it is likely that they would know the names of some men, since it has been ten years, and perhaps especially Dolon’s since he is the son of a herald who is wealthy (citing 10.315). The scholia in the other two manuscripts take a similar approach to the problem, noting Dolon’s father’s role as a herald and that Dolon is among the leaders of the Trojans who are called to the meeting earlier in the book, or suggesting simply that we should understand that they asked his name when they overpowered him. Higbie (1995:87) compares a similar case in the Odyssey in which the narrator has introduced Theoklymenos to the audience, and Telemakhos knows his name without a direct introduction within the narrative. This concern for how they know his name, although understandable from a literary point of view, does not apply to an oral traditional narrative composed in performance. As Hainsworth (1993:197 ad 10.447) affirms, “what his audience knows an epic poet may let his characters know too.”
10.454–456 Diomedes kills Dolon before Dolon can touch him in a gesture of supplication. On supplication in Homeric epic, see Crotty 1994, Wilson 2002, and Naiden 2006. According to these analyses of the act of supplication, Dolon’s supplication begins at 10.378–381 with his offer of ransom (apoina) if he can be taken alive (see also our comments at 10.378–381). At that point, Odysseus and Diomedes have grabbed Dolon’s hands, so that he is unable to make this clasping gesture. (Such a scene is visualized by the Dokimasia painter on a kylix cup from c. 480 BCE [St. Petersburg, Hermitage B.1539], with Dolon pictured in his wolf skin.) According to Naiden’s arguments, the person being supplicated always has the freedom to reject the request, as Diomedes does here (see Naiden 2006:181 for this particular example of supplication).
10.455–457 Beheading the enemy, as gruesome or repulsive as it may seem to a modern audience, does occur several times in the Homeric epics, either as the method of killing or as an act carried out after killing, and in most cases, it is the Achaeans who do it. In Iliad 13, the two Ajaxes take the corpse of the Trojan Imbrios, a husband of one of Priam’s illegitimate daughters. They strip the corpse of his armor, and Ajax, son of Oileus, cuts off Imbrios’ head and throws it so that it ends up at Hektor’s feet (Iliad 13.201–205). Oilean Ajax, the rapist of Kassandra, is known to commit war atrocities during the sack of Troy, but this beheading happens during the course of regular, daytime battle. Achilles beheads Deukalion at Iliad 20.481–483 after pinning his arm with a spear (in other words, Deukalion cannot fight back at that moment). Although Achilles is acting beyond normal human boundaries at this point in his story, he is also depicted in two sixth-century vase paintings as beheading Troilos (see Gantz 1993:600), an incident much earlier in the war, and one that also involves ambush. Agamemnon beheads Köon over the body of his brother Iphidamas (τοῖο δ’ ἐπ’ Ἰφιδάμαντι κάρη ἀπέκοψε παραστάς, Iliad 11.261) without hesitation. Hektor plans to behead Patroklos’ corpse after he strips it (Iliad 17.126). In a series of back-and-forth killings with vaunting afterwards, Penelos kills Ilioneus, a Trojan introduced as he dies as the beloved of Hermes and an only child of a wealthy man. Penelos’ spear hits Ilioneus in the eyesocket, and then Penelos cuts off Ilioneus’ head with his sword and holds it up, helmet still on and spear still in eyesocket, to show it to the Trojans (Iliad 14.493–507). All of these examples come from the battle that rages on the day following this night, when the fighting is most intense and the stakes at their highest for the Achaeans.
The closest parallel to the beheading of Dolon in terms of language and situation, however, occurs during Odysseus’ ambush of the suitors. During the slaughter in Odysseus’ home, Leiodes supplicates Odysseus, but Odysseus kills him anyway (Odyssey 22.310–329). In both cases, then, there is an attempted supplication, and a verbal response followed by a swift beheading. As Odysseus responds to Leiodes’ arguments for why he should be spared, Odysseus gives him the same fierce look (Odyssey 22.320) that Diomedes gives Dolon here (see 10.446). In both cases the killer drives a sword through the victim’s neck (αὐχένα μέσσον ἔλασσε, Iliad 10.455, Odyssey 22.328), and the graphic detail of the victim’s head still talking as it mixes with the dust is included (Iliad 10.457 = Odyssey 22.329). We may certainly question how these actions inform the character of the killers and the action of the episode, but we must also recognize that beheading is “Homeric” in the sense that the Iliad and Odyssey represent it as happening in the intensity of battle and of ambush.
10.456 φασγάνῳ ἀΐξας This formula is used to describe a particular cutting motion with the sword. ἀίσσω generally refers to any quick motion, but we can see from the few other uses of this phrase in the Iliad that it means to use the sword to cut rather than to stab. At Iliad 5.81, Eurypylos flashes his sword at Hypsenor and cuts off his arm. In Iliad 8, one of Nestor’s horses has been struck with an arrow as Nestor is trying to retreat from the battlefield. Nestor uses his sword at Iliad 8.88 (there the present participle ἀίσσων is used instead of the aorist participle) to cut the harness straps from that horse in his attempt to escape (compare the use of ἀΐξας alone for cutting a horse loose at Iliad 16.474). Thus we should imagine this motion to be quick, with the edge of the sword positioned to cut through whatever it is aimed at. The one use of the phrase in the Odyssey (at 22.98) occurs when Telemakhos is afraid that one of the suitors will attack him in this way if he stops to remove his spear from one of his victims during the battle with the suitors; it gives no other indications about what the motion is. As in all of the cases in the Iliad, however, the example from the Odyssey does show that this phrase is used in a line initial position, enjambed with the previous line. That consistent position gives us an important clue as to how a singer would use this phrase in performance.
10.456 ἀπὸ δ᾽ ἄμφω κέρσε τένοντε Compare the same phrase at Iliad 14.466, where a spear thrown by Telamonian Ajax cuts through the top vertebra of Arkhelokhos, effectively beheading him.
10.458–459 If we compare these lines depicting the stripping of Dolon’s weapons and “armor” (the wolf skin) to the arming scene at 10.333–335 where he put them on, we find that different epithets or adjectives and even names of the items are used here. Such differences suggest that compositionally the theme of stripping armor employs different combinations of formulas to repesent the same items described in arming scenes. The ambush-related items nevertheless remain prominent: the headgear made of animal hide, the animal skin, and the bow. Holoka (1983:9) calls this stripping of armor “a near parody of standard battlefield practice” particularly because of the “paltry panoply” of the wolf skin, spear, and bow. Yet it is precisely this panoply that will indicate that Diomedes and Odysseus have ambushed an ambusher.
10.459 δόρυ μακρόν As Sherratt 1990:811 points out, the single long thrusting spear (as opposed to lighter, smaller, paired throwing spears) is a weapon “most at home in the 13th century or considerably earlier.” Achilles’ Pelian ash spear is likewise of this earlier kind, and Hektor’s spear, which is eleven cubits long (e.g. Iliad 6.319), may be as well. See above on 10.263–264 for more on the way that such artifacts can reveal archaeological layers in the text.
10.460–464 In the prayers to Athena at the outset of the mission, both Odysseus and Diomedes emphasize their personal relationships with Athena in asking for her help and protection (see commentary on 10.275 and 10.291). In this address to the goddess, that request is renewed, but their initial success in capturing and killing Dolon is associated with the goddess as well. Athena’s prominent role not only here but also in the Odyssey reveals her to be a goddess of ambush. At Odyssey 20.44–51, she tells Odysseus that, with her on his side, they could take far more men than the suitors and drive away their livestock, a description that combines the ambush narrative pattern of one or two killing many with that of a cattle raid. Odysseus similarly states earlier that, with Athena on his side, he could fight three hundred suitors (Odyssey 13.389–391). Proklos’ summary of the epic Little Iliad describes the building of the wooden horse as “according to Athena’s plan of action” (κατ’ Ἀθηνᾶς προαίρεσιν), indicating that she is the mastermind of that ultimate ambush at Troy. On the shield of Achilles (Iliad 18.516), Athena and Ares together lead an ambush from the city at war. And it is of course Athena who warns Telemakhos about his impending ambush by the suitors (Odyssey 15.28). Stagakis (1987–88:70) examines the language here in detail and concludes that this passage does “not indicate that the spoils were vowed or dedicated to Athena,” but the technicalities of the religious nature of what is or is not happening here do not diminish the association between Athena and ambush.
10.465–466 Gernet (1936:192–196) and Davidson (1979:64) both connect the hanging of the wolf skin in a tree with initiation rituals in which the initiate must remove his clothes, hang them on a tree, and live “like a wolf” for his period of separation. We have seen other hints that ambushes and night raids are associated especially with young men, those at the right age for such an initiation (Odysseus would be an exception, of course): see commentary on 10.259. For more on the wolf skin, see commentary on 10.334.
10.466–468 We see here another example of details appropriate to nocturnal actions. Odysseus and Diomedes could leave these spoils behind without worrying that someone else will take them during the night; instead, the concern is that they may not be able to find them again in the darkness, hence the need to make a sign conspicuously or clearly (δέελον δ᾽ ἐπι σήματ᾽ ἔθηκε, 10.466). Odysseus creates such a sign by tying the branches of the tamarisk tree (a large, dense, shrub-like tree) to the reeds below. We will see later, of course, that this sign works, when Odysseus and Diomedes stop and pick these spoils up on their return (10.526–529). This sort of planning is necessary in the dark.
The tamarisk grows often near water, and the reeds mentioned here also suggest a wetland environment, perhaps the bank of a river. We see these characteristics of the plant in its other appearances in the Iliad: Achilles leans his spear against a tamarisk before he leaps into the Xanthos river to kill the Trojans he has forced into it (Iliad 21.18) and later, when Hephaistos sets the corpses in the river on fire, tamarisks are among the plants listed as burning along the river (Iliad 21.350). The denseness of the plant is seen at Iliad 6.39, when the horses of Adrestos become tangled in a tamarisk and his chariot is broken, setting the horses loose. We have seen that a woody or marshy area—that is, one filled with plants—is often chosen for an ambush (see “The Poetics of Ambush”), and the tamarisk itself may also have a particular association with ambush. In the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, the god, who is called “a robber, driver of cattle” (ληϊστῆρ’, ἐλατῆρα βοῶν, Homeric Hymn to Hermes 14) and “a spy at night” (νυκτὸς ὀπωπητῆρα, Homeric Hymn to Hermes 15), among other epithets, is himself associated with the night and the ambush theme, as we also see in his role in guiding Priam during Priam’s infiltration of the Achaean camp in Iliad 24 (see “The Poetics of Ambush” and above on 10.1ff. for fuller discussion). According to the hymn, on the evening of the day he is born, Hermes steals the cattle of Apollo (see “The Poetics of Ambush” also for how cattle rustling is part of the larger ambush theme). When Hermes is driving these cattle at night, he stops and makes himself sandals, weaving together tamarisk and myrtle branches (συμμίσγων μυρίκας καὶ μυρσινοειδέας ὄζους, Homeric Hymn to Hermes 81). Odysseus ties together tamarisk and reeds here in another kind of weaving of this plant, accompanying another night ambush. Schnapp-Gourbeillon (1981:115) suggests that this plant has religious associations (see also Wathelet 1989:221n35).
10.468 θοὴν διὰ νύκτα μέλαιναν See on 10.394 for this formula.
10.469 τὼ δὲ βάτην προτέρω For the use of the dual for a pair of ambushers working together, see on 10.254.
10.471–475 The sleeping arrangements of the Thracians seem quite orderly from this description, even though they are exhausted before falling asleep (see also the following note). One implication of this orderliness seems to be that the only arrangement not made was setting up a guard, and this lack results in their being vulnerable to ambush. Within the Achaean camp, the sleeping arrangements of Nestor (10.74–79) and Diomedes (10.150–156) are similarly detailed, suggesting that such descriptions are part of the night ambush theme. We see that the details of the scene are appropriate to each hero or group, similar to the way arming scenes are adapted for each hero.
10.471 οἱ δ᾽ εὗδον καμάτῳ ἁδηκότες See note on 10.98 for more on καμάτῳ ἀδηκότες. There, we saw that this formula is especially connected to night themes, and that the weariness can be from either fighting all day or traveling, as we saw in the example from Odyssey 12. Since we are dealing here with a version of the Rhesos myth in which he has not yet fought at Troy—Dolon has to tell Diomedes and Odysseus of his presence since he is “newly arrived” (10.434)— the formula seems to be used for their deep sleep after traveling that day to Troy. For more on the versions of the Rhesos myth in which he fought for one day at Troy, see the Rhesos section of our essay “Tradition and Reception.”
10.482 τῷ δ᾽ ἔμπνευσε μένος γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη Athena breathes menos ‘force’ into Diomedes as he starts the slaughter. A similar expression is used for Apollo breathing menos into Hektor so that he may return to battle (ὣς εἰπὼν ἔμπνευσε μένος μέγα ποιμένι λαῶν, Iliad 15.262; Apollo does so at Zeus’ suggestion, see Iliad 15.60), and he does the same for Aeneas later (Iliad 20.110). We also see a connection between menos and breathing at Iliad 3.8, where the Achaeans breathe menos as they enter battle. During Diomedes’ aristeia in the polemos, Athena tells him that she has put menos into his chest, the kind of menos his father used to have (Iliad 5.124–126). Thus this “inspiration” happens between gods and their favorites, and we find in this episode in Book 10 a pattern of opposition between Athena and Apollo (we can compare their direct rivalry in Iliad 7). In the Rhesos, Athena uses speech instead to incite ambush, as she prompts Diomedes and Odysseus to attack Rhesos and the Thracians though they are ready to turn back to their own camp (Rhesos 594–625; see also Fantuzzi 2006b:163–170).
10.485–488 This compressed lion simile describing Diomedes’ slaughter of the Thracians calls our attention to the lion similes elsewhere in the Iliad that happen explicitly at night. The shepherdless flocks in this simile correspond well to the Thracians who sleep unguarded, and the absence of a shepherd suggests that, like Diomedes, the lion is attacking at night. To support this argument, we can compare the slightly longer simile at Iliad 15.323–326, where the attackers also find the herds or flocks unguarded:
οἳ δ’ ὥς τ’ ἠὲ βοῶν ἀγέλην ἢ πῶϋ μέγ’ οἰῶν
θῆρε δύω κλονέωσι μελαίνης νυκτὸς ἀμολγῷ
ἐλθόντ’ ἐξαπίνης σημάντορος οὐ παρεόντος,
ὣς ἐφόβηθεν Ἀχαιοὶ ἀνάλκιδες·
They, like a herd of cattle or large flock of sheep
that two wild beasts in the dead of dark night drive to confusion
when they come suddenly and no herdsman is present,
just so the Achaeans, with no battle resolve, were routed.
In this simile, two wild beasts, which Lonsdale (1990:66, 131) identifies as lions, attack. Important details here include the time, the dead of night, and the lack of a shepherd, just as in 10.485. The sudden appearance of the lions (ἐλθόντ’ ἐξαπίνης) is likewise similar to ambush language, in which the attacker appears out of the darkness or his hiding place to surprise his victims (compare 10.496–497 below for how the poetic language represents such a sudden appearance of an ambusher). Because this simile has so much in common with the one at 10.485–488, we can draw the inference that the simile of Diomedes’ attack is also imagined to be happening in the dead of night, but that compression has left that detail implicit. We can compare also Iliad 12.299–308, where Sarpedon is compared to a lion trying to get inside the πυκινὸν δόμον (Iliad 12.301) of the sheep—that attack is also likely to be taking place at night, when the sheep are in their pen. See 10.5–9 for more on the relation of the adjective pukinos to the ambush theme. The lion attacks because he is hungry, but also because his audacious spirit bids him to: κέλεται δέ ἑ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ, Iliad 12.300. Compare the “audacious spirit” that motivates both Diomedes (10.220) and Dolon (10.319) to undertake the spying missions.
We see lions attacking flocks explicitly at night in still other similes, such as at Iliad 11.172–178, where the Trojans are compared to cattle when a lion has panicked the whole herd. In that simile, similar to Iliad 15.324, the time, the dead of night, is indicated by the phrase ἐν νυκτὸς ἀμολγῷ (Iliad 11.173; see also Tsagalis 2008:153–187 for more on this phrase and what he sees as its Indo-European imagery, connected to cattle, the sun, and danger), and the fear and confusion of the herd animals is a central feature (ἐφόβησε, Iliad 11.173), while death comes to one in particular (Iliad 11.174–176). This fear and confusion is replayed on the battlefield as Agamemnon routs the Trojans, but the simile itself has the feeling of an ambush. Lonsdale (1990:118–122) has also argued that lion and cattle similes like this one adapt the epic theme of the cattle raid. See “The Poetics of Ambush” for the cattle raid as part of the ambush theme.
In two of the similes of lions attacking at night, similes that share much of the same formulaic language, the lion is unsuccessful because of the watchfulness of the men and dogs who guard them (Iliad 11.546–557 and Iliad 17.655–666). In these examples, we see that they must keep watch all night long (πάννυχοι ἐγρήσσοντες, Iliad 11.551 and Iliad 17.660), and it is only at dawn that the lion finally withdraws (Iliad 11.555 and Iliad 17.664). These lions, who go away empty-handed, provide a contrast to what we see depicted at 10.485–488, where the lack of a shepherd watching the herd enables the lion to successfully attack: in the simile world, a steadfast night watch can counteract ambush tactics. We can also hearken back to the watchdog simile at 10.180–189 and see that comparison as an indication both that the wakeful and watchful Achaean guard is indeed the kind needed on this dangerous night and that it is a mistake on the part of the Thracians to fall asleep without a guard to watch over them. Lion similes, so common in the narration of fighting in the polemos, also have affinities with the ambush theme, and a lion attacking at night should especially be seen in this light. That lion similes work for both themes can also be taken as another indication that the two types of warfare are not diametrically opposed, just as we have seen warriors such as Diomedes himself, but also Achilles, who excel at both. See also Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1981:104–131 for her extended discussion of Diomedes the lion in Iliad 10.
10.488 δυώδεκ᾽(α) Gernet (1936:200) argues that twelve victims is a number with ritual significance, and we can compare the sacrifices of twelve cows (Iliad 6.93 = 6.274 = 6.308) and twelve sheep (Odyssey 8.59), as well as the twelve Trojan youths Achilles sacrifices on Patroklos’ pyre (Iliad 21.27–28, Iliad 23.175). Germain (1954:17–18) notes that in the Iliad twelve is a number used for enemies killed and similarly relates that usage to its use as a number of sacrificial victims.
10.488 πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς See above on 10.148 for this epithet of Odysseus.
10.495 τρισκαιδέκατον The number thirteen seems to be almost a “round number” or to have a completing or capping aspect to it in Homeric diction. Just as the most important victim, Rhesos, is thirteenth, Alkinoos counts himself as the thirteenth basileus among the Phaeacians (Odyssey 8.390–391). Similarly, when Odysseus chooses men for the mission to investigate further the land of the Cyclopes, he chooses twelve, counting himself as thirteenth, although the number itself is not cited there (Odyssey 9.195–196). Thirteen also seems to round off or cap lengths of time, such as the thirteen months that Ares is held bound in chains by Otos and Ephialtes before Hermes rescues and frees him (Iliad 5.387). It is on the thirteenth day that Odysseus and his crew leave Crete after being trapped there by a north wind (Odyssey 19.202). When Odysseus recounts to Laertes the gardens his father had promised him as a young man (as part of proving his identity to him), the numbers are all what we would consider round (ten apple trees, forty fig trees, fifty vines), but also include thirteen pear trees (Odyssey 24.340). Perhaps the completing aspect is related to the lunar calendar, the year coming round in the thirteenth moon. Germain (1954:10) includes thirteen among numbers that are “presque fantomatiques.”
10.497 This line was omitted by Zenodotus and Aristophanes, according to the A scholia, and athetized (but therefore included) by Aristarchus. Papyri such as p425 and the medieval manuscript tradition do include it. Objections have been made to the accusative τὴν νύκτ’, which would more often mean ‘all night long’ than ‘on that night’, as the sense seems to demand. Indeed, according to Allen, the tenth-century Laurentian manuscript (D) has τῇ νύκτ’, seemingly correcting the problem. But Fenik finds another parallel and concludes that the accusative can have the sense of “time when” (Fenik 1964:49). What has been less well understood is the equation this line makes between Diomedes and the bad dream standing at the head of Rhesos. We discuss this use of language in detail in our essay “The Poetics of Ambush” (pp. 68–69). In brief, the syntax has Homeric parallels in other ambush situations and seems to replicate the emergence of an ambusher in the dark. As Fenik (1964:51–52) has argued, with the parallel of the charioteer’s nightmare in the tragedy Rhesos, a dream may have been part of the Rhesos tradition, and we may have a very compressed allusion to it in 10.496. That dream, alluded to, then becomes reality in the figure of Diomedes.
10.497 διὰ μῆτιν Ἀθήνης This phrase has been considered problematic by ancient and modern critics alike. A comment in the Venetus A scholia objects that the ambush of Rhesos is happening through the information given by Dolon rather than Athena’s plan. Fenik (1964:52–54) argues that these words “suit perfectly well the non-Iliadic versions” of events, those suggested by the scholia on 10.435 (see our commentary on that line) and that seen in the tragedy Rhesos, in which Athena has a more direct role in instigating the attack on Rhesos. We have seen, however, both that mētis is thematically central to ambush (see commentary on 10.19 and “The Poetics of Ambush”) and that Athena is associated with ambush tactics (see commentary on 10.460–464). Thus this phrase can be understood not literally but thematically. That is, the very fact that this is an ambush accounts for how Diomedes stands over Rhesos “through the scheme of Athena.” It need not be explained by means of another version in which Athena directly sent the Achaeans against Rhesos, even though we know such versions existed at some point in the tradition.
10.498 ὁ τλήμων Ὀδυσεὺς For more on this epithet for Odysseus (and the whole phrase), see above on 10.231 and 10.248. Like πολύτλας, τλήμων is a distinctive epithet of Odysseus (see Parry MHV 92). As a traditional epithet, it describes Odysseus within the tradition as a whole. As a supreme ambusher both here and in other episodes, including his own epic, his endurance is a key characteristic.
10.500–501 Diomedes specifically chooses Odysseus as his ambush partner for his noos, his ability to perceive important things (see commentary on 10.224–226 and 10.247), and we have seen that Odysseus does just that earlier in the episode, when he is the first to notice Dolon (see commentary on 10.339). So why does he not notice the whip, which seems to be apparent (φαεινήν)? Is this detail an indication that Odysseus simply ignored the chariot altogether (see below on 10.503 and 10.513–514)? Does it reflect the hurried nature of the ambush attack: even a perceptive warrior like Odysseus may simply use what is nearest at hand? Or does the theme call for an employment of the bow he brought on the mission? (On the bow and the connection between archery and the ambush theme, see “The Poetics of Ambush.”) It is difficult to know if any or all of these possible factors lie behind this detail because we have such limited evidence for the ambush theme, but it does create a vivid visual image of the “getaway” that begins here.
10.502 ῥοίζησεν The A scholia explain that this verb means to “make a nonverbal sound, which we call συρίζειν,” a verb that means to whistle or hiss. Compare the related noun at Odyssey 9.315: πολλῇ δὲ ῥοίζῳ πρὸς ὄρος τρέπε πίονα μῆλα (“With much whistling (?), he [the Cyclops] was turning his fat flocks to the mountain”). At Hesiod Theogony 835, ῥοιζέω is used of the monstrous Typhoeus, and because this monster has snakes as part of his body, ῥοιζέω is generally assumed to mean ‘hiss’. Both this verb and that to which the scholia compare it seem to include both meanings, and we can understand both as sounds the mouth makes by moving air through the teeth and/or lips. So whichever sound we imagine Odysseus making here, the key for the poetics of ambush is that it is a single, quiet, nonverbal sound, lest the other sleeping Thracians awaken before he and Diomedes make their getaway.
10.503 μερμήριξε A type scene in which two options are pondered appears numerous times in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, and this verb is a signal of that traditional scene (see also Arend 1933:106–115 for this type scene). Some of these type scenes involve ambush, as here: Odysseus ponders several times how to ambush and slaughter the suitors (Odyssey 16.237, 16.256, 16.261, 19.2 = 19.52, 20.10, 20.28, 20.38, 20.41), while Phemios ponders during that ambush whether to try to escape or to supplicate Odysseus (Odyssey 22.333). Aegisthus is also “pondering hideous things” (ἀεικέα μερμηρίζων, Odyssey 4.533) when he plans his ambush of Agamemnon. In addition, although these episodes are not strictly ambush themes, we find such “pondering” involved prior to plans to deceive, such as Zeus’ sending the deceptive dream to Agamemnon (Iliad 2.3), Hera’s seduction of Zeus (Iliad 14.159), Penelope’s “trick” (dolos) against the suitors (Odyssey 2.93, Odyssey 24.128), and Odysseus’ deception of his father about his identity (Odyssey 24.235).
10.503 κύντατον This superlative adjective is found only here in the Homeric epics, but we should note that thirty manuscripts, according to Allen, have the comparative κύντερον instead, as does p425. Other uses of the comparative in the Iliad and Odyssey describe situations of suffering loss and perhaps also attempting to avenge it: it is used of Hera when she wants to defy Zeus and help the Achaeans in the war (Iliad 8.483); of Clytemnestra, who kills her husband Agamemnon and avenges her daughter’s death (Odyssey 11.427); of the insistence of a hungry belly, overriding all other concerns (Odyssey 7.216); and of the day that the Cyclops eats Odysseus’ men (Odyssey 20.18). We can also compare its uses in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, where the year during which Demeter is withdrawn is called κύντατον (Homeric Hymn to Demeter 306) and her grief is κύντερον (Homeric Hymn to Demeter 90). With this underlying notion of loss and grief connected to possible revenge as part of the traditional resonance of the word, in this line it may possibly allude to the version of the story of Rhesos in which he fights at Troy for one day and inflicts such huge damages on the Achaeans that Diomedes and Odysseus are sent to assassinate him at night (see “Tradition and Reception” for a full discussion of the variations of his story). Considering that version, Diomedes’ actions and his thoughts about further actions could be understood as fueled by grief over the loss of his comrades and as amounting to vengeance for them. The “need” on this night for action is similarly motivated by the Achaean losses earlier that day.
10.504–505 Vermeule notes that these lines had at one time been taken as evidence of the “lateness” of the Doloneia, but that Spruytte’s (1977) reconstruction of a Bronze Age chariot shows that it could indeed “be lifted by any healthy man, and conventional thinking on the Doloneia must be rethought, with hundreds of other conventions” (Vermuele 1986:83). See also Littauer and Crouwel 1983 on Bronze Age chariots. If Diomedes does choose to take the chariot, whether by the pole or by picking it up, he presumably does so in order to move it to where Odysseus has led the horses so they can tie the horses to the chariot for the getaway (see also below on 10.513–514). But such a supposition makes it seem as though Odysseus, at least, did not take the chariot when he took the horses from where they had been tied to it (facing it, it seems, rather than in a position to pull it, at 10.475, or else why untie them?).
10.507 ἕως ὃ ταῦθ᾽ ὥρμαινε κατὰ φρένα, τόφρα δ᾽ Ἀθήνη This line is formulaically similar to the first four feet of Iliad 1.193 and the last two feet of Iliad 1.194 (ἧος ὃ ταῦθ’ ὥρμαινε κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν, / ἕλκετο δ’ ἐκ κολεοῖο μέγα ξίφος, ἦλθε δ’ Ἀθήνη) and thus may be considered a slightly more compressed version of Athena’s appearance to a hero who is deciding on a course of action. This is a more specific form of the type scene of “pondering options” (see 10.503) and scenes in which a decision must be made between two options, of which there are several examples in the Iliad and Odyssey. We can compare also Iliad 5.671 (μερμήριξε δ’ ἔπειτα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμὸν) where it is Odysseus who is divided and then Athena directs his thumos. Stagakis (1986:237–239) argues that the situation here is parallel to that in Iliad 1, when Athena appears to a pondering Achilles and offers an option different from the two the hero had been contemplating. Just as Athena’s suggestion to Achilles to insult Agamemnon with words (Iliad 1.211) is related to his previously considered option of checking his fury (Iliad 1.192), so also may Athena’s command to remember their nostos here be related to the previously considered option of taking the chariot, if we understand that Diomedes does take the chariot for their getaway. For more on Athena’s role in this ambush, see our commentary on 10.285, 10.482, and 10.497.
10.509 νόστου δὴ μνῆσαι We have seen (in “The Poetics of Ambush” and the commentary on 10.211–212 and 10.247) that the mission Diomedes and Odysseus undertake has thematic language in common with journeys, and with homecomings in particular. Thus the word nostos here has a thematic significance. In order for the spying mission, now turned ambush, to be fully successful, Diomedes and Odysseus will have to get back safely to the Achaean ships, which is what Athena reminds Diomedes of here. In the polemos, a warrior might be mindful of his battle lust (some form of μιμνήσκω + χάρμης, Iliad 4.222, 8.252, 13.721–722, 15.380, 15.477, 19.148) or his furious resolve to stand his ground (μιμνήσκω + θούριδος ἀλκῆς, Iliad 6.112, 8.174, 11.566, 15.487, 15.734, 16.270, 17.185). But in an ambush, the ambushers must be mindful of their return to their own comrades. Not surprisingly, being mindful of one’s nostos is seen more often in the Odyssey. At Odyssey 3.141–142, Nestor recalls how Menelaos bid all the Achaeans to be mindful of their homecoming as they were about to leave Troy. In a different phrasing, Odysseus’ men ask him to be mindful of his fatherland (μιμνῄσκεο πατρίδος αἴης) specifically in the context of wanting to go home (ἱκέσθαι οἶκον, Odyssey 10.472–474). And in the closest parallel to this language, Athena goes to Sparta to remind Telemakhos of his nostos and to urge him to return home (νόστου ὑπομνήσουσα καὶ ὀτρυνέουσα νέεσθαι, see Odyssey 15.1–3).
10.513–514 One difficulty that has puzzled and divided commentators on Iliad 10 is the question of whether or not Odysseus and Diomedes do indeed take the chariot or whether they ride only the horses back to the Achaean camp. That ἵπποι is used in Homeric diction for both “horses” and “horses and chariot” adds to the confusion here. We have seen Odysseus untie the horses from the chariot rail and tie them together (10.498–499, see 10.475 for where the horses had been tied). We have also seen Diomedes contemplate taking the chariot (10.504–505). But did he take it? Leaf’s comment on 10.513 in his first edition (1886) says that ἵππων must mean the horses and chariot, because of the plural and because horseback riding happens only in similes, never in narrative in Homeric epic. In his reasoning, the option of killing more Thracians that Diomedes had been pondering is forbidden by Athena’s injunction to leave, and so, by default, the first option of taking the chariot has been followed. In his second edition (1900–1902), however, Leaf says that a general view of the passage leads to the conclusion that the heroes ride the horses themselves, and that this riding is “among the marks of lateness in this book.” Shewan (1911:180) notes that there is no consensus on whether they ride or drive, but argues that riding would not prove Iliad 10 to be late. He says that he first thought they ride the horses, but is now convinced that they drive the chariot (1911:274). He goes on to consider the phrase ἵππων ἐπεβήσετο and other details of the episode as well as arguments for and against either the riding of the horses or the taking of the chariot (1911:274–278).
These questions and disputes continue in more recent examinations of the passage. Anderson (1975), writing about chariot use in the Iliad, argues that Diomedes and Odysseus are riding horseback even though the poet uses formulas (like the verb ἐπιβαίνω here) that elsewhere are used for chariot driving. Because chariot driving is more common in the epics, “[t]he poet therefore had no ready-made set of formulae to describe riding when the need arose” (Anderson 1975:182). Although Odysseus seems throughout the episode to control both horses, as a driver would, Anderson cites a ninth-century Assyrian visual image that represents a warrior and attendant mounted on horses, and the attendant “seems to control both horses” (1975:183). Thus Anderson argues that the language used in this episode can be understood as horseback riding, and that horseback riding of this sort would have been known in the Bronze and early Iron Ages (1975:184), but his point is that any conclusion about either chariot driving or horseback riding in Homeric epic cannot be based on this one particular representation. Examining these same formulas, however, Stagakis (1985 and 1986) argues that they do seize the chariot and that they therefore drive the horses back. Hainsworth (1993:202–203) argues, as Anderson does, that the formulas are regularly used for chariot driving, but because the chariot is never mentioned again, we must assume that they are riding: “That we must imagine the heroes’ harnessing the horses to the chariot would imply an improbable ellipse after the detail of 498–502. Therefore the heroes do not take the chariot; they were after all in a hurry, and yoking a team of horses was not a simple operation, see 24.268–77” (Hainsworth 1993:203).
The intense scrutiny to which these phrases have been subjected, as well as the changes in interpretation by individual scholars, demonstrates just how intractable the question of whether or not they take the chariot is. Although we cannot necessarily resolve the question by considering it within the theme of ambush, we can note that a cattle-rustling or horse-stealing theme, such as we see at Iliad 11.669–684, seems to involve taking the animals alone. Because the themes of ambush and horse-stealing are closely related, the latter may explain the emphasis on the horses alone (so too might the traditional importance of Rhesos’ horses, see commentary on 10.436–437), even if the chariot is imagined to be taken. If they do ride, not drive, then that fact, as Shewan and Anderson have argued, would not be a sign of the “lateness” of composition. Rather, riding may instead be a signal of the horse-stealing theme, seen elsewhere in the Iliad only in Nestor’s reminiscences.
10.515 οὐδ᾽ ἀλαοσκοπιὴν εἶχ᾽ This phrase is used not of a human guard or spy, but always of a god in our texts. In addition to Apollo here, it is used of Poseidon twice (Iliad 13.10 and 14.135), with different epithets completing the line, as he watches the battle so that he may help the Achaeans. In the Odyssey it is used of Ares, who (in the story sung by Demodokos) watches to see when Hephaistos leaves so that he can be with Aphrodite—but he then falls into Hephaistos’ trap. We can also compare the use of this formula at Hesiod Theogony 466, where Kronos keeps a close watch on Rhea so that he can swallow their children as soon as they are born. These last two stories have affinities with the ambush theme, and we can note that, in the cases of both Ares and Kronos, they are the ones who eventually become the victims of an ambush. Those examples may help us to understand the use of the formula with Apollo here, since at first glance it seems odd that he is characterized as not keeping a negligent watch when the Thracians have just been slaughtered. We can also perhaps understand it better by comparing it to Poseidon’s role in helping the Achaeans while they are losing badly: his watch comprises seeing what disaster is befalling them (and then helping them), not preventing it entirely.
10.516 ἕπουσαν See above on 10.285 for the use of this word to describe gods accompanying a hero on a mission.
10.518–522 The moment of initial discovery and reaction by Hippokoon is quite compressed. A contrast is provided by the tragedy Rhesos, in which Rhesos’ charioteer delivers a messenger speech about the murder of Rhesos, and after his confrontation with Hektor, the divine mother of Rhesos appears to perform a lament for him. (See our essay “Tradition and Reception” for more on the portrayal of Rhesos and his death in the tragedy.) Here, Hippokoon is both the one to realize that Rhesos is dead and the one to perform a lament, although that lament is compressed into only one line (see also below on 10.522). The implication of this compression, however, is that an expanded version could be possible in performance (see also our commentary on 10.317 for more on the compression of lament in the Iliad). The particular version of the story that Iliad 10 presents de-emphasizes Rhesos and his traditional significance for the Trojan War. Petegorsky (1982) explores ways in which this de-emphasis is itself significant for the Iliad’s focus on Achilles and its portrayal of his return as necessary to save the Achaeans. This episode as presented here highlights instead the Achaean success in ambush, while only referring briefly to the loss and grief of their victims.
10.522 ᾤμωξέν τ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔπειτα φίλον τ᾽ ὀνόμηνεν ἑταῖρον The scholia in the Venetus A indicate that Zenodotus’ edition had this line following 10.519 and preceding 10.520. It is not clear from the comment whether that order represents his own editorial choice or whether he knew witnesses that recorded that arrangement. Fenik (1964:54–55) notes that this same formula is used at Iliad 23.178 and Iliad 24.591, both in cases of Achilles lamenting Patroklos. Fenik observes that, in those two cases, the formula acts as a speech introduction formula “followed by an actual address and lament” (Fenik 1964:55). He interprets what he considers the “clumsily abbreviated reference” here as an indication of an expanded version elsewhere. But the very “referential character” that Fenik ascribes to this line would mean that it would not need to be expanded to have meaning for a traditional audience. If the formula had a special resonance with the death of Patroklos or lamentation in general, its use here would add to the significance of what Diomedes and Odysseus have done. Thus we can consider this a simple compression, rather than a bungling of the traditional formula.
10.524 μέρμερα ἔργα For this phrase, see also 10.47–48 and 10.289–290. The awakened Trojans wonder at the astounding deeds. They are astounding because a night raid is unexpected, perhaps, but in Homeric diction this phrase is used for the slaughter of many by one man: see Iliad 8.453, 10.48, 11.502, 21.217. In 10.48, the emphasis is on one man devising astounding deeds; here the Trojans assume that more than one must have been involved, but we the audience know that it is just two. And as we saw at 10.289, this phrase is useful for both daytime battles and for ambush, as it is used here. The references at 10.48 and Iliad 11.502 refer to Hektor’s deeds, and at Iliad 21.217 to Achilles’, attesting to the “heroic” quality of the astounding deeds. At Iliad 11.502 and 21.217, the same verb is used as here, ῥέζω. Some commentators have questioned the value of Diomedes’ and Odysseus’ activities on the night raid, especially since the danger inherent in the presence of Rhesos is not emphasized in this version. For example, Fenik sums up his feelings about Iliad 10 this way: “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). By understanding the traditional resonance of the phrase mermera erga, however, we can see that the Trojans react to what has happened as a disaster. This reaction may imply the same importance of Rhesos as we see in other versions of his traditional narrative (for more on those, see the Rhesos section in our essay “Tradition and Reception”)—in one version, he is the one committing mermera erga and has to be stopped; in another, he would have been invincible and so would have committed mermera erga had he lived.
10.527–530 These lines use formulaic language that is employed elsewhere in the Homeric epics for chariot driving. See commentary on 10.513–514 for a discussion on the question of whether the heroes take Rhesos’ chariot and are therefore driving, or whether they are riding the horses.
10.530 μάστιξεν δ᾽ ἵππους In the intermarginal scholia in Venetus A, it is noted that “in others, ‘Odysseus whipped’ ” (ἐν ἄλλῳ “μάστιξεν δ’ Ὀδυσσεύς”), making it clear that Odysseus is the one driving or controlling the horses. Indeed, forty-three manuscripts, according to Allen, have the variation that the A scholia record, showing the flexibility of leaving either the subject or the object of this verb understood. Of the forty-three manuscripts Allen lists as having this variation, only eight also omit line 531 (see below), perhaps indicating different channels of transmission for these two variations.
10.531 The Venetus A manuscript, like many others—including some of the oldest, such as the Venetus B and the Townley manuscripts—does not include the line that is canonically called 10.531: νῆας ἔπι γλαφυράς· τῇ γὰρ φίλον ἔπλετο θυμῷ (“toward the hollow ships; for this way was dear to them in their hearts”). According to Allen, thirty of the one hundred eighteen manuscripts he collated do not include this line. At Iliad 11.519–520, we see the same pair of lines that some manuscripts record as 10.530–531: in that context, it is Nestor and Machaon who depart the fierce battle after Machaon is wounded by the arrow of Paris. The presence of this line in some witnesses to Iliad 10 should caution us about overinterpreting the formula in either context. It is tempting in Iliad 11 to see the horses’ desire to go a certain way as relating to their desire to leave battle, or that heading toward the ships, toward home, is what makes the direction dear to their hearts. But in the context of Iliad 10, those same interpretations cannot apply to Rhesos’ horses, which have just arrived at Troy and are now under the control of new drivers or masters. Instead, we can understand it in both places, in conjunction with the horses “flew not unwillingly” (τὼ δ᾽ οὐκ ἀέκοντε πετέσθην), as a formula dealing with horses who are whipped and then respond by moving quickly in a particular direction.
10.532 Νέστωρ δὲ πρῶτος κτύπον ἄϊε One aspect of the poetics of the night is the emphasis on senses other than sight, especially hearing. But as we see here, as well as in other examples, what one hears requires interpretation. (See the section on the sensory aspects of the night in “The Poetics of Ambush.”) This same verb of perceiving by hearing is used in 10.160 and 10.189 of hearing the Trojans from a distance (compare Iliad 18.222 and Iliad 21.388).
10.534 This same line is also found at Odyssey 4.140, where Helen speaks it as she recognizes Telemakhos. Thus we may think of it as a formula used when a person interprets a sensory input, whether sight (Helen notes how much Telemakhos resembles Odysseus) or, as here, sound. Nestor hears the hoofbeats and goes on to interpret what he thinks that sound means.
10.535–537 Nestor says that he hears hoofbeats and hopes that that sound indicates a successful return for Odysseus and Diomedes, driving horses off from the Trojans (after all, they did not leave with horses). That a return with horses is interpreted as success for what was originally a spying mission is another indicator of the thematic association between horse stealing and night themes in general. See “The Poetics of Ambush” for more on how these themes are associated within the epic tradition.
10.539 ἄριστοι See commentary on 10.236. Nestor calls those who have gone on the spying mission the best men, a common designation in the ambush theme.
10.540 ἄρ(α) Egbert Bakker’s work on this particle, as on many other aspects of Homeric diction, illuminates both what it means and how it is used in performance. Bakker explains that ἄρα is a marker “of visual evidence in the here and now of the speaker” and, more precisely, “the interpretation of such evidence” (Bakker 2005:97). Visual evidence had not yet been present during Nestor’s speech; he instead only heard the hoofbeats and tried to interpret them—as we have seen, in the poetics of night action, hearing precedes seeing. Although this ἄρα is not in a direct speech of a character, the action happens during Nestor’s speech: “He had not yet spoken every word when, look! they came.” ἄρ(α) marks the point at which Diomedes and Odysseus become visible, and thus their success in returning to the camp is confirmed. The particle happens to be omitted in three manuscripts, according to Allen’s edition, including the Townley.
10.542 δεξιῇ ἠσπάζοντο ἔπεσσί τε μειλιχίοισι From the three uses of the verb ἀσπάζομαι in the Odyssey, we can see that it is used in contexts of welcoming someone who has just arrived after a journey. Nestor and the Pylians greet Telemakhos upon his arrival in Pylos (Odyssey 3.39), Autolykos welcomes his grandson Odysseus after he arrives for a visit (Odyssey 19.415: the whole line is very similar, χερσίν τ’ ἠσπάζοντο ἔπεσσί τε μειλιχίοισι), and the slave women welcome Odysseus home after Eurykleia has told them of his arrival (Odyssey 22.498). Thus its use here is one more indication that spying missions and ambushes share the traditional thematic language also used for journeys in these epics, and we can understand such “Odyssean” language as related to the theme, rather than any indication of “lateness.”
See above on 10.288 for more on the meaning of μειλίχιος. On that line, it is used to describe a muthos, and here it is used with epos. Although we may translate both words as ‘word’, Richard Martin has demonstrated that there are important distinctions between the terms in Homeric diction: epos is the unmarked term for “utterance,” while muthos is the marked term for a public speech-act, a “performance” of sorts that conveys authority and power (1989:22–30). When we compare the different contexts of the adjective μειλίχιος in these lines, then, we can observe that Tydeus’ muthos was indeed a public, performative speech in which he was at least trying to exert his authority, whereas these words of welcome carry none of those connotations. Martin also notes that “a muthos focuses on what the speaker says and how he or she says it, but epos consistently applies to what the addressee hears” (1989:16). Thus words of welcome are appropriately epea, since they are particularly heard as such by the addressee.
10.543–544 These lines use the same formulas as Iliad 9.672–673, although there it is Agamemnon (instead of Nestor) asking Odysseus what Achilles’ answer was to the embassy’s request that he return to battle. As we discussed in our essay “Interpreting Iliad 10,” a singer could have composed these two episodes paratactically (with both episodes occurring during the course of the same night), as they appear in our Iliad, or they may have been performance alternatives of each other. The contrast between them is that while the embassy fails, Nestor treats this return as a resounding success, regardless of the insistence of some modern critics that Diomedes and Odysseus have not fulfilled their mission (see 10.406–411 for our discussion of whether Odysseus gets the information that Nestor suggested for the spying mission). Petegorsky (1982:175–254) argues that the Doloneia responds directly to the embassy’s failure, and especially to Achilles’ challenge that the Achaeans find some better mētis (Iliad 9.423).
10.544–553 Nestor’s greeting focuses on the horses with which Odysseus and Diomedes return. His statement that he has been active in battle but has never seen horses like these is particularly appropriate to the version of Rhesos’ story presented here, in which Rhesos and his Thracians arrive that night but have not yet entered battle. (See our essay “Tradition and Reception” for a full discussion of the Rhesos tradition.) Odysseus’ response describing the horses as “newly arrived” (νεήλυδες, 10.558), which is the same adjective that Dolon uses to describe the Thracians at 10.434, similarly reinforces this version of events. Petegorsky (1982:205–206) has interpreted Nestor’s suggestion that the horses were given to them by a god (10.546, 551–553), along with Odysseus’ rejoinder that a god could give much better horses (10.556–557), as an allusion to the horses of Achilles, which were indeed a gift from the gods. This allusion, according to Petegorsky, shows how the success of the night raid as evidenced by the capture of the horses is “oddly concessive to Achilles” (Petegorsky 1982:206).
10.547 ἀκτίνεσσιν ἐοικότες ἠελίοιο Nestor’s statement that the white horses “look like the rays of the sun” implies that they are particularly visible in the darkness, and it also has a temporal correlation in that dawn is now near. But on a deeper level, the important concept of nostos in the ambush theme (that is, the importance of the return of the ambushers) is also connected to sun imagery (see Frame 1978/2005 and 2009 for the connection between nostos and the rising, or return, of the sun). The conversation between Odysseus, the hero who achieves nostos (see also on 10.247), and Nestor, whose name, according to Frame, reflects an earlier function of “he who brings back to life and light” (Frame 1978/2005:96–115), thus connects the horses, which look like the sun that will soon rise, and the safe return of Odysseus and Diomedes, marking the success of their night mission. We may compare the moment at which Odysseus reaches Ithaca in Odyssey 13.93–95: at that moment, twenty years in the making, the sun rises just as the ship draws near to land.
10.560 πὰρ δ’ ἑτάρους δυοκαίδεκα πάντας ἀρίστους We have seen in several places that, in the theme of ambush, it is the best, the aristoi, who are chosen for such missions. The thematic association of the best seems to be so strong that it applies to the victims of the ambush here as well. It would seem to apply to Rhesos in particular on the deeper mythic level, in which Rhesos is a grave threat to the Achaeans.
10.561 τρισκαίδεκατον See above on 10.495 for more on the number thirteen within the tradition. There Rhesos is the thirteenth victim among the Thracians and the number caps the killing as last and most important. Dolon is sequentially their first victim, but in Odysseus’ narrative of the events, he is mentioned last and so caps off this list of victims as thirteenth. In other words, the thirteenth victim is once again the one singled out for a special focus. The A scholia note the discrepancy and say that some critics before Aristarchus made the number here ‘fourteenth’. Counting both Rhesos and Dolon as the thirteenth victim may also indicate something about the convergence of the Dolon story and the Rhesos tradition in this episode.
10.564 τάφροιο διήλασε μώνυχας ἵππους Crossing the ditch is once again a spatial indication that Odysseus and Diomedes have truly arrived back safely—and successfully, since Odysseus leads the horses of Rhesos with them. As we saw at 10.194, the summoned Achaean leaders move across the ditch to hold the council. This movement indicates that they are then on the offensive and thus presages the night’s mission. Here, we notice that they all have remained there while Diomedes and Odysseus were on their mission. That solidarity among the whole group is made explicit in the next line as they cross back together, exulting in what Diomedes and Odysseus have accomplished. Compare 10.414–416, where Dolon assumes that Hektor is still at the place of the Trojan council while he is on his mission.
10.565 καγχαλόων See above on 10.400, where Odysseus smiles, for our discussion of how to understand facial expressions within their cultural context as well as their formulaic and episodic contexts. Those same caveats apply to Odysseus’ laughter in this line, since laughter is another kind of nonverbal expression that has specific meaning within a culture. Some studies of laughter in Homer take their starting point from the suitors in the Odyssey, since their laughter is so memorable, but such an approach suggests the conclusion that laughter is negative in Homeric epic. Levine (1982) argues that laughter in the Homeric epics “generally implies a real or imagined physical or moral superiority over another person” (Levine 1982:97). As he strives to make that one idea fit every instance, the natural variety we would expect of different kinds of laughter in different situations is lost. He does not distinguish between the words καγχαλάω and γελάω or γελώς in his list of examples of laughter from the Iliad (Levine 1982:97). Colakis (1986) argues that laughter in the Odyssey “usually indicates some sort of weakness of character” (Colakis 1986:137). (The fact that Paris laughs on more than one occasion in the Iliad may contribute to this kind of interpretation.) Although she does not cite Levine 1982 on this argument, Colakis also asserts that smiles mean an actual superiority, a control of the situation, while those who laugh only think they are superior (Colakis 1986:139).
Such interpretations of laughter do not get us too far in this case: certainly Odysseus could be expressing his superior position after he reports the victory that he and Diomedes have achieved. But he could also be expressing relief at having made it back and/or showing social solidarity with the other Achaeans who here, as earlier, exult (χαίρω on this line and on 10.539). We need to be careful about how we interpret such culturally specific nonverbal communication, and not base our conclusions on the meanings of laughter in our own culture or on our personal feelings about the characters who laugh. For insightful approaches to and examinations of laughter in ancient Greek culture, including in the Homeric epics, see Halliwell 1991 and 2008. Halliwell recognizes the broad range of laughter in these epics, maintaining that “it would be misguided to claim a univocal significance for ‘Homeric’ laughter” (Halliwell 2008:97). Instead, he argues that “Homeric laughter spans a spectrum of feeling that includes both positive and negative emotions” (Halliwell 2008:53). So we must still pay close attetion to the uses of this particular verb in context in order to understand what its connotations for the ancient audience may have been.
When we do look at other uses of this same verb, we find that it is used in situations of ridicule (such as when Hektor imagines that the Achaeans are laughing at the idea of Paris as the Trojans’ best fighter, Iliad 3.43) or perhaps excessive celebration in triumphing over an enemy (Eurykleia laughs this way in Odyssey 23.1 and is warned against such laughter by Penelope at Odyssey 23.59). Halliwell (2008:57n15) notes that the verb καγχαλάω is later associated with animal noises, inlcuding a horse’s neigh, so here we might wonder whether it emphasizes the particular sound Odysseus makes while perhaps evoking the horses he is leading.
In terms of composition, though, the closest parallel comes from Iliad 6.514, which describes Paris returning to battle:
ὣς υἱὸς Πριάμοιο Πάρις κατὰ Περγάμου ἄκρης
τεύχεσι παμφαίνων ὥς τ᾽ ἠλέκτωρ ἐβεβήκει
καγχαλόων, ταχέες δὲ πόδες φέρον·
Iliad 6.512–514
Just so the son of Priam, Paris, down from the height of Pergamon,
all shining in his armor like the sun, had gone,
laughing, and his swift feet were carrying him.
In this passage, too, we have the participle accompanying a verb of motion and enjambed as the first word of the following line. What is Paris feeling as he makes his way out of the city that makes him laugh? This passage follows the simile that compares Paris to a running horse that has broken free. (That simile is remarkable because it is repeated: compare Iliad 6.506–511 and Iliad 15.263–268, where it is used as a comparison for Hektor returning to battle.) The simile, as well as the laughter of Paris, conveys a sense of exhilaration as he moves. But the differences between the situations should caution us from making broad pronouncements about laughter and character.
The parallel between these two passages has to do with the verbs of motion and the direction of the person who laughs. Paris laughs as he moves from the safety of home, the fortified citadel of Troy, back to the plain where the battle is raging. Odysseus laughs as he moves across the ditch, from the dangers of the night to the safety offered by the ditch and the wall the Achaeans have built. They are moving in opposite directions, yet the movement itself seems to provoke the same reaction. Thus within the traditional diction this kind of laughter may accompany such a transition between safety and danger.
10.566–579 The end to the episode confirms what we have seen earlier: that the ambush theme is structurally similar to that of the journey, in that the return takes on a special importance. Now that Diomedes and Odysseus have been welcomed “home” to the camp, the end of their journey into the enemy camp and their successful return is marked by taking a bath and eating a meal, as we see so often in the Odyssey, an epic which is itself an extended version of a journey theme with many journeys and arrivals embedded within it.
10.572–575 First, the two rinse off in the sea and “cool off” (ἀνέψυχθεν); then, they take a bath in a bathtub. The latter is perhaps a hot bath, even though the language seen elsewhere in the epics about heating the water is not included here. See the next comment on 10.576 for more on bathing words.
10.576 ἀσαμίνθος appears only here in the Iliad, but ten times in the Odyssey (3.468 = 23.163, 4.48 = 17.87, 4.128, 8.450, 8.456, 10.361, 17.90, 24.370). Because it ends in –νθος, the word is generally taken to be a non-Greek word that has been adopted into the epic language (see Hainsworth 1993:210 ad 10.576 and Stanford’s [1961] commentary on the Odyssey ad 8.450). Hainsworth also notes that the word is attested on a seal from Knossos, and Stanford points out that earthenware bathtubs have been found at Knossos and Tiryns.
This line is the same as those found at Odyssey 4.48 and 17.87. The word ἀσαμίνθος is part of a formula system for getting in and out of the bathtub: eleven of its twelve appearances are part of a phrase that starts a line with ἔς ῥ’/δ’ ἀσαμίνθον/ἀσαμίνθους or ἔκ ῥ’/δ’ ἀσαμίνθου/ἀσαμίνθων and in most of these cases is followed by some form of βαίνω. So taking a bath in a bathtub is a frequent enough event in the epic tradition that this formula developed. The one exception to its line placement in the first two feet of the line is at Odyssey 4.128, which details the gifts that Helen and Menelaos received from Alkandre and Polybos in Egypt: Polybos gave Menelaos two silver bathtubs, among other things. Such a list of guest-gifts is, of course, a theme very different from narrating a hero getting in or out of a bath, and so it is not surprising that the formulas used are different in that case.
Getting in or out of the bath is more frequent in the Odyssey because it is associated with an arrival after a journey, which is a common occurrence in that epic. Telemakhos on his journey bathes at both Nestor’s palace (Odyssey 3.468) and at Menelaos’ (Odyssey 4.48, where it is both Telemakhos and Peisistratos bathing, and plurals are used as they are here). Odysseus gets in and out of the bath in the palace of Alkinoos and Arete (Odyssey 8.450–456) and tells of how he bathed at Circe’s once he had an oath from her for his safety (Odyssey 10.361). The association seen in that case between baths and safety appears many more times and is part of the poetics of the bath. Telemakhos (Odyssey 17.87–90), Odysseus (Odyssey 23.163), and Laertes (Odyssey 24.370) all bathe in an ἀσαμίνθος once they return home. Telemakhos has arrived safely after the suitors’ attempted ambush, and Odysseus bathes after his slaughter of the suitors: the baths, which involve an associated vulnerability of nakedness, signal safety after danger. Laertes is not so much in danger as in a prolonged state of suffering, and this kind of recovery has parallels elsewhere in the epic. Odysseus is of course known for his suffering on his journey, and he is given his distinctive epithet πολύτλας just before his bath in Phaeacia (Odyssey 8.446). In Odyssey 17, we have seen that Telemakhos’ bath implies safety after the danger of the suitor’s planned ambush, but his guest Theoklymenos bathes in that passage as well. Theoklymenos is an exile because he killed a man of his community (Odyssey 15.271–278), so Telemakhos taking him in is a measure of safety for him, and he is called here the “long-suffering guest” (ξεῖνον ταλαπείριον, Odyssey 17.84), a phrase used elsewhere of Odysseus himself (Odyssey 7.24; compare also Odysseus as a “long-suffering suppliant” ἱκέτην ταλαπείριον at Odyssey 6.193 and 14.511). Bathing in an ἀσαμίνθος, then, has associations with an arrival after a journey and with getting home safely after being in danger, and marks an end to suffering.
Bathing does indeed happen in other situations in the Iliad, but the word used in these other situations is λοετρόν (Iliad 14.6, 22.444–445, 23.44) or a related word (Iliad 18.346). We might expect the Trojans to bathe in their own homes, and we do see Andromache’s preparations for a bath for Hektor that he will never take (Iliad 22.444–445). But the Achaeans have hot baths as well, as we see when Nestor tells the wounded Machaon that Hekamede will prepare a hot bath for him and wash away the blood (Iliad 14.6–7) and when Achilles refuses the hot bath that Agamemnon ordered be prepared for him (Iliad 23.39–44). (Note that Achilles has also refused to eat since Patroklos’ death: as the following lines here also make clear, there is a thematic connection between bathing and eating a meal.) The corpse of Patroklos is also washed when it is brought back from battle (Iliad 18.343–353). There, we see in detail the water heated in a bathwater tripod, using formulaic language seen also when a bath is prepared for Odysseus in Phaeacia (Odyssey 8.435–437 ≈ Iliad 18.346–348). Similar to the way that Diomedes and Odysseus rinse and cool off in the sea here, we also see the Achaeans ritually wash in the sea after the end of the plague (Iliad 1.313–314). The Iliad thus displays several examples of other language about washing or bathing, and the language used here is particularly associated with journeys and ambush.
In a recent article, Jonas Grethlein (2007) examines the poetics of the bath in the Iliad. He confines his examination to the baths in the Iliad, saying that others have treated the theme in the Odyssey as part of the “ritual of hospitality,” which does not hold for the Iliad (2007:25). Grethlein argues for two types of baths in the Iliad: that of a warrior returning from battle (and he includes this bath in Iliad 10 in this category) and the washing of the corpse of a dead warrior (2007:28). Then he shows how these two types of bath create narrative tensions and connections, focusing especially on the bath that Andromache prepares for Hektor (2007:28–49). Grethlein also argues that both kinds of bath share a connection with a transition: the bathing of the corpse involves the transition from life to death, and the warrior’s bath involves a transition from the danger of death in battle to a place of safety (2007:28–29). Our arguments about the bath here in Iliad 10, developed before Grethlein’s article appeared, agree in many ways with his. But in his separation of the Iliad and Odyssey, he seems to have overlooked that the arrival after a journey, beyond being simply hospitality, often in the Odyssey includes a similar measure of safety after danger as that which he sees in the warrior’s return from battle in the Iliad. And although he pays close attention to formulaic language in these types scenes, he does not mention the particular language used in this case, which differs from the other baths in the Iliad in particular ways.
We can now see what ἀσαμίνθους adds to this particular scene. This type of bathtub is formulaically associated with the safe arrival from a journey, and a night mission, whether spying or ambush, is thematically like a journey particularly in that it involves a return. We have seen (1) Nestor describe the spying mission as (ideally) a going out and coming back safe and sound (see 10.211–212), (2) Diomedes choose Odysseus as his partner for the mission because of his abilities to get home (10.247), and (3) Athena tell Diomedes to remember his homecoming while he lingers momentarily in the Thracian camp (10.509). As Albert Lord notes briefly regarding the bath Odysseus takes in Odyssey 23: “The bath belongs in the tale of the return—it surely has ritual significance” (1960:176). There is an idea of a nostos associated with this kind of mission, and the traditional association of a bath in a tub with a safe arrival after a journey appears in this expanded version of the spying/ambush theme.
10.577–578 τὼ δὲ λοεσσαμένω καὶ ἀλειψαμένω λίπ᾽ ἐλαίῳ / δείπνῳ ἐφιζανέτην Even at the end of the mission, dual forms are used for the actions of Diomedes and Odysseus. Such dual verbs and the teamwork they embody are such a deep-rooted part of the ambush theme that they continue to be used in these final actions of the night. See above on 10.243 and 10.254 for more on these dual forms.
10.578 δείπνῳ ἐφιζανέτην An older style of criticism was concerned about the so-called “unity” of Iliad 9, because the members of the embassy have multiple meals within one evening (see also Shewan 1911:186–187 for a review of scholarly objections that this is Odysseus’ third meal on this night). At Iliad 9.65–73, Nestor advises Agamemnon to prepare and host the evening meal, and the guards for the night have their dinner at their station (Iliad 9.88) while the leaders eat at Agamemnon’s tent (Iliad 9.89–92). It is after dinner that they discuss the embassy to Achilles. Three of the leaders who must have eaten with Agamemnon, Phoinix, Ajax, and Odysseus, go on the embassy. When Achilles welcomes them, he and Patroklos immediately prepare a meal (Iliad 9.205–220), and it seems that all of them eat and talk only after they have finished (Iliad 9.221–222). We should first of all note that these two lines indicating that they eat their fill are the same formulas as Iliad 9.91–92, which transition from the meal preparation scene to the conversation. So meal preparation and consumption is, from the standpoint of oral poetics, a theme that is closely associated with gatherings of leaders and, as is made explicit in the advice of Nestor to Agamemnon, with the hospitality offered by those leaders. Thus it makes sense that more than one supper is prepared for these men: there is much more to it than satiating their hunger.
Once we recognize that there are multiple associations with the poetic theme of a meal, then, how should we understand Diomedes and Odysseus eating once again here? According to the A scholia, Aristarchus marked the dual form of the verb here because the meal should apply to all, not just these two, since they are having breakfast in the early morning at this point. This objection seems to apply a similar logic to that which we have already discussed, namely keeping track of which meal the men should be eating. Instead, we can look for other associations that meals have within this tradition, focusing, as the dual verb form does, on the two warriors who have just returned from a dangerous mission. As we saw with the baths at 10.576, the meal here has associations with an arrival after a journey, and the return after a spying mission or an ambush has much in common with the theme of the journey. Indeed, there seems to be a traditional sequence of bathing and then eating after such an arrival, and we see such a thematic sequence in the examples from the Odyssey: after the arrivals in Odyssey 3, 4, 8, 10, and 17, in which a bath in an ἀσαμίνθος takes place, a meal follows the bath as part of the hospitality for a guest or the arrival home. As Foley says about baths in the Odyssey in general, its theme is securely linked to that of the feast (Foley 1999:185, 245). Thus, the bath–meal sequence here is entirely traditional and should be expected rather than suspected.

Footnotes

[ back ] 1. We may contrast the similes that describe the anxiety and sorrow of the Greeks at the start of Books 9 and 10 with the one at the end of Book 8 that describes the campfires of the Trojans as they make camp on the plain. The fires are compared to the stars on a windless, clear night (Iliad 8.555ff.; see Webster 1958:231–232). Scott (1974:51) notes that similes frequently occur at junctures in the narrative, and that those junctures often correspond with a change in theme, as is the case with the simile under discussion here at 10.5–9.
[ back ] 2. For a concise bibliography of scholarship since Parry that seeks to appreciate the creativity of a poet working within a traditional medium, see Martin 1989:151n16. This brief bibliography is of course already twenty years out of date. See “Interpreting Iliad 10” for a survey of more recent work. The journal Oral Tradition regularly publishes interdisciplinary scholarship that builds on the fieldwork and insights of Parry and Lord.