Iliad p609 (Mertens-Pack 864.1; P. Mich. 6972)

Text based on the edition of Alexander Loney, after the edition of A. Edwards (1984) [1]
This papyrus roll dates to the second century BCE and is a palimpsest, meaning that the papyrus had been written on and erased before these verses were written on it. The earliest of the texts of Iliad 10 presented in this volume, it is also the most “multiform” from the standpoint of the medieval tradition, as exemplified by the Venetus A. It belongs to the papyrus collection of the University of Michigan (P. Mich 6972); a digital photograph of the papyrus is available online through the Advanced Papyrological Information System ( This papyrus was published by A. Edwards (1984).
The papyrus has two columns, containing 10.421–434 and 10.445–460. It exhibits both horizontal multiformity on the level of individual words and whole lines, and also vertical multiformity, with a so-called “plus verse” between 10.432 and 10.434. Many of these multiforms are not supported by any other extant manuscript or witness, and yet the variations themselves are demonstrably formulaic and, therefore, “Homeric.” The antiquity of this papyrus fragment and the attestation of these particular multiforms elsewhere in Homeric epic should give these variations weight; we resist approaches that dismiss them (or similar multiformity) in the early Homeric papyri as “eccentric.” [2]
Note: The spaces between letters should be taken only as an approximation of the gap between visible letters on the papyrus. In order to make comparison between texts easier for the reader, we have added where possible accents and breathings and some editorial marks, such as punctuation and apostrophes to indicate elision. We have not, however, supplied a text for the illegible portions of the papyrus. This is because we do not want to make any assumptions for the reader about what the papyrus contained. Readers interested in seeing a text of the papyrus with supplements should consult the edition of Edwards 1984.


10.423 The Venetus A has the formulaic speech introduction line τόνδ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς· This papyrus clearly has πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς at line end and Edwards reconstructs the line as the equally formulaic [τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’] ἔ̣[πει]τ̣α πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς. Such multiformity often appears within the textual tradition at this level of formulaic, frequently used lines. See also 10.426 below. Both πολύμητις and πολύτλας are equally traditional and, indeed, distinctive epithets of Odysseus. Each formula also has a connection with ambush poetics (see the general commentary on lines 10.137, 10.148, 10.382 for πολύμητις and 10.248 for πολύτλας). Either is appropriate in this line, and so we need not reject either possibility.
10.425 ]ι νημερτὲς ἔνισπε Edwards 1984 reads this line as [ μο]ι νημερτὲς ἔνισπε. There have been various suggestions for the restoration of the beginning of the line, based on what we find in other witnesses, but the metrical pattern of this text differs from the equivalent phrase we find in the Venetus A (δίειπέ μοι ὄφρα δαείω). Because of this difference, Edwards mentions the possibility that the entire line was different (1984:13 ad loc.). We should not assume that we know what was there based on what appears in much later witnesses. The phrasing and placement is similar to what we find at the end of Iliad 3.204: ὦ γύναι ἦ μάλα τοῦτο ἔπος νημερτὲς ἔειπες. For the imperative of ἐννέπω, compare also Odyssey 4.642, νημερτές μοι ἔνισπε, which is also in a context that leads to plotting an ambush. Finally, as William Duffy has noted, p609’s version of the line matches the endings of lines such as Iliad 14.470, Odyssey 3.101, Odyssey 4.314, Odyssey 4.331, and Odyssey 22.166. δίειπέ μοι ὄφρα δαείω is not attested elsewhere in our Iliad or Odyssey, and ὄφρα δαείω appears only three times, twice in the Iliad. [3]
10.426 λων κατὰ δακρυ[ο]ν The Venetus A reads here τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα Δόλων Εὐμήδεος υἱός. Edwards argues for a reconstruction of τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα Δόλων κατὰ δάκρυον εἴβων, citing similar formulas in Odyssey 11.391 and 24.280, and noting as well that Dolon is crying in Iliad 10.377. Edwards also states that “[t]he substitution of one formula for another, as here, is typical of the eccentric papyri.” It is also typical of oral composition in performance, of course, and we have seen that in speech introductions similar kinds of multiforms have been preserved in the textual tradition.
10.427 p609 is in agreement with the main hand of p425 and most manuscripts (with the exception of D, Ge, and T) in reading καταλέξω here instead of ἀγορεύσω. For more on the alternation between these two verbs in our surviving texts, see below on p425 at 10.413.
10.432–434 The papyrus has a so-called plus verse in this sequence. The Venetus A has the following sequence:
432 ἀλλὰ τίη ἐμὲ ταῦτα διεξερέεσθαι ἕκαστα;
433 εἰ γὰρ δὴ μέματον Τρώων καταδῦναι ὅμιλον
434 Θρήϊκες οἷ δ’ ἀπάνευθε νεήλυδες ἔσχατοι ἄλλων·
The lines on the papyrus have similar endings to the manuscript’s lines 10.432 and 434, although the papyrus seems to have the second person plural indicative form of the verb instead of the infinitive in 432. But on this papyrus there are two lines between these:
Edwards 1984 argues that “there can be no doubt that the sense … is the same as that of K 433.” If this is so, we can see here an example of expansion (or, conversely, of compression in the Venetus A version): the singer in performance can expand episodes, scenes, or speeches with more lines if he so chooses. Even a relatively short and simple expansion such as this one seems to be evidence of the performance tradition. The language of these lines is formulaic, and they are just as likely to have been generated by a traditional singer as those found in the majority of witnesses. The phrase φίλον ἦτορ is commonly found at line end, as it is here (though it also appears in other metrical positions as well). Edwards compares the phrasing in the second of these two lines (what we are calling 433a) to Iliad 10.221, and argues that the two missing letters after δῦναι were an erased copying mistake. The medievally attested 10.433 (εἰ γὰρ δὴ μέματον Τρώων καταδῦναι ὅμιλον) is also found on papyri 46 and 425, but the verse is not used elsewhere in extant epic.
10.448 ἐσλά The Venetus A manuscript reads ἐσθλά on this line. The two words mean the same thing, but the differences may reflect multiformity at the level of dialect. Buck 1955:77 describes the differences between ἐσθλός, ἔσλος, and ἐσλός as a case of dialectal difference. For more on the dialects within Homeric diction, see the general commentary on 10.18.
10.451 διοψόμενος The Venetus A has the participle διοπτεύσων. Both future participles are used for the same purpose and mean ‘to spy’. Both are also hapax legomena, so there is no means to choose between them even if we wanted to. Such words, which show up only “once,” are an indication of our limited “database” of Homeric poetry (see the general commentary on 10.331 for more on how to understand hapax legomena within the tradition). That both of these words, as well as related words like διοπτήρ ‘spy’ (used in Iliad 10.562), happen to show up only in this book is also related to the fact that this is our only surviving extended spying mission in the epic tradition. Spying mission episodes are a part of this epic tradition, though, and so specialized vocabulary was developed as singers composed-in-performance songs about such exploits. Such words are evidence of that performance tradition, rather than evidence of lateness or different authorship.


[ back ] 1. Although we have based our text on the (as yet unpublished) XML edition of Loney, any errors of rendering or transcription are our own.
[ back ] 2. For the term “eccentric” as applied to Ptolemaic Homeric papyri, see especially S. West 1967. For a more extended discussion of the significance of the multiformity presented by the Ptolemaic papyri see Dué 2001a.
[ back ] 3. During a 2007 summer seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies entitled “The Iliad in the 2nd Millennium BCE” William Duffy prepared a commentary on this papyrus under our direction. With his permission we have incorporated his note into our commentary on this text.