Chapter 2. Men and Worms: Permanence and Organic Decay

Time leaves indelible traces. All organic material, like a ship’s timber, eventually rots. The Greek verb used to describe this process, σήπεσθαι, occurs twice in the context of the decay of mortal flesh. Like the ship wood, heroes’ bodies mark time through their own internal cycles of growth and deterioration.
Not all bodies are equal, however. The Iliad gives special attention to three bodies above and beyond all others: the corpses of Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor. These three figures function as links in a larger chain—the bond of fate that links the destruction of Troy inevitably with the death of Achilles, the best of the Achaeans. According to the logic of the aristeia in the Iliad, a man can be aristos ‘the best of his kind’ only temporarily, for by becoming victor over another, he marks himself as the potential victim of a still greater foe. So Sarpedon is killed by Patroklos (XVI 479–491), who in turn is killed by Hektor (XVI 818–829), and Hektor falls to Achilles (XXII 325–363). The chain of victor and victim, although left incomplete within the scope of the narration of the Iliad, leaves it virtually accomplished that Achilles himself will fall at the hands of another, as Hektor prophesies with the clarity of a man near death’s door: [1]
φράζεο νῦν, μή τοί τι θεῶν μήνιμα γένωμαι
ἤματι τῷ, ὅτε κέν σε Πάρις καὶ Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
ἐσθλὸν ἔοντ᾿ ὀλέσωσιν ἐνὶ Σκαιῇσι πύλῃσιν.
Consider this now, lest I become some cause of the gods’ wrath for you
on that day, whenever it is, when Paris and Phoibos Apollo
will destroy you, although you are strong, at the Skaian gates.
Iliad XXII 358–360
With the death of Hektor, Achilles’ death is a foregone conclusion. [2] His death is guaranteed by the inexorable logic that links Hektor’s death with those of Patroklos and Sarpedon. The fates of these men’s corpses are also linked by the same logic: special cares given to Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor are anticipations for the ritual care that will be extended to Achilles’ body, though his death is not recorded within the narrative of the Iliad itself.
In this chapter, I argue that the anticipatory care given to Achilles’ corpse, as foreshadowed in the way the gods treat Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor, is itself an analogy for the epic tradition’s goal of preserving Achilles’ κλέος ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered fame’. The Iliad emphatically describes the corpses of Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor, each linked with Achilles’ own death, as being in danger of rotting (σήπεσθαι). Yet, the gods intervene to prevent the decay of these bodies through the application of special substances (ambrosia, nektar) applied to their flesh such that their bodies are for a short while removed from the progression of time and its powers of decay. Apollo, Thetis, and Aphrodite each act to delay the process of decay for a short while, until proper burial rituals can be carried out for the dead.
I argue that the preservation of these exquisite corpses serves as an analogue within the poem for the very project of the epic commemoration of Achilles—as if the epic were a “freezing” of temporal flow against the ravages of time. The tradition aims to preserve Achilles’ fame like ambrosia and nektar would his body: epic commemoration tries to remove the hero and his ‘fame’ (κλέος) from the decaying progression of time and hence render it ‘unwithered’ (ἄφθιτον). Yet, by this very analogy of modes of preservation, the temporally conditioned nature of the preservation implied by the tradition’s κλέος ἄφθιτον becomes clear, for, as I demonstrate below, the application of ambrosia and nektar (and whatever process is to be understood by the verb tarkhuein) to mortal bodies is necessarily conditioned by time: the gods can only temporarily remove a body from time. By analogy, then, the preservation implied by the κλέος ἄφθιτον of the tradition is itself conceived of as only a temporary preservation from the forces of time—Achilles’ fame can only be ‘not (yet) withered’ (ἀ-φθι-τον).

1. Sarpedon: tarkhuein, ambrosia, and the temporality of preservation

Let us begin with Sarpedon, son of Zeus and lord of the Lycians. In Book XVI of the Iliad Zeus ponders rescuing Sarpedon from his fated death. Hera dissuades him from doing so—not because it is beyond his power, but because it will create hard feelings among the other gods who have mortal children likewise fated to die in war. If Zeus really cares for his son, she argues, he will allow him to die and then see to the proper care of his mortal remains by sending Sarpedon’s corpse home so that his people can provide him fitting funerary rites.
ἀλλ ᾿ εἴ τοι φίλος ἐστί, τεὸν δ᾿ ὀλοφύρεται ἦτορ,
ἤτοι μέν μιν ἔασον ἐνὶ κρατερῇ ὑσμίνῃ
χέρσ’ ὑπὸ Πατρόκλοιο Μενοιτιάδαο δαμῆναι,
αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν δὴ τόν γε λίπῃ ψυχή τε καὶ αἰών,
πέμπειν μιν Θάνατόν τε φέρειν καὶ νήδυμον Ὕπνον,
εἰς ὅ κε δὴ Λυκίης εὐρείης δῆμον ἵκωνται,
ἔνθά ἑ ταρχύσουσι κασίγνητοί τε ἔται τε
τύμβῳ τε στήλῃ τε· τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ θανόντων.
But if he is dear to you, and your heart mourns for him,
in truth, I tell you, let him in the strong encounter
be subdued under the hands of Patroklos, Menoitios’ son,
but whenever his soul and life-force leave him,
send both Death and sweet Sleep to carry him
until they reach the people of wide Lycia,
where both his brothers and countrymen will pay him funeral rites,
with a burial mound and gravestone. For this is the privilege of those who have died.
Iliad XVI 450–457
Sarpedon is dear (φίλος) to Zeus, and Zeus’ heart mourns for him (τεὸν δ᾿ ὀλοφύρεται ἦτορ, XVI 450). But divine care does not entail preservation from death; rather, Zeus’ care is to take the form of grief coupled with concern that Sarpedon receive proper ritualized care in burial. In death, care for a loved one takes the form of preserving that loved one’s honor through providing all due ritual cares—what Homer calls the γέρας θανόντων. One’s γέρας is the manifestation of his or her honor; it is the indication of the degree of respect others feel for him or her made visible for all to see. [3] The γέρας of a dead man, Hera explains, consists of the proper treatment of his mortal remains: the practice of funeral rites (ταρχύειν), followed by the heaping up of a burial mound (τύμβος) and erection of a gravestone (στήλη). [4]
The treatment provided to the dead is of interest for our investigation, for it forms part of a ritual analogue to the commemorative epic itself that aims to preserve the memory of the fallen hero. As Hera notes, part of that ritual includes the burial of the dead, heaping up a burial mound, and erecting a gravestone. I look at the procedure of Homeric burial at length in chapter 4 below. In this chapter, I am interested in the period of time between death and before burial when characters express anxiety over the possible fate of the corpse of a loved one. This anxiety, I argue, is partly expressed through the verb ταρχύειν. The verb ταρχύειν presents special difficulty for interpretation because the question remains yet unresolved whether it is a term borrowed from an Anatolian source, or whether it is an inherited Proto-Indo-European word. In the former case, the exact meaning of the borrowed term is difficult to determine with certainty; in the latter case, cognates in other Indo-European languages may help us interpret the precise meaning of the verb. [5] Scholars have traced the verb back to a Lycian root *tarχu and indicated possible Indo-European cognates, citing Lycian *Trqqñt- (attested in the nominative singular Trqqas/Trqqiz and dative singular Trqqñti), an adjective designating a god who overcomes the wicked, and the related Luvian Tarḫunna/Tarḫunta/Tarḫunza, the name of the storm god and head of the Luvian pantheon; [6] further apparent cognates are the Hittite verbal stem tarḫzi and tarḫuzi/taruḫzi ‘to overcome’ with derivative adjective tarḫu- which means ‘conquering, victorious’. [7] The associations between the Greek ταρχύω and cognate Lycian, Luvian, and Hittite terms suggest a reconstructed Indo-European verbal root *tṛh 2- with the sense of ‘overcome, vanquish’. [8] The implication—if the theory of a Proto-Indo-European origin holds true—is that the rites provided to Sarpedon somehow ‘preserve’ him and help him ‘overcome’ or ‘vanquish’ death, perhaps through Lycian cult where he will be treated ‘like a god’. [9] Françoise Bader has suggested that the collocation of νέκυς ‘corpse’ and ταρχύω in Iliad VII 84–85 (τὸν δὲ νέκυν ἐπὶ νῆας ἐϋσσέλμους ἀποδώσω, | ὄφρά ἑ ταρχύσωσι κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοί) points to an actively felt relationship between *νεκ- and *tṛh 2 that appears most clearly in the etymology and semantics of νέκταρ (as we will discuss below), a substance applied to the corpses of Patroklos and Hektor to help them temporarily ‘overcome death’ through preserving them against the temporal force of decay—perhaps through some form of embalming (Bader 2002:11–12). [10] As Blümel stated, “In any case, *tarχu describes a man who is preserved far beyond his appointed death.” [11]
The etymology of ταρχύω is obscure and controversial, and it is surely unwise to base an interpretation of the text solely on it. However, it is possible to strengthen the claim that the verb ταρχύω implies ‘temporary preservation’ by investigating the specific details that appear in the context of Sarpedon’s death which point to the phenomenon of Sarpedon’s body ‘temporarily overcoming’ decomposition and decay. For, in addition to the funeral rites with burial mound and gravestone, Zeus requests special treatment for his son’s body before it is transported to Sarpedon’s homeland, where his people will see to his proper funeral.
εἰ δ᾿ ἄγε νῦν, φίλε Φοῖβε, κελαινεφὲς αἷμα κάθηρον
ἐλθὼν ἐκ βελέων Σαρπηδόνα, καί μιν ἔπειτα
πολλὸν ἄποπρο φέρων λοῦσον ποταμοῖο ῥοῇσιν
χρῖσόν τ’ ἀμβροσίῃ, περὶ δ’ ἄμβροτα εἵματα ἕσσον.
πέμπε δέ μιν πομποῖσιν ἅμα κραιπνοῖσι φέρεσθαι,
Ὕπνῳ καὶ Θανάτῳ διδυμάοσιν, οἵ ῥά μιν ὦκα
θήσουσ᾿ ἐν Λυκίης εὐρείης πίονι δήμῳ·
ἔνθά ἑ ταρχύσουσι χασίγνητοί τε ἔται τε
τύμβῳ τε στήλῃ τε· τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ θανόντων.
But come now, if you will, dear Phoibos, go and clean the dark blood
[caused] by the missiles from Sarpedon, [12] and then
carry him far away; bathe him in the running water of a river,
and anoint him with ambrosia, and clothe him all around in ambrosial clothing.
Then send to him the nimble messengers to carry him together,
Sleep and Death, twin brothers; they will swiftly
place him in the rich deme of wide Lycia.
There both his brothers and countrymen will pay him funeral rites,
with a burial mound and gravestone. For this is the privilege of those who have died.
Iliad XVI 667–675
Apollo is to remove the body some distance from the fighting, to separate him from the battle (πολλὸν ἄποπρο φέρων, XVI 669). [13] Then he is to wash (λοῦσον, XVI 669) and clean (κάθηρον, XVI 667) Sarpedon’s body of blood and gore (αἷμα, XVI 667) with fresh-running water and anoint his mortal flesh with immortal ointment, ambrosia (χρῖσόν τ᾿ ἀμβροσίῃ, XVI 670). Then he is to dress him in ambrosial clothing (περὶ δ᾿ ἄμβροτα εἵματα ἕσσον, XVI 670). The verb ταρχύω appears in this context: through Apollo’s application of ambrosia, the body may receive ritual care (ταρχύειν). For our argument, then, the meaning of ταρχύειν may be ascertained more securely through a study of the semantics of ambrosia.
Just what is this ambrosia used to anoint Sarpedon’s body and define his clothing, what does it have to do with the special treatment of the dead, and what does it tell us about the Greek experience of human temporality? An investigation of the etymology of the word “ambrosia” and its use in Greek myth will assist in our understanding of the scene. Ambrosia is closely associated with the gods’ immortality. The word ἀμβροσίη is related (an abstract noun built on an adjectival stem) to ἄμβροτος, a compound adjective consisting of alpha-privative (ἀ- ‘not’) plus the adjective ‘mortal’ (βροτός). [14] The Greek word family has been demonstrated to have secure foundations in the Indo-European root *ṇ-mṛto-, the privative form of the root indicating mortal; the well-attested Vedic cognate amṛ́tam denotes the food or drink of the gods which bestows immortality upon them. [15] The special property of ambrosia (and of nektar, the divine substance with which ambrosia is most frequently paired) [16] of bestowing immortality upon its recipient appears throughout early Greek mythic thought and literature. [17] In Homer, ambrosia sometimes appears as the food of the gods or of their immortal horses; [18] it is also described as an applied hygienic or beautifying agent, used especially for its fragrant aroma. [19] Its adjectival form describes Night [20] and Sleep [21] as well as the gods’ hands, [22] hair, [23] sandals, [24] and clothing. [25] Each of these uses indicates that ambrosia truly defines that which is more than mortal, what is proper to the gods and their possessions. Ambrosia is given to mortals only in very select instances. Only the clothes of Sarpedon and Achilles are called “ambrosial”; [26] only Achilles is fed ambrosia to allow him to continue his fast without growing weary on the battlefield; [27] and it is used to anoint the flesh of Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor alone. [28] In the case of its application to mortal flesh, it seems to act as a means to preserve that flesh—even if only temporarily—from the cycle of organic decay. We may compare Pindar Olympian 1.59–63 where Tantalus is given nektar and ambrosia by the gods, ‘by means of which they made him aphthiton’ (νέκταρ ἀμβροσίαν τε ... οἷσιν ἄφθιτον | θέν νιν). For Homer, the application of ambrosia to a corpse likewise appears to render it ἄφθιτον—and yet, the body does not remain ‘unwithered’ forever; rather, the body is preserved until it can be returned to its homeland where it will be given proper funerary rites, including burial with a tomb and gravestone. In other words, ambrosia and nektar, as immortal and immortalizing substances, [29] achieve for the hero’s body what epic claims to do for his fame: to render it ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered’.
Zeus, then, both does and does not follow Hera’s advice; he allows Sarpedon to die, but asks Apollo to “immortalize” him for a short time, to allay the decomposition of his corpse until proper funeral rites can be conducted among the people of Lycia. The care of the gods reveals itself as concern over the state of Sarpedon’s mortal remains: the respect due the dead (γέρας θανόντων) and the ‘overcoming’ function of ταρχύειν can only be offered to the dead whose body has been lovingly preserved against decay. There is some reason to think that the ‘preserving’ features of ταρχύειν may even include a kind of epic commemoration—the fixation of a pristine memory of the fallen—as we find in the third and final attestation of the verb in Homer where Hektor challenges the best of the Greeks to single-combat, and promises that he will return the corpse of his victim to his people,
ὄφρα ἑ ταρχύσωσι κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοί
σῆμά τε οἱ χεύωσιν ἐπὶ πλατεῖ Ἑλλησπόντῳ.
so that the long-haired Achaeans may pay him funeral rites
and heap up a tomb for him upon the broad Hellespont.
Iliad VII 85–86
Placing a tomb on the Hellespont is a strategy for preserving the memory and fame of the dead, as the tomb is set in a highly conspicuous location and will be looked upon by travelers who are envisioned as telling the tale of the dead as they pass by. [30] The rituals given to Sarpedon, then, whether cult or epic, are associated with the temporary preservation of the body through the immortalizing substance ambrosia and its power to remove the corpse from the cycle of decomposition; the corpse becomes ἄφθιτον, at least temporarily.
The application of ambrosia marks a violation of human temporal experience. The natural processes of decomposition and decay are halted and held in reserve. This disturbance of human temporal verisimilitude will become clearer as we look at the next two examples of Patroklos and Hektor. Divine intervention, like Apollo’s special treatment of Sarpedon, may slow the process of decomposition. But, as we will see, mortal corruption cannot be (or at least is not) permanently prevented; what we are left with is a temporality of the “not yet.”

2. Patroklos: empedos, nektar, and the temporality of duration

The ambrosia used to preserve Sarpedon’s mortal remains serves as a thematic link to the other important dead in the Iliad. Patroklos, Achilles’ nearest and dearest companion, likewise receives special treatment upon his death: his body is preserved by the application of ambrosia and nektar in an attempt to retard the process of decay.
Patroklos is slain by Hektor at the end of Book XVI of the Iliad. A long battle ensues over the body, the narration of which spans more than one-thousand verses [31] —Hektor and the Trojans attempt to capture the body and defile it, and the Achaeans strive to recover the body for proper burial. [32] Achilles single-handedly puts the Trojans to flight upon his return to the battlefield in an otherworldly, epiphanic appearance: he steps onto the battlefield dressed in the aegis (XVIII 203–204), his head is encircled with a flaming, golden cloud (XVIII 205–214), and he emits a terrifying, more-than-human shout (XVIII 217–221). [33] When the Greeks finally do recover the body, Achilles states that the body cannot yet be buried:
νῦν δ᾿ ἐπεὶ οὖν, Πάτροκλε, σέ᾿ ὕστερος εἶμ᾿ ὑπὸ γαῖαν,
οὔ σε πρὶν κτεριῶ, πρίν γ᾿ Ἕκτορος ἐνθάδ᾿ ἐνεῖκαι
τεύχεα καὶ κεφαλήν, μεγαθύμου σοῖο φονῆος.
But now since I will go under the earth later than you, Patroklos,
I will not bury you with honors until I have brought here Hektor’s
armor and head, since he was your great-hearted killer.
Iliad XVIII 333–335 [34]
The dramatic situation, in which Achilles seeks death as the blood-price for his fallen companion, entails another long delay before Patroklos can be buried. [35] The sheer delay itself becomes thematized within the narrative, such that Achilles stops himself from continuing his assault against the Trojans after Hektor’s death and recalls Patroklos still unburied body (XXII 378–394); [36] even more emphatically, the ghost of Patroklos visits Achilles to request that his burial not be delayed any further (XXIII 65–76). [37] It is within this context that we must consider the special treatment given to Patroklos’ corpse, which includes anointing with ambrosia and nektar so as to preserve his body from decay.
Book XIX of the Iliad opens with Thetis delivering the armor, newly fashioned by Hephaistos, to her son. Achilles accepts the weapons, but hesitates to arm himself and enter the fray, for he fears that ‘in the meantime’ (τόφρα) Patroklos’ corpse will suffer corruption and begin to rot:
μῆτερ ἐμὴ, τὰ μὲν ὅπλα θεὸς πόρεν οἷ’ ἐπιεικές
ἔργ’ ἔμεν ἀθανάτων, μηδὲ βροτὸν ἄνδρα τελέσσαι.
νῦν δ’ ἤτοι μὲν ἐγὼ θωρήξομαι· ἀλλὰ μάλ’ αἰνῶς
δείδω, μή μοι τόφρα Μενοιτίου ἄλκιμον υἱόν
μυῖαι καδδῦσαι κατὰ χαλκοτύπους ὠτειλάς
εὐλὰς ἐγγείνωνται, ἀεικίσσωσι δὲ νεκρόν
ἐκ δ’ αἰὼν πέφαται—κατὰ δὲ χρόα πάντα σαπήῃ.
Τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα θεὰ Θέτις ἀργυρόπεζα·
τέκνον, μή τοι ταῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶ σῇσι μελόντων.
τῷ μὲν ἐγὼ πειρήσω ἀλαλκεῖν ἄγρια φῦλα
μυίας, αἵ ῥά τε φῶτας ἀρηϊφάτους κατέδουσιν.
ἤν περ γὰρ κεῖταί γε τελεσφόρον εἰς ἐνιαυτόν,
αἰεὶ τῷ γ’ ἔσται χρὼς ἔμπεδος, ἢ καὶ ἀρείων.
................................................................................
ὣς ἄρα φωνήσασα μένος πολυθαρσὲς ἐνῆκε·
Πατρόκλῳ δ᾿ αὖτ᾿ ἀμβροσίην καὶ νέκταρ ἐρυθρόν
στάξε κατὰ ῥινῶν, ἵνα οἱ χρὼς ἔμπεδος εἴη.
“Mother of mine, a god has bestowed these weapons—they are the sort
of work that is befitting of the immortals—not for a mortal man to complete.
And now, in truth, I tell you, I will arm myself. But very terribly
am I afraid lest in the meantime the flies enter
Menoitios’ strong son, down through the wounds beaten into him by bronze,
and breed maggots, and do unbefitting things to the corpse
now that his life has been slain out of him—and that all his flesh may completely rot.”
And then she answered him, the goddess Thetis of the silver feet:
“My child, may these things not be a cause of care to you in your mind.
I will attempt to ward off from him the swarming race
of flies, which always devour men slain in war.
For even if he lies until a year has brought its completion,
his flesh will always be empedos , or even better.”
....................................................................................
After she spoke to him thus, she sent very courageous might into him,
and in turn for Patroklos ambrosia and red nektar
she instilled through his nose, so that his flesh might be empedos .
Iliad XIX 21–33, 37–39
Achilles praises the armor his mother has brought him from Hephaistos, master craftsman of the gods. It is work ‘befitting’ (ἐπιεικές, XIX 21) the gods themselves. And yet, at the same time that he praises the handiwork that will protect his body in battle, he is worried that flies and worms ‘may do unbefitting things’ (ἀεικίσσωσι, XIX 26) to Patroklos’ body. Unlike Achilles’ body, still supple and intact and soon to be covered with metallic armor, Patroklos’ body is open and vulnerable, stripped of his armor by Hektor and punctured by ‘bronze-beaten wounds’ (χαλκοτύπους ὠτειλάς, XIX 25), into which corruption may enter the corpse and cause it to rot away entirely (κατὰ δὲ χρόα πάντα σαπήῃ, XIX 27). Achilles has failed to defend his friend in life and fears he will be unable to do so again in death; [38] he expresses the poignant awareness that his promise not to bury Patroklos until he has killed Hektor entails certain consequences. Time truly is of the essence. [39]
It is Thetis who will defend Patroklos in death by ‘warding off’ (ἀλαλκεῖν, XIX 30) the flies from his corpse, a claim that colors the goddess as a warrior in battle, defending her people against the foemen. [40] Importantly, the verb ἀλέξω is used repeatedly to indicate not only the defense of one’s companions or city from the enemy, but quite specifically, the defense of the hero’s body from mutilation by dogs or flies. [41] Thetis says she will defend Patroklos’ body by anointing it with ambrosia and red nektar in order to preserve his flesh “so that it may be empedos.” There are two key terms here we need to examine in order to grasp the temporal implications of the episode: empedos and nektar.
The adjective empedos appears to be formed from the compound ἐν ‘on, in’ plus πέδον ‘ground’; its most basic sense is ‘in place’, with extended meanings of ‘unchanged, undisturbed, still present’, as well as the metaphorical ‘firm, reliable, continuous’. [42] In his comprehensive study of the uses of the adjective in early Greek epic, M. A. Harder emphasizes that empedos does not indicate a permanent quality, but rather the absence of change—for the time being—of place, activity, intention, or quality. [43] I append a few important examples for our study:
[A]τὸ καὶ οὔ τι πολύν χρόνον ἔμπεδον ἦεν (Iliad XII 9)
[sc. The Achaean wall] was not to be in place for a very long time at all
[B]ἤ μοι ἔτ᾿ ἔμπεδόν ἐστι ... λέχος (Odyssey xxiii 203)
or is my bed still in place?
[C] ἔτι μοι μένος ἔμπεδόν ἐστιν (Iliad V 254)
my might is still in place
[D]εἴθ᾿ ὣς ἠβώοιμι, βίη δέ μοι ἔμπεδος εἴη (Iliad VII 157)
if only I were as I was in my youth and my strength were in place ...
Example [A] is the Iliadic narrator’s comment on the Achaean defensive wall erected in Book VII of the Iliad. Although it is ‘in place’ for the moment, it will not long remain so; its present quality of stability, indicated by the adjective empedos, is not permanent. Likewise, in example [B] we find Odysseus questioning Penelope whether the wedding bed he constructed out of a live tree, around which he built his entire household, is still ‘in place’ and attached to the roots of the tree, or has been undercut and moved elsewhere. [44] Odysseus’ very question indicates the temporal status of his bed’s proper placement: its displacement is always possible, such that its status as empedos is temporally conditioned. In example [C] Diomedes rejects Sthenelus’ advice to give way before Pandarus and Aeneas, for, he claims, his might is still ‘in place’. A warrior’s menos is not a permanent and stable quality, as indicated by the adverbial ἔτι ‘still’: Diomedes can stand against Aeneas and Pandarus now, but at another time, when his resources have dwindled, he will have to retire. And finally, in example [D] Nestor expresses the impossible wish that he still had his youthful vigor—for then his strength would be ‘in place’. Unlike Diomedes, Nestor is no longer in possession of a menos that is empedos: old age has sapped his strength. Examples [C] and [D] both concern the warrior’s menos ‘might’ as a property of the “organic continuity” of the young warrior which must continually be replenished through rest and the consumption of food. [45]
In each of these examples we see empedos used to describe a transitory state of being. Let us return to our passage. Thetis promises that she will defend Patroklos’ corpse from decay with nektar which will keep his flesh empedos:
ἤν περ γὰρ κεῖταί γε τελεσφόρον εἰς ἐνιαυτόν,
αἰεὶ τῷ γ’ ἔσται χρὼς ἔμπεδος, ἢ καὶ ἀρείων.
For even if he lies until a year has brought its completion,
his flesh will continually be empedos , or even better.
Iliad XIX 32–33
Thetis promises that Patroklos’ flesh will be held in a state of uprightness: it will remain stable, more alive than dead, more like a young man full of menos ‘might’ than an old man whose prime has passed. And yet, the very temporal terms that Thetis introduces into her promise, that Patroklos’ flesh will ‘always/continually’ (αἰεί, XIX 33) remain ‘in place’ even as long as a year (τελεσφόρον εἰς ἐνιαυτόν, XIX 32), indicate that the period of being and remaining empedos is always bounded by temporal limits for mortals and their bodies. As Alex Purves has noted, “To be empedos is thus briefly to achieve an ideal of the human body that cannot be upheld in practice—to be secure on the feet and lasting throughout time” (Purves 2006a:191). In other words, the adverb aiei ‘always’ in Thetis’ promise must not be understood as an offer to keep Patroklos empedos for an unbounded ‘forever’, but rather as referring to a continuous state within the bounds of a specified period of time. That is to say, Thetis’ promise is not one of permanence, but only of long duration—the body will rot eventually; she merely buys Achilles some time to complete his promise of slaying Hektor before he buries his companion.
This reading of the passage is further supported by an examination of the etymology and semantics of nektar. Nektar is most often paired with ambrosia in early Greek poetry (cf. ἀμβροσίην καὶ νέκταρ, Iliad XIX 38; νέκταρ τε καὶ ἀμβροσίην, Iliad XIX 347), and like ambrosia, it is closely associated with the immortal gods; it is their food or drink, or their perfumed ointment or oil. In every instance, it plays a constructive role in the gods’ identity as gods. Nektar acts, in Greek thought, as one of the devices by which the gods are marked as separate and different than mortals (Clay 1982). The etymology of the word is difficult and remains in contentious debate. The initial element *νεκ- provides little difficulty: it is the Indo-European radical theme II*ǝ 2 nek- ‘death’ (according to Benveniste’s terminology: Benveniste 1935:18), as found in Greek νεκ-ρός, νέκ-υς, νέκ-ες (= νεκροί ‘the dead’, according to Hesychius); Latin nex, ēnectus, noxa, and noceō (Householder Jr. and Nagy 1972:52). The difficulty arises with the second element *–ταρ. Benveniste explained it in terms of a nominal suffix formation (Benveniste 1935:18); however, the semantic pairing of νέκταρ with ἀμβροσίη (i.e. ‘death’ with ‘immortal/immortalizing substance’) creates a problem with this analysis. In recent work on the subject Calvert Watkins argues for an analysis of *neǩ-tṛh 2-, in which the Indo-European verbal root *tṛh 2- ‘to overcome (temporarily)’ is reflected back to the nominal root *neǩ- (Watkins 1995:391–393, West 2007:158). [46] In other words, nektar is ‘[that which] overcomes death’ at least temporarily. [47] I wish to emphasize the ‘temporary’ quality noted by Watkins and others. The significance of this interpretation for our reading is that the ‘victory’ over the further ‘death’ of Patroklos—the legions of flies, maggots, and rot—is only temporary. The status of the body is held in static reserve. [48]
When Thetis promises Achilles that she will defend Patroklos’ body from the corruption of flies, maggots, and decay through ambrosia and nektar, her promise is not that she will ‘immortalize’ the corpse and entirely remove it from the destructive forces of time forever. Rather, her protection is a temporary and temporally conditioned aid granted to Achilles to give him time to complete his own heroic endeavor of killing Hektor before he has to worry about Patroklos’ funeral.
τῷ μὲν ἐγὼ πειρήσω ἀλαλκεῖν ἄγρια φῦλα
μυίας, αἵ ῥά τε φῶτας ἀρηϊφάτους κατέδουσιν.
ἤν περ γὰρ κεῖταί γε τελεσφόρον εἰς ἐνιαυτόν,
αἰεὶ τῷ γ’ ἔσται χρὼς ἔμπεδος, ἢ καὶ ἀρείων.
..............................................................................
ὣς ἄρα φωνήσασα μένος πολυθαρσὲς ἐνῆκε·
Πατρόκλῳ δ᾿ αὖτ᾿ ἀμβροσίην καὶ νέκταρ ἐρυθρόν
στάξε κατὰ ῥινῶν, ἵνα οἱ χρὼς ἔμπεδος εἴη.
I will attempt to ward off from him the swarming race
of flies, which always devour men slain in war.
For even if he lies until a year has brought its completion,
his flesh will always be empedos , or even better.”
....................................................................................
And so after she spoke to him thus, she sent very courageous might into him,
and in turn for Patroklos ambrosia and red nektar
she instilled through his nose, so that his flesh might be empedos .
Iliad XIX 30–33, 37–39
Thetis makes Patroklos’ flesh empedos—temporarily ‘in place’—by applying ambrosia and nektar, two substances that temporarily ‘immortalize’ his body by removing it from the passage of time. Thetis preserves Patroklos continuously (αἰεί, XIX 33), but not eternally: the reference to the passing of a year in a conditional temporal expression (“even if it takes a full year”: cf. XIX 32) indicates a limit to Thetis’ protection. Sooner or later the body will return to mortal time, and only funeral rites can prevent the body’s disintegration by decay and predation.
I wish to make one final note about the scene where Thetis delivers Achilles’ new armor to her son, who is caught up in his concern over the durability of Patroklos’ mortal remains. The armor is the work of Hephaistos, [49] and like all divine craft, it is marked as possessing special qualities: beauty, [50] elaborate detail, [51] and extreme durability. [52] The scene presents us with a striking contrast: on the one hand lies the immortal armor of Hephaistos, and on the other, the all-too-mortal corpse of Patroklos, which cannot be buried until Hektor, his killer, has paid the blood price for his death. The difference between flesh and metal, between mortal and immortal material, stands out clearly—one will last, the other will not. Thetis’ intervention is meant to provide a temporary protection for Patroklos’ body; the nektar and ambrosia will keep away decay for an unspecified amount of time, but one with definite limits. It is most instructive to learn, then, that the new armor Hephaistos makes for Achilles, presumably as “immortal” as the earlier set of arms stripped from Patroklos’ body and now worn by Hektor, [53] will not prevent Achilles from dying altogether, but only keep him safe for a while. Hephaistos says to Thetis upon her request for the armor:
αἲ γάρ μιν θανάτοιο δυσηχέος ὧδε δυναίμην
νόσφιν ἀποκρύψαι, ὅτε μιν μόρος αἰνὸς ἱκάνοι,
ὥς οἱ τεύχεα καλὰ παρέσσεται, οἷά τις αὖτε
ἀνθρώπων πολέων θαυμάσσεται, ὅς κεν ἴδηται.
If only I were thus able to hide him far away
from terrible sounding death, whenever awful fate catches up with him,
as surely as beautiful armor will be provided for him, the sort that now one,
now another out of many men will wonder at, whoever catches sight of it.
Iliad XVIII 464–467
Hephaistos expresses the impossible wish that he could save Achilles, hide him away from his fate; but he cannot. [54] The best he can do is provide beautiful, glorious, god-made armor. [55] Can we not say that Achilles’ ἄμβροτα τεύχεα functions like the nektar and ambrosia, acting to preserve the hero, to keep him empedos “in place” for a short time only, but then no more?

3. Hektor: the temporality of delay

It would be easy to think that the death of Hektor marks the climax of the action of the Iliad. After all, Achilles promised that he would not bury his companion Patroklos until he avenged his death. Moreover, the death scene itself is literally spectacular—Achilles cuts down his opponent as the helpless Trojans look on from the battlements of the city wall (Griffin 1978, 1980:179–204). Achilles drags the body back to the Achaean camp, and afterwards conducts funeral rites and celebratory games for his dead companion. However, the very fact of Patroklos’ burial reveals a sharp contrast between the treatment of the two corpses: Patroklos is given proper rites, whereas Hektor is left to rot and be devoured by birds and dogs (Macleod 1982:18, Richardson 1993:272). The contrast is invested with emotional tension by the very lavish nature of Patroklos’ burial and games. Meanwhile, Hektor’s abused and unburied body becomes an image of duration itself; Achilles will not submit to its burial, but through divine agency it will neither rot nor be devoured. The gods themselves feel the force of time weighing down on the impossible situation of what to do about the body. The status of Hektor’s body is held in reserve until the time when Achilles finally submits to let go of his anger and to release the body to Priam. The body, preserved by the gods, is allowed to be buried and to re-enter the scale of human temporality once again.
In short, the Iliad contains another narrative climax, a more subtle one, in which human temporality, left in disarray by the multiple supernatural violations of the mortal cycle of death and decay, must be put on track once again. The issue of human temporality raised in the final books of the Iliad focuses on the status of Hektor’s body; the two subjects, mortal time and the human body, are inseparably bound in their resolutions. [56] The restoration of mortal time constitutes the emotional climax of the Iliad.
Achilles leaves Hektor to rot and be eaten by birds and dogs—in a heated moment Achilles wishes he could eat Hektor’s flesh himself (XXII 345–354). [57] Andromache imagines the pitiful treatment of Hektor’s body as she watches Achilles drag it away from the city:
νῦν δὲ σὲ μὲν παρὰ νηυσὶ κορωνίσι νόσφι τοκήων
αἰόλαι εὐλαὶ ἔδονται, ἐπεί κε κύνες κορέσωνται,
γυμνόν.
But now beside the curving ships, far away from your parents,
wriggling maggots will eat you, whenever the dogs have had their fill,
[as you lie] naked.
Iliad XXII 508–510
The image of Hektor being eaten by dogs, birds, and worms weighs heavily on the minds of the Trojans (cf. XXIV 210–211). They express the same fear of the forces of decay that Achilles feels regarding Patroklos’ remains, as indicated by Andromache’s mention of αἰόλαι εὐλαί, a phrase whose play between vowels and liquid consonants matches the very ‘wriggling’ these ‘maggots’ will do in their host’s flesh (Richardson 1993:162). But worse than the fear of decay is that of dogs who will devour Hektor’s body, as they eat the nameless, unburied dead on the battlefield. [58] The possibility is explicitly noted by Achilles, as he speaks to the shade of Patroklos now in Hades, once again emphasizing the difference between proper and improper treatment of the hero’s body:
χαῖρέ μοι, ὦ Πάτροκλε, καὶ εἰν Ἀΐδαο δόμοισιν·
πάντα γὰρ ἤδη τοι τετελεσμένα, ὥς περ ὑπέστην,
δώδεκα μὲν Τρώων μεγαθύμων υἱέας ἐσθλούς
τοὺς ἅμα σοὶ πάντας πῦρ ἐσθίει· Ἕκτορα δ’ οὔ τι
δώσω Πριαμίδην πυρὶ δαπτέμεν, ἀλλὰ κύνεσσιν.
Ὣς φάτ’ ἀπειλήσας· τὸν δ’ οὐ κύνες ἀμφεπένοντο,
ἀλλὰ κύνας μὲν ἄλαλκε Διὸς θυγάτηρ Ἀφροδίτη
ἤματα καὶ νύκτας, ῥοδόεντι δὲ χρῖεν ἐλαίῳ
ἀμβροσίῳ, ἵνα μή μιν ἀποδρύφοι ἑλκυστάζων.
τῷ δ’ ἐπὶ κυάνεον νέφος ἤγαγε Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
οὐρανόθεν πεδίονδε, κάλυψε δὲ χῶρον ἅπαντα
ὅσσον ἐπεῖχε νέκυς, μὴ πρὶν μένος ἠελίοιο
σκήλει’ ἀμφὶ περὶ χρόα ἴνεσιν ἠδὲ μέλεσσιν.
“Hail, my friend Patroklos, even in the house of Hades—
for everything has been accomplished for you, just as I promised before:
twelve noble sons of the great-hearted Trojans
all of whom the fire will devour along with you. But Hektor,
son of Priam, I will not at all give to the fire to eat, but to the dogs.”
Thus he spoke, threatening. But the dogs did not gather about him,
but rather Aphrodite, Zeus’ daughter, warded off the dogs
throughout days and nights, and she anointed him with a rosy,
ambrosial oil, so [Achilles] might not tear his flesh by continually dragging it.
And upon him Phoibos Apollo led a dark cloud
from heaven to the ground, and covered the entire space,
however much the corpse was taking up, lest too soon the might of the sun
might wither his flesh all around on his sinews and limbs.
Iliad XXIII 179–191
At the very moment when Achilles offers Patroklos funeral rites, he excludes Hektor from the possibility of such rites. [59] Instead of giving the body “to the fire to eat,” Achilles gives him “to the dogs [to eat].” And yet, the mutilation of the corpse feared by Andromache and desired by Achilles does not occur.
The pattern of care extended to Hektor’s body is already familiar from our study of Sarpedon’s and Patroklos’ remarkable bodies. [60] Like those two warriors before him, Hektor is anointed with ambrosial oil that serves to prevent bodily deterioration for an indeterminate period of time. In this passage the deterioration is concretized in the figure of the dogs that Aphrodite “wards off,” just as Thetis promised to “ward off” the flies from Patroklos’ corpse (XIX 30–31). The dogs function as a strong transition between Achilles’ threatening speech at Patroklos’ burial and the divine protection of Hektor—note the triple repetition of ‘dogs’ used in three successive verses: κύνεσσιν, κύνες, κύνας (XXIII 183–185). Meanwhile, Apollo repeats his role as a caretaker of bodies—he protects the body from the harsh rays of the sun by enshrouding (κάλυψε, XXIII 189) its entire volume in a dark cloud (κυάνεον νέφος, XXIII 188). The cloud provides shade and moisture, a defense against premature drying. [61] I emphasize “premature” here, for the text provides clear evidence that once again, these procedures of preservation are merely temporary: the πρίν of XXIII 190 which I translate here as ‘too soon’ indicates that the body will eventually decay. Apollo’s task is to ensure it does not happen before the body has been returned to the Trojans to bury it properly. [62]
There is a third destructive force in the preceding passage, though it is merely alluded to. Aphrodite wards off dogs and then anoints the body with ambrosial oil ‘so that [Achilles] might not tear his flesh by continually dragging it’ (ἵνα μή μιν ἀποδρύφοι ἑλκυστάζων, XXIII 187). The shift to the third-person singular in the Greek after the text’s insistence on the distinctly plural dogs is jarring. The reference looks forward to Book XXIV when we learn that Achilles regularly drags Hektor’s corpse around Patroklos’ tomb (XXIV 14–18, cited below); [63] the juxtaposition creates a virtual simile, suggesting that Achilles is himself like one of the dogs he wishes would rend Hektor’s flesh. We find the description of Achilles dragging Hektor’s corpse around the tomb of Patroklos at the very opening of Book XXIV, a passage worth reading in full for its many interesting observations regarding human and divine temporality:
αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεύς
κλαῖε φίλου ἑτάρου μεμνημένος, οὐδέ μιν ὕπνος
ᾕρει πανδαμάτωρ, ἀλλ᾿ ἐστρέφετ᾿ ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα,
Πατρόκλου ποθέων ἀνδροτῆτά τε καὶ μένος ἠΰ,
ἠδ᾿ ὁπόσα τολύπευσε σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ πάθεν ἄλγεα,
ἀνδρῶν τε πτολέμους ἀλεγεινά τε κύματα πείρων·
τῶν μιμνησκόμενος θαλερὸν κατὰ δάκρυον εἶβεν,
ἄλλοτ᾿ ἐπὶ πλευρὰς κατακείμενος, ἄλλοτε δ᾿ αὖτε
ὕπτιος, ἄλλοτε δὲ πρηνής· τοτὲ δ᾿ ὀρθὸς ἀναστάς
δινεύεσκ᾿ ἀλύων παρὰ θῖν᾿ ἁλός. οὐδέ μιν Ἠώς
φαινομένη λήθεσκεν ὑπεὶρ ἅλα τ᾿ ἠϊόνας τε.
ἀλλ᾿ ὅ γ᾿ ἐπεὶ ζεύξειεν ὑφ᾿ ἅρμασιν ὠκέας ἵππους,
Ἕκτορα δ᾿ ἕλκεσθαι δησάσκετο δίφρου ὄπισθεν·
τρὶς δ᾿ ἐρύσας περὶ σῆμα Μενοιτιάδαο θανόντος
αὖτις ἐνὶ κλισίῃ παυέσκετο, τὸν δέ τ᾿ ἔασκεν
ἐν κόνι ἐκτανύσας προπρηνέα. τοῖο δ’ Ἀπόλλων
πᾶσαν ἀεικείην ἄπεχε χροΐ, φῶτ’ ἐλεαίρων
καὶ τεθνηότα περ, περὶ δ’ αἰγίδι πάντα κάλυπτεν
χρυσείῃ, ἵνα μή μιν ἀποδρύφοι ἑλκυστάζων.
But Achilles
wept as he remembered his dear companion, nor did Sleep
seize him, who subdues all, but he tossed and turned here and there,
longing for Patroklos and his manhood and goodly might
and all the things which he accomplished with him and the pains he suffered,
getting through both the wars of men and difficult waters. [64]
Continually remembering these things, he shed down swelling tears,
at one time lying down upon his side, and at another again
on his back, and still another face-down. Then standing straight up
he continually circled about in distraction beside the sea’s shore. Nor did dawn
ever escape his notice as she appeared over the sea and the sea-banks.
But he, whenever he would yoke his swift horses beneath the chariot,
he would bind Hektor behind the carriage to drag him,
and after pulling him three times around the tomb of Menoitios’ dead son,
he would continually pause once again in his shelter, but would continually leave
him stretched out, face-down in the dust. But Apollo
took pity on the mortal and held away everything unseemly from his flesh,
even though he was only a dead man. And he covered him all around
with the golden aegis, so that [Achilles] might not tear his flesh by continually dragging it.
Iliad XXIV 3–21
Achilles abuses Hektor’s corpse out of longing (ποθέων, XXIV 6) for Patroklos. As we noted in the Introduction above while discussing the temporality of “no longer” that attends the experience of extreme loss, here signaled by Achilles’ pothos for Patroklos, phenomenological psychology describes how the melancholic patient experiences time slowing down as the horizons of the future itself seem to close off: “The loss of goal-oriented capacities of the body, of drive, appetite and desire are equivalent to a slowing-down and finally standstill of lived time. Thus the past, the guilt, the losses and failures gain dominance over the future and its possibilities” (Fuchs 2005a:119). Time indeed seems to slow for Achilles in the repetitive nature of his dragging Hektor’s body: the use of imperfect verbs (ᾕρει, XXIV 5; ἐστρέφετο, XXIV 5; εἶβεν, XXIV 9), iterative verbs and participles (μιμνησκόμενος, XXIV 9; δινεύεσκε, XXIV 12; λήθεσκεν, XXIV 13; δησάσκετο, XXIV 15; παυέσκετο, XXIV 17; ἔασκεν, XXIV 17), generalizing optatives (ζεύξειεν, XXIV 14), and spatial-temporal adverbs (ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα, XXIV 5; ἄλλοτε, XXIV 20–22 [three times] ; αὖτε, XXIV 10; αὖτις, XXIV 17) all indicate that the forward progress of time has collapsed for Achilles. Colin Macleod has well described the effect created by the multiple frequentative verbs in the passage: “the description of one night merges into a series of nights” (Macleod 1982:86). [65] The single event becomes serialized, and each action takes on the weight of its repeated predecessor. The effect is vertiginous; time is lost in the transition from the single night following the funeral games to the present. It is not until verse XXIV 31 that the elapsed time is measured out: ‘but truly when it was the twelfth dawn from that day [sc. when Hektor died]’ (ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή ῥ᾿ ἐκ τοῖο δυωδεκάτη γένετ᾿ ἠώς, XXIV 31). [66] Yet, in the midst of Achilles’ serial abuse of Hektor’s body in which time expands continually outward from singular instance to serial repetition, we find Apollo working against that time, seeking to diminish its ravages through the application of yet another magical substance, the golden aegis wrapped around Hektor’s body. Note that XXIV 21 is a formulaic repetition of XXIII 187 with analogical substitution of χρυσείῃ for the metrically equivalent ἀμβροσίῳ in the same position (allowing spondaic substitution, i.e. – – – for – u u –). [67] That is to say, the aegis functions within the metrical, semantic, and mythological registers as an equivalent substitution for the ambrosial oil Aphrodite applies to the corpse as a means of preserving it from the rending of the flesh by dogs and Achilles. [68]
The gods themselves experience the weight and depth of the twelve days since Hektor’s death. Zeus explains to Thetis when he summons her in Book XXIV,
ἐννῆμαρ δὴ νεῖκος ἐν ἀθανάτοισιν ὄρωρεν
Ἕκτορος ἀμφὶ νέκυι καὶ Ἀχιλλῆϊ πτολιπόρθῳ.
Indeed, for nine days a quarrel has arisen among the immortals
about Hektor’s corpse and Achilles, sacker of cities.
Iliad XXIV 107–108
Time is out of joint; both the human and divine worlds are at an impasse. Achilles’ repetition of abuse is countered by Apollo and Aphrodite applying divine preservatives. Time has become a vicious circle as Achilles seeks psychological closure through the image of the rotting body of Hektor: the decay of flesh mimics the healing of self-inflicted wounds to one’s face and body in traditional Greek funeral rites; [69] time’s effects on a body measure the limits of one’s own mourning. [70] But since Hektor’s body will not decay, Achilles is himself caught up in the non-human temporality of delay: time has slowed for him as his repetitive action can produce no resolution. Achilles is himself like the corpses of Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor—he is in a kind of suspended animation between life and death, vitality and decay. [71]
It is up to Zeus to restore proper temporality to men and gods. This restoration is accomplished over and through the body of Hektor; Achilles must be persuaded to let go of his anger and return the body to Priam so that it may be burned and buried. Zeus sends Hermes, the god of crossing boundaries, to broker the exchange; the body is moved from Achilles’ tent where it lingers in an unstable and timeless situation, neither decaying nor yet able to remain intact for very long, to the city of Hektor’s people. Hermes, disguised as a henchman of Achilles, approaches Priam as he makes his way to ransom back the body of Hektor, and describes the as-yet-uncorrupted state of the corpse:
ὦ γέρον, οὔ πω τόν γε κύνες φάγον οὐδ’ οἰωνοί,
ἀλλ’ ἔτι κεῖνος κεῖται Ἀχιλλῆος παρὰ νηΐ
αὔτως ἐν κλισίῃσι· δυωδεκάτη δέ οἱ ἤδη
κειμένῳ, οὐδέ τί οἱ χρὼς σήπεται, οὐδέ μιν εὐλαί
ἔσθουσ’, αἵ ῥά τε φῶτας ἀρηϊφάτους κατέδουσιν.
ἦ μέν μιν περὶ σῆμα ἑοῦ ἑτάροιο φίλοιο
ἕλκει ἀκηδέστως, ἠὼς ὅτε δῖα φανήῃ,
οὐδέ μιν αἰσχύνει· θηοῖό κεν αὐτὸς ἐπελθών,
οἷον ἐερσήεις κεῖται, περὶ δ’ αἷμα νένιπται,
οὐδέ ποθι μιαρός· σὺν δ’ ἕλκεα πάντα μέμυκεν,
ὅσσ’ ἐτύπη· πολέες γὰρ ἐν αὐτῷ χαλκὸν ἔλασσαν.
ὥς τοι κήδονται μάκαρες θεοὶ υἷος ἑῆος
καὶ νέκυός περ ἐόντος, ἐπεί σφι φίλος περὶ κῆρι.
Old man, not yet have the dogs eaten him, nor the birds,
but that man still lies beside Achilles’ ship
among the encampments as before. But it is already the twelfth day for him
lying there, but neither is his flesh rotten at all, nor do maggots
eat him, which indeed always devour mortals slain in battle.
True, around the tomb of his dear companion
he drags him without offering funeral rites, whenever brilliant dawn appears
but he does not mutilate him. You yourself can look in wonder when you go there
how he lies fresh with dew, and the blood all around has been washed from him,
nor is he defiled anywhere. All the wounds have closed up,
all the ones that were struck; for many drove bronze into him.
So, I tell you, the blessed gods care for your son,
even though he is but a corpse, since he was dear to them at heart.
Iliad XXIV 411–423
Hermes’ description of Hektor’s body is at once both graphic and tender, for, as Hermes explains, though he is but a corpse, the gods hold him dear to their hearts. The care they render (κήδονται, XXIV 422) is represented as a delaying of natural processes, as the stark ‘not yet’ (οὔ πω, XXIV 411) at the beginning of the speech emphasizes. [72] These natural processes include decay (σήπεται, XXIV 414) and the onset of maggots (εὐλαί, XXIV 414), whose inevitable invasion has been forestalled by the magical closing of Hektor’s wounds (σὺν δ’ ἕλκεα πάντα μέμυκεν, XXIV 420), [73] virtually creating a hermetic seal against decay. [74] Achilles himself has not mutilated (αἰσχύνει, XXIV 418) the corpse, but only drags it around Patroklos’ grave in the morning. After twelve days, Hektor lies clean and dewy fresh (ἐερσήεις, XXIV 419)—the sight is indeed a wonder for Priam to behold (θηοῖό, XXIV 418). [75]
The ‘not yet’ (οὔ πω) of Hektor’s body indicates a body at the boundaries of mortal and immortal time. It has not been allowed to rot or to be buried; life has been held in check. The events of a single day, exemplified by Achilles’ insomnia and ritual abuse of the corpse, have expanded to fill the entire narrative—until now. Once the exchange of Hektor’s corpse is completed, life begins to flow once again, and those who refused to take part in its activities begin to participate once more. Priam, who had formerly not eaten nor slept, now eats and sleeps, and Achilles once again sleeps with Briseïs at his side. [76] The Trojans are finally able to grieve over the loss of their husband, son, friend, and protector: through mourning Hektor, the city prepares for its own forthcoming demise. Lastly, the world of action is returned to human time, where the only delays are those imposed through the agreement of men, such as Achilles’ promise to hold off the Achaeans for twelve days to allow Priam time to bury Hektor (XXIV 656–672, 779–781). This twelve-day period is not the product of divine intervention, but of a pact made between human adversaries brought together, however temporarily, by the bonds of χάρις ‘kindness, goodwill, and, in response, a profound gratitude’, [77] and as such is subject to vicissitude and uncertainty. Trojan guards stand watch during the burial ‘lest the well-greaved Achaeans attack too soon’ (μὴ πρὶν ἐφορμηθεῖεν ἐϋκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοί, XXIV 800).
The time set aside for Hektor’s funeral, though extended and filled with ritual care for Hektor’s mortal remains, will eventually come to an end. [78] The χάρις ‘kindness, goodwill, and, in response, a profound gratitude’ between enemies will eventually also come to an end with the resumption of hostilities between Trojans and Achaeans. At some unspecified point after Hektor’s funeral, Achilles himself is to make his return to battle, where death will eventually catch up with him. The Iliad has virtually narrated these events, though not directly within the limits of the poem itself. The Iliad claims for itself the duty of preserving the κλέος ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered fame’ of its hero, and accomplishes this feat by drawing to a close while its hero is “still perfectly” alive and “not yet” dead. Nevertheless, as we have traced through the preceding chapters, the logic of the “still perfectly” and the “not yet” always operates within a bounded temporal system. One can be “still perfectly” and “not yet” only from a future-perfect perspective which acknowledges an end. The “still perfectly” and “not yet” of both Achilles and his epic tradition can exist and thrive only insofar as they are oriented toward their own future and the possibility of their respective ends.

Footnotes

[ back ] 1. Heyne observes, “Animae morientium sunt μαντικαί” (‘The souls of men who are about to die are ‘prophetic’’, Heyne 1821:385, comment at Iliad XXII 358). Consider Patroklos’ prophetic dying words spoken to Hektor at Iliad XVI 851–854: ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω, σὺ δ’ ἐνὶ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσιν· | οὔ θην οὐδ’ αὐτὸς δηρὸν βέε᾿, ἀλλά τοι ἤδη | ἄγχι παρέστηκεν Θάνατος καὶ Μοῖρα κραταιή, | χερσὶ δαμέντ᾿ Ἀχιλῆος ἀμύμονος Αἰκίδαο, ‘But I will tell you another thing, and do you cast it into your heart: you yourself will certainly not live long, but already for you Death and strong Fate are standing at hand, to be subdued at the hands of blameless Achilles, Aeacus’ son’. See further Heyne 1821:184 (comment at Iliad XVI 842–854), Rohde 1925:36, 52n69, and Burgess 2009:45.
[ back ] 2. References to Achilles’ death occur several times throughout the Iliad: I 352, 416, IX 410–416, XVII 401–409, XVIII 37–60, XVIII 95–99, 329–332, XIX 416–417, XXI 108–113, 277–278, XXII 359–360, XXIII 80–81. See Burgess 2009:41–55 for discussion and further bibliography. Achilles is the only major character in the Iliad to have foreknowledge of his fate; some minor characters, such as Euchenor (XIII 663–670), possess such knowledge: see King 1987:237n14 and Burgess 2009:43.
[ back ] 3. Benveniste 1969:II.43–50, Adkins 1972, Garland 1982, Staten 1993:342–343, 347, 354, 360n14, Antonaccio 1994:397 with nn42–44, and Finkelberg 1998. See Garland 1982 on the association of γέρας with γῆρας ‘old age’: Garland argues that the original sense of γέρας was ‘that which is due to a person in respect to his age’, and was later generalized to denote any honorific portion or visible manifestation of one’s honor. Beekes 2010:I.267–268, 271, s.vv. γέρας, γῆρας notes the etymological connection between the two words, but cannot explain “the remarkable long vowel” of γῆρας.
[ back ] 4. In general, γέρας is the exactly measured physical manifestation of one’s honor (τιμή) within a community: see citations in the preceding note, but esp. Nagy 1990a:137–138 and Antonaccio 1994:397 with nn42–44. On the γέρας θανόντων, see Garland 1982 and Sourvinou-Inwood 1995:130–131. In an archaic epitaph, a σῆμα ‘tomb’ is said to be the γέρας θανόντος (Hansen 1983:40 and Peek 1955:156, cited in Sourvinou-Inwood 1995:130n60).
[ back ] 5. I wish to thank Professor Brent Vine for his assistance with these interpretative problems surrounding ταρχύω.
[ back ] 6. Blümel 1927:82–83, Kretschmer 1940:104, Nagy 1983:196, 212nn28–29, 2010:337, Bryce 1986:177, Janda 1996:80, Tsymbursky 2007:155–156, and West 2007:247 with further bibliography.
[ back ] 7. Kretschmer 1940:104, 112–114, Pugliese Carratelli 1954, Nagy 1983:196–197, 213nn30–31, Heubeck 1984:110–111, and Janda 1996:80. For a concise history of scholarship on ταρχύω, see Janda 1996:79–81 and Tsymbursky 2007:152–158.
[ back ] 8. Nagy 1983:196, 213n31, 1990a:131–139, 190, 1990b:270n102, 2010:337, Schein 1984:48, Watkins 1995:351–356, 391–397, 443–446, and Bader 2002:11–12. For a different view, see Janda 1996:82–86 who argues that ταρχύω is based on an Indo-European root *dherĝh- attested in the Hittite tuḫš-, tuḫḫušta ‘it is finished’, the Celtic root *dūnom ‘come full circle’, and Latin fūnus ‘funeral’.
[ back ] 9. Blümel 1927:84, Kretschmer 1940:103–104, Nagy 1983 passim, 1990a:132, 2010:337; for a dissenting view, see Clarke 1999:187n61.
[ back ] 10. For an interpretation of ταρχύω as implying the ‘embalming’ of a corpse, see Blümel 1927:81, Myloans 1948:57–58 with nn8–9, and Janda 1996:79–80, who propose a relationship with ταρῑχεύω ‘to preserve a body by artificial means: embalming, salting, pickling’ (used by Herodotus 2.86 and Plato Phaedrus 80c to describe Egyptian mummies, and by Xenophon Anabasis 5.4.28 to describe preserved meat), and τάρῑχος ‘a body preserved by artificial means: embalming, mummification, pickling, salting, smoking, drying’ (cf. Herodotus 9.120 of the hero Protesilaus ‘dead or preserved like a salted fish’). Chantraine seems to vacillate on a connection between ταρχύω and ταρῑχεύω/τάρῑχος, raising the possibility on one page (Chantraine 1968–1980:1094, s.v. τάρῑχος: “Y a-t-il un rappor avec ταρχύω?”), only to deny it on the next (Chantraine 1968–1980:1095, s.v. ταρχύω: “La form et le sens excluent tout raprochment avec ταριχεύω, τάριχος”). See further Bernal 2006:370 who argues that “The slight phonetic distinction between tarikheuō and tarkhuō disappears completely if they are both borrowings from a third language,” namely (for Bernal) Egyptian; and West 1997:386 who denies any connection between ταρχύω and ταρῑχεύω.
[ back ] 11. Blümel 1927:83.
[ back ] 12. I follow Heyne’s interpretation in translating this line: “ἐλθὼν κάθηρον—h[oc] e[st] ἐλθὲ καὶ κάθαιρε Σαρπηδόνα (κατὰ τὸ) αἷμα ἐκ βελέων (purga Sarpedonis corpus a sanguine e uulneribus) ...” (Heyne 1821:175).
[ back ] 13. On the idea of Sarpedon being snatched away from the fray, see Vermeule 1979:169 who notes the possible linguistic connection between the name of Sarpedon and that of the Harpes (*σαρπ- > ἁρπ-), and suggests that Death and Sleep have been substituted for the more traditional “lady birds ... to match more familiar configurations of epic mortality.” Sarpedon is associated with myths of people being snatched away by storm winds: the North Wind (Boreas), who revives Sarpedon at Iliad V 697, is said to have snatched the maiden Orithuia away to a rock named Sarpēdōn (Scholia to Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica I 211c = Pherecydes of Athens FGrHist 3 F 145). See further Vermeule 1979:242n36 with bibliography.
[ back ] 14. The formation of ἀμβροσία from ἄμβροτος follows the regular rules for noun formation of abstract feminine nouns in –σιᾱ/-σιη, added directly onto τ- stem adjectives (ἀμβροτ-). See Schwyzer 1950–1971:I.469, Leumann 1950:125 with n95, 127, and Risch 1974:124–125 (§44a).
[ back ] 15. Watkins 1995:392. See Leumann 1950:127 and Chantraine 1958:24, 1968–1980:197–198, s.v. βροτός, who suggest an Indo-European root *mer which figures in Latin morior, Sanskrit mriyáte, old Slavic mǐrǫ, Lithuanian mìrštu, Armenian meŕanim. On Vedic amṛ́tam, see Grassmann 1964, s.v., “das Unsterbliche als Gesamtheit der Götter; das Unsterbliche als Götterwelt; der Unsterblichkeitstrank, ἀμβροσία” (quoted at Watkins 1995:392n1). The derivation is, of course, not without controversy; see Leaf 1900–1902:I.50–51 (comment at Iliad II 19), Wright 1917:6, and Haupt 1922:231–234 on the theory that ambrosia is derived from the Semitic armara ‘fragrant’, and hence is related to the word “ambergris,” suggesting that ambrosia is some kind of fragrant oil. See Hocart 1922, esp. 57–63 for a lively refutation of this view (contra Leaf et al.). See Onians 1954:292 for a brief summary of the earlier alternative interpretations of Bergk, Roscher, and Gruppe.
[ back ] 16. On nektar, see my discussion below.
[ back ] 17. See Hesiod Catalogue fr. 23a on the Achaeans’ sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter (Iphimede in the epic tradition) before setting sail to Ilion: ‘But [Artemis], the deer-shooter who delights in arrows, very easily sent [Iphimede] away, and infused pleasant ambrosia down upon her head, so that her flesh might be empedos, and she made her immortal and ageless for all days’ (αὐτὴν δ’ ἐλαφηβὸλος ἰοχέαιρα | ῥεῖα μάλ’ ἐξεσάωσε, καὶ ἀμβροσίην ἐρατεινὴν | στάξε κατὰ κρῆθεν, ἵνα οἱ χρὼς ἔμπεδος εἴη | θῆκεν δ’ ἀθάνατον καὶ ἀγήραον ἤματα πάντα [Hesiod fr. 23a.21–24 M-W]). On empedos, see my discussion below. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the child Demophoön is nursed by the goddess Demeter; she anoints him with ambrosia during the day, and at night places him in the fire to burn away his mortality: χρίεσκ’ ἀμβροσίῃ ὡς εἰ θεοῦ ἐκγεγαῶτα, | ἡδὺ καταπνείουσα καὶ ἐν κόλποισιν ἔχουσα, ‘she anointed him with ambrosia as if he had been born a god and she breathed down sweetly upon him and held him in her lap’ (237–238). The child grows at an astounding rate due to the special treatment; it is only his mother, Metanaera, who unwittingly prevents Demeter from making him immortal. On the concept of “burning off” mortality in fire, see Iamblichus De mysteriis 5.12: ‘fire ... destroys all of the material part in sacrifices; it purifies the things that are brought near it and releases them from the bonds of matter, and through its purifying nature, it makes them fit for communion with the gods’ (πῦρ ... ἀναιρεῖ τὸ ὑλικὸν πᾶν ἐν ταῖς θυσίαις, τά τε προσαγόμενα τῷ πυρὶ καθαίρει καὶ ἀπολύει τῶν ἐν τῇ ὕλῃ δεσμῶν, ἐπιτήδειά τε διὰ καθαρότητα φύσεως πρὸς τὴν τῶν θεῶν κοινωνίαν ἀπεργάζεται). Compare the Greek tradition of Thetis attempting to make her son Achilles immortal through anointing him with ambrosia and either burning him in fire, boiling him in a cauldron, or dipping him in the river Styx. On the tradition and its traces in the Iliad, see Mackie 1998 and Curry 2005:383–385. See further Aristotle Metaphysics III 4.12, 1000a5–17 who attributes to ‘the school of Hesiod and all the theologians’ (οἱ μὲν οὖν περὶ Ἡσίοδον καὶ πάντες ὅσοι θεολόγοι) the belief ‘that whatever did not taste of the nektar and ambrosia became mortal’ (τὰ μὴ γευσάμενα τοῦ νέκταρος καὶ τῆς ἀμβροσίας θνητὰ γενέσθαι φασίν). Although Aristotle treats the idea with scorn, his testimony indicates that the belief was in circulation.
[ back ] 18. For ambrosia as the food of the gods, see Odyssey v 93, 199, Homeric Hymn to Demeter 49, and compare the rationalization offered at Iliad V 341 for why gods lack “blood.” At Iliad II 755, Odyssey ix 359 and x 514, it seems to refer to wine. For further citations, see Monro LfgrE I (1955) [rpt. 1979]:617, s.v. ἀμβρόσιος II.1 and Risch LfgrE I (1955) [rpt. 1979]:617–618, s.v. ἄμβροτος. For ambrosia as food for immortal horses (ἀμβρόσιον ... εἶδαρ), see Iliad V 369, 777, XIII 35. Similar may be the ambrosial mangers of the divine horses (ἀμβροσίῃσι κάπῃσιν, Iliad VIII 434). Compare nektar which is also either a food or a drink of the gods (Hesiod Theogony 642 uses nektar as the object of the verb πατέομαι ‘partake of’, and Theogony 640 uses nektar as the object of the verb ἔδω ‘eat’). On the indifference in early Greek poetry of whether ambrosia and nektar are solid food or drink, see West 1966:342, comment at Theogony 640 with further citations.
[ back ] 19. Hera uses ambrosia to clean up and beautify herself as part of Dios apatē narrative (Iliad XIV 170). At Odyssey xviii 193 Athena beautifies Penelope with ambrosia. Its fragrance is noted at Odyssey iv 445, where ambrosia is used to protect Menelaus and his henchmen against the strong odor of the sea-lion skins in which they must disguise themselves. Homeric Hymn 7.37 describes the odor emanating during Dionysus’ epiphany as “ambrosial”; cf. Homeric Hymn to Demeter 237. See further Monro LfgrE I (1955) [rpt. 1979]:617, s.v. ἀμβρόσιος II.2.
[ back ] 20. Iliad II 57, X 41, 142, XVIII 267–268, Odyssey iv 427 = v 574, vii 283, ix 199, xv 8.
[ back ] 21. Iliad II 19.
[ back ] 22. Homeric Hymn to Demeter 41.
[ back ] 23. Zeus’ hair at Iliad I 529; Hera’s hair at XIV 177.
[ back ] 24. Hermes’ sandals at Iliad XXIV 340–341 = Odyssey I 97 = v 45.
[ back ] 25. For the ambrosial clothes of the gods, see Iliad V 338, XIV 172, 178; Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 63. The clothes of the gods are perfumed (τεθυωμένον) and of divine craft, made by Athena (cf. Iliad XIX 178) or the Graces (V 338). Compare Artemis’ veil at XXI 507.
[ back ] 26. As noted by Janko 1994:396; cf. Iliad XVI 670, 680, Odyssey xxiv 59; otherwise, only gods have “ambrosial” clothing: cf. Odyssey vii 260, Homeric Hymn 6.6. Add to Janko’s list Achilles’ “immortal” cloak at Iliad XVIII 25: νεκταρέῳ δὲ χιτῶνι (and see my discussion on νέκταρ below).
[ back ] 27. Iliad XIX 347, 353. See XIX 160–170 on Odysseus’ argument on the importance of food for a warrior to keep up strength in battle, and XIX 205–214 for Achilles’ refusal to eat out of mourning for Patroklos. See Vernant 1991:31–33 for a very rich treatment of the constantly waning human strength which must be replenished by food: “the vital energies [the human body] deploys and the psychological and physical forces it puts into play can remain only for a brief moment in a state of plentitude” (32). It would seem, then, that by providing Achilles with ambrosia, Athena is temporarily excusing Achilles from the constant cycle of re-filling, re-fueling, and re-storing incumbent upon mortals.
[ back ] 28. Iliad XVI 670, 680, XIX 38, XXIII 187. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter 237, Demeter ‘repeatedly anointed [Demophoön] as if he had been born from a god’ (χρίεσκ’ ἀμβροσίῃ ὡς εἰ θεοῦ ἐκγεγαῶτα, 237); in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, anointing Demophoön with ambrosia is paired with placing the child in the fire at night to make him ageless and immortal (καί κέν μιν πρίησεν ἀγήρων τ’ ἀθάνατόν τε ‘and she would have made him ageless and immortal’, 242). In other words, applying ambrosia is part of a strategy for immortalizing human flesh.
[ back ] 29. See Thieme 1952 on the use of *ṇ-mṛto- derivative words as indicating not merely ‘immortal’ but also ‘immortalizing’, a claim accepted by Nagy 1990a:141n81. See further Clay 1982 and Sissa and Detienne 2000:77–80 on the immortalizing powers of nektar and ambrosia.
[ back ] 30. Compare Odyssey xi 71–78, xii 8–15, xxiv 80–84, and my discussion in chapter 4 below.
[ back ] 31. See Iliad XVII 1–XVIII 313, totaling 1074 verses, after which the Achaeans recover the body and begin to mourn the fallen Patroklos.
[ back ] 32. See Iliad XVII 125–127, XVIII 175–177 for Hektor’s desire to decapitate Patroklos, drag the body back to Troy and feed it to the dogs, and impale the head on a pike. On the abuse of dead bodies, see Friedrich 2003 and Segal 1971, who notes that the theme of mutilation only appears in emotionally or dramatically charged contexts. Compare the tradition of μασχαλισμός, in which a murderer cuts off the extremities (μασχαλίσματα or ἐξάργματα) of his victim and ties them around the victim’s neck, apparently as a precaution against the victim’s vengeful spirit, found at Aeschylus Libation Bearers 439, Sophocles Electra 445 and fr. 623, and discussed by Rohde 1925:Appendix II and Garland 2001:94, 196n94. See further Liddell, Scott, and Jones 1996:1084, s.v. μασχαλίζω, μασχαλίσματα, μασχαλισμός and 587, s.v. ἐξάργματα.
[ back ] 33. Even Achilles’ shout seems to be invested with supernatural quality; the text seems to say that it frightened twelve Trojans to death: τρὶς μὲν ὑπὲρ τάφρου μεγάλ’ ἴαχε δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς, | τρὶς δὲ κυκήθησαν Τρῶες κλειτοί τ’ ἐπίκουροι. | ἔνθα δὲ καὶ τότ’ ὄλοντο δυώδεκα φῶτες ἄριστοι | ἀμφὶ σφοῖς ὀχέεσσι καὶ ἔγχεσιν, ‘three times brilliant Achilles shouted loudly over the ditch, and three times the Trojans and their renowned companions were routed. And there even at that time twelve of the best men among them perished upon their own chariots and spears’ (Iliad XVIII 228–231).
[ back ] 34. I read πρίν γ’ Ἕκτορος at XVIII 334 instead of West’s πρὶν Ἕκτορος (1998–2000:II.184), both for metrical purposes (πρίν is guaranteed long by the meter), and to afford better contrast with the previous πρίν: “I won’t bury you beforehand (πρίν)—not before I kill Hektor, that is (πρίν γ’).”
[ back ] 35. Hektor dies at Iliad XXII 361, approximately 2172 verses after Achilles’ claim that Patroklos cannot be buried until Achilles avenges his death by killing Hektor.
[ back ] 36. Richardson 1993:145 notes that “Achilles’ first suggestion ... appears to be that they should attack the city immediately,” and argues that here Homer is referring to later events in the Trojan Cycle, namely the attack on the city walls after the death of Memnon (as related in the Aethiopis: cf. Proclus’ summary at Davies 1988:47, Proculi Aethiopidos ennarratio, 18–21). However, Richardson does not comment on the fact that Achilles’ first suggestion is explicitly postponed by his recollection that Patroklos has not yet been buried.
[ back ] 37. The literature on Achilles’ dream-visitation by Patroklos is large, and mostly deals with issues concerning the archaic conception of the soul, underworld, afterlife, etc. See, for instance, Rohde 1925, Vermeule 1979, I. Morris 1989, Sourvinou-Inwood 1995, Clarke 1999, Garland 2001, all with further bibliography. My interest in Patroklos’ ghost is the emphasis on the characters’ experience of time as duration, a point generally ignored by the works cited above.
[ back ] 38. See Achilles’ words at Iliad XVIII 98–100: “I must die soon, then, since I was not to stand by my companion when he was killed. And now, far from the land of his fathers, he has perished, and lacked my fighting strength to defend him.”
[ back ] 39. Odysseus advises that mourning should be kept within the practical bound of a single day: ‘But we must bury that man, whoever is dead, with a pitiless heart, weeping for a single day’ (ἀλλὰ χρὴ τὸν μὲν καταθάπτειν ὅς κε θάνῃσιν | νηλέα θυμὸν ἔχοντας, ἐπ’ ἤματι δακρύσαντας, Iliad XIX 228–229). He does not mention physical decay of the corpse as the impetus behind the speedy funeral, however, but the necessity for the men to return to their responsibilities of fighting.
[ back ] 40. The verb ἀλαλκεῖν (the reduplicated thematic aorist of the *alek- verbal root appearing as ἀλέξω in the present tense: see Chantraine 1968–1980:57–58 and Irigoin LfgrE I (1955) [rpt. 1979]:472–474, s.v. ἀλέξω) is used in a variety of battle contexts in the Iliad, usually indicating a god or hero ‘warding off’ destruction from companions, city, ships, and the like: e.g. I 590, III 9, V 779, IX 605, XVII 356, XXII 196 (defend companions); XXI 138, 150, 539, 548 (defend the city); IX 347, 670 (defend the ships); XIII 475 (defend oneself , in a simile); XVIII 365, XV 565 = XVI 562, XX 369 (to be or become good at ‘defending’); IX 251, XX 315 = XXI 374 (defend against the evil day); IV 8 = V 908 (an epithet of Athena as ‘defender’, Ἀλαλκομενηῒς Ἀθήνη).
[ back ] 41. At Iliad XVII 153 Glaukos blames Hektor for failing to protect Sarpedon’s body and ‘to ward off’ the dogs who will devour it (νῦν δ’ οὔ οἱ ἀλαλκέμεναι κύνας ἔτλης); at XIX 30 Thetis ‘wards off’ flies from Patroklos’ corpse (τῷ μὲν ἐγὼ πειρήσω ἀλαλκεῖν ἄγρια φῦλα μυίας); at XXII 348 Achilles tells Hektor that now there is no one who can ‘ward off’ the dogs from his head (ὡς οὐκ ἔσθ’ ὃς σῆς γε κύνας κεφαλῆς ἀπαλάλκοι); at XXIII 185 Aphrodite ‘wards off’ dogs from devouring Hektor’s corpse (ἀλλὰ κύνας μὲν ἄλακε).
[ back ] 42. See the excellent treatments by Ebeling 1963:400–401 and Harder in LfgrE II (1991) 565–566, s.v. ἔμπεδος.
[ back ] 43. Harder LfgrE II (1991) 565–566: “from the lit[eral] meaning ‘standing firmly on (in?) the ground’ (πέδον) developed on the one hand to unchanged, undisturbed, (still) present (1a), on the other to (metaph[orical]) firm, reliable (1b); sometimes w[ith] a temp[oral] connot[ation]: continuous (1c) ... The adv[erb appears] 2x (Il. 17.434, Od. 17.464) applied in the lit[eral] sense of standing (upright and immovably) in the ground.” Further discussion can be found at Vernant 1991:39–41; however, Vernant does not discuss the temporal element built into the concept of empedos. The most recent study of empedos is Purves 2006a which contrasts the status of standing in place against that of falling which essentially mark the two possible states for mankind in life and in death: “Aging, then, is just another way of being unstrung, of having one’s limbs loosened and thereby losing the grounded, upright position of being empedos” (191).
[ back ] 44. On the importance of the bed as an architectural symbol of the couple’s relationship, see Bergren 1995, and compare the empeda sēmata of Odyssey xxiii 206. On the empedon sēma (gravestone) of the fallen warrior, see Redfield 1975:180, Purves 2006a:191–192, and chapter 4 below.
[ back ] 45. Redfield 1975:172–173 and Vernant 1991:39–41; see further the discussion and bibliography in the Introduction above on the experience of time felt in moments of biological “lack” of food, sleep, sex, etc.
[ back ] 46. The derivation *neǩ-tṛh 2- was first proposed by Thieme 1952:5–15, and in his articles on “Nektar” and “Ambrosia” (reprinted in Schmitt 1968:102–112, 113–132). Thieme’s proposal has been championed by Schmitt 1961, who found corroborative evidence for Thieme’s theory in Vedic Sanskrit (cf. Schmitt 1967:190 §384), and acknowledged by Householder Jr. and Nagy 1972:52–53. The noun nektar has also been analyzed as *ne- ‘not’ + ktṛ- ‘death’, suggested as early as Wheeler 1889:130; compare Güntert 1919:158–163 and Kretschmer 1947. However, attempts have been made to derive nektar from Semitic (see Haupt 1922 and Levin 1971, tentatively followed by Morris 1997:618 with n67) or even Egyptian roots (Griffith 1994, Bernal 2006:287). For a review of the controversy, see Markwald’s excellent entry in LfgrE III (2004) 312–314, s.v. νέκταρ. For citations of scholarship prior to 1885, see Ebeling 1963:I.1135–1136, s.v. νέκταρ.
[ back ] 47. Consider the cautious assessment of Clay 1982, who notes that “Attempts to draw any significant distinctions between the functions of nectar and ambrosia have failed, nor have etymological speculations ... produced scholarly consensus,” but goes on to emphasize “what matters to us here and deserves emphasis is that, in Homer, nectar and ambrosia do not by themselves make the gods immortal, but they prevent them from aging and exempt them from the natural cycle of death and decay” (114–115).
[ back ] 48. Compare the analysis of nektar and ambrosia by Sissa and Detienne 2000:77–80; their study draws similar conclusions, though without the linguistic and etymological arguments I provide above: “Ambrosia and nectar could thus be said to be a treatment for immortality, substances that give a body the ability to resist time and defy death. On immortal bodies, a regular application of them sustains beauty, brilliance, and energy” (80). The very fact that nektar and ambrosia must be continually reapplied indicates their temporary status.
[ back ] 49. The divine work is emphasized in two passages: ἣ δ’ ἐς νῆας ἵκανε θεοῦ πάρα δῶρα φέρουσα, ‘And she arrived beside the ships bearing the gifts of the god’ (Iliad XIX 3); τύνη δ’ Ἡφαίστοιο πάρα κλυτὰ τεύχε’ δέξο, | καλὰ μάλ’, οἷ᾿ οὔ πώ τις ἀνὴρ ὤμοισι φόρησεν, ‘But now accept the glorious armor from Hephaistos, exceedingly beautiful and of a sort that no mortal yet has ever worn on his shoulders’ (XIX 10–11).
[ back ] 50. The armor is described as καλά at Iliad XVIII 466, XIX 11. Note that it is described as shimmering in the light (XVIII 618: τεύχεα μαρμαίροντα, XIX 18: θεοῦ ἀγλαὰ δῶρα), a quality that emphasizes its metallic construction. Also, note that its beauty instills thauma ‘wonder’ in those who see it: τεύχεα καλά ... οἷά τις αὖτε | ἀνθρώπων πολέων θαυμάσσεται, ὅς κεν ἴδηται, ‘beautiful armor ... the sort that now one, now another of many men will wonder at, whoever catches sight of it’ (XVIII 466–467).
[ back ] 51. The armor is described as δαίδαλα at Iliad XIX 13 and 19. On the adjective daidalos and its relation with divine craftsmanship, see Morris 1992.
[ back ] 52. Compare the ἄμβροτα τεύχεα ‘immortal armor’ (Iliad XVII 194, 202) describing Achilles’ first set of armor, a wedding-gift to Achilles’ father Peleus, and, significantly, also made by Hephaistos (cf. XVIII 83–85). Other gifts of the gods, such as Achilles’ horses (XVI 381 = XVI 867) and Penelope’s cosmetics (Odyssey xviii 191) are called ambrota as well.
[ back ] 53. See the ἄμβροτα τεύχεα ‘immortal armor’ (Iliad XVII 194, 202), cited in the preceding note. The text notes a certain tension in describing a mortal wearing immortal armor; Zeus seems to feel disturbed that Hektor donned Achilles’ immortal armor: cf. XVII 205–206, and Zeus’ pronouncement that the action was οὐ κατὰ κόσμον ‘inappropriate’. Edwards 1991:81 suggests that “Probably only sons of divinities like Achilles and Memnon, and perhaps marriage-connexions like Peleus ... may properly wear armor made by Hephaistos.”
[ back ] 54. See Leaf 1900–1902:II.301 for an explanation of the syntactical construction: “This is the not uncommon formula where the certainty of one event is affirmed by contrasting it with the impossibility of another.” Other examples in the Iliad include IV 178–179, 313–314, VIII 538–541, XIII 825–828, XVI 722, and XXII 346–348. See also Sheppard’s brief comments (1922:1), Combellack 1981, and the excellent discussion at Edwards 1991:199.
[ back ] 55. Rinon 2008:136–137 draws a connection between Hephaistos’ own experience of pain and human temporality on the one hand and his skilled craftwork on the other as a “palliative” against the tragedy of mortal death itself: “And it is here that Hephaestus, who acknowledges Thetis’ agonizing situation by referring to the unavoidable death of her son, binds once again deep pain and helplessness with the palliative power of his art: he explicitly juxtaposes his inability to protect her son from woeful death and his ability to create beautiful armor … The armor might be limited in its power to protect its bearer, but it is powerful enough to strongly affect its beholder ...” (137).
[ back ] 56. On the connection between time and the human body, understood as a “body-subject-in-the-world,” see Wyllie 2005b.
[ back ] 57. The expression of a desire to eat an enemy’s flesh marks the extremity of passion driven to savagery: compare Hecuba’s desire to eat Achilles’ liver in revenge for Hektor’s murder (Iliad XXIV 212–214), and Zeus’ comment to Hera that perhaps her anger towards the Trojans would be satiated if she ate them raw (IV 34–36). See Griffin 1980:19–21 who compares the representation of cannibals in the Odyssey—the Lastrygonians at x 114, and the Cyclops at ix 289—and the epic cycle, including Tydeus who gnaws on the skull of his enemy Melanippus (Thebaid fr. 5 Davies = Scholia Gen. at Iliad V 126, Nicole). See further Mark Buchan’s thoughtful analysis of the cannibalistic desire of Polyphemus and Achilles (Buchan 2001:11–34).
[ back ] 58. For Hektor’s body left for the dogs and birds to eat, see Iliad XXIII 182–187, cited below. Being eaten by dogs and birds is the sad fate common to warriors in general, as stated programmatically in the Iliad’s proem (I 4–5): cf. II 393; XI 818; XVII 241, 558; XVIII 271; XXII 89, 509. It is common to taunt one’s enemy with the prospect of death without burial: cf. IV 2237; VIII 379–380; XI 395, 453–454; XIII 831–832; XVI 836; XXII 335–356, 354. Perhaps most horribly, at XI 394–395 Diomedes boasts that if he strikes a man with his spear, ‘that man putrefies as he stains the earth red with his blood, and there are more birds around him than women’ (ὃ δέ θ’ αἵματι γαῖαν ἐρεύθων | πύθεται, οἰωνοὶ δὲ περὶ πλέες ἠὲ γυναῖκες). Vermeule 1979 draws our attention to the “ceremonial” aspect of this boast which “mingles the sex life of the warrior with the role of the women of his household, in tending, cleaning, and loving his body in the ceremonies of death” (105), for instead of these women who will beautify the hero’s body for proper burial, there will be only birds to devour his carcass, as at Iliad XI 162 where fallen warriors become ‘dearer to vultures than to their wives’ (γύπεσσιν πολὺ φίλτεροι ἢ ἀλόχοισιν). See Bassett 1933 for a defense of Achilles’ violent treatment of Hektor’s corpse: “It was entirely in accord with the Homeric code of honor to outrage the body of a foeman ... in order to avenge the death of a dear friend or kinsman” (54). Segal 1971 emphasizes the theme of the “excess” of Achilles’ behavior not noted by Bassett. In general, see the good discussion at Macleod 1982.
[ back ] 59. Achilles’ speech here is an echo of an earlier speech at Iliad XXIII 19–23. Note especially Achilles’ claim that he has dragged Hektor to the Achaean camp to feed to the dogs: πάντα γὰρ ἤδη τοι τελέω τὰ πάροιθεν ὑπέστην, | Ἕκτορα δεῦρ’ ἐρύσας δώσειν κυσὶν ὠμὰ δάσασθαι, ‘for I am now accomplishing everything I promised before: after having dragged Hektor here to give him to dogs to tear up’ (XXIII 20–21). Both speeches recall his earlier promises (XVIII 333–337 and XXII 354 with XXI 27–32).
[ back ] 60. See Lynn-George’s rich study of “structures of care” in the Iliad, particularly in the form of the burial rites given to the dead: “Humans attempt to cope with sorrow and cares through care, care of the κηδεμόνες, of the living for the dead, care exercised in Homer without fear of the dead” (1996:21).
[ back ] 61. On the verb σκέλλω ‘to dry up’ and its connection with the semantic field of ‘decay’ in Homer, see the Appendix below.
[ back ] 62. On the “elliptical” use of πρίν which looks forward to a as-yet-unspecified event, compare Iliad XXIV 800 (Trojan guards posted during Hektor’s funeral μὴ πρὶν ἐφορμηθεῖεν … Ἀχαιοί) and Macleod 1982:17 with n1. Macleod notes “the ‘before’ of line 190 must imply ‘before Hektor was buried’ and thus points forward to Book 24” (17). See further Richardson 1993:190.
[ back ] 63. Leaf 1900–1902:II.484–485 (comment at Iliad XXIII 184–191) notes that Fäsi and Düntzer rejected XXIII 184–191 precisely because they anticipate events in Book XXIV; Leaf generally rejects their claim, though he finds verse 187 with its reference to Achilles dragging the corpse as “indefensible ... [T]he lines, with their unexplained anticipations [of Book XXIV], rather interrupt than help the narrative and would be better away.” I disagree that the lines do not belong here; rather, it is the very unexpectedness of their appearance that makes them effective. See Macleod 1982:17–19 for an argument on the important anticipations of Book XXIV in Book XXIII which deal with “the contrast between the burial [of Patroklos] accomplished and the burial [of Hektor] withheld ...” (18).
[ back ] 64. On the zeugma between πτολέμους and κύματα, both objects of πείρων, see Macleod 1982:86 and Richardson 1993:274–275.
[ back ] 65. The force of λήθεσκεν in verse XXIV 13 is particularly effective; it implies that Achilles has spent several wakeful nights on the shore and not once has he missed dawn’s rising. See also Richardson 1993:275. Neither scholar notes the importance of the spatial adverbs in the passage that serve to “spatialize” the narrative and effectively freeze the forward progression of the narrative into a static tableau, in the terms of literary critic Robert Frank (1963, 1977, 1978, 1981). See further Spanos 1970, Smitten 1981, and Mitchell 1980, 1984, 1989 on “spatialization” in literature. For an application of Robert Frank’s work to the analysis of Classical texts, see Andersen 1987.
[ back ] 66. The twelve day period is to be understood as counting from Hektor’s death, as confirmed by Iliad XXIV 413–414. The twelve days consist of a three-day period for Patroklos’ funeral, followed by nine days of continual abuse of the corpse during which, we later read, the gods quarrel with one another over what should be done with Hektor’s body (cf. XXIV 107–116).
[ back ] 67. On formulaic analogy in Homeric hexameter, see Parry 1971:68–74, 175–180, Russo 1963, 1966, and 1997, Hoekstra 1964, Hainsworth 1968, M. Edwards 1986, 1988, and the particularly enlightening Ingalls 1970 and 1976.
[ back ] 68. On the connection between Iliad XXIII 187 and XXIV 21, see Macleod 1982:17.
[ back ] 69. On self-mutilation (beating one’s breast, lacerating one’s cheeks, tearing one’s hair) in ancient Greek funerary rites, see Iliad X 78, 406, XIX 284–285, XXIV 711, Sappho 140a L-P, Aeschylus Libation Bearers 23–31, 423–428, Persians 1054–1065, Sophocles Electra 89–91, Euripides Suppliant Women 71, 826–827, 977–979, 1160, Alcestis 86–92, 98–104, Phoenician Women 1485–1492, Andromache 825–835, and Plato Phaedo 89b. See further Alexiou 1974:6, 8, 10, 18, 21, 28–29, 32–33, 41, 55–56, 68–69, 207n27. Alexiou notes the specifically rhythmic aspect of these mourning gestures, as “the women ... beat their breasts, tear their cheeks and pull at their loosened hair or at a black scarf, in time to the singing” (41).
[ back ] 70. On the temporally bounded nature of mourning, see Wyllie 2005a:182.
[ back ] 71. On extreme cases of grief producing “a corporealization, namely in the sense of coming nearer to the corpse, the dead body” in the melancholic patient, see Fuchs 2001a:183–184, 2001b:231, 235, 237, 239, 2005a:109–112, 2005b:196–197, Wyllie 2005b:213.
[ back ] 72. See further Iliad XXIII 184–191 where Aphrodite and Apollo protect Hektor’s corpse by annointing it with immortal oil to keep him safe from dogs and birds of prey, and covering it with a dark cloud to ward off the sun’s rays. At XXIV 18–21 Apollo guards Hektor’s body with the golden aegis to protect it from lacerations while being dragged behind Achilles’ chariot.
[ back ] 73. Besides the ‘closing’ of wounds, the verb μύω is used to describe the ‘closing’ of eyes, as Priam requests a bed to be made for him after his meeting with Achilles, ‘A bed for me now, most quickly, O Zeus-reared one, so that even now we may take our pleasure in sweet sleep as we go to bed. For my eyes have not yet closed (οὐ γάρ πω μύσαν ὄσσε) beneath my lids since that time when my son lost his life beneath your hands, but I have always been grieving ... Now I have tasted food again and I have let the gleaming wine go down my throat. Before, I had tasted nothing’ (Iliad XXIV 635–642).
[ back ] 74. The ancient Homeric scholia record some difficulty in believing how Hektor’s wounds could have closed: παράδοξον· τὰ μὲν γὰρ τῶν ζώντων ἕλκη μετὰ θάνατον μύει, τὰ δὲ μετὰ θάνατον γινόμενα (Χ 371, 375, Ω 421) σήπεται. ἀδύνατον νεκρῶν τραύματα μύειν, ‘This is miraculous, for the wounds of living men close after death, but those occurring after death (cf. Iliad XXII 371, 375; XXIV 421) rot. It’s not possible for the wounds of corpses to close up’ (Scholia T at Iliad XXIV 420b, Erbse). The debate over the issue appears to go back at least as early as Aristotle (fr. 167, Rose), whom Scholia T cites in connection with the point.
[ back ] 75. Hecuba also calls Hektor’s body ‘dewy’ (ἑρσήεις, Iliad XXIV 757) as she laments over it upon Priam’s return. ‘Dewy’ is used to describe the λωτός flower that springs up beneath Zeus and Hera during the Dios apatē as he, bewitched by Aphrodite’s zōnē, takes Hera in his arms and covers the two of them with a golden cloud raining dew on the grass below (Iliad XIV 346–351). The dew on Hektor’s body accords with the cloud cover provided by Apollo to safeguard the body from decay (XXIII 184–191), as Richardson notes (1993:315). See Boedeker 1984:73–79 on dew used in extended metaphors for blood, esp. 77–78 where she analyzes our passage (XXIV 416–420) and points to “the differences between the expected and real appearance of Hector” as articulated by Hermes’ claim that the body is covered with dew instead of blood.
[ back ] 76. At Iliad XXIV 635–642, Priam has now eaten and is drowsy, though he had neither eaten nor slept since Hektor’s death. Achilles has already slept, albeit briefly during Patroklos’ burial rites (XXIII 231–234), and eaten before he meets with Priam (XXIV 475–476), but now he sleeps with Briseïs at his side (XXIV 675–676). The description fulfills Thetis’ earlier plea that he keep his sorrow within bounds and return to the cycle of mortal life by eating and sleeping with a woman (XXIV 128–132). On the return to human rituals of food, sleep, and sex, see Macleod 1982:142, King 1987:44, and Lynn-George 1996:14. See also Fuchs 2001a:185 and 2005a:118–120 on “resynchronization therapy” for melancholic patients who have in their extreme grief lost the ability to complete the natural process of mourning: these therapies aim “to give rhythm to everyday life,” which includes an attempt to return to the human rituals shared with others (termed “intersubjective” or “social” time: Fuchs 2001a:180–184, 2005a:115, Wyllie 2005:177–180), which include eating, sleeping, and engaging in sexual activity.
[ back ] 77. See Priam’s response when Achilles asks how long the Trojans will need to provide Hektor with proper funeral rites: ᾧδέ κέ μοι ῥέζων, Ἀχιλεῦ, κεχαρισμένα θείης ‘by acting for me in this way, Achilles, you would render me obligated in kharis’ (Iliad XXIV 661). Michael Lynn-George observes in his analysis of this scene, from which I cite his rendering of χάρις in the text above: “The sense of the term κεχαρισμένα, and its implications, are far stronger than are conveyed by the conventional renderings ‘acceptable, welcome, pleasing’ (LSJ). The word acknowledges the force of χάρις : kindness, good will, and, in response, a profound sense of gratitude. It is easy to overlook that the final eleven days of the epic are made possible by χάρις. In the dark and bleak setting of a doomed world, in which the future of both Troy and Achilles are limited, this is the enduring achievement: not only that it is still possible to do something, but that it should be χάρις that prevails at the end” (Lynn-George 1996:14, emphasis added).
[ back ] 78. Note that Fuchs 2005a also indicates the importance of establishing a “spatial and temporal frame creating a definite and legitimate recovery period for the patient, a ‘time out’ so-to-speak” as part of “resynchronization therapy” for melancholic patients who have become completely “desynchronized” from their environment (119).