Hour 9. The return of Odysseus in the Homeric Odyssey

The meaning of nostos

9§1. The key word for this hour is nostos, ‘return, homecoming; song about homecoming; return to light and life’. The last of these meanings is mystical, having to do with ideas about immortalization after death. Our first impression is that such ideas are foreign to Homeric poetry. When we take a second look, however, we will see that immortalization is a subtext, as it were, even in Homeric poetry. Immortalization is a matter of eschatology.
9§2. As I argued already in Hour 8, Hādēs is transitional rather than eschatological: only paradisiacal places like Elysium (Ēlusion), the Islands of the Blessed (Nēsoi Makarōn), the White Island (Leukē), and, exceptionally, even Mount Olympus in the case of Hēraklēs are eschatological. I will have more to say in Hour 11 about such paradisiacal places.
9§3. For now, however, I concentrate on the concept of nostos, and how it can express the idea of immortalization after death. As we will see, this idea is embedded in the plot of the Odyssey, but only indirectly, as a metaphor. (For my usage of the term metaphor here, I refer back to Hour 4§32.)
9§4. Let us begin with the very first occurrences of the word nostos in the Odyssey, in verses 5 and 9 and 13 at the very beginning of the epic:

Hour 9 Text A (see also Hour 0 Text B)

|1 That man, tell me O Muse the song of that man, that versatile [polu-tropos] man, who in very many ways |2 veered from his path and wandered off far and wide, after he had destroyed the sacred citadel of Troy. |3 Many different cities of many different people did he see, getting to know different ways of thinking [noos]. |4 Many were the pains [algea] he suffered in his heart [thūmos] while crossing the sea |5 struggling to merit [arnusthai] the saving of his own life [psūkhē] and his own homecoming [nostos] as well as the homecoming of his comrades [hetairoi]. |6 But do what he might he could not save his comrades [hetairoi], even though he very much wanted to. |7 For they perished through their own deeds of sheer recklessness, |8 disconnected [nēpioi] [1] as they were, because of what they did to the cattle of the sun-god Hēlios. |9 They ate them. So the god [Hēlios] deprived them of their day of homecoming [nostimon]. |10 Starting from any single point of departure, O goddess, daughter of Zeus, tell me, as you have told those who came before me. |11 So, now, all those who escaped precipitous death |12 were safely home, having survived the war and the sea voyage. |13 But he [= Odysseus], apart from the others, though he was longing for his homecoming [nostos] and for his wife, |14 was detained by the queenly nymph [numphē] Calypso, who has her own luminous place among all the goddesses ...
Odyssey i 1-14 [2]
9§5. As we see from this commencement of the story, the nostos, ‘return’, of the epic hero from Troy to his home in Ithaca is still in progress, and the return is stalled from the start. The story will have to recommence, and such a recommencement is about to happen. But even before the recommencement, the story already refers to the many different adventures of the hero in the course of his upcoming story. The plot of this story and its main character, once the Odyssey is fully told, will be a fusion of many different sub-plots and even of many different sub-characters. Of course there is only one Odysseus in the macro-Narrative of the Homeric Odyssey, but there are many different kinds of Odysseus and many different kinds of odysseys in the micro-narratives that add up to the macro-Narrative. These different kinds of character and plot fit perfectly the hero who is called polu-tropos in the first verse of the Odyssey. Initially, I translated this word as ‘versatile’, but its more literal meaning is this: ‘one who could change in many different ways who he was’.

The roles of Odysseus

9§6. There are many different roles that fit the versatile character of Odysseus in the Homeric Odyssey, and here I list these roles in the format of five headlines: [3]
1. The soldier of fortune comes back home to Ithaca after the adventures he experiences both during the Trojan War and afterwards during his many travels, and then he reclaims his wife, whose faithfulness in his absence determines his true identity.
2. The returning king reclaims his kingdom by becoming reintegrated with his society. The king, as king, is the embodiment of this society, of this body politic; thus the society, as re-embodied by the king, is correspondingly reintegrated. (On the king as the embodiment of the body politic, see Hour 6§13 and §47.)
3. The pilot lost at sea finally finds his bearings and reaches home. The pilot or kubernētēs, a Greek word that was eventually borrowed into Latin as gubernātor, is the steersman who directs the metaphorical ‘ship of state’. The metaphor is latent in English words derived from Latin gubernātor, such as govern, governor, and government.
4. The seer or shaman returns home from his vision quest.
5. The trickster retraces his misleading steps, returning all the way back home, back where he had started, and thus showing the correct steps that need to be taken in order to live one’s own life successfully.
9§7. The five roles of Odysseus as I list them in these five headlines are extrapolated from Albert Lord’s far-ranging survey of world-wide parallels to the theme of the epic hero’s return in the Homeric Odyssey. [4] As we can see from Lord’s survey, the idea of nostos is deeply ritualistic. In fact, as I noted at the beginning of this hour, the nostos of Odysseus in the Odyssey means not only a ‘return’ or a ‘song about a return’ but even a ‘return to light and life’. [5] This ritualistic meaning, as we will see in Hour 10, has to do with the epic “hidden agenda” of returning from Hādēs and the heroic theme of immortalization after death.

The complementarity of the Iliad and the Odyssey

9§8. The polytropic character of Odysseus, central epic hero of the Odyssey, stands in sharp contrast to the monolithic character of Achilles, the commensurately central epic hero of the Iliad. Whereas Achilles achieves his epic centrality by way of his role as a warrior, Odysseus achieves his own kind of epic centrality in an alternative way - as a master of crafty stratagems and cunning intelligence. [6]
9§9. There are of course many other heroes in Homeric poetry, but Achilles and Odysseus have become the two central points of reference. Just as the central heroes of the Iliad and Odyssey are complementary, so too are the epics that centralize them. The complementarity extends even further: between the two of them, these two epics give the impression of incorporating most of whatever was worth retelling about the world of heroes.
9§10. In the case of the Iliad, as I already noted at the beginning of the whole book, this epic not only tells the story that it says it will tell, about Achilles’ anger and how it led to countless woes as the Greeks went on fighting it out with the Trojans and striving to ward off the fiery onslaught of Hector. It also manages to retell the entire Tale of Troy.
9§11. The Homeric Odyssey is equally comprehensive by way of telling the story of the hero’s nostos, ‘return, homecoming’. This word, as I noted at the beginning of this hour, means not only ‘homecoming’ but also ‘song about homecoming’. [7] As such, the Odyssey is not only a nostos: it is a nostos to end all other nostoi. [8] In other words, the Odyssey is the final and definitive statement about the theme of a heroic homecoming: in the process of retelling the return of the epic hero Odysseus, the narrative of the Odyssey achieves a sense of closure in the retelling of all feats stemming from the heroic age. [9] The Odyssey, as we will see, provides a retrospective even on those epic moments that are missing in the Iliad, such as the story of the Wooden Horse (viii 487-520).
9§12. A central theme unites the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey: as we see from the pervasive use of the title aristos Akhaiōn, ‘best of the Achaeans’, in both epics, Achilles emerges as the rightful owner of this title in the Iliad while Odysseus earns the same title in the Odyssey. [10] But the poetry of epic awards this title not by way of measuring the successes achieved by these heroes by virtue of their predominant heroic qualities, namely, strength in the case of Achilles and intelligence in the case of Odysseus. After all, Achilles failed to capture Troy with his heroic strength. As for Odysseus, although he used his heroic intelligence in inventing the Wooden Horse, which was the key to the capture of Troy by the Achaeans, this success did not win for him the title of the ‘best of the Achaeans’ in the Iliad. Rather, Odysseus earned that title by becoming the main hero of the Odyssey, just as Achilles earned the same title by becoming the main hero of the Iliad. [11]
9§13. Underlying the complementarity of the Iliad and Odyssey and of the main heroes of these two epics is an element of competition. The kleos or epic glory of Achilles in the Iliad is competitively contrasted with the kleos of Odysseus in the Odyssey. [12] As we are about to see, the key to understanding such a competition is the Homeric use of the word nostos in the sense of a ‘song about a homecoming’, not just a ‘homecoming’. Ironically, as I argue, Odysseus achieves the kleos or epic glory of the Odyssey not because he destroyed Troy, a feat heralded at the very start of his epic, at verse 2 of the Odyssey (as we saw in Text A of this hour), but because he also achieves a nostos in both senses of the word: he comes home and thereby becomes the premier hero of a song about homecoming.
9§14. There are further related ironies. As we saw in Text A of Hour 1, Achilles has to choose between kleos and nostos, forfeiting nostos in order to achieve his kleos as the central hero of the Iliad (IX 413). But Odysseus must have both kleos and nostos in order to merit his own heroic status in the Odyssey. [13] The narrative of the kleos that Odysseus earns in the Odyssey cannot be the Iliad, which means ‘tale of Troy’ (Ilion is the other name for Troy). [14] The Iliad establishes Achilles as the central hero of the story of Troy, even though he failed to destroy the city. Because of the Iliad tradition, “the kleos of Odysseus at Troy was preempted by the kleos of Achilles.” [15] So, the kleos that Odysseus should get for his success in destroying Troy is elusive, by contrast with the kleos that Achilles gets in the Iliad, which is permanent. So, Odysseus cannot afford to dwell on his success at Troy, because the kleos he may get for that success will become permanent only if it extends into the kleos that he gets for achieving a successful homecoming. As we see from the wording of the Song of the Sirens in the Odyssey (xii 189-191), which I will quote in Hour 10, the sheer pleasure of listening to a song about the destruction of Troy will be in vain if there is no nostos, no safe return home from the faraway world of epic heroes; and, by extension, the Iliad itself will become a Song of the Sirens without a successful narration of the Odyssey. [16]
9§15. There is a final irony, developed in the narrative of the Odyssey (xi 489-491): Achilles in Hādēs seems tempted to trade epics with Odysseus. [17] This he will never do, of course, in his own epic. As Achilles himself predicts in the Iliad (IX 413), the kleos of his own song will be aphthiton, ‘unwilting’.

The heroic mentality of achieving nostos

9§16. As the plot of the Odyssey gets underway, the nostos of Odysseus is defined by the quest of the hero’s son Telemachus to learn the identity of his father - and thus to learn his own identity. I will explain in a minute why I say ‘learn’ and not ‘learn about’. The quest of Telemachus is initiated by the goddess Athena, who specializes in mental power. She is in fact the goddess of intelligence, daughter of the god Zeus and of a goddess named Mētis (Hesiod Theogony 886-900); this name Mētis comes from the noun mētis, which means ‘intelligence’, and Athena herself declares that her kleos, ‘glory’, is due to her own mētis, ‘intelligence’ (Odyssey xiii 299). [18] As we can see from a primary epithet of Odysseus, polumētis, ‘intelligent in many ways’ (Iliad I 311, etc.; Odyssey ii 173, etc.), the goddess Athena must have a special relationship with this hero; in fact, this same epithet applies to Athena herself (Homeric Hymn to Athena 2). We will return later on, in Hour 10, to the word mētis. For now, however, the point is simply this: the status of Athena as the goddess of intelligence is relevant to Athena’s initial role in the Odyssey, where she takes on the role of activating the mental power of Telemachus, son of Odysseus. At a council of the gods, the goddess declares her intention to go to Ithaca to become a mentor to the young epic hero:

Hour 9 Text B

|88 As for me, I will go travel to Ithaca, going to his [= Odysseus’] son |89 in order to give him [= Telemachus] more encouragement and to put power [menos] into his heart [phrenes]. [19] |90 He is to summon the long-haired Achaeans for a meeting in assembly, |91 and he is to speak out to all the suitors [of his mother Penelope], who persist in |92 slaughtering again and again any number of his sheep and oxen. |93 And I will conduct him to Sparta and to sandy Pylos, |94 and thus he will learn the return [nostos] of his dear [philos] father, if by chance he [= Telemachus] hears it, |95 and thus may genuine glory [kleos] possess him throughout humankind.
Odyssey i 88-95 [20]
9§17. In assuming the role of mentor to Telemachus, the goddess Athena will change her divine shape and will take on the human shape of the fatherly epic hero Mentēs in Odyssey i and then, in Odyssey ii and thereafter, of another fatherly epic hero, Mentōr. These two names are both related to the noun menos. This word, as we can see in the second verse of Text B here, i 89, refers to the heroic ‘power’ that the goddess Athena says she will put into the heart of Telemachus. The noun menos, usually translated as ‘power’ or ‘strength’, is derived from the verb-root mnē-, meaning ‘mentally connect’. [21] Likewise derived from this verb-root are the agent nouns Men-tēs and Men-tōr, which both mean ‘he who connects mentally’. When a divinity connects a hero to his heroic mentality, the hero will have menos, that is, ‘power’ or ‘strength’. To have heroic power or strength, you have to have a heroic mentality.
9§18. This idea of heroic mentality is elegantly recapitulated in the Odyssey at the dramatic moment when the goddess Athena has just finished the first phase of her role as mentor to Telemachus, during which phase she had assumed the human shape of the fatherly Mentēs. Having finished with the role of Mentēs, which as we have seen is a name that means literally ‘he who connects mentally’, the goddess now transforms herself into a bird and flies out of the palace through a lightwell on the roof, and here is the wording that describes what she had accomplished so far in connecting the mind of Telemachus with the mind of his father:

Hour 9 Text C

|320 … Into his heart [thūmos] [22] |321 she [= Athena] had placed power [menos] and daring, and she had mentally connected [hupo-mnē-] him with his father |322 even more than before.
Odyssey i 320-322 [23]
9§19. So, in her role as Mentēs, which means literally ‘he who mentally connects’, the goddess has given to the hero Telemachus the menos or mental ‘power’ of connecting with the heroic identity of his father. That act of doing this is expressed here by a verb hupo-mnē-, which means literally ‘mentally connect’. [24]
9§20. And what results from such a mental connection? We find an answer in Text B, as I quoted it a few minutes ago. What the goddess says in the next-to-last verse there, in Odyssey i 94, is not that Telemachus will learn about the nostos of Odysseus if he is fortunate enough to hear about it. In the original Greek text, the noun nostos is the direct object of the verb punthanesthai, ‘to learn’, in verse 94 of Text B here, and that is why I chose to translate the verse this way: ‘and thus he will learn [punthanesthai] the return [nostos] of his dear [philos] father, if by chance he [= Telemachus] hears it’. [25] It is not a question of learning about a homecoming, of hearing about a homecoming. Rather, Telemachus will learn the actual song of the homecoming, the song of nostos. He will actually hear the song from the hero Nestor in Odyssey iii and from the hero Menelaos along with his divine consort Helen in Odyssey iv.
9§21. As I have been arguing from the start, the nostos of Odysseus is not only a ‘homecoming’ but also a ‘song about homecoming’. And now we will see that this song is equivalent to the kleos of Odysseus, to his ‘glory’.
9§22. This equivalence of nostos and kleos for Odysseus is evident throughout the story of Telemachus. As we track further the wording used for telling this story, we see that the quest of the son for his father is described as a quest for either the father’s nostos (as at Odyssey ii 360) or the father’s kleos (as at iii 83). [26] So, these two goals in the son’s quest are treated as equivalent. This equivalence extends further. Odysseus must achieve his kleos or epic ‘glory’ by way of successfully achieving the nostos or ‘song about homecoming’ that is the Odyssey. Whereas Achilles has to choose between nostos, ‘homecoming’, and the kleos, ‘glory’, that he gets from his own epic tradition (Iliad IX 413), Odysseus must have both kleos and nostos, because for him his nostos in the Odyssey is the same thing as his kleos. [27] If Odysseus fails to achieve a successful nostos in the Odyssey, he will also fail to achieve kleos. But Odysseus ultimately prevails, and a key to his successful nostos is the steadfast faithfulness of his wife Penelope, who in her own right ultimately shares with Odysseus the kleos that marks the hero by the time we reach the end of the Odyssey (xxiv 196). [28]
9§23. In this connection, I find it pertinent to come back to the wording of the goddess Athena in the last verse of Text B, Odyssey i 95: it is made explicit there that kleos or epic ‘glory’ will result from the nostos of Odysseus. And I now highlight a striking fact about the use of the word kleos in that verse. The wording there does not say that the hero will possess kleos: rather, it says that kleos will possess the hero. Although it is not spelled out in that verse whether the hero is Telemachus or Odysseus himself, the point of reference is obvious: as we can see from reading the Odyssey in its entirety, the ultimate subject of kleos must be Odysseus himself: when kleos possesses this hero, the kleos will include all those who have a share in his glory. [29]
9§24. So far, then, we have seen that Athena is preparing Telemachus to connect mentally with the nostos of his father, which is an epic in the making, and that this epic of Odysseus, this Odyssey, is a fusion of nostos and kleos.

A nostos in the making

9§25. The meaning of nostos as a ‘song about homecoming’ is most evident in the following description of an epic performance where the performer, Phemios by name, is said to be performing a nostos:

Hour 9 Text D

|325 The famed singer was singing for them [= the suitors], and they in silence |326 sat and listened. He [= Phemios the singer] was singing the homecoming [nostos] of the Achaeans, |327 a disastrous [lugros] [30] homecoming from Troy, and Pallas Athena was the one who brought it all to fulfillment [epi-tellesthai]. |328 From her room upstairs, this divinely inspired song of his was understood in her mind by |329 the daughter of Ikarios, the exceptionally intelligent Penelope, |330 and she came down the lofty staircase of her palace. |331 She came not alone, but attended by two of her handmaidens. |332 When she reached the suitors, this most radiant of women, |333 she stood by one of the posts that supported the roof of the halls, |334 holding in front of her cheeks a luxuriant veil, |335 and a trusted handmaiden stood on either side of her. |336 Then, shedding tears, she addressed the godlike singer: |337 “Phemios, you know many another thing that charms mortals, |338 all about the deeds of men and gods, to which singers give glory [kleeîn]. |339 Sing for them [= the suitors] some one of those songs of glory, and let them in silence |340 drink their wine. But you stop this sad song, |341 this disastrous [lugrē] [31] song, which again and again affects my very own [philon] heart in my breast, |342 wearing it down, since an unforgettable grief [penthos alaston] comes over me, more than ever. |343 I feel this way because that is the kind of person I long for, recalling his memory again and again, |344 the memory of a man whose glory [kleos] extends far and wide throughout Hellas and midmost Argos.
Odyssey i 325-344 [32]
9§26. We see here once again that the word nostos as a ‘song about homecoming’ is connected to the kleos of Odysseus, which is the ‘glory’ of his epic. But in this case we see also that kleos can make the listener feel penthos or ‘grief’ - such as the penthos alaston, ‘unforgettable grief’ (i 342), felt by Penelope in hearing the epic performed by Phemios.
9§27. At this point in the Odyssey, Telemachus does not yet understand the grief experienced by his mother Penelope when she hears the nostos sung by Phemios, and so the son makes excuses for the singer by claiming that audiences of epic will ‘give glory’ (epi-kleeîn i 251) most readily to the kind of song that is neōtatē, the ‘newest’ (i 252). Of course such a claim about the attractions of a new song cannot be denied, but the newness of the song in this situation has a deeper meaning. The word neo-, ‘new’, here refers to the appropriateness of the story to the situation in the here and now of performing the story: in this case Odysseus is not yet a character in the story of the nostos of the Achaeans as Phemios is singing it, since this story is still in progress, and the audience has not yet heard the end of it, but Odysseus is soon to become the primary character of the story of the nostos in the here and now that is being narrated by the epic of the Odyssey. [33] And that is because his own nostos is literally in the making, since nostos means not only ‘homecoming’ but also ‘song about a homecoming’.

Echoes of lament in a song about homecoming

9§28. We saw just a minute ago that kleos can make the listener feel penthos or ‘grief’ - such as the grief felt by Penelope in hearing the epic of Phemios. And, as we saw in Hour 3, this word penthos means not only ‘grief’ but also a ‘song of grief’ as performed in lamentation. Now we will see that there are many things to lament in the song about the homecoming of the Achaeans as reported in the Odyssey. In the next paragraph, I offer a summary of the lamentable subtexts, as it were, of the nostos song by Phemios.
9§29. The nostos or ‘song of homecoming’ that Phemios sings in Odyssey i 326 is described as lugros, ‘disastrous’, at the beginning of the next verse, i 327, just as the mēnis or ‘anger’ of Achilles that ‘Homer’ sings in Iliad I 1 is described as oulomenē, ‘disastrous’, at the beginning of the next verse, I 2. [34] The disastrous anger of Achilles had led to immeasurable suffering, caused by Zeus, and the causation is expressed in terms of telos, ‘fulfillment’: ‘and the Will of Zeus was being brought to fulfillment [teleîsthai]’ [35] (Ι 5). And so also the goddess Athena made the Achaeans suffer, since she ‘brought to fulfillment’ a nostos that was disastrous for them: ‘he [= Phemios] sang the homecoming [nostos] of the Achaeans, | a disastrous [lugros] homecoming from Troy, and Pallas Athena was the one who brought it all to fulfillment [epi-tellesthai]’ [36] (i 326-327). [37]
9§30. From the retrospective standpoint of the Odyssey, the suffering of the Achaeans in the course of their homecoming from Troy was caused by Athena because she was angry at them for their immoral behavior in the course of their destroying the city of Troy. The story of Athena’s disastrous anger, in its most basic form, is told by Nestor to Telemachus:

Hour 9 Text E

|130 But after we [= the Achaeans] had destroyed the lofty city of Priam |131 and we went into our ships, the god dispersed us. |132 And then it was that Zeus devised in his thinking a plan to make a disastrous [lugros] homecoming [nostos] [38] |133 for the Argives [= Achaeans]; for they had not at all been either mindful [= having noos] or just [dikaioi], |134 not all of them, and so many of them met up with a bad destiny|135 because of the disastrous [oloē] anger [mēnis] of the daughter of the mighty father - of the goddess with the looks of an owl.
Odyssey iii 130-135 [39]
9§31. In this micro-narrative, we see the outlines of the whole story, but we see no details about the Achaean heroes involved. But a detailed narrative about the immoral behavior of the Achaeans at the end of the Trojan War can be found elsewhere in epic. The most telling example comes from the epic Cycle - in this case, from the Iliou Persis or ‘Destruction of Troy’, attributed to Arctinus of Miletus. I will now quote the text of the relevant plot summary, where we will see a series of atrocities committed by the Achaean warriors while they are putting an end to the city of Troy. I will concentrate on two parts of the story: first, the anger of Athena, which is highlighted at the end of the narrative, and, second, the actions of Odysseus himself, which precede the highlighting of Athena’s anger:

Hour 9 Text F

|16 After the preceding [= four scrolls of the Little Iliad, by Lesches of Lesbos], there follow two scrolls of the Iliou Persis, by Arctinus |17 of Miletus, containing the following. With regard to the things concerning the Horse, the |18 Trojans, suspicious about the horse, stand around wondering what they should |19 do. Some think it should be pushed off a cliff, while others |20 think it should be burned down, and still others say that it should be dedicated as sacred [hieros] to Athena. |21 In the end, the opinion of the third group wins out. They turn |22 to merriment, feasting as if they had been freed from the war. |23 At this point two serpents appear and |24 destroy Laocoön and one of his sons. At the sight of |25 this marvel, Aeneas and his followers get upset and withdraw |26 to Mount Ida. Sinon lights signal fires for the Achaeans. |27 He had previously entered the city, using a pretext. And they [= the Achaeans], some of them sailing from Tenedos |28 [toward Troy] and others of them emerging from the Wooden Horse, fall upon |29 their enemies. They kill many, and the city |30 is taken by force. Neoptolemos kills |31 Priam, who has taken refuge at the altar of Zeus Herkeios. [p. 108] |1 Menelaos finds Helen and takes her back down to the ships, after |2 slaughtering Deiphobos. Ajax son of Oileus takes Kassandra by |3 force, dragging her away from the wooden statue [xoanon] of Athena. At the sight |4 of this, the Achaeans get angry and decide to stone |5 Ajax to death, but he takes refuge at the altar of Athena, and so |6 is preserved from his impending destruction. Then |7 the Achaeans put the city to the torch. They slaughter Polyxena on the |8 tomb [taphos] of Achilles. Odysseus kills Astyanax, |9 and Neoptolemos takes Andromache as his prize. The rest |10 of the spoils are distributed. Demophon and Akamas find Aithra |11 and take her with them. Then the Greeks sail off [from Troy], |12 and Athena begins to plan destruction for them at sea.
plot-summary by Proclus of the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus pp. 107-108 [40]
9§32. This narrative about the Trojan War as transmitted in the epic Cycle corresponds closely to a narrative we see in Odyssey viii. The performer of that narrative is the blind singer Demodokos, who is performing an epic in the court of Alkinoos, king of the Phaeacians. In fact, that epic is the third of three songs that he performs in Odyssey viii. The audience attending the performance of Demodokos includes Odysseus himself, who has not yet revealed his identity to the Phaeacians:

Hour 9 Text G

|499 … And he [= Demodokos], setting his point of departure [hormētheis], started [arkhesthai] from the god. And he made visible [phainein] the song, |500 taking it from the point where they [= the Achaeans], boarding their ships with the strong benches, |501 sailed away, setting their tents on fire. |502 That is what some of the Argives [= Achaeans] were doing. But others of them were in the company of Odysseus most famed, and they were already |503 sitting hidden inside the Horse, which was now in the meeting place of the Trojans. |504 The Trojans themselves had pulled the Horse into the acropolis. |505 So, there it was, standing there, and they talked a great deal about it, in doubt about what to do, |506 sitting around it. There were three different plans: |507 to split the hollow wood with pitiless bronze, |508 or to drag it to the heights and push it down from the rocks, |509 or to leave it, great artifact that it was, a charm [thelktērion] of the gods |510 - which, I now see it, was exactly the way it was going to end [teleutân], |511 because it was fate [aisa] that the place would be destroyed, once the city had enfolded in itself |512 the great Wooden Horse, when all the best men were sitting inside it, |513 the Argives [= Achaeans], that is, bringing slaughter and destruction upon the Trojans. |514 He sang how the sons of the Achaeans destroyed the city, |515 pouring out of the Horse, leaving behind the hollow place of ambush. |516 He sang how the steep citadel was destroyed by different men in different places. |517 - how Odysseus went to the palace of Deiphobos, |518 how he was looking like Arēs, and godlike Menelaos went with him, |519 and how in that place, I now see it, he [= Demodokos] said that he [= Odysseus] dared to go through the worst part of the war, |520 and how he emerged victorious after that, with the help of Athena, the one with the mighty heart [thūmos]. |521 So, these were the things that the singer [aoidos] most famed was singing. As for Odysseus, |522 he dissolved [tēkesthai] into tears. He made wet his cheeks with the tears flowing from his eyelids, |523 just as a woman cries, falling down and embracing her dear husband, |524 who fell in front of the city and people he was defending, |525 trying to ward off the pitiless day of doom that is hanging over the city and its children. |526 She sees him dying, gasping for his last breath, |527 and she pours herself all over him as she wails with a piercing cry. But there are men behind her, |528 prodding her with their spears, hurting her back and shoulders, |529 and they bring for her a life of bondage, which will give her pain and sorrow. |530 Her cheeks are wasting away with a sorrow [akhos] that is most pitiful [eleeinon]. |531 So also did Odysseus pour out a piteous tear [dakruon] from beneath his brows; |532 there he was, escaping the notice of all while he kept pouring out his tears [dakrua]. |533 But Alkinoos was the only one of all of them who was aware, and he took note [noeîn].
Odyssey viii 499-533 [41]
9§33. As Odysseus weeps, he is compared here to an unnamed captive woman who is weeping (klaiein, Odyssey viii 523) over the dead body of her warrior husband. This woman, within the framework of the plot outline of the Iliou Persis that I quoted earlier, would be Andromache. [42] Within the overall framework of the Odyssey, however, this woman is not to be identified. As the unidentified captive woman weeps, she is ‘poured all around’ her dead husband (amphikhumenē 527): in effect, she dissolves into tears. Directly comparable is the primary listener in the audience, Odysseus, who reacts by ‘dissolving’ (tēkesthai 522) into tears. [43]
9§34. When the scene that shows the double horror of Andromache’s capture by the Achaeans and the killing of Astyanax by Odysseus himself is about to be retold in this epic narrative of Demodokos, something happens in the overall narrative of the Homeric Odyssey. At the point where the retelling is about to happen, it is blocked. Unlike the Iliou Persis of Arctinus, where a climactic moment of the narrative of Troy’s destruction is the capture of Andromache and the killing of Astyanax by Odysseus, that moment is missing in the Odyssey: instead, the narrator’s act of identifying Andromache as a captive woman is screened by a simile about an unidentified captive woman. [44]
9§35. This sequence of narration in the Odyssey achieves an effect of screen memory:
An essential phase in the sequence is being screened out by the memory of that narrative. The audience, as foregrounded by Odysseus, is expected to know the sequence, and the sequence is already a reality because the audience already knows where the singer had started. … So, the audience and the singer, in a combined effort, can now all project the image together, projecting it as a flashback on the screen of the mind’s eye. But the climax of the action, that is, the capturing of the woman who is yet to be identified as Andromache, has been screened out by a simile about the capturing of a woman who will never be identified. [45]
I have used here two distinct metaphors involving the concept of screen. The first is the screening or projecting of an image on the screen that is the mind’s eye. The second is the screening-out of that image in the overall narrative of the Odyssey. It is pertinent that Odysseus is not only the foregrounded audience of the third song of Demodokos: he is also an agent of the plot that is being narrated by the song, since he is the direct cause of Andromache’s sorrows. [46]
9§36. The sorrowful scene of Andromache’s capture, which is highlighted in the Iliou Persis but screened out in the Odyssey, is actually foreshadowed in the Iliad. I quote here the most telling verses, where Hector reveals to Andromache his forebodings about his own violent death and about its dire consequences for his wife and child:

Hour 9 Text H

|447 For I know well in my thinking, in my heart, that |448 there will come a day when, once it comes, the sacred city of Ilios [= Ilion = Troy] will be destroyed |449 – and Priam, too, and along with him [will be destroyed] the people of that man wielding the good ash spear, that Priam. |450 But the pain I have on my mind is not as great for the Trojans and for what will happen to them in the future, |451 or for Hecuba or for Priam the king, |452 or for my brothers if, many in number and noble as they are, |453 they will fall in the dust at the hands of men who are their enemies |454 – no, [the pain I have on my mind is not as great for them] as it is for you when I think of the moment when some Achaean man, one of those men who wear khitons of bronze, |455 takes hold of you as you weep and leads you away as his prize, depriving you of your days of freedom from slavery. |456 And you would be going to Argos, where you would be weaving [huphainein] at the loom of some other woman [and no longer at your own loom at home] |457 – and you would be carrying water for her, drawing from the spring called Messēís or the one called Hypereia. |458 Again and again you will be forced to do things against your will, and the bondage holding you down will be overpowering. |459 And someone some day will look at you as you pour out your tears and will say: |460 “Hector is the man whose wife this woman used to be. He used to be the best in battle |461 – the best of all the Trojans, those tamers of horses, back in those days when they fought to defend Ilion [= Troy].” |462 That is what someone some day will say. And just hearing it will give you a new sorrow |463 as the widow of this kind of man, the kind that is able to prevent those days of slavery. |464 But, once I am dead, may earth be scattered over me and cover me.
Iliad VI 447-464 [47]
9§37. With these sad images in mind, I return to the last verse of Text G, Odyssey viii 533: we saw there that Alkinoos, the perceptive king of the Phaeacians, is the only one to notice that Odysseus is weeping when he hears the story about the destruction of Troy and about all the sorrows inflicted on those who were part of that pitiful event. In his perceptiveness, Alkinoos infers that his weeping guest, who is at this point still unidentified, must have participated in the Trojan War; and he infers also that the guest must have been on the winning side, not the losing side. So, why is Odysseus weeping, then? Alkinoos thinks that it must be because Odysseus had lost someone near and dear who had been fighting on the Achaean side:

Hour 9 Text I

|577 Tell us why you are weeping and lamenting in your heart [thūmos] |578 when you hear the fate of the Argive Danaans [= Achaeans] or the fate of Troy. |579 The gods arranged all this, and they wove the fate of doom |580 for mortals, so that future generations might have something to sing about. |581 Did you lose some kinsman of your wife’s when you were at Troy? |582 Some such noble person? Or a son-in-law or father-in-law? Such people are most certainly |583 the nearest relations a man has outside his own flesh and blood. |584 Or was it perhaps a comrade [hetairos] who was well aware of the things that were most pleasing to you? |585 Some such noble person? For not any less prized than your own brother |586 is a comrade [hetairos] who is well aware of things you think about.
Odyssey viii 577-586 [48]
9§38. By now we know that there is more to it. Yes, everyone who participated in the Trojan War, whether they were on the losing side or even on the winning side, had reason to feel sorrow, but the fact is that none of the sorrows described by Alkinoos fits the experiences of Odysseus himself. This hero has lost neither a relative nor a best friend at Troy. No, the tears of Odysseus in hearing the sorrows of the Trojan War are more generalized, even universalized. The sorrow of Odysseus must take part even in the sufferings endured by the other side in the war.
9§39. Such universalizing of sorrow in the tears of Odysseus is a masterstroke of epic empathy, comparable to the words spoken by a weeping Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid (1.462): sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt, ‘there are tears that connect with the universe, and things that happen to mortals touch the mind’. [49]
9§40. So, Penelope was right: the kleos of the epic nostos sung by Phemios, as signaled in Odyssey i 326, conveys a message of sorrow for anyone who feels any personal involvement in the actions that took place in the Trojan War and in its aftermath, as narrated in the epic nostos. And the expression of that sorrow, as Penelope says in Odyssey i 342, quoted in Text D, is the penthos alaston or ‘unforgettable grief’ of lamentation. Any epic that fails to convey such a sense of sorrow in narrating the actions of war is not a true epic. That is why the narration of Helen in Odyssey iv 235-264 about the Trojan War is a false epic, from the standpoint of Homeric poetry. [50] And the epic narrated by Helen is made false by the fact that any sorrow that could possibly be felt by her listeners is being counteracted by artificial means. Before she narrates her epic, Helen puts into the drinks of her listeners a drug that counteracts all sorrow, all anger, all sense of personal involvement. This drug that goes into the wine of her listeners is described as nēpenthes, that is, a substance that negates penthos:

Hour 9 Text J

|220 She [= Helen] put a drug into the wine from which they drank. |221 It [= the drug] was against penthos [nē-penthes] and against anger [a-kholon]. It made one forget all bad things. |222 Whoever swallowed it, once it was mixed with the wine into the mixing bowl, |223 could not shed a tear from his cheeks for that day, |224 even if his mother and father died |225 or if he had earlier lost a brother or his own dear son, |226 killed by bronze weapons - even if he saw it all happen with his own eyes.
Odyssey iv 220-226 [51]
9§41. The only way that a listener like Telemachus could hear the narrative of Helen about the Trojan War without weeping is to be anesthetized to the sorrows that he too can now understand - now that he has gone after the nostos of his father Odysseus. [52] Telemachus has started to hear the story of Odysseus, and, in fact, when Menelaos says that he experiences akhos … alaston, ‘unforgettable grief’ (iv 508), every time he thinks about the uncertain fate of Odysseus, Telemachus breaks down and weeps (iv 113-116). Directly comparable is the penthos alaston, ‘unforgettable grief’, felt by Penelope (i 342) over the uncertain fate of Odysseus as she hears the nostos or ‘song of homecoming’ (i 326) sung by the singer Phemios. [53] And yet, Helen says that the false epic she narrates, focusing on the adventures of Odysseus at Troy, will bring pleasure to her listeners (iv 239 ‘be pleased with my words’). [54]
9§42. Such is the nature of Homeric poetry: it is a form of epic that taps into the traditions of lament, as we saw already in Hour 3. Yes, the expressions of sorrow in lament can be anesthetized by the sheer delight experienced in listening to the story for its own sake, but such delight is interwoven with the moral gravity that comes with epic empathy. That is what happens in the Homeric Odyssey, in this nostos to end all nostoi.


[ back ] 1. On the meaning of nēpios as ‘disconnected’, see the Core Vocabulary.
[ back ] 2. |1 ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ |2 πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε· |3 πολλῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω, |4 πολλὰ δ’ ὅ γ’ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν, |5 ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων. |6 ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ· |7 αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο, |8 νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιο |9 ἤσθιον· αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ. |10 τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν. |11 ἔνθ’ ἄλλοι μὲν πάντες, ὅσοι φύγον αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον, |12 οἴκοι ἔσαν, πόλεμόν τε πεφευγότες ἠδὲ θάλασσαν· |13 τὸν δ’ οἶον, νόστου κεχρημένον ἠδὲ γυναικός, |14 νύμφη πότνι’ ἔρυκε Καλυψώ, δῖα θεάων.
[ back ] 3. These headlines are based on an earlier formulation in EH §52.
[ back ] 4. Lord 1960:158-185.
[ back ] 5. GM 218-219, following Frame 1978.
[ back ] 6. This paragraph and the paragraphs that follow are based on the argumentation in EH §§47-50.
[ back ] 7. BA (1999) xii = Preface §16, with reference to BA 97 = 6§6n2.
[ back ] 8. BA (1999) xii-xiii = Preface §§16-18.
[ back ] 9. On the narrative of the Odyssey as an act of closure, closing the doors on the heroic age, see Martin 1993.
[ back ] 10. BA ch 2.
[ back ] 11. BA 35-41 = 2§§10-18.
[ back ] 12. In the rest of this paragraph and in the next two paragraphs I recapitulate the formulation in BA (1999) xii-xiii = Preface §§16-18.
[ back ] 13. BA 36-40 = 2§§12-16.
[ back ] 14. EH §49.
[ back ] 15. BA 41 = 2§17.
[ back ] 16. BA (1999) xii = Preface §17n; EH §50; Nagy 2007b:70.
[ back ] 17. BA 35 = 2§11; see also Dova 2000.
[ back ] 18. BA 145 = 8§8.
[ back ] 19. The word phrenes, which I translate here as ‘heart’, expresses in Homeric diction the human capacity to feel and to think, taken together.
[ back ] 20. |88 αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν Ἰθάκηνδε ἐλεύσομαι, ὄφρα οἱ υἱὸν |89 μᾶλλον ἐποτρύνω καί οἱ μένος ἐν φρεσὶ θείω, |90 εἰς ἀγορὴν καλέσαντα κάρη κομόωντας Ἀχαιοὺς |91 πᾶσι μνηστήρεσσιν ἀπειπέμεν, οἵ τέ οἱ αἰεὶ |92 μῆλ’ ἁδινὰ σφάζουσι καὶ εἰλίποδας ἕλικας βοῦς. |93 πέμψω δ’ ἐς Σπάρτην τε καὶ ἐς Πύλον ἠμαθόεντα |94 νόστον πευσόμενον πατρὸς φίλου, ἤν που ἀκούσῃ, |95 ἠδ’ ἵνα μιν κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἔχῃσιν.
[ back ] 21. GM 113.
[ back ] 22. The word thūmos, which I translate here as ‘heart’, expresses in Homeric diction the human capacity to feel and to think, taken together. In some Homeric contexts, thūmos is used as a synonym of phrenes, which can also be translated as ‘heart’, as in Odyssey i 89, which was the second verse in Text B above. In other Homeric contexts, on the other hand, thūmos is pictured as the vital force that is contained by the phrenes: see GM 113n111. Even in such contexs, both words can be approximated as ‘heart’.
[ back ] 23. |320 … τῷ δ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ |321 θῆκε μένος καὶ θάρσος, ὑπέμνησέν τέ ἑ πατρὸς |322 μᾶλλον ἔτ’ ἢ τὸ πάροιθεν.
[ back ] 24. GM 113.
[ back ] 25. Elsewhere too in the Odyssey, we see nostos as the direct object of punthanesthai ‘learn’ (ii 215, 264, 360; iv 714) - as also of akouein ‘hear’ (i 287, ii 218). In BA 40 = 2§16, I had translated punthanesthai (at ii 360) as ‘find out about’, but my point remains that nostos is the direct object of this verb. That is why I now prefer the translation ‘learn’, not ‘learn about’.
[ back ] 26. BA 40 = 2§16.
[ back ] 27. BA (1999) xii = Preface §§15-16.
[ back ] 28. More needs to be said about this verse at Odyssey xxiv 196, where the kleos of Odysseus is shared by Penelope. Some interpreters believe that the kleos mentioned in this verse belongs to Penelope only, not to Odysseus, whereas I argue that it belongs primarily to Odysseus; for more on these two different interpretations, see BA (1999) xii = Preface §16n2.
[ back ] 29. In Odyssey xix 108, as I analyze it in Hour 12§4, the disguised Odysseus says to Penelope that she possesses the kind of kleos or ‘glory’ that a righteous king possesses; the image of the unnamed king here is a placeholder for Odysseus.
[ back ] 30. This epithet lugros ‘disastrous’ is carried over from one verse to the next. The technical term for such carrying over is enjambment, and we will see the significance of this device in the analysis that follows.
[ back ] 31. Here again, the epithet lugrē ‘disastrous’ is enjambed from one verse to the next.
[ back ] 32. |325 τοῖσι δ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός, οἱ δὲ σιωπῇ |326 εἵατ’ ἀκούοντες· ὁ δ’ Ἀχαιῶν νόστον ἄειδε |327 λυγρόν, ὃν ἐκ Τροίης ἐπετείλατο Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη. |328 τοῦ δ’ ὑπερωϊόθεν φρεσὶ σύνθετο θέσπιν ἀοιδὴν |329 κούρη Ἰκαρίοιο, περίφρων Πηνελόπεια· |330 κλίμακα δ’ ὑψηλὴν κατεβήσετο οἷο δόμοιο, |331 οὐκ οἴη, ἅμα τῇ γε καὶ ἀμφίπολοι δύ’ ἕποντο. |332 ἡ δ’ ὅτε δὴ μνηστῆρας ἀφίκετο δῖα γυναικῶν, |333 στῆ ῥα παρὰ σταθμὸν τέγεος πύκα ποιητοῖο, |334 ἄντα παρειάων σχομένη λιπαρὰ κρήδεμνα· |335 ἀμφίπολος δ’ ἄρα οἱ κεδνὴ ἑκάτερθε παρέστη. |336 δακρύσασα δ’ ἔπειτα προσηύδα θεῖον ἀοιδόν· |337 “Φήμιε, πολλὰ γὰρ ἄλλα βροτῶν θελκτήρια οἶδας |338 ἔργ’ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, τά τε κλείουσιν ἀοιδοί· |339 τῶν ἕν γέ σφιν ἄειδε παρήμενος, οἱ δὲ σιωπῇ |340 οἶνον πινόντων· ταύτης δ’ ἀποπαύε’ ἀοιδῆς |341 λυγρῆς, ἥ τέ μοι αἰὲν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι φίλον κῆρ |342 τείρει, ἐπεί με μάλιστα καθίκετο πένθος ἄλαστον. |343 τοίην γὰρ κεφαλὴν ποθέω μεμνημένη αἰεὶ |344 ἀνδρός, τοῦ κλέος εὐρὺ καθ’ Ἑλλάδα καὶ μέσον Ἄργος.
[ back ] 33. PH 69 = 2§33.
[ back ] 34. The parallelism here is accentuated by the fact that the enjambment of the epithet oulomenē ‘disastrous’ in Iliad I 2 is matched by the enjambment of the epithet lugros ‘disastrous’ in Odyssey i 327.
[ back ] 35. Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή.
[ back ] 36. ὁ δ’ Ἀχαιῶν νόστον ἄειδε | λυγρὸν ὃν ἐκ Τροίης ἐπετείλατο Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη.
[ back ] 37. BA 97 = 6§6n2.
[ back ] 38. The use of the epithet lugros ‘disastrous’ in describing the nostos ‘homecoming’ of the Achaeans here in iii 132 is reminiscent of the way in which the song of Phemios started in i 326: there too we saw the word nostos in the sense of a ‘song of homecoming’, which is then described by the same epithet lugros ‘disastrous’ at the beginning of the next verse, i 327.
[ back ] 39. |130 αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ Πριάμοιο πόλιν διεπέρσαμεν αἰπήν, |131 βῆμεν δ’ ἐν νήεσσι, θεὸς δ’ ἐκέδασσεν Ἀχαιούς, |132 καὶ τότε δὴ Ζεὺς λυγρὸν ἐνὶ φρεσὶ μήδετο νόστον |133 Ἀργείοισ’, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι |134 πάντες ἔσαν· τῶ σφεων πολέες κακὸν οἶτον ἐπέσπον |135 μήνιος ἐξ ὀλοῆς γλαυκώπιδος ὀβριμοπάτρης.
[ back ] 40. |16 Ἕπεται δὲ τούτοις Ἰλίου πέρσιδος βιβλία δύο Ἀρκτίνου |17 Μιλησίου περιέχοντα τάδε. ὡς τὰ περὶ τὸν ἵππον οἱ |18 Τρῶες ὑπόπτως ἔχοντες περιστάντες βουλεύονται ὅ τι χρὴ |19 ποιεῖν· καὶ τοῖς μὲν δοκεῖ κατακρημνίσαι αὐτόν, τοῖς δὲ |20 καταφλέγειν, οἱ δὲ ἱερὸν αὐτὸν ἔφασαν δεῖν τῇ Ἀθηνᾷ |21 ἀνατεθῆναι· καὶ τέλος νικᾷ ἡ τούτων γνώμη. τραπέντες |22 δὲ εἰς εὐφροσύνην εὐωχοῦνται ὡς ἀπηλλαγμένοι τοῦ πολέ-|23μου. ἐν αὐτῷ δὲ τούτῳ δύο δράκοντες ἐπιφανέντες τόν τε |24 Λαοκόωντα καὶ τὸν ἕτερον τῶν παίδων διαφθείρουσιν. ἐπὶ |25 δὲ τῷ τέρατι δυσφορήσαντες οἱ περὶ τὸν Αἰνείαν ὑπεξῆλθον |26 εἰς τὴν Ἴδην. καὶ Σίνων τοὺς πυρσοὺς ἀνίσχει τοῖς Ἀχαιοῖς, |27 πρότερον εἰσεληλυθὼς προσποίητος. οἱ δὲ ἐκ Τενέδου |28 προσπλεύσαντες καὶ οἱ ἐκ τοῦ δουρείου ἵππου ἐπιπίπτουσι |29 τοῖς πολεμίοις καὶ πολλοὺς ἀνελόντες τὴν πόλιν κατὰ |30 κράτος λαμβάνουσι. καὶ Νεοπτόλεμος μὲν ἀποκτείνει |31 Πρίαμον ἐπὶ τὸν τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ ἑρκείου βωμὸν καταφυγόντα. [p. 108]|1 Μενέλαος δὲ ἀνευρὼν Ἑλένην ἐπὶ τὰς ναῦς κατάγει, Δηΐ-|2φοβον φονεύσας. Κασσάνδραν δὲ Αἴας ὁ Ἰλέως πρὸς |3 βίαν ἀποσπῶν συνεφέλκεται τὸ τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς ξόανον. ἐφ’ |4 ᾧ παροξυνθέντες οἱ Ἕλληνες καταλεῦσαι βουλεύονται τὸν |5 Αἴαντα. ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς βωμὸν καταφεύγει καὶ |6 διασῴζεται ἐκ τοῦ ἐπικειμένου κινδύνου. ἔπειτα ἐμπρή-|7σαντες τὴν πόλιν Πολυξένην σφαγιάζουσιν ἐπὶ τὸν τοῦ |8 Ἀχιλλέως τάφον. καὶ Ὀδυσσέως Ἀστυάνακτα ἀνελόντος, |9 Νεοπτόλεμος Ἀνδρομάχην γέρας λαμβάνει. καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ|10 λάφυρα διανέμονται. Δημοφῶν δὲ καὶ Ἀκάμας Αἴθραν |11 εὑρόντες ἄγουσι μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν. ἔπειτα ἀποπλέουσιν οἱ |12 Ἕλληνες, καὶ φθορὰν αὐτοῖς ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ κατὰ τὸ πέλαγος |13 μηχανᾶται.
[ back ] 41. |499 … ὁ δ’ ὁρμηθεὶς θεοῦ ἤρχετο, φαῖνε δ’ ἀοιδήν, |500 νθεν ἑλών, ς οἱ μὲν ἐϋσσέλμων ἐπὶ νηῶν |501 βάντες ἀπέπλειον, πῦρ ἐν κλισίῃσι βαλόντες, |502 Ἀργεῖοι, τοὶ δ’ ἤδη ἀγακλυτὸν ἀμφ’ ᾿Οδυσῆα |503 εἵατ’ ἐνὶ Τρώων ἀγορῇ κεκαλυμμένοι ἵππῳ· |504 αὐτοὶ γάρ μιν Τρῶες ἐς ἀκρόπολιν ἐρύσαντο. |505 ὣς ὁ μὲν ἑστήκει, τοὶ δ’ ἄκριτα πόλλ’ ἀγόρευον |506 ἥμενοι ἀμφ’ αὐτόν· τρίχα δέ σφισιν ἥνδανε βουλή, |507 ἠὲ διατμῆξαι κοῖλον δόρυ νηλέϊ χαλκῷ, |508 ἢ κατὰ πετράων βαλέειν ἐρύσαντας ἐπ’ ἄκρης, |509 ἢ ἐάαν μέγ’ ἄγαλμα θεῶν θελκτήριον εἶναι, |510 τῇ περ δὴ καὶ ἔπειτα τελευτήσεσθαι ἔμελλεν· |511 αἶσα γὰρ ἦν ἀπολέσθαι, ἐπὴν πόλις ἀμφικαλύψῃ |512 δουράτεον μέγαν ἵππον, ὅθ’ εἵατο πάντες ἄριστοι |513 Ἀργεῖοι Τρώεσσι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέροντες. |514 ἤειδεν δ’ ὡς ἄστυ διέπραθον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν |515 ἱππόθεν ἐκχύμενοι, κοῖλον λόχον ἐκπρολιπόντες. |516 ἄλλον δ’ ἄλλῃ ἄειδε πόλιν κεραϊζέμεν αἰπήν, |517 αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσῆα προτὶ δώματα Δηϊφόβοιο |518 βήμεναι, ἠΰτ’ Ἄρηα, σὺν ἀντιθέῳ Μενελάῳ. |519 κεῖθι δὴ αἰνότατον πόλεμον φάτο τολμήσαντα |520 νικῆσαι καὶ ἔπειτα διὰ μεγάθυμον Ἀθήνην. |521 ταῦτ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός· αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς |522 τ ή κετο, δάκρυ δ’ ἔδευεν ὑπὸ βλεφάροισι παρειάς. |523 ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι φίλον πόσιν ἀμφιπεσοῦσα, |524 ὅς τε ἑῆς πρόσθεν πόλιος λαῶν τε πέσῃσιν, |525 ἄστεϊ καὶ τεκέεσσιν ἀμύνων νηλεὲς ἦμαρ· |526 ἡ μὲν τὸν θνῄσκοντα καὶ ἀσπαίροντα ἰδοῦσα |527 ἀμφ’ αὐτῷ χυμένη λίγα κωκύει· οἱ δέ τ’ ὄπισθε |528 κόπτοντες δούρεσσι μετάφρενον ἠδὲ καὶ ὤμους |529 εἴρερον εἰσανάγουσι, πόνον τ’ ἐχέμεν καὶ ὀϊζύν· |530 τῆς δ’ ἐλεεινοτάτῳ ἄχεϊ φθινύθουσι παρειαί· |531 ὣς Ὀδυσεὺς ἐλεεινὸν ὑπ’ ὀφρύσι δάκρυον εἶβεν. |532 ἔνθ’ ἄλλους μὲν πάντας ἐλάνθανε δάκρυα λείβων, |533 Ἀλκίνοος δέ μιν οἶος ἐπεφράσατ’ ἠδ’ ἐνόησεν.
[ back ] 42. BA 101 = 6§9.
[ back ] 43. HC 348-349 = 2§344.
[ back ] 44. HC 346 = 2§337.
[ back ] 45. HC 347 = 2§338.
[ back ] 46. HC = 2§339, with reference to BA 101 = 6§9.
[ back ] 47. |447 εὖ γὰρ ἐγὼ τόδε οἶδα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν· |448 ἔσσεται ἦμαρ ὅτ’ ἄν ποτ’ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρὴ |449 καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐϋμμελίω Πριάμοιο.|450 ἀλλ’ οὔ μοι Τρώων τόσσον μέλει ἄλγος ὀπίσσω, |451 οὔτ’ αὐτῆς Ἑκάβης οὔτε Πριάμοιο ἄνακτος |452 οὔτε κασιγνήτων, οἵ κεν πολέες τε καὶ ἐσθλοὶ |453 ἐν κονίῃσι πέσοιεν ὑπ’ ἀνδράσι δυσμενέεσσιν, |454 ὅσσον σεῦ, ὅτε κέν τις Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων |455 δακρυόεσσαν ἄγηται ἐλεύθερον ἦμαρ ἀπούρας·|456 καί κεν ἐν Ἄργει ἐοῦσα πρὸς ἄλλης ἱστὸν ὑφαίνοις, |457 καί κεν ὕδωρ φορέοις Μεσσηΐδος ἢ Ὑπερείης |458 πόλλ’ ἀεκαζομένη, κρατερὴ δ’ ἐπικείσετ’ ἀνάγκη· |459 καί ποτέ τις εἴπῃσιν ἰδὼν κατὰ δάκρυ χέουσαν· |460 Ἕκτορος ἥδε γυνὴ ὃς ἀριστεύεσκε μάχεσθαι |461 Τρώων ἱπποδάμων ὅτε Ἴλιον ἀμφεμάχοντο. |462 ὥς ποτέ τις ἐρέει· σοὶ δ’ αὖ νέον ἔσσεται ἄλγος |463 χήτεϊ τοιοῦδ’ ἀνδρὸς ἀμύνειν δούλιον ἦμαρ. |464 ἀλλά με τεθνηῶτα χυτὴ κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτοι.
[ back ] 48. |577 εἰπὲ δ’ ὅ τι κλαίεις καὶ ὀδύρεαι ἔνδοθι θυμῷ |578 Ἀργείων Δαναῶν ἠδ’ Ἰλίου οἶτον ἀκούων. |579 τὸν δὲ θεοὶ μὲν τεῦξαν, ἐπεκλώσαντο δ’ ὄλεθρον |580 ἀνθρώποισ’, ἵνα ᾖσι καὶ ἐσσομένοισιν ἀοιδή. |581 ἦ τίς τοι καὶ πηὸς ἀπέφθιτο Ἰλιόθι πρό, |582 ἐσθλὸς ἐών, γαμβρὸς ἢ πενθερός; οἵ τε μάλιστα |583 κήδιστοι τελέθουσι μεθ’ αἷμά τε καὶ γένος αὐτῶν. |584 ἦ τίς που καὶ ἑταῖρος ἀνὴρ κεχαρισμένα εἰδώς, |585 ἐσθλός; ἐπεὶ οὐ μέν τι κασιγνήτοιο χερείων |586 γίνεται, ὅς κεν ἑταῖρος ἐὼν πεπνυμένα εἰδῇ.
[ back ] 49. I offer a detailed interpretation of this verse in HC 168-169 = 1§183.
[ back ] 50. I hasten to add that such an epic is not at all false from the standpoint of epic traditions other than Homeric poetry: the epic adventure of Odysseus as narrated by Helen in Odyssey iv 235-264 matches closely an episode in the epic Cycle, as we see from the plot-summary by Proclus of the Little Iliad by Lesches of Lesbos p. 107 lines 4-7.
[ back ] 51. |220 αὐτίκ’ ἄρ’ εἰς οἶνον βάλε φάρμακον, ἔνθεν ἔπινον, |221 νηπενθές τ’ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων. |222 ὃς τὸ καταβρόξειεν, ἐπὴν κρητῆρι μιγείη, |223 οὔ κεν ἐφημέριός γε βάλοι κατὰ δάκρυ παρειῶν, |224 οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ κατατεθναίη μήτηρ τε πατήρ τε, |225 οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ προπάροιθεν ἀδελφεὸν ἢ φίλον υἱὸν |226 χαλκῷ δηϊόῳεν, ὁ δ’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῷτο.
[ back ] 52. BA 99-100 = 6§7.
[ back ] 53. In this connection, I note with interest the name of the bastard son of Menelaos, mentioned in passing at Odyssey iv 11: he is Megapenthēs. For more on such “speaking names,” see BA 146 = 8§9n2.
[ back ] 54. μύθοις τέρπεσθε.