The Center for Hellenic Studies

A Note on Memory and Reciprocity in Homer’s Odyssey [1]

In this paper I explore the role of memory in Homeric epic in social contexts and, in particular, in reciprocity. [2] I focus on the Odyssey. Through analyzing the occurrences of mimnēskomai, ‘remember’, and other derivatives from the root mnē- in their contexts, I show that memory functions as an important principle in the maintenance of proper social interactions and of social order more generally, from small, individual incidents in the storyline to the actions directly contributing to the development of the plot and the design of the poem as a whole. We begin to see the connection of memory with reciprocation, and that memory and kharis, ‘beauty’, ‘grace’, ‘favor’, ‘reciprocation’, work hand in hand. [3] Finally, through considering reciprocal relationships denoted by kharis, I establish a connection between good memory and exemplarity of character, and show that the combination of memory and reciprocity characterized by kharis is what earns one commemoration in the epic.
I begin with Egbert Bakker’s analysis of memory in Homeric poetry. He, among others, has noted that the meaning of memory as a concept is tied to the intellectual habits and routines of the culture to which it belongs, or more precisely, to its dominant medium of communication. [4] Consequently, the concept of memory within ancient Greek epic appears to be significantly different from ours: our dominant medium of communication is writing, and so our concept of memory is connected to the storage and recall of stored information, and as such, is “a matter of the past.” [5] Bakker points out that our concept of memory is inapplicable to cultures where myth and epic are living realities, where speech and performance, not writing, are the dominant medium of communication. [6] He argues that memory in Homeric poetry, while providing access to an ontologically prior reality, is also a dynamic cognitive operation in the present, to do with “the activation of the consciousness.” [7] He notes that
The verbal root –μνη [mnē-] in Homeric Greek is used for the actual experience of the thing “remembered,” and –λαθ [lath-], its notional opposite, for the absence of that experience. In other words, “remembering” and “forgetting” in Homer are states of mind in the present. [8]
While Bakker draws his examples of this kind of memory from the Iliad, I turn to the poem of memory, the Odyssey, to illustrate memory a) with a present reference and b) implying action. [9] Beginning with states of mind in the present, then, when Penelope is distressed at the bard Phemios’ singing of the Achaeans’ return home from Troy, she says τοίην γὰρ κεφαλὴν ποθέω μεμνημένη αἰεὶ / ἀνδρός, “for I long for such [viz. so dear] a head, remembering always the man” (Odyssey 1.343–344). [10] She is not merely recalling information — the name of her husband or what he has done — but acutely experiencing a further mental state, longing for him. [11] Further, the reason for which she asks Phemios to cease from his song is that it always distresses her heart, since to her, most of all, comes unforgettable grief (ταύτης δ’ ἀποπαύε’ ἀοιδῆς / λυγρῆς, ἥ τέ μοι αἰὲν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι φίλον κῆρ / τείρει, ἐπεί με μάλιστα καθίκετο πένθος ἄλαστον, “but cease from this mournful song, which always distresses the heart in my breast, since upon me most of all came unforgettable grief,” Odyssey 1.340–342). When she remembers Odysseus, she always experiences grief, longing for what she has lost, and this grief is unforgettable, alaston, from the same root lath- that Bakker mentions as the notional opposite of mnē- for remembering. [12] Here for Penelope, remembering and longing, not forgetting and grief are inextricably tied together, and states of mind in the present. [13]
A different object of remembering, according to Bakker, is a concrete aspect of the physically experienced present. It is not even something mental, nor with a hint of a reference to a past time. Moreover, according to him, this is “the most characteristic Homeric usage of the root –μνη [mnē-].” [14] Bakker’s examples of this sort of memory include those where the warriors in the Iliad “remember battle,” that is, they prepare to fight valiantly, where there is no question of recalling something past or retrieval of a piece of knowledge. [15] We can find examples of this kind of remembering in the Odyssey in such contexts as, firstly, when Odysseus, his son Telemakhos, and Eumaios κοίτου τε μνήσαντο καὶ ὕπνου δῶρον ἕλοντο, “they both thought of [i.e. remembered] their bed and took the gift of sleep” (Odyssey 16.481) — that is, they go to bed (cp. the Phaeacians pour the last libation to Hermes when they think of, or remember, bed, Odyssey 7.138). Secondly, when Eurymakhos urges his co-suitors to fight Odysseus in the palace, and he does this by saying μνησώμεθα χάρμης, “let us remember the lust of battle” (Odyssey 22.73); this remembering is not about recalling something past, but of experiencing, and actively doing, something in the present (cp. also Odyssey 4.527: Aigisthos has a guard in place in case Agamemnon remembers the shield of battle, that is, puts up a fight). [16] And thirdly, when Odysseus consoles his men after their encounter with the Cyclops and says μνησόμεθα βρώμης μηδὲ τρυχώμεθα λιμῷ, “let us remember food and not be worn out by hunger” (Odyssey 10.177) — here it is clearly not a matter of simple remembering (which would still lead to starvation), but of taking a specific course of action, preparing and eating food, that is involved (conversely, at Odyssey 13.280, not remembering food equals skipping a meal). All these instances illustrate the uses of verbs from the root mnē- that, in Bakker’s words, “not merely […] designate a state of mind in the present but the conscious, physical experience that leads to a decisive, immediate action.” [17]
We have now seen examples of remembering as both an acute mental state in the present and a physical experience with an accompanying action. Beyond these sorts of manifestations of memory — what Bakker discusses — I will now take the idea of remembering and a concomitant action further. Specifically, while Bakker’s analysis of memory in archaic Greek modes of thought shows its connections with a certain kind of capacity or power, and also brings to the fore the idea of a given action accompanying or being equal to remembering (for instance, where remembering one’s strength equals being physically strong, e.g. Iliad 6.112), I will argue that, beyond that, remembering has an additional moral or ethical sense, in that it is thought to result in the appropriate or correct type of action.
A common scenario in the Odyssey for this kind of remembering is in the context of prayers and, among humans, appeals to, for instance, hosts’ kindness: a suppliant asks his addressee to remember an earlier favor, and remembering this, it is implied, will result in the reciprocation of that favor as is fitting. For example, when Penelope finds out that Telemakhos has left for Pylos and Sparta and that the suitors are scheming to assassinate him on his way back, she prays to Athena:
κλῦθί μευ, αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς τέκος, Ἀτρυτώνη,
εἴ ποτέ τοι πολύμητις ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν Ὀδυσσεὺς
ἢ βοὸς ἢ ὄϊος κατὰ πίονα μηρία κῆε,
τῶν νῦν μοι μνῆσαι καί μοι φίλον υἷα σάωσον,
μνηστῆρας δ’ ἀπάλαλκε κακῶς ὑπερηνορέοντας.
Odyssey 4.762–766
Hear me, child of Zeus who wields the aegis, the Unwearied,
if ever Odysseus of many wiles in his palace
burnt for you the fat thigh pieces of either a heifer or a ewe,
remember them for me now and save my dear son for me,
and ward off the overbearing suitors.
In an appeal to a god, the earlier favor is usually a sacrifice, as here. In inter-human relationships, we find references to earlier hospitality or kept promises, as with Telemakhos’ appeal to Nestor for information about his father:
λίσσομαι, εἴ ποτέ τοί τι πατὴρ ἐμός, ἐσθλὸς Ὀδυσσεύς,
ἢ ἔπος ἠέ τι ἔργον ὑποστὰς ἐξετέλεσσε
δήμῳ ἔνι Τρώων, ὅθι πάσχετε πήματ’ Ἀχαιοί·
τῶν νῦν μοι μνῆσαι, καί μοι νημερτὲς ἐνίσπες.
Odyssey 3.98–101; the exact same lines are repeated in Telemakhos’ appeal to Menelaos, Odyssey 4.328–331
I beseech you, if ever my father, noble Odysseus,
promised you something, either by word or by deed, and kept it
in the land of Trojans, when you Achaeans suffered calamities;
remember them for me now, and tell me the truth.
The formula asking for remembering and the reciprocating action is the same in the case both of Penelope and of Telemakhos — τῶν νῦν μοι μνῆσαι, καί μοι, “remember them for me now, and [do something] for me” — and so, the linking of memory with returning favors as is fitting appears to be traditional. [18]
In addition, a suggestion of this same moral aspect of remembering being functional in guest-host relations more generally can be found in Nestor’s son’s, Peisistratos’ words to Telemakhos: τοῦ γάρ τε ξεῖνος μιμνῄσκεται ἤματα πάντα / ἀνδρὸς ξεινοδόκου, ὅς κεν φιλότητα παράσχῃ, “for the guest remembers for all days the host [lit. guest-receiving man] who offers close friendship” (Odyssey 15.125–126; cp. also Odyssey 4.592, where Menelaos gives Telemakhos a cup to remind him of his host when making libations; similarly with Odysseus and his host Alkinoos, Odyssey 8.431). Reciprocation of favors is typical — and unsurprising — in guest-host relations, but the evidence points to memory’s having a central role in maintaining the desired, correct behavior. In all these contexts, remembering is expected to have an action going with it, just like in the examples with sleep, food and lust of battle as the objects of remembering where the physical action seems to be even more central than any idea of recalling.
A variation on the theme of remembering something past in an attempt to elicit the appropriate, or hoped for reaction in the addressee can be found in Iliad 9.524–599, where Phoinix tells — or remembers — the story of Meleager as a part of an attempt to persuade Achilles to join battle. There, the reference is not to the personal past of the speaker or the addressee, but to the communally shared and known past preserved in klea andrōn, epic songs about the glory of men. [19] Indeed, William Moran, who argues for the quasi-technical use of the verb mimnēskomai to signify the singing of epic songs, observes that Phoinix here becomes a bard performing such a song, but he also notes that the passage shows what he calls “the invocation pattern” that we have seen in Penelope’s and Telemakhos’ appeals. [20] As Phoinix asks Achilles not to make the embassy’s coming to see him fruitless, he says:
οὕτω καὶ τῶν πρόσθεν ἐπευθόμεθα κλέα ἀνδρῶν
ἡρώων, ὅτε κέν τιν’ ἐπιζάφελος χόλος ἵκοι·
δωρητοί τε πέλοντο παράρρητοί τ’ ἐπέεσσι.
μέμνημαι τόδε ἔργον ἐγὼ πάλαι, οὔ τι νέον γε,
ὡς ἦν· ἐν δ’ ὑμῖν ἐρέω πάντεσσι φίλοισι.
Iliad 9.524–528 [21]
Just so we have heard glorious stories of heroic men of old,
whenever violent wrath would come to one of them:
they were both open to gifts and persuaded by words.
I remember this deed of old, indeed nothing new,
how it happened: and I will tell it among you, all dear close friends.
After this introduction, Phoinix launches into the story of Meleager’s anger and how he is eventually appeased and joins battle, as an example for Achilles to follow, even spelling out what he wishes Achilles to do as he concludes the story (Iliad 9.600–605). This is in structure very similar to, if much longer and more elaborate than, the examples of supplication of a god, a friend, or a guest/host, in terms of remembering or reminding about some relevant past action and asking for a specific action in return for it in the present time. The only difference is that the earlier, personal, favor that should now be returned is here replaced by a mythological exemplum. While appropriate reciprocation is part of the scene between Achilles and the embassy, the argument from memory for Achilles to adopt a specific course of action does not hinge on returning a favor — memory can be employed to elicit appropriate behavior without referring to reciprocation, as well.
Perhaps more significant for understanding this ethical aspect of remembering, however, are the instances where a lack of remembering results in the absence of the appropriate behavior. This connection is brought out most pointedly by Mentor in his address to the assembly of Ithacans and the suitors who are their sons (Odyssey 2.50–51). He says that it is their not remembering Odysseus that is the reason for the outrageous situation in Ithaca:
κέκλυτε δὴ νῦν μευ, Ἰθακήσιοι, ὅττι κεν εἴπω·
μή τις ἔτι πρόφρων ἀγανὸς καὶ ἤπιος ἔστω
σκηπτοῦχος βασιλεύς, μηδὲ φρεσὶν αἴσιμα εἰδώς,
ἀλλ’ αἰεὶ χαλεπός τ’ εἴη καὶ αἴσυλα ῥέζοι,
ὡς οὔ τις μέμνηται Ὀδυσσῆος θείοιο
λαῶν, οἷσιν ἄνασσε, πατὴρ δ’ ὣς ἤπιος ἦεν.
ἀλλ’ ἦ τοι μνηστῆρας ἀγήνορας οὔ τι μεγαίρω
ἕρδειν ἔργα βίαια κακορραφίῃσι νόοιο·
σφὰς γὰρ παρθέμενοι κεφαλὰς κατέδουσι βιαίως
οἶκον Ὀδυσσῆος, τὸν δ’ οὐκέτι φασὶ νέεσθαι.
νῦν δ’ ἄλλῳ δήμῳ νεμεσίζομαι, οἷον ἅπαντες
ἧσθ’ ἄνεω, ἀτὰρ οὔ τι καθαπτόμενοι ἐπέεσσι
παύρους μνηστῆρας κατερύκετε πολλοὶ ἐόντες.
Odyssey 2.229–241 [22]
But hear me now, Ithacans, what I shall say:
May no king that holds the sceptre still have a gracious mind,
be gentle and kind, and may he not know what is fitting in his mind,
but may he always both be harsh and work evil,
since not one remembers divine Odysseus
of the people whom he rules, and how kind a father he was.
But in truth, let me tell you, I do not grudge the arrogant suitors
their doing violent deeds in the mischievousness of their minds;
for staking their own heads they violently eat up
the house of Odysseus, and say that he will no longer come back.
But now I am wroth with the rest of the people — how you all
sit in silence, but, accosting them with words,
you do not hold back the few suitors although you are more numerous.
There is in Mentor’s words an implication of what would be the appropriate reciprocation in relationships between subjects and their just kings, similar to what we have seen between suppliants and their patrons, and guests and their hosts. Again, the principle necessary for maintaining the appropriate relationship is memory — οὔ τις μέμνηται Ὀδυσσῆος θείοιο / λαῶν, οἷσιν ἄνασσε, πατὴρ δ’ ὣς ἤπιος ἦεν, “not one remembers divine Odysseus of the people whom he rules, and how kind a father he was” (Odyssey 2.33–34) — if he and his kindness were remembered, the current state of affairs would not obtain. [23] Moreover, Mentor’s name signifies ‘he who reminds’ — perhaps why it is unnecessary for him to tell his listeners to remember, with anything he says automatically being a reminder. [24]
The importance of remembering, or being mindful, in the context of social interactions is here made explicit. It is remembering that ascertains the proper order of affairs, and as long as people remember they will behave as is fitting. Indeed, Richard Martin speaks of memory as “the mechanism for affirming social bonds and challenging the listener to uphold them” and says that “as a general rule, characters in the Iliad do not remember anything simply for the pleasure of memory. Recall has an exterior goal.” [25] For him, however, the affirming of social bonds by way of memory takes the form of performance from memory to enhance or assert one’s social standing and authority, whereas I see memory as applying more generally to social interactions, as the principle that maintains proper conduct. [26]
I now turn to memory in reciprocity at more depth and begin by examining a relevant passage in the Odyssey, Telemakhos’ speech to the assembly in Odyssey 2. He describes the suitors’ outrageous behavior and calls on the assembly to show concern:
οὐ γὰρ ἔτ’ ἀνσχετὰ ἔργα τετεύχαται, οὐδ’ ἔτι καλῶς
οἶκος ἐμὸς διόλωλε· νεμεσσήθητε καὶ αὐτοί,
ἄλλους τ’ αἰδέσθητε περικτίονας ἀνθρώπους,
οἳ περιναιετάουσι· θεῶν δ’ ὑποδείσατε μῆνιν,
μή τι μεταστρέψωσιν ἀγασσάμενοι κακὰ ἔργα.
λίσσομαι ἠμὲν Ζηνὸς Ὀλυμπίου ἠδὲ Θέμιστος,
ἥ τ’ ἀνδρῶν ἀγορὰς ἠμὲν λύει ἠδὲ καθίζει·
Odyssey 2.63–69
For they [the suitors] have done unendurable deeds, nor at all seemly is the way
in which my house has been utterly destroyed: you yourselves should resent it,
and be ashamed before the other neighboring men,
who live around here; fear the mēnis of the gods,
lest angry at evil deeds they turn things round into punishment.
I beseech both the Olympian Zeus and Themis,
who dissolves and seats the assemblies of men.
Leonard Muellner has well demonstrated the significance of this part in Telemakhos’ speech in its connection to the theme of mēnis. This term is often translated as ‘wrath’, but he argues that it refers not to an emotion, but to “a sanction meant to guarantee and maintain the integrity of the world order,” “a social force whose activations brings drastic consequences on the whole community.” [27] The incurrence of mēnis “implies the prohibited transgression of fundamental cosmic rules,” among which are those of reciprocity and hospitality. [28] mēnis enforces the sovereign cosmic order, whether maintaining the social and political coherence of the divine community or the hierarchical distinctions between men and gods, or among men. Indeed, Muellner notes the continuity of human social hierarchy with that of the world as a whole, and the consequent lack of distinction between upholding the world order and the moral balance of human society — such that many human interactions, including those to do with reciprocal exchange, may incur mēnis when conducted incorrectly. [29] He also notes that as continuity is crucial to maintaining the world order, solidarity, on which this continuity depends, becomes important; thus an offence of an individual results in mēnis against not only that individual but the entire social group to which he belongs. [30] Muellner comments on this section of Telemakhos’ speech with the following:
The unspeakable abuse of hospitality by the suitors is not only shameful for others to witness but a violation of the rules of exchange that merits divine mēnis. Telemachus invokes the relevant gods: Olympian Zeus, who stands for the divine community as a whole, and Themis herself, the guardian of the social order. He warns his fellow Ithacans that for an offense of this type, members of the offending party’s solidarity group are liable to be caught up in the resulting retribution, whether or not they are blameworthy. [31]
In Telemakhos’ speech we have, firstly, mēnis indicating a punishment for bad behavior — and fear of it as guiding one to the right path. Secondly, we have an illustration of the role of solidarity in upholding the desired state of affairs, and hence the extension of the sense of outrage and consequent punishment from the offenders proper to their social group (Odyssey 2.63–69).
Now, I would like to compare Telemakhos’ address with Mentor’s speech. This is the speech I discuss above as evidence for memory’s leading to appropriate behavior (Odyssey 2.229–241). To recap, in Mentor’s speech memory is set up as the principle that maintains the proper social order, and its absence is presented as an explanation of the outrageous situation in Ithaca. Further, blame is attached not only to the suitors (or, in fact, the focus is shifted from them), but also to the larger community to which they belong. As Telemakhos in his speech, so Mentor describes the wrongs of the suitors, presents a principle for the maintenance of the proper state of affairs — for Mentor it is memory, while for Telemakhos it is mēnis — and extends the blame from the culprits proper to their solidarity group. Furthermore, Mentor’s speech makes clear that what is being perverted is the sovereign order, that of Odysseus’ position as the king over the Ithacans, through his wish for no king to be just any longer. [32] Maintaining the sovereign order, whether the cosmic one or its manifestation on the human level, is a function of mēnis, an idea which underlies Telemakhos’ speech; here Mentor connects the collapse of Odysseus’ position among Ithacans with absence of memory. These two speeches are parallel, and in being such they also draw a parallel between mēnis and memory: just as mēnis is the sanction meant to maintain the cosmic order, so memory appears in a similar role as a principle leading to proper conduct — the kind that agrees with maintaining the cosmic order. [33]
mēnis and the words referring to memory derived from the root mnē- are in fact etymologically connected. [34] The current competing etymologies agree that mēnis ultimately derives from the Indo-European root *men-, ‘activate the mind’, and according to Calvert Watkins’ and Muellner’s argument, mēnis is derived from the root *mnā- (=mnē-), a “Theme II” enlargement of the root *men-. This *mnā- is the same root from which we also get mimnēskō, ‘remind’, mimnēskomai, ‘remember’, and mnaomai, ‘be mindful of’. [35] mēnis, however, lost its first nasal consonant because of tabu deformation — mēnis was dangerous both to provoke and to utter. Given this etymological connection between mēnis and words for memory derived from the root mnē-, and the meaning of mēnis as a sanction to guarantee the world order, it does not seem surprising at all that the archaic Greek concept of memory is connected to matters of proper conduct and morality, as well. [36] And, like memory, as illustrated through the uses of the verbs mimnēskō and mimnēskomai in the Homeric epics, mēnis, too, has action going with it — it is not only something in the mind, but has further consequences, just as memory is not simply recollection for the sake of it. [37] Both of them, then, are to do with a certain kind of activation of the mind that comes with further consequences and actions.
However, it should be clear from the epics themselves and from my foregoing discussion that unlike mēnis, words for memory are not dangerous to utter and that there are other differences beside the obvious ones between wrath leading to collective punishment and generally positive recollection. Indeed, as mēnis is the reaction to transgression, so memory, or instances of mimnēskō and mimnēskomai indicate the sort of frame of mind that will keep one on a good path — even help avoid incurring mēnis in the first place. Memory is, as it were, prophylactic, in contradistinction to the corrective role of mēnis. [38]
Insofar as memory and mēnis relate to mental activity (especially given the derivation from the root *men-, ‘activate the mind’), it is worth noting that individuals arousing mēnis are frequently said not to have noos, ‘mind’, ‘understanding’, ‘intelligence’, or to be aphrones, ‘senseless’, ‘without phrenes [diaphragm, as a seat of the intellect]’. For example, in Iliad 5 Athena persuades Ares to stay away from the fighting between the Achaeans and Trojans by suggesting they avoid Zeus’ mēnis (Iliad 5.34). When Ares has nevertheless joined battle on Aphrodite’s and Apollo’s urging, Hera complains to Zeus that the two have sent Ares ἄφρονα […], ὃς οὔ τινα οἶδε θέμιστα, “senseless […], who knows no right” (Iliad 5.761). That mēnis is the appropriate punishment for what Ares does, as suggested by Athena, is further indicated in the poem: when Ares, wounded by Diomedes, returns to Olympos and complains to Zeus, the latter rebukes him and tells him that if he were the son of any other god, he would be put lower than the sons of Ouranos (Iliad 5.897–898) — a punishment in terms of cosmic hierarchy, appropriate to incurring mēnis. [39] In Iliad 15 Athena refrains Ares again from taking part in the battle to avenge his son’s death, a deed that would also result in Zeus’ mēnis (Iliad 15.121–122). In response to Ares’ impulse to join the battle, she calls him φρένας ἠλὲ, “crazed in your phrenes” and says νόος δ’ ἀπόλωλε καὶ αἰδώς, “and your intellect is destroyed, and your sense of shame, too” (Iliad 15.128, 129). [40] Likewise, when Nestor accounts for the hardships of the Achaeans on their return from Troy in the Odyssey, these same elements are present:
καὶ τότε δὴ Ζεὺς λυγρὸν ἐνὶ φρεσὶ μήδετο νόστον
Ἀργείοισ’, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι
πάντες ἔσαν· τῶ σφεων πολέες κακὸν οἶτον ἐπέσπον
μήνιος ἐξ ὀλοῆς γλαυκώπιδος ὀβριμοπάτρης.
Odyssey 3.132–135
And then Zeus devised a baneful homecoming in his mind
for the Argives, since not all of them were intelligent [41]
or just: therefore many of them met evil doom
on account of the destructive mēnis of the gleaming-eyed daughter of
a mighty father.
mēnis is here provoked by actions and a state of mind that betray a lack of noos, as well as injustice (οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι, “not intelligent nor just,” Odyssey 3.233), just as in the case of Ares what is lacking is intelligence and concern for social constraints in the form of attention to aidōs, ‘sense of shame’, ‘respect’, and themis, ‘law established by custom’, ‘right’. themis, in fact, denotes the rules that enforce cosmic hierarchy and proper social behavior, and they are of divine origin. [42] As such, then, mēnis is an appropriate response to upsetting themis. Conversely, good phrenes are given as the explanation of proper conduct, for instance, in Eumaios’ unfailing appropriate behavior in the Odyssey: οὐδὲ συβώτης / λήθετ’ ἄρ’ ἀθανάτων· φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσιν, “nor did the swineherd forget the immortals: for he had good phrenes” (Odyssey 14.420–421), and so he makes an offering to the gods as a part of his preparation of the meal. Likewise, Mentor maintains as fair that in return for Odysseus’ people’s not remembering their king μή τις ἔτι πρόφρων ἀγανὸς καὶ ἤπιος ἔστω / σκηπτοῦχος βασιλεύς, μηδὲ φρεσὶν αἴσιμα εἰδώς, “may no king that holds the sceptre still have a gracious mind, be gentle and kind, and may he not know what is fitting in his mind” (Odyssey 2.230–231). πρόφρων, “with forward mind,” “with gracious mind,” and φρεσὶν αἴσιμα εἰδώς, “knowing what is fitting in his mind,” here both contain the element phrenes. Bad, or no, memory calls for reciprocation that shows an equally poor mind.
Reciprocity, indeed, has close connections to both memory and mēnis. To return to Telemakhos’ speech at the assembly in Odyssey 2, after calling for the resentment of the Ithacans against the suitors and explaining the threat of mēnis to them, he continues:
σχέσθε, φίλοι, καί μ’ οἶον ἐάσατε πένθεϊ λυγρῷ
τείρεσθ’, εἰ μή πού τι πατὴρ ἐμὸς ἐσθλὸς Ὀδυσσεὺς
δυσμενέων κάκ’ ἔρεξεν ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς,
τῶν μ’ ἀποτεινύμενοι κακὰ ῥέζετε δυσμενέοντες,
τούτους ὀτρύνοντες. ἐμοὶ δέ κε κέρδιον εἴη
ὑμέας ἐσθέμεναι κειμήλιά τε πρόβασίν τε·
εἴ χ’ ὑμεῖς γε φάγοιτε, τάχ’ ἄν ποτε καὶ τίσις εἴη·
τόφρα γὰρ ἂν κατὰ ἄστυ ποτιπτυσσοίμεθα μύθῳ
χρήματ’ ἀπαιτίζοντες, ἕως κ’ ἀπὸ πάντα δοθείη·
νῦν δέ μοι ἀπρήκτους ὀδύνας ἐμβάλλετε θυμῷ.
Odyssey 2.70–79
Hold back, my friends, and let me alone to be worn out by baneful grief,
unless my father good Odysseus,
bearing ill-will, did evil deeds against the well-greaved Achaeans,
avenging which you are doing evil deeds to me, bearing ill-will,
by encouraging these men [the suitors]. And it would be more profitable for me
to have you eat up both my possessions and live-stock;
if indeed it was you who ate, then recompense would be quick:
for up and down the town we would be greeted warmly by speech,
demanding back our belongings, until everything were given back;
but now you throw incurable distress in my heart.
His speech makes it clear that the suitors’ feasting at Odysseus’ house is a matter that, when properly conducted, calls for an appropriate reciprocal return. [43] Further, Telemakhos asserts that the fact of the suitors’ outrageous behavior — and the Ithacans’ not stopping it — would be explicable as a return for earlier bad conduct on his father’s part. Here even the phrasing shows the careful reciprocal balance with a chiastic ordering of the repeated words: δυσμενέων κάκ’ ἔρεξεν ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς, / τῶν μ’ ἀποτεινύμενοι κακὰ ῥέζετε δυσμενέοντες, “[unless Odysseus,] bearing ill-will, did evil deeds against the well-greaved Achaeans, avenging which you are doing evil deeds to me, bearing ill-will” (Odyssey 2.72–73). Reciprocating both good turns and bad is the norm. And so, as Telemakhos has said earlier in his speech, if the suitors’ bad conduct and the Ithacans’ passivity are not a return for an earlier evil, then it is properly reciprocated by the mēnis of the gods. Mentor, in his speech echoing Telemakhos’, echoes these ideas as well, but he is clear on the point of Odysseus’ record as a good ruler and that these evil deeds taking place in Ithaca are not an appropriate return for it. According to him, the suitors are preparing to repay their abuse of Odysseus’ house and livelihood with their lives (σφὰς γὰρ παρθέμενοι κεφαλὰς, “for staking their own heads,” Odyssey 2.237), but the Ithacans, who do not remember the kindliness of Odysseus, deserve a different reciprocation, namely, a harsh ruler. Just as in Telemakhos’ speech mēnis is entangled in the network of reciprocal exchanges, so in Mentor’s is memory.
Muellner, in fact, argues for the interconnectedness of rules of reciprocal exchange and mēnis, as well as themis, ‘law established by custom’, ‘right’, which we saw above in connection with the right kind of noos or phrenes to avoid mēnis and characterizing people with good memory. He observes that the notion of value represented in the Homeric epics is one of relative value, or more precisely, “publicly witnessed and approved exchange value such as that defined in a communal division.” [44] By communal division is meant the allotment of the shares of meat at a sacrificial meal, and also the division of booty and social prestige. And, just as ritual sacrifice articulates and reaffirms the hierarchical relationship of the animal, human, and divine levels, so the division of booty speaks to the hierarchy of the human society — but at the same time also of the cosmos. [45] As Muellner says, “there is no sharp distinction between the maintenance of the cosmos and the moral equilibrium of human society. The human social hierarchy is simply continuous with the hierarchy of the world as a whole.” [46] These issues are well exemplified with the extent of the repercussions of Agamemnon’s depriving Achilles of his share of the spoils, Briseis, and Achilles’ ensuing mēnis in the Iliad. Muellner notes further that
The function of mēnis is anterior even to the hierarchy established by the division of value-laden objects or subjects. It actually protects the rules that define exchange value as well as the hierarchy that those rules establish. [47]
The name for this kind of a rule is themis, which, as noted above, is often at stake or imperiled in episodes involving mēnis. [48] themistes (plural of themis) maintain proper social behavior while enforcing the cosmic hierarchy, and personified as a goddess, Themis is the guardian of social order, a role of which we have an indication in the passage from Telemakhos’ speech in the assembly, Odyssey 2.63–69 (quoted above). In governing the rules of exchange value, themistes are also involved in reciprocal exchange. [49] As Marcel Mauss notes in his study of the organization of contractual law and the system of the economic services of archaic and “so-called primitive societies,” these systems of exchange simultaneously express all aspects of the social life of that society:
In these ‘total’ social phenomena, as we propose calling them, all kinds of institutions are given expression at one and the same time — religious, juridical, and moral, which relate to both politics and the family; likewise economic ones which suppose special forms of production and consumption, or rather, of performing total services and of distribution. [50]
Reciprocal exchange in the Homeric society cannot be isolated from other aspects of that society without losing a facet of its meaning — it is also an articulation of the social order, of the cosmic hierarchy, an instance of the working of themis. [51] Reciprocity, therefore, carries also moral connotations.
As there is a close connection between themis and mēnis, the protector of themis and response to the violation of the value system based on reciprocal exchange, likewise, then, we have seen that memory has a role to play in maintaining proper conduct. Memory, too, features in proper reciprocal exchange and is an upholder of themis. [52] Watkins, moreover, has demonstrated the reciprocal relationship that obtains between the pair of terms mēnis and memnēmai, ‘remember’. [53] This complementarity of the terms is demonstrated by passages such as Elpenor’s request to Odysseus in the underworld. [54] As Odysseus and his men leave for their journey to the underworld, Elpenor is left behind dead and unburied after his fall from the roof of Kirke’s house. When Odysseus encounters his shade in the underworld, Elpenor makes a request to Odysseus for when he returns to Kirke’s island:
ἔνθα σ’ ἔπειτα, ἄναξ, κέλομαι μνήσασθαι ἐμεῖο.
μή μ’ ἄκλαυτον ἄθαπτον ἰὼν ὄπιθεν καταλείπειν
νοσφισθείς, μή τοί τι θεῶν μήνιμα γένωμαι
Odyssey 11.71–73
there, then, my lord, I order you to remember me.
Do not leave me behind unwept and unburied as you go,
turning your back on me, lest I become a mēnima [‘cause for mēnis’] of the gods
for you.
According to Watkins, the reciprocity demonstrated here is that it is the humans’ part to remember, be mindful of (μνήσασθαι, “to remember,” Odyssey 11.71) the divinely imposed order, here specifically the rites due to the dead, and the part of the gods is to provide mēnis, here manifested as mēnima, ‘cause for mēnis’, of the gods, as a deterrent against or a punishment for violating this order. [55]
Going beyond the reciprocal relationship between mēnis and memory illustrated by Watkins, who approaches the issue from the side of mēnis only, [56] I have shown that the application of memory in contexts pertaining to proper conduct, reciprocity — and maintenance of world order — is much wider in Homer than that of mēnis. Memory often appears in this capacity without reference mēnis, and the reciprocal relationship specified in such passages may be other than that with mēnis explicitly. For instance, in the invocational themes discussed above, the foremost reciprocal relationship is between a past favor done, whether sacrifice, promise, or service, and an expected favor in the present, with memory as the guarantor of heeding that reciprocal relationship. Memory, therefore, is invoked both in contexts requiring proper conduct and in those calling for reciprocation even when mēnis (or its substitute) is not mentioned. Furthermore, while I agree with Watkins’ idea of the reciprocity between mēnis and memory, I would like to qualify it further by pointing out that when there is memory (on the part of humans, or even gods), there will be no mēnis, as memory keeps one mindful of the danger of incurring mēnis and so helps avoid it in the first place. There will only be mēnis when this memory is absent. The relationship is thus not of perfectly symmetrical reciprocity, but the provision of one in the absence of the other.
Indeed, as inscriptions from votive offerings demonstrate, humans’ remembering the gods and their good deeds is thought to maintain a continuous relationship of reciprocating good turns, with no room left for mēnis, as, for example, in this dedication from Thespiai from the 5th century BC:
εὐχὰν ἐκκτελέσαντι Διονύσοι | Νεομέδες
ἔργον ἀντ’ ἀγαθõν | μνᾶμ’ ἀνέθεκε τόδε
CEG 332
For Dionusos who has fulfilled his prayer, Neomedes has put up this monument [mnāma] in exchange for a good deed.
There is, here, mnāma (= mnēma), a ‘memory’, ‘memorial’, ‘monument’, from the part of the human for the god, as there should be in the relationship between gods and men according to Watkins, too. What the god has given him, however, is fulfillment of his prayer, ergon agathon, ‘a good deed’ — no mēnis, which is antithetical to good deeds. mēnis, on the contrary, is a reaction to — reciprocates — kaka erga, ‘evil deeds’, in Odyssey 2.66–67, and in Odyssey 3.132–135 kakos oitos, ‘evil doom’, is a manifestation of mēnis (both passages are discussed above). Inscriptions of this votive type present a relationship of reciprocating good turns rather than one of memory on one hand and mēnis on the other. [57] The way the reciprocal relationship is articulated in this passage presents us with what we may call the ideal situation: both sides are doing good turns for each other, and there is memory, explicitly given by the human side to the divine. But once given, the dedicated object, the mnāma, can also function as a reminder for the divine side — and so there is memory on both sides, as well as good turns. Therefore, refining further the asymmetry in the reciprocal relationship between mēnis and memory, it is really memory that reciprocates memory (and concomitant good turn), while mēnis is a return for hubris, or, as Gregory Nagy points out with reference to Iliad 1.247, there can be mēnis on both sides. [58] Some dedications show that this order of a favor from a god and its return from a human can be reversed, too: in contrast to the one above, these dedications declare themselves to be the first part of the exchange, and ask for a reciprocating favor from the god. We have one such situation described in the inscription on the Mantiklos Apollo (CEG 326) with its request for χαρίϝετταν ἀμοιβ[άν], “gracious” or “graceful requital” in return for the statuette, the mnāma in this case. [59] Other dedications go even further and express a wish for a continuing cycle of favors and their reciprocation between the human and the god in question, as with Telesinos Ketios’ dedication of an image on the acropolis, which asks the goddess to take pleasure in it (χαίροσα) and to allow Telesinos to dedicate another (CEG 227 = IG I3 728). [60]
The last two dedications include key terms for describing the type of reciprocity where good turns are continuously exchanged. χαρίϝετταν, “graceful,” “gracious” (CEG 326), and χαίροσα, “rejoicing,” “taking pleasure” (CEG 227 = IG I3 728), are both connected to kharis, whose meanings range from ‘gratitude’, ‘grace’, ‘goodwill’, ‘favor’, whether done or received — or reciprocated — to ‘gratification’, ‘delight’, ‘pleasure’, and also ‘beauty’, ‘outward grace’. These last mentioned aspects of pleasure and beauty point to its positive, desirable quality, and the first mentioned, of favor and gratitude, show its role in reciprocity. [61] More specifically, Robert Parker, speaking of kharis in reciprocity between men and gods in the context of practical Greek religion, maintains that the primary meaning of the term is ‘charm’, ‘delight’, or its cause, and so, when humans endeavor to bring kharis to the gods, for instance by means of an offering, they are trying to present the gods with things in which they take pleasure. [62] He also observes that kharis characterizes both sides of the exchange: both the gifts of men and the returns from the gods are denoted by a word derived from the root khar-. [63] Parker does note, though, that kharis itself does not mean ‘recompense’ even if that is the function of the particular instance of a return designated by the word, but it is rather the case that “One gift or act endowed with kharis, power to please, will call forth another, which will in turn evoke yet another.” [64] It is not a matter of compensating, but of freely offering and reciprocating pleasant gifts and services — what Parker aptly calls “a kind of charm war.” [65]
There is, in the Odyssey, one more speech that echoes the themes of those of Telemakhos and Mentor, namely, that of Penelope in Odyssey 4, and it also includes this specific term involved in reciprocity, kharis. She complains to the herald Medon of the behavior of the youths cutting away at Telemakhos’ livelihood: [66]
οὐδέ τι πατρῶν
ὑμετέρων τὸ πρόσθεν ἀκούετε, παῖδες ἐόντες,
οἷος Ὀδυσσεὺς ἔσκε μεθ’ ὑμετέροισι τοκεῦσιν,
οὔτε τινὰ ῥέξας ἐξαίσιον οὔτε τι εἰπὼν
ἐν δήμῳ; ἥ τ’ ἐστὶ δίκη θείων βασιλήων·
ἄλλον κ’ ἐχθαίρῃσι βροτῶν, ἄλλον κε φιλοίη.
κεῖνος δ’ οὔ ποτε πάμπαν ἀτάσθαλον ἄνδρα ἐώργει·
ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ὑμέτερος θυμὸς καὶ ἀεικέα ἔργα
φαίνεται, οὐδέ τίς ἐστι χάρις μετόπισθ’ εὐεργέων.
Odyssey 4.687–695
And did you not listen
to your fathers telling of the past when you were children,
what kind of a man Odysseus was among your parents,
doing nothing or saying nothing lawless
in the land? And this is the custom of divine kings:
he may hate one mortal and love another.
But he [Odysseus] never at all treated a man wickedly:
but your mind and unseemly deeds
are plain to see, and there is no kharis afterwards for good deeds.
Penelope here echoes the sentiment expressed by Mentor in Odyssey 2, that it is ignorance or forgetfulness of Odysseus’ kindness as a ruler that explains the suitors’ arrogance. ἀκούετε (Odyssey 4.688), “you (pl.) hear,” here corresponds to a function of mimnēskomai, ‘remember’, namely, when the latter denotes the performance of klea andrōn, epic songs about the glory of men: as mimnēskomai marks the activity of the bard, akouō, ‘hear’, is what the audience would do. [67] The applicability of this constellation of concepts to the present passage is supported by Penelope’s insistence that Odysseus’ actions in the past were not only praiseworthy, but in fact also the subject of discourse — we can picture the suitors’ parents performing klea andrōn, specifically the kleos of Odysseus. From another perspective, it could be added that she implies that lēthē is in action here: if the parents of the suitors did tell stories of Odysseus but the suitors’ behavior does not manifest any awareness of his good conduct in the past, these stories lanthanousi them — escape their notice — or the suitors lanthanontai, ‘forget’, them. This approach, too, draws a contrast with memory, and correlates poor conduct with forgetfulness. Memory, or more precisely, as with Mentor’s speech, a lack of it is assumed to lie behind the suitors’ inappropriate conduct here. Further, Penelope spells out that their behavior is no fitting return for Odysseus’ treatment of his fellow men, and that the appropriate kind of reciprocation is manifestly not to be had (4.693–695). [68] In this, too, she echoes Mentor as well as Telemakhos, though she articulates the ideas involved with slightly different vocabulary: she uses the term kharis.
Bringing together Telemakhos’, Mentor’s, and Penelope’s speeches, then, and seeing how they converge on a topic but use slightly different vocabulary to articulate what is involved, allow us to perceive the connections between these key terms. On the one hand, we have the parallelism of mēnis and memory and their association with reciprocity in Telemakhos’ and Mentor’s speeches, and on the other, the connection between memory and reciprocity denoted by kharis in particular in Penelope’s. In addition, we have seen that memory and mēnis are closely linked to justice, proper conduct, and upholding the cosmos, and so the social role of kharis, especially as a force for or indication of proper social order, fits well in this network of concepts. [69] As we saw in Neomedes’ dedication above (CEG 332), the relationship of kharis involves memory, which can, in part, explain its kinship with the purposes of mēnis and memory. [70] This dedication demonstrates that as long as humans (and gods) remember their obligations for one another, a relationship of kharis persists; and while this is so, it is good conduct that reigns. This ideal, however, is the opposite of what Penelope is talking about: in the scenario she describes, there is no kharis, no good conduct, and no memory of Odysseus.
In contrast to the injustice and harsh punishment in Ithaca, the Phaeacians and their utopian land offer avenues for the contemplation of the ideal, when happiness and good social bonds obtain. It is Odysseus who conjures up this image of happiness when he frames the picture of the perfect marriage in his wishes for Nausikaa:
σοὶ δὲ θεοὶ τόσα δοῖεν, ὅσα φρεσὶ σῇσι μενοινᾷς,
ἄνδρα τε καὶ οἶκον, καὶ ὁμοφροσύνην ὀπάσειαν
ἐσθλήν· οὐ μὲν γὰρ τοῦ γε κρεῖσσον καὶ ἄρειον,
ἢ ὅθ’ ὁμοφρονέοντε νοήμασιν οἶκον ἔχητον
ἀνὴρ ἠδὲ γυνή· πόλλ’ ἄλγεα δυσμενέεσσι,
χάρματα δ’ εὐμενέτῃσι· μάλιστα δέ τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοί.
Odyssey 6.180–185
And may the gods grant you such things as you eagerly desire in your mind,
a husband and a home, and may they grant you besides good
unity of mind and feeling: for there is nothing stronger and better,
than when, thinking alike in their minds, husband and wife
have their home; many a grief for their enemies,
and source of joy [kharmata] for their well-wishers; but they perceive it best
This ideal marriage that Odysseus paints for Nausikaa is characterized most prominently by likemindedness, which is even mentioned twice in the passage (ὁμοφροσύνην, “unity of mind and feeling,” “likemindedness,” Odyssey 6.181; ὁμοφρονέοντε, “thinking alike,” “being likeminded,” “being of one mind,” Odyssey 6.183) and singled out as the greatest good for a married couple. Furthermore, the likemindedness of the couple is a source of algea, ‘grief’, for their enemies (Odyssey 6.184). Odysseus’ words resonate with his own experience and the overall plot of the Odyssey, as we see the algea for the enemies of the likeminded couple played out in the poem when the likemindedness of Odysseus and Penelope causes grief indeed to the suitors and their families. [71] In contrast, this likemindedness of the good couple brings many kharmata, many a source of joy, to their well-wishers (Odyssey 6.184–185). kharma (singular of kharmata), ‘source of joy’, ‘delight’, is connected to khairō, ‘take pleasure’, ‘rejoice’, and kharis, so here, too, we can perceive in the ideal this graceful element. [72] In addition, Odysseus says that the couple ἔκλυον, “perceive” (Odyssey 6.185), this highest good best themselves. kluō, ‘hear’, ‘perceive’, is itself connected to kleos, ‘song of glory’, and so, not only does the likemindedness of the couple bring kharis to those on their side, in their solidarity group, but there is here even a suggestion of its ability to generate kleos for the couple themselves. [73]
The Odyssey does in fact confirm this hypothesis of kleos for the likeminded couple. Moreover, this kleos is characterized by kharis. In the words of one well-wisher, Agamemnon:
ὄλβιε Λαέρταο πάϊ, πολυμήχαν’ Ὀδυσσεῦ,
ἦ ἄρα σὺν μεγάλῃ ἀρετῇ ἐκτήσω ἄκοιτιν·
ὡς ἀγαθαὶ φρένες ἦσαν ἀμύμονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
κούρῃ Ἰκαρίου, ὡς εὖ μέμνητ’ Ὀδυσῆος,
ἀνδρὸς κουριδίου. τῶ οἱ κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται
ἧς ἀρετῆς, τεύξουσι δ’ ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδὴν
ἀθάνατοι χαρίεσσαν ἐχέφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ.
Odyssey 24.192–198
Blessed son of Laertes, much-contriving Odysseus,
in truth then with great excellence you acquired your wife:
how good was the mind [phrenes] of blameless Penelope,
daughter of Ikarios, how well she remembered [memnēt’] Odysseus,
her wedded husband. Therefore the song of glory [kleos] of her excellence [74]
will never perish, and the immortals will make a kharis-filled song
for the mortals in honor of the sensible [having phrenes] Penelope. [75]
While Odysseus’ words to Nausikaa intimate that likemindedness is extolled as worthy of kleos, Agamemnon’s praise emphatically confirms this and make this source of kleos in the Odyssey explicit. It is the mind of Penelope and her remembering Odysseus that is worthy of celebration — and it is, again, a much-contriving Odysseus, his epithet pointing to his mental abilities, who has the luck of having Penelope as his wife. Further, this passage shows the connection between the worthy achievements and their commemoration in song very clearly. Agamemnon speaks specifically of song and reputation conveyed through it. Moreover, the good person’s praise poetry in Agamemnon’s exclamation is characterized by kharis: the kleos is an aoidē khariessa, a ‘kharis-filled song’ (Odyssey 24.197–198), just as the likemindedness of the couple in Odysseus’ wishes for Nausikaa is the cause of kharmata, ‘source of joy’ (Odyssey 24.185), for their well-wishers. And here we have one such well-wisher, Agamemnon, exclaiming on the happiness of Odysseus and Penelope, and even calling their kleos kharis-filled himself.
Comparing Odysseus’ wishes for Nausikaa and Agamemnon’s exclamations on the fortunes of Penelope and Odysseus, then, leads us to see the ultimate source of renown in the Odyssey. It is not only Penelope’s memory that guides her steadfastness, or Odysseus’ resourceful mind that allows him to overcome all obstacles on his way home — it is all of them together, not as individual elements, but as the unity that is the sum of its elements: the likeminded couple, and what such a couple can achieve. [76] As the exploration of the workings of memory has brought us to see its importance in social settings, and then reciprocal relationships in particular, it should be no surprise that the epic of memory and mental abilities does not hinge on one person alone, but requires a relationship, and reciprocity. And as the two last discussed passages suggest, the ideal for this kind of relationship is the union of the likeminded couple, exemplified in the Odyssey by Penelope and Odysseus. [77] They, thanks to having each other and the good turns they confer each other, are worthy of their own epic, and indeed, they are accorded a song of kharis.


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[ back ] 1. Along with this essay I offer my warmest wishes for Greg on his birthday and my deep gratitude for his advice and support.
[ back ] 2. Seaford 1994:xvii, discussing reciprocity in ancient Greece, defines it as “a system of exchange in which the return of benefit or harm is compelled neither by law nor by force,” but despite this absence of law or force, reciprocity functions according to “a generally accepted code.”
[ back ] 3. For the meaning of kharis, see further below.
[ back ] 4. Bakker 2002; see pp. 67–71 for the concepts of memory. On archaic Greek memory, see also Vernant 1965/2006, Detienne 1996, and Simondon 1982. Simondon also notes the difference of the archaic Greek concept of memory from our modern one and the inapplicability of the concepts of modern psychology in the archaic Greek context, though she does so with reference to elucidating the archaic Greek ideas from the context of the texts themselves rather than through invoking traditions of myth and epic (pp. 17–21).
[ back ] 5. Bakker 2002:67.
[ back ] 6. Bakker 2002:68, 69.
[ back ] 7. Bakker 2002:69 (his emphasis). Bakker’s sketch of the modern concept of memory is perhaps somewhat simplistic — after all, modern memory is not entirely limited to the past but can have a present or a future reference, and even action going with it, an important aspect of ancient Greek memory discussed below. With regard to the differences and similarities between the modern and archaic Greek concepts of memory, I am in agreement with Simondon 1982. She points out the differences of the archaic Greek categories of memory from the modern concept, including the association of the former with action in the present or the future rather than a past object, and remarks that “Nous ne sous-entendons pas que ces catégories psychologiques sont absentes de notre mentalité moderne. Nous voulons seulement montrer qu’elles sont formulées de façon privilégiée dans la littérature ancienne grecque,” “we do not suggest that these psychological categories [regarding the construct of memory in ancient Greece] are absent from our modern mentality. We only wish to demonstrate that they are formulated in a privileged manner in ancient Greek literature” (p. 21n15; all translations are mine). Nevertheless, Bakker’s account is useful in pointing out the most common contemporary usages of memory and remember, and ridding ourselves of preconceptions based on them that might easily hinder our understanding of the exceptionally present sense of memory in archaic Greek. Conversely, conceiving of memory as relating to the past or as storage of past information is not exclusively modern. It is worth noting that already Aristotle considered memory a matter of the past; see e.g. De memoria et reminiscentia 449b22–25: ἀεὶ γὰρ ὅταν ἐνεργῇ κατὰ τὸ μνημονεύειν, οὕτως ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ λέγει, ὅτι πρότερον τοῦτο ἤκουσεν ἢ ᾔσθετο ἢ ἐνόησεν. ἔστι μὲν οὖν ἡ μνήμη οὔτε αἴσθησις οὔτε ὑπόληψις, ἀλλὰ τούτων τινὸς ἕξις ἢ πάθος, ὅταν γένηται χρόνος, “for always, whenever someone is active regarding remembering, he says thus in his mind: that he heard or perceived or thought this before. Therefore memory is neither perception nor conception, but the possession or experience of one of these, when time has passed.” (The text of De memoria et reminiscentia is that of Ross 1955.) The metaphor of writing for memory, connecting it to the idea of storage of information, occurs also at least as early as Pindar, e.g. Olympian 10.
[ back ] 8. Bakker 2002:69. Watkins 1977b:712 notes the antithesis between the two roots *men-/mnē- and lath-, as well.
[ back ] 9. On the centrality of the theme of memory in the Odyssey, see e.g. Levaniouk 1999:115, and Schein 1996:8, who speaks of mental qualities and memory as marking the heroic status and successfulness of characters, especially Odysseus, in the plot of the Odyssey.
[ back ] 10. The text of the Odyssey is that of Von der Mühll 1984.
[ back ] 11. Bakker 2002:69 refers to Iliad 9.646–648, Achilles’ reliving his anger when he remembers his quarrel with Agamemnon, for a similar use of mimnēskomai and the present experience of the thing remembered.
[ back ] 12. See Nagy 1974:255–261 on the association of penthos and alaston in traditional epic diction, and on the latter’s formation and meaning ‘unforgettable’.
[ back ] 13. See also Nagy 1974:244–261 and 1979:95 on the interconnections of mnēmosunē, ‘memory’, penthos alaston, ‘unforgettable grief’, and kleos, ‘song of glory’. See 1974:256–257 and 1979:97–98 on Penelope’s penthos, ‘grief’, in Odyssey 1 and personal involvement in the events of which Phemios sings as affecting her response to his performance and her mental state.
[ back ] 14. Bakker 2002:69.
[ back ] 15. Bakker 2002:70, and see nn. 11–12 for a list of examples from the Iliad. Simondon 1982:22–29, 32–33 has a discussion of the formulaic expressions for remembering (and forgetting) valor in Homer and beyond, but it is perhaps more illuminating regarding the conceptualization of valor than of memory. I have particular misgivings about her claims regarding the changes in the use of these formulas from the Iliad to the Odyssey, namely, that the original sense of the formulas in the Iliad is lost in the Odyssey, where they are moved from the battlefield of the Trojan war to the combat in the domestic setting of the palace of Agamemnon or Odysseus, which “n’ont rien d’héroïque,” “have nothing heroic about them” (p. 28); this, in my opinion, shows a failure to appreciate the difference in focus and “agenda” between the Iliad and the Odyssey and what counts as a source of renown in each, and the consequences of that for the “relocation” of the formula and its relevance for each poem. Interpreting the usages of formulas with mimnēskomai in the Odyssey as hollow echoes of those in the Iliad does not do justice either to the poem as a whole or to increasing our understanding of memory and forgetting in it, a poem to which, as many have maintained and I further show, memory is in fact central. She also interprets the formulas where food, sleep, and lamentation are objects of remembering in terms of a law of a natural rhythm of alternation between them (pp. 30–32). I do, however, agree with her conclusion that for the most part, these formulas denote, in their context, not an intention to act, but the undertaking of the action or the activation of the desire in question.
[ back ] 16. See also Nagy 1974:266, where he proposes that the noun menos, ‘power’, ‘might’, ‘force’, ‘spirit’, is derived from the same root as mimnēskō: “In order to fight bravely, the Homeric hero has to be reminded of his μένος, or power, whence such expressions as ἀλκῆς μνησαμένω [“remembering your prowess”] (N 48). By contrast, forgetting one’s power is losing one’s power: μένεος ἀλκῆς τε λάθωμαι [“I might forget my power and prowess”] (X 282).”
[ back ] 17. Bakker 2002:70. Simondon 1982 also notes the connection to action that memory has in archaic Greece; see e.g. pp. 18–20 for a summary of her analysis, and again p. 33, 94–97.
[ back ] 18. On the traditional nature of formulaic expressions in Homer, see Lord 2000:4 and more fully on the formula, ch. 3. On the traditionality of the reminder of past favors and services in the context of ancient Greek hymns and prayers, and its continuation in a specific genre, that of lament, throughout the Greek tradition up to modern days, see Alexiou 2002:9, 133–134, 165–171 (the last section treats the contrast of past and present in laments more broadly, but includes a poignantly relevant modern Greek example in a vendetta ballad, where a narrative of past, introduced with “Do you remember?” is used in an appeal to avenge the dead).
[ back ] 19. See Nagy 1974:246–251 on kleos as denoting the song of praise recounting the valorous actions of gods and heroes.
[ back ] 20. Moran 1975:204.
[ back ] 21. The text of the Iliad is that of Munro and Allen 1920.
[ back ] 22. Odyssey 2.230–234 are repeated at Odyssey 5.8–12, where Athena addresses the council of gods and recounts Odysseus’ woes. The import is similar, that not remembering Odysseus is why the gods are not helping him as they should — their forgetting is leading to their not doing the right thing.
[ back ] 23. Conversely, the fact that he invites kings to be unjust on the basis of Odysseus’ subjects’ having forgotten him shows another correlation between forgetting and bad behavior.
[ back ] 24. See Nagy 1974:265–269 for the etymology of Mentor and related words, including mimnēskō. He discusses various instances of gods disguised as humans under names that mean ‘one who reminds’, such as Mentes and Mentor, instilling menos, ‘power’, in heroes in the Iliad and the Odyssey to demonstrate the etymological connection of menos with words from the root mnē- (pp. 266–268): Athena and Telemakhos: Odyssey 1.88–89, Athena as Mentes, 1.105ff. including 320–322 specifically on instilling menos, 2.268–271; Athena and Odysseus: Odyssey 22.226; Apollo and Hektor: Iliad 16.73. See also Frame 2009:25–28 on the meaning of Mentor as ‘he who instills menos’, ‘inciter’, ‘reminder’ and its connections with words from the root *men-. He points out the passage discussed above as emphasizing the idea of reminding in Mentor’s name.
[ back ] 25. Martin 1989:80.
[ back ] 26. Martin 1989:80–85, where he speaks of memory as conferring authority, and of its uses in flyting, the verbal boast-and-insult contest, where specifically the social standing of individuals is as stake.
[ back ] 27. Muellner 1996; quotations from pp. 26 and 8, respectively, and discussion of the passage from Telemakhos’ speech on pp. 40–41.
[ back ] 28. Muellner 1996:15.
[ back ] 29. Muellner 1996:26, 34, 36–37; and p. 50 for exchange as articulating the hierarchy in Homeric society and mēnis as appropriate response to violations of the value system based on reciprocal exchange.
[ back ] 30. Muellner 1996:27.
[ back ] 31. Muellner 1996:40.
[ back ] 32. See Muellner 1996, e.g. 26–27, 32–35 on the connection of mēnis to the maintenance of the sovereign order and hierarchy. For the sacrifice and eating of Odysseus’ livestock as an assault on his authority as king, see Seaford 1994:65.
[ back ] 33. Simondon 1982:39 also observes that “D’une façon générale, le respect de toutes les obligations qui règlent la vie pratique et morale dépend du bon fonctionnement de la mémoire,” “In a general sense, the respect for all the obligations that regulate the practical and moral life depends on the good functioning of memory.” However, her analysis of this kind of memory in Homer is limited to remembering specific orders previously received or promises made in order to fulfill them on the level of practical life. On the level of moral life, although she connects memory to fulfilling obligations among humans that are collectively felt to be binding and to proper observation of ritual between humans and gods (pp. 39–51), she does not appear to recognize the extent of the sense of how both of these kinds of memory articulate the social and cosmic order as a whole in Homer (though she does seem to recognize this ordering principle on the cosmic level in Pindar, pp. 51–55). She does not discuss memory in this capacity in contrast with mēnis, a juxtaposition that I find most illuminating for this ethical aspect of memory.
[ back ] 34. For studies on the etymology and meaning of mēnis, see Schwyzer 1931, 1968, Watkins 1977, Considine 1966, 1969, 1985, 1986, and Muellner 1996:186–189, who agrees with Watkins. I am in agreement with Watkins and Muellner, and hope that my present work will further demonstrate the validity of their analysis of mēnis.
[ back ] 35. We have an attestation of the root *men- in the ancient Greek menos, ‘power’, on the connection of which to mimnēskō and mimnēskomai see Nagy 1974:265–270 and Frame 2009:25–28.
[ back ] 36. Watkins 1977b:713–718 also speaks of the reciprocity entailed in the relationship between mēnis and memnēmai, ‘remember’, in the context of upholding the gods’ ordinances. See further on this below.
[ back ] 37. Muellner 1996:8: mēnis “is the name of a feeling not separate from the actions it entails, of a cosmic sanction” (his emphasis), such as we see in Zeus’ story of his punishment of Hera and the other gods in Iliad 15, on which see Muellner 1996:5. For action going with remembering and reminding, see also Simondon 1982 and Bakker 2002.
[ back ] 38. Cp. Watkins 1977b:708 on mēnis indicating “wrath justified by a potential transgression” (his emphasis) rather than a committed transgression in epigraphic sources. Fearing mēnis has the same effect as being mindful, having memory.
[ back ] 39. On this passage and its connection to the theme of mēnis, see Muellner 1996:11; on mēnis and cosmic hierarchy with reference to an illuminating punishment on similar terms, p. 5 (and ch. 1 in general).
[ back ] 40. On this passage in connection to the theme of mēnis, see Muellner 1996:6–8. On the meaning and function of aidōs, ‘sense of shame’, ‘respect’, see Gould 1973:85–90 (esp. pp. 87–88). He focuses on it in the context of the ritual of supplication, but his analysis of it as denoting the inhibition of a course of (usually aggressive) action that might otherwise be possible is relevant more broadly, as well.
[ back ] 41. noēmōn, ‘thoughtful’, ‘intelligent’, here, is connected to noos. At Odyssey 4.630–656 Noēmōn is the proper name of a youth — son of Phronios, ‘who has understanding, wisdom’, connected to phrēn — who heeds Telemakhos’ request for a ship to travel to Pylos and who behaves as is fitting, in contradistinction to the suitors, and especially the one he addresses in the passage, Antinoos, ‘Counter-noos’. On Anti-noos and the suitors’ failure to noein, ‘have/display the activity of noos’, ‘notice’, ‘recognize’, ‘perceive’, ‘think’, ‘be thoughtful’ (especially when it comes to perceiving the signs of their impending doom), see Nagy 1983:38. The range of meanings shows the affinity of this group of words (noos, noēmōn, noein) to those derived from the root mnē-, as both converge upon the ideas of mindfulness, attention, and thought. In a similar vein, Nagy 1983:41–51 in fact opposes lēthē, ‘forgetfulness’, and lēthō, ‘escape the notice of (a person)’, to noos, noeō, and connected words, as well as memory words from mnē-. Bakker 2002:78 likewise maintains that “νόος and the cognitive faculty of νοῆσαι are very much in the same semantic sphere of the verbal roots –μνη and of the negation of its notional opposite –λαθ.” For him, the words denote “a special awareness of the beyond, of the metaphysical,” an ability “to ‘see’ in more than just a perceptual sense” (p. 78). Frame 1978:28–33, who derives noos from the same root nes- as nostos, ‘returning to light and life’, also notes its connection with a privileged kind of perception, especially vision, but of a mental or spiritual rather than physical kind.
[ back ] 42. On themis, see Benveniste 1973:379–384, Detienne and Vernant 1978:107–108, and Muellner 1996:35 with n. 14, who also mentions dikē, ‘justice’ — cognate with dikaioi, ‘just’, in the passage quoted — and its connections with themis, and p. 46n41 on the connection of dikaios to themis in this passage in particular.
[ back ] 43. Seaford 1994:4, discussing reciprocity in Homer, notes that Telemakhos appeals to the principle of reciprocity in his attempt to move the Ithacans, like Mentor in his speech when the latter insists that Odysseus has benefited the people as their king. He also speaks of “a generally accepted code of reciprocity” as being in play in relationships between people, especially when not united by kinship or citizenship (xvii). Appealing to reciprocity, therefore, can be used to provoke the proper response, as I have shown to be the case with appealing to memory; I demonstrate here further how these two are interconnected.
[ back ] 44. Muellner 1996:32–34, quotation from p. 34.
[ back ] 45. This division does not mean the allotment of an identical share for each, but a share corresponding to the recipient’s relative status in the community; see e.g. Achilles’ complaint about the wrong committed by Agamemnon, that the way he has it, all men regardless of what they do receive the same share, Iliad 9.318–320 — identical shares are inappropriate and contrary to proper order. Given this correspondence, it is easy to see how the division of sacrificial meat or spoils articulates the hierarchy of the society. See also Seaford 1994:44 on collective participation in ritual and distribution of meat at a sacrificial feast as creating community (and pp. 42–53 on sacrificial feast in Homer more generally).
[ back ] 46. Muellner 1996:34.
[ back ] 47. Muellner 1996:35.
[ back ] 48. See also Muellner 1996:6–7, 11, 35–37 on the connections of mēnis and themis, and p. 35n12 on the abstract use of singular themis vs. the concrete use of its plural themistes.
[ back ] 49. We can see an articulation of this role of themis in Laertes’ words to the disguised Odysseus at Odyssey 24.283–286, where he maintains that reciprocating received gifts and hospitality is themis. On this passage, reciprocity, and its rules, see also MacLachlan 1993:22–23.
[ back ] 50. Mauss 1990:3. On this and its connection to the society of Homeric epics, see Muellner 1996:36–37. Mauss also argues that it is collectives rather than individuals that enforce the rules of exchange (see Mauss 1990:5), which tallies with the idea of the social dimensions of mēnis and themis. See also Lévi-Strauss 1969:52–68, who notes in addition the “supra-economic” nature of reciprocal exchange in the societies he discusses and the advantage attached to the acquisition of commodities in this way — relevant to understanding the reaction of Achilles to Agamemnon’s depriving him of his share of the spoils. See p. 66 for an example, in the context of marriage among the Bushmen of South Africa, of the “total social fact” embodied in reciprocal exchange, which “expresses perfectly the total character, sexual, economic, legal and social, of this collection of reciprocal prestations which make up marriage.”
[ back ] 51. For a neat set of examples of the interconnectedness of exchange, themistes, social organization, and prestige in the Iliad, see Muellner 1996:50–51.
[ back ] 52. Simondon 1982:60–69, 95 also recognizes a reciprocity associated with memory, and that this sort of memory motivates action. But she seems to connect the reciprocation in question with reliving emotions, such that remembering a previous good turn or wrongdoing motivates an act of gratitude or revenge on the basis of that personal sentiment, rather than as a manifestation of a principle that maintains social and cosmic order on a more fundamental level.
[ back ] 53. Watkins 1997b:708–718.
[ back ] 54. A similar situation, as well as the same formulaic expression, is found in Iliad 22.358 (μή τοί τι θεῶν μήνιμα γένωμαι, “lest I become a mēnima [‘cause for mēnis’] of the gods for you”), on which see Watkins 1977b:710–711, and on its similarity to the passage from the Odyssey, p. 714.
[ back ] 55. Watkins 1977b:714. He also notes the connection of mēnis to nemesis, ‘distribution of what is due’, ‘retribution’, ‘righteous anger at injustice’, which is a reciprocal notion and the root from which it derives, *nem-, has exchange value, p. 708. This is an association we have already seen in Telemakhos’ speech in Odyssey 2, where both mēnis and a verb connected to nemesis occur (Odyssey 2.64–66). Alexiou 2002:4 also notes that the privilege of the dead, the burial and lamentation that was their due, and the wrath of the dead or of gods that arises from its neglect is a recurrent theme in laments for the dead in antiquity; see also pp. 161–165 on the persistence of the ritual belief that insufficient or unsatisfactory lamentation could provoke the anger of the dead throughout the Greek tradition, all the way into modern Greek laments.
[ back ] 56. That is, he examines only passages where the word mēnis or its substitute is present, as his focus is this word rather than memory.
[ back ] 57. See Watkins 1977b:704–707 for inscriptions of a different kind involving mēnis: they represent a wish for a punishment, from the part of the god, for a (third) person who transgresses, not a relationship of (positive) reciprocation between a human benefactor and a recipient god, let alone a continuing cycle of reciprocation, positive or otherwise. For inscriptions of yet another kind, though ones regularly containing the word mnēma, see Simondon 1982:85–94. She discusses funerary inscriptions where the word recurs, and notes that “La signification de μνῆμα est inséparable de la notion de glorification,” “the significance of μνῆμα is inseparable from the notion of glorification” (p. 87). This idea is not inappropriate to the votive inscriptions I discuss here, either, but can be seen to illustrate another aspect of the relationship of kharis, ‘grace’, favor’, namely, presenting the god with a gesture of gratitude through immortalizing his good deeds towards the human participant (for more on this relationship of kharis in which memory has a role to play, see below). She also notes that in Homer, mnēma denotes a gift that commemorates or perpetuates the memory of a person, and that in the Odyssey, it is generally the gift of a host to his guest (pp. 81–82). I have already pointed out the role of memory in guest-host relationships, and we can see here the continuity of the idea in the physical manifestations, mnēmata, of the memory that maintains those relationships also in this concrete aspect of the reciprocal exchange.
[ back ] 58. Nagy 1979:73 §8n2.
[ back ] 59. The phrase χαρίεσσαν ἀμοιβὴν, “gracious/graceful requital,” occurs also in Homer in addition to appearing on the Mantiklos Apollo in the 7th century BC (and other votive dedications: CEG 360, and also most likely in the fragmentary CEG 359; see also Bremer 1998:131 on these two). We encounter the phrase in the prayer of Athena, disguised as Mentor, to Poseidon on behalf of Nestor and the Pylians in Odyssey 3.55–61. Bremer 1998:131 suggests that the passage served as “a divine instruction for a prayer of reciprocity” for Greeks after Homer. In any case, it contains key terms of the vocabulary of reciprocity, kharieis, ‘graceful’, ‘beautiful’, ‘gracious’, ‘acceptable’, and amoibe, ‘requital’, ‘recompense’, ‘exchange’. See Parker 1998:108, Bremer 1998:127, 130, and below for these terms.
[ back ] 60. On these inscriptions and the ideas of reciprocity expressed in them, see also Parker 1998:110–111 and Bremer 1998:130–131, who both focus specifically on reciprocity within the sphere of Greek religion. Cp. Lévi-Strauss 1969:54 on the obligation and continuity of reciprocation in gift exchange. On the application of the notion of do ut des, “I give so that you may give,” in the context of offerings of this kind, such that the offering has an almost contractual character, cp. the definition of reciprocity in ancient Greece by Seaford 1994:xvii as “a system of exchange in which the return of benefit or harm is compelled neither by law nor by force,” but despite this absence of law or force, reciprocity functions according to “a generally accepted code.” Against understanding this contractual quality of offerings in a commercial sense, as in trade, see Parker 1998:118–125, who argues persuasively that the system of gift and counter-gift between gods and humans, as Mauss 1990 has shown to be the case between men, is a means of creating a social relation, not one of commerce. Cp. Lévi-Strauss 1969:54 on the non-economic value of the gifts exchanged in what he describes as “primitive” societies. Further on the question of the applicability of the principle of do ut des to the description of the gift exchanges between men and gods in ancient Greece, see Bremer 1998:133, who, citing Festugière 1976, explicitly maintains that the dedications to gods asking for a reciprocation in return should not be seen in terms of this principle, as a business transaction or contract, but in terms of “goodwill and friendship.” He understands “contract” to refer to an exchange of goods of equal value, which is not the case in Greek dedications and sacrifice to gods. Following this definition of “contract,” his assessment seems accurate: the situation described in the dedications I cite, and many others, is clearly not of an equal exchange. This inequality of the exchange is also observed by Rüpke 2007:149–150, who nevertheless describes the exchange in a sacrifice to a god as contractual in nature, but only insofar as the human’s gift commits the god, “morally at any rate,” to give something in return. In this context he refers to the principle of do ut des often used in analyzing Roman sacrifice (he focuses on Roman rather than Greek religious practice, but the examples offer useful comparanda for appreciating the Greek practice, as well). With regard to the inequality of the exchange, he notes that an equivalent return is not expected, just one that the recipient values: for a sacrificed pig, one might expect a good harvest, for instance. Furthermore, he observes that making an offering does not automatically provoke a positive response: a god can reject it. In this respect, it is clear, the exchange of gifts between gods and humans does not resemble commerce or trade, the favor of a god cannot be simply purchased. What is more important in his analysis of the exchange of gifts between humans and gods for my point here is that he maintains that the gift of the sacrificant commits the god to return the favor. And, in the examples I mention above, we have already seen that it can be the god who initiates this exchange, as well. Rüpke also notes the “ceaseless cycle of obligation and gratitude” in the Roman practice as the normal situation (p. 149). If we understand the contractual aspect of the exchange between humans and gods in these terms, as an unwritten but generally accepted code of behavior rather than as plain commerce or trade, it can be a useful way to articulate the situation in the Greek votive inscriptions discussed here. That an obligation to reciprocate is implied in the dedications is clear, an aspect further demonstrated below, and it is this expectation of reciprocation of the good turns that matters to my argument — the element maintained by memory.
[ back ] 61. See MacLachlan 1993:3–4 on the range of uses of and occasions for kharis in archaic Greek poetry, pp. 6–10 on its place in reciprocity (with further references), and pp. 10–11 on its association with beauty.
[ back ] 62. Parker 1998. Löw 1908 likewise argues that kharis is something that produces joy (not simply a pleasurable state of mind, not joy itself, which would be denoted by the related word khara; for a summary of his argument, see pp. 1–3). On this definition of kharis and a refinement of it, see MacLachlan 1993:4–5.
[ back ] 63. Parker 1998:108–109; similarly MacLachlan 1993:10–11. And, as we have seen also with Telemakhos’ speech, both good turns and evils are returned; see also Parker 1998:106 (though when applied to a return for a transgression, kharis seems to acquire an ironic and grim sense).
[ back ] 64. Parker 1998:109. Rather it is amoibe, the other key term of reciprocity and which we saw in the Mantiklos Apollo inscription and in Odyssey 3.55–61, that conveys a sense of ‘requital’, ‘recompense’.
[ back ] 65. Parker 1998:109. For the idea of the continuous cycle of reciprocation connected to the word kharis and its cognates, see esp. pp. 110–111 for inscriptions in which it occurs; see also pp. 120–121 on the “established relationship” that is continued by reference to past kharis and the request or offering of a new one. MacLachlan 1993, who studies kharis more broadly, also discusses the continuous relationship of reciprocity denoted by kharis, and points out its social dimension in maintaining that it was taken as “a serious social convention”; her term for this convention of continuous exchange of favors is “a lex talionis, but of a positive sort” (p. 7). For more on the continuous nature of a relationship of kharis and its social import, see pp. 9, 21–23, 28–29 with n. 23, 51, and ch. 5, esp. pp. 76–78. Parker’s and MacLachlan’s formulations fit well with Seaford’s 1994:xvii definition of reciprocity (in general, not only when characterized by kharis) as “a system of exchange in which the return of benefit or harm is compelled neither by law nor by force” and his remark that relationships, especially between those not united by kinship or citizenship in ancient Greek society, are often governed by “a generally accepted code of reciprocity.”
[ back ] 66. Penelope assumes Medon belongs to the solidarity group of the suitors; he, however, immediately proves himself to be on the side of the family by reporting the suitors’ plans to assassinate Telemakhos, and is eventually spared as innocent during the slaughter of the suitors, Odyssey 22.357–377.
[ back ] 67. See Nagy 1974:244–246 on akouō, ‘hear’, as specifically a verb applied in Homeric diction to the hearing of kleos.
[ back ] 68. The same line ending, οὐδέ τίς ἐστι χάρις μετόπισθ’ εὐεργέων, “and there is no kharis afterwards for good deeds,” Odyssey 4.695, recurs in the speech of Leiodes the sacrificing priest as he begs Odysseus to spare him during the massacre of the suitors. He claims that he has not done anything, but will lie dead beside the suitors, “and there is no kharis afterwards for good deeds” (Odyssey 22.318–319). Although Odysseus does not believe him and slays him (see Muellner 1976:84–85 for reading Odysseus’ reply to Leiodes as understanding the latter to take pride in his relationship with the suitors: Odysseus takes Leiodes to belong to the suitors’ solidarity group), Leiodes’ words confirm the conventionality of the thought here — good deeds deserve good kharis in return, and when that does not happen, the social order is being perverted.
[ back ] 69. On the social role of kharis, see MacLachlan 1993:9, 21–23, and ch. 5, esp. pp. 76–78, and for its connection directly with themis, e.g. Odyssey 24.283–286, where a verb connected to kharis, kharizomai, ‘say/do something agreeable’, ‘show favor’, ‘gratify’, is used.
[ back ] 70. MacLachlan 1993:11, 77–78 also touches briefly on the interrelation of memory and kharis. Furthermore, there is another parallel between kharis and words from the root *men-: just as menos, one of the derivatives from the root *men- and related to mimnēskomai and mēnis, is endowed by gods, so is kharis: see e.g. Odyssey 2.12 = 17.63, Athena pours θεσπεσίην […] χάριν, “divine kharis,” on Telemakhos, and 8.19 on Odysseus (to make him philos, ‘dear’, to Phaeacians), 6.232–235 = 23.159–162 Athena pours kharis on Odysseus, with a simile of overlaying silver with gold; and somewhat differently at 18.192–194, where Athena beautifies Penelope with a balm such as Aphrodite uses when she goes to the dance of the Kharites, the goddesses of kharis.
[ back ] 71. The similarity of Penelope and Odysseus when it comes to their minds, and especially scheming against their enemies, is a recurrent topic in the Odyssey. For a particularly good example, see Odyssey 18.281–283, where Penelope persuades the suitors to bring gifts with which to court her, while her mind designs other things — and Odysseus approves. Penelope says one thing and thinks another elsewhere, too: Odyssey 2.91–92, in a suitor’s complaint of her giving hope to each of her wooers while her mind designs other things (the end of 2.92, νόος δέ οἱ ἄλλα μενοινᾷ, “but her mind designs other things,” is identical but for the change of tense to 18.283, νόος δέ οἱ ἄλλα μενοίνα, “but her mind designed other things”). One of Odysseus’ epithets is polumētis, ‘having many wiles’ (e.g. Odyssey 4.763, 20.36), again pointing to the couple’s shared characteristic of mental ability, this time as manifested in Odysseus. Further examples of Odysseus’ mētis in the Odyssey are found e.g. at 9.414, 422, 20.20; Frame 1978:70–71 connects these to noos — and nostos, ‘homecoming’, ‘return to life and light’. On mētis, ‘wisdom’, ‘skill’, ‘craft’, ‘transformative intelligence’, in the Odyssey and especially with reference to Penelope and Odysseus, see Bergren 2008 ch. 8; she speaks of Odyssey 2.91–92 on p. 220–221. On the ability of Penelope and Odysseus to bring out their mental dexterity in communication with one another with reference to Odyssey 19, see Levaniouk 2011. Penelope and Odysseus are similar in matters of the mind, not only both being masterminds when it comes to their means, but also being of like mind when it comes to their aims. See also Schein 1995:22–23 (~1996:27) on the mental similarity of Odysseus and Penelope; he agrees with my analysis of Odysseus’ wishes to Nausikaa and of Penelope’s and Odysseus’ likemindedness — that Penelope and Odysseus are “the poem’s main example of the kind of harmony in marriage that Odysseus wishes for Nausikaa at 6.181–185” (p. 22).
[ back ] 72. See Frisk 1969–1972 and Beekes 2010 s.v. khairō for the connections and meanings of these words. Interestingly, though, kharma and algos (singular of algea), although opposed here, can intermix in highly emotional contexts, as when Eurykleia recognizes Odysseus, and both kharma and algos seize her mind simultaneously, Odyssey 19.471.
[ back ] 73. For the etymological connections between kluō and kleos, see Chantraine 1999 s.v. kleos, who includes kluō in “groupe important” with kleos, kleō, and its epic form kleiō, both meaning ‘tell of’, ‘make famous’, ‘celebrate’. See also Frisk 1969–1972 and Beekes 2010 s.v. kleos and kluō, and Nagy 1974:244 on their connections and kleos as meaning ‘that which is heard’. Schein 1995:22 (~1996:27) in fact translates ekluon here as ‘are especially glorious’, connecting it to kleos, in drawing the distinction between the characteristic sources of glory in the Iliad — heroic warfare — and in the Odyssey — having a harmonious marriage and household.
[ back ] 74. The question of whose kleos the immortals will commemorate, Odysseus’ or Penelope’s, has received much attention. See Nagy 1979:36–38 for an interpretation of kleos in this passage as referring to that of Odysseus rather than of Penelope (though with Penelope as a key part of his kleos), and also xii §16n2 on the interrelation of the kleos of Odysseus and that of Penelope. Schein 1995:23 takes this kleos to be that of Penelope, as does Foley 1995:95 ~ 2001: 127. See Katz 1991:20–21 for a summary of the debate. See also Levaniouk 2011:267n20 on this question. She furthermore notes that all the instances of the story of Penelope’s weaving, among which Amphimedon’s account preceding Agamemnon’s words belongs, are accompanied by a reference to her kleos (p. 262); this would make it appear that at least some kleos, or kleos in some sense, is being accorded to Penelope in her own right, too. Whether the word kleos in this passage refers to that of Odysseus or Penelope, my point is that according to Agamemnon, what marks Penelope as special is her remembering Odysseus, and that is the key to the kleos he mentions, whether taken as that of Penelope or Odysseus; “the song of glory of her excellence” in my translation could be changed to his just as well. See below for my suggestion for a solution to the question of whose kleos is at stake.
[ back ] 75. ekhephrōn, ‘sensible’, literally, ‘having phrenes’, is connected to phrēn, ‘diaphragm’, also as a seat of the intellect (see Chantraine 1999, Frisk 1969–1972, and Beekes 2010 s.v. phrēn). phrenes (plural of phrēn), like noos, as shown above, are connected to the good memory and proper conduct that avoid the incurrence of mēnis — the kind, therefore, that is morally good — while problems with phrenes or lack of good ones characterizes conduct provoking mēnis. This epithet not only points to Penelope’s good mind and mindfulness in this particular context, but adjectives built on phrēn are used of her frequently (e.g. ekhephrōn also at Odyssey 16.458, periphrōn, ‘very thoughtful’, ‘very careful’, ‘artful’, ‘crafty’, Odyssey 16.435, 20.388, 21.2, 23.10), making mindfulness and good intellect Penelope’s distinguishing features, as indicated by her fixed epithets. Further, Antinoos speaks of her unrivalled phrenes and noos, and how she will create great kleos for herself with her mental abilities, in the context of the first narration of Penelope’s scheme of the loom in the poem, Odyssey 2.116–126. homophrosune, ‘likemindedness’, the distinguishing quality of the good wedded couple, also contains this element phrēn (see again Chantraine 1999 and Frisk 1969–1972).
[ back ] 76. See also Schein 1995:23 with reference to this passage, on memory as the distinguishing characteristic of both Penelope and Odysseus, that which makes her equal with him and a second hero of the Odyssey. I hope to demonstrate here that it is the couple together rather than each of their achievements separately that is significant.
[ back ] 77. Katz 1991:27 maintains that the kleos in Agamemnon’s remark on the fortune of Penelope and Odysseus “should not be understood as a celebration of domestic harmony,” but that it must be interpreted in the context of the sustained contrasting of the house of Agamemnon with that of Odysseus in the poem. I agree with her in part. The way I read the poem, the kleos at stake is that achieved through outstanding mental abilities as manifested through memory and cleverness (e.g. Odysseus’ and Penelope’s mētis), but, as memory is tied to reciprocity, what matters is not the mental ability of one person, but of a pair of reciprocating ones, and how their memory and mental abilities work together and reciprocate one another. And, as it happens, in the Odyssey, the ideal example of such kleos-worthiness is that of a likeminded married couple, Odysseus and Penelope.