@4. The Mênis of Achilles and the First Book of the Iliad

4. The Mênis of Achilles and the First Book of the Iliad

It is possible to foresee a sequel to the Theogony from within my metonymic analysis of its myth. [1] The stage has been set for another myth whose central theme is the mênis of Zeus. Neither the word mênis nor the proper use of the term are conceivable until the Theogony is complete, at which point there is a relatively stable cosmic order presided over by Zeus, the wielder of the thunderbolt. While that order was being formed, it was tested by several potential successors and defended by the use of the thunderbolt. By its nature Zeus’s order, now that it is established, will be threatened again by future potential successors. [2] Still, by finally swallowing Metis and giving birth to Athena, Zeus has once and for all put an end to the threat his predecessors were unable to surmount, and he will henceforth prevail, though never without a struggle. So at the end of the Theogony and not before then, a world order exists for Zeus to preside over and defend with the ultimate sanction, mênis. The word mênis is completely absent from the Theogony, but this is not the first time that we have witnessed the postponement of the proper term for a central theme of the mythical text until after the theme itself has been deployed in narrative. Such a postponement is consistent with the metonymic nominalism of the myth, whereby a {94|95} term is generated in mythical action and then named the next time it occurs. [3] In terms of my analysis of the Theogony, the massive, violent defense of his order by Zeus in the episodes prior to the swallowing of Metis are “zero” instances of mênis, and the foreseeable sequel to the Theogony is a myth in which the word mênis will be explicitly attached to its referent for the “first” time.
If, then, as I argue, the Theogony is a prooímion ‘prologue’ to the Iliad, it is appropriate that the first word of the first line of the first book of the Iliad is the word mênis; but it is striking that the announced central theme of the Iliad is the mênis of Achilles and not the mênis of Zeus. [4] On the other hand, if the mênis that is the subject of the Iliad were the mênis of Zeus, it would not be an epic poem—in the Homeric tradition’s own terms, kléa andrôn—but a continuation of the theôn génos, “birth of the gods.” [5] The transfer of mênis from Zeus to Achilles is inevitable given the change of subject matter from the mythical narrative of the birth of the gods to a poem about epic heroes, which is another way of saying that the leap from the mênis of Zeus to the mênis of Achilles marks the transition to—or “re-presents” the creation of—epic poetry. Just such transfers of divine mythological themes to tales of mortal heroes have been shown by Georges Dumézil to generate epic from divine myth in other Indo-European traditions. [6] My suggestion is that a sequential relation in performance between the Theogony and the Iliad recapitulated that ontogeny of epic.
A sequential relationship between Theogonic myth and Iliadic tradition is also consistent with a well-known myth about Achilles that the Iliad never explicitly acknowledges, namely, a variant of the myth about the point of departure of Greek epic, the marriage of Peleus and Thetis. According to a tradition first attested in Pindar, [7] Thetis acceded to marriage {95|96} with the mortal Peleus instead of Zeus in order to avert the birth of a son who would be stronger than his father. Pindar reports a prophecy of Themis herself that Achilles would have surpassed Zeus if his mother had not consented to a marriage beneath her divine status that neutralized the threat he constituted to Zeus’s order. To put it another way, Achilles threatened to arouse Zeus’s mênis, but Thetis’s willingness to wed Peleus forestalled it. This myth is a recognizable sequel to the succession myth in the Theogony, and if Thetis had not wed Peleus—and even perhaps since she did—it could have been the sequel to it I have mentioned. Since Homeric epic has veered away from the Theogonic mênis of Zeus and toward the epic mênis of Achilles, it is not surprising that it does not acknowledge this myth despite at least one clear opportunity to do so. [8] The myth about Peleus and Thetis attests to an archetypal competition between Achilles and Zeus in Theogonic terms, which is inherent in the performance sequence I am suggesting. However, the plot of the Iliad deflects this competition in such a way as to render Achilles the Zeus of heroes with respect to his mênis, yet without marking him as Zeus’s antagonist. Achilles’ divine antagonist is Apollo instead.
Although the prooímion to the Iliad presents the mênis of Achilles as the initial subject of the poem, the narrative itself mitigates the transition from divine to heroic mênis. First, the mênis of Apollo precedes the mênis of Achilles as the story unfolds, and second, the mênis of Zeus himself lurks in the background and only wells up to the surface of the narrative in support of the mênis of Achilles at the conclusion of book 1. In other words, the epic has found a way to articulate its ontogeny, to bridge the gap between the inception of its central theme and the conclusion of the myth of the Theogony.

From the Mênis of Zeus to the Mênis of Achilles via the Mênis of Apollo

In my view, to repeat, it is significant that the narrative of the Iliad does not begin with the mênis of Zeus or the mênis of Achilles; it actually begins with the mênis of Apollo, and there is even a variant prologue attested for the Iliad whose only content is to link the mênis of Achilles to Apollo’s as the subject of the Iliad: {96|97}

ἔσπετε νῦν μοι μοῦσαι, Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι
ὅππως δὴ μῆνίς τε χόλος θ᾽ ἕλε Πηλεΐωνα
Λητοῦς τ᾽ ἀγλαὸν υἱόν· ὁ γὰρ βασιλῆϊ χολωθεὶς … [9]

Sing to me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus,
how mênis and khólos seized both the son of Peleus
and the glorious son of Leto; for he, angered at the king …

This was a variant prologue to the Iliad known to Aristoxenus, so its legitimacy cannot be simply dismissed. I do not maintain that it is preferable to the standard one, only that traditional poems are by definition multiform, so that an appreciation of the expressive and poetic value in textual variants like this one can enhance our understanding of the nuance of the received text and of the compositional process in general. It would be senseless to consider this variant the product of some secondary editorial intervention, since it is a prologue composed in traditional epic style whose content is simply different from that of the received text. [10] It raises these questions: What is the relationship between the mênis of Achilles and the mênis of Apollo? How and why are they linked in the narrative structure of the first book and in this alternative prologue? And why does the received text suppress the relationship between the mênis of Achilles and Apollo?

In my view, the mênis of Apollo serves as a bridge between the Hesiodic mênis of Zeus and the Homeric mênis of Achilles, a mortal epic hero. It has certain essential characteristics. First, it is caused by an offense to the timḗ ‘prestige’ of the old priest Chryses (Iliad 1.11), who approached the whole {97|98} host of fighting men (καὶ λίσσετο πάντας Ἀχαιούς, “and he implored all of the Achaeans”) [1.15] and in particular its leaders, the two sons of Atreus (named, pointedly, κοσμήτορε λαῶν “twin marshalers of the hosts” [1.16]), in the hope of effecting a transaction: to ransom his daughter. For Chryses, then, the “owner” of his daughter is the whole community, not just Agamemnon. His verbal offer of an exchange also takes the form of an implementation of the rules of reciprocal exchange. He expresses a kindly wish that the gods will favor the Achaeans in their attempt to sack Troy and return home, and in return he requests that they release his daughter, accept his ransom, and respect the god Apollo, whose priest he is (1.17–21). A clearer demonstration that exchange is, in Mauss’s term, a total social phenomenon would be hard to contrive. Chryses’ appeal to the group for an exchange of valuable goods under the protection of the god Apollo is at once social, economic, and religious. And the whole group—it is the same group that had presided over the distribution of goods and had awarded the priest’s daughter to Agamemnon in the first place, as we soon find out (1.162, 276, 299, 367–369)—approves the transaction and commends respect for the status of the priest (1.22–23). There could not be a clearer indication that both the process of exchange and the value of the terms offered meet with social approval, as Mauss’s theoretical principles would require. [11]
But the unthinkable takes place. Agamemnon dismisses Chryses, threatening him with violence if he persists and showing contempt for the priest’s age and the tokens of his bond to Apollo. Chryses’ offer of exchange had highlighted the social dimension of the transaction as against any link between the girl and Agamemnon’s own status, but Agamemnon’s response does the reverse. He sidesteps not only his role as leader but also any inherent obligations to the group’s standards of behavior, in favor of his own desire (ἀλλ’ οὐκ Ἀτρεΐδῃ Ἀγαμέμνονι ἥνδανε θυμῷ, “but it was not pleasing to Agamemnon, to his heart” [1.24]). Later, Agamemnon justifies himself by saying that he really wants (βούλομαι [1.112]) to have the girl at home, since he wants (προβέβουλα) her more than his own wife (1.113). Now there is ample reason to believe that a hero’s wife in the Homeric hierarchy of value is the most costly and valuable of all exchangeable goods, in that she represents in her person the hero’s own accumulated worth and prestige. [12] So Agamemnon’s avowal that he prefers Chryseis to his wife {98|99} amounts to a peremptory statement that she is not exchangeable for anything at all, including his wife. No little irony resides in Clytemnestra’s corresponding preference of someone else to him, which makes her the negative ideal of a Homeric wife (Odyssey 24.199–202), but Agamemnon is unconscious of that irony, so that the face value of his statements in terms of the conventions of the Homeric society is worth bringing to mind. Agamemnon has taken leave of his social obligations and, on the basis of his own desire, valued this girl as an incommensurable piece of property. In doing so, he has made a grievous and obvious mistake about what she is (or is not) exchangeable for.
When the priest goes to the seashore and prays to Apollo Smintheus, he again uses the language of exchange to specify the appropriate return for his suffering: “May the Danaans pay [τείσειαν, literally ‘pay’] for my tears with your weapons” (1.42). Apollo responds by shooting his arrows at mules, keen dogs, and then the bodies of men, the word for which, autoisi (51), anticipates their lifelessness. [13] Apollo’s repayment is swift, massive, and indiscriminate, but the peculiar sequence of destruction calls for an explanation, since it is in fact the expression of Apollo’s mênis. Heretofore the consequences of mênis have been indiscriminate, relentless devastation on a cosmic scale, usually manifested in celestial fire, not the death of mules and dogs.
The key to this variant of mênis is Apollo’s invocation as Smintheus. It and two other well-attested epithets of Apollo, Parnopios and Karneios, all relate to the same semantic field. As Smintheus is an adjectival form of smínthos ‘field mouse’, so Parnopios derives from párnops ‘grasshopper’ and Karneios should derive from the gloss karnós ‘louse that infests animals and plants (for instance, the vine)’. [14] Moreover, when the priest Chryses subse- {99|100}quently refers to the damage Apollo has done in this instance, he says μέγα δ᾽ ἴψαο λαὸν Ἀχαιῶν, “you greatly ípsao the host of Achaean fighting men’ (1.454), where the verb ípsao is a cognate of the noun íps ‘woodworm found in vines.’ [15] Field mice, plant lice, grasshoppers, and woodworms—all are small creatures capable of swelling to huge populations that inflict sudden and massive devastation on vegetation. The usual translation of Apollo’s epithet Smintheus is “mouse killer,” but the dictum of Martin Nilsson on the way that gods function applies here in reverse: “He who wards off disease can also send it.” [16] The priest’s invocation of Apollo Smintheus means that his epithet can also be translated “mouse killer” in the sense of one who uses mice to kill, just as on other occasions he may be the benevolent god who kills the mice.
As for the mules and dogs followed by the dead bodies of men, the pairing corresponds to an archaic division of movable property into two subgroups, the two-footed (humans) and the four-footed (animals), attested in a number of other ancient Indo-European languages and elsewhere in epic. [17] So the priest Chryses invokes Apollo in his capacity to inflict massive devastation upon plants by the use of swarming, pestilential creatures, and the god appears and attacks both forms of nonplant life, the two-footed (humans) and the four-footed (animals). Apollo’s epiphany as a god who can wreak or arrest pestilential devastation upon plants has been {100|101} extended into an ability to do so to animals and humans as well; in other words, Apollo can now destroy all living things, which is appropriate for a god inflicting mênis upon a social group. It is possible to explain this extension of Apollo’s powers by examining the diction, for the effect of the onslaught of Apollo’s arrows is in fact not sickness but fire:

οὐρῆας μὲν πρῶτον ἐπῴχετο καὶ κύνας ἀργούς,
αὐτὰρ ἔπειτ’ αὐτοῖσι βέλος ἐχεπευκὲς ἐφιεὶς
βάλλ’· αἰεὶ δὲ πυραὶ νεκύων καίοντο θαμειαί.
ἐννῆμαρ μὲν ἀνὰ στρατὸν ᾤχετο κῆλα θεοῖο,

First he went back and forth at the mules and the keen dogs,
and then, letting loose his pointed weapon at the bodies,
he struck: pyres of the dead were burning continually everywhere.
For nine days the shafts of the god went back and forth along the army.

(Iliad 1.50–53)

The narrative effect of the kêla theoîo ‘shafts of the god’ on the bodies is to cremate them. The expression kêla theoîo becomes still more relevant to its context when we realize that the noun kêla being translated ‘shafts’ is a plausible derivative of the same root as the verb in the previous line, kaíonto ‘were burning’. [18] A variant of this expression, kêla Diós, “kêla of Zeus,” is used at Theogony 708 of the thunderbolts hurled by Zeus at the Titans, and in Iliad 12.280 the phrase tà hà kêla, “those kêla of his (Zeus’s)” describes aspects of a snowstorm. English lacks a generic term for weapons that are “thrown pieces of fire,” if one can speak of such a thing, but in epic diction the association of this noun with fire is alive. It survives even in secondary derivatives of the noun kêla, such as purì kēléōi, “blazing fire,” a phrase used four of the seven times it occurs to refer to fire as a weapon of war, specifically, the fire that the Trojans set to the Achaean ships (8.217, 235, 22.374, and 15.744, where the form attested is kēléiōi, a metrical variant due to the formula being shifted from after to before the penthemimeral caesura). [19] So “shaft” is not an accurate way to render either the {101|102} connotations or the denotations of this term. [20] The closest word in English is perhaps bolt, which can be used of thunderbolts and also to denote cross-bow arrows, or the word firebrand, which denotes a flaming piece of wood used as a weapon of destruction.

How to explain Apollo’s bolts/firebrands with which he exercises his mênis upon the whole host of fighting men? These are surely a variant of the thunderbolt that functions as Zeus’s expression of mênis, the ultimate weapon for the ultimate sanction. In other words, Apollo has taken over a function of Zeus, to exercise mênis in the human world, and the manifold symbolism that goes with it has been adapted to his own persona. I am not claiming that this is some ad hoc invention of a particular poet to suit an idiosyncratic circumstance; far from it. The adoption by Apollo of Zeus’s attributes is a harmonious and traditional melding that recurs elsewhere and is consistent with the functional scheme of the epic pantheon, wherein Apollo regularly acts as the right hand of Zeus in concert or in parallel with Athena. [21] But the interpenetration of Zeus and Apollo also suits the context of a transition from divine myth to epic poem. Direct intervention in the human domain does not suit Zeus’s style of rule, since he acts among mortals only through intermediaries. So the switch from Zeus’s thunderbolts to fire-arrows shot by Apollo is a correlate to the leap from the mênis of Zeus to that of Achilles, a leap toward which it modulates. After all, it is one thing for another Olympian god (Apollo) to exercise a mênis that is analogous to Zeus’s, and another for a mortal hero (Achilles) to do the same.

The Mênis of Achilles or the Mênis of Agamemnon

Yet the mênis of Apollo is more than just a thematic intermediary between that of Zeus and that of Achilles. It functions as Achilles’ model and {102|103} sets him into a relationship of identity and antagonism with Apollo that pervades the Iliad. [22] What triggers this relationship is Agamemnon’s response to the realization that Apollo’s mênis has confronted him with a decision about the relative value of the girl Chryseis as against the whole host of fighting men for whom he is responsible. In an assembly called at Hera’s instigation by Achilles for the sake of the well-being of the whole host, [23] the priest Kalkhas informs Agamemnon that he must return the girl to her father without receiving anything in exchange for her other than the hope that by doing so the Achaeans may persuade Apollo to stop the devastation (called loigós, lines 67 and 97) of his whole social group. [24] The devastation explicitly ascribed to Apollo’s mênis in line 75 is threatening the army’s return home, to say nothing of its attempt to capture Troy, and even this reversal of Agamemnon’s dismissal of the priest is not guaranteed to appease the god. In response, Agamemnon describes his preference for the girl over his wife, but then he says that he wants (using the verb boúlomai from line 112 once again at line 117) the host of fighting men to be safe rather than to perish, and so he is willing to give her back. In view of the incommensurable value he has just placed on the girl, he is portraying his willingness to give her up for the sake of the army’s well-being as a sacrifice on his part, a loss that merits compensation from the group. As he says (1.119–120), it is “unseemly” (οὐδὲ ἔοικε) for him to be the only member of the group to be publicly deprived of his géras ‘token of social esteem’. They should get him another one. Agamemnon is not saying that the army’s welfare is more valuable to him than the girl; the point is rather that he will give up the girl for the army’s sake but not without compensation for his loss. He does not contemplate for a moment the possibility of abiding the loss in status that goes with the uncompensated surrender of the girl, a surrender prescribed by an Achaean priest of Apollo that is intended to disgrace Agamemnon and the Achaeans, for the dishonor that Agamemnon paid the priest Chryses is being reciprocated by the god in an exchange of harm. [25] In fact, Agamemnon’s response is a way of covering up for his mistake, of asserting his authority just when it is being eroded; but his initial {103|104} mistake about the girl remains a problem that will not go away. Now, in an effort to reverse the plummeting trajectory of his status, Agamemnon is about to make a second grievous error about the rules of exchange and the relative value of persons. It is once again rooted in his own desire and at the expense of his solidarity with the host of fighting men. It is important to note that an insistence on precisely that solidarity is a tellingly persistent feature of Achilles’ response to Agamemnon’s acts against him, just as it was built into Apollo’s response to Agamemnon’s acts against Chryses. Those who believe that Achilles is a hero without a social conscience have ignored a fundamental feature of his persona in this regard.
Achilles greets Agamemnon’s demand for a new géras to replace the one he is willing to relinquish with disbelief (1.122–129). Since Agamemnon’s discourse is teetering on the brink between praise and blame, [26] Achilles begins with a pair of superlatives for him, one honorific, the other critical—κύδιστε ‘most glorious’ and φιλοκτεανώτατε ‘most attached to his possessions’ [27] —and then reminds him that there is no storehouse of prizes or institution for reassembling and redistributing wealth, which would be truly “unseemly” (οὐκ ἐπέοικε [126]). Give back the girl to the god for now, Achilles says; the seemly way to get a new géras is to realize the ultimate goal of the warrior community and sack Troy. The distribution resulting from that victory will be more than sufficient to redress Agamemnon’s present loss.
Achilles’ response only exacerbates Agamemnon’s status problem and pushes the discourse between them over the brink into unmitigated blame, {104|105} though not until the very end of Agamemnon’s speech. Since to Agamemnon it looks as though Achilles is deceitfully outranking him by “bidding” (κέλεαι [134]) him, as one would an inferior, to give up his géras while Achilles would hold on to the one he received in the same distribution, Agamemnon offers two alternatives. The first is that the group award him a new géras that suits his desire and is a worthy exchange for the one he is giving up (135–136); failing that, he will himself take the géras of Achilles, Ajax, or Odysseus. The first alternative reasserts Agamemnon’s rank with respect to the whole community; the second does the same with respect to its three best warriors, which makes it a more concrete and hostile assertion of his superiority to all. The first alternative is couched as the less likely of the two, [28] and if what Achilles has just said is correct, it is decidedly unlikely that the group can reconvene to award Agamemnon a new prize, since it has none to award. In proposing it, Agamemnon only makes the second alternative appear inevitable. In any case, he blithely postpones a decision as to what should happen in this regard and begins organizing the return of Chryseis to her father. In the process, he asserts his rank in the same vein by ordering the same group of warriors, this time augmented by Idomeneus, to furnish a captain for the ship that will bring her back. The inclusion of Idomeneus is just a way of rhetorically postponing and so highlighting his singling out of Achilles, whom he lists last and provocatively, with an insulting superlative epithet: [29]

εἷς δέ τις ἀρχὸς ἀνὴρ βουληφόρος ἔστω,
ἢ Αἴας ἢ Ἰδομενεὺς ἢ δῖος Ὀδυσσεὺς
ἠὲ σὺ Πηλεΐδη πάντων ἐκπαγλότατ’ ἀνδρῶν,
ὄφρ’ ἥμιν ἑκάεργον ἱλάσσεαι ἱερὰ ῥέξας.

and let some man of counselor rank be the captain,
either Ajax or Idomeneus or godlike Odysseus,
or even you, son of Peleus, most hostile of all men,
so that you may sacrifice and appease the far-worker for us.

(1.144–147) {105|106}

Agamemnon is by now baiting Achilles and turning to the language of insult. It is possible for him to do so because the essential outlines of the conflict between them have already been defined. Agamemnon’s resentment that his sovereign authority is under violent attack by a hero who is his social inferior is set off against Achilles’ resentment of Agamemnon’s disrespect for him and his contempt for the rules of exchange and communal distribution that sustain the social hierarchy itself.

It is also discernible that the source of each hero’s grievance against the other is now bound up with the mênis theme. The verb derived from the name of the ultimate sanction is explicitly attached to each, to Agamemnon at line 247 and to Achilles at lines 422 and 488. As the quarrel unfolds, each uses links in diction with the order of Zeus established in the Theogony to lay claim to the supreme god’s sanction. Zeus’s order was based on a primordial division (called dasmós at Theogony 425–427) of prizes based on social esteem (called géras at Theogony 427) according to status or sphere (called timḗ at Theogony 421, 426), and we have seen in detail how violation of either Zeus’s hierarchy or the thémistes that define and maintain it constitutes a threat to the world order punishable by massive, indiscriminate devastation. [30] In his speech responding to Agamemnon’s provocation, Achilles speaks of the way Agamemnon has undermined the basis of his own authority (1.150–151), which is wedded to the system of distribution. He complains of the dasmós ‘division’ (166) of géras ‘prizes’ (161, 163, 167) and how Agamemnon’s threat to remove even the relatively inferior prize that the group awarded him in disproportion to his major contribution to the battle is an offense to his timḗ, which in this context means “prestige” (171). He announces his return home to Phthia, since he was present in the first place not out of hostility to the Trojans but as a favor to Agamemnon and Menelaos, to restore their damaged timḗ (159). Having his own prestige damaged by those whose prestige he has come so far (156–157) to restore is evidently an unbearable contradiction. A little later, after Athena has appeared as Hera’s surrogate and promised him triple the gifts if he refrains from actually killing Agamemnon, Achilles decides to remain in Troy but withdraw from the fighting. [31] Before doing so, he takes an oath on a scepter {106|107} wielded by the Achaeans who “have preserved the thémistes from Zeus” (οἵ τε θέμιστας / πρὸς Διὸς εἰρύαται [238–239]). Those thémistes have been trampled by Agamemnon and his “nobodies” (229–231), the Achaeans who put up with his voraciousness and are tacitly accepting, since they are not rejecting it, his order to take away the gift that they all gave Achilles (162). The content of Achilles’ brief oath is at first surprisingly narrow. It voices only his conviction about the social dimensions of the devastation that his withdrawal will have and the powerless regret that will overtake Agamemnon when he realizes the mistake he is making about Achilles’ value:

ἦ ποτ’ Ἀχιλλῆος ποθὴ ἵξεται υἷας Ἀχαιῶν
σύμπαντας· τότε δ’ οὔ τι δυνήσεαι ἀχνύμενός περ
χραισμεῖν, εὖτ’ ἂν πολλοὶ ὑφ’ Ἕκτορος ἀνδροφόνοιο
θνήσκοντες πίπτωσι· σὺ δ’ ἔνδοθι θυμὸν ἀμύξεις
χωόμενος ὅτ’ ἄριστον Ἀχαιῶν οὐδὲν ἔτεισας.

at some point a yearning for Achilles is bound to come upon the sons of the Achaeans,
on all of them put together; and then for all your anguish you [singular] will not at all be able
to ward off [devastation], when many, beneath man-slaying Hector,
fall dying: but you [singular] will rip at the heart within yourself
in your anger that you [singular] paid no honor at all to the best of the Achaeans.

But the underlying scope of this oath is clear in the perspective of the mênis theme. As in other instances of mênis, Achilles is specifying a whole solidary group as the object of the sanction his absence will impose, and he is expressly assuming Agamemnon’s ultimate identity and solidarity with that group, just as Apollo had in punishing the whole host of fighting men rather than Agamemnon alone. Moreover, by blaming Agamemnon for another grievous mistake about a person’s value—in this case, failing to respect and recognize Achilles’ own value as “the best of the Achaeans”—Achilles is identifying the outrage done to him with the outrage done to Chryses. In other words, the oath is actually Achilles’ claim to a mênis like Apollo’s. Nor is it coincidental that Achilles overtly links it to the claim that he is the “best of the Achaeans,” for in the first episode (1.91), Achilles {107|108} mentioned that Agamemnon asserts his right to that same title. [32] Issues of relative status, as we have seen, are inextricable from the mênis theme. In this instance, if Achilles is indeed the best of the Achaeans, then Agamemnon has no grounds for mênis whatever—there is no tabu against treating an inferior as an inferior—and Achilles’ grounds for anger at Agamemnon are even more imposing: to his violation of reciprocity obligations is added a breach of the social hierarchy. [33] What is especially striking is the oblique way in which Achilles suddenly asserts his absolute superiority, not as a direct, competitive assertion in propria persona [34] but as a tardy realization in the mind of Agamemnon. It is as though everyone but Agamemnon knows Achilles’ value, just as everyone but Agamemnon knew Chryseis’. [35] At the conclusion of this short but potent oath, rather than hand on the scepter to the next speaker, Achilles hurls it to the ground. The gesture marks both his social detachment from the group of Agamemnon’s Achaeans and that group’s detachment from the divine and deathless thémistes of Zeus that the scepter represents. [36]
In response, Agamemnon calls up his own mênis. He characterizes Achilles’ threatened withdrawal as a symptom of defeat, a rout. Maintaining that his own sovereignty is intact, he claims timḗ from many, especially Zeus himself (1.175), the ultimate sovereign. As for Achilles’ claim to superiority, Agamemnon dismisses it as violence (177) and physical prowess—calling him karterós ‘strong’ (178)—and divine gift only. The reference to divine gifts and thus to Achilles’ mother is appropriate to this context, since genealogical status is a part of social rank, but Agamemnon is implying that Achilles’ divine origin lessens the value of his prowess. [37] Then (182–184) he makes an explicit analogy between Apollo’s depriving him of Chryseis and his depriving Achilles of Briseis, his géras. The implication is that Apollo’s mênis was a response to an offense in the domain of status, and that as it {108|109} justified Agamemnon’s loss of Chryseis, so Agamemnon’s mênis justifies the seizing of Briseis from the disrespectful Achilles:

ὡς ἔμ’ ἀφαιρεῖται Χρυσηΐδα Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων,
τὴν μὲν ἐγὼ σὺν νηΐ τ’ ἐμῇ καὶ ἐμοῖς ἑτάροισι
πέμψω, ἐγὼ δέ κ’ ἄγω Βρισηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον
αὐτὸς ἰὼν κλισίηνδε, τὸ σὸν γέρας, ὄφρ’ ἐῢ εἰδῇς
ὅσσον φέρτερός εἰμι σέθεν, στυγέῃ δὲ καὶ ἄλλος
ἶσον ἐμοὶ φάσθαι καὶ ὁμοιωθήμεναι ἄντην.

As Phoebus Apollo is depriving me of Chryseis,
I will send her off with my ship and my companions,
but I will go myself to your hut and get fair-cheeked Briseis,
that géras of yours, so that you may know well
how much better [ phérteros ] I am than you, and so that another
would also dread to appear as my equal and be likened to me face to face.


At the same time as Agamemnon is basing his mênis on Apollo’s, he is using the same language that Zeus uses in book 15 to threaten Poseidon with mênis and make him stand down from his desire to be treated as an equal:

φραζέσθω δὴ ἔπειτα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμὸν
μή μ’ οὐδὲ κρατερός περ ἐὼν ἐπιόντα ταλάσσῃ
μεῖναι, ἐπεί ἑο φημὶ βίῃ πολὺ φέρτερος εἶναι
καὶ γενεῇ πρότερος· τοῦ δ’ οὐκ ὄθεται φίλον ἦτορ
ἶσον ἐμοὶ φάσθαι, τόν τε στυγέουσι καὶ ἄλλοι.

Let him [Poseidon] consider then in his heart and spirit,
so that strong [ kraterós ] as he is he will not dare to await
my onset, since I assert that I am much better [ phérteros ] than him in force
and earlier in birth; yet his dear heart does not care about
appearing equal to me, whom others also dread.


In effect, Agamemnon is adducing both Apollo and Zeus, whose timḗ he claims at the beginning of his speech, as models for his mênis, although the comparison of his words to Zeus’s suggests a problem that again evokes the succession myth in the Theogony.

Along with his birthright as the elder (sic), Zeus nakedly asserts that he is superior (phérteros) in bíē ‘capacity for destructive force, violence’ to Posei-{109|110}don, strong (karterós) as he is. [38] In contrast, Agamemnon claims that Achilles is violent and strong (karterós), but that he himself is better (phérteros). In Zeus’s rank assertion, phérteros ‘better’ and karterós ‘strong’ are not opposed but complementary. In fact his superiority principally resides in his greater strength. Accordingly, the distinction between karterós and phérteros in Agamemnon’s rank assertion appears to be specious, for it is not clear from it in what the superiority of Agamemnon can consist. [39] In the absence of force, there is cunning and genealogy, but nothing suggests that Agamemnon prevails in those domains either. [40] The solution to this problem is implicit in Agamemnon’s initial statement that he has timḗ from many and especially Zeus and in his contemptuous command to Achilles earlier in this speech. “Go home with your ships and your companions and rule over [your] Myrmidons” (179–180), he tells him, to highlight the contrast between Achilles’ petty kingdom and his vast assemblage of subjects. The locus of Agamemnon’s superior status is the extent of his domains and subject peoples. This becomes explicit when Nestor later restates Agamemnon’s assertion of superior rank in an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the two heroes: “You Achilles are strong [karterós again], and a goddess mother bore you, but he is better [phérteros again] since he rules over more people” (280–281). In this opposition, the fact of broader power advances Agamemnon’s status beyond Achilles’. [41] But that only poses the problem on another level, since that power of his appears to be a mere fact, without resonance in the Theogonic ideology of sovereignty based on one of two qualities, superior force or superior cunning. Agamemnon possesses and strives to preserve the scope of his sovereignty, but in terms of the myth of Zeus’s kingship, he {110|111} appears to be a king lacking superior force, superior cunning, and probably superior genealogical status as well. [42] Can mênis modeled on that of Apollo and Zeus supervene to legitimate his kingship, or vice versa?
The quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles really comes down to a single issue: who has the right to mênis? The converse should also be true: in order to halt the quarrel between them, each hero should cease his mênis. Nestor’s speech of “reconciliation” concludes as follows:

Ἀτρεΐδη σὺ δὲ παῦε τεὸν μένος· αὐτὰρ ἔγωγε
λίσσομ’ Ἀχιλλῆϊ μεθέμεν χόλον, ὃς μέγα πᾶσιν
ἕρκος Ἀχαιοῖσιν πέλεται πολέμοιο κακοῖο.

Son of Atreus, you stop [παῦε] your ménos; and I personally
implore you to let go of your khólos at Achilles, who is a
great barrier in evil war for all the Achaeans.


Actually, Nestor only aims to put an end to Agamemnon’s mênis; the words ménos and khólos are regularly attested as terms that cross-refer to it. [43] He tells him not to take away Briseis but to leave her as the Achaeans gave her, to Achilles. True, that would remove the cause of Achilles’ mênis, but that is a consequence of his advice, not its primary goal. Nestor immediately tells {111|112} Achilles not to rile Agamemnon on the grounds that he is his superior, so that the two injunctions establish a context of ending Agamemnon’s mênis at Achilles, not vice versa. First Nestor reinforces Agamemnon’s contrast between who is phérteros (Agamemnon) and who is karterós (Achilles). Then he concludes with the lines just quoted, a direct plea to Agamemnon to end his mênis and recognize Achilles’ value in war to the whole social group.

Nothing here addresses the situation from Achilles’ point of view, but by the time Nestor intervenes, Athena has already recognized Achilles’ mênis, though without anyone else knowing of it. After Agamemnon has stated definitively that he would himself deprive Achilles of his géras, Achilles tries to decide whether to demonstrate definitively his superiority in bíē and kill Agamemnon outright or whether to “restrain his khólos,” as the poet puts it (192). As he is pondering these alternatives, he is actually drawing his sword, leaving no doubt as to which one he will choose. At that moment Athena comes down and appears from behind to him alone “to halt [παύσουσα] his ménos” (207). She promises Achilles triple damages if he holds back. In another demonstration of his strict adherence to the rules of exchange, he readily accepts her offer with a proverb about reciprocal obligations: ὅς κε θεοῖς ἐπιπείθηται μάλα τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοῦ, “Anyone who obeys the gods, they really hear him” (218). The successful restraint of Achilles’ ménos and khólos by Athena contrasts dramatically with Nestor’s effort to do the same for Agamemnon. Nothing could be more private and intimate than Achilles’ invisible and flattering encounter with the goddess, who promises him justifiable recompense if he will turn from an irrevocable action to words. [44] By contrast, all the Achaeans witness Nestor’s humiliating and fruitless attempt to use words to deflect Agamemnon from taking an action that has in fact become irrevocable, since he has already announced it and will not further debase himself by recanting. All that Nestor can offer Agamemnon is a restatement of Agamemnon’s view of his superior status vis-à-vis Achilles and a chastisement of Achilles for speaking up against his superior. So it is not surprising that Nestor’s formulation has the effect of exacerbating Agamemnon’s mênis instead of quelling it. He responds to Nestor with an aggrieved, exaggerated account of Achilles’ desire to dominate him—that is indeed Agamemnon’s fundamental problem, {112|113} who outranks whom—and then he asks, with unconscious irony, if Achilles has a divine license to abuse him with words just because the gods made him a warrior (291). [45]
As for Achilles, he answers Agamemnon, not Nestor, and in a way that closely resembles Poseidon’s answer to Zeus’s threat of mênis against him in book 15. That is, his speech is an aggressive concession to Agamemnon that flatly contradicts both the tenor and the content of Nestor’s remarks. Achilles first denies that there is any impropriety in his speaking out against Agamemnon and refuses to give in to him, but then he concedes the girl:

ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω, σὺ δ’ ἐνὶ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσι·
χερσὶ μὲν οὔ τοι ἔγωγε μαχήσομαι εἵνεκα κούρης
οὔτε σοὶ οὔτε τῳ ἄλλῳ, ἐπεί μ’ ἀφέλεσθέ γε δόντες·
τῶν δ’ ἄλλων ἅ μοί ἐστι θοῇ παρὰ νηῒ μελαίνῃ
τῶν οὐκ ἄν τι φέροις ἀνελὼν ἀέκοντος ἐμεῖο·
εἰ δ’ ἄγε μὴν πείρησαι ἵνα γνώωσι καὶ οἵδε·
αἶψά τοι αἷμα κελαινὸν ἐρωήσει περὶ δουρί.

I will tell you [singular] another thing, and you store it in your mind:
For my part, I will not fight you [singular] hand-to-hand for the girl,
not you [singular] nor anyone else, since you [plural] who gave her to me took her away.
But as for the other things that I have beside my swift black ship,
you [singular] may not take a single one of them away against my will;
go on, try it, to let these others here know as well:
then your black blood will spurt up around my spear.

The solidarity here between the “you” (= the Achaeans) who gave Achilles his géras and the “you” (= Agamemnon) to whom Achilles is conceding her is being ironically reinforced by a growing social gulf between both “you-s” and Achilles. Achilles’ reason for not fighting over the girl is that the same people who gave her are now taking her away. In societies that are governed by rules of exchange, taking away what is not yours is usually an unequivocal act of war that thenceforth defines the parties concerned as reciprocating enemies. [46] So the deadly violence with which Achilles initially wished to reciprocate Agamemnon’s decision to {113|114} take away Briseis was expectable and normal. In response to Athena’s offer of recompense, however, Achilles restrained himself from violent action and turned to words. Now Achilles says that he will not fight Agamemnon over the girl, since the Achaeans who gave her to him are taking her away. The logic of Achilles’ interpretation of his inaction, an interpretation which he makes as a consequence of his agreement with the goddess not to resort to physical violence, is that Agamemnon’s action in taking away the girl unopposed institutionalizes a social gulf between Agamemnon and his Achaeans over against Achilles. It detaches them from one another socially just as the exchange of gifts or of harm attaches social groups or individuals to one another in positive or negative social contracts. Accordingly, it will take a further act of stealing to define them as actual enemies. The unopposed taking away of Briseis establishes a zero relationship between Achilles on one side and the Achaeans with Agamemnon on the other—a relationship that could become a negative one indeed if Agamemnon tries to take something else from Achilles or vice versa. The result of these events is precisely as Achilles defines it. Henceforth, he and the Achaeans with Agamemnon are neither friends nor enemies. No social contract whatever exists between them. In the end, Achilles’ speech is no simple concession. It creates an extraordinary space in which Achilles will express mênis against the Achaeans and Agamemnon without interacting with them in any conventional way whatsoever. On the other hand, Achilles’ contract with Athena has reinforced his ties to the divine community. It is even plausible to say that he has given up his ties to the Achaean community in the name of his ties to the divine one.
There are two strange things happening here, then. The first is Agamemnon’s taking back a prize that his society gave to one of its members, and the second is that the person who is being deprived of that prize is not resisting the loss by the use of force or knuckling under to a superior but, by returning it, is zeroing out his relationship to the society that gave it to him on that basis. It is not that either of these two actions is prohibited or inconsistent with a system of reciprocal exchange but that they are not normally conceived or conceivable within it. The peculiar features of Achilles’ response are especially clear from a comparison to the closely parallel response of Poseidon to Zeus’s demand that he retire from battle. Zeus backs his demand with a threat of mênis based on an explicit assertion of his superiority in bíē ‘capacity for physical violence, killing power’. Poseidon considers himself equal in timḗ to Zeus (15.186, 209–211), but unlike Achilles, who says that he would be rightly called worthless or cowardly if he were to “give” in (1.294, verb hupeíkō) to Agamemnon in everything and {114|115} that he “will no longer obey him” (296), Poseidon explicitly “gives in” (15.211, verb hupeíkō):

ἀλλ’ ἤτοι νῦν μέν κε νεμεσσηθεὶς ὑποείξω·
ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω, καὶ ἀπειλήσω τό γε θυμῷ·
αἴ κεν ἄνευ ἐμέθεν καὶ Ἀθηναίης ἀγελείης
Ἥρης Ἑρμείω τε καὶ Ἡφαίστοιο ἄνακτος
Ἰλίου αἰπεινῆς πεφιδήσεται, οὐδ’ ἐθελήσει
ἐκπέρσαι, δοῦναι δὲ μέγα κράτος Ἀργείοισιν,
ἴστω τοῦθ’ ὅτι νῶϊν ἀνήκεστος χόλος ἔσται.
Ὣς εἰπὼν λίπε λαὸν Ἀχαιϊκὸν ἐννοσίγαιος,
δῦνε δὲ πόντον ἰών, πόθεσαν δ’ ἥρωες Ἀχαιοί.

Justly offended though I now am, yet I will in fact give in [ hupoeíxō ];
but I will tell you another thing, and I will make this threat from the heart:
if without me and Athena who leads the host
and Hera and Hermes and lord Hephaistos [47]
he intends to spare steep Ilium and will not be willing
to destroy it utterly and grant great might to the Argives,
let him know this, that the anger [ khólos ] between us two will be incurable.
So speaking the earth-shaker left the Achaean host
and went and plunged into the sea, and the Achaean warriors missed him.

Achilles also retires to his own domain and is also missed by the Achaeans after his speech of aggressive concession, but Poseidon has neither detached himself from the divine community nor compromised his ultimate allegiance to the Achaeans’ cause. He complains but backs down, and he decides not to fight Zeus on the issue of his superiority. Instead of fighting now, he draws the uncrossable line a little farther back, saying that if Zeus ultimately decides to protect Troy to the extent of undoing its destined destruction at the expense of the Achaeans, then their anger (called khólos) will be incurable (217) along with that of the other gods who are on the Achaeans’ side. In responding this way, he preserves his relationship to the Achaeans and to the divine community and in particular to the gods who are his allies within it. But Achilles divorces himself from the Achaean community by actually giving back the gift that they gave him and threatening violence if they try to take something else. By doing so and by not {115|116} actively resisting Agamemnon, Achilles does preserve his ties to Athena, Hera, and the divine community. There is one additional significant difference between Achilles’ and Poseidon’s responses: Poseidon actually postpones his mênis until the unthinkable eventuality of a Trojan victory, whereas Achilles just states his readiness to respond violently to further provocation, which he menacingly invites. In no way does he relinquish his claim to mênis on the current issue. So the fundamental issue in the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, “Which hero has the right to mênis?‘‘ is still unresolved, though not for long.

The Real Mênis of Achilles

The process of defining a mortal’s mênis as distinct from the mênis of Zeus is finally about to reach the end of its first phase. Since Achilles’ retort to Agamemnon effectively rules out interaction between him and the Achaeans other than his handing over Briseis, once his speech is over the two men who have been “fighting with exchange of violent words,” ἀντιβίοισι μαχεσσαμένω ἐπέεσσιν (304), stand up—apparently the rule is that if more than one person stands, public speech is concluded, since normally one person, the speaker, stands while all others remain seated—and the assembly disbands. Achilles goes to his hut and ships “with Patroklos and his companions” (307), a detail that highlights the social exile he has imposed upon himself at the termination of the assembly. Henceforth, Achilles has only two domains in which to interact, that of the gods and that of Patroklos and the Myrmidons. For his part, Agamemnon orders Odysseus to return Chryseis and carries out a ritual purification of the Achaeans’ camp. Then he sends his two heralds to Achilles’ hut to collect Briseis.
The poet describes these heralds as unwilling (1.327), fearful (331), and respectful of Achilles to such an extent that upon their arrival they are even unable to address him a single word (331–332), not the conventional behavior of heralds. Achilles understands (ἔγνω [333]), that their silence is a misapprehension, a mistaken fear that he thinks them responsible for their mission; so he breaks the silence and explains to them that he blames Agamemnon (335), not them. When a similarly fearful (76–83) Kalkhas had earlier conveyed the message to Agamemnon that he had to return Chryseis, Agamemnon did not restrain himself from voicing his hostility at the messenger (102–120). This scene with the heralds, in which Achilles graciously deprecates their fear of like treatment and hands over the girl without being asked, again marks Achilles’ sociability. Moreover, the oath {116|117} that he swears with them as witnesses focuses on Agamemnon’s inability to defend the society for which he is responsible:

…εἴ ποτε δὴ αὖτε
χρειὼ ἐμεῖο γένηται ἀεικέα λοιγὸν ἀμῦναι
τοῖς ἄλλοις· ἦ γὰρ ὅ γ’ ὀλοιῇσι φρεσὶ θύει,
οὐδέ τι οἶδε νοῆσαι ἅμα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω,
ὅππως οἱ παρὰ νηυσὶ σόοι μαχέοιντο Ἀχαιοί.

…if ever once again [ dḕ aûte ]
a need for me should arise to ward off unseemly destruction [ loigós ]
for these others: truly he [Agamemnon] is raging in his destructive mind,
nor does he know how to think [ noêsai ] at once forward and backward,
so that the Achaeans may fight for him safely beside the ships.

This time Achilles is swearing that Agamemnon is acting antisocially, without the intelligence to secure the safety of his fighting men, for he has failed to foresee that they will once again (dḕ aûte [340]) become the victims of the devastation (loigós) that is the result of mênis. [48] “Not knowing how to think at once forward and backward” is the opposite of Zeus’s behavior in the Theogony, where we witnessed his intelligence (called mêtis there; here the word for think, noêsai, is a derivative of its more archaic synonym, nóos) [49] bridging the past (forward) and the future (behind), anticipating what would happen on the basis of what had happened and learning from others’ experience. Agamemnon is in fact making the same mistake twice and so not even learning from his own immediately preceding experience. Achilles will become his second Apollo, and Achilles even foretells how he himself will be called upon to ward off the consequences of his own mênis. In contrast to Agamemnon, then, Achilles does have the intelligence to foresee the disaster of which he will be both cause and cure. The narrative, however, does not choose to name this intelligence. [50] For the moment, it is more significant that Achilles’ emphasis on Agamemnon’s inability to safe-{117|118}guard his host already signals the devastating social dimensions that Achilles’ mênis will have: so the hero with heightened social sensitivity who acted to save the Achaeans from a self-willed leader who was consuming his people will expressly inflict massive devastation on the very society he set out to protect. To be sure, Achilles is here anticipating his first goal; yet our notion of suspense only pallidly approximates the effect generated by anticipation of the télos or goal in traditional narrative. What preoccupies us now are the causal steps in the resolution of the struggle between Achilles and Agamemnon that a thoughtful person should be able to foresee.
Turning away from the Achaeans and the Myrmidons, Achilles at the seashore weeps to his mother, Thetis. [51] She responds to his suffering with an empathetic epiphany and another divine request for words, whereupon he elaborately retells the narrative of the Iliad up to this point. This retelling is conventional epic retardation before a decisive moment. [52] But it is also noteworthy that Achilles begins it at a new logical starting point, the sack of Thebe, an event that is actually prior to the beginning of our Iliad; moreover, the last narrative element in his tale, the old story of Thetis helping Zeus, is not part of Achilles’ story at all. These added narrative elements that frame Achilles’ recapitulation bespeak the metonymic principle whose operation we have witnessed in the Hesiodic succession myth, wherein narrative recapitulation rebuilds the causality between episodes in preparation for a new episode. [53] Restarting from the “true” beginning restores and strengthens the coherence of the narrative’s sequence, whereas ending that sequence with another story altogether prepares for a significant new episode.
The other story that Achilles tells at the end of his own is especially interesting, since it appears to be digressive rather than integral. [54] At line 393 Achilles finishes retelling his own story; then he asks his mother to go to Zeus and beg a favor on her son’s behalf. In order to ask a favor of someone, however, you must either offer compensation or the favor must be compensation for a favor you have done. [55] So Achilles retells his mother’s story: {118|119}

πολλάκι γάρ σεο πατρὸς ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἄκουσα
εὐχομένης ὅτ’ ἔφησθα κελαινεφέϊ Κρονίωνι
οἴη ἐν ἀθανάτοισιν ἀεικέα λοιγὸν ἀμῦναι,
ὁππότε μιν ξυνδῆσαι Ὀλύμπιοι ἤθελον ἄλλοι
Ἥρη τ’ ἠδὲ Ποσειδάων καὶ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη·
ἀλλὰ σὺ τόν γ’ ἐλθοῦσα, θεά, ὑπελύσαο δεσμῶν,
ὦχ’ ἑκατόγχειρον καλέσασ’ ἐς μακρὸν Ὄλυμπον,
ὃν Βριάρεων καλέουσι θεοί, ἄνδρες δέ τε πάντες
Αἰγαίων‘, ὃ γὰρ αὖτε βίην οὗ πατρὸς ἀμείνων·
ὅς ῥα παρὰ Κρονίωνι καθέζετο κύδεϊ γαίων·
τὸν καὶ ὑπέδεισαν μάκαρες θεοὶ οὐδ’ ἔτ’ ἔδησαν.
τῶν νῦν μιν μνήσασα παρέζεο καὶ λαβὲ γούνων

I often heard you speaking proudly of it in my father’s halls,
when you used to say how you alone among the immortals
warded off unseemly devastation [ loigós ] for the dark-clouded son of Kronos,
when the other Olympians were wanting to tie him up,
Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athene;
but you went to him, goddess, and set him free from the bonds,
swiftly calling up to great Olympus a Hundred-Hander,
one whom the gods call Briareos but all men
Aigaion—for he also is greater in strength than his father—
who sat beside the son of Kronos and exulted in his glory;
and the blessed gods feared him and no longer tied him up.
Reminding him of these things, sit beside him and take him by the knees.


Achilles goes on to specify what Thetis should ask Zeus to do on his behalf, namely, help out the Trojans and bottle up the Achaeans so that they will be killed. Then the Achaeans will all get the full benefit of their king, and Agamemnon himself will realize his mistake in paying no honor to “the best of the Achaeans” (408–12).

In other words, Achilles suggests that Thetis use this tale in asking Zeus to become the active agent of his mênis. In fact, this story, whose distinctive Hesiodic style has been noted by Laura Slatkin, [56] is about Thetis averting the mênis of Zeus by forestalling an attempt on his sovereignty by the other Olympians. It is therefore a sequel to the Theogony, an episode in the succession myth in which for the first time a group that includes members {119|120} of a sovereign’s own generation undertake to overthrow him by binding. Binding is one of the traditional metaphors for immortal “death,” as was clear in my survey of the contexts of mênis in Homeric epic. [57] I noted that there were instances in which martial and sexual offenses incurred divine mênis, but offenses in the third sphere, that of sovereignty itself, were lacking. The attempt to bind Zeus that Thetis thwarted is a direct attack on the sovereign of the world. This tale, which Achilles is presenting as related to his own situation and as justification for Zeus’s assisting him and his mother, has two variant features—by which I mean features that are predictable multiforms consistent with the other episodes of the succession myth—that are reflected specifically in the mênis of Achilles. In both contexts, the issue is who occupies the top of the social hierarchy—king of the gods in the divine, Hesiodic context, “best of the Achaeans” in the heroic, Homeric one. In neither context does the threat to the existing hierarchy come from an elder generation. A revolt from within Zeus’s own generation is well motivated, since by now Zeus has either demonstrated his ability to meet threats from members of other generations or made allies of them. That is also why one such ally, a Hundred-Hander from the primordial first generation, is the perfect and significant choice to suppress this threat from Zeus’s peers. His presence at the divine table is itself a mark of Zeus’s success in bridging past and present, in outdoing his predecessors. From this perspective, a fundamental achievement of Zeus in the Theogony was to end conflict between generations (over succession) and so make the world stable enough for conflict within generations (over status). [58]
So Achilles argues that just as his mother intervened to help Zeus enforce his status and so avoid the devastation that would arise from his exercising mênis to put down an attempt to displace himself from power, so Zeus should help enforce Achilles’ superior status and actually inflict the devastation of mênis upon the Achaeans. The asymmetry is as striking as the symmetry. Whereas Thetis “alone averted devastation” (398) and protected both Zeus and her fellow immortals from mênis by forestalling their revolt, Achilles is expressly demanding that Zeus take part in the social devastation that will inevitably accompany the exercise of mênis. It is noteworthy that this asymmetry between Achilles’ and Zeus’s situations would disappear if {120|121} Achilles were Agamemnon, a leader threatened by a stronger subordinate; thus, it implies the legitimacy, or at least the potential seriousness, of Agamemnon’s claims. [59] Yet there is one key factor that strongly entitles Achilles to invoke the story of Thetis’s intervention on Zeus’s behalf: the category “best of the Achaeans” transcends political sovereignty and pertains to traits that may or may not be a basis of political power, such as mêtis ‘creative cunning’, bíē ‘destructive force’, and their associated faculties, symbols, and consequences.
In telling his mother’s tale, Achilles himself is asserting the continuity that I wish to identify and articulate between the Theogony and the Iliad, between his mênis and the mênis of Zeus. To be sure, the link is oblique. Achilles does not explicitly refer to Zeus’s own assertion of dominion over his rivals in the Theogony; rather, using distinctly Hesiodic language, [60] he refers to an event that is discernibly related to the succession myth and also subsequent to it. A direct backward reference to the Theogony would not suit this context in any case, wherein Achilles is justifying a course of action for his mother, and it would also construct a direct analogy between himself and Zeus. Instead, Achilles draws a delicate and precise parallel between Zeus and Thetis as enforcers of the social order in which Achilles has the mênis and Zeus seconds it. The text is in fact negotiating a sensitive issue. Earlier we witnessed warriors surpassing the limits of the human condition who are both admirable and in danger of incurring nothing other than divine mênis itself. [61] For a hero to have mênis without incurring it at the same time, Zeus must conspire with him rather than against him. By telling this story and ultimately winning Zeus’s allegiance to his cause rather than presenting himself as his equal, Achilles makes his own mênis as much an aspect of Zeus’s cosmic status as of his own. There lies the precise link between Achilles’ mênis and Zeus’s that bespeaks the metonymic relationship between the whole Theogony and the first line of the Iliad that was my point of departure. [62]
Another Theogonic variant that would have suited the immediate demands of this context very well is the tradition that explains why Achilles himself is a mortal hero and not king of the universe: how Thetis averted the mênis of Zeus against herself and Achilles by submitting to marriage {121|122} with a mortal, Peleus, instead of becoming Zeus’s consort. Once again, this alternative implies a more antagonistic and competitive model of the relationship between Zeus and Achilles than the Iliad permits on its surface, although aspects of just such a competition may not be far beneath. [63] To repeat, the risk is that Achilles’ superior status will become fatally dangerous rather than admirable, that it will incur mênis rather than legitimate its expression. As we shall soon see, the Iliad does not suppress the fatally dangerous aspect of his superiority: it displaces it from Achilles to Patroklos, just as it displaces Achilles’ (and, for that matter, Patroklos’s) divine antagonist from Zeus to Apollo. The choice of the Thetis tale in our Iliad over this variant, if it was actually available to Homeric tradition, may well reflect the same intent as those displacements. At the beginning of this chapter, I identified that very intent with the transition from divine (Hesiodic) myth to heroic (Homeric) epic, that is, with an ontogeny of epic itself that the beginning of the Iliad is actually recapitulating.
Thetis responds with warmth and sadness to Achilles’ request, and she promises to go to Olympus when Zeus returns from his sojourn among the Ethiopians, who dwell on the world-encircling river. In the meantime, she tells him:

ἀλλὰ σὺ μὲν νῦν νηυσὶ παρήμενος ὠκυπόροισι
μήνι’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν, πολέμου δ’ ἀποπαύεο πάμπαν·

Sitting beside your swift-going ships
have mênis at the Achaeans and cease completely from war.


After a digression describing in detail Odysseus’s trip to hand over Chryseis, the ritual performed on Chryse to appease Apollo, and the voyage back to Troy, the narrator returns once again to Achilles before taking up the episode of Thetis’s trip to Olympus on his behalf:

Αὐτὰρ ὁ μήνιε νηυσὶ παρήμενος ὠκυπόροισι
διογενὴς Πηλῆος υἱός, πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς·
οὔτε ποτ’ εἰς ἀγορὴν πωλέσκετο κυδιάνειραν
οὔτε ποτ’ ἐς πόλεμον, ἀλλὰ φθινύθεσκε φίλον κῆρ
αὖθι μένων, ποθέεσκε δ’ ἀϋτήν τε πτόλεμόν τε. {122|123}

And sitting beside his swiftgoing ships he had mênis,
the Zeus-descended son of Peleus, swift-footed Achilles.
Neither was he visiting the man-ennobling assembly
nor was he going to war, but he was wasting away his own dear heart
staying there, and he was longing for the war cry and the battle.

Thetis’s prescription and its narrated enactment verbally legitimate Achilles’ mênis, but the exceptional, even paradoxical nature of that mênis as against the mênis of all other epic personages emerges now with special clarity. Achilles is to exercise his by sitting beside his ships, depriving himself of social interaction with his peers, ceasing from the one activity that embodies his status in the community, the practice of warfare. Withdrawal from the social group that is the object of one’s mênis is a given, [64] but Achilles’ mênis is passive, motionless self-denial and self-restraint, whereas the mênis of all others—even including the mater dolorosa Demeter’s grieving withdrawal from the divine community—is the most active of socially destructive and self-confirming pursuits. In Achilles’ case, the mechanism whereby an extraordinary individual appropriately and indiscriminately chastises a social group is being turned over to Zeus, leaving Achilles an aggrieved hero emptied of himself, even disempowered by “his own” cosmic rage. In the Theogony, Zeus’s ability to enforce the world order in prototypical exercises of an as yet unnamed mênis depended on his transcendent bíē ‘capacity for physical destruction’ as embodied in the thunderbolt; in Achilles’ case, it is actually the suppression of his exceptional bíē that characterizes his mênis. At least, that is the point of departure in its epic telling.

Book 1 and the Mênis of Zeus

That is not the last manifestation of the mênis theme in the first book of the Iliad. When Thetis ascends Olympus and supplicates Zeus on Achilles’ behalf, she justifies her request not with the tale that Achilles heard her tell but on the basis of whatever help she provided him among the immortals (1.505–506), a vaguer claim that certainly does not exclude that episode. Her plea is focused on Achilles’ timḗ (505, 507, 508, 510) and Agamemnon’s {123|124} abuse of it in depriving him of his géras. When Zeus exhibits some reluctance to assent to her request that he honor Achilles by helping the Trojans (511–512), she tells him archly to be candid and either assent or, by refusing, confirm that her own timḗ is least among the gods’ (516). Finally, after an outburst of vexation at the loígia érga, “deeds of devastation” that he foresees from a confrontation with Hera (518), Zeus makes a grandiose verbal and physical gesture of assent (524–530) that puts a cosmic seal on Achilles’ mênis and commits him, the king of the gods, to bring about the social devastation that should accompany it (509–510). In effect, Zeus is guaranteeing the mênis of Achilles to be also his own, and in effect the Iliad is bridging itself to the Theogony by distributing Zeus’s massive power to sanction tabu behavior among Achilles, his antagonist Apollo, and his ally Zeus.
As soon as Thetis departs and Zeus enters his home to dine with all the other gods, Hera asks him whom he has been plotting with and rebukes him for keeping secret counsels (540–543). He responds by assuring her that no one will be informed before her of any counsel he wishes to share (547–550); on the other hand, it is his prerogative to hide what he wishes to keep hidden from the gods. She should not importune him with questions about those matters. Hera takes offense at the notion that she is ever importunate, and in defense of her question she reports her righteous fear that he has promised Thetis “to honor Achilles and destroy many Achaeans at the ships” (558–559). Being only too correct, she gets the following threat from her spouse in response:

ἀλλ’ ἀκέουσα κάθησο, ἐμῷ δ’ ἐπιπείθεο μύθῳ,
μή νύ τοι οὐ χραίσμωσιν ὅσοι θεοί εἰσ’ ἐν Ὀλύμπῳ
ἆσσον ἰόνθ’, ὅτε κέν τοι ἀάπτους χεῖρας ἐφείω.

Now sit down and be silent, and obey my command,
lest all the gods on Olympus be of no help to you
coming nearer, when I lay my untouchable [65] hands upon you.


Once again Zeus asserts his authority to punish a rebellious member of the divine community without fearing the response of her peers: he is prepared to take on all comers. The context and the diction recall several instances of {124|125} the mênis theme, especially the sequence in Iliad, book 15, that began with Zeus’s threat to repeat his punishment of Hera despite her support from others and concluded with Poseidon’s backing down to Zeus’s superior force while threatening to activate the pro-Achaean gods against him if he went so far as to cancel the sack of Troy. The situation that Hera fears is also beginning to resemble the one in Achilles’ tale of his mother’s achievement: an alliance between Thetis and Zeus over against an alienated faction of the divine community consisting once again of those who favor the Achaeans in the war.

It is not Thetis, however, but Hephaistos, the son of Hera, who quells the dispute between Zeus and his mother that is about to erupt into violence. It is not irrelevant that the conclusion to the Theogony describes the “virgin” birth of Hephaistos as Hera’s competitive response to the “virgin” birth of Athena from the head of Zeus:

αὐτὸς δ’ ἐκ κεφαλῆς γλαυκώπιδα γείνατ’ Ἀθήνην,
δεινὴν ἐγρεκύδοιμον ἀγέστρατον ἀτρυτώνην,
πότνιαν, ᾗ κέλαδοί τε ἅδον πόλεμοί τε μάχαι τε·
Ἥρη δ’ Ἥφαιστον κλυτὸν οὐ φιλότητι μιγεῖσα
γείνατο, καὶ ζαμένησε καὶ ἤρισεν ᾧ παρακοίτῃ,
ἐκ πάντων παλάμῃσι κεκασμένον Οὐρανιώνων.

He himself gave birth to sparkling-eyed Athena from his head,
frightening, strife-stirring, host-leading, tireless
mistress whom noise and wars and battles please;
but Hera gave birth without having sex to Hephaistos,
since she was very angry and competed with her husband—
Hephaistos, who surpassed all the children of Ouranos in cunning handiwork.

(Theogony 924–929)

This passage about Zeus’s last wife (λοισθοτάτην … ἄκοιτιν [921]) as against Metis, his first, polarizes the distinction between their respective offspring as well as their deviant begetting. Athena is presented in her aspect as a goddess of war and violence, a masculinized female born from a male, whereas Hephaistos is an “unfathered” male who excels in cleverly contriving cunning things, in other words, in mêtis, a trait that the Theogonic myth persistently associates with females, specifically with the creation of children. If this male with mêtis cannot procreate a child as Zeus did upon swallowing Metis, he is at least a master of noncelestial fire whose crafts-{125|126}manship is such that he can even create objects that move by themselves. [66] His genealogy as yet another potentially dangerous son of Zeus—and he is Zeus’s son despite the absence of sexual relations between his parents—makes his role in this context in the Iliad especially appropriate. As an effort to quell the dispute between his parents, his speech is a variation on Nestor’s prior attempt to end the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles. But unlike Nestor, Hephaistos succeeds. Recalling the language of Zeus’s foreboding to Thetis, he first speaks with regret of the loígia érga, “deeds of devastation,” that are about to take place if the quarrel continues, [67] and he points out to his mother what Zeus can do if he wishes:

εἴ περ γάρ κ’ ἐθέλῃσιν Ὀλύμπιος ἀστεροπητὴς
ἐξ ἑδέων στυφελίξαι· ὁ γὰρ πολὺ φέρτατός ἐστιν.
ἀλλὰ σὺ τὸν γ᾽ ἐπέεσσι καθάπτεσθαι μαλακοῖσιν·
αὐτίκ’ ἔπειθ’ ἵλαος Ὀλύμπιος ἔσσεται ἡμῖν.

If the Olympian lightning-hurler just wishes
to smite us from our seats — — for he is by far the best;
instead restrain [68] him with gentle words;
then the Olympian will immediately be gracious [69] to us.

(1.580–583) {126|127}
The diction of the passage already marks it as another occurrence of the mênis theme, but in order to avoid helplessly witnessing (588–589) his mother being struck by lightning, [70] Hephaistos goes on to describe how he was once cast down by the foot from the divine threshold to the island of Lemnos, scarcely breathing. In other words, he alludes to yet another sequel to the Theogony, to a time when Hephaistos challenged Zeus—which explains his remark, ἀργαλέος γὰρ Ὀλύμπιος ἀντιφέρεσθαι, “It is painful to stand up against the Olympian one” (589)—and underwent the consequences of Zeus’s mênis. In Hephaistos’s case, Zeus’s mênis took the form of inflicting a violent demotion from the divine to the human domain that functions elsewhere as the immortal equivalent of death. [71] The story may also explain his limp, for being cast down from the divine threshold by the foot is equivalent to being struck by lightning and can result in difficulty walking, as in the case of the hero Anchises. [72] After reminding his mother of this story, Hephaistos raises a mocking laugh from all the gods as he limps {127|128} around serving them all their wine—a pointed way of cooling the tension between his parents and preserving the integrity of the divine community that is menaced by their quarrel. Preserving that integrity is the ultimate purpose of Zeus’s mênis in the first place, and we can see it having that effect here in three different representations: an actual threat by Zeus, an admonitory narrative example of the carrying out of such a threat, and a nervously humorous spectacle illustrating the point of the previous narrative.
Hephaistos’s success imputes a measure of restorative social power to the mere narration of mênis that is akin to the activity of Apollo and the Muses, who sing responsively to the divine community (603–604) after Hephaistos serves them wine and before each god or goddess departs the gathering and goes off to sleep. Significantly, a poetic performance was also the sequel to the distribution of wine during the ritual appeasement of Apollo’s own mênis that was enacted on Chryse earlier in the first book of the Iliad (471–474). Furthermore, as we shall see, poetic performance also plays a part in the appeasement of Achilles’ mênis in book 9. Finally, this moment links the poem’s audience to the divine audience, since both are attending a mênis narrative that is simultaneously a poetic performance. The conjunction coincides with the end of the first book and seems an appropriate point of closure—if in fact the book divisions have something to do with the conventional boundaries of a narrative performance, as at times they appear to. [73]
The simple underlying structure of the whole narrative in book 1 is coming into focus as it concludes. It consists of three intertwined instances of the mênis theme. First is the mênis of Apollo: Agamemnon incurs it, Apollo exercises it on the Achaean host, and finally, at Achilles’ instigation with instructions from Kalkhas and under orders from Agamemnon, the Achaeans under Odysseus successfully appease it. While the Achaeans are devising this appropriate and successful response to the mênis of Apollo, a quarrel breaks out between Agamemnon and Achilles in which each righteously lays claim to mênis against the other. In fact, it is Achilles’ mênis that Thetis persuades Zeus to validate—that validation being patently indispensable—but in so doing he knowingly arouses in Hera an urgent and appropriate fear of the consequences for her protégés, the Achaeans. In attempting to suppress her foreseeable protest, Zeus threatens Hera with mênis, but the threat is averted by Hephaistos’s cautionary narrative about Zeus’s mênis against him. Thus, Apollo’s mênis proceeds through a complete {128|129} cycle, the incipient mênis of Achilles is incurred and validated by Zeus, but the potential mênis of Zeus against Hera is averted. [74] The goal of the narrative in book 1 is, to be sure, to set into motion the mênis of Achilles, but it also serves to reveal, in three thematically coherent and interlaced examples, how mênis can be appeased, incurred, and averted, for those are the exact points at which each of these first instances of the mênis theme concludes. The mênis of Achilles is now clearly situated between its two models, that of Apollo and that of Zeus.

Mênis in the Hesiodic and the Homeric Tradition

Mênis is dangerous to incur. Once incurred, its appeasement is uncertain and costly. One’s best course is to avert it if possible. In epic diction the word mênis is the formulaic complement of verbs meaning “fear,” “cast off,” “shun,” “watch out for,” and “renounce.” [75] Actions that incur mênis include leaving the dead unburied, neglecting one’s reciprocal obligations as a guest or host, transgressing the cosmic boundary between humans and divinities, and threatening the sovereignty of Zeus. In a system of thought in which the structure of human society is continuous with the order of the world as a whole, such violations take on cosmic dimensions. Mênis is an emotion, but it is not some pure feeling distinct from the specific actions that it inevitably entails. In fact, it is nothing less than the nomen sacrum for the ultimate sanction that enforces the world-defining prohibitions, the tabus that are basic to the establishment and perpetuation of the world of Zeus and the society of mortals he presides over. Like the offenses that provoke it, mênis may once have been a tabu word to utter. [76] But whatever its history as a word, it also has a mythical history in epic tradition. As we have seen, Zeus’s crowning achievement in the Theogonic tradition is to acquire divine sovereignty by establishing his dominance in two complementary spheres of action that are by definition essential for governing the world: destructive force and creative intelligence, bíē and mêtis. The token of his acquisition of the ultimate bíē is the gift of the thunderbolt from his grandmother, {129|130} Gaia. Since the thunderbolt is the ultimate violent weapon, its function is to defend the sovereignty of Zeus through his mênis. Likewise, the token of Zeus’s acquisition of the ultimate mêtis is the swallowing of his first wife, Metis herself, and the birth of the goddess Athena from Zeus’s head. Athena is herself defined in terms of these two alternative sovereign attributes. She presides over cunning and violence, which are either female or male attributes until herself and her father. As Zeus is an androgynous father, so she is the androgynous daughter born from him. Her combination of the two attributes would be a threat to Zeus’s power were she not, in this male-biased universe, a fundamentally female yet of necessity infertile goddess—in her case at least, virginity signifies a benign qua unforced suppression of femininity.
When it comes to the two male heroes of the two principal epics, the distribution of these two complementary traits is in strict sequence with the Hesiodic Theogony. Achilles and Odysseus each surpass all other mortals in one of the two, either destructive force or creative cunning, but neither can combine the two traits as Zeus does. [77] In other words, the differentiation between the two great heroes is a structural consequence of the nature of the world that emerges in the Theogonic tradition, just like the division of sexual functions among mortals between the two genders. No mortal man can give birth to a child from his head; likewise, no mortal man can prevail in both mêtis and bíē. [78] From this standpoint, it is implicit in Achilles’ nature as the hero who excels in bíē that he lay claim to mênis the ultimate expression of the ultimate in bíē. Also implicit in Achilles’ bíē is his failure to achieve a homecoming, since, as Douglas Frame has shown, the ability to achieve nóstos ‘return home’ is predicated upon surpassing nóos ‘cunning intelligence’. [79] Each of the heroes has kléos ‘immortal glory embodied in song’ as a consequence of being the “best of the Achaeans” in his own epic, but only Odysseus achieves nóstos as the result of his exceptional mêtis and nóos, and only Achilles has the consequence of his superlative bíē, mênis. [80] In {130|131} other words, the progress from Zeus to Apollo to Achilles, on the one hand, and from Zeus to Athena—for it is she, not Poseidon, who is Odysseus’s underlying divine antagonist [81] —to Odysseus on the other, is a mythical account of the human condition. As such, it is not a view of the world that breeds resigned acceptance of the diminished abilities of mortals in comparison with those of the gods. Instead, it defines the boundaries between gods and mortals at the same time as it promotes admiration for heroes who defiantly and dangerously transgress them, as though a category cannot exist and function until and unless it is subverted, in the same way that rules of prohibition imply or even generate the existence of a concomitant need to contravene them. [82]
This context in turn makes it possible to understand why the standard prooímion to the Iliad was preferred to the variant known to Aristoxenus. The variant highlights the parallelism between Apollo’s and Achilles’ mênis, but the received text flagrantly accentuates the paradoxicality of Achilles’ mênis. In fact, it attributes to it a tabu-breaking offense that in itself normally incurs mênis, namely, leaving bodies unburied as prey for dogs and birds (1.4–5). A mortal with mênis, a mortal wielding the ultimate cosmic sanction, is a paradox by definition, since he is both an enforcer of the order of Zeus and also a threat to that order. [83] In this regard I would formulate a further role about mênis, namely, that heroes with mênis are just as likely to incur it as to express it. [84] As a parallel to Achilles, I cite a figure who can be considered the only “son” of the goddess Athena, the hero Erechtheus, even though his father Poseidon’s ejaculate missed its mark and landed upon Gaia instead. [85] From the standpoint of Theogonic tradition, this hero’s genealogy predestines him for mênis irrespective of his mother (Athena or {131|132} Gaia), just as the myth about Thetis deferring to Zeus and marrying Peleus implies mênis for Achilles irrespective of his father (Zeus or Peleus). On the one hand, Homeric epic tells us that Erechtheus is the object of recurrent appeasement through sacrifice—using the word hiláontai ‘appease (through ritual)’, a term restricted to gods with mênis, to Achilles, and to Erechtheus [86] —presumably because of mênis against the Athenians (Iliad 2.550). Yet, on the other hand, it is also attested that Erechtheus incurred the mênis of Zeus (Hyginus 46) and was struck by the thunderbolt. Being struck by a thunderbolt is actually a means to achieve immortality in hero cult that is tantamount to being transported to the Elúsion pedíon “Elysian plain,” a phrase that is itself also applied to a place that has been struck by lightning and so become sacred. [87]
In the meantime, however, we have left Achilles blessed by Thetis and Zeus with a most passive mênis. It remains to discuss its teleology within the Iliad.


[ back ] 1. I emphasize that such a sequel is foreseeable from within the text and its concerns and procedures; from a modern standpoint, a sequel contains explicit backward and forward cross-references that would violate the rules of linear progress in a mythical narrative. See above, Chapter 3, 52–59, 87 along with 77 n. 59 on the metonymic nature of mythical narrative. I can cite as an independent parallel the attempt to view the Theogony and the Homeric Hymns as continuous in Clay 1989, though the continuity is not seen in terms of the metonymic rule given here.
[ back ] 2. On the “instability” inherent in the “stable” regime of Zeus, see above, Chapter 3, 80.
[ back ] 3. See the discussion above of the terms basileús and mêtis in Chapter 3, 71, 80 and 91 n. 93.
[ back ] 4. There exists no instance in attested epic tradition in which the adjectival genitive associated with the noun mênis is used as an objective genitive (in other words, where “the mênis of Achilles” would imply someone else’s mênis at him) rather than a subjective (in which the person named is the subject of an embedded sentence of the type “Achilles has anger”). I doubt therefore that there is any underlying ambiguity in the phrase, although the possibility cannot be ruled out completely. See also below, 131, on the hero who incurs mênis.
[ back ] 5. See further below, 118–120: the Iliad actually does refer to Theogonic themes on precisely this subject, but when it does so it actually adopts a Hesiodic style, as Laura Slatkin (1986) has shown. On the self-reflexive terms kléos and kléa andrôn, see Nagy 1974b, 1979. The phrase theôn génos is used in Theogony 44 to designate the song that catalogs the generation of the world.
[ back ] 6. I am referring to Dumézil’s monumental work, Mythe et épopée (3 vols.). For the notion that mênis and Indo-European terms related to it were contextually restricted to divinities and extended to mortals, see also the Appendix and 126 n. 69, below.
[ back ] 7. Pindar Isthmian 8.27–55. See also Aeschylus Prometheus Bound 755–781 and 907–927 as well as Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica 4.800ff. Pindar is the oldest surviving author to attest to this variant, but I treat with great caution attempts to see such random events as indicators of the age of a given tale.
[ back ] 8. See below, 121–123.
[ back ] 9. Text of the prologue variant from the critical apparatus to Iliad 1.1 (Allen).
[ back ] 10. For parallels to the diction in this passage, compare 2.484, 11.218, etc. (= first line); 15.122 χόλος καὶ μῆνις; ; 4.23, 8.460, and 18.322 for χόλος + αἱρέω; 1.197 ἕλε Πηλεΐωνα #; for Λητοῦς ἀγλαὸν υἱόν, “glorious son of Leto,” compare the expression, “genitive of masculine proper name + ἀγλα-ὸς/-ὸν υἱ-ός/-όν at line end,” which occurs 18 times in the Iliad, plus one instance of this expression transposed, as here, to the line beginning: compare 10.196, || καὶ Νέστορος ἀγλαὸς υἱός # to 23.302 # Νέστορος ἀγλαὸς υἱός ||. Although rare for this expression, this metrical transposition is a standard “Severyns’ law” variation (Severyns 1944–48, 2:96–97, 54). It is especially interesting that the phrase is not only a traditional formulaic variant but also a relatively rare metronymic, whereas the form in the received text, Λητοῦς και Διὸς υἱός “son of Leto and Zeus” is metrically equivalent to it, gives the names of both parents, and is formally less easy to parallel. Significantly, another metronymic for Apollo is actually attested in epic and lyric, Λητοΐδης ‘son of Leto’, in Hymn to Hermes 253; Hesiod Shield 479; Pindar Pythian 1.12, etc. The variant metronymic formula attested in the nonstandard prologue may well be more archaic than the bilateral name in the standard one; in any case, such a difference is difficult to motivate except as a genuine product of the evolving epic tradition. Another interesting feature of this prologue is its first line, which recurs four times in the Iliad (2.484, 11.218, 14.508, and 16.112) but always to introduce a catalog, whether of ships or fallen warriors; catalogs are a genre of Hesiodic poetry, and an almost identical line is also attested in the prologue to the Theogony itself, at line 114.
[ back ] 11. See above, Chapter 2, 36–37.
[ back ] 12. Witness Helen and Penelope, but also the explicit statement in the Odyssey that whoever wins the hand of Penelope is the “best of the Achaeans,” that is, becomes the hero of the epic and so wins the ultimate prestige. See Nagy 1979, 38–39 on 11.179. Penelope’s power to confer kléos does not reflect some matrilocal tendency that would contradict the otherwise patrilocal rules of epic society but indicates that a wife is the embodiment of her husband’s prestige; the same is true of the woman who serves as a hero’s géras, as will be clear hereafter. From Nagy’s standpoint, Penelope even represents the hero’s nóstos ‘return home’, which is another name for the subject of his poem. Precisely the same notion about wives and poetic prestige was enacted when Agamemnon himself entrusted his wife to an aoidós ‘singer’ when he left for Troy—instead of bringing one along (Odyssey 3.267–268); note also the exile of this bard by the nefarious couple Clytemnestra and Aegisthus (3.270–271). See Nagy 1979 37–38, sec. 13 n. 5. On the other hand, in 11.196–197 Penelope herself may be construed as winning kléos, as discussed by Marilyn Katz (1991), which seems to me to complement the notion that she also confers it.
[ back ] 13. For the meaning of the word αὐτός as ‘dead body’, see the contrast between αὐτούς and ψυχαί ‘souls of the dead’ in Iliad 1.3–4 and see Nagy 1979, 208.
[ back ] 14. M. P. Nilsson (1968, 1:213, 535) made the connection between Apollo Smintheus and Parnopios and cites the evidence from Strabo (13, p. 604 etc.) to the effect that the cult image of Apollo at Chryse featured Apollo treading upon a field mouse; but in regard to Karneios, both he (1:533 n. 1) and Walter Burkert (1985, 235) speak of the second Hesychian gloss on the word καρνός, namely, βόσκημα, πρόβατον ‘flock of sheep or cattle’ and gloss over the first one, φθείρ ‘louse’, because the Karneia included the sacrifice of a ram. The meaning ‘flock of sheep’ makes sense in connection with the collective, swarming aspect of destructive insects; the ram in the ritual may be a metonym for such a flock, or as I have just suggested, the name of the ritual may pertain to the plant louse and not refer to the ram at all.
[ back ] 15. Significantly, in its only other occurrence, Achilles uses exactly the same expression to refer to Zeus’s acts on behalf of his (Achilles’) wrath right before he sends Patroklos into battle in 16.237. The meaning of the root from which ἴψ ‘woodworm’ and ἴπτομαι ‘devastate’ derive may well have been the more general notion of ‘devastate’. Specialization to one particular creature that accomplishes devastation is a typical result of semantic competition. see Kuryłowicz 1966. For a simple parallel of this common process, compare Latin tegula ‘roof tile’, which must once have meant simply ‘covering’.
[ back ] 16. Wer Krankheit sendet, kann sie auch abwehren.” Nilsson 1968, 1:541. As instances of the same syndrome, I am reminded by Gregory Nagy of the name of the California pest-control mascot, Pestina, an angry caterpillar, and of the bear named Smokey who counsels Americans on the prevention of forest fires.
[ back ] 17. First described by Jacob Wackernagel (1910) on Sanskrit dvipad-/cátuspαd– and Umbrian veiro pequo, see also Schmitt 1967, 210–213; compare the parade around the body of Patroklos: πρόσθε μὲν ἱππῆες, μετὰ δὲ νέφος εἵπετο πεζῶν, “in front of him were men on horseback, and after him followed a cloud of foot soldiers” (23.133). This contrast is neither obvious nor universal. For instance, there is another “totalizing” expression for animal life attested in Greek, namely, ἑρπετὰ καὶ πετεινά, “things that walk (on the ground) and things that fly.” Herodotus 1.140, etc.
[ back ] 18. The long vowel form of the root of καίω ‘burn’ is attested in the epic aorist, ἔ-κη(ϝ)-α as well as the adjective κήλεος ‘burning’. There is no accepted etymology of κῆλον. Frisk 1970 and Chantraine 1968–79 withhold confirmation of such plausible cognates as Sanskrit śara-, \śarya– ‘arrow’ and Middle Irish cail ‘lance’ because they exhibit a short vowel in their roots; but neither has anything better to suggest. The etymology I am proposing here is phonologically and semantically straightforward.
[ back ] 19. In its three other attestations it is used of fire in the funerary ritual (compare the cremating fire in Iliad 1.52): to designate the fire in which Andromache will burn Hector’s garments even without his body (22.512), and for the fire used to boil the water in which Patroklos’s body is bathed (18.346).
[ back ] 20. West on Theogony 708 suggests that the traditional translation of κῆλα as arrow shafts stems from a false etymological connection with the noun κᾶλον ‘firewood’; he notes the inappropriateness of the translation ‘shaft’, but not the etymological and contextual associations of κῆλα with fire. In fact, κᾶλον ‘firewood’ is also related to καίω ‘burn’ (see Chantraine 1968–79 and Frisk 1970, s.v.). If the etymology of κῆλα that I am proposing is correct, then they are parallel formations from the same root, perhaps at an earlier point dialectal variants of the same word that eventually became lexically distinct.
[ back ] 21. These three gods in fact form a triumvirate cited as agents of the admittedly impossible. See Agamemnon’s desire to have ten men as wise as Nestor (2.371–372) or Nestor’s impossible wish to regain his youth (7.132–135) or Achilles’ wish to survive and capture Troy with Patroklos and no one else (16.97). The implication seems to be that although these three constitute the most powerful coalition in the divine realm, even for them such a fantastic outcome is not possible. For Apollo as the instrument of mênis, see above, Chapter 1, 10–18. For the complementary relationship between Apollo and Athena in the Iliad, see Nagy 1979, 144–150.
[ back ] 22. For the essential features of this ritual antagonism, see Chirassi Colombo 1977; Nagy 1979, 142–150; Rabel 1990; Nagy 1994
[ back ] 23. Hera’s concern is for the whole group of Danaans whose death she witnesses (56), and Achilles also speaks of the effects of war and plague on the Achaeans (61).
[ back ] 24. The modal form of the verb meaning ‘persuade’ that Kalkhas uses at line 100, πεπίθοιμεν admits the gravest doubt about that possibility without actually ruling it out. Indeed, until now we have only seen cases of mênis forestalled or incurred. Once incurred, it has never been arrested until its resulting devastation has run its course.
[ back ] 25. For more on the theory and practice of “negative reciprocity,” see Sahlins 1972, 185–275.
[ back ] 26. On the functional contrast between praise and blame, see Dumézil 1943, Nagy 1979, 211–275, Martin 1989.
[ back ] 27. The usual translation of this word is “most greedy for gain,” but our notion of greed requires modification for a world where people as well as things are possessions invested with symbolic value. The difference between material and spiritual values does not exist, nor is Agamemnon a social deviant or revolutionary who has freed himself from the nexus of possessions and value in such a way as to prefer only the possessions; it is not plausible to consider Agamemnon overly attached to the physicality of his possessions. Since possessions are tokens of a person’s social value, a desire to accumulate them is systemic, not vicious. The point of Achilles’ epithet seems to be that possessions are exceptionally φίλο- ‘near and dear’ to Agamemnon since he is so reluctant to give them up and so eager for immediate restitution if he must do so. The insult would then be pertinent to both his rejection of the ransom for Chryseis and his present demand for restitution. Some degree of attachment to one’s possessions is also a given in Homeric society; so Achilles’ epithet may well have the ironically deprecating tone we take in calling a politician “ambitious.” On the other hand, Agamemnon’s rejoinder to philokteanṓtate in line 146, πάντων ἐκπαγλότατ’ ἀνδρῶν, “most hostile of all men,” is unambiguously pejorative, pace Kirk 1985. The adjective ἐκπαγλός is continuously associated with dominant physical or sexual power in the epic, as is its verbal root, *plég- (see Chapter 1, passim and passages such as Iliad 15.198–199). For the mirroring of epithets between Achilles and Agamemnon as a feature of Homeric speech exchanges, see Lohmann 1970, 183–212.
[ back ] 28. At least, that is the way Agamemnon is presenting it. The first alternative is marked as the less likely one by the suppression of its conclusion (Chantraine 1963, 274–275) and the grammatical mood of its verb δώσουσι (future), as opposed tο δώωσι subjunctive) in the second alternative, which the speaker considers more plausible. See Rijksbaron 1984, 70, for a close parallel in Herodotus.
[ back ] 29. The rhetorical norm is a list of three names, with the third and concluding one preceded by an epithet; Agamemnon lists Ajax, Idomeneus, and godlike Odysseus, but once the list appears complete, he adds on Achilles.
[ back ] 30. On the different meanings of timḗ in the divine and mortal realms, see above, Chapter 3, 68 n. 39. For another instance of the dasmósgérastimḗ structure on the divine level in Homeric epic, see the discussion of the beginning of Iliad 15 in Chapter 1, 28–30 and n. 48.
[ back ] 31. Athena’s appearance is not a manifestation of the mênis theme. Her role as Hera’s surrogate, like Hera’s prompting of Achilles to call the assembly in 1.55 in identical terms (compare lines 55–56 with lines 208–209), is to be referred to the Judgment of Paris, which allies the two goddesses on the side of the Achaeans against the Trojans and Aphrodite. Their concern to defuse the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, like Hera’s to end the mênis of Apollo, is in the interest of the success of the whole war effort and not for or against one or the other hero.
[ back ] 32. For the use of the verb eúkhomai ‘say (proudly and accurately)’ in line 91 to express the contentious assertion of a true claim, see Muellner 1976, 79–82.
[ back ] 33. On the higher, poetic dimension of meaning in the title “best of the Achaeans,” see Nagy 1979, 26–41, and passim.
[ back ] 34. Indeed, Achilles has poignantly cast himself as a grammatical third person, as though he were already absent from the society from which he is about to withdraw. On the affect of the grammatical persons, see Benveniste 1966c which cites Rimbaud’s ungrammatical expression, “je est un autre,” to convey the alienation implicit in third-person self-reference.
[ back ] 35. For the overt validity of his claim, see again Nagy 1979.
[ back ] 36. For the handing on of the scepter, see, for example, 2.185–186. My analysis of Achilles’ oath does not exhaust its meaning; for more, see Lowenstam 1993, 59–143.
[ back ] 37. Others do not share this view. For example, Nestor lists Achilles’ divine birth along with his strength as an aspect of his status at 1.280–281.
[ back ] 38. Zeus concedes that Poseidon is kraterós (line 164), κρατερός περ ἐών, “strong as you are” just as Poseidon concedes that Zeus is, κρατερός περ ἐών (1.195). To repeat, each is conceding the other’s prowess. (The spellings kraterós and karterós are metrical alternates of the same word.)
[ back ] 39. Perhaps such speciousness also accounts for the false parallelism in suffixation between the two words, since the –teros suffix of phérteros is a true comparative, whereas that of karterós, which sounds the same, is actually a simple adjectival suffix. Agamemnon only appears to be offering a balanced assessment of qualities in himself and Achilles.
[ back ] 40. Nestor’s conciliatory formula has both Achilles and Agamemnon superior to the rest of the Achaeans in counsel and fighting (1.258). On the other hand, there is Achilles’ second oath, in which he expresses his opinion that Agamemnon “does not know how to think forward and backward at the same time” (343). Admittedly, Achilles is a biased witness, but the outcome of the first episode and of the Iliad as a whole seems to bear out Achilles’ view; thinking forward and backward at the same time is a mark of cunning; as I have shown in Chapter 3, Zeus’s mêtis, for instance, synthesizes past and present. On Agamemnon’s genealogical status with respect to Achilles, see note 42 below and Segal 1971b.
[ back ] 41. For additional references by Nestor to the quantity of Agamemnon’s subjects as the basis of his status, see Iliad 9.69–74, and 97: ἐν σοὶ μὲν λήξω, σέο δ’ ἄρξομαι, οὕνεκα πολλῶν / λαῶν ἐσσι ἄναξ, “in you will I end, and I will begin with you since you are lord of many hosts.” Note also that by book 9, Nestor is calling Achilles ἄνδρα φέριστον, “the best man.” (9.110)
[ back ] 42. In a parallel passage to this one, which will be further discussed later, at the conclusion of his offer of prizes to Achilles in Book 9, Agamemnon orders Achilles to assume an inferior rank—μοι ὑποστήτω, “let him stand beneath me” (160)—on the grounds that he is basileúteros ‘more kingly’ than Achilles; but then he actually adds that he is also progenésteros ‘older [sic] in birth’ (161). ‘More kingly’ refers again to the greater scope of his power, and the claim to be older than Achilles resonates with Zeus’s assertion that he is superior in force to Poseidon and ‘older in birth’ (15.166). Zeus is older than Poseidon only in the sense that Poseidon was reborn after Zeus had been born and reborn. At best, the age ranking asserted by Zeus, added by Agamemnon in book 9, and omitted here, is a weak point. There is reason to doubt that Agamemnon’s greater age commands more respect than Achilles’ divine genealogy, including Nestor’s statement here in book 1 (line 280). In epic genealogical jousting, the focus is on the contents of the genealogy, not the age of the contestants. See, for instance, the examples in Muellner 1976, 69–78. When Nestor invokes his own advanced age as grounds for respect from younger heroes, he adds other criteria as well (as in Iliad 1.259–261). Lastly, the Theogony attests to a fundamental ambivalence about the privileges of age, since the youngest regularly prevails, most significantly in the case of Zeus himself, who is youngest and eldest at once. That is another in the list of opposites that he implausibly and uniquely combines (see above, Chapter 3, 91–93).
[ back ] 43. The words khólos and ménos can be used to refer back to a previous instance of mênis, but they do not carry the connotations of mênis in contexts that have not been previously defined as instances of the mênis theme. In fact, in contexts that are not previously defined as mênis, khólos has its own set of resonances and connotations. See Walsh 1989 and his forthcoming work based upon it. For other examples of ménos and khólos referring back to mênis, see the discussion of book 15 in Chapter 1, including 30–31 with n. 50, and Chapter 2, 41 n. 27.
[ back ] 44. It is perhaps unnecessary to point out, after a work such as Richard Martin’s Language of Heroes, that this conversion to words from acts is not as drastic in epic as it would be in our world. Words are a form of action in epic, and they can have the attributes and consequences of violent deeds. For instance, the word ἐκπαγλός ‘violent’ is used for deeds (above, n. 27) and for abusive speech (as in 15.198), or ἀντίβιος ‘exchanging violence’ is applied to physical and verbal exchanges (1.304 vs. 3.20, etc.).
[ back ] 45. As Douglas Frame points out (1978, 84–85), Nestor is a symbol of intelligence but not usually an effective user of it.
[ back ] 46. On the rules of reciprocal exchange in archaic societies, see above, 35 n. 13.
[ back ] 47. On such a constellation of Olympians ranged against Zeus, which is in itself an allusion to the mênis theme, see below, 118–120; cf. Lang 1983.
[ back ] 48. The word loigós ‘devastation’ and the expression ἀεικέα λοιγὸν ἀμῦναι, “to ward off unseemly loigós,” are contextually restricted in epic to the devastation that is the result of mênis. See Nagy 1979, 73–76. This is another allusion to the parallelism between Apollo’s and Achilles’ mênis.
[ back ] 49. On the historical and semantic relationship between nóos and mêtis, see Frame 1978, 71–72, 72 n. 65, and 82–85.
[ back ] 50. On possible reasons for this reticence, see below, 130–131. Lacking a homecoming and excelling in bíē, Achilles cannot be categorized as a hero with nóos or mêtis.
[ back ] 51. For the displacement of the language of prayer by that of tears, see Muellner 1976, 23.
[ back ] 52. On the retardation convention, see Auerbach 1953; and Austin 1966
[ back ] 53. On the metonymic recapitulation function, see above, Chapter 3, 54.
[ back ] 54. Some think it an ad hoc invention of the poet, but the whole concept of ad hoc invention is radically inconsistent with the principles of traditional poetic composition. For a landmark statement of the theoretical issue, see Nagy 1992. For more on multiforms of this story, see above, 80 n. 66, and below, 121–122.
[ back ] 55. On the principles of reciprocity implicit here, see, for example, the variants in Homeric prayers, Muellner 1976, 26–31.
[ back ] 56. Slatkin 1991, 60–77=Slatkin 2011, 56-62 =http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Slatkin.The_Power_of_Thetis_and_Selected_Essays.2011, Part 1, Chapter 2. See the examples of Hesiodic paranomasia highlighted in the passage cited just above.
[ back ] 57. See above, Chapter 1, 7, 23 and Chapter 3, 77 with n. 58 and also the work of Slatkin cited above, n. 56.
[ back ] 58. There is another variable element that emerges in the tests of Zeus in the Theogony: whether the party threatening the top of the hierarchy is an individual, like Prometheus or Typhoeus, or a group, like the Titans. Here Agamemnon and the Achaeans match a group of Olympians in revolt against Zeus, an imperfect social analogy that strongly suggests that Thetis’s story is a genuine variant independent of the Iliad and not one “devised” for this particular context. Even the notion that a tale invoked as a precedent would be devised for the moment seems self-defeating as well as self-contradictory. Without the weight of tradition behind it, what would it accomplish?
[ back ] 59. That Agamemnon’s claim is eventually nullified by the Iliad also suggests that there is an antagonism built into this narrative against central political authority and a bias in favor of excellence at the social margins, at least in the human domain.
[ back ] 60. I am again referring to the work of Slatkin cited in n.56 above.
[ back ] 61. Above, Chapter 1, 10–18.
[ back ] 62. For more on the danger of mênis implicit in a hero’s mênis, see Chapter 5.
[ back ] 63. See the work of Slatkin (1991=2011) on Thetis in the Iliad; also Holway 1989.
[ back ] 64. The extreme case and closest parallel is Demeter: above, Chapter 1, 23–29 (with n. 37).
[ back ] 65. Or “unspeakable” according to the variant preferred by Aristophanes of Byzantium, ἀέπτους; see Chantraine 1968–79, s.v. ἀάπτος. In either case, whether Zeus’s hands are “untouchable” or “unspeakable,” the underlying point is the same: they are tabu. On why the hands of mênis are tabu, see the Appendix.
[ back ] 66. For objects made by Hephaistos that move by themselves, see Iliad 18.372–377. Both Athena and Hephaistos in fact have aspects that reflect the complementary traits as well: Athena’s wiles and tricks are legion in the Odyssey, and Hephaistos’s capacity for violence is featured, for instance, in a battle with Achilles at the conclusion of the Iliad (21.367, etc.) as well as in his skill at creating the weapons of war. But the Theogonic myth at this point is interested in the contrast between Athena and Hephaistos, not in their ability to bridge the opposites that their father Zeus bridged once and for all.
[ back ] 67. See above, 116–117 with n. 48 for the specialization of the word loigós (now to include its adjectival derivative) to the devastation consequent upon mênis.
[ back ] 68. LSJ9 translates all instances of the middle voice of καθάπτω in Homer as “accost” or “assail,” but no one can “accost” or “assail” a person with “gentle words” (again in Odyssey 10.70 and 24.393). The underlying notion here and in all other epic instances of the verb is “get hold of, grab” and so “restrain.” For instance, the same verb is used of Athena’s restraint of the crazed Ares in the beginning of Iliad 15 (line 127), when he is about to incur the mênis of Zeus.
[ back ] 69. The adjective used here to mean ‘gracious’—ἵλαος—and the verb ἱλάσσω or ἱλάσκω or ‘render gracious, appease’ that is derived from it have until now been used five times in book 1 in the same context: the Achaeans’ efforts through ritual to undo the mênis of Apollo and make him ‘gracious’ (1.100, 147, 386, 444, 472). Of the five other examples of the words in the Iliad, two apply to Achilles himself in the context of undoing his mênis (9.639 and 19.178). In fact the distribution of ἵλαος and its cognates recovers the link I am postulating between the mênis of Zeus, Apollo, and Achilles. The other attestations of the word and its derivatives in the Iliad pertain to the Trojans’ fruitless ritual attempt to appease Athena in Iliad 6 (lines 380 and 385) and the Athenians’ yearly sacrifices to appease her symbiotic cult hero, Erechtheus, in the shrine she established for him in Athens (Iliad 2.550). The use of the word ἵλαος is especially interesting in connection with Erechtheus, since he and Achilles are the only nondivinities to whom this word applies: both are heroes, one of epic, the other of cult even inside epic, and there are other parallels in diction and function between the two; see Nagy 1979, 182–183 and 183, sec. 11 n. 5, and below, 131, 132. Outside of the Iliad, the same adjectival and verbal forms are used three times of Demeter, a goddess with mênis, in reference to the effect on her of ritual actions that are known aspects of her cult. First, at Hymn to Demeter 204, the jokes of Iambe make Demeter laugh and so appease her; second, at Hymn to Demeter 274, Demeter, angered upon being discovered while she is hardening the baby Demophon in fire, instructs the daughters of Keleos and the people of Eleusis to build her temple and conduct her cult rituals (ὄργια [273]) to appease her; third, at Hymn to Demeter 292, the same daughters of Keleos attempt to appease her with night-long rituals, including baths, etc. There is a fourth example at Hymn to Demeter 368, when punishment awaits those who neglect the sacrifices needed to appease Persephone’s ménos (on the substitution of ménos for mênis, see above, 111 and n. 43). This time the reference is to Persephone, not Demeter, but the change is only an aspect of the symbiotic relationship between mother and daughter that marks the whole hymn. In the Odyssey, there is just one attestation. Nestor uses the verb ἱλάσσω at 3.419 to describe the effect on Athena of the ritual sacrifice he is about to perform. Shortly before, he told the story of her mênis against the Achaeans after the capture of Troy (lines 135ff.): on Athena’s mênis, see Clay 1983. On the basis of these passages, I would propose the following rule about the distribution of the word mênis, to supplant the older view that only gods and Achilles have mênis (as stated, for example, in Irmscher 1950). That view is to my mind contradicted by adjectival and verbal derivatives of mênis and should be restated as follows: only gods and heroes have mênis, just as only gods and heroes can be made ‘gracious’ ἵλαος through ritual appeasement thereafter. This rule does not contradict my view that the application of mênis to heroes is from a historical standpoint an extension of its application to divinities; in fact it justifies it as a putative restriction of mênis to gods and Achilles does not. On the dangerous nature of mênis in heroes, see below, 131–132.
[ back ] 70. The verb Hephaistos uses in foreseeing his mother’s punishment is θεινομένην ‘smitten’ (line 588), which in epic is reserved for the action of a thunderbolt on its target; the same is true of its cognates in other Indo-European poetic traditions: Sanskrit, Armenian, etc.; see Watkins 1986.
[ back ] 71. See above, Chapter 1, 22, for another example of the same phenomenon.
[ back ] 72. See above, Chapter 1, 21–22 with n. 30.
[ back ] 73. On the structural value of some of the book divisions, see Broccia 1967, 45–66; Muellner 1990; and Nagy 1996, 182.
[ back ] 74. Richard Martin points out to me that Zeus’s forestalled mênis is metonymically consumed by the “Will of Zeus” theme announced in the proem to the Iliad; I add that it is there described as a process being “completed,” eteleíeto, a verb derived from the noun télos (Iliad 1.5: “and the will of Zeus was being completed”). On the Will of Zeus theme and its cosmic aspects, replete with fire storms and thunderbolts, see Nagy 1979, 333–337.
[ back ] 75. As observed by Calvert Watkins (1977a, 193).
[ back ] 76. Watkins (1977a, 1977b) makes a case that mênis is still a tabu word in epic. On the whole question and the word’s etymology, see the Appendix.
[ back ] 77. To state what is perhaps obvious, once Zeus has broken the respective gender associations of mêtis and bíē, they are lost forever. It cannot be a token of femininity that Odysseus and Hephaistos excel in cunning if the lord of all gods also excels in that trait. To put it another way, Zeus’s sovereign androgyny has translated sexual difference from a polar opposition between violence and intelligence to a more complex differentiation among varying degrees of violence and intelligence.
[ back ] 78. Gregory Nagy reminds me that this statement requires qualification: no mortal of this generation can prevail in both. From the previous generation, there is Herakles, who comes closest to Zeus in this regard. See Nagy 1990, with reference to Dumézil 1971 17–132, esp. 117–124.
[ back ] 79. On the absence of mênis in the Odyssey, see above, Chapter 2. I have in mind here not just Odysseus’s ability to return to Ithaca, but to return “to light and life” from the land of the dead.
[ back ] 80. This formulation of a balance between the destinies of Odysseus and Achilles is not contradicted by Achilles in book 9, when he speaks of his mother’s offer of the dikhthádiai kêres, “twin destinies,” one featuring kléos without nóstos, the other nóstos without kléos. That is a context in which Achilles is highlighting the contrast between himself and Odysseus (see Nagy 1992); to go on and portray Achilles as the overall loser in a comparison with Odysseus, since he wins only kléos while Odysseus ultimately wins both it and nóstos, is a step that I am reluctant to take. My editor puts it this way: “A monolithic hero can only win with a clear choice, but a polytropic hero can win by having it both ways.”
[ back ] 81. The terminology of mênis is not used of the relationship between Odysseus and Poseidon; on the “hidden” antagonism between Odysseus and Athena, see Clay 1983.
[ back ] 82. For the way in which prohibitions function in comparable social settings, see the work of Mary Douglas (1966) discussed in Chapter 1, 26–28.
[ back ] 83. For a demonstration that the mênis of Achilles is metaphorized in the Iliad as a thunderstorm of Zeus, see Nagy 1979, 317–347, esp. 346–347.
[ back ] 84. See also the discussion above, 142–144 and below, Chapter 5, 144–146. I consider the death of Patroklos in Achilles’ guise after crossing Apollo’s limits to be another instantiation of this rule, although with significant variations.
[ back ] 85. For Erechtheus’s status as the son of Athena, see Burkert 1985, 143.
[ back ] 86. See above, n. 69
[ back ] 87. See Nagy 1979, 190, 203; for other parallels between Achilles and Erechtheus, see Nagy 1979, 182–183. It is surely no coincidence that both Poseidon and Thetis are sea divinities: see Nagy 1979, 347. Given this parallel between Erechtheus and Achilles and the function of poetry within epic itself to achieve the appeasement of persons with mênis, one cannot rule out a link between poetic performance of the Iliad and the sacrifices specified in Iliad 2.550.