Chapter Four: Homer in the Homeric Odyssey

I 41. The festive poetics of an ongoing humnos in Odyssey viii

I§188 When Thucydides quotes Homer, he imagines the Poet in the act of personally performing at the festival of the Delia in Delos. This historian’s view, as we have seen, is Athenocentric. To be contrasted is the view of Aristarchus, which is post-Athenocentric. For Aristarchus, the poet of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo is a neoteric rhapsode, Kynaithos of Chios. For Thucydides, the performer of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo is Homer himself, and the Poet’s Hymn to Apollo is a prooimion to whatever epic Homer will perform. Theoretically, the Hymn to Apollo may be a prooimion to the Homeric Iliad or Odyssey. Or at least, the Hymn may be a humnos that connects with an epic performed by Homer at the Delia on Delos. Such an epic could be seen as a prototype of the epic performed by rhapsodes at the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens. And, as Douglas Frame has shown, such a prototype would most closely resemble versions of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey as already performed by the Homēridai at the festival of the Panionia at the Panionion of the Ionian Dodecapolis in Asia Minor during the late eighth and early seventh centuries BCE. [1] We will take a closer look at the Panionia at a later point, but for now I concentrate on the basic idea of performing Homeric poetry at a festival. This idea brings me to the first and the third songs of Demodokos in Odyssey viii, which represent an earlier form of epic as performed at a festival. As we will see, this earlier form of epic is defined by the concept of humnos in the context of a festival. As we will also see, {79|80} this earlier form represents the morphology of the epic Cycle, as opposed to the later form of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey.
I§189 As I argue in the twin book Homer the Classic, the ending of the epic of the first song of Demodokos is continually deferred, and this deferral is marked by the expression aps arkhesthai ‘start again and again’ at verse 90 of Odyssey viii. [2] Each time the singer restarts his song, Odysseus starts weeping, and his continuously restarted outpouring of tears is expressed by the wording aps goân ‘lament again and again’ (92). Only Alkinoos, king of the Phaeacians, notices the unexpected reaction of Odysseus to the epic performance in the first song of Demodokos (viii 93–95). The king’s own reaction is to defer even further any kind of epic ending. Postponing any more restartings of the ongoing epic performance by Demodokos, Alkinoos announces that the time for eating and drinking and ‘the phorminx’—a metonymy for the singing of Demodokos, who accompanies himself on the stringed instrument called the phorminx—is to be stopped for the moment (98–99). As we are about to see, the singing of Demodokos will be restarted in a festive context that resembles the festive context of the Delia as dramatized in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo.
I§190 Before any further singing by Demodokos can take place, the time has come for sporting events, that is, athletic contests to be held in the public gathering space of the Phaeacians (viii 100–101). The king refers to boxing, wrestling, jumping, and footracing (103). The first athletic event turns out to be the footrace (120–125), followed by wrestling (126–127), jumping (128), discus throwing (129), and, finally, boxing (130). There is a striking parallel to be found in a passage we have already examined here. That passage comes from the Homeric Hymn (3) to Apollo (146–155), describing a festival of all Ionians gathered on the island of Delos. For the moment I focus on one detail in that passage: the occasion of that Delian festival is described as an agōn ‘competition’ (149). The competitive events at that festival include athletics—boxing is the example that is highlighted—as well as dancing and singing (149). So also in Odyssey viii, as we are about to see, the overall occasion is described as an agōn in athletics, dancing, and singing. In analyzing the context of this festive occasion, I hope to show its relevance to the poetry performed by Demodokos in Odyssey viii.
I§191 In the competitive atmosphere of the athletic contests of Odyssey viii, Odysseus is provoked into participating in the competition. Responding to the challenge, he wins easily in a discus throw (186). Then he goes on to challenge the Phaeacians to compete with him in boxing, wrestling, or footracing (206)—or in archery (215–228), or in throwing the javelin (229). Only in footracing does he choose not to compete (230–233). The competitive rhetoric of Odysseus, highlighting his strengths and weaknesses as an athlete, mirrors his strengths and weaknesses as the central hero of the Homeric Odyssey. His rhetoric about his prowess in archery is particularly {80|81} telling, since it anticipates what will happen in the overall epic plot of the Odyssey: essential for the hero’s victory over the suitors is his bow. But there is more to it. The competitive rhetoric in Odyssey viii extends from athletic to poetic competition, and the context of these two modes of competition turns out to be the same occasion. That occasion is the dais ‘feast’:
Iⓣ40 Odyssey viii 429
δαιτί τε τέρπηται καὶ ἀοιδῆς ὕμνον ἀκούων

… so that he [= Odysseus] might take delight [terpesthai] in the feast [dais] and in listening to the humnos of the song.
I§192 The word dais here, basically meaning ‘feast’, refers short-range to an occasion of communal dining (dorpon ‘dinner’, viii 395), which will take place after sunset (417). The intended guest of honor at this feast is Odysseus. This occasion of communal dining leads into the third song of Demodokos (484–485). So much for the short-range reference. I will argue, however, that there is also a long-range reference: the word dais here refers metonymically to a stylized festival that has been ongoing ever since an earlier occasion of communal dining, which actually led into the first song of Demodokos (71–72).
I§193 To make this argument about the word dais ‘feast’, I start by comparing the metonymic use of the word thusia ‘sacrifice’ in the sense of ‘festival’. I return here to a classic example, that is, the use of thusia ‘sacrifice’ in Plato’s Timaeus (26e) with reference to the entire complex of events taking place at the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens. [3] As we can see from this and other examples of the word, thusia refers not only to the sacrifice and sacrificial cooking of the sacrificial animal, or to the distribution of the cooked meat and the consequent eating and drinking: it refers also to the whole complex of competitive events that take place at any given festival, including not only athletics but also performances of poetry, song, and dance. [4]
I§194 The divinity who presides over such a festive occasion is not only the prime recipient of the thusia ‘sacrifice’: in the context of the overall festival, that divinity becomes also the subject of that festival—that is, the subject of the humnos that inaugurates that festival. A classic example is the use of the word humnos in Plato’s Timaeus with reference to the goddess Athena as the subject of the humnos and, by extension, as the subject of the overall festival of the Panathenaia in Athens:
Iⓣ41 Plato Timaeus 20d–21a
Ἄκουε δή, ὦ Σώκρατες, λόγου μάλα μὲν ἀτόπου, παντάπασί γε μὴν ἀληθοῦς, ὡς ὁ τῶν ἑπτὰ σοφώτατος Σόλων ποτ’ ἔφη. ἦν μὲν οὖν οἰκεῖος καὶ σφόδρα φίλος ἡμῖν Δρωπίδου τοῦ προπάππου, καθάπερ λέγει πολλαχοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν τῇ ποιήσει· πρὸς {81|82} δὲ Κριτίαν τὸν ἡμέτερον πάππον εἶπεν, ὡς ἀπεμνημόνευεν αὖ πρὸς ἡμᾶς ὁ γέρων, ὅτι μεγάλα καὶ θαυμαστὰ τῆσδ’ εἴη παλαιὰ ἔργα τῆς πόλεως ὑπὸ χρόνου καὶ φθορᾶς ἀνθρώπων ἠφανισμένα, πάντων δὲ ἓν μέγιστον, οὗ νῦν ἐπιμνησθεῖσιν πρέπον ἂν ἡμῖν εἴη σοί τε ἀποδοῦναι χάριν καὶ τὴν θεὸν ἅμα ἐν τῇ πανηγύρει δικαίως τε καὶ ἀληθῶς οἷόνπερ ὑμνοῦντας ἐγκωμιάζειν.
[Critias is speaking.] Listen, then, Socrates, to a story that is very unusual but altogether true—as the wisest of the Seven Wise Men, Solon, once told it. He was a relative and good friend of Dropides, my great-grandfather—as he himself says several times in his poetry. And he [= Dropides] told Critias, my grandfather. As the old man recalled to us from memory, there were ancient deeds, great and wondrous, that originated from this city [= Athens] and that have disappeared through the passage of time and through the ruination that befalls humanity. He went on to say that of all these deeds, there was one in particular that was the greatest, which it would be fitting for us now to bring to mind, reciprocating you [= Socrates] with its pleasurable beauty [kharis] while at the same time rightly and truthfully celebrating [enkōmiazein] the goddess on this the occasion of her festival [panēguris], just as if we were making her the subject of a humnos .
I§195 In this passage, the immediate occasion of the dialogue that we know as the Timaeus is equated with the ultimate occasion of the festival celebrating the genesis of the goddess who presides over the city of Athens. Further, the discourse extending from what is said by Timaeus to what is said by Critias is equated with a humnos to be sung in worship of this goddess. [5] Even further, Plato uses the technical language of rhapsodes in conveying the continuities and discontinuities of the discourse extending from the Timaeus as text to the Critias as text. [6]
I§196 In this passage, the figurative humnos mentioned by the speaker starts with a simulated hymnic prooimion, which is designed to introduce the narration of a simulated epic, that is, the story about the destruction of Atlantis. The pleasure of the impending story’s beauty, as conveyed by the word kharis, is being offered by the speaker, Critias, to Socrates as the immediate recipient. But the actual context of kharis in this passage makes it clear that the ultimate recipient of such a pleasurable offering is the goddess Athena. The speaker here is engaging in a parody of a Hymn to Athena, and the joke is that Socrates has momentarily replaced Athena as the primary recipient of what is called kharis, which refers here to the beautiful and pleasurable offering of a stylized humnos. This offering corresponds to the hymnic salutation khaire ‘hail and take pleasure’ in the context of a hymnic prooimion. In the same breath, the speaker goes on to acknowledge the goddess Athena as the ul-{82|83} timate subject of a humnos to be performed on the occasion of her feast, that is, at the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens. The humnos that is notionally inaugurated by this mock hymnic prooimion can then proceed to the narration of the story about the destruction of Atlantis, a mock epic that rivals the epic traditions about the destruction of Troy. [7]
I§197 By contrast, a humnos inaugurated by a real prooimion can lead into real epic—or into some other such undertaking of epic proportions. It is no accident that the wording of Plato’s mock prooimion mirrors closely the wording of real prooimia, such as the prose prooimion we find at the beginning of Herodotus’ History:
Iⓣ42 Herodotus 0.0 [= prooemium]
Ἡροδότου Ἁλικαρνησσέος ἱστορίης ἀπόδεξις ἥδε, ὡς μήτε τὰ γενόμενα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων τῷ χρόνῳ ἐξίτηλα γένηται, μήτε ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά, τὰ μὲν Ἕλλησι, τὰ δὲ βαρβάροισι ἀποδεχθέντα, ἀκλέα γένηται, τά τε ἄλλα καὶ δι’ ἣν αἰτίην ἐπολέμησαν ἀλλήλοισι.
This is the public presentation of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, with the purpose of bringing it about that whatever results from human affairs may not, with the passage of time, become evanescent, and that great and wondrous deeds—some of them publicly performed by Hellenes, others by barbarians—may not become things without fame [kleos]; in particular, [8] [this presentation concerns] what cause made them wage war against each other.
I§198 The precision of Plato’s wording in the mock prooimion we find in the Timaeus (21a) is evidenced by the expression τὴν θεὸν … ἐν τῇ πανηγύρει δικαίως τε καὶ ἀληθῶς … ὑμνοῦντας ἐγκωμιάζειν ‘rightly and truthfully celebrating [enkōmiazein] the goddess on this the occasion of her festival [panēguris], … making her the subject of a humnos’ . I highlight the use of the verb enkōmiazein ‘celebrate’ with the accusative case of the divinity who presides over the festival and who is the subject of the humnos that inaugurates the festival. We may compare the parallel use of the verb kōmazein ‘celebrate’ in Pindar’s imitation of the prooimion of Zeus as performed by the Homēridai:
Iⓣ43 Pindar Nemean 2.23–25
τόν, ὦ πολῖ|ται, κωμάξατε Τιμοδήμῳ σὺν εὐκλέϊ νόστῳ·| ἁδυμελεῖ δ᾿ ἐξάρχετε φωνᾷ
Him [= Zeus, presiding over the festival of the Némea] you O citizens of the city must celebrate [kōmazein] for the sake of Timodemos, at the moment of his homecoming marked by genuine fame [kleos], and, in sweet-sounding song, you must lead off [ex-arkhein] with your voice. {83|84}
I§199 As I show in the twin book Homer the Classic, the act of kōmazein ‘celebrating’ here is compared explicitly to the performing of the prooimion of Zeus:
Iⓣ44 Pindar Nemean 2.1–3
Οθεν περ καὶ Ὁμηρίδαι | ῥαπτῶν ἐπέων τὰ πόλλ᾿ ἀοιδοί | ἄρχονται, Διὸς ἐκ προοιμίου.
(Starting) from the point where [hothen] the Homēridai, singers, most of the time [ta polla] begin [arkhesthai] their stitched-together words, from the prooimion of Zeus  [9]
I§200 Just as Athena presides over the festival of the Panathenaia, so also Zeus presides over the festival of the Némea. Just as Athena is pictured as a hymnic subject, so also is Zeus. Moreover, as I will argue later, Zeus is a transcendent hymnic subject: he can preside over a humnos even if that humnos is being performed at a festival sacred to another god. This way, as I will also argue later, Zeus gets to preside over a humnos that leads to a transcendent form of epic as its hymnic consequent, and that epic form is the poetic legacy inherited by the ‘descendants of Homer’, the Homēridai. [10]
I§201 This formal relationship between the concept of humnos and the concept of epic as a hymnic consequent is most relevant to Plato’s reference in the Timaeus (21a) to a humnos sung for the goddess Athena in the context of her own festival, the Panathenaia. As I argue in Homer the Classic, the central narrative of such a humnos sung for Athena at the Panathenaia is the story of her birth and her joint victory with Zeus and the other Olympians over the Giants in the Gigantomachy, which is imagined as taking place on the day of her birth. [11] As I also argue, the narrative of the Gigantomachy was woven into the woolen robe or Peplos of Athena, which was presented to the goddess at the climactic conclusion of the Panathenaic Procession, which was in turn the climactic conclusion of the entire festival of the Panathenaia. There is a mythological parallelism between the humnos as a notionally prototypical song and the Peplos of Athena as a notionally prototypical fabric. Not only was the narrative of the Gigantomachy woven into the Peplos of Athena: it was also sculpted into the east metopes of the Parthenon. And the narrative of the birth of Athena was sculpted into the east pediment looming above the east metopes. So the sculptural narrative of the Parthenon starts with the birth of Athena on the east pediment and, moving farther down, proceeds to the victory of Athena and her fellow Olympians over the Giants. Then, from this starting point on the east face of the temple, the sculptural narrative of the Parthenon moves counterclockwise to {84|85} the north face. A narrative of the Trojan War was sculpted into the north metopes. I have just reached here a point I anticipate in the twin book Homer the Classic. There I argue that the sculptural narrative of the east pediment and of the east metopes is a virtual Hymn to Athena while the sculptural narrative of the north metopes is a virtual epic of the Trojan War. The two narratives approximate respectively a most grand prooimion and a most grand epic, where prooimion and epic connect with each other into one single, continuous, notionally seamless humnos. [12]
I§202 Having reviewed what can be gathered about the conceptual world of the word humnos in combination with the word thusia in the sense of ‘festival’, I now apply this comparative evidence to my argument about the combination of this same word humnos with the word dais ‘feast’ at Odyssey viii 429. In terms of this argument, to repeat, dais here refers to a stylized festival.
I§203 In fact, a festival has been in progress ever since verse 38 of Odyssey viii, where Alkinoos orders the holding of a dais ‘feast’ as the occasion for hosting Odysseus as a guest of honor. This hosting, as the king announces at verse 42, is a sequence of events leading up to a future point in the ongoing narrative—a point where the proper arrangements will finally be in place for sending the guest back to his homeland (28–33). From the very start, the singer Demodokos is to attend the feast, singing for the assembled audience (43–45). The stylized festival officially begins when the king himself slaughters the sacrificial animals (59–60), whose meat is then cooked and made ready for the ‘feasting’, which is called a dais already at verse 61 of Odyssey viii.
I§204 The sequence of festive events now proceeds to the actual feasting on food and drink (71); after the eating and drinking are over (72), the next event is the performance of the first song of Demodokos (73–82). [13] Then Alkinoos postpones further performance (98–99), as I have already noted, and the audience proceeds from the closed space of eating and drinking to the open space of athletic competitions (100–101). Odysseus engages in these competitions with a winning throw of the discus (186–200), and he reinforces his stylized athletic victory by boasting of his overall athletic superiority (201–233).
I§205 Alkinoos responds to the hero’s victory and the ensuing boast by conceding that the Phaeacians cannot compete with Odysseus in conventional athletic events like boxing or wrestling (viii 246). When it comes to athletic prowess, the king chooses to boast only about the Phaeacians’ swiftness in running and sailing (247). We see here the embedding of a narrative link between anterior and posterior details in {85|86} the narration. Earlier, Odysseus had conceded that he cannot run competitively, and that his running skills have been blighted by too much sailing (230–233). The Phaeacian king’s boast that links prowess in running with prowess in sailing is readily accepted by Odysseus, since he knows he will have to rely on the prowess of the Phaeacians in sailing if he is ever to succeed in his own quest for a homecoming.
I§206 Next, the rhetoric of competition shifts from athletics to poetry, song, and dance. What is most dear to the Phaeacians, Alkinoos goes on to say, is the following sequence of delights, headed by the festive notion of the dais:
Iⓣ45 Odyssey viii 248–249
αἰεὶ δ’ ἡμῖν δαίς τε φίλη κίθαρίς τε χοροί τε
εἵματά τ’ ἐξημοιβὰ λοετρά τε θερμὰ καὶ εὐναί.

Dear to us always is feasting [dais], also the kitharis, and occasions of singing and dancing [khoroi],
also the changing of costumes from one occasion to the next, also warm baths and lying around in bed.
I§207 At this point, we see the embedding of another narrative link between anterior and posterior details in the narration. The theme of swift-footedness makes it possible for the narrative to shift from the subtheme of nimble footracing to the subtheme of nimble footwork in dance, that is, in the song-and-dance ensemble of the khoros:
Iⓣ46 Odyssey viii 250–269
          “ἀλλ’ ἄγε, Φαιήκων βητάρμονες ὅσσοι ἄριστοι,
          παίσατε, ὥς χ’ ὁ ξεῖνος ἐνίσπῃ οἷσι φίλοισιν,
          οἴκαδε νοστήσας, ὅσσον περιγινόμεθ’ ἄλλων
          ναυτιλίῃ καὶ ποσσὶ καὶ ὀρχηστυῖ καὶ ἀοιδῇ.
          Δημοδόκῳ δέ τις αἶψα κιὼν φόρμιγγα λίγειαν
255    οἰσέτω, ἥ που κεῖται ἐν ἡμετέροισι δόμοισιν.”
          ὣς ἔφατ’ Ἀλκίνοος θεοείκελος, ὦρτο δὲ κῆρυξ
          οἴσων φόρμιγγα γλαφυρὴν δόμου ἐκ βασιλῆος.
          αἰσυμνῆται δὲ κριτοὶ ἐννέα πάντες ἀνέσταν,
          δήμιοι, οἳ κατ’ ἀγῶνα ἐῢ πρήσσεσκον ἕκαστα,
260    λείηναν δὲ χορόν, καλὸν δ’ εὔρυναν ἀγῶνα.
          κῆρυξ δ’ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθε φέρων φόρμιγγα λίγειαν
          Δημοδόκῳ· ὁ δ’ ἔπειτα κί’ ἐς μέσον· ἀμφὶ δὲ κοῦροι
          πρωθῆβαι ἵσταντο, δαήμονες ὀρχηθμοῖο,
          πέπληγον δὲ χορὸν θεῖον ποσίν. αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς
265    μαρμαρυγὰς θηεῖτο ποδῶν, θαύμαζε δὲ θυμῷ.
          αὐτὰρ ὁ φορμίζων ἀνεβάλλετο καλὸν ἀείδειν
          ἀμφ’ Ἄρεος φιλότητος [14] ἐϋστεφάνου τ’ Ἀφροδίτης, {86|87}
          ὡς τὰ πρῶτ’ ἐμίγησαν ἐν Ἡφαίστοιο δόμοισι

          [Alkinoos is speaking.] “Let’s get started. I want the best of the Phaeacian acrobatic
               dancers [bētarmones]
          to perform their sportive dance [paizein], [15] so that the stranger, our guest,
               will be able to tell his near-and-dear ones,
          when he gets home, how much better we (Phaeacians) are than anyone else
          in sailing and in footwork, in dance and song.
          One of you go and get for Demodokos the clear-sounding phorminx,
255    bringing it to him. It is in the palace somewhere.”
          Thus spoke Alkinoos, the one who looks like the gods, and the herald [kērux] got up,
          ready to bring the well carved phorminx from the palace of the king.
          And the organizers [aisumnētai], the nine selectmen, all got up
          —they belonged to the district [dēmos]—and they started arranging everything
               according to the rules of the competition [agōn].
260    They made smooth the place of the singing and dancing [khoros], and they made a
               wide space of competition [agōn].
          The herald [kērux] came near, bringing the clear-sounding phorminx
          for Demodokos. He moved to the center of the space. At his right and at his left
               were boys [kouroi]
          in the first stage of adolescence [prōthēboi], standing there, well versed in
          They pounded out with their feet a dance [khoros], a thing of wonder, and
265    was observing the sparkling footwork. He was amazed in his heart [thumos].
          And he [= Demodokos], playing on the phorminx [phormizein],
               started [anaballesthai] singing beautifully
          about [amphi] the bonding [philotēs] of Ares and of Aphrodite, the one with the
               beautiful garlands [stephanoi],
          about how they, at the very beginning, [16] mated with each other in the
               palace of Hephaistos,
          in secret.
I§208 The dancing of the dashing young Phaeacians is in concert with the singing of the second song by Demodokos, whom we find once again singing to the accompaniment of the phorminx he is playing. The subject of his song is the primal philotēs or sexual ‘bonding’ between Ares and Aphrodite. The song begins at verse 266 and {87|88} ends a hundred verses later, at verse 366. Morphologically, this song is a hymnic prooimion in and of itself. Marking the song as a hymnic prooimion is the technical term anaballesthai ‘start up’ at verse 266. [17] Another hymnic marker is the use of the preposition amphi at verse 267 to set the hymnic subject of the prooimion. Grammatically, this hymnic subject is the object of the preposition. [18] To repeat, this hymnic subject of the song is the philotēs or sexual ‘bonding’ between Ares and Aphrodite. Underneath the lighthearted surface of merry ribaldry is a serious and hymnic personification of philotēs as a mystical and even divine agency. The hymnic syntax of amphi conveys the idea that Philotēs ‘Bonding’ is a divinity in her own right, transcending the forces represented by the literally bonded Aphrodite and Ares as divine lovers. [19] There are indications of such a theme in a fragment of a humnos by Empedocles (DK B 35): the mysticism of Philotēs ‘Bonding’ as personified in this humnos is reminiscent of what we know as Orphic traditions. [20]
I§209 As part of the ongoing humnos of Odyssey viii and beyond, the second song of Demodokos is morphologically different from the first and the third songs. The difference is evident already in the wording at verse 267, signaling the beginning of the second song. As we have just seen, this second song requires a new hymnic prooimion, which tells the initializing story of Ares and Aphrodite. I am using the term initializing here to convey a spatial as well as temporal dimension, matching the spatial dimension of prooimion in its etymological sense of ‘initial threading [oimē]’. [21] This term initializing is also relevant to the context of anaballesthai ‘start up’ at verse 266. [22]
I§210 It has generally been thought that the second song of Demodokos represents a poetic form that is somehow newer than the epic of Homeric poetry. As Walter Burkert has observed, however, the “divine burlesque” that characterizes this narrative sequence is in fact not innovative but archaizing, and there are numerous parallels to be found in the myths and rituals of Near Eastern civilizations; this observation {88|89} applies also to the “divine burlesque” that characterizes some of the narrative sequences in the Iliad, especially in Rhapsodies I, XIV, and XX–XXI—and in the Homeric Hymns. [23] So it is unjustified to view the second song of Demodokos as an innovative interpolation within the epic narrative of the Odyssey. [24] Such a view was current already in the world of ancient scholarship: we are told in the scholia for the Birds of Aristophanes (at verse 778) that editors of Homer athetized the verses about the love affair of Ares and Aphrodite.
I§211 I argue that the second song of Demodokos is an older form of poetry embedded within a newer form of poetry as represented by the Odyssey: this older form is analogous to what we know as the Homeric Hymns. As I argue in Homer the Classic, the morphology of the Homeric Hymns is actually older, not newer, than the morphology of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey: the Homeric Hymns have hymnic prooimia, and they allow for metabasis to follow (by metabasis I mean a moving ahead and shifting forward to the performance that follows). [25] By contrast, as we will see, the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey have no hymnic prooimia and allow for no metabasis.
I§212 There is a further complication: as I am about to argue, the first and the third songs of Demodokos are morphologically older, as epics, than the epic performed by Odysseus in Odyssey ix, x, xi, and xii. The first and the third songs are typical of the epic Cycle, whereas the song of Odysseus is typical of—and coextensive with—the epic that we identify as the Homeric Odyssey. In terms of this argument, then, there are actually two levels of embedding in Odyssey viii:
  1. The older form of the epic Cycle, as represented by the first and the third songs of Demodokos, is embedded within the newer form of the Homeric Odyssey.
  2. The even older form of the Homeric Hymn, as represented by the second song of Demodokos, is embedded within the relatively newer form of the epic Cycle, as represented by the continuation of the first song of Demodokos by way of his third song.
I§213 Unlike the first and the third songs of Demodokos, which make Odysseus dissolve into tears, the second song makes him happy, and the word that describes the hero’s feelings is terpesthai ‘take delight’ (viii 368). Later on, Alkinoos will use the same word in collocation with the word humnos (429). The delight of Odysseus, as signaled at this point in the narrative (viii 368), is not only a reaction to the exterior form of this prooimion that tells the story of Ares and Aphrodite. It is also an exteriorization of the interior meaning of the embedded story. {89|90}
I§214 The initializing story of the second song of Demodokos turns out to be pertinent to the ongoing epic story of Odysseus. But this pertinence, as we are about to see, is different from the pertinence of the first and the third songs. Highlighted in the second song is the revenge of the god Hephaistos, who is playing the role of the outraged husband. Hephaistos is angry at the dashing young Ares for seducing Aphrodite, the wife of Hephaistos (276). This theme of the anger of Hephaistos is pertinent to the story of Odysseus, which is still in the making: at the end of the Odyssey, Odysseus will have his own revenge as the outraged husband who is angry at the dashing young suitors for trying to seduce his own wife, Penelope. We can see in the ensuing victory of Hephaistos over Ares a narrative link between the inner and the outer stories: just as Hephaistos flaunts his slowness of foot when he boasts that he has bested Ares, described as the swiftest of all the gods in his footwork (329–331), so also Odysseus flaunts his own slowness of foot when he competes with the Phaeacians, attributing such slowness to the “sea legs” of sailors who have done too much sailing (230–233). Conversely, Alkinoos flaunts the fleet-footedness of the dashing young Phaeacians in both footracing and dancing, linking this skill with their skill in sailing (247).
I§215 Implicitly, the Phaeacians’ skill in dancing is being applied in the choral performance of the second song of Demodokos. The Phaeacian dancers are dancing the parts. That is, they are implicitly dancing the parts of such characters as the swift Ares and the slow Hephaistos while the singer is explicitly singing the same parts in concert. (This is not to rule out any accessory choral singing on the part of the dancers.) Moreover, the Phaeacians’ fleet-footedness in footracing and dancing matches the fleet-footedness associated with the god Ares himself, who is traditionally pictured as a nimble runner and dancer. [26]
I§216 The dancers’ displays of fleet-footedness in dancing the part of Ares may have been highlighted further by displays of mock slow-footedness in dancing the part of Hephaistos. Pointedly, the slow-footed Odysseus does not participate in the dancing, just as he did not participate in any footracing. He does not have to dance now, but he will sing later. And, just as he does not have to dance now, he will not have to sail later: when the time comes, the Phaeacians will do the sailing for him, just as they are doing the dancing for him right now—both the fast dancing of Ares and the slow dancing of Hephaistos. [27] In sum, the content of the second song of Demodokos points to the epic future of Odysseus, whereas the content of the first and the third songs, the story of Troy, points to his epic past.
I§217 The second song of Demodokos, as a hymnic prooimion, is followed not by epic {90|91} singing but by further choral dancing and perhaps singing (viii 370–380). The setting is described as an agōn ‘competition’ (380). The same word agōn occurs at an earlier point as well, where it refers to the setting for the actual singing of Demodokos when he performs his second song (259, 260). Still earlier, agōn refers to the athletic competition (200, 238).
I§218 Responding to the second song, Odysseus expresses his appreciation (viii 381–384), and his gesture leads to a series of friendly exchanges climaxing in the giving of gifts to the still-unnamed guest (summarized at 428). It is at this climactic point of the festive continuum that Alkinoos arranges for an evening of eating, drinking, and singing to continue the ongoing festivities, expressing his wish that Odysseus should ‘take delight’—terpesthai—in the dais ‘feast’ as he listens to the humnos (429).
I§219 The three attestations of the word agōn in Odyssey viii (259, 260, 380) are indicative of the festivities that have been ongoing ever since the ritual start marked by animal sacrifice (59–61), which inaugurates the dais ‘feast’ (61). There is a striking parallel to be found in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo: as I noted earlier, the word agōn ‘competition’ is used there with reference to a recurrent festival of Apollo on the island of Delos (150). At that event, Ionians from all over the Greek-speaking world gather to compete not only in athletics—boxing is the example that is highlighted—but also in dancing and singing (149). From the standpoint of the Hymn, Homer himself is competing at that agōn, performing an ongoing humnos (178). So also in Odyssey viii, Demodokos is competing at an agōn, performing his own ongoing humnos (429). But who exactly is competing with Demodokos?
I§220 The setting of this festive agōn of Odyssey viii will in fact extend into Odyssey ix, x, xi, and xii, where the hero of the Odyssey gets a chance to perform his own epic, which is his own odyssey. Starting his performance in Odyssey xi, Odysseus describes the ideal occasion for a performing aoidos ‘singer’ (ix 3–4), and that occasion is a feast (5–12). There is no telos ‘outcome’, the hero says, that brings more kharis—more pleasurable beauty—than the singing of an aoidos amidst the daitumones (7), that is, amidst the participants in a feast:
Iⓣ47 Odyssey ix 3–12
          ἦ τοι μὲν τόδε καλὸν ἀκουέμεν ἐστὶν ἀοιδοῦ
          τοιοῦδ’, οἷος ὅδ’ ἐστί, θεοῖσ’ ἐναλίγκιος αὐδήν.
5        οὐ γὰρ ἐγώ γέ τί φημι τέλος χαριέστερον εἶναι
          ἢ ὅτ’ ἐϋφροσύνη μὲν ἔχῃ κάτα δῆμον ἅπαντα,
          δαιτυμόνες δ’ ἀνὰ δώματ’ ἀκουάζωνται ἀοιδοῦ
          ἥμενοι ἑξείης, παρὰ δὲ πλήθωσι τράπεζαι
          σίτου καὶ κρειῶν, μέθυ δ’ ἐκ κρητῆρος ἀφύσσων
10      οἰνοχόος φορέῃσι καὶ ἐγχείῃ δεπάεσσι·
          τοῦτό τί μοι κάλλιστον ἐνὶ φρεσὶν εἴδεται εἶναι.

          This is indeed a beautiful thing, to listen to a singer [aoidos]
          such as this one [= Demodokos], the kind of singer that he is, comparable to the
               gods in the way he speaks [audē], {91|92}
5        for I declare, there is no outcome [telos] that has more pleasurable beauty
          than the moment when the spirit of festivity [euphrosunē] [28] prevails
               throughout the whole community [dēmos]
          and the people at the feast [daitumones], throughout the halls, are listening to
               the singer [aoidos]
          as they sit there—you can see one after the other—and they are sitting at tables that
               are filled
          with grain and meat, while wine from the mixing bowl is drawn
10      by the one who pours the wine and takes it around, pouring it into their cups.
          This kind of thing, as I see it in my way of thinking, is the most beautiful thing in
               the whole world.
I§221 The performance of Odysseus in this setting will last for well over two thousand Homeric verses still to come, from here all the way to verse 23 of Odyssey xiii, where we find that the dais ‘feast’ has just been restarted yet again by Alkinoos—this time, in the morning—to inaugurate the preparations for finally sending Odysseus back to his homeland. This morning dais is a continuation of the previous day’s dais, which had started in the daytime, when the first and the second songs of Demodokos were performed, and which had extended into an evening of eating, drinking, and singing. That phase of the feasting was the occasion for the third song of Demodokos, followed by the monumental odyssey of Odysseus. The restarting of the dais in the morning (23) is marked by another sacrifice: this time, Alkinoos slaughters a sacrificial ox (24), and this time the divine recipient of the sacrifice is mentioned by name: he is Zeus himself (25).
I§222 The ensuing description of this restarted dais in Odyssey xiii is a case of ring composition. In Homeric narration, which is a linear movement forward in the dimension of time, from one point to the next, the narrative device of ring composition exemplifies a complementary circular movement backward in the dimension of space: there is a cycling back from one given point in the space of narration to an anterior point, picking up from there details that recycle forward into the ongoing narration, thereby augmenting it. In the present case, the narration about the restarted dais in Odyssey xiii picks up and then augments the earlier narration about the ongoing dais in Odyssey viii. At verse 429 of Odyssey viii, we saw the programmatic use of the word terpesthai ‘take delight’ in describing the expected reaction of the audience as it listens to the ongoing humnos at the ongoing dais. This theme is now picked up and augmented in Odyssey xiii: once the dais is restarted (23), the whole community proceeds to feast at the dais (26), and once again they all ‘take delight’, as expressed once again by way of the word terpesthai (27). Once again there {92|93} is singing and dancing (the word melpesthai, again in verse 27, can refer to both singing and dancing) led off by an aoidos ‘singer’, and once again this singer is Demodokos (27–28). [29] So the entertainment of the ongoing humnos at the ongoing dais of verse 429 in Odyssey viii extends all the way from one day to the next. The singer who sang at the dais that had started on the previous day at verse 61 of Odyssey viii is now singing once again at the dais that got restarted on the next day at verse 23 of Odyssey xiii. To repeat, just as the audience ‘took delight’—terpesthai—when Demodokos sang at the dais in verse 91 of Odyssey viii, they are still taking delight when he sings at the dais in verse 27 of Odyssey xiii.
I§223 Intervening within the vast time span of the ongoing humnos in the Odyssey is the performance of the singer who sings his own odyssey, Odysseus himself. The extended performance of Odysseus, intervening between the end of the third song performed by Demodokos in Odyssey viii and the beginning of a new round of that singer’s singing in Odyssey xiii, is implicitly competitive, as we saw from the use of the word agōn ‘competition’ as a marker of the festive occasion of Odyssey viii (259, 260, 380). As we also saw, this occasion is not just festive: in terms of its morphology, it is a real ‘festival’ in the technical sense of what is called in classical sources a thusia, and this festival has been ongoing ever since its inauguration by animal sacrifice (59–61), which inaugurates the dais ‘feast’ (61). On the basis of all this contextual evidence, then, I conclude that the occasion for the ongoing humnos consisting of competing performances by Demodokos and Odysseus is an ongoing festival.

I 42. A poetic crisis at a festival

I§224 The ongoing humnos mentioned at verse 429 of Odyssey viii, which I have interpreted as a festive program of successive performances by Demodokos, reaches a critical moment at verse 492. Here the yet-unnamed Odysseus challenges the singer to perform a metabasis that is, a shifting forward in the subject of the song:
Iⓣ48 Odyssey viii 485–498
485    αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,
          δὴ τότε Δημόδοκον προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς·
          “Δημόδοκ’, ἔξοχα δή σε βροτῶν αἰνίζομ’ ἁπάντων·
          ἢ σέ γε Μοῦσ’ ἐδίδαξε, Διὸς πάϊς, ἢ σέ γ’ Ἀπόλλων·
          λίην γὰρ κατὰ κόσμον Ἀχαιῶν οἶτον ἀείδεις,
490    ὅσσ’ ἕρξαν τ’ ἔπαθόν τε καὶ ὅσσ’ ἐμόγησαν Ἀχαιοί, {93|94}
          ὥς τέ που ἢ αὐτὸς παρεὼν ἢ ἄλλου ἀκούσας.
          ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ μετάβηθι καὶ ἵππου κόσμον ἄεισον
          δουρατέου, τὸν ᾿Επειὸς ἐποίησεν σὺν Ἀθήνῃ,
          ὅν ποτ’ ἐς ἀκρόπολιν δόλον ἤγαγε δῖος Ὀδυσσεὺς
495    ἀνδρῶν ἐμπλήσας, οἳ Ἴλιον ἐξαλάπαξαν.
          αἴ κεν δή μοι ταῦτα κατὰ μοῖραν καταλέξῃς,
          αὐτίκα καὶ πᾶσιν μυθήσομαι ἀνθρώποισιν,
          ὡς ἄρα τοι πρόφρων θεὸς ὤπασε θέσπιν ἀοιδήν.”

485    When they had satisfied their desire for drinking and eating,
          then Odysseus, the one with many a stratagem, addressed Demodokos:
          “Demodokos, I admire and pointedly praise you, more than any other human.
          Either the Muse, child of Zeus, taught you, or Apollo.
          All too well, in accord with its kosmos , do you sing the fate of the Achaeans
490    —all the things the Achaeans did and all the things that were done to them, and they
               suffered for it—
          you sing it as if you yourself had been present or had heard it from someone else.
          But come now, move ahead and shift forward [metabainein] and sing the
               kosmos of the horse,
          the wooden horse that Epeios made with the help of Athena,
          the one that Odysseus, the radiant one, took to the acropolis as a stratagem,
495    having filled it in with men, who ransacked Ilion.
          If you can tell me these things in due order [katalegein], in accord with proper
          then right away I will say the authoritative word [muthos] to all mortals:
          I will say, and I see it as I say it, that the god [theos], favorably disposed toward
               you, granted [opazein] you a divinely sounding song.”
I§225 The reference to metabasis at verse 492 signals a poetic crisis in the ongoing humnos of Demodokos, a critical moment centering on a shift of subject. The most recent subject, which had been marked by a new prooimion in the second song of Demodokos, is about to be left behind. As we saw, the subject of the second song reveals a shift from the subject of the first song, which was an epic about the Trojan War. But now there is a call for yet another shift, moving beyond the subject of the second song as formalized in that song’s prooimion. This new shift—this metabasis, as formulated by Odysseus—will lead back to the subject of the first song, which was an epic about the Trojan War.
I§226 As I argue in Homer the Classic, Demodokos responds to the poetic challenge of Odysseus, and his hymnic metabasis shifts the ongoing humnos forward to a point where the epic that had once been stopped by Alkinoos (viii 98–99) can at long last {94|95} continue. [30] The program of the festival, its ongoing humnos, can now move forward again. But the epic consequent of the third song of Demodokos does not start where the epic of the first song had left off. As I explain in Homer the Classic, the objective of the metabasis is to move ahead, shift forward, to a new starting point, and this new starting point of the third song of Demodokos is to be situated farther ahead than the previous stopping point of the first song.
I§227 When Odysseus calls for a metabasis or ‘shifting forward’ to take place in the third song of Demodokos, the point of reference for this shifting forward is not the second song but the first. Why does Odysseus skip over the second song altogether? The answer, I submit, has to do with the differences in form between the second song on one hand and, on the other, the first and the third songs combined. At the critical moment when Odysseus issues his poetic challenge to Demodokos, the ongoing humnos has come to a crossroads: either it will continue in the ways of a poetic form exemplified for us by the Homeric Hymns or it will recycle back to the poetic form that has been on hold ever since Alkinoos the king stopped the first song of Demodokos (viii 98–99): that form is exemplified for us by the epic Cycle. [31]
I§228 A moment ago, I described the second song of Demodokos as a form exemplified by the Homeric Hymns. Such a description needs to be qualified: it is anachronistic to apply the term Homeric to a humnos that is followed by athletic dancing rather than epic as its hymnic consequent. The form of the second song is not so much Homeric as it is pre-Homeric—in the sense that it looks older than the prevailing form of the Iliad and Odyssey as we know them.
I§229 As for my describing the first and the third songs of Demodokos as a form exemplified by the epic Cycle, I have given my overall reasons for this description in Homer the Classic. [32] Here I simply review one Cyclic feature in particular, that is, the metabasis from the first to the third song. This metabasis moves forward the point of restarting the epic narration. In other words, metabasis moves forward the recycling of the epic. This device of metabasis is not only typical of the general epic form that we know as the Cycle: it is also antithetical to the specific epic form that we know as Homeric poetry, which was regulated by the principle of the Panathenaic Regulation. [33] This rule, as we have seen ever since Chapter 1, requires each successive performer of Homeric poetry at the Panathenaia to continue the epic performance at exactly the point where the anterior performance left off.
I§230 It would be anachronistic, however, to describe the first and the third songs of Demodokos as pre-Homeric on the grounds that they do not conform to the Pana-{95|96} thenaic Regulation and are therefore Cyclic in form. As I have argued all along, the concept of the epic Cycle was in earlier times not at all incompatible with the concept of Homer.
I§231 I repeat here the essentials of my ongoing argumentation. The epic Cycle was in earlier times considered to be part of the Homeric tradition. In these earlier times, the epic Cycle was not anti-Homeric or even non-Homeric: it was Homeric. In these earlier times, further, Homer was the poet of an epic Cycle that included the earlier forms of what we know as the Iliad and Odyssey. Only in later times were the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey differentiated from the epic Cycle, which thus became non-Homeric. What intervenes between the earlier and later times, at least in the history of Athens, is the Panathenaic Regulation. In terms of this regulation, the Panathenaic Homer of the Iliad and Odyssey is regular epic, whereas the Cycle is preregular epic. This is not to say, however, that the Panathenaic Homer was the very first form of such regular epic: the Panathenaic Regulation must have stemmed ultimately from a Panionian Regulation, as I infer from the argumentation of Douglas Frame concerning the evolution of a Homeric performance tradition consisting of twenty-four rhapsodies each for the Iliad and Odyssey in the late eighth and early seventh centuries, at the festival of the Panionia held at the Panionion of the Ionian Dodecapolis in Asia Minor. [34]

I 43. An agōn between Demodokos and Odysseus

I§232 In the sustaining context of the ongoing festival in Odyssey viii, the stage is set for an implicit agōn ‘competition’ between Demodokos and Odysseus as aoidoi ‘singers’. As we have just seen, the metabasis signaled at verse 492 of Odyssey viii indicates that the poetry of Demodokos is about to start—or, better, restart—the general epic form of what we know as the Cycle. Following up on the performance of Demodokos, as we are about to see, Odysseus proceeds by performing the special epic form that we know as Homeric poetry. To formulate this implicit competition in terms of the Dark Age, what we are about to see is a competition between preregular and regular epic.
I§233 Once the third song of Demodokos gets under way, we notice that its effect is linked with the effect of the first song. First I repeat the wording of the first song:
Iⓣ49 Odyssey viii 62–94
          κῆρυξ δ’ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθεν ἄγων ἐρίηρον ἀοιδόν,
          τὸν περὶ Μοῦσ’ ἐφίλησε, δίδου δ’ ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε·
          ὀφθαλμῶν μὲν ἄμερσε, δίδου δ’ ἡδεῖαν ἀοιδήν.
65      τῷ δ’ ἄρα Ποντόνοος θῆκε θρόνον ἀργυρόηλον
          μέσσῳ δαιτυμόνων, πρὸς κίονα μακρὸν ἐρείσας·
          κὰδ δ’ ἐκ πασσαλόφι κρέμασεν φόρμιγγα λίγειαν {96|97}
          αὐτοῦ ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς καὶ ἐπέφραδε χερσὶν ἑλέσθαι
          κῆρυξ· πὰρ δ’ ἐτίθει κάνεον καλήν τε τράπεζαν,
70      πὰρ δὲ δέπας οἴνοιο, πιεῖν ὅτε θυμὸς ἀνώγοι.
          οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ὀνείαθ’ ἑτοῖμα προκείμενα χεῖρας ἴαλλον.
          αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,
          Μοῦσ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν,
          οἴμης, τῆς τότ’ ἄρα κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἵκανε,
75      νεῖκος Ὀδυσσῆος καὶ Πηλεΐδεω Ἀχιλῆος,
          ὥς ποτε δηρίσαντο θεῶν ἐν δαιτὶ θαλείῃ
          ἐκπάγλοισ’ ἐπέεσσιν, ἄναξ δ’ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
          χαῖρε νόῳ, ὅ τ’ ἄριστοι Ἀχαιῶν δηριόωντο.
          ὣς γάρ οἱ χρείων μυθήσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
80      Πυθοῖ ἐν ἠγαθέῃ, ὅθ’ ὑπέρβη λάϊνον οὐδὸν
          χρησόμενος. τότε γάρ ῥα κυλίνδετο πήματος ἀρχὴ
          Τρωσί τε καὶ Δαναοῖσι Διὸς μεγάλου διὰ βουλάς.
          ταῦτ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός· αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς
          πορφύρεον μέγα φᾶρος ἑλὼν χερσὶ στιβαρῇσι
85      κὰκ κεφαλῆς εἴρυσσε, κάλυψε δὲ καλὰ πρόσωπα·
          αἴδετο γὰρ Φαίηκας ὑπ’ ὀφρύσι δάκρυα λείβων.
          ἦ τοι ὅτε λήξειεν ἀείδων θεῖος ἀοιδός,
          δάκρυ’ ὀμορξάμενος κεφαλῆς ἄπο φᾶρος ἕλεσκε
          καὶ δέπας ἀμφικύπελλον ἑλὼν σπείσασκε θεοῖσιν·
90      αὐτὰρ ὅτ’ ἂψ ἄρχοιτο καὶ ὀτρύνειαν ἀείδειν
          Φαιήκων οἱ ἄριστοι, ἐπεὶ τέρποντ’ ἐπέεσσιν,
          ἂψ Ὀδυσεὺς κατὰ κρᾶτα καλυψάμενος γοάασκεν.
          ἔνθ’ ἄλλους μὲν πάντας ἐλάνθανε δάκρυα λείβων,
          Ἀλκίνοος δέ μιν οἶος ἐπεφράσατ’ ἠδ’ ἐνόησεν

          The herald came near, bringing with him a singer, very trusted,
          whom the Muse loved exceedingly. She gave him both a good thing and a bad thing.
          For she took away from him his eyes but gave him the sweetness of song [aoidē].
65      For him did Pontonoos place a chair, silver-studded,
          right in the midst of the people who were feasting, propping the chair against a tall column,
          and the herald took from a peg the clear-sounding phorminx that was hanging there
          above his head, and he presented it to him so he could take it in his hands.
          The herald did this. And next to him he put a beautiful basket and a table.
70      He put next to him also a cup of wine to drink from whenever he felt in his heart the need to
               do so.
          And, with hands reaching out swiftly, they made for the good things that were prepared and
          When they had satisfied their desire for drinking and eating, {97|98}
          the Muse impelled the singer to sing the glories [klea] of men,
          starting from a thread [oimē] that had at that time a fame [kleos] reaching all the
               way up to the vast sky.
75      It was the quarrel of Odysseus and Achilles, son of Peleus,
          how they fought once upon a time at a sumptuous feast [dais] of the gods
          with terrible words, and the king of men, Agamemnon,
          was happy in his mind [noos] at the fact that the best of the Achaeans were fighting.
          For this is the way he was told it would happen by Phoebus Apollo, uttering
               an oracle
80      in holy Delphi, when he crossed the stone threshold,
          to consult the oracle. And that was when the beginning [arkhē] of pain [pēma]
               started rolling down [kulindesthai]
          upon Trojans and Danaans—all on account of the plans of great Zeus.
          So these were the things that the singer [aoidos], well known for his glory, sang. But
          taking his great purple cloak in his strong hands,
85      pulled it over his head and covered his beautiful looks.
          For he felt ashamed in front of the Phaeacians, as he was pouring out tears
               [dakrua] from beneath his eyebrows.
          Whenever the godlike singer [aoidos] would leave off [lēgein] singing,
          he [= Odysseus] would wipe away his tears [dakrua] and take off from his head the
          and, taking hold of a cup that had two handles he would pour libations to the gods.
90      But whenever he [= the singer] started [arkhesthai] again [aps] as he was urged
               to sing on
          by the best of the Phaeacians—for they were delighted by his words -
          Odysseus would start weeping [goân] all over again [aps], covering his head with
               the cloak.
          So there he was, escaping the notice of all while he kept pouring out his tears
          But Alkinoos was the only one of all of them who was aware, and he took note
I§234 The first song of Demodokos, as I noted previously, keeps on restarting, and, each time it restarts, Odysseus sheds tears: the continuously restarted outpouring of tears is expressed by the wording aps goân ‘lament again and again’ at verse 92, which parallels the wording that expresses the continuous restarting of the first song of Demodokos, aps arkhesthai ‘start again and again’ at verse 90. Then, in the third song, a connection is established with the first song, as if the third directly followed the first. By way of this connection, the third song will now appear to be {98|99} a new restarting of the first, which was continually being restarted until Alkinoos stopped it (98–99). Here I repeat the wording of the third song:
Iⓣ50 Odyssey viii 499–533
          ὣς φάθ’, ὁ δ’ ὁρμηθεὶς θεοῦ ἤρχετο, φαῖνε δ’ ἀοιδήν,
500    ἔνθεν ἑλών, ὡς οἱ μὲν ἐϋσσέλμων ἐπὶ νηῶν
          βάντες ἀπέπλειον, πῦρ ἐν κλισίῃσι βαλόντες,
          Ἀργεῖοι, τοὶ δ’ ἤδη ἀγακλυτὸν ἀμφ’ Ὀδυσῆα
          εἵατ’ ἐνὶ Τρώων ἀγορῇ κεκαλυμμένοι ἵππῳ·
          αὐτοὶ γάρ μιν Τρῶες ἐς ἀκρόπολιν ἐρύσαντο.
505    ὣς ὁ μὲν ἑστήκει, τοὶ δ’ ἄκριτα πόλλ’ ἀγόρευον
          ἥμενοι ἀμφ’ αὐτόν· τρίχα δέ σφισιν ἥνδανε βουλή,
          ἠὲ διατμῆξαι κοῖλον δόρυ νηλέϊ χαλκῷ,
          ἢ κατὰ πετράων βαλέειν ἐρύσαντας ἐπ’ ἄκρης,
          ἢ ἐάαν μέγ’ ἄγαλμα θεῶν θελκτήριον εἶναι,
510    τῇ περ δὴ καὶ ἔπειτα τελευτήσεσθαι ἔμελλεν·
          αἶσα γὰρ ἦν ἀπολέσθαι, ἐπὴν πόλις ἀμφικαλύψῃ
          δουράτεον μέγαν ἵππον, ὅθ’ εἵατο πάντες ἄριστοι
          Ἀργεῖοι Τρώεσσι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέροντες.
          ἤειδεν δ’ ὡς ἄστυ διέπραθον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν
515    ἱππόθεν ἐκχύμενοι, κοῖλον λόχον ἐκπρολιπόντες.
          ἄλλον δ’ ἄλλῃ ἄειδε πόλιν κεραϊζέμεν αἰπήν,
          αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσῆα προτὶ δώματα Δηϊφόβοιο
          βήμεναι, ἠΰτ’ Ἄρηα, σὺν ἀντιθέῳ Μενελάῳ.
          κεῖθι δὴ αἰνότατον πόλεμον φάτο τολμήσαντα
520    νικῆσαι καὶ ἔπειτα διὰ μεγάθυμον Ἀθήνην.
          ταῦτ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός· αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς
          τήκετο, δάκρυ δ’ ἔδευεν ὑπὸ βλεφάροισι παρειάς.
          ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι φίλον πόσιν ἀμφιπεσοῦσα,
          ὅς τε ἑῆς πρόσθεν πόλιος λαῶν τε πέσῃσιν,
525    ἄστεϊ καὶ τεκέεσσιν ἀμύνων νηλεὲς ἦμαρ·
          ἡ μὲν τὸν θνῄσκοντα καὶ ἀσπαίροντα ἰδοῦσα
          ἀμφ’ αὐτῷ χυμένη λίγα κωκύει· οἱ δέ τ’ ὄπισθε
          κόπτοντες δούρεσσι μετάφρενον ἠδὲ καὶ ὤμους
          εἴρερον εἰσανάγουσι, πόνον τ’ ἐχέμεν καὶ ὀϊζύν·
530    τῆς δ’ ἐλεεινοτάτῳ ἄχεϊ φθινύθουσι παρειαί·
          ὣς Ὀδυσεὺς ἐλεεινὸν ὑπ’ ὀφρύσι δάκρυον εἶβεν.
          ἔνθ’ ἄλλους μὲν πάντας ἐλάνθανε δάκρυα λείβων,
          Ἀλκίνοος δέ μιν οἶος ἐπεφράσατ’ ἠδ’ ἐνόησεν

          Thus he [= Odysseus] spoke. And he [= Demodokos], setting his point of departure
               [hormētheis], started [arkhesthai] from the god [theos]. And he made visible the song,
500   taking it from the point where they [= the Achaeans], boarding their ships with the strong
               benches, {99|100}
          sailed away, setting their tents on fire.
          That is what some of the Argives [= Achaeans] were doing. But others of them were in the
               company of Odysseus, the one with the great glory, and they were already
          sitting hidden inside the Horse, which was now in the meeting place of the Trojans.
          The Trojans themselves had pulled the Horse into the acropolis.
505    So there it was, standing there, while they [= the Trojans] were saying many different things,
          sitting around it. There were three different plans:
          to cut open the hollow wood with pitiless bronze, or to throw it off the rocky heights
               after pulling it up to the peak [of the acropolis],
          or to leave it, great artifact [agalma] that it was, as a charm [thelktērion] of the gods
510    —which, I now see it, was exactly the way it was sure to [mellein] reach an outcome
          because it was fate [aisa] that the place would be destroyed, once the city had enfolded in
          the great Wooden Horse, when all the best men were sitting inside it,
          the Argives [= Achaeans], that is, bringing slaughter and destruction upon the Trojans.
          He sang how the sons of the Achaeans destroyed the city,
515    pouring out of the Horse, leaving behind the hollow place of ambush.
          He sang how the steep citadel was destroyed by different men in different places.
          —how Odysseus went to the palace of Deiphobos,
          how he was looking like Ares, and godlike Menelaos went with him,
          and how in that place, I now see it, he [= Demodokos] said that he [= Odysseus] dared to go
               through the worst part of the war,
520    and how he emerged victorious after that, with the help of Athena, the one with the mighty
          Thus sang the singer [aoidos], the one whose glory is supreme. And Odysseus
          dissolved [tēkesthai] into tears. He made wet his cheeks with the tears flowing from his
          just as a woman cries, falling down and embracing her dear husband,
          who fell in front of the city and people he was defending,
525    trying to ward off the pitiless day of doom hanging over the city and its children.
          She sees him dying, gasping for his last breath,
          and she pours herself all over him as she wails with a piercing cry. But there are men behind
          prodding her with their spears, hurting her back and shoulders,
          and they bring for her a life of bondage, which will give her pain and sorrow. {100|101}
530    Her cheeks are wasting away with a sorrow [akhos] that is most pitiful [eleeinon].
          So also did Odysseus pour out a piteous tear [dakruon] from beneath his brows;
          there he was, escaping the notice of all while he kept pouring out his tears [dakrua].
          But Alkinoos was the only one of all of them who was aware, and he took note
I§235 The effect of the sorrowful themes in the first song is now being recycled in the third song, by way of ring composition. When Odysseus hears the third song, he literally ‘dissolves’ into tears (522 tēkesthai). The hero pours forth ‘a tear’ (522 / 531 dakru / dakruon) all over again. The wording ἐλεεινὸν … δάκρυον εἶβεν ‘he poured forth a piteous [eleeinon] tear’ (531), with reference to the third song, recycles by way of ring composition the earlier wording δάκρυα λείβων ‘pouring forth tears’, with reference to the first song (86).
I§236 The restarting of the tears of Odysseus in response to the third song of Demodokos points back to the starting point of the first song, the beginning of the epic, as retold in verses 73–83: that beginning is said to be the pēmatos arkhē ‘beginning of the pain’ at verse 81, and that primal pain is equated with the story of the Trojan War. That ‘beginning’, which leads inexorably to the Trojan War, is equated with what is prophesied by Apollo at verses 79–81—and with what is being planned by Zeus at verse 81. In the first song of Demodokos, the plot of the epic is actually being equated with the prophecy of Apollo and the planning of Zeus.
I§237 I stress again that the pain felt by Odysseus during the first song of Demodokos is actually restarted in the third song. Just as Odysseus weeps in response to the first song, so also he weeps in response to the third. Correspondingly, the actual story of the pain in the first song is restarted in the third. The restarted pain matches perfectly the restarted story of the pain. Since the ultimate cause of the pain is identified as Zeus in the story of the first song (viii 82), the restarting of that pain in the third song must be caused by Zeus as well.
I§238 We are now on the verge of seeing what is still missing in the wording of Odyssey viii 499. There the god who figures as the hymnic subject of the epic about to be performed is unnamed: he is simply the theos ‘god’. We will know for sure when we finally reach verse 25 of Odyssey xiii that the god who is the ultimate hymnic subject of the ongoing humnos is Zeus himself, who presides over the festival that has been ongoing ever since verse 38 of Odyssey viii, where Alkinoos orders the holding of a dais ‘feast’ as the occasion for hosting Odysseus as a guest of honor.
I§239 In other words, given the coextensiveness of this ongoing dais with the ongoing humnos that celebrates the dais, we now see that Zeus is the god who ultimately presides over both the ongoing festival of the Phaeacians and the ongoing humnos that gives meaning to that festival. To repeat the essence of my argument, Zeus is the ultimate hymnic subject. {101|102}
I§240 It remains to ask why Zeus was not explicitly named as the hymnic subject of the third song of Demodokos. The answer is to be found in the song performed after Demodokos finishes singing his third song at verse 521 of Odyssey viii and before he starts up his singing again at verse 27 of Odyssey xiii to mark the end of the stylized festival of the Phaeacians. That intervening song will be the epic performed by Odysseus himself. That epic will be his own odyssey, for which there is no overt hymnic subject to be found at the beginning of his performance in Odyssey ix. The epic of Odysseus is in this respect Homeric—if by Homeric we mean something that is typical of the Iliad and Odyssey as we know them. The epic of Odysseus is Homeric in another essential respect as well: unlike the epic of Demodokos, which relies on the narrative device of metabasis at the moment of restarting in the third song the performance that was started in the first song, the odyssey of the Homeric Odyssey avoids metabasis. In short, the agōn ‘competition’ between Demodokos and Odysseus at the ongoing feast of the Phaeacians—extending from verse 91 of Odyssey viii all the way to verse 27 of Odyssey xiii—is an agōn between non-Homeric and Homeric forms of poetry. Or, to restate the formulation in terms of the Dark Age, the competition reduces to a confrontation of preregular and regular forms of Homeric poetry.
I§241 The preregular story of Troy, in the process of being retold by Demodokos, leads up to the regular Homeric story of Odysseus, an odyssey in the making, which must make a break with the story of Troy if it is to succeed in moving on to the rest of the Homeric Odyssey, that is, to the story of the nostos ‘homecoming’ of the hero to Ithaca. The epic fame or kleos of Odysseus in the Homeric Odyssey depends on this nostos, not on the credit he is given for the destruction of Troy—a feat proclaimed already at the very beginning, in verse 2 of Odyssey i. [35] When Odysseus dissolves into tears as he listens to the preregular story of Troy, his own weeping interrupts that story. Nevertheless, as I show in Homer the Classic, the regular simile of the weeping woman continues the preregular story at exactly the point where the reporting of the story as retold by the regular master narrative had left off. That interruption makes it possible for the regular master narrative to move from the retrospective preregular story of Troy to the prospective regular Homeric story of Odysseus. [36]


[ back ] 1. Frame 2009 ch. 11.
[ back ] 2. HC ch. 2.
[ back ] 3. PR 53, 83.
[ back ] 4. PR ch. 2.
[ back ] 5. On the interruption of the discourse after it extends from the Timaeus to the Critias of Plato, see PR 65–69.
[ back ] 6. PR 66, 68–69.
[ back ] 7. PR 84–86.
[ back ] 8. The construction here is analogous to Plato’s rhetorical device of saying, in effect, “one [superlative] example out of many potential examples.”
[ back ] 9. HC 2§72.
[ back ] 10. On epic as a hymnic consequent, see HC 2§§97, 109, 113–114, 116.
[ back ] 11. HC 1§131. Here I disagree with the objections of those who think that the birthday of Athena cannot be simultaneous with the day of her own victory over the Giants in the larger context of the Gigantomachy. These objections do not take into account the Athenian agenda inherent in the myth of Athena’s birth, fully armed, from the head of Zeus.
[ back ] 12. HC 4§246.
[ back ] 13. It is made explicit at Odyssey viii 72 that the first performance of Demodokos follows the feasting. I note with interest that the setting for the epic action described in the first performance is a dais ‘feast’, and that this dais is further described as a ‘feast of the gods’ at Odyssey viii 76: theōn en daiti thaleiēi. The same epithet thaleiēi is also used to describe the ongoing dais of Odyssey viii at 99. This epithet is of special interest in light of the meaning of the noun thaliai in the plural, ‘festivities’ (as in xi 603).
[ back ] 14. There is a variant reading attested: φιλότητα in the accusative, instead of φιλότητος in the genitive.
[ back ] 15. On paizein as ‘perform a sportive dance’, see especially Odyssey xxiii 147. (See also the Hesiodic Shield 277).
[ back ] 16. The syntax of the indirect question here, appropriate to the introduction of the main subject of the performance, includes the concept of ta prōta ‘in the beginning’—which has cosmogonic implications.
[ back ] 17. In GM 54, I translate the adverb amboladēn in the Homeric Hymn (4) to Hermes 426 as ‘playing a prelude’, as if this term referred primarily to the playing of a musical instrument. An alternative interpretation is ‘singing a prooimion’, as argued by Pagliaro 1953:41–62.
[ back ] 18. Technically, the object of the preposition amphi can be in either the genitive or the accusative case. Earlier, I noted the attestation of both the genitive and the accusative in the textual transmission of this verse. For more on amphi as the introductory element of a prooimion, see PH 12§41n101 (= p. 358).
[ back ] 19. Relevant is the etymology of the name of Ares: see Sinos 1980:33–34.
[ back ] 20. Already in ancient scholarship, as Burkert 1960:133n6 points out, there were attempts to link the concept of Philotēs in Empedocles DK B 35 with the hymnic reference to the sexual bonding or philotēs between Ares and Aphrodite in Odyssey viii 267 (Heraclitus Homeric Questions 69; scholia for Odyssey viii 267; Eustathius 1.298.34 at Odyssey viii 267).
[ back ] 21. HC 2§92.
[ back ] 22. Again I compare Homeric Hymn (4) to Hermes 426, where I interpret amboladēn as ‘singing a prooimion’.
[ back ] 23. Burkert 1960:132
[ back ] 24. For citations of works that adhere to this view, see Burkert 1960:132n3.
[ back ] 25. HC 2§§97–117, with details about metabasis as a shift from the hymnic prooimion into the main part of the performance.
[ back ] 26. On the traditional themes of picturing the god Ares as ‘swift of foot’—in dancing as well as in running—see BA 20§§10–16 (= pp. 327–335).
[ back ] 27. As O. M. Davidson points out to me, the non-dancing of Odysseus would make him not a very good match for the eligible princess of the Phaeacians, Nausikaa.
[ back ] 28. On the programmatic implications of euphrosunē ‘mirth’ as the atmosphere, as it were, of the poetic occasion, see BA 5§39 (= p. 91), 12§15 (= p. 235) and PH 6§92 (= p. 198), following Bundy 1986:2.
[ back ] 29. The reading that is rejected by Aristarchus for Iliad XVIII 604, τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδός, can be independently authenticated on the basis of the parallel wording and context of the reading we see here in Odyssey xiii 27, τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδός, which is the reading transmitted in the medieval manuscript tradition. See HC 2§74. Toward the end of Part II, I will analyze the variant reading accepted by Aristarchus for XVIII 604.
[ back ] 30. HC 2§§303–305.
[ back ] 31. HC 2§307.
[ back ] 32. HC 2§§307–311
[ back ] 33. HC 2§§297, 304.
[ back ] 34. Frame 2009 ch. 11.
[ back ] 35. BA 2§17 (= p. 40); BA2 Preface §§16–17 (= p. xii).
[ back ] 36. HC 2§§306–311.