Some Refractions of Homeric Anger in Athenian Drama

T. R. Walsh
Think of institutions and customs which have created … out of the enjoyment of anger[,] perpetual vengeance …
In Aeschylus’ Suppliants, a particular kind of anger is identified through the use of formulaic language that directly continues Homeric usage in a way different in style from that of other Greek poets. [1] In this play, the noun kótos (“anger”), when it indicates the anger of Zeus, is always accompanied by a term denoting suppliancy, the main theme of the play. A clear example of the relationship between κότος and the institution that is central to Aeschylus’ Suppliants comes early in the drama, at the very point when the chorus tries to persuade Pelasgus, the King of Argos, to accept their supplication. To argue for asylum, the chorus insists on their genealogical relation to the Argives (308–324). After sketching out their genealogy in order to claim kinship with Pelasgus, the Danaids go on to provide reasons why he should grant them asylum (329–346), in the course of which they invoke δίκη (343) and the relation of the political to the sacred (346). Both parts of their presentation come to a close with a reference to Zeus and, most importantly, to his anger (Suppliants 347):
Βαρὺς γε μέντοι Ζηνὸς ἱκεσίου κότος
Heavy indeed is the anger of Zeus of the suppliants.
Coming as it does at the end of a lengthy stichomythic passage, and thereby capping a series of arguments that are dramatically and rhetorically presented so as to acquire Pelasgus’ assistance, the chorus’s reference to Zeus and his κότος is worth our attention. I suggest that this reference to the κότος of Zeus is meant to focus the king’s attention on a crucial aspect of Zeus’ power, one that he dare not ignore as he weighs whether or not to help the suppliants.
The significance of this reference to Zeus’ κότος is underscored by the occurrence of 3 more citations of the Olympian’s κότος later in the play. These 4 instances together, when taken together, present a formulaic phrase consisting of the anger word (kótos) qualified by a genitive phrase consisting of the name of Zeus accompanied by a qualifying element (ἱκταίου, 385, ἱκεσίου, 347 and 616, ἱκτῆρος, 478) specifying Zeus’ role as the protector of suppliants. Whether one sees such formulaic features as an imitation of the Homeric banquet’s oral-traditional style or as responding to the immediate demands of Greek tragic poetics is not so important as it is to note how this formulaic style points to the meaning of Zeus’ κότος in Aeschylus’ play. [2]
Although it may be obvious why a play entitled Ἱκέτιδες makes prominent Zeus of the Suppliants, it requires some discussion to determine whether and why κότος—precisely this kind of anger—is selected as the emotional driving force for the king of the gods.
One way to answer this question regarding kótos (“anger”) in Aeschylus’ Suppliants is to inquire after how formulaic are these four phrases from the Suppliants. Does κότος in Aeschylean poetic style function in a way similar to or different from Homeric poetic style, either with respect to usage or semantics? Consider the four relevant formulaic phrases:
Ζηνὸς ἱκταίου κότος (385)
Ζηνὸς αἰδεῖσθαι κότον / ἱκτῆρος (478–479)
Ζηνὸς ἱκεσίου κότος (347)
ἱκεσίου Ζηνὸς κότον (616)
As formulas these lines exhibit variatio, in that, in selecting for their focus one particular aspect of Zeus, they do so with different adjectival forms based on the root ἱκ-. Such variation is part of dramatic choral style, especially that of Aeschylus, but variatio itself is not unknown in Homeric poetic style. [3The variation, in a way, establishes a kind of declension for the relationship between Zeus and the suppliants. Two things remain consistent in this poetic variation: the name of the god (in the genitive) and the word for anger (κότος/-ν). Since the word can easily be changed for another anger word (notably χόλος) with no change in meter, [4I suggest that something special is meant by κότος indicating that it is the anger word appropriate for the wrath associated with Zeus’ relationship to the traditional rights of suppliancy. [5]
In Aeschylus’ Suppliants, the phrase Ζηνὸς … κότος (/-ν) (4x), it turns out, is always accompanied by a word indicating suppliancy, formed from ἱκ-, occurring in all three possible locations for that term: inserted within the formula, following the formula, or preceding it (the forms, respectively, being ἱκεσίου, ἱκταίου, ἱκτῆρος). (Every possibility for the placement of the term referring to suppliancy is thus accounted for.) This full presentation of the κότος of Zeus may indicate that this kind of anger has significance for Aeschylus’ Suppliants. After discussing just what this significance is, I will go on to suggest that these findings can be applied to other Aeschylean plays where κότος is used. How Aeschylus uses κότος, it will be clear, continues the meaning of κότος in Homer. [6] Those observations will find support for the idea that Homeric usage in this instance is refracted (a term I will explain later) through Aeschylean theater. [7]
There has been a gratifying upsurge of interest lately in the nature of anger and the emotions in antiquity. [8] The wide range of current interest can be seen from Harris’s important study, a thorough review of the ideology of anger-restraint in Greco-Roman antiquity. This ambitious work grounds its analysis on how the restraint of anger came to be encoded in the classical world, especially as a topic of philosophical interest. The result is a long-needed encyclopedic study of “anger-control” as it developed from Greece to Rome, with a special focus on how philosophical discourse about restraining the passions developed in the west. [9]
My approach has a different purpose, since, as I argue (Walsh 2005, Part I), κότος is a kind of enabling anger, not one to be restrained but, emphatically, deployed to respond to violations that lead to long-term retaliation, such as, for example, the Trojan War. Indeed, we have already seen that the Danaids encourage the κότος of Zeus; far from restraining it, they desire to engage the aspect of Zeus that mobilizes anger in response to violated supplication. [10] In order to examine closely how this kind of anger works, I resist producing an encyclopedic overview of anger; instead, the focus in this paper is deductive; that is to say that I focus here on what Aeschylus, following Homer, means by using κότος in these passages, and so doing identifying a particular aspect of the wrath of Zeus. [11]
Harris’s chapter on anger in the polis (Harris 2001, Chapter 8) presents a brief discussion of Aeschylus’ Suppliants (Harris 2001:161), where κότος is identified as a preserver and creator of order: “It was maintained earlier that an old Greek tradition did sometimes array divine anger on the side of moral rules, and that is its role here. This anger is therefore presented in a wholly positive way.” What needs to be added to this formulation is that one word especially singles out such a “positive” form of wrath, and that word is κότος. [12]
For me, the requirements of the texts precede any examination of concepts, a methodological difference that I hope makes my work complementary to and not competitive with those who find the emotions of displayed in archaic literature worth pursuing. I believe the examination of Aeschylus’ use of κότος in the following pages will demonstrate the value of a focus grounded in particular texts.


Κότος in the Suppliants. Aeschylus’ usage of the κότος in the Suppliants continues Homeric style, where, among the Homeric words for anger, there is one word associated with the social institution of the “feud.” [13] In a book devoted in part to this word, Feuding Words and Fighting Words [= FW] (2005), the heuristic method I adopted was to study the “folk-definition” of Calchas in Iliad I 74–83 so as to compare that definition against the evidence of the Homeric texts, the Iliad and the Odyssey. In that definition, Calchas contrasts two kinds of anger by specifying their constituent features. The Homeric evidence as presented in FW supports Calchas’ definition. To clarify the notion of κότος in Aeschylus, I need then to begin by reviewing the findings of FW with reference to κότος.
In FW, I argue that the internal evidence of Homeric diction pointed to a focused understanding of two words, κότος and χόλος. These two words are crucial to understanding the role of conflict and emotion in Homeric narrative; they are also significant elements for the plots of the Iliad and the Odyssey. In FW, I set Calchas’ definition in his speech at Iliad I 74–83 against the instances of κότος (and χόλος) in the Iliad and the Odyssey. [14] The result is a confirmation of Calchas’ folk-definition (to be discussed below). Also important for the method is the value given to “key terms” in a particular cultural context. [15] One conclusion that emerges is that κότος is connected with the type of social aggression identified as “feuding,” because that form of violence lasts over time, with a resolution found—at least ideologically—outside human political activity. [16] Furthermore, in Homeric narrative, κότος tends to be directed to the most dramatic and central events of Homeric narrative, for example, the fall of Troy in the Iliad. [17] Moreover, κότος is associated with the early vocabulary of Greek ethics. For a Homeric example of this association between anger and ethics see Iliad XVI 386, where the κότος of Zeus is punishing an entire community for σκολιὰς θέμιστας. [18]
Since I am arguing that the meaning of κότος depends on its Homeric significance, I need briefly to review the “definition” of Calchas. The fundamental terms underlying this distinction are drawn by the prophet Calchas (Iliad I 76–82):
ἦ γὰρ ὀίομαι ἄνδρα χολωσέμεν, ὃς μέγα πάντων
Ἀργείων κρατέει καί οἱ πείθονται Ἀχαιοί.
κρείσσων γὰρ βασιλεύς, ὅτε χώσεται ἀνδρὶ χέρηι·
εἴ περ γάρ τε χόλον γε καὶ αὐτῆμαρ καταπέψῃ,
ἀλλά τε καὶ μετόπισθεν ἔχει κότον, ὄφρα τελέσσηι.
I expect to anger the man who rules powerfully over all the Argives and the Achaeans obey him. For a king is the more angry, when he rages against a lesser man; for if he swallow down his χόλος in a day, yet he will continue κότος into the future, until it is accomplished.
As argued in FW, a distinction is drawn here between χόλος and κότος based on the categories that can be examined across both the Iliad and the Odyssey. [19] Those categories include a) time; b) power; and c) the body, such that, for a βασιλεύς [= power], κότος lasts into the future (μετόπισθεν) [= time], though χόλος is dealt with in short order (αὐτῆμαρ) [again time], and, finally, χόλος is associated with a bodily states such as digestion (καταπέψῃ) [= the body], in contrast to the end of κότος, labeled as belonging to concepts such as τέλος (ὄφρα τελέσσηι) [= time].
In short, a binary distinction is established between a concrete form of anger χόλος and a kind of abstract anger such as κότος. Though there is nothing in itself remarkable in establishing a distinction between the abstract and the concrete, it is crucial that we notice how the difference between these two forms of anger underlies the ideology of Homeric anger. Each word represents one part of a set of binaries, whose boundaries are marked by categories such as time, power, and the body. Finally, it is also crucial that the distinction here argued for is acknowledged as part of the culture’s understanding of the nature of conflict and violence in a way that is acknowledged in a folk-definition such as that provided by Calchas. [20]
The author in whose work κότος is best attested after Homer is Aeschylus. [21] Aeschylus not only continues the Homeric usage of κότος as defined by Calchas, but, importantly, more the surviving dramas from Aeschylean theater are centrally focused on the kind of conflict specifically delineated by κότος, namely, the social conflict of “the feud.” In other words, κότος is thematic for Aeschylean drama. [22]
The thematic focus of κότος emerges early in Aeschylus’ Suppliants, where King Pelasgus draws a distinction similar to the very one drawn by Calchas in Iliad I 74–83. That is to say that the distinction between χόλος and κότος points to a special meaning that highlights a vast depth of social conflict in the following passage from Aeschylus’ Suppliants.
When the suppliants approach King Pelasgus, he asks them why they have come (Suppliants 333–336):
Βα. τί φῂς ἱκνεῖσθαι τῶνδ’ ἀγωνίων θεῶν,λευκοστεφεῖς ἔχουσα νεοδρέπτους κλάδους;
Χο. ὡς μὴ γένωμαι δμωὶς Αἰγύπτου γένει.
Βα. πότερα κατ᾽ ἔχθραν, ἢ τὸ μὴ θέμις λέγεις;
King: Why do you claim suppliancy of these gods of the assembly, with these newly-cut, white-wreathed branches?
Chorus: That I not become a slave to the line of Aegyptus.
King: Which is it: do you refer to something having to do with hatred or to something unlawful.
Here, the distinction is drawn between an instance of hatred and a violation of something deeper, here called themis. King Pelasgus sees a difference between a request from someone who has a particular grievance against Aigyptus (κατ᾽ ἔθραν, 336), and a request from one asking to maintain a higher level of law (τὸ μὴ θέμις, 336) by accepting them as suppliants.
For a parallel to this situation I refer to Chryes’ appeal for his daughter in Iliad I 11–32, where the priest makes a claim on Agamemnon that he release his daughter (30), with his authority for the request resting in his position as priest of Apollo. The outward manifestation of this is clear from the presence of the fillets of the god (14) and the σκῆπτρον (15) paralleled by Aeschylus in the suppliant women’s λευκοστεφεῖς … νεοδρέπτους κλάδου (334). That Agamemnon fails to acknowledge the role of the priest in representing Apollo is a crucial part of his refusal of the priest’s request.
This refusal of the request of Chryses in his role as a priest has consequences too well-known to review here. [23] It is prudent, then, that in Suppliants 333–336, Pelasgus tests the source of their complaint, and hence the authority behind it before he makes a decision. If their claim refers the king to a personal hatred, it is not a claim he, as king, need pursue. But something that is τὸ μὴ θέμις—that is another matter indeed, since its claim is beyond the personal in so far as it reaches into the social and religious sphere. It is the Danaids’ task to convince him that their request depends on his allegiance to Zeus, and to what is indeed θέμις.
It is just this kind of distinction that marks the difference between κότος and other forms of anger. Indeed, I am encouraged in pursuing this ethical meaning for Aeschylean κότος by the following summation of the ethical focus of the Suppliants (Friis-Johanssen, p. 30):
Throughout [the Danaids] express their aversion to the marriage … and also to the Aegyptids …; they further represent both as characterized by ὕβρις (30, 81, 104, 426, 528, 817, 845), Aegyptiads as possessed by ἄτη (106–111), and the marriage as impious (9–10), contrary to θέμις (37), to αἶσα and to δίκη (82) …
This flurry of ethical terms like ὕβρις, ἄτη, and θέμις brings to the fore the primary ethical concern of the Suppliants. It will turn out that κότος is the kind of anger appropriate, given these ethical concerns, to the violations feared by the Danaids.
To review, of the nine times that forms of κότος are used in the Suppliants, [24] three involve a formula that indicates the wrath of Zeus, god of suppliants, a wrath which has to do with how well he protects their interests. Indeed at the very beginning of this play, as the chorus is attempting to persuade the king to accept their suppliancy, Pelasgus counters that he must hesitate to enter into a risky war, with the result that the supplicants come to make their strongest argument for their plea, an argument from δίκη (343–344):
Χο. ἀλλ᾽ ἡ δίκη γε συμμάχων ὑπερστατεῖ·
Βα. εἴπερ γ’ ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς πραγμάτων κοινωνὸς ἦν
Chorus: Oh, but it is justice that stands as an ally protecting you.
King: Only if it have a share of the deeds from the start.
An argument from justice (δίκη) can only win the day if the action is from its origin (ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς) just. In this context, to cap the argument that Pelasgus should accept their suppliancy, the chorus advises him, in a line discussed above, who their ally is (Suppliants 347):
Xο. Βαρὺς γε μέντοι Ζηνὸς ἱκεσίου κότος.
Yes, heavy is the κότος of Zeus of the suppliants.
Κότος is used here in conjunction with δίκη (343) in order to secure the allegiance of Pelasgus. As was clear above, and as Pelasgus is about to say in expressing his worry, it is not a private house in which the suppliants are seeking refuge (365–368). Because of this it is no ordinary wrath—not even an “ordinary” divine wrath—that the chorus must introduce, if they are to persuade the king to grant them asylum. [25]
This usage of κότος, consistent with what occurs in Homer (as described above), is further underscored in the stasimon following the stichomythy that we have just seen capped by the reference to Zeus’ κότος. In this stasimon, the king’s worries as presented in the stichomythic passage are probed further for their consequences. After the king explains his concern that a conflict (νεῖκος, 358) might arise were he to receive them, the Suppliant Women once again invoke a higher power, this time Θέμις (360), linked to suppliancy (ἱκεσία Θέμις, 360). But Pelasgus points out that his public responsibility requires that he avoid doing anything that may bring pollution to his polis (365–369). While he considers this pollution, and as the chorus admonishes him that he might incur pollution by not helping them (370–375), the issue of κότος comes up again, first in an almost offhanded way.
After the chorus warns Pelasgus that he himself needs to beware of pollution (ἄγος φυλάσσου, 375), he turns the sentiment around: ἄγος μὲν εἴη τοῖς ἐμοῖς παλιγκότοις (“would that my παλιγκότοι have pollution”), in which most translators give “enemies” for παλιγκότοι. [26] That translation is adequate only if it is remembered how deep the enmity is. [27] Now κότος, the anger that lasts over time until it reaches a télos, is bad enough when it involves mortal enemies, but the chorus, in referring to divine anger, specifically identifies the κότος of Zeus in order to drive Pelasgus to decide to come to their aid. For they advise him to look to Zeus who helps those who are not being given their due by their neighbors (381–385). Δίκας (384), too, carries a threat that the κότος of Zeus awaits those unwilling to heed a plaintiff’s laments (385–386):
μένει τοι Ζηνὸς ἱκταίου κότος
δυσπαραέλκτος παθόντος οἴκτοις.
The κότος of Zeus of the suppliants keeps its watch, difficult to be charmed by the laments of one who suffers.
If the word οἴκτοις ‘laments’ here refers to prayers, then the κότος of Zeus, like Hades itself (cf. Iliad IX 158), is unreachable by petition. In such a case, the κότος of Zeus is paramount in its alliance with a claim for justice (cf. δίκαν, 395) and it is a major factor for Pelasgus to consider as he weighs his choices regarding the Danaids’ suppliancy. [28]
It emerges from this review that Aeschylus is using κότος every bit as much as terms such as δίκη, θέμις, κτλ. in order to build the Danaid’s case for suppliancy. Κότος needs to bear such a strong weight, since it comes from Zeus, and since it seems to the mechanism of enforcement for the justice of Zeus, the “or else” behind Ζεὺς … ἀφίκτωρ (Suppliants 1). [29]
No passage in early Greek literature more clearly shows the complexity of κότος as does the very next choral sequence of the Suppliants (418–437), since the ethical vocabulary in which κότος is implicated comes here to be laid out in classic ring-structure form. I quote the passage at length, since so much of is directly relevant to establishing the sense of κότος in this drama.
Now the Danaids make their strongest plea to persuade the king to do the right thing (418–437): [30]
Χο. φρο' ντισον και` γενου^
πανδίκως εὐσεβὴς πρόξενος·
τὰν φυγάδα μὴ προδῷις,
τὰν ἕκαθεν ἐκβολαῖς
δυσθέοις ὀρομέναν·
Take thought and be, in all justice, our revered ally.
Do not betray this refugee,
one driven from afar by impious blows
μηδ᾽ ἴδηις μ’ ἐξ ἑδρᾶν
πολυθέων ῥυσιασθεῖσαν, ὦ
πᾶν κράτος ἔχων χθονός·
γνῶθι δ’ ὕβριν ἀνέρων
καὶ φύλαξαι κότον.
Do not watch as I come to be driven as plunder from out of these holy seats,
O you who have all the power of the land. Know mortals’ hubris and keep a
watch out for κότος.
μή τι τλᾶις τὰν ἱκέτιν εἰσιδεῖν
ἀπὸ βρετέων βίαι δίκας ἀγομέναν
ἱππαδὸν ἀμπύκων,
πολυμίτων πέπλων τ’ ἐπιλαβὰς ἐμῶν.
Do not endure to merely look at the suppliant dragged from the gods’ images
in violation of justice, dragged like a horse by the bridle, nor merely to gaze at
the assaults on my many-threaded robes.
ἴσθι γάρ, παισὶ τάδε καὶ δόμοις,
ὁπότερ’ ἂν κτίσηις, μένει κτίνειν
ὁμοίαν θέμιν.
τάδε φράσαι δίκαια Διόθεν κράτη.
Now take thought, these things remain for your children and your household,
in whatever way you act, to pay in a recompense that is the equal of θέμις.
Consider these things to be the just power of Zeus.
In the above passage I have underlined, besides κότος, words that are associated with the ethical field in which κότος can be found. Structurally, κότος is positioned at the exact center of this stasimon: that is to say, it is the center of a ring structure. That structure is framed with two verbs of knowing in the first and last stanza (φρόντισον and ἴσθι). The singular importance of κότος is secured with a cue from the stylistics of ring composition (that the center of the text contains the main point, in this case, to guard against the perfidy of mortals and to guard against κότος [γνῶθι δ᾽ ὕβριν ἀνέρων / καὶ φύλαξαι κότον {426–427}]). Moreover the notion of “guarding” against κότος associates this kind of anger with the notion of pollution cited above (cf. ἄγος φυλάσσου, 375).
This “message” is supported by assertive claims regarding justice, in the first strophe for the one who saves the refugees (γενοῦ πανίκως … πρόξενως), and in the concluding final antistrophe for Zeus, δίκαια Διόθεν κράτη (437). For the thematics of κότος, it is important to recognize that the emphasis placed on the length of time it takes to bring conflict to an end when κότος is in play, as in 434–435, where the emphasis is on the price that the children will pay (μένει ἐκτίνειν, and remember above μένει τοι … κότος).
In a sense, I have been reviewing the rhetoric of the term κότος in Aeschylus’ Suppliants, because Aeschylus’ concern with conflict, aggression and retribution makes his discourse contemplative (“philosophical,” if I may so style it) about the use of such terms. I mean to say that Aeschylus seems ready to explore the significance of ethical terms in the course of his drama. Moreover, the force of κότος argued for here lends itself to such philosophical exploration. I will return to this matter at the end of this essay.
For this play, such exploration leads to a profound climax, when Pelasgus capitulates as he sees his way to help the Danaids their asylum, even though he is still in the throes of the dilemma that faces him, namely, the expected attack of the sons of Aegyptus in response to that asylum (474–477).
εἰ δ’ αὖθ’ ὁμαίμοις παισὶν Αἰγύπτου σέθεν
σταθεὶς πρὸ τειχέων διὰ μάχης ἥξω τέλους,
πῶς οὐχὶ τἀνάλωμα γίγνεται πικρόν,
ἄνδρας γυναικῶν οὕνεχ’ αἱμάξαι πέδον;
But if, against your blood-kin and on your behalf, I have taken a stand before
the city-walls to engage in battle against the sons of Aegyptus, how will there
not be a bitter price to pay that men bloody the earth for women?
The “anger” of Zeus, that anger that persuades Pelasgus to assent to the Danaids’ request is precisely the institution that makes vengeance out of anger. I also refer this passage to Homer, where it can be shown that κότος refers back to the flight of Helen with Paris, the consequence of which is the war at Troy. The Achaeans fighting against the Trojans are parallel, with respect to κότος, to the sons of Aegyptus fighting against the Argives. [31]
But it is κότος that forces Pelasgus to play his hand, after the Danaids’ winning argument (Suppliants 478–479):
ὅμως δ’ ἀνάγκη Ζηνὸς αἰδεῖσθαι κότον
ἱκτῆρος· ὕψιστος γὰρ ἐν βροτοῖς φόβος.
Nonetheless, it is necessary to honor the κότος of Zeus the god of suppliancy. For this fear is the most profound among mortals.
These words alone should give us pause. The greatest fear (ὕψιστος … φόβος, 479) has as its basis the κότος of Zeus. Under such circumstances, κότος persuades Pelasgus, ultimately, to receive the Danaids.
The last passage that I want to examine in the Suppliants presents Danaus’ report of Pelasgus’ speech to his people, asking them to support his decision (Suppliants 615–618):
τοιάνδ’ ἔπειθε ῥῆσιν ἀμφ’ ἡμῶν λέγων
ἄναξ Πελασγῶν, ἱκεσίου Ζηνὸς κότον
μέγαν προφωνῶν μήποτ’ εἰσόπιν χρόνου
πόλιν παχῦναι …
Such a speech did the King of the Pelasgians use in persuading them on our behalf, that the city should not fatten the wrath of Zeus of the Suppliants
By now it is clear that there is a relationship between enmity and the kind of resentment indicated by κότος, and that this relationship is part of the thematics of this drama. Here Pelasgus presents to a voting citizenry the case for κότος. [32] This anachronism, often remarked upon, puts Pelasgus in a similar position to that of Aeschylus. Since, for a fifth century audience, κότος is already an archaic concept, its force as a basis for political action needs to be argued for. Just as the Eumenides at the end of the Oresteia will need to be accommodated even in a just city, so too will κότος need its accomodations. [33]
First, it is clear that κότος belongs closely with the other terms proper to the ethical world of tragedy: δίκη, ὕβρις, θέμις are all part of its semantic field. Second, kingship has to do with the κότος especially as regards power wielded by the king. The scholiast associates the κότος of 427 with Zeus, and this interpretation is consistent, certainly, with what we have seen elsewhere in this play. [34] But it is more important to note that, as in Homer, a relationship partaking of κότος can either be described from the point of view of the god involved or from that of either of the human antagonists. Such a relationship is reciprocal, but nonetheless, it often has to do with the power of a dominant party and a subordinate, as in the relation of suppliancy or kingship. [35]
This stasimon both in its high poetic artistry and its dramatic importance shows, I repeat, the centrality of κότος for Aeschylus’ conceptualization of conflict and emotion. Because of this centrality, I am encouraged to think that the importance of κότος that I argued for in FW is verified. In the rest of this essay, I hope to show that, in fact, Aeschylus’ drama is concerned even more than epic with highlighting the role of κότος. The result is from a diachronic point of view a refraction of Homeric κότος. [36]
But before turning to the Oresteia, where Aeschylus’ concern with the anger of the feud is inescapable, one last passage in the Suppliants shows κότος as it functions to heighten the climax of the play, where the Danaids see the approach of the suitors (Suppliants 743–745):
δοριπαγεῖς δ’ ἔχοντες κυανώπιδας
νῆας ἔπλευσαν ὧδ’ ἐπιταχεῖ κότῳ [37]
πολεῖ μελαγχίμωι σὺν στρατῷ.
With dark-prowed thick-timbered ships they have sailed thus accompanied by a wrath that hits its mark, along with a great dark army.
Though the textual problems in this passage are serious, no one disputes that κότος is to be associated with the expedition of the Aegyptiads. [38] This is a pivotal moment in the trilogy, no doubt pointing to the conflict that arises when allying oneself with κότος. [39] For it is, as I have suggested, a reciprocal concept and its very power is liable to be unleashed back at those who claim that Zeus’ κότος is on their side. Thus it is far from a contradiction for the play to point to the unerring κότος of the Aigyptiads. It is more like the dueling scene in Book 3 of the Iliad, where Menelaos and Paris face off κοτέοντε (Iliad III 345). The dual says it all: κότος, this daunting force allied with justice, right and the power of Zeus, is also managed by one’s enemy. Far from a solution, κότος is, in fact, the problem.
And it is a problem, to return to my epigraph from Nietzsche, rooted in the human capacity for enabling cultural continuity. Not only politically, through its mobilization of allegiance and coherence, as well as of force and destruction, but also poetically, in its long-lived productivity through formulaic language and poetic tradition, κότος is an instance of what a culture can do in the face of the seeming evanescence of existence. For it is the cultural memory and institutions that support it that the Suppliants in this play rely upon, so that by invoking the κότος of Zeus it is utterly clear how the stakes really are.

Κότος in the Oresteia

Although the Suppliants gives a tightly focused perspective on the meaning of κότος, in the Oresteia Aeschylus makes the most extensive use of the semantics of κότος. The trilogy shows clearly how the term fits into the ethical vocabulary of the archaic and late-archaic ethical universe that we have been examining. See, for example, the first use of κότος in the trilogy, which occurs in a gnomic statement occurring after the chorus laments the destruction wrought by the Trojan War (Agamemnon 456–457):
βαρεῖα δ’ ἀστῶν φάτις σὺν κότωι,
δημοκράτου δ’ ἀρᾶς τίνει χρέος.
Heavy is the voice of the citizens accompanied by κότος, and it pays the debt of a curse of the people’s power. [40]
As with the examples we have seen above, the anger of κότος is appropriate to public and democratic (δημοκράτου) duty (χρέος), that is to say, it has to do with power. In terms of Calchas’ definition (as discussed above), κότος has to do with the enforcement of standards across time. What Fraenkel says about the compound δημοκράτου has explanatory power for κότος as well:
The κραίνειν brings out the idea that the curses are to be regarded as valid utterances, that they carry with them the guarantee of fulfillment. This is in fact an essential characteristic of ἀραί, so that they can be regarded in the light of legally binding obligations. [41]
Remember here that one of the central features of κότος was precisely the notion of a binding fulfillment (as in Iliad I 82, ὄφρα τελέσση). Also thematic for κότος is the use here of βαρὺς (456) to indicate the weight of this kind of anger. Further, these shared features make certain that kótos is to be taken as part of the early Greek ethical lexicon. Finally, later this same passage later highlights the long time that must pass in awaiting this fulfillment (μένει, 459 and χρόνοι, 463); moreover, παλιντυχεῖ (465) calls to mind the πάλιν of παλίγκοτος (as seen in the Suppliants, discussed above). Finally, this passage, as with other κότος passages, clearly focuses on δίκη (464).
Given this sense it is easy to see that Fraenkel correctly retains κότον in as vexed a passage as Agamemnon 767, where the notion of ὕβρις, persistence, and so forth are brought to bear on the ethical center of the play’s action (Agamemnon 763–771):
φιλεῖ δὲ τίκτειν ὕβρις μὲν παλαι-
νεάζουσαν ἐν κακοῖς βροτῶν
ὕβριν, τότ’ ἢ τόθ’ †ὅταν† τὸ κύριον μόληι
†νεαρὰ φάος† κότον
δαίμονά †τε τὸν† ἄμαχον ἀπόλεμον, ἀνίερον
θράσος, μέλαιναν μελάθροισιν Ἄταν,
εἰδομέναν τοκεῦσιν.
An old hubris loves to engender a young hubris among the ills of mortals, right then when the appointed day has come, [?] as a κότος, a daimon, a boldness not to be battled, not to be warred against, unholy, a dark Atē, in the likeness of her parents. [42]
Once again, the textual problems should not blind us to the significance of this passage for understanding the term κότος. It would be odd, were κότος merely one synonym among many for “anger,” to have it so exalted among terms like ὕβρις and ἄτη, even to the extent perhaps of being itself a daimon. We have already seen in the Suppliants that it is closely associated with ὕβρις, indeed it is nearly identified as being the offspring of the aged ὕβρις. The fact that it is not susceptible to war, and that it crosses generations, also confirms the validity of the Homeric meaning of κότος within an Aeschylean context. That is to say, this passage displays the notion of stability over time through a genealogical metaphor, with a striking emphasis on ἄτη and θράσος, ultimately center in—literally—on κότος. That κότος occupies the exact center of this stanza, once again, carries weight in the light of the analysis (above) of the first stasimon of the Suppliants.
The other relevant passages in the Agamemnon also suggest the semantic force of κότος. Thus the herald is asked by the chorus to recount the storm at sea in terms of the κότος of the gods: πῶς γὰρ λέγεις χείμονα ναύτικῳ στράτῳ / ἔλθειν τελευτῆσαί τε δαιμόνων κότῳ ‘Ηow do you say the storm arrived at the naval host and how came to reach completion by the κότος of the gods?’ (634–635). [43] That storms can be associated with κότος is easily seen a crucial passage in the Iliad, where we find a storm simile foregrounding the notion of κότος (Iliad XVI 383–393). [44] Nonetheless, the passage by itself does not require κότος as exclusively the only term for anger that points to an ongoing or a trans-generational conflict. In sum, the notion of κότος is reinforced by τελευτέσαι, the storm context, and the direct punishment meted out by the gods.
Κότος occurs also in Agamemnon 1211, where the anger of Apollo at Cassandra is styled Λοχί'ου κότῳ. True, Apollo’s anger is divine and affects Cassandra’s prophetic powers, so we could judge it as both numinous and permanent. This passage amounts to an explicit reference to the ethical universe of ὕβρις or δίκη that often accompanies κότος. [45]
In the Choephoroi, the nature of κότος continues the meanings just reviewed, especially in regard to the relation of κότος to δίκη and the ability of κότος to endure over time. For example, its semantic thrust can be seen in the following passage (Choephoroi 22–31):
τορὸς γὰρ ὀρθόθριξ δόμων
ὀνειρόμαντις, ἐξ ὕπνου κότον πνέων,
ἀωρόνυκτον ἀμβόαμα
μυχόθεν ἔλακε περὶ φόβῳ
γυναικείοισιν ἐν δώμασιν βαρὺς πίτνων,
κριταί {τε} τῶνδε’ ὀνειράτων
θεόθεν ἔλακον ὑπέγγυοι
μέμφεσθαι τοὺς γᾶς νέρθεν περιθύμως
τοῖς κτανοῦσί τ’ ἐγκοτεῖν.
The shrill, hair-raising dream-prophet of the house, breathing κότος in her sleep, would cry out from the innermost parts of the house a cry in the night out of fear, falling heavily on the women’s quarters, And the judges of those dreams from the gods cried out, guaranteeing that those beneath the earth aggressively blame and have κότος against the killers.
I take the ὀνειρόμαντις to be Clytemnestra, [46] whose actions have stirred the underworld deities to have κότος. Indeed, it is not her anger at Agamemnon that is a κότος, since in fact her complaints are resolved through action. The nature of κότος is such that it must be brought to a conclusion, and only extra-human entities can manage this. [47] In this passage, the long-lasting and reciprocal nature of κότος is emphasized by the repetition of the κότος, framing the passage at line 23, and ἐγκότειν at line 31). [48]
The first stasimon of the play uses storm imagery (as in Iliad XVI 383–393), displaying a use of κότος appropriate for an ode that will conclude with Δίκη and punishment. In the first case, after κότος is used in a storm image (593), it should now not surprise us that the stasimon should associate the arrival of Δίκη with κότος (Choephoroi 946–952):
ἔμολε δ’ ᾧ μέλει κρυπταδίου μάχας
δολιόφρων ποινά,
ἔθιγε δ’ ἐν μάχᾳ χερὸς ἐτήτυμος
Διὸς κόρα—Δίκαν δέ νιν
βροτοὶ τυχόντες καλῶς—
ὀλέθριον πνέουσ’ ἐν ἐχθροῖς κότον.
And he has arrived, the one whose concern is the crafty vengeance of a treacherous battle; and she touched his hand surely in battle, did the daughter of Zeus—and Dikē is what mortals aiming rightly call her—breathing as she does a fatal κότος among the enemy.
It is the function of this stasimon to be a victory song describing the result of the action that Orestes is performing, the murder of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. By citing κότος as the “anger” that accompanies the movement of Δίκη towards this action, it focuses on the deceit and revenge (δολιόφρων ποινά, 947). Note the image here repeated of the “breathing” of κότος, repeated from above in Clytemnestra’s dream.
Nor is this relationship between δίκη and κότος adventitious, as can be shown from the striking evidence of the following fragment (Frag. 148 Ll-J.):
τοῦ^ θανόντος ἡ Δίκη πράσσει κότον
Δίκη accomplishes the κότος of the dead man.
This fragment, from the lost “Ransom of Hector,” is anchored to the oldest meaning of κότος: the wrath associated with the institution of the feud, such that the wrath can live beyond the lifetime of the one who claims to have been injured. For Aeschylus, κότος is not an emotion, as is clear from the following lines of the fragment (Frag. 148 Ll-J):
τῷ μήτε χαίρειν μήτε λυπεῖσθαι φθιτούς.
ἡμῶν γε μέντοι Νέμεσίς ἐσθ’ ὑπερτέρα,
καὶ τοῦ θανόντος ἡ Δίκη πράσσει κότον.
The dead neither rejoice nor suffer. It’s for us that righteous indignation has the greater weight, and δίκη accomplishes the κότος of the dead man. This play re-asserts Calchas’ point that κότος is dangerous precisely because it reaches its τέλος, here even beyond death.
And it is no wonder then that κότος should pose a particular problem for Orestes as the Oresteia comes to its conclusion. For it is precisely the lack of a τέλος that signals the continuation of κότος until such time as it finds satisfaction dogs him through to the end of the trilogy. The importance of a correct understanding of κότος comes clear when we try to interpret Orestes’ dilemma in this line: πρὸς δὲ καρδί'ᾳ φόβος / ᾄδειν ἕτοιμος ἠδ’ ὑπορχεῖσθαι κότῳ ‘At my heart fear is ready to sing and dance with κότος’ (Choephoroi 1024–1026). This grim metaphor anticipates the part played by the drama’s enforcers of κότος, the Furies. Thus, the victory revel that should accompany his “defeat” of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra cannot be performed, because of the logic of the feud that is moving through the drama. It is no wonder that his defense consists of declaring that it is οὐκ ἄνευ δίκης (1027) that he acted. This is a desperate assertion that he needs in order to ground his act in some kind of ethical universe.
Indeed, κότος is the anger of the Furies, as Apollo asserts. Here he insists that the Furies have overlooked Clytemnestra’s crime but not that of Orestes (Eumenides 219–220):
εἰ τοῖσιν οὖν κτείνουσιν ἀλλήλους χαλᾷς
τὸ μὴ τίνεσθαι μηδ’ ἐποπτεύειν κότωι, (220)
οὔ φημ’ Ὀρέστην σ’ ἐνδίκως ἀνδρηλατεῖν.
τὰ μὲν γὰρ οἶδα κάρτα σ’ ἐνθυμουμένην,
τὰ δ’ ἐμφανῶς πράσσουσαν ἡσυχαίτερα.
δίκας δὲ Παλλὰς τῶνδ’ ἐποπτεύσει θεά.
If, therefore, you are so lenient at those who kill one another as to not to
punish or keep watch over them with κότος, [49] I deny that you hunt Orestes
justly. For I know that you are very engaged in the one case, while you are
acting quite clearly at ease otherwise. The goddess Pallas will watch over, the
process of justice in these (latter) matters, the goddess Pallas will watch over.
The contrast between the Furies and Athena is built on the kind of justice each one is seeking. In the one case, Apollo claims that κότος does not attend their action toward Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, while in the case of Orestes, their anger, on this view, contradicts their lackadaisical approach to his mother’s crime. The parallelism (ἐποπτεύειν, ἐποπτεύσει; ἐνδίκως, δίκας) is clear; even clearer is the association of κότος with retribution and the oversight of the Furies (220).
The dilemma is put even more starkly when Athena and the Eumenides engage in this exchange (Eumenides 424–426):
Χο. φονεὺς γὰρ εἶναι μητρὸς ἠξιώσατο.
Αθ. ἀλλ’ ἦ ’ξ ἀνάγκης, ἤ τινος τρέων κότον;
Ch. Yes, for he has deemed it worthy to be the murderer of his mother.
Ath. But was it out of necessity or fearing someone’s κότος?
Passages like these show what is at stake in the close study of κότος. For now that we know that κότος is not merely an old word for anger, but one that carries with it a heavy cultural charge, it is clear that Athena’s question to the Eumenides is crucial. For this kind of κότος verges on necessity, as was evident already in Calchas’ definition. This kind of anger, having been identified with that of the Furies against Orestes, is now called into service to defend him as well. It can be pressed into service in this way, since, as in the Iliad, κότος lies at the heart of the ethical point of the trilogy, and here that point has to do with the institution that drives the curse of the house of Atreus: the feud.
This survey of Aeschylus’ use of κότος has affirmed the high value that Homer’s prophet, Calchas, placed on this form of anger. That value, I mean to say, extends beyond the Homeric epics. Κότος is associated with the most powerful of terms in the early Greek lexicon of power and ethics: ὕβρις, ἀνάγκη, δίκη, κτλ…, and like them serves to shore up cultural values that otherwise would fade. Fundamentally it is located, as an ethical construct, not with ordinary conflict and ordinary violence, but with something with which the early Greeks were very much concerned: intractable violence that could extend across generations; it can be associated with either side of the feuding parties, and, to end, it must reach some kind of τέλος.
I conclude with one more feature of κότος that makes it even stronger as an anger term than it already seems. I refer to the fact that the kind of conflict with which it is associated plays an indispensable role in a society’s view of itself as stable and orderly. [50] When the Eumenides see that things are not going to end as they had wished, they threaten to put an end to κότος itself (Eumenides 499–501):
οὐδὲ γὰρ βροτοσκόπων
μαινάδων τῶνδ’ ἐφέρ-
ψει κότος τις ἐργμάτων.
For from the Furies that keep watch over mortals, no κότος at all over actions will approach.
The threat signifies the end, not so much of anger, but of the force that moves retribution and justice. [51] The threat is worth exploring, where more space is allowed, as a threat to end culture itself. [52]

Other Tragedy

A word needs to be said about the virtual absence of κότος from the rest of the surviving corpus of Athenian theater. Aeschylus, because of his concern with δίκη, draws out clearly what we suspected in the Iliad: the anger styled κότος has more to do with deeply rooted cultural matters than with immediate emotional reaction to a violation of a personal kind.
While it would be facile to say that the relationship of δίκη to human action in the rest of Athenian tragedy is wholly different in Sophocles and Euripides, it remains a fact that κότος all but entirely drops from their poetic lexicon, in both lyric and non-lyric passages. Thus in Sophocles, we only find a one-word fragment, ἐνεκότουν in Hesychius (Pearson 1042) and another ἐπίκοτα (Pearson 428), where Hesychius aptly comments ἐπιμόμφα ἁ πᾶς ἄν τις μέμψαιτο, thus affirming at least the public nature of κότος terminology. Furthermore, the Homeric feel that this word retains is evident: this occurs in a specifically Iliadic context, and in one of the Trojan plays.
In the Euripidean corpus, there is only one instance of κότος (Rhesus 827–829). In this solitary case, Euripides continues the meaning of κότος delineated in Iliad Ι 82–83; it is sufficient to say that the context is Homeric, and that using this word is a poetic brushstroke giving the play an archaic color. For both Sophocles and Euripides, κότος has ceased to function as an independent term for anger; for the other tragedians—in so far as we can tell—κότος takes on nothing like the burden that Aeschylus crafted for it. That movement from its centrality in Aeschylus (following Homer) to a mere peripheral fate in other tragedy marks the history of this word. By the end of the 5th century the numinous concept of κότος had disappeared from the whole poetic lexicon of ancient Greece, even beyond tragedy. [53]
Observing the history of a word is one way to drive home that, just as is nature, human culture in all its manifestations, perhaps especially including language, is in a state of flux. Cultural permanence is but a fiction with which members of ephemeral human groups console themselves and fool their subjects. [54] Nietzsche’s point in the epigraph that I set at the beginning of this essay is directed at this idea. I close this essay by quoting the context for his assertion about anger:
Think of institutions and customs which have created[,] out of the fiery abandonment of the moment[,] perpetual fidelity, out of the enjoyment of anger[,] perpetual vengeance, out of despair[,] perpetual mourning, out of a single and unpremeditated word[,] perpetual obligation. This transformation has each time introduced a very great deal of hypocrisy and lying into the world: but each time too, and at this cost, it has introduced a new suprahuman concept which elevates mankind.
Nietzsche [Daybreak 27–28] 57
For the early Greeks, the understanding of anger as “perpetual,” as taking its place among the obligations and loyalties that appear fundamental to human experience, participates both in the fictiveness of human culture and in its “elevation.” We do well to acknowledge the specific words that mark these “institutions and customs.” [55]


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[ back ] 1. There has been a recent gratifying upsurge of activity in research related to anger ancient cultures. I single out for notice first Harris 1995, and next the collection by Braund and Most 2003.
[ back ] 2. Other words for anger occur in this play, but this formula is consistent only with κότος. Cf., for example, μῆνις μάστειρ’ (163), μηνιταῖ’ ἄχη (206); ὠμῇ^ ξὺν ὀργῇ,^ (187), ὀργάς (763); and μένει (dative of μένος, 756). I note in passing that, metrically, χόλος is the exact equivalent of κότος and so could be used in any of these passages. As I argued in Walsh 2005 [=FW] Chapter 1, a consistent use of one word instead of the other indicates that these words are not synonymous in Aeschylus any more than they were in Homer. In this light, it is understandable that the scholiast at 385-386, perhaps long-separated from the linguistic context that kept the formally identical words kótos and khólos functionally distinct, silently refers us to the χόλος of Zeus as he explicates Aeschylus’ Ζηνὸς … κότος (Friis-Johansen 1970:160). So too Harris collapses κότος with the other anger words in his brief discussion of this play (Harris 2001:161n10). This confusion reflects the history of the word, for which Dindorf long ago noted nusquam hoc vocabulo usus est Sophocles, semel legitur apud Euripidem Rhes. 827 … saepissime apud Aeschylum (Dindorf 1876:186). The Homeric context of the passage from the Rhesus should be flagged. In a fuller study of the post-Homeric uses of κότος, I will suggest that in later literature it is one indicator of an archaizing style.
[ back ] 3. Cf. On stylistic variation in Homeric style, see Muellner 1976:25.
[ back ] 4. E.g. χόλος.
[ back ] 5. On κότος and δίκη, cf. Walsh 2005, Part 1, Chapter 3.
[ back ] 6. That meaning is examined in detail in Walsh 2005.
[ back ] 7. I have borrowed the term “refracted” from G. Nagy, in whose work it is used to accommodate the complexities of the relationships between genres as they utilize the store of culture in differing but intrinsically related ways. For an exemplary use the concept of “refraction” to track the differing ways in which traditional material is handled across epic, drama, and lyric, see Nagy 2000.
[ back ] 8. Muellner’s book on μῆνις caps many decades work on that all-important word and concept; Walsh 2005 adds detailed study on the terms kótos and khólos. Beyond Homeric studies, Harris 2001 reopens the serious questions that arise in tracing the history of “anger-control” as philosophical topic throughout classical antiquity, in a robust study that brings together and analyzes the imposing amount of material that emerges when studying Greco-Roman thinkers and their obsessions with the control of anger. Even more recently Braund and Most 2003 collect 11 distinguished pieces ranging from Homer to Lucan and Charitaon. As for Aeschylus, on emotions in Aeschylus see Thalmann 1986 and Sullivan 1997. There are current developments in the study of anger in its various forms. Recent and definitive treatment has been given to ἔρις by W. G. Thalmann (Thalmann 2004). A new study of the emotions in Greek will appear soon from David Konstan (see his article on Aristotle and anger in Braund and Most 2003:120), who devotes a vital chapter to anger.
See Chapter 4 of Harris 2001 for an overview and a welcome appendix with a list of early Greek studies on the passions.
[ back ] 10. Harris assigns this kind of anger to an “old Greek tradition” (Harris 2001:161, cf. 137).
[ back ] 11. From the point of view of method, I maintaining a deductive focus on particular authors and texts my work complements that of Harris summarized thus: “We examined the main Greek and Roman concepts, trying to avoid being misled by the requirements of particular texts” (Harris 2001:401). The current study here uses particular text and their poetic requirements to derive the meaning of a particular word.
[ back ] 12. For a brief review of the data, see Sidaras 1971:32, where Aeschylus’ special use of the term is noted; I think more is involved than whether one word or another is a “favorite word” of Aeschylus. For Homeric usage, see Garson 1985. Cairns in Braund and Most 2003:31 thoughtfully refers to my work; I regret that my argument was not available for his use in his important article.
[ back ] 13. See Walsh 2005 (= FW). On feuding see Cohen 1993, Chapter 5, and Miller 1990, which is exemplary for its insights into the way a society (here Old Norse) constructs itself around its institutions of feuding, vengeance, and the law. It is common to suggest that feuding is not relevant to the early Greeks: e.g. Harris 2001:135. To continue the discussion, it is possible for feuding structures to be “refracted” into a state-based legal system. Cf. Cohen 1993. We in classics are still far from a respectable analysis of the way feuding-structures survive into archaic and classical cultural contexts, despite the fact that weighty historical issues such as the relationship between gender and violence are implicated in such relationships. Once again Old Norse Studies presents an exemplary model; cf. Anderson 2002, Clover 1993, Byock 1982. Though the institution of the feud and the concept of vengeance need to be distinguished, see on vengeance de Romilly 1970 for Aeschylus, and Said 1984 along with Svenbro 1984, both in the three volume collection of articles on vengeance in Verdier 1984. I distinguish vengeance from “the feud,” since the feud is an institution that emerges under specific social circumstances (like warfare), whereas vengeance emerges as a response to human conditions in varying social circumstances.
[ back ] 14. See FW, Introduction.
[ back ] 15. Wierzbecka 1997.
[ back ] 16. It is controversial whether feuding is relevant to early Greek practice. See Harris 2001:138; Cohen 1993, Chapter 5. Most often in the literature on early Greece, feuding, vengeance, and other reciprocal violence, or, rather, most negative reciprocity is put under the same umbrella, as for example in de Romilly 1970. To understand the archaic nature of such action greater focus is needed on the difference among types of aggression. I find Cohen’s work on the fifth-century exemplary in this regard and only hasten to add that the archaic period needs similar attention. Cf. Miller’s work on Old Norse society for a parallel situation (Miller 1980). In general the study of violence in the Greek material has done a poor job of addressing different types of violent social activity, including warfare and feuding.
[ back ] 17. See the discussion above about the use of κότος at the death of the last suitor, and, indeed, to frame the μνηστεροφονία as a whole.
[ back ] 18. FW, Chapter 5.
[ back ] 19. See again FW, Part I.
[ back ] 20. Again, see FW for a full discussion of these two terms and see the introduction to that book for further argumentation. On keywords as a useful tool for cultural analysis, see Wierzbicka 1997, above (n3), with which compare the discussion of the folk-definition in FW 14.
[ back ] 21. Already noticed in Dindorf 1876, s.v. κότος.
[ back ] 22. The Iliad, in contrast, tends not to focus on feuding vengeance, as it sees issues of violence and aggression through a warrior’s blood-stained lenses; the Odyssey associates the vengeance of Odysseus with the feud whenever possible in order to justify Odysseus’ revenge on the suitors. On these issues, see again FW.
[ back ] 23. It may be significant that οἱ ἀγώνιοι θεοί include Apollo, beside Zeus, Hermes and Poseidon, cf. LSJ s.v. ἀγώνιος.
[ back ] 24. Including παλίγκοτος at 376 and at 571, κότον occurs at 422, with κότῳ at 724 (744); the remaining instances are all in the nominative case at lines 65, 347, 385, 478, 616, and 724.
[ back ] 25. Winnington-Ingram strikingly associates the wrath associated with violated suppliancy and that associated with violated guest-friendship: “‘Heavy is the wrath of Zeus Hikesios’, said the chorus leader in Supplices [347]. No less heavy is the wrath of Zeus Xenios; and it is this wrath, together with an intolerable pollution, which Danaus will have brought upon himself and upon hid daughters. But he will also have brought it upon the city of which he is now king” (Winnington-Ingram 1983:64). I add to this elegant formulation that the wrath that links suppliancy, guest-friendship and the political consequences of their violation continues to have the same name for Aeschylus as it had for Homer, and that name is κότος. See also Lloyd Jones 1990:274, “Pelasgus is simply a good and conscientious king, confronted with a grim dilemma: either he must receive the suppliants, thus risking war with all its horrors, or he must bring down on himself and his people the wrath of Zeus, protector of suppliants.”
[ back ] 26. For a discussion of this derivative and its use in lyric and drama, and its remarkable survival in the Greek medical terminology of Hippocrates and Galen, see Aly 1906:48–49.
[ back ] 27. On κότος and its relation to the concept of the enemy see Aly 1906:48–49, where it is clear that the notion of a long-standing wrath and enmity are continued in this compound long after κότος the noun falls away from use as a typical word for anger. The enemy lemma also resonates with the Sanskrit cognate of Greek κότος, śatru, ‘enemy’ (Walsh 2005:90; cf. 91; for the (Cuneiform) Luwian kattawatnalli as an “attribute of the word for enemy,” see 92).
[ back ] 28. δυσπαράθελκτος is Schütz’s conjecture, for M’s ὦ δυσπαραθέλκτοις. Page prints the conjecture which is consistent with the meaning developed here, as does West 1990. On μένει in 385, see line 435, discussed below.
[ back ] 29. On force as integral to Zeus’s justice see Cohen 1993.
[ back ] 30. The textual problems in this ode do not affect the argument.
[ back ] 31. And note that the terms are reversed. Homer presents the violation of Helen leading to a κότος that sends armies against Troy. Here Pelasgus’s position seems more like Priam’s, in that his acceptance of the fleeing women, as he avoids the κότος of Zeus, leads to the attack of an invasion force. For a good examination of the way the idea of the “feud” can explicate Athenian practice, see Cohen 1997, especially Chapter 5; and FW, Part I, Chapters 3–6. It is exactly the reciprocal nature of feuding that makes κότος so potent as an argument on either side of the feuding relationship. For a comparative and cross-cultural overview of vengeance see Verdier 1984, with fundamental contributions by Said and Svenbro on early Greek matters, both epic and tragedy.
[ back ] 32. See Lloyd-Jones 1990:264–265 for a discussion of the supposed political anachronisms in the play.
[ back ] 33. For a probing of the issues involved in these kinds of tensions in Aeschylean art, see Griffith 1995.
[ back ] 34. Σ: τὸν τοῦ Διός.
[ back ] 35. On reciprocity and anger see Watkins 1977[1994] and Muellner 1996.
[ back ] 36. See n5 above.
[ back ] 37. Something is at stake in Turnebus’ conjecture of ἐπιτυχεῖ at 744 instead of M.’s ἐπεὶ τάχει. That reading is fully consistent with the meaning of κότος that I have been arguing for, namely, that κότος lasts until it reaches its τέλος. Cf. Johansen’s apparatus. “Haste” is not associated with κότος in Homer.
[ back ] 38. See Fraenkel ad loc.: “However the text is reconstructed κότον should not be tampered with.”
[ back ] 39. Note here that the κότος is that of the suitors. Just as Paris and Menelaus, in the depths of their κότος, are said to be engaged κοτέοντε (Iliad III 345), so too here the κότος is reciprocal. These questions reach deeply into the issues of the play. For our purposes here it need only be acknowledged that the κότος here involves fundamental questions of the narrative, and that those questions include issues of δίκη, etc. Cf. Walsh 2005:24–25.
[ back ] 40. After Fraenkel’s translation: “Dangerous is the people’s talk, with anger in it; it pays the debt arising out of a curse pronounced by the people.”
[ back ] 41. Fraenkel ad 457, emphasis mine.
[ back ] 42. Translation and text after Fraenkel.
[ back ] 43. The translation follows Fraenkel’s note at 635, though Fraenkel’s point about the “addition” of τελευτῆσαι needs to be modified now that we know that forms of τέλος are thematically linked to κότος. The chorus is asking about the “whole story” from beginning to end, a good prooimial gesture. Moreover, as Fraenkel stresses ad loc., γὰρ is “a reference to a point farther back” in time. Note that the herald picks up the wrath theme with μῆνις at 648.
[ back ] 44. See FW, Chapter 5. And note the association with díkē.
[ back ] 45. Both remaining instances of κότος in the Agamemnon (1261, 1641) engage textual problems do not affect the present argument.
[ back ] 46. Though others maintain it is ambiguous, see Garvie, ad loc. Here the reference is to the same cry of Clytemnestra as mentioned at 535 (cf. Lloyd-Jones 1979:12).
[ back ] 47. Such as the ὀνειρόμαντις and τοὺς γᾶς νέρθεν. FW, Chapter 5.
[ back ] 48. FW, Chapter 5.
[ back ] 49. LSJ gives ‘punish’ for ἐποπτεύειν here, citing only this passage in that meaning (I 2). The sense of κότῳ is perfectly consistent with the usual meaning of ‘oversee’ or ‘watch over’ (I 1), where the dative shows the means by which the Furies guard their prey. This sense is also in play below at line 224, δίκας δὲ Παλλὰς τῶνδ` ἐποπτεύσει θεά, where the contrast in manner of overseeing could not be more stark. It is precisely κότος that will mark the difference between the watchfulness of Athena and Apollo and that of the Furies.
[ back ] 50. I cite here the title of the classic study of the feud by J. Black-Michaud, Cohesive Force (1975). The point is that in a feuding culture the acts surrounding feuding violence provide a social cohesion that is otherwise lacking. In other words, such violence is not seen as a negative but a positive thing. See my discussion in FW, Chapter 5.
[ back ] 51. Note the parallel to this formulation at Eumenides 314, where the Furies claim that to someone with clean hands, their μῆνις will not approach (ἐφέρπει); cf. μηδ’ … ἐφερπέτω νόσος, at 942.
[ back ] 52. A few passages have been by-passed in this discussion. I have left Prometheus out of this discussion, given the current consensus as to its authorship, though the relevant passages are consistent with my findings: Prometheus 163 (100–167 choral—Zeus’ anger keeping the οὐρανίαν γένναν [165–66] in subjugation), and 602, referring to Hera’s κότος. The other instances of Aeschylean κότος—Eumenides 800 (Athena warning the Eumenides not to let their κότος free upon Athens) and (similarly) 889—all these are also in keeping with Calchas’ definition. Moreover, the Eumenides’ threat to end κότος mirrors Achilles’ wish that χόλος die (Iliad XVIII 107–110). Here κότος is linked to the destruction of κότος, while in Achilles’ wish, the end of that kind of anger (χόλος, Iliad XVIII 108, linked to ἔρις, Iliad XVIII 107) is tied, powerfully, to Achilles’ wish for his own death (Iliad XVIII 98). Cf. Walsh 2005:217–219.
[ back ] 53. For a parody of Aeschylean usage see Aristophanes Frogs 844 and Stanford’s note. Note the pun in Frogs 846.
[ back ] 54. Yes, I am resisting, somewhat reluctantly, Nietzsche’s evaluation of cultural permanence as “hypocrisy and lying.”
[ back ] 55. I thank both David Konstan and R. Bracht Branham for reading carefully and commenting on this piece. Its defects continue to have their sole source in my own limitations.