Chapter 11. The Culture and Poetics of Χόλος in the Iliad

{204|205} The complexities of khólos also take us into the realm of poetics, especially in terms of the formulation with which this study began, Calchas’s own statement: eí per gár te khólon ge kaì autêmar katapépsēi … (Il. 1.81), “For even if he should digest it completely in a day …” And this is no chance phrasing, as we can see from the formula khólon thumalgéa péss- (Il. 4.513) “to digest heart-paining khólos” as used by Apollo to describe the state of Achilles in anger, or later from Phoenix’s tale of Meleager, where he constructs the image of Meleager digesting his anger by the side of Cleopatra: tēi hó ge parkatélekto khólon thumalgéa péssōn (Il. 9.56), “by her did he lie, digesting his heart-paining khólos.” Moreover, images based on Greek péssō are not restricted to notions of anger. [1]
Now, the text presents us with still other moments when khólos seems to ask for a theory of Homeric metaphor that would unpack its rich formulations: khólos seems to be curable; [2] enters one; [3] swells inside one; [4] can hold one’s spirit; [5] is quenchable; [6] provides nourishment, [7] falls down from above. [8]
Having shown that Calchas’s distinction between khólos and kótos depends for its demonstration on the differing contexts and the complexities presented to the reader by those contexts and having argued for widely different meanings for the kinds of anger represented by these two words, I still have left some crucial features of Calchas’s original words. What does he mean by “digesting” anger when he tells Achilles that a king khólon autêmar katapépsēi (Il. 1.81) “digest his anger that day”?
When we immediately respond that it is a metaphor, this raises more questions than the one asked. Metaphor, assuredly, remains a vexed topic in Homeric studies, [9] so that we cannot merely refer a complex list, such as that {205|206} which khólos presents to us, to some handy theoretical matrix. Instead, in this chapter I elucidate how khólos works in relation to its contexts in terms of one perspective on metaphor, to see if that makes clear some of what is going on in Homer. My reason for so doing is that the striking incidents of khólos in metaphorical settings compel us to pose some answers—even tentative ones—about how metaphors for anger are related to khólos in Homer.
The approach I use here to help understand khólos in the Homeric tradition can be studied in Lakoff and Johnson 1980, where we find techniques for the “systematic investigaton of expressions that are understood metaphorically.” [10] The brief summary here is not meant to provide a full defense of the approach, which in the field of metaphor studies must be controversial. [11] Nonetheless, the success of this approach in dealing with khólos points out a direction to explore the further implications of a full-blown theory of Homeric metaphor based on these principles.
For Lakoff and Johnson, “most of our conceptual system is metaphorical in nature,” with the result that to understand human cognition is to engage in the understanding of how metaphors “structure how we perceive, how we think, and what we do” (1980, 4). Such an approach has particular value, in my view, when an emotion is being examined, where “emotional concepts are … very clear examples of concepts that are abstract and yet have an obvious basis in bodily experience.” [12] “Anger,” Lakoff continues, “is a particularly rich example: it has a very elaborate conceptual structure” (1987, 377).
For our purposes, I accept, for the sake of argument, that the metaphors we examine can be either “creative” or ordinary. Now I am not going to provide a distinction between a “poetic” metaphor and one imbedded in the language, because on the view adopted here all such cases are metaphorical; what is important is to see how a concept such as “anger” or khólos is structured on the basis of a coherent cultural system of metaphor before we attempt a poetic analysis of the results of such processes. The notion of coherence is developed in Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 87-105), where numerous examples show that a group of statements can be inconsistent among themselves but coherent in terms of the metaphors being presented. In our case, we have a number of inconsistent metaphorical schemes, such as that khólos can be digested and that it can be quenched; on the surface these seem to be different ways of conceptualizing anger. The theory I adopt shows that these different conceptualizations of khólos, inconsistent though they be, come to form a coherent part of the metaphorical system that underlies khólos. This conjunction of difference and coherence fits Lakoff and Johnson’s view that “in general, complete consistency across metaphors is rare; coherence, on the other hand, is typical” (1980, 96).
In sum, I suggest there is a coherent conceptual organization underlying anger in Homeric Greek, such as can be understood by looking at the metaphorical properties of the Homeric use of khólos. [13] A few basic principles are key to a project. The first is that “the words and expressions of a language {206|207} can code, that is, be used to express aspects of a given conceptual metaphor to a greater or lesser extent.” [14] Lakoff and Kövecses go on to point out that one can judge the productivity of such a code by noting the number of expressions related to it and, furthermore, that “the words and fixed expressions of a language can elaborate the conceptual metaphor.” [15] In their examination of American English’s metaphorical systems for anger, Lakoff and Kövecses (1987) identify anger is heat as the central metaphor, that is then coded by the words and fixed expressions in the language. Thus, to say “they were having a heated argument” is to code the central metaphor. The metaphor can be elaborated through expressions such as “Let him stew,” where we see the indication that the anger is that which continues over a long period of time, at the same level of intensity. [16] For this discussion, I need one further concept from this method, in order to see how metaphors for anger come to be elaborated in Homer. Through metaphoric entailments, our knowledge about one part of experience is transferred to a second, namely, for example, from what we know about heat to what we are trying to express about anger. If it is clear that a protracted conversation is occurring and that the participants show that they are angry, it is possible from our knowledge that heat produces steam, to say that “they got all steamed up.” [17]
Here are examples of metaphor used with khólos in Homeric diction (all from the Iliad):
Il. 1.81 εἴ περ γάρ τε χόλον γε καὶ αὐτῆμαρ καταπέψη
For even if he digests completely his khólos even in a day …
Il. 4.513 μάρναται, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ νηυσὶ χόλον θυμαλγέα πέσσει.
But he digests his heart-paining khólos by his ships.
Il. 9.565 τῇ ὅ γε παρκατέλεκτο χόλον θυμαλγέα πέσσων,
He slept with her, as he digested his heart-paining khólos.
Il. 16.203 σχέτλιε Πηλέος υἱέ, χόλῳ ἄρα σ’ ἔτρεφε μήτηρ,
Wretched son of Peleus, yes, your mother nursed you on khólos.
The first three examples use the verb péssō, to indicate the bodily process of digestion, [18] which indicates that, based on the terms of the metaphor, khólos is being taken as a kind of food. Using Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 25-32), I view this as the kind of metaphor, where “our experience of physical objects and substances provides a further basis for understanding” (25). In this case, the metaphor anger is food conceptualizes an emotion by referring to features of the entity or substance, food, continued as it is in the fourth example (Il. 16.203), where the food metaphor is even more explicit. [19]
But it is clear that by itself such a metaphor depends on correspondences between a source domain (food) and a target domain (anger). Here is one way that the metaphor anger is food is elaborated in the Homeric conceptual system: {207|208}
Anger is food:
it is consumed, katapépsēi, Il. 1.81, “completely digests it”;
it comes into the body (thumalgéa, Il. 5.513, Il. 9.565, “giving pains in the heart”; see also, Il. 18.110, en stḗthessin, “in the chest.”
it can be different types of food (in Il. 16.203, Patroclus refers to Thetis’s mother’s milk as khólos); [20] cf. phármaka (“drugs” at Il. 22.94).
it has taste, Il. 18.109, glukíōn mélitos, “sweeter than honey”; cf. drimús khólos, Il. 18.322, “bitter khólos.”
it enters the body from outside, Melégron édu khólos, Il. 9.553, “khólos entered Meleager”, cf. Il. 19.16; and note especially, bebrōkòs kakà phármak’, édu dé té min khólos ainòs, Il. 22.94, “having eaten the evil poison, terrible khólos entered him” (where the participle bebrōkṑs guarantees this interpretation of the metaphor).
This group presents a coherent view of anger as being a kind of food that has certain attributes of culinary entities in early Greek culture, but not all of them. Thus, although anger can be seen as having taste, as being consumed in the body, which it enters from the outside, and as coming in different types and being either nutritive or poisonous, the system makes no attempt to elaborate the metaphor to include the concept of “meal” or “sacrifice,” so important to the typical experience of consuming food in the Homeric poems. [21] Instead, only certain aspects of the category “food” are appropriated and elaborated to understand in directly experiential terms what otherwise would be a purely abstract notion, khólos or “anger.”
But this is not the only metaphor involved in the understanding of khólos in the Homeric poems. The early Greek complex of ideas involved in health maintenance features khólos as a form of disease. In this case khólos is seen as something that is or causes a disease:
khólos is a disease; one elaboration that emerges here is that anger can be treated:
khólos can be cured, Il. 4.36, khólon exakésaio, “you would cure khólos”; Od. 3.145 hōs tòn Athēnaíēs deinòn khólon exakésaito, “Thus did he cure the terrible khólos of Athena.”
This particular metaphor has a relationship to the metaphor anger is food, as can be seen from the context of Il. 4.36. Zeus, vexed as he is (még’ okhthḗsas, Il. 4.30 “having come to be greatly vexed”), characterizes Hera’s anger through the hyperbolic suggestion that she would cannibalize the Trojans if she were left to her own devices: {208|209}
εἰ δὲ σύ γ’ εἰσελθοῦσα πύλας καὶ τείχεα μακρὰ
ὠμὸν βεβρώθοις Πρίαμον Πριάμοιό τε παῖδας
ἄλλους τε Τρῶας, τότε κεν χόλον ἐξακέσαιο.
(Il. 4.34-36)
But if you were to approach the gates and great walls and you ate Priam raw and the sons of Priam and the other Trojans, then you would have thoroughly cured your khólos .
Here the digestive metaphor is picked up by bebrṓthois, and we have a pair of metaphors working together:
Anger is food:
Food is consumed.
Anger is a disease:
It can be cured by consuming a certain food.
In this way there is a correspondence between the seemingly inconsistent metaphors anger is food and anger is a disease, which is also present in the simile of the serpent that eats kakà phármaka and induces khólos (Il. 22.94); that is to say, besides the “evil drugs” there is the possibility of consuming “good drugs” that would produce the opposite (and hence curative) result. Here Zeus, in a hyperbole, suggests that cannibalism would be the only cure for Hera’s khólos. Moreover, the metaphor anger is a disease can be further connected to eating through these elaborations:
Anger is food:
Food can be consumed thoroughly and finished (katapépsḗi, Il. 1.81)
Anger is a disease:
Anger (khólos) can be cured
A disease can be cured thoroughly and finished (in both examples above, where we find the preverb ex - used to indicate completeness). Thus, although both metaphors are inconsistent with respect to their surface meaning (disease is a different category from the category food), the metaphorical system turns out to be coherent because khólos, in both instances, is seen as being able to be brought to a conclusion through the natural course of time, through physiological processes such as digestion or healing. In this way, Zeus’s seeming mixed metaphor makes perfect sense as part of the extensive metaphorical system in Homer for khólos. The metaphorical system is coherent, though inconsistent.
The elaboration of the metaphor khólos is food also helps understand passages where khólos is seen to be inside the body.
Ἥρῃ δ’ οὐκ ἔχαδε στῆθος χόλον.
(Il. 4.24) {209|210}
But for Hera, her chest could not contain the khólos .
The body thus presents itself, in a manner consistent with the food metaphor (used explicitly a little later in this same passage), as a container for khólos. [22] Thus, khólos is conceptualized as part of a process whereby it enters the body and is consumed; alternatively, instead of being consumed and, hence, becoming less and less, it can increase, as in these examples:
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ Μελέαγρον ἔδυ χόλος, ὅς τε καὶ ἄλλων
οἰδάνει ἐν στήθεσσι νόον
(Il. 9.553)
But when khólos entered Meleager, which swells the mind in others’ bodies as well
ἀλλά μοι οἰδάνεται κραδίη χόλῳ
(Il. 9.646)
But my heart swells with khólos
In both cases, however we view the differences accounting for kradíē, nóon, and stḗthea, it is inside the body that khólos swells. [23] Since, through the digestive metaphor, khólos is inside the body, its increase will manifest itself as swelling.
In both the digestive and the healing metaphor, khólos is positioned inside the body, and when we adopt the notion that the metaphors can be described in a systematic fashion, certain other unique formulations can be interpreted in such a way as to fit the system. For example, in the same speech where Zeus accuses Hera of desiring to cannibalize the Trojans, he strikes a deal with her, that he be allowed to destroy a city where mortals loyal to her are found:
ὁππότε κεν καὶ ἐγὼ μεμαὼς πόλιν ἐξαλαπάξαι
τὴν ἐθέλω, ὅθι τοι φίλοι ἀνέρες ἐγγεγάασι,
μή τι διατρίβειν τὸν ἐμὸν χόλον, ἀλλά μ’ ἐᾶσαι·
(Il. 4.40-42)
Whenever I come to be eager to wipe out a city, the one I want, where the mortals are near and dear to you, don’t grind down my khólos , but allow me.
“Grind down” is more appropriate as a translation for diatríbein than the usual “delay” for which there is no good parallel in the Homeric diction for khólos. [24] But keeping in mind the curative metaphor, consider the passages where we find highlighted the literal meaning of tríbō and related forms:
ἔνθα μιν ἐκτανύσας ἐκ μηροῦ τάμνε μαχαίρη
ὀξὺ βέλος περιπευκές, ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ δ’ αἷμα κελαινὸν
νίζ' ὕδατι λιαρῷ, ἐπὶ δὲ ῥίζαν βάλε πικρὴν {210|211}
χερσὶ διατρίψας, ὀδυνήφατον, ἥ οἱ ἁπάσας
ἔσχ᾽ ὀδύνας· τὸ μὲν ἕλκος ἐτέρσετο, παύσατο δ' αἷμα.
(Il. 11.844-48)
Having stretched him out he cut the sharp-barbed arrow from his thigh with a knife, and he washed off the black blood from him with warm water, and he applied thereon a bitter root that kills pain (one which soothes every pain), after having ground it out with his hands. The wound began to dry, and the blood ceased to flow.
Here Patroclus, standing in for Machaon and Podaleirios, tends to the wounded Eurypylus by applying the standard techniques of Homeric health care that include surgery (támne makhaírēi, “cut it out with a knife”), antisepsis (níz’ hudati liarôi “he washed it with warm water”), and herbal medicine (epì dè rhízan bále pikrḗn), “he applied thereon a bitter root”) derived by “grinding” (diatrípsas) the herb, here with his hands. [25] For tríbō, the sense of grinding or wearing away is also present in a simile from Iliad 20:
ῥέε δ' αἵματι γαῖα μέλαινα.
ὡς δ' ὅτε τις ζεύξῃ βόας ἄρσενας εὐρυμετώπους
τριβέμεναι κρῖ λευκὸν ἐυκτιμένῃ ἐν ἀλώῇ,
ῥίμφά τε λέπτ' ἐγένοντο βοῶν ὑπὸ πόσσ’ ἐριμύκων,
(Il. 20.494-97)
And the black earth was flowing with blood, as when someone yokes male broadfaced oxen to thresh the white barley on the well-built threshing floor, and easily did it turn to husks under the feet of the lowing oxen.
Here the notion of transformation by grinding is applied to grain, as it was to medicinal herbs, so that we can reliably see -tribō as indicating an action that is used metaphorically by Zeus in his speech to Hera by way of its connections with different kinds of vegetable matter.
In the speech by Zeus, khólos depends on a correspondence between the medical meaning of khólos and the digestive meaning:
Anger is food:
Food is prepared by grinding natural material, such as grain.
Anger is disease:
Medicine used to treat the disease is prepared by grinding.
In this latter case, we can see that the connection between
and disease is elaborated metonymically, rather than metaphorically. That a plant used to treat an illness is ground up to make a medicine implies that the act of grinding up is part of the treatment of the disease. Thus, treating the disease “grinds it up,” so that finally, to treat
is to “grind it up.” So to “grind one’s
” can {211|212} mean to cure it. This notion then is coherent both with the medicinal and with the digestive part of the metaphorical system for
Related to this metaphorical system is the example with which we began our exploration of khólos, Helen’s drug:
ἔνθ’ αὖτ’ ἄλλ’ ἐνόησ’ Ἑλένη Διὸς ἐκγεγαυῖα·
αὐτίκ’ ἄρ’ εἰς οἶνον βάλε φάρμακον, ἔνθεν ἔπινον,
νηπενθές τ’ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων.
ὃς τὸ καταβρόξειεν, ἐπὴν κρητῆρι μιγείη,
οὔ κεν ἐφημέριός γε βάλοι κατὰ δάκρυ παρειῶν,
οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ κατατεθναίη μήτηρ τε πατήρ τε,
οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ προπάροιθεν ἀδελφεὸν ἢ φίλον υἱὸν
χαλκῷ δηιόῳεν, ὃ δ’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῷτο.
(Od. 4.219-26)
There in turn godborn Helen took thought of other things; immediately she threw a drug into the wine that they were drinking, one that allays grief, and anger, and causes forgetfulnesss of all ills. The one who swallows it, whenever it is mixed in the mug, would not in the day cast down a tear from his cheeks, not even if his own mother died or his father, nor if before his very eyes they cut down a brother or beloved son.
Here, our approach to the conceptual system that houses khólos provides a motivation at the level of diction and meaning for the only occurrence of α- privative with khólos. Since khólos takes conceptual depth from the realms of nutrition and from medicine, khólos provides the link between Helen’s phármakon, “drug,” and the drink the company thinks it is enjoying. [26] That a drinking potion can have magical properties may well be cross-cultural, but the collocation of the two substances (medicinal herbs and comestibles) with the notion of khólos (the anger of the warrior) is bound to the intricate conceptual web displayed in Homeric poetry for khólos. [27]
Before seeking to motivate this group of metaphors diachronically, one more type of metaphor needs to be brought into the fold, namely, the metaphor involving fire. This type of image should come as no surprise to us, at least after Cedric Whitman’s familiar demonstration of the importance of fire imagery in the Iliad. He stresses the ubiquity of fire in the cultural activities of the Homeric Greeks, in their funerals, sacrifices, watchfires, cooking, and the making and the use of their armor. For Whitman, the symbolism of fire is embodied in the fight with the river in Iliad 21: “But the really striking thing about Book XXI is the contest between fire and water” (1958, 140-41), itself made explicit when Hephaestus brings the contest to an end by quenching the fire:
Ὣς ἔφαθ’, Ἥφαιστος δὲ κατέσβεσε θεσπιδαὲς πῦρ,
ἄψορρον δ’ ἄρα κῦμα κατέσσυτο καλὰ ῥέεθρα.
(Il. 21.381-82) {212|213}
Thus he spoke; and Hephaestus quenched the fiercely blowing fire; and back with the current did the fair streams flow.
Since in the Homeric poems fire has a particular relationship to anger (“anger and fire are inseparably associated,” Whitman 1958, 130), [28] khólos comes into play with the phraseology of fire, as we see in Odysseus’s report to Agamemnon of the embassy’s failure to get Achilles to quench his wrath:
Ἄτρεΐδη κύδιστε, ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον,
κεῖνός γ᾽ οὐκ ἐθέλει σβέσσαι χόλον, ἀλλ’ ἔτι μᾶλλον
πιμπλάνεται μένεος, σὲ δ’ ἀναίνεται ἠδὲ σὰ δῶρα.
(Il. 9.677-79)
O son of Atreus, most glorious, lord of men Agamemnon, that man is not willing to quench his khólos , but still more is he full of anger, and he denies you and his gifts.
That khólos takes the place of fire in Odysseus’s metaphor is clear from passages like katà d’ ésbesen aithómenon pûr (Il. 16.293), “and he put out the flaming fire,” where Patroclus quenches the fire that is about to engulf the ships, and Héphaistos dè katésbese thespidaès pûr (Il. 21.381), “and Hephaestus quenched the fiercely blowing fire,” where Hephaestus quenches the fire that threatens the river Scamander.
Furthermore, Whitman goes on to insist that khólos has a special relationship to fire, as when Achilles gazes at the arms that Thetis has delivered him in Il. 19.16-17 (hōs eîd’ hṓs min mâllon édu khólos, en dé hoi ósse / deinòn hupò blephárōn hōs ei sélas exepháanthen, “And as he gazed the khólos entered into him the more, and there in his eyes shone terribly as if a flame”). [29] Furthermore, the image of smoke at Il. 18.110 depends for its effect on the connection of fire and khólos. [30] Moreover, when Agamemnon asks Odysseus for the result of the embassy, he once again sets the image of the ships being set afire next to the khólos of Achilles:
εἴπ’ ἄγε μ’, ὧ πολύαιν’ Ὀδυσεῦ, μέγα κῦδος Ἀχαιῶν,
ἤ ῥ’ ἐθέλει νήεσσιν ἀλεξέμεναι δήιον πῦρ,
ἦ ἀπέειπε, χόλος δ’ ἔτ’ ἔχει μεγαλήτορα θυμόν;
(Il. 9.673-75)
But come, much praised Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans, tell me whether he is willing to ward off the blazing fire from the ships or does he refuse, and does khólos continue to hold his great-hearted spirit?
Odysseus’s response draws in the figure of “quenching fire” in a way that picks up the connection of khólos to fire (Il. 9.677-79, quoted above). Achilles’ refusal to quench his anger is thus linked to his refusal to help the Achaeans, a {213|214} refusal resulting in the literal setting of fires that threaten their nóstos. [31] Achilles, after all, specifically uses the image of the burning ships to mark a promised reentry into the war:
οὐ γὰρ πρὶν πολέμοιο μεδήσομαι αἱματόεντος,
πρίν γ’ οἱὸν Πριάμοιο δαḯφρονος, Ἕκτορα δῖον,
Μυρμιδόνων ἐπί τε κλισίας καὶ νῆας ἱκέσθαι
κτείνοντ’ Ἀργείους, κατά τε σμῦξαι πυρὶ νῆας.
(Il. 9.650-53)
For I will not take thought of bloody warfare, until the son of Priam, godly Hector, reaches Myrmidon huts and ships as he kills off Argives, and burns down the ships with fire.
This explicit statement—essentially a compromise position between his and his khólos—is communicated to Agamemnon only metaphorically by Odysseus. What is important to remember is fire’s relationship to the activity of the warrior, specifically Hector’s attack on the ships and huts. [32]
The use of smûxai (“to burn down”) in Achilles’ response to Ajax points forward to the death of Hector where Homer will liken the turmoil in Troy at his death to the turmoil that would ensue—that will ensue—with the city ablaze:
ᾤμωξεν δ’ ἐλεεινὰ πατὴρ φίλος, ἀμφὶ δὲ λαοὶ
κωκυτῷ τ’ εἴχοντο καὶ οἰμωγῇ κατὰ ἄστυ,
τῷ δὲ μάλιστ’ ἄρ’ ἔην ἐναλίγκιον, ὡς εἰ ἅπασα
Ἴλιος ὀφρυόεσσα πυρὶ σμύχοιτο κατ’ ἄκρης.
(Il. 22.408-11)
And his dear father pitiably lamented, and the people held firm with wailing and lament throughout the city. And it was truly just as if the whole of towering Ilium were burned down with fire utterly.
Given such stark examples of the importance of fire to the thematics of aggression in the Iliad, khólos, as the most frequent word for heroic wrath, often comes into play with notions of fire. For example, we can return to the beginning of Phoenix’s speech, where he collates the fire that threatens the Achaean existence with Achilles’ khólos:
εἰ μὲν δὴ νόστον γε μετὰ φρεσί, φαίδιμ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ,
βάλλεαι, οὐδέ τι πάμπαν ἀμύνειν νηυσὶ θοῇσι
πῦρ ἐθέλεις ἀίδηλον, ἐπεὶ χόλος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ . . .
(Il. 9.434-36)
If it is a return that you consider in your mind, glorious Achilles, and if you are unwilling at all to defend the swift ships against the ravaging fire, because khólos has fallen into your heart. … {214|215}
Now this khólos phrase was found in position 11, in the formula khólos émpese thumôi. It occurs four times (once in a doublet):
Il. 9.436 πῦρ ἐθέλεις, ἀίδηλον, ἐπεὶ χόλος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ,
Il. 14.207 εὐνῆς καὶ φιλότητος, ἐπεὶ χόλος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ. = 14.306
Il. 16.206 αὖτις, ἐπεί ῥά τοι ὧδε κακὸς χόλος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ.
The phrase émpese thumôi encompasses significant thematic concerns of the Iliad: twice it is used of a weapon that “fells” a victim. [33] The “weapon” that falls on the enemy in Il. 16.113 is fire. In the invocation of the Muses before Hector reaches the Achaean ships, we hear:
Ἔσπετε νῦν μοι, Μοῦσαι, Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχουσαι,
ὅππως δὴ πρῶτον πῦρ ἔμπεσε νηυσὶν Ἀχαιῶν.
(Il. 16.112-13)
Tell me now, Muses, who have Olympian houses, how first fire fell on the Achaeans’ ships.
Through this series of passages showing “falling upon” (or “attacking”), the narrative displays the results of the warrior’s khólos. This grim metonymic process is made possible by the very visual quality of the epic. So too émpese is not merely “to fall upon” or “to fell”—it strongly suggests the image of the warrior hurling or shooting a missile or that missile striking the warrior.
Fire is a source domain for anger because of the destructive force of fire on the Trojan plain, where fire is indeed a weapon. Thus at Il. 21.342, Hephaistos poises to cast his fire against Scamander as if it were a spear: Hēphaistos dè titúsketo thespidaès pûr “and Hephaestus took aim with his divine fire.” Moreover, fire metaphorically comes down from above like a missile, as can be seen from the Book 4 of the Iliad:
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ ἴδεν ἕλκος, ὅθ' ἔμπεσε πικρὸς ὀϊστός, …
(Il. 4.217)
But when he saw the wound where the bitter arrow had fallen
A similar effect can be seen in Book 15:
αὐχένι γάρ οἱ ὄπισθε π ολύστονος ἔμπεσεν ἰός·
(Il. 15.451)
For at his neck did the arrow, the source of many pains· fall in from behind.
both of which are comparable to {215|216}
Ἔσπετε νῦν μοι, Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ' ἔχουσαι,
ὅππως δὴ πρῶτον πῦρ ἔμπεσε νηυσὶν Ἀχαιῶν.
(Il. 16.112-13)
Tell now to me Muses who have Olympian homes, how first fire fell on the ships of the Achaeans.
Now fire is in particular related—through the conceptualization that it falls down and in (émpese)—to weapons that pierce the body and remain in it until a surgeon can come to remove it as happens at Il. 4.217.
Thus, we can begin to see an emerging metaphoric system for khólos and fire in relationship to weaponry.
Fire is a weapon:
it goes from outside the body to inside the body
it falls down from above (as an arrow or spear)
which links with the digestive metaphoric complex
Anger is food:
It goes from outside the body to inside the body.
It moves downward (as if from mouth to stomach).
This situation leads to the metaphorical phrasing that implies that anger is a weapon, enters the body, and goes from outside to inside: thus, the formula epeì khólos émpese thumôi, “since khólos has fallen into his heart” (Il. 9.436, Il. 14.207, Il. 14.306, Il. 16.306), presents a metaphor based on the coherence of the system in which khólos operates. The phrase depends on the notion that khólos is something that has entered the body from the outside in the way an arrow or spear does; furthermore, the metaphor of fire acting in the fashion of such a weapon is linked to the notion that anger is like fire. Thus, Phoenix’s formulation links both Achilles’ anger and the fire that is to threaten the ships, where the relationship of fire as weapon and wrath as weapon is explicitly presented:
οὐδέ τι πάμπαν ἀμύνειν νηυσὶ θοῇσι
πῦρ ἐθέλεις ἀΐδηλον, ἐπεὶ χόλος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ,
(Il. 9.435-36)
You are unwilling at all to defend against the pernicious fire from the swift ships, since khólos has fallen in your heart.
And this particular phrasing is modified by Odysseus in his report to Agamemnon where, again, in harmony with the metaphorical system that links fire, anger, and weapons, we find that Achilles is as unwilling to quench his {216|217} anger as he was unwilling to quench the fire that threatens Achaean ships: Il. 9.678 keînós g’ ouk ethélei sbéssai khólon, “That one is not willing to quench his khólos.” [34]
To summarize, the metaphorical uses of khólos are part of a coherent system involving three major metaphor types, (a) khólos is food; (b) khólos is disease; and (c) khólos is fire (as a weapon). Each of these types implies other predications which then can interact, so that khólos as something that enters the body from the outside is coherent across the three metaphors. Virtually all the metaphorical uses in Homeric poetry for khólos depend on the digestive, medicinal, or combustatory systems and the various ways in which they cohere.

Etymology and Metaphor

This poetic artistry linking khólos with other fundamental cultural elements is nowhere more delicately handled than in Achilles’ words to Thetis, in response to her very short two-line lament emphasizing the shortness of Achilles’ life and the link between the fate of Hector and her son’s death:
ὠκύμορος δή μοι, τέκος, ἔσσεαι, οἷ’ ἀγορεύεις·
αὐτίκα γάρ τοι ἔπειτα μεθ’ Ἕκτορα πότμος ἑτοῖμος.
(Il. 18.95-96)
Oh child of mine, your life will be short, given what you say; for immediately following Hector, your fate is at hand.
And Achilles repeats the idea of immediacy, but hyperbolically curses himself:
αὐτίκα τεθναίην, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἄρ’ ἔμελλον ἑταίρῳ
κτεινομένῳ ἐπαμῦναι·
(Il. 18.98-99)
Would that I die, immediately, since I was not to be a defense for my friend, when he was getting killed.
Here, Achilles immediately (autíka) responds to Thetis’s use of the word, as hetaírōi responds to Thetis’s hetoîmos (Il. 18.96) with a severe comparison poised between Achilles’ death and that of Patroclus (tethnaíēn, kteinoménōi, as reinforced by the enjambement). Achilles parses his mother’s speech, extracting the notion of companionship and immediacy in order to throw an ironic spin on both. And thanks to Richard Martin’s (1989) solution to the myriad problems presented by the language of Achilles we have a way of thinking about these linguistic feats by the hero of the Iliad: {217|218}
[Homer] fully reveals all the possibilities of his own poetic craft only in the extended speech of Achilles. The effect is to make Achilles sound like a poet. … The similarity arises because Homer, when he constructs Achilles by means of language, employs all his poetic resources and stretches the limits of his formulaic art to make the hero as large a figure as possible. In short, the monumental poem demands a monumental hero; the language of epic, pressed to provide speech for such a man, becomes the “language of Achilles.”
(Martin 1987, 223)
What Martin teaches us here is a potent lesson to learn, since I am about to suggest that the most extravagant use of the metaphorical possibilities available to khólos are performed by Achilles in this speech to his mother.
Here is part of Achilles’ renunciation of his anger, at Il. 18.98-126, where he comes to curse wrath:
ὡς ἔρις ἔκ τε θεῶν ἔκ τ’ ἀνθρώπων ἀπόλοιτο,
καὶ χόλος, ὅς τ’ ἐφέηκε πολύφρονά περ χαλεπῆναι,
ὅς τε πολὺ γλυκίων μέλιτος καταλειβομένοιο
ἀνδρῶν ἐν στήθεσσιν ἀέξεται ἠύτε καπνός·
ὡς ἐμὲ νῦν ἐχόλωσεν
(Il. 18.107-11)
Thus let strife perish away from gods and mortals both, and khólos , which compels one to rage, thoughtful though he be, and sweeter by far than honey dripping down inside human bodies it increases, like smoke. Thus did the king of men Agamemnon now come to provoke khólos in me.
That Achilles should speak these words to Thetis presents us with a stark contrast to his account of the quarrel in Book 1. Although in Book 1 he could not admit to his khólos, instead saddling Agamemnon with the entire emotional weight of it, here he comes to admit that his khólos is the problem and that it is his, even though he still—and, to my mind, rightly—emphasizes the provocation of Agamemnon. Thus, Achilles is the polúphrōn (“a thoughtful one”) who succumbs to a kind of temptation presented by khólos, which he seeks to motivate, we will see, by elaborating on the special sense provided to khólos by its systematic conceptual structure.
The placement of this curse on anger is dramatic precisely because it succeeds Achilles’ curse on himself. The combination of these two is indeed a fatal parsing of mênin Akhilêos, with a focus not on mênis but on the more manageable forms of anger, éris and khólos. [35] Achilles moves then to fashion this anger in a resonant trope in which he takes his analysis further by styling his anger in elemental terms, as quoted above. There are two elements to the comparison that Achilles makes here. The first is that anger is like honey, because it is sweet—khólos surpasses the sweetness of honey; the second is that it is like smoke. Now we know, as mentioned, of the five comparisons in which anger is likened to fire, {218|219} and of the other cases in which khólos is compared with a product of digestion, this is the only one that includes these elements together: smoke, honey, and the process of dripping down in the chest cavity. [36] Thus, Achilles joins his own suicidal wish to a wish for the death of the feature of the universe that has placed him in this painful place: he wishes death for the wrath of Achilles (Il. 18.107-8).


An interpretation adequate to the complexity of this passage (Il. 18.107-111) can profit from a glance at the etymology of khólos. But since such a procedure has been doubted often in literary critical circles, it is worth establishing what is involved in using etymology as a tool for literary explanation.
Here is an expression of an understandable anxiety:
[Etymologies] are far less reliable because they are abstractions which are not performed by language, but by linguistic science, which can never be wholly verified by language itself: that is by their actual usage. Hence when they are right, they are not proofs, but advance achievements of conceptual analysis, and only in this obtain a firm foundation.
(Gadamer 1975, 92-93) [37]
Gadamer’s statement articulates a common opinion regarding the validity of etymology for literary study. It is worth noting that Gadamer asserts this point through the concept of performance: etymology is not performed; in Gadamer’s terms—and really since the rise of linguistic science—etymology is seen as the product of a certain kind of “work,” the work of the linguist. One can begin to perceive here a rupture between work and play, science and art, a rupture whose applicability to the context of traditional cultures is subject to question, especially since performance in such contexts is opposed neither to work nor to science.
For now, it is sufficient to note that literary scholars often reject the value of historical linguistic method to interpret, elucidate, clarify, or even deal with literary material. With the polemic of this debate we need not concern ourselves at this moment. But the topic is important enough to merit our notice, because if one side of the polemic is accurate, then literary scholars need not consult those who discover new linguistic facts, synchronic or diachronic. Nor, under such conditions should historians of the language seek to inform those who see themselves as literary critics of any kind, including those of ancient Greek literature. [38]
On the contrary, a review of etymological research regarding khólos helps demonstrate that the historical background is indeed crucial for revealing the poetics of Achilles’ comparison between khólos and honey. The wealth of data {219|220} here gives depth to the primary assertion of this analysis: that historical linguistic method supplies acute tools for understanding the poetics of Homeric discourse.
Greek khólos comes from the root *ǵhel-, for which Pokorny (429) gives a compendium of congeners indicating light or color, with an extensive legacy for this Proto-Indo-European root:
*ǵhel- (und *ghel-?), auch als i-, u- oder n-Stamm; *ǵhel-e-: ǵhle-, ǵhlo-: ǵhle- ‘glänzen, schimmern’; als Farbadjektive: ‘gelb, grun, grau oder blau’.
It is not necessary at this point to sort out the problems involved in identifying the particular color for the etymon nor in seeking a priority for one or another color word as opposed to a meaning referring to light intensity. [39]
Besides the numerous congeners of khólos in the Indo-European language family, in Greek itself we have not only khólos from this source but also kholḗ. [40] Now Greek kholḗ means “bile,” where khólos in Homer is regularly glossed as “anger.” Such a collocation of an original ā-stem with a thematic counterpart has been well-noted. [41] For now it is important to notice the semantic disparity between khólos and kholḗ. What have “anger” and “bile” to do with each other? Let us refer our question to the history of Indo-European *ǵhel-. For neither “gall” nor “anger” is the base meaning of IE *ǵhel-; rather we must turn to the color words that yield the most common meaning for the descendants of this root.
The etymology of Greek khólos is transparent and uncontroversial in contrast to kótos. Thus, besides khólos we have kholḗ “gall,” “bile,” and a panoply of derivatives. [42] Color words stand out among the derivatives in Greek from *ǵhel-; see especially khlōrós “greenish-yellow,” “pale green.” We know the r-suffix is old from Latin ruber and related forms. [43] A clearly related form is khloḗ, “the first green shoot of plants,” “greens.” [44]
Now the root *ǵhel- is widely distributed over the Indo-European world. Since the extensive distribution of the etymon is necessary to my argument, the forms may be recapitulated here with particular emphasis on their relation to khólos. Besides Greek, there are forms of *ǵhel- in Indic, Iranian, Albanian, Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, and Slavic.
In the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European, Sanskrit shows the color word hári- “yellow,” “golden,” and the derivative hárita- “yellow,” “green.” Metonymic derivatives include, with the animatizing suffix -ina, harináh “gazelle.”
Avestan has zari- meaning “yellow,” “yellowish,” and zairita- with the same -ita suffix as in Skt. hárita, “yellow, green.” The neuter noun for “gold,” zarani-, occurs as the first element in a compound in more than a dozen Avestan words (Bartholomae 1904, 1678-1680), including zaraniio.sruua- “with golden horns.” Compare also zaraniia-. Moreover, and significantly, Avestan has zāra-, “gall.” This reflects a parallel situation where the early color term stands metonymically for a bodily product, as recognized by Bartholomae s.v. and Pokorny (429): {220|221}” zāra- m. ‘Galle’ (= gr. kholḗ), nach der Farbe benannt wie gr. khólos, lat. fel, anord. gall usw.” [45] Similar metonymic patterning is to be seen in Old Persian daraniyah-, n. “gold.”
Precisely the same kind of historical semantic sequence is seen in Italic, where we have Latin fel, fellis, a neuter noun meaning “gall” (with f- from a dialectical form). Latin elsewhere shows the expected form in the color term helvus “honey-yellow.” [46]
The Celtic languages have many derivatives from Indo-European *ǵhel- that also parallel the model of historical semantic change that I propose for khólos. Note that Old Irish, preserving as might be expected an extremely early semantic moment, continues the archaic meaning of *ǵhel- in gel- “shining,” “bright,” “fair white,” a thematic adjective that in turn forms the first term of many compounds, e.g. gel-dét “white tooth,” gel-cnes “white skin” etc. The simplex adjective is used of complexion, limbs, metals and weapons, the sun, scenery, animals and inanimate objects. [47] A verb gelaid means “to make white or bleach,” and intransitively “to shine,” as in the proverb: nī i n-aoin-fheacht ghealas an ghrian, “It’s not once that the sun shines.” [48] Further, consider the noun gelán, an o-stem meaning “brightness,” “a flash,” “whiteness,” from gel-lán, with simplification of the geminate, [49] and note the phrase gelán na súl “the white of the eyes.” [50] In Old Irish, Thurneysen relates glass (“blue, green”) to Gaulish glastum “woad”; [51] and note the same to- suffix seen in Germanic, Sanskrit, and Lithuanian. Welsh has gell, for yellow; glas- “blue”; Breton has gell meaning “brown,” and glas meaning “green”; as in the other branches of Indo-European, the color-etymon can be transferred to the object of that color: Welsh glain “jewel”; Breton gal “blueberry,” Irish gelbann “sparrow.” Especially evocative for its connection of this root to fire is Irish gel-tine, which as a compound consists of a color word and the word for fire so as to signify some kind of tinder. Even more evocative for the meaning of Greek khólos are the derivatives from the technical vocabulary of a warrior culture, e.g., cathgal “battle-valour”; armgal “armed conflict”; bangal “a woman’s feat of arms”; bruthgal “ferocity, passion, fervour, ardour.” [52]
The Germanic branch of the Indo-European family is also rich in derivatives from *ǵhel- that witness the color meaning. Modern English “yellow” goes back to the Old English geolu, the equivalent of Old Saxon gelo, Old High German gelo. “Gold” shows a to- suffix, for which see again Sanskrit hárita-. In Old Norse, gulr means “yellow”; “golden,” and, also from *ǵhel- see glamr, “moon.” Compare here the animal name golthorskr, n. “yellow cod.” Germanic also shares the predilection of Greek, Lithuanian, and Latin to identify bile with forms of *ǵhel-: beside Modern English see Old Norse gall (neuter), Old English gealla, Old Saxon galla, etc., all based on an n- suffix as in Latin fel, fellis < *fel-nis.
Slavic shows Russian žolti- “yellow,” with Old Church Slavic preserving “gall” (Pokorny 430) in zlbcy. Russian also has želć “bile.” As for Baltic, {221|222} Lithuanian continues the color meaning from *ǵhel- in želvas “green,” žalias “green,” with verbal derivative žaliuoti “grow with a green color,” “display green foliage.” Lithuanian shows the meaning of “gall” in tulžìs from metathesis of *žultìs (Pokorny 430).
This impressive body of derivatives from Indo-European *ǵhel- demonstrates that the situation in Greek, with this root originally designating a color coming to represent “bile,” is paralleled within the historical semantics of Indo- European. Greek shares with Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Iranian, Celtic, and Italic a relationship between this color and “bile.” The same metonymic process is at work here as is at work in the naming of animals or plants after the color-term *ǵhel-. That bile is so often represented in this group need not so much testify to an inherited lemma for these words (although that possibility should not be ruled out), as much as to a consistent tendency in the manner of naming this product of the human body.
We have seen that Indo-European *ǵhel- in Greek yields two results of significance to this book. As in Lithuanian, Celtic, Italic, and Indo-Iranian, derivatives continuing the color-reference are numerous: khlōrós, khlóos, khlóē, khloerós, melí-khlōros, etc. And Greek has derivatives further attesting to the meaning “gall” or “bile”: kholṓdokhos “gall bladder”; kholṓdēs “full of gall,” “zornig”; and finally kholikós (Plutarch) and kholaîos “biliary” (Suda), and, of course, kholḗ.
It is reasonable to infer two things from the preceding data. First, Proto- Indo-European *ghel-, through metonymy, often comes to refer to an object marked in some distinct way by the color to which *ghel-refers. Second, Greek shows “gall” or “bile” where other Indo-European languages independently show the same result.
It is possible then to come to terms with the movement from Indo-European *ghel-meaning a color to Greek khólos. This schema suggests a model for this evolution:
Stage 1: Color: *ghel-.
Stage 2: Object: Bile, a liquid of the color identified in Stage 1.
Stage 3: Emotion: Anger, as associated with bile in Stage 2.
And at this point we can cite Sweetser’s formulation that “there is, then, a general tendency to borrow concepts and vocabulary from the more accessible physical and social world to refer to the less accessible worlds of reasoning, emotion, and conversational structure.” [53] It is this sort of mechanism that is at work in Il. 18.107-11.
For khólos and khol we can observe the lemma “bile” comes to stand for a “physical action or sensation,” the emotion of anger as represented in khólos. The exact details of the transformation are not yet important here; what matters {222|223} is that a pathway is open for such a transformation to take place. There are only three survivals in the Homeric text from stage two of the model. [54]
The pair (khólos and khol) thus represents two distinct stages in the historical semantics of Indo-European *ǵhel- in Greek. But more important for Calchas’s definition than these observations about the Greek lexicon is that the Greek poetic record in the epic displays this semantic history in a way that has literary consequence. This display, in fact, is crucial to the meaning of the simile where Achilles compares khólos to honey and smoke.
Yet, as we will shortly see, these distinct semantic stages coexist, even as different dialectical forms or different points in phonological, morphological, and syntactic linguistic history in the poetry of Homer. In other words, just as phonological and morphological linguistic features from distinct stages live side by side in Homeric poetry, so can semantic features created at different times exist simultaneously because of the traditional nature of the poetic art language.
Now consider again Achilles’ language in Il. 18.107-11, where Achilles collocates different features of khólos: ashes, honey, the act of dripping down in the chest cavity. Of the five similes that relate to anger in the Iliad [55] this is one of two that uses khólos to signify anger. [56]
Cultural notions concerning khólos motivate Achilles’ use of the word here. In Achilles’ simile, an earlier stage of khólos survives than is represented by the usual gloss for khólos as “anger.” This stage may be the recapitulation on Achilles’ part of the real semantic history of khólos. In calling up the image of honey, méli, Achilles does the same thing he did in calling up the image of his mother’s milk (in Il. 16.203)—honey is sweet, bile bitter. But honey can also be similar in color to bile. [57] We have Homer drawing on the earliest stage (the color stage) of Greek khólos. Put briefly, in this passage, Homeric poetry both preserves and displays the etymology of khólos.
As to the connection between khólos and fire (through kapnós by metonymy), it is worth pointing out the bold rhetorical use to which Achilles has put this image. Put simply, Achilles is using a binary opposition to highlight khólos. Thus khólos is opposed to méli, where kataleiboménoio is opposed to the implied word for the rising of the smoke. [58] The smoke (kapnós) as it rises complements the honey (méli) as it descends. And all of this is compatible with the elementary notion of the desirability and pleasure of honey being used to explain the complex psychology of anger. [59]
Here then we have a binary opposition of the kind studied by Levi-Strauss in From Honey to Ashes. To quote Levi-Strauss, there is “a correlative and antithetical term of liquid honey, corresponding to it point by point in the complementary scale of the dry, the burnt and the aromatic.” Thus, in explicating khólos, Achilles does not so much first compare it to honey and then to smoke but he compares it to the opposition between honey and smoke (see Table 11.1). [60]
{223|224} Table 11.1. Relationship between Khólos, honey, and smoke
This analysis only begins to unpack the complex nature of this figure. We know for example that Strabo refers to “unsmoked honey” [61] —the smoke being used “to induce passivity in bees when [the beekeepers] opened the hives.” Are we to consider Achilles’ (and Meleager’s) passivity here? Certainly these technologies are ancient, as J. E. Jones demonstrates: “The ancients certainly knew how to use smoke to induce passivity in bees when they opened hives and knew also that heavy smoking contaminated the honey and spoiled its flavor” (Jones 1976, 86; cf. Jones, Graham, and Sackett 1973, 406). We know that smoke was used in the harvesting of honey from very early on. [62] The structural implications of all this are represented in Table 11.2.
Table 11.2. Oppositions between Khólos and honey
khólos (“anger”) méli (“honey”)
bitter sweet
waste nourishment
the body the culture
up down
Within archaic Greek oral poetics the motivation for this comparison lies in the etymology of khólos. This etymology is preserved, I mean to say, in the poetics of this simile without ever being explicitly drawn out—it is not a figura etymologica in the traditional sense, where in fact a folk etymology will do as well as a true etymology. [63] Rather this figure preserves an earlier meaning of khólos than is called for by any purely synchronic demands of any particular oral performance. I add that what keeps the history of the term intact is the conservative nature of the early Greek oral medium combined with the stability of the conceptual metaphor underlying khólos.
It remains to be asked what kind of mechanism, within the oral medium, caused this figure to be preserved and to be available in the Iliad. For Gadamer’s objection still has not been adequately addressed. If the evidence thus far indicates that the “real” etymology—established, verified, and demonstrated through the methods of historical linguistics—has literary value of an unmistakable kind, how can it be that an oral performer should be able to make use of what amounts to a knowledge belonging to his or her own linguistic past? {224|225}
I respond to Gadamer’s challenge in this way: the etymology of khólos in Il. 18.107-11 is an “essential idea” of the kind Parry suggested lies at the heart of oral formulaic discourse. But the term “formula,” so often problematic, has usually referred to a synchronic mechanism, the kind of thing that would make this performance performable by an oral bard. For diachronic poetics one is in need of a diachronic notion of the formula, one that accounts for more than the production of phrases in a convenient and competent manner.
Calvert Watkins suggests a definition of the formula, along the lines required by the analysis above: “a formula is the verbal and grammatical device for encoding and transmitting a given theme or interaction of themes,” [64] where the theme is a cultural node—”something that matters in the culture.” [65]
What I emphasize from this definition is the introduction of cultural value into our conception of the formula. It is, for example, significant that kléos áphthiton is a formula in Greek poetry: the notion itself is a “cultural node,” a term crucial to the society available to be made, as a consequence, central to the poetics of that culture’s epics. The methods of historical linguistics show that this cultural node is preserved from Indo-European. [66]
For Achilles’ curse against anger, the verbal device is a Homeric simile that refers to a range of poetic features relevant to khólos, especially its connection with the human body through the production of bile. We have here the poetry preserving something that matters to it a great deal: its own understanding of the nature of anger. As the most frequent anger word, khólos is also the most important anger word with respect to the genre of the Iliad. I suggest that its relationship to traditional poetics gives khólos its conservative character as a cultural index. For within the Iliad what really matters is the anger of Achilles, be it khólos or mênis. [67]
The theoretical point here is worth restating: a traditional literature can indeed preserve inherited surface phraseology by means of formulaic phrases; and, as a consequence, there are likely to be similarly long lived, inherited semantic collocations available for poetic purposes. Thus, some semantic relationships which are present at one point in a word’s history may survive diachronic semantic change through the conservative mechanism of an oral poetic tradition. In traditional literature, that is, in literature whose history can to a large extent be present in the form and content of the individual performance, etymology may provide clues to meanings hidden from view on the synchronic level—the synchronic “reading” of a traditional text implies diachronic reception of both form and content. Furthermore, the play of the singer’s art can involve artistic manipulation of inherited linguistic features. It is no accident that an old etymology for khólos occurs in a scene where the narrative so clearly succeeds in evoking woe and wonder for the plight of Achilles. [68] {225|226}


[ back ] 1. Cf. Il. 24.617, 639, (kḗdea, “woes”); and cf. Il. 8.513 (bélos, “missile”) and at Il. 2.237 (géra, “gift”). See Kirk 1985, at Il. 8.512-13.
[ back ] 2. For example: khólon eksakésaio Il. 4.36,”you might heal (your) khólos; hōs tòn Athēnaíēs deinòn khólon eksakésaito (Od. 3.145), “Thus did he cure the terrible khólos of Athena.”
[ back ] 3. As in the formula, Meléagron édu khólos (Il. 9.553), “khólos had entered Meleager” as comparable to édu dé té min khólos ainôs (Il. 22.94), “and the dread khólos entered him”; see also hōs min mâllon édu khólos (Il. 19.16), “thus had khólos entered him the more.”
[ back ] 4. allá moi oidánetai kradíē khólōi, hoppóte keínōn (Il. 9.646), “But my heart swells with khólos … .”
[ back ] 5. As in ê apéeipe, khólos d’ ét ékhei megalḗtora thumôn (Il. 9.675), “But khólos still holds his heart”; and see also Il. 18.322 eí pothen ekseúroi; mála gàr drimùs khólos haireî, “The more did khólos take him.”
[ back ] 6. keînós g’ ouk ethélei sbéssai khólon, all’ éti mâllon (Il. 9.678), “That one is not willing to quench his khólos. . . .”
[ back ] 7. skhétlie Pēléos huié, khólōi ára s’ étrephe mḗter (Il. 16.203), “Wretched son of Peleus, yes, your mother nursed you on khólos.”
[ back ] 8. aûtis, epeí rhá toi hôde kakòs khólos émpese thumōi” (Il. 16.206), “Since an evil khólos has fallen in your heart.”
[ back ] 9. On metaphor in Homer see Moulton 1979, 279-93, and the literature cited there. See also Parry 1971, 365-75. The usual observation is that Homeric verbal artistry is not rich in metaphor. But Muellner challenges that idea in his study of Homeric metaphor, where he argues that “there are expressive, artistic links between ‘similes’ and ‘metaphors’ in any given context” (1990, 60 and n. 2). Metaphor, thus, might be more a part of Homeric diction than has hitherto been thought, so that the relative scarcity of metaphor in Homer might be largely an illusion (cf. Petegorsky 1982). I suspect that early Homeric tradition understood the vitality of metaphor in a manner that is continued in systematic fashion by Aristotle (e.g., in Rhetoric 3.10, 1410b 35, Poetics 21, 1457b 7). The earlier status of these various controversies are reviewed in Moulton 1979, 279-80; see also for the earlier literature Keith 1914 and Stanford 1936.
[ back ] 10. Besides Lakoff and Johnson 1980, see the same authors 1989 and Lakoff 1987, where Lakoff presents a case study of anger in English (380-415); see also Lakoff and Kövecses 1987.
[ back ] 11. See, for example, Ortony 1979.
[ back ] 12. See also Hans Kurath 1921 for a review of such processes. I am grateful to Eve Sweetser for drawing my attention to this important study.
[ back ] 13. I rely heavily here on Lakoff and Kövecses 1987, 196, where the cognitive model of anger in American English is examined to show the “coherent conceptual organization underlying” the expressions for anger in contemporary speech.
[ back ] 14. Lakoff and Kövecses 1987, 198; updated in Lakoff 1987, 380-415.
[ back ] 15. Ibid.
[ back ] 16. These examples are from Lakoff and Kövecses 1987, 198.
[ back ] 17. There are other metaphors involved in this process. For examples and analysis, see Lakoff and Kövecses 1987, 199. The authors call the two entities in this process the source domain (here “heat”) of the metaphor and the target domain (here “anger”) of the metaphor. Putting it in their terms, the metaphorical entailments are the carryovers of knowledge from the source to the target domains. Thus what a Homeric text knows about fire (a source domain) is also part of what it knows about anger (the target domain), in that the connection between the two is made effective by the carry over of knowledge from one domain to the other.
[ back ] 18. Though the scholia at Il. 4.513 further metaphorize the image to that of ripening. See also Kirk’s note ad loc.
[ back ] 19. This metaphoric relationship is prominent in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus; see Adelman 1978.
[ back ] 20. Recall here the relationship of khólos to kholḗ. Joan O’Brien’s analysis of Hera’s insatiable “demonic hatred” insists that “gall” is the “fundamental meaning” of khólos (1993, 80). O’Brien (1993) and Padel (1995, 53) both point to the complex nature of the relationship between khólos and body imagery.
[ back ] 21. Culinary practices and codes have been a major focus of structuralist analysis. See for example Detienne and Vernant 1989. But along with the demand for the elaboration of source domains for anger (such as culinary practice), a thorough review of the features of the target domain must be undertaken. The connection between source and target is at the same time both culture specific and coherent, in the sense discussed above, so that neither one “explains” the other; rather both participate in an interlocking system of meaning-formation.
[ back ] 22. There is more than a little affinity here between the body as a container for khólos and Lakoff’s findings concerning the metaphor “The body is a container for the emotions” (Lakoff 1987, 383). In her discussion of the container metaphor, O’Brien (1993, 82 with n. 11) draws attention to mênos aáskheton (Il. 5.892) “uncontainable anger” in that it continues the metaphor of the “body-as-container.”
[ back ] 23. Cf. Zeus’s anger at Il. 15.136 characterized with kudoimḗsōn, “swelling,” after that anger has been identified as khólos kaì mênis, at Il. 15.122. For this passage see also Muellner 1996, 114-16.
[ back ] 24. Cf. LSJ s.v. diatríbō, ΙΙΙ.
[ back ] 25. The verb can also refer to threshing. The notion of delaying occurs in a number of Homeric passages (e.g., Od. 20.341), where the process involved is seen as taking time. Compare our “just standing around” as equivalent to “delaying.” The special detail of grinding by hand indicates that a real physician would have had special tools, perhaps the equivalent of mortar and pestle, to do the grinding.
[ back ] 26. And compare katabróxeien Od. 4.222 with bebrōkṑs kakà phàrmak’, Il. 22.94 (“having consumed evil drugs”), where the kakà phàrmak’contrast with the “good drug” (Bergren 1981) of Helen. See Walsh 1999.
[ back ] 27. This passage is explored in a paper published as Walsh 1999, where I suggest that there is a parallel to this potion (with its effect on the drinker) in Nestor’s cup, discussed by Watkins 1975, with literature. Homeric narrative elaborately structures the description of Helen’s potion in a fashion parallel to that of Nestor’s cup by means of an evaluative adjective (ευποτ[ον] in Nestor’s cup), comparable to the three compound adjectives in the Odyssey passage, nḗpenthes, ákholon, epílēthon, in both examples followed by a generalizing relative clause explaining the effect of the drink on the drinker. The relative clause is characteristically more elaborate and descriptive in the Homeric text than is possible in the more epigrammatic and materially restricted medium of the inscription.
[ back ] 28. The other important work on fire in Homeric epic includes Graz 1965 and Nagy 1979, 331, who writes “The fact is that pûr ‘fire’ is a prime manifestation of bíē, on the cosmic level and on the heroic as well.” On 321-2 Nagy goes on to say that “what strikes us in particular here is that the narrative is presenting the bíē of Achilles as parallel to the bíē of fire itself.” In these passages, Nagy focuses on the “elemental” aspects of bíē. My study meets his at just the place where khólos as a manifestation of bíē has an elemental relation to fire. Paragraphs 6 and 12 of Nagy’s Chapter 20 are especially concerned with fire and the warrior. As to fire and anger, Muellner definitively establishes the relationship of mênis and fire (especially in its manifestation as Zeus’s lightening bolt): “Massive devastation by celestial fire is the prime expression of mênis. . . .” (Muellner 1996, 167).
[ back ] 29. Whitman 1958, 132; Achilles’ anger is again flame-like at Il. 19. 365-67.
[ back ] 30. See again Whitman (1958, 131-32).
[ back ] 31. Graz (1965, 260) on Il. 9.678 does not elaborate on the incendiary features of khólos; instead he focuses on mênos. Here khólos is a stronger candidate for being the central figure of this metaphor, though sbénnumi and its compound forms have a variety of objects (e.g., mênos, notably, at Il. 16.621).
[ back ] 32. For fire as an attribute of the hero, see again Nagy 1979, 330-47.
[ back ] 33. Cf. Il. 4.217, Il. 16.113. Once it is used of the victim Il. 4.108. Only three other abstract nouns function as subjects of émpese: deós in Il. 17.625, kakón in Od. 2.45, and épos in Od. 12.266. The Iliad presents a formulaic system that highlights the relation of fire, weaponry, and fear in addition khólos. The Odyssey gives no examples of either khólos or pûr (“fire”) as the subject of émpese.
[ back ] 34. The last chapter of The Best of the Achaeans (Nagy 1979, 317-47) shows the thematics that bolster the fire imagery as expressing “the hero’s cosmic affinity with fire and wind” (Nagy 1979, 351). As shown there, the phraseological robustness of the link between the hero and such imagery extends from the comparative evidence of Indo-European tradition to the particulars of Greek themes. The metaphoric processes discussed here fit nicely with this evidence. I also point to the important thinking of L. Muellner on Homeric metaphor in Muellner 1990, especially 96-99.
[ back ] 35. See Hogan’s analysis of éris in this passage (1981, 21, 55), especially his contrast between éris and khólos. He notes that “Achilles condemns his own khólos, Agamemnon’s provocation of it, and then the khólos Hérēs (Il. 18.119) associated with Heracles’ moira,” in a pattern that parallels Phoenix’s own reference to his own khólos in combination with the exemplum of Meleager; in both cases biography precedes myth. See also Moulton 1979, 285 who emphasizes “the sense of clash which is in turn mitigated by the appropriateness of each separate image. As a whole, the complex description of anger is just what we might expect from a character so familiar with that emotion; the graphic images of honey and smoke, correlated by the antithesis of kataleiboménoio (‘dripping down’) and aéxetai (‘increases,’ ‘grows up’) are produced by a character of singular imagination.” I only add that the character’s imagination jibes with the cultural force of tradition.
[ back ] 36. There are five fire similes that directly involve the emotion of anger in the Homeric texts (Il. 1.104, Il. 18.110, Il. 19.17, Il. 19.366; Od. 4.662). See, conveniently, the schematization of Scott 1974, 66-68, 191, 199 and the discussion on 68. See also Fraenkel 1921, 56, in addition to his section Gestirne, Blitz und Feuer (47-52); he comments “Mit ihren Augen sieht der Sänger die Ereignisse unten auf der Welt; wie der Rauch einer brennenden Stadt steigt das flammende Wüten des Achilleus zu den Schauenden empor,” with the note “Zwischen Rauch und Feuer wird hier wie Σ 207 kein Unterschied gemacht. Weil beides untrennbar ist, genügt es eines zu nennen; gemeint ist die Gesamterscheinung” (52 with note).
On the association of gall and fire, see a remarkable example from a Sumerian incantation (Alster 1972). In his comment on this passage in the Iliad, Onians connects smoke with thumós but does not go further (1951, 50). See also on gall, Kurath 1921, 16-19. Neither Onians nor Kurath connect “gall” and “anger” through the notion of fire as do the Homeric and Sumerian texts.
[ back ] 37. Gadamer 1975, 92-93. See also MacCary 1982, 251 n. 1. For an excellent overview of the literary issues involved in etymological research see Francis 1983. For the major earlier assessment in Homeric studies, see Rank 1951. Despite modernism’s suspicions of etymologizing as a literary trope, Bernard Peebles (1976) shows how etymology could be used as a cognitive and heuristic device in the medieval period.
[ back ] 38. See for example, work on the name of Achilles, Nagy 1976b, Holland 1993, with a reply by Nagy (1994). See too the work on the name Nestor by Frame 1978.
[ back ] 39. In Irwin 1974 one can find a thorough review of the literature to that date on color as it relates to Greek literature. In Chapter 1 (“The Problem”) Irwin reviews studies in classical color terms from Newton forward. While I do not wish to establish the meaning of the color that was designated by any single derivative in ancient Greek, I insist that khólos is derived from a color term in a manner that is significant for the interpretation of Il . 18.110-11. For *ǵhel- derivatives in Greek, see Irwin’s Chapter 2 “χλωρός.” [ back ] cite these sources as a selective list of works to consider in exploring the semantic issues in reference to the color of khólos. Irwin 1974, 62-65; Ferrini 1978; Platnauer 1921; Wallace 1927; McNeill 1972; Rowe 1972. See also the classic study by Berlin and Kay 1969, with significant developments covered in Kay and MacDaniel (1978). Hilbert 1987 and Sahlins 1976 are important for the anthropology pertaining to these issues.
[ back ] 40. On khólos and kholḗ, see Padel 1995, 53-54; Kurath 1921, 16-19; Onians 1951, 52, 84-89.
[ back ] 41. These forms show noun derivatives from verb roots with the -os, alteration:
phthóngos “sound,” “speech” — phthongḗ “voice”
phóros “tribute” — phorá “payment,” “crop”
phthóros “ruin,” “destruction” — phthorá “decay”
plókos “wreath”— plokḗ “web”
The following forms, consisting of adjectives paired with nouns, unlike khólos/kholḗ, have different accentuation and root vocalism:
thermós “hot” — thérmē “heat”
leukós “bright” — leúkē “leprosy”
This pattern is not confined to Greek; see E. Hamp 1985 for a look at such forms. See also Chantraine 1979, 20-21; Watkins 1973, 88; Gagnepin 1959.
[ back ] 42. See Chantraine 1968-1980, s.v. khólos, where the duality of the derivative forms is made clear: “Très tôt la dualité des formes a donc permis une distinction entre la notion médicale de bile et la notion psychologique d’ humeur. Cette distinction ne s’est pas étendue aux composés qui appartiennent presque tous au registre concret de la bile, mais peuvent comportes des acceptions morales.” It is just that border between the body and the “acceptions morales” that is of interest here.
[ back ] 43. Chantraine 1979, 224 and compare eruthrós, “red.”
[ back ] 44. Though Chantraine (1979), perhaps overcautiously, doubts the relation as felt.
[ back ] 45. Frisk (1960-1970) is cautious on the relationship to the Greek form: “nicht ganz sicher” (s.v. khoöḗ, 1110).
[ back ] 46. See Ernout-Meillet 1959-1960 s.v.
[ back ] 47. Dictionary of the Irish Language, s.v.
[ back ] 48. Dioghluim Dána 93 §22.
[ back ] 49. For final syllables in see Thurneysen 1970, 31.
[ back ] 50. Dictionary of the Irish Language, s.v.
[ back ] 51. Thurneysen 1970, 96.
[ back ] 52. Bruth-gal calls to mind again the relationship between beverages, anger, and the body, by connecting an old root for a fermented wine (*bhru-to found in Thracian βρυτος and Latin dē-frutum; we also have a derivative in Old Irish referring to the brewing of beer, bruth, cf. Vendryes 1959, B-106). Besides drawing from the Dictionary of the Irish Language, s.v., the list here comes from the robust collection of the compounds of gal in Irish (and other Celtic languages) in J. Lloyd-Jones 1947, with his succinct treatment of Greek khólos and derivatives on 89.
[ back ] 53. Sweetser 1990, 31; Kurath 1921, 10. Support for the type of model here presented can be found in Kurath’s observations that “different stem-forms may be confined to different stages.”
[ back ] 54. For the relation of khólos to a bodily fluid, see again the milk of Thetis at Il. 16.203 and at Il. 22.93-95, a serpent’s venom. In the latter passage, a serpent (drákōn) imbibes “evil drugs” (kakà phármaka) following which khólos enters him, that is, becomes his venom (édu dé té min khólos ainós). Here khólos is related to a kind of poison (as “evil drug”), which is mirrored by the fluid that is khólos. At stage 2 of the developmental model that I propose here, the color of honey by metonymy is transferred both to mother’s milk and to poison, as it is to honey at Il. 18.108-9 (khólos … hós te polù glukíōn mélitos khólos … which is far sweeter than honey”); on the structural relation of honey and poison in other traditions see Levi-Strauss 1973, 57-58. See also Moulton 1979, 285.
[ back ] 55. Il. 1.104, Il. 18.110, Il. 19.17, Il. 19.366; Od. 4.662.
[ back ] 56. The other is at Il. 19.17. At Il. 1.104 the force that it serves as the medium of anger is ménos; at Il. 19.366 it is ákhos; Od. 4.662 recalls the mênos and ákhos of Il. 1.104.
[ back ] 57. Cf. Latin helvus above, and see Levi-Strauss 1973 on the color of honey.
[ back ] 58. Compare also katasbénnumi and katasmúkhō.
[ back ] 59. Cf. Nagler 1980, 89 for the compositional process here: “At any moment in the recitation one may hear something which resolves a tension the story had built up and which at the same time brings into play something recurrent in the epic-singing tradition or even in the cultural or archetypal inheritance of the community.”
[ back ] 60. Thus Achilles’ observation stands at the head of a long line of oppositions in the West: “There would seem to be no doubt that, in Western civilization, ‘honey’ and ‘tobacco’ phrases stand in opposition to each other” (Levi-Strauss 1973, 18).
[ back ] 61. See J. E. Jones 1976, 86: “The ancients certainly knew how to use smoke to induce passivity in bees when they opened hives and knew also that heavy smoking contaminated the honey and spoiled its flavor.” Cf. Jones, Graham, and Sackett 1973, 406.
[ back ] 62. On the relationship moistness and dryness to life and death, see also Irwin 1974, 33-38. See also Plate 79b in Jones, Graham, and Sackett 1973 for the technology of beekeeping.
[ back ] 63. In a traditional society, the distinction between folk and real etymology is irrelevant. For a critique of such a distinction as a false dichotomy, see Nagy 1994.
[ back ] 64. Cf. Watkins 1981b. See Watkins 1995.
[ back ] 65. For this phrase and concept see Watkins 1995. I am indebted to his ongoing accomplishments in “Indo-European comparative literature” (his phrase).
[ back ] 66. The crucial study of this formula is Nagy 1974, which has elicited much vigorous discussion, as for example Finkelberg 1986. For this book, I set aside the controversy over the status of this important formula in order to emphasize that the significance of such a formula is its dynamic representation in synchronic verbal art of a coherent diachronic cultural inheritance. Albert Lord’s work on the formula has rightly stressed the importance of theme in the development of formulaic systems.
[ back ] 67. See again Muellner 1996.
[ back ] 68. The means by which the narrative makes dynamic a formula and its history is the theme, a device well-elucidated in Lord 1960, 72-103.