Chapter 12. Conclusions and a Comparison

{232|233} I began this study by reviewing the extensive literature on anger in Homer, with a view to finding a method that attends closely to Homeric poetic practice even as it looks to other disciplines including anthropology and linguistics. Such a project seems to be a comparative literature of early traditions and texts; but comparative literature also needs to compare literatures. So to conclude this work, I would like both to summarize what we have found about the distinctions made by Calchas and to compare material from a cognate and often-cited parallel to Achilles and his anger, the anger of Cú Chulainn, the hero of early Irish narrative. [1]
In Part I, I showed that Calchas’s definition is given support by nearly every cited form of kótos, so that this long-lasting anger verges on the status of a social institution. Indeed, when we look to the anthropological literature on the feud, it becomes clear that kótos is close in meaning to the anger appropriate to the type of aggression known as the feud. Entirely different is khólos (Part II), with its focus on the body and the bodily experience of anger. Here the warrior’s anger emerges in all its violent, aggressive and dangerous presence. Unlike kótos, it is bodied forth immediately, and for all its danger, Homeric culture thinks of it as controllable. Indeed this opposition between a controllable anger and one that is not susceptible to cultural manipulation may produce a necessary cultural strategy, a way of accommodating social actors to reality: once warriors are set loose to cultivate wrath as a kind of weapon, to bring that activity to a safe end poses a major problem for a culture. The better the warriors, the more severe the problem. For the early Greeks, to divide up the conceptual category so that there are at least two forms—one controllable so that it is limited and the second active and unstoppable until it reaches its telos—presents a strategy that seems {233|234} protective of two things: the perceived need for the violence that satisfies some perceived social necessity (such as preserving xenía [“guest-friendship”] by seeking revenge on the Trojans) and the recognition that cultivating that violence is dangerous in the extreme.
This double-vision of anger may be central to the tradition from which the Iliad emerges. That tradition presents the warrior’s anger, first as mênis, an anger that, according to Muellner, has cosmic implications. [2] Since khólos, as we have seen, is manageable, the operations of exchange should precipitate the return of Achilles from his state of khólos. That would make sense both for the culture’s norms and the individual’s needs. But, in this version of the traditional tale, Achilles sets out—to his ultimate dismay—to interrogate that anger and its double; not only a poet (see again Martin 1989) but also a theorist, Achilles lights on the cultural flaw that there is something suspect about the distinction drawn between a manageable and an unmanageable anger, so that his struggles come, by Book 9, to attempt major surgery on the body of the culture itself: what if his khólos became unmanageable? What if khólos became something more like kótos by taking on the characteristics of an obstinate feud? Might it not then also partake of vengeance’s endless action? His threatened return to Phthia, his recruitment of Phoenix to stay the night in his tent—all such things point to a longed-for leap to feuding’s obstinacy. When it comes down to it, Achilles has not accepted Calchas’s definition: he mixes the outer forms of khólos and the cultural content of kótos, each of which belongs to a different sphere of activity altogether. He has made a chimera that carries him beyond the confines of khólos even to the threshold of kótos, only to find through Patroclus’s death the heavy toll at culture’s borders.

Achilles’ khólos and Cú Chulainn’s riastrad

What are the comparative implications of the Greek cultural division of anger into these two forms of khólos and kótos? For comparative epic and the comparative literature of early poetry—from Gilgamesh to Orlando Furioso—are very clear that the anger of heroes is ubiquitous. The comparanda that elucidate how Homeric poetry differs from and enriches the comparative store of early poetry still need to be set out in a systematic manner. In that spirit, I will close this study with a brief look at the comparative perspective afforded us by early Irish saga. The conclusion will be that a formally parallel and diachronically related tradition displays not a kótos, not the style of feuding anger but more like khólos in its figuration of the warrior’s anger. In both cases the khólos-style anger displays a central hero whose body is the focus of aggression, both passively and actively. We will see that the Greek concern with cosmic order, so prominent in both kótos and mênis, seems absent from early Irish epic, whose focus is the material impact of a hero’s devastating wrath. {234|235}
The Celtic branch of Indo-European as represented by Irish texts composed in the European middle ages preserves material of great antiquity; that is to say, in early Ireland we see antiquity present within a medieval European society. [3] As Myles Dillon has shown (1947, 1976) the Irish material is related to our Indic sources; in fact, in Ireland of the middle ages we have a conservative culture whose practice continues rite, verbal art, and other social material that is thousands of years old. [4]
Although Greek culture poses different problems for the comparatist than do the cultures of Ireland or India, [5] there are numerous points of comparison between the sagas and epics of medieval Ireland and Greece. In Ireland one monumental epic, the Táin Cúalnge, takes pride of place over numerous shorter tales. In Greece, the monumental impulse yields two long epics, self-consciously standing for an entire tradition. [6] We also know that the Iliad and the Odyssey were exceptionally long in comparison with performances such as we see in Odyssey 8 or with what we know of the texts of the epic cycle. The Homeric Hymns might provide a better model for the length of a typical oral performance than do the Iliad or the Odyssey, whose very size puts them in a category of their own. So too the Táin far outstrips the other examples of Irish narrative.
Provocative parallels emerge from a comparison between Irish saga and Greek epic. [7] These comparisons are reinforced by particular moments in the Iliad and the Táin when the epics seem to body forth strikingly similar scenes of pathos. For example, at the height of the action of the Táin, Cú Chulainn arranges with Ailill to engage only in single combat. This seems to the advantage of both sides, as indeed do the duels of Iliad 3 and 7 seem advantageous to the warriors on the Trojan plain.
The first combatant Cú Chulainn meets in this way is Etarcomol, a foster son of Ailill and Medb. This familial relationship (fosterage) is exploited by the text to stress the youth or vulnerability of Cú Chulainn’s first victim, as well as the emotional ties between Etarcomol, Ailill, and Medb. Moreover, Fergus, under whose protection the youth comes to Cú Chulainn, points out the danger involved. For convenience, I quote from the expressive translation of Thomas Kinsella:
“I would rather you didn’t come,” Fergus said. “Not that I dislike you, but for fear of strife between Cú Chulainn and you. With your pride and insolence, and the other’s ferocity and grimness, force, fury and violence, no good can come from your meeting.”
(Kinsella 1970, 117)
Etarcomol proves to be reckless indeed in facing Cú Chulainn. The two warriors verbally challenge each other, and after he agrees to meet Cú Chulainn in single combat the next day, Etarcomol turns to go. But he cannot wait. He {235|236} turns back his chariot, approaches Cú Chulainn, and challenges him then and there:
“It’s you who wants this,” Cú Chulainn said to Etarcomol. “It isn’t my wish.”
“You have no choice,” Etarcomol said.
(Kinsella 1970, 119)
Cú Chulainn makes three passes at killing him, and on the third one Etarcomol pays the price for his boldness: “But the fool stubbornly persisted and Cú Chulainn struck down through the crown of his head and split him to the navel” (Kinsella 1970, 120).
This death arouses fury in Fergus, under whose protection Etarcomol has come forth, even as in the Greek tradition khólos is aroused in one whose phílos has been killed. When Fergus retrieves the body to bring back to Ailill, he does something that calls to mind one of the most dramatic moments of the Iliad:
Fergus pierced Etarcomol’s two heels with a spancel-ring and dragged him behind his chariot to the camp … Medb saw this. “That is brutal treatment for the unfortunate dog,” Medb said. “I say he was an ignorant whelp,” Fergus said . . .Then they dug a grave for him; his memorial stone was planted, his name written in ogam, and his lamentation made. Cú Chulainn murdered no more that night with his sling.
(Kinsella 1969, 121)
Not only is tying Etarcomol to the back of the chariot parallel to Achilles’ tying Hector to the back of his chariot, the brutal treatment of the human body in both epics being used to underscore the extent to which the violence of the hero has gone beyond even conventional warfare. [8]
I suggest that in this example we have a directly comparable element between Irish saga and Greek epic narrative. In both epics, an extraordinary moment shows single combat leading to the return of the loser, whose body is maltreated by dragging it behind a war chariot. This is true not only because of typological patterns assignable to the integrity of the epic genre in a world literary context, but also because Irish and Greek tradition have a shared cultural heritage. Such narrative elements can be multiplied, but I want now to turn to the khólos of Achilles, which I will argue may be a point of cultural heritage shared between these two cultures and their Indo-European congeners.
Just as Achilles has his wrath, so does Cú Chulainn have an anger that seems to define the hero and whose physical manifestation is one of the hallmarks of the Táin. It is worth quoting, at length, one of the most extensive descriptions of Cú Chulainn’s anger, his ríastrad (often translated, in an attempt to account for the physical description, “warp-spasm”). I quote this passage at length to emphasize the detail that Irish saga devotes to description of the physical characteristics of ríastrad. {236|237}
Is and sin cétríastarda im Choin Culaind, co nderna
úathbásach n-ilrechtach n-ingantach n-anachnid de …
Imsloic indara súil dó ina chend, iss ed mod dánas tarsed
fíadchorr tagraim do lár a grúade a iarthor a chlocaind.
Sesceing a séitig co m-boí fora grúad sechtair. Ríastarda [9]
a bél co urthrachda. Srengais in n-ól don fidba chnáma,
comtar inéchnáig a inchróes. Táncatar a scoim 7 a
thromma, co m-bátar ar eittelaig ina bél 7 ina bragit …
Airddithir remithir tailcithir tressithir sithithir
séolchrand prímlungi móre in bunne díriuch dondfola
atracht a fírchléithe a chendmullaig i certairddi, co n-
derna dubchíaich n-druídechta de amail chíaich de
rígbruidin, in tan tic rí dia tenecur hi fescur lathi gemreta.
Iarsin ríastrad sin ríastarda im Choin Culaind …
(O’Rahilly 1967, 2262-63; 2273-81; 2291-95)
Then his first distortion came upon Cú Chulainn so that he became horrible, many-shaped, strange and unrecognizable … He sucked one of his eyes into his head so that a wild crane could hardly have reached it to pluck it out from the back of his skull on to the middle of his cheek. The other eye sprang out on to his cheek. His mouth was twisted back fearsomely. He drew the cheek back from the jawbone until his inner gullet was seen. His lungs and his liver fluttered in his mouth and his throat … As high, as thick, as strong, as powerful and as long as the mast of a great ship was the straight stream of dark blood which rose up from the very top of his head and became a dark magical mist like the smoke of a palace when a king comes to be attended to in the evening of a wintry day.
After Cú Chulainn had been thus distorted …
(O’Rahilly 1967, 201-2)
This is not Homer, despite the graceful simile. Nonetheless, the luscious extravagance of this passage, the vivid description of Cú Chulainn’s ríastrad, gives me the opportunity to contrast Cú Chulainn’s wrath with Achilles’ khólos. Now Greek khólos is a physical anger in contrast to the nonphysical kótos, as we have seen. In fact, the physicality of khólos is supported by its etymological relationship with English “gall.” So too Cú Chulainn’s ríastrad is directly linked to some kind of bodily process related to the emotion of anger. [10]
Tancatar a scoim 7 a thromma, co m-batar ar eittelaig ina bél 7 ina bragit.
His lungs and his liver fluttered in his mouth and his throat.
Both Greek and Irish exploit a link between the emotion of anger and the place of the human body in motivating emotion. [11]
Besides the physicality of khólos, there is one other analogy to ríastrad that suggests a more specific parallel. The most telling feature of Cú Chulainn’s ríastrad is the distortion of the face, especially the rearrangement of his eyes (as quoted above). Homer’s descriptions of Homeric khólos can also highlight a distortion of the face. {237|238}
In this regard, consider the phrase hupódra idṓn, studied in detail by J. Holoka, who comes to the following conclusion:
In both Homeric epics, to look darkly is to employ a nonverbal cue fraught with judgmental significance. The speaker, whatever his message, transmits by his facial demeanor that an infraction of propriety has occurred; he deplores the willful traducing of rules of conduct governing the relations between superordinates and inferiors … In all instances, the facial gesture ὑπόδρα ἰδών charges the speech it introduces with a decidedly minatory fervency and excitement: a threshold has been reached and such inflammable materials as wounded pride, righteous indignation, frustration, same, and shock are nearing the combustion point.
(Holoka 1983, 16)
Indeed, I suggest that this facial gesture has a special relationship with Greek khólos.
The strong emotion that a petitioner might expect to provoke in the party he has just found is to be registered in such a gesture. To discover the rhetorical situation in which a speaker finds himself is to read out the emotional state of the addressee from the look on his face. This gesture can be a smile, as when Odysseus decides to spare Medon:
τὸν δ’ ἐπιμειδήσας προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς·
“θάρσει, ἐπεὶ δή σ’ οὗτος ἐρύσατο καὶ ἐσάωσεν,”
Od. 22.371-72
And having smiled many minded Odysseus spoke to him, “take heart since this one has preserved and saved you.”
But things do not always go so well, so that the facial gesture can be the familiar glowering, as at the beginning of Odyssey 22, when, after the death of Antinoos the suitors try to rile Odysseus (neíkeion, 26) by expressing khólos (kholōtoîsin epéessin, 26, “with words of khólos”), only to have Odysseus revile them in very effective terms (cf. 42), when he speaks “glowering” (hupódra idṓn, Od. 22.34); the same line occurs when Eurymachus offers to make up for the goods that the suitors have taken (Od. 22.60), so that the phrase hupódra idṓn seems here to be a mark of Odysseus’s khólos. Finally, the same gesture and the same phrasing marks the unfortunate Leodes’ failed suppliancy to an enraged Odysseus on a rampage (Od. 22.320). Nor is it uncharacteristic of Odysseus to respond in this way. This look is the one that he gives to Thersites just before he insults him and hits him (Il. 2.245). And the phrase is not restricted to Odyssean contexts. So too Achilles comes to be hupódra idṓn prior to delivering his last speech in Iliad 1 to Agamemnon, just before Athene prevents him from letting his khólos go so far as to kill Agamemnon (Il. 1.148-49). {238|239}
Holoka points out that Zeus is the only god to react with the gesture hupódra idṓn, [12] most prominently when Hera seduces Zeus in Iliad 14. If hupódra idṓn is connected to khólos, then Hera has not succeeded in avoiding Zeus’s khólos after all (mḗ pṓs moi metépeita kholṓseai, aí ke siōpêi / oíkhōmai pròs dôma bathurróou Ōkeanoîo [Il. 14.310-11], “Lest you have khólos hereafter, if in silence I go to the house of deep-flowing Ocean.”)
It can hardly surprise Hera that when Zeus sees the plight of Hector’s Trojans before Poseidṓn’s onslaught and he takes pity, his khólos (marked by hupódra idṓn) comes to the fore:
Ἕκτορα δ’ ἐν πεδίῳ ἴδε κείμενον, ἀμφὶ δ’ ἑταῖροι
ἥαθ’, ὁ δ’ ἀργαλέῳ ἔχετ’ ἄσθματι κῆρ ἀπινύσσων,
αἷμ’ ἐμέων, ἐπεὶ οὔ μιν ἀφαυρότατος βάλ’ Ἀχαιῶν.
τὸν δὲ ἰδὼν ἐλέησε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε,
δεινὰ δ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν Ἥρην πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπεν.
Il. 15.9-13
And he saw Hector lying in the field, and around him his companions sat, and he was kept down by painful breathing, dazed in his heart, vomiting blood, since it wasn’t the feeblest of the Achaeans who had struck him. And at the sight of him, the father of gods and men pitied him, and with a terribly glowering look he spoke a word to Hera.
In this case, the idṓn marks the subjective aspect of Zeus’s experience, the effect of his seeing the object of pity (12). Objectively, he expresses that experience through his facial expression: hupódra idṓn. [13]
I have noted before that the verbs of seeing mark the onset of khólos. This collocation is important, since such an emphasis on vision is explicit in the phrase hupódra idṓn, which contains two roots meaning “see,” or “look.”
Pokorny (1959, 213) shows a root *derk- meaning “to look or see,” which gives Greek dérkomai. It is also the source of a mythic beast whose facial expression has a deadly effect: drákōn. [14] The importance of the notion of sight, and the “objective” or outwardly directed nature of *derk- is clear from the description of Agamemnon’s shield where the dragon is a prominent image:
τῇ δ’ ἐπὶ μὲν Γοργὼ βλοσυρῶπις ἐστεφάνωτο
δεινὸν δερκομένη, περὶ δὲ Δεῖμός τε Φόβος τε.
τῆς δ’ ἐξ ἀργύρεος τελαμὼν ἦν· αὐτὰρ ἐπ’ αὐτοῦ
κυάνεος ἐλέλίκτο δράκων, κεφαλαὶ δέ οἱ ἦσαν
τρεῖς ἀμφιστρεφέες, ἑνὸς αὐχένος ἐκπεφυυῖαι.
Il. 11.36-40
And on it there was encircled Gorgo of the loathsome gaze, glowering terribly, and about [her] Rout and Fear; and on it was a belt of silver; and on that a steel-blue dragon curled, with the heads on it numbering three as they turned everywhere, though protruding from a single neck. {239|240}
The fearsome aspect of Gorgo is the terror caused by her gaze. [15] It is significant that the adverb used here (deinón) is the only qualifier of the phrase hupódra idṓn in Homer. Furthermore, the drákōn of Agamemnon’s shield continues the notion of the power of sight that can be used to attack another. [16]
The focus on seeing, sight, and the function of the eyes calls to mind the notion of the evil-eye, so extensively distributed throughout the Indo-European and Near Eastern cultural-symbolic systems (Dundes 1992, 257-318). Alan Dundes’ in-depth review of the folkloric basis of such symbolic systems suggests that the connection between Greek anger and the symbolism of the gaze has to do with a deeply rooted folk-belief about the way that emotions work in the world. In particular, the metaphoric systems discussed in the previous chapter might be connected through a folk-based theory of the humors. [17]
The phrase hupódra idṓn, then, brings to the surface a powerful notion of “seeing” that involves aggression by an injured party. It emphasizes the strength of this action by using two forms from two different verbs meaning “to see.” In this sense the phrase is “over-determined.” We might ask what links seeing and the meaning of khólos.
In Homeric epic, one of the most powerful stimuli that may lead to khólos is the sight of an object or person. So, for example when Achilles receives the armor from Thetis in Iliad 19, as we have already noted, khólos is singled out as the wrath with which he is inspired. As a matter of fact, he sees his shield, so that khólos enters into him; and the outward manifestation of that is the horrifying glow of his eyes:
οὐδέ τις ἔτλη
ἄντην εἰσιδέειν, ἀλλ’ ἔτρεσαν. αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς
ὡς εἶδ’, ὥς μιν μᾶλλον ἔδυ χόλος, ἐν δέ οἱ ὄσσε
δεινὸν ὑπὸ βλεφάρων ὡς εἰ σέλας ἐξεφάανθεν·
τέρπετο δ’ ἐν χείρεσσιν ἔχων θεοῦ ἀγλαὰ δῶρα.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ φρεσὶν ᾗσι τετάρπετο δαίδαλα λεύσσων,
αὐτίκα μητέρα ἣν ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
Il. 19.14-20
Nor did anyone dare to look at him straight on, but they trembled. But when Achilles looked, then the khólos entered him the more, and therein did his eves terribly appear beneath his brow, like a flash. And he was delighted to hold the glorified gifts of the god in his hands. But when he delighted his mind in gazing at the finery, immediately he spoke winged words to his mother.
This passage resonates with the phrase hupódra idṓn in significant ways. In particular, it emphasizes a “look” that is in some sense hupó- (“beneath”); this usage helps clarify the sense of the hupo- in hupódra idṓn. The use of deinón here recalls deiná in Il. 15.13, deinón being, as we have just seen, the only adverbial form used in hupódra idṓn phrases. [18] {240|241}
The precise moment at which one catches sight of a person or object is important. Thus Talthybius and Eurybates are understandably anxious (Il. 1.327) about making their trek to Achilles’ tent to retrieve Briseis. When Achilles sees them, he reveals that his anger is not in fact directed at them:
τὸν δ’ εὗρον παρά τε κλισίῃ καὶ νηϊ μελαίνη
ἥμενον· οὐδ ἄρα τώ γε ἰδὼν γήθησεν Ἀχιλλεύς.
Il. 1.329-30
They found him at the hut and the black ship, sitting; and at the sight of them Achilles did not take delight.
This passage is comparable to Zeus’s reaction to seeing Iris and Apollo approach him in Book 15, after Athena has calmed down Ares, after Hera has yielded to Zeus’s greater power:
τὼ δ’ ἀḯξαντε πετέσθην.
Ἴδην δ’ ἵκανον πολυπίδακα, μητέρα θηρῶν,
εὗρον δ’ εὐρύοπα Κρονίδην ἀνὰ Γαργάρῳ ἄκρῳ
ἥμενον· ἀμφὶ δέ μιν θυόεν νέφος ἐστεφάνωτο.
τὼ δὲ; πάροιθ’ ἐλθόντε Διὸς νεφεληγερέταο
στήτην· οὐδέ σφωε ἰδὼν ἐχολώσατο θυμῷ,
Il. 15.150-55
The two darting forth flew on. And they both reached Ida rich in springs, mother of beasts, and they found the wide-faced son of Kronos on the peak of Gargaron as he sat. And around him encircled a fragrant cloud. And those two coming forth stood before cloud-gatherer Zeus; and at the sight of them he did not become angry in his heart.
This is clearly a typical scene of the kind that one sees in Iliad 9, [19] with common elements at the phraseological level including heûron, hēmenon, and idṓn. Clearly one of the repertoire of emotions available at a surprising sight is khólos. So it comes as no surprise that tòn d’ ar’ hupódra idṓn is metrically interchangeable with tòn dè kholosaménē. [20] Both phrases serve to mark the same emotional state of the speaker, except that one ends in a consonant and the other in a vowel.
Thus far we have observed that khólos is often marked by the sight of a disturbing person or situation and that the phrase hupódra idṓn doubly indicates through -dra- and idṓn the notion of seeing or looking. But there is one passage that clinches the relationship between sight and khólos. And that passage features prominently both khólos and hupódra idṓn.
To conclude a book on Achilles’ anger, it is appropriate to gaze at the meeting between Priam and Achilles in Iliad 24; such an encounter could be {241|242} organized around the notion of seeing. As Hermes and Priam approach Achilles’ tent, Hermes declares the following:
ἀλλ’ ἤτοι μὲν ἐγὼ πάλιν εἴσομαι, οὐδ’ Ἀχιλῆος
ὀφθαλμοὺς εἴσειμι ·
(Il. 24.462-463)
But indeed I will go back, nor will I go before the eyes of Achilles.
After Priam “finds” Achilles (en dé min autòn / heûr’, Il. 24.472-473, “therein did he find him”), wonder seizes the onlookers:
ὣς Ἀχιλεὺς θάμβησεν ἰδὼν Πρίαμον θεοειδέα·
θάμβησαν δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι, ἐς ἀλλήλους δὲ ἴδοντο.
(Il. 24.483-484 [21] )
At that Achilles was awestruck as he caught sight of godly Priam; and the others too were in awe, and they gazed at one another.
What follows is one of the most famous scenes in literature, one of reconciliation and consolation that sheds light over the action of the entire poem. [22] But I wish to focus on one of the stress points of this passage, where the anger of Achilles threatens to return in full swing.
Priam has just asked to see with his own eyes the body of Hector; so he refuses Achilles’ hospitality and demands the presentation of Hector’s body:
μή πώ μ’ ἐς θρόνον ἵζε, διοτρεφές, ὄφρα κεν Ἕκτωρ
κεῖται ἐνὶ κλισίῃσιν ἀκηδής, ἀλλὰ τάχιστα
λῦσον, ἵν’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ἴδω·
(Il. 24.553-55)
Don’t set me on the throne, god born one, while Hector lies uncared for in the huts, but release him at once, so that I might see him with my eyes.
Achilles, now a wiser student of the emotions than he was in Iliad 1, refuses, but only with the ocular gesture that I now argue can convey the notion of khólos.
Τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς·
“μηκέτι νῦν μ’ ἐρέθιζε, γέρον.”
(Il. 24.559-60 [23] )
Then with a glowering look swift-footed Achilles spoke. “No longer anger me, old man.”
That Achilles understands the implications of Priam’s request is clear from Homer’s description of the exchange of the ransom for Hector’s body. Achilles orders the serving maids to wash and anoint the body, but only after hiding it: {242|243}
νόσφιν ἀειράσας, ὡς μὴ Πρίαμος ἴδοι υἱόν,
μὴ ὁ μὲν ἀχνυμένῃ κραδίῃ χόλον οὐκ ἐρύσαιτο
παῖδα ἰδών,
(Il. 24.583-85)
And he set it aside, so that Priam not see his son, lest he not be able to restrain his khólos, after having gazed at the body.
Achilles even specifies when it would be appropriate to view the body:
ἅμα δ’ ἠοῖ φαινομένηφιν [24]
ὄψεαι αὐτὸς ἄγων·
(Il. 24.600-601)
And together with the shining dawn, you yourself will look on him as you lead him back.
And all of these viewings are capped by our observation of the two men gazing in awe at one another:
ἤ τοι Δαρδανίδης Πρίαμος θαύμαζ’ Ἀχιλῆα,
ὅσσος ἔην οἷός τε· θεοῖσι γὰρ ἄντα ἐῴκει·
αὐτὰρ ὁ Δαρδανίδην Πρίαμον θαύμαζεν Ἀχιλεύς,
εἰσορόων ὄψν τ’ ἀγαθὴν καὶ μῦθον ἀκούων.
(Il. 24.629-32)
Indeed Dardanian Priam was in awe of Achilles, his magnificence and his qualities; for he seemed just like the gods. And Achilles was in awe of Dardanian Priam, as he looked at his noble face and heard his speech.
To summarize: in Iliad 24, during the encounter between Achilles and Priam, the social interaction involves the semantics of the gaze, at one point used in a hostile sense by Achilles through the phrase hupódra idṓn in order to suppress the possible occasion of khólos. Achilles knows that to bring out the corpse of Hector would precipitate the khólos of Priam and compel him to respond in kind. Furthermore, his use of the facial gesture marked by the phrase hupódra idṓn is an act of aggression intended to make Priam back down. It is a preemptive display of khólos.
But are “seeing” and “looking” closely enough related to khólos to warrant a comparison with Cú Chulainn’s facial distortion of ríastrad? What is the origin of Greek epic’s nearly philosophical concern with the emotion of anger? When considering that question, we know now to keep in mind the intimate connection between the sense of sight and anger. [25] Watkins claims a “virtual semantic identity” for two phrases:
Θεῶν ὄπις = θεῶν μῆνις {243|244}
and he points out that both mênis and ópis are intimately connected to roots that have to do with sight. His note on this matter is worth quoting here:
This equation ὄπις = μῆνις and the etymology of μῆνις (Doric μᾶνις) there proposed, a deformation of * mnānis, are mutually supported by the discovery … that the root mnā- (*mneh 2 -) in Luvian means “to see,” just like the root ὄπ- of ὄπις.
(Watkins 1987, 298)
I would add that the basis of the connection between seeing and anger is twofold, one connection subjective: the stimulus that can give rise to anger may come in through the eyes; and the other objective: one way to express or to act on that anger is through the contortion of the eyes. The phrase hupódra idṓn, as linked with khólos, is, then, a precious artifact, for it shows that in Homeric poetry, a poetic medium that refrains from the kind of description we find in the Táin’s ríastrad, the narrative sometimes marks Achilles’ khólos with a phrase that recalls the most archaic layer of the semantics of anger in Indo-European. [26]
I conclude by citing Jan de Vries on another possible connection to Cú Chulainn’s ríastrad:
We have mentioned the strange distortion of the hero’s face when he is attacked by furious rage in battle: the ríastrad … What does this strange description mean, which shows us the unbridled and somewhat abstruse imaginative power of the Irish? It is a remarkable fact that we have what look like pictures of this on Armorican coins … On many coins the face has a monstrously large eye situated below its normal position. Could not this allude to Cûchulainn’s eye which came to rest on his cheek?
The Viking Egill Skallagrimsson has similar berserk fits of rage. When he sat down he pulled one eyebrow up to the roots of his hair and the other down to his cheek. He had black eyes, and eyebrows which met above his nose.
The effect of the facial distortion of Egill and Cú Chulainn is the same: one eye is hidden, whereas the other protrudes and seems extremely large.
(De Vries 1963, 83-84)
After pointing out that the one-eyed connection may have sacral roots, De Vries goes on to make his boldest suggestion:
We can no longer speak of a borrowing here. Evidently the Celts and the Germanic tribes each knew this mythical feature from their own tradition, and it is very possible that this tradition went back to Indo-European times.
(De Vries 1963, 85)
I conclude my comparative observations on khólos with the suggestion that this old connection survives in a muted form in the Homeric epics. The use of the {244|245} overdetermined phrase for “glowering” (hupódra idṓn) reveals an old connection between the enraged hero and the distortion of his eyes. [27]
It is a commonplace of Indo-European studies that one needs three independently motivated examples to make a secure reconstruction. Thus, I propose to add Achilles’ khólos and its physical manifestation described in the phrase hupódra idṓn to the ríastrad of Cú Chulainn and the fit of Egil as the physical manifestation of the devastating wrath of the hero and the bequest of a long-lived poetic and cultural survival. {245|246}


[ back ] 1. An early comparison between Greek and Irish heroic narrative is in Nutt’s 1990 Cuchulainn, the Irish Achilles. See also O’Nolan 1969, Renehan 1989, and Harris 1989, especially Chapters 2 and 4.
[ back ] 2. Muellner 1996, 194.
[ back ] 3. See Dillon and Chadwick 1967, 239-69.
[ back ] 4. On the archaism of Irish traditions, see Dillon 1947 and Rees and Rees 1961. Important still is Arbois de Jubainville 1899. On the comparative method as used to uncover cultural survivals, see Littleton 1982. For points of comparison within the tales, see Melia 1979. For a recent comparison between Greece and Ireland, see Renehan 1987. See also Harris 1989; and the use made of Irish materials by Martin 1989, 85, 91, 232. For anger and warrior in Irish saga, see Henry 1982 and Lincoln 1975, 101-2. The importance of the Irish material has not been missed by medievalists working in early epic, see Armistead 1987 and Montgomery 1987, for example, and, with important insights into the relationship between Irish and other medieval literatures, Tymoczko 1982.
[ back ] 5. Littleton 1970, 229.
[ back ] 6. After Kirk’s (1962) suggestion that the monumentality is crucial to Homeric epic, we can turn to Martin’s compelling notion that Homeric narrative is driven by an “expansion aesthetic” (1989, 218-20). Thus Martin makes the idea of monumentality a dynamic process. See also Thornton’s important comparative data (1984, 15-16).
[ back ] 7. See Melia 1979.
[ back ] 8. Cf. Nagler 1974, 161 n. 42; Segal 1981.
[ back ] 9. Note the use of the verb, here reinforcing the notion that this particular kind of anger has its own characteristics; O’Rahilly’s translation (“twisted”) is literally correct, but the force of the figure is missed by not capturing the notion of “distortion.” The distortion of the hero is a mythological motif found in early Irish literature (Cross 1952, 18, A526.6). See too Henry 1982.
[ back ] 10. Henry 1981; for the locus classicus on Achilles and CÚ Chulainn, see Nutt 1900. The comparative features of ríastrad will be treated in a separate article; for now, note that it is one word among a dozen or so others for anger in the early Irish literature; this too provides a parallel to the Greek material.
[ back ] 11. Lakoff and Kövecses 1987; Lakoff 1987, 380-415.
[ back ] 12. Holoka 1983, 9-10.
[ back ] 13. Note that Zeus’s smile at Il. 15.47 is the opposite of hupódra idṓn, as Odysseus’s smile at Medon is the opposite of his reaction (hupódra idṓn) to Eurymachus and Leodes.
[ back ] 14. “Vom bannenden, lähmenden Blick” (Pokorny 1959).
[ back ] 15. See Vernant 1991a.
[ back ] 16. Another part of Agamemnon’s armor also has dragons on display on his thṓrax: kúneoi dè drákontes orōréxato Il. 11.26 “and three dark-blue dragons were extended.” This notion of the serpent or dragon as an early part of Indo-European mythos is explored in Watkins 1995 and see note 26 below.
[ back ] 17. The folkloric basis of the epic evidence will prove to be a fruitful area of research. For the humors in Greek philosophy, see Lloyd 1964. Dundes assertion that “it would appear that the formulations of humoral pathology simply formalized a folk theory already in existence” (Dundes 1992, 298) encourages me to see such a theory as underlying the connection of khólos to liquids and the eyes in the Homeric texts.
[ back ] 18. Holoka 1983, 3; on the alliteration here see Shewan 1925, 196.
[ back ] 19. Segal 1968; cf. Nagler 1974, 200-201; Nagy 1979, 49n. On the syntax of lines containing heúron see Chantraine 1963, 351.
[ back ] 20. Holoka 1983, 3.
[ back ] 21. Cf. Il. 24.482, and Il. 9.193-95 and note íde in 195.
[ back ] 22. See, e.g., Nagler 1974, 167-98.
[ back ] 23. On the close relationship of mênis and éris, see Il. 18.107-8 and Il. 3.415, Il. 23.490, Il. 19.58-59, Il. 20.253; and cf. Nagler 1988, 82, with Hogan 1981.
[ back ] 24. Dawn will accompany Priam back to Troy as Hermes accompanied him to Achilles’ tent. Cf. Nagler 1974, 115.
[ back ] 25. See the discussion in Watkins 1987b, 298-99.
[ back ] 26. The phrase hupódra idṓn is used 14 times of Achilles and 12 times of others (Holoka 1983, 3-4). Cf. Watkins 1985, 12 for the connection with “dragon” (*drk-on(t)- in drákōn) “monster with the evil eye”; now see Watkins 1995, 447, “the danger of the sight of the dragon is found in both traditions, Greek and Irish.” The unconvinced should contemplate the simile at Il. 22.94-95.
[ back ] 27. Dumézil points out that “les grands guerriers de l’ Europe du Nord—l’Irlandais Cûchulainn, les chefs vikings—pratiquaient une grimace héroïque qui était comme le certificat de leur puissance et la preuve de leur victoire” (1948, 172, with literature). For Beowulf see also Puhvel 1968. S. G. Armistead’s consideration (1987) of the “furia guerrera” in two epic texts includes inspiring comparative work along these lines. See especially 267, where Armistead argues that the connection between Irish saga and Norse saga is more than typological, “cuando pensamos en los mùltiples contactos culturales entre celtas y vikingos.” I am encouraged by his conclusion: “Cabe preguntarse hasta dônde remonta el tôpico de la furia guerrera en la tradicôn épica indoeuropea.” See also Montgomery 1987, for which reference I am grateful to S. G. Armistead. Generally, the school of thinking founded by Dumézil focuses on lússa as the Homeric term relevant to the anger of the berserkir (cf. Dumézil 1980, Lincoln 1975) I think khólos is a more likely candidate for the battle rage that comes to be associated with lússa. On Dumézil and early Greek studies, see Nagy 1981 and 1990b, 7-17. Cf. J. Nagy 1990.