Gregory Nagy, The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry
Foreword to the 1999 Second Edition
Introduction. A Word on Assumptions, Methods, Results
Part I. Demodokos, Odyssey, Iliad
1. The First Song of Demodokos 2. The Best of the Achaeans 3. A Conflict between Odysseus and Achilles in the Iliad 4. The Death of Achilles and a Festival at Delphi Part II. Hero of Epic, Hero of Cult
5. The Name of Achilles 6. Lamentation and the Hero 7. The Death of Pyrrhos 8. The Death of Hektor 9. Poetic Categories for the Hero 10. Poetic Visions of Immortality for the Hero Part III. Praise, Blame, and the Hero
11. On Strife and the Human Condition 12. Poetry of Praise, Poetry of Blame 13. Iambos 14. Epos, the Language of Blame, and the Worst of the Achaeans 15. The Best of the Achaeans Confronts an Aeneid Tradition Part IV. Beyond Epic
16. The Death of a Poet 17. On the Antagonism of God and Hero 18. On the Stories of a Poet's Life 19. More on Strife and the Human Condition 20. Achilles beyond the Iliad Appendix. On the Forms Krataió– and Akhaió– Bibliography
Acknowledgments to the 1979 Edition
It took a long time to write this book, and I now have anxieties about whether I can recall the names of all those who have given advice along the way. The list that I offer here may be incomplete, and I hope that anyone accidentally left out will not think me an ingrate. Let me start with those who have endured the final version of the manuscript: D. Gerber, M. Griffith, A. Henrichs, L. Muellner, M. Nagler, J. Nagy, D. Petegorsky, and C. Watkins. Those who have been exposed to parts or all of earlier versions, written or oral, include A. Bergren, V. Bers, D. Boedeker-Raaflaub, W. Burkert, J. S. Clay, C. Dadian, Ο. M. Davidson, A. L. and S. Edmunds, H. Foley, J. Fontenrose, D. Frame, J. D. B. Hamilton, R. Ingber, N. Lain, C. Montgomery, B. Nagy, L. Nagy, A. Nussbaum, P. Pucci, T. G. Rosenmeyer, J. Schindler, D. Sinos, L. Slatkin, D. Stewart, E. D. T. Vermeule, T. Walsh, C. H. Whitman. Also M. Lefkowitz and F. Zeitlin. It goes without saying that none of these friendly critics is responsible for any of the mistakes or omissions that doubtless remain.
Some of the writing was done at Princeton, and I had the pleasant experience of working there in the autumn of 1977 as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study. I am especially grateful to C. Habicht, J. F. Gilliam, and H. A. Thompson of the Institute, and to W. R. Connor of Princeton University’s Classics Department, for their help in providing the most ideal conditions for research.
My material has been much improved by contact with M. Detienne and J.-P. Vernant, who kindly arranged to have me give a presentation before an audience of their colleagues and students in the spring of 1978. I thank the entire équipe in Paris for all their intellectual stimulation and warm hospitality.
Parts of the work were also presented as the John U. Nef Lectures of 1978, sponsored by the Committee on Social Thought in conjunction with the Departments of Classics and Linguistics at the University of Chicago. I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to test my material on such a discerning audience. J. M. Redfield was in that audience, and he has been my work’s indispensable psychopomp ever since. I am most indebted to him for all his patient and helpful criticism.
The second chapter, which is for me the core of the whole enterprise, was originally conceived as a contribution to a projected Festschrift in honor of J. H. Finley. The project did not succeed, and the contributors were left to their own devices. When Mr. Finley reads my piece “The Best of the Achaeans,” I hope that he will accept it as an attempt on my part to honor an extraordinarily creative teacher.
Finally, I dedicate the whole work to the light-hearted Holly, who has been for my life the essence of εὐφροσύνη.