Part 2. Nestor’s Homeric Role

Chapter 4. Iliad 11

{102|105} §2.1 The basic text for Nestor’s myth is his story in Iliad 11.670–761. [1] I have already suggested that the essence of Nestor’s myth is that he is a twin who has lost his brother and who therefore must take his brother’s place. What points to this is the etymological correspondence between the solitary hippóta Néstōr and the dual Aśvínā Nā́satyā, provided that the Vedic names each properly designated a different twin. [2] That point, I think, has now been established.

§2.2 For the interpretation of Iliad 11 the other crucial piece of evidence to emerge from the study of the Vedic twin gods is the distinction between a cattleman twin and a horseman twin. This distinction applies directly to Nestor’s story when we consider its basic structure, namely its division into two distinct episodes, a cattle raid followed by a battle between horsemen. Nestor refers to both events at the start of his story (Iliad 11.670–672):

εἴθ' ὣς ἡβώοιμι βίη δέ μοι ἔμπεδος εἴη
ὡς ὁπότ' Ἠλείοισι καὶ ἡμῖν νεῖκος ἐτύχθη
ἀμφὶ βοηλασίῃ.

I wish I were young and the strength in me were steadfast
as when a battle between the Eleians and us came about
over a cattle raid. {105|106}

First a cattle raid (boēlasíē), and then a battle (neîkos): this is like the basic myth of the Dioskouroi. [3] Between these two episodes, both of which focus on Nestor’s deeds, is a passage explaining how the Pylians came to be victimized by their neighbors in the first place. It is here that we learn that all twelve of Neleus’s sons except Nestor perished when Heracles sacked Pylos in earlier years, and that Pylos was thus left defenseless against its overbearing neighbors. Left unsaid in this crucial passage is the fact that Pylos’s great defender was Nestor’s brother Periklymenos, who kept Heracles at bay until finally he was vanquished and Pylos was sacked. It is Periklymenos’s place that Nestor must take, and to do so he must first become a “warrior horseman.” This he does in the second part of his story. Nestor’s story in Iliad 11 is, in essence, the story of how he became hippóta Néstōr. It is his version of the twin myth.

§2.3 We have already considered how Nestor’s cattle raid is connected with his name, “he who brings back to life.” [4] That connection is confirmed by the close association of cattle with the Vedic name Nā́satyā. Cattle are the domain of the Indo-European immortal twin, who brings his mortal brother back to life; in the opposition between the twins, cattle represent sustenance and life, horses warfare and death. When Nestor carries out his cattle raid, he brings his people back from virtual extinction. Nestor’s “cattle raid” (boēlasíē, Iliad 11.672) includes sheep, pigs, goats, and horses, all of which represent sustenance and life, even the horses, for they are mares that suckle young (Iliad 11.677–681): [5]

ληΐδα δ' ἐκ πεδίου συνελάσσαμεν ἤλιθα πολλὴν
πεντήκοντα βοῶν ἀγέλας, τόσα πώεα οἰῶν,
τόσσα συῶν συβόσια, τόσ' αἰπόλια πλατέ' αἰγῶν,
ἵππους δὲ ξανθὰς ἑκατὸν καὶ πεντήκοντα
πάσας θηλείας, πολλῇσι δὲ πῶλοι ὑπῆσαν.

We drove together from the plain immense spoil:
fifty herds of cattle, as many flocks of sheep, {106|107}
as many droves of pigs, and as many wide-ranging herds of goats;
also a hundred and fifty golden-haired horses,
all of them mares, many with foals underneath.

When these abundant herds and flocks are distributed to the Pylians we learn how low the Pylians had sunk, for all of this was a “debt” (khreîos) owed to them in Elis, and they themselves had been reduced to a “few badly off” (paûroi kekakōménoi) survivors (Iliad 11.685–695):

κήρυκες δ' ἐλίγαινον ἅμ' ἠοῖ φαινομένηφι
τοὺς ἴμεν οἷσι χρεῖος ὀφείλετ' ἐν Ἤλιδι δίῃ·
οἳ δὲ συναγρόμενοι Πυλίων ἡγήτορες ἄνδρες
δαίτρευον. πολέσιν γὰρ Ἐπειοὶ χρεῖος ὄφειλον,
ὡς ἡμεῖς παῦροι κεκακωμένοι ἐν Πύλῳ ἦμεν·
ἐλθὼν γάρ ῥ' ἐκάκωσε βίη Ἡρακληείη
τῶν προτέρων ἐτέων, κατὰ δ' ἔκταθεν ὅσσοι ἄριστοι·
δώδεκα γὰρ Νηλῆος ἀμύμονος υἱέες ἦμεν·
τῶν οἶος λιπόμην, οἳ δ' ἄλλοι πάντες ὄλοντο.
ταῦθ' ὑπερηφανέοντες Ἐπειοὶ χαλκοχίτωνες
ἡμέας ὑβρίζοντες ἀτάσθαλα μηχανόωντο.

The heralds made a shrill cry when dawn appeared
for those to come to whom a debt was owed in shining Elis,
and the Pylians’ leading men came together
and divided the spoil. For the Epeians owed a debt to many,
since few of us were left in Pylos and we were badly off,
for mighty Heracles had come and hurt us badly
in earlier years; all the best men had been killed.
Twelve sons of faultless Neleus we had been,
but of those only I was left; the others had all perished.
Emboldened by this the bronze-clad Epeians
treated us outrageously and devised reckless deeds.

§2.4 In the cattle raid Nestor acts out his name, “he who brings back to life.” In the battle that follows he earns his epithet, “the horseman.” The focus shifts to the battle when the Epeians attack two days after the cattle raid (“on {107|108} the third day” after by inclusive Greek reckoning); this is a force of horsemen, and their horses (híppoi) are mentioned at the outset (Iliad 11.707–709):

οἳ δὲ τρίτῳ ἤματι πάντες
ἦλθον ὁμῶς αὐτοί τε πολεῖς καὶ μώνυχες ἵπποι

On the third day they all
came, both the many men themselves and the solid-hoofed horses,
at great speed.

The great heroes of the Epeians were the twins called the Molione, whom even Heracles could not defeat in battle; Heracles would kill them one day, but by stealth rather than might. [6] The Molione now rode with the Epeian horsemen against Pylos, but like Nestor they were still young and untested in battle (Iliad 11.709–710):

μετὰ δέ σφι Μολίονε θωρήσσοντο
παῖδ' ἔτ' ἐόντ', οὔ πω μάλα εἰδότε θούριδος ἀλκῆς.

And with them the two Molione armed themselves,
although they were still young, not yet knowing much of furious warfare.

As for Nestor, his father tried to keep him away from the battle altogether because he thought him still too young for war: when Athena came by night to warn the Pylians and gather them for battle Neleus hid Nestor’s horses. But Nestor went anyway, on foot, and even so he kept pace with the Pylian horsemen (Iliad 11.717–721):

οὐδέ με Νηλεὺς
εἴα θωρήσσεσθαι, ἀπέκρυψεν δέ μοι ἵππους·
οὐ γάρ πώ τί μ' ἔφη ἴδμεν πολεμήϊα ἔργα.
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς ἱππεῦσι μετέπρεπον ἡμετέροισι
καὶ πεζός περ ἐών, ἐπεὶ ὧς ἄγε νεῖκος Ἀθήνη.

Neleus did not
allow me to arm myself, but hid my horses; {108|109}
for he said that I did not yet know the deeds of war.
But even so I stood out among our horsemen,
although I was on foot, for so Athena led the battle.

When the two armies clashed, Nestor, still on foot, slew the leader of the enemy horsemen and seized his chariot (Iliad 11.737–746):

ἀλλ' ὅτε δὴ Πυλίων καὶ Ἐπειῶν ἔπλετο νεῖκος,
πρῶτος ἐγὼν ἕλον ἄνδρα, κόμισσα δὲ μώνυχας ἵππους,
Μούλιον αἰχμητήν· γαμβρὸς δ' ἦν Αὐγείαο,
πρεσβυτάτην δὲ θύγατρ' εἶχε ξανθὴν Ἀγαμήδην,
ἣ τόσα φάρμακα ᾔδη ὅσα τρέφει εὐρεῖα χθών.
τὸν μὲν ἐγὼ προσιόντα βάλον χαλκήρεϊ δουρί,
ἤριπε δ' ἐν κονίῃσιν· ἐγὼ δ' ἐς δίφρον ὀρούσας
στῆν ῥα μετὰ προμάχοισιν· ἀτὰρ μεγάθυμοι Ἐπειοὶ
ἔτρεσαν ἄλλυδις ἄλλος, ἐπεὶ ἴδον ἄνδρα πεσόντα
ἡγεμόν' ἱππήων, ὃς ἀριστεύεσκε μάχεσθαι.

But when the battle began between the Pylians and the Epeians,
I was the first to slay a man, and I took his solid-hoofed horses,
the spearman Moulios; he was the son-in-law of Augeias
and had for wife his oldest daughter, golden-haired Agamede,
who knew as many drugs as the wide earth grows.
Him I hit with my bronze-tipped spear as he advanced,
and he fell in the dust; and I, leaping onto his chariot,
stood with the front rank of fighters; and the great-hearted Epeians
fled in all directions when they saw that man fallen,
the leader of their horsemen, who was the best at fighting.

§2.5 Although the exciting climax of Nestor’s story is yet to come, the point of his story is already clear: this is the story of how Nestor first became a horseman. When Neleus hides his horses from him Nestor is emphatically not a horseman; to participate at all he must go on foot. He is without horses until he wins them in battle, and win them he must in order to become a warrior. [7] Nestor first becomes hippóta Néstōr when he leaps onto his conquered {109|110} foe’s chariot, and as such he immediately proves himself a match for two men at once: he single-handedly kills the double occupants of fifty chariots as he rushes forward like a dark whirlwind; he would even have killed the Epeian twins if they had not been rescued from his path by their father Poseidon (Iliad 11.747–752):

αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ἐπόρουσα κελαινῇ λαίλαπι ἶσος,
πεντήκοντα δ' ἕλον δίφρους, δύο δ' ἀμφὶς ἕκαστον
φῶτες ὀδὰξ ἕλον οὖδας ἐμῷ ὑπὸ δουρὶ δαμέντες.
καί νύ κεν Ἀκτορίωνε Μολίονε παῖδ' ἀλάπαξα,
εἰ μή σφωε πατὴρ εὐρὺ κρείων ἐνοσίχθων
ἐκ πολέμου ἐσάωσε καλύψας ἠέρι πολλῇ.

But I rushed ahead like a dark whirlwind,
and I seized fifty chariots, and on either side of each two
men bit the ground with their teeth, subdued by my spear.
And I would also have destroyed the young Aktorione Molione
if their father, the wide-ruling earthshaker,
had not saved them from the battle, covering them with a great mist.

The Pylians drove the Epeians through the plain all the way to Bouprasion (Iliad 11.753–756):

ἔνθα Ζεὺς Πυλίοισι μέγα κράτος ἐγγυάλιξε·
τόφρα γὰρ οὖν ἑπόμεσθα διὰ σπιδέος πεδίοιο {110|111}
κτείνοντές τ' αὐτοὺς ἀνά τ' ἔντεα καλὰ λέγοντες,
ὄφρ' ἐπὶ Βουπρασίου πολυπύρου βήσαμεν ἵππους.

Then Zeus bestowed great power on the Pylians;
for we followed through the flat plain,
killing them and collecting their fine war gear,
until we brought our horses into Bouprasion rich in wheat.

There Nestor slew his last man and the Pylians turned back for home, hailing Zeus among gods and Nestor among men (Iliad 11.759–761):

ἔνθ' ἄνδρα κτείνας πύματον λίπον· αὐτὰρ Ἀχαιοὶ
ἂψ ἀπὸ Βουπρασίοιο Πύλονδ' ἔχον ὠκέας ἵππους,
πάντες δ' εὐχετόωντο θεῶν Διὶ Νέστορί τ' ἀνδρῶν.

Then I killed the last man and left him. But the Achaeans
drove their swift horses back from Bouprasion to Pylos,
and all prayed to Zeus among gods and Nestor among men.

Thus Nestor’s story ends. [8]

§2.6 Nestor’s most important encounter in terms of the underlying meaning of his story is the one that does not take place. The Molione, who are rescued from Nestor’s path by Poseidon, are another pair of Indo-European twins with clear distinctions between them. Like the Dioskouroi they have dual paternity, being sons of a god, Poseidon, and a mortal, Aktor: their patronymic Aktoríōne contains their mortal father’s name. [9] In the Catalogue of Ships, where two of the four leaders from Bouprasion and Elis are sons of the Molione, the Molione themselves are given individual names, Kteatos and Eurytos. [10] Pindar Olympian 10.26–27 calls Kteatos the son of Poseidon, and {111|112} Eurytos must therefore be the son of Aktor. In Homer the Molione appear again in Nestor’s story in Iliad 23, where further distinctions between them play a crucial role. [11] Nestor must not kill the Epeian twins in his story in Iliad 11 because Heracles later kills them, and the tradition for that was fixed. [12] But if Nestor cannot encounter the twins in his story, why are they featured so prominently? [13] They are there because Nestor himself has a twin myth, and his virtual encounter with twins signals this myth. The Molione were invincible because they were inseparable. [14] Nestor, who lost his brother, became a {112|113} match for the Molione when he took his brother’s place as a warrior. He too now had the opposed characteristics of a pair of twins. As soon as he wins horses he defeats the double occupants of fifty chariots, and this unlikely feat shows that he has indeed become a match for two men at a time. [15] The Molione are mentioned to put Nestor’s feat explicitly in the context of the twin myth. The same Nestor who carried out the cattle raid two days earlier had now become a horseman, and as such he would have defeated even the invincible Molione had he encountered them. [16]

§2.7 The aged Nestor appears as a horseman in the present action of the Iliad only twice: in Iliad 8 (we will return to this later) and in Iliad 11. The episode in Iliad 11 immediately precedes Nestor’s story, and it sets the stage for what this story tells: how Nestor became a horseman in the first place. In the episode preceding the story the fighting rages around Nestor and Idomeneus, who hold their ground against Hector until Makhaon on the Greek side is wounded by an arrow of Paris. [17] Idomeneus then bids Nestor to {113|114} take Makhaon on his chariot back to the ships, for Makhaon is a physician and as such too valuable to lose (Iliad 11.511–515):

ὦ Νέστορ Νηληϊάδη μέγα κῦδος Ἀχαιῶν
ἄγρει σῶν ὀχέων ἐπιβήσεο, πὰρ δὲ Μαχάων
βαινέτω, ἐς νῆας δὲ τάχιστ' ἔχε μώνυχας ἵππους·
ἰητρὸς γὰρ ἀνὴρ πολλῶν ἀντάξιος ἄλλων
ἰούς τ' ἐκτάμνειν ἐπί τ' ἤπια φάρμακα πάσσειν.

Nestor, son of Neleus, great glory of the Achaeans,
come and mount your chariot, and by your side let Makhaon
mount, and with all speed drive your solid-hoofed horses to the ships.
For a man who is a healer is worth many others,
both to cut out arrows and to apply soothing drugs.

§2.8 Makhaon is a twin. He and his brother Podaleirios are sons of Asklepios, and like Asklepios they are both physicians. [18] With this pair of {114|115} doctors we are again in the realm of the Indo-European twin myth (cf. the dasrā́ bhiṣájā, “two miracle-working physicians,” of Vedic). Makhaon’s name means “warrior” (from mákhomai, “fight”) and it thus identifies him with the mortal twin of the Indo-European myth. [19] This pair of twins, moreover, {115|116} does not stay together; whereas Podaleirios survives the war and becomes the founder of new cities, Makhaon, according to the Little Iliad, dies in battle at Troy. [20] Makhaon is the counterpart to Nestor’s brother Periklymenos, who likewise dies in battle. Periklymenos’s death is the unspoken point of Nestor’s story in Iliad 11; in the episode leading up to this story the overt image is of a pair of figures, one rescuing the other. Nestor and Makhaon are both twin figures, and together they present the image of a pair of twins; in their myths both of these figures become separated from their brothers, but the idea of separation is now left to one side as together they mount Nestor’s chariot (Iliad 11.516–520):

ὣς ἔφατ', οὐδ' ἀπίθησε Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ.
αὐτίκα δ' ὧν ὀχέων ἐπεβήσετο, πὰρ δὲ Μαχάων
βαῖν' Ἀσκληπιοῦ υἱὸς ἀμύμονος ἰητῆρος·
μάστιξεν δ' ἵππους, τὼ δ' οὐκ ἀέκοντε πετέσθην
νῆας ἔπι γλαφυράς· τῇ γὰρ φίλον ἔπλετο θυμῷ.

So he spoke, and the Gerenian horseman Nestor was not unpersuaded.
He immediately mounted his chariot, and by his side Makhaon {116|117}
mounted, the son of the faultless healer Asklepios;
he whipped his horses, and not unwillingly they flew
toward the hollow ships; for this way was dear to them in their spirit.

This image of the aged Nestor racing across the plain with the wounded warrior twin Makhaon at his side sets the stage for Nestor’s story, the story of how he first became a horseman; the story of hippóta Néstōr is thus set in the frame of the twin myth from the start.

§2.9 Nestor tells the story of how he first became a horseman to Patroclus. When Nestor emerges from battle Achilles cannot see who the wounded warrior is on Nestor’s chariot, and he sends Patroclus to Nestor’s tent to find out. [21] This is a fateful moment for Patroclus, as is signaled in the {117|118} narrative when Patroclus first hears Achilles call him and he comes out from his tent (Iliad 11.603–604):

ὃ δὲ κλισίηθεν ἀκούσας
ἔκμολεν ἶσος Ἄρηϊ, κακοῦ δ' ἄρα οἱ πέλεν ἀρχή.

He heard and came out
from the tent, equal to Ares, but for him it was the beginning of evil.

After telling his story Nestor urges Patroclus to go back to Achilles and try to persuade him to save the hard pressed Achaeans; if he cannot persuade him, then let Achilles send him into battle in his place, and let him give Patroclus his arms so the Trojans will think that he is Achilles himself (Iliad 11.794–803):

εἰ δέ τινα φρεσὶν ᾗσι θεοπροπίην ἀλεείνει
καί τινά οἱ πὰρ Ζηνὸς ἐπέφραδε πότνια μήτηρ,
ἀλλὰ σέ περ προέτω, ἅμα δ' ἄλλος λαὸς ἑπέσθω
Μυρμιδόνων, αἴ κέν τι φόως Δαναοῖσι γένηαι·
καί τοι τεύχεα καλὰ δότω πόλεμόνδε φέρεσθαι,
αἴ κέ σε τῷ εἴσκοντες ἀπόσχωνται πολέμοιο
Τρῶες, ἀναπνεύσωσι δ' ἀρήϊοι υἷες Ἀχαιῶν
τειρόμενοι· ὀλίγη δέ τ' ἀνάπνευσις πολέμοιο.
ῥεῖα δέ κ' ἀκμῆτες κεκμηότας ἄνδρας ἀϋτῇ
ὤσαισθε προτὶ ἄστυ νεῶν ἄπο καὶ κλισιάων.

But if he is avoiding some divine sign in his mind,
and if his revered mother has told him one from Zeus,
then let him send you forth, and let the rest of the warriors follow,
the Myrmidons, if you may become a light for the Danaans.
And let him give you his fine armor to carry into battle,
if the Trojans may take you for him and hold back from battle,
and the warlike sons of the Achaeans may get a breathing space,
being hard pressed; small is the breathing space in war. {118|119}
But being untired men yourselves you would easily push men worn out by battle
toward the city away from the ships and tents.

What Nestor here urges Patroclus to do is what is in fact destined to take place. Nestor’s words stir Patroclus’s heart and he sets off at a run to return to Achilles (Iliad 11.804–805):

ὣς φάτο, τῷ δ' ἄρα θυμὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν ὄρινε,
βῆ δὲ θέειν παρὰ νῆας ἐπ' Αἰακίδην Ἀχιλῆα.

So he spoke, and he stirred his heart in his breast,
and he began to run past the ships to Achilles, Aeacus’s descendant.

§2.10 The point of Nestor’s story is that he took the place of his brother Periklymenos as a warrior horseman. His story is thus a paradigm for Patroclus who is to take the place of his warrior companion Achilles in battle. But the point of Nestor’s story, as we have seen, is disguised since Periklymenos is not named in it; his name is left unspoken and the twelve sons of Neleus are mentioned instead. Just so the relevance of Nestor’s story to Patroclus is disguised. On the surface of the narrative Nestor does not relate his past behavior to Patroclus’s future course of action; he contrasts it with Achilles’ present behavior. When Nestor first hears why Patroclus has come to his tent, he wonders why Achilles takes pity on the Achaeans (Iliad 11.656–657):

τίπτε τὰρ ὧδ' Ἀχιλεὺς ὀλοφύρεται υἷας Ἀχαιῶν,
ὅσσοι δὴ βέλεσιν βεβλήαται;

Why does Achilles feel this sorrow for the sons of the Achaeans
who have been struck by weapons?

He goes on to say that in fact Achilles has no pity for the Achaeans, and asks if he is waiting for the ships to burn and the Achaeans to be killed (Iliad 11.664–668):

αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς
ἐσθλὸς ἐὼν Δαναῶν οὐ κήδεται οὐδ' ἐλεαίρει.
ἦ μένει εἰς ὅ κε δὴ νῆες θοαὶ ἄγχι θαλάσσης
Ἀργείων ἀέκητι πυρὸς δηΐοιο θέρωνται,
αὐτοί τε κτεινώμεθ' ἐπισχερώ; {119|120}

But Achilles,
though he is a good warrior, does not care for or pity the Danaans.
Is he waiting for the swift ships by the sea
to be burned by blazing fire against the Argives’ will,
and for us to be killed one after another?

Nestor himself no longer has the strength to save the day as he once did; he wishes he were as young and strong as he was in the conflict between Pylos and Elis, and with this he begins his story (Iliad 11.668–671):

οὐ γὰρ ἐμὴ ἲς
ἔσθ' οἵη πάρος ἔσκεν ἐνὶ γναμπτοῖσι μέλεσσιν.
εἴθ' ὣς ἡβώοιμι βίη δέ μοι ἔμπεδος εἴη
ὡς ὁπότ' Ἠλείοισι καὶ ἡμῖν νεῖκος ἐτύχθη.

For my strength is not
like it once was in my joints and limbs.
I wish I were young and the strength in me were steadfast
as when a battle between the Eleians and us came about.

At the end of his story Nestor contrasts his behavior even more pointedly with that of Achilles (Iliad 11.762–764):

ὣς ἔον, εἴ ποτ' ἔον γε, μετ' ἀνδράσιν. αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς
οἶος τῆς ἀρετῆς ἀπονήσεται· ἦ τέ μιν οἴω
πολλὰ μετακλαύσεσθαι ἐπεί κ' ἀπὸ λαὸς ὄληται.

So I was, if ever I was, among men. But Achilles
alone will benefit from his greatness; mark me, though, I think that he
will greatly lament it after the warriors are destroyed.

§2.11 Nestor’s story purports to be relevant to Achilles’ behavior, but a moment’s reflection shows that such relevance is only a surface illusion: Achilles does not hear Nestor’s story, and it thus cannot affect his behavior; if the purpose of Nestor’s story is to change Achilles’ behavior, he wastes his breath and his story is pointless. [22] If, on the other hand, the purpose of {120|121} Nestor’s story has to do with Patroclus, it has a great deal of point, but the point is disguised on the surface of the narrative. The point emerges indirectly through parallels between Nestor and Patroclus within the narrative as it develops. As we have seen, Nestor rescues the wounded Makhaon from the battlefield on his chariot. Makhaon has been wounded in the shoulder by an arrow of Paris. When Nestor and Makhaon depart for the ships the scene shifts to the other side of the battlefield, where another hero, Eurypylos, is hit in the thigh by another of Paris’s arrows and he too must depart from the battlefield for the ships, but he goes on foot. When Patroclus finishes his visit to Nestor and sets off at a run for Achilles, he meets Eurypylos limping back to the ships and he stops to tend Eurypylos’s wound. Nestor and Patroclus both tend to a victim of Paris’s arrows, and this is a deliberately constructed parallel between them in Iliad 11. At the end of Iliad 11 Patroclus and Nestor have both tended to their patients’ wounds and for the time being they both remain at their patients’ sides. {121|122}

§2.12 The parallel between Nestor and Patroclus in Iliad 11 is crucial for understanding the purpose of Nestor’s story, but the two are not completely parallel. There is also an element of contrast. This can be seen in the way that they treat their patients. Nestor, for his part, has his maidservant Hekamede prepare a kukeṓn, which he and Makhaon both drink; when Patroclus arrives Nestor and Makhaon are already enjoying a pleasant conversation (Iliad 11.642–644):

τὼ δ' ἐπεὶ οὖν πίνοντ' ἀφέτην πολυκαγκέα δίψαν
μύθοισιν τέρποντο πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἐνέποντες,
Πάτροκλος δὲ θύρῃσιν ἐφίστατο ἰσόθεος φώς.

After the two of them drank and slaked their parching thirst,
and were taking pleasure in words, speaking one to the other,
Patroclus stood at the door, a godlike man.

In contrast to this nearly magical cure, in which attention is devoted entirely to Nestor’s fabulous cup and the kukeṓn prepared in it (Iliad 11.628–641), while the removal of the arrow goes unmentioned, Patroclus meets Eurypylos and tends to him in an atmosphere of sweat and blood (Iliad 11.806–813):

ἀλλ' ὅτε δὴ κατὰ νῆας Ὀδυσσῆος θείοιο
ἷξε θέων Πάτροκλος, ἵνά σφ' ἀγορή τε θέμις τε
ἤην, τῇ δὴ καί σφι θεῶν ἐτετεύχατο βωμοί,
ἔνθά οἱ Εὐρύπυλος βεβλημένος ἀντεβόλησε
διογενὴς Εὐαιμονίδης κατὰ μηρὸν ὀϊστῷ
σκάζων ἐκ πολέμου· κατὰ δὲ νότιος ῥέεν ἱδρὼς
ὤμων καὶ κεφαλῆς, ἀπὸ δ' ἕλκεος ἀργαλέοιο
αἷμα μέλαν κελάρυζε· νόος γε μὲν ἔμπεδος ἦεν.

But when Patroclus came running by the ships of godlike Odysseus,
where the place of assembly and judgment
was, and where the altars of the gods had been built,
there the wounded Eurypylus encountered him,
the Zeus-born son of Euaimon, wounded by an arrow in the thigh,
limping out of battle; a shower of sweat ran down
from his shoulders and head, and from his painful wound
black blood gushed; his mind, however, was steady. {122|123}

Eurypylos tells Patroclus of the plight of the Achaeans and asks for help getting back to his ship and removing the arrow from his thigh; Patroclus agrees despite his hurry to return to Achilles. Iliad 11 ends with Patroclus performing surgery on Eurypylos in his tent (Iliad 11.842–848):

ἦ, καὶ ὑπὸ στέρνοιο λαβὼν ἄγε ποιμένα λαῶν
ἐς κλισίην· θεράπων δὲ ἰδὼν ὑπέχευε βοείας.
ἔνθά μιν ἐκτανύσας ἐκ μηροῦ τάμνε μαχαίρῃ
ὀξὺ βέλος περιπευκές, ἀπ' αὐτοῦ δ' αἷμα κελαινὸν
νίζ' ὕδατι λιαρῷ, ἐπὶ δὲ ῥίζαν βάλε πικρὴν
χερσὶ διατρίψας ὀδυνήφατον, ἥ οἱ ἁπάσας
ἔσχ' ὀδύνας· τὸ μὲν ἕλκος ἐτέρσετο, παύσατο δ' αἷμα.

He spoke, and taking hold of him under the chest he led the shepherd of the warriors
into his tent; his attendant saw and spread oxhides underneath.
Stretching him out there he used his knife and cut from his thigh
the pointed shaft, which was exceedingly sharp, and washed the dark blood
from him with warm water, and applied a bitter root,
pain-killing, rubbing it in his hands, and it stopped all
the pain; the wound dried and the blood stopped.

The two wounds, one in the shoulder and the other in the thigh, reinforce the element of contrast within otherwise parallel situations; Eurypylos’s thigh wound is more serious than Makhaon’s shoulder wound, and Eurypylos feels the full effect of his wound when he has to make his way from battle on foot. The contrast between Nestor’s rescue and cure of Makhaon and Patroclus’s rescue and cure of Eurypylos is reflected in other characteristics that differentiate the two figures. For Patroclus the dominant theme is pity, which is mentioned immediately when he meets Eurypylos (Iliad 11.814–818):

τὸν δὲ ἰδὼν ᾤκτειρε Μενοιτίου ἄλκιμος υἱός,
καί ῥ' ὀλοφυρόμενος ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
"ἆ δειλοὶ Δαναῶν ἡγήτορες ἠδὲ μέδοντες
ὣς ἄρ' ἐμέλλετε τῆλε φίλων καὶ πατρίδος αἴης
ἄσειν ἐν Τροίῃ ταχέας κύνας ἀργέτι δημῷ." {123|124}

Seeing him Menoitios’s resolute son pitied him,
and lamenting he spoke winged words to him:
"Ah, wretched leaders and counselors of the Danaans,
like this then, far from dear ones and fatherland, you were fated
to glut the swift dogs in Troy with your shining fat."

Pity comes through again at the end when Patroclus says that he will not abandon Eurypylos however eager he is to return to Achilles with Nestor’s message (Iliad 11.838–841):

πῶς τὰρ ἔοι τάδε ἔργα; τί ῥέξομεν Εὐρύπυλ' ἥρως;
ἔρχομαι ὄφρ' Ἀχιλῆϊ δαΐφρονι μῦθον ἐνίσπω
ὃν Νέστωρ ἐπέτελλε Γερήνιος οὖρος Ἀχαιῶν·
ἀλλ' οὐδ' ὧς περ σεῖο μεθήσω τειρομένοιο.

How is this to be? What are we to do, hero Eurypylus?
I am on my way to tell keen-spirited Achilles the words
that Gerenian Nestor, guardian of the Achaeans, commanded me to,
but even so I will not abandon you since you are hard pressed.

When Nestor cures Makhaon, on the other hand, Nestor’s intelligence and his serene command of the situation are highlighted. His intelligence is conveyed only symbolically since his serving woman prepares the kukeṓn and he does nothing himself; but this serving woman, who is named Hekamḗdē (“far-counseling”), the daughter of Arsínoos (“sound-minded”), bespeaks Nestor’s own intelligence, for she has been given as a prize to Nestor for being “best of all in counsel” (Iliad 11.622–627):

αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
ἐς κλισίην ἐλθόντες ἐπὶ κλισμοῖσι κάθιζον.
τοῖσι δὲ τεῦχε κυκειῶ ἐϋπλόκαμος Ἑκαμήδη,
τὴν ἄρετ' ἐκ Τενέδοιο γέρων, ὅτε πέρσεν Ἀχιλλεύς,
θυγατέρ' Ἀρσινόου μεγαλήτορος, ἥν οἱ Ἀχαιοὶ
ἔξελον οὕνεκα βουλῇ ἀριστεύεσκεν ἁπάντων.

But then
they went into the tent and sat down on chairs.
An elixir was prepared for them by Hekamede with the beautiful tresses, {124|125}
whom the old man won from Tenedos when Achilles destroyed it,
the daughter of great-hearted Arsinoos; her the Achaeans
picked out especially for him because he was best of all in counsel.

§2.13 If Patroclus is parallel to Nestor, Achilles, who is out of action (by his own choice, but nevertheless out of action), and whose place in battle Patroclus must therefore take, is parallel to the unnamed Periklymenos of Nestor’s story in Iliad 11. It was the death of Periklymenos, Pylos’s great champion, that put Pylos at the mercy of the Epeians; just so, it is the absence of Achilles, the Achaeans’ great champion, that has put the Achaeans at the mercy of the Trojans. To this extent Patroclus and Achilles reenact the myth of Nestor and Periklymenos, and categories of the Indo-European twin myth also apply to them. When Nestor finishes his story, he immediately contrasts his behavior with that of Achilles, as we have seen. But he then goes on to what Patroclus must do: either rouse Achilles to battle or take his place. In terms of the Indo-European twin myth the immortal twin either brings the mortal twin back to life, as Polydeuces does Castor, or he replaces him, as Nestor does Periklymenos. Nestor guides Patroclus toward what he must do by telling him to remember the words of his father Menoitios when he and Achilles left for the war. Nestor had come to Phthia with Odysseus to recruit Achilles and Patroclus for the war, and he thus heard the advice of Peleus to Achilles, always to excel in war, and the advice of Menoitios to Patroclus, which pointedly contrasted the greater status and strength of Achilles with the greater age and wisdom of Patroclus (Iliad 11.786–789):

τέκνον ἐμὸν γενεῇ μὲν ὑπέρτερός ἐστιν Ἀχιλλεύς,
πρεσβύτερος δὲ σύ ἐσσι· βίῃ δ' ὅ γε πολλὸν ἀμείνων.
ἀλλ' εὖ οἱ φάσθαι πυκινὸν ἔπος ἠδ' ὑποθέσθαι
καί οἱ σημαίνειν· ὃ δὲ πείσεται εἰς ἀγαθόν περ.

My son, Achilles is higher born than you,
but you are older; in might he is much the better.
But tell him wise words and instruct him well,
and point things out to him; he will agree to what is good.

This is similar to the contrast between the Indo-European twins: the warrior-strength of the mortal twin on the one hand, and the intelligence of the immortal twin on the other hand. It is in his role as counselor that Patroclus, {125|126} remembering his father’s words, is to try to rouse Achilles to reenter the war (Iliad 11.790–793):

ὣς ἐπέτελλ' ὃ γέρων, σὺ δὲ λήθεαι· ἀλλ' ἔτι καὶ νῦν
ταῦτ' εἴποις Ἀχιλῆϊ δαΐφρονι αἴ κε πίθηται.
τίς δ' οἶδ' εἴ κέν οἱ σὺν δαίμονι θυμὸν ὀρίναις
παρειπών; ἀγαθὴ δὲ παραίφασίς ἐστιν ἑταίρου.

So the old man commanded, but you have forgotten; yet even now
you might say these things to keen-spirited Achilles to see if he will agree.
Who knows whether with a god’s help you might stir his heart
if you try to persuade him; a companion’s persuasion is a good thing.

The plan that Patroclus is to try first is exactly that of the twin myth, in which the immortal twin brings the mortal warrior twin back to life, and this action is itself a mental process; for Patroclus it would be an act of persuasion. But if Patroclus fails to persuade Achilles, as he is in fact destined to do, he is to follow Nestor’s own example and take the place of Achilles in battle (Iliad 11.794–803).

§2.14 It is worth looking more closely at the contrast between intelligence on the one hand and might on the other hand in the case of Patroclus and Achilles. The contrast is there, but it should not be overstated. Patroclus’s superior counsel is presented as a matter of greater age rather than greater intelligence, even though good counsel remains a matter of intelligence in the end. Both Patroclus and Achilles, furthermore, are skilled physicians: when Eurypylos asks Patroclus for help he says that Patroclus got his knowledge of drugs from Achilles, whom the centaur Cheiron taught (Iliad 11.828–832):

ἀλλ' ἐμὲ μὲν σὺ σάωσον ἄγων ἐπὶ νῆα μέλαιναν,
μηροῦ δ' ἔκταμ' ὀϊστόν, ἀπ' αὐτοῦ δ' αἷμα κελαινὸν
νίζ' ὕδατι λιαρῷ, ἐπὶ δ' ἤπια φάρμακα πάσσε
ἐσθλά, τά σε προτί φασιν Ἀχιλλῆος δεδιδάχθαι,
ὃν Χείρων ἐδίδαξε δικαιότατος Κενταύρων.

But you, save me by bringing me to my black ship,
and cut the arrow from my thigh, and wash the dark blood {126|127}
from me with warm water, and sprinkle on gentle drugs,
good ones, which they say you were taught by Achilles,
whom Cheiron, the most just of the Centaurs, taught.

Like the twins Podaleirios and Makhaon, Patroclus and Achilles both have medical skill. It is interesting that Eurypylos immediately goes on to say that the twin doctors are both unavailable: the wounded Makhaon needs a doctor himself and Podaleirios still fights on the plain (Iliad 11.833–836):

ἰητροὶ μὲν γὰρ Ποδαλείριος ἠδὲ Μαχάων
τὸν μὲν ἐνὶ κλισίῃσιν ὀΐομαι ἕλκος ἔχοντα
χρηΐζοντα καὶ αὐτὸν ἀμύμονος ἰητῆρος
κεῖσθαι· ὃ δ' ἐν πεδίῳ Τρώων μένει ὀξὺν Ἄρηα.

As for the healers Podaleirios and Makhaon,
I think that one of them is lying in his tent with a wound,
needing a faultless healer himself;
the other faces the Trojans’ sharp warfare on the plain.

In these passages there seems to be an implicit comparison of Patroclus and Achilles as doctors with the twin sons of Asklepios, [23] and such a comparison makes perfect sense at this point near the end of Iliad 11. It reflects the way in which Patroclus and Achilles have been cast as twins in relation to Nestor and his myth earlier in the book. It bears emphasizing that Nestor himself is the master doctor in this book. [24] {127|128}

§2.15 The carefully crafted parallelism between Nestor and Patroclus in Iliad 11 continues when they both return to action later in the poem. In a pair of scenes in Iliad 14 and Iliad 15 first Nestor and then Patroclus leave their patients as they hear the din of battle coming closer because the Achaeans are now in full retreat. Nestor leaves Makhaon in the care of Hekamede, who will bathe his wounds, and he himself joins the retreating Achaeans for a council. Patroclus, who has been tending Eurypylos’s wounds with drugs, leaves Eurypylos to the care of his own attendant so that he himself can return to Achilles and urge him to fight. In his short speech to Eurypylos it is Nestor’s advice that Patroclus repeats, and the latter part of it in Nestor’s own words (Iliad 15.401–404):

ἀλλὰ σὲ μὲν θεράπων ποτιτερπέτω, αὐτὰρ ἔγωγε
σπεύσομαι εἰς Ἀχιλῆα, ἵν' ὀτρύνω πολεμίζειν.
τίς δ' οἶδ' εἴ κέν οἱ σὺν δαίμονι θυμὸν ὀρίνω
παρειπών; ἀγαθὴ δὲ παραίφασίς ἐστιν ἑταίρου.

Have your attendant entertain you, but I
must hurry back to Achilles to stir him up to fight.
Who knows whether with a god’s help I may stir his heart
when I try to persuade him? A companion’s persuasion is a good thing.

§2.16 The parallelism between Nestor and Patroclus reaches a climax in Iliad 16, but only if we understand the point of Nestor’s story in Iliad 11, namely that his story tells how and why he first became a horseman. For when Patroclus returns to Achilles and puts into effect what Nestor has told him, he too is transformed into a horseman: now for the first time he is called Patróklees hippeû and Patróklees hippokéleuthe, both phrases meaning “horseman Patroclus,” and he is repeatedly addressed as such until he is killed in battle. Not until Iliad 16, when he takes Achilles’ place, does he get these vocative epithets, but in Iliad 16 they occur seven times. [25] The first occurrence is at the beginning of Book 16, when Patroclus comes to Achilles in tears and Achilles asks why he is weeping. In his reply Patroclus, using Nestor’s words, asks Achilles to send him into battle in his place; in the line introducing his speech the poet for the first time addresses Patroclus as “horseman”: τὸν δὲ {128|129} βαρὺ στενάχων προσέφης Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ, “groaning deeply you addressed him, horseman Patroclus” (Iliad 16.20). The second occurrence is spoken by Achilles himself after he agrees to let Patroclus go into battle in his place; when Achilles sees the Trojans setting fire to the Achaeans’ ships he urges Patroclus to go: ὄρσεο διογενὲς Πατρόκλεες ἱπποκέλευθε· / λεύσσω δὴ παρὰ νηυσὶ πυρὸς δηΐοιο ἰωήν, “Rise, Zeus-born Patroclus, driver of horses. / I see the rush of destructive fire by the ships,” Iliad 16.126–127).

§2.17 Just as Nestor, in taking his brother’s place, became hippóta Néstōr, so Patroclus, in taking Achilles’ place, becomes Patróklees hippeû/Patróklees hippokéleuthe. [26] Given such a particular correspondence there is every reason to believe that Nestor in his story in Iliad 11 provides the paradigm for Patroclus to follow, and that Patroclus in fact follows it. This must be at least part of what the poet intends to convey when he addresses Patroclus as “horseman” in Iliad 16. If we accept that Patroclus, who has taken Nestor’s advice by replacing his companion in battle, has at the same time followed Nestor’s example, as set forth in his story in Iliad 11, then the point of this story is confirmed: Nestor first became a horseman by replacing his brother, just as Patroclus became a horseman in replacing his companion.

§2.18 Now that we have interpreted Nestor’s story in Iliad 11, and supported the interpretation by considering the place of this story in the larger story of the Iliad, it is time to face squarely the fact that both the interpretation and its support rest not on the surface of the poem, but below the surface. Thus, if the point of Nestor’s story is that he takes his brother’s place, and that it is the example of this deed that Patroclus follows in taking Achilles’ place, Nestor’s actual story does not even mention Periklymenos, but only the twelve sons of Neleus, of whom Periklymenos was one. In other words, his presence in the story is implied but not stated. Likewise, if the story is meant as a paradigm for Patroclus, Nestor does not say so, but instead presents his youthful deeds as a contrast to the behavior and attitude of Achilles. Why is this so? If we are correct in our interpretation only one explanation is possible, and that is that both the point of Nestor’s story and its relevance to Patroclus have been deliberately disguised and intentionally {129|130} withheld. What the reason for this might be we cannot yet say, but the same phenomenon, the intentional concealing of relevance, will be evident in Nestor’s role in other parts of the Iliad and Odyssey, and particularly in the episode that we will consider next, namely the chariot race in the funeral games for Patroclus. {130|131}


[ back ] 1. For the scholarly tradition of treating this story as an independent epic lay that was inserted into the Iliad (the so-called “Nestoris”) see Willcock 1976:132–133 and Dickson 1995:173, 206n24. With the necessary qualification that Nestor’s traditions must have been oral this approach has merit in that it deals with the basic fact, namely that Nestor’s traditions were very old.

[ back ] 2. Cf. §1.7 above.

[ back ] 3. See §1.66 above for the cattle raid followed by a battle when Castor is killed and Polydeuces brings him back to life. Cantieni 1942:27 draws attention to the unusual nature of Nestor’s two-part story but does not explain it.

[ back ] 4. §1.32; Frame 1978:93–95.

[ back ] 5. Cantieni 1942:30 points out that Nestor’s story pays greater attention to the spoil of the cattle raid than to the cattle raid itself; this narrative “inconcinnity” (Cantieni’s term) in fact shows what the real point of Nestor’s cattle raid is.

[ back ] 6. Pindar Olympian 10.26–34; “Apollodorus” 2.7.2; see n2.12 below.

[ back ] 7. In his successful cattle raid Nestor kills the Epeian Itymoneus (Iliad 11.672); when Nestor comes home with the cattle Neleus rejoices in the success of his young son “going to war” (Iliad 11.683–684): γεγήθει δὲ φρένα Νηλεύς, / οὕνεκά μοι τύχε πολλὰ νέῳ πόλεμόνδε κιόντι. But when the Epeian horsemen attack, Neleus tries to keep Nestor at home because he thinks he does not yet know the “deeds of war” (Iliad 11.719): οὐ γάρ πώ τί μ' ἔφη ἴδμεν πολεμήϊα ἔργα. The cattle raid is a hostile act and it entails a violent deed (Itymoneus dies defending his flocks and herds, Iliad 11.674). But the cattle raid still does not establish Nestor as a warrior; to become a warrior he must become a horseman and fight in battle with other horsemen. Bader 1980:33 sees the difference between the cattle raid and the battle in Nestor’s story, interpreting the battle as an initiation ritual in which Nestor becomes a warrior for the first time; for the cattle raid as something quite different, having an “economic” rather than a truly warlike aspect, cf. Bader 1980:18, 32, 44, who well notes the difference between the λαοὶ ἀγροιῶται, “rustic folk,” who flee when Nestor kills Itymoneus (Iliad 11.676), and the Epeian horsemen who later attack Pylos (Bader 1980:37). Walcot 1979:337, on the other hand, does not see the fundamental difference between the two episodes, and therefore finds it “nonsensical” that Neleus tries to prevent Nestor from going into battle when Nestor has already proved himself in “war.” Cf. n1.206 above on the Dioskouroi.

[ back ] 8. For Iliad 11.757–758, which I have left out of account, see n2.16 below.

[ back ] 9. Their other name, Molíone, is obscure; Hesiod (fr. 17b MW) interprets it as a metronymic, giving the twins a mother Molínē (Moliónē is the form of her name attested by Ibycus fr. 4 Page). On the twins’ name Molíone see Wilamowitz 2006:344–345 with Dräger’s notes.

[ back ] 10. Iliad 2.620–621. Hesiod also uses these names of the Molione, whom their mother bore to Aktor and Poseidon (Hesiod fr. 17a.14–16 MW):

ἣ δ' ἄρ' ἐνὶ μεγ]άροις διδυ̣μάονε γείνατο τέκ[νω
Ἄκτορι κυσαμ]ένη καὶ ἐρικτ̣ύ̣π̣ω̣ι̣ ἐννοσιγαί̣[ωι,
ἀπλήτω, Κτέα]τ̣ό̣ν τε καὶ Εὔ̣ρυτον.

She conceived and bore twin children in her halls
to Aktor and to the loud-crashing earthshaker,
the formidable pair Kteatos and Eurytos.

[ back ] 11. Iliad 23.638–642; see Chapter 5 below.

[ back ] 12. Cf. Cantieni 1942:76. Heracles ambushed and killed the Molione at Kleonai; apart from a brief reference in Ibycus fr. 4 Page, Pindar is the earliest source (Olympian 10.26–34):

…ἐπεὶ Ποσειδάνιον
πέφνε Κτέατον ἀμύμονα,
πέφνε δ' Εὔρυτον, ὡς Αὐγέαν λάτριον
ἀέκονθ' ἑκὼν μισθὸν ὑπέρβιον
πράσσοιτο, λόχμαισι δὲ δοκεύσαις ὑπὸ Κλεωνᾶν
δάμασε καὶ κείνους Ἡρακλέης ἐφ' ὁδῷ,
ὅτι πρόσθε ποτὲ Τιρύνθιον
ἔπερσαν αὐτῷ στρατόν
μυχοῖς ἥμενον Ἄλιδος
Μολίονες ὑπερφίαλοι.

…when he slew faultless Kteatos,
Poseidon’s son,
and slew Eurytos too, so that he, willing, might
exact from proud Augeias, unwilling,
payment for his servitude; waiting for them
in the wood beneath Kleonai Heracles defeated them on the road,
because earlier they,
the arrogant Molione,
had destroyed his Tirynthian army
when it sat in the hollows of Elis.

According to “Apollodorus” 2.7.2 the Molione were on their way to compete in the Isthmian games when Heracles ambushed them.

[ back ] 13. Cantieni 1942:37 calls it “not quite understandable” (“nicht recht verständlich”) that only the Molione are mentioned when the Epeians attack, given the fact that they have no real role in the battle.

[ back ] 14. The proverb pròs dúo oudè Heraklē̂s, “against two not even Heracles,” refers to the Epeian twins, whom even Heracles could not defeat (Eustathius 882.34 on Iliad 11.750). The inseparability of the Epeian twins came to be taken literally: they appear as Siamese twins first in Hesiod frs. 17a and 18 MW; see Frazer 1921 on “Apollodorus” 2.7.2 for other references. An Attic Late Geometric vase painting (c. 700 BC) represents conjoined twins mounted on a chariot who may be the Molione (see Snodgrass 1998:30–31 and figure 11), but there is no reason to believe that they are conjoined in Homer (cf. Wilamowitz 2006:347, who calls this development of their inseparability “crass”).

[ back ] 15. It is hardly possible in reality to drive a chariot and fight at the same time; this led Cantieni 1942:55 to speculate that Athena was the driver of Nestor’s chariot. But this mistakes the character of Nestor’s story, which is not intended to be entirely realistic; compare his conquest of fifty chariots with the largest number conquered by a single hero in the Iliad, namely three by Agamemnon (Iliad 11.93, 102, 127; cf. Dickson 1995:172). Exaggeration also characterizes the geography of Nestor’s story; cf. n5.45 below.

[ back ] 16. The text of Nestor’s account of his battle with the Epeians requires a comment here. Cantieni 1942 argues that three passages in Nestor’s account are spurious, namely Iliad 11.711–713, 722–734, and 757–758, all of which relate to the Epeians’ siege of a town on the border between Elis and Pylos in the neighborhood of the Alpheios River. I will consider these passages (together with lines 696–702 in the division of Nestor’s spoil, which Cantieni likewise regards as spurious) in Part 5 below. For now I have simply left these passages out of account. I am convinced that Cantieni is correct, and I will give my reasons for this in due course. These passages are wholly alien to the purpose of Nestor’s story as I interpret it, but they make a great deal of sense if they reflect the circumstances of a later day and age; see Part 5, Chapters 12 and 14 below. I should also state that I do not wish to oversimplify the long and complex history of the Homeric poems, which continued to have an oral dimension long after the Ionian phase of their development, by using a word like “spurious.” I do think, however, that Nestor’s role in the Homeric poems is wholly Ionian in origin, and that it has survived virtually intact from this early stage. I will therefore use the word “Homeric” to refer to this early stage of development in contrast to later developments, which were various and complex, but, I think, much smaller in scale as compared with the Ionian legacy. This is of course not a proposition to be accepted on faith, but one to be tested and modified through the analysis of texts. Although I will use the word “Homeric” to mean Ionian, and will defend this usage, I have no quarrel with a different use of the term to cover the entire history of the Homeric poems through the Hellenistic period. I think it will emerge clearly as my study proceeds why it is necessary for me to focus on the Ionian phase as essentially distinct.

[ back ] 17. Iliad 11.500–507:

βοὴ δ' ἄσβεστος ὀρώρει
Νέστορά τ' ἀμφὶ μέγαν καὶ ἀρήϊον Ἰδομενῆα.
Ἕκτωρ μὲν μετὰ τοῖσιν ὁμίλει μέρμερα ῥέζων
ἔγχεΐ θ' ἱπποσύνῃ τε, νέων δ' ἀλάπαζε φάλαγγας·
οὐδ' ἄν πω χάζοντο κελεύθου δῖοι Ἀχαιοὶ
εἰ μὴ Ἀλέξανδρος Ἑλένης πόσις ἠϋκόμοιο
παῦσεν ἀριστεύοντα Μαχάονα ποιμένα λαῶν,
ἰῷ τριγλώχινι βαλὼν κατὰ δεξιὸν ὦμον.

An inextinguishable shout arose
around great Nestor and warlike Idomeneus.
Hector had come among them doing woeful deeds
with his spear and chariot, and was destroying ranks of young men;
but the shining Achaeans would not have yielded from his path
if Alexander, the husband of beautiful-haired Helen,
had not stopped Makhaon, shepherd of the warriors, from his valiant deeds,
hitting him in the right shoulder with a three-barbed arrow.

[ back ] 18. In the Iliad they lead the men from a region of Thessaly (Iliad 2.729–732):

οἳ δ' εἶχον Τρίκκην καὶ Ἰθώμην κλωμακόεσσαν,
οἵ τ' ἔχον Οἰχαλίην πόλιν Εὐρύτου Οἰχαλιῆος,
τῶν αὖθ' ἡγείσθην Ἀσκληπιοῦ δύο παῖδε
ἰητῆρ' ἀγαθὼ Ποδαλείριος ἠδὲ Μαχάων.

The men who inhabited Trikka and rugged Ithome,
and who inhabited Oikhalia, the city of Oikhalian Eurytos,
those men the two sons of Asklepios led,
the good healers, Podaleirios and Makhaon.

Messenia also claimed to be their home (see n2.20 below). In the Iliou Persis Poseidon rather than Asklepios is called their father (fr. 5 Allen; see n2.19 below); the dual paternity seems in line with their nature as twins, but cf. below n2.19 end.

[ back ] 19. A distinction in the kind of medicine practiced by the two twins is made in the Iliou Persis: whereas Makhaon is a surgeon, who treats bodies, Podaleirios specializes in hidden, mental diseases (scholia to Iliad 11.515 = Iliou Persis fr. 5 Allen):

αὐτὸς γάρ σφιν ἔδωκε πατὴρ κλυτὸς Ἐννοσίγαιος
ἀμφοτέροις, ἕτερον δ' ἑτέρου κυδίον' ἔθηκε·
τῷ μὲν κουφοτέρας χεῖρας πόρεν ἔκ τε βέλεμνα
σαρκὸς ἑλεῖν τμῆξαί τε καὶ ἕλκεα πάντ' ἀκέσασθαι,
τῷ δ' ἀκριβέα πάντ' ἄρ' ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν ἔθηκεν
ἄσκοπά τε γνῶναι καὶ ἀναλθέα ἰήσασθαι·
ὅς ῥα καὶ Αἴαντος πρῶτος μάθε χωομένοιο
ὄμματά τ' ἀστράπτοντα βαρυνόμενόν τε νόημα.

Their father, the famed earthshaker, himself endowed
them both, and he made each more glorious than the other;
to the one he gave more nimble hands to pull out shafts
from the flesh and make incisions and heal all wounds;
to the other he made all things clear in his breast,
to know hidden causes and to heal incurable diseases;
indeed he was the first to know that angry Ajax’s
eyes were flashing and his mind oppressed.

The scholia to Iliad 11.515 say that in the view of some the same distinction between the twin physicians is found in Homer: ἔνιοι δέ φασιν ὡς οὐδὲ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἰατροὺς ὁ ἔπαινος οὗτός (Iliad 11.514–515) ἐστι κοινός, ἀλλ' ἐπὶ τὸν Μαχάονα, ὃν μόνον χειρουργεῖν τινες λέγουσι· τὸν γὰρ Ποδαλείριον διαιτᾶσθαι νόσους. καὶ τεκμήριον τούτου· Ἀγαμέμνων τρωθέντος Μενελάου οὐκ ἄμφω ἐπὶ τὴν θεραπείαν καλεῖ, ἀλλὰ τὸν Μαχάονα (cf. Iliad 4.193–197). τοῦτο ἔοικε καὶ Ἀρκτῖνος ἐν Ἰλίου πορθήσει νομίζειν, ἐν οἷς φησιν ‘αὐτὸς γάρ σφιν ἔδωκε πατὴρ…,’ “Some say that this praise (Iliad 11.514–515) is not for all doctors in general, but for Makhaon, who alone, some say, performs surgery; for Podaleirios diagnoses diseases. And as evidence of this: when Menelaus is wounded Agamemnon does not call both of them for the treatment, but Makhaon (cf. Iliad 4.193–197). Arctinus also seems to believe this in the Sack of Troy in the lines where he says ‘their father himself endowed them….’ ” Skill with the surgeon’s knife suggests the warrior twin; skill in the diagnosis of hidden diseases suggests the twin marked by intelligence. From the Indo-European standpoint this is a secondary distinction, since in the Indo-European myth “saving” and “healing” belong wholly to the immortal twin when he is contrasted with his brother. Nevertheless the distinction still suggests the basic contrast between the twins. Melampus and Bias are in some ways a comparable pair of brothers to Podaleirios and Makhaon: Bias like Makhaon has a warrior’s name (from bíē, “force”); Melampus like Podaleirios is the healer of mental diseases (he cures the daughters of Proitos of madness). The names “black foot” (Melampus) and “lily foot” (Podaleirios) resemble each other, but what significance this, and the contrasting colors, may have is not obvious. It is not clear whether Podaleirios and Makhaon, in addition to other contrasts between them, also have dual paternity: in Iliad 2 the mortal Asklepios is their father, in the Iliou Persis fragment quoted above Poseidon is their father, but the two fathers are nowhere directly contrasted.

[ back ] 20. Pausanias 3.26.9 reports that in the Little Iliad Eurypylos the son of Telephos kills Makhaon (in Homer the only occurrence of Eurypylos the son of Telephos is in Odyssey 11.519–520, where Neoptolemos is said to have killed him). Pergamum, where Telephos’s traditions were important, knew the tradition for Telephos’s son as the slayer of Makhaon: Pausanias 3.26.10 reports that in the temple of Asklepios at Pergamum Telephos was honored but his son was deliberatedly not mentioned because he had slain Makhaon, the son of Asklepios. The Messenians claimed that Makhaon was buried in Gerenia, the Homeric Enope (Pausanias 3.26.8–9); Nestor was supposed to have brought Makhaon’s bones home with him from Troy (Pausanias 3.26.10). The tradition for Podaleirios, on the other hand, was that he was blown off course on his way from Troy and that he founded the Carian city of Syrnos (Pausanias 3.26.10; cf. “Apollodorus” Epitome 6.18); Podaleirios was said to have founded other cities as well (see Kenner RE ‘Podaleirios’ 1133; for city-founding as a function of twin figures acting both together and alone see n2.139 below). Messenia seems to have rivaled Thessaly as the homeland of Makhaon (at least) from a relatively early period: in the Catalogue of Ships Oichalia, the city of Eurytos, belongs to the territory of Podaleirios and Makhaon in Thessaly in one passage (Iliad 2.730, n2.18 above), but in another passage (Iliad 2.596) Oichalia is in Messenia; in the Odyssey Odysseus is said to have met Eurytos’s son Iphitos in “Lacedaemon” (i.e. Messenia), not in Thessaly (Odyssey 21.11–14). Cf. Simpson and Lazenby 1970:85 and Kiechle 1960:50–51, 1959:80.

[ back ] 21. Achilles sees Nestor and calls Patroclus in Iliad 11.596–603:

ὣς οἳ μὲν μάρναντο δέμας πυρὸς αἰθομένοιο·
Νέστορα δ' ἐκ πολέμοιο φέρον Νηλήϊαι ἵπποι
ἱδρῶσαι, ἦγον δὲ Μαχάονα ποιμένα λαῶν.
τὸν δὲ ἰδὼν ἐνόησε ποδάρκης δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς·
ἑστήκει γὰρ ἐπὶ πρυμνῇ μεγακήτεϊ νηῒ
εἰσορόων πόνον αἰπὺν ἰῶκά τε δακρυόεσσαν.
αἶψα δ' ἑταῖρον ἑὸν Πατροκλῆα προσέειπε
φθεγξάμενος παρὰ νηός.

So they fought like blazing fire,
but the Neleian horses, sweating, brought Nestor from the battle,
and carried Makhaon, shepherd of the warriors.
Seeing him swift-footed shining Achilles took notice;
for he was standing on the stern of the deep-flanked ship
looking at the hard toil and the tear-bringing rout.
Immediately he addressed his companion Patroclus,
calling from the ship.

Achilles sends Patroclus to find out who is with Nestor, saying that Nestor’s chariot passed too quickly for him to see clearly (Iliad 11.611–615):

ἀλλ' ἴθι νῦν Πάτροκλε Διῒ φίλε Νέστορ' ἔρειο
ὅν τινα τοῦτον ἄγει βεβλημένον ἐκ πολέμοιο·
ἤτοι μὲν τά γ' ὄπισθε Μαχάονι πάντα ἔοικε
τῷ Ἀσκληπιάδῃ, ἀτὰρ οὐκ ἴδον ὄμματα φωτός·
ἵπποι γάρ με παρήϊξαν πρόσσω μεμαυῖαι.

But go now, Patroclus, dear to Zeus, and ask Nestor
who this is that he brings wounded from the battle;
from the back everything resembles Makhaon
the son of Asklepios, but I didn’t see the man’s eyes;
for the horses darted past me as they pressed on.

[ back ] 22. This is the usual judgment, that the story is long-winded and not much to the point. That this is not a satisfactory conclusion has been realized by some. In an important article Victoria Pedrick carefully considers the paradigmatic purpose of Nestor’s speech (Pedrick 1983; the author addresses the question from the perspective of paradigmatic speeches in general). While she does not abandon the idea that Nestor’s speech is meant for Achilles, she qualifies this idea heavily in her conclusion, p. 68: “We perceive the full force of the scene when we recognize the manipulation of the paradigmatic exhortation: the example is not simply a tale carefully molded for the listener’s edification. It is an aristeia meant to remind an angry hero of his responsibility and to inspire him to his own glorious performance. Ironically, the paradeigma works—on the wrong hero. Patroklos does not pass on the lesson to his friend; instead he attempts his own aristeia.” Cf. also Martin 2000, who cites Pedrick (p. 54); like Pedrick, whom he quotes on this point, Martin is sensitive to the fact that irony must be at work in Nestor’s story in Iliad 11. Cantieni, who well appreciates how carefully Nestor’s story is prepared for in the narrative of the Iliad (Cantieni 1942:18), does not resolve its purpose: while Nestor pointedly singles out Achilles and his behavior both before his story and after it (Cantieni, pp. 10 and 22, draws attention to the anaphora autàr Akhilleús, “but Achilles,” in Iliad 11.664 and 762), his story cannot be construed as a “warning speech” directed at Achilles since no such point is emphasized at the end (see Cantieni, pp. 20–21, who contrasts Phoenix’s speech in Iliad 9 in this respect). Minchin 1990/1991 shows that Nestor’s speech, when viewed in terms of effective one-on-one communication, is well suited to the situation at this crucial point in the poem; as far as Nestor’s story is concerned, the rhetorical contrast in lines 762–763 between Nestor, as he once was μετ’ ἀνδράσιν, “among men,” and Achilles, who is now οἶος, “alone,” is certainly the point on the surface of the poem (cf. Minchin 1990/1991:282). But even this fine appreciation of the speech’s appropriateness does not eliminate the idea that the speech is still somehow tedious (cf. Minchen 1990/1991:285); restoring the speech’s excitement is, I think, partly a matter of text (cf. n2.16 above), and partly a matter of looking deeper for the speech’s purpose. Alden 2000:88–101 has gone beyond Pedrick and Martin in recognizing that Nestor’s story is really aimed at Patroclus (see especially pp. 95–96, with further bibliography in 95n53); my interpretation, which proceeds along different lines from Alden’s, has this central point in common with it. For other scholarship relevant to Nestor’s Homeric stories and speeches see Dickson 1995:99n67 and n69.

[ back ] 23. Cf. Kenner RE ‘Podaleirios’ 1132. Arieti 1983/1984 sees significance for Iliad 11, and for the Iliad generally, in the parallel between Achilles and Makhaon as doctors, but he misreads Iliad 4.218–219 in stating that Makhaon, like Achilles, was taught by Cheiron: the passage says only that Cheiron gave healing drugs to Makhaon’s father, Asklepios.

[ back ] 24. The contrast between the age and wisdom of Patroclus on the one hand and the strength of Achilles on the other hand has a close parallel in Iliad 19.216–219, where Odysseus contrasts himself with Achilles in just these terms:

ὦ Ἀχιλεῦ Πηλῆος υἱὲ μέγα φέρτατ' Ἀχαιῶν,
κρείσσων εἰς ἐμέθεν καὶ φέρτερος οὐκ ὀλίγον περ
ἔγχει, ἐγὼ δέ κε σεῖο νοήματί γε προβαλοίμην
πολλόν, ἐπεὶ πρότερος γενόμην καὶ πλείονα οἶδα.

Achilles, Peleus’s son, much the strongest of the Achaeans,
you are mightier than I am and stronger by not a little
with a spear, but in understanding I might be better than you
by much, since I was born earlier and I know more.

Here the contrast is between the main heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and the twin myth is not directly relevant.

[ back ] 25. Patróklees hippeû occurs four times and Patróklees hippokéleuthe three times; both epithets are unique to Patroclus. See Bader 1980:14 for the close relationship between the terms hippeús and hippóta (hippótēs) as class designations, both originally designating the warrior class.

[ back ] 26. Patróklees hippeû is always the poet’s own address to the hero; the three other occurrences of the phrase (and their contexts) are: Iliad 16.744 (Patroclus exults scornfully after killing Hector’s charioteer); Iliad 16.812 (Euphorbos is the first to strike the disarmed Patroclus); Iliad 16.843 (Patroclus answers Hector’s taunt before he dies). Of the two further occurrences of the phrase Patróklees hippokéleuthe, one, Iliad 16.584, is the poet’s address (Patroclus angrily goes to avenge a fallen comrade); the other, Iliad 16.839, is spoken by Hector in a taunt (Hector imagines Achilles addressing Patroclus as Patróklees hippokéleuthe when he sent him into battle).