Chapter 3. Κότος and Social Status

{78|79} At the beginning of this study, I suggested that kótos was identified in Calchas’s definition both by the length of time that it lasts and by the social status of the angered party. We have seen that the use of télos, metópisthen, and other related terminology gives kótos a sense of extraordinary duration. The issue of the term’s relation to social status now demands attention.
Calchas’s definition focuses on Agamemnon’s potential kótos against the prophet as the rancor of a superior, a basileús in this case, against a social inferior (Il. 1.80-83). That kótos characterizes especially the anger of kings suggests that kótos may apply also to relationships between different categories of superiors and subordinates.
The following scheme classifies kótos with reference to Homeric social hierarchies.
Gods against mortals:
In each of these cases, a god or gods has kótos against (or in reference to) a mortal.
Il. 4.168 Zeus’s kótos at mortals for breaking oaths.
Il. 5.177 Speculation about a god’s kótos.
Il. 5.191 Speculation about a god’s kótos.
Il. 5.747 = Od. 1.101 = Il. 8.391 Athena’s kótos at mortals (hērṓōn).
Il. 8.449 Hera’s and Athena’s kótos at men.
Il. 14.143 A god’s (potential) kótos at Agamemnon.
Il. 16.386 Zeus’s kótos at a city (in a simile).
Il. 18.367 Hera’s kótos at Trojans.
Il. 21.456 Poseidon’s and Apollo’s kótos at Laomedon.
Il. 23.383 Apollo’s kótos at Diomedes. {79|80}
Il. 23.391 Athena’s kótos at Eumelus, the son of Admetus.
Od. 1.101= Od. 8.391 = Il. 5.747 Athena’s kótos at mortals (hērṓōn).
Od. 11.102 Poseidon’s kótos at Odysseus.
Il. 13.342 Poseidon’s kótos at Odysseus.
Gods against other gods:
Il. 14.191 Aphrodite’s kótos at Hera (concerning competing allegiances to the Trojans and Achaeans; cf. Il. 23.391).
Il. 16.449 Zeus’s (potential) kótos at immortals (concerning the sons of the immortals).
Od. 5.147 Zeus’s (potential) kótos at Calypso (over Odysseus).
Il. 10.517 Apollo’s kótos at Athena (concerning competing allegiances to the Trojans and Achaeans).
Mortals against mortals of subordinate status:
Od. 9.501 Odysseus and the Cyclops.
Od. 22.477 Odysseus’ oîkos and Melanthius.
Od. 19.71 Melantho and Odysseus.
Od. 19.83 Penelope and Melantho.
Il. 2.223 Achaeans and Thersites.
Mortals against mortals of comparable status:
Il. 1.181 Achilles and Agamemnon (over Briseis).
Il. 3.345 Paris and Menelaus (over Helen).
Il. 13.517 Deiphobos and Idomeneus (over Helen).
In a number of these cases, the interpretation of kótos depends on the weight attached to Calchas’s assertion that kótos implies antagonism across social strata. In particular, structuralist method provides one approach to understanding this data. In the cultural code of aggression, kótos can play a particular role, namely, to mediate conflict between the cultural categories of divine and mortal, master and slave, man and woman. Within each of these categories kótos involves conflict between rivals, especially in cases where cultural categories are crossed or where rivalries derive from loyalties within categories.
Of all the circumstances in which kótos is used, only five are clear instances of kótos between equals (gods: Il. 14.191, Il. 10.517; mortals: Il. 1.181, Il. 3.345, and Il. 13.517). All of these examples relate directly to the fundamental questions of the Iliad: four instances point directly to the central conflict of the Trojan War (Il. 3.345, Il. 10.517, Il. 13.517, Il. 14.191, while the fifth (Il. 1.181) relates to the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. A brief review of these instances will show how central this kind of anger is to the story of the Iliad.
In Il. 3.345, Paris and Menelaus engage in single combat. This single combat alludes to a fundamental source of conflict in Greek epic narrative, the {80|81} abduction of Helen by Paris. The anger here described is kótos, not khólos, because, as we have seen, it is motivated by an event outside the immediate context. As I have shown, in the narrative neither Menelaus nor Paris has done anything to the other on the battlefield, so that no immediate motivation exists for either to be angry with the other. In this way, kótos can extend over time in order to reach a télos (“conclusion”), so that it is possible to find oneself facing one’s opponent over an issue that happened elsewhere in time and space. [1] In this sense, Paris and Menelaus can be said to have kótos against one another.
The kótos between Deiphobus and Idomeneus has its origin in their rivalry over Helen (as in Il. 13.517 ff.); so too does the kótos of Athena and Diomedes in Il. 10.517 and Il. 23.391. Structurally, kótos in the passages just reviewed describes a wrath between individuals who may be viewed as equals (for example, a god vs. a god, a warrior vs. a warrior). But the origin of this wrath is not any particular and immediate grievance between the characters. Rather some founding moment, often but not always involving members of another social stratum, must be unearthed in order to understand kótos. Table 3.1 displays the way the conflict between and within social strata provides motivation for kótos in such cases.
Table 3.1 Kótos between Equals
Social Stratum Equals Cause
God vs. god Hera vs. Aphrodite
(Il. 14.191)
Old rivalry: οὕνεκ’ ἐγὼ Δαναοῖσι, σὺ δὲ Τρώεσσι ἀρήγεις
  Apollo vs. Athena
(Il. 10.517)
Old rivalry: ὡς ἴδ’ Ἀθηναίην μετὰ Τυδέος υἱὸν
Mortal vs. mortal Paris vs. Menelaus
(Il. 3.345)
Past outrage: Ἀλεξάνδροιο τοῦ εἵνεκα νεῖκος ὄρωρεν
  Deiphobus vs. Idomeneus
(Il. 13.517)
Old rivalry: Σ: ὡς ἀντεραστὴς Ἑλένης
  Achilles vs. Agamemnon
(Il. 1.180-82)
Future rivalry (of kings): Μυρμιδόνεσσιν ἄνασσε
Some important features emerge to amplify our view of kótos. In Il. 14.19092 Hera prepares for the seduction of Zeus by seeking Aphrodite’s assistance:
ἦ ῥά νύ μοί τι πίθοιο, φίλον τέκος, ὅττι κεν εἴπω,
ἦέ κεν ἀρνήσαιο, κοτεσσαμένη τό γε θυμῷ, {81|82}
οὕνεκ’ ἐγὼ Δαναοῖσι, σὺ δὲ Τρώεσσιν ἀρήγεις;
(Il. 14.190-92)
Would you obey me at all, my child, in what I tell you, or would you refuse, because of kótos in your heart about the fact that I help the Danaans and you the Trojans?
Here, as in Hermes’ warning to Calypso, a god is styled as having kótos, potentially, against another god; indeed we have observed divine kótos working against mortals in those cases that concern violations on the human level. Here it is a god’s kótos that is rooted in the all-too-human Trojan War (Il. 14.192): hoúnek ’ egṑ Danaoîsi, sù dè Trṓessin arḗgeis (“that I help the Greeks and you the Trojans”).
The change in emphasis from a god’s kótos against a mortal to a god’s kótos against another god because of mortal concerns is marked by a change in phrasing. Each instance of kotessámenos in the Iliad is accompanied by a dative object immediately preceding, at the trochaic caesura, or following kotessámenos. But here the cause of the kótos is specified and expanded upon in the next line (Il. 14.192).
Here, the kótos is not merely Aphrodite’s against Hera; rather, her kótos is due to the separation and opposition of the two mortal groups. The Trojan War makes it possible for Aphrodite to deny Hera’s request because of conflicting loyalties across social segments. That is to say that the kótos alluded to in Iliad 14 finds its genesis in the origins of the Trojan War, since Aphrodite possesses kótos because of the loyalties of the subordinate groups, here groups of mortals (the Trojans and the Greeks). Moreover, the kótos that may prevent Aphrodite from helping Hera is the very anger alluded to in Il. 24.27, which arose because of Paris’ átē (“moral blindness”) in regard to makhlosúnē (“lust”). Thus kótos has as its source something outside the immediate context, especially in reference to foundational experiences, the greatest one being the neîkos that leads to the Trojan War.
In many cases, kótos involves characters from the same social level, with conflict occurring at the same time on another social level. For example, when Hera warns Zeus that he would be challenging fate by saving Sarpedon, the kótos she refers to is that of the immortals against men:
αἴ κε ζὼν πέμψῃς Σαρπηδόνα ὅνδε δόμονδε,
φράζεο μή τις ἔπειτα θεῶν ἐθέλῃσι καὶ ἄλλος
πέμπειν ὃν φίλον υἱὸν ἀπὸ κρατερῆς ὑσμίνης∙
πολλοὶ γὰρ περὶ ἄστυ μέγα Πριάμοιο μάχονται
υἱέες ἀθανάτων, τοῖσιν κότον αἰνον ἐνήσεις.
(Il. 16.445-49)
If you wish to send Sarpedon, alive, to his own home, think whether anyone of the gods thereafter might wish to send his own son from the strong conflict; for {82|83} many are fighting around the great city of Priam, many sons of the Achaeans, among whom you will hurl a grievous kótos .
This kótos is comparable to that at Il. 14.191 and Il. 10.517 because it emerges from an alliance of gods and warriors. In addition, when Hera sees the gods enraged at Zeus because the gods’ sons have died in battle, she presents a figure analogous to that of Agamemnon imagining the kótos of an Achilles returned to Phthia (Il. 1.181), an image that Agamemnon, in a fit of bravura, dismisses out of hand. Kótos is used in such passages as a kind of a fortiori argument because of its long duration and its intrinsic need to reach a télos, as well as the implication (made explicit in Il. 16.449) that the anger is not that of an individual but of a social group. Kótos is the most dangerous thing to be feared when considering another’s anger because it may involve much more than a personal grievance. In effect, what Hera is telling Zeus here is that his actions might precipitate a feud among the gods.
When Agamemnon fantasizes about Achilles’ kótos (as discussed above), he does so because of loyalties relating to subordinates (here the Myrmidons) in the context of Achilles as their sovereign:
οἴκαδ’ ἰὼν σὺν νηυσί τε σῇς καὶ σοῖς ἑτάροισι
Μυρμιδόνεσσιν ἄνασσε, σέθεν δ’ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀλεγίζω,
οὐδ’ ὄθομαι κοτέοντος. ἀπειλήσω δέ τοι ὧδε.
(Il. 1.179-81)
Go homeward with your ships and your companions, rule over the Myrmidons, but I won’t trouble myself about you, nor will I take heed of your kótos ; but I will threaten you in the following way.
Now, it may be said that the structural relationship is the same in this as in the previous examples: kótos between two equals over a conflict concerning a subordinate. Just as the gods’ kótos against one another concerns mortals, so Agamemnon and Achilles can potentially have kótos against each other because of their captives.
As to Thersites, these lines remain problematic:
ὀξέα κεκλήγων λέγ’ ὀνείδεα. τῷ δ’ ἄρ’ Ἀχαιοὶ
ἐκπάγλως κοτέοντο νεμέσσηθέν τ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ.
(Il. 2.222-23)
Shrilly he spoke sharp reproaches; now the Achaeans had kótos deeply against him, and they were indignant at him in their hearts.
In the light of Calchas’s information, the anger appropriate to the Achaeans and their feelings toward Thersites [2] can be styled kótos because their hatred is based {83|84} on Thersites’ quarrels with kings (Il. 2.214: erizémenai basielûsin). In this scene, his conflict is with Agamemnon (Il. 2.221-23: tót’ aût’ Agamémnoni díōi /oxéa keklḗgōn lég’ oneídea (“Then in turn with a sharp cry he reproached Agamemnon”). Thus, the Achaean warriors have kótos against one of their own because of their superiors, namely, the basilêes mentioned in 214 (cf. 220) and, specifically, Achilles, Odysseus, and Agamemnon. [3]
Moreover, the kótos that Thersites inspires in the Achaeans is related to the éris he causes the basilêes and to the neîkos involving Agamemnon, Achilles, and Odysseus. [4]
[Θερσίτης] ὅς ἔπεα φρεσὶ ᾗσιν ἄκοσμά τε πολλά τε ᾔδή,
μάψ, ἀτὰρ οὐ κατὰ κόσμον, ἐριζέμεναι βασιλεῦσιν.
ἔχθιστος δ’ Ἀχιλῆι μάλιστ’ ἦν ἠδ’ Ὀδυσῆι·
τὼ γὰρ νεικείεσκε· τότ’ αὖτ’ Ἀγαμέμνονι δίῳ
ὀξέα κεκλήγων λέγ’ ὀνείδεα. τῷ δ’ ἄρ’ Ἀχαιοὶ
ἐκπάγλως κοτέοντο νεμέσσηθέν τ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ.
(Il. 2.213-14; 220-23)
[Thersites] who knows in his mind words, many of them and unseemly ones, unfortunate, and indeed not appropriate, for contending with kings … And he was especially hateful to Achilles and to Odysseus; for he used to provoke them; and then he took to making sharp reproaches shrilly against godly Agamemnon; now the Achaeans had kótos deeply against him, and they were indignant at him in their hearts.
The series of imperfects here emphasizes the longevity of kótos, that persistance being highlighted by the frequentative in -sk- (of neikeie-sk-e) and by kotéonto, which is based on an old iterative-intensive formation. [5] Finally, note that Odysseus, involved as he is in kótos with respect to the Cyclops, Melantho, Melanthius, and the rest of the suitors, goes after Thersites with a similar streak of violence, and with an emphasis on Thersites’ subordinate status:
ἴσχεο, μηδ’ ἔθελ’ οἶος ἐριζέμεναι βασιλεῦσιν.
(Il. 2.247)
Hold and don’t wish alone to contend with kings.
τῶ οὐκ ἂν βασιλῆας ἀνὰ στόμ’ ἔχων ἀγορεύοις,
(Il. 2.250)
Don’t mouth off about kings in your declamations.
These are statements of principle because they refer beyond the particulars of the offensive speech that Thersites has just made. In this regard, Odysseus’s comments {84|85} resemble the remarks he will make to Melantho in the Odyssey. Finally, the display of violence against Thersites clearly shows us why Calchas has asked for protection against a king’s kótos.
Odysseus enforces the kótos that the body of Achaeans feels against Thersites. [6] So too Odysseus enforces kótos in the Odyssey. Since (1) Odysseus plays the role of enforcer in the Thersites episode by providing a theory of kingship (Il. 2.246-64) and the enactment of violence that it justifies (Il. 2.265-69); since (2) Antenor remarks on his demeanor as being zákotos “very angry”; and since (3) his oîkos “household” caps the violence in Odysseus’s homestead kekotēóti thumôi “with an angry heart” (Od. 22.477), I suggest that Odysseus is the hero of kótos—the anger of feud—in contradistinction to Achilles, whom Agamemnon can only imagine as having kótos in the future, of course, in his own oîkos among the Myrmidons. [7]
Achilles, thus, is only in a peripheral sense denoted by kótos in the Iliad. His anger is both mênis and khólos, while kótos is reserved to the background of the Iliad, where it has special reference to the beginning and the end of the war. We have already seen that Achilles is only once referred to as having kótos (Il. 1.178-81). [8] This reference is part of Agamemnon’s view of Achilles, coming as it does at the height of the quarrel, when Agamemnon’s insult almost drives Achilles to murder. Agamemnon might well fear Achilles’ kótos, especially if Achilles takes his place as a basileús (“king”) after a nóstos (“return”) to Phthia. In this case, Achilles’ status as a basileús is clearly involved in Agamemnon’s dismissal, a fortiori, of kótos.
Furthermore, Agamemnon needs to dismiss Achilles’ kótos, precisely because of the substance of the threat he has just made. For not only is Agamemnon contemplating Achilles as a returned king; in addition, he is about to rob him in full view of those over whom Agamemnon holds sway. Thus, the entire process of dealing with Achilles’ anger depends upon the hierarchical structure of Achaean society as represented in Greek epic, from the king in battle with his army to the successful return-hero, now at home and in power. Moreover, in so far as both the plot of the warrior-hero and that of his returning counterpart effectively involve contractual relationships among the Achaeans, abrogation of those relationships constitutes a kind of crooked thémis (“judgment”), and hence potentially a locale for kótos. [9] Finally, in this threat, Agamemnon ranks Achilles below himself:
ὄφρ’ ἐὺ εἰδῇς
ὅσσον φέρτερός εἰμι σέθεν, στυγέῃ δὲ καὶ ἄλλος
ἶσον ἐμοὶ φάσθαι καὶ ὁμοιωθήμεναι ἄντην.
(Il. 1.185-87)
… so that you might well know how much better I am than you, and so that another might hate to call himself equal to me and to square off against me.
{85|86} One of the most important features of kótos is called into play here, namely, a superior’s anger against an inferior. And in projecting Achilles’ kingship to a time after his imagined nóstos to Phthia, Agamemnon assumes, rightly, that any kótos resulting from his public violation of Achilles’ due could be protracted in its devastating consequences.
But Achilles has no nóstos (“return”) and no future, apart from the kléos (“fame”) provided by song. Hence, kótos will never again be referred to when the subject of Achilles’ anger comes up. Rather, as in the Iliad's proem, his anger is mênis, or, most often, as we will soon see, khólos. In fact, in the very next scene, Achilles is about to kill Agamemnon when Athena comes down and restrains him. Here his anger is khólos (Il. 1.192, 1.217) and oú pō lêge khóloio (Il. 1.224) “and he did not yet let go of his khólos (‘anger’).”
Before we turn to the wrath of Achilles, our pursuit of Calchas’s definition provides us with questions that need to be answered comparatively, in two senses. First, from the point of view of comparative historical linguistics, I will provide a history of kótos. Second, with the comparative insights provided from the ethnography of the feud, I will demonstrate the typological foundation for this kind of anger. {86|87}


[ back ] 1. Compare again the way that Glaucus and Diomedes in Book 6 discover their common bond in xenía (“guest-friendship”).
[ back ] 2. I take it to be Thersites that is referred to here. On this reading, I see 216-22 as digressive, to be resumed by tôi d’ (222), picking up from 212-16. Others take Agamemnon as the referent; see Thalmann 1988, 18 and notes 44 and 45 for support of that position. To say that the Achaeans have kótos against Agamemnon makes no sense in the light of the implications of Calchas’s definition.
[ back ] 3. There has been substantial work on the Thersites episode recently, and issues of class and social status are foremost. My study of kótos need not secure the ultimate status of Thersites, except to say that he is not on an equal plane with the basilêes. See Thalmann 1988; for Thersites as a poetic figure see Nagy 1979, chapter 14. If Thersites is a blame poet and the representative in the Iliad of the Hellenic tradition of blame poetry, he presents an interesting parallel to Calchas, whose skill in divination also belongs to the verbal arts. Certainly Thersites’ aggressive stance toward Agamemnon is the mirror image of Calchas’s deferential approach to his superior.
[ back ] 4. See again Nagy 1979, Chapter 14 and, for neîkos, Chapter 12. And see now Nagler 1990 and Martin 1989, 68-69. On éris see Hogan 1981 and Nagler 1988, and 1992 with Gagarin 1990.
[ back ] 5. See Part I, Chapter 2; consult Jamison 1981, 180-81 for an account of this mediopassive. Compare also the use of -sk- forms in Antenor’s description of Odysseus as zákotos (Il. 3.213-23); cf. Il. 2.271, as discussed at the end of Chapter 2.
[ back ] 6. See Thalmann 1988 for a review of the complex issues involving the ideological character of this relationship.
[ back ] 7. In this way, I suggest that the mênis of Achilles is kept separate from kótos. On mênis, see Muellner 1996.
[ back ] 8. On mênis and kótos, see Muellner 1996, 7 and 30 n. 50.
[ back ] 9. See Il. 16.386-88.