Chapter 3. Greece

The most frequently mentioned place-names of mainland Greece include Phthia, Argos, Pylos, Thebes, Sparta, Ithaka, Mycenae, and the islands of Lesbos, Lemnos, Skyros, and Crete. [1] Given that each of these toponyms is closely associated either with a single Iliadic hero or with a specific phase of this hero’s mythical saga, I have decided to examine them separately. From a methodological point of view, this approach aims at exploring the full range of interpretive ramifications of the principal Greek leaders’ tendency to refer consistently to a wider space. Being attached to their general role in epic poetry, Greek heroes who systematically refer to a space that is constantly absent tend to employ it intertextually rather than intratextually. [2]


Of the fourteen times that Phthia is mentioned in the Iliad, thirteen are in character text and only one in narrator text. Given that the latter attestation of this place name occurs in the Catalogue of Ships (Iliad II 683), which may be considered the “default mode” of the entire Iliadic system of proper names (both personal and place names), it can be claimed that the word Phthia is marked by being present only in speeches. Since it is the birthplace and habitat of Achilles, it is only natural that he refers to it more often (seven times) than any other Iliadic figure (Iliad I 155, 169; IX 363, 395; XVI 13; XIX 323, 330). Phthia is also mentioned three times (IX 439, 479, 484) by Phoinix, who raised Achilles, and once each by Odysseus (IX 253), Nestor (XI 766), and Briseis (XIX 299).
Phthia is particularly linked to the way Achilles, as a “cognizer,” reconstructs an important part of his epic persona. He regularly brings up his fatherland in moments of emotional upheaval, over his quarrel with Agamemnon, his desire to leave Troy and return home, or recalling his aging father Peleus. These three interpretive ramifications of Phthia construct a poetics of nostalgia that is filtered by Achilles’ idiosyncratic view of the heroic code. They also suggest to the audience a specific way of “reading” distant space, since they put in the limelight the notion of absence, of both people and places, a topic of paramount importance for Achilles’ liminal situation in the Iliad.

The poetics of loneliness

Within the heated context of his quarrel with Agamemnon, Achilles remembers his native land:
“οὐ γὰρ ἐγὼ Τρώων ἕνεκ᾿ ἤλυθον αἰχμητάων
δεῦρο μαχησόμενος, ἐπεὶ οὔ τί μοι αἴτιοί εἰσιν·
οὐ γὰρ πώ ποτ᾿ ἐμὰς βοῦς ἤλασαν οὐδὲ μὲν ἵππους,
οὐδέ ποτ᾿ ἐν Φθίῃ ἐριϐώλακι βωτιανείρῃ
καρπὸν ἐδηλήσαντ᾿, ἐπεὶ ἦ μάλα πολλὰ μεταξύ,
οὔρεά τε σκιόεντα θάλασσά τε ἠχήεσσα.”

“I for my part did not come here for the sake of the Trojan
spearmen to fight against them, since to me they have done nothing.
Never yet have they driven away my cattle or my horses,
never in Phthia where the soil is rich and men grow great did they
spoil my harvest, since indeed there is much that lies between us,
the shadowy mountains and the echoing sea …”
Iliad I 152–157
Achilles succinctly expresses his special position among the other Achaean leaders. By stating that neither he nor his possessions have been injured by the Trojans in the past, because his homeland lies far away from theirs, [3] Achilles emphasizes that this is not his war. He has come to Troy, after all, for the sake of the Atreidai, not because of personal interest or the desire for revenge. The function of Phthia in this context is threefold. First, it designates Achilles’ homeland by using two distinct spatial aspects: size and distance. Second, it tacitly brings up a subtle irony, by using an argument that is readily applicable to almost every other Achaean leader: that is, the lack of any direct harm to their possessions by the Trojans. Third, it opens a window of allusion to the background of the Trojan War, and especially to the oath that Tundareos has made all the suitors take, by which they are bound to help Menelaos and Helen should any reason arise.
With respect to the spatial aspects of size and distance, Achilles’ language is revealing. The epithets ἐριϐώλακι ‘of the rich soil’ and βωτιανείρῃ ‘nourishing great men’, [4] combined with the references to cattle (βοῦς) and horses (ἵππους), suggest that Achilles describes his native land as a rich and prosperous place. The memory of the fatherland is here tailored to the needs and aims of the particular situation, but contextual boundedness should not prevent us from realizing that the speaker paints an idyllic picture of Phthia. If seen as a cognizer, that is, a focalizer whose accumulated experience determines his words and actions, Achilles’ positive description of Phthia is typical of those who long to see their homeland. In such cases, mnemonic recall is characterized on the one hand by a constant and powerful tendency to repress negative memories, virtually burying them in the mental cemetery of past experiences, and on the other by conjuring up and strengthening positive images of the past, even to the extent of “prettifying” them. By combining the traditional theme of cattle or horse raids with that of destroying the crops, [5] Achilles implicitly suggests that his homeland is a place where all these resources are abundant.
Distance is another spatial aspect deftly employed by Achilles in his description of Phthia. By saying that “the shadowy mountains and the resounding sea” separate his homeland from Troy, he accentuates the unlikeliness of harm from the Trojans, but also indicates both the huge “divide” between his present situation and his past life, as well as the sacrifice he is making for the sake of Agamemnon and Menelaos: he has traveled from afar to an unknown land to fight a war he does not really want to fight. In this light, space becomes the measure of Achilles’ longing to go home. Now that he has been insulted by Agamemnon, Achilles will let his nostalgia come out with growing intensity. Phthia thus becomes, slowly but steadily, a potential goal, a target Achilles will set for himself until it is finally abandoned after the death of Patroklos.
Spatial designations such as Phthia are also telling for the internal audience of Achilles’ speech. In particular, the arguments he uses to exclude the possibility of any Trojan harm to his possessions are directly applicable to most Achaean leaders. In a remarkable display of irony, Achilles makes a covert political gesture toward his fellow kings: the only person harmed by the Trojans is Menelaos (and by implication Agamemnon). Given that the rest have possessions in Greece that have never been taken or destroyed by the Trojans and that they have all made the long journey across “shadowy mountains and resounding sea” to Troy, Achilles’ words must have struck a powerful note in many Achaean hearts. I will not push this point further and suggest that Achilles is aiming at a revolt against Agamemnon. His reaction, though, and the emphasis he places on describing his homeland would have made others realize that there was much truth in a statement that every one of the leaders could have made for himself.
Spatial clues function differently according to the audience, internal or external, that receives them. Though a powerful intratextual gesture to the other Achaean leaders, Achilles’ arguments are intertextually undermined by the external audience’s knowledge of the background of the Trojan War. [6] According to the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, [7] Tundareos made all the suitors take an oath and vow with a libation that
… μή τιν’ ἔτ’ ἄ̣λ̣λον̣ [ἄ]νε̣υ̣ ἕ̣θεν ἄλλα π̣έ̣ν̣ε̣σ̣θ̣α̣ι̣
ἀμφὶ γάμωι κούρης εὐ[ω]λ[ένο]υ̣· ὃ̣ς̣ δ̣έ̣ κ̣ε̣ν ἀνδρῶν̣
αὐτὸς ἕλοιτο βίηι, νέμεσίν τ’ ἀπ[ο]θ̣ε̣ῖ̣το καὶ αἰδῶ,
τὸν μέτα πά̣ν̣τας ἄνωγεν ἀολλέας ὁρμηθῆνα̣[ι
ποινὴν τεισομένους. τοὶ δ’ ἀπτερέως ἐπί̣θ̣ο̣ν̣[το
ἐλπόμενοι τελεέιν πάντες γάμον·

no one other than himself should make other plans
regarding the fair-armed maiden’s marriage; any man
who would seize her by force, and set aside indignation and shame,
he commanded all of them together to set out against him
to exact punishment. They swiftly obeyed,
all hoping to fulfill the marriage themselves. [8]
Achilles’ spatial language thus acquires an ironic tone, for the external audience (and even perhaps the internal) would immediately notice the difference by recalling the oath Tundareos made the suitors of Helen swear. The audience would also remember that Achilles was not bound by this oath, since he was not a suitor of Helen, for
… Χε̣ί̣ρων δ’ ἐν Πηλίωι ὑλήεντι
Πηλείδην ἐκ̣ό̣μιζε πόδας ταχύν, ἔξοχον ἀνδρῶν,
παῖδ’ ἔτ’ ἐόν[τ’·] οὐ γάρ μιν ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος
νίκησ’ οὐδέ τις ἄλλος ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
μνηστεύων Ἑλένην, εἴ μιν κίχε παρθένον οὖσαν
οἴκαδε νοστήσας ἐκ Πηλίου ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς.

Chiron on wooded Pelion
was taking care of Peleus’ swift-footed son, greatest of men,
who was still a boy; for neither warlike Menelaus
nor any other human on the earth would have defeated him
in wooing Helen, if swift Achilles had found her still a virgin
when he came back home from Pelion. [9]
Achilles’ use of spatial diction and motifs in this particular passage (and context) seems to point to the Hesiodic version of the episode of Helen’s suitors. In fact, both Phthia’s wealth in cattle and horses and the “spatial” argument of distance separating Achilles’ homeland from Troy are also employed in reverse in the Hesiodic episode. In particular, by the use of traditional formulas (fr. 198.30 ἄργυφα μῆλα καὶ εἰλίποδας ἕλικας βοῦς; fr. 204.50 εἰλίποδάς τε βόας καὶ ἴφια μῆλα), the Hesiodic narrator emphasizes that several suitors offered sheep and cattle as marriage gifts to make Helen their wife. Riches of this sort are directly connected to the land each suitor comes from or has under his control. Of Telamonian Ajax, for example, it is explicitly stated that he “would drive them together and give” (fr. 204.51 συνελάσας δώσειν), that is to say he would collect them from a rather extended area including Troizen, Epidauros, Aegina, Mases, Megara, Corinth, Hermione, and Asine. Animal offerings to win Helen are therefore employed in a different manner, namely as wedding gifts. Moreover, in the Hesiodic episode distance is used not as a boundary that separates but as a space that will be crossed. Idomeneus, we are told, was the only one who did not ask for Helen’s hand by proxy,
ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς [σ]ὺν νηῒ πολυκλήϊδι μελαίν̣η̣[ι
β̣ῆ̣ ὑπ̣ὲ̣ρ̣ Ὠ̣γ̣υλίου πόντου διὰ κῦμα κελαιν̣[ὸν
Τ̣υ̣νδαρέου ποτὶ δῶμα δαΐφρονος, ὄφρ̣[α ἴδοιτο
Ἀ]ρ̣[γείην] Ἑλένην, μηδ’ ἄλλ̣ων ο̣ἶο̣ν̣ ἀ̣κ[ούοι
μῦθον, ὃς] ἤ̣δ̣η̣ πᾶσαν ἐπ̣ὶ̣ [χθ]όνα δῖαν ἵκαν̣[εν

but himself with a many-benched black ship
came over the Ogylian sea through the black waves
to valorous Tyndareus’ mansion, so that [he could see
Argive] Helen, and not merely [hear what others
said,] what had already reached the whole godly earth. [10]
Whereas in Achilles’ speech distance is a barrier that prevents the Trojans from harming his homeland, in the Hesiodic passage it becomes the proof of Idomeneus’ determination. Seen from this vantage point, the strong spatial framework of Achilles’ words is put into perspective within the much wider framework of epic poetry. It seems then that both the internal and the external audience would evaluate Achilles’ arguments, and by comparing them with the episode of Helen’s marriage would realize the limits and limitations of the hero’s viewpoint: he is certainly right, but he is alone in this, perhaps tragically alone. [11]

Spatial misdirection

Phthia appears again in the coda of Achilles’ speech:
“νῦν δ’ εἶμι Φθίηνδ’, ἐπεὶ ἦ πολὺ φέρτερόν ἐστιν
οἴκαδ’ ἴμεν σὺν νηυσὶ κορωνίσιν, οὐδέ σ’ ὀΐω
ἐνθάδ’ ἄτιμος ἐὼν ἄφενος καὶ πλοῦτον ἀφύξειν.”

“Now I am returning to Phthia, since it is much better
to go home again with my curved ships, and I am minded no longer
to stay here dishonoured and pile up your wealth and your luxury.”
Iliad I 169–171
Achilles ends his speech by revealing his intended departure for Phthia, since he is no longer willing to increase the wealth of Agamemnon in Troy. In order to explore the spatial dynamics of this powerful declaration, we need first to discuss in some detail the function of misdirection as a narrative mechanism. Next to the techniques of retardation, gradual determination of the plot, and dramatic irony, misdirection constitutes one of the key devices for creating suspense in Homeric epic. [12] With the term misdirection, I refer to anticipated events that are either completely nullified by being canceled, or fulfilled only partially and with important deviations from what was planned. [13]
Spatial misdirection can be defined as an anticipated change of location, temporarily or for a longer period of time, which a single individual or group of people make explicit but never carry out. This particular type of misdirection makes listeners revise their cognitive schemata: [14] the binary opposition between Greece and Troy (“home” vs. “out there”) is time and again evoked by the Achaeans as a potential deviation from the plotline, a deviation that remains continuously suspended. Certain Achaean leaders, Achilles being by far the most notable, express their determination to leave Troy and return to mainland Greece. That return never materializes, and the audience, in an ongoing state of expectation, is encouraged to realize the endless suspense and drama produced by the overturning of such futile hopes.
In this respect, Shklovsky’s dictum that “plot is defamiliarized story” [15] is also applicable to the embedded story space of the Iliad. The simple story-pattern “(1) city is besieged by an enemy coming from afar, (2) defenders do well for a long time, (3) in the end they are deceived and the enemy invades and sacks the city, (4) enemy returns home” is defamiliarized not only by the epic’s presenting only a part of (2) but also by its systematic playing with the possibility of (4)’s occurring before (3), and thus canceling (3) for good. There are two important observations to be made here: (1) defamiliarization remains potential in the Iliad, that is, a scenario that the two chief figures of the poem’s generative episode (μῆνις ‘wrath’), Agamemnon (deceitfully) [16] and Achilles (systematically), seem to endorse but leave continuously suspended; and (2) defamiliarization is virtually spatial, since (returning to) Greece is a spatially expressed threat to heroic κλέος, and (staying at) Troy the prerequisite for the acquisition of such κλέος, and also for the Iliad itself. [17]
In this light, by declaring that he will now (νῦν) return to Phthia because he considers this a much better alternative than staying in Troy and increasing Agamemnon’s wealth (Iliad I 169–171), Achilles creates a profound intratextual misdirection. He virtually makes the audience expect that he will depart from Troy and leave the Achaeans to fight the war without him. Reading this on the level of narrative discourse, we are entitled to interpret Achilles’ statement about his permanent change of location as a threat to abandon the Iliad as soon as it has started. The audience, of course, knows perfectly well that this is a credible impossibility, [18] but for the rest of the Achaeans inside Agamemnon’s hut Achilles’ threat is real. In other words, we must distinguish between what the audience knows and what the characters of the plot are aware of. One may have the impression that this observation significantly weakens the effect of such a credible impossibility, since an Iliad without Achilles would be virtually unthinkable. Still, the Iliadic tradition, as I will show, employs a cumulative technique in presenting such credible impossibilities, which it both repeats and enriches, so as to make the audience reevaluate on their own this unfulfilled scenario that stands against the most elementary nucleus of Achilles’ function in the Trojan War tradition, his fighting and dying at Troy. Moreover, the Iliadic tradition exploits at full length the fact that listeners tend to use cognitive schemata to fill in narrative gaps by making the most likely assumptions. [19] Having introduced its audience to its own defamiliarized plot, Achilles’ wrath, the epic can now turn it into a learned schema that the audience is expected to absorb. Since the new cognitive grammar of the Iliad has taught the members of the audience that Achilles will withdraw from the war, it can now attempt to trick them by maximizing this withdrawal, by spatially extending it from his hut at the edge of the Achaean camp to his homeland in Phthia, across the vast sea. Muellner has argued that “mênis is an emotion that acts to change the world.” [20] This powerful insight is all the more significant given that the defamiliarization of the story is only potential in the Iliad. Since the various “wraths” (Apollo’s against the Achaeans, Zeus’ that lurks in the background and surfaces only to support the μῆνις of Achilles, and finally Achilles’ own μῆνις) are invoked against the breaking of cosmic rules, the credible impossibility of Achilles’ return to Phthia is the ne plus ultra of his μῆνις: he threatens not only to change the world, but to change this very epic, to annul the Iliad itself. [21] Achilles’ threat to return to Phthia, therefore, is a spatial misdirection that the epic systematically exploits for both internal and external audiences. By recourse to an invisible and absent space, the Iliad engages its listeners in realizing the larger spatial framework of the Trojan War. Space works as a mechanism anchoring counternarratives that allow listeners to immerse themselves deep into heroic recognition and become participatory narratees, invited to continuously reconstruct the fragmented world of the epic’s chief figures. [22]

In the name of the father: Phthia and Peleus

Achilles’ withdrawal from the plot unavoidably results in the disappearance of Phthia from the Iliad’s spatial horizon. [23] It is only during the embassy in Iliad IX that Phthia is mentioned again, this time by Odysseus, Phoinix, and of course Achilles.
“ὦ πέπον, ἦ μὲν σοί γε πατὴρ ἐπετέλλετο Πηλεύς
ἤματι τῷ, ὅτε σ’ ἐκ Φθίης Ἀγαμέμνονι πέμπεν,
‘τέκνον ἐμόν, κάρτος μὲν Ἀθηναίη τε καὶ Ἥρη
δώσουσ’, αἴ κ’ ἐθέλωσι, σὺ δὲ μεγαλήτορα θυμόν
ἴσχειν ἐν στήθεσσι· φιλοφροσύνη γὰρ ἀμείνων·
ληγέμεναι δ’ ἔριδος κακομηχάνου, ὄφρα σε μᾶλλον
τίωσ’ Ἀργείων ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες.’”

“Dear friend, surely thus your father Peleus advised you
that day when he sent you away to Agamemnon from Phthia:
‘My child, for the matter of strength, Athene and Hera will give it
if it be their will, but be it yours to hold fast in your bosom
the anger of the proud heart, for consideration is better.
Keep from the bad complication of quarrel, and all the more for this
the Argives will honour you, both their younger men and their elders.’”
Iliad IX 252–258
“νῦν δ’, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἐθέλω πολεμιζέμεν Ἕκτορι δίῳ,
αὔριον ἱρὰ Διὶ ῥέξας καὶ πᾶσι θεοῖσιν,
νηήσας εὖ νῆας, ἐπὴν ἅλαδε προερύσσω,
ὄψεαι, ἢν ἐθέλῃσθα καὶ αἴ κέν τοι τὰ μεμήλῃ,
ἦρι μάλ’ Ἑλλήσποντον ἐπ’ ἰχθυόεντα πλεούσας
νῆας ἐμάς, ἐν δ’ ἄνδρας ἐρεσσέμεναι μεμαῶτας·
εἰ δέ κεν εὐπλοΐην δώῃ κλυτὸς Ἐννοσίγαιος,
ἤματί κε τριτάτῳ Φθίην ἐρίβωλον ἱκοίμην.”

“But, now I am unwilling to fight against brilliant Hektor,
tomorrow, when I have sacrificed to Zeus and to all gods,
and loaded well my ships, and rowed out on to the salt water,
you will see, if you have a mind to it and if it concerns you,
my ships in the dawn at sea on the Hellespont where the fish swarm
and my men manning them with good will to row. If the glorious
shaker of the earth should grant us a favouring passage
on the third day thereafter we might raise generous Phthia.” [24]
Iliad IX 356–363 (emphasis added)
“ἢν γὰρ δή με σαῶσι θεοὶ καὶ οἴκαδ’ ἵκωμαι,
Πηλεύς θήν μοι ἔπειτα γυναῖκά γε μάσσεται αὐτός·
πολλαὶ Ἀχαιΐδες εἰσὶν ἀν’ Ἑλλάδα τε Φθίην τε,
κοῦραι ἀριστήων, οἵ τε πτολίεθρα ῥύονται·
τάων ἥν κ’ ἐθέλωμι φίλην ποιήσομ’ ἄκοιτιν.”

“For if the gods will keep me alive, and I win homeward,
Peleus himself will presently arrange a wife for me.
There are many Achaian girls in the land of Hellas and Phthia,
daughters of great men who hold strong places in guard. And of these
any one that I please I might make my beloved lady.”
Iliad IX 393–397
“… σοὶ δέ μ’ ἔπεμπε γέρων ἱππηλάτα Πηλεύς
ἤματι τῷ, ὅτε σ’ ἐκ Φθίης Ἀγαμέμνονι πέμπεν
νήπιον, οὔ πω εἰδόθ’ ὁμοιΐοο πτολέμοιο
οὐδ’ ἀγορέων, ἵνα τ’ ἄνδρες ἀριπρεπέες τελέθουσιν·
τούνεκά με προέηκε διδασκέμεναι τάδε πάντα,
μύθων τε ῥητῆρ’ ἔμεναι πρηκτῆρά τε ἔργων.”

“… Peleus the aged horseman sent me forth with you
on that day when he sent you from Phthia to Agamemnon
a mere child, who knew nothing yet of the joining of battle
nor of debate where men are made pre-eminent. Therefore
he sent me along with you to teach you all of these matters,
to make you a speaker of words and one who accomplished in action.”
Iliad IX 438–443
“φεῦγον ἔπειτ’ ἀπάνευθε δι’ Ἑλλάδος εὐρυχόροιο,
Φθίην δ’ ἐξικόμην ἐριβώλακα, μητέρα μήλων,
ἐς Πηλῆα ἄναχθ’· ὃ δέ με πρόφρων ὑπέδεκτο
καί μ’ ἐφίλησ’, ὡς εἴ τε πατὴρ ὃν παῖδα φιλήσῃ
μοῦνον τηλύγετον πολλοῖσιν ἐπὶ κτεάτεσσι·
καί μ’ ἀφνειὸν ἔθηκε, πολὺν δέ μοι ὤπασε λαόν,
ναῖον δ’ ἐσχατιὴν Φθίης, Δολόπεσσιν ἀνάσσων.”

“Then I fled far away through the wide spaces of Hellas
and came as far as generous Phthia, mother of sheepflocks,
and to lord Peleus, who accepted me with a good will
and gave me his love, even as a father loves his own son
who is a single child brought up among many possessions.
He made me a rich man, and granted me many people,
and I lived, lord over the Dolopes, in the edge of Phthia.”
Iliad IX 478–484
As the above passages amply show, Phthia is systematically connected in Iliad IX with Peleus, since all the speakers link Achilles’ homeland with his father. This pairing of space with a particular individual is revealing for the way the epic begins to unravel a new thread within the thick web of associations around Achilles and Phthia. The anchoring of Peleus to Phthia can be seen as an interpretive guide for the Homeric audience. Being in fact a subcategory of the larger topic of Phthia, it functions as a key that opens the door to a particular version of Achilles’ homeland, one that is mainly characterized by the presence of the father.
The members of the embassy who refer to Phthia together with Peleus constantly point to the past, in an ongoing attempt to shed light on those aspects of Achilles’ past life that suit the embassy’s rhetorical goal, namely to persuade the great hero to return to battle. [25] In this respect they make constant reference to the authority of his father Peleus, by recalling instances of the past, snapshots of either their visit to Phthia (Odysseus) or the way their personal fate was linked with Phthia and Peleus (Phoinix). [26] Given that these narratives use traditional mythical material, the audience is expected to check on their validity and realize that for both Odysseus and Phoinix, important fissures created on the narrative surface reaffirm or contradict other epic versions of the same events.
The Iliadic version of the recruitment of Achilles in Phthia deviates from the Cypria tradition with respect to Odysseus’ participation, [27] and of course his “verbatim” report of Peleus’ words in Iliad IX 254–258, which is clearly an Iliadic αὐτοσχεδίασμα tailored to the epic’s main theme and the aim of the embassy, namely to convince Achilles to stop his anger. [28]
The pairing of Phthia with a Peleus who is very willing to send Achilles to Troy must have keyed the Iliadic audience to the note of a Cypria tradition that may also have presented Achilles as eager to win glory, and his father as ready to offer his son to the Greek cause. By taking notice of the gap between this version and a rival one, according to which an Achaean embassy [29] had found Achilles disguised in women’s clothes and hiding in Skyros, where he had been sent by Peleus to avoid being recruited to Troy, [30] the listeners of the Iliad would have realized that the pairing of Phthia with Peleus increases the dramatic weight of Achilles’ lot. By depriving Peleus of the ability to know Achilles’ fate and attempt to save his son, the Iliadic tradition on the one hand accentuated the irony of having the father send his son to his death, and on the other left the audience to evaluate on their own Odysseus’ effort to convince Achilles to return to battle. Against the backdrop of Odysseus’ fake madness [31] stands Achilles, who willingly went to the war; a true hero being advised by a swindler and trickster. To this extent, within the Homeric tradition the space delineated by Phthia becomes the direct opposite of that of Ithaka: Achilles who went to Troy willingly will not return home, while Odysseus who did not want to join the expedition finally will; the former will never see his father Peleus, who dies while the war is going on, the latter will see his father Laertes, who lives long enough to see his son return to Ithaka.
Another aspect of Phthia’s pairing with Peleus can be seen if we compare Achilles’ references to his homeland to those made by Phoinix. Whereas Achilles’ misdirection about returning home (Iliad IX 356–363 and 393–397) becomes progressively concretized and enriched by details, [32] and therefore more dramatic, Phoinix (IX 438–443) [33] attempts to construct his own version of Achilles’ past life in Phthia, so as to achieve his goal. Space (Phthia), therefore, not only constitutes a chronotopic entity, being linked to time, past and (false) future; it also begins to be associated with a person as the poem moves on, leading to the climactic scene between Priam and Achilles. Space is thus used as a vehicle for exploring the tormented psychology of Achilles, and Peleus becomes the thematic hook that the toponym Phthia is hung on. [34]
In line with Odysseus and Phoinix, who both use the motif of “paternal assent,” Nestor adds Patroklos and his father Menoitios to the spatiotemporal reference to his and Odysseus’ visit to Phthia to recruit Achilles. [35]
“ὦ πέπον, ἦ μὲν σοί γε Μενοίτιος ὧδ’ ἐπέτελλεν
ἤματι τῷ ὅτε σ’ ἐκ Φθίης Ἀγαμέμνονι πέμπεν·
νῶϊ δέ τ’ ἔνδον ἐόντες, ἐγὼ καὶ δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς,
πάντα μάλ’ ἐν μεγάροις ἠκούομεν, ὡς ἐπέτελλεν·”

“Dear child, surely this was what Menoitios told you
that day when he sent you out from Phthia to Agamemnon.
We two, brilliant Odysseus and I, were inside with you
and listened carefully to everything, all that he told you.”
Iliad XI 765–768
By reduplicating the motif of “paternal assent” that is now developed around the figure of Patroklos, [36] just as it was presented with reference to Achilles by Odysseus in Iliad IX, Nestor intensifies the importance of Phthia even more. Phthia therefore becomes a spatiotemporal metonym for the involvement of Achilles and Patroklos in the war, a chronotope where the two friends started their journey to Troy and death, but also to epic κλέος.

Places of memory: Phthia as “anti-Troy”

To this point I have argued that Phthia is constructed by recourse to a set of features that make divisions of space “override” divisions of time: spatial remoteness “spills over” to temporal distancing as Phthia becomes the Iliadic synonym of Achilles’ past and endlessly suspended future, while the nostalgic feeling of “home” is contrasted with his painful experience in the foreign—both literally and figuratively—and unfathomable world of Troy (Iliad XIX 324–325 … ὃ δ’ ἀλλοδαπῷ ἐνὶ δήμῳ / εἵνεκα ῥιγεδανῆς Ἑλένης Τρωσὶν πολεμίζω [“who now in a strange land / make war upon the Trojans for the sake of accursed Helen”]). [37]
In the following passages, Phthia is seen from a new perspective, as speakers use it as a means of reconstructing the past and expressing the total collapse of their expectations about the future:
“τίπτε δεδάκρυσαι, Πατρόκλεις, ἠΰτε κούρη
νηπίη, ἥ θ’ ἅμα μητρὶ θέουσ’ ἀνελέσθαι ἀνώγει
εἱανοῦ ἁπτομένη, καί τ’ ἐσσυμένην κατερύκει,
δακρυόεσσα δέ μιν ποτιδέρκεται, ὄφρ’ ἀνέληται;
τῇ ἴκελος, Πάτροκλε, τέρεν κατὰ δάκρυον εἴβεις.
ἠέ τι Μυρμιδόνεσσι πιφαύσκεαι ἠ’ ἐμοὶ αὐτῷ,
ἦέ τιν’ ἀγγελίην Φθίης ἒξ ἔκλυες οἶος
ζώειν μὰν ἔτι φασὶ Μενοίτιον Ἄκτορος υἱόν,
ζώει δ’ Αἰακίδης Πηλεὺς μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσιν,
τῶν κε μάλ’ ἀμφοτέρων ἀκαχοίμεθα τεθνηώτων—
ἦε σύ γ’ Ἀργείων ὀλοφύρεαι, ὡς ὀλέκονται
νηυσὶν ἔπι γλαφυρῇσιν ὑπερβασίης ἕνεκα σφῆς;
ἐξαύδα, μὴ κεῦθε νόῳ, ἵνα εἴδομεν ἄμφω.”

“Why then
are you crying like some poor little girl, Patroklos,
who runs after her mother and begs to be picked up and carried,
and clings to her dress, and holds her back when she tries to hurry,
and gazes tearfully into her face, until she is picked up?
You are like such a one, Patroklos, dropping these soft tears.
Could you have some news to tell, for me or the Myrmidons?
Have you, and nobody else, received some message from Phthia?
Yet they tell me Aktor’s son Menoitios lives still
and Aiakos’ son Peleus lives still among the Myrmidons.
If either of these died we should take it hard. Or is it
the Argives you are mourning over, and how they are dying
against the hollow ships by reason of their own arrogance?
Tell me, do not hide it in your mind, and so we shall both know.”
Iliad XVI 7–19
The series of ironic questions that Achilles throws at Patroklos constitutes a standard epic device for shedding light on the last item of a list (as is done, though by the use of negatives, with the priamel), [38] which the speaker already knows but dislikes. [39] J. Kakridis, who has stressed that this stylistic feature traces its origins in popular oral songs, [40] has also argued that
in the beginning the audience, hearing the surmises of the person asking, is led to imagine mistaken solutions. But in the answer the explicit and striking refutation of these surmises follows immediately, so that the correct solution is heard at the end and is given its full weight. In this scheme the erroneous questions have no other purpose than to form a negative background from which the positive assertion will emerge, in full clarity, at the end. [41]
In this light, and taking a closer look at the wrong assumptions Achilles makes in the erroneous questions he has asked in the first place, we can see that they closely associate the news from Phthia with the imagined deaths of Menoitios and Peleus, the fathers of the two interlocutors Patroklos and Achilles. The two wrong assumptions, whose style echoes that of popular poetry, [42] do “form a negative background from which the positive assertion will emerge, in full clarity, at the end,” but are also linked to the particular way Achilles constructs the notion of his homeland. [43] The “news from Phthia” thus becomes a linchpin that keeps together fathers and sons, namely Menoitios and Peleus with Patroklos and Achilles respectively. That said, and given that this is the only example in the Iliad where the “right” answer to the erroneous questions asked is anticipated by the same person who asks the question, before it is confirmed by the addressee, Patroklos (Iliad XVI 21–24), it can be argued that Achilles employs Phthia as a hook on which to hang his personal outlook on the Trojan War. By stating at the end of his speech that the Achaeans are suffering because of their arrogance, Achilles draws a line between “home” and “Troy,” between the pain that he feels for the potential death of both his own and Patroklos’ father in Phthia as well as his indifference to the deaths of Achaean warriors at Troy. Phthia is thus elevated from a location to a “site of memory,” [44] albeit a constructed or imaginary memory that emphatically contrasts with the reality of Troy. Suffering for human losses is thus measured by spatial features, since Phthia allows Achilles to play with such perceptions as absence, privation, and estrangement.
Phthia is also mentioned in a highly pitched lament by Briseis, the slave girl Patroklos had promised to make Achilles’ wife after their return home:
“… ἀλλά μ’ ἔφασκες Ἀχιλλῆος θείοιο
κουριδίην ἄλοχον θήσειν, ἄξειν τ’ ἐνὶ νηυσίν
ἐς Φθίην, δαίσειν δὲ γάμον μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσιν.
τώ σ’ ἄμοτον κλαίω τεθνηότα μείλιχον αἰεί.”

“… but said you would make me godlike Achilleus’
wedded lawful wife, that you would take me back in the ships
to Phthia, and formalize my marriage among the Myrmidons.
Therefore I weep your death without ceasing. You were kind always.”
Iliad XIX 297–300
The spatial grammar of Briseis’ speech, with its annulled “futurity” (ἔφασκες … θήσειν, ἄξειν, δαίσειν), points to the tension between the “canonical” and the “subversive.” [45] By allowing herself to believe in Patroklos’ promise concerning a future marriage to Achilles in Phthia, Briseis silently acknowledges that she has entertained the thought of a new life. The spatialization of cultural and social life makes her closely associate the unfulfilled promise of a new life with Phthia, and therefore disentangle the cultural premises of this spatialization that bear on the grim reality of a slave woman living at Troy. Phthia becomes here a spatial metaphor, deftly employed in order to allow Briseis to fabricate an identity, or rather to “displace” her old identity and construct a new one. In this respect she follows the general practice of defining ownership (emotional, intellectual, or political) on the basis of familiarity: what is familiar (the status of a wife as in her past life) is “one’s own,” and what is unfamiliar (the status of a slave woman) belongs to “others.” In this light, let us consider the following formulation by Said in his description of the poetics of space:
The objective space of a house—its corners, corridors, cellar, rooms—is far less important than what poetically it is endowed with, which is usually a quality with an imaginative or figurative value we can name and feel: thus a house may be haunted or homelike, or prisonlike or magical. So space acquires emotional and even rational sense by a kind of poetic process, whereby the vacant or anonymous reaches of distance are converted into meaning for us here. [46]
In Briseis’ speech there is no description of the objective space of Phthia: on the contrary, this space acquires an imaginative value, it becomes a toponymic metaphor for a better life. The death of Patroklos thus signifies for Briseis the cancellation of a promise that would have turned her journey to Phthia from exile into a return to the status of a married woman, and to all the respect derived from it. The fulfillment of such important cultural prerequisites as marriage turns Phthia into an “anti-Troy,” through a process of adjusting the topography of identity into an emotional, rational, and cultural landscape [47] and allowing the slave woman to become once again a lawful wedded wife.
In Achilles’ antiphonal lament to Briseis, [48] Phthia is incorporated into a geographical triptych involving Troy and Skyros, where Achilles’ son Neoptolemos is growing up: [49]
“ἦ ῥά νύ μοί ποτε καὶ σύ, δυσάμμορε, φίλταθ’ ἑταίρων,
αὐτὸς ἐνὶ κλισίῃ λαρὸν παρὰ δεῖπνον ἔθηκας
αἶψα καὶ ὀτραλέως, ὁπότε σπερχοίατ’ Ἀχαιοί
Τρωσὶν ἔφ’ ἱπποδάμοισι φέρειν πολύδακρυν ἄρηα·
νῦν δὲ σὺ μὲν κεῖσαι δεδαϊγμένος, αὐτὰρ ἐμὸν κῆρ
ἄκμηνον πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος, ἔνδον ἐόντων,
σῇ ποθῇ. οὐ μὲν γάρ τι κακώτερον ἄλλο πάθοιμι,
οὐδ’ εἴ κεν τοῦ πατρὸς ἀποφθιμένοιο πυθοίμην,
ὅς που νῦν Φθίηφι τέρεν κατὰ δάκρυον εἴβει
χήτει τοιοῦδ’ υἷος· ὃ δ’ ἀλλοδαπῷ ἐνὶ δήμῳ
εἵνεκα ῥιγεδανῆς Ἑλένης Τρωσὶν πολεμίζω.
ἠὲ τόν, ὃς Σκύρῳ μοι ἐνιτρέφεται φίλος υἱός,
εἴ που ἔτι ζώει γε Νεοπτόλεμος θεοειδής.
πρὶν μὲν γάρ μοι θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν ἐώλπει
οἶον ἐμὲ φθίσεσθαι ἀπ’ Ἄργεος ἱπποβότοιο
αὐτοῦ ἐνὶ Τροίῃ, σὲ δέ τε Φθίην δὲ νέεσθαι,
ὡς ἄν μοι τὸν παῖδα θοῇ σὺν νηῒ μελαίνῃ
Σκυρόθεν ἐξαγάγοις καί οἱ δείξειας ἕκαστα,
κτῆσιν ἐμὴν δμῶάς τε καὶ ὑψερεφὲς μέγα δῶμα.
ἤδη γὰρ Πηλῆά γ’ ὀΐομαι ἢ κατὰ πάμπαν
τεθνάμεν, ἤ που τυτθὸν ἔτι ζώοντ’ ἀκάχησθαι
γήραΐ τε στυγερῷ καὶ ἐμὴν ποτιδέγμενον αἰεί
λυγρὴν ἀγγελίην, ὅτ’ ἀποφθιμένοιο πύθηται.”

“There was a time, ill fated, o dearest of all my companions,
when you yourself would set the desirable dinner before me
quickly and expertly, at the time the Achaians were urgent
to carry sorrowful war on the Trojans, breakers of horses.
But now you lie here torn before me, and my heart goes starved
for meat and drink, though they are here beside me, by reason
of longing for you. There is nothing worse than this I could suffer,
not even if I were to hear of the death of my father
who now, I think, in Phthia somewhere lets fall a soft tear
for lack of such a son, [50] for me, who now in a strange land
make war upon the Trojans for the sake of accursed Helen;
or the death of my dear son, who is raised for my sake in Skyros
now, if godlike Neoptolemos is still one of the living.
Before now the spirit inside my breast was hopeful
that I alone should die far away from horse-pasturing Argos
here in Troy; I hoped you would win back again to Phthia
so that in a fast black ship you could take my son back
from Skyros to Phthia, and show him all my possessions,
my property, my serving men, my great high-roofed house.
For by this time I think that Peleus must altogether
have perished, or still keeps a little scant life in sorrow
for the hatefulness of old age and because he waits ever from me
the evil message, for the day he hears I have been killed.”
Iliad XIX 315–337
Achilles’ vision of places is discursively constructed more or less like Foucault’s and Said’s emotional and genealogical geographies. [51] The “great divide” between “here” (Troy) [52] and “there” (Phthia) is verbalized by Achilles’ brief mental journey with respect to his family. Along these lines, Skyros becomes a “stopover” bridging Troy and Phthia, [53] the two ends of the hero’s spatialized identity (see Table 5).

Table 5: Spatial thematization of Achilles’ family

Troy foreign Achilles
Skyros foreign and familiar Neoptolemos
Phthia familiar Peleus
By emphasizing the partial and incomplete nature of recollection, which is determined by a complex nexus of external stimuli, Achilles’ former experiences are presented as “reawakened,” not resurrected. [54] Achilles’ recollections of Phthia are presented as dispersed bits of the past, a “subversive archipelago” [55] of scattered memories insularized in his emotional mapping of the heroic code, a series of connected interventions that simultaneously call into question the most fundamental tenets of Achaean heroic discourse and create deep ruptures in the surface of Agamemnon’s and Menelaos’ rhetoric about the justification of the Trojan War. For Achilles, Phthia and Skyros gradually lose their Trojan War coloring and are emotionally anchored to the space of his family, as they represent father and son respectively. [56] This shrinking of Achilles’ spatial horizon is the next step in a process of diminishing his social and moral horizon. While in the beginning of the epic he cares about the entire Greek army and speaks for all of them, [57] he gradually narrows his concerns only to a small circle of warriors, his beloved Myrmidons, and then to a single person, Patroklos. [58] Achilles’ mutilated recollections are filled with a longing that is not only psychological but also cultural. [59] His disillusionment at Agamemnon’s behavior takes the form of a cultural melancholy, his own idiosyncratic polemic and criticism of the heroic code. Achilles does not resurrect the past; he rather reconstructs it in the present, and most importantly in a way that challenges the collective memory that the Achaeans, and predominantly the Atreidai, have framed. Agamemnon and Menelaos, being the ones who have practically organized the entire Achaean expedition to Troy, constantly promote their own version of the past, which is based on the unanimous rise of all Greece against the city of Priam, and thus they are able to construct a collective memory of the past that is selective, oversimplifying, and singular. In sociological terms, the Atreidai, to borrow Halbwachs’s terminology, are turning memory that should be multiple and plural into a cohesive version of the past, that is, into history. [60] It is the very foundations of this “canonical” version of the past promoted by the Atreidai that Achilles profoundly shatters by excluding himself from the group of the other Achaean leaders who have been summoned to Troy. He therefore uses Phthia not as a mere topographical place, but as a “site of memory,” a lieu de mémoire in Nora’s words. Like the French province, [61] in Achilles’ speech Phthia monopolizes a certain version of his past: it becomes an “anti-Troy,” the opposite of the Achaeans’ outlook on the entire war and its heroic rhetoric.


The word Ἄργος (Argos) denotes in the Iliad any of the following: [62] (1) the homeland of Diomedes in the Argolid, [63] (2) the homeland and kingdom of Agamemnon in the Peloponnese, [64] (3) the homeland of Achilles (Pelasgian Argos) in Thessaly, [65] (4) the entire Peloponnese, (5) the whole of Greece. Of these five meanings of “Argos,” only the second, fourth, and fifth are narratively exploited as spatial terms. Before I embark on an analysis of the relevant material and explore the use of Argos as thematized space within the discourse of Agamemnon and various other Homeric (not only Achaean but also Trojan) heroes, I shall dwell briefly on the wide use of this term and the narrative disinterest in connecting Diomedes and Achilles to Peloponnesian and Pelasgian Argos respectively.
The name Argos seems to be the default mode for denoting vague spatial references. Its etymology, indicating the notion of “field,” explains effectively why it was widely used for different places and why, in a later phase, it was semantically expanded to designate larger geographical regions such as the entire Peloponnese or Greece as a whole. This semantic indeterminacy is also reflected in the Homeric use of the word Argives (Ἀργεῖοι), [66] on a par with Danaans (Δαναοί) and Achaeans (Ἀχαιοί), for all Greeks. [67] In the light of these observations, it is no wonder that the epic tradition of the Iliad has selected for narrative exploitation only those connotations of Argos that were closely associated with its subject matter. Hence Argos as the homeland of Diomedes was not appropriate as a thematized space, since Diomedes did not belong to the core of the Trojan War but was imported from the Theban epic tradition. [68] Likewise, Pelasgian Argos could only marginally be used as the homeland of Achilles, [69] since the Iliad, as I have shown, reserved the toponym Phthia for Achilles. Given the systematic narrative exploitation of such an important thematized space as Phthia, there was no room for a thematically neutral place-name such as Pelasgian Argos.

Locating infamy

The Iliad uses space as a filter for the way Agamemnon “sees” his return home, in order to further deepen the gap between the Achaean commander and Achilles that has already been strong since the beginning of the poem. [70] Given that the crucial theme of μῆνις is introduced as soon as the epic begins, the narrator feels the need to provide his audience, at regular narrative intervals, with more information concerning the heroic Weltanschauung of these two great heroes. In fact, the Iliad capitalizes on the spatial representation of their conflict as early as the proem:
ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
Ἀτρείδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς

since that time when first there stood in division of conflict
Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus.
Iliad I 6–7
This verbal spatialization of the conflict is covertly reflected even in what seems a random issue, namely the placement of the camps of Agamemnon and Achilles far apart, or to be more accurate the location of Achilles’ hut at the far end of the Achaean camp. [71]
Achilles punctuates his past both by reference to his family and by calling into question the heroic rhetoric of the Atreidai, and especially Agamemnon. For Achilles, returning to Phthia means reuniting with his father and the end of his troubles. But in contrast with the way Achilles emotionally maps his homeland, Agamemnon constructs a profoundly opposite vision of Argos, one that erases all manner of discontinuities, aberrations, and deviations. Agamemnon envisions the past as “an uninterrupted chain of essentially contiguous occurrences flowing into one another like the successive musical notes that form legato phrases.” [72] Whereas Achilles adopts a style of spatiotemporal discontinuity, punctuated by sharp breaks and deep ruptures, Agamemnon favors a continuous, almost etiological view of events that leads, almost unavoidably, to the present situation. It is exactly in this light that he excludes from his perception of “homeland” those events that are incompatible with the kind of personality he wants to present to the army: “profound changes in consciousness, by their nature, bring with them characteristic amnesias.” [73] Major watersheds like the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the state of his relation to Klutaimnestra, and his insulting of Achilles at the cost of enormous Achaean losses are thus repressed and filtered into a discourse featuring his fears about disgrace, infamy, and reproach should he return unsuccessful to Argos, on the one hand, and almost complete lack of reference to or consideration of his family on the other. [74]
In Iliad I, Agamemnon imagines himself at home, with Khruseis there as a slave:
“τὴν δ’ ἐγὼ οὐ λύσω· πρίν μιν καὶ γῆρας ἔπεισιν
ἡμετέρῳ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ, ἐν Ἄργεϊ, τηλόθι πάτρης,
ἱστὸν ἐποιχομένην καὶ ἐμὸν λέχος ἀντιόωσαν.”

“The girl I will not give back; sooner will old age come upon her
in my own house, in Argos, far from her own land,
going up and down by the loom and being in my bed as my companion.”
Iliad I 29–31
His arrogant claim that he will not let her go before she grows old [75] indicates his legato formulation of time. [76] Agamemnon promotes Khruseis to high status and virtually erases the memory of Klutaimnestra, his queen. [77] Some of the ancient audience must have smiled or shaken their heads in disdain, in the light of their knowledge of the tradition reflected in the Odyssey and the cyclic Nostoi, according to which Klutaimnestra murders Agamemnon upon his return to Argos with a slave woman at his side who is not the daughter of Apollo’s priest but Kassandra, a priestess of Apollo. [78]
One of Agamemnon’s main concerns is that he may become infamous and even be reproached if he returns to Argos without having accomplished his task:
“Ζεύς με μέγα Κρονίδης ἄτῃ ἐνέδησε βαρείῃ,
σχέτλιος, ὃς πρὶν μέν μοι ὑπέσχετο καὶ κατένευσεν
Ἴλιον ἐκπέρσαντ’ εὐτείχεον ἀπονέεσθαι,
νῦν δὲ κακὴν ἀπάτην βουλεύσατο, καί με κελεύει
δυσκλέα Ἄργος ἱκέσθαι, ἐπεὶ πολὺν ὤλεσα λαόν.

“Zeus son of Kronos has caught me fast in bitter futility.
He is hard; who before this time promised me and consented
that I might sack strong-walled Ilion and sail homeward.
Now he has devised a vile deception, and bids me go back
to Argos in dishonour having lost many of my people.”
Iliad II 111–115 (= IX 18–22)
“καί κεν ἐλέγχιστος πολυδίψιον Ἄργος ἱκοίμην.
αὐτίκα γὰρ μνήσονται Ἀχαιοὶ πατρίδος αἴης,
κὰδ δέ κεν εὐχωλὴν Πριάμῳ καὶ Τρωσὶ λίποιμεν
Ἀργείην Ἑλένην· σέο δ’ ὀστέα πύσει ἄρουρα
κειμένου ἐν Τροίῃ ἀτελευτήτῳ ἐπὶ ἔργῳ.”

“And I must return a thing of reproach to Argos the thirsty,
for now at once the Achaians will remember the land of their fathers;
and thus we would leave to Priam and to the Trojans Helen
of Argos, to glory over, while the bones of you rot in the ploughland
as you lie dead in Troy, on a venture that went unaccomplished.”
Iliad IV 171–175
“οὕτω που Διὶ μέλλει ὑπερμενέϊ φίλον εἶναι.
νωνύμνους ἀπολέσθαι ἀπ’ Ἄργεος ἐνθάδ’ Ἀχαιούς.”

“then such is the way it must be pleasing to Zeus, who is too strong,
that the Achaians must die here forgotten and far from Argos.”
Iliad XIV 69–70 [79]
Agamemnon reads Argos not as simply a place, but as an evaluation [80] of his undertaking the whole enterprise of the Trojan War. [81] Regarding himself (together with his brother) as the main instigator of the expedition, Agamemnon sees his homeland not as the locus of his family or a happy life left behind, but as the measure of his success or failure. Argos exists for him only in the future tense, not in the past. The epithets δυσκλεής ‘ill-famed, in dishonor’ (Iliad II 115), ἐλέγχιστος ‘a thing of reproach’ (IV 171), and νώνυμνος ‘nameless, forgotten’ (XII 70 = XIII 227) [82] belong to the language of blame that runs high on every warrior’s heroic agenda, [83] the more so that of the commander-in-chief of the entire Achaean army. Although the expression ἐπεὶ πολὺν ὤλεσα λαόν (“having caused the loss of many of my people”; II 115 = IX 22; my translation) [84] amounts to Agamemnon’s remorse intensified by his preeminent role in recruiting the army and leading the expedition, [85] it is contradicted by his selfish insistence on being recompensed for the loss of Khruseis, a stance that was clearly inconsiderate of the interests of the army. In IV 171–175, Agamemon’s fears that Menelaos might die are translated into his concern about both being reproached by the Achaeans and giving Priam and the Trojans a reason to boast.
In Agamemnon’s discourse, his homeland is a highly thematized space that allows him to express his anxiety and fears. The Iliadic tradition is thus able to construct a continuous process, with an uninterrupted succession of events leading from Argos to Troy and back again. If this succession is interrupted by the failure to accomplish his goal, or by the death of his brother, which renders it pointless to continue the war, Agamemnon’s fame is at stake. By favoring a discourse emphatically different from that of Achilles, who regards his potential return to Phthia as a salvation from unwanted troubles (even at the cost of his fame), [86] Agamemnon elevates Argos to the ultimate litmus test of his status as a hero. [87] Thus he moves away from Achilles’ staccato poetics of discontinuous and multiple narratives and turns toward a legato spatialization of the items on his heroic agenda. [88]
In one of the rare occasions when Agamemnon refers to one of his family members, and the only time he mentions Orestes, [89] he remains emotionally uninvolved and even transforms his son into a potential brother-in-law of Achilles.
“εἰ δέ κεν Ἄργος ἱκοίμεθ’ Ἀχαιϊκόν, οὖθαρ ἀρούρης,
γαμβρός κέν μοι ἔοι, τίσω δέ μιν ἶσον Ὀρέστῃ,
ὅς μοι τηλύγετος τρέφεται θαλίῃ ἔνι πολλῇ.”

“And if we come back to Achaian Argos, pride of the tilled land,
he may be my son-in-law; I will honour him equally with Orestes
my growing son, who is brought up there in abundant luxury.”
Iliad IX 141–143 (repeated by Odysseus in IX 283–285)
This single reference to Orestes must be read against the background of the ironic comments of Idomeneus to Othruoneus in Iliad XIII: [90]
“… ὃ δ’ ὑπέσχετο θυγατέρα ἥν.
καί κέ τοι ἡμεῖς ταῦτά γ’ ὑποσχόμενοι τελέσαιμεν,
δοῖμεν δ’ Ἀτρείδαο θυγατρῶν εἶδος ἀρίστην
Ἄργεος ἐξαγαγόντες ὀπυιέμεν, εἴ κε σὺν ἄμμιν
Ἰλίου ἐκπέρσῃς εὖ ναιόμενον πτολίεθρον.
ἀλλ’ ἕπε’, ὄφρ’ ἐπὶ νηυσὶ συνώμεθα ποντοπόροισιν
ἀμφὶ γάμῳ, ἐπεὶ οὔ τοι ἐεδνωταὶ κακοί εἰμεν.”

“… who in turn promised you his daughter.
See now, we also would make you a promise, and we would fulfill it;
we would give you the loveliest of Atreides’ daughters,
and bring her here from Argos to be your wife, if you joined us
and helped us storm the strong-founded city of Ilion.
Come then with me, so we can meet by our seafaring vessels
about a marriage; we here are not bad matchmakers for you.”
Iliad XIII 376–382
Idomeneus’ ironic comments play on Agamemnon’s offer to Achilles: Agamemnon seems willing to give Achilles not only twenty Trojan slave women in case the Achaeans sack Troy, but even one of his daughters, without expecting any gifts in return (ἀνάεδνον), only Achilles’ return to the battlefield with the ultimate purpose of sacking Troy; likewise, Othruoneus brings no gifts, and Priam is willing to give him the hand of Kassandra on the sole condition that he repel the Greeks. The comments of Idomeneus evoke Agamemnon’s promise to Achilles, especially since Idomeneus uses language that explicitly refers to Agamemnon’s daughters (δοῖμεν δ’ Ἀτρεΐδαο θυγατρῶν εἶδος ἀρίστην / Ἄργεος ἐξαγαγόντες ὀπυιέμεν), [91] and ironically suggests to Othruoneus that he join the Achaean cause and help them sack Troy. In that case, he adds, they will bring one of Agamemnon’s daughters from Argos and give her to him to marry. In other words, Idomeneus virtually says to Othruoneus that the Achaeans are desperately looking for an Achilles. In that case Othruoneus (whose name, like Orestes’, means “mountainous” < ὄθρυς ‘mountain’) would, Achilles-like, [92] have become Orestes’ brother-in-law. Moreover, Idomeneus’ words must have struck a familiar chord with the audience, since they point also to Kassandra, who instead of becoming Othruoneus’ wife would be brought back to Argos as Agamemnon’s slave. The Iliadic storyteller is clearly building on both the scene in Iliad IX and the tradition of the Nostoi (where Kassandra will be murdered together with Agamemnon in Argos).
These two last passages show that Agamemnon’s homeland, as thematized space, is gradually associated with Achilles and the possibility of their reconciliation and future kinship. Read against the ironic backdrop of Idomeneus’ words to Othruoneus, Argos even hints at the fact that we are dealing with a credible impossibility, that Achilles will never marry one of Agamemnon’s daughters [93] nor will he survive the war. Argos thus becomes a spatial metonym for the unbridgeable gap separating the two heroes, the epic antonym of Phthia in Iliadic lingo. [94]

The spatialized alias

When Argos designates the Peloponnese or the whole of Greece, it is used as an alias for each speaker’s focalization of the entire Trojan War or a part of it. The Achaeans tend to refer to Argos as a thematized space that epitomizes their concerns about dishonor. Odysseus (Iliad II 287, IX 246), [95] Nestor (II 348, XV 372), [96] Idomeneus (XIII 227), [97] and Agamemnon (XIV 70) [98] express their fears about dying away from home by employing the general meaning of Argos, without designating their particular homeland. Ithaka, Pylos, and Crete—the kingdoms of Odysseus, Nestor, and Idomeneus respectively—vanish from the epic horizon when the emphasis is on the collective function of the army. The threat of defeat and failure, therefore, acquires a spatial perspective, made possible by the semantic flexibility of Argos, which can expand into a geographically wider term encompassing the place of origin of each and every Achaean.
The Trojans for their part refer to Argos in the sense of “Greece” either in the context of a potential agreement between the two sides or with respect to their fears or hopes about the future. In the former case Paris, [99] expressing his intention to fight a duel against Menelaos, employs Argos and Achaea as mere synonyms for the whole of Greece and places them in emphatic opposition to Troy. By translating the antithesis between “they-Achaeans” and “us-Trojans” into the geographical pair “Argos-Troy,” Paris spaces time: while the past and the future mean “Argos” for the Achaeans, the present equals their offensive presence at Troy. Paris’ use of “Argos” points to his special status with respect to Trojan perceptions of space, since he alone of all the Trojans has been there, [100] when he abducted Helen. Given the dynamic aspect of the Achaean past and future space and its contrast to the static Trojan space, Paris’ spatial exclusivity becomes even more significant, since in the eyes of the Trojans it is he, after all, who is responsible for the war. His determination to return the possessions he stole from Menelaos’ palace but keep Helen (Iliad VII 363–364 κτήματα δ’, ὅσσ’ ἀγόμην ἐξ Ἄργεος ἡμέτερον δῶ, / πάντ’ ἐθέλω δόμεναι, καὶ ἔτ’ οἴκοθεν ἄλλ’ ἐπιθεῖναι) [101] is expressed by replacing Sparta with Argos. Paris, who is here speaking in front of the Trojan assembly and wants to defend his behavior against the propositions of Antenor, implicitly reminds his internal audience that his personal actions against a single Achaean king, Menelaos, do not justify a massive expedition of the whole of Greece against Troy. The phrase ἡμέτερον δῶ ‘to our house’ (VII 363) [102] implicitly suggests that what he did was personal, and so should have been dealt with on an individual level. This being said, we see here how the Iliad has made spatial references integral to a hero’s particular function within the trajectory of Trojan myth: Paris’ moral deviation from Trojan norms in abducting Helen is reflected in his spatial mobility in myth, as opposed to the static spatiality of the other Trojans.
Hektor (Iliad VI 456–458) [103] and Pouludamas (XII 69–70) [104] use Argos to express their fears and hopes for the future. Where the former fears that Andromakhe may be enslaved in the event of his death and subsequent Achaean victory, the latter states his wish that the Achaeans will die νωνύμνους ‘nameless’, away from Argos. [105] This thematized use of Argos is intricately entwined with the unfolding of the Iliadic plot, since these two Trojans are associated with the fatal decision to invade the Achaean camp and stay too long away from the Skaian Gates and the protection of the city walls. In a masterful display of tragic irony, Hektor’s spatialized fears about Andromakhe will begin to become true only when Pouludamas’ spatialized hopes about the outcome of the war start to vanish: by having Hektor reject Pouludamas’ prudent advice to bring the Trojan army back to the city (XII 211–229, XVIII 254–283), the tradition of the Iliad sets in motion a chain of events that will finally deprive Hektor of a return to the safe space of Troy and will ultimately lead Andromakhe to Greece as a slave.


Pylos is attested twelve times in the Iliad, the majority (ten times) in character text. [106] Given that one of the chief Achaean leaders, the Gerenian horseman Nestor, comes from that place, it is only natural that Pylos looms large in his speech. [107] In narrator text, Pylos is either modified by the formulaic epithets ἠγαθέη ‘sacred’ (I 252) and ἠμαθόεις ‘sandy’ (II 77), or is tied to a list of cities in the southwestern Peloponnese under Nestor’s control (II 591–594). Speakers other than Nestor employ this place-name either with reference to Herakles’ attack on the Pylians (V 397) or in the context of a list of neighboring cities offered by Agamemnon to Achilles (IX 149–153 = 291–295) as a recompense for the dishonor he suffered in Iliad I. [108]
Before exploring the function of Pylos in Nestor’s speeches, I shall dwell for a moment both on Iliad II 595, where to the otherwise colorless reference to a series of cities is anchored a brief digression to the narrator Thamyris, and on Iliad V 397, where Dione’s reference to Pylos is relevant to certain features pertaining to Nestor’s epic past and Iliadic present. These two passages offer a background against which to locate the denser and more highly thematized use of Pylos by Nestor himself, for they help us reconsider topics like the authority of the ἀοιδός and the metaphorical function of Pylos.

Spatial metonymy

Although most commentators have focused their attention on the figure of the singer Thamyris in the brief digression that is appended to Dorion (Iliad II 594–600), the last city in the small list included in Nestor’s catalogue, and on the role of Herakles in an attack against the Pylians (Iliad V 395–400) or against Hades, they have failed to observe that these two passages share a number of common features that stem from the metonymic function of Pylos in epic song: both Thamyris and Herakles, [109] who are the “protagonists” of these short excursuses, are related to the city of Oikhalia and king Eurutos. In particular, Thamyris is explicitly said to come from there, and Herakles, of course, is the one who sacked the city upon Eurutos’ refusal to give him the hand of his daughter Iole after being defeated in marksmanship. Since the Oikhalia connection is an intriguing but also a troubling one, let us briefly discuss some of the problems connected with it:
The name Oikhalia is used for various cities in Greece (Thessaly [see Iliad II 730], [110] Euboea, and Messenia). Given that an epic tradition about the sack of Oikhalia by Herakles antedates the Homeric epics, the traditions of the Iliad and the Odyssey were confronted with the problem of adjusting this information to their subject matter. The result is a blurred picture, created by the older Thessalian lay and by certain changes that occurred when other figures of Thessalian origin were strongly tied to places in the south. This “mythical migration” of heroes and cities can certainly be seen in the case of Nestor, who was strongly tied to his Messenian kingdom (since the Homeric epics erased all relics of his grandfather Kretheus, king of Iolkos, who had gone south to Messenia from the area close to the Boebean lake in Thessaly). In Iliad II 591–596, we can see a clear manifestation of this fusing of two different lays: the Thracian singer Thamyris is explicitly said to be coming to the city of Dorion, which was situated in the Messenian kingdom of Nestor, from king Eurutos’ palace in Oikhalia. This must be Thessalian Oikhalia, given (1) the probable confusion between Dorion in Messenia and Dotion in Thessaly, [111] (2) Hesiod’s placing Thamyris’ encounter with the Muses in the plain of Dotion close to the Boebean lake in Thessaly (Catalogue of Women, frr. 59.2 and 65 M-W), (3) Thessaly’s being “a more likely place for bumping into the Muses than the south-western Peloponnese,” [112] and (4) that Iolkos (from where Nestor’s grandfather Kretheus had descended to Messenia) is situated near the Boebean lake, both locations being under the control of Eumelos of Pherae (as explicitly mentioned in the Catalogue of Ships, Iliad II 711–715). [113] In Odyssey xxi 11–38, the preference for a Messenian Oikhalia is triggered by the need to trace Odysseus’ bow to Eurutos. Odysseus meets Iphitos, Eurutos’ son, in Ortilokhos’ house in Messenia, where he has gone to recover the three hundred sheep some Messenians have stolen from Ithaka. It is only appropriate to discover Iphitos coming from Messenian Oikhalia, who was also going around in order to recover a dozen mares Herakles had stolen from Eurutos’ palace. Given that Iphitos gives Odysseus the bow his father Eurutos bequeathed to him at his death, it becomes clear that the Odyssey not only transfers Oikhalia from Thessaly to Messenia but also takes Eurutos out of the picture altogether, making his son Iphitos the chief victim of Herakles. We need not postulate, as Schischwani does, [114] that the myth of the sack of Oikhalia by Herakles is post-Homeric, but simply that it did not suit the Odyssey’s plot requirements and perspective (for if Herakles had killed Eurutos and Iphitos after sacking Oikhalia, Iphitos would never have received the bow from his father, nor could he have passed it to Odysseus or offered hospitality to Herakles; cf. Odyssey xxi 11–38). [115] It was for this reason that the tradition of the Odyssey opted for a Herakles as rustler rather than sacker of cities.
The digression on Thamyris, centered on the episode of his arrogant claims against the Muses, ends in the loss of his sight and his singing ability. Scholars have argued that this Thracian singer, [116] who resembles Thracian Orpheus, functions as a negative example of the fact that what the gods give, they can also take away. [117] This is certainly true, but it does not explain why this digression has been appended to a Messenian city under the control of Nestor in the Catalogue of Ships. This is an awkward extension of a subentry in the Catalogue, and moreover one that points to a link between Thamyris and Herakles, both connected to Thessalian Oikhalia. This connection is further strengthened by the fact that they were both (together with Orpheus) students of the mythical Linus, who taught the art of song and κιθάρα. According to Diodorus Siculus (Library 3.67), Herakles’ musical education did not thrive, since he attacked his master who was continually trying to improve his student’s skills. Although the information comes from a late author, we may wonder why Herakles, who is known not for his musical excellence but for his strength, formed part of a group of music students together with the two famous Thracians, Orpheus and Thamyras/Thamyris. Diodorus’ text clearly associates Thamyras/Thamyris and Herakles through their improper conduct towards their musical masters. In Sophocles’ Thamyras, the Thracian singer and musician suffers a breakdown and literally breaks his lyre, the symbol of his vocal and musical ability. Likewise, in Diodorus’ narrative (3.67) Herakles uses his κιθάρα as a weapon with which he kills his master Linus, who had punished him with rods in the first place. [118] In fact, as Nagy has argued, Thamyris/Thamyras and Herakles represent examples of a “disintegration of identity,” a “shattering of the self.” [119] This “poetics of refraction” [120] is all the more significant in the case of Thamyris/Thamyras and Herakles, for these two figures represent two opposing cases with respect to musical skill, the former being the epitome of the talented singer-musician, the latter the paragon of the slow-to-learn and artistically incompetent hero. This observation is strengthened when we turn our attention to the way they use their musical instruments: in Sophocles’ Thamyras, the gifted singer-musician himself breaks his lyre, whereas Herakles (in Diodorus’ account) uses his κιθάρα as a weapon to kill Linus. Thamyras/Thamyris and Herakles are a case of coincidentia oppositorum. What is important for my argument is that there seems to have been some branch of a tradition that connected Thamyris with Herakles, [121] both through Oikhalia and through their arrogance, to be seen here in their shared negative behavior in the context of music and song. Perhaps the answer is that it is not only Thamyris and Herakles who are wandering as mythical figures, but also Oikhalia itself. Given that these wandering Oikhalias belong to regions within the Aeolian sphere, [122] one is tempted to interpret the entire digression as an abbreviated note on a rival epic tradition, whose figurehead Thamyris has been defeated by the Olympian Muses, the mouthpiece of Homeric epic. [123] We are in no position to decide about how this subtradition developed, but we can take our analysis a step further.
It is now time to turn our attention to the other passage in question, Dione’s comforting speech to Aphrodite (Iliad V 382–400), and in particular to Herakles’ Pylian war (Iliad V 395–400):
“τέτλαθι, τέκνον ἐμόν, καὶ ἀνάσχεο κηδομένη περ.
πολλοὶ γὰρ δὴ τλῆμεν Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχοντες
ἐξ ἀνδρῶν, χαλέπ’ ἄλγε’ ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισι τιθέντες.
τλῆ μὲν Ἄρης, ὅτε μιν Ὦτος κρατερός τ’ Ἐφιάλτης
παῖδες Ἀλωῆος, δῆσαν κρατερῷ ἐνὶ δεσμῷ·
χαλκέῳ δ’ ἐν κεράμῳ δέδετο τρισκαίδεκα μῆνας.
καί νύ κεν ἔνθ’ ἀπόλοιτο Ἄρης ἆτος πολέμοιο,
εἰ μὴ μητρυιή, περικαλλὴς Ἠερίβοια,
Ἑρμέᾳ ἐξήγγειλεν· ὃ δ’ ἐξέκλεψεν Ἄρηα
ἤδη τειρόμενον, χαλεπὸς δέ ἑ δεσμὸς ἐδάμνα.
τλῆ δ’ Ἥρη, ὅτε μιν κρατερὸς πάϊς Ἀμφιτρύωνος
δεξιτερὸν κατὰ μαζὸν ὀϊστῷ τριγλώχινι
βεβλήκει· τότε καί μιν ἀνήκεστον λάβεν ἄλγος.
τλῆ δ’ Ἀΐδης ἐν τοῖσι πελώριος ὠκὺν ὀϊστόν,
εὖτέ μιν ωὑτὸς ἀνήρ, υἱὸς Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο,
ἐν Πύλῳ ἐν νεκύεσσι βαλὼν ὀδύνῃσιν ἔδωκεν·
αὐτὰρ ὃ βῆ πρὸς δῶμα Διὸς καὶ μακρὸν Ὄλυμπον
κῆρ ἀχέων, ὀδύνῃσι πεπαρμένος, αὐτὰρ ὀϊστός
ὤμῳ ἔνι στιβαρῷ ἠλήλατο, κῆδε δὲ θυμόν·”

“Have patience, my child, and endure it, though you be saddened.
For many of us who have our homes on Olympos endure things
from men, when ourselves we inflict hard pain on each other.
Ares had to endure it when the strong Ephialtes and Otos,
sons of Aloeus, chained him in bonds that were too strong for him,
and three months and ten he lay chained in the brazen cauldron;
and now might Ares, insatiable of fighting, have perished,
had not Eëriboia, their stepmother, the surpassingly lovely,
brought word to Hermes, who stole Ares away out of it
as he was growing faint and the hard bondage was breaking him.
Hera had to endure it when the strong son of Amphitryon
struck her beside the right breast with a tri-barbed arrow,
so that the pain he gave her could not be quieted. Hades
the gigantic had to endure with the rest the flying arrow,
when this self-same man, the son of Zeus of the aegis,
struck him among the dead men at Pylos, and gave him to agony;
but he went up to the house of Zeus and to tall Olympos
heavy at heart, stabbed through and through with pain, for the arrow
was driven into his heavy shoulder, and his spirit was suffering.”
Iliad V 382–400
The role of Herakles in this passage is crucial, for we not only have ample early evidence of his involvement in a war in Pylos, but we are in a position to see that these verses were later on particularly associated with him in a fifth-century epic, Panyassis’s Heracleia (fr. 16 Matthews = fr. 3, PEG 1): [124]
τλῆ μὲν Δημήτηρ, τλῆ δὲ κλυτὸς ἀμφιγυήεις,
τλῆ δὲ Ποσειδάων, τλῆ δ’ ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων
ἀνδρὶ παρὰ θνητῶι †θητευσέμεν [125] εἰς ἐνιαυτόν,
τλῆ δὲ <καὶ> ὀβριμόθυμος Ἄρης ὑπὸ πατρὸς ἀνάγκης.

Demeter had to endure it and the famous cripple,
Poseidon had to endure it and Apollo of the silver bow
to spend a long year at the service of a mortal man
and Ares had to endure it …
In Iliad V 397, the wounding of Hades is placed at Pylos, though it is not clear what was the occasion. Various explanations have been offered: (1) an attack on the Pylians, who had supported the city of Orkhomenos against Thebes (scholia T on Iliad XI 690–693), or when Herakles killed the sons of Neleus (cf. what Nestor says at Iliad XI 690–693 and the scholia bT on Iliad V 392–394), who were assisted by Poseidon, Hera, and Hades (D-scholia at Iliad XI 690); (2) a violent penetration into the Underworld, when Hades removed Kerberos (a view that Aristarchus may have supported, since he interpreted Πύλος as “gate [to the Underworld]”). [126] The occasion’s obscurity is irrelevant to our argument, for in both cases what is important is that Dione uses a paranarrative as an example of the ultimate destruction of the θεομάχοι. [127] Just as Herakles would be punished for his impiety towards the gods, [128] so, at some point, will Diomedes. [129]
In the Iliad, Thamyris and Herakles are associated not by way of their improper behavior in the field of musical ability, but through their arrogance towards the gods (Muses or Olympians). The Iliad attempts to present this behavior against the backdrop of Pylos, [130] which has a secondary, metonymic function in early epic as a “gate to the Underworld,” given that Nestor’s original function may have been “to restore mortals to life and light.” [131] This figurative function of Pylos accords with Nestor’s extremely positive presentation in the Iliad. Here is the great Pylian, whose sweet voice (λιγὺς ἀγορητής) and excellent speaking skills, his narrative authority and function as an ἀοιδός, [132] and his wisdom and moderation [133] are contrasted with the negative paradigms of Thamyris and Herakles, [134] who both stand for the sudden shift from dexterity and ability to arrogance and punishment and are treated as relics of a vanished rival tradition. Pylos is thus employed as a spatial metonym pointing to Nestor, the only son of Neleus who survived Herakles’ attack on Pylos, [135] and the restrained and shrewd counselor whom the Muses respect.

Spacing the epic past

The Iliad plays out the opposition between the two ideologies for its audience in proper epic fashion, through a paradigmatic story about the epic past, for, considered in context, the views that Nestor and Priam have of the past become the choice Achilles faces between kleos and nostos (return home). [136]
Turkeltaub’s apt phrasing sheds light on the fact that Nestor not only “resurrects” the epic past but also creates the necessary background for Achilles’ eventual choice. This is true, but I maintain that Nestor’s special access to the epic past has a further role to play, especially since the paranarratives he systematically unravels are directly relevant to the exigencies of the Iliadic plot. What matters is not simply his ability to recall the epic past, but mainly, and tellingly so, the kind of epic past he systematically evokes. In other words, we need to study the particular kind of paranarrative he develops, but also to consider the effect that calling upon his epic past may have on the Iliadic narrative. [137] As we shall see, Pylos plays a particular role in this process, a role that is relevant to the poetics of space that the Iliad employs for other chief characters to whom Nestor’s speech is addressed, directly or indirectly. Let us consider his first intervention in the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles:
“ὦ πόποι, ἦ μέγα πένθος Ἀχαιΐδα γαῖαν ἱκάνει.
ἦ κεν γηθήσαι Πρίαμος Πριάμοιό τε παῖδες,
ἄλλοι τε Τρῶες μέγα κεν κεχαροίατο θυμῷ,
εἰ σφῶϊν τάδε πάντα πυθοίατο μαρναμένοιιν,
οἳ περὶ μὲν βουλὴν Δαναῶν, περὶ δ’ ἐστὲ μάχεσθαι.
ἀλλὰ πίθεσθ’· ἄμφω δὲ νεωτέρω ἐστὸν ἐμεῖο.
ἤδη γάρ ποτ᾿ ἐγὼ καὶ ἀρείοσιν ἠέ περ ὑμῖν
ἀνδράσιν ὡμίλησα, καὶ οὔ ποτέ μ᾿ οἵ θ’ ἀθέριζον.
οὐ γάρ πω τοίους ἴδον ἀνέρας, οὐδὲ ἴδωμαι,
οἷον Πειρίθοόν τε Δρύαντά τε ποιμένα λαῶν
Καινέα τ᾿ Ἐξάδιόν τε καὶ ἀντίθεον Πολύφημον
Θησέα τ᾿ Αἰγεΐδην, ἐπιείκελον ἀθανάτοισιν· [138]
κάρτιστοι δὴ κεῖνοι ἐπιχθονίων τράφεν ἀνδρῶν·
κάρτιστοι μὲν ἔσαν καὶ καρτίστοις ἐμάχοντο,
φηρσὶν ὀρεσκῴοισι, καὶ ἐκπάγλως ἀπόλεσσαν.
καὶ μὲν τοῖσιν ἐγὼ μεθομίλεον ἐκ Πύλου ἐλθών,
τηλόθεν ἐξ ἀπίης γαίης· καλέσαντο γὰρ αὐτοί.
καὶ μαχόμην κατ᾿ ἔμ᾿ αὐτὸν ἐγώ· κείνοισι δ’ ἂν οὔ τις
τῶν οἳ νῦν βροτοί εἰσιν ἐπιχθόνιοι μαχέοιτο.
καὶ μέν μεο βουλέων ξύνιεν πείθοντό τε μύθῳ.
ἀλλὰ πίθεσθε καὶ ὔμμες, ἐπεὶ πείθεσθαι ἄμεινον·
μήτε σὺ τόνδ’ ἀγαθός περ ἐὼν ἀποαίρεο κούρην,
ἀλλ’ ἔα, ὥς οἱ πρῶτα δόσαν γέρας υἷες Ἀχαιῶν·
μήτε σύ, Πηλείδη, ἔθελ’ ἐριζέμεναι βασιλῆϊ
ἀντιϐίην, ἐπεὶ οὔ ποθ’ ὁμοίης ἔμμορε τιμῆς
σκηπτοῦχος βασιλεύς, ᾧ τε Ζεὺς κῦδος ἔδωκεν.
εἰ δὲ σὺ καρτερός ἐσσι, θεὰ δέ σε γείνατο μήτηρ,
ἀλλ’ ὅδε φέρτερός ἐστιν, ἐπεὶ πλεόνεσσιν ἀνάσσει.
Ἀτρείδη, σὺ δὲ παῦε τεὸν μένος· αὐτὰρ ἐγώ γε
λίσσομ᾿ Ἀχιλλῆϊ μεθέμεν χόλον, ὃς μέγα πᾶσιν
ἕρκος Ἀχαιοῖσιν πέλεται πολέμοιο κακοῖο.”

“Oh, for shame. Great sorrow comes on the land of Achaia.
Now might Priam and the sons of Priam in truth be happy,
and all the rest of the Trojans be visited in their hearts with gladness,
were they to hear all this wherein you two are quarrelling,
you, who surpass all Danaans in council, in fighting.
Yet be persuaded. Both of you are younger than I am.
Yes, in my time I have dealt with better men than
you are, and never once did they disregard me. Never
yet have I seen nor shall see again such men as these were,
men like Peirithoös, and Dryas, shepherd of the people,
Kaineus and Exadios, godlike Polyphemos,
or Theseus, Aigeus’ son, in the likeness of the immortals.
These were the strongest generation of earth-born mortals,
the strongest, and they fought against the strongest, the beast men
living within the mountains, and terribly they destroyed them.
I was of the company of these men. Coming from Pylos,
a long way from a distant land, since they had summoned me.
And I fought single-handed, yet against such men no one
of the mortals now alive upon earth could do battle. And also
these listened to the counsels I gave and heeded my bidding.
Do you also obey, since to be persuaded is better.
You, great man that you are, yet do not take the girl away
but let her be, a prize as the sons of the Achaians gave her
first. Nor, son of Peleus, think to match your strength with
the king, since never equal with the rest is the portion of honour
of the sceptred king to whom Zeus gives magnificence. Even
though you are the stronger man, and the mother who bore you was immortal,
yet is this man greater who is lord over more than you rule.
Son of Atreus, give up your anger; even I entreat you
to give over your bitterness against Achilleus, he who
stands as a great bulwark of battle over the Achaians.”
Iliad I 254–284
Nestor’s narrative about his participation in the war between the Lapithai and the Centaurs, which started because of the rape of Hippodameia and other women by the Centaurs during her wedding with Peirithous, bears striking similarities to the situations in both Iliad I and Iliad IX. Given that the same story is referred to in Odyssey xxi 295–304, we need to deal with all three passages as forming the mythical backdrop against which Nestor’s paranarrative is developed:
“ὦ γέρον, οὔ τι ψεῦδος ἐμὰς ἄτας κατέλεξας.
ἀασάμην, οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ἀναίνομαι. ἀντί νυ πολλῶν
λαῶν ἐστὶν ἀνὴρ ὅν τε Ζεὺς κῆρι φιλήσῃ,
ὡς νῦν τοῦτον ἔτισε, δάμασσε δὲ λαὸν Ἀχαιῶν.
ἀλλ’ ἐπεὶ ἀασάμην φρεσὶ λευγαλέῃσι πιθήσας,
ἂψ ἐθέλω ἀρέσαι δόμεναί τ’ ἀπερείσι’ ἄποινα.”

“Aged sir, this was no lie when you spoke of my madness.
I was mad, I myself will not deny it. Worth many
fighters is that man whom Zeus in his heart loves, as now
he has honoured this man and beaten down the Achaian people.
But since I was mad, in the persuasion of my heart’s evil,
I am willing to make all good, and give back gifts in abundance.”
Iliad IX 115–120
“οἶνος καὶ Κένταυρον, ἀγακλυτὸν Εὐρυτίωνα,
ἄασ’ ἐνὶ μεγάρῳ μεγαθύμου Πειριθόοιο,
ἐς Λαπίθας ἐλθόνθ’· ὁ δ’ ἐπεὶ φρένας ἄασεν οἴνῳ,
μαινόμενος κάκ’ ἔρεξε δόμον κάτα Πειριθόοιο·
ἥρωας δ’ ἄχος εἷλε, διὲκ προθύρου δὲ θύραζε
ἕλκον ἀναΐξαντες, ἀπ’ οὔατα νηλέϊ χαλκῷ
ῥῖνάς τ’ ἀμήσαντες· ὁ δὲ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἀασθείς
ἤϊεν ἣν ἄτην ὀχέων ἀεσίφρονι θυμῷ.
ἐξ οὗ Κενταύροισι καὶ ἀνδράσι νεῖκος ἐτύχθη,
οἷ δ’ αὐτῷ πρώτῳ κακὸν εὕρετο οἰνοβαρείων.”
“Remember Eurytion the famous Centaur! It was the wine that stupefied him in brave Peirithous’ palace, during his visit to the Lapithae. Stupefied with drink he perpetrated that outrage in Peirithous’ very home. His hosts leaped up in anger, dragged him to the porch and threw him out of doors; but not before they had ruthlessly sliced his ears and nose off with a knife. He staggered away stupefied, carrying the burden of his folly in his darkened mind. That was the beginning of the feud between Centaurs and men. But he was the first to suffer, and he brought his troubles on himself by getting drunk.”
Odyssey xxi 295–304
The story told by Nestor in Iliad I 254–284 has been regarded as an ad hoc invention, an αὐτοσχεδίασμα the poet of the Iliad made up in order to supply Agamemnon and Achilles with an example of Nestor’s authority and status, and thus persuade them to listen to his advice and put an end to their quarrel. Conversely, Kirk seems to consider the possibility that this paranarrative may be due to Nestor’s Thessalian origins, [139] a view that is further supported by two points that have escaped scholarly attention:
First, the relevant episode in Odyssey xxi 295–304 plays on Eurution’s drunkenness (295 οἶνος, 304 οἰνοβαρείων), which led to his ἄτη (296 ἄασ(ε), 297 ἄασεν, 301 ἀασθείς, 302 ἄτην), and is significant not only because Nestor’s traditional epithet (λιγύς) is a term of sweetness, often employed together with the term ἡδυεπής, [140] whose first part (ἡδυ- ‘sweet’) is regularly used for wine (οἶνος), [141] but also because this is the kind of diction employed in the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles in Iliad I 225 (οἰνοβαρές) and in Iliad IX 116 and 119, when Agamemnon acknowledges his ἄτη to Nestor (ἀασάμην).
Second, since the diction employed in Odyssey xxi 303–304 is reminiscent of the beginning of an epic poem: ἐξ οὗ Κενταύροισι καὶ ἀνδράσι νεῖκος ἐτύχθη, / οἷ δ’ αὐτῷ πρώτῳ κακὸν εὕρετο οἰνοβαρείων, [142] it can be argued that Nestor is about to point to a song tradition that is similar to the Trojan one (which also began with strife at a wedding and is based on the rape or abduction of a woman), but in which the side he supported was not suffering from internal strife. In other words, evoking Nestor’s coming from Pylos to assist the Lapithai makes it relevant to the situation of Achilles, who was not bound by oath but whose arrival and presence in Troy is of crucial importance for winning the war. In Nestor’s parable in Iliad I, Pylos becomes an “anti-Phthia,” a space he never explicitly says that he wishes to return to, Achilles-like, but one that he left to participate in various exploits and so build up his heroic persona. In this way, Pylos functions as Nestor’s epic past, which the Iliadic tradition deftly employs in order to counterbalance Achilles’ Phthia. Yet in a supreme manifestation of unity, the Iliad makes both Phthia and Pylos stand for a “menace” to its unfolding plot, the former representing the place Achilles threatens to return to, the latter the place Nestor offers as a “narrative temptation” that lures the tradition of the Iliad toward the narrative realm of a “regular” Trojan War epic—one that features a compromised Achilles, and not the epic of his unappeasable wrath. Nestor’s role in Iliad II, as mediator between the army and Agamemnon, is consistent with his support for a Trojan War epic that would have ended at once in the event of an Achaean mutiny.
Nestor’s compromising tactics will of course fail, [143] but given his supreme knowledge of the past, they become a kind of threat to the Iliadic plot. [144] Seen within the wider perspective of typical motifs that permeate archaic epic, Nestor is trying to deprive Agamemnon and Achilles, and by extension the Iliad, of its most elementary motif of νεῖκος ‘strife’. In other words, a potential compromise between Agamemnon and Achilles at such an early point in the plot would have brought the Iliad to an end and given its place to another epic song about the Trojan War. The memory of the epic past that Nestor summons to the Iliad is a threat to the continuation of the Iliadic tradition and to the development of its plot. [145] By endowing Nestor with the ability to return to his epic past, [146] the Iliadic tradition creates the illusion of a potential “return” to a song about the Trojan War not based on the theme of Achilles’ unquenchable wrath that is so crucial for Iliadic poetics, a song that is not and could never have been endorsed by the Iliad.

Wandering epic

In contrast with other paranarratives that Nestor regularly employs as examples, his long digression about the war against the Epeians (Iliad XI 670–761) is not, at least entirely, linked to the situation at hand. [147] Bölte argues for the existence of a Pylian epic (“ein Stück Heldendichtung”), [148] featuring a now lost version of a “border war” between Pylians and Epeians. [149] In his view, the detailed knowledge of topographical features implies the existence of a local epic lay, which may have migrated together with the Pylians from Messenia to Colophon in Asia Minor, “where the memory of their old home always remained alive.” [150] Traditional themes like that of the “cattle raid” [151] were then combined with the Iliadic story line, [152] and Nestor together with his father Neleus became associated with the old lay, so that Pylos could represent the contrast with Achilles’ Phthia. In particular, Nestor presents himself as keen to fight by leaving Pylos even against his father’s will, and ties this reminiscence of the past to his visit to Phthia with Odysseus to bring Achilles to Troy. He is thus able to offer a counternarrative to the way Achilles refers to Phthia in the Iliad. Nestor’s Pylos becomes, so to speak, inscribed on his version of Phthia, as a space that the epic hero has to leave in order to win κλέος.
All this being said, it can be argued that Nestor uses Pylos as Achilles’ anti-Phthia, a polar opposite to the way Achilles interprets and imagines his homeland. By fostering a narrative that promotes the idea that the epic hero must leave his homeland to undertake heroic exploits, Nestor constructs his distant past in a way that runs counter to Achilles’ spatial grammar. Seen from the vantage point of the homeland as an epic figure’s notional origo, Nestor’s heroic deixis is spatialized centrifugally, whereas Achilles’ is mapped centripetally. [153]
Since the name Nestor originally meant “the one who brings [the war-folk] safely home,” [154] we find further support for the claim that the Iliad systematically employs the spaces of Phthia and Pylos in a way that reverses the fate of the two heroes. Achilles, who initially desires to return home since he bears no grudge against the Trojans, who have never stolen his cattle, will die at Troy (deprived of a νόστος comparable to that of Odysseus and Nestor), whereas Nestor, who constantly unfolds narratives of an epic past (in which he features as an epic hero who leaves his homeland, though he does not need to, and wins κλέος) and in the Iliad never wishes to return home, will finally be the one who will have a safe and untroubled return.
The theme of βοηλασίη ‘cattle-raid’ constitutes a typical motif in archaic epic. [155] In Iliad XI 670–761, Nestor refers to the cattle-raid he led against the Eleans, in retaliation for their unpaid debts to the Pylians. Nestor presents himself as participating in the Pylians’ defensive stand against the counter attacking Epeians. The motif of the “father preventing his son from going to war” that Nestor employs (Iliad XI 717–718) would probably have helped an ancient audience realize that his epic past stands against that of Achilles (as presented in the Iliad), whom Peleus [156] sent to Troy wholeheartedly. As noted earlier, [157] this version, which was also that of the Cypria tradition, deviates from another one, which we may call the D-scholium tradition, which features Thetis’ (and in one version Peleus’) effort to hide Achilles in Skyros at the palace of king Lukomedes. Given that the tradition fostered by the Iliad presents Nestor’s epic past in contrast to Achilles’ present and past (with respect to his father), and that Nestor’s role in the cattle-raid against the Epeians and the subsequent defense of Pylos reflects his figurative role as “rescuer of the Sun’s cattle,” [158] it supplies us with a reasonable explanation for the kind of narrative the king of Pylos presents. In fact, the cattle-raiding motif that is built into the deep structure of Nestor’s mythical persona, owing to his metaphorical role of rescuer, [159] becomes closely associated with Pylos, just as Achilles’ doom is intertwined with Phthia. Although both of them are somehow linked to death—the former coming from a geographical area suggesting the gates of Hades (Πύλαι < πύλος ‘gate’), the latter from the land of “perishing” (Φθία < φθίνω ‘perish’) [160] —they are treated differently.
Space is thus individually thematized and replete with strong Iliadic overtones: the “out there” of locations in Greece is thus brought into the “here” of the characters in Troy, and is further grafted onto the Iliadic presentation of their epic personas. Pylos, therefore, spatializes Nestor’s past and becomes the emblem of a heroic narrative that stands in contrast to Achilles’ position in the Iliad, and especially his ironic illusion of return.

Boeotian Thebes

The antiquity and significance of the city of Thebes in Boeotia is mainly responsible for its enormous importance in early Greek myth and archaic epic poetry. Thebes was closely associated with both the story of Oedipus and the great Theban wars (the expedition of the Seven and the sack of Thebes by the Epigonoi) and with Herakles, the son of Zeus and Alkmene and a major hero with an entire saga of his own. [161] While a whole part of the Epic Cycle was devoted to Thebes (Oedipodia, Thebais, Epigoni), in the case of Herakles’ mythic past we may postulate that he was not particularly associated with a single epic tradition. This being said, we can see that we are dealing with two separate branches of myth, a Theban one “inserted” into the plot of the Iliad (and the Homeric epics in general) by means of a song tradition in epic form, [162] and another known to Homeric epic not necessarily, or solely, through epic but from the large storehouse of mythical material pertaining to the legend of Herakles, which was widely diffused during the archaic period. The variety of sources, of course, explains only partly why Thebes looms large in the Iliad mainly through the Theban wars, and not through Herakles. Other possible reasons for this deliberate Homeric choice may be that Thebes was considered in the archaic period a “first Troy,” and that the core of its myth, twice involving the recruitment and expeditions of entire armies, as well as the lack of a single protagonist, activated strong analogies with the Trojan War saga. [163] Moreover, and as early as Hesiod (Works and Days 156–165), the Greeks regarded these two great war traditions (Thebes and Troy) as the ones that had shaped their past in a truly emblematic way, culminating in the end of the generation of heroes:
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ καὶ τοῦτο γένος κατὰ γαῖα κάλυψεν,
αὖτις ἔτ’ ἄλλο τέταρτον ἐπὶ χθονὶ πουλυβοτείρῃ
Ζεὺς Κρονίδης ποίησε, δικαιότερον καὶ ἄρειον,
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων θεῖον γένος, οἳ καλέονται
ἡμίθεοι, προτέρη γενεὴ κατ’ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν.
καὶ τοὺς μὲν πόλεμός τε κακὸς καὶ φύλοπις αἰνή
τοὺς μὲν ὑφ’ ἑπταπύλῳ Θήβῃ, Καδμηίδι γαίῃ,
ὤλεσε μαρναμένους μήλων ἕνεκ’ Οἰδιπόδαο,
τοὺς δὲ καὶ ἐν νήεσσιν ὑπὲρ μέγα λαῖτμα θαλάσσης
ἐς Τροίην ἀγαγὼν Ἑλένης ἕνεκ’ ἠυκόμοιο.
When the earth covered up this race too, Zeus, Cronus’ son, made another one in turn upon the bounteous earth, a fourth one, more just and superior, the godly race of men-heroes, who are called demigods, the generation before our own on the boundless earth. Evil war and dread battle destroyed these, some under seven-gated Thebes in the land of Cadmus while they fought for the sake of Oedipus’ sheep, others brought in boats over the great gulf of the sea to Troy for the sake of fair-haired Helen.
Hesiod Works and Days 156–165 [164]
Thebes is thus used in the Iliad as a spatiotemporal linchpin, bridging mainly the epic past of the Theban tradition with the Trojan War myth. In the case of the weaker connection with Herakles, Thebes becomes synonymous with a tradition of deception and bewilderment that serves as a useful parallel to the theme of μῆνις that stands at the very core of the Iliad.

Rival spaces

The Iliadic tradition consistently employs the expedition of the Seven as a backdrop for the Achaean expedition against Troy. In particular, heroes who belong exclusively to the Trojan War tradition (Agamemnon) accuse heroes who have migrated to this tradition from the Theban one (Diomedes) of being inferior to their fathers (Tudeus). The sons of the Seven (Sthenelos) respond by reminding the audience that it was the Epigonoi who sacked Thebes, and not the Seven, who “died of their own headlong stupidity” (Iliad IV 409 κεῖνοι δὲ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο). [165]
In Iliad IV 376–379, Agamemnon explicitly links Thebes with the Theban wars, and in particular with the recruitment of the army by Poluneikes. Given that his speech is addressed to Diomedes, Agamemnon carefully selects an early phase of the first Theban war, in which Diomedes’ father Tudeus arrived at Mycenae with Poluneikes to recruit forces for the expedition.
“ἤτοι μὲν γὰρ ἄτερ πολέμου εἰσῆλθε Μυκήνας
ξεῖνος ἅμ’ ἀντιθέῳ Πολυνείκεϊ λαὸν ἀγείρων·
οἳ δὲ τότ’ ἐστρατόωνθ’ ἱερὰ πρὸς τείχεα Θήβης,
καί ῥα μάλα λίσσοντο δόμεν κλειτοὺς ἐπικούρους.”

“Once on a time he came, but not in war, to Mykenai
with godlike Polyneikes, a guest and a friend, assembling
people, since these were attacking the sacred bastions of Thebe,
and much they entreated us to grant him renowned companions.”
Iliad IV 376–379
Agamemnon’s criticism of Diomedes by alluding to his father’s Theban past is answered again in Theban terms, since Sthenelos reminds him of the second Theban war, the successful expedition of the Epigonoi:
τὸν δ’ υἱὸς Καπανῆος ἀμείψατο κυδαλίμοιο·
“Ἀτρείδη, μὴ ψεύδε’, ἐπιστάμενος σάφα εἰπεῖν.
ἡμεῖς τοι πατέρων μέγ’ ἀμείνονες εὐχόμεθ’ εἶναι·
ἡμεῖς καὶ Θήβης ἕδος εἵλομεν ἑπταπύλοιο,
παυρότερον λαὸν ἀγαγόνθ’ ὑπὸ τεῖχος ἄρειον,
πειθόμενοι τεράεσσι θεῶν καὶ Ζηνὸς ἀρωγῇ·
κεῖνοι δὲ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο.”

But the son of Kapaneus the glorious answered him, saying:
“Son of Atreus, do not lie when you know the plain truth.
We two claim we are better men by far than our fathers.
We did storm the seven-gated foundation of Thebe
though we led fewer people beneath a wall that was stronger.
We obeyed the signs of the gods and the help Zeus gave us,
while those others died of their own headlong stupidity.”
Iliad IV 403–409
In Sthenelos’ reply, Thebes becomes the litmus test for the excellence of the younger generation of the Epigonoi. This time, though, there are five important differences from the earlier expedition undertaken by their fathers: (1) success versus failure; [166] (2) smaller versus larger army; (3) stronger versus weaker walls; (4) yielding to divine advice and accepting Zeus’ help; (5) not committing any wrongdoings. According to Sthenelos, these five features show that the Epigonoi were far better (Iliad IV 405 ἡμεῖς τοι πατέρων μέγ’ ἀμείνονες εὐχόμεθ’ εἶναι).
What we see at work here is that different speakers focalize Thebes according to their own points of view, so as to promote their importance as heroes and refute any claims made against their warrior skills. Given that the first and second Theban wars, that is, the expeditions of the Seven and the Epigonoi, were emblematically represented by the Thebais and the Epigoni, it can be plausibly argued that the tradition of the Iliad reminds its audience that some of its principle heroes, like Diomedes and Sthenelos, have come to the Iliad from another epic tradition. [167] Seen from this perspective, Agamemnon’s accusations against Diomedes acquire a metaliterary tone, since the king of Mycenae becomes, temporarily, the spokesman for the Iliadic tradition, which complains that the “Theban” heroes it has welcomed into its plot are not showing themselves to be the kind of warriors they should. By blaming Diomedes and praising his father Tudeus, Agamemnon lets the audience entertain the possibility that the Achaeans would be better off if Tudeus had come to Troy, that is, if the great heroes of the Thebais were alive and had accompanied him to the war. Like Nestor, [168] Agamemnon points to a more remote past, to a generation that has now disappeared from the face of the earth, and was better than the present one.
Sthenelos’ reaction is equally telling. His five arguments are directed not only toward the tradition of the Seven but also, and significantly so, against Agamemnon and the Iliad: (1) unlike the Seven and the Achaeans (at least until now), the Epigonoi succeeded and sacked Thebes; (2) unlike the Seven and Agamemnon, they mustered not a huge army but a smaller and more effective one; (3) unlike the Seven and the Achaeans, they attacked a city whose walls had been improved and made stronger; (4) unlike Agamemnon’s arrogance (and his quarrel with Achilles), they heeded the signs sent by the gods and thus gained the help of Zeus; and finally, (5) unlike Agamemnon they did not perish by their own wrongdoing. The intertextual force of Sthenelos’ answer is enormous, since he is virtually telling Agamemnon and the audience that the tradition of the Epigoni, in which he truly belongs, outdoes not only that of the Thebais but also that of the Iliad. [169]
The two Theban wars and the poetic traditions embodying them provided the backdrop against which the Iliadic tradition could place its own subject matter. Thebes delineated a twofold space symbolizing failure, arrogance, and divine disregard (Thebais) on the one hand, and success, moderation, and respect for the gods (Epigoni) on the other. Since the epic oscillated between these two traditions, epitomized in certain heroic figures that the Iliadic tradition constantly referred to (Tudeus, Diomedes, and Sthenelos), Thebes was especially appropriate for intertextual cross-referencing and subsequent evaluation of the Iliad’s narrative choices and status of its heroes, against a double backdrop summarizing what could and what would happen in an expedition.
In Iliad V 801–808 and X 283–290 respectively, Athena and Diomedes refer to Thebes in the context of Tudeus’ embassy to the Kadmeians, which ends with Tudeus’ double victory, first within Thebes and then in an ambush set against him on his way home, by fifty Thebans under the command of Maion and Poluphontes. The same topic appears in XXIII 677–680, where we are told that Mekisteus, one of the Seven, having visited Thebes for the funeral of Oedipus, [170] defeated all the Kadmeians.
“Τυδεύς τοι μικρὸς μὲν ἔην δέμας, ἀλλὰ μαχητής·
καί ῥ’ ὅτε πέρ μιν ἐγὼ πολεμίζειν οὐκ εἴασκον
οὐδ’ ἐκπαιφάσσειν, ὅτε τ’ ἤλυθε νόσφιν Ἀχαιῶν
ἄγγελος ἐς Θήβας πολέας μετὰ Καδμείωνας·
δαίνυσθαί μιν ἄνωγον ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἕκηλον,
αὐτὰρ ὃ θυμὸν ἔχων ὃν καρτερόν, ὡς τὸ πάρος περ,
κούρους Καδμείων προκαλίζετο, πάντα δ’ ἐνίκα
ῥηϊδίως· τοίη οἱ ἐγὼν ἐπιτάρροθος ἦα.”

“Since Tydeus was a small man of stature, but he was a fighter.
Even on that time when I would not consent to his fighting
nor drawing men’s eyes, when he went by himself without the Achaians
as a messenger to Thebe among all the Kadmeians,
then I invited him to feast at his ease in their great halls;
even so, keeping that heart of strength that was always within him
he challenged the young men of the Kadmeians, and defeated all of them
easily; such a helper was I who stood then beside him.”
Iliad V 801–808
δεύτερος αὖτ’ ἠρᾶτο βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης·
“κέκλυθι νῦν καὶ ἐμεῖο, Διὸς τέκος, Ἀτρυτώνη·
σπεῖό μοι ὡς ὅτε πατρὶ ἅμ’ ἕσπεο Τυδέϊ δίῳ
ἐς Θήβας, ὅτε τε πρὸ Ἀχαιῶν ἄγγελος ᾔει,
τοὺς δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ Ἀσωπῷ λίπε χαλκοχίτωνας Ἀχαιούς,
αὐτὰρ ὃ μειλίχιον μῦθον φέρε Καδμείοισιν
κεῖσ’· ἀτὰρ ἂψ ἀπιὼν μάλα μέρμερα μήσατο ἔργα
σὺν σοί, δῖα θεά, ὅτε οἱ πρόφρασσα παρέστης.”

Diomedes of the great war cry spoke in prayer after him:
“Hear me also, Atrytone, daughter of great Zeus.
Come with me now as you went with my father, brilliant Tydeus,
into Thebes, when he went with a message before the Achaians,
and left the bronze-armoured Achaians beside Asopos
while he carried a word of friendship to the Kadmeians
in that place; but on his way back he was minded to grim deeds
with your aid, divine goddess, since you stood in goodwill beside him.”
Iliad X 283–290
Εὐρύαλος δέ οἱ οἶος ἀνίστατο, ἰσόθεος φώς,
Μηκιστῆος υἱὸς Ταλαϊονίδαο ἄνακτος,
ὅς ποτε Θήβασδ’ ἦλθε δεδουπότος Οἰδιπόδαο
ἐς τάφον· ἔνθα δὲ πάντας ἐνίκα Καδμείωνας.

Alone Euryalos stood up to face him, a godlike
man, son of lord Mekisteus of the seed of Talaos;
of him who came once to Thebes and the tomb of Oidipous after
his downfall, and there in boxing defeated all the Kadmeians.
Iliad XXIII 677–680
We are dealing here with the motif “visit to Thebes by one of the Seven and subsequent victory over the Kadmeians.” Given that this motif is hardly reflected in Diomedes’ role in the Iliad [171] and serves no paradigmatic purpose, [172] it may be reflecting older epic material stemming from the Theban tradition. W. Kullmann [173] has convincingly argued that the presence of Diomedes, Sthenelos, and Eurualos in the Iliad points both to an Epigoni- and an Alcmaeonis-lay, since Eurualus is named as one of the Epigonoi only in the Alcmaeonis and not in the Epigoni. Ιn like manner, the bulk of the references to Tudeus in the Iliad come from the tradition of the Thebais, though the episode of his visit to Thebes and his heroic exploits there probably reflects an initially distinct heroic song about Tudeus, part of which was later incorporated in the tradition of the Seven. [174]
Both cases show that Thebes is evoked as a rival epic space, a spatial backdrop against which the exploits and heroism of double-identity warriors is measured. At times, this contrast amounts to an implicit laudatio of certain “Theban” heroes who take part in the Iliad, but the comparison may also work against them. The decisive factor is the point of view taken by each speaker or the narrator, whose focalization is based on the epic space he is alluding to. Thebes can thus be the space of either the first or the second Theban war, and each speaker may tailor his evaluation of the present by reference to the epic space Thebes occupied in different song traditions of the Thebais, the Epigoni, or the Alcmaeonis. Athena reminds Diomedes, who excels in Iliad V, of the greatness of his father, thus evoking the epic space of the Thebais. Likewise Diomedes prays to Athena before entering Troy in Iliad X, and asks her to help him as she did his father Tudeus when he entered Thebes. In these two cases Diomedes is evaluated positively, as he is presented as a hero of equal rank and status with his father. With Eurualos, things are different. Eurualos takes part in the Trojan expedition, and subsequently in the funeral games in honor of Patroklos, because his father Mekisteus participated in the expedition of the Seven against Thebes and visited Thebes for the funeral of Oedipus. [175] Since Eurualos—unlike his father who emerged victorious over the Kadmeians—will be defeated by Epeius in the boxing match, we can see that the Iliad lets its audience entertain the thought that he is inferior to his father. Whereas one of the Epigonoi (Diomedes) excels in the epic space of the Iliad, [176] another (Eurualos) is clearly outdone. [177] Thebes is thus measured in terms of epic space, as a locus bestowing varying levels of excellence on its heroes, according to the epic tradition the Iliad decides to focus on each time.

Spacing deception

After the “Theban lay” of the Iliad is exhausted in the ἀριστεία of Diomedes, Thebes begins to be “anchored” to Herakles. Both Zeus and Agamemnon remember Herakles’ birth, in different contexts which are connected by the theme of deception: like Zeus, who was deceived by Hera in Iliad XIV, Agamemnon, who was taken in by Ate, points to Zeus’ deception by Hera at the birth of Herakles:
“οὐδ’ ὅτε περ Σεμέλης, οὐδ’ Ἀλκμήνης ἐνὶ Θήβῃ,
ἥ ῥ’ Ἡρακλῆα κρατερόφρονα γείνατο παῖδα,
ἣ δὲ Διώνυσον Σεμέλη τέκε, χάρμα βροτοῖσιν·”

“not when I loved Semele, or Alkmene in Thebe,
when Alkmene bore me a son, Herakles the strong-hearted,
while Semele’s son was Dionysos, the pleasure of mortals.”
Iliad XIV 323–325
καὶ γὰρ δή νύ ποτε Ζεὺς ἄσατο, τόν περ ἄριστον
ἀνδρῶν ἠδὲ θεῶν φασ’ ἔμμεναι· ἀλλ’ ἄρα καὶ τόν
Ἥρη θῆλυς ἐοῦσα δολοφροσύνῃς ἀπάτησεν
ἤματι τῷ, ὅτ’ ἔμελλε βίην Ἡρακληείην
Ἀλκμήνη τέξεσθαι ἐϋστεφάνῳ ἐνὶ Θήβῃ.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ὣς ἔφατο· Ζεὺς δ’ οὔ τι δολοφροσύνην ἐνόησεν,
ἀλλ’ ὄμοσεν μέγαν ὅρκον, ἔπειτα δὲ πολλὸν ἀάσθη.

Yes, for once Zeus was deluded, though men say
he is the highest one of gods and mortals. Yet Hera
who is female deluded even Zeus in her craftiness
on that day when in strong wall-circled Thebe Alkmene
was at her time to bring forth the strength of Herakles.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
So Hera spoke. And Zeus was entirely unaware of her falsehood,
but swore a great oath, and therein lay all his deception.
Iliad XIX 95–99, 112–113
Herakles is regularly mentioned in archaic Greek epic in connection with Thebes, which is his standard birthplace. [178] The question to be asked here is whether the reference to Thebes is simply typological, and if not what is its function. One could argue that the point of the analogy in both passages is the theme of deception linked to a mythological reference to Herakles, and that Thebes plays no role in it whatsoever. Conversely, deception is linked in both cases to a particular incident or episode in Herakles’ widely known saga, namely his birth. In other words, deception is not associated, for example, with his death, although Herakles “died” by means of deception and not heroic defeat. The insistence on his birth necessarily leads us directly to Thebes. Given that his birth was closely associated with Zeus’ deception by Hera, Thebes (which in Iliad XIV 325 is also the birthplace of another “illegal” son of Zeus, Dionysus, who was born to Semele) and birth are turned into a single semantic pair. The birth of a great son, Herakles, from the union of a mortal and a god is of course particularly appropriate to the Iliad, given that one of its major heroes, Achilles, was born to a mortal (Peleus) and a goddess (Thetis). Galinsky has convincingly argued that “Herakles is cited as a parallel to the central hero of the Iliad, Achilles” mainly because they both break the “noble code of behaviour” and are constantly presented as two famous misfits. [179] In the light of these observations, we can see that Agamemnon’s reference to Herakles’ birth in Thebes as an example of the workings of Ate, who blinded Zeus as she blinded him in Troy, [180] reinforces the analogy even more: in the framework of his argument, Herakles and Achilles are intricately interwoven with Thebes and Troy respectively, the places where Ate can twist the minds of the most eminent leaders—the shepherd of men and the father of men and gods. [181] Uttered at a point in the plot where Agamemnon openly acknowledges his fault and Achilles is ready to return to battle, the implicit analogy between Thebes and Troy becomes the spatial vehicle for a temporary assimilation of Herakles and Achilles, who are called “dearest of all to lord Zeus” [182] and “dearer to the immortals” [183] respectively.

Minor Places

Minor places are treated either as simple geographical references that do not attain the status of space, or as thematized spaces that form a network of associations around the figure of Achilles. Sparta, [184] Ithaka, [185] Crete, [186] and Mycenae [187] are not thematically or narratively exploited in the Iliad, for reasons about which we may only speculate.
The first three of these place-names delineate spaces of huge thematic importance for the tradition of the Odyssey. Telemakhos’ visit to Menelaos’ palace, Odysseus’ home, and Crete, the unifying thread of most of Odysseus’ false tales and the trademark of his fictive Cretan persona, make us wonder whether in the treatment of these places in the Iliadic and the Odyssean traditions we are dealing with a purely coincidental antithesis. Before taking sides, we should clarify that Pylos, which is thematically fertile in both epic traditions, should not be used as an argument in favor of this idea, for the narratives Nestor unravels in the Iliad are of a very different nature than those he unfolds in the Odyssey, since in the former he situates himself in pre–Trojan war saga, but in the latter he places himself within the tradition of the Nostoi. My main argument here is that during the formative period of Homeric poetry, Sparta, Ithaka, and Crete had acquired a clearly non-Iliadic character, since they were related to the tradition of the Returns that followed the sack of Ilion. The Iliad could hardly incorporate them in its subject matter by means of embedded analeptic narratives, since they had become gradually associated with the post-war tradition. Moreover, events antedating the subject matter of the Iliad, like Menelaos’ marriage to Helen, her abduction, Odysseus’ fake madness, or Idomeneus’ departure from Crete were neglected by the tradition of the Iliad, since they were unsuitable to its plot.
Conversely, the three Aegean islands of Skyros, Lemnos, and Lesbos [188] constitute highly thematized spaces, since they present a spatiotemporal triptych that epitomizes Achilles’ fate: Lemnos is associated with events further back in time, namely the Achaean fleet’s sojourn there while sailing to Troy, and stands for a space that is friendly to Achilles. [189] Lesbos (Iliad IX 129 and 271) represents hostile space, [190] and is connected to the more recent past, since it is one of the cities sacked by Achilles after the Achaeans arrived at Troy. [191] Skyros, again sacked by Achilles, points both to his marriage to Deidameia there and to a non-Iliadic future centered around the coming of Neoptolemos to Troy after his death. [192] Seen from a different angle, these three islands present the audience with an ascending climax in the process of Achilles’ estrangement and gradual isolation: [193] Skyros, close to mainland Greece, stands for the place where his dearest son is, an island close to Phthia where his beloved father is located; Lemnos is still a friendly place, because of king Jason, Hypsipyle’s father, who offered hospitality to the Achaean army on its way to Troy; [194] Lesbos is a pro-Trojan island, lying close to the shore of Asia Minor and under the general control of Priam. [195] What we see here is an almost hodological mapping of Achilles’ fate: the further he moves from Phthia, the more he leaves behind what is dear to him. These three islands represent three steps in Achilles’ gradual movement from the world of endearment and happiness to that of cruelty and death.


[ back ] 1. I will not consider places like Rhodes, which is mentioned only in the CS (Iliad II 654, 655, 667), and Kos, which (apart from its entry in the CS [II 877]) is mentioned twice with respect to Herakles (Iliad XIV 255; XV 28) but is irrelevant to the epic’s plot.
[ back ] 2. On intertextuality within the framework of oral epic traditions, see Pucci 1987; Pedrick 1994; Danek 1998:13–15; Pucci 1998:5–6; Danek 2002; Nagy 2003:9–10; Burgess 2006:148–189; Tsagalis 2008b, 2011. On intertextuality and self-referentiality from the point of view of a written epic, see Rengakos 2006a:158–180. On diachronically observed variations of rival oral traditions, see Aloni 1986:51–67; Burgess 2002:234–245; Marks 2002, 2003. Spatial intertextuality, i.e. intertextual references organized on permutations of mythically familiar space, has not to my knowledge been systematically studied.
[ back ] 3. According to Kirk on Iliad I 154–156, “the suggested motives for fighting―to avenge cattle- or horse-rustling or the destruction of crops―are distinctively oversimplified, since the heroic code of gift-obligations must have compelled one chieftain to take up arms in another’s quarrel” (1985:68–69). Oversimplification is not the right word. Achilles employs typical diction colored by his own special position among the community of Achaean leaders, since the term “Trojans” stands in this context for Paris and the harm done, by implication, not just to Menelaos but to all the suitors of Helen, of whom Achilles is not one.
[ back ] 4. See also Nagy 1979:185, who argues that the application of βωτιάνειρα to Achilles’ homeland signifies that “Phthie is [his] local Earth, offering him the natural cycle of life and death as an alternative to his permanent existence within the cultural medium of epic.”
[ back ] 5. On conflicts involving cattle raids and their use as a motif in archaic Greek epic, see Raaflaub 1991:222–223 and n55; A. Jackson 1993:64–76. On cattle-rustling as casus belli in Homer, see Iliad XI 670–684; XVIII 523–539; Odyssey xi 288–293; xx 51. For Indo-European parallels, see West 2007:451–452.
[ back ] 6. Kirk 1985:68–69 on Iliad I 154–156 seems to miss the point.
[ back ] 7. The Iliad is probably aware of this story; see Bethe 1929:229–231; Kullmann 1960:137–138; West 2011:87 on Iliad I 152–168.
[ back ] 8. Fr. 204.80–85 (M-W). All Hesiodic translations are from Most 2007 (fr. 155).
[ back ] 9. Fr. 204.87–92 (M-W) = fr. 155 (Most).
[ back ] 10. Fr. 204.59–63 (M-W) = fr. 155 Most.
[ back ] 11. This is a case where the traditional dichotomy of “argument” and “key function” collapses. Both the characters who take part in this scene (the Achaean leaders) and the members of the external audience (the narratees, in narratological terminology) interpret Achilles’ words in the same way, i.e. against the backdrop of the fact that Achilles was the only one not bound by oath. Characters can, at least sometimes, share the same amount of mythical knowledge with the audience because of their mythically measured store of experience. Under these circumstances they function as “cognizers”; see Fludernik 1996; 2003a:382–400; 2003b:243–267; 2008:355–383.
[ back ] 12. On suspense in epic poetry, see Duckworth 1933; Schadewaldt 1966; Hölscher 1939; Rengakos 2006a: 31–73 (= 1999:308–338). On misdirection, see Morrison 1992a, 1992b.
[ back ] 13. See Rengakos 2006a:54 (= 1999:310).
[ back ] 14. “Cognitive schemata are the means by which we construct a narrative in our minds”; Mittell 2007:168.
[ back ] 15. 1965:12. This terminology may create confusion, since story stands here for what narratologists call fabula. In modern narratological terms, Shklovsky’s motto could be rephrased as “the story is defamiliarized fabula . [ back ]
[ back ] 16. In Iliad II.
[ back ] 17. On the poetics of κλέος in the Iliad, see Nagy 1979:16–18, 21–22, 28–29, 35–41, 94–106, 111–115, 175–177, 184–185, 188–189, 317–319.
[ back ] 18. On credible impossibilities, see Scodel 1999:33–42, 49–57, 59–60, 63–65, 66–69, 70–74, 80–82; Rengakos 2002:97–98.
[ back ] 19. On filling narrative gaps, see Mittell 2007:170–171.
[ back ] 20. See Muellner 1996:194.
[ back ] 21. There is a telling analogy between Achilles’ threat to return to Phthia and the episode of the Sirens in the Odyssey, in which the Sirens with their seductive song lure Odysseus to the “Iliad.” As Pucci has shown, if Odysseus abandons the metonymical ship of the Odyssey, the poem will abruptly end (1998:1–10). In both cases, a radical spatial shift associated, though antithetically, with a sea journey is employed as the vehicle for a powerful game of poetics.
[ back ] 22. On invisible space and counternarratives, see Purves 2002:138.
[ back ] 23. On the connotative semantics of Phthia (< φθι-), which is used at times as a symbol for Achilles’ loss of κλέος within the world of the epic tradition, see Nagy 1979:174–187; C. Mackie 2002:1–11. According to Nagy, “the overt Iliadic contrast of kléos áphthiton with the negation of kléos in the context of Phthíē is remarkable in view of the element phthi- contained by the place name. From the wording of Iliad IX 412–416, we are led to suspect that this element phthi- is either a genuine formant of Phthíē or is at least perceived as such in the process of Homeric composition” (1979:185).
[ back ] 24. The idea of being able to get home in three days with a good wind makes the space both far and just close enough. From a larger epic perspective, it is interesting that Achilles speaks to Odysseus in a way that would have been particularly ironic for the Odysseus of the Odyssey, i.e. about having a swift journey home, especially since it is Poseidon whom Achilles imagines providing the good passage. On the larger intertextual echoes of Achilles’ speech to Odysseus in Iliad IX, see Mitsis 2010.
[ back ] 25. See Alden 2000:179–290.
[ back ] 26. Phoinix’s focalization in the Iliad is to some extent influenced by Achilles’, since Phthia quickly becomes his “home,” even though he is an outsider.
[ back ] 27. According to Iliad III 205–224, Odysseus had visited Troy together with Menelaos to convince the Trojans to give Helen back. This is an Iliadic mirroring of the traditional role of Odysseus as a member of the embassy, who is sent to achieve difficult tasks, i.e. just as with the Iliadic version of Odysseus’ and Nestor’s visit to Phthia. Dictys Cretensis (Ephemeridos belli Troiani libri 1.4) includes a third member in the embassy sent to Troy for Helen before the war, namely Palamedes. The same is true for the embassy to Phthia: according to Tzetzes (Allegoriae Iliadis Prolegomena 455–458), Palamedes went to Phthia with Nestor and Odysseus to recruit Achilles. Palamedes as a rival of Odysseus for taking part in the embassy can be also seen in the episode of his journey to the island of Delos to bring to Troy the Oinotropoi, who would save the Achaean army from famine (which caused Odysseus’ envy and resulted in Palamedes’ drowning by Odysseus and Diomedes, Cypria fr. 30, PEG 1 = fr. 20, EGF [Pausanias 10.31.2 on Polygnotus’ paintings at Delphi]). A different tradition is reported by the fourth-century rhetor Alcidamas (Odysseus 16.20.3–16.20.6), who says that Palamedes bribed Kinyras, king of Cyprus, and convinced him not to take part in the Trojan War; see P. Kakridis 1995:95. On Odysseus and Palamedes, see W. Kullmann 2002:166–167.
[ back ] 28. See W. Kullmann 1960:258–259.
[ back ] 29. With respect to its members, we can only speak with certainty for Odysseus. On this issue, see Tsagalis (forthcoming in RFIC).
[ back ] 30. See the D-scholium on Iliad XIX 326 (IV 222.29 Dind.) and (Cypria) fr. 19, PEG 1. See also the scholia vetera on Iliad IX 668b (Erbse) and Ptolemaeus Chennus Kaine historia in Photius Library 147a18 (III 53, 18 Henry) = 17.26 Chatzis.
[ back ] 31. See Proclus Chrestomathy (§22 Kullmann = 119–121 Severyns = Allen 103.25–27): καὶ μαίνεσθαι προσποιησάμενον τὸν Ὀδυσσέα ἐπὶ τῷ μὴ θέλειν συστρατεύεσθαι ἐφώρασαν, Παλαμήδους ὑποθεμένου τὸν υἱὸν Τηλέμαχον ἐπὶ κόλασιν ἐξαρπάσαντες (“and they caught Odysseus pretending to be insane because he did not want to join up, after Palamedes advised them to seize his son Telemachus threateningly”; transl. by Burgess 2001). For a useful collection of ancient sources on the episode of Odysseus’ madness, see Zografou-Lyra 1987:69–88.
[ back ] 32. See Lynn-George 1988:142–143, who calls Achilles, the sacker of cities, “a seeker of security,” and emphasizes the opposition between a marriage to one of Agamemnon’s daughters and one to a girl Achilles chooses among those in Hellas and Phthia.
[ back ] 33. See also Iliad IX 478–484, in which Phoinix implicitly compares Peleus’ love for him with his (Peleus’) love for his son Achilles.
[ back ] 34. The pairing of Peleus with Phthia is so strong and pervasive in the Iliad that it is also reflected in the language Thetis employs for Achilles’ cancelled return home; see e.g. XVIII 58–60 νηυσὶν ἔπι προέηκα κορωνίσιν Ἴλιον εἴσω / Τρωσὶ μαχησόμενον· τὸν δ’ οὐχ ὑποδέξομαι αὖτις / οἴκαδε νοστήσαντα δόμον Πηλήϊον εἴσω (“‘I sent him away with the curved ships into the land of Ilion / to fight with the Trojans; but I shall never again receive him / won home again to his country and into the house of Peleus’”). Notice the way Thetis presents herself as the one who has sent Achilles to Troy, because in other rival versions of the Iliad it was she, and not Peleus as in the D-scholium tradition, who tried to hide Achilles in Skyros.
[ back ] 35. On the technique of thematic reduplication, see Tsagalis 2008b:252–266.
[ back ] 36. Alden (2000:287–289) argues that given that the father figure is of great importance, we may assume that it must have been highly esteemed by the Iliadic audience.
[ back ] 37. See Tsagalis 2004:82–87.
[ back ] 38. On the priamel, see Race 1982.
[ back ] 39. See Janko 1992:316 on Iliad XVI 7–19.
[ back ] 40. See J. Kakridis 1949:110–111, and on mistaken questions 108–120; Janko 1992:316 on Iliad XVI 7–19.
[ back ] 41. J. Kakridis 1949:110–111.
[ back ] 42. See e.g. the repetition of ζώειν/ζώει in verse-initial position (Iliad XVI 14–15), and cf. examples of modern Greek popular songs, where the repetition of the same word in verse-initial or half-verse position constitutes a stylistic feature of the motif of “mistaken questions”: Αχός βαρύς ακούγεται, πολλά τουφέκια πέφτουν. Μήνα σε γάμο ρίχνονται, μήνα σε χαροκόπι; Μηδέ σε γάμο ρίχνονται, μηδέ σε χαροκόπι. Η Δέσπω κάνει πόλεμο με νύφες και μ’ αγγόνια (“A great uproar is heard, many gunshots are fired. Is it at someone’s wedding? Is it at someone’s funeral? It is neither at a wedding nor at a funeral. Despo is waging war together with her daughters-in-law and her grandchildren”).
[ back ] 43. With respect to this last point, I disagree with J. Kakridis, who explicitly says that “the erroneous questions have no other purpose than to form a negative background” (1949:1110).
[ back ] 44. On “sites of memory,” see Nora 1996.
[ back ] 45. See Tsagalis 2004:82–86, 139–143.
[ back ] 46. Said 1995:55.
[ back ] 47. See Gregory 2001:313–314.
[ back ] 48. On these two antiphonal laments (γόοι), see Pucci 1998:97–112; Tsagalis 2004:139–143, 148–151.
[ back ] 49. Ι do not agree with West, who brackets lines 326–337; for his point of view, see West 2011:359 on Iliad XIX 326–337. On this issue, see Tsagalis (forthcoming in RFIC).
[ back ] 50. I have replaced Lattimore’s “bereavement” with “lack of,” since Peleus is presented as waiting for the evil message of Achilles’ death (Iliad XIX 336–337).
[ back ] 51. Foucault 1984; Said 1995.
[ back ] 52. Notice the deictic force of αὐτοῦ ‘here’ in Iliad XIX 330.
[ back ] 53. It is part of Achilles’ past (Cypria, §27 Kullmann = 130–131 Severyns = Allen 104.8–9) and Neoptolemos’ future (Little Iliad, §§76–77 Kullmann = 217–218 Severyns = Allen 106.29–31).
[ back ] 54. On this approach to memory, see Halbwachs 1980:75, 1992:39.
[ back ] 55. The expression “subversive archipelago” belongs to Hulme 1990, who used it to refer to Edward Said’s work on postcolonial societies.
[ back ] 56. Thus Achilles does not explicitly refer to his arriving at Skyros after the Teuthranian expedition (Cypria, §27 Kullmann = 130–131 Severyns = Allen 104.8–9) but to Neoptolemus’ growing up there, though Iliad IX 668 (Σκῦρον ἑλών αἰπεῖαν, Ἐνυῆος πτολίεθρον [“when he took sheer Skyros, Enyeus’ citadel”]) may be an Iliadic adaptation of what the Cypria says about his arrival there.
[ back ] 57. See Iliad I 158–159 (… ἅμ᾿ ἑσπόμεθ’, ὄφρα σὺ χαίρῃς, / τιμὴν ἀρνύμενοι Μενελάῳ σοί τε, κυνῶπα [“we followed, to do you favour, / you with the dog’s eyes, to win your honour and Menelaos’ …”]), when he replies to Agamemnon as a representative of the whole Achaean army.
[ back ] 58. See Shay 1995:23–26.
[ back ] 59. See Whitehead 2009:126.
[ back ] 60. See Nora 1996:3.
[ back ] 61. See Corbin 1996.
[ back ] 62. The etymology of this word points to the notion of “field”: see LfgrE s.v. Ἄργος; Frisk GEW I 132; Chantraine DELG 103–104.
[ back ] 63. Iliad II 559 (narrator); IV 52 (Hera); VI 152 (Glaukos); XIV 119 (Diomedes); XV 30 (Zeus); XIX 115 (Agamemnon); XXIV 437 (Hermes).
[ back ] 64. According to Piérart, “Le découpage des royaumes ne réflète donc pas une réalité historique, mycénienne ou autre, mais un effort … d’organisation de la matière épique” (1991:143); see also Wathelet 1992:115; Burkert 1998:175. Cf. Cingano 2004:67–68, who speaks of a “contesto epico-mitico” (“an epic-mythic context”).
[ back ] 65. Iliad II 681 (narrator).
[ back ] 66. On the mythopoeic or even ritualistic aspects of Ἀργεῖοι, see Clader 1976: ch. 3, section 3, following Frame 1971; on Δαναοί, see Nagy 1990a:223–262.
[ back ] 67. See Strabo 8.6.5 Ἀργείους γοῦν καλεῖ πάντας, καθάπερ καὶ Δαναοὺς καὶ Ἀχαιούς.
[ back ] 68. On Diomedes, see Andersen 1978. See also Cingano 2004:61–62, who shows how the storyteller tried to accommodate certain Theban features, such as the obscure hapax legomenon Ὑποθῆβαι, to the framework of the Trojan epic tradition. Agamemnon is now considered a “late insertion” in the Argive mythology, his territory originally being located in Laconia: see Piérart 1992a:130; W. Kullmann 1993:140–142; Hall 1997:89–93; Cingano 2004:67.
[ back ] 69. Only once (Iliad II 681), by the narrator.
[ back ] 70. See M. Reichel 1994:198–201; on Agamemnon, see Kalinka 1943; Whitman 1958:156–163; Donlan 1971–1972; Belloni 1978; Griffin 1980:70–73; L. Collins 1988:69–103; Taplin 1990. [ back ]
[ back ] 71. On the function of the spatial marginalization of Achilles’ hut as a reflection of his social marginalization, see “The headquarters of Agamemnon and Achilles,” chapter 2 above; on the placement of Achilles’ hut, see Clay 2007:241. On space and society, see Soja 1989.
[ back ] 72. Zerubavel 2003:82.
[ back ] 73. Anderson 1991:204.
[ back ] 74. See M. Reichel 1994:198–201, who states that Agamemnon’s constant concern about a possible return to Argos is at odds with both his leading position among the Achaeans and his supposed obligation with respect to his brother Menelaos to sack Troy and take Helen back.
[ back ] 75. The language Agamemnon uses reflects the way he regards Khruseis. The expression (Iliad I 31) ἱστὸν ἐποιχομένην καὶ ἐμὸν λέχος ἀντιόωσαν (“‘going up and down by the loom and being in my bed as my companion’”) pertains to the regular tasks of a housewife. Agamemnon’s refusal to let her go until she grows old may allude to the lack of sexual activity, since Khruseis would then be of no use to him.
[ back ] 76. See Zerubavel 2003:82.
[ back ] 77. Iliad II 134–138 supplies Agamemnon with an argument for ending the war: he is not concerned though with his own family but with the family of each and every soldier. Scholars disagree on the function of this reference. W. Kullmann (1955), with whom I side, has argued in favor of the influence of a Kyprienstoff, in which the Achaeans, suffering from hunger, were incited by Agamemnon (who had no intention, as in the Iliad, of testing their morale) to return home. In that version, Achilles was the one who prevented them from embarking for Greece; see Cypria §42 Kullmann = 159–160 Severyns = Allen 105.9–10. M. Reichel (1994:200n5) is skeptical.
[ back ] 78. On early knowledge of the killing of Kassandra, see Odyssey xi 421–423; Nostoi (fr. 10, PEG 1 = test. 2, EGF). In the art of the archaic period, there is just a single example of the death of Kassandra. Prag (1985:58 and no. G1: plate 37a) describes it as “a beautifully worked fragment of bronze sheathing found during the excavation of the small seventh-century shrine at the Argive Heraeum in 1927.” The depiction seems to agree with Agamemnon’s narration in Odyssey xi 411.
[ back ] 79. West omits this line, which is also attested in Iliad XII 70, XIII 227.
[ back ] 80. The emphasis Agamemnon places on the importance of a glorious νόστος must have struck an ironic note in the audience’s ears, for Agamemnon’s return to Argos was coupled with murder. In fact, this is the only truly λυγρὸς νόστος, for the one other hero who dies after the sack of Troy, Locrian Ajax, does not have a complete νόστος since he does not manage to return home. The Odyssey (iv 496–497) designates both Agamemnon and Locrian Ajax as the only two Achaean leaders who perished ἐν νόστῳ, which must be interpreted as “in the process of accomplishing their return.”
[ back ] 81. The formula πολυδίψιον Ἄργος, which is attested in archaic epic poetry only here and in the first line of the Cyclic Thebais (fr. 1, PEG 1 = fr. 1, EGF: Ἄργος ἄειδε, θεά, πολυδίψιον, ἔνθα ἄνακτες [“Sing, goddess, of Argos the thirsty, from where the kings …”]), opens an interesting possibility, further strengthened by Agamemnon’s words that he is afraid lest he return home leaving Menelaos’ bones in Troy and without having accomplished his task (Iliad IV 174–175 σέο δ’ ὀστέα πύσει ἄρουρα / κειμένου ἐν Τροίῃ ἀτελευτήτῳ ἐπὶ ἔργῳ [“while the bones of you rot in the ploughland / as you lie dead in Troy, on a venture that went unaccomplished”]). Is it possible that when Agamemnon “invaded” Argolic myth, he acquired some of the features of one of the Seven who had departed from πολυδίψιον Ἄργος to sack Thebes? What he says to Menelaos in IV 171–175 echoes one of the typical motifs of the Theban war, namely the problem of burying the dead in Theban territory, far away from Argos. One cannot exclude the possibility that the tradition of the Iliad here fuses material from a lost Theban epic or song tradition with that of a Nostoi song tradition, or even a tradition concerned only with the return of the Atreidai (like the Ἀτρειδῶν Κάθοδος mentioned by Athenaeus 9.399a [Nostoi, fr. 11, PEG 1 = fr. 8, EGF], on which see Davies 1989:82–83).
[ back ] 82. As the plot unfolds, Agamemnon gradually focuses on a smaller Achaean audience with the theme of returning home: in Iliad II 110–141 it was the entire Achaean army, in IX 17–28 the elders, and in XIV 65–81 Odysseus and Diomedes; see Janko 1992:157–158 on Iliad XIV 65–81; M. Reichel 1994:201.
[ back ] 83. On the language of praise and blame in the Iliad, see Nagy 1979:222–242; Vodoklys 1992.
[ back ] 84. The device of Agamemnon’s testing the army in Iliad II restores the king’s shattered status after his conflict with Achilles in Iliad I. On the Diapeira, see Owen 1946:17–26; von der Mühll 1946; Lämmli 1948; W. Kullmann 1955; Katzung 1960; Reinhardt 1961:107–123; Kirk 1985:115–156; McGlew 1989; Knox and Russo 1989; M. Reichel 1994:198–199.
[ back ] 85. Although it is not clear that both the Atreidai participated in actually recruiting the army (§§19–21 Kullmann = 112–119 Severyns = Allen 103.19–24), Agamemnon considers himself the main instigator and mastermind of the entire expedition to Troy.
[ back ] 86. See Iliad IX 412–416 “εἰ μέν κ’ αὖθι μένων Τρώων πόλιν ἀμφιμάχωμαι, / ὤλετο μέν μοι νόστος, ἀτὰρ κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται· / εἰ δέ κεν οἴκαδ’ ἵκωμι φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν, / ὤλετό μοι κλέος ἐσθλόν, ἐπὶ δηρὸν δέ μοι αἰών / ἔσσεται, οὐδέ κέ μ’ ὦκα τέλος θανάτοιο κιχείη” (“‘If I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans, / my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting; / but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers, / the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be a long life / left for me, and my end in death will not come to me quickly’”).
[ back ] 87. In contrast with Achilles, Agamemnon, who undoes all his family’s ties to Argos, seems to be thinking Panhellenically, not locally, which of course fits the way that Phthia is treated as small and remote, and Argos often as all of Greece.
[ back ] 88. For the terms staccato and legato with respect to space and time, see Zerubavel 2003:34–36.
[ back ] 89. On problems concerning Homer’s naming of Agamemnon’s daughters, see Hainsworth 1993:77 on Iliad IX 145.
[ back ] 90. In the Odyssey, Orestes is mentioned six times (i 30; i 40; i 298; iii 306; iv 546; xi 461), and Agamemnon’s fate is systematically opposed to that of Odysseus. On this topic, see D’Arms and Hulley 1946; Hommel 1958; Hölscher 1967.
[ back ] 91. The one person who will take Kassandra with him as a mistress will be Agamemnon, after the end of the war (see Odyssey xi 421–423; Nostoi, fr. 10, PEG 1 [see also test. 4] = test. 2, EGF).
[ back ] 92. See Iliad IX 142 γαμβρός κέν μοι ἔοι, τίσω δέ μιν ἶσον Ὀρέστῃ (“he may be my son-in-law; I will honour him with Orestes …”).
[ back ] 93. Cf. Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis 97–105, in which Agamemnon falsely promises to marry his daughter Iphigenia to Achilles.
[ back ] 94. Phthia is also associated with the violation of Briseis’ expectations about a future marriage with Achilles upon their return to Greece after the end of the war (Iliad XIX 297–300). Seen from this angle, both Phthia and Argos play with the false expectation of a marriage between Achilles and Briseis or one of Agamemnon’s daughters respectively.
[ back ] 95. Iliad II 284–288 “Ἀτρείδη, νῦν δή σε, ἄναξ, ἐθέλουσιν Ἀχαιοί / πᾶσιν ἐλέγχιστον θέμεναι μερόπεσσι βροτοῖσιν, / οὐδέ τοι ἐκτελέουσιν ὑπόσχεσιν ἥν περ ὑπέσταν / ἐνθάδ’ ἔτι στείχοντες ἀπ’ Ἄργεος ἱπποβότοιο, / Ἴλιον ἐκπέρσαντ’ εὐτείχεον ἀπονέεσθαι” (“‘Son of Atreus: now, my lord, the Achaians are trying / to make you into a thing of reproach in the sight of all mortal / men, and not fulfilling the promise they undertook once / as they set forth to come here from horse-pasturing Argos, / to go home only after you had sacked strong-walled Ilion’”); Iliad IX 244–246 “ταῦτ’ αἰνῶς δείδοικα κατὰ φρένα, μή οἱ ἀπειλάς / ἐκτελέσωσι θεοί, ἡμῖν δὲ δὴ αἴσιμον εἴη / φθίσθαι ἐνὶ Τροίῃ, ἑκὰς Ἄργεος ἱπποβότοιο” (“‘All this I fear terribly in my heart, lest immortals / accomplish all these threats, and lest for us it be destiny / to die here in Troy, far away from horse-pasturing Argos’”).
[ back ] 96. Iliad II 348–349 “πρὶν Ἄργοσδ’ ἰέναι, πρὶν καὶ Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο / γνώμεναι εἴτε ψεῦδος ὑπόσχεσις εἴτε καὶ οὐκί” (“‘until they get back again to Argos without ever learning / whether Zeus of the aegis promises false or truly’”); Iliad XV 372–376 “Ζεῦ πάτερ, εἴ ποτέ τίς τοι ἐν Ἄργεΐ περ πολυπύρῳ / ἢ βοὸς ἠ’ ὄϊος κατὰ πίονα μηρία καίων / εὔχετο νοστῆσαι, σὺ δ’ ὑπέσχεο καὶ κατένευσας, / τῶν μνῆσαι καὶ ἄμυνον, Ὀλύμπιε, νηλεὲς ἦμαρ, / μηδ’ οὕτω Τρώεσσιν ἔα δάμνασθαι Ἀχαιούς” (“‘Father Zeus, if ever in wheat-deep Argos one of us / burning before you the rich thigh pieces of sheep or ox prayed / he would come home again, and you nodded your head and assented, / remember this, Olympian, save us from the day without pity’”).
[ back ] 97. Iliad XIII 225–227: “… ἀλλά που οὕτω / μέλλει δὴ φίλον εἶναι ὑπερμενέϊ Κρονίωνι, / νωνύμνους ἀπολέσθαι ἀπ’ Ἄργεος ἐνθάδ’ Ἀχαιούς” (“‘but rather / this way must be pleasurable to Kronos’ son in his great strength, / that the Achaians must die here forgotten, and far from Argos’”).
[ back ] 98. Iliad XIV 69–70: “οὕτω που Διὶ μέλλει ὑπερμενέϊ φίλον εἶναι / νωνύμνους ἀπολέσθαι ἀπ’ Ἄργεος ἐνθάδ’ Ἀχαιούς” (“‘then such is the way it must be pleasing to Zeus, who is too strong, / that the Achaians must die here forgotten and far from Argos’”).
[ back ] 99. Cf. Idaios’ words in Iliad III 256–258.
[ back ] 100. I.e. the Peloponnese.
[ back ] 101. “‘But of the possessions I carried away to our house from Argos / I am willing to give all back, and to add to these from my own goods.’”
[ back ] 102. The plurality of ἡμέτερον ‘ours’ points rather to Menelaos and Helen than to the whole of Troy, for δῶ ‘house’ or ‘chamber’ can hardly bear this sense.
[ back ] 103. “καί κεν ἐν Ἄργει ἐοῦσα πρὸς ἄλλης ἱστὸν ὑφαίνοις, / καί κεν ὕδωρ φορέοις Μεσσηΐδος ἠ’ Ὑπερείης / πόλλ’ ἀεκαζομένη, κρατερὴ δ’ ἐπικείσετ’ ἀνάγκη” (“… and in Argos you must work at the loom of another, / and carry water from the spring Messeis or Hypereia, / all unwilling, but strong will be the necessity upon you”).
[ back ] 104. “ἦ τ’ ἂν ἐγώ γ’ ἐθέλοιμι καὶ αὐτίκα τοῦτο γενέσθαι, / νωνύμνους ἀπολέσθαι ἀπ’ Ἄργεος ἐνθάδ’ Ἀχαιούς” (“this is the way I would wish it, may it happen immediately / that the Achaians be destroyed here forgotten and far from Argos”).
[ back ] 105. Contrast Agamemnon’s fear that the Achaean leaders will die “nameless” away from Argos (Iliad XIV 70 “νωνύμνους ἀπολέσθαι ἀπ’ Ἄργεος ἐνθάδ’ Ἀχαιούς”), where the same diction is employed.
[ back ] 106. See Allen 1921:75–81.
[ back ] 107. On Nestor, see Vester 1956; Dickson 1995; Frame 2009.
[ back ] 108. See M. Reichel 1994:204, who observes that the Iliad systematically builds on a discourse comparing the leader of the army, Agamemnon, with the wise counselor Nestor: “Keine andere Personenkombination wird in der Ilias so häufig realisiert.”
[ back ] 109. On the association between the Neleid saga and Herakles, see Vetta 2003:13–14n3.
[ back ] 110. On Messenian and Thessalian Oikhalia, see Lenk, s.v. “Oichalia,” RE XVII. 2:2099–2101.
[ back ] 111. See Niese 1882:22–23; West 2011, 117 on Iliad II 594.
[ back ] 112. Kirk 1985:216 on Iliad II 594–600.
[ back ] 113. For all these arguments, see Kirk 1985:216 on Iliad II 594–600.
[ back ] 114. Schischwani 1994:199–200 contra Krischer 1992. The view that the story of Iole and the sack of Oikhalia by Herakles were not known before Homer is a mistaken deduction from the information offered by some ancient and medieval authorities, see e.g. Eustathius in Commentary on the Odyssey 1593.29 and 1899.34.
[ back ] 115. See also Odyssey viii 223–228, where there is no mention of the sack of Oikhalia by Herakles, although this would have been an extremely appropriate place for it: “ἀνδράσι δὲ προτέροισιν ἐριζέμεν οὐκ ἐθελήσω, / οὔθ’ Ἡρακλῆϊ οὔτ’ Εὐρύτῳ Οἰχαλιῆϊ, / οἵ ῥα καὶ ἀθανάτοισιν ἐρίζεσκον περὶ τόξων. / τῷ ῥα καὶ αἶψ’ ἔθανεν μέγας Εὔρυτος, οὐδ’ ἐπὶ γῆρας / ἵκετ’ ἐνὶ μεγάροισι· χολωσάμενος γὰρ Ἀπόλλων / ἔκτανεν, οὕνεκά μιν προκαλίζετο τοξάζεσθαι” (“‘I should not care to compete with the men of the past, with Herakles, for instance, or Eurytus of Oechalia, who as bowmen even challenged the gods. In fact that was why the great Eurytus came to a sudden end and never lived to see old age in his home, but was killed by Apollo, whom he had offended by challenging him to a match’”). For the Odyssey, I am using the translation by Rieu (2003).
[ back ] 116. So Willcock 1984:21. Despite the testimony of Heracleides Ponticus (fr. 157 Wehrli) that there was a Titanomachy assigned to Thamyris, it is much more likely that “Thamyris” is nothing more than a personification of a festal song, “an ancient Aeolic name for a special form of communal gathering, for supra-local meetings at a religious centre,” as P. Wilson argues (2009:50–51). On the semantics of Thamyris, see Hesychius θ 90 θάμυρις· πανήγυρις, σύνοδος, where the meaning is “festal assembly or gathering,” and θ 91 θαμυρίζει· ἀθροίζει, συνάγει; given that Hesychius used the adjective θαμυρός to describe highways (καὶ ὁδοὺς θαμυρὰς τὰς λεωφόρους· ἔστι δὲ καὶ κύριον ὄνομα), P. Wilson (2009:50–51) has argued that it suggests the “centripetal force of song, the gathering into union and collectivity,” whereas the term οἴμη points to centrifugal paths of aoidic performance; on Thamyris, see also Kirk 1985:216 on Iliad II 595; Grandolini 1996:48–50; Brügger et al. 2003:192 on Iliad I 595; P. Wilson 2009:50n9.
[ back ] 117. On Thamyris as a negative example, with emphasis on the function of his wandering as a cultural or epistemic process, see Dickson 1995:7–9.
[ back ] 118. Fr. **244, TrGF 4 [Radt].
[ back ] 119. See Nagy 2009d:69–71, who traces this topic also in Sappho fr. 31 (Voigt).
[ back ] 120. Nagy 2009d:69.
[ back ] 121. According to Durante 1976:195–202, there was a religious association of Thamyridai or Thamuradai in Boeotia, and inscriptional evidence (SEG 32, no. 503, fourth century BC) makes it abundantly clear that there was a cult at Thespiae. In the same city, a statue of Thamyris (Pausanias 9.30.2 “already blind and holding a broken lyre”) was erected in the third century BC by Philetaerus, son of Eumenes of Pergamon (BCH 26, 1902–1908:155–160); see P. Wilson 2009:51n17. An epigram by Honestus was added later (first century BC–first century AD), which featured Thamyris’ rivalry and subsequent punishment by the Muses, as well as his confession of his mistake. Herakles is also at home in Boeotia, and especially, in Thebes; see Der Neue Pauly, s.v. “Herakles,” 389.
[ back ] 122. The reference to a Euboean Oikhalia is much later, since it was made by the νεώτεροι (cf. Aristonicus on Iliad II 596, vol. I, p. 311 [Erbse]), but see Pausanias 4.2.2., who refers to the rivalry over the location of Oikhalia by stating that the Thessalians place it at Eurution, whereas the Euboeans locate it in Skios, part of Eretria (on the basis of Creophylus’ Heraclea and Hecataeus of Miletus); see Wilson 2009:53n21 and n24.
[ back ] 123. See P. Wilson 2009; see also Martin 1989:229–230; Vetta 2003:21.
[ back ] 124. See W. Kullmann 1956:13n1; Erbse 1961:162n10; Matthews 1974:93.
[ back ] 125. θῆσαι μέγαν: Meineke 1843:363. Apollo serves Admetos for eight years, a μέγας ἐνιαυτός indeed.
[ back ] 126. See Kirk 1990:101–102 on Iliad V 396–397.
[ back ] 127. Alden 2000:126.
[ back ] 128. See Iliad V 403–404.
[ back ] 129. West 2011:160 on Iliad II 395–397; see also Iliad V 405–409.
[ back ] 130. Notice that Oikhalia (as its name suggests) is a city destined “to be gone” (οἴχεσθαι); see Bölte, RE XVII 2:2099 s.v. “Oichalia”; P. Wilson 2009:54–55.
[ back ] 131. See Frame 1978:93 passim. On Nestor’s name, see also Mühlestein 1987:4–5, and Dickson 1995:25–38 on Nestor’s name and on the formula λιγύς ἀγορητής.
[ back ] 132. See Dickson 1995:47–100.
[ back ] 133. See Dickson 1995:101–156.
[ back ] 134. The “relation” between Nestor and Herakles goes much deeper, as Frame 2009:304–309 has shown. Their association in the Catalogue of Heroines in Odyssey xi is effected via the theme of the “separation between twins”: Neleus-Pelias/Nestor-Periklumenos/Herakles-Iphikles/Castor-Pollux.
[ back ] 135. See Iliad XI 692–693 “δώδεκα γὰρ Νηλῆος ἀμύμονος υἱέες ἦμεν, / τῶν οἶος λιπόμην, οἳ δ’ ἄλλοι πάντες ὄλοντο” (“‘For we who were the sons of lordly Neleus had been twelve, and now / I alone was left of these, and all the others had perished’”); see also Frame 1978:93, 2009:9–21.
[ back ] 136. Turkeltaub 2010:149.
[ back ] 137. See Alden 2000:76–82.
[ back ] 138. With respect to Iliad I 265, which is considered an interpolation by West (1998–2000 ad loc.; 1999:186) and Latacz (2002:108 on Iliad I 265), see W. Kullmann’s convincing remarks (2002:164–165) about the Iliad’s knowledge of Theseus. W. Kullmann explains the absence of this line in the vulgata and the papyri as due to the influence of Aristarchus (165).
[ back ] 139. Nestor is the grandson of Kretheus, who immigrated from Thessaly to the southwestern Peloponnese; see Cauer 1895:233 ff.; Valeton 1915:90–93.
[ back ] 140. E.g. Iliad I 248–249 ἡδυεπὴς ἀνόρουσε, λιγὺς Πυλίων ἀγορητής, / τοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ γλώσσης μέλιτος γλυκίων ῥέεν αὐδή (“the fair-spoken rose up, the lucid speaker of Pylos, / from whose lips the streams of words ran sweeter than honey”). The adjective ἡδύς may point to a kind of diction used by the type of wise man Nestor embodies. His language after all contains multiple features of the language of seers; cf. Hesiod Melampodia fr. 273 M-W ἡδὺ δὲ καὶ τὸ πυθέσθαι, ὅσα θνητοῖσιν ἔνειμαν / ἀθάνατοι, δειλῶν τε καὶ ἐσθλῶν τέκμαρ ἐναργές (“and it is sweet too to learn the clear distinguishing mark / of bad and good things that the immortals have assigned to mortals”; fr. 210 Most), fr. 274 M-W [ἡδύ ἐστιν] … ἐν δαιτὶ καὶ εἰλαπίνηι τεθαλυίηι / τέρπεσθαι μύθοισιν, ἐπὴν δαιτὸς κορέσωνται (“[it is sweet] … in the feast and blooming banquet / to take pleasure in stories, when they have their fill of the feast”; fr. 209 Most), and Löffler 1963:40–41.
[ back ] 141. See Dickson 1995:27–35.
[ back ] 142. The prepositional phrase ἐξ οὗ and the numeral πρῶτος are used in the proem of the Iliad (I 6 ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε) to define a point of departure for the epic plot; νεῖκος is a standard epic term for “quarrel,” almost a synonym for ἔρις.
[ back ] 143. On the relationship between Nestor and Agamemnon, one of those most frequently employed in the Iliad, and the constant failure of Nestor’s advice, see M. Reichel 1994:204–206.
[ back ] 144. On misdirection, see Morrison 1992a; 1992b:61–71; Rengakos 1999.
[ back ] 145. In this light, one can see that the strong poetological overtones of Nestor’s embedded narratives are employed either in support of the Iliadic tradition, when rival singers like Thamyris are involved, or against it, when his epic past is reconstructed as the backdrop for evaluating the choice of Achilles. Since metapoetic allusions and epic cross-references are almost the default mode of Nestor’s epic diction, it comes as no surprise that Pylos, with which he is so closely associated, is used as metapoetic space.
[ back ] 146. Cf. the derivation of his name from the root *νεσ- ‘to return home’ (: νέομαι).
[ back ] 147. W. Kullmann 1960:96. On the so-called *Nestoris, see also Schadewaldt 1966:17–20.
[ back ] 148. Bölte 1934:345.
[ back ] 149. See A. Lang 1906:287.
[ back ] 150. Bölte 1934:346.
[ back ] 151. On cattle raiding, see Lincoln 1976 and 1981. The wider implications of cattle raiding can be better grasped when set against the importance of cattle wealth. According to McInerney, “cattle wealth is acceptable since it activates a set of institutions that establish good relations with the gods (sacrifice) and between humans, whether as a community (feast) or even with strangers (xenia)” (2010:90).
[ back ] 152. Bölte (1934:345) thinks that Herakles, Augeias, Agamede, etc. were added to the older Pylian lay at a later stage, but their ties to Elis and even older material pertaining to the theme of “stealing the Sun’s cattle” point in the opposite direction; see Frame 1978:88–90.
[ back ] 153. See Felson 2004:257n11.
[ back ] 154. On Achilles and “return,” see Frame 1978:116–124; on the etymology of Nestor’s name, see Frame 1978:93 passim; Mühlestein 1987:4–5; Dickson 1995:25–38. Frame (2009:23–102) summarizes previous bibliography and offers new insights.
[ back ] 155. See Harrauer 1999.
[ back ] 156. Iliad IX 252–258; IX 438–443; XI 783–784.
[ back ] 157. See the section “In the name of the father: Phthia and Peleus,” above.
[ back ] 158. Frame 1978:86–95.
[ back ] 159. See McInerney 2010:99, who argues that the presentation of Nestor as part of “an unending cycle of cattle thefts” is also used by Homer as an effective means for exploring “the limitations of the heroic code” that is set against a vicious circle of “tit-for-tat violence.”
[ back ] 160. See Nagy 1979:174–185.
[ back ] 161. Although Thebes was also the birthplace of Dionysus, the extremely limited references to this god in the Homeric epics have rendered any epic exploitation of this mythical aspect marginal; on Dionysus in the Homeric epics, see Privitera 1970; Davies 2000; Tsagalis 2008b:1–29.
[ back ] 162. According to Burkert 1981:32, “a Theban tale in oral poetry [existed], besides and sometimes interfering with the Trojan tales.”
[ back ] 163. On the possible influence of the Thebais (and the Oedipodia) on the Homeric epics, see Torres-Guerra 1995; W. Kullmann 2002:167–169, 2011:19n16, 24. On Theban traces in Homer, see Barker and Christensen 2008; Ebbott 2010; Slatkin 2011:99–119. On a metapoetic reading of the race of heroes, see Tsagalis 2009:146–147. See also Scodel 2012, who argues that a poet (like Hesiod) criticizes other traditions “only when such criticism suits his other purposes” (502).
[ back ] 164. Translation by Most 2006.
[ back ] 165. The strong metapoetic tone of this passage may be seen in the emblematic use of the same expression for Odysseus’ comrades in Odyssey i 7. Diomedes refers to his father Tudeus in Iliad VI 222–223 by saying that he does not remember him, since he left when Diomedes was very young for Thebes, where the Achaean army was defeated (“‘Τυδέα δ’ οὐ μέμνημαι, ἐπεί μ’ ἔτι τυτθὸν ἐόντα / κάλλιφ’, ὅτ’ ἐν Θήβῃσιν ἀπώλετο λαὸς Ἀχαιῶν’”). This may be one more manifestation of the traditional motif of “father goes to war and leaves behind his very young son,” which is constantly employed in epic tradition: Odysseus and Telemakhos, Agamemnon and Orestes, Achilles and Neoptolemos. I do not see any reason to believe that this motif is particularly filtered by the Theban tradition or that an ancient audience would have associated it with a single epic hero.
[ back ] 166. Diomedes (Iliad XIV 114) is aware of the death of his father Tudeus in Thebes.
[ back ] 167. See also Slatkin 2011:112.
[ back ] 168. The superiority of the heroes of the past to those of the present, which Nestor systematically exploits, reiterates within the race of heroes the very tenets of the generational decay that features in the Hesiodic myth of the five races (Works and Days 109–201). What was there an intergenerational distinction operates here on an intragenerational level, i.e. within the race of heroes. This internally determined decay of the heroes is defined not only temporally but also spatially. As Nestor’s various embedded narratives make clear, none of these heroes of the past belongs to the mythical geography of Homeric tradition or of the previous generation of heroes from whom the Homeric heroes were born. Nestor’s narrative digressions evoke or reconstruct for all audiences, internal and external alike, a whole nexus of epic traditions rivaling Homeric epic, traditions which the Iliad has effectively erased.
[ back ] 169. See Slatkin 2011:114–115, who argues that in his final speech in the poem, Diomedes tries to restore the importance of Tudeus by emphasizing his genealogy and military prowess (Iliad XIV 110–127).
[ back ] 170. According to Hesiod’s Catalogue of Women (fr. 192 M-W = scholium T on Iliad XXIII 679b [Erbse]), Argeia, the daughter of Adrastos, went together with others (the ἄλλοις of the scholium indicates that men were certainly among them, and this information may be compatible with Iliad XXIII 679–680 about Mekisteus; contrast Erbse’s note in the critical apparatus: “fort. melius σὺν ταῖς ἀδελφαῖς”) to the funeral of Oedipus at Thebes.
[ back ] 171. The situation is very different in the Doloneia, where there is no embassy, only a spy mission undertaken by Odysseus and Diomedes. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, for the Palladion (Little Iliad §83 Kullmann = 228–229 Severyns = Allen 107.7–8).
[ back ] 172. On the importance of distinguishing between genuine borrowings and adaptations on the one hand and ad hoc inventions for paradigmatic purposes on the other, see Davies 1989:22–23.
[ back ] 173. 1960:149–151.
[ back ] 174. This can be seen from certain significant details pertaining to Tudeus’ myth: the only person whom Tudeus spares in the ambush the Thebans organized against him is Maion, son of Haimon. Maion belongs to the older phase of Theban myth, before the advent of Oedipus and certainly long before the expedition of the Seven, and Haimon is presented as a husband-to-be of Antigone. When Tudeus was incorporated into the myth of the Seven, he dragged with him earlier material that was closely associated with his independent lore.
[ back ] 175. See Friedländer 1914:319–320.
[ back ] 176. As he excels in the horse race in the funeral games for Patroklos. For a metapoetic interpretation of this whole episode and the self-reflexivity of the Iliad, see Rengakos 2006a:17–30.
[ back ] 177. Eurualos has a brief ἀριστεία in Iliad VI 20–28.
[ back ] 178. Hesiod Theogony 530, Catalogue of Women, fr. 195.55–60 [= Shield 48–53]; Homeric Hymn to Heracles (15.1–3).
[ back ] 179. Galinsky 1972:14.
[ back ] 180. See Iliad XIX 87–136, where Agamemnon responds to Achilles with an extended etiological speech on the workings of Ate (which is repeated in various verbal and substantival forms no fewer than twelve times); see Louden 2006:118.
[ back ] 181. Agamemnon constantly welcomes the analogy between himself and Zeus; see Tsagalis 2008b:209–238.
[ back ] 182. Iliad XVIII 118.
[ back ] 183. Iliad XX 334. See Galinsky 1972:14.
[ back ] 184. Iliad II 582 (narrator); IV 52 (Hera). It is worth noting that Helen never uses the word Sparta for her homeland.
[ back ] 185. Iliad II 632 (narrator); III 201 (Helen).
[ back ] 186. Iliad II 649 (narrator); III 233 (Helen); XIII 450–453 (Idomeneus). Crete is simply associated with Idomeneus, the leader of the Cretans, who is often accompanied in battle by Meriones.
[ back ] 187. Iliad II 569 (narrator); IV 52 (Hera); IV 376 (Agamemnon); VII 180 (τιϛ-speech); IX 44 (Diomedes); XI 46 (narrator). Mycenae is one of the beloved cities of Hera and the royal city of the “golden” king Agamemnon.
[ back ] 188. Since Lesbos looms large in Aeolic lyric poetry (both Alcaeus and Sappho), certain scholars have argued for the existence of a branch of heroic epic tradition in local dialect; see Gentili 1972:72; Pavese 1974:36; West 1973:189–191; West 2002b.
[ back ] 189. See Iliad VII 467–475 (narrator), VIII 229–232 (Agamemnon), XXI 40 and 46 (narrator), XXI 58 (Achilles), XXI 79 (Lukaon). W. Kullmann (1960:270) argues that these passages show that the Achaeans had stopped at Lemnos on their way to Troy.
[ back ] 190. Linguistic (Janko 1982:89–93) and literary arguments (Nagy 1974:134–139), as well as historical-political conflicts between Lesbos’s most important city, Mytilene, and Athens in the Peisistratid era (Aloni 1986:51–67; Nagy 2009c II 6–41) indicate that Lesbos is the key element in the Aeolic phase of the Iliad’s transmission, preceding the final Ionic phase. Dué (2002:59–65) postulates an Aeolic epic narrative about Briseis and Achilles based on the sack of the island that was associated with beautiful queens, whom Achilles took captive. This tradition is shared by both the Iliad (IX 129, 271) and the poetry of Alcaeus (fr. 130b32–35 [Voigt]). In fact, the capture of Lurnessos, Pedasos, and various cities on Lesbos by Achilles may well reflect an Aeolic epic tradition concerning the Troad and its outlying islands. See Carpenter 1946:56–59; Nagy 1979:140–141, 272–273; 1990a:75n114; 2009c II 301–325.
[ back ] 191. On Lesbos, see West 2002b.
[ back ] 192. On Skyros as a link between Phthia and Troy with respect to the fate of Achilles, see “Places of memory: Phthia as ‘anti-Troy,’” above. On Iliad IX 666–668 (narrator), see W. Kullmann 1960:196, who argues that Enueus was the founder of the city (like Erekhtheus in the expression δῆμος Ἐρεχθέως, used for Athens), whereas Lukomedes was known as the native king. This episode must reflect a sack of Skyros by Achilles (W. Kullmann 1960:197), but not the one mentioned in Proclus’ summary of the Cypria, when Achilles married Lukomedes’ daughter Deidameia (§27 Kullmann = 130–131 Severyns = Allen 104.8–9 Ἀχιλλεὺς δὲ Σκύρῳ προσχὼν γαμεῖ τὴν τοῦ Λυκομήδους θυγατέρα Δηϊδάμειαν); on the distinction between three separate versions concerning Achilles on Skyros, of which two are reflected in the Iliad, see Marin 2008–2009:24; Fantuzzi (forthcoming); Tsagalis (forthcoming in RFIC). On Neoptolemos, see Iliad XIX 326–333 (Achilles).
[ back ] 193. Acording to Valeton (1915:41–54), Achilles’ leading role in all these raids and exploits stems from a separate epic tradition about him.
[ back ] 194. On Lemnos: (1) as a place connected with divine activity, see Iliad I 592–594 (fall of Hephaistos), XIV 229–232 (Hera goes to Lemnos and meets with Sleep), 278–282 (Hera swears an oath to all the gods who are in Tartarus); (2) in the tradition of the Cypria, see Iliad II 721–723 (Philoktetes); (3) as a place where Achilles sells Trojan captives, see Iliad XXI 40, 46, 58, 76–79 (Lukaon) and XXIV 751–753 (Hekabe).
[ back ] 195. On Lesbos as a place sacked by Achilles and a source of captive women, see Iliad IX 128–130 (Agamemnon = IX 271–273 Odysseus), IX 664 (narrator); as an area under the control of Priam, see XXIV 544–546 (Achilles). W. Kullmann (1960:287) argues that this information coincides with the plot of the Cypria (§44 Kullmann = 160–162 Severyns = Allen 105.11–12 καὶ Λυρνησσὸν καὶ Πήδασον πορθεῖ καὶ συχνὰς τῶν περιοικίδων πόλεων), and that Lesbos must have been one of the περιοικίδας πόλεις sacked by Achilles. With respect to the slave girl lying at his side in Iliad IX 663–665, we cannot decide whether she formed part of the source used by the Iliad.