2. The Ritual Process

The thematic resonance of sacrifice in the Iliad depends on the combination of individual ritual actions, each appropriate to context, which produce a pattern of significance throughout the poem. [1] To better illuminate this pattern, we can catalog the range of possible ritual details in Homeric sacrifices and thus clarify the restricted focus on certain actions according to the needs of the context. For example, when Nestor convinces Patroklos to enter the battle in Iliad XI, he gives a long speech in which he remembers Peleus making sacrifice at home. In Nestor’s memory, the burning of thigh bones for Zeus encapsulates the sacrificial process (γέρων δ’ ἱππηλάτα Πηλεὺς πίονα μηρία καῖε βοὸς, Iliad XI 772–773), but we are given much more information, which indicates that the narrative lens has zoomed in on specific moments in a long procedure. The participants are in the courtyard (αὐλῆς ἐν χόρτῳ, Iliad XI 774); libations are poured from a golden cup on the burning offerings, which implies a fire (χρύσειον ἄλεισον, σπένδων αἴθοπα οἶνον ἐπ’ αἰθομένοις ἱεροῖσι, Iliad XI 774–775); and Akhilleus and Patroklos are busy dismembering the carcass to prepare a feast (Iliad XI 776–777). Some of these details are unique; others are frequently included in sacrificial descriptions. In order to understand the significance of the inclusion of these particular details in Nestor’s memory, we must determine how often locations are described, the frequency and type of libations made in sacrifice, and the different representations of the post-kill stage of the process.

2.1 Narrative Voices

Many different “voices” transmit the story of the Iliad to the audience. [2] The primary narrative voice, inspired by the Muses and therefore omniscient, presents a largely detached, ‘eyewitness’ perspective. [3] Characters, on the other hand, describe events as they perceive them to be, colored by their personas and experiences. Plato observes the multiplicity of Homeric narrative voices, distinguishing between the simple narrative (διήγησις ἁπλῆ), in which the omnipresent/omniscient narrator describes an event, and mimesis (μίμησις), in which the narrator describes an event through the persona of a character, a dichotomy persuasively applied to modern narrative theory in the groundbreaking work of Gérard Genette. [4] Genette emphasizes the point of view that transmits information, a voice that can range from an analytic or omniscient narrator to any of the characters; the narrator and the “focalizer,” the perspective presented to the external audience, must be distinguished within any given narrative section. [5] Such distinctions help illuminate the enormous complexity of narrative strategy in the Iliad and Odyssey. The work of Irene de Jong has provided the most prominent exploration of this kind of literary analysis to the Iliad. In her interpretation, the omniscient narrator provides a “primary” narrative perspective, while the speech of characters and the subjective perspective, which can also be expressed by the omniscient narrator, form the “secondary” narrative voice. [6] In other words, we can distinguish between the primary narrator, who presents an eyewitness perspective, and the secondary narrators, who focalize the story. The story related by the primary narrator can be said to take place in primary narrative time, the chronological unfolding of events at Troy, while characters and the complex narrator refer to the past and future, as well as current events and actions not described by the primary narrator. [7]
The subjective perspective expressed by the primary narrator can be termed the “complex” narrator, a secondary narrative voice in which the linear progression of the primary narrative is slightly altered. The primary narrator relates an objective, visualized presentation of the story, whereas the complex narrator applies a subjective perception or imparts special knowledge. For instance, in Iliad IV, a direct address to Menelaos interrupts the linear, eyewitness style of the primary narrator to introduce a subjective, sympathetic perspective: [8] “But you, Menelaos, the blessed deathless gods did not forget you” (οὐδὲ σέθεν, Μενέλαε, θεοὶ μάκαρες λελάθοντο / ἀθάνατοι, Iliad IV 127–128). Apostrophes, such as this address to Menelaos, “if-not” suppositions, similes, prolepses and analepses, summaries, pauses (such as ekphrasis), bird’s eye views, and narratorial comments, in which a subjective voice intrudes upon the objective perspective of the primary narrator, can be collectively described as the complex narrative voice. [9] Furthermore, the complex narrative voice can present speech acts indirectly, while still representing the words spoken, or reports of speech, when the speech act is summarized. [10]
Speech is itself a typical action, like sacrifice, but with a much greater number of variables, ranging from single speeches to conversations, which the primary narrative constructs by joining speeches together in a systemized fashion (through introductory and concluding signposts). [11] There are seventy speakers that deliver 677 speeches in the Iliad, accounting for nearly one-half of the poem. These speeches initiate conversation, respond to the speech of others, or are ‘single speeches’ not intended to engage with another person. [12] Every speech act is framed in the narrative by introductory and concluding statements, which form a fixed pattern like that exhibited in other typicalactions: never are speeches interrupted with phrases that function as post-positives such as the Latin inquit. [13] Character speeches differ in genre, style, and significance within the poem and have been described with an extensive array of terminology created by modern scholars in an attempt to reflect these differences. [14] Genette proposes approaching narrative voices as representative of internal and external perspectives, both in terms of person and time. A speech describing events in the first person (for example, that of the characters—the secondary narrators in the Iliad) is internal or homodiegetic, while descriptions in which the voice of the narrator is “absent” from his own story (the primary narrator in the Iliad), is external or heterodiegetic. Speeches about events within the time of the poem are intradiegetic; those outside the time of the poem are extradiegetic. The same processes can be further specified by references to prior events within the poem (internal analepsis) or future events within the poem (internal prolepsis/foreshadowing), descriptions of events outside the timeline of the poem (external analepsis or narration from memory), and anticipation of events outside the poem (external prolepsis/foreshadowing). [15] Moreover, within these categories, speeches may again be categorized according to the content of the speech: 90 percent of character speech falls into the genres of prayer, lament, supplication, command, insult, and narration from memory, henceforth called ‘digressions’, which serve a persuasive, hortatory, or apologetic function; in addition, there are speeches which repeat information already given (mirror stories). [16] Many different layers create the complex meaning of speech in the Iliad, ranging from the persona of the speaker, content of the speech, reaction to the speech by other characters, different designations for speech, and methods of speechmaking. [17]
Typically, the primary narrator avoids directly imparting background information to the audience, preferring to place this information in the mouths of characters that reference events outside of the poem’s narrative chronology. The secondary narrators tell stories relevant to the specific context in which they are speaking rather than filling in missing background information, of which a general knowledge is assumed. [18] These external analepses create a dual level of significance—first, for the addressee within the poem (the “argument” function), and, second, for the audience of the poem (the “key” function). [19] For example, when Nestor remembers how he was asked to fight against the centaurs (Iliad I 259–274), his speech has an “argument” function, exhorting Agamemnon and Akhilleus to heed his advice, and a “key” function, establishing his role as a wise advisor. The “argument” function makes a comparison between a mythological exemplum and the context of the speech. The “key” function, which is part of a larger pattern, compares the digressive story to its context within the poem: Phoinix’s digression on Meleagros, who accepts gifts, foreshadows the wrath of Akhilleus, who refuses them. [20]
Descriptions of sacrifice are embedded in characters’ commands, insults, digressions, prayers, and vows. In addition, there are sacrifices embedded in the complex narrative-text, points at which the usually impersonal primary narrative voice interrupts the presentation of the story with a specialized, subjective viewpoint. Of particular interest for our study is the potential for contrast between the version of events given by the primary narrator and accounts given by different characters: divergences from the primary narrative voice are apparent to the audience, but are never commented upon bycharacters or the primary narrator. A particularly poignant example of this contrast can be found in the multiple descriptions of Hektor’s sacrifices from the perspective of the gods and of the Akhaians. Agamemnon imagines that Zeus favors Hektor’s sacrifices, while Zeus laments that he cannot save Hektor despite his sacrifices. [21]
The different narrative levels are essential tools for interpreting the meaning of sacrifice scenes in the Iliad: the representation of sacrifice in the secondary and complex narrative voices, which present a relatively restricted picture of sacrificial ritual, diverge from that of the primary narrative voice. I shall henceforth refer to descriptions of the performance of sacrifice in the primary narrative text as enacted sacrifices. Those presented through a secondary voice, either by the complex narrator or in character speech, I will designate as embedded sacrifices. This terminology reflects Seymour Chatman’s recasting of Plato’s original distinction between narrative voices as “narration,” the “recounting of an event,” and “enactment,” which is the “unmediated presentation.” [22] The term ‘enacted’ is potentially misleading in reference to performance poetry, as everything in the poem can be said to be ‘enacted’ in the singer’s performance. However, if referring specifically to sacrifice as transmitted through the different voices of the narrative, ‘enacted’ emphasizes the eyewitness presentation of sacrifice by the primary narrator, and ‘embedded’ signals the focalization of secondary perspectives by the complex narrator and in character speech. Though focusing on elements important to the thematic meaning in a particular context, the narrative agenda in both embedded and enacted sacrifices alludes to a much more elaborate process, and it is this process in enacted and embedded sacrifices, and the emphasis constructed through the restricted focus on different elements of this process, that we will consider in this chapter.
There are seven enacted sacrifices described by the primary narrator as part of the chronological unfolding of events at Troy. These sacrifices are not as frequent as one might expect: enacted sacrifices seem to be motivated not by fear of the gods, by desire to thank gods, or in order to offset the anxiety caused by warfare; rather, they occur as part of the quarrel between Agamemnon and Akhilleus. In Iliad I, two enacted sacrifices frame Akhilleus’withdrawal. Akhilleus argues with Agamemnnon and announces his intention to withdraw (Iliad I 148–307), at which point Agamemnon arranges for Odysseus to take the hecatomb to Khruse and then himself enacts a purificatory sacrifice (Iliad I 308–317). The narrative shifts its focus to the events in the camp of Akhilleus, who surrenders Briseis and complains to Thetis (Iliad I 318–429), after which the hecatomb arrives at Khruse. Then the narrative resumes with the embarkation at Khruse and sacrifice to Apollo (Iliad I 430–474). Before the first day of battle, Agamemnon sacrifices an ox to Zeus (Iliad II 402–432); this long day ends in Iliad VII, at which point Agamemnon again sacrifices an ox to Zeus and gives the best part of the meat to Ajax, Akhilleus’ replacement (Iliad VII 313–323). Between Agamemnon’s sacrificial feasts, he performs the oath sacrifice before the duel between Paris and Menelaos (Iliad III 264–313). Iliad VIII encompasses the second day of battle, which elapses without sacrifice. [23] The third day of battle begins in Iliad XI with Agamemnon’s aristeia and ends with the production of Akhilleus’ shield; again there are no enacted sacrifices. The fourth and final day of battle, beginning in Iliad XIX, follows the reintegration of Akhilleus into the army, which is marked by an oath sacrifice performed by Agamemnon (Iliad XIX 249–268). This is the final enacted sacrifice of the poem. The thematic prominence of sacrifice in the Iliad reflects the social breakdown caused by the crisis between Agamemnon and Akhilleus. Therefore, the primary narrator ceases to describe sacrifice once Akhilleus returns to the battlefield. Although the sacrifice in Iliad II precedes battle, the primary narrator focuses on Agamemnon’s authority, since the start of battle is postponed by the Catalogue of Ships until Iliad III. No sacrifice marks the end of battle in Iliad XXII. Since the inclusion of non-martial scenes throughout the poem has been said to aid in creating a varied and multi-dimensional plot, [24] we might expect sacrifice to be utilized as a possible extension device, a break for the audience from the tedium of warfare, as Arend indeed argues for the lengthy sacrifices in Iliad I and II. [25] However, the overriding principle for the structural role of sacrifice in the primary narrative is the expression of Agamemnon’s authority during Akhilleus’ withdrawal.
There are 39 embedded references to sacrifice in the Iliad, spoken by 17 different characters, [26] in contrast to the consistent and restricted presentation of the seven enacted sacrifices performed by Agamemnon or at his behest. The Iliad is largely composed of character speeches, so the increased number of embedded sacrifices is not surprising in this regard. However, we will see that the emphasis on Agamemnon in enacted sacrifices is marked in comparison to the number of characters who describe sacrifices, and there are a number of other significant differences according to the primary or secondary narrative perspectives. Embedded sacrifices often only focus on one moment in the sacrificial process, such as the burning of thigh bones, to represent a lengthy ritual procedure. Enacted sacrifices describe a continual sacrificial process, in which the role of the sacrificer is made prominent. A broad view of the different emphases established by recurrent ritual details in embedded and enacted scenes, as well as meanings created by unique variations, will lay the groundwork for a similar approach to descriptions of the post-kill phase (Chapter Three) and the thematic associations of Agamemnon and Akhilleus to sacrificial performances (Chapter Four).
Animal sacrifices are described with a combination of details drawn from the elements of ritual procedure, including location, preliminary rites, sacrificer, victims, recipient, prayer, details of the kill, offerings to the gods, divine response, and shared feast. These recurrent elements, included in multiple sacrifices in the Iliad, and the fixed order in which they occur allow for the emergence of general trends, which in turn reveal the importance of sacrifice to the design of the Iliad. As established in Chapter One, type-scenes are “typical” because their importance to the overall design of the poem merits repetition. The long enacted sacrifices are composed of enough repetitive actions to portray a carefully fixed ritual process, creating in the mind of the audience a concept of “typical” sacrificial practice, which is then altered according to each individual context. For this reason, we will outline the ritual process in the order of events: first the pre-kill stage, encompassingthe preliminary rituals performed at the altar while the animal is still alive; followed by the kill phase, the slaughter of the victims. The post-kill stage, including the treatment and disposal of the carcass, which is either discarded or divided into portions for god and men, cooked, and eaten, will be covered in Chapter Three. [27] These three stages are performed in a fixed order to honor the gods in expectation of divine favor and aid. An analysis of the range of ritual details will establish that the focus on different stages of the ritual process, as well as the language used to describe individual rites, varies in the primary narrator and character speech. Sacrifice, as described by the characters in the poem, is perceived almost exclusively as a method of appeasing or communicating with the gods, while the primary narrative voice focuses on the performance of sacrifice among a group, highlighting the actions of the sacrificer rather than its divine reception and intended outcome. Further, the gap between these perspectives creates a complex tension between the uncertainty expressed by characters and the time and effort expended on sacrifice by Agamemnon in the primary narrative voice.

2.2 Pre-Kill

Pre-kill rites can be extended to involve a pompê ‘procession’ or abbreviated to hand washing and a prayer. Indeed the extension of the ceremony marks the significance of the event for the participants and increases the splendor of the occasion. We will look at the opening verses introducing enacted sacrifices, followed by preliminary actions (katarkhesthai) and prayers before the kill, none of which are described in embedded sacrifices. The importance of the pompê in the Classical period has been discussed in Chapter One: there are no processions to the altar in the Iliad that resemble the Classical model of basket carrying, flute playing, or concomitant visual demonstration of social participation that this action provides for the community. The only lengthy movement toward a place of ritual action is Odysseus’ docking, unloading, and leading of the hecatomb to the altar at Khruse (Iliad I 430–439), a procedure emphasized by the repetition of ἐκ at the start of each verse (Iliad I 436–439). Although victims are procured for the oath sacrifices, this is the only reference in the poem to the transportation of animals, a practical necessity otherwise unacknowledged. The movement of the hecatomb is more suggestive of a typical, if exaggerated, boat anchorage scene, having many elements also found in nautical representations in the Odyssey, rather than a ritual procession in honor of the gods. [28] In the context of enacted sacrifices, the prolonged arrival of the ship and the relatively detailed description of standing around the altar heighten the anticipation of the return of Khruseis (Iliad I 430–448).
Just as the visual demonstration of community accord provided by processions in the Classical period is not a feature of sacrifice in the Iliad, other visible markers such as special clothing or wreaths worn by participants in sacrifices do not appear. Nor are the victims decorated with other ornamentation such as garlands, which are so frequent in Classical iconography that Peirce considers them to be a defining feature of sacrifice. [29] An exception may be the ribbons on Khruses’ staff, described as stemmata (Iliad I 14), the term used to describe the decorative garlands in the Classical period, but victims in the Iliad are never decorated in this fashion. [30]
Although the sacrificial procession and festive decorations do not feature in the Iliad, the location is always carefully described, though not fixed or specifically designated for sacrifice. The question of sacred space in Homer is complicated. In the Bronze Age, sacrifices would probably have been performed at home or in open-air enclosures, a practice which seems to have continued from the ninth century until the development of temples in the eighth century. The evolution of the polis seems to have created a distinction of sorts between private sacrifices performed at home and those sponsored by the polis in the public spaces dedicated to the gods—temples and sanctuaries. [31] The practice of the Iliad does not seem particularly representative of either Bronze Age or Classical polis practices. In the Iliad, gods have sacred temenê ‘enclosures’, but these spaces are never used for enacted sacrifices, andthe term is used more frequently of allotments of land to heroes. [32] The only connection between a temenos and sacrifice is found in Akhilleus’ memory of his father’s vow to sacrifice rams to the river Sperkheios, where its temenos and altar are located, which he seems to imply is actually in the water (μῆλ’ ἱερεύσειν ἐς πηγάς, ὅθι τοι τέμενος βωμός τε θυήεις, Iliad XXIII 147–148). The river water of the Skamandros is also described by Akhilleus as a location where the Trojans would sacrifice (Iliad XXI 132).
Neither sacred spaces for the gods nor temples are regularly connected with sacrifice, although temples are described in other contexts throughout the poem. [33] Three dedicated to Apollo are described: Khruses remembers modifying a temple for Apollo, Aineias is safely placed in a temple of Apollo, and Hektor imagines dedicating Akhilleus’ armor in Apollo’s temple. Athena has a temple in Athens and Troy, and the latter is imagined exceptionally as the location for sacrifice in the Trojan vow, but this vow is never to be fulfilled. In the Catalogue of Ships, a description of the sacrifices received by Erekhtheus at Athens, related in the context of Athena’s establishment of Erekhtheus in her naos, may at least loosely connect the sanctuary with the offerings, but nowhere else in the poem are temples depicted as locations for sacrifice. [34] Certainly the Akhaian army does not have access to temples in which to sacrifice to their gods, but it is noticeable that temples do not feature even in Akhaian remembrances of sacrifice at home or sacrificial vows for the future. Other, more general locations are described in two of Nestor’s embedded sacrifices in his speech to Patroklos: the banks of a river (Iliad XI 726) and the courtyard of Peleus’ house (Iliad XI 774).
In the Iliad temples occur more frequently in the role of honoring the gods or, more rarely, as places in which material offerings can be placed than as locations for sacrifice. [35] For instance, Khruses refers to the temple of Apollo as evidence of his past favors to the god: “If I ever roofed a shrine to please your heart” (εἴ ποτέ τοι χαρίεντ’ ἐπὶ νηὸν ἔρεψα, Iliad I 39). Yet the building roofed by Khruses is not described in his enacted sacrifice to Apollo at Khruse, and he revokes his request with another prayer without referencing these former honors. At Khruse, an altar is used for sacrifice (βωμός, Iliad I 448), but is not located in a sanctuary, and no building or dwelling of any sort is described. The Iliad does not even closely associate sacrificial practice with altars, though they seem to have been well-established features in Mycenaean cult practice, and in the Classical period altars (or bothroi ‘sacred ditches’) seem to be a defining feature of sacrifice. [36] For example, the victim and the altar are the essential requirements for Trugaios’ sacrifice in Aristophanes’ Peace:
ἴθι νυν, ἄγ’ ὡς τάχιστα τὸ πρόβατον λαβών·
ἐγὼ δὲ ποριῶ βωμὸν ἐφ’ ὅτου θύσομεν.
(Aristophanes Peace 937–938)
Come on, get a sheep as quickly as possible.
I’ll fetch an altar on which we will sacrifice.
However, in the Iliad the sacrifice at Khruse is the only enacted sacrifice to utilize any such established object, carefully mentioned when the men “quickly set up the sacred hecatomb for the god in order around the well made altar” (τοὶ δ’ ὦκα θεῷ ἱερὴν ἑκατόμβην ἑξείης ἔστησαν ἐΰδμητον περὶ βωμόν, Iliad I 447–448). [37] This sacrifice has many unique features. Along with Athena’s temple in Troy, it is the only cultic place attended by a priest, and Khruses is the only priest who attends a sacrifice. This location also stands out in the larger pattern of movement and travel within the poem, being the only place outside of Troy that is visited at any length. [38] These unique details (altar, priest, and travel location) stress the foreign context of this sacrifice and its relative removal from Agamemnon’s ritual sphere, as we shall see. Otherwise, the primary narrator localizes the performance of sacrifice not with altars, temples, or other specialized sacred locations, but in terms of the social hierarchy of the army. The lack of consistent attention to the place of sacrifice has bothered scholars, but the focus in enacted scenes on Agamemnon and his role as leader of the army clarifies this seeming variety: [39] two sacrifices are performed in Agamemnon’s quarters (Iliad II 402; VII 313); he leads two “in the middle” space in front of the army en masse (Iliad III 265; XIX 248); and one takes place at a seashore location under his direction (Iliad I 312).
The substitution of altars with spaces linked to Agamemnon’s hegemony over the army in the enacted sacrifices is highlighted by the frequent description of altars in secondary and complex narrative voices, often in reference to divine pleasure and positive examples of reciprocity between mortals and immortals. Although they are never used in the poem, there are two Akhaian altars described in complex narrative pauses; these brief references to a larger picture of ritual practice demonstrate the restricted focus and complicated integration of enacted and embedded sacrifices. Agamemnon prays fervently to Zeus for help, invoking all the past sacrifices made on altars during the journey to Troy (Iliad VIII 238–242). In response, Zeus sends the sign of an eagle dropping a fawn on his altar, “where the Akhaians always sacrificed to Zeus whose voice rings clear with omens” (ἔνθα πανομφαίῳ Ζηνὶ ῥέζεσκον Ἀχαιοί, Iliad VIII 250). ῥέζεσκον ‘they continually sacrificed’ is the only past iterative form used in the poem, which implies repeated use of the altar, though the altar is not mentioned again. This contrast is part of the tension between narrative voices: inconsistent or even contradictory perceptions of ritual practice are presented according to the differing points of view. The description of continual sacrifice is also unusual in that ῥέζεσκον is not followed by a noun, such as hiera or hecatombs, which is the more typical expression for sacrifice in the poem. [40]
The poem occasionally pauses for such descriptions of setting, which, because they break the linear progression of events, become part of the complex narrative voice. [41] In the first instance, Zeus sends his omen to the altar where the Akhaian army often sacrifices in response to the complaint that Agamemnon’s sacrifices on Zeus’ altars have gone unnoticed. However, this altar is only described in the complex narrative; Agamemnon’s prayer describes altars used on the way to Troy, but he never sacrifices on this altar or any other in the enacted sacrifices. [42] The contrast between Agamemnon’s memory of using Zeus’ altars en route to Troy and the complex narrator’s description of the god’s altar, next to which Agamemnon seems to be standing but to which he does not refer, is typical of the differing perspectives between the narrative voices. To complicate matters further, this altar is dedicated to Zeus Panomphaios, an epithet found only here in Homeric poetry. The epithet fits the context of an omen, although Agamemnon has requested not an omen, but the opportunity for flight. We will explore the pattern of using these types of variables to create tension between representations of sacrifice in narrative voices throughout this study.
The second description of an altar by the complex narrator alludes, again, to a much larger picture of ritual practice than that offered by the primary narrator. Patroklos has met Eurupulos by Odysseus’ ships, where there is an agora and altars built for the gods (θεῶν ἐτετεύχατο βωμοί, Iliad XI 808). [43] Presumably, Odysseus and his troops use this altar near their ships, but the agenda of the primary narrative-text and the tendency of characters to refer to sacrifice as suits the occasion of their speech restrict the scene’s focus without specifying. In other words, this reference to an altar is surprising since Odysseus neither makes sacrifices in primary narrative time nor does he refer to any such ritual activities or this altar in his speeches. Such abbreviated references to altars and sacrifice indicate a larger picture of ritual practice, which is pared down to a small and limited sample relevant to the thematic needs of the context.
Although he does not describe the altars near his ships, Odysseus does repeatedly emphasize an altar in his memory of Aulis, the most extended description of the location of sacrifice in an embedded sacrifice:
χθιζά τε καὶ πρωΐζ’, ὅτ’ ἐς Αὐλίδα νῆες Ἀχαιῶν
ἠγερέθοντο κακὰ Πριάμῳ καὶ Τρωσὶ φέρουσαι,
ἡμεῖς δ’ ἀμφὶ περὶ κρήνην ἱεροὺς κατὰ βωμοὺς
ἔρδομεν ἀθανάτοισι τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας,
καλῇ ὑπὸ πλατανίστῳ, ὅθεν ῥέεν ἀγλαὸν ὕδωρ·
ἔνθ’ ἐφάνη μέγα σῆμα·
(Iliad II 303–308)
Why, it seems like only yesterday or the day before when the ships of the Akhaians gathered at Aulis,
freighted with slaughter bound for Priam’s Troy.
We were all milling round a spring and on the holy altars
offering perfect hecatombs to the immortals,
under a spreading plane tree where the glittering water flowed,
when a great omen appeared.
When Odysseus tries to persuade the troops to stay at Troy, he recalls the interruption of a sacrifice at Aulis, which provides an austere backdrop for the focus of his speech: the propitious omens interpreted by Kalkhas (Iliad II 305–321). The location of the sacrifice at Aulis, a suitably tranquil environment for the climactic appearance of the snake portent, is intricately described, but the other details of the ritual process are only briefly summarized. Odysseus describes how “we” stood around a spring, offering hecatombs to the immortals (Iliad II 305–307). No specific details are given about the victims, the sacrificer, the divinities, or the purpose of the sacrifice, but Odysseus does dwell on the location at some length, which anticipates a lengthy description of the snake devouring the sparrow and her chicks. Odysseus follows this recollection of the portent with a concluding reference to the interrupted sacrifices: “and so when the terrible portent interrupted the hecatombs of the gods then Kalkhas immediately spoke this prophecy” (ὡς οὖν δεινὰ πέλωρα θεῶν εἰσῆλθ’ ἑκατόμβας / Κάλχας δ’ αὐτίκ’ ἔπειτα θεοπροπέων ἀγόρευε, Iliad II 321–322). On the basis of the omen, Kalkhas predicts that the Akhaians will take Troy in the tenth year (Iliad II 305–321), and Odysseus presents the Akhaian victory as a type of divine response to the sacrifices. [44] This is the only description of divine signs accompanying or interrupting sacrifices.
Odysseus deliberately elides details of the sacrifice itself, which is left unfinished in his description. The focus on the site leaves only a vague sketch of the sacrificer and victims, perhaps evincing Odysseus’ diplomatic censorship of the well-known story of the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis. [45] The suspense created through the accumulation of details of location, and perhaps the audience expectation of details of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, gives more weight to the climactic portent, which foretells that the Akhaians will conquer Troy, a bitter irony for an audience recently informed of Zeus’ assent to Thetis’ request. Odysseus’ digression is intended to inspire the troops to rejoin battle rather than sail for home. The possibility of retreat, suggested by Agamemnon to be a way of testing them (Iliad II 110–141), creates strife among the troops similar to that in Iliad I. The notion of sacrifice is used in this digression to recall and ameliorate the damage caused by the complicated discussions of sacrifice in Iliad I, in which Agamemnon’s decision to send the sacrificial embassy to Khruse is formulated in conjunction with his plan to remove Briseis, putting sacrifice at the very heart of the quarrel. This positive recollection of Kalkhas’ prophecies is a subtle resolution of the problem created by Agamemnon’s accusation in Iliad I against the mantis for lying and giving only bad prophecies.
Preliminary actions performed before the kill, often described as katarkhesthai ‘to begin’ in Classical sources, tend to be briefly described and only one or two in number in the Iliad. This tendency is in stark contrast to the large range of preliminary rites attested in other literary sources; the pre-kill phase is also the most frequently depicted in iconography. [46] By comparison, pre-kill details are quite limited in the Iliad and are found exclusively in enacted sacrifices, as embedded sacrifices give only skeletal or very restricted details of the entire process. These details are specially included to reflect the occasion for sacrifice: the sacrifices to Apollo during the plague include purification and hand washing, which also marks the oath sacrifice before Paris and Menelaos’ duel. Only those sacrifices associated with pollution, including the potential for pollution incurred through the violation of oaths, include this ritual detail. The two oath sacrifices feature the cutting of hairs before the kill, but the Trojan/Akhaian oath sacrifice also includes the mixing of wine, which is poured out after the kill when the soldiers make their prayers. [47]
Though barley grains may have played an important role in the Myce-naean religious experience and are a central part of the pre-kill rites in the Classical period, they are used in the Iliad only in the longest two enacted sacrifices, in which they are distributed before the prayer and thrown afterwards. [48] These sacrifices are the most detailed in the poem, and it is not surprising to find expanded pre-kill rites in this context. None of the scenes that include preliminary rites exhibit exactly the same process, even when the ritual is ostensibly the same (the oath sacrifices) or when large sections of the kill and post-kill are exactly repeated (Iliad I 447f. and II 402f.). So the two descriptions of the distribution of barley grains are combined with different ritual actions: hand washing in Iliad I (χερνίψαντο δ’ ἔπειτα καὶ οὐλοχύτας ἀνέλοντο, 449); standing around the victim in Iliad II (βοῦν δὲ περιστήσαντο καὶ οὐλοχύτας ἀνέλοντο, 410). The former sacrifice, featuring hand washing, is occasioned by the plague, whereas the latter focuses more on the society of Agamemnon’s councilors, emphasized by their collective stance around the victim. No pre-kill rites are described in embedded sacrifices, which, given the length of Odysseus’ and Nestor’s embedded sacrifices (Iliad II 305–321, XI 772–780), should be attributed not to a need for brevity, but to these descriptions’ focus on divine reception.
It is noteworthy that concern for the potential pollution of sacred space and action is marginalized in the poem. Two important designations in the Classical period regarding the worship of the gods are missing from Homer. Ἁγνός and ἅγιος are the words most commonly used to denote purity, but neither the terminology nor the concept is found in the Iliad in any consistent or established fashion. The implications of a related term, ἅζομαι, are lost upon Agamemnon in Khruses’ appeal to the Akhaians to return his daughter: “Just set my daughter free, my dear one. Here, accept these gifts, this ransom. Honor the god who strikes from worlds away—the son of Zeus, Apollo!” (παῖδα δ’ ἐμοὶ λύσαιτε φίλην, τὰ δ’ ἄποινα δέχεσθαι / ἁζόμενοι Διὸς υἱὸν ἑκηβόλον Ἀπόλλωνα, Iliad I 20–21). Despite his use of ἁζόμενοι, Khruses is dismissed by Agamemnon, whose treatment of priests will be discussed in detail in Chapter Four. Although a few other instances in the poem express a similar concept of angering the divine with ἅζομαι, they are never in connection with animal sacrifice. In general, sacrifice, and other ritual actions designated toward the gods, are reflections of the reciprocity between mortals and immortals, which does not seem to take into account potential purificatory offenses, though this is a significant worry for Greeks in the Classical period. [49]
Homeric sacrifices do not mark a departure from the profane into the sacred realm through the use of recognized sacral space or lengthy preliminary rites. Nor do embedded sacrifices signal the start and end of the ritual process—the activity of preparing, killing, and distributing the offering—with clear signals to the audience. Enacted sacrifices, however, do have signals readily identifiable to the audience at the outset of the sacrificial scene. Rather than the pompê, the enacted sacrificial scene is signaled by the identification of the sacrificer (Opferherr), who gives the command to perform sacrifice, who may be explicitly described as providing victims for the sacrifice, and who will lead the sacrifice (make prayer, cut hairs, etc.) or specifically appoint someone in his stead. [50] The sacrificer in Homer also usually kills the victim, at times by himself, at other times sharing the activity with other participants. The English term ‘sacrificer’ is ambiguous, as is its Greek equivalent, mageiros, given the multiplicity of roles the word entails: the person initiating or instigating the ritual, the person who conducts the ritual, and the slaughterer. All of these roles could be subsumed by one individual, or distinguished according to the occasion and nature of the ceremony. Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss offer the distinction between the person providing the victims (le sacrifiant) and the ritual expert who could be called upon to slaughter them (le sacrificateur). [51] Agamemnon is both sacrifiant and sacrificateur in four of seven enacted sacrifices. He cuts the hairs of the victims for the sacrifice (ἦ, καὶ ἀπὸ στομάχους ἀρνῶν τάμε νηλέϊ χαλκῷ, Iliad III 292) and slits the throat of the animal after the prayer (ἦ, καὶ ἀπὸ στόμαχον κάπρου τάμε νηλέϊ χαλκῷ, Iliad III 266). In the sacrifice for the councilors in Iliad II, he is signaled as the Opferherr (Iliad II 402) and makes the prayer (Iliad II 411), while the sacrificial process is shared among the group (αὐέρυσαν μὲν πρῶτα καὶ ἔσφαξαν καὶ ἔδειραν, Iliad II 422). The sacrifice in Iliad VII is very similar, except that no prayer is made. In Iliad I, Agamemnon twice authorizes sacrifices performed by others; his relative removal from these sacrifices reflects his reluctance to take responsibility for the plague, which we will discuss in detail in Chapter Four. Agamemnon manages the procurement of victims for all of the enacted sacrifices, with the exception of the briefly mentioned sacrifice of the Akhaian army in Iliad II.
Essentially, in every enacted sacrifice an animal is killed by someone for a god. From a systematic examination of enacted sacrifices in the Iliad, a remarkable pattern emerges: emphasis is time and again placed on the role of the sacrificer. Leaving aside the sacrifice to Apollo at Khruse and that of the Akhaian army preceding Agamemnon’s sacrifice in Iliad II, the following signals alert the audience that sacrifice is about to be performed:
λαοὺς δ’ Ἀτρεΐδης ἀπολυμαίνεσθαι ἄνωγεν·
(Iliad I 313)
while the son of Atreus told his troops to purify themselves.
αὐτὰρ ὁ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad II 402)
But the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox,
ἐς μέσσον Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν ἐστιχόωντο.
ὄρνυτο δ’ αὐτίκ’ ἔπειτα ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad III 266–267)
And into the middle space between Akhaian and Trojan lines they marched.
Then the lord of men Agamemnon rose at once
Οἱ δ’ ὅτε δὴ κλισίῃσιν ἐν Ἀτρεΐδαο γένοντο,
(Iliad VII 313)
Soon as they had gathered within the tents of the son of Atreus,
καὶ τὰ μὲν ἐν μέσσῃ ἀγορῇ θέσαν, ἂν δ’ Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad XIX 249–250)
And they set them down in the middle of the agora. Then Agamemnon
rose to his feet.
The primary narrator draws little attention to Agamemnon’s motives for sacrifice, focusing rather on the social function of sacrifice during Akhilleus’ withdrawal, a time of crisis for the Akhaian army. The importance in Classical ritual of the sacrificer in the demonstration of social hierarchy is described by Burkert as “ ‘lord of the sacrifice’, who demonstrates his vitae necisque potestas [‘power over life and death’]. . . . [Each] participant has a set function and acts according to a precisely fixed order. The sacrificial community is thus a model of society as a whole.” [52] Through this action, the sacrificer, who may be a king or father, could potentially re-establish his potestas vitae. This special religious function of kings is attested in descriptions of sacrificial ritual throughout antiquity, as well as bearing a strong similarity to the ritual role played by Near Eastern monarchs. [53] The performance of sacrifice illuminates the potestas of the chief Akhaian king; when this power is challenged by Akhilleus’ withdrawal and instigation of divine wrath, these sacrifices re-establish Agamemnon’s superiority among the army. [54] I do not mean to imply that the primary narrator depicts Agamemnon as conscious of the way sacrifice bolsters his authority; instead, we may compare Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood’s observations in regard to polis religion: “The particular social realities of the particular poleis would be reflected in the articulation of their cults. This was not a matter of a ‘state’ manipulating religion; the unit which was both the religious body carrying the religious authority and the social body, acting through its political institutions, deployed cult in order to articulate itself in what was perceived to be the natural way.” [55]
Accordingly, sacrificial scenes are initiated on Agamemnon’s order, signaled by gathering in his quarters or his standing up before the crowd, or they commence with a description of his act of sacrifice (ἱέρευσεν). The oath sacrifices performed in front of the combined Trojan and Akhaian armies and in front of the Akhaian army to mark Akhilleus’ reintegration into the group are both initiated by Agamemnon’s standing up (Iliad III 267; XIX 249–250a). Significantly, both sacrifices are marked by movement ‘into the middle’ (ἐς μέσσον), a signal of motion toward a politically neutral space: ἐς μέσσον signifies the “sacred interstice in the interest of common activity.” [56] Since this is not a commensal sacrifice, the description of movement “into the middle” is, on one hand, a signpost to the audience for the start of the ritual action, on the other, a powerful expression of the brief unity of the two parties joined in the oath sacrifice under the auspices of Agamemnon’s ritual authority: in Iliad III, the Akhaians and Trojans, in Iliad XIX, Akhilleus and Agamemnon. In both scenes, Agamemnon is accompanied by a ritual helper (Odysseus and Talthubios, respectively), and the herald, Talthubios, is sent by Agamemnon to fetch victims (Iliad III 118; XIX 196).
Odysseus helps Agamemnon with another sacrifice, the hecatomb for Apollo at Khruse. He is chosen by Agamemnon to lead the sacrifice in his stead, since Agamemnon’s performance as Opferherr on this occasion would signal an admission of guilt, which he will not be prepared to make until Iliad IX. Odysseus clearly states that he is present with the victims at Agamemnon’s behest:
ὦ Χρύση, πρό μ’ ἔπεμψεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
παῖδά τε σοὶ ἀγέμεν, Φοίβῳ θ’ ἱερὴν ἑκατόμβην
ῥέξαι ὑπὲρ Δαναῶν.
(Iliad I 442–444)
Khruses, the lord of men Agamemnon sent me here
to bring your daughter back and sacrifice a holy hecatomb to Apollo
on behalf of the Danaans.
Even though Agamemnon is not physically present at the sacrifice to Apollo upon the return of Khruseis, Odysseus immediately signals his authority to the audience with the formulaic phrase ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων ‘lord of men Agamemnon’, which is used in three of the five sacrifices performed by the chief king, a point to which we will return in Chapter Four.
Finally, there is one enacted sacrifice not performed by Agamemnon or explicitly in his name, that of the Akhaian army (Iliad II 400–401). This is the briefest enacted sacrifice in the epic and the only one not specifying victims or named deities. Nonetheless, it is Agamemnon who tells the men to go to their huts and eat in preparation for battle (Iliad II 369–393). They are so inspired by his speech that their shouts of approval are compared to waves crashing on rocks (Iliad II 394–397). They go back to the ships, prepare dinner, and each sacrifices and prays:
κάπνισσάν τε κατὰ κλισίας, καὶ δεῖπνον ἕλοντο.
ἄλλος δ’ ἄλλῳ ἔρεζε θεῶν αἰειγενετάων,
εὐχόμενος θάνατόν τε φυγεῖν καὶ μῶλον Ἄρηος.
αὐτὰρ ὁ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad II 399–402)
[The troops] lit fires beside their tents and took their meal.
Each sacrificed to one or another deathless god,
praying to flee death and the grind of war.
But the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox . . .
As it is conducted on his order, this sacrifice is also an expression of Agamemnon’s overall ritual authority, extending even to the generic sacrifices of the troops. While the brief description of the army’s ritual performance immediately preceding a lengthy description of Agamemnon’s sacrifice ties the two actions to his ritual authority, it highlights the elite and exclusive nature of the sacrifice for the councilors. It is interesting to note that the altar “frequently used by the Akhaians,” described by the complex narrator at Iliad VIII 249–250, is not utilized in this scene.
The link between sacrifice and centralized authority, so clear in the enacted scenes, is less certain in the embedded references, which focus more on relationships between mortals and immortals. The two sacrificers of the primary narrative-text, Agamemnon and Khruses, also remember their own sacrifices in prayers. [57] Even in embedded sacrifices, Agamemnon is still the sacrificer for the Akhaians at Troy, as shown in his memory of his sacrifices on the way to Troy (Iliad VIII 238), which may be contrasted with Nestor’s memory of how “someone in Argos sacrificed” (Iliad XV 372). Hektor’s sacrifices, although neither performed in the poem nor mentioned by the hero himself, are much discussed by others: twice by Zeus (as are those of Priam and the Trojans) and once by Apollo, as well as being imagined by Agamemnon to be harmful to the Akhaian cause and by Priam as the cause for his son’s special treatment. Hektor’s piety is a foil for Akhilleus’ estrangement from these ceremonies, which his mother’s direct influence over the plans of Zeus allows. In contrast to his son’s approach to the gods, Peleus makes a vow and is remembered as a sacrificer by Nestor. In addition, Oineus, neglects Artemis in Phoinix’s digression, and Akhilleus and Diomedes vow that they will personally perform sacrifices. The complex narrator also describes the vows to sacrifice of Pandaros and Meriones, whose diligence is contrasted with the absence of a vow by Teukros. [58]
In contrast to the prominence of the sacrificer in enacted scenes, some embedded sacrifices elide the role of the sacrificer through generalizing references to groups rather than a focus on one person. Iris wants to feast on the hecatombs of the Aithiopes. Phoinix describes the propitiation of gods by men in general. [59] When Akhilleus insults Lukaon, he refers to “you all” as sacrificers (ἱερεύετε, Iliad XXI 131–132). In memories of sacrifice, Odysseus and Nestor both refer to “us” making sacrifices (ἒρδομεν, Iliad II 306; XI 707), as does the Trojan priestess Theano (ἱερεύσομεν, Iliad VI 309), a striking promise in a vow to Athena that seems to imply that the women themselves would offer sacrifice. There are three descriptions of the Akhaian army making sacrifices: the altar used frequently by Akhaians is briefly mentioned; the lack of sacrifices by the Danaans before building the wall causes the wrath of Poseidon, who, in turn, does not single out an individual, even though Nestor alone has proposed the plan (Iliad VII 327–343; 450). The sacrifices of Athenian youths are alluded to in the Catalogue of Ships, and a simile describes youths performing sacrifices in honor of Poseidon Helikonios. Finally, there are embedded sacrifices that do not refer to the sacrificer at all: Aineias and Akhilleus worry about the anger of the gods over neglected sacrifices, and the struggle between Hektor and Akhilleus is compared in a simile to a contest over a hierêion ‘sacrificial victim’. [60]
Nestor’s digression in Iliad XI may serve as a good example of the selective presentation of details in embedded sacrifices, which can emphasize the role of the sacrificer but, unlike enacted sacrifices, do not consistently prioritize this individual. The first of three embedded sacrifices describes how “we” sacrificed around the city, without further details (ἒρδομεν, Iliad XI 707). Then, without distinguishing individuals, he describes sacrifices at the river bank (ῥέξαντες, Iliad XI 727), although he includes exact details about which victims were consecrated to which divinities (Iliad XI 728–729), two of whom are later attributed with his success in battle (Iliad XI 752–758). Nestor refers only once in the three recollections of sacrifice to a specific sacrificer, Peleus, in an attempt to persuade Patroklos to help the Akhaians (Iliad XI 772), an observation designed to draw attention to the current isolation of Patroklos and Akhilleus, which we will discuss further in Chapter Three.
In enacted sacrifices, the sacrificer is also the person who makes the prayer. Burkert describes the combination of ritual and prayer as the cornerstone of Greek ritual practice: “There is rarely a ritual without prayer, and no important prayer without ritual: litai–thysiai, prayers-sacrifices is an ancient and fixed conjunction.” [61] In Plato’s dialogue, Euthuphro defines piety as the knowledge of the words and actions that will be pleasing to the gods when praying and sacrificing. [62] Throughout Greek literary sources, prayer and sacrifice compliment each other in maintaining a relationship between mortals and immortals; the prayer verbalizes the request, while the sacrifice is a pleasing gift which will help persuade the deity. The success of the prayer relies on reciprocity: the god will give favor because of the sacrifice and/or honorary gifts in the past or future. In this way, prayer relies on sacrifice, and when sacrifice is not made, prayers typically emphasize past or future gifts. On the basis of literary descriptions of prayer, five methods of urging the god to heed an appeal can be identified: requests to receive the current offering, vows for future sacrifices in return for immediate help, vows for future sacrifices dependent on current success, generalized “if-ever” appeals, and “if-ever” appeals with reference to sacrifice. [63] However, in the Iliad, only both types of vows and “if-ever” appeals can be found, which can also be categorized as “future-oriented prayers.” These prayers make requests, while “past-oriented prayers” seek atonement. [64]
Prayer, followed by the sprinkling of barley grains in some scenes, completes the pre-kill phase of the ritual process in the enacted sacrifices. The special role of the sacrificer is bolstered by the act of prayer, which he makes on behalf of the group. Though most enacted sacrifices include prayer, it is not described in embedded sacrifices, such as the sacrifices of Nestor recounted to Patroklos, and sacrifice is only very rarely referred to in prayers. However, characters occasionally report the speeches of others, so it is not a generic distinction that precludes embedded sacrifice’s inclusion of prayer: for example, Nestor remembers the exact speech of Menoitios to Patroklos, but restricts his description of the sacrifice to Peleus’ burning of thigh bones (Iliad XI 765–789). A brief outline of prayers in enacted sacrifices and ‘free prayers’, those without accompanying offerings, which embed descriptions of sacrifice, will be set out here as parts of the ritual process presented in the poem, before giving an in-depth discussion of these speech acts as part of the pattern of embedded sacrifices in Chapter Three. In the enacted sacrifices, Agamemnon and Khruses act as spokesmen for the community, distinguishing themselves as leaders of the sacrifice and communicators with the gods:
τοῖσιν δὲ Χρύσης μεγάλ᾿ εὔχετο χεῖρας ἀνασχών
(Iliad I 450)
And then Khruses stretched his arms to the sky and prayed loudly for the group
τοῖσιν δ᾿ εὐχόμενος μετέφη κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad II 411)
And then King Agamemon raised his voice in prayer for the group
τοῖσιν δ᾿ Ἀτρεΐδης μεγάλ᾿ εὔχετο χεῖρας ἀνασχών
(Iliad III 275)
And then, Atreus’ son stretched his arms to the sky and prayed loudly for the group

κάπρου ἀπὸ τρίχας ἀρξάμενος, Διὶ χεῖρας ἀνασχὼν
εὔχετο· τοὶ δ᾿ ἄρα πάντες ἐπ᾿ αὐτόφιν εἵατο σιγῇ
Ἀργεῖοι κατὰ μοῖραν, ἀκούοντες βασιλῆος.
εὐξάμενος δ᾿ ἄρα εἶπεν ἰδὼν εἰς οὐρανὸν εὐρύν·
(Iliad ΧΙΧ 254–257)
He cut some hairs from the boar’s head, first tufts to start the rite, and lifting up his arms to Zeus
he prayed, while the armies held fast to their seats in silence,
in the proper way, listening to their king.
He scanned the vaulting skies as he prayed.
The people making prayer either lift their arms, voices, or both, gestures frequently found throughout literary descriptions of prayer. [65] Khruses’ prayer responds to his initial communication with Apollo, which began the plague (Iliad I 35–43). This prayer and his pouring of libations while burning the thigh bones (I 462–463) are the two actions that distinguish his role from the otherwise collective performance of ritual actions. The description of Agamemon’s act of praying in the final enacted sacrifice underscores the image of his power over the group, who sit “kata moiran listening to their king” (κατὰ μοῖραν ἀκούοντες βασιλῆος). The connotations of the word moira indicates propriety; it is used in Homer in contexts stretching from destiny to the appropriate distribution of sacrificial meat. [66] On the occasion of Agamemnon’s last performance as Opferherr in the epic, his only performance for an army united with Akhilleus, the soldiers sitting “in the proper way” provide a striking contrast to his stature as spokesman.
Further, the prayers of the Opferherr are differentiated from those of the group in two sacrifices. Before Agamemnon’s sacrifice in Iliad II, the members of the group are described as making individual sacrifices and prayers to survive the battle (Iliad II 400–401), and after the oath sacrifice, the Trojan and Akhaian armies make a prayer, the words of which are given in direct speech (Iliad III 319–323). [67] Agamemnon outlines a very specific plan for outcomes of the duel appropriate to the defeat of either Menelaos or Paris, while the armies pray more generally for vengeance on potential oath breakers and for everlasting friendship. But because of Thetis’ request, which has essentially nullified all Akhaian prayers and sacrifices until the return of Akhilleus, Zeus denies the prayers of the army (Iliad III 302). The oath sacrifice marking the reintegration of Akhilleus into the group in Iliad XIX does not include libations, oaths, or prayers made by the army, despite the same public setting, ‘into the middle’ (ἐς μέσσον), and the oath made by Agamemnon. The inclusion of the army’s sentiments in Iliad III accentuates the importance of the group, all of whom will be affected by the violation of the oath, while the oath sacrifice in Iliad XIX restricts the emphasis to Agamemnon as he brings Akhilleus back into the group.
Countless prayers in Homer are made without accompanying offerings or references to past offerings, in contrast to the Classical dedications and literary evidence, which suggest that such prayers are rare. [68] Out of 29 prayers and vows in the Iliad, speech acts making requests to gods, only three refer to sacrifice, and there are only five vows in which future sacrifices are promised. [69] The three prayers that embed sacrifices are ‘free prayers’, those made without an accompanying ritual action, performed by Khruses, Agamemnon, and Nestor. Vows are made by Pandaros, Akhilleus, and Meriones, as well as by the Trojans, collectively represented by the priestess Theano. Although acts of prayer are emphasized in the enacted sacrifices, Khruses and Agamemnon do not actually refer to the sacrifices at hand to bolster the strength of their requests. Nestor seems to have a special status with regard to sacrifice; he remembers sacrifices most frequently and has a very prominent role in the Odyssey as the Opferherr in Pylos. Instead of presenting the three Akhaian vows promising future sacrifices in direct character speech, they are reported by the complex narrator: Pandaros’ vow is suggested by a disguised Athena and is not successful; Iris must bring Akhilleus’ vow to the attention of its intended recipients, the Winds; and Apollo’s reaction to Meriones’ vow is not depicted. Diomedes pronounces the only vow embedding sacrifice that seems to be successful; Theano’s vow of sacrifice to Athena is denied. In comparison to the number of characters making prayer without reference to sacrifice, Agamemnon’s status as the only character making enacted sacrifices and one of only three mortals to speak of them in requests addressed to gods serves as another indication that descriptions of sacrifice are restricted to specific contexts.

2.3 Kill

The “kill” phase of the ritual process is, quite simply, the slaughter of the victim, which can vary descriptively in method employed, level of detail given, and terminology used. In embedded sacrifices emphasis is not given to the kill, which is expressed only in the general terms indicative of the entire sacrificial process (e.g. ἱερὰ ῥέζειν). Enacted sacrifices, as befit primary narrative descriptions, emphasize the finite verbs for killing and the act of the slaughter; oath sacrifices draw attention to the act of killing, while commensal sacrifices describe the kill as part of the preparations for the meal. The verses describing the kill in enacted scenes are listed below:
ἔρδον δ’ Ἀπόλλωνι τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας
(Iliad I 315)
They sacrificed perfect hecatombs to Apollo.
αὐέρυσαν μὲν πρῶτα καὶ ἔσφαξαν καὶ ἔδειραν
(Iliad I 459 = II 422)
first they lifted back the heads of the victims, slit their throats, and skinned them.

ἦ, καὶ ἀπὸ στομάχους ἀρνῶν τάμε νηλέϊ χαλκῷ·
καὶ τοὺς μὲν κατέθηκεν ἐπὶ χθονὸς ἀσπαίροντας,
θυμοῦ δευομένους· ἀπὸ γὰρ μένος εἵλετο χαλκός.
(Iliad ΙΙΙ 292–294)
He spoke, and cut the lambs’ throats with his ruthless dagger
and let them fall to the ground, dying, gasping away
their life breath, cut short by the sharp bronze.

τοῖσι δὲ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad VII 314)
in their midst the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox,

ἦ, καὶ ἀπὸ στόμαχον κάπρου τάμε νηλέϊ χαλκῷ.
(Iliad XIX 266)
He spoke, and cut the boar’s throat with his ruthless dagger.
Clear links between the enacted sacrifices are established through both shared vocabulary and ritual details. Verses describing the kill and post-kill are virtually identical in the two large sacrifices in Iliad I and II, although the earlier shared feast is a longer affair. The slaughter of the victims is described with the same formula (τάμε νηλέϊ χαλκῷ) in both oath sacrifices. The kill is doubly emphasized in Agamemnon’s sacrifice in Iliad II, first anticipated at the start of the scene (“but the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox,” αὐτὰρ ὁ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων, Iliad II 402), then reiterated at the moment of death with the verb ἔσφαξαν ‘they slit their throats’ (Iliad II 422). The first description highlights Agamemnon’s authority over the entire sacrificial procedure, although the group performs the manual activity of killing the victim (ἔσφαξαν). The sacrifice in Iliad VII does not further elaborate on the kill after describing Agamemnon’s initiative with an almost identical verse to that found at the beginning of the enacted sacrifice in Iliad II.
Sacrifice in the Iliad is not a particularly bloody affair, nor are there any clear references to the relatively bloody offerings characterized in modern reconstructions of Greek ritual as ‘khthonian’. [70] The most graphic depictions of slaughter are the aforementioned oath sacrifices, which describe the slitting of different victims’ throats with the same formulaic phrase (Iliad III 292; XIX 266). Margo Kitts has suggested that the graphic description of the slaughter in Iliad III, as well as the subjective description of the “ruthless dagger,” likens the victims to humans dying on the battlefield, emphasizing the vengeance that the participants wish upon the potential violators of the oath. [71] However, these oath sacrifices do not engage the participants in bloody acts of consecration; although an essential practice for oath ceremonies in the Classical period, the Homeric participants do not dip their hands into the blood or genitals of the animal. [72] In Iliad III the armies also pour libations of wine instead of using the animals’ blood, as might be expected, to guarantee that the oath-breakers’ blood will spill. [73] So, even at its most bloody, sacrifice in the Iliad does not place a great emphasis on the violence of the animals’ deaths. The sheep in Iliad III are described as falling lifeless to the ground, an elaboration on their death (Iliad III 293–294), but otherwise enacted sacrifices proceed directly to the treatment of the carcass. The frequent use of sacrifice as a metaphor, or even occasion, for murder in tragedy is not found in the Iliad, despite a martial backdrop that would provide ample opportunity for such comparisons.
Enacted sacrifice in the Iliad remains an idealized picture of Agamemnon’s authoritative actions. It is ironic, and perhaps reflective of his role as Opferherr in the Iliad, that the description of his murder at a feast in the Odyssey compares his death to the slaughter of an ox at a trough. [74] Although a mageiros is not needed for Homeric sacrifices, the descriptions of the makhaira ‘sacrificial knife’ reinforce the poem’s emphasis on Agamemnon’s authority. Both oath sacrifices describe Agamemnon’s makhaira:
Ἀτρεΐδης δὲ ἐρυσσάμενος χείρεσσι μάχαιραν,
ἥ οἱ πὰρ ξίφεος μέγα κουλεὸν αἰὲν ἄωρτο.
(Iliad ΙΙΙ 271–272; ΧΙΧ 252–253)
Atreus’ son drew forth with his hand the makhaira
always slung at his battle-sword’s big sheath.
The makhaira, a term used in the Iliad only in reference to the sacrificial knife as distinct from weapons used in battle, is described as a ritual equivalent to Agamemnon’s sword, hanging beside the sword sheath. [75] The repeated description of Agamemnon’s sacrificial knife links his military hegemony to his sacrificial authority, while emphasizing the frequency with which he sacrifices.
In keeping with the brevity of details of the kill phase in the Iliad, there are no descriptions of collecting the blood in a sphageion, nor is there mention of other items necessary for the slaughter of animals. The laborious process of sacrifice can be gleaned from the depiction on a fifth-century kulix, a vessel perhaps itself intended for use in a sacrificial ceremony, either as a khernips or to sprinkle the animal with water. [76] This depiction includes a bundle of spits, an altar with a basin (podaniptêr) in front of it, the sphageion underneath, a makhaira and knife case, two hudriai, an unidentifiable pot, and what is probably a basket: the quantity of and specialized uses for this equipment testify to the tedious procedure of slaughtering and dismembering an animal for consumption. Inventories from the Mycenaean period, suggestive of sacrificial and feasting equipment, are recorded in the palace in Pylos on the occasion of the appointment of the office holder da-ma-ko-ro. One tablet, Ta 716, lists two gold chains, axes, swords, and a *τόρπεζαι ‘table’ with nine feet. The chains may have been used to restrain the animal, as seems to be depicted on the Hagia Triadha sarcophagus, and the other utensils are appropriate to sacrificial contexts. [77] We may compare images of restrained animals found in Classical vase painting, such as a black-figure plate on which three legs of the ox are tied. [78] The silence concerning the motions of the animals awaiting sacrifice is part of the idealization of the sacrificial process in Homer, reflective of the poem’s overall bias regarding the practical aspects of cooking and eating. [79]
In addition to the silence regarding the necessary implements and steps in the sacrificial process, the menial tasks of handling and slaughtering the animals, normally performed by slaves in Classical contexts, are accomplished by the heroes themselves. When Agamemnon sacrifices for the councilors, the most prominent Akhaians in the poem with the exception of Akhilleus, they perform the slaughter and serve dinner themselves (Iliad II 421–432). Similarly, Nestor remembers Akhilleus and Patroklos handling the carcass while Peleus makes the offering of thigh bones and libations to the gods (Iliad XI 772–776). Unlike in the Classical period, a professional mageiros is never employed. [80] Khruses is aided by anonymous young men, who hold the spits for him (perhaps akin to the splankhnoptēs attested in Classical vase painting) and who also serve wine and sing the paian, a unique instance of music in sacrificial contexts in the poem. [81] The absence of attendant slaves further narrows the focus onto the role of individuals and the solidarity created through the sacrificial process. Agamemnon has one ritual assistant, the herald Talthubios,who assists in both oath sacrifices: he leads forth the victims (Iliad III 119–120, 269; XIX 196­–197), holds the boar for Agamemnon (Iliad XIX 251), and throws the carcass into the sea after Agamemnon cuts the throat (Iliad XIX 266–268).This specialized assistance to the sacrificer suggests an original function for heralds in ritual contexts. [82] Talthubios’ participation in the oath sacrifices is motivated by their public visibility in politically neutral spaces, whereas the commensal sacrifices in which he does not participate, held in Agamemnon’s quarters, place emphasis on unified participation.
Enacted sacrifices focus on the sacrificer, usually Agamemnon, and the social dynamics of mortals. The prominence of the action of sacrificing and, often, the subsequent feast reveal a conspicuous lack of attention to divine portion or reception. The intention of the enacted sacrifices—to communicate with the gods—is nonetheless made conspicuous by prayers and pre-kill rites. These scenes are constructed within the framework of the quarrel between Akhilleus and Agamemnon. Embedded sacrifices, on the other hand, exist entirely in the framework of relations between mortals and immortals and are specifically concerned with the power of sacrifice to influence the outcome of events positively through divine pleasure or displeasure. Having set out a framework of the sacrificial ritual process, we will now turn to the post-kill phase and the gifts offered to the gods.


[ back ] 1. Even Arend admits this, while maintaining that sacrificial scenes are the most repetitive of all type- scenes (1933:8). Seaford 1994: “The Homeric selection of sacrificial elements is determined, consciously or unconsciously, by the function of the description in the overall poetic conception” (46).
[ back ] 2. Chatman 1978 establishes a theory of the structure of narrative transmission, which can be identified by the following criteria: the number of narrating voices; the relation of these voices to the audience; the characterization of the voices; the identification of a narratee or an internal listener; the standpoint offered to the audience; the elements of discourse used in transmission; and the assumptions of values and experience with other texts placed on the audience.
[ back ] 3. On the perspective of texts, Bal 1985:100–101.
[ back ] 4. Plato Republic 3.392c–395; Genette 1980:162–172. Using the example of Plato’s rewriting of Iliad I 33–36, he distinguishes between three types of narrative speech (narratized, transposed, and mimetic). De Jong discusses the flaws in Genette’s translation of diêgêsis, 1987b:2–4, see also 1999:481–482. The scholia ad Iliad II 494–877, XV 116, XVI 605, and XVIII 282–302 comment upon this difference, describing the “narrator text” as ἀμίμητον, διηγηματικόν, or (ἀπ)αγγελία, and the “character text” as δραματική or μιμητικόν (de Jong 1987b:10–11).
[ back ] 5. Genette 1980:186f.
[ back ] 6. An overview of narrative theory is provided by de Jong and Nünlist 2004: the terminology “primary,” “secondary,” and “complex” narrator/narrative-text/voice are some of many possible designations for these techniques, as discussed by de Jong 1987a:8; 1987b:31f. Richardson 1990 is another full-length study of narrative voices in Homer. Chatman 1978:33 explains that the “[narrator] should mean only the someone—person or presence—actually telling the story to an audience no matter how minimally evoked his voice or the audience’s listening ear.”
[ back ] 7. Zielínski 1899–1901 proposes that the Homeric (primary) narrative never strays from a linear progression of events, even when describing different events occurring simultaneously. The relevance of this very early and important theory is evident first in Bassett 1938:33–34, and more recently in Richardson 1990:89–98, a re-evaluation suggesting that Homer conceals his manipulation of temporal sequence to give the impression of continuity; see also Stanley 1993:6. On the time of character speech, page 63 below.
[ back ] 8. Block 1982:11 gives a list of instances of apostrophe.
[ back ] 9. De Jong’s categories (1997:308); see also Richardson 1990 and Scully 1986. Bassett 1938:59 identifies three categories of presentation as “objectively narrative,” “subjectively explanatory,” and “dramatically imitative.” Stanley 1993:7 provides a good typology of the complex narrator, which he calls “digressive interruptions.”
[ back ] 10. Richardson 1990: “When the narrator informs us of spoken words without availing himself of direct speech, he is manipulating the story and leaving his mark on the text” (71).
[ back ] 11. Beck’s model of “conversational analysis”: the social context of the speech affects the rules that govern the conversation (2005:21).
[ back ] 12. The number of speakers given by Lateiner 1997:257 and, of speeches, by de Jong 1987b:115; Beck 2005:29 counts 678. Nine speeches are given by anonymous people, the tis-speeches (tis ‘someone’) analyzed by de Jong 1987a, 1987b:69. Griffin 1986:37 estimates that 7,018 verses of a total 15,690 in the Iliad are direct speech, accounting for 45 percent of the poem. ‘Single speeches’ are identified by Bassett 1938:63, who qualifies such speeches as “the most undramatic.” He counts 357 in the Iliad and 72 in the Odyssey.
[ back ] 13. Beck 2005:1–45. Scully 1986: “all speeches in the Iliad and the Odyssey are fully set apart from the narrative” (137n4); similar to Beck’s conclusions, he observes that the speeches are framed with narrative markers and never interrupted by narrative voice or ending in the middle of a line, making them exclusive metrically as well. Speeches may be further categorized according to the number of people addressed (Beck 2005:49f).
[ back ] 14. This area of Homeric scholarship in particular suffers from a lack of agreed terminology. De Jong 1987b:82–83 gives a list of terms and definitions, as does Dickson 1995.
[ back ] 15. Genette 1980:212–262. Auerbach 1953:6, 13 describes the invisibility of the Homeric narrator, whose presentation of events is completely externalized.
[ back ] 16. Bassett’s estimation (1938:70–71). Austin 1966:298 defines ‘digression’ as an “anecdote which describes action outside the time of the poem” and which relate “personal experience, family history, or myths outside of the Trojan legend”; he observes the three possible intentions, which are not exclusive, of the speaker in giving this particular type of speech. Martin 1989:47f. organizes the speeches in Homer designated as muthoi into the categories of “command,” “flyting,” and “memory.” Beck 2005:26 suggests that some speech acts can be roughly categorized as “non-conversational speeches,” most frequently commands, instructions to messengers, prayers, vaunts, and other kinds of boasts, all of which are hierarchical and involve an imbalance of power.
[ back ] 17. There are numerous studies, a few of which are listed here, that are relevant to our discussion: Lohmann 1970 is one of the seminal studies. Latacz 1975:395–422 gives a bibliography of scholarship on speech in Homer. Martin 1989 treats the relationship between speaker, type of speech, and context; Beck 2005 is a full-length study of conversation techniques. Parry 1956 studies the language of Akhilleus as does Dickson 1995 for Nestor. Gaisser 1969 analyzes the technique of ring composition and the structure of these speeches. On mythological paradeigma, Andersen 1987; Pedrick 1983; and Willcock 1964.
[ back ] 18. For example, Austin 1966:298 notes that we are told more about Nestor’s youthful exploits than about the cause of the Trojan War.
[ back ] 19. Andersen 1987.
[ back ] 20. Andersen 1987:6–7. Scodel 2002:25 points out that the digressions encourage listeners not to consider innovations, but to concentrate on the similarities and differences between Niobe and Priam. I do not address the issue of chronology—the hypothesis that speeches are ‘older’ or ‘newer’ insertions into the poem—on which see Griffin 1986:37; Kirk 1990:29–30.
[ back ] 21. The contrast between primary and secondary narrator perspectives is discussed by Andersen 1990:26f., the related issue of “mirror stories” by de Jong 1987b:210–218. We will return to Hektor’s sacrifices below, page 122.
[ back ] 22. Chatman 1978:32. In a different context, Hammer 2002:147 describes Homeric social interactions as “enacted in a public space,” a useful working definition for the sacrifices described in the primary narrative.
[ back ] 23. Except perhaps the Trojan sacrifice at nightfall (Iliad VIII 548–552), which has been excluded from this discussion and omitted from the texts of Monro and Allen 1920 (3rd edition) and West 1998, on the grounds that verses 548 and 550–552 are only found in (Plato) Alcibiades II 149d.
[ back ] 24. On the shifting perspective of Homeric narrative around battle events, see Bakker 1997:116; Beye 1993:346–347; Fenik 1968:16–17; and Kirk 1985:12. Stanley 1993:29–32 rehearses the history of scholarship on the structure of the Iliad.
[ back ] 25. Arend 1933:65.
[ back ] 26. Embedded sacrifices (in alphabetical order by speaker): Iliad I 140–147, VIII 236–244, X 46 (Agamemnon); Iliad V 177–178 (Aineias); Iliad I 62–67, IX 357, XXI 130–132, XXIII 144–150 (Akhilleus); Iliad XXIV 33–34 (Apollo); IV 101–103 (Athena); Iliad X 283–294 (Diomedes); Iliad VI 110–115, 274–278 (Hektor); Iliad VI 93–98 (Helenos); Iliad XXIII 205–207 (Iris); Iliad I 93 (Kalkhas); Iliad I 40–42 (Khruses); Iliad XI 706–707, 727–729, 772–775, XV 371–376 (Nestor); Iliad II 305–321 (Odysseus); Iliad IX 499–501, 535­–537 (Phoinix); Iliad VII 450 (Poseidon); Iliad VI 308–310 (Theano); Iliad IV 48–49, XXII 170–172, XXIV 69–70 (Zeus). In the complex narrative-text: Iliad II 550–551, IV 119–121, VIII 250, X 571, XII 6, XX 403–405, XXII 159–160, XXIII 195, 863–864, 872–873. Enacted sacrifices: Iliad I 308–317, 430–474; II 398–401, 402–432; III 264–311; VII 313–323; XIX 249–268.
[ back ] 27. I discuss this approach on page 27 above; see van Straten 1995:9f.
[ back ] 28. On the scene in general, Arend 1933:79–81, who classifies Iliad I 430–439 as part of a typical “ar-rival by ship” scene; so too Latacz 2002:120. Lord 1960:190 proposes that the emphasis on the hecatomb and the simultaneous presentation of the sacrificial victims and Khruseis has suppressed an original myth of human sacrifice. There has been some discussion of this episode as a late insertion; see Edwards 1980:19.
[ back ] 29. Peirce 1993:228n30; see also Parker 1983:153.
[ back ] 30. Pulleyn 2000 ad Iliad I 14 gives the ancient testimonia on stemmata, which seem to have been made of laurel wreaths or wool.
[ back ] 31. Coldstream 1985:67–97 and Rutkowski 1986 outline the evidence for the development of independent temples in Geometric Greece. On the Dark Age, see Mazarakis Ainian 1988. ‘Polis religion’ is defined and explored by Sourvinou-Inwood 2000, and for general discussion of ‘private’ and ‘public’ sacrifice, cult places in Attika are examined by Rosivach 1994 and Parker 2005:50–78, and Parker 2005:155f. on the Attic festivals.
[ back ] 32. In the Iliad, temenos is a sacred space for Demeter (Iliad II 696), and, with an altar, for Zeus (Iliad VIII 48) and Sperkheios (Iliad XXIII 148). Temenê are honorary gifts for heroes in Lycia (Iliad VI 194, XII 313), Meleagros (Iliad IX 578), and Aineias (Iliad XX 184). The word is used to describe the king’s estate on Akhilleus’ shield (Iliad XVIII 550) and for the ancestral estate of Iphition (Iliad XX 391).
[ back ] 33. Sourvinou-Inwood 1993:2­–5 discusses cult places in Homer; see also Lorimer 1950. On temples in the Odyssey, see Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:38n15. Burkert 1985:88 believes that the temple (naos) in Homer refers to the dwelling place of the god. That temples are not consistently described and are not often used in ritual practice probably reflects the gradual composition and transmission of the poem over centuries.
[ back ] 34. Apollo: Iliad I 39; V 445–446; VII 83. Athena: Iliad II 549; VI 93 = 274, 308.
[ back ] 35. Morris 1992:33–35 gives a brief summary on the related development of votive offerings and temples. Votive offerings are generally very marginalized in Homer: Seaford 2004:54–56 discusses the issues. He finds only five votive offerings in the Iliad: the Trojan peplos to Athena (VI 302–303), Hektor’s wish to dedicate to Apollo the armor of his opponent (VII 81–83), Hera’s description of gifts at Poseidon’s sanctuaries (VIII 203–204), Odysseus’ promise to dedicate the arms of Dolon (X 462–464, 570–571), and Akhilleus’ lock of hair (XXIII 141–146). According to Seaford 2004:56, the only explicit reference to wealth in a temple is found in Akhilleus’ dismissal of Agamemnon’s gifts, which are no more preferable to him than all the wealth in Apollo’s temple at Delphi (Iliad IX 401–405).
[ back ] 36. Archaeologists have generally agreed that raised structures occurring in sacral contexts in the Bronze Age, such as the bench-like platforms in the cult rooms of most Mycenaean shrines, are suggestive of ‘altars’ (Bergquist 1988). Yavis 1949 gives the typology of altars.
[ back ] 37. Sourvinou-Inwood 1993:2 proposes that “altars by the sea, on the beach, are well known in Homer” on the basis of two citations (Iliad VIII 238–240; XI 806–808). Sourvinou-Inwood, like many scholars, incorporates evidence from Homer into a larger argument about historical ritual practice; however, if one considers the context of these two references to altars, it does not seem that a clear pattern emerges that may be applied to the whole poem. Seaford 2004:53 observes that “there is no description of an altar in Homer.” βωμός describes 11 altars in the Iliad: altars for Apollo (I 440, 448) and Zeus (VIII 48) are mentioned by the primary narrator; altars for Zeus (VIII 249) and the gods (XI 808) are described by the complex narrator. Zeus describes his own altars: Iliad IV 48; XXIV 69. Odysseus describes an altar at Aulis without reference to the gods: Iliad II 238, 305, 310. Akhilleus refers to Sperkheios’ altar: Iliad XXIII 305. Altars used by Trojans and Akhilleus’ dedication to Sperkheios will be discussed below, pages 197f.
[ back ] 38. Taplin 1992:85.
[ back ] 39. In this regard, Seaford 2004:52f. describes the “lack of objective continuity” in Homeric sacrifice. Cf. Vermeule 1974: “man opfert, wo man geht und steht” (95), and Kirk 1981:68, not entirely consistent with his note ad loc. Iliad VI 87–94.
[ back ] 40. Similarly, the iterative form ἐπιρρέζεσκον is found only once in the Odyssey, describing the altar of the nymphs where passersby sacrifice (Odyssey xvii 210–211). On the language of sacrifice, see below pages 48–59.
[ back ] 41. On complex narrative pauses, see Richardson 1990:50–61.
[ back ] 42. Agamemnon’s prayer is discussed at length at pages 97–98 below.
[ back ] 43. Kirk 1990 ad Iliad VIII 249–250 identifies these altars with the aforementioned altar of Zeus.
[ back ] 44. Gaisser 1969:8.
[ back ] 45. The Iphigenia sacrifice is told in the Kupria as paraphrased by Proklos, where she is saved at the last minute (Bernabé 1987:41). In Aeschylus Agamemnon 218–249 it is suggested that she was killed at the altar, on which see Seaford 1989; Aretz 1999; and Henrichs 2000:183n37–38. Odysseus’ diplomacy in speechmaking in his appeal to Akhilleus in Iliad IX has been well observed by Griffin 1995.
[ back ] 46. See page 28 above. Interesting comparisons can be made with the leges sacrae, which always specify deity and victim, but lack details about the procedure (Parker 1996:53).
[ back ] 47. Purification: Iliad I 313; hand washing: Iliad I 449; III 270; cutting of hairs: Iliad III 273; XIX 254; wine: Iliad III 269; see further page 89 below. Because hand washing occurs more frequently before libations are poured, Gillies 1925:71 suggests that the action is a primarily physical cleansing without much emotional significance: Hektor refuses to pour libations with unclean hands (Iliad VI 266–269), and the embassy and councilors (Iliad IX 174–177), Akhilleus (Iliad XVI 230), and Priam (Iliad XXIV 305) wash their hands before pouring libations. On the inconsistent representation of purification in Homer, see Parker 1983:66–70, 140–143f.
[ back ] 48. Iliad I 449 = II 410; I 458 = II 421. Cf. Burkert 1985:66–68 on the Classical period; Killen 2001:441 observes that the majority of Mycenaean Fn tablets record allocations of barley etc. on the occasion of religious festivals.
[ back ] 49. ἅζομαι occurs in three other contexts, twice used by gods in reference to other gods (Iliad V 830; XIV 261) and once by Hektor regarding Diomedes’ lack of reverence (Iliad V 434). The etymological relation between ἁγνός and ἅζομαι is discussed by Parker 1983:147–151; the absence of the concept and respective terminology seems to Parker to be a “coincidence,” given its use in Hesiod Works and Days 336 (148–149).
[ back ] 50. Herrenschmidt 1982 argues that the question of who pays for sacrifice is of primary importance in indicating the sacrifiant, the person or group on whose behalf the sacrifice is offered. In his discussion of Hindu sacrifices, he points out that the person who pays for the sacrifices is the one hoping to benefit from them. A different approach is offered by Bremmer 1996:250, who observes that, whereas all participate in scattering the barley and lustral water, the most important person initiates the katarkhesthai. He includes Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War I 25, an account of the perceived insult when the Corinthians are not asked to lead the sacrifice at their colony, Corcyra.
[ back ] 51. Hubert and Mauss 1964; cf. Casabona 1966:85; Berthiaume 1982; Detienne 1989:11–13; Osborne 2000:296n7. Mageiros is not used in the Iliad. Aristophanes Birds 892–893 provides an example of the possible distinctions between these roles in Peisetairos’ irritated dismissal of the priest he summoned to perform the sacrifice, which he then performs himself.
[ back ] 52. Burkert 1983:37; cf. 1966:112; 1985:59.
[ back ] 53. The arkhôn basileus in Athens, according to Aristotle, was responsible for “all traditional sacrifices,” as were the Spartan kings; Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 3.3 (the ancestral rites), 57.1–2 (the Eleusinian mysteries, the Lenaia, and ‘almost all the ancestral sacrifices’ (ὡς δ’ ἔπος εἰπεῖν καὶ τὰς πατρίους θυσίας διοικεῖ οὗτος πάσας); Politics 1285a6, 1322b; Burkert 1985:95; Drews 1983:117; page 37 above. Auffarth 1991 proposes that a pattern resembling the Babylonian New Year’s Festival and the installation of a sacral king underlies the plot of the Odyssey. Launderville 2003 compares the practices of kings in the Homeric epics, biblical Israel, and ‘old Babylonian’ Mesopotamia, specifically in regard to sacrifice and prayer (316–330). He defines sacrifice as the ritual slaughter of animals for a commensal meal (325); cf. Kitts 2005:126–127.
[ back ] 54. Here I will briefly describe the role of the sacrificer’s identity in the structure of enacted and embedded sacrifices; the significance of Agamemnon’s sacrificial authority within the framework of the Iliad will be the subject of Chapter Four.
[ back ] 55. Sourvinou-Inwood 2000:18.
[ back ] 56. Burkert 2003:16; Detienne 1967:97, who observes that the phrase also carries connotations of equal distribution of meat in commensal sacrifices (1989:13). Cf. Aristophanes Peace 1118: Hierokles’ attempts to claim some of the splankhna because they are “in the middle” (ἐν μέσῳ). The oath sacrifices are discussed at length by Kitts 2005:127–156, who focuses on the order imposed by sacrifice in contrast to the disorder of the battlefield (124–126).
[ back ] 57. Agamemnon, Iliad VIII 238–241; Khruses, Iliad I 40–41. The pattern created by embedded sacrifices will be discussed at length in Chapter Three.
[ back ] 58. Hektor’s sacrifices: to Zeus, Iliad IV 48–49 (by the Trojans in general); XXII 170–172, XXIV 68–70; to the Olympians, Iliad XXIV 33–34; imagined by Agamemnon, Iliad X 46. Priam refers to ‘gifts’ given to the gods by his son, Iliad XXIV 425–428. Akhilleus: Iliad IX 357; Diomedes: Iliad X 292–294; Pandaros: Iliad IV 119–121; Peleus: Iliad XXIII 140, XI 772; Phoinix: Iliad IX 535–536; Teukros and Meriones: Iliad XXIII 863–864, 872–873.
[ back ] 59. Iris: Iliad XXIII 206–207; Phoinix: Iliad IX 499–501.
[ back ] 60. Akhaian army: Iliad VII 459, VIII 250, XII 6; youths: II 550–551, XX 403–405); Akhilleus: I 64–67; Aineias: V 177–178; ἱερήϊον: XXII 158–161.
[ back ] 61. Burkert 1985:73, with bibliography at 375n3. On the inexorable connection between prayer and sacrifice in the Classical period, Sourvinou-Inwood 2000: “prayers are a constituent part of all cultic acts” (44). Cf. Pindar Olympian 6.78.
[ back ] 62. Plato Euthuphro 14b: ἐὰν μὲν κεχαρισμένα τις ἐπίστηται τοῖς θεοῖς λέγειν τε καὶ πράττειν εὐχόμενός τε καὶ θύων, ταῦτ’ ἔστι τὰ ὅσια. Parker 1998b:109 compares this to Odyssey xvi 184 and xix 397; see also Pulleyn 1997:7.
[ back ] 63. Pulleyn 1997:4 defends reliance on literary sources, the only evidence available, for prayer; Versnel 1981:3 describes the continuity throughout antiquity of “fundamental elements and structures.” “If-ever” requests are discussed in detail by Pulleyn 1997:16–38. Parker 1998b:120 notes that “If-ever” requests, while frequent in poetry, are only found in two prose authors, Lysias 2.39 and Herodotos I 87 (117).
[ back ] 64. Lateiner’s categories, which also include “complaints” and “miscellaneous requests” (1997:250–252). His miscellaneous requests are “unritualized wishes addressed to divinities” (252), wishes which Lang 1975:310 defines as “simple prayers,” distinct from those requests embellished with reasons the god should grant them or the purpose they will serve, “complex prayers.” Lateiner broadly defines prayer as any address to gods (252), but only those which make requests of gods are considered to be prayers in this study. Morrison 1991:147 adopts a similar approach. I will not attempt a detailed analysis of prayers here, but refer the reader to Lateiner 1997:246–272, a discussion of the form and context of Homeric prayers, as well as the treatments of the topic by Adkins 1969; Lang 1975; Muellner 1976; Morrison 1991. Pulleyn 1997 is a comprehensive treatment of Greek prayer, which discusses the Homeric material in depth throughout the study. He defines prayer as “an articulate request directed towards gods” (6) and discusses the complex issue of reciprocity expressed in prayers (8–38).
[ back ] 65. Pulleyn 1997:188–195 offers an overview of the evidence and scholarship on these gestures.
[ back ] 66. On the semantics of moira in Homer, see Nagy 1979:134–135. The distribution of sacrificial meat at Nestor’s meal after the group sacrifice in Pylos is twice described as κατὰ μοῖραν (Odyssey iii 40, 66).
[ back ] 67. Although not in reference to sacrifice, compare Ajax’s command to the army to pray openly or in silence to protect their prayers from enemy ears (Iliad VII 194–199), which is reported in direct speech (Iliad VII 200–205). De Jong has observed that the prayers of the group are included to form a contrast with those of the leader (1987a:82). Cf. the description of the army’s prayers (Iliad XV 367–369) before focusing on the prayer of Nestor (Iliad XV 370–376).
[ back ] 68. For instance, Pulleyn 1997:30–31 argues that prayers without offerings are the recourse of people who would like to sacrifice, but cannot: their prayers form the ‘da-quia dedi’ (‘if-ever’) type; he also discusses “free prayers” (165). Versnel 1981:56 observes that “the element of exchange was fundamental to dealings with deities.”
[ back ] 69. Prayers in the Iliad: I 35–43, 450–457 (Khruses); II 401 (Akhaian army), 411–420 (Agamemnon); III 275–291 (Agamemnon), III 295–302, 318–324 (Akhaian and Trojan armies); III 350–354 (Menelaos); IV 101–103 (Athena about Pandaros) ~ IV 119–121 (complex narrator concerning Pandaros); V 114–121 (Diomedes); VI 304–311 (Theano), VI 475–481 (Hektor); VII 177–180, 200–205 (Akhaian army); VIII 236–246 (Agamemnon); X 272–282, 460–464 (Odysseus), X 283–295 (Diomedes); XV 370–378 (Nestor); XVI 231–252 (Akhilleus), XVI 513–527 (Glaukos); XVII 559–568 (Menelaos), XVII 645–648 (Ajax); XIX 254–265 (Agamemnon); XXIII 194–198 (complex narrator about Akhilleus); XXIII 870–873 (complex narrator concerning Meriones); XXIII 769–771 (Odysseus); XXIV 306–314 (Priam). Of these prayers, three embed past sacrifices: I 35–43 (Khruses); VIII 236–246 (Agamemnon) XV 370–378 (Nestor). Five vows promise future sacrifices: IV 101–103 (Athena about Pandaros) ~ IV 119–121 (complex narrator concerning Pandaros); VI 304–­311 (Theano); X 283–295 (Diomedes); XXIII 194–198 (complex narrator concerning Akhilleus); XXIII 870–873 (complex narrator concerning Meriones). The prayers and vows that embed sacrifice are discussed fully in Chapter Three, pages 112f.
[ back ] 70. For example, Odysseus slits the throats of sheep over a βόθρος, a ditch characteristic of ‘khthonic’ offerings (Odyssey xi 35–36). A white ram and black ewe are sacrificed at Iliad III 103, which may be the single reference in the poem to an Olympian/khthonian duality (Burkert 1985:199–203). Scullion 1994:76 describes the distinction between Olympian and khthonian sacrifice on the basis of the latter’s different occasions for offering (at night), color of victims (black), and direction of the offering (downwards), as well as its practice of entirely consuming the offering in a fire (holocaust) and its different terminology (ἐναγίζειν, ἐσχάρα, βόθρος, χοαί). None of these terms are found in the Iliad, except ἐσχάρα, which is once used of Trojan watch-fires (Iliad X 418). This may be part of a general silence regarding offerings to heroes or non-Olympian deities in the poem, on which see Kearns 2004:60–61.
[ back ] 71. Kitts 2005:29–32 discusses the marked emphasis on violence in the oath sacrifices, as well as the associations between the killing of the victim and the death of men on the battlefield, as opposed to commensal sacrifices; see also Seaford 1994:46–47. Burkert 2003:87 thinks that the “paradox of ritual” is more apparent in oath sacrifice; cf. Burkert 1985:250–254.
[ back ] 72. On this basis, Dietrich 1988:35 states that nothing distinguishes oath and thusia sacrifices in Homer (see esp. n10). Cf. Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 44; Xenophon Anabasis VI 2.9; Herodotos VI 68; Stengel 1910:83.
[ back ] 73. This substitution has been puzzled over since antiquity. Scholium T ad Iliad III 300 suggests that the participants knew that the oath was futile. Kirk 1985:301 suggests variable practices as the motivation. Dietrich 1988:36 argues for the creative choice at Homer’s disposal.
[ back ] 74. Odyssey iv 534–535. Henrichs 2000 examines the perversion of sacrifice in tragedy with reference to the passage in the Odyssey: the substitution of a trough for an altar is a further perversion of the ritual.
[ back ] 75. This is true in actual ritual practice as well; see Martin 1983:86, esp. n2. The Cretan youths on Akhilleus’ shield have golden makhairai hanging from their belts (Iliad XVIII 590–602), which Martin believes indicates “ritual ornaments” (89). Kitts 2005:151–152 links the prominence of the makhaira in oath sacrifices to the emphasis on violence in these scenes, as opposed to commensal sacrifices. A more detailed discussion of the makhaira can be found below, pages 186f.
[ back ] 76. Paris Louvre C 10.574; cf. van Straten 1995:49, 105. An amnion is used at Odyssey iii 444, identified with the sphageion by the scholia.
[ back ] 77. Speciale 1999; Killen 1998:421–422; he gives parallels from the Classical period for audits of temples around the time of festivals (422n93). *τόρπεζαι may be a very early reference to the use of a trapeza, the specialized table for ritual offerings in the Classical period unattested in Homer, on which see Gill 1974 and Jameson 1994.
[ back ] 78. London B 80; cf. van Straten 1995:101, esp. n307; see also Peirce 1993:255.
[ back ] 79. Bassett observes: “As the meal varies from the normal, either in circumstances or importance, the ribbon-like narrative broadens and fills with content. This, however, very rarely includes details of the food itself or of the accessories of the table” (1938:45).
[ back ] 80. E.g. Menander Duskolos 450; cf. van Straten 1995:146–147. A daitros is used in the Odyssey for the carving of meat (Odyssey iv 57).
[ back ] 81. 81 Iliad I 463, 471–474. Van Straten 1995:134–135 gives the evidence for splankhnoptês from four vases: London E455, E456, Palermo V661a, and Berlin inv. 3232. Burkert 1985:43–44, 74, discusses Paian, a god in Linear B sources who is mentioned twice in Homer (Iliad V 401, 899), as well as the ritual cry associated with the cult of Apollo; he also discusses music in cult more generally (102–103).
[ back ] 82. Talthubios’ assistance may reflect the implicitly religious role of heralds, which is otherwise superficial in the Iliad. Heralds are included among other religious personnel in a Linear B tablet from Pylos (Fn 187; Killen 2001:436; Latacz 2002:121), and one of the most important religious officials for the Eleusinian Mysteries is the ‘Sacred Herald’ (e.g. Xenophon Hellenika 2.4.20; Clinton 1974), but a comprehensive study of these officials in Greek cult practice is lacking. On heralds in epic poetry, see Berthiaume 1982:7 and Latacz 2002:121.