4. The King of Sacrifice

From its outset, the Iliad connects Agamemnon’s power to sacrifice. Sacrifice serves simultaneously as a display of his status-based hierarchy over the Akhaian army and, contextualized in the Panakhaian society at Troy, as a show of timê ‘honor’ toward the gods. It is this principle of timê that guides the actions of Iliad I: Agamemnon slights Akhilleus’ timê when he publicly asserts his superior authority by taking away Briseis. [1] Nestor, who here identifies himself as the wise advisor to the king, responds by advising Agamemnon not to take Briseis although it is in his power to do so. Even more strongly, Nestor cautions Akhilleus to respect the authority of a mightier king:
μήτε σὺ τόνδ’ ἀγαθός περ ἐὼν ἀποαίρεο κούρην,
ἀλλ’ ἔα, ὥς οἱ πρῶτα δόσαν γέρας υἷες Ἀχαιῶν·
μήτε σὺ, Πηλεΐδη, ἔθελ’ ἐριζέμεναι βασιλῆϊ
ἀντιβίην, ἐπεὶ οὔ ποθ’ ὁμοίης ἔμμορε τιμῆς
σκηπτοῦχος βασιλεύς, ᾧ τε Ζεὺς κῦδος ἔδωκεν.
εἰ δὲ σὺ καρτερός ἐσσι, θεὰ δέ σε γείνατο μήτηρ,
ἀλλ’ ὅ γε φέρτερός ἐστιν, ἐπεὶ πλεόνεσσιν ἀνάσσει.
(Iliad I 275–281)
Don’t seize the girl, powerful as you are—
leave her, just as the sons of Akhaia gave her, his prize from the very first.
And you, Son of Peleus, never hope to fight it out with your king,
pitting force against his force: no one can match the honors dealt
a king, you know, a sceptered king to whom Zeus gives glory.
Strong as you are—a goddess was your mother—
he has more power because he rules more men.
Nestor contrasts Akhilleus’ superior strength and divine birth with Agamem-non’s regal authority, which must be obeyed. As Keith Stanley has observed, “The sequence (Iliad I 53–292) as a whole is organized precisely and strikingly to articulate the conflict that emerges between honor due the divinely sanctioned king and that owed the divinely favored hero.” [2] This contrast is reflected throughout the poem in the performance of animal sacrifice, which is dominated by Agamemnon and shunned by Akhilleus. The interrelated issues of timê and geras ‘honorific portion’ raised between the king and warrior also function between man and god; the gods favor men who give them their proper timê, which Zeus defines as the geras of sacrifice. [3] Agamemnon is the divinely sanctioned king and therefore the only person represented as a performer of animal sacrifice, the geras of the gods, but he is remiss in honoring Akhilleus’ timê. Further, when dishonored by Agamemnon, Akhilleus receives his timê from Zeus himself until he chooses to return to the army, which renders futile Agamemnon’s gifts of honor to the gods. The contrast between Agamemnon’s honoring of the gods and his mistreatment of Akhilleus forms part of the poem’s depiction of the distance between mortals and immortals, while establishing the unique interstice occupied by Akhilleus, who is effectively isolated from both.
Sacrifice in the Iliad exists as a reaffirmation of the tense social hierarchy created by the expedition to Troy, an authoritarian construct in which various kings submit to the most powerful king, Agamemnon. Agamemnon initiates and carries out five of the seven enacted sacrifices (Iliad I 312–317; II 402–432; III 267–302; VII 313–323; and XIX 249–268), and sacrifice is his first action after the withdrawal of Akhilleus. He also provides victims for the sacrifice at Iliad I 436–474, a singular instance in which he delegates his ritual authority to Odysseus in order to avoid acknowledging responsibility for the plague. The other enacted sacrifice in the poem is performed by a group, “one and another of the Akhaians” (Iliad II 400–401), as a brief precursor to the large, detailed sacrificial scene led by Agamemnon (Iliad II 402–432). Instances of enacted sacrifice are so few in the Iliad that we ought to ask not why the ritual is omitted where we might expect it, but why it has been included. [4] In this chapter, an exploration of the poem’s representation of Agamemnon’s authority in the context of the Panakhaian community will lay the foundation for a close examination of a sacrificial framework for the quarrel in Iliad I. We will then look at the other sacrifices in the epic as a continuation of the pattern established in Iliad I, before concluding with an analysis of Akhilleus’ isolation as expressed through his abstinence from and disregard for sacrifice.
The sacrificer enjoys a special religious designation as the intermediary between man and god through his connection to the sacralized offering. As Jean-Pierre Vernant notes, “By furnishing the divinity with the consecrated object, the sacrificer expects the ceremony to produce a transformation as a result of the sacrifice and bestow on him a new religious quality.” [5] The fact that six of the seven enacted sacrifices are strictly limited to performances organized by Agamemnon demonstrates his supremacy and special ritual authority. The exclusivity of this focus on Agamemnon can be seen with comparison to the large number of characters who make prayers, discussed above, or with those who pour libations for the gods, a ritual action given gift status equivalent to sacrificial knisê according to Zeus. Although Agamemnon never makes them, libations unaccompanied by sacrifice are made by the Trojans and Akhaians en masse, the Akhaian councilors, the embassy to Akhilleus, Odysseus and Diomedes, Akhilleus, and Priam. [6] While libations and prayers remain significant ritual actions dedicated to the gods, occurring at crucial junctures in the poem in response to imminent threats and crises, the restricted use of animal sacrifice in relation to the quarrel between Akhilleus and Agamemnon stands out in comparison.
Feasting is equally frequent in the poem, as described in Chapter Three, but is seldomly preceded by animal sacrifice. This selective presentation of enacted sacrifices in the primary narrative also extends to Agamemnon as Opferherr: only those meals provided in contexts that support his authority over the army during Akhilleus’ absence include sacrifices. Therefore, when he invites the councilors to his hut in Iliad IX 89­–91, Agamemnon merely provides a dais for them, which leads to Nestor’s advice regarding reconciliation with Akhilleus:
Ἀτρεΐδης δὲ γέροντας ἀολλέας ἦγεν Ἀχαιῶν
ἐς κλισίην, παρὰ δέ σφι τίθει μενοεικέα δαῖτα.
οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ὀνείαθ’ ἑτοῖμα προκείμενα χεῖρας ἴαλλον.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,
τοῖς ὁ γέρων πάμπρωτος ὑφαίνειν ἤρχετο μῆτιν
Νέστωρ, οὗ καὶ πρόσθεν ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλή·
(Iliad IX 89–94)
Meanwhile the son of Atreus led his councilors
toward his quarters and set before them a feast to please their hearts.
They reached out for the good things that lay at hand
But when they had put aside their desire for food and drink
Among them first of all the old man began to weave his counsel:
Nestor, whose earlier plan had appeared best.
While this is very similar to the councilors’ feasts provided by Agamemnon in Iliad II and VII, those events are marked by animal sacrifice. In all three scenes, the councilors congregate in Agamemnon’s quarters (Iliad II 404–409, VII 313, IX 89) and a feast is enjoyed, described with the formulaic verse “When they had put aside desire for food and drink” (αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο, Iliad II 432 = VII 323 = IX 92), which then provides an opportunity for Nestor to speak (Iliad II 433, VII 324–325 = Iliad IX 93–94). The connections between the meetings in Iliad II and IX are further reinforced by similes comparing the consternation of men to stormy seas (Iliad II 144–149, IX 4–8). [7]
Why not perform sacrifice before the feast for the councilors in Iliad IX? I propose that animal sacrifice is limited to contexts that bolster Agamemnon’s authority, whereas the embassy to Akhilleus, like the sacrifice at Khruse in Iliad I, could be perceived as an admission of guilt and defeat for Agamemnon. In Iliad I he appoints an ambassador, Odysseus, to lead the hecatomb to Khruse, similar to the embassy suggested by Nestor to announce the offer of gifts to Akhilleus. No sacrifice precedes the council session in which this embassy is planned because the occasion does not promote Agamemnon’s authority and is therefore not a context for sacrifice or for any other positive symbol of his reign, for example, his scepter. [8] The embassy to Akhilleus in Iliad IX is a vulnerable moment for Agamemnon, and, although frequent libations and prayers are performed by the embassy, highlighted by the use of verses also found in sacrificial contexts, sacrifice is conspicuously absent. Before the embassy leaves the camp of Agamemnon, all pour libations:
αὐτίκα κήρυκες μὲν ὕδωρ ἐπὶ χεῖρας ἔχευαν,
κοῦροι δὲ κρητῆρας ἐπεστέψαντο ποτοῖο,
νώμησαν δ’ ἄρα πᾶσιν ἐπαρξάμενοι δεπάεσσιν.
(Iliad IX 174–176)
Heralds at once poured water on their hands,
and the young men brimmed the mixing bowls with wine,
and tipping first drops for the gods in every cup, they poured full rounds for all.
Rather than references to gods, the libations before departure are combined with the drinks imbibed by the embassy, “Libations finished, when everyone had drunk to his heart’s content” (αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ σπεῖσάν τ’ ἔπιόν θ’ ὅσον ἤθελε θυμός, Iliad IX 177). On the way to Akhilleus’ quarters, Ajax and Odysseus are described as praying to Poseidon:
τὼ δὲ βάτην παρὰ θῖνα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης
πολλὰ μάλ’ εὐχομένω γαιηόχῳ ἐννοσιγαίῳ
ῥηϊδίως πεπιθεῖν μεγάλας φρένας Αἰακίδαο.
(Iliad IX 182–184)
So they made their way at once along the shore of the loud-resounding sea,
praying hard to the god who moves and shakes the earth
that they might easily bring the proud heart of Akhilleus.
Before they leave the camp of Akhilleus, another libation is poured:
οἱ δὲ ἕκαστος ἑλὼν δέπας ἀμφικύπελλον
σπείσαντες παρὰ νῆας ἴσαν πάλιν· ἦρχε δ’ Ὀδυσσεύς.
(Iliad IX 656–657)
Then each man, lifting his own two-handled cup,
poured it out to the gods, and back they went along the ships, Odysseus in the lead.
Finally, after the discussion in Agamemnon’s hut, Iliad IX concludes with libations before bed:
καὶ τότε δὴ σπείσαντες ἔβαν κλισίηνδὲ ἕκαστος
(Iliad IX 12)
pouring cups to the gods, each man sought his shelter.
Interestingly, there are no specific references to the gods as recipients of these libations, which places the focus of this scene on the tension in the Akhaian community rather than on the depiction of reciprocity between gods and men. The indirect description of the prayer to Poseidon, without his reaction given, similarly reduces the impact of this action in the creation of a bond between the people praying and the divinity. These ritual actions create an atmosphere of solemnity and highlight the anxiety of the heroes involved, but the overall context of Agamemnon’s vulnerability precludes the animal sacrifices that produce a positive image of his hegemony for the audience.
A brief glance at the outline of events in Iliad VII provides a similar demonstration of the restricted performance of sacrifice as opposed to unmarked scenes of feasting or other ritual actions dedicated to gods. [9] The action begins with Hektor’s proposal of a second duel (Iliad VII 67–91), reminiscent of the first duel in Iliad III, which was sanctified by an oath sacrifice performed by Agamemnon in front of all of the armies. However, no sacrifice marks the occasion of this second duel. The Akhaians are afraid to meet Hektor’s challenge, and Nestor rebukes them with a digression on his personal experience against the Arkadian Ereuthalion (Iliad VII 124–160). This digression, unlike his later speech to Patroklos in Iliad XI, does not refer to sacrifice. Nine heroes including Agamemnon volunteer, and lots are cast. The army prays to Zeus that the lot fall to Ajax, Diomedes, or Agamemnon (Iliad VII 177–180). Ajax and Diomedes are consistently presented as the best substitute fighters in the absence of Akhilleus, further marked by their strong support of Agamemnon’s authority. [10] For example, after the embassy has failed, it is Diomedes who encourages Agamemnon and the troops to ignore Akhilleus (Iliad IX 697–709). The troops choose lots; Ajax, recognizing his lot, exhorts the army to pray silently, to safeguard their prayers from the Trojans, or openly, without fear (Iliad VII 191–199). Looking up to heaven, they pray for either the victory of Ajax or, should Hektor be dearer to Zeus, glory for both heroes (Iliad VII 200–205). Ajax and Hektor duel until the fight is broken up by the approaching darkness (Iliad VII 206–310). The Trojans rejoice upon seeing Hektor, while Ajax is led straight to Agamemnon: “while far across the field the Akhaian men-at-arms escorted Ajax back to noble Agamemnon, thrilled with victory” (Αἴαντ’ αὖθ’ ἑτέρωθεν ἐϋκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοὶ / εἰς Ἀγαμέμνονα δῖον ἄγον, κεχαρηότα νίκῃ, Iliad VII 311–312). In this context, a harmonious meeting of the councilors and a sacrificial feast, hosted and orchestrated by Agamemnon, mark this happy occasion (Iliad VII 313–323). The emphasis on Agamemnon’s authority is signaled by the heroes’ escorting of Ajax to the chief king, and further reiterated with regard to the sacrifice in the following verses:
οἱ δ’ ὅτε δὴ κλισίῃσιν ἐν Ἀτρεΐδαο γένοντο,
τοῖσι δὲ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
ἄρσενα πενταέτηρον ὑπερμενέϊ Κρονίωνι.
(Iliad VII 313–315)
Soon as they had gathered within the quarters of the son of Atreus
the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox in their midst,
a male, five years old, to the towering son of Kronos, Zeus.
The resultant feast honors Ajax with the honorary portion of meat and leads to Nestor’s plan to build the wall (Iliad VII 324–343). The narrative focus then shifts to the arguing Trojans in their agora: Priam sends them away to have supper, for which he provides nothing; Idaios is sent as a messenger to the Akhaian camps (Iliad VII 345–397), where Diomedes rejects Paris’ proposal; Agamemnon agrees to a burial truce (Iliad VII 398–411), after which the burial of the dead is briefly described without much detail (Iliad VII 412–432); and then the Akhaians secretly build their wall (Iliad VII 433–441). Significantly, it is at this point that the linear progression of events in the primary narrative is interrupted by Poseidon’s complaint to Zeus that the wall has been built without sacrifice, which Zeus promises will be avenged (Iliad VII 446–463). At variance with Agamemnon’s exclusive sacrificial feast in honor of Ajax, divine attention here emphasizes the lack of sacrifice for this grand undertaking.
The description of the mortal affairs on the plains of Troy resumes with another Akhaian feast, which is not depicted as a sacrifice: “they slew the oxen beside their tents and took their meal” (βουφόνεον δὲ κατὰ κλισίας καὶ δόρπον ἕλοντο, Iliad VII 466). βουφονεῖν ‘to slaughter oxen’ is attested only here in Greek literature; the lack of ritual details or actions directed toward gods, as well as the specific description of the troops “taking a meal” (δόρπον ἕλοντο), distinguishes this scene from the enacted sacrifices followed by dinners. The building of the wall is concluded with a refreshing repast, followed by a unique description of the troops bartering for wine brought by ships from Lemnos and the reception of an honorary thousand measures by Agamemnon and Menelaos (Iliad VII 467–475). This second meal, enjoyed by the troops after their hard work in building the wall and enhanced by the description of the wine, marks a significant contrast with the exclusive sacrificial meal provided by Agamemnon. The Akhaians and Trojans are collectively described as feasting through the night until being interrupted by Zeus’ thunder, which frightens the men into pouring libations before drinking. Iliad VII concludes with their falling asleep:
τίθεντο δὲ δαῖτα θάλειαν.
παννύχιοι μὲν ἔπειτα κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοὶ
δαίνυντο, Τρῶες δὲ κατὰ πτόλιν ἠδ’ ἐπίκουροι·
παννύχιος δέ σφιν κακὰ μήδετο μητίετα Ζεὺς
σμερδαλέα κτυπέων· τοὺς δὲ χλωρὸν δέος ᾕρει·
οἶνον δ’ ἐκ δεπάων χαμάδις χέον, οὐδέ τις ἔτλη
πρὶν πιέειν, πρὶν λεῖψαι ὑπερμενέϊ Κρονίωνι.
κοιμήσαντ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειτα καὶ ὕπνου δῶρον ἕλοντο.
(Iliad VII 475–482)
…and they made a handsome feast.
Then all night long the long-haired Akhaians
feasted, as Trojans and Trojan allies took their meal in Troy.
But for both sides, all night long, the Master Strategist Zeus plotted fresh disaster,
his thunder striking terror—And blanching panic swept across the ranks.
They flung wine from their cups and wet the earth, and no fighter would dare
drink until he’d poured an offering out to the overwhelming son of Kronos.
Then down they lay at last and took the gift of sleep.
The activity of feasting is described, both in the Akhaian camps and at Troy, without reference to sacrifice. This convivial occasion is juxtaposed against the ominous divine activities represented by Zeus’ thunder, part of his plan to devise disaster for the armies. In the context of Akhilleus’ withdrawal, this selective presentation of sacrifice bolsters Agamemnon’s authority: neither divine wrath, as represented by Zeus’ thunder, nor initiation or conclusion of momentous undertakings, such as the wall, provoke the primary narrator’s inclusion of enacted sacrifice. The feast celebrating Ajax, the substitute fighter in Akhilleus’ absence, is a celebratory moment and is therefore marked by Agamemnon’s sacrifice. The other feasts in Iliad VII do not form part of this pattern, making descriptions of sacrifice unnecessary.
This abbreviated summary of Iliad VII gives a good indication of both the poem’s selective representation of ritual and the pattern of Agamemnon’s special ritual dominance. Sacrifices are not performed where they might be expected—before the duel in Iliad VII (particularly given the prominence of the sacrifice before the duel in Iliad III), at burial, upon building the wall, before dinner after completion of the wall, or after the terror produced by Zeus’ thunder. Nor are they mentioned in Nestor’s digression, although he will describe them three times in his digression to Patroklos in Iliad XI.
Other ritual actions, such as prayers and libations, are performed by larger groups without any special emphasis on individuals. However, Agamemnon hosts one enacted sacrifice that the primary narrator takes pains to identify both as performed and distributed by him and as a sacrifice dedicated to the gods. In this context, Menelaos is not described as co-sacrificer or provider of sacrificial animals, though he and Agamemnon are jointly given a thousand measures of wine; the focus is restricted to Agamemnon. Mass consumption by the army is twice described, but never specifically linked to Agamemnon, in contrast to the marked demonstration of his exclusive ritual largesse after the duel. Poseidon even complains to Zeus about the lack of sacrifice, highlighting the restricted performance of this ritual action. Though Zeus frightens the men and they pour libations, sacrifice is not described again in the primary narrative until the reintegration of Akhilleus in Iliad XIX.
The narrative only selectively includes sacrifice, depicting it as a special event performed by Agamemnon and restricted to an elite group. More specifically, enacted sacrifice functions as an expression of Agamemnon’s authority, which is constantly challenged by Akhilleus. What remains at stake is the way in which the performance of sacrifice clarifies and reinforces Agamemnon’s somewhat ambiguous relationship with the other kings and the general soldiery. In order to arrive at a precise understanding of sacrificial function with respect to Agamemnon, we will briefly discuss the type of rule he holds over the Akhaians, exploring his reaction to the impact of Akhilleus’ withdrawal as expressed through his performances as Opferherr, before examining each enacted sacrifice in detail.

4.1 The Basis for Agamemnon’s Ritual Authority

To fully appreciate the significance of any particular ritual action, we must establish a working sense of that action’s social context. [11] The key to understanding sacrifice, a symbolic action that may be called a social institution, is the social relationships that provide the context for its performance. Though the composition of the social network in the Iliad is a complicated and controversial topic, largely beyond the scope of this study, the question we must raise concerns what type of authority is represented in the figure of Agamemnon, who is one of the basileis ‘noblemen’ at Troy, but who seems to have the ability to compel the others to do as he commands and who, at least sometimes, is recognized as having superior authority. Is Agamemnon’s authority greater because he is specifically identified with sacrifice, a prerogative that is his alone, or is he an absolute ruler whose complete control of goods and property necessitates his identity as Opferherr? After briefly setting out the competing interpretive models for the plausible historical influences on the Homeric poems’ representations of leadership, I will address some of these questions of social hierarchy in order to demonstrate that Agamemnon is seen as the supreme king while the army is camped outside Troy and that others recognize ritual authority as part of his unique powers.
Much good work has been conducted on such Homeric social institutions as land-tenure, finance, housing, marriage, etc., but the nature of social hierarchy and human relationships remains elusive. [12] There is a central question, hampered by ambiguities in both epics, concerning whether the characters in the poems identify themselves as parts of a unified group whose identity affects their actions and decision-making. Both poems represent multiple societies, which further complicates an overall understanding of the social constructs. In the Iliad, there is the patchwork society created by the Panakhaian expedition, which focuses not around an oikos, but on individual ships and shelters erected beside them: there is the Trojan society, which revolves exclusively around the oikos of Priam; there is the world hinted at through numerous similes and the images on the shield of Akhilleus; and then there is the society of the gods, which is probably an idealized reflection of what we should consider the norm within the poet—a hierarchical, kinship society based upon the authority of the eldest male. [13]
Part of the wide-ranging debate on the consistency of Homeric social and moral value systems stems from the poems’ questionable reflection of historical practices. The social contexts comprised of the values and social institutions recognized by the characters, which may be termed ‘Homeric societies’, create a complex puzzle. Although much of the Iliad is concerned with frictions within power structures, no formalized political institutions are consistently represented. Civic identities are problematized by tensions between the clearly demonstrated, collective awareness of a civic space that influences actions and decisions and an informal power structure based on power and wealth. This tension has led to the speculation that historical influences on the epic have been conflated, which would reflect a shift away from a Mycenaean warrior society obligated by kinship and philia toward the social structure of the polis, and would explain the seeming mixture of these social contexts within the poem. There are aspects of the social and material culture in the Iliad that correspond to the picture of Mycenaean palace culture as reconstructed from archaeological evidence and the Linear B tablets: a society dominated by the king, whose household provides economic stability, food supply, and protection. [14]
An important parallel to the Mycenaean period for our study could be drawn from the Mycenaean use of sacrificial feasts as examples of royal largesse, visible demonstrations of the chief king’s wealth and authority analogous to the depiction of Agamemnon’s feasts. Lisa Bendall has shown the hierarchy existing in the admittance granted to guests at ritual banquets at the king’s palace in Pylos, based on the distribution of kulikes. [15] The wanax is the chief king, described by Thomas Palaima as “a single elevated king at a rank above or considerably above the more numerous individuals known as basileis,” who rules over a “palatial system of regional hierarchical authority”: the wanax appoints a range of officials to perform administrative, economic, and supervisory tasks throughout the kingdom, while the basileis function on the local level, supported by the wanax, to whom they are subordinate and for whom they are sometimes called upon to perform tasks. [16] Bendall’s study of the archaeological evidence for drinking cups at the central palace in Pylos proposes that a very elite group feasted with the wanax in the main room, Room 6, where a small distribution of high quality kulikes have been found. A larger group, of lesser status but still elite, feasted in the inner courtyard, 63, visible to Room 64 and the southwest building, where a considerable amount of fineware has been found. Finally, the lower classes feasted in the courtyard before the entrance to the main building, where a large amount of low-grade kulikes have been found. These finds, coupled with similar finds at Malthi, where the inhabitants seem to have imitated feasting practices at Pylos, have led Bendall to conclude that the Mycenaean banquets were structured so as to reinforce the social hierarchy by controlling access to the banquets. Bennet and Davis describe this as “a palace-based system … involving, for example, state sponsored conspicuous consumption in the form of feasts associated with important transitions in the control of power or with systematic offerings to deities at particular times of the year, uniting both local and regional elites.” [17] The palaces wanted to bring people together to impress upon them the palatial control over agricultural wealth, particularly by offering it to the gods, which would simultaneously emphasize the generosity of the palace and the dependence of the people upon this generosity. [18] In this way, feasting would have provided a visible demonstration of royal power and social hierarchy, similar in many ways to Agamemnon’s performance of sacrifice in the Iliad. The similarities between reconstructions of feasting at Mycenaean Pylos and the representation of Agamemnon’s feasts in the Iliad can provide a kind of analog to other ritual practices in the poem. [19]
Many scholars, following Moses Finley, do not recognize a political awareness or identifiable polis in the epics, but interpret social interactions as functioning primarily on a private level, reflective of the ‘Dark Ages’ societies in the tenth to ninth centuries BCE, in which the oikos ‘household’ is the primary unit, led by the senior male, who owns the property and is linked to, but autonomous from, other households by a closed society of aristocratic birth. [20] In Finley’s definition, the Homeric oikos is comprised of “the people of the household together with its land and goods,” and is the forerunner of the Classical polis as the central unit that establishes social and moral values and provides security and livelihood. [21] His theory is largely drawn on the representation of social interaction in the Odyssey at Ithaka, where the activities in Odysseus’ household are considered a matter of public interest, but external to a public sphere of action. A similar model, proposed by Robert Drews, suggests that the presentation of Homeric kingship may reflect the power vacuum created by the collapse of the Mycenaean kingdoms in the Dark Ages, leading to a consolidation of power in the hands of a few basileis. [22] In these interpretations, the oikos is usually shown to have the predominant influence over decisions and actions, whether at the expense of the nascent political consciousness of the Homeric masses, as a tool to bolster an aristocratic audience threatened by the transition, or as the only secure space for collective action before the development of political activity. [23] In these models, there is not one supreme king, but an association of equally ranked nobles, and a figure such as Agamemnon becomes a primus inter pares ‘first among equals’. His status is slightly greater than the other basileis because he is the ruler of the largest kingdom, as Nestor tells Akhilleus (“he rules more men,” πλεόνεσσιν ἀνάσσει, Iliad I 281), but he does not have an otherwise distinguishable leadership role. [24] Significantly, while denying that Agamemnon has an elevated or unique rank, even Finley recognizes that “in certain of his functions—in the Assembly, for example, or in offering sacrifices to the gods—the king in fact acted the patriarch.” [25]
Finally, other scholars have suggested that Homer represents the society of the early Archaic period in which the polis emerged. In this view, the components of a polis and political activity are recognizable in the Iliad, which reflects the uncertain nature of political changes in the ninth and eighth centuries BCE. [26] A collective conceptualization of community, in the civic and political sense, would reflect the Homeric poems’ location in a transitional phase between “individual achievement, dependent solely on skill and prowess, toward the idea of social class in which membership alone allowed one to claim excellence,” the sort of communal identity of the Classical Athenian polis, for example. [27] That the development of a political mindset such as the one found in the Classical polis occurs in the Homeric poems can be argued on the basis of the foremost heroes’ responsibility for the well-being of the overall community, as well as the dependence of heroic status on the willingness of supporters. Different social ranks have different obligations; identity and wealth are the result of fulfillment of these roles and acceptance of appropriate punishments and rewards. Kurt Raaflaub concludes: “The individual’s primary focus on family and oikos does not exclude a high valuation of service to and responsibility for the polis.” [28]
These very brief summaries of extremely complex arguments may serve as glimpses into the remarkable panorama of different, plausible interpretations of communities presented in the Homeric poems. Many of the arguments sketched above depend on the multiple societies depicted in the Odyssey and on Telemakhos’ problems in his household. [29] Since the political system represented in the Iliad is still informal, ritual and reciprocity play the central roles that ‘co-operative virtues’ will later play in the polis. [30] Social interactions rely on a system of communal obligations that are reciprocal, existing between kindred and non-kindred alike. They are defined both through households, starting with the king’s home as a model for the community, and through social interactions such as friendship, hospitality, and ‘negative reciprocity’ (or the obligations of enmity). [31] In the affairs of the heroes, the social composition in the Iliad is complicated by the representation of seemingly contradictory value systems, one based on inherited wealth and power, the other a meritocracy awarding heroes for individual achievements, as has been proposed by Richard Martin. [32] In John Gould’s surmise, the “reciprocal obligations owed by Akhilleus and the Greeks are made unclear by the pervasive ambiguity of social values among the Greeks at Troy.” [33]
Without political institutions or other formalized systems of decision-making, Homeric leadership cannot be based upon easily identifiable institutional mechanisms such as taxation or judicial functions, and it is therefore relatively unstable. The existence of moral obligations reflective of a shared value system between kindred and non-kindred has been discussed by scholars with reference to many other contexts, such as feeling shame on the battlefield on behalf of a fallen comrade, but this value system seems less secure in regards to leadership. [34] As to an organized structure of authority binding to all heroes, Walter Donlan, who, in keeping with Finley posits a historical influence from the mid-ninth/eighth century, finds Homeric society to be largely composed of autonomous and “centrifugal” households run by chieftains or “big men.” He views Homeric society as a “ranked society,” between egalitarian and stratified societies, in which the chief has authority but little “coercive power”: Agamemnon’s power relies upon the willingness of the people to follow him. [35] So Akhilleus asserts that the Akhaians follow Agamemmnon to Troy to please him and to bring timê to him and Menelaos (“but you are terribly shameless—we all followed you, to please you, to win your honor back from the Trojans, for Menelaos and you, you dog-face,”ἀλλὰ σοὶ, ὦ μέγ’ ἀναιδές, ἅμ’ ἑσπόμεθ’ ὄφρα σὺ χαίρῃς / τιμὴν ἀρνύμενοι Μενελάῳ σοί τε, κυνῶπα, / πρὸς Τρώων, Iliad I 158–160).
However, Agamemnon’s power base relies on more than the allegiance of his people. At the start of the poem, he is described by Kalkhas as “the one who rules mightily over the Akhaians and whom the Akhaians obey” (ὃς μέγα πάντων / Ἀργείων κρατέει καί οἱ πείθονται Ἀχαιοί, Iliad I 78–79). Hans van Wees suggests that the Iliad projects a social model based upon subordination to an authoritative figure, whose authority is both inherited and socially accepted. [36] Whichever historical forms may have formed the basis for the poetic representation of communal interactions in the Iliad, the social world of the Akhaians encamped outside of Troy is a gradated society consisting of a chief king, elite nobles, and their followers. The numerous kings gathered together at Troy command their own groups, which act as subsections within the larger structure of the Akhaian army under the auspices of Agamemnon: for example, when Akhilleus withdraws, so do the Myrmidons he leads. This authority structure works on the smaller level of “noblemen” (basileis) and their followers as well as the larger level of both groups’ collective subordination to Agamemnon. Therefore, most of the contingents listed in the Catalogue of Ships are composed of men from multiple towns, led by one leader or an occasional pair of brothers. [37] In the Catalogue of Ships, Agamemnon is described as the one who leads the most men and is the ἄριστος ‘best’ (Iliad II 580). [38] Agamemnon offers Akhilleus a gift of seven cities on the border of Pylos, which, coupled with other references to Agamemnon’s control of Argos, suggests to van Wees that he is the supreme leader of all Akhaian states. [39] Agamemnon is not a tyrant with absolute power, but he oversees the other leaders in an arrangement loosely under his auspices, as established at the start of the poem: Akhilleus calls the assembly (Iliad I 54); he, Kalkhas, and Nestor offer their opinions in addition to those of Agamemnon (Iliad I 59–303); and Akhilleus demonstrates that the authority Agamemnon wields over the other noblemen is not sufficient to prevent him from withdrawing (Iliad I 293–303). However, although Agamemnon asks advice of other characters, his approval must be given before any action is taken. [40] No one supersedes Agamemnon; some characters, Kalkhas, for instance, are afraid of him, and no other kings withdraw with Akhilleus, even though we are told that they initially want to respect the request of Khruses, the priest whom Agamemnon treats with contempt (Iliad I 22–23). Carlier concludes that there are three political levels in the poem: the three hundred-odd subsections of the army, which he calls ‘boroughs’; the 29 kingdoms that make up the military contingent; and the “Panakhaian community whose supreme leader is Agamemnon.” [41]
Although there are many kings at Troy, Agamemnon has responsibility for the army, even if this power is based on accepted rather than demonstrable premises. Not all of his subordinates are happy with his rule, not least Akhilleus, nor is he presented as a flawless or ideal ruler, but his authority over the army remains beyond doubt. After another of his suggestions that the Akhaians flee Troy, Odysseus even wishes Agamemnon were not the leader of the army:
Ἀτρεΐδη, ποῖόν σε ἔπος φύγεν ἕρκος ὀδόντων·
οὐλόμεν’ αἴθ’ ὤφελλες ἀεικελίου στρατοῦ ἄλλου
σημαίνειν, μηδ’ ἄμμιν ἀνασσέμεν, οἷσιν ἄρα Ζεὺς
ἐκ νεότητος ἔδωκε καὶ ἐς γῆρας τολυπεύειν
ἀργαλέους πολέμους, ὄφρα φθιόμεσθα ἕκαστος.
οὕτω δὴ μέμονας Τρώων πόλιν εὐρυάγυιαν
καλλείψειν, ἧς εἵνεκ’ ὀϊζύομεν κακὰ πολλά;
σίγα, μή τίς τ’ ἄλλος Ἀχαιῶν τοῦτον ἀκούσῃ
μῦθον, ὃν οὔ κεν ἀνήρ γε διὰ στόμα πάμπαν ἄγοιτο,
ὅς τις ἐπίσταιτο ᾗσι φρεσὶν ἄρτια βάζειν
σκηπτοῦχός τ’ εἴη, καί οἱ πειθοίατο λαοὶ
τοσσοίδ’ ὅσσοισιν σὺ μετ’ Ἀργείοισιν ἀνάσσεις·
(Iliad XIV 83–94)
…What’s this, Son of Atreus, this talk that slips from your clenched teeth?
You are the disaster. Would to god you commanded another army of cowards
instead of ruling us, the men whom Zeus decrees,
from youth to old age, must wind down
our brutal wars until we drop and die, down to the last man.
Are you so eager to bid farewell to the broad streets of Troy,
Troy that cost our comrades so much grief?
Quiet—lest someone else of the Akhaians hear this
speech, which no man should ever let pass his lips,
no man who has the sense to speak suitably and
who is a sceptered king, whom so many obey
as many as you command among the Argives.
Although Odysseus shows contempt for Agamemnon’s plan for retreat, he fully acknowledges that it is Agamemnon upon whose word their actions depend. His wish that Agamemnon “commanded” (σημαίνειν) another army, “instead of ruling us” (μὴ δ’ ἄμμιν ἀνασσέμεν), and his plea for him to think of the countless fighters he “rules over” (σὺ ἀνάσσεις) make clear the overriding superiority Agamemnon has over the troops, whether he is fit for such rule or not. In addition, Odysseus refers to him as a “sceptered-king” (σκηπτοῦχος), the same phrase used by Nestor to describe Agamemnon when warning Akhilleus not to challenge his superior authority; indeed, the scepter is the object most symbolic of his special, inherited sovereignty. [42] While he does not have absolute control over the Akhaians, Agamemnon does preside over the community created in the encampment outside of Troy. Akhilleus withdraws and even threatens to go home (Iliad IX 356–361), but when he or any of the other soldiers are part of the Akhaian army community, they are all at least nominally under Agamemnon’s command, as Akhilleus himself recognizes in Iliad XIX, which we shall discuss in detail below.
The might with which Agamemnon rules is threatened by Akhilleus’ special semi-divine status at the start of the poem: although Akhilleus cannot supplant or remove Agamemnon’s control over the Akhaian military, he can influence the gods to thwart Agamemnon’s plans. The vulnerability of his authority, in addition to various character foibles, has tarnished Agamemnon’s reception by modern critics. Oliver Taplin has proposed on the basis of his character flaws in Homer that, rather than a clear hierarchy, a “centrality” exists based on mutual obligation and the fact that Agamemnon is Menelaos’ elder brother. [43] Others have argued that Agamemnon is deliberately portrayed negatively in the poem—in Charles Segal’s description, as “the most wantonly cruel of the Greeks.” [44] Indeed, if two criteria important for social standing in the heroic community of the Iliad are powers of persuasion andreputation, Agamemnon seems neither able to speak persuasively nor is he the best warrior. [45] The characterization of Agamemnon within the poem does not appear to develop or progress except in the context of the withdrawal of Akhilleus. [46] Nonetheless, Agamemnon is the chief leader, and it is the special character of this leadership that is expressed in his provision of feasts for an exclusive group of nobles and his performances of sacrifice for both this private group and the army as a whole. Richard Seaford describes the power of a Homeric leader as based upon “wealth, prestige, and military prowess, an informal authority over the other like-named chiefs (basileis), and on his ability to act as a redistributor,” components that must be actively sustained in order for the leader to maintain his power base, even if this power base is inherited and socially accepted. [47] Sacrifice, along with feasting, is an important component of this constant reaffirmation of his might, prestige, and wealth through redistribution.
Agamemnon is advised by a sort of King’s privy council, usually described as gerontes ‘elders’, comprised of Lokrian Ajax, Telamonian Ajax, Diomedes, Idomeneus, Nestor, Menelaos, Odysseus, and Meges. [48] As the chief king, Agamemnon is obligated to provide food and drink for his councilors, as expressed by Nestor:
Ἀτρεΐδη, σὺ μὲν ἄρχε· σὺ γὰρ βασιλεύτατός ἐσσι.
δαίνυ δαῖτα γέρουσιν· ἔοικέ τοι, οὔ τοι ἀεικές.
πλεῖαί τοι οἴνου κλισίαι, τὸν νῆες Ἀχαιῶν
ἠμάτιαι Θρῄκηθεν ἐπ’ εὐρέα πόντον ἄγουσι·
πᾶσά τοί ἐσθ’ ὑποδεξίη, πολέεσσι δ’ ἀνάσσεις.
(Iliad IX 69–73)
Then Atreides, lead the way—you are the most noble—
spread out a feast for all your councilors. That is your duty, a service that becomes you.
Your shelters overflow with the wine Akhaian ships
bring in from Thrace, daily, down the sea’s broad back.
Grand hospitality is yours, you rule so many men.
Nestor emphasizes that Agamemnon has a special authority, “you are the most noble” (σὺ γὰρ βασιλεύτατός ἐσσι), and he associates this leadership with Agamemnon’s superior wealth, here described as an outcome of his chief rule. As we will see, this special and distinctive role as provider requires Agamemnon also to be the Opferherr, sometimes providing food, as in Iliad II and VII, while at other times providing sacrificial animals and performing a ceremonial role as the spokesperson, on behalf of the army, to the gods, as in Iliad III and XIX. Trojan social interactions provide a marked contrast to the primary narrator’s descriptions of the Akhaian councilors and army: Hektor does not provide dinner for his councilors and seems to pay his allies, whereas no payment is mentioned in connection with Agamemnon. [49]
Owing partly to Agamemnon’s shortcomings and partly to the tenuous nature of leadership in Homeric society, he must constantly identify and define his authority. Along these lines, Norman Austin concludes, “Among the kings there is one acknowledged superior, but he is not the superior in either fighting or planning; his superior authority is merely accepted.” [50] The most conspicuous display of Agamemnon’s authority can be found in his performance of animal sacrifice. Sacrificial ritual plays a crucial role in all ancient Greek political systems. Detienne, in reference to the Classical polis, states that “political power cannot be exercised without sacrifice.” [51] As a necessarily group action, sacrifice brings together members of the community, but it distinguishes the sacrificer. As a highly visible action, sacrifice provides a clear, unassailable demonstration of Agamemnon’s dominance over the other kings, which is questionable in areas of leadership where other heroes seem better equipped. Accordingly, Agamemnon’s assertion of authority in the primary narrative-text of the Iliad is reflected by a clear pattern of sacrificial practice. As demonstrated in Chapter Two, all enacted sacrifices are performed or ordered by Agamemnon.
Sacrificial animals in antiquity would have been expensive and would function not only on the religious/cultic level of influencing the gods favorably toward the group but also practically, when the sacrifice was followed by a shared feast, as provisions for meals. The important value of sacrificial victims in the Homeric world is demonstrated in the simile comparing the race for Hektor’s life to races for prizes of sacrificial victims (Iliad XXII 159–160). I have proposed that Agamemnon’s control over the distribution of food, sometimes in sacrificial contexts, is an important symbol of his hegemony; however, a question remains concerning the origin of these resources. Van Wees suggests that Agamemnon acts as a redistributor for goods contributed by the members of his community. [52] He points, for example, to Menelaos’ exhortation for the troops to protect the body of Patroklos in Iliad XVII, as well as to his scolding them in reference to their wine drinking:
ὦ φίλοι Ἀργείων ἡγήτορες ἠδὲ μέδοντες,
οἵ τε παρ’ Ἀτρεΐδῃς, Ἀγαμέμνονι καὶ Μενελάῳ,
δήμια πίνουσιν καὶ σημαίνουσιν ἕκαστος
(Iliad XVII 248–251)
Friends—Lords of the Argives, O my captains,
all who join the Sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaos
who drink wine at the king’s expense (dêmia) and hold command
of your own troops,
At this critical moment in the poem, Menelaos encourages the men by reminding them of an obligation to Agamemnon in the context of feasting. Lokrian Ajax and Idomeneus, two of the councilors summoned by Agamemnon to the sacrificial feast in Iliad II, and Idomeneus’ companion Meriones are the first three to respond to Menelaos’ call (Iliad XVII 256–259). This exhortation recalls feasts for which Agamemnon seems to have provided the provisions. A similar emphasis structures Agamemnon’s rebuke that Menestheus and Odysseus are “the first to hear the call of my dais, whenever we Akhaians prepare the dais for the councilors” (πρώτω γὰρ καὶ δαιτὸς ἀκουάζεσθον ἐμεῖο, ὁππότε δαῖτα γέρουσιν ἐφοπλίζωμεν Ἀχαιοί, Iliad IV 343-344); the emphasis here is on the possessive, “my feast.” In all of the feast scenes in the poem, descriptions of Agamemnon as providing for or hosting meals and sacrificial feasts are specifically in reference to the councilors, as implied in Menelaos’ exhortation.
Agamemnon does not act as a redistributor for the entire army. When he commands the army to feast in Iliad II, they scatter off to their huts where they are described as praying, sacrificing, and eating. Agamemnon simultaneously hosts a sacrificial feast in his quarters for the councilors (Iliad II 402). After the duel in Iliad VII, we find a similar distinction between the description of the whole army feasting and Agamemnon’s private sacrificial dinner. The social hierarchy has a “trickle-down” effect: Agamemnon provides for the councilors, and, although the exact origin of these provisions is elided—part of the Homeric avoidance of mundane practicalities in food preparation—his prominence as the Opferherr suggests that he not only provide the provisions but also control their distribution. He authorizes the hecatombs in Iliad I and appoints a delegate to lead the second offering to Khruse. Agamemnon provides commensal sacrifices for the elite group of councilors in Iliad II and VII, who might then be expected to provide for their own men, just as he commands the leaders of the army, who are then expected to command their own troops, as in Menelaos’ speech above. However, for the oath sacrifices in Iliad III and XIX performed on behalf of the army, Agamemnon summons Talthubios to fetch the victims, which we may assume he provides from the same stock as the other meals. This type of royal largesse, which Agamemnon distributes appropriately, can be seen as a contrast to his distribution of booty: the men initially give Briseis to Akhilleus (Iliad I 162), but Agamemnon exhorts them to give him another prize (Iliad I 135). His quarrel with Akhilleus begins when he takes away prizes that have been previously distributed. Even Akhilleus tells Agamemnon that, by reversing the principles of redistribution, he undermines his own authority (Iliad I 150–151). [53]
Though Agamemnon uses sacrifice to demonstrate his supreme authority, its performance does not establish the special relationship with Zeus that would further enhance his standing with the army; in fact, as we have seen in Chapter Three, the discussion of sacrifice throughout the poem undermines the notion that reciprocity with the gods makes a person more powerful or likely to succeed. The Iliad does not present Zeus as arbiter of Agamemnon’s sacrificial authority, the kind of divine sanction alluded to in the description of his inherited scepter. Nestor, often the spokesman in promotion of Agamemnon’s rule, attributes Agamemnon’s authority over the army to Zeus, via the scepter:
Ἀτρεΐδη κύδιστε, ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον,
ἐν σοὶ μὲν λήξω, σέο δ’ ἄρξομαι, οὕνεκα πολλῶν
λαῶν ἐσσι ἄναξ καί τοι Ζεὺς ἐγγυάλιξε
σκῆπτρόν τ’ ἠδὲ θέμιστας, ἵνα σφίσι βουλεύῃσθα.
(Iliad IX 96–99)
Most glorious son of Atreus, lord of men Agamemnon,
with you I will end, with you I will begin, since
you are king over many warriors and Zeus has placed in your hands
the scepter and time-honored laws, so you will advise them well.
Although Nestor alludes to the divine sanction behind Agamemnon’s rule, he defines this rule in terms of the number of men Agamemnon controls, as well as by the scepter and laws overseen by Zeus. The phraseology “beginning and ending with you” is very similar to that found in the Homeric Hymns for addressing gods, which suggests to Robert Mondi that Agamemnon enjoyed a “divine kingship.” [54] The depiction of Agamemnon’s ritual authority is important in synchronizing the councilors during Akhilleus’ withdrawal, but a personal relationship with Zeus is not clearly established in this regard, particularly in comparison to the god’s oft-expressed gratitude for Trojan sacrifices. The Iliad focuses not on Zeus’ role in establishing Agamemnon’s authority, but on Agamemnon’s wealth and power. [55] The primary narrator depicts Agamemnon as the sole distributor of sacrificial meat, which is a highly valued symbol of honor, and therefore as the community spokesperson to the gods, but it does so without characterizing any special influence over the gods. Though Agamemnon’s power over men is linked to the king of the gods at critical junctures (Iliad I 175, XIX 87–144), this does not extend to a special relationship with or influence over divinities, which remains the unique privilege of Akhilleus.

4.2 Ritual Authority and Exclusion

Agamemnon’s special authority in the poem is intensified by the challenge presented by Akhilleus’ defiance. This challenge arises from the tension between status-based timê, which must be recreated and reaffirmed—typically through persuasive speech—and honor acquired through performance-based judgments. [56] A social standing based on ability, which must be established on the honor or deference given to a hero because of a certain skill, stands in contrast to the inherited status-based prestige possessed by the king, although an individual may merit both types of honor. For example, Nestor’s acknowledged talent in speechmaking persuades others to listen to him, an example of performance-based judgment, while he has a separately identifiable status-based timê as king of Pylos and leader of a military contingent at Troy. Timê is the essential concept for a hierarchical society in which individuals are not equal, but are identified in terms of perceived rank, based on inherited status, performance, or a combination of the two. [57] On the one hand, Agamemnon is the chief king on the basis of his inherited status. On the other, Akhilleus can challenge Agamemnon’s authority on the basis of his own ability: his military prowess is ultimately the key to Greek victory.
Dean Hammer, drawing on the work of Victor Turner, creates a definition of Homeric society as a “political field” for “social drama.” [58] ‘Political field’ is a very useful phrase in describing not a structure or function, but an activity created by the interactions of the characters within structures or functions. It is the discussions of characters in the political field that raise questions of community organization, identity, relationships, and value systems. Hammer defines ‘social drama’ as “a sequence of social interactions of a conflictive, competitive, or agonistic type.” [59] Sacrifice is one such social interaction, a representation of status that can take on an agonistic aura when used to maintain a leader’s authority in times of crisis. Walter Burkert has described the importance of ritual as a tool for overcoming anxiety:
[Ritual] signals and creates situations of anxiety in order to overcome them, it leads from the primal fear of being abandoned to the establishment of solidarity and the reinforcement of status, and in this way it helps to overcome real situations of crisis by substituting diverted activity for the apathy which remains transfixed in reality. [60]
Tension created by the quarrel between the men and their leader results in a constant need for Agamemnon to recreate and reassert his leadership, his inherited timê. [61] From the start of the poem, the interplay between enacted and embedded sacrifices emphasizes Agamemnon’s authority. The quarrel begins and ends with sacrifice: Kalkhas’ recommendation that Khruseis be returned with a propitiatory sacrifice initiates the quarrel; the oath sacrifice in Iliad XIX, the final enacted sacrifice, reunites Akhilleus with the army. Akhilleus and Agamemnon are both thematically linked to sacrifice, but in very different ways: Akhilleus through his deviation from normal ritual practice and Agamemnon through his manipulation and control of these same rituals. The theme of Agamemnon’s ritual authority is established by the repeated emphasis on his role as sacrificer, in addition to the placement of sacrificial scenes within the primary narrative. When Akhilleus challenges Agamemnon by withdrawing from the army community, the embedded and enacted sacrifices provide a framework for his withdrawal. Adam Parry points out that, rather than being explicitly stated, Akhilleus’ individuality and isolation are conveyed on numerous levels of diction and characterization. [62] Sacrifice is an important part of this conveyance: the seven enacted sacrifices directly relate Agamemnon’s ritual authority to the central action—Akhilleus’ anger. [63]
The first Assembly scene in Iliad I establishes the ‘political field’ through the introduction of the main characters, their relationships to one another within their society, and the role played by timê in social relationships. Agamemnon’s timê is most obviously represented by his ability to command others because of his economic control over them. It is in this context that we get the first sacrifices of the epic, which are as much a part of Agamemnon’s domination as the unequivocal prizes he claims from the booty (Iliad I 163–168). [64] A close examination of the sacrificial framework surrounding Akhilleus’ withdrawal will enable us to appreciate fully the thematic connection between sacrifice and the quarrel, on both the macro-level of the narrative ordering of events and on the micro-level of diction.
Table I. An Outline of Sacrifice in Iliad I
Invocation to the Muse, summary of theme (1–7)
Khruses’ request of Agamemnon (8–32)
          Khruses’ request of Apollo (33–42)
Apollo smites the Akhaians (43–52)
[Assembly, 53–305]
          Kalkhas advises sacrifice and the return of Khruseis (53–120)
Quarrel begins (121–139)
          Agamemnon decides to send an embassy for the sacrifice (140–147)
Quarrel Resumes (148–305)
Akhilleus goes to his huts (306–307)
          Agamemnon loads and launches the ship for Khruse (308–311)
          Agamemnon commands the men to sacrifice (312–317)
Briseis taken from Akhilleus (318–356)
Akhilleus and Thetis (357–430a)
          Sacrifice at Khruse (430b–474)
Return to Akhaian camp (475–487)
Akhilleus stays apart (488–492)
Events on Olympus (493–611)
The events of Iliad I are set out below, with the scenes involving sacrifice underlined to demonstrate the function of this ritual in the evolution of the quarrel. To summarize briefly, Agamemnon must authorize a sacrifice to appease Apollo and return Khruseis to her father. This decision, suggested first by Kalkhas and then supported by Akhilleus, leads to the quarrel between Agamemnon and Akhilleus. The primary narrator describes Odysseus boarding and Agamemnon launching the ship for the sacrifice to Apollo. Then Akhilleus goes to his huts, but, rather than immediately depicting the conversation he has with his mother, the narrative describes the disembarkation of the embassy, immediately followed by the purificatory sacrifice led by Agamemnon. The seizure of Briseis and Akhilleus’ conversation with Thetis follow; then the narrative shifts to the sacrifice at Khruse, before returning to the movements of Thetis and her supplication of Zeus. The primary focuses of Iliad I, the alienation of Akhilleus and the threat to Agamemnon’s supremacy, are thus encircled with the performance of this sacrifice.
Homeric society is reinforced through the performance of sacrifice, a display of the social cohesion between its performer and the other participants. It is fitting that Iliad I is more concerned with sacrifice than any other part of the poem, since it serves as an introduction to the value and belief systems that structure the Homeric world. [65] With every major event followed by a reference to or performance of sacrifice, the enacted and embedded sacrifices provide a framework for Akhilleus’ wrath, which is made vivid by the insertion of Akhilleus’ conversation with Thetis between the preparation for the sacrifice on Khruse (and Agamemnon’s purificatory sacrifice) and its performance. This narrative structure illustrates the impact of Akhilleus’ isolation from the Akhaian community via his abstention from sacrifices in which all other Akhaians participate. Further, his appeal to Thetis is presented with many elements typical of prayers to gods, an ominous parallel to the simultaneous Akhaian prayer to Apollo. [66] It also highlights Akhilleus’ semi-divine status in contrast to the Akhaian sacrifices: his mother’s influence over Zeus, whose promise to her will guide the Trojans to victory until the death of Patroklos in Iliad XVI, is starkly juxtaposed against Agamemnon’s sacrifices.
The social drama of Iliad I is initiated by Agamemnon’s domineering behavior toward the priest Khruses. The old priest responds to Agamemnon’s denial of his request, the leader’s first authoritative act in the poem, by retreating to the seashore and praying to Apollo, which begins the plague that can only be stopped by the return of Khruseis and a sacrifice. [67] Khruses’ disagreement with Agamemnon leads to the wrath of Apollo, which in turn leads to the quarrel between Agamemnon and Akhilleus and the wrath of Akhilleus. Lord summarizes the overriding thematic pattern thus: “The wrath of Khruses-Apollo caused the wrath of Agamemnon, which caused the wrath of Akhilleus-Thetis-Zeus, the main tale of the Iliad.” [68] To Lord’s summary may be added the role of the seer Kalkhas, whose revelation of Apollo’s wrath leads to the quarrel. [69] The first references to sacrifice in the poem, in Khruses’ prayer and then the discussion in the assembly scene leading up to Agamemnon’s instructions for sacrifice, result from Agamemnon’s refusal to acknowledge the religious authority of a priest and a seer. This refusal is an expression of Agamemnon’s own religious authority through ritual dominance. His contempt for priests creates anticipation for the ritual acts that he will himself orchestrate. [70]
Agamemnon’s treatment of Khruses, his first action in the Iliad, is so brutish that Aristarkhos athetized Iliad I 29–31, believing the scene to be inappropriate to the leader’s character. [71] Khruses’ special status as a priest is clearly described (Iliad I 14–15), and he is signified by a golden staff with ribbons, which is the only reference to priestly costume in the poem. This special status is explicitly dismissed by Agamemnon, who tells Khruses that the staff and ribbons of Apollo will not protect him (Iliad I 28–29). [72] Agamemnon’s refusal to recognize priestly status is further reinforced by his addressing of Khruses as an old man (γέρον, Iliad I 26), whereas the other Akhaians refer to him as a priest (ἱερεύς, Iliad I 23). This behavior is not only irreverent, but it clearly contradicts the unanimous view of the troops, who want the priest’s wish to be respected (Iliad I 22–23). [73] When he initiates the plague, Khruses reminds Apollo of past sacrifices and honors in order to persuade the god to help. As discussed above, Simon Pulleyn has observed that this type of prayer is most often spoken in lieu of sacrifice. [74] We may assume that Khruses cannot sacrifice on the shore outside of the Akhaian camps, but one wonders why he does not return to the sanctuary he “has roofed for Apollo” (ἐπὶ νηὸν ἔρεψα, Iliad I 39) in order to make his request with an accompanying sacrifice. Sacrifice is instead immediately associated with Agamemnon’s authority. Rather than an air of general impiety, Agamemnon’s attitude reflects his special status as sacrificer and anticipates his dominance as Opferherr. We next see Khruses at Khruse, but his performance here as Opferherr is undermined by Odysseus’ initial speech, specifying that Agamemnon has sent this embassy and provided the sacrificial victims (Iliad I 442–445). The priests who interact with Agamemnon are systematically given marginalized, subservient roles. Accordingly, when Agamemnon orders the sacrifice to appease Apollo and accompany the return of Khruseis, he wants a “council-bearing” man to go, but does not think of appointing Kalkhas or another religious expert. [75]
The other notable features of Khruses’ interaction with Agamemnon are the brevity of this supplication scene in comparison to the others in the Iliad and its lack of many of the distinguishing characteristics of Homeric supplication, particularly when compared to the embassies to Akhilleus in Iliad IX and XXIV. [76] Mark Edwards attributes the lack of detail in Khruses’ supplication to a desire for swiftness and a need to demonstrate Agamemnon’s distance from the army, emphasized by the focus on the Akhaians’ reaction to Khruses rather than on that of Agamemnon himself. [77] Certainly, the initiation of the plague is brief when compared to its resolution by way of the sacrifice at Khruse. That the focus here remains on the sacrifice, rather than the meeting between the priest and Odysseus or even the return of Khruses’ daughter, underscores the crucial difference between these two events: the intervening withdrawal of Akhilleus.
Agamemnon’s insulting behavior toward Khruses leads to the plague, which instigates Kalkhas’ recommendation that Khruseis be returned with an accompanying sacrifice. Although it was Kalkhas who initially suggested the sacrifice to Apollo (Iliad I 53–100), it is ultimately Agamemnon who orders the sacrifice (Iliad I 140–147), an action directly tied to his claim on another man’s prize, which causes Akhilleus to withdraw. Agamemnon’s response to Kalkhas’ suggestion clarifies his own ritual authority in the context of his supremacy over Akhilleus:
ἀλλ’ εἰ μὲν δώσουσι γέρας μεγάθυμοι Ἀχαιοί,
ἄρσαντες κατὰ θυμόν, ὅπως ἀντάξιον ἔσται· 
εἰ δέ κε μὴ δώωσιν, ἐγὼ δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἕλωμαι
ἢ τεὸν ἢ Αἴαντος ἰὼν γέρας, ἢ Ὀδυσῆος
ἄξω ἑλών· ὃ δέ κεν κεχολώσεται ὅν κεν ἵκωμαι.
ἀλλ’ ἤτοι μὲν ταῦτα μεταφρασόμεσθα καὶ αὖτις,
νῦν δ’ ἄγε νῆα μέλαιναν ἐρύσσομεν εἰς ἅλα δῖαν, 
ἐν δ’ ἐρέτας ἐπιτηδὲς ἀγείρομεν, ἐς δ’ ἑκατόμβην
θείομεν, ἂν δ’ αὐτὴν Χρυσηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον
βήσομεν· εἷς δέ τις ἀρχὸς ἀνὴρ βουληφόρος ἔστω,
ἢ Αἴας ἢ Ἰδομενεὺς ἢ δῖος Ὀδυσσεὺς
ἠὲ σύ, Πηλεΐδη, πάντων ἐκπαγλότατ’ ἀνδρῶν,
ὄφρ’ ἡμῖν ἑκάεργον ἱλάσσεαι ἱερὰ ῥέξας.
(Iliad I 135–147)
But if our generous Argives will give me a prize,
a match for my desires, equal to what I’ve lost, well and good.
But if they give me nothing, I will take a prize myself—
either your own, or Ajax’s or Odysseus’ prize—
I’ll commandeer her myself, and let that man I go to visit choke with rage!
Enough. We’ll deal with all this later, in due time.
Now come, let’s haul a black ship down to the bright sea,
gather a decent number of oarsmen along her locks and put aboard a hecatomb,
and Khruseis herself, in all her beauty…
we embark her too. Let one of the leading men take command,
either Ajax, or Idomeneus, or trusty Odysseus,
or you, Akhilleus—the most violent man alive—
so, having performed sacrifice for us, you may appease the Far-Shooter.
Agamemnon links his control over Akhilleus to his sacrificial authority with a tripartite command outlining how he will take the geras of his choosing, his instructions for the preparation of the hecatomb, and the appointment of an ἀρχὸς ἀνήρ ‘leading man’ to escort it. This speech demonstrates that only Agamemnon can order the sacrifice to be performed, just as only he can decide to give back Khruseis. It is also framed with threats: to take the prize of Akhilleus, Ajax, or Odysseus, and to appoint Ajax, Idomeneus, Odysseus, or Akhilleus to take the hecatomb. In both threats Agamemnon emphasizes Akhilleus, making him the first potential victim of greed and designating an entire verse to the possibility that he will be forced to make amends with Khruses and Apollo (ἠὲ σὺ Πηλεΐδη, πάντων ἐκπαγλότατ’ ἀνδρῶν, Iliad I 146). Ἐκπαγλότατος ‘most violent man’ is a rare word in the poem, used again only by Iris when rousing Akhilleus to protect the body of Patroklos and by Akhilleus when vaunting over the corpse of Iphition (Iliad XVIII 170, XX 389). The impact of the word in Iris’ speech resonates with Agamemnon’s description of Akhilleus as the possible envoy for the sacrifice: his refusal to fight, provoked by Agamemnon in this speech, will cause the deaths of many Akhaians, and his wrath over the death of Patroklos will cause the deaths of many Trojans. Akhilleus is mentioned by Agamemnon first when it comes to the danger of losing of his geras (“your own, or Ajax’s or Odysseus’ prize,” I 138) and last when it comes to the duty of leading the embassy to Khruse (“Ajax, Idomeneus, trusty Odysseus, or you, Akhilleus,” I 145–146), thereby creating a ring that links Akhilleus, the removal of the geras, and the sacrificial embassy.
It is Agamemnon’s speech authorizing both the removal of geras and the sacrificial embassy that sets the ‘quarrel’ with Akhilleus in motion. Akhilleus focuses only on the issue of geras and his perception of the imbalance between workload and recognized honor from his peers. His reaction provokes Agamemnon to narrow his threat down to the substitution of Briseis directly for Khruseis. The quarrel continues, as outlined above, until the Assembly is disbanded and Akhilleus withdraws. His departure to his hut is directly followed by the disembarkation of the sacrificial embassy:
Πηλεΐδης μὲν ἐπὶ κλισίας καὶ νῆας ἐΐσας
ἤϊε σύν τε Μενοιτιάδῃ καὶ οἷς ἑτάροισιν·
Ἀτρεΐδης δ’ ἄρα νῆα θοὴν ἅλαδὲ προέρυσσεν,
ἐν δ’ ἐρέτας ἔκρινεν ἐείκοσιν, ἐς δ’ ἑκατόμβην
βῆσε θεῷ, ἀνὰ δὲ Χρυσηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον
εἷσεν ἄγων· ἐν δ’ ἀρχὸς ἔβη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς.
(Iliad I 306–311)
The son of Peleus strode off to his trim ships and shelters
together with the son of Menoitios and their comrades;
and Agamemnon had a vessel hauled down to the sea,
he picked out twenty oarsmen to man her locks,
put aboard the hecatomb for the god and led Khruseis in all her beauty
amidships. Versatile Odysseus took the helm as captain.
If, following the work of Egbert Bakker, we consider Homeric poetry as a stylized representation of spoken discourse, then the diction supports the thematic structure of events, here reinforcing the association between Akhilleus’ wrath and Agamemnon’s performance of sacrifice. [78] Regarding the particles found at the beginning of most Greek sentences, Bakker has observed that “the Greek language provides a number of particles and other devices that enable speakers to let their listeners keep track of the flow of discourse in which they find themselves, by inviting them to make a step, or look forward, jointly with the speaker.” [79] In the context of performance poetry, the particles μέν/δέ focus the attention of the audience on the second action, thereby giving the latter part of the clause an increased emphasis. [80] In the above passage, Akhilleus’ movement toward his camp is marked as the first part of the action (Πηλεΐδης μέν), which is concluded with the phrase Ἀτρεΐδης δέ, directly linking Agamemnon’s preparations to Akhilleus’ withdrawal. We may also note the accumulation of third person singular verbs (ἔκρινεν ‘he picked out’, ἐς βῆσε ‘he put aboard’, εἷσεν ‘he led’) referring to Agamemnon’s individual authority in orchestrating the arrangements for the sacrifice in Khruse. Agamemnon delegates authority for this sacrifice, just as he does with the embassy for Briseis; he is not prepared at this point to take personal responsibility for his mistakes. Odysseus acts as Agamemnon’s ‘second in command’ in ritual contexts, also standing by his side in the oath sacrifice (Iliad III 267-268), and he is Agamemnon’s delegate again as part of the apologetic embassy to Akhilleus (Iliad IX 169).
Following the verse that describes Odysseus boarding the ship as the ‘leading captain’, another μέν/δέ clause links the embarkation of the ship with Agamemnon’s instructions for the purification of the army, the first enacted sacrifice of the poem:
Οἱ μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἀναβάντες ἐπέπλεον ὑγρὰ κέλευθα,
λαοὺς δ’ Ἀτρεΐδης ἀπολυμαίνεσθαι ἄνωγεν·
οἱ δ’ ἀπελυμαίνοντο καὶ εἰς ἅλα λύματα βάλλον,
ἕρδον δ’ Ἀπόλλωνι τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας
ταύρων ἠδ’ αἰγῶν παρὰ θῖν’ ἁλὸς ἀτρυγέτοιο·
κνίση δ’ οὐρανὸν ἷκεν ἑλισσομένη περὶ καπνῷ.
(Iliad I 312–317)
The party launched out on the sea’s foaming lanes
and the son of Atreus told his troops to purify themselves.
They purified themselves and threw the filth in the surf
and sacrificed to Apollo perfect hecatombs
of bulls and goats along the beaten shore of the fallow barren sea
and savory smoke went swirling up the skies.
The first sacrifice expresses the theme of his special ritual authority with a μέν clause describing the men’s procession to the place of sacrifice, the shore, “and” the son of Atreus instructing the men to purify themselves (ἄνωγεν, Iliad I 313); the anticipated δέ emphasizes his name (δ’ Ἀτρεΐδης). This purificatory sacrifice is then directly followed by the removal of Briseis from Akhilleus and his conversation with Thetis, an interruption in the linear progression of the narrative, which resumes when the ship arrives at Khruse. So the seizure of Briseis stands in the middle of two enacted sacrifices—one a hecatomb organized and dispatched by Agamemnon to Khruse, the other a purificatory sacrifice performed at his orders. The activities of the men in the purificatory sacrifice are summarized, before the intentions of Agamemnon are made known: “So the men were engaged throughout the camp. But Agamemnon would not stop the quarrel, the first threat he hurled at Akhilleus” (ὥς οἱ μὲν τὰ πένοντο κατὰ στρατόν· οὐδ’ Ἀγαμέμνων / λῆγ’ ἔριδος, τὴν πρῶτον ἐπηπείλησ’ Ἀχιλῆϊ, Iliad I 318–319). Agamemnon sends the heralds to fetch Briseis, and Akhilleus then retreats to the shore. Just after one group of his mortal counterparts attempts to influence the gods through sacrifice, and immediately before another sacrifice to Apollo, the narrative structure ties in the isolated Akhilleus’ own dissident method of communication with divinities: the direct summoning of his mother to act on his behalf. After the scene between Akhilleus and Thetis (Iliad I 348–430), the progression of the hecatomb to Khruse resumes, redirected by way of a combination of the conjunction αὐτὰρ ‘but’ and Odysseus’ name at the end of the verse:
ὥς ἄρα φωνήσασ’ ἀπεβήσετο, τὸν δὲ λίπ’ αὐτοῦ
χωόμενον κατὰ θυμὸν ἐϋζώνοιο γυναικός,
τήν ῥα βίῃ ἀέκοντος ἀπηύρων· αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς
ἐς Χρύσην ἵκανεν ἄγων ἱερὴν ἑκατόμβην.
( Iliad I 428–431)
So saying she went away and left [Akhilleus] there, alone,
his heart inflamed for the sashed and lovely girl
they’d wrenched away from him against his will. But Odysseus
drew in close to Khruse, leading a holy hecatomb.
The combination of Odysseus’ name and the conjunction, Αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεύς ‘but Odysseus’, alerts the audience that a prior action has been resumed: the episode between Akhilleus and Thetis has been an interjection in the midst of the hecatomb’s progression to Khruse. [81] In this way the sacrificial framework around Akhilleus’ withdrawal is signposted on the macro-level of narrative movement and on the micro-level of diction.
Although Agamemnon is absent at Khruse, Odysseus immediately notifies Khruses of his authority as they stand around the altar preparing to sacrifice:
ἐκ δ’ εὐνὰς ἔβαλον, κατὰ δὲ πρυμνήσι’ ἔδησαν·
ἐκ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ βαῖνον ἐπὶ ῥηγμῖνι θαλάσσης,
ἐκ δ’ ἑκατόμβην βῆσαν ἑκηβόλῳ Ἀπόλλωνι·
ἐκ δὲ Χρυσηῒς νηὸς βῆ ποντοπόροιο.
τὴν μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἐπὶ βωμὸν ἄγων πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεὺς
πατρὶ φίλῳ ἐν χερσὶ τίθει, καί μιν προσέειπεν·
“ὦ Χρύση, πρό μ’ ἔπεμψεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
παῖδά τε σοὶ ἀγέμεν, Φοίβῳ θ’ ἱερὴν ἑκατόμβην
ῥέξαι ὑπὲρ Δαναῶν, ὄφρ’ ἱλασόμεσθα ἄνακτα,”
(Iliad I 436–444)
And out went the mooring-stones—cables fast astern—
and out went the crew themselves in the breaking surf,
and out they lead the hecatomb for the far-shooter Apollo,
and out of the deep-sea ship Khruseis stepped too.
Then tactful Odysseus led her up to the altar,
placing her in her loving father’s arms, and said,
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, so we can appease the god.”
This is the only lengthy scene not specifying the sacrificer along with details of the victims and divine recipient. As in other enacted scenes, the location is described first, followed by the victims and the god, in this instance all closely linked by the repetition of ἐκ δέ. Only the sacrificer is missing, as Odysseus explains: he, Odysseus, is present as the delegate of Agamemnon. The accumulation of third person plural verbs describing the removal of the hecatomb from the ship (ἔβαλον, ἔδησαν, βαῖνον, βῆσαν) recalls the emphasis on Agamemnon’s individual authority in the loading of the ship (Iliad I 308–311). In this sense, Odysseus does not stand in for Agamemnon, but the group will collectively enact the sacrifice at Agamemnon’s behest. Therefore, uniquely, Odysseus and Khruses share the role of sacrificer. Odysseus brings the victims and initiates the sacrifice, but Khruses makes the prayer and pours libations on the god’s portion (Iliad I 450–457, 462–463). Nowhere else in either the Iliad or the Odyssey does a priest or seer conduct a sacrifice, despite Kalkhas’ manifest presence in Iliad I and II. Furthermore, Odysseus refers to Agamemnon as ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων ‘lord of men Agamemnon’, the special noun-epithet formula associated with the quarrel and Agamemnon’s role as sacrificer, as discussed below.
The structural framework surrounding the sacrifice at Khruse anchors it between Akhilleus’ withdrawal and Thetis’ request to Zeus: ordinary mortals, stung by the temporary loss of their best fighter, offer gifts to Apollo while Akhilleus’ mother contrives another divine plot against them. The unusual length of this sacrifice scene creates a sense of foreboding, prolonging the audience’s suspense as to the effect Akhilleus’ withdrawal will have on the Akhaian army. This is also one of three instances in which Agamemnon’s managerial role is given added emphasis by a delay between his instruction for the necessary sacrificial provisions or descriptions of their procurement and the start of the sacrifice. Agamemnon gives the order to prepare for the sacrifice at Khruse (Iliad I 140–147), but the sacrifice itself is postponed until Iliad I 430f., after the seizure of Briseis from Akhilleus and his conversation with Thetis. The teikhoskopia, the second instance, intervenes between Agamemnon and Hektor’s instructions for the oath sacrifice (Iliad III 116–120) and the start of the sacrifice (Iliad III 264). Finally, the instruction speech given by Agamemnon for the oath sacrifice to reintegrate Akhilleus (Iliad XIX 196–197) is followed by a series of speeches before the sacrifice begins at Iliad XIX 249. These instruction speeches are important verbal commands, generating audience anticipation of the actual performance of the sacrifice and highlighting Agamemnon’s role as Opferherr.
After the sacrificial feast is completed, the Akhaians return to their camps with a favorable wind sent by Apollo. Their actions form a contrast to the lonely Akhilleus, who sits raging: “But he raged on, grimly encamped by his fast fleet, the royal son of Peleus, the swift runner Akhilleus” (Αὐτὰρ ὁ μήνιε νηυσὶ παρήμενος ὠκυπόροισι / διογενὴς Πηλῆος υἱὸς, πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς·, Iliad I 488–489). The segue between the movements is again marked by αὐτάρ. This juxtaposition of the return of the troops after a sacrifice on Khruse and the isolation of Akhilleus forms the culmination of human events in Iliad I; the remainder takes place on Olympus. The ease with which Thetis can bend the ear of Zeus creates an acute contrast to the elaborate procedure of sacrifice, just as Zeus’ universal control provides a foil to Agamemnon’s fractured dominion.

4.3 The Language of Sacrificial Authority

To continue our discussion of how enacted sacrifices reinforce thematic meaning in the context of the quarrel, let us look at the phraseology of Agamemnon’s special ritual authority. When Odysseus informs Khruses that he is present at Agamemnon’s behest, he uses the specialized noun-epithet formula ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων ‘lord of men Agamemnon’, which also initiates the sacrifice in four of the six enacted sacrifices:
ὦ Χρύση, πρό μ’ ἔπεμψεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad I 442)
Khruses, the lord of men Agamemnon sent me here…

αὐτὰρ ὃ βοῦν ἱέρευσε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad II 402)
But the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox,

ὄρνυτο δ’ αὐτίκ’ ἔπειτα ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad III 267)
And lord of men Agamemnon rose at once…

τοῖσι δὲ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
(Iliad VII 314)
And in their midst the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox…
This is the noun-epithet, specifically linked to Agamemnon’s sacrificial authority, by which he is most often described, starting with his first mention at Iliad I 7. [82] The theme and meter have a reciprocal relationship, so that one does not necessitate the other so much as they develop simultaneously as part of the same process. Meter may be regarded as a ‘regulator’ or basic precondition for the formula, but the context is equally important. The epithet chosen for the particular event being described is the audience’s key to understanding the meaning of the event. Gregory Nagy has written that the epithets “evoke the persona provided by the tradition”; John Miles Foley has explained that the noun-epithet formula acts as a “metonymic pathway to the poetic conjuring of personalities.” [83]
This noun-epithet formula is doubly significant in the context of enacted sacrifices as emphatically expressive of both Agamemnon’s name, rather than a designation such as a patronymic or pronoun, and the phrase ‘lord of men’. Since an overtly expressed subject is not required in Greek, it is therefore introduced as a signpost for a separate unit, a device for drawing attention. [84] Proper names are used in Homer to channel the discourse and make “sure that a given event is seen in the right perspective.” [85] The persona needed for the theme of sacrifice is that of the top leader of the Akhaians, Agamemnon, but the narrative is careful to emphasize his ritual role, specifically in terms of his broader responsibility for the army, with the phrase ‘lord of men’ (ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν). All of the Argives at Troy are described en masse as basileis ‘noblemen’ (Iliad VII 106, X 195), as are Nestor (Iliad I 277) and Akhilleus (Iliad I 176) on an individual basis. Agamemnon is twice called basileus, followed by a possessive genitive, ‘King of gold-rich Mykenae’ (Iliad VII 180, XI 46), still reflective of his special superiority, as these are the only instances where the noun is followed by a specification of the land ruled. [86] Although frequently used in regard to divinities in the Classical period, basileus is not applied in this way in Homer. Basileus implies a high social rank, but not the top position, which seems to be that of the anax, a word that may be used in different contexts, but always with the meaning ‘one-man rule’, whether in reference to the master of a house or town. So, in reference to Agamemnon, ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν refers to his hegemony over the Akhaian army. [87]
Scholars since Aristarkhos have noticed the difference between particularized and generic epithets. [88] The particularized noun-epithet formula ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων is used in three contexts: sacrifice, the aristeia, and speech contexts describing Agamemnon’s own speech, his responses to others’ speeches, and in honorific address to him by other speakers. All three contexts express the social status and importance of the heroes, the central issues raised by the poem. ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν is not only the formulaic phrase by which Agamemnon is most often described, but also that most closely linked with the central action of Akhilleus’ withdrawal, as it is used in the description of the quarrel at the start of the poem:
ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς
(Iliad I 6–7)
from the time when the two first broke and clashed,
the son of Atreus lord of men and god-like Akhilleus.
The repeated epithet highlights Agamemnon’s leadership, his defining feature, whereas δῖος can be taken as a reference to Akhilleus’ divine parentage. [89] The use of this epithet in the first description of the quarrel establishes it as Agamemnon’s most important identification: Bakker has written of the “quintessential identity” reflected in a “quintessential name,” which for Agamemnon is ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν. [90] In this way the proem anticipates Agamemnon’s role as Opferherr in the context of the quarrel and Akhilleus’ thematic opposition to sacrifice as the child of a goddess.
This thematic association with the quarrel in the use of the phrase ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον continues throughout the poem. The phrase occurs most often in Iliad IX (96, 114, 163, 672, 677, 697) and Iliad XIX (51, 76, 146, 172, 184, 199), the books most concerned with the quarrel. In addition, this phrase can be lengthened to a full-verse ornamental address, Ἀτρεΐδη κύδιστε, ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον ‘Son of Atreus, most glorious, the lord of men Agamemnon’, which is used eight times in the Iliad, all specifically in the context of the quarrel (Iliad II 434; IX 96, 163, 677, 697; X 103; XIX 146, 199). [91] For instance, when Akhilleus insults Agamemnon, he replaces the honorific formulaic verse Ἀτρεΐδη κύδιστε, ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον ‘Son of Atreus, most glorious, lord of men Agamemnon’ with Ἀτρεΐδη κύδιστε, φιλοκτεανώτατε πάντων ‘Son of Atreus, most glorious, most covetous of all men’ (Iliad I 122). Obviously, an epithet meaning ‘lord of men” would have been associated with authority figures, but there are other ways of expressing this notion, such as κρείων ‘ruler’, used 40 times of Agamemnon, or phrases like ὄρχαμε λαῶν ‘leader of the people’, used to describe Menelaos (Iliad XVII 12). [92] The fact that Akhilleus alters this particular verse when challenging Agamemnon indicates its importance as an acknowledgment of his authority. When the two men are finally reconciled, preceding the oath sacrifice, Akhilleus twice addresses Agamemnon with the full honorific verse Ἀτρεΐδη κύδιστε, ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον (Iliad XIX 146, 199). [93] Nestor addresses Agamemnon thus when beginning a series of advisory speeches: after the sacrifice (Iliad II 434), about the embassy (Iliad IX 96), in response to Agamemnon’s list of gifts (Iliad IX 163), and about Agamemnon’s surprise night visit (X 103). This verse is also used by Odysseus to tell of Akhilleus’ withdrawal (Iliad IX 677), reiterated by Diomedes (Iliad IX 697). The repetition of ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον links the enacted sacrifices together as a group, showing the role of sacrifice as a distinct demonstration of Agamemnon’s authority during Akhilleus’ withdrawal. Of particular importance is the repetition of αὐτὰρ ὁ βοῦν ἱέρευσε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων (Iliad II 402, VII 313), where the sacrificial performance replaces Ἀτρεΐδη κύδιστε ἄναξ.
After Iliad XIV, this formula is used of Agamemnon exclusively in contexts directly linked with Akhilleus. In fact, the entire conversational exchange in Iliad XIX is marked by its use: when Agamemnon approaches the Assembly (Iliad XIX 51), at the beginning of his apology speech (Iliad XIX 76), in Akhilleus’ response (Iliad XIX 146), in Odysseus’ comments (Iliad XIX 172), when Agamemnon gives the instructions to prepare the sacrifice (Iliad XIX 184), and Akhilleus’ final response to Agamemnon (Iliad XIX 199). On such repetition Nagy writes, “Each occurrence of a theme (on the level of content) or of a formula (on the level of form) in a given composition in performance refers not only to its immediate context but also to all the other analogous contexts remembered by the performer or by any member of the audience.” [94] In this way, the use of the epithet in the context of sacrifice is an important key to understanding this theme in the Iliad.
So, at Iliad I 442, the authority of Agamemnon is reiterated through this formula, despite his physical absence. In delegating Agamemnon’s authority, Odysseus describes him with the epithet most clearly tied with its theme:
τὴν μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἐπὶ βωμὸν ἄγων πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεὺς
πατρὶ φίλῳ ἐν χερσὶ τίθει, καί μιν προσέειπεν·
“ὦ Χρύση, πρό μ’ ἔπεμψεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων”
(Iliad I 440–442)
The tactful Odysseus led her up to the altar,
placing her in her loving father’s arms, and said,
“Khruses, the lord of men Agamemnon sent me here…”
The noun-epithet phrase is not only significant in and of itself, but its position at the end of the verse also ensures the audience’s appropriate response. [95] Different verbalizations are associated with different ranks in the narrative, and the narrator has carefully emphasized Agamemnon’s authority, even his special ritual authority, by repeatedly using this particular epithet. [96]

4.4 Agamemnon’s Sacrificial Authority in Akhilleus’ Absence

The Iliad as a whole is composed of intricately balanced parallel scenes and episodes, incorporated into a larger framework of sections (which we call ‘Books’), following a complex pattern of ring composition. [97] As a consequence, the entire poem is structured around Iliad I by a sophisticated series of echoes and recurrent motifs, a trend especially prominent with respect to enacted sacrifices. The delegated sacrifice at Khruse and Agamemnon’s grand sacrifice for the councilors in Iliad II are linked by the exact repetition of ten verses, Iliad I 458­­–461 = Iliad II 421–424 and Iliad I 464–469 = Iliad II 427–432. The narrative links these scenes to emphasize Agamemnon’s role as sacrificer: his delegation of authority in Iliad I anticipates his shift to sacrificer in the similar scene in Iliad II. Agamemnon’s elaborate sacrifice is preceded by a short description of the men sacrificing at his command, a command so moving that the shouts of his subordinates are compared to waves stirred by the south wind (Iliad II 394–397). The narrative focuses attention on both Agamemnon’s authority (only he can give the command for sacrifice) and the grand scale on which he performs the ritual, which is juxtaposed against the brief, anonymous Akhaian sacrifice:
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
πίονα πενταέτηρον ὑπερμενέϊ Κρονίωνι
(Iliad II 399–404)
[the troops] lit fires beside their tents and took their meal.
Each sacrificed to one or another deathless god,
each man praying to flee death and the grind of war.
But the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox,
fat rich, five years old, to the son of mighty Kronos, Zeus.
In the above instance, as at several junctures in the Iliad, the comments or actions by anonymous Akhaians are provided as a contrast to the actions of their leader. [98] The men’s prayers to escape death act as a foil to Agamemnon’s detailed and grandiose sacrifice of oxen to Zeus, which is accompanied by a prayer asking that he be permitted to conquer Troy. [99] The full verse introduction to Agamemnon’s first commensal sacrifice (Iliad II 402) markedly combines his specialized epithet ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων and the particle αὐτάρ. Whereas αὐτάρ would usually sufficiently signal the audience on its own and would not be accompanied by a noun-epithet formula, [100] its presence distinguishes Iliad II 402 from the preceding anonymous Akhaian sacrifice (Iliad II 400-401). Acting as an indicator, the particular combination of αὐτάρ and ὁ directs the audience to the change of subject from the Akhaians to Agamemnon. [101]
The primary narrator directs special attention to the exclusive nature of Agamemnon’s sacrifice with an extended description of the invitation he extends to the councilors:
κίκλησκεν δὲ γέροντας ἀριστῆας Παναχαιῶν,
Νέστορα μὲν πρώτιστα καὶ Ἰδομενῆα ἄνακτα,
αὐτὰρ ἔπειτ’ Αἴαντε δύω καὶ Τυδέος υἱόν,
ἕκτον δ’ αὖτ’ Ὀδυσῆα, Διὶ μῆτιν ἀτάλαντον.
αὐτόματος δέ οἱ ἦλθε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Μενέλαος·
ᾔδεε γὰρ κατὰ θυμὸν ἀδελφεὸν ὡς ἐπονεῖτο.
(Iliad II 404–409)
and he called the excellent elders of all the Argive forces:
Nestor first and foremost, then lord Idomeneus,
but then the two Ajaxes and Tydeus’ son
and Odysseus sixth, a mastermind like Zeus.
The lord of the war cry Menelaos came uncalled,
he knew at heart what weighed his brother down.
Agamemnon’s directive is presented as part of the ritual action, following the two verses that signal the start of the sacrifice (Iliad II 402-403). The description of the councilors as “excellent elders of the Panakhaians” at this juncture is unique, drawing the audience’s attention to the importance of this event and creating a sense of anticipation for the sacrifice. [102] The councilors are then described as standing around the bull while Agamemnon prays (Iliad II 410–418). Zeus rejects the prayer and receives the sacrifice (Iliad II 419–420). The councilors sprinkle barley after the prayer, and all help with the sacrifice, preparation of meat, and handling of the carcass. The feast follows, which in turn leads to Nestor’s counsel (Iliad II 421–433).
The day of battle begins with Agamemnon’s grand sacrifice in Iliad II and ends in Iliad VII with an honorary banquet for Ajax, Akhilleus’ replacement as champion of the Akhaians. This sacrifice also initiates advice from Nestor, recalling the scene in Iliad II in both design and structural function: [103]
οἱ δ’ ὅτε δὴ κλισίῃσιν ἐν Ἀτρεΐδαο γένοντο,
τοῖσι δὲ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
ἄρσενα πενταέτηρον ὑπερμενέϊ Κρονίωνι.
(Iliad VII 313–315)
Soon as they had gathered within the quarters of the son of Atreus,
in their midst the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox,
a male, five years old, to the towering son of Kronos, Zeus.
Here, in the final commensal sacrifice of the epic, the established theme of Agamemnon’s ritual authority is again specially emphasized. Like Iliad II, the sacrifice begins by localizing the performance in Agamemnon’s quarters. δέ is followed by both ὅτε, a signal for audience participation, and δή, which suggests that the audience is in step with the narrative goals. [104] Then the same verse that identifies Agamemnon as the sacrificer in Iliad II is repeated, II 402 ~VII 314, with the substitution of τοῖσι δέ ‘in their midst’ for αὐτὰρ ὁ ‘but he’. This substitution reflects the expectation that the audience be familiar with this theme, which uses Agamemnon’s gift of the best meat to Ajax to reiterate his ritual largesse (Iliad VII 321–322). Significantly, the sacrifice in Iliad VII frames the ritual performance with statements about Agamemnon’s authority:
Οἱ δ’ ὅτε δὴ κλισίῃσιν ἐν Ἀτρεΐδαο γένοντο,
τοῖσι δὲ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
ἄρσενα πενταέτηρον ὑπερμενέϊ Κρονίωνι. 
τὸν δέρον ἀμφί θ’ ἕπον, καί μιν διέχευαν ἅπαντα,
μίστυλλόν τ’ ἄρ’ ἐπισταμένως πεῖράν τ’ ὀβελοῖσιν,
ὄπτησάν τε περιφραδέως, ἐρύσαντό τε πάντα.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ παύσαντο πόνου τετύκοντό τε δαῖτα,
δαίνυντ’, οὐδέ τι θυμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης·
νώτοισιν δ’ Αἴαντα διηνεκέεσσι γέραιρεν
ἥρως Ἀτρεΐδης εὐρὺ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,
(Iliad VII 313–323)
Soon as they had gathered within the tents of the son of Atreus
in their midst the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed an ox,
a male, five years old, to the towering son of Kronos, Zeus.
They skinned the animal quickly, and cut everything up,
expertly sliced the meat into pieces, pierced them with spits,
roasted them to a turn and pulled them off the spits.
The work done, the feast laid out, they ate well
and no man’s hunger lacked an appropriate share of the feast
But the lord of far-flung kingdoms, hero Agamemnon,
honored Ajax with the long savory cuts that line the backbone.
And when they had put aside desire for food and drink…
The framing of the honorary sacrifice with the formulaic noun-epithet formulas expressing leadership (Iliad VII 314, 322) makes the significance of this action clear to the audience. The details of the animal’s sacrifice and the subsequent treatment of the carcass have been abbreviated in comparison to the sacrifices in Iliad I and II, further emphasizing that this happy social occasion is under the auspices of Agamemnon’s authority.
Agamemnon uses sacrifice at this critical juncture to honor Akhilleus’ substitute, Ajax, whose important role during Akhilleus’ withdrawal is introduced in the Catalogue of Heroes. In the Catalogue, Agamemnon is described as “bearing himself triumphantly…preeminent amongst all the warriors, because he was the best (ἄριστος), and he led the most men” (Iliad II 579–580). At the end of the Akhaian catalogue, the posed question, “who was the best (ἄριστος) of the Akhaians?” (Iliad II 761), is followed by a description of the best being Ajax, whereas Akhilleus is said to have maintained his wrath (Iliad II 768–769). Agamemnon is singled out as the best (ἄριστος) in terms of leadership, Akhilleus and Ajax as the best warriors. The Catalogue also highlights the tension between Agamemnon and Achilles, as noted by Keith Stanley: “Within the catalogue, the juxtaposition of Agamemnon and Akhilleus at equivalent positions in the series (in the second and next to last sections) demonstrates an interest less in consistent geographical logic than in placement of two conflicting elements in a formal balance that reflects and emphasizes the dramatic polarity established in Iliad I.” [105] The entire poem is, in many ways, situated around the conflict between the hero Akhilleus and his king. Steven Lowenstam has described the plot of the Iliad as motivated by a “central question”: what does it mean to be ‘preeminent’ in the Iliad? He concludes that the poem demonstrates leadership and gallantry in coexistence, but recognizes the impossibility of these two notions being expressed in one person. [106] The Iliad then becomes, as Dean Hammer pronounces, in essence, a poem about the nature of authority. [107] Sacrifice establishes the link between the characters chosen to manifest these attributes in the poem.
Enacted sacrifices achieve thematic significance in Iliad I as a symbol of the social drama created by the quarrel between Akhilleus and Agamemnon. The strife begins when Kalkhas, encouraged by Akhilleus not to fear Agamemnon, explains that, although Apollo is angry not about hecatombs but by Agamemnon’s treatment of Khruses, he will be assuaged only by a hecatomb and the return of the girl (Iliad I 92–104). The consequent agonistic exchange between Akhilleus and Agamemnon introduces the overall questioning of reciprocity and timê that guide much of the poem’s action. [108] Because Agamemnon takes Akhilleus’ prize, Akhilleus will not take part in the sacrifice, which initiates his pattern of abstinence from Agamemnon’s sacrifices. Though the sacrifice to assuage Apollo is a small feature of the heated debate in the Akhaian agora, it establishes the important association between Agamemnon’s superiority over the army and his status as the Opferherr. Through the delegation of the sacrificial embassy, Agamemnon uses an association to sacrifice to elevate the importance of Ajax and Odysseus: Ajax will be honored in a sacrificial context for performing his role as substitute best fighter, and Odysseus will be Agamemnon’s ritual assistant, leading the sacrifice to Khruse and standing beside the king at the oath sacrifice in Iliad III. Agamemnon’s dutiful attendance to divine rites contrasts bitterly with the crisis he has instigated with Akhilleus.
Agamemnon’s threat, “If they give me nothing, I will take a prize myself, your own, or Ajax’s, or Odysseus’ prize,” (εἰ δέ κε μὴ δώωσιν ἐγὼ δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἕλωμαι / ἢ τεὸν ἢ Αἴαντος ἰὼν γέρας, ἢ Ὀδυσῆος, Iliad I 137–138) is part of an instruction speech that precedes the sacrifice at Khruse. He gives a similar command for sacrifice to be prepared as an introduction to the oath sacrifice that marks Akhilleus’ reintegration into the group. After publicly admitting his error in removing Briseis, Agamemnon offers to present Akhilleus with all of his promised gifts (Iliad XIX 78–144). His speech to Akhilleus has been much discussed by scholars, for the most part with respect to his clever avoidance of direct apology, his delayed recognition of Akhilleus until the end of the speech, and his unprecedented claim to understand the minds of the gods. [109] Akhilleus refuses the gifts in his haste for battle, but, in addition to an oath by Agamemnon regarding Briseis, Odysseus urges nourishment for the army before battle (Iliad XIX 145–182). Agamemnon readily agrees to the oath and gives the orders for the sacrifice to be prepared to accompany the gift presentation:
Ταλθύβιος δέ μοι ὦκα κατὰ στρατὸν εὐρὺν Ἀχαιῶν
κάπρον ἑτοιμασάτω, ταμέειν Διί τ’ Ἠελίῳ τε.
(Iliad XIX 196–197)
Here among the wide army of the Akhaians let Talthubios quickly
prepare a wild boar for me—to sacrifice to Helios and Zeus.
Similar to the oath sacrifice in Iliad III, Agamemnon will perform a visible demonstration, in front of the whole army, of his role as spokesman to the gods, reiterating his ritual authority as he offsets the threat posed by Akhil-leus’ withdrawal. On the one hand, Agamemnon attempts to compete with Akhilleus through an aristocratic gift-exchange by imposing gifts, which Akhilleus rejects. [110] On the other hand, Agamemnon intends to sanctify these gifts with an oath sacrifice, a suggestion that Akhilleus completely ignores. He again tells Agamemnon that he would rather do battle unfed (Iliad XIX 205–207), although Agamemnon mentions nothing about feasting, referring only to the presentation of the gifts and the oath sacrifice, which is customarily uneaten. This oath sacrifice is the last sacrifice enacted in the epic. Before making the prayer to which all Akhaians silently listen, Agamemnon draws his sacrificial knife:
Ἀτρεΐδης δὲ ἐρυσσάμενος χείρεσσι μάχαιραν,
ἥ οἱ πὰρ ξίφεος μέγα κουλεὸν αἰὲν ἄωρτο.
(Iliad XIX 252­–253 = III 271–272)
And Atreus’ son drew forth with his hands the dagger
always slung at his battle-sword’s big sheath.
In this context, Agamemnon’s final demonstration of ritual authority con-cludes the quarrel with Akhilleus. Akhilleus’ use of Agamemnon’s full ornamental address in the discussions preceding the oath sacrifice (“Son of Atreus, most glorious, lord of men Agamemnon,” Ἀτρεΐδη κύδιστε, ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγάμεμνον, Iliad XIX 146, 199) signals his acceptance of Agamemnon’s superiority. Akhilleus then observes the final enacted sacrifice. Since sacrifice is used at early stages in the poem to define human relationships within Homeric society, once these relationships are no longer contested, enacted sacrifice is no longer needed. [111]
Just as in Iliad III, the makhaira ‘sacrificial knife’ always hanging beside Agamemnon’s sword emphasizes his role as chief king and Opferherr—both aspects that Akhilleus directly opposes throughout the poem. The theme of Akhilleus’ opposition to the Opferherr may have very deep roots: the importance of the makhaira in other traditions relating the Trojan War, especially in association with Akhilleus, has been explored by Nagy, who observes the general suppression of connections between murder, sacrifice, and feasting in the Iliad, although they are prominent in other depictions of the family of Akhilleus. Peleus’ marriage to Thetis is a feast attended jointly by gods and mortals, the setting for Eris’ (Strife’s) instigation of the quarrel among the gods, leading to the judgement by Paris. A song by the Phaiakian singer Demodokos in the Odyssey describes a quarrel between Akhilleus and Odysseus at a sacrifice:
νεῖκος Ὀδυσσῆος καὶ Πηλεΐδεω Ἀχιλῆος,
ὥς ποτε δηρίσαντο θεῶν ἐν δαιτὶ θαλείῃ
ἐκπάγλοις ἐπέεσσιν, ἄναξ δ’ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
χαῖρε νόῳ, ὅ τ’ ἄριστοι Ἀχαιῶν δηριόωντο.
(Odyssey viii 75–78)
the quarrel between Odysseus and Peleus’ son, Akhilleus,
how these once contended, at the god’s generous feast
with words of violence, so that the lord of men, Agamemnon,
was happy in his heart that the best of the Akhaians were quarreling.
The quarrel takes place at a sacrificial dais , while in the Iliad the sacrificial context is replaced with the agora. In the Iliad, the quarrel leads to sacrifices to assuage Apollo, and Agamemnon relies on sacrifice to demonstrate his authority during the crisis caused by Akhilleus; sacrifice is still central to the quarrel, but is motivated by Akhilleus’ absence. The thematic connection between Akhilleus and the dais has been moderated in the Iliad by the change of the context of the quarrel from a sacrifice to the agora, but it has retained the same semantic notions of apportionment and honor found in sacrificial feast settings. The terms geras ‘honorific portion’, timê ‘honor’, dateomai ‘to divide’, and moira ‘portion, fate, destiny’ can be applied to the allotment of sacrificial meat at the “equal feast,” as well as to Akhilleus’ loss of geras and timê in Iliad I and, most importantly, to his short life.
The special negative association of sacrifice with the family of Akhilleus is most emphatically represented in the traditions of the death of his son Purrhos during a sacrifice at Delphi. In Pindar Paian 6, Purrhos quarrels with the attendants distributing meat after a sacrifice at Delphi and is killed by Apollo. In another poem, Pindar describes Purrhos’ death as the result of a quarrel with a man carrying a makhaira over cuts of sacrificial meat. It is significant that, in this version, Purrhos is bringing ‘first fruit’ offerings from the spoils of Troy to the god. [112] On the basis of the continued negative connection between Akhilleus’ son and sacrifice, it is tempting to draw a deeper thematic association between the family of Akhilleus and aberrant sacrifices: Purrhos is killed while trying to act as an Opferherr with Trojan spoils, the role which belongs to Agamemnon in the Iliad and which is instrumental in his quarrel with Akhilleus. Following in his father’s footsteps, Purrhos causes quarrels in sacrificial settings. Akhilleus’ association with feasting has been understated and ‘stylized’, but it can still be seen in the frequent depictions of Akhilleus’ short life in terms associated with divisions of meat, which are then actualized in the death of Purrhos over sacrificial meat. The thematic connections between neikos ‘quarrel’, the division of meat at feasts, and the figures of Peleus, Akhilleus, and Purrhos is summarized by Nagy:
“For the Achilles of our Iliad, the restoration of timê happens at a dais—but the same does not hold for the Strife Scene where he had originally lost that timê. Pyrrhos, on the other hand, has his Strife Scene on account of his timai at an overt sacrifice; furthermore, his actions mirror closely on the level of myth the proceedings of the sacrifice on the level of ritual. To put it another way, our story of Pyrrhos is much closer to a ritual quarrel over cuts of sacrificial meat than our story of Achilles, where the narrative elements have been considerably stylized—especially in Iliad I.” [113]
There is a second aspect of Akhilleus’ special negative association with the dais: his savage perversion of the feast. [114] Akhilleus’ murderous rampage after his reintegration in Iliad XIX is often compared to a savage dais: he wishes he could eat Hektor raw, and Apollo compares his slaughter of Trojans to a lion’s dais of sheep (Iliad XXII 346–347, XXIV 41–43). Outside of battle, Akhilleus’ abstention from food symbolizes his grief and isolation. When urged to eat by the councilors, he refuses, remembering how Patroklos used to prepare food for him in his hut (Iliad XIX 315–318). [115] He refers to the ἐίση δαίς shared by the army as a στυγερὴ δαίς (Iliad XXIII 48, 56), and he rejects Lukaon’s plea based on their once having shared a meal together (Iliad XXI 74–113). The last image of Akhilleus is his shared meal with Priam; ironically, this forced feast with the enemy, conspicuously lacking sacrifice, is also the resolution of his savage temper (Iliad XXIV 618–619).

4.5 The Isolation of Akhilleus between Men and Gods

However, all of the special features likening Akhilleus to the gods serve also to emphasize his mortality: he is distanced from mortal heroes by special divine treatment and superhuman knowledge of the future, but, as a mortal hero condemned to die, he is equally distanced from immortals. [118] The Iliad has suppressed all of the invulnerable and immortal characteristics usually associated with Akhilleus as a mythical figure, such as the tradition maintaining that Thetis tried to make him immortal. [119] It is this intermediate status as mortal, but as isolated from other mortals through exceptional qualities suggestive of divinities, that the portrayal of sacrifice reflects. For instance, Akhilleus’ prayer and vow to the Winds is uniquely transmitted through the help of Iris, who is herself en route to feast with the Aithiopes (Iliad XXIII 205–209). The unique assistance given so that Akhilleus’ prayer may reach the ears of its intended recipient draws attention to his special status. At a rare moment in which Akhilleus relies on traditional mortal methods of communicating with the gods, the divine messenger of the gods becomes his message bearer as well. Akhilleus never performs the sacrifices he promises to the Winds. In fact, he neither remembers past sacrifices, nor performs sacrifice in the context of the poem, but alludes rather to future sacrifices, which the audience knows will be precluded by his imminent death. His only other appeal to the gods in the mortal mode occurs in his libation to Zeus for the safety of Patroklos (Iliad XVI 220–250). [120] When concerned about his mortal friend, Akhilleus applies mortal methods of communication. When he wants something for himself, however, he appeals directly to his mother. Nonetheless, since despite his special status not even Akhilleus can bend the will of Zeus, his libation for the life of Patroklos is unsuccessful.
In her haste to join the Aithiopes, who still feast with the gods, Iris brings to mind an image of the ‘Golden Age’, a time of commensality between men and gods, to which Thetis’ marriage to a mortal also belongs. [121] Akhilleus seems to have an intermediary status similar to that of the Aithiopes. This tacit comparison of Golden Age commensality between men and gods with the inefficent system of animal sacrifice as a means of communication between the two groups is made explicit in the final discussion of Akhilleus by the Olympian gods. Apollo, in his characteristically hostile approach to Akhilleus, berates the other gods for allowing him to mistreat Hektor’s body:
σχέτλιοί ἐστε, θεοί, δηλήμονες· οὔ νύ ποθ’ ὑμῖν
Ἕκτωρ μηρί’ ἔκηε βοῶν αἰγῶν τε τελείων;
τὸν νῦν οὐκ ἔτλητε νέκυν περ ἐόντα σαῶσαι,
ᾗ τ’ ἀλόχῳ ἰδέειν καὶ μητέρι καὶ τέκεϊ ᾧ
καὶ πατέρι Πριάμῳ λαοῖσί τε, τοί κέ μιν ὦκα
ἐν πυρὶ κήαιεν καὶ ἐπὶ κτέρεα κτερίσαιεν.
ἀλλ’ ὀλοῷ Ἀχιλῆϊ, θεοί, βούλεσθ’ ἐπαρήγειν,
(Iliad XXIV 33–39)
Hard-hearted you are, you gods, you live for cruelty!
Did Hektor never burn in your honor thigh bones of oxen and flawless, full-grown goats?
Now you cannot bring yourselves to save him—even his corpse—
so his wife can see him, his mother and his child,
His father Priam and Priam’s people: how they’d rush
To burn his body on the pyre and give him burial rites!
But murderous Akhilleus—you gods, you choose to help Akhilleus.
Sacrifice is here contrasted directly with Akhilleus’ special status. Apollo draws attention to the pious performance of sacrifice by Hektor, whom the gods ought to help, in contrast to Akhilleus, whom they choose to help (βούλεσθ’ ‘you all choose’). Apollo’s directive concerning Akhilleus’ savagery refers to the hero as ὀλοός ‘destructive, murderous’, a rare application of this powerful adjective to a person. [122] Hera’s response to Apollo clearly focuses Akhilleus’ status: he is the child of a goddess whom she herself has reared and therefore cannot be compared to Hektor (Iliad XXIV 58–60). Hera refers specifically to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, which all the gods attended (Iliad XXIV 62–63). This image of gods and mortals celebrating together, similar to Iris’ feasting with the Aithiopes, again recalls Golden Age commensality. In both instances, Akhilleus’ liminality is emphasized by references to cheerful occasions in which the gap between gods and men does not yet exist. Sacrifice, such as that made by Hektor, is the post-Golden Age attempt by men to communicate with gods, a symbol of the lingering divide between mortals and immortals. In this sense, Akhilleus stands as a symbol of thematic opposition to sacrifice.
Zeus replies to Hera that Hektor and Akhilleus are not equals, but that Hektor is nonetheless a favorite mortal, repeating his earlier statement about his well-fed altar and the geras of the gods:
οὐ μὲν γὰρ τιμή γε μί’ ἔσσεται· ἀλλὰ καὶ Ἕκτωρ
φίλτατος ἔσκε θεοῖσι βροτῶν οἳ ἐν Ἰλίῳ εἰσίν·
ὣς γὰρ ἐμοί γ’, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι φίλων ἡμάρτανε δώρων.
οὐ γάρ μοί ποτε βωμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης,
λοιβῆς τε κνίσης τε· τὸ γὰρ λάχομεν γέρας ἡμεῖς.
(Iliad XXIV 66–70)
These two can never attain the same degree of honor.
Still, the immortals loved prince Hektor dearly, best of all mortals born in Troy;
so I loved him, at least: he never stinted with gifts to please my heart.
Never once did my altar lack its share of victims,
libations and the sacrificial smoke. These are our gifts of honor.
Like Apollo, Zeus explicitly compares Hektor’s sacrifices to Akhilleus’ semi-divine status: Hektor’s act of giving the immortals their proper geras cannot equate him with the son of Thetis. This striking description of the meaning of sacrifice for Zeus recalls the quarrel between Akhilleus and Agamemnon over geras. Fittingly, the context in which the word is most often used is Thetis’ description of Briseis as Akhilleus’ geras (Iliad I 507). [123] Zeus then concedes to Akhilleus the singular honor of being informed of the will of the gods—that Hektor should be returned to Priam. This is the kind of direct communication that the other heroes so clearly lack and that they attempt to establish through sacrifice.
One of the greatest achievements of the poem lies in the fact that Akhil-leus’ semi-divine status is constantly contrasted with his impending death. [124] As we have seen, from the perspective of the gods, Akhilleus is presented in opposition to mortal sacrificers. Significantly, Akhilleus himself, assuming a divine ability to deny sacrifice, rejects the power of sacrifice on two occasions, both signposts of his own impending doom: the rejection of Trojan sacrifices over the corpse of Lukaon and his revocation of Peleus’ vow at the funeral of Patroklos. Akhilleus kills Lukaon despite the youth’s lengthy supplication, the longest in the epic before that of Priam, and his subsequent treatment of the corpse, which is flung into the river to be food for the fish, is described in terms that closely recall oath sacrifice, [125] another way in which Akhilleus perverts normative sacrificial ritual. The entire exchange between the two heroes locates Akhilleus outside the norms of human behavior, and the conventions of battlefield speech are manipulated to stress this detachment. For example, Akhilleus’ response is uniquely framed in terms of its reception by Lukaon, the only time the verb προσηύδα ‘address, speak to’ appears in a speech introduction rather than conclusion (Iliad XXI 97–98). [126] Akhilleus focuses specifically on the futility of sacrifice to save the Trojans, just as the gods later conclude concerning Hektor’s fate:
οὐδ’ ὑμῖν ποταμός περ ἐΰρροος ἀργυροδίνης
ἀρκέσει, ᾧ δὴ δηθὰ πολέας ἱερεύετε ταύρους,
ζωοὺς δ’ ἐν δίνῃσι καθίετε μώνυχας ἵππους.
(Iliad XXI 130–132)
Not even your silver-whirling, mighty-tiding river
can save you —not for all the bulls you’ve sacrificed to it for years,
the living, single-footed stallions you cast into its eddies.
Akhilleus assimilates himself to divinity by expressing a god-like perspective in his rejection of the efficacy of sacrifice; his rejection of cult worship demonstrates a self-conscious removal from mortal society and the value systems therein. Further, Akhilleus’ speech provokes the anger of Skamandros, the sacrifices to whom he rejects as meaningless (Iliad XXI 136­­–138), culminating in the battle encompassing the remainder of Iliad XXI. Though his speech is part of the pattern of embedded sacrifices, which express anxiety or despair that sacrifices are not working, his intermediate status empowers him to adopt a divine perspective: similar to the laments by Zeus and Apollo that sacrifices cannot save mortals, Akhilleus casts Lukaon’s death in terms of failed sacrifices. This speech also reflects the depth of his superhuman wrath, which the encounter with the Trojan youth has provoked by aggravating the acute awareness of his own imminent death. [127] The boast to kill Trojans in spite of any divine protection is part of his overall refusal of Lukaon’s supplication, a reaction instigated by his remorse over Patroklos’ death, the aforementioned knowledge of his own death, and his subsequent lack of sympathy for any other mortal. All of these reactions are part of the questioning of value systems initiated by the breakdown of reciprocity in Iliad I. [128] As we have already seen, sacrifice has been used to reassert Agamemnon’s status among the Akhaian army in response to the breakdown of reciprocity. But here it is used contrarily to demonstrate Akhilleus’ isolation, through his renunciation of normative ritual practices as he heads toward his own death.
Akhilleus’ deviation from sacrificial ritual is most dramatically expressed in his slaughter of the Trojan youths at the funeral of Patroklos (Iliad XXIII 175–176). [129] This ritual process is not animal sacrifice since it is not a gift-offering to deities. Yet the primary narrator describes the gifts offered in such a way as to recall normative animal sacrifice, further contrasting Akhilleus’ variance from accepted practice. Akhilleus slaughters sheep and cattle, which he flays (ἔδερον, Iliad XXIII 167), a verb also used to describe this process after sacrifice (Iliad I 459 = II 422). Whereas Agamemnon and the councilors wrap the thigh bones with fat from the victims (knisê, Iliad I 460–461 = II 423–424), Akhilleus wraps Patroklos’ corpse in fat (dêmos, Iliad XXIII 169–170), adding jars of honey and oil, four living horses, and two dogs, before he slaughters twelve Trojan youths (Iliad XXIII 171–173):
καὶ μὲν τῶν ἐνέβαλλε πυρῇ δύο δειροτομήσας,
δώδεκα δὲ Τρώων μεγαθύμων υἱέας ἐσθλοὺς
(Iliad XXIII 174–175)
He slit the throats of two [dogs], threw them onto the pyre
and then a dozen brave sons of the proud Trojans…
The use of the verb δειροτομεῖν recalls Lukaon’s death, linking these deaths to Akhilleus’ supra-mortal wrath against the Trojans. In addition to his use of terminology associated with animal sacrifice, twelve is one of four possible quantities of animals used for sacrifices. [130] Patroklos’ funeral is performed only after Akhilleus, with Agamemnon’s approval, is reintegrated into the community, and it remains a private affair. The extreme savagery of this slaughter is described thus by Seth Schein:
The greatest lapse into savagery in the Iliad is Achilles’ sacrifice at the pyre of Patroklos of 12 Trojan youths…such deliberate savagery, however, really is not animalistic but distinctively human in its planned brutality and its perversion of an activity (sacrifice) that is supposed to bring humans closer not to animals but to the gods. Clearly Homer is portraying Achilles at this stage of the poem as beyond a boundary that humans in the Iliad normally do not cross. [131]
An enormous sense of pathos is created by the representation of superhuman qualities at the funeral of Patroklos, since this burial prefigures Akhilleus’ own funeral. When he appears to urge Akhilleus to perform the funeral, Patroklos’ ghost specifically asks that their bones be buried together, as they lived together in Peleus’ house:
καὶ δὲ σοὶ αὐτῷ μοῖρα, θεοῖς ἐπιείκελ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ,
τείχει ὕπο Τρώων εὐηφενέων ἀπολέσθαι.
ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω καὶ ἐφήσομαι, αἴ κε πίθηαι·
μὴ ἐμὰ σῶν ἀπάνευθε τιθήμεναι ὀστέ’, Ἀχιλλεῦ,
ἀλλ’ ὁμοῦ, ὡς ἐτράφημεν ἐν ὑμετέροισι δόμοισιν,
εὖτέ με τυτθὸν ἐόντα Μενοίτιος ἐξ Ὀπόεντος
ἤγαγεν ὑμέτερόνδ’ ἀνδροκτασίης ὕπο λυγρῆς,
ἤματι τῷ ὅτε παῖδα κατέκτανον Ἀμφιδάμαντος
νήπιος οὐκ ἐθέλων ἀμφ’ ἀστραγάλοισι χολωθείς·
ἔνθά με δεξάμενος ἐν δώμασιν ἱππότα Πηλεὺς
ἔτραφέ τ’ ἐνδυκέως καὶ σὸν θεράποντ’ ὀνόμηνεν·
ὣς δὲ καὶ ὀστέα νῶϊν ὁμὴ σορὸς ἀμφικαλύπτοι
χρύσεος ἀμφιφορεύς, τόν τοι πόρε πότνια μήτηρ.
(Iliad XXIII 80–92)
And you too, your fate awaits you too, godlike as you are, Akhilleus­—
to die in battle beneath the proud rich Trojans’ walls!
But one thing more. A last request—grant it, please.
Never bury my bones apart from yours, Akhilleus,
Let them lie together, just as we grew up together in your house,
after Menoitios brought me there from Opoeis, and only a boy,
but banished for bloody murder the day I killed Amphidamas’ son.
I was a fool—I never meant to kill him, quarreling over a dice game.
Then the horseman Peleus took me into his halls,
he reared me with kindness, appointed me your aide.
So now let a single urn, the gold two-handled urn
your noble mother gave you, hold our bones—together!
Patroklos reminds Akhilleus that he too will die at Troy, preventing any return to the happy home of Peleus. [132] The memory of Akhilleus and Patroklos in Peleus’ house recalls Nestor’s memory of his arrival in Phthia, upon which he found Peleus making sacrifice and Akhilleus and Patroklos busy preparing the meat for a meal. Likewise, Nestor remembers Menoitios’ instructions that Patroklos help Akhilleus. This is contextualized in the speech against a backdrop of a sacrifice (Iliad XI 785–790), the memory of which persuades Patroklos to go into battle, ultimately to his death. [133] The pleasurable occasions of shared meals are also associated with Patroklos by Akhilleus, who refuses to eat because it reminds him of meals once prepared by Patroklos (Iliad XIX 315–318). The ghost of Patroklos does not mention sacrifice, but focuses on the heroes “sitting apart” from their dear friends (φίλων ἀπάνευθεν ἑταίρων, Iliad XXIII 77). The references to the home in Nestor’s memory have been replaced in the ghost’s speech with the isolation and early death of the two heroes at Troy.
When Akhilleus performs Patroklos’ funeral, revoking a vow made by his father to Sperkheios and giving the lock of hair to Patroklos instead, his isolation and his rejection of sacrifice are directly linked to the anticipation of his own death:
Σπερχεί’, ἄλλως σοί γε πατὴρ ἠρήσατο Πηλεὺς
κεῖσέ με νοστήσαντα φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν
σοί τε κόμην κερέειν ῥέξειν θ’ ἱερὴν ἑκατόμβην,
πεντήκοντα δ’ ἔνορχα παρ’ αὐτόθι μῆλ’ ἱερεύσειν
ἐς πηγάς, ὅθι τοι τέμενος βωμός τε θυήεις.
ὣς ἠρᾶθ’ ὁ γέρων, σὺ δέ οἱ νόον οὐκ ἐτέλεσσας.
νῦν δ’ ἐπεὶ οὐ νέομαί γε φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν,
Πατρόκλῳ ἥρωϊ κόμην ὀπάσαιμι φέρεσθαι.
(Iliad XXIII 144–151)
Sperkheios! All in vain my father vowed to you
that there, once I had journeyed home to my own dear fatherland,
I’d cut this lock for you and offer a holy hecatomb,
and sacrifice fifty ungelded rams
to your springs, there at the spot where your grove and smoking altar stand!
So the old man vowed—but you’ve destroyed his hopes.
Now, since I shall not return to my fatherland,
I’ll give this lock to the hero Patroklos to bear it on his way.
Just as with the vaunt over the corpse of Lukaon, Akhilleus, standing over the corpse of Patroklos, assumes a divine ability to reject sacrifices. Revoking Peleus’ vow and standing over the corpse of Lukaon are the only times Akhilleus uses the verb ἱερεύειν ‘to sacrifice’. He will not return home, as he and the audience well know, and his estrangement and early death are signified in this refutation of the normative mortal approach to divine power over life and death.
The Trojan sacrifices to Skamandros (ἐν δίνῃσι ‘in the eddies’) will not save them, nor will Peleus’ promise to sacrifice to Sperkheios (ἐς πηγάς ‘to your springs’) bring Akhilleus home. The unfulfilled sacrifice to Sperkheios and the rejection of sacrificial power as a means to avert death are linked, an association made more plaintive by replacing homecoming and the possibility of reciprocity with the gods with Akhilleus’ commitment to share a funeral urn with Patroklos. Sacrifice now stands as a symbol of his isolation from ritual as a result of his young death, which also signifies his acquiescence to the kleos of epic poetry; were he not fated to die, Akhilleus would be performing sacrifice. [134] The complex irony of the impending death of a semi-divine hero is rendered more pathetic in his abstinence from sacrifice: his semi-divine status as well as his impending death preclude his performance of sacrifice. Akhilleus even ponders not fighting with Hektor and leaving the next day after having performed sacrifices:
νῦν δ’ ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἐθέλω πολεμιζέμεν Ἕκτορι δίῳ,
αὔριον ἱρὰ Διὶ ῥέξας καὶ πᾶσι θεοῖσι,
νηήσας εὖ νῆας, ἐπὴν ἅλαδε προερύσσω,
(Iliad IX 356–358)
Since I have no desire to battle glorious Hektor,
tomorrow at daybreak, once I have sacrificed to Zeus and all the gods
having loaded up my holds and launched out onto the breakers...
This sacrifice is never performed because he will never leave Troy, as the audience knows, and this statement serves to link Akhilleus’ conspicuous absence from Akhaian sacrifices with his impending doom.
I will conclude this book with a final note on the contrast in the poem between Agamemnon’s normative enacted sacrifices and Akhilleus’ isolation. When Akhilleus withdraws from society, he enters a liminal realm, no longer a functioning member of the community, but acutely needed by it. He describes his treatment by Agamemnon as that appropriate to a μετανάστης (Iliad IX 648, XVI 59), a word that has been variously translated, perhaps best as ‘migrant’, a foreigner living among others but outside the protection of the community. This is the condition Akhilleus creates upon his departure. Aristotle cites this passage as evidence that Akhilleus is excluded from the civil privileges of the polis, which, from Aristotle’s perspective, would have included sacrifice. [135] In this isolation, Akhilleus’ relationships with others are no longer governed by the accepted ordering principles of society. In his striving for self-sufficiency, his behavior is “articulating a notion of autonomy,” and he withdraws to an extra-cultural, semi-divine world. [136]
It is interesting that we find Akhilleus, when his withdrawal is directly challenged in Iliad IX, instructing Patroklos to perform a unique variation on animal sacrifice, recalling Agamemnon’s typical actions, but with a very different meaning appropriate to the context. After the animals have been slaughtered, cooked, salted, and served (Iliad IX 205–217), Akhilleus commands Patroklos to throw θυηλαί ‘offerings’ into the fire:
αὐτὸς δ’ ἀντίον ἷζεν Ὀδυσσῆος θείοιο
τοίχου τοῦ ἑτέροιο, θεοῖσι δὲ θῦσαι ἀνώγει
Πάτροκλον, ὃν ἑταῖρον· ὁ δ’ ἐν πυρὶ βάλλε θυηλάς. 
οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ὀνείαθ’ ἑτοῖμα προκείμενα χεῖρας ἴαλλον.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,
(Iliad IX 218–222)
Then face-to-face with noble Odysseus he took his seat
along the farther wall, he told Patroklos, his friend, to
make burnt offering to the gods
and Patroklos threw the offerings in the fire.
They reached out for the good things that lay at hand
and when they had put aside desire for food and drink…
The verb ἀνώγει ‘to command’ recalls Agamemnon’s instructions (ἄνωγεν) to the men to purify themselves before the sacrifice of hecatombs (Iliad I 313). No prayer or other ritual complement to the action of burning meat for the gods is listed. What is more, this offering is subsequent to the con-sumption of food, in contrast to normative sacrifice, in which offerings are given to the gods before the preparations for the mortal feast. Unlike Agamemnon, Akhilleus neither performs a sacrifice with pre-kill rites, nor does he make prayer or perform other honorary actions toward the gods. Instead, he instructs Patroklos to throw θυηλαί ‘offerings’ into the fire, which are then entirely consumed by the flames, not shared by the participants as are the splankhna in Iliad II 427. The absence of the expected features of sacrifice is emphasized in the description of spits, ἀμφ’ ὀβελοῖσιν ἔπειρε ‘pierce on spits’ (Iliad IX 210), which are elsewhere used only in reference to splankhna (Iliad I 464 = II 427). Also, the phrase κατὰ πῦρ ἐκάη ‘the fire burned’ (Iliad IX 212) deliberately recalls the expected κατὰ μῆρε κάη ‘burn the thigh bones’ (Iliad I 464 = II 427), the ritual offering of thigh bones to the gods, also conspicuously absent from Akhilleus’ feast. [137] Although Agamemnon hosts a feast without an offering to the gods earlier in Iliad IX, verses reminiscent of specific stages in the sacrificial process such as these found in Akhilleus’ meal are not used. The primary narrative highlights Akhilleus’ unique attempt at animal sacrifice with verses closely recalling the grand thusia sacrifices under Agamemnon’s direction in Iliad I and II. As discussed in Chapter One, sacrificial vocabulary is used in reference to Akhilleus’ meals, without reference to the gods, to highlight his abstinence from the expected sacrificial procedure.
Akhilleus attempts to recreate the kind of sacrificial feast and counseling session that Agamemnon has enacted in Iliad II and VII, both of which function as positive displays of authority among the leading men in his army. However, Akhilleus does not offer normative sacrifice. Odysseus explicitly compares this meal to those hosted by Agamemnon, remarking that they do not lack an “appropriate share of the feast” either in the quarters of Agamemnon or Akhilleus:
χαῖρ’, Ἀχιλεῦ· δαιτὸς μὲν ἐΐσης οὐκ ἐπιδευεῖς 
ἠμὲν ἐνὶ κλισίῃ Ἀγαμέμνονος Ἀτρεΐδαο
ἠδὲ καὶ ἐνθάδε νῦν· πάρα γὰρ μενοεικέα πολλὰ
(Iliad IX 225–228)
Cheers, Akhilleus! We do not lack our appropriate share of the feast
in the quarters of Agamemnon, the son of Atreus,
or here and now, for you have provided many abundant things. [138]
Scholars are divided in their opinion of the meaning of dais and the socioeconomic function of ἐΐση δαίς ‘appropriate share of the feast’. Some have argued that the dais emphasizes collectivity and harmony, while others posit that the Homeric dais is an elite affair, an exclusive meal for kings. [139] Although Akhilleus attempts to establish his independence through providing feasts in Iliad IX and XXIV, his feasts are compared by Odysseus to those of Agamemnon, whose hospitality is the model for this activity. [140] Significantly, neither this meal with the embassy nor the meal with Priam is described with the formulaic phrase οὐδέ τι θυμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης ‘no man’s hunger lacked his share of the appropriate feast’, a social event which only Agamemnon can enact. The redistribution of meat at communal feasts is a demonstration of central authority, which in the Iliad, when it is expressed through this formulaic phrase, is embodied in Agamemnon. All enacted sacrifices, the only feasts to be described thus, relate to the threats to and questioning of Agamemnon’s authority implicit in Akhilleus’ withdrawal.
The only occurrences of this formulaic phrase outside of the sacrifices in Iliad I, II, and VII are in reference to the feasts of the gods or to Akhilleus’ funeral feast for Patroklos (the only time this phrase is used of his meals). The gods’ banquet is described thus at Iliad I 602, and with the subsitution of Zeus’ altar for thumos at Iliad IV 48 = XXIV 69. [141] In the first of these banquets, the gods seem to have prepared a feast for themselves on Olympus, whereas Zeus refers to having received his “appropriate share” thanks to Trojan sacrifices at his altar (Iliad IV 48 = XXIV 69). Finally, the funeral feast for Patroklos provides “appropriate shares of the feast” for all (Iliad XXIII 56). The narrator describes Akhilleus as providing a τάφον μενοεικέα δαίνυ ‘satsifying funeral feast’ (Iliad XXIII 29), a meal described by Akhilleus to Agamemnon as a στυγερὴ δαίς ‘wretched feast’ (Iliad XXIII 48). Rather than giving him the pleasure and satisfaction usually accompanying a feast, Akhilleus’ preparation, for which bulls, goats, sheep, and pigs are slaughtered, is hateful to him (Iliad XXIII 30–34.) To highlight this contrast, the consumption of thisfeast is described using the formulaic verses familiar from three enacted sacrifices:
δαίνυντ’, οὐδέ τι θυμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης. (Iliad I 468 = II 431 = VII 320 = XXIII 56)
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο  (Iliad I 469 = II 432 = XXIII 57)
They feasted, nor did any man’s spirit lack his appropriate share of the feast.
But when they had put aside their desire for food and drink...
All four feasts depict the distribution of appropriate shares of meat, and the commensal sacrifices in Iliad I and II are expanded with an additional description of the satisfaction afforded by the feast, which is elsewhere found only in the funeral feast, yet another sign of the thematic association between Agamemnon, Akhilleus, the quarrel, and sacrifice. Agamemnon’s enacted commensal sacrifices are contrasted with the ‘wretched feast’ (στυγερὴ δαίς, Iliad XXIII 48) Akhilleus provides at a moment of great mourning. The verse “when they had put aside desire for food and drink” (αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο), is found on its own in contexts exclusively associated with Akhilleus: in the feast for the councilors preceding the embassy to Akhilleus in Iliad IX, in Akhilleus’ feast for the embassy, and in his meal with Priam. [142] These verses create thematic links between Agamemnon’s enacted sacrifices, performed only in Akhilleus’ absence, and feasts that form a pattern of echoes to highlight Akhilleus’ isolation from normative social procedures.
Akhilleus’ feast here is contextually and thematically very different from the three enacted sacrifices connected with Agamemnon. First, no details of the kill are given, nor do we know exactly who performed the task. Second, such variety of animals is something not witnessed elsewhere in Homeric enacted sacrifices, though it is often found in reference to the suitors’ meals in the Odyssey. The suitors are described as slaughtering cows, sheep, and goats (βοῦς ἱερεύοντες καὶ ὄϊς καὶ πίονας αἶγας, Odyssey ii 56 = xvii 180 = xvii 535 = xx 250), and Alkinoos kills (ἱέρευσεν) 12 sheep, eight boars, and two oxen on one occasion (Odyssey viii 59). The emphasis in these descriptions is on indulgent or luxurious feasts without any specific sacral connotations. Third, Akhilleus explicitly views this occasion as a funeral meal, focusing the audience’s attention on that aspect of the ceremony. His perverse relationship with the dais is clearly demonstrated; he seems disgusted with the idea of feasting, a contrast to the description of characters satisfying their hunger with their ‘appropriate share’. This disparity with Agamemnon’s sacrifices is another demonstration of the tension between hero and king. Odysseus’ comparison of the “equal feast” enjoyed in the huts of Agamemnon to that provided by Akhilleus provides a poignant summary of the central conflict in the poem.


[ back ] 1. Nagy 1979:72; Martin 1989:97.
[ back ] 2. Stanley 1993:41.
[ back ] 3. Iliad IV 48–49 = XXIV 69–70, see also page 114. Hesiod Works and Days 134–137 describes the gods in the Silver Age as bereft of timê because men did not offer sacrifice; Nagy 1990b:135. On the connection between timê and geras, Nagy 1979: “As for Achilles, he loses his timê ‘honor’ specifically because Agamemnon has taken away his geras ‘honorific portion’” (132).
[ back ] 4. Stengel 1910:62 observes the paucity of animal sacrifice in Homer.
[ back ] 5. Vernant 1991:291.
[ back ] 6. Trojans and Akhaians (Iliad III 295–296, VII 480–481); Akhaian councilors (Iliad IX 712); the embassy to Akhilleus (Iliad IX 177, 656–657); Odysseus and Diomedes (Iliad X 579); Akhilleus (Iliad XVI 231–232, XXIII 196–197); Priam (Iliad XXIV 306).
[ back ] 7. Cf. Stanley 1993:109.
[ back ] 8. Stanley 1993:109­–110, comparing these two advisory meetings, remarks that Agamemnon is depicted in the Iliad IX scene in an “unceremonious” manner, appearing without his scepter.
[ back ] 9. Kirk 1990:230 gives a brief summary of the scholarship on Iliad VII, including a discussion about the relation of this duel to that in Iliad III, with bibliography.
[ back ] 10. On Ajax’s role as Akhilleus’ stand-in, see page 184 below. Links between Diomedes and Akhil-leus are established in the similar descriptions of flaming armor (Iliad V 4; XVIII 205; XXII 26), as well as Diomedes’ outstanding prowess on the battlefield (Postlethwaite 1998:95).
[ back ] 11. For instance, Rosivach’s study of fourth-century Athenian cult inscriptions excludes third-century material because the political changes from democracy to monarchy create a different ritual environment (1994:4).
[ back ] 12. The scholarship on this topic is immense: an overview is provided by Raaflaub 1991, and a thorough bibliography is given in Raaflaub 1998:189n2. This study will only cover topics relevant to the presentation of kingship, which is covered in particular by Donlan 1979; Quiller 1981; Drews 1983; Geddes 1984; Carlier 1984 and 2006; van Wees 1992; Hammer 1997; Rose 1997; Raaflaub 1998.
[ back ] 13. Gould 2001:343 gives the three alternative social models. Mackie 1996 provides an in-depth analysis of the different presentation of Trojan and Akhaian societies. For instance, the Trojans are never depicted preparing a dais.
[ back ] 14. Schein 1984: “The conception and the social and political organization of these gods is anachronistically modelled on the Mycenaean society as portrayed in the Iliad and as evidencd by the archaeological record” (16). See also Nilsson 1932; Vermeule 1964:309. Finley, one of the strongest opponents to the reflection of the Mycenaean world in Homer, proposes that the poems reflect Dark Age societies; see Finley 1970, 1982:199–212.
[ back ] 15. Bendall 2004, drawing on the work of Killen on the role of the palace in the sponsorship of sacrificial banquets (1994:71–72, 2001:437); Palaima 2005 (with an appendix of relevant tablets) outlines the process for preparing and hosting feasts at Thebes and Pylos, including the inventories in the Ta series from Pylos.
[ back ] 16. Palaima 2006:55, 69, arguing on the basis of the usage of the term in Linear B tablets and Homer, a discussion to which we will return, pages 176f. below.
[ back ] 17. Bennet and Davis 1999:107.
[ back ] 18. Palmer 1994:191–195.
[ back ] 19. There is no question that the Homeric poems reflect some influence from the Mycenaean period, a time of ‘active generation’ for the poems according to Sherratt’s model, discussed in Chapter One. However, the Iliad makes notorious omissions of crucial Mycenaean elements, such as scribes or tablets. There is an equivalent or, by some accounts, greater amount of correspondences in material and social culture to those of the ninth to eighth centuries BCE, complicating an identification of the Homeric world as “Mycenaean.” Moreover, the complete destruction of the Mycenaean strongholds at the start of the “Dark Ages” (ca. 1100–800 BCE) suggested in the archaeological record renders questionable the possible cultural continuity necessary for links between the Mycenaean period and poems in circulation in the eighth century.
[ back ] 20. Finley 1977:82–89, the revised edition of his 1954 work. See van Wees 1992:26–27; Adkins 1960. Scully 1990:100–113 recognizes collective decision-making and an emerging polis, but thinks the lack of concepts of citizenship makes the epics “pre-political.” Seaford 1994:6–7 follows Finley 1977 in allowing a degree of historicity based on the internal consistencies of the political system within the poems and its resemblance to comparable known societies. Carlier 1984 argues for the reflection of a slightly later, eighth-century world in the epics. On the oikos, see Finley 1977, supported recently by Edmunds 1989:27­–28 and Hammer 2002, who defines Homeric society as “interdependent,” formed of otherwise independent aristocratic households.
[ back ] 21. Finley 1977:57–58.
[ back ] 22. Drews 1983:100–115, who does not think that monarchs are depicted in the poem.
[ back ] 23. Taplin 1992:7 describes the “shading” of public issues into the private sphere. Hammer 2002:148 supports the arguments for the use of the Iliad as an ideological tool to support a threatened aristocracy; see also Raaflaub 1998:182. The security of the oikos at the expense of the polis is advocated by Scully 1990:105.
[ back ] 24. Finley 1977: “While recognizing monarchy, the nobles propose to maintain the fundamental priority of their status, to keep the king on the level of a first among equals” (84). See also Murray 1980:40–41 and Edmunds 1989:27. Taplin 1992:48–57, 211, although similarly inclined regarding Agamemnon’s status, does not accept the label primus inter pares and argues that Agamemnon, rather than being a sovereign king, is the summoner of the army, which obliges him to feast his followers.
[ back ] 25. Finley 1977:83.
[ back ] 26. The term polis is used throughout both poems to describe settlements, and is essentially synonymous with asty: e.g. Odyssey vi 117–178; see Raaflaub 1997:629. West 1966:46–47, van Wees 1992:54–58, and Taplin 1992:37 detail the evidence for the representation of late eighth- to early seventh-century society. Quiller 1981:113, van Wees 1992:31–36, and Raaflaub 1991:239–247 give lengthy arguments for definite political structures in Homer. Kirk 1962, Long 1970, Snodgrass 1974, and Sherratt 1990 suggest that the evidence is too inconsistent to be conclusive. Raaflaub 1997:628 describes the seeming “historical context” as the creation of a “historical consciousness” that is “incidental and secondary”: in his opinion, the poems reflect the world of the poet and his audience.
[ back ] 27. Calhoun 1962:438; cf. Raaflaub 1997:635.
[ back ] 28. Raaflaub 1997:632. Similar arguments are made by Scully 1990:109 and van Wees 1992:36, who concludes: “in spite of the fact that most men have no formal political power, a town is conceived of as a political unit of which the entire male population forms a part.”
[ back ] 29. For example, Finley 1977:84.
[ back ] 30. There is a long-standing scholarly debate about whether virtues in Homer are cooperative (justice and generosity) or competitive (prowess in war), on which see Adkins 1960, Long 1970, Cairns 1993, and Yamagata 1994. Seaford 1998:5 argues that reciprocity transcends this distinction: generosity can be admired and then become competitive. Adkins 1997:697 concludes: “the Homeric agathos, as head of his oikos, is in a situation in which self-help must be the order of the day, so that the ‘competitive excellences’, and courage above all, must appear most important in a crisis.… The characters of the poems are aware of the social situation which furnishes these values with the attraction which they certainly possess in the Homeric poems.”
[ back ] 31. Cf. Redfield 1983:218–247 and Gould 2001:336. Gift-giving and reciprocity are essential in gradated societies: Muellner 1996:34 and Hammer 2002:59.
[ back ] 32. Martin 1989: “The problem of the Iliad appears to be rooted in the clash of two systems: status based timê and performance based judgments, the latter an almost economically pragmatic ‘market-value’” (97).
[ back ] 33. Gould 2001:352.
[ back ] 34. See Long 1970:121–139 and Gould 2001:337.
[ back ] 35. Donlan 1979, 1993:155. There are many conflicting interpretations of the nature of kingship in Homer. Cf. Geddes 1984: “The kings do not seem to have any function in the world of Homer. They do not make decisions on behalf of the people, they have no judicial function, even their command of the army seems dependent … on their powers of persuasion and their reputation in the eyes of their men” (36).
[ back ] 36. Van Wees 1992:31–36, 103, 282f. On the semantics of basileus and anax, see pages 176f. below. Hammer 1997:4 describes Agamemnon’s power as based on fear and inheritance. Pucci 1998:189 points out that Agamemnon’s ability to compel obedience is never contested.
[ back ] 37. Van Wees 1992:37; cf. Sherratt 1990: “The complicated, intensely agnatic structure of royal inheritance displayed by the Atreid dynasty in the epics seems particularly characteristic of an expansive ‘heroic’ society” (93).
[ back ] 38. Nagy 1979:26–32 discusses the semantics of ἄριστος, only used in reference to Diomedes, Agamemnon, Ajax, and Akhilleus. On the problems with Agamemnon’s entry in the Catalogue, see Kirk 1985:181 and Page 1959:130–132.
[ back ] 39. Van Wees 1992:40; Iliad XI 108.
[ back ] 40. In Iliad IX, Agamemnon calls the assembly, Diomedes and Nestor speak, and action is only taken with Agamemnon’s assent (Iliad IX 9–161). The assembly in Iliad X repeats this pattern (Iliad X 204–253); Shear 2004:155n594. Donlan 1979:53 stresses the elusive foundation of Agamemnon’s power.
[ back ] 41. Carlier 2006:105.
[ back ] 42. The adjective is only used elsewhere at Odyssey xiv 93; the hereditary passage of Agamemnon’s scepter from Zeus through to Thuestes is described at Iliad II 100–108.
[ back ] 43. Taplin 1990:62–69.
[ back ] 44. Segal 1971:11; see also Whitman 1958:156 and Schadewaldt 1944:4.
[ back ] 45. Taplin 1990:72, 75; on the battles, see Fenik 1968:15, 84. Martin 1989:59–60 discusses Agamem-non’s inability to enact a muthos before the Akhaians.
[ back ] 46. Despite his frequent occurrences in the poem, his situation does not change (Beck 2005:205). Redfield 1975:12–15 discusses the characterization of Agamemnon as a response to Akhilleus.
[ back ] 47. Seaford 1994:22. We shall return to the active promotion of these values at pages 164f. below. For a discussion of Agamemnon’s rule as inherited, van Wees 1992:32 and Appendix 3; Hammer 2002:84, contra Geddes 1984:36 and Quiller 1981:115–118. Launderville 2003:84 notes that Odysseus’ royal authority in Ithaka is not a sufficient basis for power without the wealth that the suitors covet.
[ back ] 48. The council is enumerated twice, including Meges only in the latter (Iliad II 405–408 and X 108–110); Carlier 2006:103–104.
[ back ] 49. Van Wees 1992:40; the Trojan payment of allies is implied at Iliad XVIII 288–292.
[ back ] 50. Austin 1975:109. It is important to distinguish between authority and power, as does Hammer 2002:85; Agamemnon’s authority remains intact, but the withdrawal of Akhilleus weakens his power.
[ back ] 51. Detienne 1989:3. Compare the anthropological studies summarized in Bourdillon 1980, in which sacrifice is recognized as a political tool in other cultures, such as the human sacrifices in traditional Benin that enhance the king’s power or the Swazi royal rituals involving confiscation of oxen from the people.
[ back ] 52. Van Wees 1992:32.
[ back ] 53. Muellner 1996:106.
[ back ] 54. Mondi 1980:206. Cf. Burkert’s description of the godlike role taken on by priests in Greek ritual (1985:97). Frazer 1911:344–367 derives sacrifice from the symbolic killing of a divine king: originally, a priest-king would be sacrificed on behalf of the community to atone for a transgression, to avert a plague, etc.
[ back ] 55. Van Wees 1992:276f. discusses the symbolism of the scepter in the context of passing judgement, see Carlier 1984:193, 202–203; however, Launderville 2003:41–42, 74 observes that it is Odysseus, not Agamemnon, who effectively uses the scepter to restrain the Akhaians from flight (Iliad II 186ff.).
[ back ] 56. Martin 1989:97.
[ back ] 57. Nagy 1979:72–73, 118, 149; See also Muellner 1996:28–29, 50.
[ back ] 58. Hammer 2002:12; Turner 1988:33.
[ back ] 59. Hammer 2002:14.
[ back ] 60. Burkert 1985:54–55.
[ back ] 61. Martin 1989:97. In contrast, Donlan 1979:55 believes that the collectivity of a group comprised of equals does not require the chief leader to re-establish his authority.
[ back ] 62. A. Parry 1956:6.
[ back ] 63. Compare the observation in Muir 1981: “Although civic rituals often served the ruler’s interests they were not just propaganda and did not pass messages in only one direction” (5). I differ from Kitts, who proposes that commensal sacrifices, which she equates with other feasts, are presented as a respite from tension (2002:31, 2005:14); she refers to the “commensal sacrifices” in Iliad I, IX, and XXIV at 1999:44 and 2002:28–30.
[ back ] 64. Seaford 2004:40 observes that animal sacrifice and booty are equivalent forms of redistribution.
[ back ] 65. Latacz 2002:120f. observes that this separate presentation of simultaneous events (the sacrifice and Akhilleus’ conversation with Thetis) amplifies the presentation of the quarrel between Akhilleus and Agamemnon. Stanley 1993:39 has analyzed the structure of Iliad I as an interlocking series of events relating to wrath and divine will (boulê).
[ back ] 66. πολλὰ δὲ μητρὶ φίλῃ ἠρήσατο χεῖρας ὀρεγνύς(Iliad I 350); Latacz 2002:127; Morrison 1991. There are verbal echoes between Khruses’ prayer on the seashore to Apollo and Akhilleus’ address on the seashore to Thetis, first noticed by Havelock 1978:14.
[ back ] 67. On the loimos, which kills both men and animals, see Pulleyn 2000:138 and Kirk 1985:58.
[ back ] 68. Lord 1960:188, who cites Lévi-Strauss 1955:433 on the comparison of patterns. Wilson 2002:40–53 discusses the exchange between Agamemnon and Khruses in terms of the Homeric value system and the thematic correspondences between this encounter, the encounter between Akhilleus and Agamemnon, and that between Akhilleus and Priam.
[ back ] 69. Kalkhas’ role in Iliad I has been interpreted by Latacz 1996:95 as a deliberate counterweight to the authority of Agamemnon and as a relic of a longer account of fighting between the two men.
[ back ] 70. Mackie 1996:33 notes that Trojan Poludamas does not fare much better at the hands of Hektor at Iliad XII 230–250. Compare the reverence expressed toward the priest Maron by Odysseus (Odyssey ix 197–201).
[ back ] 71. Scholium A ad Iliad I 29–31; cf. Kirk 1985:56; Bassett 1938:48–49; Erbse 1969 ad loc. On the scene in general, Muellner 1996:98–99. Scully 1986:140 argues that Agamemnon has no regard for “religiously sanctified customs of heroic society,” which forces Akhilleus to seek justice from a higher power—the gods. Kitts 2005:29 contrasts the “ritual savvy” of Nestor, Akhilleus, and Odysseus with Agamemnon’s “undisguised and obtuse” attempts.
[ back ] 72. Bassett 1938:48–49; Edwards 1980:6; and Scully 1986:139 think that the emphasis on Khruses’ priestly garb highlights Agamemnon’s folly in rejecting him.
[ back ] 73. On the value system in operation here, see Wilson 2002:43, who observes that the reaction of the Akhaians in response to Agamemnon’s behavior is not a consequence of the violation of religious sanctions or compensation, but a form of social pressure that anticipates the support for Khruses that Apollo will provide.
[ back ] 74. Pulleyn 2000:133; 1997:16–39; see pages 83f. above.
[ back ] 75. It is interesting to compare Peirce’s and Gebauer’s work on the iconography of sacrifice, as they have pointed out that often identifications of “priests” in vase painting are more probably members of the group who have been depicted with a special significance, such as we might expect of the sacrificer. These individuals are clearly meant to be distinguished from the group, but do not have any of the recognizable symbols usually found with “priests” (Peirce 1993:231; Gebauer 2002:471­–478).
[ back ] 76. Discussed by Edwards 1980:4–6 and Wilson 2002:42. Kakrides 1971:125 has a more optimistic interpretation of Khruses’ approach as “gentle.” On Homeric supplication in general, see Thornton 1984. Kirk 1985:55 details the highly formulaic language of Khruses’ speech, which further links this scene with other supplications in Homer.
[ back ] 77. Edwards 1980:6.
[ back ] 78. Bakker, who agrees with Lord’s model for oral dictation in the transmission of the text to a written medium, persuasively argues against the imposition on Homeric poetry of a modern dichotomy between writing and speaking: “...writing in the sense of composition was a form of speaking.... The poet actually produced every sound of which the poem consists and his thought processes, and hence the presentation and structure of his discourse, were not in any way governed by writing in our conceptional sense” (1997:26).
[ back ] 79. Bakker 1997:61. He explains the English translation of δέ as ‘and’ (51); μέν, as an indication of something more important that will follow, in most cases cannot be translated into English. He also observes the different connotations of these particles as marking contrasts in Attic texts (81).
[ back ] 80. Bakker 1997:62–71, 82.
[ back ] 81. Cf. Bakker’s “syntax of activation”: he discusses this scene as an example (1997:109); on the development and possible etymologies of αὐτάρ, see 1997:96n18.
[ back ] 82. Parry 1971:39 lists 37. Using the TLG, I find 44 in reference to Agamemnon: Iliad I 7, 172, 442, 506; II 373, 402, 434, 441, 612; III 81, 267, 455; IV 148, 255, 336; V 38; VI 33; VII 162, 314; VIII 278; IX 96, 114, 163, 672, 677, 697; X 64, 86, 103; XI 99, 254; XIV 64, 103, 134; XVIII 111; XIX 51, 76, 146, 172, 184, 199; XXIII 49, 161, 895. Carlier 2006:101 attests 56 in all of Homer, but does not list them. In addition, the phrase describes Ankhises (Iliad V 268), Aineias (Iliad V 311), Augeias (Iliad XI 701), and Eumelos (Iliad XXIII 288). In Chapter One, I have referred to the excellent scholarship regarding the significance of formulaic noun-epithet phrases: Lord 1960:148; Nagy 1996b:50; 2003:40; and Havelock 1971:53, who describes noun-epithet phrases as a process of “continual anticipation.”
[ back ] 83. Nagy 1990b:23; Foley 1990:23. See also Nagy’s review of Foley (1996c). Bakker 1997:162 attributes the changing nuances of the epithets to their contexts and the audience’s ability to recognize the meaning in the context of the event.
[ back ] 84. Meillet and Vendryes 1924:598; cf. Bakker 1997:97.
[ back ] 85. Bakker 1997:93–94.
[ back ] 86. βασιλῆα πολυχρύσοιο Μυκήνης. Cf. Drews 1983:101; Gschnitzer 1966:101n8. Skherie has at least thirteen basileis (Odyssey viii 390-391) and the suitors are twice called by this title (Odyssey i 386, 392).
[ back ] 87. This word is mainly used with Agamemnon, but there are exceptions: Nestor is called anax of Pylos at Iliad II 77, as is Agamemnon’s Trojan equivalent Priam at Iliad II 373, as well as Aineias, Ankhises, Augeias and Eumelos, see above. Nestor is prominently depicted as the ritual authority at Pylos in the Odyssey, which may be a reflection of some sort of special status. Carlier 2006:101 discusses the uses of the term and concludes that it refers to ‘one-man rule’, whether over a household or larger group. He advocates the translation ‘lord’ as reflective of the similar range of meanings in this word in Greek as found in English or French seigneur. Van Wees 1992:31 notes that anax can be used in Homer in reference to cities, houses, slaves, and animals, as well as of the gods. Drews 1983:101, drawing heavily on Gschnitzer 1966:99–112, argues that Homeric basileus can be synonymous with anax, but that the political system is undergoing radical changes at the time. A bibliography on the topic is given by van Wees 1992:31n23.
[ back ] 88. The evidence is summarized by Parry 1971:120.
[ back ] 89. Kakrides 1971:129.
[ back ] 90. Bakker 1997:170.
[ back ] 91. Only Zeus and Agamemnon are κύδιστε, another signifier of Agamemnon’s supreme authority (Scodel 2002:21).
[ back ] 92. κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων: Iliad I 102, 130, 285, 355, 411; II 100, 369, 411, 477, 576; III 118, 178; IV 153, 188, 204, 283, 311, 356, 368; V 537; VI 63; VII 107, 322, 405; IX 62, 368; X 42; XI 107, 126, 153, 177, 238; XIII 112; XIV 41; XVI 58, 72, 273; XVIII 445; XXIII 110, 887.
[ back ] 93. Whallon 1969:3.
[ back ] 94. Nagy 1996b:50. Lord 1960:45–46 argues that the oral tradition made little use of purely ornamental epithets, describing themes in Homer as having a suprameaning, a resonance acquired from all past uses and contexts.
[ back ] 95. The noun-epithet formula at the end of the verse is used to distinguish certain heroes; cf. Kahane 1994:135–141.
[ back ] 96. Bakker 1997:111 discusses the different ways in which the narrative can express characterization.
[ back ] 97. Whitman 1958:87; see also Schein 1984:31–32, Lowenstam 1993:12. Stanley 1993 is a full-length study on the topic of ring composition in the Iliad; he discusses the ‘Book’ divisions throughout (with conclusions at 249f.).
[ back ] 98. See de Jong 1987a. Kirk 1985 ad Iliad II 402–403 points out the similarities between the con-trasting dinners of the army and the councilors represented here and on the shield of Akhilleus. Here, the army takes its dinner while Agamemnon provides a luxurious feast; on the shield, the harvesters eat porridge while the heralds prepare an ox for the king (Iliad XVIII 556–560).
[ back ] 99. The contrast between the wishes of the leaders and their followers is potentially relevant to the performance context (Launderville 2003:295–296; Raaflaub 1989:4).
[ back ] 100. Bakker 1997:110; cf. Gunn 1971:23.
[ back ] 101. Bakker 1997:62.
[ back ] 102. Kirk 1985:158 discusses the ancient commentary on this passage, which had troubled commentators with its description of Menelaos coming of his own accord.
[ back ] 103. See Stanley 1993:56; Bassett 1938:49. I discuss the intervening oath sacrifice in Iliad III in Chapter Two, pages 88f. above.
[ back ] 104. Bakker 1997:75, 79.
[ back ] 105. Stanley 1993:24.
[ back ] 106. Lowenstam 1993:139.
[ back ] 107. Hammer 1997:2.
[ back ] 108. This is a complex and well-explored topic: see Taplin 1992:50–51, Postlethwaite 1998, and the definitive study in Wilson 2002.
[ back ] 109. Rabel 1997:82 is a good discussion of this speech as Agamemnon’s personal description of the plot of the poem; see also Lohmann 1970:173–174; Arend 1933:117; Dodds 1951:1–27; and Edwards 1991 note ad loc.
[ back ] 110. Mackie 1996:157.
[ back ] 111. Muellner 1996:141–142 argues for the establishment of social bonds in this scene. Social relationships may no longer be publicly contested, but they are still not harmonious. Postlethwaite 1998:100–101 proposes that, after Iliad XIX, Agamemnon is presented as subordinate to Akhilleus. He sees the feast scene with Priam as an extension of Akhilleus’ animosity towards Agamemnon, “overriding conventions of balanced reciprocity…and [continuing] to declare his own authority and to demean his old adversary” (103). For a similar view, see Wilson 2002. Nagy 1979:132–134 discusses the reintegration of Akhilleus at the dais suggested by Odysseus in Iliad XIX, but also important is Akhilleus’ participation in Agamemnon’s oath sacrifice; cf. Griffin 1980:14-15.
[ back ] 112. Pindar Paian 6.117–120; Nemean 7.40–43; Nagy 1979:123–141; cf. Martin 1983:88. The death of Purrhos is also described in Asklepiades FGrH 12.15; Kallimakhos f. 229.7 (Pfeiffer); Pausanias 10.7.1; Strabo 421. Akhilleus refers to a son, Neoptolemos, at Iliad XIX 327; he is also a topic of conversation between Akhilleus and Odysseus in the underworld scene at Odyssey xi 505–537. On the double name Purrhos/Neoptolemos, see Kupria fragment 14, Allen and Nagy 1979:119n1.
[ back ] 113. Nagy 1979:134.
[ back ] 114. On the specific case of Akhilleus, see Segal 1971:40f.; Hekabe calls Akhilleus the “raw-eater,” Iliad XXIV 207. Griffin 1980:18–20 observes the displacement of cannibalism in the frequent heroic boast that wild animals will eat the enemy’s corpse.
[ back ] 115. Postlethwaite 1998: “Akhilleus’ abstention from food, and particularly the communal feast, is indicative of his continued alienation from the fellowship of heroic society” (99).
[ back ] 118. Martin 1989:235; Schein 1984:81. Scully 1990:121 observes that, after the death of Patroklos, Akhilleus faces his own imminent death with “objective clarity and impersonal indifference that parallels the Olympian view.”
[ back ] 119. On the mythic traditions of Akhilleus’ death, see Gantz 1993:625–628. Although Thetis’ attempts to make the baby invulnerable are not attested until Apollonius Rhodius IV 869ff., Schein 1984:91n3 defends the evidence for an early tradition of invulnerability on the basis of vase painting.
[ back ] 120. He uses the same wish formula (τὸ δέ μοι κρήηνον ἐέλδωρ) as Khruses and Agamemnon, as well as in Thetis’ speech to Zeus: Iliad I 41, 455 (Khruses), 504 (Thetis); VIII 242 (Agamemnon); XVI 238 (Akhilleus).
[ back ] 121. Scodel 1982a discusses allusions to “Golden Age” ideology in Homer; see also Nagy 1979:130.
[ back ] 122. Iliad XXIV 39; cf. Segal 1971:58.
[ back ] 123. Geras is used in reference to Bruseis/Khruseis: Iliad I 118, 120, 123, 133, 135, 138, 161, 163, 167, 185, 276, 356, 507; II 240; IX 111, 344, 367; XVI 54, 56; XVIII 444; XIX 89. See Nagy 1979:132. Geras is only used elsewhere in the poem in reference to funerary rites (Iliad XVI 457, 675; XXIII 9) and the right of elders to persuade younger men (Iliad IV 323; IX 422), though a unique usage occurs in reference to Akhilleus’ account of Aineias’ hope to inherit Priam’s power (Iliad XX 182).
[ back ] 124. Schadewaldt 1944:260f.; Griffin 1980:191.
[ back ] 125. Lukaon is one of several victims of Akhilleus whose death is depicted as a sort of mock oath sacrifice: Kitts 2005:162–166 explores the latent oath sacrifice imagery in this scene.
[ back ] 126. See Beck 2005:171–175, who describes Akhilleus’ behavior as “disengaged, berserk” (174).
[ back ] 127. Segal 1971:30–131; Scully 1986:140; Fenik 1968:213. Lohmann 1970:106 argues that Akhilleus sees his own death in that of Lukaon; cf. Stanley 1993:205.
[ back ] 128. The breakdown of reciprocity is discussed by Seaford 2004:35–37.
[ back ] 129. Lukaon predicts his own death at the hands of Akhilleus with this verb (σὺ δ’ ἄμφω δειροτο-μήσεις, Iliad XXI 89): Kitts 2005:157–158; see also Petropoulou 1988 and Saïd 1998 on the burial customs in this scene.
[ back ] 130. Previously, he promised to kill (ἀποδειροτομεῖν) the Trojan youths (Iliad XVIII 336–337). This verb is also used of Odysseus’ sacrifice of sheep to the dead (Odyssey xi 35). On the quantity of animals in Homeric sacrifice, see pages 99f. above.
[ back ] 131. Schein 1984:79.
[ back ] 132. On this scene, see van der Valk 1964:446 and Petropoulou 1988:485.
[ back ] 133. On this memory, see pages 121f. above.
[ back ] 134. Nagy has shown the thematic exchange of the kleos ‘glory’ of poetry for the timê ‘honor’ of cult in the case of Akhilleus: heroes in cult receive sacrifices after their death, the greatest sacrificial reward. Nagy 1979:118–141, esp. 137–138.
[ back ] 135. Aristotle Politics 1278a37; Hammer 2002:94; Gschnitzer 1966; and West 1966:274, 276. Mackie 1996:139 draws comparisons between Akhilleus’ language and the ideology of the poems of Hesiod. Turner 1974:23–59 describes the “liminal realm.”
[ back ] 136. Hammer 2002:96; cf. Friedrich and Redfield 1978:285 and Schein 1984:109. Similar opinions are expressed by Redfield 1975:93 and Nagler 1974:157–158.
[ back ] 137. Stallings 1984:129.
[ back ] 138. There are several variations in modern translations and textual emendations, which are dis-cussed by Hainsworth 1993 note ad loc.
[ back ] 139. See Schmitt-Pantel 1990:22, followed by Mackie 1996:130 on the collectivity of the dais; the distribution of meat is discussed by Donlan 1993:163-164. Cunliffe 1924 and Stanley 1993:311n36, following Collins 1988:71, propose that the dais is for the elite.
[ back ] 140. Kitts recognizes a difference between the feasts provided by Agamemnon and Akhilleus, describing the former as “laThe party launched out on the sea’s foaming lanesos-directed feasts and acts of munificence” and the latter as “oikos-directed” feasts, which emphasize hospitality (2002:29).
[ back ] 141. Cf. also the feast (ἐΐση δαίς) for the gods at Iliad XV 95.
[ back ] 142. Iliad IX 92, 222; XXIV 628.