Epilogue: The Hidden Meaning of κλέοc ἄφθιτον and śráva(s) ákitam

Having reconstructed a poetic expression which antedates even the meters in which it is preserved, we may well wonder about its traditional impact. What implicit message did the expression *klewos n̥dhgwhitom contain? What strength of heritage propelled it to survive in two such distantly related poetic systems as the Greek and the Indic? As I will try to show, Greek κλέοc ἄφθιτον and Indic śráva(s) ákṣitam stem from the archetypal expression of an exalted metaphor. What is more, this metaphor alluded to the powers that are inherent in the Singer’s craft. The key is the function of the epithets ἄφθιτο- and ákṣita-.
For any contextual analysis of ἄφθιτο- in Greek Epic, we have to reckon with Parry’s theory of the fixed epithet, as enunciated in L’épithète traditionnelle. [1] The fact is, the information that had been built into each fixed epithet may or may not be reflected in the immediate context of each and every attestation. [2] {229|230} Nevertheless, the general theme may persist in the association of the epithet with the nouns to which it is fixed. This associative sphere of the fixed epithet serves to provide a sort of accompaniment, an ornamental tone, to the immediate context. [3] The noun + epithet combination in itself tells its own supplementary story in the background. Since the context in which it occurs may reflect a theme equally archaic, the noun + epithet combination in one dimension and the immediate context in another dimension may well be telling the same story. [4]
For example, Ares and Hektor are the only persons in the Iliad who bear the epithet ὄβριμοc. Significantly, the god and the hero are elsewhere described as dual killers (Ε 699, 704), and Hektor himself is ἶcοc Ἄρηϊ ‘equal to Ares’ (Λ 295, Ν 802). Achilles is also ‘equal to Ares’ (Υ 46), so that the prime antagonists of the Iliad are cast in the same mold of warrior. Just once in the Iliad, at the start of the sequence of events leading to the fatal impersonation of Achilles by Patroklos, the latter is also described as ‘equal to Ares’, and that very description forecasts his death (Λ 604):
ἔκμολεν ἶcοc Ἄρηϊ, κακοῦ δ’ ἄρα οἱ πέλεν ἀρχή {230|231}
“he came out, equal to Ares, and that was the beginning of his doom” [5]
This kind of thematic convergence of noun + epithet combination with the immediate context holds also for noun + ἄφθιτο-. Before I attempt a survey of such combinations, however, I will first discuss the Rig-Vedic combinations of noun + ákṣita-. The Indic epithet ákṣita- not only conditions the formal behavior of the nouns that it describes but also actually regulates their theme.
In Part II, I have shown that Rig-Vedic ákṣita- generally describes only neuter and masculine nouns. [6] Moreover, the masculine nouns are restricted to those cases where the accompanying ákṣita- is not formally distinct from the neuter. [7] There is even further restriction on the accusative masculine nouns, this time on a semantic level. They all designate either a stream of liquid or the conduit of this stream:
útsam ‘stream, wellspring, fountain’ 1.64.6, 8.7.16, 9.110.5
avatám ‘fountain’ 8.72.10, 10.101.6
índum ‘soma-sap’ 9.26.2
aṃśúm ‘soma-stalk’ 9.72.6
The position of these nouns in relation with {231|232} ákṣitam appears to follow regular patterns. For example, both attestations of avatám occur at the end of the 1st octosyllable of a Gāyatrī stanza, while ákṣitam finishes the 3rd octosyllable of the same stanza:
1 2 3 4 5 avatám
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 2 3 4 5 ákṣitam

siñcánti námasāvatám
uccā́cakram párijmānam
nīcī́nabāram ákṣitam

íṣkṛtāhāvam avatáṃ
suvaratráṃ suṣecanám
udríṇaṃ siñce ákṣitam
These two Gāyatrī stanzas even share the same verb, sic- ‘gush’ (siñcánti and siñce respectively). Elsewhere too, there are regular patterns to be found in the position of masculine nouns described by ákṣitam. For another example, let us consider this Gāyatrī octosyllable from 8.7.16:
útsaṃ duhánto ákṣitam
– –
“milking the ákṣita- fountainhead”
By the insertion of an additional epithet stanáyantam ‘roaring’, the phraseological patterns {232|233} of this Gāyatrī octosyllable can be turned into those of a Jagatī dodecasyllable, as actually attested in 1.64.6:
útsaṃ duhanti stanáyantam ákṣitam
– – – – ||
“they [the Maruts] milk the roaring and ákṣita- fountainhead”
In the dodecasyllable preceding the one just quoted, rain from the celestial “fountainhead” of thunderclouds had just been compared with the urine of prize-winning stallions:
átyam ná mihé ví nayanti vājínam
“just as they lead forth a prize-winning stallion to urinate”
Besides such phallic connotations, this same phraseological pattern of
(útsaṃ) duhanti stanáyantam ákṣitam
applies also to the stalk of the soma-mushroom, [8] in 9.72.6:
aṃśúṃ duhanti stanáyantam ákṣitam
– – – – ||
“they milk the roaring and ákṣita- soma-stalk”
It is typical of Rig-Vedic composition that the epithet stanáyantam ‘roaring’ is appropriate to aṃśúm ‘soma-stalk’ by way of metaphorical {233|234} word-association: the epithet-placement connotes that the soma-stalk is being compared to a thundercloud. Conversely, the act of milking, as expressed by duhanti, is appropriate to útsam ‘fountainhead’ by way of metaphorical wordassociation with emission from the phallus or from the soma-stalk. We see here the concatenation of not just phraseology but imagery as well. How, then, is ákṣitam appropriate to the imagery of útsam, avatám, índum, aṃśúm? The least common denominator in meaning is that the stream from fountainhead or thundercloud or phallus or soma-stalk is UNFAILING.
It bears repeating that all the masculine nouns described by ákṣita- occur only in cases where the accompanying ákṣita- is not formally distinct from the neuter. By contrast, these same masculine nouns, when they are not described by ákṣita-, occur freely in cases where an accompanying adjective would have to have masculine endings distinct from the neuter endings. This distribution implies that the nouns may be conditioned formally by their epithet ákṣita- rather than the other way around. That is to say, Rig-Vedic composition allows the epithet ákṣita- to be the constant element and its nouns to be the variable element. In such instances, variety of imagery has been achieved by subtracting the noun from a traditional noun + epithet combination and by substituting another noun. From the attested declensional distributions, [9] {234|235} we may posit that the original noun + ákṣita- combination was either accusative singular masculine or nominative/accusative singular neuter, with the identical form ákṣitam.
There is evidence for several distinct semantic correspondences between neuter and masculine nouns sharing the epithet ákṣitam, as we may observe from the following enumeration of the neuter nouns.
páyas ‘milk’ 9.31.5:
túbhyaṃ gā́vo ghṛtám páyo
bábhro duduhré ákṣitam
“for you, O brown one [Soma personified as a god], have the cows been milked of ghee and milk unfailing”
The form duduhré ‘have been milked’ is from the same verb duh- which is used in collocation with útsam … ákṣitam ‘unfailing fountainhead’ and aṃśúm … ákṣitam ‘unfailing soma-stalk’:
útsaṃ duhánto ákṣitam (8.7.16)
útsaṃ duhanti stanáyantam ákṣitam (1.64.6)
aṃśúṃ duhanti stanáyantam ákṣitam (9.72.6)
By metaphorical word-association, milking from udders has been extended to ‘milking’ from fountainhead, thundercloud, soma-stalk, phallus. Whatever form these emanations take, they are all ‘unfailing’.
bī́jam ‘seed’ 5.53.13:
bī́jam váhadhve ákṣitam
“you [the Maruts] bring unfailing seed” {235|236}
The octosyllable preceding the one just quoted contains a conflation of two themes: human reproduction (as expressed by the traditional phrase for progeny, tokā́ya tánayāya) and vegetal reproduction (as expressed by the adjective dhānyàm ‘of grain’, agreeing with bī́jam). The Rig-Vedic word bī́jam elsewhere refers directly to semen; likewise in the context of 5.53.13, the Maruts are the moist impregnators of earth.
pā́jas ‘stream of light’ 9.68.3d:
abhivrájann ákṣitam pā́ja ā́ dade
“coming, he [the god Soma] assumes an unfailing stream of light”
In the same Jagatī stanza, in dodecasyllable b (as opposed to d above), there is this further elaboration on the activities of the god Soma:
sākaṃvṛ́dhā páyasā pinvad ákṣitā
“he saturates the two of them [the Twin Sisters], growing together, with unfailing milk”
By metaphor, milk from cows has been extended to ‘milk’ from soma. Of course, this ‘milk’ from soma is as ‘unfailing’ as the ‘stream of light’ from soma. Like real liquids such as páyas ‘milk’, the ‘light’ of pā́jas does not just ‘shine’; it also ‘streams’, as the following passage (2.34.13) implies:
niméghamanaḥ átyena pā́jasā
suścandráṃ várṇaṃ dadhre supéśasam
“urinating downwards in the appearance of {236|237} stallions, they [the Maruts] assumed their shining and beautiful hue”
The expression átyena pā́jasā can be interpreted as a decomposed compound, whence the translation ‘in the appearance of stallions’; [10] nevertheless, the thematic implication of the component pā́jas remains: a downward stream of brightness. Rain is the urine of the Marut-horses, whence the presence of the word átya- ‘stallion’ in the expression átyena pā́jasā.
Furthermore, átya- is attested in collocation with not only pā́jas but also útsam … ákṣitam ‘unfailing fountainhead’, in 1.64.6:
átyam ná mihé ví nayanti vājínam
útsaṃ duhanti stanáyantam ákṣitam
“just as they lead forth a prize-winning stallion to urinate, they [the Maruts] milk the roaring and unfailing fountainhead”
Rain can be the urine of Soma (9.74.4) as well as of the Maruts. Even more important, rain can also be the semen of the Maruts (5.58.7):
bhárteva gárbhaṃ svám íc chávo dhuḥ
“they [the Maruts] deposit their vitality as the husband deposits the embryo”
Of course, the semen of the Maruts is also ‘unfailing’, as we have already seen in 5.53.13:
bī́jam váhadhve ákṣitam
“you [the Maruts] bring unfailing seed” {237|238}
rájas ‘space between earth and sky’ 1.58.5:
abhivrájann ákṣitam pā́jasā rája
The meaning of rájas does not square with the notion of ‘stream’ inherent in the meanings of the other entries already listed. However, the dodecasyllable in which this word rájas occurs does indeed square with the following dodecasyllable, already discussed in the context of pā́jas (9.68.3):
abhivrájann ákṣitam pā́ja ā́ dade
“coming, he [the god Soma] assumes an unfailing stream of light”
Let us now contrast this verse with the following (1.58.5):
abhivrájann ákṣitam pā́jasa rája
“he [the fire-god Agni], coming to the unfailing space between earth and sky with a stream of light”
One of Agni’s attributes is that he can bridge the space between earth and sky (6.8.2, etc.); in fact, he is the intermediary between earth and sky (3.6.4, etc.). If we may assume that the pā́jas of Agni is unfailing just as the pā́jas of Soma, it follows that whatever the limitless Agni encompasses, such as the space between earth and sky, is also limitless. Thus ákṣitam in ákṣitam … rájas is probably an attribute transferred from ákṣitam pā́jas.
ártham ‘goal’ 1.130.5: {238|239}
samānám ártham ákṣitam
“towards the common goal, the unfailing one”
The ‘unfailing one’ here refers to the sea, towards which the god Indra is letting the rivers flow.
asuryàm ‘Asura-power’ 7.65.1:
yáyor asuryàm ákṣitam jyéṣTham
“whose [Mitra’s and Varuṇa’s] Asura-power is the greatest”
The name Asura designates a primordial god with such vague functions as Sky-Being (3.38.4) or Agni’s father (10.124.3). The contexts of Asura-power most frequently lack concrete associations, but there are two notable exceptions: (1) the primordial light of dawn is called the single Asura-power of the dawn-deity Uṣas (10.55.4); (2) all matter was generated by the Asura-power of the primordial god of fire/water, āpām ṇapāt (2.35.2); although the name means ‘progeny of the waters’, it can also designate the fire-god Agni in specialized functions. [11]
sumnám ‘munificence’ 9.78.3:
yā́cante sumnám pávamānam ákṣitam
‘they [the sea-nymphs or samudríyās] beseech the Pavamāna [the god Soma] for his unfailing munificence’
dhánva 5.7.7: the combination of this noun {239|240} with ákṣitam is uncertain and in fact improbable. The transmitted reading dhánvā́kṣitam is more likely to be segmented dhánva ā́kṣitam ‘settled land’ than dhánva ákṣitam ‘unfailing land’. [12]
From the present survey of all the Rig-Vedic nouns (except śrávas) which are described by ákṣitam, we may posit a least common denominator in context: an unfailing stream of water, fire, light, milk, semen, urine, vegetal extract (soma-sap).
The Avestan root ǰyā-, cognate with the Indic kṣi-, is not frequently attested and occurs mainly in negative formations from the present participle. In these negative formations, the meaning corresponds to the Vedic ákṣīyamāṇa-, the negative present participle functioning as alternative to the verbal adjective ákṣita-. [13] For example, Yašt 13 (in praise of the departed righteous) contains this Avestan expression for ‘unfailing springs’ (line 14):
xā̊ paiti afraǰyamnā̊,
which corresponds to this Rig-Vedic expression for ‘unfailing spring’ (3.26.9):
útsam ákṣīyamāṇam,
which in turn corresponds to
útsam ákṣitam,
as in the passage about the milking of the {240|241} thunderclouds by the Maruts (1.64.6). [14] The only other Rig-Vedic attestation of ákṣīyamāṇa- describes the god Viṣṇu’s three paces, padā́ni, which are full of honey, pūrṇā́ mádhunā (1.154.4). In this context of nourishment, it is worth citing one more usage of Avestan ǰyā- which is indirectly parallel to Rig- Vedic kṣi-, from Yašt 9.4:
xˇairyąn xˇarəϑəm aǰyamnəm
“they shall eat imperishable food” [15]
The contexts of the epithet ἄφθιτο- in Greek Epic are more diffuse than those of ákṣita- in the Rig-Veda, but there are notable semantic correspondences. The following is a list of the epic nouns described by ἄφθιτο-.
θρόνον ‘throne’ Ξ 238: Hera, mother of the fire-god Hephaistos, promises that he will make a θρόνον ἄφθιτον αἰεί. The scholiastic tradition for this verse claims that Homer calls all things ἄφθιτα that were made by Hephaistos.
δόμον ‘palace’ Σ 369f: the δόμον … ἄφθιτον belongs to the fire-god Hephaistos.
δώματα ‘palace’ Ν 21f: the δώματα … ἄφθιτα belong to the water-god Poseidon; the palace is underwater:
ἔνθα δέ οἱ κλυτὰ δώματα βένθεcι λίμνηc
χρύcεα μαρμαίροντα τετεύχαται, ἄφθιτα αἰεί {241|242}
“there is his famed palace built, in the depths of the water; golden and gleaming it is, ἄφθιτα forever”
The closing formula βένθεcι λίμνηc elsewhere designates abodes which are specifically caves, like the place where Poseidon stables his horses (Ν 32):
ἔcτι δέ τι cπέοc εὐρὺ βαθείηc βένθεcι λίμνηc
“there is a wide cave in the depths of the deep water”
It is probably such contexts that inspired Pindar’s expression ἄφθιτον ἄντρον (‘cave’), Isthmian 8.41. Furthermore, Pindar uses the adjective ἄφθιτο- as the epithet of Poseidon: ἀφθίτου ʼΕννοcίδα, Pythian 4.33. In the same ode, Pindar describes as ἄφθιτον … cπέρμα (‘seed’) the magical clod of earth exchanged by sons of Poseidon (lines 42f).
cκῆπτρον ‘scepter’ Β 46, 186: this cκῆπτρον … ἄφθιτον of Agamemnon was made by the fire-god Hephaistos (Β 101); Hephaistos gave it to Zeus, who gave it to Hermes, who transmitted it to Agamemnon’s forefathers (Β 102ff). The intermediacy of Hermes is important because the scepter is his symbolic attribute. The custom of holding the scepter for solemn verbal interchange (as in Β 186) is connected with the function of Hermes as the god of interchange, verbal and otherwise. [16] {242|243}
ὕδωρ ‘water’ Hesiod, Theogony 805: cτυγὸc ἄφθιτον ὕδωρ, the ἄφθιτον water of the underworld river Styx.
cτύξ ‘Styx’ Hesiod, Theogony 389, 397.
ἴτυc ‘wheel-rim’ Ε 724: the golden ἴτυc ἄφθιτοc is a part of Hera’s war-chariot, which, we may speculate, was made for his mother by the fire-god Hephaistos (compare Ξ 167).
ἄμπελοι ‘grape-vines’ ι 133: the ἄφθιτοι ἄμπελοι are recounted as one among the many vegetal marvels to be found on the Island of the Cyclops. The root φθι- occurs frequently in the context of plants. Especially noteworthy is Pindar’s expression καρποῦ φθίcιν (Paian 9.14). [17] Perhaps it is not useless to point out also such common epic expressions as αἴθοπα οἶνον ‘burning-bright wine’. [18]
μήδεα Ω 88, Hymn to Aphrodite 43, Hesiod, Theogony 545, 550, 561, etc.: Zeus is described as ἄφθιτα μήδεα εἰδώc ‘knowing ἄφθιτα μήδεα’. {243|244} For the phallic connotations of this expression, see Appendix A.
From the present survey of all the Greek epic nouns (except κλέοc) which are described by ἄφθιτο-, we may posit a least common denominator in context: an unfailing stream of water, fire, semen, vegetal extract (wine). By extension, the gods representing these entities may also have the epithet ἄφθιτο-, as well as the things that they own or make.
It remains to ask how it is that both śrávas and κλέοc are ‘unfailing’. The etymology and primordial context of Greek κλέοc help provide a satisfactory answer. The corresponding aorist verb ἔ-κλυ-ον means ‘hear’, and the noun κλέοc itself can mean ‘that which is heard’, as in p 461:
… τί δὴ κλέοc ἔcτ’ ἀνὰ ἄcτυ
“what is the hearing in town?” = “what are people talking about in town?”
In such contexts, the abstract noun κλέοc is used with a word for ‘to be’, in place of an impersonal verbal expression. [19] Compare the usage of ἀκουή ‘hearing’, derived from ἀκούω ‘hear’, as in Π 633f:
ὥc τε δρυτόμων ἀνδρῶν ὀρυμαγδὸc ὄρωρεν
οὔρεοc ἐν βήccῃc, ἕκαθεν δέ τε γίνετ’ ἀκουή {244|245}
“like the noise that arises from woodcutters in the folds of the mountain, and the hearing is from afar = and the sound comes from afar
The classic example of such impersonal constructions is in Α 49:
δεινὴ δὲ κλαγγὴ γένετ’ ἀργυρέοιο βιοῖο
“there was a terrible sound from the silver bow”
corresponding to the non-impersonal construction in Α 46:
ἔκλαγξαν δ’ ἄρ’ ὀϊcτοὶ ἐπ’ ὤμων χωομένοιο
“on the shoulders of the angry [god], the arrows made a sound”
Impersonal verbal constructions with κλέοc usually describe reputation, as when Zeus says to Poseidon (Η 458):
cὸν δ’ ἤτοι κλέοc ἔcται ὅcον ἐπικίδναται ἠώc
“yours will be κλέοc as much as the dawn spreads” = “people will talk of you as far and wide as the light of dawn spreads”
(Poseidon had just been fretting that the κλέοc of his Wall would be forgotten: Η 451f.) Hence such nominal constructions as the common epic formula κλέοc εὐρύ: if you have κλέοc εὐρύ, then people talk about you far and wide. Consider this declaration of Telemachos (γ 83):
πατρὸc ἐμοῦ κλέοc εὐρὺ μετέρχομαι, ἤν που ἀκούcω {245|246}
“I am going after the wide κλέοc of my father, in case I hear” = “I am going to find out if I can hear what people are saying far and wide about my father”
The expression πατρὸc ἐμοῦ κλέοc is an objective genitive construction, but κλέοc is also capable of subjective genitive constructions as in Λ 227:
… μετὰ κλέοc ἵκετ’ Ἀχαιῶν
“he came to get κλέοc from the Achaeans” = “he came [to Troy] so that the Achaeans would talk about him”
What is it about the way Achaeans ‘talk’ about a hero that inspires a warrior to seek deeds of valor?
To answer this question, it is important to examine the epic contexts where the subjective genitive construction with noun κλέοc is transformed into a construction of subject plus the verb corresponding to the noun κλέοc. There is such a verb, attested as active κλέω/κλείω and mediopassive κλέομαι, usually translated as ‘praise’ and ‘be praised’ respectively. But notice the ubiquitous concatenation of this verb with the notion of ‘song’:
α 338
ἔργ’ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, τά τε κλείουcιν ἀοιδοί
“the works of men and gods, which singers κλέουcιν” {246|247}
α 351f
τὴν γὰρ ἀοιδὴν μᾶλλον ἐπικλείουc’ ἄνθρωποι
ἥτιc ἀκουόντεccι νεωτάτη ἀμφιπέληται
“men ἐπικλείουcι that song more [= men would rather continue the praise of that song] which is newest to the listeners”
Hymn 32.19f
… cέο δ’ ἀρχόμενοc κλέα φωτῶν
ᾄcομ’ ἡμιθέων, ὧν κλείουc’ ἔργματ’ ἀοιδοί
“beginning with you, I will sing the κλέα of the demigods whose deeds singers κλείουcι”
Hesiod, Works and Days 1f
Μοῦcαι Πιερίηθεν ἀοιδῇcιν κλείουcαι
δεῦτε, Δί’ ἐννέπετε, cφέτερον πατέρ’ ὑμνείουcαι
“Muses, who are κλείουcαι with songs from Pieria, come here, tell of Zeus, singing about your father”
Hesiod, Theogony 31ff
… ἐνέπνευcαν δέ μοι αὐδὴν
θέcπιν ἵνα κλείοιμι τά τ’ ἐccόμενα πρό τ’ ἐόντα
καί μ’ ἐκέλονθ’ ὑμνεῖν μακάρων γένοc αἰὲν ἐόντων
cφᾶc δ’ αὐτὰc πρῶτόν τε καὶ ὕcτατον αἰὲν ἀείδειν
“and they [the Muses] breathed in me a wondrous voice, that I κλέοιμι what will be and was, and they told me to sing of the race of blessed everlasting gods, and always to sing of them first and last” {247|248}
Theogony 43ff
… αἳ δ’ ἄμβροτον ὄccαν ἱεῖcαι
θεῶν γένοc αἰδοῖον πρῶτον κλείουcιν ἀοιδῇ
ἐξ ἀρχῆc
“who [the Muses], emitting an immortal voice, κλείουcιν first the venerable race of gods in song, from the beginning”
Theogony 66f
… ἤθεα κεδνὰ
ἀθανάτων κλείουcιν, ἐπήρατον ὄccαν ἱεῖcαι
“they [the Muses] κλείουcιν the right ways of the immortals, emitting a lovely voice”
Theogony 104f
χαίρετε τέκνα Διόc, δότε δ’ ἱμερόεccαν ἀοιδήν.
κλείετε δ’ ἀθανάτων ίερὸν γένοc αἰὲν ἐόντων
“hail, children of Zeus [i.e., the Muses]! grant a lovely voice, and κλείετε the holy race of the immortal gods who always are”
From these passages, we may infer that κλέοc was the formal word which the Singer himself (ἀοιδόc) used to designate the songs which he sang in praise of gods and men, or, by extension, the songs which people learned to sing from him. (The implication of ἐπικλείουcι in a 351 above is that the audience continues [ἐπι-] the κλέοc of the Singer’s song, which is tantamount to ‘praising’ it too.) It is epic songs which Achilles sings to himself, accompanying himself on the lyre {248|249} (Ι 189):
… ἄειδε δ’ ἄρα κλέα ἀνδρῶν
“he sang the κλέα of heroes’
The epic Singer sings of past deeds without actually knowing the facts himself, but the facts are contained in the κλέοc that he hears from other singers and that he himself passes on to still other singers. Only the Μοῦcαι (‘reminders’, from *mon-t-yai) [20] know for sure; the Singer, proud as he is of his craft, has access to the Muses’ knowledge through his song, κλέοc. As the virtuoso of the Catalogue declares (Β 485f):
ὑμεῖc γὰρ θεαί ἐcτε, πάρεcτέ τε, ἴcτέ τε πάντα
ἡμεῖc δὲ κλέοc οἶον ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν
“you [the Muses] are gods: you are there [when things happen] and you know everything; but we [singers] know nothing: we just hear the κλέοc”
The collocation of ‘hearing’ and κλέοc bears witness to the etymology. Archaic theme reinforces archaic meaning. The poet then goes on to say that he could never even begin to catalogue the Achaean contingents at Troy if the Muses did not {249|250} remind him of what to sing (μνηcαίαθ’: Β 492). If indeed the word κλέοc was the Singer’s own word for what he sings in praise of gods and men, the usual translation of κλέοc, ‘fame’, is inadequate: it merely designates the consequences rather than the full semantic range. The actions of gods and heroes gain fame through the medium of the Singer, and the Singer calls his medium κλέοc. [21] Hence the ambivalence of the word κλέοc in the famous promise of Ibykos to Polykrates (282.47P):
καὶ cύ, Πωλύκρατεc, κλέοc ἄφθιτον ἑξεῖc
ὡc κατ’ ἀοιδὰν καὶ ἐμὸν κλέοc
“yes, Polykrates, you will have κλέοc ἄφθιτον through song and my κλέοc” [22] {250|251}
The phrase κατ’ ἀοιδὰν καὶ ἐμὸν κλέοc stresses the point: “my κλέοc will be your κλέοc, because my song of praise for you will be your means to fame. Conversely, since you merit permanent fame, my song praising you will be permanent, and consequently I the Singer will have permanent fame as well.”
This archaic notion of attempting to transfer some sort of permanent fame is visible in modified contexts as well. Consider this altar-inscription from Krisa: [23]
ταcδε γ’ Αθαναιαι δραvεοc …
αριcτοc εθεκε Ηεραι τε ηοc και κ
ενοc εχοι κλεvοc απθιτον αιvει
“for Athena and Hera did … aristos set up these δραϝεοι, so that he too may have κλέοc ἄφθιτον” —italics supplied
To paraphrase: since you, Athena and Hera, merit permanent fame, my draveoi in your honor will give me permanent fame as well. The offering of δραϝεοι is a substitution for a song of praise: ‘through praise with the δραϝεοι, I too will share in your κλέοc’. But since song is not the means toward the end here, the fame that is transferred will not be in the form of song either.
In the language of the Epic, by contrast, the cause and effect of song and fame respectively {251|252} are so intertwined that the mention of song alone may imply fame, as in the following examples:
Ζ 357f
                                  … ὡc καὶ ὀπίccω
ἀνθρώποιcι πελώμεθ’ ἀοίδιμοι ἐccομένοιcι
“so that even in the future we will be subjects of song for men yet to be”
θ 580
ἀνθρώποιc ἵνα ᾖcι καὶ ἐccομένοιcιν ἀοιδή
“so that it [the fate of Troy] be a song also for men yet to be”
Since the Epic is called κλέοc by the Singer himself, his implicit equation of song with fame is understandably self-serving.
Just like the Greek word κλέοc, Rig-Vedic śrávas connotes ‘song of praise’. The priest composes such a song upon being provided with a generous gift from the sacrificer. There are some idealized attestations of this practice within the Rig-Veda itself, such as the petrified composition of the Rishi Kakṣīvat (1.126). In the text as it has been preserved in Rig-Vedic transmission, our singer the Rishi describes the sacrificing king, Svanaya Bhāvya, as śráva icchámānaḥ (1.126.1), ‘yearning after śrávas’. For the sacrifice, Kakṣīvat gets a hundred pieces of gold, a hundred horses, and also a hundred cows; for his pains, Svanaya Bhavya gets śrávas which cannot grow old and which reaches {252|253} to the sky (1.126.2):
diví śrávo ‘járam ā́ tatāna
“he extended an unaging śrávas toward the sky”
The king extended the śrávas through the intermediacy of the priest. [24] That the sky is the goal shows that the king sought divine recognition primarily and human recognition only secondarily.
In Rig-Veda 9.110, a hymn to the god Soma personified, the unfailing flow of soma-sap is induced by śrávas (9.110.5):
abhy-àbhi hí śrávasā tatarditha
útsam ná kám cij janapā́nam ákṣitam
“by śrávas, you have penetrated an unfailing wellspring, serving as drink for man”
(The ná kám cij refers syntactically to the verse that follows.) With the comparative evidence of the Greek cognate κλέοc, we may interpret śrávas as primordially meaning ‘craft of song’ in the specialized language of the Singer himself. In the human sphere, the craft of song glorifies valor or generosity; in the divine sphere, it praises gods for their cosmic functions because divine performance depends on {253|254} praise. [25] For example, the dawn-goddess shines when she is praised (śrávasā: 1.92.8). So also in the passage under discussion, soma-sap flows when it is praised (śrávasā: 9.110.5). From such contexts, I infer that *klewos was the word once used to designate the hieratic art of song which ensured unfailing streams of water, light, vegetal sap, and so on. Since these streams were unfailing, the art of song itself could be idealized and self-servingly glorified by the Singer as ‘unfailing’. Hence śráva(s) ákṣitam and κλέοc ἄφθιτον. The association of *klewos with the actual praise of divine forces was eventually eroded, but the restricted contexts of ákṣitam and ἄφθιτοn (describing streams of water, fire, sap, and so on) could preserve a modified association: the very combination śráva(s) ákṣitam/κλέοc ἄφθιτον now produces a fanciful metaphor. This combination implies that śrávas/κλέοc ‘flows’ like a stream. Notice the {254|255} expression of Simonides in his praise of the glorious hero Leonidas (531.8-10P):
                                 μαρτυρεῖ δὲ καὶ Λεωνίδαc,
cπάρταc βαcιλεύc, ἀρετᾶc μέγαν λελοιπὼc
κόcμον ἀέναόν τε κλέοc
                                  “also a witness is Leonidas, King of Sparta, who has left behind the great adornment of his heroic virtue and an ever-flowing κλέοc”
Elsewhere, it is rivers that are ‘ever-flowing’ (ἀενάοιc ποταμοῖc’: Simonides 581.2P). Besides being ‘ever-flowing’, κλέοc is also ‘unquenchable’ (ἄcβεcτον κλέοc: δ 584, η 333). Elsewhere again it is fire that is ‘unquenchable’:
φλογὶ εἴκελοc ʽΗφαίcτοιο#ἀcβέcτῳ (Ρ 88-89)
“looking like the unquenchable flame of Hephaistos”
If κλέοc is to be defined as that certain quality which a hero acquires by successfully accomplishing feats of valor, what happens if he is unsuccessful? After all, some have to be defeated in order that others may win. If a Homeric hero loses, he still becomes subject-matter, but not necessarily in the format of κλέοc: rather, loss may call for the format of πένθοc, usually translated as ‘grief’. For example, the wounding of Menelaos is described as a κλέοc for the enemy and a πένθοc for the Achaeans (Δ 197 = 207): {255|256}
… τῷ μὲν κλέοc, ἄμμι δὲ πένθοc
Besides the fact that κλέοc and πένθοc belong to the same noun-category (type γένοc), their epithets are likewise morphologically parallel: ἄφθιτοn and ἄλαcτον respectively. The latter word, meaning ‘unforgettable’, is a verbal adjective with formant -το- and with zero-grade root, just like ἄφθιτοn. [26] This expression πένθοc ἄλαcτον describes the grief of Thetis for Achilles (Ω 105) and of Penelope for Odysseus (α 342). In the latter passage, Penelope is objecting to the topic which the singer Phemios has chosen for his song, namely the Return of the Achaeans (νόcτον: α 326); the topic necessarily involves the misfortunes of Odysseus (compare α 354f), and whereas these misfortunes may be simply a κλέοc to the ears of some, they are definitely a πένθοc for her. In other words, the topic calls for lamentation from Penelope’s point of view. Telemachos meanwhile tells his mother not to object, on the grounds that the Returns are indeed a suitable epic theme, at least for others (α 346ff). Such an epic theme, however, is not at all suitable for the family and friends of Odysseus, as is made clear in {256|257} another passage.
When the singer Demodokos sings of the destruction of Troy and its aftermath, Odysseus, who is still unknown in the court of Alkinoos, breaks down and weeps (θ 499-522). When Alkinoos notices, he asks the singer to stop, on the grounds that the topic has displeased the stranger (θ 538):
οὐ γάρ πωc πάντεccι χαριζόμενοc τάδ’ ἀείδει
“he [Demodokos] does not please everyone when he sings these things”
After remarking that the events at Troy are worthy of epic song (θ 580), he follows up his declaration by asking a qualifying question (θ 581ff): or is it that a male relative of yours died at Troy? In other words, etiquette precludes epic topics which bring personal grief to someone in the audience who has lost a relative or friend. Such loss brings unforgettable grief, and the bereaved should not be reminded by epic themes.
By contrast, other kinds of grief are not unforgettable and can be assuaged with epic themes, as Hesiod declares in Theogony 98ff:
εἰ γάρ τιc καὶ πένθοc ἔχων νεοκηδέϊ θυμῷ
ἄζηται κραδίην ἀκαχήμενοc, αὐτὰρ ἀοιδὸc
Μουcάων θεράπων κλέεα προτέρων ἀνθρώπων
ὑμνήcῃ μάκαράc τε θεούc, οἳ ʼ ́Ολυμπον ἔχουcιν
αἶψ’ ὅ γε δυcφροcυνέων ἐπιλήθεται οὐδέ τι κηδέων
“and even if someone has πένθοc and is sorrowful {257|258} in his newly-troubled θυμόc, distressed in his heart, yet, when a singer, θεράπων of the Muses, sings the κλέεα of men of old and the blessed gods who inhabit Olympus, at once he [the distressed one] forgets his sorrows and no longer remembers his cares”—italics supplied
As for unforgettable grief, πένθοc ἄλαcτον, the only way to forget it is by magic. Thus the φάρμακον of Helen, which she puts into the wine (δ 220ff) is νηπενθέc ανδ κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων, ‘without grief’ and ‘without memory of any evils’ (δ 221). He who drinks this potion would not even mourn the death of his father and mother (δ 224) or of his brother or of his son: no, he would not mourn, not even if they were killed before his very own eyes (δ 225f).
The expression πένθοc ἄλαcτον is so welded together that a verbal derivative from ἄλαcτον, ἀλαὸτέω (Ο 21, and so on), behaves semantically as if it were a derivative from πένθοc rather than ἄλαcτον: ἀλαcτέω means ‘to be distressed’. A transitional stage in semantic development is visible in this expression of Alkman (Partheneion 34f):
                       …ἄλαcτα δὲ
ϝέργα πάθον κακὰ μηcαμένοι
“they [the Hippokoöntids] devised evil deeds and endured unforgettable things”
The collocation of πάθον with ἄλαcτα is interesting {258|259} because the noun πένθοc (< *kwenth-os) was originally derived from the verb πάcχω (< *kwn̥th-skō). However, any living relationship between πένθοc and πάcχω had broken down once πάθοc (<*kwn̥th-os) replaced πένθοc as the action-noun directly derived from πάcχω. [27] We may infer that an interchange of nominal πένθοc ἄλαcτον with verbal ἄλαcτα … πάθον could have happened only at a time too early for Alkman—when the noun πάθοc had not yet even existed. It would follow that Alkman’s phrase ἄλαcτα … πάθον was not coined on the basis of πένθοc ἄλαcτον, as in the Iliad and Odyssey; rather, Alkman deployed a traditional phrase ἄλαcτα … πάθον which had a traditional variant πένθοc ἄλαcτον, used in the Iliad and Odyssey. If indeed the free interchange of ἄλαcτα … πάθον and πένθοc ἄλαcτον goes back to so early a period that πάθοc had not even existed, then the context of Alkman’s expression
                       … ἄλαcτα δὲ
ϝέργα πάθον κακὰ μηcαμένοι
would be extremely archaic and may reveal further information about the context of Homeric πένθοc ἄλαcτον.
By devising evil deeds (ϝέργα … κακὰ μηcαμένοι), {259|260} the Hippokoöntids came to a bad end, which will be remembered forever in song, but not in song of glorification. This attitude towards evil deeds is clearly visible in Odyssey ω 196ff, where we find an interesting contrast between Penelope and Klytaimestra. While the κλέοc of Penelope will never perish (w 196ff), the same is not true of Klytaimestra. By killing her husband, ‘she devised evil deeds’ (ω 199):
… κακὰ μήcατο ἔργα
Whence the name Κλυται-μήcτρα: this form connotes that she is renowned for what she devised, with -μήcτρα derived from the verb μήδομαι. Given the sinister connotations of this verb, the by-form Κλυται-μνήcτρα may even be the result of tabu-deformation. [28] Be that as it may, the point remains that the songs about Klytaimestra’s renown will not take the form of glorification (ω 200f):
             … cτυγερὴ δέ τ’ ἀοιδὴ
ἔccετ’ ἐπ’ ἀνθρώπουc
“hateful among men will be the singing about her”
There is no κλέοc here, only ἀοιδή, and that too {260|261} is cτυγερή ‘hateful’.
To sum up: κλέοc ἄφθιτον is a designation given by the Singer to his own medium, when it serves the function of glorifying the deeds of heroes. But you cannot get κλέοc ἄφθιτον through the Singer’s medium if your deeds have been evil. Likewise, you cannot get κλέοc ἄφθιτον through the Singer’s medium if you have experienced misfortune or defeat. What you experienced may indeed be unforgettable (ἄλαcτα), so that singers will always sing of it, but it is not κλέοc ἄφθιτον from your standpoint or from the standpoint of your family and friends. Thus if some hero vanquishes you in battle, then your defeat means κλέοc ἄφθιτον for him and πένθοc ἄλαcτον for you, your family, and your friends. You become an unforgettable subject-matter for lamentation. [29]


[ back ] 1. Parry 1928a.
[ back ] 2. Parry (1928a:158) puts it this way: “Par elle-même une épithète, quelle qu’en soit la signification, n’a rien d’ornamental; ce n’est qu’à force d’être employée constamment avec un certain substantif ou avec un certain groupe de substantifs qu’elle acquiert cette qualité. L’épithète ne devient ornamentale que lorsque son sens, perdant sa propre valeur, se confond tellement avec l’idée de son substantif qu’il n’est plus possible de l’en séparer.”
[ back ] 3. Parry 1928a, especially pp. 158, 170-176.
[ back ] 4. Cf. Whallon 1961, Parry 1971:p. lv, n. 2, Nagler 1967.
[ back ] 5. For more on Patroklos, see Householder and Nagy 1972:774-776 (= 1973:55-57).
[ back ] 6. See pp. 164f above.
[ back ] 7. See again pp. 164f.
[ back ] 8. For identification of the original soma with fly-agaric (Amanita muscaria), see Wasson 1968.
[ back ] 9. See pp. 164f.
[ back ] 10. Geldner 1951:I, 320.
[ back ] 11. For the mystical identification of āpām ṇapāt with Agni, see especially Rig-Veda 2.35.
[ back ] 12. Geldner 1951:II, 10.
[ back ] 13. Burrow 1959b:256.
[ back ] 14. See pp. 232f.
[ back ] 15. Burrow 1959b:256.
[ back ] 16. At Chaironeia, there was a cult of the cκῆπτρον made by Hephaistos for Zeus. For a fascinating account, see Pausanias 9.40.5. Its epichoric name was the δόρυ, and it was venerated as the genuine article, with sacrifices offered to it every day. It was found, the myth has it, along with gold by the Chaironeans and the Panopeans at a spot between their territories. The Panopeans took the gold while the wise Chaironeans of course kept the δόρυ. Pausanias adds that it was considered to bring glory (cf. κλέοc!) to humans: καὶ εἶναι μέν τι θειότερον οὐχ ἥκιcτα δηλοῖ τὸ ἐc τοὺc ἀνθρώπουc ἐπιφανὲc ἐξ αὐτοῦ.
[ back ] 17. Cf. Porzig 1942:327.
[ back ] 18. For more on the meaning of αἶθοψ, see Nagy, “ἀνήρ and ἄνθρωποc” (forthcoming).
[ back ] 19. For a discussion of such impersonal constructions in Homeric syntax, see Porzig 1942:11ff.
[ back ] 20. While the precise morphology of the derivation μοῦcα < *montya is debatable, there is little doubt that the noun originates from the same root *men- as in Latin mēns, etc. For a noncommittal discussion, see Frisk 1960-1970: II, 260f. For an excellent account of the Muses and their mnemonic function, with bibliography, see Detienne 1967:9-16, 20; also Vernant 1959.
[ back ] 21. Cf. Whitman 1958:335n39: “Homer is deeply conscious of the relation between the reality of action and the tradition of song which records it.” [Here he cites Helen’s remark at Ζ 358, on which see now Clader 1973.] “Action in a way exists for the sake of the poetic landmark, which is another way of looking at heroic κλέοc. Action is the road to grandeur and eternity.” I would add to this admirable statement a corollary proposal: that there is also a deep consciousness of the relation between the tradition of song and the reality of the performance of the song. For the poet of the Catalogue, let us say, there are two levels of reality: that of the action in his song and that of the performance of this song (cf. again Β 485f). On the poet’s artistic self-consciousness about his performance, see p. 13n31 above. For Germanic parallels to such a concept of the poet and his art, see Schramm 1965; also Schmitt 1967:68n418.
[ back ] 22. I benefit from the discussion of this passage in Durante 1960. Cf. also Detienne 1967:20: “l’exploit, une fois accompli, ne prend forme qu’à travers la parole de louange.” Detienne (ibid.) cites Υ 203f and other pertinent passages.
[ back ] 23. Schwyzer and Cauer 1923:no. 316; cf. Schmitt 1967:62f.
[ back ] 24. For a discussion of this passage and others, see Durante 1960:284f. Note too that Spartan kings would sacrifice to the Muses before a military campaign, so that their deeds might be worthy of celebration and thus attain ‘illustrious remembrance’, μνήμη εὐκλεήc (Plutarch, Instit. lacon. 238C); see Detienne 1967:20.
[ back ] 25. For the psychology of praising a god in order to get him to perform his function, compare this statement by Gonda (1959:189): “These descriptions [of the gods] are mainly ‘praise’, that is: ‘confirmations’ of divine power, consolidations of that power, strengthening of the divine being, expression of the poet’s belief in the existence and efficacy of the qualities traditionally ascribed to it. By praising the god the poet added to the latter’s power, influenced his abilities for the benefit of his patrons and of mankind in general, and determined these to some result or other. The oft- recurring statements that a definite god has definite qualities are therefore no embellishment, no mere adornment, no … beautiful superfluity.”
[ back ] 26. As Chantraine points out in an impartial discussion (I/1968:54f), ἄλαcτοc is derived from λανθάνομαι ‘forget’ if we consider merely the forms. From the functional point of view, however, the original meaning ‘unforgettable’ is not obvious and requires detailed contextual analysis. Cf. Gernet 1917:324f, Fraenkel 1960: II, 94, Detienne 1967:59n51.
[ back ] 27. I have made this proposal for functional rather than formal reasons. The noun πάθοc means basically ‘experience’, whether good or bad. On the other hand, πένθοc is regularly attested with the negative meaning ‘suffering’. Obviously, the verb πάcχω ‘experience’ synchronically belongs with πάθοc, not πένθοc.
[ back ] 28. For a brief but detailed discussion, with bibliography, of the form Κλυταιμήcτρα, see Fraenkel 1960:II, 52f (on Agamemnon line 84). The variant Κλυταιμνήcτρα is secondary and may not even be ancient (Fraenkel, p. 52). “The intrusion of the form with ν … into the Byzantine MSS can still be clearly followed’ (ibid.).
[ back ] 29. Thus ἄλαcτον can even be used adverbially, in the expression ἄλαcτον ὀδύρομαι ‘I mourn and cannot forget’ (ξ 174). I take this opportunity to note that the discussion of Wilamowitz (1959:III, 202) on the expression ἄλαcτα τἀν δόμοιcι (at line 911 of Euripides, Herakles) should be reconsidered in light of Chantraine’s comments (I/1968:54f).