The word ēpios, used in Homer of persons, feelings, and medicines, is glossed by LSJ as “gentle...kind...soothing...assuaging.” This interpretation is supported by its association with the word aganos (“gentle”) in the phrase:
μή τις ἔτι πρόφρων ἀγανὸς καὶ ἤπιος ἔστω
σκηπτοῦχος βασιλεύς
No longer now let one who is a sceptred king be eager
to be gentle and ēpios
ii 230–231
Thus ēpios has no immediately apparent semantic lineage from a root meaning “to take,” “to reach,” or “to join.” Nor is nēpios, whether its primary meaning is “child” or “without foresight,” an obvious negative of ēpios. However, a thematic opposition between the two words can be found in the Homeric poems: someone who is nēpios is pais hōs “like a child” (iv 32), whereas someone who is ēpios is patēr hōs “like a father” (ii 47, ii 234, v 12, xv 152).
This parallelism between nēpios and ēpios should not be exaggerated. Their semantic distributions are dissimilar. The epithet nēpios is juxtaposed to words meaning “child” with enough frequency (11 times in the Iliad and Odyssey) that it can stand alone, by abbreviation, for nēpia tekna (“nēpios children”) as in the following lines:
ἑστήκει ὤς τίς τε λέων περὶ οἷσι τέκεσσιν
ᾧ ῥά τε νήπι᾽ ἄγοντι συναντήσωνται ἐν ὕλῃ
ἄνδρες ἐπακτῆρες

[Now Aias covering the son of Menoitios under his broad shield]
stood fast, like a lion over his young, when men who are hunting
come upon him leading his nēpios ones along in the forest …
XVII 133–135
The word ēpios does not occur regularly as an epithet of fathers, nor can ēpios alone ever be used to mean “father.”
A distinction was made in Chapter One between two meanings of the word child: “offspring” and “young human.” A similar {10|11} distinction can be made between several senses of the word father. On the one hand, a father may be a particular person’s male parent, his begetter. On the other hand, in such phrases as “father of his country” a general rather than personal father is referred to and that father is one who fosters and nourishes rather than one who begets. Emile Benveniste has proposed that the fostering, nourishing sense of Indo-European *pǝter-, which survives in Latin Iuppiter [1] and Greek Zeu patēr (“Father Zeus”), is primary and reference to physical paternity is secondary. Thus the sense of father in the phrase “father of his country,” which most would call a metaphor, might be seen instead as a very ancient cultural inheritance. In any case, there is no necessary correlation between physical paternity and any particular attitude or action in regard to one’s progeny. The role of the begetting father may vary from culture to culture and the role of foster-father may or may not be determined. The Homeric contexts of ēpios include both engendering fathers and foster-fathers, but the role of the foster-father (discussed below) throws particular light on the semantics of ēpios.
The Greek word patēr includes both senses of “father.” Generally, it refers to a particular person’s male parent, as when Telemachos calls Odysseus:
πατὴρ ἐμὸς ἐσθλὸς Ὀδυσσεὺς#

my noble father Odysseus
ii 71, etc.
The sense of “father” as one who fosters or protects is preserved, especially, in references to Zeus, e.g.:
ὦ πάτερ ἡμέτερε Κρονίδη, ὕπατε κρειόντων

Son of Kronos, our father, O lordliest of the mighty
i 45, etc.
πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε#

the father of gods and men
xii 445, etc. {11|12}
In addition, it seems to be reflected in xeine patēr (“my friend and father,” vii 48, etc.), the polite form of address on meeting a stranger. As in the phrase “father of his country,” either metaphor or throwback may be at work. The two senses of father seem to coincide in the figure of Zeus, who is certainly the physical parent of more gods and men than anyone else as well as their anciently recognized preserver.
Priam, too, was a prodigious begettor. He is the sire of virtually every Trojan who appears in the Iliad. In addition, his role is, almost entirely, to function as the father of Hektor (or Paris, e.g. III 305–307). It is as a father that he introduces himself to Achilles, comparing himself to Achilles’s own father:
μνῆσαι πατρὸς σοῖο, θεοῖς ἐπιείκελ᾽ Ἀχιλλεῦ,
τηλίκου ὥς περ ἐγών, ὀλοῷ ἐπὶ γήραος οὐδῷ

Achilles like the gods, remember your father, one who
is of years like mine, and on the door-sill of sorrowful old age.
XXIV 486–487
Achilles, moved to weep for his own father, receives Priam and thus a connection is established not only between enemies but between the most alienated of heroes and another human being.
Priam is also called ēpios. Helen, in her tribute to the fallen Hektor, says that of all the Trojans, only he and Priam were ēpios toward her:
ἀλλ’ εἴ τίς με καὶ ἄλλος ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἐνίπτοι
δαέρων ἢ γαλόων ἢ εἰνατέρων εὐπέπλων,
ἢ ἐκυρή—ἑκυρὸς δὲ πατὴρ ὣς ἤπιος αἰεί—
ἀλλὰ σὺ τὸν ἐπέεσσι παραιφάμενος κατέρυκες,
σῇ τ᾽ ἀγανοφροσύνῃ καὶ σοῖς ἀγανοῖς ἐπέεσσι.
τῶ σέ θ᾽ ἅμα κλαίω καὶ ἔμ᾽ ἄμμορον ἀχνυμένη κῆρ·
οὐ γάρ τίς μοι ἔτ᾽ ἄλλος ἐνὶ Τροίῃ εὐρείῃ
ἤπιος οὐδὲ φίλος, πάντες δέ με πεφρίκασιν.

No, but when another, one of my lord’s brothers or sisters, a fair-robed
wife of some brother, would say a harsh word to me in the palace,
or my lords mother—but his father was ēpios always,
indeed—then you would speak and put them off and restrain them
by your own gentleness of heart and your gentle words. Therefore
I mourn for you in sorrow of heart and mourn for myself also
and my ill luck. There was no other in all the wide Troad
who was ēpios to me, and my friend; all others shrank when they {12|13}
saw me.
XXIV 768–775
The function of the ēpios behavior of Priam and Hektor is not merely to provide Helen with at least two friends at Troy, it integrates her into the social structure. Hektor does not allow quarrels, which divide people, to rend the social fabric of Troy.
Nestor, like Priam, is an old man, father of many. When Nestor’s youngest son, Peisistratos, comes to Sparta with Telemachos, Menelaos says to him of his father:
ἦ γὰρ ἐμοί γε πατὴρ ὣς ἤπιος ἦεν.

Indeed he [Nestor] was always ēpios to me like a father.
xv 152
Nestor’s characteristic function is advice-giving, both to the Greek army and to his own son (XXIII 304–348). His advice is respected; he is:
Νέστωρ, οὗ καὶ πρόσθεν ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλή.

Nestor, whose advice had shown best before this.
IX 94
Advice-giving was a fatherly task. As Telemachos says to Athene:
ξεῖν᾽, ἦ τοι μὲν ταῦτα φίλα φρονέων ἀγορεύεις,
ὥς τε πατὴρ ᾧ παιδί

My guest, your words to me are very kind and considerate,
what any father would say to his son
i 307–308
Hesiod juxtaposes wisdom in council with the epithet ēpios in the following passage:
Νηρέα δ᾽ ἀψευδέα καὶ ἀληθέα γείνατο Πόντος
πρεσβύτατον παίδων. αὐτὰρ καλέουσι γέροντα
οὕνεκα νημερτής τε καὶ ἤπιος, οὐδὲ θεμίστων
λήθεται, ἀλλὰ δίκαια καὶ ἤπια δήνεα οἶδεν.

Pontos bore Nereus, not lying and truthful
the oldest of his children. They call him old man
because he is unerring and ēpios and of correctness {13|14}
not forgetful, but he knows just and ēpios councils.
Theogony 233–236
Proteus, in the Odyssey, as sea god, soothsayer, and old man (ho gerōn, iv 450, etc.), is a multiform of Nereus. [2] He gives Menelaos advice that enables him to escape from the never-never land on which he is marooned, where Proteus’ daughter has asked him:
νήπιός εἰς, ὦ ξεῖνε, λίην τόσον ἠδὲ χαλίφρων…

Are you nēpios then, O stranger, and flimsy-minded ...?
iv 371
That is, advice given by someone with all the qualities associated with the epithet ēpios reconnects Menelaos, who has been nēpios, with his home and former life.
In the Odyssey, a good king is said to be ēpios toward his people, Mentor complains of the Ithacans’ neglect and ill-treatment of Odysseus’s household:
μή τις ἔτι πρόφρων ἀγανὸς καὶ ἤπιος ἔστω
σκηπτοῦχος βασιλεύς, μηδὲ φρεσὶν αἴσιμα εἰδώς.
ἀλλ᾽ αἰεὶ χαλεπός τ᾽ εἴη καὶ αἴσυλα ῥέζοι,
ὡς οὔ τις μέμνηται Ὀδυσσῆος θείοιο
λαῶν οἷσιν ἄνασσε, πατὴρ δ᾽ ὣς ἤπιος ἦεν.

No longer now let one who is a sceptred king be eager
to be ēpios and kind, be one whose thought is schooled in justice,
but let him always rather be harsh, and act severely,
seeing the way no one of the people he was lord over
remembers godlike Odysseus, and he was ēpios like a father.
ii 230–234
These lines are repeated at v 8–12, where Athene complains to Zeus of the mistreatment Odysseus has received at the hands of the gods. The good king is explicitly compared to a father. The word ēpios should not be seen as denoting simply mildness or good temper. The good king knows what is aisima (“destined,” “allotted,” or “appointed by the will of the gods.”) In knowing what each person’s allotment is, the good king ensures community among his subjects. {14|15}
This integrative function of the ēpios leader appears elsewhere and, again, is based on respect for what has been allotted. In VIII 2–27 Zeus asserts his power over the other gods, threatening to throw into Tartaros any one of them who disobeys him. He ends by saying:
τόσσον ἐγὼ περί τ᾽ εἰμὶ θεῶν περί τ᾽ εἴμ᾽ ἀνθρώπων.

So much stronger am I than the gods, and stronger than mortals.
He is asserting not a fatherly superiority but the power of a tyrant. Athene tactfully replies that while none of the other gods would think of disobeying him, they are disturbed by the slaughter of the Achaians. Zeus, doubly Athene’s father, since she was born, motherless, from his body, is softened by this appeal:
θάρσει, Τριτογένεια, φίλον τέκος· οὔ νύ τι θυμῷ
πρόφρονι μυθέομαι, ἐθέλω δέ τοι ἤπιος εἶναι.

Tritogeneia, dear daughter, do not lose heart; for I say this
not in outright anger, but I mean to be ēpios toward you.
VIII 39–40
When Zeus repeats his intention to be ēpios toward Athene and the other gods for whom she speaks at XXII 183, he is retracting his suggestion that Hektor can be saved despite his fate. Hektor, as Athene has just said, is
ἄνδρα θνητὸν ἐόντα, πάλαι πεπρωμένον αἴσῃ

… a man who is mortal, one long since doomed by his aisā (destiny) …
XXII 179
The good king is ēpios in acting according to what is allotted. Since his wise subjects know, as Athene does, what is allotted, the ēpios king satisfies their sense of what is right. A consensus is reached and there is social harmony.
Even the quarrelsome Agamemnon seems, at times, aware that ēpios leadership is needed to keep the army together. When he is arousing the army in book IV he accuses Odysseus of being “first to a feast, last to a fray.” Odysseus replies with righteous indignation, and Agamemnon, retracting his words, says:
οἶδα γὰρ ὥς τοι θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι φίλοισιν
ἤπια δήνεα οἶδε· τὰ γὰρ φρονέεις ἅ τ᾽ ἐγώ περ. {15|16}

... I know how the spirit in your secret heart knows
ēpios ideas only; for what you think is what I think.
IV 360–361
Agamemnon’s mode of conciliating Odysseus is to assert that they both think the same thing. He has no need of Odysseus’s kindness. [3] What he needs is his agreement, his willingness to join with him in a common project. Agamemnon articulates his recognition that such like-mindedness leads to success also at II 379–380, where he says that if he and Achilles ever could agree (ei de pot’ es ge mian bouleusomen), then they would take Troy.
Hermes, in the Homeric Hymn that bears his name, uses the same strategy in resolving his quarrel with Apollo. He tells Apollo he will teach him the cithara, saying:
… ἐθέλω δέ τοι ἤπιος εἶναι
βουλῇ καὶ μύθοισι· σὺ δὲ φρεσὶ πάντ᾽ εὖ οἶδας.

… I wish to be ēpios toward you
in council and speech. And you well know everything in your mind.
Hymn to Hermes 466–467
He goes on to list Apollo’s honors. He does not mean so much that he wants to be kind to Apollo, as that he wants to be reconciled with him. He affirms their like-mindedness.
Similarly, when Hades releases Persephone from the underworld to return to her mother for the first time, he says to her:
ἔρχεο, Περσεφόνη, παρὰ μητέρα κυανόπεπλον,
ἤπιον ἐν στήθεσσι μένος καὶ θυμὸν ἔχουσα.

Go, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother
having in your breast an ēpios strength and spirit …
Hymn to Demeter 360–361
He goes on to describe the honors she will have as his wife. Again, he is not asking her to be gentle or kind but to be reconciled, to be connected with him in spirit as she is by marriage. {16|17}
Several times the word ēpios describes the behavior of men toward their wives or lovers. A woman belonged to two families: one, of which her father was head, and another, of which her husband was head. If her husband were to die, she would return to her father. But when her father died, unless she had brothers, she had no family but that headed by her husband. So Andromache, after telling how her father had been killed and her mother, after returning to her own father, had died, says to Hektor:
Ἕκτορ, ἀτὰρ σύ μοί ἐσσι πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
ἠδὲ κασίγνητος, σὺ δέ μοι θαλερὸς παρακοίτης.
Hektor, thus you are father to me, and my honored mother,
you are my brother, and it is you who are my young husband.
VI 429–430
The word ēpios appears in another passage in which a man’s trust of a woman is the issue. When Odysseus has his initial interview with Circe she is surprised at his insusceptibility to her drugs, assumes that he must be Odysseus, and invites him to her bed: {17|18}
ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε δὴ κολεῷ μὲν ἄορ θέο· νῶϊ δ᾽ ἔπειτα
εὐνῆς ἡμετέρης ἐπιβήομεν, ὄφρα μιγέντε
εὐνῇ καὶ φίλότητι πεποίθομεν ἀλλήλοισιν.

Come then, put away your sword in its sheath, and let us
two go up into my bed so that, lying together
in the bed of love, we may then have faith and trust in each other.
x 333–335
Odysseus answers:
ὦ Κίρκη, πῶς γάρ με κέλεαι σοὶ ἤπιον εἶναι;

Circe, how can you ask me to be ēpios toward you?
x 337
Not only is she still his enemy until she has released his men and sworn to use no more magic against him, but she is more powerful than he. He cannot assume towards her the role of the head of the family since he cannot count on her like-mindedness with himself.
We are now in a position to appreciate the irony in the speech of the suitor Agelaos. Telemachos has just demanded that the suitors not mistreat the guest in his house. His position as head of the household is ambiguous, as he makes clear. He is no longer nēpios; he can recognize good and evil, but he does not have the power, being one against many, to prevent the suitors’ eating of his goods (xx 309–313). Agelaos diplomatically advises the suitors not to continue being rude, and then says that he will speak a muthon ēpion (“an ēpios speech,” xx 326–327) to Telemachos and his mother. That is, Agelaos will assume the role of the head of the household and advise them. That is precisely the role he is there to win anyway, and his advice is, of course, that Odysseus will not return home and that Penelope should marry.
The person who is called ēpios more than anyone else in the Iliad or Odyssey is Eumaios, Odysseus’s swineherd. [4] Athene has told Odysseus:
αὐτὸς δὲ πρώτιστα συβώτην εἰσαφικέσθαι,
ὅς τοι ὑῶν ἐπίουρος, ὁμῶς δέ τοι ἤπια οἶδε,
παῖδά τε σὸν φιλέει καὶ ἐχέφρονα Πηνελόπειαν, {18|19}

First of all, you are to make your way to the swineherd
who is in charge of your pigs, but always his thoughts are ēpios
and he is a friend to your son and circumspect Penelope.
xiii 404–406
Athene repeats this advice to Telemachos (xv 38–39), and he too goes first to the swineherd. The fifteenth book of the Odyssey ends with Telemachos’s arrival:
ἔνθα οἱ ἦσαν ὕες μάλα μυρίαι, ᾗσι συβώτης
ἐσθλὸς ἐὼν ἐνίαυεν, ἀνάκτεσιν ἤπια εἰδώς.

… where there were countless pigs, and near them always
slept the noble swineherd, with ēpios thoughts for his masters.
xv 556–557
Not only is Eumaios himself called ēpios, but he was the beneficiary of ēpios treatment by Laertes. Odysseus says after hearing his story:
Εὔμαι᾽, ἦ μάλα δή μοι ἐνὶ φρεσὶ θυμὸν ὄρινας
ταῦτα ἕκαστα λέγων, ὅσα δὴ πάθες ἄλγεα θυμῷ.
ἀλλ᾽ ἦ τοι σοὶ μὲν παρὰ καὶ κακῷ ἐσθλὸν ἔθηκε
Ζεύς, ἐπεὶ ἀνδρὸς δώματ᾽ ἀφίκεο πολλὰ μογήσας
ἠπίου, ὃς δή τοι παρέχει βρῶσίν τε πόσιν τε
ἐνδυκέως, ζώεις δ᾽ ἀγαθὸν βίον...

Eumaios, you have deeply stirred the spirit within me
by telling me all these things, the sorrow which your heart has suffered,
But beside the sorrow Zeus has placed some good for you, seeing
that after much suffering you came to the house of an ēpios
man who, as he ought to do, provides you with victuals
and drink, and the life you lead is a good one.
xv 486–491
Since the word ēpios is associated with the heads of households, it is hardly surprising that a master’s behavior toward his servant should be described as ēpios. Indeed, Eumaios compares his master Odysseus to his own parents:
... οὐ γὰρ ἔτ᾽ ἄλλον
ἤπιον ὧδε ἄνακτα κιχήσομαι, ὁππόσ᾽ ἐπέλθω,
οὐδ᾽ εἴ κεν πατρὸς καὶ μητέρος αὖτις ἵκωμαι
οἶκον, ὅθι πρῶτον γενόμην καί μ᾽ ἔτρεφον αὐτοί.

… for never again now
will I find again a lord as ēpios as he, wherever
I go; even if I could come back to my father and mother’s {19|20}
house where I was born, and they raised me when I was little.
xiv 138–141
What is perhaps surprising is that a servant should be called ēpios toward his master. But Eumaios is not distinguished by this epithet alone. He is called dion uphorbon (“noble swineherd.” xiv 3, etc.), orchamos andrōn (“leader of men,” xiv 22, xx 185, etc.; also of Philoitios, another faithful retainer), and he receives attributes that are ordinarily reserved for kings, for example:
... περὶ γὰρ φρεσὶν αἴσιμα ᾔδη.#

... for he knew just [or fated] things in his mind …
xiv 433
Compare, in the description of the just king:
... μηδὲ φρεσὶν αἴσιμα εἰδώς#

… nor [let him] know just [or fated] things in his mind …
ii 231
The importance of faithful, or trustworthy, servants in the plot of the Odyssey is obvious, and the chief such servant is Eumaios. Odysseus goes first to Eumaios. The last thing he does is to reveal himself to his own father Laertes. Telemachos too comes first to the hut of Eumaios and only later to his own home. Eumaios is their ally not because he is kind or gentle but because he has the interests of his masters at heart. He is connected to them in being like-minded with them, and it is through Eumaios that Odysseus and Telemachos become reconnected with home and family.
Eumaios has a female counterpart in the nurse Eurykleia. [5] She too possesses “upper-class” qualities. Penelope accuses her of having lost her wits when she announces the return of Odysseus and says:
… πρὶν δὲ φρένας αἰσίμη ἦσθα.# {20|21}

… but before you were orderly [or just] in respect to your mind
xxiii 14
Like Eumaios, Eurykleia is more trusted and easier of approach for Odysseus and Telemachos than Penelope. It is to her that Telemachos tells of his intended journey to Pylos and Sparta, and it is her aid that he enlists. Odysseus reveals himself to her before he makes himself known to Penelope. Eurykleia had been bought by Laertes, who honored her as his wife but did not have intercourse with her (i 430–433). Thus she was disconnected from her parents and, presumably a virgin, also disconnected from husband or child of her own. She is a barren mother-figure in the household. [6]
Can we see in Eumaios a kind of sterile father-figure? A clearly delineated sterile father-figure does exist in the Iliad in the person of Phoinix. He was disconnected from his own family, both parents and hope of offspring, by his father’s curse (IX 453–457). He nurtured Achilles when he was a baby (IX 485–495), and goes along with him to Troy because Achilles is still nēpios, and has yet to learn to be a speaker of words and a doer of deeds (IX 438–443). Twice in the Iliad Phoinix is addressed as atta, and he is the only person in the Iliad so addressed. Benveniste speaks of a second Indo-European word meaning “father,” namely the word of which the Greek reflex is atta. [7] He argues “atta doit être le ‘père nourricier,’ celui qui élève l’enfant.” Phoinix is, clearly, just such a foster-father.
The only person in the Odyssey to be called atta is Eumaios. Furthermore, he too has been disconnected, by kidnapping when he was a small child, from his parents (xv 403 ff.). He too is without a family of his own, as we know from his remark that if Odysseus had come home he would have given him land and a wife (xiv 62–64). We do not hear of him nurturing baby Odysseus or baby Telemachos, but he nurtures them as adults, on their return to Ithake. What Odysseus says of Eumaios he could say as well of himself:
… ἐπεὶ ἀνδρὸς δώματ᾽ ἀφίκεο πολλὰ μογήσας
ἠπίου, ὃς δή τοι παρέχει βρῶσίν τε πόσιν τε
ἐνδυκέως ... {21|22}

… [since] you came to the house of an ēpios
man who, as he ought to do, provides you with victuals
and drink …
xv 489–491
Laertes had graciously received Eumaios, who becomes a father-like figure for Odysseus, just as Peleus had graciously received Phoinix and loved him, as Phoinix says:
καί μ᾽ ἐφίλης᾽ ὡς εἴ τε πατὴρ ὃν παῖδα φιλήσῃ.

… even as a father loves his own son …
IX 481
We have, then, in the figures of Eumaios and Phoinix, someone who is an intermediary between a hero and his father, or in the case of Eurykleia, an intermediary between the hero and his mother or wife. Eumaios is like a father, but he is not a father. He is, also, especially ēpios. [8] His function, in terms of the plot, is to reconnect Odysseus and Telemachos to their home—by providing food and shelter, by keeping their interests at heart, and by knowing what is aisima, properly allotted.
During the funeral games for Patroklos, Achilles and his horses do not compete, but stand apart. Achilles says of the horses:
τοίου γὰρ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἀπώλεσαν ἡνιόχοιο,
ἠπίου, ὅς σφωϊν μάλα πολλάκις ὑγρὸν ἔλαιον
χαιτάων κατέχευε, λοέσσας ὕδατι λευκῷ.

such is the high glory of the charioteer they have lost,
the ēpios one, who so many times anointed their manes with
soft olive oil, after he had washed them in shining water.
XXIII 280–282
Patroklos is the one who takes care of the horses. He is not just kind to them; he is the link between them and their martial function. The phrase ēpia pharmaka (“ēpios medicines” or “drugs”) appears three times in the Iliad: [9]
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ ἴδεν ἕλκος, ὅθ᾽ ἔμπεσε πικρὸς ὀϊστός,
αἷμ᾽ ἐκμυζήσας ἐπ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἤπια φάρμακα εἰδὼς {22|23}
πάσσε, τά οἵ ποτε πατρὶ φίλα φρονέων πόρε Χείρων

But when he [Machaon] saw the wound where the bitter arrow was driven,
he sucked the blood and in skill laid ēpios medicines on it
that Cheiron in friendship long ago had given his father.
IV 217–219
ἰητρὸς γὰρ ἀνὴρ πολλῶν ἀντάξιος ἄλλων
ἰούς τ᾽ ἐκτάμνειν ἐπί τ᾽ ἤπια φάρμακα πάσσειν

A healer is a man worth many men in his knowledge
of cutting out arrows and putting ēpios medicines on wounds.
XI 514–515
μῆρου δ᾽ ἔκταμ᾽ ὀϊστόν, ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ δ᾽ αἷμα κελαινὸν
νίζ᾽ ὕδατι λιαρῷ, ἐπὶ δ᾽ ἤπια φάρμακα πάσσεν,
ἐσθλά, τά σε πρατί φασιν Ἀχιλλῆος δεδιδάχθαι,
ὃν Χείρων ἐδίδαξε, δικαιότατος Κενταύρων.

… cut the arrow out of my thigh, wash the dark blood running
out of it with warm water, and put ēpios medicines upon it,
good ones, which they say you have been told of by Achilles,
since Cheiron, most righteous of the Centaurs, told him about them.
XI 829–831
It is clear, from the first and third passages, that the procedure was to wash with water and then to apply drugs. The horses grieve for Patroklos who washed them and anointed them with oil. They are not grieving because they miss their water and oil, however, but because they miss Patroklos. Similarly, when Eurypylos detains Patroklos to tend his wound (XI 823–836) it is not that he wants water and drugs, applied by whoever is handy, but he needs Patroklos who has a special knowledge of their use. The epithet ēpios has been transferred from the physician to the drugs themselves. Compare pharmaka mētioenta (“wise drugs,” iv 227). Patroklos has received his knowledge of ēpia pharmaka from Achilles, who received it from Cheiron, “most righteous of the Centaurs.” In the context of Cheiron, as with Nereus, the just king, and the foster-parent figures Eurykleia and Eumaeos, the qualities of being ēpios and of being just come together. Furthermore, Cheiron’s mythological function was, among other things, to be a tutor—that is, a substitute father—for various heroes, among them Jason, Herakles, Asklepios, and Achilles. [10] The ēpios drugs, in addition, are {23|24} restorative; they heal the wounded and reconnect them with life. The horses of Achilles, who have lost their ēpios horseman, have become disconnected from their former function. They take no part in the games, but stand aside and mourn.
The word ēpios is especially associated with fathers, or fatherly behavior. In a few instances it is also associated with mothers. For instance, Hekabe is called Hektor’s ēpiodōros mētēr (“mother giving ēpios things,” VI 251). Hesiod uses the phrase ēpion ēmar (“an ēpios day” Works and Days 787), and also characterizes days as mothers:
ἄλλοτε μητρυιὴ πέλει ἡμέρη, ἄλλοτε μήτηρ.

Sometimes a day is a stepmother, sometimes a mother.
Works and Days 825
Here the sense of having one’s interests at heart, of like-mindedness, seems predominant.
I have tried to show, in this chapter, that the word ēpios can be interpreted as meaning something like “connecting.” To be ēpios is to be “like a father,” and a typically ēpios figure in the Homeric poems is the foster-father, such as Phoinix or Eumaios. Kings are like fathers and share with them certain qualities—namely wisdom, justice, the ability to give good advice, the desire to promote cohesion among their dependents, and, often, old age. If ēpios can mean, in some sense, “connecting,” then there is semantic support for its derivation from the root *āp- found in Latin apīscor (cf. apō “fasten, attach, join, bind”) and Sanskrit āpnóti. The semantic development—from expression of a relationship between people to expression of the manner of a person—is paralleled in the semantic development of the English words gentle and kind. Both are from the Indo-European *gene-: gentle comes into English, via Old French, from Latin gentilis (“of the same clan,” “of noble birth”); and kind is from Old English cynd, gecynd(e) (“birth,” “nature,” “race”; cf. kin). [11]


[ back ] 1. Benveniste 1969.I.209–215. Iuppiter < dyeu pǝter with “expressive gemination” of the p.
[ back ] 2. Detienne 1973.29–50 discusses Nereus, Proteus, and others together under the title of “le vieux de la mer.” These figures share the same attributes of advanced age, justice, affinity for the sea, ability to change form, and soothsaying, and can be considered forms of the same divinity.
[ back ] 3. Although good-will is certainly part of it. Compare IV 356 with VIII 38, which introduces Zeus’s statement that he wishes to be ēpios to Athene. The lines are identical, making allowance for the gender of the addressee and the name and appropriate epithet of the speaker. In both cases, the speaker is said to smile as he answers.
[ back ] 4. Eumaios is called ēpios three times. In addition, Laertes and Odysseus are each said once to have been ēpios to him.
[ back ] 5. Was Eurykleia a Trojan? She is named in the Odyssey: Εὐρύκλει᾽ Ὦπος θυγάτηρ Πεισηνορίδαο Eurykleia, the daughter of Ops, son of Peisenor i 429 In the Iliad, Teukros is said to shoot the following person: ... Κλεῖτον, Πεισήνορος ἀγλαὸν υἱόν Kleitos, glorious son of Peisenor XV 445
[ back ] 6. As a virgin protectress of the household, she is much like Hestia. See Vernant 1965.124–170.
[ back ] 7. Benveniste 1969.I.124–170.
[ back ] 8. No parent (except Zeus) in Homer is called ēpios toward his own offspring.
[ back ] 9. The wounds are always arrow wounds. A restricted context seems to be indicated.
[ back ] 10. See Roscher’s Lexikon s.v. Cheiron (article by L.v. Sybel); also Pindar, Nemean 3.
[ back ] 11. William Morris, ed. 1969. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, New York, Appendix s.v. *gene-.