A Trip in the Land of noos Or Homerus Mysticus

οὐ γὰρ οἷόν τε
`ἀκοῦσαι ὁμοῦ καὶ μαθεῖν τὰ λ̣εγόμενα· [1]
τί νύ οἱ τόσον ὠδύσαο, Ζεῦ; [2]
My title, “a trip in the land of noos”, represents what I think is the essence of the Odyssey. The theme of the wanderer who strives to reach his land is a convenient surface narrative shaped by deeper patterns. In this perspective, the determining element in our reading is how we understand the theme of “return”. In fact, “return” in Greek epic proves to be much more than simply “going back”, and the very etymology of the word invites us to go beyond the literal meaning. In 1897 the noted Hellenist, comparatist, and Sanskrit scholar, Jacob Wackernagel proposed a connection between the word νόος and the family of the verb νέομαι ‘return’ (from the Indo-European root *nes-), assuming an original meaning related to the idea of being ‘saved, rescued’.
Douglas Frame’s (DF hereafter) work substantially corroborates Wackernagel’s hypothesis. He has elaborated extensively on the idea that, in the epic, “return” (νόστος) and “intelligence, mind” (νόος) are closely interdependent on the thematic level. Since the publication of his book The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic in 1978, DF’s approach is based on the synergy between historical linguistics and philology; to him as well goes the credit of having shown the link between ἄσμενος, νέομαι, νόστος, and νόος in Homeric vocabulary: νόος ultimately represents power against death, as the syntagm ἄσμενος ἐκ θανάτοιο shows. [3] In this highly elaborate context the main—human—characters that are decisive for Odysseus’ return are narrative expressions of noos connected to nostos.
So the story of the Odyssey reflects the etymology of its thematic keywords. It is absolutely remarkable and not sufficiently explored in scholarship that the etymological relation between words like noos and nostos, with no immediately apparent link between them, can so systematically and deeply reflect the thematic structure of the poem. In other words, it is as if this very relation between noos and nostos has thematically powered the Odyssey. This is in fine the way Homeric epic is built: Achilles is the one who brings sorrow to his people and this is what the Iliad is recounting. This very connection between noos and nostos is the powerhouse that generates the core essence of the Odyssey. That stories echo names in ancient Greece is the well-known topos roughly described by ὄνομα ἐπώνυμον, nomen omen; this is a recurrent phenomenon in Greek literature but in the case of the Odyssey it goes beyond names: [4] the narration essentially enacts the deep etymological connection between noos and nostos.
There is a character that embodies this deep connection between noos and nostos in his very name which defines his whole epic existence, as DF has shown: “The name Nestor … does not designate a role, but the entire identity of an epic hero”: [5] Nestor’s name belongs to the *nes family, which connects home-bringing and acute noetic faculties. This connection is the very nature of Nestor and the surface narrative is not explicit about it, as Hippota Nestor repeatedly points out. There is more in the Odyssean Nestor than meets the reader’s eye. Reading DF is developing a very special way to attain the implicit, or, as Nicole Loraux would say, “les interstices du discours” or “les mots absents”.
Now, most often, hidden meanings are not a welcome hypothesis among specialists. Nevertheless, however controversial this wake of analysis may seem, there is no doubt that latency of meaning is quintessential to the Odyssey. In this I join DF’s sensibility as a reader of Homer; to borrow his own words, “interpretation rests not on the surface of the poem but below the surface …”; and I do not think there is any other way to make sense of the monumental epics than admit the principle of hidden or latent meanings and meaningful gaps. There is an undeniable way to understand this that goes beyond narration as sequence of events stricto sensu. If the Odyssey is πεπλεγμένον, as Aristotle notes in the Poetics (1459b15), it is for a reason: structure is as significant as the narration per se. In other words the complexity of the divided topography and the intertwining of different places and levels of experience in the Odyssey are there to convey additional meaning, silently. Through the gaps it creates, the fragmented timeline structure is fully meaningful, it says without saying.
There is a discrete indication of this inscribed at the very beginning of the poem (Odyssey 1.10): the narrator himself says it: τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ καὶ ἡμῖν, “of all this, Goddess, Daughter of Zeus, from any point you choose, tell us the story”. Ἁμόθεν, which conveys in one word the idea of non-exhaustivity and non-linearity (repeated by Nestor in Book 3), [6]  denotes in itself a strong poetic intention. “Choosing a starting point” re-creates contexts and meanings. A linear narration would not have the same effect, not only from an aesthetic point of view but on the very level of the intended meaning. For instance, recounting the wanderings almost from the end and backwards, in flashback mode, is motivated by important poetic purposes: it allows for the delivery of Odysseus adventures to happen as an accomplished “song”. This is of paramount importance, as many scholars have noted. It does not generate the same meaning as narrating the wanderings as they happen and it does not fulfill the same purpose. It is, among other things, a way to stress the importance of song-in-performance in the Odyssey, compared to simple narration of events in “real time”. For instance, starting the poem by the assembly of the gods—and making the voice of Zeus resonate in the space of the performance—is of essence: the main course of the action is thus validated from the beginning, at the highest level. Furthermore, there is a fundamental reason why Ithaka does not know Odysseus’ whereabouts: as we will see below, the poem safeguards the unveiling of what we must call metaphysical experiences until the right time and circumstances occur.
The Muse of the Odyssey dismembers temporality and space in order to put at the center of an epic poem the all-pervading power of noos as a force that can bring humans closer to the divine and even cross forbidden or impossible boundaries between gods and men: noos is what is closest to the divine—and this is the fundamental teaching of the Odyssey—, that is why Odysseus at the moment he crosses the boundary between the two worlds is, “the man whose thoughts are godlike” [7] … And the Muse will choose the characters who can carry this exceptional quality to its highest expression, and she will shape their action in a way to fit the dismemberment of time and space and at the same time work towards obliterating it. The main—human—characters related to Odysseus’ nostos are, as we said, narrative expressions of noos connected to nostos: Odysseus, Penelope, Nestor, and Tiresias. The Muse entrusts Tiresias with revealing to Odysseus the path of his nostos, because he is one of the rare humans who keeps his noos after death (ref). In the same vein she stays faithful to the essence of Nestor’s name, “the Home-bringer” who breaks the wall of silence between Ithaka and the “Wander-land”.
However, if the Muse has made Nestor’s name “the basis of his role in both Homeric poems”, [8] if the Home-Bringer is the figure of return, then how should we understand Odysseus who is for us identified with nostos in the Odyssey? Nestor is of course an instrumental piece in the array of characters who will enact the deep meaning between noos and nostos; he will play out his role of the Home-Bringer nonetheless, despite his separation from Odysseus in Tenedos. He will “bring home” the information that Odysseus is still alive, to allow Ithaka to reconnect with the memory of Odysseus.
However, his role in the Odyssey is defined by the fact that the Muse establishes a hierarchy in the handling of the return: she wants Odysseus and Penelope to be the main embodiment of the connection between noos and nostos. The structure of the plot is made to allow for a Penelope prominent in this role. Nevertheless, being fully conscious of Nestor’s identity as a Home-Bringer, as analysed by DF, reconfigures deeply our perception of Odysseus’ nostos, as we will see later on. Even if the philosophy behind the dismemberment of the plot enclaves Nestor in a specific role and place, thinking of Odysseus’ nostos through the negative role Nestor played in Tenedos can modify considerably our reading of the poem.

Poetics of Duality

Nestor’s role in the Odyssean nostos theme is defined in relation to Odysseus’ family, Telemachus and Penelope. I will thus begin with a closer look at the Ithakan protagonists and re-join Nestor later, following in a way the hierarchy of the characters in the poem as I just described it. This is the “trip in the land of noos” that I refer to in my title. [9] Before I encountered DF’s Hippota Nestor, I had dealt for years with what I eventually understood as the Odyssean poetics of duality. [10] DF’s use of twinship as a hermeneutical tool in Hippota Nestor appeared to me as a path akin to mine, stemming from a similar kind of difficulty: despite the very different biography and scope of action, Penelope and Nestor are the kind of characters that cannot be understood without special attention to the implicit, which underlies in Homer the poetics of noos. This is what this homage is mainly about.
My main challenge in this trip has been Penelope, another obscure character, and this was before various studies started adding up, revealing progressively the subtlety of the queen’s noos. This is where I progressively built my reading of the Odyssey as a trip to the land of noos. Back then the catalyst was Penelope, perfect agent of hidden thoughts, perfect example of how Homeric poetry codes its meaning. Reading her as a passive feminine figure waiting for her husband to return did not make full sense. Penelope’s role is not, or not simply, to incarnate marital fidelity. A shift of focus is needed if we want to fathom her role. If the poet wanted marital fidelity to be her essence, he did not need to stress her noetic faculties as much. There is a reason he does it, a pattern.
Penelope and Odysseus are the very expression of the topological division of the poem. The choice to picture their lives running in parallel and their invisible “coordination” toward nostos are there to enhance a rare quality that they share, so strong that it makes them consubstantial: the exceptional affinity of Odysseus with his wife is situated in the noetic sphere, they share “identity of minds”. [11] In fact, it was not until I figured out that marriage, fidelity, and “identity of minds” between the protagonists was just the surface of a potent theological pattern that I started to fathom Penelope’s role.
Already in the first book of the Odyssey, when we get the first snapshot of Ithaka, we perceive that Odysseus’ absence has created a particularly anomalous situation in Ithaka. It is remarkable that the poet chooses to illustrate the anomaly by staging a highly problematic performance where the main characters of Ithaka-without-Odysseus are pictured first and foremost as an audience. More remarkably, the catalyst that gives the characters their “identity card” in the epic is their reaction to a song and not any song: in the absent hero’s palace the bard sings the grim return of the Achaeans (Odyssey 1.325-327). [12] The story of the absent king is a matter of controversy: “nobody knows where he is …”. This is true, but his wife, who is meant to be his alter ego, thinks that this uncertainty should not be the main theme of a song performed in the palace. On the contrary, in this first epic image of Ithaka Telemachus uses words which convey the exact opposite meaning with an overtone of shame: “But now ingloriously the storm winds have caught and carried him away … (Odyssey 1.240-241). The suitors and Telemachus take pleasure in Phemios’ song, they show no emotional involvement.
The unstated but existing problem is the underlying implication that Odysseus is dead, lost in the sea. [13] That is how Telemachus understands the song and he says so explicitly, associating his father’s memory with the adverb ἀκλειῶς, “without glory (Odyssey 1. 241)”, as if Troy was not enough to make Odysseus a hero. Here what plays is the logic of uniqueness: no matter how polytropic and how brave, in the Iliad he is one of many. The Odyssey, on the contrary, makes him unique even among the returners, as Homeric diction repeatedly states. [14] The hero must own his saga.
Conflicting—implied—versions of nostos are the dominant surface theme here [15] but the intentionality of this poetic construction is broader: as part of this same audience Odysseus’ son will side with the suitors, unable, like them, to understand what is at stake (Odyssey 1.235-244). The intended latent message is that only Penelope is willing and able to carry the symbolic task of keeping and honoring the memory of the hero: “… so dear a head do I long for whenever I am reminded of my husband, whose fame goes wide through Hellas and midmost Argos”’.  [16] The formula she uses refers to an established, undisputable, widely spread kleos; to the damned heroes’ destiny she opposes the formula of supreme epic glory, thus announcing Odysseus cultic status. [17]
This “distribution” of listeners is highly significant: the only character that reacts to the song by trying to stop it (unsuccessfully) is Penelope who is, from her very first poetic appearance, under the sign of memory and kleos related to Odysseus. Coded in the depiction of this problematic audience is a hierarchy of characters, thus established from the outset (and this hierarchy of characters has to be understood in generational terms, as we will see): in the absence of Odysseus, Penelope is the character who occupies the highest rank in Ithaka, because of her exceptional intelligence and faith in the heroic qualities of Odysseus. Phemios’ song brings up the image of a divided audience representing a divided society.
We thus observe from the beginning a firm distinction between characters close to the True Version, validated by the gods’ assembly since the very beginning, and those who oppose it. The distinction is far-reaching; it will determine the poem’s evolution and the ultimate hierarchy of characters. Rejecting a destiny without glory for the king of Ithaka, not accepting to include Odysseus among the cursed carries important consequences for the succession in Ithaka, which in the Odyssean microcosm is the anti-Pylos and the anti-Sparta. The inappropriate version faces Penelope’s reaction and denial, the true version will be established in the palace by Odysseus himself in Book 23, again with Penelope as unique audience this time.
Thus, the Odyssey places the characters on a degressive scale depending on how acute their noos is. The overwhelming importance of noetic ability is blatantly visible as well with what the Suitors stand for in the poem. They are repeatedly considered inferior in the hierarchy of noos as are the Companions: not only are they irreverent to the heroes world but they are stupid as well.

“Τηλέμαχ᾽, οὐδ᾽ ὄπιθεν κακὸς ἔσσεαι οὐδ᾽ ἀνοήμων,
εἰ δή τοι σοῦ πατρὸς ἐνέστακται μένος ἠύ,
οἷος κεῖνος ἔην τελέσαι ἔργον τε ἔπος τε·
οὔ τοι ἔπειθ᾽ ἁλίη ὁδὸς ἔσσεται οὐδ᾽ ἀτέλεστος.
εἰ δ᾽ οὐ κείνου γ᾽ ἐσσὶ γόνος καὶ Πηνελοπείης,
οὐ σέ γ᾽ ἔπειτα ἔολπα τελευτήσειν, ἃ μενοινᾷς.
παῦροι γάρ τοι παῖδες ὁμοῖοι πατρὶ πέλονται,
οἱ πλέονες κακίους, παῦροι δέ τε πατρὸς ἀρείους.
ἀλλ᾽ ἐπεὶ οὐδ᾽ ὄπιθεν κακὸς ἔσσεαι οὐδ᾽ ἀνοήμων
οὐδέ σε πάγχυ γε μῆτις Ὀδυσσῆος προλέλοιπεν,
ἐλπωρή τοι ἔπειτα τελευτῆσαι τάδε ἔργα.
τῶ νῦν μνηστήρων μὲν ἔα βουλήν τε νόον τε
ἀφραδέων, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι· [18]
οὐδέ τι ἴσασιν θάνατον καὶ κῆρα μέλαιναν,
ὃς δή σφι σχεδόν ἐστιν, ἐπ᾽ ἤματι πάντας ὀλέσθαι.
‘Telemachos, you are to be no thoughtless man, no coward, if truly the strong force of your father is instilled in you; such a man he was for accomplishing word and action. Your journey then will be no vain thing nor go unaccomplished. But if you are not the seed begotten of him and Penelope, I have no hope that you will accomplish all that you strive for. For few are the children who turn out to be equals of their fathers, and the greater number are worse; few are better than their father is. But since you are to be no thoughtless man, no coward, and the mind of Odysseus has not altogether given out in you, there is some hope that you can bring all these things to fulfillment (Odyssey 2.270-284, transl. Lattimore).

Much can be said about this pivotal passage where the suitors announce publicly the end of Penelope’s treacherous weaving, [19]  but here I can only focus on what, in four tightly knit verses (2.281-284), pertains to the relation established by DF between nostos, intelligence and the idea of “escaping death”. [20] The suitors’ attitude towards inappropriate songs, their disrespect of the hero’s memory, their inability to read the signs and to take into account the seer’s interpretation bring death upon them. In this remarkable passage above, Athena-Mentes associates closely the suitors’ kind of noos to the fact that they cannot foresee the danger of death. The adjective ἀφραδέων that is attributed to them describes elsewhere the dead who are deprived of noos.

Ἐναίσιμος is another crucial word that creates a sharp contrast between the ruling Dyad of Ithaka and the Suitors. [21] Signs that come from gods receive this same epithet: the Suitors are unable to read the signs that announce their death, in a poem heavily based on what Tzvetan Todorov calls “intrigue de predestination”. On the contrary, Telemachus will not be ἀνοήμων, “eventually” (sic), thanks to his contact with the world of (disguised) gods and heroes and with his own father. The whole structure and action of the Odyssey relies on an interplay between noemones and afradees, be it the Suitors or the Companions. On the top of the pyramid stand the heroes, those who are worthy of an eternal song (Odyssey 24.195-202), the solitary figures of Odysseus and Penelope. [22]
A powerful noos in the Odyssean universe is meant to be unique and solitary. The war is a collective endeavor, but high-level reasoning is the work of a few. Odysseus and Penelope are in fact meant to form an exclusive Dyad, hence the importance of the theme of uniqueness: [23] the Phemios episode shows Penelope’s isolation. As to Odysseus, he will progressively be separated from all his Companions and this is how he will return.

Duality, Twinship, Twinning

Throughout the Odyssey the unwavering pursuit of nostos and consequently the reestablishment of justice and of the heroes’ memory in Ithaka depend on the two complementary metis characters, one in the world of wanderings and the other in Ithaka. Penelope’s and Odysseus’ noos is presented as superior in the Odyssean hierarchy of characters, according to the criterion of memory and metis. Odysseus achieves return because his noos is exceptional; Penelope succeeds in preserving royalty—thus keeping the option of return open and Ithaka at a standstill—because her noos is superior; last but not least, the goddess who oversees this nostos is the daughter of Metis. Here and elsewhere the Odyssey “replays” fundamental Greek themes: metis is the necessary component of stable royalty, as we learn even about Zeus, who has to swallow Metis to make sure his reign will be stable. [24]
The organising principle in the Odyssey is the divine force of an androgynous metis, expressed on the human level through the Dyad. The royal couple of Ithaka is the reflection of the absolute power of this prototype: an androgynous Metis, which in the Odyssey functions as a primordial organising principle. Penelope incarnates the feminine aspect of the androgynous (after Zeus) nature of metis as a quintessential ruling principle. The intensity of formulaic expressions about Penelope’s exceptional noos is impressive. She is even described as an expression of Athena’s divine energy, [25]  as if Odysseus’ spouse had to share even his exceptional relation with the goddess. Noos is a game changer: this shared exceptional noetic ability makes the ruling Dyad of Ithaka ultimately invincible and stabilizes the environment that is ruled by it, against all odds, even against a god. This is why the Odyssean Odysseus could not but have a spouse “thinking alike”.
Defining a destiny or character through twinship or twinning with another character lies at the heart of Hippota Nestor. Part of Nestor’s heroic identity comes from the history he shares with his dead twin brother. Each twinning has its core essence. When my “dialogue with DF” started, I kept returning to the question of whether this exceptional pairing between Odysseus and Penelope could be viewed through the concept of twinning. It is true that they form an extraordinary dyad in the Odyssean epic economy. If in their case the androgynous metis is the prototype on the divine level, on the human level they have to be understood through the concept of twinning, because, as we have seen, they possess something unique that goes beyond their marital relationship.
This again has to do with the nature of noos. Exceptional noetic functions tend to isolate characters (in a pattern of uniqueness and isolation), as we see constantly in the Odyssey, which promotes the theme of uniqueness on all levels, including the biological one: Odysseus is an only child, as is Telemachus. It is important that the poem states this explicitly as a characteristic of Odysseus’ genos: “Zeus allowed but one child in each generation (ἡμετέρην γενεὴν μούνωσε Κρονίων, Odyssey 16.117)”. The genealogy of Odysseus is thus characterized by the opposite of the twinning pattern. So the poem pairs Odysseus with another character within his oikos, but in the ancient Greek context it is not simple to think of a gendered choice like this in terms of twinning. Husband and wife is of course a most common, typical pattern, but in general it does not express the “thinking alike” function. Because of this “typicality” we are unable to see that, in this case, the “husband and wife” pattern can perfectly function like twinning. The fact that it is rare makes it all the more possible.
We need to see this twinning once more as a manifestation of uniqueness that characterizes Odyssean heroism. In the second Nekuia (and not only), the uniqueness of Penelope’s character is stressed by the contrast with the two other heroines/spouses, Clytemnestra and Helen. As the Suitors say, no woman of the past or the present resembles Penelope (Odyssey 2.118). The dismembered topography of any nostos plot, the world of the returner and of those who wait, inherent in any situation of return but overwhelmingly active in the Odyssey, requires a distant twin mind, Penelope.
I would like to insist on a key point that has been for a long time the main hindrance in understanding Penelope as a character: to establish the pattern of twinning the poem pushes clearly beyond the limits of gender. This is why her returned husband describes Penelope through the simile of the “righteous king”, to indicate their complementarity on the level of the royal function. [26] Odysseus’ metaphorical twin is Penelope, shaped in a way to duplicate or complete Odysseus in the very heart of the royal function. The concept of the faithful wife was clearly not enough for the poet. The twinning pattern requires an underlying symmetry between two characters; among the many examples, there is a mirroring through the theme of a song again: Odysseus and Penelope are both put in a context of a performance, Demodokos’ (in the Phaiakian court) and Phemios’, respectively, where they become the audience of a song that causes sorrow to them. [27] The symmetry of this theme does not end here: they both are the cause of an interruption—direct or indirect—of the performance (unwillingly or not), this interruption being particularly significant for the code of the plot.
Ultimately it is the dynamics of dual forces in Homeric poetry that make its greatest moments, bringing storylines and characters to their most intense expression. And from this perspective, Odysseus and Penelope are the Achilles and Patroclus of the Odyssey. In the Homeric language of similes Achilles and Penelope are lions, agressor and besieged, respectively, [28]  but lions nevertheless. Isolation, absence, uniqueness, intertwined destinies, and a bond like no other, revealed, tested, verified through life-threatening situations: these are the surface themes that fuel poetically the Odysseus/Penelope twinning and the other famous twinning of Patroclus and Achilles, [29]  and thus allow comparison between them. The situations and roles are very different but in both cases a pattern of substitution is at play: Penelope royal substitute, [30]  Patroclus warrior substitute. [31]
There is another important piece of Homeric diction that illustrates the idea of identity and twinning: as has been already noted, the Odyssey uses the word aethlos to describe the feats of only two heroes: five times for Herakles, six times for Odysseus. [32] “… It is not mere chance that these two are the only individual heroes characterized in the epics through the word aethlos [33] ; the implicit comparison with the greatest of heroes puts Odysseus high in the hierarchy of heroes of all times. Under this light the fact that, in Odyssey 23.350-351, [34]  Penelope shares the semantics of heroism through the word aethlos, which subsumes her twenty year plight, is all the more meaningful. In its very diction the poem encourages us to break free from the marital bond-and-gender-boundaries theme, and this is where the concept of twinning opens the right perspective.

Nestor and the Return of the Song

The greatness of the Odyssey is that it pictures external and internal nostos alike, the journey and the integration in the oikos, both potentially dangerous as Agamemnon’s story shows. If Odysseus has to be “the best of the heroes of his times” he has to be the best as well at re-conquering his oikos and his wife. That is why twinned minds are needed; their combined noetic power will make the return possible because in the Odyssean world noos ensures a quality that is necessary for the return in both senses of the word nostos: “return home” and “escape from death”. In the Odyssey there is a formulaic phrase used in a context that illustrates precisely this connection. It is pronounced by authoritative mouths, Athena-Mentor and Nestor, in two different circumstances. We already saw the passage in Odyssey 2 where Athena-Mentor, while exhorting Telemachus to distinguish himself from the suitors, asserts the lack of intelligence that will cost them their lives: “So now, let be the purpose and the planning of these senseless suitors, since they are neither thoughtful men nor just men, and have not realized the death and black fatality that stands close by, so that on a day they all must perish”. [35] Nestor uses the same phrase for those of the Achaeans who had “a grim return”, another formulaic expression that Nestor defines thus: “… the god scattered the Achaians, then Zeus in his mind devised a sorry homecoming for the Argives, since not all were considerate nor righteous …”. [36]
Nestor’s main audience here is Telemachus, who prompts the hero’s stories about post-Troy events because he wants to know where his father is. Telemachus has sailed from Ithaka to Pylos “on a private mission” [37] to inquire about his father. His entrance in the universe of heroes starts with Nestor, as per Athena-Mentes’ advice: the goddess appoints the older of the heroes [38] as the authority that opens this world for the son of Odysseus. This is only right: the presence of Nestor in the Odyssey does not last long but the memories he carries, sometimes half expressed or implied, refer to events that have been decisive for Odysseus epic destiny. This is due to the very nature of Nestor as a character and the surface narrative is not explicit about it. Nestor’s role in this context is subtle and allusive; it is part of his complex poetic relation to Odysseus that cannot be understood without particular attention to the implicit.
Thus, even if Nestor does not meet Odysseus in the Odyssey, we will see that he cannot be absent from the Odyssean nostos theme. In fact, he plays an important role in the internal nostos of the hero: by introducing his son to the heroic world he becomes momentarily a substitute for Odysseus. What we call the world of Odysseus is not the world of Odysseus anymore: twenty years of absence have created a big gap in Ithaka’s collective memory. In the internal chronology of the poem, this divided audience is the very first message about Ithaka, hence its importance. [39] As long as the heroic figure is absent, Ithaka will remain a society that has lost its way, because it suffers from a disconnection from memory, as the difference of attitude between Penelope and the suitors shows. Penelope’s formulaic phrase, “my husband, whose fame goes wide through Hellas and midmost Argos”, [40]  when she tries to stop Phemios’ song, heroicises Odysseus. On the contrary, the Suitors’ behaviour is insulting to the hero and for that they will be punished in a spectacular way.
Ithaka’s new generation is blocked and goes astray because the heroic generation is represented by Phemios’ song, which is not truthful; it represents a distortion: we learn towards the end of the poem that the Suitors controlled the content of his songs (Odyssey 22.330-354). In terms of the Odyssean symbolic temporality, the contrast of Ithaka with Pylos and Sparta is sharp: Nestor’s and Menelaus’ kingdoms do not represent a space synchronous with Ithaka; they belong to the past, to the accomplished world of heroes. In Pylos and in Sparta the heroes’ nostos brought back the right story allowing life to fall into place again. Return ensures continuity between past and present. Between the hero and the bard Homeric poetry will always give precedence to the hero’s word. [41]
In fact, the circulation of kleos is tightly codified in the Odyssey as we will see. No bard can inform Telemachus about his father’s fate; Nestor opens the way to the heroic world and then he sends him to Sparta: what he learns there about Odysseus comes from Proteus via Menelaos (Odyssey 4.499-537), not from a mortal. And vice versa, Odysseus learns about Ithaka only in the world of the dead: his mother and Tiresias will reconnect him with human temporality. This is the reason why Telemachus has to undertake this special journey, under the guidance of the goddess: the information he has to retrieve—we are meant to understand—is not yet part of the kleos readily available to all. In Homeric terms, Odysseus is famous καθ’ Ἑλλάδαν και μέσον Ἄργος as a hero of the Trojan War, but lost and anonymous after that, an unaccomplished destiny, an unfinished story (Odyssey 1.234-243). On the Panhellenic level he is a first-class hero but on the local level his memory is severely abused.
Odysseus’ kingdom that he governed “like a father (Odyssey 2.46-47)”, has not yet transitioned to the meta-heroic age because the heroic cycle is not accomplished as long as the hero has not returned. Odysseus’ son and the suitors who in a way dominate Ithaka in his absence are already the next generation, and they are pictured as such; they are a group of noble young men of the same age: παντες κεκριμενοι και ομηλικες. [42] Thus, without Odysseus, Ithaka is under the grip of a symbolically fatherless generation that ignores the fundamental duty towards heroic figures. [43] As we will see, this is meant to be a problem of generation at a level that is as real as it is symbolic. Helen’s suitors represent the heroic age, Penelope’s will form a sharp contrast as the meta-heroic generation. As Menelaus says, the unwarlike suitors want to lie to the bed of a strong man (Odyssey 3.355). [44] Another way of conveying the gap between generations in Ithaka is Athena-Mentor’s phrase: “Few sons resemble their fathers (παῦροι γάρ τοι παῖδες ὁμοῖοι πατρὶ πέλονται)”. [45] Now, when Nestor, and later Helen, see Telemachus, they will highlight the strong resemblance with his father, which symbolically prefigures his future positive evolution. [46]
As we saw, Nestor plays a role in this evolution; he is the first to lift the veil of the heroic world for Telemachus. DF observes that Nestor is allusive as to the very first reason for Odysseus’ delayed return, the clash between them in Tenedos. Let’s revisit this passage with DF. To Telemachus who asks him if he knows anything about his father’s whereabouts, Nestor gives a long answer, but, strangely enough, he is rather evasive about the actual moment of his separation from Odysseus. There is an intentional gap in the way Nestor answers, in the way he presents Odysseus’ departure. Instead of explaining why Odysseus returned from Tenedos to Troy, instead of stating clearly Odysseus’ position in the quandary of the Army over nostos, he only says that Odysseus turned back “to … Agamemnon”. Nestor’s focus at first is on the generalized quarrel after the fall of Troy, due to the disagreement between the Atreides as to if the Army should immediately depart or stay in order to perform expiatory sacrifices. [47]
The evasiveness is all the more striking because the whole scene in Tenedos is dominated by an atmosphere of division and anger as Nestor himself stresses: “We spent the night harboring harsh thoughts in our minds/ against each other (Odyssey 3.151-152)”. Nevertheless, when Nestor mentions Odysseus the tension is barely implied. [48] In fact, a few verses before, Nestor’s very first mention of Odysseus was accompanied by the strongest expression of harmonious coexistence, which seemed to preclude disagreement: “During the time there shining Odysseus and I/ never spoke on opposite sides in assembly or council,/ but with one spirit, by intelligence and wise counsel,/ we advised the Argives how what was best might come about (Odyssey 3.126-129). [49] Having “oneness in mind” seems to be the key to nostos, external and internal to the oikos. After all, Odysseus’ companions were lost because they were unable to have “oneness of mind” with Odysseus. When this identity of minds between Odysseus and Nestor broke, the Odyssey became possible, as the Iliad started as a poem of wrath. After all, wrath is the root of the most important metabolai in the epic. It is not only the Iliad that announces itself from the start as a poem of wrath. The Odyssey as well evolves through a series of anger episodes, [50]  which constantly deviate the hero from his path. Tenedos is a part of this pattern, and a very important one because what happened there is the root of the wanderings.
Nestor subsumes his story about the nostoi of the Army under the formulaic expression: nostos lugros, which is as well the theme of Phemios’ song. [51] With great subtlety the poem paints a society in Ithaka where the hero is assimilated to those of “a grim return”. The Ithakan bard’s presence in the Odyssey is tainted negatively, ambiguous at the beginning, confirmed irregular towards the end, as if Ithaka is a perverted audience—which it is. This audience is the young generation, and it will disappear at the end of the poem except for Telemachus, who has been initiated into the world of the heroes. The recurrence of the formulaic expression shows that this could have been the conventional way of referring to the cursed return from Troy.
The formula Nestor uses to designate the cursed heroes, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι, [52]  is the same that Athena-Mentor uses to designate the Suitors, and in both cases, death is the price. Nevertheless, Nestor creates three categories in his story: those who returned, the cursed that did not make it, and the one who has not returned. Both Nestor and Menelaos refer to this third category among the returners, or, as Menelaos says, the “the third man”, foreshadowing the possibility of a third type of nostos which does not allow assimilation to the cursed, which will unfold together with the poem, and which is definitely unique and atypical. [53]
Now, Nestor and Odysseus might not actually meet physically in the Odyssey, but Nestor is the first authoritative voice after the gods to speak about him, so his silence counts as much as what he says. He, Menelaus, and Helen do not only tell the tradition, they are the tradition. That is why, despite the precariousness of reflecting on textual silences, it is important to pursue a bit further. If Odysseus and Nestor’s disagreement in Tenedos had made it into the text we have, and had formed a Homeric dialogue, it would be a monumental piece: as the shadow of divine wrath was hovering over an Achaean army trapped by the fear of sacrilege, this dialogue would necessarily involve two diverging appreciations of the way Troy was taken by the Achaeans. The fact is that even when Nestor voices the divergent attitudes of the Atreides on the necessity of expiation of the gods, he does not utter explicitly the reason behind the divine wrath. In the same way, when Phemios sings “the grim return”, Homeric poetry does not include a verse explaining the reason behind the divine wrath that impedes nostos. There seems to be a requirement of discretion here, as if mentioning the sacrilege is illicit. Looking back to Telemachus’ shame for a father who is already a great hero, we understand that connecting him to “a grim return” would assimilate him to the sacrilegious heroes.
That in both cases the heroes and the bard have as primary audience the young generation is not fortuitous; it gives their “performance” the character of a testament that Homeric tradition intends to leave behind (at least when it crystallizes), the stories being an important initiation for “those to come”. Nestor remodels the tradition and seals it in a subtle but specific tone. Nestor is the hinge between the end of the Trojan War and the nostoi. His speech is the authoritative connecting point between the two traditions. In the timeline of the Odyssey this will be the only version of the army’s departure that the external audience will hear. Nestor addresses this story to Telemachus and to posterity alike, Homeric poetry being explicit about this level of future reception. What Nestor chooses to stress in his relation to Odysseus is the theme of homophrosune pointing out a common attitude and a common “function” in the army.

The Cosmic Barrier

DF gives great importance to the fact that Nestor does not help Odysseus to return. A few more thoughts on this, following DF’s reading of the implicit, are worth pointing out. It is true, Nestor does not go through the sea with Odysseus, but let us venture a step further: what if in this “disruption” there is an implicit recognition that Odysseus does not need Nestor for his return because this return has to be postponed. So, on the surface level, the relation of Nestor to Odysseus might seem antagonistic as regards nostos, or more specifically, the first nostos of Odysseus to Ithaka. On a deeper level of meaning, though, it is worth considering that Odysseus cannot be under Nestor for his nostos; he has to accomplish a different kind of travel all by himself, [54]  and he will reach the objective eventually. In other words he is not destined to leave the heroic world yet, whereas Nestor’s heroic path is accomplished. It is not because Nestor abandons Odysseus that the latter will not eventually return. The interesting question is: why?
First of all, Nestor cannot save everybody in the conventional sense of the word. [55] Still, the Odyssey presents him as the hero who returned par excellence, as his name predicts. However, he did not save his son, Antilochos, or his brother, Periklymenos. He did not save Achilles or Patroclus, on the contrary! It is quite clear that not departing from Tenedos with Nestor closes the path of immediate nostos for Odysseus and opens the one leading to the wanderings, all of this tied with the theme of divine wrath.
In fact, there is one verse in the story Nestor tells Telemachus that deserves more attention from this perspective: “I left, because I knew the bad things the daimon had in his mind (αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ σὺν νηυσὶν ἀολλέσιν, αἵ μοι ἕποντο,/ φεῦγον, ἐπεὶ γίγνωσκον, ὃ δὴ κακὰ μήδετο δαίμων, Odyssey 3.165-166). It is clear that Nestor senses the effects of the divine curse. Whereas the phrase that relates to divine intentions refers to the Returns in general, it also conveys the meaning of Nestor understanding divine plans: that Troy drawing back the heroes is a death place. Even if the text does not provide the ground to establish a direct causal relation between all these elements, the hint about Nestor’s foreknowledge is important to an examination of his role in Odysseus’ nostos.
The fact is that Nestor, who is a figure of superior intelligence, [56]  acts in a way that considerably influences the future. Thus, on this level, one could perhaps trace a relation of cause and effect in some major moments of action, because Nestor does in fact cause the plot to shift in both monumental epics! However, more than a singer of tales, [57]  I would consider him a man whose knowledge exceeds the epic present. Nestor is a very special agent of knowledge across ages: he knows and senses what others do not. It is as if a figure of wisdom has to exceed normal human capacities; acute intelligence points to closeness to the gods.
This other aspect of Nestor’s epic character is showcased by his role in the life of major Homeric heroes. He seems to be a figure of the past; his relation to time seems to exceed normal limits. Nestor is in fact an agent of time, hence the never clearly stated impression of a chronological extension of his life. [58] And this implicitly underlies the exceptional quality of his noos, as it does, explicitly, in the traditions related to Pythagoras. What Nestor himself says in Iliad Book 1 indicates that he has lived through more than one generations: [59]

Now you listen to me, both of you. You are both Younger than I am, and I’ve associated with men Better than you, and they didn’t treat me lightly. I’ve never seen men like those, and never will, The likes of Peirithous and Dryas, a shepherd to his people, Caineus and Exadius and godlike Polyphemus, [280] And Aegeus’son, Theseus, who could have passed for a god, The strongest men who ever lived on earth, the strongest, And they fought with the strongest, with wild things From the mountains, and beat the daylights out of them. I was their companion, although I came from Pylos, From the ends of the earth—they sent for me themselves. And I held my own fighting with them. You couldn’t find A mortal on earth who could fight with them now. And when I talked in council, they took my advice. [60]

Both the Iliad and the Odyssey refer to this theme. The passage above introduces Nestor by this very theme in his first appearance in the Iliad: this is how he depicts himself; before offering advice to Agamemnon and to Achilles he establishes his unique status among the heroes, which hinges on his knowledge of previous heroic generations, what is more, those of the superheroes to whom his current companions-in-arms at Troy cannot compare. In the Odyssey, Telemachus uses the same theme to describe Nestor’s superior noos and sense of justice, but as well to introduce what is not explicit in the Iliad, a hint of the theme of immortality:

But now I would find out about another story, and question Nestor, since the righteousness and thought in his mind outpass others’, and they say he has been lord over three generations of men. He shapes as an immortal for me to look upon (Odyssey 3.243-246 transl. Lattimore).

Nestor’s presence in Troy matters greatly because he possesses this particular configuration of noos: a combination of acute perception and more-than-one-lifetime knowledge that can and does influence destinies dramatically. For instance, as we see in Iliad 11.798, it was Nestor’s advice to Patroclus that changed his destiny as Nestor urged him to ask for Achilles’ weapons and go to the battlefield in his stead: “… Nestor plays a large role of an unusual sort in the story of Patroclus”. [61] We must see the “quarrel” between Nestor and Odysseus under the same light, as a game-changer for Odysseus’ destiny: leaving Odysseus behind is the decisive move for the wanderings to unfold. One cannot help but think that there is something supernatural about Nestor as he outlives three generations and his death is never mentioned. [62] As DF expresses it: “Nestor’s traditions were esoteric … Nestor’s traditions were never, I think, common knowledge”. [63]  It is exactly this bold hypothesis that inspired me to research further. As much as Odysseus, Nestor as well is very strong at preserving himself from death.

The Homeric epic associates Nestor with the most important epic choices, the ultimate ones: life or death. In the same way, when Nestor leaves Odysseus behind, the Ithakan hero takes a path that leads to the same ultimate choice, the one related to the women of his life, which is one between life or death, mortality or immortality. What Penelope and Patroclus represent, within their specific twinning dynamics, is the ultimate choice of mortality. Patroclus draws Achilles into battle and inescapable death; Penelope draws Odysseus back home, away from the path of immortality. In both cases Nestor has a role to play in the foreshadowing of Achilles’ and Odysseus’ ultimate choice of mortal condition over immortality, or glorious death over return, respectively. Thus long lifespan and foreknowledge puts Nestor high in the hierarchy of characters. Noos goes hand in hand with memory and justice. In a broader sense Nestor “helps” Odysseus join the path of his ultimate heroisation, as he does with Patroclus and Achilles. This is a parallel situation that reflects what DF means by Nestor “bridging the two poems”, [64]  because Nestor has a specific profile that both of the poems stress, while keeping some of his personality half expressed.
Even if Nestor’s relation to Odysseus’ (non) nostos is pictured as negative, there is more below the surface if we keep in mind that as a returner, Odysseus is absolutely unique. In fact, the theme of non-return is, together with the emotional load the narration attaches to it, a carefully woven veil hiding the extraordinary character of the last returning hero’s destiny. This happens because the Homeric attitude in the narration of the wanderings is to underplay the dimension of aethlos and willingness and stress the suffering of the only Homeric hero who receives the epithet polutlas. [65]  After all, being a hero is not about being happy, it is about being one of a kind. The more exceptional, the more highly ranked. Extraordinary states of heroism are not pictured as experiences of bliss. An interesting model for this is Nestor’s after-Troy story, modelled not as a triumphant account of victory but as a “pain narrative”. [66]  Thus we are meant to pity Odysseus rather than admire the exceptionality of his wanderings; the fact, for instance, that after Troy Odysseus is the “chosen one” because only he, and none of his Companions, gets to live with goddesses and, more importantly, survive!
In other words, the Homeric context, while picturing the extraordinary, supernatural part of the wanderings, underplays this aspect and stresses the human component—misery, unhappiness, toil, hardship … —as a way to emphasize the grip the human world and human condition still have on Odysseus. This is pretty much the general orientation of Homeric poetry. Homeric poems are deeply rooted in the human condition and promote the order of Zeus, which is about humans being solely humans. Still, we have to admit that something extraordinary happens to the wandering Odysseus. Despite the numerous physical and emotional hardships the wanderings bring him, his travels bring him to encounter immortal beings. As the last returning hero he thus experiences a part of existence that will be forever closed to humans after him. It is as if, from his wanderings, he has to bring back knowledge about this supernatural world coexisting with humans but not perceivable by them. This is suggested in the Odyssey by the topography of kleos that the poem draws: no news from the supernatural space can reach “the other side”.
The experience is deeply transformative regarding the status and rank of the hero: Odysseus’ newly acquired capacity to coexist with divine beings and endure the toughest ordeals upgrades his heroic status and brings him as close as can be to “the strongest men who have ever lived on earth”, as Nestor qualifies the previous generations of heroes (Iliad 1.249). The Odyssey and the non-return happen in order for Odysseus to go beyond Troy and accomplish what seems to be a mission of a cosmic nature. This world of wanderings, invisible to other humans, obeys a law of coexistence: it is parallel to Odysseus’ world but seems to refer to previous stages of the cosmos. Charles Segal’s formulation is fully operational in this context:

… just as the Odyssey tries to bring the polycentric, polytheistic world order under the unified morality of Zeus, so it tends to suppress or displace the cosmogonic strife in the background of the Iliad … the poem subsumes this chronological or historical dimension of the world order into the here and now of Zeus’s reign. By thus absorbing the struggles for cosmic sovereignty from the remote past into the present (or, in other terms, projecting the diachronic on the synchronic axis of the narrative), the Odyssey establishes its Olympian, Zeus-governed present as the only perspective from which an older order can be viewed. [67]

Thus, under the untold anger and the temporary divergence between the two heroes of noos, there is a deeper story of great theological importance that we cannot perceive directly, because it is not meant to be perceived directly. Threads of meaning are purposefully cut or deflected, and this is where we can experience the notion of a mystic Odyssey. Odysseus, ‘who causes the anger of the Gods’ in the very etymology of his name, [68]   is invested with the mission to bring back knowledge of a revolved or marginal divine world so that the superiority of Zeus’ order will be palpable. What Odysseus does, essentially, is separate in a block of stories his supernatural experiences, which are for the most part lived through in the absence of his Companions. He is the warrior-“bard” who, through his words, will make present an invisible world, a world beyond what Zeus allots to humans. The storytelling is an important part of his cosmic mission, if we judge by the length of the Apologoi. But why Odysseus? Why should he be the hero of the closure and the hero who brings back knowledge about a supernatural world?

Heroic missions do relate to or reflect the hero’s deep nature. Here the notion of an intelligence that can handle time in a special way will appear again. And how is time expressed in Greek origin mythology if not by the ever-diminishing closeness to the gods and by the wilting of the gift of supernatural strength as immortals and men progressively drift apart. Odysseus will experience the limits between his generation and previous cosmic stages. Heroism is measured by the intensity of dangers faced: “The strongest men who ever lived on earth,” … who “fought with the strongest, with wild things from the mountains, and beat the daylights out of them” are not part of the world of Zeus: “You couldn’t find a mortal on earth who could fight with them now” (Iliad 1.272). This is the ultimate reason for the fragmented topography of the Odyssey, to illustrate what I call the law of coexistence. Previous stages of the cosmos are still there, but humans cannot coexist with supernatural beings on the synchronic level anymore. The world of Zeus is inhabited by a race that is not able to face dangers such as those of the past, which is why the ruler of the cosmos is about to separate the two dimensions irrevocably.
Odysseus is unique, because in this new world the qualities of noos replace superhuman strength: similar to the divine world, where the supreme god prevails thanks to the incorporation of Metis, Odysseus is the human incarnation of metis among the heroes, fully accredited by Athena at the end of his wanderings, when the goddess finally appears to him on the shore of Ithaka (Odyssey 13.221 sq). In this he is the equivalent of Zeus among men, [69]   constantly distinguished from and opposed to the society of his Companions. Metis is not only cunningness, it is a very complex quality: on the theological level it is a kingly quality that opens the vision to the past, the present, and the future. [70]  It pictures the notion of a god who becomes all-knowing and unsurpassable in intelligence only when he assimilates the feminine principle that will make him the metieta. Zeus swallows his first spouse Metis because as a separate entity she is a threat to him and because he needs to incorporate her power and acquire knowledge of all that is so that he will no longer need the complement of a feminine oracular or visionary power, [71]   as he did at the beginning of his career as a sovereign. If Metis were left to her individuality, she would have given birth to a powerful Son who would overthrow the Father. In the divine realm Zeus brings an age to closure as Odysseus is brought to do in the human world. Metis is the Force that allows Zeus to put the Universe in order.
As a master of time, Zeus will stabilize his reign through total separation between men and gods as well as by stopping generation in the divine realm, because it threatens the stability of the divine world. [72]  However, as mentioned above, metis qualifies Odysseus as well for a special relation to time. On this point we have a lot to learn from the Calypso episode. When the Homeric epic needs a hint in order to reiterate the theological background of the story, it gives it. On the surface, Odysseus is blocked by the “Concealer” and unable to return. But there is more to it: the world Odysseus experiences has ambiguous relations with Dios Boule because the Olympians are said to be “jealous and resentful” when goddesses sleep with men. ‘You are hard-hearted, you gods, and jealous beyond all creatures beside, when you are resentful toward the goddesses for sleeping openly with such men as each has made her true husband”, are Calypso’s words to Hermes coming to summon her to let go of Odysseus (Odyssey 5.118-120).
Calypso’s words, which sound like an interpretation of Hermes’ message from Zeus, point towards the end of a cosmic age. This is not only about Odysseus’ return to Ithaka. Deciphering the role of Odysseus as a lover is always an appealing topic for Homerists, who sometimes find that “Odysseus is not good in sexual constraint”. [73]  However, reducing Odysseus’ behavior to an individual psychological trait impedes us from seeing the much larger pattern underlying the hero’s sexual encounters. Through rules of sexual union, Zeus stabilizes the universe. Thus it is important to situate Odysseus’ sexual unions in this framework and understand that refusing immortality is part of his mission of closure.
We find here enacted the principles of Greek anthropology on mortality and immortality. The text is clear: such encounters are an open door to immortality. We are in presence here of a major theological pattern that overdetermines the meaning of sexual encounters between mortals and immortals. This same pattern determines as well the overall finality of the epic. The Trojan War is a cosmic war, it puts an end to the generation of heroes. Thus Odysseus’ wanderings appear like a kind of regression to the times when mortals and immortals could mix.
The essence of Odysseus is that he understands very well the rules of his religious grammar: he will refuse Calypso’s offer because it refers to an incomplete form of immortality [74] ; mortals cannot sustain exceptional openings towards the divine world anymore; ultimately he would join the fate of the mortal men named by Calypso. This is most probably the reason why the Odyssey does not mention any offspring coming out of the relationship of Odysseus with the goddesses.
There are many levels to uncover in this interplay between Odysseus and the goddesses. Odysseus is a man of metis, and one can see in the choice of the goddesses a high admiration of this quality, be it Athena, Circe, or Calypso. As Segal says, Odysseus does not only read the minds of men, but of gods as well. [75]  It is clear that this distinguishes him from the other mortals: he is put to trial before he is chosen by the goddesses. Circe tests the newcomers and Odysseus wins her over; thanks to his acute perspicacity he prevails over her. Metis is a royal quality: Odysseus’ metis makes him a good candidate for mating with goddesses, hence a potential candidate for immortality. What the poem implies here is that metis, superior intelligence, is the way to surpass even human nature, to go beyond it, which is conceived as a threat. Metis can challenge the limits between life and death as suggested by figures like Sisyphus, Odysseus, or, on the divine level, Hermes, the only Olympian who can cross the threshold of death. [76]
Thus taking into account the implicit but all-pervading theme of the ages of humanity [77] and its cosmic dimension allows the epic subtext to unfold. Here is where we find again the time-travel theme. This suggests that Odysseus in the “unreal” world is going back in time, he is not so much traveling in space but in time. Nobody goes to the supernatural realm in the Iliad, only the gods come to visit humans of a specific breed. Very rare are those who visit the dead as well. Odysseus is thus situated on a specific scale between gods and men because he is able to cross barriers of time backwards and return. Noos and metis have to do with knowledge or mastery of time in Greek thought. Metis knows past present and future. Zeus ensures stability by stopping generation, which amounts to mastery of time. Nestor is of supernatural longevity. [78]  Odysseus is in the process of acquiring knowledge beyond his time; he is eager to explore the past (Odyssey 11.628-631) and only the fear of divine punishment stops him (Odyssey 11.633-635). The theme of return of the heroes after Troy belongs to a very particular anthropological level in Greek culture that relates to a transition from one state of humanity to another. Odysseus is experiencing what other humans know only through inspired mouths, the aoidoi: he is physically experiencing the theological dimension of his culture.
For humans time is a barrier, backward and forward, which is why some experiences remain inaccessible to them. In the Odyssey, though, there is a latent level that underlies everything: the supernatural dimension of poetic temporality. This becomes less cryptic if we see that within the Homeric cycle of time as represented in the Iliad and the Odyssey, Odysseus is the end of the spectrum, Nestor the beginning, the witness of other times. By his mystic experience Odysseus will also become a man who has experienced more than one age (as is Nestor Gerenios), -ante- heroic, heroic, metaheroic-, partaking of time in dimensions larger than one life, besides the fact that he is offered immortality as well. Nestor’s quality as an elder with an unusual lifespan is part of his importance in the Iliad. Every single detail about temporality points to a hidden meaning. In her own way, Penelope as well is fully part of the game of time: her role is crucial, because she does act on time in Ithaka until the two worlds come into harmony again, until no interference between human and divine time is possible. The last act in the Odyssey is Athena’s play with time, when Odysseus and Penelope finally reunite (Odyssey 23.240 sq). Furthermore, the constant interference of Athena with Odysseus’s appearance signifies a shifting of age, an unstable relation to human time.

A God’s Kin

In brief, characters in the Odyssey significantly related to nostos seem to have a special relation to time (which is why Telemachus needs Athena for his travel). However, even a powerful noos that possesses the highest capacity of perception, cannot see through the barrier of time that is death. Early in the history of the Greek cosmos, Greek mythology teaches us that human beings lost their capacity to foresee death, let alone visit the underworld: in the speech Prometheus delivers in the Prometheus Bound about the gifts he offered to humans he says: “I caused mortals to cease foreseeing their doom”. [79]  Odysseus though, having broken the human barriers of time and space, will cross even this unthinkable barrier, the highest challenge for a living human and a peculiar prerequisite for his nostos. [80] In symmetry with his encounters with supernatural beings, Odysseus in Hades does not solely inquire about his future; he looks for first-hand knowledge about the past, [81]   which is conveyed to him through heroic genealogies given from the safest source: mothers. The exceptionality of the wanderings is at its peak.
Let us then follow Odysseus on his uncanny trip to see what more we can learn about his relation to Nestor and his own nostos. However, we should not expect any straightforward link. By now I consider established that in the Homeric epics, part of Nestor’s mythical existence is intentionally kept in the realm of the implicit. I am even convinced that “Nestor’s traditions were esoteric … [82] ”. In the Odyssey, Odysseus “meets” Nestor—only indirectly—in two circumstances, both related to his nostos: while away from Odysseus Nestor still affects the hero’s destiny more directly when he meets Telemachus, and in a subtler way through an element that his genealogy stresses in the Nekuia. In both cases Odyssean poetics aim at filling in missing pieces of a puzzle: the encounter with Telemachus reveals information about absent Odysseus; the latter is about Nestor: “Odysseus … in the underworld … comes face to face with Nestor’s myth”. [83]  What I see as the most important point in this process is the statement that Nestor is the grandson of Poseidon.
It is his first divine love, the daughter of Helios, Circe, that sets Odysseus on the path to Hades (and even sets the ship in the right direction by sending the appropriate wind to steer it magically), [84]   having made clear that the key to the hero’s nostos lies with the dead:

… but first there is another journey you must accomplish and reach the house of Hades and of revered Persephone, there to consult with the soul of Teiresias the Theban, the blind prophet, whose senses stay unshaken within him, to whom alone Persephone has granted intelligence even after death, but the rest of them are flittering shadows (Odyssey 10.490-495, transl. Lattimore).

Tiresias, the guide of Odysseus in the other world is, once more, a figure who has survived many generations. However, what Odysseus eventually does in Hades is clearly beyond Circe’s instructions, namely, to meet the famous seer and inquire about his nostos. [85]  In fact, a big part of his visit is dedicated to “ the wives and daughters of princes” of previous generations who approach the sacrificial pit, while he is conversing with Antikleia:

So we two were conversing back and forth, and the women came to me. They were sent my way by proud Persephone. These were all who had been the wives and daughters of princes, and now they gathered in swarms around the dark blood. I then thought about a way to question them, each by herself, and as I thought, this was the plan that seemed best to me (Odyssey 11, 225-230, transl. Lattimore).

The first souls Odysseus allows to access the blood, the first souls he chooses to animate, are in fact Tiresias and then his mother, Antikleia. [86]  There is of course a fundamental reason for this: these souls open for him the path back to human condition, connecting him in different ways with human time and history—past present or future—foreshadowing his return to human temporality. Odysseus’ maternal lineage, Hermes and Antikleia, will in fact play an important part in the process of the return, Hermes conveying Zeus’ decision to Calypso to free Odysseus, Antikleia connecting him to Ithaka and his wife.

We need to stress a point that does not receive the attention it deserves: the secret ritual that Odysseus receives from Circe is a very uncommon piece of knowledge [87] ; to express it in mystic terms, it makes of Odysseus an initiate to mysteries of the beyond, an initiation that he receives in two stages, from Circe and from Tiresias. He is not just visiting Hades, he is animating souls. The fact that Odysseus’ infernal experience appears to scholars as “semi-katabatic, semi necromantic” [88] does not explain the scene. Following the principle of interpreting “Homer from Homer” it is clear that in the framework of a unique experience such as the wanderings, the hero’s access to Hades has to be unique, too, in resonance with other elements in the poem, which complete its meaning. Going back in human time through Hades is symmetrical to what Odysseus does in the supernatural world.
Now, the sequence of events during this very intense moment is not at all fortuitous. Odysseus is the only one among his Companions who is vested with the knowledge and hence the power, to animate the souls. Thus, within the logic of the narration, it is Odysseus himself who effectively structures the catalogue of heroines as he is the one who chooses which soul will first drink the blood in order to talk, and he is the one who conveys the genealogy to his Phaiakian audience:

I would not let them all drink the dark blood at the same time. So they waited and came to me in order, and each one told me about her origin, and I questioned all of them. There first I saw Tyro, gloriously descended, and she told me she was the daughter of stately Salmoneus, but said she was the wife of Kretheus, the son of Aiolos, and she was in love with a river, godlike Enipeus, by far the handsomest of all those rivers whose streams cross over the earth, and she used to haunt Enipeus’ beautiful waters; taking his likeness, the god who circles the earth and shakes it lay with her where the swirling river finds its outlet, and a sea-blue wave curved into a hill of water reared up about the two, to hide the god and the mortal woman; and he broke her virgin zone and drifted a sleep upon her. But when the god had finished with the act of lovemaking, he took her by the hand and spoke to her and named her, saying: “Be happy, lady, in this love, and when the year passes you will bear glorious children, for the couplings of the immortals are not without issue. You must look after them, and raise them. Go home now and hold your peace and tell nobody my name, but I tell it to you; I am the Earthshaker Poseidon.” So he spoke and dived back into the heaving water of the sea, but she conceived and bore Pelias and Neleus, and both of these grew up to be strong henchmen of mighty Zeus; Pelias lived, rich in sheepflocks, in the wide spaces of Iolkos, while the other was king in sandy Pylos; but this queen among women bore the rest of her children to Kretheus, Aison and Pheres and Amythaon delighting in horses (Odyssey 11.232-259, transl. Lattimore).

Odysseus’ performance shifts here towards the catalogic genre. This is not the main skill or interest of Homeric bards’ repertoire as we know it, [89]   but here the catalogue of heroines proves instrumental in more than one way. DF has analysed with great finesse this difficult passage, where Homeric poetry makes uses of a genre by subverting it to its own needs. DF draws our attention to the fact that the catalogue of heroines is highly codified and heavily “Nestor oriented”. [90] The catalogue is split in two parts because Odysseus interrupts the performance. It is possible that the interruption produces the occasion of two ceremonial moments, each aiming to celebrate the Neleids; the solemnity is reinforced by the fact that there is a god speaking. In any case, the passages heading the two catalogues are the longer ones, which is a clear sign of their importance. [91]

Significantly, the first soul Odysseus chooses to animate after Tiresias and Antikleia is Nestor’s grandmother, Tyro, and this is the closest he can get to Nestor during his wanderings. The preeminent position of Tyro’s story and later of Nestor’s mother Chloris’ story, is a telling example of “a structure that conveys itself a message”. [92]  The principle of a structure that is meaningful has to be extended to the whole Odyssey. DF analyses this structure through his perspective of the twin myth. In my line of inquiry here I focus on what this exceptional recitation of Nestor’s genealogy tells us about the relation between Nestor and Odysseus, because in the Odyssey it is never about Nestor alone. I believe that the explicit mention of Poseidon offers a missing link, adding an important perspective to the hero’s arduous nostos. Remarkably, Odysseus impersonates his antagonist god in this highly ceremonial moment, where Poseidon’s voice resonates through the space of the performance.
According to DF, though, in this first genealogy the passage about Enipeus and Poseidon is interpolated; the initial passage had only the river Enipeus as Tyro’s lover; the catalogue as we have it now is reworked by an Athenian interpolator, most probably Onomakritos acting under the orders of Peisistratos: “The primary purpose was to put the god Poseidon back where he belonged at the head of the Neleid genealogy and then to give an Athenian stamp to the catalogue as a whole, so that its relevance to Peisistratos would be perceived [93] ”. DF holds that the original catalogue was Ionian in perspective and the mode of narrating was allusion, a mode weakened in the Athenian interpolation, which offers an expanded version of the story of Tyro:

… in the original catalogue the story of her union with Poseidon was suppressed in favor of an older version of the myth, in which she bore the twins Neleus and Pelias to the river god Enipeus. The passage that the interpolator has inserted into the middle of the original version brings Poseidon back into the story by having him take on the likeness of Enipeus and thus lie with Tyro. To the Ionians for whom the original catalogue was composed, and for the Milesians in particular, Poseidon’s role in the story was always implied, even though Enipeus alone was present in it.[218] Non-Ionians, however, may not have been as attuned to the close connection between Enipeus and Poseidon. There was thus perhaps an element of correction in the interpolator’s addition to the story, or at least the desire to bring the story back into line with what was more commonly known. [94]

This is a delicate process from the point of view of politics but of poetics as well: a successful act of interpolation, political as it may be, presupposes interpretation. I am never keen to accept the concept of interpolation, but I must say that DF’s hypothesis is tempting; here is the deep logic of it: “The Ionian catalogue had no interest in telling stories for their own sake; rather it arranged everything in a structure which itself conveyed a message that under no circumstances was to be expressed more directly [95] ”. The interpolator seems to master his job; he serves his objective masterfully. Despite the remake of the catalogue, which adds lines to other existing entries as well as creates new ones, the initial purpose to give predominance to Nestor’s ancestry remains clear and is reinforced in a spectacular way. If there is indeed interpolation, the interpolator chose to make the hidden message explicit, highlighting the role of Poseidon not only by naming him but by making him deliver a direct speech. This contradicts in a way the implicit message about secrecy which is inscribed in the very words of Poseidon: “Go home now and hold your peace and tell nobody my name, but I tell it to you; I am the Earthshaker Poseidon (Odyssey 11.250). One could read here a possible playful allusion that the interpolator was conscious of the original intention of discretion, an intention which is reinforced by the fact that the recitation is staged in the most mystical of all worlds, Hades.

Textual silentium creates its own logic. The analysis of the Catalogue of Women by DF is highly significant from this point of view, because it sets us on a reading mode that reveals implicit connections, as the one between Nestor’s genos and Poseidon whose deeper significance can go unnoticed. To be able to move on ground as controversial as allusiveness, it will be useful to mention here a misconception in the Homeric bibliography. Part of the scholarship considers that Poseidon is not present enough in the poem and that the mention of his wrath is inconsistent. My take on the matter is closer to Murgatroyd’s; in his article on the wrath of Poseidon he unearths possible moments where Poseidon might be present though unnamed. This kind of problem arises because we focus only on Poseidon’s anger. To perceive more thoroughly the god’s presence in the Odyssey, we must look, not only for the angry Poseidon that actively persecutes Odysseus, but for the hidden or more discrete one. Through subtle and less subtle touches, the poem keeps reminding us that Poseidon is interweaved with Odysseus’ fate throughout the poem and even beyond.
The way DF reads the Homeric treatment of Nestor adds an important component to this approach. In fact, Nestor’s relation to Odysseus becomes more meaningful when we pay equal attention to the wrath of Poseidon and to his subtle presence; every sign of his presence is fully meaningful. Nestor, like Polyphemus, is related to Poseidon—he is the grandson of Poseidon; he dissociates himself from Odysseus’ nostos because of a quarrel; he thus becomes part of what seems to be a pattern affecting nostos: Odysseus + quarrel + Poseidon + return. This puts Odysseus’ nostos into perspective from the very beginning, after the Trojan War. In fact, his return and consequently the reestablishment of order are possible only through spaces related to Poseidon. Phaiakia is one of them, and Pylos as well, where the entrance of Telemachus in the heroes’ world happens through a festival in honor of Poseidon. [96]  One cannot help but think that Odysseus’ nostos is specifically affected by his relation to descendants of Poseidon, other than the wronged and furious Polyphemus.
Again, it is Poseidon’s words addressed to his brother Zeus that will help us grasp the implicit message. If all mortals and immortals have the obligation to respect Poseidon, his kin are even more tied by this duty. It is the disappointed god of the sea himself who says exactly this about the Phaiakians who have helped Odysseus with his return: “Father Zeus, no longer among the gods immortal shall I be honored, when there are mortals who do me no honor, the Phaiakians, and yet these are of my own blood (Odyssey 13.129-130, transl. Lattimore)”. The poem does in fact highlight Poseidon’s kinship with characters that interact with Odysseus; we are meant to understand—explicitly in the case of the Phaiakians—that the god’s kin cannot help his enemies. Clearly stated here is a transgression that lies on the grounds of relation through blood. Not even Athena can ignore the rule of respecting her uncle, as she herself explains to Odysseus, using a term from the vocabulary of kinship to designate Poseidon: he is her father’s (elder) brother, her uncle: πατροκασίγνητος (Odyssey 13.342). Athena’s words on the shore of Ithaka point us back to the moment where Nestor parts ways with Odysseus, thus becoming the facilitator of the wanderings.
There is of course here a problem of timing: Poseidon is supposed to persecute Odysseus only after he blinds Polyphemus. However, Odysseus’ antagonistic relation with Poseidon is said to have been already announced in old prophecies (Odyssey 9.507-512), which in the Odyssean logic makes the wanderings a predestined part of his heroic life, as if Odysseus had the stamp of the antagonist of Poseidon from the beginning. In this case, being a man of supernatural intuition, Nestor could know what seafaring with Odysseus could mean. Here of course we can only speculate. However, there is at least one element that supports the idea of a peculiar prothusteron in timing. The plaintive words of Odysseus to Athena, when she reveals herself to the hero upon his arrival to Ithaka: “But after we had sacked the sheer citadel of Priam, and went away in our ships, and the god scattered the Achaians, I never saw you, daughter of Zeus, after that, nor did I know of your visiting my ship, to beat off some trouble from me (Odyssey 13.316-320, transl. Lattimore)”. To this Athena responds not by mentioning her own wrath against the Greeks but the wrath of Poseidon against Odysseus, which is anachronistic: “But, you see, I did not want to fight with my father’s brother, Poseidon, who was holding a grudge against you in his heart, and because you blinded his dear son, hated you (Odyssey 13.341-343, transl. Lattimore)”.
Should we look for Poseidon where he is not named [97] ? Nestor’s genealogy is precisely part of the “discrete Poseidon pattern”. The two times he appears in direct relation to Poseidon it is the subtle, benevolent aspect of the god: the hecatomb he offers in Book 3 shows his deep respect to his divine ancestor. Here an important question comes up: is Nestor’s capacity of being a home-bringer a sign of his connaturality with Poseidon? If Nestor is symmetrical to the Phaiakians, as per DF’s hypothesis, then it is even more plausible: in Tenedos Nestor separates from his ancestor’s antagonist, or even becomes himself an antagonist, and “sends” Odysseus to the “Wanderland”; the Phaikians bring him back. Furthermore, if there is a symmetry between the Phaiakians and Nestor, and the Phaiakians have special powers, Nestor is more likely to have supernatural powers as well. After all Poseidon is his grandfather! In Poseidon’s way of expressing this, “they are of my own blood”. We can see that the line of Poseidon has an affinity with the god as Odysseus has an affinity with his remote ancestor Hermes, expressed in his capacity of crossing barriers and his extraordinary perspicacity.

The Mother, the Wife, and the Cosmic Barrier

Before my trip to the land of noos comes to its end, I need to say a bit more about the Phaiakians: not only are they the only ones that can make Odysseus’ nostos possible, but they are the occasion for the performance of the Apologoi. Nothing happens without a reason in the epic. So why choose the Phaiakians as audience? The answer has to do with the itineraries of kleos in the poem. The Odyssey entrusts the son of Odysseus, Telemachos, to break the barrier of the absolute silence that covers his absent father’s fate. It seems that there is no way for any information about Odysseus to reach Ithaka during the wanderings. The words of Telemachos to Athena-Mentes are clear; something very unique for a hero has happened to Odysseus: “But now the gods, with evil intention, have willed it otherwise, and they have caused him to disappear, in a way no other man has done … ingloriously the stormwinds have caught and carried him away, out of sight, out of knowledge, and he left pain and lamentation to me”. [98]
What happens is that Odysseus fares in a different dimension; he is symbolically, if not physically, “captured” in another cosmic age or space. [99] The impossibility of communication (“out of sight, out of knowledge”) has to be understood as a difference of essence between the human world and the landscape of the wanderings, [100]   which is why the text insists so much on this. It is like passing from gravity to micro-gravity. The only breakthrough is possible only via a supernatural creature, Proteus (Odyssey 4.499-537), not directly to the Ithakans, but via Menelaus, himself wandering far from home. There is no straightforward communication from supernatural to human world; there is no help that can come from human societies; there is no sign that can cross the cosmic barrier. As much as the divine world is invisible to humans, so is wandering Odysseus.
In this coded poetic structure of two “airtight” worlds, specific shifting points are needed for Odysseus to be able to transition between different dimensions. The first shifting point is the quarrel in Tenedos, in other words, his separation from the Home-bringer, which propels him in the unknown. Hades is the second major shifting point, the one that will in a way counterbalance Poseidon’s grip [101] on Odysseus’ return: the Underworld appears to be the necessary transition from the non-human world back to humanity. It is there where Odysseus finds a figure crucial to his home-bringing, Tiresias. Congruent to the pattern noosnostos, Tiresias is as well a man of exceptional noos and unusual length of life or number of lives. The Phaiakians, intimately connected to Nestor, are the ultimate shifting point, as DF has shown.
However, the significance of Odysseus’ arrival in Phaiakia is not limited to the level of the hero’s individual fate; it is not only the final stopover in his travels. It is an event of cosmic scale because it affects as deeply both the hero and his hosts. Odysseus reaches his destination and destiny through the Phaiakians, but the decisive influence is mutual. Up to the hero’s arrival [102] the Phaiakians had actively transgressed the cosmic barrier, as they were endowed with the capacity to fare between worlds with different temporalities. [103] However, at this stage of cosmic evolution, the Phaiakians themselves have to remain confined forever on their side of the cosmic barrier, which has to remain closed. No physical coexistence with humans will be possible for them henceforth. [104]
Thus, through his wanderings, Odysseus himself becomes a shifting point affecting both the real and unreal world. [105] He—and consequently the Odyssey—represent the real closure of the age of heroes. The significance of his being the last to return is that he is journeying toward the meta-heroic age, represented by the generation of his son and the suitors, hence the importance of the suitors myth. [106]  Odysseus is the man of the transition. The world that the wandering hero saw must remain closed to humans; he has to be the last one to experience it. In fact, the reason for the lack of communication between these two dimensions is that Odysseus is not travelling from one space to another, he is travelling across cosmic ages, like a song, or, in his case, a song in the making, an unaccomplished destiny becoming a song. The man who stands in front of the Phaiakians to ask for his nostos is building an extraordinary profile through his performance before asking them to escort him back to his homeland. [107]
It has become a commonplace in Homeric studies to consider Odysseus Apologoi in Phaiakia a mirroring of the aedic performances. DF goes further and anchors this aspect of the Odyssey in history: “the Phaeacians who represent the Ionians at the Panionia, also represent the creation of the Homeric poems at the Panionia”. [108]  In honor of DF’s elaborate model I wish to focus on a thread that runs through DF’s arguments without being fully developed: it is the hypothesis of Nestor’s traditions being esoteric. The very nature of the subject does not allow for full development, but what I hope at least is to contribute towards making future readers of the Odyssey and of Hippota Nestor less suspicious about hidden meanings and more ready to admit an intention of discretion in the poems, even if the reason for this discretion is not evident to us.
The first recounting of Odysseus’ wanderings happens in the Phaiakian court—not the Trojan adventures which are part of Demodokos’ repertoire, but his tribulations up to his arrival in Phaiakia. [109]  The delivery of his story at the royal court marks two important events from the point of view of the performance: it connects two songs, two aspects of Odysseus’ saga, the Trojan feat and the Odyssey of the wanderings. Odysseus first listens to his Trojan kleos, and then he delivers an up-to-that-point Odyssey. In Phaiakia his identity as a major hero is already established in the appropriate way (the meta-heroic era has already started), not through his own words but through the kleos of the song sung by Demodokos. As the only survivor of his Odyssean adventures, Odysseus makes his new song known himself, a song that does not evolve in a human landscape.
All this means that Odysseus is creating the poem at the very moment that the unreal world will close forever. He delivers it behind the barrier, outside the human circuits of kleos. But there is more to the exclusivity or uniqueness of Odysseus’ narration. Odysseus is an able and enticing narrator always, but to appreciate the uniqueness of the Apologoi we have to keep in mind the sharp distinction between his fake stories and the true one. To whom he addresses the latter is of paramount importance in the economy of the poem: if the Phaiakians are the Ionians, it is logical then that they are the first to receive the Odyssey, namely, the part about the wanderings and the unreal world. This allows for a claim of ownership to be embedded in the epic.
After the return to Ithaka, though, the narration of the wanderings does not take place in the open, even after the suitors are dead. It had to happen before Odysseus crossed the barrier that separates the non-human from human world. There is a reason for this, unsaid but recoverable, if we reconstruct a few elements. The Phaiakians receive the full narration of Odysseus’ adventures, but the poem does not tell us the content of the song that will be sung in Ithaka after the return of the hero. Once more, important meaning is conveyed implicitly through two decisive moments. In echo to what happens in Book 1, where Phemios sings a controversial song, in Book 22 we see Odysseus ready to kill him, because in the absence of the king the content of his songs has been dictated by the Suitors (Odyssey 22.344-353). Up to then, the Odyssean adventures of Odysseus are delivered only by the hero himself and destined only to two highly significant audiences: the Phaiakians and, in Ithaka after his return, a very exclusive audience in the recess of the oikos: Penelope. [110]  This choice is not fortuitous; it has its roots in the Nekuia.
In fact, remarkably, when Odysseus meets his mother in Hades, she enjoins him to keep in mind what he sees to recount it to his wife (Odyssey 11.223-224: ταῦτα δὲ πάντα/ ἴσθ᾽, ἵνα καὶ μετόπισθε τεῇ εἴπῃσθα γυναικί). An implicit relation exists between the two “performances” of Odysseus, the one in Phaiakia and the one exclusively for Penelope. They take their full meaning if we pay attention to Antikleia’s warning, “keep the narration of what he sees for his wife”. [111]  And this is what effectively happens: when the king and the queen of Ithaka reunite on their bed, the two parts of the Odyssey (Odysseus’ wanderings and Penelope’s Ithaka), kept apart until the last moment, reunite in the form of stories told in succession. This is not fortuitous. When Odysseus finally reunites with his wife after having gained control over his palace, this is the moment when the return of the song can take place and will be explicitly staged by the poet as advised by Antikleia: Penelope is the only audience of the tale of his wanderings (the last). [112]  This kleos that could not arrive to Ithaka now comes as a complement to the establishment of justice after the punishment of the suitors, as if there were no possible audience before. Furthermore, now that the hero has brought back the song to his native land, the second Nekuia can announce the Odyssey as “the song the immortals will make about Penelope … whose glory will never perish”, a song “made” by the gods themselves. [113]  A specific type of hero is born through the wanderings as an alternative pattern to the returns as pictured in the after-Troy descriptions of Nestor or Menelaos.
Antikleia’s words can be read as the reason why there is no other “performance” in Ithaka about the travels. Each time Odysseus tells a story outside the situations mentioned above it is a lie, as Athena pointedly states at his arrival at Ithaka:

It would be a sharp one, and a stealthy one, who would ever get past you in any contriving; even if it were a god against you. You wretch, so devious, never weary of tricks, then you would not even in your own country give over your ways of deceiving and your thievish tales. They are near to you in your very nature. [114]

Within the temporality of the Odyssey, the secret, the true story, has to remain with the royal family of Phaiakia or with his alter ego, Penelope, in the most private space of the palace. The Phaiakians are a safe audience, they are meant to stay forever behind the cosmic barrier, which will not open again as per Poseidon’s punishment; this happens as well for the requirements of the new era under Dios boule to be fulfilled. This is why the Phaiakians “need” Odysseus in a way, because he is the agent that cuts them off forever from the human world. Odysseus closes gates.

Another element that suggests the esoteric nature of Odysseus’ travels and performances is the loss of his companions. Odysseus has to stay in control of the experiences during the wanderings. From this point of view, the important aspect is not that the Companions cross the barrier with him initially but that they do not come back, so they do not unveil the secret. This total destruction is a potent sign for the mystical character of the journey and the importance of the barrier.
Can we reconstruct a reason for the need for discretion? All these creatures behind the cosmic barrier are meant to be away from humans because they represent powers that can counteract Zeus’ order, [115]   which at this stage might be more precarious than we think. This is a common denominator between Calypso, Circe, and the Phaiakians. They all offer to Odysseus alternatives that objectively counteract Zeus’ rules, the result being fluidity between human and divine states: divine beings mating with mortals, and supernatural travels, possibly opening access to forbidden spaces and knowledge that no human should have. This recalls a Promethean approach to humans, in the sense that it offers the possibility of contact with supernatural beings (and enhanced capacities) that had only been possible before the Olympian order was established. That there is a whole divine world thriving outside of Zeus’ order is a delicate matter, not to be sung.
The bottom line of this pre-Zeusian state of things is a certain degree of fluidity between human and divine states. Olympians are tied to each other as a group by the acceptance of shared privileges and duties. This is not exactly the case for the outer group of gods, either among their peers or with the Olympians. Even if they do not have to fully submit to Zeus’ power, they are forced to remain in the margins. The idea of arrogance and defiance lurks throughout the wanderings: the Phaiakians are descendants of an arrogant Giant who has challenged the gods; Poseidon’s words against the Phaiakians show that the dissent was there before Odysseus; Calypso shows clearly her disagreement with Zeus’ orders; Polyphemus is arrogant when he refers to the Olympians. [116]


In company of Douglas Frame, we have questioned the very concept of Odysseus’ nostos as it is commonly perceived. We went beyond the very negative colouring of Odysseus’ travels. Nostos as depicted in the Odyssey is more than the narrative of the hero’s return. It is the ultimate theme, the catalyst that discriminates between levels of noos: between the mind that knows how to read, to recognize signs, and the mind that is blind to the superhuman dimension of life. How profound a notion nostos is, how deep its narrative relation with noos—the very etymology of the word says it, as established through a multi-level analysis by Douglas Frame.
My last stop before ending the present trip to the land of noos will be the distinction that DF establishes between Nestor and Odysseus on the very level of noos, making of Nestor alone the embodiment of noos. [117]  It is on this point that I would like to conclude. In the dialogue with DF, one of the fundamental hypotheses that I share with him is that the Homeric epics “reflect an overall design”: “I make this claim on the basis of Nestor’s role in the two poems, which, as I have analyzed it, is of a single piece, bridging both poems. Nestor’s role in the story of Patroclus in the Iliad matches his role in the story of Odysseus in the Odyssey, in both substance and style”. [118]  When the Odyssey opens, the two heroes are not on the same level, they are not of the same generation or of the same heroic status. As we said, when the Odyssey needs a hint to recall the theological background of the story, it gives it. Nestor belongs to the pre-Trojan generation, and an important passage in the Iliad tells us a lot about the epic code on this matter. As Nestor himself puts it in his very first Iliadic appearance: “You [Agamemnon and Achilles] are both Younger than I am, and I’ve associated with men Better than you… The strongest men who ever lived on earth, the strongest … You couldn’t find a mortal on earth who could fight with them now (Iliad 1.260-273). Odysseus himself says that “he will not compete with men of older times (Odyssey 8.223)”. What Nestor says indirectly in the Iliad is that no one can match the heroes of his time. Exceptional noos points here to one of its fundamental latent characteristics, a special relation to time. This very aspect of Nestor allows him to become that figure of foreknowledge who sets the heroes on the path of their ultimate glory. Other instances in the epic shed light on how the oldest of the heroes influences the evolution of events: if Nestor is the one to push Patroclus to his death to accomplish what the second component of his name insinuates, in the same way he pushes Odysseus to accomplish what his name suggests, to measure himself with divine beings, sometimes in ways that make them hate him. When Nestor leaves Odysseus behind, he knows that they are not meant to return together, he knows that this is not a simple quarrel, because “he is aware of the daimon’s intentions (3. 166)”. Nestor does more for Odysseus than if he brought him back to Ithaka: being of the same nature, he knows that only Odysseus can accomplish the last act of the heroic world. Nestor’s major role in this generation stays stable from the Iliad to the Odyssey.


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———, 1993: “Telemachus and the Last Hero Song”, Colby Quarterly, 29 (3), p. 222-240.
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Muellner, L., 1996: The Anger of Achilles: Mênis in Greek Epic. Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_MuellnerL.The_Anger_of_Achilles.1996.
Nagy, G., 1999: The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry. Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_NagyG.The_Best_of_the_Achaeans.1999
———, 2020: “Achilles and Patroklos as Models for the Twinning of Identity”. Center for Hellenic Studies. https://chs.harvard.edu/curated-article/gregory-nagy-achilles-and-patroklos-as-models-for-the-twinning-of-identity/.
Nieto-Hernandez, P., 2000: “Back in the Cave of the Cyclops”, The American Journal of Philology, 121/3, p. 345-366.
———, 2008, “Penelope’s Absent Song”, Phoenix 62 (1/2), p. 39-62.
Papadopoulou-Belmehdi, I., 1992: L’art de Pandora. La mythologie du tissage en Grèce ancienne, Thèse de doctorat, sous la direction de Nicole Loraux, Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris.
———, 1994a: Le chant de Pénélope. Poétique du tissage féminin dans l’Odyssée, Paris.
———, 1994b: “Le chant de Pénélope”, dans Autrement, (L’attente, série: Mutations), jan. 1994, pp. 107-117.
———, 2001: “Maternités homériques: la ‘mauvaise mère’ de Télémaque”, Itaca, Quaderns Catalans de Cultura Classica, n° 16-17, p. 42-59.
———, 2003: “Les mots qui voient. Du tragique dans le Promethée enchaîné”, Kernos, p. 43-57.
———, 2004, “Ethos et epos: Hélène dans la rhapsodie xxiii de l’Odyssée”, dans Le mythe d’Hélène, ed. Broze Michèle, Couloubaritsis Lambros, Hypsilanti A., Mavromoustakos P., Viviers D., Bruxelles, p. 45-88.
Pucci, P., 1987, Odysseus Polytropos. Intertextual Readings in the Iliad and the Odyssey, Ithaca and London.
———, 1979: “The song of the Sirens”, Arethusa, 12 (2), p. 121-132.
Ramnoux, C., 1962: Mythologie ou la famille olympienne, Paris.
Segal, C., 1983: “Kleos and its ironies in the Odyssey”, L’Antiquité Classique, Année 1983 (52), p. 22-47. https://www.persee.fr/doc/antiq_0770-2817_1983_num_52_1_2082.
———, 1992: “Divine Justice in the Odyssey: Poseidon, Cyclops, and Helios”, The American Journal of Philology, 113/4, p. 489-518.
Scodel, R., 1982: “The Achaean Wall and the Myth of Destruction”, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 86, p. 33-50.
Strauss-Clay, J., 1983: The wrath of Athena, Princeton.
Tsagalis, C., 2003: “Odyssey 24, 191-202: A Reconsideration”, Wiener Studien, Vol. 116 (2003), p. 43-56.
Vernant, J.-P., 1989: L’individu, la mort, l’amour, Paris.
West, M. L., 1985: The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, Oxford.


[ back ] 1. Derveni Papyrus, col. XX, l. 2-3: “it is not possible to hear and understand at the same time the legomena”.
[ back ] 2. Odyssey 1.62: “Why then are you so angry with him, Zeus?”
[ back ] 3. Frame 1978, p. 6-24; 2009, §1.26-1.31; C. de Lamberterie 2014 (and English translation in this volume): ἄσμενος original meaning is ‘having returned’, only later coming to mean ‘happy’. See as well Frame, in this volume, “Introducing Hippota Nestor” (“Nestor’s name”).
[ back ] 4. What Nicole Loraux says about “implicit eponymy” is most relevant to noos and nostos as reflected in the plot of the Odyssey (1988, p.152). See as well G. Nagy, 1999, on the etymology of the name of Achilles as the core theme of the Iliad.
[ back ] 5. Frame 2009, §1.16.
[ back ] 6. The epic does not claim exhaustivity and this is what Nestor says to Telemachus when he starts his story (Odyssey 3.113-117).
[ back ] 7. Odyssey 13.88-89: ὣς ἡ ῥίμφα θέουσα θαλάσσης κύματ᾽ ἔταμνεν/ ἄνδρα φέρουσα θεοῖς ἐναλίγκια μήδε᾽ ἔχοντα.
[ back ] 8. See, in this volume, Frame, “Introducing Hippota Nestor: Nestor’s name”.
[ back ] 9. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1992, 1994a, 1994b, 2001.
[ back ] 10. The duality of the Odyssean landscape, a plot evolving in two (or more) different worlds, allows the mirroring of characters with “identity of minds”.
[ back ] 11. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 90-91, 200-201; Nieto-Hernandez 2008.
[ back ] 12. τοῖσι δ᾽ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός, οἱ δὲ σιωπῇ/ ἥατ᾽ ἀκούοντες· ὁ δ᾽ Ἀχαιῶν νόστον ἄειδε λυγρόν,/ ὃν ἐκ Τροίης ἐπετείλατο Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη (Odyssey 1.325-327).
[ back ] 13. As we will see later this implies that he is part of the cursed.
[ back ] 14. See infra, the way Nestor and phrase their speech about Odysseus.
[ back ] 15. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 62-76. Pucci 1987, on the ambiguities of nostos, p. 199 and passim.
[ back ] 16. τοίην γὰρ κεφαλὴν ποθέω μεμνημένη αἰεί,/ ἀνδρός, τοῦ κλέος εὐρὺ καθ᾽ Ἑλλάδα καὶ μέσον Ἄργος.” (Odyssey 1.343-344).
[ back ] 17. Ch. Segal 1983, Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 43-45 and passim.
[ back ] 18. Same phrase used by Nestor talking to Telemachus about the doomed return of the Achaeans in Odyssey 3.130-133: αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ Πριάμοιο πόλιν διεπέρσαμεν αἰπήν,/βῆμεν δ᾽ ἐν νήεσσι, θεὸς δ᾽ ἐσκέδασσεν Ἀχαιούς,/καὶ τότε: δὴ Ζεὺς λυγρὸν ἐνὶ φρεσὶ μήδετο νόστον/ Ἀργείοις, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι.
[ back ] 19. See Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 49-62.
[ back ] 20. Supra, note 3.
[ back ] 21. Halitherses’prophecy and the Suitors’ reaction: Odyssey 2.161-176, 182-183. On the relation of these passages to the word ἐναίσιμος, see Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 67-68.
[ back ] 22. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 62 and p. 180-184.
[ back ] 23. Nieto-Hernandez 2008.
[ back ] 24. See infra.
[ back ] 25. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 46sq.
[ back ] 26. Odyssey 19.107-114; Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 79-86. On “‘reverse simile’ and sex roles”, see Foley 1978.
[ back ] 27. Nieto-Hernandez 2008, p. 46.
[ back ] 28. Odyssey 4.791-792.
[ back ] 29. Frame 2009: Patroclus and Achilles “re-enact the myth of Nestor and Periklymenos, and the categories of the Indo-European twin myth also apply to them” (§2.13), Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 59-60. Nagy 2020.
[ back ] 30. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 83.
[ back ] 31. Nagy 2020.
[ back ] 32. “… the range of the term’s application to him demonstrates beyond doubt that Odysseus’ association with aethloi was deliberate”, Finkelberg 1995, p.7 and Karanika 2011, p. 3-4.
[ back ] 33. Finkelberg 1995, p. 4.
[ back ] 34. ὦ γύναι, ἤδη μὲν πολέων κεκορήμεθ᾽ ἀέθλων/ ἀμφοτέρω. See as well 23.248, ἀέθλων used again in common for Odysseus and Penelope.
[ back ] 35. Odyssey 2.281-284 (transl. Lattimore).
[ back ] 36. θεὸς δ᾽ ἐσκέδασσεν Ἀχαιούς,/ καὶ τότε δὴ Ζεὺς λυγρὸν ἐνὶ φρεσὶ μήδετο νόστον/ Ἀργείοις, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι/ πάντες ἔσαν, 3.131-134 (transl. Lattimore).
[ back ] 37. Odyssey 3. 82.
[ back ] 38. “First go to Pylos, and there question the great Nestor, and from there go over to Sparta to see fair-haired Menelaos, since he came home last of all the bronze-armored Achaians” (Odyssey 1.284-286, transl. Lattimore).
[ back ] 39. It is in a way the “Ithakan” prooimion of the Odyssey and, as we know, prooimia in Homeric poetry highlight the core essence of the poetic subject in a condensed way.
[ back ] 40. τοίην γὰρ κεφαλὴν ποθέω μεμνημένη αἰεί,/ἀνδρός, τοῦ κλέος εὐρὺ καθ᾽ Ἑλλάδα καὶ μέσον Ἄργος (Odyssey 1.344-345, transl. Lattimore)
[ back ] 41. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 193-197; on the ways Homeric poetry promotes the validity of heroes᾽ speech, see Martin 1989 passim.
[ back ] 42. “… all of you choice young men, of the same age, (Odyssey 24.107, transl. Lattimore).” Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1992, p. 1-191, 406-429.
[ back ] 43. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 68-73. Martin 1993.
[ back ] 44. The theme is recurrent in the Odyssey. In the words of Telemachus in the Ithakan Assembly: “We have no man here such as Odysseus was, to drive this curse from the household. We ourselves are not the men to do it; we must be weaklings in such a case, not men well seasoned in battle (2.59-61, transl. Lattimore)”.
[ back ] 45. Odyssey 2.276. The theme appears as well in Hesiod Works and Days 180-186.
[ back ] 46. The meaning of external appearance in the Odyssey extends beyond physical form; in the case of Odysseus unstable appearance designates an unstable relation to time. As to Telemachus, Athena-Mentor will single him out: “he will not be foolish and bad ultimately” (Odyssey 2.278). His transformation comes through his contact with the heroic generation during his trip to Pylos and Sparta and ultimately his father.
[ back ] 47. I focus here only on the silence; for a broader analysis of the episode in the spirit of Hippota Nestor see Frame 2009, §2.58: “if we follow his [Nestor’s] account in detail we will find not only how the entire Achaean nostos is conceived in terms of the twin myth … but also how this myth relates to Nestor and Odysseus”.
[ back ] 48. Frame 2009, §2.60: “But things changed after Troy was captured, as is signaled by the word, autár, “however,” as Nestor’s story continues; what happened “during the war, on the one hand” (heîos ménOdyssey 3.126) was not the same as what happened after the war (autàr epeí, “however, when,” Odyssey 3.130). But the significance of the word autár for the relationship between Nestor and Odysseus after the war had ended will not be brought out for another twenty-nine lines.”
[ back ] 49. Translation DF, see 2009, ch. 6. Nestor recounts that during the war he and Odysseus never disagreed with each other in an assembly or a council, but “having one mind” they counseled what was best for the Argives (Odyssey 3.126–129): ἔνθ’ ἦ τοι εἷος μὲν ἐγὼ καὶ δῖος Ὀδυσσεὺς/οὔτε ποτ’ εἰν ἀγορῇ δίχ’ ἐβάζομεν οὔτ’ ἐνὶ βουλῇ,/ἀλλ’ ἕνα θυμὸν ἔχοντε νόῳ καὶ ἐπίφρονι βουλῇ/ φραζόμεθ’ Ἀργείοισιν ὅπως ὄχ’ ἄριστα γένοιτο.
[ back ] 50. Strauss-Clay 1983, ch. II and passim. Episodes of anger in the Odyssey include Aiolos, Helios, Polyphemus, and, of course, Athena and Poseidon. See as well, Muellner 1996, ch. 2.
[ back ] 51. See supra. Frame 2009, ch. 6, §2.58-§2.61.
[ back ] 52. This is the same phrase used by Nestor when talking to Telemachus about the doomed return of the Achaeans in Odyssey 3.130-133: αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ Πριάμοιο πόλιν διεπέρσαμεν αἰπήν,/βῆμεν δ᾽ ἐν νήεσσι, θεὸς δ᾽ ἐσκέδασσεν Ἀχαιούς,/ καὶ τότε δὴ Ζεὺς λυγρὸν ἐνὶ φρεσὶ μήδετο νόστον/Ἀργείοις, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι νοήμονες οὐδὲ δίκαιοι
[ back ] 53. σὺ δὲ τρίτον ἄνδρ᾽ ὀνόμαζε,/ ὅς τις ἔτι ζωὸς κατερύκεται εὐρέι πόντῳ/ἠὲ θανών, “But do you tell me the name of the third man, whoever it is who is being held alive on the wide sea, or else he has died (Odyssey 4.551-553, transl. Lattimore)”. [ back ]
[ back ] 54. There is no Nestoreia, but there is an Odyssey, DF says it as well; there would be no Odyssey without the separation between Nestor and Odysseus (Frame, 2009, p. §4.23 and note 105).
[ back ] 55. DF stresses: “In and of itself, Nestor’s role in the homecoming of Odysseus is a negative one based on his own myth, and this is the unspoken point of Odyssey 3 (Frame, 2009, §2.57)”.
[ back ] 56. In Frame 2009, chapter 1, DF holds that Nestor is a personification of noos and Odysseus of metis (see as well 2009, §2.70, about the subtle difference between Odysseus and Nestor as regards noos). I cannot engage here with this distinction, but I would tend to attribute it to a difference of mythic generations: Nestor’s mindset and noetic faculties go beyond the contemporary with the Trojan War generation of heroes, see infra.
[ back ] 57. In his thoughtful analysis of Nestor’s storytelling J. Marks (2008, ch.5) compares him to the epic singer, but there is more to it.
[ back ] 58. DF’s take: “the assumption has been that his role at Troy goes back indefinitely far in epic tradition. I propose instead that the aged Nestor is strictly a creation of the Iliad and the Odyssey”(2009, §4.56n189); another figure that is as well beyond limits of time, Teiresias, has to do with the theme of nostos in the Odyssey. See Iliad 19.219 on the importance of “being born first” as a factor of “more knowledge”.
[ back ] 59. West talks about “… supernatural longevity”, (1985, p. 124).
[ back ] 60. Iliad 1.260-273. See as well Iliad 1.250-252: δ᾽ ἤδη δύο μὲν γενεαὶ μερόπων ἀνθρώπων/ ἐφθίαθ᾽, οἵ οἱ πρόσθεν ἅμα τράφεν ἠδ᾽ ἐγένοντο/ ἐν Πύλῳ ἠγαθέῃ, μετὰ δὲ τριτάτοισιν ἄνασσεν: “He had seen two generations of men pass away in sandy Pylos and was now king in the third (Transl. Lombardo)”.
[ back ] 61. Frame 2009, ch. 6, §1.
[ back ] 62. Similarly, “Menelaus’ exemption from death is never explicitly stated, but is only indicated ex silentio”, Strauss-Clay 1983, p. 151.
[ back ] 63. Again: Frame 2009, ch. 6, §1.
[ back ] 64. See infra.
[ back ] 65. Finkelberg 1995, p. 3.
[ back ] 66. Marks 2008, ch. 5.
[ back ] 67. Segal 1992, p.498.
[ back ] 68. Odyssey 10.74-75. DF translates as “to be angry” (see the subsection “Nestor’s Name” in his contribution in the present volume).
[ back ] 69. See Nieto-Hernandez 2000.
[ back ] 70. Metis is knowledge. Detienne-Vernant 1991, p. 58 sq: “Cunning lies at the heart of the myths of sovereignty”. Metis is important in “the ordering of the world”.
[ back ] 71. See Loraux 1995, ch. 4.
[ back ] 72. Achilles’ example is sufficient to prove this, and Achilles is the main hero of the Iliad. We know, though, that Zeus’ reign excludes this possibility, because it introduces generation in the divine world, hence emotions and death (see Ramnoux 1962). Besides Achilles and Thetis, another telling example for this is the scene about Sarpedon in the Iliad, expressed in a superbly tragic way, where Hera reminds Zeus, overwhelmed by his son’s death, of the “constitutional” rules of his reign (Iliad 16.440-458).
[ back ] 73. Cook 1995 (p. 63-65), for instance, chooses to see Odysseus’ sexual encounters as a weak point in Odysseus’ behavior: “Odysseus is not good in sexual constraint”. I would say that in his encounters with the goddesses he is more of a ‘godlike’ supermale.
[ back ] 74. Vernant’s pages (1989, p. 150 sq.) about Odysseus are famous. It is crucial, though, to make the distinction between complete and incomplete immortality, see Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994, p. 175-180.
[ back ] 75. 1992, p. 491.
[ back ] 76. The Odyssean universe is above all infused with the energy of the primordial goddess and the plot will come to its closure under the guidance of her daughter Athena. At the same time metis is as well about limits, and the poem shows more than once that Odysseus is sharply aware of hubris, be it that he does not follow his companions’ transgressive attitude or his own assertion to the Phaiakian prince Laodamas that he does not compare with the heroes of the past (Odyssey 8.223-225, see Karanika, 2011).
[ back ] 77. Authors like Segal 1992, Scodel 1982, Nieto-Hernandez 2000, have worked in this direction.
[ back ] 78. Frame 2009, §1.2n2, compares the Iliad and Odyssey on this.
[ back ] 79. θνητούς γ᾽ ἔπαυσα μὴ προδέρκεσθαι μόρον (Aeschylus Prometheus Bound 250). Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 2003.
[ back ] 80. I explain below the reasons that make this dreaded trip coherent with the underlying logic of the wanderings. Otherwise Circe was competent enough to guide him through the seas.
[ back ] 81. “The journey to the Underworld involves an expansion of not only the epic poem’s geography but also its chronology”, Karanika 2011, p.1. See Burgess 2008, p. 106-110.
[ back ] 82. Nestor’s traditions were never […] common knowledge” (Frame 2009, §4.56).
[ back ] 83. “Odysseus … in the underworld … comes face to face with Nestor’s myth” (Frame 2009, §2.109).
[ back ] 84. “Circe of the lovely hair, the dread goddess who talks with mortals, sent us an excellent companion, a following wind, filling the sails, to carry from astern the ship with the dark prow. We ourselves, over all the ship making fast the running gear, sat still, and let the wind and the steersman hold her steady. All day long her sails were filled as she went through the water, and the sun set, and all the journeying-ways were darkened (Odyssey 11.5-12, transl. Lattimore)”. See Frame 2009, §1.26 about Circe, death, and the solar context.
[ back ] 85. Strauss-Clay 1983, p. 151 sq. on the ambiguities of this consultation.
[ back ] 86. Elpenor is the first to come towards Odysseus but there is no mention of him drinking the blood; on the contrary, the text insists that Odysseus does not let any soul drink blood before he has his encounter with Tiresias (11.48-50). We can suppose that Elpenor is in the liminal state of the unburied dead.
[ back ] 87. One more reason to understand why Odysseus is a figure of “πλείονα ειδώς”. On this important formula, associated with Zeus as well, see Pucci 1979, p. 121.
[ back ] 88. Mikellidou 2015, p. 331. See Bernabé 2015.
[ back ] 89. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 2006.
[ back ] 90. Frame 2009: “the two parts of the catalogue, headed by the passages containing Neleus’ and Nestor’s mothers respectively, are roughly of equal length, and each part of the catalogue contains five entries. (§2.152)”.
[ back ] 91. Frame 2009, §2.160.
[ back ] 92. “… the catalogue’s structure, which I see as the key to its interpretation, has impressed itself on no one” ibid., §2.134. DF stresses the point about Nestor here: “My interpretation requires that Nestor be seen as the catalogue’s focus …”. Ibid., §2.109: “Odysseus … in the underworld … comes face to face with Nestor’s myth”.
[ back ] 93. Ibid., §2.166.
[ back ] 94. Such a play between Enipeus and Poseidon is particularly meaningful in Miletus where there is a cult of Poseidon Enipeus (Frame 2009, §2.137), but the broader audience, beyond Miletus (and even Asia Minor) and beyond the early Homeric times, probably needed an explicit mention of the god. On this I quote DF again: “The non-Ionians present in the Panionia need to be offered this clear statement about the relationship between the Neleids, Poseidon who was honoured at the Festival and the Odyssey, a statement that elucidates the dynamics of the poem and enhances the glory of the Founders of Miletus”.
[ back ] 95. Frame 2009, §2, 167.
[ back ] 96. As if Poseidon has to be appeased preemptively.
[ back ] 97. As we just saw, Murgatroyd supports this hypothesis.
[ back ] 98. Odyssey 1.234-236 and 241-243, transl. Lattimore.
[ back ] 99. It depends on if we choose a sequential model or one of coexistence.
[ back ] 100. This difference is in fact one of the major signs that the nature of Odysseus mission is cosmic; it is not strictly “personal”; it is not merely about a sailor that lost his way.
[ back ] 101. As I said above, Odysseus could have received the capacity of transgressing barriers from his remote divine ancestor, Hermes, the only Olympian who can cross the barrier of Hades.
[ back ] 102. Segal 1992.
[ back ] 103. Hence the state of sleep that seizes Odysseus between the two worlds, because there is no real journey.
[ back ] 104. In fact, between the hero and his hosts passive and active roles will be interchangeable in the deeper level of their respective fates. Everybody “comes home” in a way.
[ back ] 105. For instance, Segal (1992), rightly points out that Odysseus is able to punish a divine being, Polyphemus!
[ back ] 106. See supra.
[ back ] 107. “Heroes are their own authors, perfomers in every sense…”, Martin 1989, p 90.
[ back ] 108. 2009, ch. 11, §4.56, note 190.
[ back ] 109. Before Phaiakia he would almost have arrived at Ithaka, if Poseidon had not noticed him and pushed him back to the non-human world.
[ back ] 110. The Apologoi do not contradict Antikleia’s advice. She can only talk about the human world, and specifically Ithaka, and the context of the return.
[ back ] 111. Being the only human that returns from the supernatural space, he is the only one who can bring back the song, he can control the delivery of the information.
[ back ] 112. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi and Nieto-Hernandez 2008.
[ back ] 113. τεύξουσι δ᾽ ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδὴν/ ἀθάνατοι χαρίεσσαν ἐχέφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ (Odyssey 24.197-198): “the immortals will make for the people on earth a graceful song for prudent Penelope”. See Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1992; Tsagalis 2003.
[ back ] 114. Odyssey 13.291-295, transl. Lattimore.
[ back ] 115. Polyphemus not only rejects Odysseus’ claim to the rights of guests and strangers protected by Zeus (9.266-271); he also regards the Cyclopes as exempt from the rule of the gods. The Cyclopes, he explains, “pay no heed to Zeus who bears the aegis nor to the blessed gods, since we are much stronger” (polu pherteroi, 9.275f.). [ back ]
[ back ] 116. The Phaiakians are to be blockaded by a rock … Zeus as son of Cronus invoked “at the entrance to and departure from this antiquated, strange world of the Apologoi, as though Odysseus had opened up a passageway to a universe that ought not to be visited and, upon his leaving it, the gates had closed shut forever” (Nieto-Hernandez 2000, p. 360; see Alcinoos in Odyssey 13.172, who makes the same exclamation as Polyphemus about the oracle 9.507).
[ back ] 117. Frame 2009, ch. 1; ch. 6, §2.69-§2.70.
[ back ] 118. §4.23: “I have already said that, in my view, the Panionia were the occasion for the performance of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Now I wish to insist on the idea that the performance that took place there was of the two {555|556} poems together, in sequence. I make this claim on the basis of Nestor’s role in the two poems, which, as I have analyzed it, is of a single piece, bridging both poems. Nestor’s role in the story of Patroclus in the Iliad matches his role in the story of Odysseus in the Odyssey, in both substance and style; his role in both cases is based on his twin myth, but in both cases the myth itself is deliberately withheld. This overall congruence cannot be accidental, but must have arisen from a single source. When Nestor’s role as a whole is taken into account, the narrower question of a bridge between the two poems, which I have so far been reluctant to press, takes on a new look”.