King of Sacrifice: Ritual and Royal Authority in the Iliad

  Hitch, Sarah. 2009. King of Sacrifice: Ritual and Royal Authority in the Iliad. Hellenic Studies Series 25. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

1. Defining Homeric Sacrifice

1.1 Sacrifice and the Homeric Text

Rituals are actions performed in a repetitive pattern recognizable to members of a community that act as symbolic markers of the values underpinning a given society. Such actions can be both symbolic and functional, as is the case with the ritual of animal sacrifice: symbolic actions, such as scattering barley grains or wearing special clothing, elaborate the marked nature of the event as an expression of mortal relations with gods, while the shared meal after the ceremony often serves the function of providing food for the participants, binding them together as members of a community. This complex of ritual actions would have had meaning for the participants through their shared experience and traditions, but it can only be reconstructed by us through literary and artistic representations and archaeological remains. The lack of an official or written protocol for ancient Greek ritual, coupled with the vast variations attested in literature and inscriptions, has created something of a puzzle for modern scholars.

Often this ritual, because the term “sacrifice” is a modern construct largely colored by Roman and Christian perceptions, eludes interpretation. The Greeks themselves had no words for “religion” or “ritual,” both terms derived from Latin. Drawing on our own cultural experience, we may be tempted to apply retroactively concepts of “sacred” and “secular,” the former part of “religion” or “religious worship,” but these words imply a distinction that would have been meaningless in antiquity. [1] There were also many types of offerings to the gods, a spectrum of actions with variations in meaning and context, perceived by ancient Greeks as obligatory, both as acts of devotion {1|2} and as symbols of membership in a community. These actions varied from extending hospitality to dedicating statues in temples. Many gifts to the gods were ritually offered, sacrifice being only one variant among burnt offerings, bloodless offerings, libations, and dedications. The occasions on which gifts were offered determined the nature and function of the offering. Animal sacrifice, the grandest and most elaborate offering to the gods, is a specific part of this framework, and its meaning has comparable significance.

To date, there has yet to be a systematic, full-scale study of animal sacri-fice in the Iliad. Scholars have looked at archaeological evidence for the descriptions of sacrifice in Homer, the influence of Homer on animal sacrifice in tragedy, and the impact of the Homeric representations of gods on Greek culture. Other rituals such as oath-making, supplication, and burial have been well studied. [2] Yet there has been no attempt to treat the circumstances, details, frequency, or significance of scenes of animal sacrifice in Homer. This book seeks to fill this void in Homeric studies by exploring the function of sacrifice within the context of the Iliad and the ways in which the goals of the poem shape the representation and meaning of sacrifice. I will focus exclusively on animal sacrifices performed with the intention of influencing gods and the outcome of events. Therefore, I will refer to the immolation of animals in contexts that include any address or ritual action directed toward the gods, whether or not it is followed by a meal, as “sacrifice.” Libations poured and prayers made in conjunction with sacrifices will be discussed as part of the sacrificial process, but those performed without animal sacrifice, such as Akhilleus’ libation and prayer for the safety of Patroklos (Iliad XVI 220–255), are best left for a separate study. I intend to consider sacrifice as a poetic construct in the Iliad, with respect both to the ways in which characters speak about sacrifice and its structural function within the poem. Through references to sacrifice, characters in the Iliad will present a remarkably consistent and, overall, negative view of the potential to create successful reciprocal relationships with the gods. On a structural level, the performance of sacrifice will frame Agamemnon’s supremacy in the context of Akhilleus’ withdrawal, while highlighting the isolation of the latter from his community.

The differences between the martial, Panakhaian society of the Iliad, dominated by questions of human/divine relationships and mortality, and the {2|3} society of the Odyssey, with its emphasis on the oikos and intact social structures—as exhibited through the course of Odysseus’ and Telemakhos’ travels—radically affect the presentation of sacrifice. There are many similarities, but the overall conception of divine power is different in the two poems, particularly in the emphasis on justice in the Odyssey. [3] In the Odyssey sacrifice becomes a symbol of cultivation and civilization, the perversion or absence of which marks the suitors and other groups as excessive and sinister. [4] Whereas the sacrifices in the Iliad tend to focus on the role of individuals, different communities, such as the Pylians (Odyssey iii 5–9) and Phaiakians (Odyssey vii 186–190), are represented in the Odyssey performing sacrifice as a group. Athena, who is exceptionally involved in the plight of Odysseus, even attends the group sacrifice at Pylos disguised as Mentor (Odyssey iii 30–385), later provoking Nestor’s own grateful sacrifice by her epiphanic departure (Odyssey iii 435–464), which in turn prompts yet another appearance (Odyssey iii 435–436). The portrait of relations between this goddess and her favorite mortals in the Odyssey seems idealized, reflected by the happy, communal sacrifices at Pylos and Athena’s interactions with Nestor and Telemakhos. [5] However, similar interactions do not accompany the Iliad’s representations of sacrifice, which are often depicted by characters as a dubious attempt to bridge the immense gap between mortals and immortals. Such divergence in social and ethical concern can be seen in the representation of sacrifice in each poem, which necessitates an individual approach to both.

The representations of sacrifice in the Iliad cannot be appreciated as reflections of the practices of a particular society at a precise moment because of the lengthy and diffuse development of the Homeric tradition, by which I mean the versions of the Iliad and Odyssey that have come down to us. Homeric poetry derives from oral traditions, but how these poetic traditions became fixed as texts has been endlessly debated. Fortunately, the discourse begun in a sense by Friedrich August Wolf, developed by Milman Parry and Albert Lord, and enhanced and sophisticated by numerous scholars over recent decades, has advanced our understanding of the nature of Homeric epic. Since the groundbreaking work of Parry in the early part of the twentieth century, scholars have recognized that the composition and structure of Homeric poetry are the {3|4} result of the continual performance of inherited meter, diction, and themes. [6] This material, in its earliest stage, derives from an Indo-European tradition, as indicated by noun-epithet phrases in Vedic poetry cognate with such expressions as κλέος ἄφθιτον ‘unfailing glory’ and κλέος εὐρύ ‘widespread glory’. [7] Additionally, the numerous and well observed parallels between the Iliad and the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh suggest that the initial Indo-European traditions are received and filtered through Near Eastern song culture before the Mycenaean period. [8] Many elements introduced at this time, on the level of both theme and diction, are maintained throughout the Iron Age and Archaic period until the poems reach the canonical, fixed shape that has been passed down to us in written form. The eighth century BCE witnesses an accelerated development of Panhellenic identity and shared culture, the trigger for the widespread diffusion of Homeric poetry and a result of the unifying power of its popularity. This trend of Panhellenism is evident in the presence of large regional and supra-regional cult centers developing concurrently with an increasing popularity of gift-offerings at Mycenaean tombs, both reflecting the widespread interest in the “age of heroes” also found in contemporary art. [9] The more widespread the diffusion, the more fixed the poetry becomes before its crystallization in a form similar to that which we possess.

The Homeric tradition’s ability to transform itself into poetry appropriate for diffusion over a wide area guarantees its survival through such a long transmission process. [14] But the Panhellenic consciousness that enables the Iliad’s wide diffusion makes the expectations of any particular audience impossible to reconstruct with certainty, such as we might do with Athenian tragedy, since the poem develops over such a long period of time. The identification of a Homeric audience, the particular performance context, and the impact of the Iliad’s reception are all debatable. [15] Performances in palaces after meals seem likely during an early stage of epic development on the basis of the portrayal of bards in the Odyssey, and Plato’s Ion describes the performance of Homeric poetry in rhapsodic contests in the fifth century, but the complete picture is impossible to reconstruct and, therefore, so is the potential response of material in the poem to the expectations of a particular audience . [16] The wide diffusion of the poems is particularly relevant to the representations of sacrifice, a ritual variously practiced throughout Hellenic cities, depending on the context and participants, as part of a polytheistic system that could accommodate innumerable local deities and rites alongside well-established Panhellenic practices. The localized variations in cult practice that are such an important and defining characteristic of the epigraphic evidence for Greek ritual are not emphasized. Instead, the epic provides a picture of ritual practice that is universally recognizable to the diverse audiences of the Iliad throughout its long period of development and transmission. {6|7}

An understanding of the Iliad’s portrayal of sacrifice must be grounded in an appreciation of its structural, thematic, and lexical complexity, for which working definitions and terminology will be briefly established here before moving on to a discussion of repeated verses in Homeric epic and the repetition of ‘typical’ elements in sacrifice scenes. As early as Aristotle, the Iliad and the Odyssey are admired for having a central focus, the wrath of Akhilleus and the homecoming of Odysseus, respectively, despite their remarkable length. [19] This ‘central action’ is presented through a vast network of actions and speeches, enacted and embedded stories that inform the audience of past and future events and indicate a cohesive context in which the action takes place. These enacted and embedded speeches and actions are built from traditional, inherited material, from the smallest elements of diction to the grandest themes. The formula is the building block of oral poetry, defined as “a group of words which is regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to express a given essential idea.” [20] “Formula” can refer to either phrases of two or three words or whole verses or groups of verses, repeated markers for the audience and an aid to performance for the bard, postulated by some scholars as a defining feature of oral composition. [21] As tools available to the singer, formulas work to express ideas in units of thought; the more relevant {7|8} an idea is to the poem’s themes, the more often it is repeated. [22] These phrases and verses form an arsenal of poetic expressions suitable to different thematic and metrical needs. [23] Through repetition over time, they become fixed in the tradition, expanding from individual phrases or verses to longer blocks of repeated formulas. Thus the poems gradually develop through constant adaptation of and innovation upon episodic, traditional material. [24] The singer could insert the inherited material as best suited the representation of the central action, which allows the narrative to develop over centuries of performance.

Of Parry’s many important contributions to Homeric studies, the most important is his demonstration of the economy of the formula: the singer has at his disposal only one formula with a given meaning at a given space in the verse. [25] The formula, used by the singer as a building block for composition-in-performance through a mental process that has been likened by Michael Nagler to a pre-verbal Gestalt, is newly expressed in every application of the “ready-made phrase.” This allows for traditional material to be innovative and particular to context: each recurrence of a formula is the result of spontaneous generation. [26] Therefore, there is no contrast between scenes described with similar or identical vocabulary and those without parallel in the poems: they are part of the same process of poetry-in-performance. Over the course of the twentieth century, the formula has been reexamined and is now recognized as a consequence of certain recurrent contexts for which a given expression is required. If an expression becomes very useful, it can become standardized and applied to similar but not necessarily identical situations through a process of “routinization.” The essential ideas are composed of a nuclear word and peripheral elements, the former fulfilling semantic needs while the latter completes the verse. This process is most easily recognized in the ‘A killed {8|9} B’ verses, where the changing names determine the choice of verb, which is metrically reactive. [27] The meter is not the organizing principle of a formula; it is a precondition for an expression appropriate to a context. This context, owing to its meaningful significance to the story, is repeated often enough to become familiar through the “communicative economy” created in a performance arena. [28] Parts of formulaic verses may be used elsewhere as formulas on their own, but they will carry the associations of the entire verse formula for an audience. These associations create an “aura of meaning which has been put there by all the contexts in which [the formula] has occurred in the past.” [29]

Sacrificial ritual in the Iliad is a repeated thematic action, a type scene, described in traditional, formulaic language in a fixed pattern. It has often been {9|10} discussed in the context of the considerable modern dialogue on the creation, use, and significance of repetition in Homer. [33] Although repetition in Homer is not as emphatically significant as a repeated quotation or reminiscence might be in a modern literary text, the repetition of actions in a recognizably similar form creates a pattern that links scenes together in relation to the central poetic aims of the work. [34] Composition by theme during the performance of material necessitates some repetition, which becomes part of the process of interpretation and representation of traditional material. Repetition helps to create and relay themes to the audience, yet it remains proportional to the importance of the action; recurrence is motivated by poetic needs. [35] Because “a significant detail, a pattern of events, or a series of narrative details might be presented within a work to present a comparison or contrast with the preceding material or foreshadow an upcoming event,” [36] the repeated scene must be considered as both individually significant in its immediate context and as part of a larger pattern running throughout the work. In a discussion of the different models for audience participation and reception, Ruth Scodel writes:

Variations on themes occurred within a context of numerous performances, contextualized in regard to the individual’s experience with the entire tradition. [
38] Lord explains that the theme exists “at one and the same time in and for itself and for the whole song.” [39] Themes may have a number of regularly occurring details that identify a scene, but these details may take on “specific coloring” singular to their context. [40] The process of thematic composition-in-performance limits the size and range of this inherited material, highlighting the importance of such recurrent scenes. The reception of such repetition would have been dependent on the frequency of the audience’s exposure to these songs. Comparative studies of other cultures in which oral poetry is performed indicate that audiences have a preexisting repertoire of shared knowledge on both the level of theme and diction. Frequent exposure to oral performance allows an audience to develop an advanced perception of traditional material through individual presentations, both from within the poem, in the form of variations of repeated actions or phraseology, and from outside the poem, based on the degree to which the song differs from or adapts known themes and patterns. [41]

The small variations in typical representations depend on the contextual needs of the narrative and are the key to the essential meaning of the recurrent idea. For instance, there are four arming scenes in the poem, each signaled with the same three verses near the beginning of the scene. These scenes, much smaller in number than sacrifice scenes, have been analyzed in depth by James Armstrong as an example of the importance of variable details within individual type scenes as well as within the larger narrative. [45] In all of the arming passages except that of Akhilleus, the formulaic leitmotif is followed by a descriptive verse particular to the individual hero. For example, Paris dons a breastplate in the standard way (Iliad III 332), and the breastplate is then described as belonging to his brother, Lukaon (Iliad III 333), a detail specific to Paris’ arming scene. The significance of such variation is perhaps best evidenced in Patroklos’ omission of Akhilleus’ spear, where the variables point both to his and Akhilleus’ impending doom. Patroklos picks up two spears that fit his grip (Iliad XVI 139), described with a verse that is a combination of Paris and Agamemnon’s spear-grasping (Iliad III 338 and XI 43). This {12|13} traditional verse is followed by the unique detail that Patroklos will not take the spear because Akhilleus is the only man who can lift it (Iliad XVI 140–144). Armstrong persuasively argues that the inclusion of the unique detail after a series of recognizably repetitive verses emphasizes the significance of the spear as a signal of Patroklos’ inability to perform as a substitute Akhilleus, incorporating the small-scale detail of armor carried into battle into the large-scale narrative movement of the poem, which at this stage is building up to the death of Patroklos: “Working within the fixed limitations of his formula without embellishment for eight lines, Homer … heightens the effect of the reversal which comes at the end . . . The meaning of this reversal can only be … to lift the range of our perspective and relate the arming of Patroklos with the main stream of the poem.” [46]

These conclusions about the meaning of variations in typical patterns are essential when considering sacrifice scenes, which have been regarded by Arend to be the most typical of all recurrent scenes, owing to the fixity and standardization of cult ritual. [47] Arend is intent upon an “ideal schema,” of which sacrificial scenes are all variations because of their expansion or contraction of formulaic material, most notably Iliad I 440–470 and II 402–431. He suggests that the poet’s motivation for including these “filler scenes” is to expand the time for important events, but does not fully explore the relationship between individual ritual details and the contexts in which they occur. [48] Arend identifies a pattern of sacrifice in Homer on the basis of repeated verses in seven scenes in the Iliad and Odyssey, which form for him the clearest examples of standardized verse repetition creating a type scene, but this emphasis on similarity between sacrifice scenes obscures the important differences which illuminate the meaning of these procedures within the poems. [49] The difficulty in studying the sacrifice scenes is that, while they can feature large {13|14} sections of formulaic material, they do not share many ritual features. The apparent consistency, which forms the focus of Arend’s study, arises from the repetition, in the two most detailed sacrifices in the Iliad, of large blocks of formulaic verses in the first two books of the poem:

αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥ’ εὔξαντο καὶ οὐλοχύτας προβάλοντο,
αὐέρυσαν μὲν πρῶτα καὶ ἔσφαξαν καὶ ἔδειραν,
μηρούς τ’ ἐξέταμον κατά τε κνίσῃ ἐκάλυψαν
δίπτυχα ποιήσαντες, ἐπ’ αὐτῶν δ’ ὠμοθέτησαν·

(Iliad I 458–461 = II 421–424)

Once the men had prayed and flung the barley,
first they lifted back the heads of the victims, slit their throats, and skinned them,
and carved out the thigh bones and wrapped them in a double layer of fat,
and topped them with strips of raw flesh.

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατὰ μῆρε κάη καὶ σπλάγχνα πάσαντο,
μίστυλλόν τ’ ἄρα τἆλλα καὶ ἀμφ’ ὀβελοῖσιν ἔπειραν,
ὤπτησάν τε περιφραδέως, ἐρύσαντό τε πάντα.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ παύσαντο πόνου τετύκοντό τε δαῖτα
δαίνυντ’, οὐδέ τι θυμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης.

(Iliad I 464–468 = II 427–431)

Once the thigh bones were burned and they tasted the splankhna,
they cut the rest into pieces, pierced them with spits,
roasted them to a turn and pulled them off the spits.
The work done, the feast laid out, they ate well
and no man’s hunger lacked an appropriate share of the feast.

The innovative use of traditional material, repeated language, and story patterns through extension, by means of a combination of repetition and variation, is the goal of oral poetry. Repeated formulas do not act as restrictive structures within the poems; they rather reflect the importance of an action: the more often a particular goal is desired, the more regularized the expression of that action will become, giving the poems a degree of repetition. [
50] The quick repetition of a large amount of material from Book I in Book II would have signaled the importance of sacrifice within the poem {14|15} to the audience, but the different contexts in which these sacrifices occur is signaled by two dissimilar verses that interrupt the large block of repetition:

καῖε δ’ ἐπὶ σχίζῃς ὁ γέρων, ἐπὶ δ’ αἴθοπα οἶνον
λεῖβε· νέοι δὲ παρ’ αὐτὸν ἔχον πεμπώβολα χερσίν.

(Iliad I 462–463)

And the old man burned these over dried, split wood and over them poured out glistening wine
while young men at his side held five-pronged forks.

καὶ τὰ μὲν ἂρ σχίζῃσιν ἀφύλλοισιν κατέκαιον,
σπλάγχνα δ’ ἄρ’ ἀμπείραντες ὑπείρεχον Ἡφαίστοιο.

(Iliad II 425–426)

And they burned these on a cleft stick, peeled and dry,
spitted the splankhna, and held them over Hephaistos’ flames.

These scenes demonstrate the way in which variations in the typical pattern create meaning specific to the context. In Iliad I, Khruses performs a sacrifice at the behest of Agamemnon’s ambassador, Odysseus, and is helped by young men; the group participation responds to the large-scale damage inflicted upon the Akhaian army by Apollo’s plague, but Khruses is carefully differentia-ted from the Akhaian youths who assist him. As will be discussed at length in Chapter Three, Agamemnon leads a sacrifice for the councilors in Iliad II, who together roast the meat and the splankhna, the internal organs of the victims; the emphasis on the intimate ceremony, in contrast to the anonymous group of young men attending Khruses, is heightened with the expanded description of the roasted splankhna.

The singer can use whole verses or parts of them to create new meanings, and, although sacrificial ritual contexts dictate a high degree of similarity, as noted by Arend, sacrificial procedures are widely variable. These variations of details in sacrificial scenes frustrate Jean Stallings’s attempt to demonstrate the aesthetics of the formula in scenes of eaten sacrifice, and lead Arend to define the Homeric pattern of sacrifice with a tabulation of twenty-one or more typical details, most of which only occur once in Homer. [51] For instance, barley grains are scattered as part of the preparation of the sacrifice only in {15|16} Khruses’ sacrifice in Iliad I and Agamemnon’s sacrifice in Iliad II. The half-verse describing the picking up of the grains is identical, as is a subsequent verse describing the scattering of the grains, though in Iliad I they wash their hands and scatter barley, while in Iliad II they stand around the ox:

χερνίψαντο δ᾽ ἔπειτα καὶ οὐλοχύτας ἀνέλοντο.

(Iliad I 449)

Then they rinsed their hands and took up barley.

βοῦν δὲ περιστήσαντο καὶ οὐλοχύτας ἀνέλοντο.

(Iliad II 410)

They stood in a ring around the ox and took up barley.

αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥ᾽εὔξαντο καὶ οὐλοχύτας προβάλοντο . . .

(Iliad I 458 = II 421)

Once the men had prayed and flung the barley . . .

Similar to the verses describing the splankhna and libations in these scenes, hand washing is replaced with the stance of the group in Iliad II to shift the emphasis from purification—important because the sacrifice in the Iliad I is performed to relieve the plague—to more intimate social bonding—important for Agamemnon and the councilors. Changes to the ritual procedure, even on the smallest level, are made to adapt the material to the individual context as well as to alter the meaning of the scene. Shared formulas are found almost entirely in and immediately following the kill sections of sacrifices, and some scholars have assumed that the missing pre-kill details are omitted from the shorter scenes for the sake of brevity. [
52] If we were to approach Homeric descriptions of sacrifice as typical actions with a fixed structure and traditional phrases, only a handful of sacrificial scenes would fall into this category, as there is no consistently used terminology for sacrifice that would link all of these scenes together. For example, most of the repeated verses that link Khruses’ sacrifice in Iliad I to Agamemnon’s sacrifice in Iliad II are not found in other scenes of animal sacrifice in Homer, and even these two sacrifices have very different occasions and goals. Khruses sacrifices a hecatomb to alleviate the plague and propitiate Apollo, while Agamemnon sacrifices one ox to Zeus {16|17} in hopes for success in the forthcoming battle. From the standpoint of ritual detail, these sacrifices have significant differences. The degree of repetition has been overestimated, as has the influence of “fixed” ritual.

A very similar block of verses describes the roasting and spitting of meat for the feast between Priam and Akhilleus in Iliad XXIV, a scene with a very different thematic meaning for the audience than those previously cited, another example of the ways in which repeated material is adapted to each context in which it occurs. The repetition of blocks of verses reminds the audience of previous sacrifice scenes, but the variations signaled by comparison with the other contexts in which these repeated verses occur create a very different impression. In every instance, significant changes have been made to suit the individual context: [53]

“ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ καὶ νῶϊ μεδώμεθα, δῖε γεραιέ,
σίτου· ἔπειτά κεν αὖτε φίλον παῖδα κλαίοισθα
Ἴλιον εἰσαγαγών· πολυδάκρυτος δέ τοι ἔσται.”
ἦ καὶ ἀναΐξας ὄϊν ἄργυφον ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς
σφάξ’· ἕταροι δ’ ἔδερόν τε καὶ ἄμφεπον εὖ κατὰ κόσμον.
μίστυλλόν τ’ ἄρ’ ἐπισταμένως πεῖράν τ’ ὀβελοῖσιν,
ὤπτησάν τε περιφραδέως, ἐρύσαντό τε πάντα.
Αὐτομέδων δ’ ἄρα σῖτον ἑλὼν ἐπένειμε τραπέζῃ
καλοῖς ἐν κανέοισιν· ἀτὰρ κρέα νεῖμεν Ἀχιλλεύς.
οἳ δ’ ἐπ’ ὀνείαθ’ ἑτοῖμα προκείμενα χεῖρας ἴαλλον.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο …

(Iliad XXIV 619–628)

“So come—we too, old king, must think of food.
Later you can mourn your beloved son once more
taking him to Troy, and you’ll weep many tears.”
Having spoken, swift Akhilleus sprang to his feet and slaughtered a white sheep
and comrades skinned the carcass and dressed the quarters well.
Expertly they cut the meat into pieces, pierced them with spits,
roasted them to a turn and pulled them off the spits.
Automedon brought the bread, set it out on the board
in ample wicker baskets. Akhilleus served the meat.
They reached out for the good things that lay at hand
and when they had put aside desire for food and drink … {17|18}

Although the verses describing the treatment of the carcass are almost identical to those in Iliad I and II, and the same verb describes the slaughter in all three scenes (σφάζειν), this scene exclusively emphasizes the preparations for eating. The sacrificial ritual details, such as barley grains and prayer, which both sacrifice scenes in Iliad I and II share, are lacking. Though sacrifice may not be implied in every use of the verb σφάζειν, the audience’s attention may be directed to the differences as much as to the similarities of the verb’s usage, generating gradations of signification aptly expressed by Lord’s phrase “aura of meaning.” [
54] The repetition of verses describing the skewering of meat recalls very important sacrifices in Iliad I and II, but as the audience is reminded of these scenes, they are made to notice the manifest difference in the current situation caused by the substitution of two crucial verses (625–626):

Αὐτομέδων δ’ ἄρα σῖτον ἑλὼν ἐπένειμε τραπέζῃ 
καλοῖς ἐν κανέοισιν· ἀτὰρ κρέα νεῖμεν Ἀχιλλεύς.
Automedon brought the bread, set it out on the board
in ample wicker baskets. Akhilleus served the meat.

These verses interrupt the pattern, which is then resumed with familiar verses describing the conclusion of the meal. Whereas the variations in ritual details between Iliad I and II emphasize different occasions for sacrifice, those ritual details (libations, roasting splankhna) have been supplanted in Iliad XXIV with Automedon and Akhilleus’ preparation of food; nourishment is now given prominence. The emphasis shifts to Akhilleus’ renouncement of his fast, which concludes the representation of his isolation and semi-divine status by his abstinence from food and sacrifice, as will be discussed in Chapter Four. We will return to the meal shared by Akhilleus and Priam in a discussion of the distinction between sacrifice and eating below.

In order to classify sacrifice scenes in the Iliad, which do not fit the prominent theoretical models for the context of Greek sacrifice, a general overview of modern interpretations of ancient Greek animal sacrifice must be established. We must then examine the ritual content of representations of sacrifice in the Iliad and create a working definition for ‘sacrifice scenes’.

1.2 The Unique Case of Homeric Sacrifice

Having outlined the major approaches to the Homeric texts, as well as the way in which sacrifice scenes are representative of the incorporation of ‘type {18|19} scenes’ within the poem, we will now determine how Homeric sacrifices fit into the wider scope of ancient Greek sacrificial practices. Sacrifice, as a ritual action, would have been identifiable to the participating members of a community through a series of symbolic and highly visible activities, varied to match particular contexts. The lengthy and elaborate process of Greek animal sacrifice allows for great variation, as does the polytheistic nature of Greek cult, which accommodates numerous localized, community-specific deities alongside Panhellenic deities. Because they reflect the customs and beliefs of the participants performing the ceremony, the choices of victim, location, and sacrificial procedure are variable, but not optional, as the meticulous records of victims in numerous leges sacrae demonstrate. [55] To facilitate the analysis of this symbolic action and its range of variables, the practice of sacrifice is often reconstructed with a model that accommodates the full spectrum of ritual possibilities. Homeric sacrifice scenes are most often discussed as part of these diachronic overviews of sacrificial practice, which are compiled of evidence drawn from literary and artistic sources throughout the Classical period. [56] This approach is partly necessitated by a lack of direct evidence concerning animal sacrifice. Though bolstered by recent archaeological field work and the growing study of inscriptions that regulate specific details of local practices, scant evidence otherwise limits the accessibility of the topic to the perspective of poets and artists, whose bias must be taken into consideration. [57] {19|20} Literary representations of sacrifice, like much of the iconography, are notmirror images of reality; they are the images chosen and shaped by the poet or performer. In order to illuminate the relatively restricted presentation of sacrificial ritual in the Iliad, which lacks most of the essential features of large-scale, public sacrifices in the Classical period, I will briefly outline the principal components of the reconstructed Greek sacrificial process and the more prominent scholarship regarding its function and significance. The distinction between Homeric sacrifice and the evidence of the ritual in the Classical period draws attention not only to the relative focus of the Homeric narrator on certain aspects of the ritual, but also to the differing implications of sacrificial terminology, which we will explore fully in Section 1.3. Having esta-blished the distinct presentation of sacrifice within the Iliad, we will concentrate on its depiction of commensal sacrificial meals as opposed to feasts in Section 1.3.

Greek animal sacrifice is essentially a series of symbolic actions leading up to the violent killing of one or more animals, followed by the practical actions of transforming the sacrifice into a feast or disposing of the carcass, actions that can be divided into the tripartite categories of pre-kill, kill, and post-kill. [58] The pre-kill rites involve highly artificial signs, which mark the ceremony, participants, and victim(s) as extraordinary. Herodotos’ description of Scythian sacrifice, in which the animal is dragged forward and killed “without lighting a fire, making a first offering from the victim, or pouring libations,” may attest to the significance attached by Greeks to their pre-kill rites. [59] The ceremony begins with a pompê ‘procession’ to the altar, led by the kanêphoroi ‘basket-carriers’, well-born maidens carrying the kanoun ‘sacrificial basket’ and accompanied by music. This celebratory scene is a favorite on vase paintings, in which context it is often used as a universal symbol for the entire ritual, “the defining marker of thusia.” [60] The most vivid example of this practice is the {20|21} Panathenaiac festival in Athens, which centers around an elaborate pompê, in which representatives from virtually every social group, including maidens, ephebes, hoplites, and male and female metics, escort the offering of a hecatomb of cattle for the goddess. [61] Once the pompê reaches the altar, on top of which a fire is built, the khernips ‘water basin’ and the kanoun, containing barley grains and the ‘makhaira’ sacrificial knife, are both carried clockwise around the altar. The participants, whose involvement bonds them as members of the group, and the officiant, customarily a household leader, community leader, religious official, or honorand, wash their hands. The animal is sprinkled with water. Euphêmia ‘ritual silence’ is followed by a prayer, and the participants then scatter barley grains. The person performing the sacrifice, the “sacrificer,” cuts hairs from the forehead of the animal and throws them into the fire, the first offering from the victim (καταρξάμενος ‘beginning’). [62] The throat of the animal is slit, perhaps accompanied by a ololugê ‘female ritual cry’, and the blood is collected in a sphageion ‘bowl’. [63] In such commensal sacrifices, the animal is carved up into different portions, some of which are burned for the god, others given to special participants, especially the religious officials, and the leftover portions distributed for general consumption or even sale. [64] In Classical sources, the priest’s portion is substantial and closely regulated. For instance, a mid-fifth-century inscription records the 50 drakhmai, legs, and skins of “public” sacrificial victims awarded to the priestess of Athena Nikê. [65] The god’s portion differs slightly in literary accounts, but is always the mêria ‘thigh bones’ and other inedible parts of the animal. [66] While the god’s portion {21|22} is burnt, the splankhna ‘vitals’ (the heart, lungs, liver, spleen and kidney) are roasted and then eaten by special participants, a highly significant action emphasizing their bond and special role. [67] The rest of the animal is butchered, burnt on spits, and consumed at a celebratory feast. [68]

The sacrificer and the participants, on whose behalf he acts, perform sacrifice in order to gain divine favor. This is part of an exchange, a process of barter in which men honor the gods so that the gods will respond to their requests. Theophrastos divides the function of sacrifice into three categories, reflecting the different purposes intended for this one action: to thank the gods, to honor them, and to ask them for something. [69] Yet the recognition that the sacrificial meal provides obvious benefits to mortal participants, in contrast to the intangible benefit offered to the gods, also underlies much of ancient discourse concerning sacrifice, from the earliest etiology of the ritual to the theological discussions of late antiquity. The practical benefit of sacrifice as a bonding experience and occasion for benefaction and patronage for the community would have been very clear, whereas its emotional and theological motivations and its value as a gift for the divinities would be much harder to gauge. [70] The origins of sacrifice, as set out in Hesiod’s Theogony, the earliest extant attempt to explain this custom, reveal the innate contradictions in the act. Prometheus, as he distributes the portions of meat, attempts to deceive Zeus by giving him the thigh bones wrapped in fat. [71] Zeus, undeceived, decrees that henceforth men will feast separately and present the gods with thigh bones. Hesiod’s portrayal is concerned with the seeming imbalance {22|23} between the mortal benefit from this supposed gift to the gods, the consumption of meat, and the divinities’ enjoyment of only the smoke and inedible parts. Similar questions about the pleasure afforded to gods by such offerings are posed in Xenophon: Socrates’ relatively humble sacrifices are defended against the proposition that gods might prefer larger offerings, an issue also raised by Theophrastos. [72] In Greek inscriptions referring to animal sacrifice, the recurrent emphasis on the priest’s portion is remarkable, given the almost total silence on that given to gods. [73] Approximately 800 years after Hesiod, the first-century CE philosopher Dio Chrysostom tries to incorporate divine pleasure into the human feast when he remarks, “What sacrifice is pleasing to the gods without the fellow-banqueters?” [74] In many ways, the social importance and emotional pleasure of the shared feast overwhelm the notion of reciprocity with divinities; the meal is a tangible benefit of the performance, whereas the pleasure the gods may take in the sacrifice and the hoped-for divine favor cannot be as immediately obvious.

Such difficulty in interpreting the significance of the offering to the gods has skewed some modern discussions on sacrifice toward the ritual actions, irrespective of the sacrificers’ motives. Anthropological studies of the ritual practices in many different cultures have found that faith and piety often seem overshadowed by the emphasis in different sacrificial rituals on the kill and the social importance of the shared meal. In reference to the custom of sacrifice among the Nuer tribe and in Bantu, Africa, the anthropologist J. H. M. Beattie observes that, aside from the necessary recognition of higher powers behind the act of sacrifice, the notion of giving gifts to the higher powers can be secondary or even expendable. [75] The work of Emile Durkheim has been particularly influential in changing modern understanding of rituals, showing {23|24} how they identify social groups and even make participants aware of their own collective experience. [76] Building on this premise, sacrificial ritual has evoked two major interpretations, both focusing on the violent slaughter of the animal at the center of the act and the ways in which the ritual addresses the death of the animal. Jean-Pierre Vernant and the so-called “Paris School” have approached sacrifice as a ritual expression of man’s place between gods and beasts. [77] Vernant questions the interpretation of Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss, who propose that sacrifice represents a process of consecration that functions as a ritualized gift-offering: the pre-kill rites, culminating in the slaughter of the animal by the sacrificer, who acts as intermediary, achieve sacralization, while the post-kill process represents a return to the normal, de-sacralized world. [78] In this scenario, the crucial moment is the consecration of the victim, which, in death, moves from a profane to a sacred state, symbolic of the officiant and/or the group. [79]

For the Paris School, the act of killing is necessitated by man’s need to eat, and their innovative work on the intersection between myth, ritual, and culture places the emphasis in studies of Greek sacrifice on the social significance of the meal. For these scholars, the ritual must be understood in its cultural context, as part of a social system, which for Greek sacrifice can be best understood through Hesiod’s etiology of sacrifice and its focus on the gap between mortal and immortal. [80] The way in which sacrifice attempts to bridge this gap is a recurring theme in the Iliad, which we will discuss fully in Chapter Three. Animal sacrifice reinforces man’s place in the cosmic order, an interme- {24|25} diate stage between animals and gods, primarily signified by agriculture and the consumption of cooked food. [81] One ancient term for sacrifice, thusia, has been defined as “alimentary blood sacrifice” on the premise that the “absolute coincidence of meat eating and sacrificial practice” is the “first characteristic that justifies the central place of the blood sacrifice in Greek social and religious thought.” [82] This is further established by the use of domesticated animals as sacrificial victims, which to some scholars negates the possible connection between sacrifice and hunting prominent in other structuralist interpretations. [83] In the model of the Paris School, the pre-kill rites symbolize the distance between sacrifice and murder, between sacrificer and hunter: according to Vernant, “[sacrifice] admits that we must slaughter animals to eat, yet at the same time it aims to banish acts of murder and savagery from what is human.” [84] Considering this distance, Richard Martin interprets the sacrifice of Helios’ cattle in the Odyssey as demonstrative of the “realistic basis for sacrifice: it is the literal means of salvation for humans, by providing meat in time of starvation.” [85]

Burkert expands Meuli’s findings with an emphasis on the role of sacrifice, via the shared experience of slaughter, in the creation and maintenance of communities: “Community is defined by participation in the bloody work of men. . . . The power to kill and respect for life illuminate each other.” [88] Just as the purpose of hunting is to eat, “Töten zum Essen,” so the same is true for sacrifice. [89] As in the interpretations of Hubert and Mauss, the sacrificial killing allows the participants to experience the “sacred,” to form a relationship with the divine provided through slaughter, but for Burkert, animal sacrifice also helps to bring natural aggression under control. [90] Aggression can be alleviated through the violence of sacrifice, particularly when it is triggered by situations of anxiety. Observations by cultural anthropologists of the widespread tendency for ritual action in response to crisis support this theory. Bronislaw Malinowski describes the psychological security provided by ritual actions in dangerous situations, a theory similar to that proposed by Victor Turner concerning Ndembu sacrifices, which are encouraged by the cognizance of social antagonism. [91] Of particular importance for the present study is Burkert’s emphasis on the visibility of the performance of sacrifice and the distinctive roles played by the participants according to their status in the community. The sacrificer, for example the arkhōn basileus in Classical Athens, demon-strates his authority, both economic and social, through the performance of certain sacrifices. While the onerous task of dismembering the animal is left to slaves, the responsibility for the distribution of the meat indicates high social rank, as does the reception of choice bits of meat. Burkert summarizes: “The sacrificial community is thus a model of society as a whole, divided according to occupation and rank. Hence, the hierarchies manifested in the ceremony are given great social importance and are taken very seriously.” [92] We will return to {26|27} the importance of the Opferherr and the way in which sacrificial ritual provides a visible demonstration of social hierarchy in the discussion of Agamemnon and Akhilleus in Chapters Three and Four.

For Meuli and Burkert, the experience of the “sacred” through the act of killing is the focus of the ancient Greek experience of sacrifice rather than the desire for reciprocal relations with divinities. [93] Emphasis on the moment of death plays a central role in other interpretations of sacrifice as well: René Girard expresses a similar notion that, through a feeling of exhilaration subsequent to a heightened awareness of life and death, sacrifice affects a transition from the human sphere to the divine. [94] Van Straten’s lucid terminology of pre-kill, kill, and post-kill reflects this modern emphasis on the kill as the central action. Vernant, in his theoretical model for sacrifice, has also written of “a central dramatic moment in the sacrificial scenario: the slaying of the animal.” [95] For the Paris School as well as for Burkert, the centrality of the kill explains much of Greek sacrificial procedure. For Vernant, the symbolic pre-kill rituals distinguish the slaughter of the sacrificial victim from murder (phonos), while, for Burkert, they evolve from a feeling of guilt evoked by the killing. [96] In this regard, pre-kill rites such as the scattering of barley grains, the concealment of the makhaira in the kanoun, actions taken to prove the willingness of the victim, and the ololugê all stand as markers of the anxiety of the participants regarding the necessary violence. [97] Detienne and Vernant describe the symbolic assent of the animal as both a representation of the animal’s domestication and a disclaimer for any injustice in the killing, whereas Burkert sees an attempt to dispel the guilt of the participants. [98] For both interpretations, {27|28} the relative silence of the ancients on this topic is significant: for example, the slaying of the animal is not described in Hesiod’s etiology of sacrifice. [99] Even greater emphasis is given by these scholars to the seeming aversion to the moment of death in surviving vase paintings: the kill is only represented in 4.5 percent, as compared to 55.5 percent for pre-kill and 40 percent for post-kill. [100]

The work of Meuli, Burkert, Vernant, and Detienne, among others, has been instrumental in expanding modern perceptions of ancient Greek ritual, to the extent that any study of Greek sacrifice must either “agree” or “disagree” with their compelling interpretations. However, the theoretical arguments made by Burkert and the Paris School are drawn largely from evidence from the Classical period, which is, in many ways, different from the Homeric representations. Homeric representations of sacrifice are idealized and adapted to the thematic needs of the poem. The pre-kill details outlined above, which seem to have been the defining characteristics of Classical Athenian sacrifices, do not appear in the Iliad. The relative significance attached to such pre-kill rites can again be demonstrated by an observation in Herodotos, who remarks that Persian sacrifices do not include an altar, fire, libations, flute music, garlands, or sprinkled barley, features he seems to consider to be expected parts of sacrifice. [101] But many of these elements, which we might consider to be important features of a large-scale sacrifice in the Classical period, never occur in the Iliad. For example, no sacrifice in the Iliad begins with a procession, nor is any accompanied by music. Though we have observed the importance of the kanêphoros to the performance of sacrifice in Classical Athens, the kanoun is never used in the Iliad, in spite of the fact that barley grains are scattered in several sacrifices. [102] The animals and participants are never decorated with wreaths, garlands, or crowns, all consistent features of Classical sacrifices in the iconography and literary sources. Inscriptions and recent osteoarchaeological studies have revealed that in the Classical period, in contrast to vase paintings that depict cattle as sacrificial victims in over 60 percent of existing examples, the most commonly offered victims would have been the cheapest: {28|29} sheep. [103] The Iliad does not spare any expense in sacrificial victims, which function as status symbols of the wealth and power of the sacrificer; sheep are sacrificed only on one occasion, when Priam provides the victims for the oath sacrifice between the armies before the duel of Paris and Menelaos (Iliad III 245f.). Due to their relatively cheap cost, pigs seem to have been the most common purificatory victims in Classical Athens, but Agamemnon sacrifices a hecatomb to Apollo to purify the army. [104]

The emphasis placed on violence in the above interpretations of pre-kill and kill rites does little to inform our understanding of sacrifice in the Iliad, since no actions are taken that could be interpreted as disguising anxiety over the slaughter of the animal, such as hiding the knife before the kill or taking care that the animal willingly assents. Only three pre-kill rites are represented in the Iliad , and they do not occur consistently in every sacrifice scene: hand-washing (Iliad I 449, III 270), scattering barley (Iliad I 449, II 410), and cutting the “first hairs” (Iliad III 273, XIX 254). [105] Fundamental necessities, such as lighting the fire to roast the meat or restraining the animals, are not mentioned. The victim’s sympathetic adornment and inclusion in the ceremony, followed by its symbolic separation—being pelted with barley grains—and the process of sacralization—indicated in Classical accounts by special clothing and the pompê—are entirely missing from Homer. [106] Richard Seaford distinguishesHomeric sacrifice from later accounts precisely by the lack of elements suggesting feelings of guilt or anxiety. The barley grains thrown at Iliad I 449 = II 410 are not directed at the animal, a gesture in some Classical accounts interpreted as a symbolic distancing of the animal, destined for death, from the group. [107] The ritual cry performed by women (ololugê), a defining feature of Meuli’s “comedy of innocence,” is performed at a sacrifice by the female members of Nestor’s family (Odyssey iii 450); it accompanies a prayer givenby Penelope (Odyssey iv 767), and at the gift-offering of a peplos in Athena’s {29|30} temple by the Trojan women (Iliad VI 301); but these are the only ceremonies at which women are present. Their relative exclusion from Homeric sacrifices, which are never performed on set occasions or as part of a larger framework of regulated ritual performance, is critically distinct from the important and conspicuous roles they play in many public sacrifices in the Classical period. [108]

In the Iliad, the portion for the gods consists of the mêria ‘thigh bones’, knisê ‘the pleasing smoke produced by the cooking meat’, and, in some descriptions, the otherwise unattested rite of ὠμοθετεῖν, which seems to refer to the process of putting bits from each limb on the bones before burning them. Meuli and Burkert place great emphasis on the symbolic reconstitution of the animal signified by this action. [109] However, ὠμοθετεῖν is offered to gods in only two sacrifices in the Iliad, and the significant meaning conferred upon this action by Meuli is not generally accepted. [110] If ὠμοθετεῖν originally signified anxiety over the death of the victim, this detail would have stood alone among the other aspects of the Homeric sacrificial process, which do not otherwise suggest guilt provoked by the physical violence of slaughter. In fact, far from concealing the weapon, Agamemnon always hangs his makhaira ‘sacrificial knife’ on his belt (Iliad III 271–272, XIX 252–253). There is no reluctance in the narrative to describe the death of the animal, as the following graphic description from an oath sacrifice of lambs demonstrates:

ἦ, καὶ ἀπὸ στομάχους ἀρνῶν τάμε νηλέϊ χαλκῷ·
καὶ τοὺς μὲν κατέθηκεν ἐπὶ χθονὸς ἀσπαίροντας,
θυμοῦ δευομένους· ἀπὸ γὰρ μένος εἵλετο χαλκός.

(Iliad III 292–294)

He spoke and dragged his ruthless dagger across the lambs’ throats
and let them fall to the ground, dying, gasping away
their life breath, their strength cut short by the sharp bronze.

In fact, far from obscuring the violence of sacrifice, the narrative, as Margo Kitts has observed, draws deliberate connections between the slaughter of sacrificial victims and of warriors on the battlefield, such as Lukaon, {30|31} whose violent death is described in language reminiscent of the other oath sacrifice in Iliad XIX. [
111] A further distinction in Classical and Homeric sacrifices must be noted here. Ritual oath sacrifices involve particular actions in the Classical period that do not feature in the two Homeric representations: participants often grasp the entrails or stand on the testicles or entrails of the victim. [112]

The ritual practices in many Classical communities are characterized by group participation, to the extent that communal identity is formed through festivals and in sanctuaries in which ritual activity is very closely regulated and mediated by the polis. [113] The exact type and function of the political system represented in the Iliad is a question that we will address in Chapter Four; however, sacrifice is not performed as part of festivals sponsored collectively by a city or community group, so the social importance of polis festivals as happy occasions marked by sacrifice and subsequent feasts bears no similarity to the presentation of sacrifice in the Iliad, in which sacrifices are either signs of increased anxiety and despair or attempts to relieve social crises. [114] Seaford finds that Homeric sacrifices open or conclude dangerous activities, at which point the narrative seeks to impose order on the chaos and unpre-dictability of battle, while they also function as a symbol of group unity. In his opinion, sacrifices play a positive architectonic role in Homer, as opposed to their connection to murder in Attic tragedy. [115] That sacrifice is performed in response to crisis and anxiety is not surprising in a poem entirely set during the siege of a city; in this sense, all actions in the Iliad are responses to {31|32} crisis situations. Yet sacrifices are infrequent and do not open or conclude all dangerous activities, nor are they closely linked to the start and end of battles.

Moreover, sacrifices in the Iliad are unlike those found in military contexts of the Classical period. While on the march, Xenophon describes the frequent performance of sacrifice before any significant undertaking and, in the battle-lines, immediately before fighting. In this context, sphagia sacrifices are performed at the start and conclusion of battle, the taking of oaths, the crossing of rivers, the assuaging of winds, for some types of purification, and as rites for the dead and for heroes. [116] Sacrifices are performed at the start of battle to provide an opportunity for interpreting omens and at the end to thank the gods, two practices not attested in the Iliad, where, except for the oath sacrifice in Book III, sacrifices are not performed before battle, for divination purposes, or as thanks-offerings. [117] For example, Nestor recalls how, upon his arrival at the river Alpheios, the scene of a battle with the Epeians on the following day, he made sacrifices to Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and the river Alpheios. Though the sacrifice marks the conclusion of the march to the river, the danger of the expedition lay presumably in the forthcoming engagement with the enemy, which, nevertheless, is not preceded by a sacrifice in Nestor’s recollection of events:

ἔνθεν πανσυδίῃ σὺν τεύχεσι θωρηχθέντες
ἔνδιοι ἱκόμεσθ’ ἱερὸν ῥόον Ἀλφειοῖο.
ἔνθα Διὶ ῥέξαντες ὑπερμενεῖ ἱερὰ καλά,
ταῦρον δ’ Ἀλφειῷ, ταῦρον δὲ Ποσειδάωνι,
αὐτὰρ Ἀθηναίῃ γλαυκώπιδι βοῦν ἀγελαίην,
δόρπον ἔπειθ’ ἑλόμεσθα κατὰ στρατὸν ἐν τελέεσσι,
καὶ κατεκοιμήθημεν ἐν ἔντεσιν οἷσιν ἕκαστος
ἀμφὶ ῥοὰς ποταμοῖο. ἀτὰρ μεγάθυμοι Ἐπειοὶ
ἀμφίσταντο δὴ ἄστυ διαρραῖσαι μεμαῶτες·
ἀλλά σφι προπάροιθε φάνη μέγα ἔργον Ἄρηος·
εὖτε γὰρ ἠέλιος φαέθων ὑπερέσχεθε γαίης,
συμφερόμεσθα μάχῃ, Διί τ’ εὐχόμενοι καὶ Ἀθήνῃ.

(Iliad XI 725–736)

“Then, with all haste, harnessed in battle armor,
our army reached the Alpheios’ holy ford at noon. {32|33}
There we slaughtered fine victims to mighty Zeus,
a bull to Alpheios, a bull to lord Poseidon
and a cow from the herd to blazing-eyed Athena.
And then through camp we took our evening meal by rank and file,
and caught what sleep we could, each in his gear
along the river rapids. And all the while those vaunting Epeians
were closing round the fortress, burning to tear it down.
But before they got the chance a great work of the War-god flashed before their eyes!
Soon as the sun came up in flames above the earth
we joined battle, praying to Zeus and Pallas.”

Nestor is very specific in his recollection: they reached the river at noon, sacri-ficed different victims appropriate to the individual divinities, ate dinner, slept, and met the enemy at sunrise. Henrichs has interpreted the pre-battle sphagia sacrifices in Xenophon as taking place before battle, in a “liminal period,” being performed by the mantis to cope with the anxiety triggered by warfare. [
118] In Nestor’s battle with the Epeians, there are prayers to Zeus and Athena immediately before the battle, but they neither release any pre-battle tension through sacrifice nor do they employ a mantis ‘seer’. In fact, sacrificial victims are never used in the Iliad for divination. Nestor never describes the crossing of the river or sacrifices before the battle or in front of the approaching enemy. Interestingly, he does refer to the offerings to Zeus as hiera kala, a phrase which Michael Jameson has linked to the pre-battle sacrifices producing good omens in the Classical period: “the ostensible purpose of all rites before victory was achieved was to obtain from the gods favorable signs (kallierein, from the phrase hiera kala) for the next step in the campaign.” [119] Hiera kala does not carry these mantic connotations in the Iliad; for instance, in the narrator’s description of Akhilleus’ promise of hiera kala to the winds in return for kindling the fire of Patroklos’ pyre (Iliad XXIII 195), the term does not refer to divination. Although Zeus and Athena are invoked before the battle and, in Nestor’s opinion, the success in battle is attributed to them, no thanks-offering is described. [120] {33|34}

The mantis is an essential part of the Classical Greek army, primarily tasked with performing sacrifices before battle and pronouncing the will of the gods based on the visual appearance of the victims’ inner organs. [121] Various other kinds of ritual experts could be consulted in the Classical period, but in Homer there are only a few types, which do not correspond with the professionals depicted in Xenophon or other Classical sources. [122] People who perform religious offices in the Iliad are called hiereus or arêtêr, generally translated as ‘priest’, who can be described as custodians of traditions. Khruses is referred to with both of these terms ( Iliad I 11, 94, 370); Kalkhas is consistently described as a mantis. [123] Odysseus remembers the mantis Kalkhas’ interpretation of a bird sign, the only method of divination present in the Iliad. During an Akhaian sacrifice, they are interrupted when a serpent devours a sparrow and her babies just before it turns to stone (Iliad II 306–330). Kalkhas interprets the scene as an indication that the Akhaians will defeat Troy. This kind of divination is very different from the so-called ‘Xenophontic system’, where the divine signs resulting from the sacrifice are interpreted, a practice that seems to have been de rigeur in the Classical period. [124] In historical sources, the mantis almost always performs the sacrifices in the context of war for this reason. [125] However, in Homer manteis are not consulted in any standardized or consistent fashion. Kalkhas interprets the bird signs at Aulis, but he is not specifically linked with the act of sacrificing, nor are the bird signsexpected or resultant from the sacrifice. Instead, they interrupt the ritual. [126] In fact, Kalkhas is not involved in any sacrifice performed in the narrative. Passing mention is made of other seers—a theopropos ‘seer’, an {34|35} oiônistês ‘bird-diviner’, a thuoskoos ‘observer of sacrificial smoke’, and anoneiropolos ‘dream-interpreter’—but they never figure directly in the narrative. [127] Akhilleus proposes that the army consult a mantis, hiereus, or oneiropolos to learn the cause of the plague (Iliad I 62–63: ἀλλ’ ἄγε δή τινα μάντιν ἐρείομεν ἢ ἱερῆα / ἢ καὶ ὀνειροπόλον). These categories puzzled the Hellenistic commentators: Zenodotos athetized this verse and Aristarkhos attempted to explain that mantis was the generic type of diviner, while hiereus and oneiropolos were subcategories of those who prophesy by sacrifice and dreams, respectively. Akhilleus suggests that these experts can interpret whether the god is angry about a lack of sacrifice, exactly what Kalkhas does on this crucial occasion. Priests, otherwise, do not play much of a role in ritual performance in the Iliad. As we will see, religious authority is entirely centered on Agamemnon, and Akhaian priests and diviners play correspondingly small roles.

There are only two other sacred officials in the Iliad who perform religious duties, Khruses and Theano, and the prominence given to these priests outside of the Akhaian community furthers the marginalization of Akhaian cult-practitioners in the narrative. [128] Khruses is a priest of Apollo who maintains a cult site at Khruse, near Troy, where the Akhaians return his daughter; he officiates at the propitiatory sacrifice occasioned by her return in Iliad I, a scene which we will discuss in full in Chapter Four. Priam refers to diviners and priests to cast doubt upon their predictions:

εἰ μὲν γάρ τίς μ’ ἄλλος ἐπιχθονίων ἐκέλευεν,
ἢ οἳ μάντιές εἰσι θυοσκόοι ἢ ἱερῆες

(Iliad XXIV 220–221)

“If someone else had commanded me, some mortal man,
either some prophet staring into the smoke, or some priest . . .”

Priam assures Hekabe that it was the messenger of the gods, Iris, who com-manded him to go to the Akhaian camps, not a diviner or priest, whose knowledge of the divine seems to be the object of scorn or at least skepticism. The contrast in the poem between direct communication with the gods, such as Akhilleus has through his mother, and ineffectual attempts to appease the {35|36} gods through mortal activities, such as prophecy, is a prominent theme to which we will return in Chapter Four. Priam’s reference to thuoskooi manteis is unique in the Iliad. Despite the numerous battles, the practice of hepatoscopy is not performed in the Iliad, and since thuein refers, not to animal sacrifice in the Iliad, but to ‘burning’, Priam’s reference probably alludes to “scrutineers of incense smoke” rather than to the thuoskooi of the Classical era, professionals who examine livers. [

There is one priestess in the Iliad, the Trojan Theano, who opens the temple and leads the women’s offering of a peplos and sacrificial vow to Athena. Although sacred officials in the Iliad bear much resemblance to their Classical counterparts, Theano, who bears some resemblance to the role of priestesses in the Mycenaean and Classical periods, provides an interesting exception. A link can be drawn between the description of Theano and that of the Mycenaean priestesses attested in the Linear B tablets. The Trojans have appointed Theano (ἔθηκαν, Iliad VI 300); she has a key to the temple (Iliad VI 89, 298); and she dedicates a textile to Athena (Iliad VI 303). A Mycenaean priestess (i-je-re-ja) is described on a tablet from Pylos (Un 6) as a “key-bearer” (ka-ra-wi-po-ro: κλαιϝφορος), in conjunction with textiles in a dedicatory context. [130] Although the ritual practices of the Classical period have often been compared to Homeric scenes, the evidence for Mycenaean cult practice, which seems to have included sacrificial banquets on special occasions and festivals, frequent offerings to a variety of local and supra-regional deities, and a well-established priesthood, is not often used as comparanda for Homer. Mycenaean cult practice, as we can reconstruct it, provides a parallel to the representations of sacrifice in Homeric poetry for the three following reasons: many of the deities are the same, and the coincidence between the prominence of Poseidon in the Pylian tablets and the Pylian offerings to Poseidon in Odyssey {36|37} iii has been well noted; [131] recent archaeological findings suggest a tantalizing similarity with the Homeric treatment of thigh bones; [132] and there is sufficient evidence to suggest that religious offerings and sacrificial feasts were organized and controlled by the elites, primarily the highest-ranking people living in the palace, as manipulative tools for both consolidation and intimidation. I will argue for a comparable purpose for Agamemnon’s use of sacrifice in the Iliad. We will periodically return to evidence from the Mycenaean period for sacrificial practices resembling those in the Iliad. Although the evidence is fragmentary and connections between historic Mycenaean practices and the creative, idealized representations in Homer can never be proven, Mycenaean evidence can provide analogous cult practices useful to our study. We will return to the Mycenaean evidence again in Chapter Four. As I have stated, much of the scholarship on sacrifice does not illuminate the sacrifice scenes in the Iliad because of the differences between the Homeric representations and practices in the Classical period. Both G. S. Kirk and Seaford have noted the need for more serious work on the topic of sacrifice in Homer. [133] In one of the few recent treatments of Homeric sacrifice, Kirk wisely observes, “Too little consideration is given to the process of the self-consistency or otherwise of the Homeric picture, and to possible motives for the addition of new ritual acts or the revaluation of old ones.” [134] By using the {37|38} models of Mauss and Meuli, Kirk analyzes six scenes to identify the recurrent elements of sacrifice in Homer, which he contrasts with the evidence from the Classical period. [135] Finding that crucial symbolic details for interpretations of “sacralization” are missing from Homer, he does not offer an alternative approach, yet he successfully highlights the problems with modern approaches to the Homeric material. The comprehensive bibliographies of publications on ritual have only one entry for “sacrifice in Homer”—Seaford’s article on the influence of Homer on scenes of sacrifice in Greek tragedy. [136] The Cambridge Companion to Homer includes a thoughtful essay on “The Gods in Homer,” but neglects ritual. [137] Wace and Stubbings’ Companion to Homer includes a good, if brief, discussion of relationships between men and gods, including sacrifice, in the chapter “Polity and Society,” whereas the chapter entitled “Religion” confines itself exclusively to archaeological material. Morris and Powell, in their New Companion to Homer, do not treat cult practice in Homer at all. [138] Jean Stallings, in an unpublished dissertation, attempts to analyze the aesthetics offormulaic language in scenes of “eaten sacrifice” in the Iliad, but she is frustrated by divergent details and the limitations placed on her own study, which excludes the “uneaten” oath sacrifices and includes feast scenes withoutexplicit animal sacrifice. [139] Kitts’s recent book stands out as a good study on the oath sacrifices, but it does not address the wider context of animal sacrifice. [140]

1.3 The Poetics of Sacrifice

The function of sacrifice in the Iliad is complicated by a lack of consensus on a definition of ‘sacrifice’. Occasions for sacrifice and feasting in the Iliad cannot be explicated by comparisons with evidence from the Classical period, as discussed above, or by theoretical interpretations suggesting that, with few exceptions, the only livestock consumed in ancient Greek communities were sacrificial animals. In such a model, feasting and animal sacrifice become inextricable. Uneaten sacrifices (sphagia), often burnt entirely, fall into a separate category, usually excluded from specific studies of thusia sacrifices. [142] In regard to both literary and epigraphic sources from the Classical period,Marcel Detienne has asserted “the absolute coincidence of meat eating and sacrifice.” [143] Inscriptions have provided a wealth of evidence for the number {39|40} and type of animals sacrificed, but these documents are primarily concerned with finance and procedures of public record keeping, and they vary among the poleis that produced them in the Classical period. Although vastly important to an understanding of how communities practiced sacrifice, the interpretative models drawing on epigraphic sources cannot entirely explain literary representations of sacrifice, which are creative expressions subject to the manipulations of artists. [144] Attempts to identify the absolute coincidence of meat eating and sacrifice have encouraged similar generalizations in the interpretation of iconography as well. For example, the same image of meat on a chopping block can be identified as a representation of sacrificial procedure by one scholar, excluded from being termed a ‘sacrifice’ by another because of its absence of the clear indications of religious performance found in many other images, such as garlands or a kanoun , and discussed without reference to sacrifice at all by a third. [145] This kind of contradiction, a result of the fragmentary and often inconsistent nature of the evidence, leads not only to a lack of consensus on the evidence among modern audiences but also to too little attention being paid this lack of consensus.

Analyses of Homeric sacrifice are equally inconsistent. B. C. Dietrich has argued strongly for secular eating divorced from religious practices in the poems:

However, in a discussion of Homeric sacrifice, Susan Sherratt describes feasting as one of the most frequent and regularly formulaic activities in the Odyssey, which can be expanded or abbreviated without change in meaning. This abbreviation implies that the “distinctive features of the fully described Homeric feast” are part of a “continuum.” [
147] She allows no distinction between feasting and sacrifice in the epics, partly because of the remoteness of the gods as beneficiaries of such events:

Similarly, George Calhoun and Emily Vermeule have insisted upon an implicit link between sacrifice and feasting, so that any reference to one is also to the other. [
149] Stallings tries to link all references to sacrifice in the Iliad to feasting, stating that “there are no grounds in the Homeric text for supposing that any sacrifice dedicated to a specific god or hero is uneaten; the references are too brief, and our knowledge of cult practice too limited.” [150] However, the shared meal cannot be used as the definitive criterion for animal sacrifice in the Iliad, as some sacrifices are not followed by meals, and there are numerous occasions on which the heroes eat without any reference to gods. Nagy, in his seminal examination of concepts of heroism, while recognizing the usefulness of the type of generalizing method favored by Sherratt, has described the theory of “every-meal-a-sacrifice” as an “overly one-dimensional” approach to epic {41|42} action. [151] The poetic narrative focuses on different stages of the ritual pattern of sacrifice, with variations suited to particular contexts: the context sometimes requires emphasis on the theme of nourishment, sometimes on a ritual offering to the gods. Shared feasts conclude some representations of sacrifice, which include all three pre-kill, kill, and post-kill phases, but without pre-kill details the shared feast can also have a different thematic significance. In his discussion of the oral nature of Homeric discourse, Egbert Bakker has argued that the even the smallest details are added for a purpose: “The detail may be the very reason why the frame has been set up at all.” [152] The variations in the descriptions of sacrifice and feasting alter the presentation and therefore the function of the action.

In Eumaios’ first meal with Odysseus, the emphasis is placed firmly on his generous hospitality. The careful actions of preparing food for his guest highlight his good nature and anticipate his role as a trustworthy helper, but they do not refer to the gods or identify this meal with a thematic use of sacrifice in the poem. He kills the pigs to provide nourishment for his guest:

ἔνθεν ἑλὼν δύ’ ἔνεικε καὶ ἀμφοτέρους ἱέρευσεν,
εὗσέ τε μίστυλλέν τε καὶ ἀμφ’ ὀβελοῖσιν ἔπειρεν.
ὀπτήσας δ’ ἄρα πάντα φέρων παρέθηκ’ Ὀδυσῆϊ
θέρμ’ αὐτοῖς ὀβελοῖσιν· ὁ δ’ ἄλφιτα λευκὰ πάλυνεν· {42|43}
ἐν δ’ ἄρα κισσυβίῳ κίρνη μελιηδέα οἶνον,
αὐτὸς δ’ ἀντίον ἷζεν, ἐποτρύνων δὲ προσηύδα·
“ἔσθιε νῦν, ὦ ξεῖνε, τά τε δμώεσσι πάρεστι.”

(Odyssey xiv 74–80)

And [Eumaios] picked out a pair and brought them in and killed them,
and singed them, and cut them into little pieces, and spitted them.
Then he roasted all and brought it and set it before Odysseus
hot on the spits as it was, and sprinkled white barley over it,
and mixed the wine, as sweet as honey, in a bowl of ivy,
and himself sat down facing him, and urged him on, saying:
“Eat now, stranger, what we serving men are permitted to eat.”

The slaughter of the pigs is described with ἱέρευσεν (Odyssey xiv 74), a verb which can be used of sacrifice in Homer, and which has the exclusive meaning ‘sacrifice’ in the Classical period. In this scene, although a verb with sacrificial connotations describes the kill, there are no other indications that this action is dedicated to gods or is part of an animal sacrifice. Arend points out that the Odyssey often depicts meals without sacrifices, and Vermeule, in her primarily archaeological study of gods and cult in Homer, decides that ἱερεύειν does “not always” have a “sacred” meaning. [
154] Stengel thinks that the definition ‘sacrifice’ is impossible in most cases for ἱερεύειν. [155] The meat from the pigs is put on spits, an act that occurs in sacrificial feasts, but without the pre-kill rites which would mark the scene as sacrificial, this need not imply any more than food preparation. [156] Instead, the act of eating is prioritized by Eumaios’ command to the stranger: ἔσθιε νῦν ‘eat now’ (Odyssey xiv 80). The narrative identifies Eumaios as a loyal servant and as the antithesis of the suitors through his generosity and hospitality, a characterization made explicit with his lengthy diatribe about the suitors’ behavior following his command to Odysseus to eat (Odyssey xiv 81–108). So ἱέρευσεν, in this context, would seem to mean not ‘sacrifice’, but ‘kill’. However, in the second meal prepared for Odysseus, the emphasis shifts to highlight Eumaios as not only a good host and {43|44} therefore antithetical to the suitors, who are bad guests, but also as a person attuned to the gods. The performance of sacrifice in the second meal ties in with the oaths and prayers Odysseus and Eumaios describe in their creation of a trusting relationship (Odyssey xiv 149–198, 390–409) and their exchange of ‘life stories’ (Odyssey xiv 199–389).

As the characterization of Eumaios develops and the bond with Odysseus strengthens, the narrative emphasizes his good relations with the gods, as well as his performance as a good host, through a sacrificial meal:

οἱ δ’ ὗν εἰσῆγον μάλα πίονα πενταέτηρον.
τὸν μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἔστησαν ἐπ’ ἐσχάρῃ· οὐδὲ συβώτης
λήθετ’ ἄρ’ ἀθανάτων· φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσιν·
ἀλλ’ ὅ γ’ ἀπαρχόμενος κεφαλῆς τρίχας ἐν πυρὶ βάλλεν
ἀργιόδοντος ὑὸς, καὶ ἐπεύχετο πᾶσι θεοῖσι
νοστῆσαι Ὀδυσῆα πολύφρονα ὅνδε δόμονδε.
κόψε δ’ ἀνασχόμενος σχίζῃ δρυός, ἣν λίπε κείων·
τὸν δ’ ἔλιπε ψυχή. τοὶ δ’ ἔσφαξάν τε καὶ εὗσαν,
αἶψα δέ μιν διέχευαν· ὁ δ’ ὠμοθετεῖτο συβώτης,
πάντων ἀρχόμενος μελέων, ἐς πίονα δημόν.
καὶ τὰ μὲν ἐν πυρὶ βάλλε, παλύνας ἀλφίτου ἀκτῇ,
μίστυλλόν τ’ ἄρα τἆλλα καὶ ἀμφ’ ὀβελοῖσιν ἔπειραν
ὤπτησάν τε περιφραδέως ἐρύσαντό τε πάντα,
βάλλον δ’ εἰν ἐλεοῖσιν ἀολλέα.

(Odyssey xiv 419–432)

And the men brought in a pig, five years old and a very fat one,
and made it stand in front of the fireplace, nor did the swineherd
forget the immortal gods, for he had the uses of virtue;
but he cut off hairs from the head of the white-toothed pig to start the rite, and threw them
into the fire as a dedication, and prayed to all the gods
that Odysseus of the many designs should have his homecoming.
He hit the beast with a split of oak that he had lying by him.
The breath went out of the pig; then they sacrificed and singed him.
They jointed the carcass, and the swineherd laid pieces of raw meat
with offerings from all over the body upon the thick fat,
and sprinkled these with meal of barley and threw them in the fire, then {44|45}
they cut all the remainder into pieces and spitted them,
and roasted all carefully and took off the pieces,
and laid them all together on platters.

The different emphasis in the scenes, from food for a hungry guest to a gift-offering to the gods followed by a shared meal, is striking, all the more so given the overlap of cooking details and the quickness with which the second meal follows the first: in between the first and second meals, the men have exchanged life stories, though they do not seem to have moved from their lunch table. The two meals have many details in common, but the sacrificial context of the second meal changes its meaning within the poem. Here, the verb ἔσφαξαν ‘butchered’, found in sacrificial contexts, is used (Odyssey xiv 426), but it is the combination of this verb with pre-kill rites, prayer, and the narrative insight into Eumaios’ actions as directed toward the gods (“nor did the swineherd forget the immortal gods, for he had the uses of virtue,” οὐδὲ συβώτης λήθετ’ ἄρ’ ἀθανάτων· φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσιν, Odyssey xiv 420-421) that designates this scene as an animal sacrifice. Although verses similar to those in the non-sacrificial lunch describe the roasting of meat (Odyssey xiv 75–77, 430–431), this sacrificial scene is elaborated with the offering of hairs, cut and thrown into the fire, and the prayer for Odysseus’ safety (Odyssey xiv 422–424). Both meats are sprinkled with barley (Odyssey xiv 77, 429), the former presumably for taste, the latter before being thrown into the fire as a preliminary offering.

The sacrificial performance elevates this meal as a sign of the swineherd’s devotion to Odysseus. Eumaios’ emphasizes his devotion by directly appealing to the gods with the prayer for his master’s homecoming that accompanies the preliminary offerings ( Odyssey xiv 422–424). Recalling the initial description of Eumaios as one “not forgetful of the gods,” the swineherd’s piety is highlighted by the narrator’s description of his “fair-mindedness.” Further, with his setting aside special portions for gods and the honorific portion of meat for his guest, his honoring of Odysseus is explicitly linked to worship of the gods: [157]

ἂν δὲ συβώτης
ἵστατο δαιτρεύσων· περὶ γὰρ φρεσὶν αἴσιμα ᾔδη.
καὶ τὰ μὲν ἕπταχα πάντα διεμοιρᾶτο δαΐζων· {45|46}
τὴν μὲν ἴαν Νύμφῃσι καὶ Ἑρμῇ, Μαιάδος υἱεῖ,
θῆκεν ἐπευξάμενος, τὰς δ’ ἄλλας νεῖμεν ἑκάστῳ·
νώτοισιν δ’ Ὀδυσῆα διηνεκέεσσι γέραιρεν
ἀργιόδοντος ὑός, κύδαινε δὲ θυμὸν ἄνακτος.

(Odyssey xiv 432–438)

The swineherd
stood up to divide the portions, for he was fair-minded,
and separated all the meat into seven portions.
One he set aside for the Nymphs and Hermes, the son of Maia,
with a prayer, and the rest he distributed to each man,
but he gave Odysseus in honor the long cuts of the chine
of the white-toothed pig, and so exalted the heart of his master.

Here Eumaios’ sacrifice is clearly distinguished from the earlier unmarked meal because of his specific gestures toward gods and prayers. Yet, due to the lack of a clear definition of sacrifice in Homer, some would exclude this as a sacrificial meal, while others would describe both meals as ‘sacrificial’. Eumaios’ division of the meat into portions is a unique offering, while the consumption of splankhna found in some Homeric sacrificial scenes, frequently referred to in Classical descriptions of sacrifice, is not part of this ritual performance. Berthiaume, following the definition of sacrificial ritual offered by Rudhardt, defines the difference between ritual killing and butchery in Homer as the consumption of the splankhna, therefore disqualifying Eumaios’ offerings. [
158] However, no single detail can be used in Homer to define an action, even a ‘typical action’, since the variation between scenes is an essential part of the creation of meaning and the composition-in-performance of the poems. Splankhna are only consumed on six occasions in all of Homer, including once by the suitors in the Odyssey, who serve as symbols of the perversion of normative ritual, so this cannot be considered a defining criterion. [159] A similar attempt to define sacrifice on the basis of a single ritual action is made by Stengel, who proposes that prayer identifies sacrificial scenes in Homer, being a clear marker that the action is directed at the gods; this assertion is also supported by José García-López in a book on Mycenaean and Homeric sacrifice. [160] Yet not every sacrificial scene includes prayer, for {46|47} instance Agamemnon’s hecatomb for Apollo (Iliad I 313–317), and the prayers themselves exhibit a great deal of variation. Rather than a single detail or action defining sacrifice, it is an accumulation of details and specific references in the narrative to gift-offerings to the gods that create the thematic meaning of sacrifice in Homer. Some details in Eumaios’ sacrifice are unique in Homer, others may be found elsewhere, but the accumulation of pre-kill rites, the prayer, special offerings for the gods, and the twice-repeated observation of Eumaios’ pious nature mark this meal as ‘sacrificial’, in contrast to the earlier scene, which focuses on hospitality and nourishment.

This implies not a division between “religious” and “non-religious” actions, a meaningless distinction in antiquity, but a range of possible traditional actions adaptable to different contexts. [161] The marked occasion is an animal sacrifice, preceded by recognizable pre-kill rites directed toward divinities. To avoid confusion, I will refer to the unmarked descriptions at the farthest end of the spectrum from communication with the gods, those of animals slaughtered without pre-kill rites, as “feasting.” This does not exclude feasting as a ritual action or, when included in sacrifice, render it a meaningless part of sacrifice. It merely illustrates a different emphasis created by the selective process of artistic representation. The slaughter of the animal is described in both scenes of feasting and sacrifice, but pre-kill or post-kill details are expanded to suit the needs of the context. The focus can shift from sacrifice with a commensal meal, or sacrifice without a commensal meal, to a commensal meal without sacrifice. Sacrifice is marked by the intention of communicating with the gods, which is not always equated with a shared meal. At the other end of the spectrum, the narrative emphasizes the meal in scenes that do not call attention to mortal/immortal relations, or in which the theme of mortal nourishment is prominent, symbolizing revitalization and survival. In the Iliad this spectrum ranges from grand sacrifices to the gods as performed by Agamemnon to Akhilleus’ complete exclusion of such actions in his preparation of food.

Many scholars of ritual have struggled with the connection between Homeric sacrifice and feasting. Kirk refers to ‘secular meals’ in Homer, as do Dietrich and Angeliki Petropoulou. [162] Stallings, constrained by her definition {47|48} of sacrifice as part of a feast, is unable to identify a significant theme in the formulas of animal sacrifice: “In the first place, the automatic significance conferred by religious action is not shared by all type scenes, in the second place, the eaten sacrifices are exceedingly diverse in diction, so that they may hardly constitute a single type.” [163] Sharing a similar state of frustration, Calhoun concludes that the poems describe ritual “incidentally,” “circumstantially,” and “incompletely.” [164] The lack of “automatic religious significance” comes from the tendency to group together scenes from opposite ends of the previously described spectrum, which results from a strict categorization of “every-meal-a-sacrifice” and the similarly confining view that the varying length of sacrificial scenes is only a matter of insignificant reduction or expansion. Studies on the Classical iconography of sacrifice have reached similar conclusions. Sarah Peirce’s discussion of scenes of thusia in Classical vase painting, while denying any distinction between “sacred” killing and “secular” eating, only considers images with explicit “ritual” details, such as wreaths or altars, to be snapshots of a particular stage of a thusia sacrifice. [165] Similarly, van Straten considers a combination of features, such as the altar, the divine recipient, and decorations on the animal, to be indicative of sacrificial contexts. [166]

The most commonly used designation for sacrifice in later authors is θύειν. However, in Homer, θύειν expresses burning, which includes, but is not restricted to, parts of animals. [169] This original meaning of ‘go up in smoke’ is reflected in the Homeric noun-epithet phrase “smoky altar” (βωμὸς θυήεις), such as the one for Zeus on Mount Ida. [170] That this verb becomes the technical term for animal sacrifice in later periods is due to a process of verbal evolution, described by Jean Casabona as “accidental.” [171] In addition to the adjective θυήεις, there are only four other occurrences in the Iliad of either the verb θύειν or related nouns, in all instances referring to smoke or the act of burning rather than animal sacrifice. [172] Hektor describes the gift-offerings the women will take to Athena, in addition to the peplos, as θυέεσσι (Iliad VI 270), also used by Phoinix as one of three offerings to the gods, along with libations and the smoke of sacrificial meat (knisē, Iliad IX 499–501). Akhilleus initiates a very abbreviated offering to the gods when preparing dinner for the embassy: he reportedly orders an offering to be made to the gods (θῦσαι) by Patroklos, who then throws θυηλαί into the fire (Iliad IX 219–220). The verb and derivative noun, a hapax legomenon, in this context describe a burnt offering to the gods. Akhilleus’ burnt offering is unique in the poem, a deviation from Agamemnon’s idealized enacted sacrifices that will be discussed fully in Chapter Four. In the Iliad, θύειν does not depict animal sacrifice, the slaughter of victims with pre-kill actions dedicated to the gods. Likewise, θύειν, which in this context seems {49|50} to mean ‘burn for the gods’, as noted by Aristarkhos, rather than ‘slaughter for the gods’, is used four times in the Odyssey. [173]

However, complications arise in the usage of the same verb in Glaukos’ digression on Bellerophon, in which the verb describes the Lycian king’s reception of the hero: “For nine days he showed him hospitality and slaughtered nine oxen” (ἐννῆμαρ ξείνισσε καὶ ἐννέα βοῦς ἱέρευσεν, Iliad VI 174). There are no references here to divinities, but rather a description of the generous reception of Bellerophon before the king commands him to kill the Khimaira (Iliad VI 179). The feasting, a symbol of social harmony, is designed to contrast with the king’s reaction to the revelation of the baneful signs Bellerophon carries with him (Iliad VI 168, 178). Although the verb ἱερεύειν, associated with animal sacrifice, is used in this description, the lack of other indications of a ceremony addressing the gods and the clear emphasis on hospitality for guests (ξείνισσε) differentiate its meaning in this instance from the descriptions of Agamemnon’s sacrifices and the Trojan vow to Athena. Similarly, a banquet without reference to divinities is depicted on the shield made by Hephaistos for Akhilleus:

βασιλεὺς δ’ ἐν τοῖσι σιωπῇ
σκῆπτρον ἔχων ἑστήκει ἐπ’ ὄγμου γηθόσυνος κῆρ.
κήρυκες δ’ ἀπάνευθεν ὑπὸ δρυῒ δαῖτα πένοντο,
βοῦν δ’ ἱερεύσαντες μέγαν ἄμφεπον· αἱ δὲ γυναῖκες
δεῖπνον ἐρίθοισιν λεύκ’ ἄλφιτα πολλὰ πάλυνον.

(Iliad XVIII 556–560)

And there in the midst the king, in silence,
scepter in hand at the head of the reaping-rows, stood, rejoicing in his heart.
And off to the side, beneath an oak, the heralds were setting out the feast,
they were dressing a great ox they had slaughtered, while women
poured out white barley, generous, for the reaper’s midday meal.

The scene on Akhilleus’ shield depicts preparations for supper for a king, who holds a scepter and, as such, recalls Agamemnon as chief king of the Akhai-ans. [
182] The heralds who set out the harvest for the king anticipate the role of Talthubios in setting up Agamemnon’s oath sacrifice in Iliad XIX, which will mark Akhilleus’ reintegration into the group—the last sacrifice in the {52|53} epic. That there are no references to divinities on the shield of Akhilleus is significant. The emphasis of the verb ἱερεύειν has shifted to create an image of feasting unlike those found in the Trojan vow or Agamemnon’s sacrifices. Because Thetis brings Akhilleus this divinely made armor, a gift from the gods to a semi-divine hero, its echo of Agamemnon’s sacrifices serves to highlight Akhilleus’ isolation. Throughout the poem, sacrifice will remain central to thematic opposition between Akhilleus and the methods of communicating with the gods used by the mortal heroes. Akhilleus himself twice uses ἱερεύειν in his rejection of animal sacrifice as a meaningful act. Over the corpse of Lukaon he vaunts that the Trojan sacrifices to the Skamandros did not avail him (“the many bulls you sacrificed,” πολέας ἱερεύετε ταύρους, Iliad XXI 131). In a very poignant moment, standing over the pyre of Patroklos, he revokes the vow his father made to the river Sperkheios for sacrifices upon his return home (“to sacrifice sheep into your waters,” μῆλ’ ἱερεύσειν ἐς πηγάς, Iliad XXIII 147–148). Akhilleus’ emphatic rejection of sacrifice as he approaches his own death will be discussed in detail in Chapter Four. Suffice it for now to say that the language of sacrifice adapts to the context of the speaker: when Akhilleus speaks of sacrifice, it is resoundingly negative.

However, no sacrifices are performed before battle for divination in Homer, nor does σφάζειν have a special connection with ‘uneaten sacrifice’, as it is always used of animals killed for feasts in Homer. Similar to the use of ἱερεύειν, σφάζειν is used in reference only to Agamemnon, Akhilleus, and, on one other occasion, in Phoinix’s autobiography. Therefore, it becomes part of the thematic use of sacrifice to exemplify the special status of Akhilleus in regard to mortal/immortal dynamics. Agamemnon’s enacted sacrifices are twice described in this way (Iliad I 459 = II 422); these sacrifices, to which we will return in Chapters Two and Four, demonstrate the full range of pre-kill rites and prayers to the gods. After bringing Hektor’s mutilated corpse to his camp, a blood-spattered Akhilleus and the Myrmidons lament Patroklos, and Akhilleus has a funeral feast prepared for them (ὁ τοῖσι τάφον μενοεικέα δαίνυ, Iliad XXIII 29). Akhilleus’ attendants butcher (σφαζόμενοι) bulls, sheep, goats, and swine for the mourners (Iliad XXIII 30–31). However, despite the stated intention to prepare a feast, the consumption of the meal is not depicted; rather, the slaughter and destruction of the animals is dramatically emphasized: the ‘quivering’ (ὀρέχθεον) animals are killed and burnt (“They singed the bristles, splaying the porkers out across Hephaistos’ fire,” θαλέθοντες ἀλοιφῇ / εὑόμενοι τανύοντο διὰ φλογὸς Ἡφαίστοιο, Iliad XXIII 32–33), and they provide copious amounts of blood, in which everyone could dip cups (πάντῃ δ’ ἀμφὶ νέκυν κοτυλήρυτον ἔρρεεν αἷμα, Iliad XXIII 34). In this context, no divinities are mentioned, nor are there any indications that these actions are part of a ceremony directed toward the gods. Instead, the gory tone established by Akhilles’ grim treatment of Hektor continues. There is no feast, and Akhilleus is brought to Agamemnon still covered in gore, which he refuses to wash until Patroklos is buried. This usage of σφάζειν closely recalls that in the speech of Phoinix, which exhibits many of the same features found in Akhilleus’ funeral feast, even repeating a verse that describes animals being burnt:

αὐτοῦ λισσόμενοι κατερήτυον ἐν μεγάροισι,
πολλὰ δὲ ἴφια μῆλα καὶ εἰλίποδας ἕλικας βοῦς
ἔσφαζον , πολλοὶ δὲ σύες θαλέθοντες ἀλοιφῇ {55|56}
εὑόμενοι τανύοντο διὰ φλογὸς Ἡφαίστοιο ,
πολλὸν δ’ ἐκ κεράμων μέθυ πίνετο τοῖο γέροντος.

(Iliad IX 465–469)

Holding me in the house, begging me to stay,
they butchered plenty of fat sheep, and shambling crook-horned cattle,
droves of pigs, succulent, rich with fat—
they singed the bristles, splaying them out across Hephaistos’ fire,
then a great amount of wine was poured from the old man’s jars.

To conclude this Chapter, we will return to Akhilleus’ meal with Priam, which has been variously interpreted as both a “sacrificial meal” and a “non-sacrificial” meal. [190] Building on our discussion of the creation of sacrificial {56|57} ritual through an accumulation of ritual details, we can see that Akhilleus describes the meal to Priam without referencing gift-offerings to divinities or other rites which mark sacrifice scenes. He first makes known his intention to provide a feast for Priam with the remark, “now, at last, let us turn our thoughts to supper” (νῦν δὲ μνησώμεθα δόρπου, Iliad XXIV 601), followed by his digression on the fate of Niobe (Iliad XXIV 602–617), after which he again reiterates his intention to eat: [191]

“ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ καὶ νῶι μεδώμεθα, δῖε γεραιέ,
σίτου· ἔπειτά κεν αὖτε φίλον παῖδα κλαίοισθα
Ἴλιον εἰσαγαγών· πολυδάκρυτος δέ τοι ἔσται.”
Ἦ, καὶ ἀναΐξας ὄιν ἄργυφον ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς
σφάξ’· ἕταροι δ’ ἔδερόν τε καὶ ἄμφεπον εὖ κατὰ κόσμον,
μίστυλλόν τ’ ἄρ’ ἐπισταμένως πεῖράν τ’ ὀβελοῖσιν,
ὤπτησάν τε περιφραδέως, ἐρύσαντό τε πάντα.
Αὐτομέδων δ’ ἄρα σῖτον ἑλὼν ἐπένειμε τραπέζῃ
καλοῖς ἐν κανέοισιν· ἀτὰρ κρέα νεῖμεν Ἀχιλλεύς.
οἳ δ’ ἐπ’ ὀνείαθ’ ἑτοῖμα προκείμενα χεῖρας ἴαλλον.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,

(Iliad XXIV 618–628)

So come—we too, old king, must think of food.
Later you can mourn your beloved son once more
when you bear him home from Troy, and you’ll weep many tears.”
Having spoken, swift Akhilleus sprang to his feet
and slaughtered a white sheep as comrades moved in
to skin the carcass quickly, dress the quarters well.
Expertly they cut the meat into pieces, pierced them with spits,
roasted them to a turn and pulled them off the spits.
Automedon brought the bread, set it out on the board
in ample wicker baskets. Akhilleus served the meat.
They reached out for the good things that lay at hand
and when they had put aside desire for food and drink . . .

When Akhilleus tells Priam, “we too, old king, must think of food,” the audience is given clear indication that eating, as an act of nourishment, is a priority, just as it is in Eumaios’ first meal. Like dorpon (Iliad XXIV 601), sitos is an unmarked {57|58} term for food, which does not carry associations of sacrificial performance or gift-offerings to the gods. [
192] Akhilleus’ lack of dedicatory actions or addresses to divinities is even emphasized by the narrative description of his jumping up and slaughtering the animal (ἀναΐξας ὄϊν ἄργυφον ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς σφάξ’, Iliad XXIV 617–618), a complete inversion of the slow solemnity exhibited in the pre-kill rites that precede sacrifices. Although the same verb, σφάζειν, is used here as it is in Eumaios’ sacrificial dinner, the lack of actions directed toward gods, such as pre-kill rites or prayer, distinguish this killing from the sacrificial ritual performed by Eumaios before his second meal. The narrative emphasis in this feast with Priam is on human nourishment, as twice stated by Akhilleus himself and further clarified in his paradigmatic digression about Niobe.

As discussed in section 1.1, the same verses describe the spitting and roasting of meat as in the sacrifice scenes in Iliad I and II. The audience will have been reminded of the sacrifice scenes in Iliad I and II by the repetition of familiar material, but the different emphasis on nourishment is made clear through the variations unique to this scene: burning thigh bones for the gods and consumption of the splankhna, ritual details found in the sacrifice scenes in Iliad I and II, are replaced with the description of Akhilleus and Automedon preparing dinner. The resonance of the earlier sacrifice scenes resumes at the end of Akhilleus’ meal with Priam, which concludes: “when they had put aside desire for food and drink” (αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο, Iliad I 469 = II 432 = XXIV 628). [193] However, the description of the satisfied diners having partaken of their appropriate share of the feast (δαίνυντ’, οὐδέ τι θυμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης, Iliad I 468 = II 431), a crucial indication of the success of sacrifice in social maintenance, is missing. [194] The description of partaking in the equally distributed feast, this essential communicative event, has actually been replaced in Iliad XXIV with verses that emphasize both the unique nature of the meal and Akhilleus’ role as distributor of meat. The significance of the verses that distinguish this scene at the end of the poem from the sacrifice scenes in Iliad I and II is part of the expression of Akhilleus’ unique heroic {58|59} status through the theme of the dais in the Iliad, a complex issue to which we will return throughout this book. [195]

As opposed to the sacrifices in Iliad I and II, which are motivated by mortal desires to influence the gods—to assuage the anger of Apollo and to win the favor of Zeus, respectively—the marked emphasis in this scene is on eating. In this study of sacrifice, we will see that Akhilleus’ reciprocal relationship with Zeus is not established by or dependent on sacrifice, the normative mortal method of communicating with the gods. Instead, he relies on his divine mother’s reciprocal relationship with Zeus. The distinction between sacrifice and feasting on this occasion, established by variations upon the typical representation of sacrifice, demonstrates a pattern found throughout the poem: the use of sacrifice to identify Akhilleus’ semi-divine status and unique relationship with the gods. Before further analyzing this role for sacrifice within the poem, we will explore the ways in which sacrifice is represented as establishing reciprocity between gods and men in the Iliad. {59|}


[ back ] 1. On modern attempts to distinguish between “sacred” and “secular” see Connor 1988 and Vernant 1991:273. Henrichs 2003 describes the tenuous connection between writing and ancient Greek ritual; as in the absence of sacred texts or professional clergy, ritual customs were transmitted orally, without sacred texts or a professional clergy (40). The accumulation of written testimonials about cults, temples, gods, and rituals lead to our modern concept of “Greek religion,” and a distinction must be made between actual ritual practice and poetic representations in this regard (58). Gould 2001:203 has persuasively argued that there is no single thing as a “Greek religion.” Bremmer 1998 describes the development of the terminology.

[ back ] 2. Archaeology: Vermeule 1974; oath-making: Kitts 1999, 2002, 2005; supplication: Thornton 1984; burial: Petropoulou 1988; Seaford 1994; Sourvinou-Inwood 1995; Saïd 1998; tragedy: Burkert 1966; Seaford 1994; Henrichs 2000, et al. The role of Homer in Greek culture, particularly in regard to concepts of the divine, was recognized already in antiquity: Herodotus 2.53, Jaeger 1965:39ff.

[ back ] 3. Kullmann 1985:6–7. Griffin 1980:144–178 gives a general discussion of the gods in both epics, highlighting differences between the two epics (164–167); see also Heubeck 1954; Jaeger 1960:16–33; Lloyd-Jones 1971; Kearns 2004:67–69.

[ back ] 4. Vidal-Naquet 1986.

[ back ] 5. Kullmann 1985:7.

[ back ] 6. Parry 1971. The discussion of the origins and history of the hexameter begins with Meillet 1923; more recently Nagy 2003:42 discusses the lack of musical accompaniment and reduced melody, and West 1997a:235–236 summarizes the comparative evidence of Vedic meter. West 1988:159–160 treats the inheritance of diction, and Lord 1960 is still the best discussion of inherited themes. The bibliography is immense and most succinctly explained by Nagy 1979:42–43, 1996a, 2003:1–19.

[ back ] 7. κλέος ἄφθιτον: Iliad IX 413 and Rig-Veda 1.9.7bc; see Nagy 1974:191–228 and his recent updating of the argumentation, 2003:48; West 1988:145. κλέος εὐρύ: Iliad I 344; III 83, 204; IV 726, 816; XIX 333; XXIII 137.

[ back ] 8. Morris 1997:616–618 and Nagy 2005 detail the common heritage of Near Eastern and Homeric themes.

[ back ] 9. Nagy 1979:7, 1990a:72–82; Snodgrass 1987: 159, 421; Morris 1988; Shapiro 1994 (specifically on art).

[ back ] 10. Many scholars have explored the self-referential implications of song performance within the poems: see Nagy 1990b:21–24; Ford 1992:90–130; Segal 1994:113–141; Latacz 1996:28f.

[ back ] 11. Nagy 1996a:41–42f.; 2003:2–3.

[ back ] 12. The model proposed by Sherratt 1990, who focuses on the examples of the lump of iron given as a prize by Akhilleus (Iliad XXIII 826–835), the massive spears of Akhilleus (Iliad XIX 387–391) and Hektor (Iliad VIII 493f.), and the shield of Ajax (Iliad VII 219); see also Lorimer 1950:152ff.; Page 1959:232–235. Sherratt defends her model against those of Dickinson 1986:28–30, Kirk 1962:190–191, and Morris 1986:89ff., who explain these inconsistencies as deliberate “ar-chaizing” or “heirlooms” (1990:84–85). Helpful diagrams of elements “less susceptible to adaptation,” such as formulas and main characters and plots, and “more susceptible,” such as speeches and incidental details, are found at Sherratt 1990:86. West 1988:151, Latacz 1996:49, and Lesky 1967:695 also trace the origins of the Greek epic tradition back to Mycenaean times.

[ back ] 13. Hoekstra 1965:42–58 discusses the digamma; see also Janko 1992:8–19; Horrocks 1997; West 1997a. Five stages of linguistic development have been discerned: Indo-European, pre-Mycenaean Greek, Mycenaean Greek, Aeolic Greek, and Ionic Greek; see Ruijgh 1957; West 1988. Sherratt 1990:89 finds linguistic evidence less convincing because of the natural linguistic changes in a lengthy process of oral transmission.

[ back ] 14. Nagy 1996a:42.

[ back ] 15. This topic is covered by Foley 1990, Latacz 1996, and Scodel 2002; Taplin 1992:2–39 also discusses probable performance contexts at length. On the problems of reconstructing the Homeric audience, see Lord 1960:14–17; Doherty 1995:24–25; Taplin 1992:2–3. Latacz has argued, from the time of composition up through the fifth century BCE, for an aristocratic audience, demonstrable through the ranking of singers within the poems and the general themes of the poems, which marginalize the lower classes. On this basis, he argues for a mid-eighth-century date, during the revival and floruit of the Greek aristocracy (1996:32–35). On the identification of Homer as an aristocrat himself, see Bowra 1930:410; Fränkel 1975:9f.; Schadewaldt 1944:63; et al. Hesiod’s praise of kings in the Theogony, which is probably due to the performance context at the funeral games of Amphidamas, may be comparable (West 1966:44).

[ back ] 16. Odyssey i 325–359; viii 61–83, 266–369, 471–543; Plato Ion 530a–b, 533c; Hipparkhos 228b–c; Nagy 1996a:80–81; 2002; 2003:3–7, 41–45. Discussions of performance and singers in the poems can be found in Ford 1992 and Segal 1994:113–141. Kitts 2005:125–187, drawing on the work of Stanley Tambiah, proposes that descriptions of rituals in the Iliad were experienced by the audience as part of the ritual performance of epic; Scodel 2002:12 is skeptical about ‘ritual’ performances by bards.

[ back ] 17. West 1973:182; Nagy 1979:7; Morris 1992:35; Snodgrass 1971:421–423; and Sourvinou-Inwood 2005:34.

[ back ] 18. Nagy 1979:6f. A similar tendency has been observed by van Straten 1995:24f. in the iconography of sacrifice in the Classical period, which frequently presents a universal picture without any features specifically tied to particular festivals or sanctuaries.

[ back ] 19. Aristotle Poetics 1459a30.

[ back ] 20. Parry 1971:80. Hainsworth 1969:19, 24–25 lists ten possible definitions of “formula”; he defines the necessary conditions in 1993:4–6. Russo 1997:242 details the difficulties in finding one working definition for such a widely functional unit of Homeric poetry.

[ back ] 21. Ong 1982:23–27; Bakker 1997:24.

[ back ] 22. Hainsworth’s “cola” (1993); this theory of “cola” is questioned by Nagy 1990a; cf. Ong 1982:39–41.

[ back ] 23. Bakker and Fabbricotti 1991: “The formula is a ready-made phrase which accommodates what the poet wants to say to the metrical space available” (63). Bakker 1997:24 describes the formula as “stylized everyday speech.”

[ back ] 24. Heubeck 1974:149; Nagy 1996a:113–146. Jones 1992:78 with examples 79–81, describes three different types of innovation: (1) de novo; (2) application of ‘typical’ epic material to new contexts; (3) adaptation of traditional stories from other contexts to new or different epics.

[ back ] 25. Parry 1971:64, 195. This theory has been re-evaluated and re-interpreted often, the results of which are summarized by Russo 1997.

[ back ] 26. Nagler 1974:11–14, 271; he dismisses the notorious argument of the misapplied formula (35–36) with his theory of the verbal Gestalt, which is “pregnant with meaning” beyond the factual simplicities of a passage such as Odyssey ix 473–491; cf. Nagy 1990b:23. Edwards 1997:264–277, Bakker 1988:189 and Lowenstam 1993 are good discussions of the application of formulas in the poems.

[ back ] 27. Bakker 1997:186. Visser 1988; Russo 1997:254–256; Bakker and Fabbricotti 1991.

[ back ] 28. Foley’s terminology (1997:172). The reciprocal relationship between meter and formula has been demonstrated by Lord 1960:35–36; O’Nolan 1969:14, 17; Whallon 1969; Nagy 1974:140–149; 1990a:37; 1990b:18–35, esp. 29–32; Austin 1975:11–80; Tsagarakis 1982:34–39; Lowenstam 1993:13–57; et al. Cantilena 1982:82–89 thinks that the epics are 54 percent formulaic.

[ back ] 29. Lord 1960:148.

[ back ] 30. Lord 1960:68, 146–147. “Theme” and “motif” are used interchangeably by Lord 1960:68, Segal 1971:1, Gunn 1971, Nagler 1974:64, and Edwards 1975. Stanley 1993:n97 distinguishes between “universal themes”, such as “quarrel,” and “subsidiary motifs,” of which sacrifice is one.

[ back ] 31. Lord 1960:130; Lowenstam 1993:2.

[ back ] 32. Arend 1933. The list of type scenes occurring in Homer includes arrival scenes, visits, embassies, sacrifice, dreams, boat and wagon journeys, arming and dressing, sleep, meetings, oaths, and baths. His work on repetition is developed in the study of battle scenes by Fenik 1968; cf. the discussions of Edwards 1980, 1987:72–74, 1997. Taplin 1992:10 has suggested the concepts of “scene shapes” and “sequences” to replace the difficult “type scene.”

[ back ] 33. Fenik 1968:229 describes the lack of a sound method of distinguishing between type scenes, patterns, and variations therein. Lowenstam 1993 and Kahane 1994 are two very important full-length studies of the poetics of repetition. Shive 1987 draws attention to the importance of the lack of repetition where it might be expected.

[ back ] 34. Lord 1960:148; Hainsworth 1969:30. Austin 1975:19–20, Ong 1982:57–68, Lynn-George 1988:61, Lowenstam 1993:2, and Nagy 1996a discuss the problems of applying literary aesthetics to orally derived texts. Snodgrass 1974:170 may be representative of the contrasting analytical approach: “We can neither assume that the elements in a given passage are deliberately designed to be consistent, nor transfer our deductions from that passage to others.”

[ back ] 35. Bakker 1997:119.

[ back ] 36. Lowenstam 1993:9; see also Austin 1975:115.

[ back ] 37. Scodel 2002:12–13; cf. Pucci’s discussion of possible audience responses to repetition (1998:97–112).

[ back ] 38. Foley’s principle of traditional referentiality (1991:6–8). Foley 2002: “Just as the audience comes to expect an overall sequence of events, so each event itself tends towards a traditional, idiomatic, and therefore expectable shape” (13). The tradition of Greek epic poetry comprises the process of transmission among singers, the generic conventions of meter and formula, and, most importantly, the themes and artistic conventions of presentation (Scodel 2002:3).

[ back ] 39. Lord 1960:94.

[ back ] 40. Foley 1997:169.

[ back ] 41. Martin 1993:227–228 describes the traditional audience of oral poetry as having a memory like a “CD-ROM.” This comparison is questioned by Scodel 2002:5–11, who raises the issue of reception of variations on well-known stories, for example the allusion to the death of Akhilleus at the hands of Apollo at Iliad XXII 358–360. She concludes that this extra knowledge provides “narrative pleasure” and “narrative profit” (5). For a discussion of the competent audience, see Pucci 1987 and Ahl and Roisman 1996:21–22. Ford 1992:90–130 describes the circuitous engagement of representations of singing in the poems and the oral tradition.

[ back ] 42. So Thornton 1984:100, 103.

[ back ] 43. Lord 1960:65–66. Hainsworth 1993:19 proposes that repetitions of three or more verses would have been familiar; cf. Nagler 1974:200. Definition and comparison of typical verses in the modern reception of the poems have been much debated: Edwards 1987:71 sees every verse in Iliad I as part of a “typical” action, Lord 1960:148 finds Iliad I 1–15 to be 90 percent formulaic, while Hainsworth 1993, examining the formulas in IX 434f., concludes that a significant portion of the epic is composed of hapax legomena and unique grammatical forms; cf. Tsagarakis 1982:80–86. Edwards 1997:270–271 summarizes the discussion.

[ back ] 44. Parry 1971:380 notes the tendency toward variation. See also Chantraine 1932:127, Arend 1933:8f., and Fenik 1968:229f.

[ back ] 45. Armstrong 1958:342, although he is careful to emphasize that it is not identical verses but the identical structure of all arming scenes that makes them “typical” (344). Arming scenes: Iliad III 328–338; XI 15–46; XVI 130–144; and XIX 364–391. Each scene has the exact repetition of two verses: Iliad III 330–332 = XI 17–19 = XVI 131–133 = XIX 369–371. On arming, see also Lord 1960:90f. Arming and sacrifice are often cited together as the best examples of type scenes; cf. Hainsworth 1993:21.

[ back ] 46. Armstrong 1958:346–347.

[ back ] 47. Arend 1933:64; see also Parry’s 1936 review. Cf. Edwards 1987: “The sacrifice scene is the most complex (not, of course, the most expanded), no doubt because it describes the actions of a major religious ritual” (71). An interesting parallel between features of ritual language and oral poetry is drawn by Tambiah 1979:131–142, followed by Kitts 2005:148–149. Both ritual language and oral poetry can be characterized by redundancy, parallelism, and formulas.

[ back ] 48. For instance, he concludes that Iliad II 402–431 is included as preparation for battle (1933:65). On the basis of the use of formulaic material, he maintains that Iliad I 440–470 is dependent on the sacrifice in Iliad II. Seaford 1994:43 agrees to a large extent with Arend’s conclusions: sacrificial details are always related in the same order; they often open or conclude a dangerous activity.

[ back ] 49. Arend’s sacrifice scenes: Iliad I 447; II 410; VII 314; XXIV 621; Odyssey iii 419; xii 353; and xiv 419. As I will show, not all of these scenes in the Iliad are depictions of animal sacrifice: see below page 42f.

[ back ] 50. Bakker 1997:157.

[ back ] 51. Stallings 1984:238. She is aware of other organizational principles such as context, but rejects them in favor of an analysis according to length of the scenes. Arend 1933:64–70 lists 21 different elements of sacrifice, an approach critically reexamined by Kirk 1981, but encouraged by Edwards 1987:71, who wants this list to be expanded.

[ back ] 52. First proposed by Arend 1933, followed by Stallings 1984 and, to some extent, Sherratt 2004.

[ back ] 53. Cf. Odyssey iii 457–463 and xii 359–361.

[ back ] 54. See above page 9.

[ back ] 55. For example, the careful specification of a variety of victims in an Athenian cult calendar, IG II2 1358. Leges sacrae is the modern terminology for the surviving inscriptions of laws found throughout the Greek world that pertain to cult practices; they are most easily accessible in the collections produced by von Prott and Ziehen 1896–1906, Sokolowski 1955, 1962, 1969 and Lupu 2005. See page 101f. below on the typology of victims in sacrifice.

[ back ] 56. This is a common approach in handbooks on Greek cult, e.g. Burkert 1983:3–12 and 1985:56–57; cf. Ziehen 1939; Rudhardt 1958; Bremmer 1996; Graf 2002:114–116. Burkert 1983: “Thanks to descriptions in Homer and tragedy, we can reconstruct the course of an ordinary Greek sacrifice to the Olympian gods almost in its entirety” (3); cf. Rudhardt 1958:253. Graf 2002:119, observing that the numerous variations in extant accounts of sacrifice make reconstruction of the ritual difficult, argues that an ideal type of sacrifice should be reconstructed on the basis that an “ideal form, or a grammar of sacrifice must have existed in the heads of the Greeks and Romans.” Hermary et al. 2004:65–67 focuses on the longest extant descriptions, including Iliad I 447–468 and Odyssey iii 382–384, 430–463, with cautionary notes about the inconsistency between ancient accounts of sacrifice.

[ back ] 57. Numerous osteoarchaeological studies are published annually. A relatively early study is Reese 1989:63–70, who discusses the finds of animal bones in the Athenian agora. Isaakidou et al. 2002:86–92 discusses the implications of bones found in the Mycenaean palace at Pylos in relation to the Homeric sacrifice scenes. A recent overview is provided by Hermary et al. 2004, which includes archaeozoologic evidence for sacrifice, along with literature, epigraphy, and art. The limitations of literary representations of sacrifice are well recognized, for instance Sourvinou-Inwood 1997:162. Van Straten 1995 and Peirce 1993 discuss the idealized bias in iconography.

[ back ] 58. The organizing principle in van Straten 1995, which he compares to the tripartite division utilized by Rudhardt 1958, who distinguishes the moment of kill, the division of the carcass, and the distribution of meat (290). Mauss 1968:193–307 describes the same stages in the process of sacralization as ‘entry’, ‘culmination’, and ‘exit’. Cf. ‘before the kill’ and ‘the kill’ in Bremmer 1996. Other divisions are possible: Graf 2002 divides the process into the procession, the prayer, and the treatment of the carcass.

[ back ] 59. Herodotos IV 60: οὔτε πῦρ ἀνακαύσας οὔτε καταρξάμενος οὔτ᾽ ἐπισπείσας·

[ back ] 60. Peirce 1993, esp. 228, 251. Thusia is a common Greek term for sacrifices followed by a commensal meal; see page 25 below. In vase painting, the pompê is the most popular stage of the ritual, followed by the roasting of the splankhna: Peirce 1993:228; see also van Straten 1995:13–35, Burkert 1983:38, and Hermary et al. 2004:113–116. The honor of serving as a kanêphoros seems to have been one of the most important religious duties for girls; cf. Aristophanes Lysistrata 638–647. It is interesting to note that the procession plays a prominent role in the decoration of the main building of the “Palace of Nestor,” alongside representations of feasting in Room 6, and can be interpreted as evidence for state-sponsored religious processions in the Mycenaean period (Bennet and Davis 1999:115).

[ back ] 61. No single source describes the Panathenaiac procession, which has been reconstructed by scholars from a combination of scenes on the Parthenon frieze and literary sources. Parke 1977:38–50 is a detailed reconstruction; see also Parker 1996:89–92 and Rosivach 1994:70 on the hecatomb.

[ back ] 62. Very detailed representations of sacrifices can be found in Aristophanes Peace 956–1016, Euripides Elektra 784–843. A sacrifice to Zeus is described in detail in an inscription from Cos (LSCG 151); the pre-kill actions are generally discussed by Rudhart 1958:259–261; Burkert 1983:5f.; and van Straten 1995.

[ back ] 63. The ololugê is described at Odyssey iii 450; Aeschylus Agamemnon 595, 1118; Seven Against Thebes 269; Herodotos IV 189; on which Burkert 1983:5.

[ back ] 64. This is a difficult issue because of inconsistencies in epigraphic and literary sources and the vague nature of artistic depictions of this stage of the ritual. Hermary et al. 2004:118–129details the evidence and the focus on the priest’s portion (120), and the sale of sacrificial meat is discussed by Berthiaume 1982; Rosivach 1994; Parker 2005:66n63.

[ back ] 65. IG I3 35; Hermary et al. 2004:120; Parker 1996:125–126; Burkert 1985:386n16.

[ back ] 66. On the differences in Greek literary accounts of the god’s portion throughout antiquity, see Burkert 1985:57; van Straten 1995:127; Henrichs 1998:42–43; on the epigraphic evidence, Gill 1974:125. For instance, in Aristophanes Peace 1020–1115 the mêria are burned, and cakes, splankhna, tongue, and tail are roasted and eaten by the officiant and his helper; incense, cakes, tail, and gall-bladder are offered in Menander Duskolos 447–453.

[ back ] 67. Aristotle On the Gait of Animals 665a28 describes the components of splankhna; cf. Aristophanes Acharnians 738–796.

[ back ] 68. Van Straten 1995:115–160 provides a good overview of this lengthy process.

[ back ] 69. Theophrastos On Piety, as quoted by Porphyry On Abstinence 2.24.1, on which see Obbink 1988:282–283.

[ back ] 70. On social bonding, Aristotle, when describing his ideal state, describes thusiai, groups that sacrifice together, as a pre-condition for the city, along with families and phratries (Politics 1280b 36-8). On gifts for the gods, in Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates queries the belief that sacrifice is a gift to the gods: “Is it then the case that sacrificing is making a gift to the gods and praying is making a request?” (14c); see Parker 1998b. Knemon complains that meager offerings for the gods at sacrifices prove that people only care about the feast (Menander Duskolos 442–455).

[ back ] 71. Hesiod Theogony 507–616, see pages 93–94 below. The seminal discussions of this scene may be found in Meuli 1975:907–1021 and Vernant 1989. Kirk 1974:138 interprets this as a reversal of the typical folk tale motif of the outwitted human offered a tricky choice by gods as well as a unique attempt to account for a real problem: the god’s portion of the sacrifice.

[ back ] 72. Xenophon Memorabilia 1.3.3. Theophrastos concludes that the gods are more pleased by the ethos of the sacrificer than the cost of the victim, presumably an attempt to account for the meager victims offered by most people (On Piety f. 7.52–54 and f. 8.8–10 Pötscher 1964).

[ back ] 73. For example, Hermary et al. 2004:118–125, although not a comprehensive database, found only seven descriptions of the gods’ portion in texts and inscriptions, compared to 28 sources for gifts to priests and other participants.

[ back ] 74. Dio Chrysostom Oration 3.97. Burkert 1985:57 notes that there are countless jokes in comedy about “food for the gods and men.”

[ back ] 75. Beattie 1980:31. However, in these African rituals the idea of gift-giving is supplanted by an emphasis on change for the better (riddance of pollution, evil, or sin), which is not apparent as such in Greek sacrifice. In a study on sacrifice as a cultural institution, Bourdillon 1980:6 concludes: “On the relationship between the effects of ritual and what participants expect to achieve through them, anthropologists have on the whole retained an embarrassed silence.” Cautions about overstating the social importance of the meal have been raised by Bremmer 1996:268, 281; Parker 1998b.

[ back ] 76. Durkheim 1912, reprinted in 2001:46f. On Durkheim’s contribution to the study of Greek sacrifice, see Burkert 1983:24; cf. Bremmer 1998 and Versnel 1993:26. Morris 1992 gives a survey of the history of sacrificial theory, as does Beattie 1980 (though not specifically Greek sacrifice).

[ back ] 77. Vernant 1991: “In a ritual that seeks to join the mortal with the immortal it consecrates the unattainable distance that henceforth separates them. Through an alimentary code it seats man in his proper place, between beasts and gods . . .” (297). The “Paris School” refers to the collective contribution of scholars working with Vernant at the Centre pour Recherches Comparées sur les Sociétés Anciennes in Paris, whose treatments of sacrifice have been collected in Detienne and Vernant 1989.

[ back ] 78. Hubert and Mauss 1964; Mauss 1968:193–307.

[ back ] 79. Mauss 1968:193–307; Hubert and Mauss present a comparative study partly based on Indic and Biblical accounts of sacrifice. Their approach has been criticized as inapplicable to ancient Greece by Rudhardt 1958:295–296; see also Vernant 1991:292; Kirk 1981:42; Burkert 1981:121; and Graf 2002:122. Seaford 1994:44–45 and García López 1970 refute this approach specifically in regard to Homeric accounts of sacrifice, which neither seem to recognize any such transformation on the part of the sacrificer, nor are concerned with the pre-kill and post-kill accounts as establishing sacred boundaries. Finley 1977:23, 64 reinterprets their theory of ritualized gift-giving as a social principle in his study of Homeric society.

[ back ] 80. Hesiod Theogony 535-560; page 93f. below.

[ back ] 81. Vernant 1989:74; questioned by Bremmer 1996:277–278.

[ back ] 82. Detienne 1989:3. The noun thusia is not used in Homer; see below page 49. Theoretical criteria for the comprehension of ritual are given by Detienne 1989:4–5 and Vernant 1991:291.

[ back ] 83. So Detienne 1989:5; Vernant 1991:298.

[ back ] 84. Vernant 1991:301; cf. Detienne 1989:9 and Durand 1989:87–118.

[ back ] 85. Odyssey xii 353–365; Martin 1983:38.

[ back ] 86. Meuli 1946, summarized and interpreted by Burkert 1979:50f. and 1983:13–21; see esp. 13n1–5 on the research contributing to the discussion of hunting societies. More recently, Hamerton-Kelly 1987. Bremmer 1996:273–275 positively incorporates Meuli’s work into a revision of sacrificial theory.

[ back ] 87. Meuli 1946:224–252; Burkert 1985:58.

[ back ] 88. Burkert 1983:20–21.

[ back ] 89. Burkert 1976:172.

[ back ] 90. Burkert 1976:172; 1983: “The worshipper experiences the god most powerfully not just in pious conduct or in prayer, song, or dance, but in the deadly blow of the axe, the gush of blood and burning of thigh-pieces” (2).

[ back ] 91. Malinowski 1948; Turner 1967:196, 208–209; see Beattie 1980. Equally important in the development of the field of modern social anthropology is the work of Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, who postulates that “the ceremonial customs of a society are a means by which the sentiments in question are given collective expression on the appropriate occasion” (1933:234).

[ back ] 92. Burkert 1983:37. The role of the arkhōn basileus is described in Aristotle The Constitution of the Athenians 3.3, 47.4, 57.1, Demosthenes 59.74–77.

[ back ] 93. Burkert 1966:106.

[ back ] 94. Girard 1977:152, similar to Burkert’s “epiphany” (1983:38).

[ back ] 95. Vernant 1991:292.

[ back ] 96. Vernant 1991:294; Burkert 1966:87–121, esp. 105; 1976:172; 1979:54–56; 1983:1. The premise that Greeks felt guilt over the instinctual urge to kill has rightly been questioned as a projection of idealized Christian values, which would have been alien to Greeks. Responses to Burkert: Kirk 1981:126–128; Henrichs 1987:29–30 and 2000:58–60.

[ back ] 97. Detienne 1989:20; Vernant 1991:294; Durand 1989.

[ back ] 98. Detienne 1989:9; Vernant 1991:294; Burkert 1966:107–108. Cf. the instructions for the victim to shake itself in Aristophanes Peace 960 and the scholiast’s comments; Naiden 2007 provides a skeptical look at the question of the animal’s assent, which is never described in Homer. The enigmatic Classical Athenian festival of the Bouphonia, although admittedly rare and already considered ‘old-fashioned’ in the fifth century, is a favorite example for both the Paris School and Burkert. Burkert emphasizes the ‘trial’ of the axe (1983:136–143). Vernant 1991:298–300 discusses the same ritual with emphasis on the reconstitution of the ox, stuffed with barley, as a symbol of sacrificial ritual’s inherent provision of food: “A provider of meat for men and of bones and fat burned for the gods once it has been ritually slaughtered, the animal, now associated with agricultural labor, appears also as a producer of grain” (301). See also Deubner 1932:158–174; Meuli 1946:275–276; and Detienne 1989:12.

[ back ] 99. Vernant 1991:294 and 1989.

[ back ] 100. Burkert 1983:38; Durand 1989; Vernant 1991:294. The absence of ‘kill’ images in extant iconography is evaluated by van Straten 1995:186–187 and Peirce 1993:232.

[ back ] 101. Herodotos I 132.1: θυσίη δὲ τοῖσι Πέρσῃσι περὶ τοὺς εἰρημένους θεοὺς ἥδε κατέστηκε· οὔτε βωμοὺς ποιεῦνται οὔτε πῦρ ἀνακαίουσι μέλλοντες θύειν, οὐ σπονδῇ χρέωνται, οὐκὶ αὐλῷ, οὐ στέμμασι, οὐκὶ οὐλῇσι.

[ back ] 102. Nestor’s son carries a kanoun with barley grains (Odyssey iii 442) and Penelope puts barley grains into a kanoun before praying ( Odyssey iv 761).

[ back ] 103. Van Straten 1995:170–186.

[ back ] 104. Iliad I 313; on pig sacrifices in Classical Athens, see Burkert 1985:81; Rosivach 1994:15; Bremmer 1996:251; and Clinton 2005.

[ back ] 105. Burkert 1985:56 believes that the features not present in Homer are later additions, as does Bremmer 1996. Graf observes the differences in Homer in his reconstruction of an “ideal” sacrifice (2002:121–122). Kirk 1981 responds to Meuli’s theories in light of the Homeric representations.

[ back ] 106. Seaford 1994:44–45, in response to Burkert 1966:106–113; 1981:126–127; 1983:5–6, 21, 40; and Detienne 1989:9. He acknowledges a trace of anxiety in the libations of wine, which are poured out as a symbolic expression of the penalty for transgressing the oath at Iliad III 292–301 (1994:46–47). On special clothing in ritual contexts, Stengel 1920:47–48; on the iconography, van Straten 1995:168, Peirce 1993:231.

[ back ] 107. Seaford 1994:45n59; Burkert 1983:4–5 describes the act of distancing, as does Foley 1985:31.

[ back ] 108. Deubner 1982 (reprint of 1941) is still the definitive study on the ololugê; see also Rudhardt 1958:178–180. Osborne 2000 discusses the complex evidence for women’s participation in ancient Greek sacrifice.

[ back ] 109. Meuli 1946:218, 256, 262; Burkert 1985:6, 16, 25. This will be discussed in more detail in Chapter Three.

[ back ] 110. Iliad I 461 = Iliad II 424 = Odyssey iii 458, xii 361, and xiv 427; Pulleyn 2000 ad Iliad I 461; Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988 ad Odyssey iii 458. Seaford 1994:46 believes, not that these elements are developments in the ritual, but that they reflect narrative purposes.

[ back ] 111. Kitts 2005:155–156; 2002:103–124; 1999:42–57; we will return to this thesis in Chapter Four, page 193. Contrast Seaford 1994:47, who believes that the violence of sacrificial ritual is not likened to battlefield slaughter, with the possible exception of the bellowing bull simile (Iliad XX 403), despite the numerous similes comparing warriors to wild animals and the later prevalence of sacrificial metaphor in tragedy. Burkert draws many parallels between war and sacrifice, which he sees as interchangeable symbols of outlet for instinctual male aggression; see Burkert 1983:47–48; Pindar fr. 78, Snell-Maehler.

[ back ] 112. See Chapter Two below, page 89. Bremmer 1996:266 notes the “curious” absence of these elements from the Homeric scenes. Burkert 1983:35–36 discusses the importance of blood in the forging of oaths as described in Demosthenes 23.68 and Pausanias III 20.9, IV 15.8, V 24.9; see also Burkert 1985:250–254.

[ back ] 113. Sourvinou-Inwood 2000:11, a very important description of the make-up of polis religion.

[ back ] 114. Odyssey iii 4 is perhaps a representation of a community-wide festival. Thomson 1943:57n40 identifies an allusion to a calendar feast, the Hecatombaia, in Odyssey xiv 162 and xix 306, but he also notes the lack of localized cult details in the poems. Happy polis sacrifices: Peirce 1993:219–266, supported by Graf 2002:123, contra Burkert 1979:50ff.

[ back ] 115. Seaford 2004: “The sacrifice performed by Agamemnon at Iliad II 402–432 is a peaceful preliminary to the warfare that starts immediately afterwards and continues, interrupted only by ritual, throughout the Iliad” (40).

[ back ] 116. Ε.g. Xenophon Hellenika IV 7.7; Jameson 1991:198.

[ back ] 117. Stengel observes that Homeric sacrifices are not thanks-offerings: they are performed by anxious people who fear angering the gods or want something (1910:59–65); cf. the discussion in Adkins 1972 on the timê of the gods.

[ back ] 118. Henrichs 1981:216; cf. Xenophon The Constitution of the Lakedaimonians 13.2. Burkert 1983:57, 66 observes the comparison between the sacrificial victim and the hoped-for disaster for the enemy; Seaford 1994:47 discusses this in the Homeric context.

[ back ] 119. Jameson 1991:199.

[ back ] 120. Iliad XI 753, 758, see page 119f. below.

[ back ] 121. Thucydides VI 69.2 describes seers “bringing out the traditional sphagia,” and the sacrifices performed by manteis are also described by Xenophon Anabasis 6.5.7–8; Jameson 1991:204; Parker 1998a:300; see also Pritchett 1979:47–90.

[ back ] 122. There are dozens of sacred officials described in the extant leges sacrae: those serving Eleusis have been cataloged by Clinton 1974 and those for Athens are partially covered by Garland 1984.

[ back ] 123. Pulleyn 2000 ad Iliad I 11 argues that, in Homer, the hiereus is specifically connected to sacrifice, and arêtêres to prayer, but the textual evidence is not consistent enough to support such observations. The translation “priest” is misleading, but is the commonly used designation for this complex role. The difference between the professionals was slight, but it seems that manteis alone had the skills to divine: see Henrichs 2008.

[ back ] 124. The ‘Xenophontic system’ is called so because of the frequency of this kind of divination in Xenophon’s writings. E.g. Xenophon Hellenika IV 8.36, VI 5.49 and Jameson 1991:198; see also Aeschines 3.131, 152, Parker 1998a:300n3.

[ back ] 125. Jameson 1991:204 and n19 in support of his argument, in contrast to Pritchett’s theory that sphagia were not performed for divination (1979:110). Rudhardt 1958:275 argues for a propitiatory and divinatory purpose.

[ back ] 126. See page 73f. below on this scene.

[ back ] 127. These terms are only very rarely found outside of Homer. Theopropos: Iliad XII 228. This term can refer to public messengers sent to consult oracles in the Classical period; cf. Aeschylus Persae 659. Oiônistês: Iliad II 858, XIII 70, XVII 218; also Hesiod Scutum 185, and a few instances in late prose. Thuoskooi: Iliad XXIV 221; also Odyssey xxi 145, xxii 318, 321; this term is used elsewhere only twice in Euripides (Rhesos 68, Bakkhai 224). Oneiropolos: Iliad I 63, V 149; also in Herodotos I 128, V 56 and Philo 1.664.

[ back ] 128. Iliad I 436–474, VI 297–310. At Iliad I 37, Khruses remembers sacrifices and refers to a temple he has ‘roofed’ in the past.

[ back ] 129. West 1997b:46; Stengel 1910:4–12. Mackie 1996:33–36 outlines the tense relationship between Hektor and Poludamas, who acts in an advisory capacity to the prince similar to Nestor for Agamemnon, as does Helenos, another Trojan seer. In reference to Poludamas and Hektor (Iliad XII 195–250), Parker 1998a:300 remarks that the conflicts characteristic of Classical depictions of seers are already brewing in Homer.

[ back ] 130. The “key-bearer” is also recorded on PY Jn 829, recording the requisitioning of temple bronze for spear points, and Ep 704, a record of land tenure (Killen 2001:440; Ventris and Chadwick 1973:484). Nosch and Perna 2001:475–476 identify the ‘keybearer’ as Karpathia, a well-known Pylian woman also found in Ep 388. Kirk 1990:165 summarizes some of the more prominent interpretations on the “appointment” of Theano. Keys are a distinctive attribute of priestesses in the Classical period: Parker 2005:93–95 and Connelly 2007 (ch. 3); a general discussion of priestesses is given by Dillon 2002:73–106 as well as pp. 57–60f. on presentations of the peplos to goddesses.

[ back ] 131. The names of Ares, Artemis, Athena, Eileithuia, Enyalius, Erinys, Hera, Hermes, Paion, Posei-don, Zeus, and perhaps Dionysus occur in the tablets, as well as scores of otherwise unattested deities, particularly Potnia, who receives more offerings than any other individual god at Knossos and is excelled only by Poseidon at Pylos. Pa-ki-ja-ne is a well-recorded shrine for the palace at Pylos, as was Amnisos for Knossos. On religion in the tablets: Ventris and Chadwick 1973:172-208; Chadwick 1976:88-101; Killen 2001:437–442. Burkert 1985:43–47 argues against continuity in cult practice between Mycenaean and later Greek cultures.

[ back ] 132. A team of archaeologists, following the initial conclusions of Carl Blegen, has reexamined groups of bones found in the “Palace of Nestor” in Pylos. In summary, they found six distinct groups of almost exclusively cattle bones. These Pylos groups contained only the right and left mandible, humerus, and femur bones, a collection inexplicable in terms of either taphonomic processes or carcass processing. The bones were first scraped clean of meat before being burned; then most were moved to carefully chosen locations within the palace, as evidenced by the lack of burnt matrices underneath the piles of bones. The special treatment of thigh bones is similar to the Homeric burnt offerings of mêria, such as those offered to Apollo and Zeus in Iliad I and II (αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατὰ μῆρε κάη, Iliad I 464 = II 427). See Isaakidou et al. 2002; Halstead and Isaakidou 2004; and the articles by Stocker, Davis, and Palaima in Wright 2004; the original archaeological findings are described by Blegen and Rawson 1966:93. Isaakidou et al. 2002 give a summary of archaeological finds from Archaic and Classical sites suggestive of animal sacrifice, as well as the Late Bronze Age sanctuary at Kato Syme on Crete, where burnt deposits, including animal bones, have been found.

[ back ] 133. Kirk 1981:63; Seaford 1994:42.

[ back ] 134. Kirk 1981:63, though he seems to contradict this in Kirk 1990:9, which states that animal sacrifice “is described in typical scenes and is more or less automatic (although sometimes abbreviated) as far as the human participants are concerned.” Equally, Kirk 1985 ad Iliad I 447–468: “a few ritual actions have been omitted … but occur elsewhere in Homer: gilding the victim’s horns (as at Od.3.436-8), paralyzing it with an axe blow, accompanied where appropriate by the ritual female shriek, before slitting its throat (Od.3.449), cutting hair from its head (Il.3.273) and throwing this on the fire (Od.3.446, 14.442). Some of these further actions belong to any formal sacrifice but happen not to be mentioned in our passage, or in other particular versions of the typical scene. . . .” Bremmer 1996:249 admits that modern scholars do not often differentiate between Homeric and post-Homeric accounts, even though the ritual developed. Parker 1983:13–15 describes the problems of discussing ritual in different genres. Kitts 2005:26 concludes that Homeric sacrifices should be analyzed on their own. Berthiaume 1982:5–9, 64–67 discusses Homeric contexts for eating and food preparation.

[ back ] 135. Kirk 1981:65f. His scenes are Iliad I 447, II 410, and III 268; Odyssey iii 5, 419, and xiv 419. Seaford 1994:43 notes the inaccuracy of his tabulation.

[ back ] 136. Motte et al. 1992; 1998.

[ back ] 137. Kearns 2004.

[ back ] 138. Rose 1962; Morris and Powell 1997.

[ back ] 139. Stallings 1984: “It may be objected that the scenes of eaten sacrifice have proved less than satisfactory as a test case of Homeric aesthetics” (338).

[ back ] 140. Kitts 2005, building on earlier articles (1999, 2000). See Ready’s important review (2006).

[ back ] 141. As Henrichs 2003 notes regarding literary depictions of Greek ritual: “Greek poets and prose authors wrote religion with their own agendas in mind” (58); so also Parker 1983:13–16. Van Straten 1995:2, concerning the iconography of sacrifice, writes that the images depict not how the Greeks sacrificed, but how they visualized themselves sacrificing.

[ back ] 142. Cf. Rosivach 1994:4; Jameson 1991:201f., in an essay on the different contexts and uses for sphagia sacrifices, observes that the emphasis on violence and slaughter in sphagia sacrifices is still present but “subordinated” in thusia sacrifices. Kirk 1981:42 remarks that much scholarship oversimplifies sacrifice into either a simple gift or meal.

[ back ] 143. Detienne 1989:3; the conclusions of Berthiaume 1982:79–93 are similar, although he admits rare instances of meat consumption without sacrifice; so also Graf 2002:120, while observing the priority of gift-giving to the gods in the ritual, states “animal sacrifice has a practical aim, the provision of edible meat.” With regard to the Iliad, this approach has been questioned recently by Kitts 2005:30. A notable exception is the study on women as participants in sacrifice by Osborne 2000: if all available meat came from sacrifices, as proposed by Detienne and Berthiaume, women would then necessarily be excluded from most or all occasions for eating meat (298n11). In a lengthy footnote, Osborne draws attention to LSCG 96, a sacred law providing for the purchase of multiple potential victims, from which only one is chosen for sacrifice; the implication is that others are eaten without a preliminary sacrifice. Osborne also questions the insistence that most images of meat preparation are also images of sacrifice on the basis of theories of exclusive consumption of sacrificial meat.

[ back ] 144. One such model is proposed by Rosivach 1994, whose valuable study of fourth-century public sacrifice in Athens finds only one Classical reference (Plato Laws 849D), suggesting that non-sacrificial meat might have been available, and this only for xenoi and others who would have been excluded from polis sacrifices (84, 88; cf. 3n5). Bowie has observed the anecdote in Aelian On the Nature of Animals 2.47, which describes kites stealing the sacrificial meat and leaving “secular” meat (1995:481n164). See also Burkert 1976:172 and the response to Burkert in Henrichs 2000:60.

[ back ] 145. Osborne 2000:298–299n11 discusses the conflicting interpretations of an Attic black figure oinochoë (Boston 999527, Boardman 1974:fig. 287); Durand 1989:122, disputed by Osborne, discusses this scene as identifying the importance of trees in scenes of sacrifice, while Sparkes’s interpretation does not refer to sacrifice (1975:132).

[ back ] 146. Dietrich 1988:36, citing Ziehen 1939:598 and Kirk 1981:62–80 in support. A similar perspective, based on a study of “religious utterances” in Homer, is offered by Tsagarakis 1977.

[ back ] 147. Sherratt 2004:182–183.

[ back ] 148. Sherratt 2004:182. Kitts 2005:28 makes a helpful distinction between commensal and oath sacrifices, but Dietrich 1988:35 does not find any difference in the representation of thusia and uneaten sacrifice in Homer.

[ back ] 149. Stallings 1984:102; Sherratt 2004:182; Calhoun 1962:446, following Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1931:283; Nilsson 1967:145; Meuli 1946:215–216. Vermeule 1974:98 describes the link between sacrifice and feasting as “gewöhnlich.

[ back ] 150. Stallings 1984:103.

[ back ] 151. Nagy 1979:127–128.

[ back ] 152. Bakker 1997:90.

[ back ] 153. Stengel 1910:61–62 presents a similar argument for the distinction between the two meals. On Eumaios’ sacrifice, Kadletz 1984 and Petropoulou 1987 are the primary studies. Petropoulou 1987:145 does not think ἔσφαξαν means ‘sacrifice’ in the latter scene (Odyssey xiv 426), although she maintains that it still retains a “sacral aspect” through Eumaios’ ‘first fruit’ offerings. Cf. Stanford 1947–1948 ad Odyssey xiv 28: “the sacrificial implications of ἱερεύω are almost lost here.”

[ back ] 154. Arend 1933:64. Vermeule 1974:95. However, she also states that some meat or wine is set aside for the gods at every meal, unless it is specifically excluded (97).

[ back ] 155. Stengel 1910: “In der Merhzahl der Stellen, an denen das Wort (ἱερεύειν) sich findet, ist die Übersetzung ‘opfern’ unmöglich” (1). However, Casabona 1966:22–23 describes two types of actions represented by ἱερεύειν, which he believes always has an associative sacred meaning: those where the offering is the primary motivation and those where eating is the goal. Cunliffe 1924 lists ‘sacrifice’ as the primary meaning of ἱερεύειν, followed by ‘to kill an animal for a meal’: he cites Iliad II 402; XVIII 559; and XXIV 125.

[ back ] 156. On the spitting of meat, see below page 104.

[ back ] 157. Kearns 1982 notices that the descriptions of Odysseus’ arrival in Ithaka and encounter with Telemakhos allude to visits from disguised gods, which are associated with the practice of theoxenia, setting out food for gods. This discussion could be usefully expanded with Eumaios’ setting aside of portions in this sacrificial meal.

[ back ] 158. Berthiaume 1982:65–67, Rudhardt 1958:255. Burkert 1985: the consumption of the splankhna is the “privilege and duty of the innermost circle of participants” (57). See above, page 22.

[ back ] 159. The splankhna are eaten at Iliad I 464, II 426; Odyssey iii 9, 461, xii 364, and xx 252 (suitors). The suitors’ failure to offer sacrifice is part of their “disordered violence” and a perversion of hospitality; see Nagy 1990b:271; Seaford 1994:30; 2004:44; and Saïd 1979.

[ back ] 160. Stengel 1910:65;/García-López 1970:53. So Graf 2002: “The prayer is the one unequivocal communicative act with the divinity” (121). Kirk 1985 ad Iliad II 400–402 notes that sacrifices accompanied by prayers (apparently here his working definition of sacrifice) normally occur in the context of aristocratic, heroic dinners.

[ back ] 161. However, to scholars such as Durkheim (19121, 2001:36f.), the essence of the “sacred” is the separation between secular and sacred: it is something set apart.

[ back ] 162. Kirk 1981; Petropoulou 1987, who considers Eumaios’ meal with Odysseus as “secular”; and Dietrich 1988. Gunn 1971:22 describes feasting as “closely connected with sacrifice,” but he does not consider these actions to be inseparable.

[ back ] 163. Stallings 1984:338.

[ back ] 164. Calhoun 1962:445.

[ back ] 165. Peirce 1993:236–237 uses the medium of sympotic cups to substantiate her evidence for scenes of thusia. She figures the Homeric material into her theory of the continuum of sacrifice, describing the elaborate dedications of thigh bones and splankhna as “the thusia that appears in Homer and Classical literature” (236).

[ back ] 166. Van Straten 1995:10.

[ back ] 167. On the different meanings of these verbs and the contrast between sphagia, which emphasizes blood-letting, and the sacrificial feast, thusia, often respectively interpreted as “khthonic” and “Olympian,” see Benveniste 1973:486–487; Jameson 1991:201; Bowie 1995:466; Bremmer 1998:29n87; and Henrichs 2005. Other important Homeric sacrificial terms are not found in later authors, such as ὠμοθετεῖν and δαίς, although these do occur in tragedy. On the latter, see Sherratt 2004:189, who discusses the possible Mycenaean attestation of e-pi-de-da-to (PY Vn 20).

[ back ] 168. Muellner 1976:25 gives a tabulation of the deaths of six heroes described in six different ways within 42 verses (Iliad VI 42–83); Visser 1988 lists the eleven different verbs used in killing scenes.

[ back ] 169. Stengel 1910:4–12; Burkert 1966:103; West 1997b:46. Kadletz 1984:101 defines it as “the burning of some food product,” echoed by Petropoulou 1986:137.

[ back ] 170. Iliad VIII 48; XXIII 148; and Odyssey viii 363. The issue is discussed by Burkert 1985:62; Casabona 1966:69–72; and Stengel 1910:7–12, who cites the famous distinction made by Herodian (fragment 48). It is interesting that σφάζειν is derived from Mycenaean sa-pa-ka-te-ri-ja, which seems to refer to sacrifice in the tablets (see page 54 below), whereas θύειν comes from tu-we-ta, which seems to be profane. On the latter see Burkert 1985:370n64, writing before the discovery of sa-pa-ka-te-ri-ja; see also Killen 2001.

[ back ] 171. Casabona 1966:127; cf. Burkert 1966:103.

[ back ] 172. Benveniste 1973: “Its origin is certain: thúô goes back to a present tense *dhu-yô, the root of which properly means ‘to produce smoke’ ” (486).

[ back ] 173. Odyssey ix 231; xiv 446; xv 222, and 261. Scholiast A ad Iliad IX 219 = Lehrs 1964:82; Scholiast A ad Odyssey XIV 446; Benveniste 1973:486; Burkert 1966:103; Casabona 1966:72.

[ back ] 174. Calhoun 1962:446; Kadletz 1984:102f.; Stallings 1984:102; and Sherratt 2004:182.

[ back ] 175. Thirty sacrifices are listed by Stallings 1984:102f. Casabona found 28 (1966:19), and Stengel 17 (1910:1): a good example of the lack of consensus on ritual terminology in Homer.

[ back ] 176. Arend’s views on type scenes are discussed above, pages13–15. On ἔυχομαι, see Muellner 1976:10, 25.

[ back ] 177. A comparable example of this nuance may be drawn from the Odyssey: Telemakhos’ ritual offering is twice described with θύειν (Odyssey xv 222, 260), but then with σπένδειν (Odyssey xv 258), a verb normally used of liquid libations: Kadletz 1984:102, disputed by Petropoulou 1986; cf. Casabona’s definition of σπένδειν (1966:236).

[ back ] 178. Lowenstam 1993:24–25.

[ back ] 179. Ventris and Chadwick 1973:462; Palmer 1994.

[ back ] 180. Odyssey ii 56; xiv 9; xvii 180, 181, 535; and xx 3, 250, 251, 391. The LSJ gives the definition ‘slaughter generally for a feast’ for Odyssey ii 56; viii 59; xiv 414; xix 198; and xxiv 215, explaining that the two senses of ‘slaughter’ and ‘sacrifice’ are combined at Odyssey xiii 24.

[ back ] 181. Agamemnon’s performance of sacrifice: Iliad II 402; VII 314; the Trojan vow: (Helenos) VI 94; (Hektor) VI 275; (Theano) VI 309; Glaukos on feasting: VI 174; in the context of Akhilleus’ rejection of sacrifice: XVIII 559; XXI 131; XXIII 147; XXIV 125.

[ back ] 182. On the shield of Akhilleus as a microcosm of the themes expressed throughout the poem, particularly the prosperity of a peaceful life that Akhilleus will never be able to enjoy, see Nagy 2003:72–87 and Taplin 2000. Taplin 2000:352 interprets this scene as a dinner for hungry harvesters, challenging Kirk’s reading of the meat as prepared exclusively for the king (1976:12).

[ back ] 183. The passive is also used by Telemakhos concerning the suitors slaughtering sheep and drinking wine, another type of deviant feasting behavior: μήλων σφαζομένων οἴνοιό τε πινομένοιο (Odyssey xx 312).

[ back ] 184. Compare Muellner’s distinction in his separation of sacral and secular uses of ἐύχομαι (1976:31–34) and Visser’s important work on formulas in battle scenes. The verbs ἐναίρειν and ἐναρίζειν mean ‘to strip the armor, despoil’, but are more often used to mean ‘kill’, without reference to armor (Visser 1988:30).

[ back ] 185. Killen 1994. sa-pa-ka-te-ri-ja occurs on a tablet from Knossos, C(2) 941, in reference to ten female sheep given by a-pi-qo-ta, the name for ‘collector’, which seems to have been a group of individuals, probably members of the royal family or high-ranking palace officials. Two other tablets from Knossos probably record the sphakteria of animals: KN C 1561 recording an unknown number of ewes, and KN X 9191, the arrangement of which is suggestive of a sheep record. sa-pa is not the usual reflex for σφα-, which is p- (for example, pe-mo for sperma), but it is possible; Killen 1994:75 provides comparanda.

[ back ] 186. Seaford 1989, 1994:47n71.

[ back ] 187. Casabona 1966:155–156. See above, note 167; Henrichs 2000: “From Homer on θύειν tends to be associated with the gods and σφάζειν with the sacrificial animal” (180).

[ back ] 188. Stengel 1920:92–102, Rudhardt 1958:272–281, Casabona 1966:180–193, Burkert 1983:59–60, Pritchett 1979:83–90. Peirce has determined that most representations of sphagia in Classical visual art are of the pre-battle type (1993:253n143).

[ back ] 189. Scodel 1982b:132 likens the feasting described here to the suitors’ revels in the Odyssey, in contrast to the pathetic appeals in the Meleagros paradigm and the embassy to Akhilleus. Rosner 1976:317 describes Phoinix’s description as a “noisy and repeated sacrifice.”

[ back ] 190. Sacrificial: Arend 1933; Heubeck et al. 1988 ad Odyssey iii 445f.; Stallings 1984. Non-sacrificial: Kirk 1981:63. Edwards 1987:71–72 cites this as one of two meals in the epic (the other is Iliad IX 219) without explicit mention of sacrifice. Richardson 1993 note ad loc. does not mention “sacrifice” and describes it as a “meal” following “conventional patterns.” In two articles on this scene in Seaford’s volume on reciprocity, Zanker 1998:85 calls it a “meal,” and Postlethwaite 1998:99 describes the “ritual slaughter of sheep.” Kitts 2005:30 notes that Akhilleus’ meals in Iliad IX and XXIV do not represent “sacrificial killing,” but argues that the shared verses describing the feast create the idea of sacrifice for the audience.

[ back ] 191. On the innovations to the Niobe story designed to convince Priam to eat, see Seaford 1994:174–176.

[ back ] 192. Rundin 1996:185–186 exlains that deipnos, ariston, and dorpon are the three nouns which designate meals “whose principle purpose is nourishment”; cf. Saïd 1979:14. Berthiaume 1982:5 lists three categories of Homeric food: les céréales (sitos), meat, and “the rest” (fruit, cheese, beans, fish and poultry).

[ back ] 193. This verse is found seven times in the Iliad to refer to the conclusion of a variety of different feast occasions (Iliad I 469; II 432; VII 323; IX 92, 222; XXIII 57; XXIV 628). It links Akhilleus’ meal to a pattern of feasting established throughout the poem, but does in itself not carry connotations specifically of sacrifice. A further discussion can be found below, page 202.

[ back ] 194. Nagy 1979:128 defines δαιτὸς ἐΐσης as the proper share of meat at sacrificial feasts. See also Motto and Clark 1969:118–119; Bowie 1995:467n44 and Seaford 2004:50 discuss the equal share as a sign of citizenship.

[ back ] 195. This serves as a reversal of his earlier representation in connection with either the hideous aspects of eating or abstinence from food. We will return to this topic in Chapter Four, page 189f. below.