The Aethiopis: Neo-Neoanalysis Reanalyzed

  Davies, Malcolm. 2016. The Aethiopis: Neo-Neoanalysis Reanalyzed. Hellenic Studies Series 71. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 1. The Aethiopis and the Iliad

The plots of many an epic have been reconstituted from alleged references and allusions in Homer (this is particularly true of the Thebais). The Aethiopis, however, occupies a special position among these. An examination of this position must take us into the realms of Neoanalysis—magical name and concept, which has seemed to some scholars to open the doors to important and profound truths about Homer and the Epic Cycle, although by others it is condemned as the product of flawed logic and a misapprehension as to the manner in which early epics are likely to have influenced each other.

That the scene in Iliad VIII where Diomedes rescues Nestor from Hector is modeled on a similar scene in the Aethiopis—in which Antilochus rescued Nestor from Memnon—was already asserted by Welcker (2:174). [1] A more general theory of the Aethiopis as prior to and model for the Iliad may be found as early as Bethe (1922), for instance, or Severyns (1925:167n1; for a summary, with bibliography, of the basic suppositions of more recent adherents, see West 2003:4–6 = 2011:247–249), but the basic texts of Neoanalysis proper were, to my mind, four: Heinrich Pestalozzi, Die Achilleis als Quelle der Ilias (Erlenbach 1945); J. Th. Kakridis, Homeric Researches (Lund 1949) 65–95; Wolfgang Schadewaldt, Varia Variorum: Festgabe für K. Reinhardt (Münster 1952) 13–48 = Von Homers Welt und Werk 4 (Leipzig 1965) 155–202; and Georg Schoeck, Ilias und Aethiopis: Kyklische Motive in homerischer Brechung (Zurich 1961). These scholars also provide further references to earlier works (by themselves and other writers) along the same lines, and the bibliography may be rendered fuller still by an examination of the detailed and sympathetic accounts of Neoanalyst views on the Aethiopis in various studies by Wolfgang Kullmann, the most persistent defender and refiner {3|4} of these views in modern times. Note especially (1) this scholar’s Die Quellen der Ilias: Troischer Sagenkreis (Wiesbaden 1960) 30–51, which endeavors to answer the objections raised by two formidably probing reviews of Neoanalyst theory (that of Pestalozzi’s book by F. Focke [“Homerisches,” La Nouvelle Clio 3 (1951): 335–338], and that of Schadewaldt’s by Uvo Hölscher [Gnomon 27 (1955): 385–399]); (2) his remarks in Gnomon 49 (1977): 529–543 = Homerische Motive: Beiträge zur Entstehung, Eigenart und Wirkung von Ilias und Odyssee (Stuttgart 1992) 198–215 (in a review of the book by Dihle mentioned below), where he attempts to reformulate in more precise terms his and other scholars’ Neoanalytical ideas in order to combat more recent criticisms of them; and (3) his “Zur Methode der Neoanalyse in der Homerforschung,” Wiener Studien 15 (1981): 5–42 = Homerische Motive, 67–99, which takes the apologia and refinement still further, and prefaces them with a useful prehistory of Neoanalysis.

Far more discriminating are the comments of M. M. Willcock (“The Funeral Games of Patroclus,” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 20 [1973]: 4–9). His stress upon the complexity of the issues involved is particularly timely, and I myself am particularly concerned to associate myself with this emphasis here, since I will now proceed to summarize some of the questions at stake and, as Kullmann (1977:533 = Homerische Motive, 202) has pointed out, such summaries are not best calculated to convey complexities of this nature. {4|5}

Iliad VIII 80–129

I begin with the oldest and firmest link in the theory, what even the hostile Page acknowledges to be “the strongest single weapon in the whole armoury” (1963:23). A consideration of the issues raised by Iliad VIII 80–129 will bring us into contact with most of the problems inherent in Neoanalysis’s interpretation of the various passages in question. Nestor’s horse is shot by Paris, and the old man seems doomed as Hector speeds down upon him. Diomedes, however, comes to the rescue. Compare with this the scene from the Aethiopis as reconstituted (reasonably enough: see page 64 below) from Proclus’ summary and Pindar: Nestor’s horse is shot by Paris, and the old man seems doomed as Memnon speeds down upon him. Nestor’s son Antilochus comes to the rescue, however, and saves his father at the cost of his own life: for Memnon kills him and is in turn himself killed by Achilles.

I do not think any scholar has seriously tried to deny the obvious similarities between the two scenes. Difficulties come crowding on us thick and fast, however, when we try to decide just how to interpret these similarities.

Interdependence of Original and Copy

And we are not yet finished with this first problem. For I have just raised a further issue in referring to “seemingly inferior employment of a motif.” Kullmann has complained (1960:36 and 39 in particular: the complaint is largely aimed at Hölscher [1955]) that opponents of Neoanalysis sometimes behave as if they had securely established the principle that where a motif is employed in a satisfactory enough way, there is no need to search for any model or precedent.

It remains true that this type of counterargument does not logically exclude the possibility that the relevant passage still had a source in the Aethiopis. But Neoanalysts must accept that this possibility is not susceptible of proof, and that their position here is nowhere near as secure as in those few cases where they can point to genuinely puzzling features.

Superior and inferior uses of a motif are no magic key to relative dating, then. Another possible key: “If there are two uses of a motif, one tragic the other not, then the tragic version must be primary and original.” This handy rule, formulated by Kullmann (1960:58–63 and 1981:11, 19, 25–26 = Homerische Motive, 72, 79, 85–86; and independently by Reinhardt [1961:88 and 93–94]) underlies a good deal of scholarly writing on this topic. So if Antilochus rescues Nestor but at the cost of his own life, while Diomedes does the same and survives, the former version must be the original and the second derivative. By and large I think this holds true. Of course we must remember that, by virtue of the restricted period of time covered by its subject matter, the Iliad can display few genuinely tragic {6|7} eventualities for its main heroes. Most of these must survive the poem to fulfill the mythical role allotted to them.

And some specific cases do not bear out this general principle quite as conclusively as might at first be thought: note, for instance, Andersen on the relationship between Thersites’ death in the Aethiopis, and his drubbing in Iliad II: “ ‘Abschwächung’ oder ‘pathetische Steigerung’—beides ist möglich” (Andersen 1982:24).

Dihle too (1970:9–11) interprets Neoanalysis as presupposing written sources for Homer. It is reassuring that Kullmann in his reply to this type of criticism denies that Neoanalysis necessarily implies such written sources and seems (now at least) fully alert to the complexities of the issues (see e.g. 1977:531 = Homerische Motive, 200; and 1981:9, 13, 18, 27, and 33n76 = Homerische Motive, 70–71, 74, 78, 86, and 91n76). So he asserts that even if the Epic Cycle is likely to be later than Homer the possibility of influence upon the Iliad and the Odyssey by earlier oral versions of these cyclic epics is not thereby excluded. And he distinguishes between the pre-Homeric conception of various themes and motifs and their post-Homeric preservation in written form.

Antilochus, according to Kullmann (1960), is only important for the Iliad in those portions of the poem which on other grounds can be shown to have been modeled on the Aethiopis (i.e., on the material later incorporated in that epic) rather than vice versa. Willcock too (1973:7–8) is convinced that these passages are important for the theory under consideration, although he expresses himself rather more cautiously and with a greater awareness of the complex range of possibilities.

Independence of Thematically Similar Material

Some scholars might argue that the above readjustments of Neoanalytical perspectives do not go far enough. They would stress the existence of a wide range of thematic material at the poet’s disposal. In such circumstances, the duplication of scenes between one epic and another, or indeed within the same epic, leads not to the deductions just considered, but to the obvious and unspecific conclusion that the Homeric poet had at his fingertips a rich resource of motifs, a fertile tradition capable of considerable flexibility.

The typicality of much of the contents of the Iliad and the Odyssey has received abundant attention from scholars of the past century. Their work is well analyzed and carried forward by Bernard Fenik in his important book, Typical Battle Scenes in the Iliad (Hermes Einzelschriften 21 [1968]). [14] For a particularly incisive and well-balanced treatment of the problem with which we are now concerned see his “Index of Subjects,” s.v. “Aithiopis.” In the sections there listed he manfully tackles the issue of whether interdependence or thematic resemblance better explains a passage like Iliad VIII 80–129. He rightly abstains from clear-cut conclusions. The evidence is too complex and ambiguous, and Fenik well conveys this situation in the following paragraph (235): {8|9}

If the typical manner of composition in the Iliad’s battle scenes points to the existence of a traditional, inherited style, then there is probably at least an even chance that those details which the Iliad and Aethiopis share, and which occur only once in the Iliad, are a result of the stylistic tradition common to both poems rather than direct borrowings by one from the other. It could, however, be objected that the theory of direct influence by the Aethiopis on the Iliad, and the evidence of typical composition in the Iliad, are not mutually exclusive. It is easy to imagine how a particularly good epic poem might inspire direct imitation, even though neither its plot nor its details were strikingly new or unusual—that is, did not deviate substantially from the inherited tradition. The Iliad’s battle scenes could thus be both entirely typical and at the same time be directly modelled at certain points on the Aethiopis or any other poem that had made a special impression on Homer.

And we must again commend him for the following realization that the subject is even more tangled and involved than so far allowed (236):

There is, however, still another side to the question. If the Aethiopis was a genuine epic poem, it must have been composed according to many of the same rules as the Iliad itself, since the evidence for the Iliad points to the existence of a collective style and a collective diction that were employed for all poems of this type. One should not, in other words, assume that the Aethiopis was composed according to principles that were basically different from those used in the Iliad, or that it was somehow more “original,” or represented a first starting point and ultimate source for subsequent poetry. This means, specifically, that if the Aethiopis grew out of the same epic tradition as the Iliad, which, if older than the Iliad, it probably did, it was most likely as typical and as derived as the Iliad itself. This in turn suggests that the death of Achilles at the hands of Paris and Apollo, the siege of Troy, and so forth, were sung by other poets before the Aethiopis poet put his hand to the material and that Homer could therefore have heard the story in many other versions besides the Aethiopis. There were most likely not only traditional legends, but traditional incidents, scenes, and plots which were used over and over again. We probably come closer to the truth if we see in those incidents and details shared by the Iliad and Aethiopis not inventions by the poet of the latter, which were then copied and re-cast by Homer, or vice versa, but as typical epic material which was the sole property of no single poet or poem.

These two extracts nicely illustrate the evenly balanced state of the question. {9|10}

Fenik finally decides (237) that the similarities between Iliad and Aethiopis, especially as they center around the attack on Nestor, are too great to be a matter of coincidence. Even when we remember the importance of motifs, “the evidence from the battle scenes alone will not support the conclusion that the larger elements of action and plot are also typical. Until this can be demonstrated, the formidable list of similarities between the two poems can still be taken to indicate a direct, purposeful imitation of one by the other.” But then a consideration of the numerous duplicated motifs in Greek myths (the invulnerable hero, the unfaithful and/or murderous wife, and so forth) induces a further modification of his position and his last words on the subject are (239) that

when we reconsider the Iliad–Aethiopis problem in this light the similarities of plot and incident between the two poems are not as unequivocal as they first appear. … Is it not possible that wrath, abstention from battle, or vengeance for a slain friend were popular themes and the subjects for many epic poems? … All this still does not prove that a direct relationship between the Iliad and Aethiopis does not exist, but it does show how hard it is to arrive at certain conclusions based merely on similarities between them. These similarities must be viewed against the background of an epic tradition in which myths proliferated, repetitions were popular, and doublets freely constructed. … The similarities do exist and are important. They do not, however, point unequivocally to a simple model–copy relationship between the two poems, or even to such a subtle and complex one as Schadewaldt attempted to demonstrate.

When the case for independent use of similar motifs is so sensibly and sensitively put, its differences from the alternative mode of explaining the phenomena seem very small. For instance, in both approaches, the presence or absence of parallels from the Iliad itself for motifs being considered is paramount (see page 8 above). See further page 12 below.

Antilochus Elsewhere in the Iliad [15]

In Iliad V 561–573 Antilochus saves Menelaus’ life by standing next to him in the battle, thus inducing the retreat of the threatening Aeneas. Kullmann sees in this a further “non-tragic” reworking of the Nestor–Memnon confrontation, analogous to what we find in Iliad VIII 102–129, but here it is difficult not to {10|11} listen to those scholars who stress (from slightly differing angles) the cross-references between this and other scenes in the Iliad. Thus Fenik observes the ample parallels this same poem provides for the pattern of Trojan retreat before a Greek warrior aiding a threatened comrade. He concludes that “the simplest and most economical explanation is that the Iliad scenes and the Aethiopis passage are examples of common type scenes that doubtless appeared in many poems and with many variations” (1968:59–60).

Willcock draws our attention to the other Iliadic passages where Antilochus and Menelaus are linked: e.g. XV 568–575, where the two warriors sally forth together, and XXIII 566–601, where the former easily and effectively quenches the rage of the latter.

In Iliad XVI 317–329 Thrasymedes saves his brother Antilochus when he is about to be attacked by the Trojan Maris. Again Reinhardt (1961:357) and with him Kullmann (see more recently 1981:10 = Homerische Motive, 71–72) detect a relationship with the Aethiopis, this time a reversal of the situation that prevailed there when Thrasymedes was unable to help his brother. But Fenik is correct (196–197) to insist: “The circumstances here are entirely different, nor is there anywhere a mention of Thrasymedes’ failure to stand by his brother when Antilochus challenged Memnon.” Once more the answer seems to be that this situation in Iliad XVI is a typical one, paralleled elsewhere in the epic.

Willcock and Kullmann are agreed that in his other Iliadic appearances Antilochus anticipates his role as a replacement for Patroclus in Achilles’ affections. Few (though see 10n15 above) are likely to wish to reject this analysis when successively confronted by scenes wherein Antilochus is dispatched (by Menelaus, significantly enough) to tell Achilles the news of Patroclus’ death (XVII 691–699); where he seizes Achilles’ hands in case he tries to cut his own throat (XVIII 1–34); and, most striking of all, where his genial and engaging conduct at the Funeral Games of Patroclus makes Achilles smile for the first time since the death of his dear friend.

Kullmann characteristically stresses that the sequel to these events is provided by the Aethiopis (as deduced, again, by combining Proclus’ epitome with Pindar Pythian VI 28–49: for a detailed treatment of this topic see pages 64–65 below). For there Achilles slays Memnon and thus directly brings about his own death, because Memnon has in his turn killed Achilles’ friend and companion Antilochus. Willcock, however, is right to emphasize (1973:8) the further ramifications of the problem.

It is not merely that Iliad XXIII also takes up the theme of Antilochus’ relationship with Achilles, a feature we have seen to be an integral part of the Iliad (page 10 above). Antilochus can hardly be a Homeric invention based on Patroclus if the tradition of his own death is presupposed by Iliad VIII. Furthermore, in Odyssey xi 465–470, when the ghost of Achilles draws near to Odysseus, {11|12} it is accompanied by the shades both of Patroclus and of Antilochus. And Odyssey xxiv 78–79 explicitly draws attention to Antilochus’ status as closest friend to Achilles after Patroclus: “Antilochus, whom you, Achilles, honored above all your friends once Patroclus had died.”

Willcock summarizes the complexity of the issues with admirable delicacy (1973:8; cf. Willcock 1983):

The two stories have evidently come together. Both Patroclus and Antilochus are now buried with Achilles, but Antilochus is treated as secondary. We reach something of an impasse. If we think of Patroclus as the original and Antilochus as the copy, then we are forced to push the Achilles/Patroclus friendship and its fatal consequences back into the tradition, behind Homer; for the poet is evidently aware in Iliad VIII and XXIII of the secondary Antilochus story. On the other hand, if we consider Antilochus as the original and Patroclus the copy (as the neo-analysts typically do), then this is not only contrary to the evidence of the Odyssey, but we also have to imagine Homer in the Funeral Games preparing the way for his model, creating the conditions for the story of Antilochus. There is one satisfactory explanation. These two stories, which are very like alternative versions of the same story, present in the Iliad what would in textual criticism be called a contaminated tradition. Each has affected the other. They coexist. Neither is by now the absolute model.

The possibility of such reciprocal borrowing or “cross-quotations” was long ago perceived by Gilbert Murray (The Rise of the Greek Epic [Oxford 1934] 177–178).

Patroclus (Iliad) ∾ Achilles (Aethiopis)

And, indeed, we find an analogous detail in Quintus of Smyrna’s account of the funeral of Achilles (III 665–669). There Zeus signifies the death of a supreme hero by sprinkling his pyre with a light shower of ambrosia, and as a mark of honor to Thetis

Ἑρμείην προεήκεν ἐς Αἴολον, ὄφρα καλέσσηι
λαιψηρῶν ἀνέμων ἱερὸν μένος· ἦ γἀρ ἔμελλε
καίεσθ᾽ Αἰακίδαο νέκυς. τοῦ δ᾽ αἶψα μολόντος
Αἴολος οὐκ ἀπίθησε.

Is this passage derived from the Aethiopis?

It may well be. Few will wish to deny the ingenuity of Kakridis’ approach here. He himself candidly confesses (83) the total and unremitting absence of any direct testimony for the hostility which the Winds entertain against Achilles in his reconstruction, and the complete and undeniable lack of any evidence for the Winds’ appearance in the Aethiopis. But the natural connection between the Dawn and the Winds may perhaps reassure us that Memnon’s status as brother of the Winds has more ancient support than the late and fanciful conceit suggested by its occurrence at Callimachus fr. 110.52 (~ Catullus 66.52–53) and Nonnus XXXVII 75. What is particularly impressive is the way in which the interpretation of the Iliadic passage—“as a pale imitation of an older original epic narrative which included both motifs and justified both the refusal of the Winds and the interference of the gods” (83)—mitigates what seems to me to be a genuinely difficult and perplexing feature.

The same cannot, I fear, be said of the other attempts to find in the Iliad’s Patroclus an adaptation of the Achilles hypothesized for the Aethiopis. When Patroclus forgets the instructions of his friend Achilles and goes so far as to attack the walls of Troy (XVI 698–701) Apollo repels him thrice and at his fourth {13|14} attempt utters the memorable phrase (707) χάζεο, διογενὲς Πατρόκλεες. He had given a similar warning to Diomedes in V 432–442 when that hero rushed at the god himself four times and on the final occasion received the rebuke φράζεο, Τυδεΐδη, καὶ χάζεο (440). Since a clash between Achilles and Apollo would be far more central and integral to the legend of Troy than either of the two parallel clashes already mentioned, it is hardly surprising that Willcock (“Mythological Paradeigma in the Iliad,” Classical Quarterly 14 [1964]: 151n4 = Oxford Readings in Homer’s Iliad [Oxford 2001] 450n35) came to consider the idea that in the Aethiopis Achilles stormed the walls of Troy and was three times pushed back by Apollo. At the fourth time, suggests Willcock, Apollo said χάζεο, Πηλεΐδη or φράζεο, Πηλεΐδη, καὶ χάζεο (the first alternative being, in fact, the admonitory phrase put in Apollo’s mouth by Quintus of Smyrna [III 40] shortly before Achilles’ death). Achilles, however, ignores the warning (cf. Proclus τρεψάμενος δ᾽ Ἀχιλλεὺς τοὺς Τρῶας καὶ εἰς τὴν πόλιν συνεισπεσών) and proceeds to his own destruction.

Willcock advanced this theory with tact and circumspection (“it is not the purpose of this note to support the theory that the Aethiopis provided the themes of the Iliad … but to suggest how composition by theme might involve certain formulas associated with that theme”). Considerably less circumspection had, in fact, already been displayed by Kakridis (83) when he published very similar speculations. But the more cautious approach better fits the numerous uncertainties involved. The application of the warning to Diomedes certainly fulfills an important function within that hero’s aristeia, whose main theme is the relation of gods to men (see Andersen 1978:47–87, esp. 71–72).

As a sequel to his encounter with this divine warning, Patroclus is killed by a combination of Apollo and two mortals, as he himself protests (XVI 844–854; cf. Thetis’ words at XVIII 454–456). Is not Achilles’ death in the Aethiopis engineered in a remarkably similar way? And does not the motif sit rather awkwardly in the Iliadic context?

To the first question most of us will be disposed to answer “yes.” An equally affirmative reply to the second is less readily produced. “Why should the poet make both Patroclus and Achilles die in exactly the same way?” asks Kakridis (88) and does not wait for an answer. But “because he wishes to stress Apollo’s persistent hostility to Achilles, and therefore has the god kill Achilles’ best friend as well as Achilles himself,” would be a perfectly reasonable retort, and, if we chose to, we might embellish it with the cautious qualification that Patroclus does not really die “in exactly the same way” as Achilles, for his divine and his mortal assailant act rather more independently of each other than the Aethiopis seems to have allowed. Kakridis further asserts the relative incoherence of the motif of divine intervention in the Iliad’s case. But when he claims that “Hector {14|15} did not need the assistance of Apollo in order to kill Patroclus. One feels immediately how incompatible with the noble character of Hector is the interference of the god,” we must reply this time that he is laboring under a misconception as to the symbolism and significance of such divine participation in the epics of Homer. Or would he argue that Achilles did not need the assistance of Athena in order to kill Hector at Iliad XXII 214–225? More specifically, W. Allan (2005:1–16) has persuasively argued that Homer represents Hector’s victory as hollow and “tarnished” (5), and that Euphorbus’ role in the killing is necessary for this effect. The idea that the episode is problematic and as such attractively explicable by the hypothesis of Euphorbus’ cooperation with Apollo—as derived, a trifle awkwardly, from Paris’ cooperation with Apollo in the Aethiopis’ killing of Achilles—thus becomes less attractive.

At Iliad XXIII 12–18 Thetis arouses in the hearts of the Myrmidons a desire to lament over the corpse of Patroclus. “But the goddess is not at the camp of the Achaeans” (84), protests Kakridis, who remembers that after her delivery of the arms of Achilles she must have returned to her home in the sea. And so again {15|16} the problem’s solution must be that Homer has removed XI 13–14 “bodily from an epic description of Achilles’ funeral where the presence of the goddess was both necessary and explicit, to use it for Patroclus.” Now this is precisely the sort of overrigorous use of realism and inappropriately close scrutiny of what the poet clearly did not wish us to scrutinize that Kakridis himself so rightly castigates elsewhere (e.g. 3–4) in his book.

So too Iliad XXIII’s Funeral Games for Patroclus remind him of the similar events celebrated for Achilles in the Aethiopis and lead him, following in the wake of Pestalozzi (1945:33), to pose the inept question (88) “Which is the prototype and which the imitation?” As we shall soon see (page 78 below), funeral games in memory of a hero are so much the antithesis of rare that there is not the slightest need to narrow down the range of possibilities in this extreme manner. From the picture of the Aethiopis’s Achilles as a prototype for the Iliadic Patroclus, our discussion passes seamlessly on to the next topic.

Sarpedon (Iliad) ∾ Memnon (Aethiopis)

Clark and Coulson painstakingly establish (1978:65–66) that in this section of the Iliad as a whole Sarpedon is an undeveloped and undercharacterized figure, as opposed to the well-developed and fully characterized Patroclus. Sarpedon’s main function is to endow Patroclus with a final blaze of glory derived from his killing of a ἡμίθεος—and a son of Zeus at that—just before he dies. All this is very true and very just, but it is hard to see how it advances their case in the slightest. And I find quite incomprehensible their suggestion (67) that XVI 419–477’s use of ring composition centering around the death of Glaucus somehow indicates that Sarpedon is the reflection of an older motif such as Memnon.

Let us turn now to the passage where Zeus ponders the saving of his son Sarpedon but is dissuaded by the intervention of Hera (Iliad XVI 440–457). This is often taken to be derived from that part of the Aethiopis (as reconstructed from the evidence of vase paintings) which shows Eos’ endeavors to save her son Memnon (pages 31–32 below): see, for instance, the scholars cited by Clark and Coulson (68n17). On the face of it, these two scenes are more conspicuous {16|17} for their differences than for their similarities. Zeus is a deity quite unlike Eos, and the Iliadic lines have no character equivalent to the Aethiopis’s Thetis (Sarpedon’s mother, it need hardly be said, is not close to the surface of any reader’s mind!). Vase paintings of the Psychostasia usually depict an aloof, impartial, and nonpartisan Zeus: Hermes balances the scales more often than not, and in his capacity as psychopompos he may have priority in this role (see page 31 below). Does not Zeus’ direct involvement in the present case produce quite a different picture? “Ah,” say the Neoanalysts, “that is because the employment of Eos as a model for Zeus’ behaviour has distorted his usual role. Zeus has borrowed some of her qualities, just as he has borrowed some of Hermes’.” But in the Iliadic scene it is Hera who adopts the aloof nonpartisan stance, and the notion that these qualities have been transferred to her from her husband produces a fantastically complicated sequence of counter- and cross-references and motif-borrowings.

This last consideration puts into perspective the first of several attempts that have been made to convince us that the Iliadic passage under discussion contains various anomalies which may best be explained by the hypothesis of dependence upon the Aethiopis’s version. Thus Schadewaldt, followed by Clark and Coulson (1977:68–69), argues that Zeus’ role at Iliad XVI 431–461 is oddly passive, and his power is diminished in comparison to what we find elsewhere: this whole picture, and especially the idea of Zeus’ subservience to the Moirae, (Hera deters him at 441–442 from rescuing a mortal πάλαι πεπρωμένον αἴσηι) stems from the use of the Aethiopis’s Eos as a model: her ineffectuality before Fate is intelligible. But all this is unnecessary: if Zeus hesitates before finally deciding on the death of Hector at XXII 168–178, even though that hero is no relative of his, we can hardly be very surprised if he does the same for his own son. And in each case the poet exploits the device to stress an important turning point within the narrative. The relationship between Zeus and the Moirae is, as one might expect, extremely complicated (see, for instance, Dietrich 1965:297), but there is no need to invoke the Aethiopis to clarify its labyrinthine twists and turns. Nor, when taken in context, is the notion of Fate the only deterent to Zeus here: as Hera reminds him (446–447),

φράζεο μή τις ἔπειτα θεῶν ἐθέληισι καὶ ἄλλος
πέμπειν ὃν φίλον υἱὸν ἀπὸ κρατερῆς ὑσμίνης.

Still on the subject of the Psychostasia, we may cast a brief glance at the reason given for Hector’s retreat from the mêlée over Sarpedon’s corpse: γνῶ γὰρ Διὸς ἱρὰ τάλαντα (658). In comparison with Homer’s usual technique, this seems an uncharacteristically allusive and elliptical reference to Zeus’ scales, which are not referred to again in the narrative at large. Have we not here a {17|18} rudimentary survival from the Psychostasia, what Kullmann (1960:317) calls an “abgekurztes Motiv,” explicable only in the light of the Aethiopis’s far fuller treatment? The answer “yes” does not force its way quite so readily to my lips as it does for many of the Neoanalysts. Their more generous response may still be right, but there are other ways of explaining this undeniably reticent reference. For the Scales of Zeus (on which see B. C. Dietrich, “The Judgement of Zeus,” Rheinisches Museum 107 [1964]: 97–125) do in fact appear elsewhere in the Iliad (Iliad VIII 69–72 and XXII 209–213: Dietrich 1965:294). Why should not the poet be adducing elliptically a feature that figures more fully elsewhere in his own poem? Why bring the Aethiopis in at all? And if it must be brought in, why not reverse the relationship usually posited, and suggest (with Dihle [1970:16]) that this epic included a lengthening and expansion of the Διὸς τάλαντα motif by the device of an appeal from the two relevant mothers? The fact is that these holy scales of Zeus, like all the other details mentioned so far, would make sense as vestigial remains of a fuller account in the Aethiopis, but do not in themselves constitute independent and adequate proof of the existence of such a relationship.

Nor is this basic discrepancy much mitigated by the attendant circumstances with which the central pictures are elaborated. In the Aethiopis it is deduced (see below, page 35) that Memnon’s body was removed from the battlefield by his mother (appropriately enough). In the Iliad, however, it is Apollo {18|19} who carries out the like task for Sarpedon’s corpse (XVI 665–673). He is no close relative of the dead hero.

It would be difficult to devise two more dissimilar scenes—and Apollo’s intervention is not totally inexplicable without recourse to the theory that he is a substitute for Eos. On the contrary, there is once again a parallel within the Iliad itself for the scene now under discussion. Apollo’s anointing of Sarpedon’s corpse (670–680) has a very close analogy in the care he takes to protect Hector’s body from wear and tear (XXIV 18–21) Apollo’s links with Lycia (see Davies and Finglass on Stesichorus fr. 109) will further explain this service rendered to a Lycian hero. Only the motif of Death and Sleep as the conveyors of Sarpedon to Lycia has anything like a strikingly close counterpart in popular reconstructions of the Aethiopis, and even there the assumption that Memnon’s corpse was escorted by those two daemones is based on evidence that Clark and Coulson themselves admit to be “far less certain.”

Hector (Iliad) ∾ Memnon (Aethiopis)

This equivalence is particularly asserted by Kullman (1981:8–9 = Homerische Motive, 69–70). In the Iliad, Achilles’ killing of Hector sets the seal on his own fate, as his mother foretells. In the Aethiopis, Achilles’ killing of Memnon sets the seal on his own fate, as his mother (we may plausibly infer [see page 60 below]) foretells; but the difference is that his death follows almost immediately upon the death of Memnon and certainly falls within the scope of the very epic that contains the foretelling.

The motif’s impact here is certainly very much more immediate and effective in the form we may infer for the Aethiopis. However, one must not underestimate the power the motif possesses in its own right within the Iliad: see page 60 below. An agnostic stance over this question is wisely maintained by Willcock (1983:483–484).

We come at last to the final category:

Achilles (Iliad) ∾ Achilles (Aethiopis)

At the start of Iliad XVIII Achilles’ extravagant grief over the death of Patroclus is heard by his mother in the depths of the sea as she sits amid her sisters the Nereids (35–38). [22] She leads them in a lament for her son, who she knows will {19|20} shortly die, and then rises up out of the sea and makes her way to Troy. Her sisters follow. When Thetis arrives she takes Achilles’ head in her arms and holds it from behind and addresses him ὀξὺ κωκύουσα (71). The significance of this gesture has been brilliantly explained by Kakridis (1949:68–70) in the light of the lamentations for Patroclus and Hector at XXIII 136–137 and XXIV 710–776. In those passages the nearest relative holds the dead man’s head, and this practice can be paralleled from vase paintings of the Geometric period (cf. G. Ahlberg, Prothesis and Ekphora in Greek Geometric Art [Göteborg 1971]). It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that in this striking scene the prescient Thetis prematurely mourns for Achilles, whose imminent death she can foresee. Is Kakridis’s corollary, that the model for the whole picture must be the actual funeral lament over Achilles’ corpse as preserved in Proclus’ summary of the Aethiopis, equally unavoidable? I think not. In the first place Kakridis makes much of the strangely otiose presence of the Nereids in Iliad XVIII. They follow their sister out of the sea and all the way to Troy, but they take no part in the encounter between mother and son which then ensues, and indeed their presence jars with the intimacy of that encounter. Perhaps, then, they are there only because the Aethiopis represented them as attending the real funeral of Achilles. Perhaps. But we must add that the Aethiopis also portrayed the Muses as present at that occasion (see page 73: the fact is stressed by Dihle [1970:21]). Either Homer is following a different source after all or, by restricting the composition of Thetis’ escort to her sisters (in whose company she is appropriately discovered in the first place), Homer has adapted the material available to him with considerably more skill than Kakridis allows. Furthermore, the presence of the Nereids is not so superfluous after all if Kakridis’ general interpretation of the scene in the Iliad is right: “The weeping Nereids fulfil the function of the mourning women at a normal funeral” (Griffin 1980:28).

Already the possibility that the Aethiopis’s scene, with the rather anomalous participation of the Muses (see below page 74), represents an attempt to expand and improve on the Iliadic original seems more plausible than the reverse hypothesis outlined above. However, we need not follow that hypothesis through to its logical conclusion here. What we should rather be concerned to stress is that the Iliadic passage makes perfect sense in its own terms without recourse to the hypothesis of a now-lost source in the Aethiopis. The Iliad is often concerned to look ahead to the future careers of many of its heroes (book XXIII is particularly prone to do this: see the remarks of Willcock [1973:7–9]). Of no character is this more true than Achilles: his death in particular is often foreshadowed to tragic effect (see page 60 below). The present scene takes its place among a number of others within the Iliad itself. For the motif of the hero lamented by women while still alive see Iliad VI 497–502 on Hector and compare Griffin 1980:28. {20|21}

We have already anticipated the next item for consideration in our discussion of the last. Several Neoanalysts suppose that the prophecy which Thetis delivers to Achilles in the Iliad had an equivalent (far speedier of fulfilment) in the Aethiopis. That there are similarities none can deny. But prophecies were so common a feature both in the Iliad and in the Epic Cycle that no far-reaching conclusions should be drawn.

The use of αὐτίκα has a poignant and pathetic impact in Iliad XVIII 96 (αὐτίκα γάρ τοι ἔπειτα μεθ’ Ἕκτορα πότμος ἑτοῖμος) which cannot be properly assessed by a mechanical computation of actual numbers of days remaining to Achilles in the Iliad as compared with the Aethiopis (see Reinhardt 1961:29–31 and cf. Dihle 1970:22, Allan 2003:14n56 for a fuller account of the passage’s effect). And when the parallel between Aethiopis and Iliad has to be suitably sharpened by the bland adoption of Welcker’s hypothesis—taken over with enthusiasm by several scholars (especially Schoeck [1961:8–10])—that Achilles withdrew from the fighting after Thetis’ prophecy concerning Memnon (2:174), it is hard not to sympathize with Page’s polemic (1963:22–23).

We come now to the death of Achilles. Three brief passages are to be borne in mind. The first is Iliad XVI 775–776 (on the death of the charioteer Cebriones in the fighting about the corpse of Patroclus):

ὃ δ᾽ ἐν στροφάλιγγι κονίης
κεῖτο μέγας μεγαλωστί, λελασμένος ἱπποσυνάων.

Next is Iliad XVIII 26–27 (on Achilles’ reaction to the news of the death of Patroclus):

αὐτὸς δ᾽ ἐν κονίηισι μέγας μεγαλωστὶ τανυσθεὶς

Last is Odyssey xxiv 37–40 (Agamemnon to Achilles on the struggle that arose around the latter’s dead body):

ἀμφὶ δέ σ᾽ ἄλλοι
κτείνοντο Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν υἷες ἄριστοι,
μαρνάμενοι περὶ σεῖο· σὺ δ᾽ ἐν στροφάλιγγι κονίης
κεῖσο μέγας μεγαλωστί, λελασμένος ἱπποσυνάων.

Finally, the last passage that calls for a detailed survey in this section: after killing Hector, Achilles wildly plans to sack Troy but suddenly breaks off upon recalling the death of Patroclus and the need to honor his dead body. Neoanalysts wonder whether this scene does not presuppose a similar prototype in the Aethiopis, where Achilles, having killed another distinguished adversary (Memnon), actually did proceed to the sack of Troy, only to meet his own death. If the Iliadic passage were in any way peculiar or anomalous we might be disposed to think along these lines. Some scholars do indeed find it oddly unsatisfactory, and even Lesky objects (1967:75.54): “Liegt doch bei den Schiffen Patroklos unbestattet, an ihn vor allern gilt es zu denken Als ob ein brennendes Troia nicht die grosste aller Ehrungen fur den toten Freund gewesen wäre!”

One’s instinctive first reaction is to observe that Achilles can hardly go on to sack Troy in the Iliad. A more reasonable second thought is that such a sequel would be considerably inferior to what Homer actually presents us with. Is it not quite in keeping with the presentation of Achilles’ character that after the high point of his heroic career, the slaying of the Greeks’ greatest enemy, his spirit should soar up in ambitious imaginings and then slump back to earth and mortal thoughts upon remembering his great friend and his own impending death, brought perceptibly nearer by the killing of Hector? Once again, Neoanalysis seems to act as a block to the understanding of a given passage’s impact. {22|23}


Die Memnonsgeschichte … ist die Erfindung eines Dichters, der bereits das alte Zornesgedicht kannte, aber vor Homer wirkte.

Howald 1946:127

The above examination of the main passages that have been called into play in investigations of the relationship between the Iliad and the Aethiopis fully justifies our initial remarks (page 4) about the complexity of the issues involved.

Let us restrict ourselves to similarities best explicable in terms of borrowing. Sometimes (most notably with the motif of Nestor’s rescue [see page 7 above]) the Iliad does seem to have drawn on the Aethiopis, but elsewhere (e.g. the conveyance of the corpses of Sarpedon and Memnon [see page 19], the laments for Patroclus and Achilles [page 12]) the reverse hypothesis seems at least as plausible. And then there is the question of traditional features. E. R. Dodds summed up the position with characteristic clarity and economy: “Certain of the motifs do look as if they had been invented for the Memnon story, but others, like the Funeral Games and the avenging of a friend, may well have been drawn by both poets from a dateless traditional stock; and in an oral tradition it is perfectly possible for two poems which belonged to the repertory of the same reciters to have influenced each other reciprocally, and to have continued to influence each other over a long period” (1968:12). Similar views have been more recently expressed by, for instance, W. Allan: “It is more plausible to think of a shared epic technique based upon a ‘grammar’ of typical motifs and situations, since the pursuit of specific dependence or influence (from Homer to the cyclic poets or vice versa) is, in the preexisting stage of early Greek epic, a misleading methodology” (2003:14).

I have left to the end the most significant recent attempt to revise our understanding of the issue, Martin West’s dramatic exposition of “the flaw in the Memnonis theory” (“Iliad and Aethiopis,” Classical Quarterly 53 [2003]: 8 = 2012:251). West claims that “the Iliad poet knew the story of Achilles’ death … but he did not know the Memnon episode that preceded it in the Epic Cycle,” and that the poet of the Odyssey similarly did not know of the Penthesileia episode, the proof being in each case that neither poet mentions either figure. Further, the Nekyia of the Odyssey presents Achilles as present in Hades rather than on the island of Leuce, whither the Aethiopis has Thetis conduct him.

Beginning my retort with the Odyssey, I observe that (as West himself concedes: 10 = 261) Penthesileia’s absence may be mere coincidence. Regarding the Nekyia, once the poet had devised the brilliant concept of having his hero {23|24} meet his former hetairoi in Hades, it would have been inconceivable for him to have omitted the greatest. As for the Iliad, it may be precisely because that poem’s author borrowed the Memnon motif and transferred it to Iliad VIII that he has not (5 = 251) brought Memnon to Troy, “even though he is to play such a major role in the story before Achilles’ death. The Lycian contingent is there from the beginning: why not the Aethiopians?” I would reply in contrast that, by reusing the motif in disguised form, the Iliad has, as it were, “used it up” and cannot display it or any aspect of it in its original and pristine form. As analogy for such reticence as to “source,” I would cite the motif of the Judgment of Paris, which I hope to have shown (“The Judgements of Paris and Solomon,” Classical Quarterly 33 [2003]: 1–14) the Iliad to have similarly adapted and transferred to Hector’s visit to Troy in book VI. Having thus been transferred, the motif is not available for appearance in its original shape. It only features, as I would argue, once, very elliptically formulated, near the end of the poem. The parallel with what I would infer for Memnon’s absence would actually be even more complete if West is right in his Teubner text to accept deletion of Iliad XXIV 29–30.


[ back ] 1. See West 2003:1–4 = 2011:242–247 for a summary of other, even earlier, pre-Neoanalytic views that presuppose the Aethiopis as model for the Iliad. On the Thebais see M. Davies, The Theban Epics (Washington 2014) 32–40.

[ back ] 2. Reinhardt’s posthumously published book Die Ilias und ihr Dichter (Göttingen 1961) is hard to categorize in this context. He argues against the Aethiopis theory (349–337) but is generally Neoanalytical in outlook. As Kullmann says in his review of Reinhardt’s section on this topic (Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen 217 [1965)]: 25 = Homerische Motive, 186) “Die Übereinstimmungen mit Schadewaldt und Pestalozzi sind größer als die Divergenzen.”

[ back ] 3. For further bibliography see Kelly 2006:1n1, 2nn2, 4; Burgess 2001:61–64 is particularly good.

[ back ] 4. For bibliography see West 2003:10 = 2010:256n65. Schadewaldt (1952:97n2) is the main exception: he believes the reverse process would be equally possible. So, too, does Hölscher (1955:392) assert the Iliad’s priority.

[ back ] 5. For further consideration of this criterion see page 10 below.

[ back ] 6. Note, too (with Andersen [1978:113]), that Nestor’s plight as here depicted has no parallel anywhere else within the Iliad.

[ back ] 7. “ ‘Gut ist alt’ und ‘jung ist schlect’ als prinzipelle,” as Lesky (RE 8A [1934]: 1249–1250) has wittily expressed it.

[ back ] 8. To say nothing of the likelihood that one and the same poet may adapt motifs from one and the same source effectively in one place and indifferently in another (cf. Dodds 1968:34n47, though I do not accept his view that Iliad VIII 80–129 is one such example of “clumsy adaptation”: see page 8n13 below).

[ back ] 9. A good example is Pestalozzi (1945:10), whose “imaginary problems” are well dealt with by Kelly (2006:4–5). Cf. Cook as cited below, page 8n13.

[ back ] 10. The cautious formulation is owed to Gray (J. L. Myres, Homer and His Critics, ed. D. Gray [London 1958] 241). See A. Parry, ed., The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry (Oxford 1971) lxin1; cf. C. W. Macleod’s edition of Iliad XXIV (Cambridge 1982) 37n3, etc.

[ back ] 11. See too his remarks in Willcock 1983:482.

[ back ] 12. So too, for instance, Wilamowitz, Ilias und Homer, 45–46; Bethe 1922.1:111; Rzach 1922:2408–2409. Agnosticism in e.g. Vian’s Budé text of Quintus Smyrnaeus (i.50n4).

[ back ] 13. See further Andersen 1978:114, and now the excellent treatment by E. F. Cook, “On the Importance of Iliad Book Eight,” Classical Philology 104 (2009): 133–161, accepting both influence from the Aethiopis and full and superb integration of the passage within the Iliad.

[ back ] 14. Compare his earlier study, Iliad X and the Rhesus: The Myth (Collection Latomus 73 [1964] 30–33).

[ back ] 15. On this topic see in general M. M. Willcock, “Antilochus in the Iliad” (1983). For skepticism about his “special relationship” with Antilochus in the Aethiopis, see West 2003:10–11 = 2011:256–257 with bibliography 256n45.

[ back ] 16. On this issue see especially Burgess 2001:74–78.

[ back ] 17. “Because the wind tends to rise at dawn in Greece” (West ad Hesiod Theogony 378, quoting Solmsen, Hesiod and Aeschylus [Cornell Studies 30 (1949)] 57). But this is not always so: cf. C. Neumann and J. Partsch, Physikalische Geographie von Griechenland (Breslau 1885) 90–93.

[ back ] 18. Schoeck’s more extreme claims (1961:32–37)—to the effect that the Iliad’s numerous scenes of fighting over a warrior’s corpse and the rarer depictions of battle over a ship or in a god-sent darkness all derive from the Aethiopis—are adequately refuted by Fenik (1968:53–54) on the ground that such elements are thematically very common.

[ back ] 19. What hero, dear to Thetis, would cry out in this manner for Achilles? We are in danger of reconstructing an “original” less coherent than the “copy”—quite the wrong relationship for Neoanalysis (see page 6 above)!

[ back ] 20. Bibliography of earlier discussions in Rzach 1922:2402.24–26. Add to Clark and Coulson’s list Howald 1946:69–70 (“Sarpedon ist eine verkleinerte Kopie des Memnon”) and now Kullmann 1981:10 = Homerische Motive, 71–72.

[ back ] 21. Kullmann (1981:10–11, 20 = Homerische Motive, 71–73, 79–80), following Reinhardt (1961:357), is especially impressed that in Iliad XVI 317–329. Antilochus and his brother Thrasymedes combat two ἑταῖροι of Sarpedon (∾ Memnon). But see Fenik’s remarks (quoted above, page 9) on the typicality of the Iliad’s (and presumably the Aethiopis’s) battles.

[ back ] 22. In addition to the instances of this identification cited in the text, note G. M. Sifakis’ theory (“Iliad 21.114–119 and the Death of Penthesileia,” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 23 [1976]: 55–56) that the description of the death of Lycaon in Iliad XXI 114–135. is very similar to the depiction of the death of Penthesileia on the famous Munich cup (page 51 below). He deduces that the artifact has been influenced by the Iliad or a similar passage in the Aethiopis.

[ back ] 23. Kullman (1960:38–39) disagrees, citing Achilles’ possession of Xanthus and Balius and Alcaeus fr. 42.14 L–P (of Achilles): ὄλβιον ξάνθαν ἐλάτη[ρα πώλων. The application of so fine a motif as Iliad VI 775–776 to the minor character that Cebriones is in our Iliad has led scholars who refuse to accept the appropriateness of the expression in Achilles’ case to some strange conclusions (e.g. Wilamowitz, Ilias und Homer, 142 and n3: Cebriones may have played a larger role in now-lost epics, or the phrase may have been originally invented for Patroclus; W. H. Friedrich [Verwundung und Tod in der Ilias (Göttingen 1956) 106] likewise deems the relevant passage a “Fremdkörper”). On Homer’s use of pathos for minor characters see Griffin, “Homeric Pathos and Objectivity,” Classical Quarterly 26 (1976): 161–187 = 1980:103–143.

[ back ] 24. Similarly Hartmut Erbse, Beiträge zum Verständnis der Odyssee (Berlin 1972) 194.

[ back ] 25. Jonathan Burgess, “Beyond Neo-Analysis: Problems with the Vengeance Theory,” American Journal of Philology 128 (1997): 16.