One Man Show: Poetics and Presence in the Iliad and Odyssey

  Kretler, Katherine. 2020. One Man Show: Poetics and Presence in the Iliad and Odyssey. Hellenic Studies Series 78. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

1. The Elements of Poetics and Presence

The specific virtue of solo Homeric performance has come into view: namely, the performer’s position between representation and action. The bard drifts within the space of half-acting; he does not merely alternate smoothly between narrating and enacting. Epic performance brings characters and objects into presence but also induces uncertainty as to the “whereabouts” of the performer, the characters, and the audience themselves. Are there two separate spheres of action, or are they oddly related?

The scenes I shall examine in this chapter use a wide array of techniques for creating atopia and other presence effects. Looking at these relatively less complex passages helps isolate the “elements” of poetics and presence out of which more complex passages (those treated in Chapters 2–4) are formed. But even in these brief scenes the elements are already forming molecules, if not volatile compounds: they do not exist in pure form.

The Elements

Several of these elements have emerged out of the treatment of the opening of the Iliad. The body of the bard became a “container” for a multitude of presences through the workings of a shared rage. At the end of the opening there was a play with the fourth wall, whereby the spectators found themselves seated within the world of the poem, implicated in an ethical dilemma that, like them, spanned the inside and outside of the poem. The bard configures space, he tangles lines of causality, he layers figures on top of one another and within himself, and he puts the audience in ethical dilemmas.

A few initial remarks on space, source of action, layering, and background story, and then we will turn to the scenes themselves.


The performer may project the action of the poem’s world onto the space of performance, or vice versa. This is distinct from the kind of mapping Jenny Strauss Clay [1] has identified, where the poet is working with a consistent map of the Achaean camp, except when that has consequences for the interaction between poetics and presence. [2]

A basic use of space is putting the audience in the position of characters in the poem, as in the Iliad opening. This is not a shift of the narrator’s speech into the second person, but simply the bard as a character addressing the audience as the Achaeans. Much more is involved, but the sightline connecting performer with audience is one crucial factor.

In the battlefield scenario, the fourth wall often coincides with the life/death boundary. In addition to his own body, the performer can also configure the space before him as a portal for emergence, as in Odysseus’ summoning of the dead in Odyssey 11. Here the rhapsode’s staff (see Appendix B) would take on a particular significance. Whereas, in the Iliad opening, the staff would negotiate the boundary between present and past, here the staff’s conjuring function comes into the very action of the poem.

The script’s use of space can be broadly divided into scenes that aim at the emergence of a character and scenes that orchestrate space in a more complex fashion. The small-scale examples in this chapter clarify the basic spatial elements that are in play in the more complex scenarios discussed in the remaining chapters.

Atopia: Problematizing the Source of the Action


The female can burst through the skin not only of the character, but of the bard, in his capacity as performer as well as narrator and plotter. This exemplifies the larger phenomenon of bard/character fusion or “merging.” On the one hand, the bard “becomes” a character, donning him as a mask. On the other hand, the character bleeds into, or ruptures through, the bard’s mental and physical being.

Background Story

In this chapter, several scenes use background stories to foment the emergence of a character. This kind of “takeover” by background story, on a grand scale, is explored in Chapters 2–4. This is, in fact, along with the “layering” of figures (characters and performer), the second striking finding of this study: how many moments that are virtuosic from the perspective of presence turn out to harbor multiple strata of background stories. These two phenomena, layering of figures and layering of stories, are related, although one may occur separately from the other.

Other Elements: Structure, Imagery, Ethics

All of the above techniques or schemata produce atopia, mixing surface and depth, action and representation, bard and character, voluntary and involuntary, turning each of these distinctions inside-out. They are not aimed at realism or vivid narration. They provoke questions in the audience: Who is this person before me? Is he in his right mind? Is he possessed? Am I in this drama (as a character)? Is he unfolding this story or subject to it as an automaton?

Brief Scenes of the Elements in Action

Apostrophe: Patroklos

Homeric apostrophes, where the narrator shifts from third-person narration to address a character as “you,” activate the dynamics among bard, character, and audience by playing with presence: who, by the structure of the narration, is present with the performer, and who is not? Who exists in the same temporal ‘present’ as the bard, and who in his past? As with the second-person addresses of the audience mentioned in the introduction, the “device” may be isolated and defined briefly by narratology, but the situation is never that simple. Even if we try to isolate the apostrophe on its own, other elements demand to be taken into account. The Patroklos apostrophe in Iliad 16.787 is the masterstroke: [20]

τρὶς μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἐπόρουσε θοῷ ἀτάλαντος Ἄρηϊ
σμερδαλέα ἰάχων, τρὶς δ’ ἐννέα φῶτας ἔπεφνεν.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
ἔνθ’ ἄρα τοι Πάτροκλε φάνη βιότοιο τελευτή·
ἤντετο γάρ τοι Φοῖβος ἐνὶ κρατερῇ ὑσμίνῃ
δεινός· ὃ μὲν τὸν ἰόντα κατὰ κλόνον οὐκ ἐνόησεν,
ἠέρι γὰρ πολλῇ κεκαλυμμένος ἀντεβόλησε·
στῆ δ’ ὄπιθεν, πλῆξεν δὲ μετάφρενον εὐρέε τ’ ὤμω
χειρὶ καταπρηνεῖ, στρεφεδίνηθεν δέ οἱ ὄσσε.

Thrice now he sprang, a match for swift Ares,
with a horrible shout, and thrice nine mortals killed.
But when at last the fourth time he charged, equal to a daimon,
just then O for you Patroklos the end of life showed forth.
For Phoebus confronted you in the thick of battle,
terrible. He did not notice him coming through the throng.
For shrouded in thick mist he met him.
And he stood behind, and struck his back and broad shoulders
with a downturned hand, and his eyes spun.

Iliad 16.784–792

This is not a matter of apostrophe alone. To catalogue everything that goes into the impact of these lines (characterization, diction, deixis, etc.) might be impossible. We are primed by moments such as:

In other words, part of the impact comes from authorial anticipations of Patroklos’ death. [
22] Line 16.787 is a variation on moments when a character realizes, with authorial awareness, the rest of the plot, or suddenly possesses a poetlike ability to control the poem. Patroklos is hit from behind and nothing shows forth at all; he is endowed with the grandeur of φάνη βιότοιο τελευτή, only to have his eyes spun round to the inside of his head.

The play of the line, “then, O, Patroklos, the end of your life showed forth for you” shunts among the following configurations, at least:

It is not useful to add all of these together as though they were vectors to get a result such as “vividness” or even affection for the character. But neither does the poet/narrator merge entirely with Achilles, although such merging is clearly responsible for the moment’s emotional impact. The effect is rather a sense of vertigo as to the whereabouts of the bard, that very person before us, his intentionality and his control of the poem in the here and now. Is this man we see performing before us “inside” or “outside” the poem?


In a hero’s aristeia, he is brought forth onto the stage of battle and into the body of the performer. If the shift from narration to speech is the minimal case of “becoming the character,” an aristeia is “becoming the character” par excellence.

This kind of presencing of a dead hero for his hour of glory provides the baseline for the extended aristeiai. An aristeia, however, is not a one-way street from Hades into the body of the bard and the space of performance, as the following examples illustrate.

Diomedes, Iliad 4 and 5

But even Diomedes’ aristeia is not that simple. First, it is a virtuoso script for comic performance, in the sense of fourth-wall breaking and other shattering of constraints. It is not a simple making-present but a virtuosic play with presence. Second, the emergence of Diomedes is enacted on so many registers as to constitute a symphony, not a note. These two aspects together create a pleasing inconcinnity, through which the Diomedean bard charms and seduces his audience “over the heads” of the “other” characters.

Diomedes takes center stage beginning in Book 4, just before the first actual killing of the poem. The hero “leaps to the earth” from his chariot, and:

δεινὸν δ’ ἔβραχε χαλκὸς ἐπὶ στήθεσσιν ἄνακτος
ὀρνυμένου· ὑπό κεν ταλασίφρονά περ δέος εἷλεν.
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἐν αἰγιαλῷ πολυηχέϊ κῦμα θαλάσσης
ὄρνυτ’ ἐπασσύτερον Ζεφύρου ὕπο κινήσαντος·
πόντῳ μέν τε πρῶτα κορύσσεται, αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
χέρσῳ ῥηγνύμενον μεγάλα βρέμει, ἀμφὶ δέ τ’ ἄκρας
κυρτὸν ἰὸν κορυφοῦται, ἀποπτύει δ’ ἁλὸς ἄχνην·
ὣς τότ’ ἐπασσύτεραι Δαναῶν κίνυντο φάλαγγες
νωλεμέως πόλεμόνδε.

The bronze roared terribly on the chest of the lord
as he sprang. Under this, fear would have seized the stout-hearted.
As when, on the echoing beach, a wave from the sea
springs up, rushing under Zephyr who moves it:
on the sea, first it crests [κορύσσεται], but then
on dry land, breaking, it groans aloud, and on the edges
arching along it comes to a head [κορυφοῦται], and spits out foam from the sea:
so then in pursuit the phalanxes of the Danaans were moved
inexorably to war.

Iliad 4.420–428

A moment later, enter Eris:

ἥ τ’ ὀλίγη μὲν πρῶτα κορύσσεται, αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
οὐρανῷ ἐστήριξε κάρη καὶ ἐπὶ χθονὶ βαίνει·
ἥ σφιν καὶ τότε νεῖκος ὁμοίϊον ἔμβαλε μέσσῳ
ἐρχομένη καθ’ ὅμιλον ὀφέλλουσα στόνον ἀνδρῶν.

Little at first, she crests [πρῶτα κορύσσεται = the wave, 424] but then
sticks her head [κάρη] in the sky and treads upon the earth.
At that time too she cast leveling neikos into their midst
coming through the throng, supporting the groan of men.

Iliad 4.441–445

Thus even before Book 5 begins, the poet has erected a strong scaffolding of head, helmet, and “cresting.” Now Book 5 opens:

ἔνθ’ αὖ Τυδεΐδῃ Διομήδεϊ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη
δῶκε μένος καὶ θάρσος, ἵν’ ἔκδηλος μετὰ πᾶσιν
Ἀργείοισι γένοιτο ἰδὲ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἄροιτο·
δαῖέ οἱ ἐκ κόρυθός τε καὶ ἀσπίδος ἀκάματον πῦρ
ἀστέρ’ ὀπωρινῷ ἐναλίγκιον, ὅς τε μάλιστα
λαμπρὸν παμφαίνῃσι λελουμένος Ὠκεανοῖο·
τοῖόν οἱ πῦρ δαῖεν ἀπὸ κρατός τε καὶ ὤμων,
ὦρσε δέ μιν κατὰ μέσσον ὅθι πλεῖστοι κλονέοντο.

Then in turn Pallas Athena gave to Diomedes son of Tydeus
menos and daring, that he might be conspicuous among all
the Argives and might win noble kleos.
For him she kindled unwearying fire out of his helmet (κόρυθος) and shield,
like the autumn star, which most of all
glean-glances bright, from his bath in Ocean.
Such was the fire she kindled on him from his head and shoulders,
and rushed him into the midst [cf. 4.444, Eris] where the masses were in panic.

Iliad 5.1–8

Here again we are focused on the helmet, which, rather than bursting out of something itself, is the source of the emanation: fire. The images of emergence form an elaborate chain, from sea to sky to hero’s head; from emergence out of the depths to puncturing the sky to instilling menos and the consequent emergence of fire from a head like a star from the ocean. This last image combines sea, sky, and head as if packing all available forces into the hero’s body.

Notice too the emergence of the image itself from simile into narrated action, via the ambiguous action of Eris.

But what does such an epiphany within the world of the poem have to do with performance, or more broadly with the dimension of presence?

Third, just as the mēnis in the Iliad opening threaded through the Muse to the bard to Achilles, Apollo, Chryses, and back again, setting up layers in the bard’s body, so too Diomedes in being animated by menos figures, embodies, is the bard being taken over by another force: a character. Diomedes being run by menos is the bard being run by Diomedes.

Diomedes, Iliad 6: Peirata of Performance

Alighting upon terra firma after battling the gods, Diomedes has his celebrated conversation with Glaukos after which they exchange armor. Diomedes asks Glaukos whether he is a god or not; if he is a god, “I certainly wouldn’t fight with the heavenly gods” (6.129) since those who do so don’t live long (6.131, 139–140)—ha! [41] He then tells Glaukos (and us) a brief, puzzling version of the story of Lykourgos, who chased the nurses of Dionysus and beat them with his ox-goad (6.135). Now, in the beginning of his speech, Diomedes had wondered aloud at the daring of Glaukos, out in front of everyone else, withstanding Diomedes’ long-shadowing spear (6.126). Here is an opportunity for Diomedes to let his spear, as he speaks, become the ox-goad of Glaukos, “spearing” the nursemaids until they drop their own ritual implements in terror (6.134). This mimicry would be in line with the playful nature of the entire speech: Diomedes has just done what he is saying, in his sleeve, he would never do—namely, fight with the gods, and with great success too. At the end of his speech, when he beckons Glaukos to come closer, to reach the limits, peirata, of destruction, this spear would enact such a boundary physically. The way the spear/goad is used in the speech playfully shifts from one realm to another. If the bard has a staff, he may hold it out to form a boundary between his audience and his own body, and dare the audience to cross over “the peirata of destruction” (143). The performer’s use of a staff would add a third level, in that the staff “exists” in three time periods: the performance, the battlefield, and the fantastic mountain Nysos. The performer conjures up the playful post-crest Diomedes, who simultaneously conjures up, with his spear, the not so fortunate Lykourgos and his goad. [42]

The fourth wall or, if you like, the boundary between story-world and the space occupied by the audience, is, in the case of Diomedes and others, coextensive with the boundary of death. The way this can work is complicated by the “metaphysics,” so to speak, of the performance. The heroes are dead, and come to life through the performer. The “stage” they occupy through him is sometimes coincident with the battlefield, conceived of as a “space of action.” On the other hand, crossing over that border in front of them would mean joining the audience, the world of the living. It is this comic literalism that Diomedes toys with here, goading the nurses, daring Glaukos to cross over, alluding to his recent battle with the gods over Glaukos’ head. The comic effect of puncturing a wall during the conversation is situated within the sudden, very extensive, surreal encounter between the two enemies Diomedes and Glaukos, as though they have slipped out of the matrix of action. The two speakers cross onto the “other side” (the enemy’s) with no danger to their lives. They have entered a strange in-between brought about by the spatialization of performance, the no-man’s-land between themselves and the audience. This “in-between” is registered elsewhere more abruptly, as when Diomedes, about to enter his danger-free aristeia, into the arc of missiles, prays to Athena, δὸς δέ τέ μ’ ἄνδρα ἑλεῖν καὶ ἐς ὁρμὴν ἔγχεος ἐλθεῖν, “grant me to take [kill] the man and [for him?] to come into the rush of a spear” (5.118), which involves “a rather violent change of subject.” [45] To clarify the effect specific to solo performance, which aligns the space between enemies with that between performer and audience, just imagine two performers enacting this scene rather than one.

Agamemnon … and Eris

The aristeia of Agamemnon (11.67–283) [49] is introduced by a full arming scene (11.15–55): the performer, as he narrates the donning of armor, has the opportunity to involve his own body. As with other arming scenes, as the character dons the armor, from bottom (greaves) to top (the spears whose points shine up to heaven), so too does the performer “don” the character as a force rising from below. Alternatively, as menos enters the character, so the performer “enters” the character as animating force. The performer may enact the arming in any way; the specifics, as usual, do not matter. In Agamemnon’s case, the description sweeps upward from greaves to corselet to shoulders to shield to helmet, and finally, to cap it, two spears whose bronze tips flash far into heaven, where they cause Athena and Hera (one spear per goddess?) to thunder at him in his honor (11.45–46). The upward sweep of the action of arming is here emphasized and transformed by an analogous movement emblazoned on the armor itself. On the corselet, three snakes stretch their heads toward the neck on each side (11.26–28). As with Achilles’ shield, the creatures on the corselet seem to be in motion. The shield-strap (11.38–40) also features a snake, one with three heads, twisted around and growing from one neck: ἀμφιστρεφέες ἑνὸς αὐχένος ἐκπεφυυῖαι. An ancient variant reading for ἀμφιστρεφέες (“twisted,” Aristarchus’ preference) is ἀμφιστεφέες, which would mean their heads were somehow crowned. This is visually akin to the Gorgon in the middle of Agamemnon’s shield:

τῇ δ’ ἐπὶ μὲν Γοργὼ βλοσυρῶπις ἐστεφάνωτο
δεινὸν δερκομένη

On it bristle-eyed Gorgo was crowned
staring her uncanny stare …

Iliad 11.36–37

Eris plays an analogous role in the aristeia of Agamemnon. But her role here is much more overt and integral to performance, as befits Agamemnon. At the beginning of Book 11, Zeus sends Eris to the ships of the Achaeans, and she stands on the ship of Odysseus, positioned in the middle of the line of ships, and shouts her uncanny shout, which endues the Achaeans with great strength: and suddenly war was sweeter than returning home. Now lines 5–9 of Book 11, describing the position of Eris on Odysseus’ ship, are the same as Iliad 8.222–226, where it is Agamemnon shouting. Eris at 11.9 thus “takes the place of” Agamemnon on the ship. And not for no reason does she do so—for Agamemnon, when he shouts at 11.15, in turn replaces Eris. With this musical chairs prelude complete, the bard enacts the full arming scene.

Eris here is a force working behind Agamemnon, as Apollo, Zeus, and Achilles (not to mention the Muse and the wrath) worked behind Chryses to open Book 1. In these scenes, where the performer “brings forward” a particular character, there is, in the narrative, a divine or semi-divine force at work behind the character. This does not have to be a statement about dual causation in the psychology of Homeric heroes. Instead, the mutual substitutions of goddess and hero can work in tandem with the performance process, as the bard is taken over by one hero for an extended period of time. Thus the goddess-hero relationship doubles, without merely emblematizing, that of bard and hero.

A detail on the corselet is telling with regard to Eris—the three snakes:

κυάνεοι δὲ δράκοντες ὀρωρέχατο ποτὶ δειρὴν
τρεῖς ἑκάτερθ’ ἴρισσιν ἐοικότες, ἅς τε Κρονίων
ἐν νέφεϊ στήριξε, τέρας μερόπων ἀνθρώπων.

And black-blue serpents had stretched out toward the throat
three from each side, like rainbows, which Kronian Zeus
stuck in the cloud, a portent for mortal men.

Iliad 11.26–28

After Agamemnon arms, and the two armies begin fighting, a simile likens them to reapers working on the field of “a rich/blessed man” (11.68) marching towards one another as handfuls of wheat and barley fall.

οἳ δ’, ὥς τ’ ἀμητῆρες ἐναντίοι ἀλλήλοισιν
ὄγμον ἐλαύνωσιν ἀνδρὸς μάκαρος κατ’ ἄρουραν
πυρῶν ἢ κριθῶν· τὰ δὲ δράγματα ταρφέα πίπτει·
ὣς Τρῶες καὶ Ἀχαιοὶ ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισι θορόντες
δῄουν, οὐδ’ ἕτεροι μνώοντ’ ὀλοοῖο φόβοιο.
ἴσας δ’ ὑσμίνη κεφαλὰς ἔχεν, οἳ δὲ λύκοι ὣς
θῦνον· Ἔρις δ’ ἄρ’ ἔχαιρε πολύστονος εἰσορόωσα·
οἴη γάρ ῥα θεῶν παρετύγχανε μαρναμένοισιν …

And they, as reapers, facing one another
drive down the line in a rich man’s field
of wheat, or barley. And these cut handfuls fall thick and fast.
So Trojans and Achaeans springing at each other
got to cutting. Neither remembered deadly panic.
The battle held their heads even, and they, like wolves,
raged. And lo, Eris took pleasure groaning at the sight:
for she alone of the gods put in an appearance among the fighters …

Iliad 11.67–74

The reappearance of Eris is equally eerie. Eris suddenly takes the part of the “rich man” of the simile. The rich man was only a pretext for her; she lies behind him as she does everything. In the passage most similar to this one, on the Shield, it is the rich man (βασιλεύς) overseeing the work who rejoices at the scene,

                                          αὐτὰρ ὄπισθε
παῖδες δραγμεύοντες ἐν ἀγκαλίδεσσι φέροντες
ἀσπερχὲς πάρεχον· βασιλεὺς δ’ ἐν τοῖσι σιωπῇ
σκῆπτρον ἔχων ἑστήκει ἐπ’ ὄγμου γηθόσυνος κῆρ.

                                          But behind,
children grabbing handfuls, carrying them in their arms
were eagerly presenting them. And the king among them, in silence
holding his scepter, stood by the row with joy in his heart.

Iliad 18.554–557

What is more, this figure of the appreciative observer crystallizes, right in the following lines. Whereas all of the gods are sitting biliously in their respective domiciles, blaming Zeus:

τῶν μὲν ἄρ’ οὐκ ἀλέγιζε πατήρ· ὃ δὲ νόσφι λιασθεὶς
τῶν ἄλλων ἀπάνευθε καθέζετο κύδεϊ γαίων
εἰσορόων Τρώων τε πόλιν καὶ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν
χαλκοῦ τε στεροπήν, ὀλλύντας τ’ ὀλλυμένους τε.

For these the father cared not a whit. But turning aside
apart from the others he was sitting, exulting in his glory
looking at the city of the Trojans and ships of Achaeans
and the flash of bronze, and the killers and the killed.

Iliad 11.80–83

Removed as the gods are, Zeus is even more so. But that does not prevent him from taking pleasure in the carnage, just like Eris—and like us. Thus does the bard build for himself a position apart, from which he can observe his handiwork with pleasure and a jaundiced eye.

Why should it be Eris playing such a pivotal role in these two aristeiai? Firstly, because of her authorial role (instigating the war as well as this battle) and distance from events; her role behind the hero parallels the bard’s. But there is also something about her kinesthetics—her traditional kinesthetics?—that, I now want to suggest, makes her fertile ground for performance.

Figure 1

There is one more turn to the musical chairs between Agamemnon and Eris:

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,
μοῦσ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν,
οἴμης τῆς τότ’ ἄρα κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἵκανε,
νεῖκος Ὀδυσσῆος καὶ Πηλεΐδεω Ἀχιλῆος,
ὥς ποτε δηρίσαντο θεῶν ἐν δαιτὶ θαλείῃ
ἐκπάγλοις ἐπέεσσιν, ἄναξ δ’ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
χαῖρε νόῳ, ὅτ’ ἄριστοι Ἀχαιῶν δηριόωντο.
ὣς γάρ οἱ χρείων μυθήσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
Πυθοῖ ἐν ἠγαθέῃ, ὅθ’ ὑπέρβη λάϊνον οὐδὸν
χρησόμενος· τότε γάρ ῥα κυλίνδετο πήματος ἀρχὴ
Τρωσί τε καὶ Δαναοῖσι Διὸς μεγάλου διὰ βουλάς.

But when they had sent off the desire for food and drink,
the muse inspired the bard to sing the glorious deeds of men,
from the lay whose fame was then reaching wide heaven,
the strife of Odysseus and Achilles son of Peleus,
how once upon a time they came to argue at the rich feast of the gods,
with vehement words, and the lord of men Agamemnon
rejoiced in his mind, when the best of the Achaeans were arguing.
For so Phoebus Apollo had foretold to him, prophesying
in sacred Pytho, when he crossed the stone threshold
to consult him: for at that time the beginning of evil was rolling
upon the Trojans and the Danaans through the counsels of great Zeus.

Odyssey 8.72–82

There are, of course, several other Homeric episodes that reenact or play on the origins of the Trojan War in the Judgment of Paris. The duel between Paris and Menelaos and the (darkly comic) re-seduction of Helen are just part of this phenomenon. We will look at two more of these in a moment, but it is worth asking why the Judgment of Paris lends itself to this re-play and in particular re-performance, in whatever mode.

Musical Chairs: The Judgment of Paris and Persuasion of Helen

The dramatic potential of the Judgment of Paris is made clear by connecting a series of ancient depictions of the Judgment to another series depicting the “persuasion of Helen.” The Judgment was performed in pantomime in the Roman period. Various features of these scenes make it clear that this is also true of the “persuasion of Helen.” [63] For instance, there is a characteristic pillar off to the side upon which someone leans to observe the scene. In some cases (e.g. Figure 2, [64] the Jenkins Vase) the pillar clearly separates the Muses, representing the arts of pantomime, from the performance. If one puts the “judgment” and “persuasion” scenes together, like sequential tableaux vivants, [65] the principal characters—Helen, Muse, Aphrodite, then Hera, Athena, Aphrodite—sit in one another’s chairs in such a way as to suggest that the beginning stages of the Trojan War are variations with a rotating cast on a relatively stable tableau. We have referred in passing to this rotation of roles as musical chairs. Here on the Jenkins Vase the viewer sees a more literal musical chairs taking place. The shifts operate to throw into question who is the audience, who is causing the scene, who is acting it out, who is inspiring it, who is singing, and who is the judge. The sophisticated play of agent and patient is carefully recorded in the artistic depictions. In some depictions, it is the Muses behind the pillar separating the “plotted” world from the “plotter.” In others, Aphrodite distantly observes and manipulates the encounter. In still others, Helen herself seems to be the contemplative figure.

Figure 2

Helen: Authorial Reenactment

The “persuasion” of Helen is reenacted in Iliad 3, to the annoyance of Helen: a moment where the performer, as Helen, expresses disgust with the whole idea of reenactment—performance for those other “characters” on the other level of reality. And this brings Helen forward, as does her weaving scene, [68] or her bard-like naming of the Achaean heroes, [69] as authorial. She is a character who realizes, to her disgust, that she is a character, [70] and as such bleeds comically into the persona of the bard. She interacts directly with the goddess, but for her this is mere harassment. She wearily goes about her role, not as the empty painted vessel of misogynist imagination, but as a jaded performer, or as someone who would rather be back composing her web. She makes one last effort to reclaim the authorial position when she invites Hektor to “sit in the loveseat” (6.354), as Aphrodite had done to her at 3.424 and (as in the visual depictions) at the initial seduction, but in the end she has to take on her usual role. Thus does the bard, embodying her, linger on the brink between authorship and acting. This tale has been told so many times, just as Helen has “acted it out” so many times, that he is, as it were, bored and unimpressed with the divine machinery. So Helen’s weariness and annoyance, surfacing through the bard, has a different effect than her authorial weaving or cataloguing, as it threatens to, or toys with, ending the performance, rather than picturing composition from within the story-world.

Menelaos and the Empty Helmet

The reenactment of the initial scene of Seduction, or rather, of its consequences, plays out yet again through Menelaos as well: not in his aristeia in Book 17, but in his appearance in Book 13. This scene in Book 13 reenacts a moment from the duel in Book 3 and at the same time draws on other moments in the Helen story, such as the substitution of Deiphobos for Paris and the traditional musical-chairs relationship between Helen and Aphrodite, alluded to above. This conveys a nightmarish, but also comic, effect of uncanny replay. This replay is smoothly integrated into performance: the musical chairs of presence appears, from the audience’s perspective, to be set in motion both by associations in the performer’s mind and by his intense spatial involvement with the action he himself is reenacting.

Δηΐπυρον δ’ Ἕλενος ξίφεϊ σχεδὸν ἤλασε κόρσην
Θρηϊκίῳ μεγάλῳ, ἀπὸ δὲ τρυφάλειαν ἄραξεν.
ἣ μὲν ἀποπλαγχθεῖσα χαμαὶ πέσε, καί τις Ἀχαιῶν
μαρναμένων μετὰ ποσσὶ κυλινδομένην ἐκόμισσε·
τὸν δὲ κατ’ ὀφθαλμῶν ἐρεβεννὴ νὺξ ἐκάλυψεν.
Ἀτρεΐδην δ’ ἄχος εἷλε βοὴν ἀγαθὸν Μενέλαον·
βῆ δ’ ἐπαπειλήσας Ἑλένῳ ἥρωϊ ἄνακτι
ὀξὺ δόρυ κραδάων· ὃ δὲ τόξου πῆχυν ἄνειλκε.
τὼ δ’ ἄρ’ ὁμαρτήτην ὃ μὲν ἔγχεϊ ὀξυόεντι
ἵετ’ ἀκοντίσσαι, ὃ δ’ ἀπὸ νευρῆφιν ὀϊστῷ.
Πριαμίδης μὲν ἔπειτα κατὰ στῆθος βάλεν ἰῷ
θώρηκος γύαλον, ἀπὸ δ’ ἔπτατο πικρὸς ὀϊστός.

And Helenos struck Deipyros with his sword near the temple
—with a great, Thracian sword—and broke off the four-phalossed [helmet].
And it, thrust away, fell to the ground, and somebody among the Achaeans
fighting picked it up as it rolled at his feet.
As for him, black night covered over his eyes.
And grief seized the son of Atreus, brave Menelaos:
and he went threatening Helenos, hero, lord,
shaking his sharp spear: and he pulled back the arm of the bow.
And there they joined, one with a sharpened spear
aiming to strike, and the other with an arrow from the bowstring.
And the son of Priam struck him in the chest with an arrow
in the hollow of the corselet, but the bitter arrow flew back.

Iliad 13.576–587

This brief encounter is surprisingly complex and depends on the audience’s memory of another moment in the poem: the grand finale to the duel of Menelaos and Paris in Book 3. Having failed to kill Paris, Menelaos has in Book 3 got hold of Paris’ helmet and (3.370) ἕλκε δ’ ἐπιστρέψας μετ’ ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς, “was dragging [Paris], twisting him about, toward the well-greaved Achaeans,” choking him (3.371–372). But Aphrodite slices the helmet-strap and whisks Paris off to Helen in the boudoir (3.375). Paris’ disappearing act leaves Menelaos holding the empty helmet (3.376), which he then whirls off in frustration to be taken up by his companions:

ῥῖψ’ ἐπιδινήσας, κόμισαν δ’ ἐρίηρες ἑταῖροι.
He cast it whirling about, and his trusty companions recovered it.

Iliad 3.378

This entire line in Book 3 is already a nightmarish replay, including verse-structure echoes, of what he was doing to the helmet while Paris was still in it (3.370). And the rescue of Paris results in the reenactment of the initial “seduction/persuasion” scene, with Aphrodite pulling the strings.

Nowhere else in Homer does a single anonymous character act in such a way. The closest parallel is in phrases like ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων, where the effect of the iterative is “here is what someone would be saying in such a situation” or “one and/or another would say …” (this latter is clear in ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν Ἀχαιῶν τε Τρώων τε). The τις Ἀχαιῶν who elsewhere watches and gives voice to anxiety has suddenly got himself tripped up by a helmet.

As the anonymous Achaean is odd, so too is his situation in the sentence. Again:

Δηΐπυρον δ’ Ἕλενος ξίφεϊ σχεδὸν ἤλασε κόρσην
Θρηϊκίῳ μεγάλῳ, ἀπὸ δὲ τρυφάλειαν ἄραξεν.
ἣ μὲν ἀποπλαγχθεῖσα χαμαὶ πέσε, καί τις Ἀχαιῶν
μαρναμένων μετὰ ποσσὶ κυλινδομένην ἐκόμισσε·
τὸν δὲ κατ’ ὀφθαλμῶν ἐρεβεννὴ νὺξ ἐκάλυψεν.
Ἀτρεΐδην δ’ ἄχος εἷλε βοὴν ἀγαθὸν Μενέλαον …

And Helenos struck Deipyros with his sword in the temple
—with a great, Thracian sword—and broke off the four-phalossed [helmet].
And it [ἣ μὲν], thrust away, fell to the ground, and one of the Achaeans
fighting picked it up as it rolled at his feet.
As for him [τὸν δὲ] black night covered over his eyes.
And grief took the son of Atreus, brave Menelaos …

Iliad 13.576–581

The anonymous Achaean and the rolling helmet intrude into the ἣ μὲν … τὸν δὲ, almost to the point where an αὐτόν, or some other help for the listener, is needed to clarify who the τόν is in line 580, who is dead. This is especially so because, although Helenos breaks off Deipyros’ helmet, the blow itself is odd. ξίφεϊ σχεδὸν ἤλασε κόρσην (576) seems to be a mashup of σχεδὸν ἤλασεν ἵππους (11.488) and ξίφει ἤλασε κόρσην (5.584). σχεδόν in the former means “drew his horses near.” While ἤλασε in the context of a weapon conveys strike, σχεδόν muddies the waters. It is in Homer occasionally construed with the dative or genitive, but never the accusative as it is here. Perhaps here σχεδόν conveys “at close range,” as it does in other combat scenes, but again, σχεδὸν ἤλασεν as a unit simply means “drive near.” The blow is far from clearly fatal, so when dark night covers the eyes of τόν, after the intervening business with τις Ἀχαιῶν, the action is murky.

The technique here is similar to the Iliad opening, where the body of the bard functions as a “container” for the μῆνις. The object rolling is a peculiar action, witnessed not by some hero but by a bystander, someone whose normal role is to comment. All this enables the performer, who is narrating at the moment, to step into the shoes of τις Ἀχαιῶν.

The sheer presence of a bard who (unlike written text) wields hands and is not (unlike in drama) holding an actual helmet requires the audience to imagine the empty helmet, without the performer resorting to any particular gesture. And out of the process of filling in these blanks with the empty helmet, recalling the Book 3 helmet, is precipitated poor Menelaos.

In the transitional verse (13.580), night covers the eyes of “him” (the unnamed Deipyros). Now pain seizes Menelaos and he springs into action, shaking his spear. As the bard has witnessed the rolling helmet, an activity internal to himself takes place, culminating in the arrival of Menelaos. On the page, there is a mere association of images. But see how it works in performance, no matter what the performer does. In the bard, his “recognition” of the helmet brings on the “presence” of the character within the poem who would so recognize it: Menelaos. The metastasis from anonymous Achaean to Menelaos occurs during the line “and murky night covered his eyes,” as though to provide the phone booth out of which Superman emerges, the magician’s cape. As the visual “stream” becomes murky, a new presence can emerge.

This use of a helmet is a variation on its central role in (e.g.) the aristeiai of Diomedes and Agamemnon. But while this incarnation of Menelaos shares with these aristeiai a focus on the helmet, the overall use of space is much different. Agamemnon and Diomedes arise from beneath to take over the body of the bard and then emanate an energy toward the sky. With Menelaos a more ambiguous metastasis occurs, but a richer one in terms of the memory shared among bard, audience, and character. Traumatic repetition takes the place of death in that same nebulous zone. Here the character seems to come about through the bard penetrating so far into the world of the poem (as Diomedes does in his encounter with Glaukos) as to “discover” a seed of reality that takes over. At the same time, it is something discovered within the space of performance, as it were, that “disrupts” the ongoing plotting that constitutes the poem-world.

Idomeneus and Meriones Backstage

At 13.246, Idomeneus, prompted by the disguised Poseidon, is (finally) armed and about to enter the battlefield. Just then he is met by his therapōn Meriones, on his way to fetch a spear. Idomeneus, who has been hanging back, castigates Meriones at length, posing various reasons why Meriones could be there before declaring that as for him, he is on fire to fight.

Μηριόνης δ’ ἄρα οἱ θεράπων ἐῢς ἀντεβόλησεν
ἐγγὺς ἔτι κλισίης· μετὰ γὰρ δόρυ χάλκεον ᾔει
οἰσόμενος· τὸν δὲ προσέφη σθένος Ἰδομενῆος·
Μηριόνη Μόλου υἱὲ πόδας ταχὺ φίλταθ’ ἑταίρων
τίπτ’ ἦλθες πόλεμόν τε λιπὼν καὶ δηϊοτῆτα;
ἠέ τι βέβληαι, βέλεος δέ σε τείρει ἀκωκή,
ἦέ τευ ἀγγελίης μετ’ ἔμ’ ἤλυθες; οὐδέ τοι αὐτὸς
ἧσθαι ἐνὶ κλισίῃσι λιλαίομαι, ἀλλὰ μάχεσθαι.

Meriones—aha—strong companion, encountered him
still near the tent: for he was going after a bronze spear
to bring it back. And the strength of Idomeneus addressed him:
“Meriones, son of Molos, swift of foot, dearest of companions:
Why have you come, leaving the war and the fight?
Have you been hit, and the point of a missile is wearing you down,
or have you come to me with a message from someone? You know—I myself
have no desire to sit by the tents, but to fight!”

Iliad 13.246–253

Meriones—πεπνυμένος—replies that he is going for a spear, since he has broken his own while striking Deiphobos, “in case there is one left in your hut”:

τὸν δ’ αὖ Μηριόνης πεπνυμένος ἀντίον ηὔδα·
Ἰδομενεῦ, Κρητῶν βουληφόρε χαλκοχιτώνων,
ἔρχομαι εἴ τί τοι ἔγχος ἐνὶ κλισίῃσι λέλειπται
οἰσόμενος· τό νυ γὰρ κατεάξαμεν ὃ πρὶν ἔχεσκον
ἀσπίδα Δηϊφόβοιο βαλὼν ὑπερηνορέοντος.

And in turn shrewd Meriones addressed him in response:
“Idomeneus, Counsellor of the bronze-clad Cretans!
I have come in case—you know—some spear is still left in the huts,
to bring it back. Well this one we broke—that I was carrying before,
when I hit the shield of haughty Deiphobos.”

Iliad 13.254–258

This releases a fabulous tirade by Idomeneus: there is not one, but one and twenty glorious spears standing in his hut—Trojan ones: because he gets them by fighting.

τὸν δ’ αὖτ’ Ἰδομενεὺς Κρητῶν ἀγὸς ἀντίον ηὔδα·
δούρατα δ’ αἴ κ’ ἐθέλῃσθα καὶ ἓν καὶ εἴκοσι δήεις
ἑσταότ’ ἐν κλισίῃ πρὸς ἐνώπια παμφανόωντα
Τρώϊα, τὰ κταμένων ἀποαίνυμαι· οὐ γὰρ ὀΐω
ἀνδρῶν δυσμενέων ἑκὰς ἱστάμενος πολεμίζειν.
τώ μοι δούρατά τ’ ἔστι καὶ ἀσπίδες ὀμφαλόεσσαι
καὶ κόρυθες καὶ θώρηκες λαμπρὸν γανόωντες.

And him in turn Idomeneus leader of Cretans addressed to his face:
“If it’s spears you want, one and twenty you shall find
standing in my hut against the shining wall—
Trojan ones, which I lift off the men I have killed! For I don’t think
I stand there fighting apart from enemy men!
That’s why I have spears, and bossed shields
and helmets and corsets, gleaming bright.”

Iliad 13.259–265

Ever-πεπνυμένος Meriones, capping him, remarks that he too has many spoils of the Trojans, “but they are not nearby for the taking.” He takes the thinly disguised charge of slacking: “No no—ah, I certainly deny I’ve forgotten my valor,” carefully placing himself “in the front [ranks],” right “where neikos of war springs up. Well, I suppose some other Achaean may have been oblivious to my fighting, but you yourself, I should imagine, know [ἴδμεναι] it”:

τὸν δ’ αὖ Μηριόνης πεπνυμένος ἀντίον ηὔδα·
καί τοι ἐμοὶ παρά τε κλισίῃ καὶ νηῒ μελαίνῃ
πόλλ’ ἔναρα Τρώων· ἀλλ’ οὐ σχεδόν ἐστιν ἑλέσθαι.
οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδ’ ἐμέ φημι λελασμένον ἔμμεναι ἀλκῆς,
ἀλλὰ μετὰ πρώτοισι μάχην ἀνὰ κυδιάνειραν
ἵσταμαι, ὁππότε νεῖκος ὀρώρηται πολέμοιο.
ἄλλόν πού τινα μᾶλλον Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων
λήθω μαρνάμενος, σὲ δὲ ἴδμεναι αὐτὸν ὀΐω.

And him in turn shrewd Meriones addressed in response:
“For me, too, you know, in my hut and and black ship
are many spoils of the Trojans: but they aren’t nearby for the getting.
No—no I say, I am not oblivious to valor,
but among the foremost through the man-glorying battle
do I take my stand, whenever the struggle of war arises.
Somebody else, I suppose, of the bronze-clad Achaeans
may be oblivious to my fighting, but you yourself have seen me, I wager.”

Iliad 13.266–273

Thus does Meriones try to wrangle the stubborn image of himself battling in vain before the oblivious eyes of the Achaeans and shove it before the mind’s eye of Idomeneus. Idomeneus balks at the notion that he needs to be told all of this, and launches into a richly imagined scene in which it would become clear who is a coward and who is brave. This would happen, he insists, not if the two of them were actually to venture forth into battle, as they are ever on the point of doing, but if there were to be an assembly of the best “by the ships,” right where they are now, “for ambush.” Idomeneus casts his mind’s eye to such a display of manhood—and in the process, extends and animates his own and Meriones’ questionable presence “among the ships,” thereby creating such a scene—clownishly detailing the behavior of the coward.

          τὸν δ’ αὖτ’ Ἰδομενεὺς Κρητῶν ἀγὸς ἀντίον ηὔδα·
275    οἶδ’ ἀρετὴν οἷός ἐσσι· τί σε χρὴ ταῦτα λέγεσθαι;
          εἰ γὰρ νῦν παρὰ νηυσὶ λεγοίμεθα πάντες ἄριστοι
          ἐς λόχον, ἔνθα μάλιστ’ ἀρετὴ διαείδεται ἀνδρῶν,
          ἔνθ’ ὅ τε δειλὸς ἀνὴρ ὅς τ’ ἄλκιμος ἐξεφαάνθη·
          τοῦ μὲν γάρ τε κακοῦ τρέπεται χρὼς ἄλλυδις ἄλλῃ,
280    οὐδέ οἱ ἀτρέμας ἧσθαι ἐρητύετ’ ἐν φρεσὶ θυμός,
          ἀλλὰ μετοκλάζει καὶ ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέρους πόδας ἵζει,
          ἐν δέ τέ οἱ κραδίη μεγάλα στέρνοισι πατάσσει
          κῆρας ὀϊομένῳ, πάταγος δέ τε γίνετ’ ὀδόντων·
          τοῦ δ’ ἀγαθοῦ οὔτ’ ἂρ τρέπεται χρὼς οὔτε τι λίην
285    ταρβεῖ, ἐπειδὰν πρῶτον ἐσίζηται λόχον ἀνδρῶν,
          ἀρᾶται δὲ τάχιστα μιγήμεναι ἐν δαῒ λυγρῇ…

          And him in turn Idomeneus leader of Cretans addressed to his face:
          “I know what you’re like for valor: why do you have to retail it?
          I wish right now we best men were all gathered by the ships,
          for ambush, where most of all the aretē of men comes to be distinguished,
          where he that’s a coward man and he that’s brave manifest themselves:
          for of one—the coward—his skin turns one way and another,
          and for him, his spirit can’t be constrained, calm, in his phrenes,
          but he squats around and he sits on one foot then the other,
          and in him, his heart in his chest pounds
          as he thinks of the kēres, and a chatter comes from his teeth:
          but, of the brave one, neither does his skin turn nor is he very
          panicked, when first he sits in the ambush of men,
          and he prays to mix quick in baneful battle…”

Iliad 13.274–286

This conversation between Meriones and Idomeneus creates a space for these two to conduct their own private sizing-up instead of the public performance; a “rehearsal” space for the battle. It is distinct in tone both from the conversation of two enemies in battle and from, for example, Agamemnon’s epipōlēsis in Book 4. This sharpens the sense of the battlefield as a stage by fleshing out briefly a backstage. It does so even more concretely than Paris and Helen lounging in the boudoir, or Hektor in Troy, or even the ribbing among companions in Book 10’s mustering for the council of chiefs. One might say it is the lowbrow version of Helen and Aphrodite’s conversation in Book 3.

One can see the Goffmanesque nature of this scene. At the same time, it is not a “representation of a battlefield backstage.” As this is a performance in itself, it rather draws on these sociological phenomena for effect. [84] And what is that effect? Does it produce the illusion of reality by unveiling the backstage, like candid photography? One thing this scene surely does is to provide an illusion of depth to the story-world—there is a “there” there, beyond the surface the poet normally shows us, and that “there” is not simply within the poet himself. But it is important to think beyond world-creation to performance. The quality of this moment as enacted must be grasped, separately from any representation it may remind us of. Idomeneus and Meriones’ backstage [85] presents the audience with the spectacle of a person improvising an excuse for not “acting” yet, not bodying himself forth, because he had run out of equipment. The audience gains sudden access (as it were) to the bard as a non-actor, creating an awkward stage moment: “he’s not acting yet; we aren’t supposed to be here yet.” Nakedly exposed, the bard works hard to cap himself in the macho dialogue between the characters. Eventually this gives way to full-fledged composition of a scene and enacting it—but, by the character (Idomeneus). Despite the bard’s being in a “non-acting” space, the character takes him over anyway—a virtuoso arrangement. But a better formulation is that the performer, exposed in his pre-performance state, puts on a show of composition-and-performance, only to “reveal” thereby his coward self. [86]

Shepherd Similes

At 4.279 the shepherd is startled by the oncoming storm and begins moving his sheep into shelter; at 4.455 he is there merely to witness the sound or the sight. Such a shepherd is distinct from those in other similes, where he is less of an observer, though this series appears as a development of the others. He is also quite distinct from battle-visitors the bard sometimes welcomes onto the scene, such as one noted above, “You would not recognize the son of Tydeus, which side he was on” (5.85–86). Instead of being beckoned from the audience, the shepherd seems to be one level further inside the poem than the mediating bard, particularly in this example:

ὡς δ’ ὅτε χείμαρροι ποταμοὶ κατ’ ὄρεσφι ῥέοντες
ἐς μισγάγκειαν συμβάλλετον ὄβριμον ὕδωρ
κρουνῶν ἐκ μεγάλων κοίλης ἔντοσθε χαράδρης,
τῶν δέ τε τηλόσε δοῦπον ἐν οὔρεσιν ἔκλυε ποιμήν·
ὣς τῶν μισγομένων γένετο ἰαχή τε πόνος τε.

As when rivers in winter flood, flowing down the mountains
force together their weighty water into the churning curve
out of the great springs in the hollow ravine,
and their roar is heard far off in the mountains by the shepherd:
so from the men thus churned, a rising roar and struggle.

Iliad 4.452–456

Here and at 4.277 (cf. 8.557–559) the shepherd is “far away” (τηλόσε, 455): far away from the scene of the vehicle. In 4.455 he could actually be witnessing the noise of the battle—from the tenor (the action of the narrative)—rather than a river, as if he is just a little bit too far away from the actual noise of the battle, and mistakes it for something else. The shepherd’s ambiguous nearness to the action gives him a very odd relation to that action, and to the performer. [

Noemon, Son of Phronios, and the Plotting of the Poem

Another, more oblique vantage point on the action of the poem is bodied forth in the person of Noemon in Odyssey Book 4 (lines 630–658). Idomeneus and Meriones’ comic dialogue about performance brings about a space that is a rehearsal for action, a space that is in that sense the source of action. Insofar as it substitutes for a full-fledged arming scene and contemplates that act, the space is a source for presence. Noemon’s appearance creates a similar space, this time with regard to the bard’s plotting function. In this way he is similar to Athena, whose casual orchestration of the plot, especially in Odyssey 1, 5, and 13, works comically to stress the fact that in this poem no one of importance is in any real danger—that, in fact, nothing is happening here that is not subject to her will. But Noemon is Athena’s agent; it is Noemon from whom Athena (2.386), disguised as Telemachus, begs a ship.

The poet has created an Ithaka that is Hades-like in its lack of action and its isolation from the rest of the world. This is in part due to the exigencies of the plot. The poet needs for Telemachus to be stuck on Ithaka until the poem’s opening. He needs for the suitors to be courting Penelope without success or failure. Ithaka needs to be kept in a cryogenic state until the arrival of plot-mistress Athena upon the scene. Penelope needs to continually weave and unweave the shroud, and only recently be caught.

The scene between Noemon and the dumbfounded suitors is saturated with mentality. It is a faceoff between “Mind” (Noemon) and “Antimind” (Antinoos); but the mental imagery goes beyond names. Noemon stumbles upon the suitors entertaining themselves as usual and asks innocently whether “we” know when Telemachus is returning, because he needs to use his ship to fetch a mule; he has twelve mares nursing mules over in Elis. (The fact that Noemon has these horses comically emphasizes his businesslike puncturing of the torpor on Ithaka.) [96]

          Ἀντίνοος δὲ καθῆστο καὶ Εὐρύμαχος θεοειδής,
          ἀρχοὶ μνηστήρων, ἀρετῇ δ’ ἔσαν ἔξοχ’ ἄριστοι.
630    τοῖς δ’ υἱὸς Φρονίοιο Νοήμων ἐγγύθεν ἐλθὼν
           Ἀντίνοον μύθοισιν ἀνειρόμενος προσέειπεν·
           Ἀντίνο’, ἦ ῥά τι ἴδμεν ἐνὶ φρεσίν, ἦε καὶ οὐκί,
          ὁππότε Τηλέμαχος νεῖτ’ ἐκ Πύλου ἠμαθόεντος;
          νῆά μοι οἴχετ’ ἄγων· ἐμὲ δὲ χρεὼ γίνεται αὐτῆς
635    Ἤλιδ’ ἐς εὐρύχορον διαβήμεναι, ἔνθα μοι ἵπποι
          δώδεκα θήλειαι, ὑπὸ δ’ ἡμίονοι ταλαεργοὶ
          ἀδμῆτες· τῶν κέν τιν’ ἐλασσάμενος δαμασαίμην.

          Antimind was seated there, and godlike Eurymachos,
          leaders of the suitors, and far the best in virtue.
          And to them Mindful, the son of Understanding coming near
          addressed Antimind with words, questioning him:
          “Antimind, do we know at all in our thoughts, or on the other hand, not,
          when Telemachus will return from sandy Pylos?
          He went off with my ship. And a need for it has arisen for me
          to cross over to Elis with the wide dancing-floor, where I have horses,
          twelve females, and under them work-sturdy half-asses,
          unbroken: driving out one of these I’d tame it.”

Odyssey 4.628–637

“Antimind, do we know at all in our phrenes, or on the other hand, not, when Telemachus will return from sandy Pylos?” (632–633). The suitors are dumbfounded (οἱ δ’ ἀνὰ θυμὸν ἐθάμβεον, 638), reinforcing their status as phrenes-less denizens of Hades. Antinoos askes Noemon a series of questions, which eventually focus upon Noemon’s will:

645    καί μοι τοῦτ’ ἀγόρευσον ἐτήτυμον, ὄφρ’ ἐὺ εἰδῶ,
          ἤ σε βίῃ ἀέκοντος ἀπηύρα νῆα μέλαιναν,
          ἦε ἑκών οἱ δῶκας, ἐπεὶ προσπτύξατο μύθῳ.

          And tell me this straight, so that I know it well,
          whether he robbed you of the black ship by force, with you unwilling,
          or did you give it to him willingly, when he plied you with a speech?

Odyssey 4.645–647

As Adkins notes, [
97] although Antinoos may seem to be threatening Noemon here, there are no reprisals taken when Noemon responds that, in fact, he did give the ship to Telemachus ἑκών.

          τὸν δ’ υἱὸς Φρονίοιο Νοήμων ἀντίον ηὔδα·
          αὐτὸς ἑκών οἱ δῶκα· τί κεν ῥέξειε καὶ ἄλλος,
650    ὁππότ’ ἀνὴρ τοιοῦτος ἔχων μελεδήματα θυμῷ
          αἰτίζῃ; χαλεπόν κεν ἀνήνασθαι δόσιν εἴη.

          And the son of Phronios, Noemon, answered him face to face:
          “I myself gave to him willingly! What would someone else do,
          when such a man with worries in his heart
          is asking? It would be harsh to refuse the gift.”

Odyssey 4.648–651

All of this flaunts the episode’s “mentality” to the point of provoking puzzlement.

But the bard, performing Noemon, takes this flaunting even further. Noemon first answers Antinoos’ odd question about whether Telemachus was accompanied by the “choice young men” of Ithaka (isn’t that the suitors themselves?) or his own slaves. He then expresses mild puzzlement as to the fact that Mentor (“Intendor”) seems to be in two places at once before striding off to his father’s house and out of the poem altogether, leaving the suitors aghast:

          κοῦροι δ’, οἳ κατὰ δῆμον ἀριστεύουσι μεθ’ ἡμέας,
          οἵ οἱ ἕποντ’· ἐν δ’ ἀρχὸν ἐγὼ βαίνοντ’ ἐνόησα
          Μέντορα, ἠὲ θεόν, τῷ δ’ αὐτῷ πάντα ἐῴκει.
655    ἀλλὰ τὸ θαυμάζω· ἴδον ἐνθάδε Μέντορα δῖον
          χθιζὸν ὑπηοῖον, τότε δ’ ἔμβη νηὶ Πύλονδε.
          ὣς ἄρα φωνήσας ἀπέβη πρὸς δώματα πατρός,
          τοῖσιν δ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἀγάσσατο θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ.

          “Yes, the youth who are the best in town, after us,
          that’s who went with him: and in the lead I noticed (ἐνόησα)
          Mentor boarding—or a god, but he looked in all ways like that very man.
          Well, I wonder about that! I saw right here Mentor divine [δῖον]
          yesterday at dawn, and at that time he got on a ship for Pylos.”
          So he spoke, and off he went toward the house of his father,
          and the manly heart in the two of them was aghast.

Odyssey 4.652–658

The bilocation of Mentor is never brought up again, and serves the sole purpose of comedy. Not only does the bard post for inspection the divine machinery of the plot, but in particular he highlights the disguise of Athena and her behind-the-scenes machinations. Beyond that, however, is Noemon’s offhand curiosity about all of this (“or a god …”), the way it is tacked on to the end of his speech before he heads for home, and the fact that he himself is but a cog in Athena’s—the bard’s—wheel, currently being exposed.

There is another curious feature of this passage: the suddenness of the scene change from Sparta to Ithaka at 4.625. [98] This is made all the more strange by the fact that here in Book 4, Menelaos is sending Telemachus off with a mixing bowl, but when we return to Sparta in Book 15, a month has passed and Telemachus still has not departed. Menelaos delivers the same exact speech to him again [99] and once again bestows the same mixing bowl (4.613–619=15.113–119). Here is the scene change:

                                          … πόρεν δέ ἑ Φαίδιμος ἥρως,
          Σιδονίων βασιλεύς, ὅθ’ ἑὸς δόμος ἀμφεκάλυψε
          κεῖσέ με νοστήσαντα· τεῒν δ’ ἐθέλω τόδ’ ὀπάσσαι.
620    ὣς οἱ μὲν τοιαῦτα πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἀγόρευον,
          δαιτυμόνες δ’ ἐς δώματ’ ἴσαν θείου βασιλῆος.
          οἱ δ’ ἦγον μὲν μῆλα, φέρον δ’ εὐήνορα οἶνον·
          σῖτον δέ σφ’ ἄλοχοι καλλικρήδεμνοι ἔπεμπον.
          ὣς οἱ μὲν περὶ δεῖπνον ἐνὶ μεγάροισι πένοντο.
625    μνηστῆρες δὲ πάροιθεν Ὀδυσσῆος μεγάροιο
          δίσκοισιν τέρποντο καὶ αἰγανέῃσιν ἱέντες
          ἐν τυκτῷ δαπέδῳ, ὅθι περ πάρος, ὕβριν ἔχεσκον.
          Ἀντίνοος δὲ καθῆστο καὶ Εὐρύμαχος θεοειδής,
          ἀρχοὶ μνηστήρων, ἀρετῇ δ’ ἔσαν ἔξοχ’ ἄριστοι.
630    τοῖς δ’ υἱὸς Φρονίοιο Νοήμων ἐγγύθεν ἐλθὼν

                                          “… Phaidimos, hero, bestowed it,
          King of the Sidonians, when his house covered
          me there as I was returning: and I wish to give this to you.”
          Thus these were addressing such words to one another,
          And diners were going into the house of the divine king.
          And they were driving flocks, and were bringing wine, good for man:
          And their wives with beautiful headdresses were sending bread.
          So these were working on the feast in the halls.
          And the suitors, in front of the hall of Odysseus
          Were having fun throwing their discuses and javelins
          On a wrought surface, right where they were before, hybris and all. [
          But Antinoos was seated along with Eurymachus, godlike,
          Leaders of the suitors, and by far the best in virtue.
          To them the son of Phronios, Noemon, came near …

Odyssey 4.617–630

Now, is this not purely a textual, even literary phenomenon? What does Noemon have to do with performance or presence?

We said above that Idomeneus and Meriones’ conversation framed the performance space as a backstage, a zone where “we aren’t supposed to be.” The shepherd inhabited a space so far inside the world of the poem that he mistakes its action for something else. In Noemon, and in the atopic transition between Sparta and Ithaka, the bard has not so much created a space as a perspective. The bard is exposing his plotting function and the arbitrariness, even ridiculousness, of his plot and its constraints. (This would hold, obviously, for a performer who crafted this scene, or any of its details; it would also hold for a purely uncreative performer who nevertheless has the plot in his head and unfolds it before us. This is why it is important for us even today to memorize, rather than recite off the page, to get the effect.) He highlights his ability to transform one space into another before our eyes. He does so “in” a figure whose profession requires him to puncture the isolated torpor of Ithaka on a regular basis, who recognizes the capacity of gods to become human and brushes off the phenomenon of bilocation. The bard enacting him both exposes the operations of the plot and works through them, as though exposing the workings of his mind.

Bodying all of this forth into a character with a comic speech enables the bard to bring it forward into the space of performance. It flaunts the fact that there is a single person behind this show, who can after all step forward and speak to us at any time, but who continues to hide himself, however flimsily. As Noemon provides an awkward portal in otherwise-isolated Ithaka, so too does the bard display the porousness, the fabrication, of the world he is creating. This is a performance moment, again, not in the sense that it calls for a particular gesture or manipulates the performance space, but in the sense that it ponders presence or genesis, as well as composition or poiēsis, during a live performance. It is effective just as it is in Aristophanes and in modern standup comedy. It turns inside out the workings of composition and performance in a way that dovetails with the action of the poem: the bard’s escort of his audience is aired out just as the escort to and from Ithaka is demystified and given the name “Thought.”

The Bard as Trojan Horse: Odyssey 8

Comfortably ensconced at the feast with the Phaeacians, but still concealing his identity, Odysseus requests that the bard Demodokos “skip ahead” and sing the kosmos of the wooden horse, which Epeios made with Athena, and which “brilliant Odysseus” brought as a trick to the akropolis, filling it with men who sacked Ilion. This sets up an expectation, in an audience that recalls the Cyclops story, that Odysseus will trick the Phaeacians into glorifying him just as he tricked the Cyclops hidden under the ram and just as he tricked the Trojans hidden in the horse. The fact that he is incognito doubles his hiding in the horse within the story, and his anonymous presence among the Phaeacians can be attributed to Odysseus’ polytropic cleverness, just like the horse. The masquerade maps onto the bard-as-Odysseus’ body, through which he peeks out at us and the Phaeacians, one a knowing and the other an unknowing audience, and this enables the later mapping of the Trojan Horse onto that same body, enclosing it and hiding it. He asks for the kosmos (the arrangement? the decoration?) of the horse. In addition to recalling Odysseus’ praise of Demodokos for singing the fate of the Achaeans κατὰ κόσμον (8.489), and perhaps linking Demodokos’ earlier story with the very artistry of “Epeios” who built the horse, [106] this word kosmos perhaps looks forward to the tripartite view the Trojans take of the horse in the story. The Trojans misguidedly decide to leave the horse as a θεῶν θελκτήριον, a “charm for the gods,” because they have been consigned to destruction (8.509–511). Odysseus likewise makes a mistake about the horse, and the thelxis of the story about it, and is corrected.

Demodokos obliges the hero. The story is related to us (the external audience) not in direct discourse, but in an indirect discourse (ἔνθεν ἑλὼν ὡς, 500) that “verges into a discourse mode that seems at first sight to be direct speech, with Demodokos as speaker.” [107] Most unusually, it is punctuated more and more with the verb “he sang” as the story continues.

          ὣς φάθ’, ὁ δ’ ὁρμηθεὶς θεοῦ ἤρχετο, φαῖνε δ’ ἀοιδήν,
500    ἔνθεν ἑλὼν ὡς οἱ μὲν ἐϋσσέλμων [
108] ἐπὶ νηῶν
          βάντες ἀπέπλειον, πῦρ ἐν κλισίῃσι βαλόντες,
          Ἀργεῖοι, τοὶ δ’ ἤδη ἀγακλυτὸν ἀμφ’ Ὀδυσῆα [cf. 521]
          εἵατ’ ἐνὶ Τρώων ἀγορῇ κεκαλυμμένοι ἵππῳ·
          αὐτοὶ γάρ μιν Τρῶες ἐς ἀκρόπολιν ἐρύσαντο.
505    ὣς ὁ μὲν εἱστήκει, τοὶ δ’ ἄκριτα πόλλ’ ἀγόρευον
          ἥμενοι ἀμφ’ αὐτόν· τρίχα δέ σφισιν ἥνδανε βουλή,
          ἠὲ διατμῆξαι κοῖλον δόρυ νηλέϊ χαλκῷ,
          ἢ κατὰ πετράων βαλέειν ἐρύσαντας ἐπ’ ἄκρης, [
          ἠὲ ἐᾶν μέγ’ ἄγαλμα θεῶν θελκτήριον εἶναι,
510    τῇ περ δὴ καὶ ἔπειτα τελευτήσεσθαι ἔμελλεν·
          αἶσα γὰρ ἦν ἀπολέσθαι, ἐπὴν πόλις ἀμφικαλύψῃ
          δουράτεον μέγαν ἵππον, ὅθ’ εἵατο πάντες ἄριστοι
          Ἀργεῖοι Τρώεσσι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέροντες.
          ἤειδεν δ’ ὡς ἄστυ διέπραθον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν [and he sang + ὡς ]
515    ἱππόθεν ἐκχύμενοι, κοῖλον λόχον ἐκπρολιπόντες.
          ἄλλον δ’ ἄλλῃ ἄειδε πόλιν κεραϊζέμεν αἰπήν, [parenthetical ‘he sang’ + acc. + inf.]
          αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσῆα προτὶ δώματα Δηϊφόβοιο
          βήμεναι, ἠΰτ’ Ἄρηα σὺν ἀντιθέῳ Μενελάῳ.
          κεῖθι δὴ αἰνότατον πόλεμον φάτο τολμήσαντα [ambiguous return to finite verb]
520    νικῆσαι καὶ ἔπειτα διὰ μεγάθυμον Ἀθήνην.
          ταῦτ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός· αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς [cf. 517]
          τήκετο, δάκρυ δ’ ἔδευεν ὑπὸ βλεφάροισι παρειάς.
          ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι φίλον πόσιν ἀμφιπεσοῦσα, [cf. 511]
          ὅς τε ἑῆς πρόσθεν πόλιος λαῶν τε πέσῃσιν,
525    ἄστεϊ καὶ τεκέεσσιν ἀμύνων νηλεὲς ἦμαρ· [cf. 530, 531]
          ἡ μὲν τὸν θνήσκοντα καὶ ἀσπαίροντ’ ἐσιδοῦσα
          ἀμφ’ αὐτῷ χυμένη λίγα κωκύει· οἱ δέ τ’ ὄπισθε
          κόπτοντες δούρεσσι μετάφρενον ἠδὲ καὶ ὤμους
          εἴρερον εἰσανάγουσι, πόνον τ’ ἐχέμεν καὶ ὀϊζύν· [present tense]
530    τῆς δ’ ἐλεεινοτάτῳ ἄχεϊ φθινύθουσι παρειαί·
          ὣς Ὀδυσεὺς ἐλεεινὸν ὑπ’ ὀφρύσι δάκρυον εἶβεν.

          So he spoke, and he, moved by the god, began, and made the song shine forth,
          taking it up from when they, on the well-benched ships
          boarded, were sailing away, casting fire on the huts—
          the Argives; but they, round very famous Odysseus
          were seated even now in the agora of the Trojans, hidden in the horse:
          for they themselves, the Trojans, dragged it onto the acropolis.
          So it was standing, and they discussed it confusedly
          sitting round it. Three ways the plan was pleasing them,
          either to slash the hollow wood with pitiless bronze,
          or to cast it down the rocks from the height,
          or to leave it be, a great icon to charm the gods,
          —in this very way it was even then to come out in the end:
          for it was their fate to die, when the city covered round
          the great wooden horse, when all the best were seated,
          the Argives, bearing murder and death to the Trojans.
          And he sang how the sons of Achaeans were sacking the town
          pouring out from the horse, leaving behind their hollow ambush.
          One this way, one that, he sang, was razing the steep city,
          but Odysseus toward the halls of Deiphobos
          strode, like Ares, with godlike Menelaos.
          Just there, at last, he said that, having endured a most terrible war,
          he won, then, because of great-hearted Athena.
          That, you see, is what the famed singer sang. But Odysseus
          melted, and a tear under his eyelids began to wet his cheeks.
          As a woman weeps, falling around her dear husband,
          who falls before his city and his people,
          trying to ward off the pitiless day for town and children:
          she, seeing him dying, and gasping,
          pouring herself over him shrieks a piercing scream: and they, behind
          beating with spears her back and shoulders
          lead her into bondage, to have toil and misery:
          and her cheeks are melting with most pitiful grief:
          so Odysseus shed a piteous tear under his brows.


This is perhaps the most confounding of the mergers of the bard and the hero in the Odyssey. Odysseus becomes the woman, and this induces a chain reaction: Odysseus erupts out into the speech of the bard as narrator, disrupting the narrative process—that is, the performance itself.

Let us return to Demodokos’ song itself as a performance. The part of the story centered on the horse is in a single arc of discourse introduced by ὡς, line 500. For this part either the audience can see the performer as Demodokos, or they can have before them the scene at Troy, as though Demodokos has disappeared. Demodokos dwells at excruciating length on the threefold will of the Trojans, as though it could somehow be stopped. As the horrible deliberations go on, Odysseus is hidden in the horse. The line about fate (511) may seem to radically alter what Odysseus thought of the scheme, and to form a little lament as the horse enters the city. [114] When the Achaeans start streaming out, the verb “he sang” begins to punctuate, puncture, the performer’s account of the song (514, 516, 521). When we hear the verb of singing, we cannot have Demodokos before us. [115] Moreover, as we have said, the story starts and ends in indirect discourse. The man before us cannot be that man Demodokos. It is not Demodokos who dwells on the deliberations, but Odysseus, both a) from his unseeing perspective hidden inside the horse, hearing the deliberations, and from his rapidly changing perspective hidden among the internal audience, the Phaeacians; and b) from his perspective covertly (to the external audience) governing the syntax of the story. It is this rapidly changing perspective that governs the fitful interruptions of the end of the story by “and he sang” and finally culminates in weeping like the widow.

For the first part of the song, the audience constructs an image that contains another image “inside” it: Odysseus hidden in the horse. Outside the song, the disguised Odysseus listens to the song, clamping down on his own emotions, precisely as, we may recall (Odyssey 4.287), he had stifled his own emotions and voice in the horse, and clamped his hand around the mouth of one Antiklos; this gives further body to the drawn-out quality of the deliberations—and to our complicit non-intervention, as in the beginning of the Iliad. We anticipate his own reaction as we listen. Odysseus’ outpouring tears dovetail with the men streaming out to burn the city; the men pour out, the woman pours onto her husband as his breath goes out (— ‿ ‿ —χυμεν—, 515/527); tears are flowing, past and present. For the spectator, the image of the men pouring from the horse is layered on top of the tears flowing from the widow and from the disguised Odysseus. The men suppressing their voices and emotions inside the horse are layered atop Odysseus suppressing himself among the Phaeacians, and his tears within his eyes. Again, this is helped by the fact that the disguise is mapped on the performer’s body, and the horse is layered on top of that, concealing the same person. He is listening to a song that is recounting an event he experienced in two ways: one in the dark and unseeing, and another executing it himself. It is made abundantly clear that he did not see any of it until now; it takes putting it into a song to see it at all. That is, the song does not revive an old grief. It is thus misleading to say that Odysseus’ grief seems “as fresh and sharp as if he wept for something immediate and real, rather than a song about the past” or that it is a “transformation of experience into art.” [116] Rather his grief lifts into awareness an old, dead experience that was never truly experienced in the first place.

When the horse is hidden in the city (511), the singer’s singing is disrupted more and more by the verb “he sang”; the performer here has an opportunity to use these verbs as signs of his own inner turmoil (brought on by Odysseus’ emotions working their way to the surface of his disguise, among the Phaeacians, and to the surface of the bard, among us) as he works toward the bitter end of the story. Or rather, the audience will take them as such signs, no matter what the performer does. Moreover, while the first instance of “he sang” introduces another ὡς clause (line 514), the next now shifts into the accusative plus infinitive construction, describing Odysseus and Menelaos going to the house of Deiphobos (line 517). As Odysseus is reminded of his own role in the horror, Demodokos, who had never fully “appeared” in direct discourse, fades from view. The final two lines, “And there he said that he had won,” are very fine in their suggestion of a merging between hero and bard. The subject “he” in “he said” seems at first to be Odysseus, especially given the κεῖθι, which seems to mark the shift to a direct view of the action being sung about, and the shift from “singing” to “saying.” But in the context of the finite verb “and he sang,” “he” seems to be the bard, and this is reinforced by the accusative case of τολμήσαντα.

The story by any measure is one of the most shattering moments in Homer. This fact brings up another layer. For if the bard himself is really overcome by performing this moment—I submit it is difficult not to be—and if the external listeners are moved and disturbed as we should be, the lines of causation become even more tangled. The actual bard, the bard within the story, the woman in the story invading the mind of the hero in the outer story who invades the mind of the actual bard before us—the source from which the emotional release finds its way out is indeed mysterious, or made to appear so.

From an ethical standpoint, this is the only hint so far that Odysseus has recognized himself, on whatever level, as the doer of questionable acts. [117] And this hint affects how the audience (the Phaeacians, but more importantly we) registers the hero. Abstractly, this is an issue of genre; but in terms of live performance, the question is, what kind of an experience are we having? Just as Theoclymenos, channeling the actual bard, condemns the suitors listening to their own bard—and through them, us—so too, once this inner story and its consequences are over, the audience is left to sort out how to integrate this into the unfolding outer story. Odysseus’ outburst of tears and his bursting through the body of the bard eventuates in his self-revelation to the Phaeacians and his takeover of the body of the bard for four books of the poem, as he retails his story. And that story does not seem to register much of this newfound perspective at all. [118] And in fact, the simile leaves precisely Odysseus’ ethical awareness ambiguous: the Odysseus of story morphs into his victim, but although the victim forces Odysseus up into the body of the narrator, it is left ambiguous as to how much Odysseus registers at all, and how much he registers but keeps suppressed. It is not at all clear that he displays “a hero’s magnitude of feeling.” [119] Some schema of an unconscious is created in this way that is more subtle than the “return of the repressed” at work. [120] So we, the audience, must sit hiding this inner story inside us throughout the largely triumphal story that the bard-as-Odysseus tells in Books 9–12. [121]

Imagining this moment in performance, spelling out its harnessing of poetics/ in service of presence/genesis, makes it impossible to ignore. But readers, who largely dismiss this moment once it is over, are free to experience Books 9–12 as a fairy tale, or at least, an ethically rich story told by a hero who has learned from the events it recounts. Once the hero relinquishes his hold on the body of the bard at the end of that four-hour-long story, the audience has a new impetus to square this story of the widow we are holding inside of us with the amalgamated bardic hero before us.

While this moment in Odyssey 8 is the most potent, and intricate, of the passages examined in this chapter, it has many of the same features. Consider the relationship of Odysseus and the widow to Agamemnon and Eris. One might say that “Trojan Horse” makes the body of the bard into a Russian doll containing Odysseus and, within him, the widow. But this is to make the moment into an object. What happens is that Odysseus takes over the narrator, but we do not realize this until the simile of the woman makes everything clear, and it turns out “she was there all the time.” In the case of Agamemnon and Eris, we are warned of Eris’ presence beforehand, but her approval of the scene afterwards partakes of the same “so that is the ghost in this machine” quality (οὗτος ἐκεῖνος, in Aristotle’s terms).

In terms of spatial form or kinesthetics, the emergence of men from horse, widow into Odysseus, Odysseus into bard, Odysseus out of disguise, tears out of eyes, and the various layerings recall Diomedes emerging like a wave, the fire emerging from him, etc. But Odyssey 8 does not simply multiply the layers of Iliad 5 into a more elaborate objet d’art. By situating the same character, Odysseus, in three places—disguised among the Phaeacians, hidden in the horse, and (then) behind the widow, and by orchestrating the story, simile, and the indirect discourse, the script maps on to the body of the bard all of these emergences more completely than does Iliad 5. Not only that, but because of the involuntary nature of the moment, the layers in Odysseus’ memory and consciousness, as well as the layers in the bard’s own “ethical” awareness, the emergences happen in real time in a way different from Iliad 5. Iliad 5, one might say, performs live a preconceived emergence; in Odyssey 8 the emergence itself happens live. Finally, “Trojan Horse” uses the involuntary reliving of trauma as does “Menelaos” in the service of elaborately spatialized histrionics (presence), but the overall effects produced by the two moments could not be more different.

In the next chapter, we examine the speech of Phoenix in Iliad 9. A very similar thing happens there to the body and soul of the bard, with similar elements at work: layering of figures, doubling, artful use of direct versus indirect discourse, traumatic repetition, images of bursting out, women on the point of slavery, rape, and/or the burning of their city. “Trojan Horse” made use of a background story that the audience was familiar with from Odyssey 4 and other occasions. This prepares us for a more complex (and indeed layered) use of background stories in the service of presence. In both “Trojan Horse” and in Phoenix’s speech, someone requests (Odysseus) or tells (Phoenix) a story about a besieged city that he thinks will serve his purposes, but he is dead wrong. Likewise, the spatial forms that help to fuel a takeover of the bard by a character prepare us for the more elaborately structured spatial forms in our next example. This troubling scene from Odyssey 8 is, to a certain extent, a microcosm of Phoenix’s speech, and so has provided us with a roadmap.


[ back ] 1. See Clay 2011; similarly Minchin 2008. Clay’s focus is on the consistency of the map of the Achaean camp and of Troy that the performer has in his memory. For example, the Iliad’s “orientation of right and left remains constant throughout and is always seen from the perspective of a narrator situated in the center of the Greek camp facing the Trojan plain” (Clay 2011:45). I will often emphasize the transformation around the space of the performer. Where Clay, like Minchin, emphasizes the mind’s eye of the poet in relation to something like a memory palace, I emphasize the body of the performer. For another treatment of spatial representation in the Iliad, see Tsagalis 2012a.

[ back ] 2. An example is the use of Odysseus’ ship in the center of the camp as a space of emergence (see below, p. 66), but the effect of this is independent of claims about a consistent map in the poet’s head, since the ship is said to be central within the passage itself.

[ back ] 3. On the battlefield as a spectacle for gods and men, see Frontisi-Ducroux 1986a:62–63; as a “stage on which Zeus and Achilles himself witness the rapid and inexorable unfolding of the latter’s destiny,” Nagler 1974:135.

[ back ] 4. On the movement upward, see the analysis of the aristeiai below. On the elaborate “proxemics” within the story-world of Homer, see Lateiner 1995:49–56.

[ back ] 5. For further analysis of the Nekyia in performance, see Appendix B.

[ back ] 6. It is apt that the most telling illustrations of performance dynamics should be comic. Metatheater seems to be endemic to comedy.

[ back ] 7. On the inadvertent comedy of Freud’s “The ‘Uncanny,’” see Royle 2003:13.

[ back ] 8. The tragic in the Iliad is, then, both an imagined “futurity in which remembrance does not recuperate” (Slatkin 2007:29) and a perspective or presence buried within the performing poet.

[ back ] 9. Kullmann 1960:227–357, 365–368; Slatkin 2011:87. Kullmann (2001:389–390) writes, “[T]his poetic technique brings out an inner relationship between the events of the Iliad and those of the beginning and end of the war. The power of the past and the future on the Iliadic present is especially prominent. A peculiar background quality is conferred on the individual situations of the Iliad by the events they recall and the impending doom they portend. Dramatic composition, confined to the wrath motif with its tight time-limits yet preserving the structure of grand epic, immediately entails the uncovering of relations between the depicted present on the one hand and the past and future on the other” (my emphases). He notes (p. 390) that these details of past and future are emphasized more in direct speech than in narrative, and so “in the consciousness of men … thus constituting the inner world of the mind.” The use of background stories in the present study extends Kullmann’s notion of dramatic composition in the direction of performance. Cf. Taplin 1992, Ch. 3, “The Past Beneath the Present.” On the performance of Trojan War stories in 8 according to Homer’s “topical poetic” see Ford 1992:112–114. On the relation of narrative repetition to the uncanny more generally, see Brooks 1984:125.

[ back ] 10. See, for example, Redfield 1994:107–108; further discussion in Chapter 3 below.

[ back ] 11. Kakridis 1949:84, following Sachs.

[ back ] 12. Dowden 1996:59.

[ back ] 13. Mullen (1982:65): by dancing out a ring composition with the hero’s agon at its center, the young dancers are “thus somatizing—literally incorporating—the qualities of strength and courage through which the hero came to be someone whose deeds were deemed worth recounting” (my emphasis).

[ back ] 14. Some work on Homeric ring composition has sought to reduce its effect to a pragmatic framing like that in everyday speech (Minchin 1995, Nimis 1999), emphasizing the frame at the beginning and end and minimizing the center. I see no reason to shy away from how the rings are actually deployed in Homeric poetry, where there is often a presencing effect at the center similar to that in Pindar, as analyzed by Mullen, as well as in other choral poetry. Ring composition is already highly developed in combination with other poetic devices in the earliest poetry attested in the Indo-European languages (Watkins 1995), indicating it is an inherited feature, and thus had been developing for a very long time indeed. Mary Douglas’s impressive demonstration of highly developed ring composition throughout a wide range of ancient literature outside the Indo-European family indicates to me not, as it does to her (Douglas 2007:12), that the advent of writing transforms ring composition into something elaborate, but that it is a feature widespread throughout oral poetics in and (pace Watkins 1995:34) outside Indo-European languages. Whether the details of its usage in the Homeric poems are inherited from Indo-European poetics, or are shaped by dance (David 2006:168) or other ritual movements, or are a general development of speech strategies, ring composition is highly refined in the Homeric poems and has an effect that is, as we shall see, of a piece with their being solo performances. See below, p. 234 n. 108.

[ back ] 15. “A catchment is recognized when two or more gesture features recur in at least two (not necessarily consecutive) gestures. The logic is that the recurrence of an image in the speaker’s thinking will generate recurrent gesture features … A catchment is a kind of thread of consistent dynamic visuospatial imagery running through the discourse segment that provides a gesture-based window into discourse cohesion” (McNeill et al. 2001:10–11). Cf. McCullough 2005.

[ back ] 16. Goldman 1985:102.

[ back ] 17. Poetics 1455a29, ὅσα δὲ δυνατὸν καὶ τοῖς σχήμασιν συναπεργαζόμενον, “as far as possible working it out with gestures.”

[ back ] 18. Gestures do in fact feed back into thinking and speech in everyday life: McNeill 2005; Beilock and Goldin-Meadow 2010; Goldin-Meadow and Beilock 2010. The way this occurs in Homeric performance, however, makes it strange, or draws out the strangeness, in part because of the bridging of self and other, here-and-now and there-and-then, to which the gestures are contributing.

[ back ] 19. On gesture, and kinesthetic experience more generally, as shaping Homeric composition, see Purves 2019.

[ back ] 20. See Parry 1972:10–15; Frontisi-Ducroux 1986a:21–22; Frontisi-Ducroux 1986b:198–200; Martin 1989:236; Bakker 1997b:25; Mackay 2001. I return to the 16 apostrophes in Chapter 3 below.

[ back ] 21. Cf. e.g. Iliad 11.187, where Patroklos pauses before addressing Eurypylos to apostrophize the absent leaders of the Danaans: “ah: so you were going to [ὣς ἄρ’ ἐμέλλετε]—far from your friends and fatherland—glut the swift dogs in Troy with your shining fat.”

[ back ] 22. Richardson 1990:137.

[ back ] 23. Mackay (2001:18): “There is an immediate disruption of our time-sense, for either Patroklos is among us, his ghost summoned from the distant past to our time and place, or like a double exposure our narrator is both before us and simultaneously far off in another time and place on the Trojan plain.”

[ back ] 24. Achilles plays a similar role smiling at Antilokhos during Patroklos’ funeral games, 23.555–556. Antilokhos being a replacement for Patroklos, and the story of his own death perhaps being in play, is Achilles smiling as though in recognition of this fact? Or does the smile point toward the fact that Antilokhos is objecting to the reassignation of his prize, just as Achilles had done in Book 1? On this latter reading, Antilokhos has just been playing Achilles, and Achilles appreciates the performance.

[ back ] 25. Cf. the overlay of Achilles upon Apollo in the Iliad opening, p. 28 above.

[ back ] 26. On these see Armstrong 1958; Fenik 1968; Lord 2000:86–92 (who suggests Homeric, medieval Greek, and Yugoslav epic arming scenes may be survivals from ritual); Lord 1995:75–94.

[ back ] 27. Zarrilli 1990:134, 131.

[ back ] 28. Cf. Martin 1989:9: “the value of any such analogues lies in their suggestive power.”

[ back ] 29. Zarrilli 1990:137.

[ back ] 30. “The living man is all one piece; all his processes—metabolic, motoric, affective, and ideational—are aspects of a single functioning. The name of this functioning is menos” (Redfield 1994:171).

[ back ] 31. Goldman 1975:9. For Goldman the concept is quite general, although his examples come mostly from the English tradition, and particularly Shakespeare. It is notable that, even within Shakespeare, Goldman must develop an account of how this energy works that is particular to each play (Goldman 1985).

[ back ] 32. Cf. Ajax at Iliad 17.647, ἐν δὲ φάει καὶ ὄλεσσον, ἐπεί νύ τοι εὔαδεν οὕτως.

[ back ] 33. As Martin (1997:155) points out, κορύσσεται is more apt when considering its original referent, Diomedes leaping into action; it recovers the etymological sense “put on a helmet” (with crest) from the generalized sense “put on arms.” The brief account here buries another layer. The wave spits out foam, foam (in ranks?) being moved, like the Danaans (κίνυντο, 427), rather than moving. Of course, it is ultimately not the wave but Zephyros who is, so to speak, the unmoved mover (κινήσαντος). Cf. 9.1–7, the Achaeans as a glob of washed-up seaweed. More confusion of the source of action.

[ back ] 34. Assuming, of course, that the line or some variation on it is traditional, so that the relative dating of the Hesiodic poem in which it appears is not important. Martin (1997:154–156) is relating the first simile I mentioned, 4.424–426, to a tradition represented later by Pindar; in making a connection to Hesiod here I am likewise not suggesting priority of either particular passage.

[ back ] 35. Cf. the dumb show before the entrance of Achilles (see above, Introduction, p. 35).

[ back ] 36. On a hero being more present than others, compare Bakker (1997a:93): “A hero or god who is an agent through a sequence of events is at the same time an active concept through the series of events that constitutes the representation of the epic events in speech, that is, in the consciousness of the speaker and his audience. Such a concept is not merely something experienced on the path of speech, but a companion on that path, sometimes for short distances, sometimes for longer stretches, or even all the way through.”

[ back ] 37. One might usefully compare all of these kinds of emergence (image, levels of discourse) that accompany the entrance of the hero into the body of the bard to the emergence of the river Skamander in Iliad 21, “this long-dormant creature who only now emerges onto the surface of the narrative, so angered by Achilles’ excesses that at last he must penetrate the fabric of the poem” (Nagler 1974:148).

[ back ] 38. On “Homer the murderer,” see Vermeule 1979:97.

[ back ] 39. A syntactically puzzling simile: one cannot determine who is doing what. See Kirk 1990:70–72.

[ back ] 40. Richardson (1990:111–112): “We are watching Diomedes rout the Trojans and so is Pandaros, and it turns out, as we find in line 95, that we are looking on the slaughter from the same vantage point.”

[ back ] 41. Kirk (1990:183 ad 6.129): “A delightful air of self-satisfaction is conveyed by ἔγωγε and by the repetition of θεοῖσιν ἐπουρανίοισιν after ἀθανάτων γε κατ’ οὐρανοῦ.”

[ back ] 42. Martin (1989:127–130) treats the Lykourgos story as a projection of the current encounter, but from the perspective of “dueling narratives” between characters, rather than of solo performance.

[ back ] 43. Cf. Kirk 1985:172, 176, and 190–191 ad 6.128–143, 6.144–151, and 6.234–236.

[ back ] 44. This is similar to the more overt Aristophanic parabasis, in that a single character “emerges” and in some sense approaches the audience, though obviously it is more subtle, and there is no direct address of the audience as “you.” An analogy with which readers may be familiar is August Wilson’s Fences (Wilson 1986; premiered 1985). The protagonist, Troy Maxson, is scripted such that the actor addresses the audience directly, conspiratorially. (One actor told me that the first time he performed this role for an audience, he suddenly understood he should lean on the stage-front fence as he did so.) He has access to the audience as other characters do not. This has a comic effect, until the same access to something beyond the fourth wall transforms into his shattering dialogues with death. In these, compare the scripted use of the baseball bat (“hitting a homerun”/threatening Death) to Diomedes’ spear.

[ back ] 45. Willcock 1978–1984:232 ad Iliad 5.118, who translates the second clause, “and that he may come within spear’s throw.”

[ back ] 46. McNeill’s concept of the “catchment” captures the bodily transformation in an aristeia.

[ back ] 47. Likewise Odysseus with his sword at the trench, reanimating and directing the ghost speakers (Odyssey 11): see Appendix B.

[ back ] 48. This configuration receives a further twist at 9.48–49 in Diomedes’ fantasy of penetrating Troy, together with Sthenelos, until “we discover its limit (τέκμωρ). For we’ve got where we are with god.” That would indeed run him out of available kinesthetic forespace.

[ back ] 49. On the aristeia itself, see esp. Fenik 1986:7–13.

[ back ] 50. Hainsworth 1993:221 ad 11:36–37: “‘was set like a wreath’; the image appears to be that of snakes (the Gorgon’s hair) encircling the boss.” Willcock 1978–1984:297 ad 11:36 translates “was put as a crown,” simply meaning that the Gorgon head occupied the raised center of the shield.

[ back ] 51. Edmunds 2016:13–14 notes that eris, strife, appears at the beginning of the Iliad, the Cypria, and the Catalogue of Women. But of course Eris herself inaugurates the strife in the Cypria: see Nagy 1979: Ch. 11.

[ back ] 52. “That horror Eris was on the wing, marshalling [lit., “helmeting”] the turmoil of men.”

[ back ] 53. This is so overwrought, and ends in such gross machismo, it verges on the comic. Agamemnon gets the Hera and Athena rejected by Paris; Paris gets Aphrodite. The scholia note the elaborateness of Agamemnon’s aristeia. A scholiast on 11.17 seems to say that similar qualities in Paris’ arming scene are geared toward making him ridiculous. See also Zenodotus on 11.32. But it is mixed with a disturbing quality consistent with the “increasingly hideous” and finally “ghastly” quality of the killings Agamemnon commits, such as his double beheadings (Fenik 1986:8–9).

[ back ] 54. Diderot describes the actorly process of Mme. Clairon: “As it will happen in dreams, her head touches the clouds, her hands stretch to grasp the horizon on both sides; she is the informing soul of a huge figure, which is her outward casing, and in which her efforts have enclosed her. As she lies careless and still on a sofa with folded arms and closed eyes she can, following her memory’s dream, hear herself, see herself, judge herself, and judge also the effects she will produce. In such a vision she has a double personality; that of the little Clairon and of the great Agrippina” (Diderot 1963:16–17; my emphasis).

[ back ] 55. Close in tone and diction is the gruesome death of the maids, Odyssey 22.468–473, who “hold their heads in a row.”

ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἢ κίχλαι τανυσίπτεροι ἠὲ πέλειαι
ἕρκει ἐνιπλήξωσι, τό δ’ ἑστήκῃ ἐνὶ θάμνῳ,
αὖλιν ἐσιέμεναι, στυγερὸς δ’ ὑπεδέξατο κοῖτος,
ὣς αἵ γ’ ἑξείης κεφαλὰς ἔχον, ἀμφὶ δὲ πάσαις
δειρῇσι βρόχοι ἦσαν, ὅπως οἴκτιστα θάνοιεν.
ἤσπαιρον δὲ πόδεσσι μίνυνθά περ οὔ τι μάλα δήν.

As when thrushes or long-winged doves
slam into a snare set up in a thicket,
seeking out shelter, and a chill bed awaits,
so these were holding their heads in a row, and round all
necks were nooses, that they might die most pitifully.
And they were gasping down to their feet; a little; not too long.

There is a question in the Iliad 11 passage about the agency of the men: is it the men holding their own heads even, like good hoplites? The parallel with Odyssey 22.471 (underlined) could suggest that the battle, i.e., the men, held their heads, rather than the battle, i.e., something else, held the men’s heads. But although the maids are the subject of ἔχον and provide a grammatical parallel, it is perverse to think that they are the ones holding their heads in a row (unless we are seeing this from Telemachus’ viewpoint, in a disturbing free indirect discourse; he would be the one “taking pleasure groaning at the sight” on analogy to the Iliad 11 passage). Rather than simplifying we should notice how the bard maximally exploits this image, as well as the κεφαλὰς ἔχον just before the bucolic diaeresis. The simile should also be compared with the simile of the two men disputing, with measuring ropes, over a boundary between fields (Iliad 12.421–424; Slatkin 2011:177–178). The disturbing twist in the Iliad 11 reaping simile seems to be enabled somehow by the image of disputing with ropes, combining, perhaps, with the image of birds’ heads caught in a snare.

[ back ] 56. Slatkin 2011:174.

[ back ] 57. Slatkin 2011:170.

[ back ] 58. Note how this simile is introduced by πῖπτε δὲ λαός, “the host of men was falling,” 11.85; cf. ταρφέα πίπτει “[the handfuls] fall thick and fast,” 11.69.

[ back ] 59. Cf. male actors playing females in tragedy, seen by Zeitlin (1996:364) as “energizing the theatrical resources of the female and concomitantly enervating the male as the price of initiating actor and spectator into new and unsettling modes of feeling, seeing, and knowing.” There seems to be an analogous question as to which person lies behind which.

[ back ] 60. LIMC Eris 8 = Alexandros 12, late fifth century. Cf. her similar position behind a hill on a calyx krater in Leningrad (LIMC Eris 7). Figure 1, Badisches Landesmuseum: B36; drawing after A. Furtwängler and K. Reichhold, (1902), pl. 30.

[ back ] 61. As with the sarcophagi examined below, pp. 223–224.

[ back ] 62. Nagy 1979:21–23; Nagy 2003:12–19; Hainsworth in Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:351 ad Odyssey 8.75; Danek 1998:142–150. For Scodel (2002:152–154), the tension between their characters means we need not assume a traditional quarrel.

[ back ] 63. Balty 2000.

[ back ] 64. Balty 2000: fig. 3. Figure 2 (Jenkins Vase), after A.-L. Millin, Mythologische Gallerie (1836), pl. 159 no. 541.

[ back ] 65. This is not what Balty argues, but it seems an irresistible implication.

[ back ] 66. Mango and Bennett 1994: fig. 2-44.

[ back ] 67. See Rehm 2002 for the analogous process in tragedy. For example (p. 31), in Euripides’ Suppliant Women, Evadne and then Athena occupy the same position (on high), the only time two characters do this in a play in different scenes. Rehm notes that Evadne’s position here may echo her hybristic husband’s death, climbing a ladder to sack Thebes and being struck down by a thunderbolt. Similarly (p. 97) Athena stands in place of her icon in the center of the orchestra; this moment is similar to the Eris → Agamemnon → Eris substitutions discussed above. Related but distinct is “role doubling,” where the tragedian makes use of the fact that the same actor plays two roles (Rehm 2002:31, 133–135, Ch. 4 passim; Ringer 1998:10–11, 47–48, 52, 131–132).

[ back ] 68. On which see Bergren 1980b; Taplin 1992:97.

[ back ] 69. Frontisi-Ducroux 1986a:49: Helen is, like Achilles on the kithara, one of the hypostases of the poet, both in her weaving and in her knowing and naming the heroes.

[ back ] 70. Redfield (1994:133–134): “Some of these actors … at some moments know part of the fated outcome of the action, but this is curiously irrelevant. They are in the position of characters in a play who are aware that they are characters in a play and have been told how the play comes out. The effect is fascinating precisely because it is self-contradictory … [T]hey often speak of the fall of Troy as promised or ordained, and they return always with stoic dignity to the enactment of the story in which they find themselves.” Cf. Austin 1966:304–305.

[ back ] 71. The killing of Deiphobos by Odysseus and Menelaos is recalled in the Odyssey 8 passage discussed below (“Trojan Horse”): in that passage, it is part of a trauma unleavened by humor.

[ back ] 72. Note the near-ring structure of the action boomeranging from Book 3 (364–454) to Book 13 (576–581): A) Menelaos grieving – B) M. twisting helmet with Paris in it – C) Aphrodite helmet-snap – B′) M. whirling helmet; companions pick up – X [repetition of trauma]) replay of seduction – C′) helmet-snap II – B″) anonymous Achaean picks up rolling helmet – A′) M. grieving. It is perhaps significant that the fatal wound preceding the Book 13 action is cruelly un-manning (13.567–569).

[ back ] 73. I am grateful to Paul Mathai for this formulation “creating the scene of the unconscious,” a phrase not meant to conjure any particular psychoanalytic conception, only to indicate vividly the sense of involuntary reenactment of a frustrating, if not traumatic (in any technical sense), event, or the way the poet sets the scene for the strangely mechanical arrival of the relevant party to play his same old role.

[ back ] 74. A scholiast on 3.451 εἴ που ἐσαθρήσειεν (“in case he might spy out”) remarks candidly, γελοίως ζητεῖ τὸν ἀφροδισιάζοντα (“it’s hilarious that he’s trying to find the guy who’s having sex [with Helen]”). The preciseness of ἐσαθρήσειεν (a hapax) is a nice touch, and even helps point forward to Book 13 and the return of the repressed helmet. As long as the bard faces the audience, he cannot but seek out Paris among them.

[ back ] 75. Aristotle Poetics 1460a14: “… there is more room in epic [than in tragedy] for the alogon, through which the wonderful especially comes about, because of not looking at the one acting [ton prattonta].”

[ back ] 76. Looking down at the feet or holding the hand in the “I knew him, Horatio” position seems dignified enough for Aristotle, although here, actually stooping somewhat to “pick it up” would be ridiculous enough to suit the ongoing antics. (We do not know what Aristotle may have said about Homeric performance in the Poetics’ book on comedy. Cf. Marzullo 1980:189.)

[ back ] 77. Compare too 3.361–363, when Menelaos draws his sword (=13.610) and strikes the phalos of Paris’ helmet (=13.614) three times, four times, in vain, before his sword breaks and falls out of his hand, followed by a characteristic complaint to Zeus before he begins dragging Paris off by the helmet.

[ back ] 78. Aeschylus Agamemnon 414–426, which itself is likely reenacting in dance, to whatever extent, these events. Cf. Steiner 2001:191–195, esp. 194, “these dreams, ghosts, and eidōla have their genesis in the pothos that afflicts the grieving individual, and like the statue, too, they leave only more fervent longing in their wake.”

[ back ] 79. Culminating in his slip from exultation to complaint at 13.620–639. The helmet-complex prefigures the empty urn in Sophocles’ Electra. Ringer’s (1998) reading of that moment came to my attention after I had come to my interpretation of “Menelaos.” The two moments reward close comparison. This is one of the cases where the Iliad seems to take a technique from multi-actor drama with props (cf. the tableaux vivants analogy above)—and adapt it for solo performance. This could be due to the symbiosis between epic and tragedy (Nagy 2009) or to the influence of any early dramatic form. Or perhaps Sophocles took it over from epic, as he did much else; or else the “empty container-of-a-person” is metatheatrically irresistible no matter the genre. On the history and theatricality of the memento mori skull as a prop, see Sofer 2003:89–115.

[ back ] 80. On this scene in the context of the “poetics of ambush,” see Dué and Ebbott 2010, Part I, Essay 2.

[ back ] 81. In keeping with the gratuitous, set-apart nature of this scene is its excision by analysts.

[ back ] 82. Goffman 1959:112.

[ back ] 83. Sophocles has taken over this technique and used it for multiple actors in many of his plays. See Ringer 1998, e.g. p. 197.

[ back ] 84. Contrast Lateiner 1995, which is concerned with such phenomena within the story-world.

[ back ] 85. Why do these two characters in particular enact this backstage? Does it have to do with the reputation Cretans have as liars? Or might the reason be related to their role in the Odyssey’s Cretan Tales, where (as I show in Chapter 4) Odysseus makes subtle use of both in improvising his Cretan persona? Note in both the improvisation and the idea of courage being shown in ambush.

[ back ] 86. As an analogy from modern multi-actor comedy, think of between-scenes stage business where characters are running from one “location” to the next and “happen” to meet on stage, and as they do, they must “perform”—for one another, not quite for us.

[ back ] 87. See the sensitive reading of Scott 2009:34.

[ back ] 88. Taplin (1992:111–112) points out that scholars have felt the need to explain the glad shepherd at 8.559, who inhabits the simile of the stars, to which the Trojan campfires are compared. Adam Parry, for example, thought it inappropriate, given that the Trojan fires represent imminent disaster to the Achaeans, while Michael Reeve simply explains that “Homer elaborates his similes without regard to the narrative.” Taplin continues: “What neither even considers is that the shepherd is glad because the Trojans are glad, contributing to the simile-picture the same feeling as the watch-fires give the Trojans … The previous seventy lines have been from the Trojan point of view, yet Parry and Reeve both speak as though this never happened, as though the audience is invariably Achaian-minded.” I agree with Taplin that the audience is not invariably Achaean-minded. But Taplin’s remark brings out the fact that any shepherd on the scene at Troy would, of course, be a Trojan one, and that the shepherd slides seamlessly from the vehicle of the simile into the story-world. It is dark; there are fires, but they look like stars—to poet and to someone on a nearby mountain. The audience may well experience the gladness as strange, if not sinister, even though the previous seventy lines have been from the Trojan point of view. Ethics and kinesthetics are related.

[ back ] 89. Redfield 1994:187–190.

[ back ] 90. For example, the unwounded man that Athena leads by the hand (Iliad 4.539–542).

[ back ] 91. With this repertoire in view, one can appreciate more sophisticated scenarios, such as the awkward jostling of personae in Eumaeus’ hut at the beginning of Odyssey 16 where Odysseus himself occupies the “witnessing” seat. The bard projects onto the reunion of Telemachus and Eumaeus a simile of the reunion of father and son. This projection occupies a precarious relation to (the stunned, disguised) Odysseus’ viewpoint, as though he sees he has been replaced. Temporarily the tip of his unconscious iceberg (and disguised physicality) comes into presence in the body of the bard through the simile. As the hero’s pangs of regret burst their bounds to power the poetry, so does the disguised Odysseus threaten to burst through the skin of the bard. See below, “The Bard as Trojan Horse.”

[ back ] 92. Cf. de Jong (2001:114): “The Homeric ‘continuity of time’ principle ordains that the time which has passed for Telemachus on his trip (four days) has passed for the Suitors, too. The narrator therefore has to motivate why they find out about Telemachus’ departure (i) now and (ii) not sooner. For (i) he brings on stage Noemon … and makes him disclose casually—and innocently—Telemachus’ departure. The triviality of Noemon’s case … contrasts with the shattering effect his words have on the Suitors.”

[ back ] 93. Odysseus does not need these instructions; they are superfluous. That renders the underworld scene even more a “mental” event. See Peradotto 1990:60–62.

[ back ] 94. Compare the comico-pathetic outburst of Odysseus before Laertes: “I am from Wanderville, son of Unsparing Miseryson. And my name is Strife” (Odyssey 24.304–305).

[ back ] 95. On which connections see Frame 1978 and Frame 2009. On the underworld connotations of Pylos (“Gate”), see Frame 1978:92–93.

[ back ] 96. This irony here is prepared for in the immediately preceding scene, where Telemachus professes at length to Menelaos that he cannot accept his gift of horses, because of the (heroic?) ruggedness of Ithakan terrain. Rocks be damned, you can always offshore the horse trade.

[ back ] 97. Adkins 1960:25n1.

[ back ] 98. See Richardson 1990:117–118; de Jong 2001:113.

[ back ] 99. This is, of course, due to the “continuity of time principle.” For discussion, see de Jong 2001:114.

[ back ] 100. The tacked-on ὕβριν ἔχεσκον has the air of an aside: they were there right where we left them, and, as usual, doing the hybris thing. The fact that they are merely playing heightens the knowing humor. The stupidity and evil of the suitors are, I am here venturing, temporarily seen as part of the arbitrary constraints of the plot. Pace de Jong (2001:114), it is far from a simple expression of disapproval. One may also appreciate the spectacle of suitors stacking up outside the door of … ah, not Menelaos after all.

[ back ] 101. Cf. de Jong 2001:113. The play on “inside” and “outside” develops soon afterward at 4.677–678, where Medon is able to report the suitors’ schemes to Penelope because he “heard their plans, being outside the courtyard: but they, inside, were weaving the plot.” This is given body by Penelope, who forestalls Medon’s report, at first by addressing him with her complaints, and then suddenly apostrophizing the suitors (686), who have in fact just come into the house (674). This illustrates once more the virtues of “not seeing the actor/the one-doing.”

[ back ] 102. The similar metrical shape of 621 and 625 facilitates the jarring scene shift between Sparta and Ithaka. Notice the other correspondences: the diners are driving livestock into the house, while Noemon wants to go get a mule. The suitors thought Telemachus was among the flocks (μῆλα 622, μήλοισι 640).

[ back ] 103. Cf. the Idomeneus/Meriones scene taking the place of an arming scene.

[ back ] 104. As some would make Theoclymenos (see n119 in Introduction above) or Thoas (see page 292 below).

[ back ] 105. On this passage see Nagy 1979:101; Pucci 1995:221–225; Goldhill 1991:51–54; Segal 1994:119–123; Bakker 1999:13; Nagy 2009:2§302–350; Nagy 2010: Ch. 4.

[ back ] 106. Nagy 2009:2§282.

[ back ] 107. Bakker 1999:13. Bakker remarks that this, combined with the “immediate deixis of ταῦτα” (521), results in “a curious blend of Demodokos … and Homer. The voice of Demodokos is allowed to intrude into the discourse of the present.” That is so, but this effect is then overshadowed by the role of the hero.

[ back ] 108. Notice how both groups of Achaeans are seated in vessels, frozen: we see the first group, allegedly setting sail, at the oars and leave them frozen there—and they aren’t going anywhere anyway. Thus are the two groups mapped onto one another. One must not limit the effects of this subtle detail, but it adds to the effect that a third, actually present, group, the bard and all of us around him, are seated frozen in place, concealed from outsiders, waiting for something to emerge.

[ back ] 109. Compare the similar manner of killing Astyanax. In the Iliou persis, it is Odysseus who kills Astyanax. In the Little Iliad, it is Neoptolemos. On this song of Demodokos and Cyclic epic, see Nagy 1979:101; Nagy 2010: Ch. 2 passim, esp. 2§328–350.

[ back ] 110. Nagy 1979:101; Nagy 2009:2§335; cf. Goldhill 1991:53–54. Dué (2002:7) links this passage with Briseis’ lament for Patroklos in Iliad 19 and comments that Briseis and Odysseus each “become Andromache.”

[ back ] 111. Foley 1978:7, 20. There have been dogged attempts to tame the simile; cf. Hainsworth in Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:381 ad Odyssey 8.523–530. Segal (1994:121) uncharacteristically tries to muffle the effect: “The comparison … suggests the possibility that this identification with the subject matter of song applies not just to the memory of an actual participant but also to vicarious, imaginary participation. The Odysseus of the Iliad never so identifies with the victims on the Trojan side; and, with the exception of the extraordinary scene between Priam and Achilles in Iliad 24, there is little in the heroic code that would encourage him to identify with his conquered enemy, especially one of the opposite sex.” But Segal has just quoted Briseis’ lament for Patroklos, when the other slave women bewail their own circumstances, noting how “the poet’s remarkable editorial comment” here “underlines the perspective of the helpless captive woman.” Some go to greater lengths: “His weeping indicates … that Odysseus construes what he hears in relation to some present trouble, that his present unquiet condition, more than the topic of the song, determines his response as an audience” (Walsh 1984:17). These slashings-through of perspective are rare, but we should not blunt their effect by assuring ourselves they cannot be happening. Cf. n118 below.

[ back ] 112. Unless we count the Achaeans in the ships.

[ back ] 113. Macleod (1982:4): “… a very fine detail: the mourning wife’s gesture re-enacts the husband’s death ….” Similarly, Andromache reenacts her husband’s fall in Iliad 22: cf. Purves 2019:41.

[ back ] 114. “It is unclear whether this comment is to be taken as part of the reported song, a perhaps more vivid representation of the performance of Demodocus, or whether it is a comment like ‘he sang’, ‘he sang’, ‘he said’, which should not be attributed to Demodocus” (Goldhill 1991:53).

[ back ] 115. That is, strictly speaking, as Demodokos is in the third person; one can imagine variations in performance.

[ back ] 116. Walsh 1984:4.

[ back ] 117. See below, Chapter 4.

[ back ] 118. Likewise with his Cretan Tales. Vermeule (1979:112) writes: “The analogy of grief is in the poet’s mind, not in the hero’s, for Odysseus is a trained hero, accustomed to the disasters of the weak, and even in his lies about raids in Egypt he automatically slips in the accomplisher’s phrase, ‘I ruined their lovely fields and took away the women and innocent children,’ pia tekna, xiv.264, xvii.432.” The fact that we have to be told to separate the poet’s mind from the hero’s, and at that, on the evidence of the Cretan persona, indicates something is wrong with the reading, not that we are weak moderns. Foley (1978:2) writes that the simile suggests “how close Odysseus has come to the complete loss of normal social and emotional function which is the due of women enslaved in war … Once conqueror of Troy, Odysseus now understands the position of its victims; and it is as such a victim, aged, a beggar, and no longer a leader of men, that he reenters Ithaca.” Chapter 4 below will examine this question of Odysseus’ understanding of war’s victims on his reentry to Ithaka.

[ back ] 119. Walsh 1984:4. Yet in the same sentence Walsh remarks, “there is something uncanny about Odysseus’ grief, for he weeps like a woman newly widowed and enslaved.”

[ back ] 120. Odysseus, serving as funnel between widow and Demodokos, seems like Aristotle’s picture of Homer, serving as the oddly amoral funnel between primitive poetry and drama (see above, p. 6).

[ back ] 121. Cf. Goldhill 1991:54: the juxtaposition of the simile and the song “poses the question—but makes any certain answer hard to find—why this song should have been requested by Odysseus or why Odysseus’ tears should be the means or the prelude of his recognition.” The song and the simile are part of “an elaborate preparation for the first-person narrative of Books 9–12.”