Dué, Casey. 2018. Achilles Unbound: Multiformity and Tradition in the Homeric Epics. Hellenic Studies Series 81. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Due.Achilles_Unbound.2018.
Chapter 1. “Winged Words”: How We Came to Have Our Iliad
Performance of the Iliad and the Odyssey in Ancient Times
αὐτίκ᾽ ἐγὼ πᾶσιν μυθήσομαι ἀνθρώποισιν,
ὡς ἄρα τοι πρόφρων θεὸς ὤπασε θέσπιν ἀοιδήν.
Straightaway I will speak words before all men,
saying how a god readily bestowed upon you a wondrous song.
Odysseus’ words imply that there is a correct or authoritative way to perform this song, but also that other singers might perform it differently.
φάσ’, οἳ δ’ ἐν Νάξῳ, δῖον γένος, εἰραφιῶτα,
οἳ δέ σ’ ἐπ’ Ἀλφειᾠ ποταμᾠ βαθυδινήεντι
κυσαμένην Σεμέλην τεκέειν Διὶ τερπικεραύνῳ·
ἄλλοι δ’ ἐν Θήβῃσιν, ἄναξ, σε λέγουσι γενέσθαι,
ψευδόμενοι· σὲ δ’ ἔτικτε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε
πολλὸν ἀπ’ ἀνθρώπων, κρύπτων λευκώλενον Ἥρην.
For some say that you were born at Dracanum; others say on windy Icarus;
some say you were born in Naxos, divinely born, snatched from the thigh,
and others say that at the Alpheus River with deep eddies
Semele conceived and bore you to Zeus who delights in thunder.
Still others say, Lord, that you were born in Thebes,
But they lie. The father of gods and men bore you
far from men, hiding you from white-armed Hera.
As Nagy argues (1990b:43), “various legitimate local traditions are here being discounted as false in order to legitimize the one tradition that is acceptable to the poet’s audience.” The Iliad must likewise assert a version of the Achilles story that supersedes competing local variants. As I note with reference to Briseis, the Iliad does this in two ways. First, it leaves out or leaves obscure many local details about a romance between Achilles and the various girls from the many towns he captures. Second, the Iliad often includes within its own narrative allusions to other versions, thereby asserting the primacy of its own narrative at the expense of competing variations. A well-known example of this way of incorporating variation occurs at Iliad 5.634–647. In this battle exchange Tlepolemos taunts Sarpedon and claims that those who say that he is the son of Zeus are “liars”—pseudomenoi. As Miriam Carlisle has pointed out, in the Iliad Sarpedon is certainly the son of Zeus, but elsewhere there are traces of a competing versions of Sarpedon’s lineage. Tlepolemos’ use of pseudomenoi here is a way of referring to competing (and mutually exclusive) traditions, not objectively false tales. 
ἢ τεὸν ἢ Αἴαντος ἰὼν γέρας, ἢ Ὀδυσῆος
your prize, or the one of Ajax or Odysseus
I’ll go and take…
ἐγὼ δέ κ’ ἄγω Βρισηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον
αὐτὸς ἰὼν κλισίηνδε τὸ σὸν γέρας
the fair-cheeked Briseis, your prize.
In actuality (as our text presents it) Agamemnon sends two heralds to take Briseis (1.318–325). Yet elsewhere characters refer to the incident as if Agamemnon had come in person (1.356; 1.507; 2.240; 9.107; 19.89). It seems as if two versions have become conflated in the received textual tradition. Agamemnon himself suggests the possibility of an alternative version of these events when he first orders the two heralds to take Briseis:
λῆγ’ ἔριδος τὴν πρῶτον ἐπηπείλησ’ Ἀχιλῆϊ,
ἀλλ’ ὅ γε Ταλθύβιόν τε καὶ Εὐρυβάτην προσέειπε,
τώ οἱ ἔσαν κήρυκε καὶ ὀτρηρὼ θεράποντε·
ἔρχεσθον κλισίην Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος·
χειρὸς ἑλόντ’ ἀγέμεν Βρισηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον·
εἰ δέ κε μὴ δώῃσιν ἐγὼ δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἕλωμαι
ἐλθὼν σὺν πλεόνεσσι· τό οἱ καὶ ῥίγιον ἔσται.
let drop the contention with which he first threatened Achilles,
but he addressed Talthybius and Eurybates,
who were his two heralds and quick attendants:
“Go to the tent of Achilles the son of Peleus
and taking beautiful-cheeked Briseis by the hand bring her [to me].
But if he won’t give her I myself will take her,
coming with many men. And it will be a very chilling encounter.”
The Iliad, through the voice of Agamemnon, directly alludes to an alternative sequence of events that was current, I suggest, in the song culture when these verses were composed.
How Old Is the Iliad?
διχθαδίας κῆρας φερέμεν θανάτοιο τέλος δέ.
εἰ μέν κ’ αὖθι μένων Τρώων πόλιν ἀμφιμάχωμαι,
ὤλετο μέν μοι νόστος, ἀτὰρ κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται·
εἰ δέ κεν οἴκαδ’ ἵκωμι φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν,
ὤλετό μοι κλέος ἐσθλόν, ἐπὶ δηρὸν δέ μοι αἰὼν
ἔσσεται, οὐδέ κέ μ’ ὦκα τέλος θανάτοιο κιχείη.
that there are two ways in which I may meet my end.
If I stay here and fight around the city of Troy,
my homecoming is lost, but my glory in song [kleos] will be unwilting [aphthiton]:
whereas if I reach home and my dear fatherland,
my kleos is lost, but my life will be long,
and the outcome of death will not soon take me.
As we will see further below, the theme of the hero as a plant that blossoms beautifully and dies quickly is an important thread in Greek lament traditions (Dué 2007), and it is also a metaphor that encapsulates what glory means in the Iliad. Here Achilles reveals not only the crux of this choice of fates around which the Iliad itself is built, but also the driving principle of Greek epic song. The unwilting flower of epic poetry is contrasted with the necessarily mortal hero, whose death comes all too quickly (Nagy 1979:174–184; Nagy 2013:408–410). κλέος ἄφθιτον is just one example among many, but it reveals that an essential theme of the Iliad long predates the Iliad itself and suggests that there may be many aspects of the Greek epic poem that are equally old. 
ὃν πρὶν μὲν ῥίπτασκε μέγα σθένος Ἠετίωνος:
ἀλλ᾽ ἤτοι τὸν ἔπεφνε ποδάρκης δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς,
τὸν δ᾽ ἄγετ᾽ ἐν νήεσσι σὺν ἄλλοισι κτεάτεσσι.
στῆ δ᾽ ὀρθὸς καὶ μῦθον ἐν Ἀργείοισιν ἔειπεν:
‘ὄρνυσθ᾽ οἳ καὶ τούτου ἀέθλου πειρήσεσθε.
εἴ οἱ καὶ μάλα πολλὸν ἀπόπροθι πίονες ἀγροί,
ἕξει μιν καὶ πέντε περιπλομένους ἐνιαυτοὺς
χρεώμενος: οὐ μὲν γάρ οἱ ἀτεμβόμενός γε σιδήρου
ποιμὴν οὐδ᾽ ἀροτὴρ εἶσ᾽ ἐς πόλιν, ἀλλὰ παρέξει.
which had once been the throwing-weight of Eetion in his great strength:
but now swift-footed brilliant Achilleus had slain him and taken
the weight away in the ships along with the other possessions.
He stood upright and spoke his word out among the Argives:
“Rise up, you who would endeavour to win this prize also.
For although the rich demesnes of him who wins it lie far off
indeed, yet for the succession of five years he will have it
to use; for his shepherd for want of iron will not have to go in
to the city for it, nor his ploughman either. This will supply them.” 
In the Bronze Age, iron was an exotic luxury, minimally worked, valuable simply for being a precious metal. But after the Bronze Age, blades appear, and then daggers and swords. Sherratt concludes:
Sherratt points out that tower-like rectangular or figure-of-eight shields are known from the early Mycenaean period, but they became redundant once bronze body armor was introduced in the fourteenth century. It is only at the very end of the thirteenth century, in the period Sherratt terms “post-palatial,” that smaller hand-held shields (which could include a boss) are found in archaeological contexts (Sherratt 1990:811–812).
Narrative Layers: How Old Is the Story of the Iliad?
εἰ μὲν δὴ ἕταρόν γε κελεύετέ μ’ αὐτὸν ἑλέσθαι,
πῶς ἂν ἔπειτ’ Ὀδυσῆος ἐγὼ θείοιο λαθοίμην,
οὗ περὶ μὲν πρόφρων κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
ἐν πάντεσσι πόνοισι, φιλεί δέ ἑ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη.
τούτου γ’ ἑσπομένοιο καὶ ἐκ πυρὸς αἰθομένοιο
ἄμφω νοστήσαιμεν, ἐπεὶ περίοιδε νοῆσαι.
“If you are ordering me to choose a companion myself,
how could I overlook god-like Odysseus,
whose heart and audacious spirit are especially ready
for every kind of labor, and Pallas Athena loves him?
With him accompanying me even from burning fire
we could return home [nostos], since he is an expert at devising [noos].”
Athena, the goddess who loves both Odysseus and Diomedes, tells Diomedes during the ambush to remember his homecoming (νόστου δὴ μνῆσαι μεγαθύμου Τυδέος υἱὲ, Iliad 10.509). Only that way can the mission be a success. 
νηῶν μέν οἱ ἀπώσασθαι πόλεμόν τε μάχην τε
δῶκε, σόον δ᾽ ἀνένευσε μάχης ἐξαπονέεσθαι.
To push away war and battle from the ships
he granted, but he denied his safe return [nostos] from battle.
Patroklos’ failure to return home is emphasized in the lamentation that arises following his death:
ἀσπασίως Πάτροκλον ὑπ᾽ ἐκ βελέων ἐρύσαντες
κάτθεσαν ἐν λεχέεσσι: φίλοι δ᾽ ἀμφέσταν ἑταῖροι
μυρόμενοι: μετὰ δέ σφι ποδώκης εἵπετ᾽ Ἀχιλλεὺς
δάκρυα θερμὰ χέων, ἐπεὶ εἴσιδε πιστὸν ἑταῖρον
κείμενον ἐν φέρτρῳ δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
τόν ῥ᾽ ἤτοι μὲν ἔπεμπε σὺν ἵπποισιν καὶ ὄχεσφιν
ἐς πόλεμον, οὐδ᾽ αὖτις ἐδέξατο νοστήσαντα.
gladly drew Patroklos out from under the arrows
and laid him on a litter. His dear comrades stood around him,
mourning. And among them swift-footed Achilles spoke
shedding hot tears when he saw his trusted comrade
lying on a bier torn by sharp bronze,
(his comrade) whom he sent with horses and chariot
to war, but he never received him back home again.
This same language is used of Achilles himself, who is lamented by his mother immediately upon Patroklos’ death, so closely are the two deaths intertwined:
νηυσὶν ἐπιπροέηκα κορωνίσιν Ἴλιον εἴσω
Τρωσὶ μαχησόμενον: τὸν δ᾽ οὐχ ὑποδέξομαι αὖτις
οἴκαδε νοστήσαντα δόμον Πηλήϊον εἴσω.
I sent him forth in the hollow ships to Ilion
to fight with the Trojans. But I will not receive him again
returning back home to the house of Peleus.
These words are echoed by Achilles a few lines later, when he tells Thetis that he will re-enter battle:
παιδὸς ἀποφθιμένοιο, τὸν οὐχ ὑποδέξεαι αὖτις
οἴκαδε νοστήσαντ᾽, ἐπεὶ οὐδ᾽ ἐμὲ θυμὸς ἄνωγε
ζώειν οὐδ᾽ ἄνδρεσσι μετέμμεναι, αἴ κε μὴ Ἕκτωρ
πρῶτος ἐμῷ ὑπὸ δουρὶ τυπεὶς ἀπὸ θυμὸν ὀλέσσῃ,
Πατρόκλοιο δ᾽ ἕλωρα Μενοιτιάδεω ἀποτίσῃ.
for your child who has perished, the one who you may not receive again
returning back home, since my spirit won’t allow me
to live nor go among men unless Hektor
first struck by my spear loses his life,
and pays me for despoiling Patroklos, the son of Menoitios.
Like Patroklos, when Achilles re-enters battle in Iliad 20 it is on a mission from which he will never return home.
ψυχὴ δ’ ἐκ ῥεθέων πταμένη Ἄϊδος δὲ βεβήκει
ὃν πότμον γοόωσα λιποῦσ’ ἀνδροτῆτα καὶ ἥβην.
His life-breath left his body and flitted down to the house of Hades,
lamenting its sad fate and leaving behind the youth and vigor of its manhood. 
The meter of lines 16.857/22.363 provides an indication of the great antiquity of the verse:
ὃν πότμον γοόωσα λιποῦσ’ ἀνδροτῆτα καὶ ἥβην.
The first syllable of the word ἀνδροτῆτα (‘manhood’) must be scanned short, something which is possible only if we assume the verse to have been composed before the linguistic changes that resulted in *anr̥tāta becoming ἀνδροτῆτα (cf. ἀνδρειπότες at Iliad 2.651, where the ἀνδρ- must similarly be scanned short).  I quote Calvert Watkins’s succinct explanation of the significance here: “Since we know that the change r̥ > or/ro (other dialects ar/ra) had taken place in Greek by the time of the Linear B tablets … the lines with *anr̥tāta could not have been composed any later than 1400 BC or so. They furnish us with a terminus ante quem for the fixation of the formulaic vehicle of a key feature of the thematic structure of the Iliad: these two deaths in equipoise.” 
Performance and the Earliest Texts of the Iliad and the Odyssey
Nagy posits that the Panathenaic festival in Athens, where strictly regulated contests in the performance of Homeric poetry were taking place as early as the sixth century BCE, was the context within which the Iliad and the Odyssey became crystallized into a relatively fixed form.  The resulting “Panathenaic” texts may have remained in flux for some time, influenced by a variety of factors, including political pressure from those in power (Frame 2009). The tyrant Peisistratos, for example, who is credited with the reorganization of the Panathenaia in 566 BCE and possibly the institution of rhapsodic contests,  is cited by several ancient sources as the organizer of a so-called Peisistratean recension, which produced the first written and authoritative text of the Homeric poems.  The story has a close affinity with tales in other cultures about how an oral tradition came to be authoritatively fixed in writing (Nagy 1996b:70–75). Nevertheless, there may be a clue here as to how the first written texts of the Iliad and the Odyssey were commissioned. The other epics that are known to have circulated in antiquity, often referred to collectively as the Epic Cycle, were not performed at the Panathenaia and have not survived in written form. 
It is only in subsequent eras that Aristarchus’ preferred readings from the hupomnēmata were inserted into editions put together by later scholars (Nagy 1996a:107–152 and forthcoming). Aristarchus himself does not seem to have ever published his own text of Homer with his own preferred readings. But even if he had, we would know from his commentaries about readings in the many other texts that were available to him, and so once again we are forced to confront the multiformity of the Homeric tradition. It is not my intention here to reargue Nagy’s theories about Aristarchus, but rather to make clear my own assumption, following Nagy, that the multiforms attributed in the scholia to Aristarchus and other scholars associated with the library of Alexandria are not editorial conjectures of the sort made by nineteenth-century philologists, but observations of multiformity culled from the wide array of texts available to them. 
Medieval Transmission and Beyond
Establishing the Text
Yes, the Homeric textual tradition is complicated and multiform, and it would be easier for editors if we didn’t have to acknowledge it. But as I hope to show in the following chapters, the complexity and multiformity offer us a wealth of riches for more fully and accurately appreciating the poetics of a poem that was over a thousand years in the making.