Homer the Preclassic

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Chapter Ten: Homer and the poetics of variation

II 101. The sorrows of Andromache revisited

II§373 We have seen how the technique of narrating the story about the presentation of a peplos to Athena in her temple at Troy corresponds to the technique of weaving the Panathenaic Peplos for presentation to Athena in her temple at Athens. And the occasion for presenting the woven Peplos, the festival of the Panathenaia, is also the occasion for presenting the narration of this story and all other Homeric stories. Narrating the story requires variation, just as weaving the Peplos requires variation. As I argue in Homer the Classic, the word that best captures the idea of variation in the weaving of the Peplos is the adjective poikilos, the general meaning of which is ‘varied’ and the specialized meaning of which is ‘pattern-woven’. [1] This adjective, as I also argue in Homer the Classic, is closely related to the verb poikillein, which actually means ‘pattern-weave’. [2] Now I turn to a most telling example of this adjective poikilos, appearing in a passage that shows a glimpse of Andromache weaving her web at a climactic moment in the plot of the Iliad. It is the moment just before she finds out that her husband, Hector, has died on the battlefield. This passage, as we will see, captures the essence of pattern-weaving as an overall metaphor for Homeric narrative:

II§377 The ancient Homeric commentary tradition reports that en-passein is the native Cypriote term for what is called poikillein ‘pattern-weave’ in other parts of the Greek-speaking world. Here is the precise wording in the commentary on en-passein as pattern-weaving:

IIⓣ65 Scholia A T for Iliad XXII 441d2

<ἔπασσε:> πάσσειν Κύπριοι τὸ ποικίλλειν, ἀφ’ οὗ καὶ ὁ παστός.

<ἔπασσε:> passein is the way Cypriotes say poikillein . The word pastos is derived from it.

II§378 We also have comparative evidence for interpreting poikillein as referring to pattern-weaving. The verb poikillein itself, along with the adjective poikilos, meaning ‘varied’, is derived from the root *peik , also attested in Latin pictura. So poikillein means literally ‘make (things) be poikila’, that is, ‘make (things) be varied’. These words poikilos and poikillein convey not only the general idea of variation. They convey also the specific idea of a picture, whether static or moving: in fact, they are cognate with the Latin word pictura. This word evokes for us the celebrated formulation ut pictura poesis ‘like the painting is the poetry’ in Horace’s Ars Poetica (Epistulae 2.3.361). {275|276}

II§380 In this Iliadic scene, Andromache is narrating her own sorrows by way of pattern-weaving, as expressed by en-passein, synonym of poikillein, and this narration is being replayed by the subjectivized narration of Homeric poetry. In her apprehensiveness, anticipating the terrible and piteous news she is about to absorb about the fate of her husband, Hector, Andromache is passing the time by pattern-weaving a sequence of throna, ‘flowers’ that have the power of love charms. The sequence of throna tells its own story: it is a story of love, a love story in the making.

II§383 As with the web of Andromache, the narrative sequence woven into the web of Helen is created by way of transverse threading, described in our Iliad passage as either porphureē ‘purple’ or, according to a variant reading also found in the medieval manuscript tradition, marmareē ‘gleaming’. This variation, as we will see presently, is essential for understanding the relevance of this passage to the festival of the Panathenaia.

II§384 The pattern-weaving of Helen is parallel to the pattern-weaving of Andromache and, by extension, to the Iliadic narrative about Andromache. A case in point is the epithet hippodamoi ‘horse tamers’, applied to the Trojans in the narrative that is pattern-woven by Helen (Iliad III 127). The plural form of this epithet hippodamoi ‘horse tamers’ is regularly applied in the Iliad to all the Trojans as an aggregate; the singular form of this same epithet hippodamos ‘horse tamer’ is applied in the Iliad uniquely to Hector. [19] Moreover, this epithet happens to be the last word of the Iliad as we know it, applied to Hector at the final moment of his funeral (Iliad XXIV 804). So the sequence of Andromache’s pattern-weaving in Iliad XXII, continuing from the sequence of Helen’s pattern-weaving in Iliad III, continues further into the sequence of Homeric narrative that completes the Iliad. In this way, the overall narrative of the Iliad transforms the love story woven into the diplax of Andromache. Her story of love modulates into the Iliadic story of war that Helen was already pattern-weaving when we first laid eyes on her. This story of war told by the pattern-weaving of Helen is linked to the overall story of war told by the narrative of the Iliad itself, which then overtakes the story of love told by the pattern-weaving of Andromache. So the narrations woven into the diplax of Helen and into the diplax of Andromache are both linked with the overall narration of the Homeric Iliad. {277|278}

II 102. Pattern-weaving back into the Bronze Age

II§385 The linking of the pattern-woven narrations of Helen and Andromache with the poetic narration of the Iliad is a matter of metonymy. As for the actual parallelism of this poetic narration with the craft of pattern-weaving, it is a matter of metaphor. In terms of the metaphor, the pattern-weaving of a fabric is the narrating of an epic. This metaphor is embedded in the narrative of Homeric poetry, and we see it at work in the Iliadic passages showing Andromache and Helen in the act of pattern-weaving at their looms. In these passages, the act of epic narration is figured metaphorically as an act of pattern-weaving. There is an analogous metaphor embedded in the etymology of humnos. As I argue in the twin book Homer the Classic, this noun humnos is derived from the verb root *huph– as in huphainein ‘weave’. [20] This derivation is relevant to what I have argued in Chapter 4 of the present book, that humnos is used in the Homeric Odyssey to refer to the continuum of epic narration. And now, in this part of the book, I am arguing that epic narration is visualized not only generally as the craft of weaving but also specifically as the specialized craft of pattern-weaving. Even more specifically, I am arguing that the epic narration of Homeric poetry is figured metaphorically as the specialized craft of pattern-weaving the Panathenaic Peplos of Athena. This craft, as I have reconstructed it so far, goes back to the sixth century BCE. As we are also about to see, it goes even farther back in time—all the way back into the Bronze Age.

II§386 In order to make a connection between the sixth century and the Bronze Age, I will start by taking a closer look at the word diplax, which as we have just seen refers to the web woven by Andromache as also to the web woven by Helen. The etymology of diplax, to be understood as a web ‘folded in two’, is related to the etymology of peplos, to be understood as a ‘folding’, in other words, something that is traditionally folded. [21] An important point of comparison for understanding the basic meaning of the noun peplos, derived from the root *pl- ‘fold’, is the adjective haploûs ‘simple’, derived from a combination of the elements *sṃ- ‘one’ and the same root *pl- ‘fold’. The meaning of Greek haploûs ‘simple’ is cognate with the meaning of Latin simplex ‘simple’, which is derived from the same combination of the elements *sṃ- ‘one’ and the root *pl- ‘fold’. I propose that sim-plex is ‘one fold’ in the sense of having one fold, that is, unfolded, which is not the same thing as ‘folded once’ (which would be folded in two). Similarly, du-plextwofold’ means folded as two, that is, folded in two, which is not the same thing as ‘folded twice’ (which would be folded in four). The same point applies to Greek haploûs ‘simple’, that is, ‘unfolded’, the meaning of which can be contrasted with the meaning of diplax ‘fabric folded in two’. Here I {278|279} find it relevant to evoke the image of the Peplos of the goddess Athena as represented in the sculpture of the Parthenon Frieze. [22] As we see from that image, the Peplos is being ritually folded at the moment of its presentation, and its selvedge (Greek exastis) is visible:

Figure 4. Relief sculpture: presentation of the Peplos of Athena. Slab 5, East Frieze of the Parthenon, Athens. British Museum, Elgin Collection. Drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

IIⓣ67 Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica 1.721–724

αὐτὰρ ὅγ’ ἀμφ’ ὤμοισι, θεᾶς Ἰτωνίδος ἔργον,
δίπλακα πορφυρέην περονήσατο, τήν οἱ ὄπασσε
Παλλάς, ὅτε πρῶτον δρυόχους ἐπεβάλλετο νηός
Ἀργοῦς, καὶ κανόνεσσι δάε ζυγὰ μετρήσασθαι.

Then he [= Jason] around his shoulders put the handiwork of the Itonian goddess [= Athena],
a purple [porphureē] fabric that folds in two [= diplax], pinning it. It was given to him by
Pallas [= Athena] back when she began to set down the keel props of the ship
Argo and taught them how to measure out its beams by way of the carpenter’s rule [kanōn].

II§389 In this passage from the Argonautica, the epithet used by Apollonius in referring to the diplax made by Athena is porphureē ‘purple’ (1.722). Here I return to a textual variation that I highlighted earlier between marmareē ‘gleaming’ and porphureē ‘purple’ as the epithet referring to the diplax woven by Helen (Iliad III 126) as {280|281} well as the diplax woven by Andromache (XXII 441). As we learn from the Homeric scholia (at III 126), the three major Alexandrian editors of Homer—Zenodotus, Aristophanes, Aristarchus—are all on record as preferring the variant reading porphureē ‘purple’, as opposed to a variant that we still see attested in the medieval manuscript tradition, marmareē ‘gleaming’. Such an Alexandrian editorial preference, as I will argue, is all-important for a Hellenistic poet like Apollonius.

IIⓣ68 Appendix Vergiliana, Ciris 21–41

          sed magno intexens, si fas est dicere, peplo,
          qualis Erechtheis olim portatur Athenis,
          debita cum castae solvuntur vota Minervae
          tardaque confecto redeunt quinquennia lustro,
25      cum levis alterno Zephyrus concrebuit Euro
          et prono gravidum provexit pondere currum.
          felix illa dies, felix et dicitur annus,
          felices qui talem annum videre diemque.
          ergo Palladiae texuntur in ordine pugnae,
30      magna Giganteis ornantur pepla tropaeis,
          horrida sanguineo pinguntur proelia cocco,
          additur aurata deiectus cuspide Typhon,
          qui prius Ossaeis consternens aethera saxis
          Emathio celsum duplicabat vertice Olympum.
35      tale deae velum sollemni tempore portant,
          tali te vellem, iuvenum doctissime, ritu
          purpureos inter soles et candida lunae
          sidera, caeruleis orbem pulsantia bigis,
          naturae rerum magnis intexere chartis,
40      aeterno ut sophiae coniunctum carmine nomen
          nostra tuum senibus loqueretur pagina saeclis.

          But (I am) weaving (you) into [in-texere] the great—if it is sanctioned to say it—Peplos [28]
          —the kind of peplos that is carried in the city of Erekhtheus, in Athens, on the ancient
          when vows are kept by offering gifts that are owed to uncontaminated Minerva [= Athena],
          when the period of four years comes full circle as it slowly nears the oncoming
               fifth year [= on the occasion of the quadrennial Panathenaia],
25      when the light Zephyrus wind accelerates in its rivalry with the alternating Eurus wind
          and drives forward the Vehicle, [
29] weighted down with its vast load. [30]
          Blessèd is that day. That is what it is to be called. And blessèd is that year.
          Blessèd as well are they who have seen such a year, such a day.
          Thus does the weaving [texere] take place, the weaving that narrates in their proper
               order [ordo] the battles of Pallas [= Athena],
30      and the great folds of the Peplos [
31] are adorned with signs that signal the moment
               when the Giants were turned back
          and terrifying battles are rendered in color [pingere], with the color of a dye [
32] that is
          and added to that is the picturing of the Typhon repulsed by the golden tip of the spear.
          He is the one who made the aether concrete [
33] by using the rocks of Mount Ossa,
          piling them on top of the peak of Emathia [= Pelion] to double the height of Olympus
35      —such is the Sail [= the Peplos] [
34] that they [= the Athenians] carry for the goddess on
               that solemn occasion,
          and it is by way of such a ritual that I would want (to weave) you (in), O most learned of
               young men, yes, exactly such a ritual,
          so that you may be enveloped by the purple flashes of the sun and by the incandescent
               beams of the moon
          —beams that pulsate against the orb of the world with the galloping feet of the two blue
               horses drawing the
moon’s chariot. {282|283}
          Yes, I would want to weave (you) in [in-texere], into the great papyrus rolls of the Nature of
               the Universe,
40      so that a name conjoined with the ever recycling song of personified Wisdom
          —your name—may be spoken by my page through the ages as they grow ancient.

II§398 What I just said about red as the foregrounded aspect of purple applies to the description of the narrative that is pattern-woven into the Panathenaic Peplos in the passage I quoted earlier, from the Ciris. As we saw there, the dominant theme is red, matching the color of the blood shed by the Giants in their battle with the gods. So also in the narrative that is pattern-woven into the diplax made by Helen, the dominant theme is red, matching the color of the blood shed by Achaeans and Trojans alike—all for her sake. By implication, the same dominant theme prevails in the narrative that is pattern-woven into the diplax made by Andromache. In both cases, the variant epithet marmareē ‘gleaming’ describing the diplax refers to the luminosity of the purple, whereas the variant epithet porphureē ‘purple’ refers simply to the color.

II§399 Of the two alternatives marmareē ‘gleaming’ and porphureē ‘purple’ in the Iliadic passages we have considered, I propose that the Homeric Koine variant is marmareē ‘gleaming’, which is understandable as ‘purple’ to those who already know that the color of the fabric must be understood as purple. It goes without saying that all Athenians and their allies would know this fact about the fabric of the Panathenaic Peplos. To be contrasted is the variant preferred by the Alexandrian editors, porphureē ‘purple’, which actually specifies the local color. Such a specification would be understood by these editors as an additional detail that could otherwise be left unspecified. Whereas the variant marmareē ‘gleaming’ presumes an Athenocentric understanding that the color is purple and leaves this local color unspecified, the other variant specifies the color as an additional detail.

II§400 In his Argonautica, Apollonius of Rhodes pointedly chooses the variant porphureē ‘purple’ (1.722) in describing the diplax made by Athena for the hero Jason. From the standpoint of Apollonius, the choice of this epithet in his own poetry is a cross-reference to a choice made by the Alexandrian editors of Homer. As we will see later on, his choice is dictated by a logic that is typical of Hellenistic poetry. From the standpoint of Homeric poetry, by contrast, a choice between the variants porphureē ‘purple’ and marmareē ‘gleaming’ in the two Iliadic passages we have con-{286|287} sidered would have no effect on the point of reference—if that point of reference is the Panathenaic Peplos.

II§401 I am arguing that there is such a point of reference. There is a Panathenaic subtext in the Homeric references to the diplax woven by Helen and the diplax woven by Andromache. Once again, I use the word subtext here metaphorically in referring to the Panathenaia, and I will use the word text metaphorically as well in referring to the narration of the Homeric Iliad. The text of the Iliadic narrative refers to the weaving of themes that relate to the Trojan War, while the subtext refers to the narrating of these themes in the context of the seasonally recurring festival of the Panathenaia, which is the actual occasion for the Homeric narration. The reference, if it happens in the context of actual performance at the Panathenaia, is split between text and subtext. We see here once again an example of the phenomenon I call split referencing.

II§404 Just as the cosmic figure who opposes Athena in the context of the Lesser Panathenaia is Astēr, the embodiment of a star, there is a corresponding cosmic figure who opposes her—as well as all the Olympian gods—in the context of the Great Panathenaia: he is Porphuriōn, king of the Giants (Pindar Pythian 8.12–13, Aristophanes Birds 1251, “Apollodorus” Library 1.6.1–2). As we saw earlier, this Giant is central to the charter myth of the Gigantomachy as narrated by rhapsodes for the occasion of the Great Panathenaia: as his name indicates, he is the embodiment of the color of purple woven into the Panathenaic Peplos. As we also saw earlier, this color is associated with the blood that is shed by the Giants in the narrative of the Gigantomachy and with the blood that is shed by Trojans and Achaeans alike in the story of the Trojan War as narrated by rhapsodes for the occasion of the Great Panathenaia.

II§406 By contrast with the narratives woven into the diplax of Helen and into the diplax of Andromache in Homeric poetry, the narrative that Athena pattern-weaves into the diplax featured in the Argonautica of Apollonius is Panathenaic without being overtly Homeric. Its Homeric signature is in the form of what is pattern-woven for the Panathenaia, not in the content of what is narrated at the Panathenaia in the era of the Athenian democracy. In the narrative of the diplax featured in the Argonautica, we see no direct reference to the Homeric narrative of the Trojan War, an event that stands out as the dominant theme of the epic poetry being performed at the Panathenaia in the democratic era. The poetic themes that Athena pattern-weaves into the diplax worn by Jason are non-Homeric or, better, pre-Homeric, since they narrate events that logically predate the Trojan War (Argonautica 1.730–767). These events would suit the poetic repertoire of rhapsodes who performed at the Panathenaia in the predemocratic era of the Peisistratidai.

II§407 So, any direct reference to Homeric themes would be inconceivable in the Arg-{288|289}onautica. Still, we see signs of indirect reference. First, the diplax worn by Jason is said to be the woven work of Athena herself, matching the peplos woven by Athena in Iliad V. Second, this diplax is described as porphureē ‘purple’, which is the variant preferred by the Alexandrians over the variant marmareē ‘gleaming’ as the epithet applied to the diplax of Helen in Iliad III and to the diplax of Andromache in Iliad XXII. The mentioning of this diplax in the Argonautica amounts to a display of poetic rivalry, since the indirect reference takes place in the context of an ecphrasis—the only ecphrasis attempted by Apollonius in the Argonautica. Here is the only opportunity that Apollonius gives himself to display his poetic skills in ecphrasis. To that extent, the ecphrasis of the diplax of Athena in the Argonautica of Apollonius rivals the ecphrasis of the Shield of Achilles in the Iliad (XVIII 478–609). As I argue in Chapter 2 of the twin book Homer the Classic, the narrative of the Shield was understood to be Orphic in content not only by Zenodotus as the premier editor of Homer in the age of Callimachus but also by Apollonius as a premier poet of that same age. So when Apollonius in his Argonautica refers indirectly to the Shield by way of his unique ecphrasis of the diplax that is pattern-woven by Athena, his reference indicates not only a general rivalry with Homeric poetry but also a specific rivalry with what he understood to be the post-Homeric or neoteric aspects of this poetry. [57]

II§411 There is more to this comparison between the Shield of Athena and the Shield of Achilles. We have already seen that the story of the Battle of the Gods and Giants is narrated not only in the virtuoso metalwork that produced the Shield of Athena as executed by Pheidias but also in the virtuoso fabric work that produced the Peplos of Athena as executed by master pattern-weavers. Now we will see that the stories narrated on the Shield of Achilles can be pictured not only as the metalwork of Hephaistos. These stories are also pictured as the pattern-weaving of the divine metalworker:

II§412 In contemplating this picture, the mind’s eye sees the work of the divine artisan in action. It is metalwork executed by the ultimate khalkeus ‘bronzeworker’: that is what Hephaistos is actually called by Homeric poetry (Iliad XV 309). And the bronzework of the god is pictured as an act of pattern-weaving, as expressed by the word poikillein (XVIII 590).

II§413 So the ecphrasis of the Shield of Achilles presents its narrative not only as metalwork but also as pattern-weaving, just as the Gigantomachy is narrated in Athens not only through the metalwork of Pheidias who creates his images on the Shield of Athena but also through the fabric work of master pattern-weavers who create their images on the Peplos of Athena. Here I return one last time to the diplax that is pattern-woven by Athena in the Argonautica of Apollonius. By now we see that the pattern-working of this diplax made by Athena is understood as parallel to the metalworking of the Shield made by Hephaistos in the Iliad. More specifically, the actual epic narration of the Shield in the Iliad is figured not only as metalwork, specifically as bronzework, but also as pattern-weaving, poikillein (XVIII 590). The craft of pattern-weaving is especially privileged as a metaphor for the craft of metalworking, since it is also a metaphor for the craft of making Homeric poetry, as we saw in the Iliadic passages picturing the diplax of Helen and the diplax of Andromache. Virgil understood this privileging of the metaphor of pattern-weaving: in the Aeneid, Vulcan’s metalwork in producing the Shield of Aeneas is described as an act of ‘weaving’, a textus (Aeneid 8.625).

II§414 The linking of pattern-weaving to metalwork in Homeric poetry is not just a matter of metaphor. The actual craft of pattern-weaving is closely linked to the actual craft of metalworking. Both these crafts reflect the wealth, power, and prestige of mighty federations and empires. A case in point is the parallelism I just noted between the pattern-weaving of the Peplos of Athena and the metalwork of the Shield of Athena made by Pheidias in the era of the Athenian empire. This parallelism between the Peplos and the Shield reflects a tradition that goes back to the Bronze Age, as we see from comparative evidence. In what follows, I offer two examples of such evidence.

II§416 Next, I offer a piece of comparative evidence from a city other than Athens. In Argos, specially selected women wove for the goddess Hera a robe called the patos on the occasion of the festival of Hera called the Heraia (Callimachus F 66.3, Hesychius s.v. πάτος). Taking a closer look at this festival, we can see a link between the craft of pattern-weaving and the craft of metalwork. On the occasion of this festival, prizes made of bronze metalwork were awarded in the context of a pompē ‘procession’ marked by the ritual climax of a thusia ‘sacrifice’ (as indicated by the verb thuein ‘sacrifice’):

IIⓣ71 Scholia for Pindar Olympian 7.152

152a 1 A <ὅ τ’ ἐν Ἄργει χαλκός:> τὰ Ἥραια, <ἃ> καὶ Ἑκατόμβαια λέγεται διὰ τὸ πλῆθος τῶν θυομένων βοῶν. λαμβάνουσι δὲ ἐντεῦθεν οὐκ ἀργὸν χαλκὸν, ἀλλὰ τρίποδας καὶ λέβητας καὶ ἀσπίδας καὶ κρατῆρας.

152b 1 ABDEQ <ἔγνω νιν:> ἐγνώρισε δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ ἐν τῷ Ἄργει διδόμενος χαλκὸς ἆθλον τῷ νικήσαντι.

152c 1 ABCEQ τελεῖται δὲ κατὰ τὸ Ἄργος τὰ Ἥραια ἢ τὰ Ἑκατόμβαια διὰ τὸ ἑκατὸν βοῦς θύεσθαι τῇ θεῷ. τὸ δὲ ἆθλον, ἀσπὶς χαλκῆ· οἱ δὲ στέφανοι ἐκ μυρσίνης.

152d 1 BCEQ ἄλλως· ἐν Ἄργει, ἐν τῷ Ἑκατομβαίων ἀγῶνι, χαλκὸς τὸ ἆθλον δίδοται, ὅτι Ἀρχῖνος Ἀργείων γενόμενος βασιλεύς, ὃς καὶ ἀγῶνα πρῶτος συνεστήσατο, ταχθεὶς ἐπὶ τῆς τῶν ὅπλων κατασκευῆς, ἀπὸ τούτων καὶ τὴν τῶν ὅπλων δόσιν ἐποιήσατο. Ἑκατόμβαια δὲ BC(D)EQ ὁ ἀγὼν λέγεται ὅτι πομπῆς μεγάλης προηγοῦνται ἑκατὸν βόες, οὓς νόμος κρεανομεῖσθαι πᾶσι τοῖς πολίταις.

II§418 In the complex of traditional rituals and myths native to Argos, the bronze shield that figures in the local rituals of athletic competition at the festival of the Heraia is modeled on a prototypical bronze shield that figures in the corresponding local myth. According to the myth, this prototypical bronze shield was the centerpiece of the original set of armor made by Hephaistos for Achilles at the request of the hero’s mother, the goddess Thetis, who presented this armor to her mortal son Achilles when he went off to war at Troy. The narrative of this local myth was performed in a local ritual context. The place was a sacred space called the Heraion, located forty-five stadia from the center of the city of Argos, and the occasion was the festival of Hera, the Heraia. Our primary source is the Electra of Euripides, where we see the myth of the original Shield of Achilles sung and danced by the chorus of the drama. This Athenian chorus is playing the role of an Argive chorus of local girls who are singing and dancing the myth of the Shield in celebration of the goddess Hera (Electra 432–486).

II§419 We find further traces of a link between the myth of the original bronze Shield of Achilles and the ritual complex of the Heraia in vase paintings that show Thetis in the act of presenting the bronze Shield, along with other pieces of armor, to {293|294} Achilles (Figure 5). In some of these paintings, the bronze Shield is visually correlated with a garland of myrtle (Figure 6).

Figure 5. Attic black-figure column krater: Thetis presenting shield and helmet to Achilles. Attributed to the Painter of London B76. Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Antikensammlungen, 3763. Drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

Figure 6. Attic black-figure hydria: Thetis presenting shield and garland to Achilles. Attributed to the Tyrrhenian Group. Paris, Musée du Louvre, E869. Drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

II§420 As we saw a moment ago from the information given in the Pindaric scholia, the prizes awarded to winners in the competitions at the festival of the Heraia in Argos included garlands of myrtle, mentioned as a parallel to the prize of the bronze shield.

II§422 I note an essential symmetry between the pattern-woven fabric associated with the young Argive women and the bronze shield that is correspondingly associated with the young Argive men. The shield signals the martial identity of the male population, symmetrical to the peaceful identity of the female population who pattern-weave the fabric offered to the goddess Hera on the festive occasion of {294|295} the Heraia. There is a comparable symmetry at work in the Seven against Thebes of Aeschylus.

II§423 Reading the Electra of Euripides, we can see this symmetry in the wording of the chorus of young Argive women as they invite the princess Electra to participate in the premier festival of the city of Argos (167–174). It is a kind of “Invitation to the Ball.” But Electra is forbidden to participate in this festive ball of the Argives. At least, that is what we hear in the Electra of Sophocles (911–912). In any case, she would be too sad to participate, as we hear in the Electra of Euripides. Our view of Electra may be subjective, thanks to Euripides the poet, but our view of the Argive festival is I think accurate, thanks to Euripides the ethnographer. The sadness of Electra as an Argive Cinderella stands in sharp contrast with the happiness of young women celebrating the Feast of Hera and having the best time of their lives. As these Argive girls sing and dance the song of the bronze Shield of Achilles, we can just see them catching the attention of dashing young Argive warriors and perhaps even falling in love, fully sharing in the charisma of the pattern-woven fabric they offer to Hera.

II§424 A metonymy for this charisma is the blossom of the myrtle, which as we saw is the flower of choice for making stephanoi ‘garlands’ to wear at the festival of the Heraia in Argos. I have deliberately used the word charisma here in view of linguistic evidence for a metonymic link between the word kharis ‘pleasurable beauty’ and the festive use of myrtle blossoms for the making of garlands:

IIⓣ72 Scholia D (via A) for Iliad XVII 51

Μακεδόνες δὲ καὶ Κύπριοι χάριτας λέγουσι τὰς συνεστραμμένας καὶ οὔλας μυρσίνας, 
ἃς φαμὲν στεφανίτιδας. {295|296}

Macedonians and Cypriotes use the word kharites [= plural of kharis] with reference to myrtle blossoms that are compacted and curled [around a garland]. We call them garland-blossoms [stephanitides].

II§425 The image of myrtle blossoms compactly curled around a festive garland is applied as a metaphor for picturing the compact and curly hair of the hero Euphorbos as he lies dead on the battlefield. The curls of this beau mort are compared to myrtle blossoms:

II§427 There is another relevant association. When Pausanias enters the temple of Hera in Argos, he sees inside the pronaos, that is, inside the front third of the temple, a set of archaic statues that are known by the Argives as the Kharites, who are the personifications of the pleasurable beauty of kharis, that is, the ‘Graces’. And, remarkably, he sees next to the Kharites an archaic shield, presumably made of bronze. This shield, Pausanias reports, belonged to Euphorbos until Menelaos killed him and stripped him of his armor:

II§428 Having made these observations about the charisma of myrtle blossoms at the festival of the Heraia, I turn to the charisma of the bronze shield that is won as a prize by athletes competing at this festival. That shield has as its prototype the Shield of Achilles, which as we saw is directly associated with garlands of myrtle in vase paintings.

II§429 The Shield of Achilles, which I have been describing as the hero’s original shield, has to be replaced with a second shield made for him once again by Hephaistos after Hector kills Patroklos and captures the armor worn by the vanquished hero—armor that had belonged to Achilles. This second shield is the Shield of Achilles as described in Iliad XVIII.

II§430 In terms of epics other than the Iliad as we know it, however, there would be no need for such a second shield. I note a major difference between the two shields of Achilles. The original shield, as we saw, is the self-expression of the city of Argos. But the second shield, the one we see becoming concretized in the Iliad, is the self-expression not only of a city but also of an empire. I will return to this formulation in the Epilegomena.

II§431 On the basis of the comparative evidence I have assembled so far, I can say with confidence that the correlation of bronzework and pattern-weaving is old, so old as to be traced back to the Bronze Age. Even the substance of bronze is appropriate as a symbol for the concept of the Bronze Age as the age of heroes. Homeric poetry focuses on the selas ‘gleam’ that radiates from the reflection of light given off by the bronze surface of the Shield of Achilles:

IIⓣ75 Iliad XIX 368–379

          δύσετο δῶρα θεοῦ, τά οἱ Ἥφαιστος κάμε τεύχων.
          κνημῖδας μὲν πρῶτα περὶ κνήμῃσιν ἔθηκε
370    καλὰς ἀργυρέοισιν ἐπισφυρίοις ἀραρυίας·
          δεύτερον αὖ θώρηκα περὶ στήθεσσιν ἔδυνεν.
          ἀμφὶ δ’ ἄρ’ ὤμοισιν βάλετο ξίφος ἀργυρόηλον
          χάλκεον· αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα σάκος μέγα τε στιβαρόν τε
          εἵλετο, τοῦ δ’ ἀπάνευθε σέλας γένετ’ ἠΰτε μήνης.
375    ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἐκ πόντοιο σέλας ναύτῃσι φανήῃ
          καιομένοιο πυρός, τό τε καίεται ὑψόθ’ ὄρεσφι
          σταθμῷ ἐν οἰοπόλῳ· τοὺς δ’ οὐκ ἐθέλοντας ἄελλαι
          πόντον ἐπ’ ἰχθυόεντα φίλων ἀπάνευθε φέρουσιν·
          ὣς ἀπ’ Ἀχιλλῆος σάκεος σέλας αἰθέρ’ ἵκανε

          He [= Achilles] put it [= his armor] on, the gifts of the god, which Hephaistos
               had made for him with much labor. {297|298}
370    First he put around his legs the shin guards,
               beautiful ones, with silver fastenings at the ankles.
          Next he put around his chest the breastplate,
          and around his shoulders he slung the sword with the nails of silver,
          a sword made of bronze. Next, [
83] the Shield [sakos], great and mighty,
          he took, and from it there was a gleam [selas] from afar, as from the moon,
375    or as when, at sea, a gleam [selas] to sailors appears
          from a blazing fire, the kind that blazes high in the mountains
          at a solitary station [stathmos], as the sailors are carried unwilling by gusts
               of wind
          over the fish-swarming sea [pontos], far away from their loved ones.
          So also did the gleam [selas] from the Shield [sakos] of Achilles reach all the
               way up to the aether.

II§432 The linking of this bronze shield to the Bronze Age is expressed by the artifact itself. The poetry of the Shield of Achilles in Iliad XVIII is designed to show that this bronze artifact can make direct contact with the Bronze Age. Contact is established through the selas ‘gleam’ that radiates from the bronze surface of the Shield, projecting a picture from the Bronze Age. This gleam radiating from the Shield of Achilles is compared here to the gleam emanating from a lighthouse, and the image of that lighthouse, as we saw earlier, evokes the tumulus of Achilles, which figures as a primal marker of the age of heroes.

II§433 This radiant gleam, becoming universally visible as its light continues to spread all the way up to the aether, projects the world of heroes that we see pictured on the Shield. It is a picture of the Bronze Age, mirrored by the bronze of the hero’s Shield. With its vast array of details, this stupendous picture gives off a most dazzling view of the heroic age. As we saw in the Life of Homer traditions, it was the gleam given off by the bronze armor of Achilles that dazzled Homer to the point of blindness (Vita 6.45–51).

II§434 The gleam of the bronze Shield emanates not only from its form but also from the content of that form. The gleam comes not only from the armor, that is, from the shining metal of the bronze surface reflecting the radiant light of the sun. The gleam comes also from what the armor means. That meaning is conveyed not only through the simile of the hero’s tumulus as a lighthouse but also through the picture made by the divine metalworker on the shining bronze surface of the Shield. In this context, I emphasize again the Homeric description of Hephaistos as a khalkeus ‘bronzeworker’ (Iliad XV 309). The picture projected by the gleam emanating from the bronze Shield is a picture made by a bronzeworker.

II§435 This picture made by the divine artisan focuses on the Bronze Age. A case in {298|299} point is the dazzling simile of the lighthouse, evoking the tumulus of Achilles. Another case in point is a simile that spotlights a scene created by Hephaistos. The spotlighting is achieved by comparing that scene with another scene—this one created by the premier mortal artisan of the Bronze Age, Daedalus himself:

IIⓣ76 Iliad XVIII 590–606

590    Ἐν δὲ χορὸν ποίκιλλε περικλυτὸς ἀμφιγυήεις,
          τῷ ἴκελον οἷόν ποτ’ ἐνὶ Κνωσῷ εὐρείῃ
          Δαίδαλος ἤσκησεν καλλιπλοκάμῳ Ἀριάδνῃ.
          ἔνθα μὲν ἠΐθεοι καὶ παρθένοι ἀλφεσίβοιαι
          ὀρχεῦντ’ ἀλλήλων ἐπὶ καρπῷ χεῖρας ἔχοντες.
595    τῶν δ’ αἳ μὲν λεπτὰς ὀθόνας ἔχον, οἳ δὲ χιτῶνας
          εἵατ’ ἐϋννήτους, ἦκα στίλβοντας ἐλαίῳ·
          καί ῥ’ αἳ μὲν καλὰς στεφάνας ἔχον, οἳ δὲ μαχαίρας
          εἶχον χρυσείας ἐξ ἀργυρέων τελαμώνων.
          οἳ δ’ ὁτὲ μὲν θρέξασκον ἐπισταμένοισι πόδεσσι
600    ῥεῖα μάλ’, ὡς ὅτε τις τροχὸν ἄρμενον ἐν παλάμῃσιν
          ἑζόμενος κεραμεὺς πειρήσεται, αἴ κε θέῃσιν·
          ἄλλοτε δ’ αὖ θρέξασκον ἐπὶ στίχας ἀλλήλοισι.
          πολλὸς δ’ ἱμερόεντα χορὸν περιίσταθ’ ὅμιλος
          τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς 

605    φορμίζων· δοιὼ δὲ κυβιστητῆρε κατ’ αὐτοὺς 

          μολπῆς ἐξάρχοντoς ἐδίνευον κατὰ μέσσους.

590    The renowned one [= Hephaistos], the one with the two strong arms,
               pattern-wove [poikillein] [
84] in it [= the Shield] a khoros. [85]
          It [= the khoros] was just like the one that, once upon a time in far-ruling Knossos,
          Daedalus made for Ariadne, the one with the beautiful tresses [plokamoi].
          There were young men there, [
86] and girls who are courted with gifts of cattle,
          and they all were dancing with each other, holding hands at the wrist.
595    The girls were wearing delicate dresses, while the boys were clothed in khitons
          well woven, gleaming exquisitely, with a touch of olive oil.
          The girls had beautiful garlands [stephanai], while the boys had knives
          made of gold, hanging from knife-belts made of silver.
          Half the time they moved fast in a circle, with expert steps,
600    showing the greatest ease, as when a wheel, solidly built, is given a spin by the hands
          of a seated potter, who is testing it whether it will run well. {299|300}
          The other half of the time they moved fast in straight lines, alongside each other.
          And a huge assembly stood around the place of the khoros, which evokes desire,
          and they were all delighted. In their midst sang-and-danced [melpesthai] a divine singer,
605    playing on the phorminx. [
87] Two special dancers among them
          were swirling as he led [ex-arkhein] [
88] the singing-and-dancing [molpē]
               in their midst. {300|301}

II§436 On the surface, the craft that is used to produce this picture of the work of Hephaistos is metalwork, specifically bronzework. Underneath the surface, it is of course the craft of poetry that produces the picture. And, as we saw from the Homeric descriptions of the diplax made by Helen and the diplax made by Andromache, a metaphor for this craft of poetry is the craft of pattern-weaving. So the application of this metaphor of pattern-weaving to the bronzework of the divine artisan, as indicated by the word poikillein ‘pattern-weave’, highlights not only the parallelism of these two crafts but also the prestige of poetry as a comparable craft.

II§439 As I argued in Chapter 9, linguistic analysis of Homeric poetry reveals three major dialectal phases embedded in the language of this poetry. These phases are Ionic, Aeolic, and Mycenaean. As the name Mycenaean indicates, the earliest of these three phases is grounded in the Bronze Age.

II§440 As I also argued in Chapter 9, an ideal point of entry for reconstructing the Mycenaean phase of Homeric poetry is the region of the Troad in Asia Minor as it existed around 600 BCE. Here we find evidence for competing Ionic and Aeolic traditions of poetry about the epic past, and this evidence comes not only from the Homeric poetry of the Iliad, albeit residually, but also from the poetry of Sappho and Alcaeus. By comparing these competing traditions, we saw how the dominantly Aeolic poetry of Sappho and Alcaeus is cognate in content as well as in form with the dominantly Ionic poetry that characterizes Homer. As cognates, these two traditions of poetry point to an uninterrupted continuum stemming from the Bronze Age. {301|302}

II§441 Reconstructing backward in time from the Ionic to the Aeolic to the Mycenaean phase of the Homeric language, we have encountered a remarkable pattern of continuity in references to the craft of pattern-weaving, extending all the way back to the Bronze Age. And we have noted how this craft of pattern-weaving rivals the craft of bronzework itself in making contact with the Bronze Age. And we have also noted that the craft of Homeric poetry rivals both these other crafts.

II§443 When Andromache pattern-weaves her web, she is weaving the plot of the Homeric Iliad. Homeric poetry pictures Andromache in the act of weaving this web at the precise moment when the news of her beloved Hector’s death is about to overwhelm her. As we read in the scholia (A) for the Iliad (XXII 440), Aristarchus thought that Andromache must have had a premonition of this news. And it was precisely the poetry of this news that Andromache was pattern-weaving at that very moment. That poetry, viewed overall, is the story of Troy, in other words, the story of Ilion, the Iliad.

II§444 This story is told not only by way of Homeric poetry or by way of pattern-weaving as represented by Homeric poetry: it is told also by way of metalworking, sculpting, and painting. The story of Troy as told in the weaving of Helen and Andromache can also be told in the metalwork we see on the surface of the Shield of Achilles. Similarly, the story of the Battle of the Gods and Giants as it is woven into the web of Athena can also be metalworked into the surface of the Shield of Athena {302|303} or sculpted on the walls of her house, the Parthenon. The story of Troy can even be painted on walls, as in the Stoa Poikile (Pausanias 1.15.2).

II§446 In the case of Geometric vase painting, the medium of painting not only imitates the varied patterns woven into fabrics. It also represents the fabrics themselves, along with the patterns woven into these fabrics. The visual effect is a mise en abîme, since the variations of human forms in the painting re-enact the variations of human forms that are pattern-woven into the fabrics worn or displayed by these human forms.

II§447 To take one example from the rich repertoire of Geometric vase paintings, I draw attention to the skirts worn by a series of girls in a chorus (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Geometric amphora: detail of neck, chorus girls. Athens, National Archaeological Museum, 313. Drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

II§448 Another example is a shroud held up for display over the head of a corpse placed on a bier. The corpse is being lamented by a choral ensemble of lamenting men and women, and the woman who displays the shroud is evidently the lead singer of the choral ensemble (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Geometric vase: detail of funerary ritual, choral ensemble of lamenting men and women mourn a corpse placed on a bier. Karlsruhe, Badisches Landesmuseum, 2674. Drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

II§449 The shroud that is represented in this Geometric vase painting is analogous to the shroud that is rewoven every day by Penelope in the Odyssey—only to be unwoven every night—for the ever delayed occasion of a funeral planned for her father-in-law, corresponding to the ever delayed occasion of a remarriage planned for Penelope herself. The potential variety of continuous reweavings of this fabric corresponds to the potential variety of continuous repaintings of patterns to be painted on Geometric vases—or of continuous reperformances of patterns to be performed in Homeric poetry. {303|305}

{303|305} II§450 The variation that is woven into fabrics worn by women as choral performers is represented not only in the vase paintings of the Geometric period. It is represented also in fresco paintings that date back to the Mycenaean and even to the Minoan eras of the Bronze Age. A moment ago (Figure 7), I drew attention to a Geometric vase painting that showed a variety of skirts worn by a series of girls singing and dancing in a chorus (Figure 7). I said girls instead of maidens or women simply to make a point about the relevance of the etymology of girl. In earlier phases of the English language, the noun girl referred to an article of clothing, such as a skirt, and it meant ‘girl’ only by metonymy. Such a metonymy is relevant to the ancient practice of choral singing and dancing, preceded by choral procession. Here I turn to the visual arts of the Bronze Age, in particular, to the fresco paintings that adorned the walls of the great palaces of the Mycenaean era in the Bronze Age (Figures 9, 10). The beauty and the pleasure of seeing and hearing a young girl dance and sing in a choral performance—and lead the procession that leads to the choral performance—converges on the spectacularly varied vision of the skirts that were pattern-woven for the occasion of processing and dancing and singing:

Figure 9. Fresco: processional women. After fragments found on northwest slope (52 H nws) at Pylos. Drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

Figure 10. Fresco: processional women. After fragments from Old Kadmeia, Thebes. Drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

II§451 As in the case of Geometric vase paintings, we see in such Mycenaean fresco paintings a glimpse of the variety inherent in the craft of pattern-weaving, comparable to the variety inherent in the craft of painting—or in the craft of making Homeric verse.

II§452 By now I have traced the craft of pattern-weaving all the way back to the Bronze Age. It is a craft that is most visible in the visual arts of the Bronze Age, which represent the beauty and the pleasure of variation woven into the skirts of participants in choral singing and dancing and processing at festivals. And by now we see that the essence of this craft of pattern-weaving, as conveyed by the verb poikillein in Homeric poetry, is variety itself and the pleasurable beauty to be found in variety. Such is the variety exemplified by Homeric poetry itself through the ages.

II§453 Relevant to the meaning of the verb poikillein as ‘pattern-weave’ is the idiomatic use of the adjective poikilos ‘varied’ in Greek prose. As we see from the usage of Plato, poikilos means ‘multiple (multiplex), multiform’ when contrasted with haploûs ‘simple (simplex), uniform’ (Theaetetus 146d, Phaedrus 277c). [93] Further, whatever is poikilon ‘multiple’ can never be the ‘same’ (as we see from the phrasing in Republic 8.568d, πολὺ καὶ ποικίλον καὶ οὐδέποτε ταὐτόν ‘manifold and varied [poikilon] and never the same thing’). [94] In other words, each time you speak of something that is poikilon, it will be something different, not the same thing as before, each time it recurs. Something that is multiform cannot be the same thing when it recurs, as opposed to something that is uniform. When you repeat something that {305|307} is poikilon, it can never be exactly the same thing that it was before you repeated it. This idea as conveyed by the adjective poikilos ‘varied’ applies also to the verb poikillein in the sense ‘pattern-weave’: when you repeat something in your pattern-weaving, it can never result in exactly the same thing that it was before you repeated it. For a particularly suggestive collocation of the adjective poikilos ‘varied’ with the verb poikillein in the usage of Plato, I highlight the simile describing an idealized state as ἱμάτιον ποικίλον πᾶσιν ἄνθεσιν πεποικιλμένον ‘a varied [poikilon] fabric that is pattern-woven [poikillein] with every kind of flower’ (Republic 8.557c).

II 103. A final retrospective: Andromache’s last look at Hector

II§457 Andromache and Hector have just parted, turning away from each other and heading in opposite directions. He is going off to die while she is going back to her weaving. As she is being led away, Andromache keeps turning her head back again and again, entropalizomenē, hoping to catch one last glimpse of the receding view of her doomed husband: {308|309}

IIⓣ77 Iliad VI 496

ἐντροπαλιζομένη, θαλερὸν κατὰ δάκρυ χέουσα [[308|309]]

She was turning her head back again and again, shedding tears thick and fast.

Figure 11. Hittite graffito: warrior with horsetail crested helmet, found at Boğazköy / Hattusas (Vermeule 1987:146). Drawing by Jill Curry Robbins.

Figure 12. Fresco fragment: warrior with horsetail crested helmet. From a fragment of a Mycenaean or “Achaean” painting (Vermeule 1987:146). Drawing by Valerie Woelfel.

As Emily Vermeule argues, the Homeric picturing of Hector {309|310} wearing such a horsetail crested helmet, which is how he looks the last time Andromache sees him, must go back to the Bronze Age, no later than the fifteenth century BCE. Juxtaposing this Homeric picture with the Hittite and the “Achaean” (Mycenaean) pictures as shown here (Figures 11, 12), Vermeule observes: 

II§459 Just as Andromache is picturing her last mental image of her last parting with Hector, so also the poetry of epic is shaping the last mental image of Andromache in its own act of retrospective, of returning to the fixed image. That act of picturing, like the Homeric picture of Hector, goes all the way back to the Bronze Age.


[ back ] 1. HC ch. 4.

[ back ] 2. HC ch. 4.

[ back ] 3. There is a variant reading at verse 441 for πορφυρέην, which is μαρμαρέην.

[ back ] 4. There is a variant reading at verse 441 for porphureē ‘purple’, which is marmareē ‘gleaming’.

[ back ] 5. Metaphorically, en-passein is to ‘sprinkle’: PR 93.

[ back ] 6. PR 93, citing Wace 1948, followed by Kirk 1985:280 and 1990:199.

[ back ] 7. Kirk 1990:199, relying especially on Wace 1948.

[ back ] 8. Kirk 1985:280, again relying on Wace 1948.

[ back ] 9. See also Kirk 1985:280.

[ back ] 10. Petropoulos 1993.

[ back ] 11. To say that the sequence of flowers is ornamental (Lohmann 1988:59–60) is to undervalue the context: see Grethlein 2007. Moreover, I think that the patterns of pattern-weaving have an associative power that evokes not only the feelings of characters like Andromache (see also Lohmann p. 60; Segal 1971:40–41) but also the narrative that frames such personalized feelings.

[ back ] 12. As an adjective, pastos means ‘sprinkled’, and the derivation from passein ‘sprinkle’ is transparent. As a noun, masculine pastos (also feminine pastás) means ‘bridal chamber’ or ‘bridal bed’, as we see from the contexts surveyed by LSJ; such meanings may be metaphorical extensions of a specific meaning glossed as ‘embroidered bed-curtain’ in LSJ. (See Pollux 3.37, where pastos is explained as a bridal bed-curtain.) Once again, the translation ‘pattern-woven’ is preferable to ‘embroidered’.

[ back ] 13. HC ch. 1.

[ back ] 14. Details in PR 93; see also PP 101.

[ back ] 15. Clader 1976:7n8; see also Collins 1988:42–43.

[ back ] 16. There is a variant reading at verse 126 for πορφυρέην, which is μαρμαρέην.

[ back ] 17. There is a variant reading at verse 126 for porphureē ‘purple’, which is marmareē ‘gleaming’.

[ back ] 18. To repeat, en-passein is to ‘sprinkle’: PR 93.

[ back ] 19. Sacks 1987.

[ back ] 20. HC ch. 2§91, where other possible etymologies are also explored.

[ back ] 21. Chantraine DELG s.v. πέπλος. As Susan Edmunds points out to me (2007.02.17), the tradition of folding may have to do with either how the woven work was worn or how it was stored when not worn.

[ back ] 22. I am mostly in agreement with the commentary of Shear 2001:752–753 with reference to the figures E34 and E35.

[ back ] 23. The size of the Peplos as represented on the Panathenaic Frieze depends on how many times the web is folded in two. I owe this observation to Susan Edmunds.

[ back ] 24. Oktar Skjærvø draws my attention to ancient Germanic traditions of weaving sumptuous wide-loom fabrics

[ back ] 25. On the poetry of Apollonius as a virtual interactive dictionary of Homer, see Rengakos 2001.

[ back ] 26. For kanōn as ‘carpenter’s rule’, see Sophocles F 474.5 ed. Radt; as ‘weaver’s heddle-rod’, see Iliad XXIII 761, Callimachus F 66.4.

[ back ] 27. The dating of this description fits any of the following occasions for the celebration of the quadrennial or Great Panathenaia: 74/3, 70/69, 66/5, 62/1, 58/7, 54/3, 50/49. See Shear 2001:629.

[ back ] 28. In this particular poem, the Ciris, the reference to the Peplos of Athena as displayed at the festival of the Panathenaia in Athens may be influenced by references to the Peplos of Hera as displayed at the festival of the Heraia in Argos. Such references to the Peplos of Hera were featured in a lost work of the poet Calvus, the Io. See Lyne 1978:109–110.

[ back ] 29. On the currus or ‘Vehicle’, see further in the paragraph that follows.

[ back ] 30. This ‘load’ is the massive velum or ‘Sail’ that weights down the mast of the currus or ‘Vehicle’, on which see further in the paragraph that follows.

[ back ] 31. The plural pepla is a metonymy that stems from the basic meaning of peplos as ‘fold’. The plural conveys specific instances of the general visual impression created by the Peplos, which is the ‘folding’ par excellence.

[ back ] 32. The noun coccum means not just ‘berry’: it can also refer to any organism that stains like berries, including the murex (Pliny the Elder Natural History 9.140). On coccum as ‘dye’, see Lyne 1978:114.

[ back ] 33. The aether, which is conventionally imagined as a non-solid space separating the celestial and terrestrial realms, is here made solid by way of piling the rocks of the mountain.

[ back ] 34. For more on the velum ‘Sail’ that is the Peplos, see further in the paragraph that follows.

[ back ] 35. Barber 1991:361–365.

[ back ] 36. Barber 1991:359n2.

[ back ] 37. In another project, I will argue that there survives a reference to this color scheme in verses 61-69 of Ovid Metamorphoses 6.1–145, retelling the myth of Arachne. The narrative woven by Athena centers on her victory over the Giants in the Gigantomachy (verses 70–82).

[ back ] 38. Whereas Porphuriōn is the primary opponent of Athena in the context of the Great Panathenaia, her primary opponent in the context of the Lesser Panathenaia is Astēr. In Odyssey vii 58–62, by contrast, we hear that the king of the Giants is Eurymedon, father of Periboia, who is mother of Nausithoos, ancestor of the Phaeacians.

[ back ] 39. Here I am guided by the general discussion of purple by Lepschy 1998, especially at p. 54. I have also been guided by the acute observations of Susan Edmunds (2007.02.27): “Luminosity in weaving is the illusion of light created by judicious placement of light, medium, and dark colors. Luster is another quality that thread can have (like fine silk, or wool prepared to preserve that quality in it). The luster in the thread will appear or not depending on how the fabric is woven (think of damask in white linen, for instance, where pattern is made by contrasting shinier weave with more matt weave).” She adds that the epithet marmareē “may describe one or another of these effects or, perhaps, the ‘brilliance’ of the overall effect of beautifully chosen colors and patterns.”

[ back ] 40. A distinction between red and blue as two different kinds of purple dye for wool is evident in Akkadian (argamannu and takiltu) and Hebrew (argaman and tekelet): see Lepschy 1998:54.

[ back ] 41. Susan Edmunds (2007.02.27) notes: “The relative amounts of purple and yellow will affect color perception in the following ways: if they are complements (and this depends on which yellow and which purple), they will either intensify each other or cancel each other out (producing gray), depending on whether or not the eye blends them in seeing them (called ‘optical mixing’ ): thus the effects will change with the distance of the viewer from the fabric.”

[ back ] 42. I agree with the formulation of Dué 2006:114: “The sympathetic Trojans of Euripides are not a new phenomenon, but rather represent a continuity of treatment from the earliest Greek epic poetry onward.”

[ back ] 43. Dué 2006:27, 109, following Rabinowitz 1998.

[ back ] 44. Relevant to this theme is the peplos presented to Athena by the Trojan women in Iliad VI.

[ back ] 45. I accept here the manuscript reading ἅρματι. See the next note.

[ back ] 46. The manuscript reading ἅρματι ‘to her chariot [harma]’ is supported by the information we find in the scholia that correspond to the end of Speech 1 (the Panathenaic Oration) of Aelius Aristides (1.404), where the orator sums up the accomplishment of having made the whole speech by comparing it to the Peplos woven for the Great Panathenaia (εἴργασται καὶ ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος ἀντὶ τοῦ πέπλου κόσμος, Παναθηναίων τῇ θεωρίᾳ ‘I have made, in place of the Peplos, this speech of mine as an adornment for the spectacle of the Panathenaia’). Here is the relevant wording in the scholia commenting on the summation of Aristides: ἐν τοῖς Παναθηναίοις ὕφαινον αἱ παρθένοι Ἀθήνησι πέπλον, ἐν ᾧ ἅρμα ἦν ἐντετυπωμένον, καὶ ἃ κατὰ τῶν γιγάντων ἡ θεὸς ἔπραξεν ‘at the Panathenaia, the maidens in Athens wove a Peplos in which was figured a chariot [harma] along with the deeds accomplished by the goddess [= Athena] in the war against the Giants’.

[ back ] 47. I translate καλλιδίφρους, the epithet of the horses yoked to the chariot of Athena, as ‘matching the beautiful chariot’ in order to convey a link between this epithet and the noun ἅρματι. Editors have tried to emend the manuscript reading ἅρματι on the grounds that καλλιδίφρους means ‘marked by a beautiful chariot’, so that ἅρματι seems redundant. I propose, however, that the double use of ‘chariot’ can be explained as a verbal re-enactment of yoking the horses to the chariot. In the process, the beauty of the horses is linked to the beauty of the chariot—and vice versa. And the linking that is achieved through the artistic bravura of the poet matches the linking that is achieved through the artistic bravura of the pattern-weaver.

[ back ] 48. I interpret the reference here to Titans is a Panhellenic way of referring to the Athenian charter myth about the Giants who battle the gods for cosmic supremacy.

[ back ] 49. In a comedy of Strattis, who flourished in the late fifth and early fourth century BCE, we find that the threads for pattern-weaving into the Peplos the charter myth of the battle of the gods with the Giants have two colors: the Peplos is both κρόκινος ‘saffron-colored’ and ὑακίνθινος ‘hyacinth-colored’ (F 73 ed. Kassel-Austin via scholia for Euripides Hecuba 468: ὅτι δὲ κρόκινός ἐστι καὶ ὑακίνθινος καὶ τοὺς Γίγαντας ἐμπεποίκιλται, δηλοῖ Στράττις).

[ back ] 50. Earlier, I posited an alternative version where the weavers of these peploi are imagined as native Trojan women.

[ back ] 51. Aristotle F 637 (ed. Rose p. 395, via the scholia for Aristides p. 323 ed. Dindorf).

[ back ] 52. Asterios according to one set of scholia for Aristides (Aristotle F 637 ed. Rose p. 395.20). Astēr according to another set of scholia (Rose p. 395.5).

[ back ] 53. The wording of the second version is of interest: ἐπὶ ᾿Αστέρι τῷ γίγαντι ὑπὸ ᾿Αθηνᾶς ἀναιρεθέντι ‘to commemorate Astēr the Giant, killed by Athena’. On the semantics of epi plus dative in contexts of aetiologizing various festivals, see PH 4§7 (= pp. 120–121); also 4§6n15 (= p. 119) and 5§12n38 (= p. 142).

[ back ] 54. Scheid/Svenbro 1994:28n48.

[ back ] 55. PR 93–94.

[ back ] 56. On epic as a hymnic consequent, see HC 2§§97, 109, 113–114, 116.

[ back ] 57. On the concept neoteric, see Chapter 3, the section entitled “A post-Athenocentric view of the Homēridai.”

[ back ] 58. HC ch. 2.

[ back ] 59. HC ch. 1.

[ back ] 60. Gérard-Rousseau 1968:44–47.

[ back ] 61. In some Homeric contexts (as in Iliad XX 69), Enūalios is a god in his own right, distinct from Ares, just as Paiāwōn is in some contexts distinct from Apollo (Iliad V 401, 899–900): see Nagy 1974:136–138.

[ back ] 62. Gérard-Rousseau 1968:38–40.

[ back ] 63. Nagy 1969.

[ back ] 64. HC ch. 4.

[ back ] 65. Also attested at this verse, besides ποίκιλλε (poikillein), is the variant ποίησε (poieîn), with the neutral meaning of ‘make’.

[ back ] 66. This word khoros can designate either the place where singing and dancing takes place or the group of singers and dancers who perform at that place.

[ back ] 67. Parke 1977:92–93.

[ back ] 68. See Hesychius s.v. ἐργαστῖναι· αἱ τὸν πέπλον ὑφαίνουσαι ‘ergastinai: women who weave [huphainein] the Peplos’. For a basic work on the ergastinai, see B. Nagy 1972; see also Aleshire and Lambert 2003, especially pp. 75–76 on the semantics of ergazesthai ‘work’, which can apply to work done on woolen fabric (just as it can apply to work done on bronze).

[ back ] 69. I infer that the two oxen who were late for the festival of the Heraia in the narrative of Herodotus (1.31.1–5) about Kleobis and Biton were meant to be the two premier sacrificial victims that inaugurated the mass sacrifices of the other ninety-eight cattle; on premier sacrifices, see my analysis of the festival of Artemis at Eretria in PR 39–53.

[ back ] 70. I note the metonymy here: bronze as an extension of victory in the contest, and we have just seen that this bronze is to be ‘energized’ (as in the Greek word en-ergeia] in the sense that it has work (ergon) done on it in the form of tripods or cauldrons or shields or mixing bowls. See also Hesychius s.v. agōn khalkeios.

[ back ] 71. Here we see that the aspis is the premier form of bronze at this festival.

[ back ] 72. The myrtle blossom is the ultimate metonym of the victory.

[ back ] 73. I infer that Arkhinos here figures as the culture hero of the bronze shield.

[ back ] 74. So Arkhinos is the aetiological founder of the agōn ‘festival of competitions’.

[ back ] 75. Clearly, the pompē ‘procession’ is integral to the thusia ‘sacrifice’.

[ back ] 76. See again Hesychius s.v. agōn khalkeios.

[ back ] 77. On the festival of Hera in Argos as the Aspis or ‘Shield’: Nilsson 1906:42. Epigraphical references collected in Zeitlin 1970:659n44.

[ back ] 78. Zeitlin 1970:659. In Sophocles Electra 911–912, it is made explicit that Electra is like Cinderella, forbidden to attend the festival.

[ back ] 79. Zeitlin 1970:659n44.

[ back ] 80. I interpret the combination of κόμαι … πλοχμοί θ’ ‘hair … and curls’ as meaning ‘hair with curls’. As a parallel to the simile that we see at work in κόμαι χαρίτεσσιν ὁμοῖαι ‘hair looking like the blossoms of myrtle’, we may compare οὔλας … κόμας ὑακινθίνῳ ἄνθει ὁμοίας ‘curly hair looking like the blossom of the hyacinth’ at Odyssey vi 231 and xxiii 158. The simile of the myrtle blossoms at Iliad XVII 51–52 modulates into a metaphor of olive blossoms at 53–59. In terms of the extended metaphor, the myrtle blossoms in this case may perhaps be imagined initially as red and subsequently as white. The white would match the color of the olive blossoms. For a reference to the white color of myrtle blossoms in a garland, see Pindar Isthmian 4.69–70 (87–88).

[ back ] 81. See also Dué 2006:67. More on myrtles in Pindar Isthmian 8.65–66, on which see Dué p. 73.

[ back ] 82. On Pythagoras and the shield of Euphorbos, see the scholia T for Iliad XVII 29–30; also Diodorus 10.6.2–3 and Ovid Metamorphoses 15.160–164; also Porphyry Life of Pythagoras 26 and Iamblichus Life of Pythagoras 63. More in Riedweg 2002:17, 69, 98, 124.

[ back ] 83. Up to now, there has been a series of contiguities, climaxing now with the Shield itself.

[ back ] 84. Also attested at this verse, besides ποίκιλλε (poikillein), is the variant ποίησε (poieîn), with the neutral meaning of ‘make’.

[ back ] 85. I need to repeat that this word khoros can designate either the place where singing and dancing takes place or the group of singers and dancers who perform at that place. The relationship of the place with the group that is the khoros is metonymic.

[ back ] 86. The ‘there’ is both the place of dance and the place in the picture that is the Shield.

[ back ] 87. After τερπόμενοι ‘and they were all delighted’ at verse 604, the sequence μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς | φορμίζων ‘In their midst sang and danced a divine singer, playing on the phorminx’ is not attested in the medieval manuscript tradition but was restored by F. A. Wolf in his 1804 edition of the Iliad. The relevant verse numbering of 604–605 in current editions of the Iliad goes back to the Wolf edition. The restoration is based on what we read in Athenaeus (5.181c) about the treatment of this passage in the edition of Aristarchus: reportedly, that editor accepted the wording τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς | φορμίζων ‘and they were all delighted. In their midst sang and danced a divine singer, playing on the phorminx’ at Odyssey iv 17–18, where it is still attested in the medieval manuscript tradition, while rejecting the same wording in the corresponding passage at Iliad XVIII 604–605. Instead of the two verses that take up the space of 604–605, τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς | φορμίζων, δοιὼ δὲ κυβιστητῆρε κατ’ αὐτοὺς ‘and they were all delighted. In their midst sang and danced a divine singer, playing on the phorminx. Two special dancers among them …’, Aristarchus preferred to read simply one verse, τερπόμενοι· δοιὼ δὲ κυβιστητῆρε κατ’ αὐτοὺς ‘and they were all delighted. Two special dancers among them …’, with one verse instead of two verses taking up the same space. As I note in Homer the Classic (2§74), the wording τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς | φορμίζων ‘and they were all delighted. In their midst sang and danced a divine singer, playing on the phorminx’, which is the wording attested at Odyssey iv 17–18 and restored at Iliad XVIII 604–605, can be independently authenticated on the basis of the wording attested at Odyssey xiii 27–28, where we read τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς | Δημόδοκος ‘and they were all delighted. In their midst sang and danced the divine singer, Demodokos’. The evidence of this passage from Odyssey xiii is missing in the reportage of Athenaeus about the editorial judgments of Aristarchus. And it is missing also in the argumentation of Revermann 1998, who reasons that the wording μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς | φορμίζων in Iliad XVIII results from what he calls “rhapsodic intervention” (p. 37). I offer a critique of this reasoning in Homer the Classic (2§74).

[ back ] 88. As we read in Athenaeus (5.180d), Aristarchus argued that ἐξάρχοντες, which is the reading we see in the medieval manuscripts, should be the preferred reading at Iliad XVIII 606 and at Odyssey iv 19 instead of ἐξάρχοντoς. On the other hand, Athenaeus defends ἐξάρχοντoς, and his wording indicates that this alternative reading was attested as a textual variant. If that is really the case, then we are dealing here with two textual variants, ἐξάρχοντoς and ἐξάρχοντες. And both of these forms can be shown to be formulaic variants as well, as I argue in Homer the Classic (2§74). The variants ἐξάρχοντoς and ἐξάρχοντες indicate two different scenarios corresponding to the longer and the shorter versions of the wording. According to the shorter version as signaled by ἐξάρχοντες, it is the two specialized dancers whose performance leads into the choral singing and dancing. According to the longer version as signaled by ἐξάρχοντoς, which is the reading I adopt here, it is the lyre singer joined by the two specialized dancers whose combined performance leads into the choral singing and dancing. The second of these two scenarios resembles what happens when Demodokos the lyre singer is joined by specialized dancers in their combined performance at Odyssey viii 256–266. I repeat from the previous footnote the wording attested at Odyssey xiii 27–28, where we read τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς | Δημόδοκος ‘they were all delighted, and in their midst sang and danced the divine singer, Demodokos’.

[ back ] 89. Barber 1991:365–382.

[ back ] 90. On Homeric poetry as a direct continuator of realia from the Bronze Age, see also Nagy 1969. A case in point is the mention in Odyssey xix (188) of Amnisos, which I compare with the mention of Amnisos in a Linear B tablet from Knossos.

[ back ] 91. The virtuosity of the women of Lesbos in weaving is parallel to the virtuosity of the women of Troy.

[ back ] 92. Barber 1991:365–372.

[ back ] 93. For comparable wording, see Plato Laws 2.665c. Again I note the etymology of haploûs ‘simple (simplex)’.

[ back ] 94. For comparable wording, see Plato Republic 10.604e.

[ back ] 95. Bassett 1938:50.

[ back ] 96. HC 1§§178–196.

[ back ] 97. HC 4§§247–258.

[ back ] 98. For more on the Delian Maidens, I refer to my analysis in HC 2§§26–40.

[ back ] 99. HC ch. 1.

[ back ] 100. Vermeule 1987:146. The doubts expressed by Kirk 1990:223 fail to shake my confidence in Vermeule’s argument.