The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics

  Tsagalis, Christos. 2008. The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics. Hellenic Studies Series 29. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 2. Χαρίεσσα and στυγερὴ ἀοιδή: The Self Referential Encomium of the Odyssey and the Tradition of the Nostoi

The examination of Odyssey xxiv 191–202 will deal with the following problems associated with the doubts about the authenticity of this passage, raised by both soft and hard core analysts: i) the connection between the formulaic introduction to Agamemnon’s speech and the first two verses, in which he addresses Odysseus in the second person; ii) the praise of Penelope and its relevance to the Odyssean plot; iii) the function of this passage for the poetics of the Odyssey.

Physical and Notional Presence: Addressing an Absent Addressee

Heubeck’s term “unusual” refers to the lack of regularity with respect to the pair ‘introductory formula v. initial speech-address’, whereas Sourvinou-Inwood’s “nonsensical” pertains to the absurdity of the situation. In other words, Heubeck thinks that such a phenomenon is unusual, not regularly observed, while Sourvinou-Inwood argues that it does not make sense. Before committing ourselves to one of these two sides, it is worthwhile to examine whether such or an equivalent phenomenon is attested anywhere else in the Odyssey.

Verses x 456 and x 504 (Διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν᾿ Ὀδυσσεῦ) are omitted by the majority of manuscripts (x 456 is also missing in Eustathius). x 456 seems to be an interpolation based on x 400–401 (ἡ δέ μευ ἄγχι στᾶσα προσηύδα δῖα θεάων· // Διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν᾿ Ὀδυσσεῦ); but, whereas in x 400–401 Circe is speaking in the presence of Odysseus alone, in x 456 she is speaking to a group of people (x 464: ὑμῖν; x 466: ἡμῖν) [6] so her address to Odysseus seems odd, to say the least. The reverse of this phenomenon can be observed in x 504, where Circe is indeed addressing only Odysseus (cf. μελέσθω [505], στήσας [506], πετάσσας [506] etc.), [7] but the introductory formula διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν᾿ Ὀδυσσεῦ is also omitted by a large number of manuscripts. Early critics, such as Ameis-Hentze [8] and Ludwich, [9] favored the omission of the introductory formula, but Heubeck [10] rightly pointed to the existence of a whole pattern of thought, which is at work in the three speeches of Circe to Odysseus. In Heubeck’s own words, “… 456 is prepared by μευ ἄγχι στᾶσα, and the poet wanted to underline the parallelism between Circe’s three speeches (456–65, 488–95, 504-40) by beginning them all in the same way (456 + μηκέτι νῦν … 457; 488 + μηκέτι νῦν … 489; 504 + μή τί τοι … 505).” Through this parallelism one can see that the correspondence between an introductory formula and the first verse of an address is not always observed. On the contrary, some flexibility is allowed when a speech is pigeonholed within a larger framework (like that of Circe’s encounter with Odysseus). [11]

In the same manner, we can draw the line between the physical addressee of a speech designated by the introductory formula and the notional addressee, the character whom the speaker has in his mind when uttering the speech. It is now time to turn to xxiv 191, where we encounter an equivalent (albeit odder) situation, since in x 456 Odysseus is present (although as member of the group of his comrades), whereas in the second Nekyia he is physically absent from the underworld. But, at least now we have paved the way towards the notion of irregularity as opposed to that of absurdity and senselessness. The text to be discussed runs as follows (xxiv 191–202):

Τὸν δ᾿ αὖτε ψυχὴ προσεφώνεεν Ἀτρεΐδαο·
῾῾ὄλβιε Λαέρταο πάϊ, πολυμήχαν᾿ Ὀδυσσεῦ,
ἦ ἄρα σὺν μεγάλῃ ἀρετῇ ἐκτήσω ἄκοιτιν·
ὡς ἀγαθαὶ φρένες ἦσαν ἀμύμονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
κούρῃ Ἰκαρίου· ὡς εὖ μέμνητ᾿ Ὀδυσῆος,
ἀνδρὸς κουριδίου. τῷ οἱ κλέος οὔ ποτ᾿ ὀλεῖται
ἧς ἀρετῆς, τεύξουσι δ᾿ ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδήν
ἀθάνατοι χαρίεσσαν ἐχέφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
οὐχ ὡς Τυνδαρέου κούρη κακὰ μήσατο ἔργα,
κουρίδιον κτείνασα πόσιν, στυγερὴ δέ τ᾿ ἀοιδή
ἔσσετ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἀνθρώπους, χαλεπὴν δέ τε φῆμιν ὀπάσσει
θηλυτέρῃσι γυναιξί, καὶ ἥ κ᾿ εὐεργὸς ἔῃσιν.᾿᾿

“Son of Laertes, shrewd Odysseus!” the soul of Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
cried. “You are a fortunate man to have won a wife of such pre-eminent virtue!
How faithful was your flawless Penelope, Icarius’ daughter! How loyally she kept
the memory of the husband of her youth! The glory of her virtue will not fade
with the years, but the deathless gods themselves will make a beautiful song for
mortal ears in honour of the constant Penelope. What a contrast with
Clytaemnestra, the daughter of Tyndareus, and the infamy she sank to when she
killed me, the husband of her youth. The song men will sing of her will be one of
detestation. She has destroyed the reputation of her whole sex, virtuous women
and all.”

The formula πολυμήχαν᾿ Ὀδυσσεῦ is attested seven times in the Iliad and 16 times in the Odyssey, localized always in the second hemistich after the penthemimeral caesura. It is preceded by the phrase διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, thus forming a single-verse formulaic address to Odysseus. Odyssey xxiv 192 is the only case where the formula πολυμήχαν᾿ Ὀδυσσεῦ is preceded by the phrase ὄλβιε Λαέρταο πάϊ instead of διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη. [
12] This is a clear case of deviation from a formulaic pattern, which is widely attested in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. This irregularity is connected to the other irregularity, that of the non sequitur between xxiv 191 and xxiv 192, which Heubeck [13] has characterized as “unusual” and Sourvinou-Inwood [14] as “nonsensical.”

In fact, in the last part of the first speech of Agamemnon to Amphimedon in the second Nekyia (Odyssey xxiv 106–119, esp. 114–119), the name of Odysseus creeps twice on the surface. Amphimedon mentions Odysseus no less than eight times in his answer to Agamemnon’s questions about how he got to Hades. This high frequency of uttering Odysseus’ name results in Odysseus’ notional presence in the scene, through his reactivation in the minds of the audience. This point needs further elaboration:

Odysseus cannot make a normal appearance at this point, for he is, after all, physically absent. His summoning is unusual, the more so since he is addressed in a victorious, triumphant manner. But as the pronoun τόν in xxiv 191 becomes an allusive starting point (designating Amphimedon although referring to Odysseus), so the staging formula acquires a new, meta-traditional function. It is not so much the soul of Agamemnon who speaks, but the tradition of the Odyssey addressing its main hero, Odysseus, who is notionally present in the underworld. By addressing Odysseus, the Odyssean tradition ‘erases’ the personae of Agamemnon and Amphimedon, who are physically present, and summons on stage not the narrative Odysseus, but the Odysseus of all time, the one who has surpassed the limits of the action and has become the trademark of the collective consciousness of the tradition.

Agamemnon’s voice does not become the singer’s, but gets to be understood as such by the audience. Agamemnon serves here as the mouthpiece of the tradition which, through this device, is able to make a comment about itself. Besides, the interchangeability phenomenon discussed above occurs in the very last of the speeches belonging to the scene in the underworld. After its completion, the second Nekyia is over and the listeners are transferred back to Ithaca. By placing Agamemnon’s speech at a crucial juncture between the underworld episode and the continuation of the plot in Ithaca, the tradition of the Odyssey intrudes into the narrative and makes explicit what was implicit in the whole of the second Nekyia, namely the presence of Odysseus. Alluded to by the Achilles-Agamemnon speeches, foreshadowed by the Agamemnon-Amphimedon dialogue, the fate of Odysseus is slowly but carefully revealed by the poet, who has been artfully moving towards his goal, i.e. the presentation of his hero’s happy fate in comparison to that of his epic comrades. Now, at the end of the whole scene, it is time for the singer to remove the curtain and cease the shadows from speaking. It is the moment for the tradition to make its own voice heard at last.

The Song of Praise: Penelope and the Encomium of the Odyssey

The undoubtable kernel of this speech is the eulogy for Penelope, who is praised for her ‘virtue’ (ἀρετή). The high sophistication of this encomium is due to the epic’s most emphatic and explicit statement dealing with her κλέος as the subject of a ‘pleasing song’ (χαρίεσσα ἀοιδή) in opposition to the ‘evil fame’ (χαλεπὴ φῆμις) of Clytaemestra, which will form the subject of a ‘hateful song’ (στυγερὴ ἀοιδή). Before embarking on a discussion pertaining to the function of the speech in relation to the figures of Odysseus and Penelope, I shall begin with a detailed structural analysis of this passage.

Structure of the speech

I. Introduction (192–193)

II. Praise of Penelope (194–198)

194: ὡς ἀγαθαὶ φρένες ἦσαν ἀμύμονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
195: κούρῃ Ἰκαρίου· ὡς εὖ μέμνητ᾿ Ὀδυσῆος,
196: ἀνδρὸς κουριδίου. τῷ οἱ κλέος οὔ ποτ᾿ ὀλεῖται
197: ἦς ἀρετῆς, τεύξουσι δ᾿ ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδήν
198: ἀθάνατοι χαρίεσσαν ἐχέφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ,

III. Blame of Clytaemestra (199–202)

199: οὐχ ὡς Τυνδαρέου κούρη κακὰ μήσατο ἔργα,
200: κουρίδιον κτείνασα πόσιν, στυγερὴ δέ τ᾿ ἀοιδή
201: ἔσσετ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἀνθρώπους, χαλεπὴν δέ τε φῆμιν ὀπάσσει
202: θηλυτέρῃσι γυναιξί, καὶ ἥ κ᾿ εὐεργὸς ἔῃσιν.

The parallelism between the fate of Penelope and that of Clytaemestra is highlighted throughout the speech in the following ways:

a. The encomium of Penelope is juxtaposed to the blame of Clytaemestra
b. Parts II and III of the speech have almost the same length (5:4 verses)
c. Parts II and III are symmetrically developed:

1. κούρῃ Ἰκαρίου Τυνδαρέου κούρη
2. εὖ μέμνητ κακὰ μήσατο ἔργα
3. ἀνδρὸς κουριδίου κουρίδιον … πόσιν
4. οἱ κλέος οὔ ποτ᾿ ὀλεῖταιοἱ χαλεπὴν δέ τε φῆμιν
5. ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἐπ᾿ ἀνθρώπους
6. χαρίεσσαν ἀοιδήν στυγερὴ δέ τ᾿ ἀοιδή

The thematic units corresponding to the above structural analysis are the following:

  1. Characterization of both women by their patronymics to emphasize the family element
  2. Good ‘memory’ (μνήμη) of Penelope vs. evil intelligence (μῆτις) of Clytaemestra
  3. Connection to their husbands
  4. Imperishable ‘fame’ (κλέος) vs. evil reputation
  5. Impact on mortal men
  6. Pleasing song versus hateful song

By presenting Penelope’s ἀρετή as paragonal and by linking it specifically with the memory of her husband Odysseus, the epic tradition of the Odyssey bestows on the daughter of Icarius κλέος that will never perish (Odyssey xxiv 196). The expression οὔ ποτ᾿ ὀλεῖται has a temporal dimension, [22] since it refers to the everlasting duration of Penelope’s κλέος. At the same time, the epic defines itself retrospectively as a divine deed and as a song of Penelope, whose persona has literally become the unfailing memory of Odysseus. [23]

Memory is of prime importance for Odyssean poetics. It is through memory that Odysseus becomes an ἀοιδός, it is through the memory of Penelope that he seeks his νόστος, and through memory that he manages to escape from Calypso’s world, the world of forgetfulness. Throughout his adventures Odysseus is faced with various perils whose common denominator is the danger of oblivion, of forgetting Ithaca and Penelope. His quest is both external and internal: he has to fight against strange beings, to employ his polytropic νόησις, his μῆτις, in order to survive. What his adventures represent is not limited to external physical danger, but includes the danger of forgetting who he really is, of loosing his identity. It is the memory of Penelope that helps him recover and return home.

The κλέος of both Odysseus and Penelope is based not only on memory, but also on δόλοι (Odyssey ix 19–20; xix 137), which both husband and wife employ to overcome the dangers with which they are faced. Clytaemestra uses δόλοι as well (Odyssey xi 422, xi 439), only, to “pour down shame on herself and on all women after her” (Odyssey xi 433–434). [29] Thus, the second Nekyia stands for the metapoetic locus, where the correlation of the δόλοι and κλέος of Odysseus with the cunningness and good fame of Penelope becomes clear. Odysseus and Penelope have cooperated in making possible Odysseus’ final revenge against the suitors not through a common plan, but through poetic direction. The faithful wife uses her ‘intelligence’ (μῆτις) to put off the suitors and give Odysseus the opportunity to once again become her husband and the king of Ithaca. [30] Using the expression κακὰ μήσατο ἔργα (xxiv 199) for Clytaemestra, [31] the Odyssean song-tradition points to her δόλος, by which she murders Agamemnon upon his return from Troy. Conversely, the Odyssey uses the doom of Agamemnon not simply as the negative reflection of Odysseus’ fate, but also as the basis upon which it will define both heroism and happiness. By linking the narratively separate δόλοι of Odysseus and Penelope, aiming to restore both their οἶκος and κλέος, [32] the Odyssey redefines its own poetic κλέος by diverging from its renowned Iliadic predecessor as well as from the tradition of the Nostoi. It is exactly the generation of a ‘pleasing song’ (χαρίεσσα ἀοιδή) by this new Odyssean κλέος that announces the perennial nature of the Odyssey.

The Supremacy of the Odyssey

The placement of this whole scene in the underworld becomes the ultimate metaphor for the crystallization of the older part of the tradition, which seems to be firmly established at the moment of the completion of our epic. The tradition of the Odyssey is trying to achieve a twofold goal: first, to put its hero in the highest position among the other epic heroes, with respect to his ὄλβος, by means of creating a tri-level climax with Agamemnon at the bottom, Achilles in the middle, and Odysseus in the top position. Second, since epic heroes stand for entire song-traditions, the Odyssey is able to emphatically express its qualitative superiority over its epic counterparts. In this context, intertextuality has become the foil for self-reflexivity and epic rivalry. Odysseus’ supremacy is based on a new, comprehensive measuring of epic fame (κλέος). Agamemnon has neither won ‘imperishable fame’ (κλέος ἄφθιτον), since he did not die in Troy, nor has he fulfilled his νόστος, since when he arrived at Mycenae he was murdered by his wife, Clytaemestra. Achilles won ‘imperishable fame’ (κλέος ἄφθιτον) by dying at Troy, but failed to fulfill his νόστος. Odysseus, the poem’s hero, both won ‘imperishable fame’ (κλέος ἄφθιτον), since he was responsible for the sack of Troy, and fulfilled his νόστος, since he returned home to his faithful wife Penelope and was reestablished as a king in Ithaca.


[ back ] 1. See Heubeck 1992:353-354 for a comprehensive summary; Oswald 1993; Kullmann 1992, 1995:41–53.

[ back ] 2. See Sourvinou-Inwood 1996:100–101, who argues that “[t]here is no plausible reading that can in any way explain away the more serious difficulty involved in vv. 191–202. Agamemnon is supposed to be addressing Amphimedon; in fact, he addresses Odysseus in the second person singular and praises Penelope’s virtue and again compares his own case, having a treacherous wife, to that of Odysseus who was happy to have married such an excellent woman and faithful spouse.”

[ back ] 3. See Odyssey xxiv 23; xxiv 35; xxiv 105; xxiv 120; xxiv 191. Verses 35 and 191 contain the formula τὸν δ᾿ αὖτε ψυχὴ προσεφώνεεν Ἀτρεΐδαο; verse 105 τὸν προτέρη ψυχὴ προσεφώνεεν Ἀτρεΐδαο; verse 23 τὸν προτέρη ψυχὴ προσεφώνεε Πηλεΐωνος; and verse 120 τὸν δ᾿ αὖτε ψυχὴ προσεφώνεεν Ἀμφιμέδοντος. I consider all of these to be allomorphs of the same formula, since they constitute manifestations of the same metrical and syntactical pattern and realizations on the synchronic level of the same preverbal Gestalt. For the notion of preverbal Gestalt in Homeric poetry, see Nagler 1967:269–311, 1974:8.

[ back ] 4. See Sourvinou-Inwood 1996:100–101; see also her previous discussion in the same chapter. For relevant scholia from ancient authorities on the two Nekyiai, see Petzl 1969 and, in particular for the passage under discussion, 65–66.

[ back ] 5. See Sourvinou-Inwood 1996:100n254.

[ back ] 6. Cf. the second person plural forms ὄρνυτε (x 457), πάθετ᾿ (x 458), ἄγετ᾿ ἐσθίετε … πίνετε (x 460), λάβητε (x 461), ἐλείπετε (x 462), πέπασθε (x 465), and the nominative plural participle μεμνημένοι (x 464).

[ back ] 7. Cf. also the second person pronoun τοι (x 505).

[ back ] 8. See Ameis and Hentze 1889.

[ back ] 9. See Ludwich 1889.

[ back ] 10. See Heubeck 1992:67 ad Odyssey x 456.

[ back ] 11. On speech introductions, see Edwards 1970:1–36; Beck 2005:13–15, 32–43, 130–131, 263–266.

[ back ] 12. Rutherford 1992:52 argues that only in xxiv 191 “is Odysseus in a situation where that epithet [sc. ὄλβιος] could be used without absurdity.”

[ back ] 13. See Heubeck 1992:67 ad Odyssey x 456.

[ back ] 14. See Sourvinou-Inwood 1996:100n254.

[ back ] 15. See Heubeck 1992:381 ad Odyssey xxiv 191.

[ back ] 16. The adjective ὄλβιος when used for Achilles and Odysseus in the vocative means “blessed” (2 times in the Odyssey). In the nominative case, ὄλβιος can mean both “blessed” and “wealthy” (6 times in the Odyssey), whereas in the accusative it always means “blessed” (5 times in the Odyssey).

[ back ] 17. Bakker 1997:172.

[ back ] 18. See Frontisi-Ducroux 1986:23–25; Nagy 1990a:202, 1996a:72; Russo and Simon 1968:483–498. For a discussion of the function of the narrator’s tendency to address Patroclus in the second person, see Martin 1989:235–237. On apostrophe in general and its effects, see Kahane 1994:153–155.

[ back ] 19. See West 1989:113–143 and, for the citation, 123.

[ back ] 20. See Sourvinou-Inwood 1996:102. West 1989:132 places the addition of the Epilogue (xxiii 297–xxiv 548) by the Continuator (who is not to be confused with the B-poet or final redactor) at the Panathenaic festival in Athens. She thus tries to cater to newer tastes and beliefs such as those concerning the impunity of a king (Odysseus) who has slaughtered those trying to usurp his power in his absence, as well as the question of final harmony.

[ back ] 21. According to West 1989:124, who follows Shipp 19722:360, we must take σὺν μεγάλῃ ἀρετῇ with ἄκοιτιν and not with ἐκτήσω. In that case we have an unparalleled Homeric feature. Other abnormalities found in the passage under discussion are the Attic brachylogical comparison in xxiv 199 (οὐχ ὡς Τυνδαρέου κούρη) and the genitive Τυνδαρέου which is considered by both Shipp 19722:55 and Chantraine 1986–19886 (1948–1953):197 (GH 1) to be a late feature. It is out of the scope of this chapter to examine peculiar linguistic features in Odyssey xxiv 191–202, since this would entail a general study of the linguistic abnormalities of the second Nekyia. Here, it suffices to say that “late” features do not necessitate “late” composition.

[ back ] 22. The expression οὔ ποτ᾿ ὀλεῖται refers to time, whereas οὐρανὸν ἵκει (the other modifier of κλέος) denotes extent. See Edwards 1985:76 citing Schmitt 1967:8, who has argued that duration and extent conventionally modified ‘fame’ (κλέος) in Indo-European heroic poetry.

[ back ] 23. See Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994:40.

[ back ] 24. Katz 1992:194 maintains that “Agamemnon endeavors to stabilize the indeterminacy of the narrative around a polarity of good and bad woman … But Penelope resists conformity to the conventions of both sexual fidelity and character representation” and “[her] kleos … is never fully stabilized.” Katz deliberately underplays the fixity of Penelope’s figure by suggesting that only on the denotative level of meaning is Penelope’s ‘fame’ (κλέος) based on her loyalty to Odysseus; on the connotative level, her ‘fame’ (κλέος) is a problematic concept. This seems unreasonably vague to me, as Katz fails to explain satisfactorily the Problematik of Penelope’s ‘fame’ (κλέος). Pucci 1987:217 puts the problem on the right track: “Such a limited concession to Penelope’s husband is set against the preceding celebration of Achilles’ kleos in its Iliadic splendor… The contrast is striking: Odysseus’ kleos is debased to a generic reputation for his share and merits in Penelope’s domestic virtues.”

[ back ] 25. Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994:170.

[ back ] 26. See Vernant 1965:80–107.

[ back ] 27. See Kullmann 1995:51, who argues that “the entire second Nekyia amounts to the prophecy of a famous song about Penelope. This is the only reason for its composition that can be found, unless we mean to understand it as a weak duplicate of the first Nekyia, for which we have no cause.” This careful statement epitomizes the importance of Penelope’s encomium and, consequently, of the passage we are discussing as a whole.

[ back ] 28. Pucci 1997:168.

[ back ] 29. The Odyssean tradition employs twice the same (xi 434 = xxiv 202) formula for Clytaemestra’s shame. Interestingly enough, the same formula (Odyssey xv 422) is used by Odysseus in one of his false stories, in which he refers to a woman abducted by Phoenician sailors. For linguistic evidence about the antiquity of this formulaic expression, see Hoekstra 1989:259 ad Odyssey xv 422.

[ back ] 30. See Edwards 1985:81: “[t]he κλέος of each is dependent upon the action of the other.” He also argues that “[t]he Odyssey incorporates Iliadic κλέος within its narrative as the κλέος from a hero’s death. The λόχος for the killing of the suitors has demonstrated that the Odyssey appropriates the Iliad’s view of that strategy” (90).

[ back ] 31. Nagy 1979:37, §13n3 is right in observing that “[t]hese themes correspond to the actual name Klutaiméstre, a form indicating that the wife of Agamemnon is ‘famed’ (Klutai-, from the same root *kleu– as in kléos) on account of what she ‘devised’ (-méstre, from verb médomai). The element méstre, from médomai ‘devise’, corresponds to the theme of κακὰ μήσατο ἔργα ‘she devised [médomai] evil deeds’ at verse 199. As for the element Klutai– ‘famed’, it corresponds to the theme of στυγερὴ … ἀοιδή ‘hateful song’ at verse 200. This hateful song will be not simply about the wife of Agamemnon. Rather, the song is being presented as the very essence of Klytaiméstre.”

[ back ] 32. See Segal 1994:94–95.

[ back ] 33. Felson-Rubin 1994:106 is right in arguing that Agamemnon makes Clytaemestra “a fitting scapegoat for his own (supposedly) undeserved destiny,” but she makes too much, I think, out of “the folly and narrowness of his [Agamemnon’s] male gaze” (107). After all, the song of blame for Clytaemestra exists just because there should be a song of praise for Penelope. It is because the Odyssey desires to praise itself that the Nostoi must be undermined.

[ back ] 34. Finley 1978:3 has argued that “Agamemnon’s statement in the second Nekyia “comes near making our Odysseia a Penelopeia,” and Murnaghan 1987:124, repeating the same view, maintains that “[n]ot only does Penelope provide the most powerful potential threat to Odysseus’ enterprise, but she threatens to usurp his poem as well.” I would not go that far as Finley and Murnaghan. Penelope’s role is no doubt crucial in redefining κλέος but from xxiv 192–202 it is clear that her encomium is subjugated to her husband’s praise. Odysseus is ὄλβιος, among other things because he had a wife of great virtue (σὺν μεγάλῃ ἀρετῇ). Likewise, Agamemnon’s doom is determined by his wife Clytaemestra. The presence of the wives in this passage is a means for one more comparison not only between Odysseus and Agamemnon, but also between two oral epics in which these figures would have formed part of the plot (see Kullmann, 1992:298).

[ back ] 35. See de Jong 2006:188–207, and in particular 197, 203–206. She rightly argues that “by connecting the Odyssey with the gods, the Homeric narrator enhances his status and authority, and by having Agamemnon […] predict the Odyssey, he heightens the effectiveness of this ‘metaleptic’ move.” See also Murnaghan 1987:125; Goldhill 1991:101; Danek 1998:487.

[ back ] 36. Edwards 1985:90. Nagy 1979:37, §13n4 has even traced within this passage an allusion to an audience listening to poetry: “… instances of epì + accusative in the sense of ‘among’ are restricted in Homeric diction to anthrópous ‘humans’ as the object of the preposition. This syntactical idiosyncrasy can be correlated with an interesting thematic association: the expression ep’ anthrópous ‘among humans’ is conventionally linked with kléos (X 213, i 299, xix 334, xxiv 94) and its derivatives (XXIV 202, xiv 403). It is also linked with aoidé ‘song’ at xxiv 201. Because of this parallelism between kléos and aoidé, and because kléos designates the glory conferred by poetry … I infer that ep’ anthrópous ‘among humans’ in these contexts indicates an audience in general listening to poetry in general.”

[ back ] 37. The Iliadic and Aethiopic traditions are represented by Achilles, Patroclus and Antilochus in the underworld, whereas that of the Nostoi by Agamemnon. See Kullmann 1992:298.

[ back ] 38. See Bassett 1923:49–51. Moulton 1974:167 maintains that “[t]he second nekuia, in particular, seems to round out the Homeric picture of Achilles, and explicitly emphasize his kleos. In this episode, we see Agamemnon and Achilles, the two great adversaries of the Iliad, for the last time. Achilles rues his premature death, while Agamemnon contrasts his own fatal homecoming with the funeral honors paid Achilles at Troy.” On the contrast between the homecoming of Odysseus and Agamemnon, which seems to preoccupy the poet of the Odyssey from beginning to end, see Odyssey i 32–43, 298–300; iii 194–198, 303–310; iv 519–537; xi 385-461; xiii 383–385. On the importance of this topic for the whole poem, see Klinger 1964:75–79; Hölscher 1967:1–16.

[ back ] 39. See Nagy 1979:36–38, 222–242, 254–256.

[ back ] 40. Danek 1998:486.

[ back ] 41. Danek 1998:487.

[ back ] 42. Cf. Rutherford 2000:95, who asks the question whether the ‘pleasing song’ that the gods will weave for Penelope is the Odyssey itself or ehoie-poetry, “the genre in which female virtue is the established theme.” See also de Jong 2001:573–574.

[ back ] 43. See Kullmann 1992:297: “Eine Selbstreferenz ist also mit einem intertextuellen Bezug gekoppelt.

[ back ] 44. See also Marg 1956:16–29; Hölscher 1967:9–10; Rüter 1967:253; Nagy 1979:39. All these scholars have argued that the Odyssey places itself at the same level as the Iliad. Edwards 1985:91n39, following Pucci 1979:121–132 (= 1997:1–9), maintains that the Odyssey expresses its disavowal towards the authority and prestige of the Iliad, since it describes it as a song of death.