Agamemnon, the Pathetic Despot: Reading Characterization in Homer

  Porter, Andrew. 2019. Agamemnon, the Pathetic Despot: Reading Characterization in Homer. Hellenic Studies Series 78. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

2. Characterization in Homer and Agamemnon’s Appeal in Iliad 4

2.1 Traditional Characterization

Our discussion in the last chapter argued that Homeric characterization is tradition-based. Epic characters, at least the major ones, are already known in some detail to Homer and his core audience by distinguishable character traits. The existence of recognizable characterization attached to a particular figure frees the poet from the necessity of pure invention, carte blanche. A distinct character already invokes a particular ēthos for the hearer. We will consider theory in action in a moment, by reviewing the lineup of Homeric characters in a central moment from Iliad 4. The choice of this text is appropriate for a preliminary consideration of the methodology used throughout this book, since this Homeric narrative moment involves Agamemnon and a number of other leading heroes (cf. Minchin’s [2011a:331] rationale for choosing Iliad 23.). We will see there that Homer already has an idea of what each of his main characters is like from his tradition.

Considering each individual as he is presented will not only provide examples of reading characterization in Homer, but also introduce nicely the object of our query in the ensuing chapters, Agamemnon himself. Before we turn to Iliad 4, however, we need to affirm several other factors supporting Homer’s tradition-based characterization that complement our discussion in Chapter 1. First, Homeric tradition included some consistency of character; second, an individual character had a recognizable and distinct history; and third, characterization was principally created through word and deed, rather than by abstraction. We will also consider, in the midst of our discussion of Homeric epic, evidence from other oral and oral-derived traditions.

2.1.1 Character Consistency

The choice of “strength” (κάρτος/κράτος) defines the central moment in the narrative’s focus, as it does elsewhere in Homer. The word carries connotations that show its importance as more than just a description of physical prowess. A few examples should suffice to underscore its referential power. In Iliad 1.509, “strength” (κράτος) is made key to the Trojans gaining hegemony over the Achaians; in Iliad 2.118, it is the basis for Zeus bringing about the downfall of cities; in Iliad 6.387, when the Trojans are losing, the Achaians’ rise is measured in terms of an increase in “strength” (κράτος). In Iliad 9.254, “strength” (κάρτος) is the divine gift centrally desired by Achilles, and, in Iliad 17.562, by Menelaos, to hold the Trojans away from Patroklos’ corpse. In the Odyssey, it is the quality that is required for Menelaos to capture the shape-shifting Proteus (4.415), but it also forms the foundation for Alkinoös’ rule over the Phaiacians (6.197). It is the key to success in martial combat and in civilian life, as its use in Homer suggests, and it is here said, notably, to be absent from the Achaians. [13] What can even an Idomeneus do in such a situation but leave the battlefield? We hear the poet next commenting for his own audience that Ajax notices how Zeus has suddenly shifted the tide of war. [14] Idomeneus’ retreat, consequently, by its very abnormality, helps signal the momentous nature of what is taking place within the larger story as the poet unfolds it for his listening audience.

Examples from other oral or oral-derived stories also suggest the traditional nature of characterization and the significance of moments when someone acts “out of character.” For any comparison, the question of genre is paramount (Foley 1991:15), even though all epic traditions are not equal. [15] Yet, we compare only epic traditions, since there can be an even greater qualitative difference in depth of characterization between epic characters and characters found in other genres, such as Aesop’s fables, or shorter mythical stories, such as those of the aboriginal tribes of Australia. [16] Character consistency is illustrated by the South Slavic epic trickster figure, Tale of Orašac. While Tale’s character history is more comparable to Odysseus than Idomeneus, he suggests some presence of character depth in South Slavic epic poetry comparable to Homer’s. An inimitable and irascible character, he appears in diverse performances of epic tales of weddings and battles, including that sung by Avdo Medjedović, The Wedding of Smailagić Meho, and The Wedding of Mustajbeg’s Son Bećirbeg, performed by Halil Bajgorić. In both of these stories, the character of Tale “the fool” is made more colorful with a mount that is really an “anti-horse,” the sort of horse no hero would ever ride. [17] Yet, it well suits Tale’s unusual persona. [18] A short excerpt from each epic performance will catch something of the flavor of this hero’s mounted appearance:

Lord 1974:199

What sort of Turkish Disaster is this,
Who rides a stout dun-colored horse,
Both legs hanging over the one side
And on the other side a nail-studded walking stick?

Foley 2004:67, vs. 690–693

Consequently, one moment in the Armenian epic narrative comes as a surprise to readers of the text not conversant with the traditional stories, though it was most likely full of irony for an informed Armenian audience. It is an instance where a character’s action is changed, as we saw with Diomedes, to signal something greater in the plot. The moment is one of the last extant scenes in the recorded Armenian epic about Sanasar and Baghdasar. The two heroes are shown traveling home toward Sassoun for the wedding of Sanasar to the newly rescued “golden braids.” Suddenly a “blue horseman” yelling objections about their having the maiden comes charging at them. As is traditionally the case, Sanasar takes the initiative, saying he will go and see what the challenger is saying. Baghdasar’s response, which first echoes the normal filial relationship, nevertheless suddenly challenges Sanasar’s conventional hegemony: “You always take up the challenge; I am taking it up this time” (Shalian 1964:106). The natural leader, Sanasar, quickly allows his brother Baghdasar to assume the lead, a cue that one must assume resonated with meaning for the traditional audience who would know that “something was amiss.” Indeed, the ensuing scene witnesses Baghdasar riding out at full pace and tackling “him,” only to discover in the tussle that he has in reality thrown to the ground a “her,” a maiden come not to fight but to marry him. Moreover, the unknown assailant turns out to be the sister of “golden braids”! The traditional audience would be alerted by the sudden change in character roles that something is about to happen. Baghdasar is about to get his girl, too. The change in what one might have expected of Sanasar is necessitated by the story pattern and carries important implications for the audience—now both heroes enter Sassoun ready to wed. [25]

In the cases of Achilles, Idomeneus, Tale, and Sanasar, the larger story pattern affects the presentation and reception of character at particular narrative moments. Yet, a character’s presence brings certain expectations. The storyteller plays on the audience’s knowledge of a particular character’s conventional role and past history in the tradition. Variation from the norm carries implications for poet and audience. As with type scenes components, traditional character traits connected with actual events in the character’s recognizable history form expectations in the audience’s mind. Anomalies can signal something of significance in the plot. For leading heroes of Greek epic, the traditional nature of characterization is assumed by poet (and audience), an assumption supported, rather than negated, by moments when an individual acts “out of character.” As Minchin notes for Homeric characterization, “the predictability of each hero’s temperament is essential to the success of the episode” (Minchin 2011a:331). However much the picture we have of an individual is conditioned by the typical elements common to a given character type (or story pattern), Homer’s tradition includes particular individuals with pronounced character traits.

2.1.2 Character Traits and History

Stressing the importance of a character’s history does not deny the importance of character type or story pattern in shaping and preserving a particular character, something also influential in the history of a particular story. [26] There is no doubt that Nestor, for instance, is the acme of exempla for a wise old hero, or that Idomeneus is built up as a typically resolute and eager warrior. [27] Rather, I mean to affirm that actual characters with particular histories live within Homer’s tradition as real persons with distinct stories and personalities, the way literary characters also have the potential to live within a successive book series. Further, to employ Malkin’s maxim, “type cannot freely replace content” (Malkin 1998:49). Within a given storytelling tradition, particular characters have their own individualized stories and personalities that make them who they are: Agamemnon was the paramount basileus over the forces at Troy and was killed upon returning home; Odysseus outwitted the Cyclops and went home to a faithful wife; Nestor gave excellent advice and was a warrior from the former generation; Tale bested his army’s adversary, Baturić Ban, in the guise of a beggar; and Sanasar won “golden braids.” Nor are the suitors of the Odyssey, as much as they share common faults in their foolishness, all the same. [28] Not only a typical pattern, then (such as the “return song” or heroic lifecycles), but also the particular character histories are traditional. Homer has particular characterization in mind when he weaves his story. Put another way, it would be strange to see Agamemnon in a story pattern for a nostos involving a faithful wife, to see Odysseus die an early death at Troy or Thebes, for Tale to play anything but the indispensable fool, or to be presented with a Sanasar who did not marry “golden braids.” [29] To illustrate using a situation that will arise in Chapter 4, the constantly recurring rumblings of Agamemnon to head home and abandon the Achaian assault on Troy, while never a real option, do call into question Agamemnon’s leadership qualities and give us a glimpse of his traditional personality for singer and audience.

2.1.3 Characterization through Word and Deed

We turn now to a case study of traditional characterization to see theory in practice. In Agamemnon’s appeal in Iliad 4, both in the appeal itself and in the narrative surrounding it, I suggest that its central characters are best interpreted against the whole background tradition of the Iliad (and Odyssey).

2.2 Typical and Specific Appeals

In Iliad 4, the truce established for the duel between Paris and Menelaos has been broken. Agamemnon has just witnessed his brother barely evade death and has sent his herald Talthybios to fetch Machaon (193–197), who provides medical assistance (217–219). Meanwhile, so we are told, Agamemnon “ranged through the ranks of his fighters” (ἐπεπωλεῖτο στίχας ἀνδρων, 231) exhorting and appealing to the leading basileis to fight against the Trojans. [37] Before the specific addresses to individual basileis (and their respective troops) and heroic pairs (251–400), however, we are given two possible “typical” appeals in oratio recta with the general sentiment of what would be said in each case (234–239, 243–249). In these appeals, we see Agamemnon’s classification of two types of warriors. The first group of warriors is that which Agamemnon finds eagerly fighting, whom he exhorts all the more: “And so those he would see eager of the Danaans with the swift-horses, / these, standing nearby, he kept constantly exhorting with speech” (καί ῥ’ οὓς μὲν σπεύδοντας ἴδοι Δαναῶν ταχυπώλων, τοὺς μάλα θαρσύνεσκε παριστάμενος ἐπέεσσιν, 232–233). We learn that part of Agamemnon’s first type of exhortation is founded upon the assurance that Zeus will punish the oath-breaking Trojans who will become carrion; part is the traditional promise of future war prizes for the victorious warriors who will lead away women and children as booty, if they act now (238–239). [38]

2.2.1 Agamemnon’s Appeal to Idomeneus: 4.251–272

Idomeneus is characterized by a traditional formula in the fourth colon. He is “like a boar in strength” (συῒ εἴκελος ἀλκήν, 4.253; cf. Iliad 13.471), a traditional heroic description otherwise applied in this form only to the greater Ajax (Iliad 17.281), but more widely in other formulaic phrases to heroes such as Diomedes (Iliad 5.783). It is indicative of excellent and resolute warrior valor. The tenor of Agamemnon’s appeal to Idomeneus is further described as “honeyed” (προσήυδα μειλιχίοισιν), a pleasing formulaic phrase also used in Odysseus’ conciliatory rapprochement of Ajax in the underworld (Odyssey 11.552). When considering Agamemnon’s address within the warrior types found in the typical appeals, [44] it is clear that Idomeneus and his warriors represent the first group for Agamemnon. He sees them as eager for battle. Within this specific appeal, Agamemnon reminds Idomeneus of the “honor” (τιμή) in which he has been held in the past. His honor has been publicly recognized and validated within the warrior community by his being given a premier place by Agamemnon “both in war and in other work, / and in feasts” (ἠμὲν ἐνὶ πτολέμῳ ἠδ’ ἀλλοίῳ ἐπὶ ἔργῳ / ἠδ’ ἐν δαίθ’, Iliad 4.258–259). At feasts, he is now reminded, if ever the Achaians drink their portion, still “your cup always stands full” (σὸν δὲ πλεῖον δέπας αἰεὶ ἕστηχ’, 262–263). He can drink as his appetite urges. [45]

The excellent warrior valor of Idomeneus is portrayed equally in other parts of the Iliad. In Iliad 13.206–333, Poseidon recognizes this traditional character trait in him during his battle against Aineias. Idomeneus is described as a warrior who will take up his armor and encourage martial spirit in his fellow fighters. When Poseidon (in the likeness of Thoas) sees him, Idomeneus has just finished giving instructions to help a fallen comrade and is stopping by his own tent for armor. As the god observes our hero, the narrator characterizes Idomeneus as “yet eager to face battle” (ἔτι γὰρ πολέμοιο μενοίνα / ἀντιάαν, Iliad 13.214–215). Immediately after an exchange with Poseidon (déguisé), Idomeneus encounters his attendant Meriones, to whom he says that he doesn’t “crave” sitting among the tents, but fighting. [46] Idomeneus faces no small task, considering his opponent. Yet, he stands his ground against Trojan Aineias, “as when some boar in the mountains, trusting in his own courage” (ὡς ὅτε τις σῦς οὔρεσιν ἀλκὶ πεποιθώς, Iliad 13.471)—so the simile begins. The simile, as Ready appropriately notes, centers upon Idomeneus and is less concerned with extending its metaphor directly to Idomeneus’ opponent. [47] Further, I note that “trusting in his own courage” (ἀλκὶ πεποιθώς) is a traditional idiom used five times in Homer. It is employed in similes involving lions’ or boars’ great and resolute daring as a mirror for a hero’s persona. It is used of Aineias (Iliad 5.299) as a lion, standing over the body of a fellow Trojan; of Menelaos (17.61) as a lion, during his aristeia; and of the Aiantes (17.728), when they turn on the Trojans as a wild boar against hunting dogs. “Trusting in his own courage” (ἀλκὶ πεποιθώς) is used of Hector (Iliad 18.158), who, as if a lion, keeps snatching at Patroklos’ corpse; and of Odysseus (Odyssey 6.130), who emerges from the bushes as a lion, confident in his strength. The great and resolute daring of Idomeneus is unquestionable in the poet’s mind. Further, the poet’s choice of this traditional idiom and boar simile takes on greater emphasis in the local arrangement of his song lyrics. He has chosen to juxtapose a traditional language cue and simile with yet another simile, where Idomeneus is further characterized by negation. [48] He is not full of fear “as some boy just come to manhood” (τηλύγετον ὥς, 13.470) would be. [49]

2.2.2 Aiantes: 4.273–292

There are a couple of moments (as with Idomeneus) in Homer’s tradition as we have it, however, when these heroes act somewhat less heroically. The first instance occurs when there is need within the poet’s story rendition for retreat to provide a causal reason for the sending of an embassy to Achilles (Iliad 8.78–79); and again to furnish an impetus for Achilles to send in Patroklos to assist the weary and wounded Achaians (Iliad 16.122–129). In all other instances of the Aiantes’ appearances in the Iliad, they are completely and unquestionably eager and ready fighters whenever their talent is needed. This truism applies to instances of the heroes as individual warriors or together. The eventual help of the lesser Ajax (Iliad 17.730–734), expected in the tradition surrounding this pair, will, for example, help stave off the Trojans from Patroklos at the last moment. Yet, it will be Telemonian Ajax, as the greater member of the heroic pair (Iliad 2.527–529; 12.349–350, 378) [56] and second only to Achilles in martial strength (Iliad 2.768–769; cf. Nagy 1979:32), who will make possible the return of the body of the fallen Patroklos (Iliad 17.125–734). By this act he is characterized as superior to both Idomeneus and Diomedes. The epithet “huge” (μέγας) is often attached to this “big and burly” hero to fill out the second hemistich of the line, [57] and is seldom seen with other figures (Camps 1980:23). Even more exclusive to the greater Ajax is the epithet “bastion of the Achaians” (ἕρκος Ἀχαιῶν, Iliad 3.229, 6.5, and 7.211). Further, a traditional (and identically recurring) block of material conjoins Achilles and Ajax as warriors of foremost prowess. [58]

2.2.3 Nestor: 4.293–326

Following his brief address to the Aiantes, Agamemnon comes next upon Nestor. The poet provides an elaborate description of Nestor’s activities immediately before Agamemnon addresses him. In the poetic presentation, a number of traditional referents serve to characterize Nestor in ways consonant with his representation in the rest of the tradition available to us, both synchronically and diachronically. Nestor’s characterization both in the fifty-two days of the Iliad poet’s immediate timeline, but also in his multigenerational actions presented through retrospective story, provides us with a richly cohesive portrait.

In the present scene, Nestor is first described by an epithet that serves well to establish his traditional trait as the “clear-voiced speaker of the Pylians” (λιγὺν Πυλίων ἀγορητήν, 1.248), an epithet spoken, notably, by the poet as narrator (Dentice Di Accadia 2012:17). [61] Indeed, his many appearances in Homer show that he is “un abile oratore” and is so without exception (Dentice Di Accadia 2012:17). [62] While Plato may be right to make Odysseus the stronger speaker, [63] Lardinois’s finding, that Nestor “embodies the most esteemed manner of speaking in the epic,” hits the right note (Lardinois 2000:648). [64] Nestor stands to speak sensible counsel after Achilles throws the scepter to the ground (Iliad 1.245–284); appropriately, a council is held by his ship (Iliad 2.53–54); Nestor exhorts Agamemnon to accept advice and is praised for it (Iliad 2.336–394); and Nestor scolds the basileis and instills a need for action (Iliad 7.23–160). Even in the lying dream sent to Agamemnon, Nestor’s character is the guise chosen by the Oneiros, whose advice, false though it is (Iliad 2.16–34), is received and believed by Agamemnon. It appears as though the tradition holds Nestor in great admiration, so much so that not only is the prayer given him by the poet in Iliad 15 received favorably by Zeus (70–373)—something not always the case by any means in Homer—but his call to battle is characterized positively, including a description of divine approbation for his martial exhortation (659–670). [65]

Nestor’s actions show him to be an exemplary character. An extended description (Iliad 4.294–310; cf. Iliad 2.360–368) by the poet-narrator draws the listeners’ attention to the sagacious and balanced preparation that informs Nestor’s leadership style. Nestor is portrayed as a wise strategist here and throughout the tradition. Barker notes his ability to “manage dissent” (Barker 2009:63), a trait almost missing in Agamemnon, as we will see in Chapter 4. After the poet has outlined the superlative martial ability of Menestheus (2.546–554), the Catalogue of Ships stipulates that no one could challenge him in his strategic ability except “Nestor alone” (Νέστωρ οἶος, 2.555). Nestor was older (προγενέστερος ἦεν, 2.555) and wiser. Nestor’s organizational ability is demonstrated by the thoughtful arrangement of his troops (4.297–300). He places “horses at the front with horsemen and chariots” (ἱππῆας μὲν πρῶτα σὺν ἵπποισιν καὶ ὄχεσφι), behind these the infantry “many and noble” (πολέας τε καὶ ἐσθλούς), and finally “in the midst, he drove the cowardly” (κακοὺς δ’ ἐς μέσσον ἔλασσεν). They must each fight, even if unwilling to do so (καὶ οὐκ ἐθέλων τις). Nestor gives advice to the charioteers to keep control of their horses and not get caught in the thick of the foot soldiers (4.301–302). He suggests a via media between overly zealous and overly cautious individualism (μηδέ … οἶος, 303–304), extremes that weaken the common effort (ἀλαπαδνότεροι γὰρ ἔσεσθαι, 4.305). His advice affirms the observations of Roisman that Nestor’s central task was “to foster and preserve the solidarity of the community” (Roisman 2005:36). [66]

In his advice to charioteers on just how to fight, we find expansion through “historical” vignette, doubtless from Nestor’s own experience in bygone days: “Just so did earlier warriors sack cities and strongholds, / such a purpose and spirit did they hold in their hearts” (ὧδε καὶ οἱ πρότεροι πόλεας καὶ τείχε’ ἐπόρθεον / τόνδε νόον καὶ θυμὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν ἔχοντες, 4.308–309). It is appropriate in the foregoing passage that the poet has “clear-voiced” Nestor’s last words return through ring composition to his own introduction to the passage, by the use of “holding” (ἔχοντες), which aurally recalls “to hold” (ἐχέμεν, 302). More significantly for our purposes, however, is the realization that the whole vignette, invoking the earlier “glory days,” echoes the depth of the traditional character of Nestor.

Next, the narrator joins in affirming Nestor’s ability, describing him as “knowing well wars of old” (πάλαι πολέμων εῢ εἰδώς, 4.310). Agamemnon acknowledges, however, that age has weakened Nestor’s knees, though he would wish for him a physical strength to match his spirit (313). The comments of Agamemnon trigger a passionate reflection from the aged hero. We hear about Ereuthalion, killed by a younger Nestor in a past generation. Nestor is relating his individual heroic history, a habit typical of older heroes. [67] His story is also embedded with specific details of Nestor’s life experiences within the diachrony of the singer’s tradition. Yet, we are given fewer specifics here than we might wish, at least as a non-traditional audience. Homer is assuming background knowledge in his core audience of the sort described in Chapter 1. It is not until later in the Iliad (7.136–160) that the circumstances of Nestor’s battle with his opponent are described in greater detail. Nestor will say that he was given cause for a victor’s boast after “I killed the strongest man” (κάρτιστον κτάναν ἄνδρα, 7.155). In both Iliad 4 and 7, a wish to return to a state of youthfulness signals the invocation of the exemplum that follows. [68] The reference to Nestor’s aristeia affirms the close connection between characterization and action in oral-derived literature that we considered earlier. This dependence of characterization upon narrated heroic feat further supports the central importance of tradition in keeping alive each character’s history for future audiences.

2.2.4 Menestheus and Odysseus: 4.327–364

In the brief exchange we find here, little can be said about Menestheus son of Peteos and leader of the Athenians, since we do not find great depth for his character in Homer’s present song. Instead, the spotlight is conspicuously (but not exclusively) on the superior Odysseus. [71] Odysseus himself is immediately named by the poet-narrator using the familiar and virtually exclusive epithet “of many strategies” (πολύμητις, 4.329) and his attachment to the Kephallenian force. [72] Both heroes are unmistakably treated by Agamemnon as part of those hanging back and deserving of chastisement. Odysseus is addressed second by Agamemnon. Yet, so traditional is his connection with “ruse” (δόλος) that he is not even invoked by name when Agamemnon scurrilously intones: “And you [sg., i.e., Odysseus], excelling in evil ruses, with a heart set on gain, / why do you [pl., i.e., Odysseus and Menestheus], cowering, stand aloof, and await others?” (καὶ σὺ κακοῖσι δόλοισι κεκασμένε κερδαλεόφρον / τίπτε καταπτώσσοντες ἀφέστατε, μίμνετε δ’ ἄλλους, Iliad 4.339–340). Agamemnon, interestingly, chooses the singular nameless address for Odysseus alone before moving to the plural (to include Menestheus). There is no question but that he is glaring at him. In not naming Odysseus, Homer may be mimicking one theme in the story pattern of the Odyssey. [73] This instance of temporary namelessness would assume audience knowledge of Odysseus’ nearly nameless existence during the narrative of his nostos. [74] Further, what are we to make of Agamemnon’s degrading tone and negative portrayal of Odysseus’ character qualities? More to the point, what does the tradition make of it?

The “ruse” (δόλος) of Odysseus is especially well known from the Odyssey poet’s presentation, so we will begin there first. Nestor proffers his positive reflections of Odysseus to Telemachos as one far superior to others “in all ruses” (παντοίοισι δόλοισι, Odyssey 3.122). To the Phaiacians, Odysseus reveals himself by proclaiming: “I am Odysseus, son of Laertes, who, because of my ruses / am a concern to all people” (εἴμ’ Ὀδυσεὺς Λαερτιάδης, ὃς πᾶσι δόλοισιν / ἀνθρώποισι μέλω, 9.19). Back on Ithaca, Athena offers an admiring summary, which is intentionally enclosed in an ironic future less vivid construction. We as the audience know what has not been overtly revealed, that in fact Odysseus is trying to fool a divinity. Athena admiringly comments: “Shrewd he would be and wily, who would leave you behind / in all [your] ruses, even if a god should encounter you” (κερδαλέος κ’ εἴη καὶ ἐπίκλοπος, ὅς σε παρέλθοι / ἐν πάντεσσι δόλοισι, καὶ εἰ θεὸς ἀντιάσειε, Odyssey 13.291–292). Beyond the foregoing examples, Odysseus’ connection with “ruse’’ (δόλος) is clear from other scenes in the Odyssey, including Odysseus’ actions in helping to take Troy as described by Nestor (3.118–123). The wooden horse is described as a “ruse” (δόλος) that Odysseus leads (8.492–520). [75] “Ruse” (δόλος) is further used to characterize Odysseus, who, with a cunning strategy in mind, replies to the mean-hearted proposal of Antinoos (18.36–57); and also of Odysseus’ thoughts when he is attempting to acquire the bow from the suitors (21.273–284) for the purpose of restoring his oikos to an ordered state. In all, Odysseus’ “ruse” (δόλος) is generally communitarian and preserving in its focus and inspires “admiration” (Marquart 1992:252n15). [76] Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, is positively associated with “ruse” (δόλος), too, as de Jong and Zerba have shown. [77]

In contrast, Agamemnon’s unflattering use of “ruse” (δόλος, Iliad 4.339) for Odysseus, may suggest the less than adroit nature of Agamemnon’s rebuke (of which I will say more). Yet, as insulting as it is, Agamemnon’s address—“you [i.e., Odysseus], excelling in evil ruses, with a heart set on gain” (σὺ κακοῖσι δόλοισι κεκασμένε κερδαλεόφρον, Iliad 4.339)—contains several of the same significant descriptive elements that Athena uses in the Odyssey. These include not only ability in the employment of “ruses” (δόλοι), but also (for anyone wanting to best Odysseus) an exceptionally “shrewd” (κερδαλέος) disposition, [79] a character trait that Agamemnon uniquely turns for the worst against Odysseus, as we have seen. It is important to note that while the epithet “with a heart set on gain” (κερδαλεόφρων) could be used in the offensive manner Agamemnon induces (cf. Iliad 1.149 and the retort by Achilles against Agamemnon), more often “gain” (κέρδος) is in reality something that warriors seek to possess to achieve the best advantage in a particular situation. In Iliad 10.44, Agamemnon says that he and Menelaos have need of gainful [counsel] (κερδαλέη [βουλή]); in Iliad 10.224–225, Diomedes suggests that two warriors working together can better recognize “gain” (κέρδος); in Iliad 13.458, Deïphobos considers “what is more gainful” (κέρδιον) and decides to fetch Aineias; and in Iliad 14.23, Nestor considers “what is more gainful” (κέρδιον) and decides to search for Agamemnon. These instances are representative of the far more numerous examples of the many positive associations for this word in Homer.

Odysseus replies to Agamemnon’s scornful valuation and rebuke in an unhappy tone, “looking at him darkly” (τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδών, Iliad 4.349), a formula that Holoka has shown highlights a significant breach in social conventions. [80] I note, moreover, beyond Holoka’s findings, that this formula (consistently appearing in the first hemistich) is always followed by a formulaic phrase of address in the second hemistich and a rebuke soon after. [81] In the present case, Odysseus asks Agamemnon the traditional question, “What sort of word has fled the barrier of your teeth?” (ποῖόν σε ἔπος φύγεν ἕρκος ὀδόντων, Iliad 4.350). This added traditional idiom occurs eight times in total in Homer and carries recognizable meaning. [82] Certainly, as Erasmus noted, the phrase suggests that loquendi temeritas should be avoided (Wolfe 2015:66). Further, this formula means more than the sum of its parts in what it implicates. As Foley has shown, in every case the formula acts as a “rhetorical fulcrum” employed “by an older or more experienced figure chiding a younger or less experienced speaker for the rashness of his or her remarks” (Foley 1999:226–227). He suggests the idiomatic English equivalent: “You should know better!” Foley’s choice of expression is a dynamic equivalent in translational terms, idiom for idiom, not word for word, since, if taken apart, the English saying becomes illogical and loses its sense. A young person really should not know better. The idiom, however, is employed in circumstances that mean, to suggest another English expression: “I expected better things from you!” Indeed, Agamemnon should have known better, and both Odysseus and the troops expected better things from their paramount basileus.

The resolute nature of Odysseus as a loyal leader is shown in the action of Iliad 11, when key leaders, wounded, have been forced to leave the field, “but spear-famed Odysseus was left alone” (οἰώθη δ’ Ὀδυσεὺς δουρὶ κλυτός, 11.401). He is inspired by a wish to use his faculties to assist his companions and to avoid being a coward. Odysseus stands his ground after self-debate with his thumos, since he does not wish to be counted among the cowards (n.b. the κακοί of Iliad 11.408). In Sullivan’s explanation of the meaning of this scene in relation to the thumos, Odysseus is “recalling the way in which brave men act,” but “he already knows that a brave man must stand” (Sullivan 1984:84). Further, Odysseus’ character at this point is described by an opponent, Sokos, as “much praised” (πολύαινε, Iliad 11.430), precisely because of his “ruse” (δόλος) and “toil” (πόνος). Even Odysseus’ enemy saw his characteristic δόλος (“ruse”) in terms that suggested positive, rather than malevolent, martial qualities. The poet has put into Sokos’ mouth descriptions that make him, although Odysseus’ opponent, a spokesperson of the greater epic tradition. Of course, we realize that this is the poet at work through his character’s voice. Homer is making this reference to the greater tradition that is Odysseus, for his external audience.

2.2.5 Diomedes and Sthenelos: 4.365–418

It is interesting to note that in both Iliad 2.225–242 (where Thersites speaks) and in 4.405–409 (where Sthenelos speaks), a lower-class figure addresses Agamemnon with a true and fair representation of reality. In the first case, Achilles had said much the same thing as Thersites; [96] in the second, Sthenelos is saying what we might expect Diomedes to say (were he as responsive as Odysseus). Yet each suffers a rebuke by a superior in rank (Odysseus/Diomedes) who acts to maintain the social gradation (cf. Ruzé 1997:52 and Stuurman 2004:173). [97] The remarks themselves, one notes, are not corrected. The man, not the argument, was rejected. The poet, however, affirms the social mores of his constituency, where aristocratic values would not sanction the outburst of an importunate underling. It is such scenes that put into serious question Dalby’s conclusions about Homer’s principal performance arena as non-aristocratic (Dalby 1995:279). [98] Consequently, the response of Sthenelos is ill-received by Diomedes, and he is quickly urged to silence by his overlord, an injunction that again reinforces Diomedes’ own acquiescence in the face of authority:

It is evidently not in character for Diomedes suddenly to speak like an Odysseus. He is controlled by respect for Agamemnon’s office. [
100] He will, however, store up this insult and later reveal Agamemnon’s inequitable gaff in dire circumstances, during a critical assembly in book 9. The character of Diomedes is housed within the tradition that Homer and his core audience are accessing.

2.3 Impetuous Agamemnon

We have seen that most of the individuals whom Agamemnon reviewed had a particular history and character embedded within Homer’s song tradition. Further, we have also become aware that the appeal of Agamemnon is illustrative of the character of the anax andrōn himself. There are clear signs of Agamemnon’s traditional characterization in the tenor of the appeals. [101] Most immediately in his address to Odysseus and Diomedes, we observe a thoughtless and impetuous leader, given to sudden anger and uneven castigation. In Odysseus’ case, Agamemnon’s rash and insulting remarks are soon retracted and replaced with a placating reply:

Zeus-born son of Laertes Odysseus of many devices
I am neither chastising you excessively nor giving you orders;
For I know that your heart in your chest
knows gentle thoughts; For you think the same things as I in point of fact.
But come, we will make good these things afterward, if any evil now
has been uttered, but all these things may the gods make of no effect.

διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη πολυμήχαν’ Ὀδυσσεῦ
οὔτέ σε νεικείω περιώσιον οὔτε κελεύω·
οἶδα γὰρ ὥς τοι θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι φίλοισιν
ἤπια δήνεα οἶδε· τὰ γὰρ φρονέεις ἅ τ’ ἐγώ περ.
ἀλλ’ ἴθι ταῦτα δ’ ὄπισθεν ἀρεσσόμεθ’ εἴ τι κακὸν νῦν
εἴρηται, τὰ δὲ πάντα θεοὶ μεταμώνια θεῖεν.

Iliad 4.358–363

Here we observe a softening of the initial blow with the adverb “excessively” (περιώσιον) and the positive listing of Odysseus’ “gentle thoughts” (ἤπια δήνεα). Then follows Agamemnon’s affirmation that Odysseus thinks as he himself does, with a promise to make amends in the future for any present “evil” (κακόν) on his part. Agamemnon ends with a wish that the gods make all things “of no effect” (μεταμώνια), a wish that, as we will see in Chapter 4, Agamemnon is not granted. This error will return as one of many grievances to haunt him.

Agamemnon’s conciliatory words are especially needed after his insulting remarks. His characterization of Odysseus resonates discordantly against the tradition known to both singer and audience. No clear apology ever comes to Diomedes, however, which causes residual rancor in the future. Nor is there a need to suggest that we should make much of the participle “standing” (ἑσταότ’, 4.366), as though it necessarily implies loafing of some sort. [102] The poet uses the same participle later on in an anthropopathic portrayal to show that all the Trojans, even the horses, are waiting for dawn to engage the Achaians (Iliad 8.565). One can stand and wait actively, so the Trojan horses may suggest, without meaning to avoid duty. In fact, much the same remark used against Diomedes was employed against Odysseus and his men (Iliad 4.328–329). For them, however, a clearer context is given for evaluating the damning charge Agamemnon brings. Specifically, the poet-narrator remarks, in a contrariety not to be missed (but contrast Agamemnon’s scurrilous charge in 4.347–348), that Odysseus’ men had not yet heard the battle shout (οὐ γάρ πώ σφιν ἀκούετο λαὸς ἀϋτῆς, 4.331). The external audience listening to Homer knows that something is wrong with Agamemnon’s insinuation. As we will see, this is too often the case with the Achaians’ imperious leader. While the poet makes it clear that Odysseus was not aware of the recommencement of battle (in contrast with Agamemnon’s convicting comments), in the case of Diomedes, we do not hear anything immediately about whether or not his inactivity is culpable. Instead, the poet suspends emphasizing Agamemnon’s present impropriety until a critical moment in his story, in book 9. There, the poet will give Diomedes an extended complaint.

But what of Diomedes’ character in Homer’s tradition? Certainly Diomedes is well known for his bravery. His reaction to Nestor in Iliad 8 is especially indicative of this attribute. The field is being cleared of Achaians who are fleeing back to the ships under pressure from the Trojan advance. All except Diomedes. Homer pictures his capability, almost single-handedly, to pen the Trojans back up in their city. This truly epic portrayal of heroism at its apex so irritated Leaf (1900:341) that he felt it should be cut out. [107] Zeus’ portent indicates that the tables have turned for the worse against the Achaians (133–136, 169–171). This situation is necessitated by the demands of the larger plot, to bring the Achaians to see their need to send an embassy to Achilles. Yet, what can be done with the relentless Diomedes who will not leave the field? The poet has Nestor address Diomedes and quell his fears. Diomedes’ fear is not of death, but of any possibility whatsoever of dishonor. He dreads that someday Hector will boast he fled in fear to the ships (146–150). Nestor, however, aware of Diomedes’ character, reassures him:

O my battle-wise son of Tydeus, what have you said?
For if in fact Hector is going to say you are evil and cowardly,
nevertheless the Trojans and Dardanians will not be persuaded
nor the wives of the great-hearted, shield-bearing Trojans,
for whom you cast in the dust [their] husbands in [their] vigor.

ὤ μοι Τυδέος υἱὲ δαΐφρονος, οἷον ἔειπες.
εἴ περ γάρ σ’ Ἕκτωρ γε κακὸν καὶ ἀνάλκιδα φήσει,
ἀλλ’ οὐ πείσονται Τρῶες καὶ Δαρδανίωνες
καὶ Τρώων ἄλοχοι μεγαθύμων ἀσπιστάων,
τάων ἐν κονίῃσι βάλες θαλεροὺς παρακοίτας.

Iliad 8.153–156

As Nestor remarks to Diomedes, even the Trojans and Dardanians appear to know that he is nothing short of fearless, no matter what their own foremost hero Hector should boast. Yet, the poet is intent on further displaying Diomedes’ inexorable courage and personal ethic to avoid community shame at all costs. Even with Nestor’s sagacious verbal reassurance, the hero is minded to turn again and face Hector and so still hesitates to leave the field: “Three times he pondered anxiously in his mind and spirit” (τρὶς μὲν μερμήριξε κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν, 8.169). The emphatic nature of the intensifier “three times” (τρίς) and the traditional idiom “in his mind and spirit” (κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν) should not be missed. [108] The formula “in his mind and spirit” occurs after verbs of pondering (μερμηρίζω, φράζομαι, ὅρμαινω) with reference to a great number of heroes facing central moments of decision: of Achilles as he ponders whether or not to use the sword he is drawing from his scabbard (Iliad 1.193); of Odysseus’ considering whether or not to go after Sarpedon (5.671); and of Tydeus, perplexed about whether to stay and fight Hector or return to the ships (8.169). Even Poseidon must decide “in his mind and spirit” whether or not to stand and face Zeus (15.163), who has sent Iris to tell him to get out of the war. Telemachos’ problems require serious consideration, too, when he must consider just how he will kill the suitors (Odyssey 1.294), as he is prodded along by Athena (déguisée); and Odysseus faces the decision of what to do as he heads dangerously toward the rocky coast of Scheria that seems impenetrable (5.365, 424), and then again (with attendant irony for Homer’s audience), when he is pensively pondering what the residents of the island are like (6.118). [109] The formula also occurs with a verb of knowing (οἶδα), and the emphatic nature of the idiom is no less apparent in these cases. [110] The existence, moreover, of the singular formulaic integers from the larger equation (either “in his mind,” κατὰ φρένα, or “in his spirit,” κατὰ θυμόν) employed with the same or similar verbs suggests that the poet wanted, through the use of “in his mind and spirit,” to create extra emphasis and delay a bit longer over this narrative moment in Iliad 4. Further, the mental anxiety that such a decision stirs up in Diomedes is made all the more prominent by the recurrence of “he pondered anxiously” (μερμήριξε[ν]) in a virtual anadiplosis (167, 169). [111] The poet’s choice to cluster together these two traditional formulae within three lines further accentuates the moment (cf. Kelly 2007:198). Yet, Zeus is immediate and imminent with his warning signs to Diomedes, which, like Diomedes’ pondering, are also given thrice (170–171).

In this chapter, we have considered how the Homeric poet and his audience depended upon tradition-based characterization for a fuller comprehension of a particular instant of character portrayal in the narrative moment. In other words, how the audience, especially one that did not rely upon literacy for the communication of cultural history, would listen to a traditional story. They considered traditional characters with a great wealth of background information that influenced how they interpreted an action or character trait. Homeric characterization of an individual, such as each of those addressed by Agamemnon in his appeal to the troops, is built, then, not “in an instant,” but rather, “at the instant within a tradition.” Further, we have seen that there existed for the poet and his core audience consistency of characterization within the oral tradition being accessed.

Significant for our upcoming consideration of Agamemnon as a character (Chapters 3 through 5) is the fact that there are hints of his pathetic nature within the tradition surrounding Iliad 4. Agamemnon’s character becomes apparent at particular moments in his address to his leading basileis. In particular, in our survey of Agamemnon’s address to Odysseus and Diomedes, we observed his thoughtless, impetuousness, and despotic leadership style, one given to sudden anger and abrasive speech. In Odysseus’ case, I remarked that we could not divorce Agamemnon’s comments or Odysseus’ response in Iliad 4 from the adventures of the nostos hero of the Odyssey. Odysseus’ character and Agamemnon’s comments about his character (along with Odysseus’ response), when read in light of the larger Homeric tradition, demonstrate that there was a disconnect between Agamemnon’s and others’ evaluation of this intelligent hero who was known to use his trickster talents towards good ends. There was nothing sinister about Odysseus’ character combining dolos and kerdos, “ruse” and “gain”; and there are no examples, outside of the instance with Agamemnon, of a negative association of these two words with Odysseus in the Iliad or Odyssey. We noted, too, that it was rather ironic that even Odysseus’ enemy saw his characteristic dolos in terms that suggested useful martial qualities.

In Odysseus’ case, Agamemnon’s initial impetuous and insulting remarks were soon retracted and replaced with a placating reply. No clear apology, however, ever came to the hero Diomedes in book 2, a fact that causes residual rancor for the future. We observed that Agamemnon felt Diomedes had been gazing at the battle but had decided to stay out of the fray. Yet, we do not know that this was the case at all, since Agamemnon thought the same thing about Odysseus, which we know was certainly not true. Agamemnon’s use of the verb “gaze” (ὀπιπεύω) to describe how Diomedes was looking, I suggested, perspicuously displays Agamemnon’s state of mind (and inept leadership traits), since this sort of intense gazing or peering in Homer suggests a certain amount of surreptitiousness. Yet, as we also saw in our detailed survey of Diomedes in word and deed, Agamemnon’s estimation is completely out of step with the poet’s tradition and his presentation of this hero in the rest of the Iliad. The poet shows us a Diomedes whose traditional, inexorable courage is instanced by language cues within a local narrative context. In Iliad 8, he ponders and finally agrees, although hardly convinced, to leave the field. The Trojans and Dardanians, we realize, could never doubt his character. Agamemnon’s error in Iliad 4, we noted, will form the basis for Diomedes’ grievance against him in the near future. In the ensuing chapters we will consider the characterization of Agamemnon in greater detail, beginning with his appearances in the Odyssey.


[ back ] 1. I observe from Lord’s description that three things were common to South Slavic epic singers: illiteracy, a desire to become proficient in singing, and training in the tradition over a long period of time. Training for the singer began at youth and carried on until he could compose his own song from the tradition. Development began young and had three stages. The first stage involved a youth sitting, listening to others sing, and deciding he also wanted to sing. The second stage involved the youth learning to sing, with and without musical accompaniment. When he practiced, his work was increasingly channeled within the framework of traditional rhythmic and word patterns. The second stage ended and the third stage began when a singer was competent enough to compose a song and sing it all the way through before a critical, traditional audience. Lord’s description of the education of the singer is in agreement with that of Murko (1928:332–333), which predates his own research.

[ back ] 2. Cf. the arguments of Lang (1983) and Edmunds (1997) about consistency in story details.

[ back ] 3. See Dué 2002 on the loss of many syntagmatic versions of the Briseïs story, but the importance of the paradigmatic themes to the poetic tradition; and cf. the story of Dolon in Dué and Ebbott 2010:106–119.

[ back ] 4. Character creation in Homer, at least in the case of minor characters, is possible, but not really demonstrable, since we cannot recapture the full performance tradition (cf. Scodel 2002:30–33). Homer is not creating most of the traditions he uses, which are much older than his performance context. This is likewise the case with other performed epic traditions such as the South Slavic and Armenian, which we will be considering in a moment.

[ back ] 5. Cf. Turkeltaub (2007a), who follows this methodological approach to show that there is a hierarchy of perception of Homeric divinities, by different Homeric characters. Turkeltaub means to disambiguate the normal, but insufficient division between gods and humans.

[ back ] 6. C.f. Iliad 6.414–428, 11.104–106, 21.100–113; 24.748–759; and Goldhill 1990a:75 (but contrast the view of Griffin 1980:53–56). Collins (1988:16n12, from a neoanalyst perspective) notes that the inclination of Achilles to show pity is also extant in the Cypria and Aethiopis.

[ back ] 7. See our discussion of Achilles’ self-reference to an abbreviated life in Chapter 1. Dué and Ebbott (2011:100) suggest a similar impact on the external audience through their knowledge of the Rhesos tradition.

[ back ] 8. On “metonymic irony,” see Porter 2011:512–513 (and the bibliography listed there); cf. the “metapoetic” discussion of Kelly (2012:229–245) for prospective lamentation. We will revisit Iliad 9 in Chapter 4.

[ back ] 9. For Achilles’ own statement on the matter, see Iliad 21.100–105 and his pitiless reply to Priam’s son Lykaon. Zanker (1994) argues that Achilles’ return to battle after Patroklos’ death is not rationally but emotively based; not for honor (he had rejected the embassy in Iliad 9), but for revenge that was emotionally driven. The affectively driven actions of Achilles (present in his refusal to aid his comrades) and his grief-fed aristeia, return, Zanker argues, both in his brutal treatment of the corpse of Hector and in his responsive acceptance of the supplicating Priam. Kim (2000:151) stresses Achilles’ reaffirmation of pity and the necessary corollary (in her emphasis on the active meaning of pity) of saving his philoi, but suggests that Achilles’ conception of just who his philoi are now includes not only Achaians, “but all humans.” Ledbetter (1993) sees Patroklos’ character as representing Achilles’ more compassionate side.

[ back ] 10. See Reece 1993:167–168, but also 10–11, 53–54, 56, 82–84, 93, 132; and cf. changes in the traditional order of mourners in Pantelia 2002. For a similar consideration of inversions for “prospective” lamentation in Homer, see Kelly 2012:244.

[ back ] 11. Foundational works on type scene elements include Arend 1933 and Fenik 1968, 1974.

[ back ] 12. Idomeneus’ retreat: Iliad 17.605–625. This is one of only two moments of Idomeneus not acting as he usually would. One other, smaller regression occurs in Iliad 8.78. There it acts as a traditional cue pointing to the necessity of an embassy to Achilles. The poet chooses to give much greater emphasis to the episode we deal with from Iliad 17, where he slows the narrative down and adds more emphasis via speeches (a narrative effect noted by Austin 1966:306). One incidence of a harsh rejoinder comes too from Poseidon déguisé (Iliad 13.206–239) but does not suggest cowardice on Idomeneus’ part. The stalwart and fearless nature of Idomeneus is clearly indicated in his manifold appearances in the Iliad: 1.145, 2.645–652, 3.230–233, 4.252–272, 5.43–47, 7.162–165, 8.263, 11.510–515, 13.240–521, 16.345–350, 17.258–259, 19.309–313, 23.450–498; and he and his crew also enjoy a successful nostos: Odyssey 3.191–192.

[ back ] 13. Κράτος/κάρτος shows up thirty three times in Homer. See further: Iliad 9.25, 39, 11.192, 207, 319, 753, 12.214, 13.484, 743, 15.216, 16.524, 17.206, 613, 623, 18.308, 20.121, 24.293, 311; Odyssey 1.70, 359, 3.370, 4.415, 5.4, 9.393, 11.353, 21.280, and 21.353.

[ back ] 14. Iliad 17.626–627: Οὐδ’ ἔλαθ’ Αἴαντα μεγαλήτορα καὶ Μενέλαον / Ζεύς, ὅτε δὴ Τρώεσσι δίδου ἑτεραλκέα νίκην.

[ back ] 15. The present inclusion of non-Greek traditions for comparison is not meant to imply that characterization occurs at the same depth in all literature of every culture. Overall, the impression of many other traditions, including the South Slavic, is that of somewhat less depth in the complexity of the expression of characterization. Cf. the comments of Kelly (2014:51), who compares the foes of Ancient Near Eastern battle scenes with those of the Iliad and finds the latter much more individuated; and cf. also the conclusions of Karahashi and Lopez-Ruiz (2006:100), in their comparison of Euripides’ Hippolytus and the Epic of Gilgamesh, about the importance of noting transformations that result from, among other things, “different sites of cultural production.” Further, as Ready’s (2015) findings suggest, there is a place for the use of a variety of oral-derived epic traditions, which will be the case here.

[ back ] 16. On the latter, see Berndt and Berndt (1994). However, even in Australian aboriginal tales, one sees tribal groups and representative characters in some metonymic depth within the tradition (though less specifically than in Homer, where strict metrical constraints encourage long-time conservative retention of traditional information). See, for instance, the figure of the Wirindji in two tales of the “same” story, one told by men and the other by women (167–175). While the story pattern seems quite varied between the two tellings, the character of the Wirindji is generally consistent.

[ back ] 17. Nb. the comments of Foley 1995:36n14.

[ back ] 18. Contrast, for example, the preparation of a “properly” prepared horse for Smail’s son, Meho, in Lord 1974:105–106.

[ back ] 19. This descriptive passage is paralleled in The Wedding of Mustajbeg’s Son Bećirbeg (Foley 2004:61, vs. 450–454).

[ back ] 20. The tradition requires his presence for an undertaking (Foley 1995:33): “The central paradox of his epic existence is that, no matter how egregiously unheroic his actions, dress, or retinue, the Moslem force assembled for either of the great group efforts in this storytelling tradition—a battle or a wedding—simply is not considered complete, or even viable, without Tale’s participation.”

[ back ] 21. Tale is rather miserly and foils the plan of the enemy leader, Baturić Ban, by offering him his cane instead. See Foley 2004:66–68, vs. 636–714.

[ back ] 22. Our main text here is the 1964 English translation of Shalian, which is based upon an Armenian composite edition (Russell 2004:xvi). For an overview of the textual history of one of only two translations of a composite text drawn from “village story” versions, see Hacikyan 2000:969. For a review of Shalian that favors his translation as “obviously more scholarly” (than Surmelian’s 1964 edition), see Jansen 1967; cf. the comments of Gulbekian (1984:105). The epic is often referred to as The Daredevils of Sassoun. “Daredevils” makes reference to the four epic “cycles” with their leading heroes first recorded by Bishop Garegin Srvandzteants in 1874, the first transcription of an otherwise completely oral epic (on the history of the Armenian epic, see Hacikyan 2000:963–989). Central conflicts within the epic tradition go back to 850–852 AD and an Armenian resistance to an Arab Caliphate. For a consideration of cross-cultural elements in Armenian epic, see Haroutynian 1997. The Shalian text is removed from the original oral performance (to borrow from the observations of Ready 2015) by being based upon dictation (13–33), and second, by being an edited version (cf. 34–45). The Homeric epics, as oral-derived texts, may also be products of at least some of the same transcriptional and editing practices (cf. my comments in Chapter 1, passim, but including n. 68), although it is unlikely that the Homeric epics were stories selected as small slices of rather larger transcriptions as is the case with the English versions of the Armenian epics (on which see Hacikyan 2000:965–966).

[ back ] 23. On Baghdasar as the younger brother, see Shalian 1964:75; on his being hotheaded and foolish, see Shalian 1964:36.

[ back ] 24. Cf. Antinoos over Eurymachos in the Odyssey (1.384–387, 400–405; Fenik 1974:198, 207), but also the hegemony of Gilgamesh over Enkidu in the Gilgamesh epic (2.96–115) and Jacob over Esau in Genesis (25.21–34, 27.40, 33.12–17), on which see also Lord 1990. For other possible twins in Homer, see Clark 2007 and Frame 2009:105–130; on Vedic twins, 59–102, 238n139. On the ultimate origin of the Armenian twins as divine twins, see Haroutyunian 1997:87. For consideration of other “twins” in other ancient literature, see Uther (2004:386) tale type 711, The Beautiful and the Ugly Twin Sisters, and Clark 2007.

[ back ] 25. Armenian weddings, even into the mid-20th century, still involved a mock capturing of the wife (Surmellian 1964:75n4).

[ back ] 26. See Bakker (2013:13–35) for the typology of the nostos as a quest; and Foley (1999:115–167) for a detailed analysis of the traditional nature and implications of the Return Song pattern (see pp. 169–199 and Appendix I). Homeric studies, moreover, have learned much from comparative work, which has proven that local stories are influenced by imported story patterns (such as those of the Near East). On this, see especially Nagy 1990a:7–17, Burkert 1992, Bernabé 1995, West 1997:334–437, Ready 2012, and Rollinger 2015.

[ back ] 27. The motif of aged sagaciousness (youthful thoughtlessness) is first seen clearly articulated in the words of Menelaos when arranging for the cutting of oaths between the Trojans and Achaians before his duel with Alexandros in Iliad 3.105–110. More will be said about Nestor’s wisdom in Chapter 4, s.v. 4.2.1 Agamemnon’s Dishonoring and Hubristic Actions: 1.6–344. For further consideration of the theme of youthful impetuousness (Antilochos’), see Collins 1988:81–82 and Minchin 2011a:334–335.

[ back ] 28. Fenik (1974:198–205) outlines the consistent characterization of Antinoos and Eurymachos in the Odyssey, who are quite different individuals. Unlike Antinoos, “the heedless criminal impatient of warning or delay,” Eurymachos (see Odyssey 21.249–255), is a “guileful dissembler,” fearful of what people will say of him. Race (1993:84–88) adds the suitors Leokritos, Amphinomos, Ktesippos, Agelaos, and Leodes to the clearly individualized characterization of suitors. Friedrich (1991), against earlier views, argues for a consistent characterization of Zeus in the Odyssey. Aristotle recognized the importance of tradition in the telling of stories (Poetics 1453b22–26): τοὺς μὲν οὖν παρειλημμένους μύθους λύειν οὐκ ἔστιν, λέγω δὲ οἷον τὴν Κλυταιμήστραν ἀποθανοῦσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ Ὀρέστου καὶ τὴν Ἐριφύλην ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἀλκμέωνος, αὐτὸν δὲ εὑρίσκειν δεῖ καὶ τοῖς παραδεδομένοις χρῆσθαι καλῶς. To dissolve what traditionally went together would not be effective or bring about the desired affective response in the audience who would likely be jarred by a complete change in the tradition. By Aristotle’s time, however, rhetoric had also made character something other than it was in the early epic tradition. The Poetics and Rhetoric embody this change. May (1988:9) notes that Aristotle’s ethos is not based upon “previous reputation, but the impression he [the speaker] makes during a speech.” On deception in Attic oratory, see Kremmydas 2013.

[ back ] 29. Cf. the argument of Whallon and the discussion of particular epithets in Chapter 1.

[ back ] 30. Cf. Burgess (2015b:42): “Nor is much effort spent on character development.” The novel, however, is itself an example of a genre that allows for the creation of a tremendous amount of newness and surprise. On the differences between oral and written authorship, see especially the important observations of Austin 2009:92–96. Of the incessant differences between Homer and Virgil, for instance, Austin (94) appropriately comments: “The Homeric hexameter is a wave that unfurls as it reaches the shore, not the boisterous wave driven under a high wind, but the gentler, quieter roll of the surf, with one wavelet after another breaking on the shore, until the final wave, cresting, breaks and completes the line. Virgil does not create waves in the Homeric fashion … his hexameter is the product of a writing culture; it could never be mistaken for the product of a pre-literate age.”

[ back ] 31. On character development, Friedrich (1991) argues that Odysseus displays some qualitative difference in temperament within the plot of the Odyssey, between the unrestrained and vaunting hero who blinds the Cyclops and the chastened hero who restores order on Ithaca; Heath (2001:31) argues that the epithet πεπνυμένος “belongs to the Telemachus of the tradition,” who Homer is able to show how he got where he is; and cf. the findings of Hinckley (1986) for the consistent characterization of Telamonian Ajax. To my mind, these scholars’ observations can be seen to affirm that the poet still had a range of character development to play with precisely because he already had the character’s fuller personality in mind as his telos when he composed his traditional rendition.

[ back ] 32. We can never from our vantage point, however, circumscribe or demarcate the “full” story of any epic figure. The extent of an oral traditional story cannot be as easily defined as literary stories not derived from oral tradition. Further, later representations in other literary genres show that there is an evolution of particular characters over time. Stanford’s Ulysses Theme (1963) remains an excellent text for considering the evolution of Odysseus’ character from epic to drama and later literature. Blondell (2013) likewise traces Helen’s ambiguous nature from Homer to Isocrates.

[ back ] 33. The formula is found in position C1 to line end, but the formula’s flexibility and tenacity is shown by its appearance as ’Οδυσεὺς πολύμητις, as part of a bridged first hemistich.

[ back ] 34. There is no need to list the many instances of these epithets’ occurrences, but the earliest textual references are: πολυμήτις ’Οδυσσεύς: Iliad 1.311; διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη πολυμήχαν’ Ὀδυσσεῦ: Iliad 2.173; πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσέυς: Iliad 8.97 (τλήμων Ὀδυσεύς, Iliad 10.231, 498, is unique in this form in Homer). We will revisit πολυμήτις ’Οδυσσεύς later in this chapter.

[ back ] 35. Cf. Iliad 9.443; cf. 1.395, 505, 5.879. The traditional formula that predominates for male “work” in the Iliad is that of war, πολεμήϊα ἔργα, a formula that occupies the adonean clausula in Iliad 2.338, 5.428, 7.336, 11.719, 13.727, 730, except for its singular occurrence in the last hemistich of Odyssey 12.116. For a study of unspoken thought, beyond word and deed, as an important factor in characterization (particularly in the Odyssey), see de Jong 1997. For a discussion of the importance of being a good speaker, see Schofield 1986:6–31. Yet, as Dentice Di Accadia (2012:56) rightly notes, the formulaic “parola e azione” is also found within a narrative setting, something that is important to remember (cf. Chapter 1, where I emphasized that traditional language cues were heard in a local narrative context).

[ back ] 36. This is not to deny that Homer was capable of some level of psychological depth in his characters. Griffin (1980:50–80) suggests there is, although Griffin’s emphasis lies in poetic creativity, rather than poetic creativity through tradition, my principal emphasis here.

[ back ] 37. In ancient commentary the whole scene is referred to as the “‘Revue’ [of the troops]” (epipōlēsis). Chantraine (1968:877, s.v. πέλομαι) offers “approcher” for ἐπιπέλομαι. For a general introduction to the “catalogue-type sequence” see Kirk 1985:353–354; on the scene’s oratory, see Dentice Di Accadia 2012:145–154; on the typical preparations and exhortation to battle, the last section of a battle anticipatory sequence, see Schadewaldt 1966:29–40. Morrison (1992a:42, 132), who follows Schadewaldt with some variation, sees nine elements in a prelude to the battle anticipatory sequence: 1. Divine incitement to battle; 2. Mortal decision to fight; 3. Sacrifice; 4. Meal; 5. Gathering of the army; 6. Arming (the whole army or an individual); 7. Marching to battle; 8. Review of troops; and 9. Exhortation. Morrison 1992a:132n18: “The category of exhortation includes advice, criticism, or warning (cf. Iliad 2.381–393, 4.223–421, 19.408–417).” Cf. the two Aiantes neikos toward the troops, in Iliad 12.265–268.

[ back ] 38. For the motif of promised future booty in other martial exhortations, cf. Iliad 1.127–129, 2.323–332, 350–356, 8.286–291, and 9.277–282.

[ back ] 39. Ἀργεῖοι ἰόμωροι ἐλεγχέες οὔ νυ σέβεσθε; (4.242).

[ back ] 40. ὄφρα ἴδητ’ αἴ κ’ ὔμμιν ὑπέρσχῃ χεῖρα Κρονίων; (4.249).

[ back ] 41. It mirrors somewhat the structure of Iliad 2. There, Odysseus takes the scepter from Agamemnon and is first described in general terms. He strikes any man who is shouting and not obeying orders (2.198–199). To such a person, the poet relates, a speech was given, and the poet then furnishes the general import of what he said (200–206). Not long after in the same book (although the situation is now the agorē), we find an extended and specific account of Odysseus’ carrying out this action. Yet, now the harangue is directed toward a specific individual, Thersites, who is crying aloud against Agamemnon (225–242). Odysseus then addresses the specific situation (246–264) in detail. The structural logic of this method of presentation by the poet, moving from the general to the specific, may be compared to other oral devices. For instance, the poet’s logic in argumentation often presents us first with a general statement before he fills in the details of the premises with proof or analogy (e.g. Iliad 14.313–340); or in a character’s use of stories (parable or digression), where the poet first has an individual make a general point, before connecting the story to a concrete situation (e.g. Iliad 9.508–523).

[ back ] 42. The very listing of leading basileis in battle scenes is itself common within the tradition. Cf. Iliad 7.164–167, 8.253–265, where our five individuals and pairs play a prominent role.

[ back ] 43. Cf. Clay (1983:21–25) on the distinction between the narrator’s speech inspired by the muse and the speech of his characters; and Taplin (1990:64) also appropriately distinguishes between a character’s and an audience’s view.

[ back ] 44. Idomeneus is often mentioned (also counting by pairs where indexed in this way) among the first warriors: Iliad 1.46: second; 2.406: second; 6.436: second; 7.165: fourth; 8.78: first; 8.263: third; 17.258: second; 19.311: fourth.

[ back ] 45. This motif too is a traditional element in exhortation to greater action by a leading commander. Cf. Menelaos’ exhortation in Iliad 17.248–251.

[ back ] 46. οὐδέ τοι αὐτὸς / ἧσθαι ἐνὶ κλισίῃσι λιλαίομαι, ἀλλὰ μάχεσθαι, Iliad 13.252–253.

[ back ] 47. Ready (2011:246) further cautions against reading the hunters and dogs (Iliad 13.475) in this simile as referring to Aineias, since, unlike in other similes where such an emphasis is intended, Homer uses the plural. I am not so sure about this point, since often a singular animal can be used to replace a plural group of heroes in the main comparison, as in Iliad 17.728, supra.

[ back ] 48. Cf. the comments of Scott 2009:141. Lord (1953:132–133) and Ready (2015:4) suggest that the piling up of similes is a likely result of the slowed process of dictation of the Homeric poems.

[ back ] 49. The sense of being at the cusp of adulthood is seen most clearly in Odyssey 16.19, with reference to Odysseus. But compare Helen’s remorse in Iliad 3.173–175 over leaving her daughter at the very moment she was coming of age. The use in Homer seems to be this (and perhaps connected with τέλος) rather than referring to an “only” child, since in Iliad 5.153, Phainops has two such sons. The A scholiast (Erbse 1969–1988:3.494) suggests that τηλύγετος ὁ τηλοῦ τῆς ἡλικίας γεγονὼς τοῖς γονεῦσι, μεθ’ ὃν οὐκ ἄν τις γένοιτο. See the discussion in LfgrE 22:467–469, s.v. τηλύγετος (Nordheider).

[ back ] 50. Cf. n. 9 in this chapter.

[ back ] 51. Alternatively, γήθησεν ἰδών occurs three times in the Iliad (4.283, 4.311, 10.190) and twice in the Odyssey (13.226, 22.207), and provides an apposite equivalent form to cover the second to third cola (A2–C1). Further, that this formulaic phrase is part of a larger formulaic system, often involving a participle and κῆρ (in our phrase, the adjective “glad” [γηθόσυνος] fills the place usually held by a participle), is clear from Iliad 1.44 “angered in heart” (χωόμενος κῆρ), 7.428 “grieving in heart” (ἀχνύμενοι κῆρ), and 15.10 “foolish in heart” (κῆρ ἀπινύσσων). See also Iliad 7.431, 9.555, 19.57, 23.37, 165, 284, 443, 24.773; Odyssey 10.67, 12.153, 250, 270, 373, 22.188, 24.420; other expressions provide a description of an emotional state in the adonean clausula when a finite verb is needed (e.g. Iliad 11.274, 400: ἤχθετο γὰρ κῆρ).

[ back ] 52. Iliad 18.555–558: τρεῖς δ’ ἄρ’ ἀμαλλοδετῆρες ἐφέστασαν· αὐτὰρ ὄπισθε / παῖδες δραγμεύοντες ἐν ἀγκαλίδεσσι φέροντες / ἀσπερχὲς πάρεχον βασιλεὺς δ’ ἐν τοῖσι σιωπῇ / σκῆπτρον ἔχων ἑστήκει ἐπ’ ὄγμου γηθόσυνος κῆρ.

[ back ] 53. For the warriors together, see Iliad 5.519–527, 6.435–439, 7.161–169, 8.253–262, 10.227–228, 12.333–412, 13.43–80, 126, 197–205, 701–708, 16.555–561, etc. For Telamonian Ajax, see Iliad 1.141–145, 2.768–769, 3.225–229, 4.473–489, 5.610–625, 7.169–322, 8.220–226, 329–334, 10.172–176, 11.5–9, 11.464–594, 14.409–420, 17.102–124, 166–168, 304–365, etc. The lesser Ajax is not usually referenced alone. See Polinskaya (2011) for a balanced summary of his place in Homer. Further, Ebbott (2003:41–43) suggests that Homer may have retained an older meaning for the second member of this dual, in the person of Teucer as a nothos to the greater Ajax.

[ back ] 54. Cf. n. 38 on the motif of promised future booty.

[ back ] 55. Traill (1990) sees heroes like Ajax (but also Agamemnon and Diomedes) as foremost heroes, but suggests that Homer, because of his “nationalism,” does not permit such a picture of Hector.

[ back ] 56. Cf. my earlier comments (s.v. 2.1.1 Character Consistency) about heroic pairs, but also Ebbott’s (2003:39–40) argument for the theme of “dominant” versus “recessive” brothers in relation to the Ajax’s shield.

[ back ] 57. Iliad 5.610, 12.364, 13.321, 14.409, 15.471, 560, 17.628, 715, 23.708, 722, 811, and 842.

[ back ] 58. Iliad 8.222–26=11.5–9: στῆ δ’ ἐπ’ Ὀδυσσῆος μεγακήτεϊ νηῒ μελαίνῃ, / ἥ ῥ’ ἐν μεσσάτῳ ἔσκε γεγωνέμεν ἀμφοτέρωσε, / ἠμὲν ἐπ’ Αἴαντος κλισίας Τελαμωνιάδαο / ἠδ’ ἐπ’ Ἀχιλλῆος, τοί ῥ’ ἔσχατα νῆας ἐΐσας / εἴρυσαν, ἠνορέῃ πίσυνοι καὶ κάρτεϊ χειρῶν·.

[ back ] 59. This does not deny the rhetorical power of what Ajax does eventually say (albeit to Odysseus and his other colleagues, but in earshot of Achilles), a point made by Rees 2002:24–25 and Dentice Di Accadia 2012:199.

[ back ] 60. I use ring (or chiastic) composition throughout to refer both of the structure and the content (i.e. themes) of passages. In the present example we see the poetic chiasm in Ajax’s (A) nod to Phoinix (B), then Phoinix’s to Oydsseus (C), in Iliad 9.223; and there follows by three speeches in reverse order: (C) Odysseus’ (225–305), (B) Phoenix’s (434–605), and, lastly, (A) Ajax’s (624–642). On defining ring structure, see Whitman 1958:87, Lohmann 1970:12–13, Lowenstam 1983:12, Stanley 1993:6–26, 307n21, and Dunkle 1997:233; for a comparative approach, see especially Douglas 2007; for other approaches to ring structure (differing or more restrictive than my use of the term here), see Minchin 2011b.

[ back ] 61. The epithet is traditional, and it no doubt represents a long-used formula kept close to Nestor for obvious reasons (cf. the argument for character-appropriate epithets that we considered in Chapter 1).

[ back ] 62. Dentice Di Accadia (2012:204–216) further argues against scholarly nay-sayers, for the “successo oratorio” of “un abile oratore.” Minchin (1991:273) notes that the Iliad shows awareness of Nestor’s skill in words in three ways: through testimony of the poet or Nestor’s peers; the reaction and response of his companions to his advice; and the gifts he has been offered in recognition of his services as counselor and strategist. Martin (1989:23–24) calls Nestor “the veteran performer and orator.”

[ back ] 63. Plato (Phaedrus 261c.) even has Nestor collaborating with Odysseus to produce a treatise on rhetoric. The oratorical skills of the pair became proverbial (e.g. Cicero Brutus 40; Quintilian Institutio 12.10.64), however Nestor is described as less powerful in his eloquence.

[ back ] 64. Lardinois also finds in his study that, in contrast to some other Iliadic characters (like Achilles), most of Nestor’s gnomai are second-person sayings, which, he argues, creates a more authoritative style of speaking.

[ back ] 65. Reyes (2002:25) suggests that Nestor’s appeals are made on the basis of honor, central to Homeric society.

[ back ] 66. Roisman mediates between the poet’s high regard for Nestor and some modern scholars’ reservations about his military ability (Kirk 1985:360–361, Postlethwaite 2000:82) by arguing that Nestor’s sagaciousness and balance are found in his sustaining the values of the community, rather than in the actual tactics he employs. One has to be careful, however, to remember that the aoidoi and their tradition may not have been experts in military matters. To the Iliad poet and his audience, he and his abilities appear to be held in high regard.

[ back ] 67. Cf. Phoinix in Iliad 9.447–484 and Laertes in Odyssey 24.376–382. Nestor has lived through three generations, according to the poet in Iliad 1.250–252 (see Frazer 1971, for the translation of time in this verse).

[ back ] 68. 4.321: εἰ τότε κοῦρος ἔα; 7.132–133: αἲ … ἡβῷμ’, with ring closure at 7.157, εἴθ’ ὣς ἡβώοιμι.

[ back ] 69. On the use of μῦθος in Homer as an authoritative speech act, see Martin 1989:22–26. Martin (22) notes in his contrast between muthos and epos that “muthos implies authority” in the Iliad that “is largely about situations in which power is in dispute, up for grabs.” Martin’s argument uses comparisons with disputes of Cretan mountain villagers (studied by Herzfeld 1985a, 1985b).

[ back ] 70. See the earlier discussion of these traditional formulae in this chapter, s.v. 2.2.1 Agamemnon’s Appeal to Idomeneus: 4.251–272.

[ back ] 71. The tradition we have in Homer is consistent in making Menestheus a lesser heroic character. Cf. Iliad 12.330–334.

[ back ] 72. πολύμητις ’Οδυσσεύς (occurring in the adonean clausula): Iliad 1.131, 440, 3.200, 4.349, 10.148, 382, 400, 423, 488, 554, 14.82, 19.154, 215; Odyssey 2.173, 5.214, 7.207, 240, 7.302, 8.152, 165, 412, 463, 474, 486, 9.1, 11.354, 377, 13.311, 416, 14.191, 390, 439, 15.380, 16.201, 17.16, 192, 353, 453, 18.14, 51, 124, 312, 337, 365, 19.41, 70, 106, 164, 220, 261, 335, 382, 499, 554, 582, 20.36, 168, 183, 226, 21.274, 21.404, 22.1, 22.34, 60, 105, 170, 320, 371, 390, 430, 490, 23.129, 247, 263, 24.302, 330, 356, 406. A variant of this epithet, ’Οδυσεὺς πολύμητις, occurs in the first hemistich in Iliad 3.268, 23.709, and 755. A singular occurrence of πολύμητις in the genitive with Hephaistos (Iliad 21.355) is anomalous. For other epithets, see n. 34.

[ back ] 73. If one assumes resonance between the Odyssey and Iliad as suggested in Chapter 1.

[ back ] 74. Cf. Danek (1998:33), who suggests that the Odyssey poet tells Homer’s audience “eine bekannte Geschichte,” one, as I have argued in Chapter 1, known to the audience of the Iliad. On Odysseus’ namelessness in the Odyssey, see further Fenik 1974:5–60 (who begins with Nausikaa’s query), Clay 1983:27–30, and Peradotto 1994:94–119. Austin’s (1972:15) comments amount essentially to the referential significance of Odysseus’ namelessness, since he suggests that it carries “an irony larger than the immediate moment” that is “echoing through the poem.” Odysseus’ namelessness has been taken as concealing trickery (see Segal 1983:28) or “subversive” (Van Nortwick 2010:45–64). While Odysseus was certainly capable of trickery and a trickster figure in Homer’s tradition, as I argue above, the Odyssey (like the Iliad) is generally not negative about Odysseus’ relation to “ruse” (δόλος).

[ back ] 75. See Danek 1998:161–162, on possible background stories.

[ back ] 76. Marquardt (1992:252n15) contrasts the δόλος of Odysseus in the Odyssey with that of Aigisthos: “Both Odysseus and Aigisthos are undeniably clever, but πολύμητις Odysseus (e.g. 13.311, 5.214) is held up for our admiration because he is cunning to maintain his marriage bond and his loyal household, while δολόμητις Aigisthos (1.300, 3.198) is presented as a villain for his successful assault on the sanctity of a marriage bond and the stability of an οἶκος.” We will consider the tradition-based implications of δολόμητις in Chapter 3. See also Gasti (1992), who contrasts the communitarian values of Odysseus against those of Ajax. Thus, while Homer doubtless has “trickster” traditions in mind (Russo 1992:68–70), the trickster Odysseus acts for the benefit of the community. Such, too, was the case with Tale in the South Slavic example we considered earlier.

[ back ] 77. See for example de Jong (2001:50–51) and Zerba (2009:305–306) on Odyssey 2.89–110, 19.137–140, and 24.125–129, and the δόλος of the loom.

[ back ] 78. Stanford (1968:13) outlines the descent of Odysseus in later literature and correctly, I think, notes that this picture is not what we see in Homer. Stanford’s view of Homer’s Odysseus is substantiated by the picture of Odysseus’ character traits outlined by De Jong 2001:134. We must resist a simple caricature of Odysseus based on later, baser portraits of this well-spoken hero, created after the advent of formal rhetoric. Odysseus became a vehicle for caricature, especially of seductively unethical and amoral logoi (cf. Odysseus as a figure in later philosophy, in Montiglio 2011). Of course, this is not to deny that the Homeric Odysseus could represent a more civically minded Odysseus than might have been the case in the past before the performance tradition of our Iliad and Odyssey (Clay 1983:70). Danek (1998:161) seems to imply as much, by suggesting “anderer (früherer, alternativer) Versionen der Geschichte.” I am hesitant to use his strong tone for an oral culture, however, or to agree that somehow Homer is correcting (korrigieren) and replacing (ersetzen) other versions (cf. the discussion of “variant” versus “multiformity” in Dué 2002:21, and her reference to Lord 1960:120, Lord 1995:23, and Nagy 1996a). Danek’s emphasis on the competitive nature of the Homeric performance arena, however, is important (cf. our consideration of Murko and Plato’s Ion in Chapter 1).

[ back ] 79. Used positively, this would highlight Odysseus’ ability in the same area. Related to Odysseus’ δόλος is his ability to endure (πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς / ὁ τλήμων Ὀδυσεύς) with others for the sake of a mission, on which see Dué and Ebott (2010:289, 75–76) and the lochos theme.

[ back ] 80. Holoka (1983:4, 7) further suggests its utility as part of a response to encourage propriety. Holoka (3n6) mentions instances of the formula’s appearance beyond Homer and finds its usage consistent with its epic appearances.

[ back ] 81. Iliad 1.148, 2.245, 4.349, 4.411, 5.251, 5.888, 10.446, 12.230, 14.82, 15.13, 17.141, 17.169, 18.284, 20.428, 22.260, 22.344, 24.559; Odyssey 8.165, 17.459, 18.14, 18.337, 18.388, 19.70, 22.34, 22.60, and 22.320.

[ back ] 82. Cf. Iliad 4.350, 14.83, Odyssey 1.64, 3.230, 5.22, 19.492, 21.168, and 23.70.

[ back ] 83. The vividness of Odysseus’ challenge is achieved through a future indicative in the apodosis. Monro (1893:298) denies the use of the future in the apodosis to suggest any imperatival sense, yet a light imperatival emphasis is clearly intended here. Goodwin (1897:165) observes that a future can act “as an emphatic form,” something “especially common when the condition contains a strong appeal to the feelings”; and Wilmott (2007:87) observes that the future indicative can have a “deontic” force.

[ back ] 84. There is a lack of evidence in Homer to state categorically whether or not Τηλεμάχοιο φίλον πατέρα is a traditional epithet, although the bridged A colon and the logical necessity of taking φίλον πατέρα together lend weight to the suggestion. Further, προμάχοισι μιγέντα does occur again in Odyssey 18.379, modifying an accusative. The finite equivalent for a nominative subject, προμάχοισιν ἐμίχθη, is also well represented (Iliad 5.134, 8.99, 13.642, and 15.457) in the same metrical position, which suggests at any rate the need to divide the cola at C1. For my assumptions about Homeric colometrics, see Appendix A.

[ back ] 85. In all the occurrences of these epithets, I observe the following axiom: while the patronymic is found without the epithet πολυμήχανος, the epithet πολυμήχανος is never found without this patronymic. Odysseus is named in Homer with his patronymic in Iliad 2.173, 3.200, 4.358, 8.93, 9.308, 9.624, 10.144, 19.185, 23.723; Odyssey 5.203, 9.19, 10.401, 10.456, 10.488, 10.504, 11.60, 11.92, 11.405, 11.473, 11.617, 13.375, 14.486, 16.167, 16.455, 17.361, 22.164, and 24.542.

[ back ] 86. The epithet is used only once of another character (and in its feminine form predicatively), by Odysseus of Kirke in Odyssey 23.321. In this way, it is like πολύμητις, which is only used otherwise of Hephaistos by the poet, as we noted earlier (n. 72).

[ back ] 87. This is especially so here since it is used alone, proleptically, preparing for Odysseus’ name a couple of lines later in Odyssey 1.207.

[ back ] 88. My findings differ markedly from Lowenstam’s (1993:81), who comments: “Agamemnon himself demonstrates how a man of authority should regulate the warriors subordinate to him.” As we see here (and will observe throughout the Iliad in Chapter 4), it is Agamemnon’s qualities as a leader, rather than Odysseus’, that are in doubt.

[ back ] 89. Dentice Di Accadia (202:149) is overly generous with Agamemnon when he concludes, “Il re, nel mitigare le critiche espresse in precedenza [Iliad 4.358–363], mostra di non essere uno sprovveduto quanta ad abilita oratoria.”

[ back ] 90. Chantraine (1968:948–949, s.v. πτήσσω) suggests modern equivalents such as “chercher refuge,” “esquiver,” and “se cacher.” The ensuing infinitive form πτωσκαζέμεν (4.372) comes from a variant root of πτώσσεις (4.371).

[ back ] 91. Here γέφυρα is clearly metaphorical.

[ back ] 92. Τhe poet-narrator earlier described Diomedes first through his patronymic: εὗρε δὲ Τυδέος υἱον ὑπέρθυμον Διομήδεα, 4.365. The appeal to Diomedes through his father also occurs in Iliad 5.125 (cf. Iliad 1.115, where Diomedes’ prayer is framed around this metonym) and 10.283–295 (cf. Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1982:56).

[ back ] 93. Here we detect a traditional trait and a character type—a paramount basileus speaking to a younger warrior—as partial cause of Diomedes’ immediate acquiescence (Iliad 4.401–402, 413).

[ back ] 94. In this conclusion, I differ from Dentice Di Accadia (2012:150).

[ back ] 95. Cf. the conclusions of de Jong (2005:17) on Diomedes’ meeting with Glaukos in Iliad 6.123–129.

[ back ] 96. Cf. the similar observations of Schadewaldt 1966:152, Whitman 1958:161, Kirk 1985:142, Rose 1988:19, McGlew 1989:290–292, Patzek 1992:132, Lowenstam:1993:78, Barker 2009:60 (cf. 56–61 for a close consideration of Thersites and the management of dissent), and Elmer 2013:93. Seibel (1995:386) suggests that Odysseus “tritt in Thersites seinem alter ego gegenüber.” Dentice Di Accadia (2012:121–139) gives a thorough overview of approaches to the figure of Thersites in this episode, albeit his principal concern is with rhetoric.

[ back ] 97. The address that begins the rebuke of Sthenelos is more familial than that received by Thersites, however. Dentice Di Accadia (2012:138) feels that Thersites, although speaking “la verità” represents “antieroico” speech that is contrary to the spirit and ethics of the poem itself.

[ back ] 98. I will return to this issue in Chapter 4, s.v. 4.2.6 Grievances against Agamemnon—Revisiting His Past Wrongs: Book 9.

[ back ] 99. Of τέττα, Chantraine (1968:1096, s.v. τατᾶ) notes that it is a “terme amical et familier” and parallel to τατᾶ, and has continued on through Latin in such familial terms as the French la tante. I leave it untranslated here, however, since it is not possible with its singular occurrence in Homer to know the range of possible nuances.

[ back ] 100. Respect is emphasized by the poet’s use of a figura etymologica in 4.402: αἰδεσθεὶς βασιλῆος ἐνιπὴν αἰδοίοιο.

[ back ] 101. Appeals to the troops are traditional and can include some level of rebuke (cf. Iliad 12.265–277, 408–413, 13.117–125, 15.502–514, 15.659–666), but the tenor of Agamemnon’s appeal is highly problematic, as I suggest here and in Chapter 4.

[ back ] 102. Kirk’s (1985:367–368) confusion over the use of this term would be resolved if he took Agamemnon’s misrepresentation of Diomedes’ intent into account. Further, Leaf (1902:180) had earlier noted Diomedes’ active waiting, when he suggested he was waiting in his chariot, since “ἵπποισι, here as often = chariot, and goes with ἅρμασι by hendiadys.”

[ back ] 103. As I suggest beginning in Chapter 1 (see especially n. 17 and “Reading Characterization Traditionally”), however, any claim for lexical meaning in Homer must be based upon a consideration of Homer’s traditional lexicon.

[ back ] 104. Iliad 7.242–243: ἀλλ’ οὐ γάρ σ’ ἐθέλω βαλέειν τοιοῦτον ἐόντα / λάθρῃ ὀπιπεύσας, ἀλλ’ ἀμφαδόν, αἴ κε τύχωμι.

[ back ] 105. Odyssey 19.66–67: ξεῖν’, ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐνθάδ’ ἀνιήσεις διὰ νύκτα / δινεύων κατὰ οἶκον, ὀπιπεύσεις δὲ γυναῖκας;

[ back ] 106. Chantraine 1968:808, s.v. ὀπιπεύω, and cf. LfgrE 17.731, s.v. ὀπιπεύω (R. Führer), who has “ausspähen.” The verb is likely derived from a hypothetical appellative ὀπιπή according to Chantraine (cf. Beekes 2010:1091, s.v. ὀπιπεύω).

[ back ] 107. Leaf (1900:341) argues that it must be an interpolation because “there is no indication of any general rally on the Greek side, and the idea that Diomedes could unaided have caused a general rout of the enemy seems to be a mere outbidding of his exploits.”

[ back ] 108. For the intensifying nature of τρίς, see: Iliad 1.213, 5.136, 436, 437, 6.435, 8.169, 170, 11.462, 463, 13.20, 16.702, 703, 784, 785, 18.155, 157, 228, 229, 20.445, 446, 21.80, 176, 177, 22.165, 251, 23.13, 817, 24.16, 273; Odyssey 3.245, 4.86, 4.277, 5.306, 6.154, 155, 8.340, 9.65, 361, 11.206, 207, 12.105, 21.125, 126. The traditional formula is κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν. Kelly (2007a:198–199) also notes an element of portending aggression in the Iliadic examples of the κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν formula, an element implicated too, in most of the moments of pondering in the Odyssey.

[ back ] 109. Larger formulaic systems that include κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν allow for the interchange of various verbs and other elements, according to local metrical necessities and grammar. Other examples of pondering (μερμηρίζω, φράζομαι, ὅρμαινω) with this formula in the Iliad include Odysseus, alone in the battlefield after saving Diomedes, pondering whether to stand his ground or retreat (11.411); Menelaos, likewise pondering whether to stay or retreat from guarding the corpse of Patroklos (17.106); but also Achilles, questioning with heavy heart whether Patroklos has died, just before a messenger arrives to confirm his worst fear (18.15). In the Odyssey, the formulaic “pondering in his mind and spirit” is used to describe Menelaos considering whether to ask Telemachos, as yet unknown to him, to declare who his father is (4.117, 120); and of Odysseus, as he considers whether and when to investigate Kirke’s island (10.151), whether and when to kill the traitorous serving women (20.10), and how quickly he should (finally) reveal himself to Laertes (24.235). In Odyssey 4.813, the poet makes the nature of Penelope’s pondering clear, by introducing the formula using ἐρέθω.

[ back ] 110. The object of what is known in one’s mind and spirit includes the reality that “sacred Ilion” will fall (Agamemnon in Iliad 4.163 and Hector in 6.447), or Achilles not knowing whether Aineias’ spear will pierce his shield (20.264), or Peisistratus knowing that Nestor will be angry for him not returning with Telemachos (his xeinos) who is, should he stay, in danger of delaying, just as Odysseus was throughout his nostos (Odyssey 15.211).

[ back ] 111. διάνδιχα μερμήρικεν is itself formulaic (cf. Iliad 1.189, 13.455).

[ back ] 112. Elmer’s remark does not deny the Homeric proclivity of allowing disorder to have a free hand before the poet reimposes order and regularity, as he notes (Elmer 2013:86).