The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry

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Chapter 20. Achilles beyond the Iliad

20§1. Having just seen how the neîkos ‘quarrel’ between Hesiod and Perses (Works and Days 35) serves as the context for a grand definition of díkē by way of its opposition to húbris, [1] we return one last time to the neîkos between Odysseus and Achilles (Odyssey viii 75) in the first song of Demodokos (Odyssey viii 72–82). This quarrel too serves as a context for defining one theme, the mêtis ‘artifice’ of Odysseus, by opposing it to another theme, the bíē ‘might’ of Achilles. [2] But here it is not simply a matter of choosing between negative and positive, as with húbris and díkē. True, the mêtis of Odysseus is vindicated as the heroic resource that will lead to the ultimate capture of Troy. But the bíē of Achilles is also vindicated by the events of traditional epic narrative, in that the Achaeans survived to capture Troy only because they had been rescued earlier by Patroklos/Achilles from the onslaught of Hektor. [3] The kleos of Achilles as the best of the Achaeans in the Iliad is achieved because the Achaeans are doomed without his bíē. For his own kléos as best of the Achaeans in the Odyssey, [4] even Odysseus will need to have bíē against the suitors. When they fail in their attempts to string the bow of Odysseus, the suitors themselves must recognize the hero’s superiority in bíē:

πολλὸν δὲ βίης ἐπιδευέες ἦσαν
and they were by far inferior in bíē

Odyssey xxi 185

ἀλλ᾽ εἰ δή τοσσόνδε βίης ἐπιδευέες εἰμὲν
ἀντιθέου Ὀδυσῆος {317|318}
but if indeed we are so inferior in bíē
to godlike Odysseus

Odyssey xxi 253–254

In Penelope’s own conditional words, the disguised Odysseus would have to use his bíē in order to string the bow (Odyssey xxi 314–315) and thereby win her as wife (Odyssey xxi 316). Odysseus is of course not only about to string the bow, thus fulfilling the condition set down by Penelope. He will also kill the suitors with it.

nominative βίη Ἡρακληείη Iliad XI 690; Hesiod, Theogony 289, 292, fr. 35.1(MW)
genitive βίης Ἡρακληείης Iliad II 666; Hesiod, Theogony 332, fr. 33(a)25, 30
dative βίῃ Ἡρακληείῃ Iliad II 658, XV 640; Hesiod, Theogony 315, fr. 25.18, 165.9
accusative βίην Ἡρακληείην Iliad V 638, XIX 98, Odyssey xi 601; Hesiod, Theogony 943, fr. 33(a)23

bíē + adjective of Eteo-kléēs (-́klos) [8] = Ἐτεοκληείη Iliad IV 386
bíē + adjective of Iphi-kléēs (-́klos) [9] = Ἰφικληείη Odyssey ix 290, 296
bíē + genitive of Patro-kléēs (-́klos) [10] = Πατρόκλοιο Iliad XVII 187, XXII 323

20§4. The ambivalence of bíē is also reflected by the Iliad. Only here it is not a matter of assigning good and bad bíē to good and bad characters respectively. Rather, the good/bad ambivalence of bíē is {319|320} built into one character, Achilles himself. The good aspect has already been mentioned: without the bíē of Achilles, no mêtis can rescue the Achaeans from Hektor’s onslaught. [14] As for the bad aspect, it is manifested throughout the rampage of Achilles as he finally enters his war in the Iliad. He does more, much more, than simply kill Hektor. A veritable slaughter is to precede Hektor’s death, only to be followed by mutilation and human sacrifice. [15] Apollo says it all when he compares Achilles to a ravenous lion who lunges for his daís ‘portion’, yielding to his own savage bíē (Iliad XXIV 41–43). [16] The words of Apollo describing the hero’s disposition correspond to the words used by Achilles himself as he expresses his own brutal urge to devour the vanquished Hektor (Iliad XXII 346–347). [17] Such ghastly aspects of bíē lead us to wonder what words the man of mêtis may possibly have used against the man of bíē during their neîkos ‘quarrel’, which actually took place at a daís ‘feast’ (Odyssey viii 76). One thing is certain: when Odysseus for a single moment despairs of his mêtis, the reaction of his men is to be overwhelmed by thoughts about bíē. Let us observe first the hero’s words of despair:

Then the reaction of his men:

In the absence of mêtis, disorienting thoughts of bíē are stirred up in the mind. And the nightmarish vision of the man-eating Cyclops in the Odyssey is marked by the same bíē that marks the epic vision of a rampaging Achilles in the Iliad. Significantly, it is only here in the Odyssey that the Cyclops is ever called ‘great-hearted’ (μεγαλήτορος: Odyssey x 200)—an epithet generically applied to the warriors of the Trojan War. [

20§6. The ultimate cosmic bíē is that of Zeus himself as he readies himself for battle with the Titans:

What follows these verses is an elaborate description of an ultimate thunderstorm (Theogony 689–712) marked by thunder and lightning (Theogony 689–692, 699, 707–708) that brings fire (Theogony 692–700) and is conducted by winds (Theogony 706–709). [
28] The Cyclopes themselves, who had actually made thunder and lightning for Zeus (Theogony 139–141), are characterized by their bíē (Theogony 146). And here we see at least one interesting point of convergence between the Cyclopes of the Theogony and those of the Odyssey, who in turn are described as ‘better in bíē’ than the Phaeacians (βίηφι … φέρτεροι: Odyssey vi 6). We should also recall the bíē of the man-eating Cyclops Polyphemus (Odyssey x 200). [29] The main point remains, however, that the cosmic aspect of bíē as manifested in the thunderstorm of Zeus is parallel in epic diction to the heroic aspect of bíē as manifested in the martial rage of {322|323} Achilles. The slaughter of the Trojans by Achilles is directly compared to the burning of a city (Iliad XXI 520–525) as effected by the mênis ‘anger’ of the gods (Iliad XXI 523). The anger of the gods in general and of Zeus in particular is of course manifested directly in the fire and wind of a thunderstorm inflicted by Zeus, as we have already seen in Hesiod Theogony 687–712. [30] Moreover, cosmic fire marks the reentry of Achilles in battle: Athena brings about a phlóx ‘flame’ that burns over the hero’s head (Iliad XVIII 206), and the Trojans are terrified at the sight of this akámaton pûr ‘inexhaustible fire’ (Iliad XVIII 225). We may compare the phlox of Zeus during his thunderstorm against the Titans (Hesiod Theogony 692, 697), and in addition, the phlóx and the akámaton pûr of Hephaistos as the fire god stands in for Achilles by combating the element of water itself (Iliad XXI 333/349 and 341 respectively). Again I note that the phlégma ‘conflagration’ of Hephaistos is conducted by the thúella ‘gust’ of the West and South Winds (Iliad XXI 334–337), [31] just as the thunderbolt of Zeus is conducted by ánemoi ‘winds’ (Theogony 706–709).

20§7. The cosmic and heroic aspects of bíē combined bring us now to a striking parallel in Indo-Iranian religion and epic. The parallelism is to be found in the Indo-Iranian storm god Vāyu: his very name means ‘Wind’, and he had once functioned as a god of the Männerbund or warrior society. [32] The parallelism is also to be found in the Indic hero Bhīma, one of the main figures in the epic Mahābhārata. Begotten of a mortal woman Kuntī by the war god Vāyu himself, Bhīma is the very embodiment of balam ‘physical might’, who is destined to be “the best among the strong” (Mahābhārata 1.114.8–10). [33] He is, for that matter, not only strong but fast as well, running “with the speed of wind” (e.g., Mahābhārata 1.136.19). He is also decidedly brutal—a quality that occasionally earns the solemn blame of his older brother Yudhiṣṭhira (Mahābhārata 9.58.15 ff.). In one episode (Mahābhārata 3.153), he goes on a rampage of violence (again blamed by {323|324} Yudhiṣṭhira) that is actually inaugurated by a violent windstorm. Bhīma has a younger brother Arjuna, begotten of Kuntī by the war god Indra. This hero is the embodiment not only of balam ‘physical might’ as applied to enemies but also of beneficence as applied to friends (Mahābhārata 1.114.23). In this connection, we must note the important discussions of Stig Wikander and Georges Dumézil, who have convincingly shown that the relationship of the five brothers Yudhiṣṭhira, Bhīma & Arjuna, Nakula & Sahadeva, collectively known as the Pāṇḍava-s, reflects an ideology so archaic that it is Indo-European in origin. [34] What is of more immediate concern, however, is the specific relationship of the heroes Bhīma and Arjuna, which reflects an ideology that is no longer apparent in the relationship of the gods who fathered them, Vāyu and Indra respectively. By the time that the Mahābhārata was taking on its present shape, Vāyu had long been obsolescent, while Indra had long ago evolved from a god of war into a far more complex and versatile figure. [35] The contrast between Bhīma and Arjuna in epic, however, remains unaffected—or at least less affected—by the trends of Indic religion. For my own purposes, I note in particular the following details of contrast from among a more extensive list of details assembled by Dumézil: [36]

    Bhīma is defiant of military institutions; Arjuna is respectfulBhīma is a solitary combatant; Arjuna fights in the armyBhīma tends to fight without armor; Arjuna is equipped with a spectacular array of weaponry.

20§8. Each of these thematic contrasts between the two Indic figures evokes a striking parallel within the single figure of Achilles. There is on one hand the Hellenic hero’s defiance of military institutions, taking the specific form of his challenge to Agamemnon in Iliad I as well as his rejection of the Embassy in Iliad IX. On the other hand, his treatment of Priam in Iliad XXIV reflects a stance of ultimate military etiquette. Or again, there is his solitary disposition as manifested in his refusal to aid the phíloi despite the entreaties of the Embassy. Only after the death of Patroklos, who is to him more phílos than anyone else, is Achilles finally reintegrated with the rest of his phíloi. [37] Before his reintegration into the Männerbund of his {324|325} phíloi, [38] Achilles is pictured spending his time together with Patroklos in their mutual isolation, as we hear from the retrospective words spoken by the apparition of Patroklos himself:

Achilles had even expressed the wish that he and Patroklos should be the only Achaeans to survive for the grand event of capturing Troy:

αἲ γάρ, Ζεῦ τε πάτερ καὶ Ἀθηναίη καὶ Ἄπολλον,
μήτε τις οὖν Τρώων θάνατον φύγοι, ὅσσοι ἔασι,
μήτε τις Ἀργείων, νῶϊν δ᾽ ἐκδῦμεν ὄλεθρον,
ὄφρ᾽ οἶοι Τροίης ἱερὰ κρήδεμνα λύωμεν
Father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo! If only
not one of all the Trojans could escape destruction,
nor a single one of the Argives, while you and I emerge from the slaughter,
so that we two alone may break Troy’s sacred coronal.

Iliad XVI 97–100

Finally, we come to the third contrast. Achilles, like Arjuna, has the most splendid armor, and the lengthy description of his shield in Iliad XVIII (468–608) even entails a distinct narrative form. The tradition that tells of his armor is in fact so strong that the Iliad itself reckons with not one but two occasions when Achilles was given a set of armor made by Hephaistos himself (the later occasion at Iliad XVIII 468–613, the earlier at XVII 194–197 and XVIII 82–85). [
40] As for the image of an Achilles without armor, I find an interesting attestation in Pindar Nemean 3.43–66, a rare survival from the poetic traditions that had told about the boyhood deeds of Achilles. [41] Here we see the {325|326} young hero killing lions and boars while armed with nothing but a spear (lines 46–47); [42] in motion he is as fast as the winds (ἴσα τ᾽ ἀνέμοις: line 45), and his speed is such that he even outruns deer, hunting them down without the aid of hunting dogs or traps (lines 51–52). [43]

20§9. Mention of Achilles’ wondrous speed brings us back to the theme of bíē as manifested by wind. The hero’s speed is reflected even by the epithet system that adorns him in epic diction. Achilles is in fact the only hero in the Iliad who is called podárkēs ‘relying on his feet’ (over 20x), [44] pódas ōkús ‘swift with his feet’ (over 30x), and podṓkēs ‘swift-footed’ (over 20x). [45] Moreover, his windlike speed is a direct function of his bíē, as we see from the words directed at Hektor by Athena in disguise:

In other heroic traditions as well, bíē is manifested in the speed of wind. An ideal example is Ī́phiklos, who is also called bíē + adjective of Ī́phi-kléēs (as at Odyssey xi 290, 296: βίη Ἰφικληείη). [
47] This {326|327} hero’s identity, which is the very embodiment of bíē and its synonym ī́s, [48] is determined predominantly by his windlike speed. He is pictured in Hesiod fr. 62MW (quoted by Eustathius 323.42) as racing through a field of grain with such speed that his feet barely touch the tips of the grain stalks. His epithet is podṓkēs ‘swift footed’, and he is said to have races with the winds themselves (scholia ad Odyssey xi 326 and P.Soc.Ital. 1173.78–81). He even has a son called Podárkēs ‘relying on his feet ‘ (Hesiod fr. 199.5MW). [49]

20§10. The verb théō ‘run, speed’, as we see it applied to the speeding Ī́phiklos (θέεν: Hesiod fr. 62.1MW), also applies to speeding ships (Iliad I 483, Odyssey ii 429, etc.) and to speeding horses (Iliad X 437, XIX 415, XX 227, 229). [50] In the case of horses, we may be more specific: their speed is by convention compared directly to the speed of wind, by way of the verb théō. At X 437, the horses of Rhesos are “like the winds in speed [θείειν].” At XIX 415, Xanthos, the wondrous horse of Achilles, says that they, the hero’s horse team, could run [θέοιμεν] as fast as the gust of Zephyros the West Wind, described as the fastest of all. Despite their speed, however, Achilles is fated to die “by ī́s [ἶφι], at the hands of a god and a man” (Iliad XIX 417). Finally, at XX 227, the wondrous horses fathered by Boreas the North Wind are described as so swift that their feet barely touch the tips of the grain stalks as they race [θέον] across fields of grain. Also, at XX 229, their feet barely touch the tips of the waves as they race [θέεσκον] across the surface of the sea. Needless to say, the parallel with the speeding Iphiklos (Hesiod fr. 62MW) is striking. I lay such emphasis on the associations of the verb théō in Homeric diction because I see an interesting semantic complement in the associations of the adjective derived from théō, thoós ‘swift’. As an epithet, thoós applies to Ares the war god himself (Iliad V 430, VIII 215, etc.) as well as to occasional {327|328} warriors (Iliad V 571, XV 585, etc.). Moreover, the epithet Arēḯthoos ‘swift with Ares’ applies in the plural to aizēoí, an obscure noun designating warriors at VIII 298/XV 315 and hunters at XX 167. We are reminded of the Indo-Iranian war god Vāyu, whose very name means ‘Wind’; also of the warrior Bhīma, son of Vāyu, who runs with the speed of wind. [51] In the associations of Greek théō and thoós, we find close parallels to these Indo-Iranian themes: the semantic range of the two words combined conveys a fusion of the elemental and martial functions. [52]

20§11. The form Arēḯthoos recurs as the name of an Arcadian hero in a particularly interesting narrative tradition preserved by the Iliad. The context is set as Nestor is reproaching the Achaeans (νείκεσσ᾽ ‘made neîkos’: Iliad VII 161) because not one of them has yet taken up Hektor’s challenge issued to whoever is “best of the Achaeans” (Iliad VII 50). The old man wishes that he were young again (Iliad VII 132–133), as he was at the time of his youthful exploits during a war between the Pylians and the Arcadians (Iliad VII 133–156). The tale of his exploits is concluded with a reiteration by Nestor of his wish that he were as young as he had been at that time:

εἴθ᾽ ὣς ἡβώοιμι, βίη δέ μοι ἔμπεδος εἴη
If only I were that young! If only my bíē had remained as it was!

Iliad VII 157

The narrative framed by Nestor’s wish, which took place in those former days when he still had his full bíē, concerns a duel between Nestor and a gigantic Arcadian hero—a duel that the old man is now contrasting with the present prospect of a duel between Hektor and whoever is “best of the Achaeans.” The Arcadian hero was Ereutha-líōn, wearing the armor of Arēḯthoos:

τοῖσι δ᾽ Ἐρευθαλίων πρόμος ἵστατο, ἰσόθεος φώς,
τεύχε᾽ ἔχων ὤμοισιν Ἀρηϊθόοιο ἄνακτος,
δίου Ἀρηϊθόου, τὸν ἐπίκλησιν κορυνήτην {328|329}
ἄνδρες κίκλησκον καλλίζωνοί τε γυναῖκες,
140οὕνεκ᾽ ἄρ᾽ οὐ τόξοισι μαχέσκετο δουρί τε μακρῷ,
ἀλλὰ σιδηρείῃ κορύνῃ ῥήγνυσκε φάλαγγας.
τὸν Λυκόοργος ἔπεφνε δόλῳ, οὔ τι κράτεΐ γε,
στεινωπῷ ἐν ὁδῷ, ὅθ᾽ ἄρ᾽ οὐ κορύνη οἱ ὄλεθρον
χραῖσμε σιδηρείη· πρὶν γὰρ Λυκόοργος ὑποφθὰς
145δουρὶ μέσον περόνησεν, ὁ δ᾽ ὕπτιος οὔδει ἐρείσθη·
τεύχεα δ᾽ ἐξενάριξε, τά οἱ πόρε χάλκεος Ἄρης.
καὶ τὰ μὲν αὐτὸς ἔπειτα φόρει μετὰ μῶλον Ἄρηος·
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ Λυκόοργος ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἐγήρα,
δῶκε δ᾽ Ἐρευθαλίωνι φίλῳ θεράποντι φορῆναι·
150τοῦ ὅ γε τεύχε᾽ ἔχων προκαλίζετο πάντας ἀρίστους.
οἱ δὲ μάλ᾽ ἐτρόμεον καὶ ἐδείδισαν, οὐδέ τις ἔτλη·
ἀλλ᾽ ἐμὲ θυμὸς ἀνῆκε πολυτλήμων πολεμίζειν
θάρσεϊ ᾧ· γενεῇ δὲ νεώτατος ἔσκον ἁπάντων·
καὶ μαχόμην οἱ ἐγώ, δῶκεν δέ μοι εὖχος Ἀθήνη.
155τὸν δή μήκιστον καὶ κάρτιστον κτάνον ἄνδρα·
πολλὸς γάρ τις ἔκειτο παρήορος ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα.
Their champion stood forth, Ereuthalíōn, a man godlike,
wearing upon his shoulders the armor of King Arēḯthoos,
Arēḯthoos the brilliant, named the Club Bearer [
by the men and fair-girdled women of that time,
140because he fought not with bow and arrows, nor with a long spear,
but with a club coated with iron he smashed the army ranks.
Lukóorgos killed him—with a stratagem, not with krátos [
in a narrow pass, where the iron club could not ward off
his destruction, since Lukóorgos anticipated him
145by pinning him through the middle with his spear, and he fell down backwards to the ground.
And he stripped off the armor that brazen Ares had given him.
And from then on he wore the armor himself whenever he went to the môlos [struggle] of Ares. {329|330}
But when Lukóorgos was growing old in his halls,
he gave it to Ereuthalíōn to wear, his phílos therápōn.
150So, wearing his armor [of Areithoos], he [Ereuthalion] was challenging all the best to fight him.
But they were all afraid and trembling: no one undertook to do it.
I was the only one, driven to fight by my thūmós which was ready to undertake much,
with all its boldness, even though I was the youngest of them all.
I fought him, and Athena gave me fame. [
155For I killed the biggest and the best man: [
he sprawled in his great bulk from here to here. [

Iliad VII 136–156

Within the limits of my present inquiry, I cannot do justice to the many details of this fascinating narrative, and I content myself by citing only those points that are immediately pertinent. Surely the key point is that Arēḯthoos is an ideal exponent of bíē, by virtue of both his name and his primary attribute, the club. The themes of war and swiftness inherent in the name Arēḯthoos remind us of the warrior Bhīma, who runs “with the speed of wind” (e.g., Mahābhārata 1.136.19). So also with the theme of the club: Bhīma has the epic reputation, well-known to other warriors, of wielding clubs (e.g., Mahābhārata 1.123.40, 4.32.16, 9.57.43). [
58] Aside from the comparative evidence, there is also the internal evidence provided by the context: Arēḯthoos was actually killed as an exponent of bíē, which is to be contrasted with the stratagem of the man who killed him, Lukóorgos. [59] Furthermore, we may suspect that the Arcadian hero who inherited the armor of Arēḯthoos is also by implication a man of bíē, since Nestor’s whole narrative here is intended as an illustration of the old man’s bíē in the days when he was young.

20§12. Let us pursue, then, the idea that Ereuthalíōn is a man of bíē. From local Arcadian traditions, we learn that the young Nestor gave form to his joy over defeating Ereuthalíōn by doing a dance without taking off his armor (Ariaithos of Tegea FGrH 316.7). As Francis Vian {330|331} points out, [60] the dance as it is described corresponds to the formal war dance called the purrhíkhē. [61] In fact, what Nestor did corresponds to the basic definition of the purrhíkhē as we find it in Hesychius (s.v. πυρριχίζειν): τήν ἐνόπλιον ὄρχησιν καὶ σύντονον πυρρίχην ἔλεγον ‘the word for energetic dancing in armor was purrhíkhē. [62] This word is actually derived from purrhós ‘fiery red’, which in turn is derived from pûr ‘fire’. [63] Vian accordingly links the semantics of purrhikhê with the name Ereuthalíōn, which must mean something like ‘red’ (cf. verb ereúthō ‘be red’). [64] What could be more appropriate, he asks, than a “red dance” celebrating a “red warrior”? [65] We may go considerably further than this formulation. The fact is that pûr ‘fire’ is a prime manifestation of bíē, on the cosmic level and on the heroic as well. [66] Moreover, the figures of myth who are especially noted for their bíē are frequently called by names denoting fire—we are immediately reminded of Púrrhos himself, as also of the wanton society of warriors known as the Phlegúai. [67] The element phleg– of Phlegúai is actually the same root as in phlóx ‘flame’, a word that marks the bíē of Achilles in the Iliad. [68] The point is, the concept of purrhíkhē is appropriate to the name Púrrhos as well as to the adjective purrhós. In fact, there are traditions that derive the name of the dance from the name of the hero. In Archilochus fr. 304W, for example, the purrhíkhē gets its name because Púrrhos danced it for joy over his defeat of Eurypylos. [69] In another tradition used by Lucian (De {331|332} saltatione 9), Púrrhos not only “invented” the purrhíkhē but also captured Troy through the power of this dance. [70] It also bears emphasizing that the dance themes of the purrhíkhē seem to be connected with fires at specific occasions, such as the cremation of Patroklos [71] or the holocaust of Troy itself. [72] In sum, the name of the warrior Ereuthalíōn is not motivated by the theme of Nestor’s “red dance,” nor for that matter is the purrhíkhē motivated by the name of Púrrhos. Rather, the names of such heroes as Ereuthalíōn and Púrrhos are motivated by the theme of martial bíē as manifested in the element of fire—and the same goes for the dance purrhíkhē. We may even say that the purrhíkhē is a dramatization of bíē itself. There is in fact an Arcadian festival called the Mṓleia, which dramatizes a duel between Ereuthalíōn and Lukóorgos (scholia ad Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica 1.164). [73] In Panhellenic Epos, môlos Árēos is combat, ‘the struggle of Ares’ (as at Iliad VII 147; also at II 401, etc.). In local ritual, the Mṓleia is a reenactment of such combat. And again, the reenactment amounts to a dramatization of martial bíē. [74] {332|333}

20§13. Now that we have surveyed the heroic attributes of wind and fire as conveyed by the themes of Arēḯthoos and Ereuthalíōn respectively, we are brought back to our central point of interest, the figure of Achilles, whose bíē happens to incorporate both of these elemental attributes. So far, the most direct Iliadic example of a traditional parallel between the martial rage of the hero and the thunderstorm of Zeus has been XXI 520–525, where the slaughter of the Trojans by Achilles is being directly compared to the burning of a city by divine agency. [75] But the overt description of divine power as manifested in fire and wind combined is actually to be found elsewhere, as in the Hesiodic description of the ultimate thunderstorm effected by Zeus against the Titans (Theogony 687–712). [76] Moreover, an overt description of the hero’s power as manifested in fire and wind is also to be found elsewhere. So far, the most striking instance has been the intervention of Hephaistos on the side of Achilles, where the phlégma ‘conflagration’ of the fire god is being conducted by Zephyros the West Wind and Notos the South Wind (Iliad XXI 334–337). [77] Now we may add the scene where Achilles prays to Boreas the North Wind and Zephyros the West Wind to conduct the fires that will cremate Patroklos (Iliad XXIII 194–198); without the winds, the funeral pyre will not burn (Iliad XXIII 192). As the winds blow, they literally ‘throw flame’, and the word for flame is again phlóx (φλόγ᾽ ἔβαλλον: Iliad XXIII 217). [78]

20§15. But the immediate loigós ‘devastation’ afflicting the Achaeans in the Iliad is of course not the winds of the póntos that threaten to destroy their ships, but the fire of Hektor. [83] Significantly, even this fire threatens specifically to destroy the ships of the Achaeans, and this theme is central to the Iliad. The Will of Zeus, to give krátos to the Trojans until the Achaeans give Achilles his proper tīmḗ ‘honor’ (Iliad I 509–510), is of course what Achilles himself prays for in his mênis ‘anger’. The hero’s prayer in fact specifically entails that the Trojans should prevail until they reach the ships of the Achaeans (Iliad I 408–412, 559, II 3–5, XVIII 74–77). In this light, let us consider the first indication of the álgea ‘pains’ that the mênis of Achilles inflicted on the Achaeans through the Will of Zeus (Iliad I 1–5). It happens when the Achaeans first begin to be losers in the absence of Achilles: as Zeus is weighing the fates of the two sides, the Trojans are found to be on the winning and the Achaeans on the losing side (Iliad VIII 66–74). Zeus signals the decision with thunder and a sélas ‘flash’ of lightning hurled towards the Achaeans, who are panic stricken (Iliad VIII 75–77). As Cedric Whitman remarks, “The lightning flash which dismays the Achaeans is a direct reflex of Achilles’ retirement. The action of the god and the inaction of the hero are essentially one.” [84] Until now, the most successful Achaean in battle has been Diomedes, and Zeus hurls at him a special thunderbolt with a terrifying phlóx ‘flame’ (Iliad VIII 133–135), forcing the hero to retreat and giving him ákhos ‘grief’ (Iliad VIII 147). The thunderings of Zeus are a sêma ‘signal’ of victory for the Trojans (Iliad VIII 170–171), and Hektor straightway recognizes that the Will of Zeus entails the kûdos ‘glory’ of victory for the Trojans and pêma ‘pain’ for the Achaeans (Iliad VIII 175–176; recalled at Iliad XII 235–236, 255–256). {334|335}

20§16. Now we are ready to examine how the Will of Zeus is translated into the fire of Hektor’s onslaught against the Achaean ships. Once Zeus sends the flash of his thunderstroke, “lightning carries the day; fire is on the Trojan side, and burns threateningly in the form of watchfires which at the end of Book VIII dot the plain, and burn throughout the succeeding night.” [85] By the beginning of Book IX and thereafter, the threat of fire from the Trojan side is consistently formalized in one theme: Hektor will burn the ships of the Achaeans:Iliad

      IX 76–77, 241–242, 347, 435–436, 602, 653


      XI 666–667


      XII 198, 441


      XIII 628–629


      XV 417, 420, 597–598, 600, 702, 718–725, 743–744.

86] In fact, Hektor already realizes his function as threatening fire against the Achaeans’ ships when Zeus signals victory for the Trojans by way of his thunderstroke (Iliad VIII 170–171), and the hero actually says then and there to his fellow Trojans:

When the fire of Hektor finally reaches the Achaean ships, the Muses are specially invoked for the telling of this vital event (Iliad XVI 112–113). [
88] Zeus himself has been waiting to see the sélas ‘flash’ of the first ship to be set on fire (Iliad XV 599–600), which is to be the signal that his Will has been fulfilled, that the kûdos ‘glory’ of victory has been taken away from the Achaeans and awarded to the Trojans (Iliad XV 592–599). The sélas ‘flash’ that marks the final enactment of Zeus’ Will must be compared with the sélas ‘flash’ of his thunderstroke at VIII 76, which had signaled the beginning of the reverses {335|336} suffered by the Achaeans. [89] Once the fire of Hektor reaches the ships of the Achaeans, the Will of Zeus is complete: the narrative makes it explicit that Zeus will now shift the kûdos ‘glory’ of victory from the Trojans to the Achaeans (Iliad XV 601–602). Even this reversal is expressed in terms of “driving the Trojans away from the ships” (ibid.).

20§17. Once the Will of Zeus is complete, the prayer of Achilles in his mênis is thereby fulfilled. The hero’s prayer, as we have seen, has the same limit as the Will of Zeus: the Trojans should prevail until they reach the ships of the Achaeans (Iliad I 408–412, 559, II 3–5, XVIII 74–77). Thus when Achilles himself sees the fire of Hektor reaching the ships of the Achaeans at XVI 127, he sees in effect the ultimate fulfillment of his mênis. For Zeus, the sélas ‘flash’ of Hektor’s fire at XV 600 signals the termination of the Trojan onslaught, which was inaugurated by the sélas of his own thunderstroke at VIII 76. For Achilles, the same fire at XVI 122–124, called phlóx ‘flame’ at 123, signals the end of his wish that the Trojans should reach the ships of the Achaeans and the beginning of his concern that their ships should be saved from the fire of Hektor (Iliad XVI 127–128). The hero now calls upon his substitute, Patroklos, to avert the fiery threat that his own mênis had originally brought about:

Patroklos is a savior of the Achaeans by virtue of temporarily averting from their ships the fire of the Trojans:

ἐκ νηῶν δ᾽ ἔλασεν κατὰ δ᾽ ἔσβεσεν αἰθόμενον πῦρ
He drove them [the Trojans] from the ships, and he quenched the blazing fire.

Iliad XVI 293

ὣς Δαναοὶ νηῶν μὲν ἀπωσάμενοι δήϊον πῦρ
Thus the Danaans, having averted from the ships the burning fire …

Iliad XVI 301 {336|337}

Appropriately, Hektor is called φλογὶ εἴκελος Ἡφαίστοιο ‘like the phlóx [flame] of Hephaistos’ (Iliad XVII 88) in the very action where he has killed Patroklos; [
91] the word phlóx in this expression again implies the thunderstroke of Zeus. [92]

20§18. To sum up, the krátos of the Trojans is signaled by the fire of Zeus in a thunderstorm, which is expressed with the same diction that expresses the fire of Hektor’s onslaught against the ships of the Achaeans. On the other hand, the krátos of the Trojans is also signaled by the wind of Zeus in a thunderstorm. What is krátos for the Trojans is pénthos/ákhos for the Achaeans at IX 3/9, which in turn is compared by way of simile to violent winds raging over the póntos ‘sea’ at IX 4–7. [93] In the same scene where Diomedes acknowledges that Zeus has given the krátos to the Trojans (Iliad XI 317–319), Hektor is likened to a violent wind raging over the póntos (Iliad XI 297–298). [94] Just like Hektor’s fire, these winds signaling krátos are expressed with the same diction that expresses the overall image of a thunderstorm brought by Zeus. As further illustration, I add the following simile describing the Trojans on the offensive:

οἱ δ᾽ ἴσαν ἀργαλέων ἀνέμων ἀτάλαντοι ἀέλλῃ,
ἥ ῥά θ᾽ ὑπὸ βροντῆς πατρὸς Διὸς εἶσι πέδονδε,
θεσπεσίῳ δ᾽ ὁμάδῳ ἁλὶ μίσγεται, ἐν δέ τε πολλὰ
κύματα παφλάζοντα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης,
κυρτὰ φαληριόωντα, πρὸ μέν τ᾽ ἄλλ᾽, αὐτὰρ ἐπ᾽ ἄλλα.
And they came, like a gust of the racking winds,
which under the thunderstroke of Father Zeus drives downward
and with gigantic clamor hits the sea, and the many
boiling waves along the length of the roaring sea
bend and whiten to foam in ranks, one upon the other.

Iliad XIII 795–799

20§19. Since the traditional imagery that marks Hektor’s onslaught as the ultimate bane of the Achaeans is appropriate to either the fire or the wind of a thunderstorm, Hektor is presented as a hero who is either “like fire” or “like wind” in Homeric diction. But there is an obvious difference in the Iliadic treatment of these two images. Whereas the threat of fire to the Achaean ships is both figurative and real, the threat of wind is only figurative, conveyed by similes. For {337|338} the Iliad, Hektor’s fire is real, even though it is expressed with imagery that suits the celestial fire of thundering Zeus; the threat of the god’s winds, however, is real only as a general condition that can be expected to affect the Achaeans as a seafaring society. Still, the point remains that the most direct threat to the Achaeans, on land as well as sea, is the destruction of their ships—expressed in images most appropriate to a thunderstorm of Zeus. On the land, Achilles had it in his power both to bring the ships to the brink of fiery destruction by way of his mênis and then to rescue them from the fire by way of his surrogate Patroklos. On the sea, we may then ask, does Achilles have a power over winds that matches this power that he has over fire when he is on the land?

20§20. Since the Iliad treats the onslaught of the Trojans as wind only by way of simile, we should expect the same mode of expression for any Iliadic treatment of the theme for which we are searching: how Achilles has the power to rescue the Achaean ships from the winds. I submit that I have found this theme in the simile deployed at the very moment Achilles has just put on the new armor made by Hephaistos. As the hero takes hold of his magnificent shield, it gives off a sélas ‘flash’ described as follows:

τοῦ δ᾽ ἀπάνευθε σέλας γένετ᾽ ἠΰτε μήνης.
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτ᾽ ἂν ἐκ πόντοιο σέλας ναύτῃσι φανήῃ
καιομένοιο πυρός, τό τε καίεται ὑψόθ᾽ ὄρεσφι
σταθμῷ ἐν οἰοπόλῳ· τοὺς δ᾽ οὐκ ἐθέλοντας ἄελλαι
πόντον ἐπ᾽ ἰχθυόεντα φίλων ἀπάνευθε φέρουσιν·
ὣς ἀπ᾽ Ἀχιλλῆος σάκεος σέλας αἰθέρ᾽ ἵκανε καλοῦ δαιδαλέου
From it [the shield] there was a sélas [flash] from far away, as from the moon,
or as when from out of the póntos [sea] a sélas [flash] appears to sailors,
a flash of blazing fire, and it blazes up above in the mountains,
at a solitary station, while they [the sailors] are being carried along against their will by winds
over the fishy póntos , far away from their phíloi . So also the sélas from the beautiful and well-wrought shield of Achilles shot up into the aether.

Iliad XIX 374–380

Previously, we have seen the sélas ‘flash’ of fire as a signal of destruction for the Achaean ships (Iliad VIII 76, XV 600); [
95] here, on the {338|339} other hand, it is a signal of salvation from the winds. The winds threaten the isolation of the sailors from their phíloi, while the fire promises reintegration with them. Yet, ironically, the fire of reintegration is itself isolated and remote, much as the hero who is himself signaled by its flame. [96] The fire at the solitary station overlooking the póntos shoots up into the ethereal realms (Iliad XIX 379), and the transcendence of this earthly fire marking Achilles is matched by a multiple comparison with celestial fire: the light from the hero’s shield is compared both to this earthly fire and to the light of the moon as well. Moreover, the light from his helmet is then likened to that of a star (Iliad XIX 381–383). And finally, the sight of Achilles fully armed is compared to the sun itself (Iliad XIX 397–398). At this moment, of course, Achilles is about to enter his war in the Iliad. Not only in simile but in reality as well, Achilles is emerging as savior of the Achaeans.

20§21. For the moment, however, let us restrict our vision to the inner world of the simile, where the fire that is compared to Achilles is pictured as rescuing sailors from the winds that blow over the póntos ‘sea’. I draw attention in particular to the word póntos, which serves as the setting for the dangerous winds in our simile. We have in fact already seen póntos as the setting for the winds that are compared to Hektor’s onslaught, which in turn is endangering specifically the Achaean ships (Iliad IX 4–7, XI 297–298). [97] The theme of danger is actually inherent in póntos. From a comparative study of words that are cognate with póntos in other Indo-European languages, most notably Indic pánthāḥ ‘path’ and Latin pōns ‘bridge’, Émile Benveniste found that the basic meaning of the word is ‘crossing, transition’, with an underlying implication that the actual act of crossing is at the same time marked by danger. [98] The semantic aspect of crossing is inherent in the place name Hellḗs-pontos ‘Crossing of Héllē‘, [99] a compound recalling the myth that told how Phríxos and Héllē crossed the Hellespont by riding on the Ram with the Golden Fleece. The aspect of danger is likewise inherent in the myth itself. During their crossing, Helle drowns, while Phrixos is {339|340} saved (cf. Apollodorus 1.9.1). [100] The contrasting themes of danger and salvation here are reflected formally in the words of Pindar: Phrixos was “rescued out of the póntos” by way of the Golden Fleece (ἐκ πόντου σαώθη: Pythian 4.161). Even the epithet system of póntos in epic diction reflects the word’s dangerous aspect. Let us consider the qualifier ikhthuóeis ‘fishy, fish-swarming’ as applied to póntos at XIX 378 (also Iliad IX 4!) [101] and to Hellḗspontos at IX 360. The application of this epithet is motivated not so much by a fanciful striving for picturesque visualizations of the sea, but rather by the sinister implication of dangers lurking beneath a traveling ship. As we survey the collocations of póntos with the plain noun for ‘fish’, ikhthū́s, the ghastly themes of danger become overt:

ἢ τόν γ᾽ ἐν πόντῳ φάγον ἰχθύες …
… or the fish devoured him in the póntos

Odyssey xiv 135

20§22. We come back to the image of a fire on high that flashes salvation for sailors bedeviled by violent winds as they make their way over the póntos (Iliad XIX 374–380). It remains to ask whether there are any other instances, besides the simile of XIX 374–380, where the figure of Achilles is directly associated with such an image. The answer is yes, with an added detail that is not without interest. The flash of salvation for sailors may emanate from the tomb of Achilles himself, situated on a headland overlooking the Hellespont:

ἀμφ᾽ αὐτοῖσι δ᾽ ἔπειτα μέγαν καὶ ἀμύμονα τύμβον
χεύαμεν Ἀργείων ἱερὸς στρατὸς αἰχμητάων
ἀκτῇ ἔπι προὐχούσῃ, ἐπὶ πλατεῖ Ἑλλησπόντῳ,
ὥς κεν τηλεφανής ἐκ ποντόφιν ἀνδράσιν εἴη
τοῖς οἳ νῦν γεγάασι καὶ οἳ μετόπισθεν ἔσονται
Over their bodies [of Achilles and Patroklos] we the sacred army of Argive spearmen piled up a huge and perfect tomb,
on a jutting headland, by the wide Hellḗspontos , {340|341}
so that it may be bright from afar for men coming from the póntos
both those who are now and those who will be in the future.

Odyssey xxiv 80–84

The preoccupation with future generations who will sail the Hellespont is also apparent in the words of Achilles himself, as he lays down instructions for the building of his tomb:

The Achaeans of the future who survive Achilles are “Achaeans in ships.” The tomb of Achilles maintains its impact on future generations even in the warped vision of Hektor, who fancies himself as the man who will kill the one who is “best of the Achaeans”: [

τὸν δὲ νέκυν ἐπὶ νῆας ἐϋσσέλμους ἀποδώσω,
ὄφρα ἑ ταρχύσωσι κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοί,
σῆμά τε οἱ χεύωσιν ἐπὶ πλατεῖ Ἑλλησπόντῳ.
καί ποτέ τις εἴπῃσι καὶ ὀψιγόνων ἀνθρώπων,
νηῒ πολυκλήϊδι πλέων ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον·
‘ἀνδρὸς μὲν τόδε σῆμα πάλαι κατατεθνηῶτος,
ὅν ποτ᾽ ἀριστεύοντα κατέκτανε φαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ.’
ὥς ποτέ τις ἐρέει· τὸ δ᾽ ἐμὸν κλέος οὔ ποτ᾽ ὀλεῖται.
And I will return his corpse to where the well-benched ships are,
so that the long-haired Achaeans may give him a proper funeral
and pile up a tomb for him by the wide Hellḗspontos . And some day someone from a future generation will say
as he is sailing on a many-benched ship over the wine-dark póntos : “This is the tomb of a man who died a long time ago.
He was performing his aristeíā when illustrious Hektor killed him.” That is what someone will say, and my kléos shall never perish.

Iliad VII 84–91 {341|342}

Having long ago considered the irony of Hektor’s words, [
105] we are concerned now only with the vision of Achilles’ tomb. The insistent references, here and in the other passages, to a future time beyond the narrative—a time when men will still contemplate the hero’s tomb—reveal Achilles as not so much a hero of epic but rather a hero of cult. The future of the narrative is the here-and-now of the Homeric audience, and to them the tomb of Achilles is a matter of religion, reflecting this era’s marked preoccupation with hero cults. [106] We recall Iliad XII 2–33, that other isolated instance where the perspective of the narrative switches from the heroic past to the here-and-now of the Homeric audience. [107] There too, the Achaean warriors who fell at Troy are suddenly perceived not as heroes of epic, hḗrōes, but as heroes of cult, hēmítheoi (Iliad XII 23). [108]

20§24. The Hellespont, then, is a focal point for the heroic essence of Achilles: Homeric poetry presents his tomb as overlooking its dangerous waters, the setting for violent storms expressed by the same imagery that expresses the hero’s cosmic affinity with fire and wind. Moreover, epic diction presents this fire and wind as primarily endangering the ships of the Achaeans, which are conventionally described as being beached on the Hellespont (Iliad XV 233, XVII 432, XVIII 150, XXIII 2). In other words, the Hellespont is also a focal point for the heroic essence of all the Achaeans who came to fight at Troy. Moreover, Troy itself and the Hellespont are presented in epic diction as parallel markers of the place where the Trojan War took place (Iliad XII 30, XXIV 346). It is by sailing down the Ἑλλήσποντον … ἰχθυόεντα ‘fish-swarming Hellespont’ that Achilles could have left Troy and come back home safely to Phthia (Iliad IX 359–363). [112] In fact, from the standpoint of a Homeric audience in the eighth or seventh centuries B.C., the site of the Trojan War is significant not so much because of Troy itself but because of the Hellespont, passage to the Black Sea. [113] And the prime affinity of Achilles with the Hellespont and the realms to which it leads will survive for centuries, well beyond the classical period. From inscriptions found in the Black Sea area, we know that Achilles still presides over the póntos even as late as the second/third centuries A.D.: he is in fact still worshiped as the Pontárkhēs ‘Ruler of the Póntos‘. [114]

20§25. The cosmic affinity of Achilles with the póntos in general and with the Hellḗspontos in particular is of course inherited from his mother Thetis. We are reminded of the initial Iliadic scene where the solitary figure of a weeping Achilles is pictured gazing out toward the póntos (Iliad I 350), [115] actually praying to the divine Thetis (Iliad I 351–356). The {343|344} goddess then makes an epiphany that is characteristic of a true Nereid, emerging from the sea like a cloud of mist (Iliad I 357–359). Of course, Thetis was actually born in the póntos (Hesiod Theogony 241/244), the granddaughter of Póntos incarnate (Theogony 233). In Pindar’s Isthmian 8, a poem that tells how she would have given birth to a son greater than his father if Zeus or Poseidon had mated with her (lines 31–35), she is actually called ποντίαν θεόν ‘goddess of the póntos‘ (line 34). To avoid the danger that the essence of Thetis poses to the cosmic order, the gods get her married off to the mortal Peleus (lines 35–40). [116] And the son that issues from this marriage of Peleus and Thetis grows up to fulfill a function that is latent in the very word póntos:

γεφύρωσέ τ᾽ Ἀτρεΐδαι-
σι νόστον
… and he [Achilles] bridged a safe homecoming for the
sons of Atreus.

Pindar Isthmian 8.51

In other words: by dint of his exploits at Troy (Isthmian 8.51–55), Achilles made it possible for the leaders of the Achaeans to traverse the sea and go back home. The semantics of ‘bridge’ here correspond to the semantics of Latin pōns, cognate of Greek póntos. [

20§27. The place Sēpíās is connected with Thetis not only because Peleus abducted her from there. In a story that was probably incorporated in the epic Cypria, the polymorphous Thetis actually assumes the shape of a sāpíā ‘sepia, cuttlefish’ at the very moment when Peleus mates with her (scholia ad Lycophron 2.175, 178). [119] This identification is most significant in view of the sepia’s function as animal of mêtis in Greek lore (e.g., σηπίη δολόμητις in Oppian Halieutica 2.120). [120] As Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant have argued most convincingly, Thetis herself is a figure of mêtis. [121] To go into this topic now would be to stray far beyond my line of inquiry, which has been confined mainly to the bíē of Achilles and its cosmic affinities. Suffice it to say that the mêtis of Thetis also relates to the póntos. It is a key to the fundamentals of navigation, as embodied in the orienting principles of Póros ‘charted path [over the sea]’ and Tékmōr ‘goal’, which are opposed to the disorienting principle of Skótos ‘darkness’. These personifications of opposing themes stem from the local cosmogonic traditions of Laconia as preserved in the poetry of Alcman, fr. 2P. From this same fragment, we also know that the opposing figures of Póros/Tékmōr vs. Skótos are presented as fundamental cosmic principles that are transcended by one all-encompassing figure, who is none other than the goddess Thetis! [122] I will simply refer to Detienne and Vernant for a discussion of the rich mythology surrounding these related themes of navigation, orientation, and cosmogony, [123] confining myself here to one point: in local traditions such as the Laconian, Thetis figures as a primordial goddess with the most fundamental cosmic powers, and her primacy is reflected by the utmost reverence that is her due in cult (consider the Laconian practices mentioned by Pausanias 3.14.4). [124] {345|346}

20§28. My point is that Thetis must by nature also transcend the concept of Achilles, a son who is after all a mere ‘demigod’, hēmítheos. Her power over the póntos entails the principle of mêtis, whereas his power has affinities only with the bíē of wind and fire. [125] And yet, the heroic irony is that Achilles as son of Thetis could actually be more powerful than Zeus himself, if only he had been fathered by the god instead of a mortal (Pindar Isthmian 8.31–35). We have indeed seen that the mênis of Achilles creates effects that are parallel to those created by the bíē of Zeus in a thunderstorm, and that these effects are actually validated by the Will of Zeus. In this sense, Zeus himself is validating the divine potential of the mortal Achilles. Moreover, the theme of the hero’s divine potential is actually conjured up by the manner in which the Will of Zeus goes into effect in the Iliad. The wind and fire-like devastation from the mênis of Achilles is willed by Zeus because Thetis asks for it (Iliad I 407–412, 503–510). Moreover, the validation of the hero’s essence in the Iliad is in return for what Thetis had done for Zeus, when she rescued him from imprisonment by his fellow Olympians (Iliad I 396–406). Here we see a vital link with the theme of the hero’s divine potential. Thetis rescued Zeus by summoning Briáreōs the Hundred-Hander, who then frightened the Olympian rebels away from ever endangering Zeus again (Iliad I 401–406). In this context, the Hundred-Hander is specifically described as βίην οὗ πατρὸς ἀμείνων ‘better in bíē than his father’ (Iliad I 404). The theme is strikingly parallel to what would have been if Zeus or Poseidon had mated with Thetis.

20§29. The figure of Briáreōs, also called Aigaíōn (Iliad I 404), is a sort of nightmarish variant of Achilles himself. In the Hesiodic tradition, Briáreōs /Obriáreōs [126] is likewise one of the Hundred-Handers (Hesiod Theogony 147–153). These figures are equal to the Titans themselves in bíē (Theogony 677–678), and they use their bíē to defeat the Titans (Theogony 649–650), thus ensuring the kratos of Zeus (Theogony 662). [127] Their action in defeating the Titans (Theogony 674–686, 713–719) is in fact a correlate of the victorious action taken by Zeus himself with the bíē of a cosmic thunderstorm (Theogony 687–712). [128] In other traditions, Aigaíōn is {346|347} likewise a figure who fights against the Titans (Titanomachy fr. 2 110 Allen); moreover, he lives in the sea and was actually fathered by Póntos (ibid.). On the other hand, still another tradition has Briáreōs fathered by Poseidon himself (scholia ad Iliad I 404). [129] These variant figures Briáreōs and Aigaíōn, [130] synthesized as one figure in Iliad I 403–404, conjure up the Iliadic theme of Achilles. He too is an exponent of bíē; he too has strong affinities with the póntos. Here is a hero who would have been better than Poseidon—better than Zeus himself—if either had fathered him. Just as the divine essence of Zeus was validated by the bíē of Briáreōs/Aigaíōn, so also the god will now validate in return the heroic essence of Achilles in the Iliad. The bíē of the Hundred-Hander is an antecedent for the bíē that will mark Achilles. The hero cannot be the best of the gods, but he will be the best of heroes. And in the poetry that all Hellenes must recognize, he will be the best of the Achaeans.{347|}


[ back ] 1. Ch.19§§3–4.

[ back ] 2. Ch.3§§1–8.

[ back ] 3. Ch.3§§1–8.

[ back ] 4. Ch.2§§12–18.

[ back ] 5. For a survey of other such periphrastic naming constructs: Schmitt 1967:109–111. On ī́s as a synonym of bíē: Ch.5§37 and Ch.12§9n38.

[ back ] 6. There is also an attestation of bíē + genitive of Hēra-kléēs at Iliad XVIII 117; also at Hesiod fr. 1.22MW. Periphrases combining a noun with the genitive of a name are less archaic than those combining a noun with the adjective of a name: Schmitt 1967:110n670. In this light, the preponderance of bíē + adjective of Hēra-kléēs over bíē + genitive of Hēra-kléēs is itself significant.

[ back ] 7. Ch.18§2

[ back ] 8. On the semantics of this name: Ch.7§16n47, Ch.12§7n30, Ch.14§12n39.

[ back ] 9. The element īphi– is the instrumental of ī́s, a synonym of bíē (cf. n. 5). For a similar pleonasm in a naming construct, consider Hesiod Theogony 332: ī́s + genitive of bíē + adjective of Hēra-kléēs (ἲς … βίης Ἡρακληείης).

[ back ] 10. This construct is less archaic not only because of the genitive (n. 6) but also because the compound name Patro-kléēs is truncated to Pátroklos in these combinations (Πατρόκλοιο βίην); see Ch.6§12 and n. 5 above.

[ back ] 11. Ch.9§21.

[ back ] 12. Ch.9§9.

[ back ] 13. Ch.9§§7, 21.

[ back ] 14. Again, Ch.3§§1–8.

[ back ] 15. On these themes see Segal 1971 and Redfield 1975.

[ back ] 16. Ch.7§22.

[ back ] 17. Ch.7§22. Note that the contrast of bíē and díkē in Hesiod Works and Days 275 is illustrated with the behavior of beasts: since they do not have díkē (Works and Days 278), they devour each other (Works and Days 276–278).

[ back ] 18. On the theme of orientation as it relates to mêtis: §27.

[ back ] 19. On phrázomai as the verb of mêtis: Ch.3§5n14, §7n16.

[ back ] 20. Like the Cyclops, Antiphates too is a cannibal: Odyssey x 116, 124. Ironically, Odysseus had defeated the Cyclops by way of mêtis (Odyssey ix 414, 422). Note also the word play of mḗ tis ‘no one’ in εἰ … μή τίς σε βιάζεται ‘if no one uses bíē against you’ at Odyssey ix 410 (cf. also Odyssey ix 405, 406): m tis conjures up mêtis!

[ back ] 21. Besides the application of megalḗtor– ‘great-hearted’ to a wide range of warriors in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, we may note in particular the combination of this epithet with Phlégues at Iliad XIII 302 and with the thūmós of Achilles as at Iliad IX 629 (on which see Ch.7§22). It is this same thūmós that tempts the hero to eat Hektor raw (Iliad XXII 346–347).

[ back ] 22. Also in Hesiod Works and Days 518.

[ back ] 23. Also in Hymn to Hermes 115.

[ back ] 24. Note also Ξάνθοιο … μένος ‘the menos of Xanthos’ at Iliad XXI 383. The noun ménos, which like bíē and ī́s is used to designate the power of heroes as well as to name heroes in periphrastic constructs, also designates the power of the rivers (Iliad XII 18), of the winds (Odyssey xix 440), of fire (Iliad VI 182), of the sun itself (Iliad XXIII 190). See Nagy 1974:268–269.

[ back ] 25. The verb mémonen ‘is in a rage’ is from the same root *men– that yields mênis, a word applied in the Iliad to the anger of gods and to the anger of Achilles—exclusively among heroes (Ch.5§8n18). Note that ménos can designate ‘rage, anger’ as well as ‘might, power’ (Ch.5§8n18).

[ back ] 26. On ménos as ‘might, power’ and as ‘rage, anger’: §5nn24–25.

[ back ] 27. Overall as well, the war between the Titans and the Olympians is settled ‘by bíē’ (βίηφι: Theogony 882). In fact, the cosmic régime of Zeus and his Olympians is maintained by Krátos and Bíē personified (Theogony 385–401). On the other hand, Zeus had originally achieved his cosmic supremacy by using both bíē ‘might’ and tékhnai ‘artifice’ (Theogony 496) against his father Kronos.

[ back ] 28. Cf. the thunderstorm of Zeus at Odyssey xii 403–426. I draw special attention to the thúella ‘gust’ of wind at Odyssey xii 409; elsewhere, thúellai are described as conduits of fire (Odyssey xii 68). Discussion at Ch.10§41n103.

[ back ] 29. §4.

[ back ] 30. Cf. again the thunderstorm at Odyssey xii 403–426; in this case, the collective anger of the gods (cf. Odyssey xii 349) is initiated by Helios (Odyssey xii 348–349, 376, 377–383) and executed by Zeus (Odyssey xii 387–388). On occasion, water rather than fire is the predominant manifestation of a thunderstorm inflicted by Zeus: cf. Iliad XVI 383–393.

[ back ] 31. Cf. n. 28.

[ back ] 32. For a basic work on the Indo-Iranian figure Vāyu: Wikander 1941. On the Indo-Iranian forms of Männerbund: Wikander 1938; for the broader standpoint of the Indo-European peoples in general: Dumézil 1969b.

[ back ] 33. Cf. Dumézil 1968:63–64. My citations from the Mahābhārata follow the numbering of the critical (Poona) edition.

[ back ] 34. Wikander 1947, Dumézil 1968 part I.

[ back ] 35. There are still traces of an archaic relationship between Vāyu and Indra in the oldest body of Indic literature: see Rig-Veda 1.139.1–2, 2.41.1–3, and the commentary by Dumézil, pp. 51 (cf. also his pp. 58 n. 2).

[ back ] 36. Dumézil, pp. 63–65.

[ back ] 37. Ch.6§§12–22.

[ back ] 38. On the phíloi as a Männerbund: Ch.5§27.

[ back ] 39. Compare the wording that describes the isolation of the Cyclops at Odyssey ix 188–189.

[ back ] 40. Ch.9§§12n32, 33n83.

[ back ] 41. In the poet’s own words: λεγόμενον δὲ τοῦτο προτέρων / ἔπος ἔχω ‘I have this epos as spoken of those that came before’ (Pindar Nemean 3.52–53). To defend my translation ‘of’ (instead of ‘by’), I cite the discussion by Schmitt 1967:93–95. (I admit, however, that my interpretation may be undermined by an apparent parallel in Pindar Pythian 3.80; thanks to Mark Griffith.) Compare also the introduction to a tale about another hunter, Meleager, at Iliad IX 524–525 (Ch.6§12). The stories about the boyhood of Achilles may be compared with parallel traditions as attested in the Irish evidence; I cite the Boyhood Deeds of CúChulainn and the Boyhood Deeds of Finn, with translations conveniently available in Cross and Slover 1936:137–152, 360–369. Cf. J. Nagy 1978.

[ back ] 42. It is tempting to identify this spear with the melíē that Achilles inherited from his father Peleus (Ch.9§12). From Pindar’s words we also hear that Peleus himself, when he was still in his prime, had captured Iolkos “alone, without an army” (μόνος ἄνευ στρατιᾶς: Nemean 3.34).

[ back ] 43. On the theme of the hunter in general: Vidal-Naquet 1968(b). On the manner in which Achilles eats his game: Ch.7§22n70. Even within the span of this boyhood narrative, the theme of eventually taming the savage disposition of Achilles is replayed: the Centaur Cheiron is responsible for the upbringing of the young hero, and as such he is described as ‘augmenting his thūmós [of Achilles] in all things that are fitting’ (ἐν ἀρμένοισι πᾶσι θυμὸν αὔξων: Pindar Nemean 3.58). On the savage thūmós of Achilles as replayed in the Iliad, see Ch.7§22 (compare Bhīma, who himself commits cannibalism: Mahābhārata 8.61.5 ff., anticipated at 2.61.44–46). Cheiron, by contrast, is ‘the Centaur who has the most díkē’ (δικαιότατος Κενταύρων: Iliad XI 832).

[ back ] 44. On the meaning: Chantraine I 109–110.

[ back ] 45. There is one exception, in the Doloneia, where Dolon is called podṓkēs (Iliad X 316). I do not count the instances in the plural, where podṓkēs is a conventional epithet for swift horses (e.g., Iliad II 764) and for their charioteers (Iliad XXIII 262).

[ back ] 46. Cf. Iliad XXI 564, XXII 173. It is also “with swift feet” that Achilles routs Aeneas from Mount Ida (Iliad XX 189) and confronts the god Apollo himself (Iliad XXII 8). Cf. also Iliad XXI 265, where Achilles is described as podárkēs as he stands up against the river god Xanthos and matches ‘bíē against bíē’ (ἐναντίβιον: Iliad XXI 266).

[ back ] 47. §2.

[ back ] 48. §2n5.

[ back ] 49. In view of such pervasive associations between the themes of windspeed and ī́s/bíē in epic diction, I am inclined to reconsider the standard etymology offered for Îris: root *u̯ī– ‘bend’ (e.g., Chantraine II 468–469). Instead, I propose the root *u̯ī- as in ī́s ‘force, might’, and I defend this alternative by adducing the traditional epithet system of Iris, which consistently dwells on the theme of windspeed: podḗnemos ‘having feet of wind’ (exclusive to her, in Iliad 10x), pódas ōkéa ‘swift with her feet’ (exclusive to her, in Iliad 9x), aellópos ‘having feet of wind’ (exclusive to her, in Iliad 3x). The îris is a ‘rainbow’ at Iliad XVII 547 insomuch as it functions as a téras ‘foreboding sign’ either of war (Iliad XVII 548) or of a storm (Iliad XVII 549)—precisely the two themes associated with ī́s!

[ back ] 50. Achilles is compared to such a speeding horse at Iliad XXII 21–24 (θέῃσι at 23). When Achilles is chasing Hektor, the verb théō applies to both (θέον: Iliad XXII 161).

[ back ] 51. §7.

[ back ] 52. In this connection, we should note that the feminine plural of thoós serves as the ubiquitous epithet for the ships of the Achaeans (Iliad I 12, 371, etc.), which of course have a distinctly martial function in the Iliad. We recall that the Battle of the Ships was a loigós ‘devastation’ for the Achaeans, who were to be rescued from Hektor’s onslaught by Achilles/Patroklos (Ch.5§§10–12). What bears emphasizing is that the Achaeans were rescued because their ships were rescued from Hektor’s fire (cf. Iliad XVI 80–82; further discussion at §§15–20). In this sense, Achilles (/Patroklos) is savior of the Achaeans by being the guardian of their ships (discussion at §20).

[ back ] 53. Here the poetry itself is actually referring to an epithet as an epithet; then it follows up by explaining why the epithet is appropriate. The same epithet korunḗtēs ‘club-bearer’ is applied to Areithoos at Iliad VII 9; if we had only the latter attestation, we would never know that the epithet is directly pertinent to the story of this hero.

[ back ] 54. The krátos ‘superior power’ of a warrior takes the form of bíē ‘might’: Ch.5§37. In other words, a warrior may have bíē and still lose without the krátos that only Zeus and the Olympians can grant. In this case, Areithoos implicitly has bíē but has failed to get krátos from the gods. On the other hand, Lykoorgos wins by using stratagem rather than the might of bíē. Still, he wins without krátos, which is properly a requisite of bíē. (Even the cosmic regime of the Olympians is actually maintained by the combination of Krátos and Bíē personified: Hesiod Theogony 385–401.) The implicit bíē of Areithoos is in direct contrast with the stratagem of Lykoorgos.

[ back ] 55. On eûkhos as ‘fame’: Muellner 1976:110–112.

[ back ] 56. That is, “the man with the most krátos” (κάρτιστον).

[ back ] 57. Surely the phrasing here calls for an accompanying gesture by the performer.

[ back ] 58. On the context of Mahābhārata 4.32.16, see Dumézil 1968:90,92; cf. also his p. 63. In one episode (Mahābhārata 3.157.68), Bhīma’s club is compared to Indra’s bolt, released with the speed of wind.

[ back ] 59. For further traces of Areithoos and Lykoorgos in Arcadian lore, see Pausanias 8.4.10, 8.11.4.

[ back ] 60. Vian 1952:242–243.

[ back ] 61. For collections of testimonia on the purrhíkhē and related dances: Latte 1913:27–63 and Prudhommeau 1965:300–312; also Vian, pp. 249–250. One thing that emerges from Vian’s documentation is the association of the purrhíkhē with the kômos; the institution of the kômos, as we have seen, is in turn a partial heir to the ideologies of the lāós (Ch.12§§–21).

[ back ] 62. Cf. also Hephaestion 213.10 Consbruch. On poetry that can be sung to the accompaniment of the purrhíkhē: Severyns 1938 II 176.

[ back ] 63. Chantraine III 959–960.

[ back ] 64. Vian, pp. 242; on the formal relationship of Ereuthalíōn and ereúthō: Chantraine II 369.

[ back ] 65. Vian, pp. 242. Cf. Latte 1913:27–29, who argues that the “red dance” is motivated by the red garb traditionally worn by warriors in war (cf. Aristotle fr. 542 Rose on the martial phoinikís ‘red cape’ of the Lacedaemonians).

[ back ] 66. §§5–6.

[ back ] 67. Ch.7§5, Ch.9§10.

[ back ] 68. Above, §6.

[ back ] 69. Preserved in Hesychius s.v. πυρριχίζειν, in the same article that commenced with the basic definition of the word. For further testimonia relating to Archilochus fr. 304, see the scholia to Pindar Pythian 2.127, the scholia (T) to Iliad XVI 617 (= Eustathius 1078.23), and Etymologicum Magnum 699.1. Cf. Latte, pp. 30.

[ back ] 70. Cf. also Eustathius 1697.1–6 ad Odyssey xi 505 and the scholia (B) to Hephaestion 299.1 Consbruch, where we hear that the purrhíkhē originated when Púrrhos leapt out of the Trojan Horse. On the alternative tradition that Achilles “invented” the purrhíkhē: Aristotle fr. 519 Rose. On the Trōïkòn pḗdēma ‘Trojan Leap’ as a dance form that apparently served to signal the Capture of Troy, see the scholia to Euripides Andromache 1139 and to Lycophron 245–246: as Achilles leapt off his ship, he hit the ground with such bíā ‘force’ that he caused a spring to gush forth, which was named Trōïkòn pḗdēma (cf. Antimachus fr. 84 Wyss). On the Trōïkòn pḗdēma of Pyrrhos himself at the hour of his death at Delphi, see Euripides Andromache 1139–1140. In the same context (verse 1135), the offensive and defensive maneuvers of Púrrhos are actually designated as purrhíkhai. On the offensive and defensive motions of the purrhíkhē: Plato Laws 815a. As Borthwick 1967 argues cogently, the death dance of Pyrrhos at Delphi reenacts his own Trōïkòn pḗdēma when he captured Troy. Cf. Pindar Paean 6.114–115, where Pyrrhos is described as ἐ[π/εν]θορόντα ‘leaping upon’ the very altar of Priam in order to kill the old king.

[ back ] 71. Aristotle fr. 519 Rose (see Ch.6§30n70).

[ back ] 72. See again n. 70.

[ back ] 73. Since we have only one source for this information, we cannot know for sure whether we are dealing here with a mistake, in that the duel in the Iliad is between Areithoos and Lykoorgos. On the other hand, we may be dealing with a genuine variant. Discussion by Vian, pp. 242–243n8. In either case, the essential thing is the ritualization itself.

[ back ] 74. I would expect the reenactment of the môlos ‘struggle’ to take primarily the form of a dance, with a mī́mēsis of the maneuvers taken by Lykoorgos against the hero of bíē. Compare the epic narrative of these maneuvers at Iliad VII 142–145 with the dancelike description of a wolf’s movements in Pindar Pythian 2.83–85. Discussion at Ch.12§21. In terms of “drama,” the fate of Ereuthalion/Areithoos is of course “tragic”; as for the môlos ‘struggle’ between Odysseus and Îros at Odyssey xviii 233, the fate of the loser, this mock hero of bíē, is of course “comic.” On Îros and the theme of bíē ridiculed: Ch.12§9n38.

[ back ] 75. §5.

[ back ] 76. Again, §6.

[ back ] 77. Again, §6.

[ back ] 78. Cf. §6.

[ back ] 79. The winds then move inland, approaching the pyre of Patroklos (Iliad XXIII 215–216). When their work is done, they take their leave the same way as when they arrived—over the póntos (Iliad XXIII 230).

[ back ] 80. Ch.5§25.

[ back ] 81. Again, Ch.5§25.

[ back ] 82. On the parallelism of Ares and the winds: §10.

[ back ] 83. Ch.5§§10–12.

[ back ] 84. Whitman 1958:133–134.

[ back ] 85. Whitman 1958:135.

[ back ] 86. Cf. Whitman 1958:135.

[ back ] 87. This expression indicates a poetic recording of an epic event for audiences of the future: Ch.1§3n8.

[ back ] 88. Again, Ch.1§3n8.

[ back ] 89. §15.

[ back ] 90. Cf. Ch.5§12.

[ back ] 91. He is also φλογὶ εἴκελον ᾽like a flame’ at Iliad XIII 688.

[ back ] 92. §6.

[ back ] 93. §14; also Ch.5§25.

[ back ] 94. Ch.5§25.

[ back ] 95. §§15–16.

[ back ] 96. Just as the fire is ἀπάνευθε ᾽far away’ at Iliad XIX 374 and the sailors are φίλων ἀπάνευθε ‘far away from their phíloi‘ at Iliad XIX 378, so also Achilles and Patroklos are described as φίλων ἀπάνευθεν ἑταίρων ‘far away from their phíloi companions [hetaîroi]’ at Iliad XXIII 77; discussion at §8.

[ back ] 97. §§14, 18.

[ back ] 98. Benveniste 1966 [= 1954]:296–298.

[ back ] 99. Benveniste, pp. 298.

[ back ] 100. On the name Phríxos, see Radermacher 1943:312. I would also adduce Iliad VII 63–64, describing the phríx ‘shudder’ brought down on the póntos by Zephyros the West Wind as it begins to blow violently, “and the póntos becomes black from it [the phríx].”

[ back ] 101. On the context of Iliad IX 4, see again §§14, 18.

[ back ] 102. Cf. Householder/Nagy 1972:768.

[ back ] 103. The túmbos ‘tomb’, also called sêma ‘marker’ at Iliad XXIII 257, is to be located ἐπ᾽ ἀκτῆς ‘on a headland’: Iliad XXIII 125. Note the parallel with Odyssey xxiv 82: ἀκτῇ ἔπι προὐχούσῃ ‘on a jutting headland’.

[ back ] 104. Ch.2§3.

[ back ] 105. Ch.2§3.

[ back ] 106. Ch.6§§28–30. The narrative of the Iliad leaves it open, however, whether the Tomb of Achilles is man-made or a natural formation: Ch.9§16n38.

[ back ] 107. Ch.9§§15–16.

[ back ] 108. Ch.9§§15–16. Whereas Thetis calls Achilles ἔξοχον ἡρώων ‘best of hḗrōes‘ in the diction of Panhellenic Epos (Iliad XVIII 56), he is called ‘best of hemítheoi‘ in the diction of the local lyric of Lesbos (Alcaeus 42.13LP: αἰμιθέων [ … ], where the word for ‘best’ is lost in a lacuna).

[ back ] 109. §22.

[ back ] 110. §20.

[ back ] 111. Leaf 1912:358–359.

[ back ] 112. The theme that Achilles would reach home “on the third day” (Iliad IX 363) may be connected with the controversial expression τριταῖον ἄνεμον in Pindar Nemean 7.17, which has been variously explained as ‘third-day’s wind’ or ‘third wind’. For an introduction to the controversy: Lloyd-Jones 1973:130.

[ back ] 113. On the penetration of the Black Sea in the eighth/seventh centuries B.C.: Drews 1976.

[ back ] 114. For documentation, see Fontenrose 1960:256n37, who also points out that Farnell’s 1921 book on Greek hero cults fails to take this epithet into account, even at pp. 409n69. For more on Achilles as Pontárkhēs: Pfister 1909:536–537 and Diehl 1953.

[ back ] 115. Of course the póntos here is the Hellḗspontos.

[ back ] 116. Cf. Iliad XVIII 429–434.

[ back ] 117. On Latin pōns and Greek póntos, see again Benveniste 1966 [= 1954]:296–298.

[ back ] 118. Cf. also §22n103.

[ back ] 119. Detienne/Vernant 1974:159(n129).

[ back ] 120. For a wealth of further documentation: Detienne/Vernant, pp. 160–164.

[ back ] 121. Detienne/Vernant, pp. 127–164; their argument is well worth reading in its entirety.

[ back ] 122. For a detailed treatment: West 1963, 1967; Detienne/Vernant, pp. 134–138.

[ back ] 123. Detienne/Vernant, pp. 127–164. Cf. also Penwill 1974; much as I admire this article, I disagree with its interpretation of Póros and with its separating of Thetis from *thétis ‘creation’.

[ back ] 124. Divine figures with local traits that resist Panhellenic systematization tend to be non-Olympian, no matter how important they may be in the local traditions; cf. Rohde I 39–40. So also with Thetis in the Panhellenic Epos of Homeric poetry: she is distinctly non-Olympian and is treated as socially inferior to the Olympians (cf. Iliad XX 105–107, XXIV 90–91). But her cosmic powers are clearly recognized (Iliad I 396–406, XVIII 429–434). Cf. Nagy 1974:277–278; also West 1963, 1967 (esp. pp. 3).

[ back ] 125. Similarly with the fire god Hephaistos: his fire entails not only bíē as at Iliad XXI 367 but also mêtis as at XXI 355, where the god is called polúmētis ‘whose mêtis is manifold’.

[ back ] 126. On the name: West 1966:210.

[ back ] 127. On the theme that Krátos and Bíē maintain the cosmic régime of Zeus, see Theogony 385–401 (cf. §11n54).

[ back ] 128. To put it another way, in defeating the Titans the bíē of the Hundred-Handers and the bíē of Zeus are two variants of one theme that are combined in the narrative of the Theogony. For more on the biê of Zeus: §6 (esp. n. 2).

[ back ] 129. There seems to be a concession to this variant in Theogony 817–819; cf. West, pp. 210.

[ back ] 130. Solinus 11.6 says that Briareos had a cult at Karystos and Aigaion, at Khalkis.