Homeric Durability: Telling Time in the Iliad

  Garcia, Lorenzo F., Jr. 2013. Homeric Durability: Telling Time in the Iliad. Hellenic Studies Series 58. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_GarciaL.Homeric_Durability_Telling_Time_in_the_Iliad.2013.

Chapter 3. Permanence and Non-Organic Structures: Walls in the Iliad

In the last chapter, we investigated the theme of the decomposition of human remains and the special preservation of the bodies of certain figures. The corpses of Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor are all in danger of suffering unseemly decay or worse; yet, the process of decomposition, though ultimately inevitable, is held in reserve until each hero can receive proper commemoration through the cultural institution of burial rites and the architectural constructions of σήματα ‘tombs’. The process of temporarily preserving heroes’ bodies, I suggested, is a figure for the role the epic tradition posits for itself of (temporarily) preserving the memory of heroes. In this chapter, I wish to turn our attention to other material objects that undergo the same process of temporary preservation—I am specifically referring to the defensive walls that surround the city of Troy and the military camp of the Achaeans. As we will see, both of these walls are constructed for the purpose of defense, and each wall in fact functions as a substitute for a great hero, since Achilles and Hektor, among others, are likened to defensive walls. I argue, accordingly, that the walls participate in the same temporal economy as the heroes themselves. Both walls remain standing throughout the Iliad, but their eventual destructions are prefigured within that work. I wish to investigate the status of these temporary structures, and once again suggest their importance for viewing the function of the epic tradition as conceived within the tradition itself.

To begin with, then, it is necessary to establish the importance of “walls.” The action of the Iliad takes place largely on the battlefield that lies between the extreme points of the Greek camp on the one hand and the Trojan city on the other. The Greek camp consists of rows of ships dragged onto the shore and the soldiers’ wooden huts. The Achaean camp is a temporary structure; whatever amenities the soldiers have provided for themselves in the duration of the {95|96} nine years of the Trojan War, the camp is never intended to supply permanent housing. The Achaeans are to remain there until they sack Troy, and then they will abandon the camp and return home. On the other side, meanwhile, stands the Trojan city of Ilion, surrounded with a great wall and made to last. Oliver Taplin has emphasized the contrast between the two spaces:

Troy is a great stone-built city, many generations old, with many well-known permanent features and landmarks. The Achaean camp could hardly be in greater contrast. It is an improvised, wooden world, peopled by soldiers and their captured women. The camp does not even have a wall (and that built later in the poem will be obliterated after the war …) It has no temples, no long-term landmarks or formalized social spaces. It is not a proper place.

Taplin 1992:94; emphasis added

Taplin finds the contrast between the Achaean and Trojan structures so great that he denies the Greek camp is “a proper place.” It is made of wood instead of stone; it is temporary and not permanent; it lacks landmarks, familiar topographical features, or any sort of formalized space for cultural exchange; and its population consists only of soldiers and slaves temporarily located there. In short, according to Taplin, it is a camp and not a city.

Taplin’s characterization of the site is instructive. In his desire to establish as strong a contrast as possible between the two spaces, he denies the Achaean camp any indication of durable structure. Taplin opposes the Trojan “stone-built” city to the “wooden world” of the Achaeans, and the “well-known” and “permanent” features of Troy with the “improvised” newness of the Greek camp. Perhaps the clearest example of his contrasting rhetoric appears in his initial denial that the Achaeans have a defensive wall, followed immediately by a correction, stating that the wall they do have “will be obliterated after the war.”

Taplin’s characterization of the differences between the Achaean and Trojan fortifications is elegant—yet, like most elegant encapsulations, it simplifies a more complex issue. For Taplin’s temporary/permanent dichotomy fails to account for the fundamental similarity between the two structures: both sites have defensive walls, neither of which will long survive the war. As I will seek to demonstrate in this chapter, the narrative achieves a sense of temporal depth through the representation of the two walls that, though integral and intact at present, are fated to be overthrown. The present is burdened with impending destruction; each wall undergoes a virtual death in which the future, though not yet complete, is already virtually so. {96|97}

1. The Achaean wall: the temporality of mortal artifact

The narrative of the Achaean wall and its construction in Book VII of the Iliad follows the lengthy description of the first day’s battle, spanning Books III through VII. General battle breaks out after the inconclusive duel between Menelaus and Paris in Book III. The scenes of Helen being led by Aphrodite to Paris’ bed (III 383–447) and Pandarus’ bowshot (IV 105–126), [1] fired in violation of the great oath that the armies would cease fighting, [2] replicate the original violations carried out by the Trojans against the Greeks: the rape of Helen and the violation of sacred bonds established through exchange of friendship and oaths (Reckford 1964:10).

It is in this context that Nestor advises the Achaeans to negotiate a cease-fire to collect bodies, conduct burial rites for them, and to build a defensive wall out of the series of tombs erected for the dead.

Ἀτρεΐδη τε καὶ ἄλλοι ἀριστῆες Παναχαιῶν,
πολλοὶ γὰρ τεθνᾶσι κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοί,
τῶν νῦν αἷμα κελαινὸν ἐΰρροον ἀμφὶ Σκάμανδρον
ἐσκέδασ’ ὀξὺς Ἄρης, ψυχαὶ δ’ Ἄϊδόσδε κατῆλθον·
τώ σε χρὴ πόλεμον μὲν ἅμ’ ἠοῖ παῦσαι Ἀχαιῶν,
αὐτοὶ δ’ ἀγρόμενοι κυκλήσομεν ἐνθάδε νεκρούς
βουσὶ καὶ ἡμιόνοισιν· ἀτὰρ κατακήομεν αὐτούς
τυτθὸν ἄποπρο νεῶν, ὥς κ’ ὀστέα παισὶν ἕκαστος
οἴκαδ’ ἄγῃ, ὅτ’ ἂν αὖτε νεώμεθα πατρίδα γαῖαν.
τύμβόν τ’ ἀμφὶ πυρὴν ἕνα χεύομεν ἐξαγαγόντες
ἄκριτον ἐκ πεδίου· ποτὶ δ’ αὐτὸν δείμομεν ὦκα
πύργους ὑψηλούς, εἶλαρ νηῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν.
ἐν δ’ αὐτοῖσι πύλας ποιήσομεν εὖ ἀραρυίας,
ὄφρα δι’ αὐτάων ἱππηλασίη ὁδὸς εἴη.
ἔκτοσθεν δὲ βαθεῖαν ὀρύξομεν ἐγγύθι τάφρον,
ἥ χ’ ἵππον καὶ λαὸν ἐρυκάκοι ἀμφὶς ἐοῦσα,
μή ποτ’ ἐπιβρίσῃ πόλεμος Τρώων ἀγερώχων.
Both you sons of Atreus and you other chiefs of all the Achaeans:
[Heed my words:] for many long-haired Achaeans have died,
whose dark blood now around fair-flowing Scamander
keen Ares spilt, and their souls went down to the house of Hades.
Accordingly you must put a stop to the battle of the Achaeans at dawn,
and we ourselves will gather up the corpses and wheel them here
with oxen and mules. But let us burn them
a short distance away from the ships, so each man may take the bones
back home to the children, whenever we return to our native land again.
And about the pyre let’s heap up a single burial mound, having drawn it
from the plain, without separation [between mounds]; and quickly let’s build against it
lofty towers, a defense for both the ships and for ourselves.
And in them we will make well-fitted gates,
so that there may be road for chariots through them. {98|99}
And outside, let’s dig a deep ditch nearby,
which, since it is about [the wall], would hold off both horses and people,
lest battle of the brave Trojans ever fall heavily upon us.

Iliad VII 327–343

Agamemnon accepts Nestor’s advice; he tells the Trojan herald Idaeus that he grants a cease-fire to bury the dead, but withholds Nestor’s wall-building wisdom (VII 408–411). [
4] The entire scene is meant to be surprising; even the gods are in the dark about Nestor’s plans, as Poseidon notes as he complains to Zeus about the unexpected construction:

The Achaean wall is specifically represented as a mortal artifact; the gods were given no prior indication of its construction nor offered any sacrifices (κλειτὰς ἑκατόμβας, VII 450).

But just what constitutes Nestor’s ‘mind and cunning intelligence’ (νόον καὶ μῆτιν) here? Let us examine the construction closely. {99|100}

ἦμος δ’ οὔτ’ ἄρ πω ἠώς, ἔτι δ’ ἀμφιλύκη νύξ,
τῆμος ἄρ’ ἀμφὶ πυρὴν κριτὸς ἤγρετο λαὸς Ἀχαιῶν,
τύμβον δ’ ἀμφ’ αὐτὴν ἕνα ποίεον ἐξαγαγόντες
ἄκριτον ἐκ πεδίου· ποτὶ δ’ αὐτὸν τεῖχος ἔδειμαν,
πύργους ὑψηλούς, εἶλαρ νηῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν.
ἐν δ’ αὐτοῖσι πύλας ἐνεποίεον εὖ ἀραρυίας,
ὄφρα δι’ αὐτάων ἱππηλασίη ὁδὸς εἴη,
ἔκτοσθεν δὲ βαθεῖαν ἐπ’ αὐτῷ τάφρον ὄρυξαν,
εὐρεῖαν μεγάλην, ἐν δὲ σκόλοπας κατέπηξαν.
But when it was not yet dawn, but still crepuscular night,
then a chosen body of Achaeans gathered about the pyre,
and about it they made a single burial mound, having drawn it
from the plain without separation; and they built against it a wall
and lofty towers, a defense for both the ships and themselves.
And they made in them well-fitted gates,
so that there would be road for chariots through them;
and outside they dug a deep trench hard upon it,
a wide and great one, and in it they fastened palisades.

Iliad VII 433–441

A selected group (κριτὸς … λαός, VII 433) of Achaeans gather at night; the time is emphasized by the hapax legomenon ἀμφιλύκη (VII 433), which seems to indicate the twilight period ‘on either side (ἀπφι-) of the light (λύκη)’. Like the night-time spy mission of the Doloneia in Iliad X, the temporal setting marks the construction as an occulted activity. There is a dissonance between the select men (κριτὸς … λαός, VII 433) men who draw together a single burial mound (τύμβον … ἕνα, VII 435) out of the multiple burials into an undifferentiated mass without separation (ἄκριτον, VII 436). The wall, therefore, is to be envisioned as formed from the extension of each individual warrior’s tomb into the other. [
6] The actual construction of the wall (VII 433–439) follows Nestor’s instructions closely (cf. VII 336–343), with formulaic repetition, as is regular practice in scenes where previously narrated instructions are carried out. At Iliad VII 436, however, the Achaeans ‘build a wall up against the burial mound’ (ποτὶ δ ᾿ αὐτὸν [sc. τύμβον] {100|101} τεῖχος ἔδειμαν). [7] They build gates into the wall, dig a ditch all around it, and—another new detail—they fasten palisades inside the new deep and wide trench (VII 441). The trench and wall function together to limit access to the camp.

The second and more significant source of controversy over the authenticity of this passage is due to a failure to understand the purpose of the wall and an inability to account for its construction now in the tenth year of the war. Much of the scholarly debate has centered on a passage in the “Archaeology” of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (1.11.1). As part of his strategy to emphasize the unprecedented magnitude and importance of the war he is about to narrate, Thucydides attempts to degrade the importance of the Trojan War. His general argument runs as follows: the Trojan War lasted ten years only because so few Greeks participated in it, and their number was further reduced by lack of sufficient supplies; a large contingent of the army was forced to conduct raids for supplies or even farm the coastline; otherwise, the war would {101|102} have been decided far sooner. The problematic line explains that the Greeks ‘won an initial victory when they arrived—this is obvious, for they wouldn’t have built up a defensive wall for their camp’ (ἀφικόμενοι … ἐνίκησαν· δῆλον δέ· τὸ γὰρ ἔρυμα τῷ στρατοπέδῳ οὐκ ἂν ἐτειχίσαντο). The implication is that the Greeks drove the Trojan defenders back from the shore and built a defensive wall upon taking the beach when they first landed. The debate, then, runs that Thucydides must be talking about a different wall than the one in Book VII of the Iliad, since Thucydides clearly—if the text is sound—is describing a wall built upon arrival, i.e. in the first year of the Trojan War. [10]

Regarding the specific details of Thucydides’ eruma, I have nothing to add; the debate has little value for our investigation here, whether or not the text of Thucydides 1.11.1 is sound. After all, it has long been noted that several details in the early books of the Iliad seem to make better sense within a first-year scenario than within a tenth-year scenario. [11] What I am more interested in is the narrative logic of the Iliad itself: Why represent the construction of the wall now? The answer, I suggest, is an obvious one: the Achaeans need a wall now because Achilles, thanks to his quarrel with Agamemnon, is no longer on the battlefield. Previously, the Achaeans needed no wall, no ‘defense both of their {102|103} ships and of themselves’ (εἶλαρ νηῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν, VII 338), for Achilles was that defense—he was their wall. [12] Achilles makes the point explicitly during the Embassy scene when he tells Odysseus,

ἦ μὲν δὴ μάλα πολλὰ πονήσατο νόσφιν ἐμεῖο·
καὶ δὴ τεῖχος ἔδειμε, καὶ ἤλασε τάφρον ἐπ’ αὐτῷ
εὐρεῖαν μεγάλην, ἐν δὲ σκόλοπας κατέπηξεν·
ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς δύναται σθένος Ἕκτορος ἀνδροφόνοιο
ἴσχειν. ὄφρα δ’ ἐγὼ μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν πολέμιζον,
οὐκ ἐθέλεσκε μάχην ἀπὸ τείχεος ὀρνύμεν Ἕκτωρ,
ἀλλ’ ὅσον ἐς Σκαιάς τε πύλας καὶ φηγὸν ἵκανεν.
Yes, in truth, very many things have been labored over while I have been away
indeed, he [sc. Agamemnon] even built a wall, and drove a ditch up to it,
a great and wide one, and he fixed stakes down inside it.
But not even so is he able to hold back the strength of man-slaughtering
Hektor. Yet while I was fighting among the Achaeans
Hektor was never willing to stir up battle away from the [Trojan] wall,
but would reach only as far as the Scean gates and the fig tree.

Iliad IX 348–354

As long as (ὄφρα, IX 352) Achilles used to fight (πολέμιζον, IX 352), the Achaeans had no need for a defensive wall, for Hektor was unwilling (οὐκ ἐθέλεσκε, IX 353) to venture far from his own city’s defenses (ἀπὸ τείχεος, IX 353); the imperfect and iterative verb tenses (πολέμιζον, IX 352; οὐκ ἐθέλεσκε, IX 353) and temporal clause (ὄφρα … πολέμιζον, κτλ., IX 352–354) all point to the enduring state of affairs before Achilles separated himself from the battle (νόσφιν ἐμεῖο, IX 348). [
13] The ancient scholia to these verses describe Achilles as μείζων τείχους {103|104} ‘mightier than a wall’ (Scholia bT at Iliad IX 352–353, Erbse), and at another point, describe Achilles as a ‘living wall’ (τεῖχος ἔμψυχον) for the Achaeans (Scholia T at Iliad XII 29d1, Erbse). Another scholion posits Achilles’ absence from the field of battle as the reason why the Trojans are only now daring to leave the city and fight the Achaeans: οἱ γὰρ Τρῶες Ἀχιλλέως παρόντος οὐδέποτε ἐξῄεσαν τῶν πυλῶν, ‘for the Trojans never went out of their gates when Achilles was present’ (Scholia bT at Iliad I 1b, Erbse). [14] In short, the defensive wall (τεῖχος) of the Achaeans is a mere substitute for the now absent Achilles. [15] Furthermore, like Achilles, the Achaean wall remains standing within the Iliad itself, but is fated to fall beyond the scope of the epic.

The opening verses of Iliad XII offer a remarkable description of the fate of the Achaean wall. The narrative perspective shifts from the description of battle and offers a retrospective on the wall’s destruction years later. I cite the passage at length:

οἳ δὲ μάχοντο
Ἀργεῖοι καὶ Τρῶες ὁμιλαδόν· οὐδ’ ἄρ’ ἔμελλεν
τάφρος ἔτι σχήσειν Δαναῶν καὶ τεῖχος ὕπερθεν
εὐρύ, τὸ ποιήσαντο νεῶν ὕπερ, ἀμφὶ δὲ τάφρον,
ἤλασαν· οὐδὲ θεοῖσι δόσαν κλειτὰς ἑκατόμβας·
ὄφρά σφιν νῆάς τε θοὰς καὶ ληΐδα πολλὴν
ἐντὸς ἔχον ῥύοιτο· θεῶν δ’ ἀέκητι τέτυκτο
ἀθανάτων· τὸ καὶ οὔ τι πολὺν χρόνον ἔμπεδον ἦεν.
ὄφρα μὲν Ἕκτωρ ζωὸς ἔην καὶ μήνι’ Ἀχιλλεύς
καὶ Πριάμοιο ἄνακτος ἀπόρθητος πόλις ἔπλεν,
τόφρα δὲ καὶ μέγα τεῖχος Ἀχαιῶν ἔμπεδον ἦεν. {104|105}
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατὰ μὲν Τρώων θάνον ὅσσοι ἄριστοι,
πολλοὶ δ’ Ἀργείων οἳ μὲν δάμεν, οἳ δὲ λίποντο,
πέρθετο δὲ Πριάμοιο πόλις δεκάτῳ ἐνιαυτῷ,
Ἀργεῖοι δ’ ἐν νηυσὶ φίλην ἐς πατρίδ’ ἔβησαν,
δὴ τότε μητιόωντο Ποσειδάων καὶ Ἀπόλλων
τεῖχος ἀμαλδῦναι, ποταμῶν μένος εἰσαγαγόντες,
ὅσσοι ἀπ’ Ἰδαίων ὀρέων ἅλα δὲ προρέουσι,
Ῥῆσός θ’ Ἑπτάπορός τε Κάρησός τε Ῥοδίος τε
Γρήνικός τε καὶ Αἴσηπος δῖός τε Σκάμανδρος
καὶ Σιμόεις, ὅθι πολλὰ βοάγρια καὶ τρυφάλειαι
κάππεσον ἐν κονίῃσι καὶ ἡμιθέων γένος ἀνδρῶν·
τῶν πάντων ὁμόσε στόματ’ ἔτραπε Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων,
ἐννῆμαρ δ’ ἐς τεῖχος ἵει ῥόον· ὗε δ’ ἄρα Ζεὺς
συνεχές, ὄφρά κε θάσσον ἁλίπλοα τείχεα θείη.
αὐτὸς δ’ Ἐννοσίγαιος ἔχων χείρεσσι τρίαιναν
ἡγεῖτ’, ἐκ δ’ ἄρα πάντα θεμείλια κύμασι πέμπεν
φιτρῶν καὶ λάων, τὰ θέσαν μογέοντες Ἀχαιοί.
λεῖα δ’ ἐποίησεν παρ’ ἀγάρροον Ἑλλήσποντον,
αὖτις δ’ ἠϊόνα μεγάλην ψαμάθοισι κάλυψεν,
τεῖχος ἀμαλδύνας· ποταμοὺς δ’ ἔτρεψε νέεσθαι
κὰρ ῥόον, ᾗ περ πρόσθεν ἵεν καλλίρροον ὕδωρ.
ὣς ἄρ’ ἔμελλον ὄπισθε Ποσειδάων καὶ Ἀπόλλων
θησέμεναι· τότε δ’ ἀμφὶ μάχη ἐνοπή τε δεδήει
τεῖχος ἐΰδμητον, κανάχιζε δὲ δούρατα πύργων
They were fighting,
the Argives and Trojans, in a crowd. Nor was the ditch
of the Danaäns any longer going to hold them back, nor the wide wall
above it, which they had built in defense of their ships, and around it
drove a ditch. They did not give famed hecatombs to the gods,
so that it might protect for them both the swift ships and the plentiful booty
they had inside. But it was built against the will of the immortal gods.
And so it was not to remain in place for a long time at all.
As long as Hektor was alive and Achilles was angry
and the city of King Priam was unsacked,
for so long also the great wall of the Achaeans was in place.
But when as many as were the best men of the Trojans died,
and of the Argives, many were beaten down, but some survived, {105|106}
and the city of Priam was sacked in the tenth year,
and the Argives went in their ships to the dear land of their fathers,
then indeed Poseidon and Apollo took counsel
to overpower the wall by leading against it the force of rivers.
As many [rivers] as flow forth to the sea from the mountains of Ida—
Rhesus and Heptaporus and Caresus and Rhodius
and Grenicus and Aesepus and brilliant Scamander
and Simoeis, where many ox-hide shields and helmets
fell down in the dust along with the race of half-god men—
Phoibos Apollo turned the mouths of all of these together,
and he cast the flow against the wall for nine days. And Zeus rained
continuously, so as to set it more quickly under the sea.
And the earth-shaker himself while holding in his hands the trident
guided them, and he sent out to the waves all the foundations
of wooden blocks and stones, which the toiling Achaeans had set up,
and he made it smooth beside the great-flowing Hellespont
and once again covered the great shore with sand
after he overpowered the wall. Then he turned the rivers to return,
each one to its respective flow, in the very place where formerly the very beautiful water went.
Thus afterward Poseidon and Apollo would
set things. But for the time being, battle and shouting were blazing
about the well-built wall, and the timbers of the towers crashed
when they were struck.

Iliad XII 2–37

The passage presents a complex image of the fate of the wall. It is in danger in the present moment and will not last long; its destruction is guaranteed, though its durability is preserved within the narrative scope of the Iliad itself. Only in the future, after Hektor has been killed and Troy has been sacked, after the surviving Achaeans have returned to their homelands, then the wall will be wiped out and completely obliterated, and the shore wiped clean of any traces of its existence. The wall—itself a stand-in for Achilles, as I argued above—here functions as an image of the tradition itself and its view of its own temporal durability.

The passage begins by implying the destruction of the Achaean wall during the present skirmish: ‘the ditch was not going to hold them back any longer’ (οὐδ’ ἄρ’ ἔμελλεν | τάφρος ἔτι σχήσειν, XII 3–4). The verb οὐδ’ … ἔμελλε plus the future infinitive σχήσειν and the adverb ἔτι all work to shape a temporal perspective of the Achaean wall in terms of ‘no longer’ (οὐδ᾿ … ἔτι, XII 3–4): the Achaeans’ hope about their wall’s continued protection ceases to be projected {106|107} into an open future as a “not yet,” as in a wall “not yet broken.” Instead, the narrative speaks of the wall as lacking a future—it will not remain in place for very long (τὸ καὶ οὔ τι πολὺν χρόνον ἔμπεδον ἦεν, XII 9)—such that the temporal perspective has shifted to the “no longer,” indicating a failure: it will no longer perform the task it was meant to do. Such a temporal shift creates a kind of narrative expectation in which one of the great Trojan fighters or their allies—Hektor or Sarpedon—will come crashing through the wall.

Nevertheless, the passage goes on to refine the precise temporal boundaries of the wall’s durability. With the temporal markers ‘as long as’ (ὄφρα μὲν, XII 10), ‘for so long’ (τόφρα δέ, XII 12), ‘but when’ (αὐτὰρ ἐπεί, XII 13), and ‘then indeed’ (δὴ τότε, XII 17), Homer locates the destruction of the Achaean wall far in the future, after Troy has been sacked, its heroes killed, and the surviving Achaeans departed homeward. Imperfect verbs (ἔην καὶ μήνι’, XII 10; ἀπόρθητος … ἔλπεν, XII 11; ἔμπεδον ἦεν, XII 12) paint a static picture of the wall’s endurance against which aorist verbs (θάνον, ΧΙΙ 13; δάμεν … λίποντο, XII 14; ἔβησαν, XII 16) mark key events in its history. When these events have been accomplished, then (δὴ τότε, XII 17), we are told, Poseidon, Apollo, and Zeus act in concert to wipe out the wall and erase all traces of its existence: Apollo drives rivers against the wall, Zeus pours rain, and Poseidon smooths out all the traces of the former Achaean presence (λεῖα δ’ ἐποίησεν, XII 30), and once again he covers up the beach with sand (αὖτις δ’ ἠϊόνα μεγάλην ψαμάθοισι κάλυψεν, XII 31). The very foundations of the wall are undermined under the gods’ liquid onslaught.

Indeed, later in the narrative during the “Great Day” of fighting, the wall’s watery demise is recalled as the Trojans at least partially breach its defenses. Apollo leads the Trojans against the Achaean wall; their rush is described as a metaphorical flood:

προπάροιθε δὲ Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
ῥεῖ’ ὄχθας καπέτοιο βαθείης ποσσὶν ἐρείπων
ἐς μέσσον κατέβαλλε, γεφύρωσεν δὲ κέλευθον
μακρὴν ἠδ’ εὐρεῖαν, ὅσον τ’ ἐπὶ δουρὸς ἐρωή
γίγνεται, ὁππότ’ ἀνὴρ σθένεος πειρώμενος ᾗσιν.
τῇ ῥ’ οἵ γε προχέοντο φαλαγγηδόν, πρὸ δ’ Ἀπόλλων
αἰγίδ’ ἔχων ἐρίτιμον· ἔρειπε δὲ τεῖχος Ἀχαιῶν
ῥεῖα μάλ’, ὡς ὅτε τις ψάμαθον πάϊς ἄγχι θαλάσσης,
ὅς τ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν ποιήσῃ ἀθύρματα νηπιέῃσιν,
ἂψ αὖτις συνέχευε ποσὶν καὶ χερσὶν ἀθύρων·
ὥς ῥα σύ, ἤϊε Φοῖβε, πολὺν κάματον καὶ ὀϊζύν
σύγχεας Ἀργείων, αὐτοῖσι δὲ φύζαν ἐνῶρσας. {107|108}
And before them Phoibos Apollo
easily threw down the banks of the deep trench with his feet
and cast them [i.e. the banks] down into the middle, and he bridged a path
long and broad, as far as a spear is cast,
whenever a man making trial of his strength hurls it.
By means of this they [i.e. the Trojans] poured forward in ranks, and Apollo was before them
holding the highly-prized aegis. He threw down the wall of the Achaeans
very easily, as when a child near the sea,
one who when he makes playthings in his childishness,
pours the sand back together again with his feet and hands while playing.
So indeed, darter Phoibos, you pour together the great toil and misery
of the Argives, and you roused flight in them.

Iliad XV 355–366

Apollo throws down (ἐρείπων, XV 356; ἔρειπε, XV 361) [
16] the banks of the Achaeans’ defensive trench (ὄχθας καπέτοιο, XV 356) [17] and their wall (τεῖχος, XV 361). The Trojans ‘pour forward in ranks’ (προχέοντο φαλαγγηδόν, XV 360); the verb χέω ‘to pour’ implies liquid motion, especially in this context where we find Apollo ‘pouring together’ (XV 366) the Achaean works as easily as a child ‘pours together’ (συνέχευε, XV 364) sand-castles he has built on the shore. [18] In short, the passage in Iliad XII would appear to be a proleptic announcement of the destruction of the Achaean wall by Trojan forces literally ‘flooding’ over it. [19] The imagery of Trojans ‘pouring forth’ against the wall and Apollo {108|109} smashing it like a child ‘pours back together again’ (ἂψ αὖτις συνέχευε, XV 364) the sand he has temporarily made into a plaything recalls the image of the Achaean wall’s destruction under the flood of Apollo, Zeus, and Poseidon, and the sand that buries the remnants of the Achaean labors (ψαμάθοισι, XII 31; cf. ψάμαθον, XV 362).

In an influential and often-cited article, Ruth Scodel (1982) has studied the destruction of the Achaean wall in light of other “flood” narratives familiar from the Semitic, Sumerian, Hittite, and Greek traditions. Scodel notes the general character of these narratives as marking a greater separation between gods and men; the former race of demigods (ἡμιθέων γένος ἀνδρῶν, XII 23) [20] is wiped out in a massive destructive event that brings the entire age to a decisive end. [21] What I wish to emphasize is the implication that in Iliad XII the Achaean wall is linked not merely with the figure of Achilles, for whom it functions as substitute, but with the entire heroic age which is to come to an end. [22] The wall, built out of the joined tombs of the Achaean fighters, is to be utterly wiped out; without funeral marker, the very κλέος ‘fame’ of the men is in danger of perishing forever in the depths of time. This image of the concomitant loss of a hero’s tomb and his κλέος becomes particularly significant when we recall the river Scamander’s threat to bury Achilles under a mound of silt so the Achaeans will not be able to find his bones nor erect a σῆμα for him (XXI 316–323). Gregory Nagy has read the description of Poseidon and Apollo covering the entire beach with sand to be “consciously offered as a variant of the tradition that tells how the Achaeans had made a funeral mound for the dead Achilles by the Hellespont {109|110} (xxiv 80–84)” (Nagy 1999:160n1, Ch. 9§16n1). In other words, the epic knows a future fate for Achilles’ tomb as well: his σῆμα upon the Hellespont (Odyssey xxiv 80–84) is imagined as erased in the flood that wipes out all material traces of the heroic age.

2. The Trojan wall: the temporalityof divine artifact

The Trojan wall is well constructed. Its “well built towers” (XXII 195), “beautiful battlements” (XXII 3), and “tightly fitted” double-doors (XVIII 275, XXI 535) all designate it as the product of master craftsmanship. In fact, the epic tradition knows the city wall to be the product of the gods, built by Poseidon and Apollo while they were working under the employment of Laomedon, the king of Troy in the generation before Priam’s rule. [31] The story appears in two separate passages, the first mentioned in reference to the construction of the Achaean wall in Book VII, and second during the Theomakhia in Book XXI. {111|112} In Book VII, Poseidon expresses anger over the construction of the Achaean wall, for it threatens to deprive him of kleos for the construction of the Trojan wall. [32]

τοῦ δ᾿ ἤτοι κλέος ἔσται, ὅσσον τ᾿ ἐπικίδναται ἠώς,
τοῦ δ᾿ ἐπιλήσονται, ὅ τ᾿ ἐγὼ καὶ Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
ἥρῳ Λαομέδοντι πολίσσαμεν ἀθλήσαντε.
In truth, I tell you, there will be kleos of it, as far as the dawn spreads,
and they will forget about the one, which I and Phoibos Apollo
built for the hero Laomedon through our toil.

Iliad VII 451–453

It is unseemly that mortal architecture should outlast immortal architecture; the craftwork of the immortals is itself immortal, after all. And yet, since the Achaeans are bound to sack Troy and overthrow its wall, their own wall will outlive Poseidon’s wall—a wall meant to last forever. The point is made explicit in the second passage. In Book XXI, Poseidon chides Apollo for siding with the Trojans despite the rough treatment they received in recompense for their labor:

νηπύτι’, ὡς ἄνοον κραδίην ἔχες· οὐδέ νυ τῶν περ
μέμνηαι, ὅσα δὴ πάθομεν κακὰ Ἴλιον ἀμφί
μοῦνοι νῶϊ θεῶν, ὅτ’ ἀγήνορι Λαομέδοντι
πὰρ Διὸς ἐλθόντες θητεύσαμεν εἰς ἐνιαυτόν
μισθῷ ἔπι ῥητῷ, ὃ δὲ σημαίνων ἐπέτελλεν.
ἤτοι ἐγὼ Τρώεσσι πόλιν πέρι τεῖχος ἔδειμα
εὐρύ τε καὶ μάλα καλόν, ἵν’ ἄρρηκτος πόλις εἴη·
Φοῖβε, σὺ δ’ εἰλίποδας ἕλικας βοῦς βουκολέεσκες
Ἴδης ἐν κνημοῖσι πολυπτύχου ὑληέσσης.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ μισθοῖο τέλος πολυγηθέες ὧραι
ἐξέφερον, τότε νῶϊ βιήσατο μισθὸν ἅπαντα
Λαομέδων ἔκπαγλος, ἀπειλήσας δ’ ἀπέπεμπεν· {112|113}
σὺν μὲν ὅ γ’ ἠπείλησε πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ὕπερθεν
δήσειν, καὶ περάαν νήσων ἔπι τηλεδαπάων,
στεῦτο δ’ ὅ γ’ ἀμφοτέρων ἀπολεψέμεν οὔατα χαλκῷ.
νῶϊ δὲ ἄψορροι κίομεν κεκοτηότι θυμῷ,
μισθοῦ χωόμενοι, τὸν ὑποστὰς οὐκ ἐτέλεσσεν.
Foolish boy, do you have a thoughtless heart? Don’t you remember the things,
the very many evil ones we suffered around Ilion,
we two alone of the gods, when to haughty Laomedon
from Zeus we came to be servants for a year
for an arranged wage, and he commanded us, acting like a master.
Yes, I tell you, I built a wall around the city for the Trojans,
a wide and exceedingly beautiful one, so the city would be unbreakable.
And you, Phoibos, tended the curved-horned cattle
in the mountain valleys of many-furrowed, wooded Ida.
But when the much-rejoiced season brought about the end of our hire,
then he forcefully withheld all our wages from us,
outrageous Laomedon did, and he sent us away with a threat.
This man threatened to bind our feet together and our hands above,
and sell us off to far-lying islands,
and he gestured as if he would cut off both of our ears with bronze.
And we two went back, wroth at heart
and angry over the wage which he promised but did not fulfill.

Iliad XXI 441–457

Poseidon’s wall, like all divine works, is emphasized as being both ‘exceedingly beautiful’ (μάλα καλόν, XXI 447) and ‘unbreakable’ (ἄρρηκτος, XXI 447), a term formally equivalent with the adjective ‘imperishable’ (ἄφθιτον) said of Hephaistos’ craft. [
33] The verbal adjective ἄρ(ρ)ηκτος is formed from the alpha-privative plus adjectival stem in *-το- from the root *fρηγ- (cf. ῥήγνυμι) ‘break’, and hence indicates the wall’s ‘unbroken’ status. [34] The privative force of the prefix denotes a temporal element to the concept: Poseidon’s wall is ‘unbreakable’ only because it has not yet been broken (cf. Benveniste 1975:166). Homer is silent about the reason why the two gods served the Trojan king. Later sources supplement the myth, explaining that Poseidon and Apollo were forced to {113|114} work for Laomedon either as punishment for their rebellion against Zeus, [35] or perhaps in order to “test” Laomedon to determine whether he is righteous or not. [36] Our concern here is merely the fact that the Trojan wall is identified as the work of the gods (Poseidon and Apollo), and is characterized as beautiful and unbroken. [37] {114|115}

The “unbreakable” quality of the divinely-crafted Trojan wall sets it apart from the mortal-made Achaean wall. [38] During the fierce fighting about the Greek wall during the “Great Day” of fighting which spans from Books XI through XVIII, Sarpedon and Hektor penetrate the Achaean wall. Although the Achaeans had hoped to build a wall that would last, as Nestor explains to Agamemnon, it has failed to do so:

τεῖχος μὲν γὰρ δὴ κατερήριπεν, ᾧ ἐπέπιθμεν
ἄρρηκτον νηῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν εἶλαρ ἔσεσθαι.
For indeed, the wall has gone down which we trusted would be an
unbreakable protection for both our ships and us.

Iliad XIV 55–56

The Achaeans trusted in the wall (τεῖχος … ᾧ ἐπέπιθμεν, XIV 54), believing that it would be an unbreakable protection (ἄρρηκτον … εἶλαρ, XIV 55), but in vain: the wall has fallen (τεῖχος … κατερήριπεν, XIV 55). Agamemnon’s response to Nestor touches on the same themes of hope frustrated by the ultimate inability of the wall to hold off the Trojans:

τεῖχος δ᾿ οὐκ ἔχραισμε τετυγμένον, οὐδέ τι τάφρος,
ᾗ ἔπι πολλὰ πάθον Δαναοί, ἔλποντο δὲ θυμῷ
ἄρρηκτον νηῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν εἶλαρ ἔσεσθαι.
The wall we built didn’t keep us safe, nor at all did the trench,
over which the Danaäns suffered many things, but they were hopeful at heart
that it would be an unbreakable protection to their ships and to them.

Iliad XIV 66–68

In both passages, the Greeks express hope that the protection provided by the defensive wall would last. The use of verbs of ‘trusting’ (πείθω, XIV 55) and ‘hoping’ (ἐλπίζω, XIV 67) with the future infinitive ἔσεσθαι (XIV 56, 68) note the future projection of the wall’s “unbroken” status. They hoped it would be “unbreakable,” but the wall has failed to keep the Achaeans safe (κατερήριπεν, XIV 55; οὐκ ἔχραισμε, XIV 66). It is instructive to note the Greek wall is called “unbreakable” only in contrary-to-fact scenarios; the Achaeans trusted and hoped it would remain unbreakable (ἄρρηκτον … ἔσεσθαι, XIV 55, 68), but events have proven otherwise. The implication is that man-made craft cannot match {115|116} divine craft. Only the Trojan wall can be truly ἄρρηκτον ‘unbreakable’ in a durable way, as if the divine origin of the Trojan wall guarantees its impregnability. While inside their wall, the Trojans cannot be taken by force. [
39] And yet, the epic tradition relates that this unbreakable wall does in fact fall—although not within the scope of the Iliad.

In Homer, then, we find that divine craftwork itself exists within human temporality: although it is durable, it is not eternally enduring. The concept of the god-made wall of the Trojans broken by mortal forces does not appear as such elsewhere in the tradition, and the very problem of the necessarily broken Trojan wall prompts a narrative aition in extra-Homeric folktale, in circulation from at least Pindar’s time. The contradictory logic of the divine craftwork breached by mortals finds apology in the non-Homeric tradition that Aiakos, father of Peleus and Telamon, worked as an assistant to Poseidon and Apollo while they built the wall. [40] For, as the ancient scholiast to Pindar’s Olympian Odes explains, the section of the wall built by the mortal builder was vulnerable:

οὗτοι [δὲ] συνεργὸν εἵλοντο τὸν Αἰακὸν, ἐπειδὴ ἦν αὐτῷ πεπρωμένον, τῷ τείχει, πολέμου γενομένου πυρὶ καταφλεχθῆναι πολλῷ. οὐ γὰρ ἦν δυνατὸν ἁλῶναι αὐτὸ, εἰ τὸ πᾶν ἔργον ἦν θεῶν. {116|117}

Scholia vetera at Pindar Olympian 8.33/44b, Drachmann

The fact that the wall does break is blamed on structural weakness at the point where the mortal architect worked, for this would not have been possible had the wall been entirely the work of the gods (εἰ τὸ πᾶν ἔργον ἦν θεῶν).

An earlier attested alternate tradition is recorded in the epic Cycle poems, especially the Little Iliad and the Sack of Troy. [42] Both texts—surviving only in fragmentary form—apparently described the breach of the city wall as a direct result of the “Trojan Horse” which was built too large to fit inside the city gates, thereby necessitating the partial destruction of the city wall by the Trojans themselves. Proclus summarizes the plot of the Little Iliad (Ilias Parua):

οἱ δὲ Τρῶες τῶν κακῶν ὑπολαβόντες ἀπηλλάχθαι, τόν τε δούρειον ἵππον εἰς τὴν πόλιν εἰσδέχονται, διελόλτες μέρος τι τοῦ τείχους, καὶ εὐωχοῦνται ὡς νενικηκότες τοὺς Ἕλληνας.

The Trojans, for their part, supposing they had been delivered from evils, both received the wooden horse into the city by destroying a certain portion of the wall, and feasted sumptuously as though they had conquered the Greeks.

Davies 1998:53 = Bernabé 1987:75 {117|118}

Virgil also incorporates this detail in his description of the sack of Troy, for his Sinon explains how Calchas ordered the wooden horse to be constructed too large to be taken in through the city gates (Aeneid 2.185–187), [
43] so that the Trojans tore down their own wall. Aeneas narrates at Aeneid 2.234, ‘We breached the outer-walls and layed open the inner-walls of the city’ (diuidimus muros et moenia pandimus urbis). [44] According to this version of the tradition, the Greeks are unable to breach the wall; it can only be broken by the Trojans themselves. Hence, the deception of the wooden horse (narrated at Odyssey viii 492–495, 511–515, cf. Odyssey iv 271–289, xi 523–537, xv 71) is designed to induce the Trojans to take the horse inside the city. [45]

3. The fall of Troy and the future-perfect in Homeric epic

The Homeric allusions to the sack of Troy take several forms, including prophetic speeches by the gods themselves—particularly Zeus—as well as prophetic interpretations by the mortal seers within the poem. Hence, Zeus foretells Hektor’s aristeia and Patroklos’ death:

οὐ γὰρ πρὶν πολέμου ἀποπαύσεται ὄβριμος Ἕκτωρ,
πρὶν ὄρθαι παρὰ ναῦφι ποδώκεα Πηλεΐωνα
ἤματι τῷ, ὅτ’ ἂν οἳ μὲν ἐπὶ πρύμνῃσι μάχωνται
στείνει ἐν αἰνοτάτῳ περὶ Πατρόκλοιο θανόντος·
ὣς γὰρ θέσφατόν ἐστι.
For not sooner will stout Hektor be stayed from war
until he stirs up beside the ships the swift-footed son of Peleus
on that day—whenever it is—when they will fight by the beached ships
in the most dreadful, narrow place around the fallen Patroklos.
For so it is fated to be.

Iliad VIII 473–477

Zeus speaks this early prophecy to Hera, accompanied by a threat lest she interfere with his plans any further. The details are not yet clearly delineated. We are told that Hektor will be unstoppable until he stirs up Achilles, and that the two will fight over Patroklos’ corpse; Zeus remains silent on how all of this is to come about, however. He is merely insistent on the fact that it is a ‘fated’—literally ‘god-spoken’—outcome (ὣς γὰρ θέσφατόν ἐστι, VIII 477). In Book XV, Zeus supplies a more detailed outline for the rest of the Iliad including the eventual fall of Troy:

Ἕκτορα δ’ ὀτρύνησι μάχην ἒς Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων,
αὖτις δ’ ἐμπνεύσησι μένος, λελάθῃ δ’ ὀδυνάων
αἳ νῦν μιν τείρουσι κατὰ φρένας, αὐτὰρ Ἀχαιούς
αὖτις ἀποστρέψησιν ἀνάλκιδα φύζαν ἐνόρσας,
φεύγοντες δ’ ἐν νηυσὶ πολυκλήϊσι πέσωσιν
Πηλεΐδεω Ἀχιλῆος. ὃ δ’ ἀνστήσει ὃν ἑταῖρον
Πάτροκλον· τὸν δὲ κτενεῖ ἔγχεϊ φαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ
Ἰλίου προπάροιθε, πολεῖς ὀλέσαντ’ αἰζηούς
τοὺς ἄλλους, μετὰ δ’ υἱὸν ἐμὸν Σαρπηδόνα δῖον·
τοῦ δὲ χολωσάμενος κτενεῖ Ἕκτορα δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.
ἐκ τοῦ δ’ ἄν τοι ἔπειτα παλίωξιν παρὰ νηῶν {120|121}
αἰὲν ἐγὼ τεύχοιμι διαμπερές, εἰς ὅ κ’ Ἀχαιοί
Ἴλιον αἰπὺ ἕλοιεν Ἀθηναίης διὰ βουλάς.
Let Phoibos Apollo rouse Hektor to battle,
and let him breathe might into him once again, that he may forget the pains
which now wear him down in his heart, but the Achaeans—
let him stir up strengthless panic into them and turn them back once more;
let them in their flight fall among the well-benched ships
of Peleus’ son Achilles. He will stand up his companion,
Patroklos, and glorious Hektor will kill that man with his spear
before Ilion, after he has destroyed many other young men
among them my own son, brilliant Sarpedon.
In anger over him brilliant Achilles will kill Hektor.
And from that point then, I tell you, I will bring to pass ever continuously
that the Achaeans turn around from their flight, until they
should capture lofty Ilion through the plan of Athena.

Iliad XV 59–71

Zeus’ speech here fills in the details left unspecified in his earlier pronouncement; he projects the plot of the remainder of the Iliad and beyond. Hektor will return and shift the tide of the battle; Achilles will send Patroklos into battle, where Patroklos will fight, kill Sarpedon, and be killed in turn; Achilles will kill Hektor out of anger for his fallen companion; Troy will eventually fall. The means by which the Achaeans will sack Troy—the Trojan Horse, ambiguously called the ‘plan of Athena’ (Ἀθηναίης διὰ βουλάς, XV 71) here—is to be spelled out only in the Cycle tradition. Its occurrence, however, is guaranteed as part of the Dios boulē, the ‘plan of Zeus’, which governs the events of the epic itself. [
48] {121|122}

We may consider as typologically similar the “oath” sworn by both parties and violated by Pandarus in Iliad III. [50] The violated oath is recalled by Agamemnon on the Greek side as a means to inspire the troops to battle (IV 157–168, 235–239); Diomedes, too, feels the Greek victory is certain:

γνωτὸν δὲ, καὶ ὃς μάλα νήπιός ἐστιν,
ὡς ἤδη Τρώεσσιν ὀλέθρου πείρατ’ ἐφῆπται.
It is known, even for one who is a great simpleton,
how already the ends of destruction are hanging over the Trojans.

Iliad VII 401–402

From Diomedes’ perspective, Troy is as good as sacked already. On the Trojan side, Hektor mentions the broken oath in his challenge to single-combat with the best fighter of the Achaeans:

He does not accept blame for the Trojan violation of the oath, but attributes it to Zeus’ plan to bring evils upon both Trojans and Achaeans. [
52] Antenor, however, does acknowledge Trojan blame for the broken oath—it is an indication, he argues, that the Trojans are now fighting without hope; the best course of action, he argues, is to give back Helen and her possessions at once:

δεῦτ’ ἄγετ’, Ἀργείην Ἑλένην καὶ κτήμαθ’ ἅμ’ αὐτῇ
δώομεν Ἀτρεΐδῃσιν ἄγειν. νῦν δ’ ὅρκια πιστά
ψευσάμενοι μαχόμεσθα· τὼ οὔ νύ τι κέρδιον ἥμιν
ἔλπομαι ἐκτελέεσθαι, ἵνα μὴ ῥέξομεν ὧδε.
Come on now, let us give back Argive Helen and her possessions along with her
to the sons of Atreus to lead away. Now we are fighting
after being false to the oaths of trust; accordingly, I expect nothing profitable
will come out if it for us, unless we do this.

Iliad VII 350–353

Nothing good can come of the Trojan’s efforts now that they have violated the sacred oath. In all four examples, the broken oath entails destruction of the Trojans. As Margo Kitts (2005) has recently shown, the narrative theme of the violated oath both prefigures and justifies violence. {123|124}

Furthermore, Hektor is repeatedly called the lone defender of Troy (VI 403, XXII 507). [53] His name is derived from the verb ἔχω, itself from the Indo-European root *segh– which means ‘to hold’, and in Homeric Greek ‘to protect’. [54] The Iliad puns on this etymological meaning when Sarpedon chides Hektor for holding back from the fight: [55]

φῆς που ἄτερ λαῶν πόλιν ἑξέμεν ἠδ᾿ ἐπικούρων
οἷος, σὺν γαμβροῖσι κασιγνήτοισί τε σοῖσιν.
I suppose you say you will hold the city without men and allies,
you alone, with your brothers-in-law and your own brothers.

Iliad V 473–474

In the later tradition about the Trojan War Hektor will be called ‘he who holds the city’ (πολίοχος: Euripides Rhesus 166, 821). His fate and the fate of the city are inextricably linked. Hektor foresees his own death during his final meeting with Andromache and imagines it in connection with the sack of the city and the enslavement of his wife (VI 457–465). Andromache sees his death coming, too—she begs him not to return to the field, but stay near the city wall (VI 431–432), and leads her women in a threnody for Hektor while he is still alive, afraid that he will not return from battle (VI 500–502). For Andromache, Hektor’s death will bring about her own downfall as well as the certain enslavement or murder of their son Astyanax. [
56] Priam foresees the destruction of the city and his own pitiful demise, cut down in his own halls and fed to his own dogs (XXII 59–76)—an image he relates to Hektor to convince him to stay within the city wall and not try to face Achilles in battle. [57] Hecuba likewise foresees Hektor’s death at the hands of Achilles, and explains that she will be unable to mourn him, for his body will be fed to the dogs and worms by the Achaean ships (XXII 85–89). When Hektor does die, the entire city wails; a simile compares the crying over {124|125} his death as if over the burning of the city: “and the people all about him were taken with wailing and lamentation throughout the city; it was most similar to this—as if all of Ilion on its hilltop were burning with fire down from its height” (XXII 408–411). [58] Now that Hektor is dead, Priam tells his other children, the city will all the more easily fall:

ῥηΐτεροι γὰρ μάλλον Ἀχαιοῖσιν δὴ ἔσεσθε
κείνου τεθνηῶτος ἐναιρέμεν. αὐτὰρ ἐγώ γε,
πρὶν ἀλαπαζομένην τε πόλιν κεραϊζομένην τε
ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ἰδεῖν, βαίην δόμον Ἄϊδος εἴσω.
For you all will be much easier for the Achaeans
to slay, now that he [sc. Hektor] is dead. But
before I see with my own eyes my city both ruined
and laid to waste, I wish to go to the house of Hades.

Iliad XXIV 243–246

The association between Hektor’s death and the fall of the city is explicit; now that Hektor is dead (κείνου τεθνηῶτος, XXIV 244), the city and its inhabitants are ‘much easier’ (ῥηΐτεροι γὰρ μάλλον, XXIV 243) for the Achaeans to slay. The destruction of the city is imminent, such that Priam can speak of seeing the destruction “with his own eyes.”

And finally, certain events take on a symbolic force, such as when Andromache’s “diadem” slips from her head upon seeing the death of her husband.

τῆλε δ᾿ ἀπὸ κρατὸς βάλε δέσματα σιγαλόεντα,
ἄμπυκα κεκρύφαλόν τε ἰδὲ πλεκτὴν ἀναδέσμην
κρήδεμνόν θ᾿, ὅ ῥά οἱ δῶκε χρυσῆ Ἀφροδίτη
ἤματι τῷ, ὅτε μιν κορυθαιόλος ἠγάγεθ᾿ Ἕκτωρ
ἐκ δόμου Ἠετίωνος, ἐπεὶ πόρε μυρία ἕδνα.
And far from her head she threw the shining band,
the headband and hair net and pleated hair-binder
and diadem, which golden Aphrodite gave her
on that day when Hektor of the shining-helm led her
from the house of Eëtion after he gave countless bride-gifts.

Iliad XXII 468–472 {125|126}

The noun κρήδεμνον has ambiguous force in early Greek hexameter poetry; although it has but a single etymological sense—a ‘head (or top) binder’ (< κάρᾱ + δέω) [
59] —it has three distinct denotative meanings as a woman’s headdress, [60] a kind of wine-stopper, [61] or the battlements of a city. [62] The metaphorical association between headdress and city wall raises the possibility of reading into the image of Andromache’s falling veil a suggestion of the overthrow of the Trojan wall. [63] In fact, epic diction twice speaks of “sacking a city” in terms of “loosening” the city’s κρήδεμνον, both in reference to the breach of the Trojan wall. In Odyssey xiii, Odysseus calls upon Athena for help devising a scheme by which he can punish the suitors:

ἀλλ’ ἄγε μῆτιν ὕφηνον, ὅπως ἀποτείσομαι αὐτούς·
πὰρ δέ μοι αὐτὴ στῆθι μένος πολυθαρσὲς ἐνεῖσα,
οἷον ὅτε Τροίης λύομεν λιπαρὰ κρήδεμνα. {126|127}
But come, weave a strategy how I may take vengeance on them [sc. the suitors];
and you yourself, stand beside me, casting very courageous might into me,
as when we loosed the shining battlements of Troy.

Odyssey xiii 386–388

Athena and Odysseus together loosed (λύομεν, xiii 388) Troy’s battlement—its ‘diadem’. The ancient scholiast called the use of κρήδεμνα here a “metaphorical” expression for ‘wall’: μεταφορικῶς τὸ τεῖχος (Scholia H at Odyssey xiii 388, Dindorf). Likewise, in the Iliad we find Achilles expressing the impossible wish that all the Achaeans and all the Trojans might perish, save for Patroklos and Achilles alone, and that they might “loosen” Troy’s κρήδεμνον:

Achilles wishes to be left alone with Patroklos to seek glory through “loosening” its holy battlements. [
65] Once again, the ancient scholiastic tradition read κρήδεμνα as a “metaphor” for the Trojan wall: νῦν τὰ τείχη, μεταφορικῶς· ἰδίως γὰρ κρήδεμνον τὸ τῆς κεφαλῆς κάλυμμα ‘Now it means ‘the walls’ metaphorically, for κρήδεμνον properly means a head-covering’ (Scholia A at Iliad XVI 100, Erbse).

The metaphorical link between Andromache’s diadem and the battlements of Troy is further charged by the use of the verb λύω ‘loosen’ in the passages cited above. In ancient Greek wedding custom, especially as depicted in Athenian black and red figure vases, the veiled bride was ritually revealed {127|128} to her groom during the anakalupteria or ‘unveiling’ as the bride’s attendant, the numpheutria, raised her veil before her new bridegroom. [66] The anakalupteria offered the bridegroom his first view of his bride’s face (Mayo 1973, Oakley 1982, Oakley and Sinos 1993:136n50, and Reeder 1995:170); scholars generally agree that the gesture “was an actual and symbolic beginning to the disrobing of the bride,” and hence metonymically joined with the sex act that follows the procession leading the bride to her new home (Reeder 1995:127). To “loosen” a veil, then, is euphemistic terminology for sexual intercourse, since the bride wears a κρήδεμνον on her wedding day which her husband removes; one may compare the formulaic λύω ‘loosen’ + ζωνήν ‘girdle’ which likewise serves as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. [67] In the context of capturing a city, however, the act of “loosening” a woman’s veil, symbol of her chastity, takes on the sinister implications of rape. [68] Michael Nagler (1974) notes, “Throughout the ancient world the idea of seizure and violation of the women would follow all too naturally on that of the ἁρπαγή ‘taking’ of a city” (Nagler 1974:53). The plot of the Iliad is itself motivated by the rape of women (Helen, Chryseïs, and Briseïs), [69] and the characters are all clear on the fact that the capture of Troy will end with the rape of its women. [70] Hence, Andromache’s κρήδεμνον signifies the dual {128|129} violence to come; as the ‘diadem’ falls from her head, so the city’s ‘diadem’—its battlements—will fall, and the storming Greeks will penetrate the city and seize its women. [71]

To conclude this discussion, I wish to cite George Duckworth’s insightful study of narrative foreshadowing in Greek and Latin epic. He describes the effects of Homer’s multiple indications of the future fall of the city:

[T]he reader has a vivid picture of the events which are to happen after the close of the Iliad. The poem ends on a quiet note, the funeral of Hector, but the later events—the death of Achilles and the fall of the fated city—have impressed themselves upon the consciousness of the reader almost as vividly as if the poet had extended his epic to include them.

Duckworth 1933:32; emphasis added

The effect of the numerous proleptic images of the sack of Troy create a kind of double-vision of the city for the audience: Troy as already in ruins, still standing in the present, but with its fate hanging over it (cf. VII 402: ὡς ἤδη Τρώεσσιν ὀλέθρου πείρατ’ ἐφῆπται). The superimposition of the Troy still in place (ἔμπεδος) with that of the Troy in ruins creates the effect of virtual death. Both here and not here, both intact and decomposed, the city wall is part of the same temporal economy that governs the organic materials of wood and flesh we saw above. Though the product of divine craft, the wall exists within human temporality and is therefore temporally bound: its end is there from its beginning, such that it can never be “unbreakable” but only “unbroken.” {129|130}

Both walls then, Achaean and Trojan, belong to the temporal order of specific heroes (Achilles, Hektor) as well as that of the entire age of heroes. They are represented as remaining in place (ἔμπεδος) within the time frame of the Iliad itself, but their unbroken status (ἄρρηκτος) is bound to fail. They will each fall to ruins, and be covered over by the sands of time and forgetfulness. Only within the epic themselves are they granted temporary respite from the ravages of time. {130|}


[ back ] 1. The momentousness of the shot is emphasized by the extended description of Pandarus’ bow (IV 105–111) and the actions of stringing the weapon (IV 112–113), opening his quiver and selecting an arrow (IV 116–117), fitting the arrow on the string (IV 118), praying to Apollo (IV119–121), drawing the string (IV 122–125), and finally, letting the arrow fly (IV 125–126). See Austin 1966 on the poetic device of marking the importance of a scene through retarding its narration.

[ back ] 2. The oath is first mentioned by Paris-Alexander (III 74), and formally offered by Hektor (III 94), both variations of the same line: οἱ δ’ ἄλλοι φιλότητα καὶ ὅρκια πιστὰ τάμωμεν, ‘But as for the rest of us—let’s cut a deal of friendship and trustworthy oaths’. The explicit cutting imagery of the oath, expressed in the verb τάμειν, indicates the slaughter of sacrificial victims (cf. III 103–104), whose blood is poured on the ground, along with wine, as an indication of the deadly implications of violating the oath. See especially III 298–301 for the ritual prayer uttered by someone of the Achaeans or the Trojans: “Most glorious and greatest Zeus, and you other immortal gods, whichever of the two groups should first do harm in transgression of the oaths (ὑπὲρ ὅρκια πημήνειαν), may their brains be made to pour on the ground just as this wine, their own and their children’s, and their wives have sexual intercourse with others.” The seriousness of the oath is emphasized by the number of references to it both by Achaeans (IV 157–168, 234–239, VII 400–402) and Trojans (VII 351–353). See Kitts 2005 for a recent account of how the narrative theme of the violated oath both presages and justifies further violence.

[ back ] 3. On the duel between Hektor and Ajax as motivating the construction of the Achaean defensive wall, see Bassett 1927:154–155, who argues that the duel is represented to make Hektor appear “as a very dangerous antagonist … Without Hector there need have been no [Achaean] Wall; without the distinct impression that Hector was a very dangerous antagonist there would have been an equal lack of any reasonable excuse for building it.”

[ back ] 4. Shive 1996:191 puns instructively on this scene: “[Agamemnon] withholds Nestor’s wisdom from unwitting Widaios, the Trojan herald” (emphasis added). Idaios’ name is apparently related to the verbal root *fιδ- (as Shive indicates by his “Widaios”) which denotes both ‘seeing’ and ‘knowing’. The fact that Idaios cannot see what the Achaeans are up do is an indication of Nestor’s cunning intelligence here. See Iliad VII 447 for Nestor’s plan called mētis (cited below). Nestor’s own name indicates his intellectual prowess: see Frame 1978:82–85 for the derivation of Nestor from the Indo-European root *nes-, the verbal root of the cognate words noos ‘mind, intelligence’, nostos ‘a return home’, and neomai ‘to achieve a return (home)’.

[ back ] 5. At VII 448, I read ὅτι δ ᾿ with Allen (1931) instead of West’s (1998–2000) ὅ τε δή.

[ back ] 6. See Shive’s convincing analysis of the “logistics” of Nestor’s plan: “Scholars fail to appreciate Nestor’s logical logistics. They visualize the cremation of all the corpses on one spot and then on that spot the incorporation of the single pyre into a wall built around the camp. This would be impractical, if not impracticable, within the constraints of the situation. Nestor rather envisions a series of cremations on the perimeter of the camp, each a little off from their own ships so that each can recover bones for his children back home and each extend their own pyre-tumulus to join one continuous tumulus-wall” (Shive 1996:191, emphasis added).

[ back ] 7. The Achaean defensive wall is consistently referred to as a τεῖχος in the Iliad: see VII 436, 449, 461, 463; VIII 177; IX 67, 87, 232, 349; XII 4, 12, 18, 25, 26, 32, 36, 64, 90, 137, 143, 177, 198, 223, 257, 261, 264, 289, 291, 308, 352, 374, 380, 388, 390, 399, 416, 420, 438, 440, 443, 468, 469; XIII 50, 87, 679, 683; 14.15, 32, 55, 66; 15.345, 361, 384, 391, 395, 736; XVI 397, 512, 558; XVIII 215; XXI 49. A study of the distribution of τεῖχος in reference to the Achaean wall demonstrates the word’s great frequency during the teikhomakhia spanning from Book XII through Book XV of the Iliad. Beginning in Book XVI, once Patroklos dons Achilles’ armor and leads the Myrmidons into battle, the tide of the battle shifts, and attention turns from the Achaean wall to the Trojan wall.

[ back ] 8. The view that the description of the gathering of bones for transfer home represents a custom instituted in Athens in 464 BCE originates with Jacoby 1944:44n30, followed by Page 1959:323, Kirk 1962:195, 1964:180, 1985:10, 1990:279, West 1969:259, Kurtz and Boardman 1971:187. An earlier critical tradition, beginning with Aristarchus (Scholia A at Iliad VII 334; compare Scholia T at Odyssey xxiv 80–81), objected to the description as different than other “normal” burials in Homer where the bones are buried in the ground. In general, see Shive 1996 for a review of scholarship on this issue.

[ back ] 9. On this point I find myself in agreement with van der Valk 1963–1964:I.423, Willcock 1978–1984:I.256, and Shive 1996.

[ back ] 10. The debate is an ancient one, as the scholia to Thucydides reveal; the scholiast concluded that Thucydides’ wall was a different one than Homer’s: it was ‘an earlier and smaller one’ (ἔρυμα νῦν λέγει οὐχ ὅπερ ἐν τῇ ηʹ λέγει Ὅμηρος γενέσθαι, ἀλλὰ πρότερον μικρότερον, ‘The wall now does not mean the one which Homer talks about in Iliad VII, but an earlier and smaller one’ [Scholia at Thucydides 1.11.1]). Page 1959:Appendix II, following G. Hermann Philologus 1 (1846) 367–372, argued that Thucydides did not know about the wall in Iliad VII; hence, the entire episode must have been interpolated sometime after Thucydides’ death, but before the period of Alexandrian scholarship. Tsagarakis 1969 and West 1969 independently argued against Page’s stance, Tsagarakis arguing the difference in nuance between ἔρυμα and τεῖχος in Thucydides, and West demonstrating the extent to which the Achaean wall is integrated into the text of the Iliad. Other scholars have taken a different approach, arguing that the text of Thucydides is unsound, finding a basic illogic in the combination of “being victorious” and “building defensive walls” (see esp. Davison 1965 and Morrison 1994); instead, they offer various emendations to solve problems of logical consistency and to bring the text into closer agreement with Homer. See in particular the ingenious suggestions of Dittrich 1895, Robertson 1924, and Cook 1954–1955. In general, see the comprehensive study of earlier work by Dolin 1983, who concludes after a very cautious and detailed review of the evidence and scholarship, “In my view, unless there are arguments which I have overlooked, to conclude after a review of the evidence that the manuscript text is authentic would be a last resort” (147). More recently, important articles by Davies 1986, Singor 1992, and Morrison 1994 also suggest textual difficulty in Thucydides. Nevertheless, the question is still vexed, for although it is generally true (as noted by Scodel 1982:33) that few scholars are willing to argue that the wall scene in Book VII of the Iliad contains large scale interpolations, one of the more recent articles on the subject does just that: Maitland 1999 finds inconsistencies in the various passages describing the Achaean wall throughout the Iliad and concludes “if there was ever a case for multiple authorship, this is one” (8).

[ back ] 11. See van Leeuwen 1911 for a catalogue of such details, with a convenient summary by Foster 1914. See more recently Reckford 1964:9n11, and Bergren 1980 with bibliography.

[ back ] 12. Scodel 1982:33 found the description of the wall’s construction “poetically simple and coherent, even though it may be preposterous in practical terms that the Achaean camp should have lacked such a protection for so long.” My claim is the episode is in fact motivated within the Iliadic narrative by the absence of the hero Achilles; hence, the wall could only be built here and not earlier.

[ back ] 13. Hektor claims at Iliad XV 721–723 that he had previously been prevented from attacking the Achaean ships by the cowardice of the Trojan elders; the claim appears to contradict Achilles’ assessment in Iliad IX that Hektor was “unwilling” to meet him in battle. Willcock 1977:48 and Andersen 1990:33–34 have noted that Hektor makes his claim while he is in fact attacking the ships, such that the immediate context colors his words (see further Willcock 1964 and Braswell 1971 on “ad hoc” inventions in the Iliad). What is more important for our analysis, however, is the fact that Achilles is associated with the Achaean defensive wall, and both are compared in terms of their effectiveness of protecting the Achaeans from Hektor. The Iliad repeatedly notes Hektor’s absence during the time before Achilles’ quarrel with Agamemnon: see V 788–791, XIII 105–110, and compare the situation with Meleager in Phoenix’s rhetorical myth at IX 550–552.

[ back ] 14. See Davison 1965:11, 19–20. Davison’s thesis essentially follows that expressed by the bT scholia, although he does not cite it. Morrison 1994 demonstrates that the construction of the Achaean wall is of utmost importance, for it marks a turn of the battle’s tide: the Greeks’ camp, once walled, becomes likened to a city itself under siege: “Once the Greeks are under attack, the defense of their wall evokes images of a city under siege” (214). See further Singor 1992:402. A study of the distribution of the word τεῖχος in the Iliad confirms Morrison’s suggestion: the word is used to refer to the Trojan wall exclusively in those books where the city is under siege; likewise, the Achaean wall is called a τεῖχος in the books when the Trojans attack the Greek camp.

[ back ] 15. As a substitute for the fighter, the wall participates in the economy of the therapōn ‘ritual substitute’ like Patroklos. On the connection between Greek therapōn and Hittite tarpašša-/tarp(an)alli– ‘ritual substitute’, see Van Brock 1959 (esp. 125–126), who argues that the Hittite reflects an older Anatolian word borrowed by Bronze-Age Greek which survived as θέραψ/θεράπων (cf. Van Brock 1959:143n27); on Patroklos as a “ritual substitute” for Achilles, see Householder Jr. and Nagy 1972, Nagy 1999, Sinos 1980, and Lowenstam 1981. On the wall as a substitute for Achilles, see Edwards 1987:239.

[ back ] 16. The verb ἐρείπω is regularly used to describe the act of ‘throwing down’ walls (Iliad XIV 15, XV 356, 361) or palisades (XII 258); it is also used intransitively to describe a soldier ‘falling’ to the ground (V 47, 57) or ‘falling’ to his knees (V 309).

[ back ] 17. The word κάπετος here, as at XVIII 564 (Hephaistos depicts a κάπετος and ἕρκος around a vineyard on Achilles shield), is the ‘trench’ drawn alongside a wall; however, at XXIV 797–798 Hektor’s cremated remains are set within a ‘trench’ and covered with a cairn of stones (αἶψα δ’ ἄρ᾿ ἐς κοίλην κάπετον θέσαν, αὐτὰρ ὕπερθε | πυκνοῖσιν λάεσσι κατεστόρεσαν μεγλαοισι, ‘swiftly they placed it [sc. the urn containing Hektor’s bones] inside a hollow trench-grave, but above it they packed it tightly with great stones’). When Apollo throws down the banks of the κάπετος and flings Achaeans inside, their death recalls funereal ritual.

[ back ] 18. See Fenno 2005 for an in-depth study of water imagery in Homeric battle scenes. Fenno notes that “verbs such as seuō, kheō, and rheō commonly show extended meanings that do not necessarily evoke the idea of water in motion. But within the Iliad, where troops will be likened to water over and over again, the latent image seems to acquire a more persistent evocative power” (478). See especially Fenno’s discussion of the associations between the Greeks and the sea (476–482) and the Trojans and rivers (482–487).

[ back ] 19. The Trojans “rush” from the city gates with a “rumble” (II 809–810 = VIII 58–59; cf. Paris “rushing” out of the city gates at VII 1); later they ‘pour into’ the Greek wall (ἐσέχυντο, XII 470) like waves, rank after rank (XV 360); in flight from Achilles some ‘pour forth’ toward the city (προχέοντο, XXI 6) while others ‘pool together’ into the river (εἰλεῦντο, XXI 8: for εἴλω with water imagery, cf. ἀλὲν ὕδωρ, XXIII 420); Achilles is compared to an irrigator (ἀνὴρ ὀχετηγὸς, XXI 257–264) who reverses the stream of Trojan warriors back into their city, where they ‘pour into’ the city ‘in a rush’ (ἐσσυμένως ἐσέχυντο, XXI 610); there they collect behind the walls like a pool of water (εἰς ἄστυ ἄλεν, XXII 12, κατὰ ἄστυ ἐέλμεθα, XXIV 662; cf. ἀλὲν ὕδωρ, XXIII 420). See Fenno 2005:485 for discussion of these passages.

[ back ] 20. Compare the account in Genesis 6:1–4 of the Nephilim (rendered as γίγαντες ‘giants’ in the Septuagint), the offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men”: “The Nephilim were on earth at that time (and even afterwards) when the sons of God resorted to the daughters of man and had children by them. These are the heroes of days gone by, the famous men” (The Jerusalem Bible [Garden City, NY, 1966]). These Nephilim perish along with all humanity in the great flood—save for Noah and his family and reproducing pairs of every species of animal. Scodel 1982 notes, “The analogy between these ‘giants,’ children of divine beings and mortal women, and the Greek demigods is obvious” (42). See Scodel 1982:42nn22–23 for bibliography.

[ back ] 21. Scodel (1982) argues, “The Trojan War thus functions as a myth of destruction, in which Zeus brings about the catastrophe in order to remove the demigods from the world and separate men from gods, to relieve the earth of the burden caused by overpopulation, or to punish impiety” (40).

[ back ] 22. Compare Hesiod’s narrative of the five ages in Works and Days 106–201. Each age is brought to utter extinction before the next is born, marking further and further separation from the gods. Note that Hesiod calls the fourth race, the race of heroes, ἡμίθεοι ‘half-gods’.

[ back ] 23. Compare Scodel 1982:48, “At its very center, the poem places its events far away in a past which becomes remote and fated not only to end, but to vanish.”

[ back ] 24. See Scodel 1982:48 with n38. The Greek mytho-poetic tradition preserves the concept of the utter eradication of all the remnants of the Trojan war: compare Euripides Helen 108, ὡστ᾿ οὐδ᾿ ἴχνος γε τειχέων εἶναι σαφές, “… that the traces of the walls not be visible.”

[ back ] 25. A complete tabulation of τεῖχος (in its various nominal cases) in the Iliad referring to the Trojan wall includes: IV 34; VI 327, 388, 434, 436; VIII 533; IX 353; XI 181; XIII 764; XVI 702, 714; XVII 404, 558; XVIII 256, 279; XX 30, 145; XXI 277, 295, 299, 446, 463, 516, 530, 534, 536, 540, 557, 608; XXII 4, 16, 56, 85, 99, 112, 144, 146, 168, 237, 507; XXIII 81. Study of the use of the word τεῖχος clearly indicates a pattern of frequency both during the “domestic” scenes of Βook VI and the battle scenes that take place around the city, spanning Books XVI through XXII.

[ back ] 26. Iliad III 153–154; VI 386, 431; VIII 164–166, 518–519; XVI 700; XVIII 274; XXI 526; XXII 195.

[ back ] 27. Iliad XXII 3 is the only use of ἐπάλξεις in the Iliad used to describe the Trojan wall. Compare XII 258, 263, 308, 375, 381, 397, 406, 424, 430 for the term describing the Achaean wall (see further discussion below). The adjective καλός in Homer indicates, in its primary sense, the beauty achieved through the perfection of material craftsmanship (I owe this observation to Ann Bergren); hence, the “beautiful battlements” work in concert with the “well-built towers,” both indicating the expert craftsmanship of the wall. See further the discussion on Poseidon as builder of the Trojan wall below.

[ back ] 28. Iliad III 145; VI 237, 307, 392; VIII 58; IX 354; XVI 712; XVIII 275; XXI 537; XXII 99.

[ back ] 29. Compare the three other uses of σάνιδες in the Iliad used to describe the Achaean wall: XII 121, 453, 461. The “double doors” of the Achaean wall are never described as “fitted, joined” or given any attributes suggesting superior craftsmanship.

[ back ] 30. Compare Gottfried Semper’s theory of architecture as vertical space enclosures: “As the first partition wall made with hands, the first vertical division of space invented by man, we would like to recognize the screen, the fence made of plaited and tied sticks and branches, whose making requires a technique which nature hands to man, as it were. The passage from the plaiting of branches to the plaiting of hemp for similar domestic purposes is easy and natural” (G. Semper Der Stil in den technischen und tektonischen Kunsten oder praktische Aesthetik, 2nd ed. [Frankfurt 1861–1863] 212, cited in Rykwert 1981:30; emphasis added). See further Bergren 1992:38–39n41 and Bergren 1995:218n43 for a discussion of the role of the female as architect par excellence, noting the ability to weave attributed especially to the female both in early Greek thought and in Freudian analytic theory, and the identification by Vitruvius and Semper of hanging textiles serving as the first and most fundamental of architectural edifices—the wall.

[ back ] 31. There seems to be some question as to whether Laomedon is Priam’s father or not; Priam’s regular patronymic associates Priam with Dardanus (10 times in the Iliad, occurring in all grammatical cases: e.g. Δαρδανίδης Πρίαμος: III 303, VII 366, XXII 352, XXIV 629; Πριάμοιο … Δαρδανίδαο: V 159, XXI 34; Δαρδανίδῃ Πρίαμῳ: XIII 376; Δαρδανίδην Πρίαμον: XXIV 631; Δαρδινίδη Πρίαμε: XXIV 171 [cf. XXIV 354]). He is identified as the son of Laomedon at XX 236 as part of Aeneas’ genealogical history, but is given the patronymic Λαομεδοντιάδη only once (III 250). Andrews 1965:35 notes the unusualness of Priam’s patronymic derived neither from his father nor grandfather: “This is the only exception to the Homeric rule of practice that the patronymic is derived only from the father, or very rarely from the grandfather; Priam is the fifth generation from Dardanos.” He goes on to suggest that “at some earlier stage in the tradition Priam really was son of Dardanos,” but Andrew’s reconstruction of pre-Homeric myth, while suggestive, can only remain non-probative.

[ back ] 32. Commentators have long held this passage suspect; Zenodotus, Aristophanes, and Aristarchus all found the scene to be an interpolation (see Scholia A at Iliad VII 443–464), and recently Kirk 1985:289 agreed, largely because the scene “interrupts a generally workmanlike narrative and is anticlimactic in itself, while the new Achaean wall can hardly be seen as a serious rival to the huge enceinte of Troy (452f.).” I cannot agree with Kirk’s assessment of the passage. First, passages athetized by Zenodotus, Aristophanes, and Aristarchus on the grounds that they repeat information given elsewhere in the epic can have no validity in light of the Iliad’s oral composition; moreover, the passage poses no interruption to the scene, but follows naturally after the description of its construction; and finally, as for the degree to which the Achaean wall constitutes a threat to Poseidon’s kleos, see my discussion below.

[ back ] 33. In this passage the wall is attributed to Poseidon alone, while Apollo tended Laomedon’s flocks; at Iliad VII 452–453, however, Poseidon said that both he and Apollo built the walls. I agree with Richardson (1993) that this is “hardly a serious contradiction” (91).

[ back ] 34. On the form, see Chantraine 1968–1980:972, s.v. ῥήγνυμι, and Ebeling 1963:I.171, s.v. ἄρρηκτος.

[ back ] 35. Various sources explain that Poseidon was punished for being party to the coup d’état referred to at Iliad I 395–406, when Thetis freed Zeus from his bonds and led Briareos to quash the rebellion. Apollo may have been punished for killing the Cyclopes, ostensibly in anger over the death of his son Asclepius (killed by Zeus), but presumably in a rebellious attempt to deprive Zeus of the source of his lightning bolts (see my discussion of this motif in chapter 5 below). Otherwise, Apollo may have been part of the “binding” at Iliad I 400 (with some commentators following Zenodotus’ reading of Apollo for Athena in that line: see Scholia A at Iliad I 400, Erbse). The principle sources are: Pindar Olympian 8.30–46 with scholia at Olympian 8.31/41; Hellanicus (FGrHist 4 F 26a) apud the scholia of the Geneva manuscript of Iliad XXI 444c, Nicole; Hellanicus (FGrHist 4 F 26b) apud Scholia A at Iliad XX 146, Erbse; Ovid Metamorphoses XI 194–210; ps.-Apollodorus 2.5.9; Lucian On Sacrifices 4; Hyginus Fabulae 89.1–2; Mythographi Vatacani I 136, II 193. For the labor as punishment, see: Lucian On Sacrifices 4, Jupiter confutatus 8; Scholia T at Iliad XXI 444d, Erbse; Scholia vetera at Pindar Olympian 8.31/41; J. Tzetzes, scholion on Lycrophon 34. For modern critical work, see Fontenrose 1983, Lang 1983, Caldwell 1987, Slatkin 1986 and 1991. Especially useful are Lang’s (1983) reconstruction of the myth from its scattered references throughout the Iliad, and Slatkin’s (1986, 1991) analysis of the inter-traditional references in the Iliad activated by the character of Thetis.

[ back ] 36. See, for instance, Eustathius 1245, 49: οἱ μὲν αἰτίαν τῆς ῥηθείσης θητείας ἀπέδωκαν τὴν ἐκ τοῦ Διὸς ποινήν, ὅτι συνδῆσαι αὐτὸν ἐβουλεύσαντο. ἕτεροι δέ φασιν, ὅτι οὐχὶ ἄκοντες, ἀλλ᾿ ἑκόντες ἐθήτευσαν ξένοις ἐοικότες, ἵνα τὴν Λαομέδοντος ὕβριν πειράσωσιν, ‘Some attributed the cause of the indentured servitude to Zeus’ punishment, because they had wanted to bind him. But others say that they weren’t unwilling, but were willing to be servants, and they made themselves look like strangers in order to test Laomedon’s hubris’. See further Metrodorus (FGrHist 43 F 2 = 70 B 4 DK) apud the scholia of the Geneva manuscript of Iliad XXI 444c, Nicole, and Scholia T at Iliad XXI 444d, Erbse. The concept of gods visiting men in disguise in order to “test” them appears in the Odyssey, where the other suitors warn Antinous not to abuse the disguised Odysseus, lest he be “some god come down from heaven, since the gods liken themselves to strangers from far away, put on all manner of shapes, and visit cities to behold both the hubris and righteousness of men” (Odyssey xvii 484–487).

[ back ] 37. There does appear to be some confusion regarding which Trojan walls Poseidon and Apollo actually built: was it the walls of Priam’s Troy, to be sacked by the Greeks, or the walls of King Laomedon’s Troy, previously sacked by Herakles in anger over Laomedon’s failure to pay the hero the horses promised for the rescue of his daughter Hesione? The Iliad does refer to Laomedon’s agreement with Herakles, his failure to pay, and the subsequent sack of the city (V 640–642, 648–651; and perhaps XIV 250–256 and XX 145–148, on which see Lang 1983 passim and Kirk 1990 ad loc.). The issue is more complex than I can deal with adequately here, but I wish to suggest that the Iliad elides any distinction between the two walls. Poseidon’s anger at the Achaean wall and the kleos it will have makes no sense if the wall Poseidon built had already been sacked by Herakles; the force of Poseidon’s complaint must lie in the fact that a hastily-built wall of mortal manufacture—i.e. the Achaean defensive wall—will outlive the “unbreakable” wall built by Poseidon himself. Scodel (1982) has shown that the narrative of the destruction of the Achaean wall has incorporated other traditional “destruction” stories and motifs, including the story of a great “flood.” It may be that the Trojan wall was similarly a locus of destruction stories, in which the invasions of Herakles and the Achaeans fuse into a single event. For a different view, see Fehling 1991.

[ back ] 38. See S. Morris 1997:617–618 for Near Eastern parallels of gods building cities for men (e.g. Uruk in the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh) and then destroying them in anger or divine retribution.

[ back ] 39. There are three passages in the Iliad, however, which seem to allude to attempts to storm the city walls: (1) Andromache tries to convince Hektor to stay near the city instead of taking the field around the Achaean ships by noting a single structural weakness in the wall at VI 433–439, esp. 433–434, stating ‘there [sc. near the fig tree] most of all the city is mountable and the wall open to attack’ (ἔνθα μάλιστα | ἀμβατός ἐστι πόλις καὶ ἐπίδρομον ἔπλετο τεῖχος). (2) Patroklos attempts to climb the wall and is prevented by Apollo: ‘Three times Patroklos tried to mount upon the bend of the lofty wall and three times Apollo drove him back away by thrusting at the bright shield with his immortal hands’ (τρὶς μὲν ἐπ’ ἀγκῶνος βῆ τείχεος ὑψηλοῖο | Πάτροκλος, τρὶς δ’ αὐτὸν ἀπεστυφέλιξεν Ἀπόλλων | χείρεσσ’ ἀθανάτῃσι φαεινὴν ἀσπίδα νύσσων, XVI 702–704). (3) Priam expresses fear that Achilles might leap the wall in his destructive fury: ‘I am afraid lest this destructive man leap inside the wall’ (δείδα γὰρ μὴ οὖλος ἀνὴρ ἐς τεῖχος ἅληται, XXI 536). Note the important role of the vertical component of the wall and its vulnerability to attack. On ἀμβατός ‘mountable’ and ἐπίδρομον ‘open to attack’ in VI 433–434, see Scully 1990:50. Compare Iliad XIII 683–684 where one portion of the Achaean wall is described as ‘built closest to the ground’ (τεῖχος ἐδέδμητο χθαμαλώτατον, XIII 683) and therefore most vulnerable to the Trojans. The description of Patroklos attempting to ‘mount the slope of the lofty wall’ (ἐπ’ ἀγκῶνος βῆ τείχεος ὑψηλοῖο, XVI 702) emphasizes the fighter’s strength and fury as he attempts to scale the wall. On Andromache’s tactical advice to Hektor, see the sensitive reading of Schadewaldt 1965:219 (translated at Jones and Wright 1997:134).

[ back ] 40. See Fontenrose 1983:55, 62n5. In his very interesting study, Fontenrose adduces parallels between the story of the construction of the walls of Troy with the building of Asgard’s walls in Snorri Sturlson’s Icelandic Prose Edda; he concludes that the two stories are possibly derived from an Indo-European story-type of “an employer cheating a workman of the pay he has promised him, when the workman either has completed the task or is kept by trickery from its certain completion” (61). For further discussion, see Stubbs 1959.

[ back ] 41. See further Euphorion (fr. 58 M) apud Scholia at Pindar Olympian 8.31/41a, Drachmann. Pindar himself (Olympian 8.32–36) is more elliptical, claiming that the gods chose Aiakos as their συνεργόν τείχεος, since ‘it had been fated that in the city-sacking battles of the rising wars, it would breathe forth ravenous smoke’ (ἦν ὅτι νιν πεπρωμένον | ὀρνυμένων πολέμων | πτολιπόρθοις ἐν μάχαις | λάβρον ἀμπνεῦσαι καπνόν).

[ back ] 42. On the Cycle poem fragments, see Huxley 1969, Davies 1989, Burgess 1996, 2001, 2004, 2009. The Ilias Parua and Ilioupersis—separate poems attributed to Lesches of Pyrrha or perhaps Mytilene and Arctinus of Miletus, respectively (cf. Huxley 1969)—both deal with the events of the Trojan War that take place after the events narrated in the Iliad. The two poems apparently overlapped in some details, particularly how the Trojans led the wooden horse into the city. Proclus’ summary of the two poems attempts, artificially, “to produce the impression of a single coherent narrative” (Davies 1989:60; cf. Huxley 1969:144, 147). According to Lesbian tradition, Lesches pre-dated Terpander (flourit 676 BCE: cf. Hellanicus FGrHist 4 F 32a), whereas Arctinus was Homer’s pupil, born in the ninth Olympiad (744/741 BCE: cf. Artemon FGrHist 443 F 2). Huxley (1969) thinks “Lesches and Arktinos, then, can reasonably be supposed to have competed about 700 B.C.” (144). The relationship between Homer and the Epic Cycle poems remains a controversial issue, and the scholarly bibliography is vast. A select list of works on the topic I have found useful include Kullmann 1960, 1984, Griffin 1977, Clark 1986, Slatkin 1991, Dowden 1996, Willcock 1997, Burgess 2001, and West 2002, 2003, all with further bibliography.

[ back ] 43. Virgil Aeneid 2.185–187: Hanc tamen immensam Calchas attollere molem | roboribus textis caeloque educere iussit | ne recipi portis aut duci in moenia posset: ‘Nonetheless, Calchas commanded that they raise up this immense structure out of woven oak-wood and build it up to the sky, that it could not be received by the gates or led into the walls’.

[ back ] 44. See Williams 1972:I.230 on the difference between Virgil’s muros—‘the city walls which they breach by the gate’—and moenia—‘the buildings within’.

[ back ] 45. The “Trojan Horse” is first represented on a fragment of a Boeotian bronze fibula (London, British Museum 3205; see Hampe 1936:plates 2–3) offering a literal depiction of a wooden horse on wheels and small hatches around its belly; a second representation appears on the Cycladic relief pithos discovered in Mykonos in 1961 (first and definitively published by Ervin 1963:37–75, plates 17–28); see also the colossal sized horse on wheels with hatches on its side and neck in which are seen the heads and arms of soldiers (Friis Johansen 1967:26–28 with figures 1–2); the Late Corinthian aryballos in Paris depicting a large horse with hatches and fighters emerging from the horse and engaging with the enemy (de Ridder Catalogue des vases peints de la Bibliothèque Nationale [Paris, 1902] No. 186; CVA, pl. 18); and a fragment of an Attic vase showing men climbing down the leg of a large horse (Berlin F 1723; see Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 1931:51 fig. 5; Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts: Athenische Abteilung 1962:54 fig. 1). See Sparkes 1975 on the Trojan Horse in Classical art. In later writers the “horse” was understood to be a kind of “battering ram” used to force entry into a fortified town: see Pliny Natural History 7.202, Servius at Virgil Aeneid 2.15, and Pausanius 1.23.8. Hainsworth (1988) attributes the notion of the “horse” as a battering ram to anachronistic “rationalism”; instead, he suggests instead that it is “the elaboration of a motif of myth or folk-tale” and compares the tale of the Egyptian capture of Joppa by concealing men in pithoi (379, citing Pritchard 1969:22–23). However, Anderson 1970–1971, Rouman and Held 1972, and S. Morris 1995 (esp. 227–229, 232–235 with figures 15.12A–D, 15.14, and 15.15) have convincingly argued that far from being a late “rationalization,” the Greek tradition of the “Trojan Horse” may well be a distorted memory of battering-ram devices used in Near Eastern town-sieges. Two Assyrian relief carvings depicting an assault on Upa by Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727 BCE) and a campaign against Gezer led by Esarhaddon (681–669 BCE) reveal wheeled siege-engines equipped with hatches (S. Morris 1995:234–235, figures 15.13–14). The siege-engines were covered with hides and had “tusk-like” protrusions, hence motivating the visual metaphor (Anderson 1970–1971:24). For our purposes, it is important to note the association between the horse and the breaching of the city walls—an association made all the more strongly if the tradition of the Trojan Horse rests upon memory of a pre-Homeric Assyrian siege-engine.

[ back ] 46. See Duckworth 1933 on Homer’s practice of “foreshadowing,” including events that are not narrated within the epics themselves. Moore 1921 offers a more specialized study of the use of “prophecy” to foreshadow events in the epic. For more recent work on foreshadowing (“prolepsis”) in Homeric epic, see de Jong 1985, 1987, 1997, 2001, 2002, and Richardson 1990. See Dickson 1992 for a fascinating study that explicates the narratological strategies of prolepsis (foreshadowing) and analepsis (flashback) through reference to the epic figures of the prophet Calchas and the aged advisor Nestor.

[ back ] 47. See Nagler’s discussion of Lord’s work on South-Slavic oral poetry: “according to Professor Lord, a South-Slavic singer will occasionally omit a structurally significant portion from one of his songs. When confronted with such an omission, his first reaction will be to deny it outright, ‘Of course I sang that part’” (Nagler 1967:308). Nagler explains that his own field work in Crete corroborates Lord’s findings: “Cretan singers often break off a performance of a song, not only long before the end of the piece, but even in the middle of a sentence, with resulting loss of intelligibility. Of course, their concentration on the music partially explains this catalexis of the words, but it is also to be explained by the presence of the omitted portion in the memory of the hearers” (308n70; emphasis added). In other words, the entire story or story arc (Nagler’s “Gestalt”) exists in the memory of both the singer and audience, such that references to one part of the story may well activate memory of another element of the story, even though that element is not narrated in full. Ruth Scodel (1997) has recently argued that the assumption that “poet and audience both knew the entire tradition extremely well” is problematic (202). In an insightful close-reading of the openings of the Iliad and Odyssey, including how characters are first introduced, Scodel demonstrates that the works themselves do not require their audiences to know “the entire tradition” beforehand, but rather supplies whatever information it needs at the appropriate time (Scodel 1997, passim). I accept Scodel’s argument here, but wish to note that even in her minimal-familiarity theory, certain information must be assumed to be known by the audience, which Scodel herself notes: “If we look at the opening of the Iliad, we can again see immediately that the Trojan War itself is taken for granted: there is no explanation of the setting at all” (206). The multiple presages of the city’s future destruction from the Iliad’s perspective, along with the scattered references to the Trojan Horse from the Odyssey’s perspective indicate that the Greek sack of Troy by means of stratagem forms part of the prerequisite knowledge of the Homeric audience.

[ back ] 48. Iliad I 5 posits the Dios boulē as the name for the epic’s plot: Διὸς δ ᾿ ἐτελείτο βουλή ‘the plan of Zeus was accomplished’. Scholia bT at Iliad I 5c (Erbse) indicates an ancient debate whether Dios boulē refers only to his promise to Thetis to honor Achilles (as held by Aristarchus) or whether it refers to the entire trajectory of the Trojan War. Indeed, the poet of the Kypria (Kypria fr. 1, Davies 1988:34–36) uses the same formula (Διὸς δ ᾿ ἐτελείτο βουλή) to refer to his decision to bring an end to the heroic age, thereby relieving the earth of its excess human population. It is the particular characteristic of the Iliadic representation of the Dios boulē that Zeus’ promise to Thetis and his plans for the entire Trojan War coincide. For further discussion, see Bassett 1922, Redfield 1979, Murnaghan 1997, and Clay 1999, with further bibliography. The poet also “foreshadows” events in his own voice. At Iliad XVI 46–47, 249–252, and 684–693, Homer points to Patroklos’ imminent death; the passages reach a crescendo in the narration of the death itself. On the poet’s own voice as functionally similar to Zeus’—and hence the poet’s organization of the plot as the Dios boulē—see Moore 1921:111, “Strictly speaking his words are not prophecy, but they are used by him to produce in us the same effects as the utterances of a god or seer would do.”

[ back ] 49. Consider the analogous predictions made by characters close to their own death; Patroklos and Hektor both foretell the death of their murderers (XVI 851–854, XXII 358–360). Similarly, the ghost of Patroklos visits Achilles from the dead and foretells his death (XXIII 80–81).

[ back ] 50. The oath called for violence upon the party responsible for first breaking it: “Let those, whichever side they may be, who first do wrong to the oaths sworn, let their brains be spilled on the ground as this wine is spilled now, theirs and their sons’ and let their wives be the spoil of others” (Iliad II 299–301).

[ back ] 51. These four verses have been considered corrupt by critics of the analyst school: see Bassett 1927:148–150 for a defense of their textual authenticity.

[ back ] 52. Hektor’s words here may reflect the tradition noted in the opening verses of the Kypria that Zeus brought about the Trojan War in order to depopulate the earth: see Kypria fr. 1. However, Bassett 1927:149 sees Hektor’s silence about actual responsibility of the violation of the oath a mark of tact: “before the beginning of his success on the field, when he is still the faultless knight, it is unthinkable that he should have made no reference to the violation of the truce, although he cannot excuse it. There is a lacuna in the thought at [verse] 72, but this must be put down to the embarrassment of the speaker. He can say no more about the violation of the truce, and of course cannot refer to his own views about it” (emphasis added).

[ back ] 53. Compare Andromache’s words to Hektor at VI 403: οἶος γὰρ ἐρύετο Ἴλιον Ἕκτωρ ‘For Hektor alone defends Ilion’; and Andromache’s words about Hektor after his death at XXII 507: οἶος γάρ σφιν ἔρυσο πύλας καὶ τείχεα μακρά ‘For Hektor alone defended the gates and long walls for them’.

[ back ] 54. On ἔχω as ‘to protect’, see Cunliffe 1963:174, s.v. ἔχω (12).

[ back ] 55. See further Watkins 1998:206–211.

[ back ] 56. For a sensitive treatment of the death of Astyanax in the Greek epic and artistic traditions, see Lorimer 1950 and Morris 1995. Morris demonstrates that the theme of the murder of the young prince appears to be a motif inherited from city-siege sagas from the Bronze Age Near East.

[ back ] 57. See Rinon 2008:130–132 on the network of concepts at play in Priam’s vision of being devoured by his own dogs: “The description could not be more terse: the same dogs that were nourished by Priam as warders of the gates (22.69) will savagely drag his corpse to the portals (22.66–67) and then drink his blood (22.70). Thus, those who were fed will feed on their feeder at the very site that symbolizes their former protective function” (132).

[ back ] 58. ἀμφὶ δὲ λαοὶ | κωκυτῷ τ᾿ εἴχοντο καὶ οἰμωγῇ κατὰ ἄστυ | τῷ δὲ μάλιστ’ ἄρ’ ἔην ἐναλίγκιον ὡς εἰ ἅπασα | Ἴλιος ὀφρυόεσσα πυρὶ σμύχοιτο κατ’ ἄρκης (XXII 408–411). In his comment on the passage, Richardson 1993:150 notes, “For the Trojans Hektor’s death means the end of Troy.”

[ back ] 59. See Chantraine 1968–1980:581, s.v. κρήδεμνον, Nagler 1967:298, 1974:44–45, and Hokestra 1989:187–188.

[ back ] 60. Iliad VIII 184, XVIII 382, XXII 470; Odyssey iv 623, v 346, 351, 373, 459, vi 100; Hymn to Demeter 25, 41, 438, 459; Kypria fr. 1.3. See Nagler 1967:279–280 for a different arrangement of the verses that illustrates their metrical and phraseological flexibility. Nagler 1974:44–63 offers a much expanded treatment of the occurrences. On what kind of headgear is to be envisioned by the term, see Leaf 1900–1902:II.596 fig. 3 and Lorimer 1950:386 who both think it was a kind of veil or shawl; see further the excellent discussion at Bergren 1989:11n58 and Hokestra 1989:187–188.

[ back ] 61. Odyssey iii 392.

[ back ] 62. Iliad XVI 100; Odyssey xiii 388; Hymn to Demeter 151–152; Hymn to Aphrodite 6.2; ps.-Hesiod Shield of Herakles 105. Leumann 1950:296n60 identifies this meaning as a metaphorical usage (“Übertragener Gebrauch”). On the association between city walls and headgear, consider the frequent association in Greek poetry between city walls and “crowns”: ἐυστεφάνῳ ἐνὶ Θήβῃ ‘in well-crowned Thebe’ (Iliad XIX 99, Hesiod Theogony 978); ἀνδρὸς μὲν στέφανος παῖδες, πύργοι δὲ πόληος ‘children are the crown of a man, towers of a city’ (Homer Epigram 13.1); νῦν δ’ ἀπὸ μὲν στέφανος πόλεως ὄλωλεν ‘and now he perished away from the crown of the city’ (Anacreon fr. 46 PMG); Ἰλίῳ μέλλοντες ἐπὶ στέφανον τεῦξαι ‘as they were about to fashion a crown for Ilion’ (Pindar Olympian 8.32); στεφάνωμα πύργων ‘the crownings of towers’ (Sophocles Antigone 122); στεφάναν πύργων ‘crown of towers’ (Euripides Hecuba 910); πύργων ἐπ’ ἄκρας στεφάνας ‘upon the high crowns of towers’ (Euripides Trojan Women 784). See West 1966:425 (comment at Hesiod Theogony 978) for further citations, and Hokestra 1989:187–188 (comment at Odyssey xiii 388) for discussion.

[ back ] 63. The association between κρήδεμνον as ‘diadem’ and κρήδεμνον as ‘battlement’ is most fully argued by Nagler 1974:44–63; Fenik 1977:63 cautiously accepts Nagler’s arguments here: “We are perhaps willing to believe that the word κρήδεμνα, in the sense of ‘battlements,’ conjures up the outrage and violation of the city’s capture …” Richardson 1974:194 (comment at Hymn to Demeter 151–152) notes that the Iliadic Τροίης ἱερὰ κρήδεμνα λύωμεν “may have been suggested by the idea of a captive woman whose veil is torn off.” Compare Foley 1994:44, “The Iliad deliberately links the fall of Hector, the fall of Andromache’s veil, and the fall of Troy.” See also Nagler 1967:298–307 and Schein 1984:9.

[ back ] 64. On the form of ἐκδῦμεν (optative with *-υι- contracted to *-ῡ-), compare δαίνῡτο at Iliad XXIV 665 and see Chantraine 1958:51 and Janko 1994:329.

[ back ] 65. Achilles’ wish reveals the contradictory logic of wanting glory while at the same time rejecting the heroic society which alone can grant it, as noted by King 1987:35–36. On the adjective ‘holy’ (ἱερός) applied to cities and city walls, see Scully 1990.

[ back ] 66. Mayo 1973, Oakley 1982, Bergren 1989:25, Richardson 1993:157, Reeder 1995:166, 170. For representations of this gesture, see the Attic loutrophoroi published by Reeder 1995:163–165 fig. 23 (= ARV 2 1127.13), 165–168 fig. 24 (= Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Annual Report 1 [1903] 62, 71), 169–171 fig. 26 (= ARV 2 1017.44), and the detailed discussion of marriage-scenes in Athenian red figure pottery in Oakley 1995, esp. 64–69.

[ back ] 67. See Odyssey xi 245 where Poseidon ‘loosed the maiden girdle’ of Tyro (λῦσε δὲ παρθενίην ζώνην), the beginning of what are called ‘acts of love’ in the following verse (φιλοτήσια ἔργα); see also Hymn to Aphrodite 164 for the disrobing of Aphrodite by Anchises: ‘he loosed her girdle’ (λῦσε δέ οἱ ζώνην), with discussion at Smith 1981:60 with further bibliography.

[ back ] 68. See Schein 1984:77, 87n24 for discussion and bibliography. The “rape of Troy” was a favorite topic of Attic red figure vase painters; see esp. the cup signed by Euphronius as potter and Onesimus as painter ca. 490 BCE (Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum, inv. no. 83.AE.362) featuring Locrian Ajax dragging a nude Cassandra away from the altar of Athena. Stewart (1995) suggests Cassandra’s nudity in this depiction is a proleptic figure of her rape (83). See Stewart 1995, esp. 77, 83, 89n23, 89n71, 90n72 more generally on the rape of women captured in war.

[ back ] 69. See Iliad IX 327 where Achilles states that he ‘used to fight men for the sake of their [i.e. Agamemnon’s and Menelaus’] women’ (ἀνδράσι μαρνάμενος ὀάρων ἕνεκα σφετεράων); at XVIII 265 Polydamas warns Hektor that Achilles will soon rejoin the battle and ‘he will fight over our city and women’ (περὶ πτόλιός τε μαχήσεται ἠδὲ γυναικῶν). See Gottschall 2001 for an argument that the male desire to rape women stems from an evolutionary biological drive to reproduce. Gottschall argues that heroes prized women as war booty, driven by a biological imperative to produce as great a progeny as possible.

[ back ] 70. See Nestor’s attempt to motivate the soldiers by speaking of sexual violence against the Trojan women (II 354–356). Similarly, Agamemnon imagines the aftermath of the war by speaking of dead men left as food for scavenger birds while women and children are dragged off to the ships (IV 237–239). In a moment of bleak foresight, Hektor speaks of the rape Andromache will endure after his death (VI 454–465).

[ back ] 71. Athena as the maiden goddess who guards the city of Athens belongs to the same conceptual framework: as Athena is herself a perpetual “maiden,” so too the city of Athens would remain “un-penetrated” by invading forces. Consider further the verb δαμάζω (root *δαμ-) used both in contexts of ‘marrying a woman’, ‘conquering an enemy’, and ‘taming a wild animal’. Another verb used commonly to denote sexual intercourse, μίγνυμι ‘to mix’, also appears in battle contexts in the sense ‘to mix it up (with an enemy)’. Vermeule 1979:101 argues that “The aim [of a warrior’s taunts] is to turn the opposing soldier into a female, or into the weaker animal role.” In other words, the taunts used to describe warfare are closely associated with the practice of sexual aggression carried out against a weaker party. The metaphor of invading a city as sexual violence against a female continues throughout the Classical tradition. I cite as an example Livy’s narrative of the rape of Lucretia, conceived as part of a larger narrative about siege operations against the town of Ardea. Livy uses military metaphors to describe Tarquin’s rape (see Philippides 1983 on Livy’s military metaphors). The tradition continues into William Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece 463–469: “His hand that yet remains upon her breast | (Rude ram, to batter such an ivory wall!) | May feel her heart (poor citizen!) distress’d, | Wounding itself to death, rise up and fall, | Beating her bulk, that his hand shakes withal. | This moves in him more rage and lesser pity | To make the breach and enter this sweet city” (ed., Evans 1997).