Zeus in the Odyssey

  Marks, J. 2008. Zeus in the Odyssey. Hellenic Studies Series 31. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Marks.Zeus_in_the_Odyssey.2008.

The End(s) of the Odyssey

Regarding the Odyssey’s three main narrative sequences, then, I have argued that Zeus provides a kind of blueprint for the Telemachia and Mnesterophonia with his Oresteia, and that he orchestrates the Nostos overtly. The latter sequence, as discussed in the previous chapter, comes under Zeus’ control in Book 5, when Athene appears unable to implement the plan she has formulated for Odysseus’ return in Book 1. Thus, whether or not Athene’s plan is, as I have argued, prompted by Zeus, she feels compelled to turn to him in order to manage the Nostos. In this chapter I make an analogous argument about the Mnesterophonia.

Zeus’ low profile in Books 14-23 can, I propose, be explained in terms of the absence of significant differences among traditional accounts of the immediate consequences of Odysseus’ return. For it is one of the “facts” of Odysseus’ story that he always defeats the suitors. Complications arise, however, after Odysseus carries out his revenge. In a last divine council scene, Athene finds it necessary to make another appeal to the authority of Zeus, after the dead suitors’ kin have united behind a leader, taken up arms, and are about to engage in battle with Odysseus and his partisans.

At this point, less than a hundred lines from the end of the poem, Zeus elaborates a settlement that resolves the narrative in a manner consistent with the themes he lays out in the opening scene. In order to effect this deus ex machina resolution, Zeus again assimilates Athene’s plan to his own. Here too, I suggest, Zeus is invoked to establish a boundary between the Odyssey and non-Homeric Odysseus-traditions. Specifically, I shall be arguing that Zeus de-authorizes a family of traditions that told of a very different outcome to the Mnesterophonia, one in which the suitors’ families seek vengeance and drive Odysseus into exile, rendering his victorious return temporary and hollow. The Odyssean Zeus, by contrast uses supernatural means to dispel the thirst for vengeance that overcomes the Ithakans, so that the Odyssey can end, almost literally, “happily ever after” (αἰεί, 24.483).

The authenticity of Odyssey 24

In order to establish what I believe to be at stake when Zeus intervenes in Odyssey 24, I shall first examine the manner in which the claims and counterclaims of Odysseus and the suitors are articulated. The theme of tisis ‘payback’, I suggest, sets up a kind of feedback loop of reciprocal violence that threatens from the outset to frustrate both the justice of Zeus and narrative closure. Thus Odysseus rejects the suitors’ attempt to negotiate a settlement, and a significant portion of the suitors’ families feels compelled to demand blood for blood. When Zeus once again intervenes at Athene’s request, his settlement turns out to rely on supernatural effects, so that only one more citizen must die in order for Ithake to enjoy peace and prosperity ever after, and for the Odyssey to impose a terminus on its hero’s adventures.

Compensation or Revenge

Zeus’ settlement in Odyssey 24 brings together themes that run through the narrative and come to the fore in the Mnesterophonia. A key passage in the Odyssey’s justification and contextualization of its hero’s actions is a speech Odysseus delivers after killing the first of the suitors, Antinoos (22.35-41). These men, Odysseus says, have acted against him with neither fear of the gods nor regard for the nemesis ‘righteous indignation’ of mortals (οὔτε θεοὺς δείσαντες…οὔτε τιν᾿ ἀνθρώπων νέμεσιν κατόπισθεν ἔσεσθαι, 39-40), and therefore they must all die (41; cf. 61-64).

This understanding of damage and compensation is not merely the product of Eurymachos’ self-serving rhetoric, but has been rehearsed for Odysseus and the external audience in the song of Ares and Aphrodite (8.267-366), another narrative built around the question of compensation. In this inset narrative Hephaistos, like Odysseus, suffers an assault on his marriage, exacts a measure of revenge, and is then offered recompense, in this case “all things such as are right” (αἴσιμα πάντα, 348; cf. 22.46). Despite his anger, Hephaistos yields, declaring that to refuse compensation “is neither possible nor seemly” (οὐκ ἔστ᾿ οὐδὲ ἔοικε, 358). The Odyssey thus allows for the possibility of a negotiated settlement in circumstances at least superficially similar to those in Book 22. As a consequence, the exchange between Odysseus and Eurymachos represents, in dramatic terms, though not in terms of the “facts” of Odysseus-tradition, a real choice. Were Odysseus to follow the example of Hephaistos and accept recompense, the conflict between his oikos and the Ithakan people would cease, and the Odyssey could draw to a (rather unsatisfying) close.

But of course Odysseus is implacable, and not because Eurymachos’ terms are insufficiently generous. Rather, Odysseus refuses compensation in any amount (22.41, 61-64) because he rejects the terms in which Eurymachos frames the conflict; the relative culpability of individual suitors is for him irrelevant. Odysseus acts instead in a manner consistent with a different compensation-paradigm, namely the Oresteia. Orestes’ goal is also tisis, not a settlement with Aigisthos’ regime (cf. 1.40), and the futility of negotiation in this context is underscored further by the gods’ rejection of Aigisthos’ attempts to regain divine favor through costly sacrifices (3.273-275).

The Odyssey, then, entertains, but rejects, the possibility of a negotiated settlement between Odysseus and the suitors. Eurymachos’ “Nuremberg defense,” and his attempt to identify the suitors’ cause with that of the people, run counter to the Odyssey’s core themes, and indeed point to an outcome unrealized in Odysseus-tradition. Yet Odysseus in the event proves unable to achieve total victory over the anti-Odysseus faction, which regenerates under new leadership almost immediately after the suitors’ deaths. As Eurymachos predicts and Odysseus himself has foreseen, the hero incurs nemesis for failing to spare his people despite thematic justification and the fact that he acts, like Orestes, with the approval of the gods.

From Revenge to Vendetta

ὦ φίλοι, ἦ μέγα ἔργον ἀνὴρ ὅδε μήσατ᾿ Ἀχαιούς·
τοὺς μὲν σὺν νήεσσιν ἄγων πολέας τε καὶ ἐσθλούς
ὤλεσε μὲν νῆας γλαφυράς, ἀπὸ δ᾿ ὤλεσε λαούς,
τοὺς δ᾿ ἐλθὼν ἔκτεινε Κεφαλλήνων ὄχ᾿ ἀρίστους.
ἀλλ᾿ ἄγετε, πρὶν τοῦτον ἢ ἐς Πύλον ὦκα ἱκέσθαι430
ἢ καὶ ἐς Ἤλιδα δῖαν, ὅθι κρατέουσιν Ἐπειοί,
ἴομεν· ἢ καὶ ἔπειτα καηφέες ἐσσόμεθ᾿ αἰεί.
λώβη γὰρ τάδε γ᾿ ἐστὶ καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι,
εἰ δὴ μὴ παίδων τε κασιγνήτων τε φονῆας
τισόμεθ᾿· οὐκ ἂν ἔμοιγε μετὰ φρεσὶν ἡδὺ γένοιτο435
ζωέμεν, ἀλλὰ τάχιστα θανὼν φθιμένοισι μετείην.
ἀλλ᾿ ἴομεν, μὴ φθέωσι περαιωθέντες ἐκεῖνοι.
Friends, surely this man has devised an enormity against the Achaians:
some he led in ships, many and good men,
and he destroyed the hollow ships, and utterly destroyed the people.
And others he has come and killed, far the best of the Kephallenians.
But come, before this man makes his way quickly either to Pylos430
or even to godly Elis where the Epeioi rule,
let us go; or even later shamed we will be always.
For these things are an outrage, even for men to come to learn of,
if we do not seek vengeance from the killers of our sons and brothers;
as for me myself there would be no pleasure in my heart435
in living, but with a quick death would I join those who have perished.
But come, let us go, lest they get ahead of us making their escape.

Odyssey 24.426-437

Here the Odyssey at last confronts the problem that has from the start threatened to render the killing of the suitors a false climax to its hero’s story. Eupeithes asserts that the deaths of the suitors will occasion lōbē ‘[a sense of] outrage’ or ‘cause for reproach’ in future generations if their survivors do not exact tisis ‘payback’ (433-435). In doing so, he reveals the potential for the revenge-fantasy to degenerate into a self-perpetuating cycle of reciprocal violence, which is also to say its potential to spawn countless sequels. For the tisis-theme, at least in the Odyssey, is asserted to the exclusion of timē ‘recompense’ such as is offered by Eurymachos in the pursuit of a negotiated settlement. Odysseus has rejected the offer of timē out of hand in Book 22, and Eupeithes does not even mention the possibility in Book 24. In other words, just as Odysseus’ demand for tisis leaves the suitors no option but battle, so also Eupeithes’ demands suggest that that battle will be a fight to the death (435-436). Thus his first concern is to prevent Odysseus from fleeing to another city (430-431), an outcome that Odysseus himself entertains but rejects (23.118-120), though it does form the basis for a number of non-Homeric Odysseus-traditions, as discussed in Chapter 4.

Herein, I submit, resides a telling internal contradiction. The suitors’ lōbē demands from Odysseus and his partisans absolute tisis, which in turn casts on the suitors’ kin lōbē that demands more absolute tisis (24.435-436). Odyssean themes limit the perspective of Eupeithes and his faction, as they have that of Odysseus, so that only two outcomes remain possible: destruction or more tisis. These thematic constraints threaten to impinge as well on Zeus’ theodicy: in order for his assertions about human suffering to be credible, some force must stop the self-regenerating cycle of reciprocal violence. And in purely practical terms, the vendetta threatens to render hollow Odysseus’ triumphant return: since the hero has already, as Eupeithes observes, been responsible for the destruction of one generation of Ithakan aristoi at Troy, and another with the Mnesterophonia, eradication of the Ithakan opposition in Odyssey 24 would seem to leave him little more than the lord of his own oikos and a depopulated town.

Thus neither the culpability of the victim, the justification of the avenger, nor divine approval of the vengeance attenuate the impetus of the themes of lōbē, nemesis, and tisis. Failure to avenge his son’s killing will compromise Eupeithes’ position in the community now and in the future. From this perspective, although Medon’s and Halitherses’ warnings ensure that Eupeithes’ impending death conforms to the parameters of Zeus’ theodicy, Eupeithes is nevertheless distinct from other spretores deorum in the Odyssey, for his admonition comes too late to allow for any real options. Other characters who disregard divine warnings have greater latitude: Aigisthos and the suitors are not compelled to engage in their unlawful marriage suits; the Kyklops is not forced to eat Odysseus’ men; they in turn could have refrained from eating Helios’ cattle; and even the Phaiakes might have fulfilled the demands of xenia without turning Poseidon against themselves.

The only possible end to the Ithakan conflict, therefore, appears to be the eradication of one faction by the other. But eradication of a family, let alone a faction, is generally impossible in Greek myth as it is in Greek (or any) history. A figure can always be found to perpetuate old conflicts and claim the right to vengeance, whether in mythic Thebes, archaic Athens, or modern Palestine. Thus the momentum of tisis toward complete victory for one side and abject defeat for the other issues most naturally in the impasse of a self-perpetuating cycle of violence, a vendetta.

The last Odyssean divine council

The potential for reciprocal violence is not lost on the hero himself. The night before killing the suitors, Odysseus tells Athene that, as serious as is the danger they represent,

Clearly, Odysseus fears reprisal if he proceeds as planned. Athene’s answer seems a little off-point:

σχέτλιε, καὶ μέν τίς τε χερείονι πείθεθ᾿ ἑταίρωι,
ὅς περ θνητός τ᾿ ἐστὶ καὶ οὐ τόσα μήδεα οἶδεν·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ θεός εἰμι, διαμπερὲς ἥ σε φυλάσσω
ἐν πάντεσσι πόνοις. ἐρέω δέ τοι ἐξαναφανδόν·
εἴ περ πεντήκοντα λόχοι μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
νῶι περισταῖεν, κτεῖναι μεμαῶτες Ἄρηι,
καί κεν τῶν ἐλάσαιο βόας καὶ ἴφια μῆλα.
Harsh one, a person could trust in a worse companion,
one who is mortal and does not know as many stratagems;
but I myself am a god, who protects you all the way through
in all your toils. And I will tell you plainly:
even if fifty mortal men in ambush
should encircle we two, eager to kill us in combat,
even then would you drive off their cattle and fat sheep.

Odyssey 20.45-51

The goddess comforts the hero with a keen grasp of the obvious: with a divinity like her on his side, no mortal can stand before him. However, Odysseus expresses reservations, not about the outcome of the battle, but rather about the consequences of victory. He may very well by defeating the suitors earn the right to drive off their herds; but he will not be able to drive them far if he expects to remain in control of Ithake. The scenario Athene constructs is Iliadic, one befitting an invader of a foreign territory, rather than an isolated king at war with his own subjects. Athene in sum appears unable or unwilling to see beyond the revenge-fantasy, and before Odysseus can press her on the issue, she puts him to sleep (20.54).

Athene’s obtuseness here is the more remarkable in that she is a goddess whose primary associations with wisdom and the community – hence for instance her epithets polyboulos ‘she of many plans’ (e.g. Iliad 5.260) and erysiptolis ‘guardian of the city’ (e.g. Homeric Hymn 11.1) – would seem to make her a natural figure to diagnose Ithake’s political ills. And not only does the goddess fail to anticipate the response of the Ithakans before the fact, she also apparently remains oblivious to the danger even after the suitors have been killed. For while Odysseus immediately afterward takes measures at least to delay the re-formation of the opposition (23.117-140, 361-365), Athene does nothing until the opposition is arming for battle against the hero.

At this moment (24.472), as the two factions prepare for the final showdown, the scene shifts for the last time to Olympos (488), where the gods have apparently been observing events on Ithake. Athene turns to Zeus and voices a familiar complaint, cited already in the context of previous divine councils, and elicits a familiar response:

“ὦ πάτερ ἡμέτερε Κρονίδη, ὕπατε κρειόντων,
εἰπέ μοι εἰρομένηι· τί νύ τοι νόος ἔνδοθι κεύθει;
ἢ προτέρω πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ φύλοπιν αἰνὴν475
τεύξεις, ἦ φιλότητα μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισι τίθησθα;”
τὴν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·
“τέκνον ἐμόν, τί με ταῦτα διείρεαι ἠδὲ μεταλλᾶις;
οὐ γὰρ δὴ τοῦτον μὲν ἐβούλευσας νόον αὐτή,
ὡς ἤτοι κείνους Ὀδυσεὺς ἀποτίσεται ἐλθών;480
“Our father, son of Kronos, utmost of the powerful,
tell to me who asks: what idea does your mind now hide?
Will you establish further war and evil and awful battle-noise,475
or will you cause mutual attachment between both sides?”
And her did cloud-gathering Zeus address in answer:
“My child, why do you ask and enquire of me about this?
For was this not the idea you yourself planned,
that Odysseus would come and exact tisis from those men?”480

Odyssey 24.473-480

Athene’s initial question does however suggest an alternative to the tisis theme and its impetus toward vendetta, that of peace and love (476). Yet she does not consider bringing about this outcome herself, but rather implies with her question that such could only proceed from Zeus. In other words, Athene’s question to Zeus in Book 24 seems to acknowledge that Zeus is the figure charged with resolving the Odyssey’s internal contradiction so that the story may achieve dramatic closure.

Again, the theme of tisis seems poised to frustrate any attempt to make the Mnesterophonia the dramatic climax of Odysseus’ return. Here the power of Zeus over the Odyssey’s main themes becomes manifest, for the settlement he puts forward as a “fitting” (481) coda to “Athene’s” plan simply circumvents the tisis theme altogether:

ἕρξον ὅπως ἐθέλεις· ἐρέω δέ τοι ὡς ἐπέοικεν.
ἐπεὶ δὴ μνηστῆρας ἐτίσατο δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς,
ὅρκια πιστὰ ταμόντες ὃ μὲν βασιλευέτω αἰεί,
ἡμεῖς δ’ αὖ παίδων τε κασιγνήτων τε φόνοιο
ἔκλησιν θέωμεν· τοὶ δ’ ἀλλήλους φιλεόντων485
ὡς τὸ πάρος, πλοῦτος δὲ καὶ εἰρήνη ἅλις ἔστω.”
Do as you wish; but I will tell you what seems fittingto me.
Since Odysseus has obtained tisis from the suitors,
let them swear oaths, and let him be king always;
and let us ourselves, as regards the killing of childrenand brethren,
impose forgetfulness; and let them love one another485
as before. And let there be prosperity and peace in abundance.

Odyssey 24.481-486

These traditions are the subject of the following chapter. In the context of Odyssey 24, erasure of the Ithakans’ memory can be seen as a substitute for destruction of the Ithakans themselves. There does remain something of a paradox: the future Ithakans whom the Odyssey constructs will be unacquainted with the Odyssey itself, which preserves the memory of the Mnesterophonia. This is perhaps to be over-literal, but such considerations serve to remind the modern reader that enforced forgetfulness is for a primarily oral culture something akin to book-burning. In terms of contemporary information technology, then, tampering with memory in the manner that Zeus proposes would involve decisions about which songs will be sung.

The last divine council in the Odyssey, then, serves the crucial function of bringing closure to the narrative in terms that are consistent with the themes that are introduced in the first divine council and reinforced throughout the narrative, and that are at the same time inconsistent with non-Homeric traditions. As in previous council scenes, Zeus in Book 24 affects a pose of cooperative disinterest toward the subordinate deity most concerned with the hero’s progress, but nevertheless insinuates himself into the process of determining the hero’s fate. This he does by telling Athene, as he has Poseidon, “do as you wish; but this is what seems best to me” (24.481; cf. 13.145, 154).

A last, decisive death

Only now does Athene attempt to follow Zeus’ instructions and disengage the combatants. Apparently doffing momentarily the guise of Mentor, she cries aloud:

ἴσχεσθε πτολέμου, Ἰθακήσιοι, ἀργαλέοιο,
ὥς κεν ἀναιμωτί γε διακρινθῆτε τάχιστα.
Hold back from harsh war, Ithakans,
so that bloodlessly you may be separated forthwith.

Odyssey 24.531-532

Her epiphany fills the Ithakans with terror; they drop their weapons and turn to flee (533-536).

There are however some disturbing aspects to the Odyssey’s closing scenes. For one thing, the hero’s last act in the narrative is to attack an unarmed and retreating crowd of his own fellow citizens. Second, Athene shows herself somewhat loose with the facts: what she describes as a “bloodless” (ἀναιμωτί, 532) end to the conflict comes after Eupeithes receives a spear through the head (523-525). And again, both the goddess and the hero need to be restrained by Zeus’ thunderbolt from committing what even in antiquity would presumably have been reckoned an atrocity.

The Homeric epics of course generally endorse the slaughter of weaker or defenseless opponents and the viciousness of avenging divinity. Here at the end of the Odyssey, however, the violent themes identified with the hero and his patron deity persist even when the goal toward which they are directed has already been obviated by Zeus. I suggest that the emergence of these apparently contradictory themes here betrays the operation of an organizing principle in the context of which the implacability of Odysseus and Athene, and the death of Eupeithes, are on some level necessary.

Though not culpable to the degree that their leader is, the rest of the suitors’ kin are nevertheless guilty for their failure, first to restrain their sons’ unlawful behavior, and second to heed the warnings of Halitherses and Medon against seeking t isis. Parallels with the crew, the Phaiakes, and their own children imply that the suitors’ kin should also perish to a man. Their survival can perhaps in this respect be understood as having been purchased through the death of Eupeithes, on whom collective guilt is cast.

In ancient Greek ritual, scapegoating preserves the memory of past reciprocal violence by making it part of the ritual calendar and channels the economy of tisis into an act of restoration, rather than fragmentation, for the community as a whole. I note however that, while the ending of the Odyssey may draw on themes associated with scapegoating rituals, the narrative distances itself from any aitiological implications by opting for a solution that does not appear to require maintenance through cult. For Zeus’ eklēsis, rather than transmuting reciprocal violence into ritual violence, instead redirects it into another vessel, Panhellenic epic. Figuratively speaking, antithetical Odysseus-traditions are sacrificed so that Homeric authority may live forever.

Chapter conclusions: the End(s) of the Odyssey

I hope to have demonstrated in this chapter that Zeus’ role at the end of the Odyssey, far from being non-Homeric, awkward, or ad hoc, brings to a culmination themes that have run through the narrative. The theme of reciprocal violence at the end of the Odyssey is deployed in order to maintain dramatic tension, which is resolved by supernatural means. Further, the limited perspectives that are evinced by Athene in Books 1 and 5, and by Poseidon in Books 5 and 13, are again brought into alignment with Zeus’ overarching perspective, which defines the contours of the Odyssean narrative in part by limiting or re-channeling the subordinate gods’ partisan desires to inflict massive suffering on mortal characters. In this respect, Eupeithes’ death could be seen as a concession by Zeus to Athene, analogous to Poseidon being “allowed” to send the storm in Book 5 and to petrify the Phaiakes’ ship in Book 13. Zeus’ ability to control human memory and divine behavior, I suggested, has meaningful analogies in the functions performed by singers of epics like the Odyssey.

Though I defer my broader conclusions about the overall Dios boulē in the Odyssey until Chapter 6, it will be useful to anticipate one of them here. The relationship between Zeus’ last speech in Book 24 and “post-Odyssean” events can be seen as analogous to that between his first speech and the “pre-Odyssean” killing of Aigisthos in Book 1, which in part frame the Odyssey with respect to non-Homeric Nostoi traditions. That is, in like manner as Zeus abstracts Odyssean thematics from the Oresteia-paradigm in order to establish the beginning of the narrative, so his extension of Odyssean thematics to the “post-Odyssey” consequences of the Mnesterophonia brings dramatic closure at the end. Thus Zeus’ omission of the consequences of Orestes’ revenge in his Oresteia is itself polemical, since the omission raises in advance the question of how the paradigm can be made consistent with any limit on a man’s sufferings at the hands of others in a world where the institution of the vendetta is pervasive and judicial remedies inadequate. The Odyssey’s answer to this contradiction is to identify the supernatural justice of Zeus with the dramatic conclusion of Odysseus’ story. And this strategy, as I shall discuss in the next chapter, helps to obviate complicated engagements with epichoric traditions that narrated the consequences of the Mnesterophonia.


[ back ] 1. As mentioned in Chapter 1, Zeus’ eagle also approves the killing of the suitors at the Ithakan assembly (2.145-156), and he may be the implied author of the two other, uncredited, eagle omens in the Odyssey, at 15.160-178, interpreted by Helen as portending the deaths of the suitors, and at 20.241-247, convincing the suitors to abandon their plot against Telemachos. All eagle omens in the Iliad are explicitly from Zeus. For the significance of the omens, cf. Nagy’s (2003:59) description of the one in Odyssey 20 as a “clarification of the Will of Zeus,” and Foley’s (1998:171) suggestion that Zeus’ omens generally “denote . . . the ambient tradition.”

[ back ] 2. On Apollonios, Aristophanes and Aristarchos see Seaford 1994:38-42, 72-73, 178; Kullmann 1992:293; Heubeck CHO 3:342-345 ad 23.297; Moulton 1974:153-157; detailed analysis of earlier arguments in Erbse 1972:166-244.

[ back ] 3. E.g. S. West 1989:132-133; Schadewaldt 1970:70, 74; Lesky 1967:130-132; Kirk 1962:248-251; Page 1955:101-136; Merkelbach 1951:142-155. Erbse 1972:177-229 provides an exhaustive discussion of linguistic anomalies.

[ back ] 4. Representative Unitarian arguments in Moulton 1974; Lord 1960:177-185; Erbse 1972:166-244; Neoanalysts: Kullmann 1992:291-304; Heubeck CHO 3:342-345 ad 23.297; 1954:44.

[ back ] 5. As Heubeck CHO 3:411-412 ad loc and 1954:44 observes, Athene’s words at 24.475-476 (ἢ προτέρω πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ φύλοπιν αἰνὴν/τεύξεις ἦ φιλότητα μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισι τίθησθα), parallel Zeus’ at Iliad 4.15-16 (ἤ ῥ’ αὖτις πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ φύλοπιν αἰὴν/ὄρσομεν ἦ φιλότητα μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισι βάλωμεν). See also Hölscher 1988:77-80 and Moulton 1974:164-166. Ring composition in the Iliad: Silk 1987:38-39; Whitman 1958:97; the Odyssey: Louden 1999:1, 133; Odyssey 1-5: above Chapter 2; the non-Homeric Kypria: Marks 2002:6-12; South Slavic epic: Lord 1991:30-32. Objections to the Odyssey 24 divine council in Kirk 1962:238-239, 260-261; Page 1955:101-136. Defenders include: Danek 1998:457-458; Kullmann 1992:303-304; Moulton 1974; Pfeiffer 1968:175-177; Stanford 1965 2:428; Heubeck 1954:37-54.

[ back ] 6. On the suitors’ guilt and the thematics of atasthala in the Odyssey, see de Jong 2001:12 ad 1.32-43; Cook 1995:23-24; Flaig 1995:377.

[ back ] 7. The social and political implications of Eurymachos’ charge against Antinoos are discussed by Wilson 2002:77; Thalmann 1998:187-188; Felson 1994:115-118; van Wees 1992:288-291; Murnaghan 1987:66-67. Nagy 1990a:237-239 discerns juridical force in Homeric αἴτιος.

[ back ] 8. Haubold 2000 argues that “sparing the people” is a theme central to Homeric social dynamics. The authoritative Athene/Mentor also speaks of the culpability of the Ithakan δῆμος in the suitors’ acts (Odyssey 2.239-41).

[ back ] 9. Wilson 2002 deduces from compensation themes in the Iliad “a fixed system [that] grants [the leader] the power to assess goods from his subjects to fund his largess on behalf of the community;” this system she describes as “timē-based,” in which timē often refers to the war plunder that reflects a hero’s status (quote from 52; see in particular 54-55, 77, 91, 189n46). Cf. Muellner 1996:28-29 and van Wees 1992:69-77.

[ back ] 10. Flaig 1997:22 describes this as une somme colossale. Telemachos enumerates the suitors at Odyssey 16.246-253.

[ back ] 11. On the parallelism between Odysseus at the end of the Odyssey and Achilleus, see Cook 1995:150-151; Nagy 1979:317-318.

[ back ] 12. For the constituency of this assembly see Flaig 1997:13-18 and van Wees 1992:148. The significant point for the present argument is that it seems to be conceived as a broad cross-section of the Ithakan populace (though only 12 of the suitors are Ithakan; Odyssey 16.251).

[ back ] 13. Chantraine s.v. ἀλάστωρ derives ἄλαστος from λανθάνω (root *-lēth-), though as he observes other etymologies have been proposed. Compare the argument of Slatkin 1991:95-96 that, in the Iliad, Thetis’ ἄλαστον πένθος (24.105) bestows on her “the same ominous character as that of her son.” As mentioned in Chapter 1, this “second” Ithakan assembly picks up themes from the assembly in Book 2; thus, for instance, the fact that the suitors will go unavenged is signposted in Telemachos’ vision of their deaths “without payback,” νήποινοι (2.145; cf. ἀνάποινον at Iliad 1.99); cf. Heubeck CHO 3:405-406 ad 24.413-548, 415 ad 516-27; Erbse 1972:139-140.

[ back ] 14. Wilson 2002, especially 23-25, 61, 89-96, demonstrates that Iliadic compensation themes tend to follow one of two paths, toward either a “pay-off” in material goods, apoina, or toward “payback,” poinē or tisis, usually exacted as “harm” (though in the Odyssey tisis is on occasion associated with the apoina path; cf. 2.76, 8.348); the theme of lōbē ‘outrage’ attaches to the latter option. Odyssean lōbē is associated almost exclusively with the suitors: Athene spurs them to lōbē (18.347-348 and 20.285); Eurykleia thus describes their treatment of the disguised Odysseus (19.373); and Penelope warns Telemachos he will incur lōbē if he fails to protect the disguised Odysseus from them (18.223-225). On Homeric lōbē see further Nagy 1979:255-264.

[ back ] 15. Wilson 2002:32-34 cites Iliadic scenes in which “ambivalence about tisis” is revealed through its association with “profoundly savage conduct,” namely, cannibalism.

[ back ] 16. Cf. the destruction that attends Helios’ demand for tisis for his cattle (Odyssey 12.382), and Zeus’ affirmation of Poseidon’s right to tisis against the Phaiakes (13.144).

[ back ] 17. However, οἶκτος alone does not precipitate action: Telemachos in the first Ithakan council elicits οἶκτος from the crowd (Odyssey 2.81), but no remedy for his complaints; cf. Finley 1965:94-95.

[ back ] 18. Eupeithes’ position is adopted by the greater part of the Ithakans if οἱ δ᾿ at 24.463 and σφιν at 465 refer to Eupeithes’ followers and τοὶ δ᾿ at 464 to those whom Halitherses convinces; thus Heubeck CHO 3:410 ad 24.463-6, Erbse 1972:241, Stanford 1965 v.2:427. However, the pronouns could equally indicate that a minority follow Eupeithes; thus Benardete 1997:139 and Ameis-Hentze-Cauer ad loc.; further arguments are catalogued by S. West 1989:129, who concludes sensibly that “the passage is genuinely ambiguous.”

[ back ] 19. Flaig 1997:29 argues that Homeric institutions for resolving conflicts are generally weak, and describes the Ithakan council in Odyssey 24 as an assemblée pervertie (24). For a more positive assessment of the Homeric agora, see Hölkeskamp 1994 and Morris 1986:101-104. In any case, even modern political systems often prove unequal to the task of resolving internal conflicts that kill or displace large numbers of citizens.

[ back ] 20. Homeric πῇ means “how” or “where” (Cunliffe s.v., citing this line in the latter sense); here the senses merge (cf. Odyssey 12.287).

[ back ] 21. Note that, like Poseidon in Book 13, Athene here seems to assume that Zeus has already formulated some sort of plan (24.474 with 13.127).

[ back ] 22. Burkert 1985:139-143 analyzes Athene’s association with hereditary rulers.

[ back ] 23. On the Homeric elite perspective, see Morris 2000:171-176; for an alternative view, cf. P. Rose 1992:89-91. There is of course room for subtlety in such analysis; A. Edwards 1993:54-59, argues for “subideologies” that run counter to the dominant ideology; similarly Thalmann 1998:298-302.

[ back ] 24. For example, a sixth-century treaty between the citizens of Sybaris and the Serdaioi (SEG xxx 424, xxxi 357 = Meiggs and Lewis 10): ἀρμόχθεν οἱ Συβαρῖται κ᾿ οἱ σύνμαχοι κ᾿ οἱ Σερδαῖοι ἐπὶ φιλότατι πιστᾶι κ᾿ ἀδόλοι ἀείδιον. αἰεί in fifth-century treaties: Meiggs and Lewis 63 and 64; Thucydides 4.63.1.

[ back ] 25. The etymological root for this concept, –lāth-, is shared by “Lēthē,” the river of forgetfulness in the underworld; cf. Bakker 2002:67-68; Flaig 1994:382-383; Heubeck CHO 3:413 ad 24.485. Interestingly, in the Odyssey, the verb from which eklēsis directly derives, ἐκλανθάνεσθαι, is associated with figures who die, namely Elpenor (10.557), and the suitors (3.224) and the slavewomen who pleasure them (22.444); cf. Iliad 6.285.

[ back ] 26. Thus Danek 1998:505 interprets eklēsis here as “the citation of a dead end, into which the plot would have veered, if Zeus had not provided another solution” [das Zitat einer Sackgasse, in die die Handlung geriete, wenn Zeus nicht eine andere Lösung vorhergesehen hätte]. The Odyssey may also be denying the authority of exile-traditions when Odysseus himself entertains but rejects the idea of flight into exile (23.118-120).

[ back ] 27. Kirke’s drugs, by contrast, do not affect the mind (10.240), though her wiles do cause Odysseus to forget his homeland and fate, as his crew “reminds” him (μιμνήσκεο, 472).

[ back ] 28. Thus for instance Danek 1998:504-505; Thalmann 1998:231-232; Kullmann 1992:303-304; S. West 1989:133-134; Rutherford 1985:144-145.

[ back ] 29. Heubeck CHO 3:415 ad 24.516-27 compares Athene’s exhortation of Laertes to her prompting of Pandaros to break the truce in Iliad 4 (92-103; Haubold 2000:69-70 adduces Iliad 11.758-759, where Athene “turns back the people” at the inflection point in Nestor’s “Pylian epic”.

[ back ] 30. On this detail see Moulton 1974:166; Page 1955:113-114; Eustathios 1969.60-65.

[ back ] 31. As Heubeck 1954:44 observes, Zeus’ call for ὅρκια πιστά (483) in Odyssey 24 inverts his actions in Iliad 4, where he causes the combatants in the Trojan War to defy sworn oaths (ὑπὲρ ὅρκια, 4.72) so that the narrative may continue.

[ back ] 32. Thus for instance Heubeck CHO 3:412 ad 24.482-485 sees Zeus’ settlement as being “of the greatest importance in the history of ideas: it means nothing less than the abolition of the law of the blood-feud;” similarly Erbse 1972:140. Yet the simple fact that Zeus’ scheme is in its stated terms impracticable without the supernatural element suggests that Homeric society was meant to recall a time when resources for managing such conflicts were limited.

[ back ] 33. Since this incident in Book 16 constructs Odysseus and Eupeithes as guest-friends, xenoi (cf. Eustathios 1807.10; Nagy 1979:233), the latter can further be said to transgress institutions presided over by Zeus Xenios, on which see Chapter 6.

[ back ] 34. For the scapegoat theme see Seaford 1994:130-131; 312-318; Burkert 1985:82-84; Bremmer 1983 with extensive ancient references. To be sure, Eupeithes lacks some common features of ancient Greek scapegoats: his status is compromised neither by his looks or his birth; he dies by the hand of a single man, rather than the collective violence of the crowd; nor is he beaten about the genitals with the branches of an arbor infelix.

[ back ] 35. Bremmer 1983:312-315; Burkert 1979:64-67.

[ back ] 36. Cf. Bremmer 1983:307-308; Burkert 1983:137-138.

[ back ] 37. On scapegoat ritual in the Thargeleia, see Bremmer 1983:318-319. On the Apollo festival as the context for the Mnesterophonia, see Cook 1995:150-152; Austin 1975:239-253; Murray 1934:211-212. It may be significant that the scapegoat’s expulsion during the Attic Thargeleia took place on the supposed anniversary of the fall of Troy, for the ritual calendar may have suggested thematic parallels between Odysseus’ taking of both Troy and Ithake by stratagem; thus Bremmer loc. cit ., citing Hellanikos FGrH 4 F 152a and Damastes FGrH 5 F 7.

[ back ] 38. Cf. Burkert 1985:82-84; Bremmer 1983:301-303. Another, less compelling parallel may be mentioned here: the Ithakans’ turning back toward the city (πρὸς δὲ πόλιν τρωπῶντο, 536) when Athene intervenes may suggest the custom of returning to the community without looking back after expulsion of the victim; see Bremmer 315, citing Lot’s wife in Genesis and Aischylos Choephoroi 98.