The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic

The Return of Odysseus

1. Introduction

In the last chapter two Homeric verses, each with a form from the root nes-, were seen to have a common origin in the early history of Greek epic. It was argued that these forms from nes– originally had to do with “returning to life and light” and that this meaning can best be understood in the context of solar symbolism. The first purpose of this chapter will be to amplify and support the two parts of this argument, in regard both to the proposed meaning and to its interpretation, by considering various episodes in the first half of the Odyssey. The second purpose will be to show how nóos, “mind,” is involved in the same episodes.

Before entering the main body of this chapter it will be useful to comment upon an episode that illustrates the latent form in which our traditional material may appear. In Book 9 Odysseus encounters the Lotus-eaters, whose food causes anyone who eats it to lose his desire to return home. This loss of desire is a kind of “forgetfulness,” as is revealed by two closely related collocations, both in verse-final position: nóstou te lathésthai, “to forget their homecoming,” in line 97 and nóstoio láthētai, “that he might forget his homecoming,” in line 102. What is suggested by the forms of lanthánomai, “to forget,” in these collocations is that the loss of a “return” is at the same time a loss of “mind.”

The objection to this theory is that the lotus blossom, an integral feature of the episode, is a drug, and this fact sufficiently explains the use of the verb lanthánomai. One could compare the phrase lathoíato patrídos aíēs, “that they might forget their fatherland,” in x 236, which describes the effect Circe intends her drugs to have on the companions of Odysseus. But the situation is more complex than this. Another factor to be considered is the existence of another set of collocations complementing those already given. Balancing lathoíato patrídos aíēs in x 236 is the phrase mimnḗskeo patrídos aíēs, “remember your fatherland,” in x 472, and balancing nóstou te lathésthai and nóstoio láthētai is the phrase nóstou te médēai, “(if) you are mindful of your homecoming,” in xi 110 and xii 137. The verbs mimnḗskomai, “remember,” and médomai, “be mindful of,” have as much significance for the connection of nóos with néomai as does the verb lanthánomai. It should be stressed that the former verbs are associated with the noun nóstos more than once in Homer; the remaining examples are the phrases nóstoio medoíato in IX 622, nóstou dḕ mnē̂sai in X 509, nóstou hupomnḗsousa in xv 3, and nóstou mimnḗskesthai in iii 142. {35|36}

The above evidence suggests that Greek epic diction contained a regular opposition between “remembering” and “forgetting” one’s “return,” and that the phrases nóstou te láthesthai and nóstoio láthētai are to be seen in terms of this opposition. Their significance, in other words, transcends the context in which they occur.

The argument may now be carried a step farther. Just as the connection between nóos and néomai is only latent in the encounter with the Lotus-eaters, so is the idea that a nóstos was originally a “return from death.” But this idea, however latent, is still suggested by the verb lanthánomai. The noun associated with this verb is lḗthē, “forgetfulness,” and this noun, in post-Homeric Greek, designates a place of oblivion in the lower world. The land of the Lotus-eaters, since it is also a place of oblivion, likewise suggests a kind of death.

A passage in Theognis offers a striking illustration of what is only remotely implied in Homer. This passage (Theognis 702 ff.) describes how Sisyphus alone among mortals achieved a “return from death” by means of his “intelligence.” Particular attention is drawn to line 705, in which lḗthē is associated with a loss of nóos in the context of “death”; attention is also drawn to the several words designating the “intelligence” which enabled Sisyphus to “return from death”:

. . . Σισύφου Αἰολίδεω,
ὂς τε καὶ ἐξ Ἀΐδεω πολυϊδρείῃσιν ἀνῆλθεν
πείσας Περσεφόνην αἱμυλίοισι λόγοις,
ἥ τε βροτοῖς παρέχει λήθην βλάπτουσα νόοιο—
ἄλλος δ’ οὔπω τις τοῦτό γ’ ἐπεφράσατο,
ὅντινα δὴ θανάτοιο μέλαν νέφος ἀμφικαλύψῃ
ἔλθῃ δ’ ἐς σκιερὸν χῶρον ἀποφθιμένων
κυανέας τε πύλας παραμείψεται, αἵ τε θανόντων
ψύχας εἴργουσιν καίπερ ἀναινομένας·
ἀλλ’ ἄρα καὶ κεῖθεν πάλιν ἤλυθε Σίσυφος ἥρως
ἐς φάος ἠελίου σφῇσι πολυφρούναις.

… Sisyphus the son of Aeolus, who came up from the house of Hades by means of his great intelligence, persuading {36|37} Persephone with wily words, she who gives forgetfulness to mortals, unhinging their minds—no other man had ever devised this thing once the black cloud of death covered him over and he had come into the shadowy region of the deceased, passing by the dark gates which restrain the unwilling spirits of the dead. But even from that place Sisyphus came back into the light of the sun by means of his great shrewdness.

The remainder of this chapter will be divided into three parts. Section 2 will deal with those episodes in the Odyssey which involve the line beginning opsè kakō̂s neĩai, namely Circe, the Nekyia, and the cattle of Helios. Section 3 will deal with the episodes which involve the line beginning ásmenoi ek thanátoio, namely the Ciconians, the Cyclops, and the Laestrygonians. Section 4 will deal with the final home-coming of Odysseus, his journey from Ogygia to Ithaca via Phaeacia.

2. Circe, the Nekyia, and Helios

As mentioned earlier, the rest of the companions are also characterized by their lack of nóos when they slaughter the cattle of Helios. The opening of the Odyssey calls them “foolish” (nḗpioi) in connection with this deed.

The case with Odysseus is just the reverse. The purpose of his trip to the underworld is to hear the prophecy of Teiresias. There is every reason to believe that this “oracle from the dead” was a deeply traditional part of the Nekyia; the future reference of the verse:

opsè kakō̂s neĩai, olésas ápo pántas hetaírous

You will return late and in evil condition, having lost all your companions, {39|40}

is consistent with little but a prophetic context, and it has been shown that this verse is very old. Whether the prophecy always contained a description of the way home cannot be known for sure, but this seems doubtful. The emphasis in the first instance would have been on the “way back to life” [
7] The acquiring of prophetic knowledge such as this would at the same time have been the acquiring of nóos. [8] This explains, at least in terms of tradition, the motivation for the Nekyia. Originally, the return from death was tightly bound up with nóos, and nóos was tightly bound up with a prophecy from the dead. In the Odyssey as it stands, the connecting link (nóos) has dropped out, and only a vague sense remains that the “return home” is dependent upon a prophecy from the dead. In fact, the main prophetic duties are taken over by Circe, who belongs to the upper world. There is, however, an indication of the importance of nóos, the connecting link, in the role Teiresias plays. In x 494-95, Homer reveals that what distinguishes Teiresias from the rest of the dead is precisely his retention of nóos:

τῷ καὶ τεθνηῶτι νόον πόρε Περσεφόνεια
οἴῳ πεπνῦσθαι· τοὶ δὲ σκιαὶ ἀΐσσουσιν.

To him even when dead Persephone granted mind, to him alone, so that he might have sound wits; but the others flit about as shadows.

The positive side of the sun’s twofold nature is not emphasized in the Helios episode. Odysseus escapes death because he has had no part in the offense of his companions. In this limited sense, Helios may be said to “save” the hero. But there is, I think, another indication of the sun’s saving aspect, an indication which is only latent and which is unfortunately ambiguous. In xii 131 ff. the divine guardians of the Sun’s cattle are mentioned; they are daughters of Helios himself and are named Phaéthousa and Lampetíē. In the same passage their mother is mentioned, whose name is Néaira:

θεαὶ δ’ ἐπιποιμένες εἰσί,
νύμφαι ἐüπλόκαμοι, Φαέθουσά τε Λαμπετίη τε,
ἃς τέκεν Ἠελίῳ Ὑπερίονι δῖα Νέαιρα.

Their herdsmen are goddesses, the fair-tressed nymphs Phaethousa and Lampeia, whom shining Neaira bore to Helios. {41|42}

Phaéthousa and Lampetíē are plainly “significant names” having to do with the brightness of Helios, their father. Hence it is natural to assume that the name Néaira also has to do with some characteristic of the sun. This assumption has been made by others, who explain the name as a derivative of néos, “new,” and as referring to the “new” light of day. [
10] I suggest, however, that the name may be related to the verb néomai, just as the hieratic epithet iokhéaira, “pouring arrows,” is related to the verb khéō, “to pour.” [11] Thus explained, the name Néaira would still refer to the returning light of day, but more pointedly so. It would refer to this light in the context of “salvation.” This would suit Neaira’s role as the provider of guardians for the cattle of Helios. [12]

The cattle of Helios are themselves worth considering more closely, as they are an apparently old feature of Greek sun mythology, and will be encountered again in this study. In the Odyssey Helios has not only cattle but sheep as well; when Circe first describes Thrinacia to Odysseus, she says that there is an equal number of the two species (xii 127 ff.):

Θρινακίην δ’ ἐς νῆσον ἀφίξεαι· ἔνθα δὲ πολλαὶ
βόσκοντ’ Ἠελίοιο βόες καὶ ἴφια μῆλα,
ἑπτὰ βοῶν ἀγέλαι, τόσα δ’ οἰῶν πώεα καλά,
πεντήκοντα δ’ ἕκαστα.

You will come to the island of Thrinacia; many cattle and sturdy sheep of Helios graze there, seven herds of cattle and as many beautiful flocks of sheep, with fifty head in each. {42|43}

Outside the Odyssey as well, Helios has both sacred cattle and sacred sheep, and these appear in contexts that serve to broaden our perspective on the Homeric episode. Perhaps the most important source for our purposes is Herodotus 9.92.2-95. This passage tells the story of Euenius, a prophet from the Corinthian colony of Apollonia who lived in the generation before the Persian wars. According to this story, Euenius acquired the gift of prophecy as a direct consequence of his role as the guardian of sheep that were sacred to Helios. Euenius’s story has the qualities of a legend about it, and would seem to contain traditional elements of sun mythology as preserved in an actual cult to Helios. The account in Herodotus is as follows (de Sélincourt translation):

Euenius’ story was an odd one and I will here relate it. In Apollonia there is a flock of sheep sacred to the sun; during the daytime these sheep graze along the banks of the river which rises on Mt. Lacmon, and, after running through Apollonian territory, joins the sea by the harbor of Oricus; at night however, they are looked after by men specially chosen from the wealthiest and most distinguished families—each man having one year’s spell of duty. The people of Apollonia value these sheep very highly because of an oracle they once received concerning them. The place where they are penned for the night is a cave, a long way from the town, and here it was that Euenius, who had been chosen for the task, was keeping watch. One night he fell asleep on duty, and some wolves got in and killed about sixty of the sheep. When, on waking, he saw what had happened, Euenius kept silent and told nobody about it, intending to buy some more sheep to make good the losses; but the people of the town got to know of the disaster, and at once brought the culprit to trial and condemned him to have his eyes put out for sleeping at his post. The sentence was carried out and immediately afterwards the sacred ewes had no more lambs, and the land ceased to produce the normal harvests. The oracles both at Dodona and Delphi were consulted upon the reason for this calamity and the answer in each case was {43|44} that it was due to the fact that Euenius, the guardian of the sacred sheep, had been unjustly deprived of his sight; it was the gods themselves who had set the wolves on the sheep, and they would continue to punish the people of Apollonia for the wrong they had done Euenius, until they made him such amends as he himself might choose; and when this was done they, too, would give him something, for the possession of which many men would call him blessed.

The gift Euenius received from the gods was that of prophecy, and this gift, as the oracles had foretold, made him famous. [

It remains to say something more about Circe. Homer says in x 138 that she was the daughter of Helios. Thus her episode in the Odyssey also has to do with symbolism of the sun. As has been seen, this symbolism has an eastern and a western aspect. One wonders whether this is not the reason that her home, the land of Aeaea, is variously located in both east and west. It is remarkable that when Odysseus lands in Circe’s domain he can no longer tell where the sun sets and where it rises (x 190 ff.):

ὦ φίλοι, οὐ γὰρ ἴδμεν ὅπῃ ζόφος οὐδ’ ὅπῃ ἠώς,
οὐδ’ ὅπῃ ἠέλιος φαεσίμβροτος εἶσ’ ὑπὸ γαῖαν
οὐδ’ ὅπῃ ἀννεῖται.

O friends, we do not know where the darkness is and where the dawn, we do not know where the sun that shines on men goes beneath the earth and where it returns. {47|48}

According to Hesiod (Theogony 1011 ff.), Circe lived in the west among the Etruscans, a tradition which Latin authors followed. But when Odysseus returns from the underworld, her land is placed at the “rising of the sun” (xii 1 ff.):

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ ποταμοῖο λίπεν ῥόον Ὠκεανοῖο
νηῦς, ἀπὸ δ’ ἵκετο κῦμα θαλάσσης εὐρυπόροιο
νῆσόν τ’ Αἰαίην, ὅθι τ’ Ἠοῦς ἠριγενείης
οἰκία καὶ χοροί εἰσι καὶ ἀντολαὶ Ἠελίοιο …

But when our ship left the stream of the river Oceanus, and returned to the waves of the wide-pathed sea and to the island of Aeaea, where the Dawn has her house and dancing places and where Helios has his risings . . .

This discrepancy is easily explained. Circe’s role in the Odyssey is both to usher the hero into the underworld and to receive him back again from it. When Odysseus and his men “return to life and light,” she is naturally equated with the dawn. The complement to this would be that she is equated with sunset when Odysseus and his companions venture into “death and darkness.”

For Homer, however, to whom realism was a concern, this ambivalence would have been difficult to manage. The Homeric version, in fact, seems to represent a compromise. Odysseus and his men do venture into darkness, but the text suggests a northerly direction. Their ship takes them to the land of the Cimmerians, upon whom the sun never shines (xi 13 ff.):

ἡ δ’ ἐς πείραθ’ ἵκανε βαθυρρόου Ὠκεανοῖο.
ἔνθα δὲ Κιμμερίων ἀνδρῶν δῆμός τε πόλις τε,
ἠέρι καὶ νεφέλῃ κεκαλυμμένοι· οὐδέ ποτ’ αὐτοὺς
Ἠέλιος φαέθων καταδέρκεται ἀκτίνεσσιν,
οὔθ’ ὁπότ’ ἂν στείχῃσι πρὸς οὐρανὸν ἀστερόεντα,
οὔθ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἂψ ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἀπ’ οὐρανόθεν προτράπηται,
ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ νὺξ ὀλοὴ τέταται δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι.

Our ship came to the boundary of deep-flowing Oceanus. There lie the land and city of the Cimmerian men, who are covered {48|49} in mist and clouds; neither does shining Helios ever look down on them with his rays, either when he climbs into the starry sky, or when he turns back from the sky toward earth, but baneful night lies stretched over these wretched mortals.

The Cimmerians were a historical people who moved from the north into Asia Minor in the eighth and seventh centuries and who therefore must be a late feature in Greek epic. It is also worth noting that the reading Kimmeríōn in line 14 was much disputed in antiquity. [
28] On the basis of these observations, it is plausible to think that the Cimmerians in Homer have replaced something older and more clearly symbolic of sunset.

The same conclusion is strongly suggested by a very revealing passage in Hesiod’s Theogony, which should be compared carefully with the passage in Homer. Hesiod first mentions the “house of Night” (744), in front of which Atlas stands supporting the heavens (746 ff.); this is the point at which Night and Day pass each other, one entering the “house,” the other leaving it (748 ff.). [29] Hesiod continues his description of this twilight region as follows (758 ff.):

ἔνθα δὲ Νυκτὸς παῖδες ἐρεμνῆς οἰκί’ ἔχουσιν,
Ὕπνος καὶ Θάνατος, δεινοὶ θεοί· οὐδέ ποτ’ αὐτοὺς
Ἠέλιος φαέθων ἐπιδέρκεται ἀκτίνεσσιν
οὐρανὸν εἰσανιὼν οὐδ’ οὐρανόθεν καταβαίνων.

There the children of dark Night have their house, the dread gods Sleep and Death; neither does shining Helios ever look upon them with his rays, either ascending into the sky or descending from the sky. {49|50}

The similarity of the emphasized phrase to xi 15-16 is unmistakable; at the same time, the variation epidérketai, “looks upon,” for katadérketai, “looks down upon,” and difference in the line that follows do not make it seem that Hesiod has imitated Homer. On the contrary, Hesiod has preserved the original context of the underlined phrase (sleep, death, the region beyond sunset), whereas Homer has sacrificed part of this context (the extreme west) for the sake of realism.

If it is true that the fluctuation from east to west is an essential part of Circe’s nature, it is tempting to see this action reflected in her name. The Greek word for “ring” is kríkos, which is also attested as kírkos. The name Kírkē could be simply the feminized form of the latter, and refer to the circular path of the sun from east to west.

Circe’s positive aspect is equally plain. After “imprisoning” the companions, she also sets them free by returning them to human form. She becomes the lover of Odysseus, moreover, and helps him with his journey home by describing the dangers he will encounter. Like Teiresias, she gives Odysseus a necessary foreknowledge, which can be interpreted as a kind of nóos.

The role of nóos is perceptible throughout the Circe episode. In the case of the companions this role is predictably negative. When in x 231 they first follow Circe into her palace, they do so out of “witlessness”:

οἱ δ’ ἅμα πάντες ἀïδρείῃσιν ἕποντο.

More telling is the fact that Circe uses her drugs to make the companions “forget” their fatherland (x 236):

ἵνα πάγχυ λαθοίατο πατρίδος αἴης.

The collocation lathoíato patrídos aíēs, “that they might forget their fatherland,” is balanced by the collocation mimnḗskeo patrídos aíēs, “remember your fatherland,” in x 472, where the companions bid their leader to leave Circe’s island; the significance of these collocations was discussed at the beginning of this chapter.

Odysseus, on the other hand, is saved from Circe by receiving the necessary occult knowledge before he enters her palace from Hermes, who serves as his guide in this dangerous encounter. [32] {51|52} At first Odysseus too is ignorant. Hermes asks him in x 282 where he is going khṓrou áïdris eṓn, “being ignorant of the land,” and warns him that in such ignorance not even he will “return” (x 284-85):

οὐδέ σέ φημι
αὐτὸν νοστήσειν, μενέεις δὲ σύ γ’ ἔνθα περ ἄλλοι.

Hermes enables Odysseus to “return” by explaining beforehand Circe’s wiles and the antidote to them. In both cases he “tells” the hero what he must know (x 289, 291-92):

πάντα δέ τοι ἐρέω ὀλοφώïα δήνεα Κίρκης. . . .
ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὣς θέλξαι σε δυνήσεται· οὐ γὰρ ἐάσει
φάρμακον ἐσθλόν, ὅ τοι δώσω, ἐρέω δέ ἕκαστα.

I will tell you about all the cunning wiles of Circe. . . . She will not be able to charm you, for the good drug, which I will give to you and tell you all about, will not allow it.

In lines 302-03, the hero says that Hermes gave him a phármakon and “explained its nature” (kaí moi phúsin autoũ édeixe). Its nature is very interesting. The phármakon is a plant with a black root and a white blossom, a color-contrast entirely appropriate to the underlying meaning of the Circe episode; [
34] one also notes {52|53} that the use of the magic plant seems to be restricted to the chosen few (304 ff.):

ῥίξῃ μὲν μέλαν ἔσκε, γάλακτι δὲ εἴκελον ἄνθος·
μῶλυ δέ μιν καλέουσι θεοί· χαλεπὸν δέ τ’ ὀρύσσειν
ἀνδράσι γε θνητοῖσι· θεοὶ δέ τε πάντα δύνανται.

On the root it was black, but its flower was like milk: moly is the name the gods give to it, and it is difficult for mortal men to dig up; the gods, on the other hand, are able to do everything.

It seems clear that Hermes gives Odysseus exclusive knowledge with which to pass through darkness to light, or through death to life. In an underlying sense, therefore, nóos is the nóstos in the Circe episode. [

3. The Ciconians, the Cyclops, and the Laestrygonians

The episodes just considered provide explicit evidence for the “return from death” and for the role of sun symbolism in the nóstos of Odysseus; in the next group of episodes these features are less explicit. What binds these episodes together for us is the fact that they all end with the refrain containing the line:

ásmenoi ek thanátoio, phílous olésantes hetaírous.

On the basis of this refrain, one might expect the “return from death” to be a particularly marked feature in each episode. That {53|54} it is not is explained by the fact that Homer no longer understood the original meaning of the word ásmenos. Much of the content in these episodes, especially the two minor ones, must have been fashioned after the refrain had lost its original meaning. Such material would be too late, not only to be concerned with a return from death, but also to grant much scope to the role of the sun. Nevertheless, the episodes in question, particularly that of the Cyclops, do contain significant traces of what we are looking for.

In spite of these remarks, however, the refrain is not wholly inappropriate to its present context. For the Ciconians do not belong completely to the world of the Iliad, but are, rather, a bridge from this world to the fabulous world of the Odyssey. In fact, an element from the latter world—the slaughter of the Sun’s cattle—seems to have been adapted to the Ciconian episode. All would have escaped unharmed following the sack had the companions not stopped to slaughter and eat their booty; Odysseus bids them to flee, but they, in their witlessness, do not obey (ix 44 ff.):

τοὶ δὲ μέγα νήπιοι οὐκ ἐπίθοντο.
ἔνθα δὲ πολλὸν μὲν μέθυ πίνετο, πολλὰ δὲ μῆλα
ἔσφαζον παρὰ θῖνα καὶ εἰλίποδας ἕλικας βοῦς.

But they, the great fools, did not obey. Much wine was then drunk, and along the shore they slaughtered many sheep and shambling cattle with curved horns.

{55|56} The cause of destruction here, just as in the slaughter of the Sun’s cattle, is the mindlessness of the companions. The word nḗpioi, “fools,” in line 44 echoes i 8-9:

νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιο

The fools (nḗpioi), who ate the cattle of Helios.

The suggestion of drunkenness in line 45 provides another indication of “mindlessness.”

Before discussing the Cyclops episode, which is the most important in this group, we will first consider that of the Laestrygonians; it occurs last and, like the Ciconian episode, is relatively minor. It does, however, parallel the adventure with the Cyclops in several details, both latent and explicit, and thus serves as a good introduction to that adventure.

I shall presently argue that the Cyclops’ cave was originally a place of death—an “underworld”—from which the hero {57|58} “returned.” One is thus tempted to see the Laestrygonian harbor in the same terms. At the same time, one of course realizes that this would no longer have been Homer’s own conception. The reinterpretation of the formulaic refrain with which the Laestrygonian episode ends was considered fully in chapter 2 and need not be reconsidered here. What emerged was simply that what was once a “return from death” had become a matter of “escape” in Homer’s understanding.

In light of this it is not surprising that Odysseus himself never enters the Laestrygonian harbor, the place of death; he alone keeps his ship outside (x 95):

αὐταρ ἐγὼν οἶος σχέθον ἔξω νῆα μέλαιναν.

This detail makes his ultimate “escape” still less a “return from death.”

Concerning the role of nóos in the Laestrygonian episode there is little to say. The most that can be said is that Odysseus, in mooring his ship outside the harbor, displays his usual prudence.

Much more important, however, are the obscure lines at the beginning of the episode that describe the Laestrygonian kingdom (x 81 ff.):

ἑβδομάτῃ δ’ ἱκόμεσθα Λάμου αἰπὺ πτολίεθρον,
Τηλέπυλον Λαιστρυγονίην, ὅθι ποιμένα ποιμὴν
ἠπύει εὶσελάων, ὁ δέ τ’ ἐξελάων ὑπακούει.
ἔνθα κ’ ἄüπνος ἀνὴρ δοιοὺς ἐξήρατο μισθούς,
τὸν μὲν βουκολέων, τὸν δ’ ἄργυφα μῆλα νομεύων·
ἐγγὺς γὰρ νυκτός τε καὶ ἤματός εἰσι κέλευθοι.

On the seventh day we came to the steep citadel of Lamus, Laestrygonian Telepylos, where shepherd calls out to shepherd as he drives his flocks in, and the other, driving his flocks out, hears him. There a sleepless man would earn two wages, one by herding cattle, and the other by pasturing silvery sheep, for the paths of night and day are close together.

Particularly obscure is the poet’s precise meaning in line 86, when he says that “the paths of day and night are close together.” W.B. Stanford takes this to be a “muddled reference” to the short nights of northern latitudes. [
41] This interpretation would seem to be right in view of the preceding lines, which state that “in this place a sleepless man might earn a double wage.” By working all the daylight hours of summer in the extreme north, one would in fact earn a “double wage.”

But if Homer is suggesting a northern location, this conflicts with what is otherwise known about the Laestrygonians. Thucydides 6.2.1 attests the apparently orthodox tradition, according to which the Laestrygonians (together with the Cyclopes!) dwelt in Sicily—that is, in the West:

παλαίτατοι μὲν λέγονται ἐν μέρει τινὶ τῆς χώρας Κύκλωπες καὶ Λαιστρυγόνες οἰκῆσαι, ὧν ἐγὼ οὔτε γένος ἔχω εἰπεῖν οὔτε ὁπόθεν ἐσῆλθον ἢ ὅποι ἀπεχώρησαν· ἀρκείτω δὲ ὡς ποιηταῖς τε εἴρηται καὶ ὡς ἕκαστός πῃ γιγνώσκει περὶ αὐτῶν. {59|60}

It is said that the earliest inhabitants of any part of the country were the Cyclopes and Laestrygonians. I cannot say what kind of people these were or where they came from or where they went in the end. On these points we must be content with what the poets have said and what anyone else may happen to know.

This argument can be carried a step further. The gates described by Parmenides stand at the entrance to the “house of Night” (dṓmata Nuktós, in 1.9). Hesiod, in the Theogony, also speaks of the “house of Night,” which he designates with the words Nuktòs d’ erebennē̂s oikía deiná, in line 744; following this the {60|61} poet gives a very explicit description of how day and night pass as they enter and leave this house. This description implies the “gates of the paths of day and night,” although Hesiod himself refers to the meeting-point as a “threshold.” [43] I shall quote the entire passage here, since it conveys so eloquently the mythic background that is latent in Homer; one detail, however, is particularly important, and will be emphasized:

Νυκτὸς δ’ ἐρεβεννῆς οἰκία δεινὰ
ἕστηκεν νεφέλῃς κεκαλυμμένα κυανέῃσιν.
τῶν πρόσθ’ Ἰαπετοῖο πάις ἔχει οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν
ἑστηὼς κεφαλῇ τε καὶ ἀκαμάτῃσι χέρεσσιν
ἀστεμφέως, ὅθι Νύξ τε καὶ Ἡμέρη ἆσσον ἰοῦσαι
ἀλλήλας προσέειπον, ἀμειβόμεναι μέγαν οὐδὸν
χάλκεον· ἣ μὲν ἔσω καταβήσεται, ἣ δὲ θύραζε
ἔρχεται, οὐδέ ποτ’ ἀμφοτέρας δόμος ἐντὸς ἐέργει,
ἀλλ’ αἰεὶ ἑτέρη γε δόμων ἔκτοσθεν ἐοῦσα
γαῖαν ἐπιστρέφεται, ἣ δ’ αὖ δόμου ἐντὸς ἐοῦσα
μίμνει τὴν αὐτῆς ὥρην ὁδοῦ, ἔς τ’ ἂν ἵκηται,
ἣ μὲν ἐπιχθονίοισι φάος πολυδερκὲς ἔχουσα,
ἣ δ’ Ὓπνον μετὰ χερσί, κασίγνητον Θανάτοιο
Νὺξ ὀλοή, νεφέλῃ κεκαλυμμένη ἠεροειδεῖ.

Here stands the dread house of dark Night covered with black clouds. Before the house stands the son of Iapetus, holding fast the wide heaven on his head and untiring arms, at the place where Night and Day address each other as they pass, crossing over the great bronze threshold: one of them goes down within while the other comes out, so that the house never contains both of them, but one is always outside the house traveling over the earth, while the other is inside the house waiting for the time of her journey to come; one of them brings the far-seeing light to those on earth, while the other, baneful Night covered with murky clouds, carries Sleep, the brother of Death, in her hands. {61|62}

When “Night and Day address each other as they pass, crossing over the great bronze threshold,” we cannot help but be reminded of Tēlépulos, “where shepherd, driving in his flocks, cries out to shepherd, and the other, driving his flocks out, hears the call.” The Homeric and Hesiodic passages cannot be separated.

The unrealistic quality of the Hesiodic passage provides the key to understanding what Homer has done. It was seen earlier in this study that Circe belongs to both east and west at the same time, and that Homer, seeking a rational solution to this incongruity, has Odysseus enter the underworld from her domain by sailing northward past the Cimmerians. There is now every reason to believe that the same thing has happened in Homer’s handling of the Laestrygonian episode. The tradition behind this episode represented Tēlépulos Laistrugoníē as that nonexistent {62|63} point where the sun both rises and sets. Homer’s only rational recourse was to picture the Laestrygonians as dwelling in the extreme north.

Part of the elaboration of the Cyclops episode is that it has a separate point of entry and exit. Serving as a threshold to the encounter is an offshore island where Odysseus and his men spend a day both before and after they meet the Cyclops (ix 116 ff. and ix 543 ff.). Significantly, the traditional refrain occurs at the final departure of Odysseus from this island (ix 565-66). Homer has again simply tacked the refrain on at the end of his own (in this case elaborate) creation.

The preceding observations imply two things: first, that the “return from death,” however traditional in the Cyclops episode, {64|65} has become as latent here as in the minor episodes; and second, that this latent feature is to be connected closely with the Cyclops’ cave.

For this reason Kuhn’s explanation of the name Kúklōps remains the simplest and the best. The Cyclops, as “circle-eyed,” would originally have symbolized the sun itself; this connection accounts for the similarity between the Cyclops and the Paṇis sufficiently well, for the Paṇis, like the Cyclops, apparently have to do with an archaic myth of the sun and the sun’s cattle.

Two points have now been considered in connection with the Cyclops: a latent “return from death” and the latent role of the sun. The remaining point is the role of nóos. That this is very important in the Cyclops episode requires no lengthy proof, for the famous intelligence of Odysseus is nowhere more prominent {69|70} than in the escape from the Cyclops’s cave. One first notices how tightly the latent “return from death” is connected with words denoting intelligence in the following lines (ix 420 ff.):

αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ βούλευον, ὅπως ὄχ’ ἄριστα γένοιτο,
εἴ τιν’ ἑταίροισιν θανάτου λύσιν ἠδ’ ἐμοὶ αὐτῷ
εὑροίμην· πάντας δὲ δόλους καὶ μῆτιν ὕφαινον,
ὥς τε περὶ ψυχῆς· μέγα γὰρ κακὸν ἐγγύθεν ἦεν.

But I took counsel so that what was best might come about, to see if I could find some release from death for my companions and myself; I wove all sorts of plots and schemes, as if for my life, for a greater evil was near at hand.

Other examples of “intelligence” may also be cited. Odysseus says that the Cyclops tried to trick him into revealing where his ship was, but did not succeed because he (Odysseus) was too wise (ix 281):

ὣς φάτο πειράζων, ἐμὲ δ’ οὐ λάθεν εἰδότα πολλά.

So he spoke, testing me, but he did not escape my notice since I knew many things.

The importance of “mind” in the Cyclops episode can also be judged from references occurring elsewhere in the Odyssey. On the night before Odysseus kills the suitors, he steels himself by recalling how he took courage even in the Cyclops’s cave (xx 20–21):

σὺ δ’ ἐτόλμας, ὄφρα σε μῆτις
ἐξάγαγ’ ἐξ ἄντροιο ὀïόμενον θανέεσθαι.

But you took courage until intelligence led you out of the cave, although you thought you would die.

The word mē̂tis is again used, and Homer could not have done more to connect “mind” with “return” than he does by using the words se mē̂tis exágag’, “intelligence led you out.” Again, when Odysseus approaches Scylla and Charybdis, he encourages his companions with the thought that nothing could be worse than the Cyclops; he then adds (xii 211–12):

ἀλλὰ καὶ ἔνθεν ἐμῇ ἀρετῇ βουλῇ τε νόῳ τε

But we escaped from that place by means of my valor, my plan, and my intelligence. {71|72}

The reason for the change in vocabulary is easy to see. In the first instance, nóos was the “return from death,” but Homer was at most only dimly aware of this. One detail alone in his story suggests the original relation between “mind” and “return.” This, significantly, appears at the very moment when Odysseus emerges from the cave. At this point (ix 444–445) the text reads:

ὕστατος ἀρνειὸς μήλων ἔστειχε θύραζε,
λάχνῳ στεινόμενος καὶ ἐμοὶ πυκινὰ φρονέοντι.

Last among the sheep the ram went out of the doorway, loaded with his own fleece, and with me, and my close counsels.

With the words pukinà phronéonti, “having close counsels,” which refer to no definite “thought” or “plan,” Homer comes closest to realizing the originally neutral sense of nóos.

4. The Return to Ithaca

During the final voyage from Phaeacia to Ithaca, on the other hand, sleep and the return to consciousness become literal motifs. When this voyage begins Odysseus falls into a deep sleep, and remains there until he reaches home. Homer prepares for this feature of the story well in advance. At an early point King Alcinoos takes measures to ensure that the gifts given to Odysseus will not be harmed when he “sleeps” on his return (viii 444–445):

ὁππότ’ ἂν αὖτε
εὕδῃσθα γλυκὺν ὕπνον ἰὼν ἐν νηῒ μελαίνῃ

. . . whenever you fall into a sweet sleep going on the black ship.

The Phaeacians, moreover, carefully prepare a bed for Odysseus before the voyage begins. These details show that “sleep” was to be a basic part of the “return.” {74|75}

More significant is the fact that the sleep which falls upon Odysseus is all but equated with death in the following lines (xiii 79–80):

καὶ τῷ νήδυμος ὕπνος ἐπὶ βλεφάροισιν ἔπιπτε
νήγρετος ἥδιστος, θανάτῳ ἄγχιστα ἐοικώς.

And upon his eyes there fell a gentle sleep, the sweetest sort of sleep with no awakening, which was most like death.

The sleep of Odysseus also contains a suggestion of lḗthē, the “forgetfulness of death,” in the following description of the sleeping hero (xiii 90 ff.):

ὃς πρὶν μὲν μάλα πολλὰ παθ’ ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμὸν
ἀνδρῶν τε πτολέμους ἀλεγεινά τε κύματα πείρων,
δὴ τότε γ’ ἀτρέμας εὗδε, λελασμένος ὅσσ’ ἐπεπόνθει.

He who before this had suffered many woes in his heart, the battles of men and crossing the hard seas, now slept still, forgetting all that he had suffered.

The virtual equation between sleep and death is very revealing. It was suggested earlier in this chapter that when Odysseus falls asleep in Thrinacia he is experiencing a kind of passage through death. The description of the hero’s final voyage supports this suggestion.

The equation is also highly relevant to the original meaning of the word nóos. In chapter 2 it was suggested that the word originally designated something close to “consciousness.” The role of sleep during the final voyage supports this suggestion as well.

One may now observe more closely how the final voyage preserves the connection between nóos and the “return to consciousness.” The last passage quoted above suggests that when the hero falls asleep, his nóos is removed by lḗthē. He forgets his past sufferings, whether in Troy or on the way home. {75|76} But Odysseus is now on his final “return to life,” and his nóos should therefore be ready to reemerge. This is in fact suggested in the lines immediately preceding the last passage quoted above; the lines refer to the speeding Phaeacian ship which carries Odysseus (xiii 88–89):

ὣς ἡ ῥίηφα θέουσα θαλάσσης κύματ’ ἔταμνεν,
ἄνδρα φέρουσα θεοῖς ἐναλίγκια μήδε’ ἔχοντα.

Thus the quick-running ship cut across the waves of the sea, carrying a man whose counsels were like the gods’.

One is strongly reminded of the return from the Cyclops’s cave (ix 444–445):

ὕστατος ἀρνειὸς μήλων ἔστειχε θύραζε,
λάχνῳ στεινόμενος καὶ ἐμοὶ πυκινὰ φρονέοντι.

Last among the sheep the ram went out of the doorway, loaded with his own fleece, and with me, and my close counsels.

But this is only an intermediate stage. The nóos of Odysseus should properly reappear only when he reawakens in his homeland. And so it seems to happen in the Homeric poem. Waiting to give Odysseus advice when he returns is the goddess Athena. The striking feature of the encounter that follows is the attention given to “intelligence,” particularly through the words nóos and nóēma. Before Odysseus recognizes Athena, he tries to deceive her with one of his Cretan tales. Homer comments on this as follows (xiii 254–255):

οὐδ’ ὅ γ’ ἀληθέα εἶπε, πάλιν δ’ ὅ γε λάζετο μῦθον,
αἰεὶ ἐνὶ στήθεσσι νόον πολυκερδέα νωμῶν.

He did not tell the truth, but held back his speech, always plying his clever mind within his breast. {76|77}

When Athena reveals herself and puts the lie to this tale, she continues (xiii 296 ff.):

ἀλλ’ ἄγε, μηκέτι ταῦτα λεγώμεθα, εἰδότες ἄμφω
κέρδε’, ἐπεὶ σὺ μέν ἐσσι βροτῶν ὄχ’ ἄριστος ἁπάντων
βουλῇ καὶ μύθοισιν, ἐγὼ δ’ ἐν πᾶσι θεοῖσι
μήτι τε κλέομαι καὶ κέρδεσιν.

But come, let us no longer say these things when both of us know cunning ways, since you among all mortals are by far the best in counsel and speech, and I among gods am famed for my intelligence and craft.

And when Odysseus demands assurance that he himself has not been deceived about his finally being home in Ithaca, Athena gently rebukes him as follows (xiii 330 ff.):

αἰεί τοι τοιοῦτον ἐνὶ στήθεσσι νόημα·
τῷ σε καὶ οὐ δύναμαι προλιπεῖν δύστηνον ἐόντα,
οὕνεκ’ ἐπητής ἐσσι καὶ ἀγχίνοος καὶ ἐχέφρων.

The intention in your breast is always such, and thus I cannot abandon you in your plight, for you are reserved, close-witted, and shrewd.

So explained, the name of the Phaeacian king harmonizes excellently with the special funciton of his people, which was to “bring back” strangers like Odysseus. This correspondence lends great conviction to Mühlestein’s argument that the name Alkínoos should be dissociated from the noun nóos; the only {79|80} necessary qualification is that, while the name and the noun are not immediately related, they both still contain the same root, nes-.

The ambiguous status of the Phaeacians prepares the way for my next chapter, the subject of which will be Nestor, a figure who, like the Phaeacians, often seems somewhat remote from the hard concerns of mortal life. It should emerge from the following pages that the similarity between Nestor and the Phaeacians is not accidental, but has to do with their originally common function. {80|81}


[ back ] 1. For a short bibliography of literature on this subject, see E.R. Dodds, “Homeric,” in M. Platnauer, ed., Fifty Years of Classical Scholarship (Oxford, 1954), pp. 7, 32 n. 19 [ = Language and Background of Homer (chap. 2, n. 13), pp. 7, 18 n. 19].

[ back ] 2. According to one tradition, Sisyphus was the father of Odysseus (cf. Sophocles Ajax 189–190). A fragment of Alcaeus (B 6A in Lobel-Page) seems to represent Sisyphus as having succumbed to death in spite of his wisdom; cf. lines 5–8: καὶ γὰρ Σίσυφος Αἰολίδαις βασίλευς [ / ἄνδρων πλεῖστα νοησάμενος [ / ἀλλὰ καὶ πολύιδρις ἔων ὐπὰ καρι [ / διννάεντ’ ‘Αχέροντ’ ἐπέραισε, μ[

[ back ] 3. Cf. D. Page, The Homeric Odyssey (Oxford, 1955), p. 2.

[ back ] 4. For the connection among these episodes, cf. end note 1.

[ back ] 5. xii 338–339. For a sleep which is like death, cf. the final return of Odysseus to Ithaca, discussed in sect. 4 below. Húpnos “Sleep,” is called the brother of Thánatos “Death,” in Hesiod Theogony 756; both are the children of Núx, “Night,” (Theogony 758–759). Húpnos and Thánatos are also mentioned together in XVI 672, where both are charged with the duty of bearing Sarpedon back to Lycia.

[ back ] 6. According to Page, Homeric Odyssey, pp. 44–46, Elpenor was a traditional part of the Nekyia who was used by Homer to connect the Nekyia with the rest of the Odyssey. Page, however, does not offer any explanation of Elpenor’s original role.

[ back ] 7. Even in the poem as we have it, Teiresias has less to say about the “way home” than Circe does (cf. end note 1); another detail showing that Teiresias’s prophecy has more to do with “life and death” than with the “way home” is his mention of the thánatos . . . ex halós, “death from the sea” (xi 134) which will overcome Odysseus in his old age.

[ back ] 8. Homer emphasizes that the journey to Hades is undertaken to “gain knowledge from Teiresias” (x 537, Teiresíao puthésthai; the formula is repeated at xi 50 and 89). For the importance of secret knowledge with respect to sun symbolism, see chap. 2, sect. 3 above.

[ back ] 9. For this idea, cf. the paragraphs quoted from Eliade in chap. 2, sect. 1 above.

[ back ] 10. See W.B. Stanford, The Odyssey of Homer 2 (London, 1959) 1: 410, where a proposed connection with neíaira in the unattested sense, “depths of the sea” (from which the sun seems to rise), is also mentioned.

[ back ] 11. So P. Chantraine, Formation des noms en grec ancien (Paris, 1933), p. 104; for a different interpretation of the epithet, cf. R. Schmitt, Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit (chap. 2, n. 28), pp. 177–178. One may also compare the name Dáeira, related to daē̃nai (Chantraine, ibid.).

[ back ] 12. In later Greek mythology, there were ten or so figures with the name Neaira; see, W. Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (Leipzig, 1897–1909), vol. 3, cols. 43–44.

[ back ] 13. Herodotus tells the story of Euenius after mentioning that a prophet named Deiphonus, who claimed to be the son of Euenius, was with the Greek fleet at Samos between the battles of Salamis and Mycale. Herodotus ends his account in 9.95 by stating that he had heard that Deiphonus was not in fact the son of Euenius, but claimed to be in order to trade on the name of a famous man. Given Euenius’s fame, it is easy to understand how he became the subject for legend.

[ back ] 14. The blinding of Euenius, which has no parallel in Odyssey 12, has a more distant parallel in the Indic myth of Ṛjrāśva, which is referred to twice in the Rig-Veda. According to RV 1.116.16 and 1.117.17–18, Ṛjrāśva was blinded by his father for having slaughtered one hundred and one rams to a she wolf, and the Aśvins—divine twins—restored his eyes when the wolf intervened on his behalf; for the connection of the Vedic twins with sheep and cattle, sunrise, intelligence, and the root nes-, see chap. 6, sect. 4 below. For the theme of blinding as a solar motif, consider also the Cyclops in Odyssey 9, whose solar origins are discussed in section 3 below.

[ back ] 15. The “ruddy cows” of the Dawn goddess Uṣas are frequently referred to in the Rig-Veda; see A.A. Macdonell, Vedic Mythology (Strassburg, 1897), pp. 46–47.

[ back ] 16. See H. Oldenberg, Die Religion des Veda (Berlin, 1894), p. 147.

[ back ] 17. For Vedic references, see Macdonell, Vedic Mythology, pp. 63–64, 157.

[ back ] 18. For Vala, see ibid., pp. 159–160.

[ back ] 19. See ibid., p. 142 for the Angirases, p. 144 for the seven Ṛṣis, and pp. 101–104 for Bṛhaspati.

[ back ] 20. The very name Paṇi means “niggard,” and reflects the preoccupation of the Vedic poet/priests with large rewards of cattle; see Oldenberg (n. 16), pp. 143–150.

[ back ] 21. See Oldenberg, p. 144 for evidence that the myth of the winning of the cattle belonged to a priestly class at least as early as Common Indo-Iranian.

[ back ] 22. The expression in Herodotus 9.93.1 is ἐν δὲ ἄντρῳ αὐλίζονται ἀπὸ τῆς πόλιος ἑκάς, “they are stabled in a cave far away from the city.”

[ back ] 23. Apollodorus 1.6.1 mentions cattle of Helios on the island of Erytheia that were driven off by the giant Alcyoneus; these seem to be equivalents of the cattle of Geryon, and vice versa. Heracles himself, in order to reach Erytheia, uses the golden cup of Helios (see Apollodorus 2.5.10).

[ back ] 24. σταθμῷ ἐν ἠερόεντι, Theogony 294.

[ back ] 25. See U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Glaube der Hellenen (Berlin, 1931), 1: 276, and H. J. Rose, Handbook of Greek Mythology 5 (London, 1953), pp. 214–215.

[ back ] 26. It was through this entrance that Heracles is said to have descended to Hades to fetch Cerberus (see Apollodorus 2.5.12).

[ back ] 27. As Odysseus’s ship approaches Thrinacia, he hears the lowing of “stabled cattle” (βοῶν αὐλιζομενάων, xii 265), but we hear no more about their stable.

[ back ] 28. See W.B. Stanford, The Odyssey of Homer (n. 10), p. 382, for the five variant readings in antiquity. On an etymological connection of Κιμμέριοι with Hesych. κέμμερος· ἀχλύς, ὁμίχλη. “mist,” and Hittite kammara-, “fog, darkness,” see G. Neumann, Untersuchungen zum Weiterleben hethitischen und luvischen Sprachgutes in hellenistischer und römischer Zeit (1961), pp. 31–32; A. Heubeck, Hermes 91 (1963): 490–492; C. Nylander, Hermes 93 (1965): 131–132; M.L. Mayer, Acme 20 (1967): 289–290.

[ back ] 29. For further discussion of this passage in Hesiod, see sect. 3 below.

[ back ] 30. M. Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion (chap. 2, n. 22), p. 143

[ back ] 31. Notice also that when Odysseus himself “returns” (x 419) unharmed from Circe’s palace, his remaining companions, who are said to be as happy as if they had “returned home” (x 416 ff.), are compared to heifers that have been freed from their pens (x 410 ff.)

[ back ] 32. The presence of Hermes at this moment is significant, for he both leads to death (as psychopomp) and brings back to life; see sect. 4 below for his role in bringing Odysseus back from Ogygia, and chap. 7 for his role in guiding Priam in Iliad 24. Notice what Hermes says to Odysseus in the present episode (l. 286): ἀλλ’ ἄγε δή σε κακῶν ἐκλύσομαι ἠδὲ σαώσω. (But come, I will free you from evils and save you.)

[ back ] 33. The verb nostḗsein is significant; Homer seems to realize that merely by emerging alive from Circe’s palace Odysseus accomplishes a nóstos, originally a “return to life.” In order to reconcile this with his own understanding of nóstos, Homer has the remaining companions say to Odysseus when he “returns” unharmed from the palace (x 419–420): σοὶ μὲν νοστήσαντι, διοτρεφές, ὣς ἐχάρημεν, / ὡς εἴ τ’ εἰς Ἰθάκην ἀφικοίμεθα πατρίδα γαῖαν. (We rejoiced at your return [nostḗsanti], O Zeus-nourished king, as if we had arrived in Ithaca our fatherland.)

[ back ] 34. For the significance of the color white in Indo-European tradition, see L. Gerschel, “Couleur et teinture chez divers peuples indo-européens,” Annales Économies Sociétés Civilisations 21 (1966): 608–631.

[ back ] 35. In x 240 the companions, who have been turned into swine, are described as in all respects swinelike, except that their “mind was intact as before” (noũs ē̂n émpedos hōs tò páros per). It is hard to tell whether noũs has any traditional significance here. The form (only here in Homer is nóos contracted) is late, but the companions do in fact “return” to human form. Probably the poet only meant to say that the companions had not irrevocably been turned into swine; it remains unclear how he related noũs to their eventual “return.”

[ back ] 36. Cf. C.H. Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition (Cambridge, 1958), p. 298.

[ back ] 37. See above chap. 2, text at n. 16 and n. 17.

[ back ] 38. The passage is similar to XVI 777 ff., describing the course of the battle in which Patroclus dies: ὄφρα μὲν Ἠέλιος μέσον οὐρανὸν ἀμφιβεβήκει, / τόφρα μάλ’ ἀμφοτέρων βέλε’ ἥπτετο, πῖπτε δὲ λαός· / ἦμος δ’ Ἠελιος μετενίσετο βουλυτόνδε, / καὶ τότε δή ῥ’ ὑπὲρ αἶσαν Ἀχαιοὶ φέρτεροι ἦσαν, “While Helios was covering mid-heaven the weapons of both sides took hold and men fell; but when Helios began to set the Achaeans were stronger, beyond their destiny.” The line describing the movement of the sun as it begins to set, which is virtually the same in the two passages (ix 58 = XVI 779), contains the peculiar word boulutónde, “to the time for the unyoking of oxen;” see end note 2 for a discussion of the possibility that this word has been reinterpreted by the Homeric poets, and that the “oxen” in question were originally the cattle of Helios himself.

[ back ] 39. Compare x 112–113 and 120; 121–122; 82 ff. and 98; 116 and 124 with ix 190 ff.; 481 ff. and 537 ff.; 108, 167, and 187–188; 291.

[ back ] 40. Cf. the name Stúx, “Styx,” and the adjective stugerós, “dreaded,” in the expressions stugeròs d’ ára min skótos heĩle, “dreaded darkness seized him” (in, e.g., V 47) and stugeroũ Aḯdao, “dreaded Hades” (VIII 368).

[ back ] 41. W.B. Stanford, The Odyssey of Homer (n. 10), p. 368.

[ back ] 42. I believe that, tēlépulos was originally an epithet (“far-gated”) describing Laistrugoníē, and not a proper noun; nevertheless, I have followed the usual interpretation in the text.

[ back ] 43. Hesiod mentions “gates” (puléōn) in l. 741, but it is not clear whether these gates are related to the “threshold” in l. 749.

[ back ] 44. Cf. the discussion of the Hesiodic passage by Hermann Fränkel, Dichtung und Philosophie des frühen Griechentums, Philological Monograph no. 13, American Philological Association (1951), p. 147: “Es ist immer Tag oder Nacht, und die Schwelle repräsentiert das Oder, in einem mehr metaphysischen als räumlichen Sinn. Sie müsste sonst im Westen und Osten zugleich liegen. Hesiods Schilderung der Unterwelt ist nicht als Topographie gemeint.” (“It is always day or night, and the threshold represents the ‘or’ [the alternative between the two] in a more metaphysical than spatial sense. Otherwise it would have to lie in both west and east at the same time. Hesiod’s description of the underworld is not meant as topography.”)

[ back ] 45. In Theogony 740, Hesiod refers to a khásma méga, “great chasm,” which seems to be the same as the “house of night” (but cf. n. 43 above).

[ back ] 46. Notice that whereas the full traditional refrain is given at the end of the first, third, and fifth episodes, only the first line of it is given after the second and fourth episodes (ix 105 and x 77). For a discussion of the “geometric” arrangement of all the episodes in the first half of the Odyssey, see C.H. Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition (n. 36), p. 288.

[ back ] 47. This recasting, since it stands farther from the traditional refrain than in the other two cases (see above chap. 2, text at n. 16 and n. 17 and chap. 3, text at n. 37), is somewhat looser; there is no form of óllumi, “to lose,” and the word aspásios, “welcome,” in contrast to the Laestrygonian episode, is dissociated from the verb pheúgo, “to escape,” and is used in a different sense (“welcome” rather than “happy”).

[ back ] 48. Cf. C.H. Whitman, Homer and the Heroic Tradition (n. 36), pp. 299–300.

[ back ] 49. With psukhē̂s in this passage, compare the expression arnúmenos hḗn te psukhḗn, “winning his life,” in i 5 and the discussion of this in chap. 2, n. 19. With thanátou lúsin, “release from death,” compare the same expression and its context in Theognis 1009–1010: οὐ γὰρ ἀνηβᾶν / δὶς πέλεται πρὸς θεῶν οὐδὲ λύσις θανάτου, “There is from the gods no growing young again for a second time, nor a release from death [thanátou lúsin].” The verb anēbā̂n, “grow young again,” strongly suggests “rebirth.”

[ back ] 50. It should be emphasized that of the episodes which end with the traditional refrain only the present one contains a graphic “return”; the cave of the Cyclops, more than anything else, illustrates what the refrain originally meant.

[ back ] 51. This interpretation begins at least with Hesiod Theogony 144.

[ back ] 52. A. Kuhn, Die Herabkunft des Feuers und des Göttertrankes (Berlin, 1859), p. 54 [ = A. Kuhn, Mythologische Studien (Gütersloh, 1886), p. 51]; cf. also R. Schmitt, Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit (chap. 2, n. 28), p. 167–169.

[ back ] 53. Notice that in Hesiod Theogony 144–145: Κύκλωπες δ’ ὄνομ’ ἦσαν ἐπώνυμον, οὕνεκ’ ἄρα σφέων / κυκλοτερὴς ὀφθαλμὸς ἕεις ἐνέκειτο μετώπῳ, “They were called by the names Cyclopes because one circular eye had been placed in their forehead,” the fact of having one eye is expressed by the word héeis, “one,” and not by the word kukloterḗs, “circular.”

[ back ] 54. Cf. the discussion of R. Schmitt, Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit (chap. 2, n. 28), p. 167; so I also interpret the remark “sachlich unbefriedigend” of H. Frisk, Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (chap. 1, n. 4), s.v.

[ back ] 55. For the difficulties which the negative aspect of sun symbolism might create for the rational mind, cf. the following remark of M. Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion (chap. 2, n. 22), p. 144: “The hierophanies of the sun display, indeed, dimensions that the sun merely as such would lose in any purely rational or profane perspective. But those dimensions hold a definite place in any primitive system of myth and metaphysic.”

[ back ] 56. R. Schmitt, Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit (chap. 2, n. 28), p. 168.

[ back ] 57. The three names have to do, respectively, with “thunder,” “lightening,” and “brightness.”

[ back ] 58. P. Thieme, “Etymologische Vexierbilder,” Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung 69 (1951): 177–178 [ = Kleine Schriften (Wiesbaden, 1971), 1 : 62–63].

[ back ] 59. The meaning in Indo-European seems in fact to have been “moveable property” rather than “cattle”; cf. n. 64 below.

[ back ] 60. In addition to the article cited above (n. 58), see also P. Thieme, “Beiträge zur Vedaexegese, 2. śurúdh,” Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft 95 (1941): 338 ff. [ = Kleine Schriften 1:42 ff.].

[ back ] 61. Notice the initial description of the cave (ix 182 ff.): ἔνθα δ’ ἐπ’ ἐσχατιῇ σπέος εἴδομεν, ἄγχι θαλάσσης, / ὑψηλόν, δάφνῃσι κατηρεφές· ἔνθα δὲ πολλὰ / μῆλ’, ὄïές τε καὶ αἶγες ἰαύεσκον, “There at the edge of the land we saw the cave, close to the sea, high, covered with laurels; there many small animals, sheep and goats, passed the night.” The fact that the rams are left outside the cave on the first night (ix 238) and are brought inside on the second night (ix 337) has to do mainly with a plot device.

[ back ] 62. See sect. 2 above for the role of knowledge in the Paṇi myth, and below in text for the role of “mind” in the escape of Odysseus from the cave.

[ back ] 63. The type does exist, however; cf. the pair méli, blíttō.

[ back ] 64. A recent study by É. Benveniste makes it probable that a Greek form *peku once existed. In Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes, vol. 1 (chap. 1, n. 6), chap. 4, “Le bétail et l’argent; pecu et pecūnia,” Benveniste shows that Indo-European *peku did not mean “cattle,” but “moveable property” in general; in chap. 3, “Próbaton et l’économie homérique,” he shows that the Greek words próbasis and () próbata likewise originally meant “moveable property.” On the basis of this, he draws the following conclusion (p. 59): “Il est intéressant de noter—les comparatistes n’y ont pas prêté assez d’attention—que *peku manque en grec. Ce n’est pas un hasard. Une notion aussi importante ne pouvait simplement disparaître. Le terme indo-européen a été, en fait, remplacé en grec par une désignation nouvelle, qui porte le même sense; c’est hom. próbasis, avec son équivalent beaucoup plus commun, próbata.”

[ back ] 65. For another instance in which mē̂tis is the significant word, see chap. 4, sect. 2, on Nestor in Iliad 23.

[ back ] 66. Cf. the discussion of polútropos in the introduction to the book above.

[ back ] 67. The adventures in Books 9–12 which have not been discussed in the preceding are the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, and the winds of Aeolus. The Aeolus adventure, it may be noted, provides another instance of the “mindlessness” of the companions (cf. x 27 and 46).

[ back ] 68. The name is connected with the verb kalúptein, “to cover;” for the connotation of the latter, cf. the Homeric formulas tòn dè skótos ósse kálupse(n), “darkness covered his eyes,” and télos thanátoio kálupse(n), “the end of death covered (him).” For the relevance of the verb for nóos, cf. Aristotle, de Anima 429a7: dià tó epikalúptesthai tòn noũn eníote páthei ḕ nósois ḕ húpnōi, “on account of the mind’s being covered over at times by passion, diseases, or sleep.”

[ back ] 69. For Hermes’ role, cf. chap. 3, sect. 2 on the Circe episode, and chap. 7 below on Priam’s ransom of Hector in Iliad 24, where the same lines describing the staff of Hermes occur.

[ back ] 70. I am grateful to John Finley for this observation.

[ back ] 71. Notice also that upon his arrival Odysseus is first surrounded by a mist (xiii 189), which Athena ultimately removes (xiii 352).

[ back ] 72. Cf., however, the phrase ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἀΐξῃ νόος, “as when the mind (nóos) darts,” in a simile describing Hera’s speed as she returns to Olympus (XV 80).

[ back ] 73. H. Mühlestein, “Namen von Neleiden auf Pylostäfelchen” (chap. 1, n. 7), p. 158; Arḗtē , the name of the Phaeacian queen, does not refer to sea-faring but is nonetheless significant—Arḗtē is “prayed to” by Odysseus (cf. the verb aráomai, “to pray”).

[ back ] 74. Underlying the form Alkínoos, which has the usual accentuation of personal names, there may also have been an epithet *alkinoós. For more on the transitive sense of the root nes– in Greek, see chap. 4, sect. 4 below.

[ back ] 75. In v 35 they are called ankhítheoi, “close to the gods.”