The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics

  Tsagalis, Christos. 2008. The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics. Hellenic Studies Series 29. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 4. Intertextual Fissures: The Returns of Odysseus and the New Penelope

The aim of this chapter is (a) to consider the function of intertextual fissures with respect to Odysseus’ return and reunification with his wife, and (b) to explore how a crucial element of this scene, the story of the Sailor and the Oar, can assist us in examining the relationship between the Odyssey and other rival traditions. Gender-studies [1] and intertextuality [2] feature two of the most prominent modern approaches to such multifaceted texts as the Odyssey. Polar oppositions like presence—absence, old οἶκος—new οἶκος, γάμος—ἀγαμία, as well as key terms like μετοικεσία and ἀποδημία, may in fact suggest a bold re-reading of Penelope’s condition when Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca. These binary pairs stand for semantic frames, representing antithetical states of affairs, between which Odysseus oscillates throughout the entire poem. This ever-changing condition of the poem’s main hero is one of the hallmarks of the Odyssean interpretation of the heroic world approaching its end, but at the same time it is exploited by the Odyssey at full length as a matrix for the equally ever-shifting condition of Penelope. Instead of offering a new, holistic explanation model, I would like to discuss the possibility that Odysseus’ future wanderings are treated by the Odyssey as a mirror where Penelope’s relationship to and definition of herself is reflected. The epic indulges in such a profound game with the couple’s self-oriented disfluencies that it guilefully exploits the limits of its main protagonists, thus questioning even the most elementary tenets it seems to take for granted, such as the very idea of sameness once Odysseus and Penelope are reunited. As Odysseus and Penelope exist as character trademarks of the Odyssey, the window of allusion opened through their reunion scene allows the audience to gaze at another tradition in which both Odysseus and Penelope are molded in a very different cast. [3]

Male and Female δόλοι

In order to decode the function of Penelope’s δόλοι we first need to deal with questions pertaining to what certain critics have called Penelope’s ‘failed feminism’. The rise of feminist studies concerning the figure of Penelope in the Odyssey has acquired a rather negative coloring over time, in the sense that feminist critics themselves have argued that Penelope’s feminism fails in the end, or is overshadowed, at least, by Odysseus’ final triumph. Seen through male eyes as playing an active role only to be later ‘subjugated’ to Odysseus, Penelope gradually undergoes a process of ‘emasculation’ by adopting a male point of view. [12] For these critics the Odyssey is a kind of Siren Song, “a perilous temptation to betray one’s feminist ideals.” [13] My point of departure is a deviation from this ‘failed-feminist’ approach. [14] According to my interpretive stance, the Odyssey uses the figure of Penelope as a means for intertextual play. The epic’s almost obsessive preoccupation with stories, storytelling, and intertextuality represents a sophisticated way in which the poem thematizes the ‘female’. There is no question of failure or of Penelope’s subjugation as an emblem of feminism under the yoke of Odysseus, who again becomes master of the household. In fact, the scene I am about to discuss shows that the Odyssey, by allowing the audience to gaze at a post-Odyssean rival epic tradition, identifies with Penelope rather than with Odysseus. In other words, Penelope is factored into the Odyssey not so much as a figure challenging male values and androcentric ideology, but as a metaphor for the tradition’s self-referentiality. [15] The ideological debate between male and female power is not absent from the Odyssey but it should be seen, I maintain, in light of the poem’s constant search for its own identity, for delineating its limits and placing itself in a preeminent position among other epic songs. The Odyssey’s refusal of closure [16] transcends the innate dichotomy between male and female, redirecting traditional gender-based opposition towards a search for self-consciousness and identity. Gender-polarity is thus turned into intertextual rivalry.

The Intertextual Horizon

The refusal of closure that characterizes the queen of Ithaca is effectuated, in the episode of the reunion between Odysseus and Penelope, through cross-textual associations between the Odyssean and the Thesprotian-Telegonian epic traditions. The persistence of uncertainty and indeterminacy that critics have often discussed has been interpreted in structuralist [17] or gender-based [18] terms. Intertextuality, a complex system of references, associations, and allusions determining the relations between different texts, acquires a profound meaning in the case of Penelope because of her special metapoetic role in the Odyssey. Since Penelope is undoubtedly not only a key figure in the plot, but also a preeminent trademark of the epic’s obsession with the question of poetics, it can be plausibly argued that her participation (together with the other key figure of the plot, Odysseus) in an intertextual dialogue with another rival tradition at such a critical point in the plot is of unprecedented importance in respect to the Odyssey’s preoccupation with bardic activity. Penelope creates fissures in the epic by opening “intertextual windows” that lead the audience to other epic traditions. Being the primary “source of suspense in the Odyssey,” [19] the cause of endless uncertainty through her connection with multiple plots, [20] Penelope’s intertextual games set a real challenge for the audience, as they question the poem’s self-consciousness as well as its place in the entire epic tradition.

The intertextual hermeneutics of this approach are based on one of the most fundamental—but often misunderstood, not to say distorted—tenets of oral theory. As epic rivalry operates constantly on the level of song-traditions and not texts crystallized by writing, one can appreciate the subtlety and refined sophistication with which the Odyssey, as an extensive and internally cohesive reference-system, alludes to its counterparts. But is it possible for the Odyssey to allude to ‘later’ texts such as those belonging to the Epic Cycle? This is, of course, an unanswerable question, should one adopt the approach of hardcore literary critics, who see the entire corpus of archaic poetry as a collection of epic texts fixed (or even composed) by writing. On the other hand, one must keep in mind that this linear approach has made an important group of scholars (the Neoanalysts) hypothesize the existence of precursors to some of the epics belonging to the Epic Cycle, the Aethiopis being the most famous example. These scholars realized that a number of thematic disfluencies could be explained if the poems were influenced by other preexisting epics, and in order to screen out all problems of relative chronology, they argued that the Aethiopis (for example) was based on another, hypothetical, pre-Iliadic epic, the *Memnonis or the *Achilleis. Neoanalysis, [21] for all its undoubted contribution to the study of the origins and sources of the Homeric epics, has thus silently, but clearly, attempted to bypass the chronological barrier.

In the Cyclic Telegony, [24] one of Penelope’s Odyssean ‘guardians’ (Odysseus) dies, whereas the other (Telemachus) becomes, together with Penelope, immortal. In fact, the Telegony eliminates the two Odyssean ‘pillars’ of Penelope, her husband Odysseus and her son Telemachus. This is made possible by death and two new marriages. The death of Odysseus signifies only the partial end of the old household. If the Cyclic Telegony had ended there, then the audience would have been confronted with a situation similar to that of the Odyssey, in which Odysseus is considered dead but Telemachus, who is supporting his mother, is alive. Conversely, the Cyclic Telegony needs to ‘eliminate’ Telemachus as ‘son and protector’ of Penelope. In order to achieve this goal, it devises the stratagem of the double marriages to completely dissolve Odysseus’ household. By having Penelope marry Telegonus and Telemachus marry Circe (who never meet in the Odyssey), the Cyclic Telegony aims at ‘destroying’ the very foundations upon which the edifice of the Odyssey has been built: a faithful wife, a husband striving to return home, a loyal son, the re-foundation of the Ithacan household. The polemical cry that the Cyclic Telegony utters against the Odyssey is so intense that it resounds even in the Odyssey, which is aware of a Thesprotian-Telegonian rival tradition, as I will show. The relevant scene is Odyssey xxiii 263–287:

Τὴν δ᾿ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς·
῾῾δαιμονίη, τί τ᾿ ἄρ᾿ αὖ με μάλ᾿ ὀτρύνουσα κελεύεις
εἰπέμεν; αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ μυθήσομαι οὐδ᾿ ἐπικεύσω.
οὐ μέν τοι θυμὸς κεχαρήσεται· οὐδὲ γὰρ αὐτός
χαίρω, ἐπεὶ μάλα πολλὰ βροτῶν ἐπὶ ἄστε᾿ ἄνωγεν
ἐλθεῖν, ἐν χείρεσσιν ἔχοντ᾿ εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν,
εἰς ὅ κε τοὺς ἀφίκωμαι οἳ οὐ ἴσασι θάλασσαν
ἀνέρες, οὐδέ θ᾿ ἅλεσσι μεμιγμένον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν·
οὐδ᾿ ἄρα τοὶ ἴσασι νέας φοινικοπαρῄους,
οὐδ᾿ εὐήρε᾿ ἐρετμά, τά τε πτερὰ νηυσὶ πέλονται.
σῆμα δέ μοι τόδ᾿ ἔειπεν ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε κεύσω.
ὁππότε κεν δή μοι ξυμβλήμενος ἄλλος ὁδίτης
φήῃ ἀθηρηλοιγὸν ἔχειν ἀνὰ φαιδίμῳ ὤμῳ,
καὶ τότε μ᾿ ἐν γαίῃ πήξαντ᾿ ἐκέλευσεν ἐρετμόν,
ἔρξανθ᾿ ἱερὰ καλὰ Ποσειδάωνι ἄνακτι,
ἀρνειὸν ταῦρόν τε συῶν τ᾿ ἐπιβήτορα κάπρον,
οἴκαδ᾿ ἀποστείχειν, ἔρδειν θ᾿ ἱερὰς ἑκατόμβας
ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσι,
πᾶσι μάλ᾿ ἑξείης· θάνατος δέ μοι ἐξ ἁλὸς αὐτῷ
ἀβληχρὸς μάλα τοῖος ἐλεύσεται, ὃς κέ με πέφνῃ
γήρᾳ ὕπο λιπαρῷ ἀρημένον· ἀμφὶ δὲ λαοί
ὄλβιοι ἔσσονται· τὰ δέ μοι φάτο πάντα τελεῖσθαι.᾿᾿
Τὸν δ᾿ αὖτε προσέειπε περίφρων Πηνελόπεια·
῾῾εἰ μὲν δὴ γῆράς γε θεοὶ τελέουσιν ἄρειον,
ἐλπωρή τοι ἔπειτα κακῶν ὑπάλυξιν ἔσεσθαι.᾿᾿

“What a strange woman you are!” said the quick-witted Odysseus. “Why press
me so insistently? However, I will tell you all, holding nothing back. Not that
you will find it to your liking, any more than I do! Teiresias told me to carry a
well-balanced oar and wander on from city to city, till I came to a people who
know nothing of the sea, and never use salt with their food, so that crimson
painted ships and the long oars that serve those ships as wings are quite beyond
their experience. He gave me this infallible sign (which I now reveal to you)—
when I met some other traveler who referred to the oar I was carrying on my
shoulder as a “winnowing-fan”, then, he said, the time would have come for me
to plant my oar in the earth and offer the Lord Poseidon the rich sacrifice of a
ram, a bull, and a breeding boar. After that I was to go back home and make
ceremonial sacrifices to the everlasting gods who live in the far-flung heavens,
to all of them this time, in due precedence. As for my end, he said that Death
would come to me away from the sea, and that I would die peacefully in old age,
surrounded by a prosperous people. He assured me that all this would come
true.” “If the gods make your old age a happier time,” the sagacious Penelope
replied, “there is a hope of an end to your troubles.”

Odysseus’ speech harks back to Teiresias’ prophecy in Odyssey xi 100–137 about Odysseus’ future. Teiresias’ speech refers to the Cattle of the Sun, to Odysseus’ return to Ithaca and subsequent punishment of the suitors, and to his post-Odyssean future up to the hero’s death. [
25] A close comparison of the two speeches is therefore needed in order to pinpoint any deviation, expansion or reduction.

In the part of Teiresias’ speech devoted to Odysseus’ post-Odyssean future (xi 121–137), the hero’s wanderings are expressed by the phrase ‘[t]ake a well-cut oar and go on till you reach a people who know nothing of the sea’ (xi 121–122: ἔρχεσθαι δὴ ἔπειτα, λαβὼν εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν, // εἰς ὅ κε τοὺς ἀφίκηαι οἳ οὐ ἴσασι θάλασσαν), whereas in Odysseus’ speech in xxiii 264–284, Odysseus presents a ‘fuller’ version of Teiresias’ prophecy that also contains a vague reference to other ‘post-Ithacan’ adventures preceding the story of the oar: ‘[Teiresias] told me … to wander on from city to city …’ ( xxiii 267–268:… ἐπεὶ μάλα πολλὰ βροτῶν ἐπὶ ἄστε᾿ ἄνωγεν // ἐλθεῖν, …). The difference is anything but trivial, because the diction employed by Odysseus recalls the epic’s proem and the language of the external narrator (Odyssey i 3: πολλῶν δ᾿ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω). [26] Given the Odyssey’s intense emphasis on Odysseus’ bardic activity on the one hand, especially in the ‘Apologoi’ (Books ix-xii) where the poem’s main protagonist displays his singing abilities at length, and the metapoetic coloring of the proem on the other, the verbal echo between the hero’s and the narrator’s language becomes all the more significant. By invoking the proem, Odysseus puts Teiresias’ advice into a larger perspective. He will, superficially imitating his Odyssean self, wander again in the many cities of men, thus challenging the authority of an Odyssean tradition that has made him the paragonal wanderer. This new Odysseus is, of course, the creation of the Odyssean tradition, which, in a remarkable display of self-consciousness, lets Odysseus, its main hero and symbol of its subject matter, entertain the thought of escaping from his own song-tradition, of testing the Odyssey’s very limits. The usurpation of the external narrator’s language, which has left its lasting imprint on the epic’s identity, is deliberately ‘entrusted’ to Odysseus and not to Teiresias. Odysseus is made to speak as the external narrator so that his litmus test on the epic becomes all the more ironical, since it is the Odyssey that intentionally questions its own identity, limits, and value.

The Odyssey is the epic of the sea par excellence, and its main hero, Odysseus, the Man who ‘suffered great anguish on the high seas in his struggles to preserve his life and bring his comrades home’ (Odyssey i 4–5: πολλὰ δ᾿ ὅ γ᾿ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμόν, // ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων). By referring to another journey not across the sea, but across various lands, not in search of his way home, not trying to return to Ithaca and Penelope, Odysseus virtually informs his wife, as well as the external audience, that he will transform himself into the hero of another poem, that he is going to abandon the ship of the Odyssey and evolve into the hero of a post- and non-Odyssean tradition. His oar is about to become a winnowing fan.

Odysseus refers to his old age and depicts an almost idyllic picture of his last days. Surrounded by his people, in full happiness, he will enjoy an easy (ἀβληχρός) death. [29] Conversely, the plot of the Cyclic Telegony refers to another Man of the Sea, a Man ‘born’ afar (Telegonus), the son whom the Odyssey’s Man of the Sea begot from Circe who, like Odyssean Telemachus, comes looking for his father. Odysseus will die by Telegonus’ spearhead, which is made by a turtledove (τρυγών). The divergence between the last part of Odysseus’ extra-textual proleptic statement in the Odyssey and the second part of the Cyclic Telegony is telling. A closer analysis of Odysseus’ speech shows that the Odyssey deliberately has him employ the ambivalent expression ἐξ ἁλός in order to ‘play’ with the sea-element, i.e. to make Odysseus oscillate for a moment between the Odyssey and the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition. At the same time, the epic indulges in a profound game with its hero’s polytropic nature, cunningness, and δόλοι. Even at this last moment in which the Odyssey has reached its πέρας, [30] Odysseus attempts to trick. This time his δόλος is not against a character of the plot, but against the tradition, whose very Hero he is. Countering Odysseus’ attempt to deceive the epic by fostering the viewpoint of its rival Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition, the Odyssey replies with an even more cunning ruse. [31] By allowing Odysseus to entertain the idea that after abandoning Ithaca, the sea, Penelope, and their poetic embodiment, the Odyssey itself, he may return once again and live in happiness, it suppresses the hero’s dreadful end in the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition; namely, it silences the fact that this rival epic tradition will not treat Odysseus the way the Odysssey did. In a remarkable display of careful planning, the Odyssey will reward Penelope by allowing her to allude to the real death of Odysseus, through a cunning irony that is expressed in timely fashion. [32] Penelope thus becomes the mouthpiece of the Odyssey and informs the arrogant Odysseus that the ‘end of troubles’ (ὑπάλυξις κακῶν) will be actually granted to her, not to him, through immortality when she makes the intertextual leap to the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition. [33] It is in that tradition that wives do not wait or endlessly mourn their husbands, but get married to younger ones, where virginity and old age are not the matrix upon which faith and loyalty are judged, where Penelope carries out her ultimate δόλος against Odysseus’ arrogance by becoming the heroine of the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition. Through this scene, the Odyssey implicitly states that only within its own poetic borders can Odysseus be the great hero of return, that only within its own framework will Telemachus be the good son and Penelope the faithful and patient wife, and that in the end only the Odyssean song-tradition will be able to grant Odysseus what he was seeking: neither an easy life nor physical immortality, [34] but poetic immortality through keeping him next to the person that allows him to be his real self, Penelope. By reminding the audience that the lack of personal knowledge about the future enables the transmission of transcendental knowledge, Penelope is made to resemble the epic bard. The abdication of the personal authority of her husband allows her to channel to the listeners the higher knowledge of the tradition as a whole, knowledge that no mortal can ever possess. [35]

Odysseus’ wanderings with the oar make a profound metapoetic statement, which the Odyssey contrives in order to compete against the Thesprotian-Telegonian epic tradition. [36] In most of the folktale versions of this story, as Hansen has shown, the sea is contrasted to the land not only as a geographical boundary, but also as a semantic entity, the former signifying danger, weariness, or even immorality, the latter standing for safety, ease, and morality. Greek epic has transformed the nexus of such bipolar antitheses into a thick web of poetic associations. In fact, the Odyssey has epitomized sea adventures as its metaphorical trademark so as to oppose the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition, which the Odyssey ‘treats’ as a land-adventure. The very scene of Odysseus carrying the oar on his shoulder is presented in a metapoetic cloth, since the oar is the poetic trademark of his Odyssean adventures, the metonymical sign of the tradition of the Odyssey. Therefore, the entire scene of his wandering in a foreign land is a poetic iter to another, non-Odyssean tradition. Odysseus is carrying, oar-like, the Odyssey itself on his shoulder, asking the people he meets the following questions: “Do you recognize this epic?” and “Does this poetic tradition make any sense to you?” By allowing Odysseus to even entertain his escape from the poem, the Odyssey actually undermines the plot’s happy ending, leaving open fissures for cross-textual associations. The open-endedness of the Odyssean tradition exploits the final reunion of the separated couple by fusing Odysseus’ and Penelope’s ever-changing identities in a husband-wife scene, a metaphorical epic amalgam of the rival traditions the Odyssey boldly mixes.

The Sailor and the Oar

Hansen [39] makes the interesting observation that a number of informants report the story of the Sailor and the Oar only when they want to comment upon seafaring as a trade, evaluating it as a way of life. Even a Greek sailor, in the case of commenting on the hardships of his trade, attempts to make St. Elias a reflection of his own self, i.e. a troubled fisherman. Is it possible then that we can reconstruct the context of the narration backwards by stating that Odysseus conjures up the story of the oar when he wants to evaluate seafaring as a way of life, namely when he implicitly evaluates the Odyssey? The narrative situation is similar, since even the present-day tellers imply that they report the story of the oar when they desire to make a more general statement referring to their relationship with the sea. This kind of reasoning leads to another equally important question. The story of the Sailor and the Oar would no doubt have formed part of the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition of which the Odyssey was aware, but would it have had any meaning in the Cyclic Telegony, where a local Thesprotian genealogical myth (that of Callidice) had taken the place of the story of the oar, which ends, in all the folktale material Hansen has studied, with the sailor settling down away from home? The Cyclic Telegony, contrary to the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition, has used Odysseus’ exile from Ithaca as the reason for his travels to Elis and Thesprotia. [40] Once we have drawn the line between the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition and the Cyclic Telegony, we may begin to explore the thick web of associations between these two traditions and the Odyssey.

The Open-Ended Perspective

The study of the reunion scene between Odysseus and Penelope is an excellent opportunity for opening up the discussion and considering, albeit briefly, how the closure of the Odyssey may be replete with loose ends pointing to Odysseus’ post-Odyssean adventures, of which “die kyklische Telegonie stell hier nur den punktuellen Reflex einer breiten älteren Tradition dar.” [41] The scope of such a tradition, which we may call Thesprotian-Telegonian, was much wider than the Cyclic Telegony, [42] whose thematic skeleton we possess due to Proclus’ summary (306–330 Severyns = 114–130 Kullmann) and Apollodorus’ mythical compendium.

Τηλεγονίας β´ Εὐγάμμωνος

Μετὰ ταῦτά ἐστιν Ὁμήρου Ὀδύσσεια· ἔπειτα Τηλεγονίας βιβλία δύο Εὐγάμμωνος Κυρηναίου περιέχοντα τάδε.

(§ 114) οἱ μνήστορες ὑπὸ τῶν προσηκόντων θάπτονται·

(§ 115) καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς θύσας Νύμφαις εἰς Ἦλιν ἀποπλεῖ ἐπισκεψόμενος τὰ βουκόλια,

(§ 116) καὶ ξενίζεται παρὰ Πολυξένῳ δῶρόν τε λαμβάνει κρατῆρα,

(§ 117) καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ τὰ περὶ Τροφώνιον καὶ Ἀγαμήδην καὶ Αὐγέαν.

(§ 118) ἔπειτα εἰς Ἰθάκην καταπλεύσας τὰς ὑπὸ Τειρεσίου ῥηθείσας τελεῖ θυσίας.

(§ 119) καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα εἰς Θεσπρωτοὺς ἀφικνεῖται,

(§ 120) καὶ γαμεῖ Καλλιδίκην βασιλίδα τῶν Θεσπρωτῶν.

(§ 121) ἔπειτα πόλεμος συνίσταται τοῖς Θεσπρωτοῖς πρὸς Βρύγους, Ὀδυσσέως ἡγουμένου·

(§ 122) ἐνταῦθα Ἄρης τοὺς περὶ τὸν Ὀδυσσέα τρέπεται, καὶ αὐτῷ εἰς μάχην Ἀθηνᾶ καθίσταται·

(§ 123) τούτους μὲν Ἀπόλλων διαλύει.

(§ 124) μετὰ δὲ τὴν Καλλιδίκης τελευτὴν τὴν μὲν βασιλείαν διαδέχεται Πολυποίτης Ὀδυσσέως υἱός,

(§ 125) αὐτὸς δ᾿ εἰς Ἰθάκην ἀφικνεῖται·

(§ 126) κἀν τούτῳ Τηλέγονος ἐπὶ ζήτησιν τοῦ πατρὸς πλέων ἀποβὰς εἰς τὴν Ἰθάκην τέμνει τὴν νῆσον·

(§ 127) ἐκβοηθήσας δ᾿ Ὀδυσσεὺς ὑπὸ τοῦ παιδὸς ἀναιρεῖται κατ᾿ ἄγνοιαν.

(§ 128) Τηλέγονος δ᾿ ἐπιγνοὺς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τό τε τοῦ πατρὸς σῶμα καὶ τὸν Τηλέμαχον καὶ τὴν Πηνελόπην πρὸς τὴν μητέρα μεθίστησιν·

(§ 129) ἡ δὲ αὐτοὺς ἀθανάτους ποιεῖ,

(§ 130) καὶ συνοικεῖ τῇ μὲν Πηνελόπῃ Τηλέγονος, Κίρκῃ δὲ Τηλέμαχος.

Apollodorus’ mythological compendium does not refer to Eugammon’s Cyclic Telegony, but offers a prose summary of Odysseus’ adventures after the killing of the suitors. Apollodorus is important to the extent that he elucidates certain elements that remain unclear from Proclus’ summary. Apollodorus’ aim is rather different from that of Proclus, since the former is interested in offering as much information as possible about his topic, whereas the latter simply wants to summarize the content of the Cyclic Telegony. Therefore, the focus of the following presentation will be only on those points of Proclus’s summary that can be better understood by comparison to Apollodorus’ text. [45]

(§ 34) θύσας δὲ Ἅδῃ καὶ Περσεφόνῃ καὶ Τειρεσίᾳ, πεζῇ διὰ τῆς Ἠπείρου βαδίζων εἰς Θεσπρωτοὺς παραγίνεται καὶ κατὰ τὰς τοῦ Τειρεσίου μαντείας θυσιάσας ἐξιλάσκεται Ποσειδῶνα. ἡ δὲ βασιλεύουσα τότε Θεσπρωτῶν Καλλιδίκη καταμένειν αὐτὸν ἠξίου τὴν βασιλείαν αὐτῷ δοῦσα. καὶ συνελθοῦσα αὐτῷ γεννᾶ Πολυποίτην. (§ 35) γήμας δὲ Καλλιδίκην Θεσπρωτῶν ἐβασίλευσε καὶ μάχῃ τῶν περιοίκων νικᾷ τοὺς ἐπιστρατεύσαντας. Καλλιδίκης δὲ ἀποθανούσης, τῷ παιδὶ τὴν βασιλείαν ἀποδιδοὺς εἰς Ἰθάκην παραγίνεται, καὶ εὑρίσκει ἐκ Πηνελόπης Πολιπόρθην αὐτῷ γεγεννημένον. (§ 36) Τηλέγονος δὲ παρὰ Κίρκης μαθὼν ὅτι παῖς Ὀδυσσέως ἐστίν, ἐπὶ τὴν τούτου ζήτησιν ἐκπλεῖ. παραγενόμενος δὲ εἰς Ἰθάκην τὴν νῆσον ἀπελαύνει τινὰ τῶν βοσκημάτων, καὶ Ὀδυσσέα βοηθοῦντα τῷ μετὰ χεῖρας δόρατι Τηλέγονος <τρυγόνος> κέντρον τὴν αἰχμὴν ἔχοντι τιτρώσκει, καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς θνήσκει. (§ 37) ἀναγνωρισάμενος δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ πολλὰ κατοδυράμενος, τὸν νεκρὸν <καὶ> τὴν Πηνελόπην πρὸς Κίρκην ἄγει, κἀκεῖ τὴν Πηνελόπην γαμεῖ. Κίρκη δὲ ἑκατέρους αὐτοὺς εἰς Μακάρων νήσους ἀποστέλλει.

(§ 34) After sacrificing to Hades and Persephone and Teiresias, [Odysseus] marching on foot through Epiros arrives at the Thesprotians and in accordance to the oracles of Teiresias appeases Poseidon after performing sacrifices. Callidice, who was at the time queen of the Thesprotians deemed him worthy of residing there by offering him the kingdom. After coming together with him in love, she gives birth to Polypoites. (§ 35) After marrying Callidice [Odysseus] ruled as king of the Thesprotians and defeats in battle those of the neighboring inhabitants who marched against him. After the death of Callidice, Odysseus gives back the kingdom to his son and goes to Ithaca. And he finds Poliporthes being born to him from Penelope. (§ 36) And Telegonus after learning from Circe that he is the son of Odysseus, sails out in search of his father. When he arrives in Ithaca he drives away some of the cattle and with a spear having a head made of a <turtle-dove’s> sting wounds Odysseus, who came against him. Odysseus dies. (§ 37) After recognizing his father and bewailing a great deal, he takes his dead father and Penelope to Circe, and there he gets married to Penelope. Circe sends both of them to the Isles of the Blessed.

The tripartite structure of the Cyclic Telegony is based on the two inland journeys and Odysseus’ deadly dramatic encounter with Telegonus in Ithaca. In order to explore the scope and aim of the Cyclic Telegony, we need to focus our attention on matters concerning its content. Why does this epic insist on two separate journeys by Odysseus? What do these journeys contribute to this new Odysseus whom the Cyclic Telegony strives to promote? A close analysis of the content of the Cyclic Telegony shows that there are important analogies between the first and third parts and that each part aims at highlighting a specific aspect of Odysseus’ personality, which is presented in stark contrast to his Odyssean character.

In the first inland journey Odysseus goes to Elis to visit his herds and stays at the home of Polyxenus, who offers him a mixing-bowl as a gift. At this point, complications arise, as Proclus’ summary makes special reference to what must have been in the Cyclic Telegony a long ekphrasis, the detailed description of a work of art (the mixing-bowl), and, in particular, of the representations on it. [47] A reasonable speculation concerning the content of this episode would have included an embedded narrative by Polyxenus, Augeias’ grandson, who would have replied to Odysseus’ inquiries with respect to the scenes depicted on the mixing-bowl. The key to the function of this first part might have been the myth of Trophonius, Agamedes, and Augeias. [48] Trophonius and Agamedes were famous architects, and Augeias had asked them to build his treasury. They placed a fake stone on the building in such a skillful manner that nobody would notice. They then removed the stone, stole part of Augeias’ treasures, and placed the stone back in its position. But Augeias realized what had happened and decided to punish the thieves. Agamedes was caught in a trap, and Trophonius, in an attempt to save himself, decapitated his accomplice so that he could not reveal that Trophonius had helped him steal the king’s treasures. Then, a chasm suddenly opened in the earth and Trophonius fell in. After the punishment of the two thieves, Augeias lived happily for many years and was especially honored by his people. [49] The similarities to the Odyssean Odysseus are obvious, since Odysseus too punished the suitors who were destroying his household and expressed his hope to live happily with his people in his old age. By offering the mixing-bowl to Odysseus, Polyxenus [50] is implicitly expressing his wish that his guest will also live in happiness, just like Augeias.

In the second inland journey, Odysseus travels to the land of the Thesprotians and gets married to their queen, Callidice. There is no mention of the story with the oar (explicitly foreshadowed in Odyssey xxiii), but one is entitled to believe that this element formed an integral part of the much wider scope of the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition from which the post-Homeric Cyclic Telegony undoubtedly stems. In fact, the absence of a male king in the kingdom of the Thesprotians is a clear sign that the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition deliberately aimed at creating the conditions for Odysseus to become a permanent resident in the land of the Thesprotians, which is a basic tenet in the story of the Sailor and the Oar. [51] The argument about Odysseus’ permanent or, at least, extended residence among the Thesprotians is further corroborated by the fact that, after the war against the Brygians and Callidice’s death, Polypoites (Odysseus’ son with Callidice) becomes king. Since Polypoites had to be old enough to take the rule, this is an argumentum ex silentio concerning Odysseus’ long stay in the land of the Thesprotians. The cause of Callidice’s death remains unknown, but one may connect it to Odysseus’ departure. Callidice’s death, following Odysseus’ inability to triumph in war (he is almost defeated, and it is on the one hand Athena helping the Thesprotians and on the other the intervention of Apollo, [52] who brings the fighting to an end, that win the day), signifies in the most emphatic way his failure as a Hero of the Land (he is not successful in ground fighting and is unable to live a happy life beside Callidice). The key elements in this second inland journey are Odysseus’ marriage to Callidice and his having a new son with her. Both the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition and the Cyclic Telegony emphasize Odysseus’ lack of interest in Penelope. Conversely, in the Odyssey Odysseus’ extra-marital affairs are downplayed, as not only are Penelope and Ithaca constantly in his mind, but there are also no offspring from his erotic adventures who would overshadow Telemachus’ preeminence as Odysseus’ son.

In the third part, Telegonus arrives in Ithaca in search of his father. He has, in all probability, followed the advice his mother Circe gave him in order to find this island, but he has never seen his father. Telegonus is presented as laying the land waste or driving away the cattle, [53] which stands in marked contrast to Odysseus’ friendly visit in Elis in the first part of this epic. This time, a second son is introduced into the plot, a son this poem conjures up from one of Odysseus’ Odyssean adventures, of which the Odyssey is completely unaware. In opposition to the story of Trophonius and Agamedes, the plunderer is not punished, but he even kills his own father. We are not able to say whether the detail about Telegonus’ spearhead being made by the sting of a turtledove belonged to the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition [54] or was invented by Sophocles in his Ὀδυσσεὺς ἀκανθοπλήξ, [55] but the story about the double marriages between Telegonus and Penelope on the one hand and Telemachus and Circe on the other, as well as their immortalization, need not be a feature pertaining to the literary taste of a late age. [56] By the double marriages, the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition is able to completely dissolve the idyllic picture of Odysseus’ family that the Odyssey has so consistently strove to support. After Odysseus’ failure as a Man of the Land in the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition, the time has come to rip his poem, the Odyssey, even of the great hero’s last resources, a faithful wife and a single son, heir to his Ithacan kingdom.

Teiresias and the Cyclic Telegony

The narrative blueprint of the reconstructed Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition would then be in direct contrast to the Odyssean tradition, especially with respect to the treatment of the hero’s fate, which moves in a completely opposite direction. The same is the case mutatis mutandis with the Cyclic Telegony, which is simply a reflex of the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition; see the table on the facing page.

These similarities should in no way lead us into a tautology between the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition and the Cyclic Telegony, since there are certain elements that are treated differently. These elements are centered on the figure of Teiresias and his prophecy to Odysseus, part of which consists of the Sailor and the Oar story.

Odyssey Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition / Cyclic Telegony
a. The Hero faces many dangers at sea a. He seems to have no trouble in his first inland journey (Cyclic Telegony)
b. He overcomes the difficulties and prevails as Man of the Sea b. He fails as Man of the Land, since he is unable to defeat the Brygians
c. He has no extra-marital sons despite his love-affairs c. He has sons by other women, such Polypoites (by Callidice) and Telegonus (by Circe)
d. He lives happily with his wife, Penelope d. He dies and his wife is married again to his killer (Telegonus), who is the son Odysseus had with Circe

Teiresias’ prophecy to Odysseus (Odyssey xi 100–137) contains two proleptic foreshadowings: the Thrinacia episode and the Sailor and the Oar story. Later (Odyssey xii 37–141), Odysseus will receive information and advice from Circe about his future adventures. It is obvious from the content of the two ‘prophecies’ that Teiresias’ speech is oracular and concerned with the topic of ‘life and death’, whereas Circe’s advice is not prophetic but future-oriented, specific, more accurate, full of names and details, replete with practical advice, and much longer. There are two interesting questions linked to these two predictions, both of which are significant for the Cyclic Telegony. The first question concerns Teiresias’ selectivity: Why does he only refer to the Cattle of the Sun episode? The second is relevant to the Sailor and the Oar story: Why is this story deprived of any names and details? I believe the two questions are interconnected and that once we answer them, we will be able to clarify certain aspects of the Cyclic Telegony.

Circe’s and, through her, Telegonus’, connection to Helios is revealing, considering that both the first and last episode of the Cyclic Telegony involve Helios in one way or another. Odysseus’ first journey to Elis to visit the Cattle of Augeias seems to be a positive version of the Thrinacia episode. Augeias, whose name is related to αὐγή (bright light of the sun) might have once been the Sun-god himself. [58] In Iliad XI 739, Nestor, while relating his story of helping the Pylians [59] defeat the Epeians (who come from Elis), explicitly states that he killed Moulios, the son-in-law of Augeias. Moulios was married to Agamede, who was familiar with all manner of drugs (Iliad XI 741: ἣ τόσα φάρμακα εἴδη ὅσα τρέφει εὐρεῖα χθών). Agamede, whose name is indicative of knowledge and sound thinking, seems to be a kind of Medea, granddaughter of Helios, who is also knowledgeable in drugs. Augeias is also connected to the story of the Cattle of the Sun (Helios), both through Nestor’s killing of Itymoneus, the guardian of the Cattle (Iliad XI 672–673), and driving them to Pylos, and through Heracles, as Theocritus’ Idyll 25 amply states (7, 29, 36, 43, 54, 108, 129-144, 160, 193). [60] What has escaped attention is that Agamede’s name, echoed in Agamedes (i.e. the Trophonius-Agamedes episode), features in the Cyclic Telegony with respect to the mixing-bowl that Polyxenus donates to Odysseus. [61] Likewise, Circe is closely related to Helios; [62] she is his daughter. Her own name, which comes from κρίκος or the metathesized κίρκος (ring), may perhaps refer to the circular path the sun follows in the sky. [63] Circe has both a negative and a positive side, as can be seen from the threat she poses to Odysseus and his comrades on the one hand, and from the help she offers them at the end of the ‘Apologoi’ on the other. The fact that the first and last part of the Cyclic Telegony were implicitly connected with Helios may have been a reflex of the Odyssey’s emphasizing of the Thrinacia episode, which is linked, in Teiresias’ prophecy, to the story of the Sailor and the Oar. [64]

A close analysis of the contents of the Cyclic Telegony shows that there is an important problem with the unfolding of the plot. Odysseus is presented as performing the sacrifices Teiresias had indicated to him in Ithaca, after his first journey to Elis. Only then does he depart for the land of the Thesprotians, without any mention of the story of the Sailor and the Oar. Interestingly enough, whereas in the first journey Proclus explicitly states the reason for Odysseus’ journey to Elis (ἐπισκεψόμενος τὰ βουκόλια), the reason for the second voyage is not given. Since the sacrifices Teiresias had asked Odysseus to perform can be none other than those stated in Odyssey xi 130–134, then why does the hero go to the land of the Thesprotians? Scholars have suggested two solutions to this problem, both of which, I maintain, are false. Huxley has argued that Odysseus had traveled inland to Elis, not to Thesprotia, despite the fact that Proclus says nothing about this. [66] He explains his argument in the following manner: [67]

It follows that in the Telegony the sacrifices to Poseidon were made before Odysseus returned from Polyxenus in Elis to Ithaca. Proclus does not mention them, but it can be shown that in the Telegony Odysseus did indeed sacrifice far from the sea before he left Elis for Ithaca. The Arcadians were well known for their ignorance of maritime matters: accordingly Eugamon was able to send Odysseus to sacrifice to Poseidon in Arcadia. To confirm that he did so, the coins of Mantineia include types depicting Odysseus bearing an oar on his shoulder; there, then, in central Peloponnese, according to one interpretation of the prophecy of Teiresias, Odysseus sacrificed to Poseidon far from the sea. To conclude the reasoning thus far: Odysseus sacrificed to Poseidon far inland before he returned to make the sacrifices in Ithaca. Before he came back to Ithaca in the Telegony, he was in the Peloponnese, and the representation of Odysseus with an oar on the coins of Mantineia shows that in the Telegony the hero went to Arcadia to sacrifice to Poseidon far inland. Then he went back to Ithaca, after seeing Polyxenus in Elis, and sacrificed to all the immortals. Proclus mentioned only the sacrifices in Ithaca.

Huxley’s arguments have two basic flaws: [68] First, he treats the archaeological evidence as proof for an unattested literary episode of the Cyclic Telegony, namely the sacrifices of Odysseus in Elis. He thus fails to explain why Proclus did not mention that these sacrifices took place in Elis, [69] although Proclus is anything but tacit concerning the performance of sacrifices in the Cyclic Telegony [70] since he explicitly refers to the sacrifices Odysseus performed to the Nymphs [71] before departing for Elis and those performed once he returned from Elis to Ithaca. It is much more plausible to argue that the Mantineian [72] coins and the myth about the temple of Poseidon built by Trophonius and Agamedes in Mantineia reflect local claims against the older Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition, which depicted Odysseus wandering in Thesprotia with the oar on his shoulder and subsequently performing sacrifices to Poseidon. The second flaw in Huxley’s theory is a petitio principii. He wants to screen out the problem of the sacrifices ordered by Teiresias because these sacrifices have to follow the story of the Sailor and the Oar. In other words, the need to locate the sacrifices appears only when one believes that the story of the Sailor and the Oar formed part of the Cyclic Telegony. The question, though, still remains: Why did Proclus pass over such an important episode, and, moreover, why does he have Odysseus travel to the land of the Thesprotians after he had accomplished Teiresias’ prophecy? To this second issue I will soon return, after examining the second solution by Merkelbach. [73]

Merkelbach’s first observation seems perfectly plausible. The exile of Odysseus [77] explains his first journey to Elis well and matches appropriately the end of the Odyssey, where features belonging to the older Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition and reflected in the Cyclic Telegony are abundantly attested. The fact that Proclus describes as the reason for Odysseus’ trip the hero’s intention to visit the cattle of Polyxenus (ἐπισκεψόμενος τὰ βουκόλια) does not undermine the value of Merkelbach’s argument. Once Odysseus was banned from Ithaca, he started wandering and went first to Elis (as predicted by Eupeithes in Odyssey xxiv 430-432) and then to Epirus. Merkelbach’s theory is thus far correct, but from this point he makes the same mistake as Huxley. In his attempt to have Odysseus perform in Epirus the sacrifices Teiresias had foretold, he changes the text of Proclus’ summary. This approach seems to me very forced and is bound to be incorrect for the following reasons: first, it can hardly be explained how εἰς τὴν Ἤπειρον had been changed into εἰς Ἰθάκην; second, the participle καταπλεύσας used in Proclus’ summary cannot mean ‘sail out to’ (namely from Elis to Epirus as Merkelbach wants the text to state). Καταπλεύσας means ‘sail from the high sea to the shore’, ‘sail back’, and so it designates a journey of return, i.e. Odysseus’ return to Ithaca. [78] Moreover, Merkelbach’s textual change has originated from the same wrong assumption as Huxley’s. In order to place the story of the Sailor and the Oar inland (in Thesprotia and not in Elis as Huxley has suggested), he needed to have Odysseus perform Teiresias’ sacrifices in Epirus, whence he resorted to the aforementioned solution. Despite that, there are crucial questions Merkelbach’s theory is unable to answer: Is it not awkward to have Odysseus first travel inland to accomplish Teiresias’ prophecy and only then arrive to the land of the Thesprotians? [79] In addition, why did Proclus fail to mention the story of the Sailor and the Oar, which is the prerequisite for the sacrifices Teiresias mentions to Odysseus, but then explicitly refer to the sacrifices?

In order to answer these questions we need to free ourselves from the basic assumption common to the mistakes of both Huxley and Merkelbach. This mistaken assumption is that the Cyclic Telegony contained the story of the Sailor and the Oar. The study of living, oral folk-traditions [80] has shown that the crucial function in the performance of the story of the Sailor and the Oar is its aetiological coda. In other words, the person narrating the story manipulates its details in such a way that the story explains either why St. Elias chapels are found on mountain tops in Modern Greece or how much a sailor desires to leave behind him the hardships of the sea. Therefore, what is inherent in the deep structure of this folk-tale, as mentioned by Teiresias in Odyssey xi and repeated by Odysseus in Odyssey xxiii, is its explanation of Odysseus’ new wanderings as an effort to escape from his sufferings and appease Poseidon’s anger. If, then, the Cyclic Telegony explained Odysseus’ journey to Elis and Thesprotia as the result of his exile from Ithaca, the story of Odysseus and the Oar would have been redundant and pointless. Proclus does not mention the story of Odysseus and the Oar because it simply did not feature in the Cyclic Telegony. [81] In fact, there is no need to resort to witty but false suggestions in order to explain the problem of Odysseus’ performance of Teiresias’ sacrifices, for the sacrifices mentioned by Proclus are independent from the story of Odysseus and the Oar.

When Teiresias in Odyssey xi 130–134 refers to the story of the Sailor and the Oar, he speaks of two sets of sacrifices: one set performed for Poseidon in the land where people are ignorant of the sea (ῥέξας ἱερὰ καλὰ Ποσειδάωνι ἄνακτι, // ἀρνειὸν ταῦρόν τε συῶν τ᾿ ἐπιβήτορα κάπρον), and a second set of sacrifices to all the gods after Odysseus’ return to Ithaca (οἴκαδ᾿ ἀποστείχειν ἔρδειν θ᾿ ἱερὰς ἑκατόμβας // ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσι, // πᾶσι μάλ᾿ ἑξείης· …). Therefore, even in the Odyssean allusion to the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition, there were two sets of sacrifices, one in Thesprotia, the other in Ithaca. It is plausible that the Cyclic Telegony is simply reflecting the second set of sacrifices in Ithaca, which Odysseus would perform once he had accomplished his wanderings. He began his journey to Elis by sacrificing to the Nymphs and he concludes his return home with a sacrifice to the other gods. When Proclus states that in the Cyclic Telegony Odysseus τὰς ὑπὸ Τειρεσίου ῥηθείσας τελεῖ θυσίας, we may be dealing with a deflected feature of both the Odyssey and the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition. The sacrifices had, through the process of time, become intricately connected to Teiresias, even when their prerequisite, the story of the Sailor and the Oar, was not employed. One substitution does not necessarily or automatically lead to another, as is often the case with mythical material. This principle might well be the explanation for Odysseus’ second journey. Our hero’s travel to the land of the Thesprotians reflects the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition of Odysseus’ journey to Epirus. [82] Once more, despite the disappearance of the Sailor and the Oar story, Thesprotia features in the plot. We are in no position to say whether the story of Callidice formed part of the old Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition, but we can plausibly maintain that this story serves well as an aition for Odysseus’ long stay among the Thesprotians as a result of his exile.


[ back ] 1. Murnaghan 1987; Winkler 1990:129–161; Katz 1991; Wohl 1993; Felson-Rubin 1994; Doherty 1995; Holmberg 1995; Clayton 2004.

[ back ] 2. Most notably Pucci 1987; Nagy 1990a:70–79; Muellner 1996; Danek 1998; Bakker 2001c:149–160; Burgess 2006:148–189. Intertextuality and oral tradition may seem incompatible to many. The scholars mentioned above, with whom I side, have in fact redefined intertextuality by making it encompass song traditions that show traces of textualization long before they become actual, written texts. Despite the fact that the term intertextuality contains the word ‘text’, I can see no more apt a term for describing the process of cross-reference between rival song traditions. See Nagy 1996b:40, whose definition of textualization I fully endorse: “I continue to describe as text-fixation or textualization the process whereby each composition-in-performance becomes progressively less changeable in the course of diffusion–with the proviso that we understand text here in a metaphorical sense.”

[ back ] 3. The cast of Odysseus’ and Helen’s characters has been recently studied by Worman 2003, who explores how verbal mannerism and appearance have shaped the aforementioned literary figures.

[ back ] 4. Gender studies have been understandably prolific in respect to the figure of Penelope in the Odyssey. Felson-Rubin 1994 has interpreted Penelope’s connection to multiple plots as a sign of both her being an active agent and of reflecting the bardic activity of the poet.

[ back ] 5. See Manakidou 2002:69–86.

[ back ] 6. According to Papadopoulou-Belmehdi 1994:20, the shroud Penelope weaves is a coded language representing the poem’s major themes: “la mémoire et l’ oubli, le mariage et la mort, la ruse.”

[ back ] 7. The name Penelope may have originated either from the word πήνη (‘woof’ or ‘shuttle’) or from a water-bird, the πηνέλοψ. See Levaniouk 1999:95–100.

[ back ] 8. See Katz 1991.

[ back ] 9. The term mouvance was coined by Zumthor 1972:73. For its application to Homeric poetry, see Nagy 1996a:1–38.

[ back ] 10. See Kahane 2005:55, who speaks about “a tension between claims to textual closure and authorial fixity versus the diachronic openness and mouvance.”

[ back ] 11. See Rengakos 2006:74–84 (= 2002:87–98), who shows how the first four Books of the Odyssey, the so-called ‘Telemachy’, function as a foil for intratextual and intertextual misdirections. Whereas in the Iliad advance mentions and proleptic statements turn the ‘Spannung auf das Was’ into a ‘Spannung auf das Wie’, in the Odyssey the extended retardation caused by Telemachus’ initial inertia and long absence results in the ‘duplication’ of the epic’s beginning with the two divine assemblies in Books 1 and 5. See also Hölscher 1990:78-85.

[ back ] 12. Doherty 1995:177.

[ back ] 13. Clayton 2004:17 commenting on Doherty’s Siren Songs 1995.

[ back ] 14. Holmberg 1995.

[ back ] 15. See Austin 1975:7–8.

[ back ] 16. Katz 1991:194.

[ back ] 17. Pucci 1987; Peradotto 1990.

[ back ] 18. Winkler 1990; Katz 1991; Felson-Rubin 1994; Clayton 2004.

[ back ] 19. Felson-Rubin 1994:67.

[ back ] 20. Clayton 2004:14.

[ back ] 21. See Pestalozzi 1945; Kakridis 1949; Schadewaldt 19664; Kullmann 1960.

[ back ] 22. On the importance of making the distinction between the Cyclic Epics and the traditions they represent and stem from, see Burgess 2001:1–46.

[ back ] 23. The intertextual game between the Odyssey and the Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition is possible for those who adopt the stance and beliefs of oral poetics because the aforementioned epics are considered to represent song traditions rather than texts fixed by writing. In fact, I am siding with Danek 1998:456, who believes in a wider ‘Telegonian’ tradition, whose reflection is the Cyclic Telegony. On orality and intertextuality, see Burgess 2006:148–189.

[ back ] 24. Burgess 2001:11 argues that the Cyclic Telegony may be dated with some certainty after the foundation of Cyrene in the seventh century B.C, especially if Penelope’s son Arcesilaus was the mythical forbearer of the Battiads. See Telegonia PEG 1, fr. 3 = EGF fr. 2.

[ back ] 25. See Peradotto 1990:65-70, who argues that “the prophecy can be conceived as a narrator’s grid of possibilities.” Peradotto (1990:67) highlights the fact that Teiresias’ prophecy does not so much “see future events” but “states conditional probabilities” and “clarifies the framework within which it operates.”

[ back ] 26. “He saw the cities of many people and he learnt their ways.”

[ back ] 27. The word ἀθηρηλοιγός (‘chaff-ravager’ or ‘chaff-wrecker’ for winnowing fan) is a kenning and is used in the place of πτύον (‘winnowing shovel’). Peradotto 1990:66 regards this kenning as “a spell-breaking formula that anticipates its own enactment, but never merely silently presumes it.” Kennings, as Hansen 1990:254–255 observes, are typical not of oracular language (i.e. of Teiresias’ speech) but of rustic, provincial wit. Like Hesiod’s φερέοικος and ἀνόστεος, they should be regarded as substitute expressions of a descriptive character. See Waern 1951; West 1966:89.

[ back ] 28. ‘If the gods make your old age a happier time, there is a hope of an end to your troubles.’

[ back ] 29. Burgess 2001:153–154 rightly observes that the τρυγών (stingray) might have been a very effective weapon due to its poisonous tail, which inflicts incurable wounds (Aelian De Natura Animalium I 56). He even argues that Odysseus’ ‘gentle’ death might have been caused by the venomous tail of the stingray. Burgess, with whom I side on this issue, claims that “[t]he Cyclic poem has not misused a Homeric passage; The Homeric poem is alluding to a traditional story of misinterpreted oracle that the Telegony happened to narrate” (153–154).

[ back ] 30. Purves 2006:5 rightly argues that the Odyssey uses the semantically related words πέρας, πεῖραρ, and περάτη in order to make “the outer limits (πείρατα) or horizon (περάτη) of Odysseus’ world reflect on the status of the ending (πέρας) of the Odyssey itself, but also on their connection to the limits (πέρας) of Odysseus’ suffering.” Furthermore, the author shows how the expressions ‘we have not yet come to the end of our trials’ (Odyssey xxiii 248-249: … οὐ γάρ πω πάντων ἐπὶ πείρατ᾿ ἀέθλων // ἤλθομεν, …) and ‘[t]here lies before me still a great and hazardous adventure’ (Odyssey xxiii 249: … ἀλλ᾿ ἔτ᾿ ὄπισθεν ἀμέτρητος πόνος ἔσται) both have a rich metapoetic resonance. Drawing on the Hesiodic connection between the act of sailing and the art of poetry, Purves (15) argues that once the epic hero is cut loose from the Odyssey he will be disorientated. Unlike Elpenor in Odyssey xi 76 (cf. what is said for Hector’s opponent in Iliad VII 86), his σῆμα, as indicated by the oar planted in the ground, will mark an anonymous identity. On the poetics of the Nautilia section in Hesiod’s Works and Days with a special emphasis on the metapoetic meaning of μέτρα, see Nagy 1982:65–66; Rosen 1990:99–113; Tsagalis 2006:103–113, 121–124.

[ back ] 31. The σῆμα ἀριφραδές, which Odysseus gives to Penelope while repeating Teiresias’ words, is a coded sign or clue. Just as Penelope tested Odysseus before (xxiii 105-110), now Odysseus will try to test Penelope. Conversely, the Odyssey implies to its audience that these signs have a figurative meaning. The oar test is a sema only for those participating in the Odyssey and sharing the basic tenets of this epic tradition. Once out of this tradition, the oar, the sema of Odyssean poetics and the trademark of the Odyssey loses its sense. The audience needs therefore to interpret the sema on a figurative level, as the sign indicating Odyssean identity. On this interpretation of sema, see Pucci 1987:90.

[ back ] 32. See Peradotto 1990:73, who regards Penelope’s response as the best, albeit ambivalent, guide to the interpretation of Teiresias’ prophecy.

[ back ] 33. On the concept of immortality, see Burgess 2001:167, who has argued that the Cyclic poems (and in our case the post-Homeric Telegony by Eugammon of Cyrene) do not mirror a post-Homeric world.

[ back ] 34. Burgess 2001:167, 255n148 rightly argues that immortalization is not a post-Homeric concept and that (167) the Odyssey’s treatment of immortality is unusual, not primary. In fact, Odysseus’ rejection of the immortality offered him by Calypso reflects the Odyssey’s interest in promoting Odysseus as a man who prefers Penelope and Ithaca to Calypso and immortality. Having promoted its hero, the Odyssey entertains, as it comes to its end, the thought of an Odysseus attempting, now that the Odyssean tradition had offered him all it has, to exit the poem.

[ back ] 35. See Kahane 2005:35.

[ back ] 36. The story of Odysseus and the oar is not mentioned by the scholia on Lycophron’s Alexandra (ad 815 Scheer) or Apollodorus’ Epitome or Proclus’ summary. Most commentators believe that it is implicit in these sources, since they all refer to the performance of the sacrifices commanded by Teiresias. This is a quite complex issue, which has not been fully studied. On this topic, see the following pages.

[ back ] 37. Hansen 1990:239–272. My analysis is heavily based on Hansen’s findings.

[ back ] 38. Hansen 1990:249–260. The aetiological coda is only attested in the first group of stories concerning the Sailor and the Oar.

[ back ] 39. Hansen 1990:266.

[ back ] 40. See Merkelbach 1969:146.

[ back ] 41. Danek 1998:456.

[ back ] 42. On the Cyclic Telegony, see Welcker 18822:303–304; Svoronos 1888:257–280; Vürtheim 1907:183–216; Hartmann 1915, 1917; Phillips 1953:53–67; Huxley 1960:23–28; Severyns 1962:15–24; Stanford 19632:81–89; Merkelbach 1969:142–155; Danek 1998:454–457; Burgess 2001:153–154, 167, 170.

[ back ] 43. See Telegonia, PEG 1, frs. 1–5 = EGF frs. 1–2.

[ back ] 44. The paragraph divisions in Burgess’ translation (which came to my knowledge only after I had argued for a Telegony in three moves) is an argumentum ex silentio about the three parts of this epic.

[ back ] 45. See Hartmann 1917:61–62.

[ back ] 46. The rest of Apollodorus’ text (§ 38–40) is excluded from analysis because I believe that it reflects a different, non-Telegonian tradition. Penelope’s rape by Antinoos, her pregnancy by Hermes, and her death at the hands of Odysseus because of her seduction by Aphinomus are all elements referring to later traditions concerning a non-Telegonian future for Penelope. Likewise for the stories concerning Odysseus’ exile (§ 40).

[ back ] 47. On the misunderstanding of the expression ἐπὶ τούτῳ, see Severyns 1962:15–24.

[ back ] 48. See Hartmann 1917:65–70, who studies in detail the relation between the Trophonius-Agamedes myth and its Egyptian parallel by drawing attention to the story of Rhampsinitus in Herodotus II 121.

[ back ] 49. See Grimal 1986 s.v. Agamedes and Augeias.

[ back ] 50. Polyxenus is also known from Homeric epic. In Iliad II 623–624, Polyxenus (Πολύξεινος) is mentioned as the fourth leader of the forces coming from Bouprasion and Elis. He is the son of Agasthenes and grandson of Augeias.

[ back ] 51. Once the sailor comes across a man who would mistake an oar for a winnowing fan, then he has to put it in the ground and make there his new home.

[ back ] 52. The intervention of Apollo in the battle is reminiscent of Athena’s intervention in Odyssey xxiv 531–532, when the fighting between Odysseus and his family against the relatives of the suitors was abruptly stopped.

[ back ] 53. The driving away of the cattle by Circe’s son, Telegonus (according to Apollodorus’ version), and Odysseus’ visit to the βουκόλια of Augeias (according to Proclus’ summary) bear a striking similarity to a part of Teiresias’ prophecy (Odyssey xi 106–109) concerning Odysseus’ journey to Thrinacia, where his comrades will eat the Cattle of the Sun. Interestingly enough, both Circe and Augeias are the daughter and the son of Helios, respectively. In all these stories, a crucial event in Odysseus’ life is connected with Helios.

[ back ] 54. The ἐξ ἁλός conundrum, which is attested in Odyssey xi 134 and xxiii 281, may indicate that this is a very old feature. See Burgess 2001:153–154.

[ back ] 55. See TrGF 4 (Radt), frs. 453–461a.

[ back ] 56. See Burgess 2001:167, 255n148.

[ back ] 57. See Olson 1997:7–9, who has argued that there is an etymological connection between the word Θρινακία (Odyssey xi 107) and θρῖναξ, the latter being a gloss (like πτύον ‘shovel’) for the kenning ἀθηρηλοιγός employed by Teiresias in his prophecy to Odysseus (Odyssey xi 128). Under this scope, the oar will be mistaken for ‘a destroyer of chaff’ (ἀθηρηλοιγός), which alludes to the ‘Winnowing-Shovel Island’ (Θρινακία), where Odysseus will be separated from his comrades. In this way, according to Olson’s interpretation, the Thrinacia episode becomes intricately linked to Odysseus’ last post-Odyssean adventure.

[ back ] 58. Frame 1978:88.

[ back ] 59. Both Elis and Pylos feature in Odyssey xxiv 430–431 as places where Odysseus might flee. See Merkelbach 1969:150.

[ back ] 60. See Frame 1978:88–90. See chapter 8.

[ back ] 61. This time it is employed as a man’s name designating Trophonius’ companion Agamedes.

[ back ] 62. Eliade 1963:143; Frame 1978:38–53.

[ back ] 63. Frame 1978:50.

[ back ] 64. In this respect, Odysseus’ meeting with Elpenor in the Underworld becomes all the more relevant. This scene has been rightly regarded (Ahl and Roisman 1996:123–125) as an ironical comment on the part of Odysseus’ narrative, since poor Elpenor unwillingly arrives earlier than Odysseus at Hades. Moreover, when Teiresias prophesizes Odysseus’ future journey with an oar on his shoulder, the audience is expected to make the connection with the scene immediately preceding, in which it is stated that Elpenor’s grave will be marked by an oar. The oar, being a symbol of seamanship and a trademark of Odyssean poetics, is used as the ironical link between the two episodes. The Odyssey is wittily employing the story of the Sailor and the Oar at a point where heroic fame has just been questioned through Elpenor’s unheroic death and hasty arrival at the Underworld. A more profound criticism will be presented later in the same Book (Odyssey xi 488–491) through Achilles’ denunciation of heroic ideals.

[ back ] 65. In the analysis above, I have attempted to explain the presence of the Helios element (through Thrinacia and Circe) in both ‘prophecies’.

[ back ] 66. 1960:23–28.

[ back ] 67. Huxley 1960:26.

[ back ] 68. Huxley could have also mentioned the fact that, according to one tradition, Trophonius and Agamedes, whose story features in the Cyclic Telegony when Odysseus travels to Elis, had built a temple for Poseidon in Mantineia, where archaeologists had found coins depicting Odysseus with the oar.

[ back ] 69. Malkin 1998:131 rightly argues that “Thesprotia in the Odyssey and Elis in both the Telegony and the Odyssey seem to indicate both an allusion of the Odyssey to its sequels and alternatives and a reflection of Ithaca’s multiple real-world connections with its various mainland (Epirus and the Peloponnese).”

[ back ] 70. I disagree with Malkin 1998:123, who thinks that since Odysseus sacrifices to all the Olympian gods after his return from Elis to Ithaca, then we should believe that the “condition of the oar had been fulfilled.” In other words, Malkin seems to accept that the story of the Sailor and the Oar formed part of the Cyclic Telegony and that it occurred in Elis.

[ back ] 71. In the Odyssey, as soon as Odysseus arrives in Ithaca, Athena reminds him of the cave of the Nymphs where he used to offer sacrifices (Odyssey xiii 347–351). Odysseus immediately raises his hands towards the sky and prays to the Nymphs (Odyssey xiii 355–360). In both Proclus’s summary and in Apollodorus’ Epitome, Odysseus’ first journey begins with sacrifices either to the Nymphs (Proclus) or to Hades, Persephone, and Teiresias (Apollodorus). Malkin 1998:104 argues that Odysseus’ sacrifice to the Nymphs in the beginning of the Cyclic Telegony has been ‘inherited’ from a seventh century poem, the Thesprotis. By adducing significant archaeological information concerning the cave of the Nymphs at Polis Bay, he maintains that this cave was considered to be the point of both Odysseus’ return and second departure from Ithaca.

[ back ] 72. The same applies to Pausanias’ (VIII 44.4) information concerning the remains of a temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon, which had been supposedly built by Odysseus on his way home from Troy. See Hansen 1977:33.

[ back ] 73. 1969:145–147.

[ back ] 74. Malkin 1998:129

[ back ] 75. See Merkelbach 1969:146. Odysseus’ exile is explicitly mentioned by two ancient sources, Plutarch’s Moralia 294 CD (Aetia Romana et Graeca 14 = Aristotle fr. 507 R.) and Apollodorus’ Epitome VII 40. According to these versions, the suitors’ relatives stood up against Odysseus, and Neoptolemus was summoned as a mediator (διαιτητής). Odysseus, who was subsequently exiled, traveled to Aetolia, where he married the daughter of king Thoas and had a son with her, Leontophonus. Odysseus died in Aetolia in his old age.

[ back ] 76. According to my view, Lycophron’s Alexandra 795-804 does not point to the Cyclic Telegony but to the older Thesprotian-Telegonian tradition, in which Odysseus performed the sacrifices in Epirus. See scholia on Lycophron’s Alexandra 815 [Scheer]: Ὀδυσσεὺς δὲ εἰς Εὐρυτᾶνας ἔθνος Ἠπείρου κατὰ χρησμὸν ἐλθὼν θύει τὰ νενομισμένα καὶ γηραιὸς ἄγαν κτείνεται παρὰ Τηλεγόνου, τοῦ ἐκ Κίρκης αὐτῷ γεννηθέντος υἱοῦ. καὶ τὰ μὲν κατὰ τὸν Ὀδυσσέα οὕτως ἔχει. One of Lycophron’s sources may have been Aristotle’s Ἰθακησίων πολιτεία, where it is stated (according to Tzetzes) that the Eurytanes honored Odysseus by having founded an oracle dedicated to him. See Stephanus Byzantius Ethnica s.v. Βούνειμα.

[ back ] 77. See Malkin 1998:123–124. Cf. Odyssey xxiv 482–486.

[ back ] 78. Notice that Proclus used the form ἀποπλεῖ to refer to Odysseus’ journey’s to Elis.

[ back ] 79. Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα εἰς Θεσπρωτοὺς ἀφικνεῖται.

[ back ] 80. Hansen 1977.

[ back ] 81. See Hansen 1977:37, who argues that “Homer’s account has not passed into or reentered oral tradition.”

[ back ] 82. On Thesprotia, see Malkin 1998:126–134. Merkelbach 1969 rightly claims that the Odyssey’s false stories of the Cretan Odysseus are a kind of intertextual pathway to other versions of Odysseus’ return.

[ back ] 83. See Kullmann 1992:341.