Homeric Questions

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Chapter 4. Myth as Exemplum in Homer

Let us begin with the central challenge. I call into question the very idea that Homeric myth is a matter of personal invention. Such an idea, I will argue, leads to an attitude that divorces the study of Homeric poetry, under the control of Classicists, from the study of myth, as illuminated by the discipline of anthropology.

A major problem lies in the instability of our own concept of myth, which leads to the destabilization of the concepts of creativity and invention in the contexts of myth. It is one thing for the ancient commentators to say that Homer created something for the moment, as for example when Aristarchus takes this stance about a story told by Thetis, retold by Achilles in Iliad I 396-406, about a conspiracy {114|115} against Zeus by Hera, Poseidon, and Athena (scholia A to Iliad I 400; cf. scholia for I 399-406). After all, as Willcock observes, the ancient commentators “treat Homer as a creative poet.” [9] But it is quite another thing for modern commentators who wish to defend the creativity of Homer to describe this story as “sheer invention.” [10] For the poets of ancient Greece, as I will argue, creativity is a matter of applying, to the present occasion, mythology that already exists. For modern commentators, however, creativity tends to be viewed as a matter of actively and consciously rejecting the versions of myths that already do exist. If indeed Homer is a creative poet, their reasoning goes, then whatever myths we find in Homer need not be ancient myths per se, but personal creations of new versions. Willcock puts it this way:

These observations should be of particular concern to Classicists whose familiarity with anthropological approaches to myth is based mainly on the works of Lévi-Strauss, as criticized here. Worse, such familiarity is hardly a direct one for many English-speaking students of the Classics, who rely on G. S. Kirk’s introductory books about myth, featuring summaries of the summaries made by Lévi-Strauss, as a short-cut to an understanding of “structuralism.” [23] Worse still, these books by Kirk, who is not an anthropologist, adopt an attitude of self-distancing from the very methods that he applies. What results is that readers are scared away from consulting directly the anthropological perspectives of Lévi-Strauss himself. I suggest that not enough credit is being given to the methods of Lévi-Strauss in analyzing the myths of small-scale societies like the Bororo of central Brazil, even if we may agree with Leach that not enough attention is being paid to the contexts of performance. The works of Lévi-Strauss, I maintain, remain models of “structuralist” techniques in revealing the richness and complexity of human thought in the institutions of so-called “primitive” societies. For many who read Kirk, however, the myths of small-scale societies like the Bororo will seem more like a foil for showing the distinctness and in many instances the purported superiority of the myths of the ancient Greeks. Such an attitude is criticized by Marcel Detienne in an essay bearing the ironic title, “Les Grecs ne sont pas comme les autres.” [24]

There is a key word that figures in this argument. As Martin shows in his Language of Heroes, a word used in Homeric diction to designate any speech-act is mûthos, ancestor of our word myth. In Homeric diction, the Greek word for “myth” reveals itself in its broadest sense.

Let us reexamine in this light the wording of Martin’s useful working definition of épos: “an utterance, ideally short, accompanying a physical act, and focusing on message, as perceived by the addressee, rather than on performance as enacted by the speaker.” In line with the argument that unmarked speech is “ordinary” speech only inasmuch as it serves as a default category in opposition to a special category of marked speech, we could say that Homeric épos is “ideally short” precisely because Homeric mûthos is ideally long. Or again, we could describe Homeric épos as “focusing on message, as perceived by the addressee” precisely because Homeric mûthos focuses not only on message but also “on performance as enacted by the speaker.” If it were not for the opposition to unmarked épos by way of marked mûthos, the word épos need not designate speech that is “ideally short,” nor need it be perceived as merely “focusing on message.” {121|122}

There is, to be sure, nothing post-Homeric about the actual word alēthḗs ‘true’ or alḗtheia ‘truth’, or even about the concept inherent in the formation of the word, which expresses an explicit denial, by way of the negative element a-, of forgetting, lēth-, and thereby an implicit affirmation of remembering, mnē-. [43] As Martin has shown convincingly, the Homeric word mûthos is associated with narrating from memory, [44] which he describes as the rhetorical act of recollection. [45] This speech-act of recollection, which qualifies explicitly as a mûthos (as at {122|123} I 273), is the act of mnē– ‘remembering’. An ideal example is the wording of Phoenix in Iliad IX 527 as he introduces the story of the hero Meleagros to Achilles and the rest of the audience: μέμνημαι ‘I remember [mnē-]’. [46] The failure of any such speech-act is marked by the act of lēth– ‘forgetting’ (as with λήθεαι at IX 259). [47] The very concept of alēthḗs ‘true’ or alḗtheia ‘truth’ expresses the need to avoid such failure in the speech act, the mûthos, of recollection or narrating from memory, and Homeric diction can actually combine alēthḗs ‘true’ with a derivative of mûthos, the verb muthéomai ‘make a mûthos’, as in the expression alēthéa muthḗsasthai ‘speak true things’ at Iliad VI 382 (the whole speech in question is introduced as a mûthos at VI 381). The Homeric meaning of muthéomai ‘make a mûthos’ has all the force of mûthos itself, as we see from this description by Martin: “When this word for speech occurs, the accompanying discourse has a formal nature, often religious or legal; full detail is laid out for the audience, or is expected by the interlocutor in the poem; at times, a character comments on the formal qualities of the discourse labeled with this verb.” [48]

My argument about mûthos has been criticized with reference to the most abbreviated available version of what I have had to say on the subject, in my foreword to Martin’s book on mûthos: [74] Here is a summary of my position:

Not quite. I was discussing “the relationship between myth and ritual in ancient Greek society.” [
76] With reference to this relationship, I argued that “the language of ritual and myth is marked whereas ‘everyday’ language is unmarked.” [77] Then, “as an example of these semantics,” I cited múō, meaning ‘I have my eyes closed’ or ‘I have my mouth closed’ in everyday situations, but ‘I see in a special way’ or ‘I say in a special way’ in ritual. [78] The idea of special visualization and verbalization is further conveyed by two derivatives of múō, namely mústēs ‘one who is initiated’ and mustḗrion ‘that into which one is initiated’; similarly with mûthos, I argued that this word, apparently related to múō, has a history of designating a special way of seeing and saying things. [79] Then I gave a contextual example of this idea of special visualization and verbalization, which has been quoted as a point of departure for criticizing my views:

The “striking example” refers not to the specific word múō and other related words but to the general idea reflected by such words. [

From an anthropological point of view, “myth” is indeed “special speech” in that it is a given society’s way of affirming its own reality. Leach offers a particularly useful synthesis:

Such a description of myth fits ideally the case of the myth told by Thetis, retold by Achilles in Iliad I 396–406, about a conspiracy against Zeus by Hera, Poseidon, and Athena. In an important article that demands far more recognition than it has so far received, Mabel Lang has shown convincingly that this myth fits into a whole corpus—if I may apply Leach’s term—of interconnected myths, spread throughout the Iliad, concerning conflicts of the Olympian gods. [
84] Lang sums it up this way:

Arguing against Willcock’s notion of ad hoc personal invention, Lang shows in detail how a complex and consistent set of paradeígmata or exempla concerning conflicts of the gods, as attested within the Iliad, has “priority” over the narrative points where the paradeígmata are cited by the characters of the Iliad. [
86] The myth is already there, ready to be applied. “If the myth which is presented as a parádeigma has suffered very much in the way of innovation,” Lang argues, “it will have lost its persuasive power as a precedent to be respected.” [87] We may compare Martin’s general description of the {131|132} speech-acts embedded in Homeric narrative: “the diction … is most likely inherited and traditional; the rhetoric, on the other hand, is the locus of spontaneous composition in performance.” [88] He goes on to say that “the way in which heroes speak to one another foregrounds for us this phenomenon of performing to fit the audience.” [89]

I advocate, then, an approach to the use of mythological exemplum in Homer that differs from the paradigm of Willcock on the matter of ad hoc invention. It also differs, however, from that of the neo-analysts, who believe that the myths of Homer are drawn generally from earlier “sources.” This difference is summed up in the following formulation:

To cite Finnegan’s work instead of Parry’s and Lord’s is to provide an excuse, in undertaking one’s own assessment of Homer, not to address directly any issues raised by differences between oral and written poetry. Such issues do indeed emerge, however, in many works {134|135} that choose at first to ignore them. At later stages of one such work, the author begins to draw a sharp contrast between myths, associated indirectly with the “oral origin” of Homeric poetry, and the classicism associated directly with Homer himself. According to the paradigm that emerges, Homer becomes divorced from myth. [106] Homer becomes the hermeneutic model for classicism, while myth is left behind as the threatening outsider, the “other,” which Classicists can hold up to ridicule by retelling, out of context, narratives from, say, the Bororo traditions as paraphrased by Kirk. In one case, the author retells a Sumerian myth, again taken from Kirk’s book, alongside the Bororo myths; then, putting them together as a counterweight to the classicism of the ancient Greeks, he describes these myths as “this exuberant and grotesque play of fantasy.” [107] The question of how to distinguish between these myths and the myths of the ancient Greeks is then addressed as follows:

To achieve this purified vision of the Greek hero, one would be forced to take out of consideration not only the comparative evidence supplied by such disciplines as social anthropology but also much of the internal Greek evidence. The many-sidedness of Greek heroes in particular and Greek myth in general can be illustrated with a wealth of {135|136} testimony from both nonliterary as well as literary sources, [
109] including such traditional forms as the fables of Aesop, which have been described as “déclassé.” [110]

All this is not to say that we should not expect Homeric myths to have distinctive features. But whatever distinctness we may find in Homer cannot be formulated, let alone explained, without the rigorous application of a comparative perspective.

Just as the myths that are cited by characters in Homeric poetry are part of a complex system of mythmaking, not a disintegrated mass of raw material that is arbitrarily reshaped by the framing narrative, so also the framing narrative itself is constituted by myths that are part of that same complex system of mythmaking. The organizing myths that constitute our Iliad and Odyssey, the framing narrative of Homeric poetry, share in the formal characteristics of myth as described by social anthropologists. By way of applying both comparative and internal analysis, the theory can be advanced that the contents of the Iliad and Odyssey are controlled by the principles of mythmaking, the building-blocks of which can be described as themes: “my theory…has it that theme is the overarching principle in the creation of traditional poetry like the Iliad and the Odyssey; also, that the formulaic heritage of these compositions is an accurate expression of their thematic heritage.” [115] Such a view of Homeric poetry, as built from myths that organize it, can become a hermeneutic model for addressing the vexed question of the unity of Homeric composition:

This formulation takes into account the factor of change over time in the traditions of mythmaking, and how any current phase of a myth, as a system, is responsive to changes in the here-and-now of the latest retelling of myth. But the point is, the changes themselves are responsive to the traditional variants that are available. Changes can be symptomatic of traditional variation.

The Embassy Scene draws upon a wealth of possible traditional variants, all of which are exempla in the making, much as we see the characters of Homeric narrative drawing upon variants in constructing their own messages.

Nestor’s advice to Agamemnon, which becomes the adopted course of action, is that Phoenix, Ajax, and Odysseus be sent as emissaries to Achilles (IX 168–170); Phoenix is to take the lead, as conveyed by the verb hēgéomai ‘lead the way’ (ἡγησάσθω IX 168). Along with these three emissaries, the two heralds Odios and Eurybates are also sent along (IX 170). So there are in fact five emissaries in all.

As the ensemble makes its way towards the tent of Achilles, we see the following description:

τὼ δὲ βάτην παρὰ θῖνα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης
‘and the two went along the shore of the much-roaring sea’

Iliad IX 182

Who are the two, if five emissaries have already been mentioned? A sense of precedent—or let us say exemplum—would first suggest the two heralds, Odios and Eurybates. We may note another narrative combination, the two heralds Talthybios and Eurybates, as mentioned in Book I of the Iliad (320-321), whom we see described in the same sort of way at an earlier point in the narrative, where they are being sent by Agamemnon to take Briseis away from Achilles:

When the two heralds had arrived at the tent of Achilles, the hero had greeted them thus: {139|140}

χαίρετε, κήρυκες, Διὸς ἄγγελοι ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν
‘hail, heralds, messengers of Zeus and of men!’

Iliad IΧ 334

So also now in Book IX, as the emissaries arrive at the tent of Achilles, the hero greets them:

τὼ καὶ δεικνύμενος προσέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς·
“χαίρετον· ἦ φίλοι ἄνδρες ἱκάνετον· ἦ τι μάλα χρεώ,
οἵ μοι σκυζομένῳ περ Ἀχαιῶν φίλτατοί ἐστον.”
‘and he, gesturing towards the two of them, addressed them:
“Hail, the two of you! You two have come as near-and-dear men. Truly you have a great need for me,
You who are to me, angry though I am, the most near-and-dear of the Achaeans.”’

Iliad IX 196–198

Just as Achilles talks of the great need for him in the present situation (IX χρεώ 197), so also he had predicted a great need in Book I of the Iliad, when he had called on the two heralds to be witnesses (I 338) to the fact that there would yet come a time when there will be a great need for him (χρειώ I 341). [

Such subtlety, however, becomes imaginable and even comprehensible once we begin to appreciate the vast array of variants, potential mythological exempla, available to Homeric tradition at any given point of narrative. One last example will suffice. We know that archaic Greek narratives about hostile encounters between heroes and divine rivers can traditionally picture the river as taking the shape of a ferocious beast: a prime example is Archilochus F 286-287 West, where the hero Herakles fights with the divine river Akhelōos, which has taken on the shape of a raging bull. We may contrast the treatment of the fight between the hero Achilles and the divine river Xanthos in Iliad XXI, where Xanthos does not take the shape of a bull and is not even theriomorphic: rather, the narrative opts for a variant tradition highlighting the elemental aspect of the river, as water personified, struggling with a hero whose ally here is Hephaistos, fire personified. [140] It has been argued, partly on the authority of the scholia for Iliad XXI 237, that the Archilochean representation is pre-Homeric. [141] It is enough for now to say that the Archilochean representation stems from a tradition that is independent of Homer. But the wonder of it all is this: the Homeric narrative goes out of its way to make an indirect reference to the other tradition. The river Xanthos, in the heat of battle with the hero Achilles, is described as {145|146} μεμυκὼς ἠύτε ταῦρος ‘bellowing like a bull (Iliad XXI 237). [142] The simile amounts to a conscious acknowledgment of a variant tradition.

In seeking to persuade those who are as yet not quite convinced by the argument that mythological exempla in Homer stem from a rich, complex, and, yes, subtle tradition, I close by inviting them to consider the meaning of the Latin word exemplum, as revealed through its own contexts. This meaning has been summed up admirably in the Latin etymological dictionary of Alfred Ernout and Antoine Meillet, who define exemplum as an object set apart from among other objects like it, for the sake of serving as a model. [143] For something to be set apart, to be “taken” (verb emō), it has to be outstanding, exceptional (adjective eximius). Exceptional as it is, the model as model is traditional. The model is a precedent, and that precedent would lose its rhetoric, its very power, if it were to be changed for the sake of change. It is one thing for us to recognize changes in the development of myth over time. It is quite another to assume that changes are arbitrarily being made by those who use myth as exemplum within their own society. As precedent, mythological exemplum demands a mentality of the unchanging, of adherence to the model, even if myth is changeable over time. [144] The exemplum is there so that society may follow it or shun it, and that in itself is an exercise of the mind and spirit. The Roman lexicographical tradition says it well in contrasting exemplum and exemplar (Paulus ex Festo 72.5):

exemplum est quod sequamus aut uitemus. exemplar ex quo simile faciamus. illud animo aestimatur, istud oculis conspicitur

‘An exemplum is something that attracts us or repels us, whereas an exemplar is something that we make something else resemble. The exemplar is visible to the eye. The exemplum is sensed in the spirit.’

I speak of Homeric exemplum, not Homeric exemplar. {146|147}


[ back ] 1. For example Öhler 1929.

[ back ] 2. Willcock 1964. Cf. Braswell 1971.

[ back ] 3. Willcock 1977:43.

[ back ] 4. Kuhn 1970.

[ back ] 5. Cf. especially Kuhn 1970:66.

[ back ] 6. Kuhn 1970:66.

[ back ] 7. In the present version, I hope that I have transcended the earlier version (Nagy 1992b) by resorting less often to outright polemics.

[ back ] 8. Willcock 1977:53.

[ back ] 9. Willcock 1977:43n10.

[ back ] 10. Willcock 1964:143. We may note the cautious wording of Martin 1989:129 in describing the “invention” of Diomedes at Iliad VI 215–231.

[ back ] 11. Willcock is using autoschediasmata in the sense of “improvisations.”

[ back ] 12. Willcock 1977:53.

[ back ] 13. Kullmann 1960.

[ back ] 14. Kullmann 1956:14. Kullmann’s position is modified as his discussion proceeds (pp. 14–16), in that he accepts a variant reading reported by Zenodotus (scholia A to Iliad I 400) at the line-ending of Iliad I 400: Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων ‘Phoebus Apollo’ instead of Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη ‘Pallas Athena’. Kullmann infers that Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη was an innovative replacement of an earlier Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων. To that extent, even for Kullmann, there is at least partial innovation, against tradition, in this line as transmitted. On the role of Hera, Poseidon, and Athena in Iliad XXIV 25-26, see especially O’Brien 1993:91–94.

[ back ] 15. Griffin 1980:185.

[ back ] 16. Griffin 1980:185n17.

[ back ] 17. My translation, with slight modifications, of Burkert 1979b:16–39.

[ back ] 18. Leach 1982:6.

[ back ] 19. Leach 1982:6–7.

[ back ] 20. Leach 1982:4.

[ back ] 21. Lévi-Strauss, “The Structural Study of Myth” (1967); “The Story of Asdiwal” (1967b); and the four volumes of Mythologiques: i) Le cru et le cuit (1964), ii) Du miel aux cendres (1966), iii) L’origine des manières de table (1968), iv) L’homme nu (1971).

[ back ] 22. Leach 1982:7.

[ back ] 23. Kirk, Myth, Its Meaning and Functions (1970); The Nature of Greek Myths (1974).

[ back ] 24. Detienne, the first chapter of Dionysos mis à mort (1977) 17–47; see especially the remarks at pp. 24–25 concerning Kirk. At one point in his book on myth, Kirk (1970:179) says about the ancient Greek heroes: “The Greeks are a special case. In the mythology of most other peoples, heroes…are either inconspicuous or absent.” Kirk’s wording is quoted, with approval, by Griffin 1980:177n69.

[ back ] 25. Griffin 1980:173.

[ back ] 26. See Griffin 1980:175n66.

[ back ] 27. Griffin 1980:174–175. Griffin ridicules Kirk for saying of the Bororo myth that it has an “eerie, almost poetical quality” (Kirk 1970:63).

[ back ] 28. Martin 1989, especially pp. 12–42. Cf. also Létoublon, “Comment faire des choses avec des mots grecs” (1986), following up on her earlier work, “Défi et combat dans l’Iliade” (1983) 27–48. Also Muellner 1976.

[ back ] 29. Waugh, “Marked and Unmarked: A Choice between Unequals in Semiotic Structure” (1982). There is an extended discussion of these terms in Nagy 1990a:5–6.

[ back ] 30. Martin 1989:29.

[ back ] 31. Highlighting mine.

[ back ] 32. Extended discussion in Nagy 1990a:8–9, 31 and following.

[ back ] 33. Martin 1989:10–26.

[ back ] 34. Martin 1989:12.

[ back ] 35. Ibid.

[ back ] 36. Martin 1989:26–30. With reference the six types of dramatized speech-act that I have listed earlier as examples to be found in the Homeric poems, that is, boasts, threats, invectives, laments, prophecies, and prayers (see n28 above), we may note the observation of Martin 1989:38 that prayer is never explicitly designated as mûthos in Homeric diction. In my earlier discussion of dramatized Homeric speech-acts at Nagy 1990a:38, I have nevertheless listed prayer as belonging implicitly to the Homeric category of mûthos. One reason for making this connection is that the Homeric verb eúkhomai means not only ‘boast’ in a martial context or ‘declare’ in a juridical context but also ‘pray’ in a sacral context (see Muellner 1976). Cf. the discussion of apeiléō ‘make a promise, boastful promise, threat’ in Nagy 1994c.

[ back ] 37. Martin 1989:30.

[ back ] 38. Ibid.

[ back ] 39. Ibid.

[ back ] 40. Nagy 1990a:30 and again at 31.

[ back ] 41. Martin 1989:30–37; “every speech called ‘winged words’ is meant to make the listener do something” (31).

[ back ] 42. Extensive discussion of the relevant passages in Nagy 1990a:65–68, 134, 203n17, 423–424.

[ back ] 43. Detailed discussion at Nagy 1990a:58–61.

[ back ] 44. Martin 1989:44.

[ back ] 45. Martin 1989:80, who adds: “as a general rule, characters in the Iliad do not remember anything simply for the pleasure of memory. Recall has an exterior goal.” Martin 1989:81n60 cites Moran 1975:204 “on the introduction of non-Homeric poetry with the verb mémnēmai.” We may note with interest the idea of “non-Homeric” here.

[ back ] 46. On the function of the myth of Meleagros as retold by Phoenix to Achilles and the rest of the audience, see Nagy 1990a:196–197, 205, 253, 310n164, following up on Nagy 1979:105–111.

[ back ] 47. Extensive discussion by Martin 1989:77–88; of special interest is p. 78.

[ back ] 48. Martin 1989:40.

[ back ] 49. Nagy 1990a:65–66.

[ back ] 50. Nagy 1990a:66–68.

[ back ] 51. In fact, alēthéa muthḗsasthai ‘speak true things’ is attested as a textual variant of alēthéa gērúsasthai ‘announce true things’ in Hesiod Theogony 28: see Nagy 1990a:68n84.

[ back ] 52. Nagy 1990a, ibid.

[ back ] 53. Nagy 1990a, ibid.

[ back ] 54. Nagy 1990a, ibid.

[ back ] 55. Nagy 1990a:52–81. On the equivalence of what I describe as pan-Hellenic and what is explicitly described as Olympian in archaic Greek poetics, see Nagy 1990b [1982]:46 (also 10, 37); also Clay 1989:9–10. For more on pan-Hellenism as a hermeneutic concept, see pp. 39–30 above. For a critique, with bibliography, of various solutions that posit a distinction between the local Helikonian Muses and what I call the pan-Hellenic Olympian Muses, see Thalmann 1984:134–135. My own formulation differs from the earlier solutions in allowing for a preconceived overlap, in terms of the Theogony itself, between the Helikonian and Olympian Muses. The specialized category of Olympian, as a pan-Hellenic construct, is to be viewed as potentially included by the category of Helikonian: “Hesiod’s relationship with the Helikonian Muses represents an older and broader poetic realm that the poet then streamlines into the newer and narrower one of a pan-Hellenic theogony by way of synthesizing the Helikonian with the Olympian Muses” (Nagy 1990b:60). The operating principle, it seems, is that local versions may include pan-Hellenic aspects, while pan-Hellenic versions exclude distinctly local aspects (ibid.). Thus the objection mentioned by Thalmann (1984:134–135), to the effect that the Muses are named as Olympian already at Theogony 25, before their formal transfer to Olympus, is not an obstacle to my formulation. The Muses of Helikon are already potentially Olympian; once they become explicitly Olympian, however, they are exclusively Olympian.

[ back ] 56. Nagy 1990b:66.

[ back ] 57. There is an admirable survey of the semantics of alēthḗs, and of various interpretations, in Cole 1983, who resists Heidegger’s formulation of an “objective” truth value inherent in the word (the truth not “hidden” in what is perceived). Cole’s own interpretation is a reformulation of earlier solutions insisting on a “subjective” truth value (the truth not “forgotten” by the one who perceives). He suggests at op. cit. 12 that “the forgetting excluded by alḗtheia involves primarily the process of transmission—not the mental apprehension on which the transmission is based.” Thus alḗtheia refers “not simply to non-omission of pieces of information through forgetting or failure to take notice or ignoring, but also to not forgetting from one minute to the next what was said a few minutes before, and not letting anything, said or unsaid, slip by without being mindful of its consequences and implications” (ibid.).

[ back ] 58. Vernant 1985 [from a chapter first published in 1965]:108–136.

[ back ] 59. Cf. Thalmann 1984:147, paraphrasing Vernant. I have adopted his translation of Vernant’s “le fond de l’être” as “the essence of being,” described as “the reality that lies beyond the sensible world” (Thalmann, ibid.).

[ back ] 60. Detienne 1973:9–27.

[ back ] 61. Thalmann 1984:148 (also 230n31), following Detienne 1973:75–79.

[ back ] 62. Thalmann, ibid.

[ back ] 63. Thalmann, ibid., following Detienne 1973 and Pucci 1977.

[ back ] 64. Nagy 1990a:58, following Detienne 1973:22–27.

[ back ] 65. Nagy 1990a:59–61.

[ back ] 66. Leach 1982:5–7.

[ back ] 67. Nagy 1990a:68n84.

[ back ] 68. Martin 1989:13. See also Nagy 1979:236 and 272, building on the arguments of Koller 1972. See also Nagy 1979:270–274 (cf. Martin 1989:16) on épea in Iliad XX 200, 204, 249, 250, 256 as designating poetic utterances.

[ back ] 69. Nagy 1990a:52–81.

[ back ] 70. See pp. 119–120 above.

[ back ] 71. Nagy 1990a:31–32.

[ back ] 72. Ibid.; cf. Ben-Amos 1976.

[ back ] 73. Nagy 1982, review of Detienne, L’invention de la mythologie (1981). Further details in Nagy 1990a:31–32, 66–67.

[ back ] 74. Nagy 1989b.

[ back ] 75. Griffin 1991:1.

[ back ] 76. Nagy 1989b:x.

[ back ] 77. Ibid.

[ back ] 78. Ibid. Perhaps the “onomatopoeia” implicit in the mu of múō has to do with the mechanics of closure, not with the sound itself.

[ back ] 79. Ibid.

[ back ] 80. Nagy 1989b:x, quoted by Griffin 1991:1.

[ back ] 81. The reference is made clear in a less abbreviated version of my argument, which is cited along with this comment: “the same argument, with identical illustration, appears again, more unexpectedly, in Nagy’s opening chapter to The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism … p. 3” (Griffin, ibid.).This longer version introduced the argument, as quoted above, with this explicit wording: “For an illustration of the semantics underlying the usage of these Greek words, let us consider Sophocles… .” (Nagy 1989:3; cf. also Nagy 1982, cited by Martin 1989:13n42 but not by Griffin). While I would readily understand how someone could have misunderstood the shorter version, where I say “A striking example occurs in Sophocles…,” the longer version, as cited in the criticism, makes my meaning quite clear: I was speaking of the general concept of marked speech as reflected in the Oedipus at Colonus (1545–1546, 1641–1644, 1761–1763), not of the specific word múō and other related forms (cf. also Nagy 1990a:32). I therefore see no reason to be “surprised” as one turns from my arguments to the actual text of the Oedipus at Colonus: “It comes as a surprise to find, turning from this to the text, that none of the words múō, mústēs, mustḗrion, occurs in the Oedipus Coloneus; that the word mûthos occurs three times, but never with any special or ‘marked’ sense; and that Theseus is never, in the play, referred to as a priest” (Griffin p. 1). On the latter point, it can be argued that Theseus acts like a chief priest, an árkhōn basileús, when he grants (line 67) to Oedipus the right to dwell in Attica (katoikiō, 637); cf. Lowell Edmunds, forthcoming.

[ back ] 82. Cf. Nagy 1990a:31–32.

[ back ] 83. Leach 1982:5.

[ back ] 84. Lang 1983. Further insights in Slatkin 1986a:1–24; cf. also Slatkin 1986b, especially pp. 261–262. Slatkin’s work can be used as a counterweight to the assertion of Willcock 1977:50 that “the poet…needed a reason why Zeus should be under obligation to Thetis, and he therefore invented one” [emphasis mine].

[ back ] 85. Lang 1983:149.

[ back ] 86. See especially Lang 1983:151.

[ back ] 87. Lang 1983:147. On the eventual marginalization of mûthos in the Classical period, see cross-ref. above; also the discussion in Nagy 1990a:57 and following.

[ back ] 88. Martin 1989:85.

[ back ] 89. Ibid.

[ back ] 90. Leach 1982:5.

[ back ] 91. Ibid. Cf. Malinowski 1926.

[ back ] 92. Ibid., following Jacopin 1981.

[ back ] 93. [B.] Johnson 1980:56.

[ back ] 94. Martin 1989.

[ back ] 95. Parry 1971 [especially 1928a, 1928b, 1930, 1932] and Lord 1960.

[ back ] 96. In this light, we may consider the semantics of mímēsis in the sense of ‘reenacting’ or ‘acting’ a given myth: discussion in Nagy 1990a:42–44, 346, 349, 373–375, 381, 387. Cf. also Martin 1989:7n25 quoting Herington 1985:13: “Homeric poetry … seems to have been designed from the first to be acted.”

[ back ] 97. Taken from Nagy 1979:42–43. The notion of “cross-reference,” to which I allude in this statement, is indeed workable in the study of oral poetics provided we understand that any references to other stories in any given story would have to be diachronic in nature. On such diachronic cross-referencing between the Iliad and the Odyssey traditions, see Nagy 1990a:53–54n8; also Pucci 1987:240–242.

[ back ] 98. Griffin 1980:xiii. See cross-ref. above.

[ back ] 99. Griffin 1980:xiii–xiv. For a critique of Griffin’s attitude towards oral poetics, see Pucci 1987:27–28.

[ back ] 100. Griffin 1980:xiii. For a more extreme argument in opposition to the oral heritage of Homeric poetry, see Shive 1987, reviewed in Nagy 1988.

[ back ] 101. Griffin 1980:xiv.

[ back ] 102. Ibid.

[ back ] 103. Finnegan 1977.

[ back ] 104. Finnegan 1977:2.

[ back ] 105. See pp. 23–25 above.

[ back ] 106. This line of thought is developed further in Griffin 1977, where it is argued that the Homeric epics have screened out most of “the fantastic, the miraculous, and the romantic” (40) elements characteristic of the Epic Cycle because Homer was a superior or “unique” poet. For a different explanation of such “screening,” see Nagy 1979:8, par. 14n1. Cf. also Kullmann 1985:1–23, especially 15–18.

[ back ] 107. Griffin 1977:177. The choice of Sumerian myths as a foil for the Greek creates the kinds of problems dissected by Saïd, Orientalism (1978).

[ back ] 108. Griffin 1977:177.

[ back ] 109. A model survey, with emphasis on the hero, is Brelich 1958. Cf. also Snodgrass 1987, especially pp. 160, 165.

[ back ] 110. Griffin 1977:174. For a comparative study of the status of Aesop as hero, in terms of ancient Greek mythmaking traditions, see Nagy 1979:279–308.

[ back ] 111. Willcock 1977:45.

[ back ] 112. Cf. the wording “selection of detail” in the discussion of Martin 1989:130n78.

[ back ] 113. Only with such a premise, that Homeric poetry is itself a mythological exemplum, can I appreciate the following formulation in Andersen 1987:3: “mythological paradigms inserted into the Iliad effect the transformation of single events into variants of a timeless pattern.”

[ back ] 114. See cross-ref.

[ back ] 115. Nagy 1979:3. The word “theme” (and “thematic”) are used here as a shorthand reference to a basic unit in the traditional subject patterns of myth. A model for a sensible deployment of this word is Lord 1960:68–98.

[ back ] 116. Nagy 1979:4–5.

[ back ] 117. Summary of the context in Nagy 1979:42–58.

[ back ] 118. Cf. Page 1959:298. A survey of the full range of proposed solutions to this problem is given in Edwards 1987:219, who concludes that “it seems unlikely that anyone will ever be convinced by anyone else’s explanation.” For solutions that explore the possibility that the duals refer to two distinct groups, not individuals, see de Jong 1987:117–118, with reference to Gordesiani 1980. At p. 118, she cites XVII 387, a reference to Achaeans and Trojans by way of the dual.

[ back ] 119. Nagy 1979:49. Cf. also Schein 1984:125–126n35. The whole problem can be linked with the intent built into the speech of Phoenix to Achilles, on which see Schein 1984:112–116, 126n37.

[ back ] 120. Lynn-George 1988:54 notes the non-specificity of the duals at Iliad IX 182 and thereafter, adding that they “seem to signal relation rather than nomination, referring back to the passage in book I in which Briseis was taken from Achilles (I 327)”; in this context he cites the acute observations of Segal 1968. I offer one qualification: the duals of Iliad IX 182 and thereabouts do not refer to the duals of Iliad I 327 so much as they refer to the precedent of duals as attested in Iliad I 327. When Odysseus reports to Agamemnon the negative answer of Achilles, he calls upon Ajax and the two heralds as witnesses (IX 688–689). I agree with the observation made by de Jong 1987:118 about this detail: “The function of these two silent characters [= the heralds] is, therefore, to authorize the embassy: vis-à-vis Achilles they give an official cachet to the delegation coming from Agamemnon; vis-à-vis Agamemnon they guarantee that Odysseus faithfully reports Achilles’ answer.”

[ back ] 121. On the theme of Achilles’ need to be needed, see Rabel 1991:285; also Lynn-George 1988:123–131.

[ back ] 122. Nagy 1979:52–53. See also Nagy 1979:22–25 on the neîkos ‘quarrel’ between Achilles and Odysseus as recollected in Odyssey viii 75, matching the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon in Iliad I (recollected in terms of neîkos ‘quarrel’ at II 376: see N p. 131). I argue at length in Nagy 1979:42–58 that the grievances of the quarrel between Achilles and Odysseus mentioned in Odyssey viii 75 resurface throughout the Iliad, especially in Book IX. Griffin 1991:2 rejects my arguments, apparently without realizing that the internal evidence that I adduce comes not only from Odyssey viii 73-82 and the scholia but also from Iliad IX. For valuable arguments in addition to those that I have offered, see Martin 1989:97–98, 121, 123, 211–212, who also examines some convergences in the motives of Agamemnon and Odysseus as heroic rivals of Achilles.

[ back ] 123. There is no reason to assume that “the two” here include Odysseus, pace Wyatt 1985, especially p. 403. This verse can just as easily be interpreted as concerning two persons plus Odysseus, who now leads the way: see Nagy 1979:53 par. 16n3. Also, I disagree with Wyatt’s assertion, p. 406, that the words of Phoenix at IX 520–523 refer only to Ajax and Odysseus, not to Phoenix as well.

[ back ] 124. Nagy 1979:51–52. Cf. Odyssey viii 475–476, where Odysseus seems to be behaving like a host in a situation where he is the guest. It is traditional for Odysseus even to speak out of turn, as we see from the formulaic analysis of Odyssey xiv 439 by Muellner 1976:21.

[ back ] 125. Why does Odysseus fill his own cup, rather than wait for Achilles to do so? Perhaps here too we have a violation of etiquette.

[ back ] 126. Nagy 1990b:202–222, a rewritten version of Nagy 1983.

[ back ] 127. See Nagy 1990b:208 and 217–219 on Odyssey xvii 281 and Iliad XXIII 305 respectively.

[ back ] 128. Whitman 1958:191–192. Cf. Martin 1989:116–117, 123 Cf. also Lynn-George 1988:90–92.

[ back ] 129. Nagy 1990a:52–53. Cf. Martin 1989:197n82, 210–212.

[ back ] 130. On the rhetorical switch made by Achilles from second-person address (as still at IX 311) “to a third-person description of an ambiguous foil-figure” to whom he refers simply as keînos ‘that one’ at IX 312, see Martin 1989:210, who goes on to cite a parallel to this technique in Pindar Parthenia 2.16 (210n4). Martin’s observation about keînos ‘that one’ as the ultimate ekhthrós ‘hateful one’ provides valuable support for my interpretation at Nagy 1979:255 of Pindar Nemean 8.23, where I take the anonymous keînos ‘that one’ as a reference to Odysseus as the deceitful rival who is responsible for the death of Ajax.

[ back ] 131. Cf. Edwards 1987:229: “At last Ajax puts in a word. Addressing Odysseus, he refers to Achilles as if he were not there.” When Ajax refers to himself and Odysseus as phíltatoi ‘most dear’ to Achilles (IX 642), I would argue that this hero, unlike Achilles, at this point fails to perceive the motives of Odysseus.

[ back ] 132. Martin 1989:233–239. In these pages, Martin adduces a wealth of comparative evidence, gathered from a variety of living oral traditions, for the pattern of assimilating the narrator’s perspective to the dramatized perspective of a given character in the narration. Cf. also cross-ref. above. Griffin 1991:2 claims that Martin argues for the poet’s self-identification with Achilles merely to explain the dual forms in the narrative of Iliad IX. As I read what Martin has actually written, I find it impossible to accept Griffin’s claim.

[ back ] 133. Martin 1989:236–237. He leaves room for the possibility that the duals amount to an exclusion, without any insult being intended, of Phoenix rather than Odysseus (236).

[ back ] 134. Martin 1989:235–236.

[ back ] 135. Cf. Verdenius 1985, review of Nagy 1979.

[ back ] 136. On which see cross-ref.

[ back ] 137. Verdenius 1985:181.

[ back ] 138. Solmsen 1981:83, review of Nagy 1979. Solmsen argues (82) that the dual constructions of Iliad IX 182 and 183 “cannot be a snub since Achilles is not present,” and therefore that the duals in the greeting of Achilles at IX 197–198 cannot be a snub either. As I have already argued, however, nobody would claim that the duals at IX 182 and 183 have to be interpreted as a snub: they would only be a narrative “set-up” for the potential of a later snub, which becomes activated only at the moment of Achilles’ greeting. I also disagree with the reasoning of Wyatt 1985:401n5, 403n8.

[ back ] 139. Griffin 1984:134, review of Clay 1984.

[ back ] 140. Cf. Whitman 1958:139–142 and Nagy 1979:321–322.

[ back ] 141. Scheibner 1939:120–121.

[ back ] 142. Ibid.

[ back ] 143. Ernout and Meillet, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine (1959): “exemplum est proprement l’objet distingué des autres et mis à part pour servir de modèle.”

[ back ] 144. Cf. Nagy 1985:32–36.