Agamemnon, the Pathetic Despot: Reading Characterization in Homer

  Porter, Andrew. 2019. Agamemnon, the Pathetic Despot: Reading Characterization in Homer. Hellenic Studies Series 78. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

4. The Characterization of Agamemnon in the Iliad

4.1 Introduction

A vivid picture of what Agamemnon’s character was like for the Odyssey poet and his core audience emerged from our discussion in the last chapter, and it joins the portrait we began to see develop already in Chapter 2. We have noted that Agamemnon is known within Homer’s tradition as a character who dies a shameful and pitiful death at his wife’s hands. Further, as we began to see in Chapter 2, Agamemnon’s traditional personality in Iliad 4 is shown to be one given to thoughtless, foolish, and rash words and actions. These traits will continue to resonate strongly with the picture the Iliad poet paints in the rest of his epic. Other traits less pronounced in the Odyssey also emerge from a close reading of the rest of the Iliad, where Agamemnon is still the living leader of the war against Troy. In the Iliad, we will encounter Agamemnon in many scenes as a leader with a penchant for arrogance, imperiousness, irreverence, and insult. [1] He also appears as inept and unconvincing in his relations with others, certainly in his dealings with the basileis who have accompanied him on an expedition to regain Menelaos’ wife and honor.

This chapter is written, as was the previous, in the format of a commentary. Further, as we have seen already, characterization for the ancient audience was not abstracted and separated from events, but rather attached inextricably to “word and deed” housed within the tradition already known to singer and audience. Consequently, both of these elements will continue to provide us with an opportunity to see what Agamemnon was like for the poet and his ancient audience.

4.2 Commentary

4.2.1 Agamemnon’s Dishonoring and Hubristic Actions: 1.6–344

Immediately following the prooimion, the Iliad begins with strife between Achilles and Agamemnon (1.9). The priest Chryses had come supplicating the Atreidai and the “other well-greaved Achaians” for his daughter (1.12–21). Despite the army’s supporting assent “to reverence the priest and to receive the splendid ransom” (αἰδεῖσθαί θ’ ἱερῆα καὶ ἀγλαὰ δέχθαι ἄποινα, 22), he is irreverently rebuffed (24–32). Agamemnon will not be swayed, but rather gives way to his anger. The language introducing Agamemnon’s reply to Chryses is no less telling than the response itself (24–25): “But not to Atreus’ son Agamemnon was it pleasing in [his] spirit, / badly instead he sent [the priest] away, and a strong command he laid upon [him]” (ἀλλ’ οὐκ Ἀτρεΐδῃ Ἀγαμέμνονι ἥνδανε θυμῷ, / ἀλλὰ κακῶς ἀφίει, κρατερὸν δ’ ἐπὶ μῦθον ἔτελλε). Agamemnon lays a “strong command” (κρατερὸν … μῦθον) upon the priest. As Martin (1989:22) has demonstrated, the muth– stem marks “proposals and commands or threats and boasts.” It implies authority and implicit power for the speaker. The priest, “a low-status person with special powers” (Redfield 1975:94), is no match for Agamemnon, whose authoritative speech act includes a firm warning (1.26–32):

Let me not come upon you, old man, by the hollow ships,
either now lingering or afterward again coming,
lest for you a scepter not be of help, nor the fillet of a god.
I will certainly not ransom her! Earlier upon her, in fact, old age will come
in our house, in Argos, far from [her] fatherland,
working over the loom and sharing my bed.
But come! Do not provoke me, so that more safely you may go.

μή σε γέρον κοίλῃσιν ἐγὼ παρὰ νηυσὶ κιχείω
ἢ νῦν δηθύνοντ’ ἢ ὕστερον αὖτις ἰόντα,
μή νύ τοι οὐ χραίσμῃ σκῆπτρον καὶ στέμμα θεοῖο·
τὴν δ’ ἐγὼ οὐ λύσω· πρίν μιν καὶ γῆρας ἔπεισιν
ἡμετέρῳ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ ἐν Ἄργεϊ τηλόθι πάτρης
ἱστὸν ἐποιχομένην καὶ ἐμὸν λέχος ἀντιόωσαν·
ἀλλ’ ἴθι μή μ’ ἐρέθιζε σαώτερος ὥς κε νέηαι.

The vehemence of Agamemnon’s defiant reply is a “brutal rejoinder” (Rabel 1997:40) that forces Chryses to leave immediately and leads to Apollo’s plague. The force of Agamemnon’s threatening reply is seen in the strength and number of negations he employs (1.26, 28, 29, 32). Further, the use of “I” (ἐγώ, 26) is the result not just of metrical filling, but of the active oral delivery of the poet who searches for emphasis in the rhythm of the hexameter. Agamemnon means what he says. Yet, Agamemnon’s arrogant response stands in stark contrast to Chryses’ own powerless supplication and the army’s earlier call to support the priest’s request. The staff of office (skēptron, 28) sets Chryses apart as a priest of Apollo, just as Agamemnon’s staff sets him apart as the leading basileus (Naiden 2006:56–57). The stemmata (“wool ribbons” of the priest’s garb, 14) indicate Chryses’ position as a suppliant (Griffin 1980:26). [2] The sanctity of the priest wearing stemmata is as powerful as that of an altar’s sanctity, showing that the suppliant “is both unthreatening and favored by the gods” (Naiden 2006:56). The priest comes as a suppliant (nb. λίσσετο πάντας Ἀχαιούς, 15), whose role, as Létoublon (1980:334) has shown, predates our epic tradition. [3] Further, suppliants, since they are helpless and receive divine charis, are “more deserving of respect” (aidoioteroi) and when wronged become “incarnate curses” (araioi). [4] The priest Chryses is also old, making Agamemnon’s response all the more irreverent. Yet, can we conclude that Agamemnon was understood by Homer’s audience to be acting irreverently by dishonoring the suppliant? [5] After all, no request for battlefield ransom in the actual time frame of the Iliad’s action is ever successful in saving a suppliant. [6] Perhaps the audience thought that Agamemnon was acting just as anyone else would have.

Chryses, however, is not a warrior pleading for his life. Neither is he a father pleading for his captured warrior son. Rather, he is a priest of Apollo asking to redeem his daughter for appropriate ransom during a struggle in which he is not personally involved. Surely there are more appropriate comparisons for Agamemnon’s relation to suppliants than warriors begging for their lives on the battlefield or even a warrior-king coming for the corpse of his son. If one assumes resonance not just between the Iliad and Odyssey, but also between the Odyssey and Iliad as argued in Chapter 1, a better comparison may be that of the aoidos Phemios supplicating Odysseus for sanctuary after a tisis perpetrated upon the suitors (Odyssey 22.365–380). There, as in the case of the priest (arētēr) Chryses in Iliad 1, the singer was not personally involved, but instead a victim of circumstances. Yet, quite unlike the reception of Chryses by Agamemnon, when Phemios entreated Telemachos as a suppliant, he was immediately spared by Odysseus’ consent. In Homer’s cultural outlook, priests and singers are a special group worthy of respect. While an arētēr is unsurprisingly not mentioned in the Odyssey’s list of traveling professionals (17:383–386), priests’ importance equally places them with the mantis in a professional religious class deserving of special status and respect. [8] As we saw with Chryses’ supplication, even the army recognized that releasing the captive Chryseïs to her priest-father was the right thing to do (and shouted their support). Yet, Agamemnon persisted in his denial, and so already at the beginning of Homer’s song, he showed his true colors.

Agamemnon is also excessively harsh here, if we read the implications of one idiom. It is not good enough for Agamemnon to send the priest away with a stern warning, but there is also a threatening boast in his tone. The priest’s daughter is to be taken “far from [her] fatherland” (τηλόθι πάτρης, 1.30), an idiom used a total of five times in Homer. [11] The expression is always associated with the misery of permanent separation experienced by an individual because of the loss of one’s fatherland, but also the effect that this loss has on another. A couple of examples will show the idiom’s meaning. The next use, chronologically, of “far from fatherland” (τηλόθι πάτρης) expresses the distance of Sarpedon from his own country in Iliad 16.461, when he is about to die under Patroklos’ spear in Troy. Sarpedon will lose his homeland, with all that meant to the ancient audience. [12] Yet, the expression’s meaning does not stop there. It is further associated with Zeus through his corresponding title as patēr, which was just mentioned by the poet three lines earlier (“father of men and of gods,” πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, 558). Not only will Sarpedon lose his fatherland, then, but Zeus will also lose a son. The loss is experienced by the “father of men and of gods” sweating, literally “pouring down [from above] drops of blood” (αἱματοέσσας δὲ ψιάδας κατέχευεν, 459), over what was about to take place. So, Homer, through this local clustering of patrēs and pāter, wants his audience to hear about the loss of a homeland experienced by Sarpedon, but as emphatically, the personal loss felt by Zeus. Similarly, this double sense of loss is exemplified by Achilles’ grief over Patroklos’ loss of his homeland, but also Achilles’ own grievous loss of his hetairos Patroklos in Iliad 18.98. [13]

Apollo’s plague follows immediately, resulting in the burning of pyres on a continual basis (αἰεὶ δὲ πυραὶ νεκύων καίοντο θαμειαί, 52), a penalty prayed for by the priest (1.42). The magnitude of the reprisal of Apollo in his wrath is comparable to the excesses of Agamemnon’s own earlier reaction to the priest’s initial “höfliche Bitte” in supplication for his captive daughter (Latacz 2000a:36). The military losses lead Achilles, rather than Agamemnon, to call the Achaians to assembly (1.53–54) on the tenth day. The payback has begun, and Achilles, in light of Agamemnon’s silence, asks that the Achaians engage a prophetic figure of some type to declare why Apollo is angry. Kalchas steps forward hesitantly to use his craft as seer (72, 92). He is worried about Agamemnon’s anger (78) and voices his concern. Kalchas, like Apollo’s priest Chryses (80), occupies a vulnerable position. His role demands he say things that may place him in harm’s way. He is reassured, however, by Achilles, who deflects Agamemnon’s anger from the prophet to himself (Louden 2006:160). Kalchas, now under Achilles’ protection, responds with a priamel that has as its “cardinal point” (Race 1982:14) the singling out of Agamemnon’s dishonorable act (1.93–95):

For neither indeed with prayer does he find fault nor with hecatomb,
but on account of the priest whom Agamemnon dishonored,
and neither released [his] daughter nor received the ransom,

οὔ ταρ ὅ γ’ εὐχωλῆς ἐπιμέμφεται οὐδ’ ἑκατόμβης,
ἀλλ’ ἕνεκ’ ἀρητῆρος ὃν ἠτίμησ’ Ἀγαμέμνων,
οὐδ’ ἀπέλυσε θύγατρα καὶ οὐκ ἀπεδέξατ’ ἄποινα,

The seer’s priamel, further enlarged by the addition of details of what Agamemnon did not do and receive (1.95), is accompanied by a threat. There will be continued reprisal by Apollo unless there follows the restoration of the unwed maiden (κούρη) to her father (96–98).

While the keeping of a “slave-concubine” (παλλακίς) was common practice in Homeric society (at least for the lord of a household) and certainly not considered unacceptable, it could cause conflict. The question of sexual relations with one’s concubine emphatically announced by Agamemnon in Iliad 1.31 was a subject of potential concern. It reflected real tension not to be too quickly dismissed, as evidence from Homer and early Greek literature suggests. Potential problems were related to questions of inheritance and primacy of place among the women (and their children) of the household. [21] The narrative of Phoinix’s autobiography (Iliad 9.450–452), as well as Laertes’ arrangement with Eurykleia (Odyssey 1.433), both point to the possibility of household angst. In each case, the sexual relationship between the male and his concubine in the home is portrayed as vexatious, actually or potentially. In the first instance, with Phoinix, the very act of sleeping with one’s concubine can cause strife. [22] Phoinix’s father Amyntor slept with his concubine, and, so, Phoinix tells us, dishonored (ἀτιμάζεσκε) his wife. Second, in the case of Laertes, the possibility of stirring up anger in his wife kept him from sleeping with Eurykleia. [23] Furthermore, Odysseus’ lying tale to Eumaios (Odyssey 14.200–215) shows some of the potential problems for a bastard son. In a contrived autobiography, Odysseus narrates that he is the son of a concubine and experienced a great deal of competition from his arrogant half-brothers upon the death of their father. [24]

It may be that Homer’s audience heard Agamemnon’s critique of Kalchas himself with this tradition in mind. Agamemnon is certainly actively thinking of the past when Kalchas steps forward as mantis during his heated dispute with Achilles (Iliad 1.106–108):

Seer of evil, not ever for me have you spoken what is good!
Always for you what is evil is dear to your heart to prophesy,
but a noble word not in any way have you ever spoken or accomplished!

μάντι κακῶν οὐ πώ ποτέ μοι τὸ κρήγυον εἶπας·
αἰεί τοι τὰ κάκ’ ἐστὶ φίλα φρεσὶ μαντεύεσθαι,
ἐσθλὸν δ’ οὔτέ τί πω εἶπας ἔπος οὔτ’ ἐτέλεσσας·

With Aulis as the historical backdrop for Agamemnon’s stern reply, then the “not ever” (οὐ πώ ποτέ) and “always” (αἰεί) of his prophecies join the events at Troy to Aulis. Thus, there are at least two potential examples of metonymic allusion here. First, the comparison between Clytemnestra and Chryseïs and second the characterization of Kalchas at Aulis and Troy. Together, these make Agamemnon’s response all the more ironic and portentous. As we have seen in our consideration of the Odyssey in the last chapter, and now note for the Iliad, past and future are always impinging on the narrative present.

Achilles, however, is not prepared simply to overlook Agamemnon’s menacing threat, and the tenor of his reaction is carried in a traditional phrase: “At him darkly looking, spoke swift-footed Achilles” (τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς, 148; emphasis mine). As we saw in Chapter 2, Holoka has demonstrated that this formula (τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδών) functions to highlight disrespectful breaches in social conventions, and he suggests its utility as part of a response to encourage propriety. [38] Achilles’ scowl, given him by the poet as narrator, is one that here sums up the state of affairs and means to check the hubristic behavior of the Achaians’ paramount basileus. Achilles’ objurgating response (1.149–171) centers upon Agamemnon’s “lack of shame” and is brought home through local repetition of words centering upon Agamemnon’s “shamelessness” (ἀναιδείην, 149; ἀναιδές, 158). The diachronic meaning of “shamelessness” includes a lack of constraint. [39] Examined in close detail in Homer, however, one finds “shamelessness” used in desperate circumstances that entail the idea of destruction threatened or carried out upon others (especially in the case of instruments like stones) or eventually upon the self (particularly in the case of humans as agents). The word describes stones that smash a warrior’s leg (Iliad 4.521), that are carried by a forceful current (Iliad 13.140), or are pushed to the crest of an underworld peak (Odyssey 11.598, by Sisyphos). The epithet also embodies the tumult of war (Iliad 5.593). It is very often employed to describe the suitors whom Athena, Odysseus, Telemachos, and Penelope want to see destroyed (Odyssey 1.254, 13.376, 20.29, 39, 386, 23.37); but also the unfaithful serving women (Odyssey 22.424) or beggars (Odyssey 17.449) who end up as slaves in foreign lands. The thoughtlessness of human perpetrators of shamelessness is apparent. Of course, stones cannot consider their actions, but many humans seem as deaf or as unresponsive as inanimate objects to warnings about their own self-destruction that portends in each case. Agamemnon’s shameless attitude, then, suggests his unresponsive disregard for self-harm and its inevitable consequences.

The comparative κύντερος is used by Zeus of Hera, whose resentment he finds “more bitch-like” (Iliad 8.483) than anything else. Odysseus finds his belly to be likewise “more dog-like” as a driving force that controls him (Odyssey 7.215). Agamemnon describes his own wife in her scheming to murder him in the same terms (Odyssey 11.427), as does Odysseus when narrating the outrage of the Cyclops in eating his companions (Odyssey 20.18). The singular use of the superlative “most dog-like” (κύντατος) expresses anticipated devastation (Iliad 10.503). The dog compound “dog-fly” (κυνάμυια) is used twice in a derogatory manner by the Iliad poet in book 21, the first occurrence clustered in close proximity to the next (394, 421). First, Ares uses it as a derogatory name for Athena (394), calling attention to her earlier assistance of Diomedes that resulted in his wounding by a spear in the stomach (cf. Iliad 5.855–857). Then Hera uses it with equal disgust to name Aphrodite (421), when she sees her leading Ares back into the melee of battle.

The instances of the compound “dog-face” (κυνώπης/κυνῶπις), beyond Iliad 1, are also telling. In Iliad 18, Hephaistos uses it loathingly of his own mother, when describing how she threw him off Olympos onto Lemnos (Iliad 18.396); then again of his wife Aphrodite who has just cheated on him (Odyssey 8.319). Helen turns the expression on herself as the cause for the Achaians stirring up the Trojan War (Odyssey 4.145). Helen’s half-sister, on the other hand, is pictured by Homer as less than contrite. Even after butchering her husband, Clytemnestra refuses to act decently and close Agamemnon’s eyes and mouth. She earns the name “bitch-faced” (Odyssey 11.424) from her husband in Hades as he narrates his sorry tale to Odysseus.

The full metonym “dog-face” (κυνῶπα) is especially suggestive of Agamemnon’s hubristic actions and attitude. What is more, the traditional term “dog-face” (κυνῶπα) used in book 1 appears to have affected the poet’s choice of words in book 9. There, the poet has Achilles say of Agamemnon: “He would not certainly / dare, dog though he is, to look upon my face” (οὐδ’ ἂν ἔμοιγε / τετλαίη κύνεός περ ἐὼν εἰς ὦπα ἰδέσθαι, 9.372–373). [46] The rare use of the perfect optative (τετλαίη) makes the charge of Agamemnon’s “dog-likeness” (κύνεος) stand out all the more for Homer’s audience. Agamemnon’s “dog-likeness” is not the only point of resonance with book 1, however. Rather, within two lines, Achilles describes Agamemnon’s character as one of “constant shamelessness” (αἰὲν ἀναιδείην, 9.372), uttering the same charge he used eight books earlier (ἀναιδείην, 1.149; ἀναιδές, 1.158). It is no coincidence that the poet has Achilles yell “dog-face” and “shameless” in almost the same breath on two separate occasions. The association of these two terms, rare in Homer, but really quite apposite, suggests that the poet is attached to the sort of referential qualities these words bring forward for Agamemnon. [47] Agamemnon’s association with “dog” as voiced by Achilles creates a depth of metonymic meaning that places Agamemnon in the adversary’s camp; he is one who is working against the Achaians’ best interests and is the object of disgust. Achilles closes his rebuttal with a stark declaration—he is heading back to Phthia!

Agamemnon replies that he will not entreat Achilles to stay (he may as well flee, 1.173), since he has others who honor him. The response of Agamemnon to his leading Greek warrior-basileus is arrogant and thoughtless. In his heated reply he uses two equivalent idioms to drive his point home (1.180–181): “But about you I do not care, / Nor do I have regard for you in your anger!” (σέθεν δ’ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀλεγίζω, / οὐδ’ ὄθομαι κοτέοντος). Agamemnon’s response brings together words that voice a complete rejection of any need for Achilles. “I do not care” (οὐκ ἀλεγίζω) “is characteristic of both mortal and divine figures who suffer the consequences for failing to take due consideration before acting” (Kelly 2007a:346–348). In fact, the joining of “I do not care” (οὐκ ἀλεγίζω) with a second statement, “I do not have regard” (οὐδ’ ὄθομαι), creates, I suggest, an even more emphatic response by Agamemnon, since the poet could have chosen to use just one negative remark as he does elsewhere. [48] The same two negated components used in Iliad 1 in the form of personal statements, “I care” (ἀλεγίζω) and “I regard” (ὄθομαι), are used in Iliad 15.106–107 by a “perturbed” (νεμεσσηθεῖσα, 15.103) Hera to describe Zeus in a negative and malicious way: “but he sitting apart does not care / nor have regard [for us]!” (ὃ δ’ ἀφήμενος οὐκ ἀλεγίζει/οὐδ’ ὄθεται). [49] In the case of Agamemnon as a mere mortal, however, the response carries with it an irony in the larger tradition for Homer’s informed audience. They know that Agamemnon will in fact very soon need Achilles whose absence will bring near-devastation to the Achaian forces at Troy.

Agamemnon is, however, not content to leave things at a rhetorical level. Instead, he presses Achilles with a vexatious threat. As Chryseïs is taken from him by Phoibos Apollo, so he will lead away Briseïs, Achilles’ prize (a threat he soon carries out: Iliad 1.321–325, 387–388). He wishes Achilles to know “how much superior” (ὅσσον φέρτερος, 186) he is, so that no one will again presume “to speak on equal terms” (ἶσον … φάσθαι, 187) with him (cf. Willcock 1978:191), or even to suggest a verisimilitude! These polemically acerbic words about personal superiority, which deserve to be punctuated with several exclamation points in any English translation, close Agamemnon’s reply to Achilles. The question is not, of course, whether Agamemnon is superior or not. He is. The question is how and why he [mis-]uses his power. As we will see, Agamemnon’s unsuccessful desire to force a public recognition of his own superiority will form a theme that recurs in book 9.

The ensuing scene in Iliad 1 has Athena appear to Achilles alone (198). The conversation between goddess and hero highlights Achilles’ anger but also his decision (214) to show restraint in the face of Agamemnon’s hubris (203). The particulars of the scene need not detain us in their every detail. A few overall observations help in our quest for Agamemnon’s characterization. First, it is important to note that Achilles will show restraint. He will moderate his actions when wronged, and his response will stand out in marked contrast to Agamemnon’s own quick, thoughtless, and despotic decision to seize what he sees as his royal due. Moreover, Athena’s promise of future recompense for present correct and responsive action, something suggested by Kalchas earlier but ignored cavalierly by Agamemnon (cf. 213–214 and 218–219), is implicitly accepted by Achilles. [50] This is another point of contrasting characterization. The poet wishes to amplify the arrogant disposition of Agamemnon at this crucial moment in his song. Second, the proverbial comment of Achilles, that it is better for humans to obey the gods since this brings their active attention and response (note especially ἔκλυον, 218), will stand in direct opposition to Agamemnon’s irreverent reaction to the priest of Apollo. [51] Achilles has in fact responded to Athena’s prompting. He has shown restraint and is first speaking to his own situation when he voices a general truth. [52] Yet, at the same time, Achilles is also here stating the “selbstverständliche kollektive Überzeugungen” (Latacz 2000a:95) of all the Achaians.

Audience foreboding is likely too if we consider the resonance of this moment with the prior warning in the prologue. There the very first word of Homer’s song was mēnis, a “wrath” that is described as “destructive” (οὐλομένην, 1.2), and only found in Achilles among mortals. [56] It is a wrath, too, that the audience knows is connected with strife (ἐρίσαντε, 1.6), when two individuals were staunchly separated (διαστήτην, 1.6), “the ruler of men, son of Atreus, and noble Achilles” (Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς, 1.7). Strife was to be the beginning of great losses that hurled Achaian warriors into Hades (1.4–5). It was now, so the audience doubtless recognized, that the Achaian’s sorry losses were set to begin. The likelihood is that the audience of Iliad 1 shared with the poet other prior knowledge of what was about to unfold. The necessity of certain background knowledge is in fact keyed by one assumption the aoidos makes in uttering the prologue. I refer to his use of the epithet “son of Atreus” (Ἀτρεΐδης). It is employed by Homer of Agamemnon and Menelaos as individuals, of both as a pair, and even of Orestes as a grandson of Atreus. [57] So to whom is the poet referring? Clearly Homer believes the audience knows. But do they? The epithet “ruler” (ἄναξ) would be less helpful in determining which brother is meant, since it is used of both Agamemnon and Menelaos (and many others) in Homer’s tradition. [58] Only when the fuller title, “ruler of men” (ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν), is considered, do we find that Menelaos is excluded as a possibility in the proem. The title is nowhere else used of Menelaos. It is, however, used of other heroes, and so the poet clearly assumes referential knowledge in his core audience. [59] Otherwise, the epithet is obfuscating to say the least. The audience, who knew enough of the story to recognize exactly whom the poet was talking about, is waiting for the “anger” (μένος/χόλος) of Agamemnon to cue the greater “wrath” (μῆνις) of Achilles.

We need not consider at length all the particulars of the embassy. One comment of Achilles is particularly pertinent, however. In his hospitable address and conversation with Agamemnon’s emissaries, he absolves them of blame for their thankless task. Yet, he remonstrates that Agamemnon chose a thoughtless course of action that wοuld spell destruction for the army. [61] Achilles characterizes Agamemnon’s thoughtlessness (343–334): “And not in any way does he know how to consider at the same time before and after, / so that by the ships safely the Achaians might fight” (οὐδέ τι οἶδε νοῆσαι ἅμα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω, / ὅππως οἱ παρὰ νηυσὶ σόοι μαχέοιντο Ἀχαιοί). This despairing comment of Achilles carries ironic import. It portends the eventual, desperate fighting of the Iliad’s action, when in book 12 the walls about the ships—yet to be built in the story’s actual linear chronology—will be breached, and the Achaians will in fact be fighting by their own ships in grave danger. Consequently, it seems fair to suggest that the poet would have us take Achilles’ words as accurate metonymic markers of the larger myth, rather than merely representing the isolated and insignificant mumbling of a disgruntled warrior. They resound within the larger context of the Iliad’s story known to the poet’s audience. Agamemnon’s inability here and elsewhere will form part of a negative refrain by those around him, as we will see.

Achilles’ remark about Agamemnon’s deficiency, that he is incapable of discerning “before and after” (πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω), says quite a bit. This traditional element is employed three other times in Homer. It is uttered by Menelaos (Iliad 3.109). He contrasts the sagacity of old age with the impetuousness of youth (a familiar motif in Homer) in his bid to solicit the participation of the elderly Priam in the sacrifice and oath ceremony before the duel between himself and Paris. [62] He remarks that an elder man [e.g. Priam] discerns “before and after” (πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω). His comments bring unity of opinion from the Greeks and Trojans (111). The traditional idiom is also employed by the poet-narrator in Iliad 18.250 to describe Hector’s hetairos Polydamas, who in the Trojan general assembly (ἀγορή) addresses the troops after Achilles’ return to war. The mood is one of fear. He advises the Trojans to return to the protection of Troy’s walls, since they are, he argues, too far from it in the plain (256). Hector censures and rebukes Polydamas, however, and argues instead for pressing on (285–309). The Iliad poet offers his perspective at this point in the narrative for the external audience attending his epic performance. He comments that Hector and the clamoring Trojans are “thoughtless children” (νήπιοι), with all the foreboding undercurrents this traditional term carries. It has the tradition-based effect of highlighting a character’s misapprehension of a situation, while implying unenviable and foreboding consequences, as we saw in Chapter 3. [63] The term carries ironic disdain directed towards the person it references and his choice in a particular situation. Athena, moreover, is described as taking away the Trojan warriors’ wits. The poet further overtly characterizes Hector’s counsel as evil (310–311) in contrast to that offered by Polydamas, who, as Reinhardt noted, is added by Homer as Hector’s “warner” (Reinhardt 1961:272–277). The audience was very much aware that Hector could not see “before and after” and that his own death would consequently follow.

Consideration of the formula “before and after” (πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω), and the sort of meaning adhering to its usage, makes it immediately apparent that Achilles’ characterization of Agamemnon is much more damning than it first appears. Read in the traditional register, it portrays Agamemnon as without the requisite thoughtfulness of the sort that can find a wise path. Agamemnon is not a Polydamas or Halitherses character. He is not being portrayed as the sort of person we realize instantaneously will end up right when everyone else is wrong. Instead, Agamemnon is being pictured as an individual sure to err in his hardheaded response to the best of the Achaians, because he is incapable of considering “at the same time before and after” (ἅμα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω). The poet, familiar with the connotations of the formula he employs, is forecasting the coming disaster originating from the strife of Iliad 1. He intentionally places this formula in the mouth of Achilles so that his audience hears the inherent nature of Agamemnon as a character within the larger epic story, as well as to create narrative momentum for the story plot.

4.2.2 Agamemnon’s Dream and the Testing of the Troops: 2.16–440

Immediately after Agamemnon sits down, Nestor rises to speak. His reply (2.80–83) is ironic for the poet’s audience who share the narrator’s omniscient point of view:

If, then, any other Achaian spoke the dream,
we would say [it was] a lie and turn away in disdain all the more;
But now he saw [it], who strongly boasts that he is the best of the Achaians;
But come, if somehow we can arm the sons of the Achaians!

εἰ μέν τις τὸν ὄνειρον Ἀχαιῶν ἄλλος ἔνισπε
ψεῦδός κεν φαῖμεν καὶ νοσφιζοίμεθα μᾶλλον·
νῦν δ’ ἴδεν ὃς μέγ’ ἄριστος Ἀχαιῶν εὔχεται εἶναι·
ἀλλ’ ἄγετ’ αἴ κέν πως θωρήξομεν υἷας Ἀχαιῶν.

Kelly’s recent argument for another Homeric theme within an exhortation to battle sequence in Homer’s oral template suggests that part of the test was not entirely odd. Kelly demonstrates that our present scene includes a “uniquely long example of the ‘suggestion of retreat’” theme. [77] Kelly (2014:37n26) outlines the existence of this theme, both here and in other passages in Homer. [78] Interestingly, however, I note that only Agamemnon (of all the Iliadic examples) ever suggests that the Achaians both retreat and also engage in a nostos. Consequently, even assuming a “suggestion of retreat” theme, Agamemnon’s decision is still unparalleled in Homer. As a unique addition to the traditional battle anticipatory sequence, then, Agamemnon’s test of the troops may have thus been employed ironically by the poet to show the foolishness of both Agamemnon’s perception and his qualities as a leader, including his inability to inspire his followers to action. [79] As a traditional “suggestion of retreat” theme, the choice of Agamemnon to include a call for a nostos displays his pathetic character as paramount basileus. As will be the case here and in other moments, whenever he suggests a retreat, no one will follow his lead. The whole diapeira highlights the inept attempt of Agamemnon to stir the passion of his troops. It provides “an important index of Agamemnon’s rather troubled authority within the camp” (Kelly 2014:39). The test is “ill suited” and shows an “indifference toward the principles that undergird political stability” (Elmer 2013:89, 90), much the same as occurred in the opening scenes of Iliad 1.

After the initial meeting with his basileis, Agamemnon and his council (βουλή) gather together with the assembly (ἀγορή) of the entire Achaian force, where Agamemnon delivers his deceptive exhortation to leave Troy. His words to the troops vacillate between several elements: blaming Zeus for falsely misleading him (2.114); [80] an attempt to inculcate shame (119–122); [81] and tempting his homesick men to achieve a nostos and so reunite with their absent spouses and children who “sit in [our] houses waiting; But for us [there is] work / as ever without completion for which we arrived here” (ἥατ’ ἐνὶ μεγάροις ποτιδέγμεναι· ἄμμι δὲ ἔργον / αὔτως ἀκράαντον οὗ εἵνεκα δεῦρ’ ἱκόμεσθα, 137–138). [82] The irony of Agamemnon’s words would have been immediately apparent to the singer’s audience who share his omniscient point of view. While Agamemnon says that Zeus has engaged in an evil deception (κακὴν ἀπάτην, 2.114), really it is Agamemnon himself who is devising the present lying propositions. The audience is viewing Agamemnon both as deceiver and deceived; as a cognizant perpetrator and an incognizant recipient of “deception” (ἀπάτη). [83] Only Homer’s audience, rather than any of the story characters (the internal audience), shares in the full knowledge and implications of the scene’s action. As we will see when we consider his later admission of error against Achilles in Iliad 19, Agamemnon seems incapable of recognizing his true state of delusion and is punished. Agamemnon is a complex figure, one whose ability to recognize his own errors is effectively problematized by the poet here and elsewhere. [84]

Further, if Agamemnon’s speech does include a tradition-based “suggestion of retreat,” one should, I suggest, also compare Iliad 2 with a scene from the Odyssey and suggest resonance. In presenting Agamemnon’s testing of the troops, the Iliad poet may also have had in mind the “suggestion of retreat” found in the Odyssean episode of Helen and the wooden horse. Agamemnon seems to play the sort of role Helen does when she attempts to destroy the morale of the warriors in the wooden horse (also set during the Trojan War). Of course, the surreal scene cannot have Helen actively aware of the presence of the men within, and her role seems to be as temptress. The scene is meant to be heard by Homer’s audience as a struggle to resist her alluring song. [85] She, like Agamemnon, reminds the men of their families back home (Odyssey 4.277–279) and suggests a nostos. [86] As in the Iliad, it is Odysseus who comes to the rescue, providing leadership for the troops (Odyssey 4.284–289). Odysseus is credited with restraining the basileis, as we will see was also his role in Iliad 2. In both cases, moreover, Odysseus makes his voice heard through physical force (Iliad 2.198–199, 265–269; Odyssey 4.284, 287–289). The wooden horse story, as Danek (1998:110) notes, “war zweifellos in unzähligen Versionen ausgemalt worden,” and so was well known. Danek also shows similar motivation with another moment in the Iliad, although he misses the comparison I make here between Iliad 2 and Odyssey 4. Such resonance makes Agamemnon’s actions problematic.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Agamemnon thoughtlessly miscalculated the reactions of his troops and overplayed his role. He is portrayed as a weak character. [87] Agamemnon chose a defective form of testing, and, further, was unable to provide the necessary leadership to carry out his plans. His speech nearly cost the Achaian army the telos of its mission as ensuing events illustrate. There follows a flight to the ships, which is barely checked by Odysseus, who hears the voice of Athena urging that he stop the rout (2.173–181). Odysseus takes and puts to use Agamemnon’s “hereditary scepter” (σκῆπτρον πατρωϊον, 186). The action of Odysseus is at best an increase in, and at worst a departure from, the role that Agamemnon seemed to have envisioned any one basileus having to play when he first addressed the council. There he was contemplating a united effort by all basileis (ὑμεῖς, 2.75), each exerting his influence over his own warrior contingent (2.73–75), “one from one place, one from another”:

Odysseus, in reality, takes the place of Agamemnon when the actual consequences of Agamemnon’s troublesome order occur, as Bergold (1977:13–14) notes. The other basileis to a man have apparently ignored his instructions. Odysseus attempts to restrain the fleeing mass of troops by urging the basileis to restrain their own contingents. The “gentle words” he speaks “standing beside” each leader (τὸν δ’ ἀγανοῖς ἐπέεσσιν ἐρητύσασκε παραστάς, 189) include the refrain, “In the council did we not all hear what he spoke?” (ἐν βουλῇ δ’ οὐ πάντες ἀκουσάμην οἷον ἔειπε; 2.194). [89] I take this to be a question. [90] The cause of the inactivity and outright retreat of the basileis and their troops is given in Odysseus’ interjection (2.190): “Daimonie, it is not fitting that you be fearful like a coward!” (δαιμόνι’, οὔ δε ἔοικε κακὸν ὥς δειδίσσεσθαι). [91] It is fear, but a fear that is met by Odysseus’ persuasive appeal to fear (2.195–198):

Let not [Agamemnon] do evil to the sons of the Achaians
But the spirit is great in Zeus-nourished basileis,
but [his] honor springs from Zeus, and he is loved by counselor Zeus.

μή τι χολωσάμενος ῥέξῃ κακὸν υἷας Ἀχαιῶν·
θυμὸς δὲ μέγας ἐστὶ διοτρεφέων βασιλήων,
τιμὴ δ’ ἐκ Διός ἐστι, φιλεῖ δέ ἑ μητίετα Ζεύς.

Odysseus has taken charge on the field. Further, in the ensuing assembly, Odysseus, not Agamemnon, speaks to the gathered troops as friends (2.299, φίλοι), encouraging them to endure (2.299, τλῆτε). [

Perhaps the capping moment in the poet’s portrayal of the diapeira scene of Iliad 2 is Agamemnon’s prayer, which is full of aspirations that Zeus was not to accomplish. It is a moment in the narrative sharpened through ironic antithesis: “Rather, he [Zeus] in fact received the offerings, but [Agamemnon’s/the army’s] undesired toil he increased” (ἀλλ’ ὅ γε δέκτο μὲν ἱρά, πόνον δ’ ἀμέγαρτον ὄφελλεν, 420). The poet has juxtaposed and contrasted the sacrifice of Agamemnon with the increased labor for himself and the Achaians. Moreover, after the sacrifice and communal meal, Nestor quickly suggests they talk no more about the events that have just transpired but look instead to future military operations (434–440). Perhaps some things are best forgotten! Blame is placed squarely on Agamemnon’s shoulders, however unwilling he is to bear it (cf. Haubold 2000:56).

The feud between Atreus and his brother Thyestes is not actively spoken of in the Iliad. In the lengthy pedigree attached to Agamemnon’s scepter of office, however, we do hear of Thyestes. The passage reviews the history of the scepter of Agamemnon given by Zeus himself (Iliad 2.100–109): [99]

But up lord Agamemnon
stood, holding the scepter, which Hephaistos toiled contriving.
Hephaistos gave [it] to ruler Zeus, son of Kronos,
yet it seems Zeus gave [it] to the runner Argeiphontes;
But Hermes the ruler gave [it] to Pelops smiter of horses,
yet in turn Pelops gave [it] to Atreus shepherd of the people,
but Atreus dying left [it] to Thyestes rich in sheep,
yet in turn Thyestes for Agamemnon was leaving [it] to carry,
to rule over many islands and all Argos to rule.
Leaning upon this, in fact, [these] words to the Argives he spoke:

ἀνὰ δὲ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
ἔστη σκῆπτρον ἔχων τὸ μὲν Ἥφαιστος κάμε τεύχων.
Ἥφαιστος μὲν δῶκε Διὶ Κρονίωνι ἄνακτι,
αὐτὰρ ἄρα Ζεὺς δῶκε διακτόρῳ ἀργεϊφόντῃ·
Ἑρμείας δὲ ἄναξ δῶκεν Πέλοπι πληξίππῳ,
αὐτὰρ ὃ αὖτε Πέλοψ δῶκ’ Ἀτρέϊ ποιμένι λαῶν,
Ἀτρεὺς δὲ θνῄσκων ἔλιπεν πολύαρνι Θυέστῃ,
αὐτὰρ ὃ αὖτε Θυέστ’ Ἀγαμέμνονι λεῖπε φορῆναι,
πολλῇσιν νήσοισι καὶ Ἄργεϊ παντὶ ἀνάσσειν.
τῷ ὅ γ’ ἐρεισάμενος ἔπε’ Ἀργείοισι μετηύδα·

Kirk (1985:127) noted no direct indication of a family feud or curse in these lines. He felt, however, that this omission was meant to avoid distracting detail, since the principal point of the passage is kingship passing from Zeus to Agamemnon. It was not overtly emphasized, in order to keep the focus from being drawn away too far from the present narrative emphasis (Cf. Scodel 2002:15). If the feud was well known, however, then the violence that erupted could not be wholly ignored in a passage that names Thyestes, since the very naming of a character would bring to mind stories related to him.

Further, Kirk also suggested that the use of the verb “left” for “gave” (ἔλιπεν for δῶκεν) in line 106 provides an acknowledgment of this tradition by the poet. Analysis of line 106 seems to make Kirk’s suggestion feasible. The verb “left” (ἔλιπεν) occupies the third colon and could as easily be δῶκεν. Perhaps “left” is used here for its ambivalence―the choice of this verb in performance allows for the singer’s (and his core audience’s) knowledge of this latent discord within the tradition. [100] The use of “left” (ἔλιπεν) perhaps influenced the ensuing employment of “was leaving” (λεῖπε) in 107 (a verbal form very common in Homer), with the choice of the imperfect resulting from the need for a spondee. [101] Yet, unless a change in tense was meaningful, why not return to the aorist “gave” (δῶκε)? What are we to make of this change in verb and tense? Does it suggest the ongoing conflict that existed between Atreus’ sons over the right to rule? [102] The line, moreover, ends with the epithet “rich in sheep” (πολύαρνι, a hapax). Unless this is a generic epithet, it may reach into the tradition about the golden ram, first mentioned (securely) in Euripides’ Orestes. [103] The golden ram was at the center of a dispute between Atreus and Thyestes, since its owner was marked as the rightful king. Thyestes seduced Atreus’ wife to get it, and this act led to the tragic events we discussed in Chapter 3, the bane of the House of Atreus. [104] Latacz allows that the story, if known to the Ilias-Dichter, may have been suppressed in all its gruesome details. [105] He notes that the story of Thyestes’ son Aigisthos was known to the Odyssey poet, although he misses the possible allusion to the golden ram here. Since, as I have argued in Chapter 1, the Iliad poet did indeed know some story like the Odyssey, it is likely that he was aware, not only of the later acts of Aigisthos, but also of the earlier family feud. The poet’s choice of language here raises a number of possibilities, then, beyond those we considered in Chapter 3. [106]

4.2.3 Agamemnon, the Preeminent Leader in Battle: 2.477–483

4.2.4 Agamemnon’s Prayer, Oath, and Sacrifice: 3.267–302

Part of the ceremony that will precede the duel between Paris and Menelaos is one of oath-sacrifice, to assure that any “pledges” (ὅρκια) have the gods as witnesses and guardians (3.280). Agamemnon does his part in preparing for the sacrifice, an event meant to solemnize the oath between the Achaians and Trojans (271–274, 292–296). He moves center stage for the action, as we might expect from his rank. He is embodying the sentiment expressed by Priam in the Teichoskopia (clustered near this scene and just proceeding it), who described him as beyond anyone he had seen in his “dignified bearing” (γεραρός, 170), and one who “resembles a kingly man” (βασιλῆϊ … ἀνδρὶ ἔοικε, 170), having many beneath his sway (183). In our present scene, Agamemnon shows that he is indeed in charge and acting his part, by sending Talthybios to fetch the sacrificial lambs (118–120). Hitch suggests that this is a positive role, although it is a role he usually leaves to others, even when the sacrifice is made at his own shelter (cf. Iliad 7.313–320 and Hitch 2009:85). Achilles also led in making sacrifice (Iliad 24.621–624), but only in slaughtering the animal. The butchering, carving, and spitting of the animal were all left to his men.

During the ceremony, Agamemnon offers a prayer as part of the oath. What is interesting about this prayer is that it not only fulfills the customary requirements of swearing to certain gods, but also includes the tenor of Agamemnon’s personality in its lines. Specifically, the prayer’s balance of customary and ancient consequences, should either side win, is tipped heavily in favor of the Achaians. [117] If Paris wins, so Agamemnon exhorts, let the Trojans keep Helen and the stolen goods she and Paris brought to Troy when they fled Greece. If Paris loses to Menelaos, the Trojans are to return not only Helen and her possessions, “but let them make requital [τιμή] that is fitting, / which, among people yet to be, will come to be known.” [118] The prayer is then sealed with Agamemnon’s personal promise to stay and fight, almost as if solitary, should the ransom not be given at a level that he has stipulated to be fitting (3.288–291):

But if to me the honor-price Priam and the children of Priam
do not wish to pay after Alexandros has fallen,
then I even in that case will fight on behalf of compensation,
remaining here, until I find an end to the war.

εἰ δ’ ἂν ἐμοὶ τιμὴν Πρίαμος Πριάμοιό τε παῖδες
τίνειν οὐκ ἐθέλωσιν Ἀλεξάνδροιο πεσόντος,
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ καὶ ἔπειτα μαχήσομαι εἵνεκα ποινῆς
αὖθι μένων, ἧός κε τέλος πολέμοιο κιχείω.

Whether the poinē that is the object of Agamemnon’s struggle is “compensation or vengeance,” it is still more demanding than the metrically equivalent timē, in Homer’s oral register (cf. Scodel 2008:90). Kirk’s comments seem apt: “The king is in one of his imperious and impressive moods: he will stay and fight (although doubtless he will have to have the Achaians with him)” (Kirk 1985:306). Of course, Agamemnon may be thinking about the wrong done to Menelaos as a host in that sacred relationship. Yet, even here, the large sum suggested seems inordinate, or at least fanciful. [119] There is excess in this addition of Agamemnon in two ways: 1. the extent of what is “fitting”—the timē envisioned: “Which among people yet to be, will be known” (ἥ τε καὶ ἐσσομένοισι μετ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέληται, 3.287); and 2. Agamemnon’s promise, should he be wronged, personally to find an end to the war. We observe, then, that this narrative moment embodies the poet’s comprehension of Agamemnon’s traditional character. We found in the initial portrait the poet paints of Agamemnon that he can be thoughtlessly excessive in his demands, [120] and this seems to be the case here as well. His earlier threat to go personally to Achilles’ hut if need be (Iliad 1.185) also parallels the veiled threat in his current prayer. Certainly Agamemnon will also add inordinate and infelicitous extras in his speech in Iliad 9, as we will see when we consider that narrative moment.

After Paris is mysteriously whisked away by Aphrodite, Agamemnon’s prayer will further metamorphose into a short and impassioned speech (3.456–460). The event causes Agamemnon (and Menelaos, 449) consternation and confusion to say the least. Agamemnon will stand forth to declare Menelaos the clear winner and ask once again for a recompense that will be known to future generations, only to be answered by the divinely appointed (4.70–72) arrow of the oath-breaking Pandaros (4.134–140).

4.2.5 Agamemnon’s Address to the Troops: 4.231–418

4.2.6 Grievances against Agamemnon—Revisiting his Past Wrongs: Book 9

It is at this moment that Agamemnon calls an assembly. In stark contrast to his earlier testing of the troops considered already (2.16–440), where Agamemnon uniquely feigns a desire to return home in order to test the warrior’s mettle and encourage them to fight, here Agamemnon really does want to leave. It is no ruse. [129] This seems clear from the poet’s representation of the paramount basileus. Agamemnon is described by the poet before his address as helping to gather the troops “with great grief struck in [his] heart” (ἄχεϊ μεγάλῳ βεβολημένος ἦτορ, 9.9). It is a line that includes the same verb used earlier to characterize the sorrowful Achaians. [130] Agamemnon is as distraught as the common soldier. The description of Agamemnon in such a high state of fearful grief finds resonance with a synonymous expression in book 10 of the Odyssey. There, a different metrical space necessitates some variation: “in [his] heart with great grief struck” (κῆρ ἄχεϊ μεγάλῳ βεβολημένος, 247). The expression registers the intense grief of Eurylochos who in tears could not speak after witnessing his companions being suddenly changed into swine by Kirke. He is crying in sorrow described by words connected with lamentation. [131] He fears the very worst. Yet, unlike Agamemnon with his troops, Odysseus will provide a resolute and proactive leadership response for his distraught second-in-command, Eurylochos (Odyssey 10.261–227).

The silence formula with which the troops respond to Agamemnon indicates their present state of discomfort. The poet may have wanted his audience to recall other debacles such as that recorded in Iliad 2, which recollection may well have been cued by the poet’s use of recurring lines. Unlike the last time Agamemnon told them to leave in book 2, however, this time they sit still: “Thus he spoke, but they in fact all were stricken to silence” (ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἱ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀκὴν ἐγένοντο σιωπῇ, 9.29). This different response may stem from the troops’ common experience and be meant to represent their collective grievance over the last enticement to flee, when, as we saw earlier, their response was met with stern rebuke. Yet, as I have shown elsewhere, the significance of the “stricken to silence” formula lies not principally in what precedes, but rather in what follows. The formula “Thus he spoke, but they in fact all were stricken to silence” (ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἱ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀκὴν ἐγένοντο σιωπῇ, 9.29) is used in both the Iliad and Odyssey in addressing a group and results in a (quite often delayed) response by one of the members of the group that sets out the subsequent narrative trajectory. The formula cues the audience that an “official” or “representative” reply will come, one that is in concert with the feelings of the group. [138] As we will see in a moment, it is just such a representative response that Diomedes steps forward to offer in book 9, when he expresses his “repressed” grievance.

In his speech, Diomedes begins by revisiting the earlier rebuke from Agamemnon that remains a sore point. [144] He turns the tables on the paramount basileus (9.32–39), however, indicting him for his inability to help provide assistance and protection (alkē) [145] for his warrior community:

Son of Atreus, with you first I will fight, in your thoughtlessness,
which is custom, ruler, in the agorē; but may you not in any way become angry.
My vigor for helping others first, you reproached among the Danaäns
saying that I was unwarlike and cowardly; But all these things
the Argives know, both young and old.
But to you, two divergent gifts were bestowed by the son of Kronos of the crooked counsels;
The scepter to you he gave to be honored above all,
but the capacity to help, to you he did not give, which is the greatest possession.

Ἀτρεΐδη σοὶ πρῶτα μαχήσομαι ἀφραδέοντι,
ἣ θέμις ἐστὶν ἄναξ ἀγορῇ· σὺ δὲ μή τι χολωθῇς.
ἀλκὴν μέν μοι πρῶτον ὀνείδισας ἐν Δαναοῖσι
φὰς ἔμεν ἀπτόλεμον καὶ ἀνάλκιδα· ταῦτα δὲ πάντα
ἴσασ’ Ἀργείων ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες.
σοὶ δὲ διάνδιχα δῶκε Κρόνου πάϊς ἀγκυλομήτεω·
σκήπτρῳ μέν τοι δῶκε τετιμῆσθαι περὶ πάντων,
ἀλκὴν δ’ οὔ τοι δῶκεν, ὅ τε κράτος ἐστὶ μέγιστον.

The silence of the troops, which awaited the representative reply from higher up, turns to shouting. Diomedes has used Agamemnon’s own earlier rebuke as a springboard against his commander’s present dismal suggestion. Meanwhile, the troops have not begun to move. They are perhaps nursing, as I have suggested, their own dismal reflections of Agamemnon’s past action. Nestor’s reminder of the need for class-conscious and age-appropriate decorum follows. Yet, Nestor does not mean to contradict Diomedes’ rebuke. After all, Nestor says to Diomedes, despite his age, “nevertheless you are speaking wisely / to the basileis of the Achaians, since you spoke sensibly” (ἀτὰρ πεπνυμένα βάζεις / Ἀργείων βασιλῆας, ἐπεὶ κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες, 58–59). Nestor uses the same diplomatic tone as Diomedes does with Agamemnon (cf. Hainsworth 1993:67). This mirroring tone in the supportive speech is in keeping with what we see in the other instances of Homer’s use of the “stricken to silence” formula (Porter 2011:496–507). Nestor is more diplomatic, but he is also, like Diomedes, reacting against a past grievance.

In his remarks to Agamemnon, Nestor himself revisits earlier events (those of Iliad 1). His comments are meant to offer an alternative to Agamemnon’s proposed nostos, against which Diomedes was reacting on behalf of the group. Nestor suggests that they try to persuade Achilles to return (9.111–113). In suggesting this course of action, Nestor reprimands Agamemnon for not following his earlier authoritative muthos. He claims that he has had this on his mind for some time (105b–111),

formerly and even now
even from the time when, Zeus-bred, the virgin daughter of Briseïs
from angry Achilles you led out, having taken [her] away from [his] hut,
not in any way in accordance with our purpose; For very much to you I certainly
had spoken a muthos many times in dissuasion; But you to your great-hearted spirit
having given way, an exceptional man, whom the deathless ones in fact esteemed,
you dishonored. For having seized his war prize, you presently possess it.

ἠμὲν πάλαι ἠδ’ ἔτι καὶ νῦν
ἐξ ἔτι τοῦ ὅτε διογενὲς Βρισηΐδα κούρην
χωομένου Ἀχιλῆος ἔβης κλισίηθεν ἀπούρας
οὔ τι καθ’ ἡμέτερόν γε νόον· μάλα γάρ τοι ἔγωγε
πόλλ’ ἀπεμυθεόμην· σὺ δὲ σῷ μεγαλήτορι θυμῷ
εἴξας ἄνδρα φέριστον, ὃν ἀθάνατοί περ ἔτισαν,
ἠτίμησας, ἑλὼν γὰρ ἔχεις γέρας·

Agamemnon emerges from book 9 as a less than sympathetic character. His leadership skills cannot meet the crisis and he is overwhelmed. While the poet describes the dire situation of the Achaians in the vivid language of suffering, he is equally interested in characterizing Agamemnon’s faltering spirit. Agamemnon wants to “jump ship,” as it were, or rather flee on the Achaean ships to achieve his desperately envisioned nostos. No one will go with him, but instead Agamemnon is reproached for his past leadership debacles. Themes from this scene resonate with past and (chronologically) future difficulties. Various ranks criticize their imperious leader for his lack of wisdom and suggest rapprochement with Achilles. After sufficient excuses, Agamemnon accepts the idea, yet not without an invidious little jab at Achilles that Odysseus’ embassy wisely decides not to repeat. Ingrained habits are difficult to change.

4.2.7 Agamemnon in the Doloneia: 10.3–127

Agamemnon’s sleeplessness, moreover, is indicated by language that is focused on internal unrest (10.4, 9–10) and a simile, which compares his sleepless state to a storm sent by Zeus (5–10). While the simile’s comparison and structure may not be Homer’s best, [164] the comparison does enhance audience comprehension of Agamemnon’s tempestuous state. The moment is made more vivid with mention of Zeus’ causing “a great storm of rain” (πολὺν ὄμβρον, 6), “or a terrifying hailstorm” (ἀθέσφατον ἠὲ χάλαζαν), “or a snow cloud” (ἢ νιφετόν), the last of which the poet perhaps wants us to see as comparable to a cloud of soldiers (10.8; cf. Dué and Ebbott 2010:238–245). The metaphor’s change to soldiers works well as a transition to what follows. We are next given a portrait of Agamemnon when he “caught a glimpse” (ἀθρήσειε, 11) of the Trojan plain, marveling (θαυμάζε) at the “many fires” (12; cf. 8.553–563) and the voice emanating from the throng of people and “from their double-reed pipes [165] and panpipes” (αὐλῶν συρίγγων τ’, 13). While the “double-reed pipe” (ἀυλός) could be played at both festivals and funerals, the panpipe (σῦριγξ) could not (West 1994:81–107, 109–112). Rather, it was part of extemporaneous musicmaking for Trojan victories during the day just passed. It functions as a sure indicator that the poet is painting a picture of celebration, merriment, and confident leisure in the Trojan camp as a foil for the Achaian’s dismal and defeatist paralysis. After all, the Achaians are quiet by contrast (14), and the only ones stirring are Agamemnon and his worried basileis. [166]

Agamemnon urges Nestor, who is equally sleepless (10.96), to go with him to check the sentries and make sure they are attentive to any possible attack at night. Nestor’s response is to try to reassure Agamemnon that Hector will face difficulties should Achilles ever return (105–107). [177] Moreover, sensing Agamemnon’s fear, he rises to the occasion with support: “For I will myself certainly accompany you!” (σοι δὲ μάλ’ ἕψομ’ ἐγώ, 108). He urges that other Achaian leaders be called on as well. Yet, Agamemnon is not heard from for the rest of the book, even after the return of Odysseus and Diomedes who have perpetrated a stunning night raid on the Trojan lines and have returned to celebrate. It seems as though his leadership is not really needed for the night raid. It is little wonder, considering the picture of fearful and distraught incapacity we have received of him at a critical moment in the war. Schnapp-Gourbeillon is more generous in describing Agamemnon’s actions, but only by passing over the scene’s details and focusing on Nestor as “maître de la mētis” (Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1982:54). Of course, this is part of Nestor’s characterization in Homer, as we saw in Chapter 2, but Nestor’s wisdom does not make Agamemnon’s incapacity any less striking. The royal aporia the poet has brought to our attention was fortunately filled by others, and Agamemnon’s paralysis did not get in the way of heroic efforts to strike under the cover of night.

4.2.8 Agamemnon’s Aristeia: 11.91–283

Our attention is drawn in this poetic description to the warrior fully armed and ready for battle. This arming of Agamemnon and his ardent aristeia initially move him “from victory to victory,” and yet, Agamemnon’s victory ironically assists one of two Achaian advances ultimately “doomed to failure” (Scott 2009:81; cf. Hainsworth 1993:211). This failure brings about first Patroklos’, then Achilles’ own reentry into battle in the Iliad’s plot. The aristeia’s doomed nature is part of the larger poetic purpose, to give, as Zeus planned (and as some of the other Olympians opined), “renown” (κῦδος, 11.79) to the Trojans. Zeus is keeping the promise he made to Thetis to bring honor to her son (Iliad 1.528–530).

Further, Agamemnon has been characterized as especially brutal in what he says when advising his brother Menelaos, in Iliad 6. Menelaos is about to spare a suppliant (51–53), Adrestos, when Agamemnon gives him a timely reminder of the Trojans’ (i.e. Paris’) disgracing of his home. The word is enough to change Menelaos’ mind, and Agamemnon then himself pushes Adrestos back from his brother and kills him. This could be seen as a case of brutality, since he urges the utter destruction of every Trojan male “down to the baby in the womb,” and all this “lest someone should escape” (μή τις ὑπεκφύγοι, 57). Crucially, however, the poet himself does not take it this way, commenting instead that Agamemnon’s advice was “fair” (αἴσιμα). The poet’s use of “fair” (αἴσιμα, 62) says it all, really. The “fair” (αἴσιμ-) root occurs twenty-two times in Homer, helping to create a number of formulae. [189] The present formula applied to Agamemnon, “urged what was fitting” (αἴσιμα παρειπών, 62), is also used in Iliad 7.121. There Agamemnon offers caring words to his brother, who is ready to make up for the lack of spirit in the other Achaians by personally facing Hector in battle. A similar phrase (αἴσιμα εἶπες) occurs in Odyssey 22.46, where Eurymachos speaks in agreement with the “fairness” of Odysseus’ overview of the atrocities committed against his household while he was away. Another expression, “thinking fair thoughts” (αἴσιμα εἰδώς), but this one dealing with thoughts that lead to action, shows a similar concern. Of particular note is its use in Odyssey 2.231, where Mentor voices one favorable characteristic of a good king before the haughty suitors. He employs the idiom “knowing fairness” (αἴσιμα εἰδώς), which forms a natural antithesis to “he would act unfairly” (αἴσυλα ῥέζοι). [190]

Yet it is important to note that although the poet’s presentation may be showing us an Agamemnon who is given to impetuous, less thoughtful decisions, Agamemnon’s fighting prowess is seldom disparaged or presented by the poet as second rate. Many short references in the Iliad, besides the episodes we have looked at in detail already, support this conclusion. In the catalogue of ships, Agamemnon is described as leading the largest contingent to Troy. A small ring composition (2.577, 580) opens and closes the description of Agamemnon’s forces from various places (569–575). [209] In the middle of this ring structure, our attention is centered upon Agamemnon himself, who is dressed in gleaming bronze (νώροπα χαλκόν, 578) as he bears himself proudly (κυδιόων, 579). He is distinguished among all the heroes (πᾶσιν δὲ μετέπρεπεν ἡρώεσσιν, 579). Agamemnon is said to be “best” (ἄριστος, 580), in a passage that troubled Zenodotus, who wanted to restrict the use of this description. [210] Despite the concern of Zenodotus, it need not be rigidly circumscribed as an exclusive epithet within any particular part of the Iliad. Rather, its traditional use for Achilles, Agamemnon, Ajax, and Diomedes (5.103) simply supports the foremost martial quality adhering to the traditional recollection of each warrior. [211] The use of ἄριστος carries an emphasis on martial prowess as an identifying quality of Agamemnon’s character, just as it carries an emphasis on other occasions for countless other “best” qualities. [212]

We might compare Iliad 4, for another instance of Agamemnon’s fighting prowess. After Menelaos has been hit and wounded by the arrow of the oath-breaking and fame-seeking Pandaros, the Achaians are assaulted by the ranks of “shield-bearing Trojans” (4.221). At this point in the narrative, through negation (including litotes), the poet’s descriptive narrative creates a positive characterization of Agamemnon as a warrior (223–225):

Not then dozing would you have seen divine Agamemnon
nor cowering in fear nor unwilling to fight,
but very much hastening into the renown-bringing fight.

Ἔνθ’ οὐκ ἂν βρίζοντα ἴδοις Ἀγαμέμνονα δῖον
οὐδὲ καταπτώσσοντ’ οὐδ’ οὐκ ἐθέλοντα μάχεσθαι,
ἀλλὰ μάλα σπεύδοντα μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν.

Agamemnon is alert: “Not then dozing would you have seen divine Agamemnon” (Ἔνθ’ οὐκ ἂν βρίζοντα ἴδοις Ἀγαμέμνονα δῖον). He is likewise brave: “Nor cowering in fear nor at all unwilling to fight” (οὐδὲ καταπτώσσοντ’ οὐδ’ οὐκ ἐθέλοντα μάχεσθαι). He hastens eagerly into the “renown-bringing fight” (μάχην … κυδιάνειραν). Even the panting of Agamemnon’s freshly driven horses helps to suggest the fervid effort of their lord. [
213] As we saw in our earlier consideration of the ensuing scene, Agamemnon’s leadership qualities are portrayed less admirably in what follows, and the scene’s force is greatly diminished by the poet’s decision to locate Agamemnon’s aristeia here in his song. [214] Yet this reality doesn’t deter the poet from presenting us with Agamemnon as a capable fighter. [215]

4.2.9 Agamemnon’s Third Call for a Nostos: 14.41–134

The present danger is magnified in Agamemnon’s mind because of the possibility for lingering grievances from the troops (a worry that possessed Agamemnon earlier during his emotional crisis in book 9). [220] Agamemnon opines (14.49–51):

O my, my, in fact even the other well-greaved Achaians
are, in their spirits, casting anger against me, as in fact Achilles [is],
and they do not wish to fight at the sterns of the ships.

ὢ πόποι ἦ ῥα καὶ ἄλλοι ἐϋκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοὶ
ἐν θυμῷ βάλλονται ἐμοὶ χόλον ὥς περ Ἀχιλλεὺς
οὐδ’ ἐθέλουσι μάχεσθαι ἐπὶ πρυμνῇσι νέεσσι.

The poet has Agamemnon use the formula “O my, my” (ὢ πόποι), an exclamation we have seen already in a larger traditional hemistich. [
221] As we saw earlier, the formula keys in its onomatopoeic consonance, as well as in its metonymic meaning, the level of personal anxiety and concern that Agamemnon is experiencing. He considers the possibility that the troops will not obey him out of anger for his past actions towards Achilles, and it worries him. [222] Nestor’s reply strongly emphasizes the confusion of the Achaians in the face of the Trojan onslaught, both generally (58–59), and thrice emphatically through closely packed vocabulary in 59–60: “being thrown into confusion” (ὀρινόμενοι), “thrown about” (κλονέονται), [223] and “mixed indiscriminately” (ἐπιμίξ). The defense in which they put their confidence has failed. Nestor advises a plan, but one that does not necessitate that the injured basileis reenter the fighting (61–63).

Agamemnon’s response is meant to accentuate the dire situation facing the Achaians. For the most part, he takes up each of Nestor’s points (14.65=57, 66=55, 68=56, 69=53). He also adds his own expanded commentary on the activity and intention of Zeus, [224] a commentary that includes a fatalistic and somewhat ironic emphasis on Agamemnon’s personal knowledge of just what he himself thinks Zeus is up to (14.71–73):

For I knew [it] when eagerly he defended the Danaäns,
but I know [it] now when upon these, equal to the blessed gods
he bestows renown, but our courage and hands he binds.

ᾔδεα μὲν γὰρ ὅτε πρόφρων Δαναοῖσιν ἄμυνεν,
οἶδα δὲ νῦν ὅτε τοὺς μὲν ὁμῶς μακάρεσσι θεοῖσι
κυδάνει, ἡμέτερον δὲ μένος καὶ χεῖρας ἔδησεν.

Agamemnon is certain that Zeus is portending destruction and consequently urges for the third time that they flee on their ships. On this occasion, like the last, he means it. After all, so he says, Zeus “honors” (κυδάνει) the Trojans “equally with the blessed gods” (ὁμῶς μακάρεσσι θεοῖσι). Such a comparison to the “blessed gods” is found nowhere else in Homer. [
225] The almost exclusive use of “blessed” (μακάρεσσι) with the gods is certainly a traditional component, however. Through this idiom, the Olympian gods are recognized to be in a world apart from humans. [226] It is in fact the very distance the referential aspect of the noun-epithet combination creates for the Trojan advantage that makes Agamemnon’s statement all the more hyperbolic. Well, at least from the audience’s point of view. Agamemnon hardly sees it as overstatement, however, as his subsequent response shows. Agamemnon answers Nestor’s call for a plan of action for the troops in battle (62) with a plan of action for the troops to leave the fighting (75–80), adding the proverb: “Better off is he who fleeing escapes evil than he who is captured [by it]” (βέλτερον ὃς φεύγων προφύγῃ κακὸν ἠὲ ἁλώῃ, 81). The ships closest to the shore, he directs, should be dragged down during the day, and the rest during the night.

Agamemnon’s reply suggests that he is affected by Odysseus’ rebuke, and his response is both revisionist and apologetic (14.104–106):

O Odysseus, very much, in some way you have affected me in my spirit with [your]
harsh rebuke; But I certainly did not order the unwilling
to drag to the sea [their] well-benched ships—the sons of the Achaians.

ὦ Ὀδυσεῦ μάλα πώς με καθίκεο θυμὸν ἐνιπῇ
ἀργαλέῃ· ἀτὰρ οὐ μὲν ἐγὼν ἀέκοντας ἄνωγα
νῆας ἐϋσσέλμους ἅλα δ’ ἑλκέμεν υἷας Ἀχαιῶν.

The μέν of line 105 belongs to “μέν the bachelor,” rather than “μέν the widower” (Denniston 1950:359). It is patently an emphatic μέν meaning “certainly,” and it makes the preceding “but not” (ἀτὰρ οὐ) that much stronger (Denniston 1950:362, 55). This collocation makes Agamemnon’s personal denial all the more resounding. On the one hand, if Agamemnon is not trying to redeem himself here and did actually think that some heroes would stay and others leave (something that I doubt and his fellow warriors missed), then we have a thematic corollary with similar stories of dissension in the Epic Cycle. An example is the contention between Agamemnon and Menelaos, as told in the Nostoi tales:

Athena brings Agamemnon and Menelaos into contention about
the departure voyage. Agamemnon then, to appease Athena’s
wrath, remains behind.

Ἀθηνᾶ Ἀγαμέμνονα καὶ Μενέλαον εἰς ἔριν καθίστησι περὶ τοῦ
ἔκπλου. Ἀγαμέμνων μὲν οὖν τὸν τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς ἐξιλασόμενος
χόλον ἐπιμένει.

Proclus Chrestomathy 279–282

Agamemnon emerges from Iliad 14 as an inept leader once again. Nestor came to him for advice and got none, but instead was treated to yet another call for a nostos. Odysseus and the troops expected superior things from their leader, yet all anyone seemed to get was a peevish attempt to revise the past or retract patently thoughtless plans. Agamemnon’s personal crisis of book 9 was mirrored here also, since personal anxiety and self-doubt hindered any effective decision. In Agamemnon’s speech, his fear of the Trojans is nearly apotheosized, and he not only miscalculates the response of his fellow warriors, but also acts impetuously enough to lose any face he may have been trying to save.

4.2.10 Agamemnon and Atē: 19.76–144

An assembly has been called (apparently by Achilles, 19.34, 41), and the Achaians gather. Achilles there “unsays” his anger (35, 67–68, 74–75), prompting a joyous response by the Achaian warriors. Agamemnon, to whom Achilles’ speech is addressed, is the first to respond. His rejoinder (78–144) follows an ambiguous, uneasy, if not self-deprecating, introduction. He will offer restitution to Achilles; yet, by sitting rather than standing, fashions himself overtly as a victim. [233] He shows limited signs of personal regret for the disastrous consequences his actions have caused, however, even though he is held accountable by others and must pay the indemnity. The introductory lines of Agamemnon’s speech seem meant to suggest his hesitation at speaking (78–82):

O friends, Danaän warriors, servants of Ares,
it is good for one standing to listen well, and it is not fitting
to break in; For [this would be] difficult, even for one being skilled.
But among men in a great uproar, how would any man listen
or speak? But he is affected even though being a clear speaker.

ὦ φίλοι ἥρωες Δαναοὶ θεράποντες Ἄρηος
ἑσταότος μὲν καλὸν ἀκούειν, οὐδὲ ἔοικεν
ὑββάλλειν· χαλεπὸν γὰρ ἐπισταμένῳ περ ἐόντι.
ἀνδρῶν δ’ ἐν πολλῷ ὁμάδῳ πῶς κέν τις ἀκούσαι
ἢ εἴποι; βλάβεται δὲ λιγύς περ ἐὼν ἀγορητής.

Not surprisingly, considering the results of Agamemnon’s words and actions narrated in Iliad 1, Agamemnon is uneasy about the subject he raises. On the whole, Agamemnon’s immediate opening to his speech suggests his incapacity and hesitation in the present situation (the “tentative” nature of his introduction), rather than his audacity as a speaker. [
234] Agamemnon’s remarks are preparing his audience for the upcoming explanation of his quarrel with Achilles (a natural part of a prooimion). [235] “How would any man listen or speak?” (πῶς κέν τις ἀκούσαι ἢ εἴποι;) he asks. This may be Agamemnon’s attempt to ingratiate himself with a hostile crowd. Agamemnon’s words appear, at first glance, to have a kernel of what Dentice Di Accadia (2012:225) classifies as a gnomic captatio benevolentiae. The first part of Agamemnon’s saying, however, would not really have sounded especially endearing to either Homer’s internal or external audience. A speaker earns no credit with his audience by saying that they make so much of a “racket” (ὅμαδος) that he can hardly speak. [236] Agamemnon is a little tongue tied here, to say the least. This is to be expected. Agamemnon’s attitudes and actions towards Achilles and many other basileis have been the target of strong criticism by the Achaians throughout the Iliad’s narrative. This background now causes renewed discomfort for the paramount basileus. If Agamemnon’s hesitation here is real, as I suggest, rather than rhetorical, it may be caused in part by the “instability of the crowd” (Hammer 2002:156). Yet, it is an instability created by Agamemnon’s own past actions now returning to haunt him.

The poet elucidates overtly this ineluctable history, not only by what Agamemnon says, but also by how he has him say it (19.83–85):

To the son of Peleus I will declare myself; yet you other
Argives listen up, and let [my] word be well recognized by each.
Many a time before [now] to me this word the Achaians spoke
and also me they would chastise; but I am not blameworthy,

Πηλεΐδῃ μὲν ἐγὼν ἐνδείξομαι· αὐτὰρ οἱ ἄλλοι
σύνθεσθ’ Ἀργεῖοι, μῦθόν τ’ εὖ γνῶτε ἕκαστος.
πολλάκι δή μοι τοῦτον Ἀχαιοὶ μῦθον ἔειπον
καί τέ με νεικείεσκον· ἐγὼ δ’ οὐκ αἴτιός εἰμι,

Agamemnon has been over these things before, though Achilles has not been present. He well knows the sentiments of his troops and is fully aware that any conversation with Achilles will bring forward in the men’s minds their own aggrieved feelings. These are feelings they have expressed again and again (πολλάκι … ἔειπον, 84), and on more than one occasion. [
237] What the men have said seems indicated in Agamemnon’s present denial, which reaches over the past conversations in one broad sweep. They had, on the one hand, been consistently blaming him; yet now Agamemnon emphatically asserts, he (was and) is not the blameworthy “cause” (αἴτιος, 85) of the quarrel and Achilles’ subsequent refusal to fight. As Dentice Di Accadia (2012:227) argues, at this point Agamemnon is less concerned with convincing Achilles than he is in convincing the rest of the troops.

Agamemnon’s speech following his claim to atē pursues the well-known story of Hera’s deception of Zeus, in which she takes advantage of the leading god’s public declaration. Zeus had announced (19.103–105):

Today Eileithyia of the Labor Pains will bring to light
a man who will rule over those around him,
of the generation of men who are born of my blood.

σήμερον ἄνδρα φόως δὲ μογοστόκος Εἰλείθυια
ἐκφανεῖ, ὃς πάντεσσι περικτιόνεσσιν ἀνάξει,
τῶν ἀνδρῶν γενεῆς οἵ θ’ αἵματος ἐξ ἐμεῦ εἰσί.

Hera’s subsequent conniving, described in a virtual figura etymologica as a ruse contriver contriving ruses, [
239] sees her next coaxing out an oath from her unsuspecting husband, one that would guarantee he keep his word. The gist of Hera’s covert plan is to replace Zeus’ chosen ruler over the Argives, Herakles, with her own choice, Eurystheus (19.101–124), by slowing up the birth of the former and speeding up the delivery of the latter. [240] While atē-words are not present in the story proper, Agamemnon does interject into the middle of his tale the comment that Zeus “was deceived” (ἀάσθη, 113), in this case by swearing a “great oath.” In contrast, the introduction to the tale and the actions of Zeus following Hera’s intrigues (as interpreted by Agamemnon) are full of atē-words, both nouns and verbal forms. [241] The poet’s presentation is made all the more striking by his extremely rare inclusion of a personified Atē herself. [242] Following this etiological story, we hear Agamemnon declare what he feels naturally follows from his personal entanglement with atē: he should pay restitution (137–138): [243] “Yet, since I was deluded and Zeus snatched away my wits, / I am willing to make things right again and to offer considerable compensation” (ἀλλ’ ἐπεὶ ἀασάμην καί μευ φρένας ἐξέλετο Ζεύς, / ἂψ ἐθέλω ἀρέσαι, δόμεναί τ’ ἀπερείσι’ ἄποινα).

Modern audiences are unsurprisingly struck by the force of causal “since” (ἐπεί). What Agamemnon assumes as his personal responsibility seems not to follow from his atē-based plea. Certain earlier scholarly explanations for this apparent logical discrepancy sought to address the assumed contradiction in Agamemnon’s speech. [244] The consensus that developed, and the one that seems most representative of Homer, is a dual model of causality: internal and external, human and divine, or “double motivation” (see Porter 2017:3). Further, as I have shown elsewhere, human cause (paralleling divine impetus) for the onset of atē is discernable in each instance of atē’s onset, when the full story around each scene is considered (Porter 2017). What becomes clear is that Homer’s core audience assumed, in each case, a human cause for the onset of atē. No matter what Agamemnon may claim, then, those accustomed to the poetic rendition were quite used to hearing about individuals being at least partly the cause of their own atē. This would not change, no matter what Agamemnon claimed. Moreover, as Cairns and others have shown, [245] Homer’s listeners were also used to recognizing that each individual was accountable (and suffered consequences) for his or her actions, except when prayer warded off a negative outcome (Iliad 9.502–512); and also, understandably, in the case of Zeus. Who, after all, can hold Zeus accountable? [246] In short, there are usually human causes and harmful consequences for anyone infected by atē.

But what about responsibility? The need for Agamemnon to recognize that he is accountable, I would further suggest, includes the presumption that he is also responsible. This is so, not only because Agamemnon, like all others affected by atē, suffers negative consequences, but also because he can take action to avoid a similar outcome in the future. It seems that the internal audience of Homer’s narrative, as well as the poet himself, assumes that action can be changed through advice. This is something Odysseus makes clear to a rather thick-skulled Agamemnon in Iliad 19.181–183:

But you, son of Atreus, hereafter, more just toward another
will surely be, for not in any way should a basileus be vexed
to appease a man when a certain one was first to rage.

Ἀτρεΐδη σὺ δ’ ἔπειτα δικαιότερος καὶ ἐπ’ ἄλλῳ
ἔσσεαι. οὐ μὲν γάρ τι νεμεσσητὸν βασιλῆα
ἄνδρ’ ἀπαρέσσασθαι ὅτε τις πρότερος χαλεπήνῃ.

There is a note of emphatic indignation in Odysseus’ voice. He suggests that Agamemnon has learned his lesson and will no doubt improve by acting more responsibly next time round. [
248] Such counsel to act responsibly mirrors a familiar choice formula first used by Athena to Achilles (Iliad 1.207). She urges him to stop his anger from ending in a physical assault on the leading wanax; that is, she prods in her address to him, “if you will obey” (αἴ κε πίθηαι). This traditional saying indicates that an important decision is at hand. It does not, despite certain scholarly opinion (e.g. Kirk 1985:75), assume that Achilles will agree and relent. It is in no way a fait accompli. After all, the same formula on another occasion (Iliad 11.791) references a decision of Achilles, and whether he will be willing to relent, when approached by Patroklos. When the moment comes, Achilles will not in fact agree to help his comrades, but only gives in a bit by allowing Patroklos to enter the battle in his armor. The expression “if you will obey” (αἴ κε πίθηαι), then, is not deterministic, but rather, as Schadewaldt (1966:140) observes, typical of “Ungenauigkeit.” Odysseus’ words seem to be a real call for more responsible action the next time round. It is up to Agamemnon to react appropriately and to embody a clear response in the future.

But would Agamemnon act differently on a future occasion? His character, as we have seen it unfold from this and earlier chapters, seems consistent enough for his audience to doubt that possibility. Even Agamemnon’s claim of blamelessness (ἐγὼ δ’ οὐκ αἴτιος εἰμι), moreover, depends upon how the core (external) audience, who know the fuller stories Homer sings, viewed his character. [250] This is especially important since a survey of this traditional idiom shows that it can be either true or false, sincere or otherwise. For instance, in Iliad 3, we are given a picture of Priam and other senior Trojan leaders with Helen on the citadel walls overlooking the battlefield and troops. There, we become privy to Priam acting as perhaps any male would, to borrow Blondell’s assessment, when he says that Helen is not to blame (οὔ τί μοι αἰτίη ἐστί, 3.164) for the Trojan War. He does so despite the likelihood of Helen’s agency, demonstrated by her own self-blame. [251] Whether, as Teffeteller (2003:23) asks, Priam is blinded by Helen’s charms as are the other elders (3.156–160, which seems likely from the poetic portrait) or just demonstrates the affection of a father-in law (or both), we cannot know for sure. Priam’s use of the traditional address, “dear child” (φίλον τέκος, 162), [252] does suggest that Priam takes his role as a caring father-in-law figure seriously. So, Priam’s words are kind, but are not likely meant to represent objective truth. [253]

The informed external audience knows the fuller stories, even when unknown to the poem’s internal audience. They could hear past the surface influence of gender (Helen and Priam), narrative silence (Odysseus and Ajax), and questions of narrative perspective and power (Xanthos and Zeus), when listening to the characters speak. Homer’s core audience could consider the narrative moments against (diachronically) past, present, and future stories. They remembered the sort of traits that made characters who they were from their words and actions at other times. Helen’s character resonated for Homer’s audience with implications from her connection in the oral tradition with the commencement and dilemma of the Trojan War. As we saw earlier, she represents “the conundrum of female beauty,” which is “intrinsically desirable” yet also connected with destruction. [258] Her ability to entice males, even her own husband after Troy fell (cf. Euripides Troades 1036–1059), is always just under the surface. Priam is not exempt from her influence. Odysseus’ role, as we saw in Chapters 1 and 2, is also known to the Iliadic audience from the Odyssey story. As we saw in Chapter 2, he is a hero marked by “cunning, stratagems, and endurance,” whom Plato thought was an even stronger speaker than Nestor. While Odysseus’ claim on Achilles’ arms raises a number of questions that cannot detain us here, his ability as a “ruse-strategist” would come as no surprise to the singer’s audience. [259] Can Odysseus help it if his abilities are not matched by those of Ajax who, as we saw, was known as a hero whose martial prowess was equaled by a corresponding terseness of speech? [260] Xanthos was, presumably, regarded as a faithful and almost magical horse of Achilles. He was known to the audience in any case, since he was apparently famous enough to be sought out by Dolon (Iliad 10.321–323) in that traditional story, as we saw earlier in this chapter. [261] Of course, as noted, Xanthos’ utterance is tied to his receiving privileged, revealed knowledge, a traditional pattern related to special moments in epic narrative. Further, Zeus’ claims are related to his own traditional character and the theme of justice in human affairs, admittedly a controversial but character-based question, nonetheless. [262]

The poet and audience knew the sort of character Agamemnon was. It is in this context, the context of character traits known within the performance tradition, that we must read Agamemnon’s claim regarding atē and statement that he is not “blameworthy.” Agamemnon’s plea that he is not aitios, then, is really no excuse at all. The words of Poseidon from book 13 offer an objective “control” for my assertions. The narrative perspective of a divinity, after all, is certainly a step up from the more limited human vista. Poseidon addresses the Achaian troops (Iliad 13.111–114):

But if indeed altogether truly blameworthy is
the heroic son of Atreus, wide ruling Agamemnon,
because he dishonored swift footed Achilles,
then we really should not slack off in battle.

ἀλλ’ εἰ δὴ καὶ πάμπαν ἐτήτυμον αἴτιός ἐστιν
ἥρως Ἀτρεΐδης εὐρὺ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
οὕνεκ’ ἀπητίμησε ποδώκεα Πηλεΐωνα,
ἡμέας γ’ οὔ πως ἔστι μεθιέμεναι πολέμοιο.

Poseidon’s “if” is met by an instantaneous and unified reaction from the Achaians, who eagerly rally behind their leaders in tight battle ranks. If action is a reply, it is a resounding confirmation that Agamemnon is to blame. This is the last we really hear from Agamemnon. As Taplin notes, Agamemnon is “out of sight” for the rest of the Iliad, except for a minor appearance in the funeral games for Patroklos. [

As we have seen throughout this chapter, Agamemnon appears to be impetuous—he acts first and thinks afterwards—but he is also given to unusually insulting and even irreverent comments. His actions are often chastised by his inferiors and end up in apology and retraction; he blames divinity, yet is still responsible and suffers the consequences. As we noted in the preceding chapter, the Odyssey is one with the Iliad in presenting us with an Agamemnon who is impetuous, thoughtless, rash, and foolish. As we saw for the Odyssey in Chapter 3, Agamemnon is on the bottom of an ascending scale of outcomes among leading Greek heroes, a scale woven into the very fabric of the Odyssean tradition. Agamemnon’s disappointing character seems as much a part of the Iliadic tradition. The Iliad, however, since its setting is the battle for Troy, foregrounds other traits not as immediately apparent in the context of the Odyssey’s narrative. We are presented with an Agamemnon who is also inept and unconvincing as a leader, plagued with a personality displaying problems of arrogance, imperiousness, irreverence, and insult.

What is the background of Homer’s picture of Agamemnon? Why is Agamemnon such a pathetic leader? Is there an impinging influence within the underlying oral tradition that has affected his characterization? These questions inform our consideration of Agamemnon’s character in the next chapter.


[ back ] 1. A chronological consideration of Agamemnon in the Iliad will necessarily focus on his most significant appearances: 1.6–344, 2.16–440, 477–483, 3.267–302, 4.231–418, 9, 10.3–127, 11.91–283, 14.41–134, and 19.76–144. We will, nevertheless, through discussion and notes, refer to most every instance where Agamemnon is mentioned, even when Agamemnon is not himself present.

[ back ] 2. Alden (2001:207) disagrees, but I think Griffin is correct. For a consideration of suppliants and supplication, see Giordano 1999 and Naiden 2006; for the language of supplication, see Létoublon 1980 and Patera 2012:65–71.

[ back ] 3. Létoublon also notes that the base meaning of the lit– root, that of touching, is still active in modern Lithuanian cognates.

[ back ] 4. On the relation of the traditional audience expectation of divine charis and supplication, see Patera (2012:68): “Ces prières qui promettent ou qui rappellent, joignent en fait à la demande la raison pour laquelle la divinitè doit y répondre. … Il s’agit de la réaction à une faveur qui peut être considérée comme un remerciement, qui implique la notion de la reconnaissance pour le don reçu.” On incarnate curses, see Murray 1934:88.

[ back ] 5. For a view that such action was condemned, see Gould 1973:90–101. Gagarin (1987) enlarges upon the traditional list of those most vulnerable: (usually “guests, beggars, and suppliants”) to include also “larger groups, such as the Achaian army as a whole.” For other early examples of Greek attitudes towards the helpless, see Hesiod’s Erga (327–344), where Zeus is shown as imposing a “harsh recompense” (χαλεπήν … ἀμοιβήν) upon all who commit evil acts against a “suppliant” (ἱκέτης) or “stranger” (ξεῖνος); and cf. Euripides’ Bacchae, where Cadmos is spared being shackled for his Bacchic behavior because of “grey old age” (γῆρας πολίον, 258).

[ back ] 6. Fenik (1968:82) speaks of battle supplication, but Wilson (2002:31) perhaps too restrictively. See her reaction to Robbins (1990:12–13, 192n86), against whom she argues that: “ransom is not [to be] conflated with supplication.” I am not so sure that this division is sharply maintained in Homer. See also Naiden (2006:120) on the difference between what Homer places in the foreground and background in cases of supplication.

[ back ] 7. The parallel between the supplication of Chryses and Priam has been noted by Rabel 1990:429–440 and Goldhill 1990b:373–376. We will return to Priam’s supplication in Iliad 24 later in this chapter.

[ back ] 8. Hernández (2002:323–324) contrasts Agamemnon’s mistreatment of Chryses with another priest (a hiereus) of Apollos in the Odyssey, Maron (Odyssey 9.200), whom Odysseus saves during an Achaian attack on Ismaros. We have fewer specifics about why Odysseus acted as he did in the case of Maron, but the participle ἁζόμενοι, as Hernández suggests, serves to contrast the responses of Odysseus and Agamemnon. One reader suggested that the figure of Leiodes (Odyssey 22.310–329), a suitor with some prophetic abilities, may be a contrasting instance that suggests Odysseus’ mercilessness. Yet, the singer’s inclusion of the “looking darkly” (ὑπόδρα ἰδών) formula (see Chapter 2) suggests instead that we should not see the poet-narrator as looking favorably upon Leiodes’ request. While Leodes is certainly a sympathetic character, he is part of the class of suitors who have invaded Odysseus’ oikos and gets what he deserves (see Chapter 2), even if he has prophetic ability. His death is placed before Phemios just to show that it is merited. As Hernández (2002:320n5) suggests, Odysseus (quite unlike Agamemnon when he is killed) “is the executioner who reestablishes justice and the due order of things.”

[ back ] 9. While the meaning of ἐξ οὗ is ultimately ambiguous and likely is connected with the Dios boulē (Marks 2002, Allan 2008), I cannot rule out its connection also (so Redfield 1979:96, Lenz 1980:42n1) as a temporal marker with ἄειδε in Iliad 1.1. Latacz (2000a:21) notes that the temporal conjunction functions to emphasize the irreversibility of the moment. On the meaning of the proem in relation to the cosmic Dios boulē, see especially Allan 2008. For a consideration of the generic quality of epic proems, see Petropoulos 2012.

[ back ] 10. Cf. the competition noted in Chapter 1, n. 32, in pre-Parry and Lord South Slavic epic performance.

[ back ] 11. Iliad 1.30: Chryseïs; 16.461: Sarpedon; 18.99: Patroklos; 24.86: Achilles; and Odyssey 2.365: Odysseus.

[ back ] 12. On Greek experiences and attitudes over loss of homeland, see Garland 2014. On loss of homeland and women’s songs of lament, see Dué 2006. Cf. the later apolis theme in Euripides (Hypsipyle 1.4.18, 12.107, Medea 255, 646, Hippolytus 1029, Hecuba 669, 811, etc.).

[ back ] 13. Achilles says to Thetis that he, too, will not return to his fatherland (πατρίδα γαῖαν, 18.101), and so Thetis also will experience loss.

[ back ] 14. One might compare this with the war’s disruption of family life evoked by the meeting of Hector with his wife Andromache and son Astyanax (Iliad 6.390–493).

[ back ] 15. I use “prophecy” here in one of its functions, in its verbal form, to “speak forth” the truth of the situation with special, privileged, divinely inspired knowledge not accessible to humans without this prophetic art. A prophet knows all three temporal frames: the present, future, and past (ὅς ᾔδη τά τ’ ἐόντα τά τ’ ἐσσόμεθα πρό τ’ ἐόντα, Iliad 1.70). For further discussion, see Flower 2008:22–103.

[ back ] 16. οὐδ’ ὅ γε πρὶν Δαναοῖσιν ἀεικέα λοιγὸν ἀπώσει /πρίν γ’ ἀπὸ πατρὶ φίλῳ δόμεναι ἑλικώπιδα κούρην /ἀπριάτην ἀνάποινον, ἄγειν θ’ ἱερὴν ἑκατόμβην / ἐς Χρύσην· τότε κέν μιν ἱλασσάμενοι πεπίθοιμεν (1.97–100).

[ back ] 17. Felson and Slatkin 2004:95. Cf. Dué (2002:40), who argues that Briseïs is a substitute for Helen in the “micronarrative” of Iliad 1; cf. also Suzuki 1989:21–29.

[ back ] 18. Blondell 2013:22; see also 1–95, on Helen’s role in the Iliad; cf. Blondell 2010.

[ back ] 19. Latacz (2000a:38) notes that it is an open question whether Agamemnon meant Chryseïs “als Konkubine … oder Nebenfrau,” but I think the former is likely.

[ back ] 20. Certainly slave-concubinage (though not bigamy) was a practice that continued into the Classical Period (see Lysias 1.12–14; cf. the comments of Scheidel 2010:111). The vagaries and hope of Andromache in Euripides’ play bearing her name well match the picture we have in Homer of concubinage. Especially pertinent is Andromache’s scornful remarks to Hermione about the practice of Thessalian tyrannoi (Andromache 215–218): εἰ δ’ ἀμφὶ φρῄκην τὴν χιόνι κατάρρυτον/τύραννον ἔσχες ἄνδρ’, ἵν’ ἐν μέρει λέχος/δίδωσι πολλαῖς εἷς ἀνὴρ κοινούμενος,/ἔκτεινας ἂν τάσδ’; For a study of terminology for female courtesans and related practices, see McClure 2003:1–25. On the changing practices from Homer to Classical Athens, see Ogden 1996:72–75.

[ back ] 21. Herodotus’ (7.2) comments that the children of Darius are apt. The sons were rivals “because they were not from the same mother” (Ἐόντες δὲ μητρὸς οὐ τῆς αὐτῆς).

[ back ] 22. The ongoing jealousy over a sustained sexual relationship between the husband and his concubine is made clear by the iterative imperfects of Iliad 9.450–451. They refer to the husband’s dilatory activities, but also the wife’s attempts to persuade her son Phoinix to take action. Phoinix did comply. On the pattern of the father-son hostility, see Sourvinou-Inwood 1991:252; on the centrality of father-son relationships in Homer, see Wöhrle 1999:32–48. Alden (2012:123–125) argues that Peleus does not completely replace Amyntor as a father, since he sees the relationship more in terms of a metanast. He allows that his relationship is “quasi-filial,” but I think that Phoinix’s role goes beyond that of a metanast. See especially Iliad 9.485–491.

[ back ] 23. Eurykleia did, however, become a wetnurse to Odysseus, so must have had a baby at some point (Pomeroy 2011:26–27). On the complex nature of the position of slaves and concubines in the Homeric oikos, see Thalmann 1998:74–83.

[ back ] 24. The son (but perhaps also a daughter, cf. Iliad 13.171–176) of a concubine could, however, enjoy equality in the household with legitimate sons (as could an “adopted” son, Iliad 18.18), at least while the father was alive according to Homer’s account (as Odysseus’ lying tale also makes clear). The best of situations could always change at death, something evident in Classical Athens, as poor old blind Arignotos found out after his brother died (see Aeschines Against Timarchus 103–104).

[ back ] 25. Ogden (1996:194–211) notes that this is a Euripidean proclivity. The comment of the female chorus in Euripides Hippolytus (151, 153–154) directed toward Phaedra presents what appears to be a normal concern: ἢ πόσιν … / ποιμαίνει τις ἐν οἴκοις / κρυπτᾶι κοίται λεχέων σῶν;

[ back ] 26. Cf. the comments of Hubbard 2011:790. A competitive tension existed in other ancient Mediterranean societies, even where polygamy was regularly practiced. See e.g. Genesis 16.1–6, 28.28–29.24, for Rachel and Leah; and Plutarch Life of Alexander 9.5, for Olympias in Macedon.

[ back ] 27. As suggested in Chapters 1 and 2, the Odyssey in some form was certainly known to the poet of the Iliad and his audience. On the possible implications from onomastics, see Marquardt 1992:245–252.

[ back ] 28. The sacrifice of Iphigenia, probably the same daughter as the Homeric Iphianassa (Iliad 9.145), is never overtly mentioned in Homer, however.

[ back ] 29. Burgess (2001:31–33) argues that earlier (oral) forms of the Cyclic epics are ultimately from the same tradition that gave us the Homeric epics. Kullman (2015) thinks that at least the Faktenkanon of Cyclic motifs originated orally before Homer.

[ back ] 30. Scodel (2002:106) accepts this background (cf. Kirk 1985:65), but is less sure that the audience is actually aware of it: “The poet probably had the sacrifice in mind as he generated angry words for Agamemnon, but the audience need not follow the allusion. The poet, then, does not rely on prior knowledge of Chalcas.”

[ back ] 31. Aeschylus Agamemnon 1521–1529, 1555–1559, Choephoroe 918, Persae 1054–1065. On its part in ritual, see Alexiou 2002:6.

[ back ] 32. On the “strongly adversative” sense of the αὐτάρ, see Denniston 1950:55. αὐτὰρ ἐμοί, already a traditional collocation with force in Homer (cf. Iliad 21.157, Odyssey 3.351, 4.481, 538, 548, 7.151, etc.) is joined by the poet with αὐτίχ’ and an imperative.

[ back ] 33. As Taplin (1990:81) notes, if it is so improper that he go without a geras in such a situation, it is “strange” that no one does anything to correct the situation. The demand for immediate compensation is certainly not something Achilles feels Agamemnon should require (contra Wilson 2002:56). Achilles only concedes that a replacement geras is appropriate at some future time (Iliad 1.127–129).

[ back ] 34. Cf. Crotty (1994:34), “by exercising that power without regard to the dictates of shame, Agamemnon brings about a violent rupture in the warrior society…” Wilson (2002:50) suggests that Kalchas and Achilles’ argument “is also the narrator’s argument,” suggesting that it is the authoritative point meant to be taken away by the audience. Cf. Lloyd-Jones (1971:12–13), who characterizes Achilles as “undoubtedly in the right” since Agamemnon is violating justice and the timē of Achilles. Adkins (1982:287, 303–306) rejects this argument in favor of an argument for pure self-interest. See Gagarin (1987) for an attempted via media.

[ back ] 35. Nagy (1979:26–41) argues that the Iliad attempts to present Achilles as the best of the Achaians. Four other Achaians, including Agamemnon, vie for this title, but in the poet’s plan only Achilles is aristos/phertatos.

[ back ] 36. Chantraine 1963:200, “sensible.”

[ back ] 37. I see the singular νῦν δ’ ἄγε (cf. Iliad 22.391 and Odyssey 12.213’s νῦν δ’ ἄγεθ’) as a variant way of expressing ἀλλ’ ἄγε[τε], the actual formula that Foley considers in his study.

[ back ] 38. See Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.4 Menestheus and Odysseus: 4.327–364.

[ back ] 39. For a diachronic consideration of aoidos, see Cairns 1993 (for criticism of Cairn’s methodology, see Belfiore 1994). Taking Cairns’s findings as a whole, however, ἀναιδείη/ἀναιδής suggest a marked lack of inhibition by internal or external constraint (so, guilt or shame).

[ back ] 40. Should Troy ever be taken, Agamemnon would receive a far superior portion of the spoils (163–166). This is a traditional refrain in Homer, as we saw in Chapter 2, n. 38.

[ back ] 41. Achilles employs “you” thrice for emphasis: ἀλλὰ σοί … ὄφρα σὺ χαίρῃς … σοί, 158–159.

[ back ] 42. On the positive qualities of Argus, see Scodel 2005; for a consideration of dogs in similes see Kelly 2007a:300–302. As Kelly shows, however, even in similes, when dogs do not act in coordination with humans, they are “uniformly unsuccessful.” Interestingly, Agamemnon in Iliad 1 is acting out of step with his own human warrior community.

[ back ] 43. For dogs as companions in the hunt, see Iliad 3.26, 5.476, 9.545, 10.360, 11.292, 414, 549, 12.41, 147, 13.198, 475, 15.272, 17.65, 110, 282, 658, 725, 18.578, 581, 584, 22.29; Odyssey 2.11, 17.62, 19.429, 436, 438, 444, and 20.145; as guard dogs, see Iliad 10.183, 186, 15.187; Odyssey 7.91, 11.623, 14.21, 29, 35, 37, 531, 16.4, 6, 9, 162, and 17.200; as attack dogs, see Odyssey 21.340 and 363; as show dogs, see Odyssey 17.309; nor did Argos (17.300) any longer serve a useful role outside of his position as Odysseus’ (now neglected) hunting dog. On the role of dogs in ancient society as symbols of the health of a household, see especially Beck 1991.

[ back ] 44. See Iliad 1.4, 2.393, 8.379, 13.831, 15.351, 17.153, 241, 558, 18.271, 283, 22.42, 66, 75, 89, 335, 339, 348, 354, 509, 23.183, 184, 185, 24.211, 411, Odyssey 3.259, 14.133, and 18.105 (but of beggars).

[ back ] 45. See Monsacré (1984:159) for the uniqueness of Helen’s sense of remorse among female characters in Iliad. For Helen’s gendered role in self-blame, see Blondell 2010. Blondell also discusses Helen’s use of this self-designation on two other occasions (Iliad 3.180 to Priam; Odyssey 4.145 at home before members of her oikos and visitors) and finds that Helen affirms responsibility (and so agency), while males excuse her for reasons of gender.

[ back ] 46. εἰς ὦπα + verb, at Iliad 3.158, 15.147, Odyssey 1.411, and 22.405, shows different possibilities. The significance here is not that the “face” has changed from Agamemnon’s to Achilles’, but rather the echo of the original κυνῶπα in the formation by the poet of the present narrative moment. Cf. κυνὸς ὄμματ’ ἔχων, Iliad 1.225.

[ back ] 47. This is one of many resonances between Iliad 1 and 9, as we will see when we consider book 9 later in this chapter.

[ back ] 48. Unlike ἀλεγίζω, ὄθομαι appears in the Iliad only in negative statements. Both words are equally employed in Homer, occurring in various forms eleven times in total (six in the Iliad and five in the Odyssey).

[ back ] 49. This is an instance of the emphatic use of formulae of the sort noted by Di Benedetto (1994:131).

[ back ] 50. On the traditional nature of this form of appeal, see my comments in Chapter 2, n. 38.

[ back ] 51. Achilles comments that ὅς κε θεοῖς ἐπιπείθηται μάλα τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοῦ. This response acts as an immediate foil for Agamemnon, but perhaps also metonymically for Achilles himself, who does not accept the offered amelioration of the assembly in Iliad 9. As a result, Zeus continues (part of the Dios boulē) to bring about the slaughter of the Achaians, including Achilles’ philtatos, Patroklos. The verb κλύειν, used of the gods’ relationship with mortals (cf. Iliad 1.457 [479]; 5.121 [23.771], 24.314), is inclusive here both of the act of hearing and the state of agreement with (or act of positive response to) the petitioner. This aspect is missed by Chantraine 1968:541, s.v. κλέος (s.v. κλύω), but noted by LfgrE 14.1458, s.v. κλυεῖν, κλύω B. (G. Markwald), “oft erhören.”

[ back ] 52. Lardinois 2000:645 notes that Achilles references are more generally to himself.

[ back ] 53. Iliad 1.238–239 ἐν παλάμῃς φορέουσι δικασπόλοι, οἵ τε θέμιστας / πρὸς Διὸς εἰρύαται·

[ back ] 54. Hammer (1997:12) describes Achilles’ throwing of the scepter as a symbolic withdrawal from the political sphere and argues that through this act Achilles is envisioning “an eventual return to his [own] household.”

[ back ] 55. See Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.3 Nestor: 4.293–326, on the traditional implications of Nestor’s history in Homer’s tradition.

[ back ] 56. The scholiasts understood it as “einen chronischen Erzürntheitszustand,” as Latacz (2000a:13) glosses ἐπίμονος ὀργή (schol. D) and κότος πολυχρόνιος (Aristotle); and similarly Chantraine (1968:696, s.v. μῆνις) suggests a colère durable. On the mēnis theme see especially Redfield 1979, Slatkin 1991:86, LfgrE 15.187, s.v. μῆνις (Beck), Di Benedetto 1994:111, and Muellner 1996:94–132.

[ back ] 57. For example, of Agamemnon here and in Iliad 2.6, 3.193, 11.158; Odyssey 1.35, 3.156; of Menelaos: Iliad 3.347, 5.55, 13.646; of both: Iliad 1.16–17, 2.249; and of Orestes: Odyssey 1.40.

[ back ] 58. Hermes (Iliad 2.104), Apollo (5.105), and others in the nominative, although it is used of Menelaos only in the vocative: ἄναξ Μενέλαε (Iliad 23.588).

[ back ] 59. The epithet ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν is employed of Anchises: Iliad 5.268; of Aineias: 5.311; of Augeias: 11.701; and of Euphetes: 15.532.

[ back ] 60. Nb. ἀέκοντες.

[ back ] 61. Latacz (2000a:123) notes that Achilles’ speech here (and in 335–338) “hat den Charakter einer … ‘Verlautberung’ die an den ‘Eid’ in 233–244 erinnert.”

[ back ] 62. Nestor is himself, unsurprisingly, a standard sagacious contrast for less thoughtful youthful impetuousness. On Nestor’s wisdom opposed to rash action, see Iliad 1.254–284; as a contrast to panic, see Odyssey 24.54. For Nestor as a contrast to his own son’s recklessness, see Kahane 2005:114.

[ back ] 63. See Chapter 3, s.v. 3.2.3 Nestor’s Stories of Quarrel, Nostoi, and Oresteia: 3.136–310.

[ back ] 64. On irony and the ironic use of traditional language cues, see Chapter 2.

[ back ] 65. Teffeteller (1990) notes that the expression αὐτὸς ἀπούρας signals the autocratic character of Agamemnon’s rule. That Agamemnon did not come in person is suggested by Taplin (1992:72, “it is beneath his dignity”), but the larger meaning of Achilles’ words are effectively brought out by Scodel (2003). She suggests that Agamemnon is not, in any case, demonstrating insincerity or offering an inappropriate number of gifts.

[ back ] 66. ἠτίμησας, ἑλὼν γὰρ ἔχεις γέρας, Iliad 9.11; cf. 9.107. Clustering, as Beye (2006:82) notes, is a proclivity of Homeric poetry.

[ back ] 67. So also οὖλε ὄνειρε (Iliad 2.8). By way of contrast, the other Homeric use of ὄνειρον filling the same metrical space, αἰνόν ὄνειρον (Odyssey 19.568), ends in a better outcome for the dreamer (Penelope). West (1997:185–190, 356) suggests comparisons with a few Near Eastern examples to show that dreams also came to kings in those traditions to stir them into battle. My concern here, however, is with the unique cues in the Homeric tradition that allowed the audience to interpret both the nature of the dream and the character of Agamemnon, something not a part of West’s study.

[ back ] 68. See Chapter 3, s.v. 3.2.3 Nestor’s Stories of Quarrel, Nostoi, and Oresteia: 3.136–310.

[ back ] 69. Schmidt (2002) saw no clear motive for Agamemnon’s test (cf. Heiden 1991:4). Certainly, as Christensen (2015; cf. Heiden 1991:6) argues, the diapeira does function to draw in the audience, a vital feature for oral performance. Cf. my comments and Murko’s experience of intense South Slavic oral performance in Chapter 1, n. 32.

[ back ] 70. Di Benedetto (1994:120) sees it as suggesting “vanto” / “orgoglio” as a basic meaning.

[ back ] 71. On confusion, see Kirk 1985:140; Heiden (1991:4) and Schmidt (2002) see no clear motive for Agamemnon’s test.

[ back ] 72. Leaf (1902a:66–69) earlier suggested excising the scene, noting that nothing is lost if it is removed, leaving Agamemnon in utter despondency proposing that the siege be abandoned. Von der Mühll (1946) and Mazon (1948:146–151) emphasized a lack of reference to it by Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Nestor, thus giving further support from an analyst perspective.

[ back ] 73. Cf. Iliad 2.786–808 and McGlew 1989:286 (although he posits a different political reality for the Trojans as the possible cause for this discrepancy, rather than its novelty).

[ back ] 74. Cf. the conclusions of Hainsworth 1993:62 and Elmer 2013:91.

[ back ] 75. Iliad 2.75, moreover, seems to envisage a group effort at halting any retreat. It was instead Odysseus, stirred on by Athena, who actually stopped the flight at the last moment by upbraiding the basileis (Iliad 2.185–205), a point we will return to.

[ back ] 76. Dentice Di Accadia 2010, e.g. 242, “Agamennone non può fare altro che invitare i soldati a tornare in patria, mostrando di comprendere e condividere la loro stanchezza.” Ancient critics, including the scholiasts, however, have a great ability in reading into an action every sort of motivation, but they are often less concerned with the sorts of oral traditional questions I ask throughout my argument. Cf. the comments of Anne Amory Parry 1973:7.

[ back ] 77. The theme may also be expanded by more than one rejection or amplification, for instance.

[ back ] 78. The other Iliadic examples of Agamemnon’s use of this theme (cf. 9.16–77, 14.64–132) and its use by others include Polydamas (12.208–229; 18.249–309), Diomedes (8.138–144), Thoas (15.281–300), and Meriones (17.621–623). We can also add to Kelly’s list Achilles’ own dismissal of such an idea (theme).

[ back ] 79. Morrison (1992a:39–41, 131n9) discusses Agamemnon’s interrupting the movement to battle with his testing of the troops. He points out (40) that “In calling Agamemnon a fool (νήπιος), the narrator reminds the audience that Agamemnon’s expectations are ill-founded. Defeat, not victory, awaits him, as the predictions from Book 1 have clearly indicated.” See my discussion of νήπιος earlier in this chapter, but also Homer’s use of irony in Chapter 2.

[ back ] 80. νῦν δὲ κακὴν ἀπάτην βουλεύσατο.

[ back ] 81. αἰσχρὸν γὰρ τόδε γ’ ἐστὶ καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι / μὰψ οὕτω τοιόνδε τοσόνδε τε λαὸν Ἀχαιῶν / ἄπρηκτον πόλεμον πολεμίζειν ἠδὲ μάχεσθαι / ἀνδράσι παυροτέροισι, τέλος δ’ οὔ πώ τι πέφανται·

[ back ] 82. On the negative use of nostos in the Iliad, see Maronitis 2004:63–76.

[ back ] 83. The ironies of the situation are only partly known then to ὅσσοι οὐ βουλῆς ἐπάκουσαν, 2.143; but see 1.194, where the actions of some basileis do not appear to match their knowledge, as Odysseus’ question seems to indicate (unless his query is to be taken simply as a means of castigation).

[ back ] 84. Cf. Christensen (2015) on Agamemnon’s ambiguous nature in Iliad 2.

[ back ] 85. On Helen’s allure, see Blondell 2013:1–95.

[ back ] 86. Further, both Helen and Agamemnon make strong appeals to atē. We will note Agamemnon’s connection to this enigmatic term later in this chapter.

[ back ] 87. Reinhardt (1961:101): “der Charakterschwäche des Agamemnon.”

[ back ] 88. LfgrE 4.543, s.v. ἄλλοθεν (Radt), notes its use with a lot of people “die alle die gleiche Handlung ausüben.”

[ back ] 89. Odysseus treats the lower ranks attempting to achieve a retreat and nostos severely, however (Iliad 2.198–199).

[ back ] 90. The verse can still be read as a less direct, albeit gentler rebuke when taken as a reported statement. A scholion of the T codex (Erbse 1969–1988:1.223) notes the quandary of a question: εἰς ὑπόνοιάν τε αὐτοὺς ἄγει καὶ οὐ δοκεῖ ἐκφαίνειν τὰ τοῦ βασιλέως ἀπόρρητα, ἀλλὰ συγκαλύπτει τὸν τοῦ λόγου νοῦν. The scholion suggests that this is a statement (and in the first person plural), ἵνα μὴ καταισχύνῃ τοὺς ἄλλους. Accepting this punctuation would soften Odysseus’ rebuke, but not lessen his appeal to fear.

[ back ] 91. Kirk (1985:135) may be correct in translating δειδίσσεσθαι transitively, as is the case in its other occurrences: “it is not fitting to try and terrify you as though you were a coward.” This translation would be more conciliatory, it is true, but it in no way lessens the truth that the basileis are here very much afraid and not doing their job. The surrounding verses make it plain that they are fearful and are barely being restrained by Odysseus.

[ back ] 92. Scodel (2008:66) suggests that the benefits of Odysseus’ intervention outweigh the negative impact of his taking charge on Agamemnon’s concerns to save face.

[ back ] 93. The epithet is found in the second hemistich, as part of an attributive epithet: Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ in Odyssey 3.68, 102, 210, 253, 386, 397, 405, 417, 474; 4. 161; Iliad 2.336, 433, 601; 4.317; 7.170, 181; 8.112, 151; 9.52, 162, 179; 10.102, 128, 138, 143, 157, 168, 203, 543; 11.516, 655; 14.52. In only four instances is the epithet used of other heroes (perhaps influenced by the Nestor tradition): of Phyleus (Iliad 2.628), Tydeus (Iliad 5.126), Oineus (Iliad 14.117), and Peleus (Iliad 16.33, 23.19). The Dark Age origin of this epithet may be suggested by the emphasis on horses apart from chariots, which in the Mycenaean Age acted as a platform for archers (Drews 1995:119–120). Lang (1906:296) reminds us of the presence of clearly Dark Age warfare in Homer; see Donlan (1997:656–657) for the raising of horses as a sign of social status in the Dark Age. Kristiansen and Larsson (2005:170) prefer an origin in the Mycenaean Period, when the “breeding of horses was a major elite activity at the palaces.”

[ back ] 94. See Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.3 Nestor: 4.293–326.

[ back ] 95. The Odyssey is concerned to show divine justice in the face of humans blaming the gods, on which see Schadewaldt 1958:31, Rütern 1969:70, Andersen 1973:12–14, Fenik 1974:209–227, Clay 1983:34–38, Schein 1984:62–64, and Segal 1994:200n12, 219–220. The whole of the Odyssey is inviting the audience to ponder whether human recklessness is “such a powerful force that it can bring on suffering that both gods and fate have not initiated” (Newton 2005:143n9).

[ back ] 96. But cf. Iliad 4.409, 22.104, and Taplin 1992:208; O’Brian 1993:77, 81, 93 on Iliadic theodicy, sees Hera as a “viper,” and a “source for demonic power” and rage (81–94). I find Deneen’s (2003:58–81) skepticism about theodicic elements in Homer and his view of divine involvement in both epics to be too limiting. A more balanced account can be found in Allan 2006.

[ back ] 97. On irony in the Iliad and Odyssey, see Chapter 2; on the gap between divine action and human awareness (in the Odyssey), see Dekker 1965.

[ back ] 98. See Chapter 3, s.v. 3.2.5 Proteus’ Account of Agamemnon’s Death: 4.512–537. Haubold (2000:45, 56) suggests the destructive Theban war (Iliad 6.223) as another possible backstory.

[ back ] 99. For an outline of the House of Atreus myth, see Gantz 1993:489, 540, 544–556.

[ back ] 100. ἔλιπε(ν) occurs thrice otherwise.

[ back ] 101. After the C2 break (see Appendix A), i.e. for the fifth foot.

[ back ] 102. This conflict is not directly related before Aeschylus, although his (and the Cyclic epic Alkmaionis’) references to it may show that it was well known.

[ back ] 103. Euripides Orestes 996–1000: ὅθεν δόμοισι τοῖς ἐμοῖς / ἦλθ᾽ ἀρὰ πολύστονος, / λόχευμα ποιμνίοισι Μαιάδος τόκου, / τὸ χρυσόμαλλον ἀρνὸς ὁπότε / γένετο τέρας ὀλοὸν / Ἀτρέως ἱπποβότα·

[ back ] 104. See Chapter 3, s.v. 3.2.5 Proteus’ Account of Agamemnon’s Death: 4.512–537.

[ back ] 105. Latacz 2000b:39: “Falls der Ilias-Dichter den Mythos in dieser Form kannte, zog er es offensichtlich vor, alle grausigen Züge zu unterdrücken.”

[ back ] 106. See Chapter 3, s.v. 3.2.5 Proteus’ Account of Agamemnon’s Death: 4.512–537. We saw there that Homer referenced the nostos of Agamemnon, a journey that connected him through traditional language cues to other heroes (Menelaos, Odysseus) who experienced difficulty, but also to Thyestes.

[ back ] 107. See Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.5 Diomedes and Sthenelos: 4.365–418.

[ back ] 108. See Chapter 2, n. 96.

[ back ] 109. Cf. Iliad 4.405–409 when the inferior, Sthenelos, is rebuked by Diomedes.

[ back ] 110. Seibel 1995:386: “die Eigenschaft des Planens, gleichsam des Moderierens im Sinne der rechten Einschätzung und Handhabung der Emotionen der Masse ist ihm verlorengegangen.”

[ back ] 111. The bT scholiast (Erbse 1969–1988:2.283) comments: καλλίων τῆς ἀληθινῆς καὶ μεγαλοπρεπεστέρα ἡ ὄψις ἀναπέπλασται. Individual themes, however, such as comparison with Ares, are traditional (Kelly 2007a:228–232), although comparison to Hermes by itself may have a negative sense.

[ back ] 112. For an excellent discussion of the advances of the Dipylon Master and his predecessors, see Hurwitt 1993:31–36 and Coldstream 2003:110–119. For a Near Eastern comparison, see West 1997:243.

[ back ] 113. Zeus is named as the causal agent of his appearing so conspicuous. The action of a god increasing a hero in some way is itself conventional (e.g. Odyssey 6.229–237).

[ back ] 114. LfgrE 11.506, s.v. ἐκπρεπής (M. Schmidt), suggests “Hervorragend.”

[ back ] 115. For other examples of these categories, see also Iliad 2.188, 3.227, 9.631, 641, 12.269, 18.56, 437; Odyssey 6.158, 18.205, and 19.247.

[ back ] 116. Interestingly, Pope’s warning is leveled at those critics, who, when offering criticism, without thinking, entered into depths over their heads: “Be sure yourself and your reach to know / How far your genius, taste, and learning go,” (6), the result of “pride, the never-failing vice of fools” (14). So, too, Agamemnon’s impetuous and less thoughtful nature is often apparent, as we saw in Chapter 3. We will revisit this theme further for the Iliad (for Agamemnon, but also for Dolon), when we consider Agamemnon in Iliad 10.

[ back ] 117. See Iliad 3.281–291. It is a compact that exceeds other proposals, such as that by Hector in Iliad 7.76–86.

[ back ] 118. τιμὴν δ’ Ἀργείοις ἀποτινέμεν ἥν τιν’ ἔοικεν, / ἥ τε καὶ ἐσσομένοισι μετ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέληται (3.286–287). The verb πέλομαι emphasizes a continuing outcome (se produire, Chantraine 1968:877, s.v. πέλομαι). Cf. the note by Willcock 1978:220. Powell (2014) hits the meaning: “one such as men not yet born will speak of,” if we understand the speaking as implying a future progressive sense, i.e. “will be speaking of.”

[ back ] 119. Wilson (2002:176, 178) disagrees, arguing instead that the added compensation simply replaces the plundering of Troy. This is less likely, and other indications I note for the episode seem instead to make it a clumsy elocutionary act by an overly imperious leader. On the large sum, see Kirk (1985:306), who notes that this seems beyond the normal double amount.

[ back ] 120. See Chapter 4, s.v. 4.2.1 Agamemnon’s Dishonoring and Hubristic Actions: 1.6–344.

[ back ] 121. On internal resonance, see Di Benedetto 1994:115–120.

[ back ] 122. Elmer (2013:118) offers a similar sentiment about Diomedes who, he suggests, shows a “remarkably bald indifference to the sentiments of the group as a whole” in Iliad 9.46–49. Diomedes “dismisses the importance of coordinated effort.”

[ back ] 123. 4.340–341: καὶ σὺ κακοῖσι δόλοισι κεκασμένε κερδαλεόφρον / τίπτε καταπτώσσοντες ἀφέστατε, μίμνετε δ’ ἄλλους;

[ back ] 124. 4.370–373: ὤ μοι Τυδέος υἱὲ δαΐφρονος ἱπποδάμοιο / τί πτώσσεις, τί δ’ ὀπιπεύεις πολέμοιο γεφύρας; / οὐ μὲν Τυδέϊ γ’ ὧδε φίλον πτωσκαζέμεν ἦεν, / ἀλλὰ πολὺ πρὸ φίλων ἑτάρων δηΐοισι μάχεσθαι.

[ back ] 125. See the evidence gathered in Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.5 Diomedes and Sthenelos: 4.365–418.

[ back ] 126. The book begins with an agorē, which includes the members of the boulē (cf. 54), and ends with a smaller meeting of what is essentially the embassy in a council session like the boulē. Although these are not strictly speaking, the same, they both include the principal leaders of the Achaians who meet for advisement and to plan action. The second council session serves to bring the action full circle—now the Achaians know where Achilles stands. On my use of “ring composition,” see Chapter 2, n. 60.

[ back ] 127. The cautionary words spoken by Idomeneus to Meriones in Iliad 13.292–293 may also allude, one final time in the Iliad, to the earlier rebuke of Agamemnon.

[ back ] 128. Homer’s idioms for grief depend on case, but all are meant to emphasize the deep effects on the sufferer(s) (real or feigned). In the dative, when in the adonean clausula, the poet uses πένθεϊ λυγρῷ (Iliad 22.242, Odyssey 2.70), but otherwise also στυγερῷ … πένθεϊ. In the nominative or accusative, Homer has other traditional words for grief: μέγα πένθος (Iliad 1.254, 4.417, 7.124, 17.139, etc.), κρατερόν … πένθος (Iliad 11.249), πένθος ἄλαστον (Iliad 24.105, Odyssey 1.342), ἀάσχετον … πένθος (Iliad 24.708; or, πένθος ἄσχετον, Iliad 16.549), στυγερόν … πένθος (Odyssey 10.376), and πένθος ἀμέτρητον (Odyssey 19.512).

[ back ] 129. Cf. McGlew 1989:288, Barker 2009:62–63, and Elmer 2013:91.

[ back ] 130. πένθεϊ δ’ ἀτλήτῳ βεβολήατος (9.3). Yet, ἀτλήτῳ does not otherwise occur with πένθεϊ.

[ back ] 131. γόον δ’ ὠΐετο θυμός. As Arnould (1990:147) notes, γόος “est spécialisé dans le deuil: Il désigne la lamentation traditionnelle,” and he notes the motif in Iliad 21.123–124, 22.352–353 (cf. Iliad 14.502, 664); Odyssey 9.467, and 19.264. Arnould (22–24) also connects fear and tears as traditional motifs in various types of Homeric scenes.

[ back ] 132. Kelly (2007a:164–165) places this idiom in the context of a group of suggestions for retreat preceded by divine intervention. Cf. Kelly (298) on βαρέα στενάχοντα in Iliad 8.334, 13.423, 538, 14.432.

[ back ] 133. The half-line formulaic system varies only in what precedes it as a longum and breve (τὴν δέ, τοῖς δέ, ὥς ὁ, etc.).

[ back ] 134. The formula does not occur in the Odyssey.

[ back ] 135. This is the only instance where the formula is separated from the ensuing speech by the speech of another, here, Patroklos’ ghost, so a most emotional scene.

[ back ] 136. The characters within the epic are not aware of the narrator’s language in a given scene. The formula is meant first for the external audience of the epic singer himself. Yet, while the internal audience does not hear the formula βαρὺ στενάχων, they could of course hear the groaning itself, and so could in such cases be aware of the implications. Cf. the discussion of the internal versus the external audience in Porter 2011:496–507.

[ back ] 137. Iliad 2.109: τῷ ὅ γ’ ἐρεισάμενος ἔπε’ Ἀργείοισι μετηύδα.

[ back ] 138. While occasionally another person in the group speaks to add something, it is never to denounce the substance of the speech introduced by the formula, nor does it ever contradict or stand at odds with the main point of the representative speech. When another speech follows, it is generally meant to elucidate consequent issues related to what has been brought forth, or to outline some particular action. The most basic, discernable pattern of the “Stricken to Silence” formula is: initial speech—formula—authoritative response—group acceptance (Porter 2011:496).

[ back ] 139. As we saw in Chapter 2 (s.v. 2.2.5 Diomedes and Sthenelos: 4.365–418), Sthenelos said what we might have expected Diomedes to say, yet was rebuked; likewise Thersites had said much the same thing as Achilles and was chastised by a superior in rank. Cf. the similar observations of Schadewaldt 1966:152, Whitman 1958:161, Kirk, 1985:142, Rose 1988:19, McGlew 1989:290–292, Patzek 1992:132, Lowenstam:1993:78, Barker 2009:60 (cf. 56–61 for a close consideration of Thersites and the management of dissent), and Elmer 2013:93.

[ back ] 140. I do not share Dalby’s (1995) revisionary view that places the lower classes at the focus of epic performance and situates the performance location outside of aristocratic homes, at least not as a primary venue for the copy of the epics we possess. I have no doubt that performances also took place outside of aristocratic venues, but, to use the South Slavic experience, “on distingue les chants destinés aux paysans de ceux qui sont destinés aux classes cultivées” (Murko 1928:340), and Homer’s songs seem to reflect the interests of the latter. The powerful naturally affirmed the “proper” sphere, activity, and allegiance of the less powerful. It is also interesting that Murko found that “maints seigneurs entretenaient leur chanteurs particuliers” (1928:331; cf. 334). This seems the most reasonable picture of the aoidos presented to us in the Odyssey. Moreover, as Di Benedetto (1999:214) shows, the references to aristocratic values between the Iliad and Odyssey are also recognizable by comparison of common themes between Iliad 6.206–210 and Odyssey 24.505–519 (with the Odyssey’s narrative language, in Di Benedetto’s view, assuming something of the Iliad’s). Both epic moments recall, among other cultural norms, “un valore fondamentale della cultura aristocratica, quello di non disonorare la propria famiglia.” Cf. Strasburger (1982:493–494) on Homeric social classes; and Danek’s (1998:137–138) comments about the necessity of Athena’s spreading a mist over Odysseus so that every beggar does not think it is his right to approach a queen (“andernfalls könnte ja jeder Bettler auf diese Weise permanent seine Lage verbessern”). So, the question is not really whether there are representations of the “peasant viewpoint” (Russo et al. 1992:71) in Homer, but rather what view is predominant in Homer’s perspective.

[ back ] 141. The grievance by the troops is the most natural background too for reading Iliad 1.49–51 and 13.107–114.

[ back ] 142. Iliad 9.17–25; 26–28=2.110–118; 139–141.

[ back ] 143. On ὀψὲ δὲ δὴ μετέειπε, see Kelly 2007a:87 and Porter 2011:500.

[ back ] 144. For Agamemnon’s remarks, see Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.5 Diomedes and Sthenelos: 4.365–418.

[ back ] 145. LfgrE 3.494 s.v. ἀλκή (Geiß) notes a connection with ἀλέξω and ἀμύνω, which suggests assistance and protection.

[ back ] 146. It should be noted concerning the use of the personal pronoun/particle τοι in Homer that it appears more than seventy times, but never as the very first word of a poetic line, either as an enclitic pronoun or an affirmative particle, except in the compound τοίγαρ. The emphasis of the poet, consequently, is no less emphatic in lines 38 and 39 than it was in 37 with σοί.

[ back ] 147. Cf. Taplin 1992:149 and Wilson 2002:73. For Agamemnon’s earlier remarks, see Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.5 Diomedes and Sthenelos: 4.365–418.

[ back ] 148. See our discussion in Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.3 Nestor: 4.293–326, for further discussion of this traditional idiom and Nestor, who had lived through three generations (Iliad 1.250–252).

[ back ] 149. This is a theme we will revisit in greater detail in the reconciliation of book 19.

[ back ] 150. I agree with Kelly that Agamemnon meant for this statement to be delivered.

[ back ] 151. Cf. the comments of Wilson 2002:85. Line 299 leaves off its repetition of Agamemnon’s speech at 157, so excluding 158–161.

[ back ] 152. This point has been made by Monro 1884:338–339, Bowra 1930:19, Hainsworth 1993:56, 143, Griffin 1995:21, and Cairns 2012:20. Other scholars regard Agamemnon’s offer as sprung from his arrogance, or at least not in a positive light: Redfield 1975:15, Lynn-George 1988:86–92, 106–201, Scodel 1989:93, Taplin 1992:72–73, Yamagata 1994:7, and Wilson 2002:77–83. Their arguments seem less convincing.

[ back ] 153. Nb. the repeating negatives in the anaphora of 385–391.

[ back ] 154. The T scholia—so also Eustathius. 785, 41—records (Erbse 1969–1988:1.1): φασὶ τὴν ῥαψῳδίαν ὑφ’ Ὁμήρου ἰδίᾳ τετάχθαι καὶ μὴ εἶναι μέρος τῆς ’Ιλιάδος, ὑπὸ δὲ Πεισιστράτου τετάχθαι εἰς τὴν ποίησιν. On the history of the controversy over book 10, see Hainsworth 1993:155 and Dué and Ebbott 2010:3–29. If the Doloneia was in fact a later addition to the Iliad, and I am not convinced it is, whether or not it was added sometime before Plato is difficult to assert with any level of confidence based upon so few references (Iliad 10.224: Protagoras 348 d, Symposium 174d; Iliad 10.482: Symposium 179b.). The scholia’s idea that the Doloneia was necessarily appended earlier by Peisistratos cannot be proven either and may simply be a later conjecture. For an early suggestion of the book as an interpolation, see Ranke 1881.

[ back ] 155. See Danek’s (2012) discussion on the Doloneia’s breaches of Zielinski’s (1899–1901) law, where he suggests that the Doloneia was added to the Iliad after it was written down by a poet whose style and narrative practices were different from those of the Iliad poet (but see a reconsideration of Zielinski’s “law” by de Jong 2007:30–31, Scodel 2008b, and Graziosi and Haubold 2010:5). For other peculiarities, see Danek 1988:221–241; 2012:108–110 and Hainsworth 1993:151–210. Erbse (2005) argues, in one of several possibilities, that book 10 was added by the Odyssey poet to the Iliad, although it is not clear how this would have worked (see Chapter 1, and Ready [2015] for the complexity of the issue). For a Unitarian rejection of book 10, see Reinhardt 1961:243–250.

[ back ] 156. Danek’s (2012:107) own observations of connective particles yielded a similar result. These findings may not rule out an early, writing rhapsode, well-attuned to the traditional idiom. On the different classes of oral performers, the relationship between oral and written poetry, and the problem with simple divisions of oral versus written (the “Great Divide”), see Foley 2002:22–57. Cf. also the observations of Danek 2012:116–121. On the process of textualization, see especially Ready 2015.

[ back ] 157. See Fenik (1964) and Dué and Ebbott (2010:90–106) on the traditional nature of the Rhesos story as well as possible backstories for Rhesos and his horses. See also the defense of book 10’s style and placement by Thornton 1984:164–169. For other views that it is Homeric, see Shewan 1911, Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1982:53–74 (studied in relation to the characterization of Diomedes), and Cirio 2003. For a traditional Unitarian defense of the Doloneia’s appropriateness, see Deichgräber 1972.

[ back ] 158. Shewan 1911:55, Fenik 1964:12–13; the idea is more fully developed by Dué and Ebbott 2010, and Dué 2012. Further, the “inconsistencies” of oral style noted in The Wedding of Smailagić Meho (Wender 1977:333–334) should act as a warning against quick assumptions of interpolation or multiple authorship in Homer.

[ back ] 159. The Doloneia can be seen as preparatory for what follows (cf. Wilcock 1976:114; Powell 2007:124) or as encouraging the transition from books 9 to 11 (Thornton 1984:165). Its problem as a standalone book with no real connection in the rest of the Iliad (that is, it needs and references other parts of the Iliad, but the Iliad does not really need or reference it) has long been recognized (Hainsworth 1993:151–155). It does, however, contain overall parallels with other parts of the Iliad (Van Duzer 1996:319–322). Bierl (2012) outlines shared themes and patterns such as the rite de passage and katabasis, among others. Cf. the shared themes highlighted by Dué 2012.

[ back ] 160. West (1998) has bracketed book 10 in his edition, but, as Bierl (2012:134) rightly points out, there is no manuscript authority for this.

[ back ] 161. Instead, here we must await book 11, which begins with the second formulaic element Ἠὼς δ’ ἐκ λεχέων παρ’ ἀγαυοῦ Τιθωνοῖο/ὄρνυθ’. Contrast Iliad 7.482, Odyssey 16.481, 19.427. Since, however, the number of times ὕπνου δῶρον ἕλοντο appears is small, any conclusions must remain tentative.

[ back ] 162. As a contrast to ὕπνου δῶρον ἕλοντο (/ Ἠὼς δ’ ἐκ λεχέων παρ’ ἀγαυοῦ Τιθωνοῖο / ὄρνυθ’), we need but consider the implications of other traditional (and more numerous) signs for sleep, such as “sweet sleep” (γλυκὺς ὕπνος: Iliad 1.610, 2.71, 23.232; Odyssey 7.289, 9.333, 10.31, 13.282, 18.199, 19.49; cf. Foley 1999:230–232) and formulae clustered around the phrase “upon the eyelids” (ἐπὶ βλεφάροισι: Iliad 14.165; Odyssey 1.364, 2.398, 12.338, 13.79, 16.451, 19.604, 20.54, 21.358), which do not usually precede an immediate sunrise but allow instead for extended activity during the sleeper’s rest (so act oppositely to our present formula’s regular usage).

[ back ] 163. On the metonymic irony in this scene, see Chapter 2.

[ back ] 164. Among other things, the simile’s change from storm to war has been criticized scornfully by Leaf (1902a:426–427) but less so by Hainsworth (1993:157). For suggestions of possible links with other themes in Iliad 10, see Dué and Ebbott 2010:237–246.

[ back ] 165. That is, an oboe. Homer means something like an oboe, then, rather than a flute (which has no reed) or clarinet (whose reed is single), as West (1994:82–85) notes.

[ back ] 166. Menelaos is already awake (Iliad 10.25–28), as perhaps is Nestor (10.80–85), despite Agamemnon’s intention to rouse him (10.54–55); but contrast Odysseus (10:137–139).

[ back ] 167. On the ritual aspect, cf. Aeschylus Choephoroe 423–443. See further Van Wees 1999; Dué and Ebbott (2010) compare the Achaians (Iliad 23.211) and other mourners. One difference in ritual, however, is that it is the sacrificed animal’s hair that is burnt up, while it is the hair of a mourner, in the case of humans.

[ back ] 168. This is the first of numerous breaches of Zielinski’s law according to Danek 2012:111–116.

[ back ] 169. μηδὲ μεγαλίζετο θυμῷ, 69.

[ back ] 170. For the Odyssey, see Chapter 3. For the Iliad, see our discussion on book 9 in this chapter. Indeed, a similar question arises over Agamemnon’s use of a traditional salutation to Diomedes in Iliad 10.243: Τυδεΐδη Διόμηδες ἐμῷ κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ. Perhaps Agamemnon, once rebuked openly, has reformed his ways, at least for a moment, and become ready to preach to his brother. Of course, as we have seen in our discussion of Iliad 2, Agamemnon is certainly always ready to give out advice.

[ back ] 171. As we saw in Chapter 2 (see Agamemnon’s address and comments, s.v. 2.2 Typical and Specific Appeals), Agamemnon recognized both warriors’ traditional heroic status and treated them with appropriate dignity.

[ back ] 172. αἰνῶς γὰρ Δαναῶν περιδείδια, 10.93. The heightened concern found in the adverb αἰνῶς with the compound verb περιδείδια is not drastically mitigated by the textual variant from Herodianus (see West’s 1998 edition) Δαναῶν πέρι δείδια. Herodianus’ is an unlikely reading, given Homer’s avoidance otherwise of such an ambivalent placement for this preposition.

[ back ] 173. οὐδέ μοι ἦτορ/ἔμπεδον, ἀλλ’ ἀλύκτημαι, 10.93–94.

[ back ] 174. Posidonius fr. 409, line 69; Galen On the Doctrines of Hippocrates and Plato 4.5.40.

[ back ] 175. τὸν δ’ ἄτη φρένας εἷλε, λύθεν δ’ ὑπὸ φαίδιμα γυῖα.

[ back ] 176. τρόμος ἔλλαβε φαίδιμα γυῖα. On the possible Olympiomachia backstory behind Zeus’ present threats, see Porter 2014:510–511; 520–526.

[ back ] 177. The mention of Achilles has caused consternation for some commentators (Leaf 1902b:423, Hainsworth 1993:166), yet the possibility for his reentry was also voiced at the end of book 9 by Diomedes (9.702–703). Moreover, Achilles is himself part of the narrative indirectly—his horses and chariot are the object of Dolon’s vain desire (10.321–323). Taking Achilles’ horses may also presuppose his being killed as Dué and Ebbott (2010:266) argue.

[ back ] 178. 11:13–14: τοῖσι δ’ ἄφαρ πόλεμος γλυκίων γένετ’ ἠὲ νέεσθαι / ἐν νηυσὶ γλαφυρῇσι φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν.

[ back ] 179. Cf. the comments of Moulton 1977:96–99 and Postlethwaite 2000:154.

[ back ] 180. See Schadewaldt 1966:29–40 and Morrison 1992a:42, 132.

[ back ] 181. Arend 1933:92–97, Armstrong 1958, Fenik 1968:78–114, and West 2011:135, 248–249, 315.

[ back ] 182. Their loyalty was bought off by Paris: Iliad 11.122–125. Here, Peisandros is killed for a second time.

[ back ] 183. For Achilles see Iliad 20.164; for the Trojans see Iliad 11.173–178; for other examples see Ready 2011:62n124. On the implications of the lion simile for the victims, see Moulton 1977:96–99.

[ back ] 184. We will consider similarly misguided charges of “brutality” in a moment.

[ back ] 185. Chantraine 1968:2, s.v. ἄαπτος.

[ back ] 186. So Fenik 1968:15, 84; Hainsworth 1993:213, and Clarke 1995:151: “unusually extreme violence.”

[ back ] 187. This is quite different, of course, from suggesting that Homer glorifies war, per se. Indeed, Homer’s very description of war has been seen as negative in its mirroring of contemporary wartime activity (Eck 2012:131–210).

[ back ] 188. For further examples, see Kelly 2007a:338.

[ back ] 189. Beyond the idioms I mention here, Homer has αἴσιμα πάντα (Odyssey 7.310, 8.348, 15.71), αἴσιμον ἦμαρ (Iliad 8.72, 21.100, 22.212, Odyssey 16.80) αἴσιμα ἔργ’[α] (Odyssey 14.84), as well as αἴσιμα as a simple predicate (e.g. Iliad 9.245) or singular instances as an adverb, such as the thoughtless Centaur Eurytion not drinking αἴσιμα (Odyssey 21.294). Although used less frequently, the compound base ἐναίσιμ- carries an essentially equivalent meaning but covers a different metrical space when used within formulae (e.g. Odyssey 2.122, 7.299) or otherwise.

[ back ] 190. Homer also has αἴσιμα εἰδῇ and αἴσιμα ᾔδη (Iliad 15.207, Odyssey 14.433), expressions equivalent to αἴσιμα εἰδώς.

[ back ] 191. Compare the brutal prayer for consequences for anyone on either side who breaks a sworn oath in the Iliad, that ὧδέ σφ’ ἐγκέφαλος χαμάδις ῥέοι ὡς ὅδε οἶνος / αὐτῶν καὶ τεκέων, ἄλοχοι δ’ ἄλλοισι δαμεῖεν (3.300–301). Lateiner (2004:20) is of course right that Nestor is “gentler,” at least in his handling of conflict, but I am not convinced that Homer’s representation of Agamemnon would have “alienated” ancient audience sympathies. One might compare the use of the “stéréotypé” lion simile, which assumes the lion “bondissant au milieux des tropeaux” (Schnapp-Gourbeillon 1982:57). There is no shortage of action-packed violent images in Homer that seem intended, at least in part, to make the performance of poetry more vividly interesting for the audience.

[ back ] 192. But see my earlier comments at the start of this chapter about ransom occurring off the battlefield.

[ back ] 193. Battle is a premier place to win heroic kudos, as traditional idioms suggest: μάχῃ ἔνι κυδιανείρῃ (Iliad 6.124, 7.113, 8.448, 24.391); or μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν (Iliad 4.225, 12.325, 13.270, 14.155).

[ back ] 194. See Chapter 4, s.v. 4.2.1 Agamemnon’s Dishonoring and Hubristic Actions: 1.6–344.

[ back ] 195. Richardson (1993:345) suggests that the last mention of Agamemnon in the Iliad (24.653–655) may “remind us of his brutality in the early parts of the poem.”

[ back ] 196. κλισίῃ (19 times), κλισίην (31), κλισίης (14), κλισίῃς (3), κλισίῃσι (8), κλισίῃσιν (12), κλισίηφι (1). It is a noun that has few epithets, in fact. On the other hand, “lofty” (ὑψηλ-) is a well-used adjective in Homer, but is only found with “shelter” (κλισίη) in our present passage. But various areas of Priam’s and Odysseus’ palaces are given the epithet (Iliad 22.440, Odyssey 1.126, 3.402, etc.).

[ back ] 197. As with the earlier discussion of brutality, the epithet ἀνδροφόνος is what marks a true war hero. Such is the case with the formula applied almost exclusively to Achilles’ hands (Iliad 18.317, 23.18) and to Hector’s person (Ἕκτορος ἀνδροφόνοιο, eleven times). For Priam as a suppliant, see Naiden 2006:108. For the presence of the metanast theme, see Alden 2012:128–129.

[ back ] 198. The meaning of βουληφόρος is the upper echelon (whether in the boulē or in the ekklēsia). Cf. Iliad 1.144–147, 2.24, 61, 5.180, 633, 7.126, etc.; Cf. Apion Grammaticus (Latte 1965:305), who suggests βασιλεύς ἢ ἡγεμών. There seems little concern about Achilles’ own troops saying anything in Iliad 24.

[ back ] 199. Cf. Alden 2012:129, who says that Achilles’ aggression is similar to Agamemnon’s in book 1, but that Achilles, unlike Agamemnon, “receives Priam with pity and kind words.”

[ back ] 200. See especially Hooker 1986. For variations in interpretation, see Leaf 1902b:584, Heubeck 1981:79, Jones 1989, Richardson 1993:344–345, and Clay 1999. While Clay sees a problem with Hooker’s attributing “taunting” to Achilles in our present passage, I hope that my present analysis shows that it is quite possible to see it as such. Further, while Homer seldom uses the composite form elsewhere (Iliad 16.744, Odyssey 22.194), as Hooker has shown, he regularly uses the simple form in a similar fashion. Cf. LfgrE 14.1390–1391, s.v. κερτομέω (Führer) “(ver)spotten” and ἐπικερτομέω “dabei spotten.”

[ back ] 201. For an opposing interpretation about war and the Iliad (with a corresponding negative reading of Agamemnon’s martial brutality in this and other places in the Iliad), see King 1987 and Taplin 1990:72. I think that Wilson’s (1952) point is also perceptive, that the Iliad has many other more important emphases than depicting war, as he demonstrates through an analysis of Iliadic battle scenes. Concerning war in the Odyssey, Di Benedetto’s (1999:216) remarks that there is an “animus antibellicista” (e.g. 8.521–532) towards “la guerra esterna,” but not “la guerra all’ interno della polis.” In this reading, the poet accepts the need for violence, but is only interested in its use to bring about a stable peace at home.

[ back ] 202. The “normal” sort of wartime brutality of Iliad 11.58–60 does serve another larger poetic goal. It is one that, like Hector’s funeral that closes the Iliad, points ahead in time. It points within the tradition, as Graziosi and Haubold (2010:91) suggest, to the fall of Troy, which “now seems imminent and is countenanced in all its horror.” Agamemnon’s actions, then, point thematically back to the beginning of the Iliad’s strife, but also outside of the Iliad, to the impending renewed strife after the funeral rites promised by Achilles to Priam (24.660–670). The brutality of the fall of Troy and other cities is also portrayed by Homer in a simile in Odyssey 8.524–531, as we noted in the last chapter (s.v. 3.2.6 Agamemnon’s Joy: 8.75–82).

[ back ] 203. Cf. Iliad 5.302–304, 11.541, 12.378–386, 445–449, 13.323, 16.774, and 20.285–287.

[ back ] 204. Further, Hector’s advance will bring Patroklos, most immediately, but then, additionally, Achilles himself into battle.

[ back ] 205. Mueller (2009:93) feels that elaboration would obscure the narrative, which has as its focus the successive wounding of Achaian soldiers. Yet, this assumes that the poet is simply narrating a fixed tradition, something I doubt. If this were the case, then surely the aristeia could have been narrated elsewhere to avoid such syncopation.

[ back ] 206. After all, one could hardly credit the tradition with the minute ordering of aristeia within the Trojan Saga as a whole. Cf. my analogy in Chapter 1 of Odysseus’ wanderings in Euripides Trojan Women.

[ back ] 207. Note as well the other, fuller arming scenes in the Iliad, including those of Achilles (19.369–391), Paris (3.330–338), Patroklos (16.131–133), and Hector (17.192–212).

[ back ] 208. Fenik also discusses traditional scene patterns and themes that influenced the poet’s mental template. Cf. West 2011:248–249 on the scene’s terseness, invention, and the insignificance of the victims.

[ back ] 209. Visser (1997:476–478) notes that the general geographical ordering of verses 569–572 describes northern Argos and verses 573–575 western Argos. For a discussion of the mythological and historical contexts of the catalogue’s geography, see Simpson and Lazenby 1970:65–73, Kirk 1985:212, and Visser 1997:151–213.

[ back ] 210. A scholion (Erbse 1969–1988:1.307) comments that Zenodotus athetized this line because ἄριστος is also used of Ajax in book 2, but in fact it does go on to suggest that each is “best” in his respective spheres: ὁ μὲν [Αἴας] πλούτῳ καὶ εὐγενείᾳ, ὁ δὲ [Ἀγαμέμνων] τῇ κατὰ πόλεμον ἀρετῇ.

[ back ] 211. Rather than referring, as the scholia would suggest, to possessions and lineage for Ajax and war prowess for Agamemnon.

[ back ] 212. The various Homeric uses of aristos and its cognates can be gleaned by a representative sampling of their many occurrences, and include augury (Κάλχας θεστορίδης οἰωνοπόλων ὄχ’ ἄριστος Iliad 1.69; Πριαμίδης Ἕλενος οἰωνοπόλων ὄχ’ ἄριστος 6.76), counsel (ἧδε δέ οἱ κατὰ θυμὸν ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλή, 2.5), the female figure (Ἄλκηστις Πελίαο θυγατρῶν εἶδος ἀρίστη 2.715), horses (τίς τ’ ἂρ τῶν ὄχ’ ἄριστος ἔην σύ μοι ἔννεπε Μοῦσα αὐτῶν ἠδ’ ἵππων, οἳ ἅμ’ Ἀτρεΐδῃσιν ἕποντο. 2.761–762), etc.

[ back ] 213. 226–227: ἵππους μὲν γὰρ ἔασε καὶ ἅρματα ποικίλα χαλκῷ·/καὶ τοὺς μὲν θεράπων ἀπάνευθ’ ἔχε φυσιόωντας.

[ back ] 214. See Chapter 2 and the present chapter, s.v. 4.2.5 Agamemnon’s Address to the Troops: 4.231–418.

[ back ] 215. Of note, too, are other passing references to Agamemnon’s martial valor. In Iliad 5.38–39, for example, Homer gives his audience a two-line snapshot of Agamemnon in action against “Great Odios”: πρῶτος δὲ ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων / ἀρχὸν Ἁλιζώνων Ὀδίον μέγαν ἔκβαλε δίφρου·

[ back ] 216. Homer’s account also picks up, in many cases, on action from earlier books, before he took us to the battlefield in books 12 and 13. This is a part of a large ring structure as noted by Scodel and Whitman 1981.

[ back ] 217. They are farthest away from the battle and closer to the sea (Iliad 14.31–36), but see Janko (1994:154) for this grammatically problematic passage.

[ back ] 218. The epithet used to describe Hector, “mighty” (ὄβριμος), may have the connotation of “mighty in battle,” since it is only otherwise used of Ares (and once of Achilles) as a character. Other regular choices for an epithet to modify Ἕκτωρ (φαίδιμος, κορυθαίολος) are not possible here.

[ back ] 219. E.g. Iliad 11.286–290, 12.231–250, 440–441, 13.149–154, 824–832.

[ back ] 220. See 4.2.6, s.v. Grievances against Agamemnon—Revisiting His Past Wrongs: Book 9.

[ back ] 221. See my discussion in Chapter 3, s.v. 3.2.9 Avoiding Agamemnon’s Nostos: 13.383–385. There are fifty-one occurrences of ὢ πόποι in Homer. In the present verse, ὢ πόποι (to A1) is followed by sufficient ‘filler’ (A1–B2) to meet the upcoming hemistich (B2–line end) that ends with the traditional noun-epithet formula, ἐϋκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοί. See Appendix A for metrical terms.

[ back ] 222. Agamemnon’s fear may even include the thought of Nestor’s hesitation according to Kelly 2007a:179. A range of intense emotions are outlined by Papadogiannaki 2009:123.

[ back ] 223. Chantraine 1968:544, s.v. κλόνος, suggests “bousculer,” a sort of knocking into one another in a confused state.

[ back ] 224. Agamemnon’s speech evolves so that, in verse 70, it is Zeus’ wish νωνύμνους ἀπολέσθαι ἀπ’ Ἄργεος ἐνθάδ’ Ἀχαιούς (cf. Iliad 12.70, 13.227). This line also serves to accentuate Agamemnon’s worry through emphasis and hyperbaton: νωνύμνους … Ἀχαιούς.

[ back ] 225. Another idiom, ἐχθρὸς γάρ μοι κεῖνος ὁμῶς Ἀΐδαο πύλῃσι, is comparable in its negative intensity with the subterranean Hades. We find it employed for one’s hatred of liars by both Achilles (Iliad 9.312) and Odysseus (Odyssey 14.156).

[ back ] 226. The noun-epithet combination, μακάρεσσι θεοῖσι, is fairly widespread: Iliad 1.599, in relation to divine laughter; 5.340, to divine ichor; 15.38, to divine oaths sworn on Styx; Odyssey 1.82, in relation to divine designs to rescue Odysseus; and 5.186, to oaths. Equivalent forms of this noun-epithet formula occur: in Odyssey 5.819 (μακάρεσσι θεοῖς) in relation to Athena’s order to Diomedes not to fight against the gods, except Aphrodite; and in 6.141, where Diomedes will not fight against the gods; in Odyssey 4.755 (θεοῖς μακάρεσσι), with Eurykleia’s comforting words that Odysseus’ family line will not perish, since it is “not hateful” to the blessed gods; and in Odyssey 13.55 and 18.426 (θεοῖσιν … μακάρεσσι), in relation to libations poured out to the gods. The epithet μάκαρες θεοί or θεοὶ μάκαρες is also employed in the nom. pl. 16 times and θεῶν μακάρων four times (once even without a noun in Odyssey 10.299, since the association is so strong). The genitive plural is often used to contrast θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων. There are other idioms that allow for comparison between mortals and immortals, although this is mainly to highlight heroic stature: Iliad 1.265, 4.394, 11.60; Odyssey 3.468, 7.209, 8.14, 8.174; 16.187, 21.14, 37, 23.163, and 24.371.

[ back ] 227. See Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.4 Menestheus and Odysseus: 4.327–364.

[ back ] 228. Cf. Iliad 4.350, 14.83, Odyssey 1.64, 3.230, 5.22, 19.492, 21.168, and 23.70.

[ back ] 229. Janko (1994:160) comments, “οὐλόμενε means ‘accursed,’ someone to whom one would say ὄλοιο, since he causes ὄλεθρος.”

[ back ] 230. Janko (1994:160–161) is following Eustathius 968.13–18.

[ back ] 231. Hammer (2002:156) categorizes Agamemnon as “endanger[ing] the stability of the public space.”

[ back ] 232. Maronitis 2004:66; cf. 63–76 for the significance of the nostos theme in the Iliad.

[ back ] 233. Iliad 19.77: αὐτόθεν ἐξ ἕδρης, οὐδ’ ἐν μέσσοισιν ἀναστάς. Erbse (1952:243–247) feels Agamemnon was standing, but I don’t think this is the case. Thornton (1984:128) argues that Agamemnon takes a seated position as a suppliant; Edwards (1991:244) adds that Agamemnon is speaking while sitting down because Homer is employing a “‘wounded men sit down’ motif.” The motif is meant, Edwards argues, to enhance Agamemnon’s wound in contrast with Achilles’ health (the consequence of the latter’s inactive state), and his suggestion seems reasonable.

[ back ] 234. On the tentative nature of Agamemnon’s introduction, see Willcock 1984:273. Edwards’s (1991:244) reading of Agamemnon’s speech to Achilles—he sees him as “ungracious and jealous, not humble or apologetic”—while striking me as a bit strong in the present context, nevertheless is certainly not out of keeping with Agamemnon’s traditional character in toto.

[ back ] 235. This is one of numerous examples of the presence of taxis in Homeric speeches (cf. the structure of Phoinix’s speech in Odyssey 9.429–595) that support the argument for the natural evolution of speech divisions instanced in later rhetorical handbooks, something suggested in passing by de Brauw 2010:189.

[ back ] 236. ἀνδρῶν δ’ ἐν πολλῷ ὁμάδῳ. ὅμαδος fits better the clash and confusion of battle. Cf. Iliad 13.797, 15.689, 16.295, etc., and LfgrE 17:673, s.v. ὅμαδος (Schmidt) offers “Lärm.”

[ back ] 237. Nb. Agamemnon’s use of iterative νεικείεσκον in verse 85.

[ back ] 238. In line 90, Agamemnon is referring to past incidences, rather than present potential (so the aorist optative of past possibility in conditional sentences). On the use of the optative here, see Wakker 1994:154, s.v. 435; on the past potential, see pp. 176–179; cf. Smyth 1920:2662, 408 s.v. 1829; 520 s.v. 2311b. Wilmott (2007:116–124) explores other meanings for the use of the optative in conditional sentences, with the intent of calling into question the default idea of “remote possibility” for every Homeric unreal condition. His corrective study is needed, but I doubt that his objections in other constructions using the optative cast serious doubt on the idea of “remote possibility” meant here by Agamemnon in this past contrary-to-fact apodosis. Agamemnon intentionally presents himself as helpless; he could have done nothing, so he says.

[ back ] 239. δολοφρονέουσα … δολοφροσύνην extends over a number of lines (Iliad 19.106 and 112).

[ back ] 240. Both Herakles (Iliad 5.396, 14.323–324) and Eurystheus (through Perseus, Iliad 19.122–124, 14.319–320) are noted as being the offspring of Zeus in Homer’s tradition, making Hera’s ruse effective and intelligible for the traditional audience.

[ back ] 241. Iliad 19.91, 95, 97, 129, 136, 137.

[ back ] 242. In Homer, this is an exceptional switch from the more usual use of atē impersonally or abstractly. Cf. Phoinix’s parable of the Litai in Iliad 9.502–512.

[ back ] 243. We saw a parallel explanation earlier in this chapter, s.v. 4.2.6 Grievances against Agamemnon—Revisiting His Past Wrongs: Book 9.

[ back ] 244. It was suggested that there must be, in the outlook of “Homeric man,” an external agency completely responsible for such a strange action and atē is it (i.e. Dodds 1951:2–8 and Willcock 1978:216–217). Such a diagnosis was made possible thanks to Snell’s earlier psychosomatic description of Homeric man. Cf. thumos, noos, and psychē in the schema of Snell 1953:14. Snell (see 1953, n8) was influenced by Boehme (1929). Snell claimed that there was no word for a living body in Homer and so no sense of the self as a whole. For Snell’s position, see Snell 1930:141; 1953:1–22. Reaction followed to show that Snell had overstated his case, from Lesky 1961:1–52, Lloyd-Jones 1971:10, Sullivan 1988:4–6, Gill 1990, Teffeteller 2003, Scodel 2008:112, and Blondell 2013:7, 37, et passim. Further, as Gill 1990 and Teffeteller 2003 suggest, the individual is a complex of voices and processes (internal dialogue), which reminds us that, while Snell was incorrect in his extreme views, the concept of self in Homer or modern day research is a complex subject. The important role of the internal self, however, has replaced the wholly external view of motivation suggested by Snell and Dodds.

[ back ] 245. My 2007 (210–221) dissertation provided an overview and discussion of the presence of accountability and consequences surrounding atē, but Cairns’s (2012) article has since made the point in greater depth.

[ back ] 246. Homer has made it quite clear that Zeus is able to thwart, albeit with help if needed, any Olympian attempt to usurp his sole control: Iliad 1.396–407, 8.5–27 (see Porter 2014:510–511, 20–26).

[ back ] 247. On the conclusio a maiore ad minus, see the discussion of Dentice Di Accadia 2012:228.

[ back ] 248. Cf. the comments of Cairns (2001:18n54) that “there is no point in warning someone to behave well in the future if it is not in his power to do so.”

[ back ] 249. Cf. discussion in Chapter 3, s.v. 3.2.6 Agamemnon’s Joy: 8.75–82, where we noted that premises regularly follow conclusions in orally composed arguments.

[ back ] 250. Cf. Teffeteller (2003:23), who appropriately notes that the objective reality of any claim to blamelessness is known only to Homer’s privileged audience members. She raises important (sometimes unanswerable) questions about what is and what is not objective reality for the epic audience.

[ back ] 251. Blondell (2010:15): “Such blame is, in its way, an acknowledgement of her power.”

[ back ] 252. See our earlier discussion of φίλον τέκος, its synonyms and antonyms, in Chapter 3, s.v. 3.2.3 Nestor’s Stories of Quarrel, Nostoi, and Oresteia: 3.136–310; also Chapter 3, n. 18.

[ back ] 253. Teffeteller (2003:23) wonders if Priam’s words reflect “the actual view of the matter.” Surely this is not a pertinent question. Her suggestion of civility (but it was not feigned, as such), is closer to the mark, but of course it is civility toward his daughter-in-law and the most beautiful woman in the world.

[ back ] 254. I agree with Teffeteller (2003:19), who calls Odysseus’ words “a veiled reference to himself.” This proposition assumes the audience’s knowledge of the larger backstory.

[ back ] 255. The dispute over the arms of Achilles and Ajax’s subsequent madness and suicide were topics for Lesches of Lesbos (in his Little Iliad according to Proclus frg. 1, Bernabé 1987:74–75), Pindar (Nemean 7.25–27, 8.23–27), and Sophocles (Ajax).

[ back ] 256. Xanthos is part of a group who receive special, divine knowledge, such as that given to seers, or to those who receive sudden, divine illumination while dying: e.g. Patroklos, before dying, tells Hector that his life is about to end in Iliad 16.844–854; cf. Danek’s (1998:222) note on Elpenor’s “übermenschliche Wissen” of the future in Odyssey 11.69–70.

[ back ] 257. A connection between atasthalia and atē seems likely enough, if not in reality (so Seiler 1954:15 and Wyatt 1982:268), then as a folk etymology of the sort that was often authoritative to an ancient audience and which seems to have influenced Hesychius, on which see Chantraine 1968:132, s.v. ἀτάσθαλος, and Cairns 2012:35–49. For other examples of blame, see Teffeteller 2003:23–26.

[ back ] 258. In this chapter, see, for example, s.v. 4.2.1 Agamemnon’s Dishonoring and Hubristic Actions: 1.6–344; and 4.2.4 Agamemnon’s Prayer, Oath, and Sacrifice: 3.267–302.

[ back ] 259. On Odysseus’ communitarian-based dolos, see Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.4 Menestheus and Odysseus: 4.327–364.

[ back ] 260. See Chapter 2, s.v. 2.2.2 Aiantes: 4.273–292.

[ back ] 261. See s.v. 4.2.7 Agamemnon in the Doloneia: 10:3–127.

[ back ] 262. On Zeus’ traditional character, see Chapter 2, n. 28.

[ back ] 263. Taplin’s (1992:209) explanation and his proposal, picked up and developed by Scodel (2008), that Agamemnon wished rather to save face, catches one nuance of Agamemnon’s character. Scodel (2008) develops the thesis that face saving by different heroes is a response to a need to preserve timē.

[ back ] 264. Nb. οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ἀναίνομαι, 9.115. Cf. 4.2.6, s.v. Grievances against Agamemnon—Revisiting His Past Wrongs: Book 9.

[ back ] 265. Epistulae Morales 28.10 “Quaeris quare te fuga ista non adiuvet? tecum fugis.”

[ back ] 266. See Porter (2017:6), where I suggest that Agamemnon’s atē is partly the cause for Achilles’.

[ back ] 267. There is little reason not to accept that Achilles was in a state of atē, at least when he rejects the embassy in Iliad 9. As Cairns (2012:8) observes, “the mistake which Achilles would be making if he rejected the Embassy would be as disastrous in its consequences as the original offence.” Cf. Porter 2017:5-7.

[ back ] 268. οὐδέ τι Πατρόκλῳ γενόμην φάος οὐδ’ ἑτάροισι / τοῖς ἄλλοις, οἳ δὴ πολέες δάμεν Ἕκτορι δίῳ, / ἀλλ’ ἧμαι παρὰ νηυσὶν ἐτώσιον ἄχθος ἀρούρης.

[ back ] 269. Taplin (1990:77–78) notes that Agamemnon has nothing to say at the games, while others “go out in a blaze of attention.”