One Man Show: Poetics and Presence in the Iliad and Odyssey

  Kretler, Katherine. 2020. One Man Show: Poetics and Presence in the Iliad and Odyssey. Hellenic Studies Series 78. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

4. The Living Instrument: Odyssey 13–15 in Performance

The actor … must make his own inner being ‘an instrument capable of playing any tune,’ as it is often put.

Francis Fergusson, The Idea of a Theater, pp. 252–253

But the Cretan Tales are not simply a realistic depiction of clever lying, or a mirror held up to the composing bard. To be sure, the tales do lend themselves to analysis as compositions (poetics/poiēsis). And, as did Chapters 2 and 3, this chapter deals with the ingredients of tales, with how they are put together—in this case, the first two Cretan Tales—and will once again be bringing into play neglected background stories. But the motivating question is, as usual: What are the tales, and Books 13–15 more generally, good for in performance? What does the exchange of tales between Odysseus and Eumaeus allow to happen (presence/genesis) through the solo performer who enacts them? How does the composition of the tales, the reenactment of their composition, and the actions that form their content, relate to the action that is the action of the performer?

What has not been fully realized is that these crossings manifest themselves in the performance of Books 13–15. Scholars emphasize the realism [5] of Ithaka, but that is in service of a thaumaston of a different sort from that of the Phaeacians and Odysseus’ deathlike voyage in their ship. On Ithaka, as the hero returns to life and reality, the bard “becomes” the hero like never before. The two had merged in Books 9–12 as Odysseus played the bard, a raconteur of the past. But now performer and hero merge into one improviser. It is as though the hero has never acted before in his life! Odysseus does not merely surface into the body of the performer, as in the Iliad’s aristeiai, or even as in his takeover in Books 9–12. Emerging from death, and from the fantasy-world of Phaeacia, he steps out bodily into the live space of performance, all but obliterating the fourth wall—for now, it is made to appear, he (the hero-bard amalgam) is getting his materials from beyond it. [6] The unheimlich home that greets Odysseus on his arrival gives on to the dynamic space we and the bard share; Odysseus’ bewilderment overlaps with a freer give and take with space on the part of the bard. [7] As Odysseus launches into the improvisations of the first Cretan Tale, we have an unprecedented view of the inner workings of composition. With this privileged proximity, the audience watches as objects in the space we share with the bard give rise to lies. The “layers” in the performing bard become peculiarly clear, to the extent that Odysseus does not “become” the Cretan so much as the persona is pieced together before our eyes.

What is scripted here is not a top-down seduction of slave by master or a reestablishment of intimacy or proper roles. It is a dialogue in which Odysseus comes face-to-face with his slave as a slave. Thanks to solo performance, there is a revolution within the performer; the consciousness of Eumaeus seems to eclipse that of his bardlike master. The merging between the bard and Odysseus is ruptured, as we see one layer further into the bard, where Eumaeus was waiting in ambush. Eumaeus is no longer simply a ‘living instrument,’ subject to a superior mind. Somewhat like an improvising musician whose hands find a melody by playing, the bard seems to find, through his own instrument, not only speech but a speaker.

Much like Odyssey 8’s “Trojan Horse” story, the dialogue with Eumaeus complicates, interrogates, our view of the hero and our own bloodthirsty impatience for his revenge and the regaining of his kingdom.

This chapter contributes to the insights gained through attention to extra-Odyssean stories by fleshing out the role of Idomeneus traditions and the significance of Eumaeus as a wisdom figure, both of which shape not only the background but the masterplot, thereby undermining the theoxeny plot. The slave, who could have been a mere instrument, surprises us and the hero when he forces the hero to confront the reality of slavery from the slave’s perspective, releasing the hero’s monopoly on the body of the bard. What emerges is not an aristocratic suppression of the unpleasantness of slavery, or Bakhtinian polyphony, but an ethical upheaval fomented through the medium of solo performance. Rather than plots competing within a text, a transformation takes place through performance that spans hero and performer. The hero returns to life and the bard to a liveness that brings on an ethical quickening of hero and audience alike.

ἀλλοειδέα φαινέσκετο πάντα: Seeing Something as Something Else

In Books 9–12, Odysseus was absorbed into the body of the bard by his long occupation of it. Now in Book 13, Athena, who showed herself the plotter of the poem in Book 5, resurfaces to instigate events on Ithaka. She does so in a subtle fashion, by prompting Odysseus to begin weaving a certain Cretan identity for himself. But first she plots something else. [16]

          ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἱ δ’ ἔδδεισαν, ἑτοιμάσσαντο δὲ ταύρους.
185    ὣς οἱ μέν ῥ’ εὔχοντο Ποσειδάωνι ἄνακτι
          δήμου Φαιήκων ἡγήτορες ἠδὲ μέδοντες,
          ἑσταότες περὶ βωμόν. [
17] ὁ δ’ ἔγρετο δῖος Ὀδυσσεὺς
          εὕδων ἐν γαίῃ πατρωΐῃ, οὐδέ μιν ἔγνω,
          ἤδη δὴν ἀπεών· περὶ γὰρ θεὸς ἠέρα χεῦε
190    Παλλὰς Ἀθηναίη, κούρη Διός, ὄφρα μιν αὐτὸν
          ἄγνωστον τεύξειεν ἕκαστά τε μυθήσαιτο,
          μή μιν πρὶν ἄλοχος γνοίη ἀστοί τε φίλοι τε,
          πρὶν πᾶσαν μνηστῆρας ὑπερβασίην ἀποτῖσαι.
          τοὔνεκ’ ἄρ’ ἀλλοειδέα φαινέσκετο πάντα ἄνακτι,
195    ἀτραπιτοί τε διηνεκέες λιμένες τε πάνορμοι
          πέτραι τ’ ἠλίβατοι καὶ δένδρεα τηλεθάοντα.
          στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ἀναΐξας καί ῥ’ εἴσιδε πατρίδα γαῖαν·
          ᾤμωξέν τ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειτα καὶ ὣ πεπλήγετο μηρὼ
          χερσὶ καταπρηνέσσ’, ὀλοφυρόμενος δὲ προσηύδα·

          So he spoke, and they took fright, and readied the bulls.
          So there they were, praying to lord Poseidon,
          the leaders and counselors of the Phaeacian people,
          standing round the altar. And he awakened, brilliant Odysseus,
          sleeping in the land of his fathers, and he did not recognize it,
          being away so long: for the goddess was pouring a mist round,
          Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, that she might make him himself
          unrecognizable and tell him everything,
          lest his wife recognize him beforehand, and the townspeople and his loved ones,
          before he wreaked vengeance on the suitors for all their transgression.
          That is why, you see, everything kept appearing otherwise [alloeidēs] to the lord,
          far-reaching paths, all-compassing harbors,
          rocks steep to climb, trees in bloom.
          He shot straight up and lo, laid eyes on his fatherland:
          and then did he ever wail! and struck his thighs
          with flats of hands, and cried out, lamenting …

Odyssey 13.184–199

Poseidon has turned the Phaeacian ship to stone, cutting off the Phaeacian traffic between fantasy and reality, their painless escort service that verges on escort to or from death. Alkinoos’ father’s prophecy has come true, and they can no longer obliviously entertain both undisguised gods and returning heroes. The epic heroes are all returned. The Phaeacians will hear no other stories of Troy but those that have made their way into the repertoire of Demodokos.

So, as this door closes, Odysseus is waking up in a new world indeed. But just as that world might be settling into something like “life,” or “post-epic,” or “reality,” Athena shows up to make everything incessantly (φαινέσκετο) manifest itself as otherwise, ἀλλοειδέα. The heimlich will be unheimlich. This well encapsulates the poetics—or the performativities—of the authorial bard. As with the love story of Protesilaos and Laodameia running beneath the Iliad’s tragedy, so too on Ithaka things will not be quite what they seem. There is not mere overlay of the fabulous upon the realistic, but intrusion and interference. Here that interference, that sense of one plot derailing another, will indeed be iterative. The ostensible reason for this is that the background story is seeded within the consciousness of Odysseus himself. In Book 13, he seizes on the basic plot, both because of his fears and as a front for his actions, and only gradually works out its implications. But the real reason is Athena’s, the bard’s. It makes for a better performance.

The practical or plot reason for the mist is to disorient Odysseus and prevent him from running home before he is prepared, to keep him from being recognized prematurely. One cannot have recognition scenes without un-recognition. But that is not how it is put. Athena sheds a mist all around

                          ὄφρα μιν αὐτὸν
ἄγνωστον τεύξειεν ἕκαστά τε μυθήσαιτο,
μή μιν πρὶν ἄλοχος γνοίη…

                          to make him
unrecognizable [see below] and to tell him everything,
lest his wife recognize him beforehand…

Odyssey 13.190–192

Cretan Tale 1: To Athena Disguised as a Young Prince

For objects of transformation, use things that shouldn’t be there.

The Second City Almanac of Improvisation

ὣς εἰπὼν τρίποδας περικαλλέας ἠδὲ λέβητας
ἠρίθμει καὶ χρυσὸν ὑφαντά τε εἵματα καλά.
τῶν μὲν ἄρ’ οὔ τι πόθει· ὁ δ’ ὀδύρετο πατρίδα γαῖαν
ἑρπύζων παρὰ θῖνα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης,
πόλλ’ ὀλοφυρόμενος. σχεδόθεν δέ οἱ ἦλθεν Ἀθήνη,
ἀνδρὶ δέμας ἐϊκυῖα νέῳ, ἐπιβώτορι μήλων,
παναπάλῳ, οἷοί τε ἀνάκτων παῖδες ἔασι,
δίπτυχον ἀμφ’ ὤμοισιν ἔχουσ’ εὐεργέα λώπην·
ποσσὶ δ’ ὑπὸ λιπαροῖσι πέδιλ’ ἔχε, χερσὶ δ’ ἄκοντα.

Having said that, he began to count the lovely tripods and cauldrons
and the gold and the fine woven garments.
And lo, not a one of them was missing! And he was bewailing his fatherland
creeping along the shore of the churning sea,
grieving heavily. And along came Athena next to him,
in form like a young man, a shepherd of flocks,
delicate—such as the children of lords are—
wearing a well-worked double-layered cloak around her shoulders,
and sandals on her sleek feet and a javelin in her hands.

Odyssey 13.217–225

Having isolated key details that recall the Idomeneus story, let us see how the tale unfolds in time. The audience knows that the Tale’s audience, the implied body standing in their midst facing the performer, is a slick well-dressed son-of-a-lord type (13.223 οἷοί τε ἀνάκτων παῖδες ἔασι); it is this figure that the performer/hero must contend with on the spot—along with the enormous pile of treasure given him by the Phaeacians.

To distill the distinct virtue of the Tale’s (and the Tales’) comic liveness, compare the way they spring to life before the audience’s eyes to the virtuosic intellectual discourses in the heart of Shaw’s Man and Superman. The effect of the latter comes from the gradual unmooring of the actors’ brains from any scripted action until their display of memory becomes a display, as it were, of their own wit over and above Shaw’s. This wit is not simply bogus: it is a rare actor who would take on such a role. But the overall effect is the comic “coming forward” of the actors out of anything resembling a play to settle comfortably into their chairs and simply enjoy one another’s intellectual companionship. Such a coming forward is not entirely modern: it is akin to, while distinct from, Aristophanes’ parabaseis, where a character “steps aside” from the action to harangue the audience. In Man and Superman, however, while the characters come unmoored from the script, they do not thereby emerge into the audience’s world. Rather, by virtue both of their unmooring (no longer caged actors parroting Shaw’s words) and of their sheer intellectual superiority, the actors come out of the play but remain aloof from the audience. The audience has rather to approach them, as awkward dinner guests who linger, like Aristodemus, to listen in on an elite conversation.

The charm of χρήμασι σὺν τοίσδεσσι in 258 comes from the performer-as-Odysseus, pleased with himself for coming up with the Cretan bit, being confronted with this invisible pile that the audience is now projecting into that spot that he had “forgotten about” in his initial greeting. As with Man and Superman, the performer is unmoored from the script; [43] but here his path has been blocked, and he must now forge ahead using the obstacles in front of him. That is, the comedy stems both from the classic “hand in the cookie jar” moment and also from a split in the performer: the part who has composed (or recomposed or even simply recounted) all of this, and the part who has to deal with the mess created by previous moments and some inconvenient, now-materialized-by-himself objects. The inconvenience sets him scrambling, and his next words (13.258–259) are λιπὼν δ’ ἔτι παισὶ τοσαῦτα / φεύγω (“and having left so much [i.e. as much as you see here] for my children / I am now in flight”). This irrelevant detail is perhaps, on a superficial level, designed to prevent the young interlocutor from thinking Odysseus an out-and-out pirate. But keep in mind, the interlocutor looks like the son of a wanax, and has just explained that this is Ithaka, making it ever more likely to Odysseus that this is, in fact, his son. Thus his leaving “just as much at home for his children” can be registered as an attempt to deflect criticism (by someone who may be his child) of a long abandonment of his children spent—as it now appears—amassing treasure. All of this can easily be registered by the bard-as-hero as he pieces together his story, focusing sharply upon his invisible interlocutor and sizing him up.

This son is someone with swift feet (Orsilochos πόδας ὠκύν), a champion runner.

                          λιπὼν δ’ ἔτι παισὶ τοσαῦτα
φεύγω, ἐπεὶ φίλον υἷα κατέκτανον Ἰδομενῆος,
Ὀρσίλοχον πόδας ὠκύν, ὃς ἐν Κρήτῃ εὐρείῃ
ἀνέρας ἀλφηστὰς νίκα ταχέεσσι πόδεσσιν…

                          And—leaving so much for my children—
I am on the run, after I killed the dear son of Idomeneus,
Orsilochos, swift-footed, who in wide Crete
would win out over bread-eating men with his swift feet…

Odyssey 13.258–261

He killed him because—because “he wanted to deprive me of all this loot—Trojan loot!” (note τῆς ληΐδος, this loot: he points to the very same loot over which he has already murdered one young prince very like his interlocutor):

οὕνεκά με στερέσαι τῆς ληΐδος ἤθελε πάσης
Τρωϊάδος, τῆς εἵνεκ’ ἐγὼ πάθον ἄλγεα θυμῷ
ἀνδρῶν τε πτολέμους ἀλεγεινά τε κύματα πείρων
οὕνεκ’ ἄρ’ οὐχ ᾧ πατρὶ χαριζόμενος θεράπευον …

Because he wanted to deprive me of all this loot—
Trojan loot! Because of which I suffered pains in my heart
and went through the wars of men and painful waves—
because, see , I would not please his father, serving as his therapōn

Odyssey 13.262–265

Again, a new idea, hit upon and released in enjambment (/ Τρωϊάδος), taken in part from the last two lines of Athena’s speech (καὶ ἐς Τροίην) and in part from the “performer’s” most recently hit-upon idea about Idomeneus. The bard-as-Odysseus is now straddling the line between explaining “all this χρήματα,” now newly configured as Trojan loot (ληΐδος), and warning off the figure before him by projecting upon this already-invisible scene another, Cretan one, in which the same characters (loot-bearer, youth) and props (this loot) recur. This has all happened before, on Crete, and it did not end well for the young man.

The bard-as-Odysseus now backs himself into a self-portrait as an unknown leader, a possessor of Trojan loot, bound to no one, a leader of his own men. He does so via a peculiar (unparalleled in Homer) [49] triplicate causal clause οὕνεκα … εἵνεκα … οὕνεκα compressed into four lines (13.262–265). This yields a tone of desperate self-assertion, as the performer, as it were, casts about him for his next step back in the causal sequence. That the loot is looming very large can be seen by the τῆς εἵνεκ’ clause. It is because of this loot that he has suffered pains—the phrase πάθον ἄλγεα θυμῷ at 263 recalls 13.90, heard just a few minutes before, and the following line 13.264 echoes 13.91: ἀνδρῶν τε πτολέμους ἀλεγεινά τε κύματα πείρων. While Odysseus was sleeping through his magical transport at the beginning of Book 13, this stately phraseology [50] was used to summarize the whole of Odysseus’ adventures as he is metaphorically reborn to his old life. There the phrase recalls the beginning of the Odyssey: it is a beginning (or “proem”) for the poem as well as its midpoint. Just a few minutes later, all of that epic suffering has been boiled down to one thing: “this loot.” [51] And indeed, although no causal connection exists between the loot and Odysseus’ suffering, [52] we are now privileged to see that Odysseus is almost more concerned about it than his own life. The line gives new meaning to the Phaeacian tale, told so that he may receive escort, but also wealth.

This theme of how much treasure a human life is worth will make a powerful reappearance later in the Ithakan narrative, from just the same perspective—the splitting of the self observable in a one-man performance. (Recall too that it is henchman Odysseus who catalogues the treasures Agamemnon offers Achilles as recompense for a woman and for the risk of his own life.)

To return to our tale, one element does emerge from this “because-because-because” process that Odysseus can use: the companions.

τὸν μὲν ἐγὼ κατιόντα βάλον χαλκήρεϊ δουρὶ
ἀγρόθεν, ἐγγὺς ὁδοῖο λοχησάμενος σὺν ἑταίρῳ·
νὺξ δὲ μάλα δνοφερὴ κάτεχ’ οὐρανόν, οὐδέ τις ἡμέας
ἀνθρώπων ἐνόησε, λάθον δέ ἑ θυμὸν ἀπούρας.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ δὴ τόν γε κατέκτανον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ …

Him I shot with a bronze spear as he came down
from the field, in ambush near the road with a companion;
and night imbued the sky with gloom, and no
human being noticed us, but I robbed him of life all unseen.
Well, once I’d killed him with the sharp bronze …

Odyssey 13.267–271

He shot him “coming down” (267), as Athena has just come down to beach level. Why “with a companion”?

He has now spent lines 259–271 (thirteen lines of a thirty-one-line speech) describing how he dispatched a young prince. Now he must say how he got here, and why he is alone with all of this treasure. He begged some Phoenicians (standing in for the Phaeacians) to take him to “Pylos or Elis.” But they were driven off course “much against their will—and they did not want to deceive me” (277).

Thus the performer designs a scene, complete with treasure and Athena-as-prince, and then, becoming Odysseus, concocts a lie out of elements in his visual field, along with his worst fears (as embodied in traditional Idomeneus elements) and realizations that he has been wrong (about the Phaeacians).

Cretan Tale 2: To Eumaeus

The loot safely stowed away, Odysseus approaches Eumaeus’ hut. With the introduction of Eumaeus and the second Cretan Tale, we enter a new realm: the world of slavery. This is the very world that looms on the outer edges of Odysseus’ Cretan Tales, the fate his Cretan persona manages to squeak out of again and again. Eumaeus was not so fortunate.

Yet there are moments and scenes that yank the rug out from under such a listener. Just as the Phoenix speech produces an ethical disorientation alongside a play with the speaker’s persona, temporality, and the source of action, so too the Odyssey’s ethical disorientation works in conjunction with other kinds of disorientation.

Such an interpretation has in common with Peradotto’s reading of the dual tendencies of the Odyssey and its hero—centripetal and centrifugal—an identification of the two separate voices, one could say, of the poem. Similarly for Pucci the text continually renders vain our attempts at interpretation. In brief, where the post-structuralists see two voices fighting it out on an equal footing, [91] I see one voice emerging out from under the other. This sometimes has the effect of uncovering a rock-solid truth rather than of carnivalesque polyvocality for the sake of itself. In that the emerging voice is of lower status, my performance-oriented reading complements Rose’s description, from a Marxist perspective, of the Odyssey’s ambivalence or double-voiced quality with respect to inherited kingship and class conflict. The voice of the wandering poet, for Rose, is identified with the wandering king in disguise; there is a nostalgic layer to the poem, including an insistence on inherited monarchy, but the poet’s voice speaks convincingly for the “hunger-haunted peasant” and ultimately “pit[s] poor against rich” and “calls into question the full range of assumptions underlying the social hierarchy of his own time.” [92] While this class-conscious dialectic is, like the tension between the Homeric and extra-Homeric Odysseus, readable on the page, performance (not a concern for these authors) makes possible a dialectic movement that unfolds not only between characters or classes, but within the solo poet-performer.

To return to the drama: already in Odysseus’ approach to Eumaeus’ house in the opening of Book 14 the relationship between the two men is put in the form of an ainigma, alerting a keen listener that she might find something in Eumaeus other than Uncle Remus. The abstraction and enigmatic syntax disrupt the sense that here, at long last, we are to enter the real Greek world. Landing on Ithaka, Odysseus at first encounters a world unrecognizable to him, where he has direct contact with the gods and where the real remnants of his fantastic voyage are brusquely stowed by the goddess into a fantastically-described hiding place. With the departure of the goddess and the hiding of the Phaeacian treasure, we may expect to enter a world that is not only humbler in the social sense but also more human. Our hero is planning the destruction of the suitors, which we know will succeed; he will be operating upon inert matter, bad people without his divine clout and worldly-wise mētis. Athena goes off on other business to close Book 13. But:

αὐτὰρ ὁ ἐκ λιμένος προσέβη τρηχεῖαν ἀταρπὸν
χῶρον ἀν’ ὑλήεντα δι’ ἄκριας, ᾗ οἱ Ἀθήνη
πέφραδε δῖον ὑφορβόν, ὅ οἱ βιότοιο μάλιστα
κήδετο οἰκήων, οὓς κτήσατο δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς.

But he set out upon a rough path from the harbor
up the wooded country through the hills, where Athena to him
pointed out the divine swineherd, [who most
cared for his substance, of all the domestics—see below] whom divine Odysseus had acquired.

Odyssey 14.1–4

κήδετο οἰκήων, however unlikely as a syntactic unit here, seems to be a play on the formulaic phrase οἴκου κήδεσθαι, which occurs twice at the beginning of the line (Odyssey 19.23, 19.161; cf. 23.8), such that lines 3–4 take a formula referring to the house and household, and apply it more specifically to its people, putting it thus after another word already referring to “substance.” This word βιότοιο, even more than οἰκήων, refers not only to that which Odysseus holds but what holds him: that which sustains his very life and on which he is dependent. Phonically, enclosed between the master and slave who are both, somehow, δῖος, [97] there also seems to be a play between κήδετο (cared for) and κτήσατο (purchased) in line 4, opening the first and fourth feet of the hexameter. [98] Such chiasmus and phonic play call attention to or perceptually cue the semantic ambiguity or obscurity, in a way paralleled, as Watkins demonstrated, elsewhere in Indo-European poetics. [99] It may even be semantically cued by the “rough track” of line 1. [100] Perhaps the way the riddle unfolds from one line to the next reflects the practice of relay competition among poet-performers. [101] The lines elegantly encapsulate the situation of a dependent of Odysseus having care for what he depends on: his stuff of life. What may not seem paradoxical—a possession that cares for one’s life—is exposed as such. [102] It raises questions of agency, what that biotos amounts to, and who is in charge of whom: dios huphorbos, dios Odysseus. [103]

Now this is also the situation within the performer: his possession of or being possessed by his character; the character in control of his lies or inadvertently leaking irrelevancies. The master-slave relationship takes its place beside the anxieties about performance that are expressed by Platonic characters. [104] If the slave is a “living instrument” (Aristotle Politics 1253b), so too is the body, or the being, of the performer.

5        τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ἐνὶ προδόμῳ εὗρ’ ἥμενον, ἔνθα οἱ αὐλὴ
          ὑψηλὴ δέδμητο, περισκέπτῳ ἐνὶ χώρῳ,
          καλή τε μεγάλη τε, περίδρομος· ἥν ῥα συβώτης
          αὐτὸς δείμαθ’ ὕεσσιν ἀποιχομένοιο ἄνακτος,
          νόσφιν δεσποίνης καὶ Λαέρταο γέροντος,
10      ῥυτοῖσιν λάεσσι καὶ ἐθρίγκωσεν ἀχέρδῳ·
          σταυροὺς δ’ ἐκτὸς ἔλασσε διαμπερὲς ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα,
          πυκνοὺς καὶ θαμέας, τὸ μέλαν δρυὸς ἀμφικεάσσας·
          ἔντοσθεν δ’ αὐλῆς συφεοὺς δυοκαίδεκα ποίει
          πλησίον ἀλλήλων, εὐνὰς συσίν· ἐν δὲ ἑκάστῳ
15      πεντήκοντα σύες χαμαιευνάδες ἐρχατόωντο…

          Him—voilà—he came across sitting on the porch, where his court
          had been built high, with a view all around,
          fine and grand, encircling it: which, note, the swineherd
          himself built for his pigs while the lord was absent,
          apart from the mistress and old man Laertes,
          with stones he’d hauled, and he topped it with prickly pear:
          and outside he drove stakes all along, here, and here,
          thick and fast, splitting apart the black of the oak:
          but inside the court he made twelve sties
          near one another, beds for pigs: and in each
          fifty ground-bedding pigs were penned…

Odyssey 14.5–15

The description of Eumaeus’ house and his pigsties, however humble, has much in common with some of the fantastic locations of the Tale to Alkinoos. Powell notes that Odysseus wends his way along a rough path through woodland, as on Circe’s island, and:

The swineherd Circe has, Wizard of Oz–style, found her human counterpart on the farm. [
106] Rather than literally turning men into pigs, however, Eumaeus takes care of the pig-substance, substance which sustains the life of swinish men. Likewise, the suitors’ threat to Eumaeus at 21.363–364, that “swiftly the swift dogs will eat you among the pigs / alone from the people, whom you used to feed/nurture,” (τάχ’ αὖ σ’ ἐφ’ ὕεσσι κύνες ταχέες κατέδονται / οἶον ἀπ’ ἀνθρώπων, οὓς ἔτρεφες …) confuses the dogs, pigs, and people, and sets up Eumaeus as a Circe-esque foster-father for the whole compound. That the male pigs, one killed each day to feed the suitors, now number 360, may be ominous in the context of the Odyssey’s concern with days and the coming around of the year, the moment of Odysseus’ return. Alternatively, the number, a bit too perfect, considering it should be diminishing each day, may suggest (like Penelope’s web) the stoppage of time on Ithaka in the absence of Good King Odysseus. The absolute separation of male and female pigs that Eumaeus has established, the paragon of regimented sexuality, [107] seems to mock the licentious scene that Odysseus will find at his house, the scene that will make him bark like a bitch over her pups (20.14–16). In this sense Eumaeus is an anti-Circe. The scene in which the dogs threaten to attack Odysseus inverts the beginning of the Circe episode where the wolves and lions, rather than attacking Odysseus’ men, fawn on them “as when dogs fawn about their master coming from a feast, for he always brings sweets for their thumos” (10.216–217). The Märchen Circe episode thrusts its head up within the rustic reality of a swineherd making sandals and dogs that do not recognize Odysseus.

He obtains the woman specifically by his own ἀρετή, “for I was no vain idler or war-shirker” (14.212–213). This detail may be just another boast building up his persona, but it jars with what Eumaeus has just said at line 64: that if Odysseus returned, he would give Eumaeus a wife and property. Relevant here too is Eumaeus’ famous remark:

ἥμισυ γάρ τ’ ἀρετῆς ἀποαίνυται εὐρύοπα Ζεὺς
ἀνέρος, εὖτ’ ἄν μιν κατὰ δούλιον ἦμαρ ἕλῃσιν.

Half, you see, of virtue wide-seeing Zeus robs
from a man, when the day of slavery takes him.

Odyssey 17.322–323

While this proverbial-sounding utterance (whose purport is surely to oppose the idea of natural slavery) is in context directed at the household maids, it has a particular application in the Cretan Tale. Odysseus’ Cretan boasts not simply of a resilience, but of a virtue (as evidenced by obtaining a wife) which Eumaeus has just said he specifically lacks. Eumaeus lives in the tragic world of reality, in which ἀρετή can be robbed and goodness should be but is not rewarded: [112] in which one must work hard and hope for the best. The stranger rebukes this attitude and holds up his fictional wife as the reward of an unrobbed virtue for Eumaeus to admire. Immediately after this latent insult he utters the cryptic lines:

ἀλλ’ ἔμπης καλάμην γέ σ’ ὀΐομαι εἰσορόωντα
γινώσκειν· ἦ γάρ με δύη ἔχει ἤλιθα πολλή.

But still, you, I think, looking at the straw,
recognize it: ah, heaping misery has hold of me.

Odyssey 14.214–215

This comment raises suspicions that Odysseus is asking Eumaeus to recognize him through his disguise, or that the performer winks through him at us, who know he is “really” Odysseus. [
113] But from this nice gesture at intimacy, he abruptly resumes his broad, arrogant boasting:

ἦ μὲν δὴ θάρσος μοι Ἄρης τ’ ἔδοσαν καὶ Ἀθήνη
καὶ ῥηξηνορίην· ὁπότε κρίνοιμι λόχονδε
ἄνδρας ἀριστῆας, κακὰ δυσμενέεσσι φυτεύων,
οὔ ποτέ μοι θάνατον προτιόσσετο θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ,
ἀλλὰ πολὺ πρώτιστος ἐπάλμενος ἔγχει ἕλεσκον
ἀνδρῶν δυσμενέων ὅτε μοι εἴξειε πόδεσσι.

Oh yes Ares and Athena gave me daring,
and man-crushing strength: whenever I am choosing for the ambush
men who are best, sowing evils for enemies,
never does death my spirit manly foresee for me,
but leaping far the foremost I’d take with my spear
men, enemies, whoever yielded to me with his feet.

Odyssey 14.216–221

Note that he defies death “whenever I am choosing men for the ambush” rather than “whenever I am sitting in an ambush.” [
114] And “choosing for the ambush/the best men” is his aim, recruiting Eumaeus for his ambush against the suitors. The speaker is poised between boasting and seeking an alliance. Ambush is a theme taken over from Cretan Tale 1, [115] where Odysseus plucks it from the immediate situation, to intimidate his unknown interlocutor. Here his partner is known, and rather than testing Eumaeus he leans in to recruit him. Eumaeus will require no hard sell.

          τοῖος ἔα ἐν πολέμῳ· ἔργον δέ μοι οὐ φίλον ἔσκεν
          οὐδ’ οἰκωφελίη, ἥ τε τρέφει ἀγλαὰ τέκνα,
          ἀλλά μοι αἰεὶ νῆες ἐπήρετμοι φίλαι ἦσαν
225    καὶ πόλεμοι καὶ ἄκοντες ἐΰξεστοι καὶ ὀϊστοί,
          λυγρά, τά τ’ ἄλλοισίν γε καταριγηλὰ πέλονται.
          αὐτὰρ ἐμοὶ τὰ φίλ’ ἔσκε τά που θεὸς ἐν φρεσὶ θῆκεν·
          ἄλλος γάρ τ’ ἄλλοισιν ἀνὴρ ἐπιτέρπεται ἔργοις.
          πρὶν μὲν γὰρ Τροίης ἐπιβήμεναι υἷας Ἀχαιῶν
230    εἰνάκις ἀνδράσιν ἦρξα καὶ ὠκυπόροισι νέεσσιν
          ἄνδρας ἐς ἀλλοδαπούς, καί μοι μάλα τύγχανε πολλά.
          τῶν ἐξαιρεύμην μενοεικέα, πολλὰ δ’ ὀπίσσω
          λάγχανον· αἶψα δὲ οἶκος ὀφέλλετο, καί ῥα ἔπειτα
          δεινός τ’ αἰδοῖός τε μετὰ Κρήτεσσι τετύγμην.

          That’s how I was in war. As for work, it never did please me,
          nor the growing of the household, which nurtures shining children.
          But for me, oared ships were always dear,
          and wars, and sharp javelins and arrows,
          baneful things, that come as a shudder to others.
          Well, these things were dear to me, that I guess a god put in my head;
          different men, you know, like different kinds of “work”!
          Before the sons of the Achaeans landed at Troy,
          nine times I led men and sea-coursing ships
          against men of other lands, and many things fell in my lap.
          Of these I picked out what suited me, and a lot, later,
          fell to my lot. And pretty quick my household grew, and then you bet
          I got myself feared and revered among the Cretans.

Odyssey 14.222–234

This unease, the question of whether we are supposed to be enjoying the story at any given moment, is crystallized within the performer’s stance. On the one hand he acknowledges a different perspective (227–228), one embodied in the person he is looking at (us/Eumaeus); on the other hand he cannot stop himself. Line 227, τά που θεὸς ἐν φρεσὶ θῆκεν, “this I guess a god put into my head,” just as the speech is becoming outrageous to its listener, can be experienced on two levels: as coming from the stranger, acknowledging his difference from Eumaeus, and as the composing Odysseus—if we can keep him separate from the performer bodily before us—acknowledging to us behind Eumaeus’ back that some god has put it in his head to say this. In the latter, the persona has taken over the body of the performer-as-Odysseus; the god puts an idea into phrenes shared by composer and actor, out of which it is now flowing as speech. “I don’t act, I only react,” says the psychopath. This has a thrill of its own, but one that comes from cutting off our pleasure in pirate tales. It is the frisson of uncertainty as to whether the body before us is in control of his own performance: Are we still watching the reenactment of a just king using his wits to restore his kingdom? Or is something skidding off the road here?

The stranger’s success with the Egyptian king once again picks up an earlier extraordinary utterance of Eumaeus. Eumaeus had said, gliding from a remark on the suitors’ disregard for the gods’ vigilance and mercy to a general statement:

          οὐ μὲν σχέτλια ἔργα θεοὶ μάκαρες φιλέουσιν,
          ἀλλὰ δίκην τίουσι καὶ αἴσιμα ἔργ’ ἀνθρώπων.
85      καὶ μὲν δυσμενέες καὶ ἀνάρσιοι, οἵ τ’ ἐπὶ γαίης
          ἀλλοτρίης βῶσιν καί σφιν Ζεὺς ληΐδα δώῃ,
          πλησάμενοι δέ τε νῆας ἔβαν οἶκόνδε νέεσθαι,
          καὶ μὲν τοῖς ὄπιδος κρατερὸν δέος ἐν φρεσὶ πίπτει.
          οἵδε δέ τοι ἴσασι, θεοῦ δέ τιν’ ἔκλυον αὐδήν,
90       κείνου λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον, ὅ τ’ οὐκ ἐθέλουσι δικαίως
          μνᾶσθαι οὐδὲ νέεσθαι ἐπὶ σφέτερ’, ἀλλὰ ἕκηλοι
          κτήματα δαρδάπτουσιν ὑπέρβιον, οὐδ’ ἔπι φειδώ.

Odyssey 14.83–92

These reflections of Eumaeus presently serve as a seed for Odysseus’ response in Cretan Tale 2. Now the notorious looter caps the description of his successful supplication of the Egyptian king with the remark that the king was looking out for the μῆνις of Zeus, ξεινίου, ὅς τε μάλιστα νεμεσσᾶται κακὰ ἔργα, “xeinios [of strangers], who especially takes vengence for evil deeds” (283–284). That is the only conceivable reason the king protected him since, as he admits (283), everyone hated him. “Odysseus,” man of hate, peeks out, and the line reeks all the more of coverup. Zeus has nemesis for evil deeds, and yet does not punish Odysseus for doing what Eumaeus said evil people do; rather, he gave him loot anyway (in the form of gifts, to be sure) for his troubles—just as Eumaeus admits Zeus sometimes does. [131] Odysseus sits in Egypt for an idyllic seven years mysteriously raking in gifts which “everyone gave” (cf. the Phaeacians). This wealth fantasy is interrupted by the gobbling Phoenician evildoer. This fellow, curiously Circean, seduces the Cretan into staying with him in his exotic eastern locale for one year. Suddenly, when the year turns back around, [132] the man without provocation decides to lure the Cretan into a journey to Libya, where he plans to sell him as a slave. The lack of causation in this story (“Zeus put it in my head”; the man deciding after a year to sell him; him following “though he suspected it, by necessity”) gives the impression of cobbling together elements from the previous Tale to Alkinoos, and the audience watches a yarn being spun (or scraps tacked together) rather than being swept up into a story-world. This is the second time the Cretan is threatened with slavery and escapes.

Next comes the Thesprotian episode (14.314–338), which includes another moment when Odysseus appears to be reaching out for the recognition of Eumaeus. [133] The Thesprotian king told the Cretan that Odysseus was off to Dodona, to consult the god about whether to return openly or in secret (330). The hall of mirrors reaches a climax when Odysseus says: “There I asked about Odysseus. And that one was saying that he hosted and loved him as he went to his fatherland ….” Here a simple use of gestures can map the Cretan’s conversation with the Thesprotian king onto Odysseus’ conversation with Eumaeus (and us). [134] Aside from another moment of suspense, we are free to take this as an attempt to flatter Eumaeus, who can recognize himself in the Thesprotian king: both the person whom “I” asked about Odysseus and the one who “loved and entertained”—Odysseus!—on his way home as he is. [135] The element of possessions from Tale 1 returns, as the Thesprotian king is seized by a sudden, Croesus-like desire to exhibit to the stranger the heaps of treasure that he is keeping for Odysseus. This adds nothing to verisimilitude, but perhaps serves as a further incentive for Eumaeus to join the cause in what he must be realizing is Odysseus’ return. It also, however, directly responds to Eumaeus’ catalogue of Odysseus’ possessions in 14.99–104. That catalogue, while it seemed merely touching at the time, now takes on added dimension, as the catalogue of fictional loot in Thesprotia, of questionable provenance, is added to the list of possible offenses against Eumaeus’ principle that one should not go to another land and take things.

At last, for a third and final time evil sailors try to sell the Cretan into slavery, and a third time he escapes, hiding in a thicket on Ithaka in a scene reminiscent of the olive tree on Scheria from the end of Book 5. A third time the gods single him out for salvation (“the gods kept me hidden,” 357), and deliver him to Eumaeus’ stathmos—the home of a “man who knows: and now, a dispensation for me yet to live” (359).

Here the performer playing Eumaeus curiously emphasizes the theme of eating. “Curiously,” because the theme of food is made to arise simultaneously through “inner-directed” and “outer-directed” routes. First, along the inner route, it arises as if by mental association from the present near-ravaging of the stranger by dogs’ teeth, “in” through a seemingly self-directed thought about how many griefs the gods have given “me,” Eumaeus, to a recollection of how he sits grieving for his master, and by the way also raises pigs for others → to eat → and that one (my master) must also be on the lookout for food. On the other hand, the outer route: the very flimsiness of the steps in Eumaeus’ thinking here, along with the fact that he is looking at Odysseus, encourages a performance whereby the stranger’s appearance draws Eumaeus both toward the theme of hunger and toward the theme of his absent master being hungry.

The very tension between sheer mental association and the visual recognition of hunger can be played a variety of ways. There are a variety of actorly courses for the performer to take as he makes his way through the tape-marks in the script of Books 14 and 15, and no doubt the general “routine” invites developments of the script to enhance the performance. Some of these ways will convey more of a recognition on the part of Eumaeus, others less.

But the chief problem with standard readings is not their characterization of Odysseus or Eumaeus, but rather their inattention to performance. As a script the tale is an opportunity not only for characterization but for providing the audience with a sense of uncertainty as to the source of action: the merging between bard and character, the alternating obliviousness and responsiveness to the audience, and not least the split in us produced by the fact that, while “Odysseus” is speaking, we are sitting in Eumaeus’ seat. All of this is not a matter of characterization. It is rather what can happen in performance by means of the layers of space and presence involved. It is what can happen, and what must happen, if a performance is to captivate its audience as well as catalyze the Western ethical and aesthetic tradition.

First, the performer and we audience members inhabit one space, Odysseus and Eumaeus another; still another space is the normal situation of epic, where the performer inhabits the space of his characters to a certain extent as a Hermes-like mediator, and we are invited partially into that space. In the first two Cretan Tales the performer seems to come forward, in that, although he is reprising his role as hero-narrator from Books 9–12, he seems to gather his materials from the space we share with him. Then he seems to craft his story, at once oblivious and responsive to his audience, whose position is taken by us. This increased “presence” of the narrator in “our” space corresponds to the return of the hero. The contentious way of putting this is that the answer to the question, “Why does Odysseus have to lie so much to get home?” is not “because he has to test loyalties and thread his way in to the center” or “because he’s Odysseus; he’s a liar,” but because it is part of the Odyssey’s movement from narrating past action to wrestling with the present. This act—the performer, as it were, wrenching himself out of the epic narrator position, as his character lands in Ithaka—ratchets up the play with the dynamics of performance.

Second, the performer’s Hermes-like flow between character and narrator in performance can be mapped onto the performer’s bodily control of his character or lack thereof. One can see a lack of control in the first two Cretan Tales. In the Tale to Laertes, where Odysseus lies to his aged father seemingly to no purpose, this lack of control reaches a climax. It is dramatically effective in that episode, near the end of the poem, for both the performer and Odysseus to be unable to stop lying: neither can give up the role. A variety of interpretations of this dramatic scaffolding are possible, both by the actor and by the audience, resulting in a spectrum from uncanny possession to ironic, comic metatheater.

The tales must be read for their dramatic virtues rather than their psychological truisms.

Eumaeus’ Response: The Aetolian

Eumaeus reacts to this Cretan Tale with an almost [142] completely neglected speech:

          ἆ δειλὲ ξείνων, ἦ μοι μάλα θυμὸν ὄρινας
          ταῦτα ἕκαστα λέγων, ὅσα δὴ πάθες ἠδ’ ὅσ’ ἀλήθης.
          ἀλλὰ τά γ’ οὐ κατὰ κόσμον ὀΐομαι, οὐδέ με πείσεις
          εἰπὼν ἀμφ’ Ὀδυσῆϊ· τί σε χρὴ τοῖον ἐόντα
365    μαψιδίως ψεύδεσθαι; ἐγὼ δ’ εὖ οἶδα καὶ αὐτὸς
          νόστον ἐμοῖο ἄνακτος, ὅτ’ ἤχθετο πᾶσι θεοῖσι
          πάγχυ μάλ’, ὅττι μιν οὔ τι μετὰ Τρώεσσι δάμασσαν
          ἠὲ φίλων ἐν χερσίν, ἐπεὶ πόλεμον τολύπευσε.
          τῶ κέν οἱ τύμβον μὲν ἐποίησαν Παναχαιοί,
370    ἠδέ κε καὶ ᾧ παιδὶ μέγα κλέος ἤρατ’ ὀπίσσω
          νῦν δέ μιν ἀκλειῶς ἅρπυιαι ἀνηρείψαντο.
          αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ παρ’ ὕεσσιν ἀπότροπος· οὐδὲ πόλινδε
          ἔρχομαι, εἰ μή πού τι περίφρων Πηνελόπεια
          ἐλθέμεν ὀτρύνῃσιν, ὅτ’ ἀγγελίη ποθὲν ἔλθοι.
375    ἀλλ’ οἱ μὲν τὰ ἕκαστα παρήμενοι ἐξερέουσιν,
          ἠμὲν οἳ ἄχνυνται δὴν οἰχομένοιο ἄνακτος,
          ἠδ’ οἳ χαίρουσιν βίοτον νήποινον ἔδοντες·
          ἀλλ’ ἐμοὶ οὐ φίλον ἐστὶ μεταλλῆσαι καὶ ἐρέσθαι,
          ἐξ οὗ δή μ’ Αἰτωλὸς ἀνὴρ ἐξήπαφε μύθῳ,
380    ὅς ῥ’ ἄνδρα κτείνας, πολλὴν ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἀληθείς,
          ἦλθεν ἐμὰ πρὸς δώματ’· ἐγὼ δέ μιν ἀμφαγάπαζον.
          φῆ δέ μιν ἐν Κρήτεσσι παρ’ Ἰδομενῆϊ ἰδέσθαι
          νῆας ἀκειόμενον, τάς οἱ ξυνέαξαν ἄελλαι·
          καὶ φάτ’ ἐλεύσεσθαι ἢ ἐς θέρος ἢ ἐς ὀπώρην,
385    πολλὰ χρήματ’ ἄγοντα, σὺν ἀντιθέοις ἑτάροισι.
          καὶ σύ, γέρον πολυπενθές, ἐπεί σέ μοι ἤγαγε δαίμων,
          μήτε τί μοι ψεύδεσσι χαρίζεο μήτε τι θέλγε·
          οὐ γὰρ τοὔνεκ’ ἐγώ σ’ αἰδέσσομαι οὐδὲ φιλήσω,
          ἀλλὰ Δία ξένιον δείσας αὐτόν τ’ ἐλεαίρων.

Odyssey 14.361–389

This speech is once again a masterpiece of transitions, of suggestive bricolage. Although Eumaeus claims to be moved (“Ah, wretch among strangers, you have really stirred my heart / telling each of these things, as many as you’ve suffered and as much as you’ve wandered,” 361–362), he does not believe what the Cretan has said about Odysseus, and he is slightly disgusted with him for lying so extravagantly. He knows the truth about his absent master: he is thoroughly detested by the gods (366–367) and has been snatched away by harpies ingloriously (ἀκλειῶς). The truth about Odysseus is that there will never be any news about him.

Then, ostensibly, Eumaeus starts to talk about himself: he is apotropos (outcast, but also, that which one turns out of one’s presence as polluted, such as a scapegoat; or that which averts evil) among the swine (372). But then he turns back again, as though spontaneously, to the subject of news of Odysseus, this time by another route. “Never to the city do I go … unless, I suppose (πού τι), periphrōn (!) Penelope stirs me to come—whenever a message comes from somewhere” (372–374). But he no longer takes pleasure in these meetings at the palace, which in his view have degenerated into gatherings of gossips and freeloaders, “some grieving deeply for the absent lord, others having a terrific time devouring his biotos unpunished” (376–377).

Our initial expectations for the Ithakan episode were that Odysseus, returning from the world of Iliadic war and of fantastic adventure, would operate on an elevated plane compared with that inhabited by the Ithakans he would manipulate and/or slaughter. We, the audience, would likewise command a superior perspective. If so far we have been given an inkling that Eumaeus would not quite fit into this schema, suddenly all these expectations are jolted.

To this Odysseus reacts with some annoyance: “Well! that is some unbelieving spirit in your chest, such that not even when I swore did I lead you on or persuade you!” (391–392). Yet he does not proceed to bare all in anger as he will with Penelope. Thus, this moment, in its ironies and performance potential, surpasses the bed test, where Odysseus’ indignant response is transparent and is the final “clarifying” act of their exchange of signs. The script of the Aetolian moment is richer than that of the bed-trick in that it leaves more of its meaning to be completed by the performer.

Other effects are possible too. We do not give the poem its due if we reduce these effects to an exposure of Odysseus behind his disguise within the realm of the story, which is what the parallel to the bed-trick might suggest. And yet these other effects do coexist with such an “exposure of the character.” The whole concatenation of dynamics here manifests a bard “brought up short” by his material—like Odysseus, but in the performer’s own world—rather than taking on his characters’ emotions or even being possessed by them.

The Cloak Story

In the story Odysseus tells Eumaeus in 14.462–506, [156] he takes up Eumaeus’ “Aetolian” character and weaves it into a tale of his own. [157] He, the Cretan, was shivering in an ambush one cold night—much like the “evil” rainy night they are currently sheltering from [158] —and to help him (the Cretan) out, Odysseus tricked someone else into giving him his cloak, by pretending to have had a prophetic dream. The fellow tricked into running off leaving his cloak behind is “Thoas, son of Andraimon,” that is, “Speedy, son of Man-blood” (line 499). This character is a well-known (traditional) Aetolian. As with Idomeneus in the Cretan Tales, scholars take various positions on why this character is chosen for this story. Marks maintains that Thoas is “in a sense Odysseus’ double,” [159] much as Haft claims for Meriones. This is true, and Odysseus and Diomedes (whose cannibal father Tydeus is Aetolian), a traditional “trickster” pair, perhaps only form the tip of the iceberg of a mythical Creto-Ithaco-Aetolian cartel, which gravitates toward lies, ambushes, and mob-style murders. Thoas is also associated with Idomeneus, in a passage (Iliad 13.216–239) where Thoas himself does not appear, but Poseidon appears to Idomeneus in the guise of Thoas. [160] The Iliad, then, associates Thoas not only with disguise, but with a god in disguise, and with Idomeneus. Elsewhere in the tradition, Thoas is directly linked with Odysseus and disguise. In the Little Iliad, it is Thoas who disguises Odysseus for his spying mission. “Lest, being recognized, he be killed, he persuaded Thoas the son of Andraimon to whip/beat him with violent blows to make him unrecognizable.” [161] This episode, just like the Cloak Story, takes place under the wall of Troy (contrast Odyssey 4.244, where according to Helen Odysseus beats himself). [162]

From later accounts, [172] it would seem that the way the seducer led the Achaean wives astray was by telling them stories, whether true or false, about their husbands’ wartime infidelities. This is an issue that the Odyssey seems to skirt; nonetheless, the poem shows awareness of the infidelity tale and reenacts it through the operations of Odysseus and Eumaeus upon Penelope. Odysseus even brings his seduction to a climax by telling Penelope a story about women gazing upon Odysseus, whose manly flesh is adorned with a tunic that glistens like the skin of an onion (19.232–235). But of course Odysseus has spent most of his ten-year journey sleeping with and/or firing up erotic longing in women and goddesses. Whether various goddesses or Odysseus is responsible for this, it is ill-suited to the avenger of sexual misdeeds and certifier of civilized fidelities, and the poet, true to his method of “seeing something as something else,” has Odysseus take on the role of serial seducer just when he is supposed to be inspecting fidelities, thus himself completing, with his own wife, the list of seductions that Nauplios put in motion. In fact, he does so in the persona of Aithon, the brother of Idomeneus, left behind at the Cretan court and thus in a position to host Odysseus on his way to the war. Federico in fact links Odysseus’ false name Aithon with that of Leukos, the adopted son (not, alas, brother), left in charge of Idomeneus’ court, who seduces Idomeneus’ wife. [173] (More on Leukos below.) I find Levaniouk’s account [174] of the name Aithon more persuasive. But names aside, it does appear that Odysseus’ Cretan identity converges, not quite upon Idomeneus, but upon the seducer of Idomeneus’ wife, who in the tradition is called Leukos.

Those are some of the threads of this plot that surface later in the poem. We started to see these implications by noticing a convergence between Odysseus and Idomeneus, while at the same time, Odysseus plays the role of the serial seducer. But look again at the Cloak Story itself: it may even end at the very point at which the entire Nauplios plot is set in motion. In the story, “Odysseus” says:

κλῦτε, φίλοι· θεῖός μοι ἐνύπνιον ἦλθεν ὄνειρος.
λίην γὰρ νηῶν ἑκὰς ἤλθομεν· ἀλλά τις εἴη
εἰπεῖν Ἀτρεΐδῃ Ἀγαμέμνονι, ποιμένι λαῶν,
εἰ πλέονας παρὰ ναῦφιν ἐποτρύνειε νέεσθαι …

Hear me, friends! A divine dream came to me in my sleep:
We have come too far from the ships! Now would there be anyone
to tell Atreus’ son Agamemnon, shepherd of the people,
in hopes he will order more men to come from the ships?

Odyssey 14.495–498

In short, the performer enacts, spreads out for view, the process of “slipping into roles.” If one were to draw a table and compare the attested plots of the various unhappy Achaean homecomings to the plot of the Odyssey, one would see clearly the resemblance but lose sight of how the process itself—how Odysseus slips into this role—is adumbrated. In a story in which Odysseus seems to be unmasking himself recklessly to his herdsman, he is also responding to a suggestion made by Eumaeus, in his invocation of the “wandering Aetolian.” In this he repeats his approach in the first Cretan Tale, where he takes a similar suggestion from Athena. Here however the stranger adopts another role on top of the Cretan one: the seducer hired by Nauplios.

This seducer, in the version followed by Lycophron, is another Cretan in the household of Idomeneus. The man who seduces Idomeneus’ wife Meda is, as Lycophron puts it, a “snake” “nursed at home” named Leukos. [184] Idomeneus had adopted Leukos and eventually promised him his daughter in marriage. When Idomeneus departed for Troy, he left Leukos in charge of affairs in Idomeneus’ palace, somewhat as the bard was to look after Klytemnestra. Eumaeus too is, of course, the guardian of Odysseus’ possessions (13.405). The fact that Leukos was raised in the house of Idomeneus brings to mind the fact that Eumaeus was brought up by Odysseus’ mother Antikleia with Odysseus’ sister (15.363). Given that Eumaeus has already revealed his own role as a messenger to Penelope, and has suggested that the charming messengers he has let through to her have had a corrosive effect on her sense of reality, listeners can include Eumaeus in their developing sense of the Idomeno-Cretan subplot. This sense will be confirmed when Eumaeus encounters Penelope in 16.338, ἄγχι παραστάς, delivering his message to her so privately that there is not even direct discourse we can hear, in contrast with the herald sent by Telemachus’ men, who has just blurted out his odd one-line message (16.337) in the midst of her maids. The contrast between Eumaeus’ intimate, discreet relationship with Penelope and the herald’s lack of tact seems to be the only reason the poet has set up this awkward simultaneous delivery of messages.

In other words, the poet has shared out the “seeds of the story” among Athena, Eumaeus, and Odysseus in Books 13–14. The rich stew of poetics and presence in Book 14 derives from the fact that the bard “shares out” this plotting to Eumaeus and Odysseus at the same moment that he “becomes” Eumaeus, and then suddenly Odysseus again, as discussed earlier. His “poetic” and “presencing” functions are revealed, as it were, to stem from a deeper part of himself that we did not know existed, as we didn’t know he “had Eumaeus in him.” Yet another doll emerges within this nest of presences in the performer, uncovering a richer poem than one in which this conspiratorial plotting takes place entirely within the world of the poem, leaving out the poet’s plotting capacities and his activity as an act-or. This hidden core of the bard’s plotting capacities having been revealed, when Eumaeus departs the scene at the end of Book 14, one can see in the retreating Eumaeus, his back to us as he heads to the pigs, the bard himself drily unimpressed [187] with the creative process just exposed, while Odysseus remains on the surface, buoyed by the thought of his next maneuver, as the serial seducer. [188] The fact that this is not exactly a novel role for Odysseus even within the plot of the Odyssey reinforces this effect. One part of the performer is pleased to be concocting the plan, while another part is unimpressed: “he was going to do that anyway. He is only as-if coming up with the plan.” It is the illusion of splitting himself into two, of locating the capacity for plotting and the “source of action” in two different places, that justly provokes the anxieties of Platonic characters about the “manyness” of the bard. [189] The splitting even finds its way into the story, when the bard, as Odysseus as Cretan, casts Eumaeus as Odysseus, and addresses him in his plea for a cloak. [190] All this happens to heighten listeners’ interest in Eumaeus. But one must not, in a rush to discuss character, glide over these dynamics of bard and character, plot and performance, poiēsis and genesis.

Eumaeus’ Autobiography

With all of this set in motion, Eumaeus himself now redeploys to quite different effect the theme of the seductive messenger in his autobiography, where a deceptive Phoenician seduces a slave in his household, Eumaeus’ nurse, and, after a year of preparing for their escape together by gathering wealth, sends her a messenger:

ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ κοίλη νηῦς ἤχθετο τοῖσι νέεσθαι,
καὶ τότ’ ἄρ’ ἄγγελον ἧκαν, ὃς ἀγγείλειε γυναικί.

But when at last the hollow ship was loaded for them to go,
just then they sent a messenger, who was to bring word to the woman.

Odyssey 15.457–458

This disturbing tale derives part of its effect from the way it recycles the theme of the woman, the deceptive Phoenician, and the poluidris messenger. Yet the effect of this story is not to ring one more change upon these themes and to condemn the woman responsible. Instead, the script brilliantly interweaves story and performance, the stories exchanged within the story-world with the presences produced in the performer, to induce a severe ethical disorientation both for the audience and, as we shall see, for Odysseus. This disorientation haunts the remainder of the poem with its ostensibly triumphalist conclusion. Such haunting is on a different level from the winking hints of a centrifugal protagonist brewing in the Cretan Tales.

Eumaeus tells his story only in response to Odysseus’ request. Odysseus (the stranger) has inquired about his own mother and father (15.347–350). Eumaeus tells Odysseus what he already knows from his visit to Hades. Eumaeus emphasizes Laertes’ wish to die, because of his grief for his absent child (he laments him, 355, as though dead) and his dead wife—which brings Eumaeus to the story of Antikleia’s own grief-induced death. This theme of parents dying out of grief for their child is important enough within Odysseus’ own story. However, since Odysseus’ return is now in progress, there is another set of parents whose grief now becomes more salient: the noble parents of the kidnapped, enslaved Eumaeus.

The shift to the matter of Eumaeus’ parents is made by a series of canny, but seemingly artless, steps. After mentioning Antikleia’s death, Eumaeus says that it used to be dear to him to go to her and “question and answer” (15.362): Antikleia played for him a role now being played by Penelope. Backing up a step in time, he reveals that Antikleia raised him together with Odysseus’ sister Ktimene. [195] Since Odysseus’ Cretan persona, though a bastard, was honored no less by his father than his legitimate children (14.203), it is awful when Eumaeus lets on that dear mistress Antikleia honored him “only a little less” (15.365) than Ktimene. Proceeding forward again in time, the two children reach hēbē: for Ktimene there is marriage and gifts; for Eumaeus there is a cloak, a chiton, and some clothes, to be sure; some sandals; and “fieldward she dispatched me. And/but she loved me [all the?] more in her heart.” (ἀγρόνδε προίαλλε· φίλει δέ με κηρόθι μᾶλλον, 15.370). Now, via the transition through time to the current mistress, Penelope, Eumaeus layers his present lack of access to mistress and palace on top of the mild banishment he received when he reached hēbē. He makes the transition through the familiar theme of the gods “increasing his work” (372), which work provides a bit of solace in the form of food and drink for himself, and of “giving to revered folk” (373), an opportunity to nod to his audience. In contrast to this mutual relationship with the gods, a different situation obtains with the current mistress of the house, which Eumaeus expresses in a curious fashion.

ἐκ δ’ ἄρα δεσποίνης οὐ μείλιχον ἔστιν ἀκοῦσαι
οὔτ’ ἔπος οὔτε τι ἔργον, ἐπεὶ κακὸν ἔμπεσεν οἴκῳ,
ἄνδρες ὑπερφίαλοι· μέγα δὲ δμῶες χατέουσιν
ἀντία δεσποίνης φάσθαι καὶ ἕκαστα πυθέσθαι
καὶ φαγέμεν πιέμεν τε, ἔπειτα δὲ καί τι φέρεσθαι
ἀγρόνδ’, οἷά τε θυμὸν ἀεὶ δμώεσσιν ἰαίνει.


And, you see, from the mistress, it is not meilichon [pleasant] to hear
either word or deed, since evil has fallen on the house,
hyperphialoi [haughty] men. Greatly do the domestics miss
talking opposite the mistress and finding everything out
and eating and drinking, and then too bringing something
fieldward [cf. 370, also initial position], such as always warms the spirit of domestics.

Odyssey 15.374–379

First of all, this lack of interaction with the queen is very odd, when we know that Eumaeus is continuously bringing messages to Penelope. On the other hand, he specifies elsewhere (14.378; see above) it is “no longer philon” to do so for him—ever since the Aetolian’s visit, whatever happened then! Here “it is not meilichon,” a word that in the context of messages seems to imply both that any message he might get from the queen might not be pleasant to hear (and meilichon itself may describe the “word or deed,” rather than the “hearing”), and that the speaker herself might no longer be “gentle,” now that hyperphialoi men have moved in.

Rather than take this obvious bait concerning the queen, however, [196] Odysseus in his reply pursues instead the pitiful implications for Eumaeus (emphasized by the repetition of ἀγρόνδ’ in the concluding verse, 379). Indeed it seems to be the first time Odysseus has ever considered the history of his host, to whose perspective he, as the Cretan, seemed so fantastically oblivious in Cretan Tale 2. He exclaims:

ὢ πόποι, ὡς ἄρα τυτθὸς ἐών, Εὔμαιε συβῶτα,
πολλὸν ἀπεπλάγχθης σῆς πατρίδος ἠδὲ τοκήων.
ἀλλ’ ἄγε μοι τόδε εἰπὲ καὶ ἀτρεκέως κατάλεξον,
ἠὲ διεπράθετο πτόλις ἀνδρῶν εὐρυάγυια,
ᾗ ἔνι ναιετάασκε πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ,
ἦ σέ γε μουνωθέντα παρ’ οἴεσιν ἢ παρὰ βουσὶν
ἄνδρες δυσμενέες νηυσὶν λάβον ἠδ’ ἐπέρασσαν
τοῦδ’ ἀνδρὸς πρὸς δώμαθ’, ὁ δ’ ἄξιον ὦνον ἔδωκε.

O popoi, how little you were, swineherd Eumaeus,
when you were driven far from your fatherland and your parents!
But come, tell me this and tally it precisely,
was it ravaged by men—the town with wide ways,
in which your father lived and your mistress mother,
or while you were alone among sheep or cattle
did hostile men take you in ships and cross you over
to the house of this man, and he gave a worthy price?

Odyssey 15.381–388

Eumaeus begins his speech with a double move, setting the scene of his own performance and the scene of the beginning of his own story, his own life. Both are isolated places of eating, drinking, and telling tales that one finds in scenes of the afterlife and of the golden age. First he sets up the space of performance as a kind of endless night. His rhythms and repetitions make clear to his audience that they are in for a long, important tale of woe that is a break from what has gone before and settle them in comfortably. His introduction forms a ring-composition (390–402) [200] focused on the idea of sleep (394 καταλέχθαι verbally echoes 383 κατάλεξον). He invites anyone whose thumos so bids them to go out to sleep (396). Meanwhile “we two” will take pleasure in drinking, eating and delighting in each other’s woes, remembering them: “for even among pains a man takes pleasure, who has suffered very much and wandered far (πολλὰ πάθῃ καὶ πόλλ’ ἐπαληθῇ)” (15.400–401). Here is the second use of this pair of words that conjure up the ideas of deception and truth. [201] The νύκτες ἀθέσφατοι he refers to in line 392, like the stormy night during which Odysseus begins his cloak tale, indicate the longest nights of the year, the nights around the winter solstice. It would seem that the festival of Apollo, the lykabas, during which the bow-contest takes place, marks the first appearance of the moon following the solstice, or perhaps the first full moon. [202] Since Eumaeus is later emphatic that he has Odysseus for “three nights” (17.515), these are perhaps three moonless nights before the new appearance of the moon. We are now in the middle of that three-night sequence. [203]

Eumaeus’ performance takes place in a winter solstice period. But Eumaeus also sets his story in a solstice—now conceived of as a place rather than a time.

νῆσός τις Συρίη κικλήσκεται, εἴ που ἀκούεις,
Ὀρτυγίης καθύπερθεν, ὅθι τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο,
οὔ τι περιπληθὴς λίην τόσον, ἀλλ’ ἀγαθὴ μέν,
εὔβοτος, εὔμηλος, οἰνοπληθής, πολύπυρος.
πείνη δ’ οὔ ποτε δῆμον ἐσέρχεται, οὐδέ τις ἄλλη
νοῦσος ἐπὶ στυγερὴ πέλεται δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν·
ἀλλ’ ὅτε γηράσκωσι πόλιν κάτα φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων,
ἐλθὼν ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων Ἀρτέμιδι ξὺν
οἷς ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ἐποιχόμενος κατέπεφνεν.
ἔνθα δύω πόλιες, δίχα δέ σφισι πάντα δέδασται·
τῇσιν δ’ ἀμφοτέρῃσι πατὴρ ἐμὸς ἐμβασίλευε,
Κτήσιος Ὀρμενίδης, ἐπιείκελος ἀθανάτοισιν.

There is a certain island called Syrie—perhaps you’ve heard of it:
above Ortygia, where are the turnings of the sun.
Not at all too populous, but good:
good for grazing, good for flocks, full of wine, lots of wheat.
Hunger never approaches the people, nor does any other
illness come around, chilling for poor mortals.
But when they get old, the tribes of folks in this city,
approaching, silver-bowed Apollo, with Artemis,
with their gentle arrows plying, put to death.
There are two cities, and every thing is divided in twain:
and of them both my father was the king,
Ktesios son of Ormenos, like to the immortals.

Odyssey 15.403–414

Eumaeus’ homeland, Syrie, is set at the τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο, “turnings of the sun” (15.404), that point on the eastern horizon where the sun rises at the winter solstice: where it “turns around” and comes north again. [
204] The fact that, elsewhere in hexameter, τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο refers only to a time [205] makes the location all the more fantastic, as does the way it is layered on top of the current point in time: the very turning of the year itself. “I am from right now, the turning-point.” This is the turning point. A setting at a point on the horizon indicates emphatically the fairy-tale nature of his home. [206] Eumaeus follows this up with golden-age imagery: the fertility and the absence of evil in Syrie, and the fact that Apollo and Artemis kill the inhabitants when they grow old with “gentle arrows.” This detail will recur in what follows. [207]

The evil that descends upon this idyllic world comes in the form of ravening Phoenicians, living up to their stereotype as “gobbling” (τρῶκται, 416) merchants who deceive women by dangling trinkets in their faces. One of the Phoenicians seduces a Phoenician slave woman in Eumaeus’ house. Eumaeus begins her story thus, clearly focusing our attention on her as a new starting point:

ἔσκε δὲ πατρὸς ἐμοῖο γυνὴ Φοίνισσ’ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ,
καλή τε μεγάλη τε καὶ ἀγλαὰ ἔργ’ εἰδυῖα·

There was in the house of my father a Phoenician woman,
beautiful and tall and knowing splendid works.

Odyssey 15.417–418

After they make love in the ship, the Phoenician asks the woman, called simply “Phoenissa,” where she is from. It turns out that she, like Eumaeus, comes from a wealthy father. She became a slave when Taphian pirates abducted her while she was coming from the field. She ends her life-story thus:

ἀλλά μ’ ἀνήρπαξαν Τάφιοι ληΐστορες ἄνδρες
ἀγρόθεν ἐρχομένην, πέρασαν δέ με δεῦρ’ ἀγαγόντες
τοῦδ’ ἀνδρὸς πρὸς δώμαθ’· ὁ δ’ ἄξιον ὦνον ἔδωκε. [= 388]

But Taphian pirate-men seized me
as I was coming from the field, and sold me, bringing me here
to the house of this man: and he gave a worthy price.

Odyssey 15.427–429

During the voyage the woman abruptly dies. Because of the insistence upon the Phoenicians’ duplicitousness, the cause of the woman’s death, struck by Artemis, seems like the product of Eumaeus’ childish fantasy. She is dumped overboard; Eumaeus poignantly says, “then I was left alone, grieving at heart” (αὐταρ ἐγὼ λιπόμην ἀκαχήμενος ἦτορ, 15.481). In this affecting line (which is also the last phrase of Odysseus’ Cretan Tale to Athena, 13.286), the nurse’s death is seen from the perspective of a toddler who does not understand he is being abducted. Eumaeus concludes:

τοὺς δ’ Ἰθάκῃ ἐπέλασσε φέρων ἄνεμός τε καὶ ὕδωρ,
ἔνθα με Λαέρτης πρίατο κτεάτεσσιν ἑοῖσιν.
οὕτω τήνδε τε γαῖαν ἐγὼν ἴδον ὀφθαλμοῖσι.

The wind and the water brought them near to Ithaka,
where Laertes bought me with his goods.
That is the way I came to see this land with my eyes.

Odyssey 15.482–484

This one slave-woman’s plight, her speech, and the extreme compression of this one line of hers, hangs over the scene as a troubling presence. In this she is close kin to the freshly widowed woman being led into slavery by Odysseus, whose grief bursts through Odysseus and the bard in Book 8, leaving no trace on Odysseus’ subsequent speech, no ripple upon his consciousness, perhaps until he asks Eumaeus for his life story. Once we the audience have been in the “you” seat to receive Phoenissa’s line, we cannot be entirely comfortable with the notion that what we are witnessing is the restoration to power of the god-blessed monarch, even though that is on the face of it how it is presented. This reaction of the audience, carefully calibrated by the poet, has not been more generally recognized because the power of the line in performance, the collapsing of spaces and times that conveys, among other things, the horrific cycle of slavery, has been overlooked, as though it were merely another repetition of a formula. [218] But, just as Odysseus constantly picks up phrases from Eumaeus and weaves them into his story, this is not the first time Eumaeus has strategically reused a line or phrase from Odysseus’ mouth. In particular, as with “and he paid a worthy price,” it is the very last word out of Odysseus’ mouth (ἀλήθην, “I wandered,” 14.118) that Eumaeus picks up at the beginning of their encounter, and develops a speech that uses the wordplay between wandering/wanderers (ἀλητεύων, ἀλῆται) and truth (ἀληθέα), cramming four forms of these words into five lines (14.122–126). [219] Eumaeus even goes so far as to take the idea of Odysseus’ being seen in Crete at Idomeneus’ palace and put it in the mouth of an Aetolian (which Aetolian is then reused by Odysseus in his Cloak Story). [220]

Eumaeus and Phoenix

An attentive reader of Chapter 2 and Interlude 1 will have realized that Eumaeus’ speech bears a resemblance to the speech of Phoenix in Iliad 9. On the level of presence, Eumaeus becoming Phoenissa is a less histrionic (less “possessed”) version of Phoenix becoming Kleopatra. Mythologically speaking (poetics/poiēsis), it is also less elaborate, in that there is no intervening woman whose constellation of stories forms a bridge between the male storyteller and the sexually charged female truth-teller he ultimately vivifies, unlike the case of Phoenix and Kleopatra, whose mother Marpessa plays such a mediating role in Phoenix’s “actorly” process. The speech of Eumaeus shows that Homeric poetry can deploy the same technique more subtly, confining his gestures to the indication of “the house of this man” as opposed to Phoenix’s banging of earth, grasping of knees, and the like.

Each speaker is a figure of subordinate status who describes, in his lengthy speech, how he came to live in the home of the hero. In fact, Odysseus, with his notion of a “worthy price,” seems to be fishing for a story along the lines of Phoenix finding sanctuary with Peleus, as though the slave Eumaeus were a kind of Phoenix, awarded an entire people to rule instead of a herd of pigs.

Each speaker presides over a turning point or threshold for the hero: Phoenix is trying to get Achilles out to the battlefield; Eumaeus provides escort for Odysseus into the palace.

The myth of the married couple Alkyone and Keux is the solstice myth par excellence: Alkyone, in the form of the alkyōn/halcyon bird, breeds at the winter solstice, during the fourteen “halcyon days” in the middle of winter storms. Eumaeus tells his story in such an environment and situates his homeland at the solstice point; he also situates Phoenissa’s death “as Zeus made the seventh day” of their voyage (15.477); her death, which is the beginning of Eumaeus’ life of slavery, comes perhaps at the midpoint of the halcyon days.

The Iliad, as we saw, integrates the theme of the solstice into the structure of Phoenix’s speech. The solstice is a turning point, a burst of fertility in the dead of winter: a return. Likewise, Phoenix approaches the center of a ring composition and finds there the compressed story of the rape of Marpessa, a coiled energy that springs forth later from the phrēn of Kleopatra. The ring composition echoes the figure of the winter solstice.

Eumaeus as Judge

Eumaeus’ status as a judge, or overseer, comes to light when he is first introduced by Athena (13.405). [240] There he is called ὑῶν ἐπίουρος. The significance of ἐπίουρος emerges at Iliad 13.450, where Zeus engenders Minos as Κρήτῃ ἐπίουρον. Eumaeus guards and protects the pigs, and then “judges well the best of the swine” for the suitors every day, and having judged it, sends it away to its death (14.108 καί σφι συῶν τὸν ἄριστον ἐῢ κρίνας ἀποπέμπω). He is then a figure, for pigs, similar to the underworld judge Rhadamanthys, whom the Phaeacians once escorted to Euboia to “look over” (ἐποψόμενον 7.324) Tityus, presumably to judge him and to escort him to his death. Warning against taking “the best of the pigs” as parody, Jamison [241] notes the association of the boar with kingship in Indian tradition, and the fact that the usual word for “pig” (σῦς / ὗς) in the Odyssey is the same as the word for “boar.” In fact, Jamison sees the large role allotted to Eumaeus “not as mere window-dressing but as a subtle underlining of the kingship theme.” [242] Aside from the bow contest itself, Jamison lists many convincing parallels within Indian myth and ritual associated with kingship for many seemingly ordinary actions in the second half of the Odyssey, including many actions taken by Eumaeus, such his sandal-making when Odysseus first sees him (14.23). As Poli points to parallels for Eumaeus’ role in the bow contest within the Iranian and Celtic traditions, so too Jamison finds a precise parallel for Eumaeus’ placing the bow in Odysseus’ hands (Odyssey 21.378–379; cf. 234–235) in Sanskrit ritual texts. [243]

And it is precisely about the value of a human life (cf. also the weighing of souls, psychostasia), about the price (ὦνος) for a human being, that Eumaeus teaches Odysseus. Eumaeus, by “becoming” the slave Phoenissa, shows Odysseus that a price paid for a human being, rather than being fair or worthy (ἄξιος), instead leads to endless attempts to right the balance. In this he is the converse of Phoenix. On the one hand, Phoenix does not want Achilles to “abandon” him by leaving Troy (cf. Eumaeus “abandoned” by Phoenissa, 15.481); on the other hand, he is attempting to stir Achilles into battle where he will risk his life. Phoenix is explicit that he would not ask Achilles to return to battle if it were not for the gifts Agamemnon is offering. The way Phoenix ends the Meleager story, papering over Meleager’s death with the statement that “he didn’t get the gifts,” emphasizes the weighing of Achilles’ life against a material value. The goods are to compensate Achilles not only for Briseis, but for risking his life. So Phoenix’s speech too, although there despite its speaker, ends by exposing the folly of compensation for human life. Both speeches, then, can be thought of as counterpoints to the comic situation in the beginning of Odyssey 13, where Odysseus is exposed as someone for whom treasure weighs more heavily than even his own life. Recall that, in Iliad 9, it is Odysseus who meticulously itemizes what Agamemnon thinks it should take for Achilles to once again risk his life.

The Apostrophes; Divine Swineherd

The apostrophes to Eumaeus and his title dios, which as we saw at the beginning of this chapter is used in tandem with dios Odysseus, have received plenty of scholarly attention. [247] The reasons given for the series of apostrophes range from metrical pressures [248] to Eumaeus’ “altruistic, loyal, sensible, vulnerable” [249] character and/or the poet’s “affection” for him. Especially fruitful is the approach of Louden, [250] for whom the apostrophes reflect Eumaeus’ role as internal audience for Odysseus. It is true that apostrophe establishes an I-thou relationship, rather than mere characterization, but there is more to be said. The apostrophes belong to the complex flow of bard-character dynamics we have been discussing; Eumaeus is more than an ideal listener. In effect, the bard as Odysseus, returning to the world of mere mortals whose perspective should be inferior, has run up against a consciousness superior to (or at least capable of judging) his own. As with our first example in Chapter 1, the apostrophes to Patroklos in Iliad 16, which are best heard as focalized through an Achilles who “bursts through” the persona of the observing bard, [251] the apostrophes to Eumaeus are a rupture of the space of performance. The turn to Eumaeus away from the audience is not merely a sign of the affection that either the bard or Odysseus feels for Eumaeus. Rather the bard registers the effect this character has had upon him, as it were—upon his “Odyssean” identity—by turning aside to address him when Odysseus first encounters him.

The first apostrophe occurs the first time Eumaeus is responding to Odysseus (14.55), once the two men have settled into the hut and Eumaeus has made a makeshift seat for the stranger. The apostrophe here “locks us in” to the scene by initiating an “I-you” relationship just as the conversation indoors begins. (This effect could be accentuated by movement and gesture in performance. “Odysseus” sits, locks eyes with the audience as his now-seated-interlocutor Eumaeus [or with Eumaeus in his mind’s eye], addresses him, locking in the moment, and then slips into Eumaeus.) Here the two men are entering into a different kind of space by entering the hut, like the ambassadors to Achilles in Iliad 9 or Achilles and Priam in Iliad 24.

There is an analogy to the use of objects in Cretan Tale 1. There the bard made a transition from his role as a bardlike Odysseus on Phaeacia to the intimate “present,” concocting a tale out of objects that hovered between himself and the audience. The intimacy was a comic one. Here the apostrophes mark an increased focus not on objects or the appearance of the interlocutor but on the interlocutor’s thoughts and speeches: monologue in an open space on the beach becomes dialogue in an intimate space. Not only do they mark such a focus, they themselves enact it. Odysseus “back” from the dead bursts through the presence of the bard into the now unfolding conversation, which is thereby enlivened.

The audience is free to hear all of the early apostrophes as prompted by affection, or by the pleasure of exchanging stories (cf. Eumaeus at 15.401). But sometimes the context suggests a more particular function for apostrophe: for instance, to make a transition between the space of story and that of performance. At 14.360, the apostrophe comes directly after Cretan Tale 2, where the yarn-spinning Odysseus, who has been recycling old stories (and, perhaps, anticipating or dreaming up his future adventures), comes abruptly back into “present” space and time in the swineherd’s hut, with the apostrophe. At 14.507, just after the Cloak Story, the bard introduces Eumaeus’ disarming revelation of the Aetolian with an apostrophe. This one thus anticipates and prepares for the “Aetolian moment.” That moment was another opportunity for the performer to pause at the brink between identities: to allow the shocked Odysseus to peek through; to split himself into two parts, one of which is outdoing the other. The apostrophes are similar moments, when the performer pauses on the brink between inside and outside the story he is telling. The apostrophe introducing the “Aetolian” speech can, thus, be played as an appreciation of the fact that Odysseus is about to be “had,” to be ambushed into thinking that he is only the latest in a series of men come to bring stories of Odysseus: bardlike men whose repertoire includes or exceeds that of the present performer, who may have been thought to be improvising an entirely fresh Tale of Odysseus before our eyes, but who is now revealed to be telling just another story.

The beauty in these apostrophes lies in the fact that they can be experienced as coming both from Odysseus’ mouth and from that of the bard: they span the two men. They also span two time periods: the time during which Odysseus addresses Eumaeus as “you,” and the time at which that encounter lies in the past. (Again, such a time period may be projected by the audience into the underworld.) Yet another way of putting this is to say that the bard here gives up his control of the narrative, ceding his identity entirely to that of his character, Odysseus. What prompts that giving over of narrative control is—is scripted as—the encounter with Eumaeus. All of this contributes to the impression of a bard who, having created a character inside of the epic for himself to become, to (together with Athena) wield his own power of narrative control and ethical superiority, has run up against another character in the fictional world who is bardically and ethically superior to himself. This is akin to the addresses to Patroklos in Iliad 16, where the bard is “as if” grieving over an event he himself has shaped or at least is responsible for narrating, but goes beyond it.

On the other hand, we have also commented on Eumaeus’ perspective as being still further “inside” the bard than Odysseus was, such that, far from being another “real presence” mysteriously encountered within a fictional world, Eumaeus was to be seen as further within the poet-performer, surprising only to the audience.


[ back ] 1. From the vast bibliography on the Odyssey’s self-consciousness or reflexivity, I have found the following particularly useful: Létoublon 1983; Goldhill 1991; Felson 1994; Segal 1983 and 1994; Doherty 1991 and 1995; Slatkin 1996; Louden 1997; Danek 1998. Its “exuberant passion for bravura narrative acrobatics”: Lowe 2000:129.

[ back ] 2. With the exception of the “intermezzo” of Book 11, which “remind[s] the external audience that the internal audience exists” (Doherty 1991:150).

[ back ] 3. Cook 1992.

[ back ] 4. Segal 1962 and 1967; Newton 1984.

[ back ] 5. E.g. Redfield 1994:37; Segal 1994: Ch. 8.

[ back ] 6. Cf. Rehm (2002: Ch. 2) on nostos and performance space in tragedy. On the “fourth wall,” see above page 45n121.

[ back ] 7. Lateiner (1995:56) writes that the second half of the Odyssey “revels in the intricacies” of spatial manipulation, even though, as I noted earlier, he is not interested in performance.

[ back ] 8. Slatkin 1996:228.

[ back ] 9. Segal 1994:164; Lowe 2000:133–134; Gainsford 2003:58; Bowie 2013:1.

[ back ] 10. Stewart 1976:87.

[ back ] 11. Fenik 1974:155 is typical: the Eumaeus episode is an anticipatory doublet of the more important conversation with Penelope; cf. Austin 1975:205.

[ back ] 12. Compare this to Penelope’s arrival at the strategem of the bow contest; the idea mysteriously arises from their conversation by a process opaque to the audience. Cf. Felson 1994:18; Levaniouk 2011: Ch. 14.

[ back ] 13. Kearns 1982; Louden 1999.

[ back ] 14. Stewart 1976:105.

[ back ] 15. Bakhtin’s terms, adapted by Peradotto (1990:53–58) for the Odyssey.

[ back ] 16. Athena’s actions here exemplify her role as manipulator of, rather than participant in, the plot, a role finding expression elsewhere in the phrase ἔνθ’ αὖτ’ ἀλλ’ ἐνόησε, which, as Bakker (1997a:181–183) explains, “effects an episode boundary in the tale, rather than an interaction between two protagonists.”

[ back ] 17. This startling mid-line scene change disorients the audience, mirroring the impact of his environment upon Odysseus himself. The repeated ἄρα manifests the strangeness, but also lifts the veil on Odysseus: here he is, after all this!

[ back ] 18. Pucci 1995:100; Goldhill 1991:6–7; David 2006:195.

[ back ] 19. This is the equivalent, for the internal “landscape” of the bard, of the shepherd, who appears one layer deeper inside the poem-world than the audience knew existed (see above, page 87).

[ back ] 20. Concise summary of various theories at Tsagalis 2012b:314n19.

[ back ] 21. Walcot 1977:10–11.

[ back ] 22. Haft (1984:305) provides a table charting the progression. Cf. de Jong 2001:596–597.

[ back ] 23. Woodhouse 1930; Reece 1994. Zenodotus reads Κρήτην for Σπάρτην at Odyssey 1.93 and 1.285, and Idomeneus for Menelaos in the latter passage (on these readings, found in the scholia to Odyssey 3.313, see S. West 1981; Tsagalis 2012b:316); the poet shows detailed knowledge of Cretan geography (Reece 1994:165). Summary of the evidence for a “Cretan Odyssey” at Tsagalis 2012b:314–316; see also Levaniouk 2012; Martin 2005; Nagy 2017.

[ back ] 24. Haft 1984:294–299.

[ back ] 25. See also Federico 1999:280–288. Lowenstam (1981:135–137), following van Brock’s (1959) interpretation of therapōn as “ritual substitute,” suggests that Odysseus is here informing the goddess that he will not be “sacrificed”: he will not serve as a therapōn.

[ back ] 26. Iliad 10.260–271; Meriones also lends him a bow. Haft 1984:296; Clay 1983:96–101; Petegorsky 1982:200. Haft and Clay note that Plutarch (Marcellus 20.3) mentions weapons dedicated to Meriones and Odysseus.

[ back ] 27. Haft 1984:296. The name “Meriones” (which the ancients connected with μηρός, “thigh”) may also have resonance with the image of Odysseus’ thighs, which increasingly become the focus of attention, reaching a climax when Eurykleia grasps them in the bathing scene (see Lowenstam 1981:138).

[ back ] 28. Haft 1984:298. The detailed links do not figure into Haft’s overall reading of the Tales (299–309) as disguises that also enact self-revelation and re-creation.

[ back ] 29. It is as though we were given the perspective of the interrogation room in the film “The Usual Suspects” instead of watching the events transpire as the protagonist narrates them. Just this constitutes the “Saturday Night Live” parody of “The Usual Suspects,” where the liar constructs his tale out of objects placed for his convenience from left to right. This illustrates one source of humor in the Cretan Tales. (In “The Usual Suspects,” we watch events of a crime unfold as narrated by one of a gang of criminals. At the end of the film, we slip into the interrogation room where the narrator has been telling the story to the police. Unbeknownst to the police and to us, the narrator has constructed the story as a bricoleur, using random objects in the room, and no part of the story actually took place.)

[ back ] 30. Danek 1998; Marks 2003 and 2008; Tsagalis 2012b.

[ back ] 31. Reece (1994:163–164) compares this to Theoclymenos’ situation and uses it as evidence that Theoclymenos is a doublet of Odysseus, even though the exile-for-homicide theme is common, as he himself admits (Reece 1994:164n10; cf. de Jong 2001:329). But the victim’s identity here sets this story apart.

[ back ] 32. Servius ad Aeneid 3.121, 3.401, and 11.264; Mythographi Vaticani I.192, II.254. On this story and related stories in the folk tradition, see Frazer’s Appendix XII to Apollodorus, “The Vow of Idomeneus.”

[ back ] 33. In at least one version (eventually fleshed out by Fénelon and adopted by Mozart’s librettist Varesco; see Starobinski 2002) appears the detail that Idomeneus must keep the vow secret from his son. Cf. 13.254–255, οὐδ’ ὅ γ’ ἀληθέα εἶπε, πάλιν δ’ ὅ γε λάζετο μῦθον / αἰεὶ ἐνὶ στήθεσσι νόον πολυκερδέα νωμῶν, “nor did he, of course, tell the truth, but being who he was, he tamped down his speech, wielding the wily mind in his chest.”

[ back ] 34. 21.113–129. Of course, in the Telegony’s version (cf. Apollodorus Epitome 7.36; Oppian Halieutica 2.497–505; Parthenius Erotica Pathemata 3), Odysseus is killed by his son: Telegonos. This is not the time to review the controversy over whether Teiresias’ prophecy that death would come to Odysseus ἐξ ἁλὸς (Odyssey 11.134–135) refers to that story. But the allegedly unhomeric spirit (e.g. Hansen 1977:45) of the story is not evidence that it is post-Homeric. It is clear that the Odyssey alludes to and recasts such “unhomeric” stories without telling them outright (Danek 1998; Marks 2003; Marks 2008; Tsagalis 2012b; Sacks 2012). It is conceivable that the confrontation on the beach in Book 13 looks forward to a confrontation with Telegonos on Ithaka, and/or “backward” to a meeting with Telemachus on Crete. This by no means precludes the argument about Odysseus and Idomeneus. If it was in the repertoire, one would also have to find room in the account for Odysseus killing his own son Euryalus (cf. Ahl and Roisman 1996:163–164), but again, we are here talking about the son of Idomeneus.

[ back ] 35. The “noble youth” is the first of Reece 1993’s list of conventional elements in a Homeric hospitality scene, and the second motif within Louden 1999’s “extended narrative pattern” that largely constitutes the Odyssey (the other two major instances being Hermes on Aiaia and Nausikaa on Scheria). Cf. Cook 1995:153 (Peisistratus, Nausikaa, Athena-as-youth). The poet has here varied that fundamental structure in a specific direction to make use of the Idomeneus story.

[ back ] 36. See the “First thing you meet” motif in Thompson 1966, and again Frazer’s Appendix XII to Apollodorus.

[ back ] 37. Lowenstam (1981:135–137) notes the D-scholiast’s (on 13.259) mention of Idomeneus’ story, but favors Meriones rather than Idomeneus as the model for the Cretan persona, remarking that “ν 265–6 preclude Idomeneus from real consideration.” Federico (1999, esp. 291–299) infers from certain details the pre-Homeric existence of the Idomeneus traditions. He believes that power struggles among Cretan cities, rather than dramatic purposes, lie behind the poem’s use of these traditions.

[ back ] 38. Pace Gantz (1993:697) and Haft (1984:299). For Federico (1999:299) this remark about the safe return with all his companions (as opposed to Odysseus) is anti-Odyssean and represents the official Knossian version of the story, while competing traditions are marked as false by their placement in the Cretan Tales. For Marks (2008: Ch. 5) Nestor’s report is part of the Odyssey’s attempt to “de-authorize stories in which Odysseus is indirectly responsible for the … seduction of [the Achaeans’] wives.”

[ back ] 39. E.g., Hoekstra in Heubeck and Hoekstra 1989:177 ad Odyssey 13.218 says the poet is here “individualizing the old folk-tale hero.” De Jong (2001:318) notes the central role of the treasure throughout lines 120–371.

[ back ] 40. De Jong (2001:324–325) notes the conspicuous use of deictic pronouns throughout this dialogue and remarks, “This brings it close to drama.” It is drama; the question is, what is the deixis good for in the performance?

[ back ] 41. Cf. Austin 1975:203.

[ back ] 42. Daitz 1991 argues for a pause at the end of each hexameter line, with the length of the pause determined by the presence or absence of enjambment (p. 156). Cf. Danek and Hagel 1995:11–12. Of course, the pause itself can be used, or lengthened, for artistic purposes.

[ back ] 43. As throughout this study, I do not mean a written “script” or even a completely fixed text, but a scenario or routine that is being unfolded. Obviously here and in Shaw there is no actual unmooring, but the impression of a strange loosening of the performer from a pre-planned performance.

[ back ] 44. The D-scholia on 13.259 φεύγω briefly recount Idomeneus’ travels, without mentioning his exile. Cf. Lowenstam 1981:135; Federico 1999:294.

[ back ] 45. Recall the description of Athena (13.222–225):

ἀνδρὶ δέμας ἐϊκυῖα νέῳ, ἐπιβώτορι μήλων,
παναπάλῳ, οἷοί τε ἀνάκτων παῖδες ἔασι,
δίπτυχον ἀμφ’ ὤμοισιν ἔχουσ’ εὐεργέα λώπην·
ποσσὶ δ’ ὑπὸ λιπαροῖσι πέδιλ’ ἔχε, χερσὶ δ’ ἄκοντα.

[ back ] 46. Walcot 1977:10.

[ back ] 47. This does not mean that the name Orsilochos does not already exist in the tradition prior to the composition of this passage (as Willcock 1977 claims of other names), perhaps even as the son of Idomeneus; the poem dramatizes the invention of such a name.

[ back ] 48. “Orsilochos” might also be heard as “ambush-jumper.” Odysseus has been ambushed by the “young man,” who then provokes the counter-ambush.

[ back ] 49. The closest parallels in early hexameter are Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 198–199 οὕνεκα/ἕνεκα, Homeric Hymn to Apollo 374/377; cf. Odyssey 11.544/549.

[ back ] 50. This phrase, as Seth Schein reminds me, is also used at Iliad 24.8 by Achilles of the suffering he shared with Patroklos, perhaps implying solemn traditional associations (funerary? as Odyssey 13.91 summarizes the hero at his moment of “as-if” death). It also occurs at Odyssey 8.183.

[ back ] 51. “As far as this pseudo-Cretan is concerned, the Trojan War was a drawn-out pirate raid and no sacred principle was at stake […]. Odysseus declares in his first lie that his dignity and his property are so tied together that any attempt either to disgrace or rob him will involve a fight to the death, and he is prepared to kill and get away with it” (Benardete 1997:108–109).

[ back ] 52. The fact that Odysseus got this particular cache not by pillage but by exploiting his own and—let’s face it—others’ pain through mythologeuein is brought out by this false assertion. Odysseus lost the actual plunder in the course of adventures bringing epic fame to him and death to his companions, only to have this trove handed to him in the course of delivering his story.

[ back ] 53. Cf. Athena’s remark κερδαλέος 291 … κέρδε’ 297; νόον πολυκερδέα, 255; Segal 1994:182. Such is Odysseus’ character; but is this particular scene with Trojan loot one more link to Idomeneus? The scholia on Callimachus’ Hymn to Zeus explain the proverb “all Cretans are liars” with reference to Idomeneus’ appropriating the greater share of Trojan spoils for himself (and presumably lying about it); see Martin 2005:12 (PDF version).

[ back ] 54. Again, Clay 1983:235. This sets up the contrast between the Cretan persona and Eumaeus in the following episode. One expects that the “enlightened” Athena and Odysseus will be aligned with the bard, looking down upon pious Eumaeus.

[ back ] 55. Cf. 13.362–365, 373, 376, where Athena urges him not to worry about the ‘that,’ but just to think about the ‘how.’ Cf. Reinhardt 1997:224 on 13.404ff.: “I do not know of any more charming transformation of a poetic plan into poetic dialogue.” See also Austin 1975:240.

[ back ] 56. 13.121, 304–305; de Jong (2001:319): this is “intended to prepare for Athena’s leading role as Odysseus’ helper in the ensuing scene.”

[ back ] 57. As imaginary “transitional” objects the loot recalls the spear of Diomedes in Iliad 6.126 discussed in Chapter 1. That scene adds another layer, since the performer may use an actual staff to bring the spear into our presence. Note that each hero is coming down from some rarified air his interlocutor cannot be expected to comprehend (for Diomedes, combat with the gods). Similar modes in similar contexts, quite different comic effects.

Given all this, it is odd that the loot may be the only real element in the tale. “Thirteen tripod-cauldrons, dating from the ninth to eighth centuries”—one for each Phaeacian king—“were found in a cave of the Nymphs at Polis Bay” (Hoekstra in Heubeck and Hoekstra 1989:177 ad 13.217–218). Whether the cave was the site of a hero cult for Odysseus within any time period associated with the Odyssey remains an open question. (A similar question arises for the nekyomanteia in Epiros.) Either a) the Odyssey is playing on such a cult, or b) worshippers of the Nymphs, or Odysseus, or someone else took the hint from the poem and put the tripods there. On the first possibility, the tripods are offerings for the hero from his worshipers, crossing the line from human to heroized dead. The Odyssey would then be replacing this boundary-crossing with another: from the au-delà of the Phaeacians, Escorts of the Dead, to the here-and-now. This would be another way that the poem plays upon the identity of the audience with those strange people: the hero would be embarrassed by the real gift of a sort we could have given him as though it were the airy figment from a world that simply stands for escort between worlds. The tripods obtrude themselves between us and the performer, despite their invisibility, instead of embodying our effort to reach over to that other shore. On the level of presence, the prop induces a comic splitting of the performer and fuels the tour de force of the first Cretan Tale. For more on the tripods, see Malkin 1998:94–119. For χρήματα as indicating treasure in a hero’s sanctuary, see Herodotus 9.116, 120; Nagy 1987:308.

[ back ] 58. Of course, during the development of this scene, the poet(s) was/were more or less improvising—virtuosically improvising an as-if improvisation—but to a lesser extent than the hero, to the extent that the scene has a definite goal and looks forward and backward to other scenes.

[ back ] 59. Winter (1995:248): “… as noted by Carpenter, the pointed references to seagoing Phoenicians who kept to their bargain and did not rob him of his personal goods effectively underscore expectations to the contrary,” citing Carpenter 1958. Winter sums up the image of the Phoenicians in the second Cretan Tale: “These traits go beyond mere description to serve a moralizing subtext, the underlying message of which is that hunger for commercial profit leads to the breaking of higher laws of social honor, punishable by divine retribution.” She notes that the Phoenicians are “not above trafficking in humans as well” (p. 249), arguing that they serve as a foil for Odysseus’ own “just” form of mētis. But Odysseus’ family partakes in precisely this human traffic, a fact whose significance will soon become apparent.

[ back ] 60. De Jong 2001:327.

[ back ] 61. Pucci 1995:169–172. To put it this way implies humor, as I believe may be at work here. But see Rose 1992:108. While we know Odysseus will eventually eat, hunger may be no laughing matter for the audience.

[ back ] 62. Perhaps the very variety of ways a scene can be exploited may lead to its being preserved or even developed in the first place. To borrow Nagy’s use of the term (Nagy 1996a: Ch. 1; cf. Zumthor 1990:203–205), the mouvance that is seeded within a given scenario, script, or routine and issued as a de facto challenge to the next performer manifests itself as variance in gesture, tone, pace, etc., rather than or alongside a variation in diction. The reason it survives in the tradition is because of its fertility: because of what one can do with it, each time.

[ back ] 63. Note that Eumaeus uses these same last words in his autobiography, 15.481. Of course Eumaeus is not present for this first Cretan Tale; nevertheless this anticipates a pattern.

[ back ] 64. Walcot 1977:9.

[ back ] 65. And affectionately caress him (χειρί τέ μιν κατέρεξεν, 288). “In both poems these words describe a stronger character caressing a weaker and dependent loved one” (Levine 1982:102).

[ back ] 66. That is not to say that the audience would suddenly regard Odysseus as a lesser being than his traditional self. On the contrary, the performer, as it were, struggling to overcome the obstacles he has placed in his own path, might create a certain charismatic or winning aura that would enfold the hero within it. But a seed has been planted that bears fruit later.

[ back ] 67. Poetics 1460a26–b5.

[ back ] 68. Wright 2004.

[ back ] 69. This “surprised to see the audience” trope is a common way of opening a modern solo performance. Nilaja Sun opens her one-woman show No Child … (Sun 2008; premiered 2006) by emerging as a janitor sweeping the stage, preoccupied and surprised to see us. I do not mean to suggest that Book 13, let alone Odysseus’ first tale, would have opened a performance session, but rather to emphasize the way in which the performer “steps forward” here.

[ back ] 70. 13.200–202 = 6.119–121; 13.201–202 = 9.175–176.

[ back ] 71. This is not to say that the tale told to the Phaeacians cannot be appreciated by an audience for its creative strategies and omissions, or, for example, for the way it reuses Argonautic myth (Clay 2002:81–83) or responds to its audience.

[ back ] 72. Of course, a given poet may have incorporated elements from his surroundings. But not like this.

[ back ] 73. Brook 1968:117.

[ back ] 74. Austin 1975.

[ back ] 75. Doherty 1995:12.

[ back ] 76. Thalmann 1998; Murnaghan 1987.

[ back ] 77. Thalmann 1998: Ch. 2; de Jong 2001:341; Segal 1994:167. Perhaps however Philoitios is meant to be a free man (Ahl and Roisman 1996:167, noting 20.222–225).

[ back ] 78. Sinos (1980:15) likens Achilles to the Kouros figure worshipped “by an analogous group of worshippers, such as initiates.” The epic tradition contains “vestiges of cult.” This suggests, but stops short of claiming, that the Iliad is in some way linked with such worship.

[ back ] 79. Adam Parry 1964.

[ back ] 80. See Doherty 1995:13. Lowe (2000:150–151), comparing Books 22–24 of the two poems: “Cheekily, the Odyssey seeks to cap the Iliad’s one-on-one showdown by vastly increasing the odds against him: the fatalistic tone of Iliad XXII, where the hero’s victory is never in doubt and sympathy lies more with his victim, gives way to a comforting sense of moral certainty and triumph over the odds … Again [in Book 24] the Odyssey seeks to improve on the Iliad by multiplying numbers and satisfying the sense of justice; again we feel the humane complexities get somewhat blunted in the process.” A triumphalist interpretation works hand in hand with the claim that the poem is replacing the “trickster” Odysseus of tradition with its own version, “deauthorizing” other traditions (e.g. Danek 1998; Marks 2003 and 2008). But see, e.g., Farron 1979–1980; Fajardo-Acosta 1990; Rose 1992; Benardete 1997; Clay 2002; Newton 2009; Schein 2016: Ch. 4 (esp. p. 54).

[ back ] 81. E.g., Thalmann 1998:57.

[ back ] 82. Thalmann 1998:57; my emphasis.

[ back ] 83. Nagler 1993. Cf. Nagler (1990:345): although the poem “rouses a twinge of horror for him as killer,” “[t]he complexity and allusiveness of references between proem and narrative, domestic and exotic, surely means the poet is dealing with something he cannot or does not want to confront directly, which is obviously that Odysseus (the ‘savior of the oikos’ …) has to kill his own retainers.”

[ back ] 84. Nagler (1993:5): “to put Odysseus against this background [of Herakles] is to say, among other things, that he is specially sanctioned to use normally illicit forms of violence.” But Herakles is among the most appalling of heroes and commits heinous crimes in his own household. Schein (2016:44) notes that Herakles belongs to the generation of heroes that Hesiod associates with “great violence” (Works and Days 148). Feeney (1991:160) remarks, on comparisons of Aeneas to Hercules: “Recent attempts to redeem Aeneas’ violence from any suspicion of anxiety miss the point of the identification with Hercules. Hercules’ outsize power and his unassimilable nature are his hallmark from the very beginning of the tradition, and these characteristics become a way of reflecting upon the unassimilable nature of the divine, and the arbitrary nature of divine power, which may always manifest itself to humans as mere violence.” This corrects the “redemptive” reading but at the same time associates Aeneas with “the unassimilable nature of the divine.” In the case of Odysseus and Herakles, the matter seems to be more troubling but less unassimilable, indeed all too similable (see below).

[ back ] 85. Said 1993:96; Fraiman 1995:812. (Fraiman’s argument here is more complex, since the slave trade in the Austen passage is in turn offering a “convenient metaphor” for the “casual import and export of Fanny Price.” Her whole essay is a valuable stimulus for students of the Odyssey.)

[ back ] 86. Schein 2016:44. Cf. pp. 50–51: “Clearly the poem expects its audiences and readers to approve of the slaughter of the Suitors, and in the end Odysseus and Telemachos get away with killing them all, thanks to the assistance and approval of the gods. On the other hand… Odysseus’ slaughter of the Suitors is introduced by the story of Herakles killing a guest in his own halls, at his own table, and stealing the guest’s property in violation of the divinely sanctioned norms of guest-friendship. According to Odysseus, Herakles offered himself in the Land of the Dead as a model for Odysseus, but in Book 8 Odysseus had already declined to associate himself as an archer with Herakles, because this hero of earlier times had competed with his bow against the gods. Yet… one of the first things said in the poem about Odysseus as an archer is that he poisons his arrows, which makes Odysseus resemble Herakles in a behaviour which, as Athene/Mentes implies, is disapproved of by the gods.” On this last passage, see Clay 2002:77–78.

[ back ] 87. See Whitman 1958:161, 261–264; Thalmann 1988; Rose 1988; Ford 1992:87; Rose 1997:162–164.

[ back ] 88. Rose 1997:163.

[ back ] 89. Or, if you like, the mode of theoxenia.

[ back ] 90. Cf. Redfield 1990:331.

[ back ] 91. Clay, while distancing herself from a post-structuralist account, writes, “One could argue that the poet from the start consistently and strikingly evokes two images of Odysseus, images familiar to his audience, and, by repeated reinforcement, keeps them both in front of us” (Clay 2002:78). Two images of Odysseus do not necessitate “two voices” in the poem.

[ back ] 92. Rose 1992: Ch. 2; quotations from p. 119. While I agree that the poem itself has these features, and that attention to performance highlights them further, I do not, as Rose does, see the poem’s dialectic as necessarily arising within a precisely defined political moment.

[ back ] 93. See Reece (1993:154) for bibliography on the “parodic” view of the Eumaeus episode; he believes “heroic” language in it is relatively insignificant. On the affection for Eumaeus, see especially Louden 1997.

[ back ] 94. Cf. Slatkin 2011:193–194 on the hiding of bios at Hesiod Works and Days 42. Wordplay between βιός, bow, and βίοτος at Odyssey 19.577–580 = 21.75–78: Ahl and Roisman 1996:237.

[ back ] 95. E.g., fr. 12 ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμβαίνουσιν ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ, where one may (and does) hear ἐμβαίνουσιν as a verb, until one reaches the end of the sentence. The sentence flows over us and becomes a different sentence, though it is we who are changing.

[ back ] 96. A similar ambiguity occurs when Penelope bids Eurykleia, νίψον σοῖο ἄνακτος ὁμήλικα (19.358). “For a fraction of a second, before ὁμήλικα joins the other members of its clause, we hear a construction that leads us to think Penelope has somehow penetrated Odysseus’ disguise and is revealing his secret” (Russo in Russo, Fernandez-Galiano, and Heubeck 1992:94 ad 19.358). Thanks to Seth Schein for the comparison.

[ back ] 97. Segal 1994:167. Bowie (2013:19) notes that the “use of such epithets of a herdsman acts as a challenge to the aristocratic monopoly on such terms elsewhere.”

[ back ] 98. Accentuated perhaps by οἰκήων. This wordplay, though subtler, should be compared with the multiple punning on “wandering” and “truth” that follows in Book 14 (see below, page 310).

[ back ] 99. Watkins (1995:101–102), on a passage (the proem to Hesiod’s Works and Days) similar enough to the present passage to be suggestive. See Watkins 1995 passim.

[ back ] 100. Heath (1985:249) similarly suggests that Hesiod warns his audience about the subtlety of the hawk-nightingale ainos in a somewhat similar fashion, with φρονέουσι καὶ αὐτοῖς (Works and Days 202).

[ back ] 101. See Collins (2004:184–191) for a discussion, using the Certamen, of enjambment and other techniques of verse-capping among rhapsodes. The riddling nature of the verses is in keeping with this practice. (Cf. Collins’ discussion of the Certamen’s (102–103) ἀμφίβολοι γνῶμαι, “ambiguous sentences.”) Obviously I do not mean that these particular verses are the actual product of such capping (i.e. a new rhapsode took over at line 4), only that they are reminiscent of the practice of competitive composers-in-performance and suggest the kind of skill learned in such competition.

[ back ] 102. Cf. 13.405, ὅς τοι ὑῶν ἐπίουρος, ὁμῶς δέ τοι ἤπια οἶδε, with Stanford’s (1996) note ad 13.404–405.

[ back ] 103. Just these two phrases end two successive lines (17.506–507) in a more conspicuously striking passage in which the narrator refers to dios Odysseus and then Penelope summons the dios huphorbos: see Scodel 2002:157–160. For Scodel, the epithet is a “puzzle” that is part of the poet’s “narrative teasing” in the second half of the poem, a puzzle solved when Eumaeus’ royal birth is revealed, and when he fights alongside Odysseus.

[ back ] 104. This intra-performer reading becomes more attractive in the light of the performer’s “becoming” Eumaeus, as examined below.

[ back ] 105. Powell 1977:37 (Powell translates differently the difficult phrase περισκέπτῳ ἐνὶ χώρῳ.).

[ back ] 106. De Jong (2001:343): “Whereas Circe’s watchdogs are wild animals behaving like domestic dogs (10.212–219), Eumaeus’ domestic dogs ‘resemble wild animals’ (21), a circumstance which adds to the danger facing Odysseus.” Eumaeus’ compound is an echo, in the “low-mimetic mode,” of Alkinoos’ palace (Segal 1994:166). On Eumaeus’ pigsties and the Cyclops’ pens, see de Jong 2001:238. Eumaeus’ house is also similar to Priam’s palace. Although Monro (1901:20 ad 14.13–16) saw this as “almost a parody of the description of Priam’s palace,” the parallel seems rather to ennoble the description (Bowie 2013:20).

[ back ] 107. Cf. Austin 1975:166–167.

[ back ] 108. For Louden (1999:52), Eumaeus and Alkinoos are multiforms of the same figure, the male that serves as conduit between Odysseus and the powerful female. These structural parallels reinforce the idea of the encounter with Eumaeus as a stage toward a more important encounter, but also obscure the links between Eumaeus and Circe.

[ back ] 109. The usual view, e.g. Segal (1994:177): “Eumaeus has the transparent simplicity of the completely straightforward, honest man.”

[ back ] 110. Thalmann 1998:36. The tradition of enigmatic language surrounding slavery does not stop with Aristotle. A similarly paradoxical passage featuring an oikonomos (who squanders rather than preserves his master’s biotos) is found in Luke 16, where Jesus unaccountably recommends, “Make to yourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness,” a passage the late Rev. Peter Gomes called an “odd, paradoxical and remarkable text” and (playfully?) counted among those he would rather were not in the Bible at all (oral presentation, September 2007). For Gomes, the “rather simple-minded solution” presented in the parable—where the text “seems as if it is saying, If you are going to serve Mammon, this is the way to do it”—suggests that the steward needed a new life and a new job. The language in Odyssey 14, Aristotle, and Luke, perhaps all part of a wisdom tradition about slavery, signals, “there is something deeply wrong here, and I am not telling you the whole story.”

[ back ] 111. See, for example, Danek 1998:285; de Jong 2001:327, 353–354.

[ back ] 112. Contrast readers for whom Eumaeus falls squarely into the Odyssey’s “optimistic,” comic mode: he has it pretty good, is content with his good master, and so on. “Eumaeus is the ideal servant, the good slave, utterly devoted to his master’s welfare. In this role of the happy slave, he justifies and reaffirms the status quo. In his case the existing social order works. It is humane, decent, and just; and under it a good and simple man prospers and finds the rewards of industry, honesty, and fidelity” (Segal 1994:167; cf. 176–177). Nagler (1996:152) writes that, unlike the Iliad, which acknowledges the awfulness of slavery, “This is not the perspective of the Odyssey, where once captured, Eumaios and Eurycleia are happily patriated, and domesticity is fully restored and valued.”

[ back ] 113. This should be added to the passages used by Roisman 1990.

[ back ] 114. Contrast Idomeneus’ speech (Chapter 1, pp. 84–85 above): in ambush itself the virtuous will stand out from the cowards.

[ back ] 115. Of course, ambush is a typical Odyssean motif. But for an audience listening to the Cretan Tales in order, the second tale can be heard as an “improvement” upon the first, and so on. An audience can appreciate the improvements as developments rather than variants.

[ back ] 116. Walcot (1977:12), citing Pitt-Rivers, thinks that the persona corresponds to modern men “forced to leave home in search of work” rather than to “professional beggars”; Odysseus pretends to the former status, denying the latter.

[ back ] 117. Notice the tedious repetition of ἀνήρ or ἀνήρ-compounds in lines 217, 218, 219, 221, 228, 230, 231 (underlined; translation arranged to emphasize the “man” at line-end and line-beginning). King 1999, situating the Cretan persona within the wisdom tradition represented by Hesiod (p. 75), argues that the persona is a caricature of Odysseus’ counter-type, the Iliadic hero (p. 83).

[ back ] 118. Cf. Works and Days 146 on the so-called “work” of the Bronze Men. I was alerted to Hesiod’s ironic use of the word by Laura Slatkin. Perhaps the ironic use of the word ergon is part of the tradition of meditating on it: on which see Slatkin 2011:188–213.

[ back ] 119. Cf. Bölte (1907:572) on the speech of Apollo to Achilles in Iliad 22.8–13. On “Have you not yet recognized that I am a god?” he comments: “Woraus schliesst Apollon das? Denn ein Schluss liegt vor, das besagt νύ. Er kann es nur aus den Mienen Achills schliessen, der allerdings recht verblüfft dareinschauen mag, als sich ihm plötzlich der Gott enthüllt … Nach einer äusseren Veranlassung der Frage zu suchen, ist nicht unbedingt nötig; die Anwesenheit Achills in diesem abgelegenen Teil der Ebene würde sie allein schon erklären. Aber nachdem wir bereits einen Beweis dafür gehabt haben, dass der Dichter die Szene dramatisch vor sich sieht, liegt doch auch hier die Annahme recht nahe, dass eine Bewegung Achills die Frage veranlasst.” This is one of the few appreciations of the actorly art of the performing poet, the potential of the script.

[ back ] 120. King 1999:76–77; Fenik 1974:159.

[ back ] 121. Cf. Ahl and Roisman 1996:162; Benardete 1997:113. This trick was carried out by Palamedes, who becomes important shortly. For Scodel (2002:15) this story is likely behind Iliad 4.350–355, when Odysseus responding to Agamemnon’s rebuke calls himself the “dear father of Telemachus,” but the allusion “works by negation” and implies that the story is not true.

[ back ] 122. Note again the difference from the reading of (for example) Marks 2003, whereby the Odyssey earnestly tries, and fails, to suppress the ignoble, extra-Homeric Odysseus. So too Scodel (2002:14–16): “the Iliad no longer works” if the audience pursues these intertexts so far that Achilles or Odysseus “become the Achilles and Odysseus of the stories from outside the epic” (p. 16).

[ back ] 123. As Sacks (2012) puts it, the poem seems to insist on the “paradox inherent in the tension between what it takes to get home and what it takes to stay there.”

[ back ] 124. Danek (1998:285): “Bestimmte Charakterzüge des ‘Kreters’ lassen an den ‘alten’ Odysseus der vorhomerischen Tradition, besonders an die ungezügelte Abenteuerlust denken; die Angabe, er habe sich nach der Rückkehr von Troia sofort zu neuen Abenteuern aufgemacht, evoziert Versionen, in denen Odysseus bald nach seiner Heimkehr Ithaka wieder verliess.”

[ back ] 125. Benardete (1997:113): “Odysseus, it seems, is looking forward to a short stay in Ithaca before he ventures forth once more; but Athena would not have had to hold back the dawn, after the killing of the suitors, if he really had so much time. Penelope will have him home, we suspect, for one day.”

[ back ] 126. On the differences between the Book 9 and Book 14 stories Emlyn-Jones (1986:6–7) comments: “In 14 Odysseus … is at pains to project himself, not as a major Homeric hero engaged in a military operation, but as someone involved in an exploit which gets out of hand. This is surely calculated to appeal to Eumaeus no less than Odysseus’ action in supplicating the Egyptian King at 276ff., and the pointed reference to Zeus Xenios in 283 drives the point home.” Cf. King 1999:76–77. But, on the ambiguities of the seemingly hardheaded Cicones episode, see Pazdernik 1995.

[ back ] 127. Walcot 1977:14; cf. Rose 1980:289 (“both have endured long wandering or permanent exile”); Segal 1994:173–174, 177; King 1999:75; Austin 1975:204; Louden 1997:111. Tsagalis (2012b:323): “as Eumaeus … is a compromised elite, so also is Odysseus’ Cretan persona.”

[ back ] 128. Notice how this papers over the rape and pillage.

[ back ] 129. Contrast line 82, on the suitors, οὐκ ὄπιδα φρονέοντες ἐνὶ φρεσὶν οὐδ’ ἐλεητύν.

[ back ] 130. Cf. 14.122 and the conversation between Penelope and the disguised Athena, 4.832–837; on “that one” in these passages see Goldhill 1991:28, 38.

[ back ] 131. It is Zeus xeinios whose wrath the Egyptian king fears, not (as might be expected) Zeus hikēsios (of the suppliant)—a nod to the present situation with Eumaeus, and recalling Eumaeus’ avowal (14.57–58) that xeinoi come from Zeus.

[ back ] 132. Notice in passing the emphasis on the year, in the context of an Eastern location, and a Φοῖνιξ who is like Circe.

[ back ] 133. Roisman 1990:225.

[ back ] 134. Cf. the similar musical-chairs hospitality in Iliad 11; see above page 226.

[ back ] 135. In this musical-chairs play the scene anticipates Eumaeus’ turning of the tables on Odysseus, on which see below.

[ back ] 136. For Danek (1998:286), the episode recalls an alternative homecoming in which Thesprotia was the penultimate stop; see also Ahl and Roisman 1996:163–164. On Odysseus’ post-homecoming adventures in Thesprotia, see Marks 2003:221–222; Marks 2008: Ch. 4.

[ back ] 137. On this piety, cf. Clay (1983:235), discussing the apostrophes. For Clay the addressee of the poem is a man like the pious Eumaeus, the only character the poet calls ‘you,’ but Homer is beyond the piety of Eumaeus and the mētis of Odysseus. While this is attractive, one can reach a similar judgment about the poet via a reading like the present one, which shows how the superiority of Eumaeus to Odysseus emerges in the course of the poem.

[ back ] 138. As with Laertes: Gainsford (2003:48) writes that the cruelty of the testing makes it seem it is being done not for Odysseus but for the sake of the audience or “for the sake of the formalized significative effect of the recognition scene.” This is to back too far away from the words. No doubt there is an inherited pattern in which the returning hero tests loyalties. But there is more going on, which can be fleshed out by attending to performance.

[ back ] 139. We are given no grounds, this early on, to think it is cannily.

[ back ] 140. Stanford 1996:221 ad 14.115.

[ back ] 141. Benardete (1997:113), on the Egyptian king’s awe at the wrath of Zeus (14.283–284) in the Cretan Tale to Eumaeus: “The criminal Odysseus claims the protection of Zeus who watches over strangers. This is perverse.”

[ back ] 142. See especially Marks 2003.

[ back ] 143. ἀμφαγάπαζον is stronger than “hosted kindly.” It is used of parents and children, and especially of Demeter and Persephone once the latter has told the former “the whole truth” (Hymn to Demeter 437; cf. 440, 291). But it is also used of men “embracing their own evil” (Works and Days 58), that is, woman, that slipshod jar of deceptions called Pandora. Such was the Aetolian.

[ back ] 144. Cf. the pregnant use of αὐτῆς at Iliad 9.562 (see above, Ch. 2, page 128).

[ back ] 145. Marks 2003:215n5.

[ back ] 146. Eumaeus uses a similar phrase to begin his autobiography at 15.401, on which see below. Cf. also 14.125–127, where Eumaeus, picking up Odysseus’ last word at 14.118, ἀλήθην, “I wandered,” links wandering (ἀλητεύων, ἀλῆται) with not telling the truth (ἀληθέα); Goldhill 1991:38; Segal 1994:179–183. Other wordplay concerning “truth”: Watkins 1995:101 on Hesiod Works and Days 10.

[ back ] 147. Recall again the general expectation of a recognition scene between Eumaeus and Odysseus: A. B. Lord 2000:180.

[ back ] 148. It is the dramatic virtue of the “Aetolian moment” that indicates it is not merely a reference to an alternative Cretan Odyssey, to be condemned because not conforming to the Panhellenic Odyssey (Marks 2003). In some sense it may be true that “the rumor reported by Eumaeus in 14.379–385 makes sense only if Odysseus did actually pass from Crete in an earlier version of his nostos” (Tsagalis 2012b:317, citing West 1981:171). But the very nonsensical or, as I would put it, shocking quality of the rumor makes dramatic sense, whether the audience attributes the rumor to Eumaeus’ cunning or not or (as I would prefer) is left in doubt.

[ back ] 149. That a performer would do so is indicated too by the fact that Odysseus incorporates an “Aetolian” into his Cloak Story that immediately follows; see below. Any pause before he launches into this story will give the audience a chance to “see the wheels turning” in his mind as he picks up the ingredients for his bricolage. Such between-speech head-scratching would be expected for an audience used to performers capping one another, although just here it seems unlikely that a new performer would take over as the speaker changes, both because of the speeches’ length and because some of the dynamics within a single performer would be lost. The script here may be inspired by relay delivery, rather than scripting an actual rhapsodic hand-off.

[ back ] 150. See n42 above.

[ back ] 151. That is why there are professional standup comics and solo performers, as well as professional singers of a charismatic stamp. The movement from being, at root, one character, to being another is clearly illustrated by solo song lyrics involving two characters, one of whom addresses the other only to be taken over by him. For a familiar contemporary example, Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” clearly registers such a shift in ‘voice’ not on the page but in performance. Hendrix does not modulate the timbre of his voice. Rather the energy of the song (instantiated in volume, “gestures” on the guitar, etc.) drifts, such that the song more and more seems to be coming from the homicidal Joe, rather than from Joe’s alarmed companion, who begins the song. As Hendrix becomes Joe, so does the bard become Eumaeus, a movement not completed until Eumaeus’ autobiography. Like the Odyssey, “Hey Joe” would have been banned from Socrates’ interlocutors’ ideal city, for its untraceable causes inducing the possession by “Joe.” A similar, but less disturbing, possession comes about in Sappho’s poem to Aphrodite (although as with Hendrix the music may have made all the difference). Contrast the Protean Anna Deveare Smith (imitative of “all sorts”), less disturbing from a Republic perspective.

[ back ] 152. There is also a potential for a higher-stakes performance which would be more difficult: that Odysseus is suddenly felt to be fictional: “Then who am I?” This would be even more vertiginous, more charismatic, than the “baffled bard” interpretation.

[ back ] 153. Bölte 1907:573.

[ back ] 154. See the next section, on the role of this figure in the Nauplios story.

[ back ] 155. Minchin 1992 discusses how Eumaeus’ story surprises the audience in a general way, because it turns out Eumaeus is noble by birth.

[ back ] 156. Particularly instructive on the Cloak Story are Nagy 1979:235–238; Lowe 2000:145–147; Marks 2003.

[ back ] 157. Brennan (1987:3) notes that the adjective form of Aitolios is used only here, and that the only mention of Thoas in the Odyssey is in the cloak story, and concludes: “Odysseus, therefore, is almost certainly exploiting Eumaeus’ deception by the Aetolian; the Thoas-story can be regarded as a sort of ‘ethnic joke’ which makes the swineherd drop his guard.” Marks (2003:214) notes that Thoas and this Aetolian are the only Aetolians in the Odyssey. For Marks (p. 222 and passim), the lying Aetolian is a mouthpiece through which the Odyssey signals to the audience that certain stories are untrustworthy.

[ back ] 158. A gesture taking in both settings could make clear that Odysseus is taking his cue from his surroundings to weave the ambush story—and perhaps enjoying his own cleverness in doing so.

[ back ] 159. Marks 2003:212.

[ back ] 160. This itself raises intertextual questions that cannot be dealt with here. The connections between Iliad and Odyssey here as elsewhere are so entangled that we suspect mutual interaction such as Pucci 1995 describes. Marks (2003:212) comments that this connection in Iliad 13 shows the influence of the geography of the Catalogue of Ships on the narrative. The Catalogue order is Ithaka, Aetolia, Crete.

[ back ] 161. OCT Ilias Parva VIII (Σ Lycophron Alexandra 780); fuller version in Bernabé fr. 7, n. 9. For Marks (2003:212) the Odyssey is here fending off extra-Odyssean traditions about Odysseus.

[ back ] 162. According to one story, Odysseus takes refuge with Thoas in Aetolia after the slaughter of the suitors, marries his daughter, fathers a child, and dies (Apollodorus Epitome 7.40; see Marks 2003:217).

[ back ] 163. See the sensitive reading of King 1999:91n65.

[ back ] 164. Marks 2003:216 and n18. For Marks, Eumaeus appreciates the poetic justice of the victim being an Aetolian, and that is the “special meaning” he acknowledges.

[ back ] 165. Felson (1994:22): “Eumaios arranges the interview at the hearth by shuttling back and forth between Penelope and the stranger, as if arranging a tryst.”

[ back ] 166. 17.513–520. The extravagant simile comparing the Stranger to a bard begins with “a man gazing upon a bard,” inviting Penelope to take the role of the one gazing. Despite Eumaeus’ aversion to charming strangers, he praises the Stranger precisely because “he would charm you.”

[ back ] 167. Σ Orestes 432; the story was probably told in Aeschylus’ Palamedes and Sophocles’ Nauplios Katapleon and/or Nauplios Pyrkaeus (Gantz 1993:606–607).

[ back ] 168. Lycophron 1216–1224; Apollodorus Epitome 6.9.

[ back ] 169. Might this incident be alluded to at Iliad 5.412–415?

[ back ] 170. Apollodorus Epitome 6.9; Lycophron 1093–1095, 1214–1225 with Tzetzes’ scholia; Hyginus 117. Sommerstein (2000:126n18) suggests that these events were referred to in Aeschylus’ Palamedes.

[ back ] 171. However, Σ Lycophron 1093, amidst the list of wives seduced, includes καὶ ἐν Ἰθάκῃ δὲ τοὺς μνηστῆρας παρεσκεύασε συναχθῆναι, “and in Ithaka he contrived that the suitors be gathered.” In another version (Σ Odyssey 4.797; see Levaniouk 1999:126) Nauplios deals more directly with Penelope, throwing her into the sea—where she is saved by the pēnelopes, hence her name. (He also, according to one version, caused the suicide of Odysseus’ mother by sending false news of his death: Σ Odyssey 11.197, 202.)

[ back ] 172. Lycophron 1093–1095; 1219 “weaving hate with lying devices”; Dictys Cretensis 5.2; Hyginus 117. Gantz 1993:607.

[ back ] 173. For Federico (1999:295n108), Aithon (“shining”) fits with the set of names associated with the kingship of Crete that recall astral models.

[ back ] 174. Levaniouk 2000.

[ back ] 175. Or, “in his sleep, he had seen Minerva urging him that …” (in quiete vidisse se Minervam suaden-tem …).

[ back ] 176. Scodel 1980:53.

[ back ] 177. Very brief mention at Pausanias 10.31.2 (= Cypria fr. 21 Allen).

[ back ] 178. Stesichorus makes Palamedes the inventor of the alphabet (fr. 213 PMG), which makes plausible that the letter version of Palamedes’ death goes back to the early sixth century. In any case, a letter is not required for the gold to be planted and “discovered” under his tent.

[ back ] 179. That the Cloak Story alludes to some story in the poetic repertoire would be consistent with Nagy’s treatment of the Cloak Story as ainos, and as epos (cf. 14.466) in the sense of “poetic utterance” (Nagy 1979:236). Richard Sacks, in an oral presentation at the University of Chicago in 2003, made rich suggestions about how the Odyssey may be taking up earlier stories about the Thesprotians and about Palamedes.

[ back ] 180. Virgil Aeneid 2.261–262; Hyginus Fabulae 108; Quintus Smyrnaeus 12.318. Marks (2003:212 with n10) suggests this may have been the case in the Ilias parva or another Cyclic epic.

[ back ] 181. As noted there, this is the technique Plato imitates in his use of the Iliad opening.

[ back ] 182. The Cloak Story and the Trojan Horse story use the beginnings and endings, or stitchings, of story in this very specific way involving performance and identity. This technique, if one may call it that, is from one point of view a species of the “topical poetic” of the poetic performances in Odyssey 8, discussed by Ford (1992:112–114) and also exemplified by the Iliad’s use of stories from the beginning and ending of the war (see especially Kullmann 1960:227–357, 365–368). Ford’s suggestion that this reflects competitive performance practices is plausible. In the case of the cluster of stories worked through by Odysseus and Eumaeus, we can see the agonistic roots within the dramatic situation itself rather than in an actual poetic competition. The projection of poetic competition adds a dimension to the ongoing performance that could vary depending on how it was played by the performer. Rather than a species of the topical poetic, it is a play upon it.

[ back ] 183. On the detailed parallels between the Horse story and the second half of the Odyssey, see Andersen 1977.

[ back ] 184. Lycophron 1216–1224.

[ back ] 185. On the other hand, the humor of the image reinforces the idea of Eumaeus continuously filtering outside messengers through his hut and escorting them to the queen.

[ back ] 186. Recall once again Ford’s (1992:112–114) “topical poetic.”

[ back ] 187. As Bowie (2013 ad 14.481) observes, following Minchin 2007, the Cloak Story might “win over the herdsmen, who could feel amusedly superior to this self-styled Trojan warrior who did not know how to behave in the cold in which they spent much of their lives.” If the story sounds like someone who has been drinking (Bowie 2013:223), that further sets up the split. Indeed, if the last lines (503–506; see Bowie 2013 ad loc.) are “crude” and “spoil the effect of Odysseus’ speech,” it may be better not to follow the Alexandrian editors in athetizing them, so that they set up Eumaeus’ response.

[ back ] 188. One of several actorly alternatives; the script is a rich mine. The richness is not diminished by the fact that Eumaeus’ retreat is described by the performer as narrator.

[ back ] 189. Recall the discussion in the Introduction of the opening of the Iliad and Plato’s use of that example in the Republic, and his use of the Theoclymenos example in the Ion.

[ back ] 190. 14.503–506. This address of Eumaeus as Odysseus seems to be a culmination of the “musical chairs” type of play at work here between master and slave. At once Odysseus casts Eumaeus as Odysseus, the bard plays with which character he “is,” and the bard casts his Odyssean identity into the audience (his addressee).

[ back ] 191. For a different conflict of plot-types at the end of the Odyssey, see Felson 1994 and Felson 1996:165: the Odyssey assigns Penelope “roles in two incompatible types of plot: in BRIDE-CONTEST and MARRIAGE-AVOIDANCE.”

[ back ] 192. 20.88–90. Penelope dreams of someone who is the eikelos of Odysseus, while the stranger himself looks just about how Odysseus must look, since misfortunes age mortals quickly (19.358–360); Eurykleia has never seen anyone who looked and sounded so much like Odysseus (19.379–381).

[ back ] 193. Felson 1994; Murnaghan 1987; Katz 1991.

[ back ] 194. She assures the Phoenicians the clever toddler will sell for μυρίον ὦνον, “an exorbitant price,” 452.

[ back ] 195. This is the only time we hear of Odysseus’ sister in the poem, which otherwise emphasizes the single male line Laertes-Odysseus-Telemachus.

[ back ] 196. Another moment to imagine performance. Nothing extraordinary need be done, but the performer may pause while the audience wonders whether he, becoming Odysseus (or receding back into Odysseus), will pursue the bait. Instead he realizes, at long last, the humanity of his interlocutor: he has parents and a past. This through-line can be fruitful for performance whether or not we imagine the actual Odysseus already knew (and incorporated into his own Tale) Eumaeus’ story.

[ back ] 197. Ahl and Roisman 1996:185; cf. Bakker 2005:78, citing Iliad 19.140, and p. 82 on Hesiod Theogony 24 τόνδε δέ με, “this-here me.”

[ back ] 198. Louden (1997:101 with n42) notes that several commentators assume Odysseus’ prior knowledge of Eumaeus’ autobiography and even suggest that he modeled his own story, which is of course given first, upon it.

[ back ] 199. 15.429; cf. Odyssey 20.383, ὅθεν κέ τοι ἄξιον ἄλφοι, “which would fetch a worthy sum for you.”

[ back ] 200. See Hoekstra in Heubeck and Hoekstra 1989 ad loc. A ἀνείρεαι ἠδὲ μετάλλᾷς (390) B delight (391) C drink (391) X sleep (392–396) Cʹ drink (398) Bʹ delight (399–401) Aʹ ἀνείρεαι ἠδὲ μετάλλᾷς (402).

[ back ] 201. Cf. above on 14.362, ὅσα δὴ πάθες ἠδ’ ὅσ’ ἀλήθης, “as much as you’ve suffered and as much as you’ve wandered.” The pun admittedly works better in the present verse, where α precedes πάθῃ.

[ back ] 202. The essential discussion is Austin 1975:245.

[ back ] 203. Cf. page 192 with Figure 14 above on the embassy occupying the calendrical center of the Iliad, with one month preceding and following. Taplin (1992:19, 29–30 and passim) hypothesizes that the Iliad was created to be performed over the course of three nights, whereas the Odyssey splits into two parts, which, he says, might count against his theory (p. 19). Yet this mention of three nights, in the context of telling stories, seems to fit with a three-day scheme. Simply dividing the Odyssey into three parts of eight books each, the Book 15 story comes near the end of the middle night. On the dovetailing between hero and bard with respect to performance time in African epic performance, see Martin 1989:234. On the “three days” motif in tragedy and ritual, see Buxton 2003:176–177.

[ back ] 204. So Hoekstra in Heubeck and Hoekstra 1989 ad loc.; Levaniouk 2011:314–315. Contra, Kirk, Raven and Schofield 1983:52–54 and n3 (citing Lorimer), who believe the phrase indicates the direction from which the sun rises at the summer solstice.

[ back ] 205. Works and Days 564, 663 (line-end); Works and Days 479 (mid-line).

[ back ] 206. On Syrie as a paradise, see Louden 1999:54 with n23; Segal 1994:170. Levaniouk (2011:313–315) notes the connection of “Ortygia” (15.404) with Artemis and especially her killing of Orion with “gentle arrows” (Odyssey 5.125–126), a passage resonating with the description of Syrie, with Artemis’ killing of Eumaeus’ nurse, and also with Idas’ abduction of Marpessa, from (according to Simonides, PMG 563) Ortygia.

[ back ] 207. Eumaeus’ father “Ktesios Ormenides” is reminiscent of a “lord of death” figure: Heckenlively 2007. For other work on comparative mythology bearing on Eumaeus, see below.

[ back ] 208. 13.289, which many scholars (e.g. Stanford 1996 ad loc.) take to be Athena’s “authentic” or “normal” appearance. It is this Athena who has sent Odysseus to Eumaeus to ask him “everything” (13.411). One hesitates to credit Athena with this intervention of Eumaeus, but there is the line. Eumaeus then would ventriloquize (see below) an Athena-like figure (or, perhaps, vice versa) in the course of telling Odysseus “everything.” On this appearance of Athena, see Pucci 1995:105–108, with bibliography on the question of “authenticity.”

[ back ] 209. Cf. Segal 1994:171–172. Contrast Benardete 1997:118.

[ back ] 210. Let the reader perform the speech, with its antecedents, for an audience, and try to contain the power of Eumaeus launching Odysseus’ line into the mouth of this slave woman.

[ back ] 211. If the poem is performed by a bard for a wealthy patron, the screw is turned once again. Cf. the Sirat Bani Hilal poets focusing criticism on their despised patrons (Reynolds 1995, esp. 74–87).

[ back ] 212. Cf. Louden 1997:111.

[ back ] 213. The phrase τήνδε τε γαῖαν does occur also at 13.238; for Hoekstra in Heubeck and Hoekstra 1989 ad loc. following Ruijgh the τε is a mere “metrical stop-gap.”

[ back ] 214. Eumaeus, whose name brings him into connection with his nurse, is structurally in the position of Leukos, who kills the wife and child of Idomeneus; meanwhile both men are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Telemachus.

[ back ] 215. In Celtic tradition “the guise adopted by the Lord of the Otherworld Feast was that of a man carrying a pig, in effect a swineherd” (Chatháin 1979/1980:201 with n6).

[ back ] 216. Hankey notes (1985:32) that the last time Eumaeus is apostrophized is in the introduction to these mocking words, 22.194.

[ back ] 217. There is a parallel to the “presentification” and withdrawal of Eumaeus in Thompson’s (1999:190) discussion of the novels of Iris Murdoch and their similarity to Platonic dialogue: “Readers of The Book and the Brotherhood … may be chastened at the eventual realization that they have cast off all of the characters they had been identifying with throughout the tale, whereas the good character perished before anyone fathomed his presence.” In the Odyssey, the good character, Eumaeus, continues to be present while failing to evince his superior qualities. For Thompson, Murdoch “thwarts our inclination for easy identification with her characters” and “spurns the solace of the bardic poet.” Plato and Murdoch provide a dialectic unavailable in Homer, who exemplifies the “easy read” (p. 196). But the present episode is not an “easy read” or an “easy listen”; I suggested in the Introduction that Plato did not hold this view of Homer either.

[ back ] 218. The line is not heard outside of these two instances. Pucci’s 1995 “Afterword” is a brief overview of the variety of ways Homeric repetitions are meaningful. His example of Thetis calling Achilles ὠκύμορος “swift-fated” (1.417) a few lines after Achilles’ epithet πόδας ὠκύς “swift-footed” is heard can serve as an example of a formula being used for ēthopoiia (on which see Martin 1989). As Thetis picks up Achilles’ epithet, so does Eumaeus pick up Odysseus’ last line and incorporate it. A. B. Lord (2000:180) remarks that Eumaeus’ story “should be part of a recognition scene between Eumaeus and Odysseus … We have examples in the Yugoslav material in which the recounting of how someone came to know the hero … is part of a recognition theme leading to the question, ‘By what means would you recognize him if he were to appear?’ Eumaeus’ tale, then, may be a fragment of a recognition scene that is never completed, but is attracted to this position because such a scene is expected here.”

[ back ] 219. This punning is characteristic of poetic competitions; see below.

[ back ] 220. As noted above, the last phrase of Odysseus’ first Cretan tale ends with the phrase αὐταρ ἐγὼ λιπόμην ἀκαχήμενος ἦτορ, “But I was left behind, grieving at heart,” which, like the “and he paid a worthy price” line, also finds its way into Eumaeus’ story (15.481) with a transformed effect. Of course, Eumaeus was not present for the first Cretan tale. But since it otherwise fits the pattern of the two men riffing off one another’s speeches, it belongs somewhere along the spectrum of responsive echoes; see below n224.

[ back ] 221. Collins 2004.

[ back ] 222. Collins 2004, esp. 194–195.

[ back ] 223. Martin 1989:188n71.

[ back ] 224. Another example of one character “throwing back” another character’s words at him after a long delay is Diomedes in Iliad 9.33 throwing Agamemnon’s “as is fitting” (2.73); Martin 1989:24. Into a similar category goes Odysseus’ omission of the last lines of Agamemnon’s speech in his verbatim report to Achilles, and Achilles’ suspicious response to this (9.312–313), despite not hearing Agamemnon; Nagy 1979:52. Cf. the two conversations between Athena and Zeus in Books 1 and 5 of the Odyssey when Athena is reminding Zeus about Odysseus, on which see Segal 1994:124. Zeus repeats a line from the earlier conversation (5.22=1.64), but omits the line that followed, about forgetting Odysseus. That line, however, is recalled by Athena, who reshapes the line, substituting memory for forgetting (5.11, 1.65). There is then a spectrum running from one speech that directly responds to another (Martin 1989:156n28, citing Lohmann 1970:131–182), to delayed responses such as Diomedes’ to Agamemnon, to echoes of the last line of a speech by a character who did not witness that speech. The fact of traditional formulaic diction does not mean that we should only pay attention to echoes at the most obvious end of the spectrum, even though we will not all agree which examples belong at the other end as opposed to being insignificant (cf. the complaint of R. Friedrich [2011:279] that Achilles did not hear Agamemnon’s speech). On Homeric cross-referencing more generally, see Nagy 2003:7–19, especially p. 16: any “cross-reference that we admire in our two-dimensional text did not just happen one time in performance, but presumably countless times in countless reperformances within the three-dimensional continuum of a specialized oral tradition.” The capping practices discussed by Collins 2004 entail that the ancient audience would generally be more, not less, attuned to such throwing-back of words than we are. For another rich example of a responsive speech with significant variation, see Pucci 1993 on Achilles’ lament as a response to Briseis’. See also Martin 2000.

[ back ] 225. Edwards 1987b.

[ back ] 226. Scodel (2002:155–172) pairs Eumaeus and Phoenix as “outstanding instances of the rhetorics of traditionality and inclusion.” The way these characters are introduced in the poem produces a puzzle for the listener, which is then solved in the course of the story and produces certain effects.

[ back ] 227. Etymologically, Eumaeus’ name seems to refer to this role. Cf. Peradotto 1990:107.

[ back ] 228. Rose 1980:296n28, citing Chantraine 1968–1980, ἄττα: “… Le sens originel pourrait être ‘père nourricier.’”

[ back ] 229. Both women undermine Odysseus, since Phoenix shares the mission of the city-sacker in Iliad 9. And both truths concern slavery—though Kleopatra also includes the killing of men and the burning of a city.

[ back ] 230. See above, page 207n39.

[ back ] 231. See Chapter 2, page 139, on the version of the story in which Keux dies in a shipwreck. This simile of the kēx to describe Phoenissa’s dying at sea and being dumped overboard perhaps refers to this version of the story. Of course, the mere reference to the kēx may not be enough to trigger the story; it is when we see how it falls into the overall parallel between Eumaeus and Phoenix, and the overarching patterns of Phoenix’s speech, that this reference takes on meaning. Levaniouk (2011:315) mentions the kēx simile in the course of discussing the solar myths in the second half of the Odyssey; she also links it to the myth of Idas and Marpessa.

[ back ] 232. Flaumenhaft 1982; Kearns 1982; Austin 1975; Frame 1978.

[ back ] 233. Cook 1995:146.

[ back ] 234. Levaniouk 2008, after acknowledging the theory that the festival of Apollo within the poem is a New Year festival (p. 29), cites the indications of spring noted by Austin, and mentions the return of Apollo to Delphi in early spring (p. 33). See Levaniouk’s (2011:15–16) sensible discussion of the Odyssey’s relation to New Year and solar myth complexes. Levaniouk 2011 is focused on the mythological resonances between Odyssey 19–20 (along with the bird-mythology associated with Penelope) and the festival of Apollo within the poem.

[ back ] 235. The association between Odysseus and the returning sun is clear. But there may also be a connection to the phoenix-bird in particular (single male line, etc.). I do not recall an ancient text that makes the connection, but in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Penelope calls Ulysses her Phoenix.

Illustratevi, o Cieli,
rinfioratevi, o prati!
Aure, gioite!
Gli augelletti cantando,
i rivi mormorando
or si rallegrino!
Quell’erbe verdeggianti,
quell’onde sussurranti,
or si consolino!
Già ch’è sorta felice,
dal cenere troian,
la mia Fenice!

For the analogous association between Odysseus/Penelope and Alkyone/Keux, see Levaniouk 1999 and 2011: Ch. 17.

[ back ] 236. Scodel (2002:172) makes a similar point about Eumaeus, based on the puzzle created initially by his epithet and the way he is introduced. The poet “accents the disjunction between the heroic stature of Eumaeus … and his actual social position … The poet … places Eumaeus firmly within the tradition. By implying that everyone knows this story already, the poet avoids responsibility for it and declines to draw any moral for the real world. By distancing the implications of the character from himself, he makes the potential message even more powerful, for its authority is not his but the tradition’s. He also reduces the danger of offending elite members of the audience. The bard’s work is a continual exercise in discretion.”

[ back ] 237. In this they are akin to Thersites (“the only person who speaks honestly in [the assembly] is Thersites, the incarnation of the ugly truth,” Whitman 1958:261), who still sometimes has trouble getting heard.

[ back ] 238. See Interlude 1. A. B. Lord (2000:186) notes the parallel function of contests or games in the respective withdrawal/devastation/return plots of the two poems.

[ back ] 239. Poli 1984, 1992.

[ back ] 240. This line is repeated at 15.39, in the corresponding speech of Athena to Telemachus.

[ back ] 241. Jamison 1999:267–268.

[ back ] 242. Jamison 1999:267.

[ back ] 243. “Exactly as the Adhvaryu priest hands the bow to the king at his consecration, so does the faithful acolyte of Odysseus confer his token of kingship on his still-disguised lord with a physical gesture denied to the other contenders” (Jamison 1999:262).

[ back ] 244. In Gilgamesh Tablet 11, Gilgamesh is told he may attain immortality if he can stay awake for seven days. Instead the hero falls asleep instantly, sleeping through all seven days, and is shown loaves of bread in varying states of decay that indicate the number of days he has been asleep. Cf. Psalm 90.

[ back ] 245. It is worth comparing the effect here to the emergence of Patroklos in Iliad 16, discussed in the previous chapter. Although in the case of Eumaeus there is a full emergence in speech of a new consciousness in Eumaeus, there is still a slight relationship to the case of the half-present Patroklos, haunting the gate that is the bard’s body, in that the audience may think, in both cases, that they have already witnessed the emergence of the character that the performer most “is,” the character really “there” in his depths—Odysseus because of Odyssey 9–12, and Achilles because of his speech in Iliad 9. The further depth revealed in Eumaeus differs from that revealed through Patroklos, of course, and these two chapters are laying out each separately lest all this be relegated to a single “technique.” But the similarity should not be entirely overlooked, in case it can help see further the quality of the presence in each case.

[ back ] 246. See Frame 1978:6–12 on the connection between asmenos and neomai/nostos. I have over-translated it to suit the context.

[ back ] 247. Parry 1972; Block 1982; Richardson 1990:170–174; Martin 1993:239; Kahane 1994; Louden 1997; Benardete 1997:120–124, 130; Scodel 2002:157–159.

[ back ] 248. Matthews 1980; Reece 1993:152 with bibliography in n8; Mackay 2001:17.

[ back ] 249. Parry 1972:21. Reece (1993:152 with n7) notes that the ancient scholia tended toward this view.

[ back ] 250. Louden 1997. Louden (p. 109) notes the difference made by oral performance: “the bard’s direct address to Eumaios embodies direct address to the external audience in performance”; p. 110, “We, as Eumaios, are the present hosts of Odysseus.” Cf. Richardson 1990:174. Martin 1993:239 interprets the apostrophes as focalized by Telemachus, rather than Odysseus.

[ back ] 251. See above, pages 55–57.

[ back ] 252. After a sensitive reading of the apostrophes to Menelaos and Patroklos, Parry (1972:20–21) remarks that “there is less to say” about the apostrophes to Eumaeus; the “fact that they are used over and over” makes them seem “little more than a reflex.” Cf. Mackay (2001:17–18): in the Odyssey “we are clearly encountering a fossilised formula which will likely have been somewhat emptied of its apostrophic impact through repetition.”

[ back ] 253. Cf. Russo in Russo, Fernandez-Galiano and Heubeck 1992 ad 17.272.

[ back ] 254. Recall from Chapter 3 the concurrence between reanimating Achilles and drawing him out of his tent to re-witness the death of Patroklos; his tent is figured as a death-realm of inaction (and later, overtly, as the house of Hades) as he is already a hero of cult.

[ back ] 255. 15.351, 15.389, 16.36, 17.184. On Plato’s allusion to this phrase in the Statesman, in a way that “hints at Eumaeus’s importance,” see Benardete 1997:120–121.

[ back ] 256. Cf. Plato Republic 577a.