The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance in the Iliad

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Chatper 5. The Expansion Aesthetic

{206} The changes made in formulaic patterns by the addition of words, or by melding with other patterns, can be seen at a number of points in Achilles’ longest speech. I shall concentrate on a few groups of lines that offer the best examples of the technique. Then, the expansions can be related to the rhetoric of the speech as a whole and, finally, to Homer’s overall purposes in the poem.

As we have seen already, the topic of persuasion recurs often in Achilles’ reply to Odysseus. The phrase oude me peisei (9.345) emerged in my analysis as one instance of a significantly altered pattern. Not only was it shown to be “deviant” by virtue of the person used (third versus second person); the sequence of elements that accompanies the formula when used by other speakers was shown to be varied in Achilles’ speech, and the sheer distance between the elements was seen to be an innovation. We can now put alongside this change in pattern another expansion, also related to the topic of rhetoric in this speech. Achilles’ entire discourse at 9.308-429 is actually divided into four sections by the recurrent references to persuasion: lines 308—15 work up to the topic; 316—45 then form a ring-composition within the speech, with Achilles asserting that he will not be persuaded, explaining his reasons, and then repeating his position. The section from line 346 to 386 represents a new stage in his argument, in which he directs his attention toward the future, rather than the past, and makes the threat to sail next morning. A break comes at 386-87 when Achilles switches the topic, from the refusal of Agamemnon’s gifts to the turning away of the marriage proposal: {206|207} these are highly marked lines, as well, since they finally cap the long list of impossibilities with a seemingly concrete condition on which Agamemnon might persuade him—one that turns out to be an impossible demand. This memorable couplet attracted Adam Parry’s attention for good reason: I would only point out that a good part of its power comes from the repetition, for the third time, of the topic of persuasion.

οὐδέ κεν ὧς ἔτι θυμὸν ἐμὸν πείσει’ Ἀγαμέμνων
“Not even thus might Agamemnon yet persuade my spirit.”

The section following line 387 comprises the climax of Achilles’ threefold denial, ending significantly with the promise that Achilles will not use force to keep Phoinix in his tent. Once more, the implicit contrast is between Agamemnon and Achilles, as I have already indicated: the latter, we know, will use persuasion, and, as he has shown by this very speech, will inevitably use it to good effect.

When “persuasion” is referred to for the first time in the speech, Achilles’ phrasing, οὔτ’ ἔμεγ’ Ἀτρείδην Ἀγαμέμνονα πείσεμεν οἴω (315), has a particular resonance within the Iliad. He uses a variant of a formula containing the middle-passive, πείθεσθαι οἴω. (The latter may be an older formula, considering the absence of contraction in οἴω.) It is this latter formula that Agamemnon used to describe Achilles, at 1.287-89:

“But this man wishes to be beyond all the rest,
to rule all he wishes, to order all, to give all
signals—which I think will not be obeyed.”

Although Agamemnon ostensibly addressed these words to Nestor, Achilles takes the speech as a challenge, when he tosses back the same phrase at 1.295-96:

“Order these things to others, not to me
should you give signals. For I do not think to obey you further.”

Whereas Agamemnon had foreseen a general lack of confidence in Achilles’ commands, Achilles specifies another sort of revolt, emphasizing his words with strategically placed personal pronouns: “I do {207|208} not expect to obey/be persuaded by you egōge/soi).” When the formula occurs a third time in Book 1, we must hear it with the previous exchange in mind. This time, persuasion will work (though with unforeseen consequences) as Thetis concludes at the end of her consolation to Achilles (1.426-27):

“And then for you I will go to Zeus’ bronze-floored
house, and supplicate him, and I think he will obey. “

Returning to Achilles’ phrase at 9.315 with this earlier run of formulas in mind, we see at once that Achilles’ words subtly vary the emphasis of this phrase while retaining its meaning. Instead of focusing on himself as actor, he puts the burden of persuasion on Agamemnon: “Me he will not sway I expect” (with the Greek word-order retained to reproduce the effect). Furthermore, the next lines allow us to see that the formula is switched so that the poet can make Achilles deny all forms of persuasion on the part of Agamemnon: neither he nor the troops will trust their leader. The technique of expansion in this line has added another object to the verb, a variation not found elsewhere. Such small expansions as this can help create the impression that Achilles feels more deeply, sees over a vaster range, and articulates in a manner different from that of his companions. The exact words peisemen oiō occur also in Diomedes’ speech to Sthenelos at 5.252, in a discourse that resembles Achilles’ great refusal in several ways. There is a declaration that the hero is going, despite objections (5.256; cf. 9.356—61) a reference to future attainment of a goal, dea volente (5.260; cf. 9.362); and a verse drawing attention to the discourse itself (5.259; cf. 9.314). But notice that the effect we get from the expansion of the “persuade” phrase in Achilles’ speech is not to be found here. Instead, the usage is much closer to that in the exchange of Book 1, a direct denial that the interlocutor’s attempt at persuasion will work. Achilles, distant from his audience (Agamemnon), can expand the denial of persuasion into an insult of greater proportions, suggesting that Agamemnon is impotent to command.

We might term this technique of filling out a formula “internal expansion. ” As we saw, one recurrent expression is involved; added to it is a further modifying phrase. The introductory section of Achilles’ speech also exhibits two other kinds of expansion worth examining: that in which two expressions normally united are split so that other sentences can be inserted; and that in which some elements {208|209} of several formulaic lines are retained, while others are replaced by different, fuller expressions. For convenience, I will refer to these as splitting and replacement.

Between lines 310 and 314 in Book 9, a splitting expansion has made room for the intrusion of Achilles’ reference to his hatred for concealment. How can we tell? The apparatus criticus acts as a monitor, warning, by its heightened activity, that these lines are somehow deviant—perhaps from the standpoint of an Alexandrian text which had the less tractable lines ironed out. Along with the variant reading, in line 310, for the initial conjunction hōsper versus hēper), there are alternates in the text tradition as early as Plato’s time for phroneo (a deviation in usage discussed earlier) and tetelesmenon estai.

A comparison with the other six passages in which this latter phrase occurs uncovers the roots of uneasiness over the received text: every other occurrence is in a context of explicit threat or promise, and, furthermore, is coupled with a form of the verb ereō. Athena promises Achilles booty if he obeys (1.212): ὧδε γὰρ ἐξερέω, τὸ δὲ καὶ τετελεσμένον ἔσται. Odysseus makes a vow to Thersites using similar language (2.257): ἀλλ’ ἔκ τοι ἐρέω, τὸ δὲ καὶ τετελεσμένον ἔσται. Again, a promise of booty is made by Agamemnon, to Teucer (8.286): σοὶ δ’ ἐγὼ ἐξερέω ὡς καὶ τετελεσμένον ἔσται. [1] The line that Athena used to introduce her promise (1.212) prefaces threats when Zeus (8.401) and Epeios (23.672) use it. The threat of Antilokhos to his horses (like Odysseus’ oath about losing his head, another bizarre vow of violence) is couched in the same terms (23.410). [2] All these speakers are persons in power; their hearers shrink in fear, give up their plans, fall silent, or obey. This does not occur at 9.310, where there is no immediate threat. As I pointed out earlier, however, the line further on, αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ἐρέω ὥς μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι ἄριστα, is itself unusual in context (9.314); we sense the tone of the threat-introduction line which begins in the same way, but ends with σὺ δ’ ἐvὶ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῆσι. And there is no doubt that the words καὶ ὡς τετελεσμένον ἔσται are equally odd at line 310, where they fill out the first verbal expression (phroneō) in an awkward and unparalleled way. Now it appears both deviations can be explained by a split: in other {209|210} words, the second half of line 310 “belongs with” the first half of line 314 (a join that can be made with no change for the sake of meter). [3] I am far from suggesting that interpolation is the cause for this “split,” unless we understand the word to mean the poet’s own introjection of different material into the middle of a formulaic line or lines, for artistic reasons.

The inserted sentences in this split expansion constitute another form of expansion, which I have termed replacement. We can discover this expansion at work in lines 311-13 by examining one word in particular—keuthēi, which was underlined, on our formulaic analysis, because it occurs here in the same slot as the same verb in a formula: exauda mē keuthe noōi. The formula occurs three times in the poem. The pattern is significant. At 1.363, Thetis consoles the weeping Achilles by asking him to speak his mind: ἐξαύδα, μὴ κεῦθε νόῳ, ἵνα εἴδομεν ἄμφω. Achilles’ reply is the direct cause of the subsequent destruction of Achaeans; when the havoc has reached a crisis, Patroklos, in tears, entreats his companion, and Achilles replies using the formula that Thetis had used at a similar juncture (16.19). Achilles listens; Patroklos soon dies; to Achilles once more comes Thetis. This time, as if she already knows his grief, she omits the second part of the formulaic line (18.74-75): ἐξαύδα, μὴ κεῦθε. τὰ μὲν δή τοι τετέλεσται / ἐκ Διός… The three occurrences of the phrase thus mark three main stages of the narrative. The poet seems to use it as a refrain. In context, the phrase has two other purposes: it characterizes the tender relations between Achilles and Thetis, and Achilles and his companion; and it introduces speech, in such a way that we assume the following words are the candid outpourings of the speaker who is addressed. Achilles appears to employ the same rhetorical strategy, but, once again, with a difference. His opening sally against the “man who hides one thing in his thought and says another” is, after all, a request for full disclosure, but Achilles directs this call to himself, and then fulfills it by speaking his mind at length. He reshapes and redirects the expected pattern by expanding the idea in mē keuthe to a hyperbolic, two-line expression of hatred for the concealer. He switches the second-person address (still present in 9.311, truzēte) to a third-person description of an ambiguous foil-figure, keinos. [4] The {210|211} single word noōi found in the formulaic line is expanded at 9.313 to eni phresin (not found elsewhere with the notion of concealment). In another expansion, Achilles comments on the degree of hatred he feels for the foil-figure (312): his comparison of such a man to the gates of Hell is perhaps motivated by an underlying similarity of comparanda, one concealed and one concealing. [5]

Two more pieces of dictional evidence allow us to imagine the process of composition at work in the opening of Achilles’ speech. First, we must recognize that the formula ἐξαύδα, μὴ κεῦθε νόῳ is itself related to another expression that is used in the same communication situation to invite speech. Aphrodite employs the related formula when addressing her visitor Hera at 14.195-96:

αὔδα ὅ τι φρονέεις· τελέσαι δέ με θυμὸς ἄνωγεν
εἰ δύναμαι τελέσαι γε καὶ εἰ τετελεσμένον ἐστίν.

Hephaistos addresses the same couplet to Thetis at the start of another visit type-scene (18.426-27). In this formulaic opening, the negative element (“do not conceal”) is omitted, perhaps because gods are assumed to speak truthfully to each other. In addition, there is a different focus, on the speaker’s willingness to complete the action which the addressee has in mind. Whereas we explained the shape of 9.313 as an expansion of the mē keuthe formula, this related formula, auda ho ti phroneeis, enables us now to see a model for another line in Achilles’ speech. Compare with the lines just cited (14.195-96 = 18.426-27) Achilles’ words at 9.310: ᾗ περ δὴ φρονέω τε καὶ ὡς τετελεσμένον ἔσται. It will be seen that the verb phroneō occurs in the same slot as phroneeis in the formulaic lines, and that the second half of line 310 reproduces, with slight changes, the second half of the second line in the formulaic couplet used by the hosts (Aphrodite and Hephaistos) to invite speech.

As I noted earlier, Achilles’ use of the verb “I think” is deviant, implying an absolute self-reference not found elsewhere. We can trace the reason behind the poet’s word choice, which gives us such an Achillean “misuse”: in brief, Homer must have found himself at a crossroads in performance as he came to Achilles’ reply. On one {211|212} hand, he has taken care to depict Achilles as more humane then his guests: his lyre playing, his courteous greetings to the embassy, and the hospitality scene that follows all attest to this. On the other hand, even if Achilles himself does not threaten the listening Achaeans, the very fact that he will refuse to be persuaded by the embassy is itself a threat to the existence of the Greek side at this crisis point in the narrative. We can imagine that this pressure, in addition to the pressure exerted by a tradition of rivalry between Odysseus and Achilles, leads the poet (who knows where his plot is going) to sharpen the tone of many expressions: Achilles’ words are always verging on the language of threat and abuse. [6] Achilles’ depiction as a perfect host requires that he utter something like the host’s formula “speak what is on your mind and I will fulfill it”; his role as the last hope of the Achaeans in this crisis similarly prepares Achilles to say something like the consolation formula “speak out and do not conceal anything in your thought.” At the same time, the narrative requires that Achilles speak his refusal at this point, and do so vehemently; his opening must be directed toward himself. It is this conglomeration of motives, inherent in the conception of Achilles as a hero in the Iliad, that produces the expanded, seemingly incoherent opening to Achilles’ great reply.

The second bit of evidence confirms that Achilles’ tone in 311-14 is the result of a mixing of polite discourse, appropriate for the situation, with threatening language, generated by the poet’s anticipating the content of Achilles’ remarks. For words remarkably similar to Achilles’ statement at 9.311-12 occur in Zeus’ reply to the wounded Ares (5.889-90) as part of a strongly worded rebuke:

μή τί μοι, ἀλλοπρόσαλλε, παρεζόμενος μινύριζε.
ἔχθιστος δέ μοί ἐσσι θεῶν οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν.

The rebuke ends with a change of tone, as Zeus acknowledges that Ares is his son and orders his wound healed. If we compare Achilles’ words, the technique of expansion by replacement shows up clearly. It is possible to match μή μοι τρύζητε with μή τί μοι . . . μινύριζε, παρήμενοι with παρεζόμενος, ἐχθρὸς γὰρ μοι κεῖνος with ἔχθιστος δέ μοί ἐσσι, and the vocative, ἀλλοπρόσαλλε, with an expression of different meaning but identical metrical and similar phonological {212|213} shape: άλλοθεν δλλος. [7] Whereas Zeus’ direct and blunt style in this speech is emphasized by end-stopped lines, Achilles’ tone sounds more rational because his syntax is more complex: he uses hōs and gar to connect what in Zeus’ speech are three separate elements. The effect of the conjunction and particle is fluidity: we seem to get a rational explanation of his behavior from Achilles. Furthermore, rather than calling his interlocutor “most hateful” (although the thought underlies his words), Achilles mutes his expression to the simpler “hateful is that man.” The couplet 9.312-13 is grammatically subordinated to 311, itself subordinate to line 309. In both the speech of Zeus and of Achilles, the lines form a separable introduction, directed to an interlocutor who has made a complaint: note that both speakers shift the topic abruptly after the rebuke (5.895, all’ ou man; 9.314, autar egōn).

We have seen how the expansion technique affects the tone, and ultimately the characterization, within the space of several lines. Because expansions, particularly those of the splitting and replacement varieties, obscure the formulaic models on which they are built, Achilles’ “language” comes to sound unique. This can be observed in greater detail, first, in two passages of the speech that deal with the central topics of reward and love; and, second, in a number of lines that exhibit “telescoping” of formulas which is caused by expansion of other formulas.

The idea presented in the second half of line 316 recurs twice in terms that help illuminate the passage in Book 9. When the poet describes the death of Iphidamas at Agamemnon’s hands, the tone is that of the most haunting of Homeric obituaries: resigned, factual, yet tense with restrained emotion. The victim “fell and slept the bronze-hard sleep, pitiable man, away from young wedded wife, fighting for his townsmen—the wife, from whom he had no joy, though he had given much (for her)”: κουριδίης, ἧς οὔ τι χάριν ἴδε, πολλά δ’ ἔδωκε (11.243). Here, as often, kharis signifies both pleasure and reciprocal giving, reciprocity itself being a “pleasure” in the world of Homeric epic, and a sign that the cosmos is operating properly. {213|214} Iphidamas is cut off from ever getting return on investment, as much as he is cut off from the sweetness of a young wife, and the poet grieves for both losses. It is with this dual meaning of the word that we should approach the ending of line 316, οὐκ ἄρα τις χάρις ἦεν. Achilles’ words echo the poet’s voice, then. Through his use of the abstract noun, the personal gripe about lack of payment grows into an elegiac statement of universal human lack, not far removed in tone from the Eddie verses: “Cattle die, kinsmen die, one day you die yourself; but words of praise will not perish when a man wins fair fame.” [8]

Not only does Homer himself use the “lack of kharis” motif, in a tone similar to that at 9.316; another important, and young, speaker in the poem applies the exact phrase of 9.316 within a similar context. Glaukos’ words to Hektor (17.142-68) cast light on the expansion technique. When he upbraids Hektor for deserting Sarpedon’s corpse, Glaukos threatens to withdraw from the fight, then gives reasons (144, phrazeō; 146, ou gar). At 154 he repeats his threat of desertion, but leaves open the possibility of united Lycian and Trojan action (156—59). By comparison, Achilles performs the same function when he mentions a lack of kharis, but he uses the word, in context, to cover material reward, a meaning not so apparent in the words of Glaukos; the latter seems to say that one saves another’s friends, and so expects the same honorable behavior. Achilles elaborates his statement of grievance in the same way as Glaukos: his threat of desertion comes at 9.356—61, forty lines further into the speech, however, and his suggestion that the Achaeans find another way to defend themselves is thirty-one lines from the initial phrase “there is no kharis” (9.347, phrazesthō, and 17.144, phrazeō). We cannot say with certainty that Glaukos’ words are a pale copy of Achilles’ rhetoric, or that, conversely, Achilles’ speech is built with Glaukos’ specific formulation as its model. [9] But we can note that Achilles elaborates, in twenty lines, that which Glaukos merely alludes to in two. The essential point is that Homer could have made Achilles use a shorter form of discourse, but chose not to. We can speculate that the respective speeches vary because the performance situations of each are different. {214|215} Glaukos, in the heat of battle, uses the rhetoric of desertion in order to spur on Hektor; Achilles, meanwhile, uses it to play for time; his speech, moreover, is for a third party, not for an immediate audience that could control, either through its receptiveness or inattention, the flow of words.

The triple mention of “love” in lines 340-43 affords another glimpse at the formulaic creativity of Achilles, achieved by expansion of dictional elements. Two patterns are combined to produce this extraordinary statement of affection. First, there is that attested at 7.204: εἰ δὲ καὶ Ἕκτορά περ φιλέεις καὶ κήδεαι αὐτοῦ, in which the verb describes the feelings of a divinity for a hero. [10] The second pattern (3.388) refers to affection among mortals and is found with the iterative: μάλιστα δέ μιν φιλέεσκε (6.15) πάντας γὰρ φιλέεσκεν (9.450) τὴν αὐτὸς φιλέεσκεν. When Achilles says τὴν αὐτοῦ φιλέει καὶ κήδεται, he is mixing the patterns by employing the positioning of the verb common in the second type alongside the conjunction of verbs (φιλέει καὶ κήδεται) that appears in the first. Furthermore, he deviates from each pattern in using the “divine affection” formula to refer to his own feelings for a wife, and the “human interaction” formula without the iterative form.

Such a reshaping of formulas arises from a desire for expansive expression, I submit. The overt sign of the urge for pleonasm, of course, is the progression phileous’, phileei, phileon, in these lines. I shall examine the link between formula expansion, on the one hand, and internal repetition, on the other, shortly. But now we must turn to another aspect of Homeric style in 9.307-429—telescoping—in order to show, at last, how the tendency to expansion permeates and shapes Achilles’ speech. [11]

The technique of telescoping formulas appears following the lines we have just examined, once we compare these with two other similar {215|216} passages in the poem; the two later passages are not themselves identical, in that the second omits two lines which add emotional color to the first. Contrast Achilles’ narrative (16.56-59):

κούρην ἣν ἄρα μοι γέρας ἔξελον υἷες Αχαιῶν,
δουρὶ δ’ ἐμῷ κτεάτισσα, πόλιν εὐτείχεα πέρσας,
τὴν ἂψ ἐκ χειρῶν ἕλετο κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
Ἀτρείδης ὡς εἴ τιν’ ἀτίμητον μετανάστην
“The girl whom the sons of Achaeans chose for me as prize,
whom I acquired by my spear, sacking a well-walled city,
that one the ruler Agamemnon has taken back, the son of Atreus,
from my hands, as if I were some unvalued itinerant”

with the story told by his mother a short time later (18.444-45):

κούρην ἣν ἄρα οἱ γέρας ἔξελον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν
τὴν ἂψ ἐκ χειρῶν ἕλετο κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
“The girl whom the sons of Achaeans chose for him,
that one the ruler Agamemnon has taken back from his hands.”

The next line (345) offers a good example of the same phenomenon—the flexible length of the “given essential idea” in a phrase depends on the performance situation in which a speaker finds himself. Compare with μή μευ πειράτω εὖ εἰδότος the rebuke of Hektor to Ajax (7.235-37, “expansions” in parentheses): [12]

μή τί μευ (ἠύτε παιδὸς ἀφαυροῦ) πειρήτιζε
(ἠὲ γυναικός, ἥ οὐκ οὖδεν πολεμήϊα ἔργα)
(αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν) εὖ οἶδα (μάχας τ’ ἀνδροκτασίας τε)
“Do not try me (like a senseless child
or a woman, who does not know the works of war),
(But) I well know (battles and man-slayings).”

Several times descriptive elements are telescoped for the sake of expanded expression on the level of conative, persuasive utterance. Thus, Achilles’ summary description of the building of the walls reduces the narrative depiction at 7.435-41 to two lines, 9.349-50, of which one is an exact repetition (350 = 7.441) and the other ajoining of phrases found in 7.436 (τείχος ἔδειμαν), 7.440 ( ἐπ’ αὐτῷ τάφρον), and 7.449-50 (τάφρον/ἤλασαν). Another example: his threat to sail the next day is ornamented with a number of phrases which retard the main verb (ὄψεαι, 359) while specifying time, reason, manner, and preparations for departure (356—61). But this elaboration, clearly intended to frighten the listeners with its clarity, is constructed by a telescoping of possible fuller phrasings. Compare with line 357 (αὔριον ἱρὰ Διὶ ῥέξας καὶ πᾶσι θεοῖσιν) the expression in Nestor’s tale (11.727): ἔνθα Διὶ ῥέξαντες ὑπερμενεῖ ἱερὰ καλά. Because Achilles is creating an unparalleled expression, in which both the time of sacrifice and two recipients in the dative are named, the poet here must, first, use the short form hira with a form of the verb {217|218} rezō, next, place the phrase in an unaccustomed metrical slot, and finally, displace the name Zeus from its usual position when it is in the dative case. [13]

The phrase άλαδε προερυσσω (9.358) can be explained as a telescoping of a fuller type-scene, the casting-off of boats, as at 1.308-11. The longer passage, which is begun with the line-final phrase we find at 358, goes on to describe the choice of rowers; so does Achilles’ description, but here they are mentioned only as one object of the verb opseai whereas in the type-scene the action of selection occupies a full clause (1.309). At the same time, the reduction in terms of syntactical status is compensated by an expansion. Rather than referring simply to eretas, Achilles calls them “men eager to row” (361)—an expressive new combination of words formed on the model of other –menai memaō– constructions at line-end (12.200, 1.590).

At times, what seems to be a telescoping of formulaic language turns out to be an internal expansion that means much more in its new reshaping. Line 369, τῷ πάντ’ ἀγορευέμεν ὡς ἐπιτέλλω, provides an example. The expression seems to be a curtailed form of, for example, 2.10: πάντα μάλ’ ἀτρεκέως ἀγορευέμεν ὡς ἐπιτέλλω (Zeus’ instructions to Dream), in which the adverbial phrase marks the importance of the speech-act. On closer examination, however, this line is only half as long as Achilles’ entire expression in 9.369-72. He postpones the adverb that modifies the way in which a report of his own speech is to be made; the word amphadon is enjambed in 370, where it is followed by a further expansion, giving Achilles’ reasons for making the request. [14] Here, as in the cases mentioned earlier, the reduction has in effect made Achilles’ speech much more fluid, allowing his style to become more periodic and less paratactic.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the act of telescoping phrases can itself be political. Once, Achilles telescopes in order to defeat, when he downplays Agamemnon’s expansive expression (9.121—24):

{218|219} ὑμῖν δ’ ἐν πάντεσσι περικλυτὰ δῶρ’ ὀνομήνω
ἕπτ’ ἀπύρους τρίποδας, δέκα δὲ χρυσοῖο τάλαντα
αἴθωνας δὲ λέβητας ἐείκοσι, δώδεκα δ’ ἵππους
πηγοὺς ἀθλοφόρους, οὃ ἀέθλια ποσσὶν ἄροντο
“Among you all I name the famous gifts:
seven unfired tripods, ten talents of gold,
twenty shining cauldrons, twelve horses,
prize-winners, who earn prizes by their feet.”

Achilles shows his contempt for this proposed wealth of recompense by collapsing the four categories of gifts, so carefully detailed by Agamemnon, into two—tripods and horses with ruddy manes (407). He also subverts Agamemnon’s claim that whoever has such horses as he promised will be hugely successful (9.125—27):

“Not without booty (alēios) would a man be who had such things,
nor without possessions (aktēmōn) of precious gold,
so many prizes have the single-hooved horses brought me.”

Achilles uses two adjectives unparalleled elsewhere in the Iliad but constructed precisely on the words Agamemnon had used, to make the contrast with Agamemnon’s statement about the horses. And, having reduced Agamemnon’s claim, he expands his own expression so that it fills two lines (406-7):

“Cows and stout sheep can be won for booty (lēistoi),
tripods and the tawny heads of horses can be possessed (ktētoi).”

As if this sharply pointed recasting of inferior text (Agamemnon’s) were not enough, Achilles then goes on to underscore his positive statement by a powerful negative predication, in the next two lines: [15]

“But the spirit of a man cannot be got or taken so as to come back (oute leistē outh’ heletē)
once it passes the barrier of teeth.”

{219|220} The Rhetoric of Achilles

Speaking to win out—this is the goal of every Iliadic performer. At its best, in the matching of skilled performers, the verbal contest is a duel of rhetoric: the better performer, while employing the exact words of his adversary, can incorporate them into a new arrangement at once traditional (it has its vocabulary supplied by the interlocutor) and yet so novel as to be memorable, and therefore destructive of anything which has been said before. [16] We have seen this dynamic at work in the verbal performances of Achilles in Book 1, Odysseus in Book 2, and Glaukos in Book 6, among others. It remains to show that the Achilles whom Homer depicts is the expert at such agonistic rhetoric. It must be demonstrated that the frequent expansions within Achilles’ reply are related to a particular rhetorical strategy, a desire for auxēsis, “magnification,” at every point, usually accomplished by doubling and tripling of expressions within the discourse itself. While the strategy is unique in the rhetorical repertoires of Iliadic heroes— thus characterizing once and for all Achilles’ “language”—it is a technique shared by one other performer: the narrator of the poem.

Within the speech we have been reading, rhetorical fullness goes hand in hand with formulaic expansion. Some phrases, indeed, can be called formulaic only because they are repeated within the space of this one reply; they are perhaps better viewed as significant repetitions, as discussed earlier. Such recurrent phrases include οὐ γαμέω (9.388, split in 391, but ending in same slot); ἐξαπατήσειν (line-end at 371, line-initial, in tmesis, at 375 cf. 344); ὤλετο, line-initial at both 413 and 414; φίλην ἐς πατρίδα (in same slot at 414 and 428); ὡς καὶ {221} ἐγὼ (325, 342); and οἴκαδ’ ἵκωμαι (393; with different desinence, 414). That the phrases are repeated for the sake of rhetorically full and emphatic discourse can be corroborated from other internal repetitions. Consider the following on the phonetic level:

ἀπηλεγέως ἀποειπεΐν (309—initial assonance)
μοῖρα μένοντι . . . μάλα . . . πολεμίζοι (318—alliteration)
παραβαλλόμενος πολεμίζειν (322—alliteration)
ἤματα αἱματόεντα (326—assonance)
δεξάμενος διὰ παῦρα δασάσκετο (333—alliteration)
ἔμπεδα κεῖται… ἐμεῦ δ’ απὸ μούνου Ἀχαιῶν(335—assonance)
μευ πειράτω… με πείσει (345—double alliteration)
μόγις δέ μευ ἔκφυγεν ὁρμήν (355—alliteration and assonance)
νηήσας εὖ νῆας (358—assonance)
μάλα πολλά τὰ κάλλιπον (364—consonance)
γε γέρας (367—unparalleled repetition of particle and noun)
ἐρίζοι / ἰσοφαρίζοι (389-90—assonance)

The climax of the repetition of sounds comes at line 388: κούρην δ’ οὐ γαμέω Ἀγαμέμνονος, which makes a pun on the name of Achilles’ adversary by equating it with the preceding verb phrase: “The daughter I will not marry of No-marriage.” [17]

Repetition of forms of the same word occur throughout. The recurrent words act as refrain devices, foregrounding the five central concerns of the hero: note the forms in phil- (340, 342, 343); polemiz– (318, 322, 326, 352); kour- (388, 396); akoitin (397, 399); Aτρειδ- (332, 339. 341)· Repetition is subservient to more extended parallelism of syntax which in turn represents either analogy or polarity in thought. For example, the line-initial expressions at 331 and 336, exelomen, heilet‘, while parallel in position and derivation, are vivid contrasts in meaning. [18] Occasionally, it seems as if the argument is being carried on solely by means of such associations of sound. Thus, an elaborate chiasmus based on contrast of verb forms in 368—77 seems to equate Agamemnon’s robbing of Achilles with Zeus’ robbing of Agamemnon’s {221|222} wits: autis . . . heleto (368); elpetai exapatēsein (371); ek gar . . . apatēse (375); autis . . . exapaphoit’ (375-76); ek gar . . . heileto (377). The most memorable portions of Achilles’ speech depend for their power on this sort of parallelism: his assertion concerning the irrecoverability of man’s life (406-9) not only abolishes Agamemnon’s formulation, but takes on authority by being cast in terms of four morphologically related adjectives. And the syntax of his statement concerning his own choice of fates mirrors, in its paired conditions, the content: syntax here is iconic (412-15). Just as powerful, but with a triplex rather than binary structure, are the denials at 315-17 (out’, out’, ouk . . . ) and at 318-20 (with progressive contrasts of six types, all of whom have the same fate). Over a wider expanse, such triplex structures are themselves made into a trinity of denials: first, oud’ . . . tosa doiē (379), oud’ hosa (twice, 381), oud’ ei . . . tosa doiē (385), oude . . . peisei’ (386); next, ou gameō (388), oud’ ei (389), onde min hos gameō (391); and finally, ou . . . antaxion oud’ hosa phasin (401), oud’ hosa . . . oudos . . . eergei (404—note the paronomasia of negative with the noun meaning “threshold”), oute leiste / outh’ heletē (408-9).

The ultimate result of repetition, then, is the construction of a cohesive and forceful speech. The narrative attests to the power of Achilles’ discourse, so that its success, on the level of style, is explicit: his audience is silent in amazement at the muthos (9.431). By speaking so well about his resistance to persuasion, Achilles, paradoxically, persuades. We have seen the devices by which Achilles/the poet produces such victorious discourse, and I have shown that deviations at the level of formula are to be explained by reference to the scope of this particular speech, which demands that traditional expressions be expanded themselves, or telescoped for the sake of expansion at another point in the text. Now it is time to draw conclusions; I offer two, in brief: first, that the “language of Achilles” is none other than that of the monumental composer; and second, that the poetic rhetoric of the narrator, in turn, is that of a heroic performer in the role of an Achilles.

The first perhaps seems tautologous; it has already been said that all Iliadic heroes, not just Achilles, “speak Homeric.” Yet, while that is true if we are discussing morphology and phonology, the evidence of formulaic diction tells us otherwise—Achilles, as Adam Parry intuited, does not speak quite like the others. In seeking to find reasons for his deviations, at the level of diction, we have been led to the {222|223} higher linguistic structures, beyond the phrase and into the realm of rhetoric. And at this level, Achilles can be seen to use a rhetoric—the art of disposing and arranging words—similar only to the poet’s own. In other words, we assume that Homer could have expanded formulaic diction in the speeches of any other hero so as to produce discourse as complex, inward-looking, and pleonastic as Achilles’. But he did not; he fully reveals all the possibilities of his own poetic craft only in the extended speech of Achilles. The effect is to make Achilles sound like a poet, as critics have remarked so often. We can now say, however, that the reasons Achilles sounds like a performer lie deeper than such techniques as the use of similes. The similarity arises because Homer, when he constructs Achilles by means of language, employs all his poetic resources and stretches the limits of his formulaic art to make the hero as large a figure as possible. In short, the monumental poem demands a monumental hero; the language of epic, pressed to provide speech for such a man, becomes the “language of Achilles.” [19]

There is one further piece of evidence in Achilles’ words in Book 9 to suggest that in Achilles we hear the speech of Homer, the heroic narrator. Only Homer and Achilles refer, in speaking, to the possibility of endless expansion. Achilles says “not even if Agamemnon gives ten and twenty times as much will he persuade me” (379). We have just seen that this denial is expressed within a tripartite structure, each section of which is also triplex. Form contrasts with context in the expression: although the limits of wealth are considered, and refused, the expression of refusal itself is hyperbolic, verbally full, “excessive.” I have suggested that this rhetorical auxēsis adds weight to Achilles’ verbal defeat of his adversary, as he simply outtalks Agamemnon; I shall trace the consequences of this view shortly. For now, we must put this speaking strategy—referring to a wealth of possibilities and then dismissing them—in context. It turns out to be on a par with the poetic technique which later comes to be called recusatio, and which Homer himself uses in the proem to the Catalogue of Ships. Just as he is about to begin the most elaborate listing {223|224} of wealth in the Iliad, Homer simultaneously denies the possibility of ever expressing a large portion of his narrative (2-488-92): [20]

πληθύν δ’ ουκ αν εγώ μυθί^σομαι ούδ’ όνομήνω,
ούδ’ ει μοι δέκα μεν γλώσσαι, δέκα δε στόματ’ είεν,
φωνή δ’άρρηκτος, χάλκεον δε μοι ήτορ ένείη,
ει μη ‘Ολυμπιάδες Μοΰσαι, Διός αίγιόχοιο
θυγατέρες, μνησαίαθ’ όσοι υπό “Ιλιον ήλθον
“I could not make a muthos or name the entirety,
not even if I had ten tongues, ten mouths,
an unbreakable voice, and my heart bronze within me,
unless the Olympian Muses daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus,
should recall how many came up to Troy.”

Although their topics appear to be different, both Achilles and the narrator Homer speak in the same manner: both specify a condition, using hyperbolic numbering, then deny the condition by adding a further one: Homer requires the Muses, not ten tongues and mouths, a bronze heart, and unbreakable voice. Achilles demands that Agamemnon pay back his insult; no other payments will satisfy him. Finally, both Homer and Achilles use this trope to continue their speech-acts: Homer, by listing the Panhellenic forces, Achilles by listing his own assets in Phthia. As with the occurrence of the unique formula “unwithering fame” in Achilles’ speech, so here a particularly marked trope is restricted within the rhetoric of the Iliad and given to only one hero to speak, the performer who is most like Homer.

In Achilles’ speech, then, we find the working out of the premises upon which the monumental art of Homer rests. First, bigger is better: Homeric art, as many have said, differs from most other epic poetry in terms of actual size of composition. Less often is it realized that this principle extends to the conception of character within the poem; to the manner in which allusion is made to past generations— also bigger and better—and to the description of its objects and persons. The number of men before Troy, for example, and the shield of Achilles are both huge, not merely because the “heroic age” conventionally demands the theme but also because the huge poem requires all to be magnified. The breadth of the Iliad is not achieved simply by {224|225} padding, however. As critics such as Fenik have shown in detail, Homer’s technique at the level of narrative is to expand or contract individual motifs and type-scenes, with all the nuances of variation possible. [21] That is to say, Homer’s narrative technique is the same as his speechmaking, but only in the case of Achilles’ discourse.

The interaction of oral poet and hero of his poem is not unknown in oral literature. Some performers regularly adopt the voice of their central fictional creations. [22] Although I believe we can gain from asking ourselves whether Homer performed in this manner, let me now turn to my second conclusion: that Achilles’ performance situation is itself an image for the way in which the poem was composed. I can return to my earlier observation concerning the destructive function of Achillean rhetoric. In line with the performances I have analyzed in Chapter 2, Achilles’ speech shows us “rhetoric” being used to put the speaker in the foreground; it persuades an audience of the heroism of the speaker, vis-à-vis other heroes. As I have shown, to treat such a mode of performance (the kernel of which is fly ting) as a purely literary invention disregards all the evidence which anthropology and the ethnography of speaking can give us regarding the social use of verbal art. We should be prepared to reverse the picture: the literary use of rhetoric arises from a social institution seen within ancient, medieval, and modern nonliterate cultures, which we can call “personal performance,” or to use Herzfeld’s phrase, the “poetics of selfhood.” [23] I have suggested earlier that Homeric speeches are in fact stylized versions of pre-existing, already stylized verbal art forms such as lamenting, rebuking, boasting. Achilles’ speech is by no means a simple “genre of discourse” but rather a mix of various speech-genres—the talk of raiding, of prophecy, and of boasting. In the same way, the Iliad itself consists of various “genres” within epic. [24]

Once we grant that Achilles and the other Homeric figures represent performers of personal identity, we can begin to learn from their {225|226} performance technique as if we had before us the transcription of several dozen oral singers within a regional tradition. The heroes’ “region” is the poem, and their “song” is themselves. Why, in this “tradition” does one perform at length, as we have seen Achilles doing in Book 9, and what might this tell us about the lengthy performance represented by the poem itself? Comparative evidence from oral cultures is of some help here in letting us see the positive aesthetic value attached to prolixity of a cetain type. As Sherzer observes regarding the Cuna people of South America, “length is a marker of verbal art and of a performer’s ability. ” The Cuna speaker— poet, orator, or layperson—achieves this length through such linguistic means as protracting words through noncontraction of vowels, addition of morphological and syntactic material, and slow delivery, and increased parallelism of expression. [25] All these devices are certainly in Achilles’ repertoire. Austin has explained the function of prolixity within Homeric digressions in terms that also help us to view fullness of expression in a new light:

Homer may not have commanded a system of rhetoric as refined and ordered as that of the Sophists, but in this respect {i.e. length} his practice is unequivocal. For it is a surprising fact in Homer that where the drama is most intense the digressions are the longest and the details the fullest. In paradigmatic digressions the length of the anecdote is in direct proportion to the necessity for persuasion at the moment.

On these grounds, the story of Meleäger in Phoinix’s speech and the tale of Nestor’s youth in Book 11 are fine examples of how one should speak effectively. Yet Nestor and Phoinix are not the same as Achilles: their leisurely rhetoric is appropriate to old men; their style is not that of Homer to the degree that Achilles’ is. The length of their speeches comes mainly from inserted narratives, and if we discount this factor, the speech of Achilles which we have analyzed here is the longest in the Iliad. [26]

Given that length can be a mark of persuasive rhetoric as well as fine performance, what is there in the specific situation of Achilles’ speech in Book 9 to prompt a persuasive performance? We have seen {226|227} that Achilles’ strategy within the speech consists of inflating each expression except those belonging to his adversary Agamemnon. His consequent lengthy performance blocks Agamemnon’s act, by offering the audience a new version. But can this model be applied to Achilles’ alter ego, the poet Homer? We do not have to go far to see how. The anxiety of influence and the burden of the past are not confined to modern poetry. Indeed, we might think that these aspects of the poet’s work are more crucial to a poet in an oral culture such as that of archaic Greece. As Walter Ong has observed, poetry in the oral setting is inseparable from agonistics:

If the poet deals with the common store of awareness accessible to all, his warrant for saying or singing again what everybody is already familiar with can only be that he can say it better than others. The invocation of the Muse can be paraphrased, “Let me win, outdo all the other singers. ” In preromantic rhetorical culture, the poet is essentially a contestant. [27]

Thus, I would combine what we know about the positive value of discourse length within the Homeric poems with what we can observe in the setting of oral poetry and performance today. I submit that Homer’s composition of the monumental Iliad starts from the need to outdistance previous epics. That this agonistic scenario was the setting for the composition of hexameter verse generally in archaic Greece is suggested by the traditions regarding the contest of Homer and Hesiod. [28] While we can extrapolate such an agonistic setting for the composition of the Iliad, from other sources, I believe the poem itself, in the rhetoric of Achilles, provides the best support for the assertion. Moreover, I now suggest that we can use this speech to pinpoint more exactly the epic tradition which the Iliad is meant to supersede.

{227|228} Although, as we have seen, much of Achilles’ speech in Book 9 is directed specifically toward putting Agamemnon’s performance in the shade, there are portions in which Achilles talks about his own exploits with no apparent ulterior purpose other than to support his claim of being wronged. When we analyze these portions in terms of formulas, however, interesting parallels in diction emerge, suggesting that Achilles once again is remodeling a pattern for his own self-expression. Achilles boasts of having sacked twelve cities using ships, and another eleven while on foot (9.328-29):

δώδεκα δή σὺν νηυσὶ πόλεις ἀλάπαξ’ ἀνθρώπων,
πεζὸς δ’ ἕνδεκα φημὶ κατά Τροίην ἐρίβωλον.

The only other passage in the poem to mention sacking a city, ships, and a specific number (in this case, of ships) is 5.638-42, part of the battle-boast Tlepolemos makes to Sarpedon:

αλλ’ οίον τινά φασι βίην Ήρακληείην
είναι, έμον πατέρα θραουμέμνονα θυμολέοντα
ος ποτέ δεΰρ’ έλθών ενεχ’ ίππων Λαομέδοντος
εξ οΐης συν νηυσί καΐ άνδράσι παυροτέροισιν
Ιλίου έξαλάπαξε πόλιν, χήρωσε δ’ αγυιάς.

Clearly, the mention of Troy’s sack in these lines performs the same function as the reference to Achilles’ raids: it is part of the warrior’s rhetoric of egoism, the verbal performance that authenticates his martial acts. But there are telling differences between the two passages. Tlepolemos boosts his own status by referring to his father, Herakles, who sacked Troy in the previous generation, with six ships and a few men. Achilles boasts of his own sacking, not of one city, but of twenty-three towns around Troy, [29] His act is bigger; the expanded two-line expression of his deeds fits the exploits.

If we consider only quantity, Achilles, although not destined to take Troy, has already surpassed the most important hero of his father’s generation. The difference in size between the two heroes’ achievements is explicit in the doubling of the number at the beginning of 9.328—twelve (cities) versus Herakles’ six (ships); the formula is expanded semantically, as it were, as well as spatially. We should not think that this similarity of expression between 9.328—29 {228|229} and 5.638—42 is accidental, for it is well known that the shadow of Herakles follows Achilles throughout the Iliad, most clearly in the digression of Book 19 in which Agamemnon (perhaps unwittingly) draws an implicit comparison between the two figures. [30] In at least one instance, as well, Herakles is alluded to as a negative exemplum (5.392-404). I now suggest that this attitude on the part of Homer arises from his own situation as performer when he attempts to compose an Achilles’ epic against a widespread and predominant earlier tradition that privileges the role of Herakles. [31] What can be viewed as generational conflict within the story of the Iliad—the claims about Diomedes, for example, that he surpasses his father—is also a poetic contest as well. One piece of evidence that shows the contest is specifically with Herakles comes in the story of Thamyris (2.594-600), on whom the Muses once took vengeance for claiming he could outdo them in song. The passage is the primary basis for a belief that early Greek poetry was composed under agonistic conditions. [32] We may take this as a simple expansion in the Catalogue of Ships for its own sake, a fairly gratuitous diversion. [33] But to do so would be to forget what we have learned about the role of expansion in the inner performances of the Iliad. Remembering, instead, the importance of place-lore in Greek traditional literature, we might focus on the detail that Thamyris is returning from Oikhalia when he loses his poetic craft at the hands of the Muses. This place, the city of Eurytus, has important connections in myth and poetry, for it is the city which Herakles sacked in anger after being refused the king’s daughter, Iole. The exploit was commemorated in an epic, the Oikhalias Halosis, ascribed by some ancient sources to Homer. Walter Burkert has shown that this lost poem is alone among archaic Greek epics in sharing certain traits with the Iliad.

Both poems focus on a tragic episode in the hero’s life, involving a woman, and leading soon to the hero’s death; both omit description {229|230} of the hero’s immortality (which we know about from other sources) and dwell instead on the tragic quality of the impending deaths. The treatment of plot in both is in sharp contrast with the Cyclic epics’ urge to narrate everything. [34] When Homer says that a poet returning from Oikhalia was deprived of his art, he can hardly be more explicit: this is a claim that the Herakles’ tradition is faulty, that it suffered a break in historical transmission from the event itself. By contrast, Homer in Book 2 makes it clear that his narrative has a continuity with the past which is guaranteed by Homer’s own contact with the Muses (2.484-86), In other words, although the story of Thamyris is on the surface about an agon between singers, and, ultimately, about antagonism between artist and divinities, it is also a statement about the agon between Homer and previous singers. Just as Achilles is drawn in such a way that he obliterates Herakles, so the poem itself is composed under pressure from the Herakles epics and in response to them. [35]

The resulting poem must be monumental, and therefore expanded out of smaller parts, precisely in order to overcome the Panhellenic traditions about Herakles. If the language of Achilles is actually the undisguised voice and the rhetoric of Homer himself, as I have tried to show, then the converse is also true: the rhetoric of Achilles—his heroic self-performance in an adversary relationship with the past and the present—is at the root of Homer’s own composition-in-performance.


[ back ] 1. This line shows the far more common word order hōs kai introducing the final phrase. The reverse order, entailing epic correption, is found in 9.310, but almost nowhere else in the Iliad as far as these two words are involved.

[ back ] 2. Also, with different verb tense, see 1.388: ἠπείλησεν μῦθον, ὅ δὴ τετελεσμένος ἐστίν.

[ back ] 3. This is in fact the reading of the vulgate at 9.314.

[ back ] 4. The technique can be found in Pindar, the poet with whom Friedrich and Redfield compare Achilles: 1978:278. Cf. Pindar, Parth. 2.16.

[ back ] 5. Twice in the poem hiding is associated with Hades by a speaker: 22.482 ( Ἄδαο δόμους ὑπὸ κεύθεσι γαίης) and 23.244 (Achilles speaking: ἐγὼν Ἄιδι κεύθωμαι). Α similar notion underlies English “hell” (from Indo-European *cel-: cf. Latin celare, “hide”).

[ back ] 6. On the rivalry, see Nagy 1979:42-58.

[ back ] 7. Note that the word, applied to Ares at 5.831 also, appears to mean in context “one who switches sides. ” By contrast, the phrase at 9.311 is less well grounded in context. Homer, expanding in Achilles’ speech with the previous passage in mind, may thereby have been led to improvise a scenario in which three speakers assail Achilles’ resolve, “one from one side, one from another.” The expansion technique tends to ramify in this way, as we have seen.

[ back ] 8. Hávamál 76, in Terry 1969:24. On this motif as shared by Norse and Old English elegy, see Frank 1982:5-6.

[ back ] 9. Moulton 1981:5-8 calls the later speech an intentional reminiscence designed to foreshadow Achilles’ return.

[ back ] 10. See also 1.196, of Hera; 2.197, 7.280 = 10.552, 16.94, 20.122.

[ back ] 11. Expansion has been noted as a device used by Achilles, but it never has been identified as the distinctive characteristic of his speech, to my knowledge. See Race 1982:28-29, 37-39 on the priamels of lines 379-87 and 406-9; Lohmann 1970:244 mentions the Steigerungstechnik employed in Achilles’ refusals. The use of expansion as a technique has analogues in the poetry of the Near East: Watson 1984:329-31 notes that Hebrew and Akkadian verse expands formulas in order to produce parallelism; Tigay 1982:59-63 shows that expansion goes hand in hand with telescoping of formulas as the Old Babylonian version of the Gilgamesh epic is remade in later versions.

[ back ] 12. The meaning of “well knowing” in 9.345 is closer to that of the verb in the line-end phrase ophr’ eu ēidēis (ι. 185 etc.), although it occurs here in the slot associated with the formula eu eidōs, which refers to knowledge of a skill rather than of facts. For a discussion of stylization in Hektor’s speech at 7.234-43, see Duban 1981:106-7.

[ back ] 13. The only other time this placement of Dii occurs is at 10. 16. The contracted form hira occurs also at 11.707, coupled with a form of the verb rezō and with a dative indicating a single set of recipients.

[ back ] 14. We might speculate that the second half of line 370 is built on the model of such lines as 1.17, 23.272, and so on, in which Atreides and “other Achaeans” are named; the enjambed word Atreidēs in 369, occurring in the slot it occupies in the formula, would then have prompted the poet to end the next line as he did.

[ back ] 15. The foregoing examples do not exhaust the list of expansions in this speech. Internal expansions occur in lines 325—26 (compare with 18.340, 23.186, where “nights and days” is a unified phrase); in 338 (compare with laon . , , ageiras the unexpanded phrase in 2.664, 11.716, 11.770, etc.); in 390-91 (compare with 13.432: Hippodameia surpasses all in beauty and works; no comparisons made to divinities). This expansion entails a further deviation, since the word isopkariz– is always used elsewhere to say someone does not equal another in battle prowess (see, e.g., 6.101, 21.194, 21.411). A larger internal expansion is 401-5, which can be seen in smaller scope in such lines as 18.512 = 22.121. An important example of replacement expansion comes in the triple denial: compare 9.318-20 with Hektor’s less elaborate words of wisdom to Andromakhe, also in a context of refusal to be persuaded (6.488-89): μοῖραν δ’ οὔ τινά φημι πεφυγμένον ἔμμεναι ἀνδρῶν οὐ κακόν, οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλόν, ἐπὴν τὰ πρῶτα γένηται. Into this gnomic statement, Achilles has inserted movement and conflict through the mention of honor and fighting strength.

[ back ] 16. This is not simply the working of the alleged erasure phenomenon in oral cultures, on which see Vansina 1985:120-23 and Abrahams’s 1985 critique of Ong. As I pointed out earlier, audiences evaluate performance within the Homeric poems: the speech-act must be rhetorically effective as well as new.

[ back ] 17. David Packard noted this paronomasia during a lecture at Princeton, 20 November, 1984. Claus 1975:18 detects another wordplay in line 318: moira can mean both “death” and “portion.”

[ back ] 18. Cf. parallelism for the sake of contrast in 313; 323-24; 325-26; 328-29; 331-32; 406-9; 412-15; 429.

[ back ] 19. Several studies mention the stylistic consequences of monumental composition, without mentioning the effect on direct speech in the poem. See Kirk 1962:159-60,178 and Kirk 1976:19, 36, 109, 203-4; also, Hainsworth 1970:37-38 and Miller 1982:44-45.

[ back ] 20. Note that the number of troops can be compared with sand (2.800, Iris speaking) just as Achilles can use the image to speak of numbers of gifts (9.385).

[ back ] 21. See Fenik 1968 and 1978; also M. Edwards 1980 for an analysis of this technique in the space of one book of the Iliad. Lohmann 1970 provides a useful demonstration of the way in which the structure of speeches can be expanded or contracted through use of typical elements but he does not examine speeches at the level of diction as I have done: see the critique by Latacz 1975:414-18.

[ back ] 22. See, on Swahili epic, Knappere 1983:72 and on the same phenomenon in Ainu and Arabic poetry, Bowra 1952:35.

[ back ] 23. Herzfeld 1985:10.

[ back ] 24. For an analogy to the use of smaller genres see Tigay 1982:163 on the Gilgamesh tradition

[ back ] 25. Sherzer 1978:139-42. On varying attitudes toward the value of length in discourses, see Hymes 1974:35-40, who cites the contrast between Athenian and Spartan performances (cf. Plato, Laws 6416423).

[ back ] 26. Austin 1966:79. See Redfield 1975:226.

[ back ] 27. Ong 1977:224.

[ back ] 28. Although the sources about such “contests” are admittedly later than the period in which epic flourished, the tradition itself is surely not simple invention. See Held-mann 1982:9-11. On contest as setting for epic composition in Turkic and Kirghiz tradition, see Miller 1982:96. The contest setting offers a better explanatory model for the growth of monumental epic than either an unmotivated desire for exploration of character (see Thornton 1984:104-10) on the part of the poet, or a putative wealth of leisure time (see Notopoulos 1964:15-18). Lord 1960:25 mentions a possible ritual basis for the elaboration found in some epics: this can fit with the contest explanation, since poetic agones originally were connected with cult: see Herington 1985:6.

[ back ] 29. La Roche 1878:24 observes that the Iliad actually names only six of these.

[ back ] 30. On this passage, see the analysis of O. M. Davidson 1980; her demonstration of Herakles’ relation to the heroes of cognate epic traditions makes it more plausible that Achilles, who does not share these ties, is modeled on the older hero.

[ back ] 31. On this tradition, see Galinsky 1972:9-10.

[ back ] 32. See A. Edwards 1985:12 and Maehler 1963:16-17. Schadewaldt 1965:64 was first to point out that Thamyris’ boast in the story refers to his success in singing against other performers. No contest with the Muses is said to have taken place.

[ back ] 33. So Kirk 1985:216. His observation that the story, as digression, most resembles the story attached to Tlepoiemus (2.658) gains significance in light of my finding: both will be seen to relate to Herakles.

[ back ] 34. Burkert 1972:82-85. He also notes that the suffix -eus, forming the place-name adjective at 2.596, is indicative of a non-Homeric epic tradition regarding Herakles. On the contrast between the tragic Iliad and the Cyclic poems, see Griffin 1977.

[ back ] 35. Welcker 1865:216 had proposed that Homer alluded, through Thamyris’ route, to a contemporary epic, the Herakleia, but he did not view the reference in terms of poetic antagonism.