The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry

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Chapter 6. Lamentation and the Hero

6§1. The social dimensions of the actual word ákhos ‘grief’ have so far been explored mainly in terms of its thematic relationship with the concept of lāós ‘host of fighting men’ in epic diction. The time has now come to explore the meaning of ákhos on its own terms.

6§2. In Homeric diction, ákhos ‘grief’ functions as a formulaic variant of another es-stem, pénthos. Both words designate the grief of Achilles over his loss of tīmḗ (ἄχος: Iliad I 188, XVI 52, 55; πένθος: Iliad I 362); also, both words designate the grief of Achilles over his loss of Patroklos (ἄχος: Iliad XVIII 22, XXIII 47; πένθος: XVIII 73). Finally, not only ákhos, as at XVI 22, but also pénthos designates the collective grief of the Achaeans, as at IX 3; in this passage, there is special emphasis on the grief of their king Agamemnon, which is called ákhos as well, at IX 9. Outside the poetic diction, we find expressions like πένθος ποιήσασθαι ‘have public mourning [pénthos]’ (Herodotus 2.1.1; cf. 2.46.3, 6.21.1). [1] Even inside the poetic diction, the collective aspect of pénthos is apparent in its application to the public mourning for Hektor (Iliad XXIV 708). [2]

6§5. This is not the place for a detailed survey of the word kléos in its function of expressing the very notion of epic poetry within epic poetry—a task that I have attempted elsewhere. [6] I confine myself here to the differences between the traditional genres of poetry, as expressed by the contrast of kléos with pénthos/ákhos. Not only does the epithet álaston ‘unforgettable’ of pénthos/ákhos conjure up the traditional theme of mnēmosúnē ‘memory’, which is inherent in the poetic concept of kléos, but also the word pénthos itself is used by the poetry of the Homeric and Hesiodic traditions as a foil for kléos. [7] For a striking example, consider this Hesiodic passage:

When the singer sings “the kléos [plural] of men of old,” the song is in the tradition of an Iliad or an Odyssey; when he sings “the blessed gods,” the song is in the general tradition of a Theogony. [
9] (I avoid saying “the Iliad” or “the Theogony” in order to suggest that the diction refers simply to established poetic traditions rather than fixed texts.) The conceptual association of Theogonic poetry with the word kléos is made overt a few hexameters earlier in the Hesiodic Theogony, where the Muses are designated as the ones who make into kléos (κλείουσιν) the génos ‘genesis’ of the gods: [10]

θεῶν γένος αἰδοῖον πρῶτον κλείουσιν ἀοιδῇ
With song they first make into kléos the genesis of the gods, thing of reverence that it is.

Hesiod Theogony 44

A few hexameters later, after the contrast of kléos with pénthos (Theogony 98–103), the Muses are finally invoked to sing the contents of our Theogony, with the following words: [

The inherited function of our Theogony, then, is to give kléos to the genesis of the gods. The hearing of such kléos is a remedy for pénthos, as we learn from the passage that inaugurated this discussion, the artistic manifesto of Theogony 98–103. In Theogonic language, Mnēmosúnē ‘mnemonic power’ gave birth to the Moûsai ‘Muses’, who were to be the lēsmosúnē ‘forgetting’ of ills: [
13] {96|97}

6§6. Let us now turn from the kléos of the Theogonic tradition to “the kléos [plural] of previous men,” as our Theogony calls it (κλέεα προτέρων ἀνθρώπων: verse 100). To repeat, kléos is used in epic diction to designate the epic tradition itself. [15] Presently, however, we are concerned only with the specific use of this word as an antithesis of pénthos/ákhos. We begin with the song of Phemios in Odyssey i; his subject is the nóstos ‘homecoming’ of the Achaeans (Odyssey i 326–327), [16] and his song brings grief rather than entertainment to one of his listeners, who happens to be the wife of Odysseus. Penelope asks the singer to stop his song, because it brings her pénthos álaston ‘unforgettable grief’ (Odyssey i 342). Just before, her words had described the aoidoí ‘singers’ generically as those who give kléos to the deeds of heroes and gods:

ἔργ᾽ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, τά τε κλείουσιν ἀοιδοί
the deeds of men and gods, which the singers make into kléos

Odyssey i 338

Just after, she says that she always has her husband on her mind (μεμνημένη αἰεί: Odyssey i 343), and then we hear the following description of Odysseus:

τοῦ κλέος εὐρὺ καθ᾽ Ἑλλάδα καὶ μέσον Ἄργος
who has kléos far and wide throughout Hellas and midmost Argos

Odyssey i 344

From the standpoint of an audience listening to the medium of epic, {97|98} the word kléos can apply to the epic of Odysseus, to the narrative tradition of the Odyssey. From the standpoint of Penelope as a character within the epic, however, the kléos of Odysseus, with all its hardships, entails personal involvement: it brings to mind a grief that cannot be swept away from the mind (cf. μεμνημένη αἰεί ‘remembering always’: Odyssey i 343). Telemachus does not yet realize the extent of his own involvement in the unfolding action when he rebukes his mother and urges the singer to continue his song, on the grounds that it is fitting entertainment for an audience (Odyssey i 346–347). The story of the poet’s song is the Will of Zeus, he says (Odyssey i 347–350), [
17] and the song is popular with its audience:

On one level, the song is νεωτάτη ‘newest’ for an audience of epic, in that it tells of actions that will lead to the nóstos ‘homecoming’ of Odysseus, the last Achaean to come home from Troy. On another level, the song is ‘newest’ specifically for Telemachus, in that he is about to become involved in the actions of this nóstos. [

6§7. The factor of personal involvement or noninvolvement decides whether an epic situation calls for pénthos or kléos. The figure of Menelaos sets the tone for the involvement of Telemachus. As a warrior who had shared in the hardships of the Achaeans at Troy, Menelaos tells Telemachus that Odysseus is the warrior whose absence he misses and mourns the most of all (Odyssey iv 100–105; see especially ἀχεύων ‘having ákhos‘ at 100). There is a reason for this:

… ἐπεὶ οὔ τις Ἀχαιῶν τόσσ᾽ ἐμόγησεν
ὅσσ᾽ Ὀδυσεὺς ἐμόγησε καὶ ἤρατο. τῷ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἔμελλεν
αὐτῷ κήδε᾽ ἔσεσθαι, ἐμοὶ δ᾽ ἄχος αἰὲν ἄλαστον{98|99}
… since none of the Achaeans struggled so much
as Odysseus struggled and achieved. For him there would be
cares in the future, whereas I would have an ákhos
álaston [unforgettable grief] always.

Odyssey iv 106–108

This unforgettable ákhos now finally involves Telemachus, as he hears from Menelaos how Odysseus is probably being mourned, at this very minute, by his father, wife, and son (Odyssey iv 110–112). Telemachus indeed begins to weep (Odyssey iv 113–116), and from here on we find communal weeping at the table of Menelaos when the story of Odysseus comes up (see especially Odyssey iv 183–185), since he is presently the only Achaean left who is still without a nóstos:

… κεῖνον δύστηνον ἀνόστιμον οἶον …
… that wretched one, the only one who has not come home …

Odyssey iv 182

Later on, Helen tells Menelaos and his guests—Telemachus included—a story of Troy as an entertainment during dinner:

ἦ τοι νῦν δαίνυσθε καθήμενοι ἐν μεγάροισι
καὶ μύθοις τέρπεσθε· ἐοικότα γὰρ καταλέξω
Sit now and dine in the palace, and be entertained
by the stories. For the things that I will say in proper order are appropriate.

Odyssey iv 238–239

Her entertaining story, however, begins on a note of grief:

πάντα μὲν οὐκ ἂν ἐγὼ μυθήσομαι οὐδ᾽ ὀνομήνω,
ὅσσοι Ὀδυσσῆος ταλασίφρονός εἰσιν ἄεθλοι·
ἀλλ᾽ οἷον τόδ᾽ ἔρεξε καὶ ἔτλη καρτερὸς ἀνήρ
δήμῳ ἔνι Τρώων, ὅθι πάσχετε πήματ᾽ Ἀχαιοί
I could not possibly tell of or name
all the struggles that are the share of the enduring Odysseus.
but I will tell of this one thing that he did and endured—
—that man of krátos—in the district of Troy, where you Achaeans suffered pains [ pêma plural].

Odyssey iv 240–243

All the characters listening to the story are personally involved, and we would expect its words to arouse instant grief on their part, were it not for what Helen did before telling her tale. She put a phármakon ‘drug’ in their wine (Odyssey iv 220), described as:

νηπενθές τ᾽ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων {99|100}
without pénthos , without anger, making one forget all ills

Odyssey iv 221

One who drinks it would not even mourn the death of his mother, father, brother, or son (Odyssey iv 222–226). What would otherwise be a pénthos for Helen’s audience can thus remain a kléos, since there is no personal involvement.

6§8. Such a distinction between kléos and pénthos is even more vivid when Odysseus himself becomes personally involved. He is an unidentified member of the audience as the poet Demodokos starts singing the κλέα ἀνδρῶν ‘kléos [plural] of men’:

Μοῦσ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν
οἴμης τῆς τότ᾽ ἄρα κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἵκανε
The Muse impelled the singer to sing the kléos [plural] of men
from a story thread that had at that time a kléos reaching up to the vast heavens.

Odyssey viii 73–74

The story of the singer concerns “the beginning of pain [pêma]” (πήματος ἀρχή: Odyssey viii 81) that befell Achaeans and Trojans alike, “on account of the plans of great Zeus” (Διὸς μεγάλου διὰ βουλάς: Odyssey viii 82). Odysseus immediately begins to weep, though he hides his grief (Odyssey viii 83–95). Later on, the still-unidentified Odysseus compliments the Trojan story of the poet as ‘correct’:

λίην γὰρ κατὰ κόσμον Ἀχαιῶν οἶτον ἀείδεις,
ὅσσ᾽ ἔρξαν τ᾽ ἔπαθόν τε καὶ ὅσσ᾽ ἐμόγησαν Ἀχαιοί
You sing in very correct fashion the fate of the Achaeans,
all the things that they did and suffered and struggled for.

Odyssey viii 489–490

He then asks Demodokos to shift ahead in subject matter (μετάβηθι: Odyssey viii 492) and sing about the Trojan Horse (Odyssey viii 492–495). The poet obliges, beginning within a traditional framework (ἔνθεν ἑλὼν ὡς … ‘taking it from the place in the story where …’: Odyssey viii 500), and the cumulative effect of his Trojan story is that Odysseus again bursts into tears (Odyssey viii 521–534). This time the host Alkinoos draws attention to the still-unidentified guest’s grief (ákhos: Odyssey viii 541), and he calls on Odysseus to explain what amounts to an internalized lamentation:

εἰπὲ δ᾽ ὅ τι κλαίεις καὶ ὀδύρεαι ἔνδοθι θυμῷ
Ἀργείων Δαναῶν ἰδὲ Ἰλίου οἶτον ἀκούων.
τὸν δὲ θεοὶ μὲν τεῦξαν, ἐπεκλώσαντο δ᾽ ὄλεθρον
ἀνθρώποις, ἵνα ᾖσι καὶ ἐσσομένοισιν ἀοιδή{100|101}
Tell why you weep and lament within your thūmós
upon hearing the fate of the Argive Danaans and of Ilion.
The gods fashioned it, and they were the ones who ordained
destruction for men, so that it might be a song for men yet to be.

Odyssey viii 577–580

What is an ákhos for Odysseus is for future audiences simply a ‘song’ like the Iliad, with its plot enacted by the Will of Zeus and his gods.

6§9. The plot in this third song of Demodokos is strikingly parallel to the plot of the Cyclic Iliou Persis as we find it in the Proclus summary (107–108 Allen). But there is an interesting variation. On the one hand, the narrative in the Iliou Persis draws to a close with the destruction of Troy and such specific scenes as the killing of Astyanax by Odysseus and the enslavement of Andromache by Pyrrhos (108.8–9). [20] On the other hand, the narrative of Demodokos is interrupted, before it draws to a close, by the weeping of Odysseus. The action stops just when various Achaean heroes are performing their various grisly feats during the destruction of Troy, such as the killing of Deiphobos (Odyssey viii 516–520). At this point, the weeping of Odysseus is compared by way of a simile to the weeping of a widow who is taken as captive by a ruthless enemy after the destruction of her city and the killing of her husband (Odyssey viii 523–531). The husband is described as a hero who fell in front of his city, where he was defending both the community and his children (Odyssey viii 524–525). The resemblance with Hektor is unmistakable. The generic situation in the simile is thus strikingly parallel to the specific situation of Andromache at the end of the Iliou Persis. In this sense, the simile that pictures the weeping of Odysseus completes the narrative that his weeping had interrupted. And the captive widow also has ákhos (Odyssey viii 530), so that the ákhos of Odysseus is universalized: he now feels the grief of his own victims in war, and his involvement is thus complete.

6§12. We are now ready to consider the semantics of the name Pátroklos (cf. Iliad I 345, etc.)/ Patrokléēs (cf. Iliad I 337, etc.), [25] a compound formation referring to the kléos ‘glory’ of the patéres ‘ancestors’ (on the latter meaning of the word patéres, see Iliad VI 209, etc.). These two notions of ‘glory’ and ‘ancestors’ within the compound Patro-kléēs(/Pátro-klos) should be compared with the two notions in the combination κλέεα = kléos [plural] and προτέρων ἀνθρώπων = ‘previous men’ in Hesiod Theogony 100 (where kléos [plural] is antithetical to pénthos at verse 98). The semantics of κλέεα προτέρων ἀνθρώπων ‘the kléos [plural] of previous men’, an expression that had provided the starting point for this discussion of ákhos/pénthos and kléos, has a parallel in epic, where the specific application is to {102|103} Achilles himself. Here is the Iliadic parallel to the combination in Hesiod Theogony 100:

These words introduce the story that Phoinix tells Achilles, taken from the epic tradition of Meleager. As Dale Sinos has shown in detail, this story is intended to illustrate the ethical principle of philótēs ‘being a phílos‘ in warrior society. [
27] It is an epic exemplum, or κλέα ἀνδρῶν kléos [plural] of men’, set before Achilles so that he may be persuaded to lay aside his anger and to rejoin his hetaîroi ‘comrades-in-arms’, who are his phíloi. [28]

6§15. I save the most important point of comparison for last: the comrades of Meleager, his hetaîroi, rate as next-to-highest in the narrative sequence that catalogues those who have ties to the hero and who are now entreating him to rejoin his comrades-in-arms. The ranking of the hero’s social affinities at Iliad IX 574–591 implicitly presents Meleager as one who loves the elders not so much as the priests not so much as his father not so much as his sisters not so much as his mother not so much as his hetaîroi not so much as his wife. As the studies of J. T. Kakridis have shown, variations in the listing of a hero’s affinities represent a relative ranking of these affinities in Homeric narrative and constitute a poetic convention in itself. [34] In comparison with other attested occurrences of this convention, which Kakridis calls “the ascending scale of affection,” the position of the hetaîroi in the Meleager story is noticeably high. [35] This preeminence can be seen not only on the level of theme but also on the level of {104|105} form. Here is how the hetaîroi of Meleager, his comrades-in-arms, are described:

οἵ οἱ κεδνότατοι καὶ φίλτατοι ἦσαν ἁπάντων
… the hetaîroi ,
who were for him the most cherished and most phíloi of all

Iliad IX 585–586

On the level of theme, the one relation in the listing that outranks even the hetaîroi is the wife of Meleager, Kleopatre. This name Kleo-pátrē (Iliad IX 556) combines the same notions kléos ‘glory’ and patéres ‘ancestors’ as that of Pátroklos ~ Patro-kléēs. By their very etymologies, these compound names Kleo-pátrē and Patro-kléēs convey with their mutually inverted members a parallel epic theme. [
36] For Achilles, then, the story of Meleager has a distinct message: in his own ascending scale of affection as dramatized by the entire composition of the Iliad, the highest place must belong to Patroklos, whose name has the same meaning as the name of Kleopatre. In fact, Patroklos is for Achilles the πολὺ φίλτατος … ἑταῖρος—the ‘hetaîros who is the most phílos by far’ (Iliad XVII 411, 655). The words of Achilles himself put it this way, as we find him in a later scene grieving for his fallen comrade:

ἀλλὰ τί μοι τῶν ἦδος, ἐπεὶ φίλος ὤλεθ᾽ ἑταῖρος,
Πάτροκλος, τὸν ἐγὼ περὶ πάντων τῖον ἑταίρων
But what pleasure is there for me in these things? For my phílos hetaîros has perished,
Patroklos, to whom I gave more tīmḗ than to all the other hetaîroi .

Iliad XVIII 80–81

6§16. For Phoinix, however, the code of the Meleager story, as he introduces it, has a different message. [37] In his words, the Achaeans who are “most phíloi” to Achilles (φίλτατοι: Iliad IX 522) are now entreating him to rejoin them in their desperate battle. As Achilles refuses to relent, another of the three delegates describes the hero with these words of reproach:

… οὐδὲ μετατρέπεται φιλότητος ἑταίρων
… and he is not swayed by being phílos of his hetaîroi

Iliad IX 630 {105|106}

The speaker here is Ajax, and he is speaking for all his fellow delegates as he affirms that they all want to be, among all the Achaeans, “the most phíloi” to Achilles (φίλτατοι: Iliad IX 642). Achilles himself, who had been brought up by his father to choose “being phílos” over strife (φιλοφροσύνη: Iliad IX 256), actually addresses the delegates as “the most phíloi of the Achaeans” (Ἀχαιῶν φίλτατοι: Iliad IX 198; cf. 204). Nevertheless, the delegates fail in their attempt to persuade Achilles to rejoin the phíloi. The κλέα ἀνδρῶν = ‘kléos [plural] of men’, the story about Meleager as told by Phoinix “in the midst of all the phíloi” (ἐν … πάντεσσι φίλοισι: Iliad IX 528), points Achilles first towards the individual phílos, Patroklos, and only the death of this comrade will finally lead the central hero of the Iliad back to the collective phíloi. As Sinos has argued in detail, Patroklos is the link of Achilles to the phíloi. [
38] When Patroklos enters the war as the surrogate of Achilles, the Trojans are terrified, thinking that Achilles has cast aside his mênis so that he may rescue his phíloi:

μηνιθμὸν μὲν ἀπορρῖψαι, φιλότητα δ᾽ ἑλέσθαι
that he has cast aside his state of mênis and has chosen being phílos instead.

Iliad XVI 282

But it is really Patroklos who restores the philótēs ‘state of being phíloi‘ between Achilles and the Achaeans. As Sinos points out, Patroklos will have to sacrifice himself and die so that Achilles may recognize his social obligation to his phíloi: [

6§17. The delegates to Achilles fail where the death of Patroklos succeeds. Despite their claim to be the most phíloi to Achilles, he rejects their offer of compensation to him because—from the standpoint of the Iliad—Patroklos is even more phílos than they. This ultimate motivation, however, is not yet manifest in Book IX, as Ajax is expressing his outrage at the rejection: {106|107}

αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς
ἄγριον ἐν στήθεσσι θέτο μεγαλήτορα θυμόν,
σχέτλιος, οὐδὲ μετατρέπεται φιλότητος ἑταίρων
τῆς ᾗ μιν παρὰ νηυσὶν ἐτίομεν ἔξοχον ἄλλων,
νηλής· καὶ μέν τίς τε κασιγνήτοιο φονῆος
ποινήν ἢ οὗ παιδὸς ἐδέξατο τεθνηῶτος.
καί ῥ᾽ ὁ μὲν ἐν δήμῳ μένει αὐτοῦ πόλλ᾽ ἀποτείσας,
τοῦ δέ τ᾽ ἐρητύεται κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
ποινήν δεξαμένῳ· σοὶ δ᾽ ἄλληκτόν τε κακόν τε
θυμὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι θεοὶ θέσαν εἵνεκα κούρης
But Achilles
has made savage the great-hearted thūmós within his breast,
the wretch. And he has no care for being phílos with his hetaîroi ,
the way we honored him by the ships far beyond the others,
the pitiless one. And yet it can happen that a man takes compensation from the
murderer of his own brother or of his own son who is killed.
And the offending party pays much and stays there in the district,
while the injured party’s heart is curbed, and so too his proud thūmós,
once he accepts the compensation. But the gods have placed in you
a thūmós that is unyielding and bad,
all on account of one girl.

Iliad IX 628–638

Achilles may be the most phílos to his comrades-in-arms, but they are not the most phíloi to him. Ajax thinks that the girl taken away from Achilles by Agamemnon, with the passive acquiescence of the Achaeans, is even more phílē than they. This theme again conjures up Kleopatre, who was indeed by implication the most phílē to Meleager—especially in view of what Achilles himself had said of the girl Briseis, who was taken from him:

ἐπεὶ ὅς τις ἀνήρ ἀγαθὸς καὶ ἐχέφρων
τήν αὐτοῦ φιλέει καὶ κήδεται, ὡς καὶ ἐγὼ τήν
ἐκ θυμοῦ φίλεον, δουρικτητήν περ ἐοῦσαν
Since whatever man is good and sensible
loves his own wife [has a wife who is phílē to him] and cares for her. So also I loved her [she was phílē to me]
with all my thūmós, even though she was only a prisoner.

Iliad IX 341–343

There is another connection in what Achilles says just before this profession that Briseis is phílē to him: {107|108}

ἦ μοῦνοι φιλέουσ᾽ ἀλόχους μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
Or is it that the Atreidai are the only men
who love their wives [whose wives are phílai to them]?

Iliad IX 340–341

The wife in question here is distinctly not phílē: she is Helen, cause of the entire Trojan War.

6§18. To continue: Ajax thinks that Briseis ranks highest in the ascending scale of affection that determines the behavior of Achilles. In the passage already quoted, the protest of Ajax is founded on the surface inequity: whereas another man would accept compensation from the killer of his own brother or son, Achilles persists in refusing compensation from Agamemnon and the Achaeans—who had merely taken away from him a girl-prisoner (Iliad IX 628–638). And yet, as we have seen, the theme of Briseis as phílē to Achilles conjures up the theme of Kleopatre as phílē to Meleager. The words of Ajax are a code with one message for Ajax himself but with quite another message for the audience of our Iliad. Meshing with the theme of Kleopatre, the words of Ajax indirectly point toward Patroklos as the ultimate phílos. But now we will also see that the theme serving as a foil for that of the girl, namely the readiness of a man to accept compensation from the killer of his own brother or son, also points to Patroklos.

6§19. From the retrospective vantage point of Book XXIV, Apollo is telling why the hero Achilles is so repellent to him:

μέλλει μέν πού τις καὶ φίλτερον ἄλλον ὀλέσσαι,
ἠὲ κασίγνητον ὁμογάστριον ἠὲ καὶ υἱόν
For a man could easily lose someone else who is more phílos ,
either a brother from the same womb or even a son.

Iliad XXIV 46–47

More phílos than whom? Patroklos, of course! Here the issue is no longer whether or not Achilles is to accept compensation from Agamemnon and the Achaeans for the taking of a girl, but rather, whether or not he is to accept compensation first from Hektor and later from his family and the Trojans in general for the killing of Patroklos. Apollo is repelled by the refusal of Achilles to show pity and cease taking vengeance on Hektor’s corpse. The theme of a brother’s or son’s death is already at work in the words of Ajax at IX 628–638, but there it serves as a foil for the taking of a girl, not yet {108|109} directly for the actual killing of Patroklos. In both passages, IX 628–638 and XXIV 46–47, the constant is the pitiless temperament that refuses compensation.

6§20. The same temperament we find frozen in the artistic microcosm of the Shield of Achilles, Iliad XVIII. This panorama of universal situations applying to the central themes of the Iliad features as one of its main scenes the image of a litigation between two parties:

ὁ μὲν εὔχετο πάντ᾽ ἀποδοῦναι
δήμῳ πιφαύσκων, ὁ δ᾽ ἀναίνετο μηδὲν ἑλέσθαι
One man, in his declaration to the dêmos, was saying that he paid [the compensation for murder] in full,
while the other [the man with ties to the victim] was refusing to take anything.

Iliad XVIII 499–500

For the translation and exegesis, I am guided by the brilliant work of Leonard Muellner, [
41] who has also shown that the archetypal quarrel pictured here concerned whether the man with affinities to the victim is or is not bound to accept the compensation offered him—the word for which is poinḗ (Iliad XVIII 498), precisely the same term that was applied to the compensation offered for the hypothetical death of one’s brother or son in the speech of Ajax (Iliad IX 633, 636). In addition, Muellner points out that the syntax of μηδέν at XVIII 500 must mean that the little man in the picture on the shield will absolutely never accept any compensation. [42] This utter inflexibility of an aggrieved party who is permanently frozen into the picture reflects the same temperament that is so repellent to Apollo in the heroic figure of Achilles. Apollo says of him:

ᾧ οὔτ᾽ ἂρ φρένες εἰσὶν ἐναίσιμοι οὔτε νόημα
γναμπτὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι, λέων δ᾽ ὣς ἄγρια οἶδεν
His thinking is not right and his sense of nóos
is not flexible within his breast, but like a lion he knows savage ways.

Iliad XXIV 40–41

Old Phoinix had already entreated him with these words:

ἀλλ᾽, Ἀχιλεῦ, πόρε καὶ σὺ Διὸς κούρῃσιν ἕπεσθαι
τιμήν, ἥ τ᾽ ἄλλων περ ἐπιγνάμπτει νόον ἐσθλῶν {109|110}
So, Achilles, you too must grant that the Daughters of Zeus [Litai ‘Prayers’, personified] be given their honor,
which makes flexible the nóos of others, good as they are.

Iliad IX 513–514

What Ajax had said against Achilles still applies when Apollo says it again:

ἄγριον ἐν στήθεσσι θέτο μεγαλήτορα θυμόν
He made savage the great-hearted thūmós within his breast.

Iliad IX 629—Ajax

… ἄγρια οἶδεν
… he knows savage ways

Iliad XXIV 41—Apollo

pitiless one …

Iliad IX 632—Ajax

… ἔλεον μὲν ἀπώλεσεν
… he lost pity

Iliad XXIV 44—Apollo

6§22. Just as Patroklos led Achilles to rejoin his comrades-in-arms, it was Kleopatre who had impelled Meleager to reenter his war. The words of Kleopatre had conjured up the grief that happens when a city is destroyed:

… καί οἱ κατέλεξεν ἅπαντα
κήδε᾽ ὅσ᾽ ἀνθρώποισι πέλει τῶν ἄστυ ἁλώῃ·
ἄνδρας μὲν κτείνουσι, πόλιν δέ τε πῦρ ἀμαθύνει,
τέκνα δέ τ᾽ ἄλλοι ἄγουσι βαθυζώνους τε γυναῖκας
… and she told him in their proper order
all the cares that befall men whose city is captured: {110|111}
they kill the men, fire reduces the city to ashes,
and strangers lead away the children and deep-girdled wives

Iliad IX 591–594

Within this highly compressed presentation, we see the same themes as in the formal lamentation of Andromache (Iliad XXIV 725–745) during the public pénthos for Hektor. In Andromache’s lament, the thematic setting for her personal grief is the portended collective grief surrounding the portended destruction of the city. [
44] In fact, Kleopatre herself has the stance of lamentation (ὀδυρομένη ‘mourning’, Iliad IX 591), just as those who ‘mourn’ Hektor (ὀδύρονται: Iliad XXIV 740). Furthermore, Kleopatre even has a by-name that connotes the very essence of pénthos:

In sum, it was the grief conjured up by Kleo -pátrē that impelled Meleager to enter the war and thus undertake the epic deeds that resulted in “the kléos [plural] of men who lived before, heroes” (τῶν πρόσθεν … κλέα ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων: Iliad IX 524–525). Similarly, the grief caused by the actual death of Patro- kléēs leads to the “unfailing kléos” of Achilles in the epic tradition of the Iliad (κλέος ἄφθιτον: Iliad IX 413). [

6§23. Because of Patro- kléēs , Achilles gets kleos. Conversely, because of * Akhí lāu̯os, Patroklos gets ákhos/pénthos from the {111|112} Achaeans. In general, the ákhos that Patroklos gets from Achilles at XXIII 47 is formalized in a public dimension as the Funeral Games throughout Iliad XXIII. [47] In particular, this ákhos is formalized when Achilles leads the Achaeans in lamentation for Patroklos:

… οἱ δ᾽ ᾽μωξαν ἀολλέες, ἦρχε δ᾽ Ἀχιλλεύς
… and they all wailed together, and Achilles led them

Iliad XXIII 12

τοῖσι δὲ Πηλεΐδης ἁδινοῦ ἐξῆρχε γόοιο
The son of Peleus led them in frequent góos [lamentation].

Iliad XXIII 17

Similarly, in the public pénthos over Hektor (XXIV 708), Andromache leads the Trojan women in songs of lamentation for her husband:

παρὰ δ᾽ εἷσαν ἀοιδοὺς
θρήνων ἐξάρχους, οἵ τε στονόεσσαν ἀοιδήν
οἱ μὲν ἄρ᾽ ἐθρήνεον, ἐπὶ δὲ στενάχοντο γυναῖκες.
τῇσιν δ᾽ Ἀνδρομάχη λευκώλενος ἦρχε γόοιο
And they seated next to him [Hektor’s corpse] aoidoí [singers, poets] who were to lead in the thrênoi [lamentations].
They sang a wailing song, singing thrênoi . And the women wailed in response,
and white-armed Andromache led them in the góos [lamentation].

Iliad XXIV 720–723

The dimension of singing lamentations, which is only implicit in the epic use of the words ákhos/pénthos by way of contrast with kléos, is here made explicit. As Margaret Alexiou has shown in detail, the traditional genre of lamentation is an integral element in funerary ritual, requiring an interplay of two subgenres: the kin sing góoi while poets sing thrênoi, as described in the Iliadic passage we have just considered. [
48] The genre of epic, however, imposes numerous restrictions on its own thematic treatment of lamentations. Nowhere, for instance, can we see epic overtly telling the contents of the thrênoi, even though they are suitable for singing by aoidoí ‘singers, poets’, as at 720–721 above; only góoi are “quoted,” as at XXIV 725–745 (Andromache), 748–759 (Hekabe), and 762–775 (Helen). [49] {112|113}

6§25. The point remains, then, that the epic tradition of the Iliad assigns the overtly ritual dimension of ákhos/pénthos to Patroklos. Conversely, the kleos that Achilles gets from the Iliad is distinctly nonritual on the level of epic. As we have seen from the internal evidence of epic itself, the κλέα ἀνδρῶν ‘kléos [plural] of men’ are intended as an elevated form of entertainment, and they bring ákhos/pénthos only to those who are involved in the ákhos/pénthos that the kléos may happen to describe. For the uninvolved audience of epic, the death of Patroklos is a subject for kleos. For the involved Achilles, it is ákhos/pénthos. It follows, then, that the death of Achilles himself would be ákhos/pénthos for those involved and thus unsuitable for the kléos of epic. From the fact that our Iliad substitutes the death of Patro- kléēs , we may infer that the death of Achilles may have been unsuitable for the kléos of the Iliadic tradition partly because the audience itself was involved in his death. There is a religious dimension here. Communal involvement in {113|114} ákhos/pénthos requires the rituals of cult, as we have already seen from the evidence on the cult of Demeter Akhaiā́. By performing ritual lamentations, the community involves itself with the ákhos of Demeter over the káthodos of Kore.

6§28. In order to understand the Homeric perspective on hḗrōes, the emergence of Homeric Epos must be seen in its social context, dated to the eighth century B.C. This same era is marked by the emergence of (1) the pólis and (2) intensive intercommunication among the elite of the various póleis, a phenomenon which we have defined as Panhellenism. [58] I will leave the details and documentation to Anthony Snodgrass and others, [59] confining myself here to the problem of contrasting the cult of heroes, which is restricted to the local level of the pólis, with the Homeric kléos of heroes, which is Panhellenic and thus free from such restrictions. The point is, essentially, that the eighth century B.C. is the setting not only for the emergence of Homeric Epos but also for the upsurge of hero cults, [60] an institution that reflects not the beginnings but rather the strong revival of a continuous heritage. [61] Following Rohde, we may properly {115|116} refer to such a heritage in terms of ancestor worship, which later became hero cult. [62] It is in the context of the pólis that the worship of ancestors evolved into the cult of heroes. [63] Moreover, the epic tradition was also evolving within the same context. The internal evidence of the Iliad and the Odyssey reflects the ideology of the pólis in general [64] —but without being restricted to the ideology of any one pólis in particular. [65] Here, then, is the central issue: the Panhellenic Epos is the product of the same era that produced an upsurge in local hero cults.

6§30. As Rohde himself had noticed, the Funeral of Patroklos at Iliad XXIII has several features that connote the rituals of hero cults. [68] For example, the wine libation (Iliad XXIII 218–221) and the offering of honey with oil (Iliad XXIII 170; cf. Odyssey xxiv 67–68) “can hardly be regarded as anything but sacrificial.” [69] Such marginal details of cult, as also the integral element of singing lamentations at XXIII 12 and 17, {116|117} give ritual form to the ákhos of Achilles for Patroklos at XXIII 47. [70] Even the central epic action of Book XXIII, the Funeral Games of Patroklos, has ritual form. [71] In Homeric narrative, the funeral of a hero is the primary occasion for athletic contests (Iliad XXIII 630–631: Amarynkeus; Odyssey xxiv 85–86: Achilles himself). [72] In classical times, local athletic contests were still motivated as funeral games for the epichoric hero (cf., e.g., Pausanias 8.4.5). As a general principle, the agṓn was connected with the cult of heroes, and even the Great Panhellenic Games were originally conceived as funeral games for heroes. [73] The custom of mourning for Achilles at the beginning of the Olympics (Pausanias 6.23.3) is a striking instance of this heritage. [74] As a parallel, epic offers a corresponding single event in the mourning for Patroklos that inaugurates the Funeral Games in Book XXIII. Even though there are hints within the Iliad that the Funeral of Patroklos is presented as a grand beginning of cult (Iliad XXIV 592–595), [75] the overt singularity of the event forced Rohde to rule it out as a parallel to the cult of heroes, which is recurrent. [76] And yet, the Iliad itself is a singularity. What is recurrent in ritual is timeless in the epic tradition, just like the kléos áphthiton of Achilles.{117|}


[ back ] 1. Cf. also the parallel use of pénthos in inscriptions (e.g., Sokolowski 1955 no. 16:11–13).

[ back ] 2. Cf. also Iliad XVI 548–553: it is pénthos that makes the Trojans want to recover the body of Sarpedon.

[ back ] 3. Ch.1§2, Ch.12§3; cf. Nagy 1974:229–261.

[ back ] 4. Nagy 1974:256.

[ back ] 5. Ch.1§3.

[ back ] 6. Nagy 1974:244–255; see also Koller 1972.

[ back ] 7. Nagy, pp. 255–261.

[ back ] 8. On the notion “therápōn of the Muses”: Ch.17§§3–9, Ch.18§§1–6.

[ back ] 9. Cf. Kullmann 1956, esp. pp. 11, 20.

[ back ] 10. Cf. also line 33: ὑμνεῖν … γένος.

[ back ] 11. Cf. West 1966:189.

[ back ] 12. The connection of génos here with the notion of “theogony” is made even more explicit at Theogony 114–115. On the traditional nature of theogonic poetry: Duban 1975.

[ back ] 13. On the etymology of Moûsai: Ch.1§3n8.

[ back ] 14. Cf. also Theogony 61.

[ back ] 15. Nagy 1974:244–255.

[ back ] 16. Even this narrative of a narrative obeys the convention of beginning with a word that serves as title (in this case, nóstos at Odyssey i 326), followed by an epithet and then a relative clause that sets forth the relationship of the title word to the main subject (in this case, how Athena caused the nóstos of the Achaeans from Troy to be a baneful one indeed: Odyssey i 327). See Ch.5§8n17. Thus the word nóstos here designates not only the homecoming of the Achaeans but also the epic tradition that told about their homecoming.

[ back ] 17. On the Will of Zeus as the plot of the narrative, see the comments on Odyssey viii 577–580 at §8; also Ch.5§25n36 and Ch.7§17.

[ back ] 18. For the semantics of kleíō/epikleíō, compare ainéō/epainéō, the technical and programmatic words for ‘praise’ in praise poetry (e.g., Pindar Olympian 4.14/Pythian 2.67; see Detienne 1973:18–22). Cf. also the technical word used by rhapsōidoí for the notion of ‘recite Homer’: Hómēron epaineîn (Plato Ιοn 536d, 541e).

[ back ] 19. See also n. 16 above. For further discussion of the two-level application of kléos to characters within the narrative and to the audience outside the narrative: Nagy 1974:11–13. More on Odyssey i 351–352 in Nagy 1990:69.

[ back ] 20. See Friis Johansen 1967:28 on the corresponding theme in archaic iconography: warriors killing children in the presence of women. In fact, the iconographical evidence indicates “a coherent Iliou Persis narrative as source” (Johansen 1967:28).

[ back ] 21. Bassett 1933:58.

[ back ] 22. Sinos 1975:104.

[ back ] 23. At Iliad XXIV 105, her pénthos is described as álaston ‘unforgettable’.

[ back ] 24. Ch.2§11; cf. also Nagy 1974:250–255.

[ back ] 25. Cf. Etéoklos in Hesiod fr. 70.34MW, a by-form of Eteokléēs; also Dioklos (Hymn to Demeter 153), a by-form of Diokléēs/Dioklês (Hymn to Demeter 474, 477).

[ back ] 26. To justify my interpretation of this passage, I cite Schmitt 1967:93–95.

[ back ] 27. Sinos 1975:67–70. For further observations about the intent of this story: Rosner 1976.

[ back ] 28. Sinos 1975:70–79.

[ back ] 29. Benveniste 1969 I:338–353.

[ back ] 30. Benveniste 1969 I:352–353 = 1973:288.

[ back ] 31. For additional parallelisms on the level of diction between the stories of Meleager and Achilles, see Rosner 1976:323.

[ back ] 32. Cf. Lord 1967:243.

[ back ] 33. At Iliad XXI 275–278, Apollo alone is pictured as killing Achilles; at Iliad XIX 416–417 and XXII 358–360, on the other hand, Achilles is killed by Apollo and Paris.

[ back ] 34. Kakridis 1949:21–24.

[ back ] 35. Kakridis, p. 21.

[ back ] 36. Cf. Howald 1946:132.

[ back ] 37. On the terms code and message (as used by Jakobson 1960), see further at Ch.12§§18–19.

[ back ] 38. Sinos 1975.

[ back ] 39. Sinos 1975:74.

[ back ] 40. The same notion of “becoming the Light” for men by virtue of being their savior is more fully expressed by way of simile: see Ch.20§20.

[ back ] 41. Muellner 1976:105–106.

[ back ] 42. Muellner 1976:105–106.

[ back ] 43. See Rosner 1976:321–322, supplementing Whitman 1958:203–207 and Segal 1971:18 ff.

[ back ] 44. For the tradition of lamentation over the destruction of cities: Alexiou 1974:83–101. Compare the ákhos of the captive woman in Odyssey viii 530, corresponding to the ákhos experienced by Odysseus when he is about to hear Demodokos narrate the destruction of Troy. Discussion at §9.

[ back ] 45. Cf. Anthologia Palatina 9.151.8, where only the Nereids remain after the destruction of Corinth: σῶν ἀχέων μίμνομεν ἁλκύονες. For the traditional connection of (h)alkúones and Nereids, see Theocritus 7.59–60. See also Alexiou 1974:97: “Like the folk songs for the fall of Constantinople, many of these ballads open with the theme of weeping birds—nightingales, swallows and cuckoos—which, as sole survivors of the disaster, bring the news to others and are called upon to join in the general lamentation.”

[ back ] 46. For a possible allusion to this theme in the Odyssey: §10. Note the last words of Andromache’s first lament for Hektor: κλέος εἶναι ‘that there be kléos’ (Iliad XXII 514).

[ back ] 47. More details at §30.

[ back ] 48. Alexiou 1974:10–14. I should note that the semantic distinction between góoi and thrênoi is generally not maintained in the diction of Athenian tragedy.

[ back ] 49. See Alexiou, pp. 13, with more details about the social prestige of the thrênos.

[ back ] 50. See Kakridis 1949:67–68.

[ back ] 51. Cf. Alexiou 1974:10–14. Here too (as at Iliad XXIV 721), thrênoi are being sung (Odyssey xxiv 61); however, now the singers are not aoidoí (as at Iliad XXIV 720) but the Muses themselves (Odyssey xxiv 60). Cf. also Pindar Pythian 3.100–103: the death of Achilles causes góos for the Danaans.

[ back ] 52. For example, the narrative convention of the Diòs boulḗ ‘Will of Zeus’ as at Iliad I 5 is treated as a foil by Odyssey i 7 (see Maehler 1963:23) as well as by viii 577–580.

[ back ] 53. For the traditional use of the word lāós outside the context of epic to designate the community at large, see Benveniste 1969 II:91–95, esp. on lḗïton, leitourgíā. Note that lḗïton is described in Herodotus 7.197 as a word proper to the Akhaioí.

[ back ] 54. For this and other examples of cult practices in honor of Achilles, see Nilsson 1906:457. In the case of Pausanias 6.23.2, I am unsure about any direct connection between the hieròs drómos ‘sacred run’ and the lore surrounding Achilles, but it may be worth pointing out this hero’s specific affinity with the theme of running; see esp. Ch.20§9 (cf. also Iliad XVIII 56 as discussed at Ch.10§11 and n. 30).

[ back ] 55. Cf. Herodotus 5.67.5, where the earliest known stages of the local cult of Adrastos at Sikyon are being described: τά τε δή ἄλλα οἱ Σικυώνιοι ἐτίμων τὸν Ἄδρηστον καὶ δή πρὸς τὰ πάθεα αὐτοῦ τραγικοῖσι χοροῖσι ἐγέραιρον ‘the people of Sikyon gave tīm to Adrastos in various ways; in particular, they honored him [gave him géras ] with tragic songs/dances corresponding to the things that he suffered [ páthos plural]’. On páthos ‘thing suffered’ as related to pénthos ‘grief’, see Nagy 1974:258–260. Both nouns are derived from the root *k w enth– as in the verb páskhō ‘experience, suffer’, which also functions as the passive of poiéō and dráō ‘do’ (in this sense, páthos is the passive of drâma). The epic combination pénthos álaston ‘unforgettable grief’ must be compared with ἄλαστα δὲ / ϝέργα πάθον κακὰ μησαμένοι in Alcman 1.34–35P: “they suffered [verb páskhō ] unforgettable things [ álaston plural] for having devised evil.

[ back ] 56. See especially Rohde I 146–199. For a strong critique of the opposing view as represented by L. R. Farnell, see Brelich 1958:99n81, who comments also on the irony that Farnell is a noted commentator on the poetry of Pindar. See also the criticism of Farnell by Pötscher 1961:336n91.

[ back ] 57. Cf. Rohde I 108–110; also Brelich 1958:144n202, Nilsson I 186, Schnaufer 1970:34, Alexiou 1974:19.

[ back ] 58. See Introduction §14.

[ back ] 59. See Introduction §14n23–24.

[ back ] 60. On which see Snodgrass 1971:191–193. Cf. Introduction §18.

[ back ] 61. Snodgrass, pp. 398–399. I cannot agree with the argument of Coldstream 1976 that the upsurge of hero cults in the eighth century is a mere result of Homeric poetry. Snodgrass himself has offered a refutation of this view in a paper presented at the Convegno internazionale sulla ideologia funeraria nel mondo antico, Naples/Ischia 6–10 December 1977 (sponsored by the Istituto Universitario Orientale [Naples] and the Centre de Recherches Comparées sur les sociétés anciennes [Paris]). The title of the paper read by A. Snodgrass was: “The Origins of the Greek Hero-Cults”; other papers include: J.-P. Vernant’s “L’idéologie de la mort héroïque,” A. Schnapp-Gourbeillon’s “Les funérailles de Patrocle,” and N. Loraux’s “Mort civique et idéologie de la cité.” In developing my present argument, I draw considerable encouragement from the views of Vernant and his colleagues. See now Snodgrass 1982.

[ back ] 62. Rohde I 108–110, 228–245, esp. 235n1.

[ back ] 63. Cf. Rohde I 167–171. This evolution can be correlated with the obsolescence of the thrênos as a genre, and with the history of vigorous legislation against it; see Alexiou 1974, esp. pp. 13, 18–19, 104, 108.

[ back ] 64. Snodgrass 1971:435; see also Luce 1978.

[ back ] 65. Cf. Introduction §14.

[ back ] 66. Rohde I 184–189: once a hero ceases to be epichoric, he may become a god. Cf. also Rohde’s discussion on pp. (I) 59–65, 141–145, 159–166, etc.

[ back ] 67. For a sensible critique: Hack 1929; also Sinos 1975:91–94.

[ back ] 68. Rohde I 14–22.

[ back ] 69. Rohde I 16 = 1925:45n13.

[ back ] 70. Besides the element of song, we also find that of dance. In Aristotle fr. 519 Rose (on which see the correction made by Meuli 1968 [= 1926]:70n3; also West 1978:372n1), there is a report of a tradition that Achilles danced the purrhíkhē at the pyre of Patroklos. From the same source (ap. scholia to Iliad XXIII 130), we hear of a funerary custom in Cyprus: τῶν βασιλέων κηδευομένων προηγεῖτο πυρριχίζων ὁ στρατός ‘at the funerals of kings, the procession was led by the army, who danced the purrhíkhē. Compare the proceedings at the Funeral of Patroklos, Iliad XXIII 131–137 (and the commentary of Rohde I 165–166n1).

[ back ] 71. See Sinos 1975:83–88 on the significance of the sêma at Iliad XXIII 331.

[ back ] 72. Rohde I 14–22. Kirk (1968:115) refers to the chariot contest at the Funeral Games of Amarynkeus as “an apparent predecessor of the Olympic Games.”

[ back ] 73. Rohde I 151–152 and Nilsson 1951 [=1911]:99–100.

[ back ] 74. It should be noted, however, that the primary hero of the Olympics is Pelops (Pausanias 5.13.1); see Burkert 1972:108–119.

[ back ] 75. Rohde I 55–59, esp. 59n1; Sinos 1975:92–94.

[ back ] 76. Rohde I 148–152.