Fighting Words and Feuding Words: Anger and the Homeric Poems

Chapter 7. The Beginning of Χόλος

{126|127} As we have seen, khólos comes to be identified by its endpoint, a feature that accords well with Calchas’s indication that it can be consumed “in a day” (autêmar, Il. 1.81). Can we also expect that it can be located as to its beginning, the moment at which a character comes to be angry? And will we also find moments to designate the continuation of the state of anger, that is to say, a point somewhere between beginning and end? In fact, just as, when the narrative presents the end of khólos, the phraseology involves a form of khólos in the accusative case, so the beginning of khólos is linked to a phrase that displays the nominative case. Moreover, I will show that the process of khólos is carefully handled by Homeric diction in a way that is foreign to the notion of kótos.

In Appendix 2 (Group 6a-d), I have listed all the forms of nominative khólos, (23 in all) in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, with a further breakdown according to formulaic phrases involving a specific set of verbs, namely, édu, láben, hḗrei, émpese, and híkoi. There are clear examples of formulas with nominative khólos referring to the inception of khólos. It is important that central figures of the narrative are involved in this group, in particular Achilles (Il . 19.16), Hector (Il . 22.94, by way of a simile) and Meleager (Il . 9.553).

There are three cases of the phrase édukhólos where the narrator pinpoints the beginning of anger as that moment when khólos “enters into” the angered party. Book 19’s example of this phrase highlights one of the most dramatic moments in the Iliad, when Achilles receives the newly made armor from his mother, Thetis. It is often noted that his response presents him as somehow infused with a kind of anger, but we should note that this kind of anger is specifically khólos: {127|128}

αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς
ὡς εἶδ’, ὥς μιν μᾶλλον ἔδυ χόλος, ἐν δέ οἱ ὄσσε
δεινὸν ὑπὸ βλεφάρων ὡς εἰ σέλας ἐξεφάανθεν·

(Il . 19.15-17)

As for Achilles, when he saw [the armor], just so did khólos enter him the more, and his eyes, as if a lightning flash, shone terribly beneath his brow.

Coincident with the viewing of his armor is the manipulation of his khólos; we will see that the use of khólos here is poetically motivated within the context of the Iliad. Khólos typically involves images or metaphors concerning visual perception.

Another character whose khólos “enters” him in this way is Meleager, in Phoenix’s exemplum. As the narrator of the story of Meleager, Phoenix links the khólos of Meleager with the moment at which the evils begin for the Aitolians:

ὄφρα μὲν οὖν Μελέαγρος ἀρηίφιλος πολέμιζε,
τόφρα δὲ Κουρήτεσσι κακῶς ἦν,
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ Μελέαγρον ἔδυ χόλος,
ἤ τοι ὃ μητρὶ φίλῃ Ἀλθαίῃ χωόμενος κῆρ
κεῖτο παρὰ μνηστῇ ἀλόχῳ, καλῇ Κλεοπάτρη,

(Il . 9.550-51; 553; 555-56)

While Meleager, then, beloved of Ares continued to fight, so long did it go badly for the Kouretes… But when khólos entered into Meleager … indeed out of anger in his heart at his beloved mother, he lay beside his lawful wife, lovely Kleopatra.

The narrator makes his scene dramatic by pointing to the effects of the khólos scenario, in which the warrior comes to be absent from war and refuses to fight, and his absence comes at just the moment (hóte dḗ, 554) that anger “enters” him. [1] In both cases, the reception of the armor and the story of Meleager, the arousal of khólos marks a turning point in the description (Il . 19.16) or the narrative (Il . 9.554). Furthermore, that Achilles responds in just the way Meleager responded comments on this stage of his wrath. In Nagler’s words:

{128|129} The importance of this observation for my discussion is that it announces khólos as a mark of “withdrawal.”

Patroclus identifies khólos here as belonging to Achilles (hòn sù phulásseis). It is hard to imagine kótos belonging to any one character in this way. One has the sense that these characters respond to this emotion in ways that reveal both cultural convention and their own character traits, even as does Glaucus when he tells the story of Bellerophon. Here (Il . 6.161-65) Proitos, believing Anteia’s lie, becomes angry. It is important that, as in Achilles version of the quarrel in Book 1, Anteia’s speech-act (in this case a lie, pseusaménē, 163) produces khólos in Proetus (Il . 6.166):

ὣς φάτο, τὸν δὲ ἄνακτα χόλος λάβεν οἷον ἄκουσε.

Thus she spoke, and khólos took hold of that king when he heard such a thing.

{130|131} It will become significant later that Anteia’s request and Proetus’s response is to kill Bellerophon (káktane, 164; kteînai, 167), but for now it is sufficient to underscore the immediacy of this kind of anger as it is manifest in prompt and dramatic action, in both of the formulaic contexts that we have just seen (khólos láben and édu khólos).

The three instances in Group 6c point to the khólos of a god, twice Hera (in a repeated line) and once Hephaestus in the song of Demodocus about Aphrodite and Hera. Although this latter scene is comic, Hephaestus’s discovery of the pair of lovers trapped in his net is given a dramatic presentation: Helius keeps close watch. He announces that the trap has been sprung (Od . 8.303). Then Hephaestus returns home, bitterly enraged (tetiēménos êtor, 303). [13] With Hephaestus standing in the doorway, his khólos enters him to dominate his rebuke:

ἔστη δ’ ἐν προθύροισι, χόλος δέ μιν ἄγριος ᾕρει·
σμερδαλέον δ’ ἐβόησε, γέγωνέ τε πᾶσι θεοῖσι.

(Od . 8.304-5)

He took his stand in the doorway, and savage khólos took hold of him, and he gave a tremendous cry, and shouted to all the gods.

Once again the notion of khólos is used to characterize the force of the subject’s response. Moreover, we have a new element added to our picture of the inception of khólos: instead of coming as a result of words, of a threat or other kind of speech act, here Hephaestus’s anger is in direct response to the sight of Ares and Aphrodite caught in flagrante delicto. Characteristic here is the immediacy of khólos, with the production of anger directly connected to the sight of the provoking action. So, although Hephaestus had been angry, his rage only reaches full steam when he is standing in the doorway watching the trapped pair of lovers. Thus, quite different from kótos, khólos is visceral and shows itself as a direct response to a disturbance, be it word or deed.

In the first place, Athena represses her anger; although her immediate response is to want to speak, she maintains silence: [15]

ἤ τοι Ἀθηναίη ἀκέων ἦν οὐδέ τι εἶπε,
σκυζομένη Διὶ πατρί, χόλος δέ μιν ἄγριος ᾕρει·

(Il . 4.22-23)

Still Athena was silent and she did not say a word, resentful as she was to Zeus her father, but savage khólos took hold of her.

Here the text points to the anger of Athena as it continues to hold sway over her, although its effects are something she keeps under control. Moreover, the very next line shows a failed attempt to control khólos on Hera’s part, and the poetic artistry takes pains to make the contrast as stark as possible, with the enjambement functioning as a kind of pun (hḗirei/Hḗrēi). The repetition of khólos, with the metrically identical (but diathetically distinct) forms (khólos/khólon) are positioned so that they are sequentially incremented (khólos [23] at O’Neill’s position 7 and khólon [24] at position 8); the complex artistry is completed with the chiastic arrangement of formulaic elements, with the khólos formula at the end of 23 and at the beginning of 24:

σκυζομένη Διὶ πατρί, χόλος δέ μιν ἄγριος ᾕρει·
Ἥρῃ δ’ οὐκ ἔχαδε στῆθος χόλον, ἀλλὰ προσηύδα.

(Il . 4.23-24)

Resentful as she was to Zeus her father, and savage khólos took hold of [her], but Hera’s chest did not restrain her wrath, but spoke out.

The same can be said for the doublet at Il . 8.457-61, where Zeus once again challenges Athena and Hera (Il . 8.447-56), with Hera characteristically failing to restrain her anger (in the accusative), while Athena’s khólos maintains its hold on her, although she keeps from speaking. It needs to be added that the use of the formula khólos dé min ágrios hēirei at Il . 8.460 follows Zeus’s observation of the two goddesses being angry in a different way:

τίφθ’ οὕτω τετίησθον, Ἀθηναίη τε καὶ Ἥρῃ;
οὐ μέν θην κάμετόν γε μάχῃ ἐνὶ κυδιανείρῃ
ὀλλῦσαι Τρῶας, τοῖσιν κότον αἰνὸν ἔθεσθε.

(Il . 8.447-49)

Why thus are you angry, Athena and Hera? Aren’t you tired of killing the Trojans in this man-glorying war, those against whom you bear a grievous kótos ?

{132|133} The accumulation of anger terms here puts Calchas’s definition into perspective. The goddesses are maintaining a long-standing kótos against the Trojans that Zeus in no way can assuage. Rather, he threatens them by reminding them that they cannot defy his will (Il . 8.450-56); as is in keeping with the definition of kótos, there is no suggestion here that they can bring the war to an end. It is this threat with its implications that they might be tired (kámeton) of doing what is after all their duty (enforcing kótos) that causes the khólos of the goddesses.

Thus far we have seen that khólos in the nominative case consistently refers to the inception or continuation of khólos, that is to say, to an ongoing anger, but one that remains potentially interruptible, as we saw to be possible in the previous chapter. The remaining examples of khólos (Group 6d in Appendix 2) display the same feature of khólos as an anger whose continuation or inception is in the hands of the subjects of anger, be they human or divine. In each of these cases from Group 6d, the formula epeì … khólos émpese thumôi “When anger came to fall into the heart” shows that khólos is located in the thumós. See for a formulaic parallel the accusative of khólos with bállō at Il . 14.50 (en thumôi bállontai emoì khólon) and with -tithēmi at Il . 6.326 (daimóni’ ou mèn kalà khólon tónd’ éntheo thumôi), where én (either as preverb or preposition, in tmesis) + a verb of placing (píptō, títhēmi, or bállō) + thumôi provides a coherent picture of khólos as an emotion rooted in bodily experience.

The temporal focus of this use of khólos demarcates the period of inception and then the continuation of anger as can be seen in the Diòs Apátē, when, as Hera emphasizes to Aphrodite, discord arises among the old folks (Tethys and Ocean) beginning with an old khólos:

ἤδη γὰρ δηρὸν χρόνον ἀλλήλων ἀπέχονται
εὐνῆς καὶ φιλότητος, ἐπεὶ χόλος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ.

(Il . 14.206-7 = Il . 14.305-6)

For already they keep from one another for quite a long time, from their bed and their love, since khólos has come to fall into their hearts.

This doublet presents Hera’s request for Aphrodite’s help in seducing Zeus (Il . 14.198-210). The temporal specification dēròn krónon (“a lengthy time”) makes clear that the formula khólos émpese thumôi is inceptive, to the effect that both Ocean and Tethys have been estranged from that moment when khólos separated them. [
17] Moreover, Hera’s deceptively claims that both Tethys and Oceanus will be persuaded to reconcile, even after their long-held khólos:

εἰ κείνω γ’ ἐπέεσσι παραιπεπιθοῦσα φίλον κῆρ
εἰς εὐνὴν ἀνέσαιμι ὁμωθῆναι φιλότητι,
αἰεί κέ σφι φίλη τε καὶ αἰδοίη καλεοίμην.

(Il . 14.208-10)

If these two I could sit down and with words persade their dear hearts, to share a bed in love, then would I be declared forever worthy of their love and respect.

Both here and in Iliad 9, [
18] khólos can be mollified by persuasion. The long duration of khólos (dēròn krónon, 206) does not make it resemble kótos, since unlike kótos, it has no intrinsic télos (“conclusion”); rather, the cultural expectation is that the power of persuasion can effectively be brought to bear on it—despite the failures such efforts meet in Achilles’ tent or in the dwellings of the gods.

Let us return to Phoenix’s speech, where he indicates the moment that Achilles abandoned the cause. In Il . 9.436, Phoenix points to the condition in which Achilles’ khólos has left them:

εἰ μὲν δὴ νόστον γε μετὰ φρεσί, φαίδιμ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ,
βάλλεαι, οὐδέ τι πάμπαν ἀμύνειν νηυσὶ θοῇσι
πῦρ ἐθέλεις ἀίδηλον, ἐπεὶ χόλος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ,
πῶς ἂν ἔπειτ’ ἀπὸ σεῖο, φίλον τέκος, αὖθι λιποίμην
οἶος; σοὶ δέ μ’ ἔπεμπε γέρων ἱππηλάτα Πηλεύς

(Il . 9.434-38) {134|135}

If you are considering return in your heart, glorious Achilles, and you are not willing to ward off destructive fire from the ships, since khólos has fallen into your heart, how, my child, am I to be left here alone; it was on your behalf that horse-driving Peleus, in his old age, sent me here.

Here a critical moment in the embassy has arrived, with the refusal of Agamemnon’s offer still hanging in the air. Phoenix sets up an opposition that gets to the heart of Homeric poetry—the difference between a νόστος (Il . 9.434) and a khólos (Il . 9.436). Apart from the link between khólos and the burning of the ships, khólos is now being opposed to philótēs (phílon tékos, Il . 9.437) made flesh in Phoenix. That is to say, the withdrawal of Achilles entails an implicit abandonment of philótēs. This particular point, which to his sorrow Achilles is unable to assimilate, fuses with the khólos that spurs the withdrawal. [
19] As to the force of the phrase khólos émpese thumōi, it functions to indicate both cause and time-within-which. Like Hera’s description of the khólos between Tethys and Ocean, the anger locates a point in time from and during which certain kinds of activity stop: what ceases for Ocean and Tethys is their sexual relationship (a social obligation), and for Achilles, what is at stake is his primary social obligation (certainly an affective state as well), namely, the warding off of destruction from the other Achaeans.

Is there any way we can be more certain that the formula khólos émpese thumōi presents an aorist indicating the temporal limits for anger? Consider the two other words used with this adonic cadence. In the Iliad, besides khólos, we find déos after a speech by Meriones as he urges Idomeneus to beat a hasty retreat:

Ὣς ἔφατ’, Ἰδομενεὺς δ’ ἵμασεν καλλίτριχας ἵππους
νῆας ἐπὶ γλαφυράς· δὴ γὰρ δέος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ.

(Il . 17.624-25)

Thus he spoke, and Idomeneus whipped the fair-maned horses to the hollow ships; for truly fear came to fall in his heart.

The swift withdrawal that the pair must make is emphasized by the particles and by the s-aorist marking “the entrance into that state [khólos] or the beginning of that action.” [
20] The other example of émpese thumōi, besides the four with khólos, takes place in the Odyssey, and it is tempting to think that the connection between that example and khólos is abandoned here, since instead of a word denoting emotion, we have épos at the moment when Odysseus hears the terrible lowing of the slaughtered cattle of the sun as he recalls Teiresias’s prophecy:

δη τότ’ ἐγὼν ἔτι πόντῳ ἐὼν ἐν νηὶ μελαίνῃ
μυκηθμοῦ τ’ ἤκουσα βοῶν αὐλιζομενάων
οἰῶν τε βληχήν· καί μοι ἔπος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ
μάντιος ἀλαοῦ, Θηβαίου Τειρεσίαο, {135|136}
Κίρκης τ’ Ἀιαίης, οἵ μοι μάλα πόλλ’ ἐπέτελλον
νῆσον ἀλεύασθαι τερψιμβρότου Ἠελίοιο.
δὴ τότ’ ἐγὼν ἑτάροισι μετηύδων, ἀχνύμενος κῆρ.

(Od . 12.264-70)

At that moment, still on the black ship in the sea, I myself heard, the lowing of the penned cows and the bleating of the sheep. And a word came to fall into my heart, that of the blind prophet Theban Teiresias, and of Aeaean Circe, both of whom strongly enjoined me to avoid the island of mortal-delighting Helius. At that very moment I spoke to my companions, because I was grieving at heart.

The frame provided by dè tót’ egṓn secures the temporal notion [
21] that just at the moment of hearing the noise of the animals, the words of Teiresias come to mind.

The last example of khólos in the phrase khólos émpese thumōi not only reaffirms the importance of Calchas’s reference to the inception of khólos, but presents khólos in a scene crucial to the anger of Achilles. In Iliad 16, Achilles imagines the Myrmidons saying:

σχέτλιε Πηλέος υἱέ, χόλῳ ἄρα σ’ ἔτρεφε μήτηρ,
νηλεές, ὃς παρὰ νηυσὶν ἔχεις ἀέκοντας ἑταίρους·
οἴκαδέ περ σὺν νηυσὶ νεώμεθα ποντοπόροισιν
αὖτις, ἐπεί ῥά τοι ὧδε κακὸς χόλος ἔμπεσε θυμῷ·

(Il . 16.203-6)

Troublesome son of Peleus, with khólos your mother nursed you, pitiless, you who keep by the ships your unwilling companions; surely let us go homeward with our sea-crossing ships again, since in fact this is the way that an evil khólos has come to fall into your heart.

Here is another occasion where khólos is made thematic, in this instance framing a four-line sequence quoting the “voice of the people,” Achilles’ Myrmidons. Remember that the voice of the people was also a determining factor in Phoenix’s khólos against his father:

ἀλλά τις ἀθανάτων παῦσεν χόλον, ὅς ῥ᾽ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
δήμου θῆκε φάτιν καὶ ὀνείδεα πόλλ’ ἀνθρώπων
ὡς μὴ πατροφόνος μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν καλεοίμην.

(Il . 9.458-61)

But some immortal stopped the khólos , by putting into my heart the report of the people and the many reproaches of men, so that I not be called a patricide among the Achaeans.

Achilles’ troubled imagination internalizes the tis athanátōn of Phoenix’s account, and the Myrmidons’ evaluation of their leader replaces the quite stark {136|137} possibility of patricide on Phoenix’s part; also changed is the moment in the process of khólos that Achilles emphasizes: where Phoenix, for rhetorical purposes, focused on the end of khólos, Achilles glares at its inception. And the constant here is khólos. [

Khólos has a beginning, a development, and an end, a process that Homeric characters can affect in such a way as to magnify, diminish, or end the khólos. Now good sense can be made of what seems to be the one exception to the preceding analysis of khólos, namely, Il . 14.49-51:

ὢ πόποι, ἦ ῥα καὶ ἄλλοι ἐυκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοὶ
ἐν θυμῷ βάλλονται ἐμοὶ χόλον, ὣς περ Ἀχιλλεύς,
οὐδ’ ἐθέλουσι μάχεσθαι ἐπὶ πρύμνῃσι νέεσσι.

Alas, the rest of the well-greaved Achaeans, consider in their heart a khólos against me, just as Achilles is also not willing to fight by the ship’s sterns.

Now this is the only attested use of bállō with khólos and is the only case of khólos in the accusative case to signify the inception or continuation of khólos. The context presents Agamemnon imagining the khólos of other Achaeans—so complete is his mental distraction—as they join with Achilles after Hector sets fire to the ships.


[ back ] 1. See Denniston 1975, 219, on dḗ with relative temporal adverbs (“precisely when,” “just when”).

[ back ] 2. Nagler, 1974, 140-41, my emphases.

[ back ] 3. The role of eating phármaka here should be set beside the phármaka of Helen (discussed in Part II, Chapter 1), presented in a potion that is ákholon (“stilling anger”). On a possible parallel between Achilles and Hector here (through khólos), see Lowenstam 1993, 117.

[ back ] 4. Martin 1989, 141; and set this threat beside that of Telemachus, which the suitors decline to be angry about, in Od . 21.376-88 (with apeilḗsas, [“having threatened him”] at Od . 21.368).

[ back ] 5. Apart from the reference made by Calchas at Il . 1.78.

[ back ] 6. My argument for taking 283 as referring to Achilles’ anger will appear separately (for which controversy see van Bennekom 1984, Eisenberger 1985); as to Il . 1.78 and 81, these lines refer only generally to the anger of a king, as Agamemnon’s claim that a man will be angry is potential at 1.139.

[ back ] 7. See Martin 1989, 22 on this speech.

[ back ] 8. Certainly referring to tharsḗsas mála eipè theoprópion hó ti oîstha, Il . 1.85 “With this strong encouragement speak the prophecy, as you know it.”

[ back ] 9. Besides this instance of kelómēn (Il . 1.385 “I gave an order”), the other four others instances of the form take place in the Odyssey. Each of the Odyssey’s examples are in a narration by Odysseus, where the fate of the crew depends on the execution of the leader’s orders. In Od . 9.100, Odysseus orders his remaining crew to escape the fate of those who ate the lotus; and in Od . 14.259, in a story to Eumaeus, Odysseus recalls ordering his crew to watch the ships only to see them succumb to temptation and raid the Egyptians, with the same contrast between wise leader and foolishly disobedient followers appearing in Od . 17.428; in the remaining example, Od . 9.193-96, Odysseus tells the Phaeacians how he assigned part of his crew the task of staying to guard the ship, even as he chose others to follow with him to explore Cyclops’s island. In each of these cases, the leader’s orders are pivotal to the fate of the crew. In the only example from the Iliad, Achilles’ wise order to propitiate Apollo (Il . 1.98) is contrasted with the khólos of Agamemnon at Il . 1.387, culminating in Agamemnon’s threat (ēpeílēsen, Il . 1.386 “he made a threat”) occurring in a rare and hence emphatic line-initial position. Thus, Achilles in his address to his mother establishes the rhetorical contrast he seeks to make between Agamemnon’s failed leadership, marked by his inappropriate khólos, and Achilles’ wise stewardship of matters human and divine. The entire speech is crafted by Achilles to persuade his audience, Thetis, that his anger is justified.

[ back ] 10. Denniston 1975, 448 and 45.

[ back ] 11. Cf. Muellner 1976, 19 and note 5.

[ back ] 12. One result of this formulaic caesura is that the second half of the line (khólos, hòn sù phulásseis) functions as a gloss on hoûtos.

[ back ] 13. On the interpretation of this phrase as “angry,” see Slatkin 1991, 98-99.

[ back ] 14. On Hera’s anger, see O’Brien 1993, 77-111. She links Hera’s savage anger to certain stages of Achilles’ anger (79). I agree that Achilles and Hera share certain aspects of anger as they are manifest in khólos.

[ back ] 15. Cf. Od . 11.565.

[ back ] 16. I return to the issue of Iliad 9 and khólos in Chapter 8. For now, note that speculation as to how Nestor instructed the ambassadors ought to begin with how he set up the means of persuasion, as described at Il . 9.179-81.

[ back ] 17. Chantraine’s formulation of the aorist aspect is instructive here: “l’aspect de l’action pure et simple étant essentiel et l’idée que le procès verbal est réalisé d’ un coup mise en lumière” (Chantraine 1963, §272, 184).

[ back ] 18. E.g., Il . 9.179-81.

[ back ] 19. On these issues see Nagler 1990, 228-29 and Collins 1990, 45-50.

[ back ] 20. I quote Smyth’s elegant summary of this often ignored function of s-aorists in Greek (Smyth 1956, §1924) and see §1925 for the observation that “most of the verbs in question are denominatives.” The profile matches khólos.

[ back ] 21. “Homer never opens a sentence or clause with dḗ, except when it precedes a temporal adverb or gár” (Denniston 1975, 228). Although Denniston downplays the temporal force of dḗ (203), both our examples of the formula émpese thumôi without khólos focus tightly on the moment at which something is realized by the subject.

[ back ] 22. Note also that Achilles has generalized Patroclus’s criticism to the extent that it seems to come from all his companions (Il . 16.203-6).

[ back ] 23. See Nagy 1979, 51-52.

[ back ] 24. See Martin 1989, 64.

[ back ] 25. For a modernist use of such intersubjectivity see, for example, Devlin 1989. For other warriors exhibiting such behavior, see Diomedes’ words in Il . 8.149-50. The notion that anomalies of poetic usage can be correlated with the manner in which speakers deal with their language and culture has been thoroughly developed in the Homeric context by Nagler (1990; cf. 1988, 82); his work here examines how the narrative’s lapses are joined to moments of ideological conflict. As Martin (1989) has demonstrated, the narrative and the narrative’s characters “speak the same language.” This clearly is something that the performer could exploit: in this passage Agamemnon’s misunderstanding of the problem posed by Achilles’ khólos demonstrates a feature of Agamemnon’s character, namely, that he is, as Richard Martin has argued, a “deficient rhetorician” (cf. Martin 1989, 113-20, especially 119).