Levaniouk, Olga. 2011. Eve of the Festival: Making Myth in Odyssey 19. Hellenic Studies Series 46. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Levaniouk.Eve_of_the_Festival.2011.
Chapter 9. Eurybates
εἵπετο· καὶ τόν τοι μυθήσομαι, οἷος ἔην περ·
γυρὸς ἐν ὤμοισιν, μελανόχροος, οὐλοκάρηνος,
Εὐρυβάτης δ’ ὄνομ’ ἔσκε· τίεν δέ μιν ἔξοχον ἄλλων
ὧν ἑτάρων Ὀδυσεύς, ὅτι οἱ φρεσὶν ἄρτια ᾔδη.
came along with him. I will tell you about him, what sort of a person he was.
He was round-shouldered, dark-skinned, with wooly hair,
and his name was Eurybates. Odysseus valued him above
his other companions, because they thought alike.
Like everything else in this conversation, the mention of Eurybates has its share of complications and unsolved puzzles. All three adjectives describing the herald are Homeric hapaxes, which means we are ill-positioned to evaluate their effect. Overall, Eurybates has struck commentators as physically unattractive, though possibly concealing an “inner excellence” behind his “un-heroic” façade.  This impression seems to be primarily created by the herald’s rounded shoulders, a characteristic which is also present, in grotesque form, in Thersites:
κυρτὼ ἐπὶ στῆθος συνοχωκότε· αὐτὰρ ὕπερθε
φοξὸς ἔην κεφαλήν, ψεδνὴ δ’ ἐπενήνοθε λάχνη.
coming together over his chest. And above,
his head was deformed, with sparse hair.
It is doubtful that this comparison is justified. The adjective used of Thersites’ shoulders is kurtos, and it regularly describes humped backs such as that of a camel, a bull rearing for attack, and, above all, of hunchbacks.  Since Thersites’ shoulders come together over his chest and go together with a limp and sparse hair, there can be little doubt that he is far removed from any conventional notions of beauty or fitness. In contrast, guros is not conventionally used to describe humps and has no associations with deformity. Eurybates’ shoulders are curved or rounded, but it is not even clear whether this is good or bad, or either. His other features, dark skin and wooly hair, are equally hard to place. Some have thought that this combination suggests an African type, but this seems unlikely.  As Irwin has shown, melas is often used to describe the tanned skin of males who spend much time in the sun, and there is no reason to think that it means anything different here.  In fact, though there is no exact match elsewhere for Eurybates’ physical characteristics, the person whom he comes closest to resembling is in fact Odysseus, and Odysseus at his best. When Athena restores Odysseus’ youth, once for Nausikaa and once for Penelope, the hero acquires dense hair described in terms reminiscent of that of Eurybates (οὔλας ἧκε κόμας, ‘let down wooly hair’ Odyssey 6.231 = 23.153), and when Odysseus regains his normal appearance to reunite with Telemachus, he becomes dark-skinned (ἂψ δὲ μελαγχροιὴς γένετο, ‘he became dark-skinned again’ 16.175). Since Odysseus in these scenes is certainly meant to be handsome, young, and strong, it seems doubtful whether Eurybates is indeed such an unattractive, Thersites-like character as he is sometimes thought to be. Indeed, in view of the similarities in skin and hair between Eurybates and Odysseus, it seems noteworthy that in the Teikhoskopia when Priam looks at the Achaeans from the wall of Troy and describes Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Ajax, he mentions Odysseus’ wide shoulders:
εὐρύτερος δ’ ὤμοισιν ἰδὲ στέρνοισιν ἰδέσθαι.
but in appearance broader in shoulders and chest.
Eurybates is presumably less heroic-looking than Odysseus, but they do resemble each other. On balance, I wonder whether γυρὸς ἐν ὤμοισι in Odyssey 19 does not mean something like ‘with bulging shoulders’, a feature that is not necessarily handsome, but indicative of physical aptitude. If so, Eurybates may be reminiscent of the short and bow-legged warrior praised in Archilochus fr. 114.  In any case, Eurybates’ physical similarity to Odysseus is matched by their apparent trust and mental accord, which leads Odysseus to value the herald above his other companions. The mental qualities of Eurybates are described as ἄρτια ᾔδη (19.248), ‘he thought things in accordance with him’.  The only other time this expression is used in Homer it applies to Diomedes’ trusty companion, Deipylos. On that occasion too, Diomedes is said to value Deipylos above the rest of his age group (Iliad 5.325–326). Eurybates, then, seems to be a kind of Odysseus-double, both because of their shared physical characteristics and because of their intellectual cohesion.
Βοιωτῶν σίνοντο· γένος δ’ ἔσαν Οἰχαλιῆες,
Ὦλός τ’ Εὐρύβατός τε, δύω βαρυδαίμονες ἄνδρες.
of the Boeotians. In origin they were from Oikhalia,
Olos and Eurybatos, two luckless men.
Later sources, however, picture them near Ephesos, and say that it was there that Herakles captured them (Apollodorus 2.6.3, Diodorus 4.31.7). There is no mention of the ‘black-bottomed one’ in those accounts that place the Kerkopes in Asia Minor. Since some of the Ephesian population derived from Boeotia and Thessaly it is quite possible that they brought the story of Kerkopes and Herakles with them and transferred it to their environment. In any case, the story is attested in Asia Minor, mainland Greece, and Italy, in the latter two regions as early as the sixth century. Harpocration even mentions poetry about the Kerkopes ascribed to Homer:
Given this wide and early distribution it is not surprising to find several versions of the myth, including the names of the rascally brothers. Aeschines, for example, gives the names Andoulos and Atlantos, while the Suda gives Passalos (‘peg’) and Akmon (‘anvil’) – both sexual puns – among others. 
ἐξαπατητῆρας· πολλὴν δ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἰόντες
ἀνθρώπους ἀπάτασκον, ἀλώμενοι ἤματα πάντα.
Traveling over a large territory,
they used to deceive people, roaming all the time.
Similarly, Diotimus presents them as wandering robbers (κατὰ τριόδους πατέοντες, ‘trampling over the crossroads’ fr. 393).
ἀνδράσιν ἠδὲ γυναιξὶν ἀνὰ χθόνα βωτιάνειραν.
all over the man-feeding earth, both men and women.
Perhaps some similar notions contribute to Diotimus’ choice of adjective to describe the Kerkopes, βαρυδαίμονες, a word that usually means ‘of ill luck’ rather than ‘bringing ill luck to others’, as might be expected of robbers. Like the cloak and the pin, the description of the herald seems to say much about Odysseus and the nature of his absence and return, suggesting both the reasons he might be somewhere in unknown trouble and the likelihood that he will extricate himself.