Homer the Preclassic

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Chapter Nine: Further variations on a theme of Homer

II 91. Homer the federal hostage

II§327 The time has come to ask this fundamental question about the festive poetics of federal politics. How could Homeric poetry express the idea of a federal society? Or, to put it another way, how could a poetic figure like Homer serve as a spokesman for such a society? The answer, I propose, has to do with the meaning of the name Homēros ‘Homer’. [1]

II§329 The Athenian connection of the Homēridai helps explain why the narrative of a decidedly non-Athenocentric Life of Homer like Vita 1 denies the idea that Homer {254|255} had any sons. This way, as we saw in Chapter 3, the narrative also denies the idea that Homer of Chios was linked to the Homēridai who performed at the Panathenaia and who claimed to hail from Chios. Evidently, the concept of Homēridai, even as a name, had something to do with the idea of an Athenian federation—an idea that is generally avoided in Vita 1.

IIⓣ45 Homeric Hymn (3) to Apollo 164

οὕτω σφιν καλὴ συνάρηρεν ἀοιδή

That is how their beautiful song has each of its parts fitting together [sun-arariskein] in place.

II§331 This description recapitulates the meaning of Homēros (Ὅμηρος) as a nomen loquens. Etymologically, the form is a compound *hom-āros meaning ‘he who fits / joins together’, composed of the prefix homo- ‘together’ and the root of the verb arariskein (ἀρ-αρ-ίσκειν) ‘fit, join’. [5] So Homēros is ‘he who fits [the song] together’. [6] Relevant is the idea of the epic Cycle or kuklos in its earlier sense of referring to all poetry composed by Homer. [7] This meaning of kuklos as the sum total of Homeric poetry goes back to a metaphorical use of kuklos in the sense of ‘chariot wheel’ (Iliad XXIII 340, plural kukla at V 722). The metaphor of comparing a well-composed song to a well-crafted chariot wheel is explicitly articulated in the poetic traditions of Indo-European languages (as in Rig-Veda 1.130.6); more generally in the Greek poetic traditions, there is a metaphor comparing the craft of the tektōn ‘joiner, master carpenter’ to the art of the poet (as in Pindar Pythian 3.112–114). [8] So the etymology of Homēros, in the sense of ‘fitting together’, is an aspect of this metaphor: a master poet ‘fits together’ pieces of poetry that are made ready to be parts of an integrated whole just as a master carpenter or joiner ‘fits together’ or ‘joins’ pieces of wood that are made ready to be parts of a chariot wheel. [9] And, as we will now see, {255|256} this etymology of Homer’s name is compatible in meaning with the etymology of the noun homēros (ὅμηρος) in the sense of ‘hostage’, which derives from the same compound *hom-āros meaning ‘he who fits / joins together’. [10]

II§335 In some versions of the Life of Homer traditions, as we have already seen in Chapter 6, the naming of Homer as Homēros (Ὅμηρος) is explained on the grounds that the word homēros (ὅμηρος) means ‘blind’, not ‘hostage’. I now propose to examine in detail the relevant passages. To begin, I need to stress that the explanation of homēros as ‘blind’ is problematic, since as we have seen the etymology of homēros points to the basic idea of bonding, not blinding. In some versions of the Lives, however, this meaning ‘blind’ is explicitly juxtaposed with the meaning ‘hostage’, presented as an alternative.

IIⓣ46 Vita 4.4–9

φασὶ δ’ αὐτὸν Μελησιγένη ἢ Μελησιάνακτα κεκλῆσθαι, τυφλωθέντα δ’ αὐτὸν ὕστερον ῞Ομηρον κληθῆναι· οἱ γὰρ Αἰολεῖς τοὺς τυφλοὺς ὁμήρους καλοῦσιν. πατρίδα δ’ αὐτοῦ οἱ μὲν Σμύρναν, οἱ δὲ Χίον, οἱ δὲ Κολοφῶνα, οἱ δ’ Ἀθήνας λέγουσιν.

They say that he was called Melēsigenēs or Melēsianax; but then, after he was blinded at a later point, that he was called HomērosFor the Aeolians call blind people homēroi. Some say his birthplace was Smyrna; others say it was Chios or Colophon or Athens.

IIⓣ48 Vita 2.8–12

καὶ πρῶτοί γε Σμυρναῖοι Μέλητος ὄντα τοῦ παρ’ αὐτοῖς ποταμοῦ καὶ Κρηθηίδος νύμφης κεκλῆσθαί φασι πρότερον Μελησιγένη, ὕστερον μέντοι τυφλωθέντα ῞Ομηρον μετονομασθῆναι διὰ τὴν παρ’ αὐτοῖς ἐπὶ τῶν τοιούτων συνήθη προσηγορίαν.

And the people of Smyrna were the first to say that he [= Homer] was earlier called Melēsigenēs, child of the river[-god] by that name [Melēs] in their territory and of the nymph Krēthēis; and that later, when he was blinded, he was renamed Homēros in accordance with their customary local way of calling people like him.

IIⓣ49 Vita 10.25–28

ἐκλήθη δ’ ῞Ομηρος διὰ τὸ πολέμου ἐνισταμένου Σμυρναίοις πρὸς Κολοφωνίους ὅμηρον δοθῆναι, ἢ τὸ βουλευομένων Σμυρναίων δαιμονίᾳ τινι ἐνεργείᾳ φθέγξασθαι καὶ συμβουλεῦσαι ἐκκλησιάζουσι περὶ τοῦ πολέμου.

And he was called Homēros for this reason: when a war broke out between the people of Smyrna and the people of Colophon, he was given as a hostage [homēros] [to the people of Colophon]. Or for this reason: when the people of Smyrna were deliberating, he voiced his words with a power that came from some unnamed divinity [daimōn], and he gave them counsel about the war as they met in public assembly.

IIⓣ50 Vita 11.14–20

οἱ μὲν οὖν Σμυρναῖον αὐτὸν ἀποφαινόμενοι Μαίονος μὲν πατρὸς λέγουσιν εἶναι, γεννηθῆναι δὲ ἐπὶ Μέλητος τοῦ ποταμοῦ, ὅθεν καὶ Μελησιγενῆ ὀνομασθῆναι· δοθέντα δὲ Χίοις εἰς ὁμηρείαν Ὅμηρον κληθῆναι. οἱ δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς τῶν ὀμμάτων πηρώσεως τούτου τυχεῖν αὐτόν φασι τοῦ ὀνόματος· τοὺς γὰρ τυφλοὺς ὑπὸ Αἰολέων ὁμήρους καλεῖσθαι.

Some say, claiming they have proof, that he was a Smyrnaean, and that his father was Maiōn. They go on to say that he was born on the banks of the river Melēs, after which he was named Melēsigenēs. They say further that he was given to the people of Chios for service as a hostage [homēreia] and was thus called Homēros. Others say that he happened to get this name because he was incapacitated in his eyesight. For blind people are called homēroi by the Aeolians.

IIⓣ52 Vita 2.29–32

ὀνομασθῆναι δὲ αὐτόν φασί τινες ῞Ομηρον διὰ τὸ τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ ὅμηρον δοθῆναι ὑπὸ Κυπρίων Πέρσαις, οἱ δὲ διὰ τὴν πήρωσιν τῶν ὀμμάτων· παρὰ γὰρ τοῖς Αἰολεῦσιν οὕτως οἱ πηροὶ καλοῦνται.

Some say that he was named Homēros because his father had been given as a hostage [homēros] by the Cypriotes to the Persians. Others say that it was because of the incapacitation of his eyesight. For among the Aeolians that is how the incapacitated are called.

IIⓣ53 Vita 3a.20–24

μετωνομάσθη δ’ Ὅμηρος ἐπειδὴ τὰς ὄψεις ἐπηρώθη· οὕτω δὲ ἐκάλουν οἵ τε Κυμαῖοι καὶ οἱ Ἴωνες τοὺς τὰς ὄψεις πεπηρωμένους παρὰ τὸ δεῖσθαι τῶν ὁμηρευόντων, ὅ ἐστι τῶν ἡγουμένων. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν Ἔφορος.

He [= Melēsigenēs] was renamed Homēros because he was incapacitated in his eyesight. That is how the people of Cyme as well as the Ionians call those who are incapacitated in their eyesight, since they [= the blind] are in need of those who will homēreuein them, that is, those who will lead them around. So goes the report of Ephorus [FGH 70 F 1].

II§337 I save for last the most striking example, which comes from Aristotle (F 76 ed. Rose), as mediated by Vita 3a. According to this source, Aristotle in Book 3 of his Poetics recounts a version of the Life of Homer according to which Homer is conceived on the island of Ios in the days of the Ionian apoikia ‘migration’ led by Neleus son of Kodros (Vita 3a.25–27). Homer’s mother is a korē ‘girl’ who is a native of the island (3a.27 κόρην τινα τῶν ἐπιχωρίων); his father is an unnamed divinity or daimōn described as ‘one who joins in the songs and dances [khoroi] of the Muses’ (3a.28 … τινος δαίμονος τῶν συγχορευτῶν ταῖς Μούσαις). [20] The pregnant girl flees to Aegina, where she is kidnapped by pirates who take her to the city of Smyrna, at that time occupied by the Lydians; there a man called Maiōn, who is described as a philos ‘friend’ of the king of the Lydians, takes a fancy to her (3a.32–33 εἰς Σμύρναν {259|260} οὖσαν ὑπὸ Λυδοῖς τότε, τῷ βασιλεῖ τῶν Λυδῶν ὄντι φίλῳ τοὔνομα Μαίονι χαρίσασθαι). Maiōn marries the girl and adopts her son when he is born. Homer is still a child when he is orphaned by his mother and by his adoptive father. The city of Smyrna is then besieged by the Aeolians, and the leaders of the Lydians, trapped inside the city, make a proclamation asking for Aeolian ‘volunteers’ to join them in making an exit from the city. By implication, these ‘volunteers’ will be hostages that can serve as guarantees for the safe exit of the Lydians out of Smyrna as the Aeolians proceed to retake the city. Homer, as the adoptive son of a man described earlier as a ‘friend’ of the king of the Lydians, seems a prime candidate. Homer, in his childish naïveté, volunteers to ‘join’, homēreîn (ὁμηρεῖν):

IIⓣ54 Vita 3a.39–44

τῶν δὲ Λυδῶν καταπονουμένων ὑπὸ τῶν Αἰολέων καὶ κρινάντων καταλιπεῖν τὴν Σμύρναν, κηρυξάντων τῶν ἡγεμόνων τὸν βουλόμενον ἀκολουθεῖν ἐξιέναι τῆς πόλεως, ἔτι νήπιος ὢν Ὅμηρος ἔφη καὶ αὐτὸς βούλεσθαι ὁμηρεῖν· ὅθεν ἀντὶ Μελησιγένους ῞Ομηρος προσηγορεύθη.

As the Lydians were besieged by the Aeolians and decided to abandon Smyrna, their leaders sent out a proclamation saying that he who volunteered to accompany them should make an exit from the city [with them]. Homer, who was still a mere child, said that he too volunteered to join [homēreîn]. That is how he got to be called Homēros instead of Melēsigenēs.

II§338 Beyond this point, the narrative of Vita 3a does not say what happened to Homer while he was a hostage of the Lydians. But the language of the narrative up to this point leaves some indications: it euphemistically pictures the political hostage as a ‘joiner’, as if the bond between hostage and hostage-taker corresponded to an idealized bonding between ‘guest’ and ‘host’. Homer himself is pictured as a ‘hostage’ by virtue of his ‘joining’ the Lydians as they make their exit from the besieged city of Smyrna.

IIⓣ55 Ctesias FGH IIIc 688 F 9 lines 40–43 (via Photius Bibliotheca 72.36b lines 2–6)

ὅπως τε πρὸ τῆς ἁλώσεως δίδοται ὁ παῖς Κροίσου ἐν ὁμήρου λόγῳ, δαιμονίου φαντάσματος ἀπατήσαντος Κροῖσον· ὅπως τε δολορραφοῦντος Κροίσου ὁ παῖς κατ’ {260|261} ὀφθαλμοὺς ἀναιρεῖται· καὶ ὅπως ἡ μήτηρ τὸ πάθος ἰδοῦσα ἑαυτὴν τοῦ τείχους ἀποκρημνίζει, καὶ θνήσκει.

And [Ctesias tells] how, before the capture [of Sardis], the son of Croesus is given up [to the Persians] in the manner of a hostage [homēros], because the apparition of some unnamed divinity [daimōn] deceived Croesus. And [Ctesias tells] how, after Croesus devises a deceptive stratagem, his son is killed before his eyes. And [Ctesias tells] how the mother [of the victim], seeing what happened to him, throws herself to her death from the walls [of Sardis].

II§340 Evidently, the father is figuratively blinded by the Persians in retribution for his violation of a hostage agreement. I stress that the blinding here is figurative: the father’s vision is forever maimed by the sight of his son’s violent death, inflicted as a punishment for a breach of contract committed not by the son but by the father himself. The mentality behind this kind of figurative blinding is evident in wording that describes a form of punishment where the figurative blinding is reinforced by physical blinding. I have found such wording in a description of the punishment inflicted on the captured renegade king Zedekiah, ruler of Jerusalem, by the over-king Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon:

IIⓣ56 Septuagint Book of Kings 4 (Book of Kings 2, Masoretic text) chapter 25 section 7

καὶ τοὺς υἱοὺς Σεδεκίου ἔσφαξεν κατ’ ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ, καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς Σεδεκίου ἐξετύφλωσεν καὶ ἔδησεν αὐτὸν ἐν πέδαις καὶ ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς Βαβυλῶνα.

And he [Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon] slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and then he blinded the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in fetters and led him off to Babylon.

II§341 Here I compare the wording in a later source:

IIⓣ57 Georgius Cedrenus Compendium historiarum, volume 1 page 201 ed. Bekker

τὸν δὲ Σεδεκίαν χειρωσάμενος τὴν μὲν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ κατ’ ὀφθαλμοὺς ἀνεῖλεν, αὐτὸν δὲ ἐκτυφλώσας καὶ δεσμοῖς κρατήσας εἰς Βαβυλῶνα αἰχμάλωτον ἀνήγαγε

He [= the King of Babylon] seized Zedekiah and killed his wife and children before his eyes; then he blinded him, bound him in fetters, and led him off as a prisoner to Babylon.

II§342 We see here the same wording applied to the punishment of Zedekiah as was applied to the punishment of Croesus: ὅπως τε δολορραφοῦντος Κροίσου ὁ παῖς κατ’ ὀφθαλμοὺς ἀναιρεῖται ‘and [Ctesias tells] how, after Croesus devises a deceptive stratagem, his son is killed before his eyes’.

II§343 I return to the story about Homer in the Aeolian traditions native to Smyrna: as {261|262} I have reconstructed it, Homer was taken as a homēros ‘hostage’ by the Lydians evacuating the city when it was recaptured by the Aeolians. By implication, Homer was blinded by the Lydians while he was their hostage, presumably in retaliation for the hostile actions of the Aeolians who recaptured Smyrna. The Lydian mentality behind the blinding of hostages, as I have reconstructed it, is parallel to the Persian mentality behind the figurative blinding of Croesus in retaliation for his breaking of a hostage agreement.

II§345 In sum, Homer in the Life of Homer traditions is a ‘hostage’ by virtue of his function as a bond, a tie that binds together the Hellenic cities situated in Asia Minor and in the major offshore islands. The cultural ties that unite these cities are expressed in his persona: he is a ‘hostage’ for them all. In the case of one city, Smyrna, Homer’s ties are so close that his status as ‘hostage’ leads to his blinding: for this Aeolian city, the city of his birth, Homer is ready to give up his eyesight. For Aeolian Smyrna, Homer is not only a hostage: he is the blinded hostage par excellence. That is why Aeolian Smyrna marks the point where the name of Homer is changed from Melēsigenēs to Homēros.

II§346 The idea ‘hostage’ is reflected even in the name of the Homēridai. According to a myth preserved only in the antiquarian post-Athenocentric phase of the Life of Homer traditions, the Homēridai are named after homēra ‘hostages’ who had been taken and given in the context of a primordial battle of the sexes at the festival of Dionysus in Chios:

II§347 Whereas the pre-Athenocentric narrative of Vita 1 elides the Homēridai altogether, this alternative pre-Athenocentric narrative transmitted by Seleucus (first century CE) recognizes the existence of a genos ‘lineage’ from Chios named the Homēridai but elides their derivation from a notional ancestor called Homer. As we have already seen, the etymological contradiction of deriving Homēridai either from Homēros ‘Homer’ or from homēra ‘hostages’ can be resolved once we understand that the name of Homer, Homēros, is cognate with the word that means ‘hostage’, homēros / homēron. As we have also seen, a culture hero named Homēros could be simultaneously a notional ancestor of a lineage called the Homēridai as well as a notional homēros ‘hostage’.

II§348 Still, this alternative myth leaves us with a problem that has not yet been addressed: the political contradiction between the Athenocentric and the pre-Athenocentric interpretations remains. The idea that the Homēridai are descendants of hostages who figure in a myth that is native to Chios cannot be reconciled politically with the idea that they are descendants of a poet named Homēros. That is, the two ideas cannot be reconciled so long as we think of this poet Homēros as the Homer we see in Vita 1, in Vita 2, or in any of the Lives of Homer. The poet Homer that we see in each of these Lives is claimed as native son by a multiplicity of rival cities. He is a Panhellenic Homer who simply cannot be appropriated by any one city. Even the pre-Athenocentric Vita 1 makes no claim that Homer is a native Chiote. Only a local Chiote Life of Homer could make such a claim. And in fact we do see in the Lives a variety of references to exactly that claim, that Homer is a native son of Chios (Vitae 3a.88, 3b.7–8, 4.7, 6.7–9, 9.7–9, 10.17, 11.12). [25] Nevertheless, each of these references acknowledges that such a claim stands in active competition with other claims of other cities that appropriate Homer as their own native son. The general stance of the Lives is Panhellenic: the aim is to acknowledge a multiplicity of local claims and thereby to transcend them, even though there are distinct patterns of privileging some claims over others—privileging especially the claims of Smyrna.

II§349 Just as different cities claim Homer as their native son in different stories, they can also claim him as their very own hostage—whether he is given or taken as their {263|264} hostage. In three different stories, we have seen him taken as hostage by three different groups: the Lydians (3a.39–44), the people of Colophon (10.25–28), and the people of Chios (11.14–20). In each of these three stories, Homer serves as hostage on behalf of the people of Smyrna. So now once again we see Smyrna in the forefront of the cities that make claims on Homer. But there are also other groups besides the Lydians and the people of Smyrna, Chios, and Colophon that make claims on Homer as hostage. In another story, we have seen Homer’s father serving as hostage on behalf of the people of Cyprus; in this case, the hostage-takers are the Persians (2.29–32). In yet another story, the hostage-taker is the Basileus ‘King’, who may be the king of the Lydians or, conceivably, the Great King of the Persians; in this case, the immediate context implies that the hostage-givers are the people of Lesbos (6.41–45).

II§350 As in the case of rival claims to Homer as the native son, these rival claims to Homer as the man who serves as a security linking adversarial communities are contained by the Panhellenism of the framing narratives. The general stance of the Lives of Homer, to repeat what I said earlier, is Panhellenic: the aim is to acknowledge a multiplicity of local claims and thereby to transcend them. In a Panhellenic sense, Homer becomes a hostage of all Hellenes. From the standpoint of the Athenian empire, Homer is its imperial hostage.

II 92. Homeric variability

II§352 As a perennial hostage to the politics of federation and empire, how could Homeric poetry survive? My answer is that this poetry negotiated its way to ultimate survival through its variability as a system, continually adjusting and readjusting itself to fit its multiple appropriations by competing powers. There are ample signs of this variability in the content of Homeric poetry wherever that poetry refers to itself—whether directly or indirectly. What we can see in these self-references is a poetic impulse, perpetuated through an ongoing system of oral poetry, to maintain a sense of currency.

II§353 The transition of Homeric poetry from an era of the tyrants to the succeeding era of democracy in Athens was a critical moment for the final shaping of this poetry. Before I attempt to confront this critical moment, I need to express my awareness of the difficulties of analyzing the final stage of such a lengthy process of shaping. I am also keenly aware of the difficulties of reconstructing the earlier stages. Symbolic of these difficulties is the darkness of the Dark Age of Homer.

II§354 Having noted these difficulties, I start the analysis by highlighting two basic facts. First, in the era of the Peisistratidai of Athens, Homeric poetry was under their control. Second, when the Peisistratidai were overthrown, the control of this poetry was transferred to the democracy. Such a transfer must have led to changes in the nature of this poetry. And, later on, there must have been further changes after Athens gained power over the Greek states that had once belonged to the Persian empire. So the task is to consider the nature of all these changes.

II§356 In the Prolegomena to the twin book Homer the Classic, I speak of variants that we discover from the evidence of the surviving Homeric texts, in the form of manuscripts and marginalia and quotations and citations. But there is also internal ev-{265|266} idence, embedded in the textual tradition, showing variation in the act of composition. It is to this kind of evidence that I now turn.

II 93. The Peplos of Athena and the poetics of split referencing

II§358 To illustrate this concept of split referencing, I turn to a sequence of passages in Iliad VI. Once again, the referent is the Peplos of Athena. The narration focuses on a moment in the Trojan War when the women of Troy present a peplos to the goddess Athena inside her temple on the acropolis of Troy. In this case, the split referencing concerns (1) the ad hoc presentation of a peplos to Athena on the acropolis of Troy and (2) the seasonally recurring presentation of the Panathenaic Peplos to Athena on the acropolis of Athens. I now proceed to quote this sequence. It consists of three consecutive passages that state and restate, in increasing order of complexity, the ritual requirements of presenting the peplos to Athena:

IIⓣ59 Iliad VI 90–93 (Helenos to Hector about what Hecuba should do)

πέπλον, ὅς οἱ δοκέει χαριέστατος ἠδὲ μέγιστος
εἶναι ἐνὶ μεγάρῳ καί οἱ πολὺ φίλτατος αὐτῇ,
θεῖναι Ἀθηναίης ἐπὶ γούνασιν ἠϋκόμοιο {266|267}

The peplos that seems to her to have the most pleasurable beauty [kharis] and is the biggest
in the palace—the one that is by far the most near and dear [philos] to her—
she must take that one and lay it on the knees of Athena with the beautiful hair.

IIⓣ60 Iliad VI 271–273 (Hector to Hecuba about what she should do):

πέπλον δ’, ὅς τίς τοι χαριέστατος ἠδὲ μέγιστος
ἔστιν ἐνὶ μεγάρῳ καί τοι πολὺ φίλτατος αὐτῇ,
τὸν θὲς Ἀθηναίης ἐπὶ γούνασιν ἠϋκόμοιο

The peplos, whichever is for you the one that has the most pleasurable beauty [kharis] and is the biggest
in the palace—the one that is by far the most near and dear [philos] to you yourself—
take that one and lay it on the knees of Athena with the beautiful hair.

IIⓣ61 Iliad VI 286–296 (Hecuba goes ahead and does what she has to do)

          Ὣς ἔφαθ’, ἣ δὲ μολοῦσα ποτὶ μέγαρ’ ἀμφιπόλοισι
          κέκλετο· ταὶ δ’ ἄρ’ ἀόλλισσαν κατὰ ἄστυ γεραιάς.
          αὐτὴ δ’ ἐς θάλαμον κατεβήσετο κηώεντα,
          ἔνθ’ ἔσάν οἱ πέπλοι παμποίκιλοι [
30] ἔργα γυναικῶν
290    Σιδονίων, τὰς αὐτὸς Ἀλέξανδρος θεοειδὴς
          ἤγαγε Σιδονίηθεν ἐπιπλὼς εὐρέα πόντον,
          τὴν ὁδὸν ἣν Ἑλένην περ ἀνήγαγεν εὐπατέρειαν·
          τῶν ἕν’ ἀειραμένη Ἑκάβη φέρε δῶρον Ἀθήνῃ,
          ὃς κάλλιστος ἔην ποικίλμασιν ἠδὲ μέγιστος,
295    ἀστὴρ δ’ ὣς ἀπέλαμπεν· ἔκειτο δὲ νείατος ἄλλων.
          βῆ δ’ ἰέναι, πολλαὶ δὲ μετεσσεύοντο γεραιαί.

          So he [= Hector] spoke, and she [= Hecuba], going into the palace, summoned her
          calling out to them. And they went around the city to assemble the highborn women.
          Meanwhile she [= Hecuba] descended into the fragrant storechamber.
          There it was that she kept her peploi, and they were completely pattern-woven
               [pan-poikiloi], [
31] the work of the women, [32]
290    *women from Sidon, whom Alexandros [= Paris] himself, the godlike, {267|268}
          *had brought home with him from Sidon, sailing over the wide sea,
          *on that journey when he brought also Helen, genuine daughter of the Father. [
          Hecuba lifted out one and brought it as gift to Athena,
          the one that was the most beautiful in pattern-weavings [poikilmata] and the biggest, [
295    and it shone like a star. It lay beneath the others.
          She went on her way, and the many highborn women hastened to follow her.

II§361 So we see choices being made each time the ritual is restated, and we see that each restatement entails further variability, focusing more and more on a master perspective. In the third passage, this variability is expressed by the words pan-poikilos and poikilma, both of which refer to the peplos that is being chosen for presentation to Athena (Iliad VI 289, 294). I will soon consider the meaning of these two words. For the moment, however, it will suffice to quote the climax of the narrative, which describes the actual presentation of the peplos to the goddess:

IIⓣ62 Iliad VI 297–310

          Αἳ δ’ ὅτε νηὸν ἵκανον Ἀθήνης ἐν πόλει ἄκρῃ,
          τῇσι θύρας ὤϊξε Θεανὼ καλλιπάρῃος
          Κισσηῒς ἄλοχος Ἀντήνορος ἱπποδάμοιο·
300    τὴν γὰρ Τρῶες ἔθηκαν Ἀθηναίης ἱέρειαν.
          αἳ δ’ ὀλολυγῇ πᾶσαι Ἀθήνῃ χεῖρας ἀνέσχον·
          ἣ δ’ ἄρα πέπλον ἑλοῦσα Θεανὼ καλλιπάρῃος
          θῆκεν Ἀθηναίης ἐπὶ γούνασιν ἠϋκόμοιο,
          εὐχομένη δ’ ἠρᾶτο Διὸς κούρῃ μεγάλοιο·
305    πότνι’ Ἀθηναίη ἐρυσίπτολι δῖα θεάων
          ἆξον δὴ ἔγχος Διομήδεος, ἠδὲ καὶ αὐτὸν
          πρηνέα δὸς πεσέειν Σκαιῶν προπάροιθε πυλάων,
          ὄφρά τοι αὐτίκα νῦν δυοκαίδεκα βοῦς ἐνὶ νηῷ
          ἤνις ἠκέστας ἱερεύσομεν, αἴ κ’ ἐλεήσῃς
310    ἄστύ τε καὶ Τρώων ἀλόχους καὶ νήπια τέκνα.

          When these [women] had come to Athena’s temple at the top of the citadel,
          Theano of the fair cheeks opened the door for them,
          daughter of Kisseus and wife of Antenor, breaker of horses,
300    she whom the Trojans had established to be priestess of the Athenian goddess. [
          With a cry of ololu! [
38] all lifted up their hands to Athena,
          and Theano of the fair cheeks, taking up the peplos, laid it
          along the knees of Athena the lovely-haired, and praying
          she supplicated the daughter of powerful Zeus:
305    “O Lady Athena, [
39] our city’s defender, shining among goddesses:
          break the spear of Diomedes, and grant that the man be
          hurled on his face in front of the Scaean Gates; so may we {269|270}
          instantly dedicate within your shrine twelve heifers,
          yearlings, never broken, if only you will have pity
310    on the city of Troy, and the Trojan wives, and their innocent children.”

II§362 Looking back at the entire narrative sequence, I highlight two most salient visual details, namely the acropolis and the temple on the acropolis. These two details correspond to the two most visible details distinguishing the city of Athens from most other cities. I see at work here a split reference. The reference is split between Troy and Athens. The referent is both the prehistorical city of Troy and the historical city of Athens.

II§363 There are two other details that reinforce the split reference. One detail has to do with the use of the words pan-poikilos and poikilma. Both words refer to the peplos that is being chosen for presentation to Athena (Iliad VI 289, 294). The second detail has to do with the positioning of the statue of Athena at Troy: it is figured as sitting, not standing, since the worshippers are pictured as placing the peplos on the knees of the goddess (VI 303).

II§366 In the narrative about the presentation of the peplos to Athena in Iliad VI, the peplos to be chosen is highlighted as the biggest of all the peploi (VI 90, 271, 294). It is the peplos that is most ‘beautiful’ or kalon (294), with the most ‘pleasurable beauty’ or kharis (90, 271). The size and the beauty of the fabric evoke a vision of the quadrennial Panathenaic Peplos, which is notionally the biggest and most beautiful of all imaginable peploi. As for the association of the word kharis ‘pleasurable beauty’ with the fabric, it is appropriate not only to the peplos that is being described but also to the medium that describes the peplos. That medium is Homeric poetry as performed at the quadrennial festival of the Panathenaia. The concept of kharis conveys the charisma of Homeric poetry as described by Homeric poetry. In terms of this description, the peplos of Iliad VI can be seen as a metaphor for epic as performed at the Panathenaia. This epic is notionally the biggest and the most beautiful of all epics. Like the peplos of Iliad VI, this epic as performed at the Panathenaia has more kharis than all other epics.

II§367 The kharis ‘pleasurable beauty’ of the peplos so elaborately described in Iliad VI is not only Panathenaic. It is also royal and even imperial in its grandeur. As we saw from the Homeric description, this peplos was woven by women whom Paris had brought over to Troy from Sidon in the course of his Phoenician detour (VI 289–292). This Phoenician connection is surely no accident. I propose that we see here an indirect reference to the provenience of the all-expensive and all-luxuriant purple that dyed the quadrennial Peplos of the Panathenaia. I will have more to say in the Epilegomena about the purple of the Peplos, which serves as a mark of grandeur suitable for kings and for their kingly empires. For now I simply maintain that the grandeur implied by this Phoenician connection suits also the description of the peplos described in Iliad VI. As we saw in Chapter 3, Herodotus (2.116.1–2.117.1) recognized this augmented description as truly Homeric in its grandeur, contrasting it with the unaugmented description that he knew from the epic Cypria of his day. The historian treats the unaugmented story of the direct voyage of Paris and Helen from Sparta to Troy as a foil for the augmented story of their Phoenician detour. The poet of the unaugmented story, as Herodotus sees it, is a foil for Homer as the rightful poet of the augmented story.

II§368 Here I stop to offer a summary of what we have seen so far in this Homeric narrative about the offering made by the women of Troy to Athena in her temple on her acropolis. The text of the narrative refers to the temple of Athena at Troy, while the subtext refers to the temple of Athena at Athens. On the basis of this narrative, I have developed the concept of split referencing, applying it to situations where the performer refers to the immediate world of performance at a given time and {271|272} place as well as to the ulterior world of the composition as it exists ready-made for a variety of different times and places. In this sequence of passages describing the offering of a choice peplos to Athena, the implicit referent concerns Athens and Athenian interests, while the explicit referent concerns not only Athens but notionally all Hellenic city-states. The implicit referent is Athenian, while the explicit referent is Panhellenic. It is essential for me to add here that this argument for implicit Athenian reference does not preclude the existence of earlier stages of references that are pre-Athenian.

II§369 There remains the task of explaining split referencing in terms of oral traditions. I offer this formulation: variable features of an inaccessible referent are adjusted over time, through a lengthy process of ad hoc selection, to become features that fit an accessible referent. The repertoire of features, which are cognate with each other, evolves by way of an ongoing process that I will call a selective adjustment of repertoire. What results is that a reference to the inaccessible world in the story being told becomes a reference to the accessible world of the audience that hears the story as a story intended only for them to hear.

II§370 This is not to say that the ritual of the peplos in the narrative of Iliad VI was originally based on the ritual of the Peplos in the festival of the Panathenaia. It is only to say that a preexisting narrative tradition concerning ritual traditions of the peplos had been adjusted, over time, to fit the preexisting ritual tradition of the Panathenaic festival in Athens. And I stress that this festival was the actual occasion for the narrative as we have it in Iliad VI.

II§371 In terms of this narration, the ad hoc presentation of the peplos to Athena in Troy is a ritual failure; in terms of the festival of the Panathenaia, on the other hand, the seasonally recurring presentation of the peplos to Athena in Athens is notionally always a ritual success. In other words, the text is imperfect, but the subtext is notionally perfect. The perfect subtext is a mark of the Athenians, while the imperfect text is the mark of everyone else.


[ back ] 1. In what follows, I repeat many of the arguments I presented in Nagy 2006a.

[ back ] 2. On the Homēridai and the Panionia, see again Frame 2009 ch. 11.

[ back ] 3. Relevant is the reference to the Homēridai in Plato Ion 530d, as analyzed in ch. 3 above.

[ back ] 4. On the Delian Maidens as the local Muses of Delos, see HC 2§§26–40.

[ back ] 5. Chantraine DELG s.v. ἀραρίσκω.

[ back ] 6. BA 17§§9–13 (= pp. 296–300).

[ back ] 7. For more on this earlier sense of kuklos with reference to all poetry composed by Homer, see Pfeiffer 1968:73 and HQ 38.

[ back ] 8. BA 17§§10–13 (= pp. 297–300), interpreting the evidence assembled by Schmitt 1967:296–298.

[ back ] 9. PP 74–75.

[ back ] 10. Some of the argumentation that follows is anticipated in Nagy 2006a.

[ back ] 11. PP 74–75n45, with reference to Chantraine DELG s.v. ἀραρίσκω (and with a discussion of an alternative explanation offered by Bader 1989:269n114). As I noted already in 1979 (BA 17 §9n2 [= pp. 296–297]), I agree with Durante 1976:194–197 about the morphology of the reconstructed compound *hom-āros, and, although my interpretation of the semantics of this compound (BA 17§§10–13 [= pp. 297–300]) is different, I agree with his interpretation of attested Greek forms like ὁμαρο- in the sense of a ‘festive assembly’ or ‘festival’; such meanings are cognate, I think, with the metaphorical sense of ‘joining’ or ‘bonding’. See also Debiasi 2001, especially pp. 12–16 with reference to the name ῾Ομήριος (attested in fifth-century epigraphical evidence from Styra in Euboea: IG 9, 56.135).

[ back ] 12. On the idea of Homer as a culture hero—and cult hero—see again BA 17§9n3 (= p. 297), following Brelich 1958:320–321, and PP 113n34.

[ back ] 13. By implication, it is specifically the gleam from the second Shield of Achilles that blinds Homer. See Graziosi 2002:159, with reference to the blinding gleam of the hero’s Shield in Iliad XIX 12–15. I will have more to say in Chapter 10 concerning the picture that is being projected, as it were, by the blinding gleam.

[ back ] 14. In the Life of Homer traditions, it is made clear that the city of Cyme was originally Aeolian.

[ back ] 15. In the Life of Homer traditions, it is also made clear that the city of Smyrna was originally Aeolian.

[ back ] 16. In the Lives of Homer and elsewhere, the word Λέσβιοι ‘people of Lesbos’, referring to inhabitants of the cities on the island of Lesbos, figures as a subcategory of Αἰολεῖς ‘Aeolians’.

[ back ] 17. There is a variant reading here: βασιλέων.

[ back ] 18. In the variant reading: ‘It is said that one of the kings …’.

[ back ] 19. Here homēron ‘hostage’ is neuter, in designating the bond that binds the hostage to the hostage-taker. The identity of the unnamed ‘king’ is unclear; I conjecture that the referent is the king of the Lydians, as mentioned in Vita 3a.32–33 (on which see below).

[ back ] 20. See also Vita 6.31–32, referring again to Aristotle (F 76 ed. Rose): Ἀριστοτέλης δὲ ἱστορεῖν φησιν … ἔκ τινος δαίμονος γεγενῆσθαι τὸν Ὅμηρον ταῖς Μούσαις συγχορεύσαντος ‘Aristotle says that investigation can show [a version where] Homer was conceived by some divinity [daimōn] who joins in the songs and dances [khoroi] of the Muses’. I infer that the unnamed divinity is Apollo as khorēgoskhoros-leader’ of the Muses. I have reservations about the translation of West 2003a:407: ‘one of the sprites who dance with the Muses’ (also p. 435: ‘a sprite who danced with the Muses’ ).

[ back ] 21. Dyer 2006.

[ back ] 22. Schuler 1965:113–114.

[ back ] 23. Oettinger 1976 I 20, 25 and III 8. I am most grateful to Norbert Oettinger for his generous help (2003.11.09 and 2003.11.10).

[ back ] 24. This Crates is perhaps the same Crates who was head of the Library of Pergamon.

[ back ] 25. In some cases, the sources involve the poetry of Pindar (F 264 ed. Snell and Maehler; see Vitae 3b.7–8, 6.7–8, 9.7–9), Simonides (F 8 ed. West; Homeric Vita 3b.8), and Theocritus (Epigram 27; Homeric Vita 6.8–9).

[ back ] 26. In Vita 2.13, the people of Chios claim that Homer is their own politēs. I agree with O’Sullivan 1992:102n234 that politēs means not ‘native son’ but merely ‘citizen’ in such contexts. A similar point is made by West 2003a:310n16.

[ back ] 27. HTL ch. 2, especially pp. 38–39.

[ back ] 28. HC ch. 4.

[ back ] 29. Following the convention I started in Homer the Classic, I capitalize the first letter of “peplos” only when I refer to the Panathenaic Peplos.

[ back ] 30. Besides the attestation of the variant παμποίκιλοι in the medieval manuscript tradition, the variant παμποίκιλα is also attested. Herodotus in his quotation of Iliad VI 289–292 gives παμποίκιλοι.

[ back ] 31. Besides the variant pan-poikiloi in the medieval manuscript tradition at Iliad VI 289, there is also pan-poikila. In the second form, the epithet describes the erga ‘work’ woven by the Phoenician women, where erga is in apposition with peploi; according to the Homeric Koine reading, pan-poikiloi describes directly the peploi. Herodotus gives this Homeric Koine reading.

[ back ] 32. Without verses 290–293, the peploi stored in Hecuba’s storechamber would be the work of native Trojan women, not of imported Phoenician women. I think that such a compressed version without verses 290–293 must have once coexisted with the version expanded by these three verses. In both epic and dramatic traditions, the weaving skills of aristocratic Trojan women are accentuated.

[ back ] 33. I place asterisks before these three verses, highlighting that they are typical of the poetics of en-poieîn, that is, ‘making (something) inside (something)’. As we saw in Chapter 3, Iliad VI 289 and VI 290–292 (= these three verses) are actually quoted by Herodotus (2.116.3), who claims that they are genuinely made by Homer himself. This claim is in line with his theory that the theme of a Phoenician detour is distinctly Homeric, as opposed to the theme of a direct voyage from Sparta to Troy. The concern of Herodotus over the authorship of these three verses implies that others may have argued that these verses were not composed by Homer. If we consider an alternative version without these three verses, then the peploi stored by Hecuba would have been woven by the ‘highborn’ women of Troy. See the previous note.

[ back ] 34. So now we see that the standards of kallistos ‘most beautiful’ and megistos ‘biggest’ are measured in terms of poikilmata ‘pattern-weavings’.

[ back ] 35. Nagy 2004c.

[ back ] 36. On the concept of the Homeric master narrator as a character in his own performance, see PP 86, 220.

[ back ] 37. I draw attention to the use here of the adjective Athēnaiē instead of the substantive Athēnē.

[ back ] 38. Note the stylized movement accompanying the ritual cry or ololugē.

[ back ] 39. Once again, the adjective Athēnaiē is used here instead of the substantive Athēnē.

[ back ] 40. When divinities are imagined as receiving gifts, they are conventionally represented as sitting, not standing. I should add that the divine poses of standing and sitting have to do with the attitude of the divinity, not only with the physical reality of the image of the divinity, whether it be a statue, a painting, or a verbal description. On the poetics of describing the statue of Athena in Homeric and Virgilian epic, see Barchiesi 1998.

[ back ] 41. HC ch. 4.

[ back ] 42. HC ch. 4.