Fighting Words and Feuding Words: Anger and the Homeric Poems


Do mo bhean chéile agus do m’inion
i gcuimhne m’athair léannta

fil súil nglais
fégbas Érinn dar a hais;
noco n-aceba íarmo-thá
firu Érenn nách a mná

-“Colum Cille” (EIL 29)

{x|xi} At the end of this project I encountered an image showing ira besting patientia (Rosenwein 1998, 15). On seeing that image, I could only think of those I need to acknowledge here. Certainly patientia showed a white flag long ago, though my study of anger continued the battle. My debt is made the greater by my amazement at those who have waited so long without losing faith for me to be done with this project. With the hope that the understanding of our Homeric texts is enhanced through this study of the Iliad‘s central emotion, I hereby acknowledge those who have encouraged this work to its completion.

As I begin to recall those names, the list grows to become unmanageable. At the beginning stands my teacher, Michael Nagler, whose work gave a crucial boost to what is outstanding in Homeric studies in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Also at the beginning of my study was the Berkeley Homer group, especially Gary Holland, Mary McGarry, and Dan Petegorsky, a vital intellectual collectivity that grew to include Carole Newlands, Maud Gleason, Joan Burton, and others, who, I hope, will excuse this summary catalog. The central idea of this book began in that group’s robust reading of Homer, however lonely its working out came to be.

The series editor, Gregory Nagy, a beacon shining steady and bright on the ideas developed here, supported my style of scholarship in ways that mean more to me than I can say: I acknowledge his faithful tolerance for a slow scholar’s work. (Those experienced in the academic world know how rare is such a heart and the trust that dwells within it.)

As a comparatist, I approach Homer with a range of disciplines and texts, so that I have incurred a tremendous debt that can never be fully repaid to my teachers in fields outside Homeric studies. Hoping not to implicate them in any misstatements I may have made, I deeply thank these scholars and teachers: G. Holland (for all things Indo-European), D. Melia (for Celtic languages and literatures), R. Stefanini (for Hittite and Luvian), B. A. van Nooten (for Sanskrit), and M. Schwartz (for Old Iranian). In addition, I am fortunate to have {xi|xii} learned friends, family, and colleagues who have at different moments read my work and encouraged the many revised versions of this book: E. J. W. Barber, R. B. Branham, R. Holway, B. Louden, C. S. Littleton, H. Sarf (†), T. D. Walsh (†), and L. Watkins.

I thank those who helped me deal with the maddening details that accompany book production, L. Gibbs (for initial help preparing an index), as well as Maura Giles (for an important and revealing copy-editing job early-on). At the end of the project, Paul Psoinos gave professional and timely copy-editing assistance that drove me to finish the work with an eye to his high standards. The index was given rigorous professional guidance as to its shape and substance by Marla Wilson of Printed Page Productions. Included here must be Steven Siebert, without whom this manuscript could not have appeared; his intimate knowledge of Nota Bene’s features and his scholarly attention brought into line a complicated manuscript. The virtues of this book have been magnified by the elegant copy finally produced under all these professionals’ wise guidance. They have contributed to a task whose shortcomings must only be laid at my door.

As a teacher, I thank my colleagues at Occidental College in the Comparative Literature Department (now in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies) for their encouragement and support throughout my writing, especially M. Ronk, M. Near, W. Montag, and J. Wyatt. The classical studies support faculty helped me remember that even a small college without a classics department can encourage the study of Homer. (I single out here E. J. W. Barber, E. Frank, M. Homiak, M. Horowitz, K. King, C. S. Littleton, and, most especially, M. Near.) Finally, the Dean of Faculty’s office made available financial support for publication from the Brown Fund of Occidental College, which together with generous support from the Center of Hellenic Studies, brought this project to a conclusion.

To those many others whose names would swell the catalog beyond the limits of the genre, please accept my thanks in this summary fashion. Greater debts of affection and trust are signaled at my dedicatory page—Laura and Sarah can still know where the dedicatory signs point. My final thanks will be for those who come to read this text and find it in their spirits to add what I missed, to emphasize what I failed to highlight, and to correct my errors, all with the high purpose of steering me and others away from false leads and towards truer conceptions of the Homeric tradition. {xii|xiii}