ὁπάων and ὁπάζω: A Study in the Epic Treatment of Heroic Relationships

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IV. Variations on the Meaning of kudos in Light of the Combination *kudos opazein

Earlier we examined in what ways *kudos opazein functions as a formula in the Homeric Epos. This formula is by no means the exclusive employment of kudos; this noun is both the subject and the object of many other words. Benveniste defines kudos in the light of the way it functions in action described by the Homeric narrative. [1] He is concerned primarily with distinguishing the meaning of kudos from that of other words commonly translated as ‘glory’: kleos, timē, and doxa. He defines kudos as ‘a talisman of supremacy’, “rather like a magic power, and the god grants it now to one and now to another at his good will and always in order to give the advantage at a decisive moment of a combat or competitive activity.” [2] As Benveniste analyzes the uses of kudos with various verbs, he establishes two categories. The first consists of a god’s ‘giving’ kudos to someone, and is expressed in this pattern,

Divine subject + verb, ‘to give’ or ‘to take away’ + direct object, kudos + indirect object

The second pattern approaches the attainment of kudos from the side of the person acquiring kudos,

subject, man’s name + verb ‘to gain’ or ‘to win’ + direct object, kudos

In the first category Benveniste notes no difference in the verbs ‘to give’; forms of didōmi and opazō appear to be synonymous. If the two verbs were synonymous, we would expect that they would have different metrical functions. Instead we find parallel uses; compare:

θέλγε νόον, Τρωσὶν δὲ καὶ Ἕκτορι κῦδος ὄπαζε
Μ 255
σκηπτοῦχος βασιλεύς, ᾧ τε Ζεὺς κῦδος ἔδωκεν
A 279

didōmi and opazō when used with kudos have equivalent metrical functions. This feature goes against the tendency in the Homeric Epos towards economy, by which there is only one way of expressing a given essential idea under the same metrical conditions. [3] It is thus necessary to look for the difference between the two verbs. What separates *kudos opazein semantically from the body of other formulas with kudos?

It is most instructive to look first at constructions with didōmi. kudos edōke(n) occurs between the bucolic diaeresis and the end of line, as in A 279 quoted above, in Ө 216, Δ 300, T 204, Ʃ 456, and Π 414, as kudos edōke in N 303. The only variant is:

πρίν γ’ ὅτε δὴ Ζεὺς κῦδος ὑπέρτερον Ἕκτορι δῶκε
M 437

where dōke is a equivalent to edōke. All instances of * kudos opazein occur in aorist forms. Recalling that above it was shown how all attestations of *kudos opazein are in the imperfective aspect, [4] we can draw a semantic distinction between the two verbs and their use with kudos along these lines.

Kudos occurs with many other verbs which, in this connection, employ the aorist aspect exclusively. The list of these verbs contains arnumai ‘to strive to win’, oregō ‘to bestow’, engualizō ‘put in the hand of’,aeiro ‘to win’, kataneuō ‘to nod, give assent’, pelomai ‘to be’, proiēmi ‘to send forth’, haireō ‘to seize’, aphaireō ‘to take away’, apainnmai ‘to take away’, tithēmi ‘to place’, and phero ‘to bear’. The use of the aorist aspect expresses action in terms of units of time. When kudos is used with these verbs, a picture is created of a god bestowing kudos on a hero in an instant or taking it away from him. The discrete moment of receiving or losing kudos is emphasized.
With opazō, we have seen how the use of the imperfective aspect expresses the continuity of action. Kudos is thus given a more enduring quality. The other verbs which employ the imperfective aspect with kudos must be considered.
In Iliad Ω, kudos functions with protiaptō in the present tense:

αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ τόδε κῦδος Ἀχιλλῆϊ προτιάπτω
Ω 110

Zeus is speaking, and says he will ‘attach’ kudos to Akhilleus, but will not let him keep the body of Hector. The meaning of protiaptō has inherently a sense of continuity; which is attached continues with the hero. It is fitting therefore that the present tense of this verb be used. Similarly in:

δειδέχετ’· ἦ γὰρ καὶ σφι μάλα μέγα κῦδος ἔησθα
Χ 435

eēstha, an imperfect of eimī ‘to be’, describes a state of having kudos, ‘for kudos was with them’, which extends over a period of time.

kudos is employed only once as the subject of hepomai ‘to follow’:

τούτῳ μὲν γὰρ κῦδος ἅμ’ ἕψεται, εἴ κεν Ἀχαιοὶ
Δ 415

The verb has the root *sek w the e-grade of the same root that produces opazo, * sok w , and thus, although the expression kudos hepsetai is unique, it is related etymologically to the formulas of the type *kudos opazein. [5] The sense of kudos hepsetai is that kudos will follow, be with, the hero—Agamemnon in this case. Greindl describes the sense of kudos with hepsetai as so closely bound to the hero that it follows him like a shadow. [6]

Greindl observes a similar meaning to the phrase kudos opēdei which occurs three times: [7]

λαοῖς· ἐκ δὲ Διὸς τιμὴ καὶ κῦδος ὀπηδεῖ
Ρ 251
τοῖσι δ’ ὁμῶς ν]εάτοις τιμὴ καὶ κῦδος ὀπηδεῖ
Op. 169b
πλουτεῦντα· πλούτῳ ἀρετὴ καὶ κῦδος ὀπηδεῖ
Op. 313

Opēdeō is related to opazō. Opazō generated the deverbative noun opedos ‘companion, comrade’ which in turn formed a denominative verb opēdeō ‘to accompany’. [8] The principal difference between kudos opēdei and the metrically equivalent kudos opazei is that in the former kudos is the subject, while in the latter it is object. Opedeo lacks the causative force of opazo, and is in this way synonymous with hepomai. The essential meaning differs, and hence the tendency towards economy is not violated. All three instances of *kudos opedein occur in the present, and it joins * kudos opazein in its use of the imperfective aspect. kudos hepsetai and kudos opedei directly express the sense of accompaniment implicit but often neglected in *kudos opazein.

Benveniste, when treating kudos, does not distinguish difference in the meaning of kudos caused by the aspect of the verb. He writes: “The effect of the kudos is temporary … It is always at a moment’s notice and according to the fluctuations of the battle that the one or the other of the adversaries receives this advantage which restores his chances at the moment of peril.” [9] This description must be reconsidered. If the effect of kudos were always temporary, confined to the moment, then it would function in connection with verbal forms in the aorist aspect exclusively, kudos, however, is found with verbs in the imperfective aspect, principally opazō and opēdeō. The root of these verbs *sok w implies in its meaning of accompanying, or being with, the continuous force essential to the imperfective aspect. This dynamic of continuity appears in the corresponding noun, opaon, which denotes a figure who is as close a companion to a hero as possible. The opaon is with the hero to such an extent that he may become in the role of a ritual substitute, the hero himself. Such a semantic background reinforces the notion of the imperfective aspect.
Therefore, kudos that accompanies is not a temporary effect, but enduring. The Homeric Epos has various ways of treating how a god assists the hero in giving him kudos. The god may grant the hero kudos only for the moment when it is needed. Or, the god may cause kudos to accompany (opazō) the hero in such a way that the kudos is with him whenever he needs it. kudos accompanies the hero as an opaōn would. It goes with the hero across time and space as abiding presence. In the same way that Mērionēs, the opaōn, becomes equal and identical to Idomeneus as his alter ego, so too is kudos, in the formula *kudos opazein, granted by the god to be at one with the hero. kudos is thus a divine presence abiding in and with a hero to empower him.


[ back ] 1. Benveniste, pp. 346-56.
[ back ] 2. Benveniste, p. 348.
[ back ] 3. Milman Parry, The Making of Homeric Verse, ed. Adam Parry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 197), p.22; and reconsidered by G. P. Edwards in The Language Hesiod in its Traditional Context (Oxford: Basil Blackwell for the Philological Society, v. 23, 1971), p. 60.
[ back ] 4. See above p. 42.
[ back ] 5. Chantraine, Dictionnaire, p. 807.
[ back ] 6. Max Greindl, κλέος, κῦδος, εῦχος, τίμη, φᾶτις, δόξα: eine bedeutungsgeschichtliche Untersuchung des epischen und lyrischen Sprachgebrauches (Lengericher Handelsruckerei, 1938), p. 49.
[ back ] 7. Greindl, p. 49.
[ back ] 8. Chantraine, Dictionnaire, p. 807.
[ back ] 9. Benveniste, p. 350.