From Listeners to Viewers: Space in the Iliad

  Tsagalis, Christos. 2012. From Listeners to Viewers: Space in the Iliad. Hellenic Studies Series 53. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 1. The Base-Level Setting: The Battlefield

The Dynamics of Martial Space

To say that the battlefield is a space purely devoted to military activities seems so banal that it risks stating the obvious. In this light, it may come as a surprise when we suggest that it is this military space that shapes the various forms of Iliadic war (ἀνδροκτασίαι, smaller-group combat, formal duels, ἀριστεῖαι), and that its rather vague topography is part of a sophisticated staging of the fighting, pointing to important themes that permeate the entire epic. In fact, as I am about to suggest, the presentation and the function of military space entail important consequences for the work’s perception of and outlook on the heroic world.

The study of military space will be organized on the basis of the main forms of fighting: the ἀνδροκτασίαι, the smaller-group combat, the formal duels, and the ἀριστεῖαι.


One of the most noteworthy examples of this technique can be seen in the first large-scale battle (Iliad IV 446–544), which is divided into five parts: an introduction and four ἀνδροκτασίαι.

The introduction to this extended battle scene is a global view of the two armies standing in front of each other. Having previously referred to the movement of Achaeans and Trojans (Iliad IV 332, IV 427 κίνυντο φάλαγγες), [
13] the narrator orients his listeners by offering a panoramic scan [14] of the opposing contingents and framing a common ground (Iliad IV 446 ἐς χῶρον ἕνα) for the actual combat. Orientation and framing have time and again been pointed out as typical tendencies, if not techniques, used by the Homeric narrator, who aims at guiding his audience by presenting the general framework of a scene, and only then proceeds to its constituent members. [15]

This introductory passage is followed by an extended simile that gives the impression of having been intercalated between the panoramic view of the two clashing armies and the subsequent close-ups on the individual warriors.

ὡς δ’ ὅτε χείμαρροι ποταμοὶ κατ’ ὄρεσφι ῥέοντες
ἐς μισγάγκειαν συμβάλλετον ὄβριμον ὕδωρ
κρουνῶν ἐκ μεγάλων κοίλης ἔντοσθε χαράδρης,
τῶν δέ τε τηλόσε δοῦπον ἐν οὔρεσιν ἔκλυε ποιμήν,
ὣς τῶν μισγομένων γένετο ἰαχή τε φόβος τε.

As when rivers in winter spate running down from the mountains
throw together at the meeting of streams the weight of their water
out of the great springs behind in the hollow stream-bed,
and far away in the mountains the shepherd hears their thunder;
such, from the coming together of men, was the shock and the shouting.

Iliad IV 452–456

Although the simile refers to the preceding narrative, the narrator is well aware that he is now inviting his listeners to adopt a significantly different view of the fighting armies. Not simply adding material to the previous description, he is rather “mapping” the combat action onto a different mental grid, by temporarily stepping outside of story space and “leaping” into what I shall call paratopic space (παρά + τόπος ‘place’), the extratextual and atextual space of the Homeric simile.

The actual fighting is presented in four distinct phases, each one containing a short catalogue of individual conflicts. In order to make this division clear for his audience, the narrator views the battle in terms of four spatial snapshots. The first snapshot (Iliad IV 457–472) is carried out in three movements, which create smaller spatial units: (1) Antilokhos kills the Trojan Ekhepolos; (2) Elephenor drags the corpse of Ekhepolos to seize his armor; (3) Agenor kills Elephenor and the battle flares up around his body.

The narrator informs his audience that he is turning his camera on Antilokhos by using the term πρῶτος (Iliad IV 457), which is here employed as a chronotopic term, [24] since it denotes both time and space: the action starts not only when Antilokhos strikes but also at the spot where he stands. This spatiotemporal function of πρῶτος is corroborated by the fact that the narrator hastens to indicate to his listeners where Antilokhos is located. The expression ἐνὶ προμάχοισι (458), designating the first ranks of the phalanx, selects for narrative elaboration a given group of warriors standing in the front line. By determining the place where these heroes are located, without any landscape reference, the narrator flags them as important for the ensuing action. Additionally, he is able to deal with the problem of presenting contemporaneous actions. Having offered a summary overview of the armies approaching each other, he is now ready to focus his attention on the individual warriors, by splitting the time of the battle’s introductory phase into temporal anachronies. [25] What has escaped attention is that this technique is equally applied to the organization of space: the global view of the Greek and Trojan armies is followed by a zooming in on snapshots occurring in the space already delineated. To this extent, we can speak of spatial anatopies, for the same space is visualized again, not as a compact whole but as smaller areas of dense action. These individual scenes, which have been called “highlights of action,” [26] do not represent the end product of spatial splitting, but in their turn constitute areas where the narrative lens zooms in even further, thus shaping the audience’s perspective. In fact, there are three distinct camera shots in the description of Antilokhos’ killing of Ekhepolos: first we get a side view of Antilokhos striking the horn of Ekhepolos’ helmet (459); second, we follow the course of his spear and visualize a single spot, Ekhepolos’ forehead, where it strikes (460), and then we track the spear’s path until we see it reaching the bone (460–461); finally, we get a side view of Ekhepolos falling down like a “tower (462)”. This meticulous depiction of the fighting between two individual heroes represents a succinct organization of space down to its most minute elements. It is based on a ring-form principle, [27] whose beginning and end consist of side shots, while its middle is based on the technique of tracking in on the path of the spear. [28] Focused shots of this kind direct the listeners’ attention to ever smaller areas of space. The death of a warrior signals the completion of this zooming technique, making the audience realize through their own visualization that the appalling grimness of death lies in the gradual experience of its most shocking details.

Next, the narrator moves his camera to the corpse of Ekhepolos being dragged away from under the arrows by Elephenor, who wants to take his armor (Iliad IV 463–466): we “see” him from a side angle dragging the dead Trojan by his feet, while missiles are flying over his head. This could have been the end of the scene, if the poet had wanted to allow Elephenor to despoil Ekhepolos. Instead, it is only the prelude to the camera’s ensuing move to a third warrior, the Trojan Agenor, who upon seeing what is going on strikes Elephenor in the ribs. The narrator makes sure to describe this event by inverting the regular order of aggressor-victim: we first follow Agenor’s spotting of the unprotected side of Elephenor, who bends over the corpse of Ekhepolos (468), and only then see the spear stabbing his ribs (469). This technique of backward zooming, which is also employed just before the death of Hektor at the hands of Achilles (Iliad XXII 321–327), constitutes a “visual allusion” to an ensuing action; the narrator capitalizes on the visualization of a specific spot of a very limited space—the ribs of the enemy—and only then mentally follows the course of the future victor’s deadly weapon. By entwining temporal and spatial elements, he throws into sharp relief the climactic tension of this first section of ἀνδροκτασίαι. As the scene shifts to massive fighting over the body of Elephenor, the audience realizes that during these ἀνδροκτασίαι it has been visualizing nothing else than a single string of interrelated killings. The poet’s covert comment has by now become overt: the catalogue has been turned into drama.

The second snapshot (Iliad IV 473–504) consists of three parts: (1) the killing of Simoeisios by Telamonian Ajax, (2) the killing of Leukos by Antiphos, and (3) the killing of Antiphos by Odysseus. The beginning of the snapshot is again indicated by ἔνθα, the function of which remains undetermined in terms of setting, since it is not clear whether it refers to the space around the corpse of Elephenor, where the battle has flared up, or marks a deictic shift and designates a new space. But this ambiguity is only part of the whole picture, since ἔνθα may be indicating that the narrator notionally places himself “on the battlefield.” [29] This temporary collapse of the distinction between the spatiotemporal levels pertaining to the narrator and the narrated world is known by the term metalepsis. In oral song, where spatial memory plays a key role, such imaging hesitation and narrative merging is closely connected with the reality of performance. The bard momentarily hesitates, since in self-contained narratives like the catalogues of ἀνδροκτασίαι he is uncertain about the direction he should move; expansion of and focus on details constitute choices he has to make in real time, while performing his song. At the same time, such a blurring of narrative levels has no “antiillusionistic” [30] effect, but is “aimed at increasing the authority of the narrator and the realism of his narrative (rather than breaking the illusion).” [31] This oscillation, which resembles what film directors call an out-of-focus shot, [32] where a scene or figure or object appears blurred for a very limited period of time, is especially apt for expressing confusion: the audience is able to view the havoc wreaked on the battlefield by being deprived of any spatial designation. [33]

The emphasis on spacing the past is an effective prelude to the actual description of the killing of Simoeisios. Having visualized his birth on the banks of a river, the audience is invited, after a brief tracking in on the spearhead driving through the victim’s shoulder, to view a vivid simile: Simoeisios is compared to a falling poplar “which in the land low-lying about a great marsh grows” (Iliad IV 483 ἥ ῥά τ’ ἐν εἱαμενῆι ἕλεος μεγάλοιο πεφύκηι). The spatial coding of the previous analepsis is followed by the simile’s paratopic space. The difference between river banks and the marsh is only superficial, for both spatial visualizations are linked by a downward motion: Simoeisios’ mother is pictured descending from Mount Ida to the river (475 Ἴδηθεν κατιοῦσα), and Simoeisios himself falls like a tree. Next, the camera takes a worm’s-eye view (484 ἀτάρ τέ οἱ ὄζοι ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτηι πεφύασιν [“yet with branches growing at the uttermost tree-top”]) by pointing directly upward, looking straight up from the ground to the branches, reaching the upper part of the poplar, and then again downward from a bird’s-eye view (487 ἣ μέν τ’ ἀζομένη κεῖται ποταμοῖο παρ’ ὄχθας [“and the tree lies hardening by the banks of a river”]). At the end of the simile the two spatial views merge to such an extent that the banks of the river, representing deeper-level mnemonic images, take the place of the marsh (487) which stands for surface-level spatial organization. The first part of this snapshot is completed through a vivid visualization of the banks of a river, as the space where Simoeisios’ life began and ended. [35]

The transfer from the world of the simile that describes Simoeisios’ death to the ἀνδροκτασίαι is initiated by the deictic shift τοῦ δ’ (Iliad IV 489), turning the mind’s camera to a new person: the Trojan Antiphos, aiming his spear against Ajax, the slayer of Simoeisios. This time, though, the narrator varies his material by moving his camera further on, not to Ajax but to Leukos, Odysseus’ comrade who is hit by Antiphos’ spear. The audience tracks the course of the spear: the initial side view of it narrowly missing Ajax is followed by an extremely brief close-up of the spear striking the victim’s groin and a medium close shot of Leukos dragging a corpse away from the battle (492); [36] then comes a high-angle view of Leukos falling down upon the corpse, which falls from his hands (493). The killing of Leukos is only an excuse for the narrator to turn the focus on Odysseus. By carefully introducing Leukos as Odysseus’ comrade, he paves the way for a further move of his camera to Odysseus, who will now become the center of attention until the completion of this brief new episode. In film theory, this technique of presenting space is called a long take, where all the action is recorded in one uninterrupted movement, during which the camera runs continuously. In this way, the conventional segmentation of cuts and, in our case, smaller images, is avoided by downplaying their transitory function until the key figure Odysseus is located and visualized. The only trace of the individual cuts, to stick to terms of film theory, are the deictic markers τοῦ δ’/τοῦ μέν/τοῦ δ’ (489, 491, 494) which signal the passage from Ajax to Leukos and finally to Odysseus, with whom the fast-track move will be over: a dramatic close-up will now be developed in the form of a brief narrative.

Having shifted the listeners’ attention to Odysseus, the narrator lays special emphasis on placing him in space. Once more, it is by means of a long take that the camera follows Odysseus as he moves through the front ranks (Iliad IV 495 διὰ προμάχων): [37] in his helm of shining bronze (495 κεκορυθμένος αἴθοπι χαλκῶι), he stands close to the Trojans (496 στῆ δὲ μάλ’ ἐγγὺς ἰών), and strikes (496 καὶ ἀκόντισε δουρὶ φαεινῶι) after looking around him (497 ἀμφὶ ἓ παπτήνας). In contrast to what was described before, Odysseus does not miss (498 ὃ δ’ οὐχ ἅλιον βέλος ἧκεν) and kills not Antiphos, as expected, but Demokoön, a bastard son of Priam. Viewing space by means of a long-take camera shot prevents the audience from perceiving the effect of this technique before it is over, at the moment when Odysseus’ spear hits Demokoön: it is only then that listeners understand that the ambiguity of the obscure ἀμφὶ ἓ παπτήνας (497) and the unexpected death of Demokoön (instead of Antiphos) entail a hidden irony, since it is not clear whether Odysseus was looking for Antiphos, or protecting himself (unlike Elephenor in the previous scene). [38] Odysseus is not like Elephenor, as he knows how to protect himself, but he is like Antiphos in the sense that he kills the “wrong” person. The designation of Demokoön as a (bastard) son of Priam who came from Abydos (499–500), and the reiteration of the fact that he was killed by Odysseus on account of the latter’s anger at the death of Leukos (501), draw attention to the deep irony of this passage. As the episode closes, by balancing the description of Antiphos striking Leukos’ groin with a zoom in on Demokoön’s temple pierced by Odysseus’ sharp bronze, we realize that space has been visualized as a foil for a comment on the quirks of fate: the long-take shots make the listeners a specific category of spectators, invited to linger and explore through continuous visualization the havoc of war, where spaces are constantly violated, and where even revenge (a necessary concomitant to heroic fighting) may ironically underline the tragic nature of the human world as presented by the Iliad.

These three catalogues of ἀνδροκτασίαι offer a sequence of two interrelated killings: after the divine intervention, the focus is first on a Trojan killing a Greek, and then on a Greek avenging the death of his comrade-in-arms. The twofold division of this fourth snapshot highlights its greater balance as compared to the first and second. [41] The symmetrical description of its two episodes is anticipated by a preview of the outcome of the first encounter: using the technique of backward zooming, the narrator designates first the victim (Iliad IV 517 Ἀμαρυγκείδην Διώρεα), then the deadly weapon (518 χερμαδίωι) and the part of his body where the wound is inflicted (518–519 παρὰ σφυρὸν ὀκριόεντι / κνήμην δεξιτερήν), and only then reveals the slayer (519–520 βάλε δὲ Θρηικῶν ἀγὸς ἀνδρῶν, / Πείρως Ἰμβρασίδης). Once he has indicated who the killer is, the narrator allows the description to follow its regular course of forward zooming, presenting no fewer than seven separate images: the tendons are smashed (521–522 ἀμφοτέρω δὲ τένοντε καὶ ὀστέα λᾶας ἀναιδής / ἄχρις ἀπηλοίησεν), the victim falls backwards into the dust (522–523 ὁ δ’ ὕπτιος ἐν κονίηισιν / κάππεσεν) and stretches his hands to his comrades for help (523 ἄμφω χεῖρε φίλοις ἑτάροισι πετάσσας), the enemy approaches (524 ὃ δ’ ἐπέδραμεν) and strikes the victim with his spear next to the navel (525 οὖτα δὲ δουρὶ παρ’ ὀμφαλόν), his guts are poured on the ground (525–526 ἐκ δ’ ἄρα πᾶσαι / χύντο χαμαὶ χολάδες), and finally darkness covers the victim’s eyes (526 τὸν δὲ σκότος ὄσσ’ ἐκάλυψεν). The reversal of the typical order of spatial organization is here very effective: first, it facilitates the transition from the previous snapshot to the new one by reminding the audience of the unbridgeable gap that separates the worlds of gods and men. The snapshot begins with ἔνθα (517), indicating that it was there, that is, at the very place where the gods stirred mortal men to fight, that fate ensnared Diores, son of Amarunkeus. Second, by designating the part of his body where the stone hit, the narrator previews the action to follow, and then meticulously describes his death. Third, it draws a line between the second snapshot, where both Antiphos and Odysseus failed to kill the warriors they wanted, and the fourth, where the revenge factor is paramount.

In this third snapshot, space is viewed through the detailed descriptions of the wounding of the two heroes. The symmetrical presentation of material includes a balanced emphasis on shocking minutiae: the appalling picture of Diores’ guts being spilled on the ground, vividly described with the triple alliteration χύντο χαμαὶ χολάδες, and the double zooming in on the fatal wounding of Peiros throw into sharp relief the cruelest aspect of war. From the first snapshot, where the catalogues of ἀνδροκτασίαι were turned into dramatic encounters, and the second where accidental death signaled the ironic twist of human fate, the narrator offers a view of story space in its most gruesome and appalling details.

Fighting in small groups

Pairs of warriors

Pairs of warriors fighting together, victors or victims alike, often include brothers (Hektor and Paris, Telamonian Ajax and Teukros) or simply characters who are mythically related in the epic tradition (Idomeneus and Meriones, Odysseus and Diomedes). [48] In Iliad XI 401–488, when Trojan supremacy is turning the tide against the Achaeans and their leaders retreat as a result of their wounds, the narrator focuses on Odysseus, who suddenly finds himself alone amid a throng of Trojans. [49] At first his isolation is emphasized (401 οἰώθη δ’ Ὀδυσεύς; 406 μοῦνος), but then the hard-pressed hero is able to kill a number of enemies (420–425). Even though he presents these victims in catalogue form, the narrator unexpectedly informs the audience that Odysseus “left them lying” (426 τοὺς μὲν ἔασ’), and pierced with his spear Kharops, the son of Hippasos, whose brother Sokos came to help him. Then the narrator embarks on a whole scene with the two warriors fighting each other and exchanging speeches; Sokos retreats and Odysseus, who has been wounded by his enemy’s blow, manages to stab him in the back and kill him. Severely wounded and bleeding, Odysseus is attacked by more Trojans, but Telamonian Ajax and Menelaos hear him calling for help and save him from certain death. The summary of this brief episode is instructive for the way the narrator employs the motif of a “pair of warriors” both to thematize space with respect to the brothers Kharops and Sokos and to emphasize the spatial existence of Odysseus, who in two successive scenes of the same episode is both victor and victim.

τοὺς μὲν ἔασ’, ὃ δ’ ἄρ’ Ἱππασίδην Χάροπ’ οὔτασε δουρί,
αὐτοκασίγνητον εὐηγενέος Σώκοιο.
τῶι δ’ ἐπαλεξήσων Σῶκος κίεν, ἰσόθεος φώς,
στῆ δὲ μάλ’ ἐγγὺς ἰὼν καί μιν πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπεν·

These he left lying, and stabbed with the spear the son of Hippasos,
Charops, full brother of Sokos, a man rich in substance. And Sokos
moved in, a man like a god, to stand over the fallen brother
and came and stood close by Odysseus and spoke a word to him …

Iliad XI 426–429

The privileged treatment of Sokos has already been signaled by the narrator’s refusal to deal with Odysseus’ other victims and his subsequent focus on Sokos’ brother Kharops. In order to create a special space for the encounter with Sokos, the narrator describes Kharops by giving both his father’s and his brother’s names. Since the latter reference does not form part of a hero’s typical epic presentation, listeners realize that such a compressed foregrounding of a soldier’s brother is narratively significant. As soon as Sokos is designated as the brother of the victim, the audience is presented with a vista of his coming to save his brother Kharops. In contrast both to Odysseus’ previous victims, who are bare items in a list, and to Kharops’ father Hippasos, who is a mere name in the victim’s pedigree, Sokos is “here to stay,” as he will be given a whole scene. The space is designated in terms of deictic proximity to the place where Kharops has fallen: Sokos comes close and stands (στῆ δὲ μάλ’ ἐγγὺς ἰών) to protect his brother. By combining movement and standing, the narrator hints at fraternal solidarity, which is here expressed by means of typical epic diction. The vagueness of the place where the ensuing encounter will occur is replaced by a heavily thematized space, delineated not in terms of description but of cooperation and camaraderie. In this light, space becomes not a container of action but action itself: where is effectively replaced by what and who.

After the death of Sokos, Odysseus, who finds himself bleeding and once more outnumbered by the Trojans, calls three times for help. He is three times heard by Menelaos, who together with Telamonian Ajax standing next to him comes to his aid. This time, the narrator enriches the palette of presenting narrative space by effectively bringing to the fore new aspects of spatial organization.

Τρῶες δὲ μεγάθυμοι ὅπως ἴδον αἷμ’ Ὀδυσῆος,
κεκλόμενοι καθ’ ὅμιλον ἐπ’ αὐτῶι πάντες ἔβησαν·
αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ἐξοπίσω ἀνεχάζετο, αὖε δ’ ἑταίρους.
τρὶς μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἤϋσεν, ὅσον κεφαλὴ χάδε φωτός,
τρὶς δ’ ἄϊεν ἰάχοντος ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος,
αἶψα δ’ ἄρ’ Αἴαντα προσεφώνεεν ἐγγὺς ἐόντα·
“Αἶαν διογενὲς Τελαμώνιε, κοίρανε λαῶν,
ἀμφί μ’ Ὀδυσσῆος ταλασίφρονος ἵκετο φωνή,
τῶι ἰκέλη, ὡς εἴ ἑ βιώιατο μοῦνον ἐόντα
Τρῶες ἀποτμήξαντες ἐνὶ κρατερῆι ὑσμίνηι.
ἀλλ’ ἴομεν καθ’ ὅμιλον· ἀλεξέμεναι γὰρ ἄμεινον.”

But the great-hearted Trojans, when they saw the blood of Odysseus,
cried aloud through the close battle and all made a charge against him.
He gave back a little way and called out for his companions.
Three times he called, as much voice as a man’s head could hold,
and three times Menelaos the warlike heard him shouting
and immediately spoke to Aias, who was near by him.
“Son of Telamon, seed of Zeus, Aias, lord of the people,
the war cry of patient Odysseus is ringing about me
with a sound as if he had been cut off by himself, and the Trojans
were handling him violently in the strong encounter. Therefore
let us go to him through the battle. It is better to defend him against them.”

Iliad XI 459–469

Αἴας δ’ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθε φέρων σάκος ἠΰτε πύργον,
στῆ δὲ πάρεξ· Τρῶες δὲ διέτρεσαν ἄλλυδις ἄλλος.
ἤτοι τὸν μὲν Μενέλαος ἀρήϊος ἔξαγ’ ὁμίλου
χειρὸς ἔχων, εἵως θεράπων σχεδὸν ἤλασε ἵππους·

Now Aias came near him, carrying like a wall his shield,
and stood forth beside him, and the Trojans fled one way and another.
Then taking Odysseus by the hand warlike Menelaos
led him from the battle, while his henchman drove the horses close up.

Iliad XI 485–489

Sound is also an aspect of space. [
50] Since Menelaos and Ajax can hear Odysseus’ shout, the audience visualizes them at some distance but not far away from him. Their movement through the ranks of the army (Iliad XI 469 καθ’ ὅμιλον) and their realization that Odysseus is left alone among the Trojans (470 μονωθείς, picking up line 467 μοῦνον ἐόντα) are combined, [51] as in the previous case of Sokos, with coming close (485 ἐγγύθεν ἦλθε) and standing next to (486 στῆ δὲ πάρεξ), but also with carrying the wounded Odysseus away from the enemy lines (487 ἔξαγ’ ὁμίλου). The use of similar diction, further accentuated by its use in two successive scenes of the same episode, shows that the thematized space of brotherhood and comradeship, of solidarity and cooperation, applies to victims and victors alike, irrespective of their nationality. In this light, listeners are invited to ponder such minutiae from these episodes and realize that they form part of a coherent organization of space, with far-reaching consequences for both character delineation and the development of the plot as a whole. The Iliad establishes and exploits intrinsic visual norms that require listeners to learn the epic’s unique storytelling strategies. By learning the Iliad’s grammar of space, the audience is constantly expected to expand these superficially miniaturized battle scenes and piece them together within a larger and complex story-world. Viewed from this perspective, the repeated lessons on warrior solidarity and comradeship, expressed in the motif of fighting pairs and the diction of spatial deixis (coming to the aid of and standing next to), create highly engaged listeners, able to decode and appreciate the epic’s technique of building macronarrative dramatic tension. The thematized space explored above, and systematically reiterated in equivalent scenes throughout the poem, reaches its sublime climax in the fatal encounter between Achilles and Hektor in Iliad XXII. When Hektor decides to stop running, deceived by Athena who is standing next to him disguised as his brother Deiphobos (Iliad XXII 226–247), the audience is expected to comprehend the deep irony based on the illusion of heroic solidarity. The Iliadic grammar of space allows the listeners to recall numerous scenes of warrior and fraternal solidarity, and realize that the shocking overturning of Hektor’s expectations amounts to a violation of the thematized space of solidarity, which now becomes a space of betrayal and death.

Groups of θεράποντες and ἑταῖροι

A standard connection between a front-line warrior and the contingent behind him concerns the moment he retreats to the rear ranks of the army. This rearward movement of a πρόμαχος is typically expressed by the formula ἑτάρων εἰς ἔθνος ἐχάζετο (“he shrank into the host of his own companions,” attested nine times in the Iliad. [53] The movement of a leading figure through space constitutes a mechanism of spatial organization. By laying emphasis on the abstract delineation of space, where the setting exists only in relation to the placement and movement of characters, the narrator is able to focus on the action itself, and even more importantly to tailor deictic manifestations of space to unraveling and building the climax of the Iliadic plot.

τὸν δ’ ὡς οὖν ἐνόησεν Ἀλέξανδρος θεοειδής
ἐν προμάχοισι φανέντα, κατεπλήγη φίλον ἦτορ,
ἂψ δ’ ἑτάρων εἰς ἔθνος ἐχάζετο κῆρ’ ἀλεείνων.

But Alexandros the godlike when he saw Menelaos
showing among the champions, the heart was shaken within him;
to avoid death he shrank into the host of his own companions.

Iliad III 30–32

Here (as in Iliad XI 585 and XIII 596), the πρόμαχος retreats among his companions standing behind him and saves his life (κῆρ’ ἀλεείνων), whereas in two other cases Meriones continues his withdrawal and returns temporarily to the ships and his hut in search of a new spear (Iliad XIII 165–168), with which he wounds Deiphobos and then retreats among his fellow warriors (XIII 533). This particular thematization of “space behind” signals protection and safety, and demarcates notional zones that are presented in terms of bipolar antitheses between isolation and contiguity, separation and solidarity. The Iliad thus introduces a notion of space that capitalizes on Greek views of the alien and unknown as something standing beyond an enclosed area, [
54] where knowledge and therefore safety are guaranteed. In the military cosmos of the Iliad, uncharted space is the area where there are no comrades-in-arms, who represent a hero’s only familiar topos. [55]

In this type of retreat scene (as in Iliad XIII 566, XIII 648, XIV 408, and XVI 817), the narrator offers a telling variation of a hero’s withdrawal among his companions to save his life: in XIII 566–570 and 648–655, Meriones manages to kill an opponent by striking him in the back, at the very moment he is withdrawing into the mass of his companions; in XIV 408 Ajax wounds Hektor by hurling a stone at him, also just as the Trojan hero is retreating into the host of his own companions. This sophisticated variation is a disguised allusion to the death of Patroklos in Iliad XVI, where the hero finds himself away from the protection of the army: after being hit from behind (in the back) by Apollo (791–792 στῆ δ’ ὄπιθεν, πλῆξεν δὲ μετάφρενον εὐρέε τ’ ὤμω / χειρὶ καταπρηνεῖ) and Euphorbos (806–808 ὄπιθεν δὲ μετάφρενον ὀξέϊ δουρί / ὤμων μεσσηγὺς σχεδόθεν βάλε Δάρδανος ἀνήρ), he retreats and tries to find refuge among the multitude of his ἑταῖροι. It is exactly at this moment, when Patroklos aims at leaving the perilous space of isolation and plunging himself into the protective space of companionship, that Hektor strikes the fatal blow:

Πάτροκλος δὲ θεοῦ πληγῆι καὶ δουρὶ δαμασθείς
ἂψ ἑτάρων εἰς ἔθνος ἐχάζετο κῆρ’ ἀλεείνων.
Ἕκτωρ δ’ ὡς εἶδεν Πατροκλῆα μεγάθυμον
ἂψ ἀναχαζόμενον, βεβλημένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῶι,
ἀγχίμολόν ῥά οἱ ἦλθε κατὰ στίχας, οὖτα δὲ δουρί
νείατον ἐς κενεῶνα, διάπρο δὲ χαλκὸν ἔλασσεν·

Now Patroklos, broken by the spear and the god’s blow, tried
to shun death and shrink back into the swarm of his own companions.
But Hektor, when he saw high-hearted Patroklos trying
to get away, saw how he was wounded with the sharp javelin,
came close against him across the ranks, and with the spear stabbed him
in the depth of his belly and drove the bronze clean through.

Iliad XVI 816–821

In this way, the Iliad makes a telling gesture to its audience, who are invited to realize the profound paradox of heroism: to acquire κλέος within warrior society by isolating oneself from it, that is, by fighting as a πρόμαχος away from the protection of the army.

Formal duels

The formal duels between Patroklos and Sarpedon, Patroklos and Hektor, and Achilles and Hektor are instructive for exploring how space functions in individual fighting between members of the heroic elite. Given that these three encounters are connected and constitute integral parts of the process that culminates in the death of Hektor, they allow for a comparative analysis in terms of spatial organization. As I will show, they comprise a three-step climactic process

In the duel between Hektor and Achilles, the typical dueling space is violated in a radically different way, since the audience is invited to assume that Hektor will stand and fight Achilles. The poet has carefully built up this expectation since the beginning of Iliad XXII, thanks to two factors: the Trojan army’s retreat into the city while Hektor stays deliberately on the battlefield, and the hero’s refusal to return to Troy despite the successive entreaties by Priam and Hekabe. Even the Trojan hero’s monologue, a speech addressed to his own θυμός (Iliad XXII 99–130), indicates his resolve to confront the son of Thetis once and for all. This systematic misdirection [60] of the audience is only temporary, since Hektor will ultimately fight against Achilles, but its function is paramount for comprehending and evaluating the temporary metamorphosis of the balanced and symmetrical dueling space into the unequal and lopsided space of a hunt: as warriors lose all sense of honor and bravery, they do not stand against each other and fight but run like predators and prey. This encroachment on the standard expectations of the warrior code evokes the wild backdrop of combat, where men can turn into animals. The abundant use of animal similes supports the audience’s misdirection and postpones the real duel, which will take place only when its special space is restored, that is, only when Hektor stands face to face with Achilles and decides to fight. In a remarkable display of careful planning, the poet has even decided to violate once more the expectations created by the formal repetition of motifs, and thus maximize the impact of this duel on his audience. In order to understand his technique, we must first consider another point.

(2) In the Sarpedon-Patroklos [61] and Hektor-Patroklos episodes, the description of the actual fight is interrupted by a change of focus from the one of the two combatants to his ἑταῖρος, θεράπων, or ἡνίοχος (Thrasudemos [62] in the case of Sarpedon, Kebriones for Hektor). This shift of focus gives the narrator the opportunity to introduce an internal preview, a preliminary minor episode that prepares the audience for forthcoming information. [63] Only after presenting Patroklos killing his enemy’s acolyte does the narrator allow the fighting between the two main opponents to resume. In his effort to designate space with greater precision and given that setting is virtually absent, or at least significantly downplayed in the Iliad, the bard encourages his audience to realize that this minor incident occurs in the same area where the main confrontation will take place. In this way, when it comes to narrating the actual duel he can count on a space they have already visualized. This technique, which has not yet been analyzed in terms of spatial organization, is particularly effective, since it functions as an introduction to and a justification of the ensuing duel. The bard is thus able to guide the listeners through the successive killings committed by Patroklos during his ἀριστεία to his main targets, the confrontations with Sarpedon and Hektor. The deaths of Thrasudemos and Kebriones introduce the audience to a special space, delineated in terms not of setting but of thematic importance. Suddenly, all peripheral fighting disappears from sight, and Patroklos is found in the very center of the highly thematized space of a formal duel. [64] Having been familiarized with this notional space through the deaths of Thrasudemos and Kebriones, the audience can now easily focus on the reactions of Sarpedon and Hektor to the killing of their θεράπων and ἡνίοχος respectively. [65] By previewing the ensuing duel, the narrator makes sure that listeners have mastered his special grammar of space and are now in a position to take full advantage of its merits: mentally situated in the familiar space of the killings of the heroes’ acolytes, the audience are expected to immerse themselves in the dramatic description to follow, and compare Patroklos’ victorious first duel against Sarpedon with his fatal second one against Hektor. [66]

In the duel between Achilles and Hektor the first violation of expectations ends with a second, even more sinister: Hektor is led to believe in the illusion of an actual heroic duel, since he thinks that his brother Deiphobos is standing next to him and that they will face Achilles together. Given that “standing next to” indicates solidarity and comradeship, the audience realizes that by manipulating the typology of dueling space, the Iliad knocks down conventional heroic themes one by one, like skittles. This climactic encounter of the epic’s greatest heroes is thus a crisp synopsis of the poet’s attitude to thematizing space and using it as a covert criticism of the fallout of the warrior code.

(3) Finally, the victor stands above his victim (in the case of Patroklos the victor is Hektor, not Apollo or Euphorbos) and pulls out his spear by pushing against the body of his dead opponent with his feet. The three aforementioned duels present an ascending climax of dramatic intensification: Sarpedon asks Glaukos to help him (Iliad XVI 492–501) and the latter prays to Apollo (XVI 514–526). Patroklos puts his foot on Sarpedon’s chest and pulls out his spear, while the Myrmidons stand close holding his horses (XVI 503–507). Things become more tragic after the duel between Patroklos and Hektor: the Trojan hero reminds Patroklos of his arrogance, Patroklos foretells that Hektor will die at the hands of Achilles, and Hektor angrily replies that he may kill Achilles first (XVI 830–861), standing on the chest of Patroklos and withdrawing his spear (XVI 862–863). Finally, in the duel between Achilles and Hektor, the rapid exchange of speeches (three by Achilles, two by Hektor) quickens the dramatic pulse: Achilles reminds Hektor of his own arrogance when he killed Patroklos, Hektor begs him to return his body to his parents in exchange for an enormous ransom, Achilles in an uncontrollable outburst of anger reveals his almost bestialized self, Hektor prophesies Achilles’ death at the hands of Paris and Apollo, and finally Achilles replies that he will accept his fate when the gods decide his death (Iliad XXII 331–366). When the speeches are over, every Achaean soldier who comes close pierces the dead body of Hektor with his spear (Iliad XXII 370–371).

In this constellation, those standing nearby and (especially in the case of Hektor) piercing the deceased’s body with their spears identify with the previous duel, collectivizing the experience of the one-on-one heroic performance of first-rank warriors. A victorious battle constitutes a powerful experience for the great heroes and the armies standing behind them, and the body of the fallen enemy becomes a vehicle for personal and collective empowerment. In the event of a heroic performance, then, it is not only the main warriors who embrace the glory, but anyone who claims a stake in the fight is entitled to his own share of heroism. The inherent spatial boundedness of the warrior’s fallen body at the end of a heroic duel becomes apparent in its topological oscillation: the body is neither here nor there, as both armies claim it with ferocious tenacity.

The nonidentification of the duel’s physical space not only calls attention to the actual combat, but also offers a dramatic forum for presenting the desire for self-characterization in the fighting tradition of the heroic community. When victorious warriors take control of the immediate topology of the battlefield, they construct a public image of their heroic selves. This offers a unique opportunity to other preeminent heroes on the victim’s side to move forward through the army’s ranks and rise to the center stage of communal attention, by defending the body of their fallen comrade. In the purely agonistic hierarchy of warrior society, the limelight of the space around the body provides the perfect forum in which to visibly establish one’s eminence: the closer one stands to the place where the duel happened, the stronger his claim to heroic status. Heroic duels best epitomize the spatial reorganization of social relations. The center stage where the duel takes place becomes a spectacular space for the overpowering of an opponent. The implication is that by coming close to Hektor’s corpse and repeating what Achilles first achieved on his own (piercing Hektor’s body with the spear), ordinary, anonymous soldiers appropriate the space that Hektor occupied so proudly on the battlefield, disregard differences in status, and call for their own victory.

The body of the deceased warrior constitutes a framed space that marks the completion of the duel. The interconnection and gradual intensification of the Iliadic tragedy is imposing and taxing, for it requires that the audience realize that the body of the deceased designates both the boundary of the framed space of the duel and the opening of a new space, since the armies will plunge themselves into renewed carnage in their effort to claim the corpse. The double function of the space around the body capitalizes on the difference between ending and stopping, and regards such open endings in which nothing is concluded as closure, and not finality. Postponing or even canceling a conclusive ending, it appears, adds an extra twist to the plot, creating the expectation of a more conclusive ending, which is in itself postponed and finally deferred to another epic poem (narrating the death of Achilles). Such a belated ending plays on more complex or contrapuntal relationships and marks the space of the dead body not only as the terminal point of a duel but also as a notional path, a narrative corridor leading to other related duels and dead bodies, prolonging death endlessly. Moreover, the deceased’s body has a stark chronotopic aspect, since it evokes the past and places it next to the present. In the case of Hektor’s body, spatiotemporal features are deftly employed as the Achaeans approach and pierce his corpse with their spears. The body of “great Hektor” makes them recall the past (when Hektor “set the ships ablaze with the burning firebrand”) and contrast it with the present (“See now, Hektor is much softer to handle than he was”). [72] The body may thus be “an accumulation of relative perspectives and the passages between them, an additive space of utter receptivity retaining and combining past movements, in intensity, extracted from their actual terms. It is less a space in the empirical sense than a gap in space that is also a suspension of the normal unfolding of time. Still, it can be understood as having a spatiotemporal order of its own.” [73]

These three successive camera shots invalidate all claims of a static aspect of space in duels. Contrary to previous beliefs that space is suddenly frozen when it comes to a duel, the narrator’s eye creates a dynamic scene, with first a sidelong but close-up view of the two warriors, and second a face-to-face view, which in the case of the death of Patroklos is profoundly—and significantly—undone. The narrator leads his camera behind each warrior who takes part in the duel, and changes his position to track the direction of the weapons thrown against the opponent. This zooming technique “spaces” duel-time into distinct parts, which are visualized as space-blocks, more or less in the manner of camera frames shot by the main narrator. The death of Patroklos offers much to explore, especially since the Achaean hero virtually loses his orientation, cannot properly retreat, and is fatally wounded by Hektor. In this light, the audience is invited to evaluate the importance of space for any warrior: whereas in the case of Sarpedon Patroklos emerges victorious by controlling the space where the fighting will take place, in the ensuing episode his disorientation leads to his death. This is also the case with Achilles’ pursuit of Hektor around the walls of Troy, the more so since this climactic encounter is intricately entwined with spatial constraints. Hektor, knowing that there is no space favorable to him for fighting Achilles, refuses to stand and fight and runs around the walls. In other words, he tries to nullify the very notion of a framed space, the basic prerequisite for the duel. This is done the same number of times that Patroklos was disoriented before being killed by Hektor. Seen from this angle, these three interrelated duels are a poetic exercise on space, which thus becomes the crucial test for viewing a duel.


Whether seen as a strategic device for promoting individual κλέος and accentuating heroic ideology, or a heuristic tool in the topological planning of fighting and the unfolding of the plot, Iliadic ἀριστεῖαι comprise a dense network of narrative snapshots of various competing heroic agendas that consistently create false expectations—credible scenarios that remain permanently suspended. Major warriors get involved in a series of heroic exploits where space constitutes a critical connection between individual power, recognition within the warrior community, and implicit claims to preeminence among the army. Moreover, in an epic where excellence on the battlefield represents a figurative locus for confirming one’s status, the ἀριστεία as a form of heroic distinction is always tied to the ebb and flow of the plot’s currents.

The narrative strategy of creating this continuous action space is fundamental to the Iliadic staging of war. It allows the audience to “see and follow” the rise and fall of warriors in terms of their illusion of ultimate success. Great heroes excel, and entertain for a moment the thought that they will reach each other’s space (the city of Troy or the Achaean ships) victorious and bring the war to an end, but they are all made to realize, in a very painful way, that the epic’s Kriegsanschauung is one of suspension, lack of resolution, and tormenting oscillation.

On the Trojan side, Hektor is left to believe that he will burn the ships of the Achaeans, and as it appears, he comes dangerously close to accomplishing his goal:

Ἕκτωρ δὲ πρύμνηθεν ἐπεὶ λάβεν, οὔ τι μεθίει,
ἄφλαστον μετὰ χερσὶν ἔχων, Τρωσὶν δ’ ἐκέλευεν·
“οἴσετε πῦρ, ἅμα δ’ αὐτοὶ ἀολλέες ὄρνυτ’ ἀϋτήν.
νῦν ἥμιν πάντων Ζεὺς ἄξιον ἦμαρ ἔδωκεν,
νῆας ἑλεῖν …”

Hektor would not let go of the stern of a ship where he had caught hold of it
but gripped the sternpost in his hands and called to the Trojans:
“Bring fire, and give single voice to the clamour of battle.
Now Zeus has given us a day worth all the rest of them:
the ships’ capture …”

Iliad XV 716–720

By penetrating deep into enemy space after breaking the Achaean wall with a stone (Iliad XII 445–462), Hektor makes his claim to foreign territory an almost tangible reality. Contrary to what is expected to happen in a poetic tradition culminating in the sack of Troy, it is not the city walls that are invaded but the enemy’s mirror city, the secluded space of the Achaean camp. In this light, the audience interprets the symbolic function of the play between insiders and outsiders, and evaluates the violation of spatial frames against the backdrop of the Iliadic plot. [
78] Hektor’s attempt to burn the ships not only risks the safety of the Achaeans, who would be unable to return to Greece, but also contrasts with the audience’s expectations based on the Iliadic tradition’s subject matter. By entertaining such a scenario through Hektor’s ἀριστεία, the Iliad flirts with the transgression of spatial boundaries that its plot has, until this moment, carefully delineated, and creates such strong puzzlement and agony [79] in the audience that it almost needs an equally powerful mechanism to restore the shattered balance. This mechanism will be nothing else than a new violation of spatial boundaries, this time by Patroklos, who in his arrogance will first push back the Trojans and then entertain the thought that he may sack Troy: [80]

ἔνθά κεν ὑψίπυλον Τροίην ἕλον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν
Πατρόκλου ὑπὸ χερσί, πέριπρο γὰρ ἔγχεϊ θυῖεν,
εἰ μὴ Ἀπόλλων Φοῖβος ἐϋδμήτου ἐπὶ πύργου
ἔστη, τῶι ὀλοὰ φρονέων, Τρώεσσι δ’ ἀρήγων.
τρὶς μὲν ἐπ’ ἀγκῶνος βῆ τείχεος ὑψηλοῖο
Πάτροκλος, τρὶς δ’ αὐτὸν ἀπεστυφέλιξεν Ἀπόλλων,
χείρεσσ’ ἀθανάτηισι φαεινὴν ἀσπίδα νύσσων.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
δεινὰ δ’ ὀμοκλήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
“χάζεο, διογενὲς Πατρόκλεις· οὔ νύ τοι αἶσα
σῶι ὑπὸ δουρὶ πόλιν πέρθαι Τρώων ἀγερώχων
οὐδ’ ὑπ’ Ἀχιλλῆος, ὅς περ σέο πολλὸν ἀμείνων.”
ὣς φάτο· Πάτροκλος δ’ ἀνεχάζετο πολλὸν ὀπίσσω,
μῆνιν ἀλευάμενος ἑκατηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος.

Like Hektor before him, Patroklos extends the limits of the area within which he is supposed to act (and has actually been advised by Achilles to do so) [
83] and thus violates all the rules of its symbolic function. Such a transgression of one’s heroic space furnishes an unmistakable clue to decoding his concomitant arrogance. Space saturates Iliadic narrative to such an extent that it undergirds heroic action and behavior: [84] craving ultimate victory, Patroklos tries to overcome the very boundaries of the plot within which he functions as a heroic figure. Apollo’s intervention, which makes effective use of typically Iliadic spatial protocols (Iliad XVI 707–709), reminds the audience that the son of Menoitios is just the surrogate of Achilles. There is no esprit de corps here, for Patroklos has already pushed the Trojans back from the ships. His action does not even abide by heroic etiquette, in the sense that his overconfidence stems from his military disguise. In light of the fact that the most elementary tenet of heroic behavior is eponymity, that is, being recognizable by the enemy as a noble and mighty warrior of status and prestige, from the very beginning of his ἀριστεία Patroklos has also violated a figurative notion of Achilles’ personal space. By wearing Achilles’ divine armor, [85] a remarkable piece of weaponry testifying to his special connection to the divine world, [86] Patroklos even transgresses the notional boundaries of his own self: he enters an unknown and dangerous space, that of being thought of as and acting like Achilles, a space that Hektor will also enter (after killing Patroklos and putting on Achilles’ armor), and will never be able to leave until his own demise. Seen from this angle, Achilles’ premonition is telling:

“πείθεο δ’, ὥς τοι ἐγὼ μύθου τέλος ἐν φρεσὶ θείω,
ὡς ἄν μοι τιμὴν μεγάλην καὶ κῦδος ἄρηαι
πρὸς πάντων Δαναῶν, ἀτὰρ οἳ περικαλλέα κούρην
ἂψ ἀπονάσσωσιν, ποτὶ δ’ ἀγλαὰ δῶρα πόρωσιν.
ἐκ νηῶν ἐλάσας ἰέναι πάλιν· εἰ δέ κεν αὖ τοι
δώηι κῦδος ἀρέσθαι ἐρίγδουπος πόσις Ἥρης,
μὴ σύ γ’ ἄνευθεν ἐμεῖο λιλαίεσθαι πολεμίζειν
Τρωσὶ φιλοπτολέμοισιν· ἀτιμότερον δέ με θήσεις·
μηδ’ ἐπαγαλλόμενος πολέμωι καὶ δηϊοτῆτι
Τρῶας ἐναιρόμενος προτὶ Ἴλιον ἡγεμονεύειν,
μή τις ἀπ’ Οὐλύμποιο θεῶν αἰειγενετάων
ἐμβήηι―μάλα τούς γε φιλεῖ ἑκάεργος Ἀπόλλων―
ἀλλὰ πάλιν τρωπᾶσθαι, ἐπὴν φάος ἐν νήεσσιν
θήηις, τοὺς δέ τ’ ἐᾶν πεδίον κάτα δηριάασθαι.
αἲ γάρ, Ζεῦ τε πάτερ καὶ Ἀθηναίη καὶ Ἄπολλον,
μήτέ τις οὖν Τρώων θάνατον φύγοι, ὅσσοι ἔασιν,
μήτέ τις Ἀργείων, νῶϊν δ’ ἐκδυῖμεν ὄλεθρον,
ὄφρ’ οἶοι Τροίης ἱερὰ κρήδεμνα λύωμεν.”

“But obey to the end this word I put upon your attention
so that you can win, for me, great honour and glory
in the sight of all the Danaans, so they will bring back to me
the lovely girl, and give me shining gifts in addition.
When you have driven them from the ships, come back; although later
the thunderous lord of Hera might grant you the winning of glory,
you must not set your mind on fighting the Trojans, whose delight
is in battle, without me. So you will diminish my honour.
You must not, in the pride and fury of fighting, go on
slaughtering the Trojans, and lead the way against Ilion,
for fear some one of the everlasting gods on Olympos
might crush you. Apollo who works from afar loves these people
dearly. You must turn back once you bring the light of salvation
to the ships, and let the others go on fighting in the flat land.
Father Zeus, Athene and Apollo, if only
not one of all the Trojans could escape destruction, not one
of the Argives, but you and I could emerge from the slaughter
so that we two alone could break Troy’s hallowed coronal.”

Iliad XVI 83–100

Achilles’ forewarning is accompanied by his shocking hunch about the doom of Patroklos. He not only advises his friend about what to do but also implicitly reveals, through a moving tragic irony, what will happen to him if he does not follow his advice. What is of particular interest to my investigation concerns the proxemics upon which Achilles’ advice is based: [
87] he explicitly tells Patroklos that only together will they be able, if the gods grant them victory, to sack the city of Troy (XVI 89, 97–100). [88] By translating their standing next to each other in combat into spatial terms, Achilles makes a personal comment on the heroic code. Lack of honor (XVI 90 ἀτιμότερον δέ με θήσεις) is tied to Patroklos’ potential refusal to fight together with Achilles, a statement that injects space into the rhetoric of pride, distinction, and reputation. Likewise, Hektor’s taunting speech to Patroklos after inflicting a fatal wound on him (XVI 830–842) begins by offering another aspect of a heroic rhetoric of space:

“Πάτροκλ’, ἦ που ἔφησθα πόλιν κεραϊξέμεν ἁμήν,
Τρωϊάδας δὲ γυναῖκας ἐλεύθερον ἦμαρ ἀπούρας
ἄξειν ἐν νήεσσι φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν,

“Patroklos, you thought perhaps of devastating our city,
of stripping from the Trojan women the day of their liberty
and dragging them off in ships to the beloved land of your fathers.

Iliad XVI 830–833

Hektor adopts the stance of the protector of Troy, whose women would have been taken to Greece as slaves by the Achaean ships. He thus confirms his own status as savior of his city, and even verbalizes ironically distorted imaginary advice from Achilles to Patroklos. Whereas Achilles has actually warned Patroklos not to follow the panic-stricken Trojans into the plain, away from the Achaean ships, [
89] Hektor imagines Achilles putting a heavy burden on his friend’s shoulders by asking him to return to the ships only after killing Hektor (XVI 839–842). This rhetoric of space is based on the way individual heroes highlight different aspects of the heroic code. Achilles emphasizes to Patroklos the honor and glory (XVI 84 ὡς ἄν μοι τιμὴν μεγάλην καὶ κῦδος ἄρηαι) he himself (i.e. Achilles) is going to win if Patroklos pushes the Trojans back, but warns him of the danger of winning glory for himself without him (XVI 87–88 εἰ δέ κεν αὖ τοι / δώηι κῦδος ἀρέσθαι ἐρίγδουπος πόσις Ἥρης). Hektor, on the other hand, painfully reminds Patroklos that by violating his personal heroic space he has lost both his life and his honor, as his body will be devoured by vultures in this place (XVI 836 σὲ δέ τ’ ἐνθάδε γῦπες ἔδονται), that is, in an area located outside Patroklos’ proper space. In a remarkable dramatic reversal of the previous situation, Hektor distorts Achilles’ advice [90] and creates a shocking image of Patroklos, who—if victorious—would have returned to the Achaean ships with Hektor’s blood-stained chiton (XVI 839–841).

Although the death of Achilles lies outside the thematic scope of the Iliad, it is systematically foreshadowed throughout the entire epic. In the light of the foregoing analysis of the violation of heroic space and the poem’s creation of false expectations, Achilles’ own violation of Achaean space and his flirtation with the idea of conquering Troy are dramatically foreshadowed during his ἀριστεία:

“ἦ δή που μάλ’ ἔολπας ἐνὶ φρεσί, φαίδιμ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ,
ἤματι τῶιδε πόλιν πέρσειν Τρώων ἀγερώχων,
νηπύτι’· …
σὺ δ’ ἐνθάδε πότμον ἐφέψεις …”

“You must have hoped within your heart, o shining Achilleus,
on this day to storm the city of the proud Trojans.
You fool! …
but in this place you will find your destiny …”

Iliad XXI 583–588

Agenor’s vague foreshadowing of Achilles’ death will become more explicit when the dying Hektor, using language that recalls Agenor’s prophetic words, even mentions the names of his opponent’s future killers:

“ἤματι τῶι, ὅτε κέν σε Πάρις καὶ Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
ἐσθλὸν ἐόντ’ ὀλέσωσιν ἐνὶ Σκαιῆισι πύληισιν.”

“… on that day when Paris and Phoibos Apollo
destroy you in the Skaian gates, for all your valour.”

Iliad XXII 359–360

The reference to the Skaian Gates implicitly points to Achilles’ violation of heroic space. Taken together with Agenor’s telling ἐνθάδε (XXI 588), they indicate that the tradition of the Iliad sees Achilles’ extra-Iliadic death in terms of his violation of his personal heroic space, which amounts to his arrogant claim that he can sack Troy. Space thus becomes such a profoundly linked feature of the way the poem deals with the world of heroes that it even postulates a similarly defined heroic attitude for Achilles in another epic tradition. [

When placed against the backdrop of a whole range of military activity, the politics of space reveal the interdependence of individual and communal identity formation. Agamemnon’s superb performance on the battlefield in Iliad XI, as highlighted by the expanded area in which he triumphantly moves, magnifies and exemplifies his heroic prowess, against the strongly negative background of his initial verbal haughtiness during his conflict with Achilles. Furthermore, the extended area where his ἀριστεία takes place aims at doing justice to the figurative place he occupies owing to his high status among the Achaean army. Given that Agamemnon’s movement is expressed not through place markers but by means of individuals or pairs of opponents, space acquires a strongly personalized dimension.

The audience is encouraged to reconceptualize Agamemnon’s identity by realizing that his status is dynamically invigorated and affirmed on the battlefield. The invocation of the Muses (Iliad XI 218), before the beginning of a catalogue of warriors to be killed by the son of Atreus, is reminiscent of an epic proem. The result of such a marked opening up of his ἀριστεία is noteworthy, for it lets listeners reevaluate Agamemnon’s role. The power dynamics inherent in such expressions are considerable, since the bard’s recourse to divine authority reflects the sheer scope of the subject matter to be sung: by invoking the Muses, the poet implies that Agamemnon’s heroic exploits surpass human measure.

Diomedes, whom the narrator places “in the middle” (Iliad V 8 κατὰ μέσσον) of the fighting at the beginning of his ἀριστεία, [93] soon displays a remarkable mobility as he rushes across the battlefield (V 87 θῦνε γὰρ ἂμ πεδίον; 96 θύνοντ’ ἂμ πεδίον; 250 θῦνε διὰ προμάχων). Faced with a wealth of enemies but a shortage of comrades (85–86 Τυδείδην δ’ οὐκ ἂν γνοίης ποτέροισι μετείη, / ἠὲ μετὰ Τρώεσσιν ὁμιλέοι ἦ μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖς), [94] Diomedes indirectly reaffirms the core-periphery dynamics of Iliadic warfare. Sometimes, a hero’s military prowess is exemplified through his engagement in combat in a marginal space even beyond the other πρόμαχοι. In particular, the poet redefines Hektor’s heroism by stressing that he is fighting ahead of his own army, which stands some distance behind him (XXII 459 ἀλλὰ πολὺ προθέεσκε, τὸ ὃν μένος οὐδενὶ εἴκων). Given that second- and third-tier warriors are always placed at the core of the army and never in its peripheral front lines, they can hardly claim a stake in a community where hierarchies are clearly reflected in the spatial arrangement of the troops. These lesser warriors, representing the “mainstream” segments of heroic society, often serve as victims of the first-rank heroes during their heroic exploits. In the world of Iliadic fighting, where penetrating the enemy lines is virtually reserved for preeminent heroes, power relations reside in space, and become the arena for individual empowerment by means of the interplay between center and periphery.

Consequently, through individual corporeal activity and by appropriating space as their own, heroes use the various abstract spaces of the Iliadic battlefield to match class hierarchies. The ἀριστεία provides claims to inclusion and exclusion, and by mirroring dichotomies between insiders and outsiders leads to the evaluation of power relations, enables identity formation, and last, but certainly not least, creates a single, unified action space.

Static Space

The battlefield is used mainly, but not solely, for the presentation of martial activity. It is also transformed so as to include friendly encounters between enemies, oath-swearing, and assemblies. Moreover, it contains certain locus-images (the oak tree of Zeus and the fig tree, the river and ford of Skamandros, the tombstone of Ilos and the tomb of Myrine, the rise in the plain), which mark simple story space and are employed as mental tags that cue both bard and audience to specific associations.


The martial space of the battlefield is occasionally transformed into a nonmilitary space, when an oath is sworn or an impending duel is turned into a friendly exchange of arms. Both these deviations from the formal function of the battlefield space are worth considering, the more so since they take place in a purely martial space that is basically devoted to combat.

With respect to the swearing of oaths, I will examine only two cases: the oaths before the duel of Menelaos and Paris in Iliad III and before the duel of Ajax and Hektor in Iliad VII, which have to do with a temporary cease-fire and the creation of a special space for the performance of sacrifices and the swearing of the oaths.

In Iliad III 67–70, Paris tells Hektor that he is ready to fight Menelaos in a duel, after swearing a promissory oath that the winner will take Helen and all her possessions and the Achaeans will return to Greece: [95]

“νῦν αὖτ’ εἴ μ’ ἐθέλεις πολεμίζειν ἠδὲ μάχεσθαι,
ἄλλους μὲν κάθεσον Τρῶας καὶ πάντας Ἀχαιούς,
αὐτὰρ ἔμ’ ἐν μέσσωι καὶ ἀρηΐφιλον Μενέλαον
συμβάλετ’ ἀμφ’ Ἑλένηι καὶ κτήμασι πᾶσι μάχεσθαι·”

“Now though, if you wish me to fight it out and do battle,
make the rest of the Trojans sit down, and all the Achaians,
and set me in the middle with Menelaos the warlike
to fight together for the sake of Helen and all her possessions.”

Iliad III 67–70

Both the verb κάθεσον (line 68) and the expression ἐν μέσσωι (69) are essential for understanding how the Iliad transforms the battlefield, the space of martial violence par excellence, into a space of sanctified violence. By calling the armies to “sit down” or by “seating” them, the narrator aims to curtail the visual fluidity [
96] of the battlefield and delineate a space where the ensuing episode will occur. In the light of Paris’ determination to fight Menelaos ἐν μέσσωι ‘in the middle’, it becomes clear that the Iliad aims at highlighting the theatricality of the scene to follow, as the armies are transformed into seated spectators and the protagonists of the duel into stage actors. This “internal” transformation mirrors an “external” one that converts auditors into spectators. [97] Consider the remarks of Clay:

This almost cinematic character is not limited to battle scenes, but pervades Homeric epic as a whole. It allows the traditional storyteller to present the tale to his audience as a series of slides, which they are able to watch in their minds’ eye. [
99] In order to underpin visual and spatial imagery, he lays special emphasis on placing himself in a privileged position, in this case at the very center where Paris and Menelaos will fight each other. [100] The narrator, though, will exploit this central space by turning it, temporarily, into the space where the oath will be sworn.

This dramatization and manipulation of martial space acquires an even more profound meaning when we consider the swearing of oaths. Hektor goes between the two armies (Iliad III 77 καί ῥ’ ἐς μέσσον ἰών) and repeats his brother’s words almost verbatim. This detail—that Hektor stands in the middle—has not attracted the attention it deserves. Hektor could very well have shouted to the Achaeans to stop the fighting, or could have addressed one of the leaders who command the two armies. Why then does he go between them and put his life at risk? [101] The answer to this question is essential for comprehending the critical intersection and contrast between the scene of oath-sacrifice and the scene of the ensuing duel. [102] Swearing an oath requires the creation of an agreement, a pact between two or more individuals, which is ritually configured through a series of symbolic acts (words, gestures, exchange of artifacts, sacrifice). Moreover, the oath delineates a notional space within which the two sides operate, an area―real or imaginary―where special rules are in effect. This special space is implicit in the ancient testimonies concerning the taking of an oath. According to Pausanias, [103] Tundareos had asked all the suitors of Helen to stand on the τόμια (‘parts of a sacrifice’) of a horse and swear an oath that they would help Helen and her husband in case they were in trouble in the future. The sacrificial parts of the horse stand for the special space within which the oath is sworn. [104] Since this space becomes sacred for those swearing the oath, it may be that the very expression ὅρκια τέμνειν, which is used in Homer time and again for swearing an oath, has kept something of its older function, indicating the process of cutting up sacrificial victims and stepping on them. Moreover, the term ὅρκος, like its cognate ἕρκος, is a figurative fence “which confines or constrains,” and thus keeps out or fences off violators and intruders. [105] In the purely martial space of the battlefield, the narrator makes Hektor stand, as the emissary of a proposed duel, in the middle between the two armies in order to flag the space as sacred for taking a promissory oath. This interpretation is supported by the language used by Menelaos on the importance of bringing sacrificial victims to this sacred place (III 103–104 οἴσετε ἄρν’, ἕτερον λευκόν, ἑτέρην δὲ μέλαιναν, / Γῆι τε καὶ Ἠελίωι· Διὶ δ’ ἡμεῖς οἴσομεν ἄλλον [“Bring two lambs: let one be white and the other black for / Earth and the Sun God, and for Zeus we will bring yet another”]) and fetching Priam as a trustworthy representative of the Trojans (III 105 ἄξετε δὲ Πριάμοιο βίην [“Bring … the strength of Priam”]; III 107 μή τις ὑπερβασίηι Διὸς ὅρκια δηλήσηται [“lest some man overstep Zeus’ oaths”]). The special place where the oath will be taken must include all prerequisites, animal and human alike, since it needs to keep out possible violators. It is from this angle that we must interpret the description of the Trojans and Achaeans while they dismount their horses (III 113 καί ῥ’ ἵππους μὲν ἔρυξαν ἐπὶ στίχας, ἐκ δ’ ἔβαν αὐτοί) and take off their weapons and place them nearby on the ground (III 114–115 τεύχεά τ’ ἐξεδύοντο· τὰ μὲν κατέθεντ’ ἐπὶ γαίηι / πλησίον ἀλλήλων). Their coming together around this sanctified area is implied by the narratorial comment “so there was little ground left between them” (III 115 ὀλίγη δ’ ἦν ἀμφὶς ἄρουρα). The emphasis on the disarming and mutual approach of the two armies underpins the theatricality of the whole episode. The ritually sanctified space of the oath exercises its force on the warriors of both sides, as the Iliad plays with the visual representation of a nonmartial scene within a martial context par excellence. What is of particular importance is that this pause does not bring the narrative to a standstill, but “corresponds to a contemplative pause by the hero himself.” [106] By making Hektor transform Paris’ desire to create a special martial space for the duel into a sanctified space for oath-exchange, the storyteller encourages the audience to see this as a potential terminal space, a symbolic where for the war to end.

After the interlude of the τειχοσκοπία episode, when Priam and Antenor arrive at the battlefield, the narrator carefully accentuates the fact that they stood between the two armies and that it was there that they “led up the victims for the gods’ oaths” (Iliad III 269 ὅρκια πιστὰ θεῶν σύναγον). Once all the necessary preparations for the ensuing oath-swearing have been completed, Agamemnon raises his hands towards the sky (275) and utters the oath (276–291), an important aspect of which is that its unwavering fulfillment will result in a radical change of space for both armies. In other words, should both Trojans and Achaeans abide by the oath, the battlefield where this whole scene takes place will cease to exist, since the Achaean army will return to Greece, the Trojan allies to their respective countries, and the Trojan army to the city of Ilion. The power of the oath is so great that it can bring the war to an end, and thus deprive the battlefield of its martial aspect and transform it into the peaceful plain of Troy. This last observation, which is prominently spelled out in the utterance of the oath, allows the narrator to make full use of the sanctified space where the oath is sworn, in order first to create a highly thematized juncture of ritual and martial space, and then to elicit comparison with the wider bipolar space bordered by Greece and Troy that the Iliad takes for granted.

Just before the duel, Hektor and Odysseus, representing the Trojan and Achaean sides respectively, “measured out the distance first” (Iliad III 315 χῶρον μὲν πρῶτον διεμέτρεον); then “when these two [Paris and Menelaos] were armed on either side of the battle, / they strode into the space between the Achaians and Trojans” (340–341 οἳ δ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν ἑκάτερθεν ὁμίλου θωρήχθησαν, / ἐς μέσσον Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν ἐστιχόωντο), and “they took their stand in the measured space not far from each other” (344 καί ῥ’ ἐγγὺς στήτην διαμετρητῶι ἐνὶ χώρωι). Notwithstanding the elusiveness of Iliadic landscape, especially of Iliadic martial space, the narrator emphatically stresses the careful delineation of the space of this duel because it is identical with the ritual space where the oath has been sworn. [107] By presenting his listeners with a sanctified, closed space that stands in sharp contrast to the vastness and vagueness of the battlefield, and by attempting to miniaturize space and imbue it with the ominous tone of a solemn ritual, the Iliad offers a highly ritualized fusion of sacrifice and war, and presents one more credible scenario of its coming to an end. [108] This attempt to decide the universal (Trojan War) by means of the particular (a single duel) aims at a complete reversal of space, since the Achaeans will return home and the Trojans will continue to live in their city. This effort to return to the very origin of the war—the abduction of Helen—and “correct” the initial wrongdoing is effectively carried out in spatial terms that allow for a “metaphorical switch,” which remains suspended as the Trojans violate the oath, and their perjury becomes a powerful leitmotif persisting for four more books.

Another case worth exploring in this respect is the swearing of oaths before the duel between Hektor and Ajax in Iliad VII. Here the situation is rather different from the oath-exchange and duel in Iliad III, for Apollo and Athena, who set this plan in action, aim at stopping all military activity only for this day (VII 29–30 νῦν μὲν παύσωμεν πόλεμον καὶ δηϊοτῆτα / σήμερον). Even when Apollo talks Hektor into this duel, he refrains from explaining the aim of this one-on-one fight, despite the fact that he employs the same diction (49 ἄλλους μὲν κάθεσον Τρῶας καὶ πάντας Ἀχαιούς) we have observed in the episode between Menelaos and Paris in Iliad III 68. Τhe same is true of the expression ἐς μέσσον ἰών (VII 55) used of Hektor and the “sitting down” of the Achaean army, as well as of the two gods—in the guise of vultures—on Zeus’ lofty oak tree (60 φηγῶι ἔφ’ ὑψηλῆι) and the mutual approach of the ranks of the two armies (61 τῶν δὲ στίχες εἵατο πυκναί). The privilege of determining the wording of the oath is left to Hektor, who―after the Trojan perjury in Iliad III―proposes that the winner shall take the arms of his defeated opponent but return his body to his comrades. In this light, this oath entails no radical change of space, like that in Iliad III, but rather advocates respecting and preserving the current spatial symmetry between Troy and the Achaean camp. Along the same lines, there is no clear demarcation of the oath or the martial space where the duel will take place. On the other hand, there is a notable effort to view the two heroes as they approach each other: Ajax “takes huge strides forward” (VII 213 ἤϊε μακρὰ βιβάς), whereas Hektor “can no longer find means to take flight and shrink back into / the throng of his men” (Iliad VII 217–218 ἀλλ’ οὔ πως ἔτι εἶχεν ὑποτρέσαι οὐδ’ ἀναδῦναι / ἂψ λαῶν ἐς ὅμιλον). Moreover, the duel comes to a halt when the rather elusive space where it occurs is violated by Talthubios and Idaios, the Achaean and Trojan heralds, who stand in the middle holding their scepters (277 μέσσωι δ’ ἀμφοτέρων σκῆπτρα σχέθον), while Idaios suggests that the duel end in a draw, now that Zeus has shown his love for both heroes (279–282).

The marked differences from the oath-exchange in Iliad III are instructive with respect to the function of space. The elusiveness of the area where this episode takes place, the absence of any radical spatial shift if the oath is observed, and the violation of the space of the duel by the heralds indicate the complete collapse of the oath. This time it comes about not as the result of perjury (as in Iliad III), but in the form of a deviation from or transgression of various topological factors that chart a ritual space for fulfilling this sacred agreement.

Apart from oath-exchanges, the organization of space entails inherent difficulties for the Iliadic tradition, since it lacks another form of setting where a friendly meeting, like that between Diomedes and Glaukos, can take place. [109] In order to overcome such problems of staging, [110] the Iliad creates an internal space within the battlefield, a space that is not delineated by specific landscape markers, and as a result is not narratively autonomous. It is denoted, in semiotic terms, by the following series of signs, [111] which represent the inversion of a corresponding chain of features of a formal duel: instead of moving aggressively one against the other, the two adversaries stop and stand close together; they do not resort to the typical exchange of taunting speeches but speak in a friendly manner; they do not throw their spears or arrows but exchange weapons; [112] they dismount their chariots and shake hands. [113] This deroutinization process, by which features from a given type-scene are transferred to another, in this case its direct opposite, is enhanced even more through a zooming technique that is equally employed in formal duels: the main narrator turns the attention of his audience to a specific pair of warriors who are narratively “isolated” within the battlefield. Such a technique results in the creation of an internal stage, a smaller story space where the ensuing episode will take place. Given that no spatial indicators are employed to mark the setting, the Iliad sets up an empty space for the listeners in the form of camera position. [114] The main narrator’s lens is suddenly focused on a single spot on the battlefield, an almost indescribable or ineffable stationary point. The spectators are guided to a place that is both already present (since it forms part of the battlefield) and absent (in the sense that it is devoid of topography), and subsequently encouraged to visualize the specific scene on their own. Following Ryan’s model of reconstructing maps of fictional worlds, we can see that the literary cartography of the place where the encounter between the two heroes takes place is what discourse analysts have felicitously called a map strategy, where “space is represented panoramically from a perspective ranging from the disembodied god’s-eye point of view of pure vertical projection to the oblique view of an observer situated on an elevated point.” [115] In light of the complete absence of typical spatial indicators, it is worth investigating the process of tacit instruction to the listeners to re-create space, by capitalizing on certain mental strategies employed in visual imaging. Examined against this background, certain deictic terms referring to distance may in fact be cues offered to the audience for a suggested mapping of the given scene, the more so since such hints encompass built-in, so to speak, mental models of narrative structure. [116]

After the introduction of the two heroes in typical epic manner (Iliad VI 119 Γλαῦκος δ’ Ἱππολόχοιο πάϊς καὶ Τυδέος υἱός), space is roughly indicated by the line ἐς μέσον ἀμφοτέρων συνίτην μεμαῶτε μάχεσθαι (120), which allows the narrator to differentiate Glaukos and Diomedes from the rest of the two armies and zoom his narrative lens in on them. [117] This very same line is also attested two more times in the Iliad (XX 159, XXIII 814), always anticipating an impending duel that is going to take place between foot-soldiers; [118] let us therefore compare all three passages:

Γλαῦκος δ’ Ἱππολόχοιο πάϊς καὶ Τυδέος υἱός
ἐς μέσον ἀμφοτέρων συνίτην μεμαῶτε μάχεσθαι.
οἳ δ’ ὅτε δὴ σχεδὸν ἦσαν ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισι ἰόντες,
τὸν πρότερος προσέειπε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης·

Now Glaukos, sprung of Hippolochos, and the son of Tydeus
came together in the space between the two armies, battle-bent.
Now as these advancing came to one place and encountered,
first to speak was Diomedes of the great war cry:

Iliad VI119–122

δύο δ’ ἀνέρες ἔξοχ’ ἄριστοι
ἐς μέσον ἀμφοτέρων συνίτην μεμαῶτε μάχεσθαι,
Αἰνείας τ’ Ἀγχισιάδης καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
οἱ δ’ ὅτε δὴ σχεδὸν ἦσαν ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισιν ἰόντες,
τὸν πρότερος προσέειπε ποδάρκης δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς·

Two men far greater than all the others
were coming to encounter, furious to fight with each other,
Aineias, the son of Anchises, and brilliant Achilleus.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Now as these in their advance had come close to each other
first of the two to speak was swift-footed brilliant Achilleus …

Iliad XX 158–160, 176–177

So he spoke, and there rose up huge Telamonian Aias,
and next the son of Tydeus rose up, strong Diomedes.
When these were in their armour on either side of the assembly,
they came together in the middle space, furious for the combat …

Iliad XXIII 811–814

The formulaic material employed in all these instances includes a two-step process: (1) the introduction of the two warriors in stark epic manner by means of patronymics and typical epithets accompanying their names; (2) a designation of space in two phases, including their coming close together or separating themselves from other bystanders and standing between the two armies. [

For the second step, the Homeric narrator has a twofold goal: first, he tries to create a symmetrical space for the two heroes, by making them stand between the two armies surrounding them, and then he attempts to isolate them from the rest of their armies by bringing them close. The formulaic line ἐς μέσον ἀμφοτέρων συνίτην μεμαῶτε μάχεσθαι, verbalizing the narrator’s first aim, subordinates the first phase to the second, which is also expressed formulaically (οἳ δ’ ὅτε δὴ σχεδὸν ἦσαν ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισι ἰόντες).

After the exchange of speeches by the two warriors, Diomedes—having realized that he is related to Glaukos—”drove his spear deep into the prospering earth” (Iliad VI 213 ἔγχος μὲν κατέπηξεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ πουλυβοτείρηι). The formula ἐπὶ χθονὶ πουλυβοτείρηι, which is attested (together with its allomorphs) fourteen times in the Iliad, evokes the brief postponement of military activity through traditional referentiality: [129] in Iliad III 89–91, Hektor repeats the gist of Paris’ previous speech (68–70) and urges both Greeks and Trojans to “lay aside on the bountiful earth their splendid armour / while he himself in the middle and warlike Menelaos / fight alone for the sake of Helen and all her possessions”; in III 195 Priam asks Helen, who is standing next to him on the walls of Troy, to identify the Achaean hero (Odysseus) whose armor “lies piled on the prospering earth.…” In this light, [130] it may be plausibly argued that—this time—the narrator appropriates the formulaic diction attested in character speech, aiming at extending its functional use. He does not employ, as he did before, the technique of contextual deroutinization of formulaic material, but that of intensification: in the meeting between Diomedes and Glaukos, placing the weapons on the ground is a prelude to the heroes’ ensuing disarmament (VI 235–236). The postponement of warfare has here become cancellation and annulment, as the traditional referentiality of a formula has been pushed to its most extreme limits.

Given the rather fixed framework of such scenes, it is worth investigating how space is important for exploring the gradual shift of focus within the limited setting of this encounter. In the beginning of the episode, when the narrator described the two heroes moving forward and standing between the two armies, he adopted a lateral view, [132] that is, he viewed the two heroes from the side or an elevated point; conversely, when the heroes start speaking and are looking at each other, the position of the narrator (and of course the visual imagination of the listeners) becomes a face-to-face view, as if space shifted according to the focalization presented in each case. [133] This spatial reorganization of the scene according to continuous shifts of the narrator’s eye is also reflected in some seemingly unimportant topographical hints, like Diomedes’ stabbing his spear into the earth. Seen from the vantage point of the shift of space, the technique of formulaic intensification builds upon another mental strategy called the tour, [134] which “represents space dynamically from a perspective internal to the territory to be surveyed.” [135] This time, members of the audience would have placed themselves right behind the two heroes; they would have created visual images of them looking at each other face-to-face, and would have mentally seen through the eyes of Glaukos Diomedes driving his spear on the ground. This ever-changing presentation of story space indexes modes of perspective-taking that make full use both of the mental charts regularly employed by audiences and of traditional diction, the path to evoking and activating such charts within the medium of epic song.

The Trojans hold an assembly during a temporary halt before their great assault on the Achaean wall. This stationary location is designated by an extremely brief description:

Τρώων αὖτ’ ἀγορὴν ποιήσατο φαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ,
νόσφι νεῶν ἀγαγών, ποταμῶι ἔπι δινήεντι,
ἐν καθαρῶι, ὅθι δὴ νεκύων διεφαίνετο χῶρος.

Now glorious Hektor held an assembly of all the Trojans,
taking them aside from the ships, by a swirling river
on clean ground, where there showed a space not cumbered with corpses.

Iliad VIII 489–491

Homeric epic systematically employs discourse markers indicating visual shifts that help the audience mentally locate themselves with respect to the characters of the plot. By using αὖτ(ε), the narrator suggests to his listeners that they will now “see” with their minds’ eye the Trojans whom they visualized before the action was briefly transferred to Olympos. This spatial orientation of the audience is based on the metanarrative aspect of the particle αὖτ(ε), since it amounts to a covert way of enhancing the role of the omnipotent narrator who has total control over the different parts of his song. [139] Once the shift from Olympos to the plain of Troy is complete, the narrator informs his audience about the new “setting” of the Trojans, whom Hektor has led away from the ships, next to “a swirling river.” The spatial coordinates of this place are problematic, for if the river is identified with Skamandros, [140] then the Trojan army must be visualized as being at a considerable distance from the ships (Iliad VIII 490 νόσφι νεῶν), and not close to them (IX 76 ἐγγύθι νηῶν, IX 232 ἐγγὺς γὰρ νηῶν καὶ τείχεος). Although topographical discrepancies of this sort can be easily explained away by resorting to general features of oral performance, such as a certain degree of inconsistency with respect to geographical details, this kind of explanation would do little justice to the complexity of visualizing epic space. Apart from the fact that IX 76 and IX 232 echo the focalization of the Achaeans (Nestor and Odysseus respectively), who have every reason to stress the danger posed by the Trojans’ approach to the Greek camp, and should not be interpreted at face value, the narrator takes pains to anchor in his listeners’ minds the mental image of an area of the battlefield devoid of dead bodies. The adverb ὅθι, accompanied by δή, is called a “marker of evidentiality.” In the words of Bakker,

By creating the conditions for a “shared vision” between himself and his audience, [
142] the narrator offers his listeners a vivid image of a place without slain warriors. The rare use of χῶρος, which testifies to the importance given to the spatial aspect of the assembly scene that is about to begin, as well as the emphatic ἐν καθαρῶι, help the audience view the area where the assembly is held not so much in terms of a geographical location but rather of a nonmartial space. It is as if the performer of the song encourages his listeners to clear their minds of the larger space of the battlefield covered by corpses of warriors, and visualize it again as a new thematized space, where there is a place for an exchange of opinions, and room for an assembly.

In Iliad X 194–203, it is time for the Achaeans to hold an assembly. Oddly enough, the assembly takes place “in the open” and not in the Achaean camp:

ὣς εἰπὼν τάφροιο διέσσυτο· τοὶ δ’ ἅμ’ ἕποντο
Ἀργείων βασιλῆες, ὅσοι κεκλήατο βουλήν.
τοῖς δ’ ἅμα Μηριόνης καὶ Νέστορος ἀγλαὸς υἱός
ἤϊσαν· αὐτοὶ γὰρ κάλεον συμμητιάασθαι.
τάφρον δ’ ἐκδιαβάντες ὀρυκτὴν ἑδριόωντο
ἐν καθαρῷ, ὅθι δὴ νεκύων διεφαίνετο χῶρος
πιπτόντων, ὅθεν αὖτις ἀπετράπετ’ ὄβριμος Ἕκτωρ
ὀλλὺς Ἀργείους, ὅτε δὴ περὶ νὺξ ἐκάλυψεν.
ἔνθα καθεζόμενοι ἔπε’ ἀλλήλοισι πίφαυσκον.
τοῖσι δὲ μύθων ἦρχε Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ·

So he spoke, and strode on through the ditch, and there followed with him
the kings of the Argives, all who had been called into conclave,
and with them went Meriones and Nestor’s glorious
son, since the kings themselves called these to take counsel with them.
After they had crossed the deep-dug ditch they settled
on clean ground, where there showed a space not cumbered with corpses
of the fallen, a place whence Hektor the huge had turned back
from destroying the Argives, after the night had darkened about him.
There they seated themselves, and opened words to each other,
and the Gerenian horseman Nestor began speaking among them …

Iliad X 194–203

The place where the assembly takes place has troubled scholars. Why should the Achaeans hold a meeting outside the ditch? The storyteller aims to create a bridge between this assembly, the equivalent Trojan one in VIII 489–491, and Hektor’s overwhelming presence on the battlefield. This plan is effectively carried out (1) by the reiteration of similar language that visually designates the assembly area as the one from which Hektor withdrew after killing many Achaeans, [143] and (2) by the pragmatic function of αὖτις, which is not only propositional but also a discourse adverb cueing the audience both to a locus already mentioned by the poet, and also to the hic et nunc of the performance. It is as if the performer, in his aim to mark a “performative peak in the narration,” [144] evokes a parallel action or event in the memory of his audience, as if he were telling them: “The Achaeans are holding their assembly out of the ditch, in a place clear of dead bodies, from which Hektor withdrew, as I told you before.” Drawing on Ryan’s [145] route-like as opposed to map-like spatial models, Bonifazi has summarized the visual aspect and the procedural meaning of au-words, such as αὖ, αὖτε, αὖτις, αὖθις, and αὐτοῦ in the following way:

As these astute remarks suggest, the audience visualizes the area where the Achaean assembly takes place by reactivating in their minds’ eye the image they created when they visualized Hektor’s slaughter of the Achaeans before the nightfall. [
147] Given that the pragmatic function of αὖτις reenacts not only a previous event but also a recent moment of the performance, [148] the listeners, transformed into spectators, “see” the Achaeans reclaiming the space held by Hektor and the Trojans. In other words, the storyteller uses space to create a thematic link between two distinct scenes, and at the same time bridges two separate performance instances. The twofold meaning of the word “assembly” is fully exploited: the gathering of the Achaean leaders and the place where this gathering takes place, which constitutes an intermediate space claimed by both sides, are parallel to the metaphorical coming together of storyteller and audience at the very point where the earlier and the more recent visualizations are mentally evoked. Seen from this angle, most of the diction employed in Iliad X 194–203 works also on the level of the discourse. Like Nestor, the heroic archetype of the wise hero of a distant past, the storyteller rushes (διέσσυτο) [149] to an uncharted area (τάφροιο, τάφρον ἐκδιαβάντες), outside the limits of the well-described Achaean camp; he is mentally followed by his audience (τοὶ δ’ ἕποντο) with whom he will share his thoughts (συμμητιάασθαι); they will mentally move into an unfamiliar, clear space (ἐν καθαρῶι), away from the previous narration of the battlefield killings, and there they will communicate while refraining from other action (ἔνθα καθεζόμενοι ἔπε’ ἀλλήλοισι πίφαυσκον). This reading conceives the flow of Homeric narration as “cinema in the mind,” a process where story and discourse do not represent separate registers of action but share a symbiotic relationship. In the dynamic universe of oral performance, the delineation of space for the agents of the plot is inseparable from the designation of mental space for the audience. The storyteller invites his listeners to visualize the space where the assembly takes place in performative terms, by allowing the image of a previous visualization to re-emerge in their minds. Following the pragmatic “stop sign” of αὖθις, the world of the story and that of the discourse come closer, as the listeners become spectators who mentally transfer themselves over the ditch into an uncharted area, and, suspending their previous visualization of the action, are ready to listen to the storyteller, just as the Achaean leaders refrain from fighting and listen to wise Nestor.


Protection and danger: The oak tree of Zeus and the fig tree

One such spot is the oak tree (φηγός), which is attested seven times in the Iliad. [156] In V 693–695, after the wounded Sarpedon has begged Hektor not to let him die on the plain, the Trojan hero pushes back the Achaeans and thus allows Sarpedon’s comrades to carry him under the oak tree and remove the spear from his thigh. In VII 22, Apollo and Athena meet next to the oak tree (ἀλλήλοισι δὲ τώ γε συναντέσθην παρὰ φηγῶι), where he convinces her that a duel should be organized between Hektor and one of the Achaean leaders. In VII 59–60, the two gods, having taken the form of vultures (59 ἑζέσθην, ὄρνισιν ἐοικότες αἰγυπιοῖσιν), sit on the tall oak tree of father Zeus who bears the aegis (60 φηγῶι ἔφ’ ὑψηλῆι πατρὸς Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο) and watch with pleasure the preparations for the duel (ἀνδράσι τερπόμενοι). In IX 354, Achilles tells Odysseus, Phoinix, and Ajax that as long as he was fighting, Hektor would not dare step beyond the Skaian Gates and the oak tree. In XI 170, the Trojans find safety when they reach the oak tree, which Agamemnon will never reach, as he is wounded and forced to retreat (XI 251–274). [157] In XXI 549, Apollo prevents Achilles from sacking Troy by placing Agenor in his way, while he himself “leaned there on an oak tree with close mist huddled about him” (φηγῶι κεκλιμένος· κεκάλυπτο δ’ ἄρ’ ἠέρι πολλῆι). This crucial delay gives the Trojans time to retreat inside the city.

After Aiakos, Apollo, and Poseidon had completed the walls of Troy, three series of stones started falling down. Two of them fell from the part of the wall built by Apollo and Poseidon, while the third collapsed from the side built by Aiakos and rolled inside the city. This was interpreted as a sign that this particular part of the walls of Troy would be vulnerable to an attack from the first and fourth descendants of Aiakos. [161] Troy was indeed attacked by the descendants of Aiakos, the Aiakidai (Achilles being Aiakos’ grandson). [162] Aiakos is closely connected both with the oak tree, for he repopulated desolate Aegina by asking Zeus to turn the ants on the sacred oak tree into men (thus creating Achilles’ famous warriors the Myrmidons), [163] and with stones, which were used to build the walls of Troy. Stones or rocks and oak may seem an odd combination, but in fact they are both related to the god of the thunderbolt, to whom they are sacred. [164] Nagy has shown that Hittite peruna– ‘rock’ is cognate with Slavic perunŭ ‘[god of] the thunderbolt’, in the same way that Latin quercus ‘oak’ is connected with Baltic (Lithuanian) perkṹnas. [165] Given this mythological context on the one hand, and on the other the strong Indo-European link between the oak, rocks, and the god of the thunderbolt, [166] who in Greek tradition was assimilated to the sky-god Zeus, we can form the following tentative hypothesis: the function of the oak tree, which in its most traditional (formulaic) attestation is connected to the Skaian Gates (Σκαιάς τε πύλας καὶ φηγὸν ἵκανεν/-οντο), represents a Hellenized version of the power inherent in the sacred tree of Zeus. The oak tree offers safety to the Trojans because it stands for an inviolable place protected by Zeus. [167] On the other hand it symbolizes danger for Hektor, by being associated through Aiakos, who took part in the building of the city’s famous walls and from whose side of the walls the stones collapsed, with his descendant Achilles, who is destined to kill the preeminent Trojan hero Hektor. In other words, the oak and the stones offer protection to the Trojans, but also allude to the future death of Hektor, just as Aiakos’ mythological contexts link him with both building the walls of Troy and being a future menace to it, through the Myrmidons and especially his grandson Achilles. The antithetical, twofold function of the oak and the stones reflects the equally antithetical double association of Aiakos with Troy.

In this light, the oak tree standing close to the Skaian Gates has preserved in the Homeric tradition something that we can see more clearly through the cognate Indo-European tradition of the Celts. In Celtic mythology the oak tree is the tree of doors, believed to be a gateway between worlds, or a place where portals could be erected. The oak is a figurative threshold, a symbolic gateway on whose two sides Zeus’ power becomes alternately protective and destructive. Seen from this angle, it is tempting to suggest that its formulaic symbiosis in the Skaian Gates reflects a latent feature of its mythological background, which bespeaks its function as transitory space.

In coming to grips with the function of locus-images, we must realize that space becomes epitomized in (in cinematic terms “is zipped into”) a landmark feature of the setting through association with and evocation of collectively shared cultural experience. Within the medium of traditional oral song, myth is by definition a strong means of transforming landscape markers, such as the oak and fig trees, into signs. Spatial contiguity is of vital importance for comprehending this transformation process: when the oak and the wild fig tree are mentioned, they trigger in the bard’s mind an association with another mental image (of the Trojan walls, the grave of Ilos, etc.), and form a mental pair or visual chain. These pairs include a marked and an unmarked element, the former being pulled to its new function by the latter. The unmarked element that is closely associated with the past of Troy “absorbs” the marked one and anchors it to a new meaning. Thus the Skaian Gates are the unmarked element, “pulling” the oak tree into their own interpretive and functional orbit. The oak and fig trees are signs of the past, which on the surface structure of the Iliadic epic appear as setting markers. They are not described or glossed by the narrator, but are tagged to other landscape pointers. This associative topography, where something is not described per se but is linked to something else, testifies to a process of mnemonic encoding based on nodes of mental vistas, which the oral tradition has shaped into culturally charged signs or pairs of signs.

Associations have long been known as a typical means of memory organization. In oral traditions, pairings of ideas or words are commonplace, the more so since they constitute mechanisms used to generate traditional meanings. [172] This item-to-item cueing has been discussed either as operating serially or, recently, as working in large networks of associations. In South Slavic epic, which offers the greatest amount of comparable data, nodes are activated on three different scales: (1) the positive or excitatory one, in which both members of the associative pair are either present or absent in the majority of performances; (2) the neutral level, where both members of the associative pair are either present or absent in half the number of tellings of a song; and (3) the negative or inhibitory level, where both nodes are present or absent in less than half of performances. [173] With this schema in mind, it is possible to argue that the associative pairings including the oak or fig tree on the one hand and another landscape spot on the other display the following fluctuation in scale: (1) they appear most often in association with the walls; (2) they are also connected, though less often, with the fate of an individual, mainly Trojan, hero; (3) they are associated with the meeting place of two gods (Apollo and Athena). In this light, it becomes plausible that the pair “trees-Trojan walls” represents the deep structure or nucleus of an associative link, and that the replacement of the walls by individual heroes results from the thematic contiguity of Trojan walls and Trojan heroes. What we see at work here is an effective mnemonic mechanism based on association, operating within the constraints imposed upon it by the strict rules of oral song. In such a traditional medium, space is organized in order to ensure, enhance, and ease memorability, and in doing so it generates meaning by effectively anchoring the secondary item of the associative pair within the semantic realm of the primary item.

The river and the ford of Skamandros

The preference for concreteness instead of abstract concepts is seen in the case of the ford of Skamandros, which constitutes a “tangible” and “solid” location that triggers narrative development and eases mnemonic recall. Moreover, the formulaic fixity of the way the ford is mentioned (Iliad XIV 433–434 = XXI 1–2 ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ πόρον ἷξον ἐϋρρεῖος ποταμοῖο / Ξάνθου δινήεντος, ὃν ἀθάνατος τέκετο Ζεύς) [176] indicates the importance of dynamic versus static processing of mnemonic data. In particular, the pair “location-movement” (πόρον ἷξον) lies at the heart of spatial imagery: it sets a boundary, which is expressed by the cluster ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή, and introduces an antithesis with what happened before. The narrative incipit of the episode is thus “prefaced by the movement of the characters into position. Only when he has carefully positioned everyone does the poet commence his narration of the episode.” [177] In fact, the cluster ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή functions as a mental stop, indicating that the narrator has reached a point where he wants to change narrative direction. The individual concrete location he mentions immediately allows him to pass on to a new scene, once he has placed all characters on his mind’s visual map. The ford of Skamandros is a concrete location that evokes new cues, a spatial image that shapes a sequential verbal and thematic output. [178]

Timemarks: The tombstone of Ilos and the tomb of Myrine

The narrator and the characters of the plot in the Iliad often use tombs as points of orientation. [184] These landmarks help the poet space the past and translate it into his authoritative spatial idiolect, that is, into concrete and hero-oriented signposts pinned down on the Trojan plain. Chapman has used the term timemarks to describe the transformation of place into space by recourse to socially and emotionally charged experience. [185] In his groundbreaking study of the creation of collective memory and the process of social shaping of the past, [186] Zerubavel has used the term time maps, which like Chapman’s concept is based on the combination of temporal and spatial vocabulary. In the case of the tombstone of Ilos, an ancestor of Priam who evokes the Trojan past, time and space are fused into a specific location on the battlefield, a landmark that maps out the mythical prehistory of Troy. Zerubavel has also emphasized the importance of what we may call “the same place” process, or cultural bridging. [187] Constancy of place facilitates sameness and continuity, since it allows both individuals and communities to construct chronological continua, establishing connections between noncontiguous points in history. Unconnected aspects of history, or in our case of myth, are thus presented first as sharing some sort of link and later as forming part of a continuous, diachronic sequence, almost travelling in time. By cultivating the idea of permanence, individuals and communities alike (not to mention modern states) have thus been able to enhance whole sets of ideological tenets with respect to continuity, permanence, and—almost unavoidably—a feeling of nostalgia. Longing for the past is often interpreted within the premises of a historical or mythical continuum that has been interrupted by some violent change. [188] This last observation is fundamental to the function of timemarks in the Iliad.

The tombstone of Ilos, the grandfather of Priam, [189] is understandably associated with the Trojans. In Iliad X 415–416, Hektor holds a council next to it, away from the din of the battle (θείου παρὰ σήματι Ἴλου, / νόσφιν ἀπὸ φλοίσβου). [190] In XI 166–168, the retreating Trojan troops rush past the monument (οἳ δὲ παρ’ Ἴλου σῆμα παλαιοῦ Δαρδανίδαο, / μέσσον κὰπ πεδίον παρ’ ἐρινεὸν ἐσσεύοντο / ἱέμενοι πόλιος), whereas in XI 371–372, Paris shoots an arrow and wounds Diomedes as he leans against a column on the gravestone of Ilos (στήλῃ κεκλιμένος ἀνδροκμήτῳ ἐπὶ τύμβῳ / Ἴλου Δαρδανίδαο παλαιοῦ δημογέροντος). Last, in XXIV 349–351, Priam and Idaios drive past the tombstone of Ilos and water their mules and horses in the river Skamandros (οἳ δ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν μέγα σῆμα πάρεξ Ἴλοιο ἔλασσαν, / στῆσαν ἄρ’ ἡμιόνους τε καὶ ἵππους, ὄφρα πίοιεν, / ἐν ποταμῷ) before the appearance of Hermes, who is going to lead them safely past the Achaean guards to the hut of Achilles. [191] The narrative function of the tombstone of Ilos is not apparent, and scholars have expressed divergent points of view. [192] It seems clear, though, that what really matters in this case is that “the narrator uses the tomb to set the present action against the backdrop of the past.” [193]

Seen from this perspective, Ilos’ tombstone also implies a social punctuation of Troy’s past that is worth considering. In Iliad XX 199–241, Aineias presents Achilles with his entire pedigree, which goes back to the founding of Troy:

τὸν δ’ αὖτ’ Αἰνείας ἀπαμείβετο φώνησέν τε·
“Πηλείδη, μὴ δή μ’ ἐπέεσσί γε νηπύτιον ὥς
ἔλπεο δειδίξεσθαι, ἐπεὶ σάφα οἶδα καὶ αὐτός
ἠμὲν κερτομίας ἠδ’ αἴσυλα μυθήσασθαι.
ἴδμεν δ’ ἀλλήλων γενεήν, ἴδμεν δὲ τοκῆας,
πρόκλυτ’ ἀκούοντες ἔπεα θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων·
ὄψει δ’ οὔτ’ ἄρ πω σὺ ἐμοὺς ἴδες οὔτ’ ἄρ’ ἐγὼ σούς.
φασὶ σὲ μὲν Πηλῆος ἀμύμονος ἔκγονον εἶναι
μητρὸς τ’ ἐκ Θέτιδος καλλιπλοκάμου ἁλοσύδνης·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν υἱὸς μεγαλήτορος Ἀγχίσαο
εὔχομαι ἐκγεγάμεν, μήτηρ δέ μοί ἐστ’ Ἀφροδίτη.
τῶν δὴ νῦν ἕτεροί γε φίλον παῖδα κλαύσονται
σήμερον· οὐ γάρ φημ’ ἐπέεσσί γε νηπυτίοισιν
ὧδε διακρινθέντε μάχης ἒξ ἀπονέεσθαι.
εἰ δ’ ἐθέλεις καὶ ταῦτα δαήμεναι, ὄφρ’ εὖ εἴδῃς
ἡμετέρην γενεήν, πολλοὶ δέ μιν ἄνδρες ἴσασιν.
Δάρδανον ἂρ πρῶτον τέκετο νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·
κτίσσε δὲ Δαρδανίην, ἐπεὶ οὔ πω Ἴλιος ἱρή
ἐν πεδίῳ πεπόλιστο, πόλις μερόπων ἀνθρώπων,
ἀλλ’ ἔθ’ ὑπωρείας οἴκεον πολυπίδακος Ἴδης.
Δάρδανος αὖ τέκεθ’ υἱὸν Ἐριχθόνιον βασιλῆα,
ὃς δὴ ἀφνειότατος γένετο θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων·
τοῦ τρισχείλιαι ἵπποι ἕλος κάτα βουκολέοντο
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
230 Τρῶα δ’ Ἐριχθόνιος τέκετο Τρώεσσιν ἄνακτα·
Τρωὸς δ’ αὖ τρεῖς παῖδες ἀμύμονες ἐξεγένοντο,
Ἶλός τ’ Ἀσσάρακός τε καὶ ἀντίθεος Γανυμήδης,
ὃς δὴ κάλλιστος γένετο θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων·
τὸν καὶ ἀνηρείψαντο θεοὶ Διὶ οἰνοχοεύειν
κάλλεος εἵνεκα οἷο, ἵν’ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη.
Ἶλος δ’ αὖ τέκεθ’ υἱὸν ἀμύμονα Λαομέδοντα·
Λαομέδων δ’ ἄρα Τιθωνὸν τέκετο Πρίαμόν τε
Λάμπόν τε Κλυτίον θ’ Ἱκετάονά τ’ ὄζον Ἄρηος.
Ἀσσάρακος δὲ Κάπυν, ὃ δ’ ἄρ’ Ἀγχίσην τέκε παῖδα·
αὐτὰρ ἔμ’ Ἀγχίσης, Πρίαμος δ’ ἔτεχ’ Ἕκτορα δῖον.
ταύτης τοι γενεῆς τε καὶ αἵματος εὔχομαι εἶναι·”

Then in turn Aineias spoke to him and made his answer:
“Son of Peleus, never hope by words to frighten me
as if I were a baby. I myself understand well enough
how to speak in vituperation and how to make insults.
You and I know each other’s birth, we both know our parents
since we have heard the lines of their fame from mortal men; only
I have never with my eyes seen your parents, nor have you seen mine.
For you, they say you are the son of blameless Peleus
and that your mother was Thetis of the lovely hair, the sea’s lady;
I in turn claim I am the son of great-hearted Anchises
but that my mother was Aphrodite; and that of these parents
one group or the other will have a dear son to mourn for
this day. Since I believe we will not in mere words, like children,
meet, and separate and go home again out of the fighting.
Even so, if you wish to learn all this and be certain
of my genealogy: there are plenty of men who know it.
First of all Zeus who gathers the clouds had a son, Dardanos
who founded Dardania, since there was yet no sacred Ilion
made a city in the plain to be a centre of peoples,
but they lived yet in the underhills of Ida with all her waters.
Dardanos in turn had a son, the king, Erichthonios,
who became the richest of all mortal men, and in his possession
were three thousand horses who pastured along the low grasslands,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
230 Erichthonios had a son, Tros, who was lord of the Trojans,
and to Tros in turn there were born three sons unfaulted,
Ilos and Assarakos and godlike Ganymedes
who was the loveliest born of the race of mortals, and therefore
the gods caught him away to themselves, to be Zeus’ wine-pourer,
for the sake of his beauty, so he might be among the immortals.
Ilos in turn was given a son, the blameless Laomedon,
and Laomedon had sons in turn, Tithonos and Priam,
Lampos, Klytios and Hiketaon, scion of Ares;
but Assarakos had Kapys, and Kapys’ son was Anchises,
and I am Anchises’ son, and Priam’s is Hektor the brilliant.
Such is the generation and blood I claim to be born from.”

Iliad XX 199–241

According to this genealogy, Ilos was the son of Tros, grandson of Erikhthonios, great-grandson of Dardanos, and great-great-grandson of Zeus. In other words, there are three generations of Trojan ancestors before Ilos, not counting Zeus. Likewise, Hektor and Aineias (who offers this genealogy) belong to the third generation after Ilos (> Laomedon > Priam > Hektor) or his brother Assarakos (> Kapus > Ankhises > Aineias). So Ilos stands in the very middle of the entire pedigree of Trojan kings, separated by three generations from Dardanos and Hektor respectively. Ilos’ importance is based not only on his occupying the center of the entire line of Trojan kings, but also on the fact that the city of Ilion bears his name and that it was in the time of his ancestor Dardanos that the first city, called “Dardania,” was built “to be a centre of peoples” who at the time lived in the foothills of Mount Ida (Iliad XX 216–218). What we see at work here is the sociomnemonic process of periodization, according to which communities articulate their past by emphasizing certain “historical” events, which they consider watersheds in their life and their future. By employing such processes, communities often engage in selective obliteration: they tend to select events that fit their desired self-image and erase disturbing events or darker periods of their history that negatively affect the construction of their fictive self. Seen from this angle, the emphasis on Ilos among Troy’s ancestors is conditioned by the desire to create a point of historical departure, of “resetting a mnemonic community’s ‘historical chronometer’ at zero.” [

The tomb of Myrine bears two different names: men call it Βατίεια ‘the Hill of the Thicket’, and gods σῆμα πολυσκάρθμοιο Μυρίνης ‘the tomb of dancing or bounding Myrine’:

ἔστι δέ τις προπάροιθε πόλιος αἰπεῖα κολώνη,
ἐν πεδίῳ ἀπάνευθε, περίδρομος ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα,
τὴν ἤτοι ἄνδρες Βατίειαν κικλήσκουσιν,
ἀθάνατοι δέ τε σῆμα πολυσκάρθμοιο Μυρίνης·
ἔνθα τότε Τρῶές τε διέκριθεν ἠδ’ ἐπίκουροι.

Near the city but apart from it there is a steep hill
in the plain by itself, so you pass on one side or the other.
This men call the Hill of the Thicket, but the immortal
gods have named it the burial mound of dancing Myrina.
There the Trojans and their companions were marshalled in order.

Iliad II 811–815

Alternative human and divine names for the same locations are attested three times in the Iliad (II 813–814; XIV 290–291; XX 74). [198] No satisfying general explanation of this phenomenon has been advanced. Scholars tend to interpret it as an indication of divine supremacy, or of renaming by mortals who have lost track of its earlier identity. According to Grethlein,

This is true, but I think that there is more to it. Given that the tomb of Myrine points to the past, its double naming not only reflects the divergence between divine and human knowledge of the past, but also different or conflicting points of view about the past. Naming is a powerful means of culturally appropriating or even reclaiming the past. According to the ancient scholia, [
200] Myrine was the name of an Amazon, and some scholars [201] have argued that this scant reference may be a hint at the existence of a local myth concerning a war between the locals and the Amazons. In fact, the Iliad (III 184–189) may refer to such a war between the Phrygians (with Priam as their ally) and the Amazons, though Kullmann regards it as an anachronism, since the Amazons about whom Priam speaks attacked not Troy but Phrygia. [202] I would not press this point. The double naming may be indicative of two different focalizations of the same landmark, based on the propensity of humans to reappropriate painful memories of the past. Perhaps the narrator’s formulation silently implies the erasing of the name “tomb of the Amazon Myrine” (who had fought against the alliance of Trojans and Phrygians) and its replacement by a neutral term devoid of emotional involvement. The idea of the supreme knowledge of the gods with respect to an older name may be right, but it has to be combined with that of “reclaiming the past,” which, though the myth surrounding Myrine has faded in the course of time, is a strong tendency as far as the working of collective memory is concerned.

The rise in the plain

By focusing our attention on the deictic strategies employed by the storyteller in order to suggest specific mental visualizations to his audience, it becomes clear that he places himself centrally, offering a viewing of the Achaeans on one side and the Trojans on the other (ἑτέρωθεν), as they prepare for battle. Such verbal signposts show that references to Iliadic landscape do not follow a map with cartographic and isotropic principles, [204] but exploit landmarks, paths, edges, and nodes. [205] This matches the typical strategies employed by people when they create a mental map. The imaginary landscape of Homer is constructed more or less in the same way, because the performance of oral song requires mental viewing by means of visual imagery, in the manner of a person describing his house to an interviewer in absentia. When presented with the inherent difficulties of offering somebody a mental tour, we invent signposts to navigate the vistas that appear in our mind one after the other. These signposts create order in the flow of mental images, giving us time to organize them and use them effectively. That is why a visual image of a “rise in the plain” or “a break in the flat land” constitutes a mnemonic device of visual taxonomy. In Lynch’s terminology, it is an edge, since it is different from the default imagery of the flat Trojan plain. While navigating his mind across this fictional flat plain of Troy, the narrator is able to stop where he finds an edge, a point of departure for a shift to another visual zone before the outbreak of generalized action. [206]


[ back ] 1. On the Trojan plain, see Thornton 1984:150–163; Clay 2007.

[ back ] 2. See also its use in tragedy: Sophocles Women of Trachis 513–514; Euripides Suppliant Women 699; Phoenician Women 1361. I owe these references to Diggle 1973:265.

[ back ] 3. 1964:24–25.

[ back ] 4. Such as the monument of Ilos (Iliad XI 166).

[ back ] 5. See Strasburger 1954:15–18; Ciani 1963–1964; Latacz 1977:82–89; Hellmann 2000. According to C.  Armstrong 1969:30, the father’s name is recorded ninety-eight times in the casualty lists of the Iliad.

[ back ] 6. See Beye 1964.

[ back ] 7. The trail is the continuous action space created by a character who moves from one spot or area to another and is uninterruptedly “visible” to the audience; see Konstan 2002:2.

[ back ] 8. I am hereby giving the term “zigzag” a “spatial turn.” I am therefore not using it in its temporal aspect, for which see Barthes 1989:129.

[ back ] 9. See de Jong and Nünlist 2004a. The core of this observation was anticipated by Aristotle (Poetics 1459a30–34), Goethe (in his letter to Schiller in 1798), and Wood (in his treatise On the Original Genius of Homer, published in 1775). The most eloquent formulation is that of Jebb 1883:520 (“… and it is in taking a bird’s-eye view from a height, not in looking around one on the level, that the comprehensive truth of Homeric topography is most vividly grasped. Homer is as his own Zeus or his own Poseidon, not as one of the mortals warring on the lower ground”). I owe all these citations to Purves 2010a:2–3, who in turn owes them to James Porter.

[ back ] 10. On the use of deixis in Homer to shift the audience’s attention to different paths, see Bakker 1997:54–122.

[ back ] 11. The text of the Iliad is that of West 1998–2000 in BT, with some changes.

[ back ] 12. All translations are from Lattimore 1951.

[ back ] 13. Hellmann 2000:138 points out the discrepancy between the moving of the two armies in phalanx formation and the actual fighting being conducted by πρόμαχοι. This paradox can be resolved by viewing the battle space as described earlier: the narrator does not reenact phalanx fighting because this would eliminate, or at least downplay, personal excellence, the raison d’ être of Homeric heroes. Instead, he is interested in close-ups between individual warriors; see van Wees 1997:673.

[ back ] 14. See P. Wilson 1951–1952:269, who notes that the poet aims at making his audience see everything very clearly.

[ back ] 15. Krischer 1971:132 observes this technique in Homeric catalogues; see also Bakker 1997:86.

[ back ] 16. Bakker 1997:79.

[ back ] 17. On bird’s-eye view, see de Jong and Nünlist 2004a:69–70.

[ back ] 18. On the importance of spatial symmetry and the technique of midpoints with respect to mnemonic recall, see Aristotle On Memory and Reminiscence 452a17–24 and the analysis by Sorabji 1972:31–34.

[ back ] 19. See Hellwig 1964:32–35; Müller 1968:89–153; Elliger 1975:103–165; Andersson 1976:37–52; Hölscher 1989:186–209; S. Richardson 1990:50–61; de Jong 2001:xvii n47.

[ back ] 20. Teng and Sun 2002.

[ back ] 21. On the role of psychological or cognitive factors with respect to metaphors and similes, see Paivio 1979; Ortony 1979a; Miller 1979.

[ back ] 22. Cf. Herman 2001:535, who argues that narrative entails “a process of cognitive mapping that assigns referents not merely a temporal but a spatiotemporal position in the storyworld.”

[ back ] 23. On pictureability in Homeric similes, see Minchin 2001:133–137.

[ back ] 24. On the term chronotope, see Bakhtin 1981:84.

[ back ] 25. See Latacz 1977:77–81; Rengakos 1995:32–33; Hellmann 2000:94–95.

[ back ] 26. Van Wees 1997:673.

[ back ] 27. On ring-composition in fighting scenes in the Iliad, see Hainsworth 1966.

[ back ] 28. On the use of this term in film theory, see Crisp 1993:1–15.

[ back ] 29. Cf. the similar use of ἐνθάδε in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo 168; on this metaleptic effect, see de Jong 2009:111 and n58. Sometimes, a metaleptic function based on spatial deictic markers is closely connected to the visual quality of Homeric discourse, on which see Bakker 1997:77 and n58.

[ back ] 30. See Fludernik 2003a:392.

[ back ] 31. De Jong 2009:115.

[ back ] 32. Sharff 1982; Mamer 2000:3–26. On the filmic features of Homeric battle scenes, see van Wees 1997:673–674; and of Homeric similes and the scenes on Achilles’ shield, see Winkler 2007:52–57 and 57–63 respectively.

[ back ] 33. Epic hesitation, such as rhetorical questions that a character addresses to his own θυμός (e.g. Iliad XI 407, XVII 97, XXII 122) and second-person apostrophes (e.g. to Menelaos and to Patroklos) often have a metaleptic effect; see Culler 1981:135. From a comparative point of view, it may be observed that Homeric epic differs from other oral traditions (like South Slavic epic) with respect to such “performative” devices: whereas South Slavic epic constantly employs expletives as extrametrical features, Homeric epic has incorporated them into the metrical structure of the dactylic hexameter. On θυμός-speeches, see Pelliccia 1995; on various forms of epic metalepsis, see de Jong 2009. On metalepsis in general, see Genette 1980:234–237, 1988:58–59; McHale 1987; Herman 1997; F. Wagner 2002; Fludernik 2003a; Genette 2004; Pier–Schaeffer 2005.

[ back ] 34. See Tsagalis 2004:179–188.

[ back ] 35. Therefore, both the space delineated by the simile of the two clashing armies as rivers and that of Simoeisios’ dying at the river’s bank draw on related river-oriented imagery.

[ back ] 36. According to Kawin 1992, a medium close shot brings the camera nearer than a medium shot, but not so near as a close-up.

[ back ] 37. On theoretical aspects of the long-take moving camera, see Read 1932; Sontag 1966:242–245; Durgnat 1968; Fry 1970; Harpole 1978; Bordwell 1977; Bacher 1978; Burch 1979:217–230; Henderson 1980:16–81; Sontag 1982:95–104; Deleuze 1986; Henderson 1986; Deleuze 1989; Johnson and Graham 1994; Le Fanu 1997; Mitry 1997:183–190; B. Kennedy 2000; Schwab 2000.

[ back ] 38. See scholia on Iliad XVIII 497.

[ back ] 39. See S. Richardson 1990:119–123; de Jong and Nünlist 2004a:69.

[ back ] 40. On ἀνδροκτασίαι, see Strasburger 1954; Fenik 1968; Latacz 1977; van Wees 1997; Hellmann 2000.

[ back ] 41. In each case there are three victors: Greek-Greek-Trojan in the first snapshot, Greek-Trojan-Greek in the second.

[ back ] 42. See Bakker 1997:54–58.

[ back ] 43. With the addition of an intervening snapshot (Iliad IV 505–516).

[ back ] 44. Notice the use of the expression κατὰ μέσσον ‘in the middle’.

[ back ] 45. On fighting in small groups, see Strasburger 1954; Trypanis 1963; Fenik 1968; Singor 1995; Hellmann 2000:112–121.

[ back ] 46. See Zoran 1984:317.

[ back ] 47. On associative mnemonic mechanisms with special reference to oral storytelling, see Rubin 1995:31–35.

[ back ] 48. On fighting pairs, see Fenik 1968:22, 23, 60–66, 82, 91, 92, 191, 196, 226.

[ back ] 49. On this episode, see Fenik 1968:98–99.

[ back ] 50. See Bal 1997:133–134.

[ back ] 51. Notice the contrast with the Trojans fleeing one way and another (Iliad XI 486 Τρῶες δὲ διέτρεσαν ἄλλυδις ἄλλος).

[ back ] 52. The narrative lens follows the movement of a hero among the mass of the army and virtually turns the place or area of his activity into a space of either protection or danger.

[ back ] 53. See Iliad III 32; XI 585; XIII 165; XIII 533; XIII 566; XIII 596; XIII 648; XIV 408; XVI 817.

[ back ] 54. This process is equivalent to what cognitive scientists have called image schemata. An image schema is “a recurring, dynamic pattern of our perceptual interaction and motor programs that gives coherence and structure to our experience” (M. Johnson 1987:xiv) or an “extremely skeletal [image] which we use in cognitive operations” (Turner 1992:728). One of these schemata is what has been labeled “containment-boundedness (in-out)”; see M. Johnson 1987:30; Dannenberg 2008:75.

[ back ] 55. In scenes of this type, if examined as Kettenkämpfe, i.e. as short military vignettes, we can see one of the more typical manifestations of the spatial form of narrative. Within the focalized microcosm of these fighting snapshots, sequences are of minor importance; what really matters is juxtaposition, placement—in cognitive language horizontality: nacheinander ‘one after the other’ becomes nebeneinander ‘one next to the other’; see Mickelsen 1981:64–65.

[ back ] 56. On the interplay in the Odyssey between the πείρατα ‘edges’ of the earth and Odysseus’ uncharted topography of an alien space located inland (in the story of the oar), see Purves 2002:136–167.

[ back ] 57. “But Sarpedon, when he saw his free-girt companions going down underneath the hands of Menoitios’ son Patroklos, … sprang to the ground in all his arms from the chariot.”

[ back ] 58. “… and on the other side Patroklos when he saw him leapt down from his chariot.”

[ back ] 59. On this episode, see the remarks of Clay (2011:86–90), who shows how Patroklos’ ἀριστεία “can be plotted onto the plain of Troy as a zig-zagging path” (90).

[ back ] 60. On misdirection in the Iliad, see Morrison 1992a:30, who argues that “at each stage of the narrative, the narrator introduces explicit alternatives to the actual outcome.” After the presentation of the potential paths the plot could take, the second or last alternative is realized, exactly as with decision-making (cf. Agenor in Iliad XXI 531–570); see Arend 1933:106–115; Fenik 1968:68; Lohmann 1970:37–40; Morrison 1992a:130n8.

[ back ] 61. See W.-H. Friedrich 1956:103–112; Aceti 2008:1–269.

[ back ] 62. On the variant Thrasumelus, cf. West’s BT edition ad loc.

[ back ] 63. In the case of Kebriones, this preview uses previous references to Hektor’s charioteer (Iliad VIII 318–319; XI 521–532; XII 91–92; XIII 790) as a backdrop for violating the audience’s expectations: the accidental killing of Arkheptolemos, who was Hektor’s charioteer, by Teukros in Iliad VIII transforms Kebriones, Hektor’s half-brother, into Hektor’s new charioteer, who in Iliad XI is presented as urging Hektor to drive their chariot with him through the tumult of battle and fight Telamonian Ajax. In Iliad XVI, the situation is dramatically reversed: this time it is Hektor who orders Kebriones to lead the chariot into the battle, thus—unwittingly—causing his death. Unlike Teukros in Iliad VIII, Patroklos does not miss (XVI 737 οὐδ’ ἁλίωσε βέλος) but kills Kebriones, the only charioteer left to Hektor. Thus, Kebriones begins and ends his life in the poem by becoming Hektor’s charioteer (VIII 318–319 Κεβριόνην δ’ ἐκέλευσεν ἀδελφεὸν ἐγγὺς ἐόντα / ἵππων ἡνί’ ἑλεῖν) and dying as such (XVI 738–739 Κεβριόνην, νόθον υἱὸν ἀγακλῆος Πριάμοιο, / ἵππων ἡνί’ ἔχοντα). On Kebriones, see Bassett 1920; M. Reichel 1994:286. On the motif of the “death of the charioteer,” see Bannert 1988:30–39.

[ back ] 64. On the pair “center-periphery (inner-outer)” as one of the principal image schemata that humans regularly employ in perceptual interactions, see M. Johnson 1987:124 and Dannenberg 2008:76.

[ back ] 65. The subversive association between the two duels is enhanced, on a secondary level, by the fact that in both cases, the eventual victim (Sarpedon, Patroklos) kills the victor’s horse or charioteer (Pedasos, Kebriones).

[ back ] 66. On the poetics of immersion, see Ryan 2001. Preview is one of the strategies used by oral traditional epic to create immersion and, by offering alternative spatial versions of parts of the battlefield, generate tellability; see Labov 1972; Ryan 1991.

[ back ] 67. Hektor’s gradual isolation, physical and psychological, in Iliad XXII is effectively indicated by the fact that οἶος ‘alone’ is used only for him (XXII 39; XXII 507).

[ back ] 68. Cf. Iliad XXII 370–371 οἳ καὶ θηήσαντο φυὴν καὶ εἶδος ἀγητόν / Ἕκτορος (“and gazed upon the stature and on the imposing beauty / of Hektor”).

[ back ] 69. “He spoke, and as he spoke the end of death closed upon him, / and the soul fluttering free of the limbs went down into Death’s house / mourning her destiny, leaving youth and manhood behind her.”

[ back ] 70. Cf. Priam’s speech of supplication to Hektor in Iliad XXII 71–73 νέῳ δέ τε πάντ’ ἐπέοικεν/ ἄρηϊ κταμένῳ, δεδαϊγμένῳ ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ / κεῖσθαι· πάντα δὲ καλὰ θανόντι περ, ὅττι φανήῃ (“For a young man all is decorous, when he is cut down in battle and torn with the sharp bronze, and lies there / dead, and though dead still all that shows about him is beautiful.”) On this topic, see Vernant 1996:91–101.

[ back ] 71. See Tsagalis 2008a:200–204.

[ back ] 72. Iliad XXII 373–374 “ὦ πόποι, ἦ μάλα δὴ μαλακώτερος ἀμφαφάασθαι / Ἕκτωρ ἠ’ ὅτε νῆας ἐνέπρηθεν πυρὶ κηλέωι.”

[ back ] 73. Massumi 2002:57.

[ back ] 74. On the theatricality of the Trojan plain, see Clay 2007 and 2011.

[ back ] 75. On the interplay between plurality and singularity with respect to multiple fronts versus a single front, or spot, in the long stretch of the central fighting books of the Iliad (XII–XVII), see the analysis in Clay 2011:38–95.

[ back ] 76. Konstan 2002:2.

[ back ] 77. The term was coined by Konstan (2002:2).

[ back ] 78. This strategy is based on the activation of the inbuilt image schema of containment-boundedness (in-out), which is “one of the most pervasive features of our bodily experience … [as] [w]e move in and out of rooms, clothes, vehicles, and numerous kinds of bounded spaces,” as M. Johnson has eloquently put it (1987:21).

[ back ] 79. On suspension and agony in Homer, see Rengakos 1999.

[ back ] 80. The gist of this scene is reported to Hephaistos by Thetis in Iliad XVIII 454–456.

[ back ] 81. On the so-called suspense of anticipation, see Reinhardt 1961:107–117; Schadewaldt 1966:150–161; de Jong 1987a:68–81; M. Lang 1989; Morrison 1992b; Nesselrath 1992; Louden 1993, 1999:124–129; Schmitz 1994; Rengakos 1999:315–320.

[ back ] 82. On the pattern “x times + 1,” see Fenik 1968:46–48; Janko 1992:400; Kelly 2007:194–197.

[ back ] 83. Cf. Iliad XVI 87–96, where Achilles advises Patroklos not to lead the Myrmidons away from the ships and think that he may sack Troy.

[ back ] 84. Muellner (1996:15) shows that in fear of Apollo’s threat, Patroklos “retreats an ironically great distance in order to avoid his mênis,” and argues (15n22) by comparing the relevant cases of Diomedes and Achilles that “the distance that the hero retreats is in inverse proportion to the distance between god and mortal to which he admits.”

[ back ] 85. The armor is a marked form of clothing, which constitutes a form of spatial relation through the perceptual involvement of sight (and sometimes sound). The armor of Achilles figuratively brings Patroklos, who is now wearing it, outside the boundaries of his own self. The same, tragically, will happen to Hektor when he puts on Achilles’ (Patroklos’) armor. On the various senses involved in the perceptual representation of space, see Bal 1997:133–135.

[ back ] 86. The Iliad carefully indicates to the audience that neither Patroklos nor Hektor is “worthy” of wearing this divine armor. This is effected by a three-step process: Patroklos’ wearing of the first armor of Achilles (Iliad XVI 130–144) ends with an overt reference to his inability to bear his friend’s Pelian spear, which only Achilles could wield (XVI 140–144), while Hektor’s wearing of Achilles’ first armor that he took from the dead Patroklos is mentioned in a highly compressed form, not more than two lines (XVII 194–195). The detailed description of Achilles wearing the new armor (XIX 369–391) concludes with a reminder to the audience that Achilles is now brandishing his superb Pelian spear, which nobody else (Patroklos or Hektor) could bear.

[ back ] 87. On proxemics as a spatial term with particular reference to the Odyssey, see Lateiner 1995:136.

[ back ] 88. The phrasing of Iliad XVI 89 μὴ σύ γ’ ἄνευθεν ἐμεῖο λιλαίεσθαι πολεμίζειν will be ironically echoed in XXIII 83–84 μὴ ἐμὰ σῶν ἀπάνευθε τιθήμεναι ὀστέ’ Ἀχιλλεῦ, / ἀλλ’ ὁμοῦ; the two friends will finally be reunited, albeit in death.

[ back ] 89. Cf. Iliad XVI 83–96. [ back ]

[ back ] 90. The use of similar language by Achilles (Iliad XVI 87 ἐκ νηῶν ἐλάσας ἰέναι πάλιν) and by Hektor (XVI 839–840 μή μοι πρὶν ἰέναι … / νῆας ἔπι γλαφυράς), in his imaginary reconstruction of Achilles’ speech to Patroklos, is an ironic twist applied to the technique of transference (μετακένωσις): whereas a character of the plot is sometimes presented as possessing knowledge that he could not possibly have had but which is accessible to the external narratees, here Hektor employs language recalling Achilles’ earlier speech to Patroklos (the content of which Hektor could not have known), but distorts its content. On transference, see Bassett 1938:130–140; J. Kakridis 1982.

[ back ] 91. See Proclus’ summary of the Aethiopis on the death of Achilles: τρεψάμενος δ’ Ἀχιλλεὺς τοὺς Τρῶας καὶ εἰς τὴν πόλιν συνεισπεσὼν ὑπὸ Πάριδος ἀναιρεῖται καὶ Ἀπόλλωνος (§ 62 Kullmann = 191–192 Severyns = Allen 106.7–9). In this light, the expression σὺ δ’ ἐνθάδε πότμον ἐφέψεις used by Agenor (Iliad XXI 588) amounts to an intertextual allusion. See Burgess 2009:44–45, who gives a full list of such passages (Iliad XIX 416–417, though no reference to place is included; Iliad XXIII 80–81), and discusses (44–55) the various elements comprising Iliadic allusions to his death.

[ back ] 92. On the mental pattern or image schema “center-periphery,” see M. Johnson 1987:124 and Dannenberg 2008:76.

[ back ] 93. The frequent position of some character “in the middle” may be seen within the larger framework of immersion techniques employed by the Homeric storyteller, who aims to “place” his audience, at least at times, right in the middle of the events taking place on the battlefield or in the Achaean camp. See Detienne 1965 on the use of τὸ μέσον as public space; Clay (2011:43) states with respect to the Achaean camp that “the center constitutes both the religious and the public space where the community assembles.”

[ back ] 94. “… you could not have told on which side Tydeus’ son was fighting, / whether he were one with the Trojans or with the Achaians …” The use of ἂν γνοίης indicates that we are dealing here with a “descending” metalepsis (i.e. from embedding to embedded story level), where the “intrametaleptic” transgression results in the collaboration between storyteller and audience. In fact, the storyteller invites his listeners to experience the havoc of war on their own, since they cannot possibly distinguish whether Diomedes is among the ranks of the Trojans or the Achaeans. On the various forms of metalepsis, see Genette 1980:234–237, 1988:58–59; McHale 1987; Herman 1997; F. Wagner 2002; Fludernik 2003a; Genette 2004; Pier & Schaeffer 2005; de Jong 2009.

[ back ] 95. On oaths, see Hirzel 1902; Plescia 1970; Sommerstein and Fletscher 2007. On Homeric oaths, see Callaway 1993.

[ back ] 96. On the elusiveness of Iliadic landscape, see Andersson 1976:16–17.

[ back ] 97. See Goldhill 1996:17.

[ back ] 98. 2007:238 and 2011:29n42 with further bibliography. On other devices employed by the Homeric bard in his attempt to turn his auditors into spectators (like the potential optative in the second or third person), see Clay 2011:23–26 and n25; see also Pseudo-Longinus (On the Sublime 26.1), who states that in Iliad XV 697–698 the “shift of addressees” (ἡ τῶν προσώπων ἀντιμετάθεσις) is “vehement/active/vivid” (ἐναγώνιος) and “often makes the listener seem to find himself in the middle of perils” (πολλάκις ἐν μέσοις τοῖς κινδύνοις ποιοῦσα τὸν ἀκροατὴν δοκεῖν στρέφεσθαι).

[ back ] 99. See Winkler 2007:50, who argues that “to an astonishing degree, the Iliad, the very first work of Western literature, reveals features of the art of cinematic storytelling long before modern technology made this art a reality.”

[ back ] 100. On the duel between Paris and Menelaos, see Bergold 1977.

[ back ] 101. Cf. Iliad III 79–83.

[ back ] 102. As well as other scenes of killings on the battlefield. On this topic, see Kitts 2005:124–125.

[ back ] 103. 3.20.9; see also Stesichorus fr. 190 (PMGF) and Σ on Sophocles’ Ajax 1113 (Christodoulou).

[ back ] 104. See Karavites 1992:62–63.

[ back ] 105. See Plescia 1970:1.

[ back ] 106. Genette 1980:100.

[ back ] 107. On the careful delineation of this space and the ordered preparation of the troops, see Kitts 2005:123–125.

[ back ] 108. On credible impossibilities or scenarios in the Iliad, see Scodel 1999:33–42, 49–57, 59–60, 63–65, 66–69, 70–74, 80–82.

[ back ] 109. On this episode, see Tsagalis 2010b:87–113.

[ back ] 110. I use the term “staging” here deliberately with its theater-oriented overtones; cf. Hellwig’s (1964:28) use of Schauplatz to denote the Trojan plain.

[ back ] 111. On signs and the role of memory in Homer, see Scodel 2002; on the indexicality of signs, see Sourvinou-Inwood 1995:136–139; on signs within the context of traditional referentiality that reach outside the poem, see Foley 1997; 1999a:25–34; 1999b. Although the word σῆμα is not used in the particular passage I am discussing, nevertheless, for the external audience of an epic song, typologically established steps forming part of a type scene or a traditional structural pattern are signs, in the sense that their presence or absence keys listeners to specific interpretive notes. On the importance of “recognition” and “interpretation” of the σῆμα by plot agents and the extension of signs, typical and metonymical alike, by the audience, see Nagy 1990a:202–222.

[ back ] 112. See Karavites 1992:54; Lateiner 1995:49–56; Kitts 2005:84.

[ back ] 113. See Maronitis 2004:37.

[ back ] 114. On empty space, see Fludernik 1996:192–201, with further bibliography. On applying filmic terminology to the Iliadic plot, see Winkler 2007.

[ back ] 115. Ryan 2003:218.

[ back ] 116. Along these lines, Ν. Richardson 2006:51, following Esrock 1994, has convincingly argued that the Iliad exploits at length the human eye’s “natural attraction to bright patches in the visual field [termed “radiant ignition”], as when Homer helps us image a field of armed warriors by describing the light reflecting off their bronze helmets.”

[ back ] 117. See scholia on Iliad VI 120 (Erbse) ὡς διεστώτων καὶ ἀναπαυομένων (“as if they were standing apart and resting”).

[ back ] 118. πεζῆι. On this important point, cf. Iliad VI 232–236.

[ back ] 119. West opts for the reading ἀμφοτέρω, despite the fact that he prints ἀμφοτέρων for the same formulaic line in both Iliad VI 120 and XX 159.

[ back ] 120. The order of these two phases can vary slightly: in Iliad VI 119–122 and XX 158–160, 176–177, the two warriors are first presented standing in the middle of the two armies and then approach each other, whereas in XXIII 811–814 they first take their place on either side of the assembly, then come together in the middle space, and finally approach each other (816).

[ back ] 121. See Grethlein 2006:63–84.

[ back ] 122. The use of what Kirk 1962:164–166 has called abbreviated style epitomizes the heroes’ grandeur and stature in pure epic terms.

[ back ] 123. See Scodel 1992:76.

[ back ] 124. See Higbie 1995:69–109, who argues for the existence, in modern oralist terms, of a “naming type-scene” in Homer.

[ back ] 125. Iliad III 15; V 14, 630, 850; VI 121; XI 232; XIII 604; XVI 462; XX 176; XXI 148; XXII 248; XXIII 816.

[ back ] 126. See Kosslyn and Koenig 1992.

[ back ] 127. συνίτην and ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισι ἰόντες.

[ back ] 128. ἐς μέσον and σχεδὸν ἦσαν.

[ back ] 129. On traditional referentiality, see Foley 1991:24; Danek 2002; Tsagalis 2008b:188, 205.

[ back ] 130. The use of the expression ἐν μέσσωι by both Paris and Hektor shows that all three contexts (temporary postponement of military activity for the preparation of a very important duel, formal duels, and friendly encounters such as that between Diomedes and Glaukos) share the same formulaic diction, and more importantly that the first and the third have been shaped on the basis of the second. Since the formal duel is the default mode of close encounters in a military epic like the Iliad, it is possible that it has bestowed its diction on other scenes, which were shaped, in pure Parrian terms, according to the principle of formulaic economy.

[ back ] 131. See the following remarks on the falling of the leaves on the ground (ἔραζε) as a compressed metonym for death.

[ back ] 132. On laterality as one of many possible relationships between located and reference objects (or figure versus ground in theoretical terminology), see Herman 2002:274–277.

[ back ] 133. This face-to-face visual imaging and mental organization of space is also at work in the meeting between Hektor and Andromakhe, especially when the Trojan hero places his shining helmet on the ground.

[ back ] 134. On the distinction between map and tour, see de Certeau 1974:118–122.

[ back ] 135. Ryan 2003:218.

[ back ] 136. “ἵππων: chariot horses and hence chariot” (Graziosi and Haubold 2010:143 on Iliad VI 232). Cf. Iliad XI 423; XVII 460; XX 401. Kirk 1990:190, on Iliad VI 232 notes: “That they were in chariots is not suggested by the introduction to their encounter in 119–121.”

[ back ] 137. The unequal exchange of gifts has generated considerable discussion among scholars: the scholia offer a variety of explanations, ranging from the removal of Glaukos’ wits by Zeus to the suggestion that this outrageous imbalance was aimed at pleasing a Greek or pro-Greek audience; Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 1136b:9–14) thought that Diomedes is not unjust, while other ancient scholars (sch. A, μετατιθέασί τινες ἄλλοσε ταύτην τὴν σύστασιν) moved this scene elsewhere. Craig (1967:243–245) and Walcot (1969:12–13) suggest that Glaukos accepts the unequal exchange as the price for his life; Calder (1978:34–35) argues that the unequal exchange of gifts is a by-product of the poet’s effort to interpret the episode of Diomedes and Glaukos with its many arcane points; Donlan (1989) suggests that Glaukos is expected to receive fewer gifts because he is a lesser warrior; Martin (1989:286–289), following Maftei (1976:52), believes that Diomedes has invented the ξενία element in this episode in order to win the “flyting” contest and manipulate the exchange of armor; Traill (1989:301–305) has suggested that Zeus tries to compensate Diomedes for his failure to win a great duel and kill a preeminent figure during his ἀριστεία in Iliad V; Kirk (1990:171) maintains that the odd end of the episode may have been the poet’s intention, if he wanted to mark in a stark manner the transition to the Hektor episode that occupies the rest of Iliad VI; Parks (1990:77–79) argues that verbal duels often turn into guest-friendships, as is the case in Beowulf, when the hero meets with the Danish coast guard; Scodel (1992:76) accentuates the strangeness of the whole episode and argues that “Zeus here acts, without clear motive, on the mind of a character who has, exceptionally and perhaps uniquely, no previous inclination at all to act as Zeus causes him to act.”

[ back ] 138. Cf. LSJ s.v. ἀγορά I and II.

[ back ] 139. See Bonifazi 2008:50.

[ back ] 140. Narratively identified, not historically.

[ back ] 141. Bakker 1997:75.

[ back ] 142. See Bakker 1997:76.

[ back ] 143. The deliberation that takes place in the ὅθεν clause in Iliad X 200 is a kind of explanation on the narrator’s part of the Achaeans’ apparently paradoxical decision to summon a meeting of their leaders outside the ditch. See also Iliad XXIII 60–61.

[ back ] 144. Bonifazi 2008:57.

[ back ] 145. Ryan 2003.

[ back ] 146. Bonifazi 2008:59–60.

[ back ] 147. The repetition of the phrase ἐν καθαρῷ, ὅθι δὴ νεκύων διεφαίνετο χῶρος (Iliad VIII 491 = X 199), which is attested only in these two passages, and the explicit reference to Hektor’s turning back to this place after “destroying the Argives, after the night had darkened about him” (X 200–201) are clear indications of this internal cross-reference.

[ back ] 148. On reenactment, see Martin 1989:12–37 and 231–239; Nagy 2004:27.

[ back ] 149. The use of διέσσυτο (τάφρου) is important, since as in the case of Andromache in Iliad XXII 460 (μεγάροιο διέσσυτο), it indicates a transition from familiar to unknown space, or to somebody else’s space.

[ back ] 150. See Thornton 1984:368. I have not included in the following discussion the “tomb of Aisuetes” (Iliad II 793), for it is not thematically exploited by the storyteller. According to Brügger et al. (2003:258), it is uncertain whether this Aisuetes is the same as the father of Alkathoös, who is killed by Idomeneus in XIII 427–444. Further interpretive considerations can only be grounded on an identification of the two. On the other hand, it is interesting that Polites, whom the Trojans station on Aisuetes’ tomb to watch the Greek army (II 791–794), features again in the episode of Idomeneus fighting Aineias in Iliad XIII, which immediately follows the killing of Alkathoös, Aisuetes’ son. When Aineias’ spear misses his target and hits Askalaphos, Deiphobos and Meriones engage in close fighting over his body. Meriones then wounds Deiphobos, who is saved by Polites (XIII 518–539). On the conflation of material belonging to different mythical cycles with respect to Alkathoös, see Janko 1992:100–101 on Iliad XIII 427–433.

[ back ] 151. See Massumi 2002:180: “The way we orient is more like a tropism (tendency plus habit) than a cognition (visual forms plus configuration).”

[ back ] 152. See Ferguson and Hegarty 1994, who speak about “anchors,” i.e. landmarks serving as points of reference for the location of other items; see also Ryan 2003:223.

[ back ] 153. See Scodel 2002; and cf. Massumi 2002:179: “Landmarks I remembered. Sporadically. Rising to the light from rhythms of movement, as from an unseen ground of orientation, in flux.”

[ back ] 154. On the traditional referentiality of signs, see Foley 1997; 1999a:25–34; 1999b:11–13. On the semiotics of σῆμα in Homeric and Hesiodic poetry, see Nagy 1990a:202–222.

[ back ] 155. See Andersson 1976:23–24.

[ back ] 156. As West 1998:190 on Iliad VI 237 (Ἕκτωρ δ’ ὡς Σκαιάς τε πύλας καὶ πύργον ἵκανεν) has suggested, πύργον (not φηγόν) is the correct reading, since the oak tree is outside the gates, whereas the women are inside. φηγόν has replaced the correct reading πύργον under the influence of the formula Σκαιάς τε πύλας καὶ φηγὸν ἵκανεν/-οντο (Iliad IX 354 and XI 170 respectively). [ back ]

[ back ] 157. Iliad XVI 767 is of no importance to this study, since that simile mentions not the oak tree of the Trojan plain but any oak tree.

[ back ] 158. Thornton 1984:358–359. Minchin (2008a:25) argues that both the fig tree and the oak tree become emblems of Troy and promise safety within its walls.

[ back ] 159. See West 2007:238–242.

[ back ] 160. West 2007:248.

[ back ] 161. On this myth, see Pindar Olympian 8.30–46.

[ back ] 162. Ajax’s father Telamon is not known to Homer as one of the sons of Aiakos and the brother of Peleus. See Toepffer s.v. “Aiakos,” RE 1.1:923–926.

[ back ] 163. See Ovid Metamorphoses 7.520–567.

[ back ] 164. Nagy 1990a:190.

[ back ] 165. 1990a:185–190. He also discusses the meaning and function of the Greek proverbial phrase “from the oak and the rock,” which he connects with the relation between thunder and the creation of humankind.

[ back ] 166. See Chadwick 1900.

[ back ] 167. See Chadwick 1900:41.

[ back ] 168. λαὸν δὲ στῆσον παρ’ ἐρινεόν, ἔνθα μάλιστα / ἀμβατός ἐστι πόλις καὶ ἐπίδρομον ἔπλετο τεῖχος. / τρὶς γὰρ τῇ γ’ ἐλθόντες ἐπειρήσανθ’ οἱ ἄριστοι / ἀμφ’ Αἴαντε δύω καὶ ἀγακλυτὸν Ἰδομενῆα / ἠδ’ ἀμφ’ Ἀτρείδας καὶ Τυδέος ἄλκιμον υἱόν·/ ἤ πού τίς σφιν ἔνισπε θεοπροπίων εὖ εἰδώς, / ἤ νυ καὶ αὐτῶν θυμὸς ἐποτρύνει καὶ ἀνώγει (“‘… but draw your people up by the fig tree, there where the city / is openest to attack, and where the wall may be mounted. / Three times their bravest came that way, and fought there to storm it /about the two Aiantes and renowned Idomeneus, / about the two Atreidai and the fighting son of Tydeus. / Either some man well skilled in prophetic arts had spoken, / or the very spirit within themselves had stirred them to the onslaught’”).

[ back ] 169. οἳ δὲ παρ’ Ἴλου σῆμα παλαιοῦ Δαρδανίδαο / μέσσον κὰπ πεδίον παρ’ ἐρινεὸν ἐσσεύοντο / ἱέμενοι πόλιος (“The Trojans swept in their flight past the barrow of ancient Ilos / Dardanos’ son, to the centre of the level ground and the fig tree, / as they made for the city”).

[ back ] 170. οἳ δὲ παρὰ σκοπιὴν καὶ ἐρινεὸν ἠνεμόεντα / τείχεος αἰὲν ὕπεκ κατ’ ἀμαξιτὸν ἐσσεύοντο. / κρουνὼ δ’ ἵκανον καλλιρρόω· ἔνθα δὲ πηγαί / δοιαὶ ἀναΐσσουσι Σκαμάνδρου δινήεντος (“They raced along by the watching point and the windy fig tree / always away from under the wall and along the wagon-way / and came to the two sweet-running well springs. There there are double / springs of water that jet up, the springs of whirling Skamandros”).

[ back ] 171. Iliad ΧΧΙ 37 is a different case altogether, since it refers to another fig tree from which Lukaon was cutting boughs when abducted by Achilles.

[ back ] 172. F. Andersen 1985; Foley 1991, 1992; Rubin 1995:31.

[ back ] 173. See Rubin 1995:33.

[ back ] 174. Paivio 1971, 1986. See also Yates 1966; Rubin 1995:11.

[ back ] 175. See Oesterreicher 1997.

[ back ] 176. “But when they came to the crossing place of the fair-running river, / of whirling Xanthos, whose father was Zeus the immortal …” The phrase ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή, which is employed with respect to the ford of Skamandros, signals the completion of a particular action and the subsequent shift in the content of the narrative. The adversative force of ἀλλ’(ά) is here felt on the level of the discourse, since the storyteller sees the events he describes as a process that has to be segmented in his mind so that it can be readily recalled. The use of an adversative particle tied to a temporal conjunction (ὅτε) and followed by a marker of evidentiality, suggesting a “joint seeing” by narrator and audience (δή), shows that the need to remember by pointing to specific spatial locations (the ford of Skamandros) configures the need to tell, and telling requires, unavoidably, a temporal sequence (change of action). See Bakker 1997:74–80; on space-time and memory, see also Calame 2006:40–42.

[ back ] 177. Minchin 2008a:18–19.

[ back ] 178. See Rubin 1995:63.

[ back ] 179. Rubin 1995:61.

[ back ] 180. Rivers were considered the source of regenerative powers; see Onians 1951:230; Thornton 1984:152–153. Hektor named his son Skamandrios (Iliad VI 402), while the rest of the Trojans called him Astuanax. In later tradition about the fate of Troy after the Trojan War (Hellanicus of Lesbos FGH 4 F31, according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 1.47.5–6), it was under this name, and not that of Astuanax, that he and the other descendants of Hektor approached Askanios after being released by Neoptolemos, who had taken them captive to Greece, and were subsequently restored to their old Trojan kingdom. For a full treatment of the various traditions concerning the foundation and refoundation of certain cities in the Troad by the descendants of Hektor and Aineias, see Aloni 1986:22–23; Erskine 2001:102–108; Nagy 2009c: part II, §§168–180.

[ back ] 181. See also Hellwig 1964:35–36, who draws attention to the fact that the poet refers in passing to certain factual appearances (“faktische Aussehen”), like the banks of the river (Iliad XXI 10 ὄχθαι), tamarisks (XXI 18 μυρίκῃσιν), eels and fish (XXI 203 ἐγχέλυές τε καὶ ἰχθύες), and an elm (XXI 242 πτελέην), in his attempt to present his listeners with an indirect description of the ford of Skamandros. In fact, this is a typical mnemonic strategy of building up fixed visual imagery, by adding various details in the process of the performance.

[ back ] 182. On how concrete σήματα or signals allude to a metonymic reality within the system of oral song-making, see Nagy 1990a:202–222; consider also the remarks of Foley: “Those phenomena and objects named as sēmata of course have a special force: in these cases traditional referentiality is not simply realized but explicitly stipulated with what I take as a term in the native Homeric poetics. But we should also remember that metonymic projection, the part standing for the whole, is a quality of the idiom or register at large, and that far the greater number of its occurrences are unmarked by the term sēma. Thus the noun-epithet formulas and myriad other aspects of phraseology, the typical scenes, and the story-patterns all participate in the driving reception: in addition to their nominal surfaces, they are responsible for providing access to an extrasituational, extratextual, and finally untextualizable context” (1997:81).

[ back ] 183. See also Minchin 2008a:26–28.

[ back ] 184. See Grethlein 2008.

[ back ] 185. Chapman 1997:43.

[ back ] 186. Zerubavel 2003.

[ back ] 187. Zerubavel 2003:40–43.

[ back ] 188. The same is true of the washing-places (Iliad XXII 153–156), which constitute a timemark in the sense that they evoke a feeling of nostalgia for the past, “before the coming of the sons of the Achaians” (XXII 156 τὸ πρὶν ἐπ’ εἰρήνης, πρὶν ἐλθεῖν υἷας Ἀχαιῶν).

[ back ] 189. See Iliad XX 236–237.

[ back ] 190. The fact that assemblies are held near tombs implicitly indicates the latter’s authority and social status; on this point, see Grethlein 2008:28–29. On tombs in Homer, see F. Pfister 1909:541–543; Mannsperger and Mannsperger 2002.

[ back ] 191. See Thornton 1984:152–153.

[ back ] 192. Griffin (1980:23) maintains that there is a contrast between the grave and the battle, whereas Thornton (1984:154) regards the grave of Ilos as a symbol of power for the Trojans. It is difficult to decide between these two alternatives, the more so since, as Grethlein notes, “while the transmitted text of scholion T ad Il. 11.372 prefigures Thornton’s interpretation, Erbse’s conjecture of ἀν<τ>άξιον for ἀντάξιον suggests Griffin’s reading: ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ μνήματι τοῦ παλαιοῦ προγόνου ἐστι, μηδὲν ἀν<τ>άξιον ποιῶν” (2008:29n24).

[ back ] 193. Grethlein 2008:29.

[ back ] 194. On the double function of σῆμα as ‘sign’ and ‘tomb’, see Niemeyer 1996:12–18. Cf. also Nagy 1990a:202–203. On the Odyssey, see especially Purves 2006a.

[ back ] 195. Hale 1998:124.

[ back ] 196. Zerubavel 2003:91.

[ back ] 197. See Grethlein 2006:146.

[ back ] 198. In the Odyssey, no specific human name is given in the case of μῶλυ (x 305) or the Πλαγκταί (xii 61).

[ back ] 199. Grethlein 2008:30–31. On divine supremacy, see also Clay 1972:128.

[ back ] 200. A and D; see also Strabo– ἐν δὲ τῷ Ἰλιακῷ πεδίῳ κολώνη τις ἔστιν “ἣν ἤτοι ἄνδρες Βατίειαν κικλήσκουσιν, ἀθάνατοι δέ τε σῆμα πολυσκάρθμοιο Μυρίνης,” ἣν ἱστοροῦσι μίαν εἶναι τῶν Ἀμαζόνων ἐκ τοῦ ἐπιθέτου τεκμαιρόμενοι· εὐσκάρθμους γὰρ ἵππους λέγεσθαι διὰ τὸ τάχος· κἀκείνην οὖν πολύσκαρθμον διὰ τὸ ἀπὸ τῆς ἡνιοχείας τάχος· καὶ ἡ Μύρινα οὖν ἐπώνυμος ταύτης λέγεται.

[ back ] 201. See Heubeck 1949/1950:202–206 (= 1984:99–103).

[ back ] 202. See W. Kullmann 1960:303. Moreover, the traditional way of interpreting the phrase σῆμα πολυσκάρθμοιο Μυρίνης as “burial mound of dancing Myrina” is incompatible with an Amazon; it is much more probable that the epithet “dancing” or “leaping” refers to some ritual and not to a female warrior. See also Kirk 1985:247.

[ back ] 203. 1984:362.

[ back ] 204. Gehrke 1998:164. On hodological space (“spazio odologico”), see Janni 1984:85.

[ back ] 205. See Lynch (1960:89), who calls it hodological. On this issue, see Lynch 1960:46–90; Downs and Stea 1977; on Homer, see Clay 2007:247.

[ back ] 206. This argument is corroborated by the use of imperfect tenses; see Clay 2007:246, who shows that imperfect, or rather imperfective , tenses indicate “generalized actions that often form transitions between different zones of combat.” Clay (2011:65) makes the same argument for transitional similes in Iliad XII.