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 2. Framing Spaces

The Achaean Camp, Troy, and the World of the Immortals

As we saw in chapter 1, the base-level space of the battlefield is part of a set of framing spaces that are deployed around and above it. The Achaean camp and the city of Troy encircle the Trojan plain on a horizontal level, while the various places where the immortals live and travel enclose the battlefield from above. These framing spaces are deftly employed to create multiple polarities between intense and peaceful activity, open and closed areas, and dynamic and static spaces.

The Achaean Camp

The main areas included in the Achaean camp are: (1) the headquarters of Agamemnon and Achilles; (2) the seashore; (3) the Achaean Wall; and (4) the ships.

The headquarters of Agamemnon and Achilles

When the action is located within the hut or in the headquarters of an Achaean leader, be it Agamemnon in Iliad I or Achilles in Iliad IX and XXIV, the role of space becomes all the more important, since the particular location is used not as a place where an event occurs, but as the framework within which the narrator unfolds the story of a particular event. In other words, the place delineated by the hut or headquarters of a given Achaean hero constitutes a special social space, which shapes the particular events occurring there and, more significantly, functions as a code for “reading” the episode at hand.

The Achaean camp seems to be a socially constructed map, not merely an agglomeration of huts and shelters of the Achaean kings but a chart of different centers of control and domination, authority and self-esteem. Achilles’ self-enclosure and confinement to his own part of the camp is about the heroic dynamics of partition reflected in distance, segmentation, and spatial “parceling out.” The idea of Achilles as the solitary hero builds on what Foucault called “the little tactics of the habitat,” a social topography of tension. The “politicized spatiality of heroic life” [10] is based on carefully delineated policies and politics of inclusion and exclusion from the Achaean camp. In the epic universe of the heroic community, where inclusion and participation, recognition and honor are the very essence of a hero’s existence, spatial demarcations of the sort observed in the ongoing strife between Agamemnon and Achilles point to a thematization of space already present in the epic’s famous proem: Iliad I 6–7 ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε / Ἀτρείδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς (“since that time when first there stood in division of conflict / Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus”). [11] The very use of a “spatial” verb (διαστήτην ‘stood apart’) prefigures the role of space in presenting the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles, whose names are, almost symbolically, pushed to the two edges of the next line. Along the same lines, the placement of Odysseus’ ship at the center of the Achaean camp reflects his occupying the political center point in the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. Being in the middle (VIII 223 ἐν μεσσάτῳ), the storyteller uses it as a platform for Agamemnon to address the whole army (VIII 220–226), and for and Eris (XI 6), who is unleashed by Zeus (XI 3–4). [12]

In the case of Priam’s visit to Achilles’ hut in Iliad XXIV, spatial considerations are strongly spelled out to the audience: first by narratively highlighting the Trojan king’s journey, and second by presenting the audience with a dramatic change in the spatial politics used for Achilles’ headquarters in his strife with Agamemnon.

Priam’s departure (Iliad XXIV 322–328) is highly emotional, since all the Trojans think he is going to be killed by Achilles (XXIV 328 πόλλ’ ὀλοφυρόμενοι, ὡς εἰ θάνατόνδε κιόντα). In the collective conscience of the Trojan people the Achaean camp, and more significantly the hut of Achilles, epitomize suffering and death. What is remarkable in this episode is that these grim expectations constitute a timely expression of internal misdirection, as the change of place will indeed signify a change of condition, primarily for Achilles, and only secondarily for Priam. The brief stop at the tombstone of Ilos and the ford of Skamandros (XXIV 349–351), where the meeting with Hermes takes place, constitutes a hint that Priam’s journey may take an unexpected turn by means of divine help. Hermes puts the guards in the ditch to sleep and easily brings the chariot of Priam and Idaios to Achilles’ hut. Then, for the first time in the Iliad, the bard takes the time to describe the area outside the hut of Achilles (XXIV 448–456):

ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ κλισίην Πηληϊάδεω ἀφίκοντο
ὑψηλήν—τὴν Μυρμιδόνες ποίησαν ἄνακτι
δοῦρ’ ἐλάτης κέρσαντες, ἀτὰρ καθύπερθεν ἔρεψαν
λαχνήεντ’ ὄροφον λειμωνόθεν ἀμήσαντες·
ἀμφὶ δέ οἱ μεγάλην αὐλὴν ποίησαν ἄνακτι
σταυροῖσιν πυκινοῖσι· θύρην δ’ ἔχε μοῦνος ἐπιβλής
εἰλάτινος, τὸν τρεῖς μὲν ἐπιρρήσσεσκον Ἀχαιοί,
τρεῖς δ’ ἀναοίγεσκον μεγάλην κληῗδα θυράων,
τῶν ἄλλων, Ἀχιλεὺς δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπιρρήσσεσκε καὶ οἶος—

But when they had got to the shelter of Peleus’ son: a towering
shelter the Myrmidons had built for their king, hewing
the timbers of pine, and they made a roof of thatch above it
shaggy with grass that they had gathered out of the meadows;
and around it made a great courtyard for their king, with hedgepoles
set close together; the gate was secured by a single door-piece
of pine, and three Achaians could ram it home in its socket
and three could pull back and open the huge door-bar; three other
Achaians, that is, but Achilleus all by himself could close it.

Iliad XXIV 448–456

The emphasis on detail and the almost idyllic atmosphere created by this elaborate description preface the meeting between Priam and Achilles and set the tone for a profound shift in the function of space. Only within this locus-image can the two heroes use narratives that build on the politics of pity. By reminding Achilles of his father Peleus in distant Phthia, Priam plays a powerful game with his interlocutor’s emotions, as their lives are revealed to be remarkably complementary: Priam is at home and knows the fate of his son, who lies dead, while Achilles is alive but not at home and does not know the fate of his father. Seen from this angle, space becomes an integral part of Priam’s emotional politics. Proximity and distance, far and near, Troy and Phthia are bipolar antitheses transformed into symmetrical analogies of pain and suffering. The larger space of the two heroes’ fates encroaches upon the smaller space of Achilles’ headquarters and turns it from the marginalized, unfriendly, and deadly habitat of Hektor’s killer into a locus of pity and sharing. At the end of the epic, Achilles’ hut becomes a place of reconciliation, not only between the old Trojan king and the young Achaean hero but also between Achilles and the heroic community to which he finally returns.

Seen from this perspective, the headquarters of Agamemnon and Achilles are mainly used as loci where important deliberations are made about the cohesion of the heroic community. They are both centers of authority and self-esteem, and constitute a form of social space that allows the Iliad to explore the inner tensions, concerns, and ideological preoccupations of the world of heroes.

The seashore

The seashore constitutes a place of unhappiness and loneliness: Khruses “went silently away beside the murmuring sea beach” (Iliad I 34 βῆ δ’ ἀκέων παρὰ θῖνα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης) and “walked in solitude” (I 35 ἀπάνευθε κιών), and Achilles “weeping went and sat in sorrow apart from his companions / beside the beach of the grey sea looking out on the infinite water” (I 348–350 … αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεύς / δακρύσας ἑτάρων ἄφαρ ἕζετο νόσφι λιασθείς / θίν᾿ ἔφ᾿ ἁλὸς πολιῆς, ὁρόων ἐπ’ ἀπείρονα πόντον). [15] Here, location and action are intricately entwined, though with shifting degrees of emphasis. In contrast with Khruses, who walks along the seashore, Achilles sits in sorrow on the beach and looks at the endless high sea. Although in both situations the murmuring of the sea contrasts with the silence of the two figures, [16] silence takes two different forms based on two distinct aspects of the same location: the priest is walking away from the Achaean camp, whereas Achilles stays within its limits. Space is used here as a litmus test for the dramatically different outcomes of the problems Khruses and Achilles are facing. By leaving the Achaean camp, Khruses figuratively breaks loose from Agamemnon’s threats and insolent behavior, although he obeys his order temporarily. Apollo will listen to Khruses’ prayer and fulfill his wish. Conversely, Achilles is “trapped” within the Achaean camp, which is not so much a location but a space of social and heroic self-awareness and recognition. He gazes at the “endless sea” as if gazing at the endless troubles and pain he is and will be facing. [17] His wish too will be fulfilled, but only after he pays the high price of losing his dear friend Patroklos.

In the last books of the Iliad, the seashore is often used as the locus of lamentation at the death of Patroklos: [19] Achilles (Iliad XVIII), [20] Achilles together with the Myrmidons (Iliad XXIII), [21] and again on his own (Iliad XXIV). [22] This does not mean that lamentation for Patroklos takes place only at the seashore, [23] but that the gradual change of the seashore’s associative role from a place of prayer at the beginning of the epic to a place of lamentation towards its end is parallel to the gradual shift of the associative role of the walls of Troy, which in Iliad VI are a location of prayer (to Athena and Zeus), but at the end of the poem (Iliad XXII and XXIV) are a place of grief and mourning for Hektor. The walls of Troy and the seashore are therefore employed as a form of interactive imagery, which, as cognitive psychologists have shown, reinforces distinctiveness, accentuates specificity, and enhances memorability by linking abstract ideas or feelings to particular locations. [24] At a later phase in the evolution of the Iliadic tradition, mnemonic recall through interactive imagery was further improved through a process of visual pairing, through which interactive imagery created nets of parallel, not sequential, imagery. Hektor and Achilles/Patroklos are the two sets of great heroes whose actions and inaction dramatically punctuate the epic. Prayer and lamentation, representing the two edges of their bifurcated life stories, were gradually associated with particular locations, the walls of Troy and the seashore respectively. These locations were gradually reconfigured as the Iliad reserved terminal space (the walls of the city and the sea) for the expression of terminal conditions—praying for the preservation of life and mourning the loss of it.

The seashore also constitutes a place that one cannot get beyond, either as an extra-Iliadic space of departure (memory of arrival) or as a limit for short journeys by ship (Iliad I). It is a spatiotemporal marker, since it marks beginnings and ends for the Achaeans, signposts by which they can orient themselves in time. This function accords with the Iliad’s limited time frame. By concentrating on the wrath of Achilles, an event occurring in the tenth year of the war, the epic systematically engages with both the past and the future. Within this universe of associations the seashore, though a spatial element, acquires a chronotopic dimension: it recalls the Achaean arrival at Troy and facilitates the play of irony with the evasive illusion of sailing back to Greece, only to limit itself to a notional frontier that is briefly crossed (as when Khruseis is returned to her father).

The Achaean wall

The Achaean wall and ditch [25] are first mentioned in Iliad VII 336–343, when Nestor advises the Achaeans to “gather and pile one single mound on the corpse-pyre / … and build fast upon it / towered ramparts, to be a defence …” and to “dig a deep ditch / circling it, so as to keep off their people and horses …” [26] Once the wall is built and the ditch dug, Poseidon complains to Zeus that the fame of this wall will surpass that of the walls of Troy that he and Apollo built together (VII 446–453), and Zeus assures him that the wall will be destroyed as soon as the Achaeans return home (VII 455–463). In Iliad VIII 175–183, Hektor tells the Trojans that Zeus stands on his side and that the Achaean wall will not stop him from burning the enemy’s ships. In IX 232–233, Odysseus warns Achilles that the Trojans have encamped just outside the wall, and Achilles ironically refers to the vain effort of Agamemnon to stop the Trojans by building a wall (IX 349–352). Achilles’ words make it clear that the wall is connected with the activity of one man, Agamemnon, although it was Nestor who proposed its construction. Through the focalization of Achilles, the space of the wall is anchored to the theme of his wrath, his own strife with Agamemnon. The wall is the last recourse the arrogant son of Atreus has at his disposal. Once he is deprived of it, the need for Achilles will become even more prominent. In X 126–127, Agamemnon advises Nestor to go with him beyond the “boundary” of the ditch, to the spot on the plain where the leaders of the Achaeans will hold a council. In Iliad XII, the wall and ditch are the focus of action: after imagining their future destruction by the gods, the narrator turns to the imminent attack by Hektor and the Trojans. The space delineated by the wall and the ditch has now been tied to the action of one preeminent Trojan hero, Hektor, whose martial activity is highlighted by his ability to do intratextually what Zeus promises to do, mutatis mutandis, extratextually. In Iliad XII 257–264 and XII 290–291, specific parts of the wall are brought to the foreground by focusing on the activity of both Achaeans and Trojans. In XIV 55–82 Nestor informs Agamemnon that the Trojans have invaded the Achaean camp, and Agamemnon acknowledges what has been expressed time and again since the wall was built: that it will be of no use to the Achaeans. In Iliad XV, the ditch becomes the center of opposing movements by the two armies: first the Achaeans push the Trojans back across it (XV 1–4), and then the Trojans press the Achaeans, who retreat behind the wall (XV 344–345). In XVI 368–371, the Trojans cross the ditch in panic as Patroklos has broken their lines, while in XVII 760–761 the Achaeans take shelter behind the wall as they try to save the body of Patroklos. In XVIII 215–217 and 228, Achilles appears in the ditch and wreaks havoc among the Trojans by shouting three times. The divine battle (θεομαχία) begins when Athena raises a war cry while standing beside the ditch in front of the wall (XX 48–50). Finally, Hermes puts the Achaean guards to sleep and opens the gates of the wall with ease (XXIV 443–447), letting Priam inside so that he can go to the hut of Achilles. [27]

The Achaean wall and ditch fufill three functions: (1) they help the narrator pin down the various phases of both the Achaean retreat and the Trojan attack, as Zeus starts fulfilling the promise he made to Thetis in Iliad I; (2) they function as a means of intratextual misdirection, creating the illusion of safety for the Achaeans; and (3) they delay the return of Achilles to the war.

As far as the plot is concerned, the wall and the ditch constitute an effective intratextual misdirection. The narrator lets the Achaeans believe that with these they will be able to stop the Trojan advance. This illusion is not only short-lived and dramatically contradicted, but also linked to certain heroes whose role in the Iliadic plot is of paramount importance. In Iliad XIV 55–81, Nestor tells Agamemnon that the wall will not protect them from the Trojans, and Agamemnon acknowledges that all this effort has been in vain. His words echo Achilles’ ironic twist in Iliad IX 349–352, when he presents Agamemnon as responsible for building the wall. Achilles even engages in a telling wordplay based on the double reference of the word τεῖχος ‘wall’, designating both the Achaean wall and the walls of Troy. “And yet,” he says, “when I was fighting among the Achaians / Hektor would not drive his attack beyond the wall’s shelter / but would come forth only so far as the Skaian gates and the oak tree. / There once he endured me alone, and barely escaped my onslaught” (IX 352–355). Intratextual misdirection concerns only the Achaeans, for the audience has been told since Iliad VII that the wall is weak and will offer no shelter to the Achaeans. The function of this false illusion is to dramatize the situation the Achaeans are facing, as they gradually run out of means to turn the tide of events to their benefit: the embassy in Iliad IX fails, the main Achaean leaders are wounded one after the other, and the wall and ditch cannot save them. The wall and the ditch are therefore the ultimate step in the process of gradually preparing for the return of Achilles. Patroklos’ crossing of the ditch and his advance in the plain, contrary to Achilles’ advice, is the remaining piece in the dramatic puzzle the epic has so meticulously completed.

Finally, the Achaean wall and ditch are a means of delaying the return of Achilles. The ditch is associated with the dramatic tension gradually built up since Achilles’ withdrawal from battle. Whatever measures the Achaeans take to prevent a Trojan victory, they are unable to stop Hektor. The wall is the very last protection, not only because it virtually speaks for their having retreated to their ships, but also because it turns the basic staging of Iliadic war upside down. Instead of pushing the Trojans back to their city, the Achaeans are besieged in their own pseudo-city, whose protective wall, unlike the Trojan ones, is very weak. By using the space of the wall and the ditch as a mechanism that temporarily casts doubt on the most essential condition of the Iliadic war (that the Achaeans are the aggressors and the Trojans the defenders), the tradition of the Iliad highlights the fact that the plan of Zeus will be fulfilled and that the wall and the ditch are one more mechanism for delaying the return of Achilles to the battlefield.

The ships

The area of the ships is sometimes used as a lookout, from which the Achaeans observe what is going on in another part of the camp. [30] In Iliad XI 599–601 Achilles, while “standing on the stern of his huge-hollowed vessel / looking out over the sheer war work and the sorrowful onrush,” sees Nestor’s horses carrying the wounded Makhaon. In XIV 3–8 Nestor hears the outcry of war and tells Makhaon that he will search for a vantage point to see what is happening. But as soon as he steps outside his hut, he is able to see the confusion of the battle (line 13). Winfried Elliger has suggested, following Schadewaldt, [31] that the area of the Achaean camp and the vaguely charted space of the ships undergo an internal expansion and, we may add, provide the necessary background for placing specific narrative events. In the two aforementioned examples, separated by three books but linked through their subject matter (the second “continues” the first), two different spots in the area near the ships are used as observation posts. As the action has been transferred inside the Achaean camp, the storyteller has to narrate various events, which he has to pin down to specific locations so that he can recall them with ease. To make this possible, he makes these events perceptible to certain figures of the plot, situated in specific locations in the Achaean camp. Achilles is presented doing what he often does in the Iliad, that is, looking or watching, but this time not at the sea; when he realizes that the horses of Nestor are carrying the wounded Makhaon, he decides at once to dispatch Patroklos and learn whether what he sees is true. What is at work here is a process of mnemonic recall, by which the bard notionally puts himself at the stern of Achilles’ ship, and then makes Achilles see from this location what is going on in another area of the camp. [32] What the narrator can remember easily is the concrete location, typified by the Iliadic tradition, of Achilles on the shore looking at the vast sea, which he now alters by placing him on the stern of his ship. He then ties to this image another one, which he has already mentioned, namely that of Nestor’s chariot carrying the wounded Makhaon. While bringing to his mind’s eye the formulaic image of Achilles abstaining from the battle, he adds to it a new visual image, as seen through Achilles’ own eyes. Since common images are easily retrieved and visualized by the human mind, they facilitate the recall of added material. The fact that the narrator first tells his audience what is going on and then presents Achilles seeing what is going on amounts to an almost innate tendency of oral storytelling, in which the narrator first offers a preview of the event to be described and then orients his listeners to the direction he is going to follow in his narrative. He first frames the event (Makhaon carried by the horses of Nestor) and then offers a close-up, [33] a more careful look at what happens. While visualizing Achilles looking at what the storyteller has narratively prefaced, the audience has the sense of being mentally involved, of being there on Achilles’ ship, looking together with him at Nestor’s horses carrying the wounded Makhaon off the battlefield.

The literary topography of space: The funeral games for Patroklos

The contest area

His first task was to picture for his audience the place where the games would be held. To this end, he had to transform an area inside the camp into an ἀγών, a “contest space.” To effect such a transformation, he opted for a gradual pinpointing of an area that would be suitable for the first and most demanding of the various contests, the chariot race. Visualizing such an area was carried out by two different means: (1) by emphasizing where Achilles stands, who was going to organize the actual events, and (2) by picturing an area that would be inside the Achaean camp but also at some distance from the huts of the army.

As soon as Iliad XXIII begins, the storyteller helps his listeners visualize Achilles lying among the Myrmidons on the sea shore and lamenting Patroklos. He is situated “in a clear place where the waves washed over the beach” (61 ἐν καθαρῷ, ὅθι κύματ’ ἐπ’ ἠϊόνος κλύζεσκον). After the appearance of Patroklos’ ghost and the collection of wood needed for his pyre, the πομπή of chariots led by the Myrmidons and Achilles himself, with Patroklos’ body in the middle (134), arrives at a place indicated by Achilles (138–139), [38] where the final stage of the funeral will take place. When the burning of Patroklos’ body, the gathering and preserving of his bones in a golden jar, the heaping of the earth, and the piling of the tomb are completed, the storyteller emphatically states that it was Achilles who “held the people there, and made them sit down in a wide assembly, / and brought prizes for games out of his ships …” (258–259). [39] The lack of any specific place marker, which is consistent with the oral storyteller’s process of mental visualization, makes this area hard to picture in the mind’s eye. This “disadvantage,” though, is counterbalanced by the stress laid on Achilles: the narrator’s mental camera has been following him, with a few short breaks, since the very beginning of Iliad XXIII. As it monitors Achilles, the audience is invited to realize that the games will take place where Achilles has moved to, that is, in the very same area where the tomb of Patroklos has been piled. [40] In this way the topography of the contest area is thematized, since it is inextricably linked to the place where Patroklos’ σῆμα is situated. Thus the dead comrade is notionally present in the games held in his honor, thanks to Achilles who has organized them next to his friend’s tomb. [41]

The contests

Having paved the way to visualizing the area where the games would take place, the storyteller had to do the same thing with the individual contests to be presented. In this case, two factors may have determined his choice: (1) the importance he had decided to give to the chariot race, and (2) the difference between individual contests, which he has treated visually by dividing them into two groups: (2a) contests involving physical contact between the participants, and (2b) throwing events (weight, archery, javelin). As I will show, even running, which belongs to neither (2a) or (2b), is presented as part of (2a) by virtue of the particular type of visualization employed by the narrator. In view of these two factors, the bard has used two techniques of visual representation, the zoom-in and high-angle long or medium camera shot, both of which he has applied to the chariot race, employing the former for contests belonging to category (2a) and the latter to events in category (2b).

The chariot race

The presentation of the five contestants is interrupted by the dialogue between Antilokhos, the fourth contestant, and his father Nestor, who tells his son about the tactics he should use to defeat his opponents, since his horses are slow. [44] Nestor offers a detailed mental tour of the impending event, which the narrator presents by means of a high-angle long shot, since the king of Pylos “watches” with his mind’s eye a potential race that he describes to his son. The implications of this detailed mental tour are important for interpreting the spatial representation of the contest area. It may well be that Nestor’s emphasis on the turning post, which is not a spatial preview of the contest, since it plays no role in the race in honor of Patroklos, may be due to an oral tradition concerning Nestor’s participation in the funeral games for Amarunkeus, in which he had triumphed in four events but lost to the Aktorione-Molione twins in the chariot race, as his chariot crashed while trying to pass the turning-post. [45] Although Nestor seems to be intentionally concealing some elements of how he lost to the twins in Bouprasion, he stresses that their greater number was the crucial reason for his defeat (XXIII 638–642). In the words of Frame,

The storyteller applies the technique of zooming in for the actual race by focusing his attention on the various contestants. To this end, he employs a device he has also used in his visualization of fighting scenes throughout the epic: he “sees” in pairs, dividing the various contestants into groups of two and mentally following them as they drive their chariots during the race. By “seeing” through associative pairs he facilitates visualization and data recall, since the mnemonic links created are much stronger, and therefore more easily activated. Associative visualization through pairing is a key factor in the process of spatially mapping the chariot race, as can be seen by comparing the three lists of contestants offered by the storyteller. In order to make this point clear, let us first look at the order in which the five participants are presented at different points in the entire episode (Table 1):

Table 1: Order of participants in the chariot race (Iliad XXIII 287–538)

First Introduction Start Finish
Eumelos Antilokhos Diomedes
Diomedes Eumelos Antilokhos
Menelaos Menelaos Menelaos
Antilokhos Meriones Meriones
Meriones Diomedes Eumelos

Taking my cue from this line of argument, I will now deal with two related questions: first, what is the role of Meriones, and second, why does the storyteller forget or put aside the second list, referring to the placement of the contestants at the start?

The actual race is visually split into two smaller races, preceded by a brief depiction of the contestants at the starting line. After the drawing of lots, all the competitors are visualized as standing in line (Iliad XXIII 358 στὰν δὲ μεταστοιχεί), while Achilles shows them the turning-post far away on the level plain, [56] where he has stationed Phoinix as judge “to mark and remember the running and bring back a true story” (XXIII 361). The storyteller basically follows the same process of mental picturing he has employed in battle descriptions: a brief general view followed by zooming his mind’s lens in on pairs of contestants. [57] Phoinix, who was last heard from in XIX 311, is turned into a judge, who in the manner of a bard will remember what happened in the race and report it accurately. As far as the representation of space is concerned, Phoinix is one of the three poles on which the notion of an internal audience is based. As Nestor advised Antilokhos by mentally picturing a proposed race, Phoinix will do the same with the actual race, and finally Idomeneus and Locrian Ajax will also bring forward their own versions of what happened in the race as they watched it from a distance. By insisting on various Iliadic heroes’ watching the chariot race, the narrator facilitates the external audience’s own visualization of the same event. All internal spectators pave the way so that the external audience may not just see the narrated event, but also picture others watching this event, and consequently place themselves in the position of those heroes watching the race. The result is ἐνάργεια, a vivid representation that turns listeners into viewers.

Once Antilokhos has emerged victorious in the second-pair chariot race, the bard turns his attention to a group of spectators watching the event. He first adopts a high-angle medium shot that allows him to visualize the internal audience from some distance. [61] Then, with a low-angle shot, he pictures Idomeneus sitting apart from the others, on high ground so as to see in all directions (Iliad XXIII 451 ἧστο γὰρ ἐκτὸς ἀγῶνος ὑπέρτατος ἐν περιωπῇ). On hearing Diomedes calling, he is able to see at a distance his chariot taking the lead, and as if being informed by the narrator, he suggests that Eumelos’ mares have had an accident at the turning-post. His speech is followed by an angry reply from Locrian Ajax, who thinks that the leading chariot is still that of Eumelos. Idomeneus answers back, and Achilles intervenes before the matter gets out of control (XXIII 448–498). Having discussed above the importance and function of this mirror scene for the visualization of the actual race, I will explore here only its spatial features. Although the inherent tensions between members of the heroic community may sufficiently explain the disagreement between Idomeneus and Locrian Ajax, the two figures constitute one more pair that translates the picturing of the place of the assembly into character action. As with the actual chariot race, in which the greatest and most important component of mental visualization was based on the actions of two pairs of contestants and not on a description of the contest area, so with the assembly place, the initial low-angle camera shot that singled out Idomeneus soon takes the form of a flyting between two first-rank heroes. Once more, dynamic space delineated by the concrete action of characters on whom the storyteller zooms his mind’s lens is the central means of achieving a clear mental picture.

The finish of the race is visualized in three camera shots, each zooming in on a pair of heroes. The first shot is continuous, since it follows Diomedes arriving in his chariot, stopping at the middle of the assembly area, and leaping down from his chariot in a symbolic gesture at the end of the race. The majestic presentation of Diomedes is coupled with the insertion of Sthenelos into the storyteller’s mind’s camera frame, since it is he who awards him the first victory prize. Traditional referentiality on the one hand (the two Theban heroes Diomedes and Sthenelos often appear together in the epic), and associative pairing as a spatial cue for data recall on the other, have both played their role in the visualization of this scene. Likewise in the second camera shot, in which the narrator sees with his mind’s eye Antilokhos and Menelaos as a pair of contestants arriving at the finish line one after the other: the emphasis on their closeness (Iliad XXIII 516–527) is consistent with the earlier presentation of the actual race, but also reflects the bard’s technique of “seeing” jointly, that is, including the pair of contestants in a single mental vista. The third and last camera shot contains Meriones and Eumelos, the great outsider and the favorite in the chariot race respectively. Once more, visualization is realized by means of associative pairing based on the spatial aspect of order, which is here deftly employed to allude to the contrast between expected (Meriones) and unexpected (Eumelos) failure.


Boxing is the first in a group of four events (boxing, wrestling, running, duel in armor) involving mainly (with the exception of running) physical contact between contestants and presented by means of the zooming-in technique. The space where the event takes place is visualized by a close camera shot on the pair of boxers, Epeios and Eurualos. The narrator employs multiple means to make this possible: he places them in the spotlight by having them move, “girt up,” to the middle of the circle (Iliad XXIII 685 τὼ δὲ ζωσαμένω βήτην ἐς μέσσον ἀγῶνα); zooms in on them facing each other (686 ἄντα); capitalizes on their closeness and subsequent mutual attack by exploiting the spatial aspect of sound (686–688 … ἀνασχομένω χερσὶ στιβαρῇσιν ἅμ’ ἄμφω / σύν ῥ’ ἔπεσον, σὺν δέ σφι βαρεῖαι χεῖρες ἔμιχθεν. / δεινὸς δὲ χρόμαδος γενύων γένετ’ …); concentrates on details of the bodies of the two boxers, like the sweat running all over their limbs or the cheek of Mekisteus receiving a blow from Epeios (688–690 … ἔρρεε δ’ ἱδρώς / πάντοθεν ἐκ μελέων … / κόψε δὲ παπτήναντα παρήϊον); [62] locates Mekisteus’ collapse at the very same spot where he was standing, that is, at the middle of the circle (690–691 … οὐδ’ ἄρ’ ἔτι δήν / ἑστήκειν, αὐτοῦ γὰρ ὑπήριπε φαίδιμα γυῖα); pictures Epeios helping him stand up (694–695 αὐτάρ μεγάθυμος Ἐπειός / χερσὶ λαβὼν ὤρθωσε); and finally visualizes his comrades, who are standing nearby, carrying him out of the circle (695–698 φίλοι δ’ ἀμφέσταν ἑταῖροι, / οἵ μιν ἄγον δι’ ἀγῶνος ἐφελκομένοισι πόδεσσιν, / αἷμα παχὺ πτύοντα, κάρη βάλλονθ’ ἑτέρωσε· / κὰδ δ’ ἀλλοφρονέοντα μετὰ σφίσιν εἷσαν ἄγοντες).


The second phase, comprising no fewer than twelve camera shots, is further divided into three parts. The first two, focusing on the failed attempts of Ajax and Odysseus to lift each other and their falling on the ground, are symmetrically balanced, since each of them contains five camera shots. By offering an even closer zoom in on this pair of contestants, they capitalize on the notion of proximity and presence, while the third one brings Achilles into the picture, who stops the contest:

Phase A

(1) Ajax tries to lift Odysseus (725 ὣς εἰπὼν ἀνάειρε)

(2) Odysseus strikes him at the hollow of his knee (725–726 Ὀδυσσεύς· / κόψ’ ὄπιθεν κώληπα τυχών)

(3) Odysseus throws Ajax over backward (727 κὰδ δ’ ἔβαλ’ ἐξοπίσω)

(4) Odysseus falls on his chest (727–728 ἐπὶ δὲ στήθεσσιν Ὀδυσσεύς / κάππεσε)

(5) The internal audience looks on in wonder (728 λαοὶ δ’ αὖ θηέοντό τε θάμβησάν τε)

Phase B

(6) Odysseus attempts to lift Ajax (729 δεύτερος αὖτ’ ἀνάειρε πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς)

(7) Odysseus is able to move him just a little from the ground (730 κίνησεν δ’ ἄρα τυτθὸν ἀπὸ χθονός, οὐδ’ ἔτ’ ἄειρεν)

(8) His knee is hooked behind (731 ἐν δὲ γόνυ γνάμψεν)

(9) They both fall on the ground next to each other (731–732 ἐπὶ δὲ χθονὶ κάππεσον ἄμφω / πλησίοι ἀλλήλοισι)

(10) They are “soiled in the dust” (732 μιάνθησαν δὲ κονίῃ)

Phase C:

(11) Achilles intervenes (734–737 εἰ μὴ Ἀχιλλεὺς αὐτὸς ἀνίστατο καὶ κατέρυκεν· / “μηκέτ’ ἐρείδεσθον, μὴ δὲ τρίβεσθε κακοῖσιν. / νίκη δ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν· ἀέθλια δ’ ἶσ’ ἀνελόντες / ἔρχεσθ’, ὄφρα καὶ ἄλλοι ἀεθλεύωσιν Ἀχαιοί”)

(12) The two contestants wipe the dust from their bodies and put on their tunics (738–739 ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἳ δ’ ἄρα τοῦ μάλα μὲν κλύον ἠδ’ ἐπίθοντο, / καί ῥ’ ἀπομορξαμένω κονίην δύσαντο χιτῶνας)

The five camera shots that make up each of the first two phases make use of the sequential technique employed in the case of fighting duels, in which the bard presents one warrior aiming first and only then turns to his opponent aiming second. In that case, the first throw of a spear is presented in full until that shot is completed; only then does the narrator turn his lens to the second attempt. Here, though, there is a notable difference: the storyteller’s camera moves vertically, not horizontally as it does for an armed duel. By using the same number of “cuts” (in cinematographic terminology) for the attempt of each contestant, the bard is able to make clear for his audience the similarity of both failed efforts, leading to the same result. This subtle technique further builds on the fact that the final draw is effectively connected to the final placement of the bodies of Ajax and Odysseus in horizontal position on the earth. [65] Thus, the event that started with the participants’ “standing up” (707–709 “ὄρνυσθ’, οἳ καὶ τούτου ἀέθλου πειρήσεσθον”. / ὣς ἔφατ’· ὦρτο δ’ ἔπειτα μέγας Τελαμώνιος Αἴας, / ἂν δ’ Ὀδυσεὺς πολύμητις ἀνίστατο, κέρδεα εἰδώς) ends with their lying on the ground. This interplay between verticality and horizontality that is shared by the two heroes is a further spatial association that involves the audience in producing vivid mental images. [66]

The event is completed with two camera shots (phase C), in the first of which Achilles intervenes. The “cuts” on Achilles standing up, and on the two heroes cleaning the dust from their bodies and wearing their tunics, are a visual repetition of the initial shots with which the actual event started: after Achilles stood up and called for a wrestling event, Ajax and Odysseus rose too and put on their gear ready to wrestle.


On the level of mental visualization, the use of the zoom technique for an event that does not involve physical contact (unlike boxing, wrestling, or dueling) is surprising. What has really determined the emphasis on the proximity of the two contestants, the focus on their contest, and the complete ignorance of the third competitor who is virtually left out of the picture? Associative pairing is both a powerful cue to recall and an effective means of spatial organization. The bard pictures the actual area where the contest takes place in terms of the progressive action of a pair of contestants, whose course he mentally follows. The visual link between them is significantly strengthened when they are presented as a pair, that is, by means of single “cut.” The nondiegetic insertion of an extended simile picturing the proximity between a woman’s chest and the shuttle she holds in her hands while weaving (760–763) brings to mind the filmic technique of montage, [68] in which one shot merges with another that is superimposed on it. Thus the two competitors are seen as a single visual unit as far as the narrative is concerned. Next to them is placed a nonnarrative “cut” that spills over to the associative pairing of the two competitors and becomes mentally tied to it. The single shot of the main narrative is based on the Homeric narrator’s tendency to “depict all bodies and single objects only through their contribution towards this [progressive] action, and commonly by a single trait.” [69] This dynamic process of creating mental images is based on the activation (comprising selection and juxtaposition) of small amounts of information in the form of visual elements and on their sequential arrangement or interweaving. In the words of Garcia, “Homer is no painter; he is a cinematographer.” [70]

Duel in Armor

This is the last of the first category of events involving physical contact. Once more, the storyteller employs the technique of associative pairing by presenting the armed duel of Telamonian Ajax and Diomedes. As expected from the nature of this contest, the duel is visualized in terms of the same spatial features used for duels on the battlefield. First, the two competitors are mentally pictured in opposition to the crowd of spectators (Iliad XXIII 813–814 οἳ δ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν ἑκάτερθεν ὁμίλου θωρήχθησαν, / ἐς μέσον ἀμφοτέρω συνίτην μεμαῶτε μάχεσθαι [“When these were in their armour on either side of the assembly, / they came together in the middle space, furious for the combat”]). This spatial partition, applied time and again in formal duels, helps the audience visualize the two contestants by using the multitude of internal viewers as a backdrop against which attention can be focused on the pair of antagonists, who are thus brought to the spotlight. Then, the bard visualizes the two competitors approaching and attacking each other three times at close range (816–817 ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ σχεδὸν ἦσαν ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισιν ἰόντες, / τρὶς μὲν ἐπήϊξαν, τρὶς δὲ σχεδὸν ὡρμήθησαν [“Then as, moving forward, the two were closing in on each other, / there were three charges, three times they swept in close”]). Both their mutual approach and the repeated attacks invite the audience to picture Ajax and Diomedes up close, to see the actual contest with their minds’ eye again and again.

A. ἔνθ’ Αἴας μὲν ἔπειτα κατ’ ἀσπίδα πάντοσ’ ἐΐσην νύξ’, A. Then Aias on the shield [of Diomedes], the circular one on all sides [he] stabbed
B. οὐδὲ χρό’ ἵκανεν B. but did not reach the skin,
C. ἔρυτο γὰρ ἔνδοθι θώρηξ C. for the corselet inside it guarded him.

A. Τυδείδης δ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειτα ὑπὲρ σάκεος μεγάλοιο A. Then the son of Tudeus, over the top of the huge shield,
B. αἰὲν ἐπ’ αὐχένι κῦρε B. was always menacing the neck [of Ajax]
C. φαεινοῦ δουρὸς ἀκωκῇ C. with the point of the shining spear


The event of weight-throwing is the first in the list of three contests that do not involve physical contact. The very nature of these events determines to a considerable extent the kind of visualization the storyteller will adopt. In this particular case, though, the narrator will first offer his list of the four competitors, who—perhaps unexpectedly—are not presented in order of merit. To explore the cognitive process of picturing the various heroes when they rise to take part in the event and when the results are presented, let us compare the three relevant lists given by the bard (Table 2):

Table 2: Order of participants in the weight-throwing contest (Iliad XXIII 826–849)

1. First Introduction 2. Order of Throwing 3. Results
Polupoites Epeios Polupoites
Leonteus Leonteus Telamonian Ajax
Telamonian Ajax Telamonian Ajax Leonteus
Epeios Polupoites Epeios

The comparison of these three lists shows that the second and the third have been verbally conflated in a single list, presenting the four competitors in the order they threw the weight, but also containing, in reverse form, the results of their attempts. In other words, the second and third lists exist as separate categories only cognitively or visually, although they have been subsumed into one list by the narrator. I stress this point because I regard it as of key importance for exploring the process of spatial organization of this event. With the first list, the storyteller has decided to introduce an associative pair of contestants, the Lapithai Polupoites and Leonteus, who have appeared earlier in the plot (Iliad II 740–746; XII 129–130), and then two other competitors who readily came to his mind as typical examples of exceptionally strong heroes who have systematically been presented as first participants in previous contests (Epeios in boxing, Telamonian Ajax in both wrestling and armed duels). As to their order, given that Ajax has been mentioned more often and more recently than Epeios, he comes before him in the storyteller’s mind. With respect to the order of throwing, the bard has exchanged the positions of the first and last participants, placing the first (Polupoites) last, and the last (Epeios) first. [75] This choice is very much at odds both with the technique of associative pairing, since the two Lapithai are now separated as they occupy the second and fourth positions in the second list (that of the order of throwing), and with ring composition, a traditional epic technique that one would expect to be employed in cases like this. [76] Why, then, has the storyteller opted to switch the positions of the first and last participants? The answer is based on the cognitive process at hand, which pertains to the spatial visualization of this entire event. When a contest does not include physical contact, the bard does not “see” it performed by pairs of competitors. On the contrary, he sees by long “cuts” that allow him to capture in his mind’s eye the whole distance that the various heroes will cover with their throws. In particular, he visualizes the event by gradually widening the angle of his mental lens: first he sees the hero whose throw will cover the smallest distance, Epeios; then, using him as a visual basis, he will go a bit further and picture Leonteus’ throw, who will surpass Epeios; next, he will see Telamonian Ajax’s throw, which surpasses the marks of the previous two contestants; last, he will picture Polupoites’ throw, which goes so far beyond all others that the narrator will avail himself of a simile as a mental aid to intensify and clarify the distance it covers (XXIII 845–847). Such progressive visualization based on linear mental movement along a spatial chain, each link of which allows the storyteller to transfer himself to the next, is analogous to the well-known mnemonic technique of increment recall, employed in list-learning. Although not the same, both techniques capitalize on serial progression and additive, linear expansion, that is, on mental spatialization. [77]

The verbal convergence of the second and third lists is thus the product of two cognitive schemata activated in the narrator’s mind: the order of throwing is determined by the mental picturing of the space covered by each competitor’s throw. This is a remarkable example of the transformation of a temporal process (who threw first, second, third, and fourth) into a spatial arrangement (whose throw went further). The visual tracking of an entire event has therefore been shaped by means of the gradual mental “imaging” of the dynamic and expanding space of the distance covered by the weight throwing.


The event is presented in three phases, each visualized by means of a long-distance camera frame. The first frame is pictured by following the narrator’s lens, which first tours the area where the target is placed and only then sees the target (Iliad XXIII 852–854):

A. ἱστὸν δ’ ἔστησεν νηὸς κυανοπρῴροιο and planted the mast pole
B. τηλοῦ ἐπὶ ψαμάθοις, far away on the sands
C. ἐκ δὲ τρήρωνα πέλειαν and a tremulous wild pigeon to it
D. λεπτῇ μηρίνθῳ δῆσεν ποδός he tethered by a thin string attached to her foot

This four-shot process is typical for viewing this event, and will also be employed (in a slightly expanded form) in presenting the two subsequent phases, the actual attempts of Teukros and Meriones. When viewing the place where the target will be, the storyteller first sees the particular spot he will be focusing on, the ship’s mast, and then moves with a second “cut” further down to the sand far away. Only when he has toured the entire contest area does he view the “tremulous pigeon” on the mast and, again by a vertically moving “cut,” pictures the tiny string attached to its foot. The way he has visualized the contest area is telling for his subsequent picturing of the entire event: the audience realizes not only that the target is far away but that it is also placed high up. By combining distance with verticality, the bard provides a clear mental vista of the forthcoming event. His audience has been now familiarized with the scene he is going to offer them, and the shooting can begin.

Both Teukros’ and Meriones’ attempts are visualized by not only the same number but also the same kind of “cuts.” Let us first see how these camera shots are presented by separate intonation units (Iliad XXIII 865–869 and 874–883; Lattimore’s translation, modified), and then examine them through a comparative presentation (Table 3, below):

A. ὄρνιθος μὲν ἅμαρτε·… He missed the bird …
B. αὐτὰρ ὃ μήρινθον βάλε πὰρ πόδα, τῇ δέδετ’ ὄρνις, but … hit the string beside the foot where the bird was tied
C. ἀντικρὺ δ’ ἀπὸ μήρινθον τάμε πικρὸς ὀϊστός. and straight through cut the string the bitter arrow
D. ἣ μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἤϊξε πρὸς οὐρανόν, and she leapt towards the sky
E. ἣ δὲ παρείθη / μήρινθος ποτὶ γαῖαν· while the string dropped and dangled / toward the ground

A. ὕψι δ’ ὑπὸ νεφέων εἶδε τρήρωνα πέλειαν· Way up under the clouds he saw the tremulous pigeon
B. τῇ ῥ’ ὅ γε δινεύουσαν ὑπὸ πτέρυγος βάλε μέσσην. and as she circled struck her under the wing in the body
C. ἀντικρὺ δὲ διῆλθε βέλος· and the shaft passed clean through and out of her
D. τὸ μὲν ἂψ ἐπὶ γαίῃ / πρόσθεν Μηριόναο πάγη ποδός· and dropped back on the ground and stuck before Meriones’ foot,
E. αὐτὰρ ἣ ὄρνις /… τῆλε δ’ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ / κάππεσε· but the bird … fell far away from there

Table 3: Teukros’ and Meriones’ attempts in the archery contest

Teukros Meriones
1. Misses pigeon 1. Sees pigeon
2. Hits the string attached to the pigeon’s foot 2. Hits pigeon under the wing
3. Arrow pierces the string 3. Arrow pierces pigeon
4. Missed target (pigeon) flies to the sky 4. Arrow falls on the ground
5. Hit target (string) falls on the ground 5. Pigeon flies back to the mast pole but then falls down

The javelin

Here, though, visual memory may have played a crucial role that has gone unobserved. Critics have discussed the “problem” of the unexpected order of the two prizes (the prize mentioned first is the second awarded, while the one mentioned second is the first to be given), as well as the triviality of the spear as a prize. It has been suggested that the spear “was not initially intended as a prize at all, only as the spear to be used in the contest, and then Ach. made it a complimentary prize for Meriones.” [82] This cannot be true, since the μέν in 884 should be followed by a δέ referring to the two prizes. There is no alternative, for only one “means” can be used for each contest. This point is further supported by Iliad XXIII 798–799 (αὐτὰρ Πηλείδης κατὰ μὲν δολιχόσκιον ἔγχος / θῆκ’ ἐς ἀγῶνα φέρων, κατὰ δ’ ἀσπίδα καὶ τρυφάλειαν [“Then the son of Peleus carried into the circle and set down / a far-shadowing spear, and set down beside it a shield and a helmet”]), where the two prizes are designated. [83] There, Achilles’ speech followed, in which the nature of the actual contest was explained and Asteropaeus’ sword was also put down as a prize. Such a speech, in which Achilles would define the nature of the spear contest, is lacking here for two reasons: first because it is inherent in the expression (886 καί ῥ’ ἥμονες ἄνδρες ἀνέσταν [“and the spear-throwers rose up”]), and second because the participation of Agamemnon decides the result without the need for an actual event. The storyteller needs to seal the reconciliation between the two heroes with a telling gesture of acknowledgement of status. The bard makes Achilles speak with Iliad I in mind: [84] the prize is given to Talthubios to be carried to the ships. [85] Long- and short-term memory are therefore “responsible” for the presentation of this last event. The standing up of the two would-be competitors, this time, is visualized in such a stark manner that it determines not only the nature of the contest and the end result, obviating the actual event, but also the “absorption” of the contest by the end result: by picturing Agamemnon, the storyteller immediately skips the actual contest before the mnemonic “tide” created by the all-powerful image of his carrying Achilles’ female prize, Briseis, to the ships in Iliad I. It is because of this process that Talthubios surfaces in his mind.


The walls

The basic threefold setting promoted in the Iliad (Troy, plain, Achaean camp) offers a general mnemonic blueprint that the narrator can easily recall and follow during the performance of his song. The city of Troy, as a single locale, constitutes the other end of the visual spectrum activated in the bard’s and the audience’s minds, and represents the global or, if I may use this term, the “macromnemonic” aspect of mental recall. In other words, this ABA´ visual pattern, with Troy (A) and the Achaean camp (A´) standing for the two symmetrical edges of the narrator’s mnemonic chart and the plain of Troy in the middle (B), is a simple and especially effective visual plan that bard and listeners can readily follow during the performance of an oral song. In addition, there is also a “micromnemonic” aspect related to the specific presentation of Troy in the Iliad. The macrostructure aside, the dichotomy between the walls of the city and the palace, or in postmodern geographical terminology between center and periphery, is also visually effective, for it is an essential feature of interactive imagery, based on the pairing of mental icons through either association or contrast. The narrator, having no clear picture in his mind of the city of Troy, uses the standard pair “center-periphery” in order to cue the actions of his heroes to specific spatial locations.

The meeting of the elders on the walls of Troy is, of course, conditioned by narrative requirements, since Priam will ask Helen to tell him the names of certain Achaean leaders standing on the plain. At the same time, the council of elders represents the voice of the Trojan people, epitomized in their uttering a single, collective speech without any indication of individual speaker: [90]

“οὐ νέμεσις Τρῶας καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς
τοιῇδ’ ἀμφὶ γυναικὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἄλγεα πάσχειν·
αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν.
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς, τοίη περ ἐοῦσ’, ἐν νηυσὶ νεέσθω,
μηδ’ ἡμῖν τεκέεσσί τ’ ὀπίσσω πῆμα λίποιτο.”

The sheer wonder at the divine beauty of Helen walking towards the tower (Iliad III 154 Ἑλένην ἐπὶ πύργον ἰοῦσαν) indicates a specific attitude toward what the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has called the socializing of the body. [
92] The very appearance of Helen on the walls and the display of her body constitute a real social event, marking the walls as social space. [93] What is of particular importance to this scene is that although there is no single expression in the text describing Helen’s bodily deportment, sight becomes the key factor in the perceptual representation of space. [94] This time, though, sight acquires a specific social dimension, as it reveals the inner tensions within the Trojan community concerning Helen as the cause of the war, and consequently of Troy’s present suffering. [95] The divine movement of her body (154 ἰοῦσαν), contrasted with the immobility of the seated elders (149 εἵατο), turns her temporarily into a viewed object, whose eyes and face recall those of a goddess (158 αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν). Helen’s body constitutes a site, [96] not only in narrative terms, [97] but also with respect to its political underpinnings and implications for Trojan society at large. In an attempt to reappropriate and embed Helen, who inspires awe and fear at the same time, into the hierarchy and framework of Trojan society, Priam asks her to approach and sit next to him (162 “δεῦρο πάροιθ’ ἐλθοῦσα, φίλον τέκος, ἵζε’ ἐμεῖο”). In other words, he tries to turn Helen from a viewed object into a viewing audience. [98] In this light, the walls―in the τειχοσκοπία scene―are the locus for social performance, the site where the embedding of another site—Helen herself—is made possible, at least briefly, until it is subsumed by the social framework represented by the seated Trojan elders.

Andromakhe aims at convincing Hektor to fight the Achaeans from the walls, and even advises him to place part of his army next to the fig tree, where there is a weak spot in the walls (Iliad VI 433–434). In fact, the Achaeans have already tried three times to invade the city from there (435–439). Andromakhe’s words, with their paradoxically military tone, constitute a brief but sharp commentary on the spatial polarities of the Iliadic war. They verbalize an attempt to annul all kinds of crossings, both the one that the Trojan army regularly makes, as it crosses the walls and fights the Achaeans in the open space of the plain, and the Achaeans’ attempts to cross the walls and enter the city. In this respect, her words constitute not simply a piece of military advice to Hektor, but also a form of criticism of the nature of Iliadic fighting.

Hektor’s answer implicitly points to his notion of heroic κλέος. Since both his father’s fame and his own require that he fight in the front rank, that is to say in the open space, the walls constitute an obstacle to his κλέος. Having learned to be an ἐσθλός (Iliad VI 444–445 … ἐπεὶ μάθον ἔμμεναι ἐσθλός / αἰεὶ καὶ πρώτοισι μετὰ Τρώεσσι μάχεσθαι), he refuses to fight from the walls because he regards this attitude as a kind of escape. He even expresses his concern about the accusation of “escaping war” that might be raised against him (441–443 … ἀλλὰ μάλ’ αἰνῶς / αἰδέομαι Τρῶας καὶ Τρῳάδας ἑλκεσιπέπλους, / αἴ κε κακὸς ὣς νόσφιν ἀλυσκάζω πολέμοιο [“yet I would feel deep shame / before the Trojans, and the Trojan women with trailing garments, / if like a coward I were to shrink aside from the fighting”]). Hektor effectively reminds both Andromakhe and the external audience that walls “may keep people in as well as keep people out”; [105] that what constitutes protection and safety for Andromakhe represents the loss of heroic κλέος for him. The space of the walls means his rejection of his very identity as well as of his family’s fame (VI 446 ἀρνύμενος πατρός τε μέγα κλέος ἠδ’ ἐμὸν αὐτοῦ [“winning for my own self great glory, and for my father”), and in this light he refuses to comment on Andromakhe’s reference to the Achaean leaders’ previous attacks at the weak spot of the walls.

The walls become the center of the narrative yet again in the beginning, middle, and end of Iliad XXII. At the outset of the book, Priam and Hekabe, standing on the walls, virtually beg Hektor to return to the city and not stay on the plain to fight Achilles. As the plot unfolds, action takes place around the walls, as Achilles chases Hektor, and at the end Hektor’s parents together with Andromakhe lament from the walls Hektor’s death at the hands of the best of the Achaeans. The walls’ inherent theatricality allows for their effective dramatic exploitation. In the course of the action, Hektor’s decision to stand outside the Skaian Gates (XXII 6), his subsequent pursuit by Achilles around the walls, and his vain attempts to get near the Dardanian Gates (XXII 194–198) picture in spatial terms his dramatic oscillation between the worlds of the family and the battlefield. The symmetrical, almost ring-like use of the walls at the beginning and end of Iliad XXII frames the action and imbues it with a certain autonomy that rings a familiar bell when compared to the larger narrative pattern of the epic. In Iliad XXII the walls are turned from a location into a space of supplication (beginning), dramatic oscillation (middle), and lament (end), just as supplication, oscillation, and lament feature in the beginning, middle, and end of the entire Iliad: Khruses’ failed supplication of Agamemnon causes Apollo’s punishment and brings death to the Achaean camp in Iliad I; the shifting tide of war makes victory change sides during the course of the plot; and Priam’s supplication of Achilles in Iliad XXIV results in the return of Hektor’s body and the proper lamentation for him. Seen in this light, Iliad XXII is framed in the same way that the whole epic begins and ends.

The city

The city of Troy figures mainly in the activities of Helen and Paris in Iliad III, Hektor’s visit in Iliad VI, and brief references to Andromakhe in Iliad XXII and Priam in Iliad XXIV. The perceptual representation of the city by the Homeric narrator combines short descriptions of the settings of the houses or chambers of these figures and also, perhaps tellingly, a focus on visible stature, which unfolds by referring to the antithesis between brightness and dirtiness on the one hand and marriage and death on the other.

The meetings between Helen and Paris in Iliad III 421–423 and Hektor and Hekabe in Iliad VI 242–250 begin with short descriptions of the setting. This is the frame within which the ensuing episodes will take place. What is of particular importance is that the frame is described in terms of shape, material, and size, which are purely spatial factors. In III 423, the chamber of Paris is called ὑψόροφος θάλαμος ‘high-vaulted bedchamber’, and in VI 242–250, shape and material (243 ξεστῇς αἰθούσῃσι τετυγμένον, 244, 248 ξεστοῖο λίθοιο, 248 τέγεοι) and size (244 πεντήκοντ’ ἔνεσαν θάλαμοι, 248 δώδεκ’ ἔσαν … θάλαμοι) are emphatically stressed. The use of spatial aspects such as shape, material, and size, next to the traditional means of symmetrical spatial representation based on the analogy between the families of Priam’s sons and daughters (cf. VI 244–246 and 248–250), bestows on the brief description of the houses of Paris and Priam a sense of magnitude and royal status. The city of Troy, epitomized in the description of the houses of the epic’s protagonists, is thus depicted in all its splendor and glory. The antithesis between the huge and beautiful houses (III 421 and VI 242 δόμον περικαλλέ’[α]) and the future destruction of the city turns the royal palaces into a spatial foreshadowing of Troy’s unfolding tragedy. The Iliadic storyteller can count on his audience’s ability to interpret the underlying reality of such vivid visualizations: his listeners have no clear mental picture of Paris’ or Priam’s house, but they surely know what a palace looks like. By evoking a familiar picture, the narrator can ease the visualization of these two scenes and make a moment memorable. [110]

Apart from these descriptions pertaining to the spatial frame of the relevant episodes, the Iliad emphasizes the use of the senses, through color, touch, and smell. In Iliad III 382, Aphrodite places Paris in “his own perfumed bedchamber” (ἐν θαλάμῳ εὐώδεϊ κηώεντι); in III 385 she “laid her hand upon Helen’s fragrant robe and shook it” (χειρὶ δὲ νεκταρέου ἑανοῦ ἐτίναξε λαβοῦσα), [111] and in III 419, Helen walks away in silence “shrouding herself about in the luminous spun robe” (κατασχομένη ἑανῷ ἀργῆτι φαεινῷ). As these references make clear, the space of the bedchamber of Helen and Paris is represented in terms of color, touch, and smell. Touch indicates proximity, and the shining color of the robe and its perfume, together with the fragrance of the bedchamber, create strong mental icons and a feeling of “being there” on the part of the audience. While the meager description of the house and chamber in III 421–423, where the working activity of the maids is placed next to the beauty of the outer and inner buildings (421 δόμον περικαλλέ’[α], 423 ὑψόροφον θάλαμον), delineates the spatial frame of the scene, the use of senses indicates the specific way this frame is to be filled. The audience is thus transferred to the very location where the protagonists of this scene are placed, and is invited to “experience” what is going on by adopting their perspective: the seductive power of Aphrodite, the pleasant scent and shining dress of Helen—that is, a glimpse of a world of fragrant smells and shining colors, like the one the two lovers first experienced when they met in Sparta. In this way, the antithesis between past and present, the momentary and the enduring, once more keys the audience to the dramatic tone of the Iliad.

Likewise, during Hektor’s visit to Troy in Iliad VI, the spatial representation of the palace and the temple of Athena, where his mother Hekabe is heading, is accomplished both through a brief reference to its location (297 ἐν πόλει ἄκρῃ) and by means of the shining effect [112] of the great πέπλος ‘robe’ [113] that is to be dedicated to Athena. Whereas the former sets the general spatial frame, the latter indicates how this space is to be interpreted: namely in terms of the wealth and awe of the Trojan people, in one of the rare collective representations in the entire poem. The same strategy is employed in the brief description of Paris’ house, which like Athena’s temple is situated on the peak of the citadel (317 ἐν πόλει ἄκρῃ). This is done mainly by reference to Paris’ shining armor (321 περικαλλέα τεύχε’[α]) and Helen’s “directing the magnificent work done by her handmaidens” (324 … καὶ ἀμφιπόλοισι περικλυτὰ ἔργα κέλευεν). Hektor, despite Helen’s offer, refuses to sit down and share the world of Helen and Paris, even for a while. His house is empty, since Andromakhe and Astuanax have gone to the walls. In this light, space points to the contrasting fates of Hektor and of the other preeminent Trojans. The ever-growing distance is strengthened even more since Andromakhe and Astuanax are placed outside the limits of their proper space, in fact at the very site where Astuanax will meet his death in the non-Iliadic epic tradition. [114]

The spatial frame of a given scene often has a highly symbolic role, [115] since it plays on sets of antitheses such as inside-outside, regular-irregular, and positive-negative. Spatial subversion requires an easily recognizable spatial frame, whose regular and positive function will be overturned. In Iliad XXII 440–448, Andromakhe is presented weaving at her loom, while the maids are preparing a bath for Hektor. The spatial frame of this scene is, as usual, described in a laconic manner (XXII 440 μυχῷ δόμου ὑψηλοῖο “in the inner room of the high house”; 442 κατὰ δῶμα “through the house”), but the narrator carefully hints at the possibility that this peaceful space where the regular activities of everyday life take place will be subverted. The frame is described not only as the place where Andromakhe is, but also as the place where Hektor is not (439 πόσις ἔκτοθι μίμνε πυλάων “her husband had held his ground there outside the gates”; 445 μάλα τῆλε λοετρῶν “far from waters for bathing”), silently indicating that in the light of Hektor’s impending death, the audience must interpret the peaceful space of the chamber, where Hektor’s bath is being prepared and Andromakhe performs a housewife’s primary duty, that of weaving, as a form of tragic irony. [116] The secluded space of the chamber contrasts with the vast space of the battlefield, and is therefore to be taken as a symbolic opposition between life and death.

In Iliad XXIV 160–165, Priam is presented in his yard amidst his sons, who cover his body with a cloak and pour dung on his head and neck. Moreover, in XXIV 719–720, the κλυτὰ δώματα ‘renowned house’ virtually signifies Hektor’s deathbed, as it is there that the ritual lamentation for him will take place. The spatial frame of these two scenes comprises the yard of Priam’s house and the palace respectively, but what really matters is how this space is filled. By juxtaposing the spare description of the frame with a rich harvest of topological references to what this space contains, the Iliad moves from description to interpretation. Helen’s shining and fragrant clothing in Iliad III and the beautiful bright robe dedicated to Athena in Iliad VI are strongly contrasted with the futile preparation of Hektor’s bath by Andromakhe and her maids in Iliad XXII, Priam’s being covered by a simple cloak and rolling in the dung in Iliad XXIV, and the mourning for Hektor in the palace. The world of the city of Troy, which is radically changed into a place of grief and mourning at the end of the poem, constitutes an evolving space, whose dynamic nature follows the unraveling of the plot and is based not on the way it is framed but on the way it is filled.

The World of the Immortals

Spatial theography: Height and depth

Any discussion of divine space in the Iliad has to distinguish between form and function, for Olympos and the depths of the sea constitute the two poles of a coherent spatial theography, whose language of localization and orientation is of prime importance for understanding the role of the gods.

Olympos is regularly characterized by its various spatial aspects, such as color (Iliad I 532 αἰγλήεντος; XVIII 186 ἀγάννιφον), size (I 402 μακρόν; I 530 μέγαν; XX 5 πολυπτύχου), shape (V 367 αἰπύν; XXI 505 χαλκοβατὲς δῶ), and elevation (VIII 25 περὶ ῥίον; XIV 154 ἀπὸ ῥίου). As is often the case with Iliadic locations, the gods’ abode is devoid of topography. The narrator has no clear picture of Olympos, and his brief presentation is a composite mental image of Greek landscape characterized by spatial manifestations of the idea of extremity: Olympos is high, vast, distant, and radiantly shining. Before we consider why Olympos is presented in this way, we should bear in mind that we are dealing not with static but with dynamic space: almost every single time the narrative lens turns to Olympos, it is following the trail or path of a particular god or group of gods returning from the plain of Troy, the depths of the sea, or the land of the Ethiopians. The spatial presentation of Olympos is closely linked to its dynamic nature: height, size, distance, and optical salience constitute useful mnemonic tools for referring to it. Given that the narrator does not possess any clear picture in his mind’s eye of the divine abode per se, he employs a variety of spatial mechanisms that facilitate his mental mapping of all the relevant material.

Apart from the use of spatial memory for visualizing Olympos, dynamic space creates associations of cognitive and hierarchical factors which take the form of social and axiological coding. [119]

ἠερίη δ’ ἀνέϐη μέγαν οὐρανὸν Οὔλυμπόν τε.
ηὗρεν δ’ εὐρύοπα Κρονίδην ἄτερ ἥμενον ἄλλων
ἀκροτάτῃ κορυφῇ πολυδειράδος Οὐλύμποιο·

in the morning and went up to the tall sky and Olympos.
She found Kronos’ broad-browed son apart from the others
sitting upon the highest peak of rugged Olympos.

Iliad I 497–499

ηὗρον δὲ Κρονίωνα θεῶν ἄτερ ἥμενον ἄλλων
ἀκροτάτῃ κορυφῇ πολυδειράδος Οὐλύμποιο.

They found the son of Kronos sitting apart form the other
gods, upon the highest peak of rugged Olympos.

Iliad V 753–754

Ζεὺς δὲ Θέμιστα κέλευσε θεοὺς ἀγορήνδε καλέσσαι
κρατὸς ἀπ’ Οὐλύμποιο πολυπτύχου· ἣ δ’ ἄρα πάντῃ
φοιτήσασα κέλευσε Διὸς πρὸς δῶμα νέεσθαι

But Zeus, from the many-folded peak of Olympos,
told Themis to summon all the gods into assembly. She went
everywhere, and told them to make their way to Zeus’ house.

Iliad XX 4–6

The contrast between higher and lower loci within the realm of Olympos points to the higher divine status of Zeus, who is first among all the Olympian gods. Along the same lines, the emphasis on both the (often) lonely figure of Zeus, whom divine travelers visit at Olympos, and the fact that Zeus never travels in order to meet with another god, connects the cognitive schema that highlights the importance of “one” versus “many” with the primacy of Zeus, who dominates Olympos. In other words, figures and place references within the realm of Olympos are mentioned according to axiological, not topological order. [

With respect to the function of Olympos, we have to distinguish between its thematic and symbolic roles, the former pertaining to the evolution of the plot, and the latter referring to the fact that space may be semantically charged with its own meaning. [121] As thematic space, Olympos is mainly associated with the gods’ travelling to the world of mortals and back again, which allows the action to proceed. This vertical aspect has important implications for the plot, not only because the gods regularly interfere in human affairs and attempt to determine the action, but also because the speed and ease of divine movement to and from Olympos nullifies (for the immortals) typical divisions of space. Thus the gods can be far away from the human world of suffering, but can also visit it in a second. Although they can cover distances quickly when they move, the Olympians cannot be in different places at the same time. The far-off, unchanging world of Olympos is thus integral to the notion and function of the divine body, which “Homer places … at the intersection of the mortal and immortal worlds.” [122] Seen from this angle, Olympos acquires an important thematic function for the Iliadic plot, not merely as a backdrop against which events are developed, but as a parallel notion of space, one that highlights vertical versus horizontal movement. This inherent spatial verticality of Olympos is also noticed when the divine abode par excellence is employed as an observation point. The Iliad exploits the dramatic contrast between the verticality of Olympos and the walls of Troy, the divine and human points of observation respectively. Whereas the divine vantage point makes gods intervene in human affairs, mortals standing on the walls watch what is happening in the plain of Troy but cannot change its course. [123]

As far as the symbolic function of Olympos is concerned, we can speak, as the subtitle of this section suggests, of a spatial theography, [124] which translates the thematic aspect of divine travel into a symbolic one based on standardized antitheses of status, such as high (gods) versus low (men), or even higher (the Olympians) versus lesser gods (Thetis, Iris). Travel of the lower to the abode of the higher, from which the lesser divinities (and of course humans) are excluded, spatially underscores social categorizations that originate in the human world. The Iliad turns Olympos from a mere place into one end of a whole set of bipolar oppositions between the divine and the human worlds, systematically employing the principal oppositions of far-near, mountain-plain, infinite-finite, safe-unsafe, and accessible-inaccessible. [125] At the same time, Olympos stands as a symbol of divine unity, since the Iliad systematically capitalizes on the contrast between the assemblies of gods held there and the human assemblies taking place on earth: whereas the former are often used as a benchmark for divine unity, and there are no direct consequences for the divine world even when they are characterized by dissension that leads to opposing initiatives by individual gods, the latter reveal the inner conflict of the heroic community, and result in suffering and death. Seen in this light, the divine assembly at the end of Iliad I becomes an ironic rereading of the human assembly at the beginning of the same book: conflict occurs in both of them, but where in the former it is followed by laughter and enjoyment, in the latter it becomes the beginning of unfathomable suffering and death.

The depths of the sea are also employed as a divine abode in the Iliad, though not so often as Olympos. Their use is based not so much on random references to Poseidon’s realm as to Thetis’ underwater abode. The latter reference shows that the sea-depths are a highly thematized space within the plot of the Iliad, since they are employed as the locus where narrative shifts really begin: the three cardinal changes in the behavior of Achilles are anchored to the action of his mother Thetis, who listens to her son or the other gods (as in Iliad XXIV) from her home at the bottom of the sea, and subsequently gets involved in the Iliadic plot.

In Iliad XIII 20–38, the narrator offers a majestic description of Poseidon’s palace:

τρὶς μὲν ὀρέξατ’ ἰών, τὸ δὲ τέτρατον ἵκετο τέκμωρ,
Αἰγάς· ἔνθα δέ οἱ κλυτὰ δώματα βένθεσι λίμνης
χρύσεα μαρμαίροντα τετεύχαται, ἄφθιτα αἰεί.
ἔνθ’ ἐλθὼν ὑπ’ ὄχεσφι τιτύσκετο χαλκόποδ’ ἵππω
ὠκυπέτα, χρυσέῃσιν ἐθείρῃσιν κομόωντε,
χρυσὸν δ’ αὐτὸς ἔδυνε περὶ χροΐ, γέντο δ’ ἱμάσθλην
χρυσείην εὔτυκτον, ἑοῦ δ’ ἐπεβήσετο δίφρου.
βῆ δ’ ἐλάαν ἐπὶ κύματ’· ἄταλλε δὲ κήτε’ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ
πάντοθεν ἐκ κευθμῶν, οὐδ’ ἠγνοίησεν ἄνακτα,
γηθοσύνῃ δὲ θάλασσα διίστατο· τοὶ δ’ ἐπέτοντο
ῥίμφα μάλ’, οὐδ’ ὑπένερθε διαίνετο χάλκεος ἄξων·
τὸν δ’ ἐς Ἀχαιῶν νῆας ἐΰσκαρθμοι φέρον ἵπποι.
ἔστι δέ τι σπέος εὐρὺ βαθείης βένθεσι λίμνης,
μεσσηγὺς Τενέδοιο καὶ Ἴμβρου παιπαλοέσσης·
ἔνθ’ ἵππους ἔστησε Ποσειδάων ἐνοσίχθων
λύσας ἐξ ὀχέων, παρὰ δ’ ἀμβρόσιον βάλεν εἶδαρ
ἔδμεναι· ἀμφὶ δὲ ποσσὶ πέδας ἔβαλε χρυσείας
ἀρρήκτους ἀλύτους, ὄφρ’ ἔμπεδον αὖθι μένοιεν
νοστήσαντα ἄνακτα· ὃ δ’ ἐς στρατὸν ᾤχετ’ Ἀχαιῶν.

He took three long strides forward, and in the fourth he came to his goal,
Aigai, where his glorious house was built in the waters’
depth, glittering with gold, imperishable forever.
Going there he harnessed under his chariot his bronze-shod horses,
flying-footed, with long manes streaming of gold; and he put on
clothing of gold about his own body, and took up the golden
lash, carefully compacted, and climbed up into his chariot
and drove it across the waves. And about him the sea beasts came up
from their deep places and played in his path, and acknowledged their master,
and the sea stood apart before him, rejoicing. The horses winged on
delicately, and the bronze axle beneath was not wetted.
The fast-running horses carried him to the ships of the Achaians.
There is a cave, broad and deep down in the gloom of the water,
lying midway between Tenedos and Imbros of the high cliffs.
There Poseidon the shaker of the earth reined in his horses,
and slipped them from the yoke, and threw fodder immortal before them
so they could eat, and threw around their feet golden hobbles
not to be broken or slipped from, so they would wait there steadfast
for their lord gone. And Poseidon went to the ships of the Achaians.

Iliad XIII 20–38

The shining palace (κλυτὰ δώματα … μαρμαίροντα) of Poseidon and the repeated references to gold (δώματα … χρύσεα, χρυσέῃσιν ἐθείρῃσιν, χρυσόν, ἱμάσθλην χρυσείην, πέδας … χρυσείας) are not only “the simplest and most popular way of giving emphasis,” [
126] but when combined with the presentation of nature as the partner of the god, it becomes clear that they constitute an espace vécu, a “lived space” “whose elements, loci, dimensions, and directions are fraught with affective charges.” [127] Emphasis on movement is here combined with a massive, almost complete participation of nature in divine activity. [128] That said, it is no surprise that divine immortality is transferred to elements of Poseidon’s world (his palace and the fodder for his horses). This brief view of the underwater palace of the supreme sea god is, as usual, associated with his involvement in the plot, but it also suggests a particular form of spatial theography: depth is seen as simply a mirror of height, [129] the other side of a vertical path or continuum straddled by the gods, who can easily move from one end to the other.

Thetis’ underwater abode is presented in terms of her constant journeys to both Olympos and the shore next to the Achaean ships, and of a brief description of her cave in Iliad XVIII. Her journey from the depths of the sea either to Olympos or the shore of the Achaean camp [131] is always expressed in two phases: the opening of the waves (I 496 ἀνεδύσετο κῦμα θαλάσσης; XVIII 66–67 περὶ δέ σφισι κῦμα θαλάσσης / ῥήγνυτο; XXIV 96 λιάζετο κῦμα θαλάσσης) and her upward movement (I 497 ἀνέβη μέγαν οὐρανὸν Οὔλυμπόν τε; XVIII 68 ἀκτὴν εἰσανέβαινον; XXIV 97 ἀκτὴν δ’ εἰσαναβᾶσαι). The common denominator in all these is the emphasis on her ascending movement. This may seem trivial, but Thetis’ vertical itinerary has a symbolic as well as a thematic function. The representation of the world as a vertically organized hierarchy is, of course, an almost global feature of various religions and cultures, and as anthropologists have argued, it derives from the “fundamental human experience of the body’s erect position, from the difficulty experienced in elevating the body from the earth’s horizontal surface.” [132] This is certainly true, but next to the widespread diffusion of this belief stands its specific poetic acculturation, its distinct epic function. The ascending movement of Thetis, expressed by the verbs ἀναδύεσθαι and (εἰσ)αναβαίνειν, points to her main function in the poem. Thetis is preeminently a goddess who supplicates: she begs both Achilles not to make certain decisions that will lead to his death, and Zeus to give victory to the Trojans so that her son will be satisfied. In fact, by situating Thetis in a world that is neither Olympos nor the human world, the Iliad “can have the cake and eat it too”: her underwater realm keeps her apart both from the divine abode of the gods par excellence (Olympos) and from the world of mortal men to which her son belongs. Her upward movement symbolically points to the act of a suppliant, who kneels and begs a god to grant her wish. This time, depth is not, as with Poseidon, a mirror of the divine world above. It is a reconfigured sphere of divine activity, a highly thematized and symbolic area with a specifically female bent, the space of a “fallen” mother and an “upright” goddess. Sitting in a cave (XVIII 65 σπέος) next to her aged father in the depths of the sea (XVIII 36 ἡμένη ἐν βένθεσσιν ἁλὸς παρὰ πατρὶ γέροντι), surrounded by her sisters, she is ironically reminiscent of the standard picture of a woman still living in her father’s house. Thetis’ special status reconfigures the space of the sea and allows it to be symbolically decoded as a locus situated in the “geography of marginality.” The deliberate blurring of the boundaries between motherhood and abandonment of the family’s abode in Phthia suggests a reappraisal of Thetis’ underwater habitat, which is now seen as a gender-specific space, a place where her contrasting roles and functions as both goddess and the mother of a mortal son are fused. In addition, by exploring the depths of the sea as a special feminine space where the divine and human elements coalesce, the Iliad throws male claims to authority and territoriality into sharp relief.

Minor spaces

The Iliad avails itself of a number of locations used by the gods as observation posts. From these, immortals watch what is going on either on the plain of Troy or in the Achaean camp and decide to intervene and influence the action. The only exception to this pattern is the land of the Ethiopians (Iliad I 423), which falls outside this framework. The spatial function of this location, where the gods enjoy a marvelous feast (Iliad I 423) and the locals offer sacrifices to them, has both a thematic and a symbolic aspect. The Iliadic narrator uses the land of the Ethiopians, situated at the borders of the world as the early Greeks imagined it, for quite different effects. In I 423–427, it creates a pause and allows for the unraveling of another narrative thread, since the return of Khruseis to her father Khruses happens within the twelve-day period during which the gods stay with the Ethiopians. Moreover, it prolongs Achilles’ anger and makes Thetis’ visit to Olympos more dramatic. [134] Conversely, in XXIII 205–211, it is used to speed up the intervention of the Winds in favor of Achilles. Iris states that she cannot stay at the banquet held at Zephuros’ house, and that she will go to the other gods in the land of the Ethiopians, so that the Winds can act at once and make Patroklos’ funeral pyre finally burn. In its symbolic function, the land of the Ethiopians epitomizes the notion of a perfect community of gods and men, a place where both parties act in flawless harmony: men offer sacrifices to the gods and the immortals rejoice in them. Within this framework, the spatial aspect of distance (this land is situated at the borders of the world, and in any case far from the Trojan theater of action) intensifies even more the ironic contrast with Troy. It seems that the Iliad allows for a brief glimpse of an alternative world, one of serenity and harmony, where gods and men are presented in purely positive terms. Seen from this angle, the land of the Ethiopians constitutes a symbolic space that stands in contrast to the grimness of the Iliadic world.

Mount Ida and the highest peaks of a mountain in Samothrace form a visual pair that offers views of the human theater of operations from two different angles. Both mountains constitute thematic and symbolic spaces: their locations determine which gods use them as observation posts. [135] Zeus, who is a pro-Trojan god for most of the plot, goes to Ida to observe the city of Troy and the ships of the Achaeans. [136] Given that the location of Ida in the interior of the Troad, somewhere beyond Troy, turns it into a “friendly” space for the Trojans, the narrator is not coy about positioning Zeus in such a pro-Trojan space. Likewise Poseidon, who acts as a pro-Achaean god, is placed on the highest peaks of a mountain on the island of Samothrace (Iliad XIII 10–16), which lies rather close to the Achaean camp. [137] In the light of these passages, it becomes evident that distance is thematically spatialized: proximity means support. A second aspect of these landmarks concerns the way space is presented, namely the particular viewpoint adopted by the narrator. That said, and taking into account that the phraseology employed for these mountains does not differ from that used for Olympos, the viewpoint adopted in this spatial presentation becomes all the more crucial.

οὐδ’ ἀλαοσκοπιὴν εἶχε κρείων Ἐνοσίχθων·
καὶ γὰρ ὃ θαυμάζων ἧστο πτόλεμόν τε μάχην τε,
ὑψοῦ ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτης κορυφῆς Σάμου ὑληέσσης
Θρηϊκίης· ἔνθεν γὰρ ἐφαίνετο πᾶσα μὲν Ἴδη,
φαίνετο δὲ Πριάμοιο πόλις καὶ νῆες Ἀχαιῶν.
ἔνθ’ ἄρ’ ὅ γ’ ἐξ ἁλὸς ἕζετ’ ἰών, ἐλέαιρε δ’ Ἀχαιούς
Τρωσὶν δαμναμένους, Διὶ δὲ κρατερῶς ἐνεμέσσα.

Neither did the powerful shaker of the earth keep blind watch;
for he sat and admired the fighting and the run of the battle,
aloft on top of the highest summit of timbered Samos,
the Thracian place; and from there all Ida appeared before him,
and the city of Priam was plain to see, and the ships of the Achaians.
There he came up out of the water, and sat, and pitied the Achaians
who were beaten by the Trojans, and blamed Zeus for it in bitterness.

Iliad XIII 10–16

ἔγρετο δὲ Ζεύς
Ἴδης ἐν κορυφῇσι παρὰ χρυσοθρόνου Ἥρης.
στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ἀναΐξας, ἴδε δὲ Τρῶας καὶ Ἀχαιούς,
τοὺς μὲν ὀρινομένους, τοὺς δὲ κλονέοντας ὄπισθεν
Ἀργείους, μετὰ δέ σφι Ποσειδάωνα ἄνακτα·
Ἕκτορα δ’ ἐν πεδίῳ ἴδε κείμενον, ἀμφὶ δ’ ἑταῖροι
εἵαθ’· ὃ δ’ ἀργαλέῳ ἔχετ’ ἄσθματι, κῆρ ἀπινύσσων,
αἷμ’ ἐμέων, ἐπεὶ οὔ μιν ἀφαυρότατος βάλ’ Ἀχαιῶν.

But now Zeus wakened
by Hera of the gold throne on the high places of Ida,
and stood suddenly upright, and saw the Achaians and Trojans,
these driven to flight, the others harrying them in confusion,
these last Argives, and saw among them the lord Poseidon.
He saw Hektor lying in the plain, his companions sitting
around him, he dazed at the heart and breathing painfully,
vomiting blood, since not the weakest Achaian had hit him.

Iliad XV 4–11

In both passages, the gods adopt a panoramic, [138] actorial, and fixed standpoint. They assume a “bird’s-eye view,” as they are located in a fixed place and look upon the human world from above. The narratological terminology reveals that this is not the usual way a panoramic standpoint is presented in Homeric epic. The narrator normally adopts a nonactorial, panoramic view, that is, he does not identify himself with a particular figure, when he wants to offer descriptions of large groups of characters. [139] This departure from the usual practice has a special effect: by offering such a view of the human world at Troy, the narrator temporarily assumes the position of one of his characters who is endowed with special abilities, as he can raise himself high and take a global view of the world. By adopting a divine viewpoint, the omniscient and omnipresent narrator is able to mirror his ability to take a bird’s-eye view of a figure of the plot. In this way, the fighting and slaughter on the battlefield are not seen panoramically, by the narrator standing outside the plot, but from the point of view of the gods, that is, from within the plot. The gain from this shift is considerable: the gods, who become spectators of the human suffering, [140] react in various ways, yet their panoramic view is a metaliterary comment on the traditional dichotomy of viewer and viewed object. By turning plot characters (the gods) into external spectators and then again into characters, the Homeric narrator mirrors his own double stance toward his work: he can both see it from a distance and be immersed in it. [141]

At the same time, the Wall of Herakles and the Hill of Kallikolone both refer to the past. [145] The former was built by the Trojans and Athena in order to help Herakles escape from a sea beast “when the charging monster drove him away to the plain from the sea-shore” (Iliad XX 148), [146] and the latter was the hill where the Judgment of Paris took place. This archaeology of space evokes by means of specific locations two different phases of the Trojan past. Herakles had led an expedition to Troy in the distant past (V 638–642; XIV 250–262; XV 25–30; XX 144–148), [147] while the episode between Paris and the three goddesses stands at the very beginning of the Trojan War mythic saga. By using these signposts as time markers, the Iliad entwines space with time and creates two effective chronotopes. [148] What is important with respect to these two signposts is that their older use or significance “remains in the world but in a new form of being in time and space,” since it becomes the “other side” of the new form that has replaced it. [149] The Wall of Herakles and the Hill of Kallikolone bring the past of the Trojan landscape to the present of the Iliadic narrative. They are still visible, but their function has changed. The memory of the past invades specific locations, which the new mythical tradition of the Iliad reappropriates within the confines of its own plot. In this way, time colors space and imbues it with connotations that comment on the present state of things. Unlike Herakles, who tried to escape from a danger (a beast) coming from the sea by means of Trojan help (the wall), the Achaeans are trying to protect themselves from a threat (the Trojans) coming from the land. [150] As far as the hill of Kallikolone is concerned, [151] it symbolizes the beginning of the Trojan War myth, the Judgment of Paris which led to the abduction of Helen and the expedition of the Achaeans against Troy. By using the Wall of Herakles and the Hill of Kallikolone as symmetrically located observation points for the pro-Achaean and pro-Trojan gods respectively, the Iliad employs “the present only as a foil for the privileging of the permanent and absolute heroic past.” [152]


[ back ] 1. See Hellwig 1964:26.

On the positioning of the various Achaean kings within the camp, see Willcock 1984:225; Clay 2011:48–51. On left and right with respect to Iliadic topography and the placement of various heroes, see Cuillandre 1944; Mannsberger 2001; Trachsel 2007; Clay 2011:48n13.

[ back ] 3. On the interdependence between space and social theory, see Soja 1989.

[ back ] 4. Iliad I 306–307 Πηλείδης μὲν ἐπὶ κλισίας καὶ νῆας ἐΐσας / ἤϊε σύν τε Μενοιτιάδῃ καὶ οἷς ἑτάροισιν (“Peleus’ son went back to his balanced ships and his shelter / with Patroklos, Menoitios’ son, and his own companions”).

[ back ] 5. Iliad I 308–311 Ἀτρείδης δ’ ἄρα νῆα θοὴν ἅλαδε προέρυσσεν, / ἐν δ’ ἐρέτας ἔκρινεν ἐείκοσιν, ἐς δ’ ἑκατόμϐην / βῆσε θεῷ, ἀνὰ δὲ Χρυσηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον / εἷσεν ἄγων· ἐν δ’ ἀρχὸς ἔϐη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς (“But the son of Atreus drew a fast ship down to the water / and allotted into it twenty rowers and put on board it / the hecatomb for the god and Chryseis of the fair cheeks / leading her by the hand. And in charge went crafty Odysseus”).

[ back ] 6. Iliad I 320–326 ἀλλ’ ὅ γε Ταλθύϐιόν τε καὶ Εὐρυϐάτην προσέειπεν, / τώ οἱ ἔσαν κήρυκε καὶ ὀτρηρὼ θεράποντε· / “ἔρχεσθον κλισίην Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος· / χειρὸς ἑλόντ᾿ ἀγέμεν Βρισηΐδα καλλιπάρῃον. / εἰ δέ κε μὴ δώησιν, ἐγὼ δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἕλωμαι / ἐλθὼν σὺν πλεόνεσσι, τό οἱ καὶ ῥίγιον ἔσται.” / ὣς εἰπὼν προΐει, κρατερὸν δ’ ἐπὶ μῦθον ἔτελλεν (“… but to Talthybios he gave his orders and Eurybates / who were heralds and hard-working henchmen to him: ‘Go now / to the shelter of Peleus’ son Achilleus, to bring back / Briseis of the fair cheeks leading her by the hand. And if he / will not give her, I must come in person to take her / with many men behind me, and it will be the worse for him.’ / He spoke and sent them forth with this strong order upon them.”) and I 347 … τὼ δ’ αὖτις ἴτην παρὰ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν (“and they walked back beside the ships of the Achaians”).

[ back ] 7. On the elusive spatiality of power relations, see Soja 1989, who builds upon the work of Lefebvre 1974, Poulantzas 1978, Giddens 1981, and others.

[ back ] 8. Given that Briseis is a kind of “second Helen” within the plot of the Iliad, the embassy to Achilles in Book IX may, to some extent, have been patterned on an “archetypal” embassy to Troy by Odysseus and Menelaos to reclaim Helen; see Iliad III 205–224. On Briseis as a “second Helen,” see Suzuki 1989:21–29; Dué 2002:39–42.

[ back ] 9. One can even speak of a “spatiality of being” with respect to the way Agamemnon and Achilles, these two emblematic Iliadic heroes, construct and deconstruct their heroic identities. Achilles, for example, follows the typical process of “objectification,” objectifying the heroic community and setting himself apart from it. He does so “by creating a gap, a distance, a space,” as Soja 1989:132 has aptly described the tendency of humans to stand apart from the whole, after seeing the whole as something potentially “other” than themselves.

[ back ] 10. Soja 1989:2.

[ back ] 11. See also Stesichorus Iliou Persis fr. S88. 11 (PMGF), where the form διάσταν is used.

[ back ] 12. See Nagy 2009c II 7.73–74; Clay 2011:43.

[ back ] 13. See Minchin 2008a:20.

[ back ] 14. In Iliad XXIV, Thetis and Achilles meet at the latter’s hut (see 122–123).

[ back ] 15. See also Iliad XXIII 144 (Achilles addressing the river Sperkheios in Greece while looking at the sea in the Troad); Odyssey ii 260–266 (Telemakhos prays to Athena at the seashore before departing in search of his father). For ἐπ’ ἀπείρονα intead of ἐπὶ οἴνοπα (Iliad I 350), I am following Aristarchus; see the critical apparatus ad loc. in West’s edition.

[ back ] 16. On the interplay of silence and speech in Iliad I, with reference to the Agamemnon episode, see Montiglio 2000:56–59. On this topic, see also Kirk 1985:56–57.

[ back ] 17. Lesky 1947:185; Elliger 1975:67.

[ back ] 18. Elliger 1975:69.

[ back ] 19. See Elliger 1975:67–68.

[ back ] 20. The only place away from the ships that Achilles can be is the seashore, cf. Iliad XVIII 3 τὸν δ’ ηὗρε προπάροιθε νεῶν ὀρθοκραιράων.

[ back ] 21. Iliad XXIII 59–61 Πηλείδης δ’ ἐπὶ θινὶ πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης / κεῖτο βαρὺ στενάχων πολέσιν μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσιν / ἐν καθαρῷ, ὅθι κύματ’ ἐπ’ ἠϊόνος κλύζεσκον (“… but along the beach of the thunderous sea the son of Peleus / lay down, groaning heavily, among the Myrmidon numbers / in a clear place where the waves washed over the beach”); XXIII 143 ὀχθήσας δ’ ἄρα εἶπεν ἰδὼν ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον (“and gazing / in deep distress out over the wine-blue water, he spoke forth.”)

[ back ] 22. Iliad XXIV 3–4 αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεύς / κλαῖε φίλου ἑταίρου μεμνημένος (“only Achilleus / wept still as he remembered his beloved companion”); XXIV 12 δινεύεσκ’ ἀλύων παρὰ θῖν’ ἁλός (“and [would] pace turning / in distraction along the beach of the sea”).

[ back ] 23. The antiphonal laments for Patroklos by Briseis (Iliad XIX 287–300) and Achilles (XIX 315–337) are uttered in Achilles’ hut, cf. XIX 280 καὶ τὰ μὲν ἐν κλισίηισι θέσαν, κάθεσαν δὲ γυναῖκας (“and stowed the gifts in the shelters, and let the women be settled”). On these laments, see Pucci 1998:97–112; Tsagalis 2004:139–143, 148–151.

[ back ] 24. See Buggie 1974; Marschark and Hunt 1989; Hintzman 1993; Rubin 1995:54–56.

[ back ] 25. On the Achaean Wall, see Mannsperger 1998.

[ back ] 26. “τύμβον τ’ ἀμφὶ πυρὴν ἕνα χεύομεν ἐξαγαγόντες / ἄκριτον ἐκ πεδίου· ποτὶ δ’ αὐτὸν δείμομεν ὦκα / πύργους ὑψηλούς, εἶλαρ νηῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν. / ἐν δ’ αὐτοῖσι πύλας ποιήσομεν εὖ ἀραρυίας, / ὄφρα δι’ αὐτάων ἱππηλασίη ὁδὸς εἴη. / ἔκτοσθεν δὲ βαθεῖαν ὀρύξομεν ἐγγύθι τάφρον, / ἥ χ’ ἵππον καὶ λαὸν ἐρυκάκοι ἀμφὶς ἐοῦσα, / μή ποτ’ ἐπιβρίσῃ πόλεμος Τρώων ἀγερώχων.”

[ back ] 27. See Thornton 1984:362–365.

[ back ] 28. See Bakker 1997:60–61: “The epic story is like a hike, longer or shorter, along a trail that may be more readily visible or less at various places … Path and space are realities in terms of which the presentation of the epic tale is viewed by the performers and their audiences; the epic story involves not only a continuously shifting present moment, but also a given location, not only a now but also a here” (the emphasis is my own). See also Clay 2011:115–119, who shows how the semantics of οἴμη and οἶμος on the one hand and typical epic terminology for “telling the story” (ἐννέπω, insece) on the other reveal the spatial aspect of the very act of the performance. This does not mean that οἴμη and οἶμος should be derived simply from εἶμι. See Nagy 2009b 2.92–93; 2009c I 4.209, who argues on the basis of Attic φροίμιον and Old Icelandic seimr ‘thread’ that “the primary meaning of oimos and oimē can be reconstructed as ‘thread, threading’, and the meanings ‘song’ or ‘way, pathway’ can be explained as secondary: that is, ‘song’ and ‘way, pathway’ are metaphorical generalizations derived from the meaning ‘thread, threading’.”

[ back ] 29. See Bakker 1997:70: “The main concern of the Homeric narrator is movement, an activity that requires a continuous channeling and monitoring of the speech flow through time.”

[ back ] 30. Hellwig 1964:25–26.

[ back ] 31. Elliger 1975:62; Schadewaldt 1966:120n5.

[ back ] 32. See de Jong and Nünlist 2004a:70–71, who call this “a scenic standpoint, fixed on one character, actorial.” Nagy (2009c II 7.69–78), commenting on Achilles’ watching the fighting in Iliad XI 600, argues that “the narrative point of reference in the Iliad consistently follows the north-to-south perspective of the Achaeans.” See also Cuillandre 1944:41, 69, 96–100, who makes the same point.

[ back ] 33. On close-ups, see de Jong and Nünlist 2004a:72–73.

[ back ] 34. Janko 1992:152 on Iliad XIV 8 suggests that περιωπή may even be the stern of a ship, which is all the more significant since Achilles has seen Nestor’s chariot carrying the wounded Makhaon from his ship’s stern (Iliad XI 599–601).

[ back ] 35. Janko 1992:152 on XIV 8.

[ back ] 36. On space and sound, see Bal 1997:133–134.

[ back ] 37. Rivalry is a deep-seated feature of the heroic world, but within the highly competitive framework of the funeral games for Patroklos it becomes overt; verbal abuse is here tied, or rather subordinated, to the notion of spatial ordering. When heroes turn themselves into athletes, their military skills as well as the very means by which they conduct fighting are turned into means of social and political rivalry. The chariot race, boxing, wrestling, running, armed combat, weight-throwing, archery, and spear-throwing contests span the range of Iliadic fighting. Heroes in the Iliad often fight while driving their chariots; they throw rocks at each other (like Ajax and Hektor in their duel in Iliad VII), run after one other (Achilles chasing Hektor in Iliad XXII), and of course constantly engage in spear-throwing as well as in regular armed combat. Although warriors do not engage in boxing or wrestling, most of the athletic contests in the funeral games for Patroklos represent a metaphorical field of combat, which concerns only the Achaeans, but is marked by its profound analogy to the world of the battlefield. Of the various winners of the funeral games, four are first-rank Iliadic heroes (Diomedes in the chariot race, Odysseus in the foot race, Meriones in the archery, and Agamemnon in the spear-throwing, though he gets the first prize without a contest); two are lesser figures (Epeios in boxing and Eurualos in weight-throwing); finally two contests featuring first-line Achaean heroes (Ajax and Odysseus in wrestling, and Diomedes versus Ajax in armed combat) end in a draw. Notwithstanding the intertextual associations of the actual winners and protagonists of the various contests, the games repeat, enrich, and reconfigure certain overt and covert tensions between Iliadic heroes. See Lohmann 1992.

[ back ] 38. This must have been along the beach, where the woodcutters had placed their logs after returning from Ida. This was the spot Achilles had chosen for making a huge grave mound for Patroklos (Iliad XXIII 125–126). According to West, the ambiguity of αὐτοῦ (258) “may result from using a verse originally composed for Ach.’s funeral, where Ag. might have ‘kept the army there’ for the games” (2011:400).

[ back ] 39. αὐτοῦ λαὸν ἔρυκε καὶ ἵζανεν εὐρὺν ἀγῶνα. / νηῶν δ’ ἔκφερε ἄεθλα …

[ back ] 40. Given that space in the Iliad is as free with its accuracy as it is with its visualization, it is not surprising that the games take place in a rather uncharted area. The use of the word χῶρος, deprived of any sort of modification but the orders of Achilles, is telling in itself, for it shows that we will be dealing not so much with a location but with space, i.e. a place with which people do something (to rephrase de Certeau’s famous expression “l’espace est un lieu pratiqué” [1980:208]). The place where the games are held is subordinated to the function of the games. This area becomes so closely associated with athletic events that it actually fades away. We are dealing here not with a system of specific points and locations but with a network of movable and moving features that are deployed in it. The games are a place in flux, an interactive universe of movement, shift, tensions, and conflicts.

[ back ] 41. See Whitman 1958:215, who emphasizes the return of Achilles to the world of heroes from which he has abstained for a large part of the epic. The person who refused to accept the gifts offered to him by Agamemnon in Iliad IX is now presented as a dispenser of prizes in enormous quantities. His epic life, as well as that of Agamemnon, who will receive the first award in spear-throwing from Achilles, though the contest never really takes place, is replayed. On the ritual form of the narrative of the funeral games for Patroklos in the Iliad and the fact that “even the Great Panhellenic Games were originally conceived as funeral games for heroes,” see Nagy 1979:117.

[ back ] 42. With respect to the *Memnonis, see Pestalozzi 1945:40; Schadewaldt 1965:155–202; W. Kullmann 1960:333–335, 350, 356; N. Richardson 1993:201–203. This is a neoanalytical argument based on the funeral games held in honor of Achilles in the post-Homeric Aethiopis by Arctinus of Miletus.

[ back ] 43. On the so-called *Nestoris, see Bölte 1934; Frame 2009:105–172.

[ back ] 44. Nagy (1990b:207–214) stresses the parallelism between Antilokhos and Patroklos by means of their overt connection in the chariot race of the funeral games (Iliad XXIII). The double meaning of σῆμα as ‘sign’ and ‘tomb’, which is employed in the context of Nestor’s advice to Antilokhos before the actual race and is presented as a set of two alternatives (either the tomb of a man who died long ago [line 331] or the turning point in a race of men who lived in the past [332]), has now become a τέρμα ‘turning point’ for Achilles in the present (333). Drawing on the analogy of the Panhellenic games, “where the turning points of chariot racecourses were conventionally identified with the tombs of heroes,” Nagy (1990b:210) shows that the σῆμα Nestor gives to Antilokhos concerning the σῆμα (i.e. the τέρμα of the chariot race) is a reminder of the κλέος of Patroklos in particular, whose very name means “he who has the κλέα of his ancestors” (Πάτροκλος).

[ back ] 45. Frame 2009:131–172. Frame argues that Nestor and Patroklos share certain mythical features with respect to the process of their becoming horsemen. Patroklos begins to be called Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ and Πατρόκλεες ἱπποκέλευθε ‘horseman Patroklos’ in Iliad XVI, when he takes the place of Achilles (a substitution reinforced by the fact that Patroklos wears Achilles’ armor). It is telling that in doing so he is carrying out Nestor’s advice, who in book XI advised him to seek Achilles’ help. Frame shows that just as Nestor becomes ἱππότα Νέστωρ when he replaces his twin brother Periklumenos, the foremost Pylian hero after whose death Pylos’ enemies have the upper hand, so Patroklos becomes a horseman when he is turned into a surrogate of Achilles, after failing to rouse him to battle (2009:125). But in contrast to Nestor, who survived the war against the Epeians and reached old age, Patroklos dies. Nestor’s presence in the funeral games for Patroklos, and moreover his being awarded a prize honoris causa though he does not take part in the chariot race, reflects not only the similarities he shares with Patroklos, but also the fact that he had been defeated in the funeral games in honor of Amarunkeus before becoming a horseman (Frame 2009:131).

[ back ] 46. Frame 2009:133.

[ back ] 47. Frame 2009:135.

[ back ] 48. Nestor tours the turning-post by mentally “leading” his son through the race, by visualizing Antilokhos driving his chariot past the turning-post. In this way, he creates a strong sense of “being there” and gives the turning-post a spatial turn, since it embodies his own concern for the victory and acquiring fame for his son. From the very beginning of this episode, then, the audience is invited to read the games as the space of a dynamic social and heroic topography.

[ back ] 49. Eumelos finishes the race dead last because his chariot crashes.

[ back ] 50. bT on Iliad XXIII 351; see N. Richardson 1993:213; West 2011:403 on Iliad XXIII 448.

[ back ] 51. On Nestor’s inability to take part in the games, see Iliad XXIII 621–623; on Idomeneus’ age, see XIII 361 (μεσαιπόλιος ‘greying’, cf. XIII 512–515), XXIII 476 (οὔτε νεώτατός ἐσσι [“you are not by so much the youngest”]). The same applies, though for reasons of overlordship, to Agamemnon, who wins the final event honoris causa; see West 2011:400 on Iliad XXIII 257–897.

[ back ] 52. See Iliad XXIII 305–350 (Nestor-Antilokhos) and XXIII 456–489 (Idomeneus-Locrian Ajax).

[ back ] 53. Ameis and Hentze (1906:68 on Iliad XXIII 450) explain the storyteller’s interest in Idomeneus as due to Meriones’ participation in the chariot race. Idomeneus, however, says nothing about his comrade.

The funeral games for Patroklos constitute a complex space where certain concerns endemic to the prize-fighting and agonistic nature of the heroic community converge with metaliterary considerations pertaining to archaic epic at large. The athletic contests for Patroklos represent in miniature form the entire range of heroic dynamics that permeate the Iliad. The power and tension revealed in the games is so intense that the Iliadic tradition takes pains to delineate a spatial framework within which these prized contests will take place. Notwithstanding the hefty rewards for those winning or excelling in each of the eight athletic contests, the funeral games are beleaguered by various unexpected practices and outcomes, resulting in glaring conflicts and verbal abuse, cut short by the intervention of a “cooperative” instead of a “competitive” Achilles, whose new persona contrasts with his attitude throughout the rest of the poem. The multiple grievances of the games are largely a result of the competitive spirit of most of the participants, who opt for self-assertion, not self-control. See Grethlein 2007.

[ back ] 55. West 2011:401 on Iliad XXIII 288–351.

[ back ] 56. Achilles is beyond competition; he is clearly the best, as he has immortal horses that were given to Peleus by Poseidon, and would easily have won the chariot race if he had wanted to (Iliad XXIII 274–286). Achilles’ exclusion from contests with multiple participants is almost endemic in epic tradition; see his exclusion from the catalogue of Helen’s suitors in Hesiod’s Catalogue of Women, fr. 204.87–92 (Merkelbach-West). His exclusion is accompanied by the motif of “he would have won easily, if he had been a contestant,” which is also employed in XXIII 274–278.

[ back ] 57. See West 2011:401 on Iliad XXIII 362–372.

[ back ] 58. … οὐδέ τι πολλὸν ἄνευθ’ ἔσαν, ἀλλὰ μάλ’ ἐγγύς. / αἰεὶ γὰρ δίφρου ἐπιβησομένοισιν ἐΐκτην, / πνοιῇ δ’ Εὐμήλοιο μετάφρενον εὐρέε τ’ ὤμω / θέρμετ· ἐπ’ αὐτῷ γὰρ κεφαλὰς καταθέντε πετέσθην (“… not far behind at all, but close on him, / for they seemed forever on the point of climbing his chariot / and the wind of them was hot on the back and on the broad shoulders / of Eumelos. They lowered their heads and flew close after him.”) Notice that the rhetorical figure of κατ’ ἄρσιν καὶ θέσιν ‘parallelism of negative and positive’, which expresses the same idea twice, negatively by rejecting its opposite and positively by stating what happens, intensifies the clarity of the visualization, since it creates a stronger mental picture.

[ back ] 59. See chapter 1 above.

Critics have emphasized how the Iliadic storyteller uses these potential conflicts to present an alternative picture of Achilles, who is transformed from the hero of μῆνις into a hero of arbitration and wisdom. Achilles restrains the inbuilt tendency of heroes toward strife, as with Antilokhos in the chariot race. It has been recently argued that the famous “smile” of Achilles in Iliad XXIII 555–557, at the very moment that Antilokhos behaves like a second Achilles, having been deprived of the second prize because of the action of a god (Athena being responsible for Diomedes’ victory), reflects a metaliterary, poetological gesture by the “poet of the Iliad,” who smiles at his own work of art (Rengakos 2006a:18 = 2007:101). The role of space in the process of Achilles’ transformation, as well as in the presentation of the rest of the Achaean leaders who participate in the games, is noteworthy. The various contests that make up the games, as is the case with modern prize-fighting, are overt or covert “nom de guerre aliases” (Heiskanen 2004:242). Space here takes the form of classification and order: ordinal numerals make κλέος, with respect not so much to the actual result, but more importantly to the awarding of prizes that symbolize the heroes’ recognition among their peers. Space becomes the means by which collective awareness and credit are measured and evaluated. In the end, they are subsumed under a narrative that bridges the power dynamics of the battlefield and the prizewinning ideology of the games, which both belong to the same chain of heroic ideological concerns and epitomize symmetrical underlying assumptions concerning the world of heroes.

[ back ] 61. On this technique, see Winkler 2007:53.

[ back ] 62. The visualization of these details creates the illusion of “being close” to the event taking place. The sweat running off the bodies of the two boxers can only be seen by someone standing next to the two contestants. Likewise for the determination of the particular part of the face (cheek) that receives Epeios’ punch.

[ back ] 63. Epeios and Eurualos are not first-rank Iliadic heroes. The former features only in the funeral games, and the latter, apart from the Catalogue of Ships (Iliad II 565–566), is mentioned in passing in VI 20. It is undoubtedly their rich intertextual background that must have influenced the narrator’s choice to use them in the boxing contest. Epeios, as the builder of the wooden horse (Odyssey viii 493; xi 523), was a key figure in the Little Iliad and probably the Iliou Persis, and Eurualos, son of the boxer Mekisteus who triumphed in the funeral games of Oedipus and one of the Epigonoi, featured in the Theban epic tradition.

[ back ] 64. See Iliad XXIII 685 τὼ δὲ ζωσαμένω βήτην ἐς μέσσον ἀγῶνα.

[ back ] 65. See Iliad In contrast to the boxing event, which ended with the collapse of only the defeated contestant, Eurualos, in the wrestling event there is no winner. On the neoanalytical arguments about echoes of the contest of arms featuring in the Aethiopis, see Pestalozzi 1945:51; W. Kullmann 1960:81, 335. Differently West (2011:407 on Iliad XXIII 708–709), who finds no indication of such a link.

[ back ] 66. See Garcia 2007:181.

[ back ] 67. See West 2011:408 on Iliad XXIII 757–797.

[ back ] 68. See Garcia 2007:177. See also Bakker 1993, who refers to the segmentation of Homeric speech into discrete units that are subsequently joined together into chains or sequences.

[ back ] 69. The full quotation in German is as follows: “Ich finde, Homer mallet nichts als fortschreitende Handlungen, und alle Körper, all einzelne Dinge mallet er nur durch ihren Antheil an diesen Handlungen, gemeiniglich nur mit einem Zuge” (Lessing 1893:117). The translation is my own.

[ back ] 70. 2007:179.

[ back ] 71. Iliad XXIII 818–821; the translation is adapted from Lattimore 1951, so as to show the way visual “cuts” are arranged.

[ back ] 75. The same point is also made by West 2011:409 on Iliad XXIII 836–838.

[ back ] 76. If ring composition had been used, then we would expect the order of throwing to be Epeios, Telamonian Ajax, Leonteus, Polupoites.

[ back ] 77. See Baddeley 1990:40–42, 156–158. On the use of this technique in epic catalogues, see Tsagalis 2009:165.

[ back ] 78. Teukros and Meriones are the only notable archers among the Achaeans (apart from Philoktetes, who is a member of the army but not present in Troy). On the connotational function of archery as a way of fighting, see H. Mackie 1996:49–55.

[ back ] 79. Such considerations have not attracted scholarly interest with respect to the abrupt syntax of Iliad XXIII 870–871; see both Leaf 1900–1902:533 and N. Richardson 1993:268 on this passage.

[ back ] 80. “… for we know how much you surpass all others, / by how much you are greatest for strength among the spear-throwers.”

[ back ] 81. See West 2011:410 on Iliad XXIII 884–897.

[ back ] 82. T his is W. Jordan’s suggestion, taken from West 2011:419 on Iliad XXIII 884.

[ back ] 83. I take the shield and the helmet as one prize, since they are clearly presented together (799).

[ back ] 84. Achilles awards the prize for the spear-throwing contest to Agamemnon without even allowing the contest to take place. This gesture of acknowledgement of Agamemnon’s status stands in contrast to the ἔρις of the two Achaean heroes at the beginning of the poem. The games, therefore, begin and end by highlighting a profound transformation of Achilles, who averts strife in the case of Antilokhos and “corrects” his improper behavior towards Agamemnon in Iliad I.

[ back ] 85. See Iliad I 320–347.

[ back ] 86. See Hellwig 1964:25.

[ back ] 87. Soja 1989:149.

[ back ] 88. Of the two sets of gates, the Skaian and the Dardanian, only the former are exploited as a thematized space forming part of the walls. The Dardanian Gates seem to be a sally port; see Scully 1990:41–68; Trachsel 2007:12–32; Clay 2011:38.

This aspect of Iliadic warfare may be a relatively “recent” development. According to Sale (1987:21–50), the fact that “there are few or no pre-Homeric formulae for ‘in Troy-city’ and none for ‘from Troy’” indicates that pre-Homeric poetry did not involve—at least not frequently—scenes taking place inside Troy. Sale carefully adds that this does not mean that scenes taking place inside Troy are overall less formulaic, but that they may have developed only in a “late” phase in the evolution and shaping of the Iliad, since there was no pressure to create such formulas due to the lack of relevant scenes. Though it is hard to decide about this issue, Sale’s observation accords well with the fact that the Trojan army does not fight from inside the city, i.e. from the walls, but in the plain. If the Theban tradition was the only well-known example of fighting from the walls of a besieged city, then the Iliadic tradition may have been the one that introduced the innovation of having the defender’s army exit the city and fight in the battlefield. This decision, as argued in part 1, has crucial dramatic implications for the epic’s plot.

[ back ] 90. The collective voice of the Trojan elders must be examined together with the silence of the two maidens, Aithre and Klumene, who accompany Helen. This is one of the very rare occasions when collective speech is voiced in Homeric epic, which usually employs τις-speech to express either common feelings (in narrative parts) or imaginary fears and anxieties of a figure of the plot (embedded in speeches). On τις-speeches, see J. Wilson 1979; de Jong 1987b. These figures not only form the internal audience of the conversation between Priam and Helen, but also represent the social dynamics of this scene: Priam is the head of the council and Helen is a member of the royal house (as the wife of Paris). At the same time, the presence of Aithre points to the older phase of the myth, when she was brought to Sparta as a slave by the Dioscuri in retaliation for the earlier abduction of Helen by Theseus (Aithre was Theseus’ mother). At a later stage, Aithre followed her lady, Helen, to Troy. On this topic, see Jenkyns 1999; on the absence of the Dioscuri from the Iliad, see Clader 1976:48–53; Austin 1994:48n35; and cf. Cypria (§§14–16 Kullmann = Severyns 106–109 = Allen 103.13–17). With respect to the authenticity of Iliad III 144, I side with W. Kullmann (2002:164–165). Differently West 1999:186–187 and Krieter-Spiro 2009:62, who argue that this verse is an Athenian interpolation.

[ back ] 91. On the “voice of νέμεσις” with respect to Helen’s varied language styles in Homer (with special reference to the τειχοσκοπία), see Ebbott 1999; Worman 2001; Tsagalis 2008b:112–134.

[ back ] 92. Bourdieu 1991:81–89.

[ back ] 93. On the concept and function of the “body” in Homer, see Vernant 1996:7–79.

[ back ] 94. See Bal 1997:133.

[ back ] 95. With respect to Helen’s body—as she is moving and being watched by the Trojan elders—the words of Massumi (2002:57) are especially appropriate: “an accumulation of relative perspectives and the passage between them, an additive space of utter receptivity retaining and combining past movements … [I]t is less a space in the empirical sense than a gap in space that is also a suspension of the normal unfolding of time.” The body of Helen thus has “a spatiotemporal order of its own,” as it epitomizes and thematizes past, present, and future.

Given that the viewers, Helen and Priam (and the elders), are figures of both the Iliadic plot and an epic tradition, their watching the Achaean leaders on the plain is transformed into a gaze at the epic tradition itself. The view soon becomes a recollection of the epic past, a temporal turn that is based on an equivalent spatial subversion: as the walls constitute a locus of memory (for Antenor of Troy, for Helen of her past in Greece), so Helen’s body introduces a jarring reconfiguration of the entire landscape. In Helen’s world, the elements of the setting (the walls, the plain of Troy, her palace in Sparta which she recalls) are not external entities in which she lives or has lived, but a nexus of interrelated concepts such as body, memory, and desire. By “rejecting” the selective memory of Trojan or Achaean interests developed around the key question of responsibility for the Trojan War, Helen sees Troy and Sparta not as lands but as spaces tied to her body’s personal history, the former being her body in the present, the latter her body in the past. In this way, she fosters a spatiotemporal malleability that makes her, in de Certeau’s terminology (I owe this reference to Rofel 1997:170), “poach” on the walls’ function as the epitome of division, bordering, limitation, and separation. See Brady 2002:152.

[ back ] 97. Worman 2002:102.

[ back ] 98. On Helen’s oscillation between viewed object and viewing audience, see Worman 2002:102.

[ back ] 99. See Minchin 2008b:20. The other two categories of nonverbal communication include haptics (touching) and proxemics (behavior in space). See Korte 1997:37–82; Mayo and Henley 1987:6–7; on body language, see also Argyle 1988.

[ back ] 100. On the use of nonverbal communication as a method for information recall, clear visualization, and vividness in various Homeric scenes, see Minchin 2008b.

[ back ] 101. Minchin (2008b:30, 38) argues that information offered by nonverbal communication can turn out to be richer than that given by speech. This is the kind of expressive economy that Homeric poetry is famous for.

[ back ] 102. See Lateiner 1995:281, who observes that “nonverbal messages override verbal messages in importance.”

[ back ] 103. See Schadewaldt 1965:214–217; Tsagalis 2008b:10–11.

[ back ] 104. See Schadewaldt 1965:214–217. On polarity as an epic “law” manifested by means of contrast and contraposition, see Schadewaldt 1965:369, 1966:133–134.

[ back ] 105. I owe this phrase to Brady 2002:70.

[ back ] 106. See Iliad III 184–189 “ἤδη καὶ Φρυγίην εἰσήλυθον ἀμπελόεσσαν, / ἔνθα ἴδον πλείστους Φρύγας ἀνέρας αἰολοπώλους, / λαοὺς Ὀτρῆος καὶ Μυγδόνος ἀντιθέοιο, / οἵ ῥα τότ’ ἐστρατόωντο παρ’ ὄχθας Σαγγαρίοιο· / καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼν ἐπίκουρος ἐὼν μετὰ τοῖσιν ἐλέγμην / ἤματι τῷ, ὅτε τ’ ἦλθον Ἀμαζόνες ἀντιάνειραι·” (“Once before this time I visited Phrygia of the vineyards. / There I looked on the Phrygian men with their swarming horses, / so many of them, the people of Otreus and godlike Mygdon, / whose camp was spread at that time along the banks of Sangarios: / and I myself, a helper in war, was marshalled among them / on that day when the Amazon women came, men’s equals”).

[ back ] 107. On the theatricality of the Iliad, see now Clay 2011.

[ back ] 108. Bal 1997:134.

[ back ] 109. Bal 1997:133.

[ back ] 110. On the use of pictureability as a vehicle evaluating hidden tensions or future dramatic developments, see Minchin 2008b.

[ back ] 111. The translation is mine. Lattimore translates νεκταρέου as “immortal.”

[ back ] 112. Iliad VI 294–295 ὃς κάλλιστος ἔην ποικίλμασιν ἠδὲ μέγιστος, / ἀστὴρ δ’ ὣς ἀπέλαμπεν (“that which was the loveliest in design and the largest, / and shone like a star”).

[ back ] 113. See Iliad VI 271–273, 289–295.

[ back ] 114. See Iliad XXIV 734–735 ἤ τις Ἀχαιῶν / ῥίψει χειρὸς ἑλὼν ἀπὸ πύργου, λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον (“or else some Achaian / will take you by hand and hurl you from the tower into horrible / death”); Iliou Persis (§97 Kullmann = 268 Severyns = Allen 108.8) Ὀδυσσέως Ἀστυάνακτα ἀνελόντος.

[ back ] 115. See Bal 1997:134.

[ back ] 116. On the function of the house as a special space where traditionally conceived female activity is placed and interpreted, see Wigley 1992.

[ back ] 117. Gods and goddesses who engage in fighting never kill anyone themselves (C. Armstrong 1969:30). This feature may be due to epic convention, but it abides quite effectively by the Iliadic Weltanschauung: divine involvement constitutes the backdrop against which human suffering and grief are measured.

[ back ] 118. Other than XXIII 71–74, there are hardly any descriptions of the underworld in the Iliad.

[ back ] 119. Olympos, like Helikon in Hesiod’s Theogony, points to a markedly different topography of time, but unlike the Hesiodic Helikon it has no metaliterary connotations. On topographies of time in the Theogony, see Purves 2002:16–71.

[ back ] 120. At the same time, one has to acknowledge that gods achieve Panhellenic status by ascending to Olympos; see Nagy 2009a:278.

[ back ] 121. On the symbolic function of space, see Bachelard 1957, Meyer 1975 [=1963], and Hoffmann 1978.

[ back ] 122. Purves 2006b:206.

[ back ] 123. See Purves 2006b:196. There are, though, a few exceptions: in Iliad XVI 431–461 and XXII 167–187 respectively, Zeus sees Sarpedon’s and Hektor’s imminent deaths from Olympos, but is unable to intervene and save them.

[ back ] 124. I owe this term to van Noppen 1996.

[ back ] 125. On the spatial aspect of these bipolar oppositions, see Bal 1997:216.

[ back ] 126. J. Kakridis 1949:121.

[ back ] 127. Van Noppen 1996:681.

[ back ] 128. See Vivante 1970:115–116; Elliger 1975:69–71.

[ back ] 129. Cf. Iliad XV 189–195, where the division of the world among Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades is presented.

[ back ] 130. This is the most complete πλοῦς type-scene in both Homeric epics, since Odysseus, the hero of the Odyssey and the sea journey par excellence, is imbued with the fullest list of maritime features even in the Iliad.

[ back ] 131. In Iliad I, XVIII, and XXIV.

[ back ] 132. Van Noppen 1996:682.

[ back ] 133. See Hellwig 1964:26. On gender and space, see Higgonet and Templeton 1994.

[ back ] 134. See Tsagalis 2008b:216–219.

[ back ] 135. See Trachsel 2007:104–105.

[ back ] 136. See Iliad VIII 47, XI 183, XIV 157, XIV 293, XV 5.

[ back ] 137. On the analogy between Zeus’ journey in Iliad VIII 41–46 and Poseidon’s in Iliad XIII 23–28, see Schadewaldt 1966:115n1; Reinhardt 1961:279; Kakridis 1980:81–88.

[ back ] 138. Panoramic standpoints are regularly used with temporal devices like a summary, or as a marker of a starting or end point; see de Jong and Nünlist 2004a:69.

[ back ] 139. de Jong and Nünlist 2004a:70.

[ back ] 140. See Griffin 1978:1–22; de Jong and Nünlist 2004a:70.

[ back ] 141. In this respect, the analogy with the shield of Achilles becomes all the more telling. On such metaliterary comments, see W. Kullmann 1956:84; de Jong 2009, 2011.

[ back ] 142. Iliad XX 151 ἑτέρωσε ‘to the other side’; 153 ἑκάτερθε ‘on either side’.

[ back ] 143. According to the scholia (bT on Iliad XX 53c), Demetrius of Scepsis (fr. 23.b1–7), and the Mythographus Homericus (P. Berol. inv. 13930 [P. Schub. 21], in van Rossum-Steenbeek 1998:299–300 [n. 54, lines 17–23]).

[ back ] 144. Trachsel 2007:105–108.

[ back ] 145. See Trachsel 2007:99–108.

[ back ] 146. According to Pseudo-Apollodorus Library 2.103–104, 134–136 and Diodorus Siculus Library 4.42, 49 (see Gunning 1924:750–754), Laomedon did not reward Poseidon for building (with Apollo) the walls of Troy, and the angry sea-god sent a monster against the city. Laomedon promised the gift of his divine horses to anyone who would help, but refused to give them to Herakles, who went to Troy to offer his support. As a result, Herakles sacked the city of Troy.

[ back ] 147. See Boardman 2002:36; Grethlein 2008:33n42.

[ back ] 148. See Bakhtin 1981; Riffaterre 1996.

[ back ] 149. See Bakhtin 1984:410.

[ back ] 150. Grethlein (2008:34n44) sees the reference to the fight between Herakles and the Sea Beast as an allusion to the subsequent fight between Achilles and the river Skamandros.

[ back ] 151. See Eustathius Commentary on Homer’s Iliad (1195, 43–44 = vol. 4, p. 365, l. 17 van der Valk), who calls Kallikolone βραχύτατός τις Ὄλυμπος “a kind of very small Olympos.”

[ back ] 152. Nagy 2001:78–79. See also Haubold 2005:95, who argues that “the Homeric bard sees in Herakles a potential challenge to the heroes.”