Bakker, Egbert J. 2005. Pointing at the Past: From Formula to Performance in Homeric Poetics. Hellenic Studies Series 12. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_BakkerE_Pointing_at_the_Past.2005.
Chapter 9. Mohammed and the Mountain
τὰς αἱματωποὺς καὶ δρακοντώδεις κόρας·
αὗται γὰρ αὗται πλησίον θρῴσκουσί μου.
The blood-eyed serpent daughters:
There they are, there they are jumping close to me.
Our anonymous author, however, does not say anything about Orestes seeing anything himself; for him it is the poet that is doing the seeing. Euripides, according to him, has actually seen the Erinyes himself, and so strong is his phantasia that he “has virtually forced the listeners/readers to become spectators.” The idea of “spectator” (the author uses the term θεάσασθαι “view,” “witness”) is remarkable, since this text is of course drama, and the primary recipients of the play are in fact spectators, not readers.
Deixis am Phantasma
Vividness in Homer and Beyond
βέβρυχεν μέγα κῦμα ποτὶ ῥόον, ἀμφὶ δέ τ᾿ ἄκραι
ἠϊόνες βοόωσιν ἐρευγομένης ἁλὸς ἔξω
huge waves are roaring against the current, and at either side the exposed
beaches are crying as the sea outside is bellowing.
According to this Scholiast, the listeners become spectators in the sense that they are involved in the race just as much as the real spectators, the Achaeans watching the event. Does this mean that the listener is drawn into the past by Homer’s phantasia, adopting the point of view of the original spectators? Or is the phantasia of the theatrical kind, so that the performer’s audience is like the spectators of the past? Does our received Homeric text offer us signs pointing in either of these directions?
Just as in the scholion on Iliad XXIII 362–372 there is the mentioning of spectators on the spot, but Plutarch adds to this that the historian succeeds in representing the emotions those onlookers had in watching the events. Indeed, the historian’s painting of the scenes of the past derives its very force and enargeia from the presence of those spectators, whose emotions in the past the audience in the present is compelled to adopt, due to the force of the historian’s description. Plutarch goes far beyond the notion of the writer’s phantasia in the composition of vivid scenes and the mere transmission of its “vividness” to the reader;  he has something to say about the very mechanism of the enargeia, which is located in the emotions, the pathē, of the past. And by way of these very emotions, it is clear that in Plutarch’s conception Thucydides and his readers leave their present and go out to the mountain, displacing their deictic center in their imagination, their phantasia, to the past.
Displaced and Imperfect Vision
This passage can perhaps be read as a historiographical mise en abîme, in which the historian’s problems in researching his material are symbolized in the incomplete and fragmented vision of the people on the shore.  But let us here focus on what it conveys implicitly through language, in particular its use of tense. We notice that the tense used in the extract is the imperfect, and this is not only typical for the rest of the description of this naval battle, but for many other passages in Thucydides as well.  As many manuals of grammar tell us, the imperfect is naturally the appropriate verbal form for action that is undecided and ongoing. But such a characterization does not capture what the imperfects do in this passage. In particular, it may be true that the two last verbs, διέφευγον and ἀπώλλυντο, designate ongoing, not yet accomplished escape and destruction; but it is much more pertinent to observe that these verbs denote subjective mental states rather than objective progression. The escape and the destruction do not take place in reality but in the mind of the watching Athenian soldiers.
ἀντεῖχεν· ὡς δὲ πλῆθος ἐν στενῷ νεῶν
ἤθροιστ᾿, ἀρωγὴ δ᾿ οὔτις ἀλλήλοις παρῆν,
αὐτοὶ δ᾿ ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἐμβολαῖς χαλκοστόμοις
παίοντ᾿, ἔθραυον πάντα κωπήρη στόλον,
Ἐλληνικαί τε νῆες οὐκ ἀφρασμόνως
κύκλῳ πέριξ ἔθεινον, ὑπτιοῦτο δὲ
σκάφη νεῶν, θάλασσα δ᾿ οὐκέτ᾿ ἦν ἰδεῖν
ναυαγίων πλήθουσα καὶ φόνου βροτῶν,
ἀκταὶ δὲ νεκρῶν χοιράδες τ᾿ ἐπλήθυον
φυγῇ δ᾿ ἀκόσμῳ πᾶσα ναῦς ἠρέσσετο
ὅσαιπερ ἦσαν βαρβάρου στρατεύματος·
τοὶ δ᾿ ὥστε θύννους ἤ τιν᾿ ἰχθύων βόλον
ἀγαῖσι κωπῶν θραύμασίν τ᾿ ἐρειπίων
ἔπαιον, ἐρράχιζον, οἰμωγὴ δ᾿ ὁμοῦ
κωκύμασιν κατεῖχε πελαγίαν ἅλα
resisted; but when the multitude of their vessels
was crowding together, and there was no assisting each other any more,
and they themselves by their own bronze-faced rammings
were battered, they broke all the equipment of their oars,
and the Greek triremes, not without some planned design,
in a circle struck them all around, and they were overturned,
the hulls of ships; nor was the sea visible anymore,
full as it was of wreckage and bloody human remains,
and the shores and rocks were full of corpses,
and in disorderly flight each ship was rowed away
of those that remained of the barbarian armada;
and the Greeks, just as tunas or some catch of fish
with fragments of broken oar and pieces of wreckage
they beat them and speared them, and wailings along with
cries of death rang out over the pelagic waters
Just as Thucydides’ narrative, this report does not provide details of individual events of the battle; a global picture is presented which is convincing as an eyewitness account precisely in its lack of specifics. Personal perception is the only thing the onlooker and eyewitness has as source for his memory, and in presenting his account, he has to go back in time to the moment of his vision. The imperfect’s past tense marking reflects the gap between seeing and a speaking that becomes an introverted seeing. The link with seeing, past and present, is explicitly mentioned in the following fragment:
λαβὼν γὰρ ἐλάτης οὐράνιον ἄκρον κλάδον
κατῆγεν ἦγεν ἦγεν ἐς μέλαν πέδον·
κυκλοῦτο δ᾿ ὥστε τόξον ἢ κυρτὸς τροχὸς
τόρνωι γραφόμενος περιφορὰν ἑλικοδρόμον·
ὣς κλῶν᾿ ὄρειον ὁ ξένος χεροῖν ἄγων
ἔκαμπτεν ἐς γῆν, ἔργματ᾿ οὐχὶ θνητὰ δρῶν.
Πενθέα δ᾿ ἱδρύσας ἐλατίνων ὄζων ἔπι
ὀρθὸν μεθίει διὰ χερῶν βλάστημ᾿ ἄνω
ἀτρέμα, φυλάσσων μὴ ἀναχαιτίσειέ νιν,
ὀρθὴ δ᾿ ἐς ὀρθὸν αἰθέρ᾿ ἐστηρίζετο
ἔχουσα νώτοις δεσπότην ἐφήμενον.
Taking the pine’s highest heavenly branch, he
led it down down down to the black soil:
it formed a circle as a bow or a round wheel
being drawn at the compass as it goes round its revolving course:
that’s how the Stranger leading the mountain twig with his hands
bent it to the earth, working deeds that are beyond mortals’.
He placed Pentheus on coniferous branches
And let the tree’s shaft make its way up through his hands,
Carefully, taking care it did not throw him off.
Straight up it stood now into the straight sky
Having my master sitting on its back.
The present form ὁρῶ in the first line is not a “historical present” if that would mean that it vividly represents the speaker’s seeing in the past. The present tense is real and the seeing takes place no less in the present. His memory of what he just saw is a detailed phantasia which matches the reality witnessed earlier. By adopting the speaker’s original vantage point, his interlocutors become spectators of the scene and displace themselves to this not-here and not-now.
And after the battle description the historian adds the evaluative remark that the Athenians experienced the same as “what they had done” (ἔδρασαν, 7.71.7) to the Lacedaemonians at Pylos. 
Speech in a Boundless Present
ἤϊε· τὸν δ᾿ ἄγε μοῖρα κακὴ θανάτοιο τέλοσδε,
σοὶ, Μενέλαε, δαμῆναι ἐν αἰνῇ δηϊοτῆτι.
οἱ δ᾿ ὅτε δὴ σχεδὸν ἦσαν ἐπ᾿ ἀλλήλοισιν ἰόντες,
Ἀτρεΐδης μὲν ἅμαρτε, παραὶ δέ οἱ ἐτράπετ᾿ ἔγχος,
Πείσανδρος δὲ σάκος Μενελάου κυδαλίμοιο
οὔτασεν, οὐδὲ διαπρὸ δυνήσατο χαλκὸν ἐλάσσαι·
ἔσχεθε γὰρ σάκος εὐρύ, κατεκλάσθη δ᾿ ἐνὶ καυλῷ
ἔγχος· ὁ δὲ φρεσὶν ᾗσι χάρη καὶ ἐέλπετο νίκην.
Ἀτρεΐδης δὲ ἐρυσσάμενος ξίφος ἀργυρόηλον
ἆλτ᾿ ἐπὶ Πεισάνδρῳ· ὁ δ᾿ ὑπ᾿ ἀσπίδος εἷλετο καλὴν
ἀξίνην εὔχαλκον, ἐλαΐνῳ ἀμφὶ πελέκκῳ,
μακρῷ ἐϋξέστῳ· ἅμα δ᾿ ἀλλήλων ἐφίκοντο.
ἤτοι ὁ μὲν κόρυθος φάλον ἤλασεν ἱπποδασείης
ἄκρον ὑπὸ λόφον αὐτόν, ὁ δὲ προσιόντα μέτωπον
ῥινὸς ὑπὲρ πυμάτης· λάκε δ᾿ ὀστέα, τὼ δέ οἱ ὄσσε
πὰρ ποσὶν αἱματόεντα χαμαὶ πέσον ἐν κονίῃσιν,
ἴδνωθη δὲ πεσών· ὁ δὲ λὰξ ἐν στήθεσι βαίνων
τεύχεα τ᾿ ἐξενάριξε καὶ εὐχόμενος ἔπος ηὔδα·
he went; an evil destiny led him to the fulfillment of his death,
to be subdued by you, Menelaos, in the terrible battle.
And they, when they were close, charging at each other,
Atreus’ son then missed, and it swerved off beside, the spear,
and as to Peisandros, the shield of renowned Menelaos
he hit, but he couldn’t drive the bronze all the way through,
for the broad shield held it, and it broke in its shaft,
the spear: and he in his spirit he rejoiced, and expected victory.
But Atreus’ son, drawing the sword with the silver nails
jumped at Peisandros, and he under his shield took a beautiful
all-bronze axe-handle, around a handle of olive wood,
large and well-polished; and simultaneously they struck each other.
He on his part struck the helmet’s hornet, horse-haired,
at the top, below the crest, but the other on the forehead as he charged,
over the base of the nose: and he bones cracked, and the eyes
fell bloody to the ground before his feet in the dust;
he doubled up in falling; and he, stepping with his heel on his chest,
he despoiled him of his armor and in triumph spoke the word:
ἀλλ᾿ ἕνεκ᾿ ἀρητῆρος ὃν ἠτίμησ᾿ Ἀγαμέμνων,
οὐδ᾿ ἀπέλυσε θύγατρα καὶ οὐκ ἀπεδέξατ᾿ ἄποινα,
τοὔνεκ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἄλγε᾿ ἔδωκεν ἑκηβόλος ἠδ᾿ ἔτι δώσει·
But on account of a priest, whom Agamemnon has dishonored:
Neither has he given back his daughter nor has he accepted the ransom.
Therefore he has given us grief, the far-shooter, and will continue to do so.
Apollo “has given grief” (ἄλγε᾿ ἔδωκεν) earlier, an action in the past that extends into the present, where it is interpreted and stated.  No metonymic eyewitness reporting on past events here, but interpretation, performance in the present. The aorist ἔδωκεν does not displace any point of view into the past; the event it denotes comes from the past into the present, and it spills into the future as well, if no action is undertaken now, as Calchas makes clear by linking the aorist with a future (ἠδ᾿ ἔτι δώσει). Again, the aorist as an assertion, a performance, is repeatable. A new utterance is not another reference to the same past event, but a sign that the past continues to feed the present.
ἠδ᾿ ἔτι καὶ λύσει· τοῦ γὰρ κράτος ἐστὶ μέγιστον.
and he will yet dismantle: for his power greatest.
Agamemnon does not report on any specific occasion on which Zeus was destroying particular cities, as would have been the case if he had used an imperfect. He speaks about Zeus’s timeless power. And yet the aorist, in expressing this timeless power, is not timeless. It is uttered in a precise, concrete context; and it will be uttered later on in a concrete context (Iliad IX 24–25). The aorist asserts, performs Zeus’s power now, and locates that present in the infinite series of presents in which it is appropriate for a human to assert Zeus’s power.
Eternal Dramatic Presence
Sing now to me, Muses, who dwell in Olympian houses