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

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1. Mērionēs

a. Mērionēs as opaōn

The word opaōn is found in the Iliad principally in the context of characterizing the relationship between Mērionēs and Idomeneus. Mērionēs is called the opaōn of Idomeneus four times:

τοῖσι, δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ᾽Ιδομενεὺς καὶ ὀπάων ᾽Ιδομενῆος
Μηριόνης, ἀτάλαντος Ἐνυαλίῳ ἀνδρειφόντῃ …
Η 165-66 = Θ263-64
σημαίνει φυλάκεσσι, καὶ ᾽Ιδομενῆος ὀπάων
Μηριόνης, τοῖσιν γὰρ ἐπετράπομέν γε μάλιστα.
Κ 58-59
τὸν δὲ μετ᾽ Ἰδομενεὺς καὶ ὀπάων Ἰδομενῆος
Μηριόνης, ἀτάλαντος Ἐνυαλίῳ ἀνδρειφόντῃ
Ρ 258-59

The element common to each case is that Mērionēs appears in connection with other Achaean heroes. In H 165-66, Mērionēs is listed in a catalogue of those who respond immediately to Nestor’s call for a renewed effort on the part of the Achaeans. The other warriors mentioned are Agamemnon, Diomedes, the two Aiantes, Idomeneus, Eurupolos, Thoas, and Odysseus (H 162-68). A similar catalogue appears at θ 263-64, where Agamemnon, Menelaos, the two Aiantes, Idomeneus, Eurupolos, and Teukros as well as Mērionēs are listed (θ 261-66). In K 58-59, Mērionēs is called opaōn immediately following a lengthy catalogue of the Achaean leaders. Nestοr is asked to incite the guards, and it is said that they will listen to him because his son and Mērionēs, the opaōn of Idomeneus, command them. The final instance, P 238, occurs after the death of Patroklos. Menelaos stirs up the Achaeans and certain ones rush forward; in addition to Mērionēs, Ajax the son of Oileus and Idomeneus are mentioned. When Mērionēs is designated the opaōn of Idomeneus in these catalogues, the noun marks a special relationship between the two men. It separates him from the general roster by noting that he has a distinctive connection to another member, namely, Idomeneus.

Mērionēs and Idomeneus are described with the collective epithet agoi andrōn (N 304). Neither this epithet nor any near synonyms like orkhamos andrōn occur elsewhere in the plural, so it is difficult to sense its force. In other uses of the plural of agos more exact determinants are found in place of andrōn: Trōōn agoi (M 61, P 335), Lukiōn agoi (M 346, M 359), and Krētōn agoi (Γ 231). In this last instance it is not clear that Krētōn agoi refers to Idomeneus and Mērionēs as a pair of leaders from Crete. Helen, standing on the battlements of Troy, identifies various Achaeans to Priam:

Ἰδομενεὺς δ᾽ ἑτέρωθεν ἐνὶ Κρήτεσσι θεὸς ὣς
ἕστηκ᾽, ἀμφί δὲ μιν Κρητῶν ἀγοὶ ἠγερέθονται.
Γ 230-31

Elsewhere Idomeneus alone is described as Krētōn agos (Δ 265, N 221, 259, 274, 311, Ψ 483, H. Apoll. 463, 525). [1] The collective epithet agoi andrōn occurs after the scene in which, as I will attempt to show below, Mērionēs has questioned his subservient role to Idomeneus. It thus serves to break down the singularity of Idomeneus as the leader of the Cretans, Krētōn agos, and to establish an equality between Idomeneus and Mērionēs, for this scene at least.

Idomeneus and Mērionēs often fight together in battle, and the following passage reflects their concerted efforts:

Ὣς ὅ γε κοιρανέων ἐπεπωλεῖτο στίχας ἀνδρῶν
ἦλθε δ᾽ ἐπὶ Κρήτεσσι κιὼν ἀνὰ οὐλαμὸν ἀνδρῶν
οἱ δ᾽ ἀμφ᾽ Ἰδομενῆα δαΐφρονα θωρήσσοντο.
Ἰδομενεὺς μὲν ἐνὶ πρόμαχοις, συῒ εἴκελος ἀλκήν
Μηριόνης δ᾽ ἄρα οἱ πυμάτας ὤτρυνε φάλαγγας.
Thus he, acting as the leader, went through the ranks of men. And he came to the Cretans, and reached a throng of men who were around Idomeneus. Idomeneus equal in spirit to a wild boar was in the front lines; and Mērionēs urged on the hindmost lines.
Δ 250-54

The diction sets up a parallelism and a complementary relation between Idomeneus and Mērionēs. Their positions in the beginnings of lines Δ 253 and Δ 254 mark the parallelism. The listener is struck first by “Idomeneus …” and then at the beginning of the successive hexameter by “Mērionēs …” The roles of the heroes in the passage complement each other:

Idomeneus is among the front lines, and Mērionēs among the rear. Together, they command the whole.
Stronger parallels in diction appear in Iliad Π, where Mērionēs and Idomeneus are both described as killing the Trojans. The accounts of the one to one combat each has with his victim fall in succession:

Μηριόνης δ Ἀχάμαντα κιχεὶς ποσὶ καρπαλίμοισι,
νύξ᾽ ἵππων ἐπιβησόμενον κατὰ δεξιὸv ὦμον.
ἤριπε δ᾽ έξ ὀχέων, κατὰ δ ᾽ὀφθαλμῶν κέχυτ᾽ ἀχλύς.
Ἰδομενεὺς δ᾽ Ἐρύμαντα κατὰ στόμα νηλέï χαλκῷ
νύξε …
Π 342-46

The two accounts contain parallel diction in several aspects. Both state the hero’s name first and the victim’s name second. Not only are the metrical shapes of the names of Mērionēs and Idomeneus and of Akamas and Erumas identical, but the entire hexameters in Π 342 and Π 345 are scanned alike. In both cases, before the name of the victim there is a δ’ which is metrically unnecessary, and the groups of names are followed by words beginning with the k sound. The main verb in both accounts is nukse and it is enjambed with the preceding verse. This abundance of parallelism re-enacts the close relation of Mērionēs and Idomeneus.

Idomeneus explicitly recognizes his closeness to Mērionēs by addressing him as philtath’ hetairōn ‘dearest of the companions’:

Μηριόνη, Μόλου υἱὲ πόδας ταχύ, φίλταθ’ ἑταίρων
Ν 249

Thus Mērionēs is the most philos of the hetairoi. If philos not only designates affection, but also refers to a network of associations, [2] in the phrase philtatos hetairōn we may find reference to the association of the hero with his therapōn. Akhilleus speaks similarly of Patroklos on two occasions: when lamenting him,

ἦ ῥά νύ μοί ποτε καὶ σύ, δυσάμμορε, φίλταθ᾽ ἑταίρων
Τ 315

and when he complains to his mother of the death of Patroklos,

μήτηρ, ὅττί ῥά οἱ πολὺ φίλτατος ὤλεθ᾽ ἑταῖρος.
Ρ 411

These are the only instances when philtatos hetairos or its vocative form, philtath’ hetairōn, is used by one mortal of another. They suggest that the term is reserved among mortals to describe the therapōn. Within the complex network of associations Idomeneus refers to Mērionēs, his opaōn, in the same words which Akhilleus uses to describe Patroklos, his therapōn. [3] We can now see the relation of Mērionēs and Idomeneus in the light of that of Patroklos and Akhilleus.

Mērionēs is called pepnumenos ‘of sound understanding’ twice in the Iliad, and this epithet hints at his affinity to Idomeneus:

τὸν δ᾽αὖ Μηριόνης πεπνυμένος ἀντίον ηὔδα
And in turn Mērionēs pepnumenos addressed him
N 254 = N 266

A person who is pepnumenos has, in the Homeric tradition, a certain status. In the Palace of the Phaiakians Odysseus is asked the following question:

ἦ τίς που καὶ ἑταῖρος ἀνὴρ κεχαρισμένα εἰδώς
ἐσθλός; ἐπεὶ οὐ μέν τι κασιγνήτοιο χερείων
γίγνεται ὅς κεν ἑταῖρος ἐὼν πεπνυμένα εἰδῇ
Or was it perhaps some companion (hetairos), a good man who knew pleasing things, since he, who being your companion (hetairos) knows pepnumena, is not at all lesser than your brother?
θ 584-86

One who knows pepnumena is presumably pepnumenos. This passage characterizes a pepnumenos hetairos as being as close to a man as his brother. [4] If we take this account and apply it to the relation of Idomeneus and Mērionēs, the epithet pepnumenos underlines the closeness of the two men. Mērionēs, because he is pepnumenos, is at least as dear to Idomeneus as his brother.

The distinct affinity of Mērionēs and Idomeneus receives reinforcement from their kinship relations. Diodorus of Sicily provides a genealogy of the Cretan royal family. Idomeneus and Mērionēs are both grandsons of King Minos, sons of his two sons Deukalion and Molos, respectively. Diodorus relates how the two cousins went to Troy with ninety ships to fight as allies with Agamemnon and how they returned to be honored as heroes among the Cretans (D. S. V 79). Their relation as cousins indicates a degree of equality between them, such as would allow them to be referred to collectively as agoi andrōn (N 304) and to be listed together in the Catalogue of Ships (B 649-50).
Kinship relations, a collective epithet, parallels in diction and designations for Mērionēs all point towards a special closeness existing between Mērionēs and Idomeneus. We might say that the two men appear at this stage to be especially close friends, with suggestions in that friendship of equality towards and identity with one another. We have yet to see the function of this relationship.

b. Mērionēs as ritual substitute

Opaōn is not the only word which characterizes Mērionēs in his relationship to Idomeneus. He is designated as the therapōn of Idomeneus five times in Iliad Ψ and once outside that book:

Μηριόνης δ᾽ ἄρα οἱ θεράπων ἐῢς ἀντεβόλησεν
Ν 246
ἂν δ᾽ ἄρα Μηριόνης θεράπων ἐῢς Ἰδομενῆος
Ψ 860 = Ψ 888
αὐτὰρ Μηριόνης θεράπων ἐῢς Ἰδομενῆος
Ψ 528
Μηριόνης θεράπων ἀγαπήνορος Ἰδομενῆος
Ψ 113 = Ψ 124

The word, therapōn, has been shown by Van Brock to mean a ritual substitute. She connects therapōn with Hittite tarpassa-/tarpan (alli) – ‘ritual substitute’. [5] In the Iliad, Patroklos is the most prominent therapōn; his inherent function as a ritual substitute is played out by his death in place of Akhilleus. [6] The word, therapōn, recalled the relationship of Akhilleus and Patroklos for the Homeric audience. Does this same type of relationship exist between Idomeneus and his therapōn, Mērionēs?

It is necessary to begin by asking what difference exists between the two words, opaōn and therapōn. Why is Mērionēs called the opaōn of Idomeneus at some points and his therapōn at others? We assume here that, in the course of the Iliad, the essential relationship of Mērionēs to Idomeneus does not change. Thus we need to identify the controls that influence the choice of which designation to use.
This issue is critical for an understanding of the relationship of Mērionēs and Idomeneus. Clues may be found in the collocation in Iliad Ψ of instances when Mērionēs is called therapōn. Iliad Ψ relates the ritual mourning for Patroklos through laments, the funeral pyre and the funeral games. The death of Patroklos and Akhilleus’ loss of his therapōn are affirmed to such an extent that the term therapōn may be applied to another person. Or, to put it another way, the fact that Patroklos is the therapōn of Akhilleus is so important to an Iliad which focuses on Akhilleus, [7] that until his function as a ritual substitute has been realized by his death, the word is not generally employed to characterize other relationships. (We shall consider the cases when Mērionēs is called therapōn outside Iliad Ψ in the following analysis of his behavior in Iliad N.)
It could be thought unimportant that Mērionēs is called the therapōn of Idomeneus, since mention is made of Idomeneus’ having more than one therapōn:

τὸν μὲν ἄρ᾽ Ἰδομενῆος έσύλευον θεράποντες
Ε 48

Is Mērionēs included among the therapontes? This line is framed by the account of two slayings:

(1) Ἰδομενεὺς δ᾽ ἄρα Φαῖστον ἐνήρατο Μῄονος υἱὸν
Βώρου, ὃς ἐκ Τάρνης ἐριβώλακος εἰληλούθει.
Ε 43-44
(2) Μηριόνης δὲ Φέρεκλον ἐνήρατο, τέκτονος υἱὸν
‘Αρμονίδεω, ὃς χερσὶν ἐπίστατο δαίδαλα πάντα
τεύχειν· ἔξοχα γάρ μιν ἐφίλατο Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη.
Ε 59-61

These two accounts have a parallel structure since both begin with the name (Idomeneus or Mērionēs) followed by the name of the victim. The same verb is used, enērato, and there is further identification of the victim as the son (huion) of someone. Combined with the juxtaposition of the two accounts, this parallelism suggests either that Mērionēs is on a par with Idomeneus or that there is some special relationship between the two men. Mērionēs is separated from the body of the therapontes mentioned in E 48. Apparently there is a contrast in diction between the semantics of the singular and plural forms of therapōn.

It is useful at this point to introduce the categories marked and unmarked, which Jakobson defines as follows:

The general meaning of a marked category states the presence of a certain (positive or negative) property A; the general meaning of the corresponding unmarked category states nothing about the presence of A, and is used chiefly but not exclusively to indicate the absence of A. [8]

The singular may be considered a marked form in relation to the plural because it particularizes some one thing out of the general. In this case the singular therapōn is marked and the plural therapontes unmarked. The singular is marked not only by its singularity but also because it preserves the archaic meaning. It can be said to retain the sense ‘ritual substitute’ while the plural does not, except perhaps in the context of therapontes Arēos. [9] In the singular the idea of a special affinity between the therapōn and the hero remains, but in the plural the term may denote simply ‘comrades, companions’. Mērionēs as therapōn is marked off even in the diction from the body of the therapontes. In his case is the archaic sense of ‘ritual substitute’ retained? Does Mērionēs ever act in this way for Idomeneus?

I propose as a hypothesis to be tested that Mērionēs is in potential a ritual substitute for Idomeneus, but because of other features he does not die and his relationship with Idomeneus is realized in another way. We may test this by examining this passage:

αὐτὰρ ὁ Μηριόναο ὀπάονά θ᾽ ἡνίοχόν τε,
Κοίρανον …
Ρ 610-11

Because in the Iliad Mērionēs is called the opaōn of Idomeneus four times, we might expect that whenever Mērionēs and opaōn are juxtaposed, opaōn refers to Mērionēs. This case contradicts this simplistic assumption. In this context, Hektor tries to kill Idomeneus, but instead hits Koiranos, the charioteer, who is, it appears, the opaōn of Mērionēs. The charioteer dies instead of Idomeneus; Koiranos is, in this way, the ritual substitute, therapōn, for Idomeneus. But Mērionēs is the warrior who has a special connection to Idomeneus whereas Koiranos is not. We expect, in this scene where Idomeneus’ life is threatened, Mērionēs to act as the ritual substitute. Instead we see a chain of substitutions: Mērionēs should die instead of Idomeneus, but in Mērionēs’ stead Koiranos dies.

What light does this passage throw on the meaning of opaōn? Let us examine the meter and diction. We are struck at once by the unusual feature of a genitive in –āo before a vowel. This type of genitive (as opposed to the type in –) occurs almost exclusively before consonants or in line-final position. Before a vowel, as before opaona, we expect the –āo genitive to undergo quantitative metathesis to become –: *Μηριόνεω. [10] It appears that Homeric diction has difficulty in handling a case where Mērionēs must have an opaōn.
Although P 610

αὐτὰρ ὁ Μηριόναο ὀπάονά θ᾽ ἡνίοχόν τε

is metrically aberrant, its component parts occur in these positions elsewhere. Mērionao falls in this place in the hexameter in N 164 and Ψ 877, but in both cases is followed by a consonant, and the –āo genitive is not problematic. Of the ten accusative singular instances of hēniokhos, only the one in P 610 begins in the fifth foot. When all forms of hēniokhos are considered, it appears that seven of those thirty instances begin in the fifth foot. The statistics are as follows:

 1    2             5 times
 2    3            11 times
 4    5  ()      7 times
 5    6             2 times (P 610, Ψ 132)
 5    6           5 times
In the two Homeric epics and the Hymns there are seven occurrences of opaōn or opaona. Excepting the irregularity of P 610, opaōn or opaona follows the feminine caesura five times.

ἀντίθεον Φοίνικα, ὀπάονα πατρὸς ἑοῖο
Ψ 360
τοῖσι δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ Ἰδομενεὺς, καὶ ὀπάων Ἰδομενῆος
Θ 263 = Η 165
τὸν δὲ μετ᾽ Ἰδομενεὺς, καὶ ὁπάων Ἰδομενῆος
Ρ 258
ἐκ τοῦ οἱ πρόπολος καὶ ὀπάων ἔπλετ᾽ ἄνασσα
Η. Cer. 440

The position of opaona in P 610 as 3  4   is therefore predictable, and in P 610 opaona occurs regularly. The diction in P 610 reflects permitted positions for the component parts.

Do traditional semantics allow for the notion of the charioteer being a ritual substitute as we have shown traditional diction does? We recall that in Homer the concept of the ritual substitute is expressed by the word therapōn. [11] In the Iliad there are a few passages in which one person is called both a hēniokhos (charioteer) and a therapōn.

And Antilokhos struck Mudōn, the charioteer-therapōn (hēniokhos therapōn), noble son of Atumnios as he wheeled the single-hoofed horses around in flight …
E 580-81

Menelaos has just killed Pulaimenes, for whom Mudōn is a therapōn; now it is Antilokhus’ turn for battle. The double specification appears again in the description of Asios’ therapōn.

But Asios, the son of Hurtakos, the leader of men, did not wish to leave behind his horse and his charioteer-therapōn (hēniokhos therapōn).
M 110-11
And Asios, as a protector to him, went on foot in front of the horses. And the charioteer-therapōn (hēniokhos therapōn) held the two horses which breathed down continually on his shoulders.
N 384-86

Asios’ charioteer seems to have some special relation to Asios since Asios does not want to leave him and the horses behind (M 110-11). Perhaps this is because the charioteer is also his therapōn, and when the double specification, hēniokhos therapōn, is used, it denotes this special relation with the charioteer.

After the death of Patroklos, Akhilleus has two successive charioteers, Automedon and Alkimedon (P 475-83), who are called therapontes (Ω 573). Hektor, however, considers them kakoi charioteers (P 487), and they do not attain the stature of Patroklos. [12]
The final instance of the double specification involves Hektor and the loss of his therapōn.

And Nestor took the shining reins in his hands, and spurred the horses on. Quickly he came near Hektor. The son of Tudeos threw a spear at him [Hektor] as he pressed straight on; he failed to hit him, but he struck by the side of the breast the charioteer-therapōn (hēniokhos therapōn), the son of proud Thebaios, Eniopeus who held the reins of the horses, and his spirit and strength were loosed then. Grief for the spirit of his charioteer overwhelmed Hektor. And he then let him lie there, and although grieving for his comrade (hetairos), he drove in search of a brave charioteer (hēniokhos), and the horses did not lack a captain long, for swiftly he found bold Arkheptolemos, the son of Iphitos, whom he caused to mount the swift-footed chariot and in whose hands he put the reins.
Θ 116-29

This passage illuminates the distinction between the therapōn and the charioteer in the double specification, hēniokhos therapōn. Hektor’s first charioteer not only is called a therapōn, but also acts like one. He is the ritual substitute for Hektor, since Diomedes’ spear is intended to kill Hektor but kills the charioteer instead. After the death of the hēniokhos therapōn, a divergence in functions becomes apparent. Hektor mourns the death of his therapōn—the loss of a comrade—but immediately goes in search of and finds a new charioteer. The death of a therapōn brings grief (akhos), but the loss of a charioteer is a mere practical inconvenience that must be overcome. The new charioteer himself does not become a therapōn for Hektor.

In this light the preceding three cases can be understood; the double specification designates a figure who functions as a charioteer, and at the same time has the special therapōn-relationship with the hero. The semantic possibility of the double specification of a hero as both a charioteer and a ritual substitute is important in understanding P 610. Koiranos, as well as being the charioteer, may also function as the ritual substitute when it is necessary for him to die instead of Mērionēs. Thus there is flexibility in both traditional semantics and diction, which allows for the presence and articulation of what is an unusual idea for the Homeric audience. They might expect the person who has been designated the therapōn of Idomeneus to die for him. We may note, however, that the expression violated some principles of traditional diction, and that this violation suggests that an unusual chain of substitution is taking place.
To recapitulate: we began by noticing that opaōn describes a particular relationship—from a list of warriors, one man is so designated and this designation places him in a distinct connection with another man. Mērionēs, the opaōn of Idomeneus, is also described as Idomeneus’ therapōn, a word which designates a ritual substitute. But when Idomeneus’ life is threatened, Mērionēs does not die in place of Idomeneus. The charioteer, Koiranos, takes Mērionēs’ place as a ritual substitute, and both traditional diction and semantics allow for the expression of this chain of substitutions. We may say that, while opaōn does not contain inherently any notion of ritual substitute as it has been shown for therapōn, it describes, in the case of Mērionēs and Idomeneus, the same affinity as therapōn. If one warrior is the ritual substitute for another, the two must be so close as to be identical. Van Brock characterizes the ritual substitute as a person’s alter ego (un autre soi mēme). [13] This is the kind of relationship opaōn also characterizes. [14]
When a warrior dies for another hero, he realizes his role as a ritual substitute in one way, namely, that of death. The converse of death is life, and ritual substitution can be realized in life as well. To see this alternative, we may consider why Mērionēs does not die for Idomeneus. Why does Mērionēs have a substitute? Why does the story not permit him to die? We need to look at what happens to Mērionēs after this scene.
The major arena of action in which Mērionēs later appears is the Funeral Games for Patroklos. In Iliad Ψ, Nestor speaks of the Games as primarily the domain of the younger heroes.

Now the younger men are participating in turn in such deeds; for it is necessary for me to obey wretched old age, and then they are distinguished in their turn among heroes.
Ψ 643-45

The Games are a place for younger heroes to earn distinction and to become heroes in their own right [15] . To put it another way, here the men who are an opaōn or a therapōn to an older hero may realize their identity to that hero by assuming their full peers. Their characteristics are now no longer recessive, but dominant. [16]

Three warriors who belong to the younger generation of heroes and who participate in the Games are Mērionēs, Teukros, and Antilokhos. Mērionēs is, on various occasions outside of the Games, paired with each of the others. The pairing of Mērionēs and Teukros is significant, for example, for the result of the archery contest in the Games. In this contest, a dove is attached to a pole by means of a thin cord, leptēi mērīnthōi. The prizes consist of ten double-axes and ten single-axes. The double-axes go to whoever hits the dove, while if he only hits the cord, he gets the single-axes. As it turns out, Mērionēs and Teukros, the only competitors, both win prizes, since Teukros hits the cord attaching the dove to the pole and Mērionēs hits the dove as it takes flight.
Because the entire contest is such a joint effort—Teukros’ action is necessary so that Mērionēs may show his prowess—we might expect to see Mērionēs and Teukros together elsewhere in the Iliad. Principally, they occur in conjunction in catalogues of lesser or younger heroes. In N 91-93 Poseidon encourages them along with Lēitos, Peneleos, Deipyros, Thoas, and Antilokhos. Thoas, in 0 301-4, pushes the two Aiantes, Idomeneus, and Megēs, as well as Teukros and Mērionēs to fight on against Hektor. Teukros and Mērionēs rush forward along with Agamemnon and Menelaos, the two Aiantes, Idomeneus, Eurupulos and Euaimon, after the Trojans in Θ 261-66. Mērionēs and Teukros are neighbors as well in a catalogue of Achaean battle victories in Ξ 514-15. Idomeneus speaks to Mērionēs about Teukros and his skill at the bow by describing Teukros as the best of the Achaeans at archery:

ἄριστος Ἀχαιῶν
τοξοσύνῃ …
N 313-14

Mērionēs and Antilokhos, Nestor’s son, are also frequently paired in the Iliad. As was mentioned earlier they are said to command the guards (P 258-59), and they appear together in catalogues as in N 93 (= N 479):

Μηριόνην τε καὶ Ἀντίλοχον, μήστωρας ἀϋτῆς

Antilokhos, despite what his actual age may be calculated to be, belongs to the generation of “younger” heroes. In general, younger heroes are spoken of together.

The varied treatment of Mērionēs and Antilokhos in the Funeral Games is then interesting to explore, if we think of the Games as an environment in which younger men prove themselves. In the Games, Mērionēs wins two first prizes, both under special circumstances. He wins the ten double-axes in the archery contest for shooting the dove after it was released—he does the unexpected. After that Agamemnon and he come forward to compete in the spear throwing contest (Ψ 884-97). Akhilleus realizes that the two are entirely unmatched, and suggests the prize spear be given to Mērionēs and the cauldron to Agamemnon. In this way Mērionēs wins another prize.
Antilokhos comes away from the Games far less fortunate. Although he comes in second in the chariot races, he does so only by a trick. Because of the cunning there is an altercation between Antilokhos and Menelaos over the prize. Menelaos feels that Antilokhos has won the mare by unfair means. Antilokhos also competes in the foot races, but finishes last. The end result is that Antilokhos has not proved himself, whereas Mērionēs is now to be seen as an exceptional hero.
This disparate treatment can be understood, not in terms of the whims of Fortune, but in the light of what happens to each warrior after the Trojan War. [17] The death of Antilokhos is not related in the Iliad, but like that of Akhilleus, it is alluded to in the Odyssey.

μνήσατο γὰρ κατὰ θυμὸν ἀμύμονος Ἀντιλόχοιο
τόν ῥ Ἠοῦς ἔκτεινε φαεινῆς ἀγλαὸς υἱός.
δ 187-88

In both descriptions of the Underworld in the Odyssey the shade of Antilokhos appears with those of Akhilleus and Patroklos.

ἦλθε δ ᾽ἐπὶ ψυχὴ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
καὶ Πατροκλῆος καί ἀμύμονος Άντιλόχοιο
λ 467-68
Εὗρον δὲ ψυχὴν Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
καὶ Πατροκλῆος καὶ ἀμύμονος Ἀντιλόχοιο
ω 15-16

Although Antilokhos’ death at the hands of Memnon is not explicitly related in the Iliad, it must have been a part of the tradition, since it appears in the Odyssey, and is formulaically a part of the description of the Underworld. Thus the Iliad cannot presume any nostos ‘return’ for Antilokhos. It can, however, for Mērionēs.

According to the account of Diodorus of Sicily, after his return from Troy, Mērionēs arrived in Sicily and was greeted by a colony of Cretans who had settled there.

ὕστερον δὲ μετὰ τὴν τῆς Τροίας ἅλωσιν Μηριόνου τοῦ Κρητὸς προσενεχθέντος τῇ Σικελίᾳ, προσεδέξαντο τοὺς καταπλεύσαντας Κρῆτας διὰ τὴν συγγένειαν καὶ τῆς πολιτείας μετέδοσαν.
D. S. IV 79

Because Mērionēs has a nostos and Antilokhos does not, the two are treated differently in the Games. Up to that point, they could both be grouped into the general category of younger heroes. In the Games, the explicit divergence of their paths appears. Returning to the idea that the Games are a place for younger heroes to prove themselves, we may say that they prove themselves specifically for the purpose of acting as heroes afterwards. A hero who, like Antilokhos, will not return home and live his life out there, does not need to prove himself. This kind of assumption of power is a different matter from kleos, the immortal glory bestowed by epic poetry. [18] Both Mērionēs and Antilokhos win kleos from the Games, simply by the record of their actions in epic poetry, but since Mērionēs has a nostos he needs something more than kleos here. He needs to be a hero with dominant power.

For Mērionēs, who lives after the events of the Iliad, the purpose of being an opaōn to Idomeneus, the purpose of being so close to Idomeneus as to be almost Idomeneus himself, is so that later he is able to be a hero. As an opaōn to Idomeneus, Mērionēs is a kind of embryonic hero, who will grow up to be like Idomeneus.

c. Mērionēs in Iliad N

With this understanding of the affinity between Mērionēs and Idomeneus, we may now proceed to the most extended passage in which Mērionēs plays a major role. Mērionēs seems to go through a part of the maturation process here. In Iliad N we find this account of Mērionēs.

Μηριόνης δ’ αὐτοῖο τιτύσκετο δουρὶ φαεινῷ
καὶ βάλεν, ούδ’ άφάμαρτε, κατ’ ασπίδα πάντοσ’ ἐΐσην
ταυρείην· τῆς δ’ οὔτι διήλασεν, ἀλλὰ πολὺ πρὶν
ἐν καυλῷ ἐάγῃ δόλιχὸν δόρυ· Δηΐφοβος δὲ
ἀσπίδα ταυρείην σχέθ’ ἀπὸ ἕο, δεῖσε δὲ θυμῷ
ἔγχος Μηριόναο δαΐφρονος· αὐτὰρ, ὅ γ’ ἥρως
ἄψ ἑτάρων εἰς ἔθνος ἐχάζετο, χώσατο δ’ αἰνῶς
ἀμφότερον, νίκης τε καὶ ἔγχεος ὃ ξυνέαξε.
βῆ δ’ ἰέναι παρά τε κλισίας καὶ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν
οἰσόμενος δόρυ μακρόν, ὃ οἱ, κλισιφι λέλειπτο.
Mērionēs took aim with his shining spear, and struck him [Dēiphobos], and did not miss, on his well-balanced bull’s-hide shield; but he did not thrust it through at all, but the long spear broke long before on its shaft. Dēiphobos held the bull’s hide shield away from it, and feared in his heart the skilled sword of Mērionēs. But the hero withdrew into the body of his companions. He was dreadfully angry at both things—that he had shattered his victory and his spear. And he went to go along by the huts of the Achaeans to bring back the great spear which he had left in his hut.
N 159-68

Mērionēs, because of his anger over the loss of his victory, nikē, and his spear, withdraws from the battle. He goes back to the ships and huts just as Akhilleus does after his quarrel with Agamemnon. Roughly, both withdraw in a sulk after not getting what they want. This parallelism is emphasized in Poseidon’s words as he, disguised, meets Idomeneus.

Ἰδομενεῦ, μὴ κεῖνος ἀνὴρ ἔτι νοστήσειεν
ἐκ Τροίης, ἀλλ’ αὖθι κυνῶν μέλπηθρα γένοιτο,
ὅσ τις ἐπ’ ἤματι τῷδε ἑκὼν μεθίῃσι μάχεσθαι
Idomeneus, may that man never return (have a nostos) from Troy, but become here sport for dogs, whoever on this day willingly refrains from fighting.
N 232-34

This curse refers, in the framework of the entire to Akhilleus – – the hero who most obviously refrains from fighting. But in this place in Iliad N the relative hos tis ‘whoever’ has particular reference to Mērionēs, who has withdrawn from battle and refrained from finishing his fight with Deiphobos.

Immediately after Poseidon has spoken thus, Idomeneus encounter Mērionēs and questions him,

Μηριόνη, Μόλου υἱέ, πόδας ταχύ, φίλταθ’ ἑταίρων
τίπτ’ ἦλθες πόλεμόν τε λιπὼν καὶ δηϊοτῆτα;
Mērionēs, son of Molus, swift-footed, dearest of the companions, why ever do you go and leave the battle and the fighters?
N 249-50
Mērionēs’ answer is introduced by a verse which begins a system of dialogue markers between Mērionēs and Idomeneus. We may schematize the introductions thus:

A = τὸν δ’ αὖ Μηριόνης πεπνυμένος ἀντίον ηὔδα
Β = τὸν δ’ αὖτ’ Ἰδομενεύς, Κρητῶν ἄγος, ἀντίον ηὔδα
C = Ὥς φάτο, Μηριόνης δὲ θοῷ ἀτάλαντος Ἄρηϊ

Ν 254 = A
Ν 259 = Β
Ν 266 = A
Ν 274 = Β
Ν 295 = C
Ν 311 = Β
Ν 328 = C

We may note that the first introductory verse, A, contains pepnūmenos. This epithet suggests the relation of Mērionēs as therapōn / opaōn of Idomeneus, as was mentioned earlier. [19]

In the dialogue which takes place within these markers, Mērionēs explains to Idomeneus that he is going back to his hut to get a new spear (N 255-58). Idomeneus answers.

δούρατα δ’, αἴ κ’ ἐθέλῃσθα, καὶ ἑν και εἴκοσι δήεις
ἑστάοτ’ ἐν κλισίῃ πρὸς ἐνώπια παμφανόωντα,
Τρώϊα, τὰ κταμένων ἀποίνυμαι· οὐ γὰρ ὀΐω
ἀνδρῶν δυσμενέων ἑκὰς ἱστάμενος πολεμίζειν.
τῶ μοι δούρατά τ’, ἔστι καὶ ἀσπίδες ὀμφαλόεσσι,
καὶ κόρυθες καὶ θώρηκες λαμπρὸν γανόωντες.
You will find, if you wish, both one spear and twenty set up in my hut against the glittering inner walls, Trojan spears, spears which I took away from those who were killed. For I do not believe in fighting while standing far away from strong men. Thus I have spears and shield furnished with a boss and helmets and breastplates gleaming in radiance. [20]
N 260-65

We might expect Mērionēs to take up Idomeneus’ offer and simply go and get a spear. He feels, however, that he must prove himself first.

καὶ τοι ἐμοὶ παρὰ τε κλισίῃ καὶ νηὶ μελαίνῃ
πολλ’, ἔναρα Τρώων· ἀλλ’ οὐ σχεδὸν ἐστιν ἑλέσθαι.
οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδ’ ἐμέ φημι λελασμένον ἔμμεναι ἀλκῆς
ἀλλὰ μετὰ πρώτοισι μάχην ἀνὰ κυδιάνειραν
ἵσταμαι, ὁππότε νεῖκος ὀρώρηται πολέμοιο.
ἄλλον πού τινα μᾶλλον Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων
λήθω μαρνάμενος, σὲ δὲ ἴδμεναι αὐτὸν ὀΐω.
And in my hut and dark ship too there is much Trojan armor. But it is not near to obtain. For I tell you that I am not at all forgetful of my might, but I stand among the first in the kudos-giving fight. I, fighting, escape the notice of some other of the bronze-grieved Achaeans, but I believe that you yourself know.
Ν 266-73

Yet Idomeneus does know the value of his opaōn and points out that Mērionēs does not need to vie with him.

οἶδ’ ἀρετὴν οἷός ἐσσι· τί σε χρὴ ταῦτα λέγεσθαι;
I know how you are in terms of aretē. Why do you need to say those things?
N 276
But it is evident to us why he has to say those things. Mērionēs is testing his might against that of Idomeneus. The might is measured in terms of possessions acquired from killing Trojans. There is a sense in which the ritual substitute is trying to become the hero for whom he is the substitute. Part of becoming the hero involves taking on the attributes of that person. What Mērionēs is saying in essence is that he is as worthy as Idomeneus in the same spheres as Idomeneus is, and thus he is capable of being the opaōn / therapōn. This equality is enacted in N 304, when Mērionēs and Idomeneus are collectively called agoi andrōn for the only time.
From this point on, there are two directions in which the relationship of hero and therapōn can go. We see both in the Iliad. The first involves the actualization of the relationship as in the case of Patroklos. The therapōn does die for the hero. The potential for ritual substitution is realized when Patroklos is killed instead of Akhilleus.
In the second possibility, the therapōn relationship receives actualization in life. Instead of providing a ritual substitute in death the relationship functions in another area because it provides a way for a younger or subordinate hero, the therapōn, to prove himself, to become a hero like the man for whom he is a therapōn. The connection between Mērionēs and Idomeneus works in this way. In the scene in Iliad N, Mērionēs is trying to prove himself in relation to Idomeneus, not only so that he can act as a ritual substitute in death, but also so that he may realize himself as a hero in his own right. This realization happens in the Funeral Games in Iliad Ψ.
Once this equality is established, Idomeneus and Mērionēs go back into battle together. They are likened to Ares and his son Phobos.

Thus he spoke, and Mērionēs, equal to swift Ares, quickly fetched his bronze spear from the hut, and went with Idomeneus, who was greatly busied about battle; and as Ares, the destroyer of men goes into battle and with him his/own (philos) son Phobos, strong and fearless, follows (hespeto) at the same time, who frightens even the stout- hearted warrior; the two come from Thrace to do battle with the Ephuroi, or with the great-hearted Phleguai, and they do not listen to either side, but grant (edokan) kudos to one side or the other, so did Mērionēs and Idomeneus, leaders of men (agoi andron) go into battle with helmets of gleaming bronze.
N 295-305

The entire simile reinforces the fixed epithets of Mērionēs: atalantos Enualiōi (B 651, H 166, Θ 264, P 259) or, as here, thōoi atalantos Arēi. The simile expands the epithet, and suggest the entire picture behind the epithet.

Thōoi atalantos Arei is an epithet of Mērionēs only this once, although it describes many other heroes (Hektor Θ 215, P 72; Patroklos Π 784; Automedon P 536; as a talantos Arēi, Megēs B 627, 0 302; Pulaimenes E 576; and as atalantoi Arēi, Aeneas and Idomeneus N 500). The other epithet, atalantos Enualiōi andreiphontēi, appears to be identical in meaning, although it differs functionally. It occurs only with Mērionēs and forms with Mērionēs a whole-line noun-epithet formulas:

Μηριόνης (τ’) ἀτάλαντος Ἐνυαλίῷ άνδρειφόντῃ
Β 651 = Η 166, Θ 264, Ρ 259

Chantraine points out that Enualios is probably a pre- Hellenic name for a war-god who was identified with Ares at some point. Enualios and Ares, however, were very likely two distinct divinities. The female form, Enūō, survives separately. [21] Thus diachronically the semantics of the two epithets differ, while synchronically the epithets function in the same manner.

It remains to explain why in this passage (N 295-305) Mērionēs is compared in the epithet to Ares and not to Enualios. Generally whenever Mērionēs is compared to a war god elsewhere, it is to Enualios. To do so here, however, would conflict with the simile in which Idomeneus and Mērionēs are likened to Ares and Phobos. The archaic distinction between Ares and Enualios comes to the surface; if there were no distinction, there would be no semantic restrictions on the use of atalantos Enualiōi andreiphontēi. Because there are these restrictions, Mērionēsis described as thōoi atalantos Arēi, a possibility which is available as its use with Mērionēs in N 328 and N 528 shows.
Atalantos Enualiōi andreiphontēi presents metrical problems internally. Chantraine suggests two possible scansions. Either Enualiōi and andreiphontēi are elided, [22] or the initial a of andreiphontēi must be short. [23] In either case some particular treatment is preserved in the epithet as a whole. This, together with the fact that andreiphontēi occurs only in this formula in Homer and Hesiod, and the possible pre-Hellenism of Enualios, suggests that the epithet is quite old. We may also note that Enualios occurs in Mycenean as E-nu-wa-ri-jo. [24]
The simile with Ares and Phobos describes the reentry of Idomeneus and Mērionēs into the battle after they have established the affinity essential to a therapōn relationship. The passage which closes this scene reflects Mērionēs’ movement in the scene towards becoming a hero in his own right. At the beginning of the narrative, which deals particularly with Mērionēs and Idomeneus, Mērionēs has withdrawn from battle after breaking his spear on Dēiphobos’ shield. We recall that scene when he meets Dēiphobos again.

Δηΐφοβος μὲν ἀπ’ Ἀσκαλάφου πήληκα φαεινὴν
ἥρπασε, Μηριόνης δὲ θοῷ ἀτάλαντος Ἄρηϊ
δουρὶ βραχίονα τύφεν ἐπάλμενος, ἐκ δ’ ἄρα χειρὸς
αὐλῶπις τρυφάλεια χαμαὶ βόμβησε πεσοῦσα.
Μηριόνης δ’ ἐξαῦτις ἐπάλμενος, αἰγυπιὸς ὥς,
ἐξέρυσε πρυμνοῖο βραχίονος ὄβριμον ἔγχος,
ἄψ δ’ ἑτάρων εἰς ἔθνος ἐχάζετο. τὸν δὲ Πολίτης
Dēiphobos seized from Askalaphos the shining helmet, but Mērionēs, equal to swift Ares, leaping forward struck him in the arm with his spear, and falling from his hand on the ground the helmet with eyeholes made a clanging sound. And Mērionēs leaping forward again, like a hawk, pulled out the heavy spear from the base of the arm, and he drew back into the throng of companions.
N 527-33

The last phrase quoted here is the same as that used when Mērionēs first fights with Dēiphobos:

ἂψ ἑτάρων εἰς ἔθνος ἐχάζετο, χώσατο δ’ αἰνῶς
Ν 165

Although what Mērionēs does at the end is the same in both cases, what precedes it differs radically. In N 159-65, Mērionēs breaks his spear, and does not wound Dēiphobos . In the latter passage, however, Mērionēs penetrates the armor, wounds Dēiphobos, and gets his spear back intact. Mērionēs can do something at the end of the interchange of Idomeneus that he could not do before it. Moreover, what he can do is specifically in the martial sphere of killing Trojans and taking their armor. This is the ground on which Mērionēs had boasted of his equality to Idomeneus.

In between his two encounters with Dēiphobos, Mērionēs is referred to as therapōn (not opaōn) twice.

Μηριόνης δ’ ἄρα οἱ θεράπων ἐὺς ἀντεβόλησεν
Ν 246
οἱδ ὡς Ἰδομενῆα ἴδον φλογὶ εἴκελον ἀλκὴν,
αὐτὸν καὶ θεράποντα, σὺν ἔντεσι δαιδαλέοισι
N 330-31

These are the only occasions outside Iliad Ψ when Mērionēs is called therapōn. We saw above how, in Iliad Ψ, therapōn becomes the general term for Mērionēs in connection to Idomeneus. Because Patroklos, the therapōn par excellence, has actualized his relation to Akhilleus by dying in place of Akhilleus, the word may now be used for another person in such a relationship. Mērionēs, because of his affinity to Idomeneus, seems the most likely candidate.

Mērionēs may have been thought of specifically as the therapōn of Idomeneus in traditions outside the Iliad. Lowenstam indeed suggests that there may have been a separate tradition concerning Mērionēs and Idomeneus. [25] According to his analysis of Odysseus’ false story told upon arriving in Ithaca, the Odyssey may be preserving in this Cretan story a separate story about Mērionēs. The majority of Iliad N may also preserve a tradition about the relation of Idomeneus and Mērionēs. In such a tradition, told separately from the story of the quarrel of Akhilleus and Agamemnon, the word therapōn would have been the general term to describe a type of relationship such as that between Idomeneus and Mērionēs. Therapōn would be the word most immediately available to designate Mērionēs vis-à-vis Idomeneus. It would not be specific towards Patroklos and Akhilleus. If we view the passage surrounding the two uses of therapōn in Iliad N as preserving this tradition about Mērionēs and Idomeneus, what may seem to be an anomaly within the whole Iliad, like these uses of therapōn, is actually a part of that tradition which is being preserved. [26]
The scene, nevertheless, does form a part of the Iliad, and functions in relation to the story of the quarrel between Akhilleus and Agamemnon. A necessary part of that story consists of the therapōn-relationship between Patroklos and Akhilleus. In this context the story in which Mērionēs is the opaōn and therapōn of Idomeneus provides a backdrop and an alternative realization of the potential ritual substitution. Although Mērionēs does not die for Idomeneus, and is in fact replaced when he could (P 610), he remains as much an opaōn and therapōn as Patroklos is. [27] Instead of dying, Mērionēs realizes his potential as a hero. It is no longer merely in his connection with Idomeneus that his actions have meaning.


[ back ] 1. Agamemnon and Menelaos, the two sons of Atreus, are treated similarly. As Linda L. Clader points out in “Helen: The Evolution from Divine to Heroic in Greek Epic Tradition”, Mnemosyne, Suppl. 42 (1976), p. 51 n. 30, Agamemnon and Menelaos are called Atreides, individually , 137 and 48 times respectively in the Iliad and the Odyssey, whereas they are referred to collectively as Atreidai only 17 times.
[ back ] 2. Nagy, 1979, p. 103 citing Benveniste, p. 288.
[ back ] 3. The only instance of a god calling a mortal as philtath’ hetairon is when Athena addresses Laertes: [ back ] ὦ Ἀρκεισιάδη, πάντων πολὺ φίλταθ᾽ ἑταίρων [ back ] ω 517 [ back ] We are reminded of the close connection between Athena and Laertes’ family; she is a kind of constant companion to them through their trials.
[ back ] 4. Gregory Nagy, “The Hesiodic Question”, unpublished paper, p. 49.
[ back ] 5. Van Brock, p. 118.
[ back ] 6. Lowenstam; and Nagy, 1979.
[ back ] 7. Nagy, 1979.
[ back ] 8. Roman Jakobson, Selected Writings II, Word and Language (The Hague: Mouton), p. 136.
[ back ] 9. Sinos, p. 34.
[ back ] 10. Pierre Chantraine. Grammaire homėrique, (Paris : Klincksieck, 1948-53) I, p. 80.
[ back ] 11. Van Brock; Lowenstam; and Nagy, 1979.
[ back ] 12. Sinos, pp. 30, 38 n. 6.
[ back ] 13. Van Brock, p. 119; Sinos, p. 35.
[ back ] 14. Phoinix is the only mortal besides Mērionēs to be designated opaōn in the Iliad. He is called the opaōn of Peleus, the father of Akhilleus.

ἀντίθεον Φοίνικα, ὀπάονα πατρὸς ἑοῖο
Ψ 360

This line occurs in the account of the chariot races in the Funeral Games. Akhilleus_stations Phoinix, thus described at the turning post, sēma. Here Phoinix assumes the role of an older hero who will be the fair judge of the actions. That Phoinix is designated as opaōn may explain his participation in the embassy to Akhilleus and why he remained with Akhilleus. If Phoinix and Peleus had the same affinity as Patroklos and Akhilleus, it is appropriate for Phoinix to be faithful to Akhilleus. Phoinix is identical to Peleus on the level where he is the ritual substitute for Peleus. He thus provides Akhilleus with the support and advice a father would give.

[ back ] 15. Nestor makes distinctions elsewhere between older and younger heroes. He defines the geras of each in this passage. “But thus I will remain among the horse- driving warriors and I will order them in counsel and words. For this is the geras of old man. And the younger men will throw spears, those who indeed were born younger than me, and who are persuaded by force” (Δ 322-25). When Nestor wakes him up, Diomedes complains that Nestor is an older man, and that he could tell a younger man to go away. Again there is this distinction between generations. “You are unwearying, old man. You never cease from hardship. Are there not now also the others, the Achaean’s sons younger than you, who would waken each of the kings and go in all directions? You are difficult to deal with, old man” (K 164- 67). geraie ‘old man’ at the beginning and end of this speech contrasted with neōteroi ‘younger men’. The generational contrast is present in the Iliad reinforces the idea that the Games are primary, for the younger heroes, distinct from the older ones.
[ back ] 16. Nagy, 1979, p. 292.
[ back ] 17. C. Whitman suggests in Homer and the Heroic Tradition (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958) p. 263 that “the panorama of the Games foreshadows the future in certain details …”
[ back ] 18. Gregory Nagy, Comparative Studies in Greek and Indie Meter (Cambridge, Mass.; Harvard University Press, p. 250.
[ back ] 19. Pepnumenos is defined to a certain extent by the Homeric tradition’s description of people who are pepnumenos.

ψεῦδος δ’ ούκ ἐρέει· μάλα γὰρ πεπνυμένος ἐστι
And he will not speak a falsehood, for he is very pepnumenos.
(γ 20: referring to Nestor = γ 328: referring to Menelaos)

According to this definition, to be pepnumenos is to speak truthfully.

[ back ] 20. We may wonder if the emphasis on radiance suggests that Idomeneus has kudos since Benveniste mentions, p.356, that “it seems to confer a kind of brilliance on those who are endowed with it.”
[ back ] 21. Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque: histoire des mots (Paris: Klincksieck, 1968-80), p. 352.
[ back ] 22. Chantraine, Grammaire I, p.84.
[ back ] 23. Chantraine, Grammaire I, p. 110.
[ back ] 24. Chantraine, Dictionnaire, p. 352. Note that in this passage Phobos follows, ehespato, Ares (N. 300) As will be shown in Chapter II, hepomai is related etymologically to opaon.
[ back ] 25. Lowenstam, p.138.
[ back ] 26. Lowenstam, p. 138, refers to this scene in Iliad N when discussing the false story Odysseus tells upon his return to Ithaca. He argues, pp. 134-38, that Odysseus was telling the story of Mērionēs, but a Mērionēs who refused to be the therapōn of Idomeneus. Odysseus claims to be a Cretan who left Crete because he murdered the son of Idomeneus. He committed the murder for two reasons: first, Idomeneus wished to deprive him of his wealth, and second, he would not be Idomeneus’ therapōn:

οὕνεκ’ ἄρ’ οὐχ ᾧ πατρὶ χαριζόμενος θεράπευον
δήμῳ ἐνὶ Τρώων, ἀλλ’ ἄλλων ἄρχον ἑταίρων.
ν 265-66

The mention of the therapōn of Idomeneus would remind the Homeric audience of Mērionēs even if he was not specifically mentioned. Lowenstam, p. 138, writes “In fact it is possible that the Odyssey is preserving a tradition regarding Mērionēs autonomous position which is presented in the Iliad without explanation.”

We find, in the Iliad, a connection between Odysseus and Mērionēs in which they assume an identity with one another, such that Odysseus could pretend later to be Mērionēs. Their connection is marked by the arming scene in Iliad K. Nestor has proposed that one of the Achaeans go among the Trojans to discover their battle plan. Diomedes agrees to go as long as someone accompanies him. Although many, including Mērionēs are eager he chooses Odysseus. In the arming scene which ensues, Mērionēs arms Odysseus. He gives Odysseus a bow, a quiver, a sword, and an elaborately described helmet.

And on the outside, skillfully arranged and standing close together in rows, there were the white teeth of a shining-toothed boar; pelt was fitted in the middle. This helmet Autolukos, breaking into the well-built house of Amunturos, the son of Ormenis, once stole from Eleon, and he gave it to Amphidamas the Kytherian to take to Skandeia. And Amphidamas gave it to Molos to be a gift of guest friendship, and he gave it to his child Mērionēs to wear; now it, being placed around, protected the head of Odysseus.
K 263-71

We must recall that Autolukos is Odysseus’ maternal grandfather (ω 344). That this passage refers to Odysseus’ grandfather is supported by the fact that the grandfather, a descendant of Hermes, is the arch-thief of the Homeric tradition. It is thus appropriate that he originally stole the helmet rather than receiving it as a gift. The helmet is passed through the family of the Cretans from the grandfather, Autolukos to the grandson, Odysseus. The possession of the helmet can be arranged by generations:

Ithaca   Crete
grandfather Autolukos (Amphidamas)
son   Molos
Grandson Odysseus Mērionēs

For the purpose of inheritance the Cretan family is the Ithacan family, and Odysseus can identify himself with Mērionēs.

Odysseus and Mērionēs are also associated in later accounts. Diodorus of Sicily describes the temple to the Mothers that the Cretans built in Sicily (IV 79). Plutarch in the Marcellus also mentions the temple, in which there are spears and bronze helmets bearing the names of Mērionēs and Odysseus (Marc. 20).
[ back ] 27. K. Kuiper in “De Idomeneo ac Merione”, Mnemosyne N.S. 47 (1919) p. 45 argues that because of the competition between Idomeneus and Mērionēs in Illiad N therapō n is an inappropriate term for Mērionēs. I do not think this is so, but that the competition is naturally a part of a therapōn relationship which leads to life.