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a. Mērionēs as opaōn
Μηριόνης, ἀτάλαντος Ἐνυαλίῳ ἀνδρειφόντῃ …
Μηριόνης, τοῖσιν γὰρ ἐπετράπομέν γε μάλιστα.
Μηριόνης, ἀτάλαντος Ἐνυαλίῳ ἀνδρειφόντῃ
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.
ἕστηκ᾽, ἀμφί δὲ μιν Κρητῶν ἀγοὶ ἠγερέθονται.
Elsewhere Idomeneus alone is described as Krētōn agos (Δ 265, N 221, 259, 274, 311, Ψ 483, H. Apoll. 463, 525).  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.
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.
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:
νύξ᾽ ἵππων ἐπιβησόμενον κατὰ δεξιὸv ὦμον.
ἤριπε δ᾽ έξ ὀχέων, κατὰ δ ᾽ὀφθαλμῶν κέχυτ᾽ ἀχλύς.
Ἰδομενεὺς δ᾽ Ἐρύμαντα κατὰ στόμα νηλέï χαλκῷ
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.
Thus Mērionēs is the most philos of the hetairoi. If philos not only designates affection, but also refers to a network of associations,  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,
and when he complains to his mother of the death of Patroklos,
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.  We can now see the relation of Mērionēs and Idomeneus in the light of that of Patroklos and Akhilleus.
And in turn Mērionēs pepnumenos addressed him
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:
ἐσθλός; ἐπεὶ οὐ μέν τι κασιγνήτοιο χερείων
γίγνεται ὅς κεν ἑταῖρος ἐὼν πεπνυμένα εἰδῇ
One who knows pepnumena is presumably pepnumenos. This passage characterizes a pepnumenos hetairos as being as close to a man as his brother.  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.
b. Mērionēs as ritual substitute
The word, therapōn, has been shown by Van Brock to mean a ritual substitute. She connects therapōn with Hittite tarpassa-/tarpan (alli) – ‘ritual substitute’.  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.  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?
Is Mērionēs included among the therapontes? This line is framed by the account of two slayings:
Βώρου, ὃς ἐκ Τάρνης ἐριβώλακος εἰληλούθει.
‘Αρμονίδεω, ὃς χερσὶν ἐπίστατο δαίδαλα πάντα
τεύχειν· ἔξοχα γάρ μιν ἐφίλατο Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη.
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.
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.  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?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Games are a place for younger heroes to earn distinction and to become heroes in their own right  . 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. 
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):
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.
τόν ῥ Ἠοῦς ἔκτεινε φαεινῆς ἀγλαὸς υἱός.
In both descriptions of the Underworld in the Odyssey the shade of Antilokhos appears with those of Akhilleus and Patroklos.
καὶ Πατροκλῆος καί ἀμύμονος Άντιλόχοιο
καὶ Πατροκλῆος καὶ ἀμύμονος Ἀντιλόχοιο
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.
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.  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.
c. Mērionēs in Iliad N
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, 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.
ἐκ Τροίης, ἀλλ’ αὖθι κυνῶν μέλπηθρα γένοιτο,
ὅσ τις ἐπ’ ἤματι τῷδε ἑκὼν μεθίῃσι μάχεσθαι
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.
τίπτ’ ἦλθες πόλεμόν τε λιπὼν καὶ δηϊοτῆτα;
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. 
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.
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.
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.
Yet Idomeneus does know the value of his opaōn and points out that Mērionēs does not need to vie with him.
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.
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.  Thus diachronically the semantics of the two epithets differ, while synchronically the epithets function in the same manner.
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
The last phrase quoted here is the same as that used when Mērionēs first fights with Dēiphobos:
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.
αὐτὸν καὶ θεράποντα, σὺν ἔντεσι δαιδαλέοισι
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.
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.
According to this definition, to be pepnumenos is to speak truthfully.
δήμῳ ἐνὶ Τρώων, ἀλλ’ ἄλλων ἄρχον ἑταίρων.
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 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:
For the purpose of inheritance the Cretan family is the Ithacan family, and Odysseus can identify himself with Mērionēs.