One Man Show: Poetics and Presence in the Iliad and Odyssey

  Kretler, Katherine. 2020. One Man Show: Poetics and Presence in the Iliad and Odyssey. Hellenic Studies Series 78. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Interlude 1. Ring Thinking: Phoenix in Iliad 23

A full account of the theatricality or performability of Phoenix’s speech involves features such as structure, image, and mythological background. This Interlude shows how these features carry forward from Book 9 to reappear in the narrative of Phoenix’s other major appearance in the poem, in the Funeral Games of Book 23. Somewhat as the second panel of his speech, the Litai parable, mapped the workings of that speech from within, the imagery, mythical allusions, and spatial relations of the Book 23 narrative resonate with his Book 9 speech. These resonant features from Book 23 do more than confirm and deepen some of our findings from the last chapter; they also implicate the character of Phoenix within a nexus of myth and image that appears outside the Homeric poems—especially in visual art. Thus this Interlude expands the mythological discussion outward from figures such as the halcyon to the mythological background of Phoenix himself. Phoenix, like Eris and other figures, has a certain kinesthetics or schēma that works in synergy with image and story. It could be that the performativity of Phoenix’s Book 9 speech brings into the realm of solo performance dynamics seen elsewhere in story and in art.

Aristotle maps out the movement of thought to action in the Metaphysics (Z 1032b 6–14) as follows:

γίγνεται δὲ τὸ ὑγιὲς νοήσαντος οὕτως· ἐπειδὴ τοδὶ ὑγίεια, ἀνάγκη εἰ ὑγιὲς ἔσται τοδὶ ὑπάρξαι, οἷον ὁμαλότητα, εἰ δὲ τοῦτο, θερμότητα· καὶ οὕτως ἀεὶ νοεῖ, ἕως ἂν ἀγάγῃ εἰς τοῦτο ὃ αὐτὸς δύναται ἔσχατον ποιεῖν. εἶτα ἤδη ἡ ἀπὸ τούτου κίνησις ποίησις καλεῖται, ἡ ἐπὶ τὸ ὑγιαίνειν. ὥστε συμβαίνει τρόπον τινὰ τὴν ὑγίειαν ἐξ ὑγιείας γίγνεσθαι καὶ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐξ οἰκίας, τῆς ἄνευ ὕλης τὴν ἔχουσαν ὕλην

And the healthy comes about from him thinking in this way: since such-and-such is health, it is necessary that, if there will be health, so-and-so must obtain, for instance homogeneity, and if this, heat: and so he keeps on thinking, until he brings (the thought process) to that which he himself has the power, in the end, to do (poiein). Then the movement away from this point is called poiēsis, poiēsis toward becoming healthy. So it follows in a certain way that health comes about from health, and a house from a house; out of that without matter, that which has matter.

Figure 5

In the Introduction, this passage was used to help imagine the opening of the Iliad, the bard’s movement from thought to action when bodying forth Chryses (in another speech, please note, protesting the abduction of a woman).

Aristotle’s process (see Figure 5) is a smooth cycle, but the Iliad uses a similar schema both for the Litai and for Phoenix’s speech as a whole to enact the entrance of a new, disturbing force. The Litai move from representation to action, being activated and “becoming themselves” via the disturbance of refusal and suddenly speaking vengeful prayers on their own behalf (see Figure 4). Phoenix thinks to calm Achilles’ thumos by using a canned story, but instead, via a central moment, provokes a force within that story to spring to life through himself.

Phoenix in Iliad 23: Another Ring

The ring structure itself may suggest a cosmology of eternal return, or it could suggest ending and renewal. We can but look to observe whether the concluding mood is hopeful or grim. The point is that the rhetorical form does not impose any particular mood for the ending. The general impression is that the ring is a literary form that is good for reflecting on, and for establishing a long view.

Mary Douglas, Thinking in Circles, p. 41

There is another “phoenix” present at the chariot race, and this one helps interpret the other. As the racers are coming down the home stretch, one horse emerges as the leader: the phoenix horse with the moonlike white sēma on its forehead:

ὃς τὸ μὲν ἄλλο τόσον φοῖνιξ ἦν, ἐν δὲ μετώπῳ
λευκὸν σῆμα τέτυκτο περίτροχον ἠΰτε μήνη.

who for the rest of him was phoenix, but on his forehead
was rendered a white sign (sēma), peritrochos [round; revolving] like the moon.

Iliad 23.454–455

The verbal root *nes– occurs also in noos, mind. Frame sees “return to light and life” and “mind” as deeply connected in a pattern repeated in the Iliad and Odyssey. The fruit of this connection is seen most clearly in the journey of Parmenides, which is both drawn (“escorted,” πέμπον) by horses and taking place in Parmenides’ mind. Nestor himself is strongly associated with νόος/νοέω throughout the Iliad, especially in the present passage. Given Nestor’s significance, and the chariot race’s associations with the sun, the phoenix-bird is quite at home in this passage.

Other details support a “return to light and life” interpretation of the race. Aside from the tomb itself, representing a “death” from which the heroes return (to Nes-tor), there is a repeated emphasis on it as the termata (309, 323, 333, 358). Nestor is said to have “told the peirata [limits] of each thing” to his son (350). The race is concerned with ends and limits.

So the chariot race in itself is infused with imagery of return to life and light, given its odd vocabulary, the speech of Nestor, the undercurrent of nostos stories. But Nestor, as we began to see, is not the only solar figure here.

Figure 6

Enough has been said to make plausible an association between Phoenix standing by the sēma, the phoenix horse with its moon sēma, [36] and the phoenix-bird. It is best not to limit the harmonic resonances, but here are some interpretive paths:

Connections with Phoenix’s speech in Book 9 present themselves. Even Phoenix’s remark at 9.445, “Not even if the god himself should promise / to smooth away my old age and set me back in blooming youth,” looks different. Griffin [
38] believes these lines to be the source of the lines in the Nostoi (fr. 6) where Medea (herself of solar descent) magically rejuvenates the elderly Aeson.

This solar emergence at the center on the level of theme corresponded, then, to the ring structure with its central figure, embedded like a Russian doll, and compressed into a narrow space. Theme and structure (poiēsis) effected a “burst of energy” in the speaker, Phoenix. This “burst of energy” is often seen in ring composition, most notably in Nestor’s chariot race speech, whose muted, cautious first half swerves inexplicably into unbridled optimism in the home stretch, pivoting on the description of the turning point (see Figure 7, next page).

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 9

Phoenix in Visual Art

Figure 10

Figure 11

Behind each figure a large palm seems as though it is growing from each head. Here too, moreover, the sacrifice of Trojans occupies a significant place in the tomb. The sacrifice is depicted along a wall leading up to the focal door of the entire tomb, opposite another wall depicting an important event from Etruscan history, portraying it as an event akin to the sacrifice of prisoners.

The larger, upper frieze depicts two sequences of events, both of which begin at the north wall and proceed south, ending at the garden doorway. The eastern sequence features the deeds of Herakles and Telamon. It proceeds from the rescue of Hesione through her restoration to her father Laomedon, Herakles killing Laomedon, the wedding of Hesione and Telamon presided over by Herakles, Herakles with a bow, and finally, Herakles investing the young Priam, brother of Hesione, with royal power. The western sequence depicts the events of Herakles’ death. Beginning from the north wall, Herakles fights Nessos; proceeding to the west wall Nessos gives Deianeira poison, Herakles on the pyre is assisted by Philoctetes, and finally, on the south wall, a very fragmentary image presumably [64] showed Herakles being escorted to Olympus. Thus whoever is sitting at the north end of the room is “embraced by the frieze of Hercules”—by these two sequences that culminate in the two scenes straddling the passage into the garden, scenes of mortals crossing into royal status, on the one side, and immortality, on the other: “two models of political-moral promotion supported by the current Stoic philosophy. The waterway that runs through the garden is placed along the axis of the South door of the oecus: the green and the water of the garden reward those who, having absorbed the moralistic lesson, pass from the darkness inside into the light outside.” [65] This passage from darkness into light is however quite literally undermined by the panel beneath. Most pointedly, the young Priam on the upper frieze on the south wall faces the corpse of Hektor being dragged on the lower frieze on the south wall, and is also in the neighborhood of his aged self ransoming his son’s body. The oecus has a tinge of the tragic sense that infused the François Tomb.

Figure 12

Figure 13

The long, narrow garden is bisected by a channel, ending just before the south limit of the property in a circular fountain and a couple of planters (?). One who strolls in this garden walks south, turns around, and comes north again, returning into the oecus. Such a person is not only reaping the rewards of whatever Stoic lesson is on offer in the upper frieze; he or she also reenacts the chariot race depicted on the lower frieze.

Conclusion: The Speech of Phoenix and Its Contexts

If the plots (poetics) of the Iliad and Odyssey are organized around the return from “death” of their respective heroes, there is a corresponding reanimation on the level of presence. We have seen one of the best examples of this in the script of Iliad 9, the speech of Phoenix, and we shall see further examples in the following chapters. The power of the script derives in part from themes and images, and especially the theme/gesture of cursing that culminates in the emergence of Kleopatra. This becoming, this ‘carnation’ of the character by the bard, belongs in the realm of the ‘reincarnation’ or rescue from death that goes on in noos/nostos. Epic acting takes its place within this reanimation.

In case all this seems too complex, perhaps that is only natural. It may be that to talk about Alkyone and Phoenix is to enter the realm of riddles. Above I mentioned that one of the only things known about the Wedding of Keux is that riddles were told. [71] And let us look again at the Euripides passage mentioned above, [72] sung by a chorus of captive Greek girls in the East, yearning to return west to Greece (cf. the nostoi of heroes in Book 23). Note the presence of Apollo and Artemis, and phoenix as palm; we return to this grouping in Chapter 4.

            ὄρνις ἃ παρὰ πετρίνας
1090    πόντου δειράδας ἀλκυὼν
            ἔλεγον οἶτον ἀείδεις,
            εὐξύνετον ξυνετοῖς βοάν,
            ὅτι πόσιν κελαδεῖς ἀεὶ μολπαῖς,
            ἐγώ σοι παραβάλλομαι
1095    θρήνους, ἄπτερος ὄρνις,
            ποθοῦσ’ Ἑλλάνων ἀγόρους,
            ποθοῦσ’ Ἄρτεμιν λοχίαν
            ἃ παρὰ Κύνθιον ὄχθον οἰ-
            κεῖ ποίνικά θ’ ἁβροκόμαν
1100    δάφναν τ´ εὐερνέα καὶ
            γλαυκᾶς θαλλὸν ἱερὸν ἐλαί-
            ας, Λατοῦς ὠδῖνι φίλον,
            λίμναν θ’ εἱλίσσουσαν ὕδωρ
            κύκλιον ἔνθα κύκνος μελωι-
1105    δὸς Μούσας θεραπεύει.

Bird, you who along the rocky
ridges of the sea, halcyon,
sing your doom as a lament,
a cry easily intelligible to the intelligent,
that you croon to your husband in song for all time,
I set beside you
laments, I a wingless bird,
longing for the gatherings of Hellenes,
longing for Artemis of childbirth
who has her home by the Kynthian hill
and the phoenix, lavish-leaved
and the laurel, sprouting
and the sacred shoot of grey olive,
dear to the child of Leto’s pangs,
and the lake, whirling its water
in circles, where the swan, singing,
serves the Muses.

Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris 1089–1105

Figure 14

One last piece of evidence ties Phoenix’s speech to a solar-lunar cycle that is also ring-compositional: the location of the speech in the poem, in the exact chronological center.

Figure 15

Phoenix’s speech is, as we saw, divided into three panels: the autobiography, the Litai, and the Meleager story. Within the Meleager story (not the central panel), there are three sections. In the central section, Meleager is embedded in the recesses of his house with Kleopatra. And within that central section, pointedly ensconced in the center of ring composition, was the story of Kleopatra’s mother Marpessa.

I. The War of the Kouretes and the Aetolians. 524–549
II. Meleager Retires from the Battle. 550–574
     A The Battle Rages. 550–552
          B Meleager’s Wrath. 553–555 χόλος
               C He Retires with Kleopatra. 556 κεῖτο
                    X  Kleopatra ’ s Mother.  557–564
               C′ He Retires with Kleopatra. 565 παρκατέλεκτο
          B′ Meleager’s Wrath. 565–572 χόλον
     A′ The Battle Rages. 573–574
III. Meleager Is Persuaded. 574–599. (Catalogue of suppliants.)

The next chapter uncovers an instance of emergence at the center at the geographical turning point rather than the chronological center of the poem. At the end of Book 15, the Trojans finally reach the Achaean wall and threaten to burn their ships, as is contemplated in the speeches in Book 9 and imagined in the fire raining down on Meleager’s chamber. The disaster imagined via the Meleager story is finally happening. While the plot features the reemergence of the Patroklos-Achilles pair (followed by the aristeia and death of Patroklos), this is coupled with the emergence of yet another dead hero and his wife. Once again, a performative (presence) uncanniness is built atop an uncanny thematic (poetics) foundation: this time not an act of cursing but a return from death.


[ back ] 1. He appears also at 14.136a (plus-line in Zenodotus; cf. page 114n17, above), 16.196 (leading one of the five Phthian contingents), 17.555, 561 (Athena disguised as Phoenix appearing to Menelaos), and 19.311 (list of basileis who stay to weep with Achilles).

[ back ] 2. Aristotle himself links arguments to or from the principles to races that proceed from the judges to the end, or the reverse: Nicomachean Ethics 1095a33–1095b2.

[ back ] 3. Kakridis 1949:65–83; Frame 2009:171n69, 216n117.

[ back ] 4. Lohmann 1970:15–18. (Only after Nestor’s speech is Phoenix stationed at the turning-post, so Lohmann does not discuss him.)

[ back ] 5. Nagy 1990a:202–222.

[ back ] 6. Nagy 1990a:215, citing Sinos 1980:53n6.

[ back ] 7. Pausanias 6.20.15–19; Nagy 1990a:215, 1990b:210.

[ back ] 8. Van den Broek 1971:51–66. Its pairing here with the white moon-sēma may recall the simile describing Menelaos’ wound at Iliad 4.141, the woman dying ivory with phoenix.

[ back ] 9. E.g. the famous Boston Hydria, Boston 63.473.

[ back ] 10. On the phoenix-bird, see Detienne 1977:29–36 and van den Broek 1971.

[ back ] 11. Richardson 1993:221 ad Iliad 23.458.

[ back ] 12. With this conjunction of sun and moon compare the forces at work near the end of the Odyssey (Austin 1975). Works and Days 478, the only other use of the verb in early epic, is sandwiched between mentions of spring and the winter solstice. Cf. Frame’s (1978:88) remark on Augeias: “The name Augeias is related to the noun augē, which in turn suggests the ‘radiance’ of the sun. It is clear that this figure was originally connected, or even identical, with the sun itself.” See also Frame 2009:49–50.

[ back ] 13. On which see Nagy 1990a:219.

[ back ] 14. The old men are, of course, currently being embodied by younger ones. On the choral associations of this passage see Martin 2007:51–54.

[ back ] 15. Notable too is the theme, shared between the Herakles chorus and the Book 23 chariot race, of youth versus age. While the Herakles chorus is lamenting their lost youth and celebrating the young Herakles, while wishing for a double youth for the virtuous, the Iliad’s race stages two contests of youth versus age on top of one another: Menelaos versus Antilokhos, in the race, and Idomeneus versus Ajax (who jeers that Idomeneus is not the youngest, and “your eyes do not see the sharpest out of your head,” 476–477), competing to catch sight of the winning team. This theme is of a piece with the theme of reanimation at the turning-point, or point of judgment.

[ back ] 16. In addition to the evidence that follows, Nagy (1990a:220) points out that σῆμα is a cognate of Skt. dhya-, which he links through Indic dhīyas to concepts of reincarnation, somewhat as Frame links νόος / IE *nes– to “return from light and life” (see below). Nagy suggests for the chariot race a connotation of reincarnation, even without bringing in the Phoenix at the center, standing by the σῆμα.

[ back ] 17. Frame 1978:21.

[ back ] 18. Frame 1978:87–95. After discussing (pp. 58–62) the “gates of day and night” in Parmenides and Hesiod and in the Telepylos episode (Odyssey 10.81–86), Frame discusses (pp. 92–93) Nestor’s home Pylos, noting that Herakles wounds Hades en Pulōi en nekuessin, Odyssey 5.397.

[ back ] 19. See, e.g., Whitman 1958:263–264; Kullmann 1960:336–355; Richardson 1993:202, 249; Frame 2009:170–172, 205–216.

[ back ] 20. Cf. Nagy 1990a:208–212.

[ back ] 21. This is stated explicitly by Philostratus (Imagines II.7), explaining that Menelaos arranged that Antilokhos, the youngest Achaean, be the one to deliver the news of Patroklos’ death in order that Achilles be distracted by touching Antilokhos and crying. Of course, in terms of the development of the tradition, Patroklos may be designed as a premonition of Antilokhos.

[ back ] 22. Odyssey 24.78–79; cf. Nestor’s speech at Odyssey 3.103–119.

[ back ] 23. Cf. Frontisi-Ducroux 1986a:50; Martin 1989:188–189.

[ back ] 24. Cf. above, Chapter 1, “Menelaos and the Empty Helmet.”

[ back ] 25. Richardson 1993:229, ad 23.555–556.

[ back ] 26. For a survey of the phoenix in classical and Christian traditions, see van den Broek 1971. According to him (pp. 393–394), there are only nine extant mentions of the bird (in Greek or Latin) before the first century CE.

[ back ] 27. Van den Broek 1971: Ch. 5; on Hesiod fr. 304 M-W, see pp. 76–112.

[ back ] 28. On Nestor’s longevity (“sole survivor from a former era”) see Frame 1978:113–114.

[ back ] 29. Van den Broek 1971:261–304.

[ back ] 30. Or his source, Hecataeus.

[ back ] 31. Figure 6 photo by Flickr user kairoinfo4u. See also in van den Broek 1971, which gives the caption (p. 425): “Mural painting in tomb of Irenifer. Del el Medineh; 19th dynasty (ca. 1345–1200 BC). ”

[ back ] 32. See van den Broek (1971:Pl. I, 2): “benu in willow tree next to grave of Osiris.” Mural painting in tomb of royal scribe. Van den Broek says “probably second century B.C.”

[ back ] 33. Tran 1964 Pl. X, 2. Bird with uraeus with solar disk and lunar crescent, perched on an open sarcophagus with Osiris mummy, first century CE. Cf. van den Broek 1971:242 and n4.

[ back ] 34. Cf. van den Broek 1971: Ch. 7, “The Phoenix as Bird of the Sun,” sect. 2, “Escort of the Sun.”

[ back ] 35. Tombs and skopoi are linked in the Iliad. At 2.791–792, Iris disguises herself as Polites, who sat as a skopos on a burial mound. At 24.799, after the Trojans heap up Hektor’s burial-mound (σῆμα), skopoi seat themselves “around”: ῥίμφα δὲ σῆμ’ ἔχεαν, περὶ δὲ σκοποὶ εἵατο πάντῃ. Here perhaps the skopoi were seated on the mound facing outward in various directions.

[ back ] 36. Cf. Herodotus on the Epaphus/Apis bull, 3.27–29. Like the phoenix, the bull appears only after a long interval, at which time the Egyptians hold festivals. Like the phoenix-horse, Apis is identified by sēmeia, among which is a white square (or as a variant reading has it, a triangle) on its forehead and an eagle on its back. The Apis bull is born from a lightning bolt striking a cow who is no longer able to conceive offspring “into her belly.” Does the Apis bull, then, arise from her ashes? Herodotus tells the story of another solar cow, the one made by Mycerinus in which he buried his daughter (2.129–134). This cow, exhumed every year to see the sun in accordance with the daughter’s wishes, is covered with a φοινικέῳ εἵματι, with her head and neck covered with gold. Between her horns is a “golden imitation of the circle of the sun.” Given Egyptian proclivities to solar headgear, all this would be unremarkable, except that Herodotus associates these creatures with, respectively, an appearance after a long interval of years, and an annual reanimation through a sighting of the sun. One is tempted to take into account Mycerinus’ rape of his daughter (and only child) here. Note his pathetic attempts at annual reanimation, followed by comical attempts at immortality through abolishing the difference between night and day.

[ back ] 37. Carpenter’s (1946) theory that Phoenix’s autobiography slots him into the Salmoxis myth came to my attention after I had drawn the connection between Phoenix and the phoenix bird. Carpenter adduces the fact that Phoenix rules over the Dolopians in Phthia, in which Halos is located, and Herodotus situates at Halos a story that Carpenter links to the Salmoxis cult (p. 122–123). He also cites the odd feasting during Phoenix’s house arrest as parallel to the “town banquet hall from which the victim is led out with pomp and sacrificial ceremony to his death.” The link to the Salmoxis story seems to me tenuous. But since the Salmoxis/hibernating bear myth complex is basically a solstice/rebirth myth, it is strange that Carpenter does not mention the phoenix bird in his discussion of Phoenix (1946:170–172).

[ back ] 38. Griffin 1977:42. For Griffin, this is further evidence of the Cycle admitting “miracles of a sort Homer does not.” But it is striking that the Nostoi or its tradition made this link; or else, that both epics draw on a traditional description of magical rejuvenation. Lucian Navigium 44–45 uses ἀποξύω in the context of a fantasy of living one thousand years by means of a magic ring, a fantasy containing a reference to the phoenix-bird and “shedding old age.” ἀποξύω is used by the person making fun of such a fantasy, to say he forgot the ring to “scrape off the vast quantities of snot” (i.e., drivel), clearly responding to the fantasizer’s ἀποδυόμενον τὸ γῆρας. The latter is what a snake does; the “stripping” is what magic does.

[ back ] 39. Gresseth (1964:93–94) connects Alkyone/halcyon and the phoenix-bird but does not make a connection to the Homeric character Phoenix.

[ back ] 40. This Book 24 scene nightmarishly reenacts the chariot race in Book 23, but it also bookends the passage in Book 23 (lines 13–14) where Achilles leads the Achaeans in driving their horses around Patroklos’ corpse three times.

[ back ] 41. On Patro-klos’ name as a sēma, see Sinos 1980:48–49; Nagy 1990a:216.

[ back ] 42. On the ramifications of this allusion to the phoenix on Delos see Ahl and Roisman 1996:53–58.

[ back ] 43. The story in Herodotus has “elements of sun mythology as preserved in an actual cult to Helios” (Frame 1978:43–44).

[ back ] 44. In some versions, the Dioskouroi steal cattle from the Apharidae. On the Dioskouroi and their relation to the Vedic twins the Nasatya (“they who bring back to life and light”), see Frame 1978:140–142; Frame 2009:21, 72. Levaniouk (1999:128–129), in the context of discussing the dense links between the halcyon and the pēnelopes, who “come from the limits of the earth,” remarks that the diction of the Iliad passage suggests Apollo carried Marpessa to the streams of Okeanos. Cf. Levaniouk 2011: Ch. 17.

[ back ] 45. See Frame 1978:38–53 on Circe (including p. 44, on Euenios), and p. 92, on Melampus.

[ back ] 46. Phoenix’s autobiography would not in itself suggest solar connections. Yet many details slot into such an interpretation. Aside from the motif of “taking over for one’s father”—in Phoenix’s case, like Oedipus, in bed and as a would-be patricide—Phoenix escapes from a house resembling Night and Day in Theogony 744–757 and other solar locations (Iliad 9.464–473):

          ἦ μὲν πολλὰ ἔται καὶ ἀνεψιοὶ ἀμφὶς ἐόντες
465    αὐτοῦ λισσόμενοι κατερήτυον ἐν μεγάροισι,         = Odyssey 9.31 (Circe)
          πολλὰ δὲ ἴφια μῆλα καὶ εἰλίποδας ἕλικας βοῦς          cf. Odyssey 9.46 (Ciconians)
          ἔσφαζον, πολλοὶ δὲ σύες θαλέθοντες ἀλοιφῇ
          εὑόμενοι τανύοντο διὰ φλογὸς ̔Ηφαίστοιο,
          πολλὸν δ’ ἐκ κεράμων μέθυ πίνετο τοῖο γέροντος.          cf. Odyssey 9.45 (Ciconians)
470    εἰνάνυχες δέ μοι ἀμφ’ αὐτῶ̣ παρὰ νύκτας ἴαυον·
          οἳ μὲν ἀμειβόμενοι φυλακὰς ἔχον, οὐδέ ποτ’ ἔσβη          cf. Theogony 749
          πῦρ, ἕτερον μὲν ὑπ’ αἰθούση̣ εὐερκέος αὐλῆς,         cf. Theogony 752–753
          ἄλλο δ’ ἐνὶ προδόμω̣, πρόσθεν θαλάμοιο θυράων.

But my kinsmen and cousins surrounding me
pleaded and tried to restrain me in the halls;
many fat sheep and rolling-gaited, spiral-horned cattle
they were slaughtering, and many pigs, blooming with fat,
being singed, were stretched over the flame of Hephaistos,
and much drink out of jars was drunk—the old man’s.
For nine nights they slept alongside me, by night;
they kept watch, exchanging shifts, and never was extinguished
the fire, one under the portico of the walled courtyard,
and one in the hall, in front of the bedroom doors.

[ back ] 47. Frame, in Hippota Nestor (2009), revises his earlier view (Frame 1978) that Nestor’s name had no meaning for the Homeric poets. But the later work still distinguishes earlier and later stages of Greek epic in terms of the meaning of *nes-, which as “return from death to life” did not “survive into the Homeric era” (p. 39), asmenos in the Odyssey’s lines about return from death (no longer understood as a verb), and the traditional refrain about “return to life.” But Frame notes that classical Greek asmenos still occurs “in the context of a ‘return to the light’” (Frame 2009:42n78). Since the Homeric poems may have taken shape during New Year festivals such as the Panathenaia, a context that features a turn of the sun is not so remote. Cf. Cook 1995: Ch. 5, and see below, pages 192–193 (on the calendar of the Iliad and the halcyon myth) and 304–305 (on the winter solstice in Odyssey 15).

[ back ] 48. I do not mean to suggest a close connection here between either of these works and what an audience member of the solo Iliad performer would witness. Rather these works seem to reflect on the role of Nestor and Phoenix in Iliad 23, and traditions related to it, in a way that bears upon Phoenix’s pivotal position and the parallels between his own mythology and Nestor’s. What we see in Iliad 23 in turn finds more histrionic expression in Phoenix’s Iliad 9 speech.

[ back ] 49. Phoenix is depicted as Nestor’s companion, facing him, or else positioned opposite him, at many important events: LIMC Nestor 1064, listing entries 15, 19, 25–27, 29 (which must be an error for 28), 34.

[ back ] 50. LIMC Nestor 26; for bibliography, see LIMC Achilles 487. Höckmann (1982:84), following Furt-wangler, interprets Nestor and Phoenix on this vase as occupying Achilles’ tent. She suggests this scene is not meant to be simultaneous with the sacrifice; rather, perhaps the painting draws on a version in which Nestor told Phoenix about the gruesome sacrifice in Achilles’ tent. Höck-mann however would separate the figures in the tomb from the sacrifice around the corner.

[ back ] 51. The plan of the tomb in Figure 10 is by Louis-garden, used under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. The nineteenth-century reconstruction by Carlo Ruspi in Figure 11 is also featured in Buranelli 1987:180. A 3-D tour of the tomb is available at

[ back ] 52. Rebuffat and Rebuffat (1978) make a case for Vel Saties being a historical ancestor of the individual who commissioned the tomb, rather than this individual himself.

[ back ] 53. Coarelli 1983:58–59.

[ back ] 54. Buranelli 1987:101.

[ back ] 55. I note that another palm is depicted in the dromos of the tomb, with a serpent. On the association between the phoenix bird and the palm (phoenix), see van den Broek (1971:52–60, 183), for whom the link is a late development, via Lactantius inspired by Ovid. Hubaux and Leroy (1939:103–104) list longevity and notional asexuality among the features common to tree and bird. (For example, note Aristotle fr. 246: palms are ἄνορχοι and therefore called eunuchs.) This last is interesting in light of Phoenix’s sterility. Hubaux and Leroy’s comparisons are dismissed by van den Broek (1971:54n2), despite his discussion later (357–389) of the sexuality of the phoenix bird. Van den Broek does not discuss the Iliadic Phoenix. Thierry Petit (personal communication, 2015) suggests that the phoenix (palm) may be the origin of the tree of life motif in Near Eastern art. For Höckmann (1982:87) the palm is a general allusion to Troy.

[ back ] 56. The Nestor–Phoenix pairing is not only, I am offering here, an ennobling “complementary analog” or “resonating gloss” for the Etruscans across from them (Brilliant 1984:34; cf. Rebuffat and Rebuffat 1978). The artist, as Brilliant puts it on the same page, “deliberately blended this diverse cultural and ethnic material to create a new narrative cycle of death and transportation.” Phoenix and Nestor act as more than mirrors within that project.

[ back ] 57. Maggiani 1983:78.

[ back ] 58. Mycenaean and Dark Age tombs did, of course, contain horse burials, some of which are thought of as chariot teams, but I am not suggesting anything corresponding to this for the François Tomb.

[ back ] 59. This may be strengthened by the palms over their heads; see above n55.

[ back ] 60. Drawing after Knox 2015: 174, with additions and modifications.

[ back ] 61. Pugliese Carratelli 1990:88, fig. 71.

[ back ] 62. Pugliese Carratelli 1990:88.

[ back ] 63. See Pugliese Carratelli 1990:89, fig. 73. These two figures are framed by a tent, although the figure following it to the right, presumably Achilles again, seems to have a shield hanging on a wall behind him.

[ back ] 64. Pugliese Carratelli 1990:86. Thierry Petit (personal communication, 2015) points out the relevance of Herakles’ apotheosis in a chariot to the symbolic complex of the chariot and reanimation. Perhaps the damaged panel depicted just this? It would certainly be in keeping with the proliferation of chariot scenes. Herakles on the pyre, followed by his apotheosis, resembles the phoenix bird; this scene roughly faces Phoenix and Achilles on the opposite wall.

[ back ] 65. Pugliese Carratelli 1990:86.

[ back ] 66. Does the damage at the other end of the chariot race leave room for Nestor?

[ back ] 67. See page 154n109 above. The gestural/proxemic analogy between Phoenix and Priam may have been even more obvious to someone who had seen the Iliad performed. By this I mean the literal gestural enactment, however this is done. For another perspective on the parallel between Phoenix and Priam in terms of enactment, see Taplin 1992:80. According to Taplin’s scheme, the bed made up for Priam in Book 24 parallels that made for Phoenix in Book 9—closing the first and third days of performance respectively.

[ back ] 68. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Magistermercator, reproduced under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license. See Price and Van Buren 1935, Plate 12 for a reconstruction of the original garden plantings.

[ back ] 69. Jenny Strauss Clay (Clay 2011:110–115; cf. Clay 1994) recalls the story of Simonides reconstructing the positions of banqueters after they have been killed and connects it to the “dais of death” dealt out to the suitors of the Odyssey. Clay (p. 113) notes that “the poet provides us with three circuits around the great hall.” She further relates the “path of song” to the use of various forms of loci (both actual places in the story, and the artificial use of loci such as in a memory palace) by storytellers and orators.

[ back ] 70. The distinction between poetics and presence bears some relationship to that between noos and nostos as discussed by Frame (1978). Which term corresponds to which depends on one’s point of view. Poetics as plot bears a resemblance to nostos as journey. But nostos as a reemergence can be compared with presence, an emergence into the body of the performer.

[ back ] 71. See above page 138n74. Frame (2009, encapsulated at pp. 599–600) argues that secrecy characterizes the sections of the Homeric poems associated with Nestor or the Neleids.

[ back ] 72. See above Chapter 2, n78.

[ back ] 73. Fenno 2007; Whitman 1958:257.

[ back ] 74. Austin 1975; Nagy 1990a:225; Frame 1978; Levaniouk 2008:28–35. Regarding the Doloneia’s (Iliad 10’s) contested status in this scheme, perhaps it “extends” this central night to extraordinary length just as does the winter solstice operating in the Odyssey. See below, Chapter 4.

[ back ] 75. Compare Otterlo 1948 and Douglas 2007:101–124, esp. Fig. 12, showing Night 4 (the Embassy) as the mid-turn of the minor ring of eight days, which in turn forms the mid-turn of the major ring, Fig. 13, and Table 8.

[ back ] 76. Douglas 2007:109.

[ back ] 77. Whitman 1958:281; cf. the relevant section of his full fold-out chart. The discussion of ring composition here also appears in Kretler 2018.

[ back ] 78. Nagy 1990a:36–37. The nightingale (Odyssey 19) and the halcyon (Iliad 9) lament their children. They both are entangled with the thought of a woman (Penelope/Kleopatra), not only thematizing her grief but trying to represent the levels of her consciousness. The halcyon in Iliad 9 points to a similar depth within a woman that the nightingale does for Penelope. Levaniouk connects the poetics of the halcyon to that of the nightingale (Levaniouk 1999; Levaniouk 2011: Ch. 17).