Homeric Durability: Telling Time in the Iliad

  Garcia, Lorenzo F., Jr. 2013. Homeric Durability: Telling Time in the Iliad. Hellenic Studies Series 58. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_GarciaL.Homeric_Durability_Telling_Time_in_the_Iliad.2013.

[In this on-line version, the page-numbers of the printed version are indicated within braces (“{” and “}”). For example, “{69|70}” indicates where p. 69 of the printed version ends and p. 70 begins. These indications will be useful to readers who need to look up references made elsewhere to the printed version of this book.]

Introduction. Homeric Durability: Time and Poetics in Homer’s Iliad

1. Iliadic temporality: the “still perfectly” and the “not yet”

I begin not with Homer, but with David Finkel’s recent book The Good Soldiers (2009). Finkel’s book is an account of the U.S. army infantry soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 16th infantry division (known as the “Rangers”) out of Fort Riley, Kansas, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich. Finkel documents his observations as an embedded journalist with the 2-16 over an eight-month period in 2007 during the first year of “the surge” as the United States drastically increased the number of ground troops in Iraq. The first page of Finkel’s book begins with a curious rhetorical strategy, narrating the past from a future-perfect perspective:

His soldiers weren’t yet calling him [= Lt. Col. Kauzlarich] the Lost Kauz behind his back, not when this began. The soldiers of his who would be injured were still perfectly healthy, and the soldiers of his who would die were still perfectly alive. A soldier who was a favorite of his, and who was often described as a younger version of him, hadn’t yet written of the war in a letter to a friend, “I’ve had enough of this bullshit.” Another soldier, one of his best, hadn’t yet written in the journal he kept hidden, “I’ve lost all hope. I feel the end is near for me, very, very near.” Another hadn’t yet gotten angry enough to shoot a thirsty dog that was lapping up a puddle of human blood. Another, who at the end of all this would become the battalion’s most decorated soldier, hadn’t yet started dreaming about the people he had killed and wondering if God was going to ask him about the two who had been climbing a ladder. Another hadn’t yet started seeing himself shooting a man in the head, and then seeing the little girl who had just watched him shoot the man in the head, every time he shut his eyes. For that matter, his own dream’s hadn’t started yet, either, at least the ones that he would {1|2} remember—the one in which his wife and friends were in a cemetery, surrounding a hole into which he was suddenly falling; or the one in which everything around him was exploding and he was trying to fight back with no weapon and no ammunition other than a bucket of old bullets. Those dreams would be along soon enough, but in early April 2007, Ralph Kauzlarich, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who had led a battalion of some eight hundred soldiers into Baghdad as part of George W. Bush’s surge, was still finding a reason every day to say, “It’s all good.”

Finkel 2009:3–5; emphasis added

Finkel’s book has been hailed as perhaps being “the best book on war since the Iliad,” [1] and after reading it, I can attest to its manifold Iliadic qualities, but perhaps none so intriguing as the temporal strategy of its narration. At the beginning of Finkel’s narrative Kauzlarich’s soldiers were not yet unhappy, out of control, in pain, or dead. The very structure of the not yet indicates the present circumstance but contains the imminent future as well: though at the present moment Kauzlarich’s men are “still perfectly healthy” and “still perfectly alive,” they are not long to remain so, for the narrative marks soldiers as not yet injured, not yet dead, but soon to be. Kauzlarich’s nightmares “hadn’t yet started” but “would be along soon enough.”

I begin with Finkel’s “not yet,” “still perfectly,” and “would be” because I believe these temporal markers are authentically Homeric—more specifically, authentically Iliadic. The Iliadic quality of the not yet and the would be are at the heart of this study of the representation of time in Homer’s Iliad. For Homer’s Iliad represents its own poetic goals in temporal terms—namely, as the commemoration of its hero Achilles. As a memorial, a work that preserves the memory of its hero, I argue that the Iliad is caught between these temporal modes: it remembers the life of its hero who has already died, but preserves that memory as not yet forgotten. It projects a past into the future, and as such, the epic claims for itself a certain “durability”: it endures beyond the life of its hero and aims to protect that memory for the future. It is the nature of this durability I want to investigate here. The epic’s projected future, I aim to demonstrate, functions like Finkel’s narrative “would be”: the projected future is temporally bound, {2|3} such that its end, though deferred for the moment, is essentially completed. It is the narrative of the future perfect.

The “not yet” of Homer’s Iliad and the future-perfect of his narrative appears nowhere more clearly than in Achilles’ κλέος ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered fame’ which functions as the very poetic project of the Iliad itself. In the ninth book of the Iliad, Greek ambassadors approach Achilles’ tent, sent to placate the young hero’s anger at Agamemnon, the commander-in-chief of the Greek forces at Troy, and to convince him to return to the fight. Achilles had withdrawn from the war, after all, because Agamemnon publically insulted him when he took back the prize of honor distributed to him in recognition of his value to the army, namely Briseïs, a captive won by Achilles’ own spear. The ambassadors—Odysseus, Phoenix, and Ajax—have come on behalf of Agamemnon to offer Achilles fabulous recompense, but Achilles will have none of it. He claims that he will not fight for Agamemnon again, “Not if he should give me ten times and twenty times that much, … not if he should give me as many gifts as there are sand and dust” (IX 379, 385). Indeed, Achilles explains that he no longer holds possessions and their symbolic honor worth fighting for:

In the time he has sat by his ships while his companions were dying at Trojan hands, Achilles has come to reflect on the value of human life itself. Material goods can be acquired (κτητοί, IX 407) and taken by force (ληϊστοί, IX 406), but human life—one’s psychē—cannot be conceived of in such terms. The basis for Achilles’ radical revision of “why we fight,” as it might be termed, is that, as he explains, he has a special fate: {3|4}

Achilles has a choice between staying and fighting and dying young, but winning kleos aphthiton ‘unwithered fame’ or returning home and having a long life (ἐπὶ δῆρον … αἰών, IX 415) but no fame (ὤλετό μοι κλέος ἐσθλόν, IX 416). The circumstances that lead Achilles to stay and choose quick death instead of long life are the subject of the Iliad’s narrative and are well known. What deserves note, however, is that the poetic project of the Iliad is to provide Achilles with kleos ‘fame’, and that the project functions along temporal lines similar to Finkel’s “still perfectly,” “not yet,” and “would be.” The Iliad aims to preserve Achilles’ fame such that it is “not yet” withered, but in so doing, the narrative opens a temporal perspective of the “no longer”: at the end of the war, Achilles will “no longer” be alive; his homecoming will “no longer” be possible. The project of preserving Achilles’ fame operates somewhere between the not yet and the no longer, for it unfolds within two temporal horizons: the “not yet” looks ahead to an as-yet uncompleted but eminently potential future (μοι .. κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται, ‘I will have unwithered fame’), while the “no longer” looks back to a completed and irrevocable past (ὤλετο μέν μοι νόστος, ‘my homecoming will be destroyed’, IX 413). {4|5}

The Iliadic narrative, situated between past and future, tells of things done and those not yet done—of men still alive and those dead, of structures still intact and those destroyed, of traditions vital and those forgotten. The subject of the Iliad, I hope to show, is time itself and the durability of its objects to withstand time’s withering flow. Much of my discussion about time and temporality—how time is experienced by characters—is influenced by the insights of twentieth-century phenomenology and the growing fields of phenomenological psychiatry and psychopathology, as I detail in the pages below. But to help demonstrate the importance of time and temporality for understanding the Iliad, I begin with a kind of linguistic analogy that has to do with the interpretation of Achilles’ κλέος ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered fame’ itself. In Greek, the noun κλέος means ‘fame’. It is cognate with the verb κλύω ‘to hear’, and indicates, literally, ‘what is heard’ of someone, and hence, a person’s ‘fame’ or ‘reputation’. [4] The second component ἄφθιτον is a compound verbal adjective in *-το- formed of the alpha-privative ἀ- added to the verbal root *φθι- whose original sense indicates the ‘decay’ of vegetal life and the ‘failing’ of streams of liquid. [5] The adjective has been translated as ‘imperishable’ [6] , ‘undying forever’ [7] , and ‘everlasting’, [8] to give only a handful of influential readings, all of which interpret ἄφθιτον as indicating the (im)possibility of decay. That is to say, Achilles’ fame (κλέος) will not be able to wither away, but will be ‘imperishable’, ‘everlasting’, and ‘undying forever’.

In our temporal interpretation of the Iliad, then, let us consider the significance of Achilles’ κλέος ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered fame’. The metaphorical application of ἄφθιτον to describe Achilles’ fame is that the adjective emphasizes the disjunction between Achilles’ own biological death and decay and the ‘unwithered’ fate of his fame. Indeed, human life is often likened to plant life in the Iliad emphasizing that humans are temporal beings subject to death and decay, such as in the famous simile comparing men with leaves: ‘As indeed is the generation of leaves, just so is also that of men’ (οἵη περ φύλλων γενεή, τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν, VI 146), or in the comparison of the vast size of the Greek army to the number of leaves and flowers that grow in season: {5|6}

ἔσταν δ’ ἐν λειμῶνι Σκαμανδρίῳ ἀνθεμόεντι
μυρίοι, ὅσσα τε φύλλα καὶ ἄνθεα γίνεται ὥρῃ.
They took their stand in the flowery Scamandrian meadow,
thousands of them, as many as the leaves and flowers that are born in season.

Iliad II 467–468

Dying heroes are several times described as being cut down like trees, including Simoeisios (IV 482), the twins Krethon and Orsilokhos (V 560), Imbrios (XIII 178), Asios (XIII 389), Sarpedon (XVI 482), and—most fully—Euphorbos: [

οἷον δὲ τρέφει ἔρνος ἀνὴρ ἐριθηλὲς ἐλαίης
χώρῳ ἐν οἰοπόλῳ, ὅθ’ ἅλις ἀναβέβροχεν ὕδωρ,
καλὸν τηλεθάον· τὸ δέ τε πνοιαὶ δονέουσι
παντοίων ἀνέμων, καί τε βρύει ἄνθεϊ λευκῷ·
ἐλθὼν δ’ ἐξαπίνης ἄνεμος σὺν λαίλαπι πολλῇ
βόθρου τ’ ἐξέστρεψε καὶ ἐξετάνυσσ’ ἐπὶ γαίῃ·
τοῖον Πάνθου υἱὸν ἐϋμμελίην Εὔφορβον
Ἀτρεΐδης Μενέλαος ἐπεὶ κτάνε τεύχε’ ἐσύλα.
As when a man raises a vigorous young shoot of olive
in a lonesome place, and when it has drunk down abundant water,
it blossoms beautifully. And breezes of winds from all directions
shake it, and it teems with its white flower.
But then suddenly a wind comes with many a storm
and wrenches it out of the ground and lays it out at length upon the earth—
just so the son of Panthous, Euphorbos of the strong ash spear:
Menelaus, Atreus’ son, killed him and stripped his armor.

Iliad XVII 53–60

Euphorbos is likened to a flourishing olive sapling (ἔρνος, XVII 53): like a tree, the young man blossoms in the flower of his youth. Death comes upon him like a storm and stretches his body out upon the ground like an uprooted tree. {6|7} Significantly, Thetis likens Achilles to a sapling and a plant as she mourns his imminent death:

κλῦτε κασίγνηται Νηρηΐδες, ὄφρ’ ἐῢ πᾶσαι
εἴδετ’ ἀκούουσαι ὅσ’ ἐμῷ ἔνι κήδεα θυμῷ.
ὤ μοι ἐγὼ δειλή, ὤ μοι δυσαριστοτόκεια,
ἥ τ’ ἐπεὶ ἂρ τέκον υἱὸν ἀμύμονά τε κρατερόν τε
ἔξοχον ἡρώων· ὃ δ’ ἀνέδραμεν ἔρνεϊ ἶσος·
τὸν μὲν ἐγὼ θρέψασα φυτὸν ὣς γουνῷ ἀλωῆς
νηυσὶν ἐπιπροέηκα κορωνίσιν Ἴλιον εἴσω
Τρωσὶ μαχησόμενον· τὸν δ’ οὐχ ὑποδέξομαι αὖτις
οἴκαδε νοστήσαντα δόμον Πηλήϊον εἴσω.
Listen to me, you Nereïds, my sisters, so that you all
may know well when you have heard how many cares I have in my heart.
Oh alas, I am wretched, oh alas, I who bear of the best of children in vain,
since in truth I gave birth to a son both blameless and strong,
outstanding among heroes. He shot up like a young tree,
and I nurtured him, like a plant in the pride of the orchard,
and I sent him forth in curved ships to Ilion
to fight with the Trojans. But I will not receive him again
returned home to the house of Peleus.

Iliad XVIII 52–60

Mortals are like plants because we are short-lived. [
10] From the perspective of both the immortal gods and even mankind itself, human life is utterly ephemeral. [11] It is against this background that the phrase κλέος ἄφθιτον has generally been interpreted to signify that through the cultural innovation of poetry, the natural cycle of death and decay incumbent upon all living things can be overcome: by choosing to stay and fight, Achilles himself perishes, but his fame (κλέος) ceases {7|8} to be part of the cycle of birth, growth, fading, and decay. Transformed into the cultural product of song, Achilles’ κλέος remains pristine forevermore. In other words, within the poetics of Homeric epic Achilles has exchanged his life for a kind of poetic ‘immortality’. [12]

One goal of my study of time and temporality in the Iliad, then, is to suggest a different interpretation of ἄφθιτον based on our examination of the temporality of the Iliadic narrative: instead of reading ἄφθιτον as indicating the non-possibility of the decay of Achilles’ κλέος (‘imperishable fame’), I wish to suggest that the adjective indicates a temporally-bound status—that is, that ἄφθιτον indicates not-yet-completed process (‘unwithered fame’). The implication, as I will attempt to show in this study, is that Achilles’ fame as represented within the Iliadic tradition is ‘not (yet) withered’; it occupies a temporal status like that of Finkel’s narrative—between the “still perfectly”/“not yet” and the “would be”—as Achilles himself is represented as “still perfectly” alive and “not yet” dead at the end of the epic, though his death is guaranteed by the very tradition that aims to preserve his fame. As “not yet,” the tradition imagines itself as enduring into the future, but as “no longer,” it acknowledges both the demise of its hero and the potential of its own ultimate decay.

From a linguistic perspective, interpreting ἄφθιτον as implying a not-yet-completed action is formally possible. As I noted above, ἄφθιτον is a compound verbal adjective in *-το- formed of the alpha-privative ἀ- added to the verbal root *φθι-. Verbal adjectives in *-το- are, from a formal perspective, identical to the *-tus of the perfect passive participle in Latin, and the *-ta– of Vedic Sanskrit:

Gk. στατός = Lat. status = Ved. sthitá ‘placed’

These formal characteristics are to a certain degree matched by functional characteristics: as Andrew Sihler has argued, this formation of verbal adjectives in *-το- in Proto-Indo-European {9|10}

made a verbal adjective which construed with nouns that would stand in object relation to a transitive finite verb. Nouns that would have been in subject relation are either absent or are marked with some case other than nom[inative] or acc[usative]. There was in effect no tense to start with, but as such forms refer to states, they inevitably imply something like the completed past tense (once such a category became established in IE languages).

Sihler cites forms such as γραπτός ‘marked with letters’ (cognate with the verb γράφω ‘scratch, write’), γνωτός ‘understood’ (cognate with the verb γιγνώσκω ‘come to know’), and δρατός ‘flayed’ (cognate with the verb δέρω ‘skin’) as evidence of adjectives in *-το- functioning to mark a “completed past tense.” In an important paper published in 1929, Antoine Meillet argued that Indo-European verbal adjectives in *-to– indicate “a process reaching its end.” [
17] For my purposes of interpreting ἄφθιτον as implying completed action, I wish to note merely that the process of decay, designated by the categories ‘withered’ and ‘unwithered’, does indeed have to do with a process reaching its end.

The same suffix *-το- also appears in the formation of Greek ordinal numbers and superlative adjectives; these forms in *-το- indicate an ending or completion of a process, series, or continuum. [18] Ordinal numbers often appear in Homeric epic to mark the last number of a series:

ἔνθεν δ’ ἐννῆμαρ φερόμην ὀλοοῖσ’ ἀνέμοισι
πόντον ἐπ’ ἰχθυόεντα· ἀτὰρ δεκάτῃ ἐπέβημεν
γαίης Λωτοφάγων.
From there for nine days I was carried by destructive winds
upon the fishy sea; but on the tenth day I set foot upon
the land of the Lotus-eaters.

Odyssey ix 82–84 {10|11}

The ordinal δέκατος ‘tenth’ in Odysseus’ narrative marks the last day in a series and thereby completes the numeric series. [
19] Likewise, when the Achaean assembly praises Odysseus’ chastisement of Thersites, the superlative adjective ἄριστος ‘best’ marks the end of a continuum of ‘good’ deeds (ἐσθλά) that Odysseus has accomplished:

ὢ πόποι, ἦ δὴ μυρί᾿ Ὀδυσσεὺς ἐσθλὰ ἔοργεν
βουλάς τ’ ἐξάρχων ἀγαθὰς πόλεμόν τε κορύσσων,
νῦν δὲ τόδε μέγ’ ἄριστον ἐν Ἀργείοισιν ἔρεξεν.
Oh man, truly Odysseus has done good deeds beyond counting
both while bringing forward good counsels and marshalling battle,
but now this great thing is the best deed he accomplished among the Argives.

Iliad II 272–274

Like the ordinal, the superlative marks the end of a series or continuum. As Benveniste explains, “The ordinal indicates the last term which completes a series, whether by adding to a number or to a list. In the same way, the superlative indicates the final term that brings to its completion a quality that other terms indicate” (Benveniste 1975:162). [

My suggestion, then, is that we read ἄφθιτον as implying the completion of the verbal idea of ‘decaying, failing, withering.’ The alpha privative prefix (ἀ-) does not necessarily imply the “impossibility” of the verbal process, but rather can indicate its particular temporal quality of “not yet” being complete. I adduce as a parallel Ann Bergren’s keen analysis of the adjective ἀδμήτη in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 81–83. Aphrodite stands before Anchises ‘like an untamed virgin’ (ὁμοίη παρθένῳ ἀδμήτῃ, 82); her status as a παρθένος ‘virgin’ is designated by the adjective ἀδμήτη ‘un-tamed’, formed with the alpha-privative added to the zero-grade of the verbal root *δαμ– ‘tame, break, conquer’ (ἀ-δμή-τη) and yet, the alpha-privative does not point to the impossibility of taming (here, and emphatically, equivalent to sexual penetration by the membrum virile), but rather to a temporal status of not yet being tamed. Bergren writes, {11|12}

To forestall the realistic reaction of the male, the goddess disguises herself as her opposite. But her opposite is not—as the alpha-privative, ἀ + δμήτῃ, and the principled, perpetual virginity of Athena, Artemis, and Hestia might suggest—a true absence of sexuality. The opposite of female sexuality is not ‘female non-sexuality’, for any female old enough to be called παρθένος ‘virgin’ is always ‘tame-able’, always potentially sexual. Even virgin goddesses can be made pregnant. In the logic of heterosexuality, the opposite of female sexuality is only a temporal, temporary precondition. The only real absence marked by the alpha-privative here is that of the phallus, for the virgin has not yet experienced the instrument by which the female is ‘tamed’. No wonder, then, that an ‘untamed virgin’, this absence heretofore of ‘Aphrodite’ as sexual experience, is so attractive to Anchises, for it incites the presence of what is always only temporarily lacking.

Bergren 1989:10, rpt. Bergren 2008:196; emphases added

In other words, the alpha-privative negative compound does not necessarily indicate ‘impossibility’ but rather a temporary ‘absence’ or ‘separation’ of the completion of a process. [
21] Such absences can always be recuperated, and such separations can be bridged. In short, I wish to suggest ἄφθιτον indicates a state absent and separate from the completion of the verbal idea expressed by *φθι- ‘decaying, failing’, but that such separation is temporally conditioned. That which is not yet decayed exists only within the temporality of the “not yet” and the “still perfectly”: it remains subject to potential decay.

While my suggested interpretation of ἄφθιτον as ‘unwithered’ is formally possible and can be paralleled by such terms as ἀδμήτη (Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 82) in early Greek poetry, I must acknowledge that an interpretation indicating “non-possibility” cannot be ruled out. Greek verbal adjectives in *-το- are formally different than the perfect passive participial system, and do not always indicate completed action. [22] For instance, alongside the active intransitive ῥυτός ‘flowing’, we find its Vedic counterpart srutá ‘having flowed’. [23] Further, the Greek verbal adjective in *-το- can indeed express possibility, as in {12|13} φατός ‘utterable’, [24] and βρωτός ‘edible’, though Sihler considers this a “chiefly post-Homeric” development (Sihler 1995:622–623). Chantraine suggests that negative compound adjectives in *-το- played a role in the development of this very “valeur de possibilité”:

The adjective in –τός originally expressed a passive state, but has taken on the value of possibility: a compound like ἄμβροτος ‘that which does not die’ means as well ‘that which cannot die’, where for the simple βρότος the sense is ‘that which can die’.

In other words, the force of a compound adjective like ἄμβροτος shifts from a perfect passive sense of ‘not (yet) dead’ to one connoting passive (im)possibility, ‘unable to die, immortal’. Benveniste goes further in ascribing “l’origine de valeur de ‘possibilité passive’” to negative compounds in *-το-:

This creation of compound negatives is also the source of the value of “passive possibility” that adjectives in *-to– often carry, especially, though not exclusively, in Greek. The development of this value comes from one of these unformulated principles, formulated only with difficulty, which underlie many a semantic category and which specifically determine, according to one’s “mental framework,” noun classifications; we could express it like this: what has never been done once cannot be done. So ἄβατος ‘not crossed’ > ‘impassable’; ἄρρηκτος ‘unbroken’ > ‘unbreakable’. This sense can always develop in negative forms, as in Latin invictus [‘invincible’], and it could occur from the beginning. One sees it in the parallel expression in Vedic ákṣiti śrávaḥ (RV 1.40.4) and Homeric κλέfος ἄφθιτον (Iliad IX 413) ‘imperishable fame’, inherited from Indo-European poetic phraseology.

Like Chantraine, Benveniste argues that compound adjectives in *-to-, like ἄ-φθι-τον, are perhaps the origin of expressions of “passive possibility”: as Benveniste formulates it, “what has never been done once cannot be done.” An adjective like ἄρρηκτος, a negative compound in *-το- formed on the verbal root *fρηγ- (cf. ῥήγνυμμι) ‘break’, therefore means not merely ‘unbroken’ but ‘unbreakable’. [
27] But Benveniste goes further than Chantraine in implying that such a transformation from perfect passive participle to “passive possibility” had already occurred in Indo-European, as implied by the cognate phraseology of Homeric κλέος ἄφθιτον and the Vedic śrávas … ákṣitam (RV I.9.7bc) and ákṣiti śrávas (RV 1.40.4b, 8.103.5b, 9.66.7c). [28]

As I noted above, I am interested in the linguistic features of verbal adjectives in *-το- because interpreting these adjectives helps us approach questions of narrative temporality. To take Benveniste’s example, when Homer calls the Trojan wall ἄρρηκτος (e.g. XXI 447), we are faced with an interpretative question: the epic tradition of the Trojan War is itself predicated on the destruction of Troy, such that its ‘unbreakable’ wall is in fact ‘broken’ at some point, though beyond the narrative scope of the Iliad; the tradition of the Trojan War rests on the fact of Troy’s destruction. To render ἄρρηκτος as ‘unbreakable’ is to translate the affective, not the literal meaning: when a character hopes the Achaeans’ defensive wall ‘will be an unbreakable protection of the ships and the men’ (ἄρρηκτον νηῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν εἶλαρ ἔσεσθαι, XIV 56), he is projecting a present wish into the future that is in fact not tenable; the defensive wall will in fact be broken (cf. XII 10–18). In a similar way, I argue that through its representation of the experience of human time, the Iliad represents itself as time-bound as any of its characters. In other words, I wish to suggest that Homer likewise comprehends the ‘imperishable’ fame of Achilles as ‘unwithered’. {14|15}

2. Homer and his traditions

In the course of this study, I speak of Homer as a traditional poet, yet one who innovates within his tradition so as to produce specific narrative effects. I draw on specific features of his language, such as the negative compound verbal adjective in *-το-, that mark temporal features, such as the ‘unwithered’ character of Achilles’ fame. In other words, I will have occasion to use the construction “Homer + verb” in discussion of the narrative and poetics of the Iliad (“Homer innovates”; “Homer uses”; “Homer presents” etc.), and so I should clarify my position on Homer as poet of the Iliad. As Gregory Nagy has pointed out in his fundamental Homeric Questions (1996), it is potentially misleading to speak of “Homer” as an individual poet divorced from a poetic tradition:

The usage of saying that “Homer does this” or “the poet intends that” may become risky for modern experts if they start thinking of “Homer” in overly personalized terms, without regard for the traditional dynamics of composition and performance, and without regard for synchrony and diachrony.

Nagy 1996:21

Homer, the poet of the Iliad, is not to be separated from the tradition of epic poetry—indeed, Nagy compares how diachronic institutions were often attributed, as if synchronic entities, to a single figure such as a legendary lawgiver like Solon or Lycurgus (Nagy 1996:20–21). Moreover, the name “Homer” may itself indicate the poetic process of “joining” verses “together,” thereby implying an inseparable bond between poet and tradition. [
29] Certainly, after the works of Milman Parry, Albert Lord, and their students, we know that Homer was an oral poet working within a tradition of epic poetry, perhaps dating back to Mycenaean days, as suggested both by the mention of Bronze Age military equip- {15|16} ment (e.g., silver-studded swords, tower shields, boar-tusk helmets) [30] and by the preservation of ancient dialectical features by the conservative force of the hexameter verse. [31]

Some scholars have taken these distinct features as a sign that Homeric poetry is of a different kind than other oral epic poetry, that Homer stands outside of his tradition in some fundamental way. For instance, Joseph Russo powerfully argued that

In trying to estimate the relation between Homer and his tradition, I think it more likely that Homer was not the Mozart but the Beethoven of the heroic epic tradition; that he represents not the perfection of all that went before him but the eruption of a mighty and singular talent into wholly new realms of expression. My thesis is that although Homer conspicuously carries with him many features of his tradition, there are many examples in the two poems of the kind of creative departure from the tradition, or innovative playing with the tradition, that point to the kind of freedom not found in the tradition-bound oral poet.

Russo 1968:278

Russo’s image of a figure struggling against convention to express something new—indeed, something even non-traditional—recalls Adam Parry’s thesis in his influential article on “The Language of Achilles” (1956) that when Achilles criticizes the heroic conventions of fair exchange and honor that have led to his alienation from his fellow Greeks, he comes up against the very poetic tradition of the genre of epic heroic poetry:

Homer in fact, has no language, no terms, in which to express this kind of basic disillusionment with society and the external world … The poet does not make a language of his own; he draws from a common store of poetic diction. This store is a product of bards and a reflection of society: for epic song had a clear social function … Achilles has no language with which to express his disillusionment. Yet he expresses it, and in a remarkable way. He does it by misusing the language he disposes of … He uses conventional expressions where we least expect him to … All this is done with wonderful subtlety: most readers feel it when they read the Iliad; few understand how the poet is doing it.

Parry 1956:6–7

Neither Homer nor Achilles has a way to speak against the tradition, since the very diction and formulae that make up the epic are part of the tradition itself. And so, Parry argues, Homer and Achilles must “misuse” the tradition; it is only through coming in conflict with the tradition that Achilles—and Homer—can say something new. {17|18}

I am sympathetic with this reading of Iliad IX, yet I do not believe we need to think of Homer as a poet at odds with his tradition in the terms Adam Parry suggests. The careful work of many scholars following Milman Parry and Albert Lord has shown that Homer was not constrained by his medium—indeed, we may think of the formality of the hexameter crystallizing around poetic diction instead of acting like a pre-fabricated mold into which diction must be fitted; [36] in other words, the hexameter does not hinder, but rather helps the poet in his oral recomposition-in-performance. [37] Further, the fact that Homer can transform the very formulaic system that shapes the hexameter, [38] including the variation and expansion of preexisting diction and motifs (e.g. type scenes), [39] indicates that he can transform narrative elements as well. [40] And yet, even these transformations are themselves traditional. Consider, for instance, Richard Martin’s remarkable demonstration that the very lines of Achilles’ speech in Iliad IX that Adam Parry took as evidence of the poet inventing against his tradition, are themselves made up of other formulae and modified formulaic phrases (Martin 1989:146–205). Martin summarizes,

almost all of Achilles’ great speech consists of formulas, either paradigmatic or syntagmatic. That is, the speech is traditional, in terms of the Iliad itself. But, more important, the number of paradigmatic formulas far outweighs the number of syntagmatic; Achilles as a speaker (which is to say Homer when imagining how he speaks) chooses to use very small, unconnected bricks for his edifice: only occasionally can he rely on the ready-made longer phrase. Each choice of word in a given place in the line is one that can be paralleled elsewhere, but the effect of this method of composing in discrete units is one of tone: we seem to hear a man searching laboriously for the right word at every turn.

Martin 1989:166 {18|19}

Homer’s traditional language can be reconfigured; instead of working in larger structural units, the poet substitutes other words or small semantic units—each one itself traditional in its specific metrical position—into those structures, thereby creating “new” formulaic language by analogical formation (Martin 1989:164–166). The result seems strange and new, but at heart is in every way traditional.

I imagine, then, Homer as a thoroughly traditional poet, and yet, like Russo’s “Beethoven of the heroic epic tradition,” less “the perfection of all that went before him” than “the eruption of a mighty and singular talent,” [41] a creative poet whose every creation is itself wholly constructed of the tradition, modified for the specific purpose of enhancing the narrative at a given point. [42] When I argue in my investigation below that Homer employs traditional terms in a specific way that brings out their inherent temporal dimensions—such as ἄφθιτος ‘unwithered’, ἄρρηκτος ‘unbroken’, or ἄσβεστος ‘unquenched’—I believe that the poet is exploiting potentialities already available within the tradition, but with an eye towards the expression of specific significance within the context of the Iliad. In a concrete example, the shared Indo-European phraseology of κλέος ἄφθιτον (attested in Homer and later Greek poetry) [43] and the Vedic Sanskrit and śrávas … ákṣitam ‘fame imperishing’ (RV I.9.7bc) and ákṣiti śrávas (RV 1.40.4b, 8.103.5b, 9.66.7c) suggests a shared Indo-European poetics. [44] Yet, in the Vedic texts śrávas … ákṣitam appears in context of long life and prosperity given by the gods, as does κλέος ἄφθιτον in its non-Homeric uses, both of which suggest a tension with the specific deployment of the formula in the Iliad. [45] Indo-European linguist James Clackson summarizes the evidence: {19|20}

If Achilles chooses to have kléos áphthiton, the glory will be given to him after his death, and his fame will come from the tales and songs of poets. Elsewhere in early Greek the phrase is used slightly differently. In an early dedicatory inscription from Delphi, the phrase is used by the donor in an address to the gods, in the hope that his gifts might bring him imperishable fame. In a fragment of Pseudo-Hesiod, Zeus “called her [reference uncertain] Leukothea, so that she might have unfading fame.” In both these passages it appears that the gods are able to grant fame, and that fame is compatible with a long life or prosperity. The Vedic formula is used similarly: mortals request imperishable fame from the gods, together with material benefits. Achilles’ use of the formula is innovative, in that it specifically rejects the associations of life and prosperity and a divine origin.

Clackson 2007:181–182; emphasis added

Once again, the Iliad appears as innovative within its tradition—here, by making use of perhaps the oldest and most traditional material of the epic, namely the {20|21} hero’s fame that constituted part of a shared Indo-European poetic tradition [
46] —by removing certain features (long life, divine favor) in order to set a specific “mood” for the epic. Against this background, then, I speak of an innovative yet thoroughly traditional poet in terms of the construction “Homer + verb,” and focus my arguments on how specific diction and formulae work specifically within the narrative of the Iliad.

3. Homeric durability: telling time in the Iliad

3.1 Durability and decay

I have titled my study of the temporal dimensions of the poetics of the Iliad “Homeric Durability,” and defined “durability” in terms of the long lasting status the tradition claims for itself in the description of Achilles’ κλέος ‘fame’ as ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered’ (IX 413). In other words, the Iliad represents itself as withstanding the destructive influence of time. Chapters 1 through 4 are devoted to the study of this destructive influence—namely decay. Decay is but one of the natural rhythms that appear throughout the Iliad as physical bodies exist within time. After nine long years of fruitless battle on Trojan shores, the timbers and ropes of the Achaeans’ ships have begun to rot (II 135): time has influenced—literally flowed into—the compound bodies of the ships and their rigging, and it has weakened these bodies at their joints, the points where plank meets plank and plait meets plait. Elsewhere throughout the epic characters feel anxiety over the condition of their dead comrades, lest time flow into those bodies as well, and cause decay through liquefying putrescence and the destruction of flies and worms. Nevertheless, decay is still a more fundamental principle for defining the narrative world of the Iliad. Consider, for instance, the rhythms of the human body, especially as opposed to those of the gods: human life is caught up in an economic cycle of consuming food and expending energy. [47] Thomas {21|22} Fuchs, a researcher in phenomenological psychology, speaks of the temporality of the biological organism’s need to re-fill, re-fuel, and re-store specifically in terms of the “rhythm” of shortage and satisfaction:

Rhythm is the way the organism maintains its inner order against the decaying processes of anorganic nature. Homeostasis is not a “static” state, but is marked by a periodical alternation of intake and excretion, exhaustion and regeneration, wake and sleep, ergotropic and trophotropic phases; marked also by disturbances, shortages and corresponding counterregulations. These periodical discrepancies or imbalances become apparent in subjective experiences of urge or unpleasant feelings; as drive needs in hunger or sexuality; as sleepiness, exhaustion, pain or illness—states which all press for their own abolition by a suitable behavior towards the environment. Shortage and need, labor and pain are the price life pays for its inner order to be maintained against the physical world.

This is connected with the primordial experience of time which is always directed toward the future. Plants live in immediate exchange with their environment, without temporal discrepancies. Animals, however, experience time lags, i.e., feel shortages as “not yet.” Animals suffer the separation of drive needs and satisfaction. With this discrepancy arises an appetitive tension, a “being after something” (e.g., the prey not yet grasped, the sexual partner not yet met) … Lived time thus results from periodical asynchronies or discrepancies. It is characterized by the cyclical repetition of drive needs or interests and their orientation toward a compensation in the future. Time experience arises with want and suffering.

According to Fuchs, our very concept of time itself is first felt in the “asynchrony” or “discrepancy” between our appetites for food, sleep, sex, and the like and their fulfillment. In the nineteenth book of the Iliad, Odysseus makes a strong argument against Achilles’ desire that the Achaeans return to battle immediately so he may avenge Patroklos’ death, for, Odysseus explains, men need to eat and drink to maintain the strength to do battle (XIX 155–170, 225–233). Achilles refuses to eat, so Athena descends from heaven, unseen, and pours nektar and ambrosia inside Achilles (XIX 352–354). Filled with ambrosia and nektar, Achilles is temporarily situated in a temporality of a timeless duration; he is, for a short while, at least, freed from the biological economy of human life, namely that we {22|23} must constantly replenish our bodies with food and rest so that we can continue to exert ourselves. Unlike the gods who seem to have super-bodies that do not need to be re-filled, re-fueled, and re-stored, our mortal bodies always run down: we diminish, we fade, we decay. [
49] And so, when Achilles is removed from the temporal cycle of re-filling, re-fueling, and re-storing—the very process by which we feel the “asynchrony” and “discrepancy” between need and fulfillment and which produces our experience of time—, he is like nothing so much as the pristine corpses of Sarpedon, Patroklos, or Hektor temporarily preserved by nektar and ambrosia against the forces of decay and the corruption of flies and worms, no longer alive, but not yet dead, occupying a temporality between “not yet” dead but “no longer” fully alive.

3.2 Telling time: clocks and objective time

Indeed, Homer makes use of several expressions that indicate “time when.” As the German Classicist Hermann Fränkel argued, Homer generally uses ἦμαρ ‘day’ to indicate time when: ἤματι τῷ ὅτε … ‘on the day when …’ [54] In this sense, ἦμαρ ‘day’ can be used as the subject of a clause: ‘the day will come when …’ (ἔσσεται ἧμαρ, ὅτ᾿ ἄν). Homer also uses adverbial phrases with ἦμος ‘when’, which, as Alice Radin (1988) demonstrated, locate human activities within natural “cyclical” (that is, repeated and repeatable) events, such as the movement or position of the sun in the sky. For example, Homer locates the time when the tide of a battle changes by associating it with an ἦμος clause describing the movement of the sun βουλυτόνδε, which we can roughly translate as ‘to the position of the sun in the sky at which herders generally loosen their oxen’. [55] {24|25} As Radin explains, βουλυτόνδε is a reference to “the visual, spatial nature of the description of the sun’s path. The sun moves toward the ox-unyoking place: that is, the position in the sky associated with the human activity.” [56] In other words, Homer does know of and represents specific temporal events, including ritualized human actions that occur at regular intervals or in conjunction with specific solar or celestial phenomena: sunrise and sunset, seasons, the revolution of a year. [57] Furthermore, Homer several times refers to situations that entail a sophisticated concept of time, such as wage labor contracted by time, not task (e.g. XXI 441–452); [58] the recording of history in terms of genealogical tales (e.g., Glaukos’ story at VI 145–211); [59] the use of historical or mythological paradeigmata in speeches to shape the future response of an audience; [60] and the representation of simultaneous actions, especially when one action occurs at a different velocity, such that we can speak of one character or event ‘catching up with’ another character or event ‘from behind’ (κιχάνω, καταμάρπτω). [61] It appears clear that Homer has both a conception of abstract time and a means to measure it. [62] The decaying ships of the Achaeans and the bodies of fallen heroes {25|26} in danger of decay are examples of such clocks that provide objective measure of the flow of time.

3.3 Telling time: temporality, a phenomenological approach

Husserl’s phenomenological analysis marks a radical distinction between an objective time, which can be measured with clocks, and a subjective time constituted by the ongoing stream of consciousness of being in the world. Husserl describes how the perception of an object in the world implies an internal consciousness of temporal succession, such that we can observe continuity of an object through change. [65] But objects we perceive in time are themselves temporalized by the very fact of our perceiving them: they are “temporal objects” in {26|27} Husserl’s terminology. [66] A temporal object is an object, like a tone, or a melody, or even an architectural construction, which is temporally extended in our perception, and yet is still experienced as a whole or a unity. In our perception of the first tone of a melody or the front façade of a building, the objects remain in our consciousness as we hear the subsequent tones or see the other elements of the construction. The temporal object is not experienced as a succession of discrete “now”-points along a time-line, but rather as a continuum which incorporates a present “now”-point with the “now”-point that has become “just-past.” I hear a present tone not as a “now” divorced from what came before, but as succeeding a tone just-past which is still retained in my present consciousness: Husserl calls this hold-over of the past continuing into the present a retention (Husserl 1991:32–36). Furthermore, as we hear a few notes of a melody or see a few elements of a building, we begin to anticipate the rest: though we have not yet perceived these elements, they too exist in the present moment as a protension of our present act of perception (Husserl 1991:40, cf. 54–59). The entire phenomenon of our perception, then, is temporally conditioned, since we experience objects (at least certain objects) as temporal entities: from this perspective, the time in which the Achaeans’ ships rot can be differentiated from the temporality of the men who watch them deteriorate, day after day. Further, the very perception or experience of temporal objects is itself a temporalizing act: through perceiving and experiencing, we are ourselves drawn into an experience of time—we feel its duration.

Husserl’s concept of temporal objects and the experience of time as duration will prove useful for our analysis of a specific kind of temporal event, namely the experience of pain and sorrow. Researchers in phenomenology, psychiatry, psychopathology, and neuroscience have distinguished two different temporal modes experienced by patients suffering pain and sorrow: “implicit” and “explicit” temporality. Implicit temporality is the “lived time” we experience when we are engaged in a given task and seem to forget about time or the outside world altogether. [67] Explicit temporality is precisely the opposite: we are unable to engage in our tasks because something is constantly distracting us and dragging us back into the world—namely our own physical body experienced {27|28} as a distraction, hindrance, or obstacle to our activities. [68] Explicit temporality is the experience of our corporal body “turning into the object of attention” (Fuchs 2005b:196). [69] As Thomas Fuchs explains,

Lived time may be regarded as a function of the lived body, opened up by its potentiality and capability. The more we are engaged in our tasks, the more we forget about time as well as the body; we are, as it were, “inside time.” On the other hand, in explicit temporality the body often appears in the corporal or explicit mode as well. For example, when falling ill, we experience the body no more as a tacit medium but rather as an object or obstacle, while we notice the slowing down of time and may even feel excluded from the movement of life. Thus, embodiment and temporality have a parallel background-foreground structure.

Fuchs 2005b:196

We come to experience time when we are in moments of crisis when we are in need, pain, or shame, and our attention is drawn from our task at hand, our living and acting in the world, to our own physicality. Temporality is constructed, first and foremost, then, as explicit self-consciousness as a body in the world. We {28|29} feel time when we are in pain. Accordingly, several recent studies on illness, pain, and medical ethics have utilized Husserl’s phenomenology to analyze the temporal experience of suffering physical pain. [
70] Calvin Schrag argues that pain is a lived experience, and, as such, the patient is drawn into the temporality of duration as he or she must endure the pains:

Being in pain, as an undivided process and structure of configurative behavior, is that which one lives through. Pain has a durational dimension. Pains endure, even if only for a moment—which is never an abstracted, discrete atomic instant … The moments of pain are subject to the variability and intensity of concerns within its time span. They do not follow the regular and ordered sequence of seconds and minutes that are marked off by the swing of a pendulum or the ticking of a clock. Clock time is isotropic. The values of its units are uniform. The time of one’s being in pain is anisotropic. Its values vary with the intensity of the pain.

Schrag 1982:122; emphasis added

Pains endure; feeling pain is a temporal experience. We suffer it through a temporal experience incommensurate with objective clock-time: in its intensity minutes may seem like hours. [
71] We do not experience pain as a series of “atomic instants”—we experience it as one of Husserl’s temporal objects, as S. Kay Toombs explains: “the person in pain experiences his pain as a continuum … [P]ains just-past are retained in consciousness, along with the present now-pain, and future pains are anticipated as part of the present experience” (Toombs 1990:132). [72] The temporality of being in pain consists of the retention of pains just-passed and the protension of pains yet-to-come: the experience, measured by its own rhythm of throbs and aches, enfolds us in a temporal experience of duration.

In chapter 5, I demonstrate that when Homer’s gods are forced to suffer physical pain, they become enmeshed in human temporality: no longer outside of time, they feel their pain as duration. Homer uses the verb *τλάω to mark a god (or a mortal) ‘enduring’ pain through time, as when Dione consoles Aphrodite, wounded by Diomedes’ spear, with stories of other gods who have ‘endured’ pains at mortal hands: τλῆμεν … ἐξ ἀνδρῶν χαλέπ᾿ ἄλγε᾿ ‘we endured difficult pains at the hands of men’ (V 383–384). Ares, Hera, and Hades all ‘endure’ (τλῆ μὲν Ἄρης … τλῆ δ’ Ἥρα … τλῆ δ᾿ Ἀΐδης …, V 385, 392, 395) pains. {29|30} Indeed, the most basic sense of the very rich and complex verb *τλάω and its cognates seems to be ‘to hold up’, as in the nouns τελαμών which indicates the ‘strap’ which holds up a sword or shield or the ‘base’ that holds up a stēlē, [73] and τάλαντον, which Homer uses in the plural to denote ‘scales’ which hold up and measure the relative weight of two things. [74] When someone ‘holds up’ and ‘endures’, they experience time as duration, as Homer indicates by using the adverbs δηρόν and δήν ‘for a long time’ in conjunction with a god’s experience of pain, as when Ares, wounded by Diomedes’ spear, lies suffering ‘for a long time’ (δηρόν, V 885), or when the Achaeans experience the many years waiting on Trojan shores without taking the city (δηρόν, II 298; cf. τλῆτε, II 299 and my discussion in chapter 1 below). The second major use of *τλάω as ‘to dare to do something’ [75] seems to follow from the sense of holding up and enduring through time: while enduring, one develops a kind of future orientation—an anticipation of the day when one will no longer be under duress. As Fuchs argues, while in pain, the temporality we experience is a future-oriented “not yet”: I am not yet out of pain, but am driven forward to try to alleviate or escape it (Fuchs 2003:71–72). Compare, for instance, Archilochus fr. 13 W where ‘the gods placed in addition powerful endurance (κρατερὴν τλημοσύνην) as an antidote (φάρμακον) for incurable evils (ἀνηκέστοισι κακοῖσιν)’ (5–6). In the context of providing a consolation for people mourning those lost at sea, the poet suggests that ‘endurance’ may—in time—provide a cure against even those evils that now seem ‘incurable’, for, as he explains, fortune changes in time, such that though we now suffer, at some later time someone other than us will suffer (7–9). Indeed, the very rhetoric of a consolatio, as in Archilochus 13 W or in Dione’s speech to Aphrodite, is that pain will eventually subside over time if one endures. Through sustained endurance what is ‘incurable’ (ἀνήκεστος) [76] can eventually come to be cured: what is affectively incurable is literally merely that which has not yet been cured. Temporally speaking, as long as a possible future lies open, the unaccomplished may still be accomplished.

The durability of characters or structures in the Iliad—including the poetics of the Iliad itself—relies on that character’s or structure’s ability to endure. The very fact that gods can be made to endure—that is, to suffer and experience time the way a mortal does—suggests that gods and men, in temporal terms, are not necessarily that different. {30|31}

3.4 Telling time: the narrative temporality of the Iliad

Heidegger envisions temporality in broader terms than Husserl: it is our very condition of existing in the world among other beings; our existence is defined as a ‘Being-there’ (Da-sein) in the world with other beings, [79] before and about whom we feel anxiety (Angst). [80] Our ‘care’ (Sorge) for ourselves, for being in the world (Besorgen), and for other beings (Fürsorge), constitutes our very being-in-the-world: through our concern for other beings, we become ‘entangled’ (verfängt) in our care for them. [81] We feel anxiety not over any particular {31|32} danger, but over possibility itself, which is to say the possibility of our actions. [82] Heidegger takes this concern over our possibility as an indication that our being is temporally conditioned: existence is oriented toward the future, and the ultimate limit of our future possibility is death. [83] Like Solon’s proclamation in Herodotus’ account of his visit to the Lydian king Croesus (Histories 1.29–33), death, for Heidegger, defines our being by providing its end: “how is this entity to be apprehended in its Being before it has reached its end? After all, I am still underway with my Dasein. It is still something that is not yet at an end” (Heidegger 1992:10). [84] The implication—clearer in his earlier work of 1924 and 1925 than in his Being in Time of 1927—is that death provides a kind of narrative {32|33} structure to a life; it turns it into a biography, as Hubert Dreyfus explains in his summary of scholarship on Heidegger’s concept of death: “dying is a way of life that takes account of the certainty of that final event. Thus, dying, or being-towards-death, as a way of life gives life seriousness, and a narrative structure, and so makes possible a life that makes sense in terms of a beginning, middle, and end” (Dreyfus 2005:xxxi). [85] Heidegger’s clearest explanation of death can be found in his 1925 lecture series (Heidegger 1985:307–318 = 1979:424–440). In those pages Heidegger elaborates a phenomenological analysis of death, explaining that,

Death does not stand out in Dasein, but stands before (bevorsteht) Dasein in its being, and constantly at that, as long as it is Dasein. In other words, death is always impending (immer schon bevorstehend). As such, death belongs to Dasein itself even when it is not yet whole and not yet finished, even when it is not dying. Death is not a missing part of a whole taken as composite. Rather it constitutes the totality of Dasein from the start (konstituiert die Ganzheit des Daseins von vornherein), so that it is only on the basis of this totality that Dasein has the being of temporally particular parts, that is, of possible ways to be (möglicher Weisen zu sein).

Heidegger 1985:313 = 1979:432

It is only through the fact that death is before us and always already impending as our ownmost possibility of ceasing-to-be that Dasein can conceive of itself as a whole, and thereby reflect upon its “possible ways of being” in terms of particular choices, attitudes, and actions. In other words, Being-towards-death provides the possibility of a kind of self-narrativizing.

Heidegger’s more refined sense of temporality as the condition of our existing in the world with other beings and entangled in our care for them will prove useful to our reading of temporality in the Iliad, in particular in terms of “emotional” pain. The care that a character has for another entangles that character in a temporal experience that is wholly human, insofar as it is entailed in the very experience of Being-in-the-world. In other words, care—the experience of emotional anxiety or pain for oneself or for another—is a temporalizing experience that constitutes the very essence of what it means to be human. When Homer’s gods care for other characters in the epic, they become like humans through their experience of time. For instance, Achilles’ immortal horses become caught up in human temporality when they separate {33|34} themselves from the battle to mourn the death of Patroklos. They seem to have become something less than divine—they are no longer self-sufficient because of their “longing” for Patroklos, and their sorrow over his death has tainted their immortal beauty:

ἵπποι δ’ Αἰακίδαο μάχης ἀπάνευθεν ἐόντες
κλαῖον, ἐπεὶ δὴ πρῶτα πυθέσθην ἡνιόχοιο
ἐν κονίῃσι πεσόντος ὑφ’ Ἕκτορος ἀνδροφόνοιο.
ἀλλ’ ὥς τε στήλη μένει ἔμπεδον, ἥ τ’ ἐπὶ τύμβῳ
ἀνέρος ἑστήκῃ τεθνηότος ἠὲ γυναικός,
ὣς μένον ἀσφαλέως περικαλλέα δίφρον ἔχοντες
οὔδει ἐνισκίμψαντε καρήατα· δάκρυα δέ σφι
θερμὰ κατὰ βλεφάρων χαμάδις ῥέε μυρομένοισιν
ἡνιόχοιο πόθῳ· θαλερὴ δ’ ἐμιαίνετο χαίτη
ζεύγλης ἐξεριποῦσα παρὰ ζυγὸν ἀμφοτέρωθεν.
Μυρομένω δ’ ἄρα τώ γε ἰδὼν ἐλέησε Κρονίων,
κινήσας δὲ κάρη προτὶ ὃν μυθήσατο θυμόν·
“ἆ δειλώ, τί σφῶϊ δόμεν Πηλῆϊ ἄνακτι
θνητῷ, ὑμεῖς δ’ ἐστὸν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε;
ἦ ἵνα δυστήνοισι μετ’ ἀνδράσιν ἄλγε’ ἔχητον;
οὐ μὲν γάρ τί πού ἐστιν ὀϊζυρώτερον ἀνδρὸς
πάντων, ὅσσά τε γαῖαν ἔπι πνείει τε καὶ ἕρπει.”
But the horses of Aiakides, standing apart from the battle,
wept, since indeed they first learned that their charioteer
had fallen in the dust at the hands of man-slaying Hektor.
But like a grave marker that remains secure in the ground, one that has been stood up
upon the tomb of a man or woman who has died,
just so they remained, holding the very beautiful chariot motionless,
and they leaned their heads upon the ground. Warm tears
flowed down from their eyelids as the horses cried
out of longing for their charioteer. And their luxurious hair was stained
as it streamed out from the yoke-pad along either side of the yoke.
Indeed, when he saw these two crying, the son of Kronos pitied them,
and moved his head and spoke to his own spirit:
“Alas, miserable ones, why did we give you two to lord Peleus,
a mortal, when you are both ageless and immortal?
Was it indeed so that you would have grief among wretched men? {34|35}
For there is nothing anywhere more miserable than man
of all things, however many that breathe and creep upon the earth.”

Iliad XVII 426–428, 434–447

Achilles’ horses are ‘ageless’ and ‘immortal’ (ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε, XVII 444), and yet, in their care for wretched human creatures to whom they have been given, they feel pains (ἄλγε᾿ ἔχητον, XVII 445). They are no longer complete in their being, for they now feel ‘longing’ (πόθῳ, XVII 439) for Patroklos. Suffering and pain entangle them in human temporality—though not only a future-oriented “not yet.” Phenomenological psychology explains that in extreme grief, we can lose sight of any possible future such that our typical future-orientation reverses and we become fixated on the irretrievable past; our “not yet” becomes a “no longer.” [
86] In such circumstances, patients can experience a “retardation” of time, felt as an “eternity” in the most extreme cases of depression: they experience themselves as slowing down while the world passes them by; they feel hindered from their actions by sluggishness, loss of energy, and rigidity. [87] Achilles’ horses seem to suffer in this way: Patroklos is “no longer” with them; they are “no longer” as they were before. Their experience of mortal temporality has tainted them: their hair is now stained (ἐμιαίνετο, XVII 439), and their swift movement is now halted (ἀσφαλέως περικαλλέα δίφρον ἔχοντες, XVII 436), such that they remain in place (μένει ἔμπεδον, XVII 434; μένον, XVII 436)—as if once given to the world of mortals, they can never quite return. [88] These swift creatures have indeed become rigid, as they give over {35|36} their vitality to a pure static mourning and stand like funerary monuments to Patroklos.

Thetis, too, experiences human temporality as she is burdened by grief over the imminent death of her son Achilles. Like the immortal horses, her experience of grief likewise separates her from the world of the gods, as she states: αἰδέομαι δέ | μίσγεσθ’ ἀθανάτοισιν, ἔχω δ’ ἄχε’ ἄκριτα θυμῷ ‘I feel shame to mingle with the immortals, since I have sorrows that cannot be separated in my heart’ (XXIV 90–91). Thetis’ grief prevents her from willingly returning to Olympos, as if her entanglement in the affairs of mortals has forced her to absent herself from the world of gods. Her care for Achilles enmeshes her in mortal time: her sorrows lead her to separate herself from the other gods, as Zeus acknowledges in his reply: ἤλυθες Οὔλυμπόνδε … κηδομένη περ, | πένθος ἄλαστον ἔχουσα μεγὰ φρεσίν ‘You have come to Olympos even though you are filled with care, since you have unforgettable grief in your heart’ (XXIV 104–105). Thetis’ pains are designated as ‘unable to be separated from one another’ (ἄχε’ ἄκριτα, XXIV 91), and her grief is described as ‘unforgettable’ (πένθος ἄλαστον, XXIV 105): both adjectives are compound verbal adjectives in *-το-, ἄκριτα from the verb κρίνω ‘to separate, decide’, and ἄλαστον from the verb λανθάνω ‘forget’, both formally equivalent with ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered’. [89] I suggest that how we translate these adjectives depends on our interpretation of Thetis’ temporal experience within the Iliad. If Thetis is trapped in the past without a foreseeable future in which her pains may be eased, her temporal “not yet” can only appear as a “no longer”: her pains appear “inseparable” and her grief “unforgettable.” Inseparable pains and unforgettable grief indicate the degree to which Thetis has become enmeshed in the human temporality of her son as she mourns his death; in this temporal mode she appears no longer fully divine, as though she lost something that can never be recovered. But given time, endurance, and the temporal recuperation of the grieving process, Thetis’ temporal structure may open up to a future possibility of being pain-free once again: if she comes to endure her suffering within the future-oriented temporal structure of the “not yet,” her pains will appear “unforgotten” for the present moment only. Though currently entangled in the world of men and their experience of time, she may one day return to the world of gods. {36|37}

Within the narrative scope of the Iliad, Thetis is most certainly entangled in human temporality, both as a goddess forced to marry a mortal man, and as a mother of a doomed son whom she cannot protect. When she visits Hephaistos to acquire new armor for her son, Thetis laments over her own status:

Τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα Θέτις κατὰ δάκρυ χέουσα·
Ἥφαιστ’, ἦ ἄρα δή τις, ὅσαι θεαί εἰσ’ ἐν Ὀλύμπῳ,
τοσσάδ’ ἐνὶ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἀνέσχετο κήδεα λυγρά,
ὅσσ’ ἐμοὶ ἐκ πασέων Κρονίδης Ζεὺς ἄλγε’ ἔδωκεν;
ἐκ μέν μ’ ἀλλάων ἁλιάων ἀνδρὶ δάμασσεν,
Αἰακίδῃ Πηλῆϊ, καὶ ἔτλην ἀνέρος εὐνήν
πολλὰ μάλ’ οὐκ ἐθέλουσα. ὃ μὲν δὴ γήραϊ λυγρῷ
κεῖται ἐνὶ μεγάροις ἀρημένος, ἄλλα δέ μοι νῦν·
υἱὸν ἐπεί μοι δῶκε γενέσθαί τε τραφέμεν τε
ἔξοχον ἡρώων, ὃ δ’ ἀνέδραμεν ἔρνεϊ ἶσος,
τὸν μὲν ἐγὼ θρέψασα φυτὸν ὣς γουνῷ ἀλωῆς
νηυσὶν ἐπιπροέηκα κορωνίσιν Ἴλιον εἴσω
Τρωσὶ μαχησόμενον· τὸν δ’ οὐχ ὑποδέξομαι αὖτις
οἴκαδε νοστήσαντα δόμον Πηλήϊον εἴσω.
ὄφρα δέ μοι ζώει καὶ ὁρᾷ φάος ἠελίοιο,
ἄχνυται, οὐδέ τί οἱ δύναμαι χραισμῆσαι ἰοῦσα.
Then Thetis replied to him as she shed a tear:
“Hephaistos, in truth who is there—however many goddesses there are on Olympos—
who suffers in her heart as many grevious cares
as Zeus, Kronos’ son, has given pains to me out of all the other goddesses?
Out of the other women of the sea, he made me subject to a man,
Peleus, son of Aiakos, and I endured the marriage with a man,
though it was very much against my will. Indeed, he lies
in his great halls, destroyed by grievous old age, but now I have other concerns,
since he gave me a son both to bear and to raise up
outstanding among heroes. And he shot up like a young tree,
and I nurtured him, like a plant in the pride of the orchard,
and I sent him forth in curved ships into Ilion
to fight with the Trojans. But I will not receive him again
returned home into the house of Peleus. {37|38}
Yet while he is still alive and sees the light of the sun,
he grieves, and though I go to him, I am not able to protect him at all.

Iliad XVIII 428–443

Thetis has been subjected to the mortal world both through her marriage to Peleus, a union forced upon her by Zeus, and by the birth of a mortal son. Both husband and son exist within mortal temporality: Peleus is now himself ruined by old age (γήραϊ λυγρῷ … ἀρημένος, XVIII 434–435), and Achilles’ death is imminent, [
90] while the goddess herself is powerless to protect him from death (οὐδέ τί οἱ δύναμαι χραισμῆσαι ἰοῦσα, XVIII 443). [91] Even her love isn’t sufficient to preserve her son, as Achilles explains: ‘Don’t hold me back from battle, even though you love me; you won’t persuade me’ (μηδέ μ᾿ ἔρυκε μάχης φιλέουσά περ· οὐδέ με πείσεις, XVIII 126). Although a goddess, Thetis mourns like a mortal mother (XXIV 104–105; cf. XXII 405–407, XXIV 747–760). Perhaps along with her grief Thetis is also caught up in human temporality in the experience of great anger, as Laura Slatkin (1986, 1991) has reconstructed it: Zeus forced the goddess to marry a mortal husband and bear a mortal child to protect his own hegemony—the price of Zeus’ rule is no less than Achilles’ death and Thetis’ grief. [92] Thetis’ self-imposed separation from Olympos (XXIV 90–91) is a sign of both her grief and anger: both emotions signal her status as caught up in the world of mortals and human time.

These examples of immortals caught up in human temporality suggest that Homer’s gods are normally quite beyond the world of mortals, apart in their own world and unburdened by the experiences that make us human: they are free from pain, sorrow, old age, illness, hunger, labor, death, and generally speaking, care. Indeed, Achilles certainly views the gods as uncaring or forgetful as he speaks to Priam in Book XXIV of the Iliad; in his view, mankind is subject to grief (ἀχεύω), whereas the gods themselves are ‘carefree’ (ἀκηδέες):

ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ κατ’ ἄρ’ ἕζευ ἐπὶ θρόνου, ἄλγεα δ’ ἔμπης
ἐν θυμῷ κατακεῖσθαι ἐάσομεν ἀχνύμενοί περ·
οὐ γάρ τις πρῆξις πέλεται κρυεροῖο γόοιο· {38|39}
ὡς γὰρ ἐπεκλώσαντο θεοὶ δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι
ζώειν ἀχνυμένοις· αὐτοὶ δέ τ’ ἀκηδέες εἰσί.
But come now and sit down on the chair, and our pains, in any case,
let’s let them lie still in our spirit, though we are mourning.
For there is no practical advantage from cold lamentation,
for the gods have spun it out for wretched mortals
that we live in grief. But they themselves are without a care.

Iliad XXIV 522–526

In Achilles’ expressed world-view, there is nothing to be gained, no real advantage (πρῆξις, XXIV 524), from grief, for the entire mortal experience of Being-in-the-world is ‘to live in grief’ (ζώειν ἀχνυμένοις, XXIV 526); human temporality is based in care—pain (ἄλγεα, XXIV 522), grief (ἀχνύμενοί, XXIV 523; ἀχνυμένοις, XXIV 526), and lamentation (γόοιο, XXIV 524). It is this very experience of care that defines the difference between mortals and immortals—the gods create the world, and in it, we mortals are entangled in care; but the gods are outside and apart, unaffected by care (ἀκηδέες, XXIV 526), and therefore outside of all human experience. [
93] However, the epic reveals this is not so: the gods do care, as their very involvement in the world of mortals indicates, especially the concern they show over the bodies of the dead (e.g. Sarpedon, Hektor); they feel sorrow over the fate of humans that matter to them. [94] As Zeus explains {39|40} to Poseidon, ‘they are a care to me, even though they are dying’ (μέλουσί μοι ὀλλύμενοί περ, XX 21).

In a remarkable article, Michael Lynn-George (1996) investigates “structures of care” in the Iliad and applies a Heideggerian analysis to investigate the ways in which “care” motivates the narrative. The most striking instance of “care,” Lynn-George argues, is the commemorative project of the Iliad itself:

And the poetics of the Iliad itself is in a fundamental sense that of being mindful, thoughtful, constructing a work from care and respect. The great force opposed to λήθη [‘forgetfulness’] is not simply (or only) ‘memory’, but μνημοσύνη with its important sense of ‘a bearing in mind, thought or care for something’. μιμνήσκω and μνάομαι have the meaning of ‘bethinking oneself of; not to neglect, turn one’s mind to’. These verbs are related in this sense to μέδομαι ‘to observe, watch (over); to take thought (for something); remember, care for’, from which we have the Latin meditare, medeor, English ‘meditate’ and ‘many words expressing the notion of thought or care’. … In the Homeric undertaking, to ‘remember’ is to care and to take care of. This coupling of memory and care, of recollection and thoughtful reflection, is of major significance for the epic poetics of memory itself, in so far as poetry actively strives to overcome forgetfulness, neglect, indifference, and disappearance without a trace … [I]t is the epic itself which emerges finally as the ultimate structure of care. In this relation the Iliad initiates a significant poetic concern—and a definition of poetry as concern

Lynn-George 1996:20; emphases added

The epic poetic tradition is itself a structure of care: it aims to preserve the memory of its hero against “forgetfulness, neglect, indifference, and disappearance without a trace.” Heideggerian care, then, is itself at the heart of the epic tradition, and from this perspective, is concerned with the preservation of Achilles’ κλέος ἄφθιτον. Here, too, Heidegger’s sense of temporality helps us read the Iliad (and, correspondingly, the Iliad enriches our reading of Heidegger). {41|42} Both Achilles’ decision to stay in Troy and fight and die, as well as the tradition’s understanding of its own end revealed in its claim to preserve Achilles’ κλέος ἄφθιτον, call to mind Heidegger’s ‘Being-toward-death’ (das Sein zum Tode) and ‘Being-toward-the-end’ (das Zu-Ende-sein). Achilles’ Being-toward-death takes the form of an acknowledgment and acceptance of his impending fate, as he expresses to his mother Thetis at Iliad XVIII 98–116. Now that Patroklos is dead and Achilles has accepted his fate, he can become what he is meant to be—the hero of the war epic: ‘But now I wish to take up noble fame’ (νῦν δὲ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἀροίμην, XVIII 121). As for the tradition itself, its claim to preserve Achilles’ κλέος ἄφθιτον—specifically as understood as a ‘fame’ that is ‘not (yet) withered’—is likewise oriented toward the future possibility of its own end. This Being-toward-the-end is determined as its ownmost Being-toward-decay. The implicit acknowledgment by the tradition of its own end is signaled in the form and semantics of the adjective ἄφθιτον: its end is entailed in its very being. But it is this Being-toward-its-end that enables the tradition to flourish, and like Achilles, it becomes what it is meant to be—beautiful, precious, and a true testament of care—through the fragility of its being.

3.5 Overview

In chapters 1 and 2, I address the theme of “decay” of organic bodies. In chapter 1, I look at how the timbers of the Achaeans’ ships, along with the bodies of dead Greeks and Trojans, act as “clocks” by measuring the duration of time; bodies rot and lose their physical integrity within time. In chapter 2, I study how the bodies of Sarpedon, Patroklos, and Hektor are all linked by the anxiety that is shown over their potential decomposition; the gods intervene to prevent the bodies from rotting before they can be buried. This motif of the temporarily-preserved body is a figure for the epic tradition of kleos aphthiton which seeks to preserve the memory of those heroes.

In chapters 3 and 4, I deal with the decay of more stable, non-organic bodies—the sēmata of heroes and the walls of the Trojans and Achaeans. In these instances, the material objects are architectural edifices built to last; the Trojan Wall, in particular, was traditionally considered to be the craft of the gods (Poseidon and Apollo) and as such, was to be thought of as permanent and ἄρρηκτος ‘unbreakable’ (ΧΧΙ 447). Nevertheless, all these architectural structures are in fact destroyed, though, like Achilles himself, their “death” does not occur within the narrative confines of the Iliad. Indeed, the very tradition of the Iliad relies on the destruction of Troy and its defensive wall, such that what was ἄρρηκτος ‘unbreakable’ turns out to be a temporally conditioned ‘not (yet) broken’. I argue that this representation of structures that are temporarily permanent function as tropes for poetic κλέος ἄφθιτον. {42|43}

In short, I try to offer a view of the Iliad as something more fragile and perhaps stranger than is commonly held. Its poetics preserve its hero for a time against death, occupying a gray area between the living and the dead; Achilles’ life is put on pause before death sets back in, before decay begins, before time—like a dog—devours his body. This gray area is the location of ἄφθιτος ‘unwithered’ and ἀθάνατος ‘immortal, undying’. Achilles’ fame is not ‘immortal’ in our understanding of the word—it is never meant to last ‘forever’ and to be ‘everlasting’, but is temporarily sheltered from time, even though its end is entailed in its existence. While Achilles is “still perfectly” healthy and alive in the Iliad, even in the final verses of the poem that end with the burial of Hektor, the very tradition that preserves the Iliad for us guarantees his death. There is a critical shift that we should make, then, from ἄφθιτον ‘unwithered’ to the process of the poetic tradition itself as indicated by κλέος ‘epic fame’, which is literally ‘that which we hear’. The poetics of the Iliad remains durable so long as it retains κλέος—that is, only so long as we continue to read and teach it. {43|}


[ back ] 1. The promotional quote by author Geraldine Brooks, printed on the dust-jacket of Finkel’s book, reads: “From a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer at the height of his powers comes an incandescent and profoundly moving book: powerful, intense, enraging. This may be the best book on war since the Iliad.” Compare the review by David Holahan, “The Good Soldiers,” in the 24 Sept. 2009 edition of the Christian Science Monitor, where Holahan writes: “Anyone who has read Homer’s Iliad will have been struck by the graphic descriptions of war. Finkel vividly documents that it hasn’t gotten more palatable over the centuries” (http://features.csmonitor.com/books/2009/09/24/the-good-soldiers/).

[ back ] 2. All citations of Homer’s Iliad are from M. L. West’s edition (1998–2000); those from Homer’s Odyssey are from P. von der Mühl’s edition (1984). Departures from the readings offered by these editors are signaled in the notes. All translations are mine.

[ back ] 3. There is some controversy regarding the translation of this line, whether one should read ἄφθιτον as an attributive or predicate adjective, and hence μοι as a “dative of interest” or a “possessive dative.” See Volk 2002:62n6 for a full bibliography and history of the debate. I find Volk’s arguments for reading ἄφθιτον as an attributive adjective convincing (in agreement with Nagy 2000:424–425, Watkins 1995:173–178), and hence translate: ‘I will have fame unwithering’ (or more literally, ‘there will be for me fame unwithering’), as opposed to ‘my fame will be unwithering’.

[ back ] 4. On the meaning and semantics of κλέος ‘fame, glory’ especially as conferred by poetry, see Nagy 1999:15–18 (Ch.1§2–4).

[ back ] 5. On the meaning and semantics of ἄφθιτον and its cognate verbs φθίνω and φθινύθω, see Nagy 1974:229–261, esp. 240–255, Nagy 1999:174–189 (Ch.10§1–19), Floyd 1980, Steiner 1986:38, Risch 1987:4–5, Bakker 2002, Finkelberg 2007:346n19, and my Appendix below.

[ back ] 6. Lang, Leaf, and Myers 1950:158; Murray 1988:425.

[ back ] 7. Lombardo 1997:171. Compare Fagels 1990:265, “If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy, | my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies” (emphasis added).

[ back ] 8. Lattimore 1951:209.

[ back ] 9. Scott 1974:70–71 identifies fourteen “tree similes” in the Iliad and Odyssey, all in contexts describing heroes: “As trees either stand solidly or are cut down, so also there are warriors who remain unmoving or who fall dead on the battlefield” (70).

[ back ] 10. For further comparison of human life to the transient nature of vegetal life in Greek lyric poetry, see Mimnermus fr. 2 W with discussion and further bibliography at Griffith 1975 and Bakker 2002. Achilles’ fate to be ‘short lived’ is often noted in the Iliad, including I 352, where Thetis tells Achilles that he is to be very short lived’ (μινυνθάδιον), and I 416, where Thetis tells Achilles his life will be very short (ἐπεί νύ τοι αἶσα μίνυνθά περ, οὔτι μάλα δήν ‘since now your fate is short lived—no, not very long at all’). On references to Achilles’ fate in the Iliad, see Burgess 2009 with bibliography.

[ back ] 11. Consider, for instance, Pindar Pythian 8.95–96: ἐπάμεροι· τί δέ τις; τί δ’ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ | ἄνθρωπος. ‘[Men are] ephemeral beings. What is a person? What is he not? Mankind is the dream of a shadow’. On these verses, see Fränkel 1946.

[ back ] 12. I believe it is fair to say that the communis opinio of Homeric studies holds κλέος ἄφθιτον to be “immortal fame achieved through the cultural innovation of song,” a gloss of Nagy’s influential formulation (Nagy 1999:174–189 [Ch.10§1–18]), likening the poetic process to that of Hephaistos’ material craftsmanship which produced Agamemnon’s scepter: “Let us begin with the skēptron ‘scepter’ of Agamemnon (I 245–246), by which Achilles takes his mighty oath (I 234–244), and which is specifically described as ‘gold studded’ (χρυσείοις ἥλοισι πεπαρμένον: I 246) and ‘golden’ (χρυσέου: II 268). This skēptron, by which Agamemnon holds sway in Argos (II 108) and which an Achaean chieftain is bound by custom to hold in moments of solemn interchange (I 237–239, II 185–187), also qualifies specifically as áphthiton aieí ‘imperishable forever’ (II 46, 186). It was made by the ultimate craftsman, Hephaistos (II 101), whose divine handicraft may be conventionally designated as both golden and áphthito– (e.g., XIV 238–239). … Achilles is here swearing not only by the skēptron but also in terms of what the skēptron is—a thing of nature that has been transformed into a thing of culture” (Nagy 1999:179–180, ch. 10§8; emphasis added). “In this light, let us reconsider the epithet áphthito-. We have already seen it conveys the cultural negation of a natural process, the growing and wilting of plants, and also, by extension, the life and the death of mortals … For both heroes [sc. Achilles and Demophoön], the key to immortality is the permanence of the cultural institutions into which they are incorporated—cult for Demophoön, epic for the Achilles of our Iliad. Both manifestations of both institutions qualify as áphthito-” (Nagy 1999:184, ch. 10§13; emphases added). I cite Nagy 1999 here as the best and most complete formulation that poetry, as a cultural process, transforms what would be naturally susceptible to decay to something that will no longer rot (cf. Rubino 1979, Vernant 1981, Nagy 1981). However, I wish to note that in his extended argument, Nagy emphasizes kleos as an ongoing process: just as the rituals of hero cult must be performed on a recurring basis, so too must epic be performed, repeatedly, so that kleos does not wither away into oblivion. See Nagy 1999:94–117 (Ch. 6§1–30), esp. 116–117 (§30), for a claim that epic represses mention of the continual reperformance necessary for its survival: “What is recurrent in ritual is timeless in epic tradition, just like the kléos áphthiton of Achilles” (117). In other words, though Nagy provides the best formulation of the interpretation of κλέος ἄφθιτον I wish to challenge, our respective readings are actually much closer than they appear.

[ back ] 13. On “temporality” as “what it means to exist within time,” see my discussion below. On the connection between temporality and narrativity, see Paul Ricoeur 1979, 1980, and his three-volume opus Time and Narrative (1984–1988).

[ back ] 14. See, for instance, Purves 2004 for an association between the “storage” of food (placed in a pithos jar and buried underground) and concern for the “future” in Hesiod’s Works and Days. On “storage capacity” as a cultural strategy to overcome the “restraints” of time, see Munn 1992:106.

[ back ] 15. Buck 1933:307–308, 335, Sihler 1995:621–622, Drinka 2009:143.

[ back ] 16. On stative verbs, see further Sihler 1995:564–568 and Buck 1933:308.

[ back ] 17. Meillet 1929:638, “Le rôle de l’adjectif en –τος est d’indiquer un procès aboutissant à son terme.”

[ back ] 18. On the suffix *-tο– and the formation of the ordinal and superlative, see Benveniste 1975:144–168 with bibliography. Chantraine 1961:283 observes, “This suffix *-to– is originally the same that we see in the superlatives and ordinals, and expresses, as a rule, the accomplishment of a verbal process.” [“Ce suffixe *-to– est le même originellement que l’on observe dans les superlatifs et les ordinaux et exprime, en principe, l’accomplissement du procès verbal.”] See also Meier-Bruger 2003:219–223 (§F325) and 285 (§W203) with bibliography.

[ back ] 19. Benveniste 1975:145 notes, “the ordinal properly designates the element in a numeric series which ends and ‘completes’ it, and therefore is the last term” [l’ordinal désigne proprement l’élément d’une série numérique qui la termine et la ‘remplit’, donc le dernier terme”].

[ back ] 20. “L’ordinal indique le terme dernier qui complète un ensemble, en s’ajoutant soit à nombre soit à une énumération. De même le superlatif dénote le terme ultime qui porte à son point final une qualité que d’autres termes manifestent.”

[ back ] 21. See the dense and rewarding discussion of the semantics of the alpha privative at Puhvel 1953.

[ back ] 22. Indeed, Meillet 1929:636 argues that adjectives in *–to– in Greek did not develop into perfect passive participles specifically because Greek already had a fully developed participial system; instead, Greek verbal adjectives in *-to– were used as perfect passive participles only for compound adjectives.

[ back ] 23. Liddell, Scott, and Jones 1996:1578, s.v., Sihler 1995:622, Drinka 2009:143. Compare also Greek ἔμετος ‘vomiting’ with Vedic vamitá– ‘made to vomit’, both traceable to PIE *wemḥ 1 -to- (Sihler 1995:622; Liddell, Scott, Jones 1996:541, s.v.).

[ back ] 24. See Liddell, Scott, and Jones 1996:1919, s.v., for citations; however, contrast Hesiod Works and Days 3, ἄνδρες ἄφατοι τε φατοί τε ‘men both not famous and famous’: here the adjective ἄφατος indicates men who are not famous—i.e. ‘not (yet) spoken about’. See West 1978:139 ad loc.

[ back ] 25. “L’adjectif en –τός exprimait à l’origine un état passif, mais a pris la valeur de possibilité: un composé comme ἄμβροτος ‘qui ne meurt pas’ signifie aussi bien ‘qui ne peut pas mourir’, d’où pour le simple βρότος le sens de ‘qui peut mourir’ …”

[ back ] 26. “Cette création des composés négatifs est en outre à l’origine de la valeur de ‘possibilité passive’ que portent fréquemment, surtout—mais non exclusivement—en grec, les adjectifs en *-to-. Le développement de cette valeur tient à un de ces principes non formulés, difficilement formulables, sous-jacents à mainte catégorie sémantique et qui orientent spécifiquement, selon les ‘mentalités’, les classifications nominales; on pourrait l’exprimer ainsi: ce qui n’a pas été fait une fois ne peut pas l’être. Ainsi ἄβατος ‘non franchi > infranchissable’; ἄρρηκτος ‘non brisé > infrangible’. Ce sens peut toujours se développer dans des formes négatives, cf. lat. invictus , et il a pu se manifester dès l’origine. On le voit dans l’expression concordante véd. ákṣiti śrávaḥ (RV. I.40. 4) et hom. κλέfος ἄφθιτον (Ι 413)gloire impérissable’, héritée de la phraséologie poétique indo-européenne.

[ back ] 27. On ἄρρηκτος, see Liddell, Scott, and Jones 1996:247, Frisk 1973–1979:II.652–653, Chantraine 1968–1980:971–972, and my discussion in chapter 3 below.

[ back ] 28. The connection between κλέος ἄφθιτον and śrávas … ákṣitam was first drawn by Adalbert Kuhn, “Über die durch Nasale erweiterten Verbalstämme,” Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Sprachforschung 2 (1853) 455–471. As Clackson 2007:180 summarizes, “In both traditions, the phrase means ‘imperishable fame’, and since the words for ‘fame’ (Greek κλέος and Sanskrit śrávas) and ‘imperishable’ (Greek ἄφθιτον, Sanskrit ákṣitam) are exactly cognate, it appears possible to reconstruct a PIE phrase *kléwos n-d h g wh itom.” For discussion of Indo-European phraseology and poetics, see Wackernagel 1943, Schmitt 1967:61–102, esp. 66–67, Nagy 1974, and 1999:102 (Ch. 6§11–12), 117–119 (Ch. 7§1–2), 135 (Ch. 7§21n6), 184–185 (Ch. 10§13–14), Watkins 1995, and Katz 2005.

[ back ] 29. The etymology of Ὅμηρος ‘Homer’ from ὁμοῦ + ἀρ- (< ἀραρίσκω ‘join together’) was first proposed by Welker 1835–1847:128; while the ὁμοῦ (‘in the same place’) element has been questioned, a derivation from *ὁμ(ο)- (‘together, in agreement’) + *ἀρ- (‘join together’) has been largely accepted, although not without dissenting voices. In approval, see Boisacq 1950:700, Chantraine 1968–1980:797, and Frisk 1973–1979:II.386, s.v. ὅμηρος, Nagy 1999:296–300 (Ch. 17§10), 1990b:372–373, 1996:89–91, and West 1999:374–376. The most extensive treatments are Thesleff 1985 and Markwald’s article at LfgrE III (2004):678–680, s.v. Ὅμηρος. Both provide a concise history of the question and discuss various alternative interpretations offered by scholars. Thesleff concludes (a) that although it is not possible definitively to rule out a foreign origin for the word, a Greek origin is certainly possible and even likely, and (b) that a derivation from ἀραρίσκω poses no problems (299–300). Of particular importance is Thesleff’s note that ὅμηρος and ῥαψῳδός (‘he who stitches together songs’ < ῥάπτω ‘stitch together’ + ᾠδή ‘song’) represent related concepts: “And the same idea of ἀραρίσκειν is also present in the term ῥαψῳδός where ῥάπτειν apparently refers to the ‘stitching together’ of the ἔπη (oral epic formulae)” (307).

[ back ] 30. The tower shield especially associated with Ajax (cf. Iliad VII 219) seems to have gone out of use before the end of the fourteenth century BCE. Consider likewise the Homeric φάσγανα ‘swords’ paralleled by Mycenaean pa-ka-na (KN Ra 1540: cf. Ventris and Chadwick 1953:92, Horrocks 1997:197). On the boar’s tusk helmet in use before the fifteenth century BCE, see Janko 1994:179–180, with bibliography. On Homeric references to Bronze Age military equipment more generally, see Lorimer 1950:152–153, 212–219, 273–274, Page 1959:232–235, Luce 1975:101–107, 119, and M. West 1988:156–159, with bibliography.

[ back ] 31. See Janko 1982 for a list of old linguistic features that may provide relative dates between Homer, Hesiod, and the poet of the Homeric Hymns based on the frequency of their observance: e.g., the observance of digamma; masculine ᾱ- stem genitive singular in –ᾱο vs. -εω; α- stem genitive plural in –ᾱων vs. -έων or -ῶν; ο- stem genitive singular in –οιο vs. –ου; and the oblique case ending –φι. See further West 1988 and Horrocks 1997:196–199.

[ back ] 32. See Clark 1986 for a review of earlier neoanalytic approaches to Homer, and the more recent discussions of Willcock 1997 and Burgess 2001, 2009.

[ back ] 33. See, for instance, Redfield 1975, Griffin 1976, 1980, Rutherford 1982, and Schein 1984.

[ back ] 34. See already Paton 1912 and 1913 on the suppressed themes of the hero’s spear that once thrown, magically returns to his hand (and cf. Iliad XXII 273–277 where Athena returns Achilles’ spear without Hektor noticing), and of marching around a city’s walls as a magical ritual designed to destroy those very walls (and compare XXII 208 where Achilles chases Hektor three times around Troy with the Biblical account of the battle of Jericho where soldiers march around the city seven times: Joshua 6:1–27).

[ back ] 35. On the tragic elements in the Iliadic depiction of “supernatural” features, such as Achilles’ horses, see Schein 2002; on Zeus’ tears of blood, see Lateiner 2002.

[ back ] 36. See the discussion in Nagy 1974:140–149 and 1999:1–5 (Introduction §2–9), 78–79 (Ch. 5§19). Watkins 1995:17 stresses that formulae should be viewed as the surface expressions of underlying themes—namely the network of myth, culture, and poetic diction.

[ back ] 37. See especially John Miles Foley’s work on oral poetic composition (1988, 1991, 1995, 1999).

[ back ] 38. On the “flexibility” and “modification” of formulaic lines in the Homeric hexameter and the construction of “analogical” formulae, see Parry 1971:68–74, 175–180, Russo1963, 1966, and 1997, Hoekstra 1964, Hainsworth 1968, Ingalls 1970 and 1976, Janko 1981, and M. Edwards 1986 and 1988.

[ back ] 39. On type scenes and their variation and expansion, see Lord 2000:25–27, 68–98, Fenik 1968 and 1978, Edwards 1980, Martin 1989:206–230. See Hainsworth 1970 for further examples of Homeric “innovation,” and more generally Nagy 1999 on the interplay between meter, diction, and theme.

[ back ] 40. See Willcock 1964, 1977 and Braswell 1971 on Homer’s “ad hoc inventions”—that is, the creation of stories told by one character to another for a specific purpose, such as to exhort someone to do something, to console them, or to provide motivation for a someone’s actions by referring to past services rendered to that person.

[ back ] 41. Russo 1968:278, cited above.

[ back ] 42. Consider, for instance, the instances in which the poet introduces possible narrative events that are ὑπὲρ μοῖραν / ὑπὲρ μόρον / ὑπὲρ αἶσαν ‘beyond destiny’, such as the premature death of Aeneas (XX 336) and the premature sack of Troy at Achilles’ hands (XX 30, XXI 517). In such instances Homer appears to challenge the very tradition in which he is working—which we may think of as a kind of “destiny” for the narrative in its own right, as Morrison 1997:284 argues—and asserts his own authority for the direction the narrative takes. On these scenes and other “contrafactual narratives,” see Nagy 1999:81–82 (Ch. 5§25n2), Lang 1989, Morrison 1992, 1997 (esp. 283–285), Louden 1993, and Garcia Jr. 2007:51–53 with bibliography. On the possibility of Homer revising or working against a traditional plot of the Iliad, consider further the analogue of Hera’s deception of Zeus which essentially hijacks Zeus’ “plan” for how events will turn out: see my discussion in chapter 3 below with further bibliography.

[ back ] 43. See the evidence collected in Floyd 1980.

[ back ] 44. On κλέος ἄφθιτον and śrávas … ákṣitam indicating a shared Indo-European poetic tradition, see the works cited above. For a dissenting view, see Finkelberg 1986 and 2007 who argues that the Homeric κλέος ἄφθιτον is not a “traditional formula,” but rather “a formulaic modification created by analogy with formulae and formulaic patterns available to the poet” (Finkelberg 2007:342).

[ back ] 45. Edwin Floyd 1980 challenged the idea that the Vedic uses of śrávas … ákṣitam / ákṣiti śrávas imply a fame that will last forever (pace Nagy 1974). Instead, Floyd argued that the śrávas ‘fame’ in these texts is only ákṣitam ‘imperishing’ within a bound temporal extent (Floyd 1980:135–139). That is to say, in Indic poetry the concept of fame (śrávas … ákṣitam) privileges material possessions which are to be understood as lasting a lifetime, not eternally. Much of the debate between Floyd and Nagy depends on the analysis of one of the three epithets besides ákṣitam that qualify śrávas ‘fame’ at RV 1.9.7bc: viśvā́yur ‘everlasting’ (Nagy 1974:110) vs. ‘lasting our life-time’ (Floyd 1980:136n6). Nagy responded to Floyd’s argument in an important and dense article (Nagy 1981, recast as 1990a:122–127) in which he looks at the etymology of viśvā́yur—in particular its element –ā́yu-/-ā́yus ‘vital force’, cognate with Avestan āyu– ‘span of life’, Greek αἰών ‘vital force’ and αἰεί ‘continually, ever,’ Latin aeuum ‘lifespan, eternity’ and aeternus ‘long lasting, eternal’, and the related Indo-European words for ‘young’: Sanskrit yuvan-, Avestan yava-, Latin iuuenis, which seem to be connected with a root sense of ‘vital force’ as denoting the period of one’s life when one is at the acme of his or her physical vitality (Nagy 1981:114–115; on the etymologies, see Benveniste 1937, Puhvel 1954, Chantraine 1968–1980, and Frisk 1973–1979). Nagy concludes, “from the standpoint of the Indo-European language-family the notion of material security is not incompatible with the notion of eternity. To put it another way: the notion of eternity is actually visualized in terms of material security. Thus for example the word aiṓn, which is to be realized for Achilles in his possession of material wealth after a safe homecoming, has a built-in temporal sense by virtue of designating the vital force that keeps one alive and without which one would not be alive. The notion of ‘duration’ extends to ‘age’, ‘generation’, with an open-ended perspective on the future … Homeric poetry has separated not so much the theme of material wealth from the theme of perpetuity but rather the theme of personal immortalization from the theme of immortalization by poetry. Achilles is in effect saying that he chooses immortality as conferred by the Iliad over immortality as conveyed by the material visualizations of aiṓn and nóstos” (Nagy 1981:115–116). I interpret Nagy as suggesting that Homeric poetry presents an innovation in the conception of durability: the ‘immortality’ conveyed by return and material goods in the Vedic tradition has become the ‘immortality’ of poetic commemoration (kleos aphthiton). My goal in these pages is both to emphasize the innovative feature of the Homeric attestation of κλέος ἄφθιτον and to refine the concept of its implied ‘durability’ in terms of the temporal status and experiences of the characters and objects represented within the narrative.

[ back ] 46. See Risch’s discussion of compound names in –kleos in Linear B, including, perhaps, a woman’s name a-qi-ti-ta (MY Oe 103, KN Ap 639.12) which Risch interprets as *Ak w hthitā (Risch 1987:9). Risch explores the possibility that Ak w hthitā may be a hypocorism for a name like *Ak w hthitoklewejja, a name compounded of ἄφθιτον and κλέος, just as e-te-wa / Etewās (PY An 657.3) appears hypocoristic for Etewoklewēs (Risch 1987:10–11). In other words, we may have an attestation of kleos aphthiton in Mycenaean Greek, strengthening the belief in a continuous Indo-European poetic tradition. For the use of proper names in reconstructing traditional epic phraseology, compare Schmitt’s argument that the Vedic Sanskrit formula śrávas pṛthú ‘broad fame’ must have replaced an earlier (and no longer attested) phrase *śrávas urú ‘wide fame’, based on the evidence of the Sanskrit proper name Uruśravās and the cognate Greek phrase kléos eurú (1967:73–74).

[ back ] 47. See Vernant 1991:33–36, and Sissa and Detienne 2000 on the economy of food/energy as distinguishing mortals and immortals in Greek mythology; Bachelard 2000:140 makes the same point from a perspective influenced by Bergson’s durée. Boisvert 2006 discusses the temporality of hunger (represented by Boisvert’s term “stomach time”).

[ back ] 48. For further analysis of chronobiology from a phenomenological perspective, see Fuchs 2005a:114–115, Fuchs 2005b:196, and Wyllie 2005a, esp. 175–176.

[ back ] 49. On the contrast between the “superbody” of the gods and that of mankind, see Vernant 1986, in English translation at Vernant 1991:27–49, and consider Thomas Fuchs’ remarks on “optimal synchronization” of the organism and its biological needs (Fuchs 2005b:196).

[ back ] 50. Consider, for instance, Sinos 1980:14 with nn8–14 on the etymological and thematic relationship between ἥρως ‘hero’ and ὥρα ‘season’: “Both words involve the notion of being in season: coming to maturity, ripeness or seed-time” (14). In other words, the epic, as a commemoration of the famous deeds (κλέα) of heroes, must deal intimately with issues of time and temporality—namely, the processes of death and decay each hero must undergo.

[ back ] 51. See the recent work by Bassi 2005 and Grethlein 2008 on objects as indicators of the “past” in Greek literature.

[ back ] 52. Martin Heidegger calls this the “ordinary conception of time.” See his analysis at Heidegger 1962:472–480 (§81).

[ back ] 53. For a description of time in these terms, see Einstein et al. 1952:38–40, Einstein 1961:10–12, 25–31, and Heidegger’s definition of a clock, which relies on the concept of time in physics: “How does the physicist encounter time? His grasping and determining of time have the character of measuring. Measuring indicates the how-long and the when, the from-when-till-when. A clock shows the time. A clock is a physical system in which an identical temporal sequence is constantly repeated, with the provision that this physical system is not subject to change through any external influence. The repetition is cyclical. Each period has identical temporal duration … The way in which the stretch of this duration is divided up is arbitrary” (Heidegger 1992:4, emphasis added). This “ordinary” conception of time as held by “the physicist” is essentially that expressed at Aristotle Physics IV 10–14: see Coope 2005 for discussion with bibliography.

[ back ] 54. Fränkel 1968:2–5. See further Fränkel 1975, esp. 516–520, and the short discussions at Vivante 1970:141–146 and Kullmann 2001:385. For ἤματι τῷ ὅτε ‘on the day when’, see Iliad II 351, 743, III 189, V 210, VI 345, VIII 475, IX 253, 439, XI 766, XIII 355, XIV 250, XV 76, XVIII 85, XIX 60, 89, 98, XXI 77, XXII 359, 471, XXIII 87; Odyssey v 309, xx 19, xxiii 252.

[ back ] 55. Odyssey ix 58–59: ἦμος δ’ ἠέλιος μετενίσετο βουλυτόνδε, | καὶ τότε δὴ Κίκονες κλῖναν δαμάσαντες Ἀχαιούς. ‘But when the sun moved to boulutonde, that’s indeed when the Kikonians turned the tide of battle by conquering the Achaeans.’ Scholia QV at Odyssey ix 58 (Dindorf) glosses βουλυτόνδε as τὸν καιρὸν ἐν ᾧ οἱ βόες λύονται τῶν ἔργων, ‘The specific time at which oxen are loosened from their labors’, measuring specific time (τὸν καιρόν) in terms of position of the sun in the sky. On the semantic difference between χρόνος and καιρός, see Smith 1969.

[ back ] 56. See Radin 1988:299. See further Radin 1988:299n18 for an argument that the –δε of βουλοντόνδε, when interpreted as referring to a spatial position of the sun in its course across the sky as opposed to a temporal concept, fits the regular understanding of the directional adverb –δε (so Frame 1978:164, cited by Radin). Radin compares μέσον οὐρανόν ‘to the middle of the sky’ as another expression that indicates spatial position of the sun and not simply temporal meaning.

[ back ] 57. On ἦμος clauses indicating repeated “cyclical” time, see Radin 1988:298n16 citing Leach 1961:124–136 (“Two Essays Concerning the Symbolic Representation of Time”). Radin is especially concerned with “sunrises” and “sunsets” as locations of events in time in Homeric epic.

[ back ] 58. See especially Iliad XXI 443–445 where Poseidon and Apollo were once wage-laborers for the Trojan king Laomedon: ὅτ’ ἀγήνορι Λαομέδοντι | πὰρ Διὸς ἐλθόντες θητεύσαμεν εἰς ἐνιαυτὸν | μισθῷ ἔπι ῥητῷ ‘when to proud Laomedon we came from Zeus to be servants for a year for a specified wage-contract’, and XXI 450–451: ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ μισθοῖο τέλος πολυγηθέες ὧραι | ἐξέφερον. ‘But when indeed the very gladdening seasons brought the end of our wage-contract’. See Whorf 1956b:153–154 on the temporal structure of time-wages specific to Western languages and thought, including specifically “the building up of a commercial structure based on time-pro-rata values: time wages (time work constantly supersedes piece work), rent, credit, interest, depreciation charges, and insurance premiums.”

[ back ] 59. On the temporal significance of genealogical tales, see Munn 1992:101–102 and Whorf 1956b:153.

[ back ] 60. On the rhetorical use of paradeigmata, see Nagy 1992, Howie 1995, and Alden 2000 with further bibliography.

[ back ] 61. See Garcia Jr. 2007:54–61, discussing Paris catching up with Hektor in Iliad VI.

[ back ] 62. One could make further mention of the tense system of the Indo-European verb, which generally divides actions into present, past, and future time, with further distinctions of aspect (ongoing, simple, and complete). Moods like the subjunctive and optative show conditionality—that something may occur, given certain circumstances. Further, adverbs such as ὀπίσω ‘back, behind, hereafter, in the future’ indicate a spatial location of different temporal relations (see Dunkel 1982–1983 and Bettini 1991 on the spatialization of temporal relations through adverbs, and Purves 2004 on the image of the pithos jar used to store food beneath the ground as a spatialization of the “future”).

[ back ] 63. I refer specifically to Husserl 1962 (original edition 1913), 1991 (original edition 1928), and his 1905 lecture notes on “internal time consciousness” published in translation as Husserl 1981.

[ back ] 64. The works I draw on here are Heidegger’s Being and Time (1927, rpt. 2006, trans. 1962), and two lectures that led up to that work: (1) Heidegger’s “Der Begriff der Zeit” (“The Concept of Time”) delivered to the Marburg Theological Society in July, 1924 (available in English translation with the original German on facing-pages as Heidegger 1992); and (2) his 1925 lecture series “Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs” (“History of the Concept of Time”) published in 1979 as volume 20 of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe and translated into English as Heidegger 1985.

[ back ] 65. “Duration, succession, changes appear. What is implied in this appearing? In a succession, for example, a ‘now’ appears and, in union with it, a ‘past.’ The unity of the consciousness that encompasses intentionally what is present and what is past is a phenomenological datum” (Husserl 1991:16, §6).

[ back ] 66. “By temporal objects in the specific sense we understand objects that are not only unities in time but that also contain temporal extension in themselves. When a tone sounds, my objectivating apprehension can make the tone itself, which endures and fades away, into an object and yet not make the duration of the tone or the tone in its duration into an object. The latter—the tone in its duration—is a temporal object. The same is true of a melody, of any change whatsoever, but also of any persistence without change, considered as such” (Husserl 1991:24).

[ back ] 67. Fuchs 2005b:195. On “lived time,” see Minkowski 1970, Fuchs 2001a, Wyllie 2005a, 2005b.

[ back ] 68. Fuchs speaks of disturbances of lived time in terms of “synchrony” and “desynchronization.” When we are “in synch” with the “manifold ways of timing” that constitute our participation in the social world we share with others (including the rhythms of sleeping, eating, working, and so on), we are caught up in “lived time”; we are “synchronized” with the world. However, we become “desynchronized” from the world on both biological and social levels through the experience of loss (e.g., hunger = biological loss; grief = social loss); these experiences of loss “entangle the person in his/her past, and he/she temporarily loses the lived synchrony with others” (Fuchs 2001a:181). Compare Minkowski’s distinction between “syntony” and “schizoidism” which he calls a “functional asymmetry”: Minkowski’s terms capture the same basic structure as Fuchs, though from a perspective of personal “élan vital” rather than of shared “social time” or “world time” (Minkowski 1970:xxv, 73–76, 291–294; cf. Fuchs 2001a:180). See further Toombs 1992:62–70 on “the lived body in illness.”

[ back ] 69. On the distinction between the “lived body” and “corporal body,” see Fuchs 2001b, esp. 224–225: “The lived body means not only the felt body, the subjective space of bodily sensations, but comprises my prereflective experience as a whole, insofar as it is conveyed by the medium of the body, by its senses and limbs. I act through my body, perceive and exist through it, without explicitly reflecting on it … [T]he corporeal body appears whenever a reaction or resistance arises to the primary performance of the lived-body; when the body loses its prereflective, automatic coherence with the surrounding world; when our spontaneous bodily expressions are disturbed, blocked, or objectified by an inversion of our attention upon ourselves. The corporeal body is the obstinate or heavy body that eludes my disposal; the body as shown or exposed to others; the body that I am bound to, or that I reflect upon.” In other words, the corporeal body is the body as such that is now object of our thought because it has been brought to our attention in moments of need (hunger, sleep, sexual desire, etc.), pain, or shame. See Fuchs 2001b, 2003, 2005a. On the body becoming the whole of our attention in moments of pain, see Scarry 1985; on the experience of the body in illness, see Toombs 1992.

[ back ] 70. See, for instance, Kestenbaum 1982, Schrag 1982, Leder 1984–1985, 1992, Scarry 1985, and Toombs 1990, 1992.

[ back ] 71. Kestenbaum 1982:13–16, Toombs 1990:237, 1992:62–70, 90–98.

[ back ] 72. See further Toombs 1992:15 on “temporality,” and 51–80 on “the lived body.”

[ back ] 73. See Liddell, Scott, and Jones 1996:1769, s.v. τελαμών.

[ back ] 74. See Iliad XII 433 for a simile of a woman weighing out wool with scales, and VIII 69, XXII 209 for the scales Zeus uses to weigh out human destinies (and cf. XIX 223 and Homeric Hymn to Hermes 324).

[ back ] 75. Compare the uses at Iliad I 228, VII 480, XXI 150, XXIV 35, 505, 519.

[ back ] 76. ἀνήκεστος is the negative compound adjective (ἀ- ‘not (yet)’) in *-το- built on the nominal stem *ηκεσ- ‘cure’ (< ἄκος ‘cure’; cf. the denominative ἀκέομαι ‘to cure’).

[ back ] 77. In his summer semester course of 1928 titled “Metaphysical Foundations of Logic,” Heidegger noted, “That which Husserl still calls time-consciousness, i.e., consciousness of time, is precisely time, itself, in the primordial sense” (cited at Dastur 1998:9).

[ back ] 78. For further differentiation between “clock time” and Heidegger’s temporality as being itself, see Dastur 1998:3–4.

[ back ] 79. On Dasein, see Heidegger 1962:150 (= 2006:114), ‘Dasein is an entity which is in each case I myself; its Being is in each case mine’ (Dasein ist Seiendes, das je ich selbst bin, das Sein ist je meines). On Dasein’s being-in-the-world, see Heidegger 1992:7, “Dasein is that entity which is characterized as being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein).” See also Heidegger 1962:225 (= 2006:114) on being-in-the-world consisting of a ‘Being-there with others’ (das Mitdasein der Anderen): “By reason of this with-like (mithaften) Being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-seins), the world is always the one that I share with Others. The world of Dasein is a with-world (Die Welt des Daseins ist Mitwelt). Being-in is Being-with Others (Das In-Sein ist Mitsein mit Anderen). Their Being-in-themselves within-the-world is Dasein-with (Mitdasein)” (1962:155 = 2006:118).

[ back ] 80. On Heidegger’s use of ‘anxiety’ (Angst), see Heidegger 1962:227–235 (= 2006:182–191), especially pp. 231–232 where he defines the source of anxiety as “Being-in-the world itself.” Dastur (1998:25) observes, “‘that’ which makes us anxious is already there, at once nowhere and yet so close that it takes our breath away, literally choking us (Angst has the same root as the Latin angustus, which means narrow).” On Heidegger’s Angst, see further Inwood 1999:16–18.

[ back ] 81. On Heidegger’s Sorge, Besorgen, and Fürsorge, see Inwood 1999:35–37. Heidegger uses the term ‘care’ (Sorge) “in a purely ontologico-existential manner” (1962:237 = 2006:193), such that “This expression [= Sorge ‘care’] too is to be taken as an ontological structural concept. It has nothing to do with ‘tribulation’, ‘melancholy’, or the ‘cares of life’, though ontically one can come across these in every Dasein” (1962:84 = 2006:57). Nevertheless, as Heidegger points out in the following sentence, “These—like their opposites, ‘gaiety’ and ‘freedom from care’—are ontically possible only because Dasein, when understood ontologically, is care” (Ibid.). In other words, even though Heidegger’s concern is with the ontological structure of being, his analysis still holds true for the specific “ontic” phenomena of feeling care for oneself or another—tribulation, melancholy, gaiety, and even freedom from care—since they are possible through the ontological structure of care. On this point, see Hubert Dreyfus’s analysis of “the care-structure” in Heidegger’s Being and Time: “In a conversation with Heidegger I pointed out that ‘care’ in English has connotations of love and caring. He responded that that was fortunate since with the term ‘care’ he wanted to name the very general fact that ‘Sein geht mich an,’ roughly, that being gets to me. Thus all ontic senses of caring are to be included as modes of ontological caring” (Dreyfus 1991:239, emphasis added).

[ back ] 82. See Heidegger 1962:401–418 (= 2006:350–366) on the temporal structure of the ‘in-order-to’ (das Um-zu) and the ‘towards-which’ (das Wozu) of intentionality. See further Heidegger 1985:303–304 on the connection between intentionality and “care.”

[ back ] 83. Heidegger 1962:285–311 (= 2006:241–267). Cf. Heidegger 1992:11, “The end of my Dasein, my death (Das Ende meines Daseins, mein Tod), is not some point at which a sequence of events suddenly breaks off, but a possibility (eine Möglichkeit) which Dasein knows of in this or that way: the most extreme possibility of itself (die äußerste Möglichkeit seiner selbst), which it can seize and appropriate as standing before it. Dasein has in itself the possibility of meeting with its death as the most extreme possibility of itself.” This possibility is precisely “its ownmost possibility of being at an end (Zu-Ende-seins).”

[ back ] 84. Note that Heidegger indicates a difference between biological death, which he terms ‘demise’ (Ableben), and ‘dying’ (Sterben) which does not refer to the physical death of Dasein, but rather its end in a different sense—namely, as the possibility of its no longer existing in the world: “Let the term ‘dying stand for that way of Being in which Dasein is toward its death (Sterben aber gelte als Titel für die Seinsweise , in der das Dasein zu seinem Tode ist)” (1962:291 = 2006:247); “With death, Dasein stands before its ownmost potentiality-for-Being (Seinkönnen). This is a possibility in which the issue is nothing less than Dasein’s Being-in-the-world. Its death is the possibility of no-longer being-able-to-be-there (Sein Tod ist dei Möglichkeit des Nicht-mehr-dasein-könnens). If Dasein stands before itself as this possibility, it has been fully assigned to its ownmost potentiality-for-Being” (1962:294 = 2006:250). On the theme of the “end” of life giving definition to that life—and, significantly, to the narrative about that life, see Dunn 1996 (esp. 3–6 with n5) on “endings” in Greek tragedy, citing Aeschylus Agamemnon 928–929, Sophocles Women of Trachis 1–5, Oedipus the King 1528–1530, Tyndareus (F 646 TrGF), Tyro (F 662 TrGF), Euripides Andromache 100–102, Children of Herakles 865–866, Electra 954–956, and Trojan Women 509–510 in which one cannot be judged happy until one’s life is at an end. As Dunn observes, the actual “end” for Herodotus’ Croesus as well as the “end” for the tragedians’ various tragic heroes is not “death” per se, but rather a significant event (Herodotus’ Croesus is defeated by Cyrus, Sophocles’ Oedipus learns of his transgressions, Aeschylus’ Xerxes survives if only to comprehend the magnitude of his loss) that gives shape to the character’s experience: through the “end,” that character’s life becomes a narrative to the character him- or herself.

[ back ] 85. On this interpretation of Heideggerian “authenticity,” see Guignon 1984, 1993, 2000.

[ back ] 86. Fuchs 2003:72 notes, “Suffering and pain, by their dialectical nature, open up the dimensions of the no-more and the not-yet, of the time gone by and the time to come.” When we periodically experience suffering in the case of physical shortages or losses such as hunger, sleepiness, sexual desire, we can generally satisfy and fill these gaps; the drive to re-fill, re-fuel, and re-store keep us active within the world and oriented toward the future. But emotional losses—as when a friend or loved one dies—can disrupt our temporal experience of the “not yet”: “Hence, in loss or guilt, a new time experience arises: It is not the time of ‘not yet,’ the time of desires and wishes directed toward the future, but the time of ‘no more,’ the time of irrevocable past” (Fuchs 2001a:181).

[ back ] 87. Retardation of time: Straus 1960, Straus 1966:292–294, Wyllie 2005a:178–183, Fuchs 2005a:116–117, Fuchs 2005b:196; the corporeal body experienced as sluggish, heavy, and rigid to the point of resembling a corpse: Fuchs 2001a:183–184, Fuchs 2001b:231, 235, 237, 239, Fuchs 2005a:109–112, Fuchs 2005b:196–97, and compare Minkowski 1970:187–188 on the loss of “personal élan”; time felt as glutinous, heavy: Fuchs 2003:70; time experienced like “eternity” without the possibility of future change: Straus 1960:137, 1966:291–294, Minkowski 1970:190, Fuchs 2001a:184, 2001b:231, 239, 2003:73–74, 2005a:113–118, 2005b:196–197, Wyllie 2005a:176, 178–183. These characterizations of the temporal experience of patients suffering severe pain, grief, and depression have been experimentally verified: see Minkowski 1970:186–193, Wyllie 2005a:180, Fuchs 2005a:117 for bibliography.

[ back ] 88. On Achilles’ horses as indicating human temporality, see Schein 2002 and Lynn-George 1996:2. See further Krell 1993 for an analysis of Heideggerian ethics via this Homeric passage.

[ back ] 89. For ἄκριτος, see Chantraine 1968–1980:585–585, Frisk 1973–1979:II.20–21, and Beekes 2010:I.780–781, s.v. κρίνω. For ἄλαστος, see Chantraine 1968–1980:54, s.v. ἀλάστωρ, Frisk 1973–1979:I.64–65, and Beekes 2010:I.61–62, s.v. ἄλαστος. Although the derivation of ἄλαστος from λανθάνω is formally impeccable, all three scholars note some reservation because of the sense, especially when one takes into account the mythological figure Ἀλάστωρ, a vengeance demon who appears frequently in the tragedians, and whose name, following this etymology, would have to be understood as ‘he who cannot forget or be forgotten’.

[ back ] 90. For Thetis’ and Achilles’ acknowledgments of his impending demise, see XVIII 95–96, 98–103, 115–116, 120–121.

[ back ] 91. On Thetis’ representation as a mother in the Iliad, compare the descriptions of her taking both Dionysus (Θέτις θ’ ὑπεδέξατο κολπῳ, VI 136) and Hephaistos (Θέτις δ’ ὑπεδέξατο κολπῳ, XVIII 398) to her breast when those gods were in pain. While Thetis could nurse these gods back to health, she can do nothing to help Achilles.

[ back ] 92. See Slatkin 1986, esp. 22, and Loraux 1998:49. See further Loraux 1998:43–49 on Demeter and her grief for her daughter, Persephone.

[ back ] 93. This view has been taken up by various scholars. For instance, Griffin (1980:199) notes, “Men are of enough importance to make Zeus incur trouble for their disputes; at the same time they are beneath the serious notice of the gods, who apply to them the words which the haughty Suitors use when their princely banquet is disturbed by the quarrel of the beggars”; Rinon 2008:134 argues that “from the point of view of eternity, which is literally the divine point of view, all such phenomena [i.e. the world of humans] are no more than trifles. Hera’s relation to time, which is also that of her fellow gods, is therefore one of serene indifference.”

[ back ] 94. Sarpedon: As Patroklos is about to kill Zeus’ son Sarpedon, Zeus is distressed (ᾤ μοι ἐγών, XVI 433) and considers violating Sarpedon’s fated death by rescuing him (XVI 435–438). Hera dissuades Zeus, noting that the best way to honor the memory of his son is to mourn him at heart (τεὸν δ’ ὀλοφύρεται ἦτορ, XVI 450), let him die, and see to it that he receives heroic honors and proper burial (XVI 440–442, 450–457). Zeus, at one of his most paternal moments, invoked in these verses by his title of ‘father of both men and gods’, obeys Hera’s behest and sheds bloody tears in honor of his son (οὐδ’ ἀπίθησε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε. | αἱματοέσσας δὲ ψιάδας κατέχευεν ἔραζε | παῖδα φίλον τιμῶν, τόν οἱ Πάτροκλος ἔμελλεν | φθείσειν ἐν Τροίῃ ἐριβώλακι, τηλόθι πάτρης, XVI 458–461). In a remarkable study of this passage, Lateiner 2002 notes that throughout the epic “bereaved parents’ tears and laments compose a Homeric motif” (60), and argues that the image of Zeus’ bloody tears illustrates Zeus’ “‘humanity’ and connectedness to the mortals of the Trojan war” (42). Lateiner speaks of “Zeus’ human-like affect” (43), and notes that “the unnatural event humanizes Zeus and displays his helplessness” (43n5); the bloody tears “express anthropomorphic parental agony” (47). Lateiner concludes: “The distinction between unaging gods and miserable humans collapses in [Iliad] 16.459 to enhance Zeus’ intermittent ‘humanity.’ He sorrows like a human” (49). Hektor: Zeus mourns at heart over Hektor’s death (‘My heart is in mourning for Hektor’, ἐμὸν δ’ ὀλοφύρεται ἦτορ | Ἕκτορος, XXII 169–170). Hecuba acknowledges that the gods loved Hektor while he was alive, and continued to care for him in his death (‘Truly while you were still alive for me, you were dear to the gods, and even in your decree of death, they still care about you’, ἦ μέν μοι ζωός περ ἐὼν φίλος ἦσθα θεοῖσιν, | οἳ δ ἄρα σεο κήδοντο καὶ ἐν θανάτοιό περ αἴσῃ, XXIV 749–750). At XXIV 134–135, the gods are ‘angry’ (σκύζεσθαι), and Zeus, beyond all the others, is ‘enraged’ (κεχολῶσθαι) because Achilles has not yet given back Hektor’s body. At XXIV 152 Zeus sends Iris to inform Priam that the gods will protect him as he makes his way to Achilles’ tent to ransom back Hektor’s body: μὴ δέ τί οἱ θάνατος μελέτω φρεσὶ μὴ δέ τι τάρβος ‘Let death not be a care to him at all, nor a source of fear’. Priam does not need to be concerned or anxious about the possibility of death (μὴ … οἱ θάνατος μελέτω) because the gods will take care of him. On the similarity between Zeus’ sorrow for Sarpedon and Hektor, compare XVI 440–449 with XX 168–181.

[ back ] 95. Hephaistos suffers crippling pain when Zeus hurls him from Olympos and he falls for an entire day (I 591–593, XVIII 395–399). Aphrodite screams in pain (V 343); she and Ares bleed ikhōr when they are wounded (V 339–343, 855–862, 870); she falls to her knees (V 357), and Ares collapses when struck (V 391, 886). Artemis likewise feels pain and weeps as Hera beats her (XXI 489–496). In her plight, the goddess can only think of escape: she twists about (ἐντροπαλιζομένην, XXI 492) and finally breaks free (ὕπαιθα θεὰ φύγεν, XXI 493), but not without suffering loss—her divine accoutrements (ὣς ἣ δακρυόεσσα φύγεν, λίπε δ’ αὐτόθι τόξα, ‘thus she fled weeping, and left her bow and arrows there’, XXI 496). Gods can also feel fear, like Dionysus who trembled in fear before the mortal Lycurgus (VI 137). When involving themselves in human affairs, gods seem to feel the drag of human temporality in their physical exertions: Hephaistos bustles about (I 600, XVIII 472), and perspires (XVIII 372) as he works, as does Hera (IV 27). Levy (1979:215, 217) reads such scenes as proof of an earlier theology in which the gods themselves were not immortal; Andersen (1981:324) reads them as ad hoc additions to the plot and never constitutive of any kind of “religion.” Whether representative of belief or literary feeling, however, the scenes serve to make gods like humans in their experience of time. See, for instance, Rinon 2008:127–144, 188–193, who focuses on Hephaistos as a “humanized god” set apart from other gods in the Iliad with “a difference closely associated with the god’s exceptional conception of time and pain” (134). Rinon emphasizes Hephaistos’ human traits as he is “afflicted in body and limited in movement, suffering pain and humiliation, and constricted by human institutions such as marriage and divorce” (143).

[ back ] 96. Tertullian (Ad nationes 1.10.39) draws attention to both the physical pains that Homer’s gods suffer, such as Aphrodite’s wound (Iliad V 330–343: see chapter 5 below) or Ares’ long incarceration in a bronze jar (V 382–391: see chapter 5 below), as well as the emotional pains they suffer over mortals, such as Zeus’ tears for Sarpedon (see the previous note). On Tertullian and the Christian critique of “weeping gods,” see Corbeill 2009:305–307.

[ back ] 97. See, for instance, Cassin 1981 and Wexler 1993 on the death of the gods in Sumerian and Hittite mytho-poetic traditions; Burton 2001 on the death of the gods in the succession-motifs of Greek mythology; Loraux 1986 on the impossible possibility of death for Ares in Iliad V; and Purves 2006a on the “falling” of Hephaistos and Ares in the Iliad, a headlong pitch that replicates the mortal fall of heroes on the battlefield. See further Levy 1979 and Andersen 1981 debating the “mortality” of gods; Clay 1982 on the gods’ immortality as partly dependent upon the constant renewal of their immortality through the consumption of ambrosia and nektar (on which, see my discussion in chapter 2 below); Slatkin 1986, 1991, Faraone 1992, and Purves 2004:160–164 on the “binding” of gods as a kind of death, which should be compared with Walcot 1961, 1966:61 and Johnson 1999 on the representation of Tartaros, the containment cell where rebellious gods are held, as a “bronze jar.” See Astour 1980:229 and Poljakov 1982 for comparative evidence that the underworld in Near Eastern mythology was also viewed as a “bronze jar,” and my discussion in chapter 5.