Kleos in a Minor Key: The Homeric Education of a Little Prince

  Petropoulos, J. C. B. 2011. Kleos in a Minor Key: The Homeric Education of a Little Prince. Hellenic Studies Series 45. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Petropoulos.Kleos_in_a_Minor_Key.2011.

2. Kleos and Oral News

‘ἐγὼ μὲν ἐξ ἐμοῦ τε κοὐκ ἄλλης σαφῆ
σημεῖ’ ἰδοῦσα τῷδε πιστεύω λόγῳ.’

Sophokles Elektra 885–886

Both oral history and oral tradition spring from orally transmitted messages, [1] or, to use a Homeric term, ἔπεα (literally, ‘words’). [2] As J. Vansina’s now famous analysis shows, both categories of oral message embrace “reminiscences, hearsay or eyewitness accounts about events and situations.” Reminiscences, in turn, belong to a broad “class of original messages” referring to “the interpretation of experience,” whether it be an “existing situation” or other “existing messages.” [3] Vansina also describes another broad class of communications, usually simpler, that concern the present: ‘news’ or, in Homeric Greek, kleos, in its primary, synchronic meaning. Thus, for example, Telemachos’ divinely ordained mission, as we know, consists in the gathering of news regarding his father’s homecoming—or not (Odyssey 1.93–94). The young man himself, when he announces the purpose of his mission to Menelaos (“I come in quest of news (kleos) of my father that has spread from afar … ,” Odyssey 3.83), refers expressly to news according to Vansina’s definition of “information about something that happened not long ago and is not known to one’s audience.” [4] News derives, moreover, from “eyewitnesses, hearsay or internal experience such as visions, dreams or hallucinations.” [5] One of the main components of news, and at later stages of collective historical consciousness, is {39|40} hearsay or rumor, which “deals with … sensational news,” [6] a sub-category of oral messages that besets Telemachos as well as Penelope.

Another phêmis-man in the Odyssey is the messenger (kêrux) Medon. The general details concerning this complex profession are somewhat confusing. Medon does not seem to be an exception in this regard. The former therapôn ‘attendant’ to Telemachos while Telemachos was a child (Odyssey 22.357–358), he appears in the plot as a manservant—a kind of aide-de-camp—of the suitors. [20] At the same time he is by definition a dêmioergos ‘public worker’ (see Odyssey 19.134–135), [21] that is, he belongs to the class or category of workers who travel to various localities in order to practice their profession. [22] If he is at all like the other kêrukes whom Penelope rejects at Odyssey 19.134–135, Medon is also a {41|42} ‘courier’, as it were, who conveys from one city to another angelias, i.e. ‘news’ in the form of narratives. [23] Eumaios (compare especially Odyssey 14.122–132, 166, 372–379) corroborates the obvious point that an angeliê is in principle ‘news’ and that news is to be understood as a narrative (epos, muthos). [24] A kêrux such as Medon is thus recognized to be a narrator of hearsay and news with all that this implies (see below). Finally, a kêrux also has a special professional link to the agorê ‘assembly place’ inasmuch as he might summon the people to the assembly (see Iliad 2.51 = Odyssey 2.7), he might moderate the discussion in the assembly (Iliad 2.97, Odyssey 2.38, etc.), or he might preside over certain public ceremonies in the agorê. [25] For Medon’s affinity with the agorê, see below.

Odysseus’ words are a pun. The context (compare especially epimeidêsas, Odyssey 22.371) implies that he is being ironical. According to Bakker, the adjective poluphêmos at verse 376 carries the pejorative sense ‘market poet’ since the hero is scoffing at the special relationship with (negative) phêmis that this singer presumably develops during the suitors’ ‘tyranny’. It is perhaps implied, Bakker and others argue, that this singer spreads rumors that are pessimistic and/or slanderously unheroic and hence ‘untraditional’ about Odysseus’ fate; naturally, then, such news would prompt Penelope to {44|45} try to ‘shut up’ Phemios at Odyssey 1.337–342. [43] It is not necessary, however, in my view, to suppose that these reports—many of which correspond extratextually to the Nostoi of the epic cycle—are pessimistic or untraditionally slanderous. [44] The only information about these accounts arises out of the Odyssey itself:

2. It emerges subsequently from Nestor’s and Menelaos’ comments (Odyssey 3.130ff., 4.499ff.) that this particular account is accurate at least as regards its initial episodes, after which both men loose traces of Odysseus. By contrast, Penelope does not even know whether the first episodes ever transpired inasmuch as she is not in communication with Nestor or Menelaos.

“Literature is News that Stays News” [49]

I should like now to turn to Telemachos’ forthright response to the reaction that Penelope has to Phemios’ song. It is worth noting that the singer remains silent and it is the prince who takes up his defense:

‘μῆτερ ἐμή, τί τ΄ἄρα φθονέεις ἐρίηρον ἀοιδὸν
τέρπειν ὅππῃ οἱ νόος ὄρνυται; οὔ νύ τ’ ἀοιδοί
αἴτιοι …
τὴν γὰρ ἀοιδὴν μᾶλλον ἐπικλείουσ’ ἄνθρωποι,
ἥ τις ἀκουόντεσσι νεωτάτη ἀμφιπέληται.’

Odyssey 1.346–348, 351–352 {46|47}

“Mother mine, why do you begrudge the trusty singer (aoidos)
the giving of pleasure in whichever direction his mind moves for him? Singers certainly
are not to blame …
for men would rather praise that song most
that comes the newest round hearers.”

In his cross-cultural study of oral genres J. Vansina remarks that “news must interest to some degree its hearers and is often sensational,” and, more importantly, that these ‘messages’ relate to the present and “imply some future.” [
50] The news that Telemachos seeks, though in reality traceable to the more distant past, is nonetheless never felt by him and his milieu as anything other than ‘information about something that did not occur in the too distant past’. Moreover, the consequences of this information undoubtedly concern the present and the immediate future as envisaged explicitly in the Telemachy. [51] If we allow that the search for kleos (in the sense of ‘news’) is to prove Telemachos’ first step, as it were, in acquiring kleos (in the wider sense), then it becomes easy to understand the self-righteous fervor with which he defends Phemios’ song, whose subject is the nostos of the Achaians:

The young prince does not so much uphold, in the name of terpsis (Odyssey 1.346–347), the singer’s ‘freedom of expression’ or, rather, invention (self-evident to him anyway). Instead, he brings out the alternative social function of song to afford news. Handling without hindrance his more or less stable content (compare ἥ τέ μοι αἰεὶ ‘which (song) repeatedly’, Odyssey 1.341), Phemios is entitled to add—as regards form—new nuances and emphases, but chiefly—as regards content—fresh details, significant and less so, and generally new information, much of it derived from eyewitness accounts, even if these are only partly reliable. [
53] In such cases song crystallizes news and gossip in the selfsame manner as the (deceptive) narratives of the wandering flatterers who from time to time {47|48} call upon Penelope (Odyssey 14.122–130). We might compare the effectively encomiastic ‘news from the front’ offered by the so-called bards (bardoi) who accompanied Celtic aristocrat warriors (Posidonius FGrHist 87 F = Diodorus Siculus 5.31.2). [54] The neôtatê aoidê (see Odyssey 1.351–352) is potentially as significant a source of information as the most recent viva voce testimony of, say, Menelaos, who “was the last of the brazen-shirted Achaians to reach home” (Odyssey 1.286). Despite claims to the contrary—he is actually bluffing to the suitors, as the poet notes (Odyssey 1.420)—Telemachos has every reason to pursue news (angeliê) from various sources: “No longer do I place credence in tidings (angeliê), from wherever they should come” (Odyssey 1.414). The exemplary silence of the suitors, who are otherwise ill-mannered (Odyssey 1.325–326, 339–340) and usually omit to offer libations at their meals, [55] may imply that they too treat Phemios’ song in particular as potentially newsworthy; compare Eurymachos’ anxious query about Mentes, “Does he bring some news (angeliê) of your father’s coming, / or does he come this way [i.e. here] pursuing some business of his own?” (Odyssey 1.408–409) and especially Odyssey 2.255–256, 14.375–377.

From Homer’s much-discussed apostrophe to the Muses at Iliad 2.485–492 it is possible to extrapolate the principle according to which these divinities are beyond a doubt unerring eyewitnesses not only of all that happened in the remote past (namely, the oral tradition which the Catalogue of Ships purports to be), but also of the more recent past (namely, oral history; see on both scores Iliad 2.485–486: “for you are goddesses and are both present at, and know, all things, / whereas we hear only a hearsay (kleos) and know nothing,” and compare Hesiod Theogony 38). Plato Republic 424b and scholars such as W. B. Stanford, A. Heubeck, S. West, and J. B. Hainsworth, and I. de Jong ad loc. do not cite song as a source of news as established by ethnography. [56] Yet such a function is probable especially in many preliterate societies wherein song is the repository of every manner of information and knowledge. [57] If the repertory which includes Phemios’ song about the “woeful nostos of the Achaians” (Odyssey 1.326–327) refers to events dating from seven years since the fall of {48|49} Troy to two years ago (see Menelaos’ nostos, Odyssey 1.286 above and 3.318, “for he has only lately (νέον) come from abroad”), [58] it stands to reason that a singer could concern himself with news. After all, one of his legitimate objects (and the touchstone by which his performance would be judged) would be to offer terpsis ‘pleasure, delight’ to his audience, irrespective of the relative chronology of his repertory. [59] Moreover, as P. Jones has shown, the Odyssey ’s main characters understand the past as more proximate than is the case in the Iliad and as a rule resort to contemporary mortals—rather than gods or distant heroes—as behavioral models or exempla. [60]

The Telemachy’s Proliferating News

2. Reliable (prima facie) rumors: In Odyssey 1.189–193, Mentes, in paraphrasing news (circulating in the form of rumors), transmits in his turn the accurate information that Laertes no longer goes to town. See especially Odyssey 1.189–191: ‘τὸν οὐκέτι φασὶ πόλινδε / ἔρχεσθ’ (“who they say no longer comes to this city”); compare 3.186–198. Nestor, too, paraphrases hearsay—see especially Odyssey 1.186–187: ‘ὅσσα … / πεύθομαί’ (“as many things as … / I am informed about”) and 1.188: ‘Μυρμιδόνας φάσ’ ἐλθέμεν’ (“they say the Myrmidons came back”)—concerning the return of the Myrmidons and other heroes. [66] Consider also Odyssey 3.212–213: Nestor is already au courant with reports about the suitors. Compare Odyssey 3.212: φασὶ ‘they say’ and 4.94–95, in which Menelaos hints at reports about the seizure of a portion of his property along with Helen: ‘καὶ πατέρων τάδε μέλλετ’ ἀκουέμεν’ (“and you are likely to have heard these things from your fathers” [94]). Fi- {50|51} nally, see Odyssey 4.199–202: Peisistratos tells Menelaos that his brother Antilochos was ‘οὔ τι κάκιστος / Ἀργείων· μέλλεις δὲ σὺ ἴδμεναι· οὐ γὰρ ἐγώ γε/ἤντησ’ οὐδὲ ἴδον· περὶ δ’ ἄλλων φασὶ γενέσθαι / Ἀντίλοχον … ’ (“[sc. my brother was] hardly the worst of the Argives; / you are likely to know [this]. For certainly I did not meet and know him nor even saw him; but they say he was superior to [all] others, / [was] Antilochos … ”). The accounts about the kleos of his lost brother (who died even before Peisistratos was born), apparently are based in large part on first-hand information such as Nestor’s, and can be verified by comparison with the reports of other eyewitnesses such as, in this case, Menelaos.

3. Unreliable (and most probably false) rumors: If we return to Mentes at Odyssey 1.194–195 we will notice that he indirectly quotes a second, successive report: ‘δὴ γάρ μιν ἔφαντ’ ἐπιδήμιον εἶναι,/ σὸν πατέρ. . .’ (“because indeed they said he was among his people, / your father … ”), which he later roundly contradicts: ‘ἀλλά νυ τόν γε θεοὶ βλάπτουσι κελεύθου’ (“but surely the gods are deflecting him from his course” [195]); compare Odyssey 1.363–368 and de Jong 2001:103 ad loc. Consider also the term ψευδάγγελος ‘one who misreports a message’ at Iliad 15.159.

Seeing is Believing

‘εἴ που ὄπωπας
ὀφθαλμοῖσι τεοῖσιν ἢ ἄλλου μῦθον ἄκουσας
πλαζομένου. . .’
“if you have anywhere seen
with your eyes or heard from someone else the account
of that man [sc. Odysseus] wandering … ”

The testimonies the prince elicits are removed, in fact, from the recent past, [
71] which is the sphere of ‘news’, as will be seen. In a strict sense these eyewitness accounts are, to use Vansina’s term, ‘life histories’, that is, autobiographical reminiscences—truly “the main input of oral history” [72] —through which a teller interprets certain experiences, paying special attention to imposing cohesion on his or her retelling. [73] Indeed, in the Odyssey first-hand information is privileged above all other types of communication. [74] The personal reminiscences of Nestor, Menelaos, and Helen and Odysseus’ catalogue-like Apologoi are in essence eyewitness accounts. The manner in which these personages articulate their oral—by definition—matter is instructive. In what follows I will concentrate my analysis on Nestor and Menelaos, the protagonists in Books 3 and 4, respectively.

As remarked, Vansina, in common with many others, has detailed the multifarious messages that alongside eyewitness accounts ultimately generate ‘oral history’. [76] We might by analogy suppose that the alternative source of μῦθος ‘account, story’ that Telemachos entertains in his plea to Nestor (see again Odyssey 3.94) implies a considerable range of oral messages. [77] Whether we concur with Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth or not (see n77), the phrase ἄλλου μῦθον ἄκουσας ‘you heard from someone else the account’ (Odyssey 3.94) raises one of two possibilities: either a) the testimony furnished by ἄλλος ‘someone else’ is based on autopsy or some other form of immediate experience; or b) the account stems from unspecified, indirect sources. No less than Telemachos, Nestor explicitly acknowledges the paramountcy of eyewitness experience. At Odyssey 3.184–187 the Pylian king, practically apologizing for his lack of first-hand information, announces with remarkable self-consciousness that he will he will instead quote the accounts he has heard from others in his palace (compare Odyssey 3.94):

“So I came, dear child, without information, that is, I don’t know anything
about which Achaians returned safe and which perished.
On the other hand, as many things as sitting in our
palace I am informed about, as is customary, you will get to know, and I will not hide from you.” {53|54}

‘οὐδέ τι οἶδα/κείνων’ οἵ τ’ἐσάωθεν Ἀχαιῶν. . .’ (“I don’t know anything / about which Achaians returned safe … ,” Odyssey 3.184–185) may be comparable with the poet’s admission of fallibility in Iliad 2.486: ἡμεῖς δὲ κλέος οἶον ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν (‘whereas we hear mere hearsay and know nothing’); Nestor’s confession of ignorance, like Homer’s, reduces him to complete reliance on kleos. The old man then cites in ascending order of importance the nostoi of the Myrmidons (Odyssey 3.188–189), Philoktetes (3.190), Idomeneus (3.191–192), climaxing with an allusion to Agamemnon’s bloody return (3.193–195). (Later, at verse 254, he will describe as ἀληθέα ‘the truth’ the substance of the latter ‘legend’; see below.) From the parataxis of verses 188–194 we may reasonably infer that the speaker attaches equal weight to these four events not in terms of emotional resonance, to be sure, but in terms of ‘historicity’. When in his third account of Menelaos’ nostos Nestor relates the final, Egyptian phase of this adventure (Odyssey 3.286–302), he clearly draws his information from the indirect sources that underlie this ‘legend’. De Jong 2001:83 ad Odyssey 3.276–302 (see also n75 above) correctly observes that Nestor presumably relies on hearsay and even possibly songs like Phemios’.

Odyssey 3.254

“I will tell you the whole truth.”

‘Mentor’ confirmed its accuracy earlier (Odyssey 3.234–235), and νημερτὴς ‘unerring in his deep knowledge’ Proteus (as quoted by Menelaos) will also corroborate the account in the next book (Odyssey 4.512–537). {54|55}

The tale of Agamemnon’s murder is thus recounted in no less than four versions in the Telemachy—twice by Nestor and twice by Menelaos; none of the versions is contradictory. Cumulatively, through paraleipsis (ἔνια παραλείπειν καὶ ὕστερον φράζειν ‘the omission of some things and the telling of them afterwards’), often called the technique of ‘piecemeal narration’ (see de Jong 2001:82), these reminiscences serve to expand and enrich with their different details the image emerging on the canvas, as it were: they throw complementary, mottled shades of light on the recurring ‘legend’ of the Oresteia. The ‘truth’ of the story of Agamemnon’s murder becomes clearer with each accretionary retelling. The differing details, emphases, and omissions also serve to anticipate, from a compositional standpoint, the license with which post-Homeric poets created adaptations, often with innovations, of the Oresteia and other epic material. [80] If we treat Nestor’s and Menelaos’ accounts of Agamemnon’s return as individual récits of ‘oral history’, then we should perhaps resist splicing these complementary narratives together and reading them as a unified whole. It may be more useful to read them in much the same manner as a historian reviewing the interlocking reminiscences of two real-life informants: in the words of Halbwachs (1980:41–42) we should be “considering the two groups simultaneously, but each from the viewpoint of the other.” In sum, Nestor and Menelaos accommodate their accounts of the legendary nostos to their didactic agenda and other considerations. [81] And the freedom with which they do this harks forward, as noted, to later literary treatments of epic sagas. Still more striking, the two heroes (and Helen) may roughly recall informants at work, the men and women who recount to interviewers their experience of a momentous event in collective contemporary history—in the case of modern Greece, say, the ‘Asia Minor disaster’. Some informants will have participated in the event—and hence in history in the making—themselves. In every case, the participants’ account will be shaped by exogenous and/or purely subjective factors, indeed even by the subconscious structures of folk tradition. [82] Could Homer be representing, in effect, the vagaries of recollection that inescapably bedevil oral testimony? His subtle awareness of the calibrations of ‘news’ and other types of information may suggest so.

Odyssey 4.498


[ back ] 1. Vansina 1985:3.

[ back ] 2. Ἔπος in the sense of ‘message’: Martin 1989:12.

[ back ] 3. Vansina 1985:3, 7–8, 9, 12. For differing interpretations of interrelated experiences and events, cf. Helen’s account of the Wooden Horse (Odyssey 4.242–264) and Menelaos’ corrective version (Odyssey 4.271–289).

[ back ] 4. Vansina 1985:3. See also below.

[ back ] 5. Vansina 1985:4–7.

[ back ] 6. Vansina 1985: “Hearsay is the fountainhead of most tradition or written documents” (6). Hearsay is deified as Ὄσσα … ἄγγελος, see esp. Odyssey 24.413. Cf. also Odyssey 1.282–283: ‘ὄσσαν … / ἐκ Διός, ἥ τε μάλιστα φέρει κλέος (‘news’) ἀνθρώποισι,’ and Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:111 ad loc.: ὄσσα is hearsay of indeterminate origin.

[ back ] 7. Chantraine 1968–1980:1195, s.v. φημί.

[ back ] 8. Bakker 2002b:142 and passim, who assigns an active sense to the name Φήμιος. Cf. also Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:117 ad Odyssey 1.154 (“the man who speaks report, the rich in tales”) and Dawe in n41 below.

[ back ] 9. Bakker, for instance, describes the adjective χαλεπή, one of the Homeric adjectives used of φῆμις, as ‘typifying’: 2002b:140.

[ back ] 10. Bakker 2002b, esp. 40, also Dawe 1993:142. Nausikaa’s comments (Odyssey 6.266–269) suggest that the ἀγορή may also be contiguous to or within an ‘industrial’ zone; this accounts for verse 275 (see below). Similarly, in the classical period the Athenian ἀγορά, with its adjoining small factories, ἐργαστήρια, and especially the barber- and various other shops, was the locus par excellence for social commentary and gossip: Lewis 1996:15–18.

[ back ] 11. Bakker 2002b:137–139 (“an utterance with prophetic properties of which the speaker is unaware,” 139).

[ back ] 12. By analogy Homeric phêmê may be an oral wish (e.g. Odyssey 2.33–34) or an oral curse (e.g. Odyssey 20.112–119), something that seems to have gone unnoticed by scholars.

[ back ] 13. Cf. Bakker 2002b:140.

[ back ] 14. To be precise, the sum of the individual rumors is a collective entity. Compare Halbwachs 1980:51 for the difference between individual and collective memory.

[ back ] 15. Heubeck and Hoekstra 1990:210 ad loc.

[ back ] 16. Odyssey 19.527 = 16.75.

[ back ] 17. In Odyssey 6.276–285 the princess quotes the content of the specific φῆμις. See also Russo, Fernández-Galiano, and Heubeck 1992:101 ad Odyssey 19.527: φῆμις here = ‘the pressure of community opinion’.

[ back ] 18. This question concerns philologists, not historical linguists who treat the name Φήμιος as diathetically neutral.

[ back ] 19. For instance, the φῆμις that worries Nausikaa (Odyssey 6.273–274, where ὀπίσσω = ‘behind my back’ according to Stanford [contra Garvie 1994:149 ad loc.]) is limited in space and time to the contemporaneous microcosm of her island. Contrariwise, the χαλεπή that Agamemnon foresees sub specie aeternitatis from Hades (Odyssey 24.200–203) is correlative to κλέος, which characteristically, in this hero’s words, ‘οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται’ (Odyssey 24.196). Ostensibly the diffusion in space (microsocial or Panhellenic?) and duration (limited or perpetual?) of rumor or news is in direct proportion to the magnitude of its impact. Synonymous φάτις, when it is small-scale, ‘ἀνθρώπους ἀναβαίνει’ (Odyssey 6.29): here oral transmission is imagined as horizontal movement; εὐρύ κλέος—the most elevated grade of κλέος—likewise rises upwards and sideways, but it reaches (ἵκει/ἱκάνει) the sky; see Chapter 1.

[ back ] 20. For Medon: de Jong 2001:117 ad Odyssey 4.675–715.

[ back ] 21. Compare Penelope’s generalization here: “Therefore I pay no heed to strangers (ξεῖνοι) or suppliants (ἱκέται) / οr at all to kêrukes, whose trade is a public one (δημιοεργοὶ).”

[ back ] 22. Other public workers (δημιοεργοί) are the seer (μάντις), the healer (ἰητήρ), the builder (τέκτων) and the singer (ἀοιδός): Odyssey 17.383–385. For the δημιοεργοί, see Murray 1993:55, 82. Cf. the modern Greek ντελάλης ‘town crier, messenger’ in Γκίκας 1983:22 (the town criers’ preference for village or town squares and crossroads), 24 (they often also work as church cantors).

[ back ] 23. Because at Iliad 1.334, 8.274, 384 kêrukes carry out their missions by shuttling between military camps, I think it reasonable to suppose that the kêrukes mentioned by Penelope move between cities.

[ back ] 24. See Lewis 1996: “There is no Greek word for news as such, or a newsworthy event; instead, words focus on process (my italics) … the primary word is aggellô, I report, and its cognates … clearly the act of reporting is what creates news” (4).

[ back ] 25. See LfgrE ii.1410–1412, s.v. κῆρυξ. For similar functions of the κῆρυξ, chiefly in the Classical period, see Lewis 1996:51–56, 63–68.

[ back ] 26. Verse 374 recalls a proverb. Russo, Fernández-Galiano, and Heubeck 1992:284 ad loc. calls it a “rather banal apophthegm.”

[ back ] 27. Sic Russo, Fernández-Galiano, and Heubeck 1992:408 ad Odyssey 24.443–449. Dawe 1993:863 ad loc. notes many divergences.

[ back ] 28. Russo, Fernández-Galiano, and Heubeck 1992:408.

[ back ] 29. For such τέρψις: Odyssey 1.346–347; cf. θελκτήρια, 1.337 and Τερπιάδης, Phemios’ patronymic, 22.330. Cf. Odyssey 15.399–400, 486–487. See also Lewis 1996: “The hearer [of news] gains knowledge of public affairs, … diversion … The teller gains prestige . . ., the chance to capture attention, and the opportunity to tell the news in the way that best suits his or her own purposes’ (2, my emphases).

[ back ] 30. De Jong 2001:117 ad Odyssey 4.675–715. Cf. n42 below.

[ back ] 31. Cf. Γκίκας 1983:57.

[ back ] 32. Heath 2005:55.

[ back ] 33. LfgrE ii.1409, s.v. κῆρυξ.

[ back ] 34. LfgrE ii.1410 Β. Cf. Γκίκας 1983 (n22 above).

[ back ] 35. LfgrE ii.1410 Β. Maslov 2009:1–38 derives the simplex ἀοιδός ‘solo performer of hexameter poetry’ from the hypothetical compound *θεσπιαοιδός, ‘singer of things divine’. Despite this reconstruction, Maslov questions the alignment of poetry and prophecy in Archaic Greece; for a bibliography of this connection, see Maslov 2009:24n52.

[ back ] 36. Verses 54–59 (ἄειδειν/ἐξ αὐτοσχεδίης, etc.), 331. Generally the syncretism of the singer’s attributes with those of the ‘messenger’ reaches back to the Mycenaean period, as noted; at present it is not possible, on the basis of the surviving tablets, to determine whether Mycenaean Hermahas already combined both functions. It is nonetheless clear that in the Homeric epics Hermes is a πομπός and ἄγγελος, who holds a (magic) wand, or ῥάβδος (Odyssey 5.43–54, 24.153, etc.; see in general LIMC V.i.286–288 but in conjunction with LfgrE loc. cit.); cf. the scepter of singers in Hesiod Theogony 30 and, in the epics, the scepter of kings, priests, and kêrukes (West 1966:163 ad Theogony 30).

[ back ] 37. See n22.

[ back ] 38. See n23.

[ back ] 39. We will note shortly that logopoiia is typical of ‘messengers’.

[ back ] 40. Cf. Alkinoos at Odyssey 11.363–369: the unspecified ἐπίκλοπος (because unreliable) bearer of pseudo-news, on the one hand, and the generic singer, on the other, narrate muthoi (cf. Odyssey 11.368: ‘μῦθον … κατέλεξας’). Later, as Lewis 1996:4–5 also remarks, the term λογοποιός came to mean ‘poet’ as well as ‘he who spreads (false) news’.

[ back ] 41. See also Dawe 1993:306 ad Odyssey 8.44: the etymology of Φήμιος is connected with “speech, reputation or rumour.”

[ back ] 42. Cf. the address, also in the dual, of Eumaios and Philoitios, both of whom are fellow laborers and in fact slaves, at Odyssey 21.85–90 and 209–220.

[ back ] 43. Bakker 2002b:142.

[ back ] 44. Telemachos’ statement ‘οὐ γὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς οἷος ἀπώλεσε νόστιμον ἦμαρ / ἐν Τροίῃ, πολλοὶ δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι φῶτες ὄλοντο’ (Odyssey 1.354–355) is nothing but pure bluff; he has realized that the encouraging ‘Mentes’ is in reality a divinity. If, in the light of the prince’s pretence, we disregard the conjunction καί, verse 355 adumbrates his only certainty: ‘πολλοὶ δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι φῶτες ὄλοντο’ (see immediately below). Pace Bakker and others, it would moreover be premature to speak in terms of a proper ‘tradition’ about Odysseus, because only 20 years have elapsed since his departure.

[ back ] 45. The nostos in question was familiar to the poet and his actual audience; for us the account of Ajax’s nostos is elliptical: see further Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:116–117 ad Odyssey 1.325–327 and esp. Danek 1998:59. Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:118–119 ad Odyssey 343–344 (‘τοίην γὰρ κεφαλὴν ποθέω μεμνημένη αἰεὶ / ἀνδρός … ’) draw our attention to the clear funerary nuances of the noun κεφαλή in Homer. Penelope thus laments over her husband, moved almost inductively by the song about the tragic homecomings of Ajax and others. The pronoun τοίην, too, bears out Penelope’s lugubrious associations inasmuch as τοίην = ‘such a person [sc. as Ajax and the other Achaians]’. In the suitors’ presence Telemachos deliberately confirms his mother’s worst fears in verses 354–355, noted above.

[ back ] 46. ‘ἐπὴν πόσις ἄλλοθ’ ὄληται’ (Odyssey 14.130) is Eumaios’ supposition, not Penelope’s.

[ back ] 47. See again esp. Odyssey 14.126–130, 372–376, and also 1.340–342 (‘ταύτης δ’ ἀποποπαύε’ ἀοιδῆς / λυγρῆς, ἥ τέ μοι αἰεὶ ἐνὶ στήθεσσι φίλον κῆρ / τείρει’). In common with Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:119, Jones 1991:129 ad Odyssey 1.352 interprets verses 340–342 poetologically. (For other comparable interpretations ad loc., see Nagy in n52 and van Wees in n61 below.) According to Jones, Penelope refers to the (painfully familiar) content of Phemios’ song.

[ back ] 48. Does the fact that Phemios sings ὑπ’ ἀνάγκῃ (Odyssey 1.154) rule out the possibility that he conveys (reliable) news about Odysseus, especially if it is hopeful or at least not dismal? Should we rather assume, along with others, that he censors his songs in order to please the suitors? In Archaic Greek society a singer would have enjoyed a large degree of freedom, and even immunity. For this ‘artistic freedom’ see Odyssey 8.44–45: ‘τῷ γάρ ῥα θεὸς πέρι δῶκεν ἀοιδὴν / τέρπειν, ὅππῃ θυμὸς ἐποτρύνῃσιν ἀείδειν’ (Demodokos is here presented as an archetypical aoidos, not as a poet in a paradise). Moreover, the murder of a singer would be hubris against the Muses and Apollo, since by definition he was θεῖος/θέσπις, not to mention περικλυτός (see de Jong 2001:191). This privileged status is strongly implied when Phemios supplicates Odysseus at Odyssey 22.344ff.; in the space of four verses the singer understandably but also revealingly employs the word θεός/θεοί three times (Odyssey 22.346–347, 349). The treatment accorded to Haliserthes the Ithakan soothsayer may be a comparable case: in Odyssey 2.178ff. the suitors simply threaten him verbally. But in Odyssey 3.267ff. Klytemnestra’s ‘mentor-singer’, having proven bothersome to the illicit couple, is left to die on a desert island. See also n53 below.

[ back ] 49. Pound 1934:29.

[ back ] 50. Vansina 1985:4–5.

[ back ] 51. See Odyssey 1.279–296, 2.214–223.

[ back ] 52. The literal translation in Nagy 1990:69 is helpful: “Men would most rather give glory [kleos] to that song / which is the newest to make the rounds among listeners” (my italics). Nagy 1990:67–70 notes that the adjective νεωτάτη [sc. ἀοιδή] alludes to the “overall narrative in progress.”

[ back ] 53. See Vansina 1985:5 on such news. According to Scodel 2002, esp. 84–85, Phemios’ song is impartial and hence reliable, and it does not deal with Odysseus’ homecoming.

[ back ] 54. εἰσὶ δὲ παρ’ αὐτοῖς καὶ ποιηταὶ μελῶν, οὓς Βάρδους ὀνομάζουσιν. οὗτοι δὲ μετ’ὀργάνων ταῖς λύραις ὁμοίων ᾄδοντες οὓς μὲν ὑμνοῦσιν, οὓς δὲ βλασφημοῦσι … αλλὰ καὶ κατὰ τοὺς πολέμους τούτοις μάλιστα πείθονται καὶ τοῖς μελῳδοῦσι ποιηταῖς … (“Among them there are also singers [literally poets] of songs whom they call ‘Bards.’ These, singing to the accompaniment of instruments similar to lyres, praise some or speak ill of others … But also in war they especially obey these [sc. priests] and the chanting singers … ”)

[ back ] 55. Lateiner 1993:183.

[ back ] 56. De Jong 2001:83 acknowledges however (ad Odyssey 3.276–302) that Nestor’s narrative may already be based on songs. See also van Wees below.

[ back ] 57. As Ph. Kakrides informs me, in the Ionian Islands oral poets broadcasted local news in rhyme until recently.

[ back ] 58. See Dawe 1993:146, Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:181 ad loc., and Danek 1998, esp. 168–170, on the chronology of the nostoi relative to one another.

[ back ] 59. See again n29.

[ back ] 60. Jones 1992:88, 89n26; on time in the Iliad, see Edwards 2001:48.

[ back ] 61. Van Wees 1992:15.

[ back ] 62. Nagy 2003, esp. 41–43. By this token, as D. N. Maronitis reminds me, a singer may be a ‘messenger’ synchronically, but poetologically (and diachronically/systemically as G. Nagy would say) the lowly δημιοεργός is transmuted into something more complex: the very poet Homer.

[ back ] 63. De Jong 2001:28 ad Odyssey 1.214–220 and 77 ad Odyssey 3.184–187. See Appendix I. See further Marincola 2007, esp. 5–6: The Odyssey distinguishes clearly between “second-level type of inquiry” and “testimony of an eyewitness” such as Nestor and Menelaos; this “hierarchy of knowledge” sets the standard as it were for “all of the ancient historians’ claims to veracity.” (Marincola does not document these gradations of certitude in the Odyssey, since he is concerned mainly with Odysseus the inquirer and narrator as a role model for ancient historians.)

[ back ] 64. See de Jong 2001:214 ad Odyssey 8.487–491, whose comment I am expanding on.

[ back ] 65. See n6 above on deified rumor and hearsay. (The translation of Odyssey 3.88 is by Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:166 ad loc.)

[ back ] 66. Cf. Odyssey 3.184–185 (on the contrary, Nestor lacks news about the nostos of Odysseus and others: ‘ὣς ἦλθον … ἀπευθής, οὐδέ τι οἶδα, / κείνων … ’ ἀπευθής [184] has an active sense, as Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:171 ad loc. note).

[ back ] 67. Their orality is designated by, among other things, the alternative names for this genre: κλέος, ἀκουή, κληηδών, ἀγγελία. See Vansina 1985: “Hearsay or rumor is transmitted from ear to mouth” (6).

[ back ] 68. Vansina 1985: “Μany rumors have a basis in fact … Especially when rumors serve practical purposes such as to dishearten opponents, or to galvanize supporters, they are untrustworthy” (6).

[ back ] 69. Vansina 1985:6.

[ back ] 70. De Jong 2001:73 cites ad loc. Odyssey 8.491; but see also n63 above.

[ back ] 71. Telemachos is prompting his interlocutor’s memory in this passage, as Nestor admits in the beginning of his answer (Odyssey 3.103ff.): ‘ὦ φίλ’, ἐπεί μ’ ἔμνησας ὀϊζύος … ’ Cf. also the series of four questions that the youth puts to him in Odyssey 3.248–252. For the oral mechanism of provoking another’s memory, see Vansina 1985:8. (De Jong 2001:82, who does not take this traditional mechanism into account, ascribes Telemachos’ queries to ignorance.)

[ back ] 72. Vansina 1985:8–9.

[ back ] 73. Vansina 1985:9. On coherence see n63 above.

[ back ] 74. See also de Jong 2001:214 ad Odyssey 8.487–491.

[ back ] 75. Cf. again de Jong 2001:83 ad Odyssey 3.276–302: Nestor’s account of the homecoming of Menelaos sprang from rumors or possibly songs such as Phemios’. For the differences between the two versions of Agamemnon’s tragic nostos, see de Jong 2001:81–83 ad Odyssey 3.254–316 and 110–111 ad Odyssey 4.512–549.

[ back ] 76. Vansina 1985:4–7.

[ back ] 77. Heubeck, West, and Hainsworth 1988:166, as Stanford 1958:253, detach the particle πλαζομένου from the pronoun ἄλλου (Odyssey 3.95). In their view the causal sentence following verse 95 suggests that this participle refers, albeit rather gauchely, to Odysseus. Dawe 1993:131, on the other hand, attaches the pronoun to the participle but detaches the latter from Odysseus. All suspect that verse 95 is an interpolation.

[ back ] 78. For the adjective ἀπευθής, see n66 above.

[ back ] 79. The extremely wide diffusion of this legend can be inferred especially from: a) Nestor’s comment, ‘Ἀτρεΐδην δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ ἀκούετε, νόσφιν ἐόντες … ’ (Odyssey 3.193ff.) and b) the positive reactions of Telemachos (Odyssey 3.201ff.) and ‘Mentor’ (Odyssey 3.234–235). For the differing details, emphases, and ambiguities in Nestor’s and Menelaos’ respective accounts see: a) de Jong 2001:77–78 ad Odyssey 3.193–200; 81–83 ad Odyssey 3.254–316, and b) de Jong 2001:95 ad Odyssey 4.91–92; 110–111 ad Odyssey 4.512–549.

[ back ] 80. See March 1987:xi, 81–89 for permutations of the Oresteia saga in Homer, the epic cycle, Hesiod, Stesichoros, etc. On ‘truth’ in Archaic poetry, see e.g. Nagy 1990, esp. 60–66.

[ back ] 81. See n75 above.

[ back ] 82. See Σώκου 2004, esp. 280–281, 282–283, 292, 304–305 for largely postmodern reservations about recollection as an objective, language-based, and social process; cf. Appendix I (on an oral informant’s reliance on ‘popular paradigms of recollection’) and n75 (on selectivity and differing emphases).

[ back ] 83. See de Jong 2001:15–16 ad Odyssey 1.81–95 (“table of contents speeches”).

[ back ] 84. If που is taken to mean ‘I suppose’, the suspense created is still greater. Dawe 1993:191 ad loc. does not consider the verse essential.