The Power of Thetis and Selected Essays

  Slatkin, Laura. 2011. The Power of Thetis and Selected Essays. Hellenic Studies Series 16. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Part II. Chapter 1. Theban Traces at Troy [1]

The reiterated, one might say relentless, designation of Diomedes as son of Tydeus cumulatively creates the effect of an inextricable identification of son with father. This effect, moreover, is reinforced by the additional phenomenon that in every episode in which he figures, either Diomedes himself includes an explicit reference to his father or an interlocutor addresses him with a reminder of Tydeus and his accomplishments.

One such reference occurs in a suggestive passage in which Diomedes produces the equation between himself and his father in the context of a prayer to Athene:

‘κλῦθί μευ, αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς τέκος, Ἀτρυτώνη,
εἴ ποτέ μοι καὶ πατρὶ φίλα φρονέουσα παρέστης
δηΐῳ ἐν πολέμῳ, νῦν αὖτ’ ἐμὲ φῖλαι, Ἀθήνη?’

Iliad V 115–117

‘Hear me, Atrytone, child of aegis-bearing Zeus:
if ever before you stood devotedly by my father
in the dire fighting, be my friend now also, Athene.’

an equation he repeats in the same context in Book X:

Δεύτερος αὖτ’ ἠρᾶτο βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης?
‘κέκλυθι νῦν καὶ ἐμεῖο, Διὸς τέκος, Ἀτρυτώνη? {101|102}
σπεῖό μοι ὡς ὅτε πατρὶ ἅμ’ ἕσπεο Τυδέϊ δίῳ
ἐς Θήβας, ὅτε τε πρὸ Ἀχαιῶν ἄγγελος ᾔει.’

Iliad X 283—286

After him, Diomedes of the great war spoke a prayer:
‘Hear me also, child of Zeus, Atrytone.
Accompany me now as you accompanied my father, brilliant Tydeus,
into Thebes, when he went as a messenger before the Achaians…’

As Leonard Muellner has shown in detail, [13] the typical structure for prayer involves appealing to a god or goddess on the basis either of a favor the petitioner has done for the divinity in the past or of one previously performed for the petitioner by the god or goddess in the past, which presupposes an ongoing, or renewable, contract. Thus we may think of the opening prayer of Chryses to Apollo in Book I, or, to take an example more relevant to the present one, the prayer of Odysseus to Athene in Book X, directly preceding that of Diomedes:

‘κλῦθί μευ, αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς τέκος, ἥ τέ μοι αἰεὶ
ἐν πάντεσσι πόνοισι παρίστασαι, οὐδέ σε λήθω
κινύμενος· νῦν αὖτε μάλιστά με φῖλαι, Ἀθήνη,
δὸς δὲ πάλιν ἐπὶ νῆας ἐϋκλεῖας ἀφικέσθαι,
ῥέξαντας μέγα ἔργον, ὅ κε Τρώεσσι μελήσῃ.’

Iliad X 278–282

‘Hear me, child of aegis-bearing Zeus, you who always
stand beside me in all ordeals, and do not overlook me
as I make my way: cherish me, indeed, above all, Athene,
and grant that we come back in glory to the strong-benched vessels
having accomplished a great task that the Trojans will regret.’

In Diomedes’ prayer, then, we observe an anomaly: he appeals to Athene on the basis of her past affection for and favor to his father, rather than himself. Yet, given that Diomedes has apparently already had his own epic success, we might well wonder about what the poem refers us to here, and how it matters to the audience of the Iliad’s brilliant presentness what happened to {102|103} Tydeus in a time and place far removed from Troy. Is Tydeus’ history inserted in order to make Diomedes more prepossessing as he takes center stage by producing a well-connected genealogy for him?

Remarkable as well is that Diomedes’ prayer to Athene initiates a partnership between god and hero more sustained and continuous than any other in the poem—to think of their combined efforts not only in the aristeia but in the Doloneia and in the funeral games, when, thanks to Athene’s help, Diomedes is victorious in the chariot race. Athene’s aid to Diomedes throughout is comparable to (although of course without the climactic finality of) her crucial assistance to Achilles in his monomachia with Hector in Book XXII. There Athene indeed returns Achilles’ spear to him, but when she and Diomedes together attack Ares, Athene shoves in the spear herself! To no other hero—including, in this poem, Odysseus—does Athene appear with such constant solicitous attention. And when she does appear to Diomedes, it is in the context of a reminiscence of his father. {103|104}

At the opening line of Book V, the scholiast expresses surprise and perturbation at what is to follow: why should Diomedes have the first aristeia and not Ajax? [15] In reflecting on the scholiast’s question, we may ask whether the emphasis on Tydeus has any role to play in the answer. Diomedes’s first appearance in the poem [16] provides the occasion for the initial narration of the story that includes, as an evidently well-known feature, the demonstration of Athene’s affection for Tydeus. Agamemnon, who tells it, reminds his listeners that he never knew Diomedes’ father—but he knows the story. It is, he makes clear, a well-established one, the various dramatic episodes of which are familiar from numerous tellings:

‘οὐ μὲν Τυδέ γ῾ ὧδε φίλον πτωσκαζέμεν ἦεν,
ἀλλὰ πολὺ πρὸ φίλων ἑτάρων δηΐοισι μάχεσθαι,
ὡς φάσαν οἵ μιν ἴδοντο πονεύμενον· οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε
ἤντησ’ οὐδὲ ἴδον· περὶ δ’ ἄλλων φασὶ γενέσθαι.’

Iliad IV 372-375

‘Tydeus was never fond of cowering like this
but of fighting the enemy far ahead of his own companions.
So they said who had seen him at work; for I never saw nor
encountered him ever; but they say he surpassed all the others.’

The fame of Tydeus’ exploits has survived him, to be reanimated on another battlefield. The episode is recounted no less than three times in the Iliad, its repetition providing an ideal demonstration of the capacity of oral storytelling for expansion and compression, elaboration and selective emphasis.

Agamemnon gives the fullest account of Tydeus’ adventure as an advance man among the Kadmeians: [17]

ἤτοι μὲν γὰρ ἄτερ πολέμου εἰσῆλθε Μυκήνας
ξεῖνος ἅμ’ ἀντιθέῳ Πολυνείκεϊ, λαὸν ἀγείρων?
οἱ δὲ τότ’ ἐστρατόωνθ’ ἱερὰ πρὸς τείχεα Θήβης,
καὶ ῥα μάλα λίσσοντο δόμεν κλειτοὺς ἐπικούρους·
οἱ δ’ ἔθελον δόμεναι καὶ ἐπῄνεον ὡς ἐκέλευον·
ἀλλὰ Ζεὺς ἔτρεψε παραίσια σήματα φαίνων.
οἱ δ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν ᾤχοντο ἰδὲ πρὸ ὁδοῦ ἐγένοντο, {104|105}
Ἀσωπὸν δ’ ἵκοντο βαθύσχοινον λεχεποίην,
ἔνθ’ αὖτ’ ἀγγελίην ἐπὶ Τυδῆ στεῖλαν Ἀχαιοί.
αὐτὰρ ὁ βῆ, πολέας δὲ κιχήσατο Καδμεΐωνας
δαινυμένους κατὰ δῶμα βίης Ἐτεοκληείης.
ἔνθ’ οὐδὲ ξεῖνός περ ἐὼν ἱππηλάτα Τυδεὺς
τάρβει, μοῦνος ἐὼν πολέσιν μετὰ Καδμείοισιν,
ἀλλ’ ὅ γ’ ἀεθλεύειν προκαλίζετο, πάντα δ’ ἐνίκα
ῥηϊδίως· τοίη οἱ ἐπίρροθος ἦεν Ἀθνήνη.
οἱ δὲ χολωσάμενοι Καδμεῖοι κέντορες ἵππων
ἂψ ἄρ’ ἀνερχομένῳ πυκινὸν λόχον εἷσαν ἄγοντες,
κούρους πεντήκοντα· δύω δ’ ἡγήτορες ἦσαν,
Μαίων Αἱμονίδης, ἐπιείκελος ἀθανάτοισιν,
υἱός τ’ Αὐτοφόνοιο, μενεπτόλεμος Πολυφόντης.
Τυδεὺς μὲν καὶ τοῖσιν ἀεικέα πότμον ἐφῆκε?
πάντας ἔπεφν’, ἕνα δ’ οἶον ἵει οἶκόνδε νέεσθαι?
Μαίον’ ἄρα προέηκε, θεῶν τεράεσσι πιθήσας.
τοῖος ἔην Τυδεὺς Αἰτώλιος· ἀλλὰ τὸν υἰὸν
γείνατο εἷο χέρεια μάχῃ, ἀγορῇ δέ τ’ ἀμείνω.’

Iliad IV 376–400

‘For once, not in war, he came to Mykenai as a guest and friend,
with godlike Polyneikes, gathering a fighting host,
since they were laying siege to the sacred walls of Thebes,
and they begged us indeed to provide illustrious companions.
And our men were willing to give them and assented to what they urged;
but Zeus turned them back, showing ill-omened signs.
Now as these proceeded and were well on their way, and reached
the river Asopos, and the meadows of grass and the deep rushes,
from there the Achaians sent Tydeus ahead with a message.
He went then and came upon numerous Kadmeians
feasting throughout the house of the mighty Eteokles.
There, stranger though he was, the driver of horses, Tydeus,
was not frightened, alone among so many Kadmeians,
but dared them to compete with him, and defeated them all
easily, such a helper was Pallas Athene to him.
But the Kadmeians who lash their horses, being angered
laid a dense ambush on his way home, assembling together
fifty fighting men, and their leaders were two, {105|106}
Maion, Haimon’s son, like the immortals,
and the son of Autophonos, Polyphontes steadfast in battle.
Upon these men Tydeus let loose a fate that was shameful.
He killed them all, but one he let reach home again.
He let Maion go in obedience to the god’s portents.
Such was Tydeus, the Aitolian; yet he fathered
a son worse than himself in battle, better in the assembly.’

Athene follows with a more condensed version, to which the audience may fill in particulars supplied earlier by Agamemnon:

‘ἦ ὀλίγον οἷ παῖδα ἐοικότα γείνατο Τυδεύς.
Τυδεύς τοι μικρὸς μὲν ἔην δέμας, ἀλλὰ μαχητής?
καὶ ῥ’ ὅτε πέρ μιν ἐγὼ πολεμίζειν οὐκ εἴασκον
οὐδ’ ἐκπαιφάσσειν, ὅτε τ’ ἤλυθε νόσφιν Ἀχαιῶν
ἄγγελος ἐς Θήβας πολέας μετὰ Καδμείωνας·
δαίνυσθαί μιν ἄνωγον ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἕκηλον·
αὐτὰρ ὁ θυμὸν ἔχων ὃν καρτερὸν, ὡς τὸ πάρος περ,
κούρους Καδμείων προκαλίζετο, πάντα δ’ ἐνίκα
ῥηϊδίως· τοίη οἱ ἐγὼν ἐπιτάρροθος ἦα.’

Iliad V 800–808

‘Tydeus fathered a son scarcely like himself.
Tydeus was a small man in stature, yes, but he was a fighter.
Even that time when I would not permit him to fight
nor rush into the fray, when he went by himself without the Achaians
as a messenger to Thebes among the many Kadmeians,
then I urged him to feast at his ease in their great halls;
even so, keeping his spirit strong as before,
he challenged the young men of the Kadmeians, and bested them all
easily; such a helper was I who stood beside him.’

Finally, at Iliad X 285, Diomedes himself repeats it, allusively, in an abbreviated version in which a phrase like μάλα μέρμερα μήσατο ἔργα ‘he planned grim deeds’ assumes not only his listener’s privileged knowledge but the poem’s audience’s familiarity with a much-told story: [
18] {106|107}

‘κέκλυθι νῦν καὶ ἐμεῖο, Διὸς τέκος, Ἀτρυτώνη?
σπεῖό μοι ὡς ὅτε πατρὶ ἅμ’ ἕσπεο Τυδέϊ δίῳ
ἐς Θήβας, ὅτε τε πρὸ Ἀχαιῶν ἄγγελος ᾔει.
τοὺς δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ Ἀσωπῷ λίπε χαλκοχίτωνας Ἀχαιούς,
αὐτὰρ ὁ μειλίχιον μῦθον φέρε Καδμείοισι
κεῖσ’· ἀτὰρ ἂψ ἀπιὼν μάλα μέρμερα μήσατο ἔργα
σὺν σοὶ, δῖα θεά, ὅτε οἱ πρόφρασσα παρέστης.
ὣς νῦν μοι ἐθέλουσα παρίσταο καὶ με φύλασσε.’

Iliad X 284–291

‘Hear me also, Atrytone, child of Zeus.
Accompany me now as you accompanied my father, brilliant Tydeus,
into Thebes, when he went as a messenger before the Achaians,
and left the bronze-armoured Achaians beside Asopos
while he bore friendly words to the Kadmeians
in that place; but on his way back he planned grim deeds
with your aid, divine goddess, since you stood beside him in support.
So now again be willing to stand by me, and watch over me.’

Diomedes’ appropriation in this way of what Agamemnon has narrated represents the mode by which the story’s continuity into another generation is ensured.

Tydeus’ story thus takes its audience—and the poem’s audience—to Thebes, to an earlier and spectacular assault on a walled city, an event widely celebrated. From the perspective of archaic poetry, as we learn from Hesiod in the Works and Days, first the Theban War and later on the Trojan War define the genos of heroes. The race of heroes is said to consist precisely of those who died fighting at seven-gated Thebes, and those who, subsequently, perished at Troy fighting over Helen: {107|108}

αὖτις ἔτ’ ἄλλο τέταρτον ἐπὶ χθονὶ πουλυβοτείρῃ
Ζεὺς Κρονίδης ποίησε, δικαιότερον καὶ ἄρειον,
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων θεῖον γένος, οἳ καλέονται
ἡμίθεοι, προτέρη γενεὴ κατ’ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν.
καὶ τοὺς μὲν πόλεμός τε κακὸς καὶ φύλοπις αἰνὴ
τοὺς μὲν ὑφ’ ἑπταπύλῳ Θήβῃ, Καδμηίδι γαίῃ,
ὤλεσε μαρναμένους μήλων ἕνεκ’ Οἰδιπόδαο,
τοὺς δὲ καὶ ἐν νήεσσιν ὑπὲρ μέγα λαῖτμα θαλάσσης
ἐς Τροίην ἀγαγὼν Ἑλένης ἕνεκ’ ἠυκόμοιο.

Works and Days 157–165

Zeus the son of Kronos created another generation, the fourth
on the fertile earth, who were superior and more just:
a godly race of heroic men, who were called
demigods, the generation before our own on the boundless earth.
Some of them cruel war with its dread battle cry
destroyed under seven-gated Thebes in the land of Kadmos
as they contended with each other over the flocks of Oedipus,
others brought across the vast gulf of the sea in
ships to Troy for the sake of lovely-haired Helen.

From the standpoint of a narrative about warrior-heroes such as the one in which Agamemnon, Achilles, and Diomedes are prominent actors, the Theban expedition is the other—and prior—celebrated story. Perhaps it is the song Achilles is singing when the Embassy arrives at his tent. Will the present heroes achieve similar renown—will the present narrative, that is, achieve comparable, enduring stature? The unmatched primacy of the Theban story poses a problem for the stories that come after it. [

When the Iliad reminds us repeatedly of Athene’s extraordinary affection for Tydeus, as in Diomedes’ prayer in Book V (phrased in general terms as it is: εἰ ποτέ μοι καὶ πατρὶ φίλα φρονέουσα παρέστης / δηΐῳ ἐν πολέμῳ), it may evoke not only the incident related by Agamemnon in Book IV, but also a macabre and haunting episode in the last stage of the attack on Thebes, [24] told, according to the scholia, by “the Cyclic poets.” [25] In this episode, Tydeus {109|110} was mortally wounded by Melanippos, who was then himself killed by the Argive seer Amphiaraus. Amphiaraus cut off Melanippos’ head and gave it to the dying Tydeus; who thereupon—”like a wild animal,” in the words of the scholiast—broke open the head and gnawed (ῥοφᾶν) on the brains. Athene arrived at just this moment in order to bring immortality to Tydeus, but upon seeing her favorite eating the brains of his enemy she turned away from him in disgust. [26] The dying Tydeus then begged Athene to bestow on his son the immortality intended for himself. This is the tradition known to Pindar, who says that Athene made Diomedes immortal:

Διομήδεα δ’ ἄμβροτον ξαν-θά ποτε Γλαυκῶπις ἔθηκε θεόν?
γαῖα δ’ ἐν Θήβαις ὑπέδεκτο κεραυνω-θεῖσα Διὸς βέλεσιν
μάντιν Οἰκλείδαν, πολέμοιο νέφος?

Nemean Odes 10.7–9

And Diomedes golden bright-eyed Atheneonce made an immortal god.
But the earth at Thebes, stricken by Zeus’ thunderbolts, received
the son of Oikles,
seer and cloud of battle.

What Diomedes is granted is as close to immortality as the Iliad allows anyone. Not only does he fight with the immortals (and wound them), but he also resembles them; the Trojans think he may be one. Like Ares, who fights on both sides, Diomedes is everywhere, so that it is said to be impossible to tell which side he is on. So close does he come to the condition of the immortals, that Apollo is obliged to rebuke him with a reminder:

ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
δεινὰ δ’ ὁμοκλήσας προσέφη ἑκάεργος Ἀπόλλων·
‘φράζεο, Τυδεΐδη, καὶ χάζεο, μηδὲ θεοῖσιν
ἶσ’ ἔθελε φρονέειν, ἐπεὶ οὔ ποτε φῦλον ὁμοῖον
ἀθανάτων τε θεῶν χαμαὶ ἐρχομένων τ’ ἀνθρώπων.’

Iliad V 438–442

…but when for the fourth time he charged, the equal of a god,
then, threatening terribly, far-worker Apollo addressed him:
‘Watch out and back away, son of Tydeus, and do not try
to understand as gods do, since never the same are the race
of immortal gods and that of men who walk on the earth.’

Even after the poem’s focus, and the advantage in battle, have shifted to Hector, Zeus has to intervene to make Diomedes retreat, and he does so by hurling a thunderbolt at Diomedes’ feet. It is an action unparalleled in the Iliad—but there is a parallel in the Theban myth: Sthenelos’ father, the Argive chief Kapaneus, who brings his ladder to Thebes, attempts to scale the wall, {111|112} and is killed by a thunderbolt from Zeus. Perhaps in the Iliad Zeus is sending an evocative warning to the son of Tydeus—Tydeus, who stood at the next gate to Kapaneus.

But in addition to its absorption of Theban mythic motifs into its own narrative, the Iliad uses the epigonoi to integrate the Theban paradigm and relegate it to the position of a respected, but subsidiary, precedent. E. T. Owen writes, “the whole matter of the epipolesis is designed as a setting for Agamemnon’s rebuke of Diomedes”; [29] similarly, we might suggest that the rebuke, and its paradeigma, are designed to enable the response that alludes to the last phase of Thebes: the triumph of the subsequent generation of Argive warriors. Sthenelos replies to Agamemnon’s reproach by reminding him that the sons outdid their fathers and took Thebes—an implicit challenge that the epigonoi may outdo the Achaean contingent at Troy: [30]

ὣς φάτο, τὸν δ’ οὔ τι προσέφη κρατερὸς Διομήδης,
αἰδεσθεὶς βασιλῆος ἐνιπὴν αἰδοίοιο·
τὸν δ’ υἱὸς Καπανῆος ἀμείψατο κυδαλίμοιο·
‘Ἀτρεΐδη, μὴ ψεύδε’ ἐπιστάμενος σάφα εἰπεῖν·
ἡμεῖς τοι πατέρων μέγ’ ἀμείνονες εὐχόμεθ’ εἶναι·
ἡμεῖς καὶ Θήβης ἕδος εἵλομεν ἑπταπύλοιο,
παυρότερον λαὸν ἀγαγόνθ’ ὑπὸ τεῖχος ἄρειον,
πειθόμενοι τεράεσσι θεῶν καὶ Ζηνὸς ἀρωγῇ·
κεῖνοι δὲ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο·
τῶ μή μοι πατέρας ποθ’ ὁμοίῃ ἔνθεο τιμῇ.’

Iliad IV 401–410

So he spoke, and powerful Diomedes did not answer him,
awed by the reproach of the august king.
But the son of renowned Kapaneus replied, saying:
‘Son of Atreus, do not speak falsely, since you are surely aware:
we two claim that we are far better than our fathers;
we captured the foundation of seven-gated Thebes,
though we led fewer people beneath a wall that was stronger,
trusting in the portents of the gods and Zeus’ help,
while they perished through their own folly.
Therefore, never compare our fathers to us in honor.’ {112|113}

But the Iliad uses Diomedes to silence Sthenelos and that challenge and to represent a more complex role for the heirs of the Theban story—one not bound to the past, as Sthenelos is, but instead, we might say, transitional:

τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη κρατερὸς Διομήδης·
‘τέττα, σιωπῇ ἧσο, ἐμῷ δ’ ἐπιπείθεο μύθῳ·
οὐ γὰρ ἐγὼ νεμεσῶ Ἀγαμέμνονι, ποιμένι λαῶν,
ὀτρύνοντι μάχεσθαι ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς·
τούτῳ μὲν γὰρ κῦδος ἅμ’ ἕψεται, εἴ κεν Ἀχαιοὶ
Τρῶας δῃώσωσιν ἕλωσί τε Ἴλιον ἱρήν,
τούτῳ δ’ αὖ μέγα πένθος Ἀχαιῶν δῃωθέντων.
ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ καὶ νῶϊ μεδώμεθα θούριδος ἀλκῆς.’

Iliad IV 411–418

Then looking at him darkly strong Diomedes spoke to him:
‘Friend, stay quiet rather and do as I tell you; I will
find no fault with Agamemnon, shepherd of the people,
for stirring thus into battle the strong-greaved Achaians;
this will be his glory to come, if ever the Achaians
cut down the men of Troy and capture sacred Ilion.
If the Achaians are slain, then his will be the great sorrow.
Come, let you and me remember our fighting courage.’

Diomedes proposes that the story of Troy is the story of its leader and does not, for good or ill, belong to the epigonoi—neither its eventual triumph nor its sorrow, which, in Diomedes’ formulation, are the only alternative outcomes. He reminds his companion that this story is still incomplete, and the reputation of Agamemnon still in the making; [
31] the unfinished narrative he and Sthenelos now inhabit—one not dominated by their fathers—will record other, unprecedented timai and, with their participation, establish its own standard of kûdos and penthos.

His more extensive speech in Book IX, much praised by Nestor, suggests the Iliad’s subtle negotiation of its Theban antecedent; although his address to Agamemnon echoes Sthenelos’ tacitly competitive claim on behalf of the epigonoi to be capable of taking Troy (Iliad IV 401ff.), [32] it places Diomedes and his companion firmly within the Achaean cohort: {113|114}

‘Ἀτρεΐδη, σοὶ πρῶτα μαχήσομαι ἀφραδέοντι,
ἣ θέμις ἐστίν, ἄναξ, ἀγορῇ· σὺ δὲ μή τι χολωθῇς.
ἀλκὴν μέν μοι πρῶτον ὀνείδισας ἐν Δαναοῖσι,
φὰς ἔμεν ἀπτόλεμον καὶ ἀνάλκιδα· ταῦτα δὲ πάντα
ἴσασ’ Ἀργείων ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες.
σοὶ δὲ διάνδιχα δῶκε Κρόνου πάϊς ἀγκυλομήτεω?
σκήπτρῳ μέν τοι δῶκε τετιμῆσθαι περὶ πάντων,
ἀλκὴν δ’ οὔ τοι δῶκεν, ὅ τε κράτος ἐστὶ μέγιστον.
δαιμόνι’, οὕτω που μάλα ἔλπεαι υἷας Ἀχαιῶν
ἀπτολέμους τ’ ἔμεναι καὶ ἀνάλκιδας, ὡς ἀγορεύεις;
εἰ δέ τοι αὐτῷ θυμὸς ἐπέσσυται ὥς τε νέεσθαι,
ἔρχεο· πάρ τοι ὁδός, νῆες δέ τοι ἄγχι θαλάσσης
ἑστᾶσ’, αἵ τοι ἕποντο Μυκήνηθεν μάλα πολλαί.
ἀλλ’ ἄλλοι μενέουσι κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοὶ
εἰς ὅ κέ περ Τροίην διαπέρσομεν. εἰ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
φευγόντων σὺν νηυσὶ φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν·
νῶϊ δ’, ἐγὼ Σθένελός τε, μαχησόμεθ’ εἰς ὅ κε τέκμωρ
Ἰλίου εὕρωμεν· σὺν γὰρ θεῷ εἰλήλουθμεν.’

Iliad IX 32–49

‘Son of Atreus: I will be first to fight with your nonsense,
which is my right, lord, in the assembly; but do not be angry,
since I was the first of the Danaans whose valor you slighted,
calling me unwarlike and timid. All these things the Argive
young men know, and the elders as well.
The son of crooked-minded Kronos has given you
disparate gifts: with the scepter he granted you honor beyond all,
but he did not give you courage, which is much the greatest power.
Strange man, do you really believe the sons of the Achaians
are so unwarlike and cowardly as you call them?
But if your own heart is so set upon returning,
go. There is the way, and next to the water your ships
are standing, those many, many that came with you from Mykenai.
But the rest of the flowing-haired Achaians will stay here
until we have sacked the city of Troy. Or let these too
flee with their ships to the beloved land of their fathers,
still we two, Sthenelos and I, will fight till we witness
the end of Ilion; for it was with God that we came here.’ {114|115}

By emphasizing Diomedes’ assent to Agamemnon’s leadership and his enthusiasm for the enterprise, expressed as the promise that he and Sthenelos will fight its last stand, the Iliad (as in Book IV) keeps alive the memory of the Theban siege, but subordinates it to present events. [
33] Diomedes acknowledges Agamemnon’s preeminence and mirrors Agamemnon’s own earlier parainesis; here, as elsewhere, his speech both evokes the success of the Theban victors and displaces it, as it accentuates the resolute valor of the Achaean forces and the arduousness of their undertaking. The implied battle cry of the epigonoi—Sthenelos’ assertion that they are better than their fathers (ἡμεῖς τοι πατέρων μέγ’ ἀμείνονες εὐχόμεθ’ εἶναι, Iliad IV 405), uttered as the Iliad’s fighting begins—is at first suppressed by Diomedes’ rejoinder (Iliad IV 412) and ultimately revised in his last invocation of Tydeus in Book XIV, which is in fact Diomedes’ final speech in the poem:

τοῖσι δὲ καὶ μετέειπε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης·
ἐγγὺς ἀνήρ, οὐ δηθὰ ματεύσομεν, αἴ κ’ ἐθέλητε
πείθεσθαι, καὶ μή τι κότῳ ἀγάσησθε ἕκαστος
οὕνεκα δὴ γενεῆφι νεώτατός εἰμι μεθ’ ὑμῖν·
πατρὸς δ’ ἐξ ἀγαθοῦ καὶ ἐγὼ γένος εὔχομαι εἶναι,
Τυδέος, ὃν Θήβῃσι χυτὴ κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτει.
πορθεῖ γὰρ τρεῖς παῖδες ἀμύμονες ἐξεγένοντο,
οἴκεον δ’ ἐν Πλευρῶνι καὶ αἰπεινῇ Καλυδῶνι,
Ἄγριος ἠδὲ Μέλας, τρίτατος δ’ ἦν ἱππότα Οἰνεῦς,
πατρὸς ἐμοῖο πατήρ· ἀρετῇ δ’ ἦν ἔξοχος αὐτῶν.
ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν αὐτόθι μεῖνε, πατὴρ δ’ ἐμὸς Ἄργεϊ νάσθη
πλαγχθείς· ὧς γάρ που Ζεὺς ἤθελε καὶ θεοὶ ἄλλοι.
Ἀδρήστοιο δ’ ἔγημε θυγατρῶν, ναῖε δὲ δῶμα
ἀφνειὸν βιότοιο, ἅλις δέ οἱ ἦσαν ἄρουραι
πυροφόροι, πολλοὶ δὲ φυτῶν ἔσαν ὄρχατοι ἀμφίς,
πολλὰ δέ οἱ πρόβατ’ ἔσκε· κέκαστο δὲ πάντας Ἀχαιοὺς
ἐγχείῃ· τὰ δὲ μέλλετ’ ἀκουέμεν, εἰ ἐτεόν περ.
τῶ οὐκ ἄν με γένος γε κακὸν καὶ ἀνάλκιδα φάντες
μῦθον ἀτιμήσαιτε πεφασμένον, ὅν κ’ ἐῢ εἴπω.

Iliad XIV 109–127

Now among them spoke Diomedes of the great war cry:
‘That man is nearby, we shall not search far for him, if you are willing
to be persuaded, and not be amazed and angry at me, each of you, {115|116}
because by birth I am the youngest among you. I
claim that my generation is of a noble father,
Tydeus, whom now the piled earth covers over in Thebes.
For three blameless sons were born to Portheus,
and they dwelled in Pleuron and lofty Kalydon: Agrios
and Melas, and the third was the horseman Oineus,
my father’s father, preeminent in valour beyond the others.
While Oineus remained in that place, my father wandered and settled
in Argos; for so I suppose Zeus and the other immortals wanted it.
He married one of the daughters of Adrestos, and inhabited
a house rich in substance, and had plenty of wheat-bearing fields,
and many orchards of fruit trees circled about him,
and he kept many herds. And he surpassed all other Achaians
with the spear. You must have heard of this, if it is true.
So you could not, calling me base and cowardly
by birth, dishonor my speech, if I speak well.’

As the poem moves toward its climax, Diomedes’ reference to his father recalls and implicitly inverts Sthenelos’ claim on behalf of the sons’ superiority to their fathers; he reintroduces Tydeus here as bearer of a distinguished genealogy and as the greatest of all Achaean spearmen, to be the guarantor of timê for his son, establishing his place as strategist and promachos within Agamemnon’s army. Yet Thebes is not absent even from this recollection—if only present as the place where Tydeus is buried.

And as it aligns not with the earlier war but with this one, the Iliad also separates the son of Tydeus from its central drama and its culmination. Diomedes’ suggestion in Book IX that he and Sthenelos alone will take Troy because god is on their side—“still we two, Sthenelos and I, will fight till we witness the end of Ilion” (νῶϊ δ’, ἐγὼ Σθένελός τε, μαχησόμεθ’ εἰς ὅ κε τέκμωρ / Ἰλίου εὕρωμεν, Iliad  IX 48–49)—anticipates that most poignant of appeals for divine acquiescence:

αἲ γάρ, Ζεῦ τε πάτερ καὶ Ἀθηναίη καὶ Ἄπολλον,
μήτε τις οὖν Τρώων θάνατον φύγοι, ὅσσοι ἔασι,
μήτε τις Ἀργείων, νῶϊν δ ἐκδῦμεν ὄλεθρον,
ὄφρ’ οἶοι Τροίης ἱερὰ κρήδεμνα λύωμεν.

Iliad XVI 97–100

Father Zeus, Athene and Apollo, if only
not one of the Trojans, however many there are, could flee destruction,
not one of the Argives, but we two could emerge from the slaughter
so that we alone could break the holy crown of Troy.

Diomedes may begin as a foil to Achilles and perform remarkable feats, but he is not part of the Dios boulê, the stamp of which is on this narrative: his exploits take place while it is in abeyance, and once Achilles returns to battle—indeed, once that distinctively Iliadic figure Patroclus rises up—Diomedes disappears, and with him the traces of Thebes. {117|}

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[ back ] 1. This paper was delivered at the Ohio State University conference “The Iliad and its Contexts,” October 1994. My thanks to Liz Irwin for her careful comments.

[ back ] 2. Signal contributions include Edwards 1985, Ford 1992, Nagy 1979, Pucci 1987, Sacks 1987, Segal 1994; more recently: Burgess 2001, Danek 1998, Dué 2002, Irwin 2005, Mayer 1996, and especially Muellner 1996.

[ back ] 3. See the discussion by Nagy 1979 on the sophistication of the Odyssey’s reference to the Iliad while avoiding duplicating Iliadic scenes (a restriction noted by D. Monro in his edition of the Odyssey). Nagy writes: “Perhaps it was part of the Odyssean tradition to veer away from the Iliadic” (21).

[ back ] 4. Milman Parry’s papers are collected in A. Parry 1971; the indispensable study by A. B. Lord is The Singer of Tales.

[ back ] 5. See the discussion in Edwards 1971:189, Lord 1960, and Nagy 1996a and 1996b.

[ back ] 6. So the Odyssey may hint at other endings for Odysseus, including that familiar from the Telegony. See S. West 1981:169–75 and Sacks, “Ending the Odyssey: Odysseus Traditions and the Homeric Odyssey” (forthcoming).

[ back ] 7. We might think, among countless examples, of the mythological material in the Dios apatê, on which see Janko 1992:168ff.

[ back ] 8. As M. A. Katz has demonstrated (1990).

[ back ] 9. Indeed, its status as an exemplary plot to be recapitulated by Telemachus is specifically given divine authorization by Athene at Odyssey i 45–50; see “Composition by Theme” (this volume) 144.

[ back ] 10. For a thorough analysis, see again Katz, 1990.

[ back ] 11. For a consideration of this strategy in the Odyssey, see again “Composition by Theme” (this volume).

[ back ] 12. See Anderson 1978 for a discussion of the coherence of Diomedes’ function in relation to Achilles. For an analysis of the poem’s treatment of the parallels between Diomedes and Achilles, see Whitman 1958, esp. 154–180 and 264–266.

[ back ] 13. Muellner 1976:27–28; see Norden 1913:143–176 and the survey in Lateiner 1997:241–272. For a discussion of the other Iliadic instance of this anomaly (and its possible allusions) in Achilles’ prayer to Zeus in Book I, see Slatkin, The Power of Thetis (this volume, pp. 77–78).

[ back ] 14. Iliad VI 96–101. On a comparison of the aristeiai of Diomedes and Achilles, see Whitman 1958:167–168.

[ back ] 15. Schol. AbT ad loc .; see the discussion in Van der Valk 1952:269ff.

[ back ] 16. Apart from his inclusion in the Catalogue at Book II 563.

[ back ] 17. Although Agamemnon’s recollection is intended to compare Diomedes unfavorably to his father, it also invites an unfavorable comparison of Agamemnon’s leadership with the fearless Tydeus.

[ back ] 18. Of this episode, Vermeule 1987, citing Ruijgh 1985, esp. 149–152, writes: “By linguistic criteria the Theban ambush should not only be Bronze Age but deep within it” (142). This particular incident from Theban mythology is known to us otherwise only from late sources, e.g., Diodorus 4.65.4 and Apollodorus Bibliotheca 3.6.5, where it is amplified with further details. If it formed part of an early epic about the Theban War, it may have had a place as a preparation in a narrative of the attack on the city, much as Books III and IV of the Iliad recount an attempt at a negotiated settlement to the war before proceeding to the hostilities proper. An aristeia of Tydeus among the Cadmeians may have followed, prior to the body of the poem about the attack on the city. This can only be speculation about narrative possibilities, given the fragmentary nature of our evidence for early epic poetry about Thebes.

[ back ] 19. B. King, in The End of Adventure (forthcoming), discusses the Iliad’s acknowledgement of its ambiguous status as commemorative of the closing of the heroic story, the passing of epic itself.

[ back ] 20. Cf. E. Bethe 1891:76ff. on the Thebais and 109ff. on the Epigonoi. Pausanias’s version of the events (9.9.3–5) ends with his appraisal of the Thebais: ἐποιήθη δὲ ἐς τὸν πόλεμον τοῦτον καὶ ἔπη Θηβαΐς· τὰ δὲ ἔπη ταῦτα Καλλῖνος ἀφικόμενος αὐτῶν ἐς μνήμην ἔφησεν Ὅμηρον τὸν ποιήσαντα εἶναι, Καλλίνῳ δὲ πολλοί τε καὶ ἄξιοι λόγου κατὰ ταὐτὰ ἔγνωσαν· ἐγὼ δὲ τὴν ποίησιν ταύτην μετά γε Ἰλιάδα καὶ τὰ ἔπη τὰ ἐς Ὀδυσσέα ἐπαινῶ μάλιστα.

[ back ] 21. See the presentation of evidence for Bronze Age dactylic poetry in Horrocks 1980 as well as the argument for Bronze Age elements in the Thebais and for its contemporaneity with the Homeric poems in Vermeule 1987; also Burkert’s article in Brillante et al. 1981:29–48 and responses to Burkert by commentators, esp. B. Hainsworth (49–51).

[ back ] 22. Burkert 1981:32.

[ back ] 23. Vermeule 1987:130. For the Iliad’s competition with the tradition of Heracles as sacker of Troy (and its treatment of Heracles’s heroism more generally), see the insights of Haubold 2005, esp. 95; the deification of Heracles, however, puts him hors concours from the standpoint of competing heroes, as Liz Irwin points out to me.

[ back ] 24. Bernabé, Thebais fr.9.

[ back ] 25. AbT ad 5.126; it was said as well to have been narrated by Pherecydes (Gen ad 5.126). On Pherecydes’ knowledge of the Thebais: Severyns 1928:218ff. Apollodorus recounts the episode in detail at 3.6.8.

[ back ] 26. A red-figured bell-crater in the Metropolitan Museum (12.229.14) is painted with Athena leading Athanasia (‘Immortality’, named as such) away from Tydeus. See Schefold and Jung 1989:80, fig. 61. For other representations of this scene, see Brommer 1973:488-489.

[ back ] 27. On Achilles’ native ability to recognize the gods, see Slatkin 2006:21–22.

[ back ] 28. On immortality in the Cycle poems, see Nagy 1979:151–175, and now Burgess 2001:167. See discussions of the Iliad’s treatment in Schein 1985:67–88 and Griffin 1977:39–53.

[ back ] 29. Owen 1947:47.

[ back ] 30. For a discussion of Sthenelos’ claim/threat and the implications of its specific diction, see Nagy 1979:162–163; see also the consideration of this passage in Huxley 1969:47.

[ back ] 31. As Telemachus declares to his mother (Odyssey i 351–352): τὴν γὰρ ἀοιδὴν μᾶλλον ἐπικλείουσ’ ἄνθρωποι, / ἥ τις ἀκουόντεσσι νεωτάτη ἀμφιπέληται.

[ back ] 32. Like Sthenelos, Diomedes alludes to the oracle favoring their expedition, included in Apollodorus’ account at 3.7.3.

[ back ] 33. Here Diomedes is not recalled by his patronymic.

[ back ] 34. This suggestion is developed in The Power of Thetis (this volume); I owe the formulation here to Liz Irwin.