Fighting Words and Feuding Words: Anger and the Homeric Poems

Chapter 6. Helen’s Cure and the End of Anger

{108|109} In Part I, I surveyed and analyzed the language of kótos to show the validity of Calchas’s definition in Il . 1.80-83; in addition to confirming Calchas’s formulation, I concluded that comparative evidence locates this term for anger in the institution of the feud. Since only part of Calchas’s formulation has been elucidated, in Part II I turn to the other part of that definition, namely, khólos. The difference between the two terms shows itself immediately in their dissimilarity with respect to quantity of attestation, a difference that is understandable if referred to the structural linguistic feature of asymetric relationship called markedness: [1] in terms of distribution the unmarked term is more widely distributed than the marked term. [2] For our purposes, we certainly need to account for the features of a term that occurs nearly four times as often as kótos. Indeed the numbers tell a significant part of the story.

At this point, we can be grateful for our informant’s folk definition, since Calchas has indicated the features of khólos that begin to identify it in contrast to kótos. Indeed, we can confidently build our notion of khólos by looking specifically for the ending and beginning of khólos. As we proceed to inquire after Calchas’s definition, more indications of the fundamental importance of khólos will be brought to bear on the argument, indications that will forcefully deepen for us the insight of our learned informant. As we have seen, the core of Calchas’s definition is that khólos and kótos are to be distinguished because kótos cannot be brought to an end as can khólos; I take this to mean that khólos is more in the hands of the human actors on the Trojan plain than is kótos. Moreover Calchas pointed to khólos through the use of figurative language (e.g., autêmar katapépsēi), something quite alien to the abstract world of kótos that we have just finished examining. That feature of khólos, its robust way with Homeric metaphor and figure, will inform the semantic analysis in Chapter 7. And with kótos delineated as the anger of the basileús can we expect any kind of restriction along class lines for khólos or is it, because unmarked, available to all? Before too long we will see that the unmarked character of khólos does not stop the Homeric poems from giving it a shape and texture of its own. I will begin, as I did for kótos, by presenting a passage that corroborates some part of the definition preferred by the prophet of the Achaeans in order to encourage us to proceed once again in the direction pointed out by Calchas’s definition, this time to track down and meet head on Homeric anger’s most frequent term.

The noun khólos is made into a negative adjective, with the addition of the α-privative, only once. In this passage Helen provides for her guests in Sparta an intoxicant, one that is described with a telling set of hapax legomena:

ἔνθ’ αὖτ’ ἄλλ’ ἐνόησ’ Ἐλένη, Διὸς ἐκγεγαυῖα·
αὐτίκ’ ἄρ’ εἰς οἶνον βάλε φάρμακον, ἔνθεν ἔπινον,
νηπενθές τ’ ἄχολόν τε. κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἀπάντων.
ὅς τὸ καταβρόξειεν, ἐπὴν κρητῆρι μιγείη,
οὔ κεν ἐφημέριός γε βάλοι κατὰ δάκρυ παρειῶν,
οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ κατατεθναίη μήτηρ τε πατήρ τε,
οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ προπάροιθεν ἀδελφεὸν ἢ φίλον υἱὸν
χαλκῷ δηιόῳεν, ὃ δ’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῷτο.

(Od . 4.219-26)

There in turn godborn Helen took thought of other things; immediately she threw a drug into the wine that they were drinking, one that allays grief, and anger, and causes forgetfulness of all ills. The one who swallows it, whenever it is mixed in the mug, would not that day cast down a tear from his cheeks, not {110|111} even if his own mother died or his father, nor if before his very eyes they cut down a brother or beloved son.

The drug with which Helen doses the wine is characterized as “banishing anger (khólon),” [
13] but also as stilling suffering (nēpenthés) and inducing forgetfulness (epílēthon). Turning first to ákholon, I note that in meeting the test of Calchas’s definition, khólos indeed must be banishable, or, in his words, if one comes to have anger, then khólon ge kaì autêmar katepépsēi (Il . 1.81). But what kinds of things cause one to have khólos? Helen gives two examples of the experiences that can result in khólos and that, therefore, her phármakon ákholon can soothe: if one’s mother and father die or if the enemy slaughter one’s brother or son. A limiting case, that is to say, is the death of a member of one’s phíloi before one’s eyes in an act of violence.

In the Odyssey, pénthos further designates the grief that Penelope has when she contemplates Odysseus’s absence (Od . 1.342). In this passage the singer Phemius has failed, through song, to do what Helen succeeds in doing through drugs. Instead of forgetfulness of grief (kakôn epílēthon hapántōn “providing oblivion for all evils”), he instills unforgettable grief (pénthos álaston). The play of opposites, then, in Od . 4.221 is striking, as if the tradition is presenting the possibility of stopping its entire world as represented by the two traditions: the death of one’s phíloi at the hands of the enemy (Od . 4.225), deaths of the kind that fill the Iliad, in addition to the Odyssean grief that attends the passage of time and death of one’s homebound friends, here represented by father and mother (Od . 4.224).

Od . 4.221 presents three Homeric hapax legomena, each of which negates traditional themes. The most neglected of these three terms is ákholon (“stilling anger”), but it should be noted that nēpenthés (“stilling suffering”) is the negative of one of the most important of Homeric themes, alongside the all important theme of memory, here negated by epí-lēthon (“inciting oblivion of,” where the adjective is built on lēth-, indicating forgetfulness.). This link between memory and pain has not gone unnoticed, and I point to a particularly useful exposition when I quote G. Nagy in reference to the important thematics involved in nēpenthés and epílēthon: {111|112}

As for unforgettable grief, πένθος ἄλαστον, the only way to forget it is by magic. Thus the φαρμακον of Helen, which she puts into the wine (δ 220ff) is νηπενθές and κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἀπάντων, “without grief’ and “without memory of any evils” (δ 221). He who drinks this potion would not even mourn the death of his father and mother (δ 224) or of his brother or of his son: no, he would not mourn, not even if they were killed before his very own eyes (δ 225 f).

Thus far I have stressed the semantics of pénthos and epílēthon and related forms. But what about the third hapax legomenon, ákholon? Indeed, this term goes largely unremarked in the literature, although here it stands in relief between pain and memory. [
17] If unforgettable grief attends such painful events as deaths within one’s family, why is it necessary, in addition, to quiet khólos? Is there indeed a relation between the idea of forgetfulness and khólos? [18] From this passage, let us continue our probing of Calchas’s definition with the hypothesis that the anger signified by khólos can be that anger that directly attends the deaths of one’s phíloi, most especially if such deaths happen before one’s very eyes. That anger, tied to its sad occasion, is capable of being soothed, deep though it be. Indeed, we will see that putting an end to khólos is a major concern of early Greek poetry.

Khólos in Homeric poetry

In Group 1 (Appendix 2) we are reminded of Helen’s concern with stopping khólos when we see that the accusative of khólos occurs with forms of paúō four times (at the bucolic diaeresis; a similar collocation occurs twice more in the first half of the line, Group 2), so that its immediate context in all cases but one (Il . 14.50) concerns the cessation or restraint of anger. {112|113}

Further, we see that at the bucolic diaeresis, the system of Homeric language produces a number of formulas worth interrogating, one of which is paú-khólon. Taking the placement of paúō + khólon directly at the bucolic diaeresis as a regular expression, the exceptions to this metrical placement in Book 9 are striking. The variation occurs at the collocation of -paúō and khólon, in Group 1, specifically in the phrase paúe ’ éa dè khólon thumalgéa (“Stop and set aside this heart-paining khólos”) Il . 9.260, a phrase that displays the middle imperative of paúō moved to the front of the line, only to be then supplemented by éa (in the sense of “let go”). Significantly, this line ends Odysseus’s proem as he addresses Achilles in the embassy scene of Iliad 9, just before he begins to quote directly Agamemnon’s offer of gifts to Achilles. In the event, he ends his introduction with an unusual collocation, both because the paúō occurs usually alone with khólon, and not as here with another imperative (éa), as well as because the formula khólon thumalgéa usually occurs with the figurative verb, -péssō (Il . 4.513, and Il . 9.565).

Thus far we have seen that the cessation of anger can be expressed with the formula paúō khólon at the bucolic diaeresis, with variations possible for expressive effect. What is the context for the regular phrase -paú- khólon in Homer? In the first two lines of this set, a god causes a mortal’s anger to stop. The third instance inverts this pattern: through ritual, a mortal causes a god’s anger to stop.

Consider the way that Achilles’ anger is highlighted through this variation. In Il . 9.459 and Il . 15.72, Homeric narrative shows us how gods work to end human anger. In particular, Zeus stipulates when he will put an end to Achilles’ anger and why he must wait that long before intervening:

τοῦ δὲ χολωσάμενος κτενεῖ Ἕκτορα δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.
ἐκ τοῦ δ’ ἄν τοι ἔπειτα παλίωξιν παρὰ νηῶν
αἰὲν ἐγὼ τεύχοιμι διαμπερές, εἰς ὅ κ’ Ἀχαιοὶ
Ἴλιον αἰπὺ ἕλοιεν Ἀθηναίης διὰ βουλάς.
τὸ πρὶν δ’ οὔτ’ ἄρ’ ἐγὼ παύω χόλον oὔτε τιν’ ἄλλον
ἀθανάτων Δαναοῖσιν ἀμυνέμεν ἐνθάδ’ ἐάσω,
πρίν γε τὸ Πηλείδαο τελευτηθῆναι ἐέλδωρ,
ὥς οἱ ὑπέστην πρῶτον.

(Il . 15.68-75)

And godly Achilles will kill Hector, out of khólos . After this I will make thereupon a retreat from the ships continual and immediate, until such point as the Achaeans might take steep Ilium through the counsels of Athena. But I do not stop khólos . neither do I allow any other of the immortals to defend the Danaans, before the wish of the son of Peleus has been accomplished, as first I promised him.

In this passage, Zeus refers to Achilles’ anger, not his own. [
22] In contrast to the restraint displayed here by Zeus, in Il . 9.459 Phoenix credits an immortal with halting his khólos against his own father:

τὸν μὲν ἐγὼ βούλευσα κατακτάμεν ὀξέι χαλκῷ·
ἀλλά τις ἀθανάτων παῦσεν χόλον, ὅς ῥ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
δῆμου θῆκε φάτιν καὶ ὀνείδεα πολλ’ ἀνθρώπων,
ὡς μὴ πατροφόνος μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν καλεοίμην.

(Il . 9.458-61)

Him did I plan to kill with sharp bronze; but one of the immortals stopped the khólos , who placed in my heart the community’s gossip and the extensive {114|115} reproaches of men, so that I should not be called a patricide among the Achaeans.

Here we have a mortal’s account of a divine event, the god in question being referred to by the indefinite tis. Since Phoenix is concerned to make an exemplum in his speech, the implication might be that it is in fact Zeus who is in charge of these matters, as indicated when Zeus stops the khólos of Achilles in Book 15.

The gods’ khólos figures prominently in Od . 4.583, in an example that is contextually distinct from the others. Here a mortal brings a god’s anger to a halt through ritual. Menelaus describes to Telemachus his propitiation of the gods’ anger:

ἂψ δ’ εἰς Αἰγύπτοιο, διιπετέος ποταμοῖο,
στῆσα νέας, καὶ ἔρεξα τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατέπαυσα θεῶν χόλον αἰὲν ἐόντων,
χεῦ’ Ἀγαμέμνονι τύμβον, ἵν’ ἄσβεστον κλέος εἴη.

(Od . 4.581-84)

And back to Egypt’s rain-swollen river, I beached the ships, and I prepared finished hecatombs. And when I had stopped the khólos of the everliving gods, I set up a funeral-mound for Agamemnon that there be unquenchable fame.

This example is formally distinct from the others in two ways. The bucolic diaeresis here is only a metrical break and not also—as in the other three instances of this category (Group 1)—a syntactic break. Theôn aièn eóntōn—the phrase that joins these two segments of the line—is part of a formulaic system that declines in the following way:

Nominative: θεοὶ αἰὲν ἐόντες (Il . 1.290, Il . 1.494, Il . 21.518, Il . 24.99; Od . 5.7 = 8.306 = 12.371 = 377)

Genitive: θεῶν … αἰὲν ἐόντων (Od . 3.147, 4.583)

Accusative: θεοὺς … αἰὲν ἐόντας (Od . 1.263, 1.378 = 2.143, 8.365)

Athena intervenes to stop the khólos between the gods (Ares and Zeus), just as she prevents it between the Achaeans (Agamemnon and Achilles) in Book 1. There she physically restrains Achilles by grabbing his hair before he can draw his sword and violently attack Agamemnon. Here she physically restrains Ares by grabbing his helmet, shield, and sword, and by verbally indicating the profound trouble that will be stirred should he put his khólos into action:

ὧρτο διὲκ προθύρου, λίπε δὲ θρόνον, ἔνθα θάασσε,
τοῦ δ’ ἀπὸ μὲν κεφαλῆς κόρυθ’ εἵλετο καὶ σάκος ὤμων,
ἔγχος δ’ ἔστησε στιβαρῆς ἀπὸ χειρὸς ἑλοῦσα

(Il . 15.124-27)

She rushed from the outer court and left her seat, where she sat, and took from off his head his helmet and the shield from his shoulders, and grabbing it she stowed the sword, after taking it from his thick hand, the bronze sword… . {116|117}

In the case of both Achilles and Ares, Athena restrains the khólos of one who is righteously angry. But she approaches the two situations differently. In the case of Achilles she pronounces her order succinctly (all’ áge lêg’ éridos, Il . 1.210 “but, come, cease from strife”); clearly the present situation may require a different strategy from that required in the human domain—we are in the world of the immortals and not the potentially tragic human world. Nevertheless, in speaking to Ares she dilates on the consequences should Ares pursue his vengeance, in a passage that resembles Nestor’s criticism in Il . 1.254-84.

ἦ ἐθέλεις αὐτὸς μὲν ἀναπλήσας κακὰ πολλὰ
ἂψ ἴμεν Οὔλυμπόνδε καὶ ἀχνύμενός περ ἀνάγκη,
αὐτὰρ τοῖς ἄλλοισι κακὸν μέγα πᾶσι φυτεῦσαι;
αὐτίκα γὰρ Τρῶας μὲν ὑπερθύμους καὶ Ἀχαιοὺς
λείψει, ὁ δ’ ἡμέας εἶσι κυδοιμήσων ἐς Ὄλυμπον,
μάρψει δ’ ἑξείης ὅς τ’ αἴτιος ὅς τε καὶ οὐκί.
τῶ σ’ αὖ νῦν κέλομαι μεθέμεν χόλον υἷος ἑῆος.

(Il . 15.132-38)

Do you wish, after having endured many woes, to come back to Olympus and, though forced to grieve, to establish a great evil for all the rest [of us]? For immediately he will leave the haughty Trojans and Achaeans, and he will come enraged against us to Olympus, and he will snatch in order both the blameworthy and the innocent; therefore I order you to stop your anger over your son.

Athena here argues that it is expedient for Ares to cease lusting for vengeance, because of the harm that will come to guilty and innocent alike if Zeus learns of Ares’ khólos. As with Achilles in Iliad 21, Zeus’s khólos does not discriminate as to guilt or innocence: all will pay the tísis.

These too are the terms that Nestor uses to condemn the khólos between the best of the Achaeans in Iliad 1. Nestor, it can be said, provides the mortal version of Athena’s divine concerns:

ὦ πόποι, ἦ μέγα πένθος Ἀχανιḯδα γαῖαν ἱκάνει·
ἦ κεν γηθήσαι Πρίαμος Πριάμοιό τε παῖδες
ἄλλοι τε Τρῶες μέγα κεν κεχαροίατο θυμῷ,
εἰ σφῶιν τάδε πάντα πυθοίατο μαρναμένοιιν,
οἳ περὶ μὲν βουλὴν Δαναῶν, περὶ δ’ ἐστὲ μάχεσθαι.

(Il . 1.254-58)

O my, a great woe reaches the Achaean land; yes, Priam and the children of Priam would rejoice, and the other Trojans greatly would be grateful in their hearts, if they should see you two contending in all these ways, those who are best at counsel of the Danaans and those of you who are best at fighting. {117|118}

Nestor’s méga pénthos corresponds to Athena’s kakòn mége (Il . 15.134; cf. also pâsi with Akhaiída gaîan). Moreover the relation of pénthos to khólos sends us back to Helen’s drug: pénthos and khólos are central to the heroic epic warrior’s world. Furthermore, Athena’s order (kélomai) that Ares resist khólos corresponds with Nestor’s entreaty (líssomai) that Achilles restrain his own anger (Il . 1.283). [
27] The formula methémen khólon means substantially the same thing as paúō khólon, but with the implication of “self-restraint”—a god or man can order (kélomai) or entreat (líssomai), but the action is to be taken on one’s own. Both scenes displaying methémen khólon show that direct means can be taken to halt an anger already in progress; in each case the speaker attempts to suggest some way, outside the actual grievance, to bring matters to an end. In Book 15, Athena claims that the community of gods will suffer if Ares pursues his khólos. In the first book, Nestor argues before the Achaeans that their community will suffer if Achilles pursues his khólos. Because—according to Calchas’s definition—khólos has no télos of its own, Nestor and Athena are free to seek “diplomatic solutions” to the conflict. [28]

There is another important occurrence of methíēmi with khólos outside the Iliad; it demonstrates nicely the possibility for khólos to be brought to a conclusion by divine or human will. The anger of Poseidon at the blinding of Polyphemus clearly qualifies as khólos because he is enraged by the calamity that has befallen his son. The blinding of the Cyclops, then, leads to the anger of {118|119} Poseidon that Athena must allay before Odysseus can be given safe passage home. [31] Zeus tells Athena that “Poseidon is the cause, unrelenting in his anger for the blinding of his son Polyphemus” (Peradotto 1990, 60). If this anger is khólos then the problem of placating Poseidon [32] can be brought under the social mechanisms surrounding khólos. When Zeus, after his own disgruntled complaint about human beings and their atasthalíai (Od . 1.32-43), acquiesces to Athena’s reasonable request that Odysseus, blameless as he is, (Od . 1.60-62), be allowed to come back home, he styles the anger of Poseidon in a manner consistent with the passages we have looked at above:

ἀλλ’ ἄγεθ’ ἡμεῖς οἵδε περιφραζώμεθα πάντες
νόστον, ὅπως ἔλθῃσι· Ποσειδάων δὲ μεθήσει
ὃν χόλον· οὐ μὲν γάρ τι δυνήσεται ἀντία πάντων
ἀθανάτων ἀέκητι θεῶν ἐριδαινέμεν οἶος.

(Od . 1.76-79)

But come let us all here consider the nóstos , how he might wish it. And Poseidon will relax his own khólos . For he will never be able against the will of all the immortal gods to make a contention alone.

For Zeus, the nóstos of Odysseus, thus, depends on the end of the khólos of Poseidon; as with the anger of Ares and the anger of Achilles, Zeus understands that this kind of wrath can be brought to a conclusion. The council of the gods, here as in Iliad 15, is specifically concerned with bringing about an end to a khólos that impedes the action. [

When Odysseus quotes Agamemnon’s offer to Achilles he modifies Agamemnon’s rhetorical approach to Achilles. Agamemnon asks:

ταῦτά κέ οἱ τελέσαιμι μεταλλήξαντι χόλοιο.

(Il . 9.157)

I would accomplish these things for him, on his yielding from khólos .

This statement occurs at the very end of the list detailing what will be given Achilles if he desists from his khólos (Il . 9.120-56). Odysseus picks up on the formula but uses it to frame the list of items, at

ἄξια δῶρα δίδωσι μεταλλήξαντι χόλοιο.

(Il . 9.261)

He would give these worthy gifts to you on your yielding from khólos .


ταῦτά κέ τοι τελέσειε μεταλλήξαντι χόλοιο.

(Il . 9.299)

He would accomplish these things for you on your yielding from khólos .

Odysseus thus uses the phrase metallḗksanti khóloio as a ring-compositional frame for the offer made to Achilles. The editing of Agamemnon’s offer, as is clear from the research into this passage by Whitman, Nagy, and others is crucial to the meaning of this scene. Nagy’s summary states the matter clearly:

It has yet to be noted, however, that what Odysseus substitutes for Agamemnon’s “reaffirmation” (dmēthḗtō, Il . 9.158) is a further focus on the aspect of khólos highlighted in Calchas’s definition, that khólos can be set aside. Thus Odysseus’s framing locution metallḗksanti khóloio is used to highlight a point that Odysseus is here trying to secure, that Phoenix will succeed in making explicit in the story of Meleager, and that finally Ajax will make in an aside—that a necessary part of {120|121} a justifiable khólos is knowing when to give it up. [
41] Thus, where Agamemnon stresses Achilles’ surrender, Odysseus (later joined by Phoenix and Ajax) stresses the proper role of one so enraged: he should yield from it under certain culturally acceptable—we might, from a literary stance, say “conventional”— circumstances.

A closer look at the differences between the two speeches demonstrates Odysseus’s rhetorical strategy and the different ways in which Agamemnon and Odysseus frame the offer made to Achilles that evening.


ὡς νῦν τοῦτον ἔτεισε, δάμασσε δὲ λαὸν Ἀχαιῶν.

(Il . 9.118)

Now he has honored this man, and he has subdued the host of Achaeans.

ταῦτά κέ τοι τελέσειε μεταλλήξαντι χόλοιο
δμηθήτω—Ἀίδης τοι ἀμείλιχος ἠδ’ ἀδάμαστος.

(Il . 9.157-58)

I have accomplished these things for him, if he yield from his khólos ; let him be subdued—it’s Hades that is unpropitiable and unsubduable.


ὣς ἐπέτελλ’ ὁ γέρων, σὺ δὲ λήθεαι. ἀλλ’ ἔτι καὶ νῦν
παύε’, ἔα δὲ χόλον θυμαλγέα· σοὶ δ’ Ἀγαμέμνων
ἄξια δῶρα δίδωσι μεταλλήξαντι χόλοιο.

(Il . 9.259-61)

Thus did the old man enjoin, but you’ve forgotten, still even now make an end of it, and leave off your heart-hurting khólos ; and Agamemnon gives worthy gifts to you, if you yield from your khólos .

ταῦτά κέ τοι τελέσειε μεταλλήξαντι χόλοιο.
εἰ δέ τοι Ἀτρείδης μὲν ἀπήχθετο κηρόθι μᾶλλον,
αὐτὸς καὶ τοῦ δῶρα, σὺ δ’ ἄλλους περ Παναχαιοὺς
τειρομένους ἐλέαιρε κατὰ στρατόν, οἵ σε θεὸν ὣς

(Il . 9.299-303)

He would accomplish these things for you, if you yield from your khólos ; but if the son of Atreus is so hateful to you the more in your heart, himself and his gifts, still, pity the rest of the Panachaeans in their plight in the army, who will honor you like a god. {121|122}

Odysseus does more than merely suppress Agamemnon’s tactless remark (dámasse in 118 picked up by dmēthḗtō in 158, with a further jab in the remark about Hades): Odysseus has to restructure the rhetoric of Agamemnon’s speech so as to avoid the insult that Agamemnon has encoded in the rhetorical and poetic device of ring-composition. Odysseus revises the speech so that the framing device no longer underscores Achilles’ submission but points instead to the major theme of the diplomatic mission: the malleable nature of khólos. He does this by repeating khólos twice in two lines, in a manner distinctive within the formulaic systems for khólos. [
42] This restructuring may well be what we are to imagine comes out of the huddle that Nestor calls in Il . 9.179-81, where no doubt the ambassadors debated the means of persuasion:

τοῖσι δὲ πόλλ’ ἐπέτελλε Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ,
δενδίλλων ἐς ἕκαστον, Ὀδυσσῆι δὲ μάλιστα,
πειρᾶν, ὡς πεπίθοιεν ἀμύμονα Πηλεḯωνα.

(Il . 9.179-81)

Gerenian horseman Nestor ordered many things to them, giving the details to each one, and most especially to Odysseus, to make the attempt to persuade the blameless son of Peleus.

The master rhetorician might have told each of them to highlight khólos, each in his own way, as the object of their rhetorical invention. Phoenix and Ajax handle the matter differently, but Odysseus begins by exploiting Agamemnon’s phrase and manipulating the diction for khólos in such a way that Achilles has to contemplate the possibility of bringing it to an end.

Another passage earlier in the Iliad shows khóloio used once again with a form of lḗgō in a way that reflects the khólos theme. I list it here (Group 4) as an exception to the contextual pattern because it presents an anger that Achilles will not control:

Πηλεḯδης δ’ ἐξαῦτις ἀταρτηροῖς ἐπέεσσιν
Ἀτρείδην προσέειπε, καὶ οὔ πω λῆγε χόλοιο·

(Il . 1.223-24)

And the son of Peleus in turn spoke with deadly words to the son of Atreus, and he did not yet stop from his anger.

This use of khólos, in contrast to the other three uses, does not occur in a speech. In this case, the text gives us Achilles’ refusal to stop having khólos against Agamemnon just after Athena has kept him from killing the king. No better example could be found of the social management of Homeric khólos. The situation is put in terms of the choice of Achilles either to kill Agamemnon or restrain himself and that restraint is seen as the restraining of khólos: {122|123}

Ὣς φάτο· Πηλεḯωνι δ’ ἄχος γένετ’, ἐν δέ οἱ ἦτορ
στήθεσσιν λασίοισι διάνδιχα μερμήριξεν,
ἢ ὅ γε φάσγανον ὀξὺ ἐρυσσάμενος παρὰ μηροῦ
τοὺς μὲν ἀναστήσειεν, ὃ δ’ Ἀτρεḯδην ἐναρίζοι,
ἦε χόλον παύσειεν ἐρητύσειέ τε θυμόν.

(Il . 1.188-92)

Thus he spoke and the son of Peleus was aggrieved, and the heart in his chest was split two ways, whether having drawn the sharp sword from his thigh he might dismiss the group and slay the son of Atreus, or whether he should put an end to his khólos , and restrain his heart.

Yet when Athena gives her order to Achilles, she does not use the word khólos, but ménos (Od . 1.207). In particular, Athena refrains from using a phrase containing lḗge + khólos to use instead as the centerpiece of her speech to Achilles lḗgō with éridos: all’ áge, lêg’ éridos, mēdè ksíphos hélkeo kheirí (Il . 1.210) “But come, stop your éris, and don’t draw the sword with your hand.” As if to indicate what Athena is really talking about, Achilles introduces the notion of khólos as his main topic:

“χρὴ μὲν σφωίτερόν γε, θεά, ἔπος εἰρύσσασθαι
καὶ μάλα περ θυμῷ κεχολωμένον· ὣς ὰρ ἄμεινον.
ὅς κε θεοῖς ἐπιπείθηται, μάλα τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοῦ.”

(Il . 1.216-18)

It is necessary to attend to your word, goddess, even in my heartfelt khólos . Thus it would be better; the one who obeys the gods, they listen to him the more.

This use of khólos helps explain why Athena’s request that strife be put aside is fulfilled through the two phrases: all’ áge lêg’ éridos (Il . 1.210) “but come stop your éris”; oúpō lêge khóloio (Il . 1.224) “don’t yet leave off khólos.” For Achilles has indeed put an end to the éris represented by the exchange of speeches in Iliad 1. But the khólos is another matter. Achilles knows that he can maintain his khólos with Agamemnon at the level of words, even if slaying him outright is forbidden. And khólos itself can be used with great, even deadly, force in the realm of words as is demonstrated by its intricate relationship to speech. Thus, the line Athena speaks at Il . 1.211 (all’ ḗtoi épesin mèn oneídison, hōs ésetaí per “but reproach him with words, the way it will in fact be”) leaves the door open for khólos. Although it is one thing to say that éris may be stopped, khólos need not belong to the world of action. [
43] For Achilles, the consequences seem to lie in the sphere of verbal indignation (cf. atartēroîs epéesin, 223 “with harsh words”). The opening of the Iliad provides a ripe context for the formula meta- lêge- khóloio and other phrases that point to the malleability of {123|124} khólos, because here the narrative sets in motion a kind of anger that can be waged as much with words as with deeds. {124|125}


[ back ] 1. See Moravcsik and Wirth 1986, 3.

[ back ] 2. Besides distribution, markedness also affects syntagmatic structure and paradigmatic complexity.

[ back ] 3. Excluding Il . 14.111 and Il . 3.220.

[ back ] 4. I read khólōi at Il . 14.111 against Allen and van Thiel. West (2000) omits this variant.

[ back ] 5. Il . 1.192, 1.217, 1.224, 2.241, 4.513, 9.157, 9.260, 9.261, 9.299, 9.436, 9.523, 9.565, 9.646, 9.675, 9.678, 10.107, 14.367, 15.68, 15.72, 16.30, 16.61, 16.203, 16.206, 17.710, 18.111, 18.337, 19.16, 19.67, 23.23, 24.395, excluding the generic reference in 18.108.

[ back ] 6. Not counting Il . 15.217, a reference to the reciprocal khólos of Zeus and Poseidon, we have Il . 4.42, 5.421, 5.762, 8.407, 8.421, 14.310, 15.122, 15.155, 15.210, 15.223, 20.301, 24.114, 24.135; Od. 24.544.

[ back ] 7. Agamemnon’s khólos: Il . 1.78, 1.81, 1.283, 1.387, 2.195, 4.178, 4.241, 9.33; Odysseus’s: Il . 4.494, 4.501; Od . 7.309-10, 8.205, 18.20, 22.59, 22.369.

[ back ] 8. Hera: Il . 4.24, 4.36, 8.461, 21.479, 24.55; Athena: Il . 4.23, 8.460; Od . 3.145, 22.224, 22.225.

[ back ] 9. Il . 1.181, and see above, Part 1.

[ back ] 10. Whitman 1958, 183-87.

[ back ] 11. In order of frequency, ágrios Il . 4.23, 8.460, Od . 8.304; thumalgḗs Il . 4.513, 9.260, 9.565; argaléos Il . 10.107, 18.119; ainós Il . 22.94; aipún Il . 15.223; anḗkestos Il . 15.217; deinós Od . 5.145; drimús Il . 18.322; epizáphelos Il . 9.525; kakós Il . 16.206; khalepós Od . 21.377.

[ back ] 12. The distribution of khólos points to the generic distinction between the Iliad and the Odyssey: 36 times in the Odyssey and 102 times in the Iliad. Cf. Walsh 1999: 160-61.

[ back ] 13. Heubeck et al. 1988 at Od . 4.220ff.

[ back ] 14. Crucial to understanding this word is Nagy 1979, 94-102; along with the indispensable study of Mawet (1977, Chapter IV, 253-91).

[ back ] 15. Nagy 1979, 94.

[ back ] 16. Further on lēth- and Homeric poetics can be found in Nagy 1990a, 59-60, with literature.

[ back ] 17. The recent literature on this passage tends not to dwell on khólos even while attending closely to the other characteristics of this drug; see Nagy 1974, 258-60; Nagy 1979, 99-100; Heubeck et al. 1988 at 4.207. See Bergren 1981; Clader 1976, 32-33. An exception is Collins 1988, 50-51, who connects khólos (and pénthos) to the death of a phílos. That this passage resembles “similar language concerning the effects of song” (Thalmann 1984, 166) will be relevant to our consideration of khólos and the genre of the Iliad, and see Lowenstam 1993, 230, n. 197.

[ back ] 18. These passages suggest that the relationship is close: Od . 11.102 and 553; if Calchas is right, forgetfulness may be one method by which khólos can be brought to an end.

[ back ] 19. For “stopping” verbs and mênis, see Watkins 1977a, 195-99.

[ back ] 20. Compare Od . 6.173-74.

[ back ] 21. Od . 5.492 shows hína min paúseie tákhista / dusponéos kamátoio … and Il . 21.249 gives hína min paúseie pónoio.

[ back ] 22. Janko 1992 at Il . 15.72-73, along with many commentators and translators (including Lattimore and Fagles), takes the khólon here to refer to the anger of Zeus; so too does Watkins 1977a, 197-99. But line 68 and line 72 easily refer to Achilles’ wrath, especially since the khólos of Zeus has little to do with the Iliad; it is the boulḗ (“plan”) of Zeus at Il . 1.5, with respect to the anger of Achilles, that drives the plot of this poem. Indeed there is a parallel reference in line 71 to the Athēnaíēs boulás (“Athena’s plan”) directed at the end of the war and the destruction of Troy. The plan of Athena to destroy Troy complements the plan of Zeus to honor Achilles, as indicated by Zeus’s allowing his (Achilles’) khólos to rage. Thus, kholōsámenos (Il . 15.68) and khólos (Il . 15.72) are linked, with Zeus referring to the same anger in each case, specifically to Achilles’ khólos and not his own. To be sure, a god can stop a mortal’s khólos, as is seen from Il . 9.459; one can also stop one’s own khólos (Il . 19.67). But the khólos of Zeus is not the driving force of the Iliad. Even with a less precise definition of khólos than I am attempting here, can one really say that Zeus remains “angry” until the death of Hector? Note that the textual variant paúsō (for paúō, 72) keeps the parallel with eásō in 73, for which point recall the correlation of paúein and eân in Il . 9.260.

[ back ] 23. In the Hymn to Demeter 325 theoús is contracted so as to maintain the contiguity of the formulaic elements. In the earlier Homeric passages, the formula is less likely to need this kind of strategy to maintain its integrity. Chantraine 1973a indicates that “certaines prononciations monosyllabiques paraissent particulièrement artificielles” (Gr . Hom . I. §26, 66); I only add that the artifice may have to do with the relationship of the performer to the tradition: the passages from a period secure in its diction can afford to be flexible; if Demeter is late, the singers may feel the need to buttress the traditional quality of the line by preserving the unity of the phrase.

[ back ] 24. See Hainsworth 1968, 110-28 for the issue of creativity and formulaic regularity, with Nagler 1974, Chapters 1 and 2.

[ back ] 25. Whitman 1958, 225-30.

[ back ] 26. Clearly Achilles’ special relation to khólos, because only he speaks of ending his own khólos, is parallel to the stricture that the noun mênis only refers to the anger of Achilles and that of the gods (cf. Watkins 1977a and Muellner 1996, 189-94; Muellner argues for more caution in understanding the notion of taboo with reference to mênis; since khólos is not a taboo word, but rather one of the variants of mênis expected in a taboo situation, poetic constraints on its use may loom as large as social contexts). It is this special handling of mênis, khólos, and other words for wrath that mark the Iliad‘s view of wrath in contradistinction to that of the Odyssey. I agree with Clay that wrath is important in both poems (Clay 1983, 67), but the poetry of the Iliad sees it as a central focus and handles the formulaic system a special way depending on which of the wrath words is employed.

[ back ] 27. As to whether the khólos here is that of Achilles or Agamemnon, see van Bennekom 1984, with Eisenberger 1985. Leaf 1886 (comparing Od . 21.377) takes Akhillêi as a dative of interest, so that the khólos is that of Agamemnon, and see Merry (1892) at Od . 21.378, with Od . 11.553; Muellner 1996, 111 also reads Agamemnon as the party with khólos. More attractive to me is the notion that Nestor is “addressing” Achilles in the third person, as happens in the embassy scene in Ajax’s speech; for Achilles addressed in the third person see Muellner 1996, 151 and 165.

[ back ] 28. Compare here the passage where Phoenix acknowledges the phátis dḗmou (“popular opinion”). In this case other concerns—his personal reputation—overrides his khólos against his father.

[ back ] 29. On khólos kai mênis, cf. Watkins 1977a, 192-93, and see especially Muellner 1996, 97 n. 10.

[ back ] 30. On the relation of Zeus to Achilles see Whitman 1958, 228-31.

[ back ] 31. On the anger of Poseidon, see Lidov 1977. The anger of Poseidon is styled with differing words throughout the Odyssey: menéainen 6.330; kóton, 13.342, khṓomenos, 13.343. As elsewhere, I am concerned to establish that it can be a khólos but not exclusively a khólos. For the various types of divine wrath in the Odyssey see Clay 1983, 51 n. 89; her further comment (230) that “his motive is simply to avenge his son—brutal and impious though he may be” is consistent with notion of khólos as an immediate and direct rage.

[ back ] 32. Peradotto 1990, 75, and n. 16; Woodhouse 1930, 39. Peradotto goes on to say that “in the system of verisimilitude that controls the Homeric poems, wrath appears to be a social and political response, not a passing tantrum. It requires compensation.” As we have seen, the compensation is tísis, which, with a khólos type of anger, can be brought to a conclusion through the action of the angered person. Kótos, as I argued in Part 1, is very different because once it is set in motion, it must reach a télos that even the participants might not live to experience.

[ back ] 33. It is tempting to suggest that when Thersites characterizes Achilles as methḗmōn (Il . 2.241) he is saying that he is likely to restrain his khólos, a gross misunderstanding of the Iliad‘s angry hero. If, as Nagy suggests (1979, 253-64), Thersites calls forth the tradition of blame-poetry, what worse thing can one call a khólos -hero than methḗmōn, easy to calm? The only other character in the Homeric narratives who gets this epithet is Nausikaa, at Od . 6.25, where the meaning seems to be “unheedful.”

[ back ] 34. Just as the end of mênis has thematic value, Watkins 1977a, 195-97.

[ back ] 35. The passages are listed in Appendix 2, Group 4.

[ back ] 36. See also Leaf 1886 at 1.283.

[ back ] 37. Denniston (1995, 248) explains the function of kaì dḗ here: “In Homeric narrative kaì dḗ usually corresponds to the later kaì dḕ kaí. It introduces something similar in kind to what has preceded, but stronger … and makes a kind of climax.” In this case it clarifies the following as the full statement of the meaning of this laughter—they have no khólos.

[ back ] 38. Both these occurrences of the -ou genitive of khólos can be resolved to their older variant (khóloio). On -oio/-ou genitives see Chantraine 1973a, §18, 63, and 80.

[ back ] 39. Watkins 1977a, 192.

[ back ] 40. Nagy 1979, 52 and Whitman 1958, 191-92 as cited in Nagy.

[ back ] 41. It is indeed an essential feature of khólos, unlike kótos, that it can be “given up.”

[ back ] 42. There are two other occurrences khólos in contiguous lines in the doublets Il . 4.23 and 24 and Il . 8.460 and 461, with a number of other examples of khólos repeated (the rhetorical figure of polyptoton) in close proximity in Il . 9 (9.523 and 525, 9.565 and 566, and 9.675 and 678), as well as in Il . 13.203 and 206, with Od . 22.224 and 225.

[ back ] 43. This relationship between éris and khólos is exploited in Il . 18.107-8.