Homeric Conversation

  Beck, Deborah. 2005. Homeric Conversation. Hellenic Studies Series 14. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_BeckD.Homeric_Conversation.2005.

Chapter 4. Single Speeches and Variations on the Battlefield

The first three chapters focused on the extended one-on-one conversations in the Odyssey and the Iliad. We have seen that the Odyssey makes much more extensive use of one-on-one conversation than the Iliad does, and indeed, the Iliad presents its view of human relations partly by the comparative lack of one-on-one conversation. Conversely, the Iliad depicts its characters engaged in a wide range of speech exchange systems other than one-on-one conversation. These systems, which include vaunts, challenges, assemblies, athletic games, and laments, either do not appear in the Odyssey or appear in a very limited way. The different kinds of speech exchange discussed in the following three chapters share some basic characteristics that link them to one another and distinguish them from one-on-one conversation. In all of these genres of speech, behavior as well as speech has an important role to play. On the battlefield, speech and physical attacks often have much in common with one another and to some degree are interchangeable, as we will see. In formal group contexts of various kinds, in order to perform a turn properly, a speaker must both do certain actions and make his remarks. In one-on-one conversations, in contrast, behavior appears only rarely as part of the conversation; it is not a typical or required part of the type; and when it does appear, it tends to be a physical enactment of an emotion rather than a separate feature of the conversation.

From a social standpoint, the genres of speech in which the Iliad is most interested highlight conflicts in power relations and group dynamics. These conflicts or tensions have central importance in different ways for the speeches that enemies make to each other on the battlefield; the competition of peers in athletic games; and the way that members of the same side figure {149|150} out what to do during an assembly. The extensive one-on-one conversations in the Odyssey, on the other hand, highlight the relations of Odysseus with various individuals who are particularly important to him. The Iliad is a poem of war and conflict, and the speech genres in which it is most interested are those that directly relate to these topics. Lament, the subject of Chapter 6, is directly related to conflict insofar as the Iliad chooses to portray war partly through its effects on non-combatants.

Moreover, when one-on-one conversations do take place in the Iliad, they tend to appear in contexts that prominently feature hostility and conflict. Their purpose in these scenes is to dramatize various aspects of the conflict, whether the hostilities take place between enemies (as with Hector and Patroclus in Book 16) or between ostensible comrades (as between Achilles and Agamemnon in the assemblies in Books 1 and 19). Whereas conversation in the Odyssey dramatizes internal tensions and conflicts surrounding Odysseus’ return to Ithaca, both one-on-one conversation and other forms of speech exchange highlight hostilities directed at others in the Iliad. In other words, conversation and speech exchange play a central role in each poem in portraying and emphasizing key themes; indeed, the particular speech exchange systems that appear in each poem and the way they are used are one of the most important factors in shaping the way the story is told.

Battlefield Speech Genres

This chapter focuses on battlefield speech in particular because the kinds of speeches that warriors most often make on the battlefield are predominantly single genres. [1] Single genres do appear in non-battle contexts, but single speech genres are the predominant mode of speech only on the battlefield. A fighting warrior gives instructions to his comrades, or exhorts them to fight their best; he challenges an enemy before attacking him or vaunts over him after killing him; [2] he prays for assistance to a god when afraid or in danger; occasionally he speaks aloud to himself, pondering what to do in a difficult situation. All of these genres of speech occur predominantly on the battlefield and predominantly as single speeches. Moreover, all of them feature an {150|151} imbalance of power of some sort. Someone giving an exhortation is presumed to be a leader of the men whom he exhorts, not simply their peer, while enemies in battle are disputing over the basic fact of which one of them will remain alive. Prayer involves a god who has the power to grant a request and someone making such a request, but not any kind of extended interchange during the request itself. For single speech genres, unlike other types of speech exchange, a conversation is itself not only a lengthening but also an elaboration on the regular pattern for the speech sequence in question. The conversation need not display any other unusual features to be considered an elaboration if it takes place in a context where a single speech would be the more expected type of speech.

Most of these single genres of speech have formulaic conclusions that tend to follow them. [3] In other words, from the standpoint of the typical language of Homeric poetry, action rather than a reply is the expected response from the addressee(s) after the types of speech that most commonly appear on the Homeric battlefield. Following an exhortation, we frequently learn that ὣς εἰπὼν ὄτρυνε μένος καὶ θυμὸν ἑκάστου (so he spoke, and stirred the spirit and strength in each man, 11 times in the Homeric epics, all but one of which are found in the Iliad). In the case of a challenge, the challenger may proceed to throw his spear at his opponent: ἦ ῥα καὶ ἀμπεπαλὼν προΐει δολιχόσκιον ἔγχος (So he spoke, and balanced the spear far-shadowed, and threw it, 7 times in the Iliad). The formulaic conclusion for prayers, ὣς ἔφατ’ εὐχόμενος, τοῦ δ’ ἔκλυε [nominative name/epithet, subject] (so he spoke in prayer, and [subject] heard him), has been the subject of able and exhaustive attention by Muellner. [4] This chapter will examine both the regular patterns and the variations on these patterns, first for exhortations (speeches between comrades on the battlefield) and then for challenges and vaunts (speeches between enemies). These variations will sometimes consist of unusually long turn sequences that nevertheless follow the usual order, and sometimes of unusual turn sequences. The most unusual and elaborate battlefield scenes, as we will see, consist of both. These elaborate battlefield conversations appear specifically in connection with Agamemnon and Achilles to depict the way that the personality of each hero shapes his own experiences, the experiences of his comrades and enemies, and the Iliad as a whole. {151|152}


A king or hero urging his comrades on to ever-greater feats of bravery and slaughter against the enemy regularly appears in battle scenes in the Iliad. Most commonly, such exhortations do not receive a verbal reply from the men who have been addressed. Various things may happen after an exhortation. For instance, there may be another exhortation of some kind from someone on the same side (e.g. Iliad 5.471-492, Sarpedon rebukes Hector following Ares’ exhortation to the Trojans). Sometimes the narrator goes on to describe the trail of carnage left by the newly exhorted troops (e.g. Iliad 16.268-274, in which Patroclus exhorts the Myrmidons, who then attack the Trojans en masse). Or, the person who gave the exhortation may display his own bravery, thereby further inciting his comrades by attacking the enemy (e.g. Agamemnon at Iliad 5.533, who kills a Trojan immediately after exhorting his men). If he himself is in trouble for some reason, he may leave the field of battle after urging his men not to give up the fight in his absence (as the wounded Agamemnon does at Iliad 11.280-283). Whatever the next event after a speech of exhortation turns out to be, it virtually never includes a verbal response from the troops who have been exhorted.

Let us now turn to a fairly typical example of a single exhortation, in which Hector rallies his men after the wounded Agamemnon is carried off the field (Iliad 11.284-291).

Ἕκτωρ δ’ ὡς ἐνόησ’ Ἀγαμέμνονα νόσφι κιόντα
Τρωσί τε καὶ Λυκίοισιν ἐκέκλετο μακρὸν ἀΰσας·
“Τρῶες καὶ Λύκιοι καὶ Δάρδανοι ἀγχιμαχηταὶ
ἀνέρες ἔστε φίλοι, μνήσασθε δὲ θούριδος ἀλκῆς.
οἴχετ’ ἀνὴρ ὤριστος, ἐμοὶ δὲ μέγ’ εὖχος ἔδωκε
Ζεὺς Κρονίδης· ἀλλ’ ἰθὺς ἐλαύνετε μώνυχας ἵππους
ἰφθίμων Δαναῶν, ἵν’ ὑπέρτερον εὖχος ἄρησθε.”
ὣς εἰπὼν ὄτρυνε μένος καὶ θυμὸν ἑκάστου.

When Hektor was aware of Agamemnon withdrawing
he called out in a great voice to the Trojans and Lykians:
“Trojans, Lykians, and Dardanians who fight at close quarters,
be men now, dear friends, remember your furious valour.
Their best man is gone, and Zeus, Kronos’ son, has consented
to my great glory; but steer your single-foot horses straight on
at the powerful Danaans, so win you the higher glory.”
So he spoke, and stirred the spirit and strength in each man. {152|153}

A context-specific formula that introduces exhortation or shouted instructions on the battlefield precedes Hector’s speech (285). This introductory formula often appears with the full-verse formula in which Hector tells his men to “remember your furious valor” (287). [
5] The content of the exhortation urges the men to be brave in order to win glory, which is typical for exhortations. [6] At the end of the speech, a concluding formula tells us that Hector succeeded in stirring up his men (291). After the exhortation, the narrator pauses to amplify this image of Hector with two expansions that do not advance the plot, but rather contribute to a dramatic and effective telling of the story: a simile likens Hector to a huntsman and his troops to hounds (292-295) and a second simile that follows immediately after the first compares Hector to a storm cloud (296-298). Then the narrator asks a rhetorical question about who the warriors were whom Hector killed (299-300).

Variation in Exhortation Patterns: The Epipolesis in Iliad 4

Other scholars have been interested in battle-related characteristics of the scene, considering it as a catalogue [10] or as an example of a compositional technique in which the poet begins with a general type and follows it with specific examples of the type. [11] For the most part, however, this scene has fallen between the stools of the more engrossing opening set pieces of the poem (the Catalogue of Ships, the scene in Book 3 of Helen on the walls of Troy) and the fighting proper that begins in Book 5. In fact, the Epipolesis itself helps to provide background for the opening of the poem, and makes a transition between the series of vignettes that introduce us to the characters and story of the Iliad and the sustained fighting that takes up much of the action. The various tribal heads that Agamemnon meets and harangues respond to his remarks in various ways, although as we have seen, in its most common form the exhortation does not receive a reply at all. These different responses illustrate the personalities of these individual leaders as well as the personality of Agamemnon himself. Furthermore, the dynamics of the various conversational exchanges between Agamemnon and his troops illuminate Agamemnon’s relationships with the Greek forces under his command. Agamemnon has the status to exhort these men, but his remarks never have a clear relationship to the behavior of the fighter being exhorted. In one case, Agamemnon is forced to retract what he says. The overall picture that emerges from this is of a leader who does not know how to effectively use his position of power or to address his men in a manner that is suitable to their behavior and standing in the Greek community as a whole. {154|155}

This initial set-up (232-250) tells the audience what to expect from Agamemnon as he tours the Greek forces, but does not give any indication of how the forces are going to respond when they are praised or reproached for their behavior. This focus on the person giving the exhortation is consistent with the usual pattern for battlefield exhortations that was outlined above: troops who have just been exhorted generally do not respond verbally to their leader’s speech. However, Agamemnon’s specific encounters with individual groups of warriors almost always include conversational exchange between him and the object of his exhortation. These responses represent the primary departure from common patterns of exhortation that we find in the Epipolesis. As such, they also represent one of its major points of interest. These exchanges show Agamemnon making contact with the important warriors among the Greeks, but they also show that he does not have a very comfortable relationship with any of these men.

Agamemnon first encounters Idomeneus, the commander of the Cretan contingent. Idomeneus receives a gracious and friendly address. Both the speech introductory language and the content of Agamemnon’s remarks display his warm and respectful tone.

τοὺς δὲ ἰδὼν γήθησεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων,
αὐτίκα δ’ Ἰδομενῆα προσηύδα μειλιχίοισιν·
“Ἰδομενεῦ, περὶ μέν σε τίω Δαναῶν ταχυπώλων
ἠμὲν ἐνὶ πτολέμῳ ἠδ’ ἀλλοίῳ ἐπὶ ἔργῳ
ἠδ’ ἐν δαίθ’, ὅτε πέρ τε γερούσιον αἴθοπα οἶνον {155|156}
Ἀργείων οἳ ἄριστοι ἐνὶ κρητῆρι κέρωνται . . .
ἀλλ’ ὄρσευ πόλεμόνδ’, οἷος πάρος εὔχεαι εἶναι.”

Agamemnon the lord of men was glad as he looked at them
and in words of graciousness spoke at once to Idomeneus:
“I honour you, Idomeneus, beyond the fast-mounted
Danaans whether in battle, or in any action whatever,
whether it be at the feast, when the great men of the Argives
blend in the mixing bowl the gleaming wine of the princes . . .
Rise up then to battle, be such as you claimed in time past.”

Iliad 4.255-60 and 264

Idomeneus replies with a simple assent, at the level both of the formulaic reply introduction that precedes his speech and what Idomeneus himself says to Agamemnon.

τὸν δ’ αὖτ’ ᾿Ιδομενεὺς Κρητῶν ἀγὸς ἀντίον ηὔδα·
“Ἀτρεΐδη, μάλα μέν τοι ἐγὼν ἐρίηρος ἑταῖρος
ἔσσομαι, ὡς τὸ πρῶτον ὑπέστην καὶ κατένευσα·
ἀλλ’ ἄλλους ὄτρυνε κάρη κομόωντας Ἀχαιοὺς,
ὄφρα τάχιστα μαχώμεθ’ . . . ”

Then in turn Idomeneus lord of the Kretans answered him:
“Son of Atreus, I will in truth be a staunch companion
in arms, as first I promised you and bent my head to it.
Rouse up rather the rest of the flowing-haired Achaians
so that we may fight in all speed . . . ”


Evidently, Idomeneus and Agamemnon agree on the merit of Idomeneus as a fighter and a comrade, and that being the case, there is no point in Agamemnon exhorting Idomeneus in the first place. This exchange shows that the two men have a friendly and mutually respectful relationship, but it also indirectly questions Agamemnon’s judgment about where his encouragement is needed.

Agamemnon next reaches the Ajax contingent and their men, whose activities are described with a simile of a goatherd watching the progress of a dark cloud over the sea (275-80). [14] Although the goatherd in the simile is dismayed by the bad weather he sees (279), Agamemnon is pleased by the {156|157} sight of the Ajaxes busy with their armed men. The introductory couplet for his speech to them resembles that which introduced his speech to Idomeneus, but the content of this speech is unique in the Epipolesis.

καὶ τοὺς μὲν γήθησεν ἰδὼν κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων,
καί σφεας φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
“Αἴαντ’, Ἀργείων ἡγήτορε χαλκοχιτώνων,
σφῶϊ μέν—οὐ γὰρ ἔοικ’ ὀτρυνέμεν—οὔ τι κελεύω . . . ”

Strong Agamemnon was glad when he looked at them,
and he spoke aloud to them and addressed them in winged words:
“Aiantes, o leaders of the bronze-armoured Argives,
to you two I give no orders; it would not become me
to speed you . . . ”


Nowhere else does Agamemnon greet a group of soldiers by telling them that he does not have orders for them. Moreover, after Agamemnon has announced that he is not giving the Ajax contingent orders, he leaves them there and immediately walks to the camp of Nestor. We hear nothing at all about how the Ajaxes responded to this speech, which suggests that this speech is not some kind of indirect or implicit suggestion. If it is intended as such, it fails in its intentions, insofar as the Ajaxes show no signs of being of aware of the fact. [
15] Once again, it is not clear what if anything Agamemnon has actually accomplished with his address, increasing the sense that he lacks skill and acuity as a leader.

Nestor, who is famous for giving advice and is often seen doing so in Homeric epic, is first encountered by Agamemnon in the characteristic activity of exhorting his own troops (ὀτρύνοντα μάχεσθαι [urging (them) to battle], 294). The first speech in the encounter between Nestor and Agamemnon, indeed, is the exhortation that Nestor gives to his own men (303-309). Only after Nestor has had his say does Agamemnon speak (313-316); Nestor then has the last word in this exchange (318-325). Agamemnon’s respect for the older man, and the fact that Nestor is shown exhorting his own men and {157|158} speaking more than Agamemnon does, both add depth and detail to the characterization of the aged and wise counselor of the Greek army. This exchange also makes an implicit contrast between the skillful speaker Nestor and the less adept Agamemnon, who once again achieves no clear result with his exhortation and in fact is overshadowed as a speaker by the man whom he is ostensibly trying to encourage. If we remember that the usual form of an exhortation entails no response at all from the person being exhorted, this imbalance of power and skill between Agamemnon and Nestor emerges even more clearly and is even more uncomplimentary to Agamemnon.

Agamemnon next encounters Odysseus and Menestheus. Here his speeches change from smiling encouragement to reproaches. The introductory formula for a reproach, however, is nearly the same as that for a complimentary speech, due to the identical metrical shape of νείκεσσεν (reproached) and γήθησεν (smiled).

This speech, although addressed to both Menestheus and Odysseus, gives Menestheus a complimentary full-verse vocative (338) and Odysseus an abusive one (339). This strategy singles out Odysseus for particular {158|159} condemnation while ostensibly addressing both heroes. Indeed, Agamemnon chooses his abusive language for Odysseus well: by calling Odysseus κακοῖσι δόλοισι κεκασμένε (which in a more literal translation than Lattimore’s might be rendered “excelling in evil tricks”), he plays on a well-known characteristic of Odysseus that is contained in Odysseus’ traditional epithet πολύμητις (translated by a gifted former student of mine as “multi-talented”). At this point, Agamemnon appears to have made a well-spoken address to the man he intends to reproach.

However, Agamemnon is unable to make his speech stick, so that this encounter too depicts him as an ineffectual giver of exhortations (and in a broader sense, therefore, as an ineffectual leader). [17] Odysseus does not take kindly to this reproach and replies angrily to Agamemnon’s speech. His emotion appears, as in the other speeches in the Epipolesis, in both his remarks themselves and the formulaic introduction to his reply. The narrator introduces the speech as follows: τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς (then looking at him darkly resourceful Odysseus spoke to him), 349. Odysseus tells Agamemnon bluntly that he is talking nonsense (350-355). Agamemnon immediately backs down rather than defending himself or his remarks.

Although Agamemnon began by berating Odysseus and Menestheus, he now smiles at them—the prelude to his praise of the other leaders he has encountered—and takes back his former negative remarks. Similarly, he uses the common full-verse vocative for Odysseus with which the Greeks usually address him (358). [
19] This formulaic address refers to Odysseus’ capacity for stratagems {159|160} just as Agamemnon’s abusive one does, but it does not make this capacity a matter for reproach. It combines Odysseus’ cleverness with his illustrious lineage to create a typical honorific vocative. [20] Agamemnon told the Ajaxes that he would not give them orders in very similar language to that which he now uses to Odysseus in 359 (cf. οὔ τι κελεύω [I give no orders], 286). However, here the words have the ring of defeat, given the criticisms that Agamemnon has just made of Odysseus. So too does the phrase πάλιν δ’ ὅ γε λάζετο μῦθον (taking back the words spoken) in 357. Agamemnon has tried to exhort Odysseus by rebuking him, and he has failed. Agamemnon’s attempt to gain the upper hand over Odysseus by speaking harshly to him, Odysseus’ resistance to the attempt, and Agamemnon’s ready surrender when he sees that Odysseus is angry all contribute to the audience’s understanding of the personalities of these two men. In this scene, Agamemnon does not follow through on his initial speech, and Odysseus resists the attempted rebuke by saying that Agamemnon is talking nonsense rather than by arguing against the rebuke in more specific terms. Once again, Agamemnon emerges from an encounter with one of the Greek leaders looking weak and ineffective in comparison to the man whom he is addressing. The specific context of exhortation strengthens this portrait, since this genre presupposes that the person giving the exhortation has the standing to give instructions to the person he addresses. [21]

Diomedes, the youngest warrior and the one with the least status of all those whom Agamemnon addresses in the Epipolesis, is the only leader whom Agamemnon can arguably be said to have successfully exhorted. Like Odysseus, he receives a rebuke; unlike Odysseus, Diomedes accepts the authority to make such a speech that Agamemnon’s leadership gives him even though he does not endorse the specific content of the rebukes themselves.

καὶ τὸν μὲν νείκεσσεν ἰδὼν κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων,
καί μιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
“ὤ μοι, Τυδέος υἱὲ δαΐφρονος ἱπποδάμοιο,
τί πτώσσεις, τί δ’ ὀπιπεύεις πολέμοιο γεφύρας;
οὐ μὲν Τυδέϊ γ’ ὧδε φίλον πτωσκαζέμεν ἦεν,
ἀλλὰ πολὺ πρὸ φίλων ἑτάρων δηΐοισι μάχεσθαι . . . ” {160|161}

At sight of Diomedes the lord of men Agamemnon scolded him
and spoke aloud to him and addressed him in winged words, saying:
Ah me, son of Tydeus, that daring breaker of horses,
why are you skulking and spying out the outworks of battle?
Such was never Tydeus’ way, to lurk in the background,
but to fight the enemy far ahead of his own companions . . . ”


We can see once again that the tone of rebuke is set not only by the content of the speech itself, but also by the formulas and conventions that introduce the speech. Furthermore, the specific nature of rebuke is particularly appropriate to Diomedes: Agamemnon rebukes the young Diomedes for not being the man his father was, using both vocative address and a story from the past to drive his point home. It has been suggested that Diomedes accepts Agamemnon’s criticisms because of his youth, which would make sense given Agamemnon’s failure to give an effective exhortation to any of the older and more experienced fighters whom he has addressed thus far. [

Similarly, both the length and the content of Agamemnon’s speech (370–400, by far the longest of Agamemnon’s speeches in the Epipolesis) deliver a particularly strong rebuke to Diomedes. Just as Agamemnon begins with a vocative identifying him as the inferior son of a brave and noble father, he tells a long story in his rebuke about a particular exploit of Tydeus (376-398). At the end of his story, he again abuses the son of Tydeus for failing to live up to the high standards of his father (399-400). The overall construction of the rebuke here resembles the one to Odysseus: an abusive or uncomplimentary vocative followed by a personal rebuke. Here, however, the target of the rebuke does not refuse to accept it. Diomedes, unlike Odysseus, does not respond angrily to this long and detailed criticism. In fact, he does not respond at all.

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 . . . ”

So he spoke, and strong Diomedes gave no answer
in awe before the majesty of the king’s rebuking;
but the son of Kapaneus the glorious answered him:
“Son of Atreus, do not lie when you know the plain truth.
We two claim we are better men by far than our fathers . . . ”


Although Diomedes gives no answer to Agamemnon, he replies angrily to Sthenelus’ challenge to what Agamemnon has said. His reply is worth quoting in full in spite of its length, because it brings forward with particular clarity the exhortation motif that runs through the entire Epipolesis. Diomedes appears to understand Agamemnon’s project in the Epipolesis at least as fully, and sympathize with it as entirely, as do the warriors whom Agamemnon has praised. Here Diomedes essentially summarizes the Epipolesis and cogently sums up the genre of exhortation.

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, {162|163}
τούτῳ δ’ αὖ μέγα πένθος Ἀχαιῶν δῃωθέντων.
ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ καὶ νῶϊ μεδώμεθα θούριδος ἀλκῆς.”
ἦ ῥα, καὶ ἐξ ὀχέων σὺν τεύχεσιν ἆλτο χαμᾶζε·
δεινὸν δ’ ἔβραχε χαλκὸς ἐπὶ στήθεσσιν ἄνακτος
ὀρνυμένου· ὑπό κεν ταλασίφρονά περ δέος εἷλεν.

Then looking at him darkly strong Diomedes spoke to him [Sthenelus]:
“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.”
He spoke and leapt in all his gear to the ground from the chariot,
and the bronze armour girt to the chest of the king clashed terribly
as he sprang. Fear would have gripped even a man stout-hearted.


The sequence of exhortations that Agamemnon makes in the Epipolesis depicts Agamemnon’s extremely limited effectiveness as a leader: when he praises his men, the praise seems gratuitous or irrelevant to the men who are praised, and when he attempts to use reproach to urge men on, he is not able to make his remarks stick except when his addressee is young and comparatively lacking in social status. Conversely, the men whom Agamemnon addresses are shown in typical pursuits: the Ajaxes, known more for their actions than their propensity for public speaking, are silently engaged in military maneuvers; Nestor’s exhortations to his men overshadow the one that Agamemnon tries to give; Odysseus, a skilled and lively speaker, resists the rebuke aimed at him. Thus, these encounters characterize not only Agamemnon, but his men. By framing these exchanges as exhortations, a genre of speech in which normally the speaker’s words and the status that gives him the right to speak in such a fashion are accepted without comment by the addressee, the narrator emphasizes even more strongly Agamemnon’s shortcomings as a speaker and a leader. Moreover, this elaborate portrait of the ineffectual Agamemnon and his main fighters appears effectively at this point in the poem, when the fighting in which these men will participate is about to begin. {164|165}

Challenge and Vaunt

Speech Exchange Followed by Attack Exchange

Speech and action combine in various sequences in battlefield encounters between two enemies. Sometimes attacks fall into two segments, an exchange of hostile speeches followed by an exchange of hostile actions. The meeting between Tlepolemus and Sarpedon in Iliad 5 takes this form. The common descent of the two warriors from Zeus provides an opportunity to contrast their genealogical relationship (which might be imagined to result in friendly relations) with their hostility toward one another on the battlefield, as we see in this formulaic introduction to Tlepolemus’ first speech:

οἳ δ’ ὅτε δὴ σχεδὸν ἦσαν ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισιν ἰόντες
υἱός θ’ υἱωνός τε Διὸς νεφεληγερέταο,
τὸν καὶ Τληπόλεμος πρότερος πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπε·

Now as these in their advance had come close together,
the own son, and the son’s son of Zeus cloud-gathering,
it was Tlepolemos of the two who spoke the first word:


Speech + Action in One Turn

In fights between two enemies that include more than two speeches, the structure of an individual turn is different. In these cases, each warrior has a sort of extended attack “turn” that includes both speech and action. The fatal encounter between Pandarus and Diomedes in Iliad 5 (276-296) is a typical example of such a sequence. We can see in this scene that each character takes one “turn” composed of both speech and action: Pandarus, going first (there is an initial speech introductory formula at 276), speaks, then attacks, then speaks again (277-285). Diomedes “replies” first with a speech (introduced with a reply formula, 286) and then with a physical attack, which kills his opponent (287-296). The content of the speeches in this scene underscores the unique relationship between speech and action in one-on-one encounters on the battlefield: when Diomedes replies to Pandarus (287-289), he doesn’t say “your boasts were groundless, but mine won’t be,” as we would expect if his challenge were a response to what Pandarus said. Instead, he derides Pandarus for missing him and promises to hit either Pandarus or his companion. Clearly, this speech responds to what Pandarus has done, not—or at least not primarily—to what Pandarus has said. This notion of speech as a kind of attack is the key difference between speech exchanges between two enemies on the battlefield and one-on-one conversations that occur in other contexts. A meeting of enemies on the battlefield can represent a responsive sequence. However, because it regularly includes both action and speech as part of a given turn, it is not the same as a one-on-one conversation where speech is generally the sole medium of exchange between the two characters. [35] {167|168}

Within a particular speech-action “turn” of one participant in an encounter between two enemies, the sequence of speech and action may vary. This becomes clear if we compare the meeting between Pandarus and Diomedes with a similar encounter between Odysseus and Socus in Iliad 11. A schematic illustration of the two turns in this encounter as compared to the meeting of Pandarus and Diomedes looks like this:

Pandarus and Diomedes Odysseus and Socus
Turn 1 (Pandarus) Turn 1 (Socus)
threatening speech (5.227-279) threatening speech (11.430-433)
throws his spear, hits enemy (280-282) tries to pierce enemy’s shield (434-438)
vaunt over apparently beaten foe (283-285)  
Turn 2 (Diomedes) Turn 2 (Odysseus)
speech in reply (268-289) threatening speech (441-445)
spear cast kills enemy (290-296) fatal spear cast at retreating enemy (446-449)
  vaunt over dead enemy (450-455)

In each case, the two participants take one turn apiece composed of speech and then action. However, a particular turn may include more than one speech. Length of turn (i.e. how many segments the turn has) does not seem to be associated with whether the speaker is the winner or the loser in an encounter.

Variations in Challenge and Vaunt Pattern

Variations on this typical pattern of one turn each for two adversaries on the battlefield generally take two forms. Sometimes two characters or two groups of characters may attack each other in a sequence of more than two turns, but following the usual patterns just described. These scenes vary in length from the common pattern described above, but not in structure, in that speech does alternate with action in the attacks that each side makes. However, there are more than two turns in such lengthened encounters, either because several different characters each take one turn, or because one or both enemies get more than one turn in an encounter between two warriors. In such scenes, typical battlefield {168|169} speech conventions do not undergo any essential change. Alternatively, two enemies may exchange speeches as though they were having a non-battlefield conversation, without any action taking place between the speeches. In contrast to the lengthened but essentially typical structures just mentioned, these conversations transcend the typical patterns of battlefield interactions. Normally, these interactions are not talk-based, but rather include talk as one of several activities. This in itself, besides the content of the conversation, creates emphasis in the scene in which it appears. This strategy appears in some of the most dramatic and significant death scenes in the Iliad in order to highlight the linkages between these different deaths, the depth of hostility between the Greek and Trojan heroes, and the costs these hostilities have for Greeks and Trojans alike.

This is the first of two pairs of Trojan-Greek attack-vaunt turns. In an exchange of vaunts between two individual warriors, which is the normal pattern, this would be the end of the encounter and the narrative would move on to a different aspect of the fighting. In this scene, however, a second pair of turns follows the first one. The sequence proceeds as follows: Polydamas kills Prothoenor and vaunts over him (turn 1); Ajax kills Archelochus in mistake for Polydamas and vaunts (turn 2); Acamas kills Promachus and vaunts over him (turn 3); Peneleus tries to attack Acamas, kills Ilioneus instead, and vaunts over him (turn 4). End of sequence marked by address to the Muses (508). This clash between the Greeks and the Trojans, which marks the high point of the Greeks’ success in battle before their fortunes take a dramatic turn for the worse, consists of four turns of attack-cum-vaunt instead of the usual pair of turns that we find in meetings between enemies. At the end of this unusual series, the address to the Muses further calls the attention of the audience to the Greeks’ success.

ἔσπετε νῦν μοι, Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχουσαι,
ὅς τις δὴ πρῶτος βροτόεντ’ ἀνδράγρι’ Ἀχαιῶν
ἤρατ’, ἐπεί ῥ’ ἔκλινε μάχην κλυτὸς ἐννοσίγαιος.

Tell me now, you Muses who have your homes on Olympos,
who was the first of the Achaians to win the bloody despoilment
of men, when the glorious shaker of the earth bent the way of the battle?

14.508-510 {170|171}

This address, like the unusual series of vaunts it follows, emphasizes the point at which the Greeks as a group (as opposed to Achilles as an individual later on in the poem) achieve their greatest success on the battlefield during the course of the Iliad. However, it also reminds the audience that their current success is dependent on the help of Poseidon, and this help is about to be withdrawn.

More Than Two “Speech + Action” Turns: Iliad 21 The extended battlefield exchanges between individuals, as opposed to the group scene I have just been discussing, all relate to the central plot line of the last third of the Iliad: the death of Patroclus and i) its effect on Achilles from an emotional standpoint as well as ii) its connection with both the death of Hector in Book 22 and the death of Achilles after the events of the Iliad. Some of these individual meetings, which will be the focus of this section, take place between Achilles and the Trojans whom he kills in Book 21 during his aristeia. These encounters follow typical patterns for battlefield exchanges, but at greater length, often in such a way as to dramatize the extraordinary nature of Achilles’ rage and alienation from the most basic norms of behavior on the battlefield. Others depart from the usual battlefield speech type and contain conversations. The presence of conversation, as we will see at the end of this chapter, is one of the many unusual features that link the deaths of Patroclus in Book 16 and Hector in Book 22.

Many readers, including this one, have found great pathos in the encounter between Lycaon and Achilles. Lycaon, with his hopeful but doomed plea for mercy, is a universally sympathetic figure. Achilles, on the other hand, has disgusted some interpreters with what they see as the depravity of his behavior toward the suppliant Lycaon and later, toward Hector. [40] Others have defended his actions as not only excusable but required given one’s obligation to avenge one’s comrades and dishonor those who have harmed them. [41] When we look at Achilles’ words and behavior in Book 21 in light of the typical patterns of battlefield speech genres in other scenes, we can see that the narrator is playing against these in order to place Achilles outside the norms of human behavior. At this point in the story, Achilles is not thinking about how others will regard his behavior. He often is not thinking very much even about himself. This sense of detachment exists alongside Achilles’ battle frenzy. Frenzy (or berserk) is much more arresting to the audience than detachment, and it arouses strong negative reactions in some interpreters that may prevent them from giving Achilles’ detachment the attention it deserves. However, as we will see, this sense that Achilles is somehow unable to connect to what is happening is one of the major forces driving the scene. Lycaon’s pathetic appeal gets its force not simply from its lack of success, but also from its failure even to make an impression on Achilles. [42]

The meeting between the Trojan youth Lycaon and Achilles departs from typical patterns for battlefield encounters between enemies in several ways. Basically, this is an example of the “speech + action” turn type. However, Achilles has two turns, although one of them is extremely short and lacks a speech component. In addition, the action component of Lycaon’s turn is not an attack. Lycaon is one of the last of the unfortunate Trojan youths whom Achilles meets in his bloodthirsty rampage in Books 20-21 after he returns to the battlefield following the death of Patroclus. The moment when Achilles first sees Lycaon occasions a narrative flashback: it describes a previous encounter between the two, when Achilles had sold Lycaon into slavery, and refers to the misfortune of the young man in falling into Achilles’ hands so soon after returning home from this period of slavery (34-52). Indeed, Achilles is so surprised at the appearance of Lycaon before him that he exclaims to himself in amazement (53-63). {172|173} This extensive prelude to the actual meeting between the two fighters greatly increases the prominence of the episode and focuses the attention of the audience more closely on the meeting when it does occur.

Lycaon makes this plea for mercy, [44] but he acknowledges that his supplication is likely to be fruitless (92-93). Indeed, Achilles hears Lycaon’s speech completely unmoved. The couplet that marks the transition between Lycaon’s speech and Achilles’ reply, very unusually, contains no verb of speaking to introduce the next speech. Like the plea itself, and indeed the construction of the episode to this point, this transitional couplet focuses the attention and sympathy of the audience on Lycaon.

ὣς ἄρα μιν Πριάμοιο προσηύδα φαίδιμος υἱὸς
λισσόμενος ἐπέσσιν, ἀμείλκτον δ’ ὄπ’ ἄκουσε

So the glorious son of Priam addressed him, speaking
in supplication, but heard in turn the voice [i.e. of Achilles] without pity:

21.97-98 {173|174}

The verb προσηύδα appears in a speech conclusion rather than an introduction only here. Moreover, it is extremely unusual to find the listener rather than the speaker as the subject of a speech introductory expression. [
45] So, several factors in the construction of the episode up to this point highlight the experiences of Lycaon and draw the audience in to these experiences: the flashback to his previous meeting with Achilles; Lycaon’s own repetition of these events in his supplication to Achilles; and the transition to Achilles’ reply, which casts his speech entirely in terms of its effect on the listening Lycaon. Conversely, it creates the idea that Achilles is not participating in the exchange, contributing to our sense of his detachment.

This unusual couplet, which extends Lycaon’s turn right up to the first words of Achilles’ turn, is the last reference to Lycaon as the central actor. Now Achilles takes his turn, and the Lycaon with whom the audience has been invited to sympathize becomes just one of a possibly endless series of victims of the bereaved and relentless Achilles. Achilles’ turn has several parts. First he speaks to his enemy, but not to threaten Lycaon with his own bravery or employ any of the other motifs we have become accustomed to seeing in pre-attack challenges. Instead he tells Lycaon that now that Patroclus has died, any Trojans whom Achilles meets will be killed, including Lycaon himself (99-106). Achilles refers in the same unemotional, matter-of-fact way to his own eventual death on the battlefield (108-113), which is almost unimaginable in the usual threats and boasts of such speeches.

Hearing these dispassionate, bizarre words, which are so unlike recognizable battlefield behavior, Lycaon realizes that all is lost.

ὣς φάτο, τοῦ δ’ αὐτοῦ λύτο γούνατα καὶ φίλον ἦτορ·
ἔγχος μέν ῥ’ ἀφέηκεν, ὃ δ’ ἕζετο χεῖρε πετάσσας
ἀμφοτέρας· Ἀχιλεὺς δὲ ἐρυσσάμενος ξίφος ὀξὺ . . .

So he spoke, and in the other the knees and the inward
heart went slack. He let go of the spear and sat back, spreading
wide both hands; but Achilleus drawing his sharp sword . . .

21.114-16 {174|175}

Line 114, which is formulaic, appears four times in the Odyssey but only here in the Iliad. While Lycaon throws away his sword and takes up a pose that clearly and simply shows that he will not attack, [
46] Achilles draws his sword and kills the young man. The contrast between the one youth who lets go of his sword, and the other who stabs to death with his, creates a poignant image for the audience. Having killed Lycaon, Achilles throws him into the river nearby. He vaunts over the corpse partly by gloating that the dead youth will be eaten by fish and not lamented by his mother (122-127), which is a common motif in such vaunts. In the second part of the vaunt (128-135), Achilles repeatedly uses second person plural forms, casting Lycaon as just one member of an ever-increasing group of Trojans whom Achilles will kill and vaunt over. [47] This generalizing aspect of the vaunt parallels the references Achilles makes in his first speech to all the Trojans he plans to kill. Achilles’ turn here displays the usual construction of “speech-attack-speech,” but the content of his speeches and the explicit refusal of his victim to try to defend himself are all quite unusual. This combination of a typical structure with very surprising content sets off the oddity of Achilles’ behavior in this scene and contributes to the general sense pervading Book 21 that Achilles is beyond the reach of the normal conventions of human behavior.

The turn structure in the Lycaon scene is basically regular, with the exception of Achilles’ very brief first turn (failed attempt to cast his spear) that is essentially simultaneous with Lycaon’s turn. In his turn, Lycaon physically and verbally supplicates Achilles rather than attacking his enemy. Achilles then has a more lengthy turn constructed in the common manner for a battlefield turn. However, the speeches that bracket his fatal attack on Lycaon show an unusual lack of emotion about the notion of being killed on the battlefield, whether it is himself or Trojan youths who are dying. They also generalize this particular encounter to any and all Trojans whom Achilles may meet. This generalizing strain in Achilles’ remarks exists in tension with the various ways in which the narrative highlights the experiences of Lycaon in the first part of the episode and makes him vivid and meaningful to the audience. The audience is invited to participate in this encounter from Lycaon’s perspective at the same time that Achilles sees Lycaon as a fungible representative of a large and indistinguishable class of victims. This contrast in perspectives shows the audience Achilles’ own sense of disengagement from what is happening. {175|176}

Once again, the narrative before the meeting says something about the Trojan whom Achilles is about to meet: we learn about Asteropaeus’ genealogy, which includes the river Axius (140-143) and that Asteropaeus was inspired by the angry river Xanthus to meet Achilles bravely (144-147). Once the actual encounter begins, Achilles asks who Asteropaeus is (150-151) and Asteropaeus tells him (153-160). The subsequent physical attacks are unusually long and furious. First Asteropaeus throws two spears at once. He hits Achilles’ shield with one of them and grazes his arm with the other (161-168). Then, Achilles throws his spear at Asteropaeus and misses (169-172, note especially κατακτάμεναι μενεαίνων “in a fury to kill him” [170]). Undaunted, Achilles unsheathes his sword (173-174). Again, the narrator emphasizes the ferocity of his relentless attack: ἆλτ’ ἐπί οἱ μεμαώς, “[he] sprang upon him in a fury” (174). Meanwhile, Asteropaeus is trying repeatedly and fruitlessly to get Achilles’ spear unstuck from the riverbank where it has landed (174-178). At length Achilles strikes Asteropaeus with the sword and kills him (179-182). Each warrior attacks his opponent more than once (or tries to) instead of the more usual “one attack each” that normally {176|177} follows an exchange of challenge speeches. Now Achilles vaunts over the fallen Asteropaeus (184-199). The content of this vaunt is much more in line with the usual structure of such speeches than what Achilles said to the dead Lycaon: he boasts that his own descent from Zeus has proven more powerful than Asteropaeus’ descent from the river Axius and asserts the power of Zeus over any and all bodies of water.

In the episode with Lycaon, in contrast, the usual turn structure for battlefield encounters appears virtually unchanged but the content of these turns is very unusual. The Lycaon episode exploits common forms to highlight unusual content; the Asteropaeus scene arranges normal content in an unusual sequence. These contrasting narrative techniques are used to represent different aspects of Achilles’ feelings. Together, these two episodes depict the magnitude of Achilles’ alienation now that Patroclus is dead by means of both his detachment as he kills Lycaon and his ferocity against Asteropaeus. When Achilles’ aristeia reaches its climax in his meeting with Hector, he feels both extraordinary detachment and great ferocity. He will display both of these qualities when he meets and kills Hector in Book 22. {177|178}

Conversation Between Enemies

In the battle scenes discussed up to this point, more than the usual number of turns occurs, or the individual turns are arranged in an unusual order. However, there is never a series of more than two speeches without intervening action. These scenes, however unusual they may be, follow the typical pattern of battle scenes in which speech exchange is part of an ongoing fight, not the sole medium of exchange between the two speakers. Sometimes, on the other hand, two enemies may meet and exchange not simply a vaunt or a series of vaunts that accompany physical attacks, but a series of several speeches without any physical assaults intermingled. In other words, they may have a conversation. Given the rarity of conversation on the battlefield, such conversations draw attention to themselves simply because they exist, and the longer they are, the more attention they command. Indeed, in the books of the Iliad that Fenik 1968 focuses on as representative of battle scenes study (5, 11, 13, 16, and 17), there are 62 single speeches out of 151, or 41% single speeches. This is noticeably higher than the Iliad’s overall percentage of single speeches (28%) and over three times the percentage of single speeches in the Odyssey (13%), where battle scenes are almost entirely absent. To put it another way, the cooperative exchange of conversation is in a basic sense antithetical to the hostilities of battle; when a conversation appears during a fight, the scene thereby transcends rather than simply lengthening or adapting the typical conventions of battle. This only happens in two scenes, both of which have paramount importance for the story as a whole.

Patroclus and Hector, Iliad 16 In Book 16 over half of the speeches are single (13 of 24). This is the highest percentage of single speeches in any book in either the Iliad or the Odyssey. Given this backdrop of single speeches, especially predominant even for battle narrative, the one-on-one conversation that occurs at the end of the book between Hector and the dying Patroclus stands out particularly strongly. When Patroclus meets his doom at the end of Book 16, he is struck down by Apollo (788-806), wounded by Euphorbus (806-817), and finally killed by Hector (818-863). This means that the usual “attack” sequence, in which both enemies make some kind of attack on the other, does not occur here. Instead, Patroclus is wounded and trying to creep away when he is hit by Hector’s spear (818-822). Both this sequence of events, and the conversation that takes place between Patroclus and Hector, dramatize not simply the fact of Patroclus’ death but the process of dying. {178|179}

After Hector attacks the reeling Patroclus, but before he vaunts over his dying enemy, a simile describes the two heroes. As we have seen, in the typical pattern in battlefield narrative, the narrative describes a warrior’s vaunt over his fallen enemy right after it describes the attack that occasions the vaunt. Thus, this simile serves as an emphatic device: it focuses the audience’s attention on the combat between Patroclus and Hector by pausing to dwell on it after Hector’s attack on his enemy, but before the speeches that the audience would be expecting to follow the attack based on the typical sequences of battlefield encounters.

ὡς δ’ ὅτε σῦν ἀκάμαντα λέων ἐβιήσατο χάρμῃ,
ὥ τ’ ὄρεος κορυφῇσι μέγα φρονέοντε μάχεσθον
πίδακος ἀμφ’ ὀλίγης· ἐθέλουσι δὲ πίεμεν ἄμφω·
πολλὰ δέ τ’ ἀσθμαίνοντα λέων ἐδάμασσε βίηφιν·
ὣς πολέας πεφνόντα Μενοιτίου ἄλκιμον υἱὸν
Ἕκτωρ Πριαμίδης σχεδὸν ἔγχει θυμὸν ἀπηύρα·
καί οἱ ἐπευχόμενος ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
“Πάτροκλ’ . . . ”

As a lion overpowers a weariless boar in wild combat
as on the high places of a mountain the two fight in their pride
over a little spring of water, both wanting to drink there,
and the lion beats him down by force as he fights for his breath, so
Hektor, Priam’s son, with a close spear-stroke stripped the life
from the fighting son of Menoitios, who had killed so many,
and stood above him, and spoke aloud the winged words of triumph:
“Patroklos . . . ”

Iliad 16.823-830

In our simile, the two combatants are a lion and a boar (823). They fight each other in a mountain glade, eager for combat (824). The lion beats the boar through superior physical strength: two words using the root βια- “physical strength, force” describe the victory of the lion over the boar (ἐβιήσατο χάρμῃ [overpowers in wild combat], 823; λέων ἐδάμασσε βίηφιν [the lion beats him down by force], 826). The two fighters are described in the dual, creating the {179|180} idea that they are closely matched in strength. [
51] Indeed, even though the boar of the simile loses its fight, it is a powerful foe. The boar is perhaps the mightiest animal found in battlefield similes beside the lion. [52] The boar in our simile is described as ἀκάμαντα (weariless, 823) and the narrator emphasizes its death struggle (πολλὰ δέ τ’ ἀσθμαίνοντα [as he fights for his breath], 826) rather than the condition of the victorious lion. Thus, this simile illustrates the victory of the more powerful Hector over a beaten but nonetheless impressive Patroclus.

Viewed alongside other lion similes that have appeared in connection with Patroclus earlier in his aristeia, this simile forms part of a progression of similes that trace the rise and fall of his fortunes on the battlefield. This simile describing the mortally wounded Patroclus has several verbal echoes of an earlier simile about two lions, which describes Hector and Patroclus fighting over the body of Hector’s charioteer Cebriones after Patroclus has killed him (756-758). These two similes share a location in a mountain glade (ὥ τ’ ὄρεος κορυφῇσι, 757 = 824) and the eagerness of the two combatants to fight (μέγα φρονέοντε μάχεσθον, 758 = 824). The conflict in both similes is over natural resources (drinking water or food). In the earlier simile, however, both Hector and Patroclus are described as lions. Similarly, in the narrative at that point, Hector and Patroclus meet in a closely matched and inconclusive encounter of equals. [53] The resemblance of these two similes, combined with the crucial difference between them in the animals that fight, emphasizes the change that has taken place in the story between the first simile and the second. The dying Patroclus is no longer the mightiest warrior on the battlefield: he has been beaten in the battle of both narrative and simile. [54] At the same time, Patroclus, despite his defeat, is still portrayed as a formidable warrior in both the simile and the narrative. Hector did not kill Patroclus alone, but struck the third blow in a series. Even as Patroclus is dying, the narrative stresses his power by calling him πολέας πεφνόντα Μενοιτίου ἄλκιμον υἱόν (the fighting son of Menoitios, who had killed so many, 827). {180|181}

Having fatally wounded his quarry, Hector now taunts Patroclus at some length (830-842). He ridicules Patroclus for expecting to capture Troy, praises his own ability to defend his city, and finally, he scoffs at the send-off he imagines Achilles giving to his friend. While this is typical for a vaunt over a defeated enemy, Patroclus, unlike most dying heroes, replies to the vaunt of his killer, getting a conversation between the two men under way. The formulaic speech frame that introduces his reply follows a typical pattern for reply introductory formulas, with one important difference. Patroclus, unlike most other characters whose names appear in formulaic speech introductions, is identified with a vocative rather than a nominative. [55] What, if anything, does this vocative signify? The introduction to Patroclus’ death statement contains both a vocative and a descriptive participle: τὸν δ’ ὀλιγοδρανέων προσέφης, Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ (and now, dying, you answered him, o rider Patroclus; 843). Similarly, the other two speech introductions for Patroclus that give his name in the vocative—all during his aristeia in Book 16—also contain descriptive participles (βαρὺ στενάχων [groaning heavily], 16.20 and ἐπικερτομέων [in bitter mockery], 16.744). On the other hand, the verse τὸν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε Μενοιτίου ἄλκιμος υἱός (then in turn the strong son of Menoitios spoke to him, 11.837) is available to introduce a reply by Patroclus without any description of how he felt when he replied.

Before Patroclus dies, he responds to Hector’s vaunt (844-854). This speech stands out for its awareness of the broader framework in which Patroclus’ death takes place. Patroclus begins his speech with Hector’s “now,” in which he is vaunting over a defeated foe (ἤδη νῦν, Ἕκτορ, μεγάλ’ εὔχεο, 844); he reminds Hector that he was the third in a series of adversaries who wounded Patroclus (implying that this is not as impressive a feat as being solely responsible for killing one’s foe); and he ends by saying that death at the hands of Achilles awaits Hector (852-854). In this final speech, Patroclus describes an arc or a dynamic for Hector of victories followed by death that closely mirrors the one that Book 16 depicts for Patroclus himself. The narrative focuses primarily on this dynamic for Patroclus, while the dying hero posits such a cycle for his victorious adversary.

Before Hector responds to Patroclus’ final statement, a brief passage describes the actual death of Patroclus. I will quote the verses here, because a discussion of Patroclus’ death is not complete without this passage; to avoid redundancy, the content of this passage will be discussed in detail below in the context of the death of Hector.

ὣς ἄρα μιν εἰπόντα τέλος θανάτοιο κάλυψε·
ψυχὴ δ’ ἐκ ῥεθέων πταμένη Ἀϊδόσδε βεβήκει,
ὃν πότμον γοόωσα, λιποῦσ’ ἀνδροτῆτα καὶ ἥβην.
τὸν καὶ τεθνηῶτα προσηύδα φαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ·

He spoke, and as he spoke the end of death closed in upon him,
and the soul fluttering free of his limbs went down into Death’s house
mourning her destiny, leaving youth and manhood behind her.
Now though he was a dead man glorious Hektor spoke to him:

16.855-58 {182|183}

Here, we find an elaboration within the one-on-one conversation sequence, which itself is an elaboration of the usually single genre of the vaunt. In a one-on-one conversation, the most usual way to mark the transition from one speech to the next is with a single verse. Furthermore, verse 858 could stand alone—as far as clarity and structure are concerned—to introduce Hector’s final speech. This elaboration in place of a single-verse transition between one turn and the next contributes to the appeal and the prominence of this moment in the poem. Hector questions Patroclus’ assertion that Hector himself does not have long to live (859-861). He characterizes Patroclus’ comments with the verb μαντεύεαι (prophesy, 859), showing his awareness if not his acceptance or understanding of Patroclus’ striking vision of Hector’s future. This verb, which is used four times in the Iliad, [
60] appears only here for a human who is not a seer. This word choice draws out both the powerful nature of Patroclus’ insights in his dying speech and the limitations of Hector’s understanding of his own situation. He then removes his spear from the corpse and attacks Automedon (862-867).

Thus, the death of Patroclus includes several elaborations around what is essentially a typical battlefield motif of “A fatally wounds B, A vaunts over B, B dies.” [61] We have seen more routine examples of this pattern in our discussion of the common patterns for the “vaunt” genre of single speech. Here, instead of just “A wounds B,” we have “A fatally wounds B, simile describes A and B,” where the particular content of the simile effectively plays off of the previous simile to reflect the progress of the story. In place of “A vaunts over B,” the victor and his victim have a conversation consisting of three turns while the victim is dying. The death itself, unusually, takes place as an elaboration in between the last two speeches of the conversation. This conversation develops several motifs that are important to the progress of the story, chief among them the connections between the deaths of Patroclus and the death of Hector. Patroclus, at the moment of his death, clearly understands these connections, but Hector does not. Hector’s blithe self-confidence contrasts ironically with Patroclus’ prophesy of his impending death. Conversation provides a very effective framework for these contrasting characters. First, the mere presence {183|184} of a conversation at this point in a battlefield encounter calls attention to the speakers and their words simply because it is unusual. Moreover, the interchange of conversation dramatizes in a particularly vivid and effective way the contrasting viewpoints of the two characters and the poignantly incomplete understanding that Hector has of his own future.

Hector and Achilles, Iliad 22 The death of Hector is one of the high points of the Iliad, both because of its superlative pathos and vividness and because it links together so many past and future deaths of Homeric heroes. As is well known, Hector’s death is linked to Patroclus’, in that Achilles sets out to kill Hector because he was responsible for Patroclus’ death. Indeed, it shares many formulas and structural features with the end of Book 16. Hector’s death is also connected to Lycaon and Asteropaeus’ because Achilles kills them during his aristeia, which reaches its high point when he meets Hector. Hector’s death in turn will lead to Achilles’ own after the events of the Iliad. Fittingly for such a pivotal part of the story, the longest and most famous battlefield conversation in the Iliad occurs when Hector meets his end in Book 22. Although the structure, content, and imagery of many of the individual speeches in this episode have attracted a great deal of attention, neither the unusual presence of a conversation during a fight nor the unique length of this interchange have received much notice. This conversation is one of the longest in the Iliad, battlefield or not, and it includes many elaborations of various kinds. It contains both more turns than usual within a basically normal battlefield sequence and an extended one-on-one conversation. The norms of both conversation and battle types inform this scene, and we can appreciate its effects more fully if we view them against both of these two backdrops simultaneously.

However, the tide is about to turn. When Hector’s spear cast does not injure Achilles and he turns to Deiphobus for another spear, he finds no one there. At this point Hector realizes that he has been tricked, accepting that death is all but upon him. The soliloquy that he gives at this point is the only departure from the alternating turn structure that consistently governs the speeches and attacks in the encounter between Hector and Achilles. Both the disruption of typical conversational structures and the content of the speech itself emphasize the crucial moment at which Hector accepts the inevitability of his own death.

Ἕκτωρ δ’ ἔγνω ᾗσιν ἐνὶ φρεσὶ φώνησέν τε·
“ὢ πόποι, ἦ μάλα δή με θεοὶ θάνατόνδε κάλεσσαν·
Δηΐφοβον γὰρ ἔγωγ’ ἐφάμην ἥρωα παρεῖναι·
ἀλλ’ ὃ μὲν ἐν τείχει, ἐμὲ δ’ ἐξαπάτησεν Ἀθήνη.
νῦν δὲ δὴ ἐγγύθι μοι θάνατος κακός, οὐδ’ ἔτ’ ἄνευθεν,
οὐδ’ ἀλέη· ἦ γάρ ῥα πάλαι τό γε φίλτερον ἦεν
Ζηνί τε καὶ Διὸς υἷι ἑκηβόλῳ, οἵ με πάρος γε
πρόφρονες εἰρύατο· νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει.
μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,
ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.”
ὣς ἄρα φωνήσας εἰρύσσατο φάσγανον ὀξύ . . .

And Hektor knew the truth inside his heart, and spoke aloud:
“No use. Here at last the gods have summoned me deathward.
I thought Deiphobos the hero was here close beside me,
but he is behind the wall and it was Athene cheating me
and now evil death is close to me, and no longer far away,
and there is no way out. So it must long since have been pleasing
to Zeus, and Zeus’ son who strikes from afar, this way; though before this
they defended me gladly. But now my death is upon me.
Let me at least not die without a struggle, inglorious,
but do some big thing first, that men shall come to know of it.”
So he spoke, and pulled out the sharp sword . . .

22.296-306 {185|186}

His words here contrast noticeably with the self-confident tone of his reply to the dead Patroclus at the end of Book 16. Moreover, he realizes—as Patroclus did when he made his dying speech—that the gods have been instrumental in his defeat. He ends, as did Patroclus, with a comment about his future: Patroclus’ last words predicted Hector’s death at Achilles’ hands (16.852-854); now Hector resolves that once his death has occurred, it will be a cause of future repute for him.

The regularity of the alternating turn structure elsewhere in this long series of speeches (three turns before this point, five turns afterwards) gives this exceptional speech added prominence. In fact, this soliloquy marks a decisive point in the episode: heretofore, the two heroes speak and attack one another as equals. After the soliloquy, Achilles fatally wounds Hector, and the remainder of their encounter takes place in the context of Hector’s imminent death. Moreover, the presence of Hector’s voice in particular here attracts the sympathy and the attention of the audience to him just before he sustains his fatal wound. The audience gets a vivid and moving glimpse of his thoughts at a brief transitional moment when he is still as strong physically as his adversary is, but he knows that his death is upon him. Although Hector draws his sword and is compared to a mighty bird of prey as he awaits the attacking Achilles (306-311), he expresses no doubt about his imminent death in his soliloquy and the audience could not have felt any either. By allowing the audience to experience Hector’s thoughts directly, and by violating a consistent alternating turn structure to do so, the narrator gives great prominence and vividness to this crucial moment in the story and in particular to Hector’s perspective on his own death.

After Hector’s final speech, an extended passage appears before Achilles’ brief final remarks to the just deceased corpse. As has been widely noted, these famous verses also appear when Patroclus dies, linking the two deaths.

ὣς ἄρα μιν εἰπόντα τέλος θανάτοιο κάλυψε,
ψυχὴ δ’ ἐκ ῥεθέων πταμένη ᾌδόσδε βεβήκει,
ὃν πότμον γοόωσα, λιποῦσ’ ἀνδροτῆτα καὶ ἥβην.
τὸν καὶ τεθνηῶτα προσηύδα δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς·

He spoke, and as he spoke the end of death closed in upon him,
and the soul fluttering free of the limbs went down into Death’s house
mourning her destiny, leaving youth and manhood behind her.
Now though he was a dead man brilliant Achilleus spoke to him:

22.361-64 = 16.855-58 (with φαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ for δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς)

The anomalous scansion of ἀνδροτῆτα as ⏑⏑–⏑ suggests that λιποῦσ’ ἀνδροτῆτα καὶ ἥβην is a very ancient formula dating from a period when ἀνδροτῆτα actually did have an initial short syllable because it was spelled *anṛ̥teta. [
69] In response to the now dead Hector, Achilles tersely states his willingness to die whenever it is time for him to die (365-366). Throughout this scene, Achilles shows unparalleled fury, but here he shows for the first time the detachment that appeared in his encounter with Lycaon in Book 21. We saw that his response to Lycaon’s plea for ransom included the bizarrely unconcerned comment that he, like Lycaon and many other Trojans, would die (21.110). He says essentially the same thing here. Killing Hector has lessened neither his rage nor his lack of interest in his own fate. {188|189}

Having now reached the end of this long and varied sequence, let us review the overall turn structure and locations of the elaborations or variations in this scene:

turn 1 A (Hector) addresses B (Achilles)—asks for ground rules about corpse of loser
turn 2 i. B responds to A—refuses A’s request
  ii. B throws his spear at A and misses; Athena returns it to him
turn 3 i. A challenges B
  ii. A throws his spear at B, hits his shield without wounding him
turn 4 i. A speaks aloud to himself about imminent death—violates turn structure
  ii. A draws his sword and awaits attack of B
turn 5 i. B examines A to find an unarmored place to attack him, spears him in the throat without severing his windpipe
  ii. B vaunts over the dying A
turn 6 A entreats B to accept ransom for his corpse [“weakened” participle in reply formula]
turn 7 B refuses A’s request
turn 8 A responds to B re B’s fate [“dying” participle in reply formula]; A dies
turn 9 B responds to dead A [extended passage describing death of A introduces speech]

The first part of this scene (turns 1-3) displays common motifs and turn structures associated with battlefield encounters. Hector’s soliloquy at 4 marks a change: after the fatal attack of Achilles following this speech, a sequence of five speeches in a one-on-one conversation appears. This represents an especially long elaboration on the single vaunt that we would expect to find here. In addition, the narrator skillfully varies the participles modifying the dying Hector in reply introductions for him so as to map out in detail his progress toward death. Finally, the passage describing the death itself between the penultimate speech in the series and the final one uses an expression of great antiquity that appears only in this scene and in the very similar death of Patroclus. The scene focuses on Hector as he grapples with his own death, treating him with both sympathy and nobility as he meets his end. This way of treating Hector is a key {189|190} part of the Iliad’s unique approach to its subject, which underlines throughout that the costs of war fall equally on both sides in a conflict.


The Iliad, unlike the Odyssey, most commonly contains conversations as elaborations or expansions on single speech contexts. In the Epipolesis in Book 4, the normally single genre of the exhortation becomes a series of conversations between Agamemnon and his men. This episode depicts Agamemnon as ineffectual in his speaking and his leadership: when he uses praise, he consistently fails to say anything that changes the behavior of the men to whom he speaks, and no one to whom he gives a rebuke accepts the substance of his remarks. While Agamemnon is shown as an ineffective leader at the beginning of sustained fighting, the various heroes to whom he speaks behave in ways typical for them: Ajax remains silent; Nestor gives advice to his own men; Odysseus disputes with Agamemnon. Thus, the expansion here of the typically single genre of exhortation creates apposite portraits of several of the major Greek fighters. Exhortation, as a genre most typically found on the battlefield, provides a particularly effective lead-in to the fighting that is about to begin.

Once the fighting does get under way, conversations occur almost entirely to dramatize the emotions and behavior of Achilles during his aristeia in Books 21 and 22. Other than the death of Patroclus, whose connections to the death of Hector and to Achilles himself have already been discussed, conversation in battle shows us the tremendous fury and unique detachment that Achilles feels when he returns to battle after Patroclus is killed. These scenes between Achilles and his victims use conversation for several complementary effects. The speeches that the victim makes, and the descriptions of him in the speech frames, depict the victim in a sympathetic light and/or dramatize the scene from his point of view. This implicitly casts Achilles as the unsympathetic figure in these interactions regardless of how he himself behaves. In addition, his own speeches and actions show his rage to be so great that ultimately the gods refuse to sanction it, insofar as Thetis is sent down by Zeus to tell Achilles that he must cease maltreating the body of Hector and return it to Priam for burial. In each of these scenes, conversation appears where a single genre of speech (usually a vaunt) would typically be found. This departure from typical patterns emphasizes the content of the conversation. Moreover, the interchange inherent in conversation provides a striking and effective vehicle for portraying some of the most hostile and intense conflict in the poem. In the Iliad, one-on-one conversation emphasizes the conflict that characterizes all the key relationships in the poem. {190|}


[ back ] 1. See Edwards 1987:92-94 for an overview of the genres of speech commonly found on the battlefield. I will be using his terminology of “challenge” for a speech before a physical attack and “vaunt” for a speech that celebrates a successful attack (93).

[ back ] 2. Parks 1990:6-7 and Martin 1989:68-77 use the more general term “flyting” to refer to ad hominem verbal attacks (Parks) or contest genres of speech (Martin).

[ back ] 3. See the Introduction for the association of speech conclusions with the end of a speech sequence.

[ back ] 4. Muellner 1976, particularly 18-30.

[ back ] 5. [dative object] ἐκέκλετο μακρὸν ἀΰσας ([he] in a great voice cried out to [object]) appears eight times in the Iliad. In six of these instances, the speech so introduced contains the exhortation ἀνέρες ἔστε φίλοι, μνήσασθε δὲ θούριδος ἀλκῆς (be men now, dear friends, and remember your furious valor). Collins 1998:103-104 discusses the association of ἀλκή (valor) with memory in this formula. Mackie 1996:88 notes that this formula is “virtually confined” to speeches by Hector.

[ back ] 6. For the use of memory as part of exhortation in connection with this formula, see Martin 1989:79-80.

[ back ] 7. See Moulton 1977:18-27 on pairs of similes. He says that the second in a pair of successive similes like these generally “elaborate[s] or intensif[ies] the initial comparison” (19).

[ back ] 8. See Hainsworth 1993 ad 11.299 for other passages in which this particular question formula appears.

[ back ] 9. Named from the verb ἐπεπωλεῖτο at 4.231, from ἐπιπωλέομαι “to go round, inspect, review.”

[ back ] 10. Fenik 1968:153.

[ back ] 11. Krischer 1971:134.

[ back ] 12. Krischer 1971:133-134 characterizes the first two speeches as compared to the five meetings with specific heroes as “Typus” (type) and “Einzelheiten” (particulars). He persuasively suggests that this is done in order that “sie von vornherein im Rahmen des Ganzen gesehen werden” (they be seen from the start in the setting of the whole).

[ back ] 13. Kirk 1985:353-354 gives an overview of the organization and composition of the Epipolesis.

[ back ] 14. Kirk 1985 ad 4.272-273 states that “Ajaxes” refers here to Telamonian Ajax and his brother Teucer, not to Telamonian and Locrian Ajax. See Kullmann 1960:79-85 on the traditional exploits, character, and antecedents of Telamonian Ajax.

[ back ] 15. Martin 1989:114 argues that the “limited praise” of Agamemnon in this speech does, in fact, urge on the Ajaxes while claiming not to give them any orders. It seems to me that the lack of information about how the Ajaxes respond—particularly in contrast to the focus on how other Greeks respond to Agamemnon during the Epipolesis—makes this a difficult conclusion to draw with certainty.

[ back ] 16. Apthorp 1999 condemns both verse 337 (on the basis of its absence from several important papyri) and the very similar verse 4.369 (in spite of mounting evidence for the authenticity of 369, which he discusses and dismisses [19-20]). His grounds for doing so are the absence or questionability of the verses in several important early papyri, and the lack of necessity for an additional verb of speaking after νείκεσσεν (scolded) in verses 336 and 368. Whether the additional verse appears here or not is immaterial to the basic similarity between language introducing an exhortation based on praise and one based on blame.

[ back ] 17. Martin 1989:59-65 discusses the power hierarchy that lies behind who gives successful commands in the Iliad.

[ back ] 18. This verse is my translation; the rest of the quotation is Lattimore’s.

[ back ] 19. 7x Iliad, 15x Odyssey.

[ back ] 20. Dickey 1996, although beginning chronologically with Herodotus, contains a number of extremely helpful insights on Homeric vocatives. She notes, e.g., the honorific function of the patronymic in Homeric poetry within a larger context of the association of vocatives with “formal, deferential, or courteous speech” (55). See Higbie 1995:190-91 on the importance of patronymic forms of address to a Homeric hero’s good repute.

[ back ] 21. Here I differ from Stanley 1993:71, who speaks positively of Agamemnon’s “diplomacy” toward Odysseus.

[ back ] 22. Martin 1989:124, where he asserts Diomedes “is unsure of his language, but his lack of confidence is explicitly associated with his youth.”

[ back ] 23. 5.243 (Sthenelus), 5.826 (Athena), 10.234 (Agamemnon).

[ back ] 24. This phrase, which functions as an interjection meaning something like “alas,” always carries a note of sadness. Thetis’ lament in Iliad 18, when she says ὤ μοι ἐγὼ δειλή, ὤ μοι δυσαριστοτόκεια (ah me, my sorrow, ah me, the bitterness in this best of childbearing, 18.54), is one of the most notable examples of this.

[ back ] 25. McGlew 1989:286 notes that Diomedes’ actions here confirm Agamemnon’s own statement (Iliad 2.73) that it is θέμις (right) for a king to test his troops.

[ back ] 26. Compare the simile that follows Hector’s exhortation to his troops in Book 11 that was used above as an example of the single genre of exhortation.

[ back ] 27. Goffman 1981:142 has a helpful formulation of situations in which speech and action appear together in a context that is not primarily speech-driven: “the words spoken, whether by one participant or two, are an integral part of a mutually coordinated physical undertaking, not a talk.”

[ back ] 28. And related conversational genres: see Chapter 6 on athletic games.

[ back ] 29. Such as ἦ ῥα καὶ ἀμπεπαλὼν προίει δολιχόσκιον ἔγχος (so he spoke, and balanced the spear far-shadowed, and threw it). All of the most common speech concluding formulas describe emotional rather than physical response.

[ back ] 30. E.g. Parks 1990, who implies (erroneously, in my view) that the competitive mode of the battlefield is the norm across many forms of human interaction (see e.g. 73-74); Fenik 1968, particularly 20-21 and 161-163.

[ back ] 31. Krischer 1971, although extremely useful on the subject of similes in the typical aristeia pattern, does not include speeches in his typology of the aristeia (24). Martin 1989:59-77 discusses various speech genres that commonly occur in battle contexts.

[ back ] 32. E.g. Iliad 6.121-122, which begins the encounter between Glaucus and Diomedes. The verse οἳ δ’ ὅτε δὴ σχεδὸν ἦσαν ἐπ’ ἀλλήλοισιν ἰόντες illustrates the similarity of speech and action as battlefield attack strategies: although this verse frequently precedes a speech introduction and a verbal challenge, it may also precede a physical attack (as at Iliad 5.14, which is followed immediately by a spear cast).

[ back ] 33. Parks 1990:108-109 discusses this under the more general heading of “retrojection,” or reference to the past, as a means of attacking one’s enemy in a flyting speech.

[ back ] 34. For sequences of speech exchange/attack exchange where more than two speeches are given, see below.

[ back ] 35. Hymes (in Gumperz and Hymes 1972:56) distinguishes situations like this, in which speech is one aspect of an essentially non-speech activity, from “speech events”: “they are not in themselves governed by such rules [of speaking], or one set of such rules throughout. A hunt, e.g., may comprise both verbal and nonverbal events, and the verbal events may be of more than one type.” He states that these situations cannot be described by the identical set of rules that characterize speech events, which are governed entirely by rules of speaking.

[ back ] 36. Although a back and forth series attacks, by itself, is quite usual (Fenik 1968:10 and 57), the appearance of vaunts with each of the series of attacks is not.

[ back ] 37. Also 13.417-418 and 14.486-487. The couplet in Book 13 occurs after the second of a series of three challenges or vaunts, all of which involve Idomeneus in some way. However, that series differs from this one in that other events besides attack-vaunt turns occur in it. A number of heroes who do not speak make attacks and otherwise participate in the fighting, in which Idomeneus has a particularly prominent role.

[ back ] 38. Whitman 1958:272-273.

[ back ] 39. Shay 1994:77-99 argues that Achilles is berserk in his aristeia in Books 19-22 of the poem, asserting that “no restraint of any kind limits Achilles during his berserk state” (88).

[ back ] 40. E.g. Bowra 1930:20-21.

[ back ] 41. Bassett 1938:203-204.

[ back ] 42. Here we can profitably contrast Adrestus’ supplication of Menelaus in Book 6 (45-65), which is moving because of how close it comes to succeeding.

[ back ] 43. Parks 1990:59 considers this “the most dramatic episode of supplication.” He asserts in connection with this scene that supplication is a kind of flyting. However (as Edwards 1987:91 notes), there is no successful supplication on the battlefield in the Iliad, which seems to me incompatible with the notion of supplication as flyting.

[ back ] 44. Edwards 1980:5 lists the typical elements of a speech of supplication as “a vocative, a specific request, and an offer.”

[ back ] 45. This provides a particularly vivid illustration of Crotty’s general comment that “part of the richness of supplication is that it is expressive of the competitive excellences that drive the warrior society but views these values from the distinctive vantage point of the loser” (1993:19).

[ back ] 46. Taplin 1992:224n35 points out that “this physical movement is made elsewhere only by those who have already been mortally struck.”

[ back ] 47. Forms of ὑμεῖς (129, 130); second person plural verb forms (128, 131 and each line thereafter).

[ back ] 48. Fenik 1968:86 considers this pair of encounters an example of a general pattern in which “an event which receives its full development at one point is first stated briefly, then dropped, only to return again when it is then treated in full.”

[ back ] 49. Although Parks 1990:50 includes both speech exchange and vaunt in his model of “the total contest pattern,” of which he cites this encounter with Asteropaeus as an example, in fact they rarely appear together.

[ back ] 50. A similar sequence appears in the meeting between Hector and Achilles in Book 20 (422-454): Achilles and Hector each take a speech turn; they attack one another; and then Achilles continues to attack, and afterwards vaunts (or more accurately challenges) even though Hector has been spirited away by Apollo. This sequence is not included as one of the lengthened series being discussed here because of Apollo’s interruption.

[ back ] 51. See Balthes 1983:41 on the dual in this simile and that of the two vultures at 16.428-430.

[ back ] 52. Scott 1974:58-60.

[ back ] 53. For Moulton, this simile “reverses in part the comparison at [16.]487 for the death of Sarpedon” (1977:105).

[ back ] 54. Balthes 1983:45-46 argues that the two-vulture simile (16.428-430), the two-lion simile (16.756-758) and the final lion-boar simile (16.823-826) mark the significant points in the aristeia of Patroclus (“den Aufstieg, den Höhepunkt und das Ende in der Aristie des Patroklos bezeichnen”). He notes that each of these similes is longer than the preceding one, and suggests that this simile progression demonstrates that the real crux of Book 16 is not the encounter between Hector and Patroclus, but Patroclus’ death.

[ back ] 55. Menelaus and Eumaeus are also referred to with vocatives in speech introductions in the Odyssey.

[ back ] 56. Wilamowitz 1916:118-119; more recently Richardson 1990:170-172, whose overview of the controversy on this point is concise and helpful although I disagree with his strongly held view in favor of emotional expressiveness for such vocatives.

[ back ] 57. Visser 1988:34 understands the verse-making of formulaic expressions with several semantic elements as follows: “[the poet] first placed the semantically most important elements . . . ” [in our case, the participle] “and then adapted to this basic structure material whose semantic content is likewise indispensable, but whose prosodic scheme is variable [here the main verb of speaking and the designation of the speaker].”

[ back ] 58. In contrast, the expression ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφης does occur regularly in reply introductions for Eumaeus in the Odyssey.

[ back ] 59. These will be discussed further below, as will the similarities between Hector’s death and Patroclus’.

[ back ] 60. Besides our passage, 1.107, 2.300, and 19.420 (addressed to the horse Xanthus).

[ back ] 61. As Fenik 1968:216 acutely remarks on the death of Patroclus, “what the scene loses in plasticity and clarity it gains in grandeur and awesomeness. But this effect is not achieved with new, unparalleled motifs or bold new inventions. Instead, familiar, typical motifs are crowded together into a small space, one following quickly upon another. The poet uses this grouping and concentration of familiar material to create a special effect.” One of these typical motifs, although Fenik does not say so, is the one-on-one conversation.

[ back ] 62. The bT scholia comment on the verb ἠλεύατο (evaded) in verse 274: κινεῖ τὰς ἐλπίδας τῶν ἀκροατῶν, ὡς τάχα ἂν περιγενησομένου τοῦ Ἕκτορος (it arouses hope for the hearers that Hector might perhaps escape).

[ back ] 63. This anatomically specific detail almost seems to be there in order to make possible the unusually long conversation between the two that now takes place.

[ back ] 64. Note that almost the identical verse appears before Patroclus’ final speech in Book 16 (16.843). Hector, in contrast to Patroclus, is given two speeches before he dies, elongating and elevating his death.

[ back ] 65. Hector himself, in contrast, shows only exultation, not fury, toward the dying Patroclus.

[ back ] 66. Allen’s i family of MSS reads τὸν δ’ ὀλιγοδρανέων.

[ back ] 67. See Mackay 1996:46-48 on the varied participles in the speech introductions for the dying Hector in this scene.

[ back ] 68. Also at Odyssey 11.73, where Elpenor begs Odysseus to bury him and not to let him become a θεῶν μήνιμα.

[ back ] 69. See Watkins 1995:499 on the antiquity of this expression, which he dates to before 1400 BCE. Indeed, he asserts that the linkage between the deaths of Patroclus and Hector must also have existed at this date. For another ancient formula that occurs in a single very significant context, see Nagy 1974 passim on the connections between κλέος ἄφθιτον (deathless fame) and the Sanskrit expression ákṣiti śrávas. Finkelberg 1986, on the other hand, has argued that this is not a Homeric formula at all.