The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics

  Tsagalis, Christos. 2008. The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics. Hellenic Studies Series 29. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 10. The Rhetorics of Supplication and the Epic Intertext (Iliad I 493–516)

Intertextual references that do not belong to specific epic traditions can become thematically associated intratextual sequences in Homeric epic. One form of this arrangement consists of proximal sequences, where topics originating from different versions of a given mythical context are presented intratextually as part of a thematic chain. Cumulative arrangement with its built-in linearity leads to a compacting of material and a resulting dramatic intensification, since tattered pieces of myth are rewoven into a new, thick web of associations. In this chapter, I address, by way of a case study, Thetis’ supplication to Zeus in Iliad I, a scene of special importance for the poem as a whole. In my analysis I will follow the deployment of the scene and examine how its structure and diction help us reconstruct the epic intertext from which it stems.

Supplication: From Theme to Speech-Act

The disparity between the immortality of the mother (Thetis) and the short life span of her son (Achilles) becomes a central theme around which the poem evolves and by which it differentiates itself from the previous tradition. In fact, a specific group of scholars, the so-called Neoanalysts, have strongly argued that the mother-son relationship (epitomized in the Thetis-Achilles pair) becomes one of the principal thematic areas where the Iliad’s divergence from older epic poems, such as a pre-Homeric *Achilleis (Kakridis) or *Memnonis (Schadewaldt), can be observed. Thetis, for all her similarities to her Aethiopic counterpart Eos, will not grant immortality to Achilles as Eos did to Memnon in the post-Homeric Aethiopis, [6] but will offer him the chance to regain his honor, which, as she well knows, will definitely lead to his death. Consequently, “what Thetis asks Zeus to give Achilles is the opportunity to become the hero of the Iliad, to create the terms by which heroism will be redefined,” [7] as well as the terms by which the subject matter of the poem will be thematically verbalized, I might add. On the level of plot, Thetis’ supplication unravels the first narrative thread of the poem, i.e. the fulfillment of Achilles’ will, which is how the Iliad ‘translates’ his wrath (μῆνις) against Agamemnon. Thetis’ supplication and its subsequent approval by Zeus become the driving forces of the plot until the moment its narrative élan is cut short, being subsumed and absorbed by another, even greater theme: Achilles’ new wrath (μῆνις) against Hector. This new wrath will eventually come to an end through a final supplication by Priam, which will only be possible in its turn by a complete reversal of the order of meetings between Achilles-Thetis-Zeus in the beginning of Iliad I. [8]

Supplication forms one of the major subgenres used by the heroic performer. [9] Martin [10] has argued that, although speeches in the Iliad are highly stylized poetic versions of reality, they still retain their mimetic character, as they tend to reflect the poet’s knowledge of how his contemporaries express their feelings and ideas. Archaic coloring and traditional elements are not absent from the speeches, but, as recent studies have shown, [11] it is there (in the speeches) that most of the innovations occur. In Martin’s own words, “although we see Mycenaean memories in the narrative of Iliadic fighting, there is no comparable body of material for the poet to recall when reporting what Agamemnon, Odysseus, or Achilles says. Composition is less subject to tradition here. Speech is qualitatively different; unlike diegesis, it is the arena for pure mimesis.” [12] This mimetic character observed in Homeric speeches may also be connected to the basic distinction Martin makes between muthos and epos: “[A] muthos focuses on what the speaker says and how he or she says it, but epos consistently applies to what the addressee hears.” [13] Under this scope, the relation between Thetis and Zeus in Iliad I is reflected both in the kind of speech employed by the suppliant (Thetis) and in the form of speech-act she believes she is performing. For in Iliad I 419 she calls the speech that Achilles wants her to address to Zeus an epos although it is a kind of command, albeit in the form of a supplication. This leveling out of the observable distinction between the two terms (muthos and epos, respectively) can be explained by the fact that muthos refers to authoritative (marked) speech, and epos to non- (necessarily) authoritative speech. Thetis’ designation of Achilles’ speech in Iliad I 419 as an epos is therefore indeterminate and does not necessarily mean that she views Achilles’ speech as an unimportant utterance. At the same time, her using of the term epos shows that she considers her speech to be non-authoritative and “focuses on message, as perceived by the addressee, rather than on performance as enacted by the speaker.” [14] These scrupulous observations may help us understand and appreciate more fully the internal rhetoric of Thetis’ speech as well as its importance for the weaving of the poetics of the Iliad as a whole.

Polysemy and Repetition

Since the 1960s there has been an increase in the publication of studies providing reassessment of the oral-formulaic theory. [16] Most of these studies have modified our “Parryan” concept of a rigid formulaic system based on the assumption of orality:

Kahane’s view reflects my own opinion with respect to the dilemma between oral versus literate composition. Let me add that localization of metrical shapes is not incompatible with oral modes of verse composition, but is not typical of works orally composed since statistical data concerning localization of hapax legomena for written hexameter poetry such as that of Apollonius and Callimachus closely parallel the ones referring to the Iliad and the Odyssey. [
18] As far as structural formulas are concerned, one should bear in mind that “a literate poet imitating and/or innovating on the basis of an earlier Homeric, or oral, or traditional poem, or any two or all of these, would have certainly had time to choose positioning according to his own design. The literary poet could invent as many expressions as he chose …” [19] Repetition can be of various sorts. It can include words, word groups, metrical and syntactical patterns, or even whole verses. The reproduction of these patterns is the result of the tradition working within the mind of the singer. Repetitive melodic, metrical, syntactical, and acoustical patterns form a grammar of poetry, “a grammar superimposed, as it were, on the grammar of the language concerned … The speaker of this language, once he has mastered it, does not move more mechanically within it than we do in ordinary speech.” [20] This is certainly true for the singer composing within the limits determined by the grammar of poetry. On the other hand, repetition refers to pattern usage and pertains more to reception than to composition. To make this point more clear: my view is that both an ancient audience and a modern reader “are not directly subject to the exigencies of oral composition,” [21] and so repetition is significant for them since they do not operate at the level of the singer’s compositional process, but on the level of the reception of his work. [22]

Sharing both a compositional and a reception-oriented aspect, polysemy and repetition allow traditional epic to build and also teach its listeners its own special poetic grammar. Under this scope, themes of cardinal importance to the plot are embedded in the audience’s interpretive code and become ‘members’ of a larger ‘family’ of associations. They are constituent parts of a system that is intertextually derived on a compositional level, but intratextually functional on the level of its reception by the audience during the performance.

The scene that presents Thetis supplicating Zeus is divided into three discernible phases of unequal length: 1. An introductory portion (I 493–499); 2. Thetis’ first appeal (I 503–510); 3. Thetis’ second appeal, introduced by three “intermediate verses” (I 511–516).

Openings (I 493–499)

After the meeting between Achilles and Thetis at the seashore, Odysseus’ delivery of Chryseis to her father followed by his propitiating sacrifice to Apollo, and a brief comment on Achilles’ withdrawal from battle, the scene changes to describe the local and temporal circumstances under which the supplication will take place.

Recent studies on Homeric diction have drawn attention to the importance of the use of specific particles in the presentation of the story and, more significantly, in the participation of the audience in the unfolding of the plot. Bakker [26] notes the importance of drawing the listener into the scene and creating a shared basis for the narrator and the audience “as if they were actually jointly witnessing a given scene.” Homeric diction uses particular particles, or clusters of particles, and temporal correlatives to achieve this goal, one of which is the ‘pair’ ὅτε-τότε. Their use is more common at significant breaks in the story (e.g. in the return of the gods from the Aethiopes in I 493–494), when the narrator most needs the participation of the listener. The singer attempts to create a shared basis, a common experience that unites narrator and audience as if they were present at the unfolding of a particular event or, to put it otherwise, as if they are both witnessing the same scene. Let us consider our present case (Iliad I 493–494):

By stressing the here and now of the events he is referring to, the external narrator [
28] employs the correlatives ὅτε-τότε to make his account vivid. [29] The use of the apodotic καί in this sort of passage (see Iliad XVI 780; XVIII 350; XXII 209) coordinates what Chafe [30] has successfully called “regulatory intonation units,” mapping out the flow of two “substantive intonation units,” which create two balancing pairs. [31] In this way, the convergence between the time period of twelve days and the moment the gods return to Olympos is effectively brought to the present of the performance. It is as if the bard has said ‘the gods are now (καὶ τότε δή) returning to Olympos, just at the point of completion of a twelve-day period (ὅτε δή ῥ᾿ ἐκ τοῖο δυωδεκάτη γένετ᾿ ἠώς)’. From this kind of utterance the audience is invited to ‘notice’ the twelve-day period and evaluate it within the notion of time fostered by Iliadic song. In accordance with what was said above on polysemy and repetition, Iliadic epic attempts to ‘teach’ its listeners its own poetic grammar and, in this case, its own grammar of time. In order to appreciate this kind of subtle system, we need to place it within the nexus of other relevant expressions of a twelve-day period. Such a time interval, typically expressed by ἠώς that is placed at verse-end, [32] bears a striking similarity to two other twelve-day periods in Iliad XXIV. [33] Scholars have struggled to count the exact days described by the Iliadic plot, and have even developed theories about the way ‘dawns’ or ‘days’ should be numbered. They have thus failed to see that the symmetry between the beginning and end of the poem does not ‘depend’ on details of this sort. In cases like this, what really matters is the synchronic description of the ‘twelve-day’ period within archaic Greek poetry. [34] Such similarities are diachronically due to the fact that “the formula system developed around expressions such as δυωδεκάτη γένετ᾿ Ἠώς | and | ἥδε δυωδεκάτη … and so on.” [35] On the other hand, “the analysis of system, or the synchronic approach, is logically prior to a diachronic approach because systems are more intelligible than changes.” [36] In this light, the grammar of time employed by the Iliadic tradition indicates to the audience that the twelve-day period is a device that aims to open and close the poem. By being synchronically observable through its repetition, this time frame becomes functional on the level of the epic’s performance, turning the relevant supplication scenes into ‘oral indicators’ of the song’s beginning and end.

Taplin, [37] who has argued for a performance of the Iliad in three days to match the internal structure of the poem (according to his own reading) with the actual performance time, has noted the importance of the placement of specific characters or events at performance junctures. Thetis comes to the narrative foreground at crucial turning-points in the poem: at the beginning of part I (Iliad I 1 – IX 713) she visits Achilles and then supplicates Zeus (I 493–494); at the end of part II (XVIII 369) she ascends to Hephaestus’ place in Olympos to carry a new request after having visited Achilles to ease his pain and grief at the loss of Patroclus; at the end of part III (beginning of Iliad XXIV) “her summons to Olympos leads into the concluding resolution of Achilleus’ anger.” [38] In this light, the return of the gods from the Aethiopes on the twelfth day places a time-boundary after which the fulfillment of the Διὸς βουλή ‘will of Zeus’ and the μῆνις ‘wrath’ of Achilles are practically set in motion. Mutatis mutandis, the use of an equivalent time frame towards the end of the epic reveals to the audience that the μῆνις ‘wrath’ of Achilles will end only when a second Διὸς βουλή ‘will of Zeus’ is implemented. The agent effectuating this implementation is none other than Thetis. Like a bard, she persuades the internal audience (Zeus in Iliad I and Achilles in Iliad XXIV) either to listen to the Iliadic song or to accept its closure. Under this scope, supplications, involving Thetis as the suppliant on the one hand, and Zeus or Achilles as supplicandi on the other, belong to a synchronically conceived system that opens and closes the Iliad.

‘Oral Dittography’

After the return of the gods to Olympos, the poet zooms his narrative lens on Thetis, whose ascending movement is described in detail. Her rise from the swell of the sea and subsequent ascent is presented as a gradual process comprising three distinct phases: rising from the sea (ἀνεδύσετο), ascending (ἀνέβη), and reaching the highest point of Olympos, where Zeus is seated alone, away from the other immortals (… ἄτερ ἥμενον ἄλλων // ἀκροτάτῃ κορυφῇ πολυδειράδος Οὐλύμποιο). The special care bestowed on the description of this movement is also observable in the three consecutive aural repetitions that facilitate the audience’s perception of the meeting between the two gods. The associative syllabic repetition of ane in ἀνεδύσετο, ἀνέβη, which highlights Thetis, is followed by the assonance of eur (ηὗρεν-εὐρύοπα) [42] in verse I 498, which links the suppliant (Thetis) and the supplicandus (Zeus). The third syllabic repetition of kro (Κρονίδην – ἀκροτάτῃ κορυφῇ), giving emphasis to the word Κρονίδην, [43] results in the ‘aural isolation’ of Zeus. In this way, the listeners would have been able to follow acoustically the entire scene of Thetis’ ascension, from the moment she rose from the sea until she ‘found’ Zeus in a state of ‘pre-eminent isolation’ away from the other immortals. The structural autonomy of these two couplets, as indicated by the repetition of the word ‘Olympos’ at verse-terminal position at the end of each distich, facilitates a significant change of rhythm. The first two verses devoted to Thetis (I 496–497) are marked by their intensive, accelerating rhythm, which is created by their four cola structure. Conversely, the other two (I 498–499) display a slower rhythm, due to their being comprised of three and two cola, respectively. This progressive decrease in the number of cola, a slowing down of the speed, reflects on a rhythmic register the initial acceleration of Thetis going up to mount Olympos and her deceleration, when she finds Zeus:

The analysis of the diction and style of the passage introducing the supplication scene has shown that the Iliadic tradition took great pains to highlight for its audience the movement of both Thetis and Zeus (accompanied by the other gods) toward mount Olympos. The placement of Thetis at the bottom of the sea, her usual abode, is expected, but Zeus’ absence in the Aethiopes deserves further inquiry.

The scene of Zeus’ return from the Aethiopes seems rather ‘vexing’, since it will be subsequently followed by another movement, Thetis’ ascension from the sea to Olympos. In fact, the Iliadic staging of this scene testifies to the existence of certain fissures in the narrative. One of them, perhaps the most important, concerns the antithesis between the description of Thetis’ ascent and the lack of any details concerning the gods’ journey of return. It seems as if Thetis’ ascent to Olympos belongs to the kernel of this scene, given that she lives at the bottom of the sea, whereas the return of the immortals stems from another poetic environment, an epic tradition in which the gods’ journey to the Aethiopes would have been directly and internally linked to an ensuing supplication scene.

Greek epic constantly presents Eos, the Greek representative of the inherited Indo-European Dawn-goddess, *Ausos, in connection to various mortal heroes with whom she is united. [52] One of these heroes is the Trojan Tithonus, whom she abducts and attempts to make immortal. Since one of the most thorough versions of this myth comes from the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (5), it is advisable to examine it in detail, more so since the diction employed for Eos’ supplication to Zeus may be relevant to Thetis’ role in Iliad I:

ὣς δ᾿ αὖ Τιθωνὸν χρυσόθρονος ἥρπασεν Ἠώς
ὑμετέρης γενεῆς, ἐπιείκελον ἀθανάτοισιν·
βῆ δ᾿ ἴμεν αἰτήσουσα κελαινεφέα Κρονίωνα
ἀθάνατόν τ᾿ εἶναι καὶ ζώειν ἤματα πάντα·
τῇ δὲ Ζεὺς ἐπένευσε καὶ ἐκρήηνεν ἐέλδωρ·
νηπίη, οὐδ᾿ ἐνόησε μετὰ φρεσὶ πότνια Ἠώς
ἥβην αἰτῆσαι ξῦσαί τ᾿ ἄπο γῆρας ὀλοιόν.
τὸν δ᾿ ἤτοι εἵως μὲν ἔχεν πολυήρατος ἥβη,
Ἠοῖ τερπόμενος χρυσοθρόνωι ἠριγενείῃ
ναῖε παρ᾿ Ὠκεανοῖο ῥοῇς ἐπὶ πείρασι γαίης·
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πρῶται πολιαὶ κατέχυντο ἔθειραι
καλῆς ἐκ κεφαλῆς εὐηγενέος τε γενείου,
τοῦ δ᾿ ἤτοι εὐνῆς μὲν ἀπείχετο πότνια Ἠώς,
αὐτὸν δ᾿ αὖτ᾿ ἀτίταλλεν ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἔχουσα
σίτῳ τ᾿ ἀμβροσίῃ τε καὶ εἵματα καλὰ διδοῦσα.
ἀλλ᾿ ὅτε δὴ πάμπαν στυγερὸν κατὰ γῆρας ἔπειγεν,
οὐδέ τι κινῆσαι μελέων δύνατ᾿ οὐδ᾿ ἀναεῖραι,
ἥδε δέ οἱ κατὰ θυμὸν ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλή·
ἐν θαλάμῳ κατέθηκε, θύρας δ᾿ ἐπέθηκε φαεινάς.
τοῦ δ᾿ ἤτοι φωνὴ ῥέει ἄσπετος, οὐδέ τι κῖκυς
ἔσθ᾿ οἵη πάρος ἔσκεν ἐνὶ γναμπτοῖσι μέλεσσιν.

So again Tithonus was seized by golden-throned Dawn from your family, a man
like the immortals. She went to ask the dark-cloud son of Kronos for him to be
immortal and live for ever, and Zeus assented and fulfilled her wish –foolish
lady Dawn, she did not think to ask for youth for him, and the stripping away of
baneful old age. So long as lovely youth possessed him, he took his delight in
Dawn of the golden throne, the early-born, and dwelt by the waters of Ocean at
the ends of the earth; but when the first scattering of grey hairs came forth
from his handsome head and his noble chin, the lady Dawn stayed away from
his bed, but kept him in her mansion and nurtured him with food and ambrosia,
and gave him fine clothing. And when repulsive old age pressed fully upon him,
and he could not move or lift any of his limbs, this is what she decided was the
best course: she laid him away in a chamber, and shut its shining doors. His
voice still runs on unceasing, but there is none of the strength that there used to
be in his bent limbs.

Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite [5] 218–238

Almost all of the thematic features in this epic narrative describing the myth of Dawn and Tithonus (Dawn’s journey to Olympos and subsequent request to Zeus to offer immortality to Tithonus, [
53] Zeus’ assent, repulsive old age, Tithonus’ delight while staying with Dawn, Dawn’s appearance early in the morning, her sharing the same abode with Tithonus by the waters of the Ocean at the ends of the earth, her ability to nurture her consort with divine food) have left their traces in the Homeric epics and primarily in the Iliadic tradition, where they have been reshaped and tailored to the epic’s needs. Before turning to the Iliad, I would like to draw attention to Eos’ role in the ‘Aethiopic’ oral tradition, which basically corresponds to the second half of the (reconstructed) plot of the post-Homeric Aethiopis by Arctinus of Miletos. According to the summary offered by Proclus in his Chrestomathy, Eos had asked Zeus to grant to her son Memnon immortality after his death at the hands of Achilles:

ἔπειτα Ἀχιλλεὺς Μέμνονα κτείνει καὶ τούτῳ μὲν Ἠὼς παρὰ Διὸς αἰτησαμένη ἀθανασίαν δίδωσι.

Then Achilles slays Memnon, and Eos gives him immortality, having asked for it from Zeus.

189–190 Severyns = 60–61 Kullmann

In the Iliad, the similarities shared by Thetis and Eos are numerous but have been selectively reshaped. The following Iliadic passages display all the aforementioned features pertaining to Eos and Tithonus or Memnon, but applied now to the relation between Thetis and Peleus or Achilles:

(a) Journey to Olympos and subsequent request to Zeus (Iliad I 493–516) to offer Achilles not physical immortality but poetic immortality by making him the hero of the Iliadic tradition (notice the use of the formula κρήηνον ἐέλδωρ // ἐκρήηνεν ἐέλδωρ ‘grant what I ask for’/ ‘fulfilled her wish’ in Iliad I 504 and in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite [5] 222).

(c) Peleus’ repulsive old age: XVIII 434–435.

(g) In the process of reshaping mythical material, the Iliadic tradition has incurred significant changes, one of which concerns Thetis’ prophetic powers. In this respect, Eos and Thetis seem to be strongly opposed. In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (5) 223–224, Eos is presented as unable to ‘see’ the future. She is called νηπίη ‘foolish’ (223), since she fails to see that immortality accompanied by old age would be destructive for a mortal. Conversely, in both the Aethiopic and in the Iliadic tradition Thetis is fully aware of Achilles’ destiny, which she reveals to him. [63] Still, Thetis’ prophetic powers undergo a significant ‘internal’ change. Whereas in the oral tradition on which the post-Homeric Aethiopis is based Thetis might have asked Achilles to abstain from battle (since she foresaw his death), [64] in the Iliad it is Achilles who asks her to set in motion a plan that will ultimately lead to his death. These considerations are readily applicable to some incongruities observed in Achilles’ meeting with Thetis in Iliad I 351–427. It has been rightly argued that the first time Achilles speaks to his mother, he refrains from stating his request, [65] and, more significantly, the bard replaces the traditional praying formula ὣς ἔφατ᾿ εὐχόμενος with the formula ὣς φάτο δάκρυ χέων (Iliad I 357). In Muellner’s words, “the deletion of εὐχόμενος may be a covert statement that Achilles is less a man addressing a goddess than a god addressing a goddess, or which is similar, a man addressing his mother who happens to be a goddess.” [66] What we see here at work is the different uses of Thetis’ prophetic powers between the Aethiopic and Iliadic traditions. The ‘ignorance’ of Eos is contrasted to the ‘wisdom’ of Thetis, which in the Iliad undergoes a deeply moving dramatic shift, becoming the very means leading to Achilles’ death.

(h) In the Homeric epics (Iliad I 423–425, XXIII 205–207; Odyssey i 22–27), the Aethiopes are located at the very same place where the goddess Dawn lives with Tithonus in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (5), i.e. by the waters of the Ocean at the ends of the earth. Moreover, in Iliad XI 1–2 = Odyssey v 1–2 it is explicitly stated that Dawn rises from the bed she shares with Tithonus in order to bring light to both mortals and immortals. Interestingly enough, these verses (Iliad XI 1–2 = Odyssey v 1–2) are used ‘alternatively’ with Iliad XIX 1–2, where … κροκόπεπλος ἀπ᾿ Ὠκεανοῖο ῥοάων is employed as a ‘variant’ of … ἐκ λεχέων παρ᾿ ἀγαυοῦ Τιθωνοῖο.

(i) In the Iliad, Thetis visits Hephaestus and procures divine armor for Achilles, just as in the tradition reflected in the post-Homeric Aethiopis, Memnon has a Hephaestan-made armor (185–186 Severyns = 57 Kullmann): Μέμνων δὲ ὁ Ἠοῦς υἱὸς ἔχων ἡφαιστότευκτον πανοπλίαν παραγίνεται τοῖς Τρωσὶ βοηθήσων ‘Memnon, the son of Eos arrives, with Hephaestan-made armor, to defend the Trojans.’

Beneath the Iliadic tradition’s attempt to ‘erase’ through stylistic sophistication the troublesome and rather idiosyncratic double movement of the suppliant (Thetis) and supplicandus (Zeus) in Iliad I 493–499 lies a deeper rupture of the mythical narrative. This rupture is due to the intertextual background of another oral tradition featuring Eos, and not Thetis, as Zeus’ suppliant. This traditional background has acquired an accretive function in the Iliad, hence the duplication of movements toward Olympos and the awkwardness of the gods’ feast in the land of the Aethiopes.

Such cases of oral dittography, where a single feature (Thetis’ movement to Olympos) is doubled, giving the impression of a performative slip by the singer, reflect the reuse of a mythical template belonging to one oral tradition by another rival tradition. Contrary to palaeographical principles, this narrative duplication is not to be remedied. Inscribed on the narrative of the Iliadic oral tradition, it has become indispensable and perfectly functional. The gods’ absence in the land of the Aethiopes is necessary for the description of Odysseus’ return of Chryseis to her father, Chryses, in Iliad I. This is, of course, the well-known analytical-transitional technique described by ‘Zielinski’s Law’, according to which the epic poet describes action A up to a point, then transfers his audience to action B, returning to action A after B comes to a halt. Apart from the temporal exigencies of Iliadic narrative as studied by ‘Zielinski’s Law’, the dictional underscoring of the power of Zeus, who is only mentioned by name and who is leading the gods to Olympos, functions as an introduction to his protagonist role in the ensuing meeting with Thetis. ‘Oral dittography’ is, then, not the equivalent of a textual protrusion, but a conscious by-product of a living oral tradition.

Preliminaries (503–510)

Intratextual Deroutinization, Part I

“Thetis crouched in front of Zeus, took his knees with her left hand and reached with her right hand to hold him under the chin. Then she spoke in entreaty to lord Zeus, son of Kronos.” These verses describe the standard gestures [69] of supplication in a rather graphic way. [70] The progressive enjambment introduced by the run-over word σκαιῇ creates a chiasmus through its juxtaposition to δεξιτερῇ (Iliad I 500-501):

λάβε γούνων // σκαιῇ
δεξιτερῇ // ὑπ᾿ ἀνθερεῶνος ἑλοῦσα

The harsh-sounding σκαιῇ-δεξιτερῇ cluster (reinforced by the enjambment) contrasts with the euphony of the ἀνθερεῶνος-λισσομένη sequence. This contrast, which is reinforced by the hiatus, alludes to the antithesis between Thetis’ emotional intensity and Zeus’ majestic tranquility. Besides, the words pointing to Zeus (ἀνθερεῶνος and λισσομένη, the latter having Zeus as its notional object) are clearly euphonic, whereas those referring to Thetis (σκαιῇ-δεξιτερῇ), with their strident sequence of consonants making even their pronunciation strenuous, convey her emotional strain. These observations, stemming from the acoustics of the aforementioned expressions, reveal the special emphasis placed on the use of the σκαιῇ-δεξιτερῇ cluster. Surprisingly enough, this word combination does not pertain to either the Iliadic or to the Odyssean vocabulary of supplication. The following list of relevant verses shows that the use of both the left and right hands does not belong to the kinetic typology of supplication:

VIII 371: ἥ οἱ γούνατ᾿ ἔκυσσε καὶ ἔλλαβε χειρὶ γενείου,
X 454–455: ἦ, καὶ ὃ μέν μιν ἔμελλε γενείου χειρὶ παχείῃ // ἁψάμενος λίσσεσθαι, …
XXI 68–69: … ὃ δ᾿ ὑπέδραμε καὶ λάβε γούνων // κύψας, …
XXIV 478–479: χερσὶν Ἀχιλλῆος λάβε γούνατα καὶ κύσε χεῖρας // δεινὰς ἀνδροφόνους, …

Through the scope of the continuum of narrative logic connecting the Hesiodic Theogony and Iliad I, it can be argued that the displacement of attack-oriented vocabulary to a supplication scene reflects a process of deroutinization, conjuring up features that stem from the mythical background of the Thetis-Zeus relationship. By alluding to the theogonic castration of Ouranus and to the past threat against Zeus’ dominion by Athena, Hera, and Poseidon (see Achilles’ speech to Thetis in Iliad I 396–406), the boundaries between supplication and cunning aggression are deliberately blurred. The audience is thus presented with a would-be threat to Zeus’ rule, which will be the notional basis for the speech to follow. The listeners are invited to participate in an intertextual game, exploiting their knowledge not only of theogonic material but also of a marginal tradition (reflected later in Pindaric poetry), [73] according to which Zeus had helped Peleus marry Thetis to avert the prophecy that Thetis’ future son by a god would have been able to overthrow him. Notwithstanding the limitations of its plot requirements, the Iliadic tradition lets its audience entertain the idea of a ‘covert threat’ to Zeus by Thetis. In this way, it makes clear to its listeners that this will be a rather oxymoronic supplication, not only because Thetis, being a goddess herself, is by definition an awkward suppliant, but also because of her special power and importance in a potential continuation of the succession myth.

The Iliad’s deliberate overriding of a familiar compartmentalization of dictional material and violation of type-scene based expectations culminates in an intratextual deroutinization of the supplication. Such deviation from traditional patterns functions like an orange light alarming the audience about the eccentricity or peculiarity of a given passage or scene. Disfluencies of this sort, though, are subsequently reinterpreted in the light of supra-segmental mythical variation, turning intratextual fragmentation into intertextual integration, a true hallmark of oral traditional poetry.

Intratextual Deroutinization, Part II (503–510)

Crotty [74] has argued for a typology of supplication comprising a standard procedure:

The aforementioned observations fit admirably within the intertextual background of the Thetis-Zeus relationship. Its intratextual deroutinization is hereby based on the use of certain features not pertaining to the typology of supplication but reflecting the very nature of warrior society, which is based on exchange rather than pity. In this way, Thetis’ request mirrors the poetics of the Iliad as a whole and becomes the starting point from which the rest of the epic will evolve. The hybridization of this supplication can be better appreciated if it is compared to Chryses’ supplication to Agamemnon and Menelaus in Iliad I 17–21. The optatives (δοῖεν, λύσαιτε) employed in Chryses’ supplication have been changed into two (κρήηνον, τίμησον) and three (ὑπόσχεο, κατάνευσον, ἀπόειπε) imperatives during Thetis’ first and second appeal.

Thetis asks Zeus, the divine ἄναξ, to grant Achilles that which Agamemnon, the human ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν, has deprived him of. The placement of ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων and Ὀλύμπιε μητίετα Ζεῦ at the second part of the hexameter, after the trochaic caesura, reminds the audience that the restoration of Achilles’ τιμή ‘honor’ will be effectuated only by discovering the divine-human disparity emblematized in the relationship between Achilles and Thetis.

Although Thetis uses the typical gestures of supplication, she still employs the da quod dedi strategy of reciprocity. Having restored Zeus’ power in the past, she now begs him to restore her son’s lost τιμή ‘honor’ by virtually menacing Agamemnon’s kingship. The deliberate paradox of her supplication is based on the premise of reciprocity only if seen from Achilles’ point of view. On the contrary, from Agamemnon’s point of view it is a threat to his superiority and preeminence among the Achaeans. Thetis absorbs and verbalizes a request in Achillean terms, which makes her request even more eccentric, given that Agamemnon’s power on the human level mirrors Zeus’ preeminence in the divine realm. His initial silence (Iliad I 512: ἀλλ᾿ ἀκέων δὴν ἧστο) [81] must be explained as a hesitation, which has both intertextual associations and intratextual affinities. In fact, the Iliad engages its listeners in an intertextually oriented misdirection [82] that is soon annulled. Intratextually, the hesitation between two courses of action is well interwoven with Thetis’ impending second appeal. Besides, it is inextricably linked to complementary mythical material concerning an archetypal rivalry between Zeus and Achilles, who might have overthrown the father of gods and men if Thetis had been married to an immortal instead of Peleus. [83] From the point made above, it is clear that Thetis’ supplication can be also read as a figurative delimitation of Agamemnon’s power. This twofold enjeu becomes particularly intriguing if we recall that Agamemnon has previously spoken almost like Zeus “and declared his disgust for someone who has tried to speak as equal.” [84] Thetis, and through her the Iliadic tradition, ‘plays’ with the notion of τιμή ‘honor’ in connection to κράτος ‘power, authority’. Since Agamemnon, with his Zeus-like behavior, has dishonored Achilles, Zeus will figuratively dishonor Agamemnon by depriving him, and consequently the Achaeans, from κράτος (Agamemnon’s source of authority and τιμή) and granting it to the Trojans.

The archetypal competition between Achilles and Zeus has a cosmic background. Pindar (Isthmian 8.29-38) relates a tradition according to which Thetis was destined to give birth to a child stronger than his father (εἵνεκεν πεπρωμένον ἦν φέρτερον, πατέρος // ἄνακτα γόνον τεκεῖν) if she had been united to Zeus (Ζηνὶ μισγομέναν) or to one of his brothers (Διὸς παρ᾿ ἀδελφεοῖσιν) instead of a mortal. Vernant and Detienne have convincingly argued for the inherent link between the figure of Μῆτις (‘Cunning Intelligence’), who is present in the Theogony but absent in the Iliad, and that of Thetis, being herself a figure of Μῆτις. [90] Furthermore, Briareos, who is summoned by Thetis, has saved Zeus from an internal Olympian threat (Iliad I 396–406) and has also, together with two other Hundred-Handers (Theogony 147–153), ensured Zeus’ κράτος (Theogony 662) by defeating the Titans. Nagy [91] has rightly stressed the link between Thetis and Briareos: they both have cosmic powers and either live in the πόντος (Thetis) or have Πόντος (Briareos) or another sea-god like Nereus (Thetis) as their father. Whereas in the Theogony the threat to Zeus’ supremacy comes from the Titans, it originates, in the tradition alluded to by Iliad I, from Athena, Poseidon, and Hera, who are all pro-Greek within the confines of the Iliadic plot. Interestingly enough, these three gods are all involved directly or indirectly in the ‘Deception of Zeus’ in Iliad XIV (Hera is the main agent, Athena helps her get ‘ready’ to seduce Zeus, and Poseidon frames the entire episode by his overt support to the Achaeans). What we see at work here is the process by which the Iliadic tradition has masked three potential cosmic rivals to Zeus’ celestial supremacy into usurpers of his will within the world of heroes.

Zeus, after thinking for a while in silence, will be faced with a second appeal. Thetis, the Iliadic counterpart of Hesiodic cunning intelligence (μῆτις), has one more cunning turn, one more undulating and twisting trick to put to use.

Intertextual Skewing and Intratextual Sequencing

The critical term ἀτιμοτάτη (516) employed at the very end of Thetis’ second appeal, symbolizing her recourse to the rhetoric of honor, will finally break Zeus’ silence once and for all. By translating the intertextual background of an association between Zeus and Thetis into an intratextual sequence of appeals, the Iliad invites its listeners to appreciate the built-in teleology of Thetis’ supplication. Since both reciprocity and honor have, within this framework, an ‘intertextual past’ and an ‘intratextual future’ (both Thetis and Achilles will be honored in the Iliadic tradition), it becomes clear that the Iliad is using Thetis as a poetic foil in order to keep from sidestepping the vexing paradox of her request, but to tailor it to its needs.

Extending Nagy’s model of diachronic skewing, relevant to relay performance by rhapsodes, [99] to the supplication scene between Thetis and Zeus, we can observe a working analogy. The Iliadic tradition allows Thetis to create an intratextual sequence and continue her supplication by a second appeal exactly at the point where a rival tradition had left off. By employing the argument of loosing her honor (Iliad I 516: ὅσσον ἐγὼ μετὰ πᾶσιν ἀτιμοτάτη θεός εἰμι), Thetis carries on her supplication, which had ceased when she reminded Zeus of the help she had offered him in the past. Here on the level of cross-referencing, we can see what Nagy has observed on the level of rhapsodic performance. It is as if, to use an analogy, the Iliadic tradition has turned Thetis into an internal rhapsode, who takes the floor at the very point an earlier tradition has left off, only to make the epic of the Iliad begin. [100] The analogy is, I maintain, especially apt; for it comes at exactly the point at which the plot is ready to commence, when Thetis asks Zeus to ‘make the Iliad possible’. In this light, and pressing this analogy a bit more, Zeus becomes the narrative mirroring of the epic Muse, who is generically asked from the singer to endorse his request for a performance and subsequently ‘allow the song to begin.’ By mimicking bardic performance strategies, according to which the singer ‘acknowledges’ his inability to recall the deeds of the epic heroes without the help of the Muse or Muses (Iliad I 1; II 484–486; Odyssey i 1; i 10), [101] Thetis ‘internalizes’ her request and refers to her future loss of honor and recognition, should Zeus ignore her appeals. Under this scope, Thetis’ supplication, starkly emphasized by its placement at the poem’s beginning, becomes a stylized representation and conscious self-reflection of the aesthetics of epic performance.


[ back ] 1. I am not inclined to see a single thematic thread upon which the Iliad is composed and developed: anger, lament, and supplication are among the most important structural threads permeating the entire poem. Recent attempts to highlight one of these themes while underestimating others are bound to be one-sided once we acknowledge the multifariousness of the epic as well as the presence of multifaceted aspects, conjured up at times to create an exploding poetic and aesthetic polysemy.

[ back ] 2. For a comparative analysis of supplication in the Iliad and the Odyssey with special emphasis on context, see Pedrick 1982:125–140.

[ back ] 3. Crotty 1994:94.

[ back ] 4. Crotty 1994:96.

[ back ] 5. Crotty 1994:96.

[ back ] 6. See Proclus’ Chrestomathy 189–190 Severyns = 60–61 Kullmann: ἔπειτα Ἀχιλλεὺς Μέμνονα κτείνει· καὶ τούτῳ μὲν Ἠὼς παρὰ Διὸς αἰτησαμένη ἀθανασίαν δίδωσι (‘Then Achilles slays Memnon, and Eos gives him immortality, having asked for it from Zeus’).

[ back ] 7. See Slatkin 1991:40. For a detailed analysis of the connection between the Iliad and the Aethiopis, see Kakridis 1949 and Schadewaldt 19654. For the contents of the Aethiopis, see Proclus’ summary in Allen 1912:106; see also Severyns 1928:313–327. For all the relevant material concerning the Epic Cycle, see Allen 1912; Bernabé 1987; Davies 1988a; West 2003. For Proclus’ summaries, I have used both the text of Severyns 1963 with minor changes and Kullmann’s 1960 = 2002 paragraphization.

[ back ] 8. The architectural symmetry of Iliad I and Iliad XXIV has been studied, most notably, by Whitman 1958. The order of meetings in Iliad I (Achilles–Thetis, Thetis–Zeus) is reversed in Iliad XXIV (Zeus–Thetis, Thetis–Achilles).

[ back ] 9. Other such genres include prayer, lament, command, insult, and narration from memory. See Martin 1989:44 citing Basset 1938:70–71, who argues that these subgenres occupy 90% of the speeches in the Iliad. See also Bauman 1978:27, who maintains that speech-acts and speech-genres should not be distinguished in an oral culture.

[ back ] 10. See Martin 1989:45.

[ back ] 11. Griffin 1986:39–57 observed that there are some features in the diction of the Homeric poems which are more common in speeches (higher frequency of abstract nouns, more freedom with explanation of events in terms of what we call personifications, reservation of crucial moral terms from the narrative to the speeches, higher percentages of negative epithets with a-privative). Therefore, he argued that the narrative portions of the poem antedate the speeches, since the features mentioned above speak for their lateness. Similar views have been earlier maintained by Krarup 1948:1–17 and Fränkel 1962:68.

[ back ] 12. Martin 1989:45.

[ back ] 13. Martin 1989:16.

[ back ] 14. Martin 1989:12.

[ back ] 15. Kahane 1994.

[ back ] 16. Major contributions by Hainsworth 1964:155–164, 1968; Hoekstra 1964; Edwards 1966:115–179. Recent scholarship in: Visser 1987, 1988; Bakker 1988:151–195; Bakker and Fabricotti 1991:63–84. See also the surveys by Holoka 1973, 1979, 1990a, 1990b; by Edwards 1986, 1988; by Foley 1985, 1988.

[ back ] 17. Kahane 1994:5.

[ back ] 18. See O’ Neill 1942:105–178; Fantuzzi 1988.

[ back ] 19. Kahane 1994:10.

[ back ] 20. Lord 1960:35–36.

[ back ] 21. Kahane 1994:16.

[ back ] 22. See Nagler 1967, 1974 who has argued that literary values can be extracted from repetition. According to his theory, “phrases would be considered not a closed ‘system classifiable as a subset of a larger system and susceptible of sub-classification within its own boundaries, but an open-ended ‘family’,” where each part of the group is an allomorph derived from a mental but real entity (the Gestalt), which expresses a preverbal template encompassing all the phrases of the same family at an abstract level.

[ back ] 23. Kirk 1985:105.

[ back ] 24. Verses 493 and 494 have the shape: ABC (A: initial phrases formed by a conjunction [ἀλλ᾿-καί], a temporal term [ὅτε-τότε], and the same particle [δή-δή]. In this way a sort of homoioarcton is created with an emphasis on verse 494 because of the excessive number of ‘t’ sounds [ὅτε-τότε]. B: prepositional phrase [ἐκ τοῖο-πρὸς Ὄλυμπον]. C: verbal group]).

[ back ] 25. The structure of these verses is due to the combined effect of meter and Greek word order on the diachronic level. On the synchronic, the formularity of these verses dictates the rhythm of the flow of speech. I follow Bakker 1997:184, who has argued that “meter emerges from discourse … but at some point it becomes so rigid as to constitute a structure in itself, regulating the flow of speech.” The structural formularity of these verses, which are uttered within a specific context (that of the preparation for the supplication scene) constitutes a speech ritual. Its function surpasses the grammatical and syntactical content of the construction ‘conjunction + temporal particle + resumptive δή + prepositional phrase + adjective + verbal group’ (see verses 493 and 494). Meter as well as word order are used as rhetorical devices, manipulating the segmentation and arrangement of the constituent parts of speech in order to reenact a specific ritual. In this way, routinization of ritual practice is reenacted through routinization of speech. See Bakker 1997:186–187.

[ back ] 26. See Bakker 1997:79.

[ back ] 27. The translation is based on Lattimore 1951 but I have slightly altered it to emphasize the correlatives ὅτε-τότε.

[ back ] 28. Or ‘first narrator-focaliser’, according to the terminology of de Jong 1987.

[ back ] 29. For the epic’s ability to create the illusion of a boundless, eternally dramatic present which is brought ‘vividly’ (ἐναργῶς) in front of the audience’s eyes, see Bakker 2005:154–176.

[ back ] 30. Chafe 1994:63–64.

[ back ] 31. See Bakker 1997:79.

[ back ] 32. Ἠώς occurs 27 times in the Iliad, 15 at the verse-end (as against 40 times and 35 times in the Odyssey, respectively). The pattern of twelve days occurs 6 times in the Iliad (I 493, XXI 46, XXI 81, XXIV 31, XXIV 413, XXIV 667). In Iliad XXI 46 and XXI 81 the pattern is used for Lycaon, who after being sold by Achilles to king Euneus in Lemnos and subsequently redeemed by the Imbrian Eetion who paid the ransom, was first sent to Arisbe, from where he fled and came to Troy where he enjoyed himself with his friends for eleven days (Iliad XXI 40–46). The twelfth day he returned to the battlefield where he was killed by Achilles. In Iliad XXIV 31 (= I 493) the pattern is employed for Apollo who asks the gods to act, since Hector’s body is lying unburied for eleven days in Achilles’ hut. Later in the same Book, the same pattern is used first by Hermes (XXIV 413), who informs Priam that the corpse of Hector has been preserved by the gods, and then by Priam (XXIV 667). The Trojan king tells Achilles that the Trojans intend to lament Hector for nine days, bury him the tenth day, build a grave-mound over him, and only on the twelfth day will they fight the Achaeans, if that must be (XXIV 664–667). In the Odyssey, the twelve days pattern is attested twice. In Book ii 374, Telemachus asks Eurycleia not to say to Penelope that he will go to Pylos and Sparta until eleven or twelve days have passed. In Book iv 588 Menelaus invites Telemachus to stay in Sparta for eleven or twelve days. In these two instances in the Odyssey, as happened in the Iliad, the number twelve, when used to express a specific time span, modifies the word ἠώς (dawn).

[ back ] 33. Achilles defiles Hector’s body for eleven days (XXIV 31) and Priam asks for an eleven-day truce so that he can give his son’s corpse a proper burial (XXIV 667). Taplin 1992:18n16 maintains that XXIV 31 “must refer to the stretch of time since the death of Hector, and so the tenth not the twelfth day of divine quarrelling (107–108). So Kirk I. 493–4 is wrong to refer 24.31 and 413 to two different lapses of narrative-time.” See also Willcock 1984:312, who notes that the number twelve includes the three days spent on the Funeral Games and the nine days Achilles is keeping Hector’s body in his hut unburied. Therefore, it is the tenth day since the beginning of the gods’ division on the fate of Hector’s corpse, and, consequently, there is no ‘symmetry’ between Books I and XXIV on this aspect.

[ back ] 34. See Nagy 2003:40.

[ back ] 35. Kirk 1985:105.

[ back ] 36. Peradotto 1990:13. I owe this reference to Nagy 2003:40 (with respect to emphasis, I also follow Nagy).

[ back ] 37. Taplin 1992:15–31 has argued that the Iliad may be divided into three parts of almost equal length. These parts are based on the observation of turning-points in the plot. Taplin’s scheme runs as follows: Part I: I 1–IX 713 with significant structural subdivisions at I 492/3; IV 445/6; VII 482/8; Part II: XI 1 (Doloneia omitted) –XVIII 353 with subdivisions at XVI 123/4; Part III: XVIII 354–XXIV 804 with internal breaks at XXIII 56/7; XXIII 897/XXIV 1. Taplin proposes intervals between these parts according to the poet’s sensitivity to audience response and further maintains (26) that the three-part structure of the Iliad matches a real ‘Homeric’ performance.

[ back ] 38. Taplin 1992:21.

[ back ] 39. See Iliad I 533, where Zeus’ preeminent position among the Olympians is reflected by his being dictionally treated as a separate entity. There is no distinction between the rest of the gods, as they are acting as a group, all at the same time (θεοὶ δ᾿ ἅμα πάντες). The juxtaposition of all the ‘main players’ (Thetis, Zeus, and the other gods) in a couple of verses (531–533) signifies the end of the supplication scene, which is capped almost in the same way as it began (with the necessary changes of course, since Thetis has to depart from Olympos). Verse 498 confirms the previous interpretation, as it is clearly stated that the son of Cronus was sitting apart from the other gods. There is a covert tendency in this passage to emphasize Zeus’ separation from the rest of the gods, a point that is vital for the latent parallelism with Achilles.

[ back ] 40. For the intertextual background of the Zeus–Achilles connection, see the rest of this chapter.

[ back ] 41. See e.g. the ‘The Deceit of Zeus’ (Διὸς ἀπάτη) in Iliad XIV.

[ back ] 42. Doubts may be raised against the ηὗρεν-εὐρύοπα vocalic repetition mainly because of the rough breathing of the former versus the smooth breathing of the latter. But it is not only modern sensibility that ignores the change of breathing. Such assonance is common in Ancient Greek. See e.g. Denniston 1952:124 citing numerous examples of this kind, like ἦμεν ἥμενοι (Euripides Iphigenia in Tauris 1339), ἕως σ᾿ ἐῶσιν (Euripides Orestes 238), ἐκ δ᾿ ἑλοῦσα (Euripides Alcestis 160). For the most detailed treatment of this phenomenon, see Norden 1915–19233. See also Stanford 1967; Silk 1974:173, 224; OCD s.v. assonance.

[ back ] 43. For the principal of aural isolation, see Silk 1974:187–191.

[ back ] 44. The verb ἀνεδύσετο is hereby used with the accusative instead of the more usual genitive. See Kirk 1985:106 ad 496, who points to the fact that “the genitive ‘out of the sea’ is more to be expected than the accusative.” See Iliad XIII 225 ἀνδύεται πόλεμον (‘draw back from war’). See also Latacz et al. 2000:162 ad 496.

[ back ] 45. See Iliad XXIII 205–207; Odyssey i 22–27.

[ back ] 46. See Rengakos 2006:85–134.

[ back ] 47. See Kirk 1985:97; West 1988:75.

[ back ] 48. The use of ἱκνέομαι as ‘supplicate’ is attested already in Homeric epic. See e.g. Iliad XIV 260; Iliad XXII 123; Odyssey ix 266–267; xvi 424.

[ back ] 49. Iliad I 401 (ἐλθοῦσα); Iliad I 420 (εἶμ᾿).

[ back ] 50. In Iliad XXIII 205–207 and Odyssey i 22–27 the feast is part of a sacrificial ritual testifying to the piety of the Aethiopes.

[ back ] 51. For ellipsis or implicit reference to Tithonus within the framework of a Homeric simile, see Danek 2006:66–67, who argues that Tithonus is missing from the list of Troy’s elders because ‘Homer’ has changed the traditional simile based on the cicada-Tithonus imagery into a simile pertaining to the Iliadic, not to the Aethiopic content of this epic.

[ back ] 52. For the relation between Indo-European *Ausos, Indic Uṣas, Aphrodite, and Thetis, see also chapter 5.

[ back ] 53. Kakridis 1944:159–176 has convincingly argued that Eos’ request to Zeus to grant immortality to Tithonus was ‘transferred’ from her equivalent request for Memnon who could not ask Zeus on his own, since he had been killed by Achilles. In an older tradition, after being abducted by Eos Tithonus would have lived with her as an immortally youthful person. At that point there was no request whatsoever by Eos. Only at a later stage, when Tithonus was somehow connected to the cicada and the theme of his metamorphosis into an insect was developed, was there a need for an incomplete request from Zeus. Under the influence of Eos’ request for Memnon, and given that she was Tithonus’ wife and Memnon’s mother, the tradition of the request for the son was passed on to the father.

[ back ] 54. Nodding assent (Naiden 2006:111) constitutes a variation from the norm, which is to raise the suppliant. Naiden observes that nodding is used by important supplicandi.

[ back ] 55. Kakridis 1949:159–174 has argued that this episode may well be relevant to the same oral tradition (pertaining to the Memnon story), where the Winds would have been unwilling to blow on Achilles’ pyre, since they were angry at him for having killed their brother Memnon. In that tradition, Zeus may have sent Hermes or Iris, after another request by Thetis (?), to the Winds, asking them to appease their anger and blow on Achilles’ pyre, who deserved to be burnt.

[ back ] 56. Burkert 1985:107.

[ back ] 57. Dawn’s ability to nurture seems to reflect the importance of light for vegetation. See also Herodotus III 18, where he describes the ‘table of the sun’ in the land of the Aethiopes, as a λειμών (‘meadow’) where every night the magistrates carefully store boiled flesh, and where anyone is allowed to go and eat during the day. Herodotus reports that the locals say that the earth itself brings forth the food.

[ back ] 58. See Burkert 1985:107, 369n17–19, 390n82.

[ back ] 59. See Schoeck 1961:41; Slatkin 1991:32–33n18.

[ back ] 60. See West 1988:75.

[ back ] 61. See Bechtel 1914:151; Chantraine 1968–1980 s.v.; Heubeck 1989:16.

[ back ] 62. Slatkin 1991:33.

[ back ] 63. See Slatkin 1991:34–38.

[ back ] 64. See Schoeck 1961:38–48, who argues that every time the Iliad is faced with the dilemma of Achilles’ return to the battlefield, reference is made to a prophecy by Thetis. In the Aethiopis (186–187 Severyns = 58 Kullmann: καὶ Θέτις τῷ παιδὶ τὰ κατὰ τὸν Μέμνονα προλέγει [‘And Thetis foretells to her son the events concerning Memnon’]), since Thetis probably revealed to Achilles his own death after the killing of Memnon, she may well have advised him to abstain from the fighting. See Slatkin 1991:25n8.

[ back ] 65. Muellner 1976:28.

[ back ] 66. Muellner 1976:23.

[ back ] 67. Slatkin 1991:64 rightly argues that “[t]he conventional form in which one god asks a favor of another does not include the reminder of a past favor or the promise of a future one on either part,” and brings as evidence (64n10) Iliad XIV 190–192 and Iliad XXI 331–341. Under this scope, it is likely that Eos, unlike Thetis in Iliad I, would have recalled Memnon’s (rather than her own) past services to the gods. See Slatkin 1991:64. Gould (1973:10–11) has argued that one of the consequences of supplication was xenia, a forming of a guest-host relation. Given that Eos’ request for Memnon is a rather eccentric form of supplication, the xenia offered to the gods might have preceded the actual supplication. In fact, it may have been used as an argument for persuading Zeus to grant immortality to Memnon. Gods often appreciate piety and respect shown to them by mortals (cf. Iliad XXII 170-172). The literal xenia offered by Memnon and Eos in the Aethiopic oral tradition has been ‘translated’ into Thetis’ request for a metaphorical xenia that should be granted to her though her re-integration into the community of the immortals (Iliad I 516).

[ back ] 68. On the typology of supplication (approach, gestures, request and arguments, evaluation by the supplicandus), see Naiden 2006:29–104.

[ back ] 69. On the standard gestures of supplication, see Naiden 2006:44–62. Thetis does not kiss Zeus’ hand.

[ back ] 70. These verses ‘link’ two distinct type-scenes, the ‘arrival’ and the ‘supplication’, by making the former part of the latter. See Arend 1933:28; Latacz et al. 2000:161.

[ back ] 71. The left hand is mentioned first as the one performing a secondary, ancillary role, whereas the right will actually carry out the main act of aggression. See West 1966:219 ad Theogony 179, who draws attention to “two Homeric exceptions to this rule: Il. 18.476 ff., Od. 19.480 ff..”

[ back ] 72. Muellner 1996:92.

[ back ] 73. See Pindar Isthmian 8.29–38.

[ back ] 74. See Crotty 1994:94–95.

[ back ] 75. See Redfield 1975:136–137.

[ back ] 76. The italics are mine.

[ back ] 77. This formula is attested (with a slight variation) five times in the Iliad, always in the context of a prayer. In I 41 and I 455 from Chryses to Apollo, in I 504 from Thetis to Zeus, in VIII 242 from Agamemnon to Zeus, and in XVI 238 from Achilles to Zeus. It is a typical expression used by the suppliant after the completion of his initial address to the deity, when he desires to express his appeal. It functions as an introduction to the verbalization of the petition, as if the suppliant is saying: “and now follows my request.” See Iliad I 41. For ἐκρήηνεν ἐέλδωρ, see Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (5) 222.

[ back ] 78. Slatkin 1991:38.

[ back ] 79. On the special diction devoted to Achilles’ mortality, see Slatkin 1991:36–39.

[ back ] 80. Of course, one could argue that the quantity of the final syllable (“ras”) in γέρας and ἀπούρας is different (short in the first case and long by compensatory lengthening in the second: *ἀπούροντ-ς > ἀπούρας). This is certainly true, but since assonance does not necessarily depend on vowel quantity but on sound repetition, the difference between “ras” (γέρας) and “raas” (ἀπούρας) is aurally insignificant.

[ back ] 81. According to Montiglio 1993:184, Zeus’ silence belongs to those kind of Iliadic silences situated in the midst of a “réseau verbal,” which underlines and emphasizes their temporary nature. Montiglio notes that quite often silence in the Iliad denotes a suspension of speech and is perceived as a lack which will be surpassed by the intensity of another speech that will follow.

[ back ] 82. On Homeric misdirection, see Duckworth 1933; Morrison 1992a, 1992b. On intertextual and intratextual misdirection, see Rengakos 2006:77–82 and 82–83, respectively.

[ back ] 83. See Pindar Isthmian 8.29–38 and [Aeschylus] Prometheus Bound 167–176, 515–525, 755–765, 907–915, who constitute the earliest sources for this tradition. It has been argued (Reitzenstein 1900:73–105) that this version may go back to the same early source (‘Hauptquelle’). See also Apollodorus’ Library III 13.5. For all the relevant bibliography, see Slatkin 1991:70–77n19–26.

[ back ] 84. See Pucci 1997:194, 201. See also Iliad I 352–356.

[ back ] 85. Muellner 1996:94–132.

[ back ] 86. Muellner 1996:95–96.

[ back ] 87. The Iliad achieves a remarkable displacement by replacing Achilles’ (and for that matter, Patroclus’) divine antagonist, Zeus, by Apollo.

[ back ] 88. Iliad I presents a full circle of the μῆνις (‘wrath’) theme: the μῆνις (‘wrath’) of Apollo is appeased by Odysseus (when he takes Chryseis back to her father). Agamemnon’s μῆνις (‘wrath’), which is caused because he has no female slave is brought to an end by taking Briseis from Achilles, thus causing the latter’s μῆνις (‘wrath’). Thetis (as we pass to the divine world) persuades Zeus to validate Achilles’ μῆνις (‘wrath’) even at the expense of provoking Hera’s fear. In order to suppress the latter’s protest, Zeus threatens Hera with his own μῆνις (‘wrath’). Subsequently, this threat is averted by Hephaestus’ cautionary narrative about Zeus’ μῆνις (‘wrath’) against him.

[ back ] 89. See Pucci 1997:194.

[ back ] 90. See Vernant-Detienne 1978:127–164.

[ back ] 91. See Nagy 1979:344–347.

[ back ] 92. Nagy 1979:347.

[ back ] 93. For Ouranus, see Theogony 154–182 and for Cronus Theogony 453–480.

[ back ] 94. The πανουργία (‘cunningness’) of Thetis has been interpreted by Slatkin 1986:22 as a result of her anger for not being allowed to marry a god. Thetis knows, as Loraux 1990:75 notes, that the price of the hegemony of Zeus is Achilles’ death. ‘Homer’ has displaced wrath from the mother to the son as Thetis’ maternal μῆνις (‘wrath’) has been absorbed by Achilles’ anger. Loraux 1990:75 makes the point that between mother and son “le deuil et la colère sont indivis.”

[ back ] 95. See Vernant-Detienne 1978:159, who refer to the connection between Thetis and the cuttle-fish (σηπία). See also Herodotus (VII 191–192) and Aristotle, who calls the cuttle-fish πανουργότατον (‘most cunning’) among fish (Historia Animalium IX 37.59).

[ back ] 96. See Kirk 1985:107.

[ back ] 97. This term is based on Nagy’s (1990a:394; 1996b:20n27; 2000:417–426; 2003:39–48) diachronic skewing, which designates situations “where the medium refers to itself in terms of earlier stages of its own existence.”

[ back ] 98. See the previous discussion. For Eos’ supplication to Zeus in respect to Memnon in the Aethiopis, see 189–190 Severyns = 60–61 Kullmann. For an equivalent scene (with respect to Tithonus), see Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (5) 218–238.

[ back ] 99. Nagy 2003:43.

[ back ] 100. See Nagy 2003:43, 44n19. See Iliad I 512 (ἀλλ᾿ ἀκέων δὴν ἧστο) and Iliad IX 190–191: Πάτροκλος δέ οἱ οἶος ἐναντίος ἧστο σιωπῇ / δέγμενος Αἰακίδην, ὁπότε λήξειεν ἀείδων). See also Iliad I 513: … καὶ εἴρετο δεύτερον αὖτις.

[ back ] 101. See Ford 1992:57–89.