FirstDrafts: Oral Poetics and the Homeric Doloneia

Oral Poetics and the Homeric Doloneia

by Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott



In this edition of First Drafts at Classics@, we introduce the work on Iliad 10 that we have undertaken over the past eighteen months and give an overview of our plans for a published volume. It is our hope that in this way we will make some of our preliminary findings immediately available, and invite comment and collaboration with those working on related topics. Our project, “Oral Poetics and the Homeric Doloneia,” seeks to correct a major imbalance in Homeric studies, namely the absence of a scholarly commentary that embraces and applies the past 80 years of scholarship into the oral traditional background of the Iliad and Odyssey. This research has shown that the Iliad and Odyssey are products of oral recomposition-in-performance, as demonstrated by the foundational work of Milman Parry and Albert Lord. [1]   In recent decades much work has been done to show how the artistry of such a system works, and the poetics of an orally composed, traditional poem are becoming much better understood. But the standard commentaries, including the most recent, do not for the most part engage this scholarship. [2]   Instead they rely on older models, explained further below, that attribute the artistry of the Iliad and Odyssey to a single genius (often named “Homer” and often conceived of as literate). The volume we propose will consist of 1) a series of introductory essays that addresses central questions in Homeric scholarship described further below and how they apply to Iliad 10 in particular; 2) a critical text of the highly controversial book 10 of the Iliad, together with an apparatus that calls attention to the many and varying historical witnesses to the text; 3) a detailed commentary, intended to explicate the text of this book and situate it within the poetics of the oral tradition in which the Iliad and Odyssey were composed. By publishing this book both in print and on-line (the latter available without charge through the Center for Hellenic Studies), we expect that we will reach the largest possible audience, and hope that our final product can be a model for collaborative research on the Homeric epics and in the humanities in general.

The Doloneia in Context: Past and Future Research

Our planned volume focuses on the so-called Doloneia, the tenth book of the Iliad, and will put a spotlight on this most doubted, ignored, and even scorned book of the epic. In doing so, we will demonstrate how approaching the poem as an oral traditional epic can answer questions that are particularly vexing when using a literary approach. The introductory essays will examine particular problems related to differences in language and action that have led to the doubts about its “authenticity” or its place within the Iliadic tradition. The critical text will highlight the many witnesses to the text and the variations they offer. The accompanying commentary, a conventional form of exegesis for the Homeric texts, will demonstrate through close analysis how the unconventional Iliad 10 shares in the oral traditional nature of the whole epic, even though its poetics are specific to its ambush plot and setting at night. These poetics are a significant subject that both the essays and the commentary will explore, for story elements associated with nighttime ambushes are often treated in Homeric scholarship as the decisive “proof” that a particular episode or tradition is not Homeric. But by examining parallels in other ancient sources, such as the Epic Cycle among others, we will show how these poetics build a particular tradition of such episodes, using the same system of language and techniques that comprise oral composition-in-performance. The volume, therefore, will serve as a prime example of an investigation into an entire book of the Iliad through the now well-established methods and scholarship on the oral traditional background of the epic.

It was in the 1930’s, when Milman Parry and his assistant Albert Lord went to Yugoslavia to study the oral epic tradition that then still flourished there, that the Homeric poems began to be understood to be not only traditional, but oral—that is, as products of performance rather than composition through the technology of writing. In two expeditions to the former Yugoslavia in 1933–35 Parry and Lord collected 12,544 songs, stories, and conversations from 169 singers of the South Slavic epic song tradition. Their unsurpassed, original fieldwork has been matched only by the work of Albert Lord himself, who took additional trips in the 1950’s and 1960’s. No two of the songs collected are exactly alike, nor do any two of the singers have exactly the same repertoire. These singers composed extremely long epic poems in performance. In order to do this they drew on a vast storehouse of traditional themes and phrases that worked within the meter or rhythm of the poetry. That is to say they used what are called formulas to build each verse as they went along, instead of individual words that are static or memorized in a fixed order. This method results in each song being a new composition and is the reason why no two songs that Parry and Lord recorded were ever exactly the same. Parry and Lord applied this fieldwork to the Homeric poems by analogy, and they were able to show how the workings of the South Slavic system reveal a great deal about how the Iliad and Odyssey were composed.

The work of Parry and Lord and the scholars who have built on their efforts suggests that in its earliest stages of development there was a great deal of multiformity in the Greek oral epic tradition. Countless variations on the story of the Trojan War and the episodes within it, the anger of Achilles, the returns of the heroes, and any number of traditional tales are known to have been current in different times and different places in antiquity, and were likely sung by countless poets whose names are now lost to us. The earliest textual witnesses of the Iliad and Odyssey that have survived, the fragmentary papyri from Egypt, postdate this fluid tradition by hundred of years, but nevertheless contain a great deal of variation that points to a very creative and dynamic early history of the poems.

At the same time, because Greek oral epic poetry was traditional in content already in ancient times, any given audience on any given occasion of performance knew the story and the characters already. There would have been nothing about the story, the language, the rhythm of the song, or the characters that was new for that audience. A poet in a traditional song culture like that of the ancient Greeks could compose poetry in performance using techniques, plots, characters, and language that he had inherited from many previous generations of singers. The material and techniques were traditional, but each performance was a new composition—a recomposition, in and for performance. In our publications we argue that the very fact that the Iliad and Odyssey are “oral traditional” often allows even deeper and more complex levels of meaning than may be found in poetry that is composed in a literate, text-based culture. These questions are important for the humanities as a whole, in terms of interpreting oral poetry and understanding its cultural impact, and we will continue to address them in our work on Iliad 10.

The work of Parry and Lord revolutionized Homeric studies, but there persists a strong contingent of scholars who try to minimize the impact of their work. These scholars prefer to see a single genius and a fixed point in time behind the Iliad and Odyssey as we now have them. This individual poet is sometimes conceived of as literate, and at other times imagined as dictating the poems to another literate person. [3]   In both scenarios, a single absolute text is sought as the goal of the scholar’s efforts, the only text worth obtaining or appreciating. We maintain that this approach is fundamentally flawed, and marred by the prejudices of our literate, text-based culture. Whereas these Homerists seek to deny or minimize the multiformity of the Homeric poetry that has come down to us in a fruitless search for a single genius poet that is responsible for our Iliad and Odyssey, our work embraces variation as a window into the flourishing oral tradition that once existed in Greece, in which there were many singers and many tales. [4]   What is at stake in taking such an approach is a better understanding of the language, structure, evolution, and cultural meaning of the epics.

Clearly, a full-scale commentary on the Iliad and Odyssey that takes full advantage of the latest research in the poetics of oral traditions is needed, but we have chosen to begin our work with perhaps the least understood single book of the Iliad, book 10. This book narrates a night raid undertaken by Odysseus and Diomedes, and is almost universally denounced as “un-Homeric.” Even while admitting that most conventional arguments against the book have proven flawed, the most recent and often cited commentary on Iliad 10, edited by Bryan Hainsworth as part of the six-volume Cambridge University Press commentary edited by G. S. Kirk, asserts that points that seem of little weight unto themselves add up to only one conclusion—namely, that the book does not belong in our Iliad. [5]   Such a position, mired in an older paradigm and without any concrete evidence to support it other than the aesthetic judgment of that particular critic, is emblematic of the approaches to Homer that need to be countered with the careful research that has been done for decades on the oral poetics of the epic. Indeed, even the name “Doloneia” (after the name of Dolon, the Trojan spy whom Diomedes and Odysseus kill) is at times used disparagingly to indicate that book 10 is an “independent” song that is not truly part of the Iliad. Our use of the name seeks to reverse that implication, to show that for all its differences it is part of the same oral traditional system of epic poetry. [6]  

Our task will not be easy, however. The condemnation of the book is so universal that even a relatively recent book devoted to the theme of ambush, written from an avowedly oralist perspective, does not discuss Iliad 10, our most extensive example of an ambush in surviving Greek epic. (See A. Edwards, Achilles in the Odyssey [Königstein, 1985].) Ignoring Iliad 10 is a strategy employed by many scholars, who no doubt feel they must ignore it so as not to incur the charge of making arguments about Homer based on an “interpolated,” “un-Homeric” or otherwise problematic text. Nevertheless, we feel that there is an entirely different way of treating this book. Rather than dismiss it as “un-Homeric” or pass over it in silence, we propose to show that book 10 offers us unique insight into such important topics as the process of composition-in-performance, the traditional themes of archaic Greek epic, the nature of the hero, and the religious background of the poems.

The following brief examples demonstrate the difference between our approach and those that have come before. Because of certain duplications in the plots of books 9 and 10 of the Iliad, as well as the time elapsed during the course of the night during which these events take place, it has been argued that Iliad 10 is a clumsy forgery (by someone other than “Homer”) meant to replace Iliad 9. (Note, however, that book 9 has also been suspected of not being composed by “Homer.”) Instead of relying on such an unsatisfactory avoidance (not a solution) of the problems noted by scholars, our approach will be as follows. First, we could make an analogy with the South Slavic tradition, where Parry and Lord documented that the most accomplished singers could expand their songs indefinitely by adding episodes paratactically, as the mood of the audience or occasion required. The events of the night in question highlight the effects of Achilles’ wrath and withdrawal, which constitute the central theme of the poem. It is in keeping with the poetics of an oral tradition to add additional episodes to this particular night. Secondly, book 10 is the only surviving example of an extended narrative about a night raid in Homeric poetry, even though we know there were many such episodes in the larger epic tradition. To our knowledge, no scholars other than ourselves have presented the argument that the unusual nature of the book may be explained by this very straightforward fact. We have argued that the night right is a different genre or type of epic, a parallel tradition with its own traditional language, themes, conventions, and poetics, but nonetheless part of the same system of oral poetry to which the entire Iliad belongs. Finally, book 10 may be a legitimate multiform of book 9, both orally composed within the same traditional poetic system and therefore both equally “Homeric.”

To give one other brief example of these alternative poetics associated with ambush warfare and nocturnal attacks: Casey Dué has begun to analyze how the arming scenes in Iliad 10 can be seen to signal to a traditional audience that such an episode is beginning. (She delivered her preliminary findings at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South.) At almost the midpoint of the book, just as Diomedes and Odysseus head out on their expedition, there is a lengthy description of the arming of Odysseus and Diomedes (Iliad 10.254–273). The armor that they wear is in many ways atypical. Most distinctive is what they wear on their heads. Diomedes and Odysseus wear leather skull caps (κυν?ην… ταυρε?ην… ? τε κατα?τυξ κ?κληται – the word κατα?τυξ is used only here in extant Greek literature), and the history of Odysseus’ cap is elaborately described.

In a well known 1958 article, James Armstrong shows how formulaic arming scenes are employed at climactic moments in the poem with great effect. [7]   He analyzes in detail the four major arming scenes of the Iliad (there are indeed only four), namely those of Paris in Iliad 3, Agamemnon in Iliad 11, Patroklos in Iliad 16, and Achilles in Iliad 19, arguing that formulaic language in these passages is manipulated for various poetic purposes, and that each scene resonates with what came before, so that there is a cumulative effect over the course of the poem. [8]   We will argue that in the night raid tradition, the dressing and arming of heroes have a poetic impact similar to the expanded arming scenes of conventional battle. Like these scenes, they contribute both to suspense, by increasing the audience’s anticipation of the coming ambush or raid, and to characterization, as the details of each dressing or arming passage reveal important aspects of the hero’s character as a fighter. But even more importantly, they serve to signal that the poet is moving into a different poetic register. Another way to say this is that the poet transitions by way of such scenes from one megatheme to another, and the alternative style of clothing is emblematic of not only this alternative mode of fighting but also an alternative poetics.

By approaching Homeric poetry as a system, of which the Iliad and Odyssey happen to be the only two surviving examples, we can look for traditional narrative patterns that explain what may seem unusual from a literary perspective. It is possible to reconstruct a great deal of the system we have lost by studying carefully allusions to, summaries, and quotations of the lost epics of the Epic Cycle. [9]   We can also study the oral traditions of other cultures in order to better understand that of archaic Greece. This more inclusive approach to Homeric poetry is what we propose to adopt in our commentary, and we hope that it will be a model for future work on Homer. We also hope that our methods and findings will be valuable for other fields within the humanities that study oral poetry or other kinds of long-term, collective production of culturally important “texts” (in the larger sense of that word).

Related to this inclusive approach, we will also in the essays and commentary take into account the reception of Iliad 10, or at least its ambush tradition, in other ancient works. One opportunity that Iliad 10 offers is a direct comparison to the presentation of the same episode in a Greek tragedy, namely the Rhesos, attributed to Euripides. Several previous studies have examined how each genre deals with the myth of Dolon and/or Rhesos, and the comparison provides a valuable means for thinking about generic conventions. The tragedy has its own controversies: although it has been argued that its very use of an Iliadic episode led to its survival in the so-called “schoolbook” manuscript tradition of Euripidean tragedy, its peculiarities of language and style have also led scholars to argue against its “authenticity,” that is, its authorship by Euripides. Whether or not it was Euripides who wrote this tragedy does not greatly affect our analysis of it for this context, however. In a paper presented by Mary Ebbott at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, she has argued that some of these differences in language and style in the tragedy can also be connected to the nocturnal setting of the action within the drama. Another possible source for the reception of such ambush traditions in antiquity is Virgil’s Aeneid, which not only gives us the fullest account we have of the ultimately successful nocturnal ambush tactics by which the Greeks finally sack Troy (that is, gaining entry into the city inside the Trojan Horse), but also devotes a book to its own night raid, that of Nisus and Euryalus in Aeneid 9. These suggestive (though not exhaustive) examples give an indication of the rich possibilities that ancient reception offers for ways to think about Iliad 10.

Another important factor in our approach, moreover, is that this project will be truly collaborative, with both of us working together on every part of the volume. Although we share the approach to Homeric epic that we have described above, our prior individual research allows us to bring different perspectives and experience to the project. Unlike many collaborative projects in which scholars bring individual projects together at late stages of the work for publication, this project was conceived as a collaboration and will be carried out as a true synergy. Although the model for projects in the humanities and in Homeric research is itself most often that of the individual genius working alone, we suggest that the collaboration we are proposing will allow for a higher quality of research and analysis accomplished in a more timely manner. We believe strongly that new models for collaboration are important for progress in the humanities in general, and we expect that the commentary we produce will demonstrate how our sustained collaboration can lead to more thoughtful, thorough, and creative scholarship on the Homeric epics.

The substance of our project will thus cover three major areas of study focused on Iliad 10. The series of introductory essays, which will address central questions in Homeric scholarship from an oralist perspective, will give the necessary background, and will also give a full and systematic treatment to subjects of interest, such as the poetics of ambush, the theme of arming for a night raid, and the use of simile and metaphor in describing attacks that take place in the dark. Including a critical text of book 10, together with an apparatus that calls attention to the many and varying historical witnesses to the text, is an important component for establishing the variation in the textual tradition that gives witness to the underlying oral system. Finally, the detailed commentary will explicate the language of this book and situate it within the poetics of the oral tradition in which the Iliad and Odyssey were composed. It will demonstrate that an oralist approach illuminates not only certain portions of the epic, but also succeeds on a sustained, line by line analysis of an entire book. The whole project, then, will correct the major imbalance in Homeric studies by acting as a prime example of how an oralist approach can treat a self-contained portion of the epic, while relating it to the whole and to the reception of Homer in antiquity. The resulting volume will be published both in print and on-line. In this dual publication we will be able to reach the largest possible audience. (Please see further below for more about our collaboration with the CHS Homer Multitext project.)

For more on the Homeric research and scholarship cited in this narrative, please see the bibliographical appendix.

History of the project

Both of us have already presented papers that were portions of this project at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South (CAMWS), held in April 2006 in Gainesville, Florida, and at the 2007 meeting held in Cincinnati, Ohio. Casey Dué’s 2006 paper, “Iliad X and the Poetics of Ambush ,” defined points of departure for considering the oral poetics of the Doloneia. (See full text of this paper here.) Mary Ebbott’s 2006 paper, “Welcome to My Nightmare: the Charioteer’s Dream in the Rhesos ,” examined the relationship between the Iliad’s version of the death of Rhesos and its connection to a nightmare and the one presented in the tragedy Rhesos, attributed to Euripides. Her findings lay a foundation for further work on the oral poetics of symbolic language, including simile and metaphor. For example, her analysis has shown that metaphorical apposition, which makes Diomedes a nightmare in Iliad 10.494–497 and Achilles an unforeseen evil in Iliad 21.34-39, is a use of syntax that is particularly appropriate to an attack in the dark, as the sudden appearance of the attacker to his victim is represented verbally by an abrupt equation of the abstract noun with the warrior who embodies that idea for the victim. (See full text of this paper here.)

At the 2007 meeting of CAMWS, Casey Dué explored the character of Diomedes, who figures prominently along with Odysseus in book 10. Diomedes does not fit neatly into the dichotomy that has been supposed to exist between Achilles and Odysseus, the respective heroes of the traditional daytime polemos and nighttime lokhos. [10]   (See full text of this paper here.) Odysseus has long been understood to be a warrior that excels in alternative, more cunning kinds of warfare. Diomedes is often paired with Odysseus in nighttime exploits, but unlike Odysseus, he is a featured star in the Iliad’s daytime combat as well, so much so that he largely takes Achilles’ place for the Greeks when Achilles withdraws. Except for the so-called Doloneia of Iliad 10, the raids featuring Diomedes were narrated in the Epic Cycle, and as a result they are rarely if ever juxtaposed with the Diomedes’ daytime exploits in the Iliad, such as his aristeia in Iliad 5. When they are juxtaposed, we find that the Doloneia does not seem so unusual. Following in the footsteps of Neoanalyst scholars like Jonathan Burgess, we propose that we should resist the often assumed dichotomy between the Iliad and the Epic Cycle (and indeed the Iliad and the Doloneia), and we submit that an awareness of Cyclic traditions helps us to better understand the heroes of the Iliad and how they were received in antiquity. [11]  

In addition to the work already begun on these specific topics, the proposed volume is also the outcome of our many years of research and planning as the editors of the collaborative Homer Multitext Project ( and the final product will become a compatible and interworking part of that project. The Homer Multitext Project (or, as it is often simply called, the Multitext) has been sponsored and financially supported by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies since June 2000. What follows here is a brief overview of the Multitext, as explained on its website, and then we provide an explanation of how our commentary fits in with this project. For further information about the Multitext project , please see the project website.

The Homer Multitext project, the first of its kind in Homeric studies, seeks to present the textual transmission of the Iliad and Odyssey in a historical framework. Such a framework is needed to account for the full reality of a complex medium of oral performance that underwent many changes over a long period of time. These changes, as reflected in the many texts of Homer, need to be understood in their many different historical contexts. The Homer Multitext provides ways to view these contexts both synchronically and diachronically. Using technology that takes advantage of the best available practices and open source standards that have been developed for digital publications in a variety of fields, the Homer Multitext offers free access to a library of texts and images, a machine-interface to that library and its indices, and tools to allow readers to discover and engage with the Homeric tradition.

The central goal of the Homer Multitext is to make available to modern readers of Homer the full history of the Homeric texts as we now have them, in all of its complexity, so that the reader can appreciate the many different historically valid “Homers.” But it is not enough to understand that the texts display the expected variations of orally composed poetry. With our volume we would like to take things one step further, and show how an awareness of the system that generated these various historical “Homers” allows us to better appreciate Homeric poetry. This is something that has not yet been done except on an ad hoc basis. Our volume will integrate the demonstration of the system of oral poetry provided by the Multitext with a thorough explication of the poetics of that system.

Bibliography for Homeric Scholarship Discussed Here


Allen, T. W. Homer: The Origins and Transmission. Oxford, 1924.

Apthorp, M. J. The Manuscript Evidence for Interpolation in Homer. Heidelberg, 1980.

Bakker, E. Poetry in Speech: Orality and Homeric Discourse. Ithaca, NY, 1997.

–––. Pointing at the Past: From Formula to Performance in Homeric Poetics. Center for Hellenic Studies, 2005.

Burgess, J. The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle. Baltimore, 2001.

Dué, C. Sunt Aliquid Manes: Homer, Plato, and Alexandrian Allusion in Propertius 4.7.” Classical Journal 96 (2001): 401-413.

–––. “Achilles’ Golden Amphora in Aeschines’ Against Timarchus and the Afterlife of Oral Tradition.” Classical Philology 96 (2001): 33-47.

–––. “Homer’s Post-Classical Legacy.” In J. M. Foley (ed.), A Companion to Ancient Epic. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

Dué, C., and M. Ebbott. “As Many Homers As You Please: An On-line Multitext of Homer.” Classics@ 2 (2004):

Davies, M.. ed. Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta. Göttingen, 1988.

–––. The Greek Epic Cycle, second edition, London, 1989.

Ebbott, M. “The Wrath of Helen: Self-Blame and Nemesis in the Iliad,” Nine Essays on Homer, ed. Carlisle and Levaniouk, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999, 3–20.

–––. Imagining Illegitimacy in Classical Greek Literature. Lanham, MD, 2003.

Foley, J. Immanent Art: From Structure to Meaning in Traditional Oral Epic. Bloomington, 1991.

–––. The Singer of Tales in Performance. Bloomington, 1995.

–––. Homer’s Traditional Art. University Park, PA, 1999.

–––. How to Read an Oral Poem. Urbana, IL, 2002.

Graziosi, B. Inventing Homer. Cambridge, 2002.

Haslam, M. “Homeric Papyri and Transmission of the Text.” In Powell and Morris 1997: 55-100.

Janko, R. Homer, Hesiod, and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction. Cambridge, 1982.

–––. Review of Ian Morris and Barry Powell (eds.), A New Companion to Homer. Leiden: Brill, 1997. BMCR 98.5.20:

Lehrs, K. De Aristarchi studiis Homericis. Leipzig, 1882.

Lord, A. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge, Mass., 1960. Second edition, 2000.

Ludwich, A. Die Homervulgata als voralexandrinisch erwiesen. Leipzig, 1898.

Luzio, A. di. “I Papyri Omerici d’ Epoca Tolemaica e la Costituzione del Testo dell’ Epica Arcaica.” Rivista di Cultura Classica e Medioevale XI (1969): 3-152.

Martin, R. P. The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance in the Iliad. Ithaca, NY, 1989.

Murnaghan, Sheila. Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey. Princeton, 1987.

Nagy, G. The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry. Baltimore, 1979.

–––. Homeric Questions. Austin, Texas, 1996.

–––. Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond. Cambridge, 1996.

–––. “Aristarchean Questions.” BMCR 98.7.14 (1998):

–––. Review of Martin L. West, ed., Homeri Ilias. Recensuit / testimonia congessit. Volumen prius, rhapsodias I-XII continens. Stuttgart and Leipzig: Bibliotheca Teubneriana, 1998. BMCR 00.09.12 (2000):

–––. Review of Martin L. West, Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad, Munich-Leipzig 2001. Gnomon 75 (2003): 481–501.

Palmer, L. R. “The Language of Homer.” In Wace and Stubbings 1962: 75-178.

Parry, M. L’épithète traditionelle dans Homère: essai sur un problème de style homérique. Paris, 1928. [reprinted and translated in A. Parry 1971: 1-190]

–––. “Studies in the Epic Technique of Oral Versemaking. I. Homer and Homeric Style.” HSCP 41 (1930): 73-147 [repr. in A. Parry 1971: 266-324].

–––. “Studies in the Epic Technique of Oral Versemaking. II. The Homeric Language as the Language of Oral Poetry.” HSCP 43 (1932): 1-50 [repr. in A. Parry 1971: 325-64].

–––. The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry. ed. A. Parry. Oxford, 1971.

Pasquali, G. Storia della Tradizione e Critica del Testo. Florence, 1962.

Pfeiffer, R. A History of Classical Scholarship: From the Beginnings to the End of the Hellenistic Age. Oxford, 1968.

Powell, B. and I. Morris, eds. A New Companion to Homer. Leiden, 1997.

Rengakos, A. Der Homertext und die hellenistischen Dichter. Hermes Einzelschriften 64. Stuttgart, 1993.

–––. “Apollonius Rhodius as a Homeric Scholar.” In Th. D. Papanghelis and A. Rengakos (eds), A Companion to Apollonius Rhodius (Leiden, 2001): 193-216.

–––. Review of Martin L. West, Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad. Munich-Leipzig: K. G. Saur, 2001. BMCR 2002.11.15 (2002):

Reynolds, Leighton D. and Nigel G. Wilson. Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature. Oxford, 1991.

Thiel, H. van. ed. Homeri Odyssea. Hildesheim, 1991.

–––, ed. Homeri Ilias. Hildesheim, 1996.

–––. “Der Homertext in Alexandria.” ZPE 115 (1997): 13-36.

Valk, M. van der. Researches on the Text and Scholia of the Iliad. Leiden, 1963-1964.

Wace, J. B. and F. H. Stubbings. eds. A Companion to Homer. London and New York, 1962.

West, M. L. Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique. Stuttgart, 1973.

–––. Homeri Ilias. Recensuit / testimonia congessit. Stuttgart and Leipzig: Bibliotheca Teubneriana, 1998-2000.

–––. Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad. Munich-Leipzig: K. G. Saur, 2001.

–––. Response to BMCR 00.09.12 and BMCR 01.06.21. BMCR 01.09.6 (2001):

–––. Response to Rengakos (BMCR 2002.11.15) and Nagy (Gnomon 75 [2003]: 481–501) on West.” BMCR 2004.04.17:

West, S. The Ptolemaic Papyri of Homer. Cologne and Opladen, 1967.

Dictation Theories [12]  

Janko, R. Homer, Hesiod, and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction. Cambridge, 1982.

–––. “The Homeric Poems as Oral Dictated Texts,” CQ 48 (1998): 1-13

Jensen, M. S. The Homeric Question and the Oral Formulaic-Theory. Copenhagen, 1980.

Lord, A. B. “Homer’s Originality: Oral Dictated Texts,” TAPA 94 (1953): 124-134.

Powell, B. Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet. Cambridge, 1991. –––. “Homer and Writing,” In Powell and Morris 1997, 3-32.

West, M. L. “Archaische Heldendichtung: Singen und Schreiben.” In W. Kullmann and M. Reichel (eds.), Der Übergang von der Mündlichkeit zur Literatur bei den Griechen. Tübingen, 1990, 33-50.


Dué C., M. Ebbott, J. Lundon, and D. Yatromanolakis (eds.). Homer and the Papyri. Center for Hellenic Studies, 2001-present:

Haslam, M. “Homeric Papyri and Transmission of the Text.” In Powell and Morris 1997: 55-100.

Pack, R. The Greek and Latin Literary Texts from Greco-Roman Egypt. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1965.

Turner, E. G. Greek Manuscripts of the Ancient World. 2nd ed. rev. and enl. by P.J. Parsons. London: University of London, Institute of Classical Studies, 1987.

West, Stephanie. The Ptolemaic Papyri of Homer. Cologne and Opladen, 1967.

Commentaries [13]  

Kirk, G. S., ed. The Iliad: A Commentary. Vol. I-VI. Cambridge, 1985-1993.

Leaf, W., ed. The Iliad I-II. London, 1900-1902.

Scholarship directly related to Iliad 10 [14]  

Bond, Robin Sparks. 1996. “Homeric Echoes in Rhesus.” AJP 117:255–273.

Danek, G. 1988. Studien zur Dolonie. Vienna.

Davidson, O. M. 1979. “Dolon and Rhesus in the Iliad.” QUCC 30: 61–66.

Edwards, A. 1985 Achilles in the Odyssey. Königstein: A. Hain.

Fenik, B. 1964. Iliad X and the Rhesus: The Myth. Collection Latomus 73. Brussels.

Gaunt, D. M. 1971. “The Change of Plan in the ‘Doloneia.’” Greece and Rome 18: 191–198.

Gernet, L. 1936. “Dolon le loup.” Mélanges Franz Cumont. Annuaire de l’Institut de Philologie et d’Histoire Orientales et Slaves 4: 189–208.

Shewan, A. 1911. The Lay of Dolon: Homer Iliad X. London.

 1. See especially A. Parry, ed. The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971) and A. B. Lord, The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960; 2nd rev. edition, 2000) and further below.    back
 2. There are notable exceptions to this general statement of course, but for the most part, the standard commentaries are not written by scholars who make extensive use of scholarship in oral poetics.     back
 3. Please see the bibliographical appendix. M. L. West is the most recent and most prominent scholar to maintain that Homer was literate. For a summary and critique of the various dictation theories see Nagy, Homeric Questions (Austin, TX, 1996), 30–35. One of the most significant problems is that the dating of this literate poet (or his literate recorder) in these arguments is to the time when alphabetic writing was a new technology for the ancient Greeks. The ancient Greeks themselves imagined Homer as an individual (named Homer), but recently scholars have shown that the ancient biographical information about the figure of Homer conforms to known patterns of Greek folklore, mythology, and poetics, and has no basis in any reliable information preserved from the lifetime of such a man. From the earliest references to Homer in antiquity this figure is already a mystery and a source of controversy, laid claimed to by many groups, revered by all, but belonging to none. (See B. Graziosi, Inventing Homer [Cambridge, 2002]).    back
 4. See especially C. Dué, “Achilles’ Golden Amphora in Aeschines’ Against Timarchus and the Afterlife of Oral Tradition” (Classical Philology 96 [2001]: 33-47); C. Dué “Sunt Aliquid Manes: Homer, Plato, and Alexandrian Allusion in Propertius 4.7” (Classical Journal 96 [2001]: 401-413); C. Dué, Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis (Lanham, MD, 2002); M. Ebbott, “The Wrath of Helen: Self-Blame and Nemesis in the Iliad,” Nine Essays on Homer, ed. Carlisle and Levaniouk (Lanham, MD, 1999) 3–20; M. Ebbott, Imagining Illegitimacy in Classical Greek Literature (Lanham, MD, 2003); C. Dué, M. Ebbott, J. Lundon, and D. Yatromanolakis, eds. Homer and the Papyri (Center for Hellenic Studies:; C. Dué and M. Ebbott, “As Many Homers As You Please: An On-line Multitext Edition of Homer” (Classics@ 2 [2004]:     back
 5. See B. Hainsworth, ed., The Iliad: A Commentary Volume III (Cambridge, 1993), 154.    back
 6. An important exception to the general tenor of criticism with regard to book 10 is G. Danek’s Studien zur Dolonie (Wiener Studien 12 [Wien, 1988].) Danek argues that the book was traditionally and indeed orally composed, like the rest of the Iliad, but concludes ultimately that it was not composed by “Homer.” Danek’s study will therefore be an important resource for us, but it too is mired in older paradigms that rely heavily on the concept of the genius author, Homer.    back
 7. Armstrong, J. 1958. “The Arming Motif in the Iliad.” American Journal of Philology 79: 337–354.    back
 8. See Iliad 3.328–338, 11.15–55, 16.130–154, and 19.364–424. Armstrong’s larger point is that this is the work of an orally composing master poet who makes use of the oral traditional system of formulaic language in ways that we might call “literary.” We of course would not come to the same conclusion from our analysis of the dressing/arming scenes in Iliad 10.    back
 9. Even the scholars who have thus far undertaken the effort of collecting and editing this material have a tendency to dismiss the Epic cycle as “un-Homeric” and “incompatible with the heroic world as constructed by Homer” (see M. Davies, The Greek Epic Cycle, 2 &supnd; nd ed. [London, 1989]).    back
 10. See A. Edwards, Achilles in the Odyssey (Königstein, 1985). This dichotomy has been understood to be one between mêtis and biê (see Nagy 1979, 45-48). But Nagy notes later in that same work that Odysseus must employ biê as well, such as in the attack on the suitors. See again Nagy 1979, 317-318. Note however that the attack on the suitors is planned as an ambush, to which Odysseus’ disguise contributes.    back
 11. For this approach, see the writings of J. Burgess, especially The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle (Baltimore, 2001).    back
 12. These theories in various ways propose that the Iliad was dictated by an oral composer to a literate person. For a summary and discussion of the various dictation theories see G. Nagy, Homeric Questions, 30-35.    back
 13. These are the only commentaries widely available and commonly cited by scholars that include Iliad 10. As noted in the narrative, there are no commentaries in print (or readily available in libraries or on-line) that we are aware of that approach the Iliad from the perspective of oral poetics. Because this approach is gaining acceptance, it is possible that such a commentary on one or more books of the Iliad is being prepared by other scholars, but we feel confident that no one is currently working on Iliad 10. We have signaled to colleagues in our field that we are working on Iliad 10 by giving papers at the Classics Association of the Middle West and South annual meeting (the second largest meeting of Classicists each year after the American Philological Association).    back
 14. As the dates of these works make clear, there has been no recent work devoted exclusively to Iliad 10.    back


© Center for Hellenic Studies, 2007.