The CHS team is pleased to share the online publication of Homeric Nēpios, by Susan Edmunds on the CHS website.
Susan Edmunds’ thesis is a word study on the Homeric use of nēpios. Nēpios has often been translated as “child, infant, childish” or even “blind,” in part because some scholars thought it was from the negative nē– and Greek epos (“word, speech”), thus semantically equivalent to Latin infans. But Edmunds shows that nēpios really points toward a kind of individual who is mentally and socially disconnected, often with a focus on the father-child relationship. Etymologically, nēpios is the negative of ēpios, a word which means something similar to “like a father” and even “connecting.” Thus, nēpios denotes social, emotional, and mental disconnection oftentimes due to the absence of a kindly, fatherly figure.
Over the course of four easy-to-read chapters (all Greek passages are translated), Edmunds offers thorough contextual analysis that details the nature and consequences of such disconnection, which is generally a “fatal condition” in the Homeric tradition. When we understand nēpios, it helps us to understand so much more about characters such as Patroklos, Astyanax, Telemachos, and Penelope, but also key concepts such as kleos, since whoever is nēpios, is doomed to be disconnected from their heroic heritage and their own potential for kleos. What Edmunds offers with her study on nēpios in the Iliad and the Odyssey is a new understanding of the Homeric characters and what they are facing when characterized by this word.
For readers who are interested in this work, please read more from Susan Edmunds on the CHS website, in her essay titled “Picturing Homeric Weaving.” Members from the Hour 25 community had the chance to meet and dialogue with Susan Edmunds during a CHS Open House discussion on “weaving and the weaver as hero.” We invite you to watch the recorded video discussion or participate in continuing discussion on the Hour 25 website.