A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 7
|May 11, 2017||By Gregory Nagy listed under Homer commentary|
2017.05.11 | By Gregory Nagy
Odysseus arrives at the palace and garden of Alkinoos (Alcinous), king of the Phaeacians, whose island was equated in ancient times with Kerkyra/Corcyra, the modern Corfù. [full article here]
Following the instructions of Nausicaa, Odysseus approaches the palace of her father Alkinoos (latinized as Alcinous), king of the Phaeacians. This palace and the adjacent garden of Alkinoos are not only enchanting but even enchanted, as will be argued in the comments for Rhapsody 7 here. And, as we will see later in the comments for Rhapsody 13, the garden of Alkinoos was thought to have survived on the island of Kerkyra, known in Roman sources as Corcyra and in modern times as Corfù. In ancient times, the people of Kerkyra claimed that their island was in fact the fabled realm of the Phaeacians.
subject heading(s): Eurymedon, king of the Gigantes ‘Giants’
The mythical Gigantes ‘Giants’ are relevant to Athenian mythology. [[GN 2017.05.11 via HPC 283n38.]]
Q&T via HTL 159
subject heading(s): Athena and Athens; ellipsis; Erekhtheus
|78 ὣς ἄρα φωνήσασ’ ἀπέβη γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη |79 πόντον ἐπ’ ἀτρύγετον, λίπε δὲ Σχερίην ἐρατεινήν, |80 ἵκετο δ’ ἐς Μαραθῶνα καὶ εὐρυάγυιαν Ἀθήνην, |81 δῦνε δ’ Ἐρεχθῆος πυκινὸν δόμον. αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς |82 Ἀλκινόου πρὸς δώματ’ ἴε κλυτά·
|78 Speaking thus, Athena [Athḗnē], with the looks of an owl, went off |79 over the barren sea, leaving behind lovely Skheria. |80 She came to Marathon and to Athens [Athḗnē], with its wide causeways, |81 and she entered the well-built palace of Erekhtheus. As for Odysseus, |81 he headed for the renowned palace of Alkinoos.
[The comments that follow are epitomized from Nagy 2015.09.10 §§6–9.] At O.07.078, we see the name Athḗnē for the goddess Athena. At O.07.080 we see the same name Athēnē for the place that is known in historical times as the city of Athens. As a place-name, Athḗnē is attested only here in the singular. Everywhere else, in the entire surviving textual evidence of the Greek language, this place-name is attested only in the plural, Athênai. The plural has an elliptic function, but I think that even the suffix -ḗnē of Athḗnē is elliptic. Here is a working definition of ellipsis: a form that is elliptic refers not only to X but also to everything that belongs to X, such as X2, X3, X4 etc. An elliptic form of X implies X2, X3, X4 etc. without naming X2, X3, X4 etc. explicitly. In terms of this definition, the name Athḗnē refers not only to the goddess ‘Athena’ but also to everything that belongs to the goddess. An example of such ‘everything’ would be the acropolis of Athens. And we see a further level of ellipsis in the plural form Athênai: this elliptic plural refers not only to the acropolis of Athens but also to everything that belongs to the acropolis, and that everything becomes the city of Athens. Eventually, the ellipsis extends to everything that belongs to the city, which is ultimately the region of Attica. Earlier, however, in the second millennium BCE, the extended region of Attica was not yet dominated by Athens. And a rival dominant power in Attica was Marathon, mentioned here at O.07.80 as an alternative residence of the goddess Athena. But even if Athena had alternative residences in Attica, only in one place did she have a condominium, as it were, with Erekhtheus, and that place was the acropolis of Athens. On the relationship of the goddess Athena with the hero Erekhtheus, see the comment on I.02.546–552. Comparable to the name Athḗnē is the name of the nymph or local goddess Mukḗnē, who presides over the acropolis of Mycenae. As for the elliptic plural Mukênai, it must refer not only to the acropolis but also to the region dominated by the acropolis. Another comparable form is the place-name Messḗnē, which means something like ‘Midland’. Here I compare the place-name me-za-na written on a Linear B tablet from Pylos, Cn 3.1. And here is another relevant piece of information from the Linear B texts: in a tablet from Knossos, V 52, the name of a female divinity in line one is a-ta-na-po-ti-ni-ja, which I interpret as athānās potniāi ‘to the lady [potnia] of Athens’. I translate athānā here as ‘Athens’, by which I mean simply the acropolis of Athens as it existed as far back as the second millennium BCE. [Further analysis in Nagy 2015.07.10.] [[GN 2017.05.11 via HTL 159, 161; more on Erekhtheus in HC 1§138.]]
subject heading(s): palace and garden of Alkinoos; present-tense descriptions of permanence
The palace of Alkinoos, described at O.07.081–111, is comparable to the heavenly residence of Menelaos. See the comment at O.04.043–075. I now argue here that the garden of Alkinoos, described at O.07.112–132, is likewise presented as a heavenly place. At O.07.103–130, where we see verses that overlap the descriptions of the palace and the garden, we find that the describing verbs avoid the past tense. The descriptions are restricted to the present tense. It has been argued that a textual interpolation has happened here (West 2000:480), on the grounds that Homeric diction does not use the present tense to indicate the past, and that only those aspects of the past that are viewed as permanent can be described in the present tense: examples include the chariot of Hera, I.05.724–728; the abode of Poseidon under the sea at Aigai, I.13.021–022; the springs of the river Scamander, I.22.147–154; the harbor and cave of the Nymphs at Ithaca, O.13.096–112; and, most important for my argumentation here, the dwelling-place of the gods on Mount Olympus, O.06.043–046. Arguing against the theory of interpolation, I propose that not only the palace of Alkinoos but also his garden are modeled on an idealized and thus heavenly prototype. Both the palace and the garden are models of permanence. In the case of the palace, its permanence is actually made explicit in a reference at O.07.091–094 to golden and silver watchdogs that guard the palace and that are made to last forever by the divine smith Hephaistos. The aura of this beautiful place is not only enchanting but even enchanted. In terms of my argument, then, there is no need to posit (as does West 2000:483–486) a textual interpolation from an unattested passage that would have followed what is spoken by Nausicaa at O.06.255–303 with reference to the palace of Alkinoos and its environs. The present tenses that are used in descriptions of the palace and the garden at O.07.081–111 and 112–132 respectively are appropriate to the heavenly aura of the whole place. [[GN 2017.05.11.]]
subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’; epithet hieron ‘sacred’
Alkinoos here qualifies for an epithet that would mean ‘he whose mental-power [menos] is sacred [hieron]’. Instead, however, the name of Alkinoos is expressed periphrastically: ‘the sacred [hieron] mental-power [menos] of Alkinoos’, as if the agency of the king originated from his mental power, not from his existence as a person. See also O.07.178. [[GN 2017.05.18 via BA 86, 89.]]
subject heading(s): gastēr ‘stomach’
Hunger for food in the gastēr ‘stomach’ drives the poet as guest to say what his host wants to hear. The poet, then, is dependent on the patronage of his local audiences. [[2017.05.11 via PH 190, GMP 44-45, 274.]]
subject heading(s): lēth- ‘forget’; [mnē- ‘mentally connect, remember’]
The idea of forgetting as expressed by lēth- is the poetic foil for the idea of remembering as expressed by mnē- ‘mentally connect’. [[GN 2017.05.11 via GMP 44.]]
O.07.256/ anchor comment on: endukéōs ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’
This adverb endukéōs ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’ expresses the idea of an uninterrupted sequence. The opposite of this adverb endukéōs ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’can be seen in the adjective adeukḗs, which can be interpreted as ‘discontinuous, interrupting’. See the anchor comment at O.04.489. In terms of this interpretation, the root duk-/deuk- for this adverb/adjective conveys the sense of ‘continue’. [[GN 2017.05.11 via PasP 43-45, 45n14.]]
subject heading(s): preservation from mortality
The project of Calypso was to make Odysseus immortal, he reports. [[GN 2017.05.11. via BA 197.]]
subject heading(s): Euboea
The Ionian island of Euboea is ostentatiously described as very far away from the island of the Phaeacians. The point of this description may be related to the poetic agenda of the Odyssey in describing the kingdom of the Phaeacians as a mythological replica of the confederation known as the Ionian Dodecapolis as it existed around the late eighth and early seventh centuries BCE. (On the Ionian Dodecapolis, see the anchor comment on I.01.463; also the comment on I.02.867–869 and on I.20.403–405; see also under Ionian Dodecapolis in the Inventory of terms and names.) For a reconstruction of the poetic agenda originating from the Ionian Dodecapolis around the late eighth and early seventh centuries BCE, I recommend the analysis of Frame 2009 ch. 7. (As for a relatively later phase of the poetic agenda, where the kingdom of Alkinoos is reshaped as a mythological replica of the island-state of Kerkyra / Corcyra, I refer to my initial comments on Rhapsody 7 of the Odyssey, where I cross-refer to my further comments on Rhapsody 11.) From the standpoint of Ionian Dodecapolis, dominated by the city-state of Miletus in Asia Minor, the island of Euboea was situated far away to the west. The territory of Euboea was shared by two rival Ionian cities, Eretria and Khalkis, and the first of the two was a close ally of Miletus. The distancing of the Ionian Dodecapolis from Ionian Euboea could be explained as a playfully ostentatious reference to the far reach of East Greeks in dealing with West Greeks. [[GN 2017.05.18; see also HPC 227.]]
BA = Best of the Achaeans, Nagy 1979/1999.
GMP = Greek Mythology and Poetics, Nagy 1990b.
H24H = The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, Nagy 2013
HC = Homer the Classic, Nagy 2009|2008
HPC = Homer the Preclassic, Nagy 2010|2009
HQ = Homeric Questions, Nagy 1996b
HR = Homeric Responses, Nagy 2003
LSJ = Liddell, H. G., R. Scott, and H. S. Jones. 1940. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford.
MoM = Masterpieces of Metonymy, Nagy 2016|2015
PasP = Poetry as Performance, Nagy 1996a
PH = Pindar’s Homer, Nagy 1990a
See the dynamic Bibliography for AHCIP.
Inventory of terms and names
See the dynamic Inventory of terms and names for AHCIP.