A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 13

2016.10.13 / updated 2018.09.11 | By Gregory Nagy

The momentum of the Trojan onslaught led by Hector intensifies here, and the prospects of the Achaeans look grim, almost hopeless. Hector is so successful that he feels tempted, toward the end of Rhapsody 13, to equate himself with immortal gods. Meanwhile, the intensity of the narrative keeps pace, and the poetic virtuosity approaches the sublime. [[GN 2016.10.13.]]

Hector and Polydamas. After a drawing by John Flaxman. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Q&T via HC 1§148
subject heading(s): chariot teams driven by divinities

Poseidon’s grand entrance here, as he drives his chariot team to the scene of battle, is comparable to other narratives about ceremonial arrivals by divinities. See HC 1§145, with a line drawing of an image painted on an Attic red-figure pyxis lid: unattributed, dated at around 425–375 BCE, Copenhagen, National Museum, 731. The image shows three goddesses—Hērā, Athena, and Aphrodite—arriving at the Judgment of Paris in their chariots drawn by customized chariot teams. Hērā is driving two horses; Athena, two serpents; and Aphrodite, two boyish Erōtes. Figure 10a shows the whole image, while Figure 10b shows a detail from that image. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HC 1§148.]]


subject heading(s): Aiante

On the two warriors who are jointly named here by way of the dual form Aiante, see especially the comment on I.12.335–336. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HTL 165.]]


subject heading(s): eukhesthai ‘declare; pray, boast’, aspiration for immortality

As noted in the comment on I.01.091, the meaning of the verb eukhesthai as ‘declare’ has to do with speaking for the record in the form of ‘boasting’ or ‘praying’ or ‘juridically declaring’ (Muellner 1976). According to the speaker here, who is the god Poseidon himself in the guise of Kalkhas, Hector aspires to be immortal by way of ‘boasting’, as expressed by the verb eukhesthai, that he is the son of the god Zeus. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 148–149.]]


subject heading(s): Aiante, with or without Teukros; elliptic dual; an evolutionary model for the making of Homeric poetry; Aiante

The reference here to the lesser Ajax shows that the dual Aiante at I.13.046–047 refers in this case to the greater and the lesser Ajax together, not to the greater Ajax and to his bastard brother Teukros. See the comment at I.12.335–336. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HTL 165–166.]]


subject heading(s): ana-psūkhein ‘revive, reanimate’; psūkhē ‘spirit; life’s breath’; release of consciousness from the body; ana-pneîn/ en-pneîn ‘take a breath, breathe in’

As at I.05.795, the heroes are simply ‘reviving’. As for intimations of a mystical revival from death, there is still more to say: see the comments on I.16.456–457. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 168.]]


subject heading(s): aitios ‘responsible’, atīmân ‘dishonor’; Will of Zeus

In the words of the god Poseidon, it is conceded that Agamemnon is aitios ‘responsible’, I.13.111, for having ‘dishonored’ Achilles, I.13.113, as expressed by the verb a-tīmân. [[GN 2016.10.13 via PH 238.]]


subject heading(s): Aiante

In this context, as also at I.13.201, the referents for the dual Aiante are Ajax the greater and Teukros, his bastard brother. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HTL 164–165.]]


subject heading(s): Aiante

See the note on I.13.197. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HTL 164–165.]]


subject heading(s): Aiante

Here the reference of Aiante shifts away from referring to the pair of Ajax the greater and Teukros. That is because the spotlight on the action shifts from Teukros to Ajax the lesser, so that the lesser Ajax can now become, retroactively, the implied second member of the dual Aiante. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HTL 164–165.]]


subject heading(s): the expression ‘(and) he was honored [tīein] as a god [theos] in the district [dēmos]’ (θεὸς [δ’] ὣς τίετο δήμῳ); hero cult; cult hero

See anchor comment at I.05.077–078.[[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 149, GMP 132–133.]]


subject heading(s): nōnumnoi ‘nameless’

The fear is expressed that the invading Achaean warriors could die nōnumnoi ‘nameless’ at Troy. On the connotations, which can be seen by way of comparing the Hesiodic Works and Days 146–155, , see the comment on I.12.079. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 157.]]



subject heading(s): the look of Zeus; arizēlos ‘most visible’; augai ‘lights’ as ‘eyes’

Zeus, in the act of launching his thunderbolt, can be visualized simultaneously in two ways, as here. First, he can be seen as casting his thunderbolt by throwing it with his own divine hand, I.13.243. But, second, he can be seen as casting his divine eye on his target, and his angry looks will thus launch his thunderbolt from within: that is the sense of the expression at I.13.244 here, ‘and his eyes [augai] are most visible [arizēloi]’ (ἀρίζηλοι δέ οἱ αὐγαί). The noun augai, which means literally ‘lights’, refers here to the eyes of Zeus, as also at I.13.837. On the expression the look of Zeus, see the comment on I.19.003–017. [[GN 2016.11.26.]]


subject heading(s): sēma ‘sign, signal’

The lightning made by Zeus is a sēma ‘sign, signal’ that needs to be interpreted. [[GN 2016.10.13 via GMP 204, 211.]]


subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’

In the immediate context, where Meriones is highlighted as therapōn of Idomeneus, only the surface meaning, ‘attendant’, is evident. [[GN 2016.08.04 via BA 292.]]


subject heading(s): ‘best of the Achaeans’

Here the title ‘best of the Achaeans’ is narrowed in scope: Teukros is ‘best of the Achaeans’ in archery. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 32.]]


subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’

Idomeneus together with Meriones as his therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’ take their stand side by side on the battlefield. [[GN 2016.10.13.]]


subject heading(s): nīkē ‘victory’

The role of Zeus in awarding nīkē ‘victory’ is primary, while the corresponding role of Athena is secondary. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HC 4§109.]]


subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’; hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’

While the hero Asios is fighting pezos ‘on foot’ against the Achaeans, I.13.385, the two horses that draw his chariot are right behind him, practically breathing down his neck—that is, down his shoulders. The driver of the horses is an unnamed hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’, who is described as the therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’ of Asios, I.13.386. After Asios is killed, I.13.386–393, and his corpse is just lying there in front of the horses that once drew his chariot, I.13.392, the focus reverts to the hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’, I.13.394. Still standing on the chariot platform, the chariot driver freezes, failing to turn the chariot around and drive the horse team back to safety, I.13.394–396. The Achaean hero Antilokhos takes this opportunity to spear the chariot driver, who then falls out of the chariot, and now Antilokhos can mount the empty chariot and drive it away himself, horses and all, I.13.396–401. [[GN 2016.10.13.]]


subject heading(s): formulaic variants

Variants like stenakhonta and stenakhonte at I.13.423 can be seen as formulaic—in terms of the overall system of Homeric diction. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HTL 114–115.]]


subject heading(s): thelgein ‘put a trance on, enchant’

In this context, the use of a noun for ‘eyes’ as the direct object of the verb thelgein ‘put a trance on, enchant’ shows the visual connotations that are built into this verb. See the comment on I.02.308, with reference to the omen about the serpent and the nine birds: here the etymology of drakōn ‘serpent’ as ‘the one who looks [derkesthai]’ is relevant. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HC 1§121.]]


subject heading(s): death by Ares

At the very moment when the hero dies here, the war-god Ares literally takes away the hero’s life or menos ‘mental power’. To be compared is I.05.296, where the hero’s menos ‘mental power’ is released from his body at the moment of death. But now we see that the agent for taking away the menos of the hero is Ares. Thus the ultimate killer of the generic hero as warrior is Ares himself, no matter who the immediate killer may be—as in this case, where the killing is performed by the hero Idomeneus with the direct help of the god Poseidon. The role of Ares in taking away the life of the generic hero at the moment of heroic death is relevant to the epithet of heroes as generic warriors: therapontes or ‘ritual substitutes’ of Ares. See the comment on I.02.110. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 294.]]


subject heading(s): mēnis ‘anger’

Besides Achilles, another epic hero who experiences mēnis ‘anger’ is Aeneas, and this hero’s anger is directed at the king Priam. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 73, 265–266, GMP 28.]]


subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’

A nameless therapōn is mentioned here in passing: he happens to be the ‘attendant’ of the hero Agenor. [[GN 2016.08.04.]]


subject heading(s): fire of Hector

See the anchor comment at I.12.198 on: Battle for the Ships, fire of Hector, breaking through the Wall of the Achaeans. [[GN 2016.12.13 via BA 335.]]


subject heading(s): hubristai ‘men of outrage’; atasthalo– ‘reckless’

This insulting epithet hubristai ‘men of outrage’ at I.13.633 is applied here to the Trojans, whose menos ‘mental power’ is said to be atasthalon ‘reckless’, I.13.634. The connotations of these words are comparable to what is said in Pindar Pythian 11.34 about the habrótās ‘luxuriance’ of the Trojans. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 163, PH 290–291.]]


subject heading(s): poinē ‘compensation’.

To be added is a relevant comment. [[GN 2016.10.13 via PH 251.]]


subject heading(s): ship of Protesilaos

At I.15.704–746 we will see more details about the beached ship of Protesilaos. Here at I.13.681, the details are few: the reference to this hero’s ship is followed by a passing reference to the ships of Ajax, likewise beached along the shore, and this extended perspective now leads to a wider view of all these ships, the sterns of which are somehow contiguous with the Wall of the Achaeans, I.13.682–684. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HPC 162.]]


subject heading(s): Ionians in the Homeric Iliad

Here is the only direct reference to Ionians in Homeric Iliad and Odyssey. The juxtaposition of Ionians with Boeotians is significant. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HPC 227 and 227n16.]]


subject heading(s): fire of Hector as a phlox ‘burst of flame’

The comparison of Hector here to a phlox ‘burst of flame’ is relevant to the overall theme of Hector’s fire. See the anchor comment at I.12.198 on: Battle for the Ships, fire of Hector, breaking through the Wall of the Achaeans. [[GN 2016.12.13 via BA 335, 337.]]


subject heading(s): Athenians in the Iliad

It is significant that the Ionians, mentioned only at I.13.685, are drawn into proximity with the Athenians. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HPC 227.]]


subject heading(s): Boeotians in the Iliad

It is also significant that the Ionians and Athenians are together drawn into proximity with the Boeotians. [[GN 2016.10.13 via HPC 227n16.]]


Q&T via GMP 204
subject heading(s): nóos ‘mind’; gignōskein ‘recognize’.

It is said here that the nóos ‘mind’, I.13.732, enables the hero to ‘recognize’, gignōskein, I.13.734. [[GN 2016.10.13 via GMP 204.]]


subject heading(s): epic traditions of the Epigonoi; epic traditions of the Seven against Thebes

The taunting here of Agamemnon by Sthenelos, chariot driver of Diomedes, recalls the epic traditions of the Epigonoi = Sons-of-the-Seven-against-Thebes. See also I.02.119–130 and the comments on those verses. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 163.]]


subject heading(s): fire of Hector

See the anchor comment at I.12.198 on: Battle for the Ships, fire of Hector, breaking through the Wall of the Achaeans. [[GN 2016.12.13 via BA 335, 337.]]


subject heading(s): ‘equal to Ares’

Hector here is said to be īsos or ‘equal’ to Ares. This kind of equating of a hero with the war god will figure prominently in future scenes of mortal combat. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 294.]]


subject heading(s): wishes correlated with premises; aspiration for immortality; antagonism between immortal and mortal

Here is a working translation: ‘|825 If only I could be the child of aegis-bearing Zeus |826 for all days to come, and the Lady Hērā could be my mother, |827 and if only I could be honored [tiesthai] just as Athena and Apollo are honored, |828 —as surely as this day brings misfortune to the Argives, |829 all of them’ (|825 εἰ γὰρ ἐγὼν οὕτω γε Διὸς πάϊς αἰγιόχοιο |826 εἴην ἤματα πάντα, τέκοι δέ με πότνια Ἥρη, |827 τιοίμην δ’ ὡς τίετ’ Ἀθηναίη καὶ Ἀπόλλων, |828 ὡς νῦν ἡμέρη ἥδε κακὸν φέρει Ἀργείοισι |829 πᾶσι μάλ’). Hector expresses his aspiration to be immortal—not only to be the son of the divinities Zeus and Hērā but also to be divine just as Athena and Apollo are divine. On the syntax of the wording here, see the comment on I.18.464–466. Hector’s aspiration typifies a pattern of antagonism between immortal and mortal: see the comments at I.08.538–541 and, further back, at I.06.286–311. [[GN 2016.10.13 via BA 148; also GMP 294–301.]]


subject heading(s): exposition of the dead body to dogs and birds

Hector’s threat, to feed to dogs and birds the corpses of the Achaeans that he expects to kill, shows that he is ready to descend to the depths of brutality, matching the horror of such a prospect as expressed at the very beginning of the epic, Ι.001.003–005. [[GN 2016 via BA 226.]]


Bibliographical Abbreviations

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

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.