A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 14

2016.10.20 / updated 2018.09.11 | By Gregory Nagy

The momentum of the attacking Trojan warriors gets stalled here, since Hērā interrupts the ongoing Plan of Zeus. The goddess seduces the god, and the setting for their divine sexual encounter is the spectacular landscape of Mount Ida, which is the private abode of the thundering almighty. During the tryst of the god and the goddess, the Achaeans regain the upper hand in the fighting. But this new momentum is soon headed for a downturn. The divine interruption, despite all its cosmic sexual energy, becomes retrospectively a mere interlude in the narrative arc of the Iliad—once the tryst is over and the Plan of Zeus resumes its relentless course of action. [[GN 2016.10.19.]]

Juno and Jupiter. Detail from "Loves of the Gods," fresco by Annibale Carracci (1560–1609). Annibale Carracci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carracci_-_Jupiter_et_Junon.jpeg.
Juno and Jupiter. Detail from “Loves of the Gods,” fresco by Annibale Carracci (1560–1609). Annibale Carracci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carracci_-_Jupiter_et_Junon.jpeg.

subject heading(s): bay of the Hellespont; headquarters of the Achaeans; naustathmon ‘ship-station’; micro-Iliad; First Song of Demodokos; sterns of the Achaeans ships; Scamander; klisiā ‘shelter’; Hellespont; eris ‘strife’; post-heroic age

Nestor here reconnects with Agamemnon and other leaders of the Achaeans at their headquarters, I.14.027–028. The headquarters are pictured as a massing of ships beached on the shores of the south end of the bay of the Hellespont, and this location has been reconstructed in the comments on I.08.220–227, I.11.005–016, and I.11.806–808. But there is now an added detail to be noted here at I.14.030–032: the ships had been beached with their sterns facing inland and their prows facing out toward the waters, so that the Wall of the Achaeans, built ten years after the original beaching of the ships, was made to be contiguous with the sterns of the ships lined up along the southern shores of the bay of the Hellespont. See also the comment at I.15.385. As for the other ships of the Achaeans, they had been beached along the shores of the rest of the U-shaped bay, as we read at I.14.033–036. See the comment on those verses. These other ships, then, are peripheral to the ships beached at the central shoreline of the bay, which are pictured as the headquarters of the Achaeans. And these headquarers, as noted in the comment on I.11.806–808, are called the naustathmon ‘ship-station’ by Strabo 13.1.31–32 C595 (quoted at HPC 153) and 13.1.36 C598 (quoted at HPC 154). Also, as noted in the comments on I.11.806–808, Homeric poetry pictures such a ‘station’ as a political and sacral centerpoint for the leaders of the Achaeans. See also the comments on I.08.220–227. It is this central station that becomes the political stage of Agamemnon when he stands on the beached ship of Odysseus and projects his voice of authority to all the Achaeans stationed at their ships, I.08.220–227. And it is this central station, we will see later in more detail, that becomes the prime target of the Trojan hero Hector when he succeeds in penetrating the Achaean Wall. Also in a later comment, there will be more to say about the sharing of this central space by two figures in particular, Agamemnon and Odysseus. The joint participation of these two Homeric heroes in the innermost political zone that is marked by this spatial centerpoint is homologous with their engagement in two epic quarrels involving Achilles as a political outsider: the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad, it can be argued, is linked with the quarrel between Achilles and Odysseus in the “micro-Iliad” at O.08.072–083, which is the First Song of Demodokos (BA 42–58). [[GN 2016.10.19 via HPC 160–162.]]


subject heading(s): nōnumnoi ‘nameless’

Again, as at I.13.227, 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 Hesiodic poetry, see the comment on I.12.079. [[GN 2016.10.19 via BA 157.]]


subject heading(s): kosmos ‘order, arrangement’

As Hērā readies herself for her sexual encounter with Zeus, her cosmetic self-adornment is pictured here as a cosmic ‘arrangement’, kosmos, of beauty. [[GN 2016.10.19 via PH 145.]]


subject heading(s): hieros gamos ‘sacred sexual intercourse’

Hērā’s wording here rationalizes her initiating a sexual encounter with Zeus. The idea of such an encounter is conventionally known as hieros gamos—in the sense of ‘sacred sexual intercourse’ (as in Theocritus 17.131). From the dramatic standpoint of the immediate narrative context, Hērā is making up what she is saying; in the comments that follow, however, it is argued that the wording of the goddess here derives from genuine theogonic traditions centering on the idea of sacred intercourse as an act of cosmogonic creation. [[GN 2016.10.19 via HC 2§145n147.]]


subject heading(s): Ōkeanos

Highlighted in the comments so far on the cosmic river Ōkeanos is the role of this world-encircling fresh-water stream as a boundary delimiting light from darkness, wakefulness from sleep, life from death. Such delimitations, as we have seen, are elaborated poetically in contexts that picture the rising of the sun out of the waters of the Ōkeanos at sunrise—after its setting into these same waters at sunset. See the comments on I.07.421–423 and I.08.485–486. And now, in the context of a scene that evokes the themes of hieros gamos ‘sacred sexual intercourse’, we find that the role of Ōkeanos evokes also the themes of theogony and cosmogony. (On theme, see the Inventory of terms and names.) These themes are conveyed by wording that points to the role of Ōkeanos as a personified god who combines with a personified goddess Tēthus in prototypically initiating a genesis ‘generating’ of gods, as we see here at I.14.201, and even a genesis ‘generating’ of all things, as we will see at I.14.245–246–246a. [[GN 2016.10.19 via BA 196, HC 2§§132, 140, 144, 146, with reference also to Plato Cratylus 402a-d and Theaetetus 152e.]]


subject heading(s): aphthito– ‘imperishable, unwilting’

The goddess Hērā promises to commission the making of a beautiful thronos ‘throne’, I.14.238. The maker will be the divine artisan Hephaistos, son of Hērā, I.14.239–240. This throne made by the god will be aphthito– ‘imperishable’, and this imperishability will last aiei ‘forever’, I.14.238. Also, this throne will be khrūseo– ‘golden’, I.14.239. On the combination of aphthito– ‘imperishable’ and khrūseo– ‘golden’ in symbolizing the artificial continuum of immortality, see BA 179. The Greek combination of the adjective áphthito– ‘imperishable’ with the adverb aieí ‘always’ here is comparable to the Indic combination of the adjective ákṣita– ‘imperishable’ with the adjective viśvā́yur ‘lasting for all ages’ at RigVeda 1.9.7: the form viśvā́yur is the neuter of viśvā́yus-, agreeing with śrávas ‘glory, fame’. (Full argumentation in GMP 123–126 for interpreting viśvā́yur as a neuter and not masculine adjective in this context: it goes with śrávas ‘glory, fame’ and not, as some have argued, with the name of the god Indra.) The element ā́yus– in this Indic form is cognate with Greek aiṓn ‘life-force, lifetime’, the original locative singular of which became the adverb aieí, meaning ‘forever’. See the note on I.01.052. The formulaic combination áphthiton aieí is attested elsewhere as well in Homeric diction, at I.02.046 and at I.02.186. And there is even an instance of the combination kléos áphthiton aieí ‘a glory that is imperishable forever’ in an archaic piece of poetry inscribed in the seventh century BCE: κλεFος απθιτον αιFει, DGE no. 316. This combination brings us back to the wording κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται = kléos áphthiton éstai ‘there will be an imperishable glory’ at I.09.413. To be noted again is the parallelism between the Greek combination of the adjective áphthiton ‘imperishable’ with the noun kléos ‘glory, fame’ at I.09.413 and the Indic combination of the adjective ákṣita– ‘imperishable’ with the noun śrávas ‘glory, fame’ at RigVeda 1.9.7 (full argumentation in GMP 123–126). [[GN 2016.10.19.]]


Q&T via 2§149, where these verses are quoted by Plutarch On the face in the moon 938d
subject heading(s): Ōkeanos; “plus verse”

Our source for this set of verses, I.14.245–246–246a, is Plutarch On the face in the moon 938d, whose narrative provides a context for including verse 246a in such a set. Without the testimony of Plutarch, we would not know about this verse, since it does not survive in the medieval manuscript tradition. But it had survived, as we know from Plutarch, in the text of the Homeric Iliad as edited by Crates of Mallos, Director of the Library of Pergamon (see under Crates in the Inventory of terms and names). In that text, verse 246 of Iliad 14 was followed by another verse, labeled as 246a in modern editions:

I.14.246          Ὠκεανός, ὅσπερ γένεσις πάντεσσι τέτυκται
I.14.246a        ἀνδράσιν ἠδὲ θεοῖς, πλείστην <τ᾿> ἐπὶ γαῖαν ἵησιν

Taken together, these verses can be translated this way:

I.14.246          … Ōkeanos, who has been fashioned as genesis for all
I.14.246a        men and gods, and he flows over the Earth in all her fullness.

What is said about Ōkeanos in the “plus-verse” I.14.246a as attested here by Crates is closely related to what we find in poetic traditions attributed to Orpheus. The existence of such Orphic traditions is clearly attested in relevant quotations and paraphrases made by Plato, especially in Cratylus 402a-c regarding the role of Ōkeanos as a primordial source of creation. Details in HPC 2§§128–147. As for Crates (F 20 ed. Broggiato 2001), he cited the “plus verse” I.14.246a as evidence in arguing for his theory that the Ōkeanos was a salt-water Ocean covering a spherical Earth. For Crates, then, these verses at I.14.245–246–246a about the Ōkeanos were an essential part of an allegory about the cosmos. According to this theory of Crates, the earth was a sphere, located at the center of a universe that was likewise spherical. Crates evidently interpreted in a modernizing sense the expression at I.14.246a: ‘[which flows] over most of the earth’ (πλείστην … ἐπὶ γαῖαν). In other words, the salt-water ocean covers most of the spherical Earth. This theory was opposed by Aristarchus, Director of the Library of Alexandria (see under Aristarchus in the Inventory of terms and names), who viewed the Homeric Ōkeanos as a fresh-water river surrounding an Earth that is circular and flat (HC 2§150). See further my comment at HC 2§153 about this dispute between Crates and Aristarchus. What was at stake, as I say in my comment there, was no trivial matter. In this case, in fact, the stakes were of cosmic proportions. Both sides of the dispute were attempting to establish their theories of the cosmos by way of deciding the rightness or wrongness of different variants in the text of Homer. I find it ironic, I went on to say, that I am describing this ancient state of affairs in an era when it appears fashionable to dismiss Homeric textual variations as “trivial,” “banal,” and even “boring.” There will be more to say in my comment on I.18.478–609, in the context of the Shield of Achilles in Iliad 18, about the conceptualization of Ōkeanos as some primordial work of art as suggested by the verb tetuktai (τέτυκται) ‘has been fashioned’ here at I.14:244. For more on the narrative that is taking shape at I.14.245–246–246a, see the comment on I.14.301–302. [[GN 2016.10.19 via HC 2§§149–157.]]


subject heading(s): swearing by the Styx

Gods can take an irrevocable oath in the form of swearing by the waters of the underworld river Styx, which is what the goddess Hērā is asked to perform here at I.14.271–276 and which she actually does perform at I.14.277–280. See further in the comment on I.15.037–038. [[GN 2016.10.27.]]


subject heading(s): a view from Lesbos

The visualization of the landscape here, as the narrative views the goddess Hērā traveling toward Mount Ida, corresponds to what you would see if you looked due north while standing on the north shore of the island of Lesbos. Across the sea, beyond the strait separating this island from the mainland to the north, is the shoreline of the region leading uphill to the heights of Mount Ida. Just as you are looking north from the shores of Lesbos when you see that skyline, so also Hērā is traveling north as she hastens to arrive at her point of assignation with the mighty thunderer on the peaks of Mount Ida. This view from Lesbos, then, shows an Aeolian poetic vantage point in visualizing the narrative space of Troy in its entirety. [[GN 2016.10.19 via HPC 182.]]


Q&T via 2§132 / 2§140, where I.14.302 (= I.14.201) is quoted by Plato Cratylus 402a-d / Theaetetus 152e
subject heading(s): Ōkeanos

The goddess Hērā refers here at I.14.302 to the cosmic river Ōkeanos as the ‘genesis of the gods’ (θεῶν γένεσιν). This reference is a continuation of the earlier reference at I.14.246 to Ōkeanos as a god ‘who has been fashioned as genesis for all’ (ὅς περ γένεσις πάντεσσι τέτυκται). Supplementing my comment on I.14.245–246–246a. I now offer further comment on those verses in the context of the narrative as it continues here at I.14.301–302. What follows is an epitome of what I have to say in HC 2§§156–157. I start with I.14.246, where the immediate point is this: Ōkeanos is a primal ancestor of the gods Zeus and Hērā. At I.14.246a, this theme is developed further: Ōkeanos is a primal force that ultimately generated humans as well as gods, and this force pervades the earth. (On theme, see the Inventory of terms and names.)  Such a theme is actually implicit already at I.14.246, even without the explicit amplification of I.14.246a: the adjective pantessi (πάντεσσι) ‘all’ at I.14.246 implies that Ōkeanos is the father of not only ‘all’ gods but also, by extension, ‘all’ men. There is a parallel idea in Homeric references to Zeus himself as the ‘father’ of gods and men, patēr andrōn te theōn te, as at I.01.544, and so on. Further, the noun genesis (γένεσις) in the same verse, I.14.246, which I translated above by using the English borrowing ‘genesis’, implies a depersonalized cosmic power that generates not only all gods and all men but also all things. The idea that Ōkeanos is the ‘genesis’ of all is ultimately not so much the expression of an interpersonal relationship, such as parenthood in the immediate narrative context, but of a depersonalized cosmic creation, a cosmogony. Thus the adjective pantessi (πάντεσσι) ‘all’ is in fact all-inclusive, even without I.14.246a. I should add that there is nothing non-Homeric about picturing the Ōkeanos simultaneously as an anthropomorphic father of gods and as a cosmic source for everything on earth. The cosmogonic themes of I.14.246-246a, less explicit as read by Aristarchus without 246a and more explicit as read by Crates with 246a, are in any case deeply rooted in the Homeric tradition. The more explicit Homeric readings of Crates reflect, more clearly than the corresponding readings of Aristarchus, an earlier phase in the evolution of the Homeric tradition. I propose that Crates derived “plus verses” like I.14.246a from a “Homerus Auctus,” on which I have this to say at HC 2§178: “a verse like [I.14.246a], stemming from a Homerus Auctus as edited by Crates in Pergamon, need not be dismissed as an interpolation from Homeric editions that had been contaminated, as it were, by Orphic traditions. The Homerus Auctus need not be viewed as an editorial conflation of incompatible texts but as a preedited corpus of undifferentiated oral traditions that later became differentiated into distinct textual traditions that we recognize as Orphic, Hesiodic, Cyclic, and even Homeric.” On the term “Orphic” as I use it here, see the comment on I.14.245–246–246a above. [[GN 2016.10.19 via HC 2§§156–157; also BA 196 and GMP 237.]]


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

After Hector faints, he ‘comes to’, as it were, and now his life’s breath returns to him. The verb that expresses this idea of revival is ana-pneîn (ἀμπνύνθη)—variant en-pneîn (ἐμπνύνθη)—in the sense of ‘taking a breath’—‘breathing in’. See the comment on I.05.795. [[GN 2016.10.19 via BA 168.]]


subject heading(s): poinē ‘compensation’

To be added is a relevant comment. [[GN 2016.10.19 via PH 251.]]


subject heading(s): re-invocation of Muse(s); ennepein ‘narrate, tell’; Mousa ‘Muse’; singing as narrating
lemmatizing: ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχουσαι

This re-invocation of the Muses signals a false start, since the interlude of the sexual encounter between Zeus and Hērā has resulted in a reversal of fortunes that is not to last for long. Right now, while Zeus is asleep after having made love to Hērā, the temporary intervention of Poseidon on the side of the Achaeans results in a compressed sequence of clipped narratives featuring only a few personal victories for only a few Achaean heroes. At I.14.509–510, the Master Narrator is asking the Muses: which one of the Achaeans has the first of these personal victories? The answer comes right away at I.14.511: Ajax son of Telamon is the first. What follows at I.14.511–512 is a most abbreviated narrative about this personal victory of Ajax, and what follows after that is a string of comparably abbreviated narratives about further personal victories achieved by five other Achaeans, I.14.513–522. Then, once these abbreviated narratives are completed, Iliad 14 comes to a hasty end. As soon as Iliad 15 begins, Zeus will be waking up, I.15.004–005. But before the god awakens, we see within the abbreviated space of I.14.513-522 a series of five more Achaeans achieving their own personal victories. Their victories, together with the initial victory of Ajax, are narrated at a pace that is noticeably hurried. There is no time to lose, and that is because, as already noted, Zeus will soon be waking up, I.15.004–005. Once the god does awaken, the momemtum will belong once again to the Trojans. So, the Achaeans benefit here only from a temporary upswing, which will soon be followed by another downswing.

Bibliographical Abbreviations

BA       = Best of the Achaeans, Nagy 1979/1999.

DGE     = Schwyzer 1923.

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.