A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 17

2016.11.18 / updated 2018.09.20 | By Gregory Nagy

The main preoccupation of the Achaeans here in Iliad 17 is to recover the corpse of Patroklos. Their efforts are understandable, in that they are showing their sense of solidarity by trying to rescue from harm the body of a fellow warrior who has fallen in battle. But the motivation here goes deeper. Patroklos is a cult hero in the making, and the corpses of heroes are essential for establishing hero cults in their honor. And the foreseen status of Patroklos as cult hero prefigures a comparable status for Achilles himself beyond the Iliad.

Copperplate etching (1795) by Tommaso Piroli, after a drawing (1793) by John Flaxman. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Copperplate etching (1795) by Tommaso Piroli, after a drawing (1793) by John Flaxman. Photographed/scanned by H.-P.Haack (Antiquariat Dr. Haack Leipzig) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The main preoccupation of the Achaeans here in Iliad 17 is to recover the corpse of Patroklos. Their efforts are understandable, in that they are showing their sense of solidarity by trying to rescue from harm the body of a fellow warrior who has fallen in battle. But the motivation here goes deeper. Patroklos is a cult hero in the making, and the corpses of heroes are essential for establishing hero cults in their honor. And the foreseen status of Patroklos as cult hero prefigures a comparable status for Achilles himself beyond the Iliad. [[GN 2016.11.18.]]

 

I.17.050–060
subject heading(s): beau mort (a dead body made beautiful by way of a beautiful death, une belle mort)

The hero Euphorbos, fighting on the Trojan side of the war, has just been killed by Menelaos the Achaean. The corpse of Euphorbos is described here as a generic beau mort, that is, as a dead body made beautiful by way of a beautiful death, une belle mort. (See the anchor comment on I.23.184–191 on the salvation of Hector’s body, with reference to Hector as the definitive beau mort of the Iliad.) There are two levels to be seen in the overall wording that describes the corpse of Euphorbos here. First, at I.17.050–051, the beauty of the body is indicated incidentally by way of focusing on a detailed description of the dead hero’s hair. Second, at I.17.53–60, the entire body of the dead hero is compared, by way of simile, to a tender young olive seedling or ernos that has just been uprooted by a violent gust of wind. [[GN 2016.11.17 via HPC 295–296.]]

 

I.17.051–052
Q&T via HPC 296
subject heading(s): kharis as ‘grace’ or as ‘myrtle blossom’

The droplets of blood that are foregrounded on the hair of the fallen hero Euphorbos are compared here to kharites, plural of kharis, which can mean ‘grace’ or ‘gracefulness’ in general but also, far more specifically in some Greek dialects, ‘myrtle blossom’ (scholia D [via A] for I.17.051). It is as if the besprinkling of the dead hero’s hair with droplets of his own blood could be pictured as a foregrounding of red myrtle blossoms against a background of green darkness. [[GN 2016.11.18 via HPC 296 [with n80] and MoM 4§146.]]

 

I.17.053–060
subject heading(s): ernos ‘seedling’; lament

The comparison of the dead Euphorbos to an olive seedling or ernos that has just been uprooted by a violent gust of wind corresponds to conventional descriptions of the dead in songs of lament. For more on such descriptions, see the comment on I.18.051–060. [[GN 2016.11.18 via of BA 183.]]

 

I.17.072
subject heading(s): equal to Ares

Hector is said to be atalantos or ‘equal’ to Ares. Such a description here is part of a buildup to the eventual confrontation between Hector, who will be wearing the old armor of Achilles, and Achilles himself, who will in turn be wearing his own new armor. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 294.]]

 

I.17.088
subject heading(s): phlox ‘burst of flame’

Hector is compared here to a phlox ‘burst of flame’ streaming from Hephaistos as god of fire. See also I.13.688 and I.16.122–124 on the fire of Hector as a phlox ‘burst of flame’. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 337.]]

 

I.17.098–101
tagging: pēma ‘pain’; kulindesthai ‘roll’

The death of Patroklos is viewed here retrospectively as a great pēma ‘pain’, I.17.099, that is sure to kulindesthai ‘roll’ down from the heights like some boulder and destroy anyone daring to attack a warrior who is being protected by a god. On the metaphor of such a pēma ‘pain’ as a boulder that ‘rolls’ down from the heights, see the comment on I.11.347. In the present context, I.17.098–101, the pēma ‘pain’ has descended upon Patroklos, who has dared to attack Hector while that warrior was being protected by Apollo. This pēma ‘pain’ for Patroklos prefigures what will happen to Achilles himself beyond the Iliad when he dares to attack Paris while that warrior is in turn being protected by Apollo. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 63, 77.]]

 

I.17.164
subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’; ‘best of the Achaeans’

In this retrospective, it is said that Patroklos has been killed as a therapōn of Achilles, who is described here as ‘best of the Achaeans’. The immediate context accommodates here even the deeper meaning of therapōn as ‘ritual substitute’, since Patroklos himself could become temporarily the ‘best of the Achaeans’ at the moment of his death. At that moment, he is substituting himself for Achilles by prefiguring a future moment, beyond the Iliad, when Achilles will die in a way that matches the way that Patroklos died in Iliad 16. [[GN 2016.08.04 via BA 292–293.]]

 

I.17.165
subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’; ankhe-makhoi ‘fighting side by side’

The Argives=Achaeans are described here as attended by therapontes who are ankhe-makhoi ‘fighting side by side’ with them. [[GN 2016.08.4 via the comment on I.16.272.]]

 

I.17.176–178
subject heading(s): nīkē ‘victory’

In most Homeric situations it is Zeus who is primarily responsible for heroic victory. [[GN 2016.11.18 via HC 4§109.]]

 

I.17.187
subject heading(s): biē ‘force, violence, strength’; kleos ‘glory’

Like other names containing the element kleos ‘glory’ in Homeric diction, the name of Patroklos=Patrokleēs can have a periphrastic alternative, as here: ‘the biē of Patroklos’. Comparable is the periphrasis of the name Hērakléēs as biē Hēraklēeíē, or of the name Eteokléēs as bíē Eteoklēeíē. See the comments on I.02.658 and I.04.386. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 319.]]

 

I.17.194–214
Q&T via MoM 1§101
subject heading(s): armor of Achilles; Will of Zeus; metonymy; lament; sorrows of Andromache; Plan of Zeus; plot of the Iliad; narrative arc; metonymy; theo-eroticism

When Zeus sees Hector putting on the armor of Achilles, he nods his divine head, thus signaling his will, which in this case is a specific plan to make into a part of the overall narrative a special scene where the death of Hector at the hands of Achilles will cause grief for Andromache, who will never get see Hector wearing the armor of Achilles—since her husband will never return to her alive. Instead of welcoming back her husband in Iliad 22, Andromache will be lamenting him, and the wording at I.22.444 in the context of her impending lament at I.22.476–515 is already prefigured here at I.17.207, referring to the wife’s fond hope to be reunited with her loving husband. See also the comment on I.22.444. Thus the Will of Zeus, the god’s plan, is to create an exquisite artistic effect. Zeus plans here to put in motion a scene of sublime poetic virtuosity, since the epic narrative in Iliad 22 will soon re-enact the lyrical lament of Andromache over the death of Hector, I.22.476–515. Here at I.17.194–214, Zeus is speaking as if he were already the director of the scenario for such a future scene of lament. The god is in effect prefiguring the scene here by way of formally announcing his artistic involvement. Such an involvement can be seen as a kind of metonymic contact with the emotions of Andromache. On the metonymy here, see also the comment on I.01.528–530. See also under metonymy in the Inventory of terms and names. [[GN 2016.11.18 via MoM 1§101; also HC 1§203 and 4§269; also HPC 127.]]

 

I.17.194–197
subject heading(s): armor of Achilles

The armor that was given to Achilles by his immortal mother is immortalizing, whereas the armor that was given to him by his mortal father, the ash spear, symbolizes the hero’s mortality. On the ash spear, see the comment on I.16.140–144. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 158–159.]]

 

I.17.194
subject heading(s): armor of Achilles; ambroto- immortalizing

The armor of Achilles, which had covered the body of Patroklos and which is now about to cover the body of Hector, is not just ‘immortal’: it is ‘immortalizing’. It will make you immortal unless it stops covering you, as when this armor falls off the body of Patroklos in the course of his death scene as narrated in Iliad 16. On the semantics of ambroto– as ‘immortalizing’, see the comment on I.16.670. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 173, 294, 325.]]

 

I.17.211
subject heading(s): Enūalios

The name Enūalios can function as an epithet of Ares as war god. In other contexts, the same name can refer to a separate divine personality, likewise a war god. [[GN 2016.11.18 via HPC 290.]]

 

I.17.213-214

Hector here is quite the picture, looking like Achilles because he wears the armor of Achilles. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 294.]]

 

I.17.271
subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’

Another retrospective: Patroklos has been killed as a therapōn of Achilles. [[GN 2016.08.04 via the comment at I.17.164; see also BA 292.]]

 

I.17.279–280
subject heading(s): ‘best of the Achaeans’

Ajax is described here as second-best to Achilles both in looks and in deeds. [[GN 2016.11.118 via BA 32.]]

 

I.17.319–322
subject heading(s): kratos ‘winning-power’; aisa ‘portion; fate, destiny’

Here the Achaeans almost win the Trojan War. But that would be premature. In terms of the ordained narrative, such an event of winning would be ‘in-disaccord-with [huper] the portion [aisa] of Zeus’ (ὑπὲρ Διὸς αἶσαν), I.17.321. That is, the aisa or ‘apportionment’ of victory or defeat to the Achaeans and to the Trojans by Zeus is up to Zeus. Zeus gets to decide according to the plan of Zeus. And that plan cannot be contradicted, since the plot of the Homeric Iliad must be the Will of Zeus. For more on the expression huper aisan ‘in disaccord with aisa’ (ὑπὲρ αἶσαν), see the comment on I.03.059. And, since the victory of the Achaeans depends on the Will of Zeus, the very idea that the Achaeans could win ‘by way of their own winning-power [kratos]’ (κάρτεϊ καὶ σθένεϊ σφετέρῳ)—such an idea is entertained at I.17.322—is an impossibility, since kratos ‘winning-power’ comes from the gods in the logic of Homeric diction. On this logic, see the comments on I.01.509 and I.11.317–319. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 82.]]

 

I.17.331–332
subject heading(s): nīkē ‘victory’

Apollo, disguised as a Trojan, is claiming that Zeus still ‘wishes’, as expressed by the verb bouletai at I.17.331, to give nīkē ‘victory’ to the Trojans instead of the Achaeans, I.17.332. On the basis of what is humanly perceivable by the Trojan whom the god is impersonating here, this claim is still true, but the truth of the claim is not to last. [[GN 2016.11.18 via HC 4§109.]]

 

I.17.388
subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’

Yet another retrospective: Patroklos has been killed as a therapōn of Achilles. [[GN 2016.08.04 via the comment at I.17.164; see also BA 292.]]

 

I.17.411
subject heading(s): ascending scale of affection; philos (plural philoi) ‘near and dear’; philtatos ‘nearest and dearest’; hetairos ‘companion’

Thetis, the divine mother of Achilles, had foretold some things to her mortal son, but she did not foretell the death of Patroklos, described here as the philtatos ‘nearest and dearest’ of all the hetairoi ‘companions’ of Achilles. For Achilles, his ascending scale of affection evolves in such a way as to show that Patroklos turns out to be at the very top of this scale. See the comments on I.09.193–198, I.09.522, I.09.524–599, I.09.642. In those passages, it still seems as if the three companions who approach Achilles as ambassadors should be at the very top of his scale. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 105, PH 253.]]

 

I.17.432
subject heading(s): Hellespont

The Hellespont is pictured here, in a general way, as the station of Achilles. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 343.]]

 

I.17.456
subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’

The horses that draw the chariot of Achilles are energized by the menos ‘mental power’ that Zeus literally breathes into them. Their animal mentality can now enable them to perform physically what they need to do, which is, to draw the chariot of Achilles away from danger. In other contexts, heroes are energized by the menos ‘mental power’ that gods breathe into them, and such an enhanced human mentality enables them to perform physically their heroic deeds. See the comments on I.10.482, I.11.508, I.12.018, I.15.059–060, I.15.262. [[GN 2016.11.18 via GMP 114, 116.]]

 

I.17.474–483
subject heading(s): apobatic maneuvers

Automedon, who has been the chariot driver for Patroklos, calls out to Alkimedon to take his place as the driver, since he now wants to become the chariot fighter, thus stepping off the platform of the chariot, as indicated by the verb apobainein ‘step off’, I.17.480. For background on apobatic maneuvers in chariot warfare, see Nagy 2015.05.01, 2015.05.08, 2015.05.15, 2015.05.20. The new relationship of Automedon and Alkimedon as chariot fighter and chariot driver respectively is relevant to the potential function of the chariot driver as a ritual substitute for the chariot rider. See the comment on I.04.227. [[GN 2016.11.18 via PH 211.]]

 

I.17.547–549
subject heading(s): name of Iris; “speaking name” (nomen loquens)

The name of Îris (῏Ιρις), the goddess who functions as divine messenger, is a “speaking name” (nomen loquens), deriving from the root *– as in īs ‘force, violence, strength’. This word īs and also the word biē, which likewise means ‘force, violence, strength’, is conventionally associated with the power of winds, as at I.17.739 and at I.16.213 respectively. Likewise, the goddess Iris herself is powered by windspeed, as we see from the expression podēnemos ōkea Îris (ποδήνεμος ὠκέα Ἶρις) ‘Iris swift with feet of wind’ at I.18.196 and elsewhere. [[GN 2017.07.20 via BA 327.]]

 

I.17.565
subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’

Hector is said to have the menos ‘mental power’ of fire itself. See the comment on I.12018, where it is noted that forces of nature can have a mind of their own, as it were, because they are connected to the mental power of divinities who control the cosmos and to whom humans using their own mental power can pray for the activation of such control. One such natural force is fire, as at I.06.182 and here at I.17.565. [[GN 2016.11.18 via GMP 114.]]

 

I.17.627
subject heading(s): nīkē ‘victory’

Even at this relatively late stage in the plot of the Iliad, Zeus is still being perceived as giving nīkē ‘victory’ to the Trojans, not to the Achaeans. [[GN 2016.11.18 via HC 4§109.]]

 

I.17.655
subject heading(s): ascending scale of affection; philos (plural philoi) ‘near and dear’; philtatos ‘nearest and dearest’; hetairos ‘companion’

Once again, Patroklos is described here as the philtatos ‘nearest and dearest’ of all the hetairoi ‘companions’ of Achilles. In his ascending scale of affection, then, Achilles holds Patroklos at the very top. See the comment on I.17.411. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 105, PH 253.]]

 

I.17.685–690
subject heading(s): pēma ‘pain’; kulindein ‘roll’; ‘best of the Achaeans’; nīkē ‘victory’; pothē ‘longing’; hero cult; cult hero

The news of the death of Patroklos is being poetically formulated here. This death is a pēma ‘pain’, I.17.688, which a god has ‘rolled’ down, as expressed by way of the verb kulindein, upon the Achaeans. See the comment on I.11.347, where we see that this pain is pictured as some boulder that has broken away from the heights above and is now about to crush anyone and anything that stands in the way. And what is this pain? It is the death of the ‘best of the Achaeans’, who is identified here as Patroklos, ritual substitute of Achilles. And the pain caused by this death will cause in turn a pothē ‘longing’ for the hero who has fallen. This noun pothē ‘longing’, like the verb potheîn ‘long for’, evokes the feelings of those who worship cult heroes: see the comment on I.02.695–709. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 33, 63, 77.]]

 

I.17.736–741
subject heading(s): selas ‘flash of light’, īs ‘force, violence, strength’

The heat of battle is being compared here to the fire of lightning, I.17.737, in a thunderstorm that ravages the habitations of humankind with its selas ‘flash of light’ amidst the īs ‘force, violence, strength’ of a storm wind, I.17.739. For the special significance of this powerful word selas ‘flash of light’, see the comment on I.19.003–017. [[GN 2016.11.18 via BA 321.]]

 

 


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.


Bibliography

See the dynamic Bibliography for AHCIP .


Inventory of terms and names

See the dynamic Inventory of terms and names for AHCIP.



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