A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 8

2016.08.18 / updated 2018.09.08 | By Gregory Nagy

In my comments here on Rhapsody 8, I sense I am not far from reaching a critical mass of details that shed light on the unity and integrity of the Homeric Iliad. With the upcoming comments on Rhapsody 9, this sense will I hope reach a definitive stage.

“Hera, Athena and Iris in the Trojan War," Jacques Réattu (1760–1833). Image via Wikimedia Commons.
“Hera, Athena, and Iris in the Trojan War,” Jacques Réattu (1760–1833). Image via Wikimedia Commons.


In my comments here on Rhapsody 8, I sense I am not far from reaching a critical mass of details that shed light on the unity and integrity of the Homeric Iliad. With the upcoming comments on Rhapsody 9, this sense will I hope reach a definitive stage. [[GN 2016.08.18.]]


subject heading(s): terpi-keraunos ‘he whose bolt strikes’

I.08.002/ anchor comment on: terpi-keraunos ‘he whose bolt strikes’
This compound noun terpi-kéraunos, interpreted here as ‘he whose bolt strikes’, is an epithet that applies exclusively to Zeus: a parallel epithet, also applied exclusively to Zeus, is the compound noun argi-kéraunos at Ι.19.121, I.20.016, I.22.178, which can be interpreted to mean ‘he whose bolt shines’ (GMP 195). Both epithets fit Zeus in his role as a thunder-god. The second part of both compounds terpi-kéraunos and argi-kéraunos is clearly derived from keraunós ‘thunder’, and the first part of argi-kéraunos is clearly related to arg‑ós (earlier *argr‑ós) ‘shining, speeding’, but the first part of terpi-kéraunos seems at first unclear. Related forms in other Indo-European languages, however, help elucidate the meaning of terpi‑ as combined with keraunós. In the case of keraunós, we find in the Baltic and Slavic branches of Indo-European the parallel forms perkūnas and perunŭ respectively, both of which are nouns meaning ‘thunder’ and/or ‘god of thunder’. Although the Greek and the Baltic/Slavic roots here, *kerh₂(u̯)‑ and *per(kʷ)‑ respectively, are different in form, they are parallel in meaning, ‘strike’, and the morphology of their suffixation is also parallel (GMP 194–195). As for the terpi‑ of terpi‑kéraunos, we find a comparable form in the Italic branch of Indo-European: it is the Latin noun quercus, meaning ‘oak tree’. This form, it can be argued, refers to the defining sacred moment when a thunderbolt strikes an oak tree: here the root of the u-stem noun quercus, from *perkʷu‑, is *perkʷ‑, meaning ‘strike’ (GMP 186). So, terpi‑kéraunos can be derived from *erpikéraunos via metathesis from *perkʷikéraunos. [[GN 2016.08.16 via GMP 181–201; see also Nagy 2010:337.]]


subject heading(s): kḗr ‘cut, slice, portion, fated death’; talanta ‘scales’ of Zeus; selas ‘flash of light’; Will of Zeus

The momentum of the fighting between the Achaeans and Trojans is hanging in the balance—until high noon arrives, at which point Zeus decides to get out his golden talanta ‘scales’, I.08.69, as he readies to weigh who will win and who will lose. In just a moment, the balance will be tipped in favor of the Trojans. As we see at I.08.070, Zeus had put two kêre ‘portions’ at either end of the scales. Or, to say it etymologically, there are two ‘slices’ that are being weighed at either end, since the noun kḗr is derived from the verb keirein ‘cut, slice’. You can slice it both ways, life or death. Right from the start, though, the slicing is viewed negatively, and that is why at I.08.070 the two slices that Zeus weighs on the scales are already both viewed as ‘slices of death’. For the moment, though, these slices are not yet really ‘slices of death’, since the action is still only at the tipping point, and the outcome is supposedly still in the balance. But the negative connotations of the word kḗr in Homeric diction, which regularly means ‘fated death’ in the singular, as at I.18.118, have already predetermined the prematurely negative view of the fate that now awaits the Achaeans. Once the tipping actually gets underway, the slices for the Achaeans now sink downward at I.08.073–074, while the slices for the Trojans lift upward at I.08.074. So now the ‘slices of death’ are meant for the Achaeans, not for the Trojans. For the Achaeans, both original slices now mean death, and, in fact, the originally single slice on the Achaean side of the scales can now be viewed as many slices for the many fighters. Many of these fighters will die, and so the original kḗr or ‘fate of death’ for the Achaeans cannot any longer be seen as a singularity. Now the slices can be viewed distributively: different Achaeans will get different slices of death, and that is why the single slice that had been pictured at each end of the scale at I.08.070 can now become the plural kêres ‘slices’ of death for the Achaeans at I.08.073. Then at I.08.075 Zeus thunders from on high on top of Mount Ida, and he sends at I.08.075–076 a flaming thunderbolt toward the Achaeans. At I.08.076, the word for the thunderbolt is selas, meaning literally a ‘flash of light’. We see here the first occurrence of the word selas ‘flash of light’ in the Iliad. In occurrences to come, we will see that this powerful word signals the Will of Zeus. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 334–336, 338.]]


subject heading(s): hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’; parēoros ‘trace horse’; Nestor’s entanglement; evocation; epic Cycle
What follows is a general commentary on these verses; what follows after that is an anchor commentary on Nestor’s entanglement and the poetics of evocation.

Seeing the lightning sent by Zeus, I.08.076, the Achaean chieftains are now thunderstruck with fear, I.08.076–077. Mentioned by name at I.08.078–079 as those chieftains who now retreat in terror are Idomeneus, Agamemnon, and the two Ajaxes. Only Nestor, it is said, does not retreat, though not because he does not want to: he simply cannot retreat because his chariot has been immobilized, I.08.080-086. The trace horse of Nestor’s chariot team of three horses has been shot dead by Paris and has fallen down violently to the ground, I.08.080-086. The old hero, drawing his sword, is now struggling to cut himself loose from the parēoriai ‘traces’ that were connected to the fallen horse and that have now entangled the chariot team, I.08.087–088. This trace horse, not named, is analogous to the trace horse of Achilles, named Pedasos, who is killed at a much later point in the Iliad, in a scene of chariot fighting that takes place at I.16.466–476. In that scene, a spear thrown by Sarpedon in the course of his chariot fight with Patroklos hits Pedasos instead of Patroklos, I.16.466–468. At I.16.471 and at I.16.474, the narrative there refers to Pedasos explicitly as the parēoros ‘trace horse’ of a three-horse chariot team. As a trace horse, Pedasos is not attached to the yoke that attaches the other two horses to the chariot. This distinction is made clear at a slightly earlier moment, I.16.145–154, leading up to the chariot fight. At this moment, the premier chariot driver of Achilles, Automedon, is harnessing for Patroklos the war chariot of Achilles. On this chariot, Automedon and Patroklos will be riding off together as chariot rider and chariot fighter respectively. At this slightly earlier moment, we see that there are two immortal horses of Achilles, Xanthos and Balios, who are attached to the yoke of the chariot, I.16.148–149, while the mortal trace horse Pedasos is simply connected to the parēoriai ‘traces’, I.16.152. At this same moment, I.16.153, a significant detail is added about Pedasos: this horse had been captured once upon a time by Achilles when that hero killed the horse’s former owner, who was Eëtion the father of Andromache. Then, at I.16.466–469, when Pedasos is killed by the spear-throw of Sarpedon and falls violently to the ground, the traces of this trace horse get entangled in the reins connected to the other two horses, I.16.470–471, and Automedon the chariot driver must free himself from the entanglement by drawing his sword and cutting the traces, thus severing the ties to the dead trace horse, Ι.16.472–475. Having noted what will happen in this future action, we now return to the present, I.08.087–088: so, what happens to Nestor as he struggles to cut himself loose from his entanglement? Well, meanwhile, the old hero’s predicament has been spotted by Hector, who is now driving his own chariot at high speed toward Nestor, I.08.088–090, intending to attack him before Nestor can disentangle himself from his disabled chariot. As Hector charges ahead, he is holding on to the reins of his own chariot horses, since he is described at I.08.090 as the hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’ for the moment, or, to translate the word more literally, as ‘the one who holds on to the reins’. For the moment, then, it is the chariot fighter Hector and not his chariot driver who is here taking the initative of attempting a high-speed attack on Nestor. Hector is thus taking over here from his own chariot driver. As we are about to see, this driver is a hero named Eniopeus, who at this precise moment must be standing next to Hector on the platform of the speeding chariot—but not driving the vehicle himself. This detail about Hector as the momentary chariot driver helps explain what happens later on. Eventually, Hector’s driver Eniopeus will be killed while apparently still standing on the chariot platform: it will happen at I.08.119–124, where Diomedes throws his spear at Hector but hits Eniopeus instead, who dies instantly and falls out of the chariot. In that context, we will see that Eniopeus is now and only now described explicitly as the hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’, I.08.119. There is an irony here. If Eniopeus and not Hector had been driving the chariot when Diomedes threw his spear, it could have been Hector who got hit and killed. Having noted once again what will happen in the future action, we now return to the present. The Master Narrator goes on to say at I.08.090 that the entanglement of the old hero Nestor would surely have resulted in his death at the hands of Hector—had it not been for the intervention of the young hero Diomedes, I.08.091. Urging Nestor to leave behind his disabled chariot, Diomedes offers him an invitation: let the two heroes ride together on the new chariot of Diomedes and let them now counterattack Hector, I.08.092–112. And let the two theraponte ‘attendants’ meanwhile take away the horses and the chariot of Nestor, taking them back to a zone of safety, I.08.109. The old hero agrees to the invitation, I.08.112. So, the two ‘attendants’ now proceed to take away the chariot team of Nestor, I.08.113, and these two figures are identified here as Sthenelos, chariot driver of Diomedes, and Eurymedon, chariot driver of Nestor, I.08.114. Meanwhile the old hero Nestor joins Diomedes, mounting the platform of the young hero’s chariot. And then he even takes the reins of the chariot of Diomedes in hand and drives the chariot himself, I.08.116–117. So, for the moment, Nestor takes over from Sthenelos as the designated charioteer of Diomedes. [[GN 2016.08.18 via PH 207–214 (especially 208), H24H 7§8.]]


Ι.08.078–117/ anchor comment on: Nestor’s entanglement and the poetics of evocation
subject heading(s): Nestor’s entanglement; evocation; epic Cycle

This whole epic narrative about Nestor’s entanglement and his rescue by Diomedes is evocative of another epic narrative where the old hero gets entangled—and gets rescued this time by another young hero, his own son Antilokhos, from the onslaught of another enemy, the chariot fighter Memnon. In this other narrative, however, the son will die in the act of rescuing the father. He will be killed by Memnon. There is a reference to this other epic narrative in a song of Pindar, Pythian 6.28–42. The death of Antilokhos was also narrated in a part of the epic Cycle, the Aithiopis, attributed to Arctinus of Miletus, as we read in the plot-summary of Proclus p. 106 lines 4-6 (ed. Allen 1912). On the epic Cycle, see the Inventory of terms and names. And there is a passing reference to the death of Antilokhos in O.04.186–188. That said, it is important to add a clarification: to say that the Iliadic narrative about an entanglement experienced by Nestor is evocative of another epic narrative as found in the epic Cycle is not to say that the Iliad is referring to a pre-existing text. In poetic traditions that stem from an evolving process of recomposition-in-performance, as in the case of Homeric poetry, any act of referencing needs to be viewed in terms of the historical context for any given performance. What can work as a reference in one context may not work so well—or work at all— in some other context. A performance that follows one epic version can refer—however indirectly—to another epic version, but only if those who hear the performance are expected to know both versions. Referencing can be direct, as when Sthenelos the chariot driver of Diomedes refers at I.02.119–130 to the role of these two heroes in the epic traditions of the Epigonoi, that is, The Sons-of-the-Seven-against Thebes. Or referencing can be indirect, as is the case here. The narrative about the entanglement of Nestor and his rescue by Diomedes is sure to have a special effect on those who already know of another narrative about a later entanglement of Nestor that leads to tragic consequences. So, the term evocation suits such indirect referencing. Viewed in this light, evocation in Homeric poetry can be defined simply as a reference made not directly but only indirectly from one traditional context to another. For another evocation of the epic moment when Nestor’s chariot gets entangled and his son Antilokhos gets killed in an effort to save the old hero, see the comment on I.09.057–058. [[GN 2016.08.18 via PH 207–214 (especially 208), H24H 7§8.]]


subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’; therapontes of Ares; ‘the two Ajaxes’

In contexts where the plural therapontes in combination with Arēos ‘of Ares’ is applied to the Achaeans=Danaans=Argives (here, to the ‘two Ajaxes’) as a grouping of warriors, the deeper meaning is more evident than in other contexts. [[GN 2016.08.04 via the comment on I.02.110 via BA 293–295; GMP 48; H24H 6§32.]]


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

Diomedes is speaking to Nestor, saying that the old hero’s chariot driver, unnamed here, has lost his energy and usefulness. Diomedes refers to this driver here at I.01.321 as Nestor’s therapōn ‘attendant’. In the immediate context, only the surface meaning of therapōn as ‘attendant’ is evident. But this particular attendant is not only the therapōn of Nestor: in the overall context of I.08.076–117, it is also evident that this therapōn is in fact the designated chariot driver of Nestor, though the specific word hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’ is not used here. The name of this driver is Eurymedon, as we see at I.08.114. He may or may not be the same hero Eurymedon as at I.04.227 [[GN 2016.08.04 via BA 292; see also the comment at I.04.227.]]


subject heading(s): Plato’s Homeric quotations; Koine; Aristarchus

When a word break occurs before the final metrical sequence – uu – u of the dactylic hexameter, the wording before the break tends to avoid a metrical sequence …– in Homeric manuscripts that Aristarchus considered more sophisticated, and the preferred metrical sequence is instead …uu. In other manuscripts that Aristarchus considered koinai in the sense of ‘common’, however, wording shaped …– instead of …uu is more freely allowed in that position. In Plato’s Homeric quotations, the ‘common’ version is occasionally attested. For example, in the case of I.08.107, Plato at Laches 191a-b quotes a version of this Homeric verse showing the infinitive διώκειν, with the last syllable scanned …–, whereas the medieval manuscript tradition, influenced by the judgment of Aristarchus, shows the alternative form διωκέμεν, with the last two syllables scanned …uu. Also, in the case of I.14.097, Plato at Laws 4.706d quotes a version of this Homeric verse showing the infinitive ἕλκειν, with the last syllable scanned …–, whereas the medieval manuscript tradition shows the alternative form ἑλκέμεν, with the last two syllables scanned …uu. Another kind of ‘common’ usage is the emotional exclamation αἲ αἴ (aiai) as quoted by Plato at Republic 3.388c for I.16.433, whereas the medieval manuscript tradition shows ὤ μοι (ṓ moi). Such Homeric quotations by Plato, in can be argued, indicate that he had access to a manuscript or manuscripts of Homeric poetry that reflected an official version of Homeric poetry as it was notionally owned and managed by the Athenian State in the fifth century BCE and extending into the fourth, during which period a term like koinē as applied to a Homeric manuscript would have meant not only ‘common’ but also ‘standard’, since the adjective koino‑ was used in general with reference to the agenda of the Athenian State. By shorthand, the Athenian State version of Homeric poetry can be described as the Koine. For more on Aristarchus and the Koine, see under Aristarchus and see under Koine in the Inventory of terms and names. [[GN 2016.08.18 via HC 3§165.]]


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

The dual theraponte here at I.08.113 is referring to Sthenelos and Eurymedon, named at I.08.114, who as we know from related contexts are respectively the chariot drivers of Diomedes and Nestor. For the moment, however, Nestor has replaced Sthenelos as the chariot driver of Diomedes. And, also for the moment, Nestor has also displaced Eurymedon in the role of chariot driver. For now, then, both Sthenelos and Eurymedon function merely as attendants. [[GN 2016.08.04 via the comment on I.08.104.]]


subject heading(s): therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’; hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’; “taking the hit”

The hero Eniopeus son of Thebaios is here both the hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’ and the therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’ of Hector. When Diomedes throws his spear at Hector, it is Eniopeus who “takes the hit” instead, I.08.119–124. This detail is relevant to the fact, highlighted from the start, that Eniopeus is both the hēni-okhos ‘chariot driver’ and the therapōn ‘attendant, ritual substitute’ of Hector, I.08.119. In this context, then, the deeper meaning of therapōn as ‘ritual substitute’ is overt. The narrative goes on to say that Hector is deeply saddened by the death of his chariot driver, but he leaves the corpse of Eniopeus where that hero fell: instead of trying to rescue the corpse, Hector decides to fight on and immediately proceeds to select a new chariot driver, I.08.124–129, whose name is Arkheptolemos, I.08.128. [[GN 2016.08.04 via the comment on I.04.227 via Nagy 2015.05.01, 2015.05.08, 2015.05.15, 2015.05.20.]]


subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’; psūkhē ‘spirit’; luein ‘release’; release of consciousness from the body

At the moment of his death here, the hero’s menos ‘mental power’ is released from his body, and, in the present context, the noun psūkhē ‘spirit’ is used as a synonym of menos. [[GN 2016.08.18 via GMP 88.]]


subject heading(s): Will of Zeus

Here is where the momentum of Diomedes, aspiring for the title ‘best of the Achaeans’, is stopped dead in its tracks. Zeus signals it with his thunder and lightning, I.08.133, and now we see the Will of Zeus come alive, as anticipated already at I.08.066–077. The supreme god’s bolt lands right in front of the speeding horses that pull the chariot carrying Diomedes along with his temporary driver Nestor, and these horses now freeze in fear while the reins drop out of Nestor’s grip, I.08.134–138. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 334–335.]]


subject heading(s): Will of Zeus; sēma ‘sign, signal’; nīkē ‘victory’

Three times Zeus thunders from on high on top of Mount Ida, I.08.170, making a sēma ‘sign’, Ι.08.171, signaling that nīkē ‘victory’ will now go to the Trojans, not to the Achaeans, I.08.171. See HC 4§109 for a survey of all Homeric situations where either Zeus or Athena awards nīkē ‘victory’. [[GN 2016.08.18.]]


subject heading(s): Will of Zeus; nīkē ‘victory’; pēma ‘pain’

Hector recognizes the Will of Zeus here, as signaled by the nodding of the god’s head at I.08.175: for the moment, Zeus will give nīkē ‘victory’ to Hector while giving pēma ‘pain’ to the Achaeans, Ι.08.176. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 64, 77, 334.]]


Q&T via BA 335
subject heading(s): mnēmosunē ‘memory’; Battle for the Ships; fire of Hector

Hector predicts that there will be mnēmosunē ‘memory’, I.08.181, of the moment when he will set fire to the beached ships of the Achaeans in the epic Battle for the Ships. And this moment will be in fact pivotal for the Will of Zeus, which will find expression in the fire of Hector. It will be a moment to be recorded by the poetic memory of the Homeric Iliad. See the comments on I.16.112 and on I.16.113. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 17, 335.]]


subject heading(s): four-horse chariot; Dardanidai

Unlike other heroes in Homeric narrative, Hector has a chariot drawn by four rather than two horses. There are Athenian connotations to be seen here. As we learn from the Parian Marble, FGH 239 section 10, the Athenians claimed that Erikhthonios, a prototypical hero of Athens, was the inventor of the four-horse chariot on the occasion of the first chariot race held at the first Panathenaic festival in 1505/4 BCE. Correspondingly, there is a prototypical hero of Troy who is likewise Erikhthonios: is is said at I.20.219 and I.202.30 that this Erikhthonios was son of Dardanos and father of Tros, who in turn was the ancestor of Anchises father of Aeneas. In this light, we may compare the reference at I.05.271 to four chariot horses owned by Anchises. It can be argued that these details about four-horse chariots are relevant to Athenian agenda at work during an Athenian phase of Homeric transmission. [[GN 2016.08.18 via HPC 210.]]


subject heading(s): ‘equal to Ares’, armor of Achilles

Hector here is said to be atalantos or ‘equal’ to Ares. This kind of equating of a hero with the war god will figure prominently in future scenes of mortal combat. Relevant are previous scenes of mortal combat involving Diomedes: see the comments at I.05.438, I.05.440–442, I.05.459. Besides Hector, as here at I.08.215, another hero who will be pointedly described as ‘equal to Ares’ is Patroklos. Besides sharing such an epithet, Hector and Patroklos will also be sharing the armor of Achilles: first it is Patroklos who wears this armor when he goes off to fight as a substitute for Achilles; and then Hector will wear it after he kills Patroklos. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 294; see also BA 327.]]


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

The ships of the Achaeans are beached along the shores of a large U-shaped bay that opens into the Hellespont. See Map 1 and Map 2 at HPC 157 and 158 respectively. Such a bay no longer exists, because of long-term silting from the river Scamander, which emptied into the bay. In the second millennium BCE and even later, however, the bay was very much of a reality, as the maps show, and the visualization in the Homeric Iliad approximates such a topographical reality. This is not to say, however, that we should imagine the ships of the Achaeans as floating at anchor in the waters of such a bay: rather, the Iliad pictures the ships are beached along the shores of the bay, with their sterns facing inland and their prows facing out toward the waters. On this positioning, see also the comment on I.14.027–036. Exploring further the Iliadic visualization, we can see that the beached ship of Odysseus is located at the bottom of the U-shaped bay, at the south in the middle of the bayline, while the beached ships of Achilles and Ajax are located respectively at the upper left and the upper right tips of the U, at the northwest and northeast. To be highlighted here is a detail about the ship of Odysseus: the king Agamemnon is shown standing on the deck of this beached ship, which is said to be located en messatōi ‘in the middlemost space’, I.08.223, and from here this over-king projects his voice of royal authority, shouting mightily to all the Achaeans stationed at their own ships, I.08.227. Correspondingly, all the Achaeans stationed at all the beached ships can hear the king’s voice—from the ship of Achilles at one extreme of the U-shaped bay all the way to the ship of Ajax at the other extreme, I.08.224–226 (HPC 160–161). Agamemnon’s own beached ship, together with the ships of Diomedes and Nestor, is located near the ship of Odysseus, and it is in this ‘middlemost space’ of the U-shaped bayline that the central station of the Achaeans is visualized by the narrative, I.08.223. In the later comments at I.11.005–016, I.11.806–808, and I.14.027–036, there will be more to say about the locations of all these beached ships. To be highlighted already now, however, is the general reference to the klisiai or ‘shelters’ here at I.08.220, which are the abodes of the heroes. Then at I.08.224 the same word klisiai refers specifically to the abodes of Achilles and Ajax, mentioned at I.08.224–225. The description here shows that the klisiai ‘shelters’ of these two heroes are pointedly aligned with their beached ships. As for the ships beached at the middle of the bayline in the south, they mark a political and sacral centerpoint for the Achaeans. The evidence for the preceding formulation will be presented in the comment on I.11.806–808. [[GN 2016.08.18 via HPC 153; also HPC 160-161.]]


Q&T via BA 44
subject heading(s): goading by blaming; distributive action in the plural; dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat), sacrifice’; micro-Iliad; First Song of Demodokos; eukhesthai ‘declare’; ‘best of the Achaeans’

By blaming or insulting his fellow Achaeans for not daring to stand up to the onslaught of Hector, Agamemnon is goading them into action. His insulting words recall a scene that took place in their collective epic past, on the island of Lemnos, where the Achaeans were competitively boasting about the exploits they will perform in the future when they fight in the Trojan War. The idea of ‘boasting’ is conveyed by the noun eukhōlē, which is derived from eukhesthai ‘declare’. As we already saw at I.01.091, what is at stake when an Achaean hero boasts in the Iliad centers on the all-important question: who is the ‘best of the Achaeans’? The noun eukhōlai ‘boastings’ in the plural here at I.08.229 indicates a distributive action: the Achaeans were boasting not as a group but individually and competitively. The object of such competition and dispute would have been: to show who is the aristos ‘best’ of them all. When Agamemnon says at I.08.229 ‘we were saying that we were best [aristoi]’, the plural construction here is distributive in meaning: ‘each one of us was saying that he was the best [aristos]’. We see in this scene of a past event at Lemnos an epic precedent for what is ongoing in the present time of the Trojan War as narrated in the Iliad. Just as there was a dispute at Lemnos, there is a dispute ongoing in the Iliad about that all-important question: who is the ‘best of the Achaeans’? A most relevant detail in the story about the dispute at Lemnos is the fact that the context for the quarreling that took place at that time over the same question, who is the ‘best of the Achaeans’, was a feast where meat was being distributed, I.08.231. So the setting for the quarrel was an event that is elsewhere called a dais, to be defined as ‘feast, division of portions (of meat), sacrifice’ in Homeric diction. As we saw in the comment for I.01.423–425, a dais is a feast where meat is distributed, and this meat comes from the sacrifice of a sacrificial animal. Thus the act of sacrifice converts the feast of humans into a notional feast of the gods. This notion, ‘feast of the gods’, is made explicit in the “micro-Iliad” of O.8.072–083, which is the First Song of Demodokos. At O.08.076, the setting is described this way: θεῶν ἐν δαιτὶ θαλείῃ ‘at a sumptuous feast [dais] of the gods’. So, what is happening at this feast? There is a dispute going on (δηρίσαντο at Ο.08.076), and the dispute is called a neikos ‘quarrel’ at O.08.075. The disputants are Odysseus and Achilles, who are described at O.08.078 as ‘the best of the Achaeans’. In terms of such a dispute in the context of a feast, each one of the two heroes would be claiming to be the ‘best of the Achaeans’. Similarly in the context of the feast at Lemnos as narrated by Agamemnon, each one of the heroes attending would be making such a claim. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 44–45.]]


subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’; psūkhē ‘spirit’; luein ‘release’; release of consciousness from the body

At the moment of his death here, the hero’s menos ‘mental power’ is released from his body, and, in the present context, the noun psūkhē ‘spirit’ is used as a synonym of menos. [[GN 2016.08.18 via GMP 88.]]


subject heading(s): haptesthai ‘grab a hold of’; language of praise/blame

The verb haptesthai ‘grab a hold of’ here at I.08.339 has as its subject a hunting dog that bites and as its object the animal that is bitten by the dog, as we see at I.08.338. In other contexts, to be cited in the comment on O.10.379, the same verb can be metaphorized with reference to the language of blame. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 226.]]


subject heading(s): aethlos (āthlos) ‘ordeal’; Labors of Hēraklēs

The noun aethlos (āthlos) ‘ordeal’ in the plural, aethloi, programmatically refers to the Labors of Hēraklēs. These aethloi ‘ordeals’ were life-and-death struggles imposed on the hero by Eurystheus, who was socially superior to him but inferior otherwise. [[GN 2016.08.18 via PH 138.]]


I.08.367 / anchor comment on: Gates of Hādēs
subject heading(s): pulartēs ‘gate-closer’; Hēraklēs; Hādēs; Gates of Hādēs; Gates of the Sun; Pylos; entrance to the underworld

The constellation of words linked with pulē in the sense of ‘gate’, such as pul-artēs ‘gate-closer’ here (genitive πυλάρταο), is linked with the idea of the pulai ‘gates’ of Hādēs. See the comments on I.05.395–404, I.05.646, I.11.671; see also Points 5 and 6 in the anchor comment at I.23.071–076. [[GN 2016.08.18 via GMP 225–226.]]


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

The very idea of exposing a dead body to be eaten by dogs and birds, as conjured here at I.08.379–380, is considered to be an abomination in the Iliad, by contrast with the ritually correct practice of cremation. See the comment on I.01.003–005. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 226.]]


Q&T via GMP 257
subject heading(s): Ōkeanos

The cosmic river Ōkeanos, encircling the known world, is a boundary delimiting light from darkness, wakefulness from sleep, life from death. The sun rises from the Ōkeanos at sunrise, just as it sets into it at sunset. At I.07.421–423 we saw sunrise; now at I.08.485–486 we see sunset. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 196; also GMP 99, 237–238, 246, 257.]]



The words spoken by Hector here reveal an overweening desire to be an immortal god, not a mortal human. By speaking this way, the hero is challenging the cosmic order. [[GN 2016.08.18 via GMP 299.]]


subject heading(s): impossible wishes
lemmatizing: ἔλπομαι εὐχόμενος vs. εὔχομαι ἐλπόμενος

Aristarchus debated with Zenodotus of Ephesus (the debate is indicated by way of the sign ⸖ in front of the verse), who attested the variant ἔλπομαι εὐχόμενος. (On the readings of Zenodotus as opposed by Aristarchus, see under Zenodotus and under Aristarchus in the Inventory of terms and names.) Aristarchus preferred the variant εὔχομαι ἐλπόμενος, which has been transmitted in the medieval manuscript tradition. As Muellner 1976:58-62 shows, both variants can be justified on the basis of analyzing the formulaic system of Homeric diction. [[GN 2016.08.18 via PasP 133, 148.]]


subject heading(s): wishes correlated with premises; aspiration for immortality

Here is a working translation: ‘If only I |539 could be immortal and unaging for all days to come, |540 and if only I could be honored [tiesthai] just as Athena and Apollo are honored, |541 —as surely as this day brings misfortune to the Argives’ (εἰ γὰρ ἐγὼν ὣς |539 εἴην ἀθάνατος καὶ ἀγήρως ἤματα πάντα |540 τιοίμην δ’ ὡς τίετ’ Ἀθηναίη καὶ Ἀπόλλων, |541 ὡς νῦν ἡμέρη ἥδε κακὸν φέρει Ἀργείοισι). Hector’s aspiration to become immortal and ageless and to receive the same honors as received by the divinities Athena and Apollo, I.08.538–540, is worded in such a way as to invite a cosmic sanction. On the syntax of the wording, see the comment on I.18.464–466. Hector’s wording here is especially dangerous because it would be provocative to Athena, who figures as this hero’s divine antagonist: see the comment on I.06.286–311. [[GN 2016.08.18 via BA 148; also GMP 294–301.]]


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.