A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 1

2016.06.09 / updated 2018.08.16 | By Gregory Nagy

"The Rage of Achilles," by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1757, [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“The Rage of Achilles,” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1757, [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The comments I offer in Classical Inquiries 2016-2017 on Iliad Rhapsody 1 through Rhapsody 24, starting here with Rhapsody 1, are based mostly on details that derive from seven books that I indicate in the Bibliography by way of these abbreviations: BA, GMP, H24H, HC, HPC, HQ, HR, MoM, PasP, PH. Each one of these books has its own index locorum. My colleague Anita Nikkanen, an Associate Editor for the online project A Homer commentary in progress, has tracked the sequences of Homeric verses as listed in the indices for six of these books and then summarized my comments on those verses. Following up on her meticulous work, I used as my starting point her summaries as I undertook the writing-up of comments that can eventually be incorporated into AHCIP.  My comments on the Iliad as I present them here in Classical Inquiries 2016-2017 are merely samplings of the content that I hope to contribute to the overall commentary, to which a number of other colleagues will also contribute their own comments. That said, I now proceed to offer a sampling of comments on Rhapsody 1. At this point, my comments about this beginning of beginnings need no further introduction of their own. [[2016.06.09.]]



subject heading(s): mēnis ‘anger’; Muse as goddess of poetic inspiration; Master Narrator; narrative subject as grammatical object; aeidein ‘sing’; erizein ‘have strife’; eris ‘strife’; micro-Iliad; [First Song of Demodokos; neikos ‘quarrel’;] Cypria; epic; epic Cycle
On mēnis ‘anger’: see especially the comment on I.01.001–002
On eris ‘strife’: see the comment on I.01.008–012
On neikos ‘quarrel’: see the comment on I.02.221

The main theme of the narration is signaled right away. By theme I mean a basic unit of content or meaning in Homeric poetry: see the Inventory of terms and names. The signaling is accomplished by way of the first word of the very first verse of the Homeric Iliad. The word is mēnis ‘anger’, I.01.001, and it refers to the anger of Achilles. A definitive book on this word is Muellner 1996. The Master Narrator begins his narration by focusing on this anger: he invokes a Muse, as a goddess of inspiration whom he addresses here simply as theā ‘goddess’, and he calls on her to sing for him this anger, I.01.001. On the term Master Narrator, see the Inventory of terms and names: on the idea of the Muse(s) as the goddess(es) of poetic inspiration, see the general comment at I.02.484-487 and the special comments at I.02.484 and at I.02.761. The subject that the Master Narrator has chosen to narrate, the anger of Achilles, is the grammatical object of the verb aeidein ‘sing’. So, the narrative subject is the grammatical object. The Master Narrator is calling on the Muse to sing the anger, not just sing about the anger. The song is not only about the anger: it is the anger itself. The song captures the total reality of the anger. The Master Narrator proceeds to tell about this anger: it happened because of a quarrel, as signaled especially by the words erizein ‘have strife’ at I.01.006 and eris ‘strife’ at I.01.008. This quarrel in the Iliad is parallel to the another quarrel that is narrated in a “micro-Iliad” that we find embedded in the Odyssey. This micro-Iliad is the First Song of Demodokos, O.08.072–083, and the quarrel there is signaled especially by the word neikos ‘quarrel’ at O.08.075. It has been debated whether the quarrel scene in this “micro-Iliad” was modeled on a quarrel-scene in the Cypria, which was part of the epic Cycle. On the terms epic and epic Cycle, see the Inventory of terms and names. But the quarrel scenes of the Iliad, the Cypria, and the “micro-Iliad” can be seen as stemming from epic traditions that were originally independent of each other. On the term epic, used here for the first time in these comments on the Homeric Iliad, see again the Inventory of terms and names.  [[GN 2016.06.05 via Nagy 2015.05.27 and 2015.04.10; BA 23; see also HPC 111–115.]]


Q&T I.01.001 via BA 73–74 and Q&T for part of I.01.002 via BA 73–74
subject heading(s): mēnis ‘anger’; [tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles;] Akhaioi ‘Achaeans’; algea ‘pains’ of the Achaeans

The mēnis of Achilles is a special kind of ‘anger’. The hero feels this anger after his tīmē ‘honor’ is damaged by the over-king Agamemnon. The Master Narrator says at verse 2 that this special anger caused algea ‘pains’ for the Achaeans. The name Akhaioi ‘Achaeans’ here at verse 2 refers to the heroes who were viewed by the ancient Greeks in a later age as their prototypes in an earlier age of heroes; two synonyms for ‘Achaeans’ in the Iliad are Danaoi ‘Danaans’ and Argeioi ‘Argives’. The word mēnis at verse 1 does not yet refer to the anger of persons other than Achilles in the Iliad. As the narration continues, however, it becomes clear that the god Apollo felt mēnis ‘anger’ at the Achaeans even before the hero Achilles felt his own mēnis. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 73–75.]]


subject heading(s): mēnis ‘anger’

The mēnis ‘anger’ of Achilles at I.01.001 towards Agamemnon the over-king is parallel to the mēnis of Aeneas at I.13.459–461 towards Priam the over-king. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 265; also GMP 28.]]


subject heading(s): aeidein ‘sing’; Muse as theā ‘goddess’; Aeolic; Aeolians; Ionic; Ionians; ennepein ‘narrate, tell’; singing as narrating

By saying ‘sing, goddess [theā]’, the Master Narrator is saying that the song that he will perform is something that he hears from the Muse. The addressing of the Muse as theā ‘goddess’ is an Aeolian signature, as it were, since the form theā is Aeolic, as opposed to the form (hē) theos, which is Ionic. See the anchor comment at I.01.463 on Aeolians as speakers of Aeolic, vs. Ionians as speakers of Ionic. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 271.]]


subject heading(s): oulomenē ‘disastrous’; epithet for narrative subject; lugros ‘disastrous’

The placement of this adjective oulomenē ‘disastrous’ as an epithet for mēnis ‘anger’ in the previous verse corresponds to the placement of the adjective lugros ‘disastrous’ at O.01.327 as an epithet for nostos ‘homecoming’ in the previous verse at O.01.326. See the comment on O.01.326–327. [[GN 2017.01.02.]]


subject heading(s): epithet for narrative subject; relative clause as introductory outline of the entire narrative

The epithet oulomenē ‘disastrous’ here at I.01.002, which describes the narrative subject of the entire performed narration of the Iliad as designated by the driving word mēnis ‘anger’ at I.01.001, is now immediately followed at I.01.002 by a relative clause that outlines the plot of this narration. Similarly, the epithet lugros ‘disastrous’ at O.01.327, which describes the poetic subject of a performed narration as designated by the driving word nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’ at O.01.326, is then immediately followed at O.01.327 by a relative clause that outlines the plot of that narration. See the comment on O.01.326–327. [[GN 2017.01.02.]]


subject heading(s): algea ‘pains’ of the Achaeans; akhos ‘grief’; name Akhil(l)eus as derived from akhos

The reference to algea ‘pains’ here is relevant to the etymology of the name Akhil(l)eus—if this name can successfully be explained as a shortened by-form of *Akhi-lāu̯os  in the sense of ‘he who has the grief [akhos] of the people [lāu̯os]’. In comments to come, the word akhos ‘grief’, will be traced as a marker for a most pervasive theme in the Iliad: how the anger of Achilles caused grief for his people. (On theme, see the Inventory of terms and names.)  [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 77, 79; also 65.]]


subject heading(s): psūkhē ‘spirit’; Hādēs; autos ‘self’; [sōma ‘body’;] exposition of the dead body to dogs and birds; [cremation;] eschatology

In the Iliad, the word autos ‘self’ refers to the body as the basis of identity for heroes, while the word psūkhē ‘spirit’ refers to (A) the life-force of heroes when they are alive and (B) the disembodied conveyor of identity when they are dead. Here at the beginning of the Iliad, the dead body of the generic hero is identified with the ‘self’, autos. When a warrior dies in the Iliad, his psūkhē ‘spirit’ goes to the realm of Hādēs while his body, which is his ‘self’, is left behind and must be treated with proper ritual care. In the Iliad, the ritually correct treatment of a warrior’s dead body, which is called sōma, is cremation. See I.22.342–343 and the comment on I.22.335–354. The very idea of exposing a dead body to be devoured by dogs and birds is considered to be an abomination in the Iliad, as in the verses here at I.01.3–5, by contrast with the ritually correct practice of cremation. See the comment on I.22.335–354. There is also a cross-cultural contrast to be noted here: the practice of exposing a dead body to be eaten by dogs and birds is considered to be ritually correct in Iranian traditions that uphold Zoroastrian orthodoxy, while the very idea of cremating a dead body is for Zoroastrians an abomination. Both practices, exposition and cremation, are linked with ideas of eschatology, that is, of a permanent kind of afterlife. In Zoroastrian traditions, such an afterlife is endangered by cremation, while in Homeric traditions the danger comes from exposition. There will be more to say about ideas of afterlife in the anchor comment at I.23.071–076, where it will be argued that Hādēs in Homeric poetry is merely a transitional phase of afterlife for the psūkhē ‘spirit’ of a hero who died: in other words, Hādēs is not eschatological. [[GN 2016.06.05 -> 2016.12.27 via BA 208; also GMP 88, 175.]]


Q&T via BA 65
subject heading(s): boulē ‘wish, plan’; Will of Zeus; [sēma ‘sign’;] [nóos ‘mind’;] [mūthos ‘wording’;] plot of the Iliad; narrative arc
On boulē ‘wish, plan’ in the specific sense of ‘plan’: I.01.524–530, 1.10.043–052, I.10.415, I.11.627, I.12.235–236, I.15.056–077.

The Will of Zeus is presented here as the plot of the narration or narrative arc that we know as the Iliad. The Greek noun boulē, translated here as ‘Will’, is what the god ‘wishes’, as expressed by the verb boulesthai ‘wish’. For boulesthai ‘wish’, see the comment on I.11.078–079. But the noun boulē conveys also the idea of ‘planning’, not just ‘wishing’: when Zeus wishes to do something, he engages in planning what he wishes, so that the Will of Zeus is also the Plan of Zeus. See the comment on I.01.524–530 concerning the Plan of Zeus. In comments still to come, there will be further observations on the Will of Zeus with reference to other relevant words, including sēma ‘sign’, nóos ‘mind’, mūthos ‘wording’ (see also GMP 222). [[GN 2016.06.09 via BA 65; also PH 238; more on the Will of Zeus in Nagy 2016.05.26,  http://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/trying-to-read-the-will-of-zeus/.]]


subject heading(s): Muse; eris ‘strife’; Will of Zeus; agency of Apollo; plot of the Iliad
On eris ‘strife’: I.01.008–012, I.01.177, I.01.177, I.03.100, I.05.891, I.11.005–016.

The Master Narrator calls on the Muse to explain the cause of the eris ‘strife’. See also the pointed use of the word eris ‘strife’ at Pindar Paean 6.50–53. It is now revealed that the god Apollo has a basic role in the plot of the Iliad, and that he too was angry at Agamemnon, even before Achilles became angry at this over-king. It is now also revealed that Apollo himself has agency in the outcome of the epic that we know as the Iliad. On the term epic, mentioned already in the comment at I.01.001–012, see the Inventory of terms and names. In the version of the epic as we have it, however, such an agency of Apollo is subsumed under the ultimate divine agency represented by the Will of Zeus. In earlier versions of the Iliad, on the other hand, the events of the epic could actually be attributed to the agency of Apollo. More on this subject in HPC 111–115. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 61.]]


subject heading(s): skēptron ‘scepter’

Speakers who hold a skēptron ‘scepter’, speak with a kingly authority emanating from the over-king of the gods, Zeus. [[GN 2016.06.09 via GMP 52.]]


subject heading(s): skēptron ‘scepter’


subject heading(s): aiei ‘forever’; aiōn ‘life-force, lifetime’

The adverb aiei ‘forever’ is the old locative case of the noun aiōn ‘life-force, lifetime’. The use of the locative indicates that the ‘life-force’ keeps coming back to life by way of a ‘recircling of time’. So, aiei means literally ‘in a recircling of time’, signaling an eternal return, a perpetual starting-over. [[GN 2016.06.09 via GMP 126, H24H 14§34.]]


Q&T via BA 32
subject heading(s): Kalkhas as ‘the best of the bird-watching seers’

Kalkhas, as ‘the best of the bird-watching seers’, belongs to a more restricted category than the category we see in the expression ‘the best of the Achaeans’. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 32.]]


subject heading(s): three kinds of anger in Homeric diction; mēnis ‘anger’; kholos ‘anger’; kotos ‘anger’; teleîn ‘reach an outcome’

The words spoken by Kalkhas the seer here at I.01.074–083 indicate three different kinds of anger: mēnis at I.01.075, kholos at I.01.081, and kotos at I.01.082. In the case of mēnis, it is a kind of “cosmic sanction”: I cite the definitive work of Muellner 1996, especially ch.1. As for kholos, it is a kind of explosive anger that is generally instantaneous, as opposed to kotos, which is an anger that is timed to go off only in the fullness of time, when the course of events in the narration has come to fulfillment, as expressed here at I.01.082 by way of the verb teleîn ‘come to fulfillment’. On kotos in particular and on kholos in general, see Walsh 2013, especially ch. 1, where he analyzes the wording of the seer here at I.01.074–083 as a kind of “folk definition” for all three of the different kinds of anger mentioned in this passage. [[GN 2017.08.08.]]


subject heading(s): tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles; agency of Apollo

The narration of the Iliad, from the start, sets up a parallelism between the hero Achilles and the god Apollo [[GN 2016.06.09 via GMP 12.]]


subject heading(s): Doppelgänger; Achilles; agency of Apollo

When the hero Achilles swears by the god Apollo, he marks himself as a Doppelgänger of the god. (I use here the word Doppelgänger, borrowed from German, in line with standard definitions found in English-language dictionaries.) [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 143.]]


Q&T via BA 26 and 44
subject heading(s): eukhesthai ‘declare’; ‘best of the Achaeans

The meaning of eukhesthai as ‘declare’ has to do with speaking for the record in the form of ‘boasting’ or ‘praying’ or ‘juridically declaring’ (Muellner 1976). The question of who is the ‘best of the Achaeans’ is brought up here, in the context of Agamemnon’s claim to be the best. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 26, 44.]]


Q&T via BA 74–75
subject heading(s): mēnis ‘anger’; algea ‘pains’; akhos ‘grief’

Before the hero Achilles ever felt mēnis ‘anger’, I.01.001, the god Apollo already felt mēnis, I.01.075, and it was the god’s anger that ultimately led to the hero’s anger. Relevant are the words akhos ‘grief’ and algea ‘pains’, which are used in equivalent contexts. Here at I.01.096 we see the word algea ‘pains’. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 74–75 and 79.]]


subject heading(s): tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles; agency of Apollo


subject heading(s): algea ‘pains’[; akhos ‘grief’]

The words akhos ‘grief’ and algea ‘pains’ are used in equivalent contexts. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 79.]]


subject heading(s): philo-kteanōtatos ‘most loving of material gain’

When Achilles insults Agamemnon by calling him philo-kteanōtatos ‘most loving of material gain’, the framing narration is referring to the general theme of Agamemnon’s greediness. (On theme, see the Inventory of terms and names.)  [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 313.]]


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

The theme of the Will of Zeus is relevant to questions of juridical responsibility, as expressed by the adjective aitios ‘responsible’. [[GN 2016.06.09 via PH 238; more on the meaning of aitios and its relevance to the Will of Zeus in Nagy 2016.05.26.]]


subject heading(s): bōti-aneira ‘she who nourishes men’; epithet; Phthiē (homeland of Achilles); phthinesthai ‘wilt, perish’

The traditional epithet for Phthiē, the homeland of Achilles, is bōti-aneira ‘she who nourishes men’. There is a paradox built into this noun+epithet combination, since the name Phthiē is associated with the idea of ‘wilting’, as conveyed by the verb phthinesthai ‘wilt, perish’. See also the comments on I.19.322–323 and I.19.329–330, I.19.337. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 185.]]


subject heading(s): ‘having the looks of a dog’; language of praise / blame

When Achilles calls Agamemnon kun-ōpa ‘having the looks of a dog’, he is engaging in the language of blame. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 226, 312.]]


Q&T via BA 131
subject heading(s): eris ‘strife’; language of praise / blame

In Agamemnon’s language of blame as directed against Achilles, eris ‘strife’ is a defining feature of Achilles. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 131.]]


subject heading(s): akhos ‘grief’; mēnis ‘anger’; Briseis; algea ‘pains’ of the Achaeans

Insulted by Agamemnon, Achilles experiences instantaneous akhos ‘grief’, I.01.188, which will then undergo a metastasis into mēnis ‘anger’. As we will see in what follows, that anger will then cause akhos ‘grief’ for the Achaeans as an aggregate, and that collective akhos ‘grief’ will end only after Achilles unsays his mēnis ‘anger’, as signaled finally at I.19.074–075. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 80.]]


subject heading(s): xanthos/xanthē ‘golden’ (with reference to hair); epithet; immortalization; Achilles

The epithet applied to the hair of Achilles, xanthos/xanthē ‘golden’, is a marker of the hero’s future immortalization. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 210.]]


subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’; mēnis ‘anger’; root *men– ‘act or be in a given mental state’; synonym; formulaic system

There are three Homeric contexts where the word menos ‘mental power’ seems to be the functional equivalent of mēnis ‘anger’. But the question is, can we say that such functional equivalence is relevant to the derivation of both nouns menos and mēnis from the root *men-, which refers to a mental activity or a mental state? This question is relevant to another question: in the language of Homeric poetry, how do we define a synonym? As we will see in comments to come, an answer to such a question depends on our understanding of Homeric language as a formulaic system. On the terms formula and formulaic system, see the Inventory of terms and names. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 73; on mēnis in general see Muellner 1996.]]


Q&T via BA 226, 312
subject heading(s): language of praise / blame; ‘having the looks of a dog’

This insult, kunos ommat’ ekhōn ‘having the looks of a dog’, directed at Agamemnon by Achilles, exemplifies the language of blame. As also at I.01.159, the translation ‘having the looks of a dog’ conveys the idea that vision is treated as a “two-way street.” When you look at Agamemnon and he looks back at you, he both looks like a dog and he looks back at you just as a dog would be looking back at you. The English word look conveys a comparably two-way attitude: I can say “I look at a disgraceful person” and I can also say “this person looks disgraceful to me.” To convey the two-way attitude in the original Greek here, the wording of the translation gives ‘having the looks of a dog’ instead of merely ‘having the eyes [ommata] of a dog’. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 226, 312.]]


subject heading(s): dēmoboros ‘devourer of the community’; language of praise / blame; dēmos ‘community, district’; dēmós ‘fat, grease’; metaphor

This insult directed at Agamemnon by Achilles exemplifies the language of blame. Another aspect of the blame here is the double meaning of dēmo- in the compound formation dēmoboros: it could refer either to dēmos ‘community, district’ or to dēmós ‘fat, grease’. Metaphorically, Agamemnon is a ‘devourer of the community’ because he is like a predatory beast that devours the fat of his prey. On metaphor, see the Inventory of terms and names; also MoM 0§01, 0§1 Extract 0-A. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 313.]]


Q&T I.01.233–237 via BA 179–180
subject heading(s): skēptron ‘scepter’; Oath of Achilles; horkos ‘oath’; plot of the Iliad; narrative arc; mēnis ‘anger’

Achilles swears by the skēptron ‘scepter’ that he holds and then throws down to the ground. This oath of Achilles is correlated with the plot or narrative arc of the Iliad, starting from a point in time when Achilles declares his mēnis ‘anger’ all the way to the point in time when he un-declares or unsays it. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 179–180, 188.]]


subject heading(s): skēptron ‘scepter’; Oath of Achilles; horkos ‘oath’

The skēptron ‘scepter’ by which Achilles swears his Oath is here viewed as a thing of nature transformed into a thing of culture, by contrast with the scepter that is pictured in the Electra of Sophocles, 417-423. [[GN 2016.06.09 via GMP 143. On the scepter in the Electra of Sophocles, see GN 2017.01.12, https://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/iphigeneia-and-iphianassa/.]]


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

The insulting of Achilles by Agamemnon takes on a special meaning in the Iliad because the Master Narrator recognizes Achilles as the ‘best of the Achaeans’, despite the counter-claim of Agamemnon. See the comment on I.02.760–770. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 26.]]


subject heading(s): mēnis ‘anger’

The meaning of mēnis ‘anger’ in a situation where X is angry at Y does not preclude the idea that Y is also angry at X. There is an ongoing reciprocity of anger between Achilles as the supreme warrior of the Achaeans and Agamemnon as their supreme leader or over-king. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 73–74.]]


subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’; mēnis ‘anger’; root *men– ‘act or be in a given mental state’; synonym; formulaic system

Here is one of the three Homeric contexts where menos ‘mental power’ seems to be a functional equivalent of mēnis ‘anger’. But note the further comments at I.01.207. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 73.]]


subject heading(s): oneidos (plural oneidea) ‘words of insult’; language of praise/blame

Agamemnon as speaker refers to the oneidea ‘words of insult’ directed at him by Achilles, who has been resorting to the language of blame in his quarrel with the over-king. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 226.]]


subject heading(s): loigos ‘devastation’; Battle for the Ships; fire of Hector; mēnis ‘anger’

The wording of Achilles refers to the future predicament of the Achaeans during the Battle for the Ships; in this phase of the Trojan War, the Achaeans will be losing while the Trojans led by Hector will be winning, on the verge of burning down all the ships of the Achaeans and thus destroying the heroic ancestors of Greek civilization. The threat of such destruction will be signaled by references to the fire of Hector. The word loigos ‘devastation’ refers to the plight of the Achaeans during this phase of the war, when their ships are in danger of being destroyed. For parallel wording, see also I.01.341. For another context—and in this case loigos ‘devastation’ signals a cosmic disaster in the making—see I. 01.398. As for the context that is now being considered, I.01.320–348, the plight of the Achaeans is caused here by the mēnis ‘anger’ of the hero Achilles; earlier, the Achaeans suffer loigos ‘devastation’, I.01.067, I.01.097, I.01.456, when they are afflicted by the disease that is visited upon them by Apollo. In that case, their plight is caused by the mēnis ‘anger’ of the god himself. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 75–76.]]


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

Here is the first occurrence of the noun therapōn in the Iliad; the dual form here is theraponte. In the immediate context, only the surface meaning, ‘attendant’, is evident. In other contexts, as at I.04.227, there are traces of a deeper meaning, ‘ritual substitute’. [[GN 2016.08.11.]]


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


subject heading(s): Patroklos=Patrokleēs

The name Patroklos=Patrokleēs occurs here at I.01.345 for the first time. For the etymology, see the comment on I.01.345. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 102.]]


subject heading(s): tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles; agency of Apollo


subject heading(s): Patroklos=Patrokleēs; kleos ‘glory’ (of poetry)

The name Patroklos=Patrokleēs means ‘he who has the glory [kleos] of the ancestors [pateres]’. On kleos in the sense of an overall reference to the ‘glory’ of poetry, see I.02.325. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 102.]]


subject heading(s): pontos ‘crossing’ [of the sea]

The hero Achilles is linked with the word pontos in the sense of a ‘crossing’ of the sea—a ‘crossing’ that is dangerous but sacralizing. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 343–344.]]


subject heading(s): penthos ‘grief’; akhos ‘grief’; synonym; tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles; Homeric diction
other occurrences of penthos ‘grief’: I.04.197, I.09.003

The word penthos is used here to indicate the ‘grief’ of Achilles. Both words akhos ‘grief’ and penthos ‘grief’ refer to the emotion felt by Achilles over the damage done to his tīmē by Agamemnon when the over-king insults him. In general, penthos ‘grief’ is a synonym of akhos ‘grief’ in Homeric diction. On Homeric diction, see the Inventory of terms and names. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 94.]]


subject heading(s): [dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat), sacrifice’]; daiesthai ‘feast, divide (meat), apportion, distribute’; Strife Scene

The theme expressed by the verb daiesthai ‘feast; divide (meat), apportion, distribute’ at I.01.368 is at work in the Strife Scene at the beginning of the Iliad—although a ‘feast’ as expressed by the noun dais is not literally the setting. (On theme, see the Inventory of terms and names.) Still, the grievance of Achilles has to do with his being deprived of his equitable portion of the spoils of war. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 132.]]


subject heading(s): mētis ‘mind, intelligence’; Thetis

The mētis ‘mind, intelligence’ of the local goddess Thetis is linked with the heroic potential of her son Achilles. [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 345–346.]]


subject heading(s): Briareos; Aigaion; biē ‘force, violence, strength’; pontos ‘crossing [of the sea]’

The monstrous figures of Briareos and Aigaion, synthetized as one person in this context, conjure up the theme of the-Achilles-who-would-have-been if his father had been the god Zeus instead of the hero Peleus. This Achilles-who-would-have been is connected with the primal themes of biē ‘force, violence, strength’. (Here and everywhere, I transcribe this word by way of its Homeric form, biē, instead of its later form, biā.) [[GN 2016.06.05 via BA 347.]]


subject heading(s): ‘best of the Achaeans’; akhos ‘grief’; tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles; mēnis ‘anger’; Oath of Achilles; horkos ‘oath’; skēptron ‘scepter’; Will of Zeus; plot of the Iliad; narrative arc

In the words of the mortal hero Achilles, speaking to his immortal mother Thetis, the status of the hero as ‘best of the Achaeans’ is linked with the akhos ‘grief’ that he experiences over the damage to his tīmē—damage caused by the insult inflicted by Agammemnon in the quarrel between the two heroes. The akhos ‘grief’ of Achilles leads to his mēnis ‘anger’, which in turn will lead to the collective akhos of all the Achaeans. The horkos ‘oath’ of Achilles, Ι.01.233, which he will swear by as he holds the skēptron ‘scepter’, I.01.234, and which he then throws to the ground to mark his oath, is coextensive with the akhos ‘grief’ that the Achaeans will suffer because of the hero’s mēnis. To the extent that the Oath of Achilles is sacred, so too is the coextensive plot of the Iliad. This plot or narrative arc, leading to devastation for the Achaeans, will be enhanced by the mētis or ‘intelligence’ of Thetis, immortal mother of Achilles; and it will be enacted by the Will of Zeus. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 26, 48, 82, 188, 334, 336, 346.]]


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

The status of Achilles as ‘best of the Achaeans’ is primarily formalized by way of the epithet aristos Akhaiōn ‘best of the Achaeans’, as here at I.01.412. For Agamemnon to dishonor this status of Achilles is a sign of the over-king’s atē ‘aberration’. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 26; PH 412.]]


subject heading(s): morceau du héros; aisa ‘portion; fate, destiny’

The theme of le morceau du héros, which is the ‘champion’s portion’ of meat awarded to a dominant hero, is coextensive with the theme of a hero’s epic ‘destiny’, one word for which is aisa, as here. Literally, such a ‘destiny’ is the hero’s ‘portion’ or ‘allotment’. In the Iliad, the focus is on the destiny of this epic’s most dominant hero, Achilles. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 134.]]


subject heading(s): morceau du héros; aisa ‘portion; fate, destiny’


subject heading(s): dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat), sacrifice’; Aithiopes ‘Aethiopians’; Ōkeanos; coincidence of opposites; daiesthai ‘feast, divide (meat), apportion, distribute’; Strife Scene

When the Olympian gods are away from their home situated on Mount Olympus, they customarily attend a dais ‘feast’, I.01.424, in the Land of the Aithiopes ‘Aethiopians’, I.01.423, whose home is situated at the two farthest imaginable extremities of the known world, that is, both in the Far East and in the Far West, on the banks of the world-encircling river named Ōkeanos, O.01.022–024. The idea that the Aethiopians live at both extremes of the world is an example of a theme that can best be described as a coincidence of opposites. (On theme, see the Inventory of terms and names.) When the gods attend the stylized feast of the Aethiopians, as when Poseidon visits them at O.01.022–026, they cannot pay attention to the feasts arranged by mortals in the central world of the heroes’ here-and-now. Such feasts would be sacrifices, involving a dais or literally a ‘division’ of meat. The word dais means ‘feast’ because any occasion of feasting in the heroic world requires a ritualized ‘division’ of the cooked meat of animals sacrificed for the occasion. See the comment on O.08.061. The word dais does not distinguish between an occasion where gods and humans feast together, as in the case of marginal figures like the Aethiopians, and an occasion where humans offer sacrifice to the gods, as in the case of central figures like the heroes in the Iliad and Odyssey. For an example of dais with reference to a feast shared by Poseidon with the Aethiopians, see O.01.026 and the comment on O.01.022–026. For an example of dais with reference to a feast resulting from a sacrifice of animals to the gods, see O.08.061. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 131, 205, 213, 218; GMP 237.]]


subject heading(s): Chryses; prayer; tīmân ‘honor, give honor to’

Chryses uses the same words in praying to Apollo as Achilles does in praying to Zeus at I.16.237. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 82.]]


Q&T via BA 75
subject heading(s): loigos ‘devastation’; amunein ‘ward off’

See the comment on I.01.338-344; see also I.16.032. [[GN 2016.11.09 via BA 75–76.]]


subject heading(s): Life of Homer; pempōbola ‘five-prong forks’;[1] Aeolian, Aeolic; Ionian, Ionic; Homer the Aeolian; Homeric diction; “Aeolic default”; Homer the Ionian; Aeolian Dodecapolis
definitions for Aeolic, Ionic, Aeolian, Ionian, Homeric diction, “Aeolic default”: see the Inventory of terms and names

The anonymous author of a Life of Homer (on the Lives of Homer, see the Inventory of terms and names), in Vita 1.517–537, argues that Homer, as the poet of the Iliad and Odyssey, was an Aioleús ‘Aeolian’, and, in making this argument, he cites among other facts the existence of the form pempṓbola (πεμπώβολα) in the expression here at I.01.463, ‘and the young men were getting ready for him [= the priest Chryses] the five-pronged-forks [pempṓbola] that they were holding in their hands’ (νέοι δὲ παρ’ αὐτὸν ἔχον πεμπώβολα χερσίν). . The reasoning given by the author is this: the Aeolians, he says, are the only Greek-speaking people who roast the splánkhna ‘innards’ of a sacrificial animal by using forks that have five prongs instead of three. All other Greeks use three-prong forks. This argument, based on facts of culture, is combined here with an argument based on facts of language: the Aeolic word for ‘five’ is pémpe, as opposed to the Ionic word, which is pénte. So pempṓbola ‘five-prong forks’ must be an Aeolic and not an Ionic word. (On debates about the phonology and morphology of pempṓbola, see Nagy 2011b:173–174.) In highlighting the form pempṓbola ‘having five prongs’, the narrator of Vita 1 is making the point that ‘Homer’ as a speaker of Greek defaults to Aeolic usage when he speaks about customs that are most familiar to him, as in the case of the Aeolian custom of using five-prong forks instead of three-prong forks for roasting sacrificial meat at an animal sacrifice. In terms of such an argument, that is why ‘Homer’ uses the Aeolic dialectal form pémpe ‘five’ instead of the Ionic dialectal form pénte ‘five’. This argument, combining cultural and linguistic facts, can be seen as a metaphor for explaining a linguistic process, to be defined here as the “Aeolic default.” (See also under “Aeolic default” in the Inventory of terms and names.) In terms of such a definition, Homeric diction defaults to an Aeolic dialectal form, as here, in the absence of a corresponding Ionic dialectal form. (On Homeric diction, see the Inventory of terms and names.) In general, it is this linguistic process of the “Aeolic default” that generates the Aeolic component of Homeric diction. But this component, it is essential to keep in mind, is secondary to the Ionic component of Homeric diction, which is primary. To put it another way: the Ionic component of Homeric diction is dominant, while the Aeolic component is only recessive. Such a relationship of Ionic and Aeolic components is metaphorized in myths claiming that the birthplace of Homer was the city of Smyrna, which was originally Aeolian but then became Ionian. (For historical background on Smyrna, see under Aeolian Dodecapolis in the Inventory of terms and names.) In myths about Smyrna as Homer’s birthplace, the identity of Homer as a native of Aeolian Smyrna is superseded by the identity of Homer as a native of Ionian Smyrna. (See again under Aeolian Dodecapolis in the Inventory of terms and names.) [[GN 2016.09.07 via Nagy 2011b:144 and 173–174.]]

Ι.01.463/anchor comment on: Aeolians as speakers of Aeolic, vs. Ionians as speakers of Ionic
subject heading(s): Aeolian, Aeolic; Ionian, Ionic; Dorian, Doric; Thessaly; Boeotia; Lesbos; European/ Asiatic Greeks; Achilles the Aeolian

From a purely linguistic point of view, an ‘Aeolian’ was whoever spoke a dialect known as Aeolic, which along with Ionic and Doric was a major dialectal grouping of the Greek language. From an anthropological point of view, however, there is more to it: as we see from such sources as Herodotus in the fifth century BCE, an Aioleús ‘Aeolian’ was whoever belonged to a social and cultural grouping of Greeks who distinguished themselves in their rituals and myths from other social and cultural groupings. Thus the Aioleîs ‘Aeolians’ were socially and culturally distinct from, say, the Iōnes ‘Ionians’, as we see for example from the remarks of Herodotus 1.149 about a twelve-city confederation of Aioleîs ‘Aeolians’ located on the mainland of northern Asia Minor, which rivaled a corresponding twelve-city confederation of Iōnes ‘Ionians’ located on the mainland of central Asia Minor. (See under Aeolian Dodecapolis and Ionian Dodecapolis in the Inventory of terms and names.) And these differentiated social groupings of Aioleîs ‘Aeolians’ and Iōnes ‘Ionians’—as also Dōrieîs ‘Dorians’—corresponded neatly with the linguistic groupings of the dialects spoken in Asia Minor and in its outlying islands:

  1. The Aeolian speakers of Aeolic inhabited the northern part of coastal Asia Minor together with the outlying islands of Lesbos and Tenedos.
  2. The Ionian speakers of Ionic inhabited the central part together with the outlying islands of Chios and Samos.
  3. The Dorian speakers of Doric inhabited the southern part together with outlying islands like Rhodes.

By contrast with the dialects of these Asiatic Greeks, however, the corresponding dialects of the European Greeks inhabiting the mainland and islands on the western side of the Aegean Sea are in some cases more difficult to track linguistically. Such is the case with Aeolic dialects spoken on the European mainland, notably in Thessaly and in Boeotia. In the case of Thessaly in particular, the various dialects spoken in this overall region are difficult to correlate with the dialect spoken on the islands of Lesbos and Tenedos as also on the facing Asiatic mainland, but it can be argued that both these sets of European and Asiatic dialects are Aeolic; and it can also be argued that the Thessalians figured themselves as true Aeolians in their rituals and myths. And their primary hero, as we will see in the anchor comment at I.02.689–694, was Achilles of Thessaly, figured as the ultimate Aeolian. [[GN 2016.09.07 via Nagy 2011b:162–167.]]


subject heading(s): dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat), sacrifice’; isos/isē ‘equitable’; daiesthai ‘feast, divide (meat), apportion, distribute’; Strife Scene

The idea of ‘division’ latent in contexts where dais refers to a ‘feast’ becomes overt in expressions like δαιτὸς ἐίσης ‘equitable dais’ referring to an ‘equitable’ (adjective isos/isē) division of meat on the occasion of a feast. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 128, 133.]]


subject heading(s): paiēōn ‘paean’ as a song; algea ‘pains’ of the Achaeans; kūdos ‘sign of glory’

There are two comparable situations in the Iliad where a paiēōn is sung to mark a major remedy for the Achaeans. In the present situation, the singing of such a song marks the cessation of algea ‘pains’ for the Achaeans. In another situation, I.22.391, it marks the winning of a mighty kūdos ‘sign of glory’ for the Achaeans, which is, the killing of Hector by Achilles: see the overall context of I.22.391–394. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 77.]]


subject heading(s): Ēōs, goddess of the dawn; rhododaktulos ‘rosy-fingered’[; thugatēr Dios ‘daughter of Zeus’]; epithet

We see here in the Iliad the first occurrence of the epithet rhododaktulos ‘rosy-fingered’, applied to Ēōs, goddess of the dawn. This epithet can be explained as a substitution for another epithet, thugatēr Dios ‘daughter of Zeus’, which is applied to other goddesses, most notably to Aphrodite: see the anchor comment at I.03.374. [[GN 2017.04.12 via GMP 247–250; also 150n27.]]


subject heading(s): akhos ‘grief’; tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles; mēnis ‘anger’; Will of Zeus; ‘best of the Achaeans’; Oath of Achilles; horkos ‘oath’; skēptron ‘scepter’; plot of the Iliad; narrative arc; mētis ‘intelligence’

In the words of the immortal goddess Thetis, speaking to the all-powerful god Zeus on behalf of her mortal son Achilles, the status of this hero as ‘best of the Achaeans’ is linked with the akhos ‘grief’ that he experiences over the damage to his tīmē ‘honor’. The mother is here reframing the words of her son, spoken earlier at I.01.407–412. The akhos ‘grief’ of Achilles leads to his mēnis ‘anger’, which in turn will lead to the collective akhos ‘grief’ of all the Achaeans, and it will be enacted by the Will of Zeus, who is the father that Achilles never had. And the Will of Zeus will be enhanced by the mētis ‘intelligence’ of Thetis, whom Zeus never got a chance to impregnate. [[GN 2016.06.08 via 72, 81–82, 85, 132, 346.]]


subject heading(s): akhos ‘grief’; kratos ‘winning-power’; Akhaio-/Akhaiā; etymology; Will of Zeus

Once the Achaeans collectively have akhos ‘grief’, ordained by the Will of Zeus, the Trojans will correspondingly have kratos ‘winning-power’, likewise ordained by the god. This correspondence is relevant to the etymology of the name Akhaio-/Akhaiā-. [[GN 2016.06.08 via 81–82, 85, 334.]]


subject heading(s): boulē ‘will, plan’; Will of Zeus; Plan of Zeus; Oath of Achilles; plot of the Iliad; narrative arc; skēptron ‘scepter’

The Will of Zeus, which is made coextensive with the plot or narrative arc of the Iliad, is formalized by the all-powerful god when he nods his head, as he does here at I.01.524–530. When Zeus nods his head here to signal what is called the Will of Zeus, which is the plot or narrative arc of the Iliad, his plan is to make the story of the Iliad happen. That is the Plan of Zeus, not only the Will of Zeus. Likewise coextensive with the plot of the Iliad is the Oath of Achilles, narrated at I.01.233–246, where Achilles formalizes his speech-act when he throws to the ground the scepter by which he swore when he spoke his Oath. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 188.]]


Q&T via MoM 1§102
subject heading(s): Will of Zeus; Plan of Zeus; plot of the Iliad; narrative arc; metonymy; theo-eroticism

The action of Zeus in nodding his head results in his making contact, by way of metonymy, with the emotions of Achilles. On metonymy, see the Inventory of terms and names. The effect of such divine metonymy in making contact with human emotions is seen by ancient critics as an attempt at familiarizing, personalizing, and even eroticizing the gods. [[GN 2016.06.09 via MoM 1§106, with reference to the quoting of these verses by Strabo 8.3.30 C354 in the context of narrating what exactly inspired Pheidias to sculpt the colossal gold-and-ivory statue of Zeus in Olympia; also HC 4§95; also MoM 1§113 with reference to the theo-eroticism of this statue.]]


subject heading(s): Will of Zeus; plot of the Iliad; narrative arc; tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles; akhos ‘grief’; Battle for the Ships; fire of Hector

The reference here to the Will of Zeus, as recapitulated in the words of the goddess Hērā, repeats a main theme in the plot or narrative arc of the Iliad: the damaging of the tīmē ‘honor’ of Achilles by the Achaeans will lead to the akhos ‘grief’ that they will experience at the Battle for the Ships, when their very survival will be threatened by the fire of Hector. What Achilles had wished for has by now become the Will of Zeus: the Achaeans- as a group- will from now on keep losing until the fire of Hector reaches the ships. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 82, 132, 334, 336.]]


subject heading(s): dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’; isos/isē ‘equitable’; daiesthai ‘feast, divide (meat), apportion, distribute’; Strife Scene


subject heading(s): singing/dancing/instrumentation; Muses and Apollo

A totalizing idea of song—including not only the actual singing but also the dancing and the instrumental accompaniment—is embodied in a performance by the Muses and Apollo combined in the idealized context of the divine abode on top of Mount Olympus. [[GN 2016.06.08 via BA 291; also PH 351, 361.]]


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.



[1] In subject headings, I do not write out accents of transliterated Greek words. But I do write them out in the course of strictly linguistic discussions, as in the discussion here.