A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 3

2016.07.07 / updated 2018.08.16 | By Gregory Nagy

The Master Narrator of the Homeric Iliad is looking here at Helen for the very first time—or, to say it more accurately, as if for the very first time. Just as Rhapsody 2 needed a new Catalogue of Ships—or, again to say it more accurately—a renewed Catalogue, so also Rhapsody 3 needs a new look at Helen. It seems as if the Trojan War is happening all over again, starting from the very beginning. The old grievances of Menelaos about the abduction of Helen by Paris can now be renewed and even relived, becoming fresh new grievances as the estranged husband and the new lover proceed to engage in mortal combat. But this one-on-one struggle over life and death will soon modulate into a renewal of all-out war between the Achaeans and the Trojans.

Antalya_Museum_-_Sarkophag_5b_Aphrodite_verbirgt_Paris_1280
Menelaos pulling Paris by the helmet. Detail of Roman sarcophagus of Aurelia Botania Demetria (2nd c. CE); Antalya Archaeological Museum. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Quarrelling

 

The Master Narrator of the Homeric Iliad is looking here at Helen for the very first time—or, to say it more accurately, as if for the very first time. Just as Rhapsody 2 needed a new Catalogue of Ships—or, again to say it more accurately—a renewed Catalogue, so also Rhapsody 3 needs a new look at Helen. It seems as if the Trojan War is happening all over again, starting from the very beginning. The old grievances of Menelaos about the abduction of Helen by Paris can now be renewed and even relived, becoming fresh new grievances as the estranged husband and the new lover proceed to engage in mortal combat. But this one-on-one struggle over life and death will soon modulate into a renewal of all-out war between the Achaeans and the Trojans. [[GN 2016.07.07.]]

 

I.03.038
subject heading(s): language of praise/blame; neikeîn ‘quarrel with’; aiskhro– ‘disgraceful, shameful’; Hector; Paris=Alexandros

Hector quarrels with Paris, as signaled by the verb neikeîn ‘quarrel with’. He aims words of blame at Paris, and these words are aiskhra ‘disgraceful, shameful’ because they are meant to make Paris feel ashamed. Hector’s words are shaming, since he blames things done by Paris that are perceived as shameful and disgraceful. [[GN 2016.06.07 via BA 256.]]

 

I.03.059
subject heading(s): language of praise/blame; neikeîn ‘quarrel with’; aisa ‘portion; fate, destiny’; moira ‘portion; fate, destiny’; plot of the Iliad

In situations of strife among heroes as warriors, there is contention over status. Quarreling happens, as indicated here by way of the verb neikeîn ‘quarrel with’. Positive things about each warrior need to be praised, but negative things need to be blamed. At stake for each contending warrior-hero is the honor that he is apportioned in the course of any contention, and the contention itself is expressed by way of negative and positive speech, that is, by way of blame and praise respectively. Such an apportioning of honor is the essence of a warrior-hero’s aisa, which is visualized not only as a portion of plundered goods that gets apportioned to each warrior after such goods are communally divided (as at I.18.327) but also, in general, as a warrior’s ‘fate, destiny’ (as at I.01.416, and so on). The same can be said about the word moira, which can mean not only a ‘portion’ of plundered goods (as at O.11.534) or even of sacrificial meat (as at O.03.066) but also, in general, ‘fate, destiny’ (as at I.06.488, and so on). What is at stake, in the long run, is the aisa or moira of each contending warrior-hero. And this aisa or moira, in the sense of a ‘portion’ that is being apportioned, becomes the warrior’s ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ in the poetry that tells about him. To restate in colloquial English: aisa or moira becomes the “bone of contention” in the language of praise and blame. Here at I.03.059 as also at I.06.333, Paris actually accepts the words of blame directed at him by his quarreling brother. He says that these words fit his own aisa, admitting that Hector’s words of blame here are kat’ aisan ‘in accord with aisa’ (κατ’ αἶσαν) and not huper aisan ‘in disaccord with aisa’ (ὑπὲρ αἶσαν). We find in Homeric diction comparable combinations of moira, synonym of aisa, with the same adverbs/prepositions kata ‘in accord with’ and huper ‘in disaccord with’, as for example in the case of kata moiran at I.09.059 (κατὰ μοῖραν) and huper moiran at I.20.336 (ὑπὲρ μοῖραν). Further, when the actual words of praise or blame fit the aisa or moira of a given warrior-hero, they will fit not only his destiny but even the overall plot of the epic, as at I.16.707 in the case of aisa and at Ι.16.853 in the case of moira. The plot of epic has a destiny of its own, and this overarching destiny integrates all the individual destinies of the heroes who populate the epic. [[GN 2016.07.07 via BA 287.]]

 

I.03.100
subject heading(s): eris ‘strife’; arkhē ‘beginning’; neikeîn ‘quarrel with’; aineîn ‘praise’; language of praise/blame; Paris=Alexandros; abduction of Helen

The Trojan War is eris ‘strife’. See also eris ‘strife’ at Pindar Paean 6.50–53. That is how this war is seen in the words of Menelaos the Achaean, who claims a juridical grievance on the part of the Achaeans against the Trojans. In terms of the thinking revealed by these words, the beginning of the strife was the abduction of Helen, wife of Menelaos the Achaean, by Paris the Trojan. Accentuating the idea that this juridical grievance of Menelaos was an affair of state is the reference to Paris here by way of his princely name, Alexandros. In royal Hittite correspondences where the Hittite king speaks to and about the king of Ahhiyawa—which is the Hittite way of referring to the land of the Achaeans—we find occasional references to a princely figure by the name of Alaksandu, which is the Hittite pronunciation of Alexandros (Nagy 2015.07.22 §25). By contrast, the name Paris is on the surface merely a shepherd’s name (on the symbolism, however, of the shepherd as a king-in-the-making, see Nagy 2009:309). In any case, the eris or ‘strife’ between the Achaeans and the Trojans was caused by ‘my strife’— according to Menelaos the Achaean. To say it more precisely in his words, the Trojan War was εἵνεκ’ ἐμῆς ἔριδος ‘because of my strife [eris]’. Correspondingly, the arkhē or ‘beginning’ of the strife as begun by Paris=Alexandros was ‘his beginning’ of that strife. To say it again more precisely in the words of Menelaos, the beginning of the Trojan War was Ἀλεξάνδρου ἕνεκ’ ἀρχῆς ‘because of the beginning [arkhē] on the part of Paris=Alexandros’. Here it is important to compare what was narrated in the Cypria, which is an epic belonging to a set of epics known as the epic Cycle. On the epic Cycle, see the Inventory of terms and names. In the Cypria of the epic Cycle as also in the Iliad, the Trojan War is likewise seen as eris ‘strife’. As we read in the plot-summary of the Cypria in Proclus 102.13–19 (ed. Allen 1912), it all began at a feast celebrating the marriage of Thetis and Peleus—a marriage that led to the conception of Achilles himself. It was the Will of Zeus that Eris ‘Strife’ personified would bring about a neikos ‘quarrel’ among the gods that would ultimately result in the Trojan War (Proclus 102.14/15 on Eris/neikos). As we see further in the plot-summary of the Cypria, Proclus 102.14–19, the Eris/neikos extends to the figure of Paris, who has to make a judgment: he has to choose which one of three contending goddesses—Hērā, Athena, and Aphrodite—is the best of them all. This Judgment of Paris is recapitulated at I.24.025–030: the fact that Paris chose Aphrodite means that he aimed negative words at Hērā and Athena, as expressed by the verb neikeîn ‘quarrel with’ at I.24.029 (νείκεσσε), while he aimed positive words at Aphrodite, as expressed by the verb aineîn ‘praise’ at I.24.030 (ᾔνησ᾽). These verbs aineîn ‘praise’ and neikeîn ‘blame, quarrel with’ express the social as well as the poetic significance of praise and blame respectively. [[GN 2016.07.07 via BA 219 and GMP 16.]]

 

I.03.125–128
Q&T via MoM 2§79
subject heading(s): pattern-weaving; diplax ‘pattern-woven fabric that folds in two’; porphureē ‘purple’; marmareē ‘gleaming’; huphainein ‘weave’; aethlos (āthlos) ‘ordeal’

Helen is seen here at I.03.125–128 for the first time in the Iliad. She is shown in the act of pattern-weaving. Instead of singing while weaving, she weaves her song into the web that she pattern-weaves. See also the comment on I.22.440–441, where comparable wording shows Andromache weaving a web of her own. In the case of Helen at I.03.125–128 here, the song that she weaves into her web is about the aethloi (āthloi) ‘ordeals’ of war suffered by Trojans and Achaeans alike—a war they suffered all because of her. The song of the Trojan War is the song of the Iliad—and it is Helen’s song. Purple is the dominant color of Helen’s web, matching the blood of war that stains her song. There also exists, however, a variant epithet for the web that Helen weaves at I.03.126: this diplax ‘pattern-woven fabric that folds in two’ is described in some medieval manuscript versions as porphureē ‘purple’ but in others as marmareē ‘gleaming’. For more on this variant marmareē ‘gleaming’, see the comment on I.22.440-441 on the web of Andromache. [[GN 2016.07.07 via MoM 2§§79–82; on pattern-weaving, see also HPC 276; on aethlos (āthlos) as the ‘ordeal’ of war, see also PH 132, 154.]]

 

I.03.126
subject heading(s): en-passein ‘sprinkle’ (by way of pattern-weaving)

This word en-passein ‘sprinkle’ conveys a metaphor for the process of pattern-weaving. See further at I.22.441. [[GN 2016.12.23 via HPC 275.]]

 

I.03.147
subject heading(s): ozos Arēos ‘attendant of Ares’
See anchor comment at I.12.188.

 

I.03.164
subject heading(s): aitios ‘responsible’; Will of Zeus; abduction of Helen

By referring to the will of the gods in general instead of the Will of Zeus in particular, Priam avoids saying directly that the abduction of Helen is part of the overarching plot of the Homeric Iliad. [[GN 2016.07.07 via PH 238.]]

 

I.03.237
subject heading(s): Kastōr and Poludeukēs

Kastōr and Poludeukēs, latinized as Castor and Pollux, are the Divine Twins, sons of Zeus. Another name for them is Dioskouroi ‘sons of Zeus’. Kastōr and Poludeukēs are also mentioned at O.11.300. The wording of I.03.237 and of O.11.300 is cognate with the wording we find a fragment of Stesichorus: see PH 458. On the etymology of Poludeúkēs, I epitomize from PasP 51. The noun Poludeúkēs as a name is straightforwardly related to the adjective poludeukḗs, in that the recessive accent of the name is typical of the naming function, as we see from such morphologically related formations as Poluneíkēs ‘having many quarrels [es-stem neîkos]’ or ‘having quarrels in many different ways’ (or ‘many times’). In the mythological functions of the divine figure Poludeúkēs, the idea of continuity, conveyed by the root *deuk-, seems as evident as that of variety, since the Divine Twins are models of consistency, perseverance, reliability (as in Homeric Hymn 33). In an astrological sense, we could say that Poludeúkēs, in the role of Morning Star, is ‘repeating many times’, the symbol of many happy returns. On the Divine Twins as alternating Morning Star / Evening Star, I offer an analysis in GMP 258–259. And the repetition can be visualized as a cyclical one—a pattern of eternal return. There is a striking semantic and morphological parallel in poluderkḗs ‘seeing in many different ways’ (or ‘many times’), epithet of the dawn-goddess Ēōs in Hesiod (Theogony 451). [[GN 2017.06.08.]]

 

I.03.242
subject heading(s): aiskhos (plural aiskhea) ‘disgrace, shame’; oneidos (plural oneidea) ‘words of insult’

The noun aiskhos ‘disgrace, shame’ is used here as a synonym of the noun oneidos ‘words of insult’. [[GN 2016.07.07 via BA 255.]]

 

I.03.284
subject heading(s): xanthos/xanthē ‘golden’ (with reference to hair); epithet; immortalization; Achilles; Menelaos

The epithet xanthos ‘golden’ (with reference to hair) is a stylized signal of a mystical immortalization after death for mortal heroes in Homeric poetry. In the case of Menelaos, his immortalization is prophesied at Ο.04.561–569. [[GN 2016.07.07 via BA 210.]]

 

I.03.374 / anchor comment on: Dios thugatēr / thugatēr Dios ‘daughter of Zeus’
subject heading(s): Dios thugatēr / thugatēr Dios ‘daughter of Zeus’

The epithet Dios thugatēr / thugatēr Dios ‘daughter of Zeus’, applied here to Aphrodite, can signal the beneficence of such goddesses toward privileged heroes like, in this case, Paris=Alexandros. In general, this epithet is applied to the following goddesses: Aphrodite, as here at I.03.374, also at I.05.131 and I.05.312; Athena at I.02.548 and I.04.128 and I.04.515; Artemis at O.20.061; Persephone at O.11.217; Ate at I.19.091; the Muses at I.02.491–492 (plural) and O.01.010 (singular); finally, Helen at O.04.227 (see the comment there). This epithet Dios thugatēr / thugatēr Dios ‘daughter of Zeus’ is cognate with Vedic Sanskrit divás duhitár– (/ duhitár- divás) ‘daughter of the sky[-god]’, epithet of Uṣas-, goddess of the dawn, whose name actually means ‘dawn’. The Greek divinities Ēōs and Helios—Ēōs means ‘Dawn’ and Hēlios means ‘Sun’—are comparable to (and cognate with) the Indic divinities Uṣas- ‘Dawn’ and Sūrya- ‘Sun’. In Homeric diction, however, Ēōs the goddess of the dawn is never described by the epithet thugatēr Dios ‘daughter of Zeus’, and this fact corresponds to another fact: Homeric tradition preserves no myth about Eos as a daughter of Zeus. Ēōs is conventionally described as rhododaktulos ‘rosy-fingered’, an epithet that has the same metrical shape as thugatēr Dios, uu–uu. For more on rhododaktulos as an epithet for Ēōs the goddess of the dawn, see the comment at O.12.1–010 on Ōkeanos. [[GN 2017.04.12 via BA 205 and GMP 16; also via GMP 247–249.]]

 


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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