A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 2

2017.03.09 / updated 2018.10.06 | By Gregory Nagy

The mentoring of Telemachus by Athena continues. First the goddess was Méntēs. Now she will become Méntōr to the young hero. Through the mentorship of the goddess, Telemachus modulates into mental connectivity: he will no longer be disconnected from the epic legacy of his father. As he boards the ship that will take him to Pylos, he is ready to connect with the Odyssey in progress. [[GN 2017.07.22.]]

Telemachus with Athena as Mentor (1810). Drawing by John Flaxman. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Telemachus with Athena as Mentor (1810). Drawing by John Flaxman. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

subject heading(s):Ēōs, ēri-geneia ‘early-generated’ or ‘early-generating’

This epithet of Ēōs, goddess of the dawn, has a prefix ēri-, meaning ‘early’. See the comment at O.19.320.  [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 246.]]

subject heading(s): assembling an assembly; agorē ‘assembly’

Thanks to mentoring by the goddess Athena, Telemachus takes the initiative of assembling an assembly. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): agorē ‘assembly’

As we see from the context here, the agorē ‘assembly’ that is about to take place now in Ithaca is the first assembly to be assembled since Odysseus had left for Troy twenty years earlier. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): piphauskesthai ‘say formally’; agoreuein ‘say in assembly’; dēmios ‘of the community [dēmos]’; dēmos ‘community, district’

The verb piphauskesthai ‘say formally’, referring here to what is being spoken in the agorē ‘assembly’, can be compared with the active form of the verb, piphauskein ‘say formally’, as it is used at I.18.500 in the context of describing what is happening at an agorē ‘assembly’, I.18.497, which is the context for the litigation scene as depicted on the Shield of Achilles. Whatever is spoken at an assembly like the one that is now in progress, O.02.032, can qualify as dēmion ‘of the community [dēmos]’ if it is public business, not private business. If whatever is spoken at the assembly qualifies as public business, then it is the business of the dēmos. See also the comment on O.02.080. On dēmos as ‘community, district’, see O.01.103; see also I.05.077–078. [[GN 2017.03.08 via BA 149, PH 251.]]

subject heading(s): phēmē ‘something said; something said that means more than what is meant by the one who says it’[; name of Phemios; “speaking name” (nomen loquens)]

The speech of the old man Aiguptios, O.02.025–034, is described by the Master Narrator as a phēmē ‘something said’, O.02.035. This translation ‘something said’ does not fully capture, however, the deeper meaning of the word, which is something like this: something said that means more than what is meant by the one who says it. Such a deeper meaning is made explicit at O.20.100 and O.20.105. See the comment at O.20.098–121, [HR]3§23. This interpretation of the meaning of phēmē is relevant to the meaning of the “speaking name” (nomen loqeuns) of Phemios the singer: the adjectival Phēmios is a derivative of the noun phēmē. Accordingly, Phemios is a singer whose songs mean more than what is meant by that singer. See the comment on O.01.342. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): skēptron ‘scepter’

The context here shows that a speaker in an assembly holds the skēptron ‘scepter’ when it is his turn to speak. See I.01.015. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): piphauskesthai ‘say formally’; agoreuein ‘say in assembly’; dēmios ‘of the community [dēmos]’; dēmos ‘community, district’

See the comment on O.02.032. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): ēpios ‘connected, connecting’; back-formation

This form is a back-formation from nēpios ‘disconnected’, becoming that negative word’s positive alternative. A typical source of connectivity is the father in relation to his son. Full argumentation by Edmunds 1990 | 2016. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): mēnis ‘anger’

Here the word refers generally to the cosmic sanction of the immortals in reaction to injustices committed by mortals. On mēnis ‘anger’ as cosmic sanction in general, I refer to the definitive work of Muellner 1996. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): skēptron ‘scepter’

The gesture here of throwing the scepter to the ground is comparable with what happens at I.01.233–246. See the comment there. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): speech of Antinoos; web of Penelope

This speech is most noteworthy for its incorporation of the myth about the continual weaving and unweaving of the web of Penelope. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): web of Penelope; nóos ‘mind’

The intent of Penelope to outwit the suitors by way of her continual weaving and unweaving of her web is described in terms of her qualities of nóos ‘mind’, O.02.092. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): noēma ‘feat of the mind [nóos]’; homoio– ‘similar to, same as’

The mental feats of Penelope are described here as noēmata ‘feats of the mind [nóos]’ that are incomparable to any other woman’s feats. The comparison is expressed by way of the adjective homoio- ‘similar to, same as’ (further analysis in MoM 2§12). This adjective homoio– ‘similar to, same as’ can be used in comparisons that express rhetorically the incomparability of the referent, as here.   [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): pēma ‘pain’; kulindesthai ‘roll’

The oncoming pēma ‘pain’ is pictured here as a boulder that breaks off from mountainous heights overhead and starts rolling downward from above, ever increasing in speed as it nears ground zero: only when the boulder has reached a level plain does it finally stop ‘rolling’, as expressed by the verb kulindesthai. For other instances of such an image, see the comment on I.11.347. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): journey to Pylos and Sparta; punthanesthai ‘learn’; akouein ‘hear’; nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’; kleos ‘glory’ (of poetry)

Athena’s idea of conducting Telemachus on a journey to Pylos and Sparta is introduced, as we saw, already at O.01.088–095. See the comment there. Here too at O.02.212–218, as there, nostos in the sense of ‘song of homecoming’ is the direct object of the verb punthanesthai ‘learn’, O.02.215, and also the direct object of the verb akouein ‘hear’, O.02.218. Elsewhere too in the Odyssey, we see nostos as the direct object of punthanesthai ‘learn’: O.02.264, O.02.360, O.04.714. Also of akouein ‘hear’: O.01.094, O.01.287, O.02.360. Further, such nostos as ‘song of homecoming’ is linked with kleos ‘glory’ (of poetry), as at least indirectly at O.02.217 here. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): Athena as mentor; Méntōr

Athena speaks as mentor and as Méntōr. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): Méntōr

The meaning of the name Méntōr, ‘he who connects mentally’, is relevant to the plot of the Odyssey: see the comments on O.01.088–089. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): ēpios ‘connected, connecting’; back-formation

On this back-formation from nēpios ‘disconnected’, see again the comment on O.02.047. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): dēmos ‘community, district’

From the context here, we can see that the dēmos ‘community’ of Ithaca is populated not only by the families of the suitors. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): Athena as mentor; Méntōr; nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’; punthanesthai ‘learn’

In the exchange between Athena and Telemachus here, the role of the goddess as mentor of the young hero converges with her role as the hero Méntōr. Once again here, nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’ is the direct object of punthanesthai ‘learn’ at O.02.264. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’

The idea that menos ‘mental power’, O.02.271, has been instilled into Telemachus by his father is conveyed here by the verb stazein, which literally means ‘drip’. We may compare line 35 of Archilochus F 196A (ed. West), where menos refers explicitly to ejaculated semen. For other references to male arousal by way of words referring to mental power, see Nagy 1974:267–268. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): dikaios ‘righteous’; dikē ‘justice, righteousness’

We see here at O.02.282 an occurrence that is rare in Homeric diction: dikaios in the sense of ‘righteous’, derived from dikē in the absolutized sense of ‘justice, righteousness’. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): nēpios ‘disconnected’

Telemachus admits here that he had been nēpios ‘disconnected’ in the immediate context of asserting that he is now no longer so. What made him grow up, so to speak? The overall context shows that it was the mentorship of the goddess Athena. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’; punthanesthai ‘learn’; akouein ‘hear’

On nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’ as the direct object of both punthanesthai ‘learn’ and akouein ‘hear’, see again the comment on O.01.088–095. [[GN 2017.03.08 via BA 40.]]

subject heading(s): lōbeuein ‘say words of insult’; kertomeîn ‘say words of insult’; language of praise/blame; blame poetry

The verb lōbeuein ‘say words of insult’ is parallel to kertomeîn ‘say words of insult’, on which see the comment at I.02.256. [[GN 2017.03.08.]]

subject heading(s): lāros ‘delicious’ as epithet of wine

This word may be related to the name Larikhos: Nagy 2015.10.01 §54.

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

LSJ      = Liddell, H. G., R. Scott, and H. S. Jones. 1940. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford.

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.