A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 11

2017.06.08 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy

The encounter of Odysseus with the seer Teiresias in Hādēs is a mystical experience that defines the hero of the Odyssey in a new way: Odysseus now learns that he will have a homecoming that leads to a most startling discovery of his own self as a cult hero in the making. [[GN 2017.06.08.]]

“Teiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrifice,” (1780–1785). Henry Fuseli (German, 1741–1825). Image via Wikimedia Commons.
“Teiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrifice,” (1780–1785). Johann Heinrich Füssli (German, 1741–1825). Image via Wikimedia Commons.


subject heading(s): Ōkeanos

As Odysseus and his companions navigate toward the entrance to Hādēs, the atmosphere becomes ever darker. They are pushing the limits of the Extreme West, which the sun no longer illuminates. They are entering a zone where the sun can no longer be seen, O.11.015–016. Here the darkness that comes after sunset will be permanent, unlike the sunset that has already happened at O.11.012, which for the rest of the world will be followed by sunrise on the next day. But here, in this part of the world, the next day will never be found. Demarcating this zone, at the limits of the Extreme West, is the world-encircling cosmic river Ōkeanos, O.11.013. [[GN 2017.06.08.]]


subject heading(s): Ōkeanos; coincidence of opposites

Having arrived at the Ōkeanos, Odysseus and his companions beach their ship there and disembark, Ο.11.020, proceeding to the place in Hādēs where Circe had instructed them to make sacrifice to the dead, Ο.11.021–022. To get there, they go along the streams of the Ōkeanos, O.11.021. It is not said explicitly here that they have crossed the Ōkeanos in order to make their entrance into Hādēs, though the crossing is made explicit in the instructions of Circe at O.10.508. See the comment on O.10.508–512. Nor is it said that they will cross the Ōkeanos when they finally make their exit from Hādēs, O.11.636–640. When they do make their exit, Odysseus and his companions are pictured as reembarking on their ship and navigating it in the streams of the Ōkeanos, O.11.639–640, heading back to the sea that will take them back to the island of Circe. Then, at O.12.001–003, when they finally reach the sea again, from where they will navigate back to the island of Circe, this island is situated no longer in the Extreme West but in the Extreme East, O.12.003–004. So, by implication, they will have navigated all the way around the world by way of the Ōkeanos, from the Extreme West all the way to the Extreme East. This circumnavigation ends up at the same place where it started, at the island of Circe, but now this island is situated not in the Extreme West but in the Extreme East. So, the location of Aiaia, this island of Circe, is a coincidence of opposites. The achievement of such a coincidence by way of the Ōkeanos can be imagined as either a looping around the world or, better, a looping under the world: either way, the circular cosmic river Ōkeanos flows from West to East to West to East and so on forever. For more on coincidences of opposites, see the comments at I.01.423–425 and at O.01.022–026, O.10.135. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 201 and GMP 237.]]


subject heading(s): khoē ‘libation’; bothros ‘pit’

At O.10.516–520, Circe had instructed Odysseus to offer a khoē ‘libation’ to the dead after he enters Hādēs, O.10.518. This libation, to be poured into a shallow bothros ‘pit’ that he had to dig, O.10.517, would consist of three liquids, which would be poured in the following sequence, O.10.519–520: emulsified honey, water, wine. Following the instructions of Circe here at O.11.024–036, Odysseus does as he was told to do. But now we see a further detail: when he digs the shallow bothros ‘pit’, O.11.025, he uses his sword for the digging, O.11.024. Then he goes ahead and pours the khoē ‘libation’ to all the dead, O.11.026, and again the sequence of the three liquids he pours will be the same, O.11.027–028: emulsified honey, water, wine. [[GN 2017.06.08.]]


subject heading(s): black ram for Teiresias; sheep for all the dead; bothros ‘pit’

Here at O.11.029–036, Odysseus continues to follow the instructions of Circe as articulated earlier at O.10.521–537: in the course of offering his libation, in Hādēs, to the dead, Odysseus should also offer them a prayer, promising them that, if he succeeds in getting back home to Ithaca, he will then sacrifice there a barren cow for the dead in general, O.11.030–031, and a black ram for Teiresias in particular, O.11.032–033. And then, after having performed this prayer and these promises for all the dead, he sacrifices the two sheep that he and his companions have brought with them from the island of Circe: he cuts their throats, O.11.034–035, and then he lets their blood flow into the shallow bothros ‘pit’ that he has dug, O.11.036. Unlike O.10.526–527, where the sheep are said to be one black ram and one black ewe, those details are omitted here at O.11.034–035. Conversely, the detail at O.11.035–036 about the blood that flows into the bothros ‘pit’ from the cut throats of the sheep had been omitted at O.10.526–527. Likewise omitted at O.10.536–537—though it is implied—is the picturing of the dead in the act of actually drinking from the pit this blood that has flowed there from the cut throats of the sheep. Such drinking cannot happen, as Circe had instructed, until Teiresias arrives at the scene, O.10.536–537. And now that the blood has actually flowed into the pit, the instructions of Circe must be followed: no drinking of blood can be allowed until Teiresias arrives at the scene and drinks first, O.11.049–050. Teiresias finally gets to have his drink of blood only in O.11.095–098. Once he has his drink, Teiresias will make mental contact with Odysseus. See already the comment on O.10.490–495. [[GN 2017.06.08.]]


subject heading(s): [menos ‘mental power’;] nekuōn amenēna karēna ‘skulls of the dead, having no menos inside them’

The dead can be visualized as karēna ‘heads’, that is, ‘skulls’, as here, which no longer contain any menos or ‘mental power’. See the comment on O.10.521. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 88, 226.]]


subject heading(s): Elpenor; psūkhē ‘spirit’

The very first psūkhē ‘spirit’ of all the dead in Hādēs who will speak to Odysseus in Hādēs is Elpenor, O.11.051–083, who had been left behind, dead and unburied, on the island of Circe. The story of his death was told at O.10.551–560. In the comment on those verses, I already noted that the relevance of this figure to the homecoming of Odysseus is signaled here at O.11.051–083. And there will be a further signal at O.12.014–015. [[GN 2017.06.08.]]


Q&T via H24H 11§47
subject heading(s): sēma ‘sign, signal; tomb’; teleîn ‘reach an outcome; bring to fulfillment (in active forms of the verb)’

|75 σῆμά τέ μοι χεῦαι πολιῆς ἐπὶ θινὶ θαλάσσης, |76 ἀνδρὸς δυστήνοιο, καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι· |77 ταῦτά τέ μοι τελέσαι πῆξαί τ’ ἐπὶ τύμβῳ ἐρετμόν, |78 τῷ καὶ ζωὸς ἔρεσσον ἐὼν μετ’ ἐμοῖσ’ ἑτάροισιν.

|75 Heap up a tomb [sēma] for me [= Elpenor] at the shore of the gray sea, |76 wretched man that I am, so that even those who live in the future will learn about it. |77 Bring to fulfillment [teleîn] these things for me, and stick the oar on top of the tomb [tumbos] |78 —the oar that I used when I was rowing with my companions [hetairoi].

These instructions are given to Odysseus by Elpenor himself or, more accurately, by his psūkhē, O.11.051, and the wording makes it explicit that the tomb that is to be made for this dead sailor is a sēma ‘sign, signal; tomb’. [[GN 2017.06.08 via PH 232, GMP 214–215, H24H 11§47.]]


Q&T via H24H 11§33
subject heading(s): revelations of Teiresias; [nóos ‘mind’;] nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’

|90 ἦλθε δ’ ἐπὶ ψυχὴ Θηβαίου Τειρεσίαο, |91 χρύσεον σκῆπτρον ἔχων, ἐμὲ δ’ ἔγνω καὶ προσέειπε· |92 “διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν’ Ὀδυσσεῦ, |93 τίπτ’ αὖτ’, ὦ δύστηνε, λιπὼν φάος ἠελίοιο |94 ἤλυθες, ὄφρα ἴδῃ νέκυας καὶ ἀτερπέα χῶρον; |95 ἀλλ’ ἀποχάζεο βόθρου, ἄπισχε δὲ φάσγανον ὀξύ, |96 αἵματος ὄφρα πίω καί τοι νημερτέα εἴπω.” |97 ὣς φάτ’, ἐγὼ δ’ ἀναχασσάμενος ξίφος ἀργυρόηλον |98 κουλεῷ ἐγκατέπηξ’. ὁ δ’ ἐπεὶ πίεν αἷμα κελαινόν, |99 καὶ τότε δή μ’ ἐπέεσσι προσηύδα μάντις ἀμύμων· |100 “νόστον δίζηαι μελιηδέα, φαίδιμ’ Ὀδυσσεῦ· |101 τὸν δέ τοι ἀργαλέον θήσει θεός. οὐ γὰρ ὀΐω |102 λήσειν ἐννοσίγαιον, ὅ τοι κότον ἔνθετο θυμῷ, |103 χωόμενος ὅτι οἱ υἱὸν φίλον ἐξαλάωσας. |104 ἀλλ’ ἔτι μέν κε καὶ ὧς, κακά περ πάσχοντες, ἵκοισθε, |105 αἴ κ’ ἐθέλῃς σὸν θυμὸν ἐρυκακέειν καὶ ἑταίρων, |106 ὁππότε κεν πρῶτον πελάσῃς εὐεργέα νῆα |107 Θρινακίῃ νήσῳ, προφυγὼν ἰοειδέα πόντον, |108 βοσκομένας δ’ εὕρητε βόας καὶ ἴφια μῆλα |109 Ἠελίου, ὃς πάντ’ ἐφορᾷ καὶ πάντ’ ἐπακούει. |110 τὰς εἰ μέν κ’ ἀσινέας ἐάᾳς νόστου τε μέδηαι, |111 καί κεν ἔτ’ εἰς Ἰθάκην, κακά περ πάσχοντες, ἵκοισθε· |112 εἰ δέ κε σίνηαι, τότε τοι τεκμαίρομ’ ὄλεθρον |113 νηΐ τε καὶ ἑτάροισ’. αὐτὸς δ’ εἴ πέρ κεν ἀλύξῃς, |114 ὀψὲ κακῶς νεῖαι, ὀλέσας ἄπο πάντας ἑταίρους, |115 νηὸς ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίης· δήεις δ’ ἐν πήματα οἴκῳ, |116 ἄνδρας ὑπερφιάλους, οἵ τοι βίοτον κατέδουσι |117 μνώμενοι ἀντιθέην ἄλοχον καὶ ἕδνα διδόντες. |118 ἀλλ’ ἦ τοι κείνων γε βίας ἀποτείσεαι ἐλθών· |119 αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν μνηστῆρας ἐνὶ μεγάροισι τεοῖσι |120 κτείνῃς ἠὲ δόλῳ ἢ ἀμφαδὸν ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ, |121 ἔρχεσθαι δὴ ἔπειτα, λαβὼν εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν, |122 εἰς ὅ κε τοὺς ἀφίκηαι, οἳ οὐκ ἴσασι θάλασσαν |123 ἀνέρες οὐδέ θ’ ἅλεσσι μεμιγμένον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν· |124 οὐδ’ ἄρα τοὶ ἴσασι νέας φοινικοπαρῄους, |125 οὐδ’ εὐήρε’ ἐρετμά, τά τε πτερὰ νηυσὶ πέλονται. |126 σῆμα δέ τοι ἐρέω μάλ’ ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε λήσει· |127 ὁππότε κεν δή τοι ξυμβλήμενος ἄλλος ὁδίτης |128 φήῃ ἀθηρηλοιγὸν ἔχειν ἀνὰ φαιδίμῳ ὤμῳ, |129 καὶ τότε δὴ γαίῃ πήξας εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν, |130 ἕρξας ἱερὰ καλὰ Ποσειδάωνι ἄνακτι, |131 ἀρνειὸν ταῦρόν τε συῶν τ’ ἐπιβήτορα κάπρον, |132 οἴκαδ’ ἀποστείχειν ἕρδειν θ’ ἱερὰς ἑκατόμβας |133 ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσι, |134 πᾶσι μάλ’ ἑξείης. θάνατος δέ τοι ἐξ ἁλὸς αὐτῷ |135 ἀβληχρὸς μάλα τοῖος ἐλεύσεται, ὅς κέ σε πέφνῃ |136 γήρᾳ ὕπο λιπαρῷ ἀρημένον· ἀμφὶ δὲ λαοὶ |137 ὄλβιοι ἔσσονται. τὰ δέ τοι νημερτέα εἴρω.”

|90 Then came also the spirit [psūkhē] of Theban Teiresias, |91 with a golden scepter in his hand. He recognized [gignōskein] me and said, |92 “Odysseus, you who are descended from the gods, noble son of Laertes, |93 why, wretched man, have you left the light of day |94 and come down to see the dead in this place without any delights? |95 Stand back from the trench and draw back your sharp sword |96 so that I may drink of the blood and tell you unmistakably true things.” |97 So he spoke, and I [= Odysseus] drew back, and sheathed my silver-studded sword, |98 putting it back into the scabbard, and then he [= Teiresias], after he had drunk the black blood, |99 began to address me with his words, faultless seer [mantis] that he was: |100 “It’s your homecoming [nostos] that you seek, a homecoming sweet as honey, O radiant Odysseus. |101 But the god will make this painful for you. I say that because I do not think |102 that the earth-shaking god [= Poseidon] will not take notice, who has lodged in his heart [thūmos] an anger [kotos] against you, |103 being angry that you blinded his dear son [= Polyphemus]. |104 Still, even so, after enduring many bad experiences, you all may get home |105 if you are willing to restrain your own heart [thūmos] and the heart of your companions [hetairoi] |106 when you pilot your well-built ship to |107 the island of Thrinacia, seeking refuge from the violet-colored sea, |108 and when you find the grazing cattle and the sturdy sheep |109 that belong to the god of the sun, Hēlios, who sees everything and hears everything. |110 If you leave these herds unharmed and think only about homecoming [nostos], |111 then you could still make it to Ithaca, arriving there after having endured many bad experiences. |112 But if you harm the herds, then I forewarn you of destruction |113 both for your ship and for your companions [hetairoi], and, even if you may yourself escape, |114 you will return [neesthai] in a bad way, losing all your companions [hetairoi], |115 in someone else’s ship, not your own, and you will find painful things happening in your house, |116 I mean, you will find high-handed men there who are devouring your livelihood |117 while they are courting your godlike wife and offering wedding-presents to her. |118 But you will avenge the outrages committed by those men when you get home. |119 But after you kill the suitors in your own house, |120 killing them either by trickery or openly, by way of sharp bronze, |121 you must go on a journey then, taking with you a well-made oar, |122 until you come to a place where men do not know what the sea is |123 and do not even eat any food that is mixed with sea salt, |124 nor do they know anything about ships, which are painted purple on each side, |125 and well-made oars that are like wings for ships. |126 And I will tell you a sign [sēma], a very clear one, which will not get lost in your thinking. |127 Whenever someone on the road encounters you |128 and says that it must be a winnowing shovel that you have on your radiant shoulder, |129 at that point you must stick into the ground the well-made oar |130 and sacrifice beautiful sacrifices to lord Poseidon: |131 a ram, a bull, and a boar that mounts sows. |132 And then go home and offer sacred hecatombs |133 to the immortal gods who possess the vast expanses of the skies. |134 Sacrifice to them in proper order, one after the other. As for yourself, death shall come to you from the sea, |135 a gentle death, that is how it will come, and this death will kill you |136 as you lose your strength in a prosperous old age. And the people all around [your corpse] |137 will be blessed [olbioi]. All the things I say are unmistakably true.”

The very first word uttered by Teiresias is nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’, O.11.100. The use of this word here is connected with the fact that, earlier in the narrative, the seer Teiresias is described as exceptionally possessing consciousness even in Hādēs, and the word used for the idea of consciousness is nóos. The revelations of Teiresias are activated by his nóos ‘mind’, in the specific sense of ‘consciousness’. See the comment on O.10.490–495, with reference to the permission granted by Persephone for Teiresias to have the nóos ‘consciousness’, O.10.494, that is needed for ‘thinking’, pepnûsthai, even in Hādēs. It is relevant that the nóos or ‘consciousness’ of the ‘spirit’ or psūkhē of the seer Teiresias is properly activated only after he drinks the blood of the two sacrificial sheep that Odysseus slaughters in order to make mental contact with this seer, as we see at O.11.095–098. What Teiresias will then reveal, by way of his nóos, will be a heroic definition for Odysseus, whose goal is to achieve a nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’, as signaled at O.11.100. See further the comment on O.11.100. For the centrality of nóos ‘mind’ and nostos ‘homecoming’ in the overall narrative of the Odyssey, see especially the comments on O.01.003 and O.01.005. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 92.]]


subject heading(s): skēptron ‘scepter’

This detail about a skēptron ‘scepter’ held by Teiresias is relevant not so much to him but to Odysseus, who is seeking to recover his kingship in Ithaca by way of a homecoming that only Teiresias can help him attain. On skēptron ‘scepter’ as a signal of kingship, see the comment on I.01.015. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 52.]]


subject heading(s): mantis ‘seer’

The prophetic powers of Teiresias make it possible for him to see beyond the plot of the narrative that frames the Odyssey as we know it. See the comment on O.10.493. [[GN 2017.06.08; further analysis in PH 163.]]


subject heading(s): prophecy of Teiresias; plot of the Odyssey

This stretch of the prophecy made by Teiresias, O.11.100–118, covers the plot of the Odyssey as we know it. After this stretch, however, the prophecy will extend beyond such a plot. [[GN 2017.06.08.]]


subject heading(s): prophecy of Teiresias; plot of an odyssey beyond the Odyssey; coincidence of opposites; sēma ‘sign, signal; tomb’

This stretch of the prophecy made by Teiresias, O.119–137, will extend beyond the plot or narrative frame of the Odyssey as we know it. (What follows is an epitome of H24H 11§§33, 41–44.) In an essay entitled “Sēma and Noēsis: The Hero’s Tomb and the ‘Reading’ of Symbols in Homer and Hesiod” (GMP 202–222), I analyzed at some length the mystical prophecy spoken by the psūkhē ‘spirit’ of the mantis ‘seer’ Teiresias at O.11.119–137 about an odyssey beyond the Odyssey. As I argued in that essay, the verses of this prophecy point to the future death of Odysseus and to the mystical vision of his own tomb, where he will be worshipped as a cult hero. My argument can be divided into four parts:

Part 1.
Teiresias is predicting that Odysseus will meet his death in a mystical moment where he experiences a coincidence of opposites. And what is this mystical moment? It is a point where the sea and the negation of the sea coincide. That is, Odysseus goes as far away as possible from the sea, only to experience death from the sea: ‘death shall come to you from the sea, |135 a gentle death’, O.11.134-135. See the comment below on these lines. At this same point, where the sea and the negation of the sea coincide, the oar that he carries on his shoulder, which is an instrument linked exclusively with the sea, will be mistaken for a winnowing shovel, which is an instrument linked exclusively with the earth, that is, with the cultivation of the land: ‘Whenever someone on the road encounters you |128 and says that it must be a winnowing shovel that you have on your radiant shoulder’, O.11.127-128. And here is another coincidence of opposites: Odysseus at this point must sacrifice to Poseidon, god of the sea, O.11.130-131, even though this point is as far away from the sea as possible.

Part 2.
And now we come to a mystical vision: in sacrificing to Poseidon, Odysseus must mark the place of sacrifice by sticking into the ground the oar that he was carrying on his shoulder: ‘at that point you must stick into the ground the well-made oar’, O.11.129. As I will now argue, what we are seeing here is a mystical vision of the tomb of Odysseus himself. The key to my argument is what the psūkhē of Teiresias says in introducing his prophecy: ‘And I [= Teiresias] will tell you [= Odysseus] a sign [sēma], a very clear one, which will not get lost in your thinking’, O.11.126. The wording here matches exactly the wording of Nestor addressed to Antilokhos in the Iliad: ‘And I [= Nestor] will tell you [= Antilokhos] a sign [sēma], a very clear one, which will not get lost in your thinking’, I.23.326. In that case, it can be argued that the sēma of Nestor for Antilokhos is a ‘sign’ as marked by the ‘tomb’ of a cult hero who has not yet been identified as Patroklos. See the comment on I.23.326–343. In the Odyssey as well, I argue, the sēma of Teiresias for Odysseus is a ‘sign’ as marked by the ‘tomb’ of a cult hero who has not yet been identified as Odysseus himself.

Part 3.
There is archaeological evidence for the existence of a hero cult of Odysseus on the island of Ithaca, dating back to an early period when the Odyssey as we know it was still taking shape (H24H 11§43). And, in the version of the story as we see it in the Odyssey, Odysseus dies finally in Ithaca, which figures here as his homeland, O.11.132-137. In terms of this version of the story, then, Ithaca is recognized in the Odyssey as a prime location for the hero cult of Odysseus.

Part 4.
This is not to say, however, that Ithaca was the only place where Odysseus was worshipped as a cult hero. From the testimony of Pausanias 8.44.4, for example, we see traces of a hero cult of Odysseus in landlocked Arcadia, which is located in the Peloponnesus and which is as far away from the sea as you can possibly be in the Peloponnesus. Here is the relevant testimony of Pausanias 8.44.4:

ἔστι δὲ ἄνοδος ἐξ Ἀσέας ἐς τὸ ὄρος τὸ Βόρειον καλούμενον, καὶ ἐπὶ τῇ ἄκρᾳ τοῦ ὄρους σημεῖά ἐστιν ἱεροῦ· ποιῆσαι δὲ τὸ ἱερὸν Ἀθηνᾷ τε Σωτείρᾳ καὶ Ποσειδῶνι Ὀδυσσέα ἐλέγετο ἀνακομισθέντα ἐξ Ἰλίου.

There is a path leading uphill from Asea [in Arcadia] to the mountain called the North Mountain [Boreion], and on top of that mountain there are traces of a sacred space; it is said that Odysseus had made this sacred space in honor of Athena the Savior [sōteira] and in honor of Poseidon, in return for his having arrived back home safely from Ilion [= Troy].

 [[GN 2017.06.08 via PH 231–232, GMP 211–215.]]


subject heading(s): phoinikoparēioi ‘having cheeks of purple’[; miltoparēioi ‘having cheeks of red’]

The description of ships here at O.11.124 and also at O.23.271 as phoinikoparēioi ‘having cheeks of purple’ is to be contrasted with the description miltoparēioi ‘having cheeks of red’ at O.09.125 as also at I.02.637. See the comment on O.09.125. [[GN 2017.06.08 via PasP 172n70.]]


subject heading(s): olbios ‘blessed’

In this context, where Teiresias is foretelling the death of Odysseus, the word olbioi (plural) means ‘blessed’ or ‘blissful’, applying to ordinary humans who come into mental and even physical proximity to cult heroes by way of worshipping them. [[GN 2017.06.08 via PH 246, GMP 127, H24H 11§39.]]


subject heading(s): encounter of Odysseus and Antikleia

Not only the psūkhē ‘spirit’ of Teiresias but other psūkhai as well can now make mental contact with Odysseus—so long as their consciousness is activated by drinking sacrificial blood: such is the case with Antikleia, mother of Odysseus, O.11.146–153. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 92.]]


subject heading(s): thesphaton ‘mantic utterance’

This word thesphaton is ordinarily linked with the utterance of a mantis ‘seer’. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 198.]]


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

Whoever succeeds in marrying Penelope would surely qualify as ‘the best of the Achaeans’. But the events of the Odyssey will prove that only Odysseus is qualified, and, since he has no rivals for that title, he is qualified to stay married to Penelope. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 38.]]


subject heading(s): tēkedōn ‘melting away, dissolving’

The application of this word in such moments of emotional intensity is not just a metaphor: it is also a metonym, connecting with the dynamics of the cosmos. See the comment at O.19.204–212. [[GN 2017.06.08 via HC 2§256.]]


subject heading(s): Dios thugatēr ‘daughter of Zeus’

On this epithet, see the anchor comment at I.03.374. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 250–251.]]


subject heading(s): psūkhē ‘spirit’ as dream

The comparison of a psūkhē ‘spirit’ to a dream is relevant to questions about the connotations of this word with reference to unconsciousness. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 226.]]


subject heading(s): Catalogue of Women

I defer here to the definitive analysis of Frame 2009:227–329. [[GN 2017.06.08.]]


subject heading(s): biē ‘force, violence, strength’; kleos ‘glory’; bíē Iphiklēeíē ‘force of Iphiklēs’

As we saw at I.02.658, the name of Hēraklēs is linked with the epic theme of biē in the sense of martial ‘force, violence, strength’; even the name of Hēraklēs can be formulated periphrastically as ‘the force of Hēraklēs’. And now we see the same pattern of naming applied to a hero named Iphiklēs. The application is all the more apt here, since the element īs ‘force, violence, strength’ in the name of Iphiklēs is a synonym of biē ‘force, violence, strength. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 319, 326.]]


subject heading(s): biē ‘force, violence, strength’; kleos ‘glory’; bíē Iphiklēeíē ‘force of Iphiklēs’

See the comment on O.11.290.


subject heading(s): Kastōr and Poludeukēs

Kastōr and Poludeukēs, the Divine Twins, are also mentioned at I.03.237. See the comment there. [[GN 2017.06.08.]]


subject heading(s): duration of performance

At O.11.330, Odysseus breaks off his performance, and the break continues till O.11.385, when the performance recommences. In between, there is a series of polite exchanges between Odysseus as performer and Alkinoos as the primary representative of the audience. The question is, has the duration of the performance become overlong? The answer is: no. On behalf of the audience, Alkinoos insists that Odysseus continue, and the master performer obliges. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 19.]]


subject heading(s): aiskhos ‘disgrace, shame’; language of praise/blame; blame poetry; praise poetry

It is claimed that the deeds of Clytemnestra have disgraced not only herself but all women, and that women will be blamed for her deeds by way of blame poetry. On the poetics of blame, which is antithetical to praise, see the comments on I.02.216 and on I.03.242. [GN 2017.06.08 via BA 255.]]


subject heading(s): Hādēs vs. immortalization

The scene of this encounter in Hādēs between Odysseus and the psūkhē ‘spirit’ of Achilles exemplifies the general tendency in Homeric poetry to shade over any indications of immortalization after death. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 166–167.]]


subject heading(s): Hādēs and unconsciousness

The nekroi ‘dead’ who are in Hādēs, O.11.475, have no consciousness: they are aphradees ‘non-conscious’—precisely because they are in Hādēs. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 92.]]


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

Odysseus pays Achilles the compliment of addressing him here as phertatos ‘the best’. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 35–36.]]


subject heading(s): best of the Achaeans

Achilles says that he would give up the status of a king among the dead if he could only be alive again—even if he became an abject underling in life. It is as if Achilles were now ready to trade places with Odysseus. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 35.]]


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

It is implied here that Ajax, not Odysseus, is really the second-best of the Achaeans. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 36.]]


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

Odysseus blames the misfortunes of Ajax on the Will of Zeus, saying that the god is aitios ‘responsible’. See the comments on I.01.153, I.11.078–079, I.19.086–088, O.01.032–034. [[GN 2017.06.08 via PH 238.]]


subject heading(s): Minos

Minos presides here as judge in Hādēs, and this positioning of Minos was imitated by Hippias of Elis, as we read in Plato’s Hippias Minor. [[GN 2017.06.08 via HC 3§§109–110, 4§136; HPC 365.]]


subject heading(s): krataiḯs (epithet for the rock of Sisyphus)

This form may be compared with krataiḗ as analyzed in the comment on I.05.083. Its meaning can be explained as ‘having a power that has violence’. See also the comment on O.12.124. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 88-89, 349–350.]]


subject heading(s): Hēraklēs in Hādēs; autos ‘self’

At O.11.602–604, it is said that Hēraklēs, described here as autos ‘himself’, O.11.602, is in Olympus, together with the immortal gods and married to Hēbē, so that the vision of Hēraklēs that is seen in Hādēs is just that, an eidōlon ‘vision’, at O.11.602. At I.01.004, we have seen that autoi ‘selves’ refers to dead bodies of heroes, to be contrasted with the word psūkhē ‘spirit’, which refers to either (A) the life-force of heroes when they are alive or (B) the disembodied conveyor of identity when they are dead—as in the case of the psūkhai ‘spirits at I.01.003. See the comment on I.01.003–005. At O.11.602–604, by contrast, the autos ‘self’ that is Hēraklēs is no longer dead but regenerated and thus immortalized. We may infer, then, that the psūkhē ‘spirit’ of Hēraklēs as his life-force has been reunited with his body, with his self, and that is why his psūkhē in Hādēs must be seen as a disembodied conveyor of his identity—as a mere eidōlon ‘vision’. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 166–167, 208.]]


subject heading(s): biē ‘force, violence, strength’; kleos ‘glory’; bíē Hēraklēeíē ‘force of Hēraklēs’

On the use of bíē Hēraklēeíē ‘force of Hēraklēs’ to name Hēraklēs, see the comment on I.02.658. [[GN 2017.06.08 via BA 318.]]


subject heading(s): Labors of Hēraklēs

The word that is used here for what we translate as the Labors of Hēraklēs is aethlos (āthlos) ‘ordeal’, O.11.622 and O.11.624. See the comment on I.03.125–128. [[GN 2017.06.08 via PH 138.]]


subject heading(s): interpolation; expansion (vs. compression); Peisistratos

Hereas of Megara (FGH 487 F 4, via Plutarch Theseus 20.1-2) argued that Peisistratos interpolated this verse about Theseus. As I argue, such narratives about textually added verses reflect the mechanism of expansion (vs. compression) in oral poetics. [[GN 2017.06.08 via HPC 353.]]


subject heading(s): Ōkeanos

After departing from Hādēs, Odysseus and his companions get back into their ship and navigate toward the sea by way of the Ōkeanos, O.11.639. [[GN 2017.06.08 via GMP 238.]]


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.