A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 14

2017.06.29 / updated 2018.10.09 | By Gregory Nagy

Now that he has finally returned to his homeland of Ithaca, Odysseus must accomplish another kind of return: he must be restored to kingship. Such a restoration, however, must start from the bottom up. The goddess Athena, his ultimate benefactor but occasional antagonist, has made Odysseus seem to be ‘base’ on the outside, hiding his inner moral nobility. Only those who are likewise morally ‘noble’ will be able to read, as it were, the hero’s true nature. Meanwhile, the coded tales told by Odysseus point toward the truth of his kingship—without revealing it outright. A telling example here in Rhapsody 14 is the second Cretan tale told by Odysseus: it is about a Cretan princeling, not unlike the dapper figure we see in the romanticized restoration of a Minoan fresco as featured in the cover-illustration for Rhapsody 14. [[GN 2017.07.14.]]

Minoan—probably Neopalatial—fresco commonly known as the “Lily Prince.” Whatever the exact type of this personage (perhaps a crowned acrobat, according to the interpretation of Maria Shaw), the Lily Prince is certainly a Minoan of elite standing. Public domain image based on a famous watercolor by Émile Gilliéron of a reconstruction by Arthur Evans.Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Minoan—probably Neopalatial—fresco commonly known as the “Lily Prince.” Whatever the exact type of this personage (perhaps a crowned acrobat, according to the interpretation of Maria Shaw), the Lily Prince is certainly a Minoan of elite standing. Public domain image based on a famous watercolor by Émile Gilliéron of a reconstruction by Arthur Evans.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.


subject heading(s): name of Eumaios

Here is the first time in the Odyssey that Eumaios is mentioned by name. On the meaning of Eúmaios, see the note on O.17.292. [[GN 2017.07.14.]]


subject heading(s): endukéōs ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’

See the anchor comment at O.07.256. Here at O.14.063, the idea of ritual and moral correctness in host-guest relationships is conveyed by the idea of not interrupting the proper sequence of procedures and protocols. [[GN 2017.06.29 via PasP 44.]]


subject heading(s): endukéōs ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’

See the comment on O.14.063. [[GN 2017.06.29 via PasP 44.]]


Q&T via GMP 44
subject heading(s): pseudesthai ‘lie’; alēthe- ‘true’

The wording at O.14.124–125 refers indirectly to itinerant poets/singers who are ready to adapt the content of their poetry/song to whatever the local audience expects to hear as its own local truth-value. It is as if such poets/singers were ‘lying’, as expressed at O.14.125 by the verb pseudesthai, which is contrasted here in this line with the adjective alēthe- ‘true’. Such itinerant poets/singers are described here as if they were wanderers in general who are ready to adapt the content of whatever they say to the standards of whomever they encounter in a given locale. By implication, those standards represent the real truth, while the mental process of adapting the truth is the equivalent of lying. Wandering beggars are like that: they will lie in order to please those who might give them food to express their pleasure. By implication, hunger for food in the stomach drives the poet as guest to say what his host wants to hear. The poet, then, is dependent on the patronage of his local audiences. See also the comment on O.07.215–221. There is a relevant passage in Hesiod Theogony 26–28, quoted in the comment on O.19.203. [[GN 2017.06.29 via PH 190, GMP 44–45, 274.]]


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

Here again Ithaca is figured as one single dēmos ‘community, district’. See already the comment on O.01.103. [[GN 2017.06.29 via BA 233.]]


Q&T via BA 340
subject heading(s): man overboard devoured by fish[; ikhthuoeis ‘fish-swarming’ as an epithet of pontos ‘crossing (of the sea)’]

This scenario, where a man falls overboard into the sea and dies, so that his body is devoured by fish, is a “favorite fear” that motivates the epithet ikhthuoeis ‘fish-swarming’ as an adjective describing pontos ‘crossing [of the sea]’. See the comment on I.09.004. [[GN 2017.06.29 via BA 340.]]


subject heading(s): Cretan Odyssey; “Cretan lies”; Second Cretan Tale

Here at O.14.192–359 we see the second example of “Cretan lies” told by Odysseus in the context of his re-entry into the kingdom of Ithaca. The first example is at O.13.256–286. The concept of “Cretan lies” was introduced in the anchor comment at O.01.284–286 on Cretan Odyssey. [[GN 2017.06.29; see also BA 138–139, 234.]]


Q&T via Nagy 2017.04.11
subject heading(s): ellipsis; elliptic plural

ἐκ μὲν Κρητάων γένος εὔχομαι εὐρειάων

I say-solemnly [eukhesthai] that I was born and raised in Crete, the place that reaches far and wide

(What follows is epitomized from Nagy 2017.04.11 5§§27–28.) Odysseus, disguising himself as a Cretan princeling, begins with a statement about his origins. He says he is from Crete. In the singular, Krētē refers to the island of Crete. But here at O.14.199 we see the plural Krêtai, which cannot mean a multiplicity of islands named Crete. There is no such thing. Rather, we see here an elliptic plural, meaning ‘Crete and everything that belongs to it’. And of course whatever belongs to Crete are all the Aegean islands and lands controlled by the thalassocracy of Crete (HTL 163–164, following Muellner 1976:70). At O.19.178, we will see a pronoun that refers to Crete, and, like the noun Krêtai here at O.14.199, that pronoun too appears not in the singular but in the plural. So, again at O.19.178, we will see an elliptic plural. Also, in the comment on O.07.078–081, I noted a parallel example: it is the elliptic plural Athênai, which means ‘Athēnē and everything that belongs to it’. My translation here shows ‘it’ instead of ‘her’ for a simple reason: the fact is, the singular form Athēnē refers not only to the goddess Athena but also to the place that she personifies. As we see at O.07.080, the noun Athēnē in the singular can refer not only to the goddess Athena but also to the place that she controls, which was primarily the acropolis of Athens. So, to put that singular form into the plural, which is an elliptic plural, is a way of referring to all the places controlled by the acropolis of Athens. Besides Athênai in the sense of ‘Athens’, other such elliptic plurals include Mukênai ‘Mycenae’ and Thêbai ‘Thebes’. See the comment on O.07.078–081 (see also, again, HTL 163-164). On ellipsis in general, see the comment on I.04.196; also on I.06.209, I.07.015–017. [[GN 2017.06.29.]]


subject heading(s): Ares and Athena as divinities of war

(What follows is epitomized from HPC 289–290, where I offer supplementary bibliography.) A comparable pairing of Ares and Athena as divinities of war is found at I.18.515–519. See the comments on those lines. As I noted already in those comments, such a pairing of Ares and Athena is so old as to be traceable all the way back to the Bronze Age. Here I offer some details. As we know from the documentary evidence of the Linear B tablets found in the palace of Knossos in Crete, the divinities Athena and Ares (in that order) are paired as symmetrical recipients of offerings: in one tablet, V 52, a-ta-na-po-ti-ni-ja is listed together with e-nu-wa-ri-jo and pa-ja-wo-ne and po-se-da-o-ne. I interpret these syllabic spellings as follows: a-ta-na-po-ti-ni-ja = Athānāi potniāi or perhaps Athānās potniāi (see the comment on O.07.078–081), e-nu-wa-ri-jo = Enūaliōi, pa-ja-wo-ne = Paiāwonei, po-se-da-o-ne = Poseidāonei. As we know from the evidence of Homeric diction, the divine name Enūalios became an epithet of Ares, as we see for example at I.18.211. In some Homeric contexts, as at I.20.069, Enūalios is a god in his own right, distinct from Ares, just as Paiāwōn (Homeric Paiēōn) is in some contexts distinct from Apollo, as at I.05.401, I.05.899–900. As for the name of Ares, it too is attested in the Linear B tablets, Knossos Fp 14 and Fp 5816, in the form a-re = Arei. The Cretan connection of Athena and Ares is attested here at O.14.216 as well, where Odysseus in the second of his “Cretan lies” represents himself as a Cretan prince who professes his devotion to these two divinities in moments of crisis in battle. I should add that the pairing of Ares and Athena in the world of images represented on the Shield of Achilles is expressed by way of bronzework that is overlaid with gold, I.18.517–519. Such a technique of metalwork, as narrated on the Shield, is notionally linked to the heroic age or, as archaeologists would say it, to the Bronze Age. [[GN 2017.06.29.]]


subject heading(s): endukéōs ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’

See the comment on O.14.063. [[GN 2017.06.29 via PasP 44.]]


subject heading(s): abduction by gusts of wind; harpuiai ‘rapacious gusts of wind, Harpies’

The theme of abduction by gusts of winds is analyzed at length in the comment at O.15.250–251. . [[GN 2017.08.03 via BA 194, GMP 243.]]


subject heading(s): ep’ anthrōpous ‘throughout humankind’

This expression ep’ anthrōpous ‘throughout humankind’ is conventionally associated with words referring to remembrance by way of song. See the anchor comment on I.10.213. [[GN 2017.06.29 via BA 37.]]


subject heading(s): sacrificial deposition of meat

We see here a rare Homeric glimpse of a sacrificial practice where sacrificers deposit choice cuts of meat in honor of the gods. [[GN 2017.06.29 via BA 217.]]


Q&T via GMP 296
subject heading(s): wishes correlated with premises

Syntactically, the premise here reinforces the probability of the wish. [[GN 2017.06.29 via GMP 296.]]


subject heading(s): Odysseus as poet

The discourse of the disguised Odysseus, shown here in the act of speaking to Eumaios, matches the discourse of a poet/singer who is performing at a festive occasion. [[GN 2017.06.29 via BA 234–237, PH 236.]]


Q&T via Nagy 1994:24
subject heading(s): festive poetics

|462 κέκλυθι νῦν, Εὔμαιε καὶ ἄλλοι πάντες ἑταῖροι, |463 εὐξάμενός τι ἔπος ἐρέω· οἶνος γὰρ ἀνώγει, |464 ἠλεός, ὅς τ’ ἐφέηκε πολύφρονά περ μάλ’ ἀεῖσαι |465 καί θ’ ἁπαλὸν γελάσαι καί τ’ ὀρχήσασθαι ἀνῆκε, |466 καί τι ἔπος προέηκεν, ὅ πέρ τ’ ἄρρητον ἄμεινον. |467 ἀλλ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν τὸ πρῶτον ἀνέκραγον, οὐκ ἐπικεύσω.

|462 Listen to me now, Eumaios and all you other companions! |463 Speaking proudly [eukhesthai], I will tell you an utterance. The wine is telling me to do so. |464 Wine, distracting as it is, impels even the thinking man to sing |465 and to laugh softly. And it urges him on to dance. |466 It even prompts an utterance that may be better left unsaid. |467 But now that I have shouted out loud [anakrazein], I will not suppress it.

The wording here, as delivered by the disguised Odysseus to Eumaios, is cognate with the poeticized replication of a festive occasion in the words of Pindar, Nemean 7.75–76:

ἔα με· νικῶντί γε χάριν, εἴ τι πέραν ἀερθείς | ἀνέκραγον, οὐ τραχύς εἰμι καταθέμεν.

Your indulgence, please! If I—to reciprocate the victor—shouted something out loud [anakrazein] as I soared too far up, I am not unversed in bringing it back down.

[[GN 2017.06.30 via BA 236, MoM 4§130.]]


subject heading(s): ainos ‘coded words; fable’

Eumaios compliments the discourse of Odysseus, calling it a fine example of an ainos. Here the meaning of ainos can be interpreted in a general poetic sense, as ‘coded words’- a ‘coded message’. But there is also a specific poetic sense that is conveyed by the same word: an ainos can be festive, highlighting the merriment of song and dance. The same kind of festivity is formalized also in the victory odes of Pindar, where the medium of the odes can refer to itself by way of the same word, ainos, as we see for example in the case of Olympian 11.7. See also the general comment on O.09.003–011 and the specific comment there on the word euphrosunē ‘festivity, merriment’ at O.09.006. On the programmatic implications of this word as an indicator of the festive atmosphere, as it were, of the poetic occasion, I refer again here to a definitive formulation by Bundy 1986:2 with reference to the poetics of Pindar (see BA 91, 235; also PH 198). [[GN 2017.06.29 via BA 235, 237; PH 197-198, 237; GMP 274.]]


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.