A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 15

2017.07.03 / updated 2018.10.12 | By Gregory Nagy

Now that Odysseus is back home in Ithaca, it is time for his son Telemachus to return home as well. The goddess Athena now travels to Sparta, where she will initiate the return of Telemachus back home to Ithaca. [[GN 2017.07.03.]]

Detail from a fresco found at Hagia Triadha in Crete. Reconstruction by Mark Cameron, p. 96 of the catalogue Fresco: A Passport into the Past. Minoan Crete through the eyes of Mark Cameron. 1999. Catalogue curated by Doniert Evely. Athens: British School at Athens; and N. P. Goulandris Foundation, Museum of Cycladic Art. Reproduced with the permission of the British School at Athens. BSA Archive: Mark Cameron Personal Papers: CAM 1.
Detail from a fresco found at Hagia Triadha in Crete. Reconstruction by Mark Cameron, p. 96 of the catalogue Fresco: A Passport into the Past. Minoan Crete through the eyes of Mark Cameron. 1999. Catalogue curated by Doniert Evely. Athens: British School at Athens; and N. P. Goulandris Foundation, Museum of Cycladic Art. Reproduced with the permission of the British School at Athens. BSA Archive: Mark Cameron Personal Papers: CAM 1.


subject heading(s): Sparta; eurukhoros ‘having a wide dancing-place’; khoros ‘place for singing / dancing’, group of singers /dancers’; Daedalus; Hephaistos; Ariadne

(What follows is epitomized from Nagy 2017.04.11 5§§29–31.) In the Homeric Odyssey, the Minoan-Mycenaean world is linked more directly to Sparta than to Crete. To make this point, I start with the beginning of Odyssey 15, where the goddess Athena appears in an epiphany to Telemachus at Sparta. As Athena tells Telemachus at O.15.001–009, it is time for the young hero to conclude his visit at Sparta and to go back home to Ithaca. I highlight the fact that Sparta is described here at O.15.001 as eurukhoros (εἰς εὐρύχορον Λακεδαίμονα), meaning ‘having a wide dancing-place’. I see here a Minoan-Mycenaean signature. Relevant is the word Kallikhoron, which is explained this way in the dictionary of Hesychius: Καλλίχορον· ἐν Κνωσσῷ ἐπὶ τῷ τῆς Ἀριάδνης τόπῳ ‘Kallikhoron was the name of the place of Ariadne in Knossos’. And the meaning of this ‘place of Ariadne’, Kallikhoron, is ‘the dancing-place that is beautiful’. It is most relevant to highlight here the fact that the word khoros can designate either the ‘place’ where singing and dancing takes place or the group of singers and dancers who perform at that place. Such a beautiful place, as we already saw in the comment on I.18.590–606, is made visible by the divine smith Hephaistos when he creates the ultimate masterpiece of visual art, the Shield of Achilles. At I.18.593–606, we see in action the singing-and-dancing that happens in the picturing of the divine place, the word for which is khoros, I.18.590. And the prima donna for such singing and dancing can be visualized as the girl Ariadne, for whom Daedalus had made the ultimate place for song and dance, I.18.592. [[GN 2017.07.03.]]


subject heading(s): nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’; néesthai ‘return, come back’; hupo-mnē- ‘mentally connect’

At O.13.439–440 it was said that the goddess Athena, after parting with Odysseus on the island of Ithaca, ‘next’ went off to Sparta in order to connect with Telemachus there. The moment of that connection, which was going to happen ‘next’, was expressed by way of the adverb epeita, O.13.439. Now at O.15.001–003 this moment that had been destined to happen ‘next’ is finally at hand, and we see the goddess arriving at Sparta, where she will make it possible for Telemachus to connect mentally with his own nostos ‘homecoming’ to Ithaca, O.15.003. Essential here at O.15.03 is the use of the verb hupo-mnē-, meaning ‘mentally connect’. The same verb is used in a comparable context at O.01.322. See the comment on O.01.320–322. Here at O.15.001–003, Telemachus will mentally connect not only with the idea of his own homecoming but also with the song of that homecoming, which will merge with the song of his father’s homecoming. Telemachus needs to be mentally connected to his own nostos not only in the sense of ‘homecoming’ and ‘song of homecoming’ but also, more mystically, ‘return to light and life’. On this mystical meaning, see the comment on O.01.005, where this noun nostos is explained as meaning etymologically a ‘return’ or a ‘coming-back’, derived from the verb-root *nes– ‘return, come back’, which has a deeper meaning as well: ‘come to’, in the sense of ‘come back to consciousness’. The noun nostos itself, meaning ‘homecoming’, likewise has a deeper meaning: ‘coming back to light and life’. Etymologically related to this noun nostos in the sense of ‘coming back to light and life’ is the noun nóos ‘mind’, which has the deeper meaning of ‘coming to’ in the sense of ‘coming back to consciousness’. As I argued in the comment on O.13.078–095, the idea of ‘coming to’ as embedded in the noun nostos is activated at the moment when Odysseus comes home to Ithaca: there he wakes up from a death-like sleep at the precise moment when the sun rises. To experience such a nostos as a ‘homecoming’, as I also argued in the same comment, is to experience a symbolic ‘return to light and life’, and the Odyssey as a ‘song of homecoming’ is such a nostos. Here at O.15.001–003, we see that the son of Odysseus must likewise experience a nostos, expressed here at O.15.003 not only by the noun nostos but also by the verb néesthai, derived from the root *nes-. This line, O.15.003, shows that the song of this nostos, of this homecoming, is meant to merge with the song of the father’s homecoming. See also the comment on O.01.088–089. [[GN 2017.07.02.]]


subject heading(s): [dais ‘feast; division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’;] daiesthai ‘feast; divide (meat), apportion, distribute’; moira ‘portion; fate, destiny’

See further details in the comment on O.08.061; also in the comment on I.03.059. [[GN 2017.07.03 via MoM 4§73.]]


subject heading(s): death of Amphiaraos

Here as also at O.15.253, it is said explicitly that the hero Amphiaraos died in the war of the Seven against Thebes. See also the note on O.15.253 (details in BA 204). (What follows is epitomized from H24H 15§34.) In the myth about the death of Amphiaraos as retold by Pausanias (1.34.2), the hero is riding back home on his war chariot after the defeat of the Seven against Thebes, when suddenly the earth opens up underneath and swallows him—together with his speeding chariot and horses and all—and, at the spot where this engulfment happened, there is a hieron, ‘sacred space’, where worshippers of the hero come to consult him, though Pausanias reports that there is some disagreement about matching the place of the ritual consultations with the actual place of the mythical engulfment. In any case, I propose that the engulfment of Amphiaraos by the earth signals not only his death but also his subsequent return from death as a cult hero. Here at O.15.247 and at O.15.253, the death of Amphiaraos after the expedition against Thebes is made explicit, though this death is only implicit in the references to the engulfment of the same hero as narrated in the songs of Pindar: Olympian 6.14; Nemean 9.24–27, 10.8–9. The poetic reticence we see in Pindar’s songs about mentioning the actual death of Amphiaraos at the moment of his engulfment by the earth is a sign, I also propose, of a keen awareness about the subsequent resurrection of the hero (BA 154, 204). [[GN 2017.07.05.]]


subject heading(s): Polupheídēs

The morphology of this name Polupheídēs can be interpreted as meaning ‘having parsimony in many different ways’ or ‘… many times’. [[GN 2017.07.03 via PasP 51n36.]]


subject heading(s): Ēōs, goddess of dawn; Kleitos; harpazein ‘snatch, seize’; abduction by gusts of wind; harpuia ‘rapacious gust of wind, Harpy’

Here at O.15.250–251, Ēōs the goddess of the dawn abducts the beautiful young hero Kleitos by way of ‘snatching’ him away, as expressed by the verb harpazein ‘snatch, seize’. The picturing of such an abduction is part of an overall mythological complex that I analyzed in some detail in GMP 242–245. I epitomize that analysis in what follows:

Part 1.
Here is an inventory of verbs expressing the abduction of beautiful heroes by divinities:
A.Ēōs abducts Kleitos, here at O.15.250: hḗrpasen ‘snatched’
B.Ēōs abducts Tithōnos, Hymn to Aphrodite 218; hḗrpasen ‘snatched’ (on Ēōs and Tithōnos, see already the comment at O.05.001–002)
C.Ēōs abducts Orion, O.05.121: héleto ‘seized’
D.Ēōs abducts Kephalos, Euripides Hippolytus 455: an-hḗrpasen ‘snatched up’
E.Aphrodite abducts Phaethon (son of Kephalos), Hesiod Theogony 990: anereipsaménē ‘snatching up’.

Part 2.
I draw attention here to a parallelism found in another case of abduction, where Zeus abducts Ganymedes. The parallelism is explicit in the Hymn to Aphrodite, where Aphrodite herself mentions the abduction of Ganymedes by Zeus at lines 202-217 and the abduction of Tithonos by Ēōs at lines 218-238 as precedents for her own seduction of the beautiful hero Anchises. In the Iliad, we find a further detail about the myth of Ganymedes: the gods abduct him for Zeus ‘on account of his beauty, so that he may be with the immortals’, I.20.235 (κάλλεος εἵνεκα οἷο, ἵν’ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη). So also here at O.15.250–251: when Ēōs abducts Kleitos, it is for the same reason: ‘on account of his beauty, so that he may be with the immortals’ (κάλλεος εἵνεκα οἷο, ἵν’ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη). These thematic parallelisms of Ganymedes/Tithōnos and Ganymedes/Kleitos are relevant to the fact that the verb used in the Iliad to describe how the gods abducted Ganymedes is an-ēreípsanto ‘snatched up’, I.20.234. This verb an-ēreípsanto, used here as an aorist indicative, corresponds to the aorist participle an-ereipsaménē ‘snatching up’, which designates how Aphrodite abducted the beautiful hero Phaethon (son of Kephalos) in Hesiod Theogony 990. But how are we to imagine this divine action of ‘snatching up’ a beautiful hero? The answer to this question is signaled at line 208 of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, where the verb that is used to describe the abduction of Ganymedes is an-hḗrpase ‘snatched up’, line 208—and where the subject of the verb is áella ‘gust of wind’. The verb an-hḗrpase ‘snatched up’ at line 208 is coextensive with hḗrpase at line 202—where the subject of this verb is specifically Zeus himself, to be contrasted with the more general theoí ‘gods’, subject of anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ at I.20.234. Not only in the case of an-ēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ with reference to the abduction of Ganymedes at I.20.234 but also in every other Homeric case of an-ēreípsanto ‘snatched up’, the subject of this verb refers to gusts of wind. In such contexts, we can see that thúella ‘gust of wind’ can be used as a synonym of áella ‘gust of wind’. When Penelope bewails the unknown fate of the absent Telemachus, she says that it was thúellai ‘gusts of wind’ that an-ēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ her son, O.04.727. Further, when Telemachus bewails the unknown fate of the absent Odysseus, he says that it was hárpuiai ‘snatching winds, Harpies’ that an-ēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ his absent father, O.01.241. The same expression is used when Eumaios bewails the unknown fate of the absent Odysseus, O.14.371. In general, the meaning of thúella ‘gust of wind’ is coextensive with the meaning of hárpuia ‘snatching wind, Harpy’: see the comments at O.20.061–080, where we find the combination of thuéllai ‘gusts of wind’ with an-hélonto ‘seized’ at O.20.066. Comparable is the combination of Ēṓs with héleto ‘seized’ at O.05.121—where Ēōs the goddess of the dawn abducts Orion. In the context of O.20.061–080, as highlighted in the comments on those lines, the combination of thuéllai ‘gusts of wind’ with an-hélonto ‘seized’ at O.20.066 is then restated at O.20.077 by way combining hárpuiai ‘snatching winds, Harpies’ with an-ēreípsanto ‘snatched up’. By now I have accounted for all the Homeric attestations of anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ as also for the solitary Hesiodic attestation of anereipsaménē ‘snatching up’.

Part 3.
As for hárpuia ‘snatching wind, Harpy’, the only other Homeric attestation besides those already surveyed in Part 2 is in the Iliad. At I.16.149–151, we see that a hárpuia ‘Harpy’ by the name of Podárgē, meaning ‘swift of foot’, was the mother of Xanthos and Balios, horses of Achilles, while the father of these horses was Zephyros the West Wind. In this connection, we may consider the Hesiodic description of the hárpuiai ‘snatching winds’ or ‘Harpies’, two in number, in Theogony 267–269: one is named Aellṓ, line 267, from áella ‘gust of wind’, and the other, Ōkupétē, the one who is ‘swiftly flying’, line 267. In short, the epic attestations of hárpuia betray a regular association with wind. Furthermore, this noun hárpuia may be formally connected with the verb transmitted as anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ and anereipsaménē ‘snatching up’ in Homeric and Hesiodic diction respectively, as surveyed in Part 2: a decisive piece of evidence is a variant of hárpuia, shaped arepuîa (ἀρεπυῖα), attested in the Etymologicum Magnum (138.21) and on a vase inscription from Aegina (dual αρεπυια, see DELG under ῞Αρπυια).

Part 4.
On the basis of these surveys in Parts 1–3, we can see how beautiful young heroes like Kleitos, Tithōnos, Orion, Kephalos, Phaethon, and Ganymedes were abducted: in the poetic imagination, they were snatched away by gusts of wind. The imagery is most explicit in the story of Ganymedes. The immediate agent of the abduction is a gust of wind, and the father of Ganymedes does not know what happened to his son after the áella ‘gust of wind’ ‘snatched [him] up’, an-ḗrpase, as we read at line 208 of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite. We should observe, however, that the ultimate agent is Zeus himself, who is the subject of the verb hḗrpasen ‘snatched’ designating the abduction of Ganymedes at line 203 of the Hymn to Aphrodite. As compensation for the abduction of Ganymedes, Zeus eventually gives to the boy’s father a team of wondrous horses, lines 210-211, who are described as aellópodes ‘having gusts of wind as their feet’, line 217 (ἀελλοπόδεσσιν). In this instance, both the action of taking and the action of giving in return center on the element of wind. But now, after having ascertained how such heroes were abducted, we may still ask where they were taken. In some cases, we can see that the outcome is positive, as when Ganymedes is taken to Olympus. In other cases, however, where a crossing of the cosmic river Ōkeanos is involved, the outcome may be either positive or negative. A case in point is a complicated passage at O.20.061–080, which I will analyze when I reach my comment on those lines, though I highlight already here a relevant detail. When Penelope wishes for a gust of wind to snatch her up and drop her into the Ōkeanos, O.20.063–065, the immediate agent is a thúella ‘gust of wind’, O.20.063, though the ultimate agents are the gods themselves, O.20.079. This linking of the Ōkeanos at O.20.063–065 with the wished-for abduction of Penelope by gusts of wind is relevant to what we read at I.16.149–151: it is on the banks of this cosmic river Ōkeanos that the hárpuia ‘Harpy’ named Podárgē ‘swift of foot’ gave birth to the wind-horses of Achilles. See the comment at Part 3 above. I note also that a variant reading for Ὠκεανοῖο ‘Ōkeanos’ at I.16.151 is Ἠριδανοῖο ‘Ēridanos’. The cosmic river Ēridanos as a mythological variant of the cosmic river Ōkeanos’: see the comment on O.19.320.
[[GN 2017.08.03.]]


subject heading(s): death of Amphiaraos

Here as also at O.15.247, it is said explicitly that the hero Amphiaraos died in the war of the Seven against Thebes. For details, see the note on O.15.247 (further details in BA 204). [[GN 2017.07.05.]]


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

Besides the anchor comment on endukéōs ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’ at O.07.256, see also the comment on O.14.063. [[GN 2017.07.03 via PasP 43.]]


subject heading(s): biē ‘force, violence, strength’; hubris ‘outrage’

The parallelism of biē ‘force, violence, strength’ with hubris ‘outrage’ here at O.15.329 shows that the first word, as applied to the suitors of Penelope, is to be interpreted in a strictly negative sense. [[GN 2017.07.03 via BA 319.]]


subject heading(s): wishes correlated with premises

Syntactically, the premise here reinforces the probability of the wish. See also the comment on O.14.440–441. [[GN 2017.07.03 via GMP 297.]]


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

Besides the anchor comment on endukéōs ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’ at O.07.256, see also the comment on O.14.063. [[GN 2017.07.03 via PasP 43.]]


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

Here again, as at O.11.179, it is said that whoever succeeds in marrying Penelope would surely qualify as ‘the best of the Achaeans’. [[GN 2017.07.03 via BA 39.]]


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.



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