A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 19

2017.07.24 / updated 2018.10.13 | By Gregory Nagy

Rhapsody 19 is best known for a scene where Odysseus is recognized by his old nurse Eurykleia. She notices a tell-tale scar on his leg—the result of a wound that marks the moment in his youth when he was gored in a boar hunt. This scar can be seen as a sēma or ‘sign’ of the hero’s identity. [[GN 2017.07.22.]]

“Euryclea Discovers Ulysses” (1805). John Flaxman (English, 1755–1826). Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996. Image via the Tate.
“Euryclea Discovers Ulysses” (1805). John Flaxman (English, 1755–1826). Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996. Image via the Tate.



Q&T (modified) via H24H 12§3
subject heading(s): kleos ‘glory’; basileus ‘king’; eudikiai ‘good acts of justice [dikē]’[; olbios ‘blessed’]

|107 ὦ γύναι, οὐκ ἄν τίς σε βροτῶν ἐπ’ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν |108 νεικέοι· ἦ γάρ σευ κλέος οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἱκάνει, |109 ὥς τέ τευ ἦ βασιλῆος ἀμύμονος, ὅς τε θεουδὴς |110 ἀνδράσιν ἐν πολλοῖσι καὶ ἰφθίμοισιν ἀνάσσων |111 εὐδικίας ἀνέχῃσι, φέρῃσι δὲ γαῖα μέλαινα |112 πυροὺς καὶ κριθάς, βρίθῃσι δὲ δένδρεα καρπῷ, |113 τίκτῃ δ’ ἔμπεδα μῆλα, θάλασσα δὲ παρέχῃ ἰχθῦς |114 ἐξ εὐηγεσίης, ἀρετῶσι δὲ λαοὶ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

|107 My lady, who among mortals throughout the limitless stretches of earth |108 would dare to quarrel [neikeîn] against you with words? For truly your glory [kleos] reaches the wide firmament of the sky itself |109 —like the glory of some faultless king [basileus], who, godlike as he is, |110 and ruling over a population that is multitudinous and vigorous, |111 upholds good acts of dikē [= eu-dikiai], while the dark earth produces |112 wheat and barley, the trees are loaded with fruit, |113 the ewes steadily bring forth lambs, and the sea abounds with fish, |114 by reason of the good directions he gives, and his people are-meritorious [aretân] under his rule.

(What follows is epitomized from H24H 12§§4–12§§4–7.) The wording here at O.19.107–114 shows the only place in the Odyssey where Penelope is said to have kleos or ‘glory’ herself, O.19.108, but even here the glory emanates more broadly from the poetic tradition that features primarily Odysseus and only secondarily those who are close to him, especially Penelope. This passage here will be relevant to the context of the kleos ‘glory’ attributed to Odysseus at O.24.196, to be analyzed in the comment on that line (further analysis in H24H 9§§22–23; also BA 38). Here at O.19.107–114, the kleos ‘glory’ of Penelope depends on the validity of comparing this glory with the corresponding glory of the unnamed king whose ‘good acts of dikē’ energize the fertility and prosperity of the land he rules. Since the words about this just king are spoken by the disguised Odysseus, it is evident that he himself will take the role of that just king when the time comes. But when exactly will that time come? Will it be after he kills the suitors? Or will it be after he dies? I ask the second question because the wording that refers to the inhabitants of the fertile and prosperous land of the just king is remarkably parallel to the wording that referred to the inhabitants of the kingdom of Odysseus after he is dead: they are said to be olbioi ‘blessed’, O.11.137. See the comment at O.11.136–137. This wording comes from the prophecy of Teiresias to Odysseus at O.11.090-137, which I quoted in my comments on Rhapsody 11. As also in those comments, I draw attention once again to the word olbioi here, which I continue to translate here as ‘blessed’, and which describes the inhabitants of the kingdom of Odysseus. As I argued in the comment at O.11.136–137, this word olbioi, ‘blessed’, refers to the blessings of fertility and prosperity that the inhabitants of Ithaca receive as a result of the hero’s death (the prophecy of his death at O.11.136–137 will be retold at O.23.283–284). This death will lead to the transformation of Odysseus into a cult hero (further analysis in H24H 11§59). In the Hesiodic Works and Days, verse 172, this same word olbioi, ‘blessed’, is used to describe cult heroes who are immortalized after death and who enjoy a state of bliss in the Islands of the Blessed, which is a paradisiacal setting that transcends the temporal and the spatial constraints associated with sites where the bodies of cult heroes are believed to be buried (further analysis in H24H 11§15). My argument, then, is that the picture of a just king who rules over a fertile and prosperous land here at O.19.107–114 refers to the future status of Odysseus as a cult hero. But I still need to confront a possible objection: why would a cult hero be described as a basileus, ‘king’, at O.19.109? And besides, would not the title of ‘king’ fit Odysseus when he is alive, right after he kills the suitors and recovers his kingdom—and before he is dead? True, the title would fit then as well, but I maintain that the context of the words spoken by the disguised Odysseus to Penelope is more transcendent. The fact is, the title of ‘king’ fits the cult hero as well. There is evidence to show that the generic cult hero is conventionally described as a basileus, ‘king’ (further analysis in BA 170–172). In a stylized thrēnos or ‘lament’ composed by Pindar (F 133, quoted by Plato Meno 81b), for example, hēroes hagnoi, ‘holy heroes’, are equated with basilēes, ‘kings’ (βασιλῆες ἀγαυοὶ … ἥροες ἁγνοί). Also, in an inscription grounded in rituals honoring the dead, in a context of promising a blissful life after death, the dead person is told: καὶ τότ’ ἔπειτ’ ἄ[λλοισι μεθ’] ἡρώεσσιν ἀνάξει[ς] ‘and then you will be king [anassein] among the other heroes [hērōes]’ (IG XIV 638 = SEG 40:824[2]; further analysis in BA 171, where the citation needs to be corrected). [[GN 2017.07.22 via BA 38, PH 248, GMP 275.]]


subject heading(s): dēmiourgoi (dēmioergoi) ‘craftsmen of the dēmos’; [dēmos ‘community, district’;] kērux ‘herald’

In the comment at O.17.381–394, I noted the listing there of four kinds of craftsment who belong to the category of dēmiourgoi (dēmioergoi) ‘craftsmen of the dēmos’, where dēmos ‘community, district’ is to be understood as a legally-sanctioned zone of activity within which craftsmen are authorized to be practicing their crafts. The four kinds of craftsmen were the mantis ‘seer’, the iētēr ‘physician’, and the tektōn ‘carpenter, joiner’ at O.17.384 and the aoidos ‘singer’ or poet at O.17.385. Now we see here at O.19.135 a fifth kind of craftsman, the kērux ‘herald.’ [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 3.]]


subject heading(s): tēkesthai ‘melt away, dissolve’; dissolving while weeping

For more on tēkesthai ‘melt away, dissolve’ as a metaphor for weeping, see the note at O.19.204–212. [[GN 2017.07.22 via HC 2§256n.]]


Q&T via GMP 182 and 198 (modified)
subject heading(s): anthropogony; tree and rock; palaiphato- ‘going back to an old saying’

οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ δρυὸς ἐσσὶ παλαιφάτου οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης

‘For surely you are not from an oak, going back to an old saying, or from a rock.’

In asking the disguised Odysseus to reveal his origins, Penelope says she assumes that the genealogy of this unidentified man is not all that difficult to trace: surely this man does not need to trace his ancestry all the way back to the prototypes of humanity, which would be an exercise in a special kind of mythology that can best be described as anthropogony. In the anthropogonic myths that have survived in the Greek language—as also in other Indo-European languages—two most common alternative versions claim that the First Human originated from a tree or from a rock. The tree is commonly pictured as an oak. The epithet palaiphato– ‘going back to an old saying’ here at O.19.163 applies not only to the proverbial drūs ‘oak’ but also to the comparably proverbial petrē ‘rock’. Both versions of such an anthropogonic myth center on a violent act that is simultaneously destructive and regenerative: the ignition, as it were, of the First Human happens when a thunderbolt strikes a primordial tree or rock. Details in GMP ch. 7, “Thunder and the Birth of Humankind.” See also Forte 2015. [[GN 2017.07.22.]]


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

Here at O.19.165–203 we see the third 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 and the second is at O.14.192–359. The concept of “Cretan lies” was introduced in the anchor comment at O.01.284–286 on Cretan Odyssey. [[GN 2017.07.22.]]


Q&T via Nagy 2017.04.11 4§1
subject heading(s): description of Crete; Aithōn

|172 Κρήτη τις γαῖ’ ἔστι μέσῳ ἐνὶ οἴνοπι πόντῳ, |173 καλὴ καὶ πίειρα, περίρρυτος· ἐν δ’ ἄνθρωποι |174 πολλοὶ ἀπειρέσιοι, καὶ ἐννήκοντα πόληες· |175 ἄλλη δ’ ἄλλων γλῶσσα μεμιγμένη· ἐν μὲν Ἀχαιοί, |176 ἐν δ’ Ἐτεόκρητες μεγαλήτορες, ἐν δὲ Κύδωνες |177 Δωριέες τε τριχάϊκες δῖοί τε Πελασγοί· |178 τῇσι δ’ ἐνὶ Κνωσός, μεγάλη πόλις, ἔνθα τε Μίνως |179 ἐννέωρος βασίλευε Διὸς μεγάλου ὀαριστής, |180 πατρὸς ἐμοῖο πατήρ, μεγαθύμου Δευκαλίωνος. |181 Δευκαλίων δ’ ἐμὲ τίκτε καὶ Ἰδομενῆα ἄνακτα· |182 ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ἐν νήεσσι κορωνίσιν Ἴλιον εἴσω |183 ᾤχεθ’ ἅμ’ Ἀτρεΐδῃσιν· ἐμοὶ δ’ ὄνομα κλυτὸν Αἴθων, |184 ὁπλότερος γενεῇ· ὁ δ’ ἅμα πρότερος καὶ ἀρείων.

|172 There’s a land called Crete, in the middle of the sea that looks like wine. |173 It’s beautiful and fertile, surrounded by the waves, and the people who live there |174 are so many that you can’t count them. They have 90 cities. |175 Different people speak different languages, all mixed together. |176 There are Eteo-Cretans, those great-hearted ones. And Cydonians. |177 There are Dorians, with their three divisions, and luminous Pelasgians. |178 In this land [plural] is Knossos, a great city. There it was that Minos, |179 who was renewed every nine years [enneōros], ruled as king. He was the companion [oaristēs] of Zeus the mighty. |180 And he was the father of my father, Deukalion, the one with the big heart. |181 Deukalion was my father, and the father also of Idomeneus the king. |182 That man [= Idomeneus], in curved ships, went off to Ilion [= Troy], |183 yes, he went there together with the sons of Atreus [= Agamemnon and Menelaos]. As for my name, which is famous [kluton], it is Aithōn. |184 I’m the younger one by birth. As for the other one [= Idomeneus], he was born before me and is superior to me.

(What follows is epitomized from Nagy 2017.04.11 4§§1–2.) In the Third Cretan Tale of Odysseus, the hero assumes the “false” identity of a Cretan prince named Aithōn, who is a grandson of Minos and the younger brother of Idomeneus. The relationship of Aithōn to Minos and to Idomeneus reflects a synthesizing of Minoan and Mycenaean “signatures.” A clearly Minoan signature is the detail about Minos as the grandfather, and a clearly Mycenaean signature is the detail about Idomeneus as the older brother: this Idomeneus is of course one of the most prominent Achaean warriors in the Homeric Iliad as we know it. On Idomeneus, Mycenaean king of Crete, see the anchor comment at O.01.284–286. [[GN 2017.07.22.]]


subject heading(s): trikhāīkes ‘with three-way homes’

Here at O.19.177, the epithet of the Dorians is trikhā́īkes (Δωριέες … τριχάϊκες), which reflects the traditional division of Dorian communities into three phūlai ‘subdivisions’, Dumânes/Hulleîs/Pámphūloi. So, I interpret the formation *trikhā-u̯īk- to mean ‘with three-way homes’, where *u̯īk– is the same root that we find in oikos ‘home’, from *u̯oikos. [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 284, with many further details there.]]


subject heading(s): ellipsis; elliptic plural

Here at O.19.178, I translate the pronoun têisi (τῇσι) as ‘in this land [plural]’. This pronoun, referring to the land of Crete, is in the plural, not in the the singular, as we might have expected. The explanation can be found in the comment at O.14.199, where we see Krētē, the name of Crete, not in the singular but in the plural, Krêtai. As I point out in that comment, plural Krêtai cannot mean a multiplicity of islands named Crete. There is no such thing. Rather, we see there 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. So also in the case of the pronoun τῇσι that I translate as ‘in this land [plural]’ at O.19.178, we see an elliptic plural referring to Crete together with everything that belongs to Crete. Even the pronoun signals the imperial power of Crete. [[GN 2017.07.22 via Nagy 2017.04.11 5§27.]]


subject heading(s): name Aithōn

This name Aithōn derives from the participle aíthōn of the verb aíthein ‘burn’. In the lore of fable, aithōn suits such characters as the crafty fox who is ‘burning’ with hunger and will rely on his craftiness to find ways to feed his insatiable stomach. Such lore is reported in the scholia for Pindar Olympian 11.9, where the generic alōpēx ‘fox’ is actually described as aithōn. Such a description can apply in negative contexts to a beggar in pursuit of food for his insatiable stomach, who in turn is comparable to a greedy blame poet in pursuit of rewards for his poetry. See the comment on O.18.001–004. In positive contexts, on the other hand, the name Aithōn can apply to a righteous man who is ‘burning’ with hunger for justice, as in Theognis 1209–1210 (commentary and further details in GMP 273–274). For more on Aithōn, I strongly recommend the analysis of Levaniouk 2011:36–49. [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 273–274.]]


Q&T via Nagy 2017.04.11 4§3
subject heading(s): Odysseus enters a Cretan Odyssey

|185 ἔνθ’ Ὀδυσῆα ἐγὼν ἰδόμην καὶ ξείνια δῶκα. |186 καὶ γὰρ τὸν Κρήτηνδε κατήγαγεν ἲς ἀνέμοιο |187 ἱέμενον Τροίηνδε, παραπλάγξασα Μαλειῶν· |188 στῆσε δ’ ἐν Ἀμνισῷ, ὅθι τε σπέος Εἰλειθυίης, |189 ἐν λιμέσιν χαλεποῖσι, μόγις δ’ ὑπάλυξεν ἀέλλας. |190 αὐτίκα δ’ Ἰδομενῆα μετάλλα ἄστυδ’ ἀνελθών· |191 ξεῖνον γάρ οἱ ἔφασκε φίλον τ’ ἔμεν αἰδοῖόν τε. |192 τῷ δ’ ἤδη δεκάτη ἢ ἑνδεκάτη πέλεν ἠὼς |193 οἰχομένῳ σὺν νηυσὶ κορωνίσιν Ἴλιον εἴσω.

|185 There [in Crete] is where I [= Aithōn] saw Odysseus and gave him gifts of guest-host friendship [xenia]. |186 You see, he had been forced to land at Crete by the violent power [īs] of a wind. |187 He was trying to get to Troy, but the wind detoured him as he was sailing past the headlands of Maleiai, |188 and he was dropped off [by the violent wind] at Amnisos, exactly where the cave of Eileithuia is situated. |189 It was a harsh landing, and he just barely avoided being destroyed by the blasts of the sea-gales. |190 Right away he asked to see Idomeneus as soon as he came to the city [= Knossos]. |191 You see, he was saying that he was a guest-friend [xenos] [of Idomeneus] and that they had a relationship of mutual respect. |192 But it was by now already the tenth or eleventh day since he [= Idomeneus] |193 had departed, sailing off with a fleet of curved ships on his way to Ilion [Troy].

(What follows is epitomized from Nagy 2017.04.11 4§3.) Here, at this confluence of Minoan-Mycenaean signatures, is where the hero of the Odyssey once again enters the stream of mythmaking about a Cretan Odyssey. In this version, Odysseus has not yet reached his destination, which is Troy, but Idomeneus has presumably already arrived. [[GN 2017.07.22.]]


subject heading(s): Amnisos; Eileithuia

Detoured by violent winds, the Odysseus of this Cretan Odyssey lands in Crete. The place where he lands is Amnisos, and a poetic landmark for this place is a cave of Eileithuia. As we know from the reportage of Strabo, who flourished in the first century BCE, Amnisos was reputed to be the sea harbor of Minos the king. Here is the precise wording of Strabo (10.4.8 C476): Μίνω δέ φασιν ἐπινείῳ χρήσασθαι τῷ Ἀμνισῷ, ὅπου τὸ τῆς Εἰλειθυίας ἱερόν ‘they say that Minos used Amnisos as his seaport, and the sacred-space [hieron] of Eileithuia is there’. According to Pausanias (4.20.2), the priestess of Eileithuia at Olympia makes a regular offering to this goddess as also to her cult-hero protégé Sosipolis, and this offering is described as mazas memagmenas meliti ‘barley-cakes [mazai] kneaded in honey [meli]’ (μάζας … μεμαγμένας μέλιτι). In Laconia and Messenia, the goddess Eileithuia was known as Eleuthia, and this form of her name is actually attested in a Linear B tablet found at Knossos. Here is my transcription of the relevant wording that is written in Knossos tablet Gg 705 line 1:

a-mi-ni-so / e-re-u-ti-ja ME+RI AMPHORA 1

Amnisos: Eleuthiāi meli [followed by the ideogram for “amphora”] 1

‘Amnisos: for Eleuthia, honey, one amphora’.

We see here at O.19.188 a striking example of details in Homeric poetry that show continuity with the era of Minoan-Mycenaean civilization. My original argumentation concerning the Minoan-Mycenaean heritage of the details we read in this Homeric verse at O.19.188 appeared in Nagy 1969. For further details on what is said by Pausanias 4.20.2 about Eileithuia, see Nagy 2015.02.25. For more on O.19.188 in the overall context of O.19.185–193, I strongly recommend Levaniouk 2011:93–96. [[GN 2017.07.22 via 2017.04.11 4§§4–5; also HPC 301n90.]]


Q&T via MoM 2§23
subject heading(s): eïskein ‘make likenesses, liken’; pseude– ‘deceptive’; homoio– ‘same as, looking like’

ἴσκε ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγων ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα

‘He made likenesses [eïskein], saying many deceptive [pseudea] things looking like [homoia] genuine [etuma] things.’

This verse, which closes the Third Cretan Tale, signals that Odysseus has been speaking as a poet whose art can be understood only by those who are qualified. Most comparable are the verses that are said to be spoken by the Muses to Hesiod in the Hesiodic Theogony, 26–28:

|26 ποιμένες ἄγραυλοι, κάκ᾿ ἐλέγχεα, γαστέρες οἶον, |27 ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα, |28 ἴδμεν δ᾿, εὖτ᾿ ἐθέλωμεν, ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι.

|26 Shepherds camping in the fields, base objects of reproach, mere stomachs [gasteres]! |27 We know how to say many deceptive [pseudea] things looking like [homoia] genuine [etuma] things, |28 but we also know how, whenever we wish it, to proclaim things that are true [alēthea].

(What follows is epitomized from MoM 2§§22–28.) In these Hesiodic verses, what is deceptive is not the fact that some things ‘look like’ other things. Rather, what is deceptive is that pseudea ‘deceptive things’ can look like etuma ‘real things’. On this point, see also the comment at O.14.124–125. And even deceptive things that look like real things can still be equal to real things, the same as real things. As I indicated in my comments at O.16.172–212, for example, Odysseus is really ‘equal to the immortals’ when he looks like an immortal in ritual contexts. As I also indicated in those comments, the contexts of eïskein ‘make likenesses, liken’ at O.16.187 and O.16.200 show that Telemachus was justified in saying that Odysseus looks the same as a god after being touched by the wand of Athena. If Telemachus was at first deceived by the looks of Odysseus in such contexts, then the deception was happening from the viewpoint of an uninitiated beholder who could not yet distinguish between what is deceptive and what is real. Similarly in the Hesiodic Theogony, the figure of Hesiod has been such an uninitiated beholder before his poetic initiation into the art of the Muses. After his initiation, however, he can now envision what is real even when he beholds things that can be deceptive. The same principle holds whenever Odysseus utters words to be envisioned only by those who have already been initiated into the art of the Muses of poetry. That is what happens here at O.19.203. What is deceptive about the deceptive things that Odysseus is saying in his Third Cretan Tale is not the fact that some things ‘look like’ other things. Rather, what is deceptive is that pseudea ‘deceptive things’ look like etuma ‘real things’. And, once again, even these deceptive things that look like real things can still be equal to real things—the same as the real things that are seen by those who are initiated into the art of the Muses. This art is the art of poetic imagination, which can make even deceptive things look like real things, be equal to real things, be the same as real things. Such is the art that is borrowed by the alluring figure of Helen when she makes her voice identical to the voice of any wife of any Homeric hero: see the comment on eïksein ‘liken’ at O.04.279. Helen’s voice, borrowed from the poetry of the Muses, has the power of conjuring the voices of the wives themselves. And, by extension, her poetic voice has the power of conjuring the very images of the wives. True, Helen means to deceive, but her deceptive words in this narrative frame are the same as the real words of Homeric poetry in the overall narrative frame of that poetry—real words that activate visions of the real things of Homeric poetry. These real things are whatever is real for this poetry, which is figured as true overall, even if it contains things that seem at first to be deceptive. For Homeric poetry, whatever is divinely true can contain deceptions and still be true. [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 44, 274.]]


subject heading(s): tēkesthai ‘melt away, dissolve’; dissolving while weeping

The emotional response of Penelope to the Third Cretan Tale as told by the disguised Odysseus is to break down in tears. The idea of her melting away in tears, as expressed by way of the verb tēkesthai ‘melt away, dissolve’ at O.19.204 and O.19.208, is directly compared here by way of simile—ὡς ‘just as’ at O.19.205—to the melting of snow on top of a mountain when it makes contact with the West Wind: here the basic physical process of a melting of snow is expressed by way of the verb katatēkesthai/kata-tēkein ‘melt away, dissolve’ at O.19.205/O.19.206. If such familiar idioms as melting away in tears did not exist in the English language today, as also in other modern languages, then the very idea that the khrōs ‘complexion’ of Penelope at O.19.204 and her parēïa ‘cheeks’ at O.19.208 were ‘melting away’, as expressed by tēkesthai’, would surely seem far more defamiliarizing. But the fact is, a feeling that is quite alien is happening in the Homeric comparison here: a macrocosmic process of melting snow is being drawn into a microcosmic personal experience of pouring out your tears from your eyes, all over your complexion—with the result that all of you liquifies. Here the world of similes and metaphors extends into the world of metonymy: the emotional intensity of personal experience connects to the dynamics of the cosmos, as when snow melts. On simile and metaphor, also on metonymy, see the Inventory of terms and names. [[2017.07.22 via HC 2§255, 2§255n.]]


subject heading(s): noeîn ‘take note (of), notice’

Penelope tests the disguised Odysseus, who claims to have encountered the real Odysseus. If you really did encounter him, tell me details about him! Here are the questions at O.19.215–219: what was his outer appearance, what did he wear, and who were his nearest companions? In responding to Penelope with a detailed description, O.19.221–248, the disguised Odysseus displays his mental bravura in making connections between his disguised self and his real self. In this context, at I.19.132, while describing a tunic worn by the real Odysseus, the disguised Odysseus uses the word noeîn: ‘I took-note [noeîn] of the tunic’ (τὸν δὲ χιτῶν’ ἐνόησα). As we have already seen in other contexts, the act of noticing as indicated by noeîn ‘take note (of), notice’ is programmed to lead toward recognition. See the comments at O.08.094 and O.08.533. See also especially the anchor comment at I.05.669 on noeîn ‘take note (of), notice’. [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 205.]]


subject heading(s): sēma ‘sign’; anagignōskein ‘recognize’

The disguised Odysseus has just finished narrating to Penelope a description of the real Odysseus, giving a variety of details. Here at O.19.250, these details are described as sēmata ‘signs’ that are all ‘recognized’ by Penelope, as indicated by the verb anagignōskein (σήματ’ ἀναγνούσῃ). As noted already in the comment at O.19.215–248, the verb noeîn ‘take note of, notice’ already indicates that a recognition is about to take place. [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 205.]]


subject heading(s): tokens of recognition

Penelope formally confirms here that the details recounted by the disguised Odysseus at O.19.221–248 have been recognized by her as indications of the real Odysseus. [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 203.]]


subject heading(s): tēkein ‘melt away, dissolve’

Once again, the emotional experience of Penelope is conveyed by the metaphor of dissolving while weeping. See especially the comment at O.19.204–212. [[GN 2017.07.22 via HC 2§256n.]]


subject heading(s): hospitality of Odysseus

Penelope shows that she knows how to match the hospitality that Odysseus had consistently demonstrated as king of Ithaca. What she says here will be elaborated further at O.19.325–334. See the comments on those verses. [[GN 2017.07.22 via BA 38.]]


subject heading(s): Ēōs; ēri ‘early’

The goddess of the dawn, Ēōs, has a fixed epithet ērigéneia, meaning ‘early-generated’ or ‘early-generating’, as at O.02.001. This epithet, which is exclusively hers, has a prefix that derives from the old locative adverb êri ‘early’, and Homeric diction actually preserves êri in colloca­tion with ēṓs ‘dawn’ here at O.19.320. This form ērigéneia is comparable to the name of the earth-encircling river Ēridanós, as described in Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica 4.596. The first part of this name Ēridanós likewise has the prefix êri; the second part –danos seems to mean ‘dew’ or ‘fluid’, and a likely cognate is Indic dā́nu– ‘fluid, dew’. See also Part 4 of the comment on O.15.250–251. [[GN 2017.07.22 via GMP 246.]]


subject heading(s): hospitality of Odysseus; kleos ‘glory’

Once again, Penelope shows that she knows how to match the hospitality that Odysseus had consistently demonstrated as king of Ithaca—hospitality that will earn for him poetic kleos ‘glory’, O.19.333. This passage, then, will be relevant to the context of kleos ‘glory’ at I.24.196. [[GN 2017.07.22 via BA 37–38.]]


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

This expression ep’ anthrōpous ‘throughout humankind’ here at O.19.334 is conventionally associated with words referring to remembrance by way of song. In this case, the relevant word is kleos, O.19.333, referring to the ‘glory’ of poetry and song. See the anchor comment at I.10.213. [[GN 2017.07.22 via BA 37–38.]]


subject heading(s): ephepsiaâsthai ‘mock’

Here at O.19.331 the objects of mockery as expressed by the verb ephepsiaâsthai ‘mock’ are the unjust, who therefore deserve to be mocked. Such mockery comes from blame poetry, and here the blame is directed at those who violate the moral protocols of hospitality. [[GN 2017.07.23 via BA 257.]]


subject heading(s): ephepsiaâsthai ‘mock’; lōbē ‘words of insult’; aiskhos ‘disgrace, shame’

Here at O.19.370 and O.19.372 the objects of mockery as expressed by the verb ephepsiaâsthai ‘mock’ are not the unjust but the just, such as the disguised Odysseus and others like him who are despised as beggars. Once again, such mockery comes from blame poetry, but here the blame is unjustifiable. The women who mock the disguised Odysseus are described at O.19.373 as engaging in lōbē ‘words of insult’ and aiskhea ‘disgraceful things’. Both these words point to unjustified forms of blame. On lōbē ‘words of insult’, see the comment at O.18.347. As for aiskhea ‘disgraceful things’, it is the concrete plural of the abstract singular aiskhos, which means ‘disgrace, shame’: see the comment on aiskhos at O.11.433. [[GN 2017.07.23 via BA 257.]]


subject heading(s): scar of Odysseus; [sēma ‘sign, signal’;] boar hunt at Mount Parnassus; gignōskein ‘recognize’

Eurykleia recognizes Odysseus when she is washing his feet. The sign for her recognition is the scar that she notices on his leg—a wound that marks the time when he went on a boar hunt to Parnassus with his mother’s father, Autolykos. The word that signals the recognition is gignōskein ‘recognize’ at O.19.392 and at O.19.468. The scar that Eurykleia recognizes here turns out to be a sēma ‘sign, signal’ of the hero’s true identity, as we see from the use of that word at O.21.217 and at O.23.073. See the comments at O.21.217–224 and at O.23.073–077 respectively. This word sēma ‘sign, signal’ does not occur here at O.19.388–507, but the occurrences at O.21.217 and O.23.073 and O.24.329 indicate clearly that the scar as a sēma is a subtext, as it were, for the recognition scene that frames the narrative about the boar hunt at Parnassus. [[GN 2017.08.09.]]


subject heading(s): Ōkeanos

As we see here at O.19.433–434, the sun rises from the waters of the world-encircling river Ōkeanos at sunrise, as also at I.07.421–423, and it sets into these same waters at sunset, as we see at I.08.485–486. See the comment at I.07.421–423. [[GN 2017.07.23 via BA 196 and GMP 237–238, 426.]]


subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’

The translation of menos here at O.19.440 as the ‘mental power’ of winds is explained in the note at I.12.018. I epitomize here: forces of nature can have a mind of their own, as it were, because they are connected to the mental power of divinities who control the cosmos and to whom humans using their own mental power can pray for the activation of such control. [[GN 2017.07.23 via GMP 114.]]


Q&T via PasP 7–8
subject heading(s): aēdōn ‘nightingale’; myth of Aēdōn

|518 ὡς δ᾿ ὅτε Πανδαρέου κούρη, χλωρηῒς ἀηδών, |519 καλὸν ἀείδῃσιν ἔαρος νέον ἱσταμένοιο, |520 δενδρέων ἐν πετάλοισι καθεζομένη πυκινοῖσιν, |521 ἥ τε θαμὰ τρωπῶσα χέει πολυηχέα φωνήν, |522 παῖδ᾿ ὀλοφυρομένη Ἴτυλον φίλον, ὅν ποτε χαλκῷ |523 κτεῖνε δι᾿ ἀφραδίας, κοῦρον Ζήθοιο ἄνακτος.

|518 As when the daughter of Pandareos, the nightingale [aēdṓn] in the green |519 sings beautifully at the onset anew of springtime, |520 perched in the dense foliage of trees, |521 and she pours forth, changing it around [trōpôsa] thick and fast, a voice with many resoundings [poluēkhḗs], |522 lamenting her child, the dear Itylos, whom once upon a time with weapon of bronze |523 she killed inadvertently, the son of Zethos the king.

Here at O.19.518–523 the figure of Penelope expresses her anxieties by comparing them to the emotions expressed in the song of a generic aēdōn ‘nightingale’, O.19.518, and the bird is in this context immediately identified with a woman named Aēdōn who became the prototype of all nightingales when she was turned into a nightingale as a result of the immeasurable sorrow she experienced over having inadvertently killed her own son. What is most remarkable about this comparison, framed as a simile by way of the phrase ὡς δ’ ὅτε ‘just as when’ at O.19.518, is that the primal emotions of the woman Aēdōn are figured as the prototype of the emotions conveyed by the song sung by any nightingale. For mythological variations on the theme of a woman who turned into the prototype of all nightingales, see Nagy 2016.01.07. For more on the myth of Aēdōn and its relevance to Penelope, I strongly recommend the analysis of Levaniouk 2011:213–228. [[GN 2017.07.23.]]


subject heading(s): trōpōsa ‘changing around’; poluēkhēs ‘with many resoundings’; poludeukēs ‘with many continuations’

The generic nightingale, as she sings her song, modulates her tune, ‘changing it around’—which is how I translate trōpôsa (τρωπῶσα) here at I.19.521. The sound made by the songbird’s song is described in this same verse as poluēkhḗs ‘with many resoundings’ (accusative πολυηχέα), but there is a variant reading reported by Aelian On the nature of animals 5.36: poludeukḗs (likewise accusative πολυδευκέα) ‘with many continuations’. Morphologically, this form poludeukḗs ‘with many continuations’ is the opposite of adeukḗs, meaning ‘discontinuous, interrupting’—in other words, ‘with no continuations’. For more on the meaning of adeukḗs, see the anchor comment at O.04.489. [[GN 2017.07.23 via PasP ch.1.]]


subject heading(s): Itylos

There is a pattern of onomatopoeia built into the name Itylos = ´Itulos, as derivative of ´Itus (Ἴτυς), a name of the son of the unfortunate mythical woman who was turned into a nightingale. The doubling of this name produces a “tweeting” effect, as in Aeschylus Agamemnon 1144: Ἴτυν Ἴτυν στένουσ᾿ ‘[the nightingale] mourning “´Itun ´Itun”’; also Sophocles Electra 148: ἃ Ἴτυν αἰὲν Ἴτυν ὀλοφύρεται ‘who keeps on mourning “´Itun ´Itun”’. [[GN 2017.07.23 via PasP 41.]]


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

Here again at O.19.528, as at O.11.179, O.15.521–522, O.16.076, O.18.289, it is said that whoever succeeds in marrying Penelope would surely qualify as ‘the best of the Achaeans’. And now it is Penelope herself who is saying this. [[GN 2017.07.23 via BA 39.]]


subject heading(s): dream of Penelope

Penelope tests the disguised Odysseus by challenging him to interpret a dream that she had, which is for her a sign that she says she needs to be interpreted for her, O.19.535–553. Odysseus responds to the sign, giving his interpretation, O.19.555–558, and then Penelope responds to the interpretation, O.19.560–569. What Penelope dreams, O.19.535–553, is that the geese in her courtyard are suddenly killed by an eagle that swoops down on them. She cries and cries over the loss of her geese. But then, within the narrative of the dream itself, O.19.546–550, the eagle is quoted as saying to Penelope that he is Odysseus and that the geese are the suitors, who are to be punished for their unjust behavior. The disguised Odysseus responds to the convoluted words of Penelope by saying that her dream has already interpreted itself and that no response is needed from him—except to say what he has just said, that the dream has already interpreted itself, O.17.555–558. This way, Odysseus postpones identifying himself to Penelope, but at the same time he shows his good judgment in distinguishing between what is false and what is true about his own heroic identity as defined by his sense of justice, which is being challenged by the injustices inflicted on him by the suitors. [[GN 2017.07.23 via H24H 13§24.]]


Q&T via H24H§23
subject heading(s): hupokrinesthai ‘respond to (a sign), interpret’

ἀλλ’ ἄγε μοι τὸν ὄνειρον ὑπόκριναι καὶ ἄκουσον

‘Come, respond [hupo-krinesthai] to my dream [oneiros], and hear my telling of it.’

When Penelope challenges the disguised Odysseus to interpret her oneiros ‘dream’, the word that is used in her challenge here at O.19.535 is hupo-krinesthai, which I translate as ‘respond to (a sign), interpret’; the same word is used at O.19.555 when the disguised Odysseus refers to the challenge. The verb hupo-krinesthai is used at O.19.535 in the imperative, and the word for ‘dream’, oneiros, is in the accusative; likewise at O.19.555, hupo-krinesthai takes the accusative of the word for ‘dream’, oneiros. This verb is derived from krinein/krinesthai, the basic meaning of which is ‘separate, distinguish, judge’. The verb krinein, in the active voice, can be translated as ‘interpret’ when combined with the noun opsis, ‘vision’, as its object (Herodotus 7.19.1-2) or with enupnion, ‘dream’, as its object (Herodotus 1.120.1). It is a question of interpreting-in-performance. In the middle voice, hupo-krinesthai suggests that the performer is interpreting for himself as well as for others. The basic idea of hupo-krinesthai, then, is to see the real meaning of what others see and to quote back, as it were, what this vision is really telling them. Such a vision distinguishes what is real from what is unreal. [[GN 2017.07.23 via H24H 13§§24–25; further analysis in HR 24–25.]]


subject heading(s): onar ‘dream’; hupar ‘dream that turns into reality’; esthlo– ‘real, genuine, good’; hupar esthlon ‘wakeful reality’; teleîn ‘reach an outcome; bring to fulfillment’

In Penelope’s dream as she reports it here at O.19.547, the talking eagle that dream-interprets itself to be really Odysseus says that this dream is not just any onar or ‘dream’ but rather, more than that, it is a hupar esthlon or ‘waking reality’ (οὐκ ὄναρ, ἀλλ’ ὕπαρ ἐσθλόν). The reality that is being foretold in the dream here at O.19.547 is signaled by the word hupar, which refers to a dream that is seen when one is asleep but will also be seen after one is awake, as opposed to the word onar (also oneiros), which refers to a dream seen only in sleep. (The word hupar is cognate with the element suppar– of the Hittite verb suppariya– ‘sleep’: see DELG under ὕπαρ.) The reality foretold by a dream that is hupar is reinforced here at O.19.547 by the epithet esthlon ‘real, genuine, good’, which is derived from the root es– ‘to be’ as in esti ‘is’. The vision signaled by the hupar esthlon or ‘waking reality’, as I have translated it, will come to fulfillment, that is, it will reach its real outcome, as expressed by the verb teleîn ‘reach an outcome’. Imperfective uses of this verb teleîn ‘reach an outcome’ refer to realities that are still in the making, that have not yet come to fulfillment: see for example the comment at I.02.330. Perfective uses of this same word, on the other hand, refer to a reality that has come to fulfillment. Here at O.19.547, we see a future perfect use: the talking eagle of the dream is foretelling a reality that will have already happened when the right moment in the narrative finally arrives. This verb teleîn ‘reach an outcome’, as used here at O.19.547, focuses on a central idea in contexts of composition-in-performance. The idea is this: whatever is being said in the performance will come to fulfillment in the composition when all is said and done. [[GN 2017.08.03 via HC 1§63.]]


subject heading(s): Gates of Horn and Ivory

In the response of Penelope, O.19.562–569, to the response of Odysseus in interpreting her dream, she says that there are two kinds of dreams, passing through two kinds of pulai ‘gates’, O.19.562: the first kind passes through a gate of keras ‘horn’, and the second kind, through a gate of elephas ‘ivory’, O.19.563. The first kind signals what is real, while the second, what is deceptive. That is why the mental power of distinguishing what is real from what is unreal becomes so seriously important. But there is also a playful side to these images of horn and ivory, as reflected in the word play that links (1) the noun keras ‘horn’ with the verb krainein in the sense of ‘authorize as real’, O.19.567, and (2) the noun elephas ‘ivory’ with the verb elephairesthai in the sense of ‘deceive’, O.19.565. The object of the verb krainein ‘authorize as real’ here is etuma ‘real things’ (ἔτυμα), O.19.567: that is what dreams from a Gate of Horn will bring. Correspondingly, the object of what is brought by dreams from a Gate of ivory is a-kráan-ta ‘unauthorized’ (ἀκράαντα), O.19.565. The playfulness extends further: I suspect that the symbolism of keras ‘horn’ here involves not only the elevated sense of ‘authorization’ but also the earthy sense of sexual desire. I suspect that the Aphrodisiac properties linked with horn as a substance are in play here. Perhaps relevant is all the folkore surrounding the earthy English adjective ‘horny’. When I speak of ‘horn’ here, I have in mind primarily the kerata ‘antlers’ of deer, the aphrodisiac properties of which are highlighted for example by the physician Galen (vol. 14 p. 240 ed. C. G. Kühn 1827). I ask myself: why does Penelope cry and cry in her dream about losing her geese? Perhaps her familiarity with the geese can be linked with her familiarity—however unwelcome—with the suitors. The geese have been around for twenty years, and where was the eagle during all this time? Perhaps that is why it is safe for Penelope to offer a recusal at O.19.568–569: surely my dream came from a Gate of Ivory, not from a Gate of Horn. For more on Penelope’s dream, I strongly recommend the analysis of Levaniouk 2011:229–246, with a critical survey of the multifarious interpretations that have been offered over the years by experts and nonexperts alike. [[GN 2017.08.03]


subject heading(s): [menos ‘mental power’;] amenēna ‘having no menos inside’

The adjective amenēna ‘having no mental power [menos] inside’ applies elsewhere exclusively to the dead. Here it applies to dreams. See further the comment at O.10.521. [[GN 2017.07.23 via GMP 226.]]


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.