A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 3

2017.03.30 / updated 2018.10.06 | By Gregory Nagy

Aided by the goddess Athena, young Telemachus becomes an ideal guest for his host, the elderly Nestor. Telemachus dearly needs the diplomatic skills of Athena, since Nestor is a prime devotee of the god Poseidon, who is not only a major rival of the goddess but also a relentless antagonist of Odysseus. Nestor’s stories about the travels of the Achaeans as they try to make their way back home after the Trojan War will help connect Telemachus with the ultimate story of his father’s own homecoming. [[GN 2017.03.29.]]

Nestor's Sacrifice (1805). Engraving after John Flaxman (1755-1826). Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported).
Nestor’s Sacrifice (1805). Engraving after John Flaxman (1755-1826). Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996. Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported).

subject heading(s): rhapsodic sequencing
cross-ref. to I.09.001–003 / anchor comment on: a Rhapsody as one of 24 units of performance

At O.02.434, which is the last verse of Rhapsody 2, there is a clause featuring the particle men (μέν). And now at O.03.001, which is the first verse of Rhapsody 3, there is a clause featuring the particle de (δέ). It can be argued that such divisions are typical of rhapsodic practice, where one performing rhapsode (rhapsōidos) could leave off performing after he finishes with the men-part of a syntactical construction while the next rhapsode, in relay, could take up the performance by restarting with the following de-part. [[GN 2017.03.29 via PasP 161n30, also with reference to I.18.354–356.]]


subject heading(s): dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’

See the comments on I.01.423–425 and I.04.048. [[GN 2017.03.29 via BA 218.]]


subject heading(s): Peisistratos; Peisistratidai

Here is the first mention of Peisistratos, son of Nestor, in the Odyssey. (He is not mentioned in the Iliad.) It can be argued that this Peisistratos was claimed to be the ancestor of Peisistratidai, the lineage that dominated Athens in the sixth century BCE. On Peisistratos of Athens, see also I.10.000. [[GN 2017.03.29 via PH 155, 192.]]


Q&T via BA 128
subject heading(s): dais ‘feast; division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’; daiesthai ‘feast; divide (meat), apportion, distribute’; figura etymologica

The derivation of the noun dais ‘feast; division of portions (of meat), sacrifice’ from the verb daiesthai ‘feast; divide (meat), apportion, distribute’ is re-enacted here by way of a figura etymologica: that is to say, the combination of the verb here with the noun as its direct object actually re-enacts the etymology. [[GN 2017.03.29 via BA 128.]]


subject heading(s): kleos ‘glory’ (of poetry); akouein ‘hear’; nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’

On the collocation of kleos ‘glory’ (of poetry) with nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’ in the context of references to the glorification of Odysseus in the Odyssey, see the comments on O.01.088–095; also O.02.212–218 and O.02.360. [[GN 2017.03.209 via BA 40.]]


subject heading(s): Antilokhos; Nestor’s entanglement; evocation; epic Cycle

Here is the first mention of Antilokhos, son of Nestor, in the Odyssey. On the importance of this figure in the Iliad, see I.08.078–117 / anchor comment on: Nestor’s entanglement and the poetics of evocation. See also the comments on I.09.057–058. [[GN 2017.03.29 via PH 155.]]


subject heading(s): rhaptein ‘sew, connect threadings’ in the sense of ‘plotting’

Metaphors of fabric-work can have negative connotations, as here. [[GN 2017.03.29 via PasP 64n23.]]


subject heading(s): homoio- ‘similar to, same as’

This adjective homoio- ‘similar to, same as’ and its verb homoioûn ‘compare’ can be used in comparisons that express rhetorically the incomparability of the referent, as here. See also I.02.553–554 and I.10.437. [[GN 2017.03.29 via MoM 2§9.]]


O.03.130–183 / anchor comment on: two variant myths in Odyssey 3 and Odyssey 4, part 1
subject heading(s): mutually contradictory local variations in mythmaking; dominant vs. recessive versions of myths; nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’; eris ‘strife’

Epitome from Nagy 2015 §§69–75:

[§69] In Odyssey O.03.130–183, old Nestor is telling a tale to young Telemachus about the various homecomings of the Achaeans after they succeeded in conquering the city of Troy. (Nestor’s tales of homecoming in Odyssey 3 reflect poetic traditions of great antiquity, which are analyzed most incisively and intuitively by Frame 2009:180–193.) The tale is told from the perspective of Nestor’s own experiences. My point of departure is a detail at O.03.169, where Nestor says that he and a group of his fellow Achaeans stopped over at the island of Lesbos on their way home from Troy, O.03.169. One time before and one time after their stopover at Lesbos, Nestor and his group participated in making sacrifices. The story about the first of these two sacrifices, as we will see [§75], contradicts a story in Song 17 of Sappho, which tells about a single sacrifice that involves Agamemnon and Menelaos.

[§70] The first of the two sacrifices mentioned by Nestor in Odyssey 3 takes place at the island of Tenedos, O.03.159, which is situated directly to the west of Troy. By contrast, the island of Lesbos is further away, to the southwest of the Trojan coastland. In Odyssey 3, the divine recipients of the sacrifice at Tenedos are designated only in general terms, as theoi ‘the gods’, O.03.159. Then, continuing their voyage back home from Troy, Nestor and his group set sail from Tenedos, and their next stopover, as already noted, is the island of Lesbos, O.03.169.

[§71] After their stopover at Lesbos, O.03.169, Nestor and his group continued their sea voyage back home. Next, they sailed over the open sea, with no more stopovers, until they reached the city of Geraistos, at the southern tip of the island of Euboea, O.03.177. By now the homecoming of this group of heroes was nearly complete, since the island of Euboea is situated right next to the European mainland. And here, at Euboea, Nestor participated in the second of the two sacrifices to which I have been referring, O.03.178–179. This second sacrifice involving Nestor was meant as a signal of thanksgiving for the successful homecoming of his group of Achaean voyagers, and the divine recipient of the sacrifice here is specified as the god Poseidon, O.03.178, whom Nestor and his fellow Achaeans honored by slaughtering, according to his tale, a multitude of bulls, O.03.178–179.

[§72] So, the second sacrifice attended by Nestor and his group, which took place on the island of Euboea, was a success. But the first sacrifice, which he had also attended and which had taken place on the island of Tenedos, was a failure. The failure, as narrated by Nestor in Odyssey 3, can be linked with a quarrel that broke out, evidently in the context of the feasting that followed this first sacrifice. The quarrel is marked by the word eris ‘strife’, O.03.160. Compare the words erizein ‘have strife’ at I.01.006 and eris ‘strife’ at I.01.008, with reference to the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. In the case of the eris ‘strife’ at O.03.160, who quarreled with whom? The narrative answers the question: the two heroes who quarreled with each other were Nestor and Odysseus, O.03.161–166.

[§73] This quarrel between Nestor and Odysseus, O.03.161–166, cannot be understood without first considering an earlier quarrel that is central to the narration of Odyssey 3, and the narrator is once again Nestor. According to the tale as Nestor tells it, the two Sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaos, had quarreled with each other right after their victory at Troy. In this case as well, quarrel is marked by the word eris ‘strife’, O.03.136. And, as a result of this quarrel, all the Achaeans had split into two groups, so that half of them followed Menelaos as he sailed off from Troy to Tenedos while the other half stayed with Agamemnon at Troy, O.03.130–158. In terms of this story, Agamemnon intended to perform a sacrifice of one hundred cattle to the goddess Athena before leaving Troy, O.03.143–144, but Menelaos, leading half of the Achaeans, had sailed off together with Nestor and Odysseus and Diomedes before such a sacrifice could take place, O.03.153–154. It was only after Menelaos and his half of the Achaeans stopped over at the nearby island of Tenedos that they arranged for their own sacrifice there, O.03.159. And it was there at Tenedos that a second quarrel broke out—the quarrel between Nestor and Odysseus, O.03.161–166.

[§74] This second quarrel in the tale told by Nestor in Odyssey 3 resulted in a splitting of the group that had sided with Menelaos after the original splitting of all the Achaeans into one separate group siding with Menelaos and another separate group siding with Agamemnon. What resulted from the new split after the quarrel between Nestor and Odysseus was that Odysseus, together with his followers, now sailed off from Tenedos back to Troy in order to rejoin Agamemnon there, O.03.160–164, while Nestor together with Diomedes sailed on from their stopover at the island of Tenedos and arrived with their followers at the next stopover, at the island of Lesbos, O.03.165–169. When Nestor and Diomedes were already at Lesbos, O.03.169, they were joined there by Menelaos, who arrived later, O.03.168.

[§75] And here I stop to highlight the contradiction between the story as told here in the Odyssey and the story as told in Song 17 of Sappho. In the Odyssey, we see that Menelaos came to Lesbos, but there is no mention here of Agamemnon. In Song 17, by contrast, it seems that both brothers came to Lesbos [Nagy 2015 §50]:

|1 πλάϲιον δη μ̣[…..]…οιϲ᾿ α̣[ ̣ ̣ ̣ ̣]ω |2 πότνι’ Ἦρα, ϲὰ χ[…..]ϲ̣  ̣ἐόρτ[α] |3 τὰν ἀράταν Ἀτρ[έϊδα]ι̣ π̣ό̣ηϲαν |4 τόι βαϲίληεϲ, |5 ἐκτελέϲϲαντεϲ μ[εγά]λ̣οιϲ ἀέθλοιϲ̣ |6 πρῶτα μὲν πὲρ Ἴ̣[λιον]· ἄψερον δέ̣ |7 τυίδ’ ἀπορμάθεν[τεϲ, ὄ]δ̣ο̣ν γὰρ̣ εὔρη̣[ν] |8 οὐκ ἐδύναντο, |9 πρὶν ϲὲ καὶ Δί’ ἀντ[ίαον] πεδέλθην |10 καὶ Θυώναϲ ἰμε[ρόεντα] παῖδα· |11 νῦν δὲ κ[αί….. …] ]…πόημεν |12 κὰτ τὸ πάλ[αιον {464|465} |13 ἄγνα καὶ κα̣[….. ὄ]χλοϲ |14 παρθέ[νων….. γ]υναίκων |15 ἀμφιϲ̣.[…] |16 μετρ’ ὀ̣λ̣[ολύγαϲ].

|1 Close by, …, |2 O Queen [potnia] Hērā, … your […] festival [eortā], |3 which, vowed-in-prayer [arâsthai], the Sons of Atreus did arrange [poieîn] |4 for you, kings that they were, |5 after first having completed great labors [aethloi], |6 around Troy, and, next [apseron], |7 after having set forth to come here [tuide], since finding the way |8 was not possible for them |9 until they would approach you (Hērā) and Zeus lord of suppliants [antiaos] |10 and (Dionysus) the lovely son of Thyone. |11 And now we are arranging [poieîn] [the festival], |12 in accordance with the ancient way […] |13 holy [agna] and […] a throng [okhlos] |14 of girls [parthenoi] […] and women [gunaikes] |15 on either side … |16 the measured sound of ululation [ololūgā].

Sappho Song 17.1–16

On the reading τόι (with the acute accent preserved in P.GC inv. 105 fr. 2) , see Nagy 2015 §50. [[GN 2017.03.29.]]


subject heading(s): nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’; lugros ‘disastrous’; epithet for narrative subject; mēnis ‘anger’

Nestor’s story about the nostos ‘homecoming’ of the Achaeans’ is in and of itself a ‘song of/about homecoming’, as we see from the description of this nostos as lugros ‘disastrous’, an adjective that is used here as an epithet of the narrative subject. See the comment on O.01.326–327, where nostos ‘homecoming, song of homecoming’ at O.01.326 is described as lugros ‘disastrous’ at O.01.327. See also the comment on I.01.002, where the adjective oulomenē ‘disastrous’, describing mēnis ‘anger’ in the previous verse, I.01.001, is likewise an epithet of the narrative subject. In that case, the narrative subject is the mēnis ‘anger’ of Achilles. Similarly in the context of the ‘disastrous [lugros] homecoming [nostos]’ of the Achaeans here at O.03.130, there is a foregrounding of mēnis ‘anger’, at O.03.135. In this case, the anger emanates from the goddess Athena herself. [[GN 2017.03.29 via GMP 215.]]


subject heading(s): mēnis ‘anger’; dikaios ‘righteous’; dikē ‘justice, righteousness’; noēmōnmindful’; nóos ‘mind, mindfulness’; antagonism between immortal and mortal

The mēnis ‘anger’ of the goddess Athena, O.03.135, is provoked by a failure, on the part of some of the Argives=Achaeans, to be dikaioi ‘righteous’ and noēmones ‘mindful [= having nóos]’, O.03.133–134. The wording of Nestor is diplomatic in avoiding the mention of specific heroes as deserving blame for a failure in dikē ‘justice, righteousness’ and nóos ‘mind, mindfulness’. Among those heroes who are implicated, even without being named, is Odysseus himself, so that even this hero may be a target here of the mēnis ‘anger’ of Athena. [[GN 2017.03.29 via GMP 215, with reference to a latent antagonism between Athena and Odysseus.]]


subject heading(s): splitting of groups into sub-groups

Epitome from Nagy 2017 §78:

Here we see that Odysseus together with a sub-group of Achaean followers had already sailed from Tenedos back to Troy in order to rejoin Agamemnon, who was still there, O.03.160–164, while Nestor and Diomedes together with their Achaean followers sailed on from their stopover at the island of Tenedos and arrived at the next stopover, which was the island of Lesbos, O.03.165–169. There, at Lesbos, Nestor and Diomedes were joined by Menelaos, who arrived later, O.03.168–169. [[GN 2017.03.29.]]


Q&T via Nagy 2017 §100
subject heading(s): late arrivals of Menelaos

|168 ὀψὲ δὲ δὴ μετὰ νῶϊ κίε ξανθὸϲ Μενέλαοϲ, |169 ἐν Λέϲβῳ δ’ ἔκιχεν δολιχὸν πλόον ὁρμαίνονταϲ

|168 He came late, golden-haired [xanthos] Menelaos did, after the two of us [= Nestor and Diomedes]. |169 It was at Lesbos that he [= Menelaos] caught up with us, as we were planning the long part of our sea voyage.


Nestor and Diomedes are already at Lesbos, and there they are joined by Menelaos, who arrived later. What follows is an epitome of Nagy 2017 §§101–103, 105–106:

[§101] I interpret the wording of O.03.168–169 to mean that Menelaos arrived too late to participate fully in a sacrifice of one hundred cattle at Lesbos. And the place for this sacrifice to happen would have been the precinct of Hērā on that island. From the standpoint of the local myth that originated from Lesbos, as I have argued with reference to Song 17 of Sappho (Nagy 2015 §§51–67), both Agamemnon and Menelaos had announced-in-prayer, already at Troy, the arrangement of a festival for Hērā at Lesbos, and what was wished-for in return was to find the best possible way to achieve a safe homecoming from Troy. So, in terms of my argument, what was announced-in-prayer was the performing of a sacrifice as the centerpiece of the festival to be arranged, but only one of the Sons of Atreus did his part in at least trying to make the sacrifice a success. That was Agamemnon. As for the other Son, Menelaos, he somehow failed to do his part. And, in terms of my reconstruction, it was because Menelaos arrived too late for the sacrifice. Similarly, as we will see in Odyssey 4, Menelaos arrived too late in his homecoming: by the time he got home, he was too late to save his brother—and he was too late even to avenge his brother’s death, since Orestes, son of Agamemnon, had already done so by killing Aigisthos, O.04.546–547.

[§102] This theme of failing by being late is an essential piece of my overall reconstruction of the myth about a sacrifice of one hundred cattle at Lesbos—a sacrifice that is featured as the climax of the festival that was announced-in-prayer by Agamemnon and Menelaos in Song 17 of Sappho (again, Nagy 2015 §§51–67). In terms of this reconstruction, Agamemnon sailed to the island and arranged to sacrifice one hundred cattle to Hērā there, but Menelaos joined him only after the sacrifice was already in progress, since he did not arrive at Lesbos on time. In terms of this reconstruction, the quarrel between the Sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaos, must have happened during the feast that followed the sacrifice at Lesbos, just as the quarrel between Nestor and Odysseus happened at the feast that followed the sacrifice at Tenedos.

[§103] Menelaos seems to be idiosyncratic in his arrivals at sacrifices. For a striking example, see the comment on I.02.402–429. In that passage, we see a mental link between Menelaos and Agamemnon, allowing one brother to read the mind of the other.

[§105] At Lesbos, by contrast, it seems that the mental link between the brothers has somehow been broken. That is why Menelaos fails to arrive in time for the festival. And now the quarrel between Menelaos and Agamemnon ensues. So, who is to blame? Perhaps it was Menelaos, who was late. Or perhaps it was Agamemnon, who might have forgotten to invite Menelaos, assuming that his brother was still reading his mind.

[§106] But what was the quarrel about, anyway? Here I must add one last relevant detail to be found in Odyssey 3. As Nestor is recounting the moment when Menelaos arrives late at Lesbos, O.03.168–169, he himself adds the detail that I have in mind here: the fact is, Nestor and Diomedes and the other Achaeans who were there at Lesbos were already ‘deliberating’, O.03.169 (ὁρμαίνονταϲ), about two alternative ways of continuing their sea voyage. I argue that, in the version of the myth originating from Lesbos, Agamemnon was also part of these deliberations, and then the latecomer Menelaos joined in as well. I must stress that, although Menelaos was late for the sacrifice at Lesbos, he would have been there for the feasting that happened after the sacrifice. That was when, in terms of my reconstruction, the deliberations took place—and that was when the quarrel between the Sons of Atreus broke out in the version of the story that originated from Lesbos. [[GN 2017.03.29.]]


subject heading(s): alternative ways to sail home from Troy

What follows is an epitome of Nagy 2017 §§107–108:

[§107] In the deliberations, as narrated in Odyssey 3, about two alternative ways for the Achaeans to sail home after their conquest of Troy, one of the two ways was to take the sea route north of Chios, thus venturing into the open sea and heading straight for the island of Euboea, O.03.170–171. The alternative way was to take the sea route south of Chios, O.03.172. That was the safer way. Nestor goes on to say that he and Diomedes and their followers, before deciding which sea route to take, had consulted a divinity, not named, who advised that they should head straight for the distant island of Euboea, thus taking the more direct sea route, O.03.173–178. In this version of the story as transmitted in Odyssey 3, Menelaos and his followers sailed along with Nestor and Diomedes, Ο.03.276–277. Or, to say it more precisely, Menelaos sailed with them at least as far as Cape Sounion.

[§108] Here I reconstruct another aspect of the alternative version of the story, originating from Lesbos, that told about the deliberations following the sacrifice performed by Agamemnon at Lesbos. After the deliberations, Agamemnon did not sail along with Nestor and Diomedes, and, instead, he took the more indirect sea route after he left Lesbos, while Menelaos, unlike Agamemnon, had taken the more direct sea route, choosing the same way that was chosen by Nestor. In terms of this alternative version, I argue, the deliberations about choosing between more direct and less direct sea routes led to a quarrel between Agamemnon and Menelaos, who disagreed about which way was the right way. I see an irony built into the idea that the setting for the quarrel would have been the sacrifice at Lesbos—and that Menelaos had been late in arriving at that ritual event. And, as I have already noted [§101], he will also be late—eight years too late—in arriving back home, O.04.546–547, even though he had chosen the more direct route from Lesbos. [[GN 2017.03.29.]]


subject heading(s): wishes correlated with premises

The syntax of the wording at O.03.205–207 indicates that Telemachus is on the verge of giving up hope, but the fuller use of comparable syntax in the wording of Nestor at O.03.218–224 reaffirms the hope. Telemachus uses a curtailed form of the syntax and then overtly says that his wish is impossible—only to be corrected by Nestor, who uses a full form. Telemachus wishes that the gods could give him the dunamis ‘power’ to kill the suitors: αἲ γάρ ἐμοὶ τοσσήνδε θεοὶ δύναμιν περιθεῖεν ‘if only the gods would grant me a power so great’, O.03.205. Then, instead of giving a premise as grounds of hope, he gives up hope by claiming that the gods have granted such a power neither to him nor to his father, O.03.208–209. At this point Nestor responds by resorting to a full form of the idiom: εἰ γάρ σ’ ὣς ἐθέλοι φιλέειν γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη | ὡς τότ’ Ὀδυσσῆος περικήδετο κυδαλίμοιο | δήμῳ ἔνι Τρώων ‘If only Athena with the looks of the owl would deign to love you | as surely as in those days she cared for glorious Odysseus in the district [dēmos] of Troy’, O.03.218–220. This time there is indeed a premise, there is reason to hope: if Athena does love you this much, Nestor is telling Telemachus, then the suitors will indeed be killed, O.03.223–224. [[GN 2017.03.29 via GMP 298.]]


subject heading(s): hubris ‘outrage’; atasthalo– ‘reckless’

These two negative terms hubris ‘outrage’ and atasthalo– ‘reckless’ are closely linked with each other in Homeric diction. [[GN 2017.03.29 via BA 163.]]


subject heading(s): aethlos (āthlos) ‘ordeal’

On the use of this word aethloi (āthloi) ‘ordeal’ with reference to the Trojan War, see the comment on I.03.125–128. [[GN 2017.03.29 via PH 138; for more on aethlos (āthlos) as the ‘ordeal’ of war, see also PH 132, 154.]]


subject heading(s): aoidos ‘singer’

The generic aoidos ‘singer’, as represented by the anonymous figure who is mentioned here, has the power to supervise the deeds of men and women by way of praising what is good and blaming what is bad. The aoidos that Agamemnon left behind to supervise Clytemnestra cannot be neutralized by way of removal from the scene. The aoidos does not need to see bad deeds in order to tell about them, since he can hear about them from the Muses. [[GN 2017.03.29 via BA 37–38, PH 392.]]



In the scholia for O.03.267 we see the only incontrovertible reference to Demetrius of Phaleron. [[GN 2017.03.29 via PasP 191n14.]]


subject heading(s): asaminthos ‘bathtub’; homoio– ‘similar to, same as’

(What follows is epitomized from Nagy 2017.03.16.) Telemachus the son of Odysseus is bathed in a tub called an asaminthos, O.03.468. The bath is part of a welcoming ceremony organized by Nestor, king of Pylos, who is hosting the young prince. Telemachus is being bathed by Polykaste, youngest daughter of Nestor. After the bath, O.03.469, Telemachus proceeds to a dinner hosted by Nestor in his honor. But while he is still finishing the bath, as we see him emerging from the bathtub, Telemachus is described this way at O.03.468: ‘he [= Telemachus] emerged from the bathtub [asaminthos], looking the same as [homoios] the immortals in shape’ (ἔκ ῥ’ ἀσαμίνθου βῆ δέμας ἀθανάτοισιν ὁμοῖος). For more on homoio- in the sense of ‘same as’, see the comment on O.16.172–212. [[GN 2017.03.29 via MoM 2§16.]]


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.