A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 4

2017.04.06 / updated 2018.10.06 | By Gregory Nagy

With the continued aid of the goddess Athena, young Telemachus now becomes an ideal guest for his new hosts, Menelaos together with Helen. The identity of Helen as a goddess becomes more evident now that she is back in Sparta. This divine identity will point to the future immortalization of the hero Menelaos by virtue of his winning back Helen as his consort. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]

“The Fair Helen.” Willy Pogany (Hungarian, 1882–1955). Image via.
“The Fair Helen.” Willy Pogany (Hungarian, 1882–1955).
Image via.


subject heading(s): a wedding feast arranged by Menelaos

As Telemachus, accompanied by Peisistratos, arrives at Sparta, he finds that a wedding feast is in progress, in celebration of not one but two weddings. Menelaos, king of Sparta, is giving away his daughter in marriage to Neoptolemos, son of Achilles. She will be sent off to Neoptolemos. Meanwhile, Menelaos is also marrying off his bastard son Megapenthes. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]


subject heading(s): name of Megapenthes; “speaking name” (nomen loquens)

We see at work here the mythological convention of naming a son after a primary heroic trait of the father, as in the case of the son of Ajax, whose name Eurusakēs means ‘the one with the wide shield [sakos]’; the meaning of this “speaking name” (nomen loquens) is made explicit in the wording of Sophocles Ajax 574–578. See also the comment on I.22.506–507 with reference to the the first of two names given to the son of Hector, Astyanax [Astuanax], I.06.403, which means ‘king [anax] of the city [astu]’. This meaning is relevant to the heroic role of the father as protecting a citadel from sieges. Such a role is expressed by the very name of Hector, Héktōr, which is an agent noun meaning ‘one who holds [ekhein]’ in the sense of ‘one who protects’. In the case of Megapenthēs, the meaning of his name as ‘the one with the great sorrow [penthos]’ is made explicit by references to the great penthos ‘sorrow’ experienced by the Achaeans in reaction to a most painful wounding of Menelaos in the context of the Trojan War, I.04.197, I.04.207. Also viewed in general are the sorrows of the Trojan War itself, which Menelaos expresses in detail at O.04.093–112. See the comment on O.04.093–116. As we will see at O.04.220–226, Helen attempts to neutralize such sorrows by drugging the wine to be poured for the feast hosted by Menelaos in honor of Telemachus: the word for this drug is nēpenthes, Ο.04.221, which can be interpreted as ‘negating sorrow [penthos]’. [[GN 2017.04.06 via BA 146.]]


Q&T via MoM 4§20
subject heading(s): ex-arkhein ‘lead off [in performing]’; molpē ‘singing-and-dancing’

|15 ὣς οἱ μὲν δαίνυντο καθ’ ὑψερεφὲς μέγα δῶμα |16 γείτονες ἠδὲ ἔται Μενελάου κυδαλίμοιο, |17 τερπόμενοι· μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς |18 φορμίζων· δοιὼ δὲ κυβιστητῆρε κατ’ αὐτοὺς |19 μολπῆς ἐξάρχοντος ἐδίνευον κατὰ μέσσους.

|15 So they feasted throughout the big palace with its high ceilings, |16 both the neighbors and the kinsmen of glorious Menelaos, |17 and they were feeling delight [terpesthai]; in their midst sang-and-danced [melpesthai] a divine singer [aoidos], |18 playing on the special lyre [phorminx]; two special dancers [kubistētēre] among them |19 were swirling as he led [ex-arkhein] the singing-and-dancing [molpē] in their midst.

This passage provides comparative evidence for interpreting both the shorter and the longer versions of another passage, analyzed in the comment on I.18.603–604–(605–)606. As argued in that comment, a formulaic analysis of both the longer and the shorter versions of I.18.603–604–(605–)606 indicates that both versions are compatible with Homeric diction, suiting different phases in the evolution of this diction as a formulaic system. [[GN 2017.04.06 via MoM 4§§19–21, 29, 36, 38; HC 2§74, HPC 300nn87, 88; PH 352.]]


Q&T O.04.043–047 and O.04.071–075 via Nagy 2016.02.18 §§1–4
subject heading(s): palace of Menelaos and Helen; heavenly bronze

Epitome from Nagy 2016.02.18 §§1–4:

[§1] The wording about to be quoted describes the very first impression experienced by the young hero Telemachus when he sees the splendor of the palace of Menelaos and Helen. We join the action as Telemachus and his traveling companion, the young hero Peisistratos, son of Nestor, are both being escorted into the palace of Menelaos and Helen:

|43 αὐτοὺς δ’ εἰσῆγον θεῖον δόμον. οἱ δὲ ἰδόντες |44 θαύμαζον κατὰ δῶμα διοτρεφέος βασιλῆος· |45 ὥς τε γὰρ ἠελίου αἴγλη πέλεν ἠὲ σελήνης |46 δῶμα καθ’ ὑψερεφὲς Μενελάου κυδαλίμοιο. |47 αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ τάρπησαν ὁρώμενοι ὀφθαλμοῖσιν . . .

|43 They were escorted inside the heavenly [theion] palace. Seeing what they were seeing, |44 they were filled with awe [thauma] as they proceeded through the palace of the king, that man whose origins are celestial. |45 There was a gleam [aiglē] there, which was like the gleam of the sun or the moon, |46 spreading throughout that palace famed for its high ceilings, that home of radiant Menelaos. |47 But then, after they had feasted their eyes on what they saw . . .


[§2] At this point, the story proceeds to take the visitors through a series of welcoming rituals, followed by a grand dinner arranged by Menelaos as the gracious host, O.04.047–070. And now the dinner conversation gets underway, starting with words of appreciation spoken by Telemachus and intended for Menelaos. Telemachus speaks here as a grateful guest, addressing his fellow guest Peisistratos, son of Nestor, but his words are really intended for Menelaos as the generous host. I will now quote these words of Telemachus as spoken to the son of Nestor—words that not only compliment Menelaos but also express most sincerely the young guest’s awestruck reaction to the splendor of the king’s palace:

|71 “φράζεο, Νεστορίδη, τῷ ἐμῷ κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ, |72 χαλκοῦ τε στεροπὴν κατὰ δώματα ἠχήεντα |73 χρυσοῦ τ’ ἠλέκτρου τε καὶ ἀργύρου ἠδ’ ἐλέφαντος. |74 Ζηνός που τοιήδε γ’ Ὀλυμπίου ἔνδοθεν αὐλή, |75 ὅσσα τάδ’ ἄσπετα πολλά· σέβας μ’ ἔχει εἰσορόωντα.”

|71 “I want you to notice something, son of Nestor, you who are so dear to my heart: |72 notice the flash [steropē] of bronze [khalkos] as its light pervades the echoing hall |73 and also the flash of gold and of electrum and of silver and of ivory. |74 I’m guessing that Zeus, who lives on Olympus, has such a hall inside his palace, |75 and he would have as many indescribable things as are here. A sense of holy awe [sebas] takes hold of me as I look at these things.”


[§3] What first catches the young man’s eye here is all the shining bronze he sees. And then it’s the gold, then the electrum, then the silver, and finally the ivory. But the first impression is the bronze, all that bronze. The light that he sees streaming from the bronze envelops everything with its radiance, and it’s just like heaven for the young man.

[§4] “Thought I’d died and gone to heaven.” The colloquial saying that I just quoted, which has become the title of a popular song recorded in 1991 by Bryan Adams, captures the young man’s awareness that he has just experienced something celestial. The reduced theology of this kind of imagined heaven resembles the celestial realm of the ancient Greek gods. Their ‘sky’ or ouranos, as we read at I.17.425, is traditionally visualized as ‘made of bronze’, khalkeos (χάλκεον οὐρανόν). This expression shows its own special kind of reduced theology: from out of the sky, when it’s bright, the gleam of a mighty bronze dome envelops everything on earth. Presiding over this bronze dome is the god Zeus, whose heavenly residence is called the khalkobates dō, ‘the palace with floor made of bronze’ (χαλκοβατὲς δῶ), I.01.426; I.14.173, I.21.438, I.21.505, O.08.321—a residence situated high above Mount Olympus, I.01.426, I.21.438, I.21.505. As we will see at O.07.084–090, the heavenly residence of Menelaos is comparable to the palace of Alkinoos (latinized as Alcinous), king of the Phaeacians. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]


subject heading(s): sorrows of the Trojan War; personal involvement in the sorrows; [penthos ‘sorrow’; akhos ‘sorrow’; nēpenthes ‘negating sorrow’]

Menelaos laments here the sorrows of Trojan War, O.04.093–112, and Telemachus responds by weeping, O.04.113–116. These sorrows are accentuated by the personal involvement of heroes like Menelaos and Odysseus as main participants in the war. The very idea of lament, as signaled elsewhere by words like penthos and akhos, is seen here as an aspect of genuine narrative about the heroic world. As we are about to see, such a genuine narrative is to be contrasted with the false narrative induced by the drug nēpenthes, O.04.221, which prevents contact with the emotional world of lament. For the interpretation of nēpenthes as ‘negating sorrow [penthos]’, I refer ahead to the comment on O.04.220–226.[[GN 2017.04.06 via BA 95, 98–99.]]


subject heading(s): sorrows of the Trojan War; personal involvement in the sorrows; [penthos ‘sorrow’; akhos ‘sorrow’; nēpenthes ‘negating sorrow’]

At O.04.113–116, we saw that Telemachus weeps in response to the laments of Menelaos over the sorrows of the Trojan War. And now we see at O.04.182–185 that Telemachus weeps again in response to further laments of Menelaos, whose sad words are at this point referring directly to the disappearance of Odysseus; also weeping are Helen and Menelaos himself, O.04.184–185, and Peisistratos too, O.04.186–189, who laments the death of his brother Antilokhos in the Trojan War. As we are about to see, the emotions conjured by such events as transmitted in genuine narratives about the Trojan War are to be contrasted with the absence of emotions in a false narrative induced by the drug nēpenthes, O.04.221, which prevents contact with the emotional world of lament. For the interpretation of nēpenthes as ‘negating sorrow [penthos]’, I again refer ahead to the comment on O.04.220–226. [[GN 2017.04.06 via BA 99.]]


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

On aethlos (āthlos) ‘ordeal’ in the specific sense of ‘ordeal of war’, see the comment on I.03.125–128. [[GN 2017.04.06 via PH 138.]]


subject heading(s): death of Antilokhos

On the traditions surrounding the death of Antilokhos, son of Nestor and brother of Peisistratos, see the anchor comment at Ι.08.078–117 on: Nestor’s entanglement and the poetics of evocation. See also the comment on I.09.057–058. [[GN 2017.04.06 via PH 207–214 (especially 208), H24H 7§8.]]


subject heading(s): nēpenthes ‘negating sorrow [penthos]’

Before she narrates her own version of the Trojan War at O.04.235–264, Helen attempts to neutralize the sorrows experienced by those involved in the war. Most prominent among those present who had in fact been involved in the war is of course Helen’s consort Menelaos, who laments at O.04.093–112 the sorrows of the war. See the comment on O.04.093–116. Helen attempts to neutralize such sorrows by drugging the wine to be poured for the feast hosted by Menelaos in honor of Telemachus: the word for this drug is nēpenthes, Ο.04.221, which can be interpreted as ‘negating sorrow [penthos]’. So, nēpenthes is an antidote to the pain of penthos ‘sorrow’. [[GN 2017.04.06 via BA 99–100.]]


Q&T via HPC 75–77
subject heading(s): a sojourn of Helen in Egypt

These verses, cited by Herodotus 2.116.1–117.1 derive from a narrative tradition that indicates more than one stopover for Paris=Alexandros and Helen after her abduction/elopement from Sparta. I epitomize here from HPC 75–79 [= I§§184–187]]:

Herodotus makes a point of distinguishing Homer from what he describes as the poet of the Cypria, and, in making this distinction, he actually quotes a passage from the Homeric Iliad to prove his point (Herodotus 2.116.1–2.117.1):

Δοκέει δέ μοι καὶ ῞Ομηρος τὸν λόγον τοῦτον πυθέσθαι· ἀλλ’, οὐ γὰρ ὁμοίως ἐς τὴν ἐποποιίην εὐπρεπὴς ἦν τῷ ἑτέρῳ τῷ περ ἐχρήσατο, [ἐς ὃ] μετῆκε αὐτόν, δηλώσας ὡς καὶ τοῦτον ἐπίσταιτο τὸν λόγον. Δῆλον δέ, κατά περ ἐποίησε ἐν Ἰλιάδι (καὶ οὐδαμῇ ἄλλῃ ἀνεπόδισε ἑωυτόν) πλάνην τὴν Ἀλεξάνδρου, ὡς ἀπηνείχθη ἄγων Ἑλένην τῇ τε δὴ ἄλλῃ πλαζόμενος καὶ ὡς ἐς Σιδῶνα τῆς Φοινίκης ἀπίκετο. Ἐπιμέμνηται δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐν Διομήδεος Ἀριστηίῃ· λέγει δὲ τὰ ἔπεα ὧδε·

ἔνθ’ ἔσαν οἱ πέπλοι παμποίκιλοι, ἔργα γυναικῶν
Σιδονίων, τὰς αὐτὸς Ἀλέξανδρος θεοειδὴς
ἤγαγε Σιδονίηθεν, ἐπιπλὼς εὐρέα πόντον,
τὴν ὁδὸν ἣν Ἑλένην περ ἀνήγαγεν εὐπατέρειαν.


Ἐπιμέμνηται δὲ καὶ ἐν Ὀδυσσείῃ ἐν τοῖσδε τοῖσι ἔπεσι·

τοῖα Διὸς θυγάτηρ ἔχε φάρμακα μητιόεντα,
ἐσθλά, τά οἱ Πολύδαμνα πόρεν Θῶνος παράκοιτις
Αἰγυπτίη, τῇ πλεῖστα φέρει ζείδωρος ἄρουρα
φάρμακα, πολλὰ μὲν ἐσθλὰ μεμιγμένα, πολλὰ δὲ λυγρά.


Καὶ τάδε ἕτερα πρὸς Τηλέμαχον Μενέλεως λέγει·

Αἰγύπτῳ μ’ ἔτι δεῦρο θεοὶ μεμαῶτα νέεσθαι
ἔσχον, ἐπεὶ οὔ σφιν ἔρεξα τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας.


Ἐν τούτοισι τοῖσι ἔπεσι δηλοῖ ὅτι ἠπίστατο τὴν ἐς Αἴγυπτον Ἀλεξάνδρου πλάνην· ὁμουρέει γὰρ ἡ Συρίη Αἰγύπτῳ, οἱ δὲ Φοίνικες, τῶν ἐστι ἡ Σιδών, ἐν τῇ Συρίῃ οἰκέουσι.

Κατὰ ταῦτα δὲ τὰ ἔπεα καὶ τόδε [τὸ χωρίον] οὐκ ἥκιστα ἀλλὰ μάλιστα δηλοῖ ὅτι οὐκ Ὁμήρου τὰ Κύπρια ἔπεά ἐστι ἀλλ’ ἄλλου τινός· ἐν μὲν γὰρ τοῖσι Κυπρίοισι εἴρηται ὡς τριταῖος ἐκ Σπάρτης Ἀλέξανδρος ἀπίκετο ἐς τὸ Ἴλιον ἄγων Ἑλένην, εὐαέϊ τε πνεύματι χρησάμενος καὶ θαλάσσῃ λείῃ· ἐν δὲ Ἰλιάδι λέγει ὡς ἐπλάζετο ἄγων αὐτήν. Ὅμηρος μέν νυν καὶ τὰ Κύπρια ἔπεα χαιρέτω.

I think that Homer was aware of this story [= the story of Helen in Egypt]. But, because it [= this story] was not as appropriate for epic composition as was the other one [= the other story] that he used, he omitted it, though he made it clear that he was aware of this story [= the story of Helen in Egypt] as well. It is clear on the basis of the way he composed in the Iliad (and nowhere else has he [= Homer] retraced his steps to this) the detour of Alexandros [= Paris]—how he [= Paris], as he was bringing Helen, was blown off course and was detoured in various places and then how he reached Sidon in Phoenicia. He [= Homer] mentions the story [of Helen in Egypt] in the part about the greatest deeds of Diomedes. And the epic words he says are as follows.

There they were, the peploi, completely pattern-woven [poikiloi], the work of women
from Sidon, whom Alexandros [= Paris] himself, the godlike,
had brought home [to Troy] from the land of Sidon, sailing over the vast sea,
on the very same journey as the one he took when he brought back home [to Troy] also Helen, the one who is descended from the most noble father.


He [= Homer] mentions it [= the story of Helen in Egypt] in the Odyssey also, in these epic words:

Such magical things she had, the daughter of Zeus,
things of good outcome, which to her did Polydamna give, wife of Thon.
She was Egyptian. For her, many were the things produced by the life-giving earth,
magical things—many good mixtures and many baneful ones.


And these other things are said to Telemachus by Menelaos:

I was eager to return here, but the gods still held me in Egypt,
Since I had not sacrificed entire hecatombs [hekatombai] to them.


In these epic verses the Poet makes clear that he knew of the detour of Alexandros [= Paris] to Egypt; for Syria borders on Egypt, and the Phoenicians whose territory is Sidon dwell in Syria.

In terms of these epic verses, this shows most clearly that the epic of the Cypria is not by Homer but by someone else. For in the Cypria it is said that on the third day after setting sail from Sparta Alexandros [= Paris] arrived in Troy bringing Helen, having made good use of a favorable wind and smooth seas. In the Iliad, on the other hand, he [= Homer] says that he [= Paris] was detoured as he was bringing her [= Helen]. So much for Homer and the epic of the Cypria.

(A note on Herodotus 2.116.4–5.) I question the judgment of modern editors who bracket sections 4 and 5 of Herodotus 2.116. Granted, the topic in these sections is the detour of Menelaos and Helen in Egypt after the war at Troy, not the detour of Paris and Helen before the war. But these passages are relevant to what Herodotus says thereafter (2.118–119) about Helen in Egypt after the war. Herodotus is making the point that there are other Homeric stories about Helen in Egypt, whereas there are no other Homeric stories about Helen in Phoenicia.

I now offer a paraphrase of the arguments made by Herodotus here at 2.116.1–2.117.1:

In a non-Homeric version of an epic called the Cypria (a version known to Herodotus but not to us), it is said that Paris and Helen sailed to Troy without making any detour. There is an alternative version in the Homeric Iliad, and Herodotus quotes the relevant verses. In this version, it is said that Paris and Helen did make a detour: they went to Phoenicia before they went to Troy. On the basis of an Egyptian story about Paris and Helen, Herodotus goes on to argue that they went to Egypt as well as Phoenicia, and that Homer knew it. After all, Egypt is next to Phoenicia. But the problem is, Homer later elided the story of Helen in Egypt as inappropriate. So the Iliad tells the story about Helen in Troy, not the story about Helen in Egypt. And the Odyssey follows the Iliad in accepting the story of Helen in Troy. Both epics, however, show traces of the story of Helen in Egypt, though the traces in the Iliad are only indirect.

Next, I offer a critical analysis of this paraphrase:

Herodotus considers the stories about detours in Egypt and Phoenicia within the larger context of stories about Helen in Egypt. Upon retelling an Egyptian version of a story about a detour of Paris and Helen in Egypt after he abducted her from Sparta (2.112–115), Herodotus says that Homer must have known that story (2.116.1). Then, in order to show that this is so, Herodotus offers proof (2.116–117), quoting I.06.289–292 and O.04.227–230 together with O.04.351–352. The passage I.06.289–292 concerns the detour of Paris and Helen before the war at Troy while the passages O.04.227–230 and O.04.351–352 concern the detour of Menelaos and Helen after the war. The first passage is meant as indirect proof that the story of Helen in Egypt was recognized by Homer in the Iliad while the other two passages are meant as direct proof that the story of Helen in Egypt was recognized by Homer in the Odyssey. The passages from the Odyssey are relevant to what Herodotus goes on to argue about the story of Helen in Egypt: he finds that this story is more believable than the story of Helen in Troy (2.118–119). In the Egyptian version, Paris is forced to leave Helen behind in Egypt after the two of them are detoured there (2.115.5). That is where Menelaos finds her after the war. According to this Egyptian version, then, Helen never went to Troy. For Herodotus, this version makes more sense than the Homeric version that dominates the Iliad and Odyssey.

I conclude by considering again the fact that Herodotus distinguishes Homer as the poet of the Iliad from the poet of the Cypria. This fact shows that the historian is familiar with the Panathenaic Homer. That is, he thinks of Homer as the poet of the two epics performed at the Panathenaia, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Nevertheless, Herodotus does not presuppose that everyone thinks this way. That is why he makes a point of establishing the distinction in the first place. He speaks of the poet of the Cypria as someone who may be considered to be Homer by others, but Herodotus knows better. [[GN 2017.04.06 via HPC 75–79 = I§§184–187; also PH 420.]]


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

The application of this epithet ‘daughter of Zeus’ to Helen is an overt reference to her divinity. On the use of Dios thugatēr / thugatēr Dios ‘daughter of Zeus’ as an epithet for goddesses, see the anchor comment at I.03.374. For more on the divinity of Helen, I epitomize from Nagy 2016.05.02 §§0–4:

[§0] The picturing of Helen as a ‘daughter of Zeus’ here at O.04.227 is a most fitting description of a goddess who was already worshipped at Sparta in an era as early as the second half of the second millennium BCE—an era that marks the rise and the eventual fall of an early Greek civilization that archaeologists recognize as the Mycenaean Empire. But there is a problem with this picture: how do we square the idea of Helen as goddess of Sparta with the idea of Helen of Troy as we see her come to life in the Homeric Iliad? I hope to address this problem here by taking a second look at the idea of Helen’s ‘image-double’, the word for which in Greek was eidōlon.

[§1] Helen of Troy, as we know her in the Homeric Iliad, appears to be a woman, not a goddess. But the remarkable fact is—I spotlight its relevance from the start—that the Homeric Odyssey describes Helen here at O.04.227 by way of the epithet Dios thugatēr, which means ‘daughter of Zeus’. And I spotlight here another relevant fact that is even more remarkable: the Homeric Iliad describes Helen as Dios ekgegauia ‘daughter of Zeus’ at I.03.199, I.03.418, and the same epithet occurs also at O.04.184, O.04.219, O.23.218. But the most remarkable relevant fact of them all is that Dios thugatēr ‘daughter of Zeus’, as we see this epithet deployed elsewhere not only in the Iliad but also in the Odyssey, can be used only with reference to goddesses: Aphrodite at I.03.374 and I.05.131 and I.05.312, Athena at I.02.548 and I.04.128 and I.04.515, Artemis at O.20.061, Persephone at O.11.217, Ate at I.19.091, and the Muses at I.02.491–492 (plural) and at O.01.010 (singular). These and other facts to be brought up later lead me to argue that, although Helen appears to be a woman and not a goddess in the Iliad, she is still a goddess. And I argue further that, despite appearances as poetically created in the Iliad, Helen is recognized even there as a goddess. In terms of my argument, then, Helen is recognized as a goddess not only in Sparta but also in the Troy or ‘Ilion’ of the Iliad, the name of which epic means of course ‘the song of Ilion’. And she is a goddess in ‘the song of Ilion’ precisely because she is Helen of Sparta.

[§2] Someone may object that, even if it is a fact that you have Zeus as your father, this fact alone is not enough to make you a goddess or a god. Your mother must also be a goddess. In other words, you have to have two divine immortals as your biological parents in order to be worshipped as an immortal divinity in your own right. After all, as I myself have argued in H24H 0§5, the dominant gene in the genetic code of ancient Greek mythmaking is mortality while the recessive gene is immortality, not the other way around. In other words, if the family tree that produced you includes even one solitary mortal ancestor, that will be enough to make you mortal as well—no matter how many immortal ancestors grace your genealogy. So, what about Helen’s mother in Sparta? If she were a goddess, then the status of Helen as a goddess in her own right would be a given.

[§3] In one version of the surviving myths about Helen, the mother of Helen is in fact a goddess, named Nemesis (Cypria fragment 7 ed. Allen, by way of Athenaeus 8.334b–d). In terms of this version, then, there is no question about the divinity of Helen. But things are more complicated. There are also other versions, native even to Sparta, where the mother of Helen is not Nemesis but Leda, as we read in the wording of a Spartan song dramatized by Aristophanes in the Lysistrata (line 1314). And this Leda, as we are about to see, is a mortal woman who is impregnated by Zeus. So, I am faced with a problem here. In terms of my own argumentation concerning mortality as the dominant gene, as it were, I should expect the mortality of Leda as mother to undo the divinity of Helen as daughter of Zeus. In other words, even the paternity of immortal Zeus would not be enough to cancel the mortality of a mortal mother.

[§4] But Leda is no ordinary mortal mother, since her impregnation by Zeus produces not only Helen but also two sons who are twins, commonly known in English by their Latin names Castor and Pollux—Kastōr and Poludeukēs in the original Greek—who are also known as the Dioskouroi, meaning ‘sons of Zeus’ in Greek. See the comment on I.03.237.  I argue that the mythological identity of Helen as a goddess at Sparta can best be understood by contemplating the mythological identity of these two brothers of hers, the Dioskouroi. [[GN 2017.04.06 via PH 346, GMP 250.]]


subject heading(s): sorrows of the Trojan War; personal involvement in the sorrows; terpesthai ‘feel delight’ [;penthos ‘sorrow’; akhos ‘sorrow’; nēpenthes ‘negating sorrow’]

Helen presents her story about the sorrows of the Trojan War as an entertainment, marked by the the programmatic word terpesthai ‘feel delight’, O.04.239. Evidently, the drug nēpenthes has occluded the sorrow of her listeners. See the comment on O.04.220–226. [[GN 2017.04.06 via BA 99.]]


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

Here, unlike elsewhere, the cognitive act of recognizing Odysseus, as marked by the verb anagignōskein ‘recognize’, does not require the explicit use of the word sēma ‘sign’. [[GN 2017.04.06 via GMP 203.]]


subject heading(s): atē ‘aberration’

Helen refers to her elopement with Paris=Alexandros as an atē ‘aberration’ caused by Aphrodite. [[GN 2017.04.06 via PH 242.]]


Q&T via MoM 2§26 (modified)
subject heading(s): eïskein ‘make likenesses, liken’
φωνὴν ἴσκουσ’ ἀλόχοισιν.
‘She [= Helen] was likening [eïskein] her voice to the voices of their wives.’

Helen possesses the art of ‘making a likeness’ of the voices of others. By ‘likening’ her voice to the voices of any wife of any Homeric hero, she is actually making her voice the same as theirs. We see here a Muse-like feat of verbal art. On this point, I have more to say in the comment on O.19.203. [[GN 2017.04.06 via MoM 2§26.]]


subject heading(s): tales about the island of Lesbos

In Odyssey 3, Nestor was telling young Telemachus tales about the adventures experienced by the Achaeans after their capture of Troy. Some of the tales involved the brothers Agamemnon and Menelaos. In the context of those tales, there was a mention of the island of Lesbos at O.03.169. And now in Odyssey 4, we get to know more about the adventures of Agamemnon and Menelaos after Troy, but here it is Menelaos himself who is telling tales about these adventures, and, in his tale, there is a detail about Lesbos that contradicts the tale told by Nestor in Odyssey 3.

Here I epitomize from Nagy 2015 §§ 77–78:

[§77] While telling his tale to Telemachus in Odyssey 4, Menelaos expresses a wish that the young man’s father, Odysseus, will return to Ithaca and will defeat the suitors of Penelope—just as this hero of the Odyssey had once upon a time defeated an opponent named Philomeleides in a wrestling match that had taken place on the island of Lesbos, O.04.341–344. The verses here at Odyssey 4.341–344 are repeated at 17.132–135, where Telemachus retells to Penelope the story told to him by Menelaos.

[§78] In terms of what Menelaos says at O.04.341–344, he was in Lesbos when Odysseus performed his heroic feat there. There is some agreement here with the narrative of Nestor at O.03.168–169, who says that Menelaos had sailed from Tenedos to Lesbos. So too had Nestor himself and Diomedes sailed to Lesbos, and they were already there by the time Menelaos arrived. See the comment on O.03.168–169. But the problem is, Odysseus himself did not sail from Tenedos to Lesbos in the narrative of Nestor: rather, as we saw at O.03.160–169, 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 at Troy, 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 as we saw arrived later, O.03.168–169. In short, the parting of ways for Odysseus in Odyssey 3 had already happened on the island of Tenedos, when he had left Nestor and Diomedes and Menelaos in order to rejoin Agamemnon. Here in Odyssey 4, by contrast, Odysseus seems to be still present in Lesbos when Diomedes and Nestor and Menelaos are present in Lesbos. And that is how Menelaos could have witnessed the victory of Odysseus in a wrestling match at Lesbos. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]


O.04.343–344 / anchor comment on: two variant myths in Odyssey 3 and Odyssey 4, part 2
subject heading(s): mutually contradictory local variations in mythmaking; dominant vs. recessive versions of myths

Epitome from Nagy 2015 §§79–91:

[§79] I argue that there were two variant myths at work in Odyssey 3 and 4, and that these myths could never be completely reconciled with one another. Nor, as I also argue, did they ever really need to be reconciled. In Homeric poetry, there is a built-in awareness of mutually contradictory local variations in mythmaking, and there are many examples where the poetry shows this awareness by ostentatiously including, without overt self-contradiction, details from recessive as well as dominant versions of any given myth. For another example, see the anchor comment at O.04.512–522 on: mutually contradictory local variations in mythmaking.

[§80] Keeping in mind the Homeric capacity to track such mutually contradictory local variations, let us consider the myth, as we saw it at work in Odyssey 3, about a grand sacrifice that took place on the island of Tenedos, O.03.159. Of the two Sons of Atreus, only Menelaos was present, while Agamemnon had stayed behind at Troy and was arranging a correspondingly grand sacrifice back there, to be attended by his half of the Achaeans—and that sacrifice was intended for Athena, Ο.03.143–145. As for the sacrifice at Tenedos, the divine recipients are not named, O.03.159. And, at the competing sacrifice on the island of Tenedos, arranged by Menelaos and attended by his half of the Achaeans, a quarrel broke out between Nestor and Odysseus, with the result that Odysseus and his followers went back to Agamemnon, O.03.160–164. After Tenedos, the only Achaean leaders who sailed on homeward with their followers were Nestor and Diomedes, O.03.165–167—to be joined later by Menelaos at Lesbos, O.03.168.

[§81] From here on, I refer to this ‘Tenedos version’ of the myth, O.03.159–164, as Myth One. But there is also a Myth Two, which is the ‘Lesbos version’, O.04.341–344. According to Myth Two, as we see it at work under the surface in Odyssey 4, there was a grand sacrifice that took place on the island of Lesbos, not on the island of Tenedos. At Lesbos, Odysseus was still together with Nestor and Diomedes—to be joined later by Menelaos. Unlike Myth One as we read it at O.03.159–164, which is a myth originating from Tenedos, this second variant myth originates from Lesbos. A signature of this Myth Two at O.04.341–344 is the reference, initiated by the speaking persona of Menelaos, to that primal wrestling match between Odysseus and Philomeleides on the island of Lesbos. In fact, there are traces of this Myth Two in sources external to Homeric poetry. As we learn from Hellanicus of Lesbos (FGH 4 F 150), the people of Lesbos had their own local stories about Philomeleides: he had been a king of theirs in the age of heroes, and he used to challenge visitors to engage with him in a wrestling match—but then his reputation for invincibility was undone by Odysseus, helped by Diomedes, when these heroes visited Lesbos. On Philomeleides of Lesbos, I have more to say in Nagy 2008:57.

[§82] I have so far left out a further detail in Myth Two as I have reconstructed it. According to this myth, which would be compatible with the myth as we see it at work in Song 17 of Sappho, Menelaos was not the only one of the two Sons of Atreus who visited Lesbos. Also visiting was his brother Agamemnon.

[§83] We have already seen that Myth One, compatible with the mythological traditions of Tenedos, situates the quarrel between Menelaos and Agamemnon at Troy, even before Agamemnon arranges for a sacrifice of one hundred cattle there. But now I argue that Myth Two, compatible with the mythological traditions of Lesbos, situates the quarrel of Menelaos and Agamemnon not at Troy—and certainly not at Tenedos—but rather at Lesbos. In Myth Two, as we are about to see, both Sons of Atreus visited Lesbos, and they quarreled there with each other. Further, we will see that such a quarrel between Menelaos and Agamemnon at Lesbos happened not before but after a grand sacrifice of one hundred cattle there. And, even further, we will see that the quarrel was linked with the ultimate failure of that sacrifice.

[§84] Here we return to Song 17 of Sappho, the relevant parts of which are quoted in the anchor comment at O.03.130–183 on two variant myths in Odyssey 3 and Odyssey 4, part 1 at §75. The clearest sign of failure, in terms of the narrative embedded in Song 17 of Sappho, is the wish that we see being formulated in heroic times—when it was announced-in-prayer that a festival is to be arranged at Lesbos. The eortā ‘festival’ (2: ἐόρτ[α]) that was arātā ‘announced-in-prayer’ (3: ἀράταν)—in the context of an animal sacrifice, as I reconstruct it—was instituted in hopes of ‘finding the way’ back home from Troy (7: [ὄ]δ̣ο̣ν … εὔρη̣[ν]). Hērā, as the primary divinity to whom it was announced-in-prayer that there would be a seasonally recurring festival at Lesbos, would be heeding the Sons of Atreus, who had prayed to her, imploring her to help them find their way back home safe and sound.

[§85] But the question remains: did Hērā heed the prayer of the Sons of Atreus? In the mythical world of heroes, a wish expressed by a hero who makes an announcement-in-prayer to a divinity is often not heeded by the divinity. See the anchor comment at I.02.402–429 on prayers heeded or not heeded by gods; also the comment on I.04.118–121.

[§86] Similarly, in terms of my reconstruction of the announcement-in-prayer made by the Sons of Atreus in Song 17 of Sappho, the sacrifice that was announced-in-prayer by these heroes was a failure, since their wish to find the safest way back home was not granted to either one of them. In the case of Agamemnon, we will see that he was killed after having sailed home safely, O.04.514–537. As for Menelaos, he will be sailing around aimlessly for eight years before he finally finds his way back home. At least, that is what we read in the version of the story as told at O.04.082 (see [§98] below).

[§87] Before I can proceed with my reconstruction, I must first situate its relevance to Song 17 of Sappho. In this song, I argue, we see a reference to a sacrifice of one hundred cattle in the precinct of Hērā at Lesbos, and this sacrifice is viewed, I also argue, as a failed ritual in the heroic past of a myth. In the myth, there is an announcement-in-prayer about performing the sacrifice, which will turn out to be a failure, whereas the seasonal reperforming of this sacrifice at the same place during the festival of Hērā is expected to be a successful ritual in the present time of reperformance as signaled in the song. In Song 17, as we have already seen (§75), the persona of Sappho is praying to Hērā herself, speaking to her about the eortā ‘festival’ (2: ἐόρτ[α]) that is being arranged in honor of the goddess. The speaking Sappho goes on to say that this festival, which ‘we’ in the present are arranging (11: πόημεν) as ‘we’ offer supplications to Hērā, is being arranged ‘in accordance with the ancient way’ (12: κὰτ τὸ πάλ̣[αιον) of celebration. In terms of the reading that we find in the papyrus, both Agamemnon and Menelaos had arranged (3: π̣ό̣ηϲαν) such a festival in ancient times by virtue of having announced-in-prayer the arrangement of such a festival in the first place. These conquerors of Troy needed to offer their prayer to Hērā, Zeus, and Dionysus (9-10), and, in that prayer, they were to announce the arrangement of the eortā ‘festival’ (2: ἐόρτ[α]), which was thus arātā ‘announced-in-prayer (3: ἀράταν). It is at this festival that the persona of Sappho is ‘even now’ praying to Hērā, nun de (11). And, in terms of my reconstruction, I argue that the centerpiece of such a seasonally recurring festival at Lesbos was a hecatomb, that is, the sacrificial slaughter of one hundred cattle. On the word hekatombē ‘hecatomb’, see the comment on O.04.351–353.

[§88] So, the central question is this: if such a ritual of sacrificing one hundred cattle was a failure in the past time of the myth, how could it become a model for the success of that ritual as it exists in its own present time?

[§89] Such an idea of failure in myth and success in ritual is typical of an aetiology. I repeat here my working definition (see the comment on I.23.01–064 Point 1): an aetiology focuses on a foundational catastrophe in the mythologized past that explains and thus motivates continuing success in the ritualized present and future.

[§90] An example of an aetiology that I have studied elsewhere in some detail is a complex of rituals and myths involving the god Apollo and the hero Pyrrhos at Delphi, where the overall ritual of slaughtering sheep and distributing in an orderly way their sacrificial meat inside the precinct of Apollo stands in sharp contrast with a myth, as reflected in Pindar’s Nemean 7 and Paean 6, about a disorderly distribution that resulted in the slaughtering of Pyrrhos himself when the hero arrived at Delphi to make sacrifice inside the precinct of the god (Nagy 2011a §§67–68, 70–72).

[§91] For another example of such an aetiology, I cite a story as retold by Herodotus (1.31.1–5) about a priestess of Hērā and her two boys, named Kleobis and Biton. The mother and the two sons, all three of them, are involved as major characters in an aetiological myth about the ritual practice of the hecatomb, which was a sacrificial slaughtering of one hundred cattle in the precinct of the goddess Hērā at the climax of the festival celebrated in her honor at Argos. On the word hekatombē ‘hecatomb’, see the comment on O.04.351–353. Also involved as major ‘characters’ in the story are two sacrificial oxen. The two boys, described as āthlophoroi ‘prize-winning athletes’, willingly took the place of the two sacrificial oxen, chosen to pull the wagon carrying the priestess across the plain of Argos—over a distance of 45 stadium-lengths—along a sacred way leading up to the precinct of Hērā (1.31.2). The oxen had been late in arriving at the starting-point of the procession (again, 1.31.2), and this lateness, in terms of the story, is the aetiological explanation for their replacement by the two athletes. If these two oxen had not been late, they would have been slaughtered along with the other ninety-eight oxen that had been chosen for the mass sacrifice of one hundred cattle at the finishing-point of the procession, inside the precinct of Hērā. At the feast that followed the sacrifice inside the precinct, the two boys died a mystical death after having pulled the wagon of the priestess from the starting-point all the way to this finishing-point of the procession (1.31.5). Thus, by way of this death that they shared with each other, the boys became sacrificial substitutes for the two premier victims of the animal sacrifice. (See Nagy 2015 ch. 4§142*1, with references to further commentary.) [[GN 2017.04.06.]]


subject heading(s): hekatombē ‘hecatomb’; failure to perform a hecatomb

Epitome from Nagy 2015 §92:

Menelaos, narrating for Telemachus and the assembled company the tale of his own homecoming from Troy, explains why the gods had temporarily checked the winds that could bring him back home in the final phase of his sea voyage, O.04.351–362. At one point in the tale, Menelaos is stranded on the island Pharos, offshore from Egypt O.04.354–360. And, in telling this part of the tale, the explanation that he gives for his temporary failure to sail on and to reach his homeland is this: because (352: ἐπεί) he had not performed a hecatomb. On the word hekatombē ‘hecatomb’, referring to a sacrificial slaughtering of one hundred cattle, see the comment on O.04.351–353. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]


Q&T via Nagy 2015 §92
subject heading(s): hekatombē ‘hecatomb’; failure to perform a hecatomb

|351 Αἰγύπτῳ μ’ ἔτι δεῦρο θεοὶ μεμαῶτα νέεσθαι |352 ἔσχον, ἐπεὶ οὔ σφιν ἔρεξα τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας· |353 οἱ δ’ αἰεὶ βούλοντο θεοὶ μεμνῆσθαι ἐφετμέων.

|351 In Egypt did they hold me up, the gods did, though I sorely wanted to make a homecoming [neesthai] back here [deuro = at home, where I am speaking now]. |352 Yes, they held me up, since [epei] I did not perform for them a perfect sacrifice of one hundred cattle [hekatombai]. |353 The gods always wanted their protocols to be kept in mind.


I interpret hekatom-b-ē ‘hecatomb’ as ‘sacrifice of one hundred [hekaton] cattle [b-]’ in Homeric contexts, as here. But I should note that there are some cases where the sacrifice is scaled down, referring not to cattle but to other sacrificial animals. In I.04.102, for example, the hekatombē involves sheep, not cattle. The passage here at O.04.351–353 is relevant to the narrative in Song 17 of Sappho, as quoted in the anchor comment at O.03.130–183 on two variant myths in Odyssey 3 and Odyssey 4, part 1. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]



This description of Pharos is most relevant to the charter myth narrated in Plutarch Life of Alexander 26.5 about the Library of Alexandria. [[GN 2017.04.06 via PasP 202.]]


subject heading(s): kata-phthinesthai ‘wilt, perish’

See the comments on I.01.155. [[GN 2017.04.06 via BA 185–186.]]


O.04.489/ anchor comment on adeukḗs ‘discontinuous, interrupting’

This adjective adeukḗs is used in contexts referring to an interrupted sequence. In the present context, for example, adeukḗs describes the ólethros ‘doom’ that destroys a ship. See also O.06.273, O.10.245. The opposite of this adjective adeukḗs ‘discontinuous, interrupting’ can be seen in the adverb endukéōs, which can be interpreted as ‘continuously, uninterruptedly’. See the anchor comment at O.07.256. In terms of this interpretation, the root deuk-/duk- for this adjective/adverb conveys the sense of ‘continue’. [[GN 2017.05.30 via PasP 44.]]


O.04.512–522 / anchor comment on: mutually contradictory local variations in mythmaking
subject heading(s): dominant vs. recessive versions of myths

Epitome from Nagy 2015 §79:

Narrated here in O.04.512–522 is the final phase of the sea voyage of Agamemnon as he sails his way back home after the Trojan War. At first, the winds carry him around the headlands of Maleiai, bringing him toward Spartan territory, but then, before he can land there, the winds correct themselves, as it were, and they now carry him in a different direction, toward Argive territory, which is where he finally lands. This way, the Spartan myth that localizes the home of Agamemnon at Amyklai in Spartan territory is recognized—before it is overruled by the rival Argive myth that localizes his home at Mycenae in Argive territory. In Homeric poetry, the Argive version of the myth is dominant, while the Spartan version is recessive. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]


Q&T via Nagy 2015 §93
subject heading(s): the temporary success of Agamemnon and the temporary failure of Menelaos

|512 σὸϲ δέ που ἔκφυγε κῆρας ἀδελφεὸς ἠδ’ ὑπάλυξεν |513 ἐν νηυσὶ γλαφυρῇσι· σάωϲε δὲ πότνια Ἥρη.

|512 But your brother [= Agamemnon] escaped from the forces of destruction, and he slipped away |513 in his hollow ships. Hērā had saved [sōzein] him.


Epitome from Nagy 2015 §§93–100:

[§93] By contrast with the temporary failure of Menelaos in his homecoming, as narrated by the hero himself at O.04.351–353, Agamemnon had already succeeded in sailing home, and Menelaos himself mentions this detail as he tells his own tale in Odyssey 4. In telling the tale, the explanation that Menelaos gives for his brother’s successful sea voyage is this: because the goddess Hērā had saved Agamemnon. I note here the background: Proteus had told Menelaos about this salvation of Agamemnon from the sea, and that is how Menelaos knows about it. As he retells the tale to Telemachus, Menelaos is quoting here the words of Proteus about the success of Agamemnon at sea, to be contrasted with the temporary failure of Menelaos himself.

[§94] As we learn, then, from the words of Proteus in Odyssey 4, Agamemnon was in fact saved at sea, since his voyage by sea was successful. But then he was killed after he landed near home, ambushed by Aigisthos, and so the rest of his voyage, by land, became a failure O.04.514-537. After treacherously hosting him at a dinner, Aigisthos had slaughtered Agamemnon as if that hero were some sacrificial ox that is being fed in a manger, O.04.535. By contrast, the voyage of Menelaos by sea was ultimately successful, because he finally got around to making a sacrifice of one hundred cattle in Egypt, O.04.581–586. In making this sacrifice, Menelaos was following the instructions of Proteus, O.04.472–480, and, this way, he appeased the anger of the gods, O.04.583. Now Menelaos could at long last sail back to his homeland, safe and sound O.04.584–586. At I.05.714–717, Hērā remarks to Athena that the two of them had promised to Menelaos a safe homecoming after the conquest of Troy.

[§95] We have seen, then, from the narrative of Menelaos in Odyssey 4, that Agamemnon was saved at sea by the goddess Hērā, O.04.512–513. But why had Hērā saved him? It was because, I argue, Agamemnon had at least tried to make a perfect sacrifice of one hundred cattle at Lesbos. By contrast, Menelaos had somehow failed to do his part in the corresponding sacrifice. In terms of my interpretation, based on the wording of Song 17 of Sappho, both Sons of Atreus had made an announcement-in-prayer about performing a sacrifice at Lesbos, but only Agamemnon succeeded in following through on that announcement.

[§96] I have already quoted the passage at O.04.252–254 where Menelaos says that the final phase of his sea voyage as he headed back home was held up by the gods precisely because he had not made a sacrifice of one hundred cattle. From the context, it is clear that this failure that made the gods so angry was a sin of omission, not commission. And his sin, I argue, was that he somehow failed to perform a sacrifice of one hundred cattle at Lesbos. But later on, when Menelaos does finally get around to performing a sacrifice of one hundred cattle in Egypt O.04.581–586, his performance is successful, and thus he finally appeases the anger of the gods, O.04.583.

[§97] The reader’s first impression may be that the sin of omission on the part of Menelaos, that is, his failure to perform a successful sacrifice of one hundred cattle, happens in Egypt: after all, the finding of a solution for the sin happens at this place—when Menelaos finally gets around to performing such a sacrifice. But such a first impression is wrong, I think, since Egypt was merely the last possible place as an occasion for such a sin of omission. There were many other places that Menelaos had visited before he ever reached Egypt, and Egypt had been for him merely the final stopover in the course of a most problematic overall sea voyage back home from Troy. Yes, the gods were in the process of punishing Menelaos in Egypt for his sin of omission when we see them interfering there with his sea voyage. And yes, the gods kept on interfering until Menelaos finally made the sacrifice, in Egypt, which was the place that turned out to be his point of departure in the very last phase of his sea voyage. But, as we will now see, the gods were already interfering with Menelaos in earlier phases of his sea voyage, and so the divine punishment for his sin of omission can be viewed as an ongoing series of misfortunes that kept on interfering with his travels after Troy.

[§98] The first such misfortune is already narrated by Nestor in Odyssey 3, concerning the death, at Cape Sounion, of the hero Phrontis, who had been steering the ship of Menelaos, O.03.276–283. That death, caused by the god Apollo, O.03.279–280, holds back Menelaos from sailing ahead. Only after he conducts a proper funeral for his companion, O.03.284–285, does he recommence his sea voyage. Then, as Menelaos sails past the headlands of Maleiai, his ships are blown off course: some are swept away to Crete, where they run aground and are shattered, O.03.286–299, while five of them reach Egypt, O.03.299–300. (The details here are parallel to what is narrated in the epic Cycle: Nostoi, Proclus summary p. 108 lines 20–23 ed. Allen 1912). In sharp contrast, the hero Nestor has a safe and swift sea voyage back home to Pylos, O.03.182–183, having evidently rounded successfully the headlands of Maleiai (I follow here the analysis of Frame 2009:184n79.) Meanwhile, once he reaches Egypt, Menelaos takes to plundering and looting there, and he amasses vast treasures, O.03.301, as ‘he was wandering around with his ships’, O.03.302 (ἠλᾶτο ξὺν νηυϲί). Later, in Odyssey 4, we learn from the narrative of Menelaos that his sea voyage had reached not only Egypt but also other exotic places, including Cyprus and Phoenicia, O.04.083, even Libya, O.04.085. After experiencing all these adventures, he was still just ‘wandering around’ in an aimless way, O.04.081 and O.04.083 (ἐπαληθείϲ), O.04.091 (ἠλώμην). As Menelaos himself remarks, he spent eight years just wandering around, O.04.082.

[§99] Already in the narrative of Nestor in Odyssey 3, the aimlessness of the sea voyage of Menelaos is anticipated: whereas Agamemnon got back home from Troy relatively soon, only to get killed by Aigisthos, Menelaos kept on wandering from one place to the next in his many sea voyages, and the word for his directionless maritime wanderings is plazeto ‘he was veering’, O.03.254 (πλάζετ’). Comparable, of course, are the even more extensive veerings of Odysseus in the overall Odyssey, as expressed by the same word plazesthai ‘veering’ already at the beginning of the epic: Odysseus is a hero ‘who veered [plangthē] in very many ways’, O.01.001–002 (ὃς μάλα πολλὰ | πλάγχθη).

[§100] So, where did all the veering begin for Menelaos? Where did his sea voyage start to go off course? According to one version of the myth about this hero’s travels by sea after Troy, as I will now argue, the veering can be traced all the way back to something that happened at Lesbos. I focus here on a detail we find in the tale told by Nestor in Odyssey 3. In that tale, Menelaos was late in arriving at Lesbos. See the comment on O.03.168–169. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]


subject heading(s): Elysium; immortalization of Menelaos; xanthos ‘with golden hair’

Proteus makes a prophecy here, foretelling the immortalization of Menelaos in a pedion ‘field’ named Ēlusion ‘Elysium’, O.04.563. A comparable setting for immortalization is a place known as the Makarōn nēsoi ‘Islands of the Blessed’ (as in Hesiod Works and Days 164–173). The name Ēlusion ‘Elysium’, as is evident from attestations outside of Homeric poetry, can refer to a mystical setting of immortalization as experienced by heroes worshipped in cult. From what evidence we have about hero cults, we can see that the rituals of worshipping heroes in cult places are ideologically synchronized with corresponding myths about the immortalization of these same heroes in paradise-like settings that are far removed from the everyday world. In fact, the forms Ēlusion ‘Elysium’ and Makarōn nēsoi ‘Isles of the Blessed’ are appropriate as names for actual cult sites. The proper noun Ēlusion coincides with the common noun en-ēlúsion, referring to a place made sacred by virtue of being struck by the thunderbolt (Pollux 9.41, etc.). The form Ēlúsion itself is glossed in the Alexandrian lexicographical tradition (Hesychius) as κεκεραυνωμένον χωρίον ἢ πεδίον ‘a place or field that has been struck by the thunderbolt’, with this added remark: καλεῖται δὲ καὶ ἐνηλύσια ‘and it is also called enēlusia’. As for Makarōn nēsos ‘Island of the Blessed’, there is a tradition that the name was actually applied to the old acropolis of Thebes, the Kadmeion; specifically, the name designated the sacred precinct where Semele, the mother of Dionysus, had been struck dead by the thunderbolt of Zeus (Parmenides via the Suda and via Photius, under Makarōn nēsos; Tzetzes on Lycophron 1194, 1204). We are immediately reminded of the poetic tradition that tells how Semele became immortalized as a direct result of dying from the thunderbolt of Zeus (see Pindar Olympian 2.25, in conjunction with Hesiod Theogony 942). Inhabiting Elysium is the hero Rhadamanthys, O.04.564, who is described in this context as xanthos ‘with golden hair’. Similarly, Menelaos himself is conventionally described as xanthos: I.03.284, I.03.434, I.04.183, I.04.210, I.10.240, I.11.125, I.17.006, I.17.018, I.17.113, I.17.124, I.17.578, I.17.673, I.17.684, I.23.293, I.23.401, I.23.438, O.01.285, O.03.168, O.03.257, O.03.326, O.04.030, O.04.059, O.04.076, O.04.147, O.04.168, O.04.203, O.04.265, O.04.332, O.15.110, O.15.133, O.15.147. [[GN 2017.04.06 via BA 167, 171, 179, 196, 206, 210; GMP 140.]]


subject heading(s): ana-psūkhein ‘revive, reanimate’

Gusts of wind emitted by the cosmic river Ōkeanos have the power of ‘reviving’ humans in the sense of ‘reanimating’ them, as expressed by way of the verb ana-psūkhein, O.04.568. On the mystical force of this verb, see the comment on I.05.795. [[GN 2017.04.06.]]


subject heading(s): abduction by gusts of wind

See the comment on O.01.241. [[GN 2017.04.06 via BA 194, GMP 243.]]


subject heading(s): huphainein ‘weave’ plus mētis in the sense of ‘plan’ as object

See also the contexts of I.03.125–128, I.03.212, I.07.324, I.18.367, O.03.118, O.12.189-191. [[GN 2017.04.06 via PasP 64n23.]]


subject heading(s): Gates of Dreams

On pulai ‘gates’ as liminal points of entry and departure for consciousness and for the sun itself, see the comments at I.05.395–404, I.05.646. See also the anchor comment at I.08.367 on the Gates of Hādēs; also the anchor comment at I.23.071–076 on what the psūkhē ‘spirit’ of Patroklos really wants for itself—and for Achilles (Points 5 and 6 and 9). [[GN 2017.04.06 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.