A sampling of comments on Odyssey Rhapsody 8

2017.05.18 / updated 2018.10.08 | By Gregory Nagy

Odysseus encounters the blind singer Demodokos, who performs three songs that reveal hidden truths about the hero of the Odyssey.

Blind Demodokos sings of the siege of Troy (1810), by John Flaxman (English, 1755–1826).Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Blind Demodokos sings of the siege of Troy (1810), by John Flaxman (English, 1755–1826). Image via Wikimedia Commons.


Alkinoos prepares a feast for Odysseus, who has not yet identified himself. This feast becomes a mythologized replica of a festival that puts on display a dazzling variety of old poetic traditions, soon to be replaced by the new poetry of the Odyssey.


subject heading(s): menos ‘mental power’; epithet hieron ‘sacred’

Once again, as at O.07.167 and O.07.178, the name of Alkinoos is expressed periphrastically: ‘the sacred [hieron] mental-power [menos] of Alkinoos’, as if the agency of the king originated from his mental power, not from his existence as a person. See also O.08.04. [[GN 2017.05.18 via BA 86, 89.]]


subject heading(s): pompē ‘escort’; sacrifice; xenos ‘stranger; guest’; dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’; aeidein ‘sing’; aoidē ‘singing, song’; aoidos ‘singer’; Demodokos; terpein ‘give delight’

Alkinoos the king is addressing his subjects, the Phaeacians, and he speaks of the ‘escort’ that he plans to provide for the stranger who has not yet identified himself as Odysseus. The word that I translate as ‘escort’ here is pompē: O.08.030, O.08.031, O.08.033. And the word that I translate as ‘stranger’ is xenos: O.08.028. Alkinoos intends to be a host to this stranger, treating him as a ‘guest’, and the word that I translate as ‘guest’ here is likewise xenos, O.08.042. What Alkinoos plans to offer his guest is a dais, which refers on the surface to a ‘feast’. The feast will evidently include a dinner, O.08.042, and this dinner will include entertainment in the form of ‘singing’, the noun for which is aoidē at O.08.044 and the verb for which is aeidein at O.08.045. The one who will be singing is an aoidos ‘singer’, O.08.043, whose name is Demodokos, O.08.044. This singer’s singing ‘gives delight’, as expressed by way of the verb terpein, O.08.045. [[GN 2017.05.19 via HPC 85.]]


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

Here the entire kingdom of the Phaeacians is figured as one single dēmos ‘community, district’. On dēmos as ‘community, district’, see the comments on O.01.103 and O.02.032; and see also the comment on I.18.497–508, with reference to a scene of litigation in the context of a dēmos ‘district’ (δήμῳ at I.18.500), which is parallel to a litigation recorded in the Linear B tablet Ep 704 from Pylos, again in the context of a dāmos (da-mo) ‘district’ (HR 75–76). [[GN 2017.05.18.]]


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

As I will start to argue in the comment at O.08.061, the dais ‘feast’ that is planned here by king Alkinoos for his guest will eventually be rethought as a stylized festival, centering on a sacrifice that leads to a division of meat at the feast. [[GN 2017.05.18 via HPC 85 and 101.]]


subject heading(s): name of Demodokos; [dēmos ‘community, district’;] “speaking name” (nomen loquens)

The “speaking name” (nomen loquens) of the singer, Dēmódokos, can be interpreted as meaning ‘one who is received [verb dek(h)esthai] by the community [dēmos]’, and, in the present context, the dēmos ‘community, district’ that gives to the singer’s singing its reception is indicated at O.08.036: that community is the dēmos or ‘district’ of the kingdom ruled by Alkinoos the king. I translate Dēmódokos as ‘received by the community’, not just ‘received in the community’, because the noun dēmos implies an authority that is endowed with agency: the dēmos can perform a function, such as the reception of a song. We can see such agency at work in the use of the word dāmos (da-mo) in the Linear B tablet Ep 704 from Pylos: in the litigation that is described in that text, the dāmos literally speaks as one of the two parties engaged in the litigation over land-tenure: dāmos de min phāsi … ekheen (da-mo-de-mi-pa-si … e-ke-e) ‘but the dāmos says [phāsi] that she [= the priestess] has …’ (HR 75–76). [[GN 2017.05.19 via BA 149.]]


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

The king Alkinoos ‘sacrifices’, as indicated by the verb hiereuein at O.08.059, a number of sacrificial animals. They are twelve sheep, eight pigs and two head of cattle, as indicated at O.08.059–060, and the meat of these sacrificial animals will now be prepared for a dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’, as indicated at O.08.061—and as already indicated earlier at O.08.038. Following up on my comment at O.08.038 as also on the comment here at O.08.059–061, I will have more to say in the comment at O.08.061, coming up, about the dais ‘feast’ that is planned by king Alkinoos for his guest. [[GN 2017.05.19 via HPC 85 and 101; also MoM 4§§72, 99.5.]]


subject heading(s): dais ‘feast; division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’; [daiesthai ‘feast; divide (meat), apportion, distribute’;] stylized festival

[Epitomized from MoM 4§73:] The noun dais ‘feast’, as we see it used here at O.08.061, is derived from the verb daiesthai in the basic sense of ‘distribute’, which is used in contexts of animal sacrifice in referring to the ‘distribution’ of cooked meat among the members of a community, as at O.15.140 and O.17.332. Then, by way of synecdoche, the specific idea of distribution extends metonymically to the general idea of feasting and further to the even more general idea of a festival. Following the logic of this sequence of meanings, we see that the animal sacrifice at O.08.059 had led to the cooking and the distribution of the meat, O.08.061, which will lead to communal dining, O.08.071–072, which will lead to the First Song of Demodokos, O.08.073–083, and so on. On metonymy and synecdoche, see the Inventory of terms and names. In terms of this logic, the metonymic use of the word dais in the sense of ‘feast’ here at O.08.061 marks a whole complex of events that are typical of festivals: animal sacrifice, communal feasting, singing as well as dancing at the feast. As we will see in comments that follow, this dais ‘feast’ as signaled at O.08.061 will be rethought as a stylized festival, centering on a sacrifice that leads to a division of meat at the feast. Such a festival will continue from here in Odyssey 8 all the way to the beginning of Odyssey 13. [[GN 2017.05.18. See also HPC 81 and 93; also MoM 4§99.5.]]


Q&T O.08.062–094 via HPC 97–98
subject heading(s): First Song of Demodokos

Demodokos is an aoidos ‘singer,’ O.08.062, and he is is blind, O.08.63–64. The song that he sings about the Trojan War, O.08.073–082, prompts Odysseus to break down in tears and weep, O.08.083–095. Every time the singer ‘leaves off’ singing, as indicated by lēgein, O.08.087, he then restarts his song, as indicated by aps arkhesthai, O.08.090, since his Phaeacian listeners ‘feel delight’, as indicated by the verb terpesthai, as they hear his singing, O.08.091. So, the listeners of Demodokos so enjoy his singing that they don’t let him stop. (See the comments at HC 2§299 and 2§343.) There is a contradiction here between the reactions of Odysseus and the other listeners. Every time the singer restarts his singing, Odysseus restarts his weeping, O.08.092. But Odysseus pretends to be enjoying the performance of Demodokos, O.08.089, and he manages to evade the notice of all the Phaeacians, O.08.093—except for Alkinoos, O.08.094–095. As I will argue with reference to the Third Song of Demodokos, that song can be interpreted as a restarting of the First Song of Demodokos—followed by a parallel restarting of the tears of Odysseus in response to it. [[GN 2017.05.19 via HPC 96–98.]]


subject heading(s): phorminx ‘special lyre’

The singers as represented in Homeric poetry are traditionally pictured as accompanying themselves on a string instrument or ‘lyre’, called a phorminx here. [[GN 2017.05.18 via BA 291.]]


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

Before the singer starts singing, the Phaeacians and their unidentified guest are already feasting: they partake of both food and drink, O.08.072. The eating and drinking had begun at O.08.071, signaled already at O.08.061 by the noun dais ‘feast, feasting’. As we will see later, however, the singing itself is part of the dais ‘feasting’. [[GN 2017.05.19 via MoM 4§§72–73, HPC 81, 85.]]


subject heading(s): Homeric paraphrase of the First Song of Demodokos

At O.08.073–082, we see the plot of the First Song—at least, the plot of the start of the First Song. We cannot be sure about the whole plot because the singer more than once ‘leaves off’ his song, as signaled by lēgein at O.08.087, and then ‘restarts’ it, as signaled by aps arkhesthai at O.08.090. The multiple restartings are prompted by the fact that the singer’s Phaeacian listeners ‘feel delight’, as indicated by the verb terpesthai, as they hear his singing, O.08.091, and they want to hear more. As I noted in my comment for O.08.062–095, even Odysseus pretends to be enjoying the performance of Demodokos, O.08.089. On points of comparison between the Iliad and the First Song of Demodokos as a micro-Iliad, see HPC 115–116, especially with reference to (1) the idea of being inspired by a single Muse and (2) the subsuming of the agency of Apollo under the Plan of Zeus; see also HC 2§309. On the Third Song of Demodokos as a continuation of the First, see HPC 101. On epic poetry about the Trojan War as a hymnic consequent, see MoM 4§73 and 4§99.2; also HC 2§326. (By hymnic consequent here, all I mean is whatever comes after something that is shaped like a hymn.) On the epic of Demodokos as cognate with the poetic form of the epic Cycle, see HC 2§331. [[GN 2017.05.19.]]


subject heading(s): klea andrōn ‘the glories [klea] of men’; kleos ‘glory’ (of poetry)

For more on the epic traditions of klea andrōn ‘the glories [klea] of men’, see the comment on I.09.185–191; also on I.09.524–599. On the poetics of kleos ‘glory’ as the glory conferred by poetry, especially by epic, see the comment on O.01.088–095. [[GN 2017.05.18 via BA 100.]]


subject heading(s): oimē ‘thread, story-thread’; prooimion ‘proemium, prelude’

I translate the genitive of oimē (οἴμης) here as ‘starting (from a story-thread)’. (See also PP 63, HC 2§92n.) The paraphrasing here of the song of Demodokos recapitulates the prooimion ‘proemium, prelude’ of the song. [What follows is epitomized from HC 2§§92–93:] In the case of the compound noun prooimion / προοίμιον, conventionally translated as ‘proemium’, the element –oim– / -οιμ- is derived from a root that we find also attested in two simple nouns, oimos / οἶμος and oimē / οἰμή. The Attic by-form of prooimion / προοίμιον, which is phroimion / φροίμιον, elucidates the prehistory of the root: we must reconstruct it not as *oim- but as *hoim-, from *soim-. This reconstruction helps elucidate the surviving contexts of both oimos / οἶμος and oimē / οἰμή, which do not always give a clear picture of the basic meaning of either form. In some contexts, the meaning seems to be ‘song’, as here at O.08.074, while in others it seems to be ‘way, pathway’, as in Hesiod Works and Days 290. With the help of comparative evidence, however, the primary meaning of oimos and oimē can be reconstructed as ‘thread, threading’, and the meanings ‘song’ or ‘way, pathway’ can be explained as secondary: that is, ‘song’ and ‘way, pathway’ are metaphorical generalizations derived from the meaning ‘thread, threading’ (PR 72, 81; also PP 63n20). And it is such a primary meaning ‘thread, threading’ that we find in comparable forms attested in other Indo-European languages: for example, the form *soimos that we reconstruct from Greek oimos is attested as Old Icelandic seimr, meaning ‘thread’ (for this and other examples, see Durante 1976:176). In terms of such a primary meaning, the etymology of the compound noun prooimion ‘proemium’ can be interpreted as a metaphor referring to the ‘initial threading’ of a song. A close semantic parallel to the etymology of Greek prooimion ‘proemium’ as an ‘initial threading’ of a song is the etymology of Latin exordium, which likewise means ‘proemium’ in poetic and rhetorical contexts: the meaning of this noun as well can be traced back to the basic idea of an ‘initial threading’ (PP 63n20). The poetic and rhetorical concepts of both Greek prooimion and Latin exordium in the sense of ‘proemium’ have a common Indo-European ancestry. As I will argue later, not only oimos / oimē / prooimion but also humnos, ordinarily translated as ‘hymn’, are derived from roots that refer to the making of fabric. Moreover, I note that the word oimos is formulaically interchangeable with the word humnos at verse 451 of the Homeric Hymn (4) to Hermes, where we see the attestation of both οἶμος ἀοιδῆς and ὕμνος ἀοιδῆς in the manuscript tradition; at a later point, we will also consider the cognate expression ἀοιδῆς ὕμνον at verse 429 of Odyssey 8. I interpret the combinations of humnos and oimos with aoidē ‘song’ to mean respectively the ‘weaving’ of song and the ‘threading’ of song. Relevant to this interpretation is the context of oimē at verse 74 of Odyssey 8: we see here a metaphorical reference to the initial part of performing a song, that is, to the ‘initial threading’ of a song. To sum up, the meaning of oimos or oimē as ‘song’ results from a metaphorical extension: the idea of making song is being expressed metaphorically through the idea of making fabric. As for contexts where oimos and oimē seem to mean ‘way, pathway’, I argue that such a meaning is likewise a result of metaphorical extension: here the general idea of moving ahead from one point to another is being expressed metaphorically by applying the specific idea of threading one’s way from one point to another (more on this point at HC 2§311, in the excursus there). On points of comparison with the proemium that introduces the History of Herodotus, see PH 221. [[GN 2017.05.19.]]


subject heading(s): neikos ‘quarrel’; dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’; ‘best of the Achaeans’; [mētis ‘mind, intelligence’; biē ‘force, violence, strength’].

The narrative subject of the epic that is being paraphrased here is a neikos ‘quarrel’ between Odysseus and Achilles, O.08.075. And the setting for this quarrel is a dais ‘feast’ that is explicitly correlated with a ‘sacrifice’, O.08.076: θεῶν ἐν δαιτὶ θαλείῃ ‘at a celebratory feast [dais] of the gods’. The same epithet thaleiēi (θαλείῃ) is also used to describe the ongoing dais ‘feast’ at O.08.099. This epithet is of special interest in light of the meaning of the noun thaliai in the plural, ‘celebrations, festivities’, as at O.11.603 (HPC 85n13). We may compare another feast, described at I.08.228–235, where the describer is Agamemnon, recalling a scene from the collective past of the Achaeans: the setting of this other feast was the island of Lemnos, and each one of the Achaean leaders took turns in boasting that he was the best Achaean of them all, I.08.229. In my comment on I.08.228–235, I noted that the noun eukhōlai ‘boastings’ in the plural at I.08.229 indicates a distributive action: the Achaeans were boasting not as a group but individually and competitively. The competitive boasting evidently centered on the question: who would be superior to all others in performing heroic exploits in the upcoming Trojan War? And the setting for this quarrel was a feast where the meat of oxen to be eaten in vast quantities was being apportioned among the Achaean leaders, I.08.231. Since the narrative here makes a point of adding that these leaders were also drinking wine, I.08.232, it is implied that all the boasting could get out of hand and lead to quarrels about the awarding of prime cuts of meat. It would have been expected that the best portion of meat should go to the best hero. On the idea of a champion’s portion of meat, see the comment on I.07.319–322. Having reconstructed for I.08.228–235 a scene of quarreling in the context of apportioning cuts of meat, I return to the scene at O.08.075–078, where we see once again a scene of quarreling in the context of apportioning cuts of meat. And here the ‘quarreling’ is explicitly called a neikos, O.08.075, while the ‘apportioning of meat’ is explicitly called a dais, O.08.076. As we saw in the comment for I.01.423–425, a dais is a feast where meat is distributed, and this meat comes from the sacrifice of sacrificial animals. Thus the act of sacrifice converts the feast of humans into a notional feast of the gods. This notion, ‘feast of the gods’, is made explicit at O.08.076, where the setting is described explicitly this way, as we have already seen: θεῶν ἐν δαιτὶ θαλείῃ ‘at a celebratory feast [dais] of the gods’. In this festive setting, as I already highlighted in the comment on I.08.228–235, the neikos ‘quarrel’ at O.08.075 is between Odysseus and Achilles, who are described at O.08.078 as ‘the best of the Achaeans’. In terms of such a dispute in the context of a feast, each one of the two heroes would be claiming to be the ‘best of the Achaeans’. Achilles would have claimed to be ‘best’ because of his superior biē ‘force, violence, strength’, while Odysseus would have counter-claimed to be ‘best’ because of his superior mētis ‘mind, intelligence’. See the comments on O.01.002; see also, further back, the comments on I.01.001–012, where I argue that the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles came from an epic tradition that was independent from the epic tradition that featured the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles. Further, see the comment on I.09.346–352, where I note that this Iliadic passage was thought by Aristarchus (scholia A for I.09.347) to be an allusion to the quarrel at O.08.075–078 between Achilles and Odysseus over one overriding question: will Troy be conquered by relying on the physical power of Achilles or on the mental power of Odysseus? [[GN 2017.05.19 via BA 18, 21–23, 25, 40, 43–46, 56–59, 317.]]


subject heading(s): Apollo at Delphi

In the Iliad and Odyssey, Apollo at Delphi is mentioned only at Ι.09.404–405 and here at O.08.079–081. Agamemnon consults the oracle at Delphi, and he misunderstands what the oracle prophesies to him. See the next note, on O.08.081–082. [[GN 2017.05.18 via BA 122–123, 127, 130–131, 134, 137–141, especially with reference to myths about Pyrrhos/Neoptolemos, son of Achilles.]]


subject heading(s): pēma ‘pain’; kulindesthai ‘roll’; Will of Zeus

Agamemnon misunderstands the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, which had evidently prophesied to him that Troy would be captured when the ‘best of the Achaeans’—Odysseus and Achilles—engage in a quarrel at a feast. Agamemnon rejoices when he sees the two heroes quarreling, since he thinks that victory over the Trojans will be quick and easy—and painless. But the war will be a great pēma ‘pain’, O.08.081, for the Achaeans as also for the Trojans, O.08.082. This pain is compared to a breakaway boulder that ‘rolls’ down from the heights above, as expressed by way of kulindesthai, O.08.081, and this boulder will crush anyone that stands in its way. And all that pain will be caused by the Will of Zeus, O.08.082. For another comparable misunderstanding on the part of Agamemnon, see the comments on I.02.007–015 and on I.02.036–040. [[GN 2017.05.19 via BA 63–64, 69, 77.]]


subject heading(s): noeîn ‘take note (of), notice’; “speaking name” (nomen loquens); name of Alkinoos

Alkinoos notices the weeping of Odysseus, and this act of noticing will lead to recognition. See the anchor comment at I.05.669 on noeîn ‘take note (of), notice’. This characteristic of Alkinoos, to ‘notice’ things, is relevant to his “speaking name”: see the comment at O.22.031–033. [[GN 2017.05.18 via GMP 205.]]


subject heading(s): dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’; aethloi (āthloi) in the sense of ‘athletic contests’

Alkinoos pauses the dining and the singing, though the dais at O.08.098 and at O.08.098 in the general sense of ‘feasting’ can continue. But now, instead of dining and singing, what will commence are aethloi (āthloi) in the sense of ‘athletic contests’, O.08.100. Listed at O.08.103 are athletic events in boxing, wrestling, long-jump, and footracing. [[GN 2017.05.19 via MoM 4§74.]]


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

Once again, as at O.08.076, the epithet thaleiēi (θαλείῃ) ‘celebratory’ is used to describe the ongoing dais ‘feast’ (δαιτί), O.08.099. On the meaning of this epithet, see the comment on O.08.075–078. [[GN 2017.05.19 via HPC 85n13.]]


subject heading(s): terpesthai ‘feel delight’; aethloi (āthloi) in the sense of ‘athletic contests’

All those attending the athletic event ‘felt delight’, as expressed by way of the verb terpesthai; in Hittite, the cognate noun tarpa-, likewise derived from the root *terp-, is used with reference to athletic events. (See MoM 4§78.) [[GN 2017.05.19.]]


subject heading(s): agōn ‘competition’

Here at O.08.200 the word agōn ‘competition’ is used with reference to a continuum of competitive athletic events. In this context, it becomes clear that the entire series of athletic events in this festive continuum can be viewed as an agōn ‘competition’. See also O.08.238. [[GN 2017.05.18 via MoM 4§74.]]


subject heading(s): Second Song of Demodokos

In the Second Song, Ο.08.329–332, Hephaistos as the god who is slow on his feet will catch up with the fleet-footed god Ares the adulterer. Similarly, Odysseus says here at O.08.230–233 that he is slow on his feet. But, when the time comes, we know that he too will catch up with those fleet-footed would-be adulterers, the suitors of his wife. [[GN 2017.05.18 via HPC 86, 90.]]


O.08.250–269, 367–369
Q&T via MoM 4§31
subject heading(s): Second Song of Demodokos

|250 “ἀλλ’ ἄγε, Φαιήκων βητάρμονες ὅσσοι ἄριστοι, |251 παίσατε, ὥς χ’ ὁ ξεῖνος ἐνίσπῃ οἷσι φίλοισιν, |252 οἴκαδε νοστήσας, ὅσσον περιγινόμεθ’ ἄλλων |253 ναυτιλίῃ καὶ ποσσὶ καὶ ὀρχηστυῖ καὶ ἀοιδῇ. |254 Δημοδόκῳ δέ τις αἶψα κιὼν φόρμιγγα λίγειαν |255 οἰσέτω, ἥ που κεῖται ἐν ἡμετέροισι δόμοισιν.” |256 ὣς ἔφατ’ Ἀλκίνοος θεοείκελος, ὦρτο δὲ κῆρυξ |257 οἴσων φόρμιγγα γλαφυρὴν δόμου ἐκ βασιλῆος. |258 αἰσυμνῆται δὲ κριτοὶ ἐννέα πάντες ἀνέσταν, |259 δήμιοι, οἳ κατ’ ἀγῶνα ἐῢ πρήσσεσκον ἕκαστα, |260 λείηναν δὲ χορόν, καλὸν δ’ εὔρυναν ἀγῶνα. |261 κῆρυξ δ’ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθε φέρων φόρμιγγα λίγειαν |262 Δημοδόκῳ· ὁ δ’ ἔπειτα κί’ ἐς μέσον· ἀμφὶ δὲ κοῦροι |263 πρωθῆβαι ἵσταντο, δαήμονες ὀρχηθμοῖο, |264 πέπληγον δὲ χορὸν θεῖον ποσίν. αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς |265 μαρμαρυγὰς θηεῖτο ποδῶν, θαύμαζε δὲ θυμῷ. |266 αὐτὰρ ὁ φορμίζων ἀνεβάλλετο καλὸν ἀείδειν |267 ἀμφ’ Ἄρεος φιλότητος ἐϋστεφάνου τ’ Ἀφροδίτης, |268 ὡς τὰ πρῶτ’ ἐμίγησαν ἐν Ἡφαίστοιο δόμοισι |269 λάθρῃ. [The story that has just started at line 266 now continues, ending at line 366.] |367 ταῦτ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός· αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς |368 τέρπετ’ ἐνὶ φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἀκούων ἠδὲ καὶ ἄλλοι |369 Φαίηκες δολιχήρετμοι, ναυσικλυτοὶ ἄνδρες. (At line 267, there is a variant reading attested: φιλότητα in the accusative, instead of φιλότητος in the genitive.)

|250 [Alkinoos is speaking.] “Let’s get started. I want the best of the Phaeacian acrobatic dancers [bētarmones] |251 to perform their sportive dance [paizein], so that the stranger, our guest, will be able to tell his near-and-dear ones, |252 when he gets home, how much better we (Phaeacians) are than anyone else |253 in sailing and in footwork, in dance [orkhēstus] and song [aoidē]. |254 One of you go and get for Demodokos the clear-sounding special lyre [phorminx], |255 bringing it to him. It is in the palace somewhere.” |256 Thus spoke Alkinoos, the one who looks like the gods, and the herald [kērux] got up, |257 ready to bring the well carved special lyre [phorminx] from the palace of the king. |258 And the organizers [aisumnētai], the nine selectmen, all got up |259 —they belonged to the district [dēmos]—and they started arranging everything according to the rules of the competition [agōn]: |260 they made smooth the place of the singing-and-dancing [khoros], and they made a wide space of competition [agōn]. |261 The herald [kērux] came near, bringing the clear-sounding special lyre [phorminx] |262 for Demodokos. He [= Demodokos] moved to the center [es meson] of the space. At his right and at his left were boys [kouroi] |263 in the first stage of adolescence [prōthēboi], standing there, well versed in dancing [orkhēthmos]. |264 They pounded out with their feet a dance [khoros], a thing of wonder, and Odysseus |265 was observing the sparkling footwork. He was amazed in his heart [thūmos]. |266 And he [= Demodokos], playing on the special lyre [phormizein], started [anaballesthai] singing beautifully |267 about [amphi] the bonding [philotēs] of Ares and of Aphrodite, the one with the beautiful garlands [stephanoi], |268 about how they, at the very beginning, mated with each other in the palace of Hephaistos, |269 in secret. [The story that has just started at line 266 now continues, ending at line 366.] |367 These things, then, the singer [aoidos] was singing [aeidein], that very famous singer. As for Odysseus, |368 he felt delight [terpesthai] in his heart as he was listening—and so too did all the others feel, |369 the Phaeacians, those men with their long oars, men famed for their ships.

As we are about to see, the Second Song of Demodokos is remarkably different from the First and the Third Songs—not only in form but also in content. [[GN 2018.10.08.]]


subject heading(s): Second Song of Demodokos; agōn ‘competition’

Officials who are experts in setting up a place for holding competitive choral events of singing and dancing are here preparing to set up such a place. Such a choral event is an agōn ‘competition’, just like the athletic events that preceded. So, all these events are seen as a festive continuum. [[GN 2017.05.19 via HPC 91, 93.]]


subject heading(s): agōn ‘competition’; khoros ‘place for choral singing / dancing’; stylized festival

So, the competitive choral event is properly arranged, and a place is prepared for the ‘choral singing / dancing’, the word for which is khoros. The stylized festival continues. [[GN 2017.05.19 via HPC 91, 93.]]


subject heading(s): khoros ‘place for choral singing / dancing’

Acrobatic dancers lead off the choral singing and dancing, and the khoros or ‘place for choral singing-and-dancing’ becomes their dancing floor. This pattern of leading off resembles the pattern we see in versions of Ο.04.019 and Ι.18.606 where we see the variant reading ἐξάρχοντες instead of ἐξάρχοντος. In terms of this reading, the acrobatic dancers lead off, starting their performance before the singer starts. [[GN 2017.05.19.]]


subject heading(s): anaballesthai ‘begin performing’

Now Demodokos the singer ‘begins performing’, as indicated by anaballesthai, and he sings, O.08.266. What the singer now sings is a proemium, the form of which is analogous to what we read in the Homeric Hymns. [[GN 2017.05.18 via HPC 87–88.]]


subject heading(s): amphi ‘about’; philotēs ‘sexual bonding’; divine burlesque

The subject of the song is the philotēs ‘sexual bonding’ of Ares and Aphrodite. The adulterous lovers will be caught in the act by the husband of Aphrodite, Hephaistos. The introduction of the story by way of the preposition amphi ‘about’ is typical of hymns. The story of the sexual encounter of Ares and Aphrodite is typical of a genre known as divine burlesque, on which see the comment on I.21.385–514. The subject of such a philotēs ‘sexual bonding’ is treated seriously by Empedocles DK B 35. [[GN 2017.05.18 via HPC 88.]]


subject heading(s): terpesthai ‘feel delight’

Reacting to the Second Song of Demodokos, both Odysseus and the Phaeacian listeners react by ‘feeling delight’ as expressed by way of terpesthai, O.08.368. [[GN 2017.05.18 via MoM 4§31–4§32.]]


subject heading(s): hymnic consequent

What follows the Second Song of Demodokos, which can be viewed as a hymnic proemium, is further dancing and perhaps singing, which can be viewed together as a hymnic consequent. And the setting is called an agōn ‘competition’, O.08.380. [[GN 2017.05.18 via HC 2§321.]]


subject heading(s): dēmos ‘community, district’; basilēes ‘kings’; Ionian Dodecapolis

Alkinoos says that the kingdom of the Phaeacians, described here as a dēmos ‘community, district’, is ruled by twelve basilēes ‘kings’, O.08.390, and that he counts himself as the thirteenth. (On krainein in the sense of ‘authorize’ and thereby ‘rule’, see GMP 59.) In terms of this description, Alkinoos figures himself as an over-king, and maybe the word basilēes here has the meaning of ‘sub-kings’—which is in fact the meaning of the corresponding word gwasilēwes (qa-si-re-we) in Linear B texts. According to Frame 2009 ch. 7, the twelve kings of the Phaeacians may represent a mythological replica of the confederation known as the Ionian Dodecapolis as it existed around the late eighth and early seventh centuries BCE. On the Ionian Dodecapolis, see the anchor comment on I.01.463; also the comment on I.02.867–869 and on I.20.403–405; see also under Ionian Dodecapolis in the Inventory of terms and names. [[GN 2017.05.18.]]


subject heading(s): dais ‘feast, division of portions (of meat); sacrifice’; terpesthai ‘feel delight’; stylized festival; aoidē ‘song’; humnos (reconstructed meaning: ‘web’ or ‘connecting by way of fabric work’)

Alkinoos wishes that the feasting should continue and that Odysseus should continue to ‘feel delight’, as expressed by terpesthai, while he hears at this feast the ‘weaving’ of the aoidē ‘song’ that started with the First Song of Demodokos and that will now connect with the Third Song. In this context, we see the meaning of the noun dais extended from the specific idea of ‘feast’ to the more general idea of a stylized ‘festival’. And the continued weaving of the song, which corresponds to the continuation of the stylized festival, is expressed here by way of the noun humnos, which is attested only here and nowhere else in either the Iliad or the Odyssey. In this unique context at O.08.429, the meaning of humnos can be reconstructed as ‘web’ or ‘connecting by way of fabric work’. In terms of such a reconstructed meaning, the humnos as a ‘web’ connects the First and the Second and the Third Songs of Demodokos and forms a continuum of song that extends throughout Odyssey 8, as if the ongoing dais of this Rhapsody were not only a continued feast but also a sustained festival. This festival makes room for events of athletics as well as songmaking. [[GN 2017.05.19 via HC 2§§93, 274, 276, 280, 290, 291, 302, 303.]]


Q&T via HPC 93–94
subject heading(s): Third Song of Demodokos; metabainein ‘shift forward’

|485 αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο, |486 δὴ τότε Δημόδοκον προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς· |487 “Δημόδοκ’, ἔξοχα δή σε βροτῶν αἰνίζομ’ ἁπάντων· |488 ἢ σέ γε Μοῦσ’ ἐδίδαξε, Διὸς πάϊς, ἢ σέ γ’ Ἀπόλλων· |489 λίην γὰρ κατὰ κόσμον Ἀχαιῶν οἶτον ἀείδεις, |490 ὅσσ’ ἕρξαν τ’ ἔπαθόν τε καὶ ὅσσ’ ἐμόγησαν Ἀχαιοί, |491 ὥς τέ που ἢ αὐτὸς παρεὼν ἢ ἄλλου ἀκούσας. |492 ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ μετάβηθι καὶ ἵππου κόσμον ἄεισον |493 δουρατέου, τὸν ᾿Επειὸς ἐποίησεν σὺν Ἀθήνῃ, |494 ὅν ποτ’ ἐς ἀκρόπολιν δόλον ἤγαγε δῖος Ὀδυσσεὺς |495 ἀνδρῶν ἐμπλήσας, οἳ Ἴλιον ἐξαλάπαξαν. |496 αἴ κεν δή μοι ταῦτα κατὰ μοῖραν καταλέξῃς, |497 αὐτίκα καὶ πᾶσιν μυθήσομαι ἀνθρώποισιν, |498 ὡς ἄρα τοι πρόφρων θεὸς ὤπασε θέσπιν ἀοιδήν.”

|485 When they had satisfied their desire for drinking and eating, |486 then Odysseus, the one with many a stratagem, addressed Demodokos: |487 “Demodokos, I admire and pointedly praise you, more than any other human. |488 Either the Muse, child of Zeus, taught you, or Apollo. |489 All too well, in accord with its construction [kosmos], do you sing the fate of the Achaeans |490 —all the things the Achaeans did and all the things that were done to them, and they suffered for it— |491 you sing it as if you yourself had been present or had heard it from someone else. |492 But come now, move ahead and shift forward [metabainein] and sing the construction [kosmos] of the horse, |493 the wooden horse that Epeios made with the help of Athena, |494 the one that Odysseus, the radiant one, took to the acropolis as a stratagem, |495 having filled it in with men, who ransacked Ilion. |496 If you can tell me these things in due order [katalegein], in accord with proper apportioning [moira], |497 then right away I will say the authoritative word [muthos] to all mortals: |498 I will say, and I see it as I say it, that the god [theos], favorably disposed toward you, granted [opazein] you a divinely sounding song.”

When Odysseus calls on Demodokos to sing his Third Song, he challenges the singer at O.08.492 to metabainein ‘shift forward’. So, the starting point of the Third Song is not where the singer had left off when he last sang about the Trojan War. Demodokos will have to begin his story at a new starting-point, at a later starting point. [[GN 2017.05.19 via HC 2§311.]]


Q&T via HPC 99–101
subject heading(s): Third Song of Demodokos; metabainein ‘shift forward’

|499 ὣς φάθ’, ὁ δ’ ὁρμηθεὶς θεοῦ ἤρχετο, φαῖνε δ’ ἀοιδήν, |500 ἔνθεν ἑλών, ὡς οἱ μὲν ἐϋσσέλμων ἐπὶ νηῶν |501 βάντες ἀπέπλειον, πῦρ ἐν κλισίῃσι βαλόντες, |502 Ἀργεῖοι, τοὶ δ’ ἤδη ἀγακλυτὸν ἀμφ’ Ὀδυσῆα |503 εἵατ’ ἐνὶ Τρώων ἀγορῇ κεκαλυμμένοι ἵππῳ· |504 αὐτοὶ γάρ μιν Τρῶες ἐς ἀκρόπολιν ἐρύσαντο. |505 ὣς ὁ μὲν ἑστήκει, τοὶ δ’ ἄκριτα πόλλ’ ἀγόρευον |506 ἥμενοι ἀμφ’ αὐτόν· τρίχα δέ σφισιν ἥνδανε βουλή, |507 ἠὲ διατμῆξαι κοῖλον δόρυ νηλέϊ χαλκῷ, |508 ἢ κατὰ πετράων βαλέειν ἐρύσαντας ἐπ’ ἄκρης, |509 ἢ ἐάαν μέγ’ ἄγαλμα θεῶν θελκτήριον εἶναι, |510 τῇ περ δὴ καὶ ἔπειτα τελευτήσεσθαι ἔμελλεν· |511 αἶσα γὰρ ἦν ἀπολέσθαι, ἐπὴν πόλις ἀμφικαλύψῃ |512 δουράτεον μέγαν ἵππον, ὅθ’ εἵατο πάντες ἄριστοι |513 Ἀργεῖοι Τρώεσσι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέροντες. |514 ἤειδεν δ’ ὡς ἄστυ διέπραθον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν |515 ἱππόθεν ἐκχύμενοι, κοῖλον λόχον ἐκπρολιπόντες. |516 ἄλλον δ’ ἄλλῃ ἄειδε πόλιν κεραϊζέμεν αἰπήν, |517 αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσῆα προτὶ δώματα Δηϊφόβοιο |518 βήμεναι, ἠΰτ’ Ἄρηα, σὺν ἀντιθέῳ Μενελάῳ. |519 κεῖθι δὴ αἰνότατον πόλεμον φάτο τολμήσαντα |520 νικῆσαι καὶ ἔπειτα διὰ μεγάθυμον Ἀθήνην. |521 ταῦτ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός· αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς |522 τήκετο, δάκρυ δ’ ἔδευεν ὑπὸ βλεφάροισι παρειάς. |523 ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι φίλον πόσιν ἀμφιπεσοῦσα, |524 ὅς τε ἑῆς πρόσθεν πόλιος λαῶν τε πέσῃσιν, |525 ἄστεϊ καὶ τεκέεσσιν ἀμύνων νηλεὲς ἦμαρ· |526 ἡ μὲν τὸν θνῄσκοντα καὶ ἀσπαίροντα ἰδοῦσα |527 ἀμφ’ αὐτῷ χυμένη λίγα κωκύει· οἱ δέ τ’ ὄπισθε |528 κόπτοντες δούρεσσι μετάφρενον ἠδὲ καὶ ὤμους |529 εἴρερον εἰσανάγουσι, πόνον τ’ ἐχέμεν καὶ ὀϊζύν· |530 τῆς δ’ ἐλεεινοτάτῳ ἄχεϊ φθινύθουσι παρειαί· |531 ὣς Ὀδυσεὺς ἐλεεινὸν ὑπ’ ὀφρύσι δάκρυον εἶβεν. |532 ἔνθ’ ἄλλους μὲν πάντας ἐλάνθανε δάκρυα λείβων, |533 Ἀλκίνοος δέ μιν οἶος ἐπεφράσατ’ ἠδ’ ἐνόησεν

|499 Thus he [= Odysseus] spoke. And he [= Demodokos], getting set up for his point of departure [hormētheis], started [arkhesthai] from the god [theos]. And he made visible the song, |500 taking it from the point where they [= the Achaeans], boarding their ships with the strong benches, |501 sailed away, setting their tents on fire. |502 That is what some of the Argives [= Achaeans] were doing. But others of them were in the company of Odysseus, the one with the great glory, and they were already |503 sitting hidden inside the Horse, which was now in the meeting place of the Trojans. |504 The Trojans themselves had pulled the Horse into the acropolis. |505 So there it was, standing there, while they [= the Trojans] were saying many different things, |506 sitting around it. There were three different plans: |507 to cut open the hollow wood with pitiless bronze, |508 or to throw it off the rocky heights after pulling it up to the peak [of the acropolis], |509 or to leave it, great artifact [agalma] that it was, as a charm [thelktērion] of the gods |510 —which, I now see it, was exactly the way it was sure to [mellein] reach an outcome [teleutân], |511 because it was fate [aisa] that the place would be destroyed, once the city had enfolded in itself |512 the great Wooden Horse, when all the best men were sitting inside it, |513 the Argives [= Achaeans], that is, bringing slaughter and destruction upon the Trojans. |514 He sang how the sons of the Achaeans destroyed the city, |515 pouring out of the Horse, leaving behind the hollow place of ambush. |516 He sang how the steep citadel was destroyed by different men in different places. |517 —how Odysseus went to the palace of Deiphobos, |518 how he was looking like Ares, and godlike Menelaos went with him, |519 and how in that place, I now see it, he [= Demodokos] said that he [= Odysseus] dared to go through the worst part of the war, |520 and how he emerged victorious after that, with the help of Athena, the one with the mighty spirit. |521 Thus sang the singer [aoidos], the one whose glory is supreme. And Odysseus |522 dissolved [tēkesthai] into tears. He made wet his cheeks with the tears flowing from his eyelids, |523 just as a woman cries, falling down and embracing her dear husband, |524 who fell in front of the city and people he was defending, |525 trying to ward off the pitiless day of doom hanging over the city and its children. |526 She sees him dying, gasping for his last breath, |527 and she pours herself all over him [amphi-khu-] as she wails with a piercing cry. But there are men behind her, |528 prodding her with their spears, hurting her back and shoulders, |529 and they bring for her a life of bondage, which will give her pain and sorrow. |530 Her cheeks are wasting away with a sorrow [akhos] that is most pitiful [eleeinon]. |531 So also did Odysseus pour out a piteous tear [dakruon] from beneath his brows; |532 there he was, escaping the notice of all while he kept pouring out his tears [dakrua]. |533 But Alkinoos was the only one of all of them who was aware, and he took note [noeîn].

Complying with the request of Odysseus, Demodokos begins the story of his Third Song at a later point in the story—evidently later than where he had left off before. As signaled at O.08.500, the story begins with the Wooden Horse, exactly as Odysseus had requested. And the story can now focus on the greatest deed accomplished by Odysseus in the Trojan War: he was the hero who invented the Wooden Horse. Here was a feat of intelligence that finally resulted in the capture of Troy by the Achaeans. But the story also focuses on what was perhaps the worst deed of Odysseus in the Trojan War: as we can read in the surviving plot-outline of the Iliou Persis, an epic belonging to the epic Cycle and attributed to Arctinus of Miletus, Odysseus had a major role in the grim story of Troy’s final hours. He was the Achaean hero who captured Andromache, widow of Hector, and who executed the child of this doomed couple. But right before Demodokos reaches this horrific part of the story, Odysseus breaks down in tears, and his tears will interrupt the outcome of this story. The interruption, as we see in the narration that I have just quoted, takes the form of a simile that compares the weeping of the hero with the lament of an unnamed woman who has just been captured in war, O.08.521–531. The simile of the unnamed lamenting woman is substituted for the outcome of the story that tells of the final tearful moments of Troy’s destruction (HC 2§§334–344). In the epic Cycle, as represented by the Iliou Persis, that unnamed lamenting woman would be Andromache (HC 2§344). In the Homeric Odyssey, the tears of the captive woman lead to the tears of Odysseus, which in turn can now lead to the story of his own odyssey as a continuation of the tearful story that almost ended the narrative continuum at the feast of the Phaeacians. The story can now continue, shifting from an Iliad to an Odyssey.  [[GN 2017.05.19.]]


subject heading(s): hormâsthai ‘get set for a point of departure’

This verb hormân (/ hormâsthai), meaning ‘set up (/ get set up) for a point of departure’, is understood as a poetic concept by Plato, Ion 534c. [[GN 2017.05.19 via PR 25–26, 72.]]


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

The metaphor of ‘dissolving’ into tears while weeping, as expressed here by way of the verb tēkesthai ‘melt away, dissolve’, extends into a further metaphor: with your own tears, you can be ‘pouring all over’ a loved one whom you are embracing: see the comment at O.08.527. Further relevant comments at O.19.204–212. [[GN 2017.07.22 via HC 2§344.]]


subject heading(s): amphi-khu- ‘pour all over’; dissolving while weeping’

The metaphor of ‘pouring all over’ someone in the act of embracing that someone, as expressed here by way of the verb amphi-khu-, is an extension of the metaphor of ‘dissolving’ while weeping, on which see the comment at O.08.522. When you are weeping, pouring out your tears from your eyes, it is as if your whole self were dissoving into tears, which can then ‘pour all over’ the beloved someone whom you are embracing. Further relevant comments at O.16.214 and especially at O.19.204–212. [[GN 2017.07.22 via HC 2§344.]]


subject heading(s): noeîn ‘take note (of), notice’; “speaking name” (nomen loquens); name of Alkinoos

Once again, Alkinoos notices that Odysseus is weeping, and this act of noticing will lead to recognition. See again the anchor comment at I.05.669 on noeîn ‘take note (of), notice’. This characteristic of Alkinoos, to ‘notice’ things, is relevant to his “speaking name”: see the comment at O.22.031-033. But the tears of Odysseus will conjure not only his own past sorrows: these sorrows are inseparable from the story of that dashing young rival of Odysseus, Achilles himself, who had died far too soon before his time. [[GN 2017.05.18.]]


subject heading(s): prophecy of Nausithoos

See the comment on O.13.175–177, where the lines are quoted and translated. [[GN 2017.06.22]]


subject heading(s): hetairos ‘companion’

At O.08.581–583, Alkinoos asks the unrecognized Odysseus: does the singing of Demodokos about the Trojan War make you sad because you lost a relative in that war? Then, he asks an alternative question at O.08.584–586: or did you lose a hetairos ‘companion’ in the Trojan War? Well, Odysseus did in fact lose many companions, but the greatest of them all was Achilles. Pointedly, Alkinoos refers to the sadness of Odysseus as akhos ‘grief’ at O.08.541. In Homeric poetry, this word akhos ‘grief’ conjures the name of Achilles himself, as I noted already in the comment on I.01.002. [[GN 2017.07.19 via BA 176 §3n2.]]


Bibliographical Abbreviations

BA       = Best of the Achaeans, Nagy 1979/1999.

GMP    = Greek Mythology and Poetics, Nagy 1990b.

H24H   = The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, Nagy 2013

HC       = Homer the Classic, Nagy 2009|2008

HPC     = Homer the Preclassic, Nagy 2010|2009

HQ       = Homeric Questions, Nagy 1996b

HR       = Homeric Responses, Nagy 2003

LSJ      = Liddell, H. G., R. Scott, and H. S. Jones. 1940. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford.

MoM    = Masterpieces of Metonymy, Nagy 2016|2015

PasP    = Poetry as Performance, Nagy 1996a

PH      = Pindar’s Homer, Nagy 1990a



See the dynamic Bibliography for AHCIP.


Inventory of terms and names

See the dynamic Inventory of terms and names for AHCIP.



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