How a Classical Homer occasionally downgrades the heroic glory of Ajax in order to save it: Part 3

2021.06.07 | By Gregory Nagy

Part 3 of a three-part essay dedicated to Gloria Ferrari Pinney

§0. Here in Part 3 of my three-part essay, I take up the argument I introduced at the end of Part 2 (Nagy 2021.06.01, linked here): in “our” Iliad and in “our” Odyssey, the heroic glory of Ajax needs to be safeguarded—but it cannot be completely vindicated. (Hereafter, I will stop using quotation marks in referring to these two epics, which I have also been calling, in Parts 1 and 2, the “Classical” Homer.) In line with the overall argumentation in Parts 1 and 2 of my essay, I elaborate here in Part 3 on the idea of Homeric “downgrading,” as signaled in the overall title of all three parts. For the hero Ajax, the essentials of such downgrading are starkly apparent: in our Iliad, Ajax must be second-best of the Achaeans, taking second place to Achilles, but he cannot be allowed to become best of the Achaeans after Achilles falls in battle—at least, he cannot be awarded such a status in our Odyssey, where Odysseus himself must emerge as the best of the Achaeans. Such a downgrading of Ajax in both the Iliad and the Odyssey will lead to despair, which in turn will lead to suicide within a space of time that intervenes between these two epics. The despair is viewed retrospectively in Odyssey 11.469–470 and 550–55, where we read about an encounter in Hadēs between the visiting Odysseus and the ghost of Ajax. And, as we will see, the same despair is already viewed prospectively in the Iliad, which tells of a nightmarish mist enveloping in its grim darkness this most sadly underrated hero.  Such dark imagery must have taken hold of the Athenian poet and dramatist Sophocles when he created his tragedy named after Ajax, and, further, this tragedy surely invaded the soul of a painter like Henry Fuseli, who pictures a Sophoclean Ajax in his darkest moments of despair, sadly unresponsive to his dear Tecmessa and to the loving couple’s helpless child.

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), drawing from his “Roman Album”: illustration of the death of Ajax, as described by Sophocles. British Museum, inv. no. 1885,0314.283. Image © The Trustees of the British Museum, used under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.
Asmus Carsten (1754–1798), Sorrowful Ajax with Tecmessa and Eurysakes. Weimar, Kunstsammlungen. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

§1. To understand more deeply the downgrading of Ajax, I start by comparing an even more drastic downgrading of status in Homeric poetry. It happens in our Odyssey, at a moment during the visit of Odysseus to Hadēs, where he encounters and engages in dialogue with the ghost of Achilles. In this context, at Odyssey 11.489–491, the hero of our Iliad declares that he would rather be alive as the lowliest of living humans than be dead as he is—even if he were now the king of the dead. So, the best of the Achaeans has at this moment taken himself out of contention as the best of all humans in our Odyssey, where Odysseus eventually establishes himself as the best of the Achaeans, as I argued some time ago in my book The Best of the Achaeans (Nagy 1979/1990, chapter 2). In this regard, I agree with Stamatia Dova (2012:18–23): though Achilles, as she observes, is without a doubt the best of the Achaeans in his Iliad, which is also our Iliad, he is nevertheless downgraded in our Odyssey. And there is more. As I argued in The Best of the Achaeans (again, Nagy 1979/1999, chapter 2) and as I then argued further in my introduction to the revised edition of that book (Nagy 1999, “preface” pages xi-xii, §§15–18), Odysseus is best of the Achaeans only in his Odyssey, which is our Odyssey. But there is even more to it. The fact is, Odysseus earns his status as best of the Achaeans in our Odyssey not by virtue of his success in the Trojan War, where he gets credit for the capture of Troy by way of his devising the crafty stratagem of the Wooden Horse. No, even though the success of Odysseus by way of his mêtis or ‘craftiness’ is to be contrasted with the failure of Achilles to capture Troy by way of that rival hero’s biē or ‘power of violence’, the best of the Achaeans in the Iliad, which is our Homeric tale of Troy, is not the successful Odysseus but the unsuccessful Achilles. By contrast, Odysseus must become best of the Achaeans in the Odyssey not because of his successful role in the tale of Troy but because of his success in achieving a safe nostos or ‘homecoming’ to Ithaca—a success that culminates in his slaughtering the Achaeans who were courting his wife Penelope—Achaeans who had never sailed off with him in his expedition to Troy (again, Nagy 1999, “preface” pages xi-xii, §§15–18).

§2. Whereas Odysseus succeeds in getting upgraded to become the best of the Achaeans in our Odyssey, Ajax fails to get an upgrading from second-best to best of the Achaeans either in “Classical” Homeric poetry or anywhere else in epic traditions. Ajax could have earned such a title only if his comrades-in-arms had judged him worthy of being awarded the armor of the fallen Achilles. But nowhere in epic did they made such an award, judging instead in favor of Odysseus. In a public dispute between Ajax and Odysseus that culminated in the judgment, both heroes made mutually contradictory claims about who should get total or at least partial credit for rescuing the body of the fallen Achilles. So, there were at least two radically different versions of the story, but we know that it was the version of Odysseus that won in the judgment of the Achaeans—even if, to cite the wording of Pindar at line 22 of Nemean 7, the version of Odysseus should be disqualified as pseudea ‘deceptions’. And, in Part 2 of my three-part essay, I have already made a case for accepting as mythologically valid either of the two mutually contradictory versions of the events that followed the death of Achilles on the battlefield—including a sub-version where both the body and the armor of Achilles are being rescued. But the point I will be making now goes beyond such considerations. My point now is that Ajax, to his misfortune, could not have earned the right to be called best of the Achaeans even if he had been the sole hero who rescued the body of Achilles—or, better, who rescued his armor as well. And that is because Odysseus was already destined to become best of the Achaeans in our Odyssey.

§3.  Conversely, Odysseus would have been destined to become best of the Achaeans in our Odyssey even if his words claiming that it was he and not Ajax who rescued the body of Achilles had been deceptive. The claim of Odysseus to be entirely or even partly responsible for the rescue, unlike a comparable claim by Ajax, did not depend on any need for this hero of our Odyssey to possess the armor of Achilles—or, what is far more remarkable, even to wear this armor. In fact, Odysseus is nowhere depicted as ever wearing the armor of Achilles after he is judged by his comrades-in-arms to be the rightful possessor. Odysseus, instead of wearing the armor of Achilles, keeps it in storage, ready to be given to Neoptolemos after this son of Achilles is recruited by Odysseus to leave Skyros and come to fight at Troy. We find an explicit description in an epic conventionally dated to the third century CE, the so-called Posthomerica by Quintus of Smyrna. After Odysseus and Neoptolemos arrive at the shores of Troy, the youthful hero is taken to the headquarters of the Achaeans, where the ship of Agamemnon is beached—and so, too, the ship of Odysseus himself—and where the armor of fallen heroes is stored for safekeeping (Posthomerica 7.435–441). Now Odysseus invites Neoptolemos to receive and wear for battle the armor of Achilles, stored there, while it is made explicit that Odysseus himself will wear for battle the armor that he had brought with him to Troy from Ithaca (Posthomerica 7.442).

§4. By contrast with Odysseus, Ajax would have worn for battle the armor of Achilles—if he had won possession of this armor. So also Patroklos in our Iliad is wearing the armor of Achilles at the moment when he is killed by Hector in Iliad 16. And, when the death of Patroklos is formally announced by Menelaos to Antilokhos in Iliad 17, lines 687–670, the freshly-killed Patroklos is described as the best of the Achaeans (line 689):

ἤδη μὲν σὲ καὶ αὐτὸν ὀΐομαι εἰσορόωντα 
γιγνώσκειν ὅτι πῆμα θεὸς Δαναοῖσι κυλίνδει, 
νίκη δὲ Τρώων· πέφαται δ’ ὤριστος Ἀχαιῶν 
Πάτροκλος, μεγάλη δὲ ποθὴ Δαναοῖσι τέτυκται. 

Now I think that you yourself, as you can see [with your own eyes],
can recognize that a god is rolling [down from above] a thing of pain for the Danaans [= Achaeans].
and that victory belongs to the Trojans. He has been killed, the best of the Achaeans,
Patroklos, that is, and a great loss has come to pass for the Danaans [= Achaeans].

§5. In our Iliad, Patroklos earns this title, best of the Achaeans, because his role in the epic is to die as a ritual substitute for Achilles, as I have argued at length in The Best of the Achaeans (Nagy 1979/1999, chapter 17). But there is also another role of Patroklos that is most relevant to this main role of his: he is destined to save the ships of the Achaeans from the fire of Hector, which is one of the driving themes of our Classical Iliad, as I argue in my Homeric commentary, Nagy 2017, linked here, at an “anchor comment” for Iliad 12.198. But now I find it essential to add a further argument: that there had existed a Preclassical form of epic where the role of saving the ships of the Achaeans from the fire of Hector was assigned not to Patroklos but to Ajax himself. I first presented such an argument in an essay published ten years ago (Nagy 2011, linked here), where I reconstructed such a Preclassical epic tradition on the basis of Song 13 by Bacchylides, a contemporary of Pindar. This song, dating from the earlier half of the fifth century BCE, was commissioned by aristocrats in the island-state of Aegina, who, like other elites of the island, claimed that their patriliny could be traced back to the hero Aiakos, whom the local population worshipped as the primal Native Son of their island—and who was celebrated in myth as the father of Peleus and Telamon and as the grandfather of Achilles and Ajax. The myths about Ajax in Song 13 of Bacchylides resonate with Preclassical epic traditions that we find also in myths about Ajax in two songs of Pindar—Nemean 7 and Nemean 8—both commissioned, like Song 13 of Bacchylides, by elites in Aegina, and here I draw on my findings about these myths in a recent essay (Nagy 2021.05.10, linked here). In both of these songs, as I pointed out in that essay, we find a concerted poetic effort to upgrade the status of Ajax in the context of discrediting myths that seem to overvalue the claims of Odysseus in the dispute between the two heroes over the right to possess the armor of the fallen Achilles—claims that are overtly described as pseudea ‘deceptions’ at line 22 of Pindar’s Nemean 7.

§6. But my argument for the moment is not about the overvaluing of Odysseus by comparison with Ajax outside our Iliad. Rather, it is about the undervaluing of Ajax by comparison with Patroklos inside our Iliad. I restate the argument as I formulated it in the earlier essay (again, Nagy 2011, linked here, pp. 192–194):

§6.1. Song 13 of Bacchylides highlights Ajax as the savior of the Achaeans, saving them from the fire of Hector, at lines 100–104:

|104 Αἴαντα σακεσφόρον ἥ[ρω,]|105 ὅστ’ ἐπὶ πρύμναι σταθ[εὶς] |106 ἔσχεν θρασυκάρδιον [ὁρ]|107μαίνοντα ν[ᾶας]|108 θεσπεσίωι πυ[ρὶ ––]|109 Ἕκτορα χαλ[κεομίτρα]ν

‘[I invoke] Ajax, carrier of the shield, hero, who, at the stern [prumnē] [of the beached ship] taking his stand, held back the one with the bold heart, the one who was lunging at the ships, with his fire wondrous to tell about, Hector, whose headband was made of bronze.’

§6.2. By contrast with Song 13 of Bacchylides, however, the Iliad as we know it shades over the accomplishment of Ajax at the decisive moment when Hector’s fire reaches the ships of the Achaeans, which are beached on the shores of the Hellespont, with sterns facing inland. To show this, I offer here a compressed summary of what happens in Iliad 15 and 16.

§6.2.1. In Iliad 15, Ajax is pictured as going up to the ikria ‘decks’ of the beached ships (676), jumping from one deck to another (685-686); undeterred by these defensive actions of Ajax, the attacking Hector takes hold of the prumnē ‘stern’ of one of the ships, the ship that had belonged to the hero Protesilaos (705-706), first of the Achaeans to be killed at Troy, and, holding on to this prumnē (716), Hector calls on his fellow Trojans to bring him fire so that he may set this specially prized ship ablaze (718); in this context, Hector describes himself as fighting next to the prumnai ‘sterns’ (722) of the ships, which had been pulled ashore with their backs facing away from the sea and facing toward the attacking Trojans (718-725). (On the Homeric visualization of the Achaean ships beached on the shores of the Hellespont, I refer to my analysis in Nagy 2010|2009:160–161|II§§71–72.) At this very moment in the narrative, as Hector makes his decisive move, Ajax is said to be unable to hold off the Trojan attack any longer (727): Αἴας δ’ οὐκέτ’ ἔμιμνε ‘but Ajax could not hold them off any longer’. Now Ajax steps back (728) and steps off the ikria ‘deck’ of the ship of Protesilaos (729), which is where he had been standing (730). So he now fights on a lower level (729) and from further back inside the ships (728), but at least he continues to fight back (743-746), encouraging his fellow warriors to fight back as well (732), and his words of encouragement, as quoted (733-741), are uttered in the form of a ritual shout, as expressed by the verb boân (732).

§6.2.2. In Iliad 16, the narrative about the situation of Ajax continues (102-124), starting with the same words that we saw before: Αἴας δ’ οὐκέτ’ ἔμιμνε ‘but Ajax could not hold them off any longer’ (102). In the course of this continued narrative, Hector with a single stroke of his sword shears off the tip of the ash spear of Ajax (114-121), thus depriving the wooden shaft of its bronze point or aikhmē (115). This epic moment turns out to be decisive, since Ajax is now forced to withdraw (122). Right then and there, the ship of Protesilaos is set on fire (122-124), and the Homeric narrative comes to a climax with a vision of the flames of Hector’s fire enveloping the prumnē ‘stern’ of the ship of Protesilaos (124). This vision is the signal for what happens next in the master narrative of the Iliad. Achilles will now send forth Patroklos to stop the fire that Ajax was unable to stop (lines 124 and following). By contrast with Song 13 of Bacchylides, where Ajax is the hero who holds off Hector and his fiery menace from the ships of the Achaeans, the Iliad highlights Patroklos. In this epic, it is Patroklos who turns back the Trojans and puts out the fire of Hector: ἐκ νηῶν δ’ ἔλασεν, κατὰ δ’ ἔσβεσεν αἰθόμενον πῦρ ‘he drove back (the Trojans) from the ships, and he put out the blazing fire’ (293).

§7. In our Iliad, as I have argued at length in The Best of the Achaeans (Nagy 1979/1999 chapter 2), the death of Patroklos prefigures the death of Achilles, who is ultimately the best of the Achaeans within this epic, but the actual death of Achilles takes place within a span of epic time that goes far beyond this Iliad of ours. There is a well-known version of epic tales that tell about the death of Achilles in the Epic Cycle: in the epic known as the Aithiopis (Proclus-summary p. 106 lines 7–9 ed. Allen 1912), we learn that Achilles was killed by Paris, with the help of Apollo, at the Walls of Troy; and we also learn (lines 9–11) that Ajax then lifted and carried the corpse of Achilles back to Achaean headquarters, while Odysseus, from behind, fought off the attacking Trojans who sought to possess the body. If, then, the death of Patroklos as narrated in Iliad 16 is prefiguring the death of Achilles beyond our Iliad, then we need to take a closer look at the narration in Iliad 17, where we find out which ones of the Achaean comrades-in-arms were responsible for rescuing the body of Patroklos after Hector had stripped from it the armor of Achilles. I find it most telling that Odysseus does not figure among the rescuers. No, the rescuers are Menelaos, Meriones, Ajax himself, and the lesser Ajax. In the complex narration of the rescue at Iliad 17.706–724, we see that Menelaos initiates the action by bestriding the body of Patroklos, which has been stripped of the armor (706), and then he calls out to Ajax the greater, son of Telamon, paired here with Ajax the lesser, son of Oileus, to both of whom together he refers in the dual form Aiante, meaning ‘two Ajaxes’ (707)—though in other contexts we can reconstruct an older meaning for the dual Aiante, namely, ‘Ajax son of Telamon and his bastard brother Teukros [Teucer]’. Then, Ajax son of Telamon proceeds to take charge, telling Menelaos and Meriones to lift and carry the body of Patroklos back to the ships (715–718) while he and the lesser Ajax fight off the attacking Trojans who seek to possess the body (719–721). That said, Menelaos and Meriones proceed to lift and carry the body (722–723). On the poetics of dual formations referring to Ajax and Ajax (as here: line 721 makes it explicit) or to Ajax and Teukros (as elsewhere, residually), I refer to my Homeric commentary in Nagy 2017, linked here, at Iliad 12.335–336; on the poetics of dual formations referring to Ajax and Odysseus or to Ajax and Phoenix in Iliad 9, I cite the same commentary, this time at Iliad 9.182–198.   

§8. Our Iliad, then, seems to downgrade the role of Ajax in narrating how the body of Patroklos was rescued from the Trojans. Ajax has to share that role with the lesser Ajax, and he does not even get to carry the corpse: two other Achaean comrades-in-arms do the carrying—a task that Ajax could have accomplished all by himself, just as he carries the corpse of Achilles all by himself in the epic known as the Aithiopis. But, even though the role of Ajax as a rescuer of his comrade’s body seems downgraded in our Iliad by comparison with his role in the Aithiopis, at least he still has a role in the Iliadic rescue, whereas Odysseus gets no role at all. And what makes this role of Ajax possible at all in our Iliad is a simple but primal fact that is highlighted in Homeric poetry: the role of Ajax is visible. It is performed in broad daylight—unlike, I think, his role in rescuing the body of Achilles beyond our Iliad. That rescue action of Ajax—to follow up on my thought—may have been obscured if there had been no Achaean witnesses other than, say, Odysseus, whose own version of the rescue could cloud over the version claimed by Ajax.

§9. Such clouding over, in epic poetry, could be symbolized by the darkness of mist, and it is precisely a mist that darkens the action in Iliad 17—until Ajax prays to Zeus that the mist be lifted. And, this time, the mist does clear. Now the heroic action of Ajax in rescuing the corpse of Patroklos is made visible. As a Hollywood director would say: “lights, camera, action!” In what follows, I epitomize what I wrote elsewhere about this Iliadic scene telling how the mist is lifted (Nagy 2016.05.05, linked here; the paragraphs §§4–6 are now renumbered as §§10–12).

§10. In an essay known nowadays as On the Sublime (dating from the first century CE), attributed to an author by the name of “Longinus,” the essayist quotes words spoken in Iliad 17 by the hero Ajax concerning the power of the god Zeus to create the brightness of day. And these heroic words, as we will see, link the brightness of day with the good things that the god can do for humankind, while the same words link the dark absence of this brightness with the bad things that happen when Zeus decides to take away the good things of life. Here is the context of the words spoken by Ajax as quoted by the author of On the Sublime:

|9.10 οὐκ ὀχληρὸς ἂν ἴσως, ἑταῖρε, δόξαιμι, ἓν ἔτι τοῦ ποιητοῦ καὶ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων παραθέμενος τοῦ μαθεῖν χάριν ὡς εἰς τὰ ἡρωικὰ μεγέθη συνεμβαίνειν ἐθίζει. ἀχλὺς ἄφνω καὶ νὺξ ἄπορος αὐτῷ τὴν τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἐπέχει μάχην· ἔνθα δὴ ὁ Αἴας ἀμηχανῶν “|645 Ζεῦ πάτερ (φησίν), ἀλλὰ σὺ ῥῦσαι ὑπ’ ἠέρος υἷας Ἀχαιῶν |646 ποίησον δ’ αἴθρην, δὸς δ’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ἰδέσθαι· |647 ἐν δὲ φάει καὶ ὄλεσσον.” ἔστιν ὡς ἀληθῶς τὸ πάθος Αἴαντος, οὐ γὰρ ζῆν εὔχεται (ἦν γὰρ τὸ αἴτημα τοῦ ἥρωος ταπεινότερον), ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ ἐν ἀπράκτῳ σκότει τὴν ἀνδρείαν εἰς οὐδὲν γενναῖον εἶχε διαθέσθαι, διὰ ταῦτ’ ἀγανακτῶν ὅτι πρὸς τὴν μάχην ἀργεῖ, φῶς ὅτι τάχιστα αἰτεῖται, ὡς πάντως τῆς ἀρετῆς εὑρήσων ἐντάφιον ἄξιον, κἂν αὐτῷ Ζεὺς |9.11 ἀντιτάττηται.

|9.10 I hope you won’t think, my friend, that I’m being tedious if I insert here one more thing from the Poet [= Homer]—something about the human condition—and I make the insertion for the sake of showing how he [= the Poet] habitually enters into the sublime world of heroes. All of a sudden, there is darkness and night for him [= the Poet], a night with no way out, shutting down the ability of the Greeks to make war. At this point Ajax, feeling helpless, says: “Father Zeus, I ask you to save the sons of the Achaeans from the mist. |646 Make a bright sky [aithrā]. Grant the power to see with the eyes. |647 And destroy [if destroy you will, by destroying] in the light [of day].” There is emotion here, and it truly fits Ajax. You see, he is not praying to stay alive—such a request would be beneath the sublimity of the hero—but rather, given that he could not, in the midst of the incapacitating darkness, deploy his courage for any noble purpose and thus felt frustrated because he was unable to make war, he asks for light to happen immediately so that he may find at any cost a mark of death that is worthy of his courage—even if Zeus has |9.11 turned against him.

Longinus On the Sublime 9.10–11, quoting from Iliad 17.645–647

§11. In this Iliadic passage quoted by Longinus, Homer is pictured as a master narrator who is so drawn into the sublimity of his narrative that the sudden onset of a mystical darkness in the daytime envelops not only the warriors who suddenly cannot see anything. The sense of darkness envelops here even the Poet himself. To repeat the formulation of Longinus, “All of a sudden, there is darkness and night for him [= the Poet], a night with no way out, shutting down the ability of the Greeks to make war.” And, finding himself enveloped in the same darkness that envelops the heroes, the Poet hears and quotes, as it were, the words of Ajax as the hero cries out from that darkness, praying to Zeus in frustration: if it is your will, O god, to destroy me and my fellow Achaeans, then destroy us in the brightness of day, not in the darkness of a night that is not really the night. To repeat my translation for the wording of verse 647 here: “And destroy [if destroy you will, by destroying] in the light [of day].”

§12. In terms of the theology that is activated here, as viewed by Homeric poetry and as viewed in turn by Longinus, Zeus is seen primarily as god of the bright sky. Even if he brings bad things rather than good things to humans, it is still better to experience those bad things in the dominant brightness of day, not in the recessive darkness of night. If a hero must meet his death on the battlefield, it is better to experience this death in the brightness of day. At least something good will come of that, since the bright light of Zeus can shine glory on the hero even in death. The glory can thus be seen, visualized by the poetry, since it can now be seen in the inner vision of even the blind Poet.

§13. In Pindar’s Isthmian 4, where the poet pictures the grim suicide of Ajax in the dead of night, the darkness of that ghastly moment is nevertheless dispelled by a ray of hope, streaming from the poetry that will forever shine light on the noble deeds of this underrated hero. That poetry radiates from Pindar’s Homer, as we see from the luminous words of Pindar himself. I repeat his words, and my translation, from an earlier essay (Nagy 2021.05.10):  

καὶ κρέσσον’ ἀνδρῶν χειρόνων | ἔσφαλε τέχνα καταμάρψαισ’· ἴστε μάν Αἴαντος ἀλκάν, φοίνιον τὰν ὀψίᾳ | ἐν νυκτὶ ταμὼν περὶ ᾧ φασγάνῳ μομφὰν ἔχει | παίδεσσιν Ἑλλάνων ὅσοι Τροίανδ’ ἔβαν. | ἀλλ’ Ὅμηρός τοι τετίμακεν δι’ ἀνθρώπων, ὃς αὐτοῦ | πᾶσαν ὀρθώσαις ἀρετὰν κατὰ ῥάβδον ἔφρασεν | θεσπεσίων ἐπέων λοιποῖς ἀθύρειν. | τοῦτο γὰρ ἀθάνατον φωνᾶεν ἕρπει, | εἴ τις εὖ εἴπῃ τι· καὶ πάγκαρπον ἐπὶ χθόνα καὶ διὰ πόντον βέβακεν | ἐργμάτων ἀκτὶς καλῶν ἄσβεστος αἰεί. 

Even a better man can get tripped up by the craft of worse men. It took him down, you know that, it took down the might of Ajax, which flowed with the blood from the killing as he made the piercing, in the dead of night. Wrapped around the point of his sword, he gives blame [momphḗ] for them to own up to, for however many sons [paîdes] of the Hellenes went to Troy. But Homer, as you know, has given him an honor [tīmḗ] that spreads throughout humanity. He [= Homer] has straightened out for him all his striving [aretḗ], pointing at it with his rhapsodic baton, linked with wondrous words [épea] to delight future generations. This, you know it, is the undying voice that keeps going on, if someone is there to say something that is real. And all over the earth, with its multitudes of harvests, and across the sea, it has made its way, the ray of light streaming from his beautiful deeds, a light that will never be put out, shining forth for all time.

Pindar Isthmian 4.34–42


Allen, T. W., ed. 1912. Homeri Opera V (Hymns, Cycle, fragments). Oxford.

Bers, V. 1981. “The Perjured Chorus in Sophocles’ Philoctetes.” Hermes 109:500–504.

Boyd, B. W. 2017. Ovid’s Homer: Authority, Repetition, and Reception. Oxford.

Burgess, J. S. 2001. The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle. Baltimore.

Davies, M. 2016. The Aethiopis: Neo-Neoanalysis Reanalyzed. Hellenic Studies Series 71. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Dova, S. 2012. Greek Heroes in and out of Hades. Lanham, MD.

Ferrari Pinney, G. See Pinney.

Hedreen, G. 2001. Capturing Troy: The Narrative Functions of Landscape in Archaic and Early Classical Greek Art. Ann Arbor.

Knox, B. M. W. 1964. The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy. Cambridge.

Martin, R. P. 1989. The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance in the Iliad. Ithaca, NY.

McGrath, K. 2017. Raja Yudhisthira: Kingship in Epic Mahabharata. Ithaca, NY.

Murnaghan, S. 2016. “The arms of Achilles: Tradition and mythmaking in Sophocles’ Philoctetes.” In Resemblance and Reality in Greek Thought: Essays in Honor of Peter M. Smith, ed. A. Park, 116–129. London.

Murnaghan, S. 2019. “Selective Memory and Epic Reminiscence in Sophocles’ Ajax.” In Greek Drama V: Studies in the Theatre of the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BCE, ed. H. Marshall and C. W. Marshall, 23–36. London.

Nagy, G. 1979/1999. The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry. Baltimore. Revised ed. with new introduction 1999.

Nagy, G. 1990. Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past. Baltimore.

Nagy, G. 1996. Homeric Questions. Austin.

Nagy, G. 2009|2008. Homer the Classic. Printed | Online version. Hellenic Studies 36. Cambridge, MA and Washington DC.

Nagy, G. 2010|2009. Homer the Preclassic. Printed | Online version. Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Nagy, G. 2011. “A Second Look at the Poetics of Reenactment in Ode 13 of Bacchylides.” In Archaic and Classical Choral Song: Performance, Politics and Dissemination, ed. L. Athanassaki and E. L. Bowie, 173–206. Berlin.

Nagy, G. 2012. “Signs of Hero Cult in Homeric Poetry.” In Homeric Contexts: Neoanalysis and the Interpretation of Homeric Poetry, ed. F. Montanari, A. Rengakos, and Ch. Tsagalis, 27–71. Trends in Classics Supplementary Volume 12. Berlin and Boston.

Nagy, G. 2015.03.13. “A roll of the dice for Ajax.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2015.12.24. “Pindar’s Homer is not ‘our’ Homer.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2016.05.05. “Longinus and a theological view of Zeus as god of the sky.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2017. “A Sampling of comments on the Iliad and Odyssey.

Nagy, G. 2017.09.28. “A sampling of comments on Pindar Nemean 7.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2017.12.21. “A sampling of comments on Pausanias 1.8.2–1.13.8.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2021.05.10. “How Pindar’s Homer might save from harm the heroic glory of Ajax.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2021.05.17. “How even a Classical Homer might save from harm the heroic glory of Ajax.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2021.05.24. “How a Classical Homer occasionally downgrades the heroic glory of Ajax in order to save it: Part 1.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2021.06.01. “How a Classical Homer occasionally downgrades the heroic glory of Ajax in order to save it: Part 2.” Classical Inquiries.

Nagy, G. 2021.06.07.  “How a Classical Homer occasionally downgrades the heroic glory of Ajax in order to save it: Part 3.” Classical Inquiries.

Nisetich, F. J. 1989. Pindar and Homer. American Journal of Philology Monographs in Classical Philology, 4. Baltimore. 

Peirano Garrison, I. 2019. Persuasion, rhetoric and Roman poetry. Cambridge.

Pinney, G. Ferrari, and R. Hamilton. 1982. “Secret Ballot.” American Journal of Archaeology 86:581–584.

Shapiro, H. A. 1981. “The Judgment of Arms on an Amphora in Kansas City.” BABesch [formerly Bulletin Antieke Beschaving] 56:149–150.

Slatkin, L. 2011. The Power of Thetis and Selected Essays. Hellenic Studies 16. Cambridge, MA and Washington, DC.

Woodford, S., and M. Loudon. 1980. “Two Trojan Themes: The Iconography of Ajax Carrying the Body of Achilles and of Aeneas Carrying Anchises in Black Figure Vase Painting.” American Journal of Archaeology 84:25-40.