Leadership and Communal Responsibility for Injustice: Scholia to the Odyssey

In the following passage, scholiasts debate why–and whether–Telemachus singles out the Ithakan suitors for special reproach. It is interesting that of the 108 suitors only 12 are from Ithaka; but for a reading of the Odyssey, it is even more interesting that communal responsibility for wrong done lies with leaders.

Schol. ad Od. 2.51 [multiple traditions]

“this means the sons of the men who are best there.”

And there were only twelve from Ithaka—but it was truly necessary to accuse these men whom it was possible for a citizen whose rights were violated to single out, especially when they were greater [in importance] than the others; so when he says “all the twelve best from Ithaca”, he makes the crime particular. The fact is that the rest were following them since they were the leaders and the children of the best. For in all places the leadership is smaller in number than the led and the multitude which is governed follows the government even though it is small. Elsewhere Aristophanes adds “the rest of the best who rule over the Islands, Doulikhion, Samê, and forested Zakynthos” incorrectly—for he is thinking only about those in Ithaca whom he picked out, not the rest.

There are just about 108 of all the suitors together, but from these it is said the twelve best are from Ithaka. Herakleides asks how Telemachus lessens [the number] in his public address when he reduces the multitude to only Ithakans, for, why, does he say “The suitors accost my mother when she doesn’t want it, the dear sons of the men who are best here”. For he targeted the body of the suitors after he reduced the mass to those there, those who represented the smallest portion of the entire group.

Someone might say that Telemachus accuses the Ithakans properly. In response to these statements, a defense might be offered for the rest by the fathers of the Ithakans that it was not only our sons but these others and it was right that they prevent this behavior when there are more of them. For, wouldn’t the fewer follow the many? For if he simply said “the suitors were accosting my mother when she was unwilling” he would have accused in common the foreigners and guest-friends among the others in attendance. But since the charge is “the dear sons of those who are best here”, he makes the crime personal, because the rest are following these men, and because the Ithacan suitors were the sons of the men who were best in Ithaka. The others, then, would follow their leaders. For, the leadership is fewer in number than the led, and the rest of the populace consents to the leadership even if it is the smallest, when it comes to the initiation and the cessation of actions.”


τῶν ἀνδρῶν φίλοι υἷος] τουτέστι τῶν ἐνθάδε ἀρίστων υἱοί. B.H. καὶ μὴν δώδεκα μόνοι ἦσαν ἀπὸ τῆς ᾿Ιθάκης· ἀλλ’ ἐκείνων ἔδει μάλιστα κατηγορεῖν, οὓς ἔστι συλλαμβάνεσθαι τῷ πολίτῃ βιαζομένῳ ἄλλως τε καὶ τῶν ἄλλων μείζονες ἦσαν, ὡς αὐτός φησιν

ἐκ δ’ αὐτῆς ᾿Ιθάκης δυοκαίδεκα πάντες ἄριστοι·

ἴδιον οὖν τὸ ἀδίκημα ἐποίησεν, ὡς καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τούτοις ἀκολουθησάντων ὡς ἂν ἡγεμόσι καὶ ἀριστέων παισίν. ἐν πᾶσι γὰρ τὸ ἡγεμονικὸν ὀλιγώτερον τῶν ἀρχομένων, καὶ τῷ ἡγεμονοῦντι, κἂν ὀλίγον ᾖ, πείθεται τὸ ἡγεμονούμενον πλῆθος. H.M. Καὶ ἄλλως. ᾿Αριστοφάνης προστίθησιν

ἄλλοι θ’ οἳ νήσοισιν ἐπικρατέουσιν ἄριστοι

Δουλιχίῳ τε Σάμῃ τε καὶ ὑλήεντι Ζακύνθῳ,

οὐκ ὀρθῶς· περὶ γὰρ τῶν ἐν ᾿Ιθάκῃ φροντίζει μόνων, οὓς ἀπελάσας, οὐκ ἂν ἐφρόντισε τῶν λοιπῶν. H.M.


ἑκατὸν δέκα καὶ ὀκτὼ σχεδὸν τῶν ἁπάντων ὄντων μνηστήρων, ἀπὸ τούτων δὲ ἐκ τῆς ᾿Ιθάκης “δυοκαίδεκα πάντες ἄριστοι” (π, 251.) ῥηθέντων, ζητεῖ ῾Ηρακλείδης πῶς ὁ Τηλέμαχος κατασμικρύνει ἐν τῇ δημηγορίᾳ συστέλλων τὸ πλῆθος εἰς μόνους τοὺς ᾿Ιθακησίους. τί γὰρ ἔφη “μητέρι μνηστῆρες ἐπέχραον οὐκ ἐθελούσῃ, τῶν ἀνδρῶν φίλοι υἷες, οἳ ἐνθάδε γ’ εἰσὶν ἄριστοι;” τὸ γὰρ πολὺ φορτίον τῆς μνη-

στείας περιῄρηκε συστείλας τὸ πλῆθος εἰς τοὺς ἐνθάδε, τοὺς ὄντας ἐλάχιστον μέρος τοῦ παντὸς πλήθους. φαίη δ’ ἄν τις ἐν ᾿Ιθάκῃ δημηγοροῦντα τὸν Τηλέμαχον τῶν ἐξ ᾿Ιθάκης εἰκότως κατηγορεῖν. ῥηθέντων δὲ καὶ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἄλλων ἀπολογία μᾶλλον ἦν τοῖς πατράσι τῶν ᾿Ιθακησίων, ὅτι οὐχ οἱ ἡμέτεροι μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἄλλοι, καὶ δεῖ πρότερον ἐκείνους κωλύειν πλείους ὄντας· τοῖς γὰρ πολλοῖς ἀκολουθήσειν καὶ τοὺς ἐλάττους. εἰ γὰρ ἁπλῶς ἔφη “μητέρι μοι μνηστῆρες ἐπέ-

χραον οὐκ ἐθελούσῃ,” κοινῶς ἂν κατηγόρησεν ἀλλοδαπῶν καὶ ξένων ἐνἀλλοτρίοις ἀκροαταῖς. ἡ δὲ ἐπαγωγὴ ἡ “τῶν ἀνδρῶν φίλοι υἷες οἳ ἐνθάδε γ’ εἰσὶν ἄριστοι” ἴδιον τὸ ἀδίκημα ἐποίησεν, ὡς καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τούτοις ἀκολουθησάντων, ὅτι τῶν ἀρίστων ἐν ᾿Ιθάκῃ ἦσαν παῖδες οἱ ᾿Ιθακήσιοι μνηστῆρες. ὡς ἂν οὖν ἡγεμόσιν οἱ ἄλλοι εἵποντο. ἐν πᾶσι γὰρ τὸ ἡγεμονοῦν ὀλιγώτερον τῶν ἀρχομένων, καὶ τῷ ἡγεμονοῦντι, κἂν τὸ ὀλίγιστον ᾖ, πείθεται τὸ ἄλλο πλῆθος εἴς τε τὰς ἐπιθέσεις καὶ τὰς ἀποχὰς τῶν πραττομένων. H.M.Q.R.


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