Customary Triviality and the Second Most Beautiful Danaan

Demetrius, On Style 60-61

“First, anthypallage, as when Homer has “the two rocks, one reaches to the broad sky”. This is far more impressive than if the typical genitive had been used and he had said, two of the rocks, one reaches the broad sky. It is customarily said like that. But everything customary is trivial, and for this reason brings no amazement.

Conider, in turn, Nireus, who is minor himself and whose affairs are minor since he has three ships and a small number of people. The poet makes him great and his group lareger using the double and combined figures of anaphora and asyndeton. He says “Nireus led three ships / Nirieus the son of Aglaiê, Nireus, who was the prettiest man. The anaphora—repetition of the same word, here Nireus—and the asyndeton makes the matter described seem larger, even though it is only two or three ships.”

(60) πρῶτον μὲν τὴν ἀνθυπαλλαγήν, ὡς Ὅμηρος, “οἱ δὲ δύο σκόπελοι ὁ μὲν οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἱκάνει”· πολὺ γὰρ οὕτω μεγαλειότερον ἐναλλαγείσης <τῆς> πτώσεως, ἢ εἴπερ οὕτως ἔφη, “τῶν δὲ δύο σκοπέλων ὁ μὲν οὐρανὸν εὐρύν”· συνήθως γὰρ ἐλέγετο. πᾶν δὲ τὸ σύνηθες μικροπρεπές, διὸ καὶ ἀθαύμαστον.

(61) Τὸν δὲ Νιρέα, αὐτόν τε ὄντα μικρὸν καὶ τὰ πράγματα αὐτοῦ μικρότερα, τρεῖς ναῦς καὶ ὀλίγους ἄνδρας, μέγαν καὶ μεγάλα ἐποίησεν καὶ πολλὰ ἀντ᾿ ὀλίγων, τῷ σχήματι διπλῷ καὶ μικτῷ χρησάμενος ἐξ ἐπαναφορᾶς τε καὶ διαλύσεως. “Νιρεὺς γάρ,” φησι, “τρεῖς νῆας ἄγεν, Νιρεὺς Ἀγλαΐης υἱός, Νιρεύς, ὃς κάλλιστος ἀνήρ”· ἥ τε γὰρ ἐπαναφορὰ τῆς λέξεως ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ὄνομα τὸν Νιρέα καὶ ἡ διάλυσις πλῆθός τι ἐμφαίνει πραγμάτων, καίτοι δύο ἢ τριῶν ὄντων.

The lines in the Iliad are slightly different (2.671–675)

“Then Nireus came from Symê with three beautiful ships,
Nireus the son of Aglaiê and lord Kharops,
Nireus, the most beautiful man who came to Troy
Of all the Danaans after the blameless son of Peleus.
But he was weak and a meager army followed him.”

Νιρεὺς αὖ Σύμηθεν ἄγε τρεῖς νῆας ἐΐσας
Νιρεὺς ᾿Αγλαΐης υἱὸς Χαρόποιό τ’ ἄνακτος
Νιρεύς, ὃς κάλλιστος ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ ῎Ιλιον ἦλθε
τῶν ἄλλων Δαναῶν μετ’ ἀμύμονα Πηλεΐωνα·
ἀλλ’ ἀλαπαδνὸς ἔην, παῦρος δέ οἱ εἵπετο λαός.

Thebes Vase from this site

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