News of the Achaeans

Homer, Iliad, 11.218-231.

Tell me now, Olympus-dwelling Muses,
who first confronted Agamemnon,
an actual Trojan or famed ally?
Iphidamas, Antinor’s son, bold and burly
and reared in rich-soiled Thrace, mother of flocks.
Cisses raised him as a child in his halls,
the father of his mother, sweet-cheeked Theano.

When the splendid youth reached maturity,
to keep him there Cisses offered him his daughter.
He wed, but quit his bridal chamber when news came
of the Achaeans. Twelve ships went with him.
He left the balanced ships at Percote
and made his way on foot to Ilium.
This is who confronted Atreus’s son, Agamemnon.

ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματʼ ἔχουσαι
ὅς τις δὴ πρῶτος Ἀγαμέμνονος ἀντίον ἦλθεν
ἢ αὐτῶν Τρώων ἠὲ κλειτῶν ἐπικούρων.
Ἰφιδάμας Ἀντηνορίδης ἠΰς τε μέγας τε
ὃς τράφη ἐν Θρῄκῃ ἐριβώλακι μητέρι μήλων·
Κισσῆς τόν γʼ ἔθρεψε δόμοις ἔνι τυτθὸν ἐόντα
μητροπάτωρ, ὃς τίκτε Θεανὼ καλλιπάρῃον·
αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥʼ ἥβης ἐρικυδέος ἵκετο μέτρον,
αὐτοῦ μιν κατέρυκε, δίδου δʼ ὅ γε θυγατέρα ἥν·
γήμας δʼ ἐκ θαλάμοιο μετὰ κλέος ἵκετʼ Ἀχαιῶν
σὺν δυοκαίδεκα νηυσὶ κορωνίσιν, αἵ οἱ ἕποντο.
τὰς μὲν ἔπειτʼ ἐν Περκώτῃ λίπε νῆας ἐΐσας,
αὐτὰρ ὃ πεζὸς ἐὼν ἐς Ἴλιον εἰληλούθει·
ὅς ῥα τότʼ Ἀτρεΐδεω Ἀγαμέμνονος ἀντίον ἦλθεν.

[1] What does μετὰ κλέος mean in this passage? 

11.227: . . . μετὰ κλέος ἵκετʼ Ἀχαιῶν (“when news came of the Achaeans”)

Is the preposition μετὰ temporal (“after,” “when”), as I have translated it, or is it purposive (“in pursuit of”)? 

How you interpret μετὰ dictates how you interpret κλέος:

Temporal μετὰ should mean that κλέος is “news” (“he left when news came . . .”). 

But purposive μετὰ should mean that κλέος is “glory” (“he went in pursuit of glory”). 

The temptation to translate μετὰ κλέος as “in pursuit of glory” is understandable: preoccupation with glory is, after all, central to the epic, and men die in their quest for it.  

In this particular passage, however, I believe the understandable temptation leads to error. 


[2] What have the translators said?  

There are those who interpret μετὰ in this passage as temporal: for example, Robert Fitzgerald, Robert Fagles, Edward McCorie, and more recently Caroline Alexander.  

There are those who interpret it as purposive: for example, E.V. Rieu, Richard Lattimore, Peter Green, and more recently Stephen Mitchell and Barry Powell.  

Then there’s Stanley Lombardo who manages to treat μετὰ as both temporal and purposive: “[he] went chasing after glory when he heard/The Achaeans were coming.” 

This might be the place to point out that Iliad.13.363-366 (and perhaps others too) show the sketch of Iphidamas to be essentially formular. And for our purposes, what matters most is the reappearance of μετὰ κλέος in this later passage: 

For he killed Orthryoneus who was there from Cabesus.
He’d recently come, after news [μετὰ κλέος] of the war.
He had begged Priam for his finest daughter,
Cassandra, and without a bride-price.

πέφνε γὰρ Ὀθρυονῆα Καβησόθεν ἔνδον ἐόντα,
ὅς ῥα νέον πολέμοιο μετὰ κλέος εἰληλούθει,
ᾔτεε δὲ Πριάμοιο θυγατρῶν εἶδος ἀρίστην
Κασσάνδρην ἀνάεδνον . . .

Are the translators consistent in their handling of μετὰ κλέος across the two passages? Some are, some aren’t. 

I’ll only point out that Powell who treats the prepositional phrase as temporal in Iliad 11 treats it as purposive in Iliad 13. And Lombardo who would have it both ways in Iliad 11 interprets the phrase as unambiguously purposive in Iliad 13. 

Judging from the split among translators, just what μετὰ κλέος means in 11.227 is controversial.


[3] The Scholia: Modest support for purposive μετὰ?  

A single scholiast glosses μετὰ κλέος ἵκετʼ Ἀχαιῶν in a way which implies a stance on whether μετὰ is here temporal or purposive.  The scholion reads: 

“For this man’s undoing, there came the glory of the Greeks” 

(ή γαρ ήττα τούτου δόξα τών ‘Ελλήνων έγίνετο [Erbse.II.167.227d]) 

The word I’m rendering as “glory” is δόξα (“glory,” “splendor,” “repute”). The word I’m rendering as “there came” is “έγίνετο” (“it came into being,” “there was,” etc). 

I find it plausible that the scholiast is treating δόξα and  κλέος as synonyms, and έγίνετο and ἵκετʼ (“it came,” 3rd person aorist of ἱκέσθαι) as synonyms too.  

As such, I take the phrase “there came the glory of the Greeks” (δόξα τών ‘Ελλήνων έγίνετο) to mean something like “an opportunity came to win glory from the Greeks” (τών ‘Ελλήνων as an objective genitive). There’s the purposive preposition at work. 

Let me admit that this interpretation of the scholion might be strained, and this scholiast, like the others who commented on the line, does not help us. 


[4] A hint from the Hexameter: μετὰ is temporal. 

I’m going to suggest that Iliad.11.21-22, which tells why Cinyras gifted Agamemnon an elaborate corslet, supports interpreting μετὰ κλέος in 11.227 temporally.  

The Cinyras passage (11.21-22) reads:

For he heard, from far-off Cyprus, the big news [μέγα κλέος]:
Achaeans were about to sail to Troy in their ships.

πεύθετο γὰρ Κύπρονδὲ μέγα κλέος οὕνεκʼ Ἀχαιοὶ
ἐς Τροίην νήεσσιν ἀναπλεύσεσθαι ἔμελλον·

Cinyras acted when he heard “μέγα κλέος,” “the big news,” just as Iphidamas acted “μετὰ κλέος,” “after the news.” That’s the common theme. 

Now the prosody. μέγα κλέος and μετὰ κλέος are structurally identical: In both passages, the phrases come directly after the caesura (the word break in the third dactylic foot). The first syllable of both μέγα and μετὰ contributes the final syllable of the third foot (short); and their second syllable contributes the long syllable which combines with the long first syllable of κλέος to form the fourth foot. 

Simply put: Verses 11.21 and 11.227 have a common theme which is reinforced by common prosody. And the common theme is that of men acting on news.  

photograph of old style newspaper with giant banner headline that says "WAR"

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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