The Omen Before the Wall

Homer, Iliad 12. 195–229

“As long as they were stripping them of their gleaming weapons,
The young men who were the best and the greatest in number were following
Poulydamas and Hektor, they were especially eager to break the wall
And set fire to the ships. They were still struggling standing before the wall
When a bird went over them as they were struggling to cross it,
A high-flying eagle moving its way over the left side of the army
Holding in its talons a huge dark red snake
Still alive, breathing: it had not yet lost its fighting spirit.
For it struck back at the bird who held him in the skin along the chest
As it bent double. And the bird tossed him away to the ground
tortured with pains. It dropped the snake in the middle of the throng
But flew away on the breath of the wind, sounding out in pain.
The Trojans shivered when they saw the winding serpent
Lying there, a sign from Aegis-bearing Zeus.

Then Polydamas stood aside and addressed bold Hektor:
“Hektor, you are always threatening me in the public assemblies for some reason,
Even when I advise well, since it is not ever deemed proper
For some member of the people to advise differently, either in council
Or in war. Instead, we must always increase your strength.
But now I will tell you what seems to me to be best.
Let’s not go to fight the Danaans around their ships.
I think that it will turn out this way, if truly this bird
Came over the Trojans as we struggled to cross the wall,
A high-flying eagle moving its way over the left side of the army
Holding in its talons a huge dark red snake
Still alive. For it dropped it before it could return to its dear home
And did not complete the task of giving it to his children.
In the same way we, if we break through the gates and walls
Of the Achaeans by means of great strength and the Achaeans yield
So too we will not find the same paths in order among the ships.
We will lose many Trojans there as the Achaeans
Strike them down with bronze will defending the ships/
This is how a prophet would interpret, one who clearly understands
In his heart divine signs and one the people obey.”

῎Οφρ’ οἳ τοὺς ἐνάριζον ἀπ’ ἔντεα μαρμαίροντα,
τόφρ’ οἳ Πουλυδάμαντι καὶ ῞Εκτορι κοῦροι ἕποντο,
οἳ πλεῖστοι καὶ ἄριστοι ἔσαν, μέμασαν δὲ μάλιστα
τεῖχός τε ῥήξειν καὶ ἐνιπρήσειν πυρὶ νῆας,
οἵ ῥ’ ἔτι μερμήριζον ἐφεσταότες παρὰ τάφρῳ.
ὄρνις γάρ σφιν ἐπῆλθε περησέμεναι μεμαῶσιν
αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ λαὸν ἐέργων
φοινήεντα δράκοντα φέρων ὀνύχεσσι πέλωρον
ζωὸν ἔτ’ ἀσπαίροντα, καὶ οὔ πω λήθετο χάρμης,
κόψε γὰρ αὐτὸν ἔχοντα κατὰ στῆθος παρὰ δειρὴν
ἰδνωθεὶς ὀπίσω· ὃ δ’ ἀπὸ ἕθεν ἧκε χαμᾶζε
ἀλγήσας ὀδύνῃσι, μέσῳ δ’ ἐνὶ κάββαλ’ ὁμίλῳ,
αὐτὸς δὲ κλάγξας πέτετο πνοιῇς ἀνέμοιο.
Τρῶες δ’ ἐρρίγησαν ὅπως ἴδον αἰόλον ὄφιν
κείμενον ἐν μέσσοισι Διὸς τέρας αἰγιόχοιο.
δὴ τότε Πουλυδάμας θρασὺν ῞Εκτορα εἶπε παραστάς·
῞Εκτορ ἀεὶ μέν πώς μοι ἐπιπλήσσεις ἀγορῇσιν
ἐσθλὰ φραζομένῳ, ἐπεὶ οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδὲ ἔοικε
δῆμον ἐόντα παρὲξ ἀγορευέμεν, οὔτ’ ἐνὶ βουλῇ
οὔτέ ποτ’ ἐν πολέμῳ, σὸν δὲ κράτος αἰὲν ἀέξειν·
νῦν αὖτ’ ἐξερέω ὥς μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι ἄριστα.
μὴ ἴομεν Δαναοῖσι μαχησόμενοι περὶ νηῶν.
ὧδε γὰρ ἐκτελέεσθαι ὀΐομαι, εἰ ἐτεόν γε
Τρωσὶν ὅδ’ ὄρνις ἦλθε περησέμεναι μεμαῶσιν
αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ λαὸν ἐέργων
φοινήεντα δράκοντα φέρων ὀνύχεσσι πέλωρον
ζωόν· ἄφαρ δ’ ἀφέηκε πάρος φίλα οἰκί’ ἱκέσθαι,
οὐδ’ ἐτέλεσσε φέρων δόμεναι τεκέεσσιν ἑοῖσιν.
ὣς ἡμεῖς, εἴ πέρ τε πύλας καὶ τεῖχος ᾿Αχαιῶν
ῥηξόμεθα σθένεϊ μεγάλῳ, εἴξωσι δ’ ᾿Αχαιοί,
οὐ κόσμῳ παρὰ ναῦφιν ἐλευσόμεθ’ αὐτὰ κέλευθα·
πολλοὺς γὰρ Τρώων καταλείψομεν, οὕς κεν ᾿Αχαιοὶ
χαλκῷ δῃώσωσιν ἀμυνόμενοι περὶ νηῶν.
ὧδέ χ’ ὑποκρίναιτο θεοπρόπος, ὃς σάφα θυμῷ
εἰδείη τεράων καί οἱ πειθοίατο λαοί.

Eagle with Snake from Olympia, c. 5th Century BCE

Who Cares about Bird-Signs?

Homer, Iliad 12.230–257

“Glaring at him, shining-helmed Hektor answered:
Poulydamas, you never announce things dear to me in public.
You know how to make a different, better speech than this one.
If you are really arguing this out loud earnestly,
Well then the gods have ruined your thoughts themselves,
You who order me to forget the counsels of loud-thundering Zeus,
What he himself promised and assented to for me.
Now you ask me to listen to some tender-winged bird?
I don’t notice or care at all about these birds,
Whether they go to the right to dawn and the sun
Or whether they go to the left to the dusky gloom.
We are obeying the plan of great Zeus.
He rules over all the mortals and the immortal too.
One bird omen is best: defend your fatherland.
Why do you fear the war and strife so much?
If all the rest of us are really killed around
The Argive ships, there’s no fear for you in dying.
Your heart is not brave nor battle-worthy.
But if you keep back from the fight, or if you turn
Any other away from the war by plying him with words,
Well you’ll die straight away then, struck down by my spear.”

So he spoke and led on, and they followed him
With a divine echo. Zeus who delights in thunder
Drove a gust of wind down from the Idaian slopes,
Which carried dust straight over the ships. It froze the minds
Of the Achaeans and gave hope to the Trojans and Hektor.
Trusting in these signs and their own strength,
They were trying to break through the great wall of the Achaeans.”

Τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη κορυθαίολος ῞Εκτωρ·
Πουλυδάμα, σὺ μὲν οὐκ ἔτ’ ἐμοὶ φίλα ταῦτ’ ἀγορεύεις·
οἶσθα καὶ ἄλλον μῦθον ἀμείνονα τοῦδε νοῆσαι.
εἰ δ’ ἐτεὸν δὴ τοῦτον ἀπὸ σπουδῆς ἀγορεύεις,
ἐξ ἄρα δή τοι ἔπειτα θεοὶ φρένας ὤλεσαν αὐτοί,
ὃς κέλεαι Ζηνὸς μὲν ἐριγδούποιο λαθέσθαι
βουλέων, ἅς τέ μοι αὐτὸς ὑπέσχετο καὶ κατένευσε·
τύνη δ’ οἰωνοῖσι τανυπτερύγεσσι κελεύεις
πείθεσθαι, τῶν οὔ τι μετατρέπομ’ οὐδ’ ἀλεγίζω
εἴτ’ ἐπὶ δεξί’ ἴωσι πρὸς ἠῶ τ’ ἠέλιόν τε,
εἴτ’ ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ τοί γε ποτὶ ζόφον ἠερόεντα.
ἡμεῖς δὲ μεγάλοιο Διὸς πειθώμεθα βουλῇ,
ὃς πᾶσι θνητοῖσι καὶ ἀθανάτοισιν ἀνάσσει.
εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης.
τίπτε σὺ δείδοικας πόλεμον καὶ δηϊοτῆτα;
εἴ περ γάρ τ’ ἄλλοι γε περὶ κτεινώμεθα πάντες
νηυσὶν ἐπ’ ᾿Αργείων, σοὶ δ’ οὐ δέος ἔστ’ ἀπολέσθαι·
οὐ γάρ τοι κραδίη μενεδήϊος οὐδὲ μαχήμων.
εἰ δὲ σὺ δηϊοτῆτος ἀφέξεαι, ἠέ τιν’ ἄλλον
παρφάμενος ἐπέεσσιν ἀποτρέψεις πολέμοιο,
αὐτίκ’ ἐμῷ ὑπὸ δουρὶ τυπεὶς ἀπὸ θυμὸν ὀλέσσεις.
῝Ως ἄρα φωνήσας ἡγήσατο, τοὶ δ’ ἅμ’ ἕποντο
ἠχῇ θεσπεσίῃ· ἐπὶ δὲ Ζεὺς τερπικέραυνος
ὦρσεν ἀπ’ ᾿Ιδαίων ὀρέων ἀνέμοιο θύελλαν,
ἥ ῥ’ ἰθὺς νηῶν κονίην φέρεν· αὐτὰρ ᾿Αχαιῶν
θέλγε νόον, Τρωσὶν δὲ καὶ ῞Εκτορι κῦδος ὄπαζε.
τοῦ περ δὴ τεράεσσι πεποιθότες ἠδὲ βίηφι
ῥήγνυσθαι μέγα τεῖχος ᾿Αχαιῶν πειρήτιζον.

Schol. T ad Il. 12.238–238

“you order me to obey bird signs: the prudent person will both honor the gods and obey birdsigns, like Odysseus does. This is obeying instead of believing.

τύνη δ’ οἰωνοῖσι<—κελεύεις / πείθεσθαι>: ὁ φρόνιμος καὶ θεοὺς τιμήσει καὶ οἰωνοῖς πείσεται, ὡς ὁ ᾿Οδυσσεύς (cf. Κ 274—82). τὸ δὲ πείθεσθαι (238) ἀντὶ τοῦ πιστεύειν.

Schol b. ad Il. 12.238

“The prudent person both knows to honor god and to obey bird signs, a thing which Hektor does not understand”

ὁ φρόνιμος καὶ θεὸν τιμᾶν οἶδε καὶ οἰωνοῖς πείθεσθαι, ὅπερ ῞Εκτωρ οὐ συνίησιν.

Black Figure Amphora, Walters Art Museum Baltimore

Briseis Weeps

For more on the Iliad from Briseis’ point of view,  see the extraordinary anonymous essay, Just a Girl: Being Briseis

D Scholia to the Iliad:

“The Poet seems to use their patronymic names and not their personal ones, for other ancient accounts notes that [Chryseis] was named Astynomê and [Briseis] was named Hippodameia.”

ἔοικε δὲ πατρωνυμικῶς τὰ ὀνόματα αὐτῶν σχηματίζειν ὁ Ποιητὴς, καὶ οὐ κυρίως. ὡς γὰρ οἱ ἄλλοι ἀρχαῖοι ἱστοροῦσιν, ἡ μὲν, ᾿Αστυνόμη ἐκαλεῖτο, ἡ δὲ, ῾Ιπποδάμεια.

Homer Iliad 19. 281-302

“Then when Briseis, like golden Aphrodite herself,
Saw Patroklos run through with sharp bronze,
Poured herself over him while she wailed and ripped
At her chest, tender neck, and pretty face with her hands.
And while mourning the woman spoke like one of the goddesses:

“Patroklos, you were the dearest to wretched me and
I left you alive when I went from your dwelling.
And now I find you here dead, leader of the armies,
When I return. Troubles are always wresting me from troubles.
The husband my father and mother gave me to
I watched run through with sharp bronze in front of the city,
And then the three brothers my mother bore,
Dear siblings, all met their fate on that day.
But you would not ever let me weep when swift Achilles
Was killing my husband and when he sacked the city of divine Munêtos—
No, you used to promise to make me the wedded wife
Of divine Achilles, someone he would lead home in his ships to Phthia,
where you would light the marriage torches among the Myrmidons.
So now I weep for you, dead and gentle forever.”
So she spoke, while weeping….

Βρισηῒς δ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειτ’ ἰκέλη χρυσέῃ ᾿Αφροδίτῃ
ὡς ἴδε Πάτροκλον δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
ἀμφ’ αὐτῷ χυμένη λίγ’ ἐκώκυε, χερσὶ δ’ ἄμυσσε
στήθεά τ’ ἠδ’ ἁπαλὴν δειρὴν ἰδὲ καλὰ πρόσωπα.
εἶπε δ’ ἄρα κλαίουσα γυνὴ ἐϊκυῖα θεῇσι·
Πάτροκλέ μοι δειλῇ πλεῖστον κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ
ζωὸν μέν σε ἔλειπον ἐγὼ κλισίηθεν ἰοῦσα,
νῦν δέ σε τεθνηῶτα κιχάνομαι ὄρχαμε λαῶν
ἂψ ἀνιοῦσ’· ὥς μοι δέχεται κακὸν ἐκ κακοῦ αἰεί.
ἄνδρα μὲν ᾧ ἔδοσάν με πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
εἶδον πρὸ πτόλιος δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
τρεῖς τε κασιγνήτους, τούς μοι μία γείνατο μήτηρ,
κηδείους, οἳ πάντες ὀλέθριον ἦμαρ ἐπέσπον.
οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδέ μ’ ἔασκες, ὅτ’ ἄνδρ’ ἐμὸν ὠκὺς ᾿Αχιλλεὺς
ἔκτεινεν, πέρσεν δὲ πόλιν θείοιο Μύνητος,
κλαίειν, ἀλλά μ’ ἔφασκες ᾿Αχιλλῆος θείοιο
κουριδίην ἄλοχον θήσειν, ἄξειν τ’ ἐνὶ νηυσὶν
ἐς Φθίην, δαίσειν δὲ γάμον μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσι.
τώ σ’ ἄμοτον κλαίω τεθνηότα μείλιχον αἰεί.
῝Ως ἔφατο κλαίουσ’…

For an exploration of this speech from compositional and thematic perspectives, see Casey Dué ‘s Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis.

Psst, What’s the Password? Reading Euripides’ “Rhesus” Online

Euripides’ Rhesus 34-34

“Some news you announce is frightening to hear
Some of it gives me hope. Nothing is clear at all!”

τὰ μὲν ἀγγέλλεις δείματ᾿ ἀκούειν,
τὰ δὲ θαρσύνεις, κοὐδὲν καθαρῶς.

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ since the beginning of the US lockdown in March. As our director Paul O’Mahony has put it, since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Last week, we turned to the most tragic of epics (according to Aristotle, at least), Homer’s Iliad.

This week we remain in Trojan War material but return to tragedy with the Rhesus, traditionally attributed to Euripides. This play covers the same basic events of Iliad 10 where Diomedes and Odysseus go out to spy on the Trojans at night and end up slaughtering the Thracian king Rhesus and his men to steal his horses. Euripides’ play give us a little more from both sides: we see a somewhat more monstrous Hektor, get to hear from Rhesus himself and are invited to see the slaughter as a calamity worthy of attention on its own.

In performing the play. we are less interested in whether or not it is genuinely Euripides–and its authenticity has been doubted for some time because of its contents and its style–than we are in how and why this play may have appealed to ancient audiences and what it has to tell us about the reception of Trojan War figures on the Athenian stage. We see Odysseus in many different plays, but having Hektor and his allies in a performance is a rare thing indeed. This play also invites us to think about the fixity of scenes from the Iliad we possess and the complex relationship between performative genres and audience expectations.

Euripides’ Rhesus 182

“It is right to cast your life in the dice game of fate
For things that are worthy.”

χρὴ δ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἀξίοις πονεῖν
ψυχὴν προβάλλοντ᾿ ἐν κύβοισι δαίμονος.

Scenes (from George Theodoridis’ translation)

Section 1, Lines 1-223: Chorus, Hektor, Aeneas, Dolon 

Section 2, Lines 344-526: Chorus, Hektor, Rhesus  

Section 3, Lines 565-674: Odysseus, Diomedes, Athena, Paris 

Section 4, Lines 808-996: Hektor, Chariot Driver, Muse, Chorus 

Euripides’ Rhesus 394-397

“…I love to speak the truth
All the time and I am never a duplicitous man.
Long, long ago it would have been right for you to come
And share our pain…”

φιλῶ λέγειν
τἀληθὲς αἰεὶ κοὐ διπλοῦς πέφυκ᾿ ἀνήρ.
πάλαι πάλαι χρῆν τῇδε συγκάμνειν χθονὶ
ἐλθόντα

Performers

Hector/Odysseus – Tim Delap
Aeneas/Rhesus/Athena/Chariot driver – Tabatha Gayle
Dolon/Diomedes/Muse – Evelyn Miller
Chorus/Paris – Paul O’Mahony
 
Special Guest, Mary Ebbott

Euripides, Rhesus 497-500

“Ajax doesn’t seem to me to be any lesser than him
Nor does Tydeus’ son. But that Odysseus,
He is the most twisted crook, a man bold enough to be arrogant,
One who has outraged this land most of all.”

Αἴας ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐδὲν ἡσσᾶσθαι δοκεῖ
χὠ Τυδέως παῖς· ἔστι δ᾿ αἱμυλώτατον
κρότημ᾿ Ὀδυσσεὺς λῆμά τ᾿ ἀρκούντως θρασὺς
καὶ πλεῖστα χώραν τήνδ᾿ ἀνὴρ καθυβρίσας·

Producers and Crew

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Euripides, Rhesus 756-57

“In addition to our suffering, this has been handled
With the greatest shame. This doubles the pain.”

κακῶς πέπρακται κἀπὶ τοῖς κακοῖσι πρὸς
αἴσχιστα· καίτοι δὶς τόσον κακὸν τόδε·

Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)

Saturday, October 17 Assemblywomen, Aristophanes
with Francisco Barrenechea (University of Maryland, College Park)

October 21 Agamemnon, Aeschylus
with Fiona Macintosh (University of Oxford); translation by O. Taplin

October 28 Libation Bearers, Aeschylus; translation by O. Taplin

November 4 Eumenides, Aeschylus
with Ellen McLaughlin (Barnard College) and Andrew Simpson (Catholic Univeristy of America); translation by O. Taplin

Euripides, Rhesus 938-942

“Athena, you deserve the blame for this.
Odysseus and the son of Tydeus didn’t do it
Don’t imagine you sneaked by me.
Still, my sister Muses and I honor your city
Most of all….”

καὶ τοῦτ᾿, Ἀθάνα, παντὸς αἰτία μόρου—οὐδὲν
δ᾿ Ὀδυσσεὺς οὐδ᾿ ὁ Τυδέως τόκος
ἔδρασ᾿—ἔδρασας· μὴ δόκει λεληθέναι.
καίτοι πόλιν σὴν σύγγονοι πρεσβεύομεν
Μοῦσαι μάλιστα

Euripides, Rhesus 866

“I don’t know these Odysseuses you keep mentioning”

οὐκ οἶδα τοὺς σοὺς οὓς λέγεις Ὀδυσσέας·

“Something for people in the Future to Sing About” Reading Homer’s “Iliad” Online

Homer, Iliad 22.304-5

“May I not die without a fight and without glory
but after doing something big for men to come to learn about”

μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,
ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ since the beginning of the US lockdown in March. As our director Paul O’Mahony has put it, since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

This week, we turn to the most tragic of epics (according to Aristotle, at least), Homer’s Iliad

Image

As everyone knows, the Iliad begins with the rage of Achilles. As many of us forget, it ends not with the Trojan Horse or the death of Achilles, but instead with the burial of horse-taming Hektor. I think it is probably dangerous to ask a Homerist to tell you about the Iliad, because so often we don’t know where to start, whether it should be in thinking about its relationship with the Odyssey or about what it means to say the word “Homer”. True Story: many years ago, while patronizing a drinking establishment in Queens, my wife asked me to tell her what the Iliad was about. After about 45 minutes, she asked how much more there was to it. I had not even finished book 1 yet…

Ancient performers of the epics didn’t have these challenges because audiences grew up hearing stories about most of the events and characters they would be singing about and because the performance contexts didn’t expect them to tell the whole story. We don’t know a lot about the actual performance contexts and practices of Homeric poetry in the ancient world (see the work of José Gonzalez on rhapsodes, Casey Dué’s work on multiformity, Egbert Bakker’s From Formula to Poetics or any of Gregory Nagy’s Poetry as Performance or Plato’s Rhapsogy and Homer’s Music), but it seems likely that the stories were performed in episodes at various occasions and at times in monumental performances at festivals. How these performances were prepared is another issue: some think they were memorized from a script, others think they were composed in performance. I tend towards the latter belief with the acknowledgement that even when something is composed in performance, there are various degress of fixity from one performance to another and one singer to another…

And, here again, I have started to trail off. Often people talk about performance of song within Homer to start us thinking about epic performance (the songs of Demodokos and Phemios in the Odyssey; Achilles singing to his lyre in the Iliad) but there’s some evidence outside the poems too. One passage comes from Plato’s Ion:

Plato, Ion 535d-e

Ion: Now this proof is super clear to me, Socrates! I’ll tell you without hiding anything: whenever I say something pitiable, my eyes fill with tears. Whenever I say something frightening, my hair stands straight up in fear and my heart leaps!

Socrates: What is this then, Ion? Should we say that a person is in their right mind when they are all dressed up in decorated finery and gold crowns at the sacrifices or the banquests and then, even though they haven’t lost anything, they are afraid still even though they stand among twenty thousand friendly people and there is no one attacking him or doing him wrong?

Ion: Well, by Zeus, not at all, Socrates, TBH.

Socrates: So you understand that you rhapsodes produce the same effects on most of your audiences?

Ion: Oh, yes I do! For I look down on them from the stage at each moment to see them crying and making terrible expressions, awestruck by what is said. I need to pay special attention to them since if I make them cry, then I get to laugh when I receive their money. But if I make them laugh, then I’ll cry over the money I’ve lost!”

ΙΩΝ. Ὡς ἐναργές μοι τοῦτο, ὦ Σώκρατες, τὸ τεκμήριον εἶπες· οὐ γάρ σε ἀποκρυψάμενος ἐρῶ. ἐγὼ γὰρ ὅταν ἐλεεινόν τι λέγω, δακρύων ἐμπίπλανταί μου οἱ ὀφθαλμοί· ὅταν τε φοβερὸν ἢ δεινόν, ὀρθαὶ αἱ τρίχες ἵστανται ὑπὸ φόβου καὶ ἡ καρδία πηδᾷ.

ΣΩ. Τί οὖν; φῶμεν, ὦ Ἴων, ἔμφρονα εἶναι τότε τοῦτον τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ὃς ἂν κεκοσμημένος ἐσθῆτι ποικίλῃ καὶ χρυσοῖς στεφάνοις κλαίῃ τ᾿ ἐν θυσίαις καὶ ἑορταῖς, μηδὲν ἀπολωλεκὼς τούτων, ἢ φοβῆται πλέον ἢ ἐν δισμυρίοις ἀνθρώποις ἑστηκὼς φιλίοις, μηδενὸς ἀποδύοντος ἢ ἀδικοῦντος;

ΙΩΝ. Οὐ μὰ τὸν Δία, οὐ πάνυ, ὦ Σώκρατες, ὥς γε τἀληθὲς εἰρῆσθαι.

ΣΩ. Οἶσθα οὖν ὅτι καὶ τῶν θεατῶν τοὺς πολλοὺς ταὐτὰ ταῦτα ὑμεῖς ἐργάζεσθε;

ΙΩΝ. Καὶ μάλα καλῶς οἶδα· καθορῶ γὰρ ἑκάστοτε αὐτοὺς ἄνωθεν ἀπὸ τοῦ βήματος κλαίοντάς τε καὶ δεινὸν ἐμβλέποντας καὶ συνθαμβοῦντας τοῖς λεγομένοις. δεῖ γάρ με καὶ σφόδρ᾿ αὐτοῖς τὸν νοῦν προσέχειν· ὡς ἐὰν μὲν κλαίοντας αὐτοὺς καθίσω, αὐτὸς γελάσομαι ἀργύριον λαμβάνων, ἐὰν δὲ γελῶντας, αὐτὸς κλαύσομαι ἀργύριον ἀπολλύς.

Note in this passage that Plato’s Socrates assumes that Ion is faithfull performing a ‘text’ ascribed to Homer and that they both identify as salient features of the performance the context (“sacrifices” and “festivals”) the emotional affect (crying and carrying on, channeling the emotive content of the scenes) and the impact on the audience (making them cry too) all while emphasizing the material benefit accruing to a rhapsode who pleases his audiences.

When I think about Homeric performance, I think a lot about how little we know about the audiences and their responses and how crucial this was to the shape of the poems we have. I too often forget that the performers were an important part of this process in shaping the reception through their use of intonation, voice, gesture, and tune. So, in our readings from the Iliad today, I will be thinking about the parts, and not the whole, and how performance creates a new text of its own.

We’ve selected some passages today for performance from different parts of the epic to give an idea of the power of the whole and to provide a range of characters for our actors. We will get some of the debate in book 1, some family scenes in Troy, and a whole range of lament and regret. What more could one ask for a Wednesday?

Homer, Iliad 1.158–168 [Achilles addressing Agamemnon]

“But, you great shamepot, we follow you so that you feel joy,
As we collect honor for Menelaos and you, dog-face,
From the Trojans—you don’t shudder at this, you don’t care.”

ἀλλὰ σοὶ ὦ μέγ’ ἀναιδὲς ἅμ’ ἑσπόμεθ’ ὄφρα σὺ χαίρῃς,
τιμὴν ἀρνύμενοι Μενελάῳ σοί τε κυνῶπα
πρὸς Τρώων· τῶν οὔ τι μετατρέπῃ οὐδ’ ἀλεγίζεις·

Selected Passages (Using the Stanley Lombardo translation with permission from Hackett)

Iliad 1 Agamemnon and Achilles’ argument
Iliad 6 Hector and Andromache
Iliad 19 Agamemnon and Achilles reconcile – may be cut for time
Iliad 22 Andromache’s first lament for Hector
Iliad 24 Achilles and Priam
Iliad 24 Priam, Hecuba, Andromache and Helen laments for Hector

Iliad 1.224–228 [Achilles Addressing Agamemnon]

“Wine-sod! Dog-eyes! You have the heart of a deer!
You never suffer to arm yourself to enter battle with the army
Nor to set an ambush with the best of the Achaeans.
That seems like death itself to you!”

οἰνοβαρές, κυνὸς ὄμματ’ ἔχων, κραδίην δ’ ἐλάφοιο,
οὔτέ ποτ’ ἐς πόλεμον ἅμα λαῷ θωρηχθῆναι
οὔτε λόχον δ’ ἰέναι σὺν ἀριστήεσσιν ᾿Αχαιῶν
τέτληκας θυμῷ· τὸ δέ τοι κὴρ εἴδεται εἶναι.

Performers

Tabatha Gayle
Paul O’Mahony
Rhys Rusbatch
Sara Valentine
 
Special Guest, Lynn Kozak

Homer, Iliad 9.32-34

“After a while, Diomedes good-at-the warcry, addressed them:
“I will fight with you first because you are being foolish, son of Atreus,
Which is right, Lord, in the assembly. So don’t get angry at all.”

ὀψὲ δὲ δὴ μετέειπε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης·
᾿Ατρεΐδη σοὶ πρῶτα μαχήσομαι ἀφραδέοντι,
ἣ θέμις ἐστὶν ἄναξ ἀγορῇ· σὺ δὲ μή τι χολωθῇς.

Producers and Crew

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Iliad 21.461-465

“Then lord Apollo the far-shooter answered,
“Earthshaker, you would not think that I would be prudent
If indeed I fought with you over mortals,
Wretched men who are like the leaves now flourish
Until they grow full, eat the fruit of fields,
And then they diminish until they die…”

Τὸν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπεν ἄναξ ἑκάεργος ᾿Απόλλων·
ἐννοσίγαι’ οὐκ ἄν με σαόφρονα μυθήσαιο
ἔμμεναι, εἰ δὴ σοί γε βροτῶν ἕνεκα πτολεμίξω
δειλῶν, οἳ φύλλοισιν ἐοικότες ἄλλοτε μέν τε
ζαφλεγέες τελέθουσιν ἀρούρης καρπὸν ἔδοντες,
ἄλλοτε δὲ φθινύθουσιν ἀκήριοι…

Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)

October 14 Rhesus, Euripides
with Mary Ebbott (College of the Holy Cross)

Saturday, October 17 Assemblywomen, Aristophanes
with Francisco Barrenechea (University of Maryland, College Park)

October 21 Agamemnon, Aeschylus
with Fiona Macintosh (University of Oxford)

Iliad 24.503-6

“Achilles, respect the gods and take pity,
Once you think of your own father. I am even more pitiable,
Since I endure what no other mortal person ever has,
To reach my hands to the lips of the man who slaughtered my child.”

ἀλλ’ αἰδεῖο θεοὺς ᾿Αχιλεῦ, αὐτόν τ’ ἐλέησον
μνησάμενος σοῦ πατρός· ἐγὼ δ’ ἐλεεινότερός περ,
ἔτλην δ’ οἷ’ οὔ πώ τις ἐπιχθόνιος βροτὸς ἄλλος,
ἀνδρὸς παιδοφόνοιο ποτὶ στόμα χεῖρ’ ὀρέγεσθαι.

Iliad 24.732–738

“You, child, will also either follow me
Where you will toil completing the wretched works
Of a cruel master or some Achaean will grab you
And throw you from the wall to your evil destruction
Because he still feels anger at Hektor killing his brother
Or father or son, since many a man of the Achaeans dined
On the endless earth under Hektor’s hands.”

… σὺ δ’ αὖ τέκος ἢ ἐμοὶ αὐτῇ
ἕψεαι, ἔνθά κεν ἔργα ἀεικέα ἐργάζοιο
ἀθλεύων πρὸ ἄνακτος ἀμειλίχου, ἤ τις ᾿Αχαιῶν
ῥίψει χειρὸς ἑλὼν ἀπὸ πύργου λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον
χωόμενος, ᾧ δή που ἀδελφεὸν ἔκτανεν ῞Εκτωρ
ἢ πατέρ’ ἠὲ καὶ υἱόν, ἐπεὶ μάλα πολλοὶ ᾿Αχαιῶν
῞Εκτορος ἐν παλάμῃσιν ὀδὰξ ἕλον ἄσπετον οὖδας.

Iliad 24.801–804

“After heaping up the mound [sêma] they returned. Then
Once they were well gathered they shared a fine feast
In the halls of the god-nourished king, Priam.
Thus they were completing the burial of horse-taming Hektor.”

χεύαντες δὲ τὸ σῆμα πάλιν κίον· αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
εὖ συναγειρόμενοι δαίνυντ’ ἐρικυδέα δαῖτα
δώμασιν ἐν Πριάμοιο διοτρεφέος βασιλῆος.
῝Ως οἵ γ’ ἀμφίεπον τάφον ῞Εκτορος ἱπποδάμοιο.

Media preview

Speaking of Centaurs…Nestor’s Tale in Iliad 1

In the first book of the Iliad, Nestor attempts to intervene in the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon. He eventually tells both men to simmer down—Achilles should act insubordinately and Agamemnon shouldn’t take Briseis. Neither of them listen to him. The reason—beyond the fact that neither of them are in a compromising state of mind—may in part be because of the story Nestor tells.

Il. 1.259–273

“But listen to me: both of you are younger than me; for long before have I accompanied men better than even you and they never disregarded me. For I never have seen those sort of men since, nor do I expect to see them; men like Perithoos and Dryas, the shepherd of the host, and Kaineus and Exadios and godly Polyphemos and Aigeus’ son Theseus, who was equal to the gods; indeed these were the strongest of mortal men who lived—they were the strongest and they fought with the strongest, mountain-inhabiting beasts, and they destroyed them violently. And I accompanied them when I left Pylos far off from a distant land when they summoned me themselves; and I fought on my own. No one could fight with them, none of those mortals who now are on the earth. Even they listened to my counsel and heeded my speech.”

ἀλλὰ πίθεσθ’· ἄμφω δὲ νεωτέρω ἐστὸν ἐμεῖο·
ἤδη γάρ ποτ’ ἐγὼ καὶ ἀρείοσιν ἠέ περ ὑμῖν
ἀνδράσιν ὡμίλησα, καὶ οὔ ποτέ μ’ οἵ γ’ ἀθέριζον.
οὐ γάρ πω τοίους ἴδον ἀνέρας οὐδὲ ἴδωμαι,
οἷον Πειρίθοόν τε Δρύαντά τε ποιμένα λαῶν
Καινέα τ’ ᾿Εξάδιόν τε καὶ ἀντίθεον Πολύφημον
Θησέα τ’ Αἰγεΐδην, ἐπιείκελον ἀθανάτοισιν·
κάρτιστοι δὴ κεῖνοι ἐπιχθονίων τράφεν ἀνδρῶν·
κάρτιστοι μὲν ἔσαν καὶ καρτίστοις ἐμάχοντο
φηρσὶν ὀρεσκῴοισι καὶ ἐκπάγλως ἀπόλεσσαν.
καὶ μὲν τοῖσιν ἐγὼ μεθομίλεον ἐκ Πύλου ἐλθὼν
τηλόθεν ἐξ ἀπίης γαίης· καλέσαντο γὰρ αὐτοί·
καὶ μαχόμην κατ’ ἔμ’ αὐτὸν ἐγώ· κείνοισι δ’ ἂν οὔ τις
τῶν οἳ νῦν βροτοί εἰσιν ἐπιχθόνιοι μαχέοιτο·
καὶ μέν μευ βουλέων ξύνιεν πείθοντό τε μύθῳ·

lapiths-and-centaurs

Ancient commentators praise Nestor elsewhere for his ability to apply appropriate examples in his persuasive speeches:

Schol. Ad Il. 23.630b ex. 1-6: “[Nestor] always uses appropriate examples. For, whenever he wants to encourage someone to enter one-on-one combat, he speaks of the story of Ereuthaliôn (7.136-56); when he wanted to rouse Achilles to battle, he told the story of the Elean war (11.671¬–761). And here in the games for Patroklos, he reminds them of an ancient funeral contest.”

ex. ὡς ὁπότε κρείοντ'<—᾿Επειοί>: ἀεὶ οἰκείοις παραδείγμασι χρῆται· ὅταν μὲν γάρ τινα ἐπὶ μονομάχιον ἐξαναστῆσαι θέλῃ, τὰ περὶ ᾿Ερευθαλίωνα (sc. Η 136—56) λέγει, ὅταν δὲ ᾿Αχιλλέα ἐπὶ τὴν μάχην, τὰ περὶ τὸν ᾿Ηλειακὸν πόλεμον (sc. Λ 671—761)·
καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἐπὶ Πατρόκλῳ ἄθλοις παλαιοῦ ἐπιταφίου μέμνηται ἀγῶνος.
b(BCE3E4)T

The scholia also assert that such use of stories from the past is typical of and appropriate to elders:

Schol. ad Il. 9.447b ex. 1-2 : “The elderly are storytellers and they persuade with examples from the past. In other cases, the tale assuages the anger…”

μυθολόγοι οἱ γέροντες καὶ παραδείγμασι παραμυθούμενοι. ἄλλως τε ψυχαγωγεῖ τὴν ὀργὴν ὁ μῦθος.

Continue reading “Speaking of Centaurs…Nestor’s Tale in Iliad 1”

Who Cares about Bird-Signs?

Homer, Iliad 12.230–257

“Glaring at him, shining-helmed Hektor answered:
Poulydamas, you never announce things dear to me in public.
You know how to make a different, better speech than this one.
If you are really arguing this out loud earnestly,
Well then the gods have ruined your thoughts themselves,
You who order me to forget the counsels of loud-thundering Zeus,
What he himself promised and assented to for me.
Now you ask me to listen to some tender-winged bird?
I don’t notice or care at all about these birds,
Whether they go to the right to dawn and the sun
Or whether they go to the left to the dusky gloom.
We are obeying the plan of great Zeus.
He rules over all the mortals and the immortal too.
One bird omen is best: defend your fatherland.
Why do you fear the war and strife so much?
If all the rest of us are really killed around
The Argive ships, there’s no fear for you in dying.
Your heart is not brave nor battle-worthy.
But if you keep back from the fight, or if you turn
Any other away from the war by plying him with words,
Well you’ll die straight away then, struck down by my spear.”

So he spoke and led on, and they followed him
With a divine echo. Zeus who delights in thunder
Drove a gust of wind down from the Idaian slopes,
Which carried dust straight over the ships. It froze the minds
Of the Achaeans and gave hope to the Trojans and Hektor.
Trusting in these signs and their own strength,
They were trying to break through the great wall of the Achaeans.”

Τὸν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη κορυθαίολος ῞Εκτωρ·
Πουλυδάμα, σὺ μὲν οὐκ ἔτ’ ἐμοὶ φίλα ταῦτ’ ἀγορεύεις·
οἶσθα καὶ ἄλλον μῦθον ἀμείνονα τοῦδε νοῆσαι.
εἰ δ’ ἐτεὸν δὴ τοῦτον ἀπὸ σπουδῆς ἀγορεύεις,
ἐξ ἄρα δή τοι ἔπειτα θεοὶ φρένας ὤλεσαν αὐτοί,
ὃς κέλεαι Ζηνὸς μὲν ἐριγδούποιο λαθέσθαι
βουλέων, ἅς τέ μοι αὐτὸς ὑπέσχετο καὶ κατένευσε·
τύνη δ’ οἰωνοῖσι τανυπτερύγεσσι κελεύεις
πείθεσθαι, τῶν οὔ τι μετατρέπομ’ οὐδ’ ἀλεγίζω
εἴτ’ ἐπὶ δεξί’ ἴωσι πρὸς ἠῶ τ’ ἠέλιόν τε,
εἴτ’ ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ τοί γε ποτὶ ζόφον ἠερόεντα.
ἡμεῖς δὲ μεγάλοιο Διὸς πειθώμεθα βουλῇ,
ὃς πᾶσι θνητοῖσι καὶ ἀθανάτοισιν ἀνάσσει.
εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης.
τίπτε σὺ δείδοικας πόλεμον καὶ δηϊοτῆτα;
εἴ περ γάρ τ’ ἄλλοι γε περὶ κτεινώμεθα πάντες
νηυσὶν ἐπ’ ᾿Αργείων, σοὶ δ’ οὐ δέος ἔστ’ ἀπολέσθαι·
οὐ γάρ τοι κραδίη μενεδήϊος οὐδὲ μαχήμων.
εἰ δὲ σὺ δηϊοτῆτος ἀφέξεαι, ἠέ τιν’ ἄλλον
παρφάμενος ἐπέεσσιν ἀποτρέψεις πολέμοιο,
αὐτίκ’ ἐμῷ ὑπὸ δουρὶ τυπεὶς ἀπὸ θυμὸν ὀλέσσεις.
῝Ως ἄρα φωνήσας ἡγήσατο, τοὶ δ’ ἅμ’ ἕποντο
ἠχῇ θεσπεσίῃ· ἐπὶ δὲ Ζεὺς τερπικέραυνος
ὦρσεν ἀπ’ ᾿Ιδαίων ὀρέων ἀνέμοιο θύελλαν,
ἥ ῥ’ ἰθὺς νηῶν κονίην φέρεν· αὐτὰρ ᾿Αχαιῶν
θέλγε νόον, Τρωσὶν δὲ καὶ ῞Εκτορι κῦδος ὄπαζε.
τοῦ περ δὴ τεράεσσι πεποιθότες ἠδὲ βίηφι
ῥήγνυσθαι μέγα τεῖχος ᾿Αχαιῶν πειρήτιζον.

Schol. T ad Il. 12.238–238

“you order me to obey bird signs: the prudent person will both honor the gods and obey birdsigns, like Odysseus does. This is obeying instead of believing.

τύνη δ’ οἰωνοῖσι<—κελεύεις / πείθεσθαι>: ὁ φρόνιμος καὶ θεοὺς τιμήσει καὶ οἰωνοῖς πείσεται, ὡς ὁ ᾿Οδυσσεύς (cf. Κ 274—82). τὸ δὲ πείθεσθαι (238) ἀντὶ τοῦ πιστεύειν.

Schol b. ad Il. 12.238

“The prudent person both knows to honor god and to obey bird signs, a thing which Hektor does not understand”

ὁ φρόνιμος καὶ θεὸν τιμᾶν οἶδε καὶ οἰωνοῖς πείθεσθαι, ὅπερ ῞Εκτωρ οὐ συνίησιν.

Black Figure Amphora, Walters Art Museum Baltimore

The Omen Before the Wall

Homer, Iliad 12. 195–229

“As long as they were stripping them of their gleaming weapons,
The young men who were the best and the greatest in number were following
Poulydamas and Hektor, they were especially eager to break the wall
And set fire to the ships. They were still struggling standing before the wall
When a bird went over them as they were struggling to cross it,
A high-flying eagle moving its way over the left side of the army
Holding in its talons a huge dark red snake
Still alive, breathing: it had not yet lost its fighting spirit.
For it struck back at the bird who held him in the skin along the chest
As it bent double. And the bird tossed him away to the ground
tortured with pains. It dropped the snake in the middle of the throng
But flew away on the breath of the wind, sounding out in pain.
The Trojans shivered when they saw the winding serpent
Lying there, a sign from Aegis-bearing Zeus.

Then Polydamas stood aside and addressed bold Hektor:
“Hektor, you are always threatening me in the public assemblies for some reason,
Even when I advise well, since it is not ever deemed proper
For some member of the people to advise differently, either in council
Or in war. Instead, we must always increase your strength.
But now I will tell you what seems to me to be best.
Let’s not go to fight the Danaans around their ships.
I think that it will turn out this way, if truly this bird
Came over the Trojans as we struggled to cross the wall,
A high-flying eagle moving its way over the left side of the army
Holding in its talons a huge dark red snake
Still alive. For it dropped it before it could return to its dear home
And did not complete the task of giving it to his children.
In the same way we, if we break through the gates and walls
Of the Achaeans by means of great strength and the Achaeans yield
So too we will not find the same paths in order among the ships.
We will lose many Trojans there as the Achaeans
Strike them down with bronze will defending the ships/
This is how a prophet would interpret, one who clearly understands
In his heart divine signs and one the people obey.”

῎Οφρ’ οἳ τοὺς ἐνάριζον ἀπ’ ἔντεα μαρμαίροντα,
τόφρ’ οἳ Πουλυδάμαντι καὶ ῞Εκτορι κοῦροι ἕποντο,
οἳ πλεῖστοι καὶ ἄριστοι ἔσαν, μέμασαν δὲ μάλιστα
τεῖχός τε ῥήξειν καὶ ἐνιπρήσειν πυρὶ νῆας,
οἵ ῥ’ ἔτι μερμήριζον ἐφεσταότες παρὰ τάφρῳ.
ὄρνις γάρ σφιν ἐπῆλθε περησέμεναι μεμαῶσιν
αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ λαὸν ἐέργων
φοινήεντα δράκοντα φέρων ὀνύχεσσι πέλωρον
ζωὸν ἔτ’ ἀσπαίροντα, καὶ οὔ πω λήθετο χάρμης,
κόψε γὰρ αὐτὸν ἔχοντα κατὰ στῆθος παρὰ δειρὴν
ἰδνωθεὶς ὀπίσω· ὃ δ’ ἀπὸ ἕθεν ἧκε χαμᾶζε
ἀλγήσας ὀδύνῃσι, μέσῳ δ’ ἐνὶ κάββαλ’ ὁμίλῳ,
αὐτὸς δὲ κλάγξας πέτετο πνοιῇς ἀνέμοιο.
Τρῶες δ’ ἐρρίγησαν ὅπως ἴδον αἰόλον ὄφιν
κείμενον ἐν μέσσοισι Διὸς τέρας αἰγιόχοιο.
δὴ τότε Πουλυδάμας θρασὺν ῞Εκτορα εἶπε παραστάς·
῞Εκτορ ἀεὶ μέν πώς μοι ἐπιπλήσσεις ἀγορῇσιν
ἐσθλὰ φραζομένῳ, ἐπεὶ οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδὲ ἔοικε
δῆμον ἐόντα παρὲξ ἀγορευέμεν, οὔτ’ ἐνὶ βουλῇ
οὔτέ ποτ’ ἐν πολέμῳ, σὸν δὲ κράτος αἰὲν ἀέξειν·
νῦν αὖτ’ ἐξερέω ὥς μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι ἄριστα.
μὴ ἴομεν Δαναοῖσι μαχησόμενοι περὶ νηῶν.
ὧδε γὰρ ἐκτελέεσθαι ὀΐομαι, εἰ ἐτεόν γε
Τρωσὶν ὅδ’ ὄρνις ἦλθε περησέμεναι μεμαῶσιν
αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ λαὸν ἐέργων
φοινήεντα δράκοντα φέρων ὀνύχεσσι πέλωρον
ζωόν· ἄφαρ δ’ ἀφέηκε πάρος φίλα οἰκί’ ἱκέσθαι,
οὐδ’ ἐτέλεσσε φέρων δόμεναι τεκέεσσιν ἑοῖσιν.
ὣς ἡμεῖς, εἴ πέρ τε πύλας καὶ τεῖχος ᾿Αχαιῶν
ῥηξόμεθα σθένεϊ μεγάλῳ, εἴξωσι δ’ ᾿Αχαιοί,
οὐ κόσμῳ παρὰ ναῦφιν ἐλευσόμεθ’ αὐτὰ κέλευθα·
πολλοὺς γὰρ Τρώων καταλείψομεν, οὕς κεν ᾿Αχαιοὶ
χαλκῷ δῃώσωσιν ἀμυνόμενοι περὶ νηῶν.
ὧδέ χ’ ὑποκρίναιτο θεοπρόπος, ὃς σάφα θυμῷ
εἰδείη τεράων καί οἱ πειθοίατο λαοί.

Eagle with Snake from Olympia, c. 5th Century BCE

Paris’ Ships and Metapoetics

Homer, Iliad 5.59-68 

“Mêrionês then killed Phereklos, the son of the carpenter,
Son of Joiner, who knew who to fashion all sorts of intricate tings
With his hands. Pallas Athena loved him especially.
He is the one who designed Alexander’s fantastic ships,
Those kindlers of evil which brought evil on all the Trojans
And on him especially, since he understood nothing of the divine prophecies.
Well, Mêrionês, once he overtook him in pursuit,
Struck him through the right buttock. The sharp point
Went straight through his bladder under the bone.
He fell to his knee and groaned. Then death overtook him.

Μηριόνης δὲ Φέρεκλον ἐνήρατο, τέκτονος υἱὸν
῾Αρμονίδεω, ὃς χερσὶν ἐπίστατο δαίδαλα πάντα
τεύχειν· ἔξοχα γάρ μιν ἐφίλατο Παλλὰς ᾿Αθήνη·
ὃς καὶ ᾿Αλεξάνδρῳ τεκτήνατο νῆας ἐΐσας
ἀρχεκάκους, αἳ πᾶσι κακὸν Τρώεσσι γένοντο
οἷ τ’ αὐτῷ, ἐπεὶ οὔ τι θεῶν ἐκ θέσφατα ᾔδη.
τὸν μὲν Μηριόνης ὅτε δὴ κατέμαρπτε διώκων
βεβλήκει γλουτὸν κατὰ δεξιόν· ἣ δὲ διαπρὸ
ἀντικρὺ κατὰ κύστιν ὑπ’ ὀστέον ἤλυθ’ ἀκωκή·
γνὺξ δ’ ἔριπ’ οἰμώξας, θάνατος δέ μιν ἀμφεκάλυψε.

Whole Schol. bT ad Il.5.59 glosses the name Phereklos as “one who brings the turmoil of war through the ships” (Φέρεκλος ὁ φέρων κλόνον διὰ τῶν νέων), I would also like to believe that name Phere-klos, might make someone think of ‘fame-bringer’. And the connection between poetic fame and the activity of the war arises elsewhere in this passage two.

Note that the this Phere-klos is the son of Harmonidês, a man who, according to the passage, is the one who build the ships “the bringers of evil” (ἀρχεκάκους) for Paris (those ships which carried him from Troy to Sparta…). The name Harmonidês is not insignificant: Gregory Nagy has etymologized Homer as “one who fits the song together”. Phereklos’ father is a “craftsman” (“tektôn”) who built the very ships that allowed his son (and Paris) to bring the conflict to Troy and generate the fame of the songs it generated. Here, the ships are positioned as the first steps in evil, but I would suggest, that as the means by which the songs themselves travel across the sea, the ships are, as products of specialized craftsmen, both metonymns for the stories themselves and necessary vehicles for their transmission.

If this is not too blinkered or mad a suggestion, perhaps Phereklos’ death here is a reassertion of the poetic power of song over the pragmatic craft of shipwrights….

Image result for ancient greek shipbuilding

Why Does the Iliad Begin with Rage?

D Schol. ad ll 1.1

“Sing the rage..” [People] ask why the poem begins from rage, so ill-famed a word. It does for two reasons. First, so that it might [grab the attention] of that particular portion of the soul and make audiences more ready for the sublime and position us to handle sufferings nobly, since it is about to narrate wars.

A second reason is to make the praises of the Greeks more credible. Since it was about to reveal the Greeks prevailing, it is not seemly to make it more worthy of credibility by failing to make everything contribute positively to their praise.”

 Μῆνιν ἄειδε: ζητοῦσι, διὰ τί ἀπὸ τῆς μήνιδος ἤρξατο, οὕτω δυσφήμου ὀνόματος. διὰ δύο ταῦτα, πρῶτον μέν, ἵν’ ἐκ τοῦ πάθους †ἀποκαταρρεύσῃ† τὸ τοιοῦτο μόριον τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ προσεκτικωτέρους τοὺς ἀκροατὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ μεγέθους ποιήσῃ καὶ προεθίσῃ φέρειν γενναίως ἡμᾶς τὰ πάθη, μέλλων πολέμους ἀπαγγέλλειν· δεύτερον δέ, ἵνα τὰ ἐγκώμια τῶν ῾Ελλήνων πιθανώτερα ποιήσῃ. ἐπεὶ δὲ ἔμελλε νικῶντας ἀποφαίνειν τοὺς ῞Ελληνας, εἰκότως †οὐ κατατρέχει ἀξιοπιστότερον† ἐκ τοῦ μὴ πάντα χαρίζεσθαι τῷ ἐκείνων ἐπαίνῳ. |

 

“It begins with rage, which itself was a summary for the events. Otherwise, [the poet] would have found a tragic introduction for tragedies. For the narration of misfortunes makes us more attentive, just as the best doctor exposes maladies of the spirit and then later applies treatment. So, the Greek anticipates the pleasures near the end.”

ἤρξατο μὲν ἀπὸ μήνιδος, ἐπείπερ αὕτη τοῖς πρακτικοῖς ὑπόθεσις γέγονεν· ἄλλως τε καὶ τραγῳδίαις τραγικὸν ἐξεῦρε προοίμιον· καὶ γὰρ προσεκτικοὺς ἡμᾶς ἡ τῶν ἀτυχημάτων διήγησις ἐργάζεται, καὶ ὡς ἄριστος ἰατρὸς πρῶτον ἀναστέλλων τὰ νοσήματα τῆς ψυχῆς ὕστερον τὴν ἴασιν ἐπάγει. ῾Ελληνικὸν δὲ τὸ πρὸς τέλει τὰς ἡδονὰς ἐπάγειν. |

Menis, “rage” is a big deal in Greek epic and myth thematically. The ancient scholiasts may not have it all figured out. But my first Greek teacher, Lenny Muellner, has some pretty good ideas on this one.

(c. 300 BC) Achilles killing the Ethiopian king Memnon