- Diomedes' Genealogy and Ancient Criticism
The Homeric poems were cited, quoted, or alluded to by ancient authors probably more than any other works. Indeed, in surviving texts as disparate as Callianax's medical treatises of the third century B.C.E. and the literary efforts of the fifth-century C.E. Neoplatonist Proclus, references to the Iliad and Odyssey occur. In authors as different in perspective and purpose as these, the uses of Homer will, not surprisingly, be just as various. Callianax, for example, seems to have cited Homer to comfort patients frightened of death, explaining that even heroes like Patroclus had to die.1 Such uses of the epics have no more than a superficial purpose-to add a literary flourish or to display literary erudition. But two other kinds of authors use Homer for very different reasons: for some, the text of Homer is the focus and their concern is to establish what the poet really said, while, for others, Homer is the authority cited to strengthen an argument. While the former goal may be regarded by some today as mistaken, it was important in antiquity. What is striking about these two large groups of authors is how seemingly little effect the one, those interested in establishing the text of Homer, had on the other, those using Homer as an authority for other questions. To illustrate this, I've focused on a passage from Homer that was quoted and discussed by more than one author in antiquity. [End Page 173]
In Iliad 14.113-21, in response to Agamemnon's plea for advice from any leader gathered in council, Diomedes stands up to speak. He begins by giving his genealogy, in verses as printed in van Thiel's 1996 edition:2
I declare that I am by birth from a noble father,Tydeus, whom the heaped earth has covered in Thebes.There were three blameless sons born to Portheus,and they lived in Pleuron and steep Calydon,Agrios and Melas, and the third, Oeneus the horseman,the father of my father. In manliness he surpassed them.But while he lived there, my father dwelled in Argos,having wandered, for thus somehow Zeus and the other gods wished it.He married the daughter of Adrastus . . .
Diomedes' purpose in giving his genealogy before he offers any advice is to establish that he is worth listening to, despite his youth. His performance of [End Page 174] his genealogy shows that he knows how to speak, an ability important for an Homeric warrior, and that he is descended from an heroic family.
The surviving scholia preserve the remnants of what must have been a lengthy debate over these lines. If we work through this material, we see that, although some comments concern language, vocabulary does not seem to have been what troubled ancient scholars about these verses. Indeed, much of Diomedes' genealogy uses phrases that are very common in such speeches. Parallels for the opening verse include:
Together with Il. 14.113, these verses illustrate those flexibilities analyzed by Hainsworth 1968: the genitive singular masculine can take the form , depending on whether the poet wishes to end the phrase at the masculine or feminine caesura. There is also the flexibility to use words of a completely different grammatical nature. In Od. 21.335, the noun and adjective are separated by the preposition , while in Il. 21.109, they are separated by the verb . The formula has its own flexibility in verb forms of different shapes.3
These verses, though parallel in construction, are put to different uses. In Il. 21.109, Achilles declares not only that he is the son of a good father, but also that he has a divinity as a mother. Other heroes, unable to trace themselves back to a god, use a verse like Il. 14.113. In Od. 14.204, Odysseus tells one of his lying genealogies and begins the verse with the names of his father and grandfather.
The bT scholiast on 14.113 comments only on the fact that Diomedes chooses to open his genealogy with his father (Erbse 1969-88):