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CHAPTER 7

Epithets and Epic Epiphany

The Mythic Idea … finds expression in the … belief… that the name of a person is an integral part of his being. For this belief rests on the ulterior assumption that personality consists not only in the visible corporeal self but also in some wider preterpunctual essence of which the name is a peculiarly appropriate symbol inasmuch as it indeed represents the individual even when his body is absent or defunct.

—Theodore H. Gaster, “Myth and Story”

The primary units of ordinary speech can be stylized, as we have seen in the previous chapter, into metrical units, in a process that involves selecting the most common and regular rhythmic profiles of the language. This process, however, is not limited to meter and the other physical properties of speech; it also involves, and crucially so, the meaning of speech units. Phrases referring to ideas that are of thematic importance for the special speech act of the performance are more likely than other phrases to contribute to the rhythmical or metrical properties of the discourse that prompts them.

The idea of recurrence of speech units in connection with meter inevitably leads us to the notion of the formula in Homeric and other oral diction. As we saw in the first two chapters, the formula has commonly been seen as the criterial property of oral style, and the singers’ dependence on it as the key to the problem of oral composition. The conception of formulas as stylized intonation units does not dilute Parry’s and Lord’s claims for the formula’s function in the oral tradition. It makes them more specific, in fact, by placing them within the general framework of human cognition, its possibilities and limitations: the primary bits of special speech can have their specific mnemonic function in the recomposition of the epic story because of their cognitive foundation in the primary bits of ordinary speech.

In the present chapter, we will look at the noun-epithet formula, the-matically one of the most important phrase types in Homeric diction. We will not be concerned in the first place with the systematic way in which these expressions interact with each other in that diction (see Chapter 1), nor with the question whether they are meant to be significant at times, in spite of their being formulas. What interests me here is not so much the phrases themselves, with their semantic and metrical characteristics, as the reason why they are used. The principal question will be: Where do noun-epithet formulas occur? Is there a typical context that motivates their occurrence and perhaps even requires their existence? My argument in this and the next chapters will reverse the procedure usually followed: instead of asking when noun-epithet phrases and other formulas become meaningful owing to the originality of the poet who uses them, I will try to determine when they become formulaic owing to the recurrence that results from their importance.

In line with the general method presented in this study, then, I do not begin with a given poetic or stylistic feature like the formula, taken by itself in isolation from speech and language. Instead, I start from ordinary language and see how one of its features is stylized to play a role in the semantics of Homeric special speech. In this chapter speech is considered a behavior that responds to the requirements of a context, as those are acknowledged by speakers and listeners together. In the next chapter I show how this behavior can become routinized to yield formulas within the metrical environment created by Homeric discourse.

Making, Using, and Doing

Formulas are stylized speech units, but speech units in ordinary language may also be formulaic, a connection first made by Paul Kiparsky, who has drawn attention to the similarities between Homeric formulas and the “bound expressions” of ordinary language, the idioms that are characterized, among other things, by their “frozen syntax.”1 The formularity of ordinary language, however, is not limited to a few isolated idioms; it also involves real syntax, the very grammar of a language. Consider what the linguist Dwight Bolinger has to say on this issue: “At present we have no way of telling the extent to which a sentence like I went home is a result of invention, and the extent to which it is a result of repetition, coundess speakers before us having already said it and transmitted to us in toto. Is grammar something where speakers ‘produce’ (i.e., originate) construetions, or where they ‘reach for’ them, from a preestablished inventory?”2 I have suggested already that speech has to be seen as a process, rather than as a product,3 and against the background of Bolinger’s question I now propose that speakers are much less often than is sometimes assumed the authors or makers of the things they say. The idea that language is primarily creation belongs to the literate conception of discourse, and is of relatively limited importance when it comes to the study of the oral conception of language.4 In many frequently recurring speech situations, success depends on not being the originator of one’s words, and on the listener acknowledging this.5 Useful as Bolinger’s formulation is, however, it has the unsatisfactory effect of turning speech from originality into traditionality, its notional opposite and a concept no less literate in its conception.

I believe there is some advantage in realizing that we tend to conceive of linguistic expressions as things; Bolinger, for example, characterizes grammatical constructions as items to be “reached for.” But such a reification rests, whether explicitly or not, on the conception of linguistic expressions (words, phrases, sentences) as textual items. In writing, it is possible to write an expression, any expression, twice, so that the second writing is turned into a quote, and as such a repetition of the first one. Even the very idea of the “use of a linguistic expression” treats the use as somehow external to the expression “itself” and so already in a sense repetitious.6 The idea of linguistic constructions as prefabricated rather than newly made, then, turns speakers from makers into users, who reach for tools to make something out of what others have made before.

Moving away from linguistic expressions as things and seeing them more as events, cognitive as well as acoustic, we may accordingly change our view of speakers and their typical activity. Being neither makers nor users, they are more like actors, doers who engage in recognizable behavior. Saying something that has been said before entails less the repetition of some utterance than a judgment on the part of the speaker that a given context is similar to a previous one, calling for the same behavior. This behavior is neither wholly original nor wholly traditional, and in fact this distinction may well collapse into a concept belonging to a different kind of aesthetic. What the repeated words, by themselves, actually mean (in a traditional or in a novel way) is less important than that the speaker considers them suitable behavior for a given context. The meaning is also less important than that the listener is able to recognize and acknowledge the similarity between the present context and a previous one. Repeated phrases, even whole speech acts or discourses, may become like rituals, enacted by speakers who assume that the actual words spoken will acquire a “plus-value” in the speech context at hand: the listener not only recognizes their actual, literal meaning, but beyond that also the very reason why they are used. This account of the ritual aspects of ordinary speech behavior provides us, I believe, with a basis from which to approach the stylized recurrence of phrases in the context of the epic performance.

The Meaning of Noun-Epithet Formulas

It may not be too misleading to state that the opposition between traditionality and originality has dominated the debate about the meaning and function of noun-epithet formulas in Homeric formulaic diction.7 Parry set the stage for traditionality by arguing that noun-epithet formulas fill a metrically salient part of the line in a systematic, prefabricated way. The meaning of the epithet in this account amounts to an ascription of a property to a god or hero that may or may not fit a given context. The lexical value of the epithet is ultimately irrelevant, since the attribution is subservient to the metrical circumstances.8 Ever since Parry’s startling argument attempts have been made, in various ways and with varying degrees of antagonism with respect to the original insight, to modify his approach to the formula. Noun-epithet formulas, it was held, do not merely serve a metrical function, if their function is metrical at all; they may also be appropriate to their referent, to their context, or to both.9

The discussion has thus been one of metrical form vs. meaning in context. Yet whether one conceives of the Homeric noun-epithet formula as meaningless in spite of its having a given lexical meaning, or as meaningful in spite of its being a formula, the central assumption remains that what is at stake is the literal meaning of a formula, its lexical value, and whether the formula is semantically insensitive or appropriate to a context. In trying to come to terms with the strange and ubiquitous formulaic repetitions, we convert those formulas, and the context in which they occur, into what is the essence of our literary conception of language: words on paper, occurring within the context of other words on paper.

In his recent account of traditional verbal art, trying to bridge the gap between the “mechanism” of oral-formulaic theory in its original form and the “aesthetics” of literary appreciation, John Miles Foley has suggested that the use of an epithet is for epic performers and their audiences a moment at which something is invoked that exceeds the importance of the literal meaning of the epithet in a particular context. Foley calls this semantic phenomenon, which is typical of oral traditions, “traditional referentiality,” and he introduces it as a key concept in a new aesthetics of traditional verbal art:10

Traditional referentiality … entails the invoking of a context that is enormously larger and more echoic than the text or work itself, that brings the lifeblood of generations of poems and performances to the individual performance or text. Each element in the phraseology or narrative thematics stands not simply for that singular instance but for the plurality and multiformity that are beyond the reach of textualization. From the perspective of traditional context, these elements are foci for meaning, still points in the exchange of meaning between an always impinging tradition and the momentary and nominal fossilization of a text or version.

This traditional referentiality, Foley points out, is a matter of metonymic relationships between the epic phrases in their particular contexts and their traditional referents. Epithets can be seen, in Foley’s formulation, as “metonymic pathways to the poetic conjuring of personalities”;11 they stand as individual instances, not in a one-to-one but in a pars pro toto relation to the traditional theme or idea which they represent. The noun-epithet formulas polútlas dîos Odusseús ‘much-suffering godlike Odysseus’ orglauk12

Elaborating slightly on Foley’s formulations, we might say that the epithet is much more than the ascription of a property by an attributive adjective. Rather, the epithet is the quintessential property, a criterial attribute not expressed by, but turned into language. Instead of ascribing a property to an absent referent, noun-epithet formulas make this absent referent present,13 conjuring it, in its most characteristic form, to the here and now of the performance, as an essential part of the universe of discourse shared between the performer and his audience. As recurrent instantiations of the mythical reality of the past, the noun-epithet formulas are not secondary, as repeated phrases, to any original or first use of the expression. Indeed, if there is any first use, it is the god or hero herself or himself, as the normative original of all the recurrences of a noun-epithet phrase. In other words, what comes back again and again is not so much the phrase as the god or hero with whom it is associated.

Foley’s account of traditional referentiality charges noun-epithet formulas with an immanent meaning that transcends the literal meaning of the phrases as textual items and is fully accessible only to those who are within the tradition: the poets and their audiences. But immanent, extratextual meaning may be less a matter of the meaning of the traditional phrases themselves than of certain contexts in which they are used. Nor is the principle of traditional referentiality confined to traditional oral epic. Language in general, in fact, is a matter of inherent meaning. By this I mean simply that words and phrases inevitably come with conventional associations, if only because the speaker is not the first one to use them.14 And insight into these associations is inevitably not just a matter of the expressions themselves, but of the contexts in which they are used.

As anyone who has learned foreign languages—not in the classroom but in the actual arena of linguistic performance—can testify, knowing the literal meaning of a given expression is relatively easy; much more demanding is to know when to utter the expression, or to recognize the specific meaning of the moments at which it is used. The real meaning of any given expression includes the significance of its contexts in a given culture, not as textual junctures, but as recurrent events, whose social or thematic importance is recognized by the speech community in question, be it a private and idiosyncratic community of two, a subculture, or the entire language community. Immanent meaning, in short, is a matter of language as behavior, of the rituals belonging to a speech culture. Among the most characteristic rituals of the speech community of the Homeric tradition is the noun-epithet formula, and in light of what precedes we can now define the study of these elements as follows: the question we have to ask is not whether the noun-epithet formula, or rather, its literal meaning, is appropriate when it occurs in a given context; the important question, rather, is what motivates the ritual of which they are the prime articulation when they occur.

Epiphanies and Their Stagings

I suggest, then, that we view noun-epithet formulas as minirituals, performed in the context of the Homeric performance. Insofar as the naming of, say, Odysseus as polútlas dîos Odusseús ‘much-suffering godlike Odysseus’ is not so much the use of a given formulaic expression as an action performed, I will speak of an epiphany of the hero in question. Usually the term “epiphany” is used for the appearance of a divinity in a human context, a moment that may be represented as such in the performance.15 In the use to be made here of the term, on the other hand, the appearance is not represented in but effected by the performance; the epic figure, god or hero, makes his or her appearance out of the timeless world of the myth into the time frame of the performance, a moment that is closer to ritual and cult than to our sense of poetry.16 When do these epiphanies occur? In the most Homeric of the Homeric speech rituals, noun-epithet formulas are very often preceded by phrases of the following type:

τòν δ’ άπαμειβόμενος προσέφη

and him in answer he addressed

τοῖσι δ’ ἀνιστάμενος μετέφη

and rising he spoke among them

τòν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα

and him s/he answered then

τòν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε

and him in his turn s/he addressed

τòν δ’ ὡς οὖν ἐνόησε

and him when s/he saw

τòν δὲ ἰδὼν ἐνόησε/ἐλέησε

and seeing him he thought/pitied

τὼ δὲ πεσόντ’ ἐλέησε

and them as they fell he pitied

Of a different structure, but comparable in function, is:

εἰ μὴ ἄρ’ ὀξὺ νoήσε   if he had not seen sharply,

In terms of the discussion of Homeric syntax offered in Chapters 4 and 5, these phrases, except for the last one, are moments of continuation with respect to the preceding discourse (notice the particle ); with respect to the subsequent discourse they have a framing function, and the unit added, the noun-epithet formula, is the first unit uttered within the frame.17 Continuation and framing together yield the relational function of these units: they serve as link between a character named by the noun-epithet phrase that follows and a character who is already on the scene. The pronoun in an oblique case (tòn ‘him’, toîsi ‘to them’, etc.), with which all the units begin, designates the character(s) already on the scene (and active in the mind of the performer and his audience), setting up the antagonist for the protagonist of the discourse to come, the character who makes his epiphany with the noun-epithet formula.

The pronoun is in syntactic terms the object of the verb, but its primary function is not limited to its specific clause. In having a relational function, the pronoun integrates the unit into the ongoing flow of discourse, relating the new character to one(s) already on the scene.18 Similarly, over and above its being the predicate of its clause, the verb serves a relational function in specifying how the new character is linked to the character already on the scene. That relation is typically one of speaking or of perception. In the case of speaking, the formula along with the noun-epithet formula that follows is an introduction to direct speech; the character named by the noun-epithet formula is usually already on the scene. In the case of perception, on the other hand, the epiphany takes place in ongoing narrative, and the hero or god named by the noun-epithet formula tends to make an entirely new appearance.

Phrases of the type just described are almost always followed by a noun-epithet formula, as we shall see in more detail in Chapter 8. Now if the noun-epithet phrase is not just a unit added to the preceding one or uttered within a frame, but an epiphany of the god or hero, we may want to assign a special value to the preceding phrase as well. In what follows I will speak of staging formulas.19 A staging formula is the phrase that sets the scene for the heroic or divine epiphany, staging the hero or god in the proper way. If the noun-epithet formula is a small and recurrent speech ritual, then the staging formula provides the appropriate setting for that event. Phrases functioning as staging formula thus transcend the act of perception or the answer that they report.

In terms of the preceding chapter, an epiphany and its staging together form one complete metrical period: the staging formula starts at the begining of the metrical period and runs to one of the metrical resting-points, either the trochaic caesura or the hephthemimeres.20 The staging is then complemented by a noun-epithet formula of the appropriate length. The noun-epithet formula almost always follows when a staging formula is uttered. Metrical completion, then, goes hand in hand with a strong semantic bond between staging and epiphany, to the point that the epiphany and its staging glue together the two cola of which the metrical period consists. We may say, then, that a staging formula creates a standard environment for the noun-epithet formula: once a stage has been set up, it will be occupied by a god or hero. Notice, however, that the converse is not true: a noun-epithet formula may be uttered when something other than a staging unit precedes, an observation that will be further explored in the next chapter. Yet to say that there exists a strong, grammatical bond between staging formulas and noun-epithet phrases does not in itself do more than take the occurrence of the staging formula for granted; it does not explain when and where it is used. In other words, we have to be concerned with what motivates the creation of the proper environment for a noun-epithet formula. What the formulas literally mean is clear enough and trivial; what interests us is the significance of the speech event which they constitute.

Epic Discourse As Secondary Action

Usually the relation between the epic song and the heroic past is seen in terms of glorification and commemoration. But from the point of view of heroes as depicted in Homer the epic song is no less a matter of justification of heroic deeds. Homeric heroes are frequently presented as being aware of songs that will be sung about them in the future, and this is an end to which they direct their behavior. Consider for example what Hektor says at the moment at which he is about to be killed by Achilles:21

      νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει.

μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,

ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.

(Il. 22.303–5)

           But now my fate is upon me.

Let me at least not perish ingloriously without a struggle,

but do some big thing first, that men to come shall know of it.

Hektor does what he does with an eye on the future. He knows that he is in the middle of epic action, and so he is conscious of the medium that carries him. He is determined to show courage in order to make possible a song in the future. One could almost reverse the relation of causality that is normal and uncontroversial to us when we talk about historical discourse, in which the event in the past is what prompts the historian’s discourse of the present. In the historical conception of Homeric epic, the discourse of the present, conversely, is what may be said to prompt the heroic deed of the past. Heroic deeds like Hektor s valiant resistance, in fact, belong to the present no less than they do to the past, insofar as they are reexperienced in each new performance. Nothing in the epic is independent of the medium in which it is reenacted, and the idea of the past as something “before” song seems alien to the implicit poetics of the Homeric tradition.22

I would suggest, then, that for the Homeric poet and his audience the past is not simply a historical reality that is the subject of a song. There is an interdependence between the deed of the past and the song of the present. Each exists because of the other. If we call the epic events, as they transpire on the battlefields of Troy and as they are seen by the Muses, the primary action, then the performance in the future would be the secondary action. The secondary action of song completes the primary action of epic, and neither one is meaningful without the other. To describe the epic action as primary action in its relation to the secondary speech action of the future, the performance of the Iliad, brings out a distinction between two kinds of event occurring in epic narrative. Some things that happen in the epic tale may be moving or frightening to the audience, but they are not essential for the story. Had they not happened, the Iliad would still be the Iliad. One might even consider the possibility that they sprang from the minds of poets, in their desire to depict the epic world in as vivid a manner as possible, and that the audience acknowledged this.23

Some other events occurring in the epic, however, are truly primary action. Frequently, heroes or gods decisively contribute to the epic action, in such a way as to cause the action of the performance. At such moments the character is the author of the epic tale: the story as the performer and his audience know it would have been different, or would not have existed at all, if the god or hero had not performed the act in question. These junctures are shifts at which the very fate of epic characters, or the right course of the epic action, is at stake.24 Those moments may or may not be moving or frightening, but their thematic importance for the epic tradition is beyond doubt. It is at these moments, I propose, that epic characters get staged, and ritually named by the epithet that is the principal bearer of their kleos. The noun-epithet formula is not used here solely because it is metrically useful; nor is the epithet as such meant to be appropriate in its context. What is appropriate is the appearance of the epic figure himself, who as an agent then is directly responsible for the experience of the performance now, in performing a deed that bridges the gulf between the past and the present.

The most obvious type of action that significantly contributes to the course of events as rebehaved and reexperienced in the performance is the very action of which the performance consists: speech. The epiphany of a hero or god in the epic performance is most direct and forceful when the hero is represented as doing what the performer does himself, when indeed the performer becomes the epic character, in uttering the authoritative speech of the latter. The typical speech act of heroes, in fact, as has been recently suggested, is itself a performance, designated by the term mûthos.25 It is when they speak that epic characters are most present, by way of strategies of mimetic impersonation that also occur freely in conversational narrative.26

Mimetic impersonation takes up about forty-five percent of the text of the Iliad as we have it. Various strategies to introduce the mimesis of an epic character’s speech are deployed in Homer,27 but the most conspicuous way to realize this shift is the naming of the speaker with a full noun-epithet formula preceded by a staging. This combination transcends the lexical meaning of its words and marks the speech introduced as primary action that carries the story line at the moment of its production. Speech introduced in this way is always formal, often competitive, and uttered in response (friendly or unfriendly) to a peer. Such speech, I contend, should be distinguished from speech that does not create the action of the performance but is created by it, speech that is part of epic action, as a hero’s comment in a less formal situation. In the first book of the Iliad, for example, the speeches representing the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon are consistently introduced by staged epiphanies, whereas the verbal action of the two protagonists in the wake of the quarrel is introduced differently.

The quarrel itself, with its antiphonal speeches, is quintessential Iliadic action, of the same importance as the speech act of poetry itself, to be carried out by the two heroes in their full epic identity: swift-footed god-like Achilles and Agamemnon lord of men. Without the quarrel the wrath of Achilles would not have occurred, and without the wrath of Achilles the Iliad loses its reason for being. The immediate practical consequence of the quarrel in the story, on the other hand, the transferral of Briseïs that Agamemnon had announced, is merely the consequence of the pivotal speech events reenacted earlier. Accordingly, the direct speech accompanying the transferral is of a different order, more informal, and therefore not coded as epic. Thus it is an unstaged and epithetless Agamemnon who sends his heralds out to take Briseïs away from Achilles, and it is an equally epithetless Achilles who addresses the heralds, saying that what is happening is not their fault.28 But it is a fully staged Achilles marked with all his epic trappings who afterwards addresses his mother to give her, as a real performer, his version of the quarrel:

τὴν δὲ βαρὺ στενάχων προσέφη

and her he addressed sighing deeply,

πόδας ὠκὺς Άχιλλεύς.

swift-footed Achilles

(II. 1.364)

The speech following this staging is of course just as fundamental as the discourse of the earlier quarrel, since Achilles’ words send Thetis to Zeus to ask him to give the victory to the Trojans and to punish Agamemnon and the Greeks, thus setting the action of Achilles’ wrath in motion.

Typical examples of staged founding speech include conversations between gods in which the course of events is decided on, such as the meeting of Athene and Apollo in Il. 7.23–42, the foundation for the action around the duel between Hektor and Aias that is to follow.29 Unstaged speech, by contrast, is not only speech that results from or is part of founding action. It may also be speech that, if implemented, would result in action that deflects or even obviates the events of which the epics as we have them are the reenactment. Such speech is antiaction and tends for that reason not to be staged and heroically marked. Thus during Hektor’s visit to the city in the sixth book of the Iliad,30 all proposals made to him that, if followed, would keep him from his heroic fated course are unstaged.31 But all the answers are made by huge Hektor of the flickering helmet,32 in speech that is formally staged for representing Hektor in his quintessential identity as the hero who cannot escape his epic fate and death. His performances within the walls of Troy effectively counteract the proposals that might deflect him from this track. Similar is the case of Odysseus’s great speech to Achilles as a member of the embassy. The speech is unstaged, not marked as the stuff that epic is made of. Indeed, if Achilles had accepted Agamemnon’s proposals as voiced by Odysseus, the Iliad would not exist.33 By his very rejection Achilles produces founding action, and his performance is preceded, accordingly, by a staging and a noun-epithet formula (Il. 9.307).34

Staging and Heroic Names

Direct speech in epic, then, may be marked as the primordial action of which epic narrative is the reenactment.35 In such cases the staging of the speaking god or hero and his or her subsequent epiphany by a noun-epithet formula is the appropriate grammatical encoding. The peculiar relation between the original speech act and its representation in the performance may be further specified: what is staged is not only the god or hero but also the name. The quintessential identity of the epic figure is matched by the appearance of a quintessential name, a significant moment in the rhythmical flow of speech, to which the previous discourse leads up. We may assume that the thematic importance of these epiphanic noun-epithet phrases has reinforced the impact of their rhythmical profile on the process by which regular metrical sequences emerge from discourse.36 In light of the discussion of the previous chapter, this pattern of reasoning might imply that the very origin of the Homeric hexameter lies in the importance, and hence the recurrence, of the thematic bond between a noun-epithet formula and the preceding staging formula.37 This would give the unusual existence of a verse spanning the time needed for two or more speech units a poetic or semantic motivation, and the epic heroes, especially Achilles and Odysseus, would become the creators of the hexametric discourse which enacts their kleos.38

By contrast, there are heroes for whom no noun-epithet formulas at the end of the verse exist, or no clearly established set of such formulas. In the perspective presented here this observation has more than a merely metrical importance. These heroes cannot be staged in the heroic way, nor do they have epiphanies or contribute to hexameter metrics in the way Achilles, Odysseus, Hektor, Athene, and other central characters do.39 The Trojan speakers Antenor and Poludamas, for example, who at different occasions try to dissuade Hektor and Paris from taking the course of action that has produced the Iliad,40 have names that cannot be accommodated in noun-epithet formulas at the end of the verse and thus lack heroic staging possibilities. We may add that the negative and indignant answers of Paris and Hektor, being fatal for the Trojans but essential for the epic, are fully staged.41

Other, more prominent warriors have less than fully epic names as well. Aineias has an ambiguous status in Trojan society, as emphasized by the Iliad itself.42 There is much to lose and nothing to win for him in the world of the Iliad, and his general role is apparently to share, rather than create, the action that gives him less kleos than he deserves. The case of Sarpedon, furthermore, whose name does not yield noun-epithet formulas, is remarkable for the insistence on godlike honor among his people, that is, epichoric hero cult after his death:43 something desirable but less so than the kleos conferred by poetry in which he cannot make a staged epiphany. Neither Aineias nor Sarpedon are quite at home in the epic world of the Iliad, and neither of them really fits in the metrical world that constitutes its secondary action.

One might object that the different metrical behavior of Sarpedon and others is merely the consequence of the form of their names as handed down by tradition (three long syllables), and that epic discourse has to adapt itself to these intractable, atomic bits of naming. Yet it is unlikely that epic names are raw material, distinct from epic discourse; rather, the name of a hero is indissolubly connected with the discourse that enacts his kleos. This means that less than full heroic status on the level of meter cannot but be related to less than heroic stature in the epic events themselves: whoever proposes what is from the point of view of the Iliad non-action cannot be expected to be the bearer of a stageable noun-epithet formula. And who-ever has no such epic status cannot be expected to determine the epic course of events.

There is one exception that proves the rule: Patroklos. This character behaves very flexibly in Homeric hexametric discourse (partly due to the heteroclitic nature of his name), but his name is never staged, even though a verse-final noun-epithet formula would not have been impossible.44 The less than epic stature of Patroklos seems to account for this: Patroklos is the character whose actions are preordained and determined by forces stronger than himself.45 Yet at various points Patroklos cannot help doing what constitutes the Iliad, in the most direct way. In spite of himself, Patroklos makes some crucial founding speeches whose ambiguous status is reflected in the unusual way in which they are staged. Once trapped in the chain of events of which our Iliad is the poetic representation, Patroklos makes what is one of the most crucial speeches of the Iliad from the point of view of epic action: his plea to Achilles to send him instead into the battle, wearing Achilles’s armor. The speech is staged in an unusual way. Instead of the normal epiphany of the character, Patroklos is directly addressed by the performer:46

τὸν δὲ βαρὺ στενάχων προσέφης,

and him deeply sighing you addressed

Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ ·

Patroklos horseman

(II 16.20)

The metrical explanation that is usually adduced for the apostrophe is correct in spite of itself:47 there is no alternative for the vocative expression. But rather than an incidental gap in the formulaic system leading to a suppletive paradigm, this absence seems poetically motivated. Patroklos is not a normal hero, and the direct address does not effect an epiphany, it presupposes one: Patroklos is already present in the performance for the performer to address him. Patroklos, the Iliadic character who is most out of touch with the first action of the Iliad, enjoys a special status in its secondary action: he is a listener in the performance like ourselves.48

Plotting the Iliad

Fundamental protoaction that consists in speech may be staged, as I argued, but the god or hero in question need not be new to the stage. In fact, the very nature of the context in which the speech is presented (formal, competitive, with antagonistic peers as audience and interlocutors) often requires that the epic speaker be already on the scene.49 This is different in the case of staged action other than speech. Here the epiphany tends to be a sudden first appearance, the creation of presence out of absence, of activity out of inactivity.

As we have seen, many staging formulas in ongoing narrative display the same internal structure as speech introductions: they consist of a pronoun in an oblique case (e.g., tὸn dè ‘and him’, toùs dè ‘and them’) followed by a verb which denotes perception as well as the mental activity resulting from it, most often the verb enóēse:

τώ δέ πεσόντ’ ἐλέησε

and them as they fell he pitied

τὸν δ’ ὡς οὖν ἐνόησε

and him when s/he saw

τὸν δέ ἰδὼν ἐνόησε/ἐλέησε

and seeing him he thought/pitied

These stagings are clauses that, surely enough, report an act of perception or commiseration, but it is important to repeat that literal meaning is less important than function in context, which is the staging of an epiphany. Staging is the function to which the relational function of the pronoun and the verb is subservient:50 these elements provide a link between the epiphany of the new character and the previous action, or better, the protagonist(s) of that previous action. With the pronoun as starting point,51 the staging moves via the verb to the epiphany proper, the noun-epithet formula.

Perhaps the most significant occurrence of a staging that features the verb enóēse is Achilles’ sudden appearance in Book 11, at the moment when he, being absent from the fighting, takes an interest in the wounded Makhaon, who is transported by Nestor from the battle:

||Νέστορα δ’ ἐκ πολέμοιο φέρον

and Nestor they bore away from the battle,

| Νηλήϊαι ἵπποι

the horses of Neleus,

|| ἱδρῶσαι,

sweating,

ἦγον δὲ Μαχάονα,

and they carried Makhaon,

ποιμένα λαῶν.

shepherd of the people,

|| τὸν δὲ ἰδὼν ἐνόησε

and seeing him he took notice,

| ποδάρκης δῖος Άχιλλεύς·

swift-footed godlike Achilles.

(II. 11.597–99)

Achilles’ sudden and unexpected appearance has momentous consequences: the Iliad would not exist if Achilles had not taken notice. The immediate consequence of Achilles’ act of perception is a second epiphany, this time of Patroklos, who is summoned out of his tent by Achilles:52

| ὁ δὲ κλισίηθεν ἀκούσας

and he hearing from his tent,

|| ἔκμολεν ἶσος ’Άρηϊ,

he came out, similar to Ares,

|κακοῦ δ’ ἄρα οἱ πέλεν ἀρχή.

and it was the beginning of evil for him.

|| τὸν πρότερος προσέειπε

him (=Achilles) he first addressed,

| Μενοιτίου ἄλκιμος υἱός ·

the valiant son of Menoitios:

|| τίπτέ με κικλήσκεις, ’Aχιλεῦ;

why do you call me, Achilles?

τί δέ σε χρεώ έμεῖο;

what need of me [comes to] you?

(II 11.603–6)

Patroklos cannot make a normal heroic appearance with his own name, and so an ersatz noun-epithet phrase has to be used, presenting him as “the valiant son of Menoitios.” His staging is unusual in that it is not so much the poet who stages him as Achilles himself: in listening to Achilles Patroklos creates the Iliad, because Achilles sends him to identify the person in Nestors chariot, and as a result, Patroklos heeds the advice of Nestor and eventually enters the battle as a substitute for Achilles.

In this connection we note that the verb used to stage Achilles, enóēse ‘took notice’, may have an epic meaning that goes beyond mere seeing.53 Or more precisely, this meaning derives from the contexts in which it is used, and crucially, from the audience’s familiarity with those contexts. Within the context of a staging formula, the cognitive act no55

The course of events leading up to this important double epiphany has been carefully charted and grammatically encoded in a network of epiphanies that helps the audience find a way through these crucial moments, which serve as the groundwork for much of the action of the Iliad.56 It is staged action in which Paris, appearing in full epic form (Aléksandros, Helénēs pósis éükómoio ‘ Alexandras, husband of Helen with the fair hair’) wounds Makhaon; and it is Nestor with all his epic trappings (Gerḗnios hippóta Néstōr ‘Gerenian horseman Nestor’) who takes up the task of transporting the wounded Makhaon out of the battle, in order to be noticed by Achilles.57

There is a second significant wounding in this part of the narrative, equally connected with the consequences of Achilles’ epiphany. When Patroklos encounters the wounded Eurupulos, he is detained and kept from making his fatal appearance in the battle until Book 16. This wounding thus has considerable importance for the narrative structure of the repeated action that is our Iliad, and it comes as no surprise that the appearance of Eurupulos is staged; equally staged is the act of wounding him, performed again by Paris. The staging formula used in both cases is tòn d’ hōs oûn enóēse ‘and him when he saw’, a regularly occurring phrase with the verb enóēse(n) in the same metrical position. The first time, this phrase links Eurupulos to the beleaguered Aias:

|| τὸν δ’ ὡς οὖν ἐνόησ

and him when he saw,

| Εὐαίμονος ἀγλαὸς υἱὸς

radiant son of Euaimon

|| Εὐρύπυλος

Eurupulos

πυκινοῖσι βιαζόμενον βελέεσσι,

overwhelmed by the density of the spears

(Il. 11.575–76)

Like Patroklos, Eurupulos is not a stageable hero, but the tradition has provided him too with a periphrastic phrase of the same rhythmical structure as a noun-epithet formula, to be used whenever staging is motivated. The second time (11.581) the enóēsein) formula stages Paris as “godlike Alexandras” (Aléksandros theoeidḕs). His wounding of Eurupulos is an act with farreaching consequences for the action of the Iliad. The appearance of Patroklos, then, and the path to be taken by him in the course of the narrative, leading him from Achilles via Nestor and Eurupulos back to Achilles and to his death, appears to be carefully plotted by a series of stagings and epiphanies.

Nor is Paris’s wounding of Eurupulos an isolated phenomenon; it is part of a series of woundings by the Trojan archer,58 each of which is staged.59 And this series in its turn is part of the wounding and retreat of the major Greek heroes, which itself sets the scene for Patroklos’s fated heroic appearance.60 Agamemnon’s wounding somewhat earlier, for example, is performed by Koön, an otherwise insignificant figure who contributes in his own small way to the action of the Iliad, paying for it with his life. He is staged for his one-time heroic performance by the tòn d’ hōs οûn enóēse formula, which sets him up vis-a-vis his opponent:

||τὸν δ’ ὡς οὖν ἐνόησε

and him when he saw

| Κόων, ἀριδείκετος ἀνδρῶν,

Koön (nom.), glorious among men

|| πρεσβυγενὴς Άντηνορίδης,

the firstborn son of Antenor

(Il. 11.248–49)

Typologically, this staging is the moment at which the hero whose aristeia or finest hour is underway meets the warrior who wounds him and puts him temporarily out of action.61 The structural importance of this formulaic event is sufficient motivation for the staging of Koön, who by seeing Agamemnon is marked as one of the authors (albeit a very minor one) of the Iliadic story.62 Other instances of the tòn d’ hōs οûn enóēse formula consist of cognitive activity on the part of the gods, in moments that lift the narrative from the human to the divine plane, where founding speech action is to take place.63

By contrast, acts of perception that do not involve a staging and an epiphany do not so much involve a new appearance of a hero as a switch to a hero that was mentioned earlier in the narrative, an operation discussed in Chapter 5. The character most often involved in this kind of moment is Hektor, who is almost continuously on stage and hence is a participant to whom the narrator must often return:

|| Ἕκτωρ δ’ ὡς ἐνόησ ’

and Hektor when he saw

| Ἀγαμέμνονα νόσφι κιόντα,

Agamemnon as he was withdrawing,

|| Tρωσί τε καὶ Λυκίοισιν

to the Trojans and the Lukians

| ἐκέκλετο μακρὸν άΰσας ·

he shouted with a great voice

(Il. 11.284–85)

This is a topic switch, not an epiphany, and Hektor’s subsequent speech (“the best man of the Greeks withdraws; now Zeus is going to grant me the victory”) is not so much epic protoaction as the consequence of Zeus’s message to Hektor.64 In some other cases there is a new appearance, but the character has a name that makes him unstageable.65

Reversal Passages

Finally, we discuss a category of epiphanies that make explicit what has so far remained implicit: the story of the Iliad would not be the same, or would not exist at all, if a character had not in some cases done what he or she did. I am referring to what has been called the “if not situation” or “reversal passage.”66 The reversal passage is the articulation of a moment at which a hero or god crucially intervenes at the very last moment when an important epic figure is in mortal danger, or when the course of events threatens to stray off course. The intervening hero is thus not merely the savior of a life, but more importantly, the agent who is responsible for the epic tradition at this point. Such a crucial appearance on the epic stage cannot be better reenacted than with a staged epiphany. One of the more typical examples is the end of the encounter between Achilles and Aineias:67

a. ἔνθα κεν Αἰνείας μὲν

and then, Aineias,

b. ἐπεσσύμενον βάλεπέτρῳ

he would have hit him in his onrush with a stone,

c. ἢ κόρυθ’ ἠὲ σάκος,

on his helmet or on his shield,

d. τό οἱ ἤρκεσε λυγρὸν ὄλεθρον,

which would have kept bitter death from him,

e. τὸν δέ κε Πηλεΐδης

and him Peleus’s son,

f. σχεδὸν ἄορι θυμὸν ἀπηύρα,

he would have taken his life from nearby with the sword,

g. εἰ μὴ ἄρ’ ὀξὺ νόησε

if he had not seen sharply,

h. Ποσειδάων ἐνοσίχθων ·

Poseidon earth-shaker.

(Il. 20.288–91)

In linguistic terms, this passage reverses the familiar order of the counterfactual condition. The protasis, reshaped here to function as a staging formula (unit g), does not precede but follows its apodosis (units a-f), and it is not affirmative but negative. The construction, with its vivid verbal component oksù nóēse ‘he saw sharply’, thus produces what might be called a hyperfactual statement:68 Poseidon intervenes to prevent the course of events from becoming what can from the point of view of the epic tradition only be antiaction, the black hole of what could have happened but did not. The death of Aineias at the hands of Achilles would have been in conflict with known and accepted poetic traditions; in Homeric parlance, it would have been “beyond fate” (hupér moîran).69 It is at the moments when this nonpast, the reversal and denial of epic kleos, is most visible that epic tradition can most clearly reassert its own reality and celebrate the kleos of the figure to whom this is due. The presence of this figure, coded by a noun-epithet formula, gains extra relief in contrast with the action that he or she has just prevented.70

Poseidon’s epiphany is staged by the most characteristic staging formula ei mḕ àr’ oksù nóēse ‘if s/he had not seen sharply’, which features the same important verb (e) nóēse that we saw earlier; the formula is followed by a noun-epithet formula in all of its occurrences.71 The noun-epithet formula thus occurs in a grammatical context which in its turn is motivated by the preceding counterfactual apodosis. That discourse segment, marked by the Aeolic irrealis particle ke(n), is no less a staging device for the epiphany of the savior than the if not staging formula proper. Noun-epithet formulas, accordingly, tend to be used even when the more explicit staging formula ei mḕ àr, oksù nóēse is absent.72

The epithet tends not to occur, on the other hand, in those cases where the occurrence of the event prevented in the nick of time would not have significantly or unacceptably changed the course of events. In the battle over Patroklos s body, for example, Hektor and Automedon would have attacked each other with swords, if the two Aiantes had not intervened:73 the event prevented is not a non-event, and its prevention not an act that is essential for the course of events of the Iliad to take place.74 The action of the Aiantes, therefore, is not a staged epiphany.

Plotting in the Odyssey

The reader may have noticed that thus far examples from the Odyssey have been conspicuously absent. There is a good reason: staged epiphany occurs much less often here than in the Iliad, except for the introduction to speech.75 This is not the appropriate moment to go into the issue in great detail, but we may briefly try out some reasons. The narrative of the Odyssey is much less suited to the kinds of staging I have discussed: their relational nature makes them more at home in Iliadic battle description, where progress on the path of speech is a matter of the appearance and reappearance of warriors. A natural method of continuation is to take off from one character as a means to activate another, and so to effect the juxtaposition of heroic opponents that is the proper function of the staging formula. The Odyssey, by contrast, is not so much description as narrative in the modern sense of the term, involving a more limited number of epic agents, and it accordingly has less need for staged interaction between agents.76

But the reason might also be a deeper one. In the poetics of the Iliad, as I have argued, the epic tale is secondary action, rebehaved behavior, the re-creation of the key events in the mythical past. And from the standpoint of the Iliadic heroes, as they engage in their protoaction, the poetic representation of what they do (and so the continuation of their kleos) is the work of future generations: it is the songs of the future that make their present action meaningful. The Odyssey, by contrast, presents its very action as already in the future: only Odysseus can listen to poetry that celebrates his own kleos. The Odyssey does not report action that will result in kleos; its very action is kleos, the working and power of words. And those words are not necessarily conceived of as unfailing signs pointing to the mythical past, but as behavior that is fascinating or treacherous in its own way.77 The Odyssey, then, seems too conscious of its own medium to be interested in seeing itself as the reenactment of mythical protoaction, and in ritually staging the prime agents of that action.

The difference between the poetics of the two traditions seems to be reflected in one staging formula that, even though it does occur in the Iliad,78 seems primarily an Odyssean ploy. Again the verb enóēse is the prime feature:

ἔνθ ’ αὖτ ’ ἄλλ ’ ἐνόησε

and then she saw / planned something else

This staging is transitional rather than relational: it effects an episode boundary in the tale, rather than an interaction between two protagonists. The character staged in this way, who in the Odyssey is always female and usually Athene,79 does not, as a participant in the epic protoaction, engage in interaction with some other participant. Rather, she manipulates the action as an external agent, playing a divine trick in order to steer the course of events in a desired direction. For instance, Athene drugs characters into sleep and appears before a character in the shape of someone else, thus making an epiphany represented within the epic tale, rather than one that is effected by the performance.

Only once does her action seem to come close to an intervention such as we saw in the reversal passages discussed above:80 when Nausikaa and her maids are at the point of leaving the beach, Athene intervenes:

ἔνθ ’ αὖτ ’ ἄλλ ’ ένόησε

then she thought of something different

θεά γλαυκῶπις Άθήνη,

goddess owl-eyed Athene

(Od. 6.112)

Athene wakes up Odysseus in order for him to meet the girl and thus contributes further to his return (nóstos). The important difference from the reversal passages discussed above, however, is that Athene’s intervention takes place in a situation that she has created herself, having put the idea of going to the beach in Nausikaa s mind.81 She does not react to circum-stances as Iliadic gods in reversal passages, she creates them. Athene, in short, is a manipulator, not a participant. She appears in the course of events, not in the context of the performance. And so her epiphany is a narrative device rather than a celebratory moment.

The occurrence of noun-epithet formulas and staging formulas that are not epiphanic in the sense used in this chapter, however, is not always a matter of the differences between the poetics of the Iliad and the Odyssey: In either poem, noun-epithet formulas frequently occur outside the contexts reenacting the moments at which the survival of the epic tradition is at stake. This does not invalidate the interpretations offered in the preceding pages; rather, it says something about the grammaticality of thematically important phrases. To appreciate fully the mechanism involved here, we consider in the next chapter a similar phenomenon in the use of ordinary language. After this discussion we will be better equipped to deal with the use of epithets in the Homeric grammar of poetry.


1 Kiparsky 1976: 73–83.

2 Bolinger 1961: 381, cited by Tannen 1989: 37. Tannen’s entire discussion of “repetition in conversation” (1989: 36–97) is very instructive.

3 See Chapter 3.

4 On the notion of conception in orality and literacy, see Chapter 1.

5 Bakker 1993a: 6–10.

6 See Derrida 1978: 247–48, on a similar notion of writing as repetition.

7 For a recent reevaluation of traditionality and originality, see Peradotto 1990: 100 n. 2.

8 To be sure, Parry made the important distinction (e.g., 1971: 145) between fixed and generic epithets, the former pertaining exclusively to one hero, the latter not. Parry insisted that although the meaning of the fixed epithet is different from that of the generic epithet (in telling something significant about a given character), the reason for its use may still be ease of versification in a given context.

9 E.g., Whallon 1969: 1–32; Parry 1973: 161–67; Austin 1975: 11–80, esp. 69–73; Tsagarakis 1982: 34–39; Vivante 1982; Beck 1986; Cosset 1990; Lowenstam 1993: 13–57; Machacek 1994.

10 Foley 1991: 7.

11 Ibid., 23; see also Foley 1992: 281.

12 The extratextual significance of epithets gains an extra dimension in the case of πολύτλας δῖος ’Οδυσσεύς ‘much-suffering godlike Odysseus’, a formula associated with the theme of Odysseus’s νόστος ‘homecoming’, which freely occurs in the Iliad (8.97; 9.676; 10.248; 23.729, 778) where, from a strictly chronological point of view, events are recounted that occur before Odysseus has had the chance to become “much-suffering.” As Nagy puts it (1990b: 23): “Odysseus is πολύτλας ‘much-suffering’ throughout the Iliad because he is already a figure in an epic tradition about adventures that he will have after Troy. My saying ‘after’ here applies only to the narrative sequence: the Iliad is recording the fact that Odysseus already has an Odyssey tradition about him—which is certainly not the final Odyssey, the fixed text that has come down to us.”

13 On the notion of the presence of past events in the present of the epic performance, see Bakker 1993b: 15–25; Ford 1992: 54–55.

14 In his accounts of the dialogism of meaning in language, Bakhtin explicitly includes previous uses of a given word, their purposes and contexts, in the dialogue (1986: 93). These previous uses cling to any given word and give it a semantic aura much larger than its strict lexical force.

15 See Pucci 1987: 110–23, 244.

16 See Bakker 1995: 110. Ford (1992: 34, 55) uses “epiphanic” and related terms like “magical” to evoke the “vividness” of Homeric poetry. See also Bakker 1997a, on what is near and what is far in the Homeric performance; Kahane 1997, on “stitching together the past and the present.”

17 See Chapter 5, also on the noun-epithet phrase not being the subject of the preceding clause.

18 Note that there is an important difference when the pronoun is in the nominative (ό δε ‘and he’): in those cases the pronoun and the noun-epithet formula (if there is one) designate the same person, and this has important consequences for the status of the noun-epithet formula, on which see the next chapter.

19 See Bakker 1995: 109–11.

20 Cf. Parry’s list (1971: 11–13) of what he calls “predicate hemistichs.” Some of these, however, are not staging formulas in my sense (notably when they begin with a pronoun in the nominative case, such as αὐτάρ μερμήριξε ‘and he pondered’, for which see Chapter 8). Parry’s “predicate” implies that the noun-epithet formula is a subject; the problems of this seemingly obvious idea have been discussed in Chapter 5.

21 See also Il. 3.352–54; 6.357–58; 7·87–91·

22 See Bakker 1997a for the temporal consequences involved here (the “now” being the future of the “then”).

23 Cf. Pratt 1993: 37–42 on “commemorative fiction”

24 In this connection it is interesting to pay attention to the word for “fate” that Hektor uses in the example just quoted. The μοίρα ‘portion’ of an epic hero such as Hektor is not so much his destiny as preordained by the gods, as the fate allotted to him by the process of the epic tradition. For fate and tradition see Nagy 1979: 134–35, 265–68; Schein 1984: 62–64. See also Bakker 1997a on the interrelationships of fate, tradition, and temporal reference in Homer.

25 See Martin 1989: 12–37, 231–39. See also Nagy 1996: 61, who argues that for the performer the gods and heroes actually spoke in the dactylic hexameters of the epic performance.

26 See Tannen 1989: 98–133.

27 The various strategies and their formulaic articulation are presented and discussed in Edwards 1970. See also Riggsby 1992, a formulaic analysis along the lines of Visser 1987, 1988, and Bakker and Fabbricotti 1991.

28 Il. 1.318–25, 330–44.

29 Even more fundamental is Zeus’s speech in Il. 8.5–27, his formal ban on divine participation in the battle. This speech is unstaged in the grammatical sense used here, but is more fully introduced (Il. 8.2–4) supragrammatically. See also Il. 11.186–94, Zeus’s announcement of the glory of Hektor as part of the Διός βουλή, the plan of Zeus mentioned in the proem and instigated by Achilles via Thetis in the words just quoted.

30 Note that the visit as a whole is caused by staged action on the part of Helenos at Il. 6.75–76, a combination of a speech introduction and an if not situation (on which see below).

31 Hekabe is unstaged at Il. 6.253 and asks Hektor to “stay” (258). Helen is unstaged at 343 and asks him to “come in and sit down” (354). Most important, Andromakhe is unstaged at 406 and says (431): ἀλλ’ ἂγε νῦν έλέαιρε καί αύτοῦ μίμν’ ἐπί πύργῳ ‘but come, have mercy now and stay here at the tower’.

32 Il. 6.263, 359, 440.

33 Il. 9.224. One line earlier, however, Odysseus is presented in a significant way (νόησε δέ δîος ’Οδυσσεύς ‘and he took notice, godlike Odysseus’, not a staging in the sense used here) at the moment when Aias nods at Phoinix to start the speechmaking. The offer of Agamemnon endangers Achilles’ status in epic, and as Nagy (1992b: 324) suggests (arguing from the semantics of the verb νόησε, on which see below), Odysseus may well have this very purpose in mind. Thus we may say that the speech as such is antiaction, but that Odysseus’s attempt at undermining Achilles’ stature is true epic action.

34 Notice also Agamemnon’s unheroic, indeed anti-Iliadic, and therefore unstaged words (“let’s go home”) introduced at Il. 9.16, and his equally anti-Iliadic speech at Il. 2.110–41: the extraordinary focusing on the scepter, the profound symbol of Agamemnon’s kingship, has, in light of the speech that Agamemnon produces, leaning on the scepter, the effect of an ironic antistaging. The speech by Phoinix is staged (9432), in contrast with Odysseus’s. But this speech will have some effect, since it makes Achilles soften his intentions.

35 But it should be emphasized that unstaged speech is by no means unimportant, poetically or otherwise; one need only think of Antilokhos’s words to Achilles (Il. 18.18–21, the message of the death of Patroklos) to see that unstaged speech can have an enormous dramatic impact.

36 See also Chapters 6 and 8, as well as Nagy 1990b: 29 (on the relation between formula / theme and meter).

37 Cf. O’Nolan’s remarks (1969: 14–17) on the possible role of noun-epithet formulas in the development of the dactylic hexameter, two of which are cited in Chapter 8 below.

38 Kahane observes (1994: 116–17) that the names of Achilles and Odysseus (as well as those of Apollo and Athene) are almost always verse-final, characterizing this position as “a typical heroic feature” (119).

39 This reasoning leads us into territory that has recently been explored by Kahane (1994: 135–41), in a study on the semantic significance of metrical positioning. On the basis of the metrical behavior of the names of Telemakhos and Patroklos, especially their absence from the final, heroic position in the verse (where Achilles and Odysseus are very much at home) Kahane argues that Telemakhos is a subordinate character, a “non-Odysseus” (137); on Patroklos see below.

40 Antenor in Il. 7.347 (“let’s give Helen back to Menelaos”). Poludamas in Il. 12.210 (“let’s refrain from the battle around the ships”); Il. 18.249 (“lets adapt to the changed circumstances and go into the city”). Antenor’s speech and Poludamas’s second speech are characterized by the participle πεπνυμένος, a word of uncertain meaning, which “is seldom used of great heroes… but is a regular description of youthful or subordinate characters” (Hainsworth on Od. 8.388, in Heubeck et al. 1988: 373; cf. Kahane 1994; 137).

41 Il. 7.354–55; 12.230; 18.284.

42 Il. 13.459–61; 20.178–83. See Nagy 1979: 265–75, on extra-Iliadic poetic traditions for Aineias.

43 Il. 16.453–57. See Nagy 1990b: 122–42. On Sarpedon in general, see Janko 1992: 370–73.

44 The noun-epithet formula Πάτροκλος άμύμων ‘blameless Patroklos’ has been suggested (e.g., Parry 1972: 10). The epithet άμύμων (on whose enigmatic meaning see Parry 1973; Lowen-stam 1993: 49–52) is actually applied to Patroklos (Il. 17–379), adding significance to the absence of a noun-epithet phrase formed by it.

45 Kahane characterizes Patroklos (1994: 139–41) as a silent hero who is denied “the privilege of speech,” and who is “as close as the epic will ever approach to describing an anti-hero.” In Bakker 1997a Patroklos is characterized as the ultimate νήπιος, not in the sense of “fool,” but as the character who “is conditioned by the inherent limits of human knowledge.” In other words, he is a character who cannot look beyond the protoaction in which he finds himself, a fact that is reflected in the secondary action that is poetry.

46 See also Il. 16.744, 843. For more on apostrophe of characters in Homer, see Kahane 1994: 107–13, 153–55 with more literature; Bakker 1993b: 22–23; on the apostrophe of Patroklos at Il. 16.787, see Bakker 1997a.

47 On the metrical explanation, see Matthews 1980.

48 See Frontisi-Ducroux 1986: 23–25 on the interchangeability of Patroklos as audience of Achilles (e.g., Il. 9.184–91) with the audience of the Iliad. See also Nagy 1990a: 202; 1996: 72.

49 Notice, however, that speech action may be a first appearance in an assembly scene. In such cases the epiphanic naming of the hero takes up the entire line, as is possible for some characters. See, e.g., Il. 1.102: τοῖσι δ’ ἀνέστη || ἢρως ’Aτρεἴδης εύρύ κρείων ’Αγαμέμνων ‘and to them he rose, || hero Atreuss son, wide-ruling Agamemnon’. Cf. Il. 1.69 (Kalkhas); 2.77 (Nestor); 7.355 (Paris), 366 (Priamos); Od. 2.225 (Mentor).

50 Cf. De Jong, who discusses (1987: 102–7) what she calls “perception passages” (including the stagings analyzed here) as “embedded focalization,” expressing the point of view of a character. She does, however, recognize (106–7) what I call the staging and relational potential of perception.

51 See Chapter $ above.

52 See also Il. 11.837, another significant speech by Patroklos, on which see Bakker 1997a.

53 I would therefore not call the staging formula τον δέ ἰδών ἐνόησε “prolix” or merely resulting “from the interplay of formulas” τον δέ ἰδών and ἐνόησε in this position in the line (Hainsworth 1993: 287). The two verbs of perception are not synonymous.

54 Suggestive venues here are offered by Frame, who insists (1988: 28–30) on the etymological connection of νοέω and νόστος (root *nes- ‘return to light and life’, i.e., the fulfillment of epic kleos). Ruijgh (1967: 371–72) proposes “save” as the original meaning for the root *nes- (corresponding to Gothic nasjan ‘save’), citing Latin servo ‘conserve’, ‘observe’).

55 Cf. the words of Zeus, the author of all authors, at Il. 15.64–65: ό δ’ άνστήσει δν έταΐρον || Πάτροκλον ‘and he (=Achilles) will set up his companion, || Patroklos’, using terminology (άνστήσει ‘will set up’) that is not too far removed from the term “staging” used here.

56 On the structural and thematic properties of this part of the Iliad, see also Schadewaldt 1966: 74–79.

57 Il. 11.505, 516. Nestor is set in motion by a speech of Idomeneus, a hero with a choriambshaped (- ᴗ ᴗ -) and therefore unstageable name. The verse introducing this speech (Il. 11.510: αύτίκα δ’ Ίδομενεύς προσεφώνεε Νέστορα δΐον ‘and immediately Idomeneus addressed him, godlike Nestor’, a case of type 9 in Edwards 1970: 15) has rather the effect of staging the addressee.

58 See Hainsworth 1993: 267.

59 Apart from the wounding of Eurupulos just mentioned, there is the wounding of Makhaon (Il. 11.505–6, see above) and of Diomedes (Il. 11.369), in each of which Paris features as ‘Ελένης πόσις ἠὒκόμοιο ‘husband of Helen with the fair hair’.

60 One knows that the wounding of the Greek chiefs (except for the Aiantes, who remain active throughout the battle of the ships) plays an important role in Nestor’s advice to Patroklos, as well as in the subsequent plea of the latter to Achilles to send him into the battle in his stead; see Il. 11.659–62 (=16.24–27).

61 See Krischer 1971: 23–24, 31, for this “formal convention” of Greek epic.

62 Identical are the circumstances under which Pandaros is staged as the wounder of Diomedes during the aristeia of the latter; as in the case of Eurupulos and Patroklos, an epiphany with a periphrastic formula is used (Il. 5.95: τον δ’ ώς οὖν ένόησε Λυκάονος ἀγλαός υίός ‘and him when he saw, radiant son of Lukaon’). See also the wounding of Hektor in Book 14, where Aias is formally staged as the wounder, even though he is already on the scene (Il. 14.409: τον μέν ἒπειτ’ ἀπιόντα μέγας Τελαμώνιος Αἴας ‘and him when he left, huge Aias son of Telamon [hit him]’).

63 Il. 5.711; 7.17. In the former case the epiphany is followed by speech action (on the part of Hera) that literally spells out its founding nature: “If we do not intervene now, Menelaos will not go home after having sacked Troy.”

64 Il. 11.187–94 (cf. 202–9), Zeus’s message transmitted by Iris to Hektor: “When Agamemnon is wounded I will give you the victory, till dusk sets in.” Other cases, all involving Hektor: Il. 5.590; 11.343; 15.422; 16.818; 20.419; 22.136. On topic switches see Chapter 5.

65 See above. Typical instances are Sarpedon’s and Aineias’s appearance in the battle by way of perception (e.g., Il. 16.419–20: Σαρπηδών δ’ ως οὖν ἲδ’ ἀμιτροχίτωνας έταίρους || χέρα’ ϋπο Πατρόκλοιο Μενοιτιάδαο δαμέντας ‘and Sarpedon when he saw his comrades with the unbelted tunic || die under the hands of Patroklos son of Menoitios’; Il. 5.166: τον δ’ ιίδεν Αίνείας άλαπάζοντα στίχας άνδρών ‘and him Aineias saw, creating havoc among the ranks of men’). Is it coincidence that in these cases not ένόησε ‘took notice’ but the more neutral ΐδε ‘saw’ has been used?

66 Cf. Fenik 1968: 175; De Jong 1987: 68–81; Lang 1989; Morrison 1992: 61; Nesselrath 1992: 1–27. See also Chapter 4 above on the use of καί in this type of passage.

67 Notice the evidential particle όφ(α) in the protasis (unit g), stressing the factual nature of the statement, but at the same rime marking it as a conclusion drawn from visual evidence (see Bakker 1993b: 15–23; 1997a).

68 See also the useful formulation of Lang 1989: 6: “An affirmative protasis contemplates a possibility which was not realized, while a negative protasis reports what happened to prevent an unexpected result.” See also De Jong 1987: 68–69.

69 Il. 20.336, in Poseidon’s own words to Aineias; cf. Il. 20.302–5. At Il. 2.155 and Od. 5.436–37, a beyond fate phrase is actually used in the reversal passage.

70 It seems preferable, therefore, to take fate in Homer as what happened in the world of myth (whether or not the event is covered by the Iliad), rather than as some causality inherent in the epic events. Thus the “fatality” of an epic event is due to the certainty of its performance in the present (see Bakker 1997a). It also seems preferable to see the poetics of reversal passages as reinforcing the tradition of what happened, rather than challenging it. The challenge of a consciously composing individual poet (Morrison 1992; 1993) would lead us again into the anachronistic territory of the opposition between traditionality and originality. And finally it seems preferable to see tradition as an intention on the part of poats and performers rather than as an inherent property of any discourse or text (see Bakker 1995:105; 1997a; Bauman 1992:128). This conception of tradition and traditionality could even include individual attempts by performers to reinforce the tradition, e.g., by including a reversal passage. Such attempts would count as original by our standards, though not by the performers’ own.

71 Il. 3–3745 5·311–12, 68ο; 8.91, 132; 20.291. Cf. also Od. 23.242; Hes. Theog. 838 (a juncture at which the fate of no less than the whole world is at stake). Πατήρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε ‘father of men and gods’ at Il. 8.91 is not strictly speaking a noun-epithet formula, but it has similar cultic and epiphanic potential.

72 E.g., Il. $.389; 6.73–76 (the merger of a reversal passage and a speech introduction); 7.106—7; 8.218; 11.505; 12.292; 16.700; 17.71; 18.166; 21.212 (reversal passage and speech introduction), 545. Not all the noun-epithet formulas in these cases, however, are heroically located at the end of the line (e.g., 16.700; 21.545) and not all interventions are equally crucial, but the use of epithets under less epiphanic and crucial circumstances is inherent in their being, or becoming, grammatical. See Chapter 8.

73 Il. 17.530–31. Cf. 23.491, 733; 24.713·

74 See De Jong’s (1987: 75–77) and Morrisons (1993: 65) category of “less dramatic situations.” Lang (1989: 9) makes a useful distinction between a type A (“something contrary to fact would have happened, had not someone acted to prevent it”); a type B (“something destined to happen later but contrary to present fact would have happened now, had not someone acted to prevent it”); and a type C (“some action or passion would have continued, had not someone put a stop to it”)—emphases added. Noun-epithet formulas tend to occur in type A, the pure reversal passages.

75 See Lang 1989: 22–23, on the distribution of reversal passages in the Homeric poems; of the eleven occurrences in the Odyssey, four occur in Iliadic contexts (narratives about Menelaos, Aias, and the Trojan War). The use of the τον δ’ ὠς οὖν ἐνόησε formula in the Odyssey is discussed in the next chapter.

76 On description vs. narrative, see Chapter 4.

77 See Segal 1994: 89, in an essay bearing directly on the issues presented here: “The great deeds of the past … are now especially designated as a part of heroic song qua song. Their ‘objective’ existence as unquestioned events that the audience accepts when it is under the ‘spell’ of the poet’s magic … yields momentarily to an awareness of the form that makes possible that spell.”

78 Two times at close quarters (Il. 23.140, 193), Achilles being the hero staged on both occasions.

79 For Athene (θεά γλαυκῶπις Άθηνη ‘owl-eyed goddess Athene’), see Od. 2.382, 393; 4.795; 6.112; 18.187; 23.344; Helen (’Ελένη Διός έκγεγαυῖα ‘Helen born from Zeus’), 4.219; Penelope (περίφρων Πηνελόπεια ‘very thoughtful Penelope’), 16.409. Twice the same idea is used while no staging occurs: 5.382 (Athene); 6.251 (Nausikaa).

80 In one other case the if not staging formula actually occurs, with ἂλλ(ο) replacing όξύ (Od. 23.242): εἰ μή άρ’ ἂλλ’ ένόησε θεά γλαυκώπις Άθηνη ‘if she had not seen/planned something else, goddess owl-eyed Athene’).

81 Od. 6.21–40.

Additional Information

ISBN
9781501722776
Related ISBN
9781501722769
MARC Record
OCLC
1057677513
Pages
156-183
Launched on MUSE
2018-04-06
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-ND

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